Sunday 26 June 2011

Getting what you need

I am reading a book at the moment and recently read in it that there was nothing worse than the moment when you realise you are your mother.

And I am currently in the process of booking a holiday with mine. Oh dear.

Actually, my mother is no stranger to trips with me. She's been doing it since I popped out 30 thirty years ago and wee-ed on her on the plane to Portugal as a baby. She's done the whole skiing thing at Christmas with me since we learnt to ski as little people; and the camping in France in its various forms (tents with kitchens ready and waiting/taking our own/caravans for adults; tents for children). Nine years ago, she even donned a backpack and we headed to Thailand for a trip around Bangkok, the north, the south and beautiful places in between. She even managed a bungee jump when she's quite scared of heights.

So, she's quite cool, my mum, and does love to travel.

And, those nine years later, there are parts of me which are becoming my mum. I think about what to cook for dinners/lunches/breakfasts during the week; I am trying to grow my own vegetables; I even know what a Busy Lizzy looks like.

Of course, my mum annoys me. As I most certainly do her. Can there even be two people on the planet incapable of ever annoying each other? Anyway, I think we've got it pretty good, and as I've mentioned, we're looking to head off for a week's trip in a month or so.

You can't always get what you want. I know my mum wants to visit Italy with my dad. And she knows I would like to travel with Martin who is now bound to Buenos Aires and his Google desk for the next ten weeks. But we can't have those things, so we've got each other. There's me, who likes walking up hills, swimming in chilly waters and eating lots of eggs. There's my mum who likes beating everyone at Ludo and cards, having an afternoon read and daykip and drinking gin and tonics. Luckily, I can get her up some hills and she can definitely get me chinking some G&Ts. So it works and, wherever we end up, it's going to be fun. I'll know when it isn't because there's a tone every mum uses when the incline is just too steep: "LAU-RAAAAAAAAA"

So, sometimes, you get what you need.

Wednesday 22 June 2011

A weak view of the world

You may think this is strange sentence for me to be writing, but last month, I found myself in a church inside a prison with TV cameras turned on. I appeared on the BBC programme Question Time.

For the first time ever, it was filmed inside a prison, in this case Wormword Scrubs. Prisoners as well as guards and prison staff were part of the audience. Ken Clarke was on the panel and, after his rape comments that week, it was lining up to be a very interesting hour of debate. (He is since hitting the headlines again, but only because all that was discussed at that QT is null and void it would seem)

Queuing up for the security prior to the programme, I realised just how well the BBC get a mixed bag of audience members. From sight to snippets of conversations, the diversity of age, race, background and affiliation really struck and pleased me.

Filming flew by and Ken Clarke got away without a ribbing. Obviously, the majority of the debates centred around justice, prisons and rehabilitation. They weren't topics I have burning passions for, but it was interesting to hear the points of views of the prisoners themselves; and the guards who truly wanted the best for their charges once they were released.

The most interesting moment, however, was the question about international aid. Melanie Phillips, a Daily Mail columnist was on the panel (she had actually incurred boos when they all came on, but the cameras don't capture those moments). Her belief is that every penny earned in the UK should stay on these shores. In fact, if she was in charge, she would "shut the whole Department for Internatioanl Development".

Surprisingly, some audience members agreed with her. I didn't and don't.

If there's one thing I would always want to say we can do as a nation, is to help those worse off than us. Money to help farmers in Pakistan with the floods; experts to the Caribbean following earthquakes; support to Japan post tsunami: these actions are not those of someone trying to police the world (though others of our actions could be seen to be). These are actions which show that when our international neighbours need help, regardless of their political banner, we are there. If my neighbour needs help, I will do so. Because, if I needed a hand, I would hope someone would help me.

Treat people, all people, the same. It is not their fault when there is a bad government/natural disaster involved. To ignore their plight when we are in a position to help is a disgusting reaction. To turn your back in the face of genuine suffering is simply nasty.

To say "no" when you can say "yes" is just weak.