Swing up, Swing down

Swing up

Swing up, Swing down is an extract from the penultimate chapter of the novel written by Alison Little. All events are fiction and not based on real people, events or places.

Jack guides Vera out from her car seat allowing Gemma to bounce along by herself. It was Saturday morning and he thought he’d take the children down to the play park for a few hours, leaving Ala to have a lye in. He has them most of the time when they are out of school, doing most of the pro-active parenting, after all, she worked full-time, he was self-employed and his hours were more flexible.

They were twins but they had not developed at the same rate, Vera had been deprived of space and oxygen in the womb, she had all the air he needed and room too move now, but had never caught up, it had been determined that she would never really develop into a fully functional adult. Her condition had never been fully diagnosed but he was treated in a way similar to those with low functioning autism. For the first few years with Vera had been really tough, in and out of the hospital, major surgery after critical procedures. They had been in the Hospice too, directed that it would be kinder to let Vera die, but they had refused and everything to keep her alive had been done. There had been some progress health-wise, but he would never really be able to speak or respond in ways others could. At one point they had thought that he might be able to learn sign language but his communication skills did not progress to that level. In some ways, they were glad they had given her such a grown-up sounding name, ‘Vera,’ even though things were not promising it gave the impression that he may live well into adulthood.

Gemma skips on ahead, cartwheels on the toe as she dances onto one of the older kids swings. Up and down, higher and higher, reaching for the child’s optimism of the fluff-filled clouds and the future which awaited. Jack takes Vera’ hand and guides her towards the swings which were better for her, high-backed and much safer. He lifts Vera, they after some persuasive talk and jiggling, he slots into the seat, ensuring to wipe the snot from his nose before beginning to gently push him from in front to ensure he doesn’t become agitated. As Roger seems content Jack moves around to gently push him from behind, Gemma disembarks from the swing and quickly manoeuvres herself onto the climbing frame-come hut-like structure directly ahead.

Things were more difficult than a normal domestic set up but Jack loved and treasured being a dad. Caring for a disabled child was never straightforward, additional care for Vera, then mustering enough energy to keep the never-ending quest for excitement from Gemma satisfied. He found himself on most of the school and club runs, he also seemed to do most of the cooking in addition to constant cleaning to try and ensure Ala was happy. She had always been very particular about cleanliness, the grill washed after every time she used it, the fridge seals cleaned daily and even when they had moved into their first tiny flat she had insisted they needed a dishwasher because of the higher temperature the plates were washed at being more hygienic. Jack’s last Birthday present had been a hard wearing navy apron and she had kept on insisting he wore it when he was preparing meals. This appeared to be the result of a new health and safety training directive from her work at Social Services where aprons were to be worn to keep the ‘Food safe from you’, had been projected from a power point presentation. He didn’t mind this too much he had always been more of a doer and Ala had always taken a more strategic role. He loved his family dearly and would do anything to protect them.

Two brothers came in, the elder seemed to be around nine or ten, around the same age as Gemma, and Vera of course. Both were wearing the same version of a Marks and Spencer printed T-Shirt, the older and the younger version combined with red and blue Jackets. Their first move, they jumped onto the swings in the place where Gemma began, one still swaying from her endeavours. Swing up, swing down, Vera lets out a kind of screech recital, the composition being somewhat familiar to those close to him. As Jack comforts her he overhears the younger brother as the elder,

‘Is she a Spack?’
‘Yes, but Shush’

Responds the elder Brother, as they continue to play Jack hides his fury. His head feels like it’s about to explode, how dare they say anything about his family rushes through his mind, spiraling at full speed, the anger intensifying as the helix’ core into the internal workings of the brain.

Gemma descends from the top of the climbing frame in one foul swoop and runs towards the roundabout. She jumps half on the frame then begins to accelerate the centrifugal motion. Round and round, faster and faster she spins into the abyss of the play scape, maxing out the potential speed.

Everyone now engaged, Vera is content again, as the two brothers laugh together the helix’ coring into Jack’s mind instruct his eyes begins to scan around the suburban park. Nothing he can use, nothing at all, wait, what looks to be a broken glass bottle glistening from behind the bin, debris from the teenage revelry of an evening of WKD consumption. Jack edges towards the bottle, looking around, all the children are occupied, he plucks the broken bottle from it’s resting place and slips it into the inside of his jacket. Swing up, swing down the Brother continue, jesting with each other, Jack awaits a distraction. A BMW passes letting off a flash musical horn, one of the local Champagne Charlie’, so commonly embedded in the density of suburban villages. As the boys look in awe of the speeding moving vehicle Jack slips the broken bottle onto the ground then with a few slides of his boot he manoeuvres it directly underneath the swing of the younger brother.

Jack returns to Vera, gleeful and anticipatory, waiting to see how the plan he has engineered pans out. Gemma screams with joy as she revolves on the human-sized spinner, the older boy jumps down and engages the younger:

‘Come on, let’s join in on the round-about.’

The younger one takes the final flight up to the clouds, now darkened and thunderous. In the distance you can hear the traffic from the Motorway, HGV’s transcending across the country, heavily loaded, at full speed cutting through the valley towards the Metropolis. Jack tries to hide his delight as the small boy descends, jumping off the swing and leaping forward onto his hands, pad going directly onto the broken glass structure. Blood lets multiply and rush from the lacerations:

‘Be careful, there’s a broken bottle’

Jack shouts at the boy, deliberately to late to deter the accident he had engineered. As the boy cries out the Older Brother and Gemma rush over, Jack begins to insist that he was just about to warn them, a convincing dialogue which he had being re-telling since his teenage years. The elder takes the bleeding hand and tries to stem the flow of blood with his jacket’.

Eco-Warriorhood?…. Eco-Realist?

carbon footprint

10 Easy ways to reduce your Carbon Footprint

So, now, we’re all supposed to bin our cars, freezers, become vegan, stop drinking softies from plastic bottles and never holiday abroad to save the planet!

But is this realistic?

10 Easy ways to reduce your carbon footprint with having to become the Patron Saint of Eco-Warriorhood.

  1. If you are cooking in a small pot use the smallest ring on the hob. Using a larger gas ring simply mean most of the fuel is wasted and the food doesn’t actually heat any faster. Easy and instant, no effort required.
  2. When you rip a label of a tin can, add that to the recycling in addition to the main item. It doesn’t look like much but it is silly to send to landfill when it can be re-consumed.
  3. If you are getting taking out and there is a choice a plastic bottled drink or a paper cup option, take the paper choice. Even if there isn’t a recycling point and you have to throw it in a standard bin it will decompose in under 4 weeks in landfill. Subway are great for this option, as are many other sandwich bars and food retailers.
  4. So it’s no more burgers because of the methane cows produce, space taking to farm and the food chain process. But you like the odd burger, and your 3 sons love burgers and you really don’t want to give them up? Do it the best way possible, if you have burgers twice a week, reduce to once. Buy, fresh, consume that day instead of freezing. Choose a source which is farmed near you to reduce carbon in transportation. If possible make a trip to a local butchers or independent trader as their will be other environmental benefits of using local business.

Burgers back on the menu!

  1. Introduce a meat free main meal to your weekly eating plans. Try new dishes and foods which you may have previously avoided. Lavish veggie curries, vast seed selections, the charm of rich cheeses and nuts of notability. Make the veggie day the one where you enjoy following new recipes and pull out all culinary the stop.
  2. Have a freezer free day, preferable directly after a big supermarket shop. Try to buy fresh vegetable and make roast potato from scratch. It doesn’t mean you can’t have a bag of sweetcorn or pea’s in your freezer, just be less relent on the ice box and reduce it’s usage.
  3. If you are planning a trip into town with the kids, or an adult meal in a county pub at the weekend, consider walking as part of the activity. Is there a good canal or river route, are there view across the region worth taking in?Consider cycling to work once a month, it may be too far to do daily, but it could be worked into a four-weekly routine? Could you walk or cycle shorter journeys and when you take off parking time does it take much longer?
  4. Plan holidays in the UK on a yearly basis, then only look at flights to exotic destinations on special anniversaries. Camping is a great holiday with environmental credentials, reduction of energy consumption and taking full advantage of the great outdoors.
  5. Give and buy clothes to and from charity shops. Okay, we are not talking underwear or swimwear, if your still unsure about the pre-worn try bags and outer coats first. This is a great, green incentive, no need to recycle the fabric every-thing is re-used directly.
  6. One final Woof, value the dog! What man’ best friend does is provides us with constant opportunities for long energy use free walks, the eager consumption of any table scraps in addition to hours of carbon free entertainment.

Implement Immediately!

Then expand with the area’s that work with your lifestyle. Enjoying the veggie cooking and exploring new plant life? Add a second night. Bike action got you going? Cycle to work once a week instead of monthly.

Small steps making a big difference!

The Longhua Revolutionary

IMG_4003

The Longhua Revolutionary

He lies half dead
Within the ground
Module like in form
Head flat down
Neck arched, descending
Arm held up
An arising
Hand poised tray like
Vaulted, an offering
Progress, moving forward
Knee rising from the ground
Ready to stand up
Enabling control

Ahead, forefront
Central winding platform
Offerings laid
Gestures of remembrance
Bronze plates engraved
Names of the fallen
The communist struggle

Empty wheelchair pushed
Disabled by conflict
Human loss and sacrifice
Those no longer present

Foliage towering high
A lining parameter
Woodland grown through centuries
Heights to magnitude

Ground space taken
The Buddhist Temple land
Red force of communism
Re-claiming sacred land
There own lost to conflict
Taken from the opposition
For the opposer’s

A modern Shanghai
Communist dictatorship relaxed
Religion and Spirituality
Allowed to return
Beliefs and choice
Enabled not suppressed
New Freedoms
Individuality
Self-direction
Expression
Contemporary culture
Forward-looking
Progress..

 

The Longhua Revolutionary is the latest free flow text work from Alison Little. It responds to a photo viewed at the Shanghai Sacred exhibition at the VG&M in Liverpool. The statue is based at the Longhua Temple in Shanghai.

More about the Longhua Temple

More about the Shanghai Sacred exhibition at the VG&M

The Police – Victim Blaming – Shana Grice

Shana

The case of Shana Grice came to light earlier in the week after the IPOC (Independent Office for Police Conduct) inquiry found the PC in charge of the case not guilty of gross misconduct. Shana was brutally murdered by her former partner: Michael Lane, in August 2016. There had been five reports of stalking made to the Police by Shana over a 6 month period, 13 other women had made reports of Lane stalking them previously. Lane was simply cautioned, Shana was fined £90 for wasting Police time. We question, when will victim-blaming by the Police Force in sexually predatory cases be addressed and tackled.

In August of 2016 Lane slipped into Shana’ accommodation after her flatmates and current boyfriend had left for work and slit her throat with deadly consequences. His next move was to use her credit card to withdraw £60 from her account to purchase fuel with the intention of burning the corpse. Previously, having gone to the extremities of fitting a tracker to her car and stealing her keys to enter her bedroom and observe her sleeping. This was not the first time he had been shown to act obsessively, 13 women had reported him for behaving in a similar manner over the last decade.

Despite putting forward a plea of not guilty, Lane was convicted of murder in 2017 and ordered to serve a minimum of 25 years behind bars. The judge, Sir Nicholas Green was very critical of the handling of the case by Sussex Police:

“There was seemingly no appreciation on the part of those investigating that a young woman in a sexual relationship with a man could at one and the same time be vulnerable and at risk of serious harm. The police jumped to conclusions and Shana was stereotyped.”

As a response to the judge’ statement, the Deputy Chief Constable admitted to ‘Failings’ by Sussex Police.

Last week saw the conclusion of the IOPC hearing into the case. Shana had reported Lane to the Police 5 times in 6 months for stalking. A telephone conversation which had been recorded by Shana, clearly stated that she wanted no further contact with Lane.

Phone Call recorded by Shana Grice

The Officer in charge of the case, Trevor Godfrey, retired directly after Shana’ murder. At the trial, he claimed that there had been inconsistencies in Shana’ claims and she had failed to disclose her former relationship with Lane. He made further claims that kiss’ added to text messages indicated they were involved in a consensual relationship. No consideration was given to the fact Shana may have been trying to pacify a proven to be violent Lane.

In a minute and a half phone call with Shana, PC Godfrey explained to Shana that any evidence of stalking which she had provided had been discredited. However, in his defense, it had in fact been his colleague that had decided to fine Shana for wasting Police time. In response to these actions, Shana’ felt unable to approach the authorities again with additional concerns about Lane’ predatory stalking. Earlier in the week, PC Godfrey was found guilty of misconduct, but not of the greater charge of gross misconduct, allowing him full access to his pension. Shana’ parent responded to the outcome:

“We firmly believe Shana would be alive today if Sussex Police had acted to protect Shana on the many occasions she complained about Lane rather than issue her with a fine for wasting police time.”

The Police Federation claimed that PC Godfrey’ actions were ‘Appropriate’.

Is guilty of misconduct by not gross misconduct a sufficient outcome of the trial? Are the comments of the Police Federation justified? A nineteen-year-old girl put on trial unjustly by the Police force months before her eventual killer would stand trial. PC Godfrey, in addition to other Officers clearly negligent and evidence of Police Force which is unwilling to protect the lives of those in which it has been designated to do so. As a society, it is time to push for the Police to raise their standards to that of at least ‘Adequate’ in sexual predator cases. We need systems in place to identify elements of victim-blaming by Police Officers from a much earlier stage. Equal to this, we need the power to fine removed from incompetent Police Officers.

Finally, and to the memory of Shana, we need to see no further cases of victims of sexual predators being failed by the Police Force.