Category Archives: Uncategorized

Sweat

I was going to write a thoughtful post about how we need to change the narrative in terms of the way we speak about things like rape, and terrorism, and I may still do this, but today I would, whilst acknowledging the news is still terrible to despairing, like to complain about the heat.

This is within my constitutional rights as a lard skinned Englishwoman, and I will not be denied.

God damn it. This weather is terrible.  Just terrible. I’m not even pretending to be grateful about the heat any more. I don’t care if it makes me look like an ungrateful churl who spends all her time moaning about it being too hot or too cold. I AM an ungrateful churl. I am an ungrateful, sweaty churl who has spent all day doing jobs for five minutes before abandoning them to slither off in a puddle of my own sweat.

It is just too much.

If I try to sand the doors in my garden (I have a fence made of recycled doors), I literally leak from every orifice after about four minutes, which makes dealing with power tools reasonably problematic, and means that all the sawdust sticks to me like glue. If I try to paint, the paintbrush starts slithering around in my hand.  I’m not even going to attempt the digging and gravel laying that needs doing.

My hydrangeas are keeling over, and I have to keep going out to give them a drink and plead with them not to die. I kill hydrangeas every, single year, but I really thought this year would be different. Now, maybe it won’t. I’m doing a lot of hydrangea based praying.

Everything is sticky. Bleurgh.

I am particularly exercised about boob sweat. Boob sweat is, in my opinion, the worst sort of sweat you can have. It wells up. It sits in pockets, trapped under the boob, or soaks into the bra and makes it wet and itchy and just horrible.  It rolls between your boobs onto your belly and then drips from the overhang (I have belly overhang – it’s a thing) in horrible rivulets. It constantly reminds you that you have belly overhang. It makes you feel like you are leaking, pendulously, rhythmically leaking, like a punctured wine skin.

I had to go out today to do some jobs. Because of sweaty bra rash, I opted for the devil may care, no bra plan. I am a woman of a certain age, with fairly large knockers for my frame. It is not advisable for me to wander about sans bra in public. I decided it was worth the risk. I’m too old/menopausal to be cat called any more, and if I cause someone to shudder in despair I decided I would just look them bravely in the eye, wave my finger in their face and say: ‘Think on!’ in a wise way before heading for the hills, safe in the knowledge that I don’t really care any more.

I put my floatiest sundress on in the hope that the billowing fabric would a) cause a breeze, b) hide the bosom disaster area. Then I put on an enormous sun hat, which I hoped would add to my camouflage activities and sallied forth.

I was aiming for a kind of Joanna Lumley wandering through a rose garden with a carefree, artisan trug in one hand and the other languidly cupping the roses. What I got was a really itchy, sweaty head from the hat, and a harried expression from having to navigate with a ridiculous hat and flip flop combo. Also, the Joanna Lumley look doesn’t really translate well in the DIY aisle of Wilkinsons while you’re trying to wrangle two, five litre paint cans and some cut price toothpaste into a shopping bag that is clearly too small.

I managed to cool off slightly when I got home. I sat in the swing chair in the garden, idly musing on life, the universe and everything, and feeling myself sweat through the wicker effect plastic weave.

Then there was some unholy squawking from the bushes, and Derek emerged triumphant with the most stupid baby blackbird in existence. At this point, the blackbird parents started crashing about and shrieking in the tree tops, the children started yelling and Derek dropped the bird. At this point, I rather hoped it would fly off, but no, it was too bloody stupid to do anything but sit there looking amazed. Derek also sat there looking amazed, and I was forced to leap into action.

I caught the bird, corralled the cat in the kitchen and then put the bird down, hoping it would finally get the whole ‘fly or be eaten’ situation it was in. Nope. It sat there, with it’s wide, baby bird mouth, cheeping and looking bewildered. So I picked it up again, climbed up the fence, and deposited it in the nearest tree, where it sat for the next ten minutes, still cheeping and sitting, sitting and cheeping. Then I went inside to console Derek, who was furious at being denied something she didn’t really understand, except that it just wasn’t fair.

By the time I got back outside, the bird had thankfully gone. Hopefully not into the mouth of another cat, to appear dead on my decking later on, whereupon we will almost certainly have to have a bird funeral, because that’s the way we roll.

I sat there musing on my life, sweating and sweating and sweating and thinking about the fact that I bet Joanna Lumley doesn’t have to do this.

 

 

Thoughts on Digging

I’ve mentioned this several times I know, but my granny used to keep a diary from time to time. I have at least one, maybe two volumes from the Eighties. Reading them is fascinating. She mixed the ordinary with the extraordinary. Entries swing wildly from buying a new carpet for the lounge to her thoughts about Robert Mugabe (ass hat). I thought of her this morning as I decided to write a blog post.

I have spent the whole week pretty much in my garden. I’ve painted my shed Forget Me Not blue, because I can. I’ve painted my fence a stormy blue/grey.  I’m in a blue mood, it seems. I’ve been digging and weeding and planting, and it’s been good for what ails me, which is about equal parts dealing with the menopause and trying to wrap my head around what is happening in the world. I’ve been thinking about how lucky I am, despite everything. I’m thinking that I have a lot to be grateful for.

It feels like we are living in momentous times. Although maybe everyone feels like that at least once in their lifetime. I can’t know. I only live this lifetime.

Our political reality wobbles on a knife edge as Theresa May continues to pursue with relentless, grim jawed determination the unspeakable and sometimes unthinkable, all in pursuit of power.

Power to do what, I think as she firmly turns her back on another chance to make a better, more humane choice for the country and those of us who live in it. It reminds me of those films where the evil genius decides to blow the entire world to smithereens so that he can rule it uninterrupted by those pesky kids.

I always think, ‘rule what?’ What exactly would you be ruling after all that? Who the fuck would want to be in charge of a gently steaming pile of rubble where the only people still alive are like extras from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome and really won’t take kindly to leadership of any kind when they could be rampaging across the land, eating each other.

I’m trying to think kind thoughts about the people who prior to the election moaned bitterly about the fact that if more young people had voted in the last election/referendum we wouldn’t be in this mess, and how shocking their apathy/failure to value their vote is. These are almost certainly the same people who are now blaming young people for the current mess because they voted in unprecedented numbers for Jeremy Corbyn, which apparently was the wrong thing to do and that if only they understood that they should walk away from the bribes of free university places and get to grips with the fact that socialism doesn’t work, we’d all be better off now. I wonder who they mean by ‘we’?

I’m trying to understand how this double standard works. I’m trying to understand how the things that the generations who are moaning about the ‘youth of today’ freely took advantage of, like free university places, an NHS that wasn’t at breaking point, a generous benefit system that really did support people cradle to grave, access to everything the EU had to offer, are able to look people who have none of these things and the prospect of a lot less in their austere Tory future, in the eye without being thoroughly ashamed of themselves. Because to me that smacks of I’m alright Jack, and bugger the lot of you.

It’s amazing how much the ‘redistribution of wealth won’t work’ speech comes from people who have some wealth to distribute.  I wonder, if their positions were reversed, if they were teenagers now, they’d be so vehement? And I say this from the point of view of someone who did vote Labour and who is fully aware that I wouldn’t be in the privileged position I am today if it weren’t for free university education, brilliant healthcare and decent support when I spent 12 months desperately trying to get a job. And yes, I’m fine to pay more taxes, because I want an unprivatised health system and my children to get free education. I’d really like schools to be able to open five days a week. I’d really like libraries and Sure Start centres to stay open. I think it would be fantastic if the emergency services weren’t pared to the bone, and I know the money has to come from somewhere, and I’d be delighted to contribute to something other than Rupert Murdoch’s pension scheme and the wages of idle MPs.

I would also draw people’s attention to the fact that large numbers of people my age also voted Labour, because if you think growing up with nothing is hard, imagine growing old with nothing, because it’s going to be way fucking harder, and unless you’re independently wealthy, it’s coming to us all if Theresa stays in power.

What people who have reasonable lives always seem to forget in desperate times like these, is that those who have nothing, have nothing to lose by changing things, and if life keeps handing them nothing, or incessantly demanding they give what they don’t have, why shouldn’t they want something different? Why shouldn’t they want what you have?

And as for getting them to work harder, the benefit system the people who complain about ‘dole scroungers’ and ‘people getting something for nothing,’ talk about is a distant memory, and it’s time for people to update the map. When 30,000 people are estimated to have died as a result of austerity last year alone and malnutrition is the fastest rising cause of death in UK hospitals, we are not talking about people spending all their money on trainers and SKY television.

I’m also trying to understand, in light of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, well, just about everything really. I’m trying to understand those who are saying that now is not the time to get political about this, when the tower’s residents had been trying to get heard for months and couldn’t get anyone to listen to them, and because there is no more legal aid, could not afford representation. I’m trying to understand how those poor bloody people managed to live there, day in day out, in the sure and constant knowledge that they were effectively living in an accident waiting to happen and there was nothing they could do about it.

I’m trying to understand how it was alright to house people in wheelchairs on the top floor of a twenty four storey building with no proper access and facilities. I’m trying to understand why people don’t see this is happening all over the country and that the Grenfell tower tragedy could have happened, might still happen in every city in England where people are forced into sub standard accommodation, because the slums aren’t just history. Slum housing is a reality for many, many people who see their already hard lives exacerbated by housing that is dangerous, not just because it might collapse or set on fire, but because standards are so poor that things like mould and damp and vermin are a daily health hazard.

I am trying to understand how it’s not political that the lack of safety measures, the lack of sprinklers, fire escapes, etc, would have been at least looked at if the Tories hadn’t unanimously backed a decision to oppose Corbyn’s bill to make ALL human habitation actually fit for human beings. I am trying to understand why it’s ok to clad a building in millions of pounds of ‘pretty’ material because it benefits those who have money and who don’t like to look at poverty, but not to actually help people out of poverty.

I’m trying to understand why it shouldn’t be political except for those people who are saying that it might be the fault of the EU (except that the cladding in question is actually banned in at least three other EU countries) or immigrants ‘clogging up’ London.  I’m trying to understand how it’s not political that fire stations have been being closed and fire fighters laid off in droves because saving money is much more important than saving lives.  I’m trying to understand why it isn’t political when in response to this question (basically) Boris Johnson told the fire service to ‘get stuffed’.

I’m trying to understand how people can say that it is fine to cut these services to the bone because there were lots of fire fighters at the scene, while blithely failing to understand how lucky it was that the shops and flats that burned out in Walthamstow the day following Grenfell didn’t happen on the same night, or any other disaster in another part of the city.

And I really am trying to understand, because I know I live in a ‘bubble’ and I can still learn, and I have the ability to appreciate other’s points of view and I accept that my own point of view is just that. It isn’t fact, it’s just what I think and others do indeed have the right to think as they please, and they clearly do. I’m not always right and kind and good myself. I get that. But it’s just hard, as I write and think and read what I’ve written, to understand how someone can not think like me, because it all seems so logical. But maybe it isn’t. Maybe somebody will show me how it isn’t and I will ‘get it’. Until then I will continue to be baffled, and a bit sad.

And yet I’m not hopeless, because every time I try and fail to wrap my head around this I can absolutely understand those people who donated so many things to the victims of the fire that they had to stop taking donations. I can completely understand those people who are offering free legal advice, help, shelter, generosity in deed and spirit and kindness, because to me it seems logical that in situations like these, kindness is the only appropriate answer.

I’m not a big fan of Cheezus, as you know, but I try to live by a few simple rules, the most important of which is, ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ It’s what I always come back to as I dig. It’s what I always come back to when I veer towards despair. It’s simple. These times are throwing up choices all the time, choices about what we stand for, choices about what we do, choices about how we see ourselves, and that’s what it comes down to in the end. That and kindness.

 

OMFG

Good morning.

I am being held together by pain killers, strong coffee and my iron will after a night of refreshing Twitter every ten seconds until half past four in the morning.

So that was exciting, no?

I was expecting bleak despair this morning, and instead I wake up more hopeful than I have been in a long, long time.

I am reasonably incoherent and in no position to be operating heavy machinery, but here are some things wot I thought/think.

A hung parliament is the best we could hope for actually, in my opinion. It will force parties to talk to each other, negotiate and actually think about what they’re doing rather than sit in their party line bunkers shouting meaningless slogans at each other. This is a good thing. We need politicians who think.

Although if the Tories get into bed with the DUP we should all keep digging that bunker.

Whatever happens, it will undoubtedly lead to another general election in the short rather than the long term unless a miracle occurs for the Tories. I also welcome this. This time maybe all sides will a) pay attention to the voters, b) get their houses in order and c) stop relying on fat millionaires and their money to smooth things over rather than actually doing their fucking jobs.

Everyone is predicting that May will go. This would be brilliant. The woman is a walking disaster.

Everyone is predicting Boris will ascend. In an ideal world I’d like Ken Clarke, who actually seems like a decent bloke despite being a Tory. On the other hand, Boris will no doubt fuck things up even more impressively than May and heap further coals on the heads of the Tories, so it’s fine with me.

The Labour gains were so impressive across the board that Corbyn is finally being taken seriously, and why not? He’s survived 35 years as an anarchist back bencher and several coups from within the party to get to this. This man is the strong and stable of the leaders, not May. He’s proved it in spades. Maybe now Labour will actually shape up to be a coherent, unified opposition that are in fact an opposition and not Tory lite.

Word in the Twittersphere is that when the Exit polls were announced,  Rupert Murdoch lost his shit and stormed off in a huff. This is beautiful. Also beautiful all the front pages that have had to eat humble pie after relentlessly hounding Corbs. Perhaps the media will be more accountable after this.

No. Sorry. They won’t, but fuck them for this one, beautiful moment.

Also beautiful is the fact that UKIP returned no MPs, their vote shrank to 1.9% and Nutall is going to go back to his professional footballing career after having been defeated in his second attempt at becoming an MP this year. Nice to see he’s remaining true to form by blaming Theresa for everything. Mind you, this may be one area where we actually agree.

At one point news got out that Philip Davies had lost his seat in Shipley. I danced. Actually danced around my living room. Sadly it turned out to be untrue, but his majority decreased a good amount, as did Amber Rudd’s and Zach Goldsmith only squeaked back into Richmond by 300 votes. Give it time people, give it time.

The youth vote turn out was amazing. I am so bloody proud. Really I am. People are saying it’s because Corbyn promised free university tuition. I don’t care. If we are to invest in the future of Britain, this is where our money should go. They are the future and I am delighted that for whatever reason they got off their backsides and went and stood in the rain and voted. In places like Newcastle Under Lyme it was their vote that swung it for Labour by the tiniest of margins.

So many women MPs got elected, of every political stripe, and that makes me properly glad. There are now 200 women MPs in parliament and it gives me real hope that equality can be achieved, and more cross party co-operation. It looks like there is more diversity across the board too. We got our first turbanned Sikh, our first Sikh woman and  two disabled MPs for a start. Better representation across the board to reflect how Britain really lives is brilliant. MORE OF THIS KIND OF THING PLEASE.

As for Brexit, David Davies was forced, in the early hours, to start conceding that it might be a good thing if we stay in the single market and that more open negotiations across parties might be in order. Result. Anything that forces the government to take a long, hard look at how we do this is a win in my book. Hard Brexit looks increasingly unlikely and I am thrilled. More thrilled if we didn’t have it at all, but I’ll take the compromise.

Other cheering news:

Theresa had to stand on the platform at Maidenhead with a man dressed as Elmo and a man who calls himself Lord Bucket Head. This was enormously cheering. It could only have been bettered if she had actually lost to Elmo.

Jeremy Hunt’s majority took a drubbing in Surrey and the lady who campaigned against him on an NHS ticket got 20,000 votes, which is literally miraculous. Jeremy mate, your days are numbered.

George Osborne had the best time sticking the knife into Theresa on ITV last night. He even nearly held hands with Ed Balls.

A man dressed as a fish finger actually got some votes last night. I love this.

I despaired yesterday. I had a faint hope that politics would change, but I feared the worse. Last night was an amazing indication that a new political order is afoot. It’s going to be a rough ride, and this is only the beginning, but by God I am cheerful today.

 

 

 

 

 

Tilly is Eighteen.

Dear Tilly

You made it. Eighteen today.

There has been a hashtag doing the rounds of Twitter in the last few days #ThingsThatLeaveBritainReeling.

You being eighteen is one of them for me. I just can’t really wrap my head round it to be honest. I genuinely don’t know how to feel about it. I mean, it’s your birthday and that’s excellent and wonderful and cause for much cake and joy, and cake and joy will definitely be on the menu today.  Along with curry.

But also, you are grown up now. Like properly grown up. You get to go to the pub and get blind drunk on gin and tonic with nothing to fear except my wrath if you throw up into someone’s hat and leave it in my house.  You get to leave school in six weeks, forever.  You get to vote. In two days actually.

You are officially done with being a child. And I feel sad about that, even though I know it’s stupid, because no matter how old or wrinkly you get, how much facial hair you adopt, how many chins you grow, you will always and forever be my child and my creaky, arthritic knees are always ready to be sat on, and my arms will always be open for a hug, even if you squash me to jam, because I will be even older and wrinklier. And my moustaches will sweep the floor.

And you are still as daft as a brush, and still as loving and lovely, and all the things that were wonderful about you when you were teeny weeny like a newborn chick are all the same now, but with added lovely bits of grown up Tillyness. You just grow that little bit lovelier every year to be honest.

But, with two jobs and university looming, and boyfriends and travelling and working abroad in the summer, I am so aware of time with you slipping through my fingers, and I think that’s what is making me a little sad today, mixed in with all the happiness. I know it’s selfish, and even though I feel like what I would most like to do now is lock all the doors and make you stay forever, I know it can’t be, and it would be horrible if it were to be.

Because at the same time as keeping you all to myself, because only I really know how lucky I am to have you, I absolutely want all the adventure for you and the freedom, and all the beautiful future I see you mapping out for yourself, because you deserve it in spades. I want absolutely everything and all the stuff for you, just as I always have, because you are my baby and I love you so much.

So be free my lovely girl.  Be grown up in the way only you know how to be. Be adventurous. Be bold. Be brave. Be everything that is wonderful and true.

And know that you will always be my girl and the door will always be open, just like my arms and my heart.

Happy Birthday.

 

The Answer is Still Love

London was my home for five years. My daughter was born there. I bought my first house there. I adopted my first cats there. Ronnie and Reggie, the Kray twins of Hendon.

Key events.

London was not, as everyone had told me, cold and unwelcoming and lonely. It opened its arms and embraced me. I put it down to the fact that we have deeper history. My grandparents demobbed there after the war. My grandad working on the docks and my gran worked growing the family. My mum and aunt are technically cockneys. Lor’ luv a duck and all that.

London and I have history, important, wonderful history.

It is the place I feel most myself. On setting foot on its grimy pavements it’s where my heart and soul know home is, and I miss it, sometimes like an ache is how much I miss it.

I will probably never live there again. Cost, family, the fact that Jason hates city living all conspire against it. I’ve made my peace with that. Instead I visit as many times a year as I can, and it’s amazing, when it’s only an hour and a half up the road, how many times you can visit.

Events last night were so sad. Events like this are always sad. My heart aches, and I feel so much care, is the best word I can find, for my city and for those poor people. I wish to God I didn’t feel I have to keep writing posts like this. I really do.

I’m going to keep visiting though. I’m going to keep turning up, no matter what. Nobody is going to stop me from going home. Nobody.

There will be, there already are, angry, frightened people who rail against this kind of post, and who suggest mass deportation, internment camps and bringing back the death penalty (like that will stop suicide bombers). There are those who are already insisting that 1.6 billion Muslims are all the same, despite the fact that they wouldn’t dream of saying that 2.2 billion Christians are just the same, or that all men are the same, or all women, or all people with curly hair.

There will be those who don’t remember or who conveniently forget that we lived through the IRA bombings all through the Seventies and Eighties and didn’t demand mass deportation of Irish Catholics. There are those who will forget the nail bomber in Soho and Brick Lane and all the other atrocities (and that is the right word for them) that have been carried out in the name of other ideologies and beliefs but which don’t fit today’s bigoted agenda.

There are those who will call for us to vote Tory on Thursday because the Conservatives have a natural penchant for things like draconian measures on immigration and crime and punishment. These are the same people who will also conveniently forget that under Theresa’s tender care at the Home Office we lost 20,000 police officers on the streets, and that this is why the army are being called in, not because it is ‘a good thing’, but because it is ‘a necessary thing.’ These are the people who will ignore the fact that immigration has not gone down over the last seven years of Tory rule, while also conveniently ignoring the fact that both at Westminster and Manchester, the terrorists were British born.

I can’t conveniently forget any of that, even though it would be so wonderful to have a knee jerk response, a call to arms, a ‘do something’, a ‘declare war’ mentality. It’s so easy to say, but the reality is that it is not so easy to do. It’s not like flicking a switch. It’s not like you can just go out there and arrest people because you know, all criminals look like criminals so it’s easy. And even if you did, you couldn’t bloody hold them anywhere, because Theresa was also busy shafting the prison service at the same time she was running down the police force.

The cynical part of me thinks about how convenient all this is for the right, just at the time they need to be re-elected. The cynical part of me remembers Thatcher riding to victory on the back of the Falklands. The humane part of me hopes I’m wrong, because if I’m not, the lengths people who aren’t labelled terrorists will go to for power would just make me sick to my stomach.

I just won’t do it. I won’t give in to this kind of thinking.  I refuse. I understand people’s fear, really I do. I’ve lived large parts of my life consumed by fear thanks to my mental health. If anyone understands living in fear, I do. What I understand about fear though, having been its constant companion for so long, is that it isn’t real.

It isn’t terrorism that will bring this country to its knees. It’s fear. Fear is the real killer. Fear divides us. Fear makes us turn on our friends and neighbours. Fear paralyses us and keeps us in the house with the curtains shut, not daring to go out ‘just in case.’ Fear kills us while we are still alive. Fear taints every day, every thought, every thing we do or don’t do. Fear allows terror to live in your house and your actions and your mind, and that’s how terror wins.

Not in my house. Not in my head. Not in my life.

I can’t solve the problems of radical Islam, or racism, or homophobia, or fascism. I can’t legislate for anything, or force people to do what I want them to do, or shout at them until they give in to my stronger will. None of this is in my power or within my capabilities.

What I can do is live well. I can open my door to let people in without fear. I can open my door and walk out of it without fear. I can open my heart to those who need it, and particularly those who don’t know they need it. I can open my mind and refuse to accept ‘pat’ responses to complex problems, and I can love. I can love like a fiend. I can love like it’s my last day on earth and I need to use it all up so it doesn’t spoil. And I will.

So, every time something like this happens, I vow to write a love letter, because at the end of the day, love is the only thing that will make a difference, and anyone who tells you any different is wrong. Love is not namby pamby, weak stuff like people who scorn these words will tell you. Love is the most enduring force I know. It keeps hearts beating long after bodies should have given up. It knits broken people and their families back together. It proliferates the more you give it away. Love is always and eternally the answer because it is what life is made of and from.

So today, London, I love you with all my heart. Heal fast. I’m coming on Saturday to party. Be ready for me.

Grace Under Pressure

Yesterday, driving back from dropping Tallulah at a party I was listening to PM on Radio Four. I love Eddie Mair. Even when the news is dire, which it invariably is, Eddie is just the person to deliver it. His interviewing technique is particularly excellent (take heed, Jeremy Paxman).

I was moved to tears last night, listening to him interview a woman called Sarah Jenkins, whose daughter, Emily was blown up in the 7/7 bombings. The phrase that came to mind was grace under pressure, and not just because it’s an Elbow song. The dignity she was afforded and expressed in the interview made it so poignant, and very powerful indeed.

Her refusal to give in to hate, to do something constructive, to make the absolute best of her situation and remember Emily not as a victim of terrorism, but simply as her daughter who died, was magnificent.

It made me think of the amazing Dan Hett, whose brother Martyn was killed last week in the Manchester bombing. I knew of Martyn because of his wonderful gesture to his mum via Twitter. Martin had asked his Twitter followers if they would buy some things from his mum’s Etsy shop after her first craft fair was a disaster and she had sold nothing. He wanted to cheer her up. Twitter outdid itself and bought everything. It was lovely, such a fantastic idea and such a brilliant response and for many of us, it embodied the absolute best of what Twitter can be.  When Martyn died, his brother showed the same spirit, celebrating his brother’s life, turning hate into love, bringing the idea of unity and community to the fore and refusing to give in to anger.

It made me think of Charlotte Campbell, the mother of Olivia Campbell, another of those who died in the Manchester bombing. She pleaded with people to not let her daughter be a victim. Barely able to speak for grief, she got up, went out and addressed crowds of people, because she knew that asking for unity, for compassion, for love, was the absolute best thing she could do for herself, her daughter and her community. Her astonishing, raw speech was the epitome of grace under pressure for me.

I think of these people, these people whose lives have been shattered, irrevocably altered by brutality, and I think of how it is these people, these people who are living proof of the best of who we are and what shapes us in times of absolute horror that we should be listening to now. Not the people who are calling for hate and fear and division and locking people up and bringing back the death penalty. Not the people who go around lecturing people on the stupidity of the way they choose to grieve. Not the people who send hate mail to bereaved relatives because they feel that their moral outrage gives them licence to heap pain on pain.

People like Sarah and Dan and Charlotte have no choice but to live with what terror has done to them. What they have chosen to do with this experience that life has thrust upon them is so awe inspiring that it truly is beyond my capability to put it into words, and yet time and time again, when things like this happen, this is the message that comes across from those that are left behind. Not to hate. Not to fear, but to love and to live and to come together and there is such beauty in that it makes me want to cry all over again.

Bank Holiday Update

The house is full of children. Once this would have filled me with horror. In fact, Time Hop on Face Book showed me a blog post from when the children were small where I started it begging to know when I could send them back to school.

This is no longer the case. There are many reasons for this. Chief among them the fact that they no longer get up at five in the morning and attempt to prise my eyelids open so we can do crafting together while the sun comes up. Not having to wipe their bottoms also features heavily in the list. They are still all asleep, and even when they’re awake they no longer require me to wipe anything.

Everyone always said when they were small and I was staggering around the place exhausted, deranged and with my clothes on back to front that I should cherish those days because they go all too soon. These are the same people who usually say that you forget what childbirth is like.

This is, in my case, utter bollocks. I remember every birth in all its horrible detail, and the nine months of horror before the births. I also have no misty eyed recollections of herding three small children around when you only have two hands and three hours sleep under your belt.

Yes I miss their baby smell, and the way they would sleep like little starfish. I miss their squidgy smallness and the cuteness of baby clothes, and shoes in particular. I do love a good pair of tiny shoes.

I think I’m lucky though, in that a lot of the stuff you’re supposed to miss, they still do. They still play stupid games that make me absolutely howl. They still say ridiculously brilliant things, none of which I can recall now, naturally, but they do. They have top mucking about skills and more imagination than is good for you, frankly.

I think what makes me particularly lucky is that they still want to hang out with me and Jason. Not all of the time, because that would be weird, but enough of the time. We still share rowdy meals where everyone talks over the top of everyone else and there is as much laughter as shouting. The good thing these days is that I can serve anything and they’ll eat it, which makes a change from the days of endless plain pasta and cheese with tomato sauce and nothing touching anything else to avoid nuclear meltdown. I’d say the conversation has become more stimulating, but I’m not sure to be honest. There’s still a lot of fart jokes in there alongside heated political debate.

And any conversation in which my children are involved will always tend to veer off into the realms of the surreal at some point, and I don’t think that’s ever going to change. My favourite conversation this week was Tilly, Oscar and I inventing a trio of sisters called Abbie, Debbie and Barbara Cadabra. They eat kebabs on Thursdays and do magic tricks to pay for them.  Naturally, they only wear sequinned leotards.

As Jason said. You had to be there.

We still watch stuff together. They made me watch Despicable Me this weekend for the first time. I loved it. I made them watch the first season of Green Wing. They loved it. None of us want to watch Mr. Tumble any more, which is a blessing. We still share books and make everyone else read them so we can talk about them, loudly, usually with our mouths full. Nowadays we force each other to go to gigs and to the theatre and to new restaurants as well, which is something I dreamed about in those far off toddler days and which seemed impossible. I used to weep at the thought of more Wacky Warehouses and chicken nuggets straggling on into an interminable future, and now I don’t have to because they are gone, gone I tells ya.

Thank fuck for that.

I sat this morning at the open French windows, letting the warmth of the day in and looking out at my wet garden. I sipped my coffee and counted my blessings, and then I came inside and wrote this, because it’s no good counting them if you can’t remember them later on when you really need them.