But some, as my friend Maggie put it the other day, “make it really fucking hard.”
I haven’t written on here for some time. For this, I’m sorry. But there’s so much hatred in the world at the moment (isn’t there always?) that it feels like we’re overflowing with it and I have to write about it or explode.
Orlando. Pulse nightclub. What can I say that hasn’t already been said by dozens of people before me, all over the world? I’m not gay, but some of my friends are. If our laws here in the UK were different, would I have been through what the people of Orlando are going through now? Would my heart be bleeding constantly? Because we can kid ourselves that we’re not so bad, that things are different here, that being gay isn’t such a ‘problem’ here as it is in the God-fearing United States. But make no mistake. We are kidding ourselves. You only have to look around to see that. UKIP. The BNP. The EDL. These are not openly anti-gay organisations, but the two go hand in hand. Nationalism, however, is not the same as national pride and being thankful you were born in what considers itself to be a free country. (Even though I still think that’s a mistaken attitude. We do not have a completely free press in this country – just check out rsf.org and look at the annual press freedom index.) And just because we have certain freedoms now doesn’t mean we’ll always have those freedoms. Freedoms gained are hard fought-for and can just as easily be lost. Or, depending on your way of thinking and voting, relinquished.
You can no doubt see where I’m going, here, and it’s probably pretty clear what my views are as regards the EU. I have many, many friends who are not from the UK but who live here. I can easily go to France just because I feel like it, without too much bother. I have friends there, too, without whom my life would be much the sorrier. UKIP scare me. The Conservatives scare me. But you know what else scares me? Apathy. Gullibility. People falling for the lies they’re fed like good little subjects, thinking, genuinely thinking, that they’re thinking for themselves when what’s actually happening, in my opinion (quick disclaimer), is that they’re being spoon fed whatever it is the powers that be want them to believe.
There is evidence that it’s possible not to believe everything we’re told. Many of you know about my eternal gripe with Southern Rail and their appalling service, the worst I’ve ever known in four decades of travelling by train (I don’t drive). And people are finally sick of it. Everyone has had enough. The planned protests prove that. Whether or not Southern will lose their franchise after this, who knows? I hope they do. My guess is there’s someone at the back, hiding, taking backhanders to make sure the higher-ups keep their positions, whether or not people’s lives are negatively affected by their decisions. In an article I read on the subject, one unfortunate person has already been fired for continually being late for work – Southern’s fault. Completely Southern’s fault. I’ve been known myself to not go training some evenings in case I get stuck halfway to or from London. I don’t trust them. Mostly, I risk it, but believe me, it is a risk. People are shouting about it. At last.
But we need to keep shouting. We need to keep getting angry. Because we may think some of these – most of them, in fact – don’t affect us directly. I’m not gay, for instance. Neither am I a person of colour. But I am female, and that brings its own problems. Besides which, someone who hates gay people (why, for fuck’s sake?) is far more likely to also have a problem with equality for women. They’re also (I believe there are statistics to prove it, and I’m sure the RSPCA will have the figures) far more likely to think nothing of being cruel to animals. To think it’s OK to drop litter in the street. To squash a harmless beetle. To put poison on the garden. To chop down a tree because it’s “in the way”. To think their lives are far more important than those of others, and especially those who are not like them. This includes, of course, animals. Even chimps and orangs, who are so close to us as to almost be human themselves. More, perhaps, when you consider how some people treat each other.
I confess: I’m afraid for the future of Britain. There is far too much racism, bigotry, hatred and fear of what is conceived to be the other. And you know what? I consider myself in that category of other. I’m a woman; I’m a pagan (some might say a witch); I think the environment is far, far more important than my own convenience; hell, I take my litter home (if it’s recyclable) or put it in the nearest bin (if it’s not). I’ve been known to miss a ferry back to the mainland while I waited for the RSPCA on the Isle of Wight to rescue a pigeon entangled in wire at a train station, to puzzled stares from those who thought it was “just a bloody bird and vermin at that”. I even (gasp!) hug trees. In public! I’ve been considered, for some years, to be “a bit weird”. Thing is, I can live with that. I’m even proud of it.
Because I don’t want to be one of these people who value money over everything else. Who think their right to own a home is more important than keeping enough green space that we actually have somewhere for the wildlife to go. Who keep track of their business assets and shares (even when the companies they have shares in have – in my opinion – questionable morals and integrity), at the expense of everything else. I don’t want to be one of these people who think it’s important to be so busy, for fear of being thought lazy, that they “don’t have time to cook”. Who think their right to eat meat is more important than the welfare of the animals they eat (and remember, I’m not a vegetarian any more, so no one can accuse me of being one of the crazies, though they likely will anyway and you know what? Fuck them – Disclaimer: I do not think vegetarians are all crazies – I was one myself for more than 21 years). Who think getting rid of insects is a higher priority than having clean, non-poisonous food that won’t end up filling you with toxins that may, eventually, fucking kill you.
Instead, I’m one of those people. The freaks who think reading for pleasure is the way to empathy; who think kung fu is a cure-all for anything you might be able to imagine (it practically is); who loves to dance to fiddle music and will bowl up to the musicians after a gig and make sure they remember me next time; who’s not afraid to ask questions, even if they seem silly; who spends hours and hours and hours with my nose in a book; and who would far prefer to go around in bare feet than wear shoes; who thinks traditional cloudy, heavy, non-fizzy, strong cider is superior to the stuff you can buy in supermarkets; who hates supermarkets and will avoid them at all costs; and who prefers to grow food and pick it fresh from the garden – when I can – than buy it from a shop.
I’m a hippy, Earth Mother type, well used to people taking the piss out of me. But you know what? I can go to sleep with a clear conscience. If there’s a hedgehog in the garden, I squeal a bit and celebrate; a bug, I get up close, scrutinise it, then leave it alone (or move it somewhere safer); I mind my own business when it comes to other people’s sexualities. Being gay, or black, or Chinese (or whatever ethnicity or nationality) never means I won’t be your friend. Quite often, in fact, the exact opposite happens. I’m drawn to what other people deem other. I consider myself – though I’m aware not everyone will agree – to be a nice, kind person. The only trouble with that position is that I expect other people to treat me the same way, and it doesn’t always happen. And I lost faith in the human race as a whole long ago. I have a friend who’s an orang utan. Her name is Hsiao Ning and she lives at Rostock Zoo now, but while she was growing up at Monkey World in Dorset, we used to have a great time together. I miss her. I miss her far more than I miss some humans who are no longer in my life. You think I’m kidding? You don’t know me at all.
This Tory government scares the fucking shit out of me. They don’t care about the likes of me or my family. Or anyone who’s not like them. And yet people fall for their lies. The idea of leaving the EU terrifies me. There are good points made both for and against leaving, but my fucking gods, I know which way I’m going to vote on the 23rd.
But I have a lot to be thankful for. I have the love of a good man. I have fantastic friends (a lot of fantastic friends). My kung fu instructor is one of the very best in the world. And I grew up with a deep love of stories. Stories keep me connected to the world and they also let me escape from it when things are rough.
Keep reading stories. Keep listening to music. They’ll keep you sane.