early summer’s morning

insomnia can lead to some beautiful things….


what could we possibly do?

I shouldn’t have to state this proviso at the start of this blog but society has it’s knickers in such a twist that I feel I have to.
What happened in Manchester was terrible…sickeningly terrible and it just shouldn’t have happened…. but it did.
As a fellow human being…that kinda shouldn’t need to be said unless we’re at a stage where anyone who doesn’t say it is immediately on the side of ‘the terrorists’….
Whats that?
We ARE at that stage…oh yeah…I forgot.

I honestly don’t understand the emotional tsunami that has swept the country…a big wave with a blow up Princess Diana riding the crest. Once I was sure none of my Northern rellies or friends were involved (well…when I say make sure…I saw them posting on facebook so I presumed they weren’t)…. and seeing as the closest I’ve ever been to central Manchester was a trip to the theatre once… I decided that I’d leave the grieving to those closer to the event and those who are suffering as a direct result.

On a scale of empathy and sympathy I’ll place Manchester a bit above the 68 children who as result of a suicide bomb in Syria last month but that’s just a natural reaction based on geography. But also in my thoughts is the suicide bomber himself (… and his family…and their community). What makes a young man…because that’s what he was…not a monster…a young man… what makes a young man do a horrendous thing like this not just to other people – but to himself?

Right…moving along… which is what most people are doing by now…except politicians who for some reason unlike policemen, nurses, doctors, teachers, mechanics, sales assistants etc etc are taking a little holiday from campaigning out of respect – which is nonsensical…. it’s almost as if they are admitting that it’s politics that brought about the event….
oh…. yes…they kinda did.

Anyway perhaps a more enlightened and sensible reaction from our government would be ‘to do something about it’…I know…me and my strange ideas eh?

I grew up in the days of the IRA bombing the fuck out of places – there were all sorts of names the IRA were called but I’m not sure ‘terrorist’ was bandied around like it is now. Living in Blackpool and having party conferences in town the risk felt very real, bomb scares in shops and an Irish friend at college being arrested out on a photography brief from college because he had the wrong accent and a camera…and of course my Auntie who reported an IRA cell working in the garage across the road.
My ex- narrowly missed the Birmingham bomb…a choice of two pubs and luckily she chose the right one for a birthday drink.

We lived through it…we coped… we got over it and without the internet it didn’t become a hysterical grief-fest of ‘self important disaster wanking’ (thanks De for that lovely turn of phrase).

But we are where we are as opposed to where we were – so – as the title above says… what can we possibly do?

Now, again, call me a radical thinker (or call me a heartless terrorist sympathiser – I don’t much care which) but I was thinking this morning that all those radicalised Irish Catholics (funded by American sympathisers) don’t seem to want to bomb us any more… so let’s think…. what’s changed?

Oh yes… a peace process happened.

Everyone sat down over a cup of tea, a few beers, a plate of bourbon biscuits and Mo Mowlan’s wig and sorted things out.
Of course it wasn’t ‘quite’ that simple…but that’s the gist – you have to understand what makes young men (and it does tend to be young men in the main) go out and do this shit – you have to talk to them (or at least their representatives)…. you have to realise why they’re pissed off enough to kill people and you have to somehow come to an understanding of each other.

I suspect Jeremy Corbyn has more of a grasp of why the IRA doesn’t bomb us nowadays than Theresa May does – and despite what The Sun says…I think that understanding is a good thing.

Whereas Theresa May just knows how to posture and threaten to hit things with a big stick… and politics in the Middle East are beyond threats… we are already part of hitting out almost randomly with a big stick and until that stops… until we change foreign policy we are going to keep getting young men in this country who feel so alienated from the people they live amidst that they blow themselves up and take many, many other people with them.

It’s a tangled political web….. but you don’t start to unravel it and begin a peace process by continuing to kill people or by selling arms to other people who kill people.

‘real women’

I know I’m a long way behind the curve and I tend to stay out of the trans politics melee nowadays – especially when it comes to rabid feminazis and their policing of gender purity… but this article from 2013 by Brooke Magnanti has been attempting to make it to the surface of my strangely retentive brain and this morning it made it.

It is, shamefully, just as relevant today as it was 4 years ago…

Want to be a woman? You’re in

Here’s an idea, not mine, and not a new one. If you want to be a woman, you’re in. If you feel or know you are a woman even if the majority of the world claims you’re not, you’re in. Born with the reproductive organs of a woman? You’re a woman. Trans women, who struggle for the right to be recognised and fight against some of the highest instances of violence, depression and suicide in the world? Are women no less “real” than me. As John le Carré so astutely put it in Smiley’s People: “Society is an association of minorities.”

The concept of woman is not narrow and fragile, it is robust and will take all comers. Its borders do not need policing. It does not threaten me, lessen me, or lessen anyone’s womanhood, to acknowledge other women and to hear their lived experience. Let’s stop this “real women” rubbish before it lives to poison yet another generation of writers and journalists – because that way of thinking is very much last century.

Education at Breaking Point

I live in Cambridgeshire and at the moment we are 138th out of 152 local authorities when it comes to the amount of money schools receive per child for education.

Last week I received a letter from my son’s headteacher – as did pretty much every parent with a child in secondary education in our area – he is, as a professional educator, telling the parents of the children in his care that the school is almost at breaking point. That a point is coming where staff hours will be lost, class sizes will rise and quality educational and pastoral experience will be lost. The teaching unions are warning that whole subjects could be lost in some schools.

Our local MP Lucy Frazer has been making all the right noises in all the right places about the lack of funding in Cambridgeshire. She’s very good at making all the right noises about local issues but unfortunately she then returns to her home and the House in London and carries on voting for Austerity with her government.

There is, we are told, help at hand from the government regarding school funding (currently at consultation stage)… the figures are to be re-jigged and the system made fairer. Lucy trumpets that her constituency will receive over 1 million pounds in extra funding. But costs for schools are still on the rise and the historic inequalities in the funding system are not properly addressed in the consultation. The inequalities in funding will be locked into place.

Should the consultation get through into law things will get worse in Cambridgeshire ….not better.

If you want to check out the predictions of what will happen at your child’s school with the new funding formula you can do so here.

My son’s school looks set to lose over £400 per student and as many as 9 teachers….bear in mind this is in an area already near the bottom of the funding table and which is struggling from years of coping on low levels of funding. In 2014 Cambridgeshire received £3,950 per pupil compared, for example, to Nottingham (a skip and a jump away) with the highest per pupil amount outside of the capital, receiving £5,309.

I’ve filled in a consultation response and I was very glad our local schools gave some guidance as it’s complicated stuff if you’re not involved in some way in school finance. If you can…. fill one in. Use the responses your local school offers if you need to because every response received counts.

But I don’t hold out much hope – it’s not like the Tories have much of a record of real evidence based policy – but responding to a consultation with weighted questions is the best chance we are going to get.

It certainly sounds like my MP will be voting in favour of the new funding formulae… but I don’t consider that Lucy Frazer has much concept at all about the state education system, other than visiting the occasional school for an afternoon photo-call and to make the right noises. Nor will she have much concept of what educating our children costs in real terms…. oh…she knows what educating ‘her’ children costs – she and her husband appear to pay out £10K more than the average annual household income to educate their 2 children in a fee paying London school….but I’m not sure that’s really comparable experience.


Oh Ronald Coyne….

My first response to this story about a toff at Cambridge University burning £20 in front of a homeless man was ‘what a knob’…. and as the story has gone from local paper to national media I’ve watched the hate blossom and I genuinely feel a bit sorry for the lad.

It helps that instead of just reading a headline post on Facebook I’ve read around… places like the Mail and Scottish Sun don’t have the sort of political bent that I approve of but what they are very good at (having pots of money) is padding out stories with details – one then just has to decide how much of the detail is truth.

It seems this ‘toff’ comes from Livingston… now as far as I know that’s not the most salubrious bit Scotland and I’m not sure it even has a really posh bit – his dad is an engineer with his own business but he certainly doesn’t come across as being a massively wealthy CEO or landed gentry and his mum… Sandra (46) is appalled about his behaviour and worried about him.

She says he rang home racked with remorse and they haven’t heard from him since – his mum and dad are worried.

My reading of the situation (and I know one of my ‘faults’ is to be overly generous about people) is that he’s a bright lad…very bright. He played chess quite seriously at school and probably won a scholarship to a very good fee paying place … he applied for Cambridge in priority to his local Edinburgh to read Law at Uni.

He and his family know its a privilege and a great achievement for him to be there.

Okay… he’s 18 and thinks right wing politics are the way to go… I can forgive him that.

He’s also 18 and in his first year at Uni which a large percentage of students spend pissed or recovering from being pissed.

He’s also not posh AND he’s Scottish so may well be having a wee bit of trouble fitting in at Cambridge University…what he may well one day become isn’t what he is yet… he’s just an 18 yr old lad who did something very, very stupid on a night out… as I said… a bit of a knob.

His mum claims in his remorse that he went and did a food run for the homeless in Cambridge a couple of nights later… and he did some volunteering with the homeless at whilst at school…. now I’m pushing my hypothetical situation here… but maybe in trying to fit in with the ‘real’ chinless toffs that Cambridge has bucketloads of…. maybe he was egged on to do this….and in my books if he did what his mum says if he feels remorse and tried to make good …for me he’s paid his dues.

Who knows.

What I do know is that pouring the depths of vitriol out towards him… the vitriol we usually reserve for Tory Ministers head fucking pigs and eating off gold plates whist the poor burn…isn’t doing any good and may be doing him a good deal of harm.

Yes he’s a bit of a knob and living near Cambridge I know there’s a homeless problem and they are considered to make the city look untidy and poor and that doesn’t sit well with it’s world renowned image and is bad for tourism… in fact once upon a time the City Council had a habit of buying one way tickets to Norwich to rid it’s streets of untidy rough sleepers (I kid ye not).

But folks…. turn your vitriol where it’s needed most…. on a government full of the sort of people you ‘think’ this lad is… It’s government policy that creates homelessness AND that keeps Cambridge as a place where people like Ronald Coyne will always have to work hard to try to fit in.

Turn fire on the real elitist toffs…. not those who aspire to be so.