I am a 51 year old working mum of five – not all at home thank goodness. Im a member of the Women for Independence National Executive. This Blog is growing and changing as my hopes and aspirations change. I actually DO expect to change the world but I accept that might not even make sense sometimes. I hope you enjoy the read.

Archive for the month “May, 2012”

Fat is ….my issue

Slightly different tack today.  This is an article that I wrote a year or so ago and which I sent to woman’s Hour in February which resulted in my discussing the very personal issue of my weight live on radio.  (14th February if you fancy a listen on BBC iPlayer if its still there )

I’m a fat lady. I’m not cuddly, big boned, a bit on the large side, bonnie, plump or any other of the twee euphemisms – I’m fat – obese. I’m the sort of fat that people do television programmes about how much fat people eat and we all stretch our eyes and are astounded that they can eat three lots of fish and chips in one sitting and that they drink four two litre bottles of coke a day or takeaways every night of the week or 195 bags of crisps a week. Except I don’t. Don’t eat 195 bags of crisps a week – don’t do any of the things I have just listed actually. I guess then I must be lazy. Never move off the couch, never do any exercise, never really do anything except waddle to the fridge and eat a cream cake. Nope that’s not me either. I suppose my whole family must be fat – children, husband, dog, cat… everyone. Nope ‘fraid not that either. I have three grown up boys – two positively skinny ones and one slighter bigger built but by no means fat, – and I have two little ones aged 2 and 4 who are just as they should be – not skinny and not overweight. I have a lovely husband who is a bit younger than me but he isn’t fat either… well, he could maybe do with losing a stone or two but I mean he isn’t FAT – not like me. I’m 5’3 and weigh around 20 stone. I wear a size 26 clothes and I don’t have a coat that stays buttoned just now. Although I have an underactive thyroid gland for which I take thyroxine I have always been pretty healthy. I have been fat for almost as long as I can remember although I wasn’t a fat child and my parents are not fat either. In fact my mother is probably 8 stones wet through… and 76… and never stops. But I can remember being a size 16 at 16, When I married my first husband I was a size 20ish and its gradually crept up over the last twenty five years.

I cook, that’s what I do. A stay at home mum, I do voluntary work for a few organisations but really what I do is cook. Friends with broken hearts get food, friends with broken bones get food. Come round to our house and expect to be asked to stay for dinner. Need a recipe for something? I have one; Cant cook? I can give you tips; Need to feed a family on a budget? I’m the queen of that. Intimate dinner for two – yep; family meals yep; Christmas dinner for 4? 6? 15? Yep that’s me too. Throw a Burns Party for 70 people and cook haggis neeps and tatties – did that last weekend. I don’t buy ready meals, I cook from scratch – most things except bread. Fruit and veg, salad, all play a part in my family meals and I work hard to provide healthy, tasty food for my family. We don’t have a fryer or a microwave. I make jam and chutney and I occasionally bake biscuits and cakes. I’m good at cooking. I’m a happy fatty, I am loved by my family and my friends. I do stuff, have hobbies, do voluntary work, look after my babies and I’m happy. Or am I?

Recently I had coffee with a friend of mine. A lovely friend, we have known each other for 15 years or so. We have been through divorce, one night stands and remarriage, alcoholic and controlling men friends, children’s traumas and most other things. I hadn’t seen her in a while though – she works, I don’t and I have toddlers which she doesn’t. She has lost three stone in weight by doing a popular food replacement diet. She looked great and she had a cup of coffee and a diet bar thing whilst I had a melting cheese feast toastie and coffee. I was less than gracious about her decision to do this diet programme and I sceptically raised my eyebrows as she talked tentatively about the programme. I pinched my lips at the cost and I raised my eyebrows at the thought that the counselling was any good. I spat out the words “Yes, you look really good” and I came home in such a bad mood that when my husband asked did I have a good time, I said no. The real truth is that I was jealous -straightforwardly, unambiguously jealous. It took me two whole days to admit that to myself and a bit longer to share it with my husband. I haven’t told my friend yet. Now, jealousy is not a feeling I have very often, I rarely feel jealous about anything. In fact, I think the last time I felt its true grip was when a friend told me she was pregnant just after I had miscarried in 2006. I am not very comfortable with the feeling of jealousy but I have to accept that if I am jealous of my friend’s slimming success then I can’t be so happy being a fatty after all.

Truth is, I haven’t been happy with my weight for a while. I was able to avoid the issue completely from 2007 to 2010. In a new relationship with a man who doesn’t care one iota that I’m on the large size, I was busy being pregnant and having babies. My pregnancies were fine, no complications, nothing out of the ordinary despite the fact that I was both old and fat as I was having the babies at 43 and 45 years old. Whilst I’m pregnant I don’t put any weight on at all, this was the case with my older boys who are now 22, 21 and 16. I sort of just change shape. I didn’t worry about being fat. The midwives looked after me marvellously and there was never any judgement made or any sniping at my weight. So I was pretty much able to ignore the fat thing completely. I got married had babies and felt fantastic. Only when I saw a photograph did I mentally flinch and as I’m very, very skilled at avoiding cameras I was able to continue in my happy fatty mode. The last year has seen this happiness slide somewhat. Following the birth of my last baby, I had to have my appendix out. My recovery was slow. A mild but persistent infection meant weeks of visits to the nurses at the Doctors surgery, Following this my energy levels were shocking and culminated in tears at Christmas last year when I could hardly manage to walk around our local (small) shopping centre. I could no longer believe that this tiredness was simply the babies and so I saw my GP. At the start of 2011 I was diagnosed with sleep apnoea and got myself a very pretty machine with a very fetching face mask (NOT) to wear at night. It worked, my energy levels have massively improved and I’m a million times better but it was clear –  The need to lose weight was staring me in the face. I have ignored it the whole year, well actually I did do something about it and joined a slimming class to which I went for a month lost a stone and stopped going. And there is the problem or the question, or the nub of the matter if you like…what am I going to do about it?

Over the last thirty years I have been to slimming classes galore, I have tried the F-plan, The cabbage diet, the Atkins Diet, the starve yourself diet. I have calorie counted, I have joined Gyms, I have done online diets and I have done total food replacement diets. I have steeled myself to excercise more, to eat less and to be slim for countless christmases, birthdays, holidays, weddings (including two of my own!!!!) and parties. I have completely failed at everything I have tried. I can’t bear the thought of another trip to a class, another humiliating sweaty session at some trendy gym where the fat lady tries to fade into the background – that’s me by the way. And yet if I am truly honest, I can’t bear the thought of another Christmas do in some fat lady’s dress, or shopping for another wedding outfit, or trying on another coat to find it doesn’t fit. These days I am starting to be surprised when I find something that looks ok. Note, that I didn’t say looks good, or looks fabulous, or sexy, I said ok. That’s as good as it gets, I look ok.

The real thing that I can’t bear to think about though is what my wee girl is going to think about her mum if I don’t do something about this. I have four boys and my last baby is a little girl. The boys don’t care, their friends have loved me… I feed them!!!! The boys just see their mum and don’t bat an eyelid but my baby girl….How is she going to feel about me when she not only has to deal with the “your mum is really OLD” but also has the “your mum is really FAT” comments to deal with. How am I going to take her shopping for clothes when I look like a blimp? How can we go to see the ballet when I might not be able to squeeze into the theatre seats? Never mind the thought of tripping off on a girlie weekend on a plane – imagine the fold down trays that won’t fold and the extender belt for the seat. So I have to do something but what. I can’t afford the pricey food replacement diet that my friend is doing and nor would I want that, food is part of my life and who we are, we sit at the table to eat, friends come round and I feed them, I don’t want to be sitting there drinking some crappy shake. I want to keep that part of my life, but I have to change it. And besides, I can almost feed my entire family for the £300 it would cost for a month of shakes and nutrition bars. I have looked at personal trainers who offer nutritional advice and they are affordable – just – but they all seem to be about 14 years old. So I have to make a decision… I have to try something and stick at it. It has to work for me, my mad chaotic family life, my social life and my pocket. How do I choose? How can I find something which will make me a success at dieting and which will allow me to be happy and healthy? I can see fifty peeking over the horizon and a teenage daughter who wants me to drop her off round the corner because she is embarrassed of me. Happy fatty? maybe not after all.

Inclusivity in Nationalism

We have  the launch of the Yes campaign tomorrow and yet we are still fighting the assertion that Scottish Nationalism is both racist and bigoted.  A recent article by George Galloway in the Daily Record illustrated this  perfectly. (http://blogs.dailyrecord.co.uk/georgegalloway/2012/05/im-scunnered-by-bigots-of-the-brigadoon-brigade.html )  I have to admit I have had a sneaky liking for George Galloway.  I know he ridiculous in many ways but I like him. Watching George on Question Time recently, I knew he would be entertaining and sometimes disrespectful. It’s a nice change from the grey men of politics we usually see. I like the idea that politicians like George have the bottle to say and do pretty much what they want and sod the rest of you. Not always pleasant and often enough to make your toes curl with embarrassment, George is, at least, a character and we could do with a few more like him in politics.  As I read the article he wrote for the Daily Record,  I began to wonder what country George was looking at when he talked about seeing people who have “what can only be described as a virulent hatred of English people and a belief they are the source of Scotland’s troubles – and getting shot of them is the solution.”

As we watch the launch of the “Yes” campaign, it is important that the pedalling of the view of Scotland as a land of bigots and racists by some Unionist politicians and media personalities  is challenged , loudly and often.  I feel aggrieved when I read that Scots hate English people and the assertions that George Galloway and others  make that somehow abusive comments made in response to articles online or in the press reflect the wider Scottish Nationalist agenda could not be further from the truth.

Politicians need to get a grip on reality. They must stop the points scoring and get down to what matters to the man and woman on the street. If George and others looked around and talked to real people rather than relying on internet responses to provocative articles, then they would find that people are living with the independence debate in their daily lives with little or no fuss. There is no “virulent hatred” running through the offices and workshops of our small country. No calls for rivers of English blood from croft houses in Sutherland or tenement buildings in Glasgow or fishing villages on the coast of the Solway Firth. Many people aren’t talking about Independence at all and where people are talking about it, they are talking about it as part of their daily lives, talking about it with their friends, colleagues and family. Amongst those friends, colleagues and family, there are English people and the discussions are generally NOT about hanging and flogging them – thank goodness.

In the same way as George Galloway suggested that internet posts are representative of the whole of the nationalist supporting public, we also await the suggestion that football is a stark demonstration of racism in Scottish society. As soon as the European Cup starts this summer, the fact that Scots would support anyone rather than the England team will be trotted out as an indication that Scots are racist almost to a man. If you follow football to any degree you would know that Man City fans would sooner almost anyone won other than Man United; that Hearts fans would support anyone rather than Hibs; that Arsenal fans would prefer anyone won than cheer for Tottenham. Given the England centric nature of the football coverage on television, it’s hardly surprising that footie mad Scots roll their eyes and cheer for the Czech Republic

The Scottish Nationalist Campaign is an inclusive political campaign.

The persistent drive to insist that Scottish Nationalism is at its heart, fascist or racist, is point scoring and scare mongering by politicians with their own agendas. And you can bet that agenda is not about making life better for those who truly do suffer at the hands of racist abusers. For it would be naïve to suggest that racism doesn’t exist in Scotland today or that it won’t exist in Scotland tomorrow – even if that tomorrow is an Independent Scotland. There are racists in Scotland – some have been responsible for awful crimes and there is no doubt that these people, when caught, must face the full force of the law. There is however, also a casual racism borne of ignorance and fear rather than hatred – the racism of the “paki” shop, the “darkies”, “the incomers”,” the tinks”. This racism must continue to be confronted and challenged and there are many people ready to do that. When it is pointed out to those who use this sort of language that it hurts feelings and its use suggests that a person is a racist, many do learn to change their behaviour. I moved to Scotland from Rochdale and was used to working and living in an area with a high ethnic population. Shortly after starting work in Caithness I was casually told that someone worked for “the darkies”. I was baffled. ”The darkies???? What do you mean…the darkies??” I asked. When it was explained that it was the “paki” shop down the road I nearly fell off my chair. In fact, I don’t think I could speak I was that astounded. “You can’t say that” I stuttered, only to be asked with genuine bafflement, “Why not?” During a time when I had some influence I worked hard to change this attitude and had some success. This casual and naïve racism is becoming less and less but it does still persist.

Racism, along with the sectarianism that plagues Scottish football must continue to be challenged and tackled. The Scottish Government is committed to doing exactly that. It is important that their efforts are not reduced to squabbling over internet responses with politicians who may feel that Scots are always ready to blame someone else for their ills.  George Galloway  is doing the exact same thing. People aren’t giving George Galloway a hard time because he is a unionist, but because he is a bampot. Whether he likes it or not, many see him as a clown, a media whore and self- serving in the extreme. He only has himself to blame for that.

Comments like the ones made by George Galloway lead to people believing that you can’t live happily here in Scotland if you are English. They have led to me being asked “Don’t you find it difficult being English and living in the Highlands?” The answer to that is “No – never”. Articles like George’s can lead to paranoia and suggest that Scotland is a land of bigots and Scottish Nationalism akin to that of the BNP. This is absolutely untrue. There are Scottish Nationalist of every colour and race as there are Unionists of every colour and race.

Look around you – wherever you are just now, whether you are minded to be a yes voter or a no voter, look at those people who are Scottish Nationalists. Look at the people you work with, the people you live with, stand at the school gates with, the people you serve in a shop, restaurant or pub. Are they English or Scottish or from somewhere else? Does it matter? Do they care where you are from? I doubt it. Interested in your life and your story they may be… Plotting your imminent demise or some wicked racist atrocity, they are probably not. I never heard the saying “All Jock Tamson’s bairns” until I came to Scotland but there is a feeling in Scotland that you can be here and be Scots whether you are from here or elsewhere. Many, many people with Scottish parents or ancestors delight in their Scottishness. Most people coming to live here in Scotland from England or elsewhere feel at home, like this is their “place” and when asked where they are from will happily correct the assumption that they are from England with “ No I’m from Scotland” Scotland gets under your skin, into your heart.

So  for George and others –  your Scotland may be a land full of English hating Nationalist bigots and those who would “rise up” and turn on their neighbours and friends but mine and most other people’s Scotland isn’t. If that’s what you find then I would respectfully suggest that you change the company you keep and take your head out of your computer screen. If you walked the streets a wee bit, drank in the pubs a wee bit, dropped in at some toddler groups or youth clubs or workplaces I would happily bet that you would find many of “Jock Tamson’s bairns” happily playing, living and working together. The referendum is not going to change that.

The state of our union

I am a mum and a wife. In point of fact,  I’m an English Wife married to a Scottish husband with three English children from my first marriage and two Scottish children from my current marriage.  Why would I even bother to mention that at all you might wonder, surely it doesn’t matter where my children were born, surely I love them just the same and you would be right.  What makes it worth mentioning is that my husband is a Scottish Nationalist.  He is such a Scottish Nationalist that were the UK government to say “You can have independence Scotland but you have to pay for it yourself”, he would say, “Where do I sign?”.  He describes himself as “Rabid” and he is absolutely right! If you cut off his leg he would have a saltire running through it like a stick of rock – but not Blackpool rock because that’s in England.  Not for him the sitting on the fence that others might do, not for him the idea that you can vote for the SNP and yet still be undecided on Independence.  John is for an Independent Scotland completely and absolutely.

That sometimes causes fun and games in our own personal Union – our home.  The Scottish children are a wee bit young to know how they would vote being 4 and 2.  Despite this when the four-year old was asked to sing a song he liked at nursery he sang Flower of Scotland. The two-year old has a favourite story which includes the words “a blue bunnet with a bricht reid  toorie on the tap”, although both are partial to “Albert and the Lion” or “The Battle of Hastings” related in my dulcet Lancashire tones.  The English children are however, older and all of them will vote in the referendum.  The younger one will be 18 by 2014 and at university he hopes.  The eldest boy is a welder and living in his own home with his girlfriend and wee girl.  The middle one is still humming and ahhing about what to do with his life, although he is working full-time.

I have often been heard to joke that our house is like a microcosm of Scottish society;  My husband is, as I have already said, champing at the bit for independence at any price; Thomas (17) gets more “Engleesh” by the minute. How much of that is to wind John up, I’m not sure, but it is highly entertaining.  Not having lived in England since he was two and having a mother whose accent is gently Lancastrian, then I have no idea where he gets his deeply middle class English tones from, maybe the play he is studying for his Highers – The importance of being Earnest – has gone to his head or his heid, depending where you look (north or south of the border I mean – I know where his head is – honest).

Graham is 21, full of the arrogance of youth and sure of his own self-importance. At 21 he is sure he knows pretty much everything, he has an opinion on everything regardless of whether he is right or not.  Caution and deliberation are not for Graham. He decries all politicians as a waste of space and anarchy is his preferred option of choice.  Hey ho!

Craig is 23, working hard, earning plenty and spending it all.  He and his girlfriend have their lives full with the wee one and his work and they have just moved into their own house.  He has no interest in politics at the moment.  He hasn’t yet realised that it influences everything in his life he holds dear and so his eyes glaze over at the mere mention of independence and he has been rumoured to ask “referendum?  What referendum?”

And what about me?  Well – What about me?  I moved here in 1997, I love living here in the Highlands; it’s the most beautiful place in the world as far as I am concerned.  Scotland is my home, my life, the place where I live and love and where I am loved in return. I am happy here.  I want what’s best for this place and I want the best place for my children to live happy, healthy, secure lives.  I’m still to be convinced to put my cross in the yes box but I am getting closer to that decision.

Being undecided and married to a Scottish Nationalist in this daft household is no mean feat. The news, Newsnight and Question Time all have found themselves on our favourite list since the referendum was announced.  Scotland Tonight and This Week also feature highly. They have replaced MTV, VH1 and Kerrang as the noise in the background, they are recorded and rewound and the source of incredulity as we watch politicians of various hues bluster and babble over the Yes’s and No’s of the independence debate.  Generally the No’s as there is very little in the way of SNP politicians on these programmes.

The lack of quality in the Unionist debate is turning out to be a cross I have to bear.  I despair almost every time I hear David Cameron open his mouth about Scotland.  I find that no matter where you look there is no quality, intellectual point of view for continuing in the Union.  The main thrust seems to be – “it’s worked for the last 300 years” and to be honest, politicians, that isn’t enough.  I want to hear how in the future a United Kingdom will work to do its best for Scotland and I’m not hearing it. I want to be able to trust and believe the politicians when they say they will consider more powers for Scotland within the Union. I want to hear how they will support and help the poor, the weak, the disaffected, and work towards a better Scotland.  So far all these things have  been missing. All the stuff we have been fed about border controls, the potential bombing of Scottish Airports, the UK taking Orkney, Shetland and Rockall and the comparisons of Alex Salmond variously to Gaddafi and Hitler, make me roll my eyes in despair. It all seems to be the incoherent ramblings of an elderly Union which is unable or unwilling to look ahead.  The recent “Skintland” map on the cover of the Economist is a great example of that.  Many people – many friends – who are still undecided about Independence dismissed that article because of the patronising and wholly inaccurate picture that the front cover painted. Any salient points were lost because the Economist chose to take a cheap jibe instead of a measured point of view.  When you resort to that sort of cheap jibe then you risk losing the argument entirely.

I find that some people assume that because of my Englishness I am somehow required to support the Union with no questions asked.   Either that, or they think that I am some sort of put upon English wifie.  People mistake my support for John’s passion for his tyranny in our relationship as if I have no way of making my mind up when subjected to the complete support for Independence that John has. They mistake his nationalism for anti-English racism. Nothing could be further from the truth.  John is INCLUSIVE in his relationships and his political beliefs.  His fundamental belief is that Scotland has the right to govern itself, if the People of Scotland want that to happen. That’s it – no racism, no easily dismissed patriotic nonsense about Mel Gibson, no hard man antics, just plain and simple human rights. The right to self-determination. None of this is anti-English – it may well be anti–UK or anti-Westminster, but that is not the same.  I would expect ANY nationalist in Scotland to be anti-Westminster.

My Nationalist husband gets angry when Scotland is denigrated as too small, too weak, too poor and too stupid to be independent. He dances with rage when Willie Rennie describes the SNP as the lowest of the low – measuring them against what? He is incandescent when the conservative party actively seeks out people to stand for council seats where they do not live or do not want to be councillors simply to manipulate a result with no care for the people of the ward and what they might want; He is furious when Labour leadership fail to condemn the shenanigans of Glasgow city council which led to one councillor feeling like her disabled son’s job security was being threatened if she didn’t toe the party line.  John’s nationalism is about making Scotland stronger and better for the people who live here – ALL the people – Black, White, Asian, Polish, Chinese, and yes – even English. Making Scotland better is the driving force behind all that John posts on his Facebook page or writes or debates with his friends and those he doesn’t know so well.I love my husband; I love his passion and his sense of self which means that he knows where he stands on the important stuff.  I do not always agree with him but I know how much this means to him and I am proud and delighted that our tea time discussions are about politics and not Big Brother or the price of a tin of beans although the rolling of 17-year-old eyes means that this isn’t always appreciated across the board!

And so I live with the rants, the fury, the passion and the politics because John is a Scottish Nationalist and whether I decide Yes or No,  I know that  he wants what I want. The best for our children – all our children, the Scottish ones and the English ones.

Hello world!

Starting this blog with  “Hello world” – the automatic title – seems a bit presumptuous.  Im not expecting the world will read this.  Not even really expecting that my friends will read this so I guess Im going to blog like I sing….. for my own pleasure and nobody else’s.

Im not a writer but… I do have things I want to say, want to write down and want to share.  I like lively debate  and  I am a bit political….. ok a lot political. I am particularly interested in the Scottish Independence debate although I remain firmly on the fence.  I hope you enjoy reading what I have written, if you do then share it with others, if you dont then still share it with others and lets have a healthy discussion.

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