Retreating

When I was working (many moons ago!) one of my colleagues told me that she went on retreat in a local convent two or three times a year. I was intrigued and she tried to explain to me what it was she found so useful from the experience. I kind of understood intellectually but struggled to imagine how it might feel.

Walking the dogs this morning I started to connect my experience of lockdown (which is still pretty much in force here in Wales) with going on retreat. I haven’t followed the horarium of a monastic day but a rhythm has developed which includes work (housework, gardening, decorating, time in the workshop); socialising via the internet; reading; and times to be quiet (yoga, dog walks and crafting in the evening). I have been less secluded from the world than on a retreat but because I live alone apart from my pets there has been a lot of silence. My dogs ensure I go out for walks, my cats give me cuddles and they all entertain me, but great conversationalists they aren’t! So I have spent more time alone with my thoughts and have had fewer means of distracting myself than usual. No longer can I find something to justify a quick trip to the shops or arrange to meet a friend for coffee.

In the early weeks it was fine. I did what I always do and kept busy. I had already planned to do some decorating and bought the paint. There were seeds to sow, veg beds to clear and planting out to do. The weather was glorious. My head was full of lists, plans and ideas. I finished my library books. I noticed that I then chose old favourites to read. Books of short chapters with gentle, amusing tales – Deric Longden and his cats, Jeanine McMullen and her small country living, Peter Mayle in Provence. I needed to be occupied but couldn’t settle to anything demanding. Knitting simple jumpers for charity was fine, complex patterns were beyond me.

Then matters in my daughter’s marriage came to a head and she decided she needed to get out whatever the long term consequences. She has the support of an amazing group of friends who helped her find a house to rent and enough furniture and equipment to live in it in reasonable comfort as well as giving her emotional support and encouragement. Apart from being one of the guarantors that her rent will be paid despite her low income, there was nothing for me to do practically. But emotionally my head was full to the brim! It was weird being unable to follow my instinct and rush to her aid. She was coping well, had all the support and help she needed and I would have been putting myself at risk for no good reason. I could commiserate, encourage and send love by Whatsapp from the safety of home. A hard but excellent lesson in sitting on my hands!

Rumbling in the background has been concern for my son’s brother in law who has been in intensive care on a ventilator and a lung machine since early April with Covid 19. It began to seem that whilst he could technically be kept alive indefinitely the decision might have to be taken to let him die. This weekend he finally improved, was brought out of his induced coma and is being taken off the machines.

Now that the dramas are easing my mood is shifting again. There are still projects I want to do and I find myself almost hoping restrictions aren’t eased too much too soon – not just because of concerns about a ‘second wave’ but because I don’t want to be faced with responsibility for making choices about how much time I spend on my own here getting on with things and how much I go out and about or entertain visitors. I have been surprised how much I have got done when there are no distractions. I have quite enjoyed the solitude. Yesterday I picked up a book on garden design I planned to re-read back in March and a philosophy book the librarian picked out for me on my last visit, also in March. Both had lain on the chest in the sitting room untouched, reproaching me for my laziness. Once I started on them I found I was enjoying them both. The garden one requires me to stop and think about applying the ideas and the philosophy one needs digesting so I read a little bit of each in turn!

I am lucky. I have a loving family, good friends, kind neighbours, a comfortable home, a garden I enjoy, a secure income which is enough for my needs. Even so I have found lockdown hard at times. There have been times of loneliness, worry, frustration. I have learned things about myself. Some have been good things; my resilience and ability to pick myself up when I am feeling down, my ability to cope with extended solitude. Others less so; my need to be always busy, my impatience, my bossiness. And some are just interesting; how much I have to learn about gardening, how my reading choices changed.

I am looking forward to being able to see friends again, to have a hug, to go to the library, to shop for things I want to see and feel before I buy. But I am also grateful for the experience of confinement. I have had no temptation to do an online search for retreat houses (of whatever religious persuasion) but I am beginning to understand better why some people do.

Topsy Turvy Turning

One of the consequences of having friends from a wide range of backgrounds and beliefs is the number of festivals and greetings that pop up in my social media feeds. Just as Lockdown began my children wished me Happy Mothers Day, some of my friends later wished me Happy Easter, my son sent greetings for Ide Mubarak, and this week it has been Fathers Day from families and Happy Solstice from the earthier contingent. The Summer Solstice always reminds me of my Dad who loved to try to be the first person to say ‘The nights are drawing in now’ – a game he played with the man next door.

What was really weird this year was that it actually felt very autumnal around the longest day. March, April and May were day after day of hot sunny weather and virtually no rain. It felt like summer, the gardens baked and the grass went brown. Local farmers got the first cut of silage in early but then the grass didn’t grow back. The stream at the bottom of my garden reduced to a trickle. In many ways it was a blessing because we were all able to get outside in our gardens or go for walks along the lanes. We saw each other and had socially distanced chats. So much easier than being stuck indoors.

Then it all ended with thunderstorms, gales and torrential rain followed by days and days of heavy grey cloud, those days when it is either raining, has just rained or is about to rain.

So as I walked the dogs in the early part of this week the signs of high summer were all around. The council have cut the verges and the bottom of the hedges so the daffodils, bluebells, pink campion, stichwort and cow parsley have all gone though hopefully they will have set plenty of seed for next year. The lush growth makes visibility round bends poor and once the flowers have gone and there has been time for seeds to drop it needs to be cut back. But higher up the hedges the elders are in full bloom, there are dog roses, honeysuckle, bramble flowers and spires of foxgloves. It looks as if it will be a good year for elderberries and I am grateful because my strawberries and raspberries have been very poor. They were too dry to swell the fruit.

Walking with a jumper on and thick socks in my boots but seeing those flowers felt surreal. But today dawned clear and sunny so maybe summer is back for a while at least. I don’t think I will put my woolies away just yet. It is a funny sort of year.

We all know the steps – but we don’t have to dance

Spoiler alert 1: This post has no pictures

Spoiler alert 2: I have been debating whether today is a good day to write this post which is a little close to home at present (my daughter is extricating herself from an emotionally abusive husband) and on what would have been my husband’s birthday so I am a bit off balance. Will I make it too sharp or wrap it up so carefully it is impenetrable? If I get it wrong please forgive me but let me know – I need to learn! The issue has been on my mind and writing will help me think.

Like all of you I was shocked and upset by the death of George Floyd at the hands of a white policeman. I have felt your bewilderment and outrage in the posts you have written and the comments on them. Like you I deplore the discrimination and injustices, the inequalities and deprivations that are endemic in our societies and the cultural normalising and acceptance of them – the shrug of the shoulders and the ‘that’s life’ response. What I am not is surprised.

Many moons ago, in what feels like a different life on a different planet, I worked as a trainer for Relate, the UK charity which provides couple therapy. Inevitably part of that was helping trainee counsellors work with abusive relationships. Based on the work of Karpman (google it if you want the theory) we looked at the three roles which are there in all the fairy stories and myths we grew up with.

The wicked stepmother, evil fairy, bad witch, possessive husband, (the ABUSER who can be either gender) drives away, puts to sleep, incarcerates in a tower, the hapless princess, daughter, seal who has shed her skin (the VICTIM – almost always female) until the handsome prince, fairy godmother, brave daughter willing to undergo trials, comes along (the RESCUER) and they all live happily ever after. These stories resonate with us from an early age because they are based on inequalities of power and as small children we know all about feelings of powerlessness, however loving and secure our childhoods are, because as little people we are vulnerable and at the mercy of our caregivers.

The less happy side of the theory is the corollary – we are all capable of playing all three roles. Before you click off this post let me emphasise that I am not saying you are capable of murder! I don’t know about you but I have certainly been fleetingly tempted but I have resisted that temptation as, I assume, have you. I am much more likely to use my power to rescue. That is why I was drawn to counselling as I later came to realise. I am a compulsive caretaker!

But the roles are not stable and if we get caught in the ‘dance’, for which we all know the steps, we move seamlessly between the roles. The abuser sees the prince as an interfering busybody who doesn’t understand the situation and, in an abuse of might, is carrying off his property. The knight in shining armour does nothing in the stories to raise the hapless princess’s self esteem or sense of her own power unless it is that of her beauty and golden hair (not reliable long term sources of power as us crones know only too well!) If his ‘rescuing’ fails and ‘happy ever after’ doesn’t materialise or his armour proves creaky and tarnished he can soon be perceived by the victim as just another abuser. It is the fate of peacekeeping forces the world over – sent in to rescue the underdog they are turned on by both sides in the conflict and feel, with some justification, victimised by everybody.

We all feel vulnerable at times because we all are vulnerable in some ways. I am a strong, resilient, self reliant, older, white woman. But, during this pandemic and lockdown especially, I have been very grateful for the network of support, both practical and emotional I have been able to draw on. If I was young, black or from an ethnic minority, disadvantaged, gay, homeless, jobless, under parented, I would find my ‘tribe’ even more crucial. I might feel much better if we were armed and organised. And because the victim is stereotypically female in our patriarchal society it is very hard for men to own their vulnerability and even more so to admit that they are unable, or choose not to, fight back and protect themselves. To be a non-aggressive, vulnerable male requires vast maturity and huge courage. Policeman and women can feel vulnerable too – they are peacekeepers after all – between warring parts of society.

So I can use theory to understand how these things happen out there, safely away from me. Me? Abusive? Never! Well not often. But the real breakthrough for me came when I acknowledged that I too can abuse. Not by murder or any other ‘arrestable offence’ but much more subtly. I am blessed with intelligence, a sharp wit and a way with words. I can use those words as weapons to cut people to the quick. Just ask anyone who has caught the rough edge of my tongue. I can use my intelligence to out-argue, run rings round, others in a way that diminishes their self-esteem. I can do those things unwittingly or with malice aforethought (usually aforethought in the depths of a sleepless night when I am full of fury). I would like to say that only the unwitting passes my guard but to my shame that would be a lie. Sometimes I ‘open gob without engaging brain’ and sometimes I deliberately speak to wound and even (thankfully only occasionally) enjoy it.

Which does not excuse, could never excuse, killing someone, institutionalised racism or any of the other evils apparent in the George Floyd murder. I too have signed a petition and I salute those of you who have protested peacefully. I offer this post because to solve a problem we must, I think, first understand it. We start from a poisonous legacy of colonialism and slavery overlaid by (growing) inequalities and twisted by the failure of our political and economic system to make good on its promises. The policeman who killed George Floyd and the colleagues who looked on without interfering must face justice. Equally they must not be scapegoats for the system which created them and allowed them to operate freely and with an expectation of impunity.

I wish I had answers. I wish I had the power to change the world. I wish that if I had that power I could be sure I would always use it wisely, fairly and for the good of all.

What I can do is call out injustice wherever I see it. I can use my vote. I can spread kindness, empathy and compassion as freely and widely as I can.

But there is one more thing. This event caused the furore it has because a witness filmed it, and the press and social media published it. Whatever the faults of facebook et.al. they allow ordinary people to publish things the establishment would rather remained hidden. A free and fearless press, from those young reporters who sit through endless boring council meetings sniffing out nepotism, shady deals, collusions and wastes of money, to the old warhorses who interview politicians on primetime TV, is the best protection for our democracy. So when I can go shopping I will buy a local and a national paper even if their main use will be to light the fire and I will continue to pay my TV licence fee, even though I have no TV, in order to feel justified in accessing public radio.

Thank you for reading this long and not very cheerful post. Please join the conversation so we can all find a way forward – I am looking forward to seeing any comments.

 

A mistake or just bad timing?

Way back in 1961 I passed the exam and interview to go to Bury Grammar School for Girls, a Direct Grant school (the equivalent of an academy in the modern UK). It was a very traditional establishment with a strict policy on school uniform so my Mother took me to the one shop which supplied it to kit me out. Gym knickers (horrible scratchy woolen things), shirts and socks were the limbering up exercise. On to shirts, tie, and gymslip (yes, gymslip! The original one-size-fits-all unflattering passion killer) and finally to the main event THE BLAZER! It was navy blue, made of heavy woolen cloth, fully lined, with the school crest on the breast pocket and it cost a fortune. It was so expensive that my Mother needed very little encouragement to buy one with ‘room to grow’. It had it in spades! I was still wearing it, admittedly straining at the seams somewhat and rather short in the sleeve, when I left school seven years later. I don’t know what happened to it but I suspect it was passed down to a new girl.

My house feels like that blazer at the moment – waiting for me to grow into it.

When I was widowed 9 years ago and had got a builder in to finish the renovations, I was faced with the decorating. What I really wanted to do was to crawl into a deep dark burrow just big enough to turn round in and curl up in a little ball. There I would hibernate until the world found its way back to normal. Of course, I knew that normal would not be back. My beloved was dead not just in hospital for a bit. The decorating and the rest of life had to be faced. But perhaps inevitably I was drawn to dark, warm colours, lots of clutter (a.k.a. security blankets) and a ‘cosy’ ambience.

By last autumn it was all looking rather scruffy and dingy. Me, two dogs and three cats carrying in dirt, brushing against walls, sitting on the furniture, and all the everyday wear and tear had taken its toll. Touching up the paintwork was no longer an option – the original paint had faded in the sunlight. So it was time to do at least some rooms again.

I no longer needed my burrow. Like the blazer when I left school it was too tight. I had built a new life for myself and was more outward looking. Time to lighten up as well as freshen up.

I looked at dozens of paint charts, trawled through endless DIY stores, perused interiors magazines and made some tentative choices. Then Beccy, my neighbour who had recently painted a whole house for a friend, suggested I use paint from the Laura Ashley shop as it was much better quality than the stuff from the DIY or builders merchants. Expensive per tin but needing only 2 coats at most she thought it worked out no dearer and was less work. The range of colours is not huge which actually made the job of choosing easier!

I did the fireplace wall of the sitting room before Christmas and have continued round the three living spaces since. I need more paint to do the bedroom but at the moment can’t go out to get some and the shop isn’t open anyway. Of course, it isn’t just painting is it? Everything has to be taken off shelves, pictures taken down, curtains and other soft furnishings washed. And in the process there is a decluttering exercise, stuff is rearranged. Most of my home is lighter, brighter, cleaner, clearer, more spacious.

Externally I am constrained by lockdown. I am at home much more than usual. There are no visitors coming in to use the space I have created. There is ‘room to grow’ but I feel slightly un-contained by it. It’s all a bit discumbobulating! Have I made a mistake or will it all feel right in a few weeks time?

Protective Custody

Some ‘conversations’ I have had recently have reminded me how lucky I am to be experiencing ‘lockdown’ where I am.

A friend’s sister, who has some mental health problems anyway, is living in one room in a shared flat with no outside space and is really struggling to cope.

Carolee, a retired professional nurserywoman who writes a brilliant and informative blog about her garden (read it here)commented on my post Magnificent May ‘Such a pretty “jail” during this lockdown.’ – an interesting turn of phrase.

I also recalled that until this pandemic I had only heard the term ‘lockdown’ in relation to prisons when there was rioting. This extract from an article in The Guardian newspaper confirms that my memory was fucntioning correctly.

“It was only in the 1970s that “lockdown” began to mean an extended state of confinement for inmates of prisons or psychiatric hospitals, and thereafter any period of enforced isolation for security. Originally, in 19th-century America, a “lock-down” was a strip of wood or peg that secured the poles or a raft together when timber was transported by river. It is therefore a wistful irony that our present condition is named after a mechanism that once ensured the reliability of travel in the great outdoors.

• Steven Poole’s A Word for Every Day of the Year is published by Quercus.”

Those three strands combined to make me reflect on the harshness of our prison systems.

I can wander at will around my house allowing me to change my position and which walls I am looking at. There is plenty of space for me to have books and craft materials to occupy me. I can have devices connected to the internet and stay in touch with family and friends whenever I like. I have my pets for company and comfort.

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a cell in Swansea jail

Nor do I have to put up with company I do not want, For me, sharing my space with someone can be tricky even when I love them dearly! To share with a stranger would be a nightmare.

Any time I fancy a cup of tea I can make one. I can decide what meals I want to eat and when and make them exactly to my taste.

When I look through the windows I see green and trees and flowers. If I want to go outside I can and I can choose to sit, to exercise or to go for a walk. No-one tells me that I must come back in. I can garden which is creative but there is also lots of evidence that having our hands in the soil is beneficial to our health.

swansea prison
Swansea Prison on a main road in a built up area.

I know that I am not alone in finding that even so it is hard to remain cheerful all the time. I dread to think how I would cope if incarcerated in prison. I suspect I would either become mentally ill or run amok! No wonder that so many prisoners are ill, either physically or mentally; that attacks on, and injuries to, prison staff are so frequent. Taking away all those choices also creates institutionalised individuals who will find it hard to cope when released which could be a factor in recidivism. Of course criminality must be punished and society has to be protected but I am beginning to realise that the way we currently go about achieving those ends may not be humane let alone the best. I have no idea what would be a better solution – I just have a clearer understanding of the problem. I will be interested to hear your views.

Just procrastinating!

If I were a baby I would be described as frettful ot fractious today! I lost track of how many times I woke up last night. Each time I was too hot and had to throw the duvet off, then, of course, got cold and pulled it back over me. But I really don’t think it was heat that woke me. I reckon I started to wake up and as my metabolism cranked into life I got hot. What actually caused my waking I have no idea. Anyway I woke up rather later than usual, grumpy with everything and nothing and feeling tired. Not cross enough to have a good rant, bellow or bawl but a lot of mutter and whine and wail.

The weather is in the same mood. Occasional flashes of sun but mostly grey and dreary. We could do with soem rain and whilst I was walking the dogs it started to spit – big fat drops too – but it stopped before the polka dots on the tarmac had time to join up. So lots of nuisance value but no use.

I made the mistake of picking litter whilst I was out. I have noticed lots of empty cans, crisp packets and bits of plastic in the verges and now the grass is growing strongly they will soon be hidden. Then the machines will come along and cut the verges and hedges chewing all this rubbish into small pieces as they go. With everything still visible and very little traffic because of lockdown now seemed the ideal time to do something about the problem. I ordered one of those gadgets for picking things up if you can’t bend down easily because managing 2 dogs, a bucket to put the rubbish in and bending down for it is tricky. Within a quarter of a mile my bucket was full! Some of it was stuff that had fallen off cars, tractors and farm machinery – rubber from a tyre, a huge metal nut – some must have been dropped when the bins were collected but a lot was just stuff discarded fron vehicles. There was noticeably more in lay-bys and where vehicles turn into fields or through junctions. I could just see the culprits cramming the last bit of food into their mouths in order to have both hands properly free to haul the steering wheel round hard, and throwing the wrapper out of the window. It did nothing for my mood.

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So now I have to decide what to do with the rest of the day. I could do some sewing but in this mood there is a serious risk I will make a pigs ear of it and then be even crosser! I need something that is absorbing but not tricky or precise. Should I go in the garden and risk getting damp if not wet? I could take my bad mood out on some weeds. Or go in the workshop and find some wood for a new nameboard at the gate? The plywood I used for the old one is delaminating and the paint is fading and peeling. Or I could rub down the upright chair I bought for £3.50 in the house clearance place and an old chest of drawers that used to live in the kitchen ready to paint them. Unless it rains soon I need to transfer water from the reserve tank to the water butts but the syphon is too short – I could cut a stub of copper pipe to join on a piece of hosepipe. I could go through the seedling trees I have outside and pot some up to go in gaps in my new hedges or plant some in the field opposite. Housework? Tidying up would probably make me feel a bit better when it was done but not whilst doing it!

Maybe I’ll just make another pot of coffee, mooch around and see where I end up. Sometimes being focussed and decisive is just too much like hard work!

Blessings # 22 – V is for Vision

I may have poor hearing but luckily my vision is pretty good. I have a pair of prescription glasses for distance but don’t actually NEED to wear them for driving. The optician recommended I have them for driving after dark or if I am tired. So they live in the glovebox and come out very occasioanlly. Similarly I wear ready readers if I am tired or doing close work or reading small print. Because I only use them for a few jobs and they are quite cheap I have a pair by my bed, some by my chair in the sitting room (for unpicking knitting!) a pair in the workshop and another in my studio. The Welsh Government funds more frequent eye tests for me than for most people – I would like to think they do this for me but I suspect it is as much because if I lost 2 senses I would be more demanding of services!

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But vision is also about having a vision, envisioning, not in the religious sense of seeing angels or saints but imagining how things might be, how problems might be solved, being able to ask ‘What if..?’ (which I talked about in a previous post – you might like to go back and read it here if you missed it).

I am intrigued by the way some people are very good at creative thinking and others less so and how it can vary over a lifetime. I think it may be to do with our attitude to change. It seems particularly pertinent now when we have all had massive changes forced upon us. Do we long for ‘things to go back to normal’ or do we contemplate a ‘new normal’ or hope that that this is ‘pressing the reset button’? Response to change seem to lie on a spectrum from ‘bring it on’ to ‘over my dead body’.

wei chi

You may already know that the chinese character for crisis is Wei Chi. It is a conjoining of two smaller characters Wei means danger, Chi is the life force or, in this situation, perhaps better translated as opportunity. And therein lies the conundrum. Are we more aware of the danger? That leads us to dig our heels in, retrench, try to grab control, resist change. Or do we major on the opportunity? Can we envision something better rising from the ashes, become energetic and enthusiastic about a new future? Either extreme is unhelpful but somewhere in the middle – the cautious optimism point – lies a way forward in relative safety.

The colleague who introduced me to the idea of Wei Chi was particularly interested in it’s connection to grief. In order to move to something new we have to give up what was, accept that it has gone. That is as true of breaking a plate as of losing a loved one – the process may be longer or shorter, stronger or weaker but it has to be gone through. If we try to avoid it, circumvent it, deny it it will come probably back to bite us on the bum.

I have long been a change junkie! Or to put it another way I have a low boredom threshold! I am always trying new things, new ways of doing tasks, new arrangements of furniture, new hobbies, new recipes…. I need my less flighty friends to restrain me and help me face the loss of what was before racing on to the new.

One lesson that I have learned recently is to be clear about my vision for the future. When I started the work of planning to live long and well as I reach my later years (some people would say I have already reached them!) my friend Jasmine Dale encouraged me to draw a picture of what that old age would look like. Although I sometimes ‘Open mouth without engaging brain’ I generally have a pretty nifty censor on my words even if they are only spoken in my head. Being no artist my pencil censor is much less experienced so a drawing was more likely to get at what I really wanted rather than what I thought I ought to want. I drew it with coloured pencils – washed out and hard to see – then did it again in felt tips – better, stronger, more convincing. I saw that I had drawn THIS house so was assuming I would stay here. It made me question that and seriously consider the pros and cons of staying or various other places I could live. As you may have gathered I decided to stay here! But it revealed what the disadvantages of that decision were likely to be and what I needed to plan to avoid them.

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It still looks a bit wishy washy!

That drawing has become my lodestar. All my big decisions are measured against it – do they take me towards it or divert me from it? Without a vision I would wander aimlessly and how would I know if I had arrived? I may even be ready to ‘ink it in’ by re-doing it bolder and more permanent!

I am so grateful that I can allow myself to dream big dreams and have the loving support of people who will restrain my wilder flights of fancy, help me think through my plans, make suggestions, and support me as I try to turn them into reality. Thank you to you all.

Blessings # 20 – T is for Time

Is it just me or has time become more elastic since we have all been staying in? I no longer know what day of the week it is because there is nothing to differentiate one day from the next. I haven’t looked at my diary for weeks.

One of the things I find interesting about time is that it is so completely egalitarian. Whoever we are – rich, poor, educated, deprived, cheerful, depressed, believer, heathen…. we all get exactly the same amount of time in each day to spend however we see fit. Imagine if that was true of other resources like money! Of course some of it has to be spent on maintaining our lives – sleeping, eating, earning enough to pay the bills and so on. I am fortunate. When I want water I turn on a tap rather than walking to the spring or pump with my bucket and lugging it home again – something I remember an aunt doing when I was little. I don’t spend hours commuting to a job I may or may not like but which puts food on the table. But most of us have some ‘disposable’ time which we can do with as we choose. And maybe we sometimes actually have more choices about how we use our time to support our lives than we realise. Or would have if we had the courage to take a risk, to grab life by the scruff of the neck and shape it to suit ourselves.

The length of each day is fixed but none of us knows how many of them we will have. Just because there is a global pandemic and many of us are staying at home and keeping safe doesn’t mean that all the other diseases and accidents that can see us off have taken a holiday. I can take exercise, eat well, wash my hands often, get enough sleep, take care when climbing ladders and still have a heart attack, fall and break my neck, or be harbouring a milgnancy.

I have been given a life which has already been longer than some and which I hope will go on for a long time yet. I am lucky enough to have plenty of resources, practical and mental. Each new 24 hours is a blessing and it behoves me to make the most of it – even if that is to waste it wisely.

Blessings # 10 – J is for Justice

The world is full of injustices; the growing gap between rich and poor which mostly has nothing to do with talent or effort but a lot to do with accident of birth, crises of obesity in some country and starvation in others, who catches Covid 19 and who dies from it. Those are curses and it grieves me that we allow them to continue.

The justice that I am referring to is the legal, policing and judicial system we have here in the UK. This must be one of the lowest crime areas in the whole of Britain. If we see a police officer or car it is a cause for much speculation and gossip. Usually it means there has been an accident to which all the emergency services have been called.

The system is far from perfect.

Parliament and the devolved Scotish Parliament and the Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies make laws which may well be flawed. In general the people who stand as MPs (or MSPs in Scotland, AMs in Wales or MLAs in Northern Ireland) are not ordinary working folk. Their understanding of what it is like to live on social security benefits on a run down Council housing estate or tower block is probably not first hand. They are influenced by their friends and by big business, by their ambition for higher office and the desire to get re-elected next time round. And any law can have unintended consequences.

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The police are supposed to enforce all the laws but they are overstretched so in reality they concentrate on major crimes and whatever their paymasters are getting hot under the collar about at present. Or, it is said, on things which will ensure their clear-up rates meet the targets set or bring in fines to boost the coffers.

The judiciary try the cases the police bring to the courts. The rich can afford the best solicitors and barristers to make their case. The poor get provided with representation but it may be the trainee, the one coasting down to retirement, the cheap one.

In any business, organisation or profession there will be the oustanding, the competent, the incompetent, the lazy, the ‘jobs worth’, the bully, the coward, the prejudiced, the blind eyed… and occasionally the corrupt. No part of the justice system is exempt. But unlike in some places in the world corruption is not endemic in any of them. What we also have is a free press which (though it too has all the above types and is open to influences which may not be in the public interest) thoroughly enjoys exposing hypocrisy and bad behaviour.

I am grateful that it works as well as it does, that if I feel I have been let down by it I can make a fuss and stand a chance of being heard, that for the most part the people who work in it are well intentioned whatever their limitations.

I could have written something very similar for the NHS, Social security, Social Services or any number of other such organisations but Justice begins with J!

What if – an update

If, like me, you rarely tick the ‘notify me’ box at the end of the comments or go back to read later ones you may well have missed the link Jasmine offered. It is a long read and not very comfortable but it is really thought provoking and, in a strange way, very empowering. It will take me time to digest it. If you are interested in pursuing the ideas I started exploring I am offering the link again here