Monday, February 16, 2015

Life...the friends we can't leave behind

Since writing my last post about John Cantlie, I have been heartened by the overwhelming support and response to the blog. I have been in contact with a number of his supporters over the last couple of days and one thing is clear to me, we all have been trying to find ways to galvanise and bring together people who feel the same.

I have been looking at ways to bring John's plight to the attention of people with more influence, more followers and more media savvy than I. I have tweeted Piers Morgan and Ellen DeGeneras, both people who have commented on the plight of the hostages. Just one word from either of those people would help tremendously. Mind you anyone with more than my 12 followers on Twitter would help! The author of the petitions set up on and (links below) and another wonderful lady from Italy are regularly tweeting messages of hope for John.

My greatest wish is for people is to engage with the campaigns and like the Facebook page set up by another of John's friends. It is easy to let this go and to move on to easier stories with potentially less bleak outcomes. It is ok to feel that you can't help and that just pressing a button won't do anything but each tweet, share and like does help. It engages and starts conversations that perhaps we wouldn't have or are afraid to have. There is nothing like seeing a man in a position that none of us would ever wish to be in, to bring home what is really going on in the world. I get it. I really do. You can almost suffer a sense of guilt by getting on with your life, trying not to imagination what John is going through.

John went back to Syria with James Foley in November 2012, just a few short months after the first abduction. He returned to Syria in order to make a documentary about what had happened then and about his eventual escape. He was then kidnapped again along with James Foley. For two years his family had kept silent about his kidnapping and his friends and colleagues only found out about what had happened to him in September 2014. The news was devastating and it has been hard to know what, if anything anyone can do to help get him out of his situation because your first instinct is to shout from the roof tops and demand answers. In addition you are aware that his family must be going through the most awful time and you are wary of doing anything that will jeopardise any behind the scenes activity. As the news of his fellow hostages came through, John's situation became harder to ignore.  Now after five months the need to recognise and publicise his plight has become more pressing. As of today that's 815 days as a hostage. 815 days. Think about that. 

In the latest article released which is allegedly written by John, he tells his family and friends to "let it go. Leave it be and get on with your lives all of you." Not a hope in hell John. You don't leave friends behind. 

Please take the time to tweet, like, spread the word and share with people of influence. Thank you. 


Photo John Cantlie/Andrew Campbell

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Life...we need to talk about John

I started this blog as a way to write of my experiences of family life, baking and everything else in between. But I also like to think that I would be brave enough to talk about the things that need talking about. In this case it's time we talked about John. John Cantlie that is.

As some of you may know, John Cantlie, the British hostage being held by ISIS, is a family friend. His latest video implies that it will be his last. We hope not. I have no idea what his immediate family must have been going through over the last two years, and can only speak about how I feel. Each time there is word of a new video, you expect the worst. In between, there is the checking of the Internet every day, with the accompanying feelings of dread or relief that he hasn't appeared.

 Like everyone else we found out last September that he had been taken hostage again and was to feature prominently in a series of ISIS videos. Now I am the first to admit that I don't know John well, I haven't seen him for years and it feels odd to take up a cause for someone who at best is an acquaintance of mine. It could be viewed as a form of voyeurism, jumping on a bandwagon or simply getting attention out of a horrific situation but this isn't. Our experiences as humans are shaped by those around us no matter how far away or brief an encounter. Look how the public reacted to Princess Diana, those who sign petitions each day, give money to help a person they have never met or just saying good morning to the stranger on the street. When you know the person involved it becomes personal on every level. It becomes personal because we question all sorts of things about our own lives, thanking God that it isn't us, what would we do in that situation and in a case like this you can become quite defensive of the person involved.

What makes me feel so helpless is that in this time of a world wide media, with headlines given to Celebrity Big Brother or Kim Kardashian's latest haircut, no one is talking about John. There's very little TV or radio exposure. No one seems prepared to discuss the circumstances in which he finds himself. No one from the government is explaining why they are effectively ignoring him. The facebook site set up by another friend of his has under a 1,000 likes. I can't believe it isn't more. The petition set up has well under 800 signatures calling for government action yet over 100,000  people signed petitions about a convicted rapist returning to football. Where are these people, why does this not appeal to them? Why are we all comfortable sitting at home and not demanding more of our media and politicians? I do understand that no one wants to give air time to ISIS but they can give air time to John.  The internet is full of reports on the video but no reporting anywhere else on the options that might exist to bring him home.

When Alan Henning was murdered I really thought the tide might be turning but that groundswell has all but disappeared. According to all the reports Alan Henning was a great guy, a man taking a chance to help others. His murder and those of the other hostages shocked the world in a way that 9/11 shocked the world. The atrocities of 9/11 led to an invasion that a lot of people were against. A moment in time changed the global landscape forever, destabilising the region that led in part to the formation of ISIS. A million people marched in the UK, including me, and yet the government still went to war, but the principle that people protested is an important one. Why is that not happening here, where are those million people now? What does it take to make a difference? Why are we all bloody oblivious to this? 

It seems to me the reporting landscape has changed. We are bombarded by tv news items on oil prices, tax evasion schemes, dress designs for showbiz awards ceremonies, whilst the evolving circumstances of a man who risked everything to report from some of the most dangerous parts of the world are carefully omitted. When I was a kid, Kate Adie and others like her were heroes to me. I wanted to be a journalist. Instead years later I now write a blog. The point however is this, without people like Kate Adie and John Cantlie we would not know of the atrocities suffered by those around the world. Our eyes would not be opened to the realities of life on Earth in all parts of the world. The scandals wouldn't be uncovered, the wrongs wouldn't be exposed. So if I can through this blog and my other social media posts raise awareness for John then I have done something. All you need to do is to check the links below, like the page and sign the petition. Then spread the word. The ripples will flow out and even a small difference will be big. 

Every day we can make a difference. Start with your families, the people on your street, your friends on Facebook, Twitter and other social media. Say hello to the people you pass, help the person across the street, offer your seat, sign petitions, be courageous about the things you believe in. Keep going. It takes one person and then another to start and keep the ball rolling. We want John to come home. I will keep trying to raise awareness no matter how late it feels because I have to do something. It takes courage to go into a war zone and report. It takes sheer nerve, courage, faith and a certain amount of bloody mindedness to do it again. Let's not leave John behind. It's time we talked about John. 

Photo John Cantlie/Getty Images/

Friday, February 6, 2015

Family...Colour Blind

I want to talk about colour and more specifically being colour blind but not the eye condition. I was thinking a couple of weeks ago about the colour pink. Because Youngest One loves it especially Disney pink and I have been trying to avoid it. The irony is that in its deepest hues this is the colour I love best. I particularly love fuchsia pink and any dark shade of pink after that. Purple is a favourite especially as my birthstone is amethyst which was requested as part of my engagement ring. That amazing shade of red that is on those heels, again thanks to my lovely husband I have a pair of those. The rich yellow that signifies gorgeous butter and a lovely 50's style dress I have. Green grass colour followed by its vivid cousin bright luminescent green. Cobalt blue, the colour of the sea and a particularly lovely coat I have. Can you see where I am going yet?

Black was my go to colour for years including at weddings and I love its simplicity. I was a Goth for a while, best phase ever, but I wasn't like other goth girls. I didn't do pointy shoes, lacy dresses a la Stevie Nicks in her late Fleetwood Mac stage - we are talking late 80's/early 90's here. I did wear blood red lipstick, still a favourite and occasionally crimp and back comb my hair. I even had boyfriends who used to come to our house armed with crimpers and gin and tonic but that's another story. I wore doc marten boots, chains around them, fingerless gloves with more chains, always trousers and tops in dark hues of black, purple, red. I had an amazing satin coat that had gold striped lining and bright rainbow coloured glasses. This was my Dad's favourite phase of my late teenage years. I had my hair in all colours too. 

Obviously time marched on and the phases changed, there was the floral ironic Smiths phase after they had split up and Morrissey releasing his first debut album. The girl in Every Day is Like Sunday could have been me! The athletic California phase with button fly jeans and high tops. The hippy phase with nefarious goings on at Glastonbry Tor. The working in Libertys phase coincided with Mature Student phase at 21. Then proper work phase. This often involved trying to work out what to wear whilst looking different and barely succeeding. I was quite subversive by having piercings in odd places - which doesn't seem so subversive now. I was desperate to break out but in the staid business world I worked in that wasn't the done thing. I got into burlesque at this time and have a few corsets to prove it. The phases that kept coming back; Surfer Girl, Goth, Snowboard Lady and what I like to call the Magpie phase. Then came the Stay at Home Wiping phase which involved not much sartorial splendour. I am still in this phase though I am re-emerging hence the pink hair. I'll mix colours or not. I'll wear three different colours with an additional colour in my hat. I want purple hair next and I'll  probably get shit for it. The funny looks, the fake "love your hair", "aren't you adventurous". This long lesson in my colour choices leads me to this. 

I am teaching my kids the meaning of being colour blind and not being a sheep where you can. Obviously the one we want to teach them is to be colour blind towards others, people are people no matter creed, colour, sexuality and all manner of life choices. When we had Oldest One I couldn't believe that clothing and shoe choices for boys were limited to blue, blue, blue, khaki, more blue and occasionally red. I adored H&M for their funky brightly coloured kids clothes and looked out for bold colours. I still can't stand the blandness of boys shoes and clothes. Where were the bright boots and shoes for them? Similarly since having had Youngest One the huge range of pink tones and cream - ghastly colour for kids clothes - makes me shudder. I sought out the brights, stayed away from the branded clothes, kept some of Oldest Ones clothes and dressed her in them. She rocks stompy doc marten boots, leggings, skirt, frozen tshirt and multi coloured tops just as Oldest One rocks stompy boots, long shorts, bright tops and hoodies. Both of my kids love colour, Youngest One tells everyone I have pink hair, Oldest One often chooses my hair colour!

I am acutely aware of the difference in toy stores of boys and girls segregated toys and wish that manufacturers would sort this out. I don't like the new girls lego not because it's disney etc but because I don't like the figures they use, why change the original? Why make bows and arrows in pink when in the woods you'd be picked off quicker than a deer as there'd be no hiding you. I want my kids to be who they are even if I don't like the disney princess pink or yucky blue. Because this isn't about me. Oldest One has been out in gold sequins and a Spider-Man mask. The clearly odd looks from adults riled me until we walked past a group of teenage skateboarders. I was ready to defend at all costs. Then they turned round en masse and said "Wow look, Spider-Man in sequins. Cool." I could have kissed them all. So here comes the crux of all this. 

Forgetful parent that I am, I kept forgetting to buy new swimming goggles. Today I finally rushed to that well known orange supermarket who found me the only pair of googles for about £2. Speedo ones too. The joy. They are bright yellow and purple. "Bollocks to it, they'll do" I thought even though I had a slight doubt mostly because I wasn't sure if he'd like the colours.

Swimming seems to go fine. Goggle success. Home time looms. Oldest One in a foul mood. He's had a shite day. Finally he tells me that some kids in his class have been calling him names because of the goggles. "You're a girl", "those goggles belong to girls", "you look like a girl" blah blah blah. He was feeling awful and really upset as these were fricking cool goggles. Guess who this name calling came from? Girls that's who. Bloody bitchy girls. It could have so easily been boys that did this which sadly I would have expected but girls! Really? On top of all this Oldest One has been coming home from school lately saying such and such is "too girlish" and "only boys can do that" so that I have had to remind him that his mum and sister are girls and there is nothing that we can't do or wear or be. I was fuming when I heard about this crap from his class mates. Sure kids can be mean and that sucks. But so young? And about colour too?

Since when did colour really belong to just one sex? What about the colour festivals across the world?What about artists who use all manner of colour? The snowboarders, surfers and skateboarders who wear lots of colour, his mum who has pink hair? Rainbows? The ocean? The countryside? Birds? Those shoes? Books? Shall I go on? Super heroes and Disney films are full of colour. The technicolor wonder if the Wizaed of Oz........Lets stop with this colour assignment to the sexes and let our kids love colour in all its shades.  As parents we need to help them see that boys and girls can be anything they want to be and colour is amazing. I have been as guilty as the next parent in my quest for righteous colour love in ignoring the colours they love. I have been colour-ist. This stops now. In our house any colour goes. 

As the responsible parent I am (!) we went over a few answers he could give in the future to the mean kids which mainly amounted to Fuck Off in 6 year old language and went on in our merry colourful way. My son loves his goggles and they are here to stay. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Love...New Year

So here we are. New Year, new times, new starts, roller coasters and a whole set of days to get things right and wrong. 

Today I have taken my second and last child to start her first day at preschool. She and I were both ready for this. She was ready at least six months ago, me probably longer. 

Over the last year especially, I have become aware of something quite life changing. And it's this. I don't much like this full time parenting malarkey. In fact it makes me downright miserable. And in turn this make the family miserable. I know there are other factors but think about it. Six and half years of wiping in all forms, six and a half years of broken sleep, six and half years of being the entertainment officer, the buggy pusher, the hug maker, the kitchen porter, the chef, the launderer, the happy maker, the potty trainer and most of all of those jobs involve wiping. I'm not a stay at home mum, I'm a stay at home wiper. 

This has taken a toll on the way I see things. I am to my kids Mummy, Mama, Hated One, Boring One and recently Ursula the Sea Witch and Ms Trunchball rolled into one. I get angry really quickly, I am bored of endless frustrating games and would rather disappear into the kitchen or to the Internet than hear another "she's looking at me" or "he's hurting me" or the telling tales. What I have discovered about being a mother is that some parts I am rather good at, the reading, the baking, the organising, the puddle jumping and the wiping of course. But I lack in others as all parents do. I need something else and so do they. They need their Mum to be happy and not lost any more. I need a job. I am envious of those parents who have that down as best they can. It wasn't meant to be like this. I always thought I would go back to work pretty quickly but a premature baby put paid to that. I get there are endless sacrifices whether you work or not and that goes with complete anarchy sometimes but I crave doing things differently. I want to be something else other than someone's mum, the kids plus one! I didn't realise how important all of this was till my sanity broke. So this year apart from the usual new year challenges I have a few really important ones. Firstly find a job, secondly spend at least 5 mins per day with each child utterly focused on them as that has disappeared and thirdly invest in all of my relationships. Everything else is gravy  

So that is why I am breaking all the rules and saying I don't much like being a stay at home mum anymore, I will have pink hair and bring on all those challenges that take me out of all of our comfort zones.