In the wake of the atrocious attack in Manchester last night, I feel have to say something. But like so many people today there are simply not enough words to express just how sad,  shocked, upset, fearful, determined, defiant and united we feel as a city.

Mancunians are renowned for our understated attitude to getting on with things and coming together as a community to stand in the face of adversity. This isn’t the first time Manchester has experienced violence like this and I don’t suppose it will be the last. While that saddens and angers me, I am reassured by the resilience of my fellow Mancs in that we will carry on.

For those who are pointing the finger and trying to divide us, my message is that we are all children of the same God and we would do well to remember that. Darkness will never overcome darkness, only light can do that. Hatred can never overcome hatred, only love can do that.

For the people of Manchester my message is, stay strong our kid.


Accepting Love


Just keep swimming…

To paraphrase Dory, “what do you do when the world gets you down?”


Well, that’s me at the minute. The world is just getting me down, down and further down. I can’t really articulate what it is that is making me feel like this because it feels that it’s everything yet nothing at the same time, but let me try to unpack that a little.

I was on a couple of news websites last night before I went to bed and found that nearly all the news articles were reporting on cruelty, violence, hatred and division in one way or another. Stories of people doing unspeakable things to one another and to defenceless animals and children, or stories that perpetuate lines of difference and division between people and so on. But it’s not just that that is getting me down it’s the way that other people talk to each other about the things that are being reported.

For example, the “gay bakery” story that has been in the press for a little while and which was resolved last night (for those who don’t know what it’s all about, here is a link to catch you up to speed). There has been a massive debate about the rights and wrongs of the case, which in our society of free speech and “right to offend” is one thing, but the sheer hatred and vitriol that is injected into the debate has left me despairing of how we now talk to each other as fellow human beings. The thing that makes me despair most about this story is that Peter Tatchell, a leading gay activist and spokesman, has come under fire for his comments on the results of the appeal. The world has gone mad when one man says that free speech must be allowed to happen, even if it offends others. And this is from a man who speaks out on behalf of those offended by the actions of the baker. I despair, I really do.

I’m talking about the people who comment in the forums rather than the journalists in this case, but there are plenty of news stories out there where the journalists are just as guilty of driving wedges between people and celebrating the “them and us” mentality that is rampant wherever you look, and it’s an example of how the world is getting me down just now

Another example is the way that the people in Calais have been portrayed in the press: their so-called refuge away from a war zone has been dubbed a “jungle”, they are not talked about as people but as migrants in a pejorative way. It’s an issue that has polarised people, and we are now in a position where people who speak up (or speak out, depending on which way you look at it) are ridiculed and jeered at for saying what they think.

Take Gary Lineker. He tweeted that he thought the way some people were treating the refugees in Calais was “hideously racist”, and he has been absolutely lambasted for it. The Sun newspaper has called for him to be sacked immediately (full story here) on the grounds that he is a celebrity and therefore shouldn’t express his personal views, no matter what they are.


He is criticised for speaking out, he’s criticised for NOT speaking out. Everyone seems to have an opinion and if you’re not at one extreme end of the scale or the other then your view doesn’t count. Or so it seems. And it gets me down.

But it’s not just what people say about what people say that gets me down, it’s the situations that they are talking about in the first place that get me down too. Why do the people flock to Calais in the first place? Why do they have to leave their homes? Why is there war and conflict? Why do we supply arms to keep that conflict going? Why can’t we promote peace instead of war? What’s going to happen if Trump wins? Or Clinton wins?? And so on. It gets me down.

These things are on the world stage, but there’s things that happen locally that drag me down too. Why have the local kids vandalised our church grounds again? Why was my nephew beaten up just for walking down the road a couple of weeks ago?  Why do people do things like this and think that’s an acceptable thing to do?

It’s not just that though.

We’re coming up to Halloween – a bit of fun? Or a celebration of the dark side of life where it is acceptable to frighten people just because it is done in the name of “fun” (fake spiders, killer clown masks, knocking on doors and expecting sweets from strangers etc)?

There are already Christmas adverts on TV and on hoardings – whoah there, calm down! It’s another two months away yet!!

Year on year, Remembrance has been turning from something quiet and dignified into (yet another) occasion for people to outdo each other in the sentimentality stakes, and for each side of the “you shouldn’t glorify war” argument to polarise and have a go at each other. And yes, it gets me down.

X Factor – the cries of “it’s all a fix!”, and “another money making scheme for Simon Cowell”, and “I thought it was a singing contest so what is (insert current debatable act) doing still in it?” echo throughout the land. (“I say Honey, you say….”).

Strictly – “why is the BBC so racist?”, “why didn’t Anastacia have to dance in the dance off”, “how can Ed Balls hold his head up when better dancers have been voted off already”, and so on. It comes round year after year, but each time it does, it gets me down. It is supposed to be some lighthearted fun, a bit of colour and entertainment in the dark evenings of autumn and winter, with a bit of banter and some nice dancing. But no, we now have the annual slanging match that comes from people with nothing better to do than cause trouble and leaves a bitter taste in our mouths.

And guess what – IT GETS ME DOWN!!

Perhaps it’s me. Perhaps I need to grow a thicker skin. Perhaps I need to not engage with the world so much so it can’t hurt me and drag me down.

Perhaps I’m suffering from the “red car” syndrome. You will have experienced it at some time yourself too, maybe in a different way, but you will have had this, I’m sure. It’s where you don’t generally notice the colour of cars as they pass you, or in the stream of traffic that you’re in until you get a new car. Say it’s red. All of a sudden, it seems that there is a proliferation of red cars on the road. In fact, every second or third car is a red one. There used to be lots of silver or black ones, so where did all the red ones come from? Is this a major coincidence? Is it a world conspiracy that suddenly a load of red cars have flooded the roads just at a time you have just bought one yourself? What’s going on??

Perhaps it’s because I’m feeling so very down that all I can see in the world is misery and division among other people. It’s a different version of the “red car syndrome”, but one where I can’t see past the misery to see the good things in the news, on Facebook and in people’s lives because of my own viewpoint.

I’d like to think that I had the energy to do what Dory says, and “just keep swimming, just keep swimming”. What other choice is there?






Recovering From Grief

Our regular study group at church last night was a little bit different, and we had a discussion around death instead of our usual Bible study and worship. We looked at death in today’s society and our experiences of it with a view to how it will help us in our ministry to those who are grieving or who are having difficulty moving through the stages of grief and bereavement. It might sound a little bit morbid, but to be honest, I found it a really uplifting and enriching experience and it wasn’t the least bit fearful or distasteful as it might first sound.

We looked at our own experiences of loss and grief, and then we looked at various aspects of death and, using discussion prompt cards, had a chat in small groups about a couple of them.

One question that really stood out for me was “Do we ever recover from grief?”.

My initial response was “yes, of course we do”. But then we got into discussion about it and after hearing a couple of other people give their experiences of grief, I realised that I was not really in a position to answer that question quite that easily, because I hadn’t lost someone very close to me such as a spouse or a child. I have lost close family members and I have grieved for the loss of them, but I am fortunate in that I still have both my parents, my husband and my two children alive and well alongside me. That means that my viewpoint of the question is slightly different from my friend H who lost her husband within the last two years, whose answer was “no, you don’t”. She explained that she has learned to cope with her loss but she doesn’t feel secure in the knowledge that she has “recovered” as such. I was moved by her explanation and it has given me a lot of food for thought today.

I talked about this question with my husband Kevin earlier, and we talked a little bit about how grief has affected us individually and how that the idea of “recovering” from grief very much depends on the person who has died and the nature of the relationship we had with them before they died.

After a bit more thinking and talking, we came up with this analogy:

crumpled-paperIf you take a piece of paper – clean, white, unspoiled paper – and crumple it into a tight ball, then open it up and smooth it down again, you could say that the piece of paper having gone through the grief process of being crumpled up then straightened out again is still the same piece of paper as it was before, only it has been changed by it. It isn’t quite the same; it bears marks and scuffs that show it has been through some sort of trauma, and while it can still function as a piece of paper, it has been changed by it.


Thinking about it further, I came up with another one that might explain what it might be like to lose someone close:

eggTake an egg, and plunge it into boiling water. When you take out that egg, it is still an egg and is still fully serviceable as an egg, but because of the boiling water experience, you can’t even begin to put it back to the state it was in before. The intensity of the boiling water did something to its internal structure and it cannot physically or emotionally be the same as it was before, yet it is still an egg.

And so it is with us. For some of us, recovering from grief may be a little bit like the piece of paper analogy. Yes, we go through some pain of being crumpled up, and for some of us the process of smoothing out again can be a further source of pain but eventually we get there. Not quite the same as we were before, but we are more or less as we were before we experienced loss. However, for some of us, recovering from the loss of a loved one is more like the egg. We go through the intensity of boiling water for any length of time and yet our outer shell might look the same as it was before, our innards have irrevocably changed and we cannot be the same people as we once were. We still have a function, and we still look and taste the same, but to say that we have “recovered” would be wrong.




International Women’s Day

iwd2Today is International Women’s Day, and it has been around for more than 100 years. However, this year is the first year that I have been aware of it, much to my bewilderment.

I did a bit of reading about it and it seems that apart from trumpeting all things female from the highest rooftops, there is not really much to be said about what International Women’s Day is all about. As a newbie – to the festival, not to womanhood – I thought that it was going to be an excuse for the feminazi brigade all over the world to start banging their drum about how bad all men are and how downtrodden all women are, but I have been surprised by what is being said about it.

There are literally hundreds and thousands of articles about what’s happening in the name of IWD and I won’t insult your intelligence (or try to influence you) by directing you to any on here because I’m sure you can do that for yourself, but allow me a moment to share a few thoughts of my own about it.

  1. Is it really “international”? Or is it an excuse for Western women to pretend to get alongside our oppressed sisterhood in parts of the world where it is practically against the law to be a woman?
  2. Is it a celebration of womanhood and femininity, women’s achievements and contribution to society, or is it an opportunity to bash men the world over for the fact that they are not women?
  3. Does anything actually happen as a result of IWD? Do we see any increase in equality after each annual IWD, or is it a day of paying lip-service to the feminine “cause” where women get a pat on the head for the duration of the day and the world goes back to normal the day after?
  4. If this day has been around for more than 100 years, shouldn’t we be further on than we are by now? Shouldn’t there be more women in leadership roles in our politics, our fields of scientific research and development, of banking and finance and so on? Shouldn’t more women across the world (remember, this is International Women’s Day) see some improvement in their lives and not be treated as slaves or baby making machines to be hidden behind closed doors? Shouldn’t there be more choices for women across the world to be something different from their own mothers? To be free from mutilation, ‘honour’ punishments and the rest of the things that are supposed to keep them ‘pure’ for their menfolk?
  5. In relation to number 4, do women in the West really have the same experiences as the women in the Middle East or the developing countries in Africa and Asia, or do we pretend to share in their experiences because actually, our lives are pretty much sorted out here and even though there is still work to be done, we have more equality and freedom than those women we stand alongside for the day?
  6. How are we supposed to feel when after a lot of work in the sports industry, women are finally equalling men in terms of prize money and competition opportunities and one of the highest paid tennis stars of all time announces to the world that she has been taking a performance enhancing drug for the past 11 years? Are we allowed to feel betrayed by Sharapova’s actions, or do we have to stand shoulder to shoulder with her simply because she’s a woman trying to make it in a man’s world? I know where my gut feeling takes me but by criticising her for that, am I being disrespectful to my sister?

I realise that there is probably a lot more to this day than I have addressed here but I can’t help wonder if today we can really look at the world with the same eyes that the women of 1908 did, where women were fighting for the right to own their own property in the UK, and the vote for women was still a long way off. What would those women then think of our women today? Would they be pleased with progress made so far, or would they be appalled that we still haven’t made it yet?

Of course there is more to being a woman than being ‘equal’ to a man, just the same as there is more to being a man than being ‘superior’ to a woman, but it strikes me that there is more to womanhood than that fight too. For some women the fight to be recognised as an individual with thoughts of her own is one that will take her a lifetime to achieve or fail. For others, the fight to have autonomy over their own bodies is a fight that will take all of their lives to fight. For others still, the fight to have an education is one that they are prepared to die for, and many do.

My last questions on the subject of International Women’s Day is this: if half of the world’s population is female, and there are 365 days in a year, why do we only have a single day to celebrate and promote and enjoy and talk about and investigate and think about all things woman? Wouldn’t it be lovely if we didn’t need to have an International Women’s Day at all?

Finally, according to the BBC, Sharapova’s admission yesterday is going to cost her £30m each year from now on. My guess is that it is going to cost an awful lot more than that.




It’s The Little Things

Have you ever noticed how it’s the little things that get you when you are feeling vulnerable? I don’t just mean the bad things, but the good things too. You can cope with the big things that happen – the bereavement, the sudden illness, the car accident – but when someone is randomly kind to you, or offers you a smile when you weren’t expecting it it can undo you, can’t it?

That kind of happened to me today. I went to Asda at lunchtime to get some things for tea tonight and there was a huge Mother’s Day display at the entrance. I thought I would get my Mum’s gift today because tomorrow is going to be hectic and while I was thinking about what to get her it suddenly struck me that this year, I only have one mum to buy for. My mother in law, Doreen, died just after Mothering Sunday last year and the thought that I only needed to pick up one card, one gift this year took my breath away.

small things

The thing that surprised me most was that even though we were not particularly close before she died, she was still my husband’s mother and I still cared about her, and it upset me to think that she wouldn’t be included in the thanksgiving this Sunday. Obviously I was upset at the time of the death (I was with her when she died), and I grieved for her in the weeks around her funeral but the list of “firsts” that come in the year since someone dies have come and gone without much emotion. Christmas, New Year, her birthday, her wedding anniversary, all our birthdays etc have all come and gone without any drama but for some reason, the sight of the tacky Mother’s Day stuff in Asda today nearly undid me.

Another little thing that means more than grand gestures was this morning when I came downstairs and Kevin had made me a cup of tea on a thermal cup to take to work with me. I was running late and didn’t have time to get a drink before heading out in the snow, but he’d thought ahead and made me that tea. A small gesture but it speaks volumes..

Do the little things go deeper than the big things do you think? Or is it just that we notice the small things because they shine out in times of darkness? Let me know your thoughts.



Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

brexitThe question on everyone’s lips, if the media are to be believed, is whether Britain should stay in the European Union or to leave it. We (Joe and Josephine Public) will be asked our opinion on 23rd June this year as to whether we want to stay part of a ‘reformed’ Europe or whether we want to strike out on our own and trust in our history and heritage to carry us forward as world leaders still.


Now I don’t consider myself particularly political, but I do like to keep up with what’s happening broadly with our government and I am keen to see how this will all play out. I was too young in 1975 to even dream about ‘Europe’ let alone understand the implications of being in any sort of trade agreement but I gather things have changed substantially since that first entry into the EEC.

But I don’t know what I think about the whole staying or leaving question, and here’s why.

  1. Nobody seems to be able to tell us what the benefits of staying are or the benefits of leaving are in a straightforward, untwisted way. Every time there is a debate about it, it seems to degenerate into a row about age-old policies and behind-closed-doors animosity between politicians rather than hard facts and implications about the decision.
  2. There’s more to it than meets the eye, and like my point above nobody can give us a straightforward clue about the things that are not being said. For example, on the news today, we are told that if Britain votes to leave, then Scotland will become independent because they want to stay. Now hang on a minute – first of all, since when is “Britain” different from “Scotland”? Scotland surely is PART of Britain (and it’s Great Britain by the way) so if BRITAIN makes a decision then SCOTLAND has to abide by it too?
  3. And while we’re on about Scotland, where does it leave Wales and Northern Ireland too? Will they want to be part of Europe but not Great Britain if we vote to leave Europe? Will leaving Europe see the end of the United Kingdom?
  4. Why are other countries in Europe not having this anxiety attack about being in or out? We don’t hear the Germans banging their “we want out” drum do we? Is that because they know something we don’t?
  5. I don’t understand why we can’t have a trade agreement with the rest of Europe but be allowed to make our own laws. I would love to be able to sell a couple of hundred yards of cloth to a trader in Holland and I don’t see why we can’t do that. Why can’t we trade with them, but be allowed to make our own laws about how we manage our own culture, society, law and punishment, greengrocery, speed measurement, jail sentences, vegetable and fruit straightness, deportation and immigration, transport, fishing limits, pollution control etc?
  6. I don’t trust David Cameron to be putting the country’s best interests above his own. It feels very much like a personality contest between him and Boris Johnson, or that they are battling out some early rounds of a “Who is going to be next Prime Minister” contest, or a “Who is going to go down in history as the greatest Britain after Winston Churchill” contest. (And by ‘personality’ I mean it in the sense of “They are having a personality contest and seeing who can get it highest up the wall”).
  7. If we as a country do vote to stay in, and Cameron manages to negotiate our “special” place at the table and all that, how long will it be before they start tinkering around and trying to get us to accept the Euro as our currency? How long will it be before we have to conform to even more European laws to boost the already daft ones we have to contend with now? Will we be able to look to Europe to help us fight things like the growing use of Sharia law in Great Britain? It seems like the rules all flow out but not none flow back and it worries me that it will get worse if we stay. Or that it will get even more bureaucratic from our own government if we leave.

It’s a big worry and I can see that it is not going to get any easier or any less complicated between now and the end of June. Will we see clashes between people that the Scottish people saw when they were leading up to their Independence Referendum a couple of years ago? Will families and neighbourhoods draw up battle lines with the “ins” on one side and the “outs” on the other? Or do people not care that much anyway and feel we ought to leave it to the politicians to decide? After all, isn’t that what we elected them to do?

No doubt this will rumble on for months yet, but now that the politicians have all decided on who is in which camp I feel it will quieten down until a couple of weeks before the referendum when it will all heat up again.

I would welcome your thoughts if you are a UK citizen and I would welcome your views if you are from elsewhere in the world too. I am interested to see how the rest of the world sees this issue and whether it is not that big a deal to you. I am equally interested to see how big a deal it is for people of the UK too. Are you flummoxed like me, or do you have a strong opinion one way or the other and would like to share it with me? Please leave a comment and let’s see what thoughts are out there.


in or out