Friday 30 December 2022

Last minute book post

'Haven' by Emma Donoghue (previously reviewed here, here and here) was a hard read. Religious fervour leaves me cold, and when it tips over into mania I was just waiting for either of the two other human beings in the story to show a bit of common sense. Equally the discipline around a religious calling is unfathomable. How did human being create these random rules and regulations and persuade others that they were divinely inspired? Why do people subjugate themselves so completely that their own instincts are overruled? What would a normal person do if someone suggested they live on a rock in the sea with no food or water or shelter and that God would provide? I learned all about the destruction of the great auk back in 2014 and to have to experience it all over again was quite upsetting. It also felt like a lesson for our current destruction of the natural world; the island is like a microcosm of the planet, and the three people arrive there and utterly destroy everything on it. I mourned every puffin (and the tree, I cried with Trian over the tree). It fell down a little for me because the sheer quantity of work that the monks do (Trian and Cormac that is, not sure Artt does any work) could not have been achieved in such a small space of time. Having said that it was a very intense and somewhat claustrophobic story and you just can't let it go, I was gripped. 

"Cormac spots the Prior coming towards them, bloodied on head and hands. Has he had a fall?
They jump to their feet and make their bows.
But the Prior's unhurt, and exhilarated. He drops a great dead bird on the turf and steps up close to mark Cormac's forehead, then Trian's, with its warm blood. 'The blessing of Christ on you.'
'Amen, Father.'
The Prior takes the jar of soap and the goatskin of water, to wash his hands.
Cormac hopes their master doesn't use up too much of their drinking water, but doesn't dare say so.
Then the Prior rings the bell for Terce.
After the service, they share the browned oatcakes, and the Prior tells Cormac to put the great auk on to roast. 'Fat and flightless - could we have more plentiful or easy prey?'
The notion seems to make Trian uneasy. 'We shouldn't take more than we need, surely Father?'
The Prior looks at him, one eyebrow tilted. 'What else are they for?'
'I only mean ... they were here long before us.'
He corrects Trian: 'Ready for our arrival. This whole island's like one great banquet table that God's spread for us.' " (p. 106-7)

'Go Set a Watchman' by Harper Lee I have to confess underwhelmed me. It felt as if she was just so fond of the character of Scout that she wanted to see what became of her. The issues it raises as Jean Lousie returns to her home town and reenters a community with the perspective of something of an outsider make for some uncomfortable reading. Written in the 50s and set some 20 years after Kill a Mockingbird it looks again at the issue of racism within the United States. The local community is resistant to desegregation and she comes to understand the prevailing attitude is shared by both her father and her potential future husband. She undergoes a bit of a crisis in learning that her father is not the paragon of virtue she had always imagined him to be. I am not sure it had anything very enlightening to add to the debate and I was left uneasy by the resolution of her crisis. The story's presentation of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People) is very negative, accusing it of causing the distrust and unrest by pushing for desegregation against the will of the white majority. I don't know much about the structure of government in the US but it felt to me like they were covering up the racism with a blanket of constitutionalism, defending the state's right to decide their own laws (the 10th amendment apparently) and resisting the Supreme Court's decision that segregated schools were unconstitutional. Here Jean Louise debates with Atticus (at length):

"I'm trying to say that I don't approve of the way they did it, that it scares me to death when i think about the way they did it, but they had to do it. It was put under their noses and they had to do it. Atticus, the time has come when we've got to do right  - '
'Do right?'
'Yes sir. Give'em a chance.'
'The Negroes? You don't think they have a chance?'
'Why, no sir.'
'What's to prevent any Negro  from going where he pleases in they country and finding what he wants?'
'That's a loaded question and you know it, for! I' so sick of this moral double-dealing I could - '
He had stung her, and she had shown him she felt it. But she could not help herself.
Her father picked up a pencil and tapped it on his desk. 'Jean Louise,' he said. 'Have you ever considered that you can't have a set of backward people living among people advanced in one kind of civilisation and have a social Arcadia?'
'You're queering the pitch on me, Atticus, so lets keep the sociology out of it for a second. Of course I know that, but I heard something once. I heard a slogan and it stuck in my head. I heard 'Equal rights for all; special privileges for none,' and to me it didn't mean anything but what it said. It didn't mean one card off the top of the stack for the white man and one off the bottom for the Negro, it -' " (p.241-2)
They go on to discuss whether 'backwards' people have a right to be citizens and voters and as you read your brain explodes and you think, have these people not heard of structural racism?? and of course they hadn't. What's most depressing is that you can't even make some glib comment that things have gotten better ... because mostly they haven't.

Stay safe. Be kind. Consider the small ways in which things might have gotten better.

Sunday 25 December 2022

Yippie Ki Yay Crimbo 2022

While some Christmas cards might not arrive for a few weeks the ones in this photo have become separated from their envelopes and as such have fulfilled their Christmas destiny in our office. 
Christmas started early for me this year. We have been on strike. You might have noticed. So have lots of other people. You watch the right wing press trying to create a divide between the 'strikers' and the 'public', forgetting of course that the strikers are also the public. Everyone is in the same boat. Everyone is fighting not just for decent pay, but for the service that they provide. We are fighting for the future of the postal service that is being eroded and undermined. As part of some sweeping changes our customer service point will be closing in February. Customers will then have to go to Old Trafford, an extra 3 miles, to collect their packets. 

So, I'm pretty glad to see the back of 2022. It's been a weird year and it feels as if life has sunk into a bit of a slump. Work has been very difficult, with staffing issues all year, and doing more overtime than I really wanted to. Monkey finally went to Japan, but only for five months. Tish finished at the vaccination centre and had a couple of months at home but is now working at the Argos warehouse. We have had new babies arrive safely which has ended the year on the best note. Some baby knitting/crocheting has been done, though I have not finished the jumper I made for myself. I have dragged my way through thirty something books, most of which I have managed to write about, even if only briefly. Honourable mentions go to 'Bewilderment' by Richard Powers from January, 'Drive Your Plough Over the Bones of the Dead' by Olga  Tokarczuk read in the train station in February and 'A Line Made by Walking' by Sara Baume in May.

Never has a man been so wrong๐Ÿ˜›
So I end the year (though I might get another book review done) with photos of some of the people I love.
Tish and Jun on a recent night out:
Monkey (back in Japan for crimbo):
Lovely Ady (who never stops eating):
Wyatt with the cutest dimples:
And the old bloke I am somewhat fond of:
Stay safe. Be kind. Happy Christmas. 

Saturday 10 December 2022

Oh look...

... a baby.
Wyatt arrived early yesterday morning by emergency caesarian, but mum Kerri and baby both doing well. Welcome to the world, we can't wait to meet you.
Jacob looks like he is settling right in to his new job:
Stay safe. Be kind. Sniff a baby (best smell in the world).

Christmas Posting Advice 2022

Further to my decade old post on Christmas posting advice I have some additional important messages.
Don't post anything this Christmas.
Get up, put your coat on and go to a real shop.
Buy presents, wrapping paper and sellotape.
Come home, wrap presents, give them to people.
Don't order something online and expect it to arrive on time,
chances are pretty high that it won't.
(Don't come into the callers office and ask me where it is either.)
Even Special Deliveries are arriving late.
For friends and family far away give a charity donation to a cause close to their heart.
Strikes are planned for 14th, 15th, 23rd and 24th December.
I was hoping they were bluffing and would call them off, but that seems unlikely.
I am very stressed by what is happening but have no means to affect the situation.
Don't cancel Christmas just because pressies are missing, try and enjoy what you have with the people you love, get a big bottle of Baileys and settle in for the weekend.
(Well that's my plan anyhow.)

So apparently 17,500 people gathered in Parliament Square yesterday, that's over 10% of the workforce. We took an impromptu march down to Buckingham Palace, but the Manchester South contingent headed back for our bus just before the police arrived.
Here is little me being interviewed by a nice french journalist:
Stay safe. Be kind. Stand for something, or you'll fall for anything.

Sunday 4 December 2022

Oldies and Youngies

My dad regularly sends me random photographs and tells me what he is up to. Sometimes his energy and commitment astound me. That's him in the green coat. He is 86. He has campaigned tirelessly against Brexit ever since the referendum was announced and onwards since the result, talking to people on the streets and writing to the local paper several times a month. This weekend the local 'Devon for Europe' group were doing what they call a 'Democracy Meter'; doing a snap poll of public opinion (200 people in 2 hours he says) by asking people to indicate support or otherwise for different issues. 
At the other end of life's journey is Aaliyah, born on Thursday 1st December to Matthew and Harshi. Despite a slightly shaky start mum and babe now doing well, and Granny Claire is over the moon.
Stay safe. Be kind. Support the nurses strike. Save our NHS.

Saturday 3 December 2022

Z is for Zero

Ten years ago I had been working for Royal Mail for ten years. Sarah sidled up to me this morning and said I was the first person to receive the new, redesigned anniversary appreciation award. I demurred and said no to the public presentation ... and it was a good thing I did because when I opened the envelope this crappy card was all they sent me. I was underwhelmed to say the least, but we saw the funny side and lots of people pitched in to talk about the random pens and badges that they had been given over the years to mark significant milestones. It came with a letter to the manager suggesting that they might want to give consideration to how to "bring the celebration to life" and how there is a "recognition toolkit" with "hints, tips and easy ideas" to help show me just how much my contribution to the company is valued. So zero is pretty much the amount that my contribution is appreciated. I think I might be revisiting my plan to write about the other ways in which Royal Mail gives zero f***s for everything except profit.

Stay safe. Be kind. Be Positive, Be Brilliant, Be Part Of It ๐Ÿ˜.