World Book Day

Finlay, my grandson, goes to an amazing little school in the shire of Buckingham and to celebrate the fact that today, 6th March, is World Book Day, all the children were asked to choose a character in a book they enjoyed. And would they come to school dressed as that character.

Finlay as Willy WonkaFinlay loves Roald Dahl books, as did his Mummy and Uncle when they were little. His choice of book was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and his choice of character was Willy Wonka. He is reading the book, has seen the film (the original and better one) and has seen the stage play in London.

Finlay lives near Aylesbury and the great co-incidence with his choice is that Roald Dahl lived in the shire of Buckingham, at Great Missenden from 1954 until he died in 1990.  In Dahl’s honour, the Roald Dahl Children’s Gallery was opened in November 1996, at the Buckinghamshire County Museum in Aylesbury. There is also The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in Great Missenden. 

I am lucky enough to pick Finlay up from his school on Wednesdays and take him to school on Thursday mornings. Today in he went as Willy Wonka, complete with stick, chocolate bar and the golden ticket.  Apparently, all his class mates wanted to walk with the stick!

Walking into the playground is always a pleasure. The children start in the reception class and go through the primary years. There are always lots of laughing and playing children, it really does brighten your day – and these eager and hopeful children. And if you listen very carefully, you can hear the tinkling of little bells and angels’ laughter.

So, imagine how much more exciting the playground was this morning – it was just an absolute pleasure and such a joy to see them all strutting around in character. Princesses, pirates, witches, bugs, birds, aliens, Buzz Lightyear, Harry Potter, the Enormous Crocodile, Matilda and many, many more.  And the teachers were all dressed as skeletons! Such a creative and empowering school.

They inspire me and cheer the whole day – and long may they do so.


Gary McKinnon is free, well not yet!

More than three months ago I wrote a post ‘Who is Gary McKinnon?‘ and the following day (25th May) President Obama said Gary’s fate should be decided in the UK. I started the post with this ~

What a momentous day is has been for Gary McKinnon and Janis Sharp.  This afternoon, President Obama, said that the fate of Gary McKinnon will be decided in the UK and not the USA.  A very brave decision for him to make and one, for which, I am sure everybody concerned with the case, will be eternally grateful. Now it is down to Theresa May, in her role as Foreign Secretary, to come forward with a proposal and decide what will happen.  Fingers, and everything else, crossed!

You would think in our just and democratic society, oh yes that is what Britain is supposed to be all about, Gary would have had a case heard by now, but that is not the case.  Despite David Cameron and Nick Clegg making definitive statements about how wrong it would be for Gary to be extradited to the US and how they would do all in their power to fight this miscarriage of justice, Gary has heard diddly squat.

Well, that’s not entirely true, Theresa May has said she will have experts spend time with Gary and then report back to her.  This hasn’t happened and the people that have been put forward are not experts in Gary’s particular illness. It really does not instill confidence in our justice system, nor in this government that David Cameron & Nick Clegg now lead! Empty promises are something politicians are extremely adept at.  My Dad said that once you enter politics, your integrity becomes questionable – how sad and how true.

These are my personal opinions, and as a Mum, I would be tearing my hair out now.  Nine years of mental torture, with the threat of a 70 year jail term in the US if extradited, have been an awful sentence served by Gary already.  Janis Sharp, Gary’s Mum, never ceases to amaze me with her integrity and strength.  Unfortunately, Theresa May is not a Mum, perhaps if she had children, she would understand the horrendous situation of the family better and would be more compassionate about getting something done as soon as possible.

While this awful US/UK extradition treaty is in place, this situation could be applied to anyone who is a British citizen. In fact it has been in other cases, such as Richard O’Dwyer.  The US need provide no proof to ask for someone to face their justice system in their country.  Whereas, should Britain, or any other country for that matter, want to question one of their citizens, there is a solid brick wall put up straight away.  That is how it should be here, not us pandering to whatever the US wants – British citizens deserve the full protection of its government and justice system.  Have a look at the freegary website and you will see all the reports and different ways you can help.  You could write to your MP and ask him/her to sign the Early Day Motion 2388 Extradition of Gary McKinnon – it all helps.  Meanwhile, early on in July, David Cameron was asked in Prime Minister’s question time, by Gary’s MP – David Burrowes, what was happening.  The response ended with

The case is now in front of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, who has to consider reports about Gary McKinnon’s health and well-being. It is right that she does that in a proper and effectively–I am sorry to use the word again today–quasi-judicial way.

Just how much time does ‘quasi-judicial’ take?  Theresa May doesn’t have children and cannot imagine what it must be like to be stuck in this nightmare, but David Cameron and Nick Clegg do have children and I am sure they would fight tooth and nail to get this resolved quickly should it be one of their own.

Please may we see Britain delivering justice and human rights to its own citizens – NOW!

Missing Molly

This evening on Twitter, we were absolutely shocked to learn our dear friend, Molly, @amalari, had suddenly died. Her last tweet was on Saturday when she actually said she wasn’t feeling so good,  but this …..

Molly lived in beautiful Tuscany with her husband and they had two gorgeous houses they let out as holiday rentals. We used to chat about the best way to market them.  She was very knowledgeable about anything and everything really.  Huw @huwspanner, Molly and I had a long chat one day about Native Americans and how the book called, Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee, had affected us all.

Molly had many good friends on Twitter, she was a lovely lady, caring and sharing, with a wonderful wit!  Her profile said : EX UK & USA Freelance journalist, author. Politics, music, animals, food, photography, history. Green. Sinfully lazy.

I am writing this because of feeling so shell shocked.  You don’t have to meet someone to know them and the friends you make on Twitter do become good friends ~ knowing them perhaps better than some of our ‘real’ friends.

I’ve given the lovely Bruna @beezan, Molly’s phone number and tomorrow, she will call Molly’s husband to express the shock and loss we all feel.

Rest in peace Molly, you will be very sorely missed. x

Brilliant Britain – I think not!

I am on Twitter and I have made some very good friends on there.  It is not somewhere you can pretend to be something you are not, the truth will out!  And so, you learn which people have the following qualities : integrity, inspiration, a caring nature, a happy nature, leadership skills, a genuine nature. Personally, I admire assertiveness but cannot stand arrogance ~ and there is plenty of that coming out on social networks!

One of the lovely girls I have met is Maureen, lovely lady, charming and genuine.  We started chatting in 2009. Maureen’s Mum is British and her Dad is not.  And in these days of equality and transparency, Maureen’s right to be a British citizen had been denied.  That is, until last January – but after being promised so much, the new law put into place is an absolute insult to her and anyone else in the same position.  There was a huge outcry about it, and quite rightly so, but the promises of equality were completely broken. But more than that, Maureen’s Mum is given the position of not being as important as a British Dad!  Her position is inferior – so wrong!

Maureen wrote the following post on the International Women’s Day this week – it explains it far better then I ever could and makes me very embarrassed that this is happening here in England.  Those civil servants in grey suits have a lot to answer for!  The irony is that Maureen’s blog is called Brilliant Britain – ha!

So today is the 100th International Women’s Day, and we still have an ongoing inequality in the UK regarding the right for British mothers to pass on their citizenship to their children.

The UK government has always given this right to the children of all (married) British fathers automatically but not always to the children of British mothers. My mother is English and therefore I should be eligible for British citizenship but up until recently this right was denied.

Last year (13 January 2010), the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 came into force which meant I was finally granted the right to claim British citzenship. Incredibly, it was only “a right to register as a British citizen” and I would also have to pay £540 to claim my British citizenship! This was absolutely outrageous since anyone born in the same circumstances after 1983, or at anytime to a (married) UK father, could simply complete a passport application without the need to register and without any fee.

I considered this path to citizenship to be unaccepable and I did not take up the offer to attain my British citizenship in this unfair way. There was a public outcry (quite rightly) from myself and many others about this blatant discrimination. Consequently, the law was amended in November 2010 and the application fee (which had actually gone up to £550 during the year!) was removed.

However, we still have to register and need to pay an administrative fee of £80 to cover the cost of a citizenship ceremony.*

As the law stands now the following two cases are exceptions to automatic British citizenship:

  • Children born abroad before 1983 to British female citizens
  • Children born before 2006 to unmarried British male citizens (and in fact they are even denied the right to register)

While it’s true that the £550 application fee has been removed, it’s completely unacceptable that we must provide two references and fill out a form intended for immigrants, not to mention pay £80 and attend a citizenship ceremony. I find these “conditions” before I can qualify for my claim to British citizenship, insulting to my mother as well as to myself.

We still don’t have 100% parity with the children of British father’s! If my father had been British, citizenship would be automatic – no registration required, no fee at all and no ceremony!

It’s unjustified discrimination.

*Registration and the citizenship ceremony is meant for those without a British parent. In other words, for foreigners who wish to become UK citizens.

Now do you understand what I mean when I say I am embarrassed by the law?  It is just so insulting to any British Mother’s children who find themselves in this situation and, indeed, to the Mothers themselves.  Maureen is not an immigrant from another country, she is the daughter of a British Mum and, as such, should be automatically given citizenship of this country.  Sex discrimination is alive and well in the corridors of Westminster!

Makes me mad, but we can do something about it!  Pop over to Maureen’s blog and on the right hand side you will see where you can sign the petition.

The following link, allows you to select your MP’s details and write a letter or send an e-mail.  Please do so, so that we may put right this blatant discrimination and stop an awful lot of heartache.  Thank you.

Great? Britain

Winston Churchill was voted as the greatest Briton who ever lived; he must be turning in his grave at some of the decisions this government and its departments have made recently.

We have wonderful forces in this sceptred isle of ours, brave girls and boys who are fighting in appalling conditions for the freedom of this country and the right of other countries to enjoy the same.  And how are they supported?  The wonderful Royal British Legion has been supporting them since 1921, for 90 marvellous years.  Recently there is also the charity called Help4Heroes, which does the same work only with glitz, glamour and lots of publicity. There are many other wonderful charities too, too many to mention.  The support all comes from charities, and from the Government & the Civil Servants, what do they get?  Not a lot at all.

How does this our Ministry of Defence support them?  On Friday, in the Guardian, there was an article about the fact that objectivity could go as the British Forces Broadcasting Services could be contracted out.  Horrendous news, only softened by the fact that those many, many men in grey suits in the big offices of the MOD, always take an incredibly long time to decide anything, so hopefully it may not even happen; as recent stories of the millions of pounds they have wasted on incompleted projects have stated.  They need to look inwards to find costs savings ~ a definite case of too many Chiefs and not enough Indians ~ they sit there in comfortable offices, on very good wages, with a pension that most people don’t even achieve in their annual pay and make all these decisions for the boys and girls on the front line, who face danger and death every day.

I remember as a young girl, we used to go and see my Grandma & Grandad in London, and the Forces Favourites would be on the car radio.  My Dad said that it was founded in North Africa, at the time he was out there in World War II, so there could be some feeling of connection with home.  I hope the MOD makes a correct decision here for a change, although I do not hold out much hope for that happening!

It is taking the same route as the ‘Forest Sell Off’ too. Our trees, our heritage and our future, that this government thought it could just sell and no one would say a word!  Well, lo and behold, they did say a word, in fact many words and thousands signed an on-line petition against the sale. The government changed its stance and called off the sale. Although, from what I can glean, some forests are still being silently sold – bad news.

Currently, there are plans to close a number of the Coastguard Stations. What is the matter with the people who make these decisions?  These brave people go out in all weathers and situations, risking their own lives to save others.  I really would like to see some of the civil servants sitting in their plush offices, out on a lifeboat or on the front line – gaining practical experience of how their cost cutting decisions would impinge on the everyday lives of our heroes!

And then there is Gary McKinnon.  A British subject who has been forced to wait for years to find out what his fate will be.  His ‘crime’ was hacking into American websites to look for information on UFOs.  With all due respect to America, shouldn’t those websites have been far better fire-walled and protected?  It makes sense!  So the US is embarrassed and therefore goes on a witch hunt to get Gary extradited to stand trial over there. What does the government do?  Says virtually nothing and just keeps passing the buck around from one person to another.  Their treatment of a British subject has been nothing short of torture.  I just wish that we could find some of the greatness that this  country used to have and, of which, we all used to be so proud.

Richard Curtis summed the US/GB relationship up perfectly in Love Actually –

Press Conference Reporter: Mr. President, has it been a good visit?
The President: Very satisfactory indeed. We got what we came for, and our special relationship is still very special.
Press Conference Reporter: Prime Minister?
Prime Minister: I love that word “relationship.” Covers all manner of sins, doesn’t it? I fear that this has become a bad relationship; a relationship based on the President taking exactly what he wants and casually ignoring all those things that really matter to, erm… Britain. We may be a small country, but we’re a great one, too. The country of Shakespeare, Churchill, the Beatles, Sean Connery, Harry Potter. David Beckham’s right foot. David Beckham’s left foot, come to that. And a friend who bullies us is no longer a friend. And since bullies only respond to strength, from now onward I will be prepared to be much stronger. And the President should be prepared for that.

I sometimes wish Richard Curtis could write the speeches and make the decisions – I am sure they would be more founded on what is right and decent, rather than on these pathetic cost cutting exercises that we are being subjected to and a pandering to the US.

Naive views they may be, but they are my views and I am exercising my right to state them.

The challenges of a working Mum

I’m very proud of my daughter, Kezia; indeed, I’m very proud of my son, Aleck, too!  But this post is about Kezia being a working Mum and the challenges that sometimes come with it.  I know only too well what trials and tribulations can occur as I was a single Mum bringing up my two, so I have respect for all who go down this road.

Kezia with Finlay

Background to family members ~ Chris is Kezia’s partner; Chris’s Mum and his sister, Lisa, run Green Apples, which is the wonderful child minding nursery that Finlay (my grandson) goes to. Alan is Lisa’s partner. Dave is Chris’s older brother. All live on the outskirts of Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire.

On Thursday, Kezia took Chris over to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford to have his tonsils removed. Early on Friday morning, Lisa called Kezia to say that her son Elias had this nasty tummy bug that is going around so she would be staying at home with him and his two sisters, Sienna and Esme. Challenge number 1, Lisa takes Finlay to school. Kezia calls Dave, to see if he could take Finlay to school, Dave and his partner, Sam, & son, Hadley, are all suffering from the same bug!  Kezia calls Chris’s Mum, to see if she is still having any children, but poor Linda is suffering too. Challenge number 2, the nursery where Finlay goes after school is closed.

It is now 07.20 and Kezia calls me to see if I can get across to look after Finlay. Challenge number 3, I have no car at the moment as Kezia is using mine while her Audi is in an automotive medical centre. Kezia calls Aleck to see if I can borrow his car for the day. Challenge number 4, Aleck is at work. But he says yes, if I can get there to collect it. And he wouldn’t need it back until the next morning at 10.

Second call from Kezia to see if I can pick up Aleck’s car. No worries there, I can catch a bus into town and walk to Aleck’s workplace.  In the meantime, Alan has called Kezia to say that he will take Finlay to school.  Kezia is also going from work, in Welwyn Garden City, to Oxford, to pick Chris up from hospital in the afternoon.

Happily, all challenges had solutions, but this can only be achieved if you have a great support network of family and friends out there. It’s not easy being a working Mum when you have challenges, such as these, thrown at you before the day has properly started.

The benefits were there too – I got to see Finlay unexpectedly!  And I drove my son’s car – I have a Golf, but Aleck’s is the GTi version, so much more fun!

As Kezia was on her way to pick Chris up, she had a call from him to say that he had to have more surgery as there had been complications. Kezia came home and the three of us went to Oxford and got there after Chris was back on the ward from his second surgery. Unfortunately he was having to stay in under observation for another night because of the second op.  The day had a lovely finish, as we three went home and snuggled down together to watch Toy Story – again!