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Supreme

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Unless you have been living on another planet (and you may well consider Mars an attractive alternative at the moment) you will have noticed that there has been a lot of activity in the UK Supreme Court this week. If, like me, you are a girly swot and proud of it, you may have also read the submissions that have been made public on the Supreme Court’s website (https://www.supremecourt.uk/brexit/written-case-submissions.html) and watched the proceedings with great interest live from the Supreme Court. Some of you may be slightly less interested but are aware that the PM is in Court and it may all get a bit more fraught next week. You’re right, next week is going to be very interesting indeed.

I should just pause here to make an important initial point; the case before the Supreme Court is not directly to do with Brexit. The Court is not considering and has not been asked to consider, and could not in any way consider, what, if any, form of Brexit, this country will or will not have, now or ever. This case is about parliamentary supremacy and the abuse of power.

If you really want to get up to speed, then the actual documents prepared by the most highly skilled and experienced legal teams in Britain are the place to start. I would urge you to read the submissions for yourself. Seeing something and reading it with your own eyes must always be preferable to someone (most definitely including me) telling you what they think they say. If you really can’t face that, even with a large glass of wine on a Friday night, there are a number of extremely intelligent commentators and I would therefore recommend that you see what they have to say instead. I would not urge you to get your information from the msm. The Mirror is not a legal authority in any way, shape or form. Neither is The Daily Mail. Judges are not enemies of the people. The only side they are on is that of the Law. Which they apply. When they are required to do so. That is one of our checks and balances on making sure that there is a sanction when people steal, or, as has been suggested in this case, lie in order to prevent that check and balance coming from Parliament. However, if you prefer something half-baked, distinctly less experienced, definitely less skilled and without a shadow of doubt a lot less intelligent than the actual papers in the case or the legal commentators, but something (I flatter myself) more challenging than The Sun, then carry on reading.

When I was an undergraduate I was taught that under the British Constitution, Parliament reigns supreme. It is elected by the people of this country and what Parliament says, goes. Not the government, not the Sovereign, not the Prime Minister and not the Courts, Parliament.

There are two main questions before the Court in this case:

1. Is this matter justiciable? i.e whether they have the power to look at it at all – courts should not get involved in politics, but it might not be just about politics; and

2. If it is justiciable whether the prorogation of Parliament prevented Parliament from scrutinising the government or in other words, to stifle parliamentary supremacy, which would be unlawful.

Now there have been three days of submissions from a selection of QC’s on either side. It has been the most compelling viewing since JR got shot. Okay, I’m not that old but I vaguely remember people talking about it. Now they’ve put it an awful lot better and with more gusto, learning and panache that I could ever muster, but in essence the position of each side is this:

Government: Of course we didn’t do it to stymie Parliamentary scrutiny. It is perfectly usual to prorogue Parliament with a new government so there can be a Queen’s Speech. Okay so the timing might be a little off – and it’s not like we said we weren’t and then went ahead and did it…oh…er…maybe we did….but other people have done it and got away with it. What’s in the Act stays in the Act unless Parliament changes it. Which they’ll have loads of time to do when they get back – there’s absolutely nothing else on. Parliament doesn’t do anything in September anyway – here’s a memo from the PM saying so. We really don’t know what all the fuss is about. You want us to what? Put it in a Witness Statement so that if a person swearing it could be found in contempt of Court? That’s a bit rash!

The other side: You lied to the Queen, you lied to the Electorate and you lied to Parliament. Parliament should be given the opportunity to sit if it wants to (and not if it doesn’t) to decide what to do about it.

Guess which side persuaded me of their case? I’m fascinated to see what the Supreme Court says next week.

Michael Gove famously said that the British people are tired of experts. No we’re not you patronising politician. The experts have been a joy to watch this week. Give me some more of those experts and be bloody quick about it. I cannot trust a government that treats our democracy like a game of monopoly to be won, even if they’ve been promised two hundred pounds for passing No Deal by the Banker to add to their own offshore stash. But especially if they are not prepared to swear it in a statement of any kind, not even one single person will put their name to it. Not that they care a flying flamingo what I think, but they should care about the Court. I trust that even if I personally disagree with the decision that the Court may come to, I can respect it, because I know that they’re experts. I know that the judges have more knowledge in their little fingers than I do in my whole head. But also because the Court will, as they always do, lay out all of the reasons for their decision, line after painstaking line, page after page. Backed up by facts and evidence. In black and white. All for the entire world to see. Honesty, truth, transparency. And they’re brave enough to own it.

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Peer Pressure

“When a knight won his spurs in the stories of old, He was gentle and brave, he was gallant and bold. With a shield on his arm and a lance in his hand, For God and for valour he rode through the land.”         Jan Struther 
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No peerages for guessing what I’m writing about today. There has been a wealth of choice as we all reconvene after the Summer particularly if you, like me, have been watching far too much of BBC Parliament from behind the sofa. Yes, the Honours List has come out and, as per usual, a selection of people who really don’t deserve one are on it.

We all know about knights. Armour, bravery, ladies in those pointy hats with the hankies coming out of the top swooning at their manly prowess. Historically an honour given to men (not women, obviously, because how on Earth could we be expected to get on a horse and fight in a skirt? Empress Matilda, Eleanor of Aquitaine and Joan of Arc clearly didn’t get that memo) for military prowess and service to their monarch. The Knights Templar are probably the most famous who fought in the Crusades. And when they became too big for their boots – money, it’s always about money – they were slaughtered on Friday 13th which is why we all think it’s unlucky. Which it is, if you are Knight Templar. Keep your wits about you this coming Friday. There was an informal chivalric code that all knights were expected to obey, the keys here being honour and nobility. Richard III; when he made his final, fateful charge down the hill as Bosworth, led from the front. Henry VIII, whilst being quite a bit of a shit in pretty much every aspect of his life, was brilliant at jousting. You get the picture.

So for those of you who don’t know, about twenty five years ago, a man called Geoffrey Boycott was quite good at cricket. Also, about twenty five years ago, a French court found that he was quite good with his fists. He was convicted of assault of his then girlfriend. Anyway, it has been questioned as to why someone convicted of a criminal offence and particularly an assault on a female partner, should be recommended for an honour, and recommended particularly, I would like it to be noted, by a woman. It’s a good question.

One hopes that it remains a fundamental tenet of justice that having made a mistake and paid their debt to society that someone who has a spent criminal conviction is given the opportunity and support to learn from it and move forward with their lives. Of course there are shades of grey within that – some people don’t want to change, some people can’t, some people will simply never get better and in the eyes of many, some things are simply unforgiveable. However, that is the principle, and frankly if that goes, then rather like the government thinking that they are entitled to pick and choose which laws apply to them, then if we all start thinking like that, we’re all in trouble.

When asked about potential criticism of the honour from a domestic violence charity, Mr Boycott’s response was: “It’s twenty five years ago , love….I don’t care a toss about her, love.” A position that would be more believable if he hadn’t then said he voted Leave because of it. It is language that every single woman reading this has been batted with by a man when he’s trying to both belittle and dismiss her.

A potential client telephoned me once for a quote on a job. I gave him the quote and other pertinent details. expecting him to end the telephone call and then call me back if he wanted to instruct me. Rather than do that he decided to take the opportunity to berate me, an assistant solicitor at the time who was merely telling him a fee from the firm’s fee scale, that I was too expensive and he wouldn’t be using me, and whilst he did so he called me “dear” a lot. He then put the ‘phone down. Another man tried a similar thing with a Partner on another occasion. She was older and stroppier and had heard it all before – she stopped him mid-sentence and advised him that she was not his “dear”. This week, Jo Swinson, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, rose to speak in Parliament and was told, by a male MP to “sit down, love”. I rather suspect that the journalist interviewing Mr Boycott was not his “love” either. Casual words speak volumes.

Mr Boycott maintains his innocence and has said that he under the French system he was guilty until found innocent. As you know, the English & Welsh system is innocent until proven guilty. The suggestion he made was that he would have been found not guilty under the English & Welsh system. The issue I have with this is that whilst the French may do things differently, the Court which had all of the evidence before them, evidence significantly over and above the photograph which has been doing the rounds on the internet, and they, the Court did not find him innocent.

Thirdly, it was twenty five years ago. And if there was a modicum of remorse for the entire incident being shown by the guilty party then I might have some sympathy for this position. However, on the one hand, the criminal conviction is being hawked as being so long ago that we should all just forget about it because the Court got it wrong anyway and no one in England believes it. However, the same logic is not being applied by the hawker to an impressive cricket career of twenty five years ago. Shall we all just forget that as well because it was also a long time ago? Ditch the peerage with it? Not keen? Strange.

There has been talk of the peerage system being outdated and needing modernising; I disagree. I think we should go back to basics. Given some of the decisions, I’m all for letting the Queen decide. She’s an eminently sensible woman who has shown herself to possess a super human ability to hold her tongue in the most trying of circumstances when the rest of us would have completely lost it. And her criteria are that someone should get an honour if and only if they have done something truly exceptional for the love, safety and security of our community, our country or our world. Someone who is gentle and brave and gallant and bold. Someone who rides through our land for God if they have one, or for good old-fashioned kindness and love if they don’t. For valour. They all ought to have some riding lessons. For what is a knight without their horse? And if we are going back to basics they might be required to ride into battle at some point so they will need a horse. And just so you know, Mr Boycott, if we do, it’s knights at the front, love.

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Inside Out

nuts in round white bowl
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None of us are getting any younger, and as far as I am concerned, frankly, it is beginning to show. I am spending increasing amounts of money at the hairdresser’s, and in sharp contrast, Man of the House is spending decreasing amounts of money at his barber’s. I noted that I go to the dentist every six months, have my eyes tested every two years, and naturally look forward with eager anticipation to my next cervical screening, but as a generally healthy person, I have never had a proper check over. So over the next couple of weeks, I am embarking on a personal MOT.

Next week I have a Health Check. Or as they are called in our house, a Death Check. After I had handed over the not insubstantial amount of cash to a very friendly lady, I then received a list of less than friendly instructions. The first is that if I am late they will still charge me the full amount. Well they’ve already got my money, so that was nice customer service before I had even got through the door. The second is that you can’t eat and can only have water to drink for the eight hours preceding the check. Mean. The third one is that you have to fill in a questionnaire answering a lot of personal questions, and I assume that if you lie (“Cake? Me?  Never touch the stuff”) they will know about it. Unkind. Then at the appointment (assuming that I am not late because if I am I presumably get detention) a complete stranger will come into the room, poke and prod me all over and tell me exactly what is wrong with me, which I wholly anticipate to be pretty much everything.

It occurs to me now that I am paying for someone to tell me that I am not as slim as I thought, as tall as I had believed, my diet not as good as I had hoped and in spite of walking over twelve miles a week with The Hound, I’m not very fit either. They will probably also hand me a black envelope containing a piece of paper with a month and a year printed on it, which if it is sooner rather than later, may be considered a blessing if after all I am indeed using too much oxygen. All in all, and at best, the outcome of this excruciating and expensive experience can only be one of overwhelming disappointment. B minus, Could Do Better.

Last week as part of this regime, I had a hearing test (free at Specsavers if you have any concerns). I have suspected for some time that I have some hearing loss – it’s a family thing. I arrived and after some hearing-related small-talk the audiologist shut me in a booth with some earphones on and I had to concentrate really hard to hear different noises. If I heard a noise, I pressed a button. It was quite a bit more difficult than it sounds. It’s a bit like all of your children shouting at you at once and you being asked to hear the cat meowing at the front door. The test confirmed that I have some hearing loss in one ear that requires further investigation. Of course in certain circumstances, and particularly with three Childerbeasts in the house, one duff ear might be considered a good thing. Now when they kick off (“I was sitting there first”, “get off me”, “that’s mine”) I can simply lie down on the good ear and muffle the sound.

I was trying to come to terms with the inevitable ear trumpet and ear bashing when what I really needed was a boost. Brunette Friend messaged me with what I hoped was cheering news. Nope. She had stumbled across an advert in a department store aimed at women for “sex proof” mascara and wanted me to know that we have all been having sex incorrectly if we weren’t dolled up to the nines. Yes, you too. Unless you all knew about this and haven’t told me.  To quote Stephen Fry, more of an oil slick than an oil painting I may be, but I’m not sure a face full of make-up much improves me. And up to that point, I hadn’t really cared. So not only is my body not good enough, I don’t look right either.  Shit.  We discussed a number of concerns: 1. Are heterosexual women supposed to only have sex if they’re wearing mascara? 2. What is it you are supposed to be doing with your eyelashes during sex that requires your mascara to be sex proof? 3. Is the person in charge of this marketing the same one who gave the green light for that new lovely Ikea dining set that has been in the news this week (google it)? and 4. Did our partners know about this? Grade C. Requires improvement.

To make my middle-class week even worse, I then learnt of an injection pen that is being marketed, mainly to women, to suppress their appetites. And from the speech of the lady who was telling me and the assembled company about it – this is meant to be a good thing.   She advised that a fellow female, of whom I had never heard and whose only apparent contribution to society is to market this nonsense, has been shouting about it from the rooftops. Ever the cynic, I suspect that is because this will make her rich. If I have got this right, she both injects herself and starves and starves her body of the nutrients and fuel that it needs in order to function and stay healthy so she can pursue an aesthetic of the absurd. A look that is entirely unrealistic and unhealthy for any woman wishing to live a long and healthy life. And a look that gives out the very strong message that it doesn’t matter one iota if you achieve nothing in your life, it doesn’t matter how long that life is as it is of no concern to be bothered about what is really going on inside your body, or no consideration should be given to what sort of person you are. All that matters is that you have your sex proof mascara on and you look pretty. I wonder what the Death Check people would have to say about that. “Yes Miss Pointless, you look very good in a bikini, but to have abs like that you have starved yourself to the extent that you have stopped ovulating and therefore your womb is knackered and your heart is about to give up.” And I also wonder what their colleagues in mental health would say about rock hard abs and prettiness being marketed en masse as the only thing that matters in life. You can probably guess what I have to say about it and contains quite a few swear words.

It is with no apology at all that I shall be going to my Death Check with no make-up on.  I am not afraid to admit that I don’t own sex proof mascara.  Neither do I own rock hard abs.  I’m not thin.  I’m not pretty.  But I’m doing my best, and my best does not include teaching my children that crap.  The people who know me and love me don’t seem to care about things like that.  But I have noticed, that they, and I, do feel quite strongly about cake.  Sssshhhhhhhh! If we could just keep that between us for the next week or so.

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Daddy Cool

This week a number of people have been quietly muttering to themselves whilst they have been making or are planning to make their way around the shops looking for Father’s Day cards and presents for Sunday. Sister B telephoned me this morning to ask me what I thought our father would like. I said that I had a vague memory that he liked fudge. In the absence of any ideas, let alone better ones, she immediately made her way to Thorntons.

Twenty minutes later she telephoned me in some distress from outside a jewellers. She had impulse-bought her Man of the House a bracelet and was clearly wondering whether she had made the right choice. I enquired as to whether her Man of the House was jewellery-wearer. She said she wasn’t sure. She said that the jeweller had said that she could return it for a full refund. On receipt of this news, I made soothing noises, comments such as I am sure it will be fine, couldn’t she blame the choice on my niece (aged eight) and that jewellery is such a personal thing it is difficult to get right. She said she’d send me a photo.

I received the photo. It was a man’s bracelet. I have strong opinions on a number of things – you have probably noticed- but men’s jewellery has as of yet, passed me by. Thinking that it was the right thing to say, I said that it was not too bling. Apparently that was the wrong thing to say, as he would probably like more bling. At this point, realising that sense and reason had left the building, I did the only thing a responsible sibling could or should do in such circumstances – I sent her a clip from Youtube of that episode of Friends when Joey buys Chandler a bracelet and he hates it.

All was quiet for about another twenty minutes and then she rang again. This time from The Body Shop. Would our Dad like a shaving kit? I said I didn’t have a clue. Not the faintest clue. I expected that he does shave and therefore might find a use for it. And everyone appreciates something useful. This should not be an unusual conversation to have with a sibling. Except that I haven’t seen our father for thirty years.

My parents split up when I was twelve. I know I am not unusual and I am not claiming to be anything but ordinary. In common with many people their behaviour followed a particular pattern; my father tried to pay as little as possible after leaving the matrimonial home as somehow in his head physically leaving the house meant he had absolved himself of any responsibility for the life he had brought me and my sisters to. Therefore my mother made life as difficult as possible for my father to see us by being vile–a constant reminder that seeing him was utter betrayal. To cut a very long, tedious and upsetting story short, the ultimate result of this game of two cats and three mice was that me and my sisters didn’t see my father and we went hungry. Literally. What little my mother had she kept for herself. My father knew that, I suspect it is one of the many reasons he left her. The only positive I can take from the immense amount of energy that my parents continue to pump into hating eachother over three decades is that they must have really loved each other once.

Therefore, for obvious reasons, Father’s Day was at best, a non-event for me until I had children myself. I loved my stepdad and in stark contrast to my mother he never demanded anything – certainly not attention and definitely not on Father’s Day. So that first Father’s Day when I was still mourning his loss and I shuffled off to buy something for Man of the House from Childerbeast Number One was a little strange for me as it hadn’t featured on my radar for nearly twenty years. When Sister B started seeing our dad again, much to everyone else’s confusion, Sister A and I supported her absolute right to self-determination, regardless of that being in a different direction from us. It is therefore testament to the strength of our relationship that she feels able to ask me what our Dad may or may not like for a gift in the expectation that I will genuinely try to help.

So this Fathers’ Day, I want to thank you, Dad. It is a daily struggle to unlearn all that crap from you and my mother, but struggle we must. And struggle we do. My wish for you this Father’s Day is that you let go of hating my mother just long enough to see the real tragedy of what you both did. The little girl that became a woman and mother herself can only really remember that her Daddy might like fudge. So I hope you like it. I’m afraid it was that or those dates you get in the oblong boxes at Christmas. If you play your cards right, next year my sister might get you a bracelet.

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Nul Points

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I have a confession to make. It may well lower your opinion of me, if indeed it could get lower. I love the Eurovision Song Contest. I love it. I love the staging, the costumes, the dancing and oh my goodness the lyrics. I loved Sir Terry’s commentary (“This woman has been poured into something black”). I love Graham Norton’s commentary (“Not sure I’d want to hear a Netta album”). I watch every year. This year I watched in horror as that poor Russian man tried to escape whilst singing in a shower in a thunderstorm. Last year I was wondering what on Earth Freud would have made of the line; “This trumpet makes you my girl.” And although not a particular fan, I did notice that Man of the House commented on how effective one female entrant’s outfit was in successfully distracting him from the song.

As you all know it follows the same format every year. The host nation introduces each act with a few minutes that they use to advertise what a wonderful country they live in, and to pique our interest in visiting that country by poking the entrants with a stick and getting them to prance about in some of the more enticing places. Tel Aviv Museum in Israel, Castle of Sao Jorge in Lisbon, that sort of thing. It always looks lovely, but frankly, just drags out what is already a very long event.

I appreciate that Eurovision is an excellent opportunity for countries to advertise themselves on an international stage. However, in order to hold the interest of the viewing public instead of them thinking “can’t we just hear the song?” I think it is time for a change. Surely if one wants to really understand a country, get a real flavour of it, then you really should experience it as the people who live there do? Therefore instead of getting artists to cavort in places of national beauty and/or interest, I propose that all twenty six entrants are filmed experiencing life as a national of the host nation. As I am British, I can only suggest my country and I do so in complete confidence that the UK is never going to ever win the Eurovision Song Contest ever again. I am sure that you all have some excellent examples, and I didn’t want to hog the field, so here is my top ten.

10. Queuing

Had to be. One simply cannot understand Britain or the British if you don’t get people of other nations to understand queuing. It doesn’t matter where or why. There doesn’t even have to be a reason. But queue you must. Put the performers in a queue. Let them observe and learn sighing, the non-aggressive smile to someone else in the queue and if someone tries to push in, the British expression of fury: the tut and the eye roll.

9. Making a palatable cup of tea

 Leave the baffled artists in a room with a kettle of boiling water, three tea bags, a tea spoon, a teapot, a bottle of milk and a mug together with a colour coded card highlighting the correct depth of colour for an acceptable cup of tea. The cup of tea is then presented to Sir David Attenborough for testing.

8. Successfully make a same day appointment at the doctor’s

Present them with a telephone and a landline with instructions that they are to call the number and make an emergency appointment for the same day. Failure is not an option. “Is it an emergency?” “Well I haven’t lost a limb, but I am not a doctor which is why I need to see one –do you mind me asking when you passed your medicine finals?”

7. Buy lunch from M&S

Parachute the group into any British town with directions to M&S. There they must purchase the most British of foodstuffs – an egg and cress sandwich, a packet of scones, some strawberry jam and Cornish clotted cream. In order to be successful they must do so without bumping into any pensioners. Unbeknown to them is that in spite of being able to shop at any time in the week because they are retired, a great number of British pensioners venture out on weekday lunchtimes simply to swing their trollies into the path of people trying to buy a quick sandwich for lunch.

 6. Swim at the local leisure centre

A swimming costume, a towel and a pound coin for a broken locker – beware the obligatory floating elastoplast, oh, and for the love of God, don’t touch anything – go.

5. Translate the Daily Mail

Using gloves and tongs for hygiene and keeping contact to an absolute minimum, present the singer with a copy of the Daily Mail and ask them to answer a question on the ‘news’ it contains as follows: • Are all of the problems in the world the fault of: A) Women showcasing their jaw dropping curves; B) Gay people flaunting their incredible figures; C) People from ethnic minority groups wowing with their enviable bodies; D) Immigrants flashing their incredible abs; or E) Combination of all the above.

4. Get onto/off the Coventry Ring Road

Driving on the left isn’t sufficiently interesting. A professional racing driver dressed in a dinner jacket and bow tie takes the performer towards the Ring Road and as they approach this horror in a moving Ford Fiesta the professional driver escapes by being winched through the driver’s window James Bond style. They have one instruction: get off the ring road and do so without your passengers leaving their nails in the dashboard. Best of British.

3. Go to Ikea and don’t buy anything

Blindfold them and lead them into Ikea. Remove the blindfold and leaving them only with a bottle of water they must get to the exit within thirty minutes and (this is the clincher) without having bought anything. Not even a hot dog.

2. Find a seat on a peak time train

Hand the fellow European a credit card with an eye-wateringly high credit limit. Ask them to pick where in the country that they would most like to visit and ask them to buy a return train ticket to that place at peak time. Neglect to mention that they will be standing shoulder to shoulder with complete strangers for three hours in order to reach their destination.

And finally – Drive around the M25

It’s a circle – how hard can it be? A simple instruction: drive around this road and then get off again. The professional racing driver drives this artist onto the M25 in the Ford Fiesta. This time, rather than the exciting helicopter exit, they simply open the door, step out and walk away through the parked cars.

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Bum Vote

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Defiling my Twitter feed this morning was the news that The Sun thought it a good editorial decision to run a front page frothing at the mouth about M&S deciding to change all of their Percy Pig sweets to vegetarian-friendly ones.  I suppose in one respect it was, because here I am, sat typing about it.  According to the BBC website, which is also allowing this story (I use the term loosely) to take up space on their webpage, people are complaining about it not being ‘normal food.’

I am not a vegetarian.  But first, what is the issue with changing from one product that includes gelatin from the boiled bones of pigs (which cannot be particularly good for anybody – especially the pig) that does not include this product?  Anyone?  Anyone at all?

Secondly, and I have to ask, because I have been wondering all morning – do they really not have anything more important to worry about? Because if they are that upset about a pink sweet, then where do you have left to go when something really important happens?  I cannot help but wonder if this is story was somehow a crass right-wing segway into trying to make this into an issue of sovereignty – damned EU, telling us we can’t have goo from boiled pig bones in our sweets.

So tomorrow, I hope that we are all off to vote.  And voting, no doubt, around the issue of what we consider to be sovereignty.  Females and people who haven’t voted before, I am talking specifically to you.  Women, because look at what the second female PM this country has done for feminism (yes, that’s right, nothing), and people who haven’t voted before, because your voice is every bit as important as those of us who have been trooping off to put crosses in boxes as soon as the law said we could.  And in three week’s time, we get another go.

Now, probably like you, I have been pondering as to how best to use my vote.  There are a number of messages I want to send, and given that nothing else seems to have worked on Prime Minister Tin Ears, this is an important opportunity for all of us.  Before she is removed in a second vote by her party.  I think it is important to note here that according to the government it is entirely democratic for the Conservative Party to vote on the same issue twice, and for Parliament to vote three or even four or five times on precisely the same thing, but undemocratic for the Electorate to vote on something that is an entirely different animal from the one presented three years ago.  I wish someone could explain that to me. I have asked my local MP to explain it to me – he either can’t or doesn’t want to.  Short words are fine.  I will try and understand.

The first message I want to send, because I am a Remainer, is to vote for someone who has unequivocally set their stall out to Remain.  Not “ it depends what our party gets out of it”, “can I keep my job if I do?”, “how much money can we have?” or “we’ll see”.  No ifs, not buts.  Remain. You may not feel the same and wish to vote in entirely the opposite way – absolutely fine with me.  However, I should warn you that if you think JRM and Bojo are destined for things higher than Strictly and you have a Nigel Farage calendar in your kitchen, then we are never going to be friends. 

The second message is for those currently in parliament, or more specifically, government, which is: “wtf?”  Not erudite, not clever, but I’m not sure how best else to describe the unfathomable shit storm that we have all watched in wide-eyed horror for the last three years.

Thirdly, a final point which I feel has been somewhat overlooked is the thing that John Lennon said about life happening whilst you were busy making other plans.  Apparently we, the Human Race, have twelve years. Twelve years before the natural world is in an irreversible decline. Sir David Attenborough phrased it much better, and I am sure he would never use such language, but I took twelve years to mean “by 2031, we’re fucked, people.”

It is symptomatic of the staggering and continuing arrogance of the Human Race that we think all of the nonsense that I have just spouted about is even vaguely important whilst our world is dying around us.  It’s not even a matter of a world we will be giving to our children – twelve years.  I’ve been married to the Man of the House longer than that.  Poor chap.  And it is us who are in trouble. The Earth will be okay until the end of time, which is actually a thing (as explained by Professor Brian Cox).   Nature doesn’t care about all the crap that humans concern themselves with and when it comes down to it, really comes down to it, neither should the humans.  And we’re coming down to it. Nature doesn’t care about the humans either, or the animals, or the environment.  Because it adapts to survive.  And survive it will. Charles Darwin taught us that. However, if I could make an appeal to your better nature; just because it doesn’t care about us, it does not mean that we shouldn’t care about it. Or the animals, or the environment, or goodness me, each other. That is, after all, what makes us human.

Finally, if that doesn’t appeal to your better nature, because you don’t have one, it is also entirely acceptable for you to cast a shameless vote to save your own arse instead.

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Every Second Counts

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Nearly twenty years ago a couple were out on a date.  They had been seeing each other for a while – both divorced and with children – they had both been through the mill a bit as is the same for most people who have lived even a little bit of life.  The man was nervous.  He was going to tell the woman that he couldn’t see her anymore. Not an easy thing to do. He wasn’t sure how to tactfully bring it up.  Telling someone that that you can’t see them anymore is not nice for anyone to say or for anyone to hear.  Can’t, rather than won’t.  Won’t is the reason why most people stop seeing each other, and also not nice to hear.  Can’t is a different ball game.

After fussing his pint for a bit he decided to just blurt it out.  Get it over and done with.  That had to be for the best.  At least it would be said then. So he did.  He told her that he couldn’t see her anymore.  He wanted to, but he couldn’t.  He had been diagnosed with cancer, and he was going to die.  So it really wasn’t fair that they kept on seeing each other.  And then he waited.

The woman took this news in with remarkable calm.  And responded in the only way that she knew how, which was to be entirely tactless.  She dismissed him as talking nonsense.  This was not the reaction he was expecting.  He enquired, with some considerable interest, as to why a terminal diagnosis was, in her non-medical opinion, nonsense.  He considered it to very serious and was coping with it as well as could be expected in the circumstances.  The woman advised that it was nonsense because she also had a blood cancer.  She had been diagnosed in her early thirties and her diagnosis was not promising at the time.  It was not particularly promising now but her doctors continually did their best.  A number of years had passed with her future being knowingly and medically uncertain, so she had learnt to live with it.  And so would he.

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A man is rushed into A&E in an ambulance.  He had collapsed at home. The consultant on duty has no information about the patient other than there is a man with leukaemia lying dying in A&E.  The patient’s file would be coming over from the hospital treating him so the doctors could see the detail.  But that wouldn’t be quick enough for the consultant faced with a person dying right then and there.  So he did what he could with what he knew in that moment to save his life.

He couldn’t have known at that point that the man had undergone six years of chemotherapy.  He couldn’t have known that he knew the name of all of the nurses and doctors in the haematology department, and they him, because he had spent so much time there.  He didn’t know that his wife had sat there each and every day, holding his hand.  He didn’t know that he had got up at four o’clock every morning for the last six years to see the birds when the sun came up, because he knew he was dying and he couldn’t face it lying down.  And he didn’t know that the man had got on his motorbike less than forty eight hours earlier, because that was what he loved to do, and bugger it, he was going to do it.  Just one last time.

The doctors were trying to buy time whilst the file came and then they would be able to work out what best to do.  Time that could not be bought because the man now had sepsis.  They probably knew that but they tried anyway because that is their nature.  The (grown up) children were summoned by his wife to his bedside.  They watched the monitors and talked to him, hoping that he could hear them and that they could make sense of the bleeps and the numbers and that they meant something positive.  They knew.  They all knew. But they didn’t want to. Always the medical team worked quietly away.

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It is said that love comes quietly. One minute you don’t think or don’t know that you love someone and the next you know that you do. And then you know you’re stuffed because love takes some undoing. After being completely and utterly abandoned by my own father, I never expected anyone to come into my life that could even begin to fill the gaping hole in your heart that you just have to live with.  Not that they didn’t or even don’t love you.  Just not enough. 

My stepdad wasn’t perfect.  He was grumpy, he was miserable and you could never give him enough damned tea to drink.  He was on so many drugs at one point that he shook.  If he got his hands to stop shaking long enough to get his fork to his mouth, his head started shaking so he couldn’t get the fork in his mouth.  We did the only thing you could do in such circumstances, which was to mercilessly take the piss.  When he died I felt completely and utterly broken.  I cried every morning in the shower for two years so that no one would know.  I don’t know when I stopped doing it everyday.  Such is grief. 

When he was first diagnosed the doctors said that they hoped to give him five years; he lived for six.  That was two thousand one hundred and ninety days in total.  Fifty two thousand five hundred and sixty hours.  Three million one hundred and fifty three thousand six hundred minutes. I shall be grateful to the NHS for the rest of my life for every single last one of them.