Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Shame on us...

Despite my parents' various problems, I believe I had very secure and happy childhood. I was never abused. How lucky I was. It seems that accounts of child abuse, cruelty and even murder are now commonplace, almost everyday occurences. How terrible that is, particularly for those of us who have a horror of any kind of hurt or damage being inflicted on any child. I know that when I was a child, there was a completely different view of children from that which prevails now. Childhood was not idealized as it often is today. We were disciplined, by which I mean that we had clear definitions of what we were allowed and expected to do. Perhaps some of my contemporaries were physically abused in the course of that discipline, but I was not aware of that. Mostly, we accepted that we had to do what our parents expected of us. We probably didn't like it much, but that was life. And I'm pretty sure that that was one of the reasons why so many of us married young - to get away from our parents and their way of life. If this seems a very matter-of-fact description, it probably is. And I'm not saying that our lives were either better or worse. They were simply different. I only know that when I came to have my own children, and when I had the sole responsibility of bringing them up, I was a more compassionate and loving parent than my own had been. As many of my contemporaries did, I felt that showing my love for my children was more important than disciplining them - I didn't mind admitting that I was wrong either (and I often was). Don't get me wrong, I did have reasonable expectations of my children, and they knew where their boundaries lay, but I also wanted them to be happy and to know that they were loved. I'm sure that this belief brings its own complications - it's unrealistic to expect happiness to be a constant in our lives. And if we had no sadness, arguably we couldn't appreciate happiness when it came along. But how, when, where did it become so threaded through our society that little children should come into this world so unloved and uncared for that they are almost routinely abused and cruelly treated? How is it that our society actually tolerates this? I have seen, as most of us probably have, children being abused, shouted at and and hit in the street. And I have sometimes spoken out, and sometimes not. Why are we, as a society, afraid of these bullies. I wish I had the answer - and I wish that our society had the courage and the strength to actually do something about these abuses and frightful crimes. So our Social Workers are now overloading the system with cases of child abuse and neglect (in the wake of the fallout after the case of poor little Baby Peter) - because they are afraid that they will be seen to be inefficient. They might even lose their jobs! But how do the children feel? How do those poor little neglected scraps of humanity feel when they see yet another Social Worker walking away from them and leaving them in the "care" of brutal, ignorant and abusive adults? I don't have the answers, but I do have many questions. How many bruises to you have to see on a child before you realize that that child is being cruelly treated? How many reports of crying and screaming can you ignore? How many times do you send an injured mother and her children back to live with a violent and abusive partner? I often wonder how we continue to live in a society that allows these, and many, many more crimes against humanity. Heads down, we scurry on about our business, living our own lives, seeing only what is closest to us. Of course we can look after our own dear children, to the very best of our abilities. We can hold them close to our hearts and make the best possible future for them. And perhaps, in the end, that is the most we can do. I'm not religious, but I surely know that any person who abuses or hurts a child and ruins a young life is going to Hell for it. And for that reason alone, I hope there is a particularly nasty Hell reserved just for them.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Never mind, things could be worse.

For some reason I'm feeling nostalgic this evening. I've had a mixed couple of weeks, with worries about both Son and Daughter, and I've been looking back "in my mind's eye" to the days when, whatever was wrong, we would sort it out and settle down for a cosy evening cuddled up on the sofa at home. Ah, those were the days...

What's been happening? Well, Daughter seems to be continuing on her path towards a Wedding, if not a marriage. It seems to me that "Planning a Wedding" is about the day, the dress and the party, while a marriage is about a future life together. I'm far from convinced that the future even comes into it for her - I think it's all about the fantasy and fluff of getting married. Anyway, there has also been a new addition to their household - a very large dragon or something similar. I walked, all unsuspecting, into their sitting room, to be confronted by a huge black cabinet with a glass front, inside which was a large gecko, I screamed and jumped backwards. Its tank hissed. It has light, heat and water, and what look like live crickets, obviously as food for the monster. I beat a hasty retreat to collect Grandson from school and refused to go back in again. I told Daughter that I thought she had completely lost it, and she told me that I was being negative. I guess it's the ultimate chav accessory. It goes perfectly with the boyfriend's dreadful chav haircuts, the non-stop video gaming and the obssession with his car. Perhaps this sounds amusing, but when I think that this is the "Daddy" influence on my Grandson, along with his unswerving avoidance of anything remotely intellectual, it makes me feel both angry and helpless. Just for a change...

Son, on the other hand, has a lovely girlfriend who is both intelligent and sensitive. They have been getting on very well and she has been staying with him for a while since she had problems with her boss and her last flat. This seemed to be working out well until hiccoughs appeared in the shape of Son's flatmate (they bought the flat together), who objected to her continuing presence. Poor old Son, just as he had settled into a home for the first time (not a rental) and was feeling secure, along comes trouble. I can't imagine how the Girlfriend managed to upset the flatmate, since she has clearly improved the place and has also made Son pretty happy. Apparently though, he had become used to having the place to himself (not that that was part of the deal). He is also an avid computer "gamer", so I suppose that having a happy young couple coming home in the evenings pissed him off. Well I can tell you, his response has also pissed me off. Not to mention Son, who has found another flat for the Girlfriend and is seriously contemplating moving out himself. Now does that sound fair to you?

So, you can see why I'm feeling nostalgic. Give me the good old days when I could put on a plaster, or kiss it better, or just send the troublemaker home after tea....

Oh, and another thing that's really upset me is the news that the lovely Terry Wogan is deserting me. I don't quite know what to do about this - he has been my support and stay for more than 30 years. Of course he is now 71, and is probably fed up with getting up at some ungodly hour in the mornings. I do understand, but I just don't know what I'm going to do.
And if the BBC seriously thinks I'm going to listen to that w***** Chris Evans instead, they've made a big mistake. Oh what the hell, just call me Grumpy.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Anyone for Summer Pudding?

I was just sitting here eating some of my Summer Pudding, well actually my Grandma's recipe Summer Pudding, and it occurred to me that you might like to try it.
Actually, it seems a funny old time to be making this, as it's well and truly Autumn now, but here goes - I made this one because the berries were all on special offer in Tesco!

You'll need one medium-sized pudding bowl (the old-fashioned china kind), a loaf of stale white bread (this is more tricky than you think, as no-one sells day-old bread any more), a punnet each of redcurrants, blackcurrants and raspberries, roughly 2 ounces of caster sugar (I use vanilla sugar, which is simply caster sugar into which I put a vanilla pod so that it absorbs the flavour.) Plus a little water in which to barely cook the fruit. And, of course, cream to serve.

First cut the crusts off the bread and cut out the slices to make a lining for your pudding basin. This is great fun - children love helping because it's like doing a jigsaw puzzle. You can even use a mixture of white and brown bread if you like, which gives a rather nice patchwork effect. And stale bread really is best because it soaks up the fruit juices so beautifully. Then string the currants, wash all the fruit and put it altogether with the sugar and a little water into a saucepan. Warm the fruit, rather than acually cooking it, so that the juices run. You don't want the fruit to be overcooked and mushy. Leave it to cool a little, and then spoon the fruit mixture into your lined basin, nearly to the top. Cut out a bread lid for your pudding and spoon some juice over it. If you have any juice left over, save it for serving later. Now you need to find a saucer or small plate which will just fit into the top of your basin. Put some heavy weights onto this, so that the bread is pushed down firmly, and then put your pudding in the 'fridge for at least 12 hours. (I always leave mine for at least a day, and my Grandma used to put hers on a marble slab in the larder for 24 hours.) When you come to turn it out, the pudding should have a lovely purply marbled effect on the outside and a sweet/sharp mix of fruit on the inside. And you can now pour on your reserved juice if there are any stubborn white patches. If you have done it right, you can cut this gorgeous pudding into firm slices, but even if it's not perfect, it is without doubt the best pudding I have ever tasted. Served with Jersey cream or clotted cream it's just divine. And it looks very pretty on a white plate too.