Dad Made a Pinky Promise – An Explanation of Brexit.

Dad told the kids they could have whatever they wanted for Christmas. The kids said they wanted a Real Unicorn. Dad promised he would get them a Real Unicorn. It was a pinky promise, which meant that he absolutely had to do it. Then, when he realised what he had promised, he left, abandoning the rest of the family to sort out the problem without him.

Mum insists the kids must have their unicorn, even though initially she never wanted them to have it. Mum has made a knitted unicorn, but most of the family don’t like it. They say it is rubbish and it is not a Real Unicorn, and they won’t let Mum give it to the kids. Grandad says it is worse than no unicorn at all.

Big Brother has found a Real Unicorn for sale on the dark web, but it is so expensive that they would have to sell the house and become homeless in order to buy it. Nobody in the family wants to be homeless, except Granny, who says it would be worth it for a Real Unicorn. Grandad doesn’t believe that selling the house to buy the Real Unicorn would make them homeless. He says that is Project Fear, and he thinks that they would have a wonderful life if they had a Real Unicorn. Granny and Grandad think they should just go ahead and sell the house and buy the Real Unicorn from the dark web.

Big sister thinks they should go back to the kids and ask them if they really, really want a Real Unicorn for Christmas, even if it means becoming homeless, but Mum says they can’t do that because Dad made a pinky promise about the unicorn, and she doesn’t want to make the kids cross.

It’s now Christmas Eve, and Aunty wants to go and tell the kids that they won’t be able to have their Real Unicorn until the New Year, but Mum doesn’t want to do that because Dad made a pinky promise about the unicorn, and Mum doesn’t want to make the kids cross. She thinks she can knit another unicorn which would be better than the first knitted one. But Aunty points out that it took Mum two and a half years to knit the first rubbish unicorn, so she probably won’t have time to knit a better one by tomorrow.

Everyone except Granny and Grandad secretly thinks the best thing would be to go and tell the kids that it is not possible to have a Real Unicorn, but because Dad made a pinky promise, nobody will say it. They are all secretly cursing Dad for making a pinky promise and then leaving them to sort out the problem.

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Eight Reasons to Vote Labour Tomorrow

This election campaign has felt like an emotional rollercoaster. I have gone from despair when the election was called and it seemed as though the Conservatives were guaranteed to win by a landslide, to anger at some of the things said by the Conservatives, fear at what another five years of this government could mean for our public services, and hope that real change could be possible. I feel privileged to have been actively involved in a campaign that has been like no other. There are many, many reasons to vote Labour tomorrow and it would take up too much valuable campaigning time to go into all of them in depth so here are just a few.

  1. The NHS This is perhaps the most important issue in the election campaign. Labour are pledging to increase funding for the NHS. They believe strongly in the principle of the NHS whereas the Conservatives believe in privatisation and Jeremy Hunt has said he would like to see it privatised. Theresa May is planning to force NHS trusts to sell off their land and properties cheaply to the rich. Just imagine what a privatised NHS would be like. Receiving a bill for tens of thousands of pounds for a stay in hospital. Having to sell your house because your child needs an operation.
  2. Schools As a teacher and a parent, education is extremely important to me. Our state schools are being starved of much needed funds by the Conservatives. Labour would give them the funding they need. Check out for more details.
  3. School Dinners Hungry children cannot learn. Making sure every child has a nutritious meal is an important step towards reducing inequality of opportunity between rich and poor.
  4. Tuition Fees When I went to university I did not have to pay tuition fees and I had a full grant. I left university with a very small overdraft which I quickly paid off as soon as I started working. The prospect of starting out in life with a huge debt is putting off talented young people from entering higher education. This can’t be good for our economy and it is holding young people back and stopping them from reaching their potential. We need to invest in the education of our young people. It is an investment that will pay off in the long run because graduates earn more and therefore pay more tax. With a university education, these young people will make a positive contribution to our economy.
  5. Nationalisation Labour will bring back services such as energy and Royal Mail into public ownership where they belong. In the long run this will make money for the economy as profits will go to the state rather than private companies. At the moment, when privatised companies make a loss they ask taxpayers to bail them out but when they make a profit they give it to their shareholders. That can’t be right.
  6. Council Houses Labour have pledged to build more council & housing association homes. These are desperately needed as private rents have been allowed to soar under the Conservatives and are out of reach of many families. Theresa May only a few days ago made a U turn on her pledge to build more council housing.
  7. Living Wage The Conservatives claim to have brought in the Living Wage. This is a lie. They have slightly increased the minimum wage but it is not a living wage. The living wage is set by the Living Wage Foundation and it currently stands at £8.45 per hour outside of London. Labour would introduce a minimum wage of £10 per hour. This money will be spent in our economy and it will mean that taxpayers no longer have to subsidise employers who don’t pay enough; the tax credit bill will go down.
  8. Our Leader Jeremy Corbyn is exactly what this country needs at the moment. His honesty, integrity and compassion have really won over people who in the past saw politicians as all being the same. His manifesto is bold. The big surge in support for Labour during this campaign coincided with the release of the manifesto. This manifesto would not have happened without Corbyn. Before Corbyn, Labour were voting with the conservatives in favour of austerity. He is the strong and stable leader that Britain needs.

A different kind of politics is possible. A fairer society is possible. Vote Labour on June 8th. For the many, not the few.

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Seven Personal Highlights of 2016

Politically, 2016 was a terrible year, what with Brexit and Trump. I didn’t want to write a depressing, negative round up of the year so I am writing a more personal post about some of the high points  for me – things I’ve done and places I’ve been.

  1. Summer holiday in Majorca. We went on our usual all inclusive week in the sun, where the children can eat as much ice-cream as they like, and I can drink as many watered down cocktails in plastic cups, and nobody has to do any cooking or housework. The highlight of the week was a visit to the Caves of Drach which was memorable and spectacular and included a concert in a cave with the musicians floating on a boat. Well worth a visit if you’re in the area. 
  2. My mum’s 80th birthday. It’s not every day you turn 80 and my mum threw a great party for family and friends featuring a drumming workshop. My mum really knows how to live! I made a giant birthday cake which was intended to be covered with raspberries until I realised how much raspberries cost in October. 
  3. I asked a question on Question Time! This has to be my absolute highlight of the year. I was very lucky to be selected to be in the audience because about a thousand people applied and they only chose 150. Then I was even luckier to have my question selected as everyone submitted a question but only about four were used on the show. It was so exciting and for a long time afterwards people came up to me and said they saw me on the show. You can watch me ask my question here. Please do watch the whole of the clip as the ensuing discussion is very good, especially Ken Loach’s contribution. 
  4. Christmas in Italy. I managed to find cheap flights with Ryanair so that all four of us could fly to Italy for a week over Christmas for less than  £200. We stayed with my husband’s sister in Merano which is a pretty town near the Austrian border. We were hoping for snow but sadly we were disappointed. The boys got to spend time with their cousins and I got to drink plenty of the local vin brulé. The best  bit of the week was a visit to the thermal pools at the Hotel Terme. We sat in a hot, bubbly pool watching the sun set behind a mountain. A fantastic way to end the week. 
  5. Getting a grade one in my teaching observation. Just about every time I’ve had a graded observation, the observer awards me a grade 2 with aspects of grade one. I am always told that my lesson would have been a grade one if it hadn’t been for one little thing that they made up that means I am merely good and not outstanding. But in my latest observation I finally achieved that elusive grade 1 which I guess means I am officially an outstanding teacher.
  6. One of the most memorable family outings of the year has to be our trip to Birdland at Bourton on the Water. This is where my 9-year-old’s obsession with penguins began. 
  7. Association of Teachers and Lecturers Annual Conference. This is a fantastic event held every year in Liverpool. This year I was chosen to be on a panel of ten people to meet Nick Gibb, the minister for schools and ask him questions. We gave him a good grilling. 

Five Parallels between Brexit andTrump

puzzle-268905_960_720On November 8th I went to bed feeling cautiously optimistic. Surely the American public can’t really elect someone like Donald Trump, I thought. The polls were putting Hilary Clinton in the lead.  I awoke the next morning and listened to the news in shocked disbelief. It was a feeling I remembered from June when, on the day of the EU referendum I also went to bed with the same optimism that surely everything would be OK, surely we wouldn’t really vote to turn our backs on the organisation that had protected me and safeguarded me all of my adult life, and I also woke to the devastating news of a terrifying unknown future.

That feeling of sickening dread and disbelief was so similar to how I felt the morning after the EU referendum that it got me thinking about other ways in which the two events were alike.

  1. The Polls. All through the EU referendum campaign the polls put Remain ahead. Sometimes Leave managed to close the gap a little but they were always far enough behind to make a victory for Leave look unlikely . Likewise during the US election campaign, although at times Trump managed to inch forwards in the polls he never got close enough to make a Republican win seem at all likely .
  2. The Lies. There were so many lies told by the leave campaigners that I wrote a blog post on the subject which you can read here. Trump’s campaign also did not let the truth get in the way of success. Trump said that Hilary Clinton wanted to let anyone come into the USA without doing anything about it. Trump also claimed that Obama founded ISIS and Hilary Clinton was the co-founder. I could go on but Trump’s lies would need a blog post all to themselves.
  3. The Slogans. Some of the slogans used by the Leave campaigners were remarkably similar to Trump’s slogans. “Let’s take back our country!” “Make America /Britain great again!” These slogans are actually completely meaningless but I can see how they might sound appealing if you don’t think too deeply about their lack of meaning.
  4. Targeting immigrants. With Trump it was Mexicans. With Brexit it was EU migrants and also, rather strangely, Turks, who are not even in the EU. Outlandish claims abounded about how many would arrive and what they would do .
  5. Hate crime. Perhaps partly as a result of number 4 above, hate crimes against foreigners increased after the referendum result and now sadly the same thing is happening in the USA. Trump’s appeal to the perpetrators to “stop it” is perhaps one of the most insincere things I’ve ever heard him say. I don’t think people suddenly started hating foreigners when before they hadn’t, but they believed that the vote legitimised their hatred. Whereas before they kept their hateful opinions to themselves, now they feel they have the right to act on them.

It has been said many times that the popularity of Trump and of Brexit are due to the fact that politicians are not listening to ordinary people. These are protest votes by people wanting change. But is this really the sort of change we want? By all means let’s protest and demand change but not like this. We are better than this.

Six Things you might not Know about BBC Question Time 

  1. Last week I was lucky enough to be picked to be in the audience of BBC Question Time when it came to Gloucester. I even had my question selected which meant that I got to read it out. This was quite an accomplishment as 1000 people had applied to be in the audience, 150 were chosen and all of those 150 submitted at least one question.

This was my question:

I asked this question because Ken Loach himself was on the panel. He was brilliant; I recommend looking up the episode on iplayer or YouTube just to listen to Ken Loach .
Here is a video of my fifteen minutes of fame:

It was an amazing experience finding out about the show and being part of it. Here are six interesting facts about the programme that I learned .

  1. It is not broadcast live but it is filmed all in one go and broadcast exactly as filmed with no editing. They didn’t even bleep out the four letter word that one audience member used. We finished filming about an hour before it went on the air, giving me enough time to get home, pour myself a glass of wine and go on Facebook to tell all my friends to watch .
  2. You get tea, coffee and biscuits when you arrive.
  3. David Dimbleby is a lovely gentleman . He spoke to us all in a room before we started filming about what we should and shouldn’t do. (Do boo if you disagree with what someone is saying; don’t say hi to your mum.) He chatted and joked with us in a very natural and genuine way so you would never guess,  if you didn’t know, that he must make the same jokes to a different audience every week .
  4. They have a practice run with members of the audience sitting in for the panel in order to test the cameras and the sound. This is when someone reads all the questions and selects the ones to be used in the show.
  5. You only get to know just beforehand if your question has been picked. They interrupt the practice run to read out the names of the successful people who are then taken outside the room for a quick talk on how to read your question which is handed back to you printed on a piece of paper. Even then you can’t be sure that your question will be used because they have to pick more questions than they need just in case the debate dries up on one particular topic.
  6. The panel don’t know  what the questions are going to be so they have to think on their feet which some of them do better than others.

Twelve Months of Blogging and Fifty-Six Blog Posts

So my blog is a year old give or take a couple of days. Happy birthday Ten Things!

I have enjoyed blogging about many and varied topics, brought together by the fact that they are all lists of things.

The most popular post of all has been Nine Signs that David Cameron Might Be a Psychopath, which was actually one of my first posts. It went a bit viral a couple of months after I wrote it, and that was a very exciting time. I remember sitting and constantly refreshing the stats page to watch the number of hits rise. It was a great feeling.

I hope you have all enjoyed reading my posts and if you have any ideas of things I could list then please let me know in the comments.

Here’s to many more years!


Two Fun but Annoying Gifts from Pringles

My kids love Pringles and so do I. I know they are probably really unhealthy but there is something compulsive about eating them. When I saw that they were giving away free gifts I stocked up.

The first gift I sent off for was the Pringles Bowl.pringoalsIt consists of a plastic bowl with markings like a football. It has a white ring-shaped insert that makes it perfect for arranging Pringles in. A whole packet will fit in it, and will go all the way round the bowl. In the centre of the ring there is a space for a red cylinder into which you have to put batteries (which are included!) If you make the mistake of switching on the little switch, every time you reach for a Pringle, the bowl will let out a roar and shout, “Pringoal!” whatever that means. I guess it’s good if you are on a diet as it will certainly put you off eating Pringles.

The second gift I sent off for was the karaoke kit.karaoke

A free karaoke kit! Sounds like a great deal. This gift comes with two sets of batteries – one for the speaker and one for the microphone. The speaker and microphone fit on the ends of a Pringles packet, so if you forgot to keep one of the tubes you have to go and eat a whole packet before you can set up your karaoke kit. (Or you could just pour the Pringles into your free bowl.) There is a jack that connects to your mobile phone and you can play any music you want on your phone and sing into the microphone. Your voice will mingle with the music, and come out of the speaker. It is really quite ingenious, but the novelty soon wears off when your children won’t stop using it. But I did get my own back by forcing them to listen to me singing Adele.

Three Thoughts on the Burkini Ban

Some areas of France have banned women from wearing the burkini – the Islamic swimming costume – on the beach. This ban caused controversy in the media a few days ago when police (fully clothed and brandishing guns) obliged a woman to remove her long sleeved top. Here are my hurriedly typed thoughts on this incident and on the ban.muslim-354190_960_720

What exactly is banned? The law seems unclear. The woman who was so humiliated was not actually wearing a burkini but a long sleeved top. Does this mean that nobody is allowed to wear a long sleeved top on those beaches? I sometimes put on a long sleeved top on the beach if I feel that my shoulders and arms have had enough exposure to the sun. Would I be forced to burn my skin? I have friends who cover their arms to hide the scars from past self-harming. Would they be forced to bare their scars for all to see and judge? Or is it only Muslims who have to expose their bodies, and the rest of us have the freedom to choose what to bare and what to cover?

Why is it banned? I have heard a number of explanations for this law, which seems strange, as if you are going to pass a new law, the reasoning behind it should be clear.

Some say it is because France is a secular state and bans religious clothing. Does this mean we will have armed police checking that Christians are not wearing a crucifix around their neck on the beach? In any case, the law on secularity, which among other things bans Sikh turbans, only applies in schools. Anyone is free to wear a turban on the beach should they choose to do so.

Others say it is a security measure – a bomb could be concealed under a burkini or a long sleeved top. But surely this isn’t specific to beaches. A bomb could be concealed under somebody’s clothing in a shopping centre. Or in a church. Are we to bare our bodies in these places too? It would make no sense to force people to uncover only on the beach if this were the reason.

One explanation that I have heard for the ban is that Muslim women who wear the burkini are being oppressed by men. They are being told what they can and cannot wear. So, how do we fight this oppression? By getting different men to tell them what they can and cannot wear!

Another justification I have heard is that it is because Muslims must integrate into French society. Do they really think this is the way to encourage integration? To humiliate a woman by sending armed police to order her to undress? Will that make her feel included in society? If a new neighbour from another culture moved into your street and you wanted to encourage them to integrate, what would you do? Would you pop round with a homemade cake ask how they are settling in? Or would you take round some western clothes and force them to undress in front of you and get changed into something that fitted in with your culture? Imagine you went to a country where it was the custom for women to walk around topless. I’m sure such places exist. If you were not used to baring your breasts in public you would probably prefer to keep your top on. I’m sure I would. How would you feel if a policeman with a gun forced you to remove your clothing in a public place with lots of people watching? Would this help you to integrate and to feel part of society?

Freedom and Judgement Whenever people debate Muslim women covering their bodies, or their hair or their faces, people always talk about freedom, and about being judged. Some argue that women are judged if they cover up, so they are more free if they uncover. But does uncovering free you from judgement? I never wore a bikini until a few years ago because I thought I was too fat and I feared the judgement of others. I only wear one now because I lost enough weight for me to feel as though my body was acceptable enough to other people. So does uncovering really make you more free? Some Muslims who cover their hair or their face, say that they do it so that nobody can judge them on their looks, their hair or their face. They can only be judged on what they say and do. So I guess we will be judged whatever we do; at least we should have the freedom to choose whether we wish to cover up or not. We should be the ones who decide whether we feel free with more clothes or fewer clothes. Nobody else can decide that for us.

France has been the victim of some horrendous terrorist attacks recently. They are very worried about Muslims becoming radicalised. But is humiliating women at gunpoint the right way to protect them from being radicalised? I think it’s more likely that this ban will make French Muslims feel less included, less welcome in society, and therefore more likely to listen to the people who would radicalise them.


Three Lies Told by the Leave Campaigners

Many of the claims made by both sides in the EU Referendum campaign cannot be substantiated without a crystal ball, because we simply don’t know what might happen if we leave the EU. Some claims, however, can be shown to be untrue with a little common sense, or simply by walking into any supermarket in the EU. If I were to write about all the fibs and fabrications they have told I wouldn’t finish this before June 23rd, so I have just picked my three favourite falsehoods.

  1. Boris’s Bunches of Bananas Brexit Blunder. Boris Johnson has said that the EU do not let us sell bananas in bunches of more than three. A quick trip to any supermarket in the EU will prove that this is a lie, as you can see from my photo above.
  2. Tall Tales about Turkey. Vote Leave told us that Turkey were about to join the E, suggesting that the entire population of Turkey – some 76 million – were poised to land on our shores. In actual fact Turkey will not be able to join the EU for many years, if at all. They first applied to join in 1987, and since then, just one of the “chapters” that must be completed on signing up to the EU rules before they can join has been signed off. In any case, if we remain in the EU the UK will have a veto.  The approval of each member country is required for them to join. Even if Turkey were, several decades from now, to join the EU, it’s unlikely that most of them would choose to uproot and move abroad, and those that did would have a wide choice of countries to choose from. They wouldn’t all come to the UK. If they did, I might consider going and living in Turkey myself; I quite like the idea of having a whole country all to myself.
  3. NHS Nonsense According to the slogan on the Leave Campaign battle bus,“We send the EU £350m a week. Let’s fund our NHS instead.” This is really two lies. If you want to know how the figure of £350m was arrived at and why it is a distortion, you can read an excellent article  here. Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston, chair of the health select committee has moved from the leave campaign to the remainers, such is her outrage at this deception. The UK Statistics Authority has declared the figure to be misleading and inaccurate. The second part of the lie is the preposterous idea that Jeremy Hunt would use that fictional £350m a week to fund the NHS. If the Leave Campaign think the British public will believe that tale then they must think we are completely stupid. Jeremy Hunt makes no secret of the fact that he wishes to privatise the NHS – he even co-wrote a book on the subject. He is systematically trying to undermine the NHS and set it up for failure so that he can sell it off to his rich friends, hence his scandalous treatment of our junior doctors. The idea that he would suddenly turn round and invest 350 million fictitious pounds per week in the NHS is laughable.

You might like to read my other blog posts on the topic of the EU Referendum:

One More Analogy About the EU Referendum

Why Brexit is like a Mid-Life Crisis

Four Reasons why Britain Should Stay in the EU

One More Analogy About the EU Referendum

euflag.pngYou may have read my recent post Why Brexit is Like a Mid Life Crisis. Another analogy came to my mind the other day. Many people are complaining that we are not being given any facts and figures about what would happen to the UK if we leave the EU. Well the reason for that is that there are no facts or figures. It hasn’t happened so nobody knows. We can predict what might happen but we don’t really know what will happen to the economy, immigration, and all the other things that people worry about.

It’s a bit like your house. Do you like your house? There are probably things you like about it, otherwise you wouldn’t have bought it or rented it. There are probably things you don’t like and things that you would like to change. Some of the things can probably be changed with a little work. You might be able to afford a new bathroom. You could easily fix that dripping tap in the kitchen if you put your mind to it. Other things are not so easily fixed such as the area in which you live. But if somebody asked you to hand over the keys to your house, and they would give you another house instead, would you accept the exchange?

You have no idea where this new house is. You might need to look for a new job because it might be too far from where you work. It might be in a much nicer neighbourhood than where you live now but it might not. Think about a neighbourhood that you really wouldn’t want to live in. What would you do if this new house was right there?

You have no idea how much the rent or the mortgage will be. It might be cheaper than what you pay now, but it might be completely out of your budget. It would be nice to think about all the things you could spend the extra money on if it turns out to be cheaper, but what would you do if it was much more expensive and you couldn’t pay?

You don’t know how big this new house will be or what it will be like. Will it suit your family’s needs?

What if your new house has even more defects than your old one? You might be lucky and find the house of your dreams but what are the chances? You are not the one making the choices.

And there would be no going back. Once you had made the swap you would have to live there forever.

The EU has its defects. There are things we like about it and things we don’t. We might be able to change some of the things we don’t like with a bit of work; others we might just have to put up with. But if we leave, what will we find? I have heard people saying that the money we pay to the EU could be put into the NHS, but do you really believe it would be? This government has shown utter contempt for the NHS. If there really is any money saved, which is not certain, you won’t have a say in where it goes. It is more likely to end up in some Panamanian bank account. I have heard it said that we need to leave the EU to stop immigration. It won’t stop immigration. Yes, there will be fewer legal immigrants – the ones who pay their taxes, employ UK citizens and make a net contribution to the UK economy – but how is that going to solve the problem?

If I knew what house I would be moving to, if I had chosen the new house myself and had surveys carried out, if I had done the maths and made sure I could afford the mortgage, then of course I would move if I was sure that it was a change for the better. But let’s not take a leap in the dark when the issues are so huge.14444-illustration-of-a-house-pv.png


Take a look at my other post on the EU referendum: Four Reasons Why Britain Should Stay in the EU