Monday, 9 May 2011

what word is more than love

what word is more than love or has love's mouth
to touch your skin
or wander on the opening of the kiss and
moan, sigh, want its name
which is unchanging

the swan alone, who never comes again
or the little summer snowflakes
quivered on the stem
or shot 
are only fallen from the pen


while the word and all it is to fall in love will ever rise.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Save Ward 10 Children's Cardiac Unit LGI

In May of 2000 i went to Scarborough Hospital for a routine scan on my third baby. i am small, and at twenty weeks was already heavily pregnant. The nurse put down the scanning instrument and looked at me. 'there is something wrong with the baby's heart,' she said, and went to fetch a doctor. While i waited, i stared at the ceiling tiles and air vents above me, hoping desperately that it was a hole in the heart, which i knew was fixable. When the doctor arrived he told me gravely that he could not see half of the heart, including the Pulmonary Artery. he referred me to the LGI, on the following Monday. it was a Thursday.
In Leeds, Dr Gibbs used a higher- powered scan on me. The baby's heart had developed wrongly. It was just one of those things. The condition was called Pulmonary Artresia, and the artery was blocked. Currently, my body was pumping blood around my baby's body, but after birth, or during the pregnancy if matters worsened, he would go into heart failure. the prognosis was fairly grim, but Dr Gibbs was upbeat and reassuring. He had seen many many cases, and fitted shunts to bypass the area in many children. Due to his attitude i felt able to go on and try to bring the baby to term.
i gave birth in the LGI. A scan shortly afterwards showed that the artery was not fully blocked, but narrowed- a stenosis. A successful procedure was carried out to open the vessel. Unfortunately, soon after, my son collapsed, and was taken to Intensive Care, where he remained for two months, and a third on Ward Ten. During this time he suffered lung, kidney and liver failure, and a serious bowel condition. He was treated by specialists from the LGI and Jimmy's: doctors, nurses, anaesthetists worked tirelessly for this tiny, bloated little person whose chances of survival were given, twice, at less than 20%.
At this time i had two other children below the age of six. Parents and in-laws could only help for so long, and the children's father had to go back to work- his employer even tried to make the second, post-paternity week we were sat at his bedside in ICU, a week of unpaid leave. i visited at weekends, and on a Tuesday evening, when i would take the train from the coast into the city, and walk up to the hospital in the dark, never knowing what i would find. The parent's accommodation was sparse, but it was free, and allowed me to stay overnight. It was a lonely and frightening 3 months, but eventually, in February 2001, i took Fran home, with his medicines, and his feeding tube and his physio regime. If i panicked, i called ward 10, and they advised me. 'It was a one in a million heart condition,' Dr Gibbs told me, toward the end of his stay in ICU,  'and a one in a million collapse. And this is a one in a million recovery.'
The Current Government is trying to reduce the number of heart centres  from 11 to 6. Of all four options, only one keeps open Ward 10 at the LGI.  Services would be moved to Newcastle, Birmingham and  Liverpool. Children who are fighting for their lives will have their fragile health further compromised by having to travel hundreds of miles further. Trips that may, at best compromise them to a critical degree, and at worst kill them. The strain this will put on their families, already shocked and frightened by a child's illness, is unimaginable. Siblings will be left behind, mothers and fathers torn between their homes, and obligations and a sick child, hours and hours away. There is not 'another hospital up the road' as there is in London, and nor do they have money for childcare or for accommodation over an indeterminate period- which will probably be the hardest time of their lives, when they need their friends, and family- their support network, some normality. Please help to keep Ward 10 open- you can e mail your MP. Ask he or she to support the Early Day Motion 1459 tabled by Hilary Benn calling on the government to keep the unit open. Remember to add your full name and address so that they know you are a constituent. Alternatively, e-mail Cameron directly  (http:// and let him know how you feel about his latest attack on the most vulnerable and needy among us. 
You don't live in the affected area, you don't have a child with a heart condition- but you know some one who does- You know Me, some of you know my son, Fran. Children with health problems should not be 'ranked' according to where they were born, or where their parents live, but have equal access to the highest quality care everywhere in the country.
'I don't ever remember writing on a baby's chart, before, recovering from multi-organ failure,' Once was enough for me and my family.

A One in a Million recovery, a One in a Million child: for the chance that therewill be more like him in the future, help save this One in a Million Heart Unit.

Friday, 25 February 2011

No Joke.

Yesterday, had i accidentally found £2m in my Pay Packet- ok, Child Tax Credit Payment- i would have handed it in, absolutely no question. Not because 'the overpayment would have been traced within days and the employee asked to pay it back' (though, way to Fuck Up a perfectly adequate Owen Wilson/ Julia Roberts Box Office Bomb). No, because it is Stealing. Today, however, i'm keeping half. According to a new study, it should just about cover the majority of the cost of raising my five children to the age of twenty-one. Twenty- One? That's just the Eldest one, right? Then he presumably somehow drags up the rest in his wake?
 £210,000. And that's my children- we can probably knock off a bit on the thinking that Firstborn is Not 'Going to Contract', that Pedantic will have to wait for a garden with a Tree before he gets Treehouse, and that no one in this house will require their own Infant Counselor because their Daddies sang 'Candle in the Wind' at their Christening.
 If we leave aside the Baffling amount that the survey claims is spent on a child in its first 4 years, when, as far as i recall, mine were clothed mainly in the rags vacated by elder siblings and fed exclusively off my Very Life Blood, the Priciest Period is of course- No Fanfare, Absolutely No Ta-Daaah- the three years when they might be at University. If the Price tag inflates at the expected rate over the next 15 years, by the time i am packing my Youngest into the Vauxhall Corsa with a box of the Second- Best Saucepans, that might well be where we both live. So far my Plans include some hitherto overlooked Sponsorship Windfall aimed at the Very Argumentative, Smuggling him into Mia Farrow's and hoping he gets educated by accident, or voting the Coalition out and hoping that the Labour Party reverses the worst of the damage that is being done to Our Children's Future.

Instead of spending the projected hundreds of millions of pounds on the Nick Clegg's  Popularity Poll why doesn't the Government just ask a few people something more pertinent: like, do you want your children to have any kind of worthwhile future?  The alternative is just to wait on  the day when i have to look my sons and daughter in the eyes and admit that there is No Money- not just for Trainers, or MP3s, or for cars or laptops- but also no benefit safety net, nor further education that they can access, nor any jobs or trainee schemes or apprenticeships. No opportunities, no aspirations, no dreams. No punchline.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011


i am a feminist.
this is not a radical position. it is the position of a person, who upon finding themselves to have been born female, and continued to be so, did not, at any point find themselves thinking 'this Inequality lark has Sorted Itself out nicely, hasn't it? i wonder if it's my turn to clean behind the toilet.' Feminism did not begin with the Suffragettes, it was not killed off by the Eighties; it is not defined or diminished by MTV. It is not an Insult, or a Secret Organisation commited to bringing down Wikileaks. It is not obsolete: if you are a woman, you are a feminist. Or you are a doormat- and if you are the Mother of a Girl, you are perpetuating what has constrained you.
There is a advert on tv at the moment, which attempts to attract more men into Teaching, by encouraging them to bring more adventure to learning. A group of little boys Run Wild in a wood, building and climbing and expressing their 'natural enthusiasm', while SuperTeach whoops alongside. Superimposed, a classroom of tidy, uniformed girls, chewing their pencils thoughtfully, and raising their hands to answer questions. about fabric conditioner and fridge deoderisation presumably.
Now, i have 4 sons and a daughter. My daughter is diligent, well-behaved and polite at school. Her teachers think the world of her. her reports are glowing, affectionate, even. Her elder brother's were a a litany of Petty Rebellion and Irk. He was the child who refused to go and 'sit in an old cow stall to wave at the queen', 'the only child in the school', as the head teacher pointed out, 'how disappointing'. Which one of the two is more likely to break out of the Little Boxes of Life and Soar over the Horizon, do you think?
i am a feminist because we are still Failing our Daughters. because while we value, even expect certain traits in girls; moderation, quiet, neatness- traits that enable an overworked teacher to better manage a room of extremely variable children- the characteristics we allow in boys- excitability, physicality, action, are the ones which will win out, which will equip them for the fight for a Life Worth Having. and come time to get a job, all those bright, funny little Female People are likely to find themselves being paid less, and valued less than their Male Counterparts.
i am a feminist. i am not biased Against Men, but maybe Towards Women. i don't want the boys back in the classroom, any longer than it takes to explain to them how to iron a blouse and turn on a cooker. What i do want, is to see the girls hanging from the rope bridge, and skimming stones, and storming the treehouses, in preparation not for a battle of the sexes, but for the fight for a Decent Society, where we are All feminists- whatever sex we are.

Monday, 31 January 2011

In A Place of Fear

The Biggest Risk To the NHS is Doing Nothing.
Thus spake David Cameron, today, in another of his Carrollian Utterances that make the Receiver think he or she has just opened an Especially Poor Novelty Audio Greetings Card. 'We need a Big Society, not Big Government', 'You are an Analogue Politician in a Digital World', 'You Have to do a Bit of Bopping from time to time.' (Yes, honestly.) There is a huge gap in the market for greetings cards for Folk You Don't Think Much Of, now that Purple Ronnie is harder to come by. Self- Dispensing Drugs Trolleys- they would be Quite a Big Risk to the NHS, i imagine. Um, i know, what about No Trained Nurses and only A Man qualified in First Aid and a Vet arguing over who was highest ranked, as Really Truly Happened at Penrhos Sports Day last Year: that would mean the NHS was Quite At Risk. Oh, and what about one of those Zombie Viruses? You know that start off taking out all the minor league characters and then move on to actors you once saw in Harbour Lights, until only Ewan McGregor stands between Mankind and having to pay to keep babies on incubators alive by remortgaging your house and bankrupting your family until the End Of Time.
What i have Obviously missed, by listening to Radio 1 Extra for a fortnight (Big Up Twin B) is Ed Miliband's new policy 'How we will solve the problems of the NHS by doing nothing.' Perhaps he had a little pre-policy joke on, by Not Making a speech. Or perhaps no one has suggested Anything of the Kind, and this is another of those Distraction Techniques the Tories like so much- 'Under this Government, No World War.' 'Say Goodbye to Tiger Cross-Dressing now Dave's in charge.'
So, there isn't enough money to do all the things we would like our medical service to do. Let's Tax for More then. And let's spend less on Management, and on Celebrity Chefs to tell us that patients will Get Better Faster if they eat less Jelly and More Apples. Lets lay off that Think Tank we are presumably funding in Southampton Uni to tell us that sometimes dirt is germy, and just wash the walls in ICU a bit more often. Let's see what Claire Raynor said we should do, and do that. Naive, Socialist Top-of the-Head Toss-Offs? Course. But still better than the Current Proposal- hand over the cash to our GPs and let them decide who gets it done in Shrewsbury General, and who gets Flown to Florida for the Weekend. My brother once arrived at his mate's house to find our local doctor making a hat out of a fox. He did live there, he was the mate's dad. bet this doesn't make you want him to decide if how much Chemo he can afford to send you for though, does it? Time to take up golf and start losing to your local Practice Manager in case that dicky hip needs replacing.
Right, sponge down the focus groups, Now is the Time for Action, Not Reaction (paraphrasing, Dave). Rebranding is Imperative. We can't call it the NHS any more, clearly, as it won't be National, or a Service, and using the word health might make people think they are sick, in the way that mentioning homosexuality to children makes them um, no i must have got that wrong somehow. Just referring to it as a Total Fuck Up has a certain pithy ring to though, admittedly it might get depressing quite fast, a bit like not having drugs to control your MS, because Dr Badger-Scarf has spent all his pennies on Third Class Relics. So i propose Fiasco, it has a Comedy Carry-On air to it, that will be more than welcome when you're sat on a trolley in the corridor trying to remove your own spleen - the Logo can be a Picture of Nye Bevan pushing Andrew Lansley into his recently vacated grave.
Protest. Write Letters. Send E-Mails. Phone your MPs office- the Biggest Risk to the NHS is Doing Nothing: you know it's True, David Cameron Said So.

Friday, 21 January 2011

The Spokesperson's Spokesperson: A Statement.

 i am Deeply Saddened to hear of the resignation of Downing Street's director of Communications, Andy Coulson. The news was broken to me in a Completely Private Conversation with David Cameron, in which he disclosed that Andy would still have his job helping him Fuck the Country Over and then Lie about it, were it not for the Insidious Persistence of the Press in Pointing Out that he is a Duplicitous Bastard. At this Sad Time, and now Cruelly Deprived of the Almost Certain Serialisation Rights and Subsequent Media Exposure i and my family so Clearly deserve, i have no choice but to release the Transcripts of my own Mobile Phone Calls myself.
Here then, are The Frank Tapes.

Dad: Hello It's only me.
Me: Yes.
Dad: Did you find out what wattage of shower Ian wired for?
Me: He couldn't remember.
Dad: Oh Ok. Bye.

Dad: Hello, it's only me.
Me: Yes.
Dad: i haven't fetched that Loft Insulation yet.
Me: ok.
Dad: You alright?
Me: Yes thanks. did you get that haircut?
Dad: Not yet. Ok then, bye.

Dad: (in the distance): Sylvia! Sylvia? (swearing) Rustle, rustle, thunk. (More swearing).
Me: Dad?
Dad: Sylvia? Where's my Car Keys?
Me : Dad! You've phoned me with your pocket again dad. DAD!

Sadly, the Landline remained clean. The Follow-Up Recording: Is This The Right Number For Welshpool Football Club? No? Are You Sure? is therefore, Tragically, Lost Forever.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Sink Britain.

Breaking news: Poorest Families' Standard of Living will continue to fail. It's Almost Unbelievable. How on earth could this have happened? David Cameron must be sitting in his Bentley, slowly crushing and re-shaping his Top Hat Collection in bewilderment, as we speak. (Clegg is Under the car. There is no Inspection Pit, no). Food and Non-Alcoholic Drinks costs up 6.1% and Vegetables by 8%. Still, there's always Fags- you can Smoke Mail Bags rolled up in Despair, right? And Alcohol. Oh, apparently Booze is Gone too. It's not aimed at the Poor, obviously, that Snakebite Sub-Clause is coincidence. Unfair to blame Cameron directly, though. In all probability he knew nothing of this 'Inflation'. It's Almost Certainly the work of  a Rogue Minister, operating Entirely Independently of the Entire Coalition government, without their Knowledge or Suspicion, even when it is Discussed Publicly, and Carried Out Right Under their Noses and the Results are then put on the Front pages of the Press- Quite Clearly an Entirely Private Matter. Let's hope the Scapegoat knows who he is Before he's Arrested this time.
At least Dave Definitely knows he's Passed the Buck on the NHS, as it turns out he HAS to fuck it up, because Gordon wouldn't let Tony Fuck it up ten years ago. The Corridors of the Country's Non- Private Hospitals running with blood can double-up as Real Life(and Death) Installations now the Arts are Screwed: it'll raise morale in  Waiting Rooms as you choke out your last breaths only to hear it played back on a loop as a Soundscape. God help you if you're elderly, your best option is to join the House of Lords and insist on Thoroughly Debating all the Bills overnight when, coincidentally,it's really, really cold out in the Real World. In fact it turns out that the new Lowest level of Society consists, pretty much, of  Any One who hasn't been asked to ready a  New Blouse and Generations of Forelock for the Royal To-Do .
Nothing left for it but to introduce some really Innovative legislation: we're going to need a Great Big New Airport somewhere Southern, and a ton of Inflatable Dinghies. And this time, burn all the records, so the Aussies can't send any one back.