Friday, 18 October 2019

Micro-blogging

Foolishing I followed the news today and became increasingly despondent at the idiocy, self-interest and flagrant ability to tell bare-faced lies that our politicians seem to possess.

I'd been promising myself I would make pie for dinner tonight, and had been looking forward to it for several days. (I take my small pleasures where I can).

By the time dinner was approaching, I felt so gloomy and apathetic, I simply couldn't be bothered to make pie. I sat on the sofa and stared at the wall. Then I sorted out LittleBear's three(!) Rubik's cubes*.

And then I made a conscious decision not to let the Brexit shit-weasels ruin the highlight of my culinary week, so I got up from the sofa and made pie anyway.

It may be my only victory over the Brexiteers, but it was still a victory. I will not allow them to break my mental health.


* I would like to claim that my genius allows me to solve the Rubik's cube with ease. My genius extends only as far as an ability to use the internet.

Friday, 4 October 2019

The depressing side of humanity

Having had a moderately stressful week already, as a series of minor incidents piled on top of each other to make me feel overwhelmed and anxious, what I really needed was another stress-filled encounter.

I went to our local shop last night, while BigBear bathed LittleBear. We'd run out of bread and needed some before morning. It seemed a good opportunity to pop out. While in the local shop, there was what can only be described as a kerfuffle. I wasn't really aware of what was going on, though perhaps someone had tried to leave without paying, or perhaps they'd had an argument with the security man at the door, or perhaps it was nothing. There were a couple of mildly over-excited young women, rushing in and out and squealing to each other in the way young women sometimes do. I stood waiting my turn at the checkout, glancing occasionally towards the doors, along with the cashier and the other customers, wondering what was afoot.

The cashier commented that there didn't seem to have been any theft, and it was all OK. But a new customer had just entered the shop who made the off-hand remark that, "the bigger problem is they were trying to get the girls in the van." And while he rightly saw this as a "bigger problem" he clearly didn't see it as a big enough problem to get involved. The cashier and I saw things differently. She immediately called one of the young women over to find out what had happened and whether they were OK.

The girls were fine. They stayed in the shop, with bright lights and middle-aged women.

The men in the van had been calling them closer, trying to get them to come right to the doors of the van. They'd suggested the girls should, "come with us for a sesh".

The suddenly-maternal cashier and I both encouraged them to report the events to the police, to make sure they'd got the numberplate of the van, to take it seriously in case someone less sensible was approached in the same way. Once I was sure the cashier and the girls were sorting things out, I set off for home. But the van was still there. So I walked round to the front of it, mentally noted the numberplate and went back into the shop to give the cashier the numberplate so she could help the girls with the reporting.

Then I left again.

"Mind your own fucking business, you slut!"

Slut.

Really?

That's the best you can do?

Slut.

I set off for home and the van zoomed past me, obviously giving up on their quest to acquire female company at Tesco.

"Slut!"

I'm a middle aged woman wearing trousers with an elasticated waist and a beige jumper. But I'm a woman, so I'm fair game. And the obvious insult is slut.

I went home. I reported the whole thing to the police. I did my civic duty. But I felt tired, and depressed, and shaken, and disappointed with humanity.

All I wanted was a loaf of bread.

Friday, 27 September 2019

Depression v rage

A week is a long time in politics.

At the moment, a day is a long time in politics, and it is feeling increasingly difficult to keep up with what is happening today, let along imagine what might be happening tomorrow (on either side of the Atlantic).

Anyone who has been reading this blog for any length of time knows that I voted "Remain" in the EU Referendum, and that I would do so again. I looked back today at things I've written before, and it depressed me enormously to discover that on the day of the vote, I saw all too clearly the path ahead. And as we continue to gallop headlong towards a cliff-edge, with no apparent hope of reconciliation in a deeply divided country, I spend my evenings and nights once more wondering if the solution is simply to leave the UK.

I keep thinking of things I could write, emotional outpourings at the insanity that appears to be unfolding one day at a time. And I keep thinking I can't quite be bothered. The emotional effort is too high, the reward too small. It feels like I'd simply be picking a scab - making myself hurt more for no gain. Because, who of you reading this really wants to read yet another polemic? Hasn't enough been written by passionate Leavers and Remainers? Isn't the divide already so entrenched that nobody hears anybody else any more? Won't I just be contributing more to the echo-chamber that is my Remain-supporting circle of friends?

But there are some things that go beyond party politics, and beyond Leave vs Remain, and cut to the heart of who we are and who we want to be. There are things that I've been seeing and reading that are, to quote Mitt Romney, deeply troubling. It is, if anything, a continuation of the idea that I pushed back against previously, that having been on the "losing" side, I should simply put-up and shut-up. Brexit has won, long live Brexit.

Yesterday, I watched the Prime Minister's "special adviser", Dominic Cummings, as he was challenged by Karl Turner, a Labour MP, on the use of the Prime Minister's language in Parliament. Cummings' response to the fact that Turner is receiving death threats, was that he should "get Brexit done".

Stop and think about that for a moment.

If you don't want to get death threats, you should do what I want.

Isn't that in itself tantamount to a threat?

We're all* on board with the idea that women aren't "asking for it" if they wear a short skirt and get raped. Can we not get on board with the idea that nobody is asking for a death threat simply because they think a no-deal Brexit is a stupid idea?

How low have we sunk when this attitude appears to pass without comment? How is it OK for this "special advisor" to be able to say, unchallenged, that death threats are bad, but that MPs have brought the threats upon themselves? No. No they haven't. They really, really haven't.

Someone needs to pull Cummings (and Johnson, and Rees-Mogg and the rest of the toxic cabal who refuse to moderate their language) up on the idea that MPs deserve threats for thwarting the will of the people. Nobody deserves a death threat. Nobody is betraying anybody by seeking a democratic route through this shit-storm. Nobody is surrendering to anybody. There has been no coup.

Our elected representatives have a duty to act in the best interests of their constituents and their country. I am not convinced that all of them always do so, particularly given the nature of our party political system and the use of the party whips. However, the idea that they could be cowed into not doing so by threats of violence directed at themselves or their families is utterly abhorrent in what should be a civilised society and should be a mature democracy.

Meanwhile, in breaking news, an anonymous briefing from "a senior cabinet minister" to The Times newspaper has warned that the country would risk a “violent, popular uprising” if a second referendum overturned the result of the first. This minister allegedly also (helpfully) pointed out that it would only take “a couple of nasty populist frontmen to inspire people”. In case we weren't sure how to organise a violent, popular uprising.

Nice country. Be a shame if anything happened to it.

A cabinet minister apparently issuing anonymous, not-very-veiled threats. And the Tory party alone has a plentiful supply of nasty populist frontmen to fulfill this prophesy, never mind looking to the further right-hand fringes of British politics. What happened to the idea that ministers of the crown had any kind of responsibility towards peace, stability and security? This appears to be an active attempt to, at the very least, legitimise civil unrest, if not actually encourage destabilising the country.

Some days I am filled with rage, wanting to do something, to fight back against the lies, and the hate and the stupidity that are welling up around me.

And some days I am overwhelmed by the futility of one person even imagining they can make any difference when faced with the might and wealth of the press, politicians and power-brokers who are each single-minded in their pursuit of their own agenda, no matter the damage they do on the way.

Depression v rage.

Today the depression is winning.

* When I say "all" I obviously am living in a fanciful Utopia that excludes the depressingly large swathe of people who still seem to think that women are to blame for being raped by virtue of the way they look, or how much they drink or indeed whether they've ever had sex before. When I say "all" I mean "all right thinking, decent human beings". I think I've successfully demonstrated that the world has a depressing shortage of those.

Sunday, 15 September 2019

Old friends

For once, I shall be taking a break from writing about football, despite the fact that my weekend featured large quantities of it. Nor shall I be writing about work, despite my week featuring a certain amount of vexation and exasperation. Nor shall I be writing about politics, despite the quite extraordinary quantity of politics about which I could write. (Never mind the quality, the sheer volume is staggering).

No. Because this weekend featured a rather more unusual event. I actually socialised with some of my old university friends. To be fair, I do stay in reasonable contact with Tigger and Piglet and their families, but I have let a great many other people drift away, through lack of time, inconveniences of geography, laziness and then finally an unwillingness to get back in touch because it's been "too long" and I feel bad.

Piglet is more organised than me though. And she invited one of our old friends, plus spouse and children to stay. I haven't seen OldFriend since our average-fortieth birthday party five years ago, and I had a few qualms about how much we may have drifted apart. I needn't have worried. We went round to Piglet's house for an early dinner, and the menfolk took all five children off to play in the clunch pit while me, Piglet and OldFriend nattered as though we last saw each other a week ago. Come dinner and we managed to cunningly seat all the children round one table in the garden while the adults congregated a safe distance away. I had a couple of glasses of Prosecco with dinner, which turned out to be a less than stellar idea after having spent most of the day in the sun undertaking various forms of football-related activity.

Today both tribes came for lunch here. The consumption of Prosecco had led to evening somnolence yesterday, which in turn had led to an utter failure to make the puddings I had intended to make, which in turn meant that despite starting cooking at 9:30, I hadn't exactly finished preparing lunch when they arrived. This wasn't, to be fair, entirely helped by the fact that BigBear was with LittleBear at a party, thus removing both the helping hands and the minor impediment from the house. Nor, to be completely honest, was it helped by the fact that when parboiling the potatoes to roast I overcooked one pan full, many of which duly turned to mush, so I had to peel, chop and cook some more. However, being the kind of friends that they are, I handed Piglet a mixing bowl and after some debate between Piglet and OldFriend about suitable weights and volumes, she whipped up a crumble topping for the apple, while MrOldFriend helped get the extra chairs required to seat eleven for lunch out of the loft.

And mostly our children disappeared off and played, while we sat and carried on catching up. SmallerChild happily settled in to play with one of LittleBear's favourite games, and then begged OldFriend to buy it for his birthday (in three days time). Fortunately, it turns out she already has. Just as it also turns out that we own and play many of the same board games. Just as it turns out our bookcases are heavy with many of the same books. Though, just to be certain, OldFriend took reference photographs of the bookcases to make note of some new authors for future purchases. Because all of the reasons we were friends twenty years ago are still there, and we still enjoy the same things, laugh at the same things, read the same things.

So perhaps I really shouldn't leave it another five years before seeing OldFriend again. And perhaps, if life gets in the way, and we do leave it too long before catching up, I should remember that time doesn't actually erode lasting friendships.

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Pathetic delusions

A new school year has started. LittleBear appears to have enjoyed his fist week in a new school*. I was even mostly organised, and mostly had his school uniform ready and named for the first day of term.

As the summer holiday wound to an end, I had a vague sense of control and tranquility. A new school year, a fresh start, a clean slate. When 4th September dawned we would all spring out of bed, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to face Year 3 with a spring in our steps. For some inexplicable reason, this sense of positivity about the school year translated in my head to an overall positivity about the rest of my life. Everything would be clean! Everything would be tidy! Everything would be organised!

No, I don't know how much gin I must have drunk to have slipped so far into delusion either.

My to-do list still stretched to three pages.

The pile of clothes that had been waiting to be ironed for two months was still waiting.

I could write my name in the dust on every surface.

There was still a foot-deep hole in the lawn into which the new rotary dryer was not fitted.

The pile of paperwork that needed filing was 6 inches deep and growing deeper by the day. (Do you think I could bribe the postman to stop delivering post until I've dealt with the last six months worth? Not a good idea? No, probably not.)

There were still nose-prints on the windows - IdiotCat's and LittleBear's.

Essentially, the lovely, fresh, clean, new start to the school year, unsurprisingly, extended only as far as LittleBear and his school supplies. I appear to be the only one to have been caught by surprise by this.

And, to add insult to injury, though the new school year seems to be going well, and LittleBear seems entirely happy, the additional mental overload of New Stuff has triggered a return of his nightmares, so the household is desperately sleep-deprived once more. My first conversation with his new teacher was to apologise for sending my small boy to school with dark shadows beneath his eyes. And nothing promotes Getting Things Done quite like being so tired I can barely think.

Is it time for the holidays yet?


* Technically LittleBear has now moved from Village Infant School to Village Junior School. Since his previous classroom was actually located at the Village Junior School, and he had meals, and some lessons, in Village Junior School, it's not a huge change. And since his entire cohort have also all moved from Village Infant School to Village Junior School, the biggest change is he now wears a blue school uniform instead of red.

Thursday, 29 August 2019

A holiday in four injuries

I realise, somewhat belatedly, it's been over a month since I wrote anything. I can put at least two weeks of that down to being on holiday in a place with no internet connection or mobile signal, and I think I'll ascribe the rest to the insanity of the end of term - a headlong acceleration through seemingly endless school activities from school plays to sports days and everything in between; plus the plate-spinning miracle that are school holidays - attempting to cling by my fingernails to a job whilst also making sure I'm not actually dumping LittleBear in the woods alone to fend for himself every day. Only four more days to go, and I've not had to resort to abandoning him yet.

And what of the holiday?

Not being the sort to post huge albums of idyllic photographs of my latest five star holiday, I shall simply mention that we went to the Lake District, and remind everyone that there are a great many lakes and rivers there for a reason. The water has to come from somewhere. I could tell you about the fun we had, the games we played and the mountains we climbed, but really, outside my immediate family, I doubt that many of you would be much enthused by an account of a traditional 1950s English holiday. Instead, I shall allow you to laugh at my expense as I recount the more painful episodes.

Let me start with an innocuous car-park in an unprepossessing service station on the M6...

LittleBear and I were walking across said car-park, on perfectly flat tarmac, not hopping, skipping, jumping or otherwise behaving with frivolity or foolishness. And I fell flat on my face, arms sprawling, knees crashing. I have no idea why. I am fairly sure that passers by did not think I was in a fit state to be in charge of a small child, let alone a car. I scrambled hastily to my feet and limped inside, knee bruised and grazed and arm wrenched. The next week involved extreme pain every time I tried to insert my left arm into a sleeve or through the strap of my rucksack.

Moving swiftly on to our first proper attempt on a fell - the Langdale Pikes. For various reasons, LittleBear and I diverged from the remainder of our party, assaulting the peaks while they meandered on lower slopes. This then led to us attempting to descend as fast as possible to regain the main party. LittleBear appears to have legs containing steel springs, and not the custard and leftover bits of polystyrene and putty that seem to constitute my legs. Dropping 1750 feet over 1.2 miles was a challenge. Doing so in barely more than 45 minutes of walking left me shaking, while LittleBear hopped, skipped and generally sprang about the place in a soul-destroying fashion. The shaking at the end of the descent, however, was as nothing compared to my state the following morning, or indeed over the next three days. There were times the only way I could get downstairs was backwards, the pain in my thigh muscles was so excruciating. I used a pair of trekking poles for even the shortest stroll for the next few days.

I had, more or less, recovered from this assault on my pride and legs by the time Friday rolled around. Aware that dear old GrannyBear would be arriving on Saturday, I determined that I would clean the front steps that lead into our cottage. They are smooth slabs of slate, and spend almost their entire time in shade, so develop a nasty slick of vague green across their surface. So, out I went to scrub them clean, and leave them safe for elderly bears to walk on. Never mind that it was lashing with rain at the time. Nor that it was rather cold. Nor, indeed, that I have distinctly sub-standard circulation in my hands. In fact, my hands became so cold while scrubbing I failed to notice that I was repeatedly crashing my knuckles into the rough surfaces of the risers of the steps. It was only when I dripped my way back inside that I discovered that not all the drips were rain. Nearly two weeks later, the final two knuckles still have scabs and holes in them.

And, finally, to my piece de resistance. An injury so impressively incompetent that I have come close to approaching total strangers to tell them about it. While having a family cottage in a beautiful part of the country is an enormous privilege and blessing, it does require that each of us undertakes various aspects of maintenance and DIY on most visits. And thus it was that I sat, tools neatly arrayed around me, carefully marking up where to drill new holes in the front door. I turned to put my pencil down, caught my elbow on the mains lead of the drill and tipped it off the arm of the chair. From whence it fell... landing point first just below my ankle bone. Wood-drill bits are quite sharp. Wood-drill bits pursued downwards by the full weight of a 1kW mains-powered drill are sharp and heavy. At least it wasn't on.


Saturday, 13 July 2019

A moment of positivity

Despite my current battle to keep my head above water, there are some moments of light and joy that I am going to focus on.

LittleBear has his future as a professional footballer all planned out. That's as a part-time professional footballer, obviously. The rest of the time he'll be busy being a physicist. However, his footballing plan involves being scouted for LocalTown, then moving on to BiggerClub, before finally stepping up into the Premiership. Simple isn't it? You can imagine, perhaps, my anxiety when one of LittleBear's team-mates got scouted not simply for LocalTown, but actually for BiggerClub. It took me a few days to decide how and when to break this news to him. I feared a crumbling meltdown as he wept at not being scouted. Instead the conversation went something like this...

Me: I've got some awesome news. Guess what? TeamMate has been scouted by BiggerClub, and he's going to start training with them.
LittleBear: That's really good for TeamMate!
Me: I wonder if he'll learn lots of good stuff that will help him in our team?
LittleBear: He probably will. I think he'll be even more solid in defence. And then we'll score more goals.
Me: Why will you score more if TeamMate is better in defence?
LittleBear: Because if I'm confident that we've got a strong defence, I'll score more goals, as I play better when I'm confident.

How can I not swell with love and pride at that attitude to his friend's success?

Meanwhile, LittleBear has also received his school report today. Obviously it's nauseating in its praise for my little angel, especially the bits about needing to be reminded to listen when with certain children. However, I am going to spend the weekend reading, and re-reading these lines, and reminding myself that I have the best and loveliest little boy in the whole world, and that no matter what stresses and strains the world throws at me, I adore him beyond all imagining.

"LittleBear is an incredibly motivated learner who has a thirst for knowledge..."

"It is always a pleasure to have a conversation with LittleBear..."

"It is always lovely to hear about LittleBear's regular trips to different bookshops!"

"We have loved teaching LittleBear and are proud of all he has achieved..."