A little bit of politics (or another reason why Mrs Gripes and myself will be registering a Civil Partnership)

It isn't often that I get overtly queer-political, or feel in any way proud to be British. This is one of those occasions, however: by the passing of a law recognising gay relationships as "Civil Partnerships" the following is a situation that from 21st December this year should not happen in the UK. (-Not saying it won't happen: money protects money, and I have a suspicion that non- registered gay couples may well face similar legal issues...)

To put pressure on the "Freeholders" of Ocean County to reverse their decision, I have emailed them expressing my disappointment at their injustice. Feel free to do the same if you feel similarly.

Below is a direct "steal" from this article to give you some context (news is only archived on the ukgaynews.org.uk servers for 7 days).

Dane Wells is a retired police officer who worked with Lt. Laurel Hester, the gay police officer in Ocean County, New Jersey, who has been denied “domestic partner benefits” for her long-term same-sex partner Stacie Andree. Lt. Hester is terminally ill with lung cancer.

For nearly half a century now, I have been proud to call myself an Ocean County native.

Among the many highlights of my life have been the years I spent in law enforcement with the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, where I worked alongside Lt. Laurel Hester.

I have also enjoyed the good fortune of experiencing this grand American experiment of ours from myriad angles.

I have served as an elected official, as an appointed official in various capacities, as an employee of government, and, in perhaps the most important role of all, as citizen and voter.

From those varied perspectives, I have observed thousands upon thousands of government employees.

I have yet to encounter another public servant more devoted, more dedicated, more loyal or more hard-working than Laurel Hester.

To this very day, I see news headlines that would not exist but for her untiring efforts over two decades ago.

Laurel entered law enforcement at a time when female officers faced an even steeper uphill climb than they do today.

She brought to the profession a refreshing array of qualities it was lacking in those days; things like tenacity and compassion and incredible efficiency.

Whether we like to admit it or not, there are differences between men and women and Laurel brought to police work countless qualities that I believe only a woman could.

As a result, I saw a heck of a lot of men in a male-dominated profession feeling threatened by all those things Laurel was introducing.

But I also watched in utter amazement as she slowly but surely gained the trust and confidence of the strapping 250-pound state troopers and the oftentimes holier-than-thou federal agents.

And all of a sudden there it was before my very eyes: a woman cop being accepted by her male colleagues.

I was witness to Laurel Hester making history.

I saw a pioneer among women in police work always working twice as hard for half the credit.

And then I saw her taking her half of that credit and giving it away to a man in the interest of cultivating the harmony and respect always in her wake.

In Laurel, I was seeing then the evolution of social progress, much as we are all seeing the very same thing swirling around her today.

I will take to my grave the vivid memories of the times Laurel and I spent working on cases together.

The frigid January nights in the back of a frost-encrusted surveillance van struggling with frozen fingers to focus a seemingly endless telephoto lens on the images of shadowy figures engaged in some sort of shenanigans under the cover of darkness.

And we took some lumps together wrestling to the ground our share of drug dealers in the relentless heat of an August afternoon or two on the sandy beaches of Seaside Heights.

We sledgehammered the doors of fortress-like drug dens with nothing more that wooden night sticks and 1940s-era revolvers.

Reasonable salaries and overtime were just a dream.

No cop in the world could ever ask for better backup than that provided by Laurel Hester.

While she may seem to us today a frail and fragile figure, let me tell you she could mete out “necessary force” with the best of them.

And, not surprisingly, I don’t recall anyone ever checking on the gender of her partner when needing her help.

Personally, I never knew the answer to that question and didn’t care.

Now I know.

I still don’t care.

Of course not everyone agrees on things like religion and government.

Indeed, that's what America is all about.

That said, I think anyone is hard pressed today in claiming our Board of Freeholders does not provide us with pretty good government year after year.

At the very least, it's an opinion that's rather well quantified at the polls on a regular basis.

But I have just seen something go horribly awry.

I have seen justice denied to someone who spent her life ensuring justice for the rest of us.

I have seen my government turn its back on a loyal servant.

I have seen a human being skewered – apparently on religious grounds – and I just can’t for the life of me understand how any god being worshiped by anyone in this county could possibly approve of this.

Laurel Hester’s last request is not about politics, religion, or economics.

It’s not about the “sanctity of marriage” or any of the other things we've been hearing about.

But it is about morality.

It is about human dignity.

It is about at least some minimal amount of goodness many of us want so desperately to find in the essence of human existence.

It is about a base level of decency we expect to be inherent in 21st-century America.

Like a growing number of people these days, I’m not finding a whole lot I can respect about modern politicians, especially in New Jersey.

But one quality I will always greatly admire in any person – politician or otherwise – is the ability to recognize a mistake, admit it, fix it, and move on.

We all make them, but sometimes it takes the more towering among us to admit it.

I respectfully suggest the time has come for us to admit this hiccup in the progress of Ocean County’s longstanding progressive government; rise above money, politics, and personal religious beliefs; and unite as good and decent human beings to cradle Lt. Laurel Hester in the collective arms of the compassionate and civilized society we call Ocean County.

■ Representations to the Freeholders of Ocean County can be made to the Clerk of the Board at (732) 288 7777 or, from outside the USA +1 732 288 7777. The email address is CountyConnection@co.ocean.nj.us

A&E not TLC

(Not a pic of me...I have my own teeth, thank you)

So, I dragged my sorry self to A&E.

After initial assessment, I waited for four hours on my own (Mrs Gripes would have come, but she had to attend some vitally important meeting: you know, the kind that if you don't attend, the world will fall off its axis or something...)

I came to the conclusion that games lessons at school are hazardous - a significant number of fellowA&E-dwellers were still mudded and kitted from whatever healthy team sport with which they had wrecked themselves.

I also concluded that old women really know how to dress for cold weather- several old dears were wrapped in so many layers I wondered if they were wearing their entire winter wardrobe in one- however it has the disadvantage of making them immobile and thus they become even more prone to helpless falling.

I realised that I never want to experience a heart attack, stroke or other extreme trauma. (A bit of a no-brainer, I realise - but nonetheless...)

I reaffirmed my opinion that generally, Scottish people are polite and patient.

I waited.

Eventually, I was ushered into a cubicle, had lights shone in my ears and eyes, was prodded about the face and neck, was left alone some more, then escorted to the X-ray department where I was nuked (and prodded a bit more) returned to my cubicle and left to wait a bit longer.

I waited.

I continued to wait.

A doctor and a brood of students came with my x-ray: finally, I was diagnosed.

I have unusually small ethmoid and frontal sinuses. (I'm not sure I like the term "unusually small": it sounds freakish). When blocked- and they will become blocked more easily due to their freakish narrowness- they become very inflamed and this can affect the optic canal (which accounts for the dizziness and concomitant nausea). Anti-inflammatories might help, steroids could be a short term solution, nasal decongestants could worsen the condition so avoid them, surgery could be an option if it continues: go home, take these pills, come back if you pass out...

Once more, I wasn't made to feel a fool for "wasting" the doctor's time, but I feel bad that I had to take up time that could have been spent treating someone else. Our approach to medical care is drifting more and more towards the US system, where emergency medicine is being used for routine illnesses because people can't access general practitioners. In the US the barrier is money, in the UK it's staffing levels, over-subscribed patient lists and inflexible surgery hours.

I am feeling better physically - the little green capsules are doing a grand job- but I am now far more worried about the health of our health service than I have been in a long time...

Entering the realm of the unwell

I have had a headache, nausea and dizziness for over five days. Lucky me.

I feel as though my eyeballs are being pressed out of their sockets by a great pressure behind my eyes, swirling waves of nausea wash over me at inopportune moments and every now and then I lose track of where my body is in relation to the space around me: accordingly, I have a tendency to waiver and wobble, even when sitting still. Hours of fun, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Teaching while feeling this shitty has not exactly been a laugh and a half- my concentration is shot to pieces and yesterday I forgot what I was saying in the middle of explaining the tortured and tortuous uses of the semi-colon. I’m not sure my students noticed: I’d lost them at “good morning.”

Reluctantly, I’ve had to admit defeat and call in sick: if I can’t stand up (or even sit down) and talk without feeling as though I am going to vomit, I’m not really going to be much cop at informing and inspiring others.

I am also a little concerned- headaches aren’t supposed to last this long, this one had a double-barrelled gusher of a nosebleed as a precursor, I’m getting pins and needles in my hands and it isn’t being dulled particularly by over-the-counter analgesics. I woke up at three this morning in tears due to the pain in my head and so Mrs Gripes persuaded a very reluctant me to contact the local doctor’s surgery (I always think that I am wasting the doctor’s time, even if I’m in unfathomable agony) and so just after eight this morning I phoned to get an appointment.

The soonest appointment I could get? Next Thursday. The “emergency” appointments had already been filled by three minutes past eight. All two of them.

I hate to knock the NHS. I believe in the NHS. I believe in universal medical care, free at the point of delivery and that I should pay a fair rate of tax to pay for it. I even defend the NHS to others, pointing out the huge merits in the system –it’s just that I would like to be able to access it when I need to, without it being in response to a crisis. The NHS is – and will always be – underfunded (and most General Practices are the poor relations of the entire medical system) but underfunding alone can’t explain why the average schmo in the street can’t get to see a doctor without scheduling their illness at least a week to a fortnight in advance. Something is desperately wrong with the system and it needs more than money to fix it: it needs to be managed by people who understand that illness cannot be planned.

I’m convincing myself that I feel better. I still feel sick, dizzy and with a constant pain behind my eyes, but I’m telling myself that I am better because the NHS won’t allow me to still be ill. With any luck, I actually will feel better soon: I just wonder if I might feel better sooner if I received any medical attention - but I guess I won’t get to find out.

"Do you want the bad news, or the irrelevant news...?"

Get well soon, fuzzychops...or else I'll be fored to do something with this daff..
Poor Fuzzy: if anyone has noticed that her blog has gone suspiciously quiet, it's because she's in hospital. Nothing trivial, I can assure you. My brow is furrowed with concern as I write this - I love the wee bugger to bits (I would even offer a kidney, should one be required) and hate the thought of her having to stay at the Sawbones Hotel, not entirely knowing what they are going to do to her - but I managed to overcome my fear of hospitals and visit her. I think she was pleased-ish to see me (although I'm not the visitor she'd have wanted, ideally... ) and that if nothing else I managed to entertain her for a while. I hope she didn't notice my twitching and constant checking for an exit. I'll save relating any details as the prerogative of the poorly one herself. I'm sure that they'll be vivid.

On reflection, I don't have a fear of hospitals so much as a total blind panic, the cause of which has a long and detailed pathology, but let's just say that when my early experiences of hospitals include breaking the drainage bag from where my father had had surgery and having icky blood "stuff" soaking my new shoes and splashed up my pristine white ankle socks, visiting my dying grandfather and witnessing the quiet death of the old bloke in the bed next to him- tugging on my mother's trousers to tell her what I saw, only to be dismissed as "making it up", which was reluctantly retracted when a clot of nurses gathered around his bed, swished the curtains shut and muttered, " -shit, I was supposed to check 'im 'alf an hour ago" and then as a pitifully self-conscious teen spending ten hours on a trolley in a hospital corridor wearing my somewhat unflattering P.E. kit, my knee swollen to the size of a spacehopper, hallucinating with pain and surreally watching the mayhem explode as some drunken brawlers lurched, spewed and sprayed gore around the A&E. I could go on, but it could easily bring on a panic attack and I'm working later.

Anyhow, apart from worrying about Fuzzy's hospital sojourn, I have been working 15-16 hour days getting some project work completed (I think Mrs Gripes still recognises me...) which has left no time for anything remotely resembling a life, let alone a blog. Which means that my blog anniversary slipped past without me really noticing.

Looking back, I think I had very different intentions when starting blogging. Now I'm not sure if I have any intentions at all. I am also aware that I am "self-editing" more than I thought I would. There are times when I want to express something completely different, but I bite my lip (so to speak) wary that what I say might actually affect "real" people -or worse. If I am to continue blogging, then I need to have a serious rethink about how I express myself - should I be brutally open and frank, or should I continue to self-moderate? Can you be too honest? Are there other facets of myself that I should/could explore bloggily?

If I continue to blog, I suppose I'll sort all that out. For now, I'll just worry about real stuff.

Get better NOW, Fuzzy: you're needed back in the blogosphere and the real world...


clicky for bigger

I am having a strong urge for comfort eating. The kind my mother excelled in (no emotional problem to large or small that couldn't be lulled with a steamed sponge pudding or something greasy and sweet drowning in custard ) -the kind that I just can't eat any more.

I 've always used food as a buffer between myself and the world and I'm not sure it is a habit that I will ever break. That, culturally, we use food as both a celebration and a comfort (think Christmas dinner, think funerals...) and are seen as odd if we refuse the biscuit from the shared staffroom tin or dolefully deny ourselves dessert at social events, just adds to the confusion of the recovering fudge-doughnut addict.

So maybe I'll make do with licking the squares of the screen above in a coolly scientific combination of flavours. (Or maybe I'll cruise the aisles of M&S, drooling over the sticky toffee puddings until I get physically removed by the security guards....) Either way, today I feel like cramming my face with something bosomly comforting, tooth-achingly sweet, warm, syrupy and cinnamon scented.


The Lofty Sky

Today I want the sky,
The tops of the high hills,
Above the last man's house ,
His hedges, and his cows,
Where, if I will, I look
Down even on sheep and rook,
And of all things that move
See buzzards only above:
Past all trees, past furze
And thorn, where naught deters
The desire of the eye
For sky, nothing but sky.
I sicken of the woods
And all the multitudes
Of hedge-trees.
They are no more
Than weeds upon this floor
Of the river of air
Leagues deep, leagues wide,
Where I am like a fish that lives
In weeds and mud and gives
What's above him no thought.
I might be a tench for aught
That I can do to-day
Down on the wealden clay.
Even the tench has days
When he floats up and plays
Among the lily leaves
And sees the sky, or grieves
Not if he nothing sees:
While I, I know that trees
Under that lofty sky
Are weeds, fields mud, and I
Would arise and go far
To where the lilies are.

[Edward Thomas is a much overlooked poet: often marginalized from collections of war poetry and not fully “pastoral” enough to fit into the georgic revival mould, he is difficult to categorise. His poems seems pastoral and simple on a first reading, but are often imbued with a strangely melancholic tone- something stemming from his own battles with depression. He also wrote about "otherness" and was fascinated by the symbolism of doppelgangers, particularly how they could represent a duality in human nature. He died in Flanders in 1917. I often think of the works of Thomas around Armistice Day – more so than I think of Sassoon or Owen - he seems to capture the sense of loss far more precisely than many other poets, I find. Needless to say, when I studied Thomas at school, I couldn’t stand his work: far too “gentle” - I preferred the pretentious rantings of Eliot or the out and out miserableness of Sylvia Plath. What can I say? I was a teenager… Ho hum.
This particular poem is a fair prĂ©cis of my mood. Not literally, of course- although I feel that the sky is growing heavier and lower by the day, that the buildings are bleeding greyness into the streets, that this damp greyness is being absorbed into my very bones, that I am rotting like leaves heaped by the roadside, that I am darkly slipping into winter with only the vague memory of spring and the hope of spring to come keeping me from being washed away, that I am drowning in gulps of grizzled air, that I need to see something beautiful, something open wide and clear before I lose all hope and myself – but it does capture at least something of the mood that I feel. And then there are Thomas’s symbolic woods… You can read a lot into those, I assure you.
There seem to be a lot of people weighed down by “something” - right now, chipper blogging seems to be the exception rather than the rule- and I am part of that fashion. I know that like all seasons, all moods, all fashions, it will pass - but when? I am forcing myself to wear pink and grin like an automaton in a vague hope that it will trigger the real “happy” outlook. Failing that, I may have to be an early adoptee of the fashion for tinsel. Actually, I may just stay miserable: far less irritating.]

Just plain "Balls to the HMI"

I have been thoroughly inspected. Twice. (-luckily neither the lesson in which we were discussing the impossibility of imagining Celine Dion at orgasm- I shudder at the thought now, just recollecting the conversation and ensuing impersonations- nor the one in which we were all sharing "embarrassing moments I have known/caused" and I tripped over my own feet and broke a reasonably expensive piece of equipment, thus adding to my [long] list of shame... but a fairly "worthy" effort which looked as though it had "learning objectives" clearly communicated and fitted in to the main scheme- and was deathly, deathly dull to teach...) In addition, my marking has been looked over, my record-keeping sniffed at and some of my students grilled about me... and no, they are not allowed to tell me what they said, I am not allowed to ask, and the only feedback I can get is in the written report, seeing as my line manager declined the verbal debriefing on my behalf. Bastard.

The jury is out to consider its verdict.
Ho hum...

Am I feeling happy, confident and that "quality" has been assured? Am I bumgravy...

Gizza job.
Go on. Gizzit.
Whatever you do, I could do that ...

*head butts screen*