Tag Archives: politics

Helena Handcart

I’d like to introduce you to a new friend of mine – her name’s Helena:Helena Logo square

Ok, she’s not strictly speaking a friend, she’s a business, but she’s an idea I dreamt up with one of my oldest friends last year and, as the months have gone by and we’ve plotted and planned to make her a reality, we’ve become rather fond of her. You see, Helena is a positive and determined sort of a character. Feisty and no-nonsense but with a heart as soft as melted butter. She’s focussed too, she knows what’s important to her – creativity and compassion – and she wants to use art to make a difference.

I’m still talking about her like she’s a person, aren’t I?  Ok, let’s rewind…

I made no secret of how I felt about the world last year – the EU referendum with its climate of hate and the racism that the result seemed to legitimise, the horrendous terrorist attacks, Trump, the political and social situations in countries around the globe, even the celebrity death toll… it started to feel like we were all going to, well, hell in a handcart…

All this was the focus of many discussions with my best mate, Sus, on our monthly dinner dates in the Scottish borders. We live over a hundred miles apart (in Scotland and Northumberland) and there’s a little pub we go to – half way between our homes – that has, for the last six and a half years, been our retreat from all the other demands on our time. There we go to eat, chat, and put the world to rights. And, being illustrators, we often draw too. Not for work purposes, we just find that, in a funny kind of way, drawing makes us feel better about things.

The two of us outside the Bucchleugh Arms

The two of us outside the Bucchleugh Arms

Anyway, on one of those occasions while drawing and having a good old rant, we decided enough was enough. We were sick of feeling helpless amidst everything that was going on. We wanted to do something – even if it was only a very small thing – to make a positive difference. And we decided art could help us achieve that… and so the idea for Helena was born.

miniature cards range

The small change range. These use my miniature drawings which are reproduced actual size on the cards. I love drawing things small!

So, to get back to introductions:  Helena Handcart is a greetings card business that’s committed to doing some good. To that end, 50p of each and every card we sell is donated to grassroots charities devoted to causes close to our hearts. Sus and I design the cards, and they’re printed by a lovely company called Six Print who support the Woodland Trust project and use only carbon captured papers for the production of their greetings cards.

Alll together now range

Some of our ‘All together now’ range of cards by Sus, pictured in front of the forth bridge where Sus lives!

We have two partner charities at the moment who are the fabulous Starcatchers who focus on improving the lives of the under fives through creative experiences, and Crisis Classroom who believe in empowerment through education of all refugees. Because they’re grassroots organisations, even tiny donations can make a difference to people’s lives and we’re thrilled that every time anyone buys one of our cards, we’re able to do just that.

I’d love you to visit our Etsy shop and take a look at all our cards. We’re working on more designs right now so the range will soon be expanded. In the future, I even hope to illustrate some of my limericks for cards – that should be fun!

Right, that’s the introductions over I think! You can find Helena Handcart on FacebookInstagram and Twitter – do pop over and say hi if you can. Or, as Helena would say:

“Buy a card. Send love. Make good things happen.”

xxx

 

 

some thoughts on politics

Despite the storm in UK politics recently, I’ve held back from sharing my views on the blog and social media. I’m not quite sure why – last year I was pretty emotionally open about it all on here. I made it clear I was pro-remain and vehemently anti-Trump and believe me, my silence this time round hasn’t meant any lack of political passion this year either.poppy field

So I’ll be honest with you now – I was nothing short of THRILLED that Labour won more seats in the election last week. I feel it’s a huge step towards a more compassionate society – one where everyone matters and where vital services like the NHS are protected. I also think it’s a huge slap in the face to Theresa May’s hard Brexit and the way she was pursuing it and, as someone who values togetherness and collaboration, I think that is a very good thing.

I love all the talk about the youth standing up to be counted, the thought that our population is more engaged and politically active and the belief that the hate-soaked tabloids are losing their power over the electorate. That last thought alone is enough to make me dance in the streets. There is much in all of this to celebrate.

But, man alive, what about this proposed Tory coalition with the DUP?!!!! Their party is sickeningly homophobic, denies climate change, wants to teach creationism as scientific fact, reintroduce the death penalty and is not only anti- abortion but wants to criminalise any one who offers or seeks advice about it. It beggars belief. And even though I can’t honestly see any of these beliefs radically impacting on policy (I have more faith in our Conservative MP’s than to think they would back-track on gay marriage or our right to choose etc – I hope I’m right on that) I think to allow the balance of power to lie with the DUP gives such abhorrent views a dangerous legitimacy.

I also understand there are grave concerns in Northern Ireland about how this could unsettle the peace process there. I can’t pretend to have much of an understanding in this area (although I’ve been doing a bit of reading this weekend) but I’ve heard this alliance called dangerous and irresponsible. There are rumblings in the Conservative party’s own ranks let alone in wider parliament.

Personally, I’d question the extent to which a minority Tory government propped up by the DUP could be genuinely representative of the views of the British people. I may be a lefty myself but I’ve spoken to Conservative voting friends over the weekend and they’re appalled by the DUP’s views too. All told, the coalition feels desperate and unsafe. To many it doesn’t even feel legitimate.

So where does that leave us? What’s going to happen next? Will we have a new Prime Minister by the end of the week? A date for another general election by the end of the month? An entirely new government by the end of the year? Who knows?!

Anyway, I thought I would share this drawing I did. It’s about sticking together to face whatever life throws at you. Braving the storm no matter what. I think we’re going to need to.

storm image for blog

onwards!

track“February! Great to see you! Thank God you’re here – did you not hear me calling you last week?And the week before? I could have done with your intervention really…

See, some bad shit went down last month, I’m afraid. I know, I know, you heard the same about January last year, but seriously, my dear February, seriously, that was nothing compared to what this January threw at us. And me. Yes, personally, nationally and internationally it wasn’t a good month.

Do you think when you’re finished here you could perhaps have a little word in the ear of January 2018? We’d like thirty-one days of loveliness please – world harmony, kittens, that sort of thing.

Impossible? Oh ok, just a few weeks of semi-loveliness…

Too much to ask? Ok, I’d settle for some garden-variety mundanity. Nothing at all showy just the sort of month that doesn’t leave me gazing at the news in horror or at social media with my head in my hands… can you do that?

Yes? Good. We’re all set then.

Ok, I’ve finished talking to February now ;)

It’s been nearly a month since my last post and, yes, it was a bad month but – imaginary conversations aside – the arrival of February has given me pause to reflect and find some good things to focus on. Like the fact that I’ve completed another assignment for my illustration course and am now working on a whole new module. And, even better, I’ve just finished another illustration commission – a book cover this time – which is very exciting! I’m also planning to design a website for my illustration soon which is a project I’m looking forward to. AND there’s this business idea I’ve been working on which both my friend and I are keen to get our teeth into.

And then, while I was eyeball deep in January, an email plopped into my inbox  (I didn’t even spot it until February had arrived) saying I was one of Feedspot’s ‘Top 20 Creative Writing Blogs And Websites on the Web. Chuck Wendig is in the list – Chuck Wendig! I love his blog so much! To be in the same list is… well, a bit baffling if I’m honest but just amazingly fabulous at the same time. I really have loved how – through the #WhatImWriting linky – this blog has become a little hive of writerly connection… or that’s how I like to think of it anyway! Good stuff.

Of course, ‘What I’m Writing’ itself is something that makes me very happy indeed. The community of writers is wonderful and the mutual support has made a difference, I think, to all of us over the past few years. I have realised though that it’s time for some (only some!) changes in this area. Having had time to think since my new year post, I’ve decided to stop running the linky. It’s been going for well over two years and during that time masses of different writers from different countries have linked up hundreds (and hundreds) of posts. I’ve loved it all but I’m finding myself continually more stretched time-wise to the point where it’s not viable to run it any more.

BUT (and here’s the crucial bit) the most important aspect of the linky for me has always been the community – to create and nurture one was the original and vital aim and, on that count, ‘What I’m Writing’ has far exceeded my hopes. And our community is still very much thriving and will continue to do so. We have a Facebook group where we share posts and ponderings and we continue to organise meet ups too for those who fancy it. I’ll be updating the linky page soon to explain things more clearly but basically, if you’re a writer at any stage of your career – published, unpublished, wondering if you dare pursue your dream, or already jumping in with both feet – you’re welcome to join us. Drop me an email and I can add you to the group. It’s a place of friendship and support – just what the doctor ordered at the moment!

So, this was really just me touching base because it felt weird not to blog for so long… and also to let you know things are ok in Writing Bubble land. January may have been awful (and I think this year has more to throw at us yet) but there’s lots to look forward to as well. I’m determined to pour energy into writing and drawing and family and friends in order to squeeze every drop of happiness out of 2017.

Let’s do this.

Writing Bubble

art and the broken heart

sunset-skyI just watched Meryl Streep’s Golden Globes speech. It’s fantastic. The way she exposed the awfulness of the US president-elect’s behaviour without even mentioning his name…

But what struck a chord most was her final sentence where she quoted something the late Carrie Fisher said to her:

“Take your broken heart, make it into art.”

I love that. It totally sums up where I am at the moment. So much bad stuff happened last year – horrible stuff, sad stuff, stuff that we know is going to cause problems for years to come.  It broke my heart. It broke many people’s hearts.

But it’s made me resolve to throw my passion and my energy more into the people I love and into art – in all its forms. I want to write and draw and illustrate. I want to learn and explore new creative skills. I want to experience art created by other people, to read and watch and see and feel and listen and devour art in all its glorious forms.

“Take your broken heart. Make it into art.”

That. Just, that.

art and healing

sheep-at-sunriseSo, phew, how are we all doing then? What’s that you say? Am I still enraged, horrified and saddened? I know, I know, my recent posts have been fairly emotionally-outpoury and heavy haven’t they?

Well…

In answer to your question – yes and no. Yes, because that’s my honest and human reaction to what’s going on in the world at the moment… and no, because if I stayed permanently in that state I’d lose the plot. I’ve actually had some lovely times recently: mornings and afternoons and lunches and dinners and drinks with friends that have fed my soul and given me a huge boost in the happiness stakes. If there’s one big positive to come out of this awful year it’s been those friendships that have grown and strengthened in the face of everything or simply remained resolutely fantastic. They’re better than the cosiest, warmest, fluffiest blanket in front of the crackliest, brightest, toastiest fire with the biggest, crumbliest most delicious plate of mince pies, my friends are. And all the chocolate in the world – they’re better than that too.

So yes, as I write this, I’m feeling calmer than I’ve felt in weeks.

But I have been thinking about those feelings of outrage and horror and the proper place for them. Because I don’t think such feelings can be dismissed – not when they are legitimate and not when people’s rights, freedoms and even lives are at risk (or worse). However, they’re also not something that should be used to further negativity or hate or violence – I think they need to be used to combat those things. Channelled in the right way, I think horror and outrage can be powerful and positive.

I’ve read loads of articles recently about positive actions that can be taken by people feeling shocked or sad or powerless. There are many different options, whether its volunteering or donating or speaking out or up for others or peacefully protesting or being a friend – the list goes on. And I think we each need to pick the course of action that works for us – the action that will heal us and hopefully help others.

For me, I’ve decided that the way forward is art. I read a blog post earlier this year by Chuck Wendig called ‘It is art that will help us survive‘ (read it as long as you don’t mind sweariness). In it he talks about how art – in its many forms – can soothe and heal but also excite and agitate, how it can help us understand ourselves and each other. How art can lift us up and, by sharing it, lift others up too. And how it can bond people across all sorts of personal and political and cultural divides. So, while it might seem a bit, I dunno, ‘fluffy’ in these troubled times, it just isn’t.

An artist friend and I had a big chat about this the other night and we’ve come up with a plan. It’s about creating art and sharing art and hopefully creating opportunities for others to do so too. It’s about being able to respond to events that upset us in ways that create empathy and promote feelings of togetherness and hope. And it’s also (if all goes to plan) about helping causes close to our hearts: making sense of the world while having a genuine positive impact.

It’s only a little idea – it’s not flashy or bold. But I think – we both think – it can make a difference. That it can channel outrage into healing.

And that’s just what we need right now.

Writing Bubble

searching for hope

sunset-through-treesThis blog was never supposed to be a place to talk about politics. “I’m not a political person” I used to state and, “anyway, I don’t want to discuss this stuff in public” so, “I’ll keep things light-hearted on the blog… nothing remotely controversial.”

Then this year happened. Oh, didn’t it just. Didn’t. It. Just. And I am done setting myself rules about what I can and can’t write here. I’m emotional – a ‘big feelings’ person – I need to express myself and if I want to express it here then that’s fine. Nobody has to read it if they don’t want to. There’s just too much big stuff in my head right now and I need to write it out. Maybe writing will help.

So, this year, this steaming turd of a year, I’ve looked at the world around me, at horrible acts of violence committed by individuals and groups, and at awful decisions made by governments and voters and just thought, “What the f*ck is going on?!”

I’ve read masses of articles and opinion pieces and tried so hard to understand some of these events – like what would make the UK vote for Brexit or America vote for Trump. There are so many different voices, so many different opinions – not just ‘two sides to every story’ but a clamouring mass of them, tugging and screaming to be heard. It makes my head spin.

What I mostly see though, is that a lot of people are hurting and feel helpless and angry and scared. And that we seem to have lost our ability to understand views that differ from our own. We exist in our ‘echo chambers’ baffled or appalled by those outside of them, as the divisions between us get wider and wider – so wide we may as well be living in different realities.

I’ll make no bones about it – I think some terrible decisions have been made this year. I think they’re going to lead to great pain and hardship for many. And I hate that, I hate it.

But… there’s always got to be a ‘but’…

I’ve got to hope that we can get something positive from these decisions too, if we try hard enough. I want to believe that they can be a starting point for acknowledging the divisions that exist in our societies and and that they compel us try to bridge that divide so that in the future we are guided by hope and togetherness rather than hate and fear.

One of the great points of optimism in both the EU referendum and the US election results was that the youth voted overwhelmingly for what I’m going to call ‘togetherness’. Young people in the UK voted that Britain should stay in the European Union and young people in the US voted for Hillary Clinton, a democrat whose campaign was built on the idea of being ‘stronger together’.

Our future is right there, in those voters. And what we have now is a great big kick up the bum – a horrible, shocking, devastating kick up the bum, but a motivating one nonetheless – to start listening to each other properly. Not just listening to our friends or those who think similarly to us, but to those people whose actions and views we can’t understand at all. Working out how to listen could be a challenge. Making sure our governments and politicians listen to all of us, another one. Not to mention building understanding, and a society based on that. But we have to start doing something differently. Don’t you think?

Anyhow, I did a drawing. It’s about hope and love and respect. It’s about putting out the fires of hate and fear and re-building the future together. For all of us.

mending-the-broken-heart
If only it could be that simple.
But we’ve got to try.

Writing Bubble

when all the swears in the world aren’t enough

I drew this as I awaited the election results. I didn't hold out much hope.

I drew this as I awaited the election results. I know – it’s brutal. I didn’t hold out much hope.

If you read my post the other day then you can probably guess how I’m feeling in the wake of the US election. A racist, misogynistic, narcissistic sexual abuser has been elected to the highest office in the western world. It beggars belief.

And I’m exhausted. The outpouring of grief on my Facebook feed today has pretty much overwhelmed me. When so many people you love and care about are reeling in horror and pain it’s… well it’s just awful. Actually, ‘awful’ doesn’t cover it but words are failing me today.

And yet, as much as Facebook has overwhelmed me, it’s also given me hope – because there has been so much goodness on display there. So much solidarity. So many people reaching out to each other with understanding and love .

So although I can’t deny I’m feeling pretty wretched at the moment, I do know that all is not lost. The immediate future is more challenging but we’ll keep going. Things will turn around.

I’m running out of words so I’ll leave you with something I put on my personal Facebook feed earlier. This is our challenge now and we have to rise to it.

So, my friends, our task now is to make sure our kids know that racism is wrong, not only in the face of a hateful UK tabloid press but with an American President who is openly racist. We have to teach them that sexism is wrong even though the President of the USA is blatantly misogynistic. We have to show them that homophobia is wrong, insulting people with disabilities is wrong and that blaming things on minorities is wrong despite the soon to be ‘leader of the free world’ doing all these things without shame. And most of all we have to make it clear that despite the US President ‘grabbing’ women by the ‘pussy’, that sexual assault is always, always completely inexcusable (not to mention f*cking criminal). We have to show our next generation that – despite this morning’s awful message to the contrary – hate and fear can’t win over respect and love.

I’ll leave you with a picture I drew just before the EU referendum. I wish I could draw something new, something symbolic of hope, but I’m not quite there yet, so this’ll have to do.

#Loveisstrongerthanfear

Because love is stronger than fear, my friends, love is stronger than fear.

xxx

fear and anxiety

lightningSad and scared.

That’s how I’ve been feeling recently when I’ve looked at the world around me. 2016 has not been a good year. Actually, that’s an understatement: 2016 has felt like a terrible year. Sickening terrorist atrocities, a horribly divisive EU referendum, our British political system a mess, a rise in hate crime and a despicably vicious tabloid press that has sown lies and grown hatred. And bubbling along with a growing fervour, a US election that has shone a light on so much of what is wrong with the world.

I find it hard to write about Donald Trump. I find it hard to speak about him without my words getting tangled with rage. I can throw out words that describe who he is – that describe what he is: racist, misogynistic, narcissistic, a bully, a liar, an incompetent who is absolutely unfit even for the role of president of one of his (failed) companies let alone of the ‘free world’.

But those words… no matter how much truth they hold, seem weightless in the face of his march towards power.

A few weeks ago, after tapes of Trump boasting about ‘grabbing’ women, were released, ‘sexual abuser’ was added to that list of words to describe him. Sexual abuser. And his popularity dipped. But you know, pah, where’s the harm in a bit of sexual abuse? Thought no right-minded person ever… and yet, AND YET, after that dip, his popularity has grown again until he and Hillary Clinton are practically level in the polls.

I’m horrified. Just… horrified.

Like so many others, I reeled in the wake of those Trump tapes. Even more so as more women stepped forward to share how he had assaulted them too. And I felt sick to the stomach as he cast aside their accusations not with, “I would never do that because it is morally reprehensible” (I suppose he couldn’t really could he? as he’d already said it’s the sort of thing he did), or with, “I admit it and it was wrong and obviously I will remove myself as a candidate and accept a jail sentence for my crimes” but with “Look at her – I don’t think so”. Because, what? Sexual assault is something that only happens to women who look a certain way? As if sexual assault isn’t a diabolical and appalling act that no human being let alone presidential candidate should ever commit.

I read articles and stories by women around the world about how all this made them feel. How it awakened painful memories from their pasts, of how it reminded them of every abusive experience they’d ever had. Across the globe, women were united in grief and pain and fear and I knew, I KNEW:

THIS MAN CANNOT BE PRESIDENT.

Because of course he can’t. And yet, there he is. Republican candidate. Drawing ever closer in the polls to Hillary Clinton.

And you know what bothers me most? And why, despite not being a US citizen, I have such a passionate interest in the outcome of the election?

It’s not even that he isn’t fit for presidency – that he isn’t capable or worthy of dealing with the power and prestige that comes with the role (of course he isn’t. OF COURSE HE ISN’T.)

It’s not even the thought of what laws he might try to repeal or what hatred he will undoubtedly sow and the far-reaching consequences of that.

It’s not even the idea of him having his hands on the nuclear codes, though that makes my blood run cold –

It’s what it symbolises if he wins. It’s the message it sends our next generation.

That a racist, a misogynist, a narcissist,

a bully, a liar, an incompetent.

a sexual abuser.

can become President of America.

People have said not to worry. That Hillary Clinton will win. That a woman who is intelligent, competent and experienced, hardworking, dedicated and compassionate will prevail over… that.

And I’m trying to believe them. I’m trying not to worry.

Wednesday is going to dawn on a different world. Let it be a better one. Let it be one where little girls can think ‘maybe one day I can be president!’. Let it be one where it’s NOT ok to be a racist or a bully or a liar. Where we challenge misogyny rather than, too often, accepting it. And where our sons and daughters can aspire to be the best they can be in a society where – regardless of race, or sexuality, or ability or religion or gender – we are all equals.

I’ll be watching for the sunrise. And, despite my fear, I’m going to hope.

Writing Bubble

shock, fear and hope for the future

seagull in the stormI’m struggling to find the words right now. Finding out the result of the EU referendum last Friday was like a punch to the guts. I was already reeling in the climate of hate and vicious rhetoric and violent action that had built up over the preceding weeks, and had hoped against hope we would vote for togetherness and stability. That the lies of the leave campaign (which have emerged so clearly since the result was announced) would would be revealed in time. That hatred of the political elite (who, honestly, I can’t stand either) wouldn’t lead people to vote against membership of a union which affords us so much protection in so many areas and in so many ways.

But it happened. Britain voted leave. And I still can’t get my head round it. Despite my usual positive outlook, I’ve been struggling to say ‘never mind, move on, look to the future, think positive’ or any of that. Because the future is so uncertain and the repercussions are already scaring me. The racism that the vote has legitimised, the jeering ‘We won, so get out of our country!’ mentality that is bubbling up all over the place makes my blood run cold. And the leave camp is already going back on pledges like ‘We will give £350 million a week to the NHS’ and major campaign issues like putting an end to free movement of labour (which personally I have no issue with at all) that people based their votes on. Some leave voters are already disillusioned and angry. Many remain voters are distraught. What’s going to happen next? Where’s it going to lead? I worry for all of us, I really do.

But. BUT…

Amidst all of this, you know what makes my heart sing? The wonderful, thoughtful, compassionate people that appear left, right and centre in my life. My family and my friends, the people I bump into in the playground, or at soft play parties or in muddy fields (well, I do live in rural Northumberland). The people who fill my social media feeds with understanding and love. All of them. All of you. That’s what gives me hope.

I said today on Facebook that I was stepping back from it for a bit – just to give myself some space. I am exceedingly lucky that – despite what I’ve heard about the bile that’s been spouted on social media – my personal feed is full of kind, empathetic people. But there’s so much information being shared and so much worry and so much pain – grief even, at this result. And I can’t face it all. I can’t take it all in. I’m like some kind of overused sponge – it’s exhausting me.

So, like I said, I updated my status with a little ‘I’m taking a break but I want you to know you’ve all provided me with so much solace these past few weeks’ kind of thing. And then something lovely started happening – I started getting direct messages and texts from friends. Little “I hope you’re ok’s” and “I know what you mean’s” and “I feel that way too’s”. Wonderful, warm, genuine messages of solidarity and hope. Man, they made me smile. I’d been sending some of my own over the past few weeks but after receiving these ones, I thought I’d up the pace and let more of the people I care about know that I care.

And it’s started to make me feel better. It might not be much, but it feels like something I can actually do. A way of looking to the future with something other than fear. Because it means something, doesn’t it? – to be loving. To be loved.

That’s what I’m focusing on now.

Writing Bubble

 

On similarity, difference and acceptance. Oh, and love.

Last week was a tough one for the world. Things felt heavy and miserable and violent – fuelled by fear and hate. Here in the UK, the EU referendum campaign was (and still is) stirring up huge waves of negative emotion and vitriol and hateful, divisive rhetoric and this rose to a head in the horrific murder of MP Jo Cox last Thursday – an act that left the country reeling.

tulip

I spent Friday in a state of shock. Close to tears a fair bit of the time. Jo Cox was one of the good ones, not just a good MP but – from everything I’ve read – one of the all round good people of this world. And she was taken in such a brutal way… really there’s nothing I can say that hasn’t been said by others… it’s just so horrifically wrong.

Over the weekend, like many others, I read and shared the quote from her first speech in the House of Commons:

“While we celebrate our diversity, what surprises me time and time again as I travel around the constituency is that we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”

I’ve thought about that a lot over the past few days – about what we have in common. Beyond being human, what is it exactly? Because the words and actions of some people make me think we don’t have anything in common at all. I just can’t get my head round the racism and homophobia that have inspired recent acts of violence. Who gives a flying f**k about where people are born, what colour their skin is or which gender of people they love? Why would anyone choose to take against another person based on something like that? If there are people like that in the world, how can humanity have anything in common?

But then, I tell myself, those are just the actions of a tiny minority of people. Most people aren’t like that. Most of us share a common humanity that doesn’t let such feelings fester. Don’t we? So why do we let our differences pull us apart? Why has the EU referendum played out this way? Why can’t we all just respect each other? Is difference really so bad?

I think not, but being drawn to people like us seems to be hard-wired into the human psyche. Being friends with people we have lots in common with is great – it feels so easy and natural. You know that feeling when you just ‘click’ with someone and it’s fantastic? That’s based on similarity, I think, not difference. But you don’t have to agree on everything – that would be impossible. So difference is fine really. We can cope with it between friends… we should be able to cope with it where ever it appears.

And yet, in polite society we have the whole ‘don’t talk about politics and religion’ thing going on – as though if we’re divided on those issues we better keep it to ourselves or friendships will surely crumble. Is this really true though? I mean, I’m a left wing atheist – pretty staunchly so – but I have friends of different faiths and political persuasions. I know in these socially connected times that’s perhaps not saying much though so… ok… one of my close friends (we met at antenatal classes and dragged supported each other through the early days of motherhood so no one can break that bond!) is a church-going Christian. She also happens to be one of the most wonderful, down to earth, kind, funny, thoughtful people I’ve ever met. Who cares if we disagree on whether there’s a God? I mean WHO CARES?!

Another of my very close friends (another NCT class compadre) voted Conservative at the last general election. No biggie perhaps you might think, but I was one of those people who felt bereft at the last election results – just, gutted and, to be blunt, incredulous that anyone could possibly think that a Conservative government was what this country needed. To be even more blunt I was, on election results day, furious that anyone could have voted Tory – seething, poke your eyes out with a sharp stick, furious. But this friend, this lovely friend of mine is just plain awesome. Kind, loyal, empathetic, smart… the sort of friend who turns up with biscuits when she knows you had a bad day and is always full of wise advice and a comforting shoulder.

With both of these  friends, I respect the beliefs they have and the choices they make. I disagree wholeheartedly that there is a God and that a Conservative government is a good thing but that doesn’t mean I can’t love my wonderful friends with just as much wholehearted conviction. I do.

Having said that, we don’t talk religion or politics much – we skirt around the issue – so I’m not truly testing that ‘don’t talk about that!’ thing with these friends I guess. HOWEVER, I do have a friend with whom I disagree politically (on some things at least) and we DO talk about it. A few months ago we actually had a kind of falling out over it. Don’t talk about politics with friends you disagree politically with – you’ll fall out! Well, yeah, perhaps, perhaps not, but if you do, is ‘falling out’ really such a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad thing?

Actually what happened with this lovely friend of mine was that we sorted it out. And in sorting it out we had a big old proper heart-to-heart and honestly, the friendship is better for it. Message from the universe there – talking about and working through differences can be a good thing, a great thing, even – if you let it be. It’s not necessarily easy though. For someone like me who likes agreement and hates conflict, I’d rather keep quiet most of the time. One thing I learned from the Kids Strike is that it’s scary when you actually stand up for what you believe in and wear the badge. People can disagree. People can be offended. People, out there in the big wide world, can even be nasty.

But I reckon if you talk about the stuff you disagree on, and if you can listen to people rather than just wanting to poke them in the eye, there can be real acceptance there – not just ‘I like you because you think the same way I do’ (which, I will admit, is a position I am very fond of in friendship) or even ‘I like you despite the fact you think differently’ but just plain old ‘I like you’. Whatever. Acceptance.

So what am I saying in this rambling post? I’m not sure… but it feels like something has gone wrong with the exploration and acceptance of difference in society at the moment. We need to be able to talk about things without all the negativity taking over. Enough of the horrible polarising hatred. Sure, disagree with people, even have a little fall out if you really must. But for God’s sake make up afterwards. We mustn’t let the disagreements be all that we are. Because we’re capable of more than that and we’re so much better than that, and what unites us… what unites us is love – the capacity to love and be loved and to use that force for the good.

So, I guess this part is for you, my conservative-voting, religiously-minded friends – you go on being you, I’ll go on being me. Maybe we can even talk about those big issues sometimes without the bottom falling out of the world. Let’s listen to that instinct that tells us we are similar regardless of our differences. Let’s just… be.

“We have more in common with each other than the things which divide us.”

Jo Cox, I reckon you might be right.

XXX

#Loveisstrongerthanfear

I drew this picture on Friday and bunged it on social media and it got shared more than any other picture I’ve ever drawn. Ok, that’s not saying that much but even so… love innit?

Writing Bubble