Friday, 30 April 2010

The Liberal moment has come

The Guardian declares for the Liberal Democrats:-

"Citizens have votes. Newspapers do not. However, if the Guardian had a vote in the 2010 general election it would be cast enthusiastically for the Liberal Democrats. It would be cast in the knowledge that not all the consequences are predictable, and that some in particular should be avoided. The vote would be cast with some important reservations and frustrations. Yet it would be cast for one great reason of principle above all.

After the campaign that the Liberal Democrats have waged over this past month, for which considerable personal credit goes to Nick Clegg, the election presents the British people with a huge opportunity: the reform of the electoral system itself. Though Labour has enjoyed a deathbed conversion to aspects of the cause of reform, it is the Liberal Democrats who have most consistently argued that cause in the round and who, after the exhaustion of the old politics, reflect and lead an overwhelming national mood for real change"

Read the complete editorial here.

The Wire - favourite scene ever !

Once upon a time, Bermondsey Mum was a Solicitor...

Thursday, 29 April 2010

The Political Wife

As Bermondsey Mum has previously disclosed, she has this much in common with Sarah Brown, if little else.  Having seen her on BBC News 24 earlier, in the background of a shot where Gordon was desperately trying to rescue his political career, she looked abjectly miserable.  I can't claim to know how she feels but she is in an unenviable position, whatever happens.  The spin doctors will demand that she shadows Gordon every step of the way between now and polling day, ensuring that she is on-screen almost constantly, since the broadcast media are all hoping for another gaffe.  While they wait for that, the print media will no doubt have fun sneering at Sarah B's outfits/shoes/hair... And all the while, if they lose (and assuming this becomes clear around midnight on polling day) she has 12 hours to clear out of No.10.   

Meanwhile she has to endure and explain to the children if they see them, the accusations made against Gordon, the funny but hurtful cartoon caricatures of him in print and online and the contrast between the man she knows and loves and the one demonised as a politician.     Same goes for Laura Bush, who has just published her memoirs and possibly also Norma Major.  Interestingly, all of these women are/were probably more 'popular' than their spouses but Bermondsey Mum has not got time to get into that.  There's a pile of anti-Bermondsey Dad election leaflets to shred...

Anti-cellulite knickers are pants

So says Which ? as reported today.  It disputes the claims made by some firms such as M&S which sell these undergarments in growing quantities, that they reduce the appearance of cellulite.  Two consultant surgeons and a dermatologist concluded that any tight underwear would have a similar effect.  To which Bermondsey Mum can only say " Well, duh...!" Of course that is the case, but confronted by a figure hugging dress, or worse, anything in jersey, where oh where is BM going to find normal underwear, however tight, that does the job and holds it all seamlessly in ?

As for the small print that Which? highlights for criticism, including the inclusion of aloe vera and caffeine in the fabric of these 'control' garments, well BM for one has never stopped to read any of that nonsense.  Because it is of course, nonsense:  a friend who worked for a global cosmetics company, told BM many years ago that the success of their bestselling anti-cellulite cream was almost entirely due to the fact that it contained small quantities of tanning agent and we all know that slightly tanned (with cellulite) thighs look oh so much better than pasty, alabaster ones.

So you see, we know it's all pants but everyone likes to look good - even if that is only true when fully clothed. 

UPDATE NB. Just to clarify, 'control' undergarments are just that - never, under any circumstances to be seen in the boudoir (think Bridget Jones and shudder....).   

The Ant Hill mob ?

Picking up stationery supplies yesterday, Bermondsey Mum spotted these in the car park at Staples, Old Kent Road....fully taxed too.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

I can do no better than this...

(Hat tip - Andrew Sullivan, Daily Dish)

Love this!


More tulips

Blois, Blois, Blois...

Listening to the newspaper review on the Today programme earlier, I heard about the man who spent 36 hours circling the Isle of Sheppey in his pleasure cruiser and had to be rescued by the RNLI.  It seems that he wanted to reach Southampton but both his driving and navigation were at fault. 

I was reminded of last year's trip to France for this Bermondsey family, travelling in a loose convoy formation with extended members of the clan.  The previous year's journey had been remarkably easy so perhaps we were a little too sure of ourselves.

Anyway...Bermondsey Mum is the designated driver of the family and B Dad navigates.  Casual reader might think, perfect combination: women make better ie careful drivers and men can read maps.  Yes they can, and exiting the Peripherique with pretty much les tous Parisiennes ahead and behind, should have meant we took the right road south.  Alas, some time later, BM realised we were headed towards Blois instead of Limoges.  During the tense silence which followed (B kids in the back watching DVD with headphones so untraumatised), B Dad redeemed himself heroically by plotting a route through some of the most gorgeous countryside and pretty villages I have ever seen.  We even stopped off for some patisserie and proper coffee.  Suitably refreshed, B Dad made contact with the rest of the convoy to explain that we would probably be very much later arriving at the meeting point, only to find out that they had been sitting in solid traffic  and we were actually ahead!  Having trundled through some more lovely places, (so many of them with very poignant  WWI & II memorials) we rejoined the right motorway without losing any time.

So the moral of the story for me was that the holiday begins when you leave your home together and if you are prepared to be relaxed about it, you can enjoy the journey too.  Having said that I'm not sure that Mr Pleasure-Cruiser-around-the-Isle of Sheppey would agree!

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Geek the vote

Times are tough for says the website  Not a subject Bermondsey Mum can claim to know anything about, but having met Ed (the founder-geek) last night, I am happy to spread the word.  So, geeks everywhere unite!

Losing (and finding) a look

Bermondsey Mum always struggles at this time of year to work out what is her look - a dilemma shared by Polly Vernon at the Observer who wrote about this a few weeks ago.  There's the first sign of trouble you see; Bermondsey Mum turns her attention to the issue on the first day of proper Summer weather, whereas Polly for all her worrying was already ahead of the game !

Even so, Polly's prescription (new shoes) doesn't help BM since of the suggested purchases, only one would be vaguely possible (the Pierre Hardy wedges for Gap) and even then only in a fantasy life which did not involve school pickups, housework, gardening etc.  As for cage sandals and peep-toe boots...I don't think so.

It's an intractable problem because beyond a certain age (no point being coy, BM is 44), the risk of looking ridiculous far outweighs the need to be 'on trend'.   For example, BM has already been through the leggings with oversized T-shirt look, jumpsuits, ra-ra skirts and combat trousers, all of which first time around, she managed to persuade herself at the time, she rocked !   

But that's the issue:  without sounding even more ancient that I am, fashion now just seems derivative and not of some early 20th century era but the 1980's for heavens sake ! So there we are, BM's fashion dilemma...can't do cage sandals/leggings/ra-ra skirts and not yet ready for the M&S range of elasticated waist trousers and skirts.  

Tulips from BM's garden

Alas, they will soon fade...but lovely while they last.

We need to talk about Kevin

Turns out it's Harriet Harman's favourite book, if you can believe the Guardian Q&A.

It's a curious choice: interesting and provocative yes, but favourite ?  We read this at Book Group a couple of years back and it certainly provoked one of the most memorable group discussions.   Since motherhood is such a complex mix of emotions, challenges, expectation and baggage there were certainly descriptive moments which resonated and there was a lot to admire about it.  Ultimately however, even though some felt that the ending was redemptive, the dystopian view of motherhood failed to convince Bermondsey Mum and while I realise that we are talking about a work of fiction, I didn't feel that it was credible taken as a whole.  That's not to say that Bermondsey Mum believes motherhood to be all 'apple pie and roses' but as in all things, balance is important.

This could prove tricky since BM can now count Lionel Shriver as one of her neighbours but I think she can probably take it.

Common people

Monday, 26 April 2010

Chemical v. biological

I am reminded by a BM sibling that back in the day when we were the unpaid workforce growing our own vegetables etc, the patriarch of the family had no such namby-pamby qualms about pest control.  We weeded alongside as he sprayed all sorts of nasties onto the food we subsequently harvested and ate. (Bermondsey Dad thinks this explains a lot...)  Happily the only permanent effect (that Bermondsey Mum accepts) of that childhood experience, is a rock solid conviction that she will never grow another vegetable.  Soft fruit however, is another matter so having weighed up the options and the odds against her, BM will stick to the namby-pamby biological controls...for now anyway.

Spring in the garden

Gardening is a constant battle it seems to me with the other forms of life who exist in the air and the soil who are bent on using my newly sprung shoots as fodder.  The next couple of weeks are critical in that battle as I prepare to administer 'Nemaslug', my top tip for keeping slugs and snails at bay and since it's a biological control I don't feel too bad about it.   However, I can already see in the photo, evidence of crane-fly in the grass and there was some sort of moth setting up shop in the lupins, but short of all-out chemical warfare, I'm not sure what to do about those.  Co-existence is not an option so it's back to the gardening manual for now.

Have a go at this

The FT has come up with an interactive game of 'Sort out the deficit', where you can either choose one of the 3 main parties policies or have a go yourself.  BM tried it and was still £4bn short.... tough times ahead eh ?

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Polly Toynbee and those nosepegs again...

Polly says " Your heart might say Clegg.  But vote with your head". 

To which the best short response I've seen so far has been:-

"  I'd rather vote hand on heart than hand on nose, thanks".

Problem parents!

Bermondsey Mum has long suspected that she was not the only one...with bed-hopping children...and lo and behold, in the Guardian Weekend Magazine, Gordon Brown and David Cameron both admit to sleepless nights.  Not just them actually, Ed Balls & Yvette Cooper too (how does that work, both Cabinet Ministers, how many children under 5?!?).  

It's seen as a badge of honour or control, the claims that people make about their offsping's sleeping habits.  Bermondsey Mum attended 2 coffee mornings of her local NCT group listening to competitive mums outdoing each other with champion babies 'sleeping through' from birth, before accepting her abject failure and never returning.  Needless to say, BM was hopeless with the whole Controlled Crying business - crying uncontrollably herself - and embraced/resigned herself to the concept of intermittent bed sharing and only now that they are both of school age, can I (honestly) say that they sleep through the night and (recently) in their own beds!

Bermondsey Dad might disagree, but having agonized for years about various parenting strategies and where she was going wrong, Bermondsey Mum felt a certain sadness when she realised that a whole month of nights had gone by without night-time interruption by a small person and only she and Bermondsey Dad awoke in the marital bed. 

For anyone in the throes of that phase where sleep is precious and broken into 2/3/4 hourly slots, my only advice would be to chill about it - seriously, it's normal, everyone goes through it no matter what they say in public and it passes and a small part of you (once you've recovered obviously) will mourn its passing.   And then every so often, years later, when your bigger child wakes up just before the alarm goes off and comes into your side of bed for a morning hug, it will be a precious thing.

Best of #nickcleggsfault

 Decide for yourself

#nickcleggsfault - broadstuff

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Newspapers and what they tell us

Johann Hari has a very good piece in the Independent, which is well worth reading all the way through. For me, this was the best bit:-

The British media is overwhelmingly owned by right-wing billionaires who order their newspapers to build up the politicians who serve their interests, and marginalise or rubbish the politicians who serve the public interest. David Yelland, the former editor of The Sun, bravely confessed this week that as soon as he took his post, he was told the Lib Dems had to be "the invisible party, purposely edged off the paper's pages and ignored". Only a tiny spectrum of opinion was permitted. Everyone to the left of Tony Blair (not hard) had to be rubbished – even when their policies spoke for a majority of British people.

Both TV debates, then, have been a very rare moment in which a slightly more liberal-left voice could speak to the public without the distorting frame of pre-emptive abuse and smears. When, for example, have you ever heard the EU defended as plainly and clearly? The window of permissible opinion was opened a little – and people responded with a wave of enthusiasm. It could've been opened wider still – to the Greens, say – and found a receptive audience too.

It's amazing what a little fair play can do and I say this with my fingers crossed because of course the only poll that matters is on May 6th.   Imagine what might happen if government broadly reflected the actual views of the electorate ?  That can only happen if the voting system changes and that will only happen if the Lib Dems manage to break the duopoly previously enjoyed by Labour and the Conservatives.  
Full disclosure:  Bermondsey Mum, although not a member of any political party, is married to a Lib Dem.   Just for fun I tried this online questionnaire in the Telegraph, which takes about 3 minutes to do, and then tells you which party most closely mirrors your views/priorities.  Guess which one Bermondsey Mum topped ?

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Fox news

Out leafletting this morning (for Bermondsey husband) and came across a gaggle of photographers and what looked like a camera crew outside Millenium Square apartments in Shad Thames.  As I elbowed my way through to stuff the letterboxes, I discovered that I had stumbled upon a crime scene!  Liam Fox, Shadow Defence Secretary (Con) had been burgled and somehow or other, national and local press were alerted and were there to witness the evidence gathering operation.  So much for Police confidentiality...not that I have that much sympathy for Dr Fox; the Plod also seems to have leaked that it was 'opportunistic' - which translates as 'someone left a door or window open..'

Anyway, having been burgled ourselves just over 2 years ago, I have some sympathy for the hapless Dr Fox and if Bermondsey Mum's experience is anything to go by, today will mark the high point of Police activity on the issue.   We, and I include the Police in this, all tacitly accepted that we would never find out who had done this and the best advice was to improve our security and make a claim on our home contents insurance.
Apart from the form filling, I'm not sure that the Police made any further enquiries into it -  not exactly 'The Bill' then.  

However, Bermondsey Mum's home is now a model of security and a bit of a fortress actually, in as much as I often find I can't get in myself!

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Southwark Park

It looks so lovely at the moment and the groundsmen/women deserve lots of praise for the lovely planting all over the Park.

Bermondsey girls

Although I may not be squarely representative of the average Bermondsey mum, I nevertheless love this area and have enormous respect for all mums, wherever they are from. 

So I was upset to read a comment on the SE1 Forum recently referring to a visit to Castello's Restaurant on Jamaica Road, describing the food as 'passable' (which I thought was unfair for a start) and the clientele as like a 'chavs convention'.  It went on to describe a game 'Spot the Tramp Stamps' they played to pass the time- (does this mean tattoos ??)   Clearly this person felt superior to everyone else there and felt confident enough about that to post it onto the community forum - presumably expecting lots of other people to agree.   

I can't be the only one to find this sort of snide attitude offensive although the more I think about it, the more I realise that it forms a significant part of the print media we are all too familiar with.   It's a way of getting a cheap laugh I suppose.   Without getting all amateur psychologist about it, I wonder if all this doesn't reveal a secret insecurity about the sort of person who uses words like 'chav' as an insult.    They might not envy the lifestyle but I wonder if they don't secretly envy the confidence.

As for this Bermondsey Mum, I am always in awe of the fact that no matter how unexpected, the moment the first day of Summer arrives, your average Bermondsey girl is out there wearing the very latest trend, with hair and skin tone to match.  Needless to say, it takes Bermondsey Mum a bit longer to get her look together! 

Men and their boring arguments

by Wendy Cope

Listen to her read the poem here

Book group

Bermondsey mum and friends met last night to discuss Damon Galgut's 'The Good Doctor'.  General consensus that it was readable, interesting subject matter but 'went' nowhere.   Numbers were low last night due to the ash cloud disruption so that members or members' spouses were stuck abroad/overseas and couldn't make it.  We meet every 5 weeks or so, usually Monday night, but not this time, and there is a fluid membership of about 9 or thereabouts.  Not all mums, we are a bit of a mixture (as you would expect in Bermondsey) including a Tailor, Picture editor, recruitment consultant, Teacher, Chef, former Solicitor, former Nurse, Art historian and Interior Design writer.
In case you are thinking that we might be a bit high brow - we're not.  The reading choices are made in a very haphazard way, choosing a book from award list nominations for instance or recommendations from friends, alternating with the occasional classic or Aga saga. 
If I'm honest, which Bermondsey Mum always is, I suggested setting this up over 3 years ago because I was going out of my mind with 2 children under 5 at the time.  We the members, mostly live within 5-10 minutes walk of each other,we rotate the hosting part and we generally don't meet before 8.30pm when children are safely in bed. 
I hoped and it has come to pass, that the Group would be a social and mildly intellectual outlet.  Socially, it has widened my group of friends so that I now have people who live nearby I can rely on and has led to sub-groups of Bermondsey Dad outings to the pub!  At some point I will publish our backlist of reading material.  In the meantime, if you are thinking of doing something similar where you live, my only advice would be DO IT NOW!

Picture from Brick Lane, E1

AA Gill in Buckingham

AA Gill went to Buckingham last week for the Sunday Times, to look at the contest between the Speaker John Bercow and the many other candidates who are now challenging him.  I would heartily recommend the complete article, highlights of which include his encounter with a Flipper the dophin mascot and this, on Nigel Farage, the UKIP candidate:-

"Farage is hearty, hale and seedy, in a blue checked suit and electric blue tie. He’s a man whose character has been formed by a thousand snug bars. He has that confidence that is the by-product of an enormous amount of alcohol and laughs often and loudly.

He also has breath that could club a baby seal to death. Even across his desk, every time something strikes him as funny there is a draught like Carnarvon opening a pharaoh’s tomb. The first rule of standing for parliament is: a toothbrush is not just for Christmas."


Tuesday, 20 April 2010

For my friend Marie

The Lake Isle Of Innisfree

I WILL arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the mourning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.
William Butler Yeats

Monday, 19 April 2010

In poster form

Big society

Okay, first things first: I am married to a councillor and am a school governor, Chair for the past 2 years. So I think I know a bit about my local community and I suspect that it is fairly representative of the national picture. I see no evidence of a reservoir of popular outrage ready to be channelled into progressive action. In my experience as a school governor, people can be persuaded to volunteer for one-off events or to deal with a specific project but the greater the degree of commitment required, the more difficult it is to recruit volunteers. People generally mobilise themselves into action over single issues eg uniting against a building development or a campaign to save a hospital from closure. In many ways, those of us who are school governors are just the same, the single issue being our children's education, only the time frame is extended.

So under Dave's plan, the various public services which are not working will be replaced by these volunteer-led organisations. What he doesn't explain is who is going to police them? A whole support structure exists for instance to ensure good governance of schools and even that's not foolproof. Who's going to vet the volunteers who want to take over a hospital or fire the local Police borough commander? And by the way, I'm not talking about CRB here, I'm more concerned about such organisations being hijacked by those with an axe to grind but not necessarily the skills to match.

And finally, for me the main problem with the whole idea is that it feels suspiciously like a smokescreen to distract us when the cuts come. If we all join hands, get together, feel good about ourselves we won't notice or mind that services we have paid for in taxes are replaced with something a lot less reliable, unaccountable and shambolic.

Ultimately, I want Government to do its job and govern or govern better!

Leave my OFM alone!

Sarah Brown is by all accounts a clever woman who is also known to be normal, so why oh why, did she agree to the OFM cover and story in yesterday's Observer? Maybe if it had been covered 6-12 months ago, I would be less cynical but seriously, nothing about it worked for me. She did not look like an authentic gardener and nothing about the article (however well written) or the photos indicated to me that she is the one who has gotten her hands dirty in that garden. It was pristine for goodness sake, as was she. And for someone who as I mentioned gives a good impression of being normal, normally, she appeared wooden and ill at ease in the photos. I won't even mention the clothes. So what did this say to me? It was over-done, too well choreographed and therefore because it lacked credibility and given the backdrop of difficult polls etc looked like a slightly desperate stunt. Because we like Sarah and we are supposed to believe that she gardens etc, we should vote for Gordon? This is what makes me really crazy! Don't they get it ? Is it a sign of just how disconnected they have become from real voters and the overwhelming mood for change, that they would continue to patronise us like this?