Second Tuesday February Valentines

My oh my, I haven’t blogged for a while! I’ve missed it too. I last wrote on 17th January to link to my fantabilosa Bertrand Russell piece on WalesHome. What have I been doing since then? Well, working my little cotton socks off.

I have been writing, and quite extensively too, sadly just not blog fodder. This has been niggling at me because I really love my blog; if a week goes by without posting I feel like I’ve abandoned a friend. After two weeks I perversely feel like the friend has counter-abandoned me, then we enter a tug-o-war over who will give in first (me). The non-blog-fodder I’ve been working on is a book proposal, and some freelance pieces. I’ve also, as always, written a whole lot of nonsense that isn’t fit for public consumption; I’ve spared you that.

Our plans to move to Colchester have come to fruition; we have found a really delightful little house that we’re truly enamoured of. All being well we shall be moving in on the 26th of February so there is a whopping great big firecracker lit under my pretty arse to get everything sorted in time. As I tweeted today, I am so tired I could weep tears of pure anaesthetic. I need a couple of strong, able bodied people (or robots) to come round to my house and allow me to order them about a bit. (Kindly, with rewards. Cakes, or WD40?) Either way it will be flipping wonderful when we get there. We’ll be on the same street as Poppy & family (World domination begins in CO3!) and Kid A and I can avail ourselves of all the fineness Britain’s oldest city has to offer after Husband goes to work on public transportation – wow a real, modern life.

This is arguably the dullest blog I’ve ever written, and for that I apologise. I’ll try to redeem myself with a few interesting snippets at the end.

Dewey the odd eyed, guitar playing, 7 month old cat has begun suckling off of the chocolate coloured faux fur blanket on my bed - but only when it’s draped over my body. Not, I hasten to add, my chest – the leg or arm will suffice so long as this blanket covers it. He clearly thinks he’s breastfeeding, and often suckles until he contentedly falls asleep. In a bid to calm his psychotic urge to clear every surface in the house I’m going along with it, perhaps he needs to sort something out in a Jungian kind of way. As soon as I head to bed with the laptop (I get wordy when near a place of unconsciousness) Dewey races to the blanket and latches on. I think the sounds he makes and the sight he provides is adding an extra surreal edge to my writing these days.

I’m reading “The Queen’s Necklace” by Antal Szerb, and my burgeoning obsession with him is such that you’d be wise to keep your eyes peeled for a blog. I did collect every word I wrote during the month of January, as promised, and they are being randomised so you naughty boys and girls don’t learn all my secrets. This week should see the release of that monstrosity.

Well look at that. I don’t think I managed to salvage this from Pointlessville, F.A. after all. Sorry about that. What I did do is get distracted and write part of a future blog! We pay for tomorrow’s entertainment with today’s boredom.

Bertrand Russell... again!

Now see here I've only gone and waffled on about my dearest love again. This time on Wales Home. Do please comment and let me know what you think.

"Aristotle maintained that women had fewer teeth than men; although he was twice married, it never occurred to him to verify this statement by examining his wives mouths'"

An irate tirade for Haiti

The disaster is natural but the circumstances of the Haitian people are manmade.

When I said I wished for a world wide redistribution of wealth this is what I meant. There is much brutally wrong with our global society when on one end of the spectrum we have excesses that should turn the cheeks of the wealthy crimson with shame, and on the other end are countries steeped in poverty, like Haiti, just waiting for one final sweep into utter destruction.

This earthquake would have been devastating anywhere, developed or undeveloped; it was shallow and hard. But the people of Haiti never had a chance. In England we can’t take two steps without a health and safety warning “for our own good”, building regulations, benefits, school policies. I know it’s corrupt, I know it’s flawed but damn it that doesn’t mean there is any sort of equality between us and them. I have known what it is to be poor; I have known the feeling of having nothing but pennies, two weeks until payday and a child to feed. I know the mortification of always having a cold because your shoes have holes in the soles and you can never afford to replace them. I know about the humiliation and hope destroying powers of always coming up short. But I also know that 80% of the battles we fight in this country, while absolutely necessary, are intellectual battles for rights and freedoms.

I was born into my life just as people in better or worse situations were born into theirs. But I don’t want any part in contributing to this abhorrent disparity of basic human rights. Potentially tens of thousands of people have died; god only knows how many are trapped and injured. Children’s hospitals brought to the ground, homes, business, and aid agencies. The people of Haiti live on an average of less than $2 a day. They never had a chance.

Compare and contrast: In October when I was still working part time at a convenience shop, every other customer I served came in grumbling about the flu vaccination. “What’s the point of getting it?” they said, “If it’s going to make me feel rubbish for the whole weekend anyway?” Since I was there in a capacity to scan milk and not hand out lectures I smiled bit my lip (usually). What I wanted to say was, “Well, you can take a weekend of feeling rubbish or the potential to develop pneumonia. I’ve had it, twice, and I’m now practically an invalid. You choose! Or you could immigrate to a country that doesn’t provide you with such medical advances, and just take your chances with nature. Either way shut up and move on.”

No room for helplessness; Haiti needs our help

My heart breaks for Haiti. My parallel passions are writing and humanitarianism; I am working towards making myself qualified and useful so that I can eventually be of assistance here and abroad. I am devastated by the suffering of the people of Haiti, and feeling utterly worthless sitting here able to do nothing. I have (quite literally) no money to give right now. Come payday at the end of the month I will give what I can. What I want is to contribute something of more worth than the meagre sum I can afford to donate. It feels so paltry, all I have of any value is my self and I am here, climbing the walls.

I cannot imagine the horror and terror that is being experienced there at the moment. It is my deepest wish that I could alleviate some of it in any way. Sitting in front of the internet has never felt so helpless and maddening, and I suspect many others feel the same. We must firmly reject that helpless feeling; it is not good enough and we have no right to it when others are suffering so. I don’t know yet what I can do to contribute, but I refuse to be helpless. I will keep searching until I find something, and I implore everyone else to do the same.

I see from the people I follow on twitter who are in Haiti that there have been continuing aftershocks. It is growing dark, and it is raining, which may be a blessing if it stops fires spreading. The miraculously well, injured, dying and dead, are all lying in the streets; the buildings are still shifting and tumbling so no one dares sleep inside tonight. There is singing and praying to be heard, and the smell of chicken being cooked; the first time food was had since the quake hit.

Quite how they will recover from this I don’t know. I do know one thing; they won’t be able to do it alone, and they won’t have to.

The White Room

Alex woke from today’s nap crying, hot and confused. Just like me, he superheats when he sleeps. Matthew went to him, and held him, and Alex said that he was so tiny, and everything else was getting so big. I went and took him and instantly his body calmed. He carried on saying how tiny he was, that everything was changing size, everything was getting bigger, he was getting tinier. He wasn’t really awake, not properly, I could tell by how hot he was. I put him in my bed, ‘Mama’s bed’, the haven of the household where everything is soft and furry and safe. I curled up around him and he violently wedged his body underneath mine, banishing all space between us. It has always been so with us, physically he is happiest when there is majority bodily contact between Alex and Mama. In a few easy minutes he was sound asleep again, breathing regular and deep but without relaxing his hold on me one bit. After half an hour I managed to roll him on to his back so that I could unfold myself and drift off as well. I was thinking how similar it felt to hold his 3 year old arm to how it felt holding his 4 month old arm. We’re doing the same things, but with more conversation throughout. I thought once again of how alike he and I are, for better or worse. And I thought of the white room.

Alex has the face of his Father as a young boy, but with my green eyes instead of Matthew’s brown. His expression is one of anxiously approaching happiness, just like in one of Matthew’s first school photos, but he has my range of feeling, my regretful temper and my random bursts of charm. However I made Alex, he took most of me with him. It belongs to him now, but I’m still able to feel it. Sometimes I almost regret having him. Not because I don’t love him more than anything in the whole world, but because I love him more than anything in the whole world. I can’t protect him from everything outside of us, and I can’t protect him from everything inside of himself. There have been moments in the last six months when I have been so sick that I have looked into the abyss of leaving him motherless by the age of five. I looked, and I saw that I would happily die a thousand deaths later if it meant I could just live to be with him; able to protect him, play with him and love him as he grew. The desire to protect your child is one of the only forms of approved psychosis, and in this I excel. Sometimes I have wished he was still safely floating in the ether of my heart, a part of the Universe Elsewhere and Untouchable. But never would I take back this amazing person, he’s his own now and I have to respect that uniqueness, much as it sometimes pains me. I do look at him and marvel that my ingredients helped bake that cake… who knew I was made of sugar and spice and everything nice?

From my earliest childhood memories, right up to my teens I had a recurring nightmare. The terror of it was nothing that could ever be expressed or understood by anyone but myself, and explaining it in words does it no justice. It was always the same. I was alone, in a pure white room without any defining spaces such as corners of walls or ceilings. It was a room that was the size of eternity, and I was left there alone with my task, which was, to completely understand it. Sometimes the room was filled with tiny strands of hay, half of which was even shredded down to dust, and I had to make it all white again, the whole of eternity. I woke up sweating and screaming in terror with the feeling that the white room was lurking and waiting for me to stumble into it even while conscious. I still occasionally have flashbacks to that room.

Alex was premature and the labour was induced and extremely traumatic for us both. I was born premature as well. Sometimes I think all this is about being rushed. Alex and I are the same, we both do things in our own good time, then we do them with all our hearts. He would only sleep on mine or Matthew’s chests for his first 8 months, and again, I would only sleep on my Mother’s chest. There is nothing as sensual as the parent/child love or in my case, the mother/child love. It is sensual in the truest sense of the word. I love him with all my senses and his love is returned in the same way. When he is sleepy he likes to run his cheek up and down my arm. I actually enjoy it when he falls asleep with his sweaty hair in my face. My ears delight when he sings and want to take the next train to Nowhere when he screams; my eyes cannot leave him when he doesn’t know I am watching him. I unconsciously kiss his cheek while we talk the way some people tap their pens.

Alex woke from his nightmare today saying that he was becoming tiny and everything was changing shape and growing so big and I knew exactly how he felt. It was his white room. I chased it off when he fitted himself into the curve of my body. The dichotomy of mother love is that you will never truly feel separate from your child, but you have to teach them every day to do without you. It’s a river flowing both ways, in a strange and mystical land where the human spirit is raw and pure. Sometimes it feels like having to tidy infinite strands of hay in the White Room. Sometimes its feels like bliss, curling up with a beautiful three year old in a cosy big bed while your cat purrs draped over your legs. Always it feels like love, soft and fierce, and always it makes the tantrums and endless games of knights jousting worth wading through.

Announcing a Pointless Endeavour: You can’t find a needle in a haystack

Beginning midnight 1 January 2010, and continuing until 11:59 31 January 2010 I will be collecting every word I write onto one master document. I will not be including words that I have handwritten, but this hardly signifies as I rarely write anything by hand other than “cat litter”.

Every email, list of things to do, status update, tweet, blog, private journal entry, anonymous forum post, confession, drunken rambling, carefully guarded secret, letter of harassment, etc will be copied and pasted.

All names (including my own) will be blocked out, showing only the first letter. For example “Obama” would appear as O-. (I’m sure he’s relieved to know state secrets are safe with me.) No email addresses or web links will be included, no personal addresses, and no other information that could in any way identify others or indeed incriminate. The words copied will only be my own, never those that I receive from others (i.e. sent to me in emails etc).

At the end of the collection period I will shuffle the hell out of the words until they mean nothing; or at least until they mean nothing like what they originally meant. I will then publish them all, in all their random, honest glory, here on my blog.

From the mundane to the downright pornographic; what I hide and what I flout. All of it laid bare and presented to anyone who happens across, and all of it utterly meaningless.

An exercise in self, to exorcise the self, I’m tired of myself.

20 Wishes for 2010

Sod numerical significance. I’ve spent two days of precious pre-Christmas time trying to write ‘52 Wishes for 2010, Parts 1 and 2’ due to a perverse and stubborn feeling that if I did anything less I would be taking the easy way out. I had even considered 365. The sadomasochistic streak mile in me was voting for a cruel ‘2010 Wishes for 2010’. “But”, I sighed to myself, “there’s no point writing a blog if you are going to toy around with alienating your readers.” 20 it is then. If I’m feeling really overflowing with more wishes in the next week I’ll throw up 10 more.

My list includes silly wishes, serious wishes, personal wishes and bigger picture wishes. I no more expect them to come true than I expect the man in the moon to come down and offer me a slice of his bottom, but that’s hardly the point. Wishlists are for dreaming; for crystallising your thoughts and directions. Aspirations for society may be unachievable ideals today, yet also goals to work towards for the future. Wishing for ‘world peace’ is trite, but demanding that child labour be banished from the high street is achievable for a species that sent man to the moon. For too long we have allowed cowardice, greed and laziness to obstruct simple human justice. So I say, ask for it, and keep asking. No one ever got anywhere by wallowing in complacency.

So here goes. In no order of importance:

1. I want to get paid for writing. I would like to point out to any Editors or indeed business magnates that I only require a very modest income. In fact what are mere pennies to some would set me up quite nicely. Think outside the box, dedicate a small corner of your establishment to me and I will work slavishly for you. Come on, you know you want to.

2. Politicians, journalists, sofa-sitting critics: Work with President Obama and get off his back. He is the finest president we have had yet, and we’re unlikely to see his equal for many years to come. Nevertheless he is working within a complicated system that he inherited, and he has to make the best of it, as do we all. His critics waiver between ridiculing those they say hail him as godlike, and deriding him for not making enough revolutionary changes within the first year. Which will it be then? He has integrity. His motives are sound, and not a day goes by that I do not feel grateful that Americans had the good sense to elect him. The next step is to realise that he can do very little without continued support, from America and abroad. Despite what some people choose to believe, our world did not get in the state it is from the evil machinations of only a few. Our whole society has contributed to its own illness and we are all responsible for achieving reform.

3. I want to spend a couple of weeks in Ghana. I am so eager to learn and be in the culture as much as possible in that time. Experiences so full and varied are like oases of water for a camel in a desert; you drink every drop of them up and feed off of them long after. This isn’t the place to detail everything I want to do while there, but suffice it to say I have a lot planned and will be blogging throughout. Money is required, see Wish 1.

4. I wish I had perfect health. Why not? If you’re going to ask for what you want you may as well be a little unreasonable. I’m tired of being sick.

5. I’d like a few weeks totally off the record.

6. Child labour, sweatshops, and forced labour are issues I feel extremely strongly about. I want it made totally transparent which retailers are above board and which are not. There would not be shades of grey if it were my child involved. We have a “traffic light” system on our food to protect wealthy, educated people from eating themselves into the grave. I want to see something similar on every shop front.

7. I want Reese Witherspoon and Jake Gyllenhal to get married, happily ever after. It would just make me feel better.

8. I want there to be a world wide redistribution of wealth. There are flaws in every type of political system being enacted as an absolute reality (e.g. socialism) but there comes a point where you must draw the line. ‘Every man for himself except when man feels inspired otherwise’ is not good enough. I read about the Oasis of the Seas with a feeling of sickness and horror; knowing that “Every 3.6 seconds one person dies of starvation. Usually it is a child under the age of 5.” I understand the process of production creating jobs but the discrepancy between spending £800,000,000 on a pleasure ship while valuable human lives are being lost is sickening. The Oasis of the Seas is just one of a thousand examples. I enjoy luxury as much as the next person and I can gawk at a spectacular sight. But the gulf is too wide and shameful.

9. I would like each of us to understand that we are not in any way better or more deserving than those less or more fortunate than us. Every child in every country is as precious as your own.

10. I’d like to be taken under the wing of a fairy godmother. A Godfather would be lovely too but it’d lend itself to complications. I am in dire need. A fairy Godtoad would be considered at this point if the warts are in the right place.

11. I want a machine that can traverse the space/time continuum. I’d like to make some amendments to my own life, but more importantly I want to experience everything that is out of my reach. There is not a time or place in Earth’s history that I’d find dull, and I ache for all the moments lost to me. Every sensation felt, word uttered and sight seen I could take and want more. There are so many questions I want answers to.

12. I want the sickening duo that is Speidi to be tortured for eternity. I have enjoyed the second to none comedy value they provide, but I've decided they're enjoying it too much. Since I (sadly, probably) must retain a modicum of respect for humanity (even for Speidi) I will specify their torture to be a life with absolutely no attention, respect, admiration or money, spent only in each other’s company. That should suffice.

13. All class sizes should be reduced to a maximum of 18 children. This might mean half of the classes being relocated to the centre of the earth, but I think this is a fair compromise to pay for the return of a happy, well educated youth.

14. I wish the grass would grow thick, soft and crimson red. Just for a week of the year.

15. People whose primary contribution to conversation is a pedantically perfect grasp of the English language should be forced to do 20 hours community service each week.

16. All Star Trek series (in chronological order) should be required viewing in school. Teach ethics and appreciation for the universe, all wrapped in an entertaining package.

17. I would like it formally announced over a planetary wide system that Marie Antoinette never said “Let them eat cake.” That was a phrase already in circulation for a hundred years before her advent on the turbulent French political scene. It was later falsely attributed to her in the wake of Revolutionary propaganda. Those words are like nails on chalkboard to me, so while we’re at it, let’s make a fine for each time they’re used in reference to her. All funds will go to feed the hungry, exactly as she would have liked.

18. The processes, emotional and practical, of adoption, could be much improved upon. We are in the midst of an ever growing population crisis; millions of children live and die in appalling conditions every year. In no way would I ever support a system where there was a limit of any kind put on the number of biological children parents could have, but, I think far more people would be open to adopting if it weren’t such a terrifying prospect. Better education and understanding of the subject could deconstruct many of the barriers that stand between children in need and loving homes. Before I became ill this last time I’d just begun the process of adopting. I was terrified of being rejected, even though I am already the proud mother of a wonderful 3 year old boy. Many other women have said to me that they were interested in the idea of adopting, but felt too overwhelmed by fears to pursue it. Would they be able to bond with the child as their own? Would they be approved, could they afford it? A concentrated effort to demystify what is actually a very ancient and natural process would go some way to solving many of the issues we face today. I hesitate to speak for men (though I suspect they’re much the same) but I would like to impress upon anyone reading this that the maternal instinct is a powerful force. There are few obstacles it cannot overcome, and it has its own way of igniting just when needed. It can be trusted.

19. I don’t want to be afraid of terrorism anymore. The last 10 years I have watched with horror and heartbreak as innocent people around the world have been murdered for crimes, real or imagined, that their country’s governments have committed. I know that terrorism has been going on for much, much longer, but for most people of my generation the emotional impact of it has multiplied hundredfold since September 11. Now that the genie’s been let out of the bottle I don’t know if we will ever get it back in again, so this one is probably too big an ask. A while ago I was Christmas shopping on a very busy high street with my son when I heard a car backfire several times. My first thought was that someone was shooting and I clutched him in terror. I wish it wasn’t like that.

20. I hope I can write words that people enjoy reading throughout the year to come. Irrespective of Wish Number 1, I love writing. I love hearing back from anyone who reads my blog. I love words that roll off my tongue, down my fingertips and off into the mysterious World Wide Web. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your lives and being part of mine. Here’s to a rollicking 2010.

Pigness, Fairyness, Roasties, Oh My!

Feeling very down today and like a pig, I am wallowing in it. The worst part of it is, I am angry. Its 10 days to Christmas Eve. The Sugarplum Fairy is to me what Superman is to Clark Kent; this is the time of year I was made for. My kitchen smells gorgeous. I’ve poked oranges with cloves, made peppermint mice and mapped out the gingerbread house.

(Brace yourself dears, this is the paragraph where I spit it all out) But I am still in so much pain I can only do short bursts of activity at a time, and I only get one or two bursts a day. The house needs vacuuming. Alex’s preschool Christmas party is tomorrow and I don’t know how I’ll walk him there and back. Two weeks ago I quit my part time shop job because I no longer have the stamina to do even that, so we face the month of January (my birthday month, hooray) with not nearly enough money to see us through to the end. I think we need to move to Colchester as since I don’t drive & can’t walk terribly far it would be a lot better to be marooned in a city with friends, shops, and things to do. I’ve filled out my claim form for Disability Living Allowance, and in answering the questions I realised just how much I actually deserve it. I’ve become a Victorian stereotype, making paper birds from the sickbed to try to flog for some cash. I wanted to adopt a child and that dream has well and truly crumbled away. I owe Matthew and Alex every bit of feeble energy I have, it would be madness to spread it even thinner. Added to it all my femininity feels under attack. I don’t feel pretty. I know I look no different than I did a week ago, even if some of my clothes hang on me a bit more than they used to. The sad fact of the matter is that for most of my life I’ve been a shameless flirt who has enjoyed being vibrant. Lately I just feel wan and tired all the time and it makes me feel like a lump of boredom. I’m fed up with myself.

I’m confident I’ll get the DLA, although it may take an uncomfortably long amount of time to come through. What makes me so sad is the timing of it all. Ten days to Christmas and I’m counting the pennies, agonising over each spend. The worst bit at the moment is our gifts to family and friends; we bought for Alex a while ago. Having seen the storm brewing from afar we wanted to ensure his Christmas was all it could be. I’m making many of our gifts this year, which I am more than happy to do. The problem is, it is so time and energy consuming, that added to all of the things that need doing daily in our house (remember I have a three year old son, pets, housework etc), plus the extra for Christmas for us, and bearing in mind I am ¾ invalid, there is no way I can get it done in time for the day. I love our family and friends so much and it upsets me to think I won’t have anything for some of them. I will do them all anyway but half are likely to be late.

I’m just sad. Every day something new gets added to my list of things to do, but my abilities become no greater and my support no more. I want to release myself from this self imposed stress but it is easier said than done. At any rate I know I won’t enjoy any of Christmas if I don’t snap out of my self pitying mood. Perhaps I’m posting this as a sort of public penalty for my self absorption. You can all give me a good virtual slap around the face for wasting precious cyberspace moaning about myself when we all know I’m damn lucky compared to a lot out there. As soon as this is posted I consider myself duly told. I’ll go lick my wounds in bed with a cup of tea until my shiny new painkillers kick in, then get up and start filling out those Christmas cards.

Because I am incapable of leaving you without taking the piss out of something, have these two bits I’ve been meaning to gripe about for a while.

Firstly, an unframed print, advertised as the ideal Christmas present for someone who is recession/craft minded. It says “Make do and Mend” and it costs £38! Does anyone else see the rather stinking irony of that? Designer homespun warmth included!

Secondly, one of my beloved Christmas magazines promises, “Yes, you can tuck in without filling out!” Eagerly I scanned the page wondering what miracle drug they’d discovered. The suggestion that has haunted me for weeks since is “Have one roastie instead of three.” Hang on a minute. Firstly, who in Hades ever said I would only be having three roast potatoes? I’d been thinking more like simply filling up that corner of the plate rather than counting them out. Secondly, one roastie does not qualify as “tucking in” in anyone’s misguided definition. And thirdly, it’s Christmas Day for gods sake. Diet on the 27th. There is time for it later. I would feel positively sanctimonious if I stopped at three roast potatoes on Christmas. One, and my husband would be calling an ambulance because it’s more than likely I’d be on my last legs.

‘Tis the Season to be Jolly and all. Nothing like some good old fashioned bile to make one feel all glittery and covered in sugar once more.

Yours truly,

The Sugarplum Fairy
SPF 30

The Independent Christmas Appeal

I have been so moved reading the accounts given in the various Independent articles about the Christmas Appeal, that I feel I must add my voice to the others.

This year the Independent is asking for donations that will be shared out equally amongst three very worthy charities: Action Aid, Computer Aid International, and Peace Direct. The good work these charities do could fill countless pages, but in a nutshell: Action Aid works to bring equality to those living in poverty and injustice, Computer Aid International provides wiped and refurbished computers to health, education and not-for-profit organisations in developing countries, and Peace Direct finds and funds local peacemakers for local problems.

Reading about the life of Henri Bura Ladyi, “Africa’s Schindler” genuinely humbled me. His bravery and dedication is remarkable. He freed dozens of kidnapped child soldiers, exchanging goats for the children’s lives with the rebels who held them. (Peace Direct helped provide the money to buy those goats, in case you were wondering where the donations were going.) He rescued 5000 people while militia men debated whether or not to use them as human shields or simply murder them on the spot as a show of strength. He has been tortured, and he regularly receives death threats, but he remains undaunted and continues to plunge himself time and time again where he is most needed. I am only paraphrasing what was written by Claire Soares and I urge you to read the full article.

In Henri’s own words, “Building peace in Congo is a bit like washing a pig. Just when you think, you’ve got him clean, he’s wriggled free and is squelching in the mud again. But that doesn’t mean you give up.” This man is voluntarily taking on one of the hardest jobs the world has to offer because it is worth it and I ask you now to consider where we would all be without people like him contributing to humanity.

In another account featured on the Independent we learn about the plight of girls attending school in an area that has been under attack from the Taliban. Women have been beheaded, a schoolgirl was killed at her desk from a bomb, and many are justifiably too terrified to attend. Parents are reluctant to send their precious daughters for an education when it means they may never return home. Still there are girls and teachers who turn up at each opportunity, eager to learn and to be taught. One primary teacher says “If my pupils are going to die, I am going to die with them.” Action Aid is supporting these courageous teachers and students, and attacking the very illiteracy and ignorance such terror thrives on.

I look at the people around me, and I look at myself, and I know we are not all capable of doing what these real life super heroes are doing. But that doesn’t mean we get away scot free. We are all capable of something, and it is undoubtedly a lot more than what we are comfortable with; in my experience the most value lies exactly in that point where you begin to make yourself squirm. Make yourself worthy, make yourself useful, and make yourself proud. We pay to see fictional heroes and heroines on the big screen, but there are real ones, living real lives without stunt doubles or special effects, and our money would be better served going to them.

I can only implore anyone who can, to give to these causes. These charities and individuals working on the front lines to preserve innocent lives need money, but if you haven’t got it to give, don’t allow that fact to sow the seed of apathy; there is plenty more that you can do to make a difference. As a society we have barely scratched the surface of true humanitarianism. But since most of us will shortly be scoffing mince pies and opening presents under a gaily adorned tree I hope we can all see our way to making a contribution.

Dream a whisky dream for me

I’m feeling petulant and indolent. After a night of constant dreams I’ve been out of sorts all day today. It’s just the sort of mood I want to sit down and write in and just the sort of writing that won’t be fit for public consumption.

Last night I decided I’d try neat whisky for the first time. I bought a miniature of Bell’s, ran a steaming hot bath, lit candles, and even made a spotify playlist without any overly crashing noisy songs. The scene for my relaxation was set, and I deserved it too after the first full day of housework in the months I’ve been sick. I have to say it was exquisite; holding a mouthful of whisky and just allowing it to roll around was a profound experience. It was like having a sparking, wet, fire making taste buds I didn’t know I had zing to life and quiver with pleasure. Swallowing, that was another story; it did hurt the throat a bit. I was prepared for a burn and I got it but I found I enjoyed it in the way that you might enjoy a painful thump on a sore muscle. Pleasure/pain.

The dreams were not much worse than they normally are, I can’t blame the whisky for that. Last night I was bartering friendship with an acquaintance of mine, agreeing the terms we could speak on. Then there was a bus, it was crashing and I took the place of its only passenger thinking I could stop it once on. As soon as I boarded I realised the bus was a juggernaut beyond my control, and I was stuck, forever tumbling, headlights over taillights. I kept waiting for the final crushing blow that would kill me but eventually I realised it was never coming, that I was simply to remain in this somersaulting bus. Trees and sky were swapping places, metal was bending and screeching, glass was breaking, and although I bounced from one wall to another, there I sat just watching the world twist. I wedged myself between two seats and tried to send myself in my mind, back to the table where I’d been drinking with the friend, discussing our terms and conditions. I tried to remember every nuance of the conversation, each line drawn in water marks on the wooden table.

The dream segued into my typical nightmares, my old and disabled cats gone missing and attacked. Then a strange man coming in to the house and taking Alex while I slept. This time in my dream I woke up and saw him leading Alex out by the hand and I pulled a huge kitchen knife on him and demanded he leave us alone. He said he’d been sent by my husband, and I felt a moment of utter confusion. Was this a friend or foe? Should I stab him immediately while I had the upper hand and save my son, or should I believe him and back down, risking Alex’s wellbeing but not stabbing a potentially innocent man. I stared and stared at his face and couldn’t read it, I couldn’t work out what to do. So we just stood there, Alex, the strange smiling man holding him by the hand, and me with a knife at his throat.

Small wonder then that I woke in a foul mood, and I’ve struggled to get out of it all day. You may, however, be surprised, that my first words on waking were “I want some porridge, with brown sugar!” Which is interesting, because I’ve only had that for breakfast once in the last three years. Figure that one out!

First thing tomorrow is my operation which I’m not worried about although I know I will be hurting afterwards. It’s just a day thing and I’m even hoping I’ll feel well enough to get our Christmas tree in the afternoon.

It’s funny how dreams can insinuate themselves in to your waking hours, like little thieves. Sometimes I take a step and it’s as if my foot has landed on quicksand rather than concrete. Just for that second I tripped back to that bus, or I was sitting tracing lines from the condensation of a glass of beer, staring at someone’s hands. There’s a whole consciousness, a whole ephemeral paper doll version of me, leading her own chaotic life night after night. It doesn’t bother me.