Thursday, 29 April 2010

Vote Vegetable!

I've been trying to explain the forthcoming election to Dear Daughter and Small Son. There are a lot of blank looks when I ask them if they know who the Prime Minister is. Gordon Brown rings no bells with my 4 and 5 year old. And then I say that there are three main parties, and their faces light up.
'And can we go to these parties?'
'No, not that kind of party. It means when people get together in a group. There are the Labour party, the Conservatives and the Liberals. Who sounds the best to you?'
'I think the Label party sounds best.' says Dear Daughter. 'What do they do?'

I ask them if they know what the government is. Dear Daughter hazards a guess.
'Is it the man that tells us what to do?'
'Like the king?', Small Son adds.
'Well, kind of.' I say. 'And do you know where they work?'
I'm hopeful about the answer, as when we had a trip to London I took them to see Big Ben. I start to prompt them,
'The Houses of Par.....?'
'The Houses of Parsnips!' shouts Small Son triumphantly.

Hmmm. This could take some time...

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Work in progress

The eagle-eyed among you might have noticed that the word count on my progress meter has finally risen again. I haven't been working much on my long project in the recent past. I'm not quite sure why. I just stopped one day and then found it really hard to restart. I think it seemed like it was too hard. Well, it is hard. There's no doubt about that. And the longer it gets and the more complex, the more I wonder sometimes what the hell I'm doing and why. But I have restarted finally. I've picked up where I left off and hope to get back into my routine of 1000 words a day on each of my writing days.

And this is just the first draft. God help me....

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Just breathing...

I meditate. Not as often as I should, but I sit down fairly regularly and just breathe. It is good for me to meditate. As someone who is into words, who is into finding exactly the right sequence of them to express a thought or an image, (alright, who is maybe a little obsessed with them!?) it is beneficial to get away from words sometimes.

Sometimes the voice in my head is simply unstoppable; a ticker tape of words constantly rolling across my consciousness, like the scrolling news reports on News 24. Sometimes though, slowly, I manage to focus gently on the breathing, even though I snap back to that internal voice intermittently. Occasionally, the voice fades away for a few moments and I just 'am'. In the moment, in the breath, not thinking. It is wonderful, but happens far too little, mainly because I don't practise enough!

Once, though, I had what I can only describe as a vision of some sort. Or perhaps a vivid daydream. I was just breathing and the voice in my head was quiet. And then suddenly I saw bright green foliage, and in the foreground a stream of golden coins pouring from above onto an intricately, colourfully, tiled floor. And then it was gone. It must have lasted a second, maybe two. And I can't explain or forget it. It was so strange. I have never had anything like that happen since.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Action or apathy?

I've just had an interesting conversation with my best friend about social responsibility. She is a new mum of a 15 month old and expecting her second child at the end of the year. I have two children of 4 and 5. My friend works part time as a hospital doctor.

We began talking about her life. As I said, she is a doctor and her husband is training to be a vicar in the Anglican church, and they are considering going to Africa to work. I think they feel like their efforts perhaps fall on stony ground here in the UK. And perhaps they feel like there is more 'real' need in the developing world, more that they can do to help. I do understand that view, although I remain convinced that there is real need in the UK as well, which is deep-rooted and insidiously tied up with social and political issues of all kinds. It is certainly the case that the gap between rich and poor in the UK is ever-widening, which is deeply concerning for 13 years of a Labour government...

But the question we came to was - where does your responsibility lie? Is it to your own family or is it to the wider community? If everyone took their family responsibilities seriously, then would society be in a better position? If we do have a wider responsibility, then where is the line drawn between putting your family first and helping others? For example, would you put your own children at risk, for example by moving to a politically unstable country, in order to help others? Would you move around the world, going where the need is greatest, and take your children with you? And if the answer to those questions is 'no', then are you just complacent and selfish?

Maybe one of the answers is about apathy. My friend sees direct action as the answer. I agree that direct action can be effective, but I see the long-term solution as being a political one. The risk that I run, from my position, is that it is easy to sit there and say, 'This is nothing to do with me, it's a political matter. I'll vote, but beyond that, it's not my problem.' There is no direct personal responsibility being taken. If I do nothing, that could be seen as apathetic or uncaring. But, if I bake a cake for the homeless centre or volunteer occasionally, is that enough? Or is that just a 'box-ticking' exercise to assuage my guilt?

I, and my friend, are hugely lucky. We have both been born in the developed world. We were born into affluent (by world standards) homes. We have been educated. We have access to health services. We are incredibly fortunate, but should we feel guilty about it or empowered by it to effect change? Where do our responsibilities, and the answers, lie?

With the general election coming up, these questions are running in my mind at the moment. How can my vote be used wisely? Where does personal responsibility end and social responsibility start?

Any ideas?

Monday, 12 April 2010

The Great British Cuppa

'If you are cold, tea will warm you.
If you are too heated, it will cool you.
If you are depressed, it will cheer you.
If you are excited, it will calm you.'

.....And if you have had an eighteen hour journey back home, and if the only milk you had for that whole two weeks in France was horrible long-life stuff, then that first cup of tea with fresh milk that you drank sitting on your own sofa in your own living room might just taste like the nectar of the gods....

Thursday, 8 April 2010

The Naughty Fairy

Small Son is not only acing the skiing, but he is rapidly outdoing us all in the imagination stakes. I can't believe some of the things this kid comes out with.

Today, after a telling off from me for unraveling all the toilet roll yet again, he came out with this:-

'But Mummy, there's a naughty fairy that lives in my head.'

'Oh yes?'

''She gets in through a little door in the back of my head, and then she presses all the buttons in there, and my hand just shoots out and rolls the toilet roll holder.'

I mean, there's just no answer to that, is there....?

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Learning to Ski

So we're back in France now, having spent an amazing week in Spain. We rented a little chalet and drove up to the slopes every day. The weather was brilliant, considering it was the last week of the season. It snowed at night three times and we had lovely white, fresh, powdery, unmarked snow to ski on in the mornings.... It was also not too busy. My worry was that because it was Easter week, it would be overwhelmingly crowded with skiiers. But all in all it was fine. There was only one afternoon that we came down early, as it had started to snow and was getting quite cold. So we skiied for 8 days solid! The only thing is that my legs do hurt. Quite a lot... (Note to self - get that pre-ski fitness regime in place for next year..!) I also caught an edge of my left ski on about Day 3 and twisted my knee, so that has been aching a bit since, especially at the end of the day.

I love skiing in Spain, mainly because the children have such a grand time. It is so true that the Spanish love children, and the chair lift and cable car operaters lifted both of mine on and off with the utmost gentleness and handed out sweets and stickers freely! My two thought it was excellent!

And here's something that's given me pause for thought. Small Son (he turned 4 while we were there) began the week unable to ski and ended the week racing all of us down the blue runs... He has turned into a complete thrill seeker! It was incredible to see him learning so quickly, without fear or judgment. It did make me wonder what we adults could achieve if we approached new things with such verve and enthusiasm, combined with no prejudices or preconceived ideas. And most importantly, with no fear.