So I’m getting used to my wet suit. More substantial swim yesterday: one hundred strokes ! Lovely. There was a slight problem as I felt restricted in the neck so didn’t fully seal it. I immediately felt cold water going down to my tummy! Next time I will pull the suit well up and think this will give me more neck space. The exertion left me panting and exhilarated. The wet suit was pretty chilled (excuse the pun) and did a yogic tree pose
Selfie on the Solent
It was lovely and sunny, warm too in all my post swim layers. After a while I went for a walk. I was delighted to find the MOD site at the channel end of town is no more, though the off putting gates remain. So!…..
The public can now enter Browndown Conservation Area, which puts me in mind of Greenham Common. It is a small area of coastal grassland with scrub. It has had various uses over the last century; not only military training but also free range pig and arable farming.
Some wildlife species of interest are found here, including the Great Green Bush Cricket, Dartford Warbler, Skylark, and Whitethroat.
I walked for 7.2 km and my feet got very hot in boots and Nordic Socks.
On the way back to the car, I had another treat: the fruit and veg shop has re-opened and I was able to buy local Titchfield produce and this beauty from the Isle of Wight
I’m not much of a hoarder but I do find it difficult to get rid of mementos. I’m aided by a desire to have minimal clutter and the belief that clinging to one’s past is generally not advisable. I had the bright idea to make a digital record and then get rid; to recycling, general waste or a charity shop.
Firstly, step back to the early nineties. I worked for one of the new trusts. I remember their introduction and being asked by the CEO what I thought. I was sceptical of the purchaser/provider approach and said I wasn’t sure. Nevertheless SE Staffs Health Authority was replaced as my employer by Premier Health. Staff were involved in choosing the name of this new community trust. I didn’t like it.
I was head of ‘Family Planning Services’ and had a mandate to modernise them. For some awful reason I chose the new title ‘Well Persons Services’. This now sounds truly dreadful but I’m sure was right on message at the time! I soon changed this to ‘Contraception and Sexual Health Service’ which was much better, but try to get the older staff to use this title! Even a drug company sponsored team building weekend away (those were the days!) didn’t cut through.
In 1997 we decided to relocate to Berkshire with Mr T’s job (after a long decision making process) I re-entered general practice feeling it was time to be at the ‘cutting edge’ (ha ha). Below is the beanie I used to cajole small children so I could examine them. He doesn’t have a name but starred in my Membership video. I am quite sure that these days he would be banned for being a cross infection risk.
Rosie was around during this era. Remember Rosie and Jim who lived on a canal boat?
Below the saddest collection. Two gifts from my brother. I don’t need to keep these to be reminded of him. After all, I remember him so clearly. I can still see him as a three month old in summer 1960. He was lying on my parents’ double bed in a yellow silky romper suit smiling joyously at me. In that moment, having been unimpressed by his arrival, I loved him more than anything in the world. I wish I could have been more help to him.
I attended a talk by David Peacock (on line) about the local Saxon history. Some aspects remain till this day.
St Swithun’s, Wickham is one of the two churches in the county with sizeable Anglo-Saxon remains. The other is just down the road in Boxford, see below. The tower is impressive. The Saxon builders have reused old Roman tiles and small Roman columns at the windows. This provides evidence for the small Roman town or ‘vicus’ which existed on the site and which is remembered today in the name of the village.
The building is thought to have been erected in its hilly location as a standalone look-out tower with associated beacon. In these early days it could still have doubled as a church. The entrance at first floor level would have been reached by a ladder which could be drawn up in times of trouble. It may also have served as a balcony from which to display holy relics to the masses.
Unfortunately the adjoining medieval nave and chancel were almost entirely rebuilt in 1845-9 and in any event the church was locked when we visited.
In 2010, workmen removing Victorian cement from St.Andrew’s Church, Boxford were astonished to uncover a small Saxon window in the north wall of the chancel. The wooden window frame, carved from a solid piece of timber is unusual in having a wooden shutter and is believed to be the only one of its kind in England. It has been left in situ with a moulded hood to protect it. I’m worried that this is not very substantial but I don’t know how else you would protect it and maintain it’s dignity at the same time. The window was built at the time of the construction of the chancel wall which was likely to have had a thatched roof. The chancel also has stone quoins on its two external corners – a feature of Saxon building. The window can only be viewed from the outside as a large memorial covers the internal face.
The church is Grade II*
We rounded off this little outing with a trip to the garden on The Five Bells, which has just re-opened post lockdown. There was a very friendly welcome.
I’m seeing a lot of uncertainty ahead and finding ways to live with it. First, a summary of our Easter
Are coronavirus variants a threat to humanity?
This is how the badly named ‘Brazilian’ variant was described by Jesem Orellana, an epidemiologist at Fiocruz, the Brazilian scientific research institution.
As the coronavirus spreads and infects more people, it has the opportunity to mutate and create variants. These are mainly inconsequential but could cause more severe illness or escape vaccines. Variants are particularly likely to occur in countries that have been slow to lock down, enforce social distancing or close borders, such as Brazil, India or UK.
Measures such as washing your hands, keeping your distance from other people and wearing a face covering will still help prevent infections. Because the new variants appear to spread more easily and it is important to be extra vigilant.
Vaccines can be ‘tweaked’ to combat variants but this could be complicated, and just how far protection can drop before a COVID-19 vaccine needs to be altered to combat variants is not yet known. With influenza, an eightfold drop in vaccine-induced antibody protection means time to update. That does not necessarily apply to this coronavirus.
So, yes, the variants are a threat to humanity to some degree and it feels that is there more uncertainty now (compared with this time last year) even though we are in a better place with infections falling and the ‘road map’ to recovery.
SO! all we can do is live in the moment and enjoy what we have, which, for many of usis significant.
And be like the Zen Master.
One day, a Zen Master while out walking, was confronted by a ferocious, man-eating tiger. He slowly backed away from the hungry and snarling animal, only to find that he was trapped at the edge of a high cliff. His only hope of escape was to suspend himself over the abyss by holding onto a vine. As the Master dangled from the cliff, two mice began to gnaw on the vine. If he were to climb back up, the tiger would surely devour him, if he stayed then there would be the certain death of a long fall onto the jagged rocks.
The slender vine began to give way, death was imminent.
Just then the precariously suspended Zen Master noticed a lovely ripe wild strawberry growing along the cliff’s edge. He plucked the succulent berry and popped it into his mouth. He said “This lovely strawberry, how sweet it tastes.”
I’m following the example of the journalist Melissa Reddy and changing my blogging significantly. I want to be more engaged with what’s going on. I want to help #EndViolenceAgainstWomen Melissa wrote;
‘And now, our safety is in the spotlight following the heart-wrenching news about Sarah Everard. It has sparked so many personal experiences, and while I feel uncomfortable about sharing them – not wanting to insert myself into the national conversation, or draw more attention to being a woman in sports media, which is taxing enough – it’s important to be honest.’
The latest Crime Survey for England and Wales showed that an estimated 1.6 million women aged 16 to 74 years experienced domestic abuse in the last year. In the year to March 2020, 207 women were killed in Great Britain.
While I agree that there has always been violence in society (and that man are also victims) I do not accept it has to be like this. The recent unbearably sad case of Sarah Everard 1 has shaken the nation to the core. It has prompted women to share their stories 2 and made us realise that there is a whole spectrum of unacceptable behaviour and a casual disregard for women’s feelings and bodies.
“Males of most species regularly fight and kill each other when in the grip of sexual desire, and it is on account of projected desire that women get repressed, abused and locked up.“
Ajahn Sucitto, Buddhist Monk, Sin, Sex and the Inner Tyrant
I am sure I am not alone in saying that, for years and years, I didn’t how to respond to the threat of that projected desire. It’s only really as a result of this current tragic situation that I have found a voice.
Several memories have flooded back to me and I ask myself why I reacted as I did. (or rather didn’t) The answer seems to be that society has normalised men’s poor behaviour: I didn’t even know these things were wrong
I’m fourteen years old and I’m doing my paper round. I quite enjoy this. I can feel independent and productive. I can think and nosy about. My eyes are everywhere in fact. Inside a parked grey van I see a man in the driving seat. He’s exposing himself. This is the first time I have seen an adult penis and I would have preferred this initiation to be different. I am shocked and revolted. I go home and carry on with my day. Decades later I tell my mum in a matter of fact way. I feel so lucky that he was inside a vehicle and didn’t get out. I wonder for a long time: was he doing something private? was I too nosy? More recently I have told this story as if it were something mildly amusing though it most definitely was not. Only now do I realise that this was a public highway and that indecent exposure is an offence carrying a maximum sentence of two years. Nowadays we have the added problem of cyber flashing, which is still not illegal in England and Wales. 3
For my seventeenth birthday my parents get me driving lessons. My friend has already passed her test and so I am keen. The instructor is very friendly. He frequently tells me to press the accelerator down very gently. ‘Just like feathers’ he says and demonstrates by stroking my thigh with his index finger. Over and over again, every class. It makes me feel very uncomfortable, I don’t know how to react. I just ignore him. After a few weeks he dies suddenly. I get a new instructor who is far less friendly, very professional. He is well behaved and it is a huge relief.
It’s Bastille Day and my 21st birthday. I’m on holiday with two friends. We go to bars and restaurants and have lots of fun on the busy streets. Before going back to our car, we go in one last bar. As we leave a very drunk middle aged man tries to grab me. We all run out but he is following, lurching in my direction, trying to grope me. He is very unpleasant. Fortunately the car is very near and we scramble in. He tries to get in too but my friend hits him with my crook lock and he staggers off. We drive off triumphantly. Once we are safe it seems a huge joke and we talk about it to this day. But it’s no longer funny.
Over the years memories of unwelcome advances have faded away to almost nothing but I can still recall at least three people who, although they immediately backed off when I asked them to, were as as inappropriate in their response as they were clumsy their approaches. I was told I was ‘stand offish’ and there must be a reason why I wasn’t ‘more physical’. I must say I felt the problem was all mine. The actual truth is I just did not fancy the person OR had more respect for their girlfriend than they did. Which is fair enough and not MY problem.
Much more recently someone I worked with was unable to talk to me without putting an ‘affectionate’ hand on my back, shoulder or bum. ‘Get off you creep’ I wanted to scream. But I said nothing. This is ‘Wandering Hand Syndrome’ which is a common occurrence in all work places and something women have often felt they have to put up with. It’s also a sexual offence. 4
The Citizens Advice Bureau says that
‘Sexual harassment is a form of unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. The law says it’s sexual harassment if the behaviour is either meant to, or has the effect of:
violating your dignity, or
creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment
The events I describe are all very minor. Much worse things have happened to or affected people close to me. Because of all of these occurrences I’ve been thinking about solutions.
A research team writing in The Conversation 5 notes the following:
‘Rather than teaching women how to protect themselves, our research dating back over a decade shows there is a need for education that tackles the gendered and sexual inequities that normalise violent, predatory forms of masculinity. This education must start from an early age. It starts with talking about the connections between so-called low-level offences such as flashing and cyberflashing, and how they are connected to intersecting structures of oppression, including sexism, racism and class hierarchies’
Solutions put forward by the School of Sexuality Education6 consist of series of resources, guidances and policies covering relevant laws, best-practice and evidence based approaches to managing young people’s experiences of sexual violence.
Although evaluation of these resources is ongoing, preliminary findings show that this training and policies have led to dramatic reductions in online sexual harassment, increased teacher confidence in handling these issues and improved student mental health.
Following the General Election of 2016 the Sex Education Forum7 and others urged the new Prime Minister (Teresa May) and Secretary of State for Education (Justine Greening) to act on pressure from many MPs and public figures and to change legislation. The Children and Social Work Act received Royal Assent in March 2017, making Relationships and Sex Education statutory in all secondary schools and Relationships Education statutory in all primary schools.
End Violence Against Women (EVAW)8 is a leading coalition of specialist women’s support services, researchers, activists, survivors and NGOs working to end violence against women and girls in all its forms.
Established in 2005, EVAW campaigns for every level of government to adopt better, more joined up approaches to ending and preventing violence against women and girls, and challenges the wider cultural attitudes that tolerate and condone this abuse.
It’s possible to subscribe to their news letter and become a member.
You can also join Our Streets Now2 which is a campaign demanding the right of women and girls to feel and be safe in public space. They have a great website where you can tell you story, volunteer or donate.
In their daily lives, men can also question sexist comments or stereotypes. If you witness actual or potential abusive behaviour, options include challenging the abuser if it feels safe to do so, trying to distract them, checking with the victim if they need help, and getting the support of others.
There is lots of advice like this from White Ribbon.9 At this website men and women too can donate, find out about fundraising and make the Promise to never commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women.
I am hoping for, and working towards a more equal society. Thanks to White Ribbon for my farewell image
We celebrated the Birthday Eve in our usual yoga class and followed this up with a delicious meal cooked by the Birthday Girl. (No oysters for the parents)
And now we emerge into (almost) Spring as the pandemic eases.
A late February walk on the Hampshire/Berkshire border took in ancient woodland where we were inspired by three deer. We also saw: red kites, hens, goats, alpacas, horses and a cat! And two other humans. It was a really special end to winter.
Like everyone else we hope society can reopen over the following months. I would love it if there were lasting change for the better.
We have entered Autumn and now a second lockdown. I hope everyone is feeling well. I’m sure some are not and equally sure I flatter myself in thinking there may be something here to cheer you up; but I’ll give it a go.