100 Years

Armistice day isn’t something I remember growing up but I do remember the first time I read about the Great War. It was in the book Rilla of Ingleside and I was quite confused by it the first time around. It wasn’t my favourite of the Green Gables series so I didn’t reread it as much as the others and I’m fairly certain I read it out of sequence to add to the puzzlement.

It’s not a typical book about war because it’s about the home front, even more so becasue it concentrates on the Canadian home front and the women left behind while their sons, brothers, husbands and sweethearts headed off to war in Europe. I’ve reread it a lot as an adult and it has been on my mind in recent days.

On my mind too is a book of war poetry my father gave me. I’m not a huge poetry lover but these are poems I return to, because the older I get the more I get from them.

I watched the memorial services on CNN and the BBC this morning. Two minutes silence isn’t very long really, considering what the silence is meant to stand for.

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100 Years

Status Update: Bag of Nerves

Two more sleeps and we’ll be voting. That’s the easy part. The hard part will be Saturday, when the count starts. I’m nervous. I’m tired. I’m weepy.

I haven’t thought through what I’ll do on Saturday. I’ll probable be glued to the radio coverage and obsessively updating twitter on my phone.

I haven’t been able to concentrate on much this week. I know this isn’t a constructive use of my time but all I can do is read referendum updates.

I know if the worst happens on Saturday we’ll wake up on Sunday feeling defeated and angry. But we’ll have to pick ourselves up and move forward.

I hope this isn’t the case. I hope by late afternoon I’ll be able to breathe out deeply for the first time in weeks.

If you are undecided, please think of the women who are travelling today, tomorrow, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, who are feeling all the anxiety I am now but with the added trauma of knowing they had to leave Ireland for health care. Please don’t let your personal ‘I would never’ be ‘You can never’. Please vote yes, and help Ireland move forward to a more compassionate, honest future.

Status Update: Bag of Nerves

James

It’s 25 years since the murder of two year old James Bulger in Merseyside. I remember this like it was yesterday. I was about the same age as the boys who murdered him. I remember the disbelief that children like me could kill a child. I remember the trial and the references to Boy A and Boy B – one line in particular stands out when I saw in on an ITV news report, “The other boy did it”. The Mothercare CCTV footage is still shockingly, gut wrenchingly awful. I can’t read all the details of the case, and what details I do know still make me cry.

I admire Denise Fergus more than I can possibly express. I don’t know how she has kept going, but she has a depth and strength of character I can only dream of. To campaign and show more restraint than the adults who banged on the sides of the van bringing the boys who murdered her son to court, baying for their lives, is awe inspiring. Even this week, she’s working on a petition instead of posting on forums, calling for the retrospective death penalty to be applied.

To be pushed into that sort of life is just so bloody unfair. If I, a grown woman who was a child when this happened, can be more upset now than I was when the dawning horror of what happened started being reported, how does she cope? I hope she can get some sort of satisfaction from knowing that people like me, in another country who she has to give no thought to, admire her still, and think of her and her boy, and we cry for her loss and her heartbreak.

James

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

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

Musings for 2018.

I’m pretty happy about the opinion polls on repealing the eighth amendment. I wish the media would stop calling it the abortion referendum, however-it affects every single pregnancy.

I have continued to obsessively track the Mueller investigation via my subscription to the New York Times (the best money I spend each month), social media and political commentary. Rereading All The President’s Men again might be in order.

I’ve signed up for the Frugalwoods’ frugal challenge for January. It’s a little extreme for me but I would like to work on my finances a bit and January is a birthday, plan free zone for us most years.

I am glad to see the back of 2017, but then I was glad to see the back of 2016 for myriad reasons. I really hope something comes of the Mueller investigation, that we repeal the eighth and that my finances spark a lot of joy this day next year.

Musings for 2018.