Monday, 26 July 2010

Catching Up With Myself

Life seems to have been non-stop since I came back from holiday. Work deadines, family obligations, friends in need for all sorts of reasons, not to mention domestic trivia and various bits of socialising, have all conspired to fill every waking moment. I've felt hugely frustrated about the lack of time to get on with writing and studying, aka what I really want to do.

But in the last 36 hours, life has eased up. I had a lovely weekend in Oxford, staying with a dear friend who was on top form because she's just landed the job of her dreams. We celebrated on Saturday night at Jamie's Italian restaurant, pushing out every boat we could find. I know you like a good menu, so here it is. We started with prosecco (for me) and a Bellini (for her). Then we shared gorgeous huge green olives on cracked ice with tapenade and flatbread; a mixed veg starter (various titbits of perfect cheese, salad, and marinaded grilled veg); and fabulous polenta chips with rosemary and sea salt. We started a bottle of excellent Merlot with that lot, and finished it with prosciutto, pear and pecorino salad, with truffle chips, for her; char-grilled free-range chicken, garlic and parsley chips, and Swiss chard with garlic and capers for me. Then she had an affogato (vanilla ice-cream with a hot espresso poured over it - she asked for a decaff one) and I had a perfectly silky pannacotta with seasonal fruits (mostly strawberries, which was fine by me) and a glass of dessert rose wine. My friend asked for a sip, and then promptly demanded a glass for herself. After that we rolled gently back to hers, and finished the evening with her housemate, a bottle of fair-trade sparkling wine, some scrumptious goodies from Hotel Chocolat, and a Dennis The Menace board game.

I slept like a log, woke inspired, and wrote 1000 words before breakfast. Then another 1000 on the train home in the afternoon, and another 1000 this morning. Not only that, but I've made good progress with both my OU courses today, as well as meeting a work deadline and getting a few other jobs ticked off my list including subbing a short story. I love times like this! It's like the bit on the motorway where you've been stuck in the traffic jam for ages and suddenly it all frees up and you can zoom along at 70 mph again. (I could offer a more scatological analogy but, ever mindful that this is a family blog, I shall resist the temptation.)

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

A Thing I Don't Understand

Yes, I know this could be the first in a series of 493826473892837 posts. But don't worry, it's a one-off.

Here's the thing. Why do politicians work hard to become governors of this country, and then slag it off?

I'm so fed up with hearing about 'broken Britain'; that we're all passive people living in soulless communities; that our communities need organisers who will chivvy us all into doing voluntary work and taking control of our neighbourhood services.

You know what? In the Britain I have lived in all my life, my family members, friends, and neighbours have mostly been active, powerful people, doing large quantities of formal and informal voluntary work, and running lots of neighbourhood services themselves. Everything from sports clubs to play and stay groups, fund-raisers for - or in memory of - individuals to big community events. But this seems to count for nothing where the politicians are concerned.

It's odd that Britain has such a miserable image to its residents. I'm not saying it's a perfect society. How could it be? It's made up of human beings, and none of us are perfect. Yes, there are problems: unemployment, anti-social behaviour, domestic violence - the list goes on. But, the whole country, 'broken'? When we have a world class national health service, an excellent education system, a thriving third sector, reasonable public transport in most places, good and mostly well maintained roads... yes, again, I know none of these things are perfect. Everyone has their stories of a doctor who didn't listen, or a nurse who didn't care, or a teacher who couldn't teach, or a school that wasn't user-friendly, a charity that couldn't help, a village where there are no buses, or a great big pothole. But that doesn't mean the whole of our society is broken. Look at Zimbabwe, Yemen, Somalia. Those are, arguably, broken societies. Bits of our society may be dented - the bodywork needs attention and it could do with a full oil service - but it's not broken; in fact, it's still driving along, and shouldn't have any trouble getting through its next MOT.

What I see in our society is people living effective lives and helping each other in a myriad of ways. I see single parents, people with illness and/or disability, and those who are out of work getting support from all quarters. I see people who would help each other in a heartbeat, and do - and who don't think that's anything special. I see organisations offering help for practically everything, much of that help free to the people who are most in need.

I'd like to see our politicians acknowledging some of the many, many positive aspects of our society. Apart from anything else, the way they've been talking over the last few months is hardly motivational. Imagine the MD of a big business saying to the staff, 'this business is broken, you're all passive and soulless, and your work is useless crap.' Would that encourage staff to work much harder, or demoralise them so they make less effort? Bit of a no-brainer, really.

But this is just my view. What do you think? Is Britain 'broken' and full of miserable, alienated people, or do we live in a society that functions really quite well for most of its members, most of the time?

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

My Holiday

This was our estate

with beautiful gardens

and stunning walks from the front door

and a National Park ten minutes' drive away

full of beautiful mountains and valleys and waterfalls and rivers

Blimey, but the Alps are big! Which is not great when you're scared of heights, and depths, and tunnels, and anything precipitous. So beautiful, though, and we had a great time: very relaxing. I did no writing, because I didn't want to, but am pleased to announce that, since I got back, I've hit the 30,000 word mark. Yay for me!