Children dancing, International Peace Day 2009...
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Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man. So said the Jesuit, Frances Xavier. The influences on our children in those first few years of life, determine the sort of people they will become. If they are surrounded by love, happiness, calmness, positivity, if they are praised and encouraged, given good boundaries, taught about feelings and their expression, exposed to art in all its forms and most of all have stability and warmth, there’s a good chance they will grow up to be decent adults. But how many of us who have been parents can adhere to such a precise road map when raising our kids?

These days, women have to juggle jobs, child-care and a home that probably includes a dog and a cat or both, not to mention a rabbit and men feel pressured to earn more and more just to put bread on the table while also living under the threat of redundancy. So, despite all of this, parents also have to think in detail about the emotional development of their children? It’s a tough call.

We all want our kids top grow up strong, resilient, self-confident and able to earn a decent living to support themselves. Do we also give much thought to the sort of adults they will be, in terms of handling emotional situations? Emotional intelligence has been given a lot of media space in recent years.  EI is a set of learned skills that help an individual predict positive outcomes at home, at school and at work. If a you have EI, we are told that it is likely you will be healthier, less depressed and more productive. You will also have better relationships. In other words, to function well, you need self-awareness, that is the ability to read your own emotions and understand their impact. You will use  gut-feeling to help you make decisions. EI means you will be able manage and control your impulses and emotions and you’ll adapt adequately when situations change. You will sense and be able to understand and react appropriately to the emotions of others and be able to inspire, influence and develop others while managing conflictual situation. You will be able to manage relationships.

What happens then, if you grow up with parents who have absolutely no emotional intellegence and who therefore cannot teach you EI? There are many socially maladjusted people who are talented and creative. If all artists were  socially well-adjusted, perhaps we wouldn’t have paintings, films, plays, books, music? So, if we teach our kids EI in the early years, might not the outcome be that they would never push against their own comfort zones? This might cause them to avoid conflicts in their own adult life, making them want only to please others, turning them into someone who would never rebel or rock the boat and in doing that, stifling their curiosity, the basis of all learning. That might mean they would never take the risks that would lead to great works of art or scientific discovery. They might not access their own creativity because to be creative you often have upset the status quo.

This leads me to think that like everything in life, we need moderation. Just enough EI for our kids to learn how to handle any situation that may present itself, emotional or corporate, an ability to think creatively and not be fearful of expressing emotions. A desire to rock the boat within reason, an understanding of how others think. For me, teaching kids to think effectively and not simply to use gut-reaction all the time, seems to be the key. It should not be all emotion and no reason or no reason and all emotion, but a balance of both.

So maybe we can relax about our parenting skills and just love them?


A smiley by Pumbaa, drawn using a text editor.
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Happiness is a state of well-being characterized by emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. So says a web definition. So what is it that puts you in a state of well-being? For me, it’s time with no conflict in it. Practically impossible today. Every time I watch things like this, I’m in a huge slurry of conflict. It does nothing for my well-being to see such a woman running for the American Senate:

Then there are lies.Polished up with bells and whistles, they pass as the truth. Politicians have this down to a fine art. Magazines and newspapers are also very good at lying. This does not give me a sense of well-being. Watching our government decimating our public services with cuts does not give me a sense of well-being. Feeling guilty when they tell me: ‘we are all in this together…’ does not give me a sense of well-being. Reading about banker’s bonuses makes me feel sick; not conducive to well-being. Seeing children dying of starvation in India. Reading about kids knifing and shooting each other. Hearing about cruelty to old people in nursing homes. Knowing that Baby P experienced horrendous cruelty in his short life. Hateful pornography on the web that demeans and insults women. Wars that are unnecessary. Domestic violence. Knowing all of this is happening every minute of every day does not give me a sense of well-being. How then, can I be happy?

Happiness is in the small, personal moment of a life. For me, is has become the faces of my children and grand-children, the taste of a really good cup of coffee, a kindness done to me by a friend, the smell of a new flower blossoming for the first time, the taste of a home-cooked dinner, standing in the shower and feeling the hot water on a cold day, a wool jumper, a slice of birthday chocolate cake, a letter from a beloved friend, a kiss from someone I love, memories of lovely holidays, memories of good times, special music that means something to me, songs I can sing very loudly…. Lots of other small things, too many to list here. A bit sentimental? Maybe. But these days, I have to balance out all the bad things I see and hear with small things that are healing; things that enhance my sense of well-being.

One final thing. You may notice that money is not one of those things that does it for me!



Adjustable hooks permit adjustment for in betw...
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Suddenly you have breasts. You wake up one morning and like a slow train that’s finally arrived at its destination, they’re there. You will probably be between the ages of eleven and thirteen. Or you may be older, but that can be very discouraging. Reaching your later teens with breasts like two fried eggs in this age of mammary worship can be a real let down.On the other hand, watching your new chest expand like a bouncy castle, can be equally daunting. And there is no way to stop it. It just happens in those hellish years called puberty. The dice will roll and you will be allocated big ones or little ones. Only the lucky few will receive the perfect shape that looks great under a fitted sweater.

Finding a bra for those big boys can be embarrassing and expensive. Bigger bras usually cost more. They take more material, more bones. They can be hidden out of sight on the shop rails.You may even have to ask for your cup size. Hellish if you are a teenager and a bit sensitive. Mixed messages are everywhere. If you flaunt them you are in danger if being called a slag. If you try to hide them, you are told not to. If you’ve got it, flaunt it…some misguided soul once said. Boobs can be constant source of mystery, embarrassment and worry.

You have to feel them a lot, too. Not because it feels nice, but because you have to search for lumps and bumps. That’s a good thing. It may save your life. Breast cancer is the biggest killer for women, and a good feel once a month can make the difference between life and death. Caught early, breast cancer can be cured, so get feeling!

Breast feeding is fabulous. It puts every pair of puppies into perspective, because most of them can produce milk if given half the chance. Ah, you say to yourself, this is what they are about, as your new born infant latches on and the pain launches you into space. (It doesn’t last, thank goodness, but is overtaken by a euphoria akin to smoking a certain weed). Once the milk is on tap and the baby is red-faced and gurgling, you realise what an amazing invention breasts are. The only fly in the ointment in the public’s reaction to a woman using her mammaries for what they were designed for.  Only defined as sex objects by most of the media, many people seem to be offended when you pull one out to nourish your screaming baby. It can cause mayhem in a restaurant. You may even be marched to the loo by an irate waiter and told to do the deed while sitting on the lav. seat. I would suggest rebellion. You are  saving the planet. You are producing your own food to feed another human being. How green is that?

Then there are the TV news readers. Do they deliberately lull you into a false sense of security? I turn on the news and see some dewy-eyed, enthusiastic girlie telling me who’s killed who in what war while wearing something suitable for delivering such news, like a grey suit, buttoned up to the neck, maybe? Very good. Goes well with the corn flakes. Then, one morning, for no apparent reason and with no warning, I will be subjected to a plunging neckline with a cleavage like the Grand Canyon and possibly, if I look hard enough, erect nipples. P-lease! My husband finds it very hard to take in the news on days like that.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a huge fan of bosoms, I really am. But finding a top or a dress that actually flatters and fits properly when you have big bosoms is like trying to find a horde of Roman gold in the car park outside Tesco’s. After three hours of sweating like a pig in the M&S dressing room, having been humiliated to the point of PTS syndrome by the flat-faced assistant specially trained to measure you, you discover that the one bra that used to fit you, doesn’t any more. You’ve grown, she says lightly. You cannot believe her. You will not believe her. It’s the bras not me! I have always been a 44DD!

So, you drag those boys across town to an expensive, exclusive lingerie shop, lurking down some alley next to an Anne Summers shop and commit to the purchase of a bra that is too small but has all the uplift , side lift, lace and twiddly bits you could desire and sets you back nearly a hundred quid! It’s the shame that makes you cough up and doesn’t the sales girl know it? It gives you a lovely shape, she coos. Yes, it does, doesn’t it, you agree. The fact that your breasts feel as if they are locked into a mammography machine, is neither here not there. The bra cost a lot, she says you look good and you have denied the truth that your boobs have expanded with age and babies. Oh, vanity!

Men have are lucky. They have no such problems with their round bits, do they. All they have to know is whether they dress to the left or the right. (That’s a euphemism for which way do the balls hang). They don’t have to have their testicles measured when they go into a shop to buy a pair of underpants, do they? Every sales assistant knows the dangly darlings are there, but they don’t get a mention, let alone a grope. And men’s clothes are not cut with them exclusively in mind, like women’s clothes can be. I don’t want to wear tops that expose my cleavage all the time, but try and find something really flattering if you measure more that a 38A? To cope with large boobs means the dress will inevitably be huge everywhere else. Or you may find a dress that fits but you look like a robin redbreast…

I have heard that when you get very old your breasts flatten out, like house prices. You may eventually have two pancakes hanging down your front. What a lovely thought, like all the other perks of becoming an old woman and we are all going to live older, you know. I won’t go into details here, but your body is very likely to go into reverse once you reach sixty, no matter what Joan Collins says.

As for me, I have finally given in. I am going to enjoy the good times, push up that cleavage and wear that plunging neckline to the next funeral. I want to be buried in a very sexy bra and pay homage to these two beauties that have fed four kids and given me lots of fun!  Whatever shape you are, be happy and take care of those boobies.


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Autumn or fall as our friends across the pond call it, is a time full of  magic. Those first coils of wood smoke from dozens of stoves in this part of the country, the small changes each day in the colour of the leaves, the spiders marching relentlessly into my bathroom and the Halloween junk being forced upon us by retailers. Every year, the masks and other paraphernalia get more tacky, more expensive and more unnecessary.

Having lived in America for some time, I know that the 31st October celebration is something sacred to American kids. It’s not an entrenched ritual in the UK. So where does it come from, this night of the witches, ghosts, ghouls and scaring old ladies witless by demanding goodies, or else?  It has roots in the Celtic festival of Samhain and the Christian holiday All Saints’ Day, but is today largely a secular celebration.

Wikipedia describe it thus:

Historian Nicholas Rogers, exploring the origins of Halloween, notes that while “some folklorists have detected its origins in the Roman feast of Pomona, the goddess of fruits and seeds, or in the festival of the dead called Parentalia, it is more typically linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain, whose original spelling was Samuin (pronounced sow-an or sow-in)”.The name is derived from Old Irish and means roughly “summer’s end”.A similar festival was held by the ancient Britons and is known as Calan Gaeaf (pronounced Kálan Gái av).


Snap-Apple Night by Daniel Maclise showing a Halloween party in BlarneyIreland, in 1832. The young children on the right bob for apples. A couple in the center play a variant, which involves retrieving an apple hanging from a string. The couples at left play divination games. The festival of Samhain celebrates the end of the “lighter half” of the year and beginning of the “darker half”, and is sometimes regarded as the “Celtic New Year“.

The ancient Celts believed that the border between this world and the Otherworld became thin on Samhain, allowing spirits (both harmless and harmful) to pass through. The family’s ancestors were honoured and invited home while harmful spirits were warded off. It is believed that the need to ward off harmful spirits led to the wearing of costumes andmasks. Their purpose was to disguise oneself as a harmful spirit and thus avoid harm. In Scotland the spirits were impersonated by young men dressed in white with masked, veiled or blackened faces. Samhain was also a time to take stock of food supplies and slaughter livestock for winter stores. Bonfires played a large part in the festivities. All other fires were doused and each home lit their hearth from the bonfire. The bones of slaughtered livestock were cast into its flames. Sometimes two bonfires would be built side-by-side, and people and their livestock would walk between them as a cleansing ritual.

Another common practice was divination, which often involved the use of food and drink. The name ‘Halloween’ and many of its present-day traditions derive from the Old English era. The word Halloween is first attested in the 16th century and represents a Scottish variant of the fuller All-Hallows-Even (“evening”), that is, the night before All Hallows Day. Up through the early 20th century, the spelling “Hallowe’en” was frequently used, eliding the “v” and shortening the word. Although the phrase All Hallows is found in Old English (ealra hālgena mæssedæg, mass-day of all saints), All-Hallows-Even is itself not attested until 1556.

Fascinating stuff. But if this celebration is so traditional, why has it become a consumer nightmare? You cannot walk through a high street at this time of year without your kids demanding a plastic broomstick, weir-wolf mask, skeleton costume. What about going back to some simple old apple bobbing and a few ghost stories told by Dad in front of the wood burner? And, and explanation of why it’s happening in the first place.

It’s like all our celebrations. We seem to have forgotten their origins. Christmas is all about how much food and drink you can push down your throat, how many presents you receive or the number of cards on your doormat. Easter is about chocolate eggs….  In  fact, these days, the function of these events seems to be to keep the economy afloat. Okay, I know I sound like a miserable grumpy, but I wonder if the financial cuts and belt-tightening that we have all been asked to do will make a difference and take us all back to a better time, where the real heart of the celebration will be revisited and the joys we get from these special dates in the calendar will be less commercial and, to my mind, far more satisfying? I live in hope…

So the run up to Christmas has now started. For me it starts when the clocks change. First, Halloween means dozens of local children, knocking on my door shouting: ‘Trick or treat!’. This will have been preempted by my trip to the supermarket to purchase huge bags of small Milky Bars or similar sweets to hand out with a terrified expression to each ‘scary’ group. I couldn’t possible spoil their enjoyment by shouting ‘bugger off’ through the letter box, could I? Then it’s on to Bonfire night or lock-up-your-pets-night, as I prefer to call it. Millions of pounds used to go up in smoke in the past, but now every town and village has an organised event; much safer and less expensive. And why do we get together round a bonfire and burn an effigy of a chap in a wide hat and funny pants? Well, he was one of the first terrorists, I guess. It marks the failure of the Gunpowder Plot of 5 November 1605, in which a number of Catholic conspirators, and  Guy Fawkes, attempted to destroy the Houses of Parliament.  But it’s also a time for begging the sun not to leave us for ever. I prefer that version. There is something very magical about standing with a group around a bonfire. It’s primeval. Humans might have died out altogether if we hadn’t been bright enough to discover fire, so that’s a pretty good reason for worshipping the stuff once a year.

By the time we are in November, the real frenzy begins. CHRISTMAS is only so many days away, the TV screams! (For some it’s a celebration that can become very annoying when the churches start to get involved, as I heard one woman say to her friend in Tesco’s). It’s the spend, spend, spend season. But will that happen this year? Cleft stick comes to mind. No jobs = no money = no spending= failing economy. Those big banks better agree to the Robin Hood tax!

Are we to feel guilty if we can’t spend this year? No way. Lets just make things simple again, please!  It’s amazing how many Christmas decorations you can make out of the things in a rag-bag. We used to make sparkly garlands from silver milk bottle tops.  Very shabby chic. We can take long walks and pick greenery to make our houses feel festive and get healthy in the process. Home made gingerbread men hanging on the tree are wonderful and you can eat them! You can give home cooked food as presents; as we might all be on the verge of starvation this year, that would really be a BIG IDEA Mr Cameron.

One of the best memories I have about my childhood Christmases was sitting at the kitchen table making beautiful things out of rubbish. God knows we have enough rubbish these days. Recycle some of it into Christmas decor. You’ll be doing your creativity and your community a lot of good. So, while I rummage in the loft to find last year’s box of decorations for the tree, I will resist the urge to go to a store and but another load of tatty looking baubles made in Taiwan and I won’t feel guilty about it. Life and the season it far too short.

Happy celebrations!


Quote from The Robin Hood Tax

In a nutshell, the big idea behind the Robin Hood Tax is to generate billions of pounds – hopefully even hundreds of billions of pounds. That money will fight poverty in the UK and overseas. It will tackle climate change. And it will come from fairer taxation of the financial sector.

A tiny tax on the financial sector can generate £20 billion annually in the UK alone. That’s enough to protect schools and hospitals. Enough to stop massive cuts across the public sector. Enough to build new lives around the world – and to deal with the new climate challenges our world is facing.

So far, the UK banking bailout has cost £1.5 trillion. Or £31,250 for each and every taxpayer in the country. But the banks have already started to report record profits once again.

So it’s time for justice. It’s time for justice for ordinary families and businesses. For the one in five British families faced with a choice between buying food or paying the heating bill. For the 200 million people around the world forced into poverty by a financial crisis they did absolutely nothing to bring about.

The Robin Hood Tax is justice. The banks can afford it. The systems are in place to collect it. It won’t affect ordinary members of the public, their bank accounts or their savings. It’s fair, it’s timely, and it’s possible.

It is, in a nutshell, an idea for which the time has come


Supermarket check out, London January 2005 Aut...
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Okay, he’s done it. George Osborne made his speech to parliament yesterday, assaulted by a cacophony of boos, cheers and tears. The Speaker had to act like a police officer at a football match. The crowd went crazy.

Dear George told us ‘We are all in this together…’ I have to say, I resent that statement. The way the last government and its opposition behaved, the way the bankers behaved, it had nothing to do with me so why should I start to feel guilty. I voted for what I perceived to be a tenable and intelligent government. I didn’t think they would sink billions of tax-payers money into a war that nobody wanted, or that they would allow the bankers to get away with what was, quite frankly, major theft. And where was the opposition when we needed them? It’s all very well for Georgie to bleat on about the mess that last Labour government left us in, but what were they doing? I thought the job of a good opposition party was to challenge and try to change the course of government policy if they felt it was wrong. Did they do that?

So now we know that over the next four years many jobs in the public sector will have to go. George tells us that 1.3 million jobs will be created in the private sector. Will that happen and if it does, will it be enough? There are going to be a hell of a lot of people on the dole. He tells us that he has to deal with the problem and create an economy that will support our welfare system. The Tories have always wanted the private sector to take over; that’s the nub of their ideology, isn’t it? Is that what George means when he talks about the private sector? The private sector won’t do anyone any favours. So when it is discovered that the cuts that have been made now, are not enough and NHS collapses, will the private sector step in? Yes, and then our health system will become a private one. George has made 18 billion pounds worth of cuts in our welfare system, but the levy he proposes to impose on the bankers will be only 2 and a half billion. Those figures don’t stack up to me. The poorest 10 percent in this country will be hit hardest by these cuts. George used the word fair 17 times in the course of his speech yesterday. Fair? For who? The Institute of Fiscal Studies is saying that the country’s debt may be larger than we imagine and that the cuts may have to be bigger in the long run. So our government is again gambling with our lives and our livelihoods.

I see that there has been no cut aid going abroad. George tells us we must honour our committment to overseas aid because its going to countries that are in a far worse state than us. With that, I do agree, but isn’t it likely that some of that money is going to countries where we are embroiled in conflict. Is some of that money going to end up supporting the military? Answers, please!

On the streets, enthusiastic young journalists try to make sense of it for us, the punters and are having a hard time getting sensible comments out of the anyone they stop and shove a microphone at. Most people looked bemused and confused. The TV, radio and papers are full of it and I suspect it will go on for weeks. But what will the people of this country do? Will we sit tight and wait it out? Will we protest, legally of course. Will we give a damn? I know one thing. Last year, we were told by the media that we weren’t taking enough interest in politics. I have a suspicion that these cuts and the lead up to them may suddenly make this a country of very politically minded people. But it will take time. According to George, we have four years.

So have your post-cut party while the going is good. I suggest oysters and caviar; Tesco’s is sure to do some special offers. And what about Champagne? Go for it. Looks like it will be a few years before us poor folk can afford such luxuries again.




Credit cards
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Here we go again! More crooks stealing our money through Internet sites. This morning, a woman told her story to the nation on TV. She’d bought something online and a pop-up box had appeared once she’s put all her details in, asking her to do it all again to verify her Visa card. This she did only to discover  later that she’d given her bank and credit card details to a fraudster! Money had quickly been removed from her account. To add insult to injury, her bank refused to help.

What can we do about these people who think up ways to part us from our hard-earned money online? Only buy from reputable sites? She thought that was what she was doing. The Visa form that asks you to verify your account might be the real one, or it might be a scam. How do we find out? We spend about 38 billion pounds shopping on the net. No wonder the crooks are working on it. We are putty in their hands unless we wise up and are very careful indeed about where we shop online.

When I see something I want to buy, I always find the contact phone number on the site and phone them. That can help give you an indication that this is or is not a bona fide business. When you go into a shop on the high street, you usually have shopped there before, so you know that it’s safe. But the internet seems to be a mine field as well as the greatest invention ever discovered!

It has to get better. Policing the net is impossible. Once it’s out there, it’s out there. But rogue sites can and do get shut down. This new wave of fraud, the Visa Verification Form  will be dealt with, but in the meantime, be very, very careful who you give your bank or credit card details to.


Views of spacetime along the world line of a r...
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As the nights draw in and I feel the chill of another year coming to an end, I ponder on where I might be this time next year, the year after; in ten years time? As I get older, time condenses. I look at the past in the ages of my children and ask myself: what did I miss? Why did the days go so fast? Day are, after all, where we live. At least that’s what poet Philip Larkin wrote:

What are days for?
Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are to be happy in:
Where can we live but days?
Ah, solving that question
Brings the priest and the doctor
In their long coats
Running over the fields.

Larkin knew about time. What do I know about time? When I wake up, pull open the curtains and see sky, beautiful sky, I know I am alive. Even if the rain is coming down in rods of grey iron, even if the fields are covered in ice, even if the sun is so hot the bird bath is in danger of melting, these days I glory in the joy of being alive for one more precious day.

I remember waking up one night shortly after my father had died. I must have been about nine years old and had begged my mother to let me sleep in her bed with her. My father was no longer there and she agreed, just that once. She didn’t sleep well and often turned on the radio for solace. That night – it was about one o’clock, I woke to hear music. It was Verdi’s Requiem. I lay very still. The room was dark except for one tiny light she kept on all night. In an instant, time disappeared. The music poured over me. I was convinced that I was in heaven and this was a choir of angels I could hear. I was sure I had died in the night, as my father had, and I was floating on this sound cloud. Then panic set in. I let out a scream and my mother almost fell out of bed. I was alive! I yelled at her: I’m here! It’s the night! I’m alive! What time is it?

My mother was a very sensible woman. She understood and explained that the music had confused me, waking as I had from a deep sleep. I was comforted, but I will never forget that feeling; that time had gone, vanished. I had woken in a vacuum. Now, whenever I hear the Requiem, I try and recapture that feeling, but I never can.

Each second, each moment is precious. Life is a miracle made of days and days are made of time and time gives us reassurance that we are alive and able to see, hear, think and experience the beauty of life.


This afternoon I have been singing with a choir. We performed a repertoire of country songs. There were rather a lot of fa-la-la-la’s, but what a joy it was!

We set off, five ladies of a certain age, driving along quiet country lanes dappled with Autumn sunlight, through ancient villages packed with thatched cottages, smoke curling from tottering chimney stacks, past enormous tractors carrying tons of corn as it’s harvest time here. After 40 minutes or so, we came to a tiny village chapel built around 1800. It once had a thatched roof but that was long gone and now sturdy slate tiles protected the congregation from the elements. Inside, several more ladies were busy preparing the after concert tea for us and the audience, who were slowly taking their seats. Mostly retired farmers (this is an aggrecultural area) and their wives, children and grand children.

The little chapel was packed for the harvest festival service and our choir was to be the entertainment. The service started with a hearty hymn sang by all, then an address by the vicar, reminding us all of the importance of thanking our God for the fruits of the land at this time of year. We could have turned the clock back a hundred years; maybe a thousand, it still might have been the same – rows of pews with ruddy faced parishoners praying together. In essence we were worshiping Mother Earth and her bounty, just like our pagan ancestors did before us, only now Christianity pointed the prayers towards Christ.

I sang my heart out. Songs like Come, Come, Come to the Fair and The Painful Plough. Songs that have been sung by country people for hundreds of years. It was a moving experience to sit with those local folk, share their service and their food and sing till my lungs were fit to burst! The applause at the end was deafening. We had entertained the farmers and their families well.

David Cameron talks of The Big Society. He tells us we must take more responsibility for our community; we must be willing to do more. Watching the audience today and feeling that sense of belonging in the tiny chapel where people sang together, talked and thought about their place in the world, was my big society. And it was small. Maybe Mr Cameron should call it The Small Society That Leads to Big Things?

Driving back after the concert, I listened to the conversations in the car. These women were married to farmers. Some of them had farmed all their lives. They know the land and they know life at it’s very basic level; producing meat and grain to feed us. They are, in a way, protected from the political rhetoric that people living in urban areas hear. That’s not to say that country folks are ‘local yokels’, far from it. But they come together in such a simple way in services like the one I attended today. The are informed but they are not hysterical. They know what’s happening in the world but they seemed infinately more grounded than our London based parliamentarians and their media pack. They know and our leaders et al need to know. An afternoon singing in a tiny chapel in the English countryside might just turn the tide and make a few parliamentary pennies drop?


The Chilean miners are up and the world has sighed with relief. Living with the knowledge that 33 souls were incarcerated in a stone tomb was unsettling, to say the least. But now I have something else haunting my dreams; the fate of Jimmy Mugemba, the Angolan man and father of five children who was deported after losing  a legal battle to remain in the UK and ended up dead in the isle of a British Airways plane. The plane turned back and  as far as I have read, Jimmy’s lifeless body was greeted by a team of paramedics who could do nothing to help him.

So what happened on that plane? From reports in the broad sheets, it appears that Jimmy spoke to his wife moments before he collapsed and she has said he was calm, although dreading his arrival at Luanda airport. He was, we are told seated between three private security guards and at some point, he began to resist his deportation. Other passengers heard him crying out that he couldn’t breath and allegedly shouting:’They are going to kill me!’ There is to be a police investigation. Could it be that the death of this apparently healthy 46 year old man will turn into a murder enquiry? This story shocked me and what ever the outcome, I can’t stop thinking about what that man went through. There is so much news these days that makes for bad dreams, even nightmares. It’s hard not to dwell on this story. I find myself thinking about that man’s wife and five children. Who will explain to them what happened to their father? How will they cope?

When life was constricted to a small area around your village; when a neighbour in the stocks made big news or the onset of an epidemic of measles had people quaking with fear, was it any better? Probably not. But I wish I knew how to deal with the feelings and emotions these dreadful stories create in me. I wish there was some sort of antidote, but even going into my garden to smell the roses does little to dispel the visions; they are always there lurking at the back of my mind waiting to be resurrected by the next news bulletin on the TV or radio. Living in todays fast and furious reporting of stories means that the painful and distressing news always come first. Sometimes at the end of the TV news, the news reader, looking a little sheepish and awkward, will repeat a funny story; a humane story of heroism with a funny twist; maybe a short film of a missing piglet that turned up in Trafalgar Square. No doubt the news editor decided it was time to woo his audience with a little trivia, but the newsreader often looks as if he or she is slightly embarrassed by having to read something as inane, so it’s read out with a voice that would win the gold medal for being patronising.

Happy news does not sell papers or raise audience figures. It’s the same with TV drama. Death and dispair, suicide and divorce, all seem to head the agenda when it comes to creating what the TV bosses think we want from a drama. Look at EastEnders, the five times a week soap opera, shown at peak viewing times. It leaves me a mess of tears and the there-but-for-the-grace-of-god-go-I syndrome! This weeks story line has been harrowing. Yes, I know it’s just a made-up story by a lot of clever script writers (god bless ’em), but if I were watching last week’s episodes with small kids, I have no idea how I would have explained to them the death of a 22 year old by drink, the horror his mother experienced when she discovers that the son she loved and thought loved her, actually hated her, the street fight between two women, one madly jealous and the sexual desires of a fourteen year old! Just and everyday story of city folks, maybe?

Mind you, children’s TV these days is not how I remember it. Dear old Blue Peter continues to troll along, but some of the programmes for younger kids can be totally stupid to my mind. Do small kids really want to watch a lot of plastic looking weirdos bashing each other? This was a sort of cartoon I tuned into by mistake. I tuned out pretty quickly and put on a CD of Alice in Wonderland read by Alan Bennett for my five year old grand-daughter. She was happy. I was happy. Thank you Alan. Alice still rules in my house and heart!

I know what you are thinking… The woman has free will. She can use the newspaper to wrap her chips in; she can pull the plug out or even throw away the TV. She can forget how to read! All true. But like my ancestors, I still have that prurient streak that made them stare at some poor devil being pelted to death in the stocks; I still want TO KNOW WHAT’S HAPPENING OUT THERE! Just not so much and not in such graphic detail, maybe?

Of course, we must never lose that precious thing, free speech. Never, never, never under any circumstances. Maybe I’m just getting a bit squeamish in my old age? Maybe I want Utopia or at least a Utopian vision of life? Maybe it happens to everyone as they look forward to their own demise? Notice I say ‘look forward’… Positive thinking, always.  I really can’t say why I feel more and more assaulted by news these days, rather than informed by it. I guess I just wish life could be better; that good things are always the outcome of dreadful adversity, like the rescue of those amazing miners in Chile.