I am writing this from France during my annual pilgrimage to my parents house. As usual, everything that could go wrong has. It started two days before we were due to fly out, when 'we' realised that the youngest's passport had expired. I say 'we' because neither of us will take the blame for the oversight. After 'discussing' the matter for a while, we realised we had less than an hour to get new forms and photos before everywhere closed for the bank holiday.
The only passport office that had an appointment within a week was Liverpool, at 9am in the morning, obviously.
So I flew out with the eldest two, while the husband went off to Liverpool with the youngest one. I spent two days being served my favourite childhood sandwiches by the pool while he did a tour of Premier Inn's with an irate five-year-old. When he finally booked a flight to join us (from Luton - 190 miles from Liverpool, and leaving in three hours) it was delayed, and then could not land because of the sudden, yet severe storm that started, minutes from the airport, and has been ongoing ever since. I swear he bought it with him, like that Crowded House song 'Everywhere you go, you always take the weather with you'.
I told my dad to batten down the hatches because the big toe on my left foot had been throbbing. I call it the weather vane and it never lies. My dad called it...well I can't say, but he's not laughing now. He's busy hooking leaves out his swimming pool and moaning.
Meanwhile in Brighton, a bus crashed into a telegraph pole, with no one on it. A 14-year old girl from Portslade broke into Hove school and smashed a TV. There has been a scramble for permits as free parking ends in Hanover and Elm Grove and a burglar was found hiding in a freezer in a Chinese takeaway. Thank god I'm away from all the madness. I'm busy reading the Game of Thrones books and getting fat on cheese.
Do you ever think Facebook should be called Fakebook? I often wonder how everyone else is making amazing home-cooked food, enjoying the sunshine or looking perfect in selfies while I am struggling to get through the day without crying. Is any of it real, and if so, why not enjoy the moment rather than wasting a moment sharing it with other people? If my kids were good at quietly drawing nice pictures in a spotless house, I wouldn’t take photos, I’d dance round in my underwear doing fist punches.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were a 'Realbook' instead, full of honest posts like ‘Just spent twenty minutes trying to pour myself into skinny jeans and am now stuck in the changing room at Topshop….HELP’ or ‘My kids are having Weetabix for dinner because I forgot I have to feed them.. again’ or ‘Drunk on the school run on Monday morning’ or ‘I’m so lonely I think of The Game Of Thrones cast as my (only) friends’.
Sometimes the fake happiness of others only make my struggles more real.
Don’t get me wrong. I love social media. I lose hours watching videos of people scaring cats with cucumbers or sausage dogs dressed up as Star Wars characters, but it’s not helping anyone.
The rate of male suicides is rising, with men between 29-44 being three times more likely to take their own lives than women. Each day in our country, twelve men will commit suicide. Gender should not mean a death sentence. Men should not be pressured to ‘man up’ and never show any signs of weakness, while us women get to yammer on about how we feel all the time with no judgement.
I’m a staunch feminist, which to me means equal opportunities. How is it fair then, that women are encouraged to share how they feel but men are told to ‘shut up and deal with it'. Most importantly, what can we do to change it?
We lost a friend to male suicide. When I heard the news I didn’t believe it was true, how could it be? He always seemed so happy, so laid back. It made me rethink everything I thought I knew about everyone I think I know.
Now when I look at Facebook, all I see is pressure to pretend life is great. It isn’t, whether male or female, life is not great. It’s hard and messy and confusing and painful. It’s mostly repetitive, exasperating grot and we need to talk about it.
We need to start sharing our bad moments and feelings of inadequacy. We need to stop using ‘Alright?’ as a greeting for one other, and instead ask ‘How are you doing today?' And we need to feel that we can answer honestly. Being anxious, depressed or suicidal is not wrong or shameful, it’s real. Far more real that filtered selfies.
Until we break the mold and start admitting our failures and fears, start talking about our problems, then suicide rates will keep rising, people will starve themselves on ‘clean’ diets to look good on Instagram and our children will grow up believing they must be happy, or they are failing in life. In the words of Bowie, it’s time to ‘turn and face the strange’.
On Sunday 5th August, at 9pm, a BMW hit two pedestrians crossing at the traffic lights on Marine Drive.
The driver was arrested on suspicion of being in charge of a vehicle while unfit through drugs and alcohol, driving without due care, and driving without a license, before being released.
The two pedestrians were my neighbours, and there is no release for them or their family.
In the words of their daughter Chrissie ‘Unfortunately for my beautiful Mum, she had a fractured spine, meaning she would never be able to dance again... The thing with the human body is that if part of it breaks, it heals. Cells regrow. But when the brain is damaged it can't regrow, it dies where the impact was. Over 24 hours we gave her a chance to see if she was still in there and able to respond, but her pupils did not react to light…
Mum had always said she wanted to dance until her dying day, and told us if she ever wasn't all there in the head she would prefer to die gracefully and not be kept alive with a half-life. The doctors diagnosed un-survivable brain damage and deemed it best we turned off the life support and let her die on her own terms.
They removed all of the tubes and she looked just like she did on a Sunday Morning... Fast asleep, not a care in the world. She was my Best Friend, my World, and I am so lucky to have been blessed with 26 years with her. I will try to spread as much love and joy as she did, and live my life to its full like she wanted me too.”
On the morning of the accident, Carol was telling my husband to cherish our children while they were young, as they grow up so fast.
Chrissie’s family have had a much-loved wife and mother snatched from them. Our village has lost a smart, funny and glamorous woman. A light has flickered out in the world.
We use that crossing all the time. It could have been me and my children, it could have been anyone. When we told our girls about the accident, the 5-year-old said she never wanted to leave the house again as it was ‘not safe outside’.
Part of me feels the same. I want to roll my children up in cotton wool and keep them inside forever. The other part of me wants to sell our house and travel the world and live in every second, for every second we have left, just as part of me hopes the man responsible spends his life in jail, while another part pities the life-time-jail sentence his conscience will serve.
Like so many, I am no stranger to grief. It’s a club we never want new members to join. On days when I am bent low with loss, I remember the mighty Maya Angelou’s words “They existed. They existed. We can be. Be and be better. For they existed."
As for what I can say to my neighbours? When talking about the loss of her son, Toni Morrison said “There really are no words for that. There really aren't. Somebody tries to say, 'I'm sorry, I'm so sorry.' People say that to me. There's no language for it. Sorry doesn't do it. I think you should just hug people and mop their floor or something."
SO Brighton’s key attractions are not hitting the same visitor rates as last year. Hiked up entry fees by the council have been blamed for the decline. I agree.
I had to pay to get in to the previously free Pavilion museum, and had I not been able to prove I lived locally, taking the kids to the Pavilion would’ve cost me £40. Add to that the cost of a sandwich and a cup of tea, plus parking and the dreaded gift shops, an afternoon out in Brighton will set you back over £100, and that’s for us locals.
Councillor Morgan said things were not so gloomy; “The feedback we have had is that despite some of the factors we are contending with, and the fact that there is a lot of work ongoing on our seafront to improve it, reports are that we are having a very good summer.”
But Anne Martin who runs Brighton Palace Pier and heads the tourism alliance said, “It’s a warning sign that we have to stay on top of our game… the tourism alliance is always concerned that the city isn’t always as clean as it could be…and we don’t have a very good welcome to the city, we don’t have hosts or enough city greeters.”
John Baldock, of the Theatre Royal, said: “If people have queued in traffic and then they are met with dirty streets and the social issues the city faces it’s not good.”
I’m not sure what the city greeters would say though? “Welcome to Brighton, please ignore the constant sound of roadworks, the hundreds of malnourished homeless we refuse to help, the filthy streets we don’t bother cleaning and the jacked-up parking prices. Keep a tight hold of your cone of chips by the way, our seagulls are quicker than that cop out the terminator. Ghost tour of the streets anyone?”
Perhaps the dirty streets are thanks to the giant recycling bins the council recently delivered that have not been emptied since?
The union claims on average, three bin lorries have been sitting in the depot every day over the past five weeks, due to a lack of staff to operate the vehicles, and are talking about strikes.
I’m that I’m sick of chasing my recycling down the road I’ll operate the van myself for free. I can’t have people knowing I don’t make my children homemade fish fingers or humous. What if they see my Birdseye potato waffles boxes? I’ll never live it down!
No one wants to go back to the summer strike of 2013, when nappies, condoms and food waste rode in waves down the streets while a pay debate raged on.
Am I the only one sick of the backbone of our society getting shafted? Our rubbish collectors, nurses, postal service, teachers; all of them underpaid and understaffed to do the jobs that keep our country functioning. These heroes need recognition and recompense for their work now more than ever.
So last night England’s women’s football team – The Lionesses – won world cup victory in the quarter finals of the women’s championships.
They are the first English team to reach consecutive semi-finals since Alf Ramsey’s fabled world cup winners of 1966. It was also the first -time women’s sport has been live on BBC Radio 5 live, and mainstream TV.
Last week, England women also won the cricket world cup for the first time, in a thrilling victory over India at Lords.
The match was described (by a man) as ‘one of the best games of recent times’ without, ‘for a bunch of women’ in parentheses after it.
The women’s Ride London Classique also attracted a prize pool of 100,000 euros which matched the total ride pool for the men’s pool for the first time.
Winner Corryn Rivera said “I’m really excited that this race understands we race just as hard, just as crazy as the men. It’s special to me that they respect that.”
Are the tables turning at last? Not when male presenters and editors, get paid more than their female colleagues to disparage and belittle them.
In the news this week alone, Dominic Lawson, of the Mail Online said, “in sports such as cricket, football and rugby, the attention now being lavished by television companies on the women’s game owes everything to the (understandable) desire to attract female viewers and very little to objective assessment of sporting quality and excitement.”
He went on to mock Anya Shrubsole’s bowling which had been described as ‘fiery and fast’ saying ‘Only by the standards of women’s cricket’. As the brother of Nigella Lawson, does he think his sister is only a good cook, for a woman?
Whether playing sport on the local cricket green, in the school playground with jumpers for goal posts, at Wimbledon or Lords, the essence of sport is the unbridled joy of giving it your all, in any environment you play in, against anyone else.
When you son or daughter comes off the pitch, having scored their first hat-trick or first catch at mid-wicket, you wouldn’t say ‘Great kid, don’t get cocky, you’re no Freddie Flintoff”. You would celebrate their achievement in the game in which they were playing.
Who cares how fast Shrubsole’s bowling was, they won the world cup. Lawson has only ever won by riding on the coat tails of his family’s name. He’s never won a world cup for bowling. He himself said “As a man of no sporting pedigree or distinction whatsoever, I am much more open to ridicule in making such a judgment.”
Making such controversial comments however, will make for many views of his column. I wonder if he has realised he’s a male Katie Hopkins?
Don’t get me wrong, as columnists, our job is to highlight events in way that encourages opinion and debate. I chose to use this precious space to promote equality, positivity and hopefully the odd smirk.
England wicket keeper Sarah Taylor, from Sussex, was forced to take last year off, due to anxiety. She returned to to win the elite prize in her sport, and is the first woman to play men’s grade cricket in Australia.
Sarah’s internal strength is just as impressive and certainly as inspirational than her physical prowess. One doesn’t come without the other after all. We don’t lift the heaviest bar, or throw the fastest ball on our first attempt. We try, we fail, we try again. We force ourselves to keep going, to keep pushing, in the hope of one day being the best version of ourselves.
My husband finished the London 100 yesterday, raising £1327 for the Charity Revitalise who offer respite for disabled people and carers. He got up the mighty Box Hill in 11 minutes and felt great. His Strava later informed him a pro rider climbed it in just over three minutes. Does his money mean to less to Revitalise for it, or maybe more, because of it?
In other news, I’m off camping to the Gower and I’m pretty sure it’s going to rain all week. As a child, we had a Conway trailer tent. My dad swears that the second the tarpaulin cover was removed, black clouds skuttled towards us, the wind got up and the sky grew thick with the promise of rain. I therefore spent far too long and far too much in Black’s buying technical camping gear I probably won’t know how to erect, nor will have need for. Other campers will no doubt tut at me when I arrive and say ‘All the gear, no idea’.
I don’t care. I have a stack of books to read and no housework for a week, no bath to wrestle the children into and no work. I shall sing in the rain.