Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Catching up and ranting on...


Friday was a bring and buy sale in aid of Children in Need. About fifty home eddors from Sussex met up and exchanged toys, books, games and home made cakes. The total raised was nearly one hundred quid – not bad. I am not actually a great fan of things like Children in Need. I suspect that those kind of big charity events waste a hell of a lot of money once you take into account all the admin necessary in grant giving. And they do tend to rely on pity a fair bit. But, then again, money does get to all kinds of good causes.

After that the kids and I went to a library so they could have a quiet read and my chocolate cake induced migraine could ease. That was really nice.

In the evening we watched a bit of the Children in Need telly thingy and it happened to be a local segment featuring Allsorts youth project, which runs in Brighton. Pearlie seemed astonished that kids get grief from family and community when they come out as lesbian or gay. We tried to explain a bit, which ended with this exchange.
Allie: “So, that’s something you don’t need to worry about. Whoever you choose to love and live with, that’s fine by us.”
Pearlie: “Which, in my case, will be cats.”
So, that’s all sorted then!

I spent the evening reading Julian Clary’s autobiography. I then hunted through a lot of old sentimental stuff (letters, cards, tickets and so on) looking for a ticket I thought I had from a ‘Joan Collins Fan Club’ show I saw in Brighton in about 1988. I didn’t find it but I had a nice time looking through stuff.


I went to work. Leo had a pyjamas day working on a space ship that landed upstairs. He also filled a bag with lots of drawing and writing to be his ‘barkscrolls’. Pearlie spent a lot of time on the computer. She was using a free cd from the Independent to work on her family tree. This was an interesting task, involving lots of gender re-assignment and surname alteration. Pearlie also looked at Flash Earth – finding lots of family homes round the country. Dani knitted and aided children when asked.

Dani finally finished this bag!


I went to work. Dani and the kids went to the Rockery for a bit.

Autumn colour at the rockery.

They had to stay in for Leo to have a big strop for a while. He is suddenly very aware that Pearlie has a fine bicycle and he doesn’t. We are not really keen to get him a bike yet as he is nowhere near being ready to ride one. I don’t think he really wants one but he just wanted to point out the unfairness. Eventually he changed his demand to a ‘shopping basket on wheels, like Paddington has.’ He is having a little flurry of enthusiasm for Paddington at the moment, which is nice. When I was looking through old stuff the other night found my Paddington note book - a Christmas present when I was five or six.


We had our usual Monday morning rush of Dani to work, Pearlie to Kids’ Club and me and Leo to MMs. After MMs I had to go on to work. MMs was good, but is definitely in something of a transitional phase as it adjusts to the recent influx on new members.

When I got home from work I heard about Pearlie’s day, including afternoon at the grandmothers’ where they had a Scrabble fest and she beat my mum. She’d also done some French. Leo showed me his new Woodcraft Folk badge and told me about a singing session.


We waited in for Tesco this morning – their van was broken. My mum came round with emergency supplies. Pearlie spent lots of time on the computer again. She is enjoying a website of riddles – really enjoying the lateral thinking involved. Leo got involved with plastic animals and dinosaurs who are launching an attack on some Sylvanians. My mum tried to encourage him to get them to enter some kind of negotiation process but he wasn’t interested.

After lunch I took Pearlie to the hospital for her appointment at the gait clinic. This involved a long wait but nothing more invasive than a useful conversation about padded insoles and foot structure. It also involved some inevitable exchanges – “no, she doesn’t go to school – she’s home educated…Yes, she is very thin. She does eat…” But he was a nice enough bloke and Pearlie was pleased that he didn’t ban heelys outright – as long as she doesn’t wear them all the time! Looks like the Christmas budget needs restructuring if she wants a pair of those. They are something of a craze among Pearlie’s home ed friends.

Politics, Religion, an’ all that…

I have to say that I don’t, repeat DON’T admire Robert Kilroy Silk – or agree with everything he says. I am well aware that he is a racist, sexist, patronising idiot. What I was attempting to record was the bizarre experience I have watching political progs on the telly these days. I find myself agreeing with the words coming from the mouths of all kinds of unlikely people. I find myself nodding along with the words of Portillo on ‘This Week.’ This is not something I could have predicted! The world is all loopy these days. What I realise is that people speak clearest when they’ve got nothing to lose. Kilroy is the kind of person who has nowhere to go – he is a joke and even he probably realises this now – so he just speaks out. Portillo does the same, probably for the same reasons. It’s that ‘speaking out’ that I like. I think that ten years of mealy mouthed non-speak has made clear opinion very attractive.

Nic posted something interesting the other day about beliefs and tolerance and so on. I agree with a lot of what she said. I think I was brought up to scoff at religion – not helpful or sensible, or even kind. I caused quite a ripple in the family by winning the RE prize at school. I liked the O level course we did – which was split into three sections – Christianity, Judaism and Islam. I actually learned some useful stuff that has helped in life, albeit pretty superficial. So I don’t encourage the kids to scoff. They understand that people have religious beliefs, and that they matter to them. But it is a complicated business explaining religion when you don’t have any, and when you truly believe that it is a negative force in the world. I believe that more and more with every year that passes. Of course, there’s not a lot to be done about it!

It is also hard to explain that “yes, we have to respect X’s religious beliefs but we don’t have to agree with them because they include the belief that your mummies should not love each other and that we are not a family.” Like anyone else, we don’t like having to discuss the fact that some people hate and despise us for what we are. But we try to make it part of explaining our belief that no-one should be despised for who they are – for their colour, religion, nationality, sexuality – anything. And for children this is pretty obvious. When we talk about Palestine, or the Holocaust, or slavery, or the suppression of sign language, the children see the injustices so clearly. It’s a shame that children don’t have more power in the world.

I also have had dear friends who have been brought to the brink of despair through trying to reconcile their faith with their sexuality. They’ve had to deny themselves a partner, companionship, love and sex because they thought they were damning themselves to hell if they had those things. And they thought that the people who professed love and care in the name of religion would withdraw that if they told the truth about themselves. Such is life. I know that. But I look at the lives of friends who had all that to deal with and then I look at my godless family and I want to promote atheism – on street corners, with loudhailers!

And one of the things we do have, in this country, for now at least, is some freedom of speech. If I want to shout loud and proud about our godless lives then I can. And so sometimes, just sometimes, I will.


Liza said...

yikes at the prices of "heelys"!
andrew has the much cheaper street gliders, wheels that you can attach to any shoes.

Qalballah said...

Well much more evil has been perpertrated in the name of nationalism, socialism, politics and secularism than has ever been condoned by religion. The Nazis did actually have aversion to gays didnt they - dont supposed that was a religious thing.

Yes you have a right to be atheist and shout from the roof top. Just dont throw the baby out with the bathwater. There is a difference between religion and that which takes you to God and dogmatism which is religion that has atrophied.

It is nice to hear people have clear opinions you are right. Unfortunately there are some opinions which are slowly being made to become taboo and unfashionable at the expense of others who have the loudhailers. If everyone has a right to speak then no one should be offended when they hear things they dont like.

Allie said...

Oh, for sure there's been much evil done by other forces. I have marched alongside many believers - Quakers, and Muslims, Jews and Buddhists - against fascists. I would again - sadly, I will probably have to.

I am very, very aware of the need to raise my children to be watchful against those who would limit other people's freedoms - not just their own. I completely believe that a democratic country should involve freedom in matters of religious faith - including having none. I think that moves like the one in Holland to define a legal 'dress code' are just racism and Islamaphobia. What people choose to wear should not be anything to do with the state.

I was raised in a peace movement family and I have known people of faith who I have held in the greatest regard.

But, I guess that, for me at least, it is all bathwater deep down and the baby is an illusion - a hopeful search for some meaning in what can be a terrifying world. I do find that quite understandable. But also I believe the world would be a better place if just a fraction of the time and money spent promoting religion (and fighting with people in the name of religion) was put into trying to limit the damage we're doing to this planet.

I guess that it really depends where you're standing which opinions seem to be taboo. If I stood up and shouted out my atheism in some countries of the world I wouldn't last long. I wouldn't want to be trying to live my life and raise my kids in a small town in the mid west of the USA. But then, I guess you wouldn't either.

I totally agree with you that we have to respect each other's freedom of speech. I don't think we can all promise not to be offended by each other's opinions though. That seems to be inevitable to some extent. What counts is that people keep on talking, and we live in an environment where we can do that.

I have to confess that I come from a family where argument (political, ideological etc) is like breathing. I don't get personally offended very easily. I don't intend offence either. I guess all I've been trying to say is that I think we all need to exercise our freedoms if we're to keep them.

Qalballah said...

Religion isn't about searching for meaning in as much as it is about living with an extra dimension above the level of simple biology. There are realities and experiences that simply cannot be dogmatised and it in trying to do so that religion atrophies and silly people gain 'control' over it. Which is a shame. Life doesn't have to have be moved by religion to get by, by life is so much more fulfilling when it is. And I speak from both side of the divide to be able to say that. I used to be staunchly anti religion for very much the same reasons as yo've stated.

I'm not offended by anything you say; I would just wish you the experience and peace that the path to God has given me. And I dont mean that in a patronising way...

Alison said...

Love Dani's bag :)

And like the look of those riddles too, will show the kids tomorrow :)

Nic said...

Bag is fab. And I think we must have done the same RE course. I loved learning about the three religions side by side, often in a compare and contrast fashion. And we had a really cool RE teacher too which definitely helped.

We were talking about your family today as I was telling friends about something you'd said on Monday I'd agreed with and D suddenly realised that there were two mummies in your family. So I explained, he listened, nodded and went off to play again!

HelenHaricot said...

how on earth do you travel in those heely things???
love the bag
Also atheist, and find that sometimes that tolereance is all one sided. I do not want to be patronised, have subtle religion given to my children [chris's parents gave my daughter a 'christmas nemo' christian propaganda dvd one xmas.]aaarrrrghhhhhhhh

Gill said...

Michael Portillo went way up in my estimation when he swapped places with a single mother for a week. He did the lot, cooking, washing dishes, housework, budgeting etc. - and did it pretty well too!

I'd like to see more politicians spending time with different kinds of families - ideally before or during their time in office though. Having said that, I wouldn't necessarily be front of the queue to invite one here!

My Christian upbringing was 100% dictatorial - in the name of God, of course. "Bible/vicar/politicians/experts/authority knows best. Children know nothing." It's given me a complete aversion to organised religion I'm afraid, possibly unfairly.

Allie said...

I don't much mind if people wish faith on me. I guess, if people think it is a wonderful thing then I should appreciate the offer with good grace.

Mind you, I don't feel like that when people offer my children sneaky religious propaganda. It's all well and good for people to tell children about different religions, but I don't like jolly picture books that suddenly slip in a little Jesus message at the end!

Gill said...

Oh, same here *rolls eyes*. We've been given loads of those.