Think of the Children!

Well, it’s a dramatic enough title, for a dramatic enough day in world history.

I’m really not going to go on about my personal feelings regarding the US election. I’m pretty sure that anyone who reads these blog entries will know which side of the debate I stand firmly behind, and frankly, there have been enough dissections. We know.

But what I didn’t know, this morning, was what I would be telling my children. It’s nice, here in the UK, that I technically had the luxury of not telling them at all. But then, America is a very big, rather influential country, and children hear the news no matter what we do as parents (school is handy that way), so I reasoned I really ought to tackle it somehow.

They’re young, and easily crushed. The fact that my son’s initial reaction was “Oh, we’re doomed then. XX at school says that it will mean World War 3,” was not encouraging. Time for an extended metaphor…

Recently, it was Halloween. (You may or may not remember this.) For the first time, I decided we’d carve pumpkins, and like the over-enthusiastic amateur I am, I bought three of the dratted things, and kept all the seeds with the (rather excessively optimistic) intention of roasting them at some point. When that didn’t happen immediately, I spread them all out on a baking tray to dry, vaguely thinking they might want to plant a few.

A day or so later, I noticed that one of the seeds had a little white bit poking out of it. Hot damn, I thought. The thing’s actually sprouted! In November! Possibly I should have thrown it away. Instead, I planted it in a pot and left it in the kitchen, adding a second early sprout when I saw that it wasn’t alone.

Look at those little sprouts go!

There they are. I took the photo just before sitting down to write this. Pumpkin plants, sprouting over winter. If they’d sprouted outside, they would die. It’s the wrong time for pumpkins, after all. You don’t plant them until the warm weather comes back. And maybe I shouldn’t have tried to save those two little sprouting seeds. After all, what’s the point? The odds of them actually growing into something which could flower and produce fruit are so tiny. It will be winter when they get big enough that they really ought to be planted outside.

It would be easy to give up in the face of such odds. To say it isn’t worth it. That it’ll be too difficult to keep them. They’ll need bigger pots, more compost, and I don’t even have a garden! Where will they be planted when (if) the time comes?

But there they are, green and growing, in spite of the time of year. And I know that, if I look after them – if I water them, and feed them, and work to overcome the obstacles – they’ll survive. Even with the seasons stacked against them, care will win over neglect.

So what I told my children this morning is that sometimes, things can seem hopeless. Sometimes, the world can seem like it’s set us up to fail. That everything is going wrong. But as long as people care, there is hope. And one day winter will end, and on the other side we’ll find the spring.

(And Nanny has a big garden, so when it gets warm we can try planting them there.)

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Europe

Yesterday, in a pique of slightly desperate pleading, I said that I voted to remain in Europe as I believed it was the patriotic thing to do.

Today, I woke up to the news that, of the approximately 73% of the population who voted, more than half disagreed with me.

I’ll be honest, I’m feeling pretty emotional at the moment and I think it would be easy for me to lash out verbally. To let my emotions take control and sink into a tirade of despair and name-calling which, I’ll be honest, I’ve already indulged in a little. I’m human. It happens.

But it also happens that I am English. British. European. And that means a few other things as well.

Britain has always survived. It wasn’t easy, and we seldom emerged unscathed, but at the end of all periods of unrest, we emerged. Perhaps we were a different shape. Perhaps we were battered and bruised and almost unrecogniseable. But we were there. We have always been there.

We have a strange history. It’s not a peaceful one, and in a great many places it’s not a proud one either. Whether or not you agree that voting to leave the European Union was a good idea, you cannot deny that a great many crimes have been committed in the name of this green and pleasant land. A great many cruel people figure highly in our history books. A great many countries, past and present, have no good reason to think favourably of us.

But that’s speaking as “we”. It’s speaking for millions, billions, past and present and future. It’s taking the wide view, and right at this moment, I don’t believe the wide view is a lot of help.

What happens now is beyond my control. It’s beyond your control. In fact, the only people who really have a say are a small core of politicians and bureaucrats who very few of us could put faces to, let alone names. Perhaps I should say it’s a bad thing. From where I am sitting, I honestly can’t say I feel very optimistic about it all.

But I am English. I am British. And laying aside the fact that I am also European for a moment, what this tells me about myself is that I hail from a nation of people who cling to stubborn pride. Who, by and large, endure through adversity. Who don’t know when to give up.

I said yesterday that we are United in name, but while that is true, there’s another story running counter to it. We are united, but we are also in constant discord. It’s a knife edge which we have run for centuries – millenia, in fact. Our history as a group of nations is one of ongoing strife and discontent. One of protests, successful and failed. One of dissatisfaction and equality and prejudice.

I look back at our history and I see rotten boroughs and workhouses. I see a class system so entrenched that it has formed a part of our very language. I see discrimination and intolerance at every turn, for every reason. I see political lies and misinformation, and at the heart of it all, I see real people with no say in their lives, who get caught up in the events around them.

During the Roman invasion, Celts marched into battle against an army which outclassed their weapons and strategies. In Tudor times, you could be burnt at the stake depending on your religion. At the start of the industrial revolution, weavers took to breaking the looms which they knew would put them out of work. During the 1800s, thousands were locked up in workhouses for the misfortune of poverty.

Britain was not the same after these things. Britain could never be the same after these things. And many people simply did not survive these things. But these are some of the events which shaped our nation. Which led, by long, indirect roads (definitely not the Roman ones), to a nation of people who, when faced with wartime rationing and bombing raids, displayed a courage and unity which baffled their foes.

I don’t bring up the Blitz lightly. It is a rallying call for many kinds of people, and it is a period of our history which carries as many shames as it does virtues. But I know it’s a spirit many people recognise, and I think there is something fundamentally British about the everyday attitude people displayed.

As a nation, we don’t expect good things to happen. We view each sporting event as an anticipation of failure, and we work ourselves into a frenzy when we succeed because it is almost always against the odds. We are a nation against the odds. Fractured kingdoms, united by a border of water which steadily eats into our shores; a melting pot of opinions and ideas which froths and simmers and occasionally boils over, for good or ill.

We are a nation of complaints and grumbles and persistence. We delight in self-satire, and if we have a political elite who do not understand us, we are unsurprised – they have been entrenched for over a thousand years, and beneath their towers and castles, the ordinary people labour on.

When we rise in protest, we do not always succeed. We cut off the head of one king, only to realise that we had made a terrible mistake – and eventually offer the crown back to his own son. Wat Tyler marched upon London to fight for the rights of the common people and wound up dead, his revolution meeting a fruitless and mostly painful end. In the immediate wake of the Peterloo Massacre, the government’s response was to crack down on those who campaigned for the rights of the common man.

Times have been hard. Times have been brutal. Times have made us suffer. But I am a child of this turbulent, contradictory nation, where courage and cowardice walk hand in hand. Where progressives and conservatives exist side by side. Where ignorance and education mix and learn from each other. Where the wealthy and the poor must co-habit. Where the constant unrest and upheaval of millennia has forged a nation who do not expect good things, but carry on regardless. Where pride and stubbornness are forged by adversity into endurance.

Where, no matter how bad it gets, no matter how bad it looks, no matter what life throws at me, I look it in the eye and I say I will not lay down. I will not be beaten. I will not give up. I will stand proud and tall for my children and they will not see my fear, or my shame.

And one day, be it near or far, I know that the hard times will pass, and we will still be here. Probably not the same, but here nonetheless. And perhaps the next time, we will emerge as a Britain who is ready to leave the days of empire and isolation as far behind as we did our feudal system and rotten boroughs.

When the Cracks Show

I’ve been quiet recently.

Not that people would necessarily notice – I’m something of an introvert at the best of times, and I’ve done my fair share of laughing and geeking out at Things On The Internet(TM), so you’d be forgiven for thinking that all is well.

But here’s the thing.

A large contingent of my health comes down to stress. I know this, because every time I am in highly stressful situations, my seizure frequency rockets. And this means that I cannot afford to spend all my days stressed and worried, because if I do, I’ll end up having multiple seizures every day and being unable to take care of my children properly.

So instead, I laugh. I read a book; I write something; I listen to very loud music, and I sing “lalala I’m not LISTENING” to the news because if I don’t, the illusion that I’m fine won’t hold up. And given that I work really hard to maintain this illusion, I usually figure it would be a waste. It’s bad enough when I keel over on the school playground once. If I do it the next day as well, or even the next week, people start to comment.

In the last few weeks, the British government has rolled out a succession of bills and proposals and now a budget which will, all told, decimate the lives of a great many people in social brackets I fall into. How badly will I be affected? Honestly, I don’t know. I haven’t dared sit down and crunch the sums. I’ve done my best not even to read the news, really, because even from the headlines, the news is bad enough.

I wish I could say I was shocked. I wish I could say I was horrified, or appalled, or terrified. But really, I just feel a little numb. Detached, thanks to the weeks of blindly telling myself that it’ll all work out somehow, even though I knew that things stood a good chance of going this way from the moment the election results were announced. All my bare-faced denial couldn’t change that.

So please. Don’t think I’m ignorant or uncaring when I share stupid videos, or geek out about anime and video games. I’m just trying extra hard not to let anyone see the cracks in this mask, because if it falls apart, I think I might as well.

Wakening

I went to bed last night knowing full well what I would awaken to, and yet somehow the seeing it is worse.

As the country turns blue, my blood runs both cold and hot. Cold with dread, and hot with the sick, sharp stab of fear.

Of the demographics that the Tories traditionally hate, I fall into a few. I am unemployed, I am disabled, and I am a single parent. I’m also a creative, a woman, and left wing. For what it’s worth, I’m not “straight” either, although I am straight-passing.

And now I think it’s time to wake up. Not just for me, but for all of us. Each and every one of us who banked on things going the other way this morning. Who cast our votes and sat there, fingers crossed (metaphorically or not), who signed petitions, who tweeted, and who sat at home and waited to see what would happen.

Well. It happened. And the more my fear takes hold, the more it gives way to anger. Not at the country. not at those others, those people who read the tabloids and believed the right-wing slant to current affairs and financial matters. No. I’m angry with myself. I look at myself, at my situation, and I think this:

I could have done more.

I could have got out and protested. I could have been more vocal about my views, and about the things I saw happening around me. I could have bombarded my MP and Parliament in general with letter after letter, protest after protest. I could have gone and met people, joined a political party. And I didn’t.

But here I am. I’m alive, and the bruises on my arms from yesterday’s seizure are a testament to the fact that although I might fall down, I will ALWAYS get back up again and carry on. And while I can’t change the inaction of my past, I can certainly change my future.

The time for sitting at home signing petitions has passed. In five years there won’t be much left to petition for. We can’t afford to wait for the next election to bring change. We woke up this morning to a country gone blue. Well, I’m awake now. And I plan to stay awake. I’ll get back up. I’ll keep fighting. Because there are so many in this country who need us. Who need the ones whose bodies let them carry on. Who just got silenced and need a voice.

I won’t take this lying down. I can’t afford to. None of us can. A hundred years ago women were chaining themselves to railings and starving themselves to demand the vote. Drastic change takes drastic action. If the petitions won’t work, we need to find another, louder way to make ourselves heard. This country has reformed itself before. We need reform again, but it has to be fought for. It won’t be easy. It never is. But the alternative is far harder to live with. And thousands of us won’t live at all if we do nothing.

Papering over the cracks

It’s day six of my new medication. Yes, I’m still taking it. W and I had a real think about this last night, and decided that I will continue to take them until Monday, when I shall make an emergency appointment with the GP. This is mostly due to the fact that on the information sheet, one of the first instructions is not to suddenly stop taking the tablets as you may get withdrawal symptoms. I’m not entirely sure whether I have been taking these long enough to qualify for that, but I’m taking no chances.

Not to mention, W and I also discussed the possibility that these symptoms I am having are a passing problem as I adapt to the medication. This is, frankly, becoming an increasingly unlikely scenario as far as I can tell, what with me having had a seizure almost every day since I started taking them.

Either way, I’m still here, still in limbo. Will update when I know what, if anything is happening.

Two in a Row

Seizures don’t normally depress me. I’ve mostly accepted them as a fact of life; just infreqent enough to not  impede my day-to-day life when they aren’t happening, although often enough to have a constant long term effect.

They get a little more frustrating when, instead of occuring once or twice a fortnight, as they have been, I get one two days in a row. At least this time I had an aura, and was able to alert W before it happened. Not to mention getting myself somewhere safe.

It was jam packed with muscle spasms and periods of rigidity, and there was a point where I don’t think I blinked for a solid minute or so, but other than that, not so bad. It’s just the implications which worry me really. This has come a little bit out of the blue from a period where they’ve almost been predicatable. Still, that’s life I guess.

It possibly doesn’t help that I’ve been stressing about finances a little. Maybe I should try and put that to the back of my head. The trouble is, although some would advise me to bury my head in the sand and let ignorance be bliss, I would far rather have warning of what’s coming than only find out when the letter drops through my door. That, and if there’s something I can realistically do to attempt to change it, I would like to have the chance.