It was a challenging day today – well, a little more challenging than usual. It all began, as every day should, with a cup of tea. Today, however, Sigoth mumbled at me in bed about how he “supposed” he “ought” to get up and make the tea. Because I am a sensitive and thoughtful kind of partner I proposed that I do it instead and the wretch had the nerve to agree. Well, I ask you! He always makes the tea. Do I look like the kind of person who makes tea first thing in the morning?

Anyway, up I got and stumbled down the stairs. The very nice newspaper man chose this moment to push my mother’s paper through the door.

To recap, I have a demented mother and she lives with us in a granny annexe we built to accommodate her every need. Sadly we did not predict that she would develop dementia so all my plans to allow for a stair-lift and a downstairs shower room came to nought. Still, she has her comfy armchair and she has her television and she sings to herself contentedly, She also enjoys a morning paper.


A while ago, maybe a year or so, we had a difficult period when she found the newspaper headlines distressing and frightening. She is attached to one of the red-tops, because it was the one her parents always bought, back in the days when it was actually a real newspaper and reported actual news. She never quite understood the metamorphosis it underwent at some time in more recent years from daily reportage to mindless fantasy, round about the time Sauron became the owner. As a result she believed what it shrieked at her from its poisonous headlines about immigrants, health scares, the weather and Princess Diana.

It runs on a cycle usually between those four. Lately of course it has been making hay while the sun fails to shine and the country slides beneath the waves in watery Armageddon. If it came in multimedia format it would be chortling with glee and rubbing its pages together in a frenzy of delight over how absolutely terrible things were.

I literally was considering telling her that the paper had gone out of business and substituting the i.  Then she lost another part of her brain and no longer was bothered, so I left it alone. She likes the cartoons and photos of the Queen or kittens or whatever.

But today this paragon of journalistic achievement had finally become disenfranchised with the flooding and moved back to the familiar territory of NHS-bashing:

NHS ban medicine if you are ‘too old’ in new attack on Britain’s elderly

Today I was thankful that my mother no longer understands enough to be frightened by this spurious claptrap.


In the interests of fairness and proportionality there are other red-tops which provide similar levels of nonsense. Indeed even the so-called broadsheets (some of which are now confusingly in tabloid format) can come up with total nonsense but they use longer words so that it takes longer for the poison to seep through.

My automatic instinct is to stand on the opposite side of whatever these headlines proclaim and usually I find I am then in the right place. Vide:

  • When there are conspiracy theories about Royals, I trust my instinct that the government is nowhere near competent enough to carry out such complex operations successfully.
  • When it’s going to be the worst weather in a thousand years I assume that they are referring to a bit of a breeze in the Home Counties and not to anything which will affect me north of the Watford Gap.
  • When there is a new health scare or a new wonder drug I am generally correct in asserting that they are neither new nor scary/wonderful, but merely statistically interesting.
  • When it refers to immigrants and/or benefits scroungers, I understand the hacks are on some kind of manic auto-pilot and suspect their own mothers would be ashamed.

So today, as well as having to be thankful that my mother is so incapacitated that she can’t follow the headlines, I also found that by logical extension of my usual position I support the notion of withholding treatment for elderly people because they are old.

Damn. I’m not that person.

Yet I have to recognise that in fact that is the very position I have had to take recently on behalf of my mother. The doctor and I had some long chats about it following some internal bleeding and general deterioration. We have withdrawn the anti-coagulants which were exacerbating the bleeding and she has rallied very well. The invasiveness of the procedure to check for bowel cancer would be so stressful it is unlikely to be worthwhile, especially as she would not survive any surgery or chemotherapy to treat any cancer that was found. She may not even have cancer; it may have been a tear which is healing. The only way to find out is, as I said, too invasive and would possibly be inconclusive anyway.

Why would I put her through it? She wouldn’t understand what was happening. She may have a stroke or heart attack from the stress. And the results may not show anything, and even if they did, the treatment would kill her.

So I agreed to withhold the anti-coagulants, and yes, it was largely because of her age.

It turns out I am that person. Damn again.

She’s 87 in a couple of weeks. I am interested to know if she recognises her birthday this year. She uses the paper to keep track of date and was able to tell me when it was Christmas Eve, which was unexpected. She hasn’t remembered her wedding anniversary or my birthday for a number of years now. But her birthday was still there in her addled mind last year. We can but hope this year it is too.

I’ve made a decision for the right reasons. Now I just have to forgive myself for making it. And that tabloid isn’t helping.



My Syrian tantrum

I have been struggling since I learned of the chemical attack in Damascus. Struggling with the images and the rhetoric and the desire in myself to do something violent and pain-inducing and retributive to whoever made that attack happen. I wanted to see deadly force used against those responsible.

It’s easy being a pacifist when the biggest challenge is dealing with the supermarket running out of my preferred yoghurt, or a colleague disagreeing about how to resolve a problem or a n able-bodied individual sitting in the disabled seat on the train leaving a wobbly, walking-sticked pensioner to stand. Then I can take a deep breath and try to contain my irritation and think loving thoughts until everything falls into perspective. (I’m not saying I always manage to do it, but I try.)

Chemical weapons, any weapons, are not a source of irritation though. They are far more. They are unforgivable.

No, wait, aren’t I supposed to forgive?

It makes my brain hurt to try and understand why people would use them. And I certainly wanted to go storming over to Syria and send them to their room to think about what they had done.I tworked with our children who have become sensible adults.

Yet these are people who have very clearly thought long and hard about what they planned to do, and then did it. In fact they are dangerous, mad-as-a-bag-of-frogs bullies. Bullies need to be removed from the situation and dealt with, patiently and exhaustingly, but crucially removed until they are safe to be around others.

Then I realised I was being sucked in to all the nonsense about crossing lines and standing up for whatever good word came to mind: freedom, justice, peace.

If before I thought it was wrong to kill people, why was I even giving it time of day now? Because the cold, hard truth is that pacifism is not easy. It means dealing in the long term, not the immediate, knee-jerk present.

In my primitive brain I had a fight or flight response to danger: shall I kill someone or run away and hide? I want to be a more sophisticated life form than that. I want to use thoughtfulness, and compassion. Yet that means not rushing in to save the day as if I know best. It means, with awful certainty, waiting. Waiting for more deaths but working to remove the cause of future deaths, rather than stepping in and introducing new reasons to hate and fight and murder other people. It means being unfashionable and unpopular with those suffering. It means taking the hard path.

Today in meeting for worship at my local Quaker meeting we shared our pain and sense of powerlessness and, indeed, our joint struggle to adhere to our core values. This is what our corporate response to the crisis says; it was published last week just ahead of the Commons vote.

Today in meeting for worship we shared that statement and also asked ourselves through our Advices and Queries to think about how we respond as individuals. Advices and Queries is a document used by Quakers and Quaker meetings in Britain as guidance, prompts and challenges to the issues we confront in the wider world. They are not a call to increased activity by each individual Friend but a reminder of the insights of the Society. We are all asked to consider how far the advices and queries affect us personally and where our own service lies.

The Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain. Advices & queries.

The Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain. Advices & queries.

I know I have to take the hard path. I hope to have your company along the way.


Equinox and Equilibrium – Bloggers for Peace

Things must be bad. In fact, the Apocalypse may be as nigh as a very nigh thing. Today is the Spring Equinox in EBL Towers, and possibly across the whole Northern Hemisphere, which takes its lead from here, and the weather is so cold that even the weather elves on the BBC were complaining about it on the Breakfast News. The BBC Weather team are resolutely of the opinion that all weather is good for something and it isn’t just about being sunny all the time. They will occasionally try to look a little sorry if it has rained for 51 weeks of the year, but only if flooding means they can’t get home for tea. Otherwise they tend to take the meteorological high ground (again, useful if there is flooding), and explain that the weather is not a convenience for humans but a Force of Nature, that farmers need some rain, and that you should just wrap up warm and stop complaining. Obviously no one takes any notice because complaining is compulsory in Britain in order to satisfy the expectations of tourists and generate national income. Once all the visitors go home we relax and party like it’s 1999.

So today when not one, but two, of the elves muttered about the fact that it was unseasonably chilly and you’d never think it was Spring, would you, I got goosebumps and a feeling of Doom. Who were those presenters and what had they done with the actual weather people?

Despite hideous prediction of flood and snow and blizzards anywhere north of France, here in the northern part of England known as God’s Own County we have some cloud and chilliness. The birds are still singing, although we may have to run a soup kitchen for the hedgehogs: apparently the cold Spring may be killing them. They don’t want to get out of bed in the cold, and they don’t have enough snacks to keep them going.

If I may side track for a moment, I have been thinking about how to respond to Kozo’s monthly Bloggers for Peace topic on Flash Forgiveness.

Then I realised that today was a good day to give it a go. Already I have forgiven the grumpy weather elves for being grumpy about weather. Whether or not they care what I think.  I have allowed my initial irritation to fade away and turn into material for a blog post. I know you’re all pleased. I can see it in your eyes.

After digesting the news – bloke with red briefcase about to commit daylight robbery on the general population – I forgave the government for being total idiots. Today I am trying to think of government as a kind of scheme for keeping troublesome toffs off the high street.

I turned instead to my knitting projects. Always a great source of calm and balm for the soul are the knitting needles; in extremis I can use them for not being forgiving. The shawl is finished bar the fringe, which I plan to do later today when I am back from the hospital, so I started work on the fair isle yoke of the jumper I am knitting.

Did I mention the hospital already? I’m going back to see the consultant today after various traumas and cancellations and reinstatements. Honestly, the admin at that place is horrendous. Today though I am forgiving flashwise, so let’s just say that the individuals I talked to, and there were very many of them, were all kind and helpful. It’s clear they need me to go in and completely redesign their admin systems from scratch and deliver a few seminars and workshops for management on how to run a piss-up in a brewery, but apart from that they are fantastic. Anyway, today I find out if I am going back for a further operation or not, and if so, whether that is tomorrow.

If I suddenly go quiet for a few days, then the answer to both questions was yes.

Back to the fair isle then. I started the first round of pattern, which is the really important one that sets it up for the whole yoke. I did my 25 stitch pattern of knit 5 in yarn one, knit one in yarn 2. I got to the end of 250 stitches and realised what a seven year old could have told me: 5+1 does not go into 25.

You nit-wit knitter, EBL! The pattern has an extra stitch on the repeat to make it work, so that you have four lots of 5+1 then a final 1.

This is why knitting and maths are the same thing, my dears. This is why you have to know how to count and do your times tables. The lad Gove may care to note: it is probably the only real use of times tables that you have as an adult, so unless he expects the employment crisis to be solved by making everyone knit their housing benefit, he should go back and try again in redesigning the curriculum.

However, today I am being flashy about forgiving, so poor old Govey gets another chance (try harder next time, boy!) and I have to do the hardest thing of all. Can you guess what it is yet? You, at the back? Speak up!

That’s right. Ten points to Hufflepuff. EBL has to forgive herself.

Well, my dears, that was a low blow. Now I also have to forgive Kozo for putting me in this distressing position. I do, my dear, with many hugs!

Forgive myself? How hard can that be? Oh, wait, pretty hard, as it turns out.

It means I have to admit I may occasionally make mistakes, and not just big mistakes that anyone can make, but little, silly, inconsequential ones that are just ridiculous. I do realise that those of you who are not wedded to the Craft may be bemused by all this talk of repeating patterns and so on. Any of you who knit will be aware it’s a relatively common issue. And if EBL, which is to say “I”, had actually just read the pattern instead of diving in with needles blazing, it would have been simplicity itself.

So I undid most of the 250 stitches (the first 24 were fine!) and I had a serious conversation with myself about forgiveness.

The good news is that it seems to have worked. I knit as a thing to do, not because I want the product by a fixed deadline, so taking a little longer to do it right is not a big deal. I know I should read the pattern properly, and as there is no rush, I will allow myself time to do so. Doing and undoing are all art of the same thing; they are about creating the final jumper. The universe does this kind of thing all the time, making rain and rivers and floods and droughts, and life and death, over and over. Today the Great Wheel turns another quarter and we have Equinox. Today, in sympathy, I can turn myself and forgive.

After all, if someone else had done it I would have said “Oops! Let’s just undo it and start again. It’s not a problem.”

So in the end that’s what I said to me.

Now I have done five rows and the pattern is set and looking good.

Of course, in the midst of all that I realised I was late for a meeting which I had agreed to dial into (I have a day off). So I had to forgive myself all over again. As things happen in threes, I am waiting for the next opportunity to practise my new-found skill.

My dears, if forgiving other people is hard, is it easier to forgive yourself? Or is it the other way around?

Other Forgivers for Peace include:








and so many more!



Forgiveness – Post for Bloggers for Peace

As a proud member of the Bloggers for Peace Anti-Massacree Movement,  I have committed to posting a blog for peace on a monthly basis. Kozo has provided the theme for each month, and this month it’s Forgiveness.

On boy! That’s a challenge to be sure! My dears, EBL is not of a forgiving nature. I emulate the oak and not the reed. When someone hurts me, then I am hurt and they must pay. It takes a long time for that raw, burning sensation to ease sufficiently for me to shrug it away, accept the scars and conclude that life is life, and we all make mistakes, unintentionally or not, and occasionally with far from hilarious consequences.

I can think of two or three examples where I have not yet quite forgiven. On the other hand, where I have been a bit more grown up about things, I know that feeling of relief in letting go. The lightness, the energy released, the gladness, the smug feeling of superiority…wait, that’s not right, is it?

Because, my dears, there is a teensy little bit of me, a small devil inside, that says when I do forgive and let go, it’s for my benefit and no one else’s. I may feel better but if I don’t or can’t pass that on to the forgive, then they may remain outside a state of grace.

I am thinking of when I am the one in need of forgiveness. There are many occasions where that applies, let me tell you. What does being forgiven feel like? Is it equally light and joyous? Well, I’m not really sure, because most of the times I can think of, those times when I have been badly behaved, no one has ever come back to tell me that I am forgiven. I am left hoist on my own shame, dangling in the wind, chained by remorse and fettered by guilt. No one has freed me. I don’t know if they have forgotten and moved on, or if my evil deed still somehow eats at their soul.

The one person I know who forgives me is Sigoth. I am confident in him. We forgive each other as part of the contract between us. We are safe. It’s just as well, because I am horrible sometimes, but he knows it’s no more than a storm thrashing the waves to a tsunami, and that underneath the strong currents of our relationship will continue to carry us through.

Lucky us. An ongoing relationship allows us to be forgiven and forgiving. Many of my interactions are less permanent in nature. They have less foundation and less of a maintenance programme. They are more like a tent than a temple, and so they can be damaged and worn by carelessness, and founder on the rocks of aggression.

Because at the end of the day, it’s aggression that needs forgiveness. A snide remark, bullying, genocide, theft, dishonesty, cheating, hurtful gossip, physical or mental abuse: they are all rooted in some kind of power play stemming from aggression, from the need to be bigger and stronger, to be the car in front, leader of the pack, in control of another’s life in some small, or large, way. To win at all costs.

Why would anyone feel that need. Why do I feel that need? Every time I am mean, that is what I am doing. It may not be possible for the other person to forgive me, either because they are not in that place psychologically, or because they never see me again (a shop assistant, say).

For me to be released from the self-loathing that realisation later brings, I need to forgive myself too. If I do not despise myself I am less likely (I hope!) to do more mean things later. It’s not about letting myself off the hook, it’s about recognising and loving and holding in the light that weakness and human frailty which belongs to us all. It’s about admitting I am like everyone else, prone to mistakes, that we are all made of the same stardust, and we all can try to make it shine.

I find that when I can do that, it is also easier to see that frailty in others, and so to go on and forgive them too.

I am trying to remember that feeling very clearly so that next time, and already I am sorry that there will be a Next Time, I can move past it more quickly and possibly even head it off at the pass.

Other Bloggers for Peace have already written on Forgiveness, including: