Northern Ireland politics – language or life?

Northern Ireland politics and ‘democracy’ is a laughing stock thanks to the DUP and Sinn Féin behaving like toddlers bickering over broken toys in the playground; it has been 10 months since the last election here where they were voted as the two largest parties (primarily because of tribal & sectarian voting rather than based on sensible policies …and also because a large proportion of people here just don’t vote) but they have wasted that time in ‘discussions’ about coming back to devolved Government – but not actually doing it – leaving Northern Ireland without ANY steer or voice around Brexit, education, health, infrastructure of ANYTHING of importance at all.

The demand by Sinn Féin for legislation to give official status to the Irish language viewed as the last/major stumbling block in the negotiations – as all other so called ‘red lines’ seemed to have fallen away; now I am not saying that respect for our cultural heritage isn’t important because I think that it honestly is but when the language is being used to hold the whole of Northern Ireland to ransom in this way so that schools – ALL OF THEM – are running out of money, and hospitals and GPS – ALL OF THEM – are running out of money, and our infrastructure – ALL OF IT – is running to a halt because of lack of money, and our construction industry is faltering because of lack of investment because their is no Minister then there is a MAJOR issue that can only be fixed by a stable devolved Government actually doing its job …and part of its job would be to sort out an Irish Language Act, either stand alone or as part of a joined up ‘Cultural Act’ as the DUP seem to have suggested that includes other aspects of Ireland/Northern Ireland too, I actually don’t really care.

You see the Irish Language, or the Ulster Scots language, as important as they are, really doesn’t mater when stacked up against people lives/health, their education, their jobs, and their ability to actually live a healthy and happy lifestyle which, at the moment, they can’t because their elected representatives are failing them.
According to the 2011 UK Census, in Northern Ireland 184,898 (10.65%) claim to have some knowledge of Irish, of whom 104,943 (6.05%) can speak the language to varying degrees. Some 4,130 people (0.2%) use Irish as their main home language.
Is that really more important than a cancer center in the City Hospital in Belfast not having enough funds? Or schools all across Northern Ireland worrying where they are getting the money to pay their teachers?

…no. No, it isn’t.

MLAs need – NEED – to get back to Stormont and do their jobs and get their priorities straight and when they are their they need – NEED – to ensure that, obviously, equality and respect for all is a given so that LGBT rights are respected, equal marriage is put in place, abortion (even if – at first, because Northern Ireland may need to take small steps – it is just in cases of rape, incest, and fatal fetal abnormalities) is legalised, that the money is in place for all of the urgent first line health, education, jobs, and infrastructure roles that are lacking and then – only then – they can sit down like adults – not petulant children – and put in place a language act that works for all instead of using it like a hammer that does more harm than good.

2021 Commonwealth Youth Games – slipping away?

Northern Ireland is meant to be hosting the 2021 Commonwealth Youth Games. This would be a WONDERFUL opportunity for all of the young athletes who have trained to compete on the world stage on their home grounds but, also, for the economy as it would definitely boost tourism, retail, and food industry businesses.

However, thanks to the ineptitude and pettiness of the politicians (if you can call them that) here in Northern Ireland, who can’t put the sake of the people and the Country before their own little egos and selfish wants, we don’t have a functioning Government, so the business case has not been signed off by the Northern Ireland Executive.

…in other words we may miss out on hosting a worldwide headline sporting event because of political stupidity.

Or, to put it simply, just another Thursday here in Northern Ireland.

Is Theresa May’s best good enough for Grenfell?

Theresa May is so very ‘generous’ isn’t she?

She has guaranteed to give the survivors of the Grenfell fire disaster an ‘amazing’ £5,500 each to those who lost their homes.

Each household will receive at least £500 in cash and £5,000 paid into an account as part of a £5m emergency fund.

I mean I can’t believe how generous this Government is being …not when compared with the up to £33,000 redundancy package her ousted MPs get after losing their seats at the recent election, plus the up to £50,000 in ‘winding up’ expenses for their constituency offices – which she doesn’t think is enough and is going to set up a hardship fund for THEM!!!

Just think about that.

The people of Grenfell lived in one of the poorest ares in the UK, nestled in one of the most affluent, and the Prime Minister is giving them each just over £5k while at the same time paying off MPs (who earned £67,060 to £74,000 a year plus exorbitant expenses) with a massive send-off.

Most of the £5m fund is to do the necessary things the Government should already be doing like rehousing the people and looking after their physical and mental states but the press are trying to twist it as some magnanimous gesture on her behalf …NO, it is almost an insult considering that these people have lost relatives, friends, and EVERYTHING in their lives and have to start again and you are giving then £5000 when you can give 4 and 5 times that amount to politicians who don’t need it and STILL think that’s not enough for them you pompous, inhuman woman!!!

I would ask you, beseech you, to do better but I am now convinced that you are incapable of doing any more than this and we are seeing you at your ‘best’ already; and what we are seeing – at times of adversity for so many people – is appalling.

Sexism and double standards in Canadian school

Seemingly a Canadian school principal agrees that that girls’ clothing and bodies is ‘putting boys at risk of having a distracting working environment’ and that the school would ‘continue to enforce the dress code, which bans short skirts and states that “cleavage”, “navels” and “bra straps” must be covered’.
 
I just wonder if she will enforce a similar dress code for boys, making sure that THEIR bodies are covered, so that they can’t show their lovely muscular legs in shorts, or show their uncovered chests, belly buttons/navels, or the top of the boxer shorts over their trouser waist bands because, you know, we have to ensure that the girls have a distraction-free learning environment too and the poor females can’t keep their lust free gaze away from those male bodies, or control themselves either, can they?!? /sarcasm
 
#sexism #doublestandards
 

Theresa May – Enough is enough!

The UK’s ‘glorious and much vaunted leader’, Theresa May, says that despite cutting the the Police force by 20,000 and slashing their budget, she has ‘really’ increased the number of firearms officers, protected the counter-terrorism policing budgets, and made them, as a whole, much more able to protect us all from the rising level of threat from extremists and terrorists.
 
However Government figures show the number of police officers has fallen from 146,030 officers in 2010 to 126,766 in 2016 – the number of armed officers has dropped from 6,976 to 5,639 in the same time. The figures don’t lie so maybe May does?
 
And the Former Prime Minister, David Cameron’s, own aide, Steve Hilton, actually thinks that the cuts that May forced upon the Police was responsible for the security failures that led to the terror attacks at London Bridge, Manchester, Westminster Bridge and thinks that May should resign.
 
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said London was getting half the funding for policing that it should be getting for a capital city and that policing in the capital was facing a £400m cut over the next four years.
 
He said that while the Met Police did a brilliant job despite the cuts, they needed more resources.
 
You can’t cut Police numbers and budgets and expect them, no matter how hard they work and how hard they try, to expect them to do the same job for less and less …well actually I suppose the Tories CAN expect that, it’s pretty much what they expect of everyone except for themselves. This time, though, it is costing lives and putting more at risk.
 
When May said, in her press conference outside number 10 after the terror attacks at London Bridge and Borough Market, that enough was enough, she was right …enough IS enough, it is time to get rid of her and her cronies and June 8th is the time to do it. If you vote Conservatives you are voting for more cuts to the Police, more cuts to the NHS, more cuts to welfare for the disabled, and the sick, and the vulnerable.
 
Enough is enough.
 
Time to change.

Wonder Woman – what came before

You know I love Wonder Woman; I have been reading the character for pretty much as long as I have been reading comics and have been watching her on TV since I was a kid (I may even still have some of the Lynda Carter episodes on VHS from when they were originally recorded back in the 80s when we were living in Holland 🙂 ) …I am VERY invested in this movie being good because I not only want it to be good for me but for my boys, who also love the character – from the comics, but also from DC animation like the Justice League cartoons and the DC Superhero Girls (which is awesome, check it out!) – and this will be their introduction to her on the big screen as I haven’t let them watch the Batman vs Superman movie as I personally feel it isn’t suitable for kids their age (your mileage may vary, I am NOT going to argue about that!).
 
The thing is though that if I hear one more reporter – male or female, I don’t care – self-congratulatory – explain to their audience (or themselves) how this is the ‘first female led superhero movie’ I am going to reach into the TV or radio and throttle them! 🙂
 
Let’s just list a few of the easy ones that have come before Wonder Woman: Elektra, Catwoman (it had the name of the DC character but was really only ‘inspired by’ rather than was her), Witchblade, Tank Girl, Tomb Raider (ok this was a game first but also had comics), Sheena, and, Red Sonja …and one other: Supergirl.
 
I left that one until last because it’s quite important as it shows that Wonder Woman isn’t the ‘first female led superhero movie’ featuring a major DC character, and with the ‘S’ creast on her chest you’ve got to admit that Supergirl is pretty major.
 
…and with Tank Girl being directed by Rachel Talalay, Wonder Woman isn’t even the first ‘first female led superhero movie’ directed by a female director.
 
Anyway, those characters and movies are history, we are talking now about the present and future: Wonder Woman! 🙂
 
What Wonder Woman is easily going to be is the ‘first female led superhero movie’ directed by a female director to be a major financial success and (hopefully) a major critical one too.
 
It gets referred to as a ‘risk’ with a relatively paltry budget of $149 million – obviously because Patty Jenkins is a ‘mere’ female director (she didn’t turn a $8 million budget for Monster into $60 million box office ey? /sarcasm) – so I hope Wonder Woman blows the takings for Suicide Squad and Batman vs Superman out of the water (SS box office is over $740m and BvsS is over $850m) and PROVES what a good female character, story, and director can do with the fans behind them.
 
So get behind them …go watch this movie.
Be Wonder Woman! 🙂

Archery – new bow! :)

I may have gone and bought myself a bow 🙂
 
It’s a 25″ Kinetic Halo riser in a lovely two-tone red & black with 26lb SF premium limbs (jumping up from 20lb bow but going to be taking things gradually so should hopefully be able to handle it) …had to get a colour coordinated set of fletched arrows and bag as well, of course, just to finish things off.

Children with disabilities, choices, and how schools can fail them.

As some of you may know my eldest child, Mackenzie, has a medical condition that means that his muscles don’t always work as they should do which leaves him weaker than average, prone to bouts of fatigue, and occasionally having to use his wheelchair.
Currently he is still at primary school but in September 2018 (which is scarily close!)  he will be starting his secondary education (or high school for my American friends 🙂 )  and, as such, we’ve spent the last few nights visiting potential schools.
Due to the ‘peculiarities’ of the country we have chosen to live in, Northern Ireland,  (as much as I moan about it it IS a beautiful country, with some of the friendliest and most giving people, and one of the best educational systems in the world, and THE best health system too, plus it has my family and it is home) it is a segregated country, choosing to mostly define itself by its two major religions: protestant and catholic, and the majority of its schools are split that way too. However my children go to an integrated school where, be deliberate choice, children are NOT split by their faith, but educated together by all faiths, or none. The nearest secondary school/high school which is integrated is about 15 miles away, or 25 minutes drive; this would mean Mackenzie getting up earlier, leaving the house earlier, and getting a bus to and from school every day …and 1/ potentially getting more fatigued due to this and 2/ being much further from home if there ever were to be a medical emergency that required us (so far in the 6 years at primary school there hasn’t been but, you know, we worry). The thing about it, the unfortunate thing about it, was that we all adored the place; there was NOTHING, not to love about it other than the location. Every aspect of it: the fact it was all on one floor, the teaching staff, the obvious happiness of the kids, the educational ethos, the league standings, the gifted stream, the pastoral care (and specialism for disabled children), EVERYTHING, was perfect!
So, this led to us, unfortunately, deciding that we may have to drop our principles in regards to wanting to only ever have our kids at an integrated school and ‘maybe’ look into a school closer to home that was segregated by faith (obviously, as agnostic Humanists that isn’t a major issue as we are classed as not having a faith for the school numbers, but as a matter of principle it rankled a tad), due to the matter of what was best for Mackenzie.
One of the schools is, literally, just outside our house; we can look outside Mackenzie’s bedroom window and see the school. We attended the open night and he loved what he saw – it was fresh, and vibrant, and fun. The children were happy, the approach to education was child focused, and they had a library that was the size that some small villages would be envious of …and they had a lift to take you from the ground floor to the second and, where there were more stairs, they had wheelchair lifts to take you up. We all had a REALLY good feeling about this school, even though, from a ‘league’ viewpoint, it wasn’t at the top of the scale and maybe didn’t offer everything that a gifted child needed (not to boast, or to sound biased, but Mackenzie is only 9 and is testing beyond a 16 year old currently) … but he LOVED the feel of the place.
The third school that we visited was the oldest school in Northern Ireland, and the second oldest school in Ireland (and a school that I myself ‘technically’ went too – didn’t go to for very long so don’t count it 😉 ) and has a very good reputation, and offers some amazing opportunities both educationally and in terms of your onward CV …but from the moment that we arrived, and had to go up an old flight of stairs, then over cobbled pavement, and down another flight of stairs into an old lecture theater, to hear the welcome speech from the Headmaster, we knew there would be issues. Rightly or wrongly so the whole speech, and the whole tour, was aimed at, and around, the educational attainment of the children, but also, the whole tour was lengthy, and up and down MANY flights of stairs and around a very old (the original building was built some time in the 1700s) castle type structure. We didn’t last the whole tour, to be honest, because Mackenzie got too tired and asked to go home; he liked some of what he saw, but said he didn’t think that he’d like to go there; I managed to speak to the Deputy Head about accessibility for a child in a wheelchair and, to his credit, he was extremely frank and honest, and he answered with one word: ‘problematic’. There are not lifts at all anywhere in the school, not even in the newer parts, let alone the ancient parts, all of which are used, daily, for all the students. He said that we should arrange to speak to the bursar, the Headmaster, and the Education Authority if we were interested in sending Mackenzie there to see if anything could be done …but, to be honest, if nothing has been done already – and considering that the Disability Discrimination Act came into force in 1995 which means that they should have done something, ANYTHING, to address these issues by now – I don’t hold out much hope that they would be able to do much for one child anyway. I just found it quite staggering, and more than a little disgraceful, that a school that opened a welcoming speech by saying that they were there for a ‘whole child experience’ were so woefully unable to actually allow a disabled child to even be educated there at all.
End of the day while this school ‘may’ have been one of the better choices from an educational standpoint it has definitely ruled itself out in every other way and has made the choice of where Mackenzie goes next a little bit easier to make.

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.

targetSo, I am now a fully paid up member of Archery GB, Archery NI and the Northern Ireland Civil Service Sports Association Archery Club; I have also spent money on buying equipment for myself (even though the club are providing most of it for me for a few months I wanted to get some of of my personalised/preferenced things instead) though I did manage (just) to stop short of buying a bow somehow 😉 …so who wants to start the betting for just how long it takes before I get either so ill that I can’t continue or my arms fall off, ey? 🙂

 
…oh, and my first actual COMPETITION is on the 17th December because I believe that, after only 4 classes back, why not jump in with both feet and all the way up my broken body waaaay over my head, and do a double (yes it’s actually a double competition in one day – like I said, jumping in with both feet! GRIN) Portsmouth and have some fun. What’s the worst that can happen, ey? 🙂
 
Back in the day, after getting out of hospital after six months immobile or in a wheelchair, I was told not to do martial arts, sky dive, or bungee jump …almost twenty nine later I’m now a 5th degree black belt in kung fu (still haven’t bungee jumped or sky-dived though, really must get around to that 😉 ) so once I put my mind to something I rarely let things stop me. I have a plan for what I want to do with archery and while this may be very early days yet I feel the same buzz, giddiness, glee, and antici ….pation (to quote the good Doctor Frankenfurter) I did back when I took my first steps (literally and figuratively) in martial arts now with archery; a quote I find very apt at the moment is “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” I really like that because it means that you have to try your best to attain your goal, or your dreams, and you (or in this case me I suppose) have to have a big dream to begin with …the thing is – which is really the apt part, being archery related and all 😉 – is that I have a dream, a goal, and it is a big one, and I am aiming for it, and am going to work my little backside off towards it, but I don’t intend to miss it at all! 🙂

On names and their orders.

disabilityLucy Webster (@Lucy_Webster_) is a politics and international relations graduate from Warwick University. She was named Student Columnist of the Year by the Guardian in 2014 and is now a freelance journalist, writing on social and political issues including disability and foreign affairs; recently she wrote a really interesting article for The Guardian (UK newspaper) on her thoughts about being a trailblazer in life ‘simply’ because she is a disabled woman and how, sometimes, she would like to be seen first not as her wheelchair but as just the person.

This is something that I can very much relate to.

Being disabled, by the very definition, obviously does mean being different in some way or manner but that in itself doesn’t HAVE to be the defining thing about the disabled person …or, to swap that last part around (as I prefer to put it) about the person who is disabled. See that difference may be slight, or simple, grammatically speaking, or just for you, the reader, but for me (because I can only speak – or write – for myself here) as someone who actually is disabled it is actually massive.

You see (or maybe you don’t, but that’s ok because that it what I am trying to help you with here) is that sometimes it can be hard putting a positive face on when you are ill, or hurting, or struggling (or all three) or facing the obstacles that living with a disability can hurl your way. The very last thing that you want – on top of everything else that you deal with on an ongoing, daily basis – is for the world to look at you and see you as your disability first and foremost or, even worse, only. You know, last time I looked in the mirror at least, I don’t have a neon sign above my head with an arrow pointing down at me with the words CONGENITAL MYASTHENIA in bold text, or SPINA BIFIDA decals on my jackets, I don’t even have a blue wheelchair tattooed on me so that I get to park anywhere I choose if I forget my blue badge (though that ‘could’ be handy I suppose 😉 ). In fact in polite company most people ask for my name before asking me for my medical background …even the many doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, and occasional witch-doctors (you never know they might just work 😉 ) still get my name before getting down with the faulty genetics you know.

It’s something that I still struggle with myself; I realise the importance of equality and especially diversity in everyday life but especially my own little corner of geekdom which is genre fiction, comics, and gaming where women, people of colour, non-straight, and disabled people are underrepresented so when I am asked if I would be interested in being considered for an anthology, or another piece of work, you would think that I would be really up for it wouldn’t you. You’d think …

…but there’s a part of me that is still really coming to terms with the fact if I am being asked to these things because I am a disabled writer who is pretty good, or a pretty good writer who also just happens to be disabled. I have to admit that worries me, perhaps more than it should.