Barely Human

My son is 18 months old. It’s a great age, primarily because it means that it’s only a short while before we start measuring in years, which are much easier to remember. It’s also a great age because he’s starting to make his own choices: what he wants to eat and do, or as is more often the case, not eat and not do.

One of the ways he’s exercising his choices is his bedtime reading ritual. He loves picking the books to be read to him. For the poor soul who offers no choice or starts to read a book he’s rejected, comes the indignity of him climbing off your lap and carrying his preferred book to his newly-preferred reader.

One of the current favourites, by which I mean he picked it more than two nights in a row, is called Ten little fingers and ten little toes. It starts:

“There was one little baby who was born far away And another who was born on the very next day And both of these babies as everyone knows Had ten little fingers and ten little toes.”

Beneath the simple rhymes and beautiful drawings lie a profound truth, that we’re all human beings no matter where we’re from or what we look like.

But perhaps the most human part of all come at the end of the book, the narrator switches tack: “But the next baby born was truly divine, a sweet little child who was mine, all mine.” This child doesn’t just have “ten little fingers and ten little toes” but also has “three little kisses on the end of their nose.”

We have lot of books like this on our shelves. Books designed to let our son know how much we love him, how special he is, how much more than anyone else he means to us. It’s what all parents are meant to feel, isn’t it?

And yet this week, I’ve found myself struggling to read the last couple of pages.

The unfolding events around the world have changed something.

And I don’t just mean the mass response on social media.

Sadness and anger, questions of: “What can I do?” being met with links or lists, practical suggestions, email templates to send to our MP, promises of prayer and A4 pages reading “Refugees welcome” held in front of us.

The sight of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi lying on that beach, and the testimony of his heartbroken father have caused us all to rally around our common humanity. And for a few moments, days, maybe even weeks we’ll be talking, tweeting, sharing and forwarding anything that backs that up or reminds us of the fact.

And then something will change.

It might be next Spring when we question the influx of non-British acts on Britain’s Got Talent, or next Summer when England underperform at Euro 2016 and we’ll ask whether now is the time for a limit on “foreigners” in the Premier League.

It might be the next time we hear about someone we’re not able to deport because of their human rights, or the headline grabbing story of the British family forced to sleep rough while we give mansions, cars and massive payouts to people not born here.

Or it might be when someone with a different accent bumps into us on the bus, or someone with a foreign number plate takes the parking space we were waiting on.

But at some point in the future, we’ll forget our common humanity and will return to what we know best – ourselves.

And while we stamp our feet and condemn a government who aren’t doing enough to welcome strangers, we’ll keep our spare rooms made up in case our parents need to come visit or one of our friends ever needs it.

And while we profess all the things we share as human beings, we’ll continue to gather with others just like ourselves, grateful that we’ve found “like-minded” people who really “get us.”

And while Abdullah Kurdi continues to mourn, and tries to rebuild his life without his beloved family, I will go back to reading the end of the book and hearing my son giggle when I give him three little kisses on the end of his nose.


5. Thursday on the tube

In my last post I shared the 5 reasons why I started blogging again. Number 5 needed some explaining so here goes.

Last Thursday I was thinking a lot about remembrance. So much so that my brain started to hurt and I needed to write stuff down. This has happened a few times recently and so I’ve been collecting these in my phone or on my laptop. Anyway, I left work on Thursday and wanted to finish off my writing about remembrance while it was still in my head.

I got on the tube at White City and took out my laptop. As I tapped away people got on and others got off around me. I wasn’t really aware of the man sitting next to me at all until I finished typing and closed the window I was working in. And then something odd happened…

This guy next to me took out his right earphone and said – “aww I was reading that.” Like most commuters I am used to people reading over my shoulder. I work on 3 out of my 4 train and tube journeys everyday either on my phone or laptop so I’m accustomed to a certain level of intrusion that comes when curiosity meets boredom. What was unusual was this guys willingness to put himself out there and turn himself in as an over the shoulder peeper. I smiled politely and told the defendant (although having confessed his defence was surely shakey) that it was just some thoughts from my day. He then did the unthinkable by asking – “Could I read the rest of it?”

Woah woah woah, this is way beyond the rules of London travel. The fact that we were talking was bad enough, he’d been caught (albeit by confession) reading over my shoulder, that’s one thing but to then front up ask to read the rest well I was…..I was….well actually I was really flattered so I opened it up again to let him read.

I don’t know much about this guy, we didn’t swap names or suggest another meet-up but what I do know is this – he’s an out loud reader. And so as we sat on the packed central line train he began to read out loud my thoughts on remembrance.

He smiled when I was being light-hearted and nodded his head when he agreed with something and when he finished he said “I liked that, I’m glad I met you today”. He then put his headphone back in and resumed the position of a London commuter with eyes front and music on. As I got off the train he patted my shoulder, mouthed “thanks” and we parted ways.

I don’t know why he was glad he met me that day. Maybe, like me, he doesn’t always know what to say in slightly awkward situations and he went for something that sounded good in his head. Maybe he really was glad to have met me that day, maybe it was one of those ‘right place at the right times’ moments for him. Maybe it was one of those for me.

What I do know is that a blog I’d restarted a month before but told no-one about was reopened and I started blogging again. And my first post after that was all about remembrance.

So thank you Mr Reads Out Loud Central Line Man…I’m really glad I met you that day.


Why I decided to start blogging again

I guess there’s a number of reasons. I’m not sure what that number is yet so I’ll start writing and see where I end up;

1. When the Dale Farm travellers where evicted I got so wound up with the nonsense being put on Facebook and twitter that I ended up typing all my thoughts into my iPhone.

2. I was thinking a lot about remembrance this week. Reading articles, watching people debate on TV and again I had of stuff that I ended up typing onto my laptop.

3. I have a lot of thoughts and my head gets full.

4. I can be quite forgetful so this will help me find stuff I’ve read or thought about.

5. Thursday on the tube.

So there we are – 5 reasons why I’ve got back into blogging.

I appreciate number 5 may need some more explanation. That comes next.


Giving it another go


I think this will be the 9th time I’ve restarted blogging. Each time with it’s own hopes and dreams, promises of an awakened commitment to the written word and my fidelity to sharing it only here, now lie behind me like a scorned lover or unwanted skateboard (I’ve tried that 7 times but I think by the summer I’m going to be ready to really get into it).

Anyway, this is the one.

Happy reading