In a year’s time, I will turn fifty. I am not worried about the impending big birthday but I want to mark it somehow, for myself, and with whoever happens upon this blog.
I’m going to mark it with books. My life has revolved around literature and television. A child of the 70s, a teen of the 80s, part of Generation X, I’ve lived my life against a background of popular culture. My first novel was even named after a Saturday night legend: ‘The Generation Game’. But I also have a degree in English Literature and an MA in Creative Writing. And, yes, I am a novelist.
Because of this fusion of classic literature and telly, I am not a book snob. I’ll have a go at reading most fiction, but I am particularly drawn to the female novelist. When I started writing I was desperate to learn and hone my craft. I went to a Creative Writing evening class and I read. A lot. For me, reading and writing go hand in hand and seeing as I felt like I’d ‘done’ the classics at university, I immersed myself in contemporary novels, which tended to be written by women. These novelists – Kate Atkinson, Maggie O’Farrell, Jane Gardam, Lesley Glaister, Janice Galloway amongst many others – showed me a world I recognised, shone a light into the darker places and they helped me make sense of, you know, stuff. But I’ve recently been pulled backwards in time, to the century I grew up in. The century that my mother and grandmother were born into.
At university, in the late 80s, I took a module called Women Writers. It seemed bizarre to me that there was a whole module dedicated to women. But I soon realised this was because the other modules were basically dedicated to literature written by men, (with the exception of Virginia Woolf and Doris Lessing). Fast forward to 2017, and still male novelists are more likely to win literary prizes. They are more likely to be reviewed in the Press.* Despite the fact that far more women read fiction than men. So over the next year, I will revisit 100 novels written by women in the 20th Century. A year of my reading life dedicated to women writers across a range of genres, ‘commercial’ and ‘literary’ is a perfectly valid thing to do. (Especially as I am actually a female novelist. Did I mention that?)
I will be random in my approach; that’s how I roll. But hopefully over the year, themes will emerge and a more cohesive picture will be created. The last century saw massive social and political upheavals which affected all walks of life: the vote, wars, work, equal pay, education, politics, migration, social mobility, sexuality, contraception, motherhood, fertility. These are huge issues which affect everyone but they have an unfair impact on women and any changes have been hard fought. This is a vast world of continuous change and yet a world with an unchanging backdrop which perhaps only the novelist can address with a certain amount of truth.
Each week, I will post a review of a novel. I will jump around in time and genre and location and although there will undoubtedly be a British bias as Britain is the country I’ve grown up in and was educated in, I will include writers from the Commonwealth and beyond. The power of books is that they can transport you across the Sargasso sea, to the Belgian Congo, into the bedroom of a teenage boy in Ashby-de-la-Zouch.
Women’s voices are so often obscured and shouted down. Too domestic. Too romantic. Too trivial.
I beg to differ.
Next blog: The Life and Loves of a She-Devil by Fay Weldon.
*I can forward you a link to research done on sexism in publishing.
If the mail happens to be a little late this letter ought to arrive on the 25th so ‘Many Happy Returns of the Day’, my dear, and lots of love from us both. I am going to send you a minute present in a few days but it has not come yet. I was so hoping we might have been down to Colombo before this so kept putting it off, but now I have written to Mrs Maxfield to get what I want.
I do hope the change and Fairbank will have done you good. You don’t sound up to much what with your shoulder and your tummy. You’ve been doing too much, that’s what it is, and it is a good thing the doctor has knocked off your tennis for a bit.
I do feel badly not having done anything for Miss Kew but somehow I always seem to have a lot of work on hand, sewing the buttons of George’s trousers is quite a day’s work every week. The Dhobi is most skilful in pulling them off. We have not got a new Boy yet but expect one in a day or two.
The puppies are growing very fast and require plenty of nourishment. We have to give them a dish each as when we give them their food in one dish they gobble so tremendously that we think it must be bad for their little digestions. We had a dreadful fright last week. Our little cat disappeared on Wednesday and did not come back until Sunday evening. I was unhappy. I quite thought she had been killed in some way or else someone had stolen her. We think she must have got shut up in the copra shed as she goes in there to eat shavings and it was shut up and not opened till Sunday. She was not much thinner, but very frightened, as there are lots of rats and mice in there. Of course someone might have caught her and kept her shut up but if they did I know she would have come back directly she got a chance. The puppies were pleased to see her again, in fact their welcome was almost too energetic. When Moses, who is very broad in the beam, charges at her, he knocks her head over heels.
I hope the Longs party was nice but it was sure to be jolly. I should think that silk would make an awfully pretty blouse and go very well with the yellow skirt. I expect she will have jolly presents. How sad its being so wet on Thursday for cricketing. I expect you were all miserable, especially with your best clothes on.
Of course that beastly little machine won’t work. I never thought it would. George has slaved over it, so have I until I cursed. One of these days I shall chuck it into the canal.
Please give my love to Mother and thank her ever so much for her lovely long letter. I do hope the scorpion etc has arrived quite safely, it would be sad if it didn’t.
Things are going very satisfactorily at the mill just now and they are getting much better reports from London so I hope George’s worries are over. He is still very busy though as they are building onto part of the factory and it needs a lot of looking after. By the way, the petitions I sent back home were not written by the people themselves but by regular professional writers whose business it is. They only just say what they want to and the man composes it, thinks he writes uncommonly good English too, I expect.
We had it very wet on Saturday and Sunday, most unusual for this time of the year as it ought to be pretty hot, but instead it’s fairly cool and breezy. The NE monsoon might break in about a month and then I expect we shall have a lot of rain.
I was nearly forgetting to tell you that I had a caller the other day, quite an exciting event. She was a native lady, a Mrs De Oliveira, very high caste and perfectly English in every way. Her husband is the Police Magistrate at Chilan and he comes over to Marawila, a village a few miles away, once a fortnight, so they have a little house there too. She was very nice indeed and very good looking, a sort of soft browny colour. She had on a brown coat and skirt and pink vest and hat and they were just the colours for her. Her brother is the Maha-Medliyan, the native A&C of the Governor. She has been in London, was there for the Jubilee and was presented at one of the Drawing Rooms. Her sister, Miss Bandaranaika is very well known in society and I think has married an Italian count. I am going to call on her next Tuesday. I wish it didn’t mean going for miles in a bullock cart though.
Don’t laugh at the little home made birthday card but I can’t write for them. It is so unsatisfactory and I thought you might like one I had made myself.
Good bye, I wish I were at home to make you a birthday cake. Oh, I’ll tell you what I want you to give me for a Christmas present – a cake with walnuts in it! There’s nothing like asking for what one wants but the ones we get are rather heavy and underdone somehow and I don’t fancy them and I do long for a nice homemade one. That is of course, if it won’t cost too much to send, it must be just a tiny one.
You and mother are the poor old cripples with your rheumatism or neuralgia. I should be inclined to think yours is the latter. Have you taken any of that neuralgia tonic? I should think it would very likely do you good, at any rate I should give it a trial. You certainly ought to adopt some stringent measures to get rid of it. Suffering like that is beyond a joke. Tell Mother she ought to eat as much as she can and I think she ought to have a little whisky either with her dinner or supper. I think she needs it once a day at least. I do hope to hear in your next letter that you are both better.
I like the sound of your silver frame very much but I should certainly choose somebody better looking than that frightful thing of me to put in it. I have not got a frame for your photo but I have stuck it up on a ledge and I shall see it gradually fade away before my eyes. I think it is awfully good of you and of the children too, Elsie particularly, she does look a pretty little thing. But you must have your photograph taken properly because I have not got a decent one of you at all and I want one badly.
By the way, George sent off the bottle with the scorpion etc. last week. I hope it will arrive all right. Don’t be disappointed at the size of the box but it had to be packed very carefully because of the spirit. I hope Mother won’t be frightened of the contents. There are quite a lot of things – a big scorpion, and a tiny one, a tiny centipede, a sort of grasshopper, a small green lizard, like the one that went up my legs, a big lizard that lies about in the sun, and a little snake that George found crawling across the compound. We don’t know its name but it is harmless. I think the scorpion is the most loathsome.
We are so cross. I have been taking a lot of photos lately, especially to send Mother, little views inside and outside the house and lots of the canal, and comic ones of the pups sitting in flowerpots and things and two of the owl we caught and all sorts of things. There were nearly 4 dozen altogether and we sent them to be developed the other day and the man has just sent them back developed, but he says none of them are worth printing, and they aren’t, most of the films have not got anything on them at all and the others only blurred smudges. It is all the fault of the beastly people we bought the films off. They had ‘to be developed by July 1st’ on them so we wrote and told them that and asked them to send us some fresh ones but they wrote back that it didn’t matter and that we should find those quite all right. And now they have turned out to be no good at all, I do feel mad. And the worst of it is that we have got to pay 8 rupees for having them developed, that is 10/6, all for nothing. Of course we shan’t pay for the films themselves. I think they are 6 rupees for 4 rolls. I want George to send them the bill for the developing as well. You might ask sometime or other how much small Kodak films are in England. I wonder if we have to pay much more.
I have just killed one of those tiny scorpions. It was walking on the window ledge so I put a letter weight on him and now the ants are busy carrying him off to their larder. They are capital scavengers.
George and I went for quite a long walk yesterday afternoon after tea. It was fairly cool and there was nice breeze. We went to some deserted paddy (rice) fields. They are just grassy fields divided by little banks to walk on. When the ground is being irrigated, at certain times the paddy has to be kept almost under water or it won’t grow properly. We got into the very marshy place and had to jump from one tuft of grass to another. We hoped to find some butterflies but it was too late for them, they had all gone to bed. But I got some flowers. There are very few actual flowering plants here, most of them are only green things.
I was nearly forgetting to tell you that we have dismissed our Boy and he went on Sunday. We came to the conclusion we were paying too much for wages, 744 rupees a year which is £37.4 and it seems quite ridiculous for only we two. If we had felt we were getting our money’s worth, it would not have mattered so much, but we weren’t. The Boy had got very lazy and did not look after things at all well and he was really getting R22.50 a month for doing almost nothing as I believe Solomon did most of the cooking. What annoyed us was that he had got very slovenly in his dress lately, wore dirty white coats and would bring up early tea in a dirty yellow sort of flannel coat. I think he thought he was a fixture here and so didn’t take any trouble but he went a little too far. We are really glad of an excuse to get rid of him without exactly being angry with him. George did not like parting with him as he has had him ever since he has been out here and he has some very good qualities. He is very honest and truthful which is a very great thing out here but he is certainly lazy.If he had managed with Solomon it would have been all right but he started another cooly and that was too much. Those two had R10 each a month and the bath cooly R4 so that mounted it up to R46.50 a month. We hope Solomon will stay on as cook with wages of R12.50 or 13, but George hasn’t spoken with him yet as the Boy only went yesterday. Then we shall get a young House Boy for R12.50 or R15 and at any rate we shall save a few rupees a month and feel we are getting more for our money. We really have to pay more wages here than we would in Colombo as they don’t like coming to such an out of the way place.
George says he is certain Kodak films are much cheaper in England. so if they are a good deal cheaper will you get me 4 rolls. They keep them in airtight tins out here, each with 4 rolls. I expect they do at home too, but if not they ought to be sent in a tin sealed up so that no light can get to them. I’ll send you the label of an old tin for the size etc. But they must be fresh ones that have not got to be developed in too short a time or they will be bad before I can get them done.
I don’t think I have anything else to tell you so ‘Adoo’.
It is getting hotter again and I wish it wouldn’t. It is only about 85 degrees but the air is so much moister this monsoon that it feels worse than when it is dry. The wind is still fairly high though so that prevents its being oppressive.
I have just been giving the pups their breakfast. They have bread and milk and blow themselves out with great gusto. George is perfectly disgraceful. Last night when the Boy brought their bread and milk in for their supper, he announced in a loud voice: ‘Here comes the Tummy Tightener!’ And to think we once thought him so modest.
I don’t believe I’ve told you the pups’ names. Moses, Ginger and Nipper. We called the biggest Moses because he is the leader of all the mischief. He is a most impertinent small person, very fat and square with a snub nose and a wrinkly forehead, and perfectly impossible. Ginger is a sort of gingerbread colour (very ugly) hence his name. His great talent is for digging holes in my flower boxes and he gets many a smack. He is a great coward and retires to a corner at once if he hears a footstep and has a guilty conscience. Nipper was rather a screwed up little animal when she was small but has grown apace lately. She is most like her mother with a long nose and short legs, but all their legs are rather short.
Moses is the favourite, especially with George. He will have him on his lap at mealtimes and then of course he tries to poke his nose in everything. Yesterday he rapturously laid it on a piece of piccalilli and retired hastily, sneezing. I hope it may be a lesson to him.
I don’t know what we should do without our animals. They are a great source of amusement. The cat plays with the puppies a lot now. She is so good and never hurts them a bit, not even when they try and shake her tail. She only astonishes them by leaping over their heads.
I have some plants given me this morning. One of the mill coolies put them in the verandah. They are some lovely bits of tradescantia, the red variegated sort and some round leafed plants, sort of pink and greeny colours. They are always very interested in George’s and my gardening operations. I am gradually repotting all the plants. They don’t understand about drainage properly here. I am saving up all my old pennies to send to Nuwara Eliya for some flower seeds. George gives me all the five cent pieces he gets. They are such clumsy things to carry about, three times bigger and thicker than a penny and you have to get a great heap of 20 before you get a rupee.
Oh, thanks awfully for the photo. It is good. Although George makes remarks about chubby cheeks, but it is mostly jealousy. I am afraid it will fade dreadful quick out here as only platinotypes keep, so bear that in mind when you have yours taken. As I hope you will. Poor Jack is getting paler and paler, the one that Freddy took. I shall soon have to confine him to the oblivion of an album.
I am so sorry you and mother have rheumatism so badly. I think you must have been doing foolish things. Does Mother sit at the back door without a ‘little shawl’ to keep the draught off? What is a rheumatic ring? I have never heard of them.
I do hope it was fine for the river picnic and that you had a good time. I wish I could have been there too. It isn’t fair.
George had a letter from his mother last mail and she talked about taking a house at Billingshurst. It sounds like a benighted hole to go to. George does not think much of it as he says the soil is all clay and he thinks it will be very damp and raw in the autumn and winter. It is no good saying anything about it as she is evidently entirely ruled by Ethel. I only hope she won’t regret it.
Tell Joyce it is a very long time since she wrote me a letter. I think she must have forgotten all about Auntie Mab. I hope they have had a good time at Worthing.
For those of you who previously read Mabel’s letter on my blog, I apologise for her absence but I am delighted to say she is back. We moved house almost a year ago, and now I have found her letters and will carry on transcribing them.
For those of you who have never heard of Mabel (or Mab as she is known to her family), she was my great-grandmother. From 1899 to 1902 she lived in Sri Lanka (or Ceylon as it was called then by the Empire). Mabel went to Colombo to marry my great-grandfather, George Gillespy, who ran a cocoa-nut mill. Mab wrote regularly to her mother and sister (Tommie) back in Croydon to tell them about her adventures and through her letters we see an opinionated, formidable woman, with UKIP tendencies, a warmongering heart, and a husband who soon found his place.
Madampe, 23rd July, 1900
Hurrah! I am glad you are Champion. I had rather you won that than anything, and so jolly for you and Maude to be in the final, as if you had not won, she is the next best person. I am sorry you let Muriel N. beat you. I expect you got too much worked up over it and lost your nerve. Now if you win the mixed, I shall be happy. How I long to be in the battle! Playing ordinary games is very tame after a club, especially when you don’t feel very energetic to begin with, but I know it is good for me and also for George as it is the only real exercise he gets. He is working very hard just now as he is making a lot of improvements and alterations in the mill but he is so much more happy and cheerful and is altogether better. He is taking the Kepler’s regularly and I think it is doing him some good.
Here is such a sweet kingfisher sitting on a branch of a tree quite close with its eye fixed on me. I think it must have a nest somewhere in the canal bank as it is always about. I think it is very like the English ones. Its head is brown, sort of chocolate colour, and its wings and beak are the very brightest blue. The squirrels are so funny. One is using the most awful language now because the cat is sitting just underneath the tree in which I think the squirrel has got a nest. It is tearing up and down the branches chatting at the top of its throat and waggling its tail about in the most agitated way, while the cat slumbers peacefully without taking the slightest notice. He has settled down into a steady old cat and is quite comfortable and fat now. He sleeps in our bedroom on a chair, never moves all night. I don’t like him being out at night as I am afraid of him being caught by some animal, and he will fight with disreputable cats.
The pups are sweet now. They can walk pretty well, only every now and then their legs give way utterly and they rub their little noses on the ground. They are awfully funny on the matting as it is slippery and their legs go out in all directions. They can all growl no. It is killing to hear them and they paw at one another in the most absurd way but they have not got much control over their actions yet. They were three weeks old on Saturday. One has got a hiccough at the moment and it is shaking its little body to pieces. We have got rid of a good many fleas with much Keating’s (flea powder) and brushing but they still have a good number. George and I kill as many as we can but as he sagely remarks: ‘You need a monkey for this sort of job!’
The other afternoon I was sitting peacefully upstairs on the verandah when I happened to look over the parapet and I saw a huge lizard advancing across the compound. For one awful second I thought it was a crocodile and then I saw it was a kabaragoya which is harmless and eats frogs and things although it often goes for chickens and would have enjoyed the puppies. I tore downstairs and shouted for the Boy and then went into the office where I found Mr VanDort and he somehow frightened it out of the fence. It climbed a tree and lay there sprawled sticking its tongue out like an anteater. We have seen it about for a long time now and do not like the idea of it being near when the pups get big enough to run about. We thought it best to get rid of it. George’s gun wouldn’t go off; the cartridges were damp. So Mr VanDort got the watchman’s and shot it through the head. A brahman skinned it and we are going to send the skin to be tanned as Mr VanDort says it makes the most lovely leather, better than crocodile as it is not as thick. The thing was really rather alarming as its body was almost as long as the stuffed crocodile at Hurst.
Fancy Edith McMinn being engaged, she seems such a kid, but I suppose she is nineteen. Please give her my love and best congratulations. She certainly has gone in for the ‘long of it’. I should think he is a very nice fellow. I just spoke to him slightly at their party and I liked him very much.
We have had an invitation from Mrs Stanley Bois to a fancy dress dance on August 9th. It is nice of them to ask us up to town. Of course we have refused as we have decided not to go away for Race Week and anyhow it would be a great expense as it is sure to be a swell affair and we should have to have proper costumes. It would have been very jolly as they only know the very best people in Colombo. We are rather sad at missing all the festivities but it can’t be helped and it would’ve been wretched for George who would’ve felt all the time that he ought to be at the mill. It would have cost a huge amount too as Colombo is crowded and everything is expensive and there would have been so many other things besides the hotel bill. No one ever walks in Colombo so rickshaws and hackneys would have mounted up. Personally I don’t mind very much. It isn’t as if I have any friends I wanted to see.
Of course I will send you a bangle as soon as I can get one. Unfortunately the letter in which you mentioned it came just after we got back from Colombo or I could have got it then. When you try silver things you have to make sure they weigh it with rupees. However much it weighs, you add a little bit for workmanship so that if a thing weighed 3 rupees, you could pay 3.75 and feel you were not being done much. 25 cents to the rupee is the usual price for the workmanship unless it is very elaborate. Of course they do passengers and people who don’t know the tricks tremendously. It was Mrs Masefield who told George.
I do hope your rheumatism soon got better. You ought not to have it in the summer. I shall think of you and Davina having a good time at cricketing. I hope it won’t be too hot so that Kate can enjoy it. G.C.C Cricket Week seems to be going off all right. It was jolly you having a holiday for it. We roared over your and Mrs Wild’s fright over the burglar. I must say I don’t think much of Chrissie Brooks’s choice. Who could stand little Diplock for a husband?
Many thanks for the Chambers and all the papers. By the way, tell Bob the next time he sends a cutting from the paper to look at the back and not try to pollute my innocent mind with scurrilous literature. What is Jane up to? Will she go to jail? I am anxious to know the end of her exploits. Poor Edward. I should think he feels rather low. I saw Winnie Morris’s wedding in the paper, also Kate Norton’s. Gertrude’s dresses all sound very pretty, don’t they? I suppose her man is well off or she would not have had him.
George and I have given up Ethel as she is so appallingly selfish. Even if he wanted to, it is no good George writing anything to his mother as she only writes back making out Ethel a paragon of virtue and it only makes us crosser. I do honestly think it is a great pity she is not with Walter next winter as very likely he won’t take much care of himself and only get nasty colds.
How nice of Lottie to send you that blouse. It will be useful. I don’t get on very fast with my dressmaking. I have not finished the silk one yet. Having no machine is a drawback, isn’t it?
We are having delightful weather, cool and breezy. This morning it was only 78 degrees. it is barely 80 now at 2 o’clock. It is cloudy too and that is a blessing. We can start playing tennis quite early. We have such lots of people going past these last few days both in boats and on the road. They are Roman Catholics going to some sort of festival at a big church about 15 miles up the canal. They make a pilgrimage to it once a year and it is a great holiday for them.
Over the last few weeks I have been gorging on the five series of Cold Feet, a programme that I used to love watching, with its believable characters, quirky playfulness, and real emotion. The revisits made me laugh and cry, once again. I remembered how good it was. How original. And that not only was it northern, but the women had an equal footing with the men.
I’ve let myself indulge in this escapism (quite a lot of dedicated hours) as I have just finished my latest novel and because I wanted to be prepared for the new series of Cold Feet, which came back to our screens last night after an absence of thirteen years.
I was really nervous and excited. Would it be a disappointment? A let-down? Would it be more than nostalgia?
Well, it was actually really good. The characters stayed true to themselves. Older, somewhat jaded, but instantly knowable. When we last saw them they had young children, like me. Now they have older teenagers, like me. They’ve grown up, like me. A little wiser? That remains to be seen.
In a couple of weeks I am going to a 30 year university reunion. (Which is a bit weird as my third novel, Bright Stars, published last year, is about a university reunion.) I can’t believe it’s really been three decades since I left my home in Devon to be a student at Lancaster. Although I still have good friends who’ve grown up with me, there will be people I haven’t seen in thirty years. I’m nervous and excited. (And very much hoping the reunion isn’t as disastrous as my fictional one.)
And I’m wondering which one will have a new head of hair. Or a much younger spouse…
Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts.
Charles Dickens, Great Expectations.
We all cry. At some time or other. Some of us more than others.
Tears are everywhere this week. Yes, at the Olympics. The sound of the Star Spangled Banner is enough to make most Americans well up. But tears do not just come from pride and patriotism. They come from all sorts of feelings that sport can evoke.
We’ve seen a few tears over the years at the Olympics. Who remembers Derek Redmond ripping his hamstring in Barcelona in 1992? Redmond fell to the ground in agony but somehow got to his feet and began to painfully hop his way towards the finish line, determined to see it through. And as if that wasn’t moving enough, someone emerged from the crowd to help him along. His dad. And the nation cried too.
This week in Rio there were tears of disappointment for Djokovic as he lost an early match. Andy Murray is having a better run but he has shed some tears too over the years. On losing the Wimbledon final in 2012 it broke my heart to see him cry. But this year it was just as emotional seeing his tears of joy and relief as he took the title for the second time.
Crying is a part of what it is to be human. It can be a sign of sadness, anxiety, depression, grief, fear, tiredness, pain, hurt, anger, frustration, a broken heart. Crying is a natural stress reliever. It can make you feel better. It can make people realise you need help. It’s how babies communicate, children too. And then we learn to hide it, repress it, be ashamed of it even.
A book, a film, a piece of music, the smell of the sea, the way the light slants on an Autumn day, all these can make you cry – out of empathy or a memory stirred.
But did you know:
Cultural differences aside, women are more likely to cry as they have smaller tear ducts which overflow more easily than men’s. (Can anyone tell me if that’s true?)
When you cry, your heart rate increases and your breathing slows. And that lump in your throat is known as the ‘globus sensation’.
Crying stimulates the brain’s endorphins. It’s a natural painkiller which is helpful for a broken heart. (I added that last bit.)
Crying helps release emotions. It makes you feel better for a bit, more able to cope.
Shakespeare said: ‘To weep is to make less the depth of grief.’
Ever since I was about six years old I have looked forward to this time of year. Sunshine, exams over, Wimbledon. But ‘summer’ 2016 is one I’d rather forget and we’re only at the beginning of July. The tennis is as good as ever – though the seeds have dropped like flies and there’s been a heck of a lot of rain. But the world appears to have gone barmy.
Today, July 4th, is traditionally the best day of Wimbledon fortnight and it will at least distract me from the goings on outside of SW19. July 4th is also Independence Day for the USA. (Or ‘Treason Day’ as we Redcoats like to call it. Joke.) Much to celebrate? I can’t see an awful lot right now – a country divided by guns, Trump, hate. Much the same as the small island on which I live, (but without the guns) – a country divided by the English Channel and drifting off into the Atlantic, probably without Scotland for company. Billy No Mates, that’s us.
Meanwhile, 165 people have been killed in Baghdad. One. Hundred. And. Sixty. Five. And yet news coverage of this has been snatched by Farage, a man more despicable than the Child Catcher.
Why are so many men lobbing grenades into the midst of humanity and then legging it.
Who is left to clear up the mess?
As a Christian, my hope is in Jesus. (Now because I’m mentioning Jesus, don’t switch off. I’m not going to give the ‘Sunday School answer’, to coin the phrase of a good friend.) I know without a doubt that Jesus would not have carried a gun or a bomb or a grenade. I know without a doubt that he would weep over the death of an Iraqi as much as over an American citizen or a chap who went to Eton.
Why? Because Jesus treated everyone as equal. He told the story of The Good Samaritan and The Prodigal Son. He looked after the disabled. He trusted women in his circle, first appearing to Mary Magdalene after his resurrection, telling her to go out and spread the word. A woman, when they were second class citizens, their testimonies not even accepted in court. That was how he rolled.
He turned the tables.
We must not turn them back.
We need to look after each other. We need to be salt and light. We must trust in love, and banish hate. Easy? Well, no, because we humans like power. We like to dominate other people. Take what isn’t ours and hang onto it. We like to shut our eyes to the world’s problems because they are not our problems. Even when it’s going on in our own back garden, we still ignore it. Until it impacts us directly.
And you know what? I won’t be told to ‘get over it’ if I believe passionately in something. I will keep highlighting the ridiculous gun culture of the richest most influential country in the war. It hangs heavy on my heart. I don’t know why this in particular but it’s something I have to speak out against. Sometimes it takes an outsider to see things clearly. Like when I’ve finished a manuscript, one I’ve been working on for two years, a world only I’ve been inhabiting, I have to ask my writing buddies to read it. They can see the mistakes that I have missed.
I will keep highlighting the fact that men with crazy hair have got form (you know who I’m talking about).
I will keep highlighting the ridiculous separatist way our country is heading.
I will keep highlighting the subjugation of women across the globe. (And as an aside, I am delighted to discover I have two suffragette sisters in my family tree so maybe my militant tendencies were there all along. It’s just I’m braver at speaking out now.)
I will keeping speaking out against our education system which is failing our children and young people.
I will keep on.
I will nag. I will cajole. I will argue. I will reason. I will joke. I will cry. I will get angry. I will get sad. I will do what I have to do, what my heart tells me.
And you know what else? I will pray because that’s what Christians do. But I will pray in the knowledge that prayer is not a replacement for doing stuff. It’s one part of having a faith. The other is doing to others what you would have done to you. It is loving your neighbour. It is not judging. But it is also speaking out when you see wrong. It is offering a better way.
Jesus never gave up. If I could only have a dot of his courage and compassion…
In response to Nicky Morgan’s attack on parents choosing to exercise their democratic right to protest on Tuesday above we’d like to say the following…
Parents supporting this cause, which has the well being and happiness of their children at its very core, are very angry that Nicky Morgan should suggest that they don’t want high standards for their children.