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So I am pondering on whether to move home or not. I am Australian and have lived her in the U.K. for 25 years. And age. I am twice that myself so it is right to say I have lived in each country half my life. Maybe that makes it the right time to see which way the balance goes when weighing up the options?

I have two children, born here, who are young adults and still in college and university. The youngest doesn’t see his future in the U.K. especially after the shambles of the Brexit referendum and the eye opening regarding the views and nature of many people here. Can’t bear what is happening. 

My eldest is a europhile and speaks German and loves London, but as she and her brother are both dual nationals, she has the option of going to Australia after uni to discover it on her own terms. We’ve been back as a family 4 times in the 25 years. Not enough I realise now. We went in ’97, ’99, 2006 and 2010. The longest interval is now and I am planning a trip for October, for the first time I will go alone to see my good friends and my brother. 

I am really missing Australia at the moment, attitudes and outlook, the space, the warmth, the marsupials and the optimism. Britain feels grey and damp and hopeless in comparison. I know it’s winter but it is the people and the politics as well as the environment – I feel as if the country may never recover from the dire situation it is now in with regards to finances, political relationships, workers rights and costs of living. That is all before I say a thing about the not so hidden racism that now is leaking out in conversations in workplaces and communities. Grim indeed. 

I work in the NHS as a nurse which is only better as an employer when held up in comparison against BHS! Otherwise it is a stressed out organisation which stresses out the staff at all levels. And as everyone who listens to the news hopefully now is aware – there is a crisis in health and mental health where I work, lack of resources in staff, space, beds, lack of access to the best treatment, lack of ambulances numbers and did I say lack of staff whether that be in general practices or hospital based care. It’s like working in a high pressured environment pretty much all the time. Burnout is predicted for most staff. The NHS is crumbling and the like of Hunt and May are only accelerating this. Healthcare in Australia I understand is still of a good standard with higher satisfaction levels for patients and workers. I want some of that! 

I will go back I am sure, with the exception of one variant, my children. I would not leave either of them. Must now campaign for my daughter to embrace the sunburnt country – here’s hoping she does. 

Now to light the fire – must stave off this January chill. And dream of wide open spaces. 

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How is it that life has become so busy, so complex and so stressful. Anyone reading my blog will know I am a single parent – Also I work in the NHS. I love my children and being Mum, supporter, advocate, fixer of worries and all that encompassed in the role of being a parent – except maybe trying to figure out again something tasty and healthy to make for said loved children to eat when I get in the door at silly times from work – that is a pain! And I love my work, by and large, though the current set of politicians is making this very hard. The Health and Social Care Bill is set to line Tories and their supporter’s pockets – and they will make a lot of money out of the quasi privatization of the NHS and associated services.
And gloomily I decided to look at NHS Pensions website a few nights ago – knowing the increase in contributions is coming – I decided to work out how hard I will be hit – it seems and extra £50 per month – for nothing, in fact, for less than nothing as if the changes to how the pension is paid out come in I will be working longer for far less at the end, and a greatly reduced lump sum which I was counting on, like so many others. Still, we nurses and other NHS workers are meant to do it for love and strength of character aren’t we – not decent remunerations, oh no. How strange it is – when a nurse gets it wrong, as they do from time to time, they get absolutely slated in the press – but the rest of us doing above and beyond so often seem to get a kick in the teeth. My service will be hugely effected by both the cuts and the Health and Social Non Care Bill – and the government insists that patients will not notice any change to front line services. Do you think that they might just notice that their care giver is on their knees with exhaustion and burn out from the pace of change and the expectation to deliver more for less every year. I do not think the general public is that blind. I hope they notice and complain. Loudly.

Men are confusing. I had a date this week – first one in a good long while and I was pretty excited and nervous by equal measure. New Dress, hair done (was a disaster and spend hours correcting it – lesson learnt never try to make drastic changes so close to a important event – a bit like trialing a new menu at a dinner party – just don’t do it.

Anyway, within minutes of meeting at the agreed place for lunch (56 miles from home – so time and travel were involved – I guess you can now sense I am completely regretting the effort I went to?) said male shares ‘I am still seeing my ex, well she’s not my ex actually…’ and so on. Great – so how did this man find himself signed up to a dating site and stating that he was single, had experienced some losses, but single. I just do not understand the psyche that can tell such lies and not even show some shame. So he went on, ‘I’ve learnt to live without commitment’ and ‘I live in the moment’. Have ever such phrases been said by someone who is not selfish and arrogant? This man was certainly both. I think he had given himself permission to see what his options were. Need I say I made it pretty clear I was not an option. He had every opportunity in his regular emails to me to tell me up front that he was still involved in a relationship. Not a word of it from him. The common pitfalls of internet dating – lies, ex’s who are not ex’s and height and weight deceptions.

I am trying hard not to get disillusioned and bitter, but I do wonder whether there are any nice guys out there of certain of age, decent men who are kind, generous and thoughtful.
Oh and the icing on the cake – after 5 hours of listening to this delightful male telling me about his confusing romantic life and how there was love there for his girlfriend/ex-girlfriend – he then asked me to go halves on the bill…..at this point I smiled politely, wished him well, paid, and left. The date had turned into an agony aunt session. Actually on reflection this could hardly be called a date.

Part of me inevitably wonders if it is me – am I so horrid that men feel comfortable showing their worst elements? I am assured not by friends which is kind. I look OK, probably considered attractive I hope, and am bright, chatty and friendly, I can be a little serious at times (hence the blog) and though perpetually broke I have a reasonable and secure job. Plus kids and cats that are the big positives in my life. So WHY ME! Why do I get these dud dates? I must make time to blog some of the others, with the passing of time they have become quite funny to recall, though complete horrors at the time – I am sure they will ring many bells for readers who have had equally colourful dating lives around the age of 40.

Ah well, will leave it a bit before I dip another toe in the water. DIY is even preferable at the moment – now where is that Stanley knife?

Somehow along the line, Cupid has missed me out. Well, not ever, but certainly in the last decade. I have fallen off the romance radar and my forties have been bleak desert when it comes to love and even lust. All I can say is – I feel wasted! Not with party drugs or red wine, but the value of me, through a close and loving relationship, is not being acknowledged or used. Wasted, wasting away and feeling very blue about this.

It hasn’t always been the case. I started out fine – array of boyfriends mixed with education and kicking off my career. And then the Big One, I met a Lovely Man and we married. A bit more work and then two children by 31, all good so far. Then refocused on career and the Fantastic Children enter into schooling, I looked around and the Lovely Man was no longer so lovely and in fact was gone (off into the distance with a tattooed woman as it happens).

That’s nearly 10 years ago and since then I have had a few dalliances with romance but all with one of two striking themes. Either men who have wanted it all and wanted it quickly or those that hold a woman off as if she might actually impact on their life. The Velcro male equipped with wedding date and shiny ring, all within 4 weeks – very scary. Or the man, who professes to look younger than he is, loves excitement (usually abseiling, rock climbing or kayaking) and really wants a relationship in name only and puts the most effort into avoiding commitment or closeness. Both varieties of the species should be avoided at all costs – unless of course you are their equal match, and there in lie the role of Cupid. All sorts of people find compatibility and love again.

It seems to me that most people do meet their match and find love again after failed first relationships. I feel though, that I haven’t passed the second marriage muster, and have been left standing alone in the corral and waiting the third muster with the really ropey members of the herd. Most of the time I work with this and find pleasure in entertaining romantic daydreams, but recently I have come to realise that I have been left behind. I am a dedicated Mum and worker, I look reasonable, low wear and tear, no bad habits, and I trusted that Cupid would win out and find me that special Lovely Man number two, but it seems not.

This has been brought home to me in my friends’ reactions. Good people, with good lives, and always married, whether it is first or second time. I am really the odd one out, the one who never got through the second muster. Initially they have been wonderful supportive friends and held tissue boxes while I cried for the first time, and at the second relationship failure and even the third. But I guess it must be exhausting, no matter how much you like your friend, to watch them go around the romance water wheel – waiting to see if she is still breathing when the wheel emerges out of the water again. I sense that my friends hold me at arms length due to my failure find a partner, and that it might be feared that I carry some sort of contagion. It might be paranoia but just a few days ago when I expressed interest in a new colleague and asked for a male friend and colleague to help find out whether this man was single, married or otherwise, my friend said he wouldn’t. He looked away and said it was too complex for him to get involved in. Stunned and abandoned – that was me – having to face that even my closest friends have written off my ability to have positive romantic potential and do not want to be involved.

And that makes me wonder if they are true friends? Can people choose not to support a person in this most intimate area of friendship, helping them to find that match, and still be close friends? I am not sure. What I do know is that maybe I need to meet people to be friends who are in similar situations to mine and who understand the motivations and needs of a forty something single woman. Sadly where I live it may be just as hard to find another like-minded person living in a single state as it is to find the Lovely Man. I guess the alternative is to give in to my inner mad old cat lady, and become even more eccentric and disregard the general view that only couples can be truly happy.

My friends are dear to me, but maybe I have expected too much of them. So, I am going to let them off the hook of Cupid’s bow and enjoy my friendships for what they are worth.

I wonder whether a dog may be easier than all this! Man’s best friend and all that.

This week I was struck by a plaintive note in my 18 year old daughters voice as we stood in the market discussing the merits of one variety of cheese biscuit against another. We were trying to select one or even two packets to go with the indulgent mix of cheese we had decided on as an alternative to a Saturday night dinner. ‘There’s too much to choose from!’ I am absolutely certain we will not have been the first, or last, shoppers to state this while looking bewilderedly over shelves of jam, beans, pasta, tinned tomatoes, yoghurts – the list is never-ending isn’t it. Shopping is no longer about setting out to address the need to purchase a required item – it seems more a fulfilment of expression of self and individual tastes displayed through the chosen item selected and shown off. This is seen mostly in high end goods, cars, furnishing, holidays and clothes, but it seems to have filtered down to ordinary things in ordinary lives.

I found myself being notably considered when trying to choose which yoghurt to take home – organic or not, single serve size or large tub, low fat or no fat or just full on full fat before even coming to flavour and type – fruit (endless varieties), toffee, honey, lemon, set, not set, Greek, plain…. It was a sign of my keenness to purchase the ‘right one’ for me that I actually persisted and didn’t walk away. But this is just for one item on one person’s list in a supermarket – the same applies to almost every other item to purchase. Clothes washing products: powder, liquid, capsules, blocks, biological, non-biological, colours, trying to figure which one is ‘right for me’. This really is my most despairing isle to lose time in.

And that is the crunch. What is it that we value most – possessions or the time in which to enjoy life in? I would imagine that if asked, many people would ask for more time – to spend with family, friends, on their own, in the garden or green spaces, reading, the list goes on. Time wasted shopping is wasted time. Consumerism and choice gone mad, means that we spend too much time pondering the virtues of produce and would-be possessions in harshly lit stores and crowded shopping areas, generally buying more than we need.

Too much of everything? Perhaps with the exception of cheese – never too much cheese – so perhaps there may be a need for endless varieties of cheese wafers, crackers, biscuits and digestives to honour the cheese. Oh and what about cheeseboards – glass or wood….

Is unfairness a word? Unfair – yes, fairness – yes, marry the two together and it seems to me a fair description of our current governing politicians stance on tertiary education costs. I feel incensed about this – on a national perspective we risk excluding some of the finest and most able students in Britain due to the fear of incurring huge debt. On a personal level, my own children, bright and headed for university (I imagine), will be graduates who are shackled by the costs of their education for many years.

The most discomforting thing I heard one student say recently was that it would be all right as long as they didn’t earn too much – they could graduate with a maths degree and work in the high street or something akin to that therefore avoiding having to pay back the debt.

Education costs are only part of my concern for our young people. The costs of housing, car insurance, household costs and fuel which impacts on just about everything – the high cost of living in Britain make it near impossible for a young person to be independent, lead fulfilling lives and have aspirations which may improve the state of the nation we all live in. Our wages are not high enough to counter the increased costs of living, and I know I am not alone, either as a single parent or a couple with double income in being worried – not just about the future but the here and now. Is it fair or right that higher education and the professions should only be the domain of the wealthy? Should ordinary waged families and their children set their sights lower to vocational training courses? This thought depresses me and makes me want to pack up and leave Britain should that come to fruition. Vocational training like university education should be options for all young people who have the aptitude for that level of education or career goal – regardless of income or family wealth.

All very well if the young person is from an affluent family with multiple assets, but in a democratic society I believe we are missing a step if we exclude young people from ordinary backgrounds, inhibiting their access to education and preventing their positive impact on our future, due to the global financial pressures of today.

Please don’t get me started about Bankers.

To be or not to be PC.

So a dilemma for me, and perhaps for others? How far is far enough when it comes to political correctness. I am content with being a social liberalist, if there is such a thing, and always have considered myself open to difference and encouraging of the moderate beliefs of social movements. Not an extremist in any way I guess – (sounds dangerously like vanilla politics doesn’t it.) I am passionate about the rights of people, cultures, animals and the planet – the underdog will always get a fair hearing from me.

I have wondered myself as to what life would be like if I were gay in a rural community, or what would life be like to be disabled and to find that last disabled space taken by a non ‘blue badged’ driver. I have experienced cultural racism in a very white corner of Australia – I am of an olive brown complexion that seemed to cause some interest and was found worthy of dreadful nicknames, and name calling as an adolescent. I have worked with people my whole life, whom have experienced stigma and differentness, and I hope I have been an able advocate for those people whose lives I have been part of.

But recently I have found my threshold for political correctness is limited in comparison to some others and have been left wondering about my bias, and whther I am wrong or right, and if in fact there is a wrong or a right in a particular issue. The particular issue in question: transgender operations. I have no issue with people being or becoming who ever they want to be or whatever sex or sexual orientation they want to be – but – I do have an objection, quite a fierce one it seems, that State money not be spent on sex change operations (a newly created penis costs approx £50 000). I found myself in a conversation, at a pressured time of the day when I was about to host a dinner party for my daughter’s friends – in discussion with another parent about this issue. I was surprised by her response that she thought it was fine for State health monies to be spent on this sort of operation. She believed that gender identity crisis, if left unaddressed could be considered life threatening condition due to potential suicidal ideation. My view was that many people feel suicidal and do not get to have an operation and that therapy is available for all these days through the current improved access to psychological therapies. And if a person is ultimately convinced that a gender change process and operation is what they need, that to go for private health interventions should be the option undertaken – that they pay for it themselves. My friend appeared horrified by my stance and as a vast chasm between our views was revealed. She also felt that the earlier the better for transgender operations – and that this would be more successful. My thoughts are that it should not be done until someone reaches full maturity plus some – I have worked with young adults for the majority of my career and they can often be confused about many things, sexual orientation being one of many common identity issues.

I do not know the answer to these things, but I feel that there is likely to be diverse opinions about gender issues. One thing I have felt though is that it is apparently unacceptable to say that you are not in favour of a variation, whether that be transgender operations, or something else that challenges the PC schema. So it seems to me that the stigma and denial of rights and the freedom to express oneself is now applied to those people who do not conform to politically correct stances at all times. I was left feeling very bruised by my conversation with my friend and unaccepted by her, and I imagine she felt she didn’t really know me very well.

What do you think – has political correctness gone to the extreme or is it that I am an old dinosaur who doesn’t realise it?

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