alithea: (Warrior River (made by brokenharlequin))
I'd like to say that it's because Scots are less racist and more leftwing than the English but that wouldn't actually be true (social attitude studies consistently show little difference - for example this report (pdf) "Is Scotland more left-wing than England" finds very modest differences in concern over income inequality and support for tax-and-spend and wealth redistribution. Similar issues are discussed in this Guardian analysis from last year). None of these differences are sufficient to explain why every single area of Scotland voted to Remain in Europe, even the rural conservative heartlands with similar demographics to the Leave voting areas of England.

So what's the difference?

Seems to me that the Scottish Parliament, the fact that it's elected by a proportional system, the existence of the SNP and the consistently pro-immigration political discourse are the deciding factors. In England, and now Wales* it seems, working class white folks abandoned by New Labour have turned to UKIP and bought into the increasingly popular immigrant-blaming discourse, encouraged by the mainstream media. In Scotland, this same demographic has turned to the SNP. While the UKIP lot vote in increasing numbers but have one MP, the SNP have been running the country for years, pretty successfully as centrist parties go. And they have been putting the blame for the inequality in our country firmly where it lies - with the Westminster Government and consistently telling Scots that we need immigration to survive. So while large swathes of England feel thoroughly disenfranchised and are obsessed with 'taking their country back', those same people in Scotland are getting on with doing it - from Westminster not from the EU and people who want to live and work here. And while there are racist bigots, they *never* hear their views legitimised by mainstream political discourse (much to my shame, we do have a single UKIP MEP up here (elected in a turnout of 33.5%!), but he is quite literally a national joke; when he took part in one of the TV debates, he showed himself to be completely at 90 degrees to reality, it's the only time I've seen *everyone* commenting on Twitter agreeing on anything).

And you can say what you like about the SNP (I am not their biggest fan - they pay lip service to wanting a Scandinavian-style social democracy and then centralise the police, fail to reform council tax and make excuses for not raising taxes on the rich when they have fought for the powers to do so), but while the Tory leadership candidates are talking about using EU residents as bargaining chips, the first thing Nicola Sturgeon did after the vote was tell all our EU residents that Scotland is still their home and call for everyone to be granted indefinite leave to remain, something only the Lib Dems have done south of the border, where the Labour lot are now competing over who gets to address 'immigration concerns' because the way to deal with UKIP support is apparently still to pander to their lies, because that hasn't just plunged us into complete chaos, has it? Oh no, wait, the other thing.

So now I'm back to the same point I was making during the indy ref - that modern Scottish nationalism is a very different beast to British Nationalism. And regardless of what some folks, the lexiteers and others no doubt, want to believe, the Leave vote really was about British Nationalism.

*What I can't speak to is why Welsh devolution doesn't seem to have had the same impact there. I confess I've never paid much attention to their politics.
alithea: (Being human (base by ahlai))
Really glad I joined the Scottish Greens and got involved this year. Going to the count last night was really good fun. We didn't get either of our deposits back but we substantially increased our vote share in both constituencies and managed about 3% (and 4th place) in Dundee West which was pretty damn good all things considered, since that was the seat the SNP were fighting as opposed to defending. And I'm really hopeful for Holyrood next year - there's a lot of sympathy for us locally, especially amongst the SNP lot, we should be able to pick up a lot of regionalist list votes here.

The anger towards Scottish Labour was palpable - the candidate for our constituency (who was running against the deputy leader of the SNP and was never going to win) was the only person whose speech after the results was booed.

Also telling was the fact the local Lib Dems are a bunch of St. Andrews old boys and spent the evening sitting with the local Tories. The Boy got chatting to one of their activists, who is actually a lefty liberal and apparently he's seriously considering decamping and joining us instead.

All in all a really positive experience, I hadn't planned to stay 'til the results were announced but I got caught up and did so anyway. Cheering on our merry little band was a great moment, although we didn't make the BBC Scotland coverage because our results were announced just as Douglas Alexander lost. And then we came home and got sucked into the TV coverage because Jim Murphy was just conceding defeat as we got in. So we didn't go to bed til gone 4am, by which time it was looking like Carmichael might be the only non-SNP left in Scotland and like the exit poll was depressingly accurate.

The next 5 years look to be *interesting* - Tory majority and an EU referendum was about the only scenario where I could see us having another indy ref within the next 10 years but I think it will depend on whether Westminster are prepared to offer electoral reform and how much devolution we now get. It's certainly depressing for the UK as a whole - branding the Scots a bunch of 'ugly nationalists' isn't going to do anything for the state of the Union and if that's the best Labour can manage, England is rather fucked.
alithea: (Mucha Fran&Katchoo)
National identity is a funny old thing. As a young person, I think you probably start off inheriting your national identity from your parents but as you get older, particularly if you move away and make your home some place else, it becomes a more complicated. Unsurprisingly, the indy ref has brought up a lot of issues regarding national identity and one person of my acquaintance just straight out said to me 'I'm surprised that as a recent immigrant to Scotland, you are supporting independence'. Now as it happens, my support for independence is not about national identity, it's about democracy and representation. I'm a federalist at heart but as we are quickly finding out now, the UK is not in the least set up in a way to achieve federalism any time soon. But the national identity thing is still an interesting discussion. So here are my thoughts:

I don't think I've ever felt British in my life. I was always English.

For context, my mother's family are very English on both sides and probably go back to the Doomsday book in the Beds/Bucks region. On the other hand, my father is Irish Catholic on one side and German Jewish on the other. Rather than being 'British', he has always referred to himself as being a mongrel and I think would probably identify as a European more than anything else (he infamously had a blazing row with the modern language teachers at my high school about how they should teach Spanish rather than German because Germans spoke English anyway and communicating in Europe was the future). Scotland was never on my radar until I lived here (my parents used to holiday in Kirkcudbright but the last time we did so as a family was when I was still too young to remember), Wales was somewhere my father hated with a passion (he lived there for a few years as a small boy and got bullied pretty badly for being English I think) that I only ever went to on biology field trips, and Ireland was a place across the water that my name and love of potatoes came from (a day trip to Dublin was my sole experience of the place until I met the Boy).

So regardless of actually *being* British, if you'd have asked teenage me what I was, I'd have said English every time.

Then I moved to Scotland.

Now for those of you who have never lived in Scotland (or Wales, or NI) let me share this - you don't have to live up here very long at all before you quickly realise how England-centric all the national news/media/whatever is and how utterly ignorant your average English person is about life and politics up here. I know because I *was* that ignorant English person. When I announced I was moving to Aberdeen to my friends at uni, one of them thought it was in Wales, and believe me, lack of knowledge of geography is only the start of the issue.

Now in Aberdeen, I was only at home in the bubble that was the old city, the university campus populated by folks from all over the world, so my Englishness remained. Also, I was miserable and there is nothing more inward looking than a depressed PhD student (I exaggerate for effect).

But when I moved to Dundee, I made a *home* for myself. Now home is a funny old concept just like national identity. Home had always been a difficult subject for me because I had been an outsider growing up because my parents weren't local and no-one ever believed I'd been born and bred in Staffs because I didn't *sound* local. Now don't get me wrong, I wasn't an *outcast*, I made friends for life at school, but I also spent my entire school career being bullied about my voice/accent, and not just by the other pupils. Anyway, at some point in the last 10 years, Dundee has gone from being the place I live, to *home* and therefore *where I come from*, and similarly I've gone from feeling English to feeling Scottish.

But you're not Scottish, I hear you thinking. Ah well, feelings don't always fit with logic now do they? So here is the thing you are missing - unlike in England where, in my experience, immigrants identify as British if they aren't *ethnically* English, Scotland in the last decade or so has successfully made Scottishness a civic identity rather than just an ethnic one. Obviously not entirely and completely but for example, you often see Asian immigrants on Scottish TV who identify as 'Scottish Asian'. Now I don't know about you, but I have never come across any Asians or indeed anyone else with non-British ancestry who identifies as 'English' anything.

And then there is the other side to this - why don't I identify as British? And now we get to the bit that is further complicated by having an Irish Catholic (pagan) husband from Northern Ireland. It's hard to be a proud Brit when a lot of stuff you are supposed to be proud of involves an army who terrorised your husband as a child, empires and wars when you're not far off a pacifist, and sporting tribalism when you are the sort of person who enjoys watching people triumph regardless of their nationality (I love ice skating; I don't believe Torvil and Dean were cheated of gold at their last Olympics, I think they were damned lucky to get the bronze and probably didn't deserve it). Visit NI in July when you have catholic family that you love and then tell me the sight of a union flag makes you proud. Listen to the anti-immigration nonsense parroted by all the Westminster crowd when you have very dear friends who have been at risk of being deported because of the stupid new rules despite Scotland desperately needing more working age immigrants and tell me it makes you proud to be British.

And then there are the great British institutions we can all be proud of like the NHS and the Welfare State. But what are we doing to these things in modern Britain? Tearing them apart is what. The more I see of the modern Labour party and the rise of UKIP in England, the more I buy into the notion that the post war to 1970s period was the blip and actually the majority of folks in Britain basically want to live in the 19th Century. And I don't thank you very much, regardless of how much I love the fashions, architecture and Arts and Crafts, and I think the majority of Scots agree with me, whereas I'm afraid despite knowing English folks who do too, I don't have faith that they are a majority.

So there we have it, I might *be* British, it is after all what it says on my passport, but I don't feel loyalty to a nation that doesn't really exist (our country is the United Kingdoms of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) over a place that is my home. If we can be the Scotland I want us to be within the UK that suits me just fine, but if we can't then I'll be Scottish even if that means I'm not British any more.
alithea: (Being human (base by ahlai))
This is an artificial trail full of obstacles. These are meant to require skill and be something you have to get over. I will be wracked with self-doubt and convinced that because it is hard I am going to struggle. Therefore I will struggle.

This is a natural trail. These rocks and tree roots are just here, they aren't intentional obstacles. I've been cycling over tree roots since I was a kid, this isn't hard. Therefore I just get on with it even if I wobble about a bit.

The annoying bit is, I know I'm struggling with the artificial trail because I have no confidence not because I'm not physically capable of it, but that doesn't actually help.

Brains are funny things. I'm very glad that when I started this job no-one ever approached teaching me stuff in a way that made me feel they didn't think I could do it.

ETA: I also wonder if I'd have more confidence regarding physical challenges if my mother hadn't spent my entire childhood telling me I was cackhanded and awkward.
alithea: (Starbuck bang (made by amiyuy))
Caught the end of Newsnight last night and the piece they were doing on whether the success of women at the Olympics (this Olympics has been all about the women in my opinion) and the wall to wall coverage of women athletes on the TV, will actually translate into greater exposure for them *after* the Olympics and improve equality of access, participation and sponsorship. I'm somewhat afraid to hope it will because I suspect I'm going to be disappointed, but if the shortlist for Sport's Personality of the Year isn't at least 50% women this year, there needs to be a *lot* of angry letters written to the BBC (although I'll confess I won't mind if Bradley Wiggins wins it, just as long as the women get the recognition they are due too).

Turns out that when it's women playing rather than overpaid idiots with attitude problems, I'll even watch *football* of all things, although I think handball still wins the 'most entertaining sport I've never seen before' award.
alithea: (Being human (base by ahlai))
or do people mostly submit a pile of rubbish to Postsecret these days?

There used to be some really moving posts on there. Today's offerings include 'I don't shave my legs in the winter' (me either, and I still go swimming and no-one has ever made any comment about it) and a man admitting he fantasizes about getting married.

Since when did not succumbing to stupid gender stereotypes constitute a shocking or moving secret? ETA: when rebelling against them has rather worse consequences than a bit of mild bullying at school, as Andrew points out in comments.
alithea: (altar candle (please do not take))
Maybe I'm just feeling cynical because I'm ill but I'm reminded again today about the dangers of Twitter, and confusing online 'clicktivism' with actual activism.

Today, I'm reminded of this because #RIPHarry is trending on Twitter and various people are apparently tweeting in memory of 11 year old Harry Mosley, who has died of a brain tumour after raising thousands of pounds for Cancer Research. Now I know he was trying to raise awareness as well as funds, but it strikes me that appealing for everyone to donate in his memory would be rather more useful than trying to make #RIPHarry the top trending topic worldwide. But maybe I'm just being cynical, after all, if only 10 % of the retweeters actually donate, that's still better than none, right?

I guess I'm rather bitter because my first experience of getting caught up in Twitter campaigning and thinking I was making a difference was over the execution of Troy Davis*. Having taken part in the Amnesty email campaign, I was on Twitter the night of the 21st September, following #theworldiswatching as what must of been thousands of people were appealing to the authorities in Georgia to reconsider their decision to execute him. I gave up and went to bed at about 12.30 am, just after the news of the last minute reprieve had come in, full of hope that we had been listened to, that the eyes of the world watching, albeit online, had shamed them. But then I woke up to the news on the radio that they had executed him anyway. They'd blocked incoming public email when the Amnesty campaign got going and Twitter might seem like a loud voice but let's face it, it's easy to ignore in the real world. If we'd all been standing outside US embassies all over the world, that would have been harder to ignore surely?

Or maybe not.

Maybe I'm just having one of those days when I feel crappy for not making enough of a difference in the world and taking it out on others who I perceive (quite possibly wrongly) as having lower standards than me. Either way, there's something about Twitter that feels like it should make more difference than stupid chain statuses on Facebook, which I never get sucked into, and I think that's dangerous.

*I'm fundamentally and totally against the death penalty and am not open to discussion about that here - if you want to debate the pros & cons of it in general, or Troy Davis's case, go do it on your own journal.


Sep. 12th, 2011 01:37 pm
alithea: (Default)
*Saturday started off very badly, when I woke up to Tony Blair being interviewed on the Today programme and wanted to stab his eyes out after about 2 minutes. I then spent the rest of the weekend avoiding all news and coverage of the 9/11 memorials like the plague, which did wonders for my sanity.

*I went swimming on Saturday afternoon and ended up in the sprint lane, which was a bit full on. I love my new goggles soo much though - they don't leak or steam up!

*The Boy and I had dinner with a friend we don't see enough of on Saturday night and it was lovely. Also, her pet rats are incredibly cute.

*Dr Who made me cry. That's the first time I've been emotionally engaged this series and therefore a win (ETA: okay, I forgot about The Doctor's Wife). My only gripe is that the writing *still* seems to be ignoring the fact that Amy and Rory are supposed to be parents.
alithea: (Being human (base by ahlai))
Reproduced from a discussion on FB with permission, because I thought it was great advice and also wanted to record it for my own benefit.

How do you get better at commitment?

"You commit to it. That sounds sarcastic but I'm serious. You make the decision one time. You choose once. And then once you make that choice, you don't get to choose anymore. And you tell yourself, "No, I don't have the option of wussing out. I'm in this. I already made the decision. Now isn't decision time. It's doing time." And as long as we're talking about a right relationship and not something else, then that's that. No more choices.

... as long as that relationship builds you up instead of tears you down, it's right. Whatever it is."

So the first step is becoming more discriminating about what you commit to

Yes, think about this "How much of the I am about to go home and do is good for me? Makes me a better person? Defines me? All the other... stuff is a welcome break from the real work, *but the real work has to get done first*. The stuff that makes you *right* is the same stuff that builds your character and makes you *able* to commit to the *other* things that make you right. So you start small. You pick one. And then that snowball grows."

Also "The only thing you *can* commit to is a relationship. A commitment is a promise to fulfill your role in relation to some other thing: it's your sustained promise to manifest. Whatever you ally yourself with, whatever you pledge allegiance to, you enter a relationship with. Those relationships define and shape you. When you say you're a writer, baker, lunatic: these are all aspects of you as you relate to other things. Those manners in which you relate to the world and in which you hope the world will relate to you are sacred. So any commitment should be in some manner sacred. Because it's a pledge to ally with something - to let it become part of you."

-Amber Fisher Simmons
alithea: (Default)
*Twitter is a very strange thing - one minute I'm reading loads of worthy liberal campaigning stuff and the next I end up wandering into a love-in between random actor-types in LA... Did you know the guy who plays Damon in The Vampire Diaries has set up an environmental charity?

*I finally found someone who procrastinates more than me - Ben Goldacre. I wish it wasn't so hard to get into science journalism, I want to get paid for ranting about (mostly) science-related stuff online. Especially just now because I have an essay on food ethics rumbling around in my brain, inspired by a combination of stuff I'm doing for work (carbon losses from chopping down the rainforests to grow palm oil, soybeans etc) and observations on a friend's veg*n ethics, which unfortunately isn't enough work-related to justify spending the time on at the moment.

Also, completedly unrelated to this post, but I must really get around to updating my pottery blog!
alithea: (Default)
Normally, comments on online newspaper articles make me wish I could disown 2/3 of the human race but this is a little gem of an exception:

A Jewish newspaper in NJ decides not to print same-sex wedding announcements anymore and MANY people comment, mostly very eloquently indeed, about how cowardly and unethical this is. There is one solitary commenter who supports their decision and even they point out that the paper needs to be consistant in their stance and not print adverts for things which contravene Orthodox laws.

It may not be what they are directly commenting on, but these arguments do a wonderful job of illustrating how important the fight for marital equality is.
alithea: (Default)
* My mouth has stopped feeling like it belongs to someone else today. I finished my 2nd course of antibiotics on Saturday night so hopefully everything will be back to normal soon.

* I'm always dreaming about houses I've never seen. The other night it was a fisherman's cottage that was built into a cliff face, last night it was some kind of bizarre warehouse conversion. I was musing in the shower this morning about whether this is connected to my preoccupation with the concept of home. It's certainly on my mind at the moment, as I feel rather disconnected from the world, inside my little winter cocoon.

* I finished rereading A Breath of Snow and Ashes last night, so I can finally start on An Echo in the Bone now.

* I'm hosting the Mage game tonight, which involves cramming 8 people around my dining table so I should really do some tidying up before this evening.

* But first I should really go out in the sunshine, especially as I have a parcel to post.

(Bonus point)
We have no snow here. This isn't by any means unusual for Dundee, but since we actually got it during the Big Freeze, I feel a little cheated anyway. We did have a rather impressive snow shower on Friday afternoon, with big fat flakes, but it melted as soon as it hit the ground. Still, at least we have sunshine!
alithea: (Default)
I was going to post a picture of my sparkly Yule tree today but I just discovered that both sets of camera batteries are flat so you'll have to wait until I've recharged them!

I finished reading The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly before I went swimming at lunchtime. It took me a little while to get into it, but when I did, I really enjoyed it, particularly when it turned out to have Roland in it and reminded me of The Dark Tower series. Maybe it's strange coming from a 31 1/2 year old, but I still find Coming of Age stories mean a lot to me and this one was particularly timely, reminding me that the important thing about fear is not that we don't feel it, but that we don't let it paralyze us or drive us into doing things we would never normally contemplate. It strikes me that having the courage to face our fears and act noblely inspite of them is a big part of getting the most out of this journey we call life, and as Roland's tale illustrates, it's the journey that matters...

Also, I've been surrounded by people squeeing about Tim Minchin for most of the year and have been thoroughly bemused, but then a friend pointed me towards his Christmas song, 'White Wine in the Sun' and now I get what everyone is on about. For those of you who can't be bothered to click on the YouTube link and listen, it's a rather poignant and touching ballad about how he really likes Christmas because he spends it with his family, the people who make him feel safe in this world, and it sums up really nicely why I don't hold any truck with people who insist Christmas is pointless without Jesus (no offense to the Christians out there whose religious festival has been co-opted, but I think you have to accept that these days, in the UK at least, it is a secular festival to the majority of people who celebrate it)(even though I'm not freaked out by churches and would rather have Desmond Tutu than Dawkins over for dinner). The bit about the hymns particularly stuck a chord (*heehee*) because it is the singing that I miss most about going to Church on Christmas Eve.
alithea: (windswept)
I've been moping about for the past 2 weeks because I've had annoying mild flu and head coldy-type symptoms and felt too crappy to do any exercise, which is what I really needed after the double disappointments of no pottery and the poor Boy missing out on his uni place, putting all our future plans back by another year. But we are off to Northern Ireland tomorrow to stay with his folks for a week so hopefully the change of air will perk me up and I'll feel better by the time we get home. I'm trying not to be nervous about meeting his parents by remembering that we are grown adults who live together and are being treated as such, so it won't be like going to the South Coast at the tender age of 19 and being disapproved of for going to the bathroom in my nightshirt! I'm actually more nervous about meeting his other old friends but at least it looks like I've avoided having to go to the pub with them all, so my aversion to drunken people won't have them thinking I'm a joyless stuck-in-the-mud.

While we are away it will be the 10th anniversary of my move to Scotland. I'm good at feeling stuck in a rut but the fact is the Boy, a bunch of good friends, the Turret, money in the bank and a PhD isn't a bad showing for that time even if I do have no career to speak of. And hopefully I'll come back to news of a new contract and pottery classes starting up again. Besides which, it is almost autumn and that is never a bad thing.
alithea: (footprint (made by girlyboheme))
Having consulted the map, we headed off to the Rossie Estate in Perthshire on Saturday for a wander around in the sunshine. The estate is absolutely beautiful, I wanted to live in one of the little cottages:

We had a lovely walk (oh, how I love the lack of trespass laws in Scotland*) and then a potter around the Scottish Antique and Arts Centre where we had left the car. And I found The Ring - no, we aren't engaged but we have talked about getting married at some point in the future, so now I've put my order in ;)

*Actually, all this furore about the Lockerbie bomber being released (see my previous post) is in danger of turning me into a naturalized Scot. I've realized that after 10 years up here come next month, I've started to use 'we' when talking about Scots (although I'm still disturbed to find myself agreeing with the SNP over an issue, although maybe that is less to do with national pride and more because I think they are incapable of basic maths). I'm a big fan of the marriage laws up here too, because they mean I'll get to have a minority religion wedding that is actually legally binding.
alithea: (Pottery)
I'm going to have some business cards made up for Amy to give out at the event she is selling my pendants at, and I really want to be able to put a website address on them as well as my email address so people can go and look at pretty pictures. I'm considering an Etsy shop but although setting one up is free, I can't put up any listings or pictures without paying a fee so I'll probably wait til after the event to see what has sold and what got the most interest before doing that. So now I'm wondering whether to set up a website using wordpress so I post pictures there and then link to my etsy shop as and when I set it up. What do you lot think?

And more to the point, what do I call the site/shop?? I'm happy to have my real name attached to it, or I could use 'Helen the Potter' like my email address - the advantage some something like that being that if at some future point I actually have a studio, I don't already have a different 'brand' name attached to my work. Or I could use something different - 'The Earth Girl' springs to mind immediately because it's me on so many levels these days, but I don't know whether it's really the image I want to put out there for my pottery if I aspire to one day being a 'serious' ceramic artist, it's more what I would probably name something like this LJ if I were setting it up today (also, there is already an Earth Girl pottery studio in the US according to google). I called my short lived craft blog on here 'Gathering the Bones' (in reference to Women who run with the wolves), but I doubt that says pottery to most people...

Advice please, people. Name suggestions?
alithea: (Strange Witch (made by vega-ofthe-lyre))
I guess it's the time of year for it but all I want to be doing just now is playing in the dirt - I have plants in need of repotting, shooting bulbs which need potting up, and last night at pottery class I got my first handmade beads back, all glazed and shiny, and now I'm hooked and just want to sit making more and more... Feeling the cool earth/clay beneath my fingers, waiting to awaken, just like the Earth and the rest of us.

Unfortunately, these things do not pay the bills. These hands need to be typing a report and my brain needs to come out of hibernation. Time for a cuppa, I think.

The crocus were beginning to sprout in the park yesterday, though.
alithea: (LittlesoulRiver (made by enriana))
2008 was supposed to be my year for getting fit (some success; I'm fitter than I was this time last year, but not by much) and finding a new career (complete failure).

I turned 30 and had my first proper birthday party involving the hiring of a venue and written invitations. I had my first proper job interview.

I read more books than in 2007, saw Shakespeare performed live outdoors, and took up swimming again. I fell in love with the Northumberland coast. I spent the whole year in a relationship and never doubted that I would.

All in all, it was a fairly quiet year, of building a better foundation and more confidence, of rebuilding reserves and preparing. On the outside, not much has changed but on the inside, something is brewing I think...

April 2017

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