Monthly Archives: June 2014

A little sorrow

A few weeks ago we found out that our ivf had failed. I haven’t really had time to grieve, but while a life briefly started is not the same as one that’s been lived, it felt like a little death. A little sorrow. But nothing to bury and nothing to mourn. Just a continuing of what had gone before, with all those hopes flickering into darkness.

It is a death. It was alive. Nearly. It nearly was properly alive. It just didn’t quite get there. Three and a half years of sacrifice, torment, traumatising and regret, for nothing. A blankness. A nothing. The absence of something. A void of something that was never there but which we wanted so very desperately to be there.

It’s hard to process some of the things that happen to you. You wait for the numbness to recede and the waves of pain to remind you you’re alive. What does it mean – something, anything? Maybe nothing. But you feel it all the same.

It’s only by risking pain that you ever get anything. You know what you’re getting yourself into. You know what could happen.

All you have left is a wish that things could have gone differently. For me, it’s so much easier. My body has not been pumped full of hormones. I didn’t bleed out what could have been. But still the pain. Still the pain.

How do you get over something like this? I don’t know. You just go to sleep and wake up. You dream. Each second you spend is one step further away from the remorse, desolation and emptiness in your heart. Time passes and you keep on going. Because you have to. But fucking hell it hurts.


Posted by on June 24, 2014 in Uncategorized


British Values

People in government often like the idea of teaching British Values. It sounds cosy doesn’t it. If it weren’t shorthand for “stopping those brown people” it would conjure instead an idyllic, romantic image: lengthening shadows on a village cricket green, a nightingale chirping by an allotment, a bunch of hardy queuers queueing for something but not minding because they’re jolly well British and they’ll jolly well wait.

But it is code for “anything but Islam”. That’s the problem. It’s nothing to do with British Values; it’s all to do with values that we deem to be foreign, alien and frightening – and therefore not British.

Since every government thinks it goes down well in Swindon or Norwich or Basildon that there should be more faith schools, there will be more faith schools. Leave alone the arguments that state education should be secular: faith schools it is. Leave aside the problems that rise up when faith schools start doing what faith schools do and teach stuff to do with faith rather than, say, science. Leave aside the problems that happen when state schools attempt to replicate faith schools, which we are told are A Good Thing. Faith schools are good and we shall have more of them.

As successive governments aim to “give schools more independence” (get rid of local authority control), they will become more independent. If you remove the safety net of governance it’s increasingly hard to say “ah, but don’t do anything we don’t like though”. Independence is good. Local authorities are bad.

In the end it’s all about ideology. Too much ideology rather than pragmatism leads to problems, whether it’s in schools or in government. Blind faith in anything – be it a supreme being or the importance of “independence” or “choice” – is going to run up against some awkward truths sooner or later.

How about that great British value of pragmatism? Of seeing what works rather than forcing through what you think ought to work? Can we teach that somewhere? Or must we insist instead that faith is better than evidence? Ah, but that would lead to all sorts of difficult decisions, wouldn’t it.

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Posted by on June 9, 2014 in Uncategorized



Not 1, but 0.

It’s the hope that makes the pain worse. How can you feel grief for just a cluster of a hundred or so cells… But you can. A tiny grief that hurts just the same, just as deeply. You can and you do. The cells are a vessel for your hope and all those dreams you quietly dare to make; they’re the end result of years, and years, of wishing, hoping and trying – and failing, but trying again. You have to try. You have to try, to risk the hurt. It’s not a real person of course, just a potential for a person, just a someone who could have been. No different maybe in some ways to the other potential people you made or didn’t make through the years. But no. So different. A tiny, tiny bubble of cells containing all your lives. Everything you could have wanted.

Deep inside there is, in some of us, that desire, that need, to be more than this, to make another life – but for some of us it’s not that simple. Tests and clinics. Change your life. Change your diet. Give this up; give that up. Try. Every month another little death. And all that hope, all that thinking about what might happen, if it happens… If it happens. But it doesn’t happen. And for you, it won’t or can’t. And might never. Science has come a long way but it doesn’t always work. You can only do so much. You think about “fate” – maybe it wasn’t our day, our time. Maybe it was but it still didn’t work. Maybe there is no fate and you have to do everything you can to make your own fate what you want to be – and wherever you end up, that’s where you put yourself. Parent or not-parent. I know for some people “it’s not nature’s way” but nature has no feelings and is often wrong. You have to try. It’s not wrong to try. You think to yourself: why is this happening to me? To us? Why not me? Why not us? And there are no reasons and there is no logic. There is no big plan. There is no “everything happens for a reason.” There is no reason.

It doesn’t help sometimes that everywhere you go you see babies. On television, in the street, among your friends the same age, or younger: babies. Oh, we didn’t even try! It just happened! And. And that’s great for them. And it gives you hope. And you’re happy but inside you want to fall apart. The walls close in. The colours in the room bleach away. It’s like you’re looking at yourself through a spyhole, distorted and smudged and small.

You have to try. Try to fight against the things that are set against you. Beat the odds even though the odds sometimes beat you.

But we aren’t beaten yet.

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Posted by on June 8, 2014 in Uncategorized


Avoiding strategy

Yesterday evening there was a boxing match. I’d been vaguely aware that it was happening but I had no real idea of when or where. Friends on Facebook discussed who they wanted to win and why; people on twitter explained how excited they were about it. This was a big deal, the biggest bout in years or something. But it had passed me by entirely, all the hype and all the buildup; here it was, happening all of a sudden, and I knew next to nothing about it.

I hadn’t gone out of my way to avoid it. I was aware that something was happening, but I’d managed to process it as some kind of wallpaper, a background hum that I didn’t notice. Sure, this match was happening but I’d been able to tune out of all the Froch – Groves excitement and discussion. I even quite like sport, and I like to read about it all the time, but I’d managed to steer my attention away from the boxing. It was just something that I’d been able to get away from. It was going to happen, then it happened, and now it’s over. People are talking about a rematch. I’ll avoid it. It won’t be hard.

I hadn’t deliberately chosen to cross the street away from this event, but it was simple enough to enact an avoiding strategy. And it made me wonder if this is how easy it is to avoid things like elections. I suppose there’s a thought among those of us who “do” politics that things like elections excite other people as much of us, that somehow it’s as interesting to others as it is to us, that even those people who are less interested are somehow interested – at all. But what if the interest really isn’t there? What if the millions of non voters are not not-voting but simply not voting? What if their protest isn’t a protest at all? That it’s not because of – hold on, I’m going to use the d-word – disengagement, but because of a more simple lack of interest? Perhaps people aren’t actively opting out. Maybe they never opted in.

I keep thinking what it would have taken to get me fixated on that boxing match. Probably nothing. True, a relatively major sporting event doesn’t have the same impact on my life as the election of the next government… But then I’m assuming again that I’m interested enough to make that distinction, or able to feel the difference that the election would make to my life. And I’m not so sure everyone can. Or should. Or does. Perhaps the triumph of politics is in doing as little harm as possible so as few people as possible feel the need to make changes. Maybe that’s a greater success than revolution.

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Posted by on June 1, 2014 in Uncategorized