A New Coat For Anna

When I was a small child, one of the books I remember borrowing a book about a little girl who got a new coat from the library. It was a story that stayed with me as a child and I remember loving the book, but I hadn’t thought about it in years. The book, A New Coat for Anna, tells the story of a little girl dealing with post-WWII life in the Netherlands and her mother’s efforts to get her a new coat.

As an adult, rereading the book is a jarring experience. Anna’s mother had to give up a gold watch, which must have been a valuable heirloom and which had survived years of war, just to get the wool for a coat. She has to give up other things too, like a lamp, a necklace and a teapot, to ensure Anna has the coat she needs.

More than that, the book shows that war doesn’t end when the powers that be sign an armistice. Children grow and need warm clothing. Mothers who’ve carefully hoarded family treasures weigh up what they might be worth. People with skills trade them for necessities.

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. I’ve been thinking about Anna’s red coat because of the iconic scenes in Schindler’s List, where a tiny girl in a red coat wanders around the horrors of the Warsaw Ghetto. And I’m thinking about all the children who today have grown out of coats and are dealing with war and its effects and their mothers who are trying to decide whether now is the time to trade a precious family object for the necessities of life.

I wish Anna’s red coat was a purely fictional book about a time long ago that we’re glad never happened today, but sadly whenever humankind has said ‘never again’ this hasn’t come to pass.

A New Coat For Anna

Planning Our Holiday

Now we booked our summer holiday, I’m once again looking forward to the planning which, as I’ve said frequently, is sometimes the best part of any holiday for me. This will be our fourth time going on the same sort of break and now we’re really into our stride.

While I like surprises (like coming home on a brand new ferry!) I also like the comfort of knowing which amazing cafe to stop off at for a healthy lunch and nice coffee before we get onto the ferry, which supermarket to call into on our way to the campsite and getting a text message from the couriers on site the day before letting us know we’re expected.

One of the best things about our holidays has been that we enjoy a taste of them every single week when we open a bottle of wine. We’ve never been disappointed by a bottle and we’ve found some truly delicious wines for bargain prices. It’s nice knowing that as we plan, we’re enjoying the holidays of years gone by.

Planning Our Holiday

Things Which Made Me LOL Today

The story of The Shed in Dulwich. One man makes his fake restaurant the number one spot to eat in London.

The Am I Being Unreasonable section on Mumsnet. Never, ever fails to deliver.

Reading one star reviews on TripAdisor. Some people expect a mobile home on a cheap campsite to be the Ritz.

That the Dead Zoo actually refers to itself as the dead zoo and has a fun Twitter account.

Robert Mueller and his merry men. I hope they’re getting close to something.

Things Which Made Me LOL Today

Tiny Sparks of Joy

A weekend spent well catching up with new friends and family. A welcome antidote to the rain that never let up.

Getting a call from my fantastic library that the books I ordered are waiting for me to collect them.

Planning and booking our summer holiday.

Knowing that the work week which lies ahead will be considerably easier than last week.

Making some last minute New Year’s resolutions and knowing I’ll try to keep them.

Tiny Sparks of Joy

We Didn’t Start The Fire

The decision not to categorise female soldiers as soldiers despite their having fought for Irish independence in the 1920s. The decision not to pay them pensions as a result.

The mother and baby homes.

The Magdalene laundries.

The 1937 Constitution which put women in the home.

The marriage bar. The loss of income and pension rights as a result.

The different pay scales for women and men in the civil and public service.

The exile of Edna O’Brien.

Telling the Parliament that the first female police service recruits shouldn’t be too horse faced and that they should not be targets for marriage.

Symphysiotomy being introduced after it had fallen of out favour in most other countries.

Male only jury service.

The seizure of state run social services, including schools and hospitals, by religious orders loyal to another state.

The Irish Women’s Liberation Movement taking the train to buy condoms.

Mary McGee taking the state to court to buy condoms.

The eighth amendment.

Joanne Hayes and the Kerry babies scandal.

Miss X.

Miss Y.

A, B and C v Ireland.

Terminations For Medical Reasons.

Amanda Mellet.

Savita Halappanavar.

NP being kept alive despite being braindead and liquifying because the foetus inside her had a heartbeat.

The women passing illegal abortion pills into the hands of women minding their children.

The lack of anatomy scans because ‘What can you do anyway?’

The lack of a right to informed consent during pregnancy.

The 2002 referendum in which the Government wanted to do away with the right of suicidal women to abortions in Ireland.

The 2013 Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act where women who have abortions where their lives aren’t at risk face a jail term of 14 years.

Being told we’re all going to die as a reason to deny women autonomy.

The marches for choice.

I came very late to the repeal movement. I was antichoice for a large portion of my younger years. I was wrong. I was judgmental. I didn’t know just how much the Irish state has tried to keep us quiet. When you grow up somewhere that has a religious school system, where most of the population are the same religion and where the state broadcaster plays the catholic call to prayer twice a day any non-conformity can seem shocking.

This week it feels like something has shifted. I don’t know if this is the beginning of the end but I am very hopeful it is the end of a long beginning. Reading about the women who went before me is humbling. I admire their resolve and strength, and I don’t know how they didn’t spend a large amount of their time being mad as hell about things.

It will be long and hard and difficult to get to the finish line, but I think of all those who went before us and I take solace from the fact that, in their way, they’ve chipped away at some of the stoney silence around women’s rights and human rights in Ireland. And I thank them for that.

We Didn’t Start The Fire

In Praise of Libraries.

When I was a child, we often went to the library twice a week. I have always loved reading and I’d choose four books on a Saturday, have them read by Sunday evening, and then return to a chess club to choose four more on Monday. I still remember my heart leaping when the final two books in the Drina series appeared on the shelf after a family holiday.

My library use dwindled after college, and was non existent before we moved to our new home almost two years ago. Happily, we can now walk to one of the libraries I remember going to as a child. The shelves and the smell are the same. It seems to have shrunk – I remember towers of books above my head – but the tiles are the same ones I walked on three decades ago. There’s a self-service machine to return and borrow books, but there’s also still enthusiastic librarians who’ll find a book with the skimpiest of details.

I went yesterday, and borrowed three books, two of which I had on my to-buy list and one of which has proved to be a mistake. No matter, it hasn’t cost me anything to give it a try. One of my smaller resolutions is to make the most of my library this year, as I did when I was a small child and I wished and hoped that a favourite book would be returned or a new book would appear on the shelf.

In Praise of Libraries.

Tiny Sparks of Joy

Relegating things to the attic after being slightly irritated by them for months.

Taking some action on repeal of the eighth amendment, albeit small.

Minimalism v Reality in the New York Times. A few months old but relevant to me now.

The Lam family, photographed over several years. Even though I don’t live in a small space, I’m intrigued by those who do and how they do it.

Making some New Year’s resolutions which are achievable, like saving a little more and exercising a little more.

Tiny Sparks of Joy