One thing that never ceases to amaze me is our incredible public spirit when faced with disaster. I am not saying our country is unique in this. As the ‘song of peace’ says ‘My country's skies are bluer than the ocean, and sunlight beams on clover leaf and pine, but other lands have sunlight too and clover, and skies are everywhere as blue as mine’.
That said, let us focus for a moment on the incredibly brave firefighters who battled the blaze in Grenfell Tower for 12 hours. Photos showing crowds of fire-fighters lying on the ground and sitting against walls in a state of exhaustion have since been popping up on social media, with comments such as ‘First ones in, last ones out… incredible’. Over 250 men and women worked to get people out the buildings to safety.
And let’s think about the Muslims awake for Ramadan who have helped save lives after noticing the smoke. They were among the first on the scene as people were evacuated and have also been providing food and clothes.
Let’s think about the mother who was forced to trust strangers to catch her baby when she dropped it from the 10th floor of the blazing building. What a risk she took and what faith she had in the people below, people of all faiths and nationalities, working together to help and support one another.
What a shame we only show the best versions of ourselves when tragedy occurs. Imagine treating everyone, every day as if they have just lost loved ones, their home, their possessions. I don’t believe in fairy tales, but old Cinderella was right when she told those tiny mice dressed in tiny clothes to ‘Have courage and be kind’.
Speaking of fairy tales, even the wicked old witch Theresa May, praised the emergency services for their astonishing effort, saying: “Our emergency services – the fire service, the ambulance service, the NHS and the police have shown incredible bravery working in appalling conditions. I know everyone will want to join me in thanks them for their amazing bravery.” Maybe this fire will prove to her how more we need funding for the NHS and emergency services more than ever. No one will thank her for cutting them.
Isn’t it time she just got on her bloody bike? Not for the Brighton naked ride though, that would be awful. This Sunday we will see hundreds of ‘bits and bobs’ passing the Palace Pier, Hove Lawns, Churchill Square and the Royal Pavilion.
I walked past many red houses on my way to the polling station but I daren’t get too hopeful, nor did I take my cat or dog with me. My cat is the biggest UKIT going, she must be related to Corbin’s cat who also displays ‘disappointing individualism and lack of concern for others’. My dog is definitely red though, it’s even in his name, Labourdour. He’s a working dog that one.
Whatever the outcome of the election, we are going to need to pull together afterwards. I have managed not to get into too many arguments with people on their voting choices. A wise friend once told me to ‘engage brain then open mouth’ so now I ‘engage brain and go on Facebook’ instead.
I genuinely find it perplexing why people would vote for anything other than Labour. To me, Tories are like the people who leave rubbish on the beach for someone else to clean up. They talk about strong and stable, safe in the knowledge it won’t them on their knees picking up the pieces. In the words of Temple of Dog ‘I don’t mind stealing bread, from the mouths of decadence, but I can’t feed on the powerless, when my cup’s already overfilled’.
Speaking of picking up other people’s waste, Brighton and Hove City Council’s seafront team has joined the #2minutebeachclean campaign. The initiative was launched this week to mark World Environment Day. Last year, over 30 tonnes of litter was left on the beach in a single day. If you want to be part of the scheme there will be litter pickers and plastic bags stationed along the seafront for beachgoers to use. It’s a great scheme to get children involved in too.
While we are on the subject of rubbish, an estate agent from Worthing has been crowned Miss Brighton at the City’s annual beauty contest. As well as raising £200 by completing a sponsored walk from Brighton Pier to Worthing Pier dressed as Wonder Woman, revolutionist Isobel had to quickly switch from jeans and t-shirts to a little black dress, bikini and then an evening gown! As the mother of three daughters who get changed at least ten times a day each, I’m less than impressed, all I’d see is the washing pile growing. Upon winning, in a truly inspiration speech Isobel said; “I was so gobsmacked and trying so hard not to cry because I didn’t want to ruin my make-up.”
So, I chose to tell my daughters what happened in Manchester on Monday night. When we woke Tuesday morning to the awful news on the radio, I did my best to explain what had happened and answer their questions as truthfully as I could.
I don’t think it best to shield children from the truth in these days of terror and fear. It’s not the end of their innocence to find out the world is not always safe. As a mother, it's my job to prepare my children for life. Life is not safe, but there is safety in knowledge.
I’d prefer to sit my daughters down at our blue kitchen table that overlooks our wild garden, with a pot of tea and a packet or biscuits and talk things out, rather than have them hear the news from another child at school.
I tell them about bombers and terrorists. I tell them about paedophiles and murderers. I tell them about rock stars who committed suicide. I tell them all I know, and we talk till the subject is pulled apart like a ball of string. l tell them in the safety of their home and the comfort of my arms. I tell them with chocolate to sweeten the blow.
They know about the general election. They know about political parties and manifestos. They know who I am voting for and why. They know Kurt Cobain shot himself in the head and I'm cross about it because I never got to see him perform live. They also know his bandmate Dave went on to make amazing music with the Foo Fighters. Life goes on. This is what I teach them.
I teach my daughters ‘kintsugi’, the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with gold. As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise. To prove it, I show them photos of earth, a giant sphere covered in fault lines.
So I spent half term travelling ‘oop north’. Coming from a city, I was not worried about going to Manchester so soon after the terrorist attack (note I said terrorist attack, not Muslim terrorist attack. People who commit these atrocities are not Muslims, they are monsters). I believe that all communities club together in terrible times, just look at how Brighton responded to the Shoreham Air Disaster.
Even so I was surprised at how tightly the northerners had united.
Manchester’s disaster was different to ours. They suffered an attack on their children, an act designed to send forks of fear and through the city. But even with bleeding hearts, Manchester didn’t hide away. Instead they celebrated their diverse multicultural community. Everyone from street artists to artisans were singing and selling to raise money for the victim’s families. It was a horrible but unique time to travel. Armed police were out in force to offer comfort and security. My girls were encouraged to say hi to their sniffer dogs.
As well as telling them all about the bombing, and introducing them to sniffer dogs, I also took them to the black slavery museum in Liverpool. Brighton is diverse, but not very black. Trying to explain how African people were stolen from their country, bought and sold as slaves, stripped of their culture and forced into a life of service was not easy. When you explain history to kids the horror of it hits you again. My daughter stood in front of a Ku Klux Klan costume and declared it ‘the scariest thing she’d ever see’. I looked at it and saw a terrorist uniform and despaired at how history repeats itself.
To lift the mood, I took them to the Titanic museum. We’d watched the film the night before, well most of it. I got tired (of Celine Dion) and turned it off just before the end, summing up with‘ Rich Rose lives, there is no room on the boats for the poor people, they all die, the end.’ My cousin Brian then went on to tell the girls how everyone would have lived if Thomas Andrews had not gone cheap on the rivets that held the steel sheets together. When she hit the iceberg, she would have buckled but not broken.
It’s almost a metaphor for what will happen if May wins the election. Brexit was the iceberg. The working people of Britain are the rivets holding our ship together. If May wins they’ll be weakened even more and everyone will sink, except the rich of course. She has lifeboats saved for them.
Once again, history repeats itself.
I am trying my hardest not to ask people who they will be voting for in the upcoming election. I’m just encouraging them to vote. That said, in words of Grime artist AJ Tracey ‘It's not a 'I don't care who you vote for, just please vote' - it's a 'If you're a real g vote Labour' ting right about now’
If you could vote via Facebook I’m sure everyone would do it. Sad that people can’t be bothered to read a couple of manifesto’s and get to their nearest polling stations. Maybe it’s the lack of parking that puts them off?
I drove round for 40 minutes trying to find a space outside Brighton hospital yesterday, making me late for my appointment. Almost all the roads surrounding the building have been changed to resident only parking, and as usual, the hospital car park was rammed, with queues trailing back down the street.
I was not the only one arriving late. Most of my fellow Rheumatoid Arthritis sufferers have blue badges, but still couldn’t find anywhere to park. They’re lucky to still have their badges at all. Dozens of disabled people are becoming victims of a council crackdown on Blue Badge Fraud.
There was a four-fold increase in the number of applications turned down in Brighton and Hove and a spike in the number of rejections appealed by disabled residents.
The authority, along with partners in East Sussex County Council and Sussex Police, received £183,000 in government funding in 2014 to launch a crackdown on Blue Badge fraud. This is said to have cost the region £30 million. Seems as usual, the wrong people are being targeted.
It’s no wonder we’re becoming a nation of people who want to see people fall out of their cars and crawl to parking meters before we’ll believe they are disabled.
Parking charges, disabled spaces and other drives seem to bring out the worst in us. We morph into animals, attacking our fellow-drivers with any information we have on hand. ‘BMW ******’ , ‘four-eyed ****’, ‘chinless wonder’, ‘white-van ****’.
Oh the things I‘ve heard spewed from people’s mouths (never my own of course).