At the beginning of this year I wrote a short piece about a vivid dream I had. Here is an extract:
On arrival at the unknown village I got off the coach, only then realising that I knew some of my fellow passengers. ‘Are you here for the rally?’ one asked me. I wasn’t of course and felt both disappointed and guilty that I wasn’t staying to support my comrades. Walking towards the pub I turned to see musicians and dancers arriving to join the assembling crowd; the rain and the mud clearly not putting anyone off or dampening the mood. The planned event clearly a celebration as well as campaign activity.
Anyone kind enough to read my work – including memoir, fiction and other more opinion focused pieces – will be aware of my concerns about and criticism of our current government. I have written previously, many times, about, what I, and I know many others, believe to be, rising levels of inequality and injustice in our society and about some of the attacks on those who are working hard to make things better. All this makes me anxious as does my own, strongly felt, inadequacy. My ego is not so big that I think that I can change the world. But knowing that I can’t doesn’t stop me wanting to, or stop me feeling the need to.
More recently I’ve been dreaming again and although not overtly connected to politics in any way I think, as I did about my dream in January, that these dreams are linked to my (and others’) anxieties about the state of the UK (and indeed the wider world) and my responsibilities within and to our society and the world more generally. Lately an increasing number of my dreams have been emotionally and physically violent. In them I (and sometimes others close to me) are experiencing attack – most often verbal, but occasionally physical – sometimes by unknown others, sometimes by people I know (folk who would never, ever treat me this way in ‘real’ life). In one particularly horrid dream I was both peed on and shouted at. Upsetting as these have been the most recent in the series was perhaps the most disturbing to me. It is I was heavily pregnant (eight months at least). I’m 59 years old and my one and only (to my knowledge) pregnancy ended in miscarriage over 30 years ago. And yet the pregnancy was no surprise to my sleeping self. The dream was complicated with lots going on with the pregnancy being just one aspect, rather than the focal point, of it. Towards the end the pregnancy became more significant and just before I woke I realised that the baby in my womb had stopped moving and the anxiety I experienced was intense.
There’s no need, I suggest, for dream analysis here. If pregnancy in a dream represents (I did look this up, I admit, but it’s obvious I think) looking forward to, or worrying about, new beginnings of some kind (a new project, a new relationship and such like) concern over the status of a pregnancy/pregnancy loss must surely indicate fear that what one desires will not happen. So as I said, it feels appropriate to reflect on the political significance of these dreams. The need for change, the fear of it not happening, leads to much anxiety in my day-time hours as well as when I’m sleeping.
Earlier in the week I retweeted a number of articles focusing on the impacts of poverty and deprivation. Thus:
First this article on #foodpoverty
The UK’s largest food redistribution charity is helping to feed a record 772,000 people a week – 60% more than the previous year – with food that would otherwise be wasted, new figures reveal. One in eight people in the UK go hungry every day – with the most needy increasingly dependent on food banks - yet perfectly good food is wasted every day through the food production supply chain. FareShare said it was now redistributing food that otherwise would have been wasted with an annual value of £28.7m, up from £22.4m last year. “Three years ago we were helping to feed 211,000 people a week – today it’s three-quarters of a million,” said FareShare’s chief executive, Lindsay Boswell. “We reported in 2015 that we provided food across 320 towns and cities – now it’s 1,500. It’s not rocket science to see there has been a massive hike in demand for food from frontline charities.”
I’ve written about food poverty previously; most recently here: My own life is, I know, very privileged but I remember sometimes being hungry when I was a child. I am ashamed to live in a society where this is becoming more, rather than less, of a problem.
Second this Blog for Huffington Post written by Kate Osamor MP on #periodpoverty
Right now, around 282 million women and girls around the world are menstruating. This time of the month can be annoying and uncomfortable at the best of times. But for those who struggle to access water, a decent toilet and sanitary towels, it is a monthly exercise in anxiety and humiliation. This is true for those suffering from period poverty both here in the UK and around the world. One in ten girls in the UK don’t have access to sanitary products. One in three girls across the globe don’t have access to a toilet during their period.
I know that Ken Loach’s film I Daniel Blake highlighted the need to donate, when we can, not just food but also toiletries, sanitary wear and nappies. Osamor’s Blog reminded me again of the importance of this. It’s a while now since I last bled but I remember the distress I felt when the arrival of my period took me by surprise and I had no tampons or pads to hand. I remember the discomfort on hot days and/or during a particularly heavy bleed when I was unable to get to a toilet just when I needed to. Nothing more to say here.
And a third focusing on #deathpoverty
Some of the UK’s poorest people are being barred from attending the funerals of loved ones as part of council cost-cutting, it has been claimed. Families who must reportedly rely on publicly-funded funerals are told they cannot be at the service. An official at Bracknell Forest Council, in Berkshire, was recorded telling undercover reporters that relatives would not even be told when the burial or cremation was taking place . . . .
The average funeral costs £4,078 pricing out increasing numbers of families. Councils offer a public health funeral – the modern equivalent of a Victorian pauper’s funeral – for those who cannot afford. About 4,000 people are buried or cremated this way every year, costing local authorities an estimated £4 million. The refusal to allow people to attend seems to be a way of keeping costs down and discouraging families from using the option except where financially unavoidable.
Having been through a number of significant bereavements myself, and from my experience as an (occasional) funeral celebrant - I very much appreciate the importance of a ‘ceremony’ as part of the grieving process. Excluding the bereaved in this way is beyond cruel; inhumane.
The final piece in my short twitter fest was an article from The New York Times.
#politicalausterity in the UK the focus here.
PRESCOT, England — A walk through this modest town in the northwest of England amounts to a tour of the casualties of Britain’s age of austerity. The old library building has been sold and refashioned into a glass-fronted luxury home. The leisure center has been razed, eliminating the public swimming pool. The local museum has receded into town history. The police station has been shuttered. Now, as the local government desperately seeks to turn assets into cash, Browns Field, a lush park in the center of town, may be doomed, too. At a meeting in November, the council included it on a list of 17 parks to sell to developers. . . .
“The government has created destitution,” says Barry Kushner, a Labour Party councilman in Liverpool and the cabinet member for children’s services. “Austerity has had nothing to do with economics. It was about getting out from under welfare. It’s about politics abandoning vulnerable people.” . . .
Britain’s turn from its welfare state in the face of yawning budget deficits is a conspicuous indicator that the world has been refashioned by the crisis [following the global financial panic of 2008]. As the global economy now negotiates a wrenching transition — with itinerant jobs replacing full-time positions and robots substituting for human labor — Britain’s experience provokes doubts about the durability of the traditional welfare model. . . .
. . . . At public libraries, volunteers now outnumber paid staff. In struggling communities, residents have formed food banks while distributing hand-me-down school uniforms. But to many in Britain, this is akin to setting your house on fire and then reveling in the community spirit as neighbors come running to help extinguish the blaze. [The piece goes on, it’s a long sobering read].
Close to home this one. I spend the first seven years of my life in Prescot. I now live in the beautiful, vibrant town of Falmouth, Cornwall which recently appeared in The Guardian's: 'ten of the UK's best seaside towns'
But, and this is a BIG but, it’s important to remember that Cornwall is the second poorest region in Northern Europe so living here is far from a holiday for many.
In the meantime:
The Conservative Party, yet again, prove their hypocrisy, when it comes to where they get their money from:
The Labour Party has accused Theresa May of breaking her promises and continuing “business as usual” with Russia after the Conservative Party accepted another £100,000 donation from the wife of a former minister in Vladimir Putin’s government. Lubov Chernukhin, whose ex-deputy finance minister husband Vladimir has been described in the past as a “Putin crony”, donated £112,500 to the Conservative Party during the past three months, bringing the total amount to £626,500 since 2012.
All whilst Jacob Rees-Mogg MP’s biggest worry seems to be that he has been ‘priced out’ of Mayfair and has to ‘settle’ for a house in Westminster
All the greater need then for rest of us to keep challenging, to keep talking, and importantly, not to give up hope. Following my recent dreams I’m reminding, admonishing, myself here as much as anyone else. As I wrote nearly a year ago:
I read recently that the average person thinks about politics for four minutes a week. This, alongside the 'don't politicise' arguments (ironically encouraged by those attempting to score political points themselves …[*]) disheartens and enrages me. YET, YET the scores of people joining the Labour Party since 2017, the continued discussions between friends and amongst strangers (that I overhear on trains, in cafes, on the streets), the increase in social networking and political learning, the tweet from a mother reporting her eight year old's desire to watch the news to 'see how Jeremy Corbyn is doing' are the things to focus us.....
* Just see the latest from James Cleverly MP which I 'had' to respond to. For example:
James CleverlyVerified account @JamesCleverly
Those Labour women who are pointing at Theresa May, a highly successful women in a traditionally man’s world, and trying to undermine her over abortion rights in a devolved part of the UK should ask themselves “am I a proper feminist?”
Gayle Letherby @gletherby Thanks for the advice @JamesCleverly - my sweet little head is obviously so full of all things pink and fluffy I am unable (as are my sisters) to think or speak for myself on reproductive and human rights #feminism
@JamesCleverly Given the long history of silencing girl's and women's voices we should all - but men especially - think carefully before telling women what they can and should think and say; what they 'really' mean. Time for YOU to be quiet now Mr C.
Gayle Letherby added,
James CleverlyVerified account @JamesCleverly
The response to my tweet about Theresa May and feminism has been interesting. If men said that TM couldn’t describe herself as a feminist unless she acted in a way that they defined, people would be rightly outraged. But it’s ok for female Labour politicians to do it?
Like others who enjoy writing, and feel the need to do it, I’m always thinking of what to work on next. The other day I wrote a short piece of poetry prose after the idea came to me whilst I was half sleeping the night before. It begins:
Stand Up for what matters.
Stand Up to the plate.
Stand Up and be counted.
Stand Up for yourself, and for others whenever you can.