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“I’m not racist but…”

“I’m not racist but…”.

Sorry, BUT you’re racist. Actually, scrap the ‘sorry’, you’re racist.

I heard something today. A young adult telling me that they didn’t want to go to a certain place because it was full of ****s. Whispered. Under their breath. But the p-word nonetheless. (By the way, it doesn’t make it any less racist if you whisper it).

It doesn’t make you “not racist but”. You’re racist. Just admit it.

You don’t want to go to that place in town because you’re scared you’re going to get blown up. Because it’s always full of them.

Get it right, please. You don’t want to go to that place because you’re ignorant. You don’t want to go to that place because you’re uneducated. You don’t want to go to that place because you’ve read things online or in hateful tabloids or the Daily Fail. Because you’re racist, xenophobic and prejudiced.

You said that there was ‘one of them’ with a knife in town the other day, that there were armed police. That you’re afraid of going to town because of it. I also saw a Gazette article earlier and I’m pretty sure the alleged offender was white in the photo, despite the comments that followed which said to expect an update with an Asian name.

GET YOUR FACTS RIGHT PEOPLE. Statistics prove that you’re more likely to die from food poisoning (maybe even from your own cooking!) than in a terror attack. You’re more likely to die falling from a ladder. You are even more likely to die from falling down your stairs at home or from a traffic accident. You’re also more likely to die getting out of bed.

Does that higher risk stop you from eating/travelling in a car/doing DIY/going downstairs/buying a 2-storey home/getting out of bed? By your logic, you should stay in bed all the time instead of risking your life. Sure, a terrorist attack is arguably a more shocking way to go. But the risk is tiny. In the last ten years the risk of dying in a terror attack in the UK is something like 1:11.4 million. That risk is going down too. In the late 80s it was much higher.

If you’re so worried about dying, stop doing risky stuff. Stop binge drinking until you puke every weekend. Stop smoking. Stop eating too much. Stop getting out of bed. But don’t stop going into town because you might get blown up. And absolutely don’t use those words in front of me unless you want to add another risk to your life* (I’m not violent but…).

*tongue in cheek. I don’t advocate violence in real life!

Just a strawberry milkshake

My eldest child turned five today and we had forgotten to buy the 10 (yes, 10!) AAA batteries that his new Lego train needed. The air was pretty brutal as I de-iced the car at 7:30 am to make my way to the 24-hour Tesco but needs must!

The first thing I saw when I arrived at the carpark was a man in his late thirties waking up for the day underneath an outdoor stairwell. The temperature was 1°C. I approached and asked him if he would like something from the shop. He requested a strawberry milkshake.

I walked around the store and picked up a few things, all the while trying to stop myself from crying. Perhaps it was because I was feeling emotional for my eldest’s 5th birthday, perhaps because I’ve been ill for the last couple of days, but it really hit me hard seeing that man wake up there in that cold place. I kept imaging how this whole warm world was going on directly above him. These workers and shoppers in Tesco, me included, were quite literally walking above his bed, perhaps even unaware of his existence. I thought about how perhaps once he was a five-year-old boy like my son waking up to presents from loving parents. Who knows. But I know that someone somewhere would have once cradled that baby and hoped for the best outcome for him in life. I thought about how it could be any one of us there. Most of us are only a paycheck or two away from defaulting on our rent our mortgage.

I gathered a few extra things for him alongside my batteries: a hoodie, a toothbrush, toothpaste, baby wipes, deodorant and, not forgetting, the strawberry milkshake.

I could barely speak to him when I handed him the bag as I didn’t want him to see I was upset for him. I cried all the way home in the car.

I’ve since sat down and done some reading. The Office of National Statistics states: “In England, since the current methodology was established in 2010, the numbers of people sleeping rough have been steadily rising across London and the rest of England […] Over the last five years, the numbers of rough sleepers identified across the whole of England have nearly doubled, from 2414 to 4,677.” An article in the BMJ states how “homeless women die on average at 43 and homeless men at 47, compared with 77 for the rest of us.”

This is the reality of the United Kingdom in 2019. No one should be living on the streets in one of the richest countries in the world. Certainly, no one should be dying on the streets. Yet here we are.

So, what is at fault here? It’s not easy to find a definitive answer. Yet, it’s safe to say that homelessness in all of its forms has increased since the Tories have been in power. It’s hardly surprising given all of the austerity measures and the lack of social housing.

I won’t be voting for them on the 12th of December. This isn’t the only reason but it’s certainly one that was brought to the forefront for me today.

Sent from Outlook

The Kindness of Strangers

Something that always makes me emotional is seeing the parting tide of traffic at the approach of an ambulance. In my view, it’s one of the true acts that show us how humans aren’t made of prejudice but rather prejudice is made of humans. No matter the race, sex, age, social status or sexual orientation of the person in the back of an ambulance, the cars part regardless. It shows us time and time again that humans, even strangers, are innately kind (we wrote about this here).

Over the years we have undoubtedly experienced the kindness of strangers ourselves too. But just this past week, kind people helped one of our own and we couldn’t be more grateful.

Our almost-89 year old Grandma Lillie had a nasty fall outside Boots in Guisborough. People came running to her aid and called the paramedics. Fortunately, my dad (her son-in-law), was also called and he came and, after she was checked over, he took her to the hospital himself.

Grandma has always been fit. She does so well for a near-nonagenarian!She has lived alone for at least 12 years, possibly longer, but she is thoroughly independent. She always pops to the shops, eats out, and when at home, knits for family and friends. She is always busy.

Her husband, our Grandad Peter, died 11 years ago this month and then she lost our mum, her only child, 9 and a half years ago. But she doesn’t ever dwell on what she has lost, she seems to embrace life.

My family and I are so grateful to the people who picked her up and took care of her. Things like this serve to remind us of the innate kindness in people. Fortunately, thanks to her Facebook post asking after our Grandma, we have been able to thank one of the people who helped her. So, thank you again Amanda, not only for picking up our grandma and looking after her, but for reminding us that there are so many kind people in the world.

Trying to take grandma’s first selfie a few years ago!

Coming Full Circle

Long before this blog and project was ever thought of I carried out some Random Acts of Kindness at work. I became the pigeonhole fairy. I left little cellophane bags in about 15 people’s pigeonholes with a mixture of chocolate, stationery and a little note of appreciation. I selected the people randomly. They weren’t my friends necessarily, they were people who had touched me in some way or had stepped in to help me (perhaps even unknowingly) when I had been through the worst period of my life.

I didn’t tell a soul, not even my husband! About 8 years later, one of the recipients talked about it in assembly and what a difference it had made to her at that time and she talked about RAK around school. I later confessed to her that it was me and that I was so pleased with its effect (I have a feeling I may have blogged about this somewhere?).

Things are a bit tough for us all at work at the moment. So, imagine my surprise when I went into work on Thursday and found this in my pigeonhole:

Not only did it greatly improve my lunch that day but it actually made me feel like I’m doing something right (something which I often doubt about myself in most aspects of my life, so my teaching isn’t exempt from that!).

I don’t think I am amazing by any long stretch, but it made me feel really positive about things when I’ve not really been feeling it for a little while. It took me back to that sneaky early morning in the staff room all those years ago when I was hoping no one would see me with my offerings!

I doubt the ‘culprit’ will see this, but if they do, thank you for making my day!

Grandma Ruth

The 27th of December marked another loss for our family when sadly our Grandma Ruth died following complications after an acute stroke on the 21st December. She was 87.

I visited her a lot in her last few days. The first few times she shrugged off my hand but that last time (that I didn’t know was the last time) she squeezed my hand, opened her eyes a sliver and made a noise to me. I really felt like we connected in that moment. If she could have spoken words, I’m not sure what she would have said but I believe that she knew it was me, that she knew I was there and that matters to me more than anything. As I left her that day she looked better than she had the previous few days. Later that night I rushed to be by her side but I was a few minutes too late. I’m so pleased I saw her that day and that we had that connection. I’ll treasure it forever.

When she squeezed my hand I took a photo. I’m not sure why; it almost seems like an odd thing to do. But maybe somewhere I knew that I wouldn’t see her alive again.

Grandma was renowned for her baking. It reached far and wide. Our friends, work colleagues and neighbours all loved it when we came back from visiting her with loads of cakes. I even took a ginger cake back to France with me one time! She always baked, ever since I can remember. She was always baking for other people. It was her way of expressing love, gratitude and friendship. She made my wedding cake and Stanley’s Thanksgiving cake and I was so proud to say that both occasions were all the more special and personal because of this.

I have her recipes (even the ginger cake, though it’ll take a bit of working out) and one day we plan to do a Grandma Ruth Bake-Off in her honour. I doubt we will be able to recreate her masterpieces to her standards though! She will live on through us and the love of baking (and cake!) that she instilled in all of us. I am also lucky enough to say that I have her entire name, Ruth Maddison, encased in mine as my two middle names. I’ll try and do her proud with the baking!

Rest in Peace Grandma. You were a funny one but we all loved you regardless.

10 23rds of December

The 23rd December rolls round again. I’ve often wondered if I’ll ever forget how many years it’s been but then I don’t think I ever will. For one thing, it’s so intertwined with my wedding anniversary that if I forget one, I’ll forget the other, which is quite unlikely. It feels the same as it always does at this time of year: hard. If anything, it feels harder this time around because I’ve navigated through one of the hardest years of my life (well, after 2010 & 2011 I guess. Actually, that doesn’t feel true. I can’t think of a year that hasn’t been hard in some way. This one just seems to have been one of the more difficult ones I’ve had to endure). We are soon into our tenth year without her now. The tenth 23rd of December.

I had such high hopes and exciting plans for 2018 and so in some ways I will be glad to see the back of the year and start a fresh one. But I remember all too well the positivity I felt at the end of January and the subsequent decline from about March onwards as life dealt us some nasty blows. I feel like I can’t even say my mum’s old adage of “nobody died!” to get me through because, to me, in one way they did.

Every time I grieve another loss, it brings back my other grief to the surface, re-opens my invisible wound and pokes around it a bit more for good measure. It can make understanding my own thoughts and feelings all the more difficult, with me often wondering who or what the tears I’m crying are for exactly. All of this and a whole host of health problems and investigations has made for a difficult year indeed.

It wasn’t all bad. I have some great memories from this year. I did RED January, went to Iceland, London, camping, Berlin, got a 10k PB, joined a running club, made some good friends, did a show, got offered a job, made and ate a lot of cake, did the 42 mile Lyke Wake Walk with my dad (and said ‘never again’ but have already said I will!), and a load more besides.

I also got a new nephew (Little LoveJoinMe 5, baby LJM, finally a little ginger one to add to our collection!). And best of all (newest nephew aside) is that RAK #48 was achieved and Grandad got his well-deserved Queen’s Honour. He still remains my hero. My grandma is unwell at the moment and has been for much of this year. He remains by her side, faithful as ever. Who knows what the new year will hold for them both. But I know that Grandad is strong and stubborn and loyal. He will be with her no matter what.

One resolution I made to myself last year was to stand up for myself and put my family first. In 2018 I did just that. I spoke my mind and vowed not to put up with others’ crap. The latter two have become my life aims now! It is hard as, at times, people see this as unkindness despite the fact I’m always kind first and foremost. But that doesn’t mean that I have to be a passive and permissive bystander in my own life.

January 2019 is filling me with a sense of foreboding because I’ve yet again committed myself to Running Every Day as well as being in panto and working. Last year was tough. I was running at 5am or 11.30pm some days and through ice and snow. I know that by the end of the month I will be glad I did it, not least because it will help my mental health as it unexpectedly did last year. It meant I started 2018 positively and in a good frame of mind, and I need that this coming year too.

Twenty Nineteen doesn’t hold any expectations for me. It has to be better than this year. I don’t want to set goals. I would just like to end the year in one piece (physically and mentally) and have some lovely memories to look back on. That’ll do me. Oh, and a sub 1 hour 10k would be nice!

And so to today. Today I’ve done my daughter’s hair in princess plaits like she used to do mine and I’ve put on some Calvin Klein Eurphoria as it reminds me of her. We are off for a walk up to the decorated tree that the others did last week as they couldn’t do it today. I know I’ll be fine. She gave me everything I’ve ever needed to live a good life. I just wish she was here to see it all.

Happy Christmas mum x

The Secret is Out!

We always said about one of our 60 Random Acts of Kindness that we couldn’t actually tell you what it was! Well, now we finally can! Almost two years after we first blogged about it.

Our amazing, wonderful Grandad Tom has been given a British Empire Medal in the Queen’s Honours for Services to the Community of Great Ayton, North Yorkshire.

Tom Maddison BEM

Here he is on his 86th birthday last Saturday.

Until 30 minutes ago I had no idea that our nomination was a success. Grandad hadn’t said a word (he will have been sworn to secrecy!) and I don’t think he will have even been told who nominated him! In fact, I’m sure he’s asleep right now and doesn’t know it’s public knowledge!

Our blog post for this RAK can be read here: An Honourable Person. Our clues in there are now obvious. The picture? Taken from this image:

It was our 48th RAK in our project and I can honestly say it was the longest one in terms of preparation. The nomination form itself was lengthy and took the help of many people to support it including the Reverand Paul Peverell of Christ Church, Julie McCluckie (the Clerk to Great Ayton’s Parish Council), June Imeson OBE (A local Great Ayton VIP and former councillor), and the late Margaret Tait, one of the residents of the village whom he helped daily who sadly died aged 90 just a few weeks ago. It is the Cabinet Office’s rules that only the nominee(s) and those who have written supporting statements are to know about it, so up until now we have all been sworn to the utmost secrecy!

From sending off the nomination in late July 2016 until now, the only communication that I have had from the Cabinet Office was an acknowledgment of receipt and in April 2018 I received a slip asking for confirmation of grandad’s details. Despite the latter giving me reason to hope (after all, nearly two years had gone by!), it said on it that it wasn’t confirmation that an award had been granted. The last few weeks my sister, my dad and I have had so many chats trying to analyse grandad’s mood, looking for any signs that he had received an important letter. But he gave NOTHING away!

When I have shared the kind words of his supporters for the nomination with Grandad I will share them with you all too. They are humbling and we couldn’t be prouder of him. He is who we should all aspire to be yet he does not see himself as anything special. He really is. And it must be true because the Prime Minister and Queen think so too!

I’m off to try and go back to sleep! I’ll save more squealing for the morning when I finally get to speak to our wonderful Grandad. Tom Maddison BEM!

Just 4

My littlest one was four in January. I say ‘littlest’ but in real terms (of centiles and sibling/cousin comparison) she’s the biggest. Size 12 feet when she was just 3! Anyway, she’s not long turned four.

A few weeks ago I mentioned cutting her hair thinking it’s more than time for a trim. For perspective, the last trim she had was last June when I lobbed off an inch or so with the kitchen scissors when she was in the bath amidst a relatively minor but still bork-inducing nit-infested panic. This time, Lucy asked to have her hair cut like her brother’s. She has said this before and the feminist in me is all ‘hell yea you’d rock a boy cut’ and ‘oh God that’d be so much easier than trying to rake a brush through your hair every day*’.

I showed her some pictures and she decided she wanted it short and that she wanted to donate the hair like her Auntie Louise did in January. She knows I did mine too but doesn’t remember. I drew the line at shaving her head though, despite the fact she would suit it I bet. So we sorted a mobile hair dresser and every day following I reminded her that she was going to get it cut just to make sure that she was sure. She did say that I should get my hair ‘cut long’ at one point so I wondered if she realised the permanence of the whole thing.

We talked about donating her hair like Louise and I did and she thought that it would be brilliant to give it to someone who doesn’t have any hair (and suggested auntie Louise could have it now she’s bald!). I was asked about sponsorship. To be honest, I’d not thought much about it at this point as we were just going to donate her hair. When I explained to Lucy that people wanted to sponsor her she thought it was a great idea, not least because she thought that she would be the recipient of all that money! However, once I explained how it worked she was cool with it!

Today was the day and she’s been asking what time Donna was coming all day. However, once she did arrive Lucy was in the middle of building an intricate train track with her brother and didn’t want to be disturbed (typical!). However, my persuasion tactics of a digestive biscuit and bloody Elsia and Annia videos on YouTube (seriously, avoid!) worked their magic and she had the hair chopped!

The next bit was trickier as she wouldn’t stay still! But she totally rocks her new ‘do. She’s been so laid back about the whole thing and went straight back to her train track when finished!

She’s totally wonderfully brilliant and I’m so proud of her. I wish I had her style and nonchalance!

My beautiful Lucy.

*a couple of times a week at best

What do you want to be good at?

I watched a video the other day where a young boy was saying something along the lines of:

If you let yourself get angry, you become really good at it. In fact you will find it easier and easier to get angry. If you let yourself get worried, you will become really good at it and you will find it easier and easier to get worried.

Then he asked:

What do you want to be good at?

Ultimately, what he was saying was ‘practice makes perfect’ and if you practise negative feelings, you live them more and more. It’s hard to get off that road sometimes, especially when others are dragging you down their path, but you must.

It’s ok to say ‘no’ or ‘enough is enough’. Just this week I’ve supported someone who’s done just that and I quoted the video above. I reminded them that you can listen to someone else’s negativity but you don’t have to accept it. Being kind to yourself is still being kind in the same way that showing someone that you won’t be a pushover, isn’t being unkind.

So, what do you want to be good at?

And don’t forget:

Dishing out the blue balloons! Happy RAK Day!

Louise told me this morning that it was Random Acts of Kindness Day today, something that had completely slipped me by this year. To be honest, I somehow managed to forget about it again until this evening in Asda whilst at the checkout. Quickly, I picked up a random gift card and added it to my shopping. I love doing this RAK because it really is random. Noone was coming to follow me to my checkout (probably because I had a fair bit of shopping!) but I loved the randomness of the people eyeing up the checkout and the fact that my RAK was based on who decided to follow me. No matter what kind of day this person has had, this RAK will have made it better. If their day had been terrible, average or even brilliant, it will have risen them.

Quite often when I have difficult days or moments (and I’ve certainly had a few of those this week) I have the urge to do RAKs to counteract the negativity I’ve felt or have faced, so doing this has brightened my day too, which is a welcome side effect this week!

The one piece of advice from mum that I remember and recite the most is “Rise above it” (I talked about this here). I hope, in doing this RAK today, I’ve helped someone Rise Above whatever has been troubling them recently. Doing it has certainly helped me to be my inner giraffe.

That’s me: the giraffe. Sometimes, like this week, I dip below the clouds but I try to Rise Above and, in going about my life, I try to spend time with other giraffes and dish out as many blue balloons as I can along the way.