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I’m a whingeing loser, and I’m proud of it.

Yesterday, I wrote an angry letter to a family member. I didn’t send it, because I don’t want to widen a rift that’s already wide enough. Instead, I sent it to a good friend, who agreed, but urged me to post it on Facebook. I didn’t do that either –because I was starting to worry about whether we Remain voters were sounding just as whingy as the Leave camp said we were.

Then that same friend shared a post by Rebecca S. Buck which you should be able to read here. (Rebecca, thank you, I hope you intended this to be shared everywhere).

And I thought, bloody hell, she’s right.

So we were outvoted in the referendum. Does that mean our views no longer count and we don’t get a say any more? “You were on the losing side, so shut up, go home, it’s our country now.” That sounds awfully like a dictatorship, or what an invasion force does to a country. And wasn’t it bits of the Leave campaign spouting rhetoric about being invaded? Oh irony.

Can you imagine the anti-slavers shrugging their shoulders after someone called them nasty names, and going home for a nice cup of tea? Where would we be if the suffragettes had simply simpered when their Daddies patted them on the head saying, “I’m sure it’s not as bad as all that”?

I’m not going to post that letter publicly, because it’s private. But I’m sure as hell not shutting up either.

The Leave vote won the referendum. That’s just the beginning. We do not have to roll over and accept it without another word. We’ve seen in just four days how much Far-Right vitriol has been stirred up. How much damage is being done to our economy. How many of the young generation feel that their futures have been ripped from them. And how many older voters are regretting their decision.

Those who, for whatever reason, did not vote were silent in the referendum. Perhaps they were silenced by feeling alienated and disenfranchised, perhaps it was simple lassitude. Those of us who did vote should not be silenced by angry jibes. We should encourage non-voters to find their voices again, through reasonable and united argument. There are many loud, angry voices, but I like to think that, had the situation been reversed, the Remain camp wouldn’t be accosting racists in the streets and hurling abuse at them. After all, what could we say? “Hey, you….stay?”

Four day ago, like many others, I was frantically googling how to emigrate. Where might I go? Would my partner come with me if I really, really wanted to leave? Could I apply for citizenship elsewhere?

“We’ve got our country back!” they cried. Whose country? It’s not mine. My Britain didn’t look like this, just a few short days ago, with some people yelling abuse at each other in the streets, others afraid to go out today and fearful for their future tomorrow. With families divided and one half of the nation sniping at the other – ignorant – sore loser – racist – naïve.

And I’m really angry about that. I’m not angry with you if you voted Leave (well, maybe I am, but I’ll get over it – you’re entitled to your opinion). I’m angry about what the leaders of the campaigns on both sides allowed this referendum to become. Vicious, personal and divisive, with any reasonable arguments undermined by lies.

So I’m not shutting up. Far from it. To my regret, though I voted to Remain, I didn’t get out there and campaign. Like many, I never believed for one second, not until it was far, far too late, that the Leave vote would win. Perhaps I was arrogant to believe that. If you think so, you’re entitled to that opinion, too.

No, I’m not shutting up. Call me what you like. It’s not over. Can Brexit be blocked by Scotland, or by parliament refusing to vote to engage Article 50? Should it? I don’t know. I signed the petition for a second referendum even though I’m not sure it’s the right thing. My heart longs for it, my head says it’s never going to happen and would plunge us into even worse trouble if it did. My heart won.

I won’t shut up. But because I’m a bit shy, and a bit British, I’ll be not-shutting-up awfully politely. You won’t find me spreading insults and rage across social media. You might find me on a protest march, but probably not shouting and screaming. Oh, but if I come across you in the street bullying someone else because of their race or nationality my manners might slip a bit.

I’ll be signing every reasonable petition I can get my hands on, just in case they can have an effect. I’ll be lobbying my MP to ask her to vote against this in parliament. I’ll be proud to say what I think, even if you disagree with me. And I hope you will, because I’d really like to understand what you believe. And I’m a bit new to this, so if any of you can tell me what else I should be doing, please do.

Don’t any of you shut up either. We need to keep talking to each other.


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Why I’m voting IN

Not long after I was born, my parents’ and grand-parents’ generations voted this country into Europe. I’m deeply grateful to them for doing that, because it meant that I grew up as much European as I did British, even though I didn’t necessarily know it at the time. We don’t, as children, do we? What is, just ‘is’.

But the fact of being part of something that’s bigger than this funny little island, with its over-inflated sense of its own ‘rightness’ is important to me. I don’t think I realised how much until being forced to face the prospect of it being taken away for good.

I understand that there is a lot wrong with the EU. Yes, it’s a bureaucratic monster and needs reform. Yes, it offers opportunity, for those who wish to avail themselves of it, for corruption and miss-spending. And yes, I even understand the concerns about border control and immigration.

Yes, being part of a wider community means that we sometimes have to compromise on what we might want, for the greater good of the whole, or for that of others less well off than ourselves. And yes, it does mean that we have to be prepared to make contributions to others when our concerns closer to home might suggest we’d be better off keeping our wealth to ourselves.

But I truly believe we are better off remaining inside, and putting pressure on our government to work harder to make it work better.

I appreciate why so many people want to pull up the drawbridge. We are not where we feel we should be, as a nation. The years of recession have left us disillusioned, and with a feeling that we’ve been ‘done over’ somehow. We’ve had a succession of weak, subverted governments who have done nothing to engender faith in government at any level, and who have used every opportunity to excuse their own failings by pointing the finger at others – international high finance, the EU, immigrants…

It is a natural response when disappointed, angry, frightened and fearful to pull into one’s own community, whether that is family, town, region or country, and to blame ‘others’. And I fear that is what this country is in danger of doing, to its own great detriment in the future.

Leave aside, for a moment, issues of whether leaving would result in a recession (the signs are that it would) which would probably kill off businesses like mine, or the question of whether it is immigration (from with or without the EU) that is putting pressure on our over-stretched services. Never mind what the true figure is that we pay to Brussels for our membership, and whether it is outweighed by the various economic benefits that we receive in return.

This campaign has left very few involved (on either side) untainted by lies, half-truths and rabble-rousing. A victory for the Leave campaign would mean a tacit acceptance by this nation that that this acceptable in politics, and that thought makes me ashamed of what this country is becoming.

I desperately do not want to live in a country which embraces the kind of politics that Mr Farage, Mr Johnson, Mr Gove and the like have been indulging in over the last few months. And I fear that, should we vote to leave the EU, we would be voting for a future in which they will thrive. A pernicious influence that will drive UK politics further towards divisiveness, xenophobia and intolerance. And, having seen how bad it has already become, that thought fills me with horror.

I’m not going to pretend I think the governments we’ve had recently have been all that. And that’s the other thing that puzzles me about this. By leaving the EU we would be putting more power into the hands of people who are clearly not trustworthy enough to wield it. And yet we seem to be gleefully heading in the direction of: “Here you are, chaps, have it all. You might be corrupt, power hungry t*****s, but at least you’re OUR corrupt, power hungry t*****s.”

I want to be part of a nation that, instead of rolling up its drawbridge, rolls up its sleeves and gets to work to fix problems inside and outside its borders. I want a future in which our multi-national society is still influential in a multi-nation community.

There are many who argue that life was better before we joined Europe. They are entitled to their opinion. Leaving won’t bring that back. And thank goodness for that. I wouldn’t want to return to a world in which women can’t get a mortgage without a male guarantor, where discrimination on grounds of age, sex, race, sexual persuasion, marital status and many, many other factors was not just rife, but de rigeur. It’s not perfect now, but we’ve come a long way, and we have the EU to thank for much of that. I want to retain my freedom to travel freely, and live and work, should I choose to, anywhere in Europe, and for others to have the same freedoms. The ability of EU nationals to come and go enriches our society, our culture, our educational experience and our economy– and by ‘ours’ I mean across Europe as well as in the UK.

Leaving the EU would not curtail the misdirection of funds, or the malign influences of large corporations which seek to do business here whilst avoiding paying their dues. It would not stop the effects of the so-called ‘sharing economy’ (Uber, Airbnb and the like) driving down wages. It would not reverse the overload on the NHS. And it would not magically transform our antiquated parliamentary system into something truly democratic.

If anything, our weakened state would put us further at risk, as we tried desperately to renegotiate trade agreements and keep them interested in our little island. So, whilst some aspects of life may well have been easier before we joined Europe (and let’s accept that life has changed in so many ways, not all of them connected to our EU membership), I’ll predict that in another 40 years, those of us left would be looking back with nostalgia on how good life was “when we were European”. By which time there won’t be that many left to say, “Yes, but remember how it was before that…”

I don’t want to be part of a nation that, in a misguided and misled quest to recapture a mythical golden era of its own greatness, cuts off its own nose to spite its face, and in doing so ruins itself for, probably, the rest of my life and much of the next generation’s. An excess of nostalgia is a dangerous thing.

Mr Cameron yesterday asked the older generation to vote for the children’s future. Sir Bob Geldof went a step further last week and questioned whether people of his generation should even have a vote. I don’t agree with that, obviously. We all have a vote. But there are younger generations of voters who feel that my generation, and my parents’ and grand-parents’ generations, having reaped the benefit of our EU membership, are, now that things are tough (or rather, now that the UK is starting to do rather better than other parts of Europe), about to bail out and leave them to clear up the resulting mess. Somewhat stuck in the middle, I have some sympathy with that view. I can only hope that, come tomorrow, the our electorate will have the sense to vote based on what will make us stronger in the future, rather than clutching at a long-departed past.

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I Was Glad…

…when I got there. By 7pm on a very wet Wednesday in February all I wanted to do was head home and slide into a hot bath. But it was the first rehearsal of the year, and I was committed. So I left the Big Bloke at the Shed, and headed into the storm. Fordwich is the country’s smallest town, and it has some of the narrowest roads, just to remind you on your way through. The small group of singers who had braved the deluge shivered in the old school rooms until we got warmed up.

Then I remembered why I love being a member of a choir. Singing is something that is part of me. It doesn’t necessarily matter what we’re singing (though a bit of Bach usually gives the vocal chords a good workout), there is warmth and delight in being part of a vocal ensemble that feels like home.

Even when, especially when you’re sight-singing, and, getting to the end of a phrase, the only thing you can vocalise is ‘oops’. 16 people arriving at the same place in the music sixteen semi-quavers apart is quite something.

So tonight I Was Glad I’d bothered. Especially when we picked up Parry’s ‘There is an old belief,’ number 4 in the set of 6 motets – Songs of Farewell. I’d never sung it, nor to my knowledge heard it. It’s wonderful. And ok, to start with, we tortured it. No music deserves what we did to it. But then, suddenly, the strange harmonies and odd-cornered melodies began to make sense. There was a moment, on page 4, of ‘oh, so THAT’s where it’sTenebraegoing’. And after that, it was, whilst not exactly easy, something you felt you could sing, really sing, rather than just tiptoe around.

And that’s when your back straightens, your head lifts and your heart starts to beat faster. That is when the rush starts, the same feeling of excitement you get from a good run, chocolate…or, whatever does it for you. It’s probably similar to the feeling that a climber gets, or a racing driver, but without the element of danger. Though I can tell you, the way the stomach drops when you’re in the middle of a chorus, in performance, as it all starts to go wrong, is as close to panic as I ever want to get.

From the audience, as an experienced singer or orchestral player, you can always tell when danger is approaching, as the conductor’s movements become ever more exaggerated and those who, perhaps, had had their faces a little buried in the copies, suddenly begin, one by one, to make prolonged eye-contact. You hold your breath, willing them to hold it together, to get to the other side of the page, to the cadence which will give them a chance to regroup, take a deep breath and head off once more into the subdominant. Or wherever.

When you’re singing, right there in the eye of the storm, your senses sharpen and your attention homes in on the only things that can help. The conductor, the first cello (or whoever is playing something that will help you), the person next to you who you can trust (you hope) to be getting it right. And then, when you get to that cadence, and you’re all in one piece (or even if you’ve all slid down  the phrase and landed at the bottom in a heap), off you go again. At the end – pride, relief, joy, sadness (sometimes), gratitude, delight, exhaustion, thirst…I could write a list that went on for pages. Singing. It’s one of the best things you can do.

There are even studies that prove it’s good for your long-term health (singing for health). More on this another time.

I’ve taken a bit of a break from it, for about five years now. I didn’t realise, until I joined this choir just before Christmas, for Messiah, how much I’d missed it. The best thing about this choir is that it is directed by a friend who I sang with in my University days, and one of my dearest friends is a member. The last 20 years don’t exactly melt away, but there’s an immediate feeling of belonging. That’s got to be good.

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February 20, 2014 · 8:06 pm

First contact

Well, here it is. Here I am. Look at me, Mum, I’m blogging…

What makes us create? Where does it come from, this unstoppable urge to make stuff. Something out of something else. Something out of nothing. Something better. Whether we need to or not. When inspiration strikes, we’re driven to write, paint, sculpt, stitch, build. Or do whatever our creative thing is. It’s a gift, mostly.

But what does a copywriter write about when they don’t have a brief? No client, no brief. Where do you start? It’s a strange feeling, having total freedom to write about whatever you want to.

It’s not a new feeling, of course. As well as having written copy professionally for over ten years, I’m also a creative writer. I’ve got an MA in it, and I’ve done pretty well in competitions for Unbound and in the 2013 Fish Publishing prize. So I’ve shared my work before, event if I haven’t published my novel yet (try, haven’t finished my novel yet). But this all feels a bit, well, public. Just writing something, and putting it out there for anyone to read feels presumptuous. This oh so modern idea that you put yourself, or your thoughts, on the internet for everyone to see jars when you were brought up not to draw attention to yourself. Unless you were invited, of course. Anything else was showing off.

But that won’t do, apparently. So I’m going to try a bit of spontaneous creativity. And then I’m going to share it. And hopefully someone will like some of the things I create, and be inspired themselves (that would be wonderful).

So I don’t know what I’m going to write about yet. Other than stuff that makes me feel like writing. That’ll do for starters.

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