Of Ill Health, Tory Lies, Good Men and Women, and Democracy on a Knife Edge

I probably brought it upon myself by saying to Octavia that since I switched from being vegetarian to vegan I seem to shake of colds very quickly. The next evening, Monday, I was just taking my seat in the National Theatre for a performance of Brian Friel’s Translations (excellent btw) when I sneezed a couple of times. By the time I reached home I had a sore throat and a runny nose. The following day I didn’t feel great, but I confidently expected to be well by Wednesday, so it was a bit of shock when I woke to find my legs were like jelly.
That was a week ago. Since then I have got through eight boxes of paper hankies, quantities of paracetamol and half a bottle of Benylin, several boxes of throat sweets.
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Antisemites to the left of us, islamophobes to the right; let’s stick in the middle with EU

Only a few days to go before the general election and Boris Johnson has yet to take the opportunity to say anything truthful. He has also refused to be interviewed by Andrew Neil, presumably because he knows he would come out of it badly, though he might choose, as he did in the Leaders’ Debate, to make jokes when asked about the importance of truth. For most of us being caught telling lies in our professional lives would spell the end of our careers. Not so Johnson, his is a career built on lies. Lies are the key to his success. We all know he lies, he knows we know he lies, so if elected and it turns out – surprise! – he has again lied about the NHS, getting Brexit ‘done’, about the glorious and golden opportunities that will unfold once we have left the supportive embrace of the EU, well we knew in advance he wasn’t telling the truth, so how can we feel betrayed?
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Mother, born a hundred years ago today

My little mum was born a hundred years ago today in Larne Co Antrim. None of her siblings was born there, but my grandfather, not the most pleasant or successful person in our family’s history, had lost his farm and was working as a carter, probably in the docks. Mother didn’t like the fact she was born in Larne. It doesn’t have a great reputation. It does have the most hideous roundabout ornament I have ever seen, though it’s fairly new, and Mother never saw it.
The street she was born in has gone. Cousin and I visited a few years ago. In a shop, we found a painting of a hare that Cousin fell in love with. If you ever visit her home you’ll see a print of it on the wall.
I left my details with someone at the museum who told me that the person I needed to speak to to see if there were records of our family time in Larne extant was Marion. Unfortunately Marion was on holiday. More unfortunately Marion has never got in touch with me.
So Mother’s early circumstances remain unclear, though they were obviously pretty tough. I know she was baptised at home because she was sickly and thought unlikely to survive. But survive she did.
There are no pictures of her as a child. I think this one is the earliest one I have of her. She looks like a young teenager. She probably was.

You may recognise it. I posted it in 2013 after she died. Continue reading

Democracy is Fragile and Needs Your Help

It’s an odd thing, but if you make up qualifications, cheat in exams, lie under oath in court, fiddle the evidence to suit your premise in a science experiment, take drugs to enhance your sporting prowess, when the truth is discovered, you will quickly be stripped of your qualifications, awards and medals, your professional reputation will be in tatters and you will be held up as an example of how cheating and lying does not pay.
I say it’s an odd thing, because the same rules do not seem to apply to our unesteemed Prime Minister, who I am starting to suspect is a pathological liar, by which I mean he really can’t help himself. To Johnson, lies seem to be so much more attractive than truth. He cheats too, wearing a discreet ear piece in a debate so he could be fed li(n)es, rather than rely, as Corbyn had to, on wit and memory. This last deception has had scant coverage in the news. Many of our newspaper editors almost equalling Johnson by writing about hm as though he is a political colossus.
He is also aided by the BBC news team which sees to have decided that a global reputation for fair reporting, professionalism and impartiality can be dispensed with. There are too many instances to list here, but a few stand out ones are the wreath laying ceremony at the cenotaph in Whitehall on Remembrance Sunday. The leaders of the political parties lined up holding their red wreaths. Johnson looked as though he had slept in his clothes after a thick night and had forgotten to brush his hair. He was seen stepping forward at the wrong time,laying the wreath upside down, shambling. The other party leaders performed the wreath laying with respect and reverence. The BBC radio news reported the leaders as bowing their heads, apart from Corbyn who inclined his head. Now bowing your head and inclining your head are the same thing, but a Twitter storm was unleashed accusing Corbyn of lack of respect and patriotism. Corbyn, having associated with some pretty unsavoury characters down the years, gets these accusations all the time. Bizarrely, Johnson, who is pally with an equal number of unsavoury characters now, does not. Anyway, the next day BBC news broadcast footage of Remembrance Sunday and included Johnson neatly dressed, hair brushed, laying a green wreath. That is footage from three years ago, which when it was spotted by viewers, was claimed by the BBC when it later apologised, to have been in the production room, and a mistake. Hmm. Maybe. Continue reading

C is for Coventry

Regular readers of this page will know that I love Coventry. Celia and I visited on Friday. She hasn’t been there since her teens, so her memories were hazy. My enthusiasm for the place had, I hope, inspired her, but it was mainly because we had seen and enjoyed Where Light Falls, in London, and knew there was a sister event in Coventry,  that we got our acts together and bought train tickets.

I am evangelical about Coventry since it entered my consciousness a a few short years ago, thanks to Sarah Moss’ wonderful novel, The Tidal Zone. Why the city isn’t more widely celebrated I don’t know. I somehow doubt it is in the top ten places visitors to the UK have on their Must See lists. That may of course change in 2021 when it becomes the City of Culture.

Power Up Coventry

The light show was not due to start until five in the evening, but we arrived shortly after eleven in the morning. Somehow, I imagined we’d have loads of the to explore.

Our first goal was the Pod Café which I had read about in a magazine called Be Kind I picked up at VegFest in September. We strode through the town, knowing that on Fridays the Pod closed early. I fully expected that we would be back, meandering and wandering the area near the station before we went home. But the day flew by.

The Pod was great. There was only one choice for lunch so we had that; a vegan pancake stuffed with a variety of vegetables and spices. delicious. I had a hot chocolate made with almond milk and Celia had a latte made with another milk alternative. We browsed the bookshelves; admired the pottery; agreed with the board that talked about the importance of mothers.

The Pod Shelves

The Pod Bookshelf

The Pod – Lunch

Mothering

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The Ginger Ninja Calendar 2020 Is Here!!!!

Really I want to add a gif of Kermit applauding wildly, but I don’t know how to do that, so please imagine it for yourselves.

Obviously I am the lucky person who gets to wake up to the Ginger Ninja every day (or be woken up by him), but you too can enjoy his charms and good looks 365 days of the year with a Ginger Ninja calendar. Only twenty-five printed – and over half of those already spoken for – this is not something you will find in every high street. I think it’s what they call ‘exclusive’. Even I don’t have copies of the first ones. More fool me.

Big Shadow Cat

Last year when I was in New Zealand I received a picture and this message from B who was catsitting: He’s fed up with my phone pictures now but waking up to these eyes every morning has its moments.

Quite.

So if you want to wake up to these eyes every day, get in touch.

Oh these eyes

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Fun with fungi

Looking for fungi is a bit like beachcombing; you have to take it slowly, stop, look round you, look again. Celia has started attending Monday fungi identification sessions at the South London Botanical Institute. It means the weekends are now prime specimen collection time. I went along for the walk on a very mild afternoon. The hunting ground was Ruskin Park.
At first it seemed the park was a fungi free zone, and I suspect Celia was regretting agreeing to go there rather than one of our other local large green spaces. Then we found this:

First find


After that most of our finds were tiny, but Celia’s paper bag started to fill up. Some fungi is amazingly tough and will not be removed from its site by fingers alone. Celia forgot to bring a knife, though on reflection that was possibly just as well. Being arrested on a sunny afternoon in South London for possession of an offensive weapon would not have been high on either of our agendas.
I’m going to just give the other photos numbers and hope that Celia, who should be now be long home from her class, will enlighten us.

Two

Three

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Wear your poppy and remember

I don’t want to see Nigel Farage wearing a poppy, or any of the other people who talk about the wars of the twenty-first century for political gain; the jingoism reignited by men who never had to face themselves and find out what it was to lose everything.
We are told to wear our poppies with pride, but sorrow would be more appropriate. Sorrow for the loss of life, for the devastation caused by ideologues to whom the concept of a shared humanity was an anathema.
Farage is an ideologue. He is not the only one. Here in the U.K. and across the world there are people calling themselves patriots who have confused patriotism with nationalism. Nationalism does not understand shared humanity. Continue reading

So Mr Johnson, What did Mr Putin do for you in 2016?

We know social media, and in particular Facebook, was responsible for targeting voters in the 2016 referendum with false information. We know that the Leave Campaign has been found guilty of breaking the rules, though mysteriously this is still often referred to as an allegation, and was even denied by Fiona Bruce on Question Time last week.
For those of you still unconvinced, you can read about it here, not as reported in a newspaper with a particular view, but the Electoral Commission’s actual report. Continue reading

Cemetery Days

Imposing


London is almost fifty per cent green, an astounding statistic for a city that is home to some nine million people (or the metropolitan élite if you prefer). we have an abundance of parks, small public gardens, private gardens, churchyards and cemeteries. The cemetery Celia and I visited on Sunday was not one of the Magnificent Seven. It was Camberwell New Cemetery. Situated next door to Camberwell Old Cemetery. Since generations of my father’s side of the family lived in Camberwell, I half expected to spot the name of one of my ancestors on a grave stone.

I didn’t.

But I did see a lot of graves. Hardly surprising. There are obviously fashions in monumental masonry as in everything else. When I was making arrangements for Aunt’s headstone I wanted something made from local stone. I was thrilled to find the monumental mason was of the same mind, and we spent a happy quarter of an hour agreeing that black marble headstones are an abomination in this country. Evidently not everyone shares our sensibilities. But despite the fact that I was supposed to be looking at plants, I couldn’t help but wonder what the story was behind this grave with its VW ornament.

Camper Van Grave

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