London – a little love story

Back when I was a teenager, I dreamed of London. It was the one place I wanted to be when I was a proper grown up.

Whenever I was fortunate enough to visit, I would look at people on the tube and think how lucky they were to be a part of this city. Just to get on the tube every day to wherever they were going – for 14 year old me from medium-sized Bedford, this was the dream. I loved wondering what interesting things people were off to do. I loved all the posters on the tube showing me all the exciting things I could do if I lived here.

In my mind, I would be part of this city one day. I would live somewhere with a tube stop. I would be part of those crowds going about their business. I pictured myself in a little flat in Covent Garden, possibly with a balcony. (HA! I had no idea, clearly.)

Obviously the Covent Garden flat never materialised; but for a while in my 20s and early 30s, London was my every day. Then life took over, and with a family came the realisation that perhaps the outer fringes would be more realistic than the central London flat. BUT, we are inside the M25, on the tube map (on the Overground, obviously); and still get London Tonight; so we are just about clinging on to the dream…..out here in Zone 8.

Over 20 years have passed since I dreamed of my flat with a balcony and I am more realistic now, of course I am. I know that most people are fed up to be on the tube and are going about a pretty regular 9-5 existence. I know that London doesn’t mean going to the theatre every evening and to exhibitions every day (unless you are VERY lucky, that is).

There are plenty of things that I dislike about London, too. I hate that normal people with normal jobs are being priced out. I hate that this means we are losing proper communities. I hate the fact that everywhere you look there are more and more luxury apartments appearing, as if these are what we need.

But my overwhelming feeling is that I still love London.

I love how alive I feel when I’m there. I love the sense of possibility. I love that I could eat my way around the world, and ridiculously cheaply too if I did my research properly. I love that, to balance out the city folk with their shiny shoes and pocket squares; there are creative people writing or painting or performing…..attempting to follow their dreams. I love the peaceful squares and the enormous parks and the busy markets. I love hearing different languages. I love stumbling across a street of colourful mews houses. I love that there are plays, musicals, ballets, operas, huge rock concerts, tiny gigs, mainstream comedy, off-the-wall comedy and everything in between every single night. I love that there is always something or somewhere new to discover. I love the buskers at tube stations. I love that you can have big hair, no hair, 1980’s hair, bright green hair, rollers in your hair; and nobody looks twice.

I love that people come from all over the world to be a part of somewhere with so many possibilities. I love the message that London gives my boys, and how much of life they see when we visit.

And yes, London with children is a joy….as long as you don’t try and do everything in one day. We run around Trafalgar Square and stroll along the river. We watch the buses and cross the bridges and count the boats. We go to a museum to find child-friendly things to see or touch or build. We watch street performers as Yoda and people waving bubble wands on the South Bank. We run in the parks and watch the ducks. We watch as millions of people go about their business every single day: people from different cultures and backgrounds; people with different dreams and aspirations. People working and living alongside each other and keeping the city ticking along.

We love London and what it stands for. So do millions and millions of others. And we will continue to enjoy everything that is brilliant about it.

 

Snapshot of a boy

You skipped out of school one day last week with yet another graze on your grubby little face. And as I examined your latest injury, I realised that I have never written a post just for you. I have written about you and your brothers. I have written about you and your twin. But you, my second born boy, my first born twin;  don’t have a post all of your own (neither does Twin 2 by the way).

I decided to put that right. And yes, Twin 2 – you will get one too.

Currently, Twin 1, you look very much like you’ve been in a pub brawl. You spend your days flinging yourself about with joyful abandon, until you topple over once again….. and then you put the same amount of energy into your sobs as you had put into your running, skipping and leaping just seconds previously.  Your speciality injury has always been falling flat on your face and cutting your lip, so we are used to the pub brawl look by now. And on top of the cuts, grazes and bruises, your little face is always grubby, whatever the activity.

You long for the day when you are old enough to have a skateboard – this has been your dream since the age of 2, when you came across a display of skateboards at a service station and were desperate to dismantle the display and have a go. You watch the youngsters at the skatepark with longing in your eyes. You dream of kneepads and elbow pads and flying up and down those ramps with the wind in your hair.

When you’re a proper grown up, you want to be Bert from Mary Poppins, dancing on the rooftops with all your pals. In your 4 year old mind, being a chimney sweep would enable you to have a grubby face all the time, no questions asked. It makes me happy that your actual dream in life is to be Bert…. and your joyful rendition of ‘Step in Time’ is one of the best things I have ever seen.

If your career as a chimney sweep doesn’t work out, you plan to travel the world with your big brother and be an official ‘potato tester’. When it comes to eating, you apply the following simple rule:

green and looking anything like a vegetable = bad

potatoes = good

One of your favourite games is to walk around on all fours pretending to be a dog, with your twin brother as your owner. There has always been something very puppy-like about you so this new favourite game seems apt. You need a good run-around every day, and to see you run free in open space is a joy. You are keen, eager, and your face swells with pride when you are praised. You have huge brown eyes and amazing long lashes – you know this, and attempt to use both to your advantage. You hate to miss out, or to be outdone – if your twin tells me I look ‘pretty’, you try to go one better by telling me I look ‘beautiful’.

Right now, school is about sand, water, role-play and building bricks. Soon this will change, and I worry about how you’ll cope. How ridiculous that I’m worrying about your ability to cope with school when you’re not yet 5, but I know what Year 1 is these days and I’m not sure that it is you. I don’t share these worries with you, of course I don’t. But the thought of your joy and energy being contained as you push your little brain to understand things which, right now are totally beyond you….well that makes me want to weep. Having said that, the reading and writing side of school is starting to click and your reading books are, although still painful, not quite such a battle to get through as they were a couple of months ago (when you would sound out ‘p-i-g’ and put it together to make ‘goat’)….. Although I am confident you would find your reading books less challenging if you weren’t attempting to read them while standing on your head.

Your emotions bubble close to the surface; and when you need mummy, you really do need mummy. Your world crumples and those huge eyes fill with tears. When you’re feeling tired and cuddly, you like me to wrap you in your hooded bath towel like a baby and sing. Two songs in particular – He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands, and Rock-a-bye-Baby. Yes, I am going to remind you of this when you’re 15.

When things are really really bad, for example when mummy breaks the news that we’re turning off Paw Patrol, you put your hand over your mouth as you sob – like you’ve just experienced the biggest and worst shock imaginable.

If anyone is up in the night, it is most likely to be you: you can’t find one of your special cuddlies; your duvet has ‘done something’…..which means it is not quite straight. I try to tell you that the reason your duvet is not straight is because you have just turned it back to get out of bed. As a toddler you used to get up and clamber into bed with us. You need people and have never liked being on your own. Although seemingly more outgoing than your twin, you are more confident when you have him by your side.

You love fancy dress, you love wearing your bow-tie and you take a hankie to school every day. You say ‘wewy’ for ‘very’, ‘incept’ for ‘except’; and ‘ownly’ for ‘lonely’.

This is a little snapshot of you, my grubby-faced boy, at 4 years and 7 months – an energetic, joyful, sensitive, loyal, sometimes shy, sometimes outgoing bundle of fun who dreams of dancing on rooftops ….preferably with a skateboard.

wannabe skateboarder

Keeping up with life

You know those times when everything just feels too much? Too many emails, too many dates, too many things you’re worried about forgetting, too many things you realise you have already forgotten. Chasing your tail, feeling permanently behind. Well that is me this week. It was also me last week. Evening events at the children’s school, costumes to prepare, slips to complete and return, parents’ evening appointments to make, parents’ evening appointments to turn up for. Violins, swimming lessons, reading books, library books. Doctor’s appointments, the food shopping; and of course that soul-destroying basket full of laundry just waiting to be folded and put away…..that basket which you know will be full again within seconds of you having emptied it.

Those times when you’re so tired that even an early night is beyond you. Somehow scrolling through the Facebook photos of someone you haven’t seen for 20+ years while at the same time half-heartedly searching online for boys’ astro boots is vastly more appealing than going through the ridiculously lengthy process of getting ready for bed.

I used to be reasonably efficient. Birthday cards were always on time. Late cards were a pet-hate. Now, I’m the one who sends the apology text…..I’m so sorry, your card is on its way. Couldn’t quite get my act together. Hope you have a lovely day. Now I’m the one who opens my handbag to find an un-posted card, now weeks late and possibly not even worth posting at all.

Why? Why is is that such simple things are frequently beyond me? Why is it that the normal, everyday tasks needed to get through life sometimes feel impossible to keep up with? Keeping house, measuring up for new blinds, painting the lounge, renewing insurance, putting away the washing, doing the food shop, making the beds, watering the plants……even planting any plants in the first place.

Why am I struggling when I have so many things to help me? When I have a washing machine, a dishwasher, a tumble dryer, a slow-cooker, a computer, and a phone that does so much more than make phone calls? How did people manage in the days before all of these things, not to mention in the days before we had online grocery shopping and Amazon Prime? And what about people who hold down jobs that are far more demanding than mine? People with long commutes, people who get home late, people who have to work in the evenings and at weekends. How do they all seem to manage it? Yes, my life is busy; but I can’t really pretend I don’t have the time to keep up with basic jobs given that many of my evenings are spent sitting on a sofa eating Kettle Chips and talking about how tired I am.

Unfortunately I don’t have any answers – I am just writing it down because sometimes it helps.

So if you feel like you’re drowning, then know that I am too. If the emails, the post, the texts are all piling up and need attending to, well that is true over here as well. If you suddenly realised that your car’s MOT was overdue and had to re-plan your entire week to enable you to get your car to the garage…..the car that you rely on to get to work and to get your children to all their activities – well yes, that is also me.

That is me, attempting to muddle through but currently failing because, even with all the equipment and gadgets which are supposed to help us modern parents, sometimes life just gets on top of us.

And unfortunately, as yummy as they are, Kettle Chips don’t really help.

 

boys-on-sofa-2

When life starts getting on top of these three, they snuggle up and watch Mary Poppins. You can do that when you’re 6 and 4.

A twin journey

“I think you need to look at the screen”, said the sonographer. So I finally looked up.

“There’s baby number 1”, she said. “….And there’s baby number 2.”

I hadn’t wanted to look up until then. Because the last time I’d been on that bed, there was an awful silence. One of those silences which is heavy with meaning. One of those silences which means there’s a problem.

And so when I was back on that bed, my head was very deliberately turned the other way.

Baby number 2? …….. Baby number 2?

It took a moment.

There were definitely tears…..tears of panic, really. I was thinking of giant buggies and new cars and the fact that since having baby #1 I had always looked at anyone with twins and thought ‘how on earth is that possible?’

“But we’ve already got one”, I said to the sonographer – as if that piece of information might change things. “What are we going to do?”

“First time is the hardest”, she said. “You’ll find it easier this time.”

That was about five years ago now. It almost feels like a different life.

Since then, I have thought I can’t do this more times than I can count; but also known that I don’t actually have a choice, because I have to do it.

I have felt bewildered, overwhelmed and at times totally inadequate.

I have watched crawling twins, climbing twins and walking twins gain in confidence as they worked out how to get to all the things which had been deliberately put out of their reach…….And I have felt like things were rapidly slipping out of my control.

I have eaten too many sweets, a lot of cake, and tripled my coffee intake.

I have accepted kind words from strangers and tried to stay strong when people have felt the need to be unkind.

I haven’t completed any of the baby journals or scrapbooks that I completed for my eldest boy. Instead there are hospital bands and locks of hair and scan photos strewn casually around the house. Sorry about that, little ones.

I have struggled my way through hundreds of painful, over-tired bedtimes.

I have cried. A lot. Tears of exhaustion, frustration, joy and everything in between.

I have despaired over squabbles about who gets to open the bedroom door first, who gets to go to the toilet first, who gets to wear the Spiderman pyjamas, who gets to choose their cereal first, who gets to wear the stripy hat, who gets to choose the music in the car, who gets to be the one to open the front door on the way out (this is the most coveted job of them all, and is always worth fighting over).

I have felt like the world’s worst referee.

I have spent nights being budged out of my own bed, nights lying on the floor next to small boys’ beds; and too many Sunday mornings trying to convince little ones that 5.30am is just not an acceptable time to start the day.

But there is also this – the fact that you, Baby number 1 and Baby number 2, are now a proper team….. a unit. The fact that, as you get older, you are increasingly able to take comfort and confidence from each other. When I think about your play, your chatter, your day-to-day fun….well, I’m just not particularly important anymore. Apart from for logistics……and snacks, obviously. At four years old, you are now able to cooperate, share and take it in turns – of course you still have your moments, but who doesn’t? The skills are there, and you display them more frequently than you used to. You consult each other on which television programme you should watch next; you arrange to swap hats and trainers. You have got used to always taking someone else into account – sometimes this doesn’t suit you…… of course it doesn’t. But this is your life and you understand that. You are proud of yourselves when you manage to reach a compromise…… I am proud of you too. You organise your play meticulously: it always involves each other and only occasionally involves me – let’s play Fireman Sam and Elvis, let’s play doggy and his owner, let’s play daddy and baby, let’s play cow and farmer.

Frequently I feel like I am talking to myself – you are too busy in your own world to take much notice of me and…..well yes, that can be infuriating. But then when we’re not in a rush, I remind myself to take a moment to watch and listen to the way you talk to each other. The way you manage to work out a compromise. The way you adjust each other’s school uniform. Even just the way you use each other’s names. Because these are the things I know I’ll be desperate to hold onto as you get bigger and my window into your world gets smaller.

‘Impossible’ is what I used to say about having twins.

It isn’t impossible, as long as you adjust what you expect of yourself.

But the struggle to hear myself think, the feeling that nothing is being done quite as well as it should be, and the physical exertion required to get two small children of the same age through the most basic tasks…..well, somehow it all seems worth it when you see your twins manage to come to an agreement over who gets the top and who gets the bottom half of a hot cross bun.

Well done, boys – mummy is so proud x

arm-in-arm

I wrote this because February is TAMBA’s #lovemultiples month. Yes, I know I am sneaking in at the last minute on the very last day of February, but I feel like I’ve been chasing my tail all month so the fact that I’m a bit late to the party with this one too seemed fitting.

An hour in the head of a 6 year old

It is 8.15am and we’re clearing away our breakfast things. According to the 4 year olds, the house is a birds’ nest – I am mummy bird and and they are my babies. We have to communicate in cheeps.

So far, so normal.

According to you, 6 year old, the house is a train station and you work on the railways. You are in your 60s and it is nearly time for you to retire – I can tell that you are totally absorbed in your character. This will go on for a while.

You continue………The rules of the railway are that you are allowed to work at a maximum of 10 stations, and this is your tenth so…..well, you’ve done your time. In fact, you’ve worked on the trains since you were 9; when you started working on the special railways for youngsters. Then at 16, you moved up to the regular train lines. You didn’t have any interest in following in your parents’ footsteps – they were both musicians. Violin and piano, you tell me. But now your children want to work on the trains too, and so do their children.

Apparently you live in Kings Langley, which is handily situated near the M25 and other major routes – you show me on the map. When you were 40 years and one day old, you went to live in Reading because you had always wanted to explore Berkshire; but then it was also your dream to work at Watford Junction (or ‘the Junction‘ as you now seem to call it); so when the job at Watford came up you realised that Reading just wouldn’t be practical with all the morning traffic. Kings Langley is working out pretty well for you.

You have always been one for detail.

Apparently I am off to Birmingham New Street, so I want that train just there – next to the wash basket. You are on your way to meet your friend Ave who lives up in Doncaster. Ave is only 23. She was born in Northampton to Indonesian parents who moved from Indonesia over to Milton Keynes. Before you go and meet Ave, you do need to get yourself some lunch – there are eleven cafes at the station, because you’re not allowed to consume your own food so it is really important that there is plenty of choice. You return with a plate of roast pork. Kindly, you’ve brought me some too – I can’t say this has ever happened to me at a train station before.

And I’m not sure how this has happened, but I now seem to be working on the railways with you. I have to wear a uniform, but I am allowed to wear my own socks, you tell me – this is a relief. I mustn’t worry about the fact I’m in my late 30s – some people don’t even start working on the railways until they’re in their early 40s.

This is reassuring, although it wouldn’t have occured to me to be worried until you mentioned it.

Slightly worryingly, you are doing a very good impression of a cranky, set-in-his-ways chap who is ready for retirement and is a little fed up that he has been put in charge of the new girl. It is very difficult, you tell me, for you to be showing me what to do whilst also helping people find their way to their trains. Look, there’s a lady who needs to get to Gatwick Airport – could I go and help her please? You can’t do everything; you tell me, clearly irritated. I might need to take the map with me but that’s fine while I’m learning. Soon I’ll be able to help people without the map, like you can.

I can’t wait.

It is now 9.30am. As well as getting myself a new job on the railways, I have had a shower, got dressed, and made four packed lunches. Thankfully, after 10 minutes the four year olds forgot that we all lived in a nest and were supposed to be communicating with cheeps only.

I suggest that you write down the life story of your railway worker, but you choose to get on with something else instead.

I don’t want you to ever forget it…..so I have done it for you.

train-map

On our obsession with putting children into boxes

When you become a parent, you soon realise that people are very keen to put your child into boxes. Or onto a chart. And if your child doesn’t tick the right box, or fit onto the chart exactly where s/he ‘should’, the implication is that you should be concerned.

It starts with the centile lines in the red book; and then it continues with the health visitor development checks. Can your child jump? If not, why not? How many words can s/he put together? How many things can we find to make you worried about? Yes it’s all very well that all your 2 year old son wants to do is line up cars into traffic jams, but why can’t he thread macaroni onto a piece of string? We’ll follow that up with you in a few weeks. Oh dear, your 7 week premature 12 month old twins are using a whole hand to shove raisins into their mouths and not using their pincer grip? That could be a concern.

Unfortunately, it seems that this is all preparation for when your child gets to school. There goes your precious little one, off to start a new chapter. The little one who makes your heart burst with pride and joy and love. The little one who is flying at some things, struggling with others; but doing everything at the pace that is right for him. You could not be prouder.

And then you get to parents’ evening, and you see those all-important boxes – is your little one ‘exceeding‘, ‘meeting‘, or ‘working towards‘ expectations?

This is what it comes down to – which box does your child fit into?

If you ask parents what they want from a school, I think the answers would be pretty straightforward. Parents want their children to be valued. They want them to reach their potential and for their talents not to go unnoticed. They want a broad and balanced curriculum which gives them opportunities to discover their strengths and talents. They want them to be supported, to have friends, to feel confident and happy. They want them to leave with the skills and confidence they need to be able to contribute to the wider world.

And yet what have we got? A system which is so focused on attainment that it begins testing children at 5/6 – ages at which, in many other countries, children would only just be starting formal school. A system which believes 5 and 6 year old children are ready to move away from the age-appropriate, play-centred atmosphere of a Reception classroom and spend most of their day sitting at desks.  A system which keeps raising the bar, because apparently what children really need at 6 years old is a good, solid grasp of time-openers and subordinate clauses; and because if you just keep making things harder then the children will obviously follow ……won’t they?? A system which teaches children to pass tests rather than to love reading and writing and exploring and creating. A system which makes meeting age-related expectations so difficult that schools feel they simply can’t devote any proper time to subjects which don’t ‘count’ or they will be seen as failing their pupils in the key areas of Maths and Literacy. A system which so many teachers feel they are having to fight against, because it all just feels so wrong.

A system which makes a significant number of children feel like they’re failing.

I overheard a conversation the other day between a teacher and a non-teacher. The teacher had taught in at least three other countries, and said that teaching in this country was by far the most difficult. She wasn’t sure how much longer she could do it. None of what she said surprised me.

Teachers’ talents are in the classroom – they motivate, inspire and encourage. They also plan, mark and give feedback. We expect all of this from them – this is what teachers do. But now, we expect all of that and more. We expect them to set targets, track students, prepare for the next inspection, and explain why it is that Pupil A is still in this box instead of the higher up box. And the good teachers, the compassionate teachers, the ones with that passion and the ability to inspire; the ones who want to find out what makes their pupils tick ……..well, data isn’t really their thing. They didn’t go into this just to get children into the right box. They didn’t go into it just to teach children to pass tests. So those teachers, they’re leaving. They don’t want to leave, some of them are devastated. But they can’t do it any more. The raised bars, the expectations, the targets – they can’t do what they actually went into teaching to do. The government is doing its best to fudge over the issue by telling us that teaching remains an attractive career option and PGCE courses continue to recruit well. But it’s not easy to pretend when we all know that teaching is in the middle of a recruitment crisis. It’s all very well recruiting to PGCE courses, but that’s not good enough if teachers are realising soon after qualifying that teaching isn’t quite how it looks on the PGCE recruitment posters.

If you are interested in schools, you probably know that Finland is the shining light when it comes to education. Have a read of this if you’d like to be enlightened:

Why are Finland’s schools so successful?

The Finnish system feels like the polar opposite to ours: children start school later, play is valued; and teachers are highly trained and well respected. There are many interesting things in the article above – I particularly like the Helsinki principal who says “If you only measure the statistics, you miss the human aspect.” In Finland there are no rankings and no comparisons between schools, students, or regions. Imagine – a world without school league tables.

I would put league tables up there as one of the worst things to have happened to schools in this country. ‘But parents use them’, you might argue. Yes they do, but I am convinced that we’d be better off without them. Because for many schools now, success depends on an ability to manipulate data. You hear about it all the time – students at some schools being asked to leave before exam season because they’re not being predicted high enough grades. School sixth forms turning away their own students in favour of high achieving students from other schools. Because doing well in league tables means getting more of the children that everyone wants to teach, and more of those children means you’ll continue to do well in the league tables. So the schools down at the bottom…..well they have no chance.

So yes, parents do use them – because they’re there. But our obsession with league tables has been at the expense of our children. We’re so obsessed with getting children into the boxes that we think they ‘should’ be in, that we seem to have completely forgotten that they progress and develop at completely different speeds. Or that children can have a bad few months, or a bad year. Perhaps this child had glandular fever and that child’s parents separated….. and that one over there, well her best friend went off to another school and she just isn’t feeling settled at the moment.

We lose the many young people whose skills and talents don’t fit into the box we are so desperate to get them into. Frequently, we hear very talented and often creative people say that they always hated school: their talents just weren’t noticed until they got to college. Think of all the future artists, designers, craftspeople, builders, and sportspeople in schools at the moment who are labelled as not meeting their age-related expectations because of their Year 2 SATs results. Think of all the young people who don’t fit neatly into boxes, because SO MANY PEOPLE JUST DON’T.

It seems we spend all our time telling our young people to ‘think outside the box’ when all we want them to do is fit into one.

I spend a lot of time on this blog rambling on about schools. I didn’t start my blog to write about education; but I have three small boys all at the start of their school lives and so right now, school is everything to us. My 4 year old twins currently love going to school because at the moment school is about role-play and building and discovering and creating; but I already feel concerned about how will they cope later this year when they discover that play is no longer seen as being valuable to their learning.

What is really unclear to me is what we’re actually hoping to achieve from all this – parents are anxious, children are struggling to keep up and teachers are leaving. And where is the evidence to show us that what we’re doing is of any benefit? Because it seems very clear to me that we are getting it ALL COMPLETELY WRONG. And really, Ms Greening, we need to do something about it now, before there are no teachers left to teach our children.

Or before everyone who cares moves to Finland.

boy-writing

Why the Women’s March was a very very good thing

I always used to be quite a get-on-with-it sort of person. That’s not to say that I wasn’t engaged or that I didn’t follow the news; but following the news was probably about as far as it went. Until about a year ago, when it felt like everything changed. When instead of writing posts that were just about boys, twins, motherhood and eating marshmallows; I started writing more posts like this one. When suddenly, it felt like I would be bringing up my boys in a different world to the one I thought we lived in.

generally-displeased

I can’t take any credit for this, but it does sum up how I feel.

 

And so last Saturday, a friend and I joined around 100,000 others for the Women’s March, London. This, I thought, would be a good, positive thing to do – and it was. All those people you keep hearing saying it was life-changing…..well that’s how powerful it was. But alongside the supportive and positive comments, I have also read comments like this:

Vacuous.

What have you got to complain about compared to women in Saudi Arabia?

The whole thing was stupid – America’s president doesn’t even affect us. 

Just a bunch of women who didn’t even know what they were marching for. 

Not comments made by friends, I should add. But really, one quick glance at those tells us much of what we need to know about why women were marching in the first place.

I am attempting a ‘keep-your-spirits-up-January’ – this is my own, made up thing in case you thought you were missing something; and as the month draws to a close it is proving to be quite a challenge. Anyway, for the month of January  I have been attempting to write positive blog posts only and for that reason, this is not going to be a long post covering my current levels of discontent and all my reasons for marching. But, for anyone wondering what the point was in joining 100,000 others in central London last week, here are five overwhelmingly positive things I’d like to tell you about what happened last Saturday.

  1. We could, and so we did – surely that is a good thing? Whatever your thoughts are on current global affairs, isn’t it always reassuring to know that people are challenging and questioning what is happening? Surely none of us would ever want to live in a country where that wasn’t the case. No, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t other things in the world that are worth protesting about; but can you really live your life like that? I’m not taking any action on this particular thing because there are far worse things happening in Saudi Arabia? If we applied that to everything we wanted to make a stand about, we’d never get anything done. Ultimately, we don’t know what will come of any of this; but we can be certain that events in America will affect us, because what happens in America affects the world. Perhaps time will reveal that we had no need to be concerned; but if we look at where we are after only one week of Mr Trump’s administration, somehow I doubt it. So I will continue to make a fuss where I think fuss is necessary, and we should be thankful that we have the right to do so.
  2. Again, whatever your thoughts, the messages from the march were overwhelmingly positive ones: the power of education, the need to build bridges, having the confidence to speak out, togetherness, respect for each other, looking after our planet; and making our own choices. All good things, surely?
  3. This was the most open, friendly, positive protest you could imagine, and I felt proud to be part of it. You could talk to the person next to you and be confident of getting a friendly response. Such were the numbers that my friend and I, plus a hundred or so others, spent at least half an hour stuck by a hedge in Grosvenor Square unable to make our way out to join the march proper; but still, no-one pushed or shoved or was unpleasant. People mentioned their cold feet and being desperate for a cuppa, of course they did; but no-one made things difficult for anyone else. Even when at 3pm, the M & S in Green Park completely ran out of sandwiches; people happily made do with pastries or sausage rolls instead. This was positive and civilised and polite and, whatever your politics, surely we can all be happy that so many people can come together in this way.
  4. “Women’s march”, they said, “why do we need a special march for women?”  Well you only need to have a listen to Mr Trump’s repulsive ‘locker room banter’ to get an idea of why so many women wanted to take action. Because really, how can we look our children in the eye and say that yes, this man is now the most powerful man in the world and that’s ok?  So yes, it was a march led by women, but a quick look around showed you how inclusive it was. There were men, there were women, there were children. There were all ages and races and religions. There was dancing, there was colour, there were drums, there was creativity, and there was a man sketching as he walked. Good sketches too. It was different things to different people; all of them valid and all of them real.
  5. Across the pond they made it the largest US protest in history. And here in London, over 100,000 people came together in a peaceful, joyful way to say we’d like a more positive and less divisive future for us and our children. Over 100,000 people and not a single arrest. Not one.

So call it stupid, call it pointless, call it vacuous if you will. Actually, it was anything but. This is what women can do when they come together, and surely this is what the world needs more than ever.

 

If you support the Women’s March movement and would like to help keep the momentum going, take a look at their website for their new campaign 10 actions.