bye bye

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:54 pm by rachel

moving to tumblr to keep Burly company. maybe see you there 🙂


What about women?

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:15 pm by rachel

Not long now until 6th May. I for one will be glad when this Mexican standoff is over, but I’m not exactly filled with hope for what comes after. This has been the most masculine election that I can remember. Three men slugging it out over who should be President – sorry, Prime Minister. There has hardly been a woman in sight.

No, that’s not fair. There have been a few baubles tossed in the direction of women over recent weeks. The parties have run important decisions like biscuit preferences by Mumsnet when they wanted to appeal to women. They have rolled out their Boden-clad wives to make them look… I don’t know how it is supposed to make them look. Married? Co-dependent? Human. That’s it. The doe-eyed wife gazing adoringly at her husband is supposed to tell the female half of the electorate, I love him, you should too. I know you aren’t sure about him, and I’ll admit that he’s not perfect – he’s messy and occasionally a bit grumpy, perhaps a bit like your husband – but if he can convince me, with my lovely hair and wardrobe, then you should vote for him. In this most American of elections, some of the political spouses are apeing Michelle Obama’s role, but without the off-message opinions and the daring cardigans.

I met quite a few intelligent, articulate women who also happened to be MPs or Ministers when I worked in London. There has not been a peep out of them. They have been sidelined by all the parties and it is atrocious. Yvette Cooper, holding one of the most senior roles in Government, was moved to scribble to a colleague that they were second division, based on the press contingent at their meeting; and the story was her scribble, disdainful as it was, not her proposals for benefit reform. Harriet Harmon gets an interview or two with the glossy magazines, but it’s window dressing. Peter Mandelson is blamed for this from Labour’s point of view – apparently the campaign is now in his iron grip.

The Liberal Democrats don’t have many women to wheel out, and one less as Miriam Gonzales has refused to fulfil the patronising role of leader’s spouse. This is to her credit, but it makes for an even more white, middle-aged bunch of middle of the road men. Meanwhile, the Observer reports today that the Tories will introduce top-up fees for nursery schools; this will encourage more women to give up their jobs and stay at home, if the entire second wage in the household is going to pay those bills. Very progressive guys. Up there with your stupid, retrograde policies of reducing the abortion time limit and bringing in marriage tax credits. That’s right Dave, abandonned wives, single mothers and widows don’t need help from the state.

Here in Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon has been quite prominent when the SNP has managed to get a bit of coverage, but that has been rare – that party has been well and truly sidelined. Scotland currently sends 8 women to Westminster, and 51 men. Hopefully there will be a few more this time, but new MPs of any party tend to be hidden from view for at least the first few years.

In Northern Ireland, there are few female politicians. Lady Sylvia Herman is going it alone in North Down, having left the UUP when they compacted with the Tories. She should romp home, especially now Cameron has said that the public sector in Northern Ireland, the employer of about 75% of the working population, will have to be drastically cut. The UUP could be wiped out if the electorate decide to punish them in advance. So that is one female MP. Michelle Gildernew will lose her seat if there is a joint unionist candidate. The other female possibility is South Down, but as Catriona Ruane is from Sinn Fein, that seat will be empty in the House of Commons. Hardly a great leap forward for 51% of the population.

So what do women want from our future leaders? Well, it would be nice if we were treated like grown ups, who aren’t just obsessed with fashion, babies or which leader is the most attractive. It would be nice to see and hear from competant female politicians about how they would sort out the deficit, the banks who won’t lend money to people who need it, the pension crisis, the lack of equality on women’s pay, the dearth of female leaders in the public, private and voluntary sectors. It would be nice to hear about how the parties are going to tackle climate change, poverty, substance misuse, overcrowded prisons, adult education, the lack of affordable housing. It would be nice to hear human rights being discussed in a positive way.

And what about carers? Five million carers in the UK, and at least 75% of them are women. Most of them cannot work because of this responsibility. Yet Carer’s allowance is £53 / week, and you can only access this pittance if you care for more than 35 hours a week, and don’t work. That’s £1.50 an hour. It is shameful, and for the most part, it is impacting on women. None of the parties have mentioned it other than saying, yes, we think carers are brilliant, we’ll give them a whole week off a year. No more money to lift them out of poverty though, while their physical and mental health deteriorates in the service of a loved one. If all the carers walked away, it would cost this country tens of billions.

It would be good to hear what the parties are going to do about the UK’s appalling conviction rate for rape, still the lowest in Europe at 6.5%. In Scotland, it is only 2.9%. I’ve scoured the manifestoes, but I must have missed the section about violence against women.

It would be refreshing to hear some pledges of support for beleaguered rape crisis centres and women’s hostels, which are being shut down across the country as a consequence of councils having less money for such trivialities. Women are underrepresented in business, science and engineering – what will the parties do to encourage young women into these fields? How they are going to build up self-esteem and resilience in our young people, since PSHE was destroyed in the last Parliament’s disgraceful washup?

We need a Parliament which is reflective and representative of our country, with minority ethnic communities, people with disabilities, people who are gay, lesbian and bisexual all in place, and equally encompassing women and men. We need our politicians to treat us like adults, talk to us properly – neither jargonise their way out of answering a question, nor resort to condescending cliches about what women want. The Parliament elected in 2010 will be overwhelmingly white, male, middle-aged. We have come a long way, yes, but based on the patronising tone and message of this election campaign, there is even further to go.



Posted in Uncategorized at 10:45 am by rachel

I have the rage.

I spent a lot of yesterday entertaining my cousin Mark’s five year old daughter, Katie. We were at a big family gathering for my Granda’s 90th birthday, and she’s a sweet kid, so it wasn’t the worst way to spend the day by any means. We had a lovely day.

On the way home, my mother told me that the previous week, Katie had asked her schoolfriend if she believed in Jesus, and told her that if she didn’t, she was going to burn in Hell forever. The child, understandably traumatised, told the teacher, who then brought in Katie’s mum Jacqui.

Five year olds shouldn’t know about pain, and they shouldn’t know about torture. They should be concentrating on playing games, running around and learning to read and count. The idea of burning in a pit of flames and being mutilated by demons forever is intended to be terrifying – that’s the whole sadistic point. What kind of warped person thinks that a five year old needs that kind of terror? My pious cousin Mark and his wife, it seems.

Jacqui was apparently upset that Katie had done this. What did she expect? They polluted Katie’s innocent mind with their evangelical delusions, and I imagine that they will stand by these misguided views, despite the suffering it has caused. But this is how the religious operate. Wasn’t it said, “give me a child until he is ten, and I shall show you the man”? The only way religion can survive is by planting lies in children’s heads when they are young and impressionable, trusting and accepting what their parents tell them. The parents who love them and care for them, yet inform them of the prospect of unending pain if they ever step out of line. It is a cruel and vicious deception.

Dawkins et al refer to indoctrinating children with their parents’ religion as child abuse. Given the impact this has had on Katie and her poor little friend, I’m inclined to agree.


so… what’s been going on?

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:43 am by rachel

There is not a great deal to report from Glasgow.

Let’s go back a month or so. Wonder of wonders, I passed my driving test – and with a mere four minor faults, confounding everyone’s expectations. I think my instructor had lessons booked in for me the following week, and my father had so little faith that he was confidently predicting to all and sundry that I would fail. Charming. Anyway, this unexpected success took the edge off a week where I sat two interviews and was offered neither job. I have had another interview since, and also been unsuccessful (second choice yet again). I am waiting to hear about another application for a job at the university; and my local coffee shop is still to get back to me on barista work.

It’s getting to me, to be honest.

In contrast, Burly is working really hard. He finally submitted his PhD at the beginning of May, but work has just taken over his life in recent weeks. There is talk of cancelled leave and weekend meetings, which doesn’t sound good. I’m worried about it, especially as I have no job to prop us up if something awful happened. But, they seem to like him and value him, bringing him out to fancy restaurants to talk lasers to important Americans, and I have to hold on to that. There is no word of his viva yet – I’m hoping that I’ve a job before we go down to London, otherwise I’m going to feel like a bit of a failure to be honest. Whilst Glasgow has twice the rate of unemployment as the rest of the UK, I still think I should be able to get a job, and that I should have got it months ago. All the feedback I’ve got from interviews has been positive, and I’m not sure what else I can do.

However, although Burly is working late, he’s not spending his evenings writing up his PhD, so that’s a massive improvement. I feel like I’m in a relationship again! As evidence of this, we went to see In The Loop the other night, the first time we’ve been to the cinema together since the Batman film. It was a rare outing, which was lovely. And it was a hilarious film, although it was sometimes uncomfortable viewing and very close to the bone and the truth of how things are in Westminster Village, I think. Macho and cynical, really. But very funny – some amazing lines. It didn’t make me miss London, or working in politics. I’m hoping the university job will come up, I think it’d be a nice change but still interesting.

I am just back – I say just, I got back a few days ago – from my bridesmaid duties in Northern Ireland. Despite the rain, it was a good day and went smoothly – everyone was happy and Eliz looked amazing. So they are living happily ever after now, and it was really nice to see them so content. Weddings are not my cup of tea though, especially Northern Irish weddings where everyone seems to think they have the right – actually, no, the obligation – to voice an opinion on your own relationship. I got asked too many times when Burly was going to make an honest woman out of me, and the questions weren’t confined to me – Burly and even my parents, who would love us to get married, were grilled. My own good manners meant that I didn’t outline my many objections and tell them to fuck off for good measure: I don’t think a wedding reception is the time or the place to be decrying matrimony. That, dear reader, is because I’m sensitive to other people’s feelings and beliefs, and only use my blog as an outlet for my rage. It infuriates me that others are less tolerant, and think they have the right to dictate to others how to live their lives.  There was quite a few homophobic ‘jokes’ from someone sitting near me at the top table which wound me up as well. And this is before we even get started on the ‘God made woman from the rib of Adam’ lecture that we were subjected to during the ceremony. Argh. Another day, perhaps.

I have my writing class again tonight, and to be honest, I could just as happily not bother going. Our teacher cleared off to Cuba to do ‘research’ a couple of weeks ago, so we have a replacement for the final few classes, and she’s pretty hopeless and humourless. I wasn’t able to go to last week’s class, and I’m fully anticipating that the numbers will have dropped off tonight as well. It’s a shame, as I was really enjoying it. But, it’s only for another couple of weeks, and I want to finish this course so I can go on the next level, with a different teacher. I haven’t written anything for a while though. I tried a bit of writing when I was home, but what with fulfilling my maidenly duties and seeing my Grandfather, there wasn’t much time.

And that is about it, really. I am going to get some breakfast, then get on with another application form for next week, and try to come up with a short story.


driving me crazy

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:06 am by rachel

Something happens to me when I get into a car. Whether as a passenger, or in control of the wheel, I lose all confidence in myself. Stick someone beside me with a green sheet of paper, and everything I’ve learnt just goes out of my head.

I can drive pretty well, I think. My progress chart has gone from 2s (with prompting) to 4s (test standard). I know where the reference points are for my manoeuvres, and they pretty much go according to plan these days. Undue hesitancy is what kills me though. Try as I might, I can’t relax, drive at the speed limit, make that quick right turn if there is a car on the horizon.. It’s not good.

I’m going to have to sort it out though. Driving test in two weeks. So much time, money, effort has gone into this. It’s pretty much the only thing I have to show for moving to Glasgow, getting to this standard. I really want to pass it, because I know that with practice, I’ll be fine and I’ll get better and start to relax more. The test seems like such a massive hurdle. Everyone whizzing past my window (I hope) has done it though, so I should get over it.

Easier said than done.


The glamour of guns

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:18 pm by rachel

Kilwilkie Housing Estate, resplendent with pro-CIRA graffiti this week, is about 2 miles from where I grew up, but it might as well have been on the other side of the world. It wasn’t somewhere I hung out. I can’t remember the name of the road which leads to it, as the sign has always been covered up by green, white and orange paint. You heard about it on the news occasionally – generally preceded by the words “And today the Belfast to Dublin train came under attack from stones thrown by youths from the…”

A return of gunmen in Northern Ireland is not a surprise, unfortunately. Some of them never went away. David Ervine used to talk about the need for mindsets to be decommissioned, along with weapons – a smart play on words from Dictionary Dave, perhaps, and a way to deflect attention from his loyalist supporters who refused to hand over their toys. However, for some people, the last decade of imperfect peace has not been wonderful, and their bigoted mindsets remained ready for war. These people had experienced a loss of status and income since the advent of the ceasefires. If you have always defined yourself as anti-the other side, well, when the other side stops fighting, you are lost. You are nothing. Propping up a bar somewhere, all you can do is reminisce about the good old days, when you could ‘off’ people rather than be required to negotiate with them. Teenagers from the estate, themselves with no goals or prospects in life, hear this romantic nonsense and want a piece of it. How different their lives would have been if they’d been born twenty years earlier! They could have been the hardmen, the defenders of their community. So called freedom fighters. Or murderers, as the rest of us know them.

The murderers cannot seriously have thought this would achieve their means – violence didn’t exactly bring the British state to its knees before, it won’t now, and for one reason or another, we’re slightly less supportive of terrorists as romantic figures these days. This was their last chance to live the dream and be the big man again, before policing is devolved to the Assembly and the whole of the North embraces it. I imagine the sight of Martin McGuinness condemning the murders and calling for Republicans to inform on their own probably reinforced their view of Sinn Fein selling out to the Brits; for everyone else, it shows us how far we have come, and makes the so-called hardmen look like dinosaurs – who will soon be extinct.

These men love the glamour of guns. Justifying their actions against others because they feel hard done by in their sad lives. Whether it is a no mark from Lurgan, or a confused teenager in Germany, there will always be someone who refuses to take responsibility for their own failures, and casts around for someone else to blame and punish. It might be pitiable, but it is their victims and their families that I feel sorry for.

The events of the past week was a wake up call – don’t take peace for granted. It’s not perfect, but for twelve years, the absence of funerals, roadblocks, code words and car bombs, has been a revelation in normality. A generation has grown up without fear. People forget… then remember what it was like. There is no going back.


update – feb 09

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:55 am by rachel


I’m sitting in Dollingstown with a glass of wine. It’s pretty late, but I’m not quite ready for bed yet. My Granny is in hospital, after several days without fluid or nutrition, hanging on to life and confounding the doctors’ expectations and prognoses. Aside from the pain of mourning someone not yet gone, the organisation which I applied and interviewed for have decided to employ someone else. Trivial, in the circumstances, but also making me feel very blue. 

It feels like I only write anything in this blog when I’m fed up, pissed off, unhappy, shaken or upset. Never ‘I had such a good day’, or ‘I’m so content with my life’. How annoying, really. Why would anyone want to read such self-indulgent misery?

Well, life is good, aside from the lack of job. I am healthy. I have wonderful friends and family who love me. I’m so happy with Burly. I’m trying to be philosophical about my Granny, although I’m so sad about her, especially for my Granda – he’ll be devastated when she dies. They had their 65th wedding anniversary just before Christmas, and I can’t imagine how empty life must feel without your partner in it after all that time. So, I’m sad. I’m trying to be philosophical, but I’m still sad.

Still some wine left. I looked for jobs today, and there is nothing. No, that sounds like self-pity: there are lots of jobs, just none I wish to do. I am torn – really not sure what to do. I’m afraid that if I take an admin job, it will really undermine my chances of getting a higher level job down the line, as people only look at the current or previous job title, then move swiftly on if it’s something like ‘secretary’. I made that mistake in London, and I don’t want to do that again. I’m 30, for goodness sake. I should be rolling in cash and job offers. 

Then again, the status quo cannot continue. I shall go mad, and I have no money.

So. Lots on my mind, which isn’t conducive to sleep, and I miss being in my own flat in Glasgow with Burly – I would just feel so much better if I were there with him. But, I will be soon. It’s a good lesson this, which I always find at a funeral, teaching you that life is short – tell your loved ones how they complete it.


much happier today

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:31 pm by rachel

that’s about it really – feeling good again. 🙂


thought for the day

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:32 pm by rachel

Peter dumped me seven years ago, after a five year relationship, by text message – right around this time of year as it happens. I mention this because while I’m ok now, and it normally feels like it happened to a different person, the whole break up feeling has revisited me via facebook in the form of a friend request from him and I’m feeling hurt, humiliated, ugly, angry.. like I’ve been kicked in the stomach all over again.

Needless to say, I’ve decided that I don’t need friends like him. 

Burly’s been wonderful to me – I told him how upset I was about it last night and he was so kind to me. I need to focus on that – out of all the pain and sadness of that horrible year, came the chance to go out with Burly and be happier than I thought possible. I’m the lucky one.


the long days which never end

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:34 pm by rachel

I am not unemployed – not quite yet. Friday is my last day at fpa; I’m technically on holiday. I’m being paid to sit around at home.

Hmmm. Well, it’s pretty boring, to be honest. I’m in no way making the most of it, but part of that inertia is due to an unfinished job application. I can’t do any fun stuff while it remains undone; yet doing it… tedious. Necessary, but tedious. Worthy, but dull. Hence, sitting at home, drinking tea, listening to radio 4, doing bits and pieces on the application, and the flat, and emailing my friends. Who are all employed, so not exactly instant responses (although there are some honourable exceptions, who are gallantly putting aside their work to entertain me).

Burly’s position is by no means secure, so I’m going to have to get my skates on and write why I have the personal skills and qualities necessary to do this well paid and demanding job. I’m feeling quite stressed about it, as this is the first thing I’ve seen in the past couple of months that I feel pretty qualified for, yet deep down, I’m not sure if I’d get it (on paper yes – in person, I’m probably a bit too chubby, and it would be immediately apparent that I’m not quite sporty enough, I fear). But there is literally nothing else, so perhaps I’m spinning it out as long as I can to make myself feel like I’m doing something. Procrastinating, just for a change. It’s not good, and I’m going to get it done this afternoon. There.

It’s not good though. I was very grumpy, for no good reason, with Burly last night. I feel guilty about being at home all day while he’s working away and not really enjoying it, with the fear of the end of his probation looming. I don’t want to leave Glasgow, so I’m going to have to get a job – this job, preferably. Right – am off to do my application.

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