Sunday, 4 August 2019

Antisemitic Spite

Two of my sons are named after Old Testament prophets. The other is named after the Italian boy of a countess that I once worked for as a teenage AuPair. This OT naming is not particularly unusual nor usually fraught with political barbs, there are mini 'prophets' a plenty, but it became so for me at a children's play centre a few years ago, when on hearing my son's name, one of the mothers said, "You're not a Zionist are you?" I replied that I didn't know, that I'd need to look into it, "Are you?" I asked. She gave me a funny look and took herself off. Given I felt I was being judged (and not by a Deborah) I took the word home, looked it up and then put it on the table to examine it. This is what I figured out: I believe in Israel's right, its necessity, to exist on their historic land. As far as I know, through the bible and other historical texts I have read, the Jews lived in Jerusalem before the Muslims, yet Jerusalem has, for the past 70 years been divided between Israel and Palestine - the call to prayer is part of the atmosphere there. Jewish and Arab Israeli's mostly live happily alongside each other according to a new poll

When Israel was established in 1948, there was nowhere else for the Jewish people to go. No one wanted them despite what they had endured in the Second World War. I am deeply sympathetic to their historical sufferings; I am also sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians in the settlements (Palestinians currently make up 20% of the general voting population according to this BBC article Israel is far from perfect, and should be held to account for specific actions or policies, it clearly has complex issues that are yet to be resolved, and to criticise Israel is not to be anti-Semitic but across social media and social situations, it seems that socially acceptable criticism of Israel provides a pretext for anti-Semitic attitudes. 

Recently, over a crowded table at a friend's 50th, someone in fashion howled with laughter on hearing my son's name, this despite her naming her children along the lines of Frank Zappa's. The assumption was that the assembled would join in but her husband just looked embarrassed. I have also noticed a disturbing rise in antisemitism on Twitter. Many of my left-leaning friends are anti-Israel despite it being the only democratic country in the Middle East. Israel is the only country in the Middle East who has a Pride celebration for instance, where those of Jewish and Arabic descent party happily together. I think there is an assumption that Arabic groups are shunted out of Israeli society and discriminated against in general, but Arabic is one of the official languages of Israel, and I am told (by people who have visited) that Arabs and Jews, live peacefully together there and minority rights are protected. Arab Israelis are active in all areas of life including in the Supreme Court and in parliament. I will not lecture on what Israeli ingenuity has given us or how many Nobel prizewinners are Jewish, but I do wonder about cultural jealousy as a possible cause for this antisemitic spite.

I have some Jewish blood through my great, great grandmother, or so I am told through my cousin David Leitch, who traced our ancestry on my grandfather's maternal side from Odessa to Denmark to Liverpool and wrote about it in his book, #FamilySecrets. As we know, this historical peripatetic movement of the Jewish people has been essential for their survival. Why so much hatred for the Jewish people still exists in our society given the Holocaust is still recent history is beyond me, but it is an insidious social disease that needs to continue to be recognised, spoken about and decried when it is seen. Anti-Semitic hate incidents reached a record high in 2018 and Corbyn's leadership has been dogged by anti-Semitism. I am concerned that hatred of the Jewish people is becoming an acceptable leftist view and one that is assumed and presumed by the inhabitants of the moral high ground.

Saturday, 27 July 2019

The Family

Part 2. 'The Family' as they are appropriately termed by the judge - though I do not mean to make out that the judge was of a Mafiosi mind - but it fits - did not reckon on the tenacity and sheer bloody mindedness of child 2, who ABHORS injustice and saw this final act of her mother as, well, the final nail. She did not act alone, in fact the fingerprints of the dastardly ones that married into The Family are all over the death documents x2. 

Finale: Child 2 'wins' and gets full costs. But there are no winners here. Only losers. Though the morally bankrupt ones had to be taken on. Especially the orchestrator (rhymes with woman hater) who has likely done what he has to other crossers and who will likely continue to do, unless apprehended. By the law.

I will dissect this foul smelling cadaver with a pen (mightier than the sword) in the weeks and months to come. I'm still coming to terms with the ugliness of all I have been through. What happened in court, where I discovered monsters behind the scenes, is hard to digest. I don't have a grid for what I have seen. It would be hard to put into believable words. 

Behind my own scenes and indeed through them, I battled breakdown followed by 2 bouts of major surgery, hot-heeled by an ear shrivelling diagnosis and high blasts of chemo that have left a legacy of instant menopause and scarred, burnt and bruised insides that, given so much of me has been pulled out, now find themselves displaced all over the place. The scars unseen, physical and more, are stubbornly ropey. 

But outside where the light causes the dark to fade, there is pure, unadulterated joy. Not least in the faces of my girl, my boys. I am not a victim. I am an overcomer. Come on life. Keep on coming. I'm here.

Friday, 26 July 2019

The #1975InheritanceAct

This epoch (three and a half horrible gobbled years) began in the weeks before Christmas 2015 and ended last Monday with a victory of sorts, in court. Though I'd call it rough justice. Very exposing, court, and open to all sorts of untruths peddled by unscrupulous people. You have to take a long hard look at yourself, while you are forced to look at them, those you hoped not to see again.

The #1975InheritanceAct, I am reliably told, was drawn to help the illegitimate children of men who died and so could no longer support them (if they ever had), so that ALL the children of the deceased benefitted and not just the 'legitimate ones.' The act was amended in 1975, interestingly, the year my stepfather entered my life. Here is the premise of my 1975 Act: 1966 - Beautiful woman (my mother) marries beautiful man (my father). Marriage is disastrous. Woman leaves with 3 children and snip! Cuts ties. Woman marries second, younger man. Middle child does not accept status quo. She is still tied. Upshot: She and her views have to go - this is executed (sometimes violently) by degrees, until, child 2 gets the message, which she eventually does when she is close to 50. 

Though her IQ is high (or was - all that recklessly high living!) she is slow to realise what the family have been and are up to. It takes a cop with a lot to gain (an acre, plus a lot of house) to launch a public Facebook attack with his wife and daughter braying from the sidelines, and the silent complicity of The Family to make her go. Why? A bolt from the blue prize has arrived by death courier, courtesy of the woman's uncle and grandmother. A mere year later, death comes calling again and the prize passes on to one not intended by the uncle to inherit: The Stepfather pockets the cash and sells the property to the Machiavellian one. Did Machiavelli wear pink and lilac suits? Do lies smell of roses? Was his testimony like pink icing on a gently rotting cake? Did he eat all of it?

Part 2 Tomorrow

Sunday, 14 April 2019

Pond-err-ing the #Waitrose #Ducks

I’m still pondering – pond – erring? The Waitrose racist duck incident. My first reaction was how absurd, it’s a bird – a duck even. The other ducks are plain brown (named Crispy, presumably for its crispy centre?). The white one, is Fluffy for reasons, I imagine, that have gone before. The ‘racist’ duck is dark chocolate with pink splashes. This is the dodgy duck, according to members of the public that took to Twitter, tried Waitrose, found them quacking, I mean lacking, and had them punished: Waitrose had to take down the labelling and apologise – cue the stocks and the rotten tomatoes and the thought police. But is Waitrose racist? What were there intentions? Do they have an agenda to infect the minds of the public or were their intentions innocent – in which case, should they be tried by a sector of the public, found to be guilty and punished? This ‘reds under the beds’ mentality worries me. The road watched over by big brother is littered with innocents.

Given I could only find one response on Twitter from a person of colour, I contacted two of my African friends – a business woman from Sierra Leone and a friend from Zimbabwe. My SL friend said she saw both sides of the argument and my Zim friend pointed out that if you have walked around in skin that is not white, you will be alert to these issues: generations of non-whites have been made to feel ugly due to their difference. She and another friend on Facebook pointed out that there is no context to suggest homage to Hans Christian Andersen and that we should be alert to what is sewn into the fabric of society. Yes, but should we be policing the innocent for the sake of the sensitive? I am a victim of abuse by men, many times over. Sometimes, when I walk alone at night, and a man walks behind me, I feel the fear that I try to rationalise and overcome. Should men be banned from advertising (labelled 'dangerous') due to my fear? Though I met plenty growing up in Zimbabwe and when I spent 5 years in South-Africa (where, to be fair, plenty weren't as well) I honestly do not know any racists in London or in Wales, which isn't to say racism does not abound 'out there,' it resides in darkness. My view is it should be educated (rather than sought out with a microscope and 'punished' 'there or not?' - this never drives a thing away, it just gets peoples backs up if they don't see it, so that they might not see or hear it when it actually presents itself) out of people and all hued human beings need to be honest with themselves about the many-headed monster of hatred in all its ghastly guises.

I must, we must, take these points made by my friend who has suffered from racism seriously, but where do we draw the line in policing culture to make sure diverse groups are not offended? Those of us that do not see that the ugly duck incident was racist, should not be made to feel that we are racist given we don’t, though I think we should all have a heart check up when these kinds of things are flagged up. How on earth is that going to help mend bridges if any need to be mended if we unthinkingly shout each other down from our various high places? - though I understand emotion where there has been pain. My friend also made the salient point that it says more to her about the lack of diversity in key decision making departments, as this would not have passed a multiracial marketing board. Equal opportunity for all needs to continue to be addressed honestly in society – why? Why not? What can we do about it?

We all pick up subjective signifiers according to background and individual experience. My context was immediately Hans Christian Andersen in terms of the duck. I read ‘ugly’ in an ironic way, as, to me, the dark duck with pink splashes (don’t forget the splashes: as an artist, I read: ‘arty’, ‘creative’ = attractive as well as yummy; I prefer dark chocolate). The white fluffy one was dull - I can’t stand white chocolate. As for the crispy one, it didn’t register. Another friend of colour brought up subtext, but we cannot assume subtext, sometimes we get that wrong too. My main concern with the policing of public signifiers is that we are all coming at this from our varied directions and backgrounds. I don’t think this was a racist incident, though I wasn’t present at the marketing meeting when the decision was made. We need to hear from all sides though, no? If we police culture, we will drive extremists, on both sides underground where darkness proliferates. I prefer to be able to see people’s views and to test and sharpen my own views – and be open to changing them – alongside diverse opinions. I’ve noticed that invariably people like to react and attack – on both sides of the debate. Few respond reasonably and thoughtfully. I think, when we act from emotion, rather than reason we tread a dangerous path. It’s good to talk, not shout.

Should we be able to laugh at the duck debacle? Should we give 2 ****s about the Waitrose ducks? Some comments on my page made me squirm, some of the jokes were funny, meant to be ironic, though possibly not seen that way by all. I don’t police my author Facebook pages, so I have left them there as a comment on where people (on Facebook are coming from). This is not to say I agree with all of it but I do think humour should be allowed to walk the line and hover over the hairy edge as it were; but of course we do not want to deliberately hurt people and sensitivity to people and context are important. It’s a tricky business, but let’s keep the business open for all sorts of reasons.

Thursday, 21 March 2019

Guppy Brain

It's my son's 6th birthday. He's systematically working through an age 9-16 Lego Technics present. His father is away and his mother is too guppy brained from the chemo to help him - not that he'd ask. He just gets on with it.

I've been reading over some of my on chemo posts. Editorial eeek! Apologies for not making sense. Stringing a sentence together verbally is a challenge. Words on a page often swim, my guppy brain floats within. I look rough too as you can imagine. I'm vainer than I cared to admit before I started down chemo road. I try to avoid mirrors but they catch me at inopportune moments. Thanks to my guppy brain (sorry guppies) I quickly forget the startling images, but they come back to haunt me as I walk down the street. But these are minor issues. The child on the floor concentrating on Technics; the other child making a Pinata for her brother's birthday and still another drawing detailed hamsters and cages. The big one is recording. He has a funny haircut shaped for the new Hugh Laurie spaceship film he's in as a 'featured extra'.' I've forgotten the funnyman director - the Stalin film one.

Yesterday my eldest skipped hand in hand with his siblings across emerald grass in the bright sun towards the local tennis courts singing Time for Tubby Tennis - the lawn looked like the one on Teletubbies. We all, even me managed a cack handed games of sorts, the kids scurrying around being ball boys and girl when the big one and me were careening around - I did wallop a few sets, before being whacked later, but it was worth it. Not sure if my chemo nurse would have deemed this restful enough, but by gad it rested my soul.

I'm enjoying just being with these children. I might be unable to concentrate on a book, I feel rough but observing these little beings - and the one big being - is about all that I am capable of doing, but all I want to do. Life becomes very simple when it's threatened. It's fragility is no longer questioned. The beauty in it's fragility becomes a frightening but fascinating reality. We're all on borrowed time. Make it count. I'm off to bounce balloons with the 6 year old who has just completed  his Technics project - 57 pages. Hats off kid. Sorry for the mistakes. Hopefully my ability to write will come back. If it doesn't I don't care. All my cares are right here.

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Steroid Face Race

I had chemo again last Tuesday. As my other had to be away this week, a wonderful friend had my 3 youngest for the day. My new friend Jo came with me for the hospital sesh. Jo's a scream and a woman of vital faith. I can best describe her spirit as that of Rita's in Educating Rita, but on a God trip. Or Anna from Mr God This is Anna, but grown up, or should I say, growed up. We all had a blast, as did my surprised and indignant body - what again? it would say, which it can, through me, Are you crazy? Why would you put this stuff in you? Jo and I made friends with a South-African woman who had had several rounds of chemo, who in the finish, wanted prayer - when people have heavy sentences screaming around their heads, the meaning of life becomes a hot topic and friendships are made with ease given the openness of people's spirits. Some who are battling cancer become bitter, angry and complaining - it is tough, the chemo brings depression and futile thoughts with its grim but necessary death drive; but still more it seems, become open to the possibility of God. When people are vulnerable and dependent, their hope for something greater than them, greater even than the medics and their magic medicine, comes to the fore.

After an impactful time with my oncologist, who is pretty wonderful - bright, strong, clever and compassionate, as you would hope - we headed for the chemo ward, where I got hooked up to my chemo drip (the bit I hate the most - those squirmy needles being threaded into your vein, hate them!). But Jo and I began chatting and having a laugh - honestly, I really have been laughing my head dizzy every trip I've had for chemo. But then I do tend to go with Holy Rollers. The couple next to us began laughing and joining in with us, we'll call them Harriet and Tom, as they don't know they are making an appearance in this blog. Harriet is suffering from gall bladder cancer. She sat there, hairless, in her jeans and beads, one leg up and totally chilled and shared her graphic story with lots of laughs and good humour. We popped nuts together - actual nuts - though frankly, we soon discovered we were kindred spirits in the nut department in general. Jo runs an Alpha course and as we had been talking about some of the shenanigans that went on there, Tom asked about our own (different) experiences of God and the impact that has had on our lives. We had to be turfed out by the nurses who needed my spot, but not before making plans to hook up again, though without drips and needles at Harriet and Tom's smallholding.

Yesterday was a bit giddy bonkers thanks to the steroids. I left my purse in the library that was closed behind us as we left. I had to raid the kid’s piggy banks to get cash for my daughters singing and Brownie classes. My brain kept racing ahead of me and leaving the rest of me behind. My daughter and I prepared for her singing lesson with me mispronouncing the Welsh words of Llyn Onn, (no not Cling On), but hopefully grasping the melody though I may be grasping at pause. Then we bawled out Climb Every Mountain like a pair of demented operatic nuns. My boys and I had a good time making stuff - a guinea pig run for the one and a mouse fairground for the other. We chatted as we worked - well they worked, I tried to work but nothing attached to my torso seemed to work very well. At one point my 6 year old said: Remember when you had that hysterectomy and you watched The Real Housewives of Beverley Hills? That was totally inappropriate, all they did was argue. I tried to tidy up the studio but it was like juggling with clock hands - bits of material and partly done work all over the place. The joy of being creative in a creative space with the children - for whom there are no limits, was so refreshing despite discombobulated self.

Today I woke up with red eyes and a fat red steroid face and did my stretches as if I were in a race being run by Laurel and Hardy. The steroids have had me racing from one thing to another leaving a trail of half done stuff behind me. Homeschool turned into making, which turned into band practise for the kids, with lots of singing and dancing and being silly. It ended with a playdate here for my daughter, for which I decided to break out the deep fat fryer that my other bought on a whim on the weekend. The literature warned that it should not be used by people with physical or mental health problems - I ignored the advice and was soon the star of my very own Chicken Shack, mandem, red face, eyes and all. The kids were even served fries with those sieve like metal basket thingies like at Harveys. Classy, moi?

Steroids? Bleurgh. Chemo? Bleurgh, though I'm glad for the laughs and the people I have met, some with indomitable spirits. There were lovely messages today and a proper letter - albeit an electronic one - from a dear friend who knows what is important in life and transposes her thoughts beautifully into written words. Life rolls on and so do the Holy Rollers. Here's to laughing, singing, dancing, children and friends - the trampoline effect that propels you upwards out of the dark.