A blog recording the thoughts of a mum of one who does a lot of voluntary work because it's more fun than resuming her career and is a bit worried about the state of the nation.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

The Big Green Soc.?

At a conference for charities and social enterprises last week the keynote speaker said in an ominous voice "I advise you to consider the Big Society as what you have been waiting for".

In the spirit of morphing seamlessly into whatever shape is needed to get money, we have been musing on this at meetings of the local environmental network. We think we have already been pretty successful at what professionals call "mobilising social capital" and what most of us call "getting people to do things for free" which seems to be the Big Soc.'s big idea. Now we are wondering whether we should stop talking about conservation and carbon reduction and start talking about participating in the "Big Green Society". I think this sounds more like a student prank in which people chuck green goo over one another than anything else. Could it be just what we need to get lots of unemployed recent students on board? I am already visualising a delightful media stunt and I'm sure it will be easy to round up a lot of children in old clothes given the time of year.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

A shattering phone call

I was just mentally formulating a jolly post about the end of another school year when I received a shattering phone call.

A local nanny, who has looked after one of my daughter's friends for most of the last 5years and has also acted as a live-in housekeeper to the family, rang me from her mobile sobbing with fear. She had not been getting on quite so well with the parents of the family recently and a huge row had suddenly broken out that evening, starting with accusations about the laundry and ending up with the apparently fairly drunk parents screaming at her to leave and the husband slapping her on the face. She had fled from the house and was on the way to stay with a friend.

As a result of this horrible situation she faces the loss of her home, income and probably right to remain in the UK (she is from Latin America). People like her enable middle class parents to work and earn a large joint income, yet I wonder if her employers have been even paying her the minimum wage or paying tax and national insurance on her salary. They do not appear to have observed any of the niceties that they would have been bound by in their professional lives, eg. appraisals and notice periods.

After some hasty research I have suggested that she contact a small charity called Kalaayan that seems to specialise in helping abused domestic workers and I hope they will be able to advise her. However I imagine that this is just the sort of small charity that the Big Society programme will pass by since its clients exist at the margins and their rise and fall has no impact on official statistics about unemployment and welfare spending. She is the victim and I will help as much as I can but I am feeling sick and tearful myself about the whole situation and angry about the way in which people with many advantages appear have treated someone so powerless. I don't relish the thought of seeing them over and over again as our daughters grow up with this always in my mind.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

A Mummy Blog?

I have been thinking about whether or not this is a Mummy blog. Mummy blogging is hip at the mo because it has featured on "Woman's Hour" and it is now a recognised genre with a pleasant clubby subculture. Ranty blogging with insufficient mum content may be a bad move leading to lack of blogospheric chum linkages.

As I understand it, a Mummy blog is written by a mum and is mainly about how difficult it is to juggle looking after children and retaining a sense of self. A mummy blogger usually has several children, but less is permissible if the mummy is divorced and/or has a large dog.

Do I have enough of this sort of thing going on? I've only got one child who is nearly 10 and easy to look after these days: mostly she entertains herself and just looks a bit weary when the tea gets burnt yet again because I have wandered off to check my email. I have never been at all interested in marriage, although if I had married any of the collected exes 1978-1998 I would certainly have been divorced by now so I am not divorce-unimaginative. Can I really tick the "mummy blog" box if I slip into going on about irritations that are not parent specific, such as the lack of a proper system for dealing with lost property on London United buses? Can I make up for the feebleness of my reproductive record by going on about my mummy and my other mummy (ie. his mummy) and my fears that the goldfish are going to breed again this summer?

I expect there is a tool somewhere that measures in percentage terms how closely a blog matches the mummy blog model. Until I find it I shall just have to chuck in the odd anecdote about how I met the Mayor when I had a full potty in the bottom of the pushchair and keep my options open!

Monday, 19 July 2010

Big Soc. Banshee: The Name

This is a blog about how unpaid work has begun to take over my life and has provided a comprehensive distraction from looking for that several-rungs-down-the-career-ladder part-time job which is the lot of the ex-professional woman with caring duties. From helping at my daughter's school to propping up local environmental groups, I've been doing this Big Society thing for years. It's not only stopped me from earning very much but has led to a healthy neglect of domestic stuff. So I am looking forward to sticking my oar into the Big Soc. debate. I don't suppose it will end there as I have so many opinions about all sorts of things and far less chance for a debate than when I just went to college/work and then out with friends every night.

Whilst choosing a title I dipped briefly into the mummy blogosphere. Many of the names reminded me of the title of a library book which my librarian sister once named as the-one-that-most-made-her-shriek-with-laughter-whilst shelving: "Bishop's Wife But Still Myself". I didn't really want to go down that route so I've decided to go for something broader and sillier.

I shortened "Society" to "Soc" because it rolled off the tongue better and sounded a bit more questioning of the concept and jollier. It also reminded me of all those Socs at University: Gaysoc, Wimminssoc, Godsoc etc. Plus it has much better rhyming possibilities e.g. "Does the Big Soc. Rock?", although I shall not be neglecting the possibility that there is a "Big Society Soriety". Lastly, I thought the abbreviation might help me avoid showing up on google searches: I am the last sort of women that local Tory associations want to be inviting along as I look a bit manky most of the time.

"Banshee" is probably overdoing it a bit: the wailing will often be implied for those who look beyond the attempts at humour, understatement and use of rhetorical questions e.g. "Who do you think you're kidding now Mr Cameron/Clegg?". Banshees are traditionally Irish and warn of impending death. I can do Celtic origins (I'm sure I'll be blogging about them sometime) but hopefully no deaths will result from the writing of this blog which I intend to be a mainly uplifting experience.