Don’t let the door 

What a shitty year. On so very many levels. Funnily enough,  despite the horrendous end to 2015, the floods which devastated our Valley – from which people are still recovering – the response actually meant I started the year hopeful. 

And I find myself at the end in a position which at any other year in the previous 15 would have been joyous. But by God has the stuffing been knocked out of me in between. Enough to squeeze out the confidence and replace it with anxiety. 

But I will find a way to get back my oomph. Deal with this new world. 

Hope Floats



So if you are in England and watch the news you will probably have noticed that things got a little wet. Over much of the North, Scotland – homes & businesses destroyed, bridges washed away, roads collapsing.

The Calder Valley has been hit hard. Again. Somewhere I wrote (I think on my old blog) about the events of 2012 – when we were hit twice in the space of a month, once from rising river levels, and then from a freak flash storm onto the already saturated moors turning roads into waterfalls and overwhelming the rivers and drains again. People went through hell, but they also banded together and worked hard and most got back on their feet. There were a few casualties among the businesses of the valley which never opened up again, or which didn’t last long – the difficulty of getting insurance or cost of claiming – along with a less than stellar economic climate, makes it really hard. But even in the past six months new enterprises have sprung up from the ashes of old (Moyles hotel /bar/restaurant had stood empty until the new Moyles B&B was opened in one third of it)

But then it happened again. Boxing Day – I was in Leeds myself and watched the horrible events online as the waters rose and my firends were once again innundated. I live in Hebden Bridge, so most of what I see is related to there – but the damage is widespread, Mytholmroyd, Eastwood, Todmorden, Elland, Brighouse, Copley – more. The waters rose higher this time, over 6ft in some places (above floor level, which in itself is much higher than the usual river level). People had in many cases tried to put their belongings / stock high up to save them, high enough that they would have escaped in 2012, but not this time.

As the waters dropped and people surveyed the devastation – mud and sludge and silt covering everything, the valley began to do what it does best.

If you’ve never been here, Calderdale is beautiful. Absolutely stunning.


Stoodley Pike looks down over the bost alluring mix of gentle rolling hills and rugged craggs, man made echoes of industry somehow complementing the wild moors and steep wooded sides. It is beautiful. And a wonderful place to live. I was almost going to say despite the floods. But I also want to say because of the floods. Because the floods show you what is most beautiful, which is not always easy to see. And that is the people. The wonderful people – many of whom do great things in drier times too, as we are a creative, generous place – but so many more who when the need arises, ask no questions except – How can I help?  Thousands of people who flock to volunteer to muck out, to clean, to feed, to clothe, who donate cleaning equipment, clothes, toys, furniture, electrical goods, their time, money, services. Everyone thinking desperately “what can I do?”. People trying to turn their skills so that they can support the effort to put the valley right again.

It is going to be hard. So many people have no insurance, or cannot claim – ridiculous excesses / expense imposed on people who have nothing by companies which make obscene profit every year. Businesses which would often find these coming, post christmas months difficult at the best of times. People who were on zero hours contracts, whose workplaces are out of action for who knows how long. And still the rains fall.

But – with the help of the people of the valley – and the even more amazing people who are travelling from all over the country to help, to bring free food, to restore our faith in humanity and show the meaning of compassion and love (more on which another day) – there will be recovery.

A number of appeals have been put together to raise money – a main one which will help individual residents and be matched by the government – and then lots of crowdfunders for the many businesses which are affected. Celebrities and authors have donated items for auction to support some particular causes, and there are some great ideas like a raffle to win a wedding package with all the different things you might need.

If you are able, please do contribute – if you want to offer more practical support or buy something to support the clean up / refurbishment effort then please check the posts on Calder Valley Flood Support facebook pages to make sure you get what is currently needed, as the situation changes day by day.

Calder Valley Flood Support on Facebook:

Amazon wishlist of items needed – buy from here and it will be delivered direct to the hubs

Calderdale Flood Relief Appeal:

Calderdale’s Big Fat Wedding Raffle: (can you donate a prize? Or watch this space for details of how to buy tickets)

Support for individual businesses / organisations / schools etc.

Ebay auctions to support Sowerby Bridge Cricket Club:

Ebay auctions to support the Book Case, Hebden Bridge

Contributions of Vinyl wanted for record fair to support Muse Music / Love Cafe: Donations to The Trades Club, Hebden Bridge, email:

Contributions of Art to be auctioned for the flood appeal – or a venue for this auction, contact Caroline Reed on Facebook

Crowdfunding to save 2Tone Comics:

Crowdfunding to save Ribbon Circus Habberdashery:

Crowdfunding for Dark Angel Clothing:

Crowdfunding to replace toys for Riverside Fun Club:

Crowdfunding to save Hiu Man Chinese Takeaway and help them contribute to providing food for volunteers:

Crowdfunding to rebuild Monster Computers:

Crowdfunding for Mytholmroyd Community Centre:

Crowdfunding for Molly and Ginger (clothes shop)

Finally – it obviously wasn’t just my home town affected, here are some other appeals for other affected areas – I know there’s only so much money to go around but as they say – every little helps.

(Please let me know if you know of any more and I will add them / share widely)



Changing voices

Is it just me that finds it strange, when I go back to read something I wrote years ago – that the voice sounds like someone different. We change – we all change of course through life, but reading words I wrote only a few years ago, just feel like reading someone else’s thoughts.  Old essays – amaze me as I actually sound like I know what I’m talking about. (All this prompted because someone had looked at my “Who am I?” page – which sent me to remind myself who I’d said I was.

I was obviously in a bit of a tiz about what I can / can’t say online as a civil servant. Still something that infuriates me – but I am so exasperated with politics and the world in general these days that I try not to think about it. It’s not good for my mental health to rage against things. I will leave that to my husband.  And lets face it, I don’t actually blog that much any more. A few poems here and there. I have a new blog specifically for library related things, as I am doing my chartership. If you are interested you can find it at – though I’m finding it hard to write even there. So bloody busy this year.

So anyway. I think my “who am I?” needs an update. And a better editor.

The great Hebden Bridge Burlesque Battle

There are few things that get me agitated. I’m a fairly placid soul. But every so often something will get up my nose enough that I will commit that most British act of protest and write a letter. You may recall a short while ago I got my knickers in a twist about Equal Marriage. This time, it’s Burlesque.  You may or may not see the connection. For me, they are quite similar issues. It’s about the decision of some people, who don’t approve of something, seeking to stop other people, who don’t share those opinions or beliefs, from doing that something. The people behind the decision not to allow the Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival to hold a Gala performance at the Hebden Bridge Picture House – may not feel they have anything in common with the specimens who can be seen speaking against the Equal Marriage legislation currently going through Parliament, be they “family values” Tories or religious traditionalists. But how are they different?  Those who seek to deny gay people the right to marry, do so from a fundamental belief that this is somehow wrong, and sends the wrong message to society.  Those who say they don’t want Hebden Royd Town Council associated with Burlesque, feel that this would insinuate they approve of what they believe to be and activity which is demeaning to women.

Beliefs being what they are – they are not shared by all. And that’s ok. I may disagree with someone else’s beliefs, be appalled by them, whatever. But they can have those beliefs.  Where it bothers me is when someone seeks to force their beliefs on others. Usually by stopping them from doing something.  Denying them the choice to make their own decisions. As the joke goes, if you don’t agree with gay marriage, don’t get gay married.

It’s a fine line. I can see. And there are two sides to this row. One – the “rights and wrongs” of Burlesque as an art form in the wider context of a society which has many negative sexualised images of women, etc. Two – the decision of a small number of people to effectively act as moral arbiters for the town by pre-censoring the event, without adequate local consultation, as the result of some people’s personal beliefs about Burlesque.

I personally love Burlesque.  I have attended several events over the past few years and each time have come away feeling inspired and empowered.  Seeing strong, vibrant, and confident women of all sizes and different ages – helped to heal some of the wounds for me of living in the society we live in.  It may seem odd to say that I love Burlesque, and yet don’t like things like Page 3, Lads Mags, strip clubs. But what I don’t like about those things is not nakedness, or stripping – it’s attitude. It’s power, and the abuse of it. 

Burlesque isn’t just stripping.  There’s comedy, costume, dance, song, and also (s0metimes) the removal of clothes. It’s not just women. I have been fortunate enough to see a male performance and it was hilarious. And yes, he did get down to as little as he was probably legally allowed to wear. I’ve seen some magnificent, excellently choreographed, beautifully costumerd performances – but actually the ones which touch me most are the more amateur ones. Where someone has just finished doing a course, and are braving the stage. They might not get it totally “right”, they might be middle aged, certainly not perfect, but there is something magnificent about someone shucking off all of the things society tells them about getting older, having a few saggy bits, what a woman should or shouldn’t do – and sticking up two fingers and be a magnificent and beautiful, and yes – sexual creature. (Though it’s important to say – it is only our culture which seems to make nakedness always have to be about sexuality.)

When she goes home, she can be mum again. The next day, go back to her job, and excell in all sorts of different ways, at different things. But it acknowledges our inner sexuality.

I’ve always had a problem with the branch of Feminism which I call Baby-with-the-bathwater Feminism.  Women whose response to the negative sexual imagery and aspects of society, is to say – sex has no place in society. It should be behind the bedroom door, and then, only enjoyed in strictly approved ways. Who think women shouldn’t dress in particular ways, act in particular ways, enjoy particular activities.  I had one friend at uni who I thought was a lesbian. This is how she described herself. And yet I found out years later that she also slept with men, but thought it was more important to be “politically lesbian”, as sleeping with men didn’t send the right message. She did it anyway.  Personally – I think there is quite an important political statement to be made in actually being honest about yourself and who you love.

Bit of a tangent – but the point is women are different, and some find things opressive and uncomfortable that others find envigorating and exciting. Some aren’t’ that into sex. Some find it suffuses there life in all sorts of ways.  Some love hearts and flowers, some are into S&M / Submission and Dominance. Yes. Some like to be submissive. To an extent where others might feel they were being mistreated. There’s a million and one reasons why we become the sexual creatures we are. It has to be acknowledged. And to me – part of that, is by presenting positive sexual imagery and role models to counteract the negative.  Not denying that sex is part of life.  Art imitates life. Sex is going to be in there somewhere.

All of the above, is kind of moot in relation to the Hebden Bridge Picture House issue. The committee mention equality issues. The Equality Act protects various characteristics – Gender, Sexual Orientation, Race, Disability, Age, Religion or Belief.  But what does it protect? It is about equal treatment and prevention of discriminatory practice. Making sure that a man is not treated differently from a woman because he is a man, or, perhaps that someone with one philosophical belief, say, that Burlesque demeans women – is not given different treatment from someone who has an opposing belief. So long as neither is illegal.  For me, the only way to give both people the choice to exercise their philosophical discretion is to allow the performance to happen, and give people the choice whether they want to go or not.

People are saying there should be wider consultation before a decision is made. Personally I think it sets a dangerous precedent anyway – why do they need to censor legal activity?  The plebicite is on the door. If people don’t want it, they won’t go. If it’s not successful, it won’t come back. If people want to protest, debate, engage, let them. But in a way which doesn’t deny other people the right to celebrate their bodies they way they want to.

All Riot on the Western Front


Thanks world. I was on a high. Really, I was.  Hopefully it’s still there somewhere, but yesterday I got so sad and just despairing that my lovely high went away for a bit.

It’s all gone a bit Pete Tong. No one can deny it. But what saddens me most is the unutterable stupidity we’re surrounded with. The unutterable selfish stupidity of those rioting and looting. The unutterable selfish stupidity of those who say, bring in the army, lock them all up for ten years, evict them from their homes, shoot on sight. And even to some extent, though I probably sit more here than anywhere, the unutterable selfish stupidity of those who take the opposite view of “well, what do you expect, given all the poverty, deprivation, and inequality”.  Three separate sets of blind stupidity, none of which will actually solve anything.

All fires need a spark to set them off, and by all accounts this one was the spark which triggered the bullet from a policeman’s gun, which shot and killed Mark Duggan.  While there is an investigation into the events, it’s doubtful we’ll get  a real picture of what happened.  Only those who knew him know what truth there is in descriptions of his character – whether he was an all round family man, anxious and paranoid and/or a known drug dealer previously “known to the police”. Or all three. Doesn’t really matter.  Even if he was carrying a gun – (and if he was involved in, or moved in circles with those involved in drug dealing, it’s probably an if not sensible, understandable move from a protection point of view) – the only point at which there would be justification for the police to shoot, would be if it was pointed at them.  And then, I don’t know what the rules are, but I would hope there was a “shoot to disarm or distract” before “shoot to kill”. They say the weapon doesn’t seem to have been fired – but unless there’s footage, or independant witnesses, we won’t know if it was pointed.  However, accidents happen.  We’ve all seen films where someone “reaches for their wallet”, and gets shot because some jumpy cop thinks their going for their gun.  Fear is a horrible thing, and armed policemen and women are not immune to it.

However, as is pointed out, over at Cogitare Aperiat, at least 333 people killed by the Met police since 1998 [why 1998 btw? 13 years is an odd sample size. Is it because 333 is a nice round number?] with no convictions to speak of.  Whether the people involved are innocent of any crime is kind of also irrelevant – because we’ll never know, they never got to go to court even if they were accused.  Not all are even in circumstances where death should be a possible outcome.  Accidents happen. But if no-one is ever brought to book for the unlawful killing of a person in their custody, then suddenly no one will believe an accident is an accident. Like the boy who cried Wolf – when an accident actually does happen (whether this was or not we don’t know) – people will view everything the Police does that isn’t put their hands up and admit guilt, as obfuscation, stalling, cover up.

Yes, police deal with people who commit crime. Even murder.  But they don’t always get it right, and they aren’t all full of love for their fellow man. Some have a strong belief in society and want to keep it safe, some want the authority, the “permission” to feel better than x bunch of other people. Some are downright bullies or racists.  Just like sadly there’ll always be some people who go into the Army because it’s the only way to legally kill someone. And someone you don’t know, in a country far far away at that.  Humans, whether their uniform is black, blue, khaki, or closer to hooded tops or baseball caps – are all falible, and some are not very nice.  Even back in the day when we had the death penalty (and please god let us not get it back) people were entitled to a trial before being taken for the long drop.

So I can understand the peaceful protest that occurred on Friday, of people angered and saddened by yet another death, of another father, another son, at the hands of someone who they don’t believe will be dealt with fairly and openly.  I can understand the frustration which might mount in some, if answers don’t come quickly enough. If they are not dealt with sensitively or with respect by the police. I can understand shouting, kicking things, maybe even smashing windows of the police vehicles/ buildings – though this is the point I would expect other people to step in and say – don’t Son, it’s not worth it. It will only get you into trouble.

I don’t understand how violence and looting and fire-raising have anything to do with anger at a person’s death.  But like I said, that’s just a spark.
However. This is where one side steps in and says, well, what do you expect… all the cuts… deprivation… inequality…

It’s one of those things isn’t it. One of those troublesome questions – take two people, put them through the same upbringing, one will turn out one way, another entirely different. Some people manage against all the odds, to become respectable adults, hard working, peaceful, loving, sharing. Others fail at education, fail at or do not even enter employment, see no connection between themselves and “society” or vice versa, don’t think twice about breaking the law, and are quite happy to jump on a bandwaggon and steal and smash stuff, so long as everyone else it.

What’s the difference between the two?  For my mind, it’s attitudinal.  The first person, set of people – sees the state that they are in, the hardship of their lives, and is able to say “I deserve better than this”. Then, with that pride, they look around again and see what it might take to change it. As they grow up, they see the opportunities that are offered to them by life and society. They see school, they see libraries, they see parks, swimming pools, clubs. And importantly, they take their pride and with it say, this is what I am entitled to.  I deserve to go to school, to study, to ask for help and receive it. If people try to cajole them into thinking it’s not cool, or worthwhile – they shrug them off and remember. They deserve a good life. They deserve food in their mouth, a roof over their head, a clean house, respect. And as long as they have respect and pride for themselves, they make the connection that the first and most important person who can do damage to you and disrespect you is yourself. If you step off, and start behaving like someone who doesn’t want, nor deserve a better life, then you won’t get one.

It’s hard. If your family, your community, is entrenched in a belief that certain things aren’t for them – I’ve seen it in black and white families alike. You don’t even get to know if you want something or not, if everyone is telling you you can’t have it.

The current round of cuts are horrendous. Don’t get me wrong. They have made life bloody hard for a lot of people and will be removing opportunities for people to better themselves left right and centre. But they haven’t caused this. They may have reminded people how little the political elite, and those who support them, know, or much less care, about their lives – and thus given them a spur not to care about what they want in return. But the seeds of this were sown many years ago. When the parents of these young people were growing up in poverty, or trying to succeed, and somebody said there was no such thing as society. That there was no reason to help other people who weren’t helping themselves.  Who cultivated an unequal, prejudicial state of affairs, that good people have been trying to resolve ever since.  Cuts and lack of investment to the services people at the poor end of society need to keep afloat – that started long ago.

I strongly believe, Governments should be there to help society provide what is needed to keep society ticking. They should do this by taking the required taxes, and using them to provide what is needed.  You decide on the need, and tax accordingly. Need does not just disappear because you don’t want to pay tax, or ask people to pay tax. If you give people what they need, and don’t ask for appropriate tax, you get a deficit. You don’t remove the need just because you want to get rid of a deficit. It doesn’t vanish. And these needs are about getting that better life.  The people at the top, who don’t want to pay more taxes, are saying, we don’t want to help the bottom get a better life. And yet – the banks get in trouble, it’s money from everyone’s pot, which should be going to provide what people need, which gets used to sort them out. And yet – still the people at the top don’t want to help.

Schools, Support for families, Educational support allowances, Libraries, Employment and training support, Hospitals, Doctors, Midwives, Social Workers.  The state has to provide enough. The community has to provide more – has to work together to build up the pride and sense of self esteem in people who are born with nothing – so that they respect themselves to take what is offered by the state – that education, those services, and realise they are doing no-one but themselves a favour by doing it.  The media needs to think about how it reports things, about what role models and ambitions we give to children. The family needs to be strong – and by family, I mean whatever form it takes. Melanie Phillips blind faith in the father figure ignores the many well brought up children of single parents out there. Taking responsibility for your children is however part of that “better life” people need to be ready for. Everyone needs to get back to expecting better of one another, and helping out those who are struggling.

But the individual has to make themself someone who sees a good life as a better life, and believe that they deserve a better, longer, freer life -and want it more than they want a free TV, trainers, or a night of violence.

Because once you do that final “fuck you” to the world, and throw yourself in at the deep end – showing your community how much you care about them, along with the police, or authority, you profess to be annoyed with –  then it’s hard to come back from that.  People’s lives have been ruined by this. Not the police, not the politicians. Not even most of the shop owners who will hopefully be insured. But the families of the people who died. The poor people living in rented flats who have had everything turn to ashes. The people who will be out of a job while shops are repaired – if indeed they come back to life.  I don’t think most of the people looting and being generally wankers give one stitch of a thought to Mark Duggan, except in a, yeah, that’s another thing, kind of way. But there are kids out there – the youngest arrested is 11 years old.  People calling for them to be thrown in jail for 10 years.  What then? Our prisons are already overcrowded, and not enough is done within them to rehabilitate people, and prepare them to be useful citizens when they leave. A criminal record is yet another thing which will make life harder for them. It’s fine to say tough, but if you can’t care about their lives, then care about the lives of the people they will commit crime against when they are released.  Think about the money you will have to pay towards their upkeep in jail, their unemployment benefit when they can’t get a job, the policing of their unchanged attitudes and behaviours when they get out.

I understand all angles of this. It’s shit. It’s stupid. And until we actually find a way for us all to start caring about eachother again, and share some moral standards – it’s just going to go round and round and round. Same as it ever was.  What do I think should be done? Start with Community service – work to clean up your mess. Then work in the community you have trampled. Work with the disabled, the elderly, the sick. People who have a whole load more to deal with than just what society chooses to throw at them and still manage not to be idiots. Compulsory education or training until you have a useable qualification or skill – failure not an option. And then compulsory employment. If no one else will give them a job, then society must. The markets don’t like people who are hard work. Doesn’t mean they don’t exist. If you ignore them, they will bite you in the ass. But, I kind of think this should be a template for life anyway. No one should leave prison without qualifications or skills, and an offer of work. No one should leave school unable to read or write, or communicate effectively. People need education, love and support like they need food, otherwise they just will not thrive. Society needs to be our broad church.  I’m not a religious person, but I doubt there were many devout christians, muslims, sikhs, or other believers out there. Not because they think God will punish them, but because religions offer moral guidance and a community which does hold eachother to account. If we are a largely secular nation now, then the state must recognise that it needs to do something to build a replacement for this, which includes all parts of society.

Anyway. Fingers crossed for calm this evening. And my love to you all.

Some other people’s thoughts I didn’t find space to link to:

Five Quick Points about the Riots

A crowd psychology analysis of the riots

The London Riots: On consumerism coming home to roost

Riots reveal two disparate worlds

London Riots – including great video

Riots, Sell Offs and Cascades

(mini) diet blog

OK, it doesn’t count, and it may change between now and next wed, but I just stepped on the scales and it had gone below a stone less than my starting weight! W00T! (whatever that means beyond an expression of excited delight). On the down side, I am now at around what I was when I started my last weightloss attempt. So another 17lbs to go before I get back to what I lost then. Then we’re on new ground for a “healthy” weightloss attempt. (i.e. not induced by involuntary bullimic side effects of pills, or voluntary bullimic issues)

But focus on the positive. I’s a shrinking willow.

Coming Soon

Hallo folks. I have started up this blog as my long-standing blog hosts blog-city are bowing out next year. So pandora’s blog will be no more. Unfortunately that name on wordpress is already taken, so I’m using my other “persona” for this one.  Not sure when I’ll start up here properly. I’ll mirror posts from pandora’s blog for a while, and you can follow my other random witterings on Twitter (@twistedwillow or @pandoraspages) or my other wordpress blogs: Belleadonna’s Books (book reviews), and Pandora’s Pages (indexing)