Thursday, 19 May 2016

You. We hate YOU.

So, some of you might know that Britain is soon to have a referendum to see if they want to stay within the European Union or leave it. 

I have resisted talking about it so far, partly because Britain leaving the EU is actually something quite painful to contemplate, but mostly because the entire "Vote Leave" campaign seems to consist of chanting "Britain! Britain! Britain!" and hope that it somehow constitutes a valid argument.

It doesn't. And therefore it does not require a counter-argument. Unless I am prepared to start shouting "EU! EU! EU!" back, but so far my self-respect has held.

Also, as before, this is something that would impact my life immensely, but in which I do not get a say. 

I am following closely though, for obvious reasons. I may have to ask for a visa all of a sudden (I bet they are going to LOVE the self-employed/stay-at-home mum label, it screams "worthwhile migrant" to cash-obsessed officials), or somehow find £45,000 per year or be deported back to France, because even the Singh Route would then be closed, and my husband is not yet earning enough money to be allowed a foreign wife and bi-national children. 

I have to contemplate the break-up of my family, simply because people are chanting "Britain! Big! Winner! Boo foreigners!" and somehow gathering a following in doing so.

Do I sound angry? Well, angry does not begin to cover it.

I remember talking with a Scottish friend about the Scottish referendum, and how he said that many of the arguments of the English in that case were emotional and personal, rather than engaging with the very real issues. To which I answered that if Britain voted to leave the EU, I too would have a very hard time not taking it personally.

And I think  therein lies the issue. There are very real problems at work, but make no mistake, it is also deeply, intrinsically, personal

Because people I know who are willing to vote "Leave" would also be the one marvelling at how exotic my bilingual children are, they are the ones who would scream "Migrants go home!" but then say "Not you, Isabelle, you're alright, you speak English/you make Pimm's at the start of the Test Match season, you can stay! We mean them!"

One hateful article I will not link to was calling for the government to apologise to every parent whose nursery place had been stolen by "Piotrs", and every woman who had to wait for a spot in the labour suite "swarmed" by "Svetlanas". And at first I was deeply hurt. Here was a woman who I had never met, but she was calling for my children to be turned away from school. She thought the coming into the world of my beautiful, unique, specific boys was cause for someone to apologise.

But if I met the author personally, chatted with her, introduced her to the boys, joked with her about the three-day-long English summer, I'm pretty sure even she would make an exception. Not you Isabelle, of course, you're alright.

And I'd wager there aren't many "Piotrs" who wouldn't find a single English person willing to make an exception for them. Not you Piotr, you're good fun at the pub, we mean them.

Very rarely do we hate specific people we know because they are part of a group. Very often we hate the anonymous "swarm". The picture in our mind's eye of crawling, scowling, overtaking and ill-defined "foreigners".

As always, evil comes when we deprive people of their humanity, when we refuse the personal encounter. I would like the English people I know to remember that, because when you vote "Leave", you will not be making an abstract statement against a vague swarm that you think caused all your problems. You will be specifically saying "You, Isabelle, Jude and Gabriel, you are not welcome here."

Sunday, 8 May 2016

The Smaller Cross

Puddleglum. via

Lately I have been suffering because of a Lesser Hurt. You know the kind, the hurt which knots your throat in a ball, but also makes you feel ashamed, because it feels like you are overreacting. The kind that makes you suffer, but that you will not ask prayers for, because it is not a PROPER hurt. The kind that ruins a beautiful day, even though your marriage, children and health are fine.

A friendship strained, making bad memories resurface.

A slight from your siblings making you feel left out.

That kind of hurt.

They also have a knack of appearing when PROPER hurts are happening around you. When you should really feel thankful, when really, it is for others that you should pray.

The Lesser Hurt often comes with frustration: Why am I being so childish? Why can't I just go past this? Why can't I just concentrate on all the good in my life instead of constantly channelling my inner Puddleglum?

Eventually this afternoon, I did what I should have done from the start, I took it to Adoration. 

And I thought about Saint Thérèse's Little Way. Which is strange, because she is a saint I do not feel much affinity with (it probably isn't helped by the fact that the narrator in the audiobook of the Story of a Soul I own has the most cloying, sing-song, sappy voice in the universe). But it made me realise that what I was suffering under was indeed a little cross, but it was one, and it was worthy.

And as it turns out, when you bring your hurt to God, He does not tell you to "man up!", He does not #firstworldproblems you. He does not think you silly, say you are overreacting, ask you to look on the bright side. Nor does He magically erase the feelings or the issue. 

You see, even if right now, yours may seem a very small cross, He will still help you carry it.

I thought some of you might need to hear this too.


"If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel's heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence. As it is, the quickest of us walk about well wadded with stupidity."