Well, I’m going to use a c-word… I was thinking of writing about ‘cod’, ‘Caracas’ and ‘comedy’ – all aspects of my life I’d like to blog about, but tonight a programme on TV really had me thinking hard about what it means to be a child. So yes, this blog has been a challenge because it’s raised some issues for me!
I am child-free by choice, but that doesn’t mean I am not grateful for my childhood. In the grand scheme of things, I probably had a fairly ‘normal’ upbringing – loving parents and siblings, good relationships with friends and extended family. Pets…there were a few. We had cats, guppies and a rabbit called ‘Pookie’…And of course, the benefit of a good education and a safe environment in which to live. Sadly, that is not the case for many children across the world who face poverty, neglect and abuse.
Poverty. According to UNICEF, 24,000 children die each day due to poverty. And they die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world. Being meek and weak in life makes these dying multitudes even more invisible in death.
Neglect. It’s estimated that the number of children in the world is roughly 2.2 billion. Of that number, almost 50 per cent (1 billlion) are living below the breadline. Worldwide, 2.2 million children die each year because they are not immunised, and 15 million children are orphaned due to HIV/Aids. This is equivalent to the total number of children in countries such as the UK.
Abuse. Despite the fact that we live in a so-called civilised society (another c-word) children are still sexually exploited and damaged by the adults who bear a responsibility for nurturing them. Every year, 1.2 million children are trafficked into the sex trade. This cannot be right. Like animals and elderly people, children very often do not have the resources or faculties to defend themselves. It cannot be right for children who are raped to think they are to blame. It cannot be right for children to be raped.
Every child and young person has rights, no matter who they are or where they live. As adults, it’s our responsibility to ensure that these rights are protected – whether we have children or not.
Today I went for one of my habitual walks on the beach. These walks are usually a solitary pursuit – time to myself to think and not think. Wind, waves and the yearning cries of the gulls and guillemots. On my part of the coast,the forbidding British Winter has granted us a sunny reprieve – it’s been clear and crisp – blue sky, and so icy that the seafoam has frozen and the chalk cliffs sparkle with frost. Beautiful, but only crazy people and dog owners are out on the beach. And me…
I must confess I have always been a cat person. However, since dogsledding in Finland I have returned home as a husky whisperer (yes, I know what you are thinking, but no…I don’t have a premium phone line. If I did I’d be stinking rich and living in Hawaii!) It’s just that somehow I’ve acquired an affinity with dogs. I don’t know how. Or why. Perhaps they have an affinity with me… probably more like it, because judging by my personal life its the mutts and the strays who think they have a chance…
Anyway. I’ve noticed something really odd on my walks along the beach. Dog owners, who are of course a breed unto themselves, keep chatting to me. Now in and of itself, that would not be weird (It’s England after all and everyone talks to you)…but they all stop and ask where my dog is…like I have a dog! Car keys? Check!… Ipod? Check!… Attitude? Check?… Canine…erm, no!
When they ask me, my defense is to say that I am walking my dog of special breed – the ‘invisible’ dog. Of course this is patently an excuse, as it’s perfectly clear I’m walking myself, but it seems to keep the dog owners happy. And their dogs don’t mind either. I’m even contemplating carrying a tennis ball and a leash – just to look the part!
Still, I can’t help wondering if they see a ghost dog. An invisible mutt. Now I just need to work on the invisible man. Ha! That leash may come in handy after all.
The one thing that nobody tells you about being an adult is how hard it is to do the right thing. Matters that were really clear cut when I was younger have somehow developed blurred edges and hues of grey, as I become more of a grown up and less of the shy, spider-legged girl I used to be.
So, what does doing the right thing mean? Hard to say as its different for each of us. For me…well, I’ve learnt not to judge people any more. (I of course would make an exception for those who would harm children or animals!) Still, everybody has their own spiritual journey, and you never really know what is going on in someone’s head or indeed their heart. As adults, we become very good at dissembling truth. Grown ups lie for all sorts of good reasons. Guilt. Fear. Love. Still, I wish people were more honest and up front with eachother. It might not lead to world peace, but it would save a lot of time and agony.
The right thing can also mean knowing when to walk away, and when to stand and fight for what you are passionate about. On balance, I think it is always better to act out of great love rather than great fear. I don’t think it is possible to love what you fear, though perhaps love can turn into hate. Or maybe we just fear the consequences of what we do and think. Another lesson that comes with being an adult. Taking responsibility. And, knowing when to take a chance. For change. For happiness. For success. Sometimes the right thing, and the hard thing are the same thing.
I lost a good friend yesterday. As with most serendipitous things, Loulou arrived by pure chance. I didn’t choose her. I inherited her. It was only supposed to be six months, but ten years later she was still with me… Sometimes its the smallest decisions that can change your life forever.
Designer she was not. Battersea born and rescued she was. Lovely with it, though. Despite being a feline fashionista. And in case you don’t believe me, I kid you not…
Favourite gay man: Gok Wan. Favourite designers: ‘Miaouwschino’, ‘Miaow Miaow’, ‘Georgio Armiaowni’ and, of course, ‘Prrrrrada’! Favourite words: ‘Sushi’ and ‘Nobu’! Go figure. For someone so small and furry, she did have big ideas!
Actually, I could never work out whether she thought she was human. Maybe I was just the Alpha cat in the pack…? I had many parties where Loulou sat at the table and was part of the conversation. Not on the table, mind you (we do have standards), just at the table. Daintily perched on a chair. Listening. Observing. Taking it all in. Perfect guest. Good manners, great listener and an even better radar. Could sniff a love rat at thirty paces! Useful skill if champagne has numbed your owner’s common sense, but that is another story…
In the end, Loulou’s exit was quiet and dignified, much like her life. She was much loved and I will miss her sorely. Mostly because when my own life was pretty pear-shaped, she was the reason I would get up and go on. Well…she needed feeding, and – at that time – I needed a reason to fight the despair that threatened to overwhelm me. And maybe, just maybe…it’s because she is the last connection with a life I had, but no longer aspire to.
Sometimes, we have to be ready to say goodbye to one life in order to understand what we are to be in the next…