Monthly Archives: December 2013

Less fat

This year I managed to lose about 18 kilos in weight. (I put a bit on over Christmas, but then that’s to be expected). As I wrote before, it’s something to be pleased about but something that isn’t really an achievement: being less fat is not something you can really be proud of, seeing as how it was you who made yourself get so out of shape in the first place.

18 kilos though. That’s probably the weight of a heavy suitcase you’ll take on your holidays. Imagine lugging that around with you, every day. Imagine the extra effort and the extra strain it would put on you, having that suitcase with you, all the time, hanging around your belly, and not being able to get rid of it.

But this is the New Year, the time of the exercise video. This is when we’re encouraged to diet. Diet and exercise. Supermarkets fill up with weights and exercise bikes and other stuff that will be safely tucked away and forgotten about by February. Diet books fly off the shelves in shops, promising results in weeks. Magazines shame the fat by pointing at their flabby bits, or shame the thin by pointing at their ribs. Look at these people! These people are wrong! You are wrong! You are not ideal. You don’t fit the bed of Procrustes. You are not perfect. You are not just right. You must be ashamed.

A lot of people will be thinking about losing weight in the New Year and I am one of them. I don’t want to go backwards and start putting weight on after having made some strides towards being less offensively unhealthy. But I don’t have any answers. I am trying to collect some thoughts here, though, to try and provide a little insight into how I managed to get things to go right for once, after so many years of trying and getting it wrong. If nothing else, it provides a useful reminder for me to think about what to do.

  • Bread is not your friend. One slice of bread is 100 calories. I can’t have bread in the house. I can’t even have it anywhere near me. If I do, I will just eat it.
  • Alcohol is not your friend. You knew that anyway, of course, but it’s worth making it clear: if you drink, you will put on weight. You might know the odd drinker who manages to stay rake-thin, but in general, you will drink, you will eat more, and you will put on weight.
  • You need to find some exercise that you like to do and which won’t get boring. For some people it’s running, but I can’t do that, largely because of the drive-by abusers shouting at me for being fat while I’m exercising in public. I don’t like to go to gyms because they are foul, smelly, nasty places where people judge other people. I have managed to find exercise I can do at home, for 30 minutes to an hour at a time, to get me nicely out of breath and sweating, using a step. But you might prefer an exercise bike or a cross trainer. Or just use some weights. Or do a Davina video. Everyone’s different. You’ve got to enjoy it, though. It is enjoyable, in the end, the heart beating, breath pumping, taste of lung in your mouth: it does feel good.
  • There will be setbacks. There will be times when you feel like you’re losing loads of weight, then you weigh yourself and find you’ve put on a couple of pounds. The only thing to do is keep going. Never give up. Don’t turn to food as a comfort and think “what’s the point?” – there is a point, and it will work out, eventually.
  • Don’t deny yourself everything. You will be miserable and hate yourself. This isn’t punishment. You can’t never eat chocolate or never have a pizza or never have a pint of beer. These are the things you like. But you do need to have less of them, and savour them when you do get them.
  • Don’t get hung up on BMI. Some of us are never going to be our “ideal” weight. My ideal weight is 11 stone. I will never be 11 stone unless I’m in a pine box.

I think it’s really important not to measure yourself against an ideal. You have to be accepting of who you are and what you look like. For example, I have slightly short arms. I might want longer arms so I can fit into jumpers and coats properly, but I will never have longer arms. It’s not the same to suggest that my weight is an unchangeable thing, but I should be ready to think about what it is that makes me who I am. I may find it harder to develop muscle than other people; I might run out of breath more quickly; I might lack stamina – whatever it is, that’s me. I can’t measure my success against the success of others.

I still have a BMI of over 30 so I am still ‘obese’. I don’t eat unhealthily, and I make sure I take part in aerobic exercise for at least two hours every week, but still: I could do with being less large, and I know it. It doesn’t happen overnight: it takes you time to get bigger so it will take time to get smaller. It is not a simple process of simply overeating or under exercising which you can reverse; there’s a huge amount going on between the ears that needs to be investigated first. (Some weight loss programmes are focussing on this nowadays in order to change a pattern of unhelpful behaviour.)

It is important to lose weight: it makes you healthier and it makes you a bit more confident. If you can get some momentum going, it really does do something for you. But you have to concentrate on what’s going on in your mind. Why do you eat? Why do you eat when you’re unhappy? Why do you drink when you’re unhappy? Why do you look at food as a source of comfort and pleasure when you’re not feeling hungry? What is it about sugary or salty foods that you like so much? Why haven’t you got an off switch when it comes to feeling full? What decisions are you making? Do you feel like you’re on automatic pilot?

However, I do think it’s really important not to insult or shame or upset people for being fat. That does nothing. It helps nobody. It’s stupid playground bullying and it makes the person saying it sound juvenile and crass. If people are fat, and want to lose weight, they need to be supported; if they are fat, and they’re happy with how they are and they don’t want to change, there is no need to nudge or prod or encourage them to make changes that they don’t want. You can bleat on about healthiness and so on until you’re red in the face; all they will hear is “You are not like me, I want you to change so it makes me feel better.” One reason it will sound like that is because that is what you are partly saying.

So, here’s to 2014 and another 18 kilos. If I can manage it. But most importantly, feeling healthier, and feeling happier.

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Posted by on December 31, 2013 in Uncategorized


This isn’t my Britain

Every morning I wake up in a country that is less welcoming and more racist. Every morning there’s something new, whether it’s scaremongering about people from EU countries coming here (you don’t even need to pay the Sun money to read its xenophobia – the cartoon tells a thousand words, with masses of sinister yellow-eyed dark figures gazing towards poor old white father time) or another politician, of whatever persuasion, pandering to racism and fear.

Earlier this week it was Tristram Hunt doing his bit for the Labour Party, explaining without evidence that migration was responsible for low achievement among ‘white British boys’. Today the Coalition Government – that’s the “Liberal” Democrats and the Conservatives – moots an idea to charge ‘migrants’ for NHS services. Is it kite-flying ahead of the backlash against our supposedly open borders and the much vaunted tidal wave from Bulgaria and Romania? Is it pandering to Ukip voters who might have abandoned the Tories? It doesn’t matter. There will be something else tomorrow. And tomorrow, and tomorrow.

This isn’t my Britain. This isn’t my idea of Britain. We are not overcrowded. We are not overloaded. The Daily Mail the other day described Britain as being ‘a crowded isle’, although somehow that meant making England into an island and ignoring the wide open spaces in Scotland and Wales – conveniently enough. The narrative keeps going. We’re full up, we can’t continue. We have no more room. There isn’t anywhere for newcomers to go. But we’re not full up.

Wages are low and jobs are not secure – but migrants didn’t do it. People are being ripped off and forced to work zero hour contracts – but migrants did not do that either. Thirty years of anti trade union legislation from the Conservatives and New Labour, cheered on by our friends in the press, helped sort all that out, and we didn’t lift a finger to do anything about it. Now we’re stuck with terrible pensions, useless working rights, abysmal wages and if we want to take an employer to a tribunal, we have to pay £1000 for the privilege. All that happened, on our watch. It wasn’t the migrants who did it. We did it to ourselves. Labour, Lib Dem and Tory, we all played our part in making that happen. When we’re working well past 70 and getting nothing for it, we should do well to remember that.

Houses are stupidly expensive, and there isn’t enough social housing to go around – but migrants didn’t do that, either. Again, we did it to ourselves. We decided to elect governments who would stop building social housing so our own homes would rocket in value and we could reap the rewards. Some of us did very nicely out of it; we bought property and made a fortune by charging ridiculous rents to the Government for tenants on benefits. Migrants didn’t make this happen. We did.

And now the change to the NHS comes in, supposedly with the lowest of the low, migrants, as the sole target. But if charging comes in, it will not stay with that marginalised and despised group of people. Once the wedge is in, the other people we have been told to hate will gradually be forced to pay more and more. Then in 30 years’ time we can look back and say, damn those immigrants in 2014, they caused the death of the NHS. But it won’t have been them. It will have been us. We are enabling it. Right now.

And now we want to pull up the drawbridge to cling on to the snivelling wreckage we’ve got left behind. This might be an awful place to live, but it’s our awful place to live. We want to stop anyone else from enjoying the benefits sanctions, homelessness and Atos assessments – that’s all for us and our children’s children to thrive upon, this poisoned atmosphere of hatred, suffering, discrimination and suspicion. Don’t blame us; blame the migrants. They did it to us and we didn’t close the borders soon enough.

This isn’t my Britain. I’m not quite sure whose it is, any longer. A home for tiny-minded mongrels who think they’re pedigrees. A haven for easyJetters who want to pop over to Spain as soon as it gets chilly but who don’t want anyone coming to their beloved Blighty. This is a place where we have willingly given away our own freedoms and our own rights and pretended that someone else snatched them from us.

No-one robbed us. We robbed ourselves. We made choices and these are the consequences – of New Labour, of Thatcherism, of the Coalition. Blame migrants if you can’t bear looking in the mirror, but know this: it has never been their fault and it will never be their fault. If life stinks, it’s because we voted for it to stink. And it will keep stinking until we do something about it. No amount of border controls or charging for the NHS will change that.

This isn’t my Britain, yet it is. I played a part in all of these decisions. I didn’t do enough to stop it from happening. I haven’t fought hard enough. And if I don’t fight now, I can’t complain. I can’t complain, when it all fades away.


Posted by on December 30, 2013 in Uncategorized


I wrote something

It’s been a rubbish year. As years go, it’s been right up there with the worst: a litany of failures and mistakes interwoven with bad luck, bullying, being treated badly and being lied about. Really, nothing to enjoy.

Some people might be sad to see the end of 2013. I say, fuck off 2013, you were a piece of shit. You brought nothing but pain and sadness and regret. I know it’s just the ticking over of arbitrary numbers or the changing of seasons, but at least it’s something: I’m going to be in 2014 soon, which means 2013 will be dead and buried, a line of snuffed-out candles to forget about and not look back on.

Except there have been a few things that have made it tolerable. I wrote something – I wrote a book, called 12 Things I’ve Learned About Depression. Not the most popular thing I’ve ever written, by any means, certainly not the height of interest my writing got back when I was good at it. But it’s something I’m able to look back on and say, you know, this is pretty good. It’s good because it matters, because it’s honest, because I meant every single word, and because it provided the chance to heal some things that I thought would never heal.

Writing about things doesn’t make them go away. I am not cured. I am no expert. I am still struggling along. Things have been falling apart all around me, in my personal life and in my career, and there hasn’t been much that I’ve been able to do about it. This is a low. This is as low as you can go, you think sometimes, and then you fall deeper into the tailspin and surprise yourself at how much worse it can be.

But I wrote something. It might not mean much to anyone else but it means something to me. I’ve been able to tell a story that I wanted to tell, and I did it in the way I wanted to do it. That is something to cling on to. It’s something to hold. It’s something that is there and which will always be there. Words are on a printed page and sent out into the ether; they go and find a voice in someone else’s head. It still is magic, when you think about it. I wrote something. I made words happen.

This year, this 2014, there will be more writing. I may even make some progress in the career I have failed to begin; I may find the ability to go ahead and change the things that need to be changed. And there are other things that need to happen, too, but I can’t even bring myself to think about them. You mustn’t dare have hope. Don’t dare hope.

But I wrote something. That’s all you can do sometimes, look at the things you’ve done and created. Some of the words linger around and begin to make sense again. Some of them take flight.

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Posted by on December 29, 2013 in Uncategorized


My god-given right to buy pork scratchings

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a scare story about Muslims trying to ruin everything. This year the evil foreign invaders are committing the terrible atrocity of slightly lengthening the time we spend queueing at Marks and Spencer in order to buy items.

The horror.

My time at queues is always being lengthened – by a teenager who can’t sell me alcohol and so who has to wait for a supervisor to nod and say “Yeah, he looks like he’s about eighty five”; by me not being able to open up the plastic bags properly; by the panicking of the pack and scan till when the thing I’ve just put on the scales is one gram heavier than it was expecting. If someone wants me to go to another till to buy pork products or booze, I really don’t care.

Maybe I’m alone. Maybe the real problem in this world is that people on barely above minimum wage should be allowed some form of so-called human rights in the workplace, and aren’t just there as my slave at my beck and call to do everything I want, no matter how much it offends them.

That could be it. It could be the case that people are really, genuinely terrified and upset at the prospect of people who don’t want to sell certain things selling certain things. Or it might just, slightly, be the case that it’s the usual suspects, the “creeping sharia” klaxon-blowers, telling us that everything is awful because people who work in a shop might want to be treated slightly differently from other people who work in a shop.

Does it matter? Does it really, actually matter?

I am no big fan of religion. I don’t have a religion myself. I don’t like religion, on the whole. But I will be damned if I am going to tell other people that they should behave exactly as I want if it goes against their religion. If someone of any faith was made to feel uncomfortable by me, as a customer, for genuine reasons of faith then that is something we need to work out. There’s a simple solution which needn’t take too much time and which means I can still buy the alcohol to poison myself and the pig to fur up my arteries. If I really want it. (And I like drinking and eating pigs, so yes.)

If I can buy my pig products and alcohol with the minimum of fuss, and if I manage not to annoy someone else while I’m doing it, then great. My right to buy things doesn’t trump the right of other people to work in a comfortable environment – and I remind you, for very little money, not that that matters very much, but it’s worth remembering.

We can reduce this argument to absurdity, if we must. What if vegetarians refused to sell meat? Er, OK. I wouldn’t have a problem with that either. Why should they? What if vegans didn’t want to sell things? What if someone didn’t want to sell me a porn mag? That’s fine too. There are ways of making people fit in with their faiths in a big store that should mean they’re working in the place where they’re least likely to encounter such problems. Sometimes it’s not always possible, but that’s all right: I as a customer can wait a minute or two more.

Waiting for a minute or two more is not the end of the world.

But then, this isn’t really about waiting a minute or two more. It’s about selling a narrative in which the “human rights brigade” allow Muslims to have unfair and special treatment, and where people aren’t allowed to buy the things they want, because of Muslims. Just be honest about it. If you don’t like Muslims, say so. Don’t dance around the issue and pretend it’s all about your god-given right to buy a packet of pork scratchings. Just be open and up front.

In the meantime, while you’re waiting at a till this afternoon, or tomorrow, for the queue to die down, remember one thing: it could be worse. You could be on the other side of that till, taking the casual abuse, tutting and anger all day, for money that barely covers your bills. And then you could be told that you should be grateful for a job and should just stop your complaining.

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Posted by on December 23, 2013 in Uncategorized


Think of the children

Here it comes, our brave new world of protection. Thanks to our Prime Minister, cheered on by the press (or should that be the other way around?) this is the world that’s heading your way.

People have been saying ever since the porn filter plans that it would (a) fail to block porn and (b) block things which aren’t porn and which are actually quite useful – for example, things which help children find out about sexual abuse, advice on pregnancy and abortion, and even stuff such as “respect for a partner”.

Respect for a partner. Imagine if children happened upon that by accident. Imagine the damage that could be done with them if, accidentally looking for some kind of childish thing, they learn about respecting a partner. They could be ruined beyond repair and all the hard work that parents would have done would be undone overnight. The horror!

Whether or not you accept that pornography might damage children, it’s the idea of restricting access to information that seems to be wrong. Information about relationships is not pornography and it is not damaging. It is something that everyone should know about, to protect children from abuse (so that they can know what abuse is, for example) as children and as adults. It helps children and young adults make informed decisions about their bodies.

But there is always this resistance to knowledge, as if knowing is somehow doing or encouraging. It’s the same prejudice and fear that brought about the evil of Section 28, where educators were prevented from depicting anything other than heterosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle. Thankfully those days are gone, but the more rabid elements of the Tory Party continue to push for drawing a veil over reality. Think of the children, they say. But they are not thinking of the children.

I’ve taught a couple of lessons on relationships in primary schools this year. (I’ve worked from PSHE materials previously approved by government so haven’t gone above and beyond what I “should” do.) Year 6 children, for example, can be surprisingly mature when it comes to discussing how some people are different; I’ve heard 10 and 11 year olds be frank and intelligent when talking about how they know some people are gay, or transgender, or live a different way, and how that doesn’t affect them. Not a giggle. The knowledge is there already, and so is the prejudice and use of language: children call each other “gay” in the playground long before you’re supposed to talk to them about what it means and why. It’s ridiculous.

Children are having these conversations and adults need to be involved, not to steer children towards a certain lifestyle or to instruct, but to shed light and understanding. I may not have done much of a note as a teacher in my short career but I have been able to talk to a class of children who wanted to know about sexuality and transgender issues, and why some people are the way they are. I’ve been able to say “Look, I think this is OK”, and been able to model a kind of – not tolerance or acceptance, because those are the wrong words – worldly view in which I’m like this, you’re like that, this person is like that, and that’s all right, and some people disagree, but that’s how we are. And ask “what do you think?” and hear some enlightened views.

We might want kids to stay children for as long as possible, but I don’t know how possible it is. They’re surrounded by messages all the time, not just in the media, but from everyone they know. I don’t think they can be shielded, even if we try. I think it’s better to accept that children know more than we did when they’re 10 and 11 and do something about it.

I wish we would do more. The porn blocking debate is not about blocking porn – if only it were, it would be more interesting and useful – but about trying to restrict all kinds of content from children. Some features, such as homework times, seem eminently reasonable. Other things, such as trying to manage all kinds of content, seem like they could close down information just when it is needed, and probably for those young people who might need it the most.

Leave it to the parents, you might say. And I accept that, I do. But I think it’s providing a false sense of security to think that these filters are in any way effective – more than that, though, they’re actively a bad idea. You can’t really block porn, however hard you try; yet you can prevent children from seeing the kinds of website that might provide important and useful information. It’s the worst of all possible worlds. People have been saying this ever since the plans were mooted, yet no one has listened.

Think of the children? I wish we would.

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Posted by on December 20, 2013 in Uncategorized



Some people can’t afford to eat. Suppose that’s a fact, or even partly true – that there are some people in this wealthy country, in 2013, who can’t afford to eat. What does it say about us? What does it say about us, as people, that we have allowed this situation to come about?

There has been a lot talked about the Food Bank debate in parliament this week. Some people have focussed on the fact that Iain Duncan Smith walked out of the debate; others have noticed that some MPs behaved with less than the gravity you might expect for a situation of this importance. (I expect our leaders to behave like braying scum until they prove themselves grown up enough to do otherwise). I don’t think either of those things is important, compared to the wider truth: some people cannot afford to eat.

The Labour Party is trying to make political gain out of the spread of food banks, but they are not entirely blameless. Their record in government was not one which paid the greatest of attention to the poorest in society or the least able to cope – possibly they held those on benefits in less contempt. They gave money back to the working poor in the form of tax credits, subsidising the huge corporations who could afford to pay better wages.

No one in power should have anything to say about the rise of food banks other than it represents a failure. A failure of society, a failure of government and a failure of us – all of us – to care enough about the situation.

It might be comforting and convenient for those of us who can afford to eat to imagine that people who use food banks do not really need them. Perhaps they are the feckless Shameless stereotypes we have in our heads, and which we have reinforced regularly by our newspapers: scroungers with big tellies who smoke, drink and smell, and who are topping up their state handouts with the generosity of useful idiots.

Others of us might think that inequality is the thing that drives the poor onward. it’s often people who have never tasted true poverty or hunger who come out with this kind of thing. A little bit of hunger never did anyone any harm. You need to suffer in order to strive. Let them eat ambition. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

But even that misses the point. Even if people are hungry entirely because of their own fault, they’re hungry. They are hungry and we can eat. There should be no ‘deserving poor’ and ‘undeserving poor’. There are people who cannot afford shelter and food, and there are those of us who can. What are we going to do about it?

Food banks might paper over the cracks. They might prevent us from dealing with the problem as urgently as we should. They might hide the working poor, the jobless poor and the zero-hours poor away from our eyes, to make them less visible, rather than seeing them begging in our streets, which would make us walk a little faster on our way through the shop doorways, and that just wouldn’t do. But they are feeding people who cannot feed themselves.

It’s not just those who are responsible for their own choices who are going through this. There are children too. Soon every young child will have a free school meal, but for some it will be the only hot or nutritious meal they have all day. Is that good enough? Do we just abandon these children and say that we are going to look the other way?

People are hungry. Some of these people are children. People can’t afford to eat. Some of these people are responsible for their own financial problems; some aren’t. I don’t care if they are or they aren’t. All I see are hungry people. Call me a bleeding heart, I’m proud to be one if it means wanting to feed people who are hungry.

It is just a symptom that something has gone drastically wrong. We are a rich country, yet there is hunger and pain. While most of us stuff ourselves at Christmas, others are starving. It should be a source of national shame. Some people can’t find jobs; some people who do work are not being paid wages that allow them to live. All the while the lifelines that dangle down to try and help those who are in trouble are being taken away. The doors are closing and we are turning our backs on them.

People are hungry. That isn’t right.

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Posted by on December 20, 2013 in Uncategorized



I’ve alluded to this before, but I can finally be open about it: I can’t have children.

Not ‘properly’, anyway; not in the way that you probably can, or have. We are going through the procedure of waiting for ICSI IVF treatment on the NHS, which began about, oh, two and a half years ago and kicked into life a little more seriously back in May. We are still waiting and will probably be waiting until sometime next year to get the one ‘free’ go on the national health. We are waiting, and waiting, and waiting. 

Why am I writing about this? I am one of those people who just writes about things, even if they are personal and unpleasant and don’t put you in a particularly flattering light. I don’t do it to try and garner sympathy or any other reaction; I don’t want your ‘u ok hun?’s or anything like that. I only write about these things because it’s the only way I can really deal with it; and because, possibly, there is a chance that other people going through the same thing might find something in these words that might strike a chord and make them feel less alone. 

Because you do feel alone. You feel like the two most lonely people in the world – together alone in a world full of babies. Babies everywhere: people having babies; people walking past with pregnant bellies or babies in their arms; people playing with their kids; other people’s children growing up in Facebook; ‘sharents’ going through all the milestones from first poo to first swim to first tooth to first everything. And there you are, together alone, alone, infertile, incapable, unable, hopeless, lifeless, losing. 

You don’t dare tell anyone, because it’s not the sort of thing that’s easy to share. And besides, you hope that it’s going to go away. Something will happen: something will work out. Maybe if you do that differently, or do this differently, or do something else differently, something will change; maybe your luck will alter, and everything will click into place. You start becoming obsessed with days of a cycle and fertility; you start reading and reading and reading up on how to make a baby, all the time knowing that, for most people – or so it seems – it’s not even something to worry about… they seem to pop out babies like shelling peas. It’s not really that easy for anyone else, of course, but it seems that way. 

You doubt yourself. You doubt your partner. You doubt everything. But it’s not the despair… You hope, and hope, and hope… until it goes so far that you realise that you can’t dare hope. Hope is just a joke. Hope is something that mocks you. Hope is that part of you that can’t come to terms with what’s happening; hope is the part of you that can’t see what’s happening – that you’ve got real problems. 

Eventually you find out. There’s a meeting in a plain carpeted hospital room somewhere. And you’re told that it is your fault, the reason why this is happening – or rather not happening. The thing you want most in the world is the one thing you can’t have, and the one reason you can’t have it is because there’s something wrong with you. It’s not even something that can be explained; it just is the way it is. You just are the way you are. And that’s that. 

You start to live a strange double existence. In private, you are desolate, damaged and devastated; in public, you attempt to replicate the kind of ordinary life you had before all this happened. It’s like living with grief, in a way, but a kind of grief that’s stretched out over a long, long period of time, and which has no ‘closure’, no mourning and no burial. It is a kind of grief that will never leave you. 

Meanwhile, babies are still everywhere. Babies on Facebook; babies in the street; babies as you walk around; babies on television and in films. Everywhere, babies. Look, all these people can have babies – good people or bad people, there is no god that discriminates or decides who can or can’t have children – but you can’t. All you know is that you can’t. You can’t and you might never be able to, even with all the help that science can bring, or that your money can pay for. 

There’s a reason why people have children: it’s something that dwells inside you, the yearning to make a tiny person. It’s something that is there, whether you like it or not, for most of us – though not everyone. You’re not less of a person if you don’t want to have children, and the happy childless, while frowned on by society in many ways, are people for whom I have a lot of time, and envy… I just wish I could be that way, but I can’t. I can’t be happy with being childless. I wish it didn’t matter, but it does. It’s there, every day. I can’t have a baby. We can’t have a baby. It’s all we want and it’s all we can’t have. 

I shouldn’t feel like less of a person, but I do. Rightly or wrongly, other people do judge you on the things you have or haven’t done in your life. I am 38 and I don’t have children; some people wonder if I just hate children or just can’t be bothered; some people don’t care. Some people view it with suspicion. Some let a stray fragment of pity wander off in my direction, but as I’ve said I don’t want pity. I don’t want anything except one day for this to end, for things to work out, for us to have a child. 

We don’t need advice. We don’t need to be told we should try this, or try that, or try something else. We’ve read all the books and seen all the websites. I’ve read thousands of words, more words than anyone should ever have to read about the mysteries of human reproduction. We don’t need to be asked if we’ve thought of adoption or if we should just ‘try to be happy’ despite everything. We don’t need to hear anecdotes about Person X or Person Y who magically got pregnant when they thought they couldn’t. I believe in the science, and it is not going to happen for us. The success rate of the treatment we will have, when we finally have it, is about 45 per cent. The odds are very slightly against us. 

Yes, hope is good, and being positive is good. It becomes increasingly hard to have any hope when setbacks become bigger setbacks, when every chance recedes. 

It starts slowly at first, this feeling of being crushed under the weight of it all. You have to hide so much, because on the one hand it’s good to be open and tell the people who matter to you, but on the other hand there’s nothing to tell: nothing is happening, and nothing will be happening for months, so why go through the explanations and the horrible embarrassing details? 

What I have learned, though, is that the people you need to be able to rely on – the family and friends who really matter – come through for you. They do understand and they don’t give you pity. They’re just there.

As well as that, instead of making your relationship with each other shaky or painful, it brings you closer together. You have to fight together and be a team. You have to go through all of this together, so you point in the same direction. You help each other when the other person can’t cope; you pick each other up. 

We make a good team, you know, the two of us. We’d probably make good pare… well, you know.

One day. 


Posted by on December 7, 2013 in Uncategorized


Braying scum

If you were ever in any doubt about the disconnect between politics and people, have a look at today’s Autumn Statement in the House of Commons. Whichever way you vote, no matter how keenly you’re interested in the toings and froings of government, you will probably be dismayed by what you see.

The braying, from all sides.

The roaring, burbling, and murmuring.

The inability to let someone else speak without you shouting over them and interrupting them.

The juvenile roaring and yelling.

This is our parliament. These are the people we have elected to serve our interests, and they spend their lives wasting that opportunity by bellowing, growling and making animal noises at each other. They shout, they interrupt, they refuse to shut up, they act like a pack of chimps. No, not like a pack of chimps. More unruly, more vile, more deliberate, more malicious, more unpleasant. It’s an insult to animals to compare these people to animals.

I know for people who study The Westminster Village that this kind of stuff is the jovial badinage that makes The Mother of All Parliaments such a joy. These people are wrong. There is nothing charming, jolly, hilarious or quaint about this demeaning spectacle. This isn’t the marvellously quirky character of British democracy in action. It’s embarrassing. It’s shameful. It makes it look like a rowdy boys’ club – the growls, burbles and yells are overwhelmingly masculine, although men aren’t the only offenders – rather than a serious institution in which matters which affect people’s futures are discussed and debated.

There’s nothing wrong with passion or humour or – as ever, I hesitate to type this sickening word – banter in the right circumstances. When you’re talking about how your actions are going to affect thousands of lives it’s not the time to be treating it like Carry on Camping. Seriously. These are serious things. It’s not humourless to expect that serious things should be carried out with an appropriate level of gravitas – is it?

I think those people who are locked into the Westminster bubble don’t really get why people outside it see politics as something contemptible. What’s wrong with a lot of overgrown schoolboys braying and shouting at each other all afternoon? It’s all fun, isn’t it? No, it isn’t fun. It’s a mess. An embarrassing, infantile, pathetic, miserable mess which makes people hate MPs all the more than they already did.


Posted by on December 5, 2013 in Uncategorized