All the King’s Horses


Billy Connolly once said that the desire to be a politician should forever exclude someone from actually being a politician; he had a very good point.  I wonder what kind of Parliament we would have if it was made up of MP’s who when first asked if they wanted to get into politics responded with “Hell, no” and made a run for it.  I wonder if we might have a better government and a better democracy, rather than the well-sauced gravy train that we seem to have at the moment.

Mr Connolly also said that we shouldn’t vote, because it encourages the politicians.  Again, given our ridiculous voting system, and the selection of votees currently on offer, I also have sympathy with that point of view.  I suspect that most of us would agree that encouraging politicians in any capacity other than to learn how to answer the damned question being put to them, should be positively discouraged.  It’s a bit like celebrating there being more estate agents in the world or being pleased about the increasing number of solicitors on the roll.  No one is ever happy about those things.  However, although I can see the point,  I cannot subscribe to it.

Before the term was bastardised for a day when people disgrace themselves buying things they don’t need, for prices that are not really discounted, the real Black Friday was on 18 November 1910.  Women who were protesting were removed from the Houses of Parliament and many were seriously injured in their removal.  On 4 June 1913, nearly three years later, things had not improved for women and Emily Davison famously died after having thrown herself under Anmer, the King’s Horse at the Epsom Derby.  She died four days later on 8 June 1913.  I write the words describing it now.  Everyone knows about the woman who threw herself under the King’s horse.  Her life reduced to one sentence. Can you imagine what a horrific death it must have been to have been trampled to death by a horse and then taking four long days to die?  All she wanted was to be treated equally and have the same rights to vote as men.   It seems a tad harsh to me.

After Emily died, in order to try and beat the women who were on hunger strike into submission, the government (all male) introduced what is known as the Cat and Mouse Act, because of how cats play with their prey before they kill them.  Women were imprisoned.  They went on hunger strike.  Emily Davison was force fed forty nine times.  When the women were sufficiently ill, they were let out of gaol until they were well enough to serve the rest of their sentence. Then they were returned to gaol where they went on hunger strike.  And so the cycle continued.

Of course, as well as Emily Davison, we’ve all heard of the Pankhursts.  There is also another suffragette called Sophia Duleep Singh, of whom you may not have heard.  She was such a pain in the arse that apparently King George V declared “Have we no hold on her?”  I fervently hope not.  Sophia died at the age of seventy two having dedicated her life to women’s rights.

It is easy for us to speak of these women with our mouths, and to forget with our heads what it must have been like for them.  To be arrested and imprisoned for wanting to be treated equally.  Equal treatment is not shocking today, but only because those women and the necessity of two World Wars beat the government into submission. Would I be prepared to give my life for it?  Would I be prepared to be beaten up, or go on hunger strike for the rights that I now have?  I’d like to think that I would.  But it is not something that I have ever had, or will ever have to seriously consider; those women lived it.  Some of them died for it.

No one really likes politicians do they?  I was incandescent when Nick Clegg said he wouldn’t vote to raise tuition fees and the minute his feet were under the table, he voted to raise tuition fees.  If Theresa May says “strong and stable” one more time in one of those ridiculously staged public appearances, I will think that she is really a robot whose programming has hit a glitch.  And Diane Abbott’s grasp of figures is worse than mine, which I didn’t think was humanly possible; life is full of surprises.

Considering the selection, I really do think that we have come to the time in our political history when a box “None of the Above” should be included on the ballot paper. Things would get really interesting when “None of the Above” get in.  I suppose that’s when we start rounding up all those people who don’t want to be politicians, to be politicians.  But until that day, even if you just spoil your ballot paper, please register to vote and then vote.  Not for your country, not because the Press told you who to vote for, but because what is now your right was once considered a privilege.  On the 8th June, it will be one hundred and four years to the day that Emily Davison died, never having lived to see her dream come to fruition. Putting a cross on a piece of paper or a scribble through it is the only way I can think of to best honour her sacrifice.


Tea and Cake

Tea now, gin later.jpg

Afternoon tea is very in at the moment isn’t it?  Or it certainly seems so.  Not that it ever really went out of fashion.  The idea of tea and cake becoming unfashionable seems to me to be very odd indeed.  Perhaps with the advent of ‘Friends’ and the rise of the Starbucks and Costas of this world, the unthinkable happened and the popularity of tea wained slightly in England.  Well I am pleased to see that it is back, and so is gin apparently.  Yippee! I need to do more research on the gin before I am able to write with any authority on that particular subject.  And I also suspect that you might also need to do some more research before you are able to see whether or not you agree with my views on gin whenever I come to express them.  So let’s agree to re-group on that one in the future.

Yes, so afternoon tea.  Imagine my friend’s delight when she was invited to afternoon tea with a group of friends.  This is my friend who openly admits to never having met a cake she didn’t like, so she was very happy indeed.  I am not sure she has met a gin she didn’t like either.  Nevertheless, she womanfully presses on with trying to find either a cake or a gin she isn’t keen on.

Unfortunately the date of the afternoon tea fell on a day when her significant other had to go to work, and she was going to have to take her (very well behaved and older) children with her.  I’ve been both in and out with these children on many occasions, not only are they very well-behaved, they also entertain the other children, which is a win-win situation as far as I am concerned.  In the meantime, my cake/gin loving friend had another friend get in touch with her who was having a childcare nightmare on that day; she and her partner had to work and there was no one who could look after her child.  My friend agreed to help out, because that is the sort of person she is. The child happens to have a severe food allergy.  My friend checked it out with her parents, the restaurant where the afternoon tea was to be taken and also happens to be trained in the use of an epipen.  All was in hand.  Everyone who needed to could go to work.  And everyone else was having cake.  Marvellous.

I need to declare an interest here.  My son has a food allergy. Several actually.  Thankfully none of them are life threatening, but if he has an allergic reaction it is pretty unpleasant for him.  He gets hives on his hands and his face, his lips swell, he can find it hard to breath and eventually he throws up.  He usually feels rather ill for the rest of the day.  He has medicine, which he usually throws up as well.  I discovered his food allergy when he was eight months’ old.  I won’t bore you with the details, but after about six months’ of carefully noting what I had prepared and a process of elimination, I had nailed it.  The hospital confirmed that which I already knew.  My son is pretty wonderful about it – he has never let it put him off trying new foods or eating out.  And I know that many many children have so many more serious things to worry about.  Most people have daily shadows lurking in the back of their mind when it comes to their children, that is one of mine.

Back to the story.  After having taken every precaution, my friend then notified the afternoon tea organiser of the additional child.  Down to the last exclamation mark, this was the response she received:

“Seriously!!!! I thought she had a severe allergy!!! Don’t want to put you off but it’s not a risk I would take!!!! I’m there to have a giggle with friends not stressing about someone’s allergy!! Sorry if that sounds harsh but I do panic about these things 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 (: (: (: (: ”

My friend asked me if I thought this rude.  I thought it exceptionally rude and told her so.  In addition, I have a few comments in response because my friend is far too polite to say them, nor does she have a blog:

  1. Yes, you do want to put her off.
  2. You’re not stressing about anyone’s allergy, you don’t want the child there.
  3. It doesn’t sound harsh, it is harsh. Couching it with a ‘sorry’ at the start does not make it less so.  Besides, you’re not sorry. And you don’t panic either.  You have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.
  4. A sarcastic person might suggest that it must be very difficult for you spending your days stressing about the food allergies of other people who are not in your care.

Now we all know what is really going on here.  And I agree with what is the main thrust of the women’s response is that children can be a pain, particularly one’s with allergies. But that’s life.   It very rarely fits neatly into boxes.  Children certainly don’t.  Suck it up.

We don’t really get to choose many things in life – our looks, our intelligence, who we fall in love with – all of these things are outside of our control, however much we like to think that they’re not.  But there two things that we can choose.  The first is that we are sufficiently privileged in this country to be able to choose to have children.  For me, having children meant that however they were to come to me, they were mine to care for, come what may, until the day I die.  And when our friends have children, they become part of our lives too.  And the second, for which I am grateful every single day, is that we can choose our friends. The one who will be pissed off if my son happens to be ill in spite of carefully checking everything?  Or the one who will hold my son’s head whilst he is sick on her shoes?  Hmmm…tricky….The one with the barf-spattered trainers please. I choose that one.  But I promise faithfully to replace the shoes.




Photograph courtesy of OneManOneShed on etsy.com/uk 






MakatonI have turned into Enraged of Tunbridge Wells. This is not a good thing.  There have been some roadworks around where I live recently and various road closures etcetera to accommodate these.  Not a problem. Happens all over the country when the weather warms up and is very necessary to keep the roads and us all safe. We all know that.

Yesterday I was driving down a road whilst the workmen were in the process of closing it.  One of the workmen gestured to me and I wound down my window – he took the time to explain how long the work was going to take them, what time he thought that they would be finished, and whether I would be able to go back that way for the school run – he was lovely.  Really quite lovely. On the way back later in the day, just as the work was completed, but the signs were not down, I spoke to a colleague of his, who was equally polite and helpful, and said that it was fine for me to go down the road to collect my children, but please could I do so slowly and with my hazard lights on.  Don’t tell Man of the House this, but I did as I was told.

Today, I went down the road towards school and half way down it was a sign “Road Closed.”  As I was half way down the road and there was no way of turning off I thought “oh well, maybe it’s like yesterday and they are just putting the signs up.”  I got further down the road and the road was most definitely closed.  There was a barrier across one half of the road and a van across the other.  In the van was a man.  I raised my hands to see if there was a possibility of him letting me through as I clearly had children to get to school as evidenced by my son sat in the seat next to me.  He folded his arms and stared at me.  Entirely expressionless.  And he continued to stare.  In fact, he didn’t take his eyes off me.  And I don’t think it was because he was beguiled by my stunning beauty.

I do not believe that I am a person who is backwards in coming forwards, and I was very cross at his behaviour.  Particularly at such behaviour in front of my children, and I could tell that my son was getting quite anxious.  However, at this point I had to make a judgement, as I expect that all women have had to make, and has probably never entered the heads of their male counterparts or peers.  Did I get out of the car and suggest to this man that his people skills needed some work?  I considered it as he continued to stare at me from his van. I decided that all I was probably going to get was a load of abuse, or worse, which was presumably the desired effect of the staring.  So in fairness to him, it worked.  Whilst I did not find his behaviour in any way acceptable, I didn’t want a row and I didn’t want my children to see it.  So I turned the car around.  As I drove away, I wondered to myself if he would have done such a thing had Man of the House been on the school run?  I suspect not.

After the kids were safely as school, as there were a number of workmen around, and being a stroppy madam, I considered locating this man’s superior and making a complaint in person.  Due to the nature of the staring, and already being quite upset about it, I didn’t want to risk being shouted at by several men.  I should like to apologise to these men for judging them by their colleague’s woeful standards, but that is how I felt.  Instead, I took a mental note of their company and telephoned them when I got home.  The lady to whom I spoke was perfectly pleasant and assured me that he would be spoken to.  I wonder if my car happens to be keyed at any point over the next twenty four hours if it will be a coincidence.

Although as it happens, there will be a second candidate for the car keying.  After I got back from taking the Hound out for his morning constitutional, a man delivering something to my neighbour seemed to find no issue whatsoever with not only parking across my drive, but also blocking my car in.  He must have been the passive aggressive twin of Man in Van Starer  because he did not look at me at all.  Even though I was sat in my front window on my computer, which is entirely and wholly visible from where he had parked.  He did not look up.  He did not turn to face me.  He kept his sunglasses on which presumably meant that if I couldn’t see his eyes, he wasn’t really there.

If I could just pause – I have no problem with him parking there if it makes his life easier – I didn’t need to go out – not that he knew that. Equally, he could have parked across the road which would have been safer all round for him and for other road users.  However, his poor safety choices aside, a few words to say that he wasn’t going to be long and to ask if I minded would not have gone amiss. It would also have not required him to lift a small roll of gaffer tape onto his shoulder like he was carrying a newly felled tree as if to emphasize the arduous nature of his delivery to me.

When it became apparent that he was going park for as long as he damned well wanted, I considered the question again for the second time in a morning.  Did I tackle him and his colleague direct?  Yes, there were two of them, both ignoring the fact one of them was blocking me in by parking on my land.  I considered it.  But then again, I live in a quiet village and they could, if so minded, make my life thoroughly unpleasant and really upset me in that moment if they chose to.  So I decided against it and fumed quietly.  Well not very quietly.  I have emailed his company to ask if in future, their drivers wouldn’t mind just asking homeowners if they object to their drives being used and cars being blocked in?  All the time I wonder, would they have done that if Man of the House had been in and not me?

I know that all women often have to make such judgements when faced with a man acting like a toddler.  It makes me so bloody angry because we know, all women know, as do their male partners and friends, that these men would not behave in such a way to them.  Which obviously means that they should not be behaving that way at all, if the only thing stopping them from doing so is the prospect of a smack in the gob.

So as I continue to fume, I shall leave you with this.  My son and daughter are learning karate.  Their Sensei is a second dan black belt and also happens to be a woman.  She is an unassuming but quite brilliant woman, and you would never know to look at her that she could, if she chose to, down with you one flick of her hand.  When she was nineteen and had not been driving long, someone rear-ended her at a roundabout.  Her first, and hopefully her last, bump.  She got out of the car expecting to be faced with an enraged driver.  Now you may ultimately conclude that I am doing this man a disservice, but apparently he was charm personified.  She said that he checked her car for the scratches and whether it was safe for her to drive.  He made sure she was okay and not too shaken up.  They exchanged insurance details and went their separate ways.  Sensei got back into her car, surprised at how pleasant the whole incident had been.  Then she looked down.  She was on her way to training.  In her gi.  She was a brown belt at the time.  Oh how I wish that I had had her with me this morning.