Saturday, 31 December 2011

A new way of thinking

So, Mr H is home and it's brilliant.   The first time he came home, after his year's placement in '08-'09, we had a really awful first week.  I resented him being in 'my' space, and he felt unwelcome; at the end of the week we sat down and talked about it and cleared the air but still it was difficult for both of us.  That had been a year of discovery, of ourselves more than anything else, and we had both rather enjoyed it - it was tough coming back to 'normal'.

This time we felt differently, being apart wasn't novel any more and it had no fixed end to it, which made a lot of difference. We missed each other badly and both felt constantly as though we were waiting for something.  We talked about the difficulties of him moving back, but it's just been a big relief and a happy week for both of us. Even though we have stuff everywhere in the house, it doesn't matter - we have time to sort it out.

It will take a while to get out of the way of thinking that he is just here for the weekend, or week.  For instance the other day I kept thinking "Ooh we must do so-and-so while Mr H is home" and then realised that we didn't have to cram our experiences / things that needed doing into a short space of time.

This evening I looked in the freezer which I had liberally filled with food a couple of weeks before Christmas. I thought "oh no when are we going to eat this stuff before he goes back to Scotland?...."

But, having said there is plenty of time for everything, one of our agreements is that we want to do stuff rather than waste time planning and never doing.  When you live 450 miles apart you realise how hard it is to do simple stuff, spontaneous visits or trips. Everything takes logistics and costs twice as much as it should.  It's really made us appreciate the things we can do with him living here.

This evening (New Year's Eve), Mr H has gone up to a friend's who is playing a live gig, he has gone as the roadie and will stay overnight.  When he mentioned it a month ago it was so nice to be able to say "Yep go for it, I won't come as it's not my kind of thing, I'll stay with Django and see our other friend" (ok, we do have more than 2 friends but you get my drift). The point being firstly that Mr H can go and it's just a couple of hours drive, and secondly that I don't have to spend every waking moment with him because he'll still be here next week, and the one after, and the one after...

Life is sweet!

A little knowledge....

When someone says to me that "Apparently, in 150 years time there will be no white people left in the UK", I am stuck for any response other than a) don't be ridiculous or b) who cares?  but part of me thinks that I should be itching for a debate on the matter, although debating with a racist and xenophobe is probably a non-starter anyway.

Now in my 3rd year of my degree, I feel as though I have learned enough to have opinions on such subjects, but not enough to debate them. It's a strange and slightly irritating in-between position, and as they say 'a little knowledge is a dangerous thing'.  Also, what I know is only what I've been told - and who's to say that it's all correct and not just someone's opinion?   But unless you are the one who has personally done the research, I suppose that most knowledge is just that, a repeat of what you've been taught.

Despite all I have learned about class and inequality and social justice, when I go out I can feel myself switching back to my old self.  The prejudices and stereotypes which have built up over 45 years, based on what peers or the public or the media have said, are hard to shake.  But the difference now is that I recognise those prejudices in myself, when I see a group of people from the council estate and stereotype them into bike-stealers, I realise I am doing it.  That's not to say that I'll leave my bike unlocked, but now I understand more about the background to those ideas and labels.

It's very easy to get sucked into the common conceptions (and misconceptions) about groups and types of people.  It's part of the social 'lubricant' not to be the one who is always standing out from the crowd or disagreeing with what everyone else thinks. (So, how many of the others are doing the same thing and just agreeing for an easy life?)

I wonder whether I will ever get to the point where I see things differently without the conscious effort. And whether I'll ever be able to hold a debate with someone about contentious subjects such as migrants and the relative populations of the UK...

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Wasting trees

I had a conversation with my parents tonight about Christmas Cards.

We agreed that it is so disappointing to receive a card from someone who you do not see regularly, may only hear from at Christmas, yet all it says is "love from xxx" (sometimes not even "love").  

No news imparted, no personal message.   What is the point?  That to me is a waste of trees.  I don't care if we receive 1 card or 50; it doesn't make me feel any better about myself when I get a card with a typed label and no message in it.

I always write something personal in Christmas Cards, some news of what we've been up to (of course big news this year with Mr H's new job) - even if it's just a couple of lines to some people.

It is some years now since I have written "We must get together in 2006", because that is one of those empty things which gets said year after year and doesn't actually happen.

I've also skimmed the card list down to exclude those who were on it because... well just because.  Now I send cards to those I want to write to and share our news, oh and by the way wish them a fantastic Christmas.  I no longer send cards to people just because they send me one - it's not a competition. I don't write them to people I see every day, nor people with whom I will spend Christmas Day - I can say it to them personally.

My Christmas Card list contains about 20 people/couples/families, so don't take it personally if you don't get one from me!

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Global or International?

My course book asked an interesting question this week: "When you think of 'global', what does it mean to you?"   I hmm-d and haa-d and could only think 'well, worldwide'.  They then had a photo of the earth from outer space, and a map of the world showing the divisions of countries.

The earth photo represented those who thought of 'global' as meaning one society of which all human beings are members; no national divisions, we're all in this together no matter what language we speak, what colour of our skin or whatever.

The map, however, they interpreted as representing 'international' rather than 'global'.  In other words the world is made up of lots of separate entities and we each sit cocooned in our own comfortable (we lucky ones) country where we know what's what, and being separate from 'the others'.

Of course we all know that clothes we buy in the local department store are made in another country; and occasionally we think about whether the workers in those countries are exploited or just grateful for a job. Likewise with much of the food from the supermarket.  But still, We are Here, and They are There.

Even within our own nations, towns, streets there are the divisions of Us and Them.  The North/South divide of England for instance - no doubt there are equivalents in all countries.

To think of the world as a single, global society.... those links from one side of the world to the other, remembering that what you buy today was probably made or grown thousands of miles away yesterday... remembering that we are all humans... is not something most of us do regularly.

I am here in Phuket, Thailand surrounded by local people, but also a plethora of nationalities from Australian to Swedish to Russian. Partly that is because I am at an international regatta, but it is also the type of place that is bursting with ex-pats. After a while one hardly notices what accent people have; yesterday somebody asked me if I was from Australia or New Zealand, despite my very English accent.

It's a good exercise occasionally to zoom out of your life, out from your office, house, town, country, continent, until you can see the whole earth and remind ourselves that the only boundaries are man-made.