Tag Archives: Brexit

Passing the Buck

I’ve been sitting here in my kitchen, trying to figure it all out, reflect on the momentous events of the last week and make some sort of sense of them all.  I’ve been round the garden and contemplated the weeds (they are taking over, yes they are).  I’ve thought about changing the beds, planning some lessons, but to no avail.  Here I am, stuck in front of the computer, watching the news unfold before my fascinated gaze.

I’m supposed to be writing about the panel debate (click the link for a recording of the debate) I chaired at the Wellington Festival of Education.  I’m supposed to be commenting that of course we all agreed that inclusion, as a concept in our schools, is a tricky one to define, that of course the debate was carried out in a respectful way, and that the panellists were interesting and well informed, bringing a wealth of experience to the fold-up chairs.  Of course they did, I asked them to contribute because I knew that was exactly what they would do.

I’ve got a book to read about bullying, and a blog post to write both in review and as a reflection on both my own behaviour, and the behaviour I see around me.  There’s any number of experiences I have had in school this week which are giving me a banquet of food for thought.  I’ve forgotten non-uniform days and packed lunches, musical instruments and reminders for blazers.  I caught up briefly with a friend after we had dropped our respective children off and before we got on with our days, and agreed that the world, since last Friday morning, has gone bananas.

Now, it might surprise you to know, dear reader, that I do not, in the everyday run of things, engage in much political discussion with my friends and neighbours.  I do to an extent in times of electioneering, I must admit, but not usually.  My friends and neighbours have rolled their eyes at me and smiled in that way that tells me they are not remotely interested and I am in danger of becoming a bore on all sorts of subjects, so I tend to leave it alone, but this week I have been talking politics, with anyone who will listen.  And this is what I found out.

Those people who voted ‘Remain’ in the EU Referendum are upset, angry and confused.  There it is.  I freely admit to being one of these.  About three weeks ago I sat in a café outside the Reijksmuseum in Amsterdam, watching my children play (yes, outside a major museum in a capital city), having travelled all the way from my house by train in a matter of a few hours and enjoyed viewing some of the most fabulous art and bringing my entire family to the point of vocal frustration (WE HAVE HAD ENOUGH, MUMMY!), and thought how happy and proud I was to be a part of it.  I have huddled together with those with whom I know I will agree, and we have bewailed our fate.  I feel as if I have lost something precious.  But, despite the overwhelming screeching on social media, the mood outside of the screen is different.  There is a quiet satisfaction, and a sort of air of, ‘how could you be surprised, Nancy?’

For a while I was pretty sure that when people voted in the referendum, they were really voting on who they thought they were.  Did they see themselves as European, or British?  I was all prepared to write a blog on identity.

And then there was democracy.  Many people who voted Leave, did so on a matter of democratic principle.  They had found out about the workings of the EU and they were not impressed.  Too much like a gravy train, too little like being of the people and for the people.  I was all ready and waiting to come up with a story about listening to each other, and who is actually in charge and not being sure it is the elected representatives.  And after I’d finished writing that one, I was going to think about what this all means for our rather unhandily unwritten constitution.

And then there was trade.  Now, I’m no economist, but even I can see that there are various, and powerful, business interests both in favour and against being part of the EU, for matters of self-interest.  As far as I can see, it depends who you trade with as to which view you will take.  TTIP is in there somewhere, too.

And immigration.  The subject that has caused the greatest ire, the greatest insult, and to me, the greatest despair that such prejudice should be put on show for all to see: legitimised. Such violence on the streets of Yorkshire.  And when it comes down to it, what does the nature of that particular debate say about the UK as an inclusive society? I was not, and I am not impressed.   Not in the slightest.

And that’s before we get to the omnishambles we see unfolding before our very eyes amongst our so-called political elite.

But when all is said and done, the thing that I keep coming back to is this: insulation.  No, not the sort that goes through electrical wires and has been the subject of much discussion in the classroom lately, and not the sort of insularity that has been a subject of debate upon the news, but that which insulates, or disconnects people from the political process, or politics generally.

Up until last week, thanks to my privilege and my economic status, I have only really been directly affected by politics once before, and even then, I escaped pretty much by the skin of my teeth and an accident of birth.  I was depressed by the result of the last general election, but I can afford to console myself that it is only for five years, at the most, and hunker down and ride it out.

But there are many people, some of whom I have talked to this week, who do not share my complacency.  Their lives, unlike mine, are directly influenced by the decisions made by faraway politicians, and last Thursday, they had their say.

And the thing that I think is this (and I am sure that there will be many to tell me that I am wrong, and I am more than happy to listen if that is the case): that we have all been victims of a sleight of hand.  Not only have we partaken in a nationwide leadership campaign of a UK political party (and one that has rather ignominiously bitten the dust only this lunchtime), disguised as a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU, we forgot that it was our domestic politicians who would have made these laws anyway, to keep us from falling off ladders, or poisoning ourselves with carbon monoxide, keeping our homes insulated or any number of regulations that do not affect my ability to work directly, and will not change now that the political landscape has undergone some sort of geographical convulsion.

You see, I have had considerable experience, over the years, not in drafting legislation, but in sorting out What Really Happened, when everyone is pointing the finger at everyone else, attempting to shift responsibility from their own narrow shoulders.  For years, I have been helping young people to see what went wrong and to make amends.  And I think that all the unpopular decisions, about food labelling, buildings, health and safety at work, cuts in spending to the NHS and education, closures of libraries and any number of other acts of ideological austerity enacted by people at home, have been blamed on the faraway scapegoat that is the European Parliament.

‘It wasn’t me, guv.’

Yes. It was.

Beyond the Behaviour

When I was a little girl, my mother used to regularly tell me that she was complimented often on mine and my older sister’s behaviour when we were out and about.  In fact, it became such a part of our family’s myths that I do find myself wondering whether it could be entirely true.  Not to say that my sister and I weren’t complete angels, but still.  I was never sick in the street after my first taste of curry, and she never lost the Red Trousers on the way back from the shops, no.  If you look at pictures of us, two little girls in matching cheesecloth dresses and little white socks (one pulled up neatly, the other somewhat falling down and twisted round) (I’ll leave it to you to decide who was who), you’d have had no trouble believing her.  Butter wouldn’t melt.

I, on the other hand, have never had the pleasure.  These days, now that they are Big Children, no one comments at all (except when they think it’s acceptable to inform me that Sam is an Actual Angel).  When they were little, and I was busy with the pushchair and the toddlers, and they were busy trying to be the first, or getting their fingers stuck in the check-out conveyor belt, most often, people would say to me, with the raised eyebrow that means you’re not quite sure if they are joking or not, ‘you’ve got your hands full.’

And I, struggling with the shopping and the escapee baby, the toddler who delighted in running off and the pre-schooler who seemed to give in to the regular temptation to sit down in the street, whatever the weather, agreed.  I did, indeed, have my little hands properly full.

No one tells you what it’s like, the bringing up of multiple young children.  You think to yourself, after Baby Number One went not to badly and you managed to get them to the grand old age of about two and a bit without too much trauma and difficulty, ‘how hard can it be?’  How much trouble could one, small baby actually cause?

No one tells you about the loss of privacy, the way you can’t even go to the toilet on your own any more, either for fear that the toddler will bash the baby on the head with the duplo, or the toddler and the pre-schooler will follow you into the smallest room, just for a chat.  No one tells you about the way they take it in turns to be ‘challenging’, how, as one turns into the Infant From Hell, the other one will smugly polish its halo.  No one tells you that four o’clock will no longer be the quiet moment when you look around the room, all tidy and everything put away.  And no one tells you about the fighting.

Fighting over who gets to sit in the front seat.  Who gets to ride on the back of the pushchair, who gets to walk.  Who gets to open the front door, and, even, who gets to do anything.  There came a point, when the boys were little and the girl was still, almost, firmly strapped in, that, such was the ferocity of the fighting, I began to wonder at my capacity to take them out of the house on my own at all.

The problem for me, as the woman charged with keeping them alive, was the way that they became so focussed on it.  The fighting.  They couldn’t seem to see beyond their internal competition, so carried away by the sense of their own importance were they that they ceased to care about the world beyond their own conflict.  They would have happily run in front of oncoming traffic, turned themselves into a tragic headline, if only one of them could have been first.  One slip, one mistake, and that would have been that.  It was terrifying.

And tonight, as I consider the news, the news to which I have been glued for the last five days (is it really five days?), I remember my children, locked into their infant battles.  I thought they were grown ups.  I thought they had got beyond that sort of behaviour.