Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Nine out of 10 Cats

Ed Miliband then. I'm not unhappy about it. When I saw David in action during the general election campaign, I was genuinely impressed with both his communication skills and the cut of his suit, but frankly he would have been predictable and who needs yet another smooth operator? At that time, David Miliband seemed like a good fit against Cameron and Clegg, but courtesy of the coalition I've changed my mind. Cameron Major and Cameron Minor and David Miliband - they'd have been like a scissor-cut string of paper-dollies. Ed is at least an interesting choice - dark-eyed and sixth-former-geeky I'll grant you, but patently super-intelligent and sincere. Apparently during the leadership elections, another 32,000 members joined. I didn't. Perhaps it's finally time?

I have two boys. I explained what was happening at the top of the Labour party over breakfast the other day - about younger brother Ed going for the leadership although he knew older-brother David was desperate for it, about Ed winning, and now noone knew what David would do and whether he would take a job under his brother. Over porridge, I conducted a scientific poll. Similar to those polls the cosmetic industry uses - 93% of women think this hugely expensive moisturiser strips the fat from their jowls and slaps it onto their breasts. (Sample size: 14 women genetically related to the marketting manager.)

My questions:
1. Do you think David Miliband should take a job in the Shadow Cabinet and work under his brother?
2. Will David Miliband take a job in the Shadow Cabinet and work under his brother?

Polling Group
Nine-year-old brother:
1. No he shouldn't. Definitely not.
2. No he won't. (Cue scornful laughter.)

1. Yes he should.
2. No he won't. (Shaking of head.)

Interestingly, my nine-year-old followed up."What job is he being offered?," he asked, "and is it a very good one?" I explained that David could have whatever job he wanted (apart from his brother's of course.)
He considered David's options some more: "And exactly how long will Ed get to stay leader?"
As for me (and I admit I'm an only child), I'm of the opinion, David should take the job his brother offers him. Take it and try it on for size. If the media make a meal of it and the party loses more than it gains by having him as Shadow Chancellor, then walk away. That way he knows he tried - he did his best. Something in him isn't ready to give up just yet or he would have done it by now, surely? I agree the whole psychodrama at the top of the Labour party goes on, but hey at least that's something people can understand. Our politicians are human. Occasionally, their families drive them to distraction but they love them enough to stand beside them when it counts because that is what family is for. That's what I'm hoping I get to explain to my boys when we know exactly what David Miliband has decided.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Spectator

Where did that week go? It must be a matrix thing. You open your eyes one Monday morning and by the time you get up and start the day, it's the weekend already. Last weekend my children did the junior Great North Run. Due to some rogue gene, all three appear to be horribly active sporty types. This means my four-year-old daughter and seven-year-old son both ran a mile, and my nine-year-old ran three along the river banks of the Tyne. (The next day my husband ran 13 so perhaps the gene isn't all that rogue.) Instead of running alongside them, I spent all day festooned with bags and spare clothes with water bottles in every available coat pocket, spectating and cheering - not just my child but all of them. You read all these pieces about children being blimps and lifting their chubby hands from their nintendo DS's only long enough to reach into the bumper bag of crisps and stuff their chipmunk faces some more, but there was none of that in Newcastle. All these kids - some of them hurting, and grim-faced, some of them grinning ear to ear, some of them wearing photos of grannies and siblings they were raising money for, but each and every one of them determined to finish what they started.

I like the idea of children achieving, of getting them into the habit of achievement, letting them feel that buzz in the hope they want to feel it again. It reconciles me at least in part to the cold, rainy touchlines, the waiting around at football, at rugby, at cricket, at dancing, to the constant driving from here to there, and wondering "Am I a spectator in my own life?" Because I guess in part I am. I get to stand in the driving rain, and I get to watch and marvel because in a way their race has only just begun.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Benedict and Me

So, lovely morning. Dropped the kids off at school and there was a new display complete with the Psalm text "I praise you because of the wonderful way you created me." Which struck me as rather cool and uplifting. I can't say I am into praising the Lord - I've never understood why the Lord would want praise from us anyway. "Ya-da, ya-da, ya-da" he's probably thinking. But I do very much like the implication that each and every child is wonderful. Not just the children either but us too.

Perhaps I should start every blog with a text from Psalms?

Or not. Though what with the Pope arriving on his state visit, it seems appropriate to bring God into the conversation.

I am a bad Catholic.(That'll be One Our Father and three Hail Mary's). I haven't been to mass for months. And months. I still, however, consider myself a Catholic - when you have been brought up with tales of bloody martyrdom and discrimination, it is impossible to do otherwise. All my children are baptised and the eldest has made his communion - I have in effect made a contract with my church and placed my children within it.

And make no mistake, the church needs me and women like me - Catholic matrons holding babes in their arms, and small children dressed like brides and grooms by the hand.

I should be bringing my children to mass every Sunday rain or shine. And I'm not - why is that? Partly it's been practicalities, three small children are impossible to keep quiet and still. Oh, and one of them has rugby - that's a really good horribly secular reason right there - let's hope God's a rugby fan then shall we?.

Part of me wants to attend mass every Sunday like my mother before me, like my grandmother before her. I want to sit in a holy place, and bow my head and find peace and serenity. I want that community back.

But I don't go, and that's a lot to do with that contract I signed. Because Catholic though I am, I find myself not wanting to look too closely at the small print drawn up by old illiberal men - at the Church's conservatism on homosexuality, contraception, and women priests.
As an educated, intelligent woman, am I supposed to believehomosexuality a sin?
Am I seriously supposed to pretend I don't have contraception stashed in my bedroom drawer?
Am I supposed not to mind the patriarchal nature of the church?
As for the record on child abuse scandal, the word "shame" doesn't begin to cover it. So here I am - the future of the Church. A woman of faith (fragile though it might be) but left unmoved by Benedict's arrival. The visit is supposed to have as its theme that "heart speaks unto heart". Attention has focussed on what he will have to say about atheism and secularism. This particular bad catholic is hoping Benedict might say something she wants to listen to, something that might even take her back to mass on a Sunday morning.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Watch me

I should buy a watch. I put my watch down somewhere - can't think where - and I turned around and it was September.
I should buy a watch because last week my baby girl started school, and I cried all the way home after she threw her arms around me and said "bye" and "love-you".
I should buy a watch because all of a sudden there are rosey and gold plums on my tree and blackberries at the roadside, and nobody told me that summer was over.

So - how's it hanging?
If you stop blogging, you lose your nerve. You are half-way along the wire in your sparkly tutu and the lights in the Big Top go out and you think "Maybe I'll just stay here and wait till they go on again." Except the lights don't go on again, and then you start thinking what exactly do you have that's worth saying anyway, that someone else couldn't say better - perhaps someone who didn't mix their metaphors? Though I have one advantage - I'm free. No paywall here. Oh no. I'd know if there was a paywall around my blog because I wouldn't be broke. Or maybe I would? I'm not entirely broke though, last night I went out and did a reading for the local Women's Institute, and they paid me with an iced lemon sponge with candied lemon slices, and a pot of home-made raspberry jam. And one of the ladies said "I read your book a couple of years ago - I enjoyed it." I really must buy that watch.