Warning: accidental pep talk

Saturday, April 1st – and the local council’s April Fool is to set workmen going with a jackhammer right outside the house, uprooting lampposts. Again, it’s Saturday. It’s the weekend. Everyone’s home trying to have a little lie-in and then do some household chores – at least, they are at this time in the morning. When the noise started up, I went to the window to snoop and scowl, and it seemed all the people in our little cul-de-sac had moved as one. We scowled at each other across the tarmac and then at the poor workmen who, let’s face it, probably don’t want to be working on a Saturday any more than we want them to be. I imagine in a short while there will be a mass exodus just to get away from the rattling.

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Lists of foreigners

I’ve rarely used this space to comment on politics in depth, or world events in depth beyond the emotional impact. I’ve always looked at the abundance of hot takes, statuses and tweets out there and figured one more voice yelling the same thing of sympathy/condemnation/etc made not much difference. I’ve also always been careful, in my own reading, not to be swayed by media rhetoric; I dig for the facts, look for the information and try to think for myself because I think that’s the conscientious thing to do. Better not to be led by the nose and someone else’s ambitions or careful spin.

But that’s not the case anymore – because most people are led by the papers and the headlines that shout loudest, and what they are told spun in the way they’ll agree to it, and right now, those headlines and the leaders creating them are leading readers to facism. So this is absolutely the time for one more voice, and then one more, and as many loud voices as possible to say, ‘No, enough, not in my fucking name and – actually – not at all.’

 

Looking at the news and plans coming out of the Conservative conference, and looking at the way it’s being reported in the press, I can’t sit quietly. It’s been brewing and rising for a long time, this xenophobia, and I’ve touched on it before. And I’ve been scared by it before. I had a proper cry after the result of the referendum because it felt like we as a country had just thrown ourselves into a fuck-off great pit that we will have considerable difficulty crawling out of. And now, a few months on, I feel like I’m watching the government and the newspapers and a terrifyingly large (but hopefully not large enough) percentage of the country grab shovels and keep digging that pit deeper, until, presumably, we hit some version of Facist gold. A new state, a pure one, no foreigners.

 

All those films, all that history recorded and taught, all that horror – and we’re, as someone pointed out on twitter, sleep-walking straight back into it. And I’ve tried to believe (truly have because it would be more comfortable and I could sleep better at night) that this is some sort of hysterical reaction. There’s no way that we, in this country, would ever let things get as bad as they did in Nazi Germany, right? But the Germans thought that, too. It’s how it works: bit by bit, move along, until suddenly there are concentration camps and ghettos and it all seems perfectly inevitable and nobody says anything because that’s just the way things are.

 

The right has become far-right, the left has all but stopped opposing while it fights internally and the government and media are howling about the evil of all people foreign and how we (yes we, hi there) are a threat to jobs and safety, and ‘suggestions’ being put forward by the party in charge include making companies provide lists of foreign workers, well. It’s happening, isn’t it? After the lists, do we get badges? How far will the suggestions go? ‘Should we remove them from schools so British kids get better educations without them getting in the way?* Maybe we should set up special areas where the foreigners can live out of the way of the real Britishers while we figure out what to do with them? Wait, how do we qualify foreign? Everything got so liberal and mixed up over these past years – should we check skin colour or parentage back to grandparents? Place of birth or place of growing up? First language spoken?’

 

I would really, really love to believe that I’m looking at this as a worst-case scenario and I want, more than anything, to look at this post in a couple of years and laugh and say ‘flash in the pan, over-reaction, you muppet’. I want to look ridiculous. I’m willing to look ridiculous in order to say no. Not in my fucking name. No, never.

 

And to say: I will not put my head down and pass as British in this day and age – by my own choice, not because there’s a list or a badge. By almost any of the most basic standards of what constitutes foreign, I’m foreign. I was raised here, not born here. I got British nationality at 21 (at my mum’s insistence  – and props to her for having the foresight). My parents are not purely British. My dad is an Australian immigrant. He got British nationality around the same time I did. My mum is the daughter of a German immigrant, and to her grandchildren she is Oma, not Gran. She’s a nurse, by the way – yay healthcare). On any day, on any street, you wouldn’t pick them out and it has never mattered. (Unlike for people of colour who have to deal with shit on the regular whether British or not, and now are dealing with even more shit as it’s been framed as acceptable to be a racist fuck). But today, now, they aren’t welcome, apparently. I’m not welcome. Stick us on lists.

 

I’m taking comfort in the fact that so many people are standing up and saying no, not in my name, in the face of everything that’s saying that it absolutely is in your name, for your own good you silly liberal, now sit down and shut up. I’m taking comfort in that there are these voices out there saying it in my world in real life. Not just in the echo chamber of Twitter, but people in the Northeastern town where I live, one that voted for Brexit, but still, still, had 44% of us wanting to stay. I’m trying to take comfort in that, by the referendum numbers alone, it was close. A massive chunk of the country is not taken in by racist rhetoric. But then again, the Nazi party only needed 33% and a coalition government.
*UPDATE: I’ve just found out that the government have updated school census questions and demanded schools record the nationality and country of birth of students. So. Yeah.

This thing all things devours. More, please.

Today I have been writing the good write, and battling that feeling of slight disappointment that always rocks up at the end of a bank holiday. You know the feeling – the one where you did loads of stuff, like swimming, and running, and walking, and films, and gardening, and bookshop snooping, and sneaky easter egg hiding, and pretending to be a cheerleader. But not all the things you were planning to do and now really there’s only 12 hours left before the work week starts and you can’t possibly fit everything else in. Continue reading

There’s no title because there’s no subject

This is not the post you were supposed to be getting this weekend. I had the whole thing planned – but I left important pictures on the wrong computer (YES I have dropbox. YES I have an external hard drive. NO I didn’t have the wherewithal to move the pictures before the weekend. It’s been a long week, all right, and excitement about meeting up with a couple of favourite people on Friday evening trumped the organising of computer files). Continue reading

Painting over the cracks

I am really, really grateful for my friends (even those that are currently not in touch and who I miss badly). They’ve been keeping me going this week, even if they’ve not realised it. Although it’s been a great few days in terms of passing hours and spending time with people, I feel as though I’ve been snatching at ways to be happy with increasing desperation.

It’s partly my own fault. Against everything I intellectually know about health and tests and waiting times, I stupidly managed to convince myself last week that the doctor’s appointment on Friday would be IT. That that Monday’s  blood test would be the concluding result, they’d stick me on meds, I’d be fixed and life goes back to normal. And that didn’t happen, of course. Instead there’s more tests to be done; referral to a respiratory specialist with at least a three-month wait; results to wait on before I can expect some sort of workable information. It seems like an age.

This year, in which I managed to get places in so many balloted races and which I was so excited about, is a write-off in terms of physical activity, and Friday was the first time I really had to face up to that. I had a bit of a weeping break down outside the doctors, then went out to a wine and cheese evening where I smiled and chatted to people and drank and deliberately didn’t think about it. Then I cried again on the phone to my mum in the morning, and then kept busy busy busy all weekend, meeting a new friend, chatting to my sister, going to the fair. It wasn’t until I was sat in front of a computer at work on Monday that I realised how much just keeping busy and seeing people had been holding off a fairly dark depression.

And yes, I know it could be worse. I have nothing fatal (I’m assuming), I can walk around and do most things, I have my job, my life as a whole is not so disrupted – so yes, bearing all of that in mind I’m just being a brat. But the total lack of endorphins, and the lack of reason and ability to get outside and away from people and turn off my brain because I’m thinking about nothing but breathing and moving, is the equivalent of going off my antidepressants long-term and without psychiatric approval. As a friend of mine said in response to an email I sent (which may have contained the line, If one more person asks me if I’ve considered maybe going for a walk instead of running, I’m going to kick a fucking wall down): “I read somewhere that runners are people who have figured out how to self-medicate for depression.” Exactly.

Another thing: I’m losing my sense of self. I wrote to my friend –

“… Also, I realised today that the more out of shape I get, the more effort I’m making with make-up and hair, because I don’t feel good about myself any more and I’m trying to cover it up. There’s a direct fucking correlation between how good I feel and how much of an effort I make with my appearance.  I am wearing LIPSTICK and a FUCKING DRESS. This is like code red territory.”

Yes, there was a lot of swearing in that email. I’m cussing like the metaphorical sailor these days.

Ordinarily I don’t care about make-up and clothes much, but I’m spending more and more time and money on gussying myself up.  I don’t really recognise myself in the mirror at the moment, and I don’t like it, but I don’t know how else to get myself up and out of the house at the moment, either. Maybe the effort is nicer for people who have to look at me, but I was always a scruff even when I cared, and I’ve spent 2+ years not caring so much because I was happier in myself and could have gone out in pyjamas and still be happy with myself. I really, really miss that confidence. I don’t know this person who tuts because her lipstick isn’t in her bag and who applies eyeliner on the train. I don’t like her very much.

mirror

I’m a fan of the natural look.

This weekend, I should have been at Wimbleball. Tomorrow morning I would have been travelling to Devon. Plan B, after cancelling my entry in the race, was to go to Devon anyway, but that has had to be called off. So instead I was at the doctor’s again this morning (spirometry test) and now I’m stuck in London, looking at day trips I can’t afford (because I’m broke because I spent all my fecking money on red lipstick and hairspray) with no clue precisely how I’m going to avoid thinking about all the things that I would have been doing this weekend if circumstances were different.

Monster and I signed up for a jive dance night on Saturday, which should be good. I’ve organised a few bits and pieces (the dancing, go loosely swimming, meet up with a couple of friends – including another blogger who is currently dealing with the hell of finding a social group in London). I’m really tempted, though, to just bring in an awful lot of whiskey and wine and drink myself into a stupor for four days. Because that’s the mature, adult way to deal with this.

Half the world away [the Boston marathon]

Last night my friends and I walked out of a particularly brilliant double-bill and director Q&A to news of the Boston Marathon bombings. The crowd of people coming out of the cinema was abuzz with the news. We spent the train ride home scanning news sites and twitter for information, texting people who had contacted us during the films. It was a quiet ride home and we were somewhat shell-shocked. The news came on top of the death of a 23-year-old man at this year’s Brighton marathon. It has been a dark week for the running community. Continue reading