Thursday, 8 January 2015


Tonight I can't sleep. Now insomnia and I are no strangers to one another. I have wasted many a witching hour tossing and turning, reading, piecing together jigsaws with bleary eyes trained on the clock watching the hours tick by until I need to be up again. But tonight the reason for my sleeplessness is much more real than a racing mind caught up in knots over its own inability to capture the silken web of slumber.

Yesterday saw terrorists gun down a group of journalists as they held their editorial meeting and I can't help but picture the scene on and endless, horrific loop. I imagine it was the first time the team will have met after the New Year. The would shamble to seats in a cramped meeting room, coffees and notebooks in hand, exchanging the odd Bonne Annee, discussing food eaten, parties attended, nights spent slumped in front of the television rather than revelling to celebrate the arrival of 2015.

Then down to business, this was a satirical magazine, so I imagine the order of the day was which political or religious bubble would be burst by their rapier pens. Now I make no claim to have known about Charlie Hebdo before today, and after a cursory glance at its work its not a publication that would particularly appeal to me.

The cartoons are too graphic, gross and yes, offensive for my taste. But what resonates with me is the familiarity of the circumstances in which this magazine would have come to life. I spent most of my 20s working for magazines. They weren't as high profile and or as contentious as Charlie Hebdo, but I can't help but think that the environment would have been pretty similar to the one into which bullets came flying and blood was shed.

Magazines are laid back places to work, the people who work on them tend to be pretty cynical, iconaclastic - if not they would probably have got proper jobs working as accountants or management consultants. Instead they were the ones messing around at the back of the class, refusing to take what they were told at face value and poking fun at those who did. They are bright, quick witted and more than a little bit disaffected.

This was my happy home for over a decade and even after I left I continued to work as a freelance journalist so I feel a kinship that makes what happened in Paris somehow more personal and painful, more difficult to forget in favour of a good night's sleep. The idea of those slacker writers and fastidious subs being ripped to pieces by a rain of bullets from a military trained terrorist just jars my brain. The juxtaposition between these acerbic cartoonists armed only with their wit and a smart drawing pen and combat ready maniacs wielding AK-47s just doesn't make sense to me.

While I have never raised my head above the parapet to do anything remotely worthwhile with my own career I have admiration for those who have chosen to use their exposure in the press to push forward an agenda that forces us to continue to look beyond trite philosophies spoon fed to us by those in authority. It was what I meant to do, but never really had the balls to follow through on.

It is heartbreaking that anyone would want to see that way of life smashed and silenced by a rain of bullets. That the way such warped thinkers wish to repay a country whose very tolerance is the reason they and their families were able to make a life there is by trying to extinguish it.

Of course I am aware that life is not always easy for immigrants and their descendants in any society, but what I find so confusing is that rather than try to find a way to work within the country that they have made their home, they seek to destroy it and all its values. This surely makes them as guilty as the 'infidels' who they despise so much, as the very reason they hate the West is that it meddles in the affairs of countries that are really none of its business.

While I suspect logic plays no part in it, perhaps we are reaching back in to the medieval way of thinking where an eye is demanded for an eye. But even if can accept this rationale I still cannot understand why the lives of innocent journalists, who almost undoubtedly held no more respect for their political leaders who dragged them into foreign conflicts than they did for religious fanatics who opposed them. These men were not the establishment, they were anything but. They didn't reserve their scorn for one religious or political faction, everyone was fair game and this is as it should be in a country where freedom of speech and of the press is a cornerstone of its society.

I am sure that the ramblings of a half asleep woman waiting for the pills to kick in so I can get some shut eye add not an iota to the debate that will rage about the implications and causes of this atrocity, but perhaps I can find a little peace for having blurted my thoughts out onto the glowing void of the internet.

A good night to you all and may those killed in the Charlie Hebdo attack rest more peacefully than I tonight.


Monday, 15 September 2014

A man down

The offending limb.
At risk of sounding like a terrible lightweight whinger, I don't cope well when the FDMTG team is down by a man. I know that many mothers manage single handed for all or most of the time, but when you are used to having a right-hand man and suddenly he's not there it leaves you feeling a bit vulnerable.

To be fair we have had a short dose of this before as Mr FDMTG is in hospital having more surgery on a skiing injury acquired earlier this year on a boys only trip. Foolishly I thought he deserved a break and he took me a bit too literally, coming home with a snapped shoulder which resulted in his first big operation. Following this he has had  ongoing niggles and he is now back in hospital having corrective surgery to hopefully put everything right at last.

The result of all of this is that while he tends to his injured arm, I am left alone to tend to our unruly flock. I will admit this was not something I was relishing, particularly so soon after the very long summer holiday.  Getting our boys out to school has always been a challenge, given that they seem to hear 'Hurry up and get dressed' as 'Please play with some Lego on your bedroom floor'.

What with tantrums over toothpaste incorrectly applied to the brush, the provision of unacceptable pants, a dearth of name labels and book bags that seem to come to life at night to play hide and seek, getting out in the morning is the polar opposite to a pit stop in an F1 race - in other words slowness is of the essence.

Don't even get me started on the momentous and ponderous decision it is to choose breakfast. Given that the choices are pretty limited - a few types of cereal or toast and one of three types of juice - you would think this would be a simple selection to make. Oh how wrong you would be. My middle son in particularly treats selecting his breakfast with the same reverence as you might making options on a Michelin starred menu.

He umms and errs over toast versus cereal, Nutella versus honey, porridge versus egg on toast - invariably plumping for the most time-consuming option. You can guarantee that on the morning when you had to leave the house five minutes ago he will opt for slowly home cooked porridge and a cup of hot chocolate. When this choice is abruptly vetoed and a banana is thrust into his had sulks are sure to ensue.

This is perhaps why I feel that extracting our boys on a school morning is at least a two-person job. Now the problem is compounded by two separate school runs, one for the older boys and one for the twins. Luckily we have drafted in a substitute to cover the driving, but it still means we have to be up dressed and fed before the mother-in-law arrives, as it wouldn't do to be found with our pants around our ankles and no food in our bellies.

Happily, despite my misgivings, the boys have stepped up to fill the shoes of our missing member of staff. This morning my two eldest boys woke me up to tell me it was time to get ready for school, AWOL husband having called the eldest's mobile to make sure mummy was up! They then helped their little brothers dress and brush their teeth, after which they made breakfast all round, unloaded and loaded the dishwasher.

I am not sure this was a smart move on their part though as now I know they can do all of this I am not sure I want to go back to my role as general morning dogsbody! Still it is nice to know that when the chips are down my little crew of boys are ready and willing to pick up the pieces.

So while the FDMTG household misses daddy terribly, he can rest easy in the knowledge that his boys rising to the challenge of having a man down.