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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sweet little girl

So I'm lying in the bath this morning when Amaia appears in the doorway:

Amaia: What's your favourite animal, mum?
I think it through and assume she wants the answer 'hamster' given we have one. 

Me: Hamsters
Amaia: That's my favourite too... but I have two other favourite animals too!
Me: Yeah?
Amaia: I like chickens.
Me: Really?
Amaia: Yeah, chickens lay eggs and I like eggs, so I like chickens.
Me: Oh
Amaia: And I like pigs a lot too. Because pigs lay bacon!

Gathering strength, post Indyref #1

I've taken myself by surprise this morning...

I was asleep, or rather dozing at 5am when Thomas came in from counting votes in East Renfrewshire in the early hours of the 19th. He didn't waken me. I knew instantly we must have lost. I lay in bed dazed. I don't know why it surprised me given we'd been the subjects of much hate and lies in every part of the press every day for more than two years, but I am an optimist, and I had been in George Square the night before where optimism was buzzing.

I got up to do the school run. The little ones asked the result. Charlotte and Marcel had been following it through the night on social media, so knew already. Léon's face crumpled over his cereal bowl and he started to wail: How can people choose bombs over us kids? he sobbed. Anna, tears leaving her eyes in a perpendicular trajectory, shrieked: How can I be expected to pay for uni if they bring in tuition fees? Quite clued up for a six year old, really! I tried smiling optimism, kind of like you do if you're telling your kids someone died, or you're divorcing their father. They weren't fully convinced but went with it for the duration of breakfast, at least. Léon then claimed he felt too ill to go to school, but I felt too deflated to deal with him, so told him school was on.

I drove the biggies to high school and dropped them at the gate, no issue there. I drove the little ones to primary and dropped them at the gate too. I had to say hi to the janitor who was on the patrol. That was harder. I've known him 12 years. I barely nodded and legged it back to the car. I drove Amaia to nursery. I had to sit in the car and compose myself for a full five minutes before I went in. I live in a wealthy 'no-leaning' area so most parents were greeting each other in a happy enough manner. I was concentrating on getting in, walking to the correct room, getting Amaia's shoes and jacket changed and putting on her badge, signing her in and saying hello to her teacher and the head of her room without bursting into hysterical tears and falling to the ground in a heap. I walked through smiling little four year old faces and all I could think was how close they had got to a rosy future and how it had been stolen from them. I wanted to hug each individual child and apologize for the failings of the adults around them. I got back out and sat crying in the car, unable to move off because I couldn't see to drive.

On my way back the petrol light came on in the car. I would need petrol to go back to nursery for pickup. I considered it. I realized I could not physically bring myself to buy petrol because firstly I'd need to greet the garage till attendant without crying and secondly I would need to walk past the stand of thirty newspapers lying some more and gloating at me from the stand. I could not bear to watch TV or read newspapers to see their spin on the whole thing. I couldn't even look at facebook. I was actually physically incapable of doing so. I opted to drive my people carrier for the rest of the day despite its diesel-guzzling 2.7 litre engine. And at 3pm, I sent Charlotte to pick up the kids from primary because I knew I couldn't stand there at the gate without sobbing my heart out and quite honestly making a spectacle of myself.

I went home after nursery at 9. I went back under my duvet and I wept like a baby. Fortunately I had no work that day - the advantages of freelancing! I didn't eat. I didn't drink. I lay in bed and cried all day. And I tried to work out how to move away. I went through all the problems of where I could go that all my kids speak the language (the biggies are French-speaking, the littlies Danish.) Marcel is applying to uni here - I didn't want to live in a different country from him. I didn't see how I could go anywhere till after Lots finishes school as she's already in third year at high school but by then I would have two here and potentially children as old as twelve having to pick up schooling in another language... and that's without even considering my poor mum who lives alone, round the corner. I felt utterly trapped.

 The last time I felt like that was nine years ago. Thomas and I were best friends and had been for many years. I had begun to realize I was in love with him but I was married, albeit very unhappily, to someone else. I wasn't sure if he was aware of my feelings towards him and he had never told me either if he saw me as anything more than his best friend. Somehow we got into a conversation about the state of my marriage and his lack of partner and it all came out. His reaction towards me was fine that day but the next he popped up on MSN and told me that he would never find a partner if I continued to be his best friend because he couldn't see past me and he told me I should try to fix my marriage. He said he had decided he could no longer be my friend and that he intended never to speak to me again. It was a revealing conversation as it gave me the jolt I needed to realize I had to leave my husband but from the day he told me we could no longer be friends to the day we decided to talk about an alternative to his proposed plan (this was a period of nearly a month) I felt the way I did yesterday. My life had been snatched away from me. It had become meaningless. So having felt this way once before I fully expected to wake up feeling the same today. I even optimistically remembered I'd lost 10kg in the month Thomas had stopped being my friend and was already mentally clothes shopping two sizes smaller for the end of October!

So I woke up this morning and I was no longer crying. My eyes were dry and I jumped out of bed. Today I woke up with a 'let me at them' attitude that took me completely by surprise. Instead of giving up, I'm already angry enough now to ask myself what more I can do next time round. It was too good a movement to die. And my kids deserve the future I'd got close enough to touch. Too many lies and broken promises marred it this time round and we now know we need to find an road into the media. So I sat on Facebook and Twitter regrouping with the people who had inspired me. I sought out friends of friends I had met and been inspired by and I decided I didn't need heavy baggage so I also decided to unfriend those who bring me down and stress me out and one or two others who I actually enjoy talking to but who had mentioned they no longer wanted to see indyref posts. I knew I couldn't adhere to that and the cause was more important to me! I was amazed to see National Collective, Wings, Ginger Dug, the Common Weal people and all the others had woken up in the same state. We had managed to galvanize 45% of the national vote despite being demonized and marginalized, despite being lied about and vilified. In a single day the SNP, the Greens and the SSP have added a third new members. Despite never having been a member of a political party, I suddenly find myself googling join-up pages. If that's what it takes, I'll work on it from the inside! With a media presence we'll manage it next time round.

As I watched the Orange Order and the BNPites fill George (Independence) Square with hatred just 24 hours after the photo above, full of hope for our babies' futures was taken, I vowed that I will fight this cause until my dying breath or until we achieve it. 54% of those under 65 voted for this. The over 65s are the ones who had no real access to the truth as they read only newspapers and watched the TV news. They were lied to about pensions and threatened about benefits so we can hardly blame them. We need to find a way to adapt to their needs so they get the same information as we did. Failing that it should be possible in my lifetime and if it isn't at least no one will say I didn't try.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Time for pragmatism

I have a million reasons I am voting Yes tomorrow that you can find if you got through this blog or my husband's... hope, prosperity, democracy, tuition fees, trident, NHS, my kids having an opportunity to work in Scotland, elitism, social justice etc etc the list is endless. I have absolutely no fear - the media has been so OTT, it has become irrelevant. But if you're still on the fence maybe a simple pragmatic calculation should be made:

There are 4 possible outcomes, as I see it.

  1. A huge win for No
  2. A tiny win for No
  3. A huge win for Yes
  4. A tiny win for Yes
Let's take each one. One isn't going to happen. It was Westminster's intention at the outset - to put the question to bed for a generation but they hadn't counted on people power or the charisma of hope.We're neck and neck in the polls and people are beyond scunnered. If they've decided they've got the balls, few will bottle in after the last week's threats and panicked empty promises. 

Three is also unlikely. It could have happened but every newspaper (except the Sunday Herald) has printed exaggerated accounts of Armageddon for two years now, lying through their teeth about our wonderful peaceful, intellectual renaissance, branding us Cybernats from hell, so three is not going to happen. 

So two and four are most likely. 

Four will cause a wee market wobble. If Yes wins say 51/49 markets won't be happy but there's no going back so once the negotiating teams are established, things will stabilize. 

That leaves two. Say No win 51/49. Nothing will be put to bed. Those who voted no because of the offer of powers will quickly become angry when they are voted down by backbenchers - remember the Libdem pledge on tuition fees? I voted for that one - ha! Those who believed the newspapers will also feel robbed. The tiny percentage of people who just voted no because of fear will quickly become disenchanted and start to look into joining the Independence movement, which will not be going away. Too many of us have invested too much in this and will feel cheated. That will lead to claims for a new referendum, next year, in ten years, in twenty. (Look at the history of Quebec). Over and over again. It will not be put to bed with a 51/49 win for No so the markets will wobble and keep wobbling. Some companies will pull out of Scotland and the UK while they have the chance so they aren't mired in the instability for decades. 

So basically, pragmatically the only bearable outcome from this is actually number four. Think of that if you're on the fence.

Still undecided?

May I suggest you read these two posts by my husband:

A letter from a No future
A letter from a Yes future

A sweet misundrstanding

As the kids were getting dressed for school this morning, Thomas was preparing breakfast for me. The conversation went like this:

Me: What are you making?
Thomas: Idlis
Me: ok
Thomas: I've found the mango chutney, have you seen the idli mix anywhere?
Léon (rather shocked): You're having 'Tiddly winks' for breakfast?!!!


A feel for how things really are

Every time I open a newspaper, turn on the TV or radio or go on the Internet I hear how we on the Yes side are an aggressive mob who go about intimidating all the poor No voters who are afraid to leave their homes. Did it ever occur to anyone that when 100% of the mainstream media is on the No side, they are only likely to report misdemeanours on the Yes side? It would be nice to see the truth in black and white for a change. That truth as far as I have encountered it is that if you walk about in a Yes badge or drive about in a car with a Yes sticker someone will shout abuse at you occasionally but for the most part you simply get a sour look as if you smell bad. The same is true presumably of the other side. So we're talking about 99% good tolerant-natured people on both sides and 1% idiots also on BOTH sides. Sadly the 'no' baddies don't exist, of course, because they don't get mentioned in the media.

Anyway I saw this video from George square yesterday and I thought I'd share it because it feels in nature to be exactly the same as all the rallies I have attended - for instance the BBC bias one that I keep reading was 'terrifyingly aggressive'. Maybe you could take five minutes out and watch it, if you'd like to decide on the truth using your own eyes, for once? Does this feel like an aggressive mob, or does it simply feel like a crowd of people full of hope enjoying a sing-song?

Monday, September 15, 2014

A reply to the Times

The Times newspaper decided to write an article today covering yesterday's BBC bias demo using a photo of my three youngest children to illustrate it. So I feel, given they didn't ask me my permission to use my kids in their 'article', I feel I am quite justified in rewriting their article from my point of view. I'll add a photo of it so you don't need to waste your money on their paywall. Let's take in paragraph by paragraph.

Firstly, I have to say I think there's a slight exaggeration in the title. Yes, there were a number of people outside the office but I hardly call a few thousand people singing and giving talks for approximately two hours 'under siege'. Don't worry, no one starved to death waiting for supplies to get in, no large wooden horses were used and we would have allowed them to leave the building at the end of their shift, had anyone come out, which they didn't.

Now, moving on to the article itself. Anger didn't boil anywhere. People are indeed frustrated with the BBC (and the rest of the media) but there was definitely no boiling of anger. People met up at George square and walked to the BBC. They sang Flower of Scotland and Caledonia. They sang 'we're all voting Yes' to the tune of 'She'll be coming round the mountain when she comes'. We cheered the words 'Yes', and 'Scotland' but mostly we walked fairly quietly along the route being cheered and tooted at by passing cars with saltires and Yes stickers. We were clapped and cheered back and enjoyed the positive atmosphere that has been everywhere in Glasgow these last few sunny weekends while we await our fate full of hope and anticipation, positively buzzing with excitement.

The second paragraph tells me the police are scrutinizing the protest, juxtaposing this with a mention of violence, hinting the protest was violent. The protest, as you can see from my many, many photos consisted of many women, small children, babies, people in wheelchairs etc. I didn't photoshop all 125 of them in the past 24 hours, I have better things to do with my time! Ironically, I even mentioned to my husband after the event yesterday, (he'd been away on a different Yes mission) that in all the protest marches I've ever been on (and there were a good number when I was a student and recently for the Indy movement) that I had never, ever seen the police so cheerful, relaxed and joking on a march. They beamed at us and chatted away in a way I have never experienced on a march in 30 years. But the Times thinks all us mums, kids and couples are in need of scrutinizing!

The anti-BBC slogans in paragraph 3 were the ever so sinister and terrifying 'BBC Shame on you!' and 'You can shove you TV licence up your arse!' (Again to the coming round the mountain tune.) I looked round as they sang that one. It was started by a bloke with a deep voice, then it was taken up by the teenagers, giggling at their own naughtiness and finally on the fourth or fifth chorus I saw a wee old granny standing alone on my left looking like it was the most daring thing she had ever done, joining in and blushing slightly. I fell about laughing, and certainly didn't feel intimidated! It was done in good, childish humour. We did shout 'Booooo' about three times, maybe that's what scared then? Or perhaps when we sang 'Where's your cameras BBC?' after sitting there for an hour and not being reported, only to then be told they'd reported 350 of us were outside! (Yeah, and the rest! I thought they were under siege!?) Sounds well worth police scrutiny, if you ask me.

As for Nick Robinson... there was a banner going round but even if the BBC 'believe[s] that [their] coverage of the referendum has been fair and impartial' we are all at liberty to make our own decision on that, watching the Youtube clip. I actually made an official complaint about this item to the BBC, something I have only done three times in all my years of BBC watching. And it isn't an isolated slip.

And then we come to the inevitable paragraph... as always we start on 'Alex Salmond and his fellow Nationalists'. Are they ever going to change that boring, boring tune? No, of course not, because by pretending that only Alex and Nationalists are interested in this cause, you can demonize and marginalize it. But doing some scrutinizing of my own, I can honestly say I didn't see a single SNP-related banner (check all 125 photos, taken randomly in all directions). There was a CND presence, especially at George square and some Gaza protesters, there were many simple Yes banners, homemade banners, Socialist ones and Radical Independence ones. I saw a few rainbow LGBT ones. I saw a few Green ones. Women for Indy were there too. I saw jokey ones and ones full of hope but nothing connecting anyone to Alex or the SNP.

It's easy to dismiss us as 'the SNP'. I often meet that opinion when I say I'm YES. 'Here comes the Nat', they say, without even ascertaining whether or not I have indeed ever voted SNP in my life. Many of us have simply come to the conclusion that Independence is necessary with no party affiliation. We've read the hard facts, we like the idea of democracy and the ability to vote for change and have your vote count, not just this once but forever more. I am 46 years old. I have never once voted in an election where my vote changed the outcome. I am not a member of the SNP or any other party and never have been. I will vote at every election after having read the party manifestos on offer, not based on an idea that I 'always' vote one party or another. Sorry, if that doesn't fit in with the stereotype you want, but unlike patronizing BT lady, I do have time to sit down and spend more than 2 minutes on my political decisions, or rather I make time, because they matter and that is despite having five kids and a business to run.

'If they think you are against them they go on the attack'. No one was on the attack. Look at the photo above you used to illustrate it - an 8, 6 and 4 year old holding balloons!!!! What were they going to do? Bite someone's ankle? Balloons and flags were par for the course for the whole afternoon.

There were many, many children and young teenagers all sitting happily around. This was a singing, cheerful, family day out!

'...the Nationalists want a Salmond Broadcasting Service'. How dare he? No one mentioned Salmond. We don't want Nationalist propaganda on the TV because we are a movement, not a party. From Labour for Indy through Greens and everyone else, we want impartiality. Complaining about the issues I linked to above doesn't mean we want Alex Salmond or any other political person setting the TV schedule. Alex is quite frankly irrelevant to most of us. We want Independence so we can vote for our own futures not just during Alex's lifetime but for generations to come. It is simple to lump us all in together, but it's lies and you know it, Mr Ian Davidson. I actually, ironically, saw more Labour for Indy people yesterday than people affiliated to the SNP. It's underhand and lazy to assume to opposite.

On to the next paragraph I am told tempers were fraying yesterday. If they were, they weren't fraying at Pacific Quay. Would I have taken my babies to a place where people felt in any way intimidated? Look at the photos above! Babies on shoulders, in papooses and in buggies! And they are content-looking babies. Does the baby in the papoose above, look in any way distressed? Do my kids?

As for the rest of the article. I have no idea what the police have or have not been told to do after Thursday so I won't comment. But all in all this article does not in any way represent the march and rally I attended with four of my kids and my old friend from uni yesterday afternoon. Thanks, once again, to the mainstream media for letting us down. The description I put on my demo photos as I uploaded them to flickr before I saw your article sums things up quite nicely: One thing's for sure - win or lose on Thurs - the mainstream media will not be trusted by half the population ever again - not good.


I worry about accountability: I heard one of Léon's friends (8) say yesterday 'I don't believe I'll have to pay for uni when I'm bigger and I don't believe that we pay a fortune for nuclear bombs at the moment, like you say Léon, because if those two things were true, my mum and dad wouldn't be voting for them'. It'll be interesting to hear what those neighbours have to say in 8 years time when that child reaches uni age. Especially in the context of this article by someone from Quebec. This paragraph really resonated with me: "Scotland is not Quebec. The UK is not Canada, and Europe is not North America. But believe me, if there’s one thing you don’t want to have to tell your grandchildren 34 years from now, it’s that you thought you were protecting them when you decided to make them experience the next era’s world as spectators, not players."

Thursday, September 11, 2014

What I'll say to my kids

Whether we win or lose next week I will be proud to tell my kids and theirs that I did not stand shoulder to shoulder with the Tory elite - the millionaires who auctioned off the NHS while millions queued at food banks in one of the richest countries in the world. I rejected the call to stand with UKIP, the BNP, the Orange lodge and Britain First, the xenophobes and racists who want my foreign husband ejected from the country his kids were born in. I stayed away from the insipid Libdems who lost their souls the day the reneged on student fees and Labour who call them socialists while calling free tuition and medical care 'a something for nothing' culture. I will have tried to rise above the BBC and its lies and manipulation and I will have ignored the gutter press for the piece of toilet paper it is.

I will have stood shoulder to shoulder with those who have been striving for social justice, for a future where young people can learn without taking on loans that will mar their entire lives, where women with degrees can get a job because childcare isn't 70% of their salary. I will have prioritised that childcare over paying for a 1980s style nuclear deterrent in my own back garden, that is so out of sync with the world I live in today. Millions are spent of WMDs while millions queue at food banks. I will have stood with those who have fought for the sick, and the disabled. I want my children to grow up knowing that they will only have to leave their country of birth if they choose to, rather than growing up with that as an inevitability if they want to succeed in their careers. It shouldn't be like that. I don't want to have to be a once-a-year granny one day, just because there were no graduate jobs in this country for my kids. I will have been part of one of the most vibrant, inclusive, intellectual and inspirational movements in Scottish history that will live on whatever the outcome.

I have asked myself one question from the outset: Is this really the best my country can be? And I have concluded it is very far from that. 

I will have taken Mandela's advice to prioritise my hopes over my fears and I will be happy to look at myself in the mirror.

Old pink chuggies

I was looking through Flickr today for a photo of the new pink Fiat 500 to show Anna when I came across these original Fiat 500s in pink. I want one!

Such a sweet little boy

Léon has been writing his birthday wishlist. He turns 9 in 18 days. My other two kids were both quite mature and wordlywise at 9. They both remembered my divorce so had to grow up a bit quicker. They'd also grown up during a boom, when I had been much better off. Léon doesn't remember the divorce or the boom times and it makes me feel quite privileged when I see he is still quite a little boy, really, and a thoughtful one, at that.

What a list! It melts my heart to see that in this age of technology, he puts 'granny hug', 'mummy and daddy hug' on as he can see they are as precious as to him as the material things most children his age have become accustomed to. He still wants cuddly toys to sleep with, and though he craves the usual PS3 type nonsense, as they all do, they are minor points on his horizon. I do like the wee chancer in him too... I almost didn't notice he'd squeezed on 'a holiday to Spain!' hahahaha

The last week before my divorce... and Scotland's?

I'm divorced. You probably know that! So I've been through that last week of a relationship before. And like this one, it was a fairly big step, ending that relationship. We'd met when I was 17 and he was nearly 22 and at the point I walked out we were 38 and 43. We didn't remember a time before but things had been going wrong for a while, our paths diverging. I still felt young and vibrant, he had become middle-aged, conservative (with a small c) and jaded. He constantly wanted me to 'act my age' - that meant no blogging (and here I am still doing it eight years on - what a rebel!), no Flickr, no tweeting, you name it. I was meant to work fulltime, then come home, and do everything at home and everything with the kids. I was actually meant to be Mrs Career Woman and Patronising BT lady all rolled into one. Anyway, I'm off on a tangent. We saw our futures in very different places, a bit like you would if one of you wanted to lurch to the right politically and the other was still striving for a socially just society.

The last week was a roller coaster. I had flowers bought for me. They were beautiful. I hated them. I remember thinking it was ironic that in 20 years I had never been given anything like these flowers, not when I'd had our babies, not when I'd  had special birthdays or anniversaries, just when I told him I intended to leave. I also had a laptop thrown at me. He'd installed spyware on my machine to monitor my emails and didn't like what I'd been writing. I was offered expensive jewellery, I was offered a car. I was hissed at in anger. He frothed at the mouth as he told me I was a worthless person who would amount to nothing alone and that I would come back on my knees begging both forgiveness and a second chance and that he'd decide at that point whether he felt like granting me it or not. I was told I needed his money. I was told he'd take me to court, have my children taken from me as I was the 'worst mother in the world'. I was offered holidays, meals in restaurants... It was a surreal week. The night I told him I had made up my mind and nothing would stop me, he asked me to stay just till the morning because it would be easier to leave in the day light.

But left at nearly midnight. I found the courage and I walked away. I was calm and somehow I knew that no matter where I ended up, it would be better than continuing to live with my wealthy husband, in our middle-class house with our foreign holidays and café lifestyle. I was right. Eight years on I sit here and I shiver at the thought of what would have happened if I'd stayed just till the morning, and then just till the next. Our problems were insurmountable and without him I am me again. The promises, the abuse, the ignoring, the diverging viewpoints would simply have got worse over time. I would have danced on eggshells, embarrassingly and pathetically while he toggled between abuse and ignoring, seething self-righteousness and condescending nastiness. And I would have regretted over and over my passing up of that one chance to change my one life on this planet for the better. Once you get to that last week, once your mind is made up, threats, bullying and rushed empty promises are not reasons to change your mind.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Now you see them, now you don't!

Charlotte goes really quite freckly in the summer, especially if we go abroad. When I was playing around with this year's summer photos, I decided to turn a few black and white. I accidentally hit the black and white with red filter button, instead of the normal black and white and suddenly 90% of her freckles disappeared! It was odd to see a summer Charlotte with no freckles for a change. Even she was amazed at the effect.

Family words

It all started when we extended the lawn in the summer. We'd always had way too much mono-blocking and I'd been nagging Thomas to change it when our next door neighbour had his lawn dug up and thrown in a skip outside the house. I noticed as they were about to remove the skip, so 'acquired' it and added a few strips from B&Q to fill in the rest. Feeling smug that we'd managed to double the size of the back garden for less than £100 made us more than happy, especially after our neighbour told us how much he'd paid for his new lawn (which was a third of the size (and more than three times the price)).

On the second morning I noticed the new strips had been turned over at the corners. And on the third whole chunks had been overturned. I was at a loss as to what was causing it. I went through the possibilities - kids, foxes, wind etc and still couldn't work it out until a week in Amaia came running and shaking into the living room and very seriously exclaimed 'Oh, the badness of birds!' I looked outside in time to see a humongous crow picking at the grass, looking for worms. For a week I put heavy objects on all the corners to try to annoy the crows but often Amaia and I would be forced to open the window and shoo them. It became the norm to pass each other in the kitchen, shaking our heads and proclaiming to each other 'oh the badness of birds'. It never occurred to me, however, that Amaia might misconstrue things. After a couple of weeks the crows stopped attacking my lawn and life went back to normal.

Recently the weather has improved again and we've been sitting outside a lot. A couple of days ago a crow landed on the garage. 'Look mummy,' she said, pointing, 'a badness of birds.' I didn't really pay much attention. Today two landed on the lamppost beside the house. 'What's that up there?' I asked, just to check my hunch. 'Two badness of birds.' came the reply. So we have a new family words. Crows will henceforth be know in the Buchanan-Widmann household, not as crows, but as 'badness of birds (n inv)'.

Another good Indy article

I've been reading this. I really agree with her - is this the best such a rich country can provide its kids? No.

I know I'm a bit of a one-track bore at the moment, but this matters to me! So tough!