Brexit and the shutting-up of the defeated.

Brexit

I wrote this column last week, pre-Brexit, and emailed it off to my editors, wondering what would have occurred in the world by the time it went to print. The answer is, a lot, and of  particular interest today is the leavers’ wish to ‘shut-up the moaning losers’, and the bandying around of the word ‘bigot’. The first two paragraphs are therefore in addition to my original article.

Firstly, this is a monumental decision that’s barely a day old. Why should people stay quiet about it? Opinions are something to which we are all entitled, and social media is a way in which to share those. If it winds you up, don’t log on. More importantly, when has anything in history – or, life in general – been made better by people being unable to express their views? In fact, isn’t the danger of the mass ‘shutting up’ of groups of individuals EXACTLY one of the lessons learnt from WW2? Or, more accurately, supposedly learnt. Is it not this intolerant attitude to others, and the wish to shut them down, that completely sums up many remainers’ opinions of Farage et al – thereby resulting only in the leave supporters proving the very point of those who wished to stay in the EU?

Secondly, many of the leavers have been throwing the word ‘bigot’ around at those damn pesky remainers who are daring to express their disappointment at an historical decision that, for better or worse, will affect their lives hereafter. ‘Bigot’ does not actually mean, as one Facebook definition suggests, to simply disagree with people and have a bit of a rant.  A more accurate definition is of a person with intolerant beliefs who does not like those whose opinions differ to their own, or who judges them solely on those opinions. That is very different to being free to express your views, still liking your mates despite their vote, and trying to respect one another’s opinion whilst still being able to voice your own. If you investigated every aspect of the referendum and still decided to vote leave/stay, and you can provide an educated argument in favour of your personal decision, then fair play – plus, you’ll presumably be able to clearly state your argument to anyone who disagrees with you, expect to be listened to, and engage in debate with your friends if necessary. As opposed to simply telling everyone to shut-up.

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It seems to have been one of those weeks that makes you wonder what has happened to humanity, particularly following the meaningless death of Jo Cox. Or, perhaps humanity has always been this way, and each new generation simply becomes aware as they grow older of just how barbaric we really are as a race.

In the coming days, we shall vote for whether or not to stay in the EU and, in or out, at least women are allowed to vote. Given that we have lost our lives in the past during the fight for this right, it seems obvious that yes, throughout history, humanity has proven itself to be an animal at heart.

It was fascinating to see Britain First posts in the wake of Jo Cox’s death and, especially, their inability to see the irony in their sense of injustice at being judged because of the actions of a minority. The boot was well and truly on the other foot, and their eyes, as ever, were wide shut.

It is often our jumping to judge that leads to the troubles within our society. We are quick to make our minds up and perhaps this is due, in part, to a certain laziness. There is less thought needed and we can leap upon a bandwagon, waving our pitchforks of judgment, and dismissing anyone that disagrees. Debate and conversation are lost, and rather than be listened to, we shut people down.

This behaviour begins in infancy, as early as the playground, where cliques and groups form initially, and we hone our millennia-old pack mentality. It simply depends upon which directions we then take this in, and where our personal biases reside as we get older.

For the two tiny daughters of Jo Cox, none of this really matters. However their mummy died, she remains gone from their lives forever, at an age where even their memories may not make it through to adulthood. But we never seem to get it as a race, do we? We never seem to understand that whatever colour, whatever creed, whatever age, we feel loss and pain and horror just the same as one another. How very, very heartbreaking.

 

First published in The Portsmouth News 25th June 2016

 

The 1980s Childhood. Whatever Happened?

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Whatever happened to the outdoor childhood?

My children are outdoorsy. I’m such a meanie that they’re only allowed a specific amount of iPad time on 3 specific days of the week.

This may lead to them going to the opposite end of the spectrum as soon as they’re old enough to be free of my eagle eye, but I’m hoping that the fact we spend time encouraging creativity and pursuing hikes, swims, picnics, dog-walking and nature-based adventure, will pay off long-term. I’ve always felt this way, but since reading research that suggests that particular links are never formed in the brains of infants these days who are brought up by screens as opposed to parental attention, I’ve at least felt scientifically – as well as common-sensically – justified.

I look back to my own 80’s childhood, filled with dirt and grazes and mischief, and I simply can’t stand the idea of my kids being raised in front of a screen. Only yesterday I was discussing this with friends. When I was a kid, from the age of 5 – 8, I lived in Denmead, a rural area. My grandad owned a pub called The Fox and Hounds and my parents and I lived in the flat above it. I spent my days there playing in fields, ditches, going over the handlebars of my BMX on homemade ramps, and strolling to the village shops. Given that we moved when I was 8, that’s not bad going.

However, these days, which of us would allow our kids to roam like this, at such an age? Not me. Partly because we live in a city, partly because we live in different times. Subsequently, my husband and I have encouraged dirt, garden mud kitchens, and as much of the great outdoors as we possibly can. We holiday on The Lizard in Cornwall, our kids do roam the farmland where we stay with the children who live there, and they spend their days knee-deep in rock pools, covered in sea weed, and with not a television or telephone in sight. It seems the best we can do in the 21st century. But somehow, it still never feels quite good enough.

We live in different times –  but not necessarily better ones.

 

And whilst on the subject of 80s’ childhoods, who remembers these beauties… ?!

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Rabbit Rescue

I spend a fair amount of my life repeating the mantra, ‘it could only happen to me’.

Get locked into the garden and have to scale an 8-foot wall to drop over the other side, hitching up one’s top and exposing a mound of mummy-belly to passing school children? Tick.

Have a handbag stolen in Nice that contains all car keys and payment methods, then spend an enforced month travelling around Europe whilst waiting for the mess to get sorted out? Tick.

Waddle around Tesco, 8 months massively pregnant, in maternity shorts, only to return to the car and discover that one entire pocket covering one entire bottom cheek has ripped away? Tick

Receive a round-robin text from youngest child’s school informing parents that a rabbit has been rescued by them from underneath a car and that they are keeping it safe until it is claimed. Oops.

Return home at 4.30pm and ask eldest daughter to release the bunnies, laughingly suggesting that she check they’re there, and then presume she’s winding you up when she chirrups back that nope, one is missing.

Experience dawning horror that said escapee is either safe and nesting in youngest’s school, or, this is a hideous coincidence and we have a bunny missing in action.

Grab rabbit-receptacle and run, in flip flops, with offspring, to the school, and have it confirmed that Lana Del Rey, the Lush family rabbit, was discovered under Amelie’s teacher’s car (!) in the road (!) at 8am that morning. Four staff members plus a broom had to coax her out, and she spent the day in a state of blissed out pamperment once the shock had subsided.

Subsequently, this is huge thank you to the higher powers of utter coincidence, and also to the marvelous Rabbit Rescue staff at my daughter’s school. So, to Ms Banister the Broom Wielder, to Mrs Boiling the car owner (that did not squash my rabbit), to Mrs Campbell, Mrs Anderson and Mrs Lathem, thank you! Lana is now safe in her hutch and run, and the perimeters are being checked on an hourly basis.

 

Football Violence: hurting fellow human beings for a lump of inflated leather on grass?

I know little about football. This has nothing to do with my having ovaries and being of the female persuasion, and everything to do with my finding it as much fun as the times when I had to unclog the upstairs loo during my youngest’s faze of ‘flush an entire toilet roll’ when she was two.

I do, however, deign to watch football (my kindness knows no bounds, Mr Lush), and have subsequently picked up on the violence at Euro 2016.

Unless these halfwits simply use football as an excuse for violence, then I simply don’t get it. Inflicting violence is anathema to me, but doing so because of a lump of inflated leather on grass seems beyond baffling.

 

 

When Your Kids are Sick: A Day in the House of Poo.

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Husband plus self woken at 2am by the matutinal cries of youngest offspring. Both attempted to feign sleep of the deepest variety in a bid to out-fake-snooze the other, yet both thwarted by the perseverance of said child. The unmistakable thump of small feet on wooden floors followed, before floodlights were switched on in the bedroom, lighting us up like the remnants of nuclear waste.

In the manner of SAS soldiers we leapt from the bed ready for battle to commence. Physical training ensued in the shape of a trek across the Calpol Trail, administered through foggy eyes, yet with highly specialized hands that, after years of honing a particular set of skills, now have the unique ability to sense a precise measure of Calpol, even in the dark.

Once the youngest child had performed various explosive emptyings of her bowels, we returned to bed, wide awake and alert, awaiting the next cry. But, rather than hearing a child, it was the dogs that started next. The older hound began her customary ‘let me out’ whimper, manufactured solely for employees of the RSPCA, and the youngest joined in with her latest trick: the howl. Husband leapt from bed again, slightly less energetic this time, in order to vault the stairs and bellow at the creatures in manner of a slo-mo action scene with Bruce Willis, “Noooooo… Ittttt… Iiiiis… Bedtiiiiiiiiiiime…”. The dogs, suddenly displaying a previously unknown ability to grasp the fundamentals of any of our commands, must have sensed the desperation in husband’s tone, and immediately shut up. He returned to bed and sleep eventually beckoned.

Morning dawned like a shovel of sand to the eyes. Husband rose at 5.45am and I not long after. Youngest child of course slept on like a winner of the Marathon des Sables on valium, whilst the reality sunk in that I’d be the one to take the day off work and cope with the contents of her bottom. Made mental note to self to warn daughters when older to brace themselves for this assumption of unshared parental responsibility when in receipt of ovaries, and armed self with weapons of choice (bleach, disinfectant wipes, canister of Dettol aerosol spray). Belted my dressing gown tightly around me with a flourish and significantly more confidence than I felt, and ventured into the bathroom, back against the wall, eyes rolling for signs of infectious illness, canister at the ready to aim and fire.

Youngest awoke with joy to the news that school was off for the day. I explained in hushed tones of magnanimity that verged on reverence and demanded gratitude, that I would be deigning to ‘take the day off’, an unheard of phenomenon, in order to care for the poorly one. To which she replied, “Where’s the iPad then?”

Husband left with a spring in his step around the 7am mark, whistling as he mounted his bicycle and popping his helmet on in a jaunty fashion, peddling off with all the bonhomie of Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins. I stood in the doorway of the House of Poo, contemplating the work that I would have to do in order to not actually go to work. Made various phone calls, accepted various phone calls, answered emails and texts, sent similar, then re-bleached the tainted bowel-receptacles of the abode, exhausted eyes swinging from skull on strings. Youngest all the while had a merry time showing me how to skip and enquiring with a smile as to what learning she’d be missing. She beamed with jolly aplomb when realising that her English lesson would have finished for the day, and returned to her new home, the toilet, with the look of one who has had a stay of execution.

By 10am it was clear from a perusal of the fridge that supplies were dwindling and that a forage in the Land of Tesco might be necessary, especially in the direction of Dioralyte. I carefully timed the last episode of bowel-explosion and ran for cover in the car, the smallest daughter attached to my side. We chose a supermarket with both a pharmacy and a loo (wise move as it happened) and purchased rations for the day in between speed-marching to the toilets and emerging red-faced from the cubicles whilst fighting the urge to scream, “IT WASN’T ME” to the waiting queues. Found self chatting in overly-loud voice to youngest about her bottom and her day off school, in order to quash any suspicions to said queues that I was merely using her as cover for my own flatulent shenanigans.

Upon our arrival home, I have continued to extol sympathetic crooning to the youngest whilst surreptitiously spraying the air around her with Dettol. The day has passed surprisingly quickly given our incarceration, but I fear the approaching evening with a sense of doom, akin to all other parents who have gone before me and know the horror of the Cry In The Night. Be strong my comrades, one day in the future it will our offspring wiping our arses and pretending not to mind the stench.

 

 

 

 

Get your mummy-body out this summer ladies, wibble wins.

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Mummy bodies. Or, female bodies in general. Or, perhaps, all bodies in general? What I’m getting at, is that few of us are comfortable showing them.

My family and I discovered Arundel lido last weekend, after much googling on my part to find a decent open-air pool for my girls to swim in. They’ve had very little experience of this, given the UK weather and the depth of Pompey’s splash puddles, whereas my husband and I have myriad memories of Hilsea lido, in all of its fading art deco glory, back in the 1970s and ‘80s.

It was with this nostalgia in mind, the kind where you remember with startling clarity the sensation of a sun-whispered breeze on damp skin, the warmth and slip of mosaic tiles beneath summer feet, and the sheer joy of an open-aired dip, that we set off to West Sussex. There is something about limbs begin encased and suspended in the silk wrap of water, whilst your face is free in the blissful, breezy open, that is simply a little bit magical to me.

Fortunately, we were not disappointed. Arundel lido is a gem, set under the sublime shadow of the castle and, better still, heated. The day was glorious and filled with new experiences for our girls.

Obviously, given the swimming nature of the day, we were all sporting our splashing attire. Frankly, it was refreshing to see so many women completely at ease with themselves and their bodies. Or, at least, looking at ease.

This can be tough. It’s difficult to feel comfortable strutting about nearly naked, whether you’ve had babies or not. But having seen umpteen bodies, some that had babies and some that had not, but all of which bore a striking resemblance to mine, I did begin to wonder about the ridiculous effect that the media has upon our expectations.

Every image in the press is one of women with smooth thighs, and I guarantee that every caption on the Daily Mail gossip column today will begin with something along the lines of “Jennifer BARES her lithe legs a week after having baby Chardonnay,” or, “Megan works her HOT ABS on beach break in Malibu,” where the reality, for most of us, is less uppercase and more “Verity gets her cellulite out in Arundel and looks normal, except for her myxomatosis chlorinated eyeballs”.

There was only one woman I saw with abs and no cellulite under her bum or on her thighs. ONE. She looked great, but so did those with the same cottage-cheese-cum-stilton thighs as mine, or those with huge boobs, and those with zero boobs. Some mums had bikinis on and all bar the previous exception had loose chicken skin on their stomachs and c-section shelves. The dads, minus the birthing tummies but plus the moobs, were all similar. Yet we have been utterly brainwashed into thinking that if we dare to bare our untoned beach bods, then the second we remove a lumpy cankle from our shroud on the beach, teems of lithe and athletic, similarly aged, folk will begin pointing and screaming in the manner of Donald Sutherland at the end of Invasion of the Body-Snatchers.

Well, I am here to tell you that lumpy and soft is human. This is the norm ladies. WIBBLE is the norm. So, hit this summer with pride, wobble your way towards September, and believe that you are the norm, not the exception.

 

Islamophobic Bigotry

Having been on Facebook in the wake of Muhammed Ali’s death, it’s astounding to see how many people posted various Ali quotes from across the years. This doesn’t astound me because they’re of no interest – the man was poignant, profound, and, at times, poetic – but because Ali was Muslim.

This isn’t the reason behind my surprise either. I couldn’t care less if Ali had been a champion of synchronised swimming or a member of the Monster Raving Loony Party. However, the people posting his words are often those who also post anti-Muslim rants and general bigoted nonsense.

I wonder how many of those people realise that the man behind these beautiful quotations was himself a Muslim, thereby unintentionally highlighting what uneducated wallies this mob really are.

 

Chick-Chick, Chick-Chick, Chicken…

My husband and I keep chickens and have done for years. The latest additions came from his ‘living egg’ experience at school, whereby his students kept four of the little hatched chicks, and we, the rest.

However, last week someone got into my husband’s playground, broke the lock on the chicken run, and either let one of them go or removed one.

Either way the chicken was, amazingly, discovered trotting down Fratton Road on Bank Holiday Monday. She was returned to her buddies, thank goodness, because the children, having watched the feathery poppets hatch and cared for them ever since, would have been devastated had harm come to them.

Something to remember before breaking into and wreaking damage in an infant school, perhaps.

 

First published in the Portsmouth News, Saturday 11th June 2016

Image courtesy of http://www.thestar.com

Celebrity Delusions and Working Mothers. Or, Goga Ashkenazi and the World’s Smallest Stradivarius

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Working Mums, the Juggling Act, and the Deluded Goga.

Every so often in life, we come across a person whose own existence seems to be a mirror image of our own. For me, this is person is Goga Ashkenazi.

Goga is a working mother, and I too am a working mother. Subsequently, Goga finds it hard to juggle life, as do I. Goga is an oil billionaire turned fashion designer, and I… oh.

Goga spends her weekdays living in a 17th century palazzo in Milan, whilst her sons stay in her £28 million London home that she bought for cash.

When poor Goga says that she finds it tricky to organize her sons’ ‘endless’ holiday activities, I am assuming she’s not talking about the sensation of doom the rest of us experience when we’re wondering if we can stand to take the kids and the raw bacon to Canoe Lake crabbing for the ninth day running.

Goga finds it a squeeze to fit in her own activities because she’s usually to be found collecting awards on behalf of her philanthropist buddies in New York or attending ‘anti-blindness galas’, in between trips to Barbados.

In Goga’s own words, ‘It never stops.’ Which leads me to surmise that what she really needs is a week in my world.

Welcome, Goga, to Portsmouth. Be sure to learn the Dog Poo Quickstep before you contemplate a school run (the latter is not an exercise class but does require one living in the same country as one’s offspring), and behold the beauty of the Commercial Road fountain, filled with cheap bubble bath from Wilkos.

Observe me chopping food in the evening like it’s an Olympic event, whilst simultaneously talking to my boss on speakerphone, attempting to sound competent, whilst using my own form of sign language to shut my kids up in the background.

Look Goga, as I sweat to make it to school on time, then observe that only 7 minutes pass before both offspring begin beating the bejesus out of each other, whilst clinging to the fat on my upper arms as they try to climb me to escape each other.

As you say Goga, it simply never stops does it? We could be twins.

 

The CEO of the academy chain, Thinking Schools Trust, is Suspended

I read in The Times this week that Denise Shepherd, CEO of the Thinking Schools Academy Trust, has been suspended due to allegations of snooping on teachers’ emails and for doctoring parts of an external inspection report.

This is of particular interest because not only are some of the schools in Portsmouth a part of the Thinking Schools Trust, but Ms Shepherd had previously declared herself able to turn one of them around.

The lack of trust in a head teacher to do so themselves, or for schools to make independent and successful decisions, is just another example of the fragmentation of our education system.

We are living in interesting times. And that is not a good thing.

 

Kanye West. Prize Plonker.

One cannot help but wonder which planet Kanye West inhabits, when one reads that he has apparently declared himself a history-free zone. Kanye, it transpires, does not bother reading about history, because he is simply too busy ‘making it’.

Had Kanye ever bothered to remove his head from between his own buttocks, then he may have noticed there have actually been some prized lunatics in human history thus far, and also some blistering examples of utter laughing stocks.

I am only guessing that this is not the impression Kanye wishes to leave behind when he is eventually called by whichever higher power he believes in to join the great asylum in the sky, but with Kanye, who knows?

 

First published in The Portsmouth News, Saturday 4th June 2016