Archive for September, 2009


Too far. Much too far.

Before I begin, you need to know that my friend M- is – in every way that matters – my sister. We grew up together and enjoyed something of an idyllic childhood, stomping through summer forests and sledging down winter hills, always to be welcomed home by one of our mothers. When I got married, my initial guest list began ‘Mum and Dad, in-laws, M-‘s family’ because besides my own kin, they had the greatest influence on me whilst I was growing up.

I always thought that if I had children, I’d live down the road from M-, and that she would be their cool aunt who baked cakes and read incredible stories, and that I would return the favour by building tents out of bed sheets and making messy craft projects with her offspring.

But I don’t know if I want children now, because I can’t, in good conscience, bring a new life into a world that I find wholly unacceptable. Nobody asks to be born, and certainly nobody asks to be born into a world where every touch constitutes a sexual attack and where every grown-up is an enemy rather than someone to go to for help. I’d be interested in seeing an episode of Sesame Street in these paranoid times. When I was little, Kermit The Frog used to advise that if you got lost, you should seek out the nearest adult and ask for help in locating your mommy. Now I suppose he advises you seek out the nearest lawyer and sue whoever looks at you funny for intended rape. Or maybe they don’t even have Sesame Street anymore – maybe Bert and Ernie were too controversial and the Count made fun of ethnic minorities – what do I know?

A friend of mine, Ch-, plays for a local cricket team and apparently his coach reprimanded him for leading a child back to the pavilion following a fall. Ch- had placed a hand on the boy’s shoulder, as you might with a friend, but apparently this simple act ‘could be misconstrued’. It made no difference that Ch- was friends with the boy’s grandfather and mother and knew him socially…

I could list countless other instances like this, including a case my husband told me about where a man photographed his own child in a school concert. He was met by two police officers following the show who informed him that other parents had felt ‘uneasy’ due to the presence of his camera. Heaven forbid we take family pictures to mark momentous childhood events.

If things keep going the way they are, we seem doomed to end up with a generation of children who not only possess warped views of the world, but who are unable to express themselves physically and will have no idea when it is and isn’t appropriate to hug. We have created a world in which adults aren’t the protectors and by doing so, have effectively made ourselves into the enemy. I think I mentioned it when I talked about ‘The Old Lady who swallowed a Fly’, but I once saw a child in Tesco who, when his mother left the trolley for a second to pick up a box of cereal, yelled, “Mummy, no! Come back! Someone will steal me!”

Growing up in constant fear of abduction can’t possibly be healthy, can it? We’re raising youths to be frightened of adults and then becoming angry when they lash out at us in acts of ‘anti-social-behaviour’. But who made them antisocial in the first place, I wonder? Could it be the lack of hands to help them up when they fell in the playground, or the lack of discipline imposed by ‘authority figures’ unwilling to hand out punishments for fear of losing their jobs? My mother, who was a classroom assistant for ten years, once told me that sad faces on poorly completed work are now considered to ‘mentally damage’ a child. If that was true, my daydreaming and subsequent grades would have sent me to a mad house long ago.

And it isn’t just adults that children will be maladjusted to. The recent case of Ofsted interfering with the childcare arrangements of two policewomen in Aylesbury means that now both babies, instead of growing up in the love and warmth a family environment, will be placed within a state run institution*. Instead of being allowed to treat one another as siblings, as M- and I do – and as we’d planned for our children to do – these infants will be effectively raised amongst strangers where loving touches aren’t allowed. What irritates me most about this, is that some interfering person with too much time on their hands and nothing to do with either child, must have informed Ofsted in the first place. I think that’s the most hurtful part – that we, as a society, are now so paranoid of what one another is doing, we’ll report women who aren’t wasting the tax-payer’s money on state-run childcare for… what? I don’t even know how to finish that sentence because I simply can’t understand what could possibly be illegal or unethical about letting a friend take care of your baby. My life without M-‘s family would have been a great deal poorer and I wonder how many young people growing up today will be denied that extra sense of closeness.

The Japanese believe that a community raises a child, not a family, and if that’s the case then Britain isn’t doing a very good job. We’re creating an environment in which parents can become complacent and neglect to teach common sense. And just because someone has a clear police check saying they’ve never been caught doing anything naughty, it means only that – they’ve never been caught.  It doesn’t actually make the world a safer place at all – just creates a lot of unnecessary work for our police force.

The whole thing would be made a damn sight more palatable if the different government departments actually spoke to one another too. We’re meant to cut down our carbon footprint, but now in order to give lifts to other peoples’ kids we need to be checked before hand and pay for thepriviledge**. No wonder my commute to work used to take half an hour every morning when it should take ten minutes – the entire village was full of 4-x-4’s containing one woman and one child.  And whilst I sympathise somewhat with the people of Soham – having suffered one horrible tragedy as a result of different police departments not communicating – I hardly think that its the fault of the average parent trying to save their friend some money on fuel if times are hard because of the economy. Had the administration offices in Soham School had the correct information from Humberside police, it wouldn’t have happened, so instead of turning people trying to be good neighbours into criminals, why don’t we address the problem at its core – a lack of communication between different government agencies!

The bottom line is that all this new legislation means we are unable to help out our fellow man. Goodbye compassionate nation.


* Read about said case here: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/libby_purves/article6852989.ece

** See the article here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/lawandorder/6169054/Parents-who-ferry-children-must-have-anti-paedophile-checks.html

Consider a modern wife.

A little while ago, I promised a rant about my feelings regarding what I call ‘modern feminism’.  It’s taken me a little while to edit it into something coherent but I hope you find it interesting:

Consider a modern wife.

Do you see:

– a flighty woman in a part-time job, who rushes around after the kids in a Ford Ka and then goes home to throw together a chaotic ensemble of potato waffles, fish fingers and baked beans,

or,

–  an orderly, calm figure in an apron with dinner on the table, ironing done and house spick-and-span?

I’d wager dollars to donuts that you imagined something closer to the first option, simply because the traditional image of a wife and mother has grown to be considered politically incorrect. We who would like to spend our days ensuring our loved ones come home to a warm, friendly house are backwards and traitors to our gender.

Don’t misunderstand me – I’m not asking that I be kept in the lap of luxury at my husband’s expanse. I’m not a lazy person (I procrastinate, yes, but that isn’t the same thing). When a job needs doing I always pull out all the stops and give it my undivided attention, otherwise I feel there’s little point in starting the endeavour to begin with. However this work ethic seems to be the reason I am now both a full-time housewife and a full-time freelancer. I’d like very much to be the former, however moving furniture around in order to sell it, running to and from town on various errands, organising moves, organising car insurance, holiday trips, dentists, doctors and the birthdays of my ever-growing collection of nieces – some of whom aren’t allowed plastic toys – doesn’t, as far as society is concerned, count as a full-time occupation. The housework is my burden alone because I don’t want S-, who works almost an hour’s drive away, to come home to more work on top of his usual nine-to-five. Somehow though, I seem to have developed the ridiculous notion that it’s not unfair for me to do said chores on top of my paying job.

Feminism, for me – and I suspect most other women in Britain – has simply brought about more work. I appreciate the right to vote and do so every time the chance comes – the fact that people died so I could weighs  heavily on my conscience – however, that I now have to work both full-time and run a household is grossly unfair. The theory was sound enough – every human being should have the right to work for a living and to be paid equally for doing so – but in real life, things just don’t work that way. Society has been geared for centuries so that when a man comes home from whatever bread-winning enterprise he’s partaken in, he can simply relax and enjoy his evening.  And that’s a habit no one in their right mind would surrender simply for the sake of fairness and equality. Meanwhile, the prospect of an independent income attracted women out to work, however on returning home, the litany of chores and household duties remained, leaving the wife to don her apron and get to it. Over time, society has come to accept this liberated woman as standard and when I tell people I stay at home during the day, their first response is to look pityingly at me and ask, as if it were a terminal disease, “Are you a housewife?”
“No,” I reply, “But I’d bloody well like to be.” They take a step back then, as if I’ve expressed an intense desire for a lobotomy.

That’s what feminism has done – it has criminalised the mothering instinct. We who wish to turn our bare-walled boxes from house to home are socially inferior because we’d like to have a fresh cake ready for our husbands when they return from work, or to spend an afternoon baking with our children rather than pawning them off on a state-run institution. We who would like to sew fleece lined curtains to keep the draughts out, or who’d like to read to our offspring are wrong and unenlightened.

Well, to those who will undoubtedly spam this saying I am against women’s rights, I have only this to say: Feminism began to create choice. I chose to aspire to a life as a wife and mother, and eventually a granny who can hug better than she can initiate a hostile business take-over.

I’m not damning those who chose to put career first – merely asking that they respect the choice I plan to make.

I think the fact that I work from home compounds my part in creating a world where I must be both earner and nurturer. My one hour lunch break – set aside for writing fiction amongst my copywriting work – is soon consumed with loading the dishwasher, doing the laundry, or nipping into town to fetch something. In order for me to have enough time to pursue my hobbies – sedate things such as patchworking and painting – I’d have to either give up sleep or one of my full-time jobs. Though at present our income dictates that I must be both bread-winner and bread-maker, I hope that in the not-too-distant future I’ll be able to enjoy a little free time for myself every once in a while.

On a similar theme is the following article which I found very interesting. It speaks of the values of a traditional family unit: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1215937/Why-thought-knew-good-parent-WRONG.html

Resolution, and a shameless plug.

I couldn’t make my ‘I hate modern feminists’ rant into something reader-friendly so I thought I’d post a poem instead. It’s rare I write in verse and I did this one for some themed competition or another…

I always think I suck at poetry because people read so much into it, and there’s never anything more to mine than the words as they stand. Apparently though, other people don’t seem to agree with me. I’ve got poetry coming out in two anthologies very shortly – two and half (M- is my co-author on one) in the Olympia book  Expression- The Olympia Poetry Anthology 2009 and one in Forward Press’s “Animal Antics”… not bad for someone who wouldn’t know a literary technique if it jumped around in front of her screaming, “I’m onomatopoeia – Take me, woman, use me!”

It isn’t about myself, incidentally. I plagiarised the idea of someone standing at the door with a suitcase from the Del Amitri song  ‘It’s Never too Late to be Alone”, specifically the lines, “You can find yourself one day staring into space / With a suitcase waiting by the door  / You can think you’ve got it made / ’til it hits you in the face / That these are not the people you wanted to be before”…

RESOLUTION

They’re bitter-sweet, these things around.
Remnants of the life I’d found…
…Or thought I had, at any rate.
And pushing on in other ways
Will not bring back those bygone days,
nor cause these feelings to abate.

And so it is that here I stand,
with suitcase and car-keys in hand,
with fingers round the handle curled.
And were this door not burdened with
a sadness that in some ways is
regret, then I could face the world.

But leaving now with all unsaid
about the ways we’ve been misled
seems honourless and cowardly
and through all other tribulations
problems, trials and complications,
honourable we’ve tried to be.

So it is I close the door
remember what we’re married for
and put the waiting kettle on.
there happens now a brief delay
until I softly put away
the signs that I was almost gone.

Blog

I did write a blog today, but it was deemed too personal. I will try and de-personalise it and post it either tomorrow or the day after.

A nation without a clue…

I don’t know what goes through anyone else’s mind when they decide to go to Tesco, but for me, its an absolute ordeal that requires precision military planning and days of mental build up. I’ll do everything I possibly can to delay the inevitable mad rush from aisle to aisle – up to and including a week of pasta and canned tomato meals that vary only in their seasoning. When the cupboard is finally bare of all but one sorry looking lemon and that can of tuna I’ve carted around with me since university, I’ll finally scribble down my shopping list, put some schnapps in the fridge to calm my nerves on my return and set out.

On the road over there though, I tend to forget just what’s coming. It’s a combination of the cheesy power-ballads I listen to  – which have been banned from the house – and the fact my car can corner at 60 mph. In any case, I tend to find myself in a euphoric mood until the sound of the car locking as I walk away snaps me back to reality. As the keys slip into my bag, realisation dawns – I’m at the supermarket, and it’s the school holidays.

No offence to any mothers reading this blog – I know you can’t just leave your children baking on the back seat of your Ka, or abandon them at home to stick metal things into plug sockets, or whatever kids do when they’re not supervised – but the ones who insist on screaming when they realise they can’t have a new Xbox game could at least be gagged. I’ve seen children, and I say this with deadly seriousness, start punching boxes of cereal because their dad picked up the Tesco own brand chocolate-flavour-rice-thingies instead of the ones with the monkey on. And what did Dad do when said child split the box, sending oats flying across the floor?

“Please don’t do that.”

There was no rise in pitch, no angry intonation. The above plea came out as a sort of begging, mewling sound that lacked even the ghost of authority. At that point, I simply let go of my trolley and took refuge amongst the dog food in the next aisle, until my rage subsided.

Another thing I hate about Tesco is the fact that ingredients are really hard to find. You might think that’s a bit of a dumb statement considering the company largely sells food, but jars of pasta sauce, ready-baked potatoes with cheese  and boxes of pre-chopped veg that say ‘stir fry’ on, are not ingredients. They’re finished meals that you just have to heat up.  I honestly spent fifteen minutes looking for coconut milk and whilst I found not one, but two aisles dedicated to sauces containing this substance, there wasn’t a single can of it, in its unpolluted form.

You could argue that supermarkets are all about a convenient lifestyle and that ready-meals are just a part of that, however I fail to see how pouring a jar of yellow goop over sizzling chicken is easier than pouring over a can of coconut milk, some chili flakes, ginger and coriander. People say they don’t have time to cook and fair enough, lots of people live pretty stressful lives, but surely everyone can find the time to shove a tatty in the microwave for ten minutes while they grate some cheese, instead of buying a potato with cheese already in it for double the price that takes the same amount of time to cook!

It’s widely believed that the nation’s health is suffering due to the number of ready-meals we consume, however thanks to places like Tesco and Asda, no alternative is readily available. Even if the general public suddenly realised they could cook real food, there’s no way they’d be able to acquire the produce needed at a mainstream stockist.

There are some retailers out there who do supply a wide range of products and thankfully, my local Co-op is one of them. Not only do they have coconut milk, but they also carry puy lentils which are another item that the nearby superstore fails to stock. I would do all of my shopping there, but sadly basics – such as canned tomatoes, cereals, bread etc. – are all more expensive.

Still, I’d best stop ranting. Lunch time approaches and unless I want to consume that sickly looking lemon with my antique tuna, I need to go and buy some food…