Firstly, while this blog is still in its very early stages, I wish to re-emphasise that I will not solely be writing about mental illness. I plan to provide comment on a provocative, debate-inducing story which has featured heavily in the press, whatever the subject matter. I’m not going to pretend that some of my posts won’t naturally (and, potentially, subconsciously) head into the realms of mental health, but only when appropriate. After waking up to the disturbing headlines concerning the tragic Germanwings air disaster, and, in particular the aeroplane’s co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, however, there was no way that I could not this the subject of my second piece.
Below are, what I consider, the three most irresponsible front pages from the UK press as published by The Sun, The Mirror and The Daily Mail today.
I consciously use the word “irresponsible” because I truly believe that the…
3.15am. Woken by a daft dream (see this post) I tried my equivalent of counting sheep – casting War And Peace. Followers on Twitter and Facebook will know that, on New Year’s Day, I set myself the task of reading the 1300 page novel. I’m finding that, far from being a daunting, burdensome thing, it is actually very enjoyable and very readable.
However, there is a vast cast of characters and I keep having to refer to my handy bookmark (pictured) to remind myself who everyone is and how they’re related. The BBC is due to start filming an Andrew Davies adaptation this month. I checked out some of the cast and can now picture their faces as I read. That helps.
My handy War and Peace cast list bookmark
Prince Andrei (Andrew in my copy) will be played by James Norton, otherwise known both on Twitter and in…
Thanks so much for doing the Ebola fundraising thing. We hope you raise lots and lots of money. The only thing is, there is a world outside your window Sir, but it might not be quite how you imagine it. We thought you might like to refer to our handy list of facts and figures to help you along when you do the Live Aid 30 re-edit.
Do they know it’s Christmas? – Lovely sentiment, great tune, huge money raiser, but ever so slightly bonkers!
Lets take a look at the facts:
1. There is water flowing in Africa, really quite a lot of it in fact.
“Where the only water flowing Is the bitter sting of tears”
What? What about the world’s longest river? The river Nile is over 4000 miles long.
(The 5 biggest rivers in Africa are: Nile, Congo, Zambizi, Niger, Orange river)
There appears to have been much disquiet within my twitter time line regarding an application a well-known charity has created that enables users to be alerted if anyone they follow on twitter uses words or phrases related to possible suicidal ideation.
I have read the updates information on the charity website and apparently it is possible to have your tweets opted out of the app. I am however concerned and share the reservations some people have regarding intrusion but also the responsibility – what to do if you receive an email alerting you that someone you do not know in real life and cannot contact is distress.
Not wishing to comment on the charity and their intentions, which I am certain are only for the good, I am going to discuss this via tweets relating to #TheArchers. For those not familiar with twitter, the use of the hash tag #…
This week, the news broke about Savita Halappanavar, a 31 year old dentist of Indian origin living in Ireland, who had last month presented herself to a hospital in Galway, Republic of Ireland, in terrible pain. It was found that she was miscarrying her first, unborn child 17 weeks into her pregnancy but medical staff treating Savita refused her pleading to terminate the already unviable foetus as its heartbeat was still detectable. Savita was left in agony, with no hope of giving birth to a live baby for days before the foetal heartbeat could no longer be found. Savita then developed septicaemia and died days later. When begging for an artificial termination to end her misery, she was reportedly told that “Ireland is a Catholic country,” and the doctors were therefore not able to terminate the pregnancy. Here is a link to the BBC story. Apparently, medical staff treating Savita ran the risk of being charged with murder had they brought this unviable pregnancy, already miscarrying, to a definitive end. For a clear explanation of the law in Ireland, please see the blog post by @_millymoo here.
Vigils and marches were held this week in Dublin, London and Delhi and yesterday I attended a candlelit vigil outside the Irish Embassy in London to mark my disgust at what had happened. For me it is just the latest instance of women having diminished rights, of receiving unfair and barbaric treatment because of their sex. In this particular case, it was clear that the rights of an unviable foetus took precedence over those of the woman carrying it but for me it was just the latest in a series of bad news stories.
Let us not just point the sanctimonious, enraged finger at Asian or Muslim countries though. Women are held as second-class citizens in supposedly Christian cultures too, and not only Catholic ones. Even in so-called developed countries, debate still rages about whether the work of a woman is of equal value to that of a man; whether women have permission to reach high office, or any office, in the Church, ironically by definition a caring profession. Societal issues about gender and childcare responsibilities mean that women’s talents and skills are often lost to the economy or that women are left doing two jobs, outside and inside the home, and being paid less than one man. Consider also why so much of the recent US Presidential election focused on the rights of a woman over her own body and of stupid politicians’ total and almost proud ignorance of female biology. People talk about being Pro-life, they are very good at telling others what to do with their bodies and lives, but we don’t often hear whether these people are willing to take on the emotional and financial responsibility for raising an unwanted, unplanned-for child for the next 20 years.
I want to know why so many people hate women so much. Or feel it is OK to denigrate them or belittle them or wave away the concerns of half the world. Women have to sacrifice their bodies and in many cases their mental and physical wellbeing, when having children and in many parts of the world pregnancy carries grave risk. Why, in 2012, is it still acceptable for women’s lives to be degraded by cultures and religions despite generally having responsibility for bringing forth and raising the next generation? A woman is more than a walking incubator.
As things stand, Irish women (and women from other countries with severely restrictive abortion laws, such as Poland) seeking a termination for whatever reason, whether they have been raped or sexually abused or have simply made a mistake, are forced to come to Great Britain, where they are supported by the British taxpayer and the NHS. Women whose unborn children are so severely disabled that they are unviable outside the womb are forced to carry through their pregnancies without medical intervention. How is this acceptable in 2012?
So all of these things were racing through my head as I went to the Irish Embassy yesterday to support the Savita protestors campaigning for the Irish government to introduce proper legislation to give Irish women the right to abortion in their country. There were about 100 demonstrators there, and at one point four vans full of police officers were shipped in to keep the peace. Some demonstrators were blocking the road, it is true, but many of the Irish women protesters present refused to move from their embassy steps, Irish soil. Eventually, after having made our point, we dispersed, some of us to return home, some to plan a future strategy.
I am so pleased and proud that Darling Daughter decided to come along with me to the vigil. I generally strongly disapprove of parents bringing young children, who are unable to think through the issues and make up their own minds, to demonstrations and protests. An ex-school chum of the Boywonder’s was always being photographed for the local paper with his father, a local councillor, and holding placards to support his father’s campaign against the local psychiatric hospital, for example. I feel the same way about religious faith. I have none, but it is up to my children to decide whether or not they want to be part of a faith. In the meantime I would never prevent them from attending services or rituals to learn about faiths and cultures.
But Darling Daughter is a clever and thoughtful child and always has been. She is extremely interested in human rights and currently intends to work in this field. It was completely her choice to come on this, her first demonstration, and I respect and admire that she stayed despite being hugely intimidated, especially by the arrival of so many police. At one point she and I were standing on the pavement taking in the candles in the photograph and we looked up to find ourselves surrounded by eight police officers.
I know that just attending a demonstration or a vigil does not in itself make a lot of difference in the world, but apathy and ignoring an undesirable situation enables tyrants to win without effort. Is that really the sort of world we want for our daughters?
We have attended the Remembrance Sunday service at the Dulwich Chapel every year since the Boywonder joined the Combined Cadet Force at school. Seeing my teenage son in his cadet uniform really brought it home to me about the millions of mothers over the generations who have seen their sons go off to war and never come back again and about the whole generations of young men completely wiped out in the last century of armed conflict. Having once been a trainee pacifist, member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and defiant wearer of a white poppy, the strength of this feeling of, not patriotism exactly, rather empathy has taken me by surprise. I certainly haven’t become a card-carrying jingoist but rather someone who feels that these young men and women are sent off to do on our behalf the dirty work that most of us cannot bear even to contemplate, and that this stoical contribution should be recognised. I explained my feelings more fully in last year’s Remembrance blog posts, so there’s no need to go into this again here
The Boywonder is no longer a Cadet, having parted company with the officer training scheme under sad circumstances. He now volunteers every week in a local school for children with severe disabilities and it seems that this kind of service to the community suits him better. One of life’s sceptical questioners, he never was any good at doing as he was told. But my daydream of seeing him play The Last Post solo in full Officer Cadet uniform has evaporated.
It has been a year of facing demons for the Boywonder. Not only has he belatedly realised the enormity of the challenge of working to gain good GCSE and A level grades, not only has he had to leave the Cadets but he’s also been confronted with the effects of his long struggle with his trumpet embouchure. I’ll probably explain this further in another post but, long story short, the Boywonder got too good at the trumpet too soon and, as is common with trumpeters at a more advanced level, has had to reset the way be holds his trumpet against his lips (his embouchure) in order to achieve a consistency of sound at the high notes he has to conquer at advanced level. This issue has dogged him for almost three years, and it has been disheartening and heart-breaking for all of us. There have been times when he almost gave up playing the trumpet, something he has wanted to play since he was 2 years old, and from being a star prospect in the Bromley Youth Music Trust organisation, he had had to watch several of his previously less advanced trumpeting colleagues leapfrog him and progress to more advanced levels and bands, leaving him to play a minor role. It has been almost unbearable to watch this and, along with being intimidated by the prospect of huge amounts of work necessary to obtain good sixth form results, he has had rather a lot on his plate, wall we say.
Now, a month ago, I was reluctant to pay the deposit and sign the forms for next year’s Youth Band concert tour to Prague and participation in the Kerkrade World Music Festival. I had a feeling that the Boywonder would just buckle under the enormity of the task in hand. Further I didn’t think we’d go anywhere near the school Remembrance service. So when he received an email from school asking him to play at today’s service, I forwarded it to him washing my hands of the decision. After all the tussles with the technicalities of trumpet-playing and embouchure change, not to mention the politics of trumpeting hierarchy both at school and in band, it would have been quite understandable if the Boywonder had simply walked away from the hassle. Most of us would have been tempted, I think.
But he didn’t. He has stayed and fought. He played this morning and also in this evening’s BYMT concert. He played willingly, without having to be cajoled, and he played well. And this to me is the point of all of it. Sometimes, we have to do our duty and do things that make us feel uncomfortable that are not necessarily enjoyable, that fill us with fear, because we are trying to help and serve other people in the wider community. Marking Remembrance is important to me because I want my children to understand about duty and responsibility. I want them to understand the sacrifice of other young people and to feel gratitude that they have the freedom to act as they see fit. With each passing year, as my children become a year more mature and a year more responsible, it is important to me that they assume these values, just as so many other people seem to be letting go of their sense of responsibility for their actions.
So, well done, Boywonder. You are growing into a mature, responsible young man and I’m really proud of you.
I am inordinately proud of this hat. It all started when I posted a picture of me in the St. Mungo’s Woolly Hat Day hat on Twitter to mark Woolly Hat Day, 26th October. People liked it and commented and seemed disappointed when I took it down the following day. Vainly, I thought that the snap I posted was unflattering in that it showed off my big nose to its biggest and fullest. I thought I looked like Dobby from Peep Show but other variously compared me to one of the Flumps and, the final straw, Benny from Crossroads. So I replaced the profile picture with one of my chewed Lyra jumper, which I thought was a neat metaphor for my life at times. But some people are missing that hat and, tell the truth, so am I so I decided to make another.
It’s the first time I’ve done any knitting using different colours. Stripes are easy to do but it does mean that there are a lot of loose ends to weave in at the end of the process. I used the Debbie Bliss Paloma yarn again because love the handle of it and alpaca is so warm and the colours in this range are simply glorious. In a vaguely mathematical way, reminiscent of Fibonacci or Da Vinci, I decided that the stripes in the main body of the hat should be in the ratio of 8 rows: 6 rows: 4 rows, reducing to 6 rows: 4 rows: 2 rows in the decreasing part. It sounds complicated but there are fewer than 60 rows in the whole hat. The Orange comes first because I think it’s probably more flattering against my face than the Ruby, whilst not so readily showing make up stains as the Ecru, which will help me be visible in the dark when I pop and see my mum to give her her medications. You see it’s all science. *gives you a knowing wink*
I am particularly proud of the woolly ball that graces the top of the hat. I made one longhand for the St. Mungo’s hat, which took me all morning, but I actually bought an ingenious woolly ball machine, (tell the truth, being a completist, I actually bought 4, all in different sizes) which made the task so much quicker and easier. All in all, the body of the hat took me an evening to make and the finishing off and woolly ball making required another 30 minutes after that. I hope it’s a cheery addition to my winter wardrobe. I went out in my coat recently without a hat and realised how naked and cold I felt. I swear by cosy hats in the winter you see.