Monday, 22 June 2015

Back garden camping - just as well there's no pitch fee!

Maggie could have gone to Beavers Camp this weekend but when they were booking she was adamant she didn't want to go. A few days beforehand she changed her mind, "I didn't know there would be pudding" but it was too late. To cheer her up I agreed to sleep in the tent with her in the back garden over the weekend.
We pitched the tent on Friday after school and after a lot of talking and a bedtime story she had finally fallen asleep but I was still awake and reading when something - or someone - hit the side of the tent. Then did it again. I immediately assumed it was my husband trying to spook us so waited for him to up the ante before it dawned on me that it was unlikely he'd bother getting out of his nice warm bed at 1am. So then I guessed it was the cat. I checked outside the tent and eventually spotted him - he was chasing a mouse that had taken refuge under the tent. After chasing him round, through and finally grabbing him as he attempted to scramble under the tent, I managed to hold onto him squirming while I unlocked the door and put him safely inside. At last I managed to get some sleep although it was broken much sooner than I'd have liked by the family of magpies who reside in our ash tree, they're noisy and frankly inconsiderate neighbours.
So on Saturday night I was more prepared and made sure the cat was indoors - until Maggie opened the door and he ran out... He jumped over the fence so I reluctantly left him to it, read Maggie a story and tried to settle down to sleep. I'd just started to nod off when I heard miaowing outside the tent. I left my warm sleeping bag and chased him around the garden again before managing to persuade him that there was food and a comfortable armchair waiting inside. Finally I could sleep! Or at least I could sleep until 4am when I was woken up by Maggie stood by my head pleading, "Help me, help me, oh help me!" Confused and groggy, I asked her what was wrong. She asked me again to help her. "Do you feel sick?" She nodded. "Quick! Get out of the tent!" I fumbled around for my glasses as I couldn't see a thing, looked around to see her trying to put her shoes on, "Forget your shoes if you're about to be sick, just get into the garden!" She looked confused so I felt her brow, it didn't have that imminent about to throw up clammy feeling so I asked her again if she felt sick. She was non-committal so, reassured I sat her down, put her shoes on and took her into the house asking if she needed a wee. She vaguely nodded then tried to go into the kitchen before I steered her into the bathroom then back into the tent. She immediately fell back to sleep while I lay there listening to the early dawn chorus - the small birds go first before the magpies and pigeons take over later.
At least the coffee making facilities were close by!

Monday, 15 June 2015

Matt Haig, male suicide and feminism

The writer, Matt Haig has been on the receiving end of some harsh and unkind tweets recently for mentioning that he's thinking of writing a book on toxic masculinity. He's been accused of mansplaining, of ignoring his male privilege and of usurping the aims of feminism to make it about men.
Having followed Matt for some time on Twitter now I know that he is a feminist, or if you prefer ( I don't), an ally to feminists and despite accusations to the contrary he is the antithesis to a men's rights activist.
Feminism is a broad church and as with any such movements there are bound to be people who are fighting for different goals. However, all are under the umbrella of feminism and in-fighting among what should be allies surely helps nobody but those who wish to at least maintain the status quo, if not turn the clock back to when things were even worse.
I'm a feminist, I can't remember deciding to become one, I just am. My version of feminism is about fairness and inclusiveness and that means recognising a patriarchal society can be damaging for men as well as women. It's about believing that if women can be strong then men can be vulnerable and should be able to express this without fear of being mocked. It's not about men co-opting the movement but it recognises the wider societal benefits.
It's a personal issue for me too as my brother killed himself in 2012. He was in many ways a textbook stereotype of a male suicide, working class, drug addict, severe debt... Yet I knew the person beyond this - the little boy who was teased for being small at school until he learned that he could stop them by being tough. The teenager who hated his skinny body and was painfully awkward in social situations. The young man who lost his mother to breast cancer when he was only 19 and could never really talk about his grief, instead bottling up his emotions for years. The addict desperately fighting his demons, winning some battles despite the shame he felt until he ultimately lost his war. The body, cold and alone on a hospital mortuary bed.
If you've never had to identify a body following suicide, never organised a funeral, never read the cold, hard facts in a coroner's letter, never watched your father break down in tears as he blamed himself then perhaps you're free to ignore what is happening to some of our men. I can't do that. I believe a society in which women have equal rights and equal respect will also benefit men who currently fear that not being the strong and silent type is a weakness, that mental health issues should be dealt with by "manning up" instead of by asking for help. Gender constraints harm us all, let's open up the conversation, feminism shouldn't be a closed shop.