Thursday, 17 March 2022
Monday, 21 February 2022
Valentine’s Day and I was floored by a terrifying chest pain – I’d been uncomfortable for a few days, just thought I’d ‘pulled something’ but this was impossible to ignore. Thankfully one niece is a nurse and another a carer and we were all at the same location… they were their usual fabulous selves and took my vital signs, reassured me, booked an ambulance and explained to staff etc.
I ended up doing 10 hours in A&E – without a loved one for comfort as covid restriction mean you go alone unless you’re too frail/mentally unwell etc. It was packed and quite a few did seem to have people with them – even the not-frail. I asked the nurse later about this and she said that if they tell people to go – they just walk up to reception, check-in and say they need to get medical help too! Crazy, sad situation.
Nearly all A&E’s seating is rigid grey plastic seats with scrawny arms that dashed any hope of slightly spreading-out… horridly uncomfortable and torture if bits of you hurt. In the corners of the room there were a few softer chairs that looked like heaven – nabbed by a deserving pregnant lady and a nice man caring for his frail mum. I sat on rigid grey plastic hoping it had more give than at first glance – it didn’t. Nearest to me was a man who must have thought he’d struck gold as he was in a bed-chair – except he was in a really awkward position that basically saw him ‘planked’ at about 20 degrees. The bed-chair couldn't be adjusted as it wasn’t plugged in.
Like most others, I was politely avoiding eye-contact with people – A&E is a strange place where you feel you need what fragments of privacy you can get. A young girl, small and quiet arrived and sat opposite me and our eyes did meet as she was holding her phone up to me – wanting me to read it. I stepped forward and read: “I need a sick-bucket”. I returned a moment later with one – and not a moment too soon!
Some triage stuff was being done in the waiting room with machines brought out from time to time to monitor something and sadly – left behind to go on beeping once they’d been finished with.
Meanwhile I was doing some calming breathing behind my mask… if I was having the heart-attack that the spasming pain in my chest felt like it was… then calm seemed the goal.
Nearby though was the source of much of the human noise in the room; a young girl, her carer/boyfriend and another male friend – all seemed to be under the influence of (perhaps) drugs… they’d been in good spirits but then started demanding medical attention for the girl who they said was having fits and pain. The carer/boyfriend was getting stroppy with the medical staff… then from the corner (in the heavenly chairs), the pregnant lady shouted to the carer/boyfriend that she was fearful she was losing her baby and EVERYONE here was an emergency! The shouting, the beeping machines, the crowd, the fear… my racing heart… “Will you please just keep quiet!” – I pointlessly added to the loudness.
“Look at me love, don’t look at anyone else or listen to anything else… we’re ok you and me… we’ll look our for each other.” said the quiet man in the awkward-angled bed-chair nearest me. I wanted to cry with gratitude at the kindness and care in his voice… it made such a difference. “I’m Fred’ he added.
A drunk woman in pyjamas and dressing gown arrives, leans into the doorway to survey us all and starts shouting. She does this for some time as security try to reason with her… she says “mental f*cking health issues mate!” and she’s left to carry on. She’s got alcohol with her, continues to consume and shout, then curls up in a ball on the floor. The woman I’d dubbed ‘Queen vic’ (older lady... elegant, silent, stoic) finally cracked too with the fresh round of shouting “You’re just being childish now” she said to the pyjama lady who swigged some more alcohol and growled in reply.
The kind man trying to keep his pained and fragile mother as protected from all the chaos as possible… handled her with such dignity and respect – a hard call to maintain any sense of that here.
Another older, quiet lady arrived alone… in her Valentine’s-jumper – full of shiny pink hearts. I wondered where she’d been and what she’d been in the middle of before ending up in here with all of us, the noise and no-one to look out for her. There were no soft seats for her tiny frame.
It helped to ensure you had an ‘A&E-Buddy’ – without friends or family, a visit to the loo meant the risk of not hearing your name and waiting even longer. Fred and I were clearly buddies and went on to advocate for each other as well; I needed pain relief but staff said no because I had to be assessed first… I was too sore and tired to push but Fred wasn’t …and I was served some paracetamol.
Fred begged for his chair to be plugged in; he was suffering with a swollen belly and with his legs not elevated, they too were swelling. I asked for help for him but staff said they couldn’t. At this stage I reasoned with myself that I wasn’t having a heart-attack (I had no grounds for my internal-argument on this but I didn’t let that stop me) …so I told Fred to get out of the chair and he and I dragged it (the weight took us by surprise!) across to a wall with a socket.
OMG if ‘bliss’ was made visual, it would have looked like Fred’s face as he pulled his hat down, his mask up and finally got some comfort with freshly elevated legs and access to so many more positions.
The staff were doing the very best they could and the pressure is no fault of the NHS – it’s clearly the result of years of underfunding that’s forcing patients to endure awful experiences like this. When I first arrived I was quickly given an ECG due to my symptoms… the poor nurse couldn’t get the machine to work and said she’d go find another one as this one was ‘always playing up’ – by the time we finally got a result, so much valuable staff time had been lost on this alone. Much of the machinery looked as tired as the staff.
I was a lucky one… it wasn’t a heart issue or the potential blood clot on the lung they’d also searched for. I actually looked pretty well other than the spasms in the left of my chest which the kind doctor prescribed a course of antibiotics to tackle (*update 5-days later: they worked yay).
*My final blood test and xray had taken me into other bits of the hospital where many poorly people were on beds in hallways… I wondered how long Fred would have to wait for his bed. They’d told him at about 3am that he was 4th In line – not many being checked out at that time of the night though, so I was grateful we’d taken the bed he did have to the plug.
*thank you Fred x
Thursday, 13 January 2022
Elections are underway for a new Green Party Women's committee and following the recent hustings (link to follow), we dealt with written questions. These are my responses as a candidate for Co-Chair:
Question for Co-chairs:
Q- What will you do to resolve the conflict GPW has had around the sex /
gender debate over the last couple of years?
A- The solutions are best found by involving more voices/views
and yet there are so many who have been excluded from discussions because the
environment has become hostile and cruel. We must be able to speak, even if we
don’t get the words all correct and especially if our voices quake. We need a
space for this discussion that does not involve being shouted down or labelled
in ways that are just not true.
We also need to ‘quarantine’ (not sure the best word?) this subject so that it stops dividing us and tainting all the other aspects of our Party; making it seem this is all we are about. Members and voters expect the Green Party to be a political party focused on protecting life on earth and striving for system change to enable the best outcomes for all. We know that media and other parties are using this conflict to demean and degrade us so that we fail and so… we must unite in agreement that this conflict will be addressed.
Q- What's the *first* step you would take in moving GPW beyond the debates that mire us down, so that we can actually start getting things done again
(lifting up women's environmental activism)?
A- Request the same circumstances that have enabled Young Greens to become the largest group within the party – auto-enrolment. When new members join and fill-in their details – if they match the criteria for Young Greens – they are automatically a member of the group and receive welcoming emails and engagement from the start (with an opt-out for those not wanting it) – for all other criteria, this doesn’t happen. I don’t understand why it’s different for the Greens of Colour, Seniors, Disability and Women’s groups - each would benefit hugely if this could be implemented.
have come to realise that good outcomes come when we have many more voices in
the conversation and I believe that GPW when populated with many more members,
Questions for All Candidates:
Q- Male violence
against women is not high on all agendas as it should
be and too many males just can't or won't take responsibility. "Not all
males" is the usual deflection. How will GPW address this issue with GP
males?(for context, 2-3 women a week are murdered by their partners and
rape cases are increasing in the UK although convictions are down)
A- I recognise this and like most women, have relatable
experience; the fear, limitation and perhaps worst of all – the dismissiveness
that this is the massive problem that it is. A strong women’s group could and
should be bringing this issue to members and requesting support at actions,
campaigns and policies that will address it. The Green Party men I know (maybe
I’m lucky?) are already supportive and I don’t doubt that the ones I don’t know
are too but there is no opportunity or situation in which we discuss this in
any meaningful way. The past few years of conflict over sex/gender have made
this even harder to discuss and created more division. GPW though can continue
to champion the rights of women to live without the threat of violence and for
laws and sentencing to reflect this. Joining with other women’s groups with the
same aims will ensure we have the numbers and volume to achieve more.
Q- What events, meetings etc would you organise for Green Party Women?
A- I’d hope to see our participation with other women’s groups of all sorts in order to expand our reach, enrich our network and understanding and truly begin to represent the rich diversity of women. From rallying and protesting around key issues for and about women – to joining as women together to tackle environment and social challenges.
Unity and power in a group are strengthened by social and
creative events and we’ve seen how popular and enjoyable GPW’s book club, yoga
and chat rooms could be (during the first lock-down, they helped to keep us
connected and provided a calm, welcoming and warm place to be online when all
around was becoming so unfamiliar; huge thanks to those on the committee that
made this happen)… my experience amongst women in the anti-fracking movement
was made all the more rewarding because we sang, danced, shared food, learned crafts
from each other and found our unity outside of political/personal opinions.
I would also love to see us aim for a yearly ‘Women’s Conference’ not just as Green Party women but to have an inclusive conference open to all women.
Q- Women are crying out for a left-leaning political home. Why is the
Green Party failing to provide this leadership and how could you help to
reverse this lack?
A- I see this too, the need to provide a place for the politically
homeless as well as ‘naturally Green members’ and the opportunity we’re missing
in not reaching out to them. Our party has exceptional social as well as
environmental policies and at the last election, I often felt that Labour was
reading from our manifesto! There have been mistakes I think in the way we have
engaged potential new members who’ve come from other parties – a genuine warm
welcome would be an excellent start.
As a women’s group we can cross political and other divides and work, engage and unite with women of all parties and none, to achieve goals together ie: defend a women’s refuge against closure, support victims’ groups, join actions or create them around the impacts of climate and the lives of women across the world etc. We need to BE open and welcoming and inclusive of all women from differing backgrounds, beliefs, abilities and politics and in doing this, we will grow.
Q- Is changing gender the same as changing sex and are there
implications for policy if they are not the same thing? Including, how
can GPW act effectively to advance the interests of women as a sex class
if male non-binary people are included in the group?
A- No the terms gender and sex refer to different aspects of a person. Gender is how we express ourselves and can be fluid throughout our lives, whereas sex is about our physical state ie: anatomy/biology that is observed and noted at birth.
In matters of policy (particularly around healthcare) it is
essential that the terms gender and sex are not misused.
I see Green Party Women as being about so much more than protecting women’s sex-based rights - but our sex-based rights are at the core of the group’s purpose. GPW must be an inclusive group for all women of every race, class, ability and religion and the introduction of male non-binary members can lead to the exclusion of women who due to religion, personal beliefs or experiences etc. will not be able to participate in a mixed-sex group.
*I wanted to check ‘official’ use of the terms sex and gender and the Office of National Statistics definitions do in fact match my understanding.
[The UK government defines
Sex as: referring to the biological aspects of an individual as determined by their anatomy, which is produced by their chromosomes, hormones and their interactions generally male or female
Gender as: a social construction relating to behaviours and attributes based on labels of masculinity and femininity; gender identity is a personal, internal perception of oneself and so the gender category someone identifies with may not match their sex - where an individual may see themselves as a man, a woman, as having no gender, or as having a non-binary gender – where people identify as somewhere on a spectrum between man and woman]
(ALL candidates' answers here: Candidates 2022 written answers to hustings questions - Green Party Women)
Tuesday, 4 January 2022
Another round of internal elections for the Green Party - this time for the committee members for the Green Party Women's group. I'll be standing as Co-Chair. All candidates are being announced today. and there will be one online hustings on THURSDAY 6th Jan 2022 at 7pm - link will be sent to members via email. Voting will take place (for those registered) up until 21st Jan 2022.
*Below is the statement I made about why I would like the role:
[Green Party Women is destined to be a powerful and effective group within and I’d love to be on the committee that makes that happen. I’m running for the position of Co-Chair and if elected, would seek to grow our membership and create a powerful lobby of women; able to stand strong and campaign on key issues for women… but more than that, to work AS WOMEN on a whole host of issues that matter to everyone.
My experience as a climate activist fighting fracking, taught me a lot about the power that women bring to campaigns and I’d love to harness that vitality and unity.
As well as effective climate campaigning, would be a bold, beautiful part of what will lead voters to vote for the Green Party; bringing our members to higher visibility through local campaigns across the regions.
The Green Party is the only OPPOSITION to all the other parties that would NOT prioritise the climate emergency, and with an ever more authoritarian Tory government, it has never been more important that there is a genuinely ‘Green’ party and that it comprises powerful groups. Green Party Women has so much potential and I believe I could help ‘tap’ into it.]
Saturday, 6 November 2021
It’s been all waves of hope and despair churning away at my optimism/pessimism as #COP26 fills the screen… I’m speaking later today in Glasgow at the Rally (from the top of a fire engine!) and it’s hard to know what’s even worth saying and I can’t work out how I feel about where we’re at right now and whatever’s next ☹What the hell is the appropriate tone to take when discussing potential extinction? Some say "be positive, we can't give up hope" - others say "talk about adaptation, about dealing with the reality of the worst that could come". And what point is there to all this anyway – to us gathering in Glasgow and all the others at gatherings all over the UK and the world today… why are you and I even bothering to pay attention when so often we’re failed and have no reason to expect better? My friend Alan asked in a poll: “Do you believe #COP26 will result in significant global change on how we tackle climate change?” 90% or people said NO. Not me – I was in the 10%. I said YES - but not necessarily BECAUSE of #COP26 the conference - but because of the increased awareness and understanding of what we're actually facing. Our survival depends on action and that at least, is more obvious than it’s ever been. 'The Leaders' may fail - but I don't believe that 'The People' will. We gather because WE want to plan ahead and not live for just this moment and the next. Our OBLIGATION drives us - our obligation as parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters – and as co-dependent creatures in a habitat that's sick and sickening more every day. ACTIVIST is not a dirty word - it's an aspiration and an essential ingredient in *democracy. (*We don’t seem to currently have a democracy though; we are in the hands of businessmen and their greed. That's what needs to change in order for anything positive to come. ) There’s been an awful lot of false-promising and lying coming from those at COP26 who are trying to deny reality and keep on profiting… but also, there’s been a huge amount of determined, powerful energy and unity in the protests and the knowledgeable words I hear from activists on media. So many good people, far out-numbering the bad… we may not hold ‘the power’ but we are powerful when we realise it in ourselves ...and each-other. We activists, we’re the optimists - we see what CAN BE and we fight for it. The Greenwashers are the killers – they see what they can get away with, what ‘growth opportunities’ they can seize, what future technology they can imagine as a magic solution and they condemn us and other species to extinction. The wealthier countries are trying to claim credit for cleaner back-yards at home… whilst off-shoring the dirty industries that their voters won’t tolerate. UK-supported fracking in Argentina or Canadian-supported fracking in Namibia – is STILL BLOODY FRACKING! It’s still bloody methane in the air, plastics as a by-product and earthquakes that come as standard. Yet the UK government and Canadian will not own those emissions, seismic activity, water pollution, lost habitats, ruined lives and fractured communities… they off-shored it! We know, there is a better way. We know that there are multitudes of clever, creative innovators who already have the solutions – they’ve just been silenced by the system... denied funding, denied support, denied a place to put their solutions and been kept out of the conversation by big business and its big lobbying. In fact it’s not even lobbying anymore is it? As we’ve seen this week – politicians can be lobbyists & politicians & in industry all at once… multi-tasking for profit. I read a quote yesterday: “State capture happens when narrow interest groups take control of public policy, buying influence to rewrite the rules. There are signs it’s happening in Britain” - Liz David-Barrett So why gather? We need to roar to be heard and we’re louder together. We need to show that we are watching and we will act to preserve life – even if they won’t. We need to reassure ourselves that we are many and they are few… we need to make our connections and weave our networks so that we can call on each other as we did when we fought fracking… to know that those boots will come to the ground we’re preserving or the tree we’re protecting or to halt trucks, hinder HS2, prevent more coal mines and oil fields. Each and every one of us can take a role and increase the power to the good-side… and although not everyone can physically be present – there’s plenty else to do to add weight to the good-side; research, sharing, writing, informing – all this matters. WE need to take back control of the conversation… to ensure it’s not bullshit from politicians that we hear the most but authentic voices, speaking out for the right reasons. We each – as far as we actually know – are born and get just this one ride, this one go-round at life… and we gift the same to our children and theirs. No ONE of us was born with a special-issue ticket entitling us to a different class of life or an upgrade… this fight for our lives, is OUR fight, every one of us. I'm on a one-ticket go-round with you – let’s stay close, refuse petty divisions and fight first for the one thing that matters above all else – ensuring the life-support system can support life. We can deal with the rest once we’ve got that bit sorted 💗
Sunday, 31 October 2021
Wednesday, 15 September 2021
Thank you. Tonight I’ve written a script for the intro – something I rarely do but I wanted to be sure I got my words out as well as I can.
As a child in Australia and later as a teenager in Hong Kong, I watched in confusion and later anger as my mother’s dearest friend and boss Brian, a homosexual man – was forced to hide is love for his partner Colin. In Australia it was easier for them than it proved to be in Hong Kong, where the penalties were fierce and the determination to apply them, strong. At 17 I started working as a reporter on a Hong Kong daily and one of the first stories I was part of investigating was the use of conversion therapy to ‘help make homosexuals normal’ – it involved the use of varying degrees of shocks, depending on response to images. I was horrified. As a British colony, Hong Kong's criminal laws against homosexual acts were initially the same as British law, with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment but then, in 1991 the Legislative Council agreed to decriminalise homosexual relations. I wish Brian and Colin had been around to see that. No-one should have to hide their love or be scared to be their true selves.
Here in the UK homosexuality wasn’t penalised or judged until Christianity arrived in 597 AD and later, the Buggery Act of 1533 got even more brutal and made it illegal and punishable by death. It wasn’t till 1967 homosexuality was finally decriminalised. Every battle for homosexual rights was a dangerous one and every campaigner risked so much. It’s a massive credit to the gay rights movement that the hard-won campaigns on age-of-consent and same-sex marriage successfully changed laws to recognise these rights to be the same for all people. Research in 2019 showed that 86% of the UK agreed that homosexuality should be accepted by society. We’ve come a long way but there’s more to do here too.
When Martin and I decided to stand in this election, we spent a lot of time discussing policies and party issues to find out if we shared views and thankfully, we have yet to find one we don’t agree with each other on. Treating all people with decency and respect and ensuring diversity is welcomed and embraced, is at the core of who we are … and ensuring the Green Party of England and Wales is protected and propelled into power is why we’re here.
This particular hustings has weighed heavily for a multitude of reasons. Our unity and our party’s reputation are of paramount importance to the UK and indeed the planet – without the Greens fighting to get climate and ecological breakdown on the agenda and in the news, we wouldn’t stand a chance. NO other party genuinely cares – they pay lip-service for votes. WE tell the truth and the truth is needed now more than ever. But our unity and reputation are under threat because of disagreement between those fighting for trans rights and those fighting to protect womens rights.
Tonight I feel
out of my depth and at risk of error at risk of adding to the dis-unity – as many
members I know feel similarly… unsure of how to phrase things correctly, how to
ensure others know you mean no ill-will and how to express concerns without causing
further division. As we move through these hustings, the conversation will come
round to the very serious matter of trans rights and womens rights and where
our policies impact these. It’s serious because whether you are involved
or not, this matter has become a focal point for our Party both internally and
externally in the media, online and at meetings. We’ve lost members, seen our disputes and
disciplinary processes stretched beyond their resources and we know, that
members are feeling anger and hurt.
It’s serious because for nearly five decades, members have worn-down shoe rubber and bruised knuckles getting our Party to where we are today… and our 450 plus councillors, one MP, thousands of activists and tens of thousands of members – need us to stop this from damaging our reputation beyond repair.
We must face the discussions that are needed to resolve it. We cannot say ‘we’ll educate the dissent away’ or suggest that if members aren’t happy with policies that they should leave the party. When Sian suggested this, I was shocked. Surely resolution is what we all want? The policy that 'Trans Women are Women, Trans Men are Men and non-binary identities are valid'… has caused members to question how this policy impacts the rights of women to single sex spaces and the right to request examination by someone of the female sex. And progress can’t come because even saying these words and questioning the policy has been damning to members of all views and none.
There’s no easy answers but it’s essential that we work till we find them and in doing so - ‘be the change we wish to see’ – treating others with dignity and without prejudice. As with any subject or campaign, not all members will be aware of all that has gone on or even have knowledge of the issues and implications being referred to. We need to be sure that members aren’t in the dark and can access clear information and ask questions, in a safe and respectful way.
Martin and I want to work for resolution and I hope tonight goes some way to finding a less troubled path.
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