The one where I don’t give up my oyster card…

So it’s fair to say that’s it’s been a rough couple of weeks for the UK. And I have to say that I’m so thankful to live in a country with decent gun control laws.

“Terrorism” has been something I’ve been aware of all my life. We were dealing with it long before September 11th 2001 before a certain American made it purely to be synonymous with “Islam”. Some of my earliest memories are of the Lockerbie bombing on the news and being evacuated from shopping centres because of IRA bomb threats. My friends who grew up in Northern Ireland have even more memories of what “terrorism” meant. Bombs and checkpoints were just part of daily life there for a long time.

I saw on social media before news officially broke that something had happened in Manchester. My friend posted a warning telling everyone to stay out the city centre because something bad had happened, and wanted to let people know he was safe. Later I found out that I knew two people who were at the Manchester Arena that night, both taking their daughters to their first Ariana Grande concert. My friend, a proud Mancunian, got emotional telling me of being woken up to hear the news knowing that it was totally chance that her nieces weren’t there that night.

And last night I saw the news about London Bridge and Borough Market.

I’ve seen the news headlines in the USA as a certain “president” uses this news as some kind of fuel for his fascist like ideas and hate. Republicans and NRA enthusiasts telling us how if Muslims didn’t live here we wouldn’t have terrorism, or that everyone would be alive if we were armed. Thankfully, we came together as a country after a mentally ill man went into a primary school to massacre a bunch of innocent school children with a gun. We don’t get to go into shops to buy guns here. Otherwise there would likely be far more victims when people go on a rampage of violence like this.

I’ve also seen comments like “London is reeling” or “Britain is bleeding“. I think…No we’re not. Right now as I type, most people are settling down to watch a live concert organised by Ariana Grande in Manchester.

I mean, I can’t speak for everyone who shares this bunch of islands as their home. We’re more than mildly ticked off. You might see a few of us using some cuss words. Apologies, but…some circumstances I think allow for strong language. But this morning, my pals in London were still posting their Sunday brunch pictures on instagram. Everyone carried on as usual, while still thinking of those whose lives were forever changed last night. Sure, those of us who are teachers and youth workers are thinking about the ‘unexpected emergency incident’ element of our risk assessments when planning trips to concerts and city centres a bit more than usual. But as my Mum and I are always saying “one of us could get runover by a bus tomorrow” (she used to say “Don’t say that!” to me but now she replies with something like “well, exactly.“).

In 3 weeks I’ll be boarding a train to London Kings Cross. Just as my Nana did many times in the last years of the war to go visit her family. My Nana was born and bred in London until she married her Scottish husband during the war and moved up here. She told me of how the sirens would go off and the train would have to stop in a tunnel as bombs were dropped on the city. Of patrolling the streets of West London during the Blackout. Of going out to the dancing.

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My Nana (we shared a middle name). She was 84 in this photo I took of her in Christmas 2003. 

And folks, my Nana was a WORRIER. This was the woman who freaked out if I didn’t arrive home from school 5 minutes after the bell went. Who was convinced if I got my ears pierced my lobes would get infected. Who told her eldest daughter (in her 40s at the time) to be careful crossing the road to the corner shop to get the paper and a pint of milk. She died before I got my tattoo, but I’m pretty sure that if she’d known about it, she would be fretting that ink on my skin would most likely lead to me being a future member of a prison chain gang or something.

I don’t know if it’s because part of my family grew up in London, but it always feels like a second home to me. My friends who live there always tell me how everyone is rude and doesn’t speak to each other. I never have that experience when I visit. I’m always catching the eye of someone riding the tube sharing a look about something we see that amuses us. In 2013 me and Miss Sweetroot were having a giggle about some of the station names on the Northern Line, and I caught the suited up Londoner smirking as he overheard our conversation about how “Goodge Street sounds like a place filled with bogies” (when I caught his eye, he of course went back to staring straight ahead, but I know our chat cheered you up dude). When I was there before Christmas, I got stopped several times to be asked about the green Hulk bear I was carrying in a box for my godson. London is so used to ‘security threats’ that most of the time when you hear an announcement about it on the tube, everyone just sighs, grunts and goes back to reading their papers/books/kindles/phones while we wait for the tube train to start moving again. And you bet your ass when things do happen, Londoners band together. That’s why you had cabbies yelling warnings to pedestrians near Borough Market and doctors and nurses running out of hospitals across Westminster Bridge. It’s why we have pictures from the 1940s of people drinking cups of tea sitting on piles of rubble that was once a building they called home. And it’s why not a single Brit is surprised to see a picture of someone running away still carrying their pint of lager without spilling a drop…because London prices people. He paid £6 for that pint, and no ‘terrorist’ was going to keep him from it.

So I’ll go to London. My Mum might worry a little bit, though logic will tell her that I could just as easily go into our city centre and be caught up in something there. I’ll likely be on the tube, riding the escalator singing the “London Underground” song in my head. I will be that annoying Scottish lass who totally ignores the proper London etiquette and smiles at strangers, tries to engage them in conversation and thanks TfL staff. But don’t worry Londoners: I won’t do what really annoys you… I’ll have my oyster card ready BEFORE I get to the ticket barriers. 😉

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In all seriousness…let’s remember that acts of evil, acts of hate, acts of violence have been happening since humans roamed the earth trying to exert their power over other humans. It is heinous. It is awful. And we must raise our children to understand these power dynamics, to recognise their privilege and how they should not use it to continue the oppression of others. We must raise our children to love.

To everyone who has been affected by events led by people trying to divide us and kill the good in this world. I’m thinking of you.

I’m also going to keep calm and carry on.

Because it’s exactly what they don’t want me to do.

Adam Hills is an Aussie, but a lot of us Edinburgers have loved him since he first came to perform at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe a couple of decades ago. I pretty much see his and his wife’s shows every year they are here. What he said on his show, The Last Leg I think really does reflect the sentiment of most Brits I know. (Just a heads up, there is a swear word that rhymes with ‘buck’ in his rant if you are offended by curse words).

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Much love,

The Chatty Brunette Koala who intends to keep using her Transport for London Oyster Card x

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Some words about hate, politics and love…

I’ve started writing several blogs this week. Each of them deleted before publication, because they were written in anger.

I’m genuinely scared we are going backwards in this world.

After decades of making progress towards equality for people regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion…things are taking a turn.

At the weekend, 49 people were killed in a hate crime towards the LGBTQ community. I have many friends in that community. Friends that worried when I started going to church that I’d be banned from being friends with them. And then today, a terrific MP – one of the good ones who has stood for immigration, stood up for vulnerable children fleeing war, who has stood for peace, justice and diversity at home and abroad was brutally murdered – possibly for her beliefs – by a right wing nationalist while she was in her community doing her job, ready to listen to the concerns of her constituents.

And so this week, families and friends are mourning. Families and friends of people who welcome others. Families and friends of peacemakers. Families and friends of people who see what unites us rather than what divides us.

There are politicians and groups with extreme views. Yelling. Shouting. Spreading lies. Spreading fear. Taking exceptions and making them generalisations. To the point where the other week someone asked me advice because a woman was contacting everyone in her old church to try and get a pastor sacked because he was reaching out to a family of refugees who did not share their faith. According to this lady, this equated to supporting terrorism.

If all your friends look like you, think like you, follow the same religious/non religious belief as you…take a beat and reflect on that. It’s not good if that’s the case. Your mind will be narrower as a result. You will be more susceptible for believing propaganda and media nonsense branded as truth.

I’m not a sonnet writer, and I know Lin Manuel Miranda wrote this with Orlando in mind. It also fits today’s tragedy in Yorkshire too. To the families of those who were at Pulse on Saturday night. To the Cox family. I can’t speak for everyone else in the world, I can only speak for myself, but I stand for love. And hope with all my heart that love will always win over evil in the end. I’m angry for your loss, I’m sad about your loss, I wish with all my heart that you weren’t going through this pain.

Let’s stand up for love, peace and embrace our ability to create together a diverse world that has room for all of us, and our stories.

 

Quote of the Week 26 – Don’t lose faith in humanity

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There are days where it seems like we shouldn’t have faith in humanity. Last week, I was listening to the news as I got ready to pick my parents from the airport as they returned from holiday. That morning brought the news that someone had left a decapitated body in a factory and tried to blow the factory up…followed shortly after by news that a man had hidden a gun in a beach umbrella to go on a shooting rampage on a Tunisian beach filled with tourists. I found out later that one of my cousins had stayed in the very hotel the gunman went in from the beach. My parents had been on a plane while all this was going on, so they didn’t hear about it until I had loaded their suitcases in the car.

It didn’t inspire our faith in humanity.

A man attending a prayer meeting and bible study for an hour before opening fire on the Pastor and members of the church and then leaving someone behind ‘to share the story’ had me horrified. It was on that day that I discovered that government buildings in the USA still flew the confederate flag. I was sickened (having spent a good portion of my university placement learning about the first wave of feminism that had its roots with the campaign to abolish slavery).

Is humanity going backwards?

And then the reactions of others when I turned my avatar rainbow striped for Pride weekend (and the celebration that same sex couples can now be legally married across all states in the USA). One of my undergraduate peers exclaimed ‘I didn’t know you were gay!’ (I’m not, but if I were, is that something to be ashamed of?). Another undergraduate friend also announced her engagement to her fiancee on facebook around the same time. I was so happy. What I wasn’t happy with was that our old church had not given them their full support when they began their relationship. Follow that by friends that I love and held respect for sharing memes and articles against same sex marriage.

I felt sick as they filled up my phone screen on the bus each morning as I travelled to and from work.

And then there’s that message…there are parts of the ocean that are filled with rubbish and the waters are so deeply polluted. But most of it is filled with life, there are swathes of beachfront where you can step into crystal clear water.

A man walked onto a beach with a gun. Other men shielded the mothers of their children to protect them, locals created a barrier to protect the tourists from their would be killer. A man walked into a church and shot its members. Their families spoke forgiveness and grace, and hundreds of people sent words of love and money to help the church get back on their feet afterwards. Conferderate flags were finally removed from the state buildings of South Carolina. Some friends shared some narrow minded articles on facebook. Many more covered their avatars with rainbow stripes, and congratulated my friend and her future wife on their engagement. Some shared articles that were much more open minded even if they disagreed with my views.

Look for the helpers.

I don’t know who said it first, but it’s something I look for every time our news feeds get filled with negativity, heartbreak, terror and tragedy. For every evil act, there seems to  be 100 more that are filled with love.

Let’s make that ratio 1:1000 ….or more.

Don’t lose faith, because we make humanity better by raising our children to love not hate, to learn rather than fear.

I would love if you could share stories of acts of love in the comments to fill our minds with stories that remind us that the news gives a biased perspective on humanity that is inaccurate.

It’s actually much better than we think, though there’s plenty of room for improvement.

Quote of the Week 12: The power of love

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Yes, today’s is a rushed post, and it’s not actually the bible verse that I wanted to share. But I do want to share about love.

I’m not a parent, but many of my friends are awesome parents. My close friends have given me the privilege of allowing me into their kids’ lives, and I enjoy spending time with them watching and helping them learn and I’ve already discovered they watch my every move. My first realisation of this was years ago when my friend’s 4 year old daughter started doing impressions of me singing in the band at church. There was even a particular worship song that she nicknamed ‘Laurie’s song’. Years later her younger brother one day turned round and said something was ‘awesome’ while we were all in the kitchen. Intonation perfectly matched to how I exclaim this phrase often. There’s nothing quite like a toddler  to help you realise what words and phrases you totally overuse. Like totally. And awesome.

Anyway.

Knowing that child free time is rare, I try to babysit when I can. I’ve now been babysitting for over half my life thanks to my younger siblings so  I’m a pretty experienced babysitter. But the one thing that has always been my biggest fear is that a babysittee would get sick on my watch. I’ve had some teething and snotty colds in my time, and a lot of poo. But never the worst kind of sick for an emetophobe.

Until this weekend.

We had storytime and milk and a little bit of playtime. I had a minor panic of ‘where the heck is the baby monitor’ but I found it. There were only smiles and no tears as I popped my charge in his cot, and I went downstairs baby monitor in hand (on full volume), to pop a pizza in the oven my very lovely friends had left for me knowing I’d come to theirs straight from work.

I was sitting waiting for the oven to beep listening to my friend’s toddler singing away to himself in his cot and then all was quiet. I went upstairs to check he was asleep. Sound asleep though now scrunched at one end of the cot. I tried to straighten  him out, but he groaned in his sleep and went back to his previous position. I figured if that’s how he wanted to sleep, then it was weird but fine. I text my friends to let them know that all was well.

Cue 30 mins later and I hear him stirring a little over the monitor. I assumed he was moving in his sleep again – there were no tears or coughing, just some soft ‘meh’ noises. I went upstairs to investigate. My honest thought was that he might have been trying to find his cuddly toy or had got stuck in a strange position.

I was greeted by a very strong smell, that at first I thought was a very nasty nappy.

I turned on the light a little.

He had been sick in his sleep.

Not just a little bit sick. A lot sick.

I won’t lie, I went into panic mode. One of my worst fears had been realised. I can’t even walk past evidence of that in the street without freaking out a little. I have jumped over passengers in a plane and ran up the aisle screaming before. I have abandoned my friends in cities at night and run away from them when they’ve uttered the words “I feel … “. Every instinct told me to run away from the smell, the evidence…but this is where love comes in.

My love for my friends’ son, was greater than my fear.

My instinct changed immediately to getting him out of danger.

And so I picked him up (I won’t go into details but this was not pleasant) and sat him upright at the other end of the cot so if he was sick again he wouldn’t choke because he was so sleepy, while I ran for towels and my phone. He was sick two more times and kept trying to lie face down to sleep. By the third time he was awake – hard not to be when I’ve taken you out your cot, sat you back in a chair and I’m trying to peel your clothes off you, taking your cuddly toys out your hands (as they are now destined for the washing machine) and sponging your hair.

By the time his mum had got home, I’d managed to clean the worst of it off of him, and he was toddling about unfazed as I was putting a new clean vest on him. There was quite the pile of towels and sheets in their bathroom.

While his Mum got the washing machine on, and changed from her lovely outfit to something more practical for being awake with a sick toddler, he reached out for me and buried his head into my chest/armpit. There was a good chance I was going to get christened. But he had me with one look into my eyes that just pleaded for help. I let him lie back in my arms as once again love pushed the panic of being covered in that away.

Only after he fell asleep in his mother’s arms did I feel able to leave. Fear came back once I got home – everything I was wearing went into the washing machine and I scrubbed my hands, antibacterialised my phone and my glasses, and jumped into the shower.

I still keep thinking back and worrying about what I could have done better to handle things. I still have the message on my phone that says ‘All is well’ which was followed up 31 minutes later with a frantic call where I don’t think I even said hello but opened with ‘*****’s been sick’ and ended with ‘I better go, I think he’s being sick again’ and probably sounded less than calm that may have made my poor friend worry. I kick myself for not knowing where my friends keep their spare towels. I’m certainly glad that instinct told me to go and check out the soft noises I’d heard over the baby monitor. There was also even a little anger at God, as I’d prayed for my friend’s son to have restful sleep before I left him in his cot, and this I felt was the exact opposite of restful for him.

But I know that I learned something in the process. Love is a powerful force.

Perhaps more powerful than I realised before.

Quote of the week 7: Why we accept unhealthy relationships…

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With it just having been Valentine’s Day and the release of Fifty Shades of Grey, I felt this was the quote of the week that needed to be reflected on. It is the line that apparently made Emma Watson agree to play the film version of Sam, and it is a simple little gem given from a teacher to his pupil when he asks why people end up in relationships with people who treat them poorly.

I don’t want to spoil the book or film for you if you haven’t read/seen Perks of Being A Wallflower. But let’s just say that in one scene, the main character Charlie witnesses a smart girl being slapped across the face during an argument about something by a boy she is dating. She continues to go out with the boy, and it is this incident that Charlie recounts to his teacher. In explanation says “Charlie, we accept the love we think we deserve“.

And I would have to agree.

People I know who have read the book Fifty Shades of Grey told me it was a terrible book (as in badly written – so bad, they couldn’t understand how it had gotten published) so I never bothered reading it. There are many things that I don’t have patience for in life, and a poorly written book is one of them. I had heard it was a love story and the characters enjoyed BDSM. Not personally my thing, but I don’t have a problem with what other people choose to do in their bedrooms so long as it’s not harming anyone or each other. I giggled at people’s obsession with the ‘sexy’ Christian Grey, until an episode of Room 101 where Paloma Faith tried to put the series in there, and began to read out excerpts from the book (the clip of which, curiously enough, seems to have been taken off YouTube).

That’s when I began to start being concerned. The ideas of contracts and finding out where someone lived, buying the place they worked had me concerned. This is not love. This is control. This is Abuse. And although not necessarily physically violent, would come under the Police in Scotland’s definition of domestic violence.

And this is the type of person that so many women are swooning about?

I think we all deserve more. And it worries me that as we’ve had talk shows promoting the film and having a giggle at the BDSM side of things, no one has been having the discussion on the boundaries side of things. That concerns me greatly, particularly as this film has been classified as a 15 which means young women can go see this movie, and 16-18 year old women count for 5% of domestic violence reports, and Police Scotland say there is a huge problem with this age group underreporting incidents. I don’t personally want to go see this film, but I don’t believe in censorship – my hope is that we can watch and read things and critically reflect on their content. My fear is that the way this film is being discussed no one in the mainstream media is asking the right questions, and that could mean that people think that it’s ok to act as Christian Grey does if you’re rich and good looking.

We deserve to be loved for the people we are, to have boundaries and autonomy. There are several questions we should ask ourselves and when we reflect on our relationships.

Does he/she…

  • text and call you all the time? (Do they get angry if you don’t answer straight away?)
  • send you or your friends threatening text messages?
  • want you to spend ALL your time together?
  • get jealous when you chat to friends and other boys/girls?
  • discourage you from seeing your family or friends?
  • make you wear clothes he/she likes?
  • tell you that no one else will love you like they do?
  • pressure you to take the relationship further?
  • try to humiliate you when you fall out?
  • say they would KILL themselves if you left him/her?
  • get violent with you?
  • try to make you feel that it’s your fault that they got violent with you?
  • deliberately destroy your treasured possessions?
  • threaten to publish explicit photos of you on social network sites?

There is no reason why our boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands or wives should do any of those things. And if you reading that are thinking ‘I’m in an unhealthy relationship’ and not sure how to get out of it, there IS help out there with organisations that know how to keep you protected from your partner like Refuge, ManKind and Scottish Women’s Aid. I have found myself in this situation sadly, and it took me a while to get out of the relationship, and coloured many relationships after – both with me treating my own partners badly because I thought it was ‘normal’, and letting myself be treated poorly as well. I’ve also had concerns about people I love also being in abusive relationships and them just not realising it. I want them to know what love really and truly is, so they don’t accept the treatment they are being given that they may believe is ‘love’ that they deserve.