Tuesday, 27 June 2017

A letter to my daughter on her last day of school

My daughter finishes the last of her A level exams today. Her school years have come to an end. I am feeling sad but then I have always been a sentimental mush of a mum. There is so much I want to say to her and I am making this letter public because there must be hundreds of mums around the country this week feeling similar angst.

My Dearest Maelo,
I remember the day you started school at the age of 4. I cried buckets in the lead up to you starting school and cried all day long while you were there on your first day. I wondered how I would feel when you left school one day and that day has come. I have so much to say and my thoughts are jumbled.

Firstly, you know that I will be crying when you walk through the gates for the last time today. This time it will be tears of joy unlike the first time when I felt utter sadness at being separated from you. Then I feared for what the education system would throw at you and that you would be swallowed up by a whole system that left no space for a life at home. Today I will be crying because you have grown, both, academically and personally in the most wonderful of ways.

Those 14 years have always felt like a shared journey. When you started at reception I struggled with balancing work and looking after you even though I worked part-time. Some days I had panic attacks because it all seemed overwhelming. I remember one evening particularly well. We got home and I got into bed with a massive panic attack. You were only 4 and said. "Mama, I am scared". I couldn't get out of bed. You dragged a stool over to the sink and stood on it to get me a glass of water. I was so afraid that you would fall over. Soon after things got better. I am glad that you don't remember that episode because it shows that we made progress.

The first thing we used to do after getting home was to get out a pack of cards or have a picnic in our garden when the weather was good. In winter we watched The Simpsons on TV before tackling homework. Wasn't that a drag but it had to be done!

As the years progressed I not so much as helped you with your studies but also learnt from you. Having never studied British history myself I would listen to you teaching me.  When you reached Year 7 I gave up on helping you with your maths and Science. It was beyond me and you would tease me about my ignorance. I appreciate though how you still sought my advice on  methods of study and choice of question to answer on your project work. We worked as a partnership and still do.

Friends started to fill your time up when you hit your teens. I struggled with this. Suddenly my daughter was not with me at the weekends but it was a joy to see you branching out and carving a place in the world for yourself. Still, your teenage years were a particular challenge to my Asian upbringing. There I was thinking that I had overcome any cultural barriers by bringing up a mixed race daughter but I was wrong. Your skirts were too short, you were going out too much, parties were distractions from your studies and you needed to spend more time cleaning up your room. Most of the time I was right (smug mother) but I acknowledge that I gave you hell unnecessarily some times. I am sorry.

As you have grown up you have become more aware of your mixed race heritage. Being a mixed race child isn't easy I know. You have struggled with conflicting cultural messages and sometimes these have required you to choose right over fun. I don't know whether this has made you a better person. Only time will tell. In the meantime please don't post photos of yourself falling over drunk on Facebook for fear of upsetting my 500 Asian relatives and bringing shame on the family. I can imagine you laughing at this line because you are constantly amazed at how many relatives I have. The funniest moments, for me, that stem from you being mixed race is when you see photos of Asian girls doing 'unAsian' things and exclaim, "Even I know not to do that". When push comes to shove I would put you first above straitlaced Asian values.

We did have some genuinely difficult times like when your father was diagnosed with skin cancer and we had to tell you about it the day you finished your GCSE exams because he had to go to hospital the next day. My heart broke seeing you cry. Your dearest cousin was diagnosed with leukaemia last year. You asked me whether we were cursed. No, we aren't cursed at all. These things happen and, thankfully, both are on the mend now. I have taught you to look at the positive in life while paying attention to the realities of life and I hope you will always remember to view life in a balanced way.

Maelo, you are my heart and my joy. When you leave school after your exam today remember that you have truly done your best in all ways. I look forward to being a part of your next journey as you prepare for life at university. I am thankful that you will be living at home. I am still a mush mum and would have cried crater loads if you had moved away not to mention that your cat would have fared even worse. Dad would have taken to drinking more milk. Neither of us are big alcohol drinkers and it has always made me chuckle when you gasp in amazement at people having more than one glass of alcohol.

Remember your values borne from being a Christian, a citizen of the world, a child of immigrants and a product of being mixed race. Always fight injustice when you see it. Never become right wing. Continue to remember those who have helped you along the way.

The saying that "it takes a village to raise a child" is certainly true in your case. Being a child of immigrants you have had input from friends and relatives across the world. Your aunty, cousins, uncle and 'adopted' uncles from Wales, Ireland and New Zealand wait for news about your accomplishments and help to pick you up when you fall. People in the neighbourhood still refer to you as the 'baby' and those at church are praying for your success.

Go and conquer the world now kiddo.

Lots of love
P/S Can we please stop watching reruns of 'Father Ted'? I hear that 'Love Island' is very popular.


Thursday, 22 June 2017

Make up lessons from a savvy 9 year old vlogger-Minnie Mimi

'Minnie Mimi' is a young sassy 9 year old vlogger giving make up lessons. She is also my lovely niece and I am proud of her creative nature. Watch this space for more coming your way.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Three pivotal moments that seem to have defined Theresa May and they aren't good

The search for answers as to why Theresa May performed so spectacularly badly goes on and will, no doubt, continue to be debated and analysed. In my opinion there were three pivotal moments in the 7 week campaign and these occurred quite close together which led to the Prime Minister's rapid decline in the polls which translated into a crash on election day.

1. On 15 May Cathy, a woman with learning disabilities, confronted Theresa May and told her that she wanted her Disability Living Allowance back and that she wanted someone to help her because she didn't have a carer. Mrs May's response about how much the government was doing for 'mental health' issues clearly demonstrated that she had not grasped the basics of what constituted mental health and what learning disabilities were. Coming across as a Prime Minister who was clearly out of touch, to quote a cliché, she further never gave assurances that welfare benefits would not further be cut.

2.  On 2 June, during a BBC leaders' Q&A, the Prime Minister was asked by a nurse in the audience whether she (the PM) was able to sleep well while NHS staff had to use Foodbanks because of the cap on public sector pay. Theresa May answered that 'there were many complex reasons" and that hard choices” had to be made across the public sector. She further told the nurse that there was no 'magic tree' for pay rises.  Twitter was soon seeing angry tweets about how £435 billion was produced through Quantitative Easing (QE) to save the banks. Others took umbrage at public sector workers being asked to make sacrifices while large corporations escaped having to pay their full liability of taxes.

3. A young woman who had waited 18 months for an NHS appointment over mental health issues told the Prime Minister about the harsh treatment that she had received during a fitness to work assessment. The young woman alleged that she was insulted and that no compassion was shown towards a previous attempt that she had made to commit suicide.

Things don't seem to be getting better post election. Following the fire at Grenfell Tower Mrs May made two visits - one to speak to the emergency services and the other to patients being treated in hospital for fire effects. Both times she did NOT excel and was booed for not interacting with the crowds gathered who consisted of people who had to flee their flats in Grenfell Tower.

What is going on with her? My firm belief is that the Tory government are absolute slaves to the ideology of Neoliberalism and will not deviate from it even if it strips them of their humanity in the most wretched of circumstances. 


Tuesday, 30 May 2017

'Bad Mothers' are everywhere

Most of us have an internalized picture and an accompanying narrative of what a 'Bad Mother' is, ranging from the physical of what she looks like through to what her mothering would comprise of. The 'Bad Mother' is 'othered', not a friend of yours but someone whom you may come across and whom, you think, you would spot immediately.

In reality she is a lot more pervasive than that and the construct of a 'Bad Mother' is an affront to all feminist mothers who strive to have their subjective maternalism recognised.

A book titled: 'Bad Mothers: Regulations, Representations, and Resistance' dissects the stigmatisation of 'Bad Mothers'. It is a collection that considers the 'Bad mother' from different angles and different cultures to create a mosaic of the insidious ways that the 'Bad Mother' label defines mothers and is used to evaluate them, regulate them and punish them within their social worlds. Explanations are offered about the way social constructions are made about mothers that 'turns them' into 'Bad Mothers'.

The writers, Michelle Hughes Miller, Tamar Hager and Rebecca Jaremko Bromwich, are distinguished in their authorship because they go one step back from the label of 'Bad Mother' and demonstrate that it is the "structures, systems, assumptions and discourses" that continue to marginalize, punish and define bad mothers in "ways that go beyond the naïve assumptions about what constitutes a bad mother". In so doing they have turned the concept of 'Bad Mothers' from being a right-wing. neoliberal political issue grab for votes on the backs of mothers to one immersed in structural theory.

A list of mothers tagged as 'Bad Mothers' are as follows: single mothers, working mothers, wealthy mothers, mothers who do not work outside the home, poor mothers and mothers of obese children are only some a few mentioned. The writers are clear that the label does not include mothers whose behaviours cause harm to their children, such as a failure to feed a child, infanticide and inflicting emotional violence.

The journal is thematically divided into sections on: legal and regulatory landscape of bad mothers; the complicity of the medical establishment in the regulation of mothers; media and cultural representations of the 'Bad Mother'; and resistance to the 'Bad Mother' trope.

What I have learnt from reviewing this fantastically informative book is that a collective feminist mothering understanding and pushback is needed to challenge the 'Bad Mother' status otherwise the net will widen to include any paradigm of mothering that is outside the capitalist concept of motherhood.

The book is available from Demeter Press
“Bad Mothers makes a significant contribfrom beution to understanding how the constructed ‘dangerous mother’ continues to trouble major institutional areas such as law, governance, economy, and child protection services in ways that reveal why our society remains invested in marginalizing mothers instead of seriously addressing the numerous, interconnecting obstacles they face in raising children.”
—ERICA S. LAWSON, Associate Professor, Department of Women’s Studies and Feminist Research, University of Western Ontario


A sick UK national media infested with vested interest

I was brought up in the Global South where British media such as the BBC were held in high esteem. In fact, it still is. Listening to the BBC is a mark of an intellectual in many countries there, almost as if it were a badge of cleverness and a show of one upmanship. 

This high regard is held for two reasons: the British were seen as purveyors of truth and honesty largely due to nostalgic colonialism and the BBC World Service (which is a good service); and the British press, judged in sharp contrast to their local government dominated mouth pieces, are seen as 'believable'.  Cue to the present coverage of the UK's general election 2017 with Channel 4 being the only exception.

The Anglophiles would be keeling over if they had the misfortune of watching and following the press coverage closely. Frankly, even local home grown Brits are doing this.

The irony is that Freedom of the Press, as a topic, is taught in Constitutional Law classes around the world where the UK is held up as a shining light for having a free press. An institution that is ever more rapidly being made a mockery of by the press themselves. Consumers of their spoken and written word, listeners and readers in other words, are being fed news that suits the agenda of the media owners. While this has been going on for rather a very long time I am particularly incensed because the biased reporting is especially pronounced over this election. 

Much like during the Cold War when Communism had to be beaten at all cost to preserve the sanctity of Capitalism, it feels as if a 'Cold War of News' is taking place because a left-wing leader, Jeremy Corbyn, is seen as being a credible threat to the establishment. Take the Sky News (another culprit) debate in a 'not face to face televised Q&A' last night. Afterwards pro Tory voters were interviewed rather blatantly and the reporting did not reek of bias so much as to be saturated.  

People's voting intentions is NOT the issue here. The issue is the highly strategised selection of messages and people featured put out of context, a deliberate misreporting of what politicians have said and a hostile and conflictual style of journalistic questioning to convey a strong impression that a particular party is, basically, not worth voting for. 

Here is an example. Who do you think gave the following speech?:

" It is time to secure all loose nuclear materials; to stop the spread of nuclear weapons; and to reduce the arsenals from another era. This is the moment to begin the work of seeking the peace of a world without nuclear weapons..."

The answer is OBAMA on 24 July, 2008, in Berlin. Imagine if Jeremy Corbyn had said this! 

Voters are intelligent people and want a level playing field of facts. Is this asking for too much? I rather suspect it is and that people like me will have to live with an 'Asymmetrical' news stream that is getting worse by the day. A press infested and riddled with mischief and biased intent seems to be the mainstay. 

Even David Dimbleby, a veteran of the BBC, has now spoken out. I rest my case. 


Friday, 26 May 2017

Even Playboy Bunnies will grow old one day

The folly of youth is to think that it is a permanent unchanging state of being without fear of wrinkles, bent spines and people laughing at your advancing age. Some of us may remember being victims of this delusional hallucinatory phase at some stage in our youth but we did not think it to be true all of the time. 

The term 'youth' may be contested with attempts to define its' outer boundaries i.e does it end when you are 21, 25 or later? Whatever the consensus the boundary does not stretch to 30. At the age of 30 you are, of course, young but you certainly aren't 'youth' and you really ought to have learnt by now that nothing lasts forever, not even a pert derriere that looks great encased in the uniform Playboy bunny costume. 
Dani Mather
That is unless you live in the Ga Ga Land of Playboy where women dressed as bunnies claim to be empowered while living in a mansion which has its own Wikipedia entry. Reality must be as further away from this abode as the Easter Bunny is from Christmas. But bunnies, of the two legged sort, aren't immune from other norms of society like the law of the land. 

Cue the Playboy Bunny who has this week been convicted for taking a photo of a naked 70 year old woman in a Gym changing room.

Dani Mather,  Playmate of the Year 2015, who is 30 years old (refer back to what I said in the first para above) took the following photo at an LA Fitness Club and posted it on Snapchat with the message: "If I can't unsee this then you can't either". 
Given Playboy's gift for soft soaping misogynistic messages Dani Mather's message was no different in tone and substance. She not only body shamed a 70 year old but ratcheted up the wickedness of the situation by referring to old age as a misery that must be shared because it is too great a burden to be borne by one person. If this is the extent of the horribleness that Dani has seen to date then she clearly has not been exposed to much. 

Let's not also forget that Dani Mather is a disciple of a 91 year old, Hugh Hefner, owner of the Playboy empire. Given his penchant for nudity in a world which Dani actively inhabits does she actually not anticipate that old age is something that beckons all? Or is it the sight of an old female body that nauseates her?

Dani Mather with Hugh Hefner
The complexities in the mind of this silly woman can only be the result of living in a twisted world of misogyny where the superficiality of it all is traded upon your looks and your pertness. 

Dani, you won't be a young woman forever. You are now old enough to know better. You too will be that lady one day. Now go and educate yourself about feminism. 

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

“Young people should live within their means”

Young people need to fight more than ever for their future and this in itself is an understatement. Almost every sphere of politics contains a cost benefit outcome for youngsters and never have the stakes been so high. Throw a dice up in the air with the words 'housing', 'education', 'work', 'open spaces', 'living costs' and 'political structures' written on it and, no matter which way the dice falls, each issue carries a weight of negative repercussions for young people. 

What is worse is that this six issue list of does not cover all that affects youngsters which is why it is super imperative for them to take ownership of their future through a vote. 

Some days ago I was having dinner with a friend whom I thought shared my political beliefs. I brought up the subject of young people and was flabbergasted when he launched into one of those "when I was young" claiming the high moral ground type anecdote. No doubt we have all heard one of these before. Your grandparents tell them, your parents tell them or, in my case with a 17 year old daughter, I tell them too but the chord of superiority that was evident in my friend's narrative stopped me in my tracks. 

He spoke about how young people want more than they have and are not willing to put the work in to achieve this. I challenged him all the way. His killer line, as he saw it, was "young people should live within their means". This was a killer line, come to think of it, in more ways than one. 

It is a statement that is as loaded as a dead weight sinking into the sea because of its' presumption that young people have an oyster at their feet as opposed to a broken system that has undermined their prospects. Take education for example, there is not a level playing field with schools what with comprehensives receiving a low priority on the political agenda, academies sucking up huge amounts of money and failing too and the possible introduction of grammar schools. 

The education system is being re-landscaped over and over again to create an outcomes based field. By this I mean that whether a young person has attended a comprehensive in a low income area or a grammar school in a posh area their entry into the world of work or further education is decided by a grade system that assumes a level playing field. 

This dystopia is masked quite cleverly by stigma. It deems young people's existence as being unworthy of high political attention. Flash a few pictures of drunken youngsters at raves, brandishing smartphones and dressed in the latest fashion gear and you have a picture that plays to this stigma. 

These scenarios area mask for the reality of youngsters who are struggling to find their way around an education system where head teachers have to beg for money from parents; and for dejected youngsters who have been sold a puff dream of 'independence' but can't get a foot on the housing ladder because there is not enough social housing or because rents in the private sector are too high. The assumption that behind every youngster that there is a set of parents who run a domestic bank from their living room is another mask for the growing poverty that underpins young people's lives. Parents themselves are struggling with a low wage economy which does not leave much money left over at the end of the month. 

This election could be THE game changer for the young. I have a 17 year old daughter. I have a vested interest too in getting the young vote out. She can't vote yet but those who are 18 years old can. Older people have a huge stake in the young vote too. The stakes are high. The solution is to register to vote and get out and vote on the 8th of June. 

There are a number of great organisations listed below which are encouraging the same. Seek their help if you are unsure of anything. Email me even if you wish: ambitiousmamas@gmail.com. 



Saturday, 6 May 2017

A Twitter take on the Trump family

But money can buy you more money at the expense of the masses:

(photo allegedly taken some years ago but Trump properties still trade on the Phillipino market)



Thursday, 20 April 2017

What do you do with a problem like Corbyn?

If ever there was a politician caught between a rock and a hard place it is Jeremy Corbyn. Seldom do you find a politician who possesses those rare qualities that aligns itself with a vision of what politics should be about. Corbyn cares for the vulnerable and needy, subscribes to the 'greater good' principle and dares to confront the social reality of inequality. Despite all this he is still unpopular and is not predicted to take Labour to victory.

So when the election was called on Tuesday 18 February why did Corbyn endorse it? Surely the safest option would have been to have refused to vote in support on the grounds that the Fixed Term Parliament Act 2011 was passed precisely for the reason that Prime Ministers would not be able to call elections when it suited them.

By forcing the Government to wait till 2020 would have given Corbyn enough time to prove that he can (or cannot) be a capable leader. A common defensive argument made in support of Corbyn is that he has not been given the time to prove himself seeing that a lot of his time has been taken up with internal fighting.

But is it as clear cut as that?

Corbyn is a case of 'doomed if you do and doomed if you don't. What this translates into is the fact that if Corbyn had refused to vote in support he would have faced a barrage of criticism under the headline of being an obstacle to democracy, never mind that he would have been following a democratic rule i.e the Parliament Act. People would have been blind to the fact that the PM has called the election to knock the opposition sideways and at such an angle that it would not be able to provide any substantive challenge her.

Corbyn then opts to support the election call and is called a turkey who votes for Christmas. He can do no right. While I do think that Corbyn has problems projecting himself as a leader much of the arguments against him have been media constructs. Like a stuck record the media play and replay the same old arguments such as Corbyn's supposed anti-semitism. He is starved of the oxygen of publicity while other politicians, in comparison, speak drivel and are given an easier time.

As an example, Corbyn is making social inequality a centre point of his election campaign but has not received praise for this even though the evidence is overwhelming that the equality gap between rich and poor is growing bigger by the day. On the other hand other politicians who bring the same topic up are seen as tackling the problem of a social ill.

Jeremy Corbyn is caught between a rock and a hard place if there ever was such a political situation.


Friday, 14 April 2017

A Good Friday prayer by a Liberal feminist mother

Dear Lord, I pray that the sacrifice of your son Jesus Christ will shine a light on the world on how much needs to be done by and for humankind to overcome the hate and prejudice that exists in our world. I pray that wars made in the name of religion will cease bcause your message was one of unity and not division.

When the Alt-Right claim a Judeo-Christian right to spread their message of racial hatred under the guise of 'Patriotism' please bring your light to shine on their vainglorious behaviour. Save those who do not subscribe to such misuse of your name from their intended consequences. Please save us from terrorists who wish to see so much lost.

I pray for guidance and the discernment of our world leaders who see their power base as a private matter and not one that carries enormous implications for people in every part of this globe that you made. May those who brainlessly cheer on these demagogues come to quickly realise that the phrase 'and then they came for me' applies to them too.

I pray for the children who suffer from terrorism, state sanctioned acts, state sanctioned retributions, poverty and abuse. You always implored Christian to seek and protect those who are most vulnerable. Children in the middle east are dying everyday. Children in western countries are suffering the effects of neoliberalism that favours the rich.

I pray for the safety and equality of women everywhere. Rape is a weapon of war and a weapon of the denigration of women. In the Western world rape happens in places where women are meant to be safe like in universities and in well lit roads. Your son revealed himself on the third day to a woman. It was a woman who was given the first privilege of proclaiming the rise of Christ. I pray for the equal status of women to be recognised and honoured in a big way.

Lastly, I pray that war will not break out in Asia, on the borders of Eastern Europe or anywhere else while our world leaders preen and strut and play golf knowing that no matter what happens they and their families will be safe, but not the rest of us.


Thursday, 23 March 2017

Please remember that Brown skin per se does not equal terrorism

Firstly, I feel a deep sadness over the death of all those who were victims of today's atrocities in London. There is a collective sense of grief and outpouring over what has happened. Soon we will learn of the names of the victims. The tragedy of today will take on a personal slant. Ordinary men and women who were going about another ordinary day which, tragically, turned out not to be any such thing. 

In fact, the name of the police officer who was stabbed to death has been released - Keith Palmer aged 48 who was a father and husband. 

RIP Keith Palmer
I often go into Parliament and Port Cullis house and I am always struck by how friendly and professional the police and security people who work there are. My daughter who is often with me and loves going into Port Cullis house was expressing her sadness too because she has a long memory of how the police officers would give her a big smile and indulge in chat with her when she was little. 

My singular hope in the aftermath is that latent prejudice, overt racism and the viewing of all ethnic minorities as potential terrorists does not become a side show that threatens to deviate from today's tragedy. I have experience, you see, to speak of. 

Good old Katie Hopkins can always be counted on to make a situation worse
In 2005 on the 7th of July when London was struck by a series of bombs which killed 52 people (I am not including the four suicide bombers) people like me became pariahs overnight. 

On the morning of 8 July I got on the train and people gave me hard stares. I got on the bus and the person sitting in the next seat got up and moved away. I traveled the 15 minute journey sitting in a two-seater on my own in a crowded bus. No, it wasn't my imagination. There were other incidents too. 

This is what happens, the sequence of events. Terrorist incident happens in Western country. It is perfect fodder for the angry who look for a scapegoat. Often these angry people belong to the right or the far right on the political spectrum. These angry folks brand those who fight against the ensuing racism as 'liberals, leftards and bleeding heart liberals'. As the days go on the rhetoric gets bolder. The tone and volume is ratched up. Those who didn't feel brave enough before now feel bold enough to label all ethnic people with Brown skin as potential terrorists. 

Taken from Twitter today
So when tomorrow dawns and the initial shock has faded and the full horror of the situation is unveiled please remember that Brown skinned people will feel the same as anyone else. Terrorists come in all colours too. 


Tuesday, 21 March 2017

'Mummy looking at mobile' syndrome

'Greet your child with a smile not a mobile' is a message that a school in Longlands, Middlesbrough, has placed on its' gates. The head of St Joseph's RC Primary School, Elizabeth King, has stated that the message is a "simple way" to develop speaking and listening between youngsters and their parents. 

I would say that it requires a lot more than a 'simple way' to get parents off their mobiles to pay attention to their children. While I hate being judgmental one cannot deny that there is a noticeable tendency for parents outside the school gates, in cafes and restaurants, on buses and tubes and even while strolling to be engaged on their phones for a length of time. 

Checking messages and replying is one thing but to be protracted about it is another. 

My daughter is now 17 and I didn't have a mobile till she was about 7 years old. As a result, I don't know whether I would have been a victim of the 'mummy looking at mobile' (i have made this phrase up) syndrome. I don't want to be 'holier than thou' in anyway but there is something galling about seeing children wanting their parents attention and not getting it especially if it's being done in a social setting like in a cafe or restaurant. 

Singling parental actions out as misdemeanors is always a tricky one because, understandably, we don't live in a nanny state and parents, especially mothers, do need some time to attend to their own needs in a tech fueled world.  

My point of reference is the fact that children grow up so quickly. 

Your little one soon becomes a teenager (and won't want to know you) and then the world of university or work beckons. Perhaps it is my angst over my daughter growing up that makes me angry about other parents wasting precious time over things that do not need immediate attention. I may also be judging parental actions based on a snapshot of their lives. 

Whatever the reason I do think that a starting position of realising that you will not have your child's attention forever is a point to always bear in mind. Make the most of your time together.


Friday, 17 March 2017

Good night's sleep - Restless Legs Syndrome=Bad Night's Sleep

The rare elusive concept that is otherwise known as a ‘good night’s sleep’ is so vital to our well being that it even has its’ own commemorative day. Today is ‘World Sleep Day’.  

But If I had a choice everyday would be a sleep day because having a good night’s sleep is a rare commodity when you have a condition or state of mind that results in restless nights. In my case I suffer from ‘Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)’. It’s a little known about affliction but, for sufferers, it is a huge recurring nightmare.

RLS, also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, is a common condition of the nervous system. It causes an overwhelming, irresistible urge to move your legs.It can also cause an unpleasant crawling or creeping sensation in the feet, calves and thighs. The sensation is often worse in the evening or at night. Occasionally, the arms are affected too.

The result of having RLS is that the sufferer cannot lie down to go to sleep because of the impossibility of keeping their legs still. 

I have suffered from RLS for over 20 years now. The extent of each attack and frequency of these attacks has increased over the years to the extent that I wonder whether I will ever get a night's sleep at all in the coming years. 

I can never predict when it's going to happen to me. I worry all day long whether I will have an attack that night. The crunch time, for some reason, is about 9pm. The attacks start with a creeping sensation in my arms, it spreads down my legs and finally reaches my feet. I then have to keep walking around and kicking my legs to deal with the restlessness. 

Sometimes the attacks start during the day but this is rare. I have had a few attacks that have lasted all night till about 6am. Going to work after an hour's sleep is really hard because I wake up with a thumping headache and cannot think clearly. Most of the time my attacks last till about 2am. 

This leaves me feeling drained and I often start yawning from about 12pm. I cannot even sit at the computer or sit on a chair to read a book while the attack is ongoing because constant movement is needed to deal with the restlessness. 

Recently I was so tired after a string of bad nights that I was actually falling asleep while walking around my home. I felt like a zombie statuette. 

RLS interferes with my social life tremendously. When I go to the cinema I often have to get up from my seat and walk to the back of the cinema so I can keep moving around without disturbing other patrons. The same with going to the theatre too. I take the tube more often than the bus because it is easier to stand up and keep moving about in a tube. 

I have to factor RLS into my everyday life in a way that is prohibitive. I wish I could find a magic cure. I suppose I have to be grateful for the fact that there is a lot more information about RLS now than 18 years ago when I fell pregnant and suffered horrendous attacks. I now know that pregnancy often triggers the worst cases. 

There are various reasons as to the causes of RLS. For further information click here

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

When a mother is raped while out with her toddler we need International Women's Day

While we celebrate the victories of women on International Women's Day let us not forget that there are still reasons as to why we need a dedicated day to raise awareness of the constant dangers that women face. 

A mother who was out walking by the sea in Redcar with her toddler was raped. They were abducted and forced into a car by two men in broad daylight. It is a story that makes me want to weep for so many reasons. 

Firstly, the fact that she was with her child raised no pricking of conscience in the two men. What possesses such depraved human beings to ignore the basic decencies of society? 

Secondly, that the toddler, presumably, witnessed the rape and will probably suffer trauma for a long time. 

Thirdly, the mother's uphill struggle now in coping with her own rape while comforting her child and ensuring that no lasting damage is done to the poor little mite. I feel so very sorry for both them. 

For as long as mothers are harassed, raped, become victims of domestic violence and many more feminist mothering will be relevant as a weapon against male dominance. 

The Greek Files

When citizens of a country are called upon to sacrifice more and more of their liberty, quality of life and dignity the only words to describe the situation, to use a cliché, is ‘Greek Tragedy’, and a protracted tragedy it is too. 

For the last seven long years the Greek people have been living under reduced circumstances in a sort of puppetry existence where the rules of their lives have been dictated by an alliance called the Troika – the European Union, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Central Bank. 

More recently the IMF has started to change the tune to which Greek people and their politicians have been forced to dance to. It is calling for Greece to be granted debt relief but all this may be too late. Pensions have been cut 12 times since the financial crisis started. Creditors are demanding more cuts even though there are well documented hardship cases of pensioners scrounging through bins for food. 

In 2015 and 2016 there were shortages of vital medicines as pharmacies struggled to meet demand with a diminished supply. There is a brain drain as educated people flee in search of jobs and a standard of living that is unfettered from the top down political harshness Greece is experiencing. 

A particular defining moment in the Greek crisis occurred in June 2015 when the European Central Bank shut Greek banks.
DiEM25 launches #TheGreekFiles, a campaign to support a freedom of information request for legal documents on the ECB’s closure of Greece’s banks in 2015

The former well known finance minister for Greece, Yanis Varoufakis, has been requesting access to the information on why the European Central Bank acted as it did. Because this has not been forthcoming a Freedom of Information (FOI) request will be filed by Yanis and the Die Linke member of the European parliament, Fabio De Masi, on 8 March in Brussels. 

The questions that they are seeking answers to are as follows; 

Did the European Central Bank (ECB) act within its mandate when it shut down Greece’s banks in June 2015? 

Were the ECB’s actions that led to the imposition of capital controls in Greece legal? 

A livestreamed press conference will be held on Wednesday, March 8 at 10am CET at the European Parliament in Brussels. 

For more information please click here. 

For further information on the background to this FOI please click here

This move is being supported by DiEM25,  a pan-European, cross-border movement co-founded by Yanis who want the EU to be reformed. Please consider joining DiEM 25 and supporting this initiative if you believe in a united Europe that ought to be transparent and democratic. 


Monday, 6 March 2017

I am hosting a free movie screening on International Women's Day in London

On International Women's Day, 8 March, I am hosting a free screening of a 1926 Russian made movie called 'Mother'. The film is set during the time of the Russian Revolution and the plot is as follows:

The mother of Pavel Vlasov is drawn into the revolutionary conflict when her husband and son find themselves on opposite sides during a worker's strike. After her husband dies during the failed strike, she betrays her son's ideology in order to try to save his life. He is arrested, tried in what amounts to a judicial farce, and sentenced to heavy labor in a prison camp. During his incarceration, his mother aligns herself with him and his ideology and joins the revolutionaries. In the climax of the movie, the mother and hundreds of others march to the prison in order to free the prisoners, who are aware of the plan and have planned their escape.   

'Mother' will be screened in The Cut, Waterloo, London at http://calderbookshop.com// from 7pm to 9pm. The evening will include a discussion by a Marxist scholar. Please email me, Jane Chelliah, at ambitiousmamas@gmail.com to reserve a place. 


Saturday, 4 March 2017

Celebrating International Women's Day starts at home

The global nature of International Women's Day does not require a global action to make it a day of celebrating women's achievements. Sometimes actions taken in your 'own backyard', figuratively speaking, can help launch a myriad of ways and means which contribute towards showcasing what we can do to raise the profile of women's issues.

I chose to hold a women's evening in my home and invited women who, mainly, did not know each other but whose lives, I thought, would be enriched through meeting each other.

I also invited a friend, Kirsten Bayes, a numero uno activist who is part of the network of speakers with the Campaign Against the Arms Trade to give us a talk. Women and children are disproportionately victims of war in which the deployment of arms is the whole means of causing death, destruction and serious injury. Any act of harm against women and children is a feminist issue.

Jane Chelliah, me, on the far left and Kirsten Bayes seated in the middle 

So often wars are fought in the name of women and children under the guise of 'keeping them safe'. However, a huge proportion of war casualties are women and children. Is this a paradox? Yes it is because if wars were fought for the protection of women and children then we would not be viewing on our TV sets news items on the thousands of women seeking refugee status everyday, all year round and year after year.

Rape and war prostitution are common place evil acts in war torn areas. Sometimes rape is used as an alternative weapon of war. The gendering of war is a harmful act that makes women victims.

The penis of the male war monger is a weapon of female destruction. 

Campaigning against the arms trade is, therefore, a feminist issue. The war in Yemen, as an example,  is still ongoing while children are dying of famine. A cost benefit analysis would surely conclude that hungry and dying children are too high a price to pay.

As feminists any action that we take is a building block towards the global betterment of women's lives.  

Women's International Day is being celebrated on 8 March. If you fancy holding an event to mark the day remember that you need only do small things to make a big impact - think about micro level  actions that will challenge and shine a light on global macro problems. Serve food and drink and make sure that the conversation is flowing and is focused on women's issues.


Sunday, 26 February 2017

Children with disabilities take on the world of modelling

The disconnect between the mainstream image and reality of the modelling world being dominated by able bodied zero sized models and the faces and abilities of everyday human beings is being challenged. The challenger is a modelling agency called  Zebedee Management which is representing children and adults with disabilities as the contemporary faces of the profession.

About time too, I say, because since the Paralympics that took place in the UK in 2012 there has not been a game changer in the world of disabilities. The Paralympics represented a huge step forward in the portrayal of people with disabilities as having numerous abilities. That force for change does not seem to have kept its' momentum but, while it is difficult to replicate the grandiosity of the Paralympics, small steps can be made in different spheres of life.

Zebedee's work has the potential to change mindsets and challenge mainsteram views of the modelling world by providing us with alternative images. 

Zebedee was set up by a Laura Johnson, a social worker , together with her sister in law, Zoe Proctor, who currently runs a performing arts studio for those with learning disabilities.

“We need more plus size models and there are nowhere near enough older people represented on the catwalk, but the real omission is people with disabilities", Laura explains. 

Laura recognises that there are prejudices and barriers in getting disability recognised in a profession rife with airbrushing, zero size and racism.

She is under no illusion that it may be difficult to persuade retailers, designers, production and advertising companies to use Zebedee's models but she does feel that it is about time that having models with disabilities in campaigns became the norm. The demand is most likely to come from casting briefs requesting 'real' people.

Laura further explains that "Casting agents are often undertaking street castings so I don't see why people with disabilities can't be included. There is encouragement coming from the fact that the retailer, Teatum Jones, used some models with disabilities in their show at London Fashion week this year."

"The government minister for disabled people was calling on gaming, fashion and media industries to increase the representation of people with disabilities, so in that respect we have the backing of government. In addition, there has been a lot of discussion around getting more people with disabilities into paid employment - and this is what we hope to do... create opportunities for people with disabilities.I know that it is going to be difficult, but me and Zoe are so passionate about this, we are going to work really hard to make it happen!!"

I, for one, am sick of seeing the same old model faces modelling outfits that seem completely unwearable at prices that I can't afford even if I were to hawk my granny off. So here's wishing Zebedee Management all the very best in bucking the trend.

Zebedee Management can be contacted at zebedeemanagement@gmail.com . If you are hoping to become a model please send in three or four clear photographs.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pg/zebedeemanagement/photos/?tab=album&album_id=396992937320434

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

One American woman's Journey from Conservativism to Liberalism: thoughts on religion and racism

The following is a guest blog post from an American woman, Christine, living in London for whom Donald Trump's presidency has been a life defining moment. I met Christine recently and while we were having a chat it dawned on me that her story will resonate with many Americans who must be having similar introspections. 

I believe that everyone has an interesting story to share, if only we take the time to listen. It may be one of the reasons I became a social worker. So today, I would like to share a little bit about my story with you.

I grew up in the US with both of my parents, and my brother who is 6 years younger. My family originally lived in an old steel town just outside of a major city. However, following my parents’ separation, my mom, brother and I moved to another area. I should explain that in the US, you attend the local public school according to your address unless your family pays for private school. 

I was really upset with my parents for selling our house, and for having to leave my friends in order to move to a new school in the middle of 4th grade (age 10). My first elementary (primary) school was quite diverse, with a student population about 50/50 white and African American. 

So my first thought when entering my new predominantly-white elementary school was “where are all the black kids?” 

I thought maybe they were hidden somewhere. I spent the rest of my schooling in this district, and while there were some minority students, I can imagine that it was a challenge as they stood out. Two of my friends were mixed race sisters but,at the time, we never talked about what it was like for them being two of the handful of minority students in our high school (secondary school). Thankfully, I never witnessed any racially motivated bullying. It was only later that I learned my mother chose our new home, in a mostly suburban and semi-rural area, intentionally.

Apparently there was a lot of what my mom called “racial tension” in our hometown, and she wanted us to grow up outside of that. But the reality is that our old steel town experienced a significant economic hit at the time and this led to rising poverty and crime. Looking back now, I think my parents may have been uncomfortable with minorities and may even have blamed them for the issues in the area. 

My mom’s parents were from the South, in the heart of Appalachia. Mom was very clear about her awareness that her parents were racists. She had had an experience after a school dance when her parents weren’t happy that she was socialising with some black students. 

I always thought that in the case of both my grandparents and my parents, their ideas about race were based on ignorance and fear but that my parents could acknowledge that racism is wrong.

During my parents’ separation, my mom started taking us to church. They later reconciled and my dad moved home when I was about 13. I embraced the Christian faith for myself during this time but, unfortunately, the church we attended was very legalistic. 

For those not familiar with this term, it essentially amounts to individuals trying to force their own personal convictions onto everyone else as biblical mandates. Personal convictions are meant to address an individual’s own area of weakness. What resulted was a great deal of a “religious” facade that adults in the church presented when, in reality, hearts were very far from practising actual Christian principles. There was judgement for things like dancing, and the pastor even made an argument for why people shouldn’t have the internet in their homes. The hypocrisy between church members’ words versus their actions was unbearable to me.

When I reached adulthood and went off to university, I chose a Christian university 8 hours away from home in another state. It was where I needed to be at the time, and definitely helped me to identify religious legalism when I saw it. The social work programme was really amazing, and one professor in particular really inspired the idea of cultural competence in my professional practice. 

This and my group of friends at the time led to a lifetime love for learning about and enjoying other cultures: everything from the food, to the music, the language, fashion, social norms, etc. Along with this, one of my biggest passions has always been social justice. Learning about other cultures has helped me to understand how injustices have occurred around the world and impacted vulnerable populations, particularly throughout modern history and into the present.

When it comes to politics, my Christian upbringing in the States meant that I usually fell right-of-centre. 

I voted Republican plenty of times, although I was always unhappy with both of the major parties and constantly changed my party affiliation depending on who was running in which election

I should explain that in my home state, the primaries held earlier in an election year only allow a voter to choose a candidate from the party one is registered with. 

My parents have always been solid Republicans, and seem to have drifted further and further right as time has passed--perhaps because they watch Fox News. 

Nearly everyone I went to church with (white, middle-class Americans) would almost always be Republicans and therefore politically conservative.

In 2009, I was recruited by a Local Authority’s Children’s Services in London. Having been looking for a new job for over a year following a long period of burnout in my work, I was anxious for a change of scene and took up the opportunity to move to another country.  As you may have discussed with anyone who has moved to London, the amazing multicultural aspect of this great city has been one of the key things that have kept me here.

Although it wasn’t in my plans, I met a charming Muslim man and we started dating. 

I had always wanted to marry a Christian guy with similar beliefs to myself, and wasn’t prepared to change this particular conviction. In the end, I did and we were married in 2011. We have a gorgeous little girl who gets the benefit of a multicultural environment at home and at school.

As you might expect, my views about Islam have certainly changed since I met my husband. This is mostly because I didn’t know much about it before he came into my life. I understand a lot more now about politics and sectarianism in the Middle East. In the meantime, my political views have changed as I differentiate between my conservative moral views as a Christian and conservative political leanings in the role of government. I have also seen how the Tory leadership has single-handedly destroyed the effectiveness of Local Authority social services, which is a massive injustice to a disenfranchised, vulnerable population in which minorities are overrepresented. 

Im now left of centre on the political spectrum and, of course, I still feel very strongly about social justice. 

I also have a much better understanding of racism in the present, and how my own biases have impacted my views in the past.  It’s not so much a debate about the “wrongness” of racism, but of recognising it when others dismiss it as something else entirely.

My parents were certainly surprised at my choice in partner, but they presented with acceptance. My mom has been to London several times to visit us, but my dad hasn’t met him in person. In the first few years, dad was convinced that my husband was keeping me captive to prevent me from travelling and would someday kidnap me and move to Lebanon.

In reality, it was my husband’s immigration status which kept us from getting a passport for our daughter. So I didn’t go home to visit the US for about 4 years. When we were finally able to sort this out, my daughter and I visited twice in 2016. In the meantime, my dad was finally able to have a conversation with my husband over Skype, and dad seemed to be won over by how much my husband loves me.

However, I was really thrown when discussing the 2016 election with my mom.  

I was completely shocked to learn that my parents supported Donald Trump once he got the nomination.  

We have differed on political views for a long time, but I thought that surely they were intelligent enough to not fall for his lies and that their moral views would turn them off to his obvious corruption, let along his misogyny, racism, xenophobia, etc.  So mom and I had exactly one conversation about this before the November election before it became an off-limits topic. I was disgusted when my mom posted a photo of my dad wearing a Trump t-shirt on Facebook. I have never seen them support a candidate this strongly before.

I was also really surprised at the number of (white) evangelical Christians who voted for Donald Trump. 

It’s as if all people cared about was to stick to party affiliation. Their defense of him is absolutely disgusting and reprehensible. I’m happy to say that many of my own friends back home who fall into this demographic did not vote for him and openly speak out against his nonsense.

My daughter and I went home for Christmas especially to see my new nephew. I noticed that my dad immediately shut off the television when there was a report about police brutality against a black person and I made a comment about it. His reaction implied that he didn’t believe this is a real issue. Later during our stay, the issue of Trump’s proposed Muslim Ban came up and my mom insisted that he wouldn’t do it because, “it’s illegal.”

So fast foward to about 2-3 weeks ago. I couldn’t stand not talking about this issue with my mom, given everything that has happened and all the insane things that Trump has already done and said. So I tentatively brought it up by asking if she still supported him. To my horror, my mom said that she did. When I asked what exactly she supported about what he’s doing, she replied “everything.” 

This was after the Muslim Ban had gone through. I then tried to explain why I felt we couldn’t return to the US to visit them until after this is settled (and hopefully he is out of office), as I posted on Facebook about it. She cut me off, which is totally out of character for her, got a terrible edge to her voice and said “that’s your choice.” I was crushed. Completely devastated. I ended the conversation and haven’t spoken to her since.

For the record, of course my daugher and I could go to the States any time. 

I simply don’t want to visit the US without my husband yet again. I want us to be able to travel together as a family. 

Although my husband’s country is not included in the (currently suspended) travel ban, I was already on edge about the idea of trying to get him through US immigration. He has a very obviously Muslim first name and would be travelling on a passport from his home country. I think there’s a pretty good chance he would be stopped, if not detained, given the current climate under Trump. There is no way I would put him through that, nor let my young child witness that. So for me, it’s not a “choice” as my mom puts it so much as a sensible need to keep my family safe.

Trump’s rise to power, and the continued support from his party in Congress, has been absolutely traumatic to me. 

To see my country divided, and right on the brink of fascism, is so shocking. 

Not only is it infuriating but I also have to grapple with my own family. Their stance is a source of tremendous shame. I’m frustrated that my attempt to discuss it with my mom failed so miserably. Their particular support of the Muslim travel ban (let’s face it, that’s what it is) communicates a very clear message to me that my parents’ acceptance of my husband has been superficial and obligatory all along. 

They may not have meant it that way, but their failure to speak out against the Trump/Republican racism and xenophobia, to even acknowledge it, is incredibly painful. 

Although I don’t believe that every Trump supporter is racist and/or xenophobic, I have suddenly come to terms with the likelihood that my parents are indeed racist and xenophobic. I could previously accept our political differences but I cannot accept this as it is deeply personal and so far beyond politics. 

I have no idea how things are going to get better from here in terms of my relationship with my mom, because there is absolutely no acknowledgement about the impact of Trump’s policies on my own family (not just my opinion). But it breaks my heart to think that my daughter might not be able to continue the same relationship with her grandparents that she has had up until this point.

I do have hope that things will get better on the larger scale, however. I’m getting more involved with events that are happening around London in response to both the US and UK politics, and it’s been a joy to involve my daughter as well. I’ve needed it for personal reasons in addition to wanting to do something about social injustices. We attended the Women’s March in January along with the march against the Muslim ban earlier this month.

I feel that given the state of things, the words of Desmond Tutu apply now more than ever: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”  

London mum and social worker
P/S Jane, author of this blog, and I are hoping to start up a women’s group for mums who want to get involved to make a difference in their local communities. We’ll be attending the Stand Up to Racism march on 18/03/17 alongside a few other mum friends. I hope to see you there. Let us know if you want to join us specifically under the banner of Mothers Against Racism.Please email Jane at ambitiousmamas@gmail.com