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An Olive Branch – a short play

Is it art?

He said:

‘Maybe send him a message saying that while you appreciate the linguistically perceivable intent behind his olive branch, you can’t accept it, due to knowing what he is like… underneath.’

I put forward an alternative:

‘I should simply say, “I shall give that message all the consideration it deserves”. That should do it. God knows ignoring it doesn’t appear to be fucking working.’

 

 

 

 

 

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Five point Five Months

So R is approaching his sixth month. Wow. Six months of being a parent.

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Honestly, it’s been quite easy. We’re blessed with a child who is happy, cuddly, smiley and who doesn’t have any food allergies; a worry of mine while I was pregnant. I’ve heard horror stories of one year olds who learn to propel themselves through projectile pooping before they learn to crawl.

It’s also been hard. Statutory maternity allowance doesn’t cover rent and bills. A started a new job when R was three weeks old which before he passed his driving test had him out of the house for 70 hours a week. I’ve had mastitis five times, an abscess which had to be drained twice, norovirus and flu. How the hell do naps work because frankly R doesn’t know and I’m damned if I can work it out.

Losing my support network with the Blues Bar bollocks was emotional. Facebook keeps popping up with memories from past years and they’re all in there.

In fact, it’s not been as difficult as I had thought. After 12 years of visiting a place almost daily, it can be wonderful to suddenly look around and see that everything outside the place has changed. Harrogate is a beautiful place and is slowly morphing into somewhere with a good independent spirit, not just posh old people and tea shops.

I’m still breastfeeding. R has good chubby legs and a little round belly. It’s a great feeling of pride to look at him and think I did that. He’s starting on food, mostly just licking it and looking shocked but we’ll get there.

I’ve not done everything I meant to. Recording his changes in any way other than photography hasn’t happened – I’m worried any poetry I try to write will just be a poor woman’s Plath knockoff.

I’ve applied for a job on the other side of the world. That’s big. If the Colgans hadn’t been so odious, I don’t think I would have even considered it when the opportunity arose. I’m not one of those people who believes in fate but likewise I do think things happen when they are meant to. To resort to cliché, one door opens when another one closes. Maybe I can wander through this new one with my family, ready to face the next big adventure.

 

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Homelessness in Harrogate

Homelessness in Harrogate is a problem.

The scale of the Conservative austerity agenda means that while the issue grows on a daily basis, there is less and less help for those affected by the issue.

I was homeless. I lived in a damp squalid squat, a bedsit with four people in one room. There was black mould that stretched from the window to the opposite wall. We were all desperately ill that winter. I sofa surfed for years, living out of bin bags. I lived in the homeless hostel which is just by my house now, a grim yet inspiring reminder of where I’ve been and how far I’ve come.

Nobody seems to notice that there’s a massive problem with vulnerably housed people in Harrogate, partly from lack of concern and mostly because there are schemes in place to help those affected by the issue, such as the No Second Night Out scheme and the work of people like Corrina Young.

Corrina’s Cafe was set up to help the homeless through getting people to pay what they could afford for a meal and the profits being pumped into helping people. Now, the project has changed its scope, dedicated to solely helping those who need them. A worthy cause. I went hungry. I begged on the street outside ASDA so that I could eat. It’s horrible. A hot meal would have meant the world of difference to 16 year old me.

I received a frantic phone call from one of the workers at the cafe yesterday. There is currently another Tory-inspired scheme going on in Harrogate – getting alcohol off the streets. The homeless eating at Corrina’s cafe have been blamed for the rise of drinking in the area and there is a campaign orchestrated by local Tory councillors who own rental property nearby to get the cafe closed down.

Targeting the vulnerable and kicking them when they are down does seem to be the Tories favourite hobby. Drinking on the streets of Harrogate is a problem, but when cuts have meant that HADA, the drug and alcohol counselling facilities that were on East Parade were shuttered, there isn’t any actual help for people caught up in addiction to stop. There was an article in the Advertiser saying it was saved, but it wasn’t. Like many essential services, it got kicked into the gutter and left to rot by local government.

The move to sweep the issue under the carpet is swift. People seem to be more concerned with saving property prices over people’s lives. It’s another problem that Harrogate doesn’t want to be seen to have.

Corrina’s Cafe is a lifeline for those who haven’t got anything else. When she opened, there was a great feeling in the community that she was here doing something wonderful, and she really is. Unfortunately, the blissful glow of helping those in need soon loses its shine when people realise that there’s more to helping folk than donating a tenner then forgetting about it.

Soon the campaign to get drinkers off the streets will target Corrina and her team’s good work helping those who need it most in Harrogate, under the guise of getting drunks off the streets. Can’t we try and work on the actual root case of the problems instead of hiding from them, sticking our fingers in our ears and singing the new Adele song until we can’t hear people’s cries for help?

Please help to save Corrina’s Cafe.

 

People affected by homelessness and vulnerable housing now or in the past are invited to the Haunt​ creative writing workshops at the Mercer Gallery 11am-1pm, 24th November and 1st December.

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Howl for Harrogate by Jem Henderson

From the project by Steve Toase, Becky Cherriman and people who are or who have experienced homelessness or vulnerable housing in Harrogate.

Haunt

In a town of white orange tick tock clockwork people,
in among Stray-side green yellow chalybeate sulphur fed succulence opulence,
where skag-addled junk crews ferry deals across the darker areas of town ,
and purple yellow white flowers peek up from ice-crusted drop points under giant looming elm trees,
haunted gaunted hippies waiting for the next big fix,
poverty and speed and endless nights their only source of nutrition,
where one million pound mansions press up next to dole scum queues that lounge under shaded avenues,
where Bilton churches hand out the only warmth and fuel in town, the fires of damnation banked up to keep these paupers warm,
who laugh and shit and cry in mould old stone bedsits, three to a room,
where youth is stamped down by the foot of depression and disability, forever young, untold fractures of fragile minds,
causing nightmares, shivers, DTs, the uncomfortable on…

View original post 96 more words

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Rebuttals

The response from the Blues Bar has been disappointing. In their place, I would have apologised and tried to move on, but they’ve gone down a more colourful route. I’m going to go over each point they’ve made.

The landlord had a moral responsibility to his customers – yes he did. Namely, me. I’m his customer of 12 years and a new vulnerable mother. His responsibility was to uphold the law.

There were 25 complaints – Well, either this number was made up on the spot or 25 people in the Blues Bar were horribly offended by my breastfeeding, leading me to the conclusion that there are 25 people in there that I wouldn’t speak to if I knew who they were because they’re creeps.

That I was ‘putting on a show’ – I was breastfeeding. I showed my breast to my baby who latched on and ate. No jazz hands involved. I have a large bruise on one breast from having had mastitis and an abscess for six weeks plus stretchmarks. I’m not trying to put on a show with them. The insinuation is creepy.

I’m doing all this for attention – I haven’t spoken to the press, despite many calls. I’m staying in and enjoying time with my baby.

I’m on a crusade against authority – the law is the authority in this situation. It’s the Colgans that appear to be on a crusade against it. I’m just standing up to them and for my right to breastfeed my child.

I should feed discretely – I’m not feeding in an indecent way, because I couldn’t, unless I was feeding with both boobs out.  I wasn’t, I just fed without using a cover, with my breast popped out of my top and a baby attached. If he came off, he was still obstructing anyone’s view.

In addition, there’s a large figure of a mermaid by the stage in the Blues in everyone’s view. She has no top on.

That I took my story to the Daily Mail – I’d rather cut out my voice box.

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I’ve got the Breastfeeding Blues

DSC_0972This weekend I was approached via Facebook messenger by the owner of the Blues Bar in Harrogate. I’ve been a regular there for 12 years. I even had my wedding reception there.

She told me that she’d received a call from someone who had complained about me breastfeeding in there and that I should cover up.

I explained that I struggled with keeping a good latch and that feeding under cover simply wouldn’t work for me.

She told me that it wasn’t up for discussion.

Now here’s where we disagreed. I think that the notion about how women who are breastfeeding in public should be covered up is very much a discussion, one which shouldn’t keep coming up over and over and yet sadly, here we were, having a discussion.

I explained to her that she was actually breaking the law and that I was allowed to breastfeed my three month old son anywhere that provides a service.

Despite the fact that I didn’t have to, I agreed to cover up using a scarf. I asked for details of who had complained but none were forthcoming, so I tried to find out myself.

The next day, I received another message telling me that I wasn’t to ask people about their feelings on the matter. That I was upsetting people and needed to stop or I wouldn’t be allowed in the venue again.

To me, this looked like a shady way to exclude me without having to admit that the real reason was me breastfeeding and I said so.

I then received a phone call from her husband.

He informed me that the law wasn’t important. Me making people uncomfortable was more important. That by feeding my exclusively breastfed child, I was being indecent. That he had me on video breastfeeding and when the baby came off, I deliberately left myself uncovered. That I was just being political, as proved by me knowing the law, because why would I unless I wanted to cause a fuss.

He signed off by telling me that I wasn’t allowed to post anything about it on the internet. I’d already shared two posts, one titled ‘What’s so hard about covering up to breastfeed in public?’ and a photograph of me feeding with the hashtag #normalisebreastfeeding. I didn’t mention the place by name. Well, now I am. IMG_20151109_194621

I refuse to be bullied. I’m standing up for my right to feed however I want. I’m standing up for my child’s right not to go hungry when he chews his hands and cries. I’m standing up for all the women who are too afraid to feed their babies in public for fear that some judgemental weirdo with attitudes more suited to Saudi Arabia might be offended by the sight of a nipple.

Breastfeeding is normal. No matter if publicans and BBC DJs seem to think breasts are rudey bits which should only be seen in porn and until recently, newspapers, it doesn’t change the fact that breasts’ purpose is for feeding infants.

A friend who works in Africa said to me that if we were there, people would be judgemental if I wasn’t feeding my baby in public. It’s really sad that it’s the other way round here in Harrogate.

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atheism, girl guides, guide promise, secular, TV

The continuing adventures of the Girl Guide brouhaha

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I’ve just been on the phone to the Telegraph who have said that the minister at the church where I volunteer , Reverend Brian Hunt, has suggested that churches should remove the use of the halls for free from the Guides, in a move that smacks of desperation and the church obviously trying to gain the upper hand through manipulation.

That’s not very Christian and charitable now, is it?

There’s nothing to stop churches still asking that the Guides attend parades on occasion, which is the current agreement. They can then make these parades engaging enough to perhaps convince these young women that Christianity is for them instead of dictating it like Reverend Brian Hunt wants.

This news has struck a chord with people on both sides of the debate. I’ve been in The Times, The Telegraph, The Daily Mail (who hate me, obviously, and who I won’t link to because they’re utter cunts), as well as appearing on BBC Radio York, BBC 5 Live and The Wright Stuff on channel 5, where ex-MP turned cheeky girl husband Lembit Opik called me an oppressor of Christians.

I almost cannot believe the blindness of these people, who seem to be completely unaware that the Girl Guides is not a Christian organisation, and who seem to think that by getting rid of God from the promise and replacing it with generic beliefs that they are being oppressed in some way. One opinion I have come up against is the idea that without God, there is no way for people to know how to behave. All atheists, with no holy book to guide them, are obviously selfish, nasty thieves and murderers who probably eat babies for breakfast.

Who knew that people thought like this in the UK? I was convinced that we lived in a sensible country, not like silly America with their fundamentalists and creationists. Nope, we’ve got them here too. It’s amazing that I managed to volunteer to help young women at all with my terrible atheist lack of principles.

I believe the correct term for the minister at St. Paul’s  is ‘cutting one’s nose off to spite one’s face’. Perhaps people might not be leaving the Christian faith in droves if the church was capable of having rational discussion around God and spirituality and not just threatening those who disagree with them with expulsion from the premises.

By all means, throw out the Guides if you think that’s the only solution, but don’t be surprised when you suddenly have much less people sitting on your benches than that would account for as you prove yourselves to be selfish, immoral arseholes.

Much like you think atheists are. It’s nice that we’ve got something in common.

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