An American President In Belfast

So this week, as you’ll know unless you’ve been living under a rock, is G8. When the 8 big leaders come together.

This year they come together in Northern Ireland, at Lough Erne in Enniskillen.

And to kick it off, President Obama gave a speech here in Belfast today.

I could go into a massive rant here about what that did to the city but it did what it does to any city he visits. It shut us down.

Still. It was nice to have him.

And his speech?

He rocked the Waterfront Hall.

Not just because he said ‘What’s the craic’ to 1,800 school children, making them cheer. He’s always been very with it, what with fist bumping Mrs O all the time and such.

But because he made the speech that only he could ever make.

He, not only as The President of the United States, but as the first black President of the United States.

A speech about acceptance and unity and ending conflict.

A speech about America’s past and Northern Ireland’s future.

All we can hope is that the people in the audience who still have open minds about this, the ones in school uniforms, were listening and listening well. Based on this BBC piece, they were.

This is a good thing. Because at this point? Their elders have stopped.


Lowest Common Denominator Rule and School

Catchy title, huh? Thought it up all by myself.

What does it mean?

It means I’m tired of all children being taught things in the same way. I’m tired of ‘But if school doesn’t teach X, who will? The parents don’t.’

This is coming off the back of the announcement about:

“an amendment to the Children and Families Bill currently before parliament has been tabled, which would:

” 1. Add PSHE to National Curriculum;

2. Make age appropriate SRE a statutory component of this curriculum at all 4 Key Stages;

3. Specify that same-sex relationships, sexual violence, domestic violence and sexual consent be part of the curriculum on PSHE”*

What’s my objection? I don’t think this is the job of the government or the schools. I think saying it’s the job of the government or the schools because ‘some’ parents may not do the education is, as my title says, lowest common denominator rule and school.

Why are we running our countries and our educational systems based on what the worst of the populace does? Why are we subjecting pupils who are taught this at home to the same classes as those who aren’t taught it at home?

Why? Because we, as a race of humans, seem to spend our entire lives doing our best not to offend other members of the race of humans. So it’s not possible, for that reason, to send a questionnaire home saying something like ‘Are you teaching your kids about sex and relationships?’ and then taking those kids whose parents say ‘oh hell no, they’re too young/silly/whatever’ into a class and teaching them and only them.

Granted, some parents will lie. But you know what? That’s their right.

You know what else? Who decides? Who decides what they should teach about relationships in the classroom?

I live in Northern Ireland, this isn’t a secret. Do you mean to tell me that the Catholic schools here are going to teach about same sex relationships? Sex before marriage? Any of the stuff listed above?

Of course they aren’t. They’ll object, and rightly so, on grounds that it is against the doctrine of their faith. And they are faith based schools.

What about the faith based schools in England, Scotland and Wales? Are they going to be forced to teach things against their doctrine as well?

So what’s the answer?

There isn’t one.

There is no way to teach all kids all things in the same way. It’s just not possible.

My son has some level of special need, still to be diagnosed and defined. But he gets special help in the classroom and, hopefully, will continue to do so as he goes through school.

Do I expect the entire class to be taught at his level? Of course not. That would be fucking stupid.

So why is this any different? I will teach my son about sex and relationships and two mummies and two daddies and single parents and divorce and all of those things. It is my job.

And if some parents aren’t teaching their kids this? That’s not my problem.

*Quoted from Mumsnet Guest Blog Thread

The Times? They Don’t Change At All.

So I was thinking more on how I don’t think things change, no matter who is in power, or how things change and then go straight back when the ‘other guys’ get in power.

And I can hear a voice in the back of my head saying ‘what about gay rights and feminism and racial relations?’

Well, what about them?

It’s been 44 years since the Stonewall Riots in New York began the gay rights movement. A number I can easily remember as it is the same year I was born, 1969. And we are still fighting for gay rights. Right to marry. To adopt. To just have the same rights as someone who is born with the ability and desire to love the opposite rather than the same sex.

And feminism. It’s been about 50 years since that started. Do women get equal pay? How many female members of Congress are there? Members of Parliament? CEOs? Presidents of the United States  have there been?

Race? It was 1955 when Rosa Parks refused to sit in the back of that bus. Has Dr King’s dream come true? Do ‘…all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics,…’ ‘…join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”‘

Do they?

Or did I have to find an alternate route to my son’s school on Monday because the road was closed due to a Security Alert triggered by a suspicious package on a railway bridge between our house and his school?

So don’t tell me change happens or stays or keeps. Don’t tell me, as I read in an article where New York Irish Pub owners defended the name of a drink called an Irish Car Bomb because ‘the troubles were so long ago, they are practically forgotten’, that the world is better or safer or evener or equalier than it was before.

Tell it to the gang rape victim in Delhi. Or the teenager who was raped by footballers, where that the whole town tried to cover it up in the US.

The world is unequal and uneven and unfair. And how will we know it no longer is?

People won’t know or need the term ‘White Privilege.’ We won ‘t need International Women’s Day. We won’t need Gay Pride. Or Black Pride Month. Or a million other things that we need to do, and do loudly, to be heard.

It’s been half a century since most of this stuff started.

When is going to end?

So I am Still Swamped With Work

but I am also in London this weekend for the DRINK CAKE TOUR 2012.

You may recall last year’s edition, which was in Manchester.

There will be drink. And cake. And touring. And laughing and gabbing and secret santaing and (quite possibly) petty theft…

The Ladies of Forty Towers Are Hitting London.

And we are as excited as school girls. 🙂

Letter To My Son – Adam – Three Years Old

Dear Adam

Today is your third birthday. Mummy hasn’t written one of these letters in months, but figures if she applies herself, she’ll be able to manage once a year. 🙂

Adam At Three

Of course, your development over the last year has been incredible. You walk and run and talk and play and do puzzles. You count and know your colours. You have favourite TV shows and books and films. Mummy can now recite most of the Toy Story Trilogy by heart.

You finally have a bear that is yours. His name is Charlie. He wears a bandanna around his neck. You love him very, very much.

You are starting to potty train. Slowly, but surely. I am no longer worried about you needing to be trained by the time you get to pre-school in the fall. They won’t move you to the pre-school room at Wee Care until you’re trained, but you’ll only be there for another few months, so I am not too worried about pushing you.

You are, for the most part, a well behaved little boy. You have your tantrums, of course, but I get the feeling most of the time that you have a reason for being unreasonable, if only I could understand what those reasons are. Some day you’ll be able to tell me, I’m sure.

As predicted by many many people, you began sleeping through the night consistently around two and a half. Not always but most nights, sometimes for weeks at a time. Now if we could just get you to stay in bed until the sun comes up on your Gro Clock! But I’ll take 6 over 430 any day!

In just a few months you will start your school career with pre-school. Mummy is a bit worried since you’ll be one of the youngest in your class. We’ll just have to see how it goes, really.

The biggest thing that has happened recently is you giving all your bottles to the Bottle Fairy. Mummy and Daddy talked about it with you for at least a month and then the day arrived. And you were so sad, starting during dinner.

And then we were getting ready for bed and I realized Charlie, your bear, had been left downstairs so I called for Daddy to bring him up. You shouted “NO! No sleep with Charlie!” very loudly. And I realized you thought giving up your bottle meant giving up your bear! And your snuggles!

I soon told you that you didn’t have to do that! It was only your bottles you needed to give to the Fairy. Everything else is just the same as before.

The next morning you were fine! So I think you did understand about no more bottles. And Charlie was tucked in your arms all night.

And so my boy is three.

And everyday he makes me proud.





People Make Me So Tired

That’s it. I’m buying an island and moving the 6 other people I can stand to be around all the time to it with me. Others may visit for brief amounts of time so long as there is a house on the opposite side of the island from me for them to stay in.


The Misanthrope Which, by the way, is a play I absolutely hated in school.

Discipline and the Toddler

Adam is, of course, at the ‘terrible twos.’ And I’ll probably jinx myself, but they aren’t all that terrible. Not that he doesn’t have his moments. He’s hardly perfect or an angel!

There are, also of course, 10,000 parenting books about how to handle toddlers and their discipline. And I’ve read…none of them.

I only own 4 books about parenting, anyway. One about how Adam developed in the womb the of which escapes me and I’m too lazy to go look, What to Expect When You’re Expecting, some dad’s book my brother sent Simon and How to Talk so Your Kids will Listen and Listen so Your Kids Will Talk. The only one I’ve actually read cover to cover was the developing baby one and that was mostly so I could post on here how big he was as he grew in my tummy!

And so Simon and my parenting style has been created by trial and error. Some from ideas I’ve gotten from others I know, of course, but mostly I’ve just used my instincts and Simon has pretty much followed my lead.

So what do we do?

Well, we use time out for some things. Things such as not listening after being told not to do something more than once, 2 minutes time out. Some things are instant time out, such as climbing furniture, hitting and pushing.

And I’ve developed a count to 10 method to get him to do things. I have never, once, in my life seen count to three work and I gave a lot of thought as to why that might be, keeping in mind I’ve never studied child development or psychology! Based on my observation it’s because three just isn’t long enough for a toddler, whose brain is racing a million miles an hour and to whom whatever they are doing is the most important thing in the world, to stop what they are doing and make the decision to listen to Mummy and/or Daddy.

So I tell him what I want to do and I count to 10. ‘Adam, come to the table for dinner by the time I count to 10 or I’ll come get you.’ And I count. It is very rare that he doesn’t come and do what I want him to do by the time I get to 8 or 9. And if he doesn’t do it at 10? I make him do whatever it is I want him to do. I also tend to say ’10…end of free will’ as I grab him.

It works for getting dressed, for picking a toy, really for most things.

And it has the advantage that he’s learning to count!

I Am Wondering Where It Was

I learned to cook.

I honestly have no idea.

I was thinking about this tonight as I put meatballs together for dinner. I know where the recipe is from (The Silver Spoon). I even know what changes I have made from that recipe to get to the meatballs I am serving tonight.

But where did I learn how to finely mince garlic with a knife? How to chop an onion in pieces using the shape of it to help?

I know some of it was from watching cooks on TV, Jeff Smith, the Frugal Gourmet for one. I had no idea he died. RIP. Or that he was accused of sexually abusing young boys. But I did like watching his show. Especially when Elmo was on.

But the rest of it? Knowing how to change a recipe to suit my (and now my family’s taste)? I have no memory.

I suppose my mom taught me some of it. She’s a very good cook. And my brother, he cooks gourmet and is fussy to the point of throwing things away if he thinks they aren’t up to his standards. I often think he should have opened a restaurant.

I do love to cook. From recipes. From memory. From cookbooks and TV shows and, now, the internet and my iPhone.

With my mother visiting what to cook is in my head. She will make chicken soup with matzoh balls at least once. And I’ll get her to make a meatloaf (Simon likes hers more than mine. Fact.) one night. But what else shall we have?

For her first night I am making my ‘dinner party’ meal of Chicken Casserole (also from Silver Spoon), stuffed courgette (a recipe I actually got from her and tweaked) and garlic mashed potatoes. However, my mother cannot have alcohol of any sort since her pancreas attack of a year ago June so Chicken Casserole will be made with stock rather than wine. I hope it’s as good. I’ll let you know.

She has requested my Shepherd’s Pie and my Paella, so I’ll make both of those, with an alternate for Adam on Paella night. He hates Paella. Fact.

I wonder what else I should cook…