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Angelena Boden

Angelena Boden

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WOMEN AND GAMBLING

Back in the seventies, I got a job as a board marker in a bookies close to the place where I lived as a student. While most students I knew were doing some sort of bar or restaurant work, I spent Saturday afternoon in a smoky port-a- cabin, dog-ends littering the floor, listening to the horse and dog racing news coming through crackly speakers. 

 My job was to mark the racing odds on the pre-printed sheets as soon as the betting came in. You had to be nimble and on the ball at all times as the punters, all male, would be watching my every move. They were quick to point out if I made a mistake and as the race started, the tension mounted.  Whilst I saw many regulars, who always had a kind word to say to me, I can’t recall any real addicts. Just a few sad, lonely people looking for company and a boost to their income.

  There are a number of differences between gambling back in those days, compared with now. People had to make an effort to get to a physical location to place their bets whereas now they can gamble online. 

  Women were more into bingo than card games or horse racing.  I spent many evenings as either a ticket seller or a caller in the dark hallowed halls of the magic balls. It wasn’t so much about winning for these women, but having a social life – a chance to get out of the house for an evening and have fun. It was also self-limiting. 

 Gambling has taken on a new dimension and is showing its sinister side. You don’t have to leave the sofa to lose hundreds of pounds by tapping an App and it seems to be women who are getting hooked. 

 Some find it gives them a buzz – well of course it will. I find slotting pennies into the Penny Falls in an amusement arcade gives me a two second thrill but I know when to stop.

  Others, already depressed and anxious, maybe because of debt, see it as a way out of their problems. Because all gambling outlets are rigged against the punter, after the first euphoric win we call beginner’s luck, the only trajectory is down. 

 The fantasy of winning millions and starting afresh is just that – fantasy. Like Kitty Merriweather in my new book, Love Bytes Back, I’ve come across all sorts of lonely women comforting themselves with the odd flutter that becomes an addiction. Huge sums of money disappear into the greedy gob of online poker and before you know it, homes, relationships and families are lost to its powerful grip.

 According to GamCare, the national gambling helpline, the number of women gamblers is double that of men and 70% of women use Apps and websites so they can do it in secret. Women don’t go into shady betting shops, even in the twenty-first century, and I doubt I would have done if it had not been my job. Thankfully, I don’t have an addictive personality.

 I personally know of one woman who spent over a hundred thousand pounds on gambling. It was all she ever thought about – a bit like an alcoholic. Her debts mounted and she resorted to stealing. When she was caught, it was a huge relief as it meant she could get the help she was too ashamed to ask for. 

 Women who gamble occasional say they do it because it numbs emotional pain for a while. I guess it’s like retail therapy. You get the rush and forget about your struggles until reality hits home and maybe you end up taking most of the stuff back for a refund. That’s better than losing money for a quick mental health fix. 

 Some sites offer free bets for a period to hook you in. When you get a taste of any drug there is a strong chance you’ll want more and more. 

 If this blog has resonated with you, contact Gamblers Anonymous and or Gam Care.  Don’t feel ashamed. It can happen to anyone. Remember, you deserve to be free. 

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Don't Get Catfished!

I’d never heard of the term until I watched a TV programme about it. If you don’t know what it is either, here’s the Wiki definition.

Catfishing is a type of deceptive activity where a person creates a sock puppet social networking presence, or fake identity on a social network account, usually targeting a specific victim for abuse, deception, or fraud. Catfishing is often employed for romance scams on dating websites.

Another term is “Love Bombing-” a slighter milder version of the same, by which someone attempts to influence an individual by demonstrations of attention and false affection.

Whatever it’s called, it’s scamming at its worst because it not only targets the wallet but more destructively, the heart. Scammers trawl the internet looking for the most vulnerable. Widows, divorcees, singles and even lonely marrieds who are desperate to find someone to show them some affection.

Fake profiles are posted on dating sites by stealing pictures of attractive, star-like individuals and adding them to their outrageous claims of being wealthy business people, lonely men in the military, devoted fathers who need money for a child’s operation and so it goes on. They can hook you via social media – I’ve had dozens of Direct Messages on Twitter – via your email or website, Tinder and even Skype and it’s easy to get taken in if you’ve got a soft heart.

When researching for my new novel, LOVE BYTES BACK, I was shocked to discover that procuring someone else’s picture for your personal profile is not illegal! What is illegal if that is used to scam people out of money. Sorry, but that seems very muddled to me.

How do you know if you’re talking to a love scammer and how can you protect yourself?

  • Ask them to call you on the phone. If they make excuses, they are probably not who they say they are. DUMP.
  • If they want to move the chat off the dating site and onto something like WhatsApp, be very suspicious. They want to avoid the dating site getting wise to their scam.
  • Their profile is too good to be true.
  • They ask for small amounts of money to start with – phone top ups and promise to pay it back. They often ask for Amazon gift cards and not direct bank transfers. SAY NO and DUMP.
  • Many scams are operating from overseas. Workers are paid a pittance to read from a badly written script. When I nearly got caught in a scam, I was called “sweaty pie” (and not sweetie pie.). Red flag warning!
  • Finally, never, ever, ever, send money. Not one penny. If you think your bank account has been compromised because of something you said, report it immediately.
  • Contact Action Fraud then go out and breathe a sigh of relief. You didn’t get catfished.

Find out what happens to Kitty Merriweather when she meets the charming Harvey online in Love Bytes Back. Just £1.99 ebook.

OUT FEBRUARY 14th –on Amazon Kindle  

 

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Dogs for Mental Wellbeing

Raffi is a three year old poodle dachshund cross – a doxiepoo- but is also the family’s Head of Welfare. He’s earned this honourable title because he has a knack of lifting people up when they feel down and intuiting what they need at that moment.

This usually comes in the form of selecting one of his much loved toys and handing it over in the same way a parent will snuggle a sick child into bed with a favourite teddy.

When he does this to me he watches for my reaction and if I don’t seem to thrilled with the well-mouthed fluffy toy with most of its stuffing ripped out, he quietly pads back to his stash and selects another.

When we bond with our dogs during the many hours we spend playing with them, fussing them and walking them, our brains release the feel good chemical, oxytocin. All pets, but especially dogs, are a great source of comfort and companionship, especially for anyone living alone. Stroking a pet alleviates stress and has an immediate calming effect and if we have something to get up for in a morning, it gives us meaning to our lives.

Dogs are great at encouraging us to get exercise whatever the weather. Fresh air, being out in nature is good for mental health especially low mood and anxiety. Raffi senses the moment it’s time for “walkies” and will dash into the hall where his lead and hi-viz jacket are waiting.

Being out and about with a dog offers an easy opportunity to be sociable. Raffi is a friendly dog and wants to play with others. I find myself stroking whippets, huskies and dachshunds before I’ve said a word to their owner. We do the dog talk, move onto the weather and I often find myself engaged in longer conversations and on occasions being invited for coffee.

Not all dog owners as approachable though. I tend to read their facial expression letting Raffi launch in. There are times when I prefer to wander in solitude, dog at heel and not have to do the small talk.

When I’m writing, Raffi is happy to sit on the sofa and snooze. I chat to him about a character or an idea and if he opens one eye it’s a sign of approval. People say dogs don’t understand or talk, but I beg to differ. Raffi has a vocabulary of about ten words, most of them involve food but the one he protests is “bed.”

Pets give us so much love and it’s a great feeling to come home and see his tail wagging away like a windscreen wiper. Having responsibility for a pet means being less focused on your own problems, just for a while.

Not everyone is in a position to have a pet, especially a dog, but Borrow My Doggy is a website which connects owners to responsible dog sitters. Animal shelters are often looking for volunteers and it’s always worth putting a card in the window of your local newsagent or post office to offer dog walking services.

Dogs are our everyday heroes. They offer us unconditional love and can have an enormous impact on our mental wellbeing. If they’re anything like Raffi, they’ll always be there for you.

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