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writer’s hesitance

Driving home from a night out on Saturday I bored my long-suffering husband with all the reasons why I hadn’t been writing my blog recently. I had high hopes of keeping up the occasional posts to document stuff of interest and share some of my life back home with my friends in far flung places, but mostly haven’t. The reasons for this come down to what I have termed “the two G’s”…

Guilt: This one is a shapeshifter of many dastardly forms. As I squeeze in my academic work in the evenings, I feel tremendous guilt for even thinking of writing here when I should be writing / editing / reviewing a long-overdue paper or five. I try to shoehorn these things in the weekday evenings so that I can spend time with my boys at the weekend, and sometimes I manage it, but mostly just end up watching “Location, Location Location”with my laptop whirring gently on the sofa beside me. Guilt isn’t limited to my writing ambitions but raises its ugly head in a host of other aspects too, like eating kitchen cake at work (yes it’s free and yummie but I really don’t need it) or the lack of progress towards the next running challenge. Quit moaning I hear you say, and quite rightly so, I am in fact very privileged but that doesn’t stop me feeling like the plates might not be as pristinely balanced as I usually have them…

Grumpiness: This one I do have a bit of a natural tendency for, which right now this isn’t helped by the dark nights and lack of bike related outings (too many storms, not enough biking friends) and pining for the artsy, music-y and lively scene of Durham town that I am missing more that I thought I would. Generally I like to share things that are cool or interesting here – it’s hard to find things cool or interesting when you are grumpy…

One of the key reasons for the grumps is a hardening of my personal politics during and since my year abroad. As part of this I have also become the masochistic recipient of large doses of UK politics via BBC Radio 4 on my long weekly commutes. The station should come with a health warning, perhaps along the lines of “May make lone drivers prone to regular shouty diatribes about inane politicians and their stupid ideas, culminating in stroppily turning off the stereo and having to drive in silence for a while to regain calm”. On a more serious note, with television news here in the UK on an increasingly infantile and irrelevant trajectory towards the ultimate star-spangled trash heap where the likes of Sky and Fox reside, the radio is one of the few sources of half-decent current affairs commentary available.

I realise that although this has been occupying a lot of my thinking time, I didn’t really want to write about it – I couldn’t find the words and, despite the epic Radio 4 listening, feel under-informed about many aspects of economics and policy. But I find I do still have an opinion, lots of opinions in fact. During that wearisome drive home, I was persuaded that I should have a go anyway (with at least the partial aim of explaining my politically-induced grumpiness). Here goes nothing.

My problem boils down to this – I believe we should all be working to make the world a fairer place. Whether this is helping someone to earn a bike, buying chocolate or coffee or clothes that gives their long-distance makers a good price and safe working conditions or taking time to support a colleague to develop a new skill, the opportunities to play fair are virtually limitless if you think about it. I think that it’s only fair that people are entitled to a secure roof over their heads, someone to watch over them when they are young or old or sick, access to heathcare whenever they need it, at low or no out-of-pocket cost. I believe that a solid, broad and engaging education is a right, not a privilege and that access to the ‘soft-targets’ of financial austerity – literature, participation sport, culture, the arts and heritage are what actually makes life worth living.

In a fair country no-one should have to choose between heating and eating – foodbanks are not a laudable measure of community charity as some of our politicians would have us believe, but a damning indicator of the success of a political ideology that makes the vulnerable even more vulnerable, and then blames them for their predicament. I that it’s fair to pay more tax if it means better long-term investment in and access to community services for everyone. In fact isn’t this what we should be doing as a wealthy first world economy?

So here’s a novel, and some might say fairer, idea: rather than stripping funding from services, while using public money to effectively subsidise the salary bill of employers who won’t pay a living wage, or sweeten the profits for construction companies so they might just be persuaded to build some of the 400,000 homes that have already been granted permission, how about we push the politicans to commit to investing in people, in communities, in affordable housing, in securing the rights of tenants, in regulating the monstrous energy sector? The benefits would be felt by all and appreciated most by those in real need.

I for one do not want to live in a society of self-involved, self-serving individuals – the “I’m-alright-Jack, f**k everyone else” brigade. Just because these people are vocal and persuasive in the political sphere (and seem to have been for so long now that we have forgotten that any other way is possible) doesn’t mean they are right.

Until the UK government agrees with me, I am afraid that this level of grumpiness will remain, but at least now I have outed it in this massive rant I might be able to resume normal blogging service.

It probably goes without saying that these opinions do not reflect those of my employer, or for that matter my friends, husband or dog in case you were wondering, Barney has simple but egalitarian political views involving lots of walks, wiggle-love for anyone and unlimited pig’s ears. Seems to me that he might actually have fairer policies than some of those being paid a minimum of £66,396 pa (plus allowances and expenses) to run the country.