Christmas musings

Hello, hello. I have been stuck for the last two days in the middle of the hell that is Christmas shopping.

We are downsizing Christmas again this year. The two girls couldn’t think of anything much they wanted, and lists had to be wrung out of them using thumb screws. Neither Jason or I want anything and the only person with an endless list is the boy. This is allowed because he is ten, and excitable.

You would think that Christmas shopping when nobody really wants much would be easier, except that with a budget and very specific, if small lists, it means that everything has to be just right, and I have spent more time worrying about it than in the years when I have just thought ‘fuck that noise’ and loaded the credit card to the rafters with tat.

I think I have just about finished now. There is the odd thing, which as ever, is proving impossible. With my kids it is never the must have item of the year, because we’ve never done that. If they ever wanted whatever it was, they just got an IOU until after Christmas when all the fuss had died down and you didn’t have to drive to Azerbaijan to beat someone to death with your shoe for something they’d lose interest in three weeks later anyway. No, with my kids it’s the peculiar things they want that are not that easy to track down because they aren’t readily available in high street shops. Things like vintage Beano comics or corduroy dungarees. The internet makes this less stressful than it used to be, but it is still not as easy as it sounds when their needs are so specific and they are very definite about what they do and don’t like. So corduroy dungarees is fine, but ones with the correct width of cord and the right colour and not too tight and with this kind of pocket is less fine.

Still, they are all ok with waiting, and they know that if something isn’t immediately available, that even if it is obscure, we will track it down eventually and that waiting for something does not mean that Christmas is ruined. I do like to try though, hence the inevitable few days of madness when I am running around trying to source random, and I mean random, things from here, there and everywhere.

It seems odd that I don’t want anything. Regular readers will know that I am one of the wantiest people in the world. I am unashamedly an enthusiastic consumer and propper upper of capitalism par excellence. There is never not a rolling list of things that delight my heart and that I would love to own.

I have, over the last twelve months however, changed in quite a lot of ways and one of those ways is realising that my hunger for things has often been as much an addiction as someone else’s hunger for gin, or heroin, or crisps. I have been working on this, and the proof of the pudding is that this Christmas, despite being presented with an array of the shiniest of shiny things as I shop, I have not really been tempted to indulge. It feels rather liberating.

I have so much already and there is nothing I need, and if there is something I really want, I am in the lucky position of not having to wait until Christmas to have it, should the want be really pressing. My house is overflowing with things, lovely things that I adore and do not, for one moment, regret buying, but there is only so much one woman can own without turning into Elton John. I do not want to be Elton John. I’m not sure Elton John wants to be Elton John a lot of the time to be honest.

I am not, for one moment saying that this makes me a wonderful person. It doesn’t. I’m still the same flawed, ridiculous person I was before. I’m not saying that this will last. It might not. That’s alright. I’m just saying that actually, for me right now, it’s really nice not to be consumed with want for stuff. It’s not that when I have the things I want they seem hollow and empty, because they don’t. Like I said, everything I own makes me very happy indeed, but it is pretty amazing to be able to just walk away from things and not regret not buying them.

The last couple of days of buying trauma are a small price to pay for what I hope will be our loveliest Christmas yet. We are going away for the week before Christmas, to our favourite holiday cottage in the hills of North Wales. We are going to sit in front of the fire, reading books and eating buns and relaxing. We come home on Christmas Eve when I will contemplate whether it is worth wrestling the tree down from the loft. It may not be. Our Christmas day, as ever, will be quiet. It will be just us, the cat and the tortoise, eating too much, reading a lot and watching films together. I cannot wait.

 

 

A Weekend of Revels

I have had an amazing and utterly tiring weekend. I had plans to do all sorts of things today but was so tired and incapable I ended up doing almost nothing, and that not very well. Tomorrow is another day.

I drove down to Surrey on Saturday morning. This is not a drive I particularly enjoy, given that it embraces large parts of the M25. I expected to be stuck in hideous traffic, and set off reasonably early in the belief that I would be mostly stationery for the best part of three hours. Instead the roads were gloriously clear, and I made it to my friend Claire’s house while she was still pottering round in her dressing gown. I did think about driving around the countryside for another hour, but I was desperate for a wee and a cuppa so she had to put up with me surprising her.

We had a lovely morning, catching up on gossip and then headed off to London in the afternoon to meet up with a friend of hers and grace a few pubs with our presence. We slid on over to Brixton in the evening, having a fantastic Jamaican meal at Turtle Bay, washed down with a cocktail or two before heading off to Brixton Academy for our gig.

The last time I went to Brixton Academy was about twenty odd years ago when I went to see the first farewell gig by The Wonderstuff with my friend Justine. In the intervening years it has not changed at all. Well, it has possibly become slightly stickier underfoot, but that’s about it. It was very odd to be back there, standing in pretty much the same spot as all those years ago.

It was a tremendous gig. The support band, Ferocious Dog, were fantastic and I urge you to check them out if you like The Levellers and/or folk punk as a genre. They were on for nearly an hour and had nearly as big an audience as The Levellers.

As for The Levellers themselves. My word it was fun. It’s been twenty five years since Levelling The Land came out and they played the entire album, as well as heaps more stuff. The place was rammed, we were all going crazy and we knew every word. It was euphoric. I loved every single moment. I went deaf, I lost my voice, I sweated about six pints of fluid, I buggered my knees from jumping up and down and I think I’ve probably done some serious damage to my bones thanks to the depth of the bass sound reverberating through me. It was epic, as my children would say. I nearly cried when they played This Garden, my favourite track of theirs, and their didgeridoo player was so amazing he made me want to play it too. He had fairy lights on his didgeridoo and that is not a euphemism. He was like Bez from The Happy Mondays, but better.

We felt like teenagers again, which was just the most magnificent feeling in the world. Although on the train home, as the cold began to bite and the adrenalin began to wear off I was feeling less teenagerish by the minute. And when I got up at seven the next morning to make an early start back so that I could stand for three hours in the cold, helping with the food bank drive at our local Christmas Fair, I wasn’t feeling in the least bit euphoric. In fact, I was wondering what the bloody hell made me think I could do that kind of thing and not suffer for it.

It was totally worth it though and I’d do it all again tomorrow.

As for the Christmas Fair, it was great. I saw loads of people I know supporting our community either with stalls of their own or as shoppers or volunteers. My amazing, tireless friend Shirley who is the powerhouse behind the petition for the Save Glenfield Children’s Heart Unit was working away and got over 1100 signatures, which is brilliant. At the Food Bank Drive we were overwhelmed with donations. The guys who organised it had been going since eleven by the time I got there at about half past one and they had already taken several estate car loads of donations by then. We ended up doing four more runs, with donations of all shapes and sizes from every kind of person from every walk of life. It was really wonderful to talk to people who were interested and engaged and willing to help. There were very few people who walked by and didn’t at least stop to chat. It was terrific, and even though I couldn’t feel my toes by the time we wrapped up, I wouldn’t have been anywhere else.

Tilly had been working at the wool shop up the road, and after I’d finished I went up and met her, and we wandered the stalls, buying cheese from my friend Simon at the deli, chatting to our friend Keeley with her stall of wonderful hand made jewellery and all kinds of treasures from round the world. I bumped into an old friend from ukulele lessons who was rounding people up for carols and mince pies in a local square and we chatted. The atmosphere was great and even though it was dark there were still loads of people out and about, having a great time.

We walked home in the cold, the frost was already beginning to form and the sky was as clear as clear. The new moon had a frost halo and you could see Venus twinkling away in the blackness. It was just the tonic after a long day.

It did, for a few, brief hours, begin to feel a bit like Christmas.

 

A week of All the things

Thanks for all your kind comments which I will answer at some point very soon indeed. In the meantime, before I have to go and do stuff I thought I’d write a quick blog to say I atent dead (yet). Much, much better, so all your kind wishes and thoughts really worked. I managed to do everything I needed to, and didn’t have to cancel any crucial plans, which is great, because selfishly, a lot of the things I had to do this week were nice ones, and I really wanted to do them.

On Tuesday I managed to drive to Sheffield at the crack of dawn to see my lovely friend, Kate. We don’t see each other very often at all because we are both stupidly busy, so it was wonderful to be able to meet up for the first time this year. I was so eager I got to her house early. She lives right on the edge of the city by the Derbyshire Peaks, so I took myself off to a beautiful little village that has a gorgeous woodland walk and had a very frosty walk through the woods, watching the sun coming up over the city and annoying a family of wrens who accompanied me for a large part of my trek.

Kate and I mostly nattered and ate. She gave me a copy of her first full length novel, which is out very, very soon. I’m so excited for her. We’ve known each other since she first mooted the idea of writing as something she loved and was passionate about, and she’s worked so hard and come so far. She deserves every success, and with her second novel well underway and a release date of May next year, it looks like it’s coming.

I had to leave Sheffield far too early because I was due to go and see The Human League in the evening with my friends David and Jane. It was something we booked months ago and then suddenly it was time to go and all the waiting was over. I couldn’t really believe I was going to be honest. I am, as you are all aware, not in the first flush of youth and I loved The Human League as a teen. On Tuesday night, standing in the crowd, the first bars of Mirror Man started and I had a really vivid flashback of young me watching them on Top of the Pops and thinking that I would never, ever be the kind of person who would be able to do anything so exotic as seeing a band that famous. Admittedly I had to wait about thirty years to do it, but still. There I was. I left the gig, deaf, aching, tired beyond reason but grinning like a loon.

On Wednesday I took my mum to the hospital to see a consultant for something that we were all somewhat concerned about. It was a pretty stressful day in the lead up to the appointment, so it was absolutely euphoric when we came away , knowing exactly what the problem was and that it could be treated.

In the evening I went over to see my lovely friend Nicki. We had loads to catch up on, and over delicious Pad Thai, we set the world to rights and I left her house with a huge bundle of letters that delighted my heart. This is the fourth year that I have volunteered to be santa at her school. The kids post the letters and I reply. Each one is unique to the child, I don’t believe in form letters, and it’s one of the most joyous jobs I do. The kids letters are an absolute treat. I haven’t had a chance to do more than scan them yet, but I’m looking forward to replying to the child who wants David Walliams for Christmas, and the one that wants a large jar of gherkins (spelled girkins). This is next week’s job. All else pales into insignificance beside it.

Yesterday Jason and I went on a date together. This happens rarely and is always a big deal when it does. I was particularly excited because we were going to London, to the theatre, which are two of my favourite things to do in the world, and to do them with my favourite person, who isn’t keen on London or the theatre, was kind of a big deal.

We had a marvellous day. We made good time, found decent parking and wandered over to Piccadilly to have a delicious lunch at Hawksmoor, which even my picky husband couldn’t find fault with. We had time before the play started to go and have a gawp in Liberty, and one of the ladies on the women’s fashion floor got excited by my vintage AnnaBelinda dress, which made my day. In the afternoon we pushed off to The Garrick to see the play This House. I’d already seen it when it was on at the National a few years ago, but I’d only seen the NTLive version and really wanted to see it in the theatre. It was fantastic, and even Jason enjoyed it. It was a brilliant, relaxed, fun day and we came home tired but happy to find that the children hadn’t killed each other, which was a bonus.

I had two things to do today, both of which have fallen through, so I naughtily spent the morning dozing, and now I need to get on with things so that I can slope off for the weekend with my friend Claire and go and see The Levellers at Brixton Academy tomorrow night. Special thanks go to my friend Lizzie, who was going to go and now can’t, and who has given me her ticket because I managed to lose my own and was very sad about it, and now I’m not.

TMI

I’ve been forced to slow down a bit for the last few days due to the fact that first I thought I was coming down with a cold, then I thought I might have food poisoning, then I thought it was norovirus, now I have no bloody idea.

What I do know is that the cold symptoms are now gone but the stomach upheavals haven’t, and it’s all a bit too medical for my liking. I shall spare you the details but it is safe to say that my life is not exactly glamorous at the moment, although I struggle on bravely.

I have not taken entirely to my bed, although on Wednesday afternoon I had had enough and went to bed at five and stayed there, sulking for quite some time. Since then, I have, in large part tried to stay at home where possible, due to the fact that it is entirely uncertain when I may need to use the facilities, and the thought of being caught short on the hard shoulder of the M1 is the sort of thing I have nightmares about.

I have used the time to read far too many depressing news articles, have a short argument with a Brexiteer who I was so bored by I gave up talking to him, even though he is still persevering by sending me tweets in CAPITAL LETTERS. It’s just no fun baiting him. No fun at all. You know your life has lost a bit of sparkle when you don’t want to poke a stick through the bars of the rabidly unintelligent any more. If I were a parrot I’d probably be plucking my feathers out about now.

The seventy biscuits are nearly gone, and the sad thing is that I have not eaten any, due to aforesaid adventures in stomach bug land. I cooked a tea I didn’t want to eat this evening and managed to massacre it to such an extent that for the first time in years I actually ended up throwing the whole thing in the bin and buying everyone a Chinese takeaway because there was nothing to be saved.

I have become stressed about Christmas shopping, because I am not inspired by anything this year, at least nothing I can afford to buy anyone. The only thing I really want to get is for Tilly, who has asked for ‘A humanitarian revolution’ for Christmas, and I think there’s about as much chance of that as there is of me becoming a Trappist monk.

I have become stressed about still being ill because this coming week is an absolute log jam of things that must and shall be done. I may have to invest in Jason’s idea of a stout cork, some waders and a lot of duct tape if I’m to get through this. If you see me coming, don’t embrace me. It’s all I’m saying.

I have cheered myself up by watching Shirley Valentine with the kids again. We love that film so much it never fails to raise the spirits. I also read Wild by Cheryl Strayed about her adventures hiking 1,100 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail. It made me feel slightly more sanguine about dashing from the sofa to the loo every couple of hours. At least I wasn’t losing my toenails whilst almost stepping on rattlesnakes and worrying about bears. It has only reconfirmed my belief that camping is God’s way of telling you to buy a house.

 

Seventy Biscuits and Sandy

Let’s have a little bit of cheer.

Firstly, can I say how grateful I am to all of you that read this stuff, that share this stuff, that take the time to think about what I’m saying even if you don’t agree with it, and you absolutely don’t have to agree with it. I’m just really pleased you talk to me.

Can I say a really enormous thank you to those of you who comment and tell me your stories. It is one of the best parts of my day when there is a comment waiting, where you have taken the time and energy to check in, to tell me what’s going on for you, to trust me with your own thoughts and feelings. It’s pretty brilliant. It’s a tiny part of the world where I feel we genuinely speak to each other about real things and real feelings without all the crap, and it’s truly good.

It happens here, it happens on Facebook, it happens on Twitter, and in the groups I run and participate in, and it makes me feel connected to my tribe. In a world where it feels like we’re coming apart at the molecules it gives me real faith that there are those of us still making rather than breaking, still creating, still dreaming, still getting up and doing what needs to be done.

And on the days when I’m tired, and grumpy and it all seems a bit overwhelming, your comments and the knowledge that you’re reading even if you aren’t commenting, makes everything that bit easier. So thank you.

I have spent all day talking about, and being in meetings about the NHS and STP and other things medical and social care oriented, and it was a bit gloomy to be honest, but several things other than your amazingness have also cheered me up.

Firstly I got a box of seventy chocolate biscuits to review, so life is not all bad. Some of it is borderline diabetic too. But in a good way.

Secondly we won the pub quiz this evening on points if not on prizes. You win on points but then you have to go into a terrible lottery where you win either the cash prize, the bonus or the booby prize. Sadly, it was me who picked the booby prize, but on the other hand we got more chocolate and we absolutely aced the quiz questions. Also I got to spend the evening with my friends who make me laugh and make me happy and don’t want me to fix the NHS (well at least not on quiz night), so that was fabulous.

Thirdly I watched this. I watched it yesterday. I watched it again today. Regular readers will know that I joined the Women’s Equality Party when it was founded. I was really impressed by everything it stood for, everything it had to say and the way it was going about building a brand new political party. You know that every time I get morose about the state of equality or the lack thereof, I bung them a donation. It makes me feel better, and I try to live what they espouse, because like WEP I am a great believer in practical politics, in equality for all (including men – and anyone else who doesn’t feel included), and in getting the job done by working together for a common cause. I am sickened by traditional politics and the nonsense it offers us. I believe there is a better way to do things and I genuinely believe if WEP can get its numbers up sufficiently, they could herald that new way.

I heard Sandi Toksvig speak at Mumsnet Blogfest last year. She was only on stage for a few minutes, but she was fantastic. When I heard she had been invited to do a TED talk I knew I had to watch it, and yesterday I found it had been released.

If you want fifteen minutes of your day when you feel good, hopeful, positive and that our future will not end in a burning post apocalyptic Mad Max style Thunderdome, please watch. Even if you aren’t inspired to join, you’ll thank me. It’s my gift to you for what you give to me.

STP BCT CRY

On Sunday (I know it’s Tuesday, what can I say? Too many things, too little time to write about them) I went back to BBC Radio Leicester to talk to the breakfast show team about my Advent Food Bank Box project. You can listen to it here from 1 hour 41 for about six minutes should you so desire. The project is going well and we’re going to be helping with a food bank drive at the Co-op at our local Christmas Fair and banging the drum for a bit more Advent box goodness.

Yesterday I had a serious book cull and sorted out eight carrier bags full of children’s books I was holding onto for sentimental purposes and donated them to my friend’s school library. It took me ages to sort them as I sat on the floor reading some of my favourite ones and feeling a bit sad that my children no longer want me to read to them, although I think Walter the Farting Dog will enjoy his new home, and hopefully make whole classes of children laugh as uproariously as my children did when we read it.

There has been a lot in the news over the last few days about the NHS’ new STP programme. It isn’t really new. It’s been around for months, only it has been confidential. Except that most people who are interested in the NHS at all know that it is basically another vehicle for massive cuts which will pretty much be the death knell of the NHS.

STP (they love their acronyms) stands for Sustainability and Transformation Plans. These will be implemented across the UK. They are supposed to partner and logically extend something called BCT (told you), which stands for Better Care Together.

Better Care Together is something that has been being steadily implemented pretty much alongside it being consulted on, which shows you what a complete and utter nonsense NHS consultations are.

In theory BCT sounds brilliant. It is the idea that most people do not actually want to be in hospitals, and would rather be at home. It is the idea that at home, a lot of people get better more quickly because they are less stressed, less likely to become cross infected by super bugs and the like. It is, at this level, something that almost everyone you speak to about it including me, would really get on board with.

But then you look at what it means in practice. In practice it is an extremely clumsy tool for getting rid of what the NHS call ‘bed blockers’. Bed blockers are people who the system has pretty much failed, dementia patients, elderly people with no family to care for them, long term chronic patients etc. These people need continuous, ongoing care that they are not receiving in the community. They will probably be discharged and admitted tens of times into hospitals, and they are part of the reason hospitals are in crisis. With an increasingly elderly population, this problem is only going to get worse. The solution is BCT.

BCT puts the patient back in their home. For every six patients at home in their own bed, this will be called a ‘virtual ward’. These beds will then be counted in hospital bed counts to make it look like beds are not being lost. This is absolute bollocks.

These patients at home will be picked up by community care, which will look after them at home with a complete care package including visits four times a day and everything they need.

This is also bollocks. We have a pilot scheme of this running in certain areas of Leicester. Councillors are hailing it as marvellous. It is marvellous because they are making it the exemplar to justify rolling it out to hundreds of patients, so it has to be marvellous. It is a lie, however.

There are many problems with BCT, not least of which is that not every house is suitable for setting up as a virtual ward, and nobody says what happens to patients when they inevitably get sicker and need to genuinely go back into the hospital their bed has been removed from. (they are not keeping all the empty BCT beds by the way. It’s not financially sustainable. Over 100 beds have been already closed in our most under pressure, over worked hospital). Nobody says what happens to these virtual wards when patients die. It’s not like we can just pop a needy person into someone else’s bed, because the NHS have designated it as a hospital bed.

Other problems include the fact that all this extra care will fall onto what is known as primary care, i.e. GPs, district nurses etc. Currently, in Leicester alone we are nearly fifty GP’s short of what we need in this city. A GP should see twenty patients a day. Ours are seeing, on average, sixty. That’s before BCT and STP really kick in. We do not have sufficient practice nurses, nurse practitioners or district nurses to cope with what care in the community needs doing now. That’s why these poor buggers keep being admitted into hospital in the first place. How will we manage when hundreds of chronic, needy patients are released back into the community with comprehensive 24/7 care needs?

The fear is that people like Richard Branson, who has just swept up another few hundred million quid’s worth of care contracts from the NHS, will sell carers to the system to cover this, except that the care industry is poorly regulated and requires people to have little to no qualifications. So your patients could be seen by literally anyone. Worse, there is nobody to monitor this care. If you think the exposes of what happens in old people’s homes is shocking, wait until thousands of people are at home, being cared for by random, barely qualified strangers with nobody checking on them.

The CQC, which is the Care Quality Commission that is supposed to monitor how GP surgeries and hospitals etc are doing all around the country are notoriously poor at their job. Their budget was slashed in 2015. They lost hundreds of inspectors and were doing some of their inspections via the Internet using Google. Just one of their reports was found to contain upwards of 200 errors. They temporarily closed a GP surgery in our area for having a dirty fish tank in the waiting room. They often ask GPs to take time out of their already overworked days to provide reams of paperwork and records. They are over stretched and under resourced. Yesterday it was announced that they have been hit by more cuts and the loss of another 400 staff. So who will be overseeing this care in the community?

So that’s BCT.

STP sounds great. Just like BCT. It acknowledges that there is massive waste in the system. It acknowledges that projects are started without clear goals and deadlines and go off track and things don’t get done. It insists that all plans put into place by the NHS are both sustainable and can transform the NHS into an efficient, useful tool for helping patients. So far, so good.

What it doesn’t tell you is that it is also being applied retrospectively for current projects and will not let them go ahead until they have done due diligence and shown their workings. This sounds great. Nobody wants failing projects being unnecessarily green lighted only to crash and burn when they’re implemented. It is great in theory, until you realise that the three year project to try and provide more beds in Leicestershire for mentally ill teenagers has now been halted indefinitely until months more work can be done, for example. And there is no money for any of this extra work. It means that we are still left with ten dedicated beds in the entire region, and that includes Loughborough, Melton Mowbray, Market Harborough and even as far out as some areas of Derbyshire. TEN BEDS. And that’s the way it will stay until STP has signed it off. In the meantime, mentally ill teenagers are left to either fend for themselves or put on adult wards, which is not even less than ideal.

What it doesn’t tell you is that it is basically a massive bulldozer to drive through swingeing cuts that will decimate the NHS. Sustainability is the new buzz word for making cuts the government demands. Transformation means privatisation pretty much.

In Leicester, Loughborough and Rutland alone the reality of STP is that it is calling for the closure of one entire hospital in Leicester, most cottage hospitals in the area and the loss of one third of our already at capacity hospital beds.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

 

Speaking for the Lost

On Saturday it was business as usual in our house. Business as usual means running around like a blue arsed fly mostly.

We took our friend Will to BBC Radio Leicester in the morning to talk about his crowdfunding project for his wedding and to speak about his cancer diagnosis. It was a fantastic interview, and you totally couldn’t tell he’d never been on the radio before. He rocked it. You can listen to it here. It’s on at about 1 hour 45 minutes in.

Jason gave Will the chauffeur treatment home while Tallulah and I nipped off to Leicester Clock Tower (regular readers will know that the Clock Tower is the nexus for any and all activity in Leicester) to take part in an event organised by Women’s Aid Leicestershire.

It was the start of Domestic Violence Awareness Week.

One in three women will experience domestic violence in their lives (one in six men). For every seven women killed, there will be two men killed by domestic violence. Statistics show that these women are killed by husbands, partners, fathers and sons. The figures for domestic violence against men and boys shows that they are also hurt by other men in their families as well as women, by the way. I will reiterate here what I have already said elsewhere. Nobody is saying that domestic violence is exclusively a women’s problem. Nobody is saying that domestic violence against men is acceptable. It’s just a fact that it affects more women (and children) than it does men.

In the UK in the last year, 124 women were killed by their partners, husbands or male members of their family. That equals one every three days.

Refuges for women are being forced to close all the time due to government cuts. What refuges remain open cannot cope with the number of women and children seeking help from violent and abusive family situations. National Women’s Aid statistics show that 92 women and 75 children were turned away from a refuge in one single day in 2015. Leicester women’s refuge is under threat of closure and is only being kept open by the goodwill of fundraisers and donors.

The Women’s Aid event called for women to come forward and stand at the Clock Tower to honour and remember those women who lost their lives. A list was read out of every woman’s name and age, and as each woman’s name was read out, one of us, standing for them, put on a white mask and stood in silence to show the space where they no longer were. We stood for girls as young as fifteen and women in their eighties, we stood for women of every age, colour and creed. We stood for people from our city who are now lost. We stood for women all over the country.

It was profoundly affecting and a great honour to be a part of it. I have been involved in quite a few events and protests in the last twelve months, and not one of them made the impact on the weekend shoppers that this did. I hope it highlighted just what a tragedy this situation is. I hope it made a change for someone, somewhere. You can read the article here.

We had great support on the day from everyone who stopped to watch and talk to us. Men just as affected as women.

In the comments below the article I’ve linked to  are the usual comments by men about ‘what about men?’ and how ‘sexist’ this is.

Firstly, there were men there, helping, supporting, collecting for the women’s refuge that Women’s Aid run, handing out leaflets.

Secondly, Women’s Aid also run a group to help support men who suffer from domestic violence. If you need help, they’re there for you too. Nobody condones domestic violence of any kind and it is abhorrent to think people believe it’s being used as some kind of gender war bargaining chip over who is being oppressed more.

Thirdly, if you’re really that bloody bothered about being oppressed and how it’s not fair, why not do what these women do (with no funding from government I might add)? Why not organise yourselves, get off your backsides and go out and make a difference rather than sit behind a keyboard whinging about how unfair it is? The Clock Tower is as free for you to use as it is for everyone else.

In the meantime, if you want to help support what Women’s Aid do, or a project near you, they need donations, they need emergency care packs for women and children who have to flee and do not have time to bring their belongings with them. They need people willing to spread the word about the threat these spaces are under. They need volunteers willing to help. Every year instead of sending Christmas cards I donate what I would spend to a charity that speaks to me. Last year I donated to Refuge, who do a fantastic job of providing help for those suffering from domestic violence nationally. This year I’ll be donating to Women’s Aid Leicestershire.