39 People died

39 people from the Far East; we were told they lived in one of the largest countries in the world, but later we heard it was Vietnam; decided to make a treacherous journey to get to Europe. We don’t know their reasons for making the journey, we assume they were economic migrants.

39 people hoped for a new life in the UK. Some people would say they chose us because of our benefits system.

39 people so believed in their future they were prepared to pay over fifteen thousand euros to get here. It was money they did not have, and we understand families mortgaged their land to raise the funds.

39 people left mothers, fathers, maybe partners and children behind. We can’t imagine what they had to do to get ready to travel nearly 8000 miles on a terrible journey.

39 people sat in the back of lorries, maybe they talked and definitely they dreamed of a better life. Young women and men with burning ambitions. Each of them would need to earn money they could send home.

39 people experienced pain, discomfort, cruelty and I hope they also experienced some acts of kindness on the journey.

39 people sat quietly, phones turned off, in the back of a refrigerated lorry as the temperature plummeted to -20, so they would not be found. Their bodies started to shake, they may have cuddled each other to warm up, they struggled to breathe and slowly they watched as one by one of their fellow travellers slipped away.

39 people made an 8000 mile treacherous journey to get into the UK.

39 people died in a refrigerated container on a road in Essex in October.

They were 39 people who didn’t know that the UK is a broken.

Who will remember them?

Music

61MFGXgx4XL._SX355_The first single I remember hearing is ‘These boots are made for walking’  by Nancy Sinatra, my mum played it most days.  Listening to it today, I wonder what the lyrics meant to my mum. It brings back memories of us singing and dancing round the front room.

The first single I  was given? ‘Liquidator’ by Harry J All Stars. I don’t know why this was such an important record for me.  I  guess it was because I loved the rhythm and the silly dance that seemed to go with it. My Aunt Mary bought it for me one Saturday. I think it was a form of bribery, she was supposed to be looking after me and instead had taken me out, late at night, for a drive around town in an open top MGB. I was small enough to slip into the back and it was the thrill of my life, so there was no way I would ever have squealed.  I promised never to tell my parents and have indeed kept that promise.

The first box set of albums I listened to was something by Trini Lopez, I don’t know the name, mum played them all the time. My favourites were  Lemon Tree  and If I had a Hammer. I would dance with my mum or any visiting auntie.  I loved to singalong and because the albums all seemed to have been recorded in concert, it was like having loads of happy people in the house.

I did my homework to Deep Purple’s Black Night – it probably explains my terrible performance at school!

Favourite Top of the Pops band and song? TRex Get it On in 1971.

The first pop star I stalked, was David Cassidy . He was staying at the Churchill hotel in gettyimages-873977236-1024x1024Central London, it’s the only time I’ve been hose-piped out of anywhere.  I tried to get into the hotel through the car park, to get his autograph! I can honestly say it wasn’t the music! It was 1973, but it feels like it was yesterday. My parents never knew I made my way into London where I met a friend and stood outside the hotel screaming and crying for David to look down. However, I am fickle, because the year before I remember now that I actually stalked the Jackson Five, same hotel, same MO except I didn’t try to get in through the car park, I just stood outside waiting for one of the Five to look out and wave.

On writing this and looking up dates I realise that David Cassidy died in 2017 – I guess it wasn’t big news in the Falkland Islands.

The first album I purchased is hard to remember but I am pretty sure it was something by Leonard Cohen. His music did something to me which I find difficult to explain, but even now when I hear So Long Marianne, I am transported back to my 15 year old self. I am mesmerised by this song. His music helped me through a very uncomfortable puberty when I sometimes wanted to detach parts of my body.

robertaMy first slow dance with a boy was to Roberta Flack’s ‘Killing me softly.’ Swaying with a lovely, polite chap whose name I don’t know and who I never saw again but remember every time the song is played.

‘Summer the First Time’ by Bobby Goldsboro was my melancholic heartbreak song and I played it over and over after being stood up.

In 1978 I went to live in Paris and, for the first time in my life I was without music. The family I was living with were not music lovers and it was way before portable devices. On a weekend when the family were away I noticed a record player to the side of the living room and there were two albums. For the better part of a year I played the same two albums every chance I could, which was mostly when the family visited relatives in the country. What were the albums? Well, beggars cannot be choosers: Best of the Bee Gees. I had hoped for Saturday night fever but it was their earlier works. The second album was the most amazing classical work which introduced me to Pachelbel’s Canon in D Minor. I don’t know which recording.

My favourite dance song was Back to life by Soul II Soul which I played every evening for about a year after it came out.  It’s the only album I remember playing for about a decade. I was busy working and didn’t have time for music or entertainment.

Then I took a sabbatical in 1992. I travelled with a group of people around South America. Six countries, all very different and very exciting. I bought myself a portable cassette player and on my first night sleeping out in the rainforest in a hammock, I was terrified. I put a sheet over my head, to stop crawly things from dropping into my mouth, and my earphones in to drown out the rainforest noises. As I lay in my hammock I thought about my life as an adventurer and decided that I had probably pushed myself to my limits and that I would leave the forest the next day. As I listened to music I started to calm down, I am indebted to George Benson.

hammock

Day two was a breeze and I managed the dug out canoe, the machete-hole digging for a toilet and listening to the beautiful if sometimes scary sounds of the forest. Throughout the trip, I  searched for local music. The worst was Peru but the best was Brazil where I found Olodum in Salvador Bahia. On the same trip, I was camping in Argentina and it was my turn to do the cooking so with my cook partners we went to a huge supermarket. As we were walking around they were getting more excited by the quality of the music played on the loud speakers. I was a bit non-plussed, I’d never heard of the band, which stunned my cook mates. It turns out I quite like U2.

One of my first concerts was Jacques Loussier – a rather lovely young man thought I would like the music and indeed I still play it when I can.jacques

Lots of music have filled my life with joy, things like the Magic Flute particularly the Maria Callas recording and yes I used to try to singalong.  Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, Simon and Garfunkel, and then later Paul Simon, The Mamas and Papas, The Moody Blues, and Hot Chocolate, Santana, Stevie Wonder, Bill Withers, Yousso’n’Dour, Beautiful South, Texas, Nora Jones, Alicia Keyes, KD Lang, India Aria, Luther Vandross, Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, Lang Lang, YoYo Ma, Pavarotti, Bjork and of course The Beach Boys.

When I first started my business I often worked from home. It can be a lonely experience until you are joined by Whitney Houston singing I Will Always Love You. Now, it’s not the words that mattered but the fact that I could throw myself into singing-a-long with Whitney including trying to hit the high notes. I am playing that song as I write and even now I want to join in but my voice isn’t going to hit those high notes any more!

Sailing holidays are always accompanied by music and in 1998 I sailed around the Grenadines with friends who introduced me to The Eagles and in particular the Hell Freezes Over album which I still love and play when I want to have a singalong or do a bit of air guitar playing. Hotel California always seems to encourage this type of behaviour in most people.

When I met John, who I later married, we  both fell in love with Desert Rose,  by Sting. We loved it so much we played it at our marriage ceremony. 

The first CD we both agreed to buy was ‘Raising Sand’. We heard it at our friend’s house. This was a significant milestone in our relationship. Our tastes in music differ greatly; John loves the Boss and I can’t stand Bruce. So, when we found we both liked a whole CD we had to own it.

Music we love to listen to now includes Jason Isbell and we are grateful for a friend from the Falkland Islands, who introduced us to Little Desk concerts.

I now love Rag’n’Bone Man he make me want to sway and singalong.

So, I guess you can take the girl out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the girl. I love music that I can singalong to.

All of my favourite music is either singalongs, dance-a-longs or just plain beautiful. I know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so I expect that readers may have given up before reaching this point. If you got this far, do message me and tell me about your favourite music is and what it means to you.

The Ring

The chauffeur opens the door and I step out of the car. I am wearing a hijab again today and I feel like I am invisible. I walk down the corridor, three men pass me but not one of them looks up or notices me. I may as well be wallpaper. My toenails are a vibrant orange and my sandals green snakeskin. I can almost see the ridges of the snakes back as I look down. The sandals are a good five inches high and I walk slowly, I think elegantly, towards the imposing double doors of Suite 210. 

My eyes are green and I am told it is a deep green much deeper than normal, whatever normal is. The large lash extensions shape my eyes which I know are the shape of giant almonds. I use a green liner, which I was told makes my eyes look brighter than the normal black or brown liners. I look my best for them having applied powder blusher and a gentle coral lipstick. The lip gloss adds a sparkle but no one can see this, only me and later possibly them. 

They are waiting for me. They will decide about me. They could make or break me. They are the ones I must learn to trust and love. They will judge me.

The walk seems interminable. My left shoe is starting to hurt and my right one is pinching my little toe. The sandals were a good idea, I look taller, slimmer, more elegant; at least I do when I can manage to move one foot in front of the other. 

As I walk down the corridor, I notice that between each door there are mirrors on the walls just above a small table which is home to a vase of vibrant pink lilies. There is a soft pungent smell which reminds me of my last holiday in Cyprus. That was the holiday before they entered my life. I wonder, if I had a chance now, would I go back to that time? A time before they controlled me.

I glance at my hands, they are pale like undercooked breadsticks but finished with orange fingernails. I know I am much better with a tan, but now that I never see the sun my skin is pale, almost grey. The orange nail varnish is garish, but my hands are well manicured which makes them look elegant particularly when I  wear the  large green garnet. Today I may lose this ring forever. I have grown accustomed to the colour, to the lustre and the power it brings me. 

 

Brexit

Finally, a word or two about this. As my friends know, I am a resolute remainer. Whilst I support democracy I also believe the referendum was just that. It was a vote on a particular proposal. I don’t recall anyone saying that this vote was a final vote and it was portrayed as a means of seeking the opinion of the country. Well, the country was marginally in favour of leaving. So, in my opinion, there should therefore have followed a second referendum which put to the country the options. As I see it there are 3 options: leave with no deal; leave with a deal or remain.

A referendum (plural: referendums or less commonly referenda) is a direct vote in which an entire electorate is invited to vote on a particular proposal. This may result in the adoption of a new law. In some countries, it is synonymous with a plebiscite or a vote on a ballot question

Having done research on the various comments people make about who funded Brexit and Nigel Farage I find that there is some truth in the fact that people like Jacob Rees Mogg will in fact be financially better off. There seems to be enough evidence to prove that the EU tax reforms which would have forced the Cayman Islands to open its banks to scrutiny have been delayed in the UK.

What saddens me is that so many people believe they will be better off. Young people who think the housing market will suddenly crash in London, will find that London becomes the centre of a post Brexit world. London has a short supply of property and the significant rush to allow planning and development almost anywhere in London must surely indicate a strong demand.

People who work so very hard on low wages, the nurses I see every day, need to be looked after with tax breaks and increases in wages. But thats not going to be possible if we reduce our tax haul by giving tax breaks and shrouding the rich elite in secrecy. I understand why people voted to leave, sort of, I understand when people say its an anti-London thing. What I don’t understand is why they can’t see that leaving benefits London and the rich more than it will the poor.

So, as I start another day and wait to hear what shite is spoken by some of our esteemed elected leaders I cry a little inside.  Cry because we will no longer be a European country; we will no longer be part of the significant block we fought hard to achieve. Cry for the thousands of people lost in battles to help us free our neighbours from tyranny and unite with them to ensure nothing like that ever happened again. Cry for the lack of freedom to move around the EU and to feel part of something.

I won’t cry for the bureaucracy and the resentment I sometimes felt against EU  politicians or some of the silly laws. But I do believe that we were stronger and we were doing really well as a country with some progressive laws we would never have achieved outside of the EU. For example, the right not to be discriminated against in employment because of your sexuality only came into law in 2000. Although nearly 20 years ago its really not that long and it would not have happened in the Armed forces if we had been outside of the EU.

Homosexuality in the Armed Forces

A case was taken by Stonewall to European Court of Human Rights (1999)

Former RAF nurse Jeanette Smith, ex-RAF administrator Graeme Grady, ex-Royal Navy lieutenant-commander Duncan Lustig-Prean and ex-naval rating John Beckett took their case to the European court after it was rejected by the Appeal Court in London. The ex-servicemen and a former RAF nurse told the court that investigations into their homosexuality, and their subsequent sackings, violated their human rights.

The ban was lifted on 12th January 2000.

 

So, lets see what September brings for us all.

Friendship

My first friend was probably my paternal Grandmother. She was an ally, someone I could trust. She protected me from people who could do me harm. I will always be in her debt because she taught me how to be both naughty and kind; honest and deceitful and I would like to think that I am only ever deceitful to achieve something important for someone else or for the greater good. She taught me that age didn’t matter you could still be outrageous, funny, warm and understanding. She also taught me that you don’t have to put up with crap from others.

Living in a small community in Ireland, friends were especially important. The nearest village a three mile walk and the town nine miles away. My school was tiny and each class or year sat in a row of seats on one level. The older and more senior children sat at the back of the class. Presumably the teachers were under the misapprehension that those children would behave themselves. Well in my class of 6 or so children I sat next to a girl called Rita. I kid you not my best friend at school was Rita and she came from a well to do family. She always had lunch and a drink with her. I remember her sharing her food with me and her cold tea too. Rita was an obedient child and not the sort of girl who would get into trouble.friends 2

I walked to school with a group of children, it was about a two mile walk across fields and past an orchard. The boys were naughty but there was one girl who was older then me and most of the boys, Mary, she kept me safe on the walk and I dreaded the days she couldn’t make it to school because the boys would tease me and hit me. Eventually Martina,  her little sister was old enough to got to school so she walked with us. She was the most angelic looking child blond hair and beautiful big eyes. She was just a bit younger than me and we were friends. When I had to leave Ireland to move to England it was Martina who took my place to conduct the school orchestra on Raidió Teilifís Éireann,  I can’t remember which channel.

No one could replace Rita though she was grounded and kind and sensible and she took care of me when I got in trouble, which I did often. I loved to play by a rose bush and used to creep under the bush into an opening where I felt like a princess. For some reason this really annoyed the teacher who would regularly find me there and give me a good caning on my hands, in front of the whole school. It never deterred me and only Rita could stop me from going there every break time.

island blue dolphinsI learnt the term friendship when I started to read.  I was drawn to books where people depended on each other and where they overcame obstacles. I loved The Terrible 5, St Trinians,  Island of the blue dolphin, okay this is not about friendship between people but a girl and a dolphin.

As a teenager my parents couldn’t understand why I would spend a day at school only to come home and spend the evening on the phone with that same person. This is long before the mobile phone and if my father wanted to speak to my mum he would ask the operator to cut into the call. He always had some emergency or other he used to get the operator to do this. I would sometimes get a telling off later. I loved sitting at the base of my parents bed in front of a fire on the bedroom extension talking about utter nonsense for hours. I still keep in contact with some of my school friends and its a joy to catch up with them although its less often now.

So what is a friend?

Is it someone who cares for you and sees no wrong in you?

Is it someone who sees you for who you are and still loves you – warts and all?

Is it someone who always compliments you and never offends?

Is it someone who says it like it is risking the relationship?

I guess its a little of all  those things depending on the day, place, time and circumstance. You can find friendship in the most bizarre and unexpected places. On a trip from the Falkland Islands home a member of the cabin crew  welcomed me like a long lost friend. I’d chatted with her several times and last travelled on the day of the Grenfell Tower crisis and was quite upset and she remembered and asked how I was. We talked a fair bit on that flight. Now, is that friendship, great customer service or just kindness?

friendsSome of my colleagues have started as acquaintances and ended up as close friends. We’ve travelled together, cried together, eaten things we probably shouldn’t and definitely drunk more than would be advisable. They are people I’ve shared some intimate thoughts with and they are,  occasionally, also the people I’ve had the worst arguments with. They are people I trust and value and they are the people who give me a helping hand when I needed it and I hope the same is true of me.

Neighbours have become loved and valued friends, sometimes they feel like family. We help each other, we fall out, we support each other and we have fun together.

For over a year I lived  away from my regular friends and I met lots of new people. Some of the relationships were purely transactional and others will hopefully last for the rest of my life.  I didn’t really expect to make new friends but I met amazing people I would die in a ditch for. Now I am home, lets see if those friendships continue. I certainly work at them.

So is friendship something that keeps us young? Meeting new people and forming bonds is good for us; we know the research on this. I think that forming new friendships at this stage in my life increases endorphins, creates oxytocin and yes its totally wonderful to spend a whole afternoon with friends to then look at your watch and ponder where the time has gone. Realise that you’ve spent hours with the same person, chatting, being quiet, listening, arguing,  laughing till your sides hurt and still knowing that this is someone you will want to see again tomorrow.

Finally,  I have writing friends, quilting friends, reading friends, gym friends, eating friends, adventure friends and drinking friends.  Some overlap but others don’t and never would want to. I have friends I can have short conversations with once a decade and still feel their presence in my life even if we are both too busy or too far apart to meet. I have friends I can chat to once or twice a week. I have friends of all ages. I am always open to meeting new friends particularly walking friends!

So if you are a friend of mine, thank you, I love and value you and I know I am lucky. jump

 

 

Einstein on my mind

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This quote has been on my mind for the past few weeks. I’ve used it in a workshop and I am using it in a document I am writing, but it means more than just a catch phrase to me.

I have been wondering if I am just doing the same thing again and again and hoping for different results. Well, last week I was exhausted and I decided to stop being driven by my alarm. I got up when I woke up! It wasn’t a great success as I missed one appointment and even though they say sleep is great for losing weight I haven’t moved the dial on the scales, but I do feel better in myself.

My energy returned on Sunday. It was like a light switch turning on, so I set out to make some changes to a room. Now I have a minor injury from an over exuberant Sunday of dismantling and  moving furniture around at home.  I love the changes I made which now make me smile every time I enter.

So whilst I am still doing much of what I have always done, slowly, I am challenging myself to change the ‘same old’.

And, I am finally writing, so that’s different to what I usually do which is just to think about writing!

Take it Literally

I can’t do it.
I won’t do it.
You can’t make me do it.
I don’t even know why you would try.
I am not naturally given to it. 

I normally make my mind up and I stick with my view.
When it comes to Boris I am firmly a NO.
When it comes to Jameela I am firmly a YES.
Brexit NO.
Remain YES.
I pretend I can do it because I  want to fit in. 

I have to listen to people I love and respect say things I can’t support and I wish I could pretend. But instead I close my ears and I still won’t do it. 

‘Poverty does not exist in the UK’ so says Philip Hammond: NO, I can’t do it!

I know that sometimes I have ambivalent feelings about benefits, benefit claimants and the like but I firmly believe that poverty does exist and that it is worse now than it was a few years ago. Again, I can’t do it and I won’t do it!

The NHS is shite….. NO, not for that. I firmly believe the opposite so the conversation ends. 

We shouldn’t complain about the heat because it’s so rare. We should enjoy it. Don’t complain. Ahhmmm, let me think for a moment, NO i still can’t do it! I will complain. I don’t like the heat, its very UnBritish and totally fucking UnIrish. We love the cold, the rain, jumpers, fires, and the rest of winter trappings. 

So, what will it take to make me ‘sit on the fence?’