Thinking of Mothers’ Day…on #InternationalWomensDay

Hello all.  Later this week, I’ll address why I didn’t upload this post about Mothers’ Day at the weekend and instead waited until today.

Anyway, with it being International Women’s Day, it is probably right that this post is about the main women in my life.20160305_MothersDayMeal_195759

I was working at the weekend, and so I arranged a meal on Saturday evening as Sunday was a non-starter.  At the meal were my Mum, Yasmin and Yasmin’s Mum who is…er…Gloria!20160305_MothersDayMeal_195720

I arranged the times and booked the table earlier in the week as I wanted the evening to be as smooth as possible.  Thankfully, it proved that I can get this organisation thing right!

At three minutes past 6 in the evening, or 18:00 by the twenty four hour clock, I signed off from work and took Gloria to the car.  At 18:20, I picked up my Mum and gave her some flowers and a pot plant which she was overwhelmed by.  At 18:50, I collected Yasmin from her flat.  My Google Maps timeline shows that we arrived at the Harvester at 19:29.  We sat straight away as I had pre-booked the table.

As a thank you for booking the table online, I even got one drink free.  That made my large orange juice taste better!

Yasmin enjoyed her usual drink – Rose wine – while Gloria had a coffee and my mother a hot chocolate.  Yasmin was the only one to have more than one drink!  20160305_MothersDayMeal_220436

Yasmin had also been eating all day.  This might sound bad that she also wolfed down a starter and main meal but she has been off work with illness and had not been eating for several days.  Before the weekend, she had been living on a diet mainly of cups of tea and glasses of cordial.

We finished up by going back to Yasmin’s flat.  Gloria photo-bombed the photos that she took of Yasmin and I as she was reflected in the mirror above our heads.  I’ve cropped her out of the photo on this upload.20160305_MothersDayMeal_220413_cropped

Anyway, that was a great weekend which was rounded off with a couple of great women following me on Twitter.  You may know about Sarah Brown, the wife of the most recent socialist Prime Minister in the UK Gordon Brown.  I’ve highlighted Elena Hagopyan’s profile as you are possibly unfamiliar with her.Followers

Have a great #InternationalWomensDay everyone.

Remember, guys, even just changing the way that you and your friends speak about women behind their backs makes a great difference to equality.  Before you make a crude comment about a woman that you know, ask yourself if that’s how you would like people to speak about your mother/ neice/ daughter/ girlfriend/ wife.

So was the letter writing worth it?

You may remember that I took part in the Amnesty International Write For Rights campaign at the end of last year.  Well, do these letters ever help achieve anything you may well ask?

Previous Write for Rights campaigns have helped achieve freedoms in the past and it would appear that they still do even in 2016.

I’ve taken the liberty of reproducing an email that I received this week from Amnesty International.  This email is in regards to one of the ten cases that I wrote letters for.

In this particular instance, I wrote a handwritten letter to both the Attorney General of Louisiana and also to Albert Woodfox himself to give him courage as he sat in solitary confinement.

I want to add that none of this makes me proud of myself.  I was one of many, many people who done the same as me.  In fact, almost countless people done more than me.  All I did was wrote two letters.  Other people were daily standing outside of the prison or negotiating with the authorities.

But it was a humbling feeling to think that my letter was perhaps like the straw that broke the camel’s back.  The sheer weight of international public feeling may have just tipped the balance and helped those fighting on Albert Woodfox’s behalf to successfully secure his release.

This letter writing was the least that I could do.  This man was imprisoned before I was even born.

Below is also a link to the BBC Website about it which was one of the top three read stories that day:

Dear Harry,

Today, Louisiana prisoner Albert Woodfox walked free, 44 years after he was first put into solitary confinement.

He was the United States’ longest serving prisoner held in isolation. Nearly every day for more than half of his life, Albert Woodfox woke up in a cell the size of a parking space, surrounded by concrete and steel.

Tomorrow morning, for the first time in more than four decades, he will be able to walk outside and look up into the sky.

Over the course of nearly five years working on Albert Woodfox’s case at Amnesty, I heard many times that the odds were insurmountable.

But I always knew that Albert Woodfox would go home.

I have seen the incredible power of our movement when we work together.

I have seen the courage humility, and determination of so many of you who have played big and small roles to help this historic human rights victory come to fruition.

I have seen the unbelievable strength of the Angola 3: Robert King, Herman Wallace, and Albert Woodfox himself—all three of whom endured nightmares but persevered with humor, dignity, and resolve to wage a relentless fight against the cruel, inhuman and degrading practice of prolonged solitary confinement in the United States.

With the knowledge of his release, Albert had this message for those who have helped him secure his freedom:

I want to thank my brother Michael for sticking with me all these years, and Robert King, who wrongly spent nearly 30 years in solitary. I could not have survived without their courageous support, along with the support of my dear friend Herman Wallace, who passed away in 2013. I also wish to thank the many members of the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3, Amnesty International, and the Roddick Foundation, all of whom supported me through this long struggle. Lastly, I thank William Sothern, Rob McDuff and my lawyers at Squire Patton Boggs and Sanford Heisler Kimpel for never giving up. Although I was looking forward to proving my innocence at a new trial, concerns about my health and my age have caused me to resolve this case now and obtain my release with this no-contest plea to lesser charges. I hope the events of today will bring closure to many.

I’m carrying those words with me today as we celebrate this victory.

Today Albert Woodfox walks free—February 19, 2016, his 69th Birthday.

BBC link – Albert Woodfox freed after 43 years in US solitary prison

I stayed home and done something

Yesterday was the end of the Amnesty International Write for Rights campaign, which I mentioned in one of my previous posts Stay Home and Do Nothing.  I thought that you might all like to know how I got on with this campaign.

I had planned to write one letter a day throughout the campaign until I reached my pledged target of ten letters with a few days to spare.  However, life did not transpire as I originally planned it.

I spent the first half of December in a state of grief.  No-one died, but I was feeling the loss of someone very dear to me from my life.  I was feeling especially depressed with it being near to Christmas which is a time that should be spent with those dearest to you.

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My letters are ready for posting

Anyway, that is a separate story.  The Write for Rights campaign was the trigger for me to get a little motivation back into my life.  I woke up on Wednesday knowing that I was going to hit my target and nothing would stop me.  I read through all of the campaign material and decided in what order I would approach each of the twelve different cases.

There are twelve cases that you can write letters on.  Amnesty International provide you with a basic letter on each case for you to plagiarise and then write out by hand.  These letters are addressed to the relevant official who has it in their power to help the subject of each case.  And so I found myself writing a number of letters where I was addressing a powerful stranger as ‘Excellency’, ‘President’ or ‘Majesty’.

You should then compose a letter of support to either the victim or their family to show support and solidarity.  There is no sample letter for this but just a few pointers as to what tone the letter should have.

The cases this year range from prisoners of conscience to child brides to victims of torture and rape by a country’s own security forces.

You all probably realise where my particular passions lie and so there will be little surprise that the case that I tackled first was one of illegal child marriages.  In Burkino Faso, child marriage is illegal but nevertheless tolerated by the authorities.  The example that Amnesty International quoted was of one school aged girl who had managed to run away and into their care after being threatened with death by her father if she did not marry a man who is not only aged in his 70s but who already has five wives.

My letter of solidarity was to all of the child bride victims in Burkino Faso.  Writing a short letter to the girls helped to get me into the swing of things, so to speak, for the rest of the campaign.  And so, although it originally seemed that I would not get time to write letters for no more than three cases because of the pressures of work and other obligations, I managed to hand-write letters to officials plus complete the accompanying solidarity letters for the ten cases that I originally pledged.

So, I went to the post office today armed with 19 letters – not 20 as one letter of solidarity was requested to be made via a specially created tumblr account rather than by mail.  There was one young lady serving at the Post Office counter with a sign saying she was in training.  She was very proficient, however, so this sign was a little deceptive.

A lady started queuing behind me and I noticed that she only wanted just one first class stamp.  I gave her one of mine from my wallet and I told her that I still had a dozen letters to get through so not to worry about paying me.

The total postage was less than I thought it would be and so I treated Gloria and myself to a burger at the top of Portsdown Hill.  We’ve now got a Christmas cake in the oven that we’re making for my Mum.

So, will I host a letter writing party next year rather than just do this on my own?  Hmm…I don’t know.  Looking on the map of letter writers, there were only two of us located in a forty mile stretch along the south coast of England.  If every household in Britain contributed just one letter, that would treble the number of letters written worldwide.  More letter writing parties could make this a reality.  Yes, that is a thought – maybe I should host a party next year.

We’ll see what happens.  I can’t promise anything if work is too hectic to assign a specific evening – but I definitely will write letters myself and tell other people about this whole campaign.

Stay home and do nothing

This post is a more serious than normal.  At the end of it I’m going to make a suggestion for anyone reading this that can make a massive difference to the world whilst costing you nothing more than a few moments of your time one evening.

I wish that I could think of something really funny to post this week.  Being able to do so would provide the perfect antidote to the conversations at work.

If people aren’t ranting to release their stress from the multiple projects at work, they’re instead discussing foreign affairs and especially the recent events in Paris, France.

I try to keep out of any discussions at work merely for the fact that political arguments in the workplace can be divisive.  There used to be someone who worked with us who would get quite angry when people did not agree with his views.

As far as I am concerned everyone can do exactly what they want so long as what they do  doesn’t affect anyone else’s freedoms.

Using this basis as my moral code, I know it’s not okay to spend the weekend in a football fan mob physically attacking passers by for no reason but for the love of a fight.  Yes, this obviously affects the freedoms of others.

But it goes further than this.  Everything that each of us decides to do has the potential to affect the freedoms of someone else.

Driving your car above the speed limit in urban areas removes the pedestrians’ right for safety.  Hmmm…a lot of people seem to have difficulty realising this.

And what about buying chocolate or coffee that isn’t fairtrade?  What about the freedom of the coffee or chocolate workers not to be slaves?

And what moral stance robs the helpless more of their freedoms?  Do we ignore the atrocities being committed in Syria, Iraq, Yemen etc?  Do we ignore what happens to girls, women – and men – in these far away countries?  Do their freedoms mean nothing to us?

If their freedoms mean something then we are morally obliged to think of how we give our fellow humans freedom.

By the way, this is not an argument either for or against war.  I do have my own belief as to what we should do but I don’t feel it’s important to try and convince anyone of it via this blog.

Doing nothing is often the greatest way to remove the freedoms of others.  Recent British history is littered with people doing nothing and letting a few famous people continually sexually abuse children.  An extreme example, maybe, but I hope that you get what I mean about doing nothing rather than something…anything.

I’m not going to make a case for or against war on this blog.  What I will say is that I respect those who are ready to go to war as well as those who don’t feel that war is right.  So long as they have sensible reasons for their stance it’s not a simple answer to say that either is wrong.

The most important thing is to be doing something to make the world a better place.

If all you do is talk about what’s right and what’s wrong and not do anything yourself to help anyone else, then what are the consequences of your actions?

To paraphrase a saying that I once heard, evil wins when the good stay home and do nothing.

Right, I started off by writing that I’m going to suggest something that you can do to improve the world without spending more than a few moments of your time.  Well, if you cannot work in a hostel, in a poor country helping the needy or by giving to charity maybe you can write a letter.  And I mean a letter that can literally save a fellow human from being tortured.  Here’s something I’ll be doing.  It’s called Write For Rights and is organised by Amnesty International.

Moan, moan, moan – the British way

I think the one thing that every one of us has in common is that we each have something that we can feel bad about.

Emo Kids - get happy!

Some people never know when they are well off

In some way or other, life is unfair to pretty much everyone.  Well, okay, some people get better breaks than others.  However, a sense of perspective is something that few of us have.

At least I haven’t been born in a country where wrong doings are punished by public flogging.  Nor have I been born a girl to either be married and pregnant to a man old enough to be my grandfather while being still at the an age that is below the age of consent in European countries, or to be raped on the order of an unelected all male counsel for some crime committed by a relative.  And I’m not an elderly person facing starvation because I find it hard to do the only available but poorly paying work because my body is collapsing with age.

I could go on about the life of the majority of the World’s inhabitants, but I won’t.

I watch television documentaries and news broadcasts and see people moaning about their lot while all of the time I watch everything as if through the eyes of one of these people I mention.  They’d love to live on the benefits breadline in Britain if that meant that they lived in a house with a spacious enclosed garden, full indoor sanitation and warm clothes.  Sorry, with this image that I describe I am thinking about a particular family that I saw this year on BBC News.

…Okay, I won’t go into a full rant here.

I do listen to gothic inspired music. One of my five favourite albums is Pornography by The Cure, for example. I can relate to the words as bad things have happened to me in the past. But, I’m not unique in having a bad past. I have a right to feel depressed about things that have happened to me but there is a lot that makes me feel grateful and happy as well.

Let’s just say, caring about everyone else in the World helps you to appreciate the few blessings that you do have.