Sunday, 28 April 2013


Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
Max Ehrmann, "Desiderata"

Today I went to the memorial service for a friends grown-up son. It was a moving service so different to many others I have been to. It took place in a Quaker Meeting House and in Quaker tradition it did not have the clear structure I have come to expect from my upbringing in the Church of England. Many friends contributed their own warm memories of him which for me as someone who had met him on a mere handful of occasions clearly illustrated the sort of man he was. 

There were few overt prayers as such but there was a great deal of time for reflection and contemplation.  As an atheist I didn't have to sit there and ask why this young man was taken, I know there is no grand plan, "shit" as they say "just happens" and I actually take great comfort in that.

Sad as it is, he died. There is no reason, just friends and family whose lives were richer for his presence and whose hearts are torn at his loss.

I understand that not everyone in that room would have felt the same way and and I hope their faith can help and comfort them in their loss. It was an honour to sit in the silence with them.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

My body

Billy Bragg, 'Sexuality' - 

"I'm sure that everybody knows how much my body hates me,
It lets me down most every time and makes me rash and hasty."

Sometimes it honestly feels like my body is out to get me. What with the food allergies, the headaches, the migraines, the SPD during both my pregnancies and the infertility prior to that, it's not hard to feel that body and I are not really the best of friends. I try to feed it well, I exercise (well some of the time I do) and I watch my weight and yet.....
....and yet I rarely if ever feel happy with it. Sometime I even hate it (and the fact it is only 'sometimes' now is actually an improvement). I stand in front of the mirror and I see an ageing, plump, saggy body that doesn't look like the 'me' I feel inside. I fight to make it finish an exercise workout, I knock back pints of water to try and stop it reaching for a piece of chocolate and I curse it when I have to stop and clench to cough. I know a good body, like a good car needs looking after but I wish it didn't feel like we were at war with each other.

To be fair I've not had the best role models. Today magazines are full of celebrities who have 'already lost their baby weight', like baby weight is something to be ashamed of and that we should all be able to do it (even if we can't afford the personal trainer, nanny and chef that they used). They airbrush pictures to such an extent some celebs would be barely recognisable in 'real life'. (Look here) The media has never been a friend to a positive body image. But they are not the only ones to blame.

Take an earlier role model for girls, Barbie for example, if we assume that as a 'real' woman she'd be about 5foot 9 inches then her chest would be 39 inches, her waist 18 inches and her hips 33 inches. Her weight would be about 7 stone 12lbs which gives a BMI of 16.24 (which is so underweight we'd call her anorexic). Because her neck is so long she wouldn't be able to hold her head up and because her feet are so small (a size 3) she'd probably not be able to walk or even stand without help. And the makers Matel apparently consider this to be a fuller figure. Frankly it scares me that I still think she is beautiful and it terrifies me that my children might too.

And my earliest role model, my Mummy? I look back at photos of her at the age I am now and I see a beautiful lady, a lean, fit, healthy body, great skin, great legs, lovely hair but what I remember is her standing in front of a mirror picking herself apart, at the time I don't think she liked her own body either.

Really want my girls to have a positive body image. I wish I'd banned the Disney dolls which are really little different to Barbie before they started creeping into our home and I also wish they'd never seen the Winx club (cartoon girls so disproportioned they make Barbie look tame) but they are here now. So what can I do? I try to be as positive about my own body as I can be. When they point at my stretch marks I tell them they are tiger stripes and how much I love them because they were a gift. I try never to talk about dieting, just sensible eating. I tell them how interesting it is to watch our bodies change as we get older.

And I hope, I really hope that in talking to them more positively it wont just be them that feels good about their own body, I hope that I'll start to feel better about it too.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Forget Judy Garland, I'll listen to Frank Turner

I was all set to to write a blog post about my political views explaining where I stood on the political spectrum and then an old lady had to go and ruin my train of thought by dying.

She ruined so much of my youth, with her big hair, capped teeth and right-wing policies. She started off pinching my school milk and went on to much, much worse. Yes, that's right, I'm talking about Margret Thatcher. Even if you don't know exactly where I stand politically I don't think it will surprise you if I say that I wasn't a fan.

I can remember the day she became Prime Minster, I'd not quite turned 8 but I'd never seen my Dad look so sad, I knew Labour had lost just by the look on his face. Yes you could say my family indoctrinated me into socialism but they also had me Christened and I shook that off. I'm proud to be a lefty. I'm proud that when it comes to my country and indeed the world, I want to see a fairer, more equal society and in that I felt she was diametrically opposed to me.

She became for me, a personification of everything I hated about the political right, I danced with joy the day she was forced out of Number 10 (and got completely hammered, I was a University student at the time) so I expected to feel a similar sense of elation when she died. I didn't.

I can understand that a large number of people wanted to run around singing "Ding dong the witch is dead" from the Wizard of Oz - there is actually a Facebook group with the soul aim of getting it to number 1 by the end of the week (at the time of writing it is at number 10 in the down load charts - how ironic!) I admit to singing the odd chorus in the last 48hours but to be honest my heart isn't in it.  

In the first place this is because my fight isn't over. The current government are forcing through the sorts of cuts and changes the 'Iron Lady' could only have dreamed of. I will not stand by while the weakest and most vulnerable in our society have what little they have taken away from them and I will not be quiet while they break up and sell off the NHS. Yes we live in difficult economic times but make no mistake, these changes are political and ideological and not the necessity they are painted to be, there are alternatives. 

And in the second place, at the end she was a sad, frail woman suffering from dementia when she died, her 'prime' (if you can call it that) a distant memory. I do feel a sense of sorrow for her children that they have lost their mother though I always felt rather sorry for them having her as a parent in the first place however I don't feel any more need to be 'respectful' than I did at say Pinochet's death. Mostly I just feel flat. One right-winger may have gone but it reminds me that the fight to put society back in the place I feel it belongs continues.

No, if I'm going to download any particular song this week it will be this number by Frank Turner. It explains very clearly how I feel while still somehow managing to sound a little happy. (I'll just warn you now it is unsuitable for young children or the work place as it contains plenty of adult language from the start.)

Take it away Frank.

Lyrics, for those who have small ears nearby. 

Thatcher F*cked the kids - Frank Turner
Whatever happened to childhood?
We're all scared of the kids in our neighborhood;
They're not small, charming and harmless,
They're a violent bunch of bastard little shits.
And anyone who looks younger than me
Makes me check for my wallet, my phone and my keys,
And I'm tired of being tired out
Always being on the lookout for thieving gits.

We're all wondering how we ended up so scared;
We spent ten long years teaching our kids not to care
And that "there's no such thing as society" anyway,
And all the rich folks act surprised
When all sense of community dies,
But you just closed your eyes to the other side
Of all the things that she did.
Thatcher fucked the kids

And it seems a little bit rich to me,
The way the rich only ever talk of charity
In times like the seventies, the broken down economy
Meant even the upper tier was needing some help.
But as soon as things look brighter,
Yeah the grin gets wider and the grip gets tighter,
And for every teenage tracksuit mugger
There's a guy in a suit who wouldn't lift a finger for anybody else.

You've got a generation raised on the welfare state,
Enjoyed all its benefits and did just great,
But as soon as they were settled as the richest of the rich,
They kicked away the ladder, told the rest of us that life's a bitch.
And it's no surprise that all the fuck-ups
Didn't show up until the kids had grown up.
But when no one ever smiles or ever helps a stranger,
Is it any fucking wonder our society's in danger of collapse?

So all the kids are bastards,
But don't blame them, yeah, they learn by example.
Blame the folks who sold the future for the highest bid:
That's right, Thatcher fucked the kids.

Now why didn't they let him sing that at the Olympics?