Heathland

By: Lydia Crow

 

A fire scorched
the heath last night.

A burst of flame
cast a shadow as far
as the eye could see;
leaving a changed land
in its wake.

A numbing, a pause.

But even as we looked,
hearts hollow,
buds appeared again.

There was no struggle
to grow and heal.
They did what they always did,
flourished, despite.

Defiant,
they pushed on through;
petals bursting open,
every colour more vibrant
than before.

The blackened earth
still lies beneath,
but now there is a meadow
to soothe the scar;
a proliferation of love.

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Nurse-Bashing and Avocado-Smashing

By: Lydia Crow

 

May-Go-Round

No sooner had the Conservative manifesto been published, than there was a retraction – sorry, a clarification – of policy relating to our more elderly nearest and dearest. Even some of the more right-wing newspapers paused in their left-bashing to report on the #DementiaTax. At the point of writing this, it looks like there might be a retraction of the retraction; so it’s anyone’s guess what the Conservatives’ actual policy is. Theresa May: everyone’s (least) favourite merry-go-round.

 

Nurse-Bashing

I have an enormous amount of respect for those who work in our healing and health professions: doctors, nurses, everyone. Having said that, though, I’m not in the camp which believes we all need to bow down and worship them. I don’t think it gives them a free pass at opinion any more than anyone else gets a free pass (note, we all get free passes in Britain: though the way the country’s going, you should probably make the most of your free opinion pass while you still can). They are humans, just like the rest of us; they deserve respect, just like the rest of us.  (At the other end of the work scale, I have a similar reaction to those in the Armed Forces: more than one of my friends have had to listen to my reasoning that the concept of ‘Help for Heroes’, while being utterly admirable, is linguistically flawed.)

Regardless of all this, Twitter erupted last night in some pretty disgusting nurse-bashing after the #LeadersDebate. I didn’t watch the debate (I was finally getting round to watching Star Trek Beyond), but I was aware of the fact that some watchers thought there may have been a suspect nurse on the programme, within seconds of logging into Twitter later in the evening.

I don’t personally care whether she is guilty as charged of visiting a foodbank whilst in possession of a horse (legal possession, that is, though Twitter wasn’t entirely clear on that: I presume she didn’t turn up to the foodbank with a horse). If anyone abuses the good faith of those who contribute to and run foodbanks, that’s on their conscience. I care, though, that people have to visit foodbanks in the first place (regardless of whether they dye their hair or have the audacity to go on holiday). That, I care about a lot.

I moved to Edinburgh at the start of 2014, earning not far off £30k. I’d just moved in, paid a month’s rent and a deposit, and had used up the last of my savings. I was still settling debts due to a previous relationship, with payments that whittled through pretty much the rest of my spare cash. One of my younger sisters ordered me a surprise supermarket delivery because she knew I was tight for cash. A friend slipped £10 into a letter, “for emergencies”. We all have these friends and family members who do this for us, don’t we? No. Only if we’re fortunate. I use this example merely to demonstrate that assumptions are flawed: and nobody deserves trial by social media.

I get it, I really do: the media is biased, and it is frustrating when certain comments seem like a put-up job. But seriously? Take the moral high ground. Which means not descending into shaming people you don’t even know online.

 

Avocado Toast

From the far-from-sublime to the far-past-ridiculous. Ever wondered why you couldn’t afford to buy a house? Well it turns out it’s not the economic realities of living in twenty-first century Conservative Britain – it’s avocado toast. If you don’t believe me, ask Tim Gurner.

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A Change of Shape

By: Lydia Crow

 

I started Our Girl on the Outside some years ago; before the ShiverWriggle hiatus, and before I cut half the content from the site and subsequently emerged bleary-eyed to throw out a few more bobs and bits to the readership that had still hung around, waiting.

We were living in simpler times then. That was a pre-referendum time; a time before the slew of annual elections and votes which have haunted the UK since.

Miliband (E) had beaten his brother Miliband (D) to the Labour Leadership two years previously, winning by 1.3% of the final vote; but he was yet to eat a bacon sandwich. On a similar theme, Cameron, too, was untainted by potential porcine affiliations. Pigs have had a lot to answer for in these interesting political times.

Clegg was still Deputy Prime Minister, and was surviving as a fairly reliable equivalent for a calendar: the youthful party leader who had campaigned so optimistically – and effectively – in 2010 sported another line on his haunted face on a weekly basis; his eyes sinking ever-lower. Clegg, to this day, probably remains the only politician of recent years who outshines (if that could be said to be the right term) the political cartoonists’ illustrations of himself. Damn those pesky students, mad at broken promises, right?

The Government, though right-wing, hadn’t yet gone utterly and bollocking crazy and shot itself in its foot with Uncle Rupert’s vintage hunting rifle to prove it was, ahem, strong and stable enough to take the chance everything would all work out alright.

Farage was on the scene, niggling away in his usual rubbery fashion, but he hadn’t yet had to be barricaded in a pub in Scotland and escorted out by the Police (amusingly, to hide from people I would end up working with the following year). And, also north of the border, Salmond was still First Minister of Scotland; keeping the seat warm for the person who would later be termed the most dangerous woman in Britain.

And don’t even get me started on events beyond these shores.

2012: truly, simpler times.

Our Girl on the Outside was intended to be light-hearted:

A headline here, an apology there, a half-forgotten addendum somewhere else: the inspiration might come from anywhere within the documented press and could take any form. Well, any form of poetry that is.

But that was before, well, all this.

A while ago, I decided to tone down my political interaction on Twitter, mostly for reasons relating to personal sanity. Having now rejoined Facebook, the same will broadly go for that platform, too. Short of the occasional outburst when my typing fingers disregard the more cautionary pocket of my brain, I don’t stand to gain much by screaming into the echoing void about the same thing that over 90% of the people I follow are screaming about too; all it does is invite more drama with no clear benefits.

But something in me says it is important to capture something, in some form or other. More and more, it seems like we’re living in a world where political haggling is the norm. Throw out an outlandish policy, then take a step back with a faux apology, and many people won’t realise that the planned concession has nevertheless shifted the state of play that little bit more. We spend so much time being outraged at the outrageous, that we forget (or are simply too exhausted) to stay saddened and angry at all these less seismic developments.

We don’t just need to stay incensed at the eradication of basic human rights and dignities, we need to remind ourselves of where we were yesterday, so we remember how far we have progressed along this path.

So Our Girl on the Outside is about to change shape a little. There will undoubtedly still be poetry at times, but it will now take the form of a scrapbook. A few observations and snippets of thoughts, or the occasional essay. Perhaps this is auto-ethnographic navel-gazing, but it seems important not just to try and record, but to try and reflect on these times in which we find ourselves living. I genuinely want to understand how we’ve arrived at this point because, though I can follow the path back, I still can’t quite believe we’re here.

And maybe, just maybe, I’ll manage more than eight posts in five years. No promises.

 

But What Do You Stand For?

There was a time – well, maybe there was a time; I like to believe there was – when politicians treated their opponents with a degree of respect and dignity. Opinions may have been divided, but the mud was slung under the table, at least.

Now, it is more about personalities than policies; and personalities are certainly important to some extent. Anyone who leads needs to convince others they are fit to do so.

But, for some politicians, it seems slurring others is more important than drafting policies which would benefit the populace.

Here’s a fun game: pick a politician, any politician. Whittle away from what they say all the negative campaigning, and focus on what they say they will do, and how they evidence this. What are their policies? What have they done, what will they do? And at what cost (there is always a cost)?

I still cannot understand how, with the economic demographic we have in the UK, we have a right-wing government who manage to chip away – hell, slice away – at benefits and freedoms without daily national uproar.

Benefits. Maybe it’s a linguistic issue. Perhaps we should rebadge ‘benefits’ as ‘equalisers’ or ‘levellers’. A benefit as we understand it politically in no way infers an advantage on someone, it just gives people a chance. It doesn’t help them hike Everest, it just drags them out the stream. And I’d personally rather my taxes went on lifebelts for those in need than climbing gear for the rich.

I’ll disregard UKIP for now, as they are dead in the water. They are more pointless now than they have ever been, and even their prior supporters know it. But to those who would vote for the current government to remain in power, I would ask this: why are you voting for a Conservative government when you’ve seen what they’ve done so far? The damage they’ve inflicted, and what they’ve taken away?

This is a genuine question because all I hear from the Conservatives are soundbites and bile. Of course, you cannot critique a party in a vacuum. You must assess the others, too. But, in terms of policies, does anyone who does not fall into an upper economic bracket really think they and their loved ones would be better off under the Conservatives? No-one knows what is around the corner. Be careful what you vote for.

I was born in Humberside, now North Lincolnshire. I have members of my family there who were vocal in their support of a party who have repeatedly developed policies that have directly affected their very family’s economic wellbeing. You just have to look at the European voting record for the area to see why we’re in the situation we are in nationally; Humberside-as-was is an interesting microcosm. One of the biggest errors that was made on both sides of the European Union Referendum debate was to make it binary. You cannot say anything political is one thing or the other; it is not. Ironically, it was probably Jeremy Corbyn who attempted to be more honest and nuanced about this than anyone, though it wasn’t exactly packaged in a reassuring way. And reassurance is what people are looking for right now; even if that reassurance is simply a lie to believe in for a while just to get through. Who wouldn’t want to be strong and stable?

Perhaps now we cannot afford to be idealists, and we must be pragmatic. But families around the country will live and die by the policies we support in this General Election. Be careful what you choose to be complicit in.

Look beyond the headlines (don’t even get me started on the media). Forget pigs and foodstuff. Tell me, what do you stand for?

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Brexit Gets Harder

By: Lydia Crow

 

Brexit gets harder
As the Spanish Armada
Scratch heads, befuddled.

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Punching Nazis (or, ‘Sorry Mum, It’s Hard To Know What’s Right Anymore’)

By: Lydia Crow

 

Do not resort to violence,
You must learn to understand.
Try to speak their language,
Don’t draw lines across the sand.

But when violence is their language,
Inciting fear and hate,
Interpretation falters, struggles;
It’s too little or too late.

They will choose their platform,
And I will choose my own.
And I’ll stand firm even as their words
Chill me to the bone.

Surely they will understand,
That I’ve heard their cry of war?
Now, across this broken battlefield,
We know what we’re fighting for.

I’ll try to take them hostage,
Exchanging words in peace;
I’ll try to rehabilitate them all,
Turn them in to the Police.

But if that fails I’ll think again
And, though I know it’s wrong,
I hope you’ll understand that I’m
Just speaking in their tongue.

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Completed First Draft

Completed First Draft

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Restock Required

Restock Required

Restock Required

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Inauguration Week

By: Lydia Crow

 

Amused disbelief,
derision, horror. We mock
the trumped-up man-child.

Laughter turns to fear,
and the newspapers threaten
tears before bedtime.

And now, just waiting.
Heads bowed, they shake in horror
at this brave new world.

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Golden Boy

The Sun Still Rises

And the sun still rises.

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Mauthausen

Mauthausen-Gusen

There is so much we must not disregard; and yet the more perilous the times, the more we are persuaded to forget.

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