We Need to Speak Out About Syria (and elsewhere)

This being a more suitable forum than Facebook (my FB Friends are no doubt reaching saturation point with my Syrian refugee posts), I am writing to express my sadness and disgust over the refugee crisis unfolding on the shores of Europe (I say unfolding, but it has been going on for a very long time now, it is just recently that the British newspapers have been waxing hysterical about the “migrants” at Calais and so only now that we seem to be paying attention en-mass).

I saw a petition shared on Facebook to get the BBC to use the term “refugees” and not “migrants.” I read the desperately sad story about the refugees (including three children and a baby) who suffocated in the back of a lorry.

I read a story about Lebanon that says the Lebanese government is in crisis with uncollected rubbish piling up in the streets. This article mentions that Lebanon, with a native population of 4 million people, has accepted 1 million Syrian refugees since the Syrian crisis began which is the equivalent of the UK accepting 13 millions refugees. Which of course we haven’t.

We live in one of the richest and safest countries in the world, and our national press and our government are whipping up a mountain out of a molehill over a few thousand people at Calais.

And they are people. Not a swarm. Not an inconvenience. Even if most of them are young men – a category that apparently elicits precious little sympathy. As a woman and a mother, my heart fills with sadness when I read about the plight of the refugee women and children, but as someone with four younger brothers and many younger male cousins (all of whom are fine, kind, and empathetic young men) I can see the humanity in these young men. They have probably been sent on because they are the most able. I imagine that old men, women and children often get left behind to face the worst of the atrocities when the journey to safety is so arduous.

I saw two things shared on Facebook that moved me. One, a video by Save the Children putting the plight of Syria’s children into perspective. The other, a poem by Warsan Shire that completely blew me away. From what I can tell, the actual version, is titled “Conversations About Home (At the Deportation Centre)” and is even more powerful.

My uncle also shared his own poem on the subject of the refugee crisis and one of my cousins was planning a trip to Calais to take supplies to the refugees in The Jungle. Our family at least (along with many other families of course) are immune to the idiotic analysis of much of the British press and to the dangerous apathy of the British government.

I also saw this article from The Guardian with “ten truths” about the refugee crisis. And this photo from Amnesty International.

I am going to write to the editors of the national newspapers and the BBC to express displeasure at some of the reporting on this crisis, and the use of the word “migrants” which is dangerously euphemistic. We need our leaders and our press to foster sensitivity and sensible solutions and not to pander to and perpetuate nationalistic ignorance and hatred.

England is not full. Our infrastructure is woefully inadequate but that doesn’t mean we can’t (and shouldn’t) improve it for our own population in any case and to help accommodate refugees from places like Syria as well.

I am also going to write to David Cameron for the record, not because I think that he will care or do anything significant, but because speaking out is the right thing to do.

Our water was brown this morning because the water went out in three postcodes in our town (luckily ours didn’t go out but my parents’ water was out for a few hours yesterday). My husband has gone to buy bottled water as I don’t want the kids to drink brown water (and I don’t want to drink it either).

My preference for clean water and my expectation that it will forever and always flow freely from my tap reveals my First-World privilege. We are all connected. We are all human. Those of us who are not refugees should show empathy towards those who are and if our government will not help we should speak out.

Please consider also writing to the Prime Minister, or to the newspapers, or writing on Facebook or Twitter or on a blog if you have one (and I know a lot of you already are because I have been sharing all of your posts!). We need voices to speak the truth and to speak for humanity over the scare-mongering hatred in the mainstream press and the foot-dragging in Westminster.

I wish I could do more. I don’t really know what to do. But I have this blog. And my voice. And that is better than sitting here in silent witness to these atrocities.

“Just because it isn’t happening here doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.”

Please consider sharing this post (or writing your own) if you agree.

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It’s The Thought That Counts: A Galleria of Failed Cakes

The fact that I was relatively pleased with my “pile of gold poo” pyramid cake attempt says a lot about my past track-record in cake baking. My husband’s barely-concealed glee and snarky comment says a lot about the birthday cakes he has suffered through in the 12 years we have been together.

To let you in on the inside joke before I post the final version of the pyramid cake in a couple of weeks time, here is my galleria of failed cakes past. [I might add that generally speaking, the cakes got eaten, so they did at least pass my “basic edibility” test].

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2007 – birthday cake for husband

This effort from 2007 was perhaps the first cake I baked for my husband (at least it is the first in our photo collection – and no, I don’t know why I have taken photos of all of my crap cakes, it surely can’t be because I was proud of my efforts but rather in an attempt to document the past – I was after all, a Historian at the time of many of these). If memory serves, I did it because at the time I was working at a health-food store in the USA and I was obsessively vehemently opposed to hydrogenated fats and high-fructose corn-syrup. As it was impossible to find any ready-made cakes sans those ingredients in the States, I made my own “healthy” cake (sans icing). Needless to say this is the saddest birthday cake I think I have ever seen and I am not even sure if my husband appreciated the effort. And look how young he was – 25 seems like forever ago now.

 

Chris shop bought cake 2010
2010

This shop-bought cake from 2010 is probably testimant to the fact that I was pregnant at the time and feverishly revising for my comprehensive exams. It probably tasted a lot better than the 2007 one too.

 

 

Chris birthday 2011
2011 – ghoulish effort

No, it wasn’t Halloween; it was February. The cake reads: Happy Birthday 29. It was a German-chocolate cake (my husband’s expressed favourite). I am not sure why the icing looks like a pile of cat vomit. Or why the only food colouring I had to hand was bright green. Or why it is so badly written (though I think it might be because I didn’t have an icing bag and used a plastic bag with the corner cut off). I think it tasted okay and I may have tidied it up a bit  put it on a plate before giving it to him.

Malachy Elmo cookies 2012
2012 – Elmo Cookies

I have never attempted to make a cake for M’s birthday (except for this year), mainly because I didn’t want to make him cry, and because in the States you can get awesome personalised and themed cakes from any good grocery store (not like here in the UK where overpriced and vaguely-stale marzipan-iced character cakes are all you can find all the rage in the supermarkets). I did however, make Elmo cookies for his Elmo-themed second birthday party. I think he may have helped (though not enough to explain the rather crap end product – again with the Halloween, what is with those bat-mouths?)

Chris gingerbread birthday cake 2013
2014 – M’s inspired gingerbread man cake

When M was three, I let him choose a theme for my husband’s birthday cake. He chose “chocolate-gingerbread-men-marshmallows” so that is what we made. A chocolate cake with gingerbread men and marshmallows on it. M actually helped this time (mainly by eating gingerbread men and marshmallows) and I must say that it looks a lot better than the ghoulish German-chocolate one I made all by myself.

Kim birthday January 2015
2015 – Grandma’s Phone Cake

This year, M wanted to make Grandma a cake too. His idea was for a “phone cake” (presumably because Grandma loves her phone so much) and this was the result. You can’t really tell but the little smartie-type things are in the shape of numbers. This is cake decorating at its finest.

 

 

 

February 2015 (81)
2015 – A “Road Cake”

Also this year, M wanted to make Daddy a “Road Cake.” Like a black tarmac road with Hotwheels cars on it. We didn’t have a rectangular cake tin. The idea was to do a bit of black icing across the top for the road. I added the whole tube of black food colouring to the icing but it only turned a murky brown, so we shoved some chocolate smartie-type things left over from Grandma’s phone cake and a Hotwheels car on top and called it good. M still speaks of the “road cake” to this day.

 

 

I don’t have a photo of it, but I think the prize for the worst cake I ever made goes to the cake I made for a summer fete during the university holidays when I was about 19. I worked as a cleaner at a local nursing home and took my whole family to the fete to be supportive. I am not sure if they were originally planning to attend or not, but I do remember having a rather frantic conversation with my mum and instructing her to make sure she bought my cake from the cake stall because (for some reason that is still unknown to me to this day) it had grains of uncooked rice in it. I am not clear as to how I discovered this, seeing as I didn’t eat the cake before giving it to the fete. Perhaps I sampled an offcut? Either way, my poor mum dutifully bought the cake back from the cake stall and over the course of eating it we found that it was indeed full of little grains of uncooked rice (though my family being who we are, that didn’t dampen the enjoyment of the eating).

So there we have it, a long list of sub-par cakes. Not much for my pyramid cake to live up to now is it? I am going to go out on a limb and say that I reckon this pyramid birthday cake will be the best cake I have ever made.

Test Cake

M wants an Ancient Egypt themed birthday party so I have been planning and getting things together (including costumes!) I found this link for a pyramid cake and thought I had better test it out before the big day.

I got a cake mix, some white chocolate buttons for the “treasure,” some gold cake spray paint (which didn’t really work on the buttons), some ready-made buttercream icing and some white roll-out icing.

This was the result:

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I thought the buttercream icing smelled like feet. I may make my own next time! I was quite pleased with the overall result, it was after all only a test-run. (Though I didn’t quite read the directions on the gold spray paint which said to let each layer dry in between sprays and just went to town on it, with the result that it was still sticky the next morning!)

M saw the cake sitting in the kitchen and guessed its purpose. He said: “Is this a test cake? Try to make the top straight next time as it’s a little wonky.”

At least with some prompting he guessed that it was a pyramid. My husband helpfully commented that “it looks like a pile of gold poo,” while grinning broadly at both the cake, and my panic when I thought I had gassed the baby by not opening the window when using the gold spray paint.

For the real cake I am going to ditch the gold and get some yellow roll-out icing.

And try to get it less wonky. One more for the sub-par cakes hall of fame (watch this space for a post on that) but points for effort I reckon.

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A Battle of Wiills

Lately my days have started like this:

Baby L stirs, squawks, sits up in the bed at an unholy hour. Before I have even properly opened my eyes and certainly before I have managed to reach for my glasses, a thud comes from M’s room: the patter of not-so-tiny feet, a clambering onto my bed and the customary morning greeting: “Can I play the Wii?”

As the day continues I am constantly bombarded by euphemistic references to the little white box under the telly. “What can I do?” “What can I do now?” When I say we are going to lunch: “What can I do at lunch?” (this one a sly testing of the water to see if the little white box’s cousins: “Grandma’s iPad” or “whoever’s-smart-phone-I-can-con-off-them,” will be allowed an appearance).

When I mention at lunch that we are going to the circus (a surprise treat!) I am met with a droll “why?” When I say we will stop at home to walk the dog before the circus the dreaded “what can I do while you walk the dog?” makes a reappearance followed by “what can I not do?”

The Wii. You can’t play the f**king Wii. We are going to the goddamned circus what is wrong with you that you can’t wait five minutes without electronic stimulation? (N.B one of his uncles, who was also coming to the circus, waited with M while I popped the dog out).

Relaying my frustration with the constant barrage of Wii-related interrogation from my eldest child to my husband of an evening, I admit that I am thoroughly fed up. I am fed up of the first thing I hear in the morning being “can I play the Wii?” Fed up of that being the first question when we get back from anywhere (even the beach – all he wanted to know was if he could play the Wii when he got home!) Fed up of feeling a) like a terrible parent because he is addicted to technology, b) like a terrible parent because when I tell him to stop playing Wii and find something else to do he will not find anything that does not involve me and c) like a terrible parent for the arguments caused when he resists my attempts to curb his technology addiction.

I love you kid but L cannot play games with tiny pieces, he is a crawling/cruising machine at the moment, and we do not have a maid or a cook and my to-do list for your birthday, going back to work, you starting school, etc etc is running at about four pages. I love you but it is not true that I never play with you, I do, but I cannot entertain you all the time and you can’t play the Wii all day long it just isn’t healthy.

Daddy’s solution? Let him play the Wii. Without limits. Without nagging. Let him choose what he plays and if it the Wii just let it be. He will play it all day for a couple of days and then get bored of his own accord and find something else to do. And if this theory doesn’t pan out, it is only a month until he starts school and at least in the meantime I will get some peace from the constant asking about it.

Today I tried it. Why not. The day started with: “can I play the Wii?”

“You can choose what you do.”

He played Wii for four hours. It was 11am and we were going somewhere for 12pm. I couldn’t take it any more. I told him four hours was enough for now and to take a break for lunch. We went out for a few hours, including lunch with Grandma and the iPad.

When we got back I got the question: “what can I do?” which again was met with: “you can choose what to do.” He played the Wii for an hour before dinner.

Daddy came home and asked him to turn it off for dinner after finishing the current level. While Daddy and I said hello, how was your day, etc Daddy noticed M had started another level. Daddy said to turn it off. M whined. Daddy said if he had to turn it off there would be trouble. M turned it off.

M is currently whining that he wants to play with his (real) golf set. I point out that he chose to play Wii all day and now it is bath time and bed time but he can choose to play golf tomorrow if he wants to.

Today was peaceful. L crawled and played. I alternated playing with him and organising stuff on the laptop (one of the things on my to-do list). No one whined or argued about the Wii. But I still felt incredibly irritated watching M glued to the screen for four hours without a break. I know it is not good for him. He has so many toys: action figures, Batman and TMNT houses, Duplo, Lego, puzzles, a castle play set, colouring, playdoh, blocks, cars, a huge train set and a massive Hotwheels collection. All of which need minimum input from me (though even when I do play he loses interest after a few minutes). If we didn’t have L to pass them on to those toys would be out the door to the charity shop.

I still feel like a failure. I still feel like I want to throw the Wii in the bin. If Daddy’s theory doesn’t pan out, that may well be where M finds it one day.

On the other hand, it is the last month of freedom before he starts a life of school and work. He loves the Wii. I get a bit of peace and quiet to tackle my to-do list. He can read and write. He is ready for school. We went to a playground today.

Watch this space for tomorrow’s choices. I may choose not to care either way, but I doubt it.

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Oh I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside

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Today I decided to be spontaneous. Well, as spontaneous as you can be when you have to decide to do it (and when you have two kids nothing is really spontaneous). I had decided that if it was sunny this weekend, we would go to the beach. Not the crap pebbly beach five minutes walk from our front door. Oh no. The sandy beach from my childhood (ok, the pebbly beach is also from my childhood, but the sandy one always made me think I had stumbled into another country; it looked just like the beaches in the South of France which was my only other beach reference point and the sand dunes you have to climb to get to the beach put me in mind of being an Egyptian explorer). I don’t class myself as a beach person; I am definitely not a sun person. I figured if I was going to brave the beach with the kids it may as well be the nice sandy one that we could do classic things like building sandcastles on.

I kept my beach plan a secret “surprise” in case I decided that I couldn’t face it after all. I took the boys shopping this morning and M didn’t twig what the surprise was even when I bought a Minion theme bucket and spade set and two beach towels. His guess was that he was going to Grandma’s House. His second guess was that he was going for a Sleepover at Grandma’s House. He then asked if Favourite Uncle was coming with us on the surprise.

I was determined that we would have a nice day. Or more to the point that I would have a nice day. I took the boys to the swimming pool (with Favourite Uncle) yesterday and I was so wrapped up in planning, packing all the stuff, making sure that no one drowned, feeling vaguely jealous of Favourite Uncle because M wanted to play with him and not me (which was pretty obviously going to be the case; he is not Favourite Uncle for nothing), and feeling a sense of my lost childhood as I gazed wistfully at the inflatable obstacle course whilst holding onto a wriggly baby in the shallow end and figuring that even if someone held the baby while I went on it I would look like a massive freak going on the kids’ toy, that I didn’t really enjoy the pool at all.

So I got up this morning and tried to stay calm as I put together the things we would need for the beach whilst telling myself that it was okay if I chickened out as I had not actually told anyone we were going anywhere. My one bag of stuff quickly became five bags. Luckily my darling husband decided he would rather come with us than plaster L’s bedroom (or, more likely, he thought my head might actually explode if he didn’t come too). I was going to take them on my own though, honest. But I am glad he came: it was a lovely family day out.

For a bit of background, last night before bed, my telling M it was time to turn off the Wii initiated a mega-tantrum that saw him in his room screaming “I want to play on the Wii and I want Blankie!” at the top of his lungs. Repeatedly. For long enough that I felt sure someone would call the police until my husband pointed out that people only call the police if they hear the parents shouting back. I still felt like an utter failure. It is amazing how much a small child, apoplectic with technology-deprivation-induced rage, can send me into an OCD spiral: I am a loving mother, but have I really emotionally scarred him by telling him to turn it off?

Today I was determined to have a nice day, notwithstanding whatever M threw my way. We were going to the beach. What could be nicer than the beach?

I didn’t drop my sunny less-grumpy-than-usual demeanour when M’s face fell as I told him what the surprise was (“we’re going to the beach! A nice one. With sand” *M’s face like I had just slapped him with a wet fish*)

I didn’t let it phase me (by letting Daddy deal with it) when we arrived at said beach and had to wake up a sleeping (and evidently very irritable) M who sat on the floor of the (thankfully grassy) car park screaming that he was too cold (it was a boiling hot sunny day) because his swimming trunks were a bit damp from yesterday’s trip to the pool – he stuck his hands down his trunks and tried to hold the slightly-damp material away from his skin and screamed and cried as we put his shoes and sun cream on.

It got better from there although M didn’t enjoy the beach the way I thought he would: He paddled a bit in the water. He got cold. He ate some food. He sat on the blanket and watched me make a sandcastle after losing interest in it when he discovered sweets in the picnic bag. He asked when he could have his ice cream.

L meanwhile crawled around on the sand and ate a good amount of it (the possibility of which did not occur to me and in the event there was not a lot to be done about it). He also seemed to enjoy the water. I crawled around with him for a bit, collecting pretty shells to use in a sensory toy and trying to spot shells and stones before he did lest he eat those too. I felt a strange sense of calm as I crawled on the beach with my baby, oblivious to the hundreds of people surrounding us.

I also found a zen moment when building a sandcastle. We abandoned our first attempt to the incoming tide. L crawled through my second attempt, getting grounded on top of one of the castles and flailing around like a little seal pup. M lost interest at this point and I carried on by myself and realised that I never knew how to build sandcastles as a kid. I used to just pile sand upon sand and end up with a rather wide and hill-shaped castle.

Today though, inspiration struck and I used the spade to slice straight walls down the side of my castle. I was inordinately pleased with my efforts (as well as concluding that I must have been a particularly dense child, though I was good at digging holes to bury my little brothers in) and found a great sense of peace building with sand. I had plans for crenellations and for making a whole square courtyard flanked by four towers (more prison yard than castle?) but the kids got tired and the parking was running out, so we left.

It was a lovely day, though I am tempted to return without them all to have another go at my castle.

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“I’m the mum and I’m listening to Radio 4!”

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We get in the car to go to gym club and the radio is tuned to Radio 3. I’m not in the mood for classical (am I ever?) So I click the little steering wheel button and it stops on Radio 4. It’s a show about bread. From what I can gather over M’s intermittent protests it is about a collective social experiment bakery in Scotland. I think it sounds vaguely interesting though I don’t get to really listen to it as I kept having to turn the radio off to address M’s whining about wanting music on.

After a few days of having him shadow me around the house “in case of Dracula,” combined with his complete inability to go and play with anything without me (to the point that this morning I suggested he go play for five minutes while I got L cleaned up after lunch and I was met with: “I’ll just sit here on this step and wait for you. Mum, I’m just sitting on the step, I’m on the step mum is that okay? Mum?!”) I feel a little at the end of my tether and evidently like asserting some of my own (non-mummy) identity.

Quite why I decide to stake my claim to identity on Radio 4 is anyone’s guess other than that it happens to be on the radio, I am vaguely interested in listening to it, and am feeling a bit fed up of trying to get through the day with a four-year-old shadow come interrogator.

So after switching off the radio a few times to explain that I want to listen to this programme and M responding: “but it’s about bread! I already know about bread!” I say in my bossiest voice: “We are listening to this because the world does not always revolve around what you want. I’m the mum, it’s my car, and I want to listen to Radio 4!”

Mummy would really like a date night with daddy, a G&T and a lie-in but at the moment I’ll take Radio 4 for five minutes. My mini-tantrum does little to dampen his protests and he rests his case with “but wouldn’t you rather listen to Uptown Funk?” Yes, yes I would, but I’m not letting on. This bread show is where I have stuck my flag of independence and that is where it is staying.

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What’s Wrong With Being Left-Wing?

Reading this article from a middle-aged, middle-class Corbyn supporter this morning while eating my breakfast got me on my imaginary soapbox in the shower again. This time I was ruminating on some of Jeremy Corbyn’s policies: The Independent has one of its handy charts showing some of Corbyn’s policies and others that it is suggesting he might have in the future (I cannot see these policies listed on Corbyn’s official website so I take them with a pinch of salt). But one of the Indy’s hypothetical Corbyn policies got me thinking – just what is so wrong with being left-wing? “Leftie” is a bit like “feminist” – no one wants to own the title for fear of seeming out of touch, too radical, idealistic, naive or downright dangerous(!?) I don’t mind owning both though and my answer to my own soapbox question is: nothing. There is nothing wrong with being left-wing. There is nothing wrong with wanting to re-frame the debate away from the right-wing capitalist politics that has a stranglehold on our society, our press, our environment, and our children’s futures.

Perhaps the fear is that the debate cannot be re-framed. Britain is currently right-wing, so the story seems to go. It is right-wing because the Tories won the election, so obviously no left-wing ideas will ever gain traction and no-one is going to win an election on a left-wing platform ever again so why bother?

What if previous generations had given up so easily? Can you imagine it: “the general public will never support votes for women so we may as well give up”; “the acceptance of homosexuality will never be mainstream so why bother continuing to argue for gay marriage?”; “most people don’t want to end slavery and most politicians see us as a lunatic fringe so lets just call it a day.” No. Neither can I. Just because something isn’t currently popular doesn’t mean it will never become the norm. Who now (aside from members of a lunatic fringe) would argue for taking the vote away from women or for re-enslaving black people? Exactly. The grounds of the debate in these areas has shifted so significantly that there is no longer any question of challenging the status quo – which in itself was once a challenge to the status quo. There are still outspoken opponents of gay marriage because this re-framing of the debate is more recent, but give it fifty years and it will be a similar story – people will look back in amazement that anyone ever stopped gay people from marrying in the first place.

That’s how our history goes: what is accepted now is not necessarily what will be accepted in the future. How do things change? By people talking and debating and protesting and calling for change and rallying support. Can Corbyn win? Possibly. Should we be afraid if he does? Of course not. Labour supporters seem to be afraid that if Corbyn wins then Labour will lose the election, which seems ridiculously defeatist. The Tories and their allies seem to be thinking along similar lines and want Corbyn to win so that Labour will lose, but why should Labour lose on a Corbyn ticket? Because he is too left-wing? Because the British voting public is not left-wing and will never vote for a left-wing agenda? That is the argument, but Labour will never win on a left-wing ticket if it doesn’t try; if it rolls over and goes along with what the Tories do to try to “fit in” with the national mood. Remember what your mother used to say: if all your friends jumped off a cliff would you do it too? Corbyn was the only one of the leadership candidates to vote against the Tories’ changes to Child Tax Credits – this from an opposition, left-wing party.

But back to the policy that got me on my imaginary soapbox. The Indy states that Corbyn is in favour of bringing back the 50% tax rate on earnings over £150,000 (which it says is about 1% of earners) and that the British public would possibly support a 75% tax rate on incomes over £1 million (and it is worth thinking that if only 1% of people earn above £150k then what percentage earn over £1 million?) Why is it that a government can take away money from poor working people (because Child Tax Credits are not only paid to scapegoated so-called “scoungers,” but to people who are actually working, at actual jobs, to try to put food on the table for their kids) who actually really need the money, but heaven forbid a government tries to take any (more) money away from people who already have more money than any sensible person would know what to do with.

I have never had a job that earned me more than £20k (so far – hey, I am as aspirational as the rest of Labour’s imaginary target audience: if I was offered a job earning above £150k I would jump at it, but I also wouldn’t cry foul about paying a higher rate of tax). In 2012-2013, the median income in the UK before tax across all age-ranges was £21k; the mean income was £29.6k before tax. That means that on average people in the UK are not far-off my own experience. Great, so maybe what I have to say below will resonate somewhat.

Imagine that you work hard for your money. Or maybe you don’t work all that hard, but you try to look like you are working hard. Maybe you work part-time and work harder than someone who works full-time? Maybe you work part-time and also look after your kids; maybe you work full-time and also look after your kids, maybe you don’t have any kids and you work full-time, or only part-time because you can’t find a full-time job, or because you want time to focus on your music. Whatever. You work. At a job. And you pay income tax if you earn over £10.6k a year. The experience of the rich and super-rich is not so different to us – they work, full-time, part-time, more or less hard than other people, and they pay tax on their earnings.

Think about what you pay for with your £20k of income? Rent, food, clothes, transportation, maybe the odd trip to the pub or takeaway pizza. The normal sort of stuff. Then think about how little your entire yearly salary means to someone who earns over £1 million a year. £20k is peanuts for some people. Not a lot of people. But for some people it really isn’t that much money in comparison to all of the other money that they have. If you and I can live on £20k then why do some people think that they need millions to live on and how-very-dare-you-suggest-that-I-can-spare-a-bit-for-the-treasury?

Hypothetically speaking (because the UK does not currently have a 50% tax rate on earning over £150k or of 75% on earnings over £1 million), why is it a terrible idea if people who earn a lot of money (which, remember is not most people – that’s not to say we should target people because they are a minority, but the idea that this will “hurt” everyone is right-wing propaganda) pay more tax.

Very rich people who pay higher rates of income tax are paying the same amount of tax as you and I on the amount of money they earn that is the same as the amount of money that you and I earn. So, for example, they would pay 20% on all income below £32k (currently); 40% on income between £32k and £150k; 50% (for comparison, currently 45%) on income between £150k and £1 million; and 75% on income over £1 million. So the only bit of their income they are being taxed more on is the bit over £1 million. The bit that the vast vast vast majority of us will never make in our wildest dreams. And we still manage (just about in some cases) to eat, buy stuff, send our kids to school, live, breathe, laugh, all that good stuff. Why do the super-rich need their money more than we need good schools, hospitals, roads, a future for our planet etc? What are they doing with it that is so important it outweighs the public good?

Ah, you say knowingly, but the super-rich need to keep their money so they can invest it in things. Right. So are they investing in things that make the world a better place or in things that make themselves richer? Um… well… they invest in things that create jobs. No. No they don’t. Not generally speaking. And why is it that we only think of “investment” as something that makes money for the person putting up the money in the first place? Why can’t taxes be seen as an investment in public services; public services without which the world would be a much shittier place? Why can’t we apply the old adage “a penny saved is a penny earned” to things like building council houses so that in years to come Local Authorities do not have to spend thousands on housing benefit payments to buy-to-let private landlords? Why is it that we only apply this gem of money-saving wisdom when it comes to snatching Child Tax Credit payments away from all those scroungy single-mums out there?

Why? Because it is easy to attack the poor, the weak, and the vulnerable, to attack people too wrapped up in their day-to-day struggles to survive to notice politics and people who don’t really understand (because the education system has failed them) what it is that they are (not) voting for. It is not very easy to attack the rich or even to sensibly suggest that it is not in society’s best interests for them to keep getting richer and hoarding money like Smaug. It is not very easy to argue that, because the people who have a lot of money can use that money to buy power. Not in the actual sense of buying votes because we are, after all, still a democracy, but money buys influence and money helps shape the debate, so that an opposition Labour Party thinks it has no choice but to abstain on a bill that will hurt the very working families it is supposed to represent.

There is nothing wrong with being left-wing. Those with money and power and influence will use that money and power and influence to make us think that being left-wing is too retro, too naive, too far-out, or too dangerous to be in with a serious chance of changing anything. But look at Scotland and the SNP. How many young (and not so young) acquaintances of mine expressed the desire to be Scottish during the general election so that they could vote for something that they actually believed in, rather than having to vote for Ed Milliband and his endless carefully-choreographed soundbites?

There is nothing wrong with being left-wing. Take a deep breath and say it again. Repeat it like a mantra. The public sector is vilified by the right-wing but where would this country be without its teachers, social workers, police officers, nurses etc? The rich will be okay with their private hospitals, schools and care-homes, but what about the rest of us? People who work for other people are not the enemy. Why not re-nationalise the railways? Maybe then my husband would get to work on time on occasion and while we’re at it we could do with some investment in the railways to stop our reliance on cars – have you tried to go anywhere during rush hour (or any other time of day) lately, it is madness and very bad for the environment. What is wrong with wanting a world-class education for all our kids and then allowing the best and brightest of them to attend university without crippling debt? Why do we think £1 million really isn’t a lot of money when it really is a lot of money? Is it because we know that you can’t buy much in London for £1 million these days? Whose fault is that then? Not the teachers and nurses and shop-workers and small-business owners whose salaries would have bought them a comfortable family home in decades past but now won’t stretch to much more than a two-bed flat in most of the South East.

If the system is broken don’t blame those at the bottom who did not break it. Find someone (or lots of people) who will speak truth to power and try to re-frame the debate. Is Jeremy Corbyn that person? Who knows. But I do know that just because he is “left-wing” is not a reason to run for the hills.