Tuesday, October 30, 2007


A quote to start the day - this is definitely becoming a habit.

The point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, some day far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.

Too true, you may say and I agree, though with the uncomfortable suspicion that this is just another of those truisms, which inevitably leave one with an impossible itch to scratch.

First question. Where to start? From here, where I seem to have ended by accident and definitely not design (design/planning always being an afterthought in my life) the way forward seems hard to define. So, to reiterate - where do I start?

In the olden days, when I was in my 20's, a spot of VSO work in a hot and sweaty country, less fortunate than ours, used to do the trick. There's nothing like some selfish altruism to put ourselves and the world to rights, but now we all know (if we read the Guardian) that Aid is not the answer and Bob Geldorf's efforts to guilt us into getting our 'fucking' money out (however well intentioned) did more than harm than good. Worse still, for me at least, working as an NGO project manager finally put an end to my naive belief that £5.00 really could save a child from blindness or an orphan from starvation. No, it paid for the fundraisers who initiated the donation and wrote the thank you letter. Just as it paid for my salary and my trips abroad (for which I am very grateful) to monitor the indigenous staff, but the so-called recipients themselves told another story.

So what questions or answers are left to someone who has already reached the outside lane and has to shout the loudest to be heard? Teaching English in Cambodia, or doing a stretch in Tahiti on one of our Rotarian projects, but isn't that just more of the same? Blasting out a few articles to the already converted and venting my spleen on people who aren't listening. I would like to be Michael Moore, or Polly Toynbee, or even Kofi Annan, but I am realistic and can, finally after all these years, see that not everything is possible (though I am careful not to let Lucy know, in the hope that she will never find out and be truly great). So, to repeat, What questions?

I suppose this is where I should close with a long, happy ending, list of my skills and talents, every one of them laden with potential, but that only happens in books called How To Be A Millionaire and websites that tell you to First Learn to Love Yourself (if someone has created an emoticon for a digital finger stuck down a digital throat, please pass it on so that I can do the same to those perpetual promoters of psychobabble), which brings me back to my original question. So what next? What can a grumpy, middle-aged, determinedly pessimistic (if I can't find a reason to be miserable I'll read watch the news and find one) and frighteningly like my mother, woman do to change the world?

All suggestions gratefully, but probably not gracefully, received.

And one more quote to close:
Life's a pile of shit, when you look at it .... Life of Brian (of course)

Monday, October 29, 2007

On Ex-PE Teachers and Age

Last night I woke up with an-ex PE teacher in mind. No idea why, though I assume she must have been involved in a dream that evaporated before I reached full consciousness. Miss Gammy, tyrannical, sarcastic, vindictive and much, much more of the same ilk that I can't find the words for. No doubt she had her reasons for picking on no-hopers like me and enjoying the spectacle - maybe a miserable childhood, definitely a complex about her elephantine (riddled with cellulite too) thighs, perhaps her all too obvious resentment of her role as second class citizen in the academic entourage of teachers in our school - but still nothing sufficient to justify her behaviour.

It is her voice that has woken me, screeching across the hockey pitch, but as an older version. She must be well into her sixties by now, well past her school bullying career, living alone or perhaps with an equally caustic cat. I briefly enjoy the image and sense of delayed revenge, until suddenly it does an about turn and throws the reflection back. I am nearly 50, and not so far from the end of the plank either, working on my legacy rather than my future. The future when the inconceivable happens - life goes on without me.

I like life, probably more so now than ever before, pity contentment had to come so late, but at least it did, which brings me back to Miss Gammy. What if we were to meet now? How would I feel and would she remember or even understand the fear and loathing she inspired? How will other people feel about me?

And this morning … I am taking Lucy to the doctor so that she can go on the pill, though at the age of 18 she only needs me for the lift I can give her in the car. All good, all sensible, all right, but for both of us another step forward to ...? Well, I suppose that depends on your perspective.

Yesterday she went through her options for university, so exciting, so open, so possible for her because she has worked so hard, but I feel envious and wish that I had my time again, something I remember my father saying.

But the good news is … I have not had time to either read or hear the news yet, the sun is shining, I am not Miss Gammy and in spite of everything she said to the contrary, I am actually quite sporty.

Thought For The Day (perhaps I'll make a habit of this):
"I think we never become really and genuinely our entire and honest selves until we are dead--and not then until we have been dead years and years. People ought to start dead, and they would be honest so much earlier."
Mark Twain (of course)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Maiden Blog

Perhaps this is some kind of diary, the sort I kept when I was younger and before self-analysis and paranoid partners put an end to the past time. Who knows? Least of all me, but I have the feeling that the clutter of thoughts rattling round my head are about to outgrow their space and I need to do something fast. Time to brain dump and hopefully receive some balanced and thought provoking replies from anyone else interested.

Here's an example, slightly old, but still rubbing me raw.

Was I the only one who missed the irony of two news items breaking on the same day, or did I miss some off stage incredulity that I should be tapping into? I'm talking about Paul McCartney's financial battle with Haggling Heather, to the tune of something like a £7 million pay off, while a UK soldier is offered £250,000 (only after fighting for a revised settlement) to pay for the 24-hour care and specially adapted house he will need (for the rest of his life) after being blown apart in Iraq. If there are any journalists with a conscience, they must have been on a tea break when this got through.

And what about today's Missed Point? The 10-year old Indian children sweat-shopping round the clock, just to ensure that our own 10-year olds have their GAP Christmas outfits in time. No, to be absolutely fair, the journalists have highlighted this part (or how else would I know about it?), but they seem to have overlooked the real horror tucked away in GAP's response. See if you can spot it?

In 2004, when it launched its social audit, it (GAP) admitted that forced labour, child labour, wages below the minimum wage, physical punishment and coercion were among abuses it had found at some factories producing garments for it. It added that it had terminated contracts with 136 suppliers as a consequence. The Observer, 28.10.07

So, 136 suppliers have lost their business. Good, but where will the business go next. China? Who knows? But certainly not back to the more expensive place they came from, where wages and social support (are supposed to) exist.

Got it?? If not, try watching Michael Moore's 'The Big One'.

And in the rest of my, very small world, life goes on, relentlessly. Daughter, Lucy, is planning her future far from home and I am encouraging her all the way, though every cell in my body wishes it could be otherwise. As I write, she is filling out her forms to become a French citizen.

New husband, still wearing well after one week of married life and much loved for most of the 5 years we have known each other. This morning we took our horses out for an autumn ride (cold, damp and too close to winter) and remembered how much we missed being with them. We are planning a trip to Utah beach within the next few days for a last gallop before hibernation (ours and theirs). Roll on summer …. in Italy.