Land of the free

Our world feels unstable at the moment. Brexit. Trump. Backstabbing. Resignations. Scapegoats. Uturns. New Laws. Innocents murdered. Victims villianised. Cognitive dissonance.

I can’t keep watching the news and hearing people talk of not being racist then proceeding to find excuses for condoning the murder of a black person by an officer sworn to uphold the law.

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But I’m not racist…

… the KKK hood wearing, Confederate flag waving, violent thug who loves nothing more than to hang out with his/her mates burning crosses, and killing black people- type of racist.

The extremely overt type of racist that frees society from the guilt of ignoring and benefitting from the inequalities and discrimination in our society, whilst proudly proclaiming..

I’m not a racist!

But unless you are actively making a stand against racism – you are supporting the institutionally racist society in which we all live.

I know I’m not saying anything new (and many have said it far more eloquantly than I ever could) but I will not stand at the side quietly: We must not stand at the side quietly.  We must bring about the change, we are change.

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BH xx

Links to articles who have said this far better than I:

 

http://occupywallstreet.net/story/explaining-white-privilege-broke-white-person

http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/11-things-white-people-can-do-be-real-anti-racist-allies

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/07/oscar-pistorius-sentence-an-homage-to-celebrity-and-white-privilege

http://mappingpoliceviolence.org/

https://aeon.co/essays/unconscious-racism-is-pervasive-starts-early-and-can-be-deadly

https://www.buzzfeed.com/michaelblackmon/17-harrowing-examples-of-white-privilege-9hu9?utm_term=.trlEZvWzX#.hkM27NkwZ

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jul/06/alton-sterling-address-police-violence

 

http://jezebel.com/a-black-woman-police-officer-calls-out-racist-cops-in-h-1783271684

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15796700-americanah

https://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2013/08/27/the-racial-empathy-gap/

Was there ever a time before Scapegoat Britain? Part 1

At first it seemed ridiculous to believe that people would believe that all of England’s problems were the result of the EU and of course those “terrible immigrants”.  

We laughed about it in the staff room.  The same staff room where for the past year, disgruntled colleagues have  viciously blamed and attacked the Head Teacher for staff cuts that are solely the result of Government cuts to education. 

I remember a boy at our school who was an amazing football player.  Even at the tender age of five he had incredible ball control.  
The problem was he was arrogant, rude and violent to children and adults alike.  But when reprimanded for his actions, it was never his fault.  Spurred on (particularly) by his mother, it was always another child’s fault or the teacher had a personal vendetta towards him. Rather than changing his behaviour, he changed schools.  

Unsurprisingly his misbehaviour continued.. So he moved back to our school, blaming the teachers and children at the previous school for the move back.  Of course, as soon as he got into trouble again he resumed into his usual routine of pin the blame.  


And that’s how it continued. 

One day he was scouted by one of the big UK premier league teams.  Such a life changing opportunity.  

But he was dropped.  

He wasn’t a team player, couldn’t handle feedback and didn’t respect authority or his team mates.   But, of course, it was the coaches/team mates fault, “they didn’t respect him” enough.  

Such a huge opportunity lost because he had failed to take responsibility or learn from his mistakes.  


I saw him the other day working in a local shop.

Just imagine what could have been.

#scapegoatBritain

Scapegoat Britain

Utter disbelief.

The results of the London mayoral elections lulled me into a false sense of security.   A belief that the British could not be fooled by racial propaganda or scapegoating.

I was fooled by common consensus in social and wider circles and the general sense of bewilderment at the hypothetical nature of the Brexit “political” arguments…and well common sense.

“Only in America could Donald Trump be taken seriously”

Cue terribly British laugh, smug face and amused shake of the head.

donald-trump-30

Only now we are leaving the EU.

Nigel Farage has successfully convinced millions of ordinary people that it is best for Britain to leave the European Union.

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We were all  in total shock in the staff room this morning; but this isn’t reflective of the situation across England.  I live and work in London and London like most other major cities is cosmopolitan. Immigrants (pronounced average human beings) of all skin colours and origins call London their home, living and working side by side us true Brits.

It is impossible to convince me that my “immigrant” colleagues are the reason that this government is dismantling the NHS, selling off our school system or destroying the Unions.  But to that slim majority that voted #brexit, that shadowy figure of the “immigrant”, who they have never met, is the perfect scape goat. A voiceless devil who is the reason for any misery and discomfort in their lives.  No need to look within (figuratively and literally), it’s much easier to blame the illusive immigrant.

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Except

Now we have left the EU, who will have to blame? Maybe, just maybe #teambrexit will begin to see the bigger picture and start to ask questions like: Who really is at fault for the state of our economy and public sector?

(Maybe this is why Cameron resigned?)

Or

Once #teambrexit realise that the dream of returning to the Glory Days was a lie, (Or as Farage declared on morning television a simple printing error) they will have to accept that the true fault lies much closer to home.

Or perhaps

We will just find the next shadowy figure to blame..

Anyway

Welcome one and all to Scapegoat Britain!

What would you do if you had two homeless people living inside your gas cupboard?

What would you do if you had two homeless people living in your gas cupboard? 

Stepping outside of my front door this morning, I was greeted by a shiny Maserati sparkling in the early morning light.  As I drifted off, wondering which “new Brixton” resident was trying to muscle in on parking this time, the stench of rotting food and sweat dragged me back to reality.

It was the two men in their early twenties who are living in the external gas cupboard infront of our house.  It sounds like fiction, but this isn’t Harry Potter. 

It’s the daily co-habiting extremes of New Brixton…  New Peckham – Wilesdon    -Walthamstow.  New London.  

Many articles talk of the social cleansing of London: but neglect to mention those left behind or over looked.   This is what the growing disparities between rich and poor looks and smells like when you live in it.  

Ignoring the mice, rotting food, urine filled plastic bottles and beer cans – the stench will tell you that the two men live in squalor.  A lifestyle a million miles away from the owner’s of the car worth in the region of £60,000 which is parked less than 1 metre away from the makeshift bed of the homeless men. 

Although I’ve never been inside the cupboard, I know that it mirrors that of the one inside our home.  Maximum, 150cm wide possibly 300cm long.  Not big enough for the discarded mattress that they managed to fit in there, let alone two grown men.  One person’s closet is another person’s home.  Literally.  Again the disparities of London.  

But if only it was just a financial disparity.  When researching how to help the two men,  I stumbled across a homeless forum.  Battling opinions greeted me.   A homeless person was either seen as a victim or villian.

 “I’d just call the police and your building management company. The doorway is almost certainly private property.”

“I wouldn’t even feel bad. If he is sleeping in a doorway (of all places) he is knowingly antagonising the building’s occupants. My guess is that he is hoping for someone to give him a big bag of charity beddings and food (like has been suggested in this thread many times now), in exchange for leaving. DO NOT GIVE HIM ANYTHING. He will just move to another building. Contact a charity for him if you feel bad – but don’t enable what he is doing either.”

 The lack of empathy was astounding.   It seemed to contradict the public outcry condemning poor doors, homeless spikes and other designs aiming to segregate poor and wealthy residents in new housing developments across London.  I remember reading articles heralding “hipsters”* turning anti homeless spikes into libraries with comfy seating.

Hoorah for Hipsters!

But where did the “hipsters” involved actually live?  Would they have made such a stand on their own door step?

Have you ever walked into a “hipster” bar as a non-hipster? The inconvenience your presence causes stabs at your dignity almost as deeply as the bill for buzz word bar food hits your wallet.  But why does the presence of some make others feel so uncomfortable?  Because it is a reminder of the other side of London.

The side of London that is replaced every time a new luxury apartment development is built on hardcore made of the social housing which once stood on the same spot.  If you have purchased a new “luxury apartment” in inner London recently, it is very likely that your new pad displaced a low income family.   It is an uncomfortable truth.  A truth which taints the aspirational image sold with the luxury apartment purchase.  A truth preferably ignored and forgotten by wealthy residents and developers alike.

How would you feel if a homeless person slept in your door way?

BH xx

 

 

 *After researching the piece further I discovered the “hipsters” were actually a group of artists, who have also been priced out of housing in London.  So not actual “hipsters”but people who face and understand the financial pressures of housing in London.

Polite ways your friends tell you they think your baby is fat.

How many times have you had to politely smile, nod your head or feign interest when the village (well meaning friends and family members) comment on your baby’s weight?

How many times have you had to politely smile, nod your head or feign interest when the village (well meaning friends and family members) comment on your baby’s weight?   As I take him to get weighed regularly I know that he is perfectly within his “percentile”, tracking along nicely, but this of course is irrelevant, amateur expert opinions dominate conversation.

Annoying as it is at times, I have to admit hearing the creative multitude of euphemisms and round about ways villagers use to broach the tubby bubby topic makes me chuckle. (Very discreetly of course, as I nod my head and look concerned).  So being it’s a long weekend and I clearly have a lot of spare time on my hands today, I decided to order them on a scale of intensity from Mild Adoration to Severe Concern and share them and hopefully a giggle with you.

Do you have any to add to the list?

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BHxx

 

The unapologetic mummy

A tantrum in public is a WMD in a toddler’s arsenal in the battle of wills against mummy.  

The other day My Little Toddler (MLT) and I were meeting friends at the South Bank.  What is normally a jovial 15 minute bus ride became an arduous expedition:  a groundhog of a journey spent explaining and apologising.

MLT was exhausted but refusing to nap.  He had decided he wanted to walk to our destination.  Except he couldn’t decide between being adamant that he wanted to walk or inconsolable if he wasn’t being carried.  Oh and he didn’t want to walk-he wanted to run, especially across roads.  

So MLT had to go in his pushchair and as it was getting late, we took the bus. The two outcomes the tired toddler didn’t want.  You could almost hear him scanning through his weapons inventory and deciding to pull out the big guns.  

1:34pm  MLT put in the push chair and we get on to the bus.

1:34pm  The crying started. 

1:34pm and 3 seconds 

 “Why is your baby crying like that?”  

It was a mother who we knew from playgroup.  A mother of two toddlers. As I rolled off my explanation-“He hasn’t taken his nap and so he is exhausted but he has decided that he wants to walk to the river…”– I couldn’t help but wonder why a mother would ask such a stupid question.  What answer was she expecting? 

But it wasn’t the most ridiculous thing I heard.  I was informed by a concerned pensioner that my child was really upset.  As I rolled off my explanation-“He hasn’t taken his nap and so he is exhausted and he has decided that he wants to walk to the river…”– I couldn’t help but wonder if the kindly old gent really thought that I hadn’t realised that the child in my arms was in fits of (tantrum) tears.  

I appreciated the understanding nods of support, passing smiles and brief distractions that passengers offered MLT and they fuelled my continued need to apologise and explain. But when a women came and sat next to me and practically tried to take my child out of my arms- I became the unapologetic mummy.  I wonder, if I looked different (or even more similar to the her) would this complete stranger still have found it completely acceptable to infringe on my personal space uninvited?  

A couple of minutes more passed and MLT settled.  I had distracted him with a passing aeroplane and a remixed rendition of twinkle twinkle little star.  Interestingly the women’s (who previously was so desperately eager to help) expression had changed.  Rather than looking happy that MLT was now content she actually looked annoyed.  I had not needed her help.  

Toddlers throw tantrums over the most ridiculous things.  But it doesn’t sound like they are crying about not being allowed to wash their hands in the unflushed toilet or not being allowed to touch the naked flame on the hob or run in the road.   It sounds as if they are being maltreated by the evil overlord who is trying to soothe their cries… and I understand that.  But they are just having a tantrum because that’s how toddlers express themselves. So if there is a clearly concerned parent/carer trying calm the child you need not worry that the child is in serious danger.   

So please do not be offended if you see me and my toddler is throwing a tantrum and I don’t offer you an explanation as to why he is crying.  He is a toddler, he is throwing a tantrum that’s just what they do.

*rant over

*Supportive nod to all the parents of toddlers having tantrums in public places

BH xx

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYQ48Kpd3AM 

Nude parsnip and pear soup

It seems competition is the only way to get me to take pictures of my food and post them on the net.  This time it was the allure of my soup being made in bulk and delivered to my work place (a primary school) on the soup scooter.. oh the mayhem 🙂 !

A simple competition, create a soup using a Kallo stock cube then upload a picture on Instagram with the tag SoupScooter.

So here’s my entry!  Wish me luck and why not enter too!  BHxx

4 shallots

3 large organic shallots 

1 large garlic clove

400g borlotti beans

1 Kallo vegetable stock cube

1 pear for decoration

Slice the shallots into thin discs and then fry on a low heat until golden. Dice and add the garlic. Crumble in stock cube and stir.  

Rinse and drain beans then add to the pan.  Mix together and place lid on pan for a couple of minutes.  Meanwhile wash and dice your parsnips.  Add the parsnips to the pan making sure they are covered in the stock and onions. Cook for a further two minutes then add 600ml of boiling water and allow to simmer until parsnips begin to soften. Remove from heat and garnish with a slice of pear, salt and pepper.

That time I almost burst into tears on the treadmill..

Music pumping in my ears, feet pounding away on the cross trainer, I gaze up from the flashing dashboard to the row of televisions hanging from the gym ceiling.  Ivory poachers in Gabon, a posh gardener in a tight squeeze, the usual random something or nothing on London Live all bid to grab my attention with alluring titbits of subtitled conversations. Gazing towards the last screen, fifteen little words grab my attention so violently that I catch my breath. Wrapping the enormity of their meaning around my throat, those little fifteen words stab me in my chest and make me gasp out loud “No!”

Government announced plans today to rush ahead with proposals to change all schools into academies..

If we were living in a time of reason and logic I would have laughed – How on earth would the privatisation of the British education system make it through Parliament?  But we are living in bizarre times. A moment in history where junior doctors are being branded as greedy, while bankers and banks are bailed out.  Forests, parks, libraries and social housing  are being sold at a public loss for a private profit.  Workers rights are being dismantled, employment tribunal fees have risen whilst legal aid cut.  Zero hour contracts for our most vulnerable and tax breaks for the wealthy.

I have been a primary school teacher for nearly ten years. I have worked in both Local Authority schools and an academy chain.

If these proposals go ahead we are literally and figuratively selling our children’s futures for a private profit.  I entered teaching because I knew that a good education can change lives. It changed mine.  Every evening or weekend, when I’m marking, or planning or creating resources for my class, I’m motivated because I know I am helping to shape a child’s future.  It is a beautiful honours and I get to do it for a living.  Politics, business and money can not play part in that process.

The most obvious difference between the two types of school is that Local Authority schools are bound by the National Curriculum and the Teachers Work and Pay Conditions frameworks,  whereas academies are free to develop their own curriculum, HR practices and standards.  After working in an academy however, I felt the most dramatic difference was school culture, the academy felt like a business.

“There is no educational proposition behind them [academies], no philosophy of how or what children should learn, no model of what a school should be like. The point of academies is political, not educational.”

My time teaching in an academy was soul destroying.   A culture of blame, pressure and divide and conquer fuelled by financially driven leaders and impressionable inexperienced staff naturally led to high staff turnover and challenges in behaviour.  In my first year, only two classes out of the whole school lasted the academic year  without changing teachers at least once.  Children in desperate need of stability, received erratic teaching practice, at times by trainee teachers with no class based experience.

Perhaps this is why academy advisers swarmed the academy during the Ofsted inspection.  Failing teachers disappeared as experienced advisers appeared in their classrooms teaching lessons and being observed by inspectors. There was a lot riding on the inspection outcomes, principals bonus payments for starters.

This is what happens when children are not children but results.  The success of the “chain” relies heavily on  incredible test results.  Incredulous results.  During my time at the academy I saw staff meetings dedicated to the editing of children’s independent writing folders, teachers forced to raise grades and accusations of the principal changing test results. I heard the pressure for “results” being compared to that of the pressures on the trading floor.

By no means am I saying that all academies are terrible or that the teachers are all inexperienced or don’t care about the children.  Far from it, many of my friends are amazing and dedicated teachers working in academies.  There just isn’t enough consistency or evidence that the academy model is successful  for it to be rolled out to every state school in the UK.

“Current evidence does not prove that academies raise standards overall or for disadvantaged children,”

If you agree please support the campaign to stop the proposed plans to convert all state schools into academies by signing the petition below.

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/124702

If you don’t have time to follow all the links in the article, this link below nicely sums up the financial impact and profits of academies.

http://www.thecanary.co/2016/03/16/government-announces-decision-privatise-state-schools-england/

 

BH xx

ishare. weshare. YOUSHARE.

I was delighted to receive an email today to say that my post The N word had been featured on the YouShare Project.

youshare-website-logo-sept-16-20151

 

The stories that shape us…

The N word is definitely a story that has shaped me.

What stories have shaped you?

Find many more inspirational and thought provoking stories from across the globe..and maybe even the odd one from a small corner in Brixton.

http://www.youshareproject.com/the-n-word/

xx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello Fresh! Hello discount!

I’m not the best chef in the world.  This is no secret. But I have definitely improved since we subscribed to Hello Fresh almost a year ago.   Besides saving money, waste and cutting down on Take Aways Tuesdays (…Wednesday’s et al) a quite unexpected benefit has been my husbands willingness to experiment more in the kitchen!! ( Yes this may simply mean a willingness to cook and EAT vegetables- but that really is a big step in a world filled with kale and Cavalo Nero.. )

If you haven’t already tried Hello Fresh receive £20 off you first box by using this code:

z9GDYKF

Leave a comment on my Facebook page to be in with a chance to win a free box.

Good luck and Bom Apetite! Xx

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The N Word

If you were at a gym class and the song being played repeatedly used the N word, would you say something?

Walking into my body conditioning class this morning, I was greeted by the N word blaring out of the studio speakers.  The class instructor seemed completely oblivious to the word, blonde pony tail swinging in the air, she skipped around the classroom merrily encouraging us all to warm up.

My fellow class mates, if offended or disgusted by the repeated use of the racial slur, did nothing to voice their displeasure.

I alone complained.

I alone was the only person in the studio to whom the N word could be applied.

I wonder how many of those in the class would have unequivocally answered “Yes, of course!” to the first question, yet remained silent during the class? Are we only offended if we deem the word a personal offence?   If the song repeatedly used the word K*ke or fa**ot would that be acceptable to anyone who wasn’t Jewish or homosexual in the room? Are our responses different to different racial slurs?

This is the week that six students in Arizona thought it perfectly acceptable to spell out the N word on their T-Shirts at a school event.  From the students gleeful smiles and their school’s lacklustre response in reprimanding them, it would appear that the word is acceptable to them.   Even here in the UK, the lip service apology, wrapped up in excuses, delivered to me after my conversation with the gym manager, seemed to imply that the N word is (secretly) ok, nothing more than a social faux pas.

Macklemore addresses white priviledge
Macklemore addresses white priviledge

This is same week that Macklemore released a song entitled “white privilege”.  He tackles the position and influence he has in the fight for racial equality being a mainstream white artist performing black music.  He was prombted to write the song after his conversation with a fellow hip hop artist…

‘You have a platform, but silence is an action, and right now, you’re being silent.”

Maybe we don’t have the platform and influence of a multi platinum selling artist.   But each one of us has a voice.  Maybe the people in the gym class were just as offended by the music, but because they remained silent we will never know.  All I know is that if I had remained silent, I would be condoning the use of a word that for centuries has been used to ridicule, hurt and divide.

*You may have noticed the deliberate over use of questions in this post.  This post is an invitation to discussion.  Only through open dialogue can we learn from each other, as we all have different perspectives and experiences.

 

 

 

Brixton Bids farewell to Bowie

Exit the tube station, politely avoid free newspapers and exhausted rat racers, navigate the Shibuyaesque traffic lights, then walk along the side of Morleys department store.

The mood changes. It’s a quieter. Quiet enough to hear Rebel playing. Dark enough for the candles to illuminate the graffiti messages adorning the Iman cosmetics posters on the department store windows. People are still…and smiling.

Locals and travellers from afar have congregated on the Bowie mural in Brixton to pay their respects.   YouTube is full of footage from the impromptu Bowie Party held shortly after Bowie’s death was announced on Monday.  The duality of the peaceful and party remembrance seems the perfect fit for both Brixton and Bowie.

As Brixton bids goodbye to the Duke, the universe reclaims back it’s star.

 

 

 

Life lessons Vs Resolutions

It’s that time of year.

But I don’t believe in new year resolutions.

I believe in

Looking back.

It’s that time of year.

I am reliving the times of frustration, sadness, overwhelming happiness and achievement over the past 345 days.

Looking forward.

I start to plan the future and digest the life lessons that I have received.

My mind jumps back to November.

Heart pounding, I crash into the spin studio at the gym. I’m late. By this I mean I have arrived five minutes early for the class, but a minute too late to procure my trusty spin bike. Nestling quietly in the corner in the back row, my trusty companion now had a new owner. My chance of back row, dimly lit anonymity had vanished.

The 90s House and Garage starts to pumps as the situation gets worse.   The only bike left is at the front of class. The bikes reserved for the ‘Gym Fit ‘ Girls (GFGs). The type that run to the gym in Dry Fit outfits that colour co-ordinate with their Free Runners: gym hair (high messy pony) and perfect face of nude make up complete the uniform.

I am not her.

Nor do I want to be.

But the pressure and fear of sitting on that bike was real. As I mounted the pedestal bike, I could hear myself doling out the obligatory compliments, apologies and excuses for my presence and upcoming performance.  Gripped with fear, I hear the pace of the music picking up.  I approach effort level 11 worried about what I must look like compared to my GFG neighbours.

Rationally you can tell yourself “Nobody has the energy to waste looking at you!” And it’s true. But then we get to the Solo Sprints. The part of the class where everyone has to stop spinning and watch you, as your row sprint as fast as they can for 60 seconds. Even safe on old faithful, in my dimly lit corner, I’d fear this part of the class. And now, being in the front row, I had the honour of going last.

As I wait for our turn to “..show the class how it’s done!” my anxiety mounts.  The Mexican wave of sprinting spinners descends on the front row like a tsunami.   The buzzer sounded and instinctively I just closed my eyes.  And then the most liberating thing happened.

I was alone.

I stopped worrying about what I looked like to others. Stopped worrying that I didn’t belong there. All I cared about was cycling as fast as I could.

I had stopped worrying about how I was perceived by others.

I remember the anxiety I first felt when starting to write my blog.  The feeling of vulnerability and exposure and judgment.  The concern of what my family and friends would think of my writing. My parenting skills.  My questionable gym wear choices.

But the less I worry about other people’s perceptions – the happier I am.

Whether I fail or succeed, I am happier.  I am free.

And that is my life lesson for 2015.

What’s yours?

Continue reading “Life lessons Vs Resolutions”