Lessons in Life

Re-reading ‘A Christmas Carol’ in 2020 shows me how much things have changed and how much they stay the same.

Family Life

The opening of the novel reveals Scrooge’s self imposed isolation, loneliness and emptiness as he walks through life. In the modern world his cold loneliness would probably be spent trolling, seeking to make others as miserable as himself.

Homelessness

Some of the suggestions to cure poverty would not be put of place in Dickensian England. For example a billionaire has proposed wheelie bin pods has temporary shelter for rough sleepers. Yes he has identified that rough sleeping has become a growing problem on the streets of London; especially for young men. Not only is this suggestion demeaning and humiliating but it shows an incredible insensitivity and ignorance that could only come from someone who has never struggled to eat.

Child Poverty

The rising rates of child poverty in this country are alarming. Again instead of helping the victims blame the parents. Some politicians have declared that food banks are a lifestyle choice rather than a necessity. Now they are debating whether tax payers should continue to fund universal free school meals.

Covid 19 Madness

The announcement UK citizens might be on lockdown brought an unprecedented amount of ‘shelfish’ stockpiling of toilet paper? Pasta, rice and hand gel. It’s like some dystopian movie but more frighteningly this is real life. I can only hope that we can start connecting more with our neighbours, family and friends. More phone calls to our lonely, elderly relatives if we can’t visit.

Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ has moved me more this year than ever. I see the mental health issues that are a direct result of poverty. However I do not feel hopeless. The tragic death of a TV personality had caused people to cry out to others to ‘be kind’. We have spent too long fuelling this toxic environment on social media. At the end of the story Scrooge learns this simple message be kind.

Another year without you

Gone but not forgotten

The years are passing by without your smile, your touch, your love. Last year I didn’t know if I could continue with my life; but I did.

I found videos on my computer that my 4 year old daughter made. She was telling you to stop watching Emmerdale and pay her some attention. We loved our early evening visits – you’d make me a cup of tea and offer me some dinner. I would talk briefly about work but the rest of the time was sorting out the garden picking strawberries, gooseberries, and tomatoes. I would seek advice about growing stuff because even though we bought the same plants mine would wither and die but yours would thrive and yield and yield. I forgot about all your years of experience in Jamaica farming on your plot of land.

My daughter learnt so much from you; so many of her facial expressions; her quick wit and her sense of humour means that you’re always with me. Those afternoons before the illness took over were so valuable. You would be so proud to see her today sharing the wisdom and love handed down from her ancestors.

Mother’s Day

Matriarch’s Legacy

Another year has gone by. You’ve lived in 9 decades. God has blessed through all of them

Your children stand beside you and call you blessed. They recognise your sacrifices to bring them to this place where they can stand proudly and say they have overcome poverty, discrimination and hate.

You lost your husband nine years ago and you didn’t know how you would cope living alone without the love of your life. You proved to us all you are a survivor.

The love you show to others surpasses all the hate that has been unleashed in recent years. If someone is hungry you give them food; if someone is short of money you reach down deep and you give; if someone is discouraged you give them hope.

Motherhood is not easy; being the mother of three generations is a wonderful achievement. This year you celebrate being 91; this year we celebrate how to love and be loved.

What breaks my heart?

Hate is a powerful word that has taken over our narrative to the point where we hate people who try to do some good in the world. People use their time and money to offer some light and hope to the hopeless only to be dragged by the media for being attention seeking and a narcisscist. Meghan the Duchess of Sussex took time to support the women of Grenfell with the practical support of a cook book.  These women felt that noone was held accountable for the death of 75 people housed in a tower block with flammable cladding in fact only people blamed from so called independent report – the fire service – yes the people who went into the burning people to rescue victims of the fire.  I digress she also supported a charity which helped women get back to work with clothes for an interview. Journalists who are only capable of spreading their bile are outraged that she has chosen to stop their feeding frenzy.  It must be so frustrating to be on the receiving end of endless speculative stories and having no place to address or counterbalance the negativity.

I wonder how the Daily Mail will fill its pages now that the Sussexes have left the building. They have Kate and William and the children I suppose

The constant denial of the elephant in the room is laughable. The negativity boils down to racism. Yes it’s an ugly word; so painful for some to hear that they prefer to respond to the person calling out the racist behaviour rather than the racist behaviour itself. Some newspapers are case studies on the insidious, destructive and corrosive nature of institutional racism.

How can we change this hate to love?

Well after reading the comments on Twitter I am going to cut down on my consumption of social media – when peoples comments are allowed to go unchecked people of colour cannot express an opinion without vile racist abuse – to be honest – it breaks my heart.

Meghan’s experiences are unsurprising for every child of an immigrant – I have read comments from tv presenters and journalists ‘go back to America’ and now she’s actually made the decision outrage – she can’t have her cake etc. But these journalists want the same thing they are accusing her of: ‘power without responsibility.’

Everything in this world has become one big reality tv show – politics is about populism – newspaper articles ‘What do you think of the Sussexes’ decision to step down as senior royals? On ‘Question Time’ two weeks in a row – whilst Australia is burning; a plane has been shot down killing 177 passengers; at the end of this month we are leaving the EU.

2020 Vision

Where do you see yourself in 10 years time? A question at the back of mind as we move into this new decade.

I’m nowhere near retirement age even at the end of the decade.

I will have completed 30 years in teaching. I will have taught in 3 phases of education – primary, secondary and sixth form. I’ve been through the highs and lows of every fad, curriculum change – setting, banding, mixed ability, streaming in education. The more things change; the more they stay the same.

I see the ads on TV get into teaching showing teachers leaving with the kids. Where does that happen? There are so many hostage holding gimmicks that deprive teachers of a family life – trapped time (Parents’ Evening, Open Evening, Recruitment nterviews etc)

No advert would show the reality of the de-Skilling of teachers through micro-management of every single second in the workplace. I wonder if they would ever show them the amount of time and effort it takes to prepare lessons; mark their work; manage behaviour. Or perhaps the shivering wrecks; sapped of their enthusiasm; jaded and disillusioned within a few years. Perhaps that’s the cynic in me of course we need new teachers in the profession and if the fantasy of well behaved, keen and enthusiastic empty vessels waiting to be inspired gets them there….

Back to my vision I have no intention of being in the classroom up to the age of 67. The last 10 years have taught me a a lot about myself. My beautiful daughter was born in 2010 and yes she changed my world for the better. I let go of the deluded hope of being respected for my skills and experience by managers who only want to invest in the cheapest rather than the best. I realised that capability was a tool to drive out kind natured honest professionals out of the profession.

I stopped crying and I saw there was more to life than devoting hours and hours to spreadsheets coded red, amber and green but didn’t add one iota to the quality of life for myself or the students. I saw in my daughter someone that needed me to be present in her life – discussing ‘The Next Step’ reading ‘The World’s Worst Children 1,2 and 3’ (someone’s got to do it); picking her up from school – knowing her friends and their parents so I can arrange her birthday parties.

The next decade will take us through choosing secondary schools, gcses, A Levels, university. I am optimistic about the future.

Playing Out

Are you playing out? A phrase from my past. All these years later I’m thinking about how it foarmed part of my identity. Thinking about the days when I was considered old enough to leave the safety of my family and see how the indigenous population lived.

The Jackson family made the decision to travel up the M6 and to the end of the M606 to sunny Bradford with six children under the age of 10 with the promise of a better life.

The house fell below expectations a three storey terrace house on a dangerous bend across from a rubbish tip which was pungent in the sumer. We made the most of this unhealthy environment in the times we were allowed out of the house. No health and safety police in our neck of the woods.

Now my daughter is maneuvering her way around the safety of home seeing how other families behave – how they treat her differently. I think about my childhood; I think about the times when I would make the first move and go and knock for a friend.

There was no fear in those days. Bravely, I knocked on the door; waited, if her mum answered I would be greeted with a smile; but her dad not so friendly, not so welcoming to the newcomers. He couldn’t hide his disapproval. Looking back we were the only black family on the street and I now know the rhetoric around immigration was along the lines ‘there’s too many of you’ and ‘go black home!’ Pretty similar to what I’m hearing today in 2019. Yes Mr Crowther was not accepting of this new neighbours that had moved into the community. He was never openly racist; so it would come in the form of keeping me standing on the doorstep for ages behind a closed door. She would be allowed to play for a short while in the garden, then she was quickly called in.

In the times we escaped the ugly adult world we played with our dolls; watched the Saturday Elvis movies and being totally confused by a flasher on our street. I thought he’d forgotten to fasten his trousers up I didnt have a clue it was a deliberate act.

Eventually, my parents managed to save enough money to move away from that totally inappropriate house for small children. Our new home was mum’s dream house a 3 bedroom semi-detached house with a large garden (yes it felt very middle class).

Whilst shopping in Bradford one Saturday afternoon, I remember bumping into my childhood friend, we chatted and arranged to meet up. Strangely enough she wanted to meet up at a local Catholic church; still believing she was a friend I went along sat through the unfamiliar rituals but secretly admiring how efficient they were with time – exactly one hour not a minute more not a minute less. My church if it doesnt last 3 hours you haven’t been to church. She didn’t turn up. That feeling of isolation has stayed with me. I never found out why she didnt turn up; I didn’t call her to ask but it definitely affected the way I cconducted myself in future friendships.

Bible Verses of Comfort those that grieve

What does the bible say about loss?

1. 1 Corinthians 15:54

Death is swallowed up in victory.‘O Death, where is your sting?O Grave, where is your victory?’

2. Isaiah 25:8

He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces.

3. Revelation 21:4

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things are passed away.

4. Song of Solomon 8:6

Love is as strong as death.

5. John 11:25

I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.

6. Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

To everything there is a season. A time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die.

7. Isaiah 30:19

You shall weep no more. He will be very gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when he hears it he will answer you.

8. Romans: 12:15

Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

This September is a reminder of the loss of my father. Has the pain of loss eased? Just a little. I’m reminded of the journeys to the hospital and the Nursing Home seeing him in excruciating pain and the feeling of helplessness. I find comfort knowing the pain is over. I’m left with good memories of my father being a constant in my life – maybe the only one who truly understood me.