Living The Dream

Most people have dreams, it’s the most natural human thing to have. Having a dream signifies a future, hope, excitement, ambition, potential, safety, love, innovation, the list goes on and on. Without the dreams of people we would be without many of the things we have today, some of them good, some of them bad.

Dreams are also thought of as a night time thing but, in the traditional sense, living the dream basically means doing what you want to do or living the type of life you want to live. It means achieving  goals that you might set for yourself and living the joys that your hard work has brought you. For some people this is easier than it is for others for a whole raft of reasons. Health, mental health, wealth, personal capacity, family, support, circumstances in general can either help or hinder the path towards dreams becoming a reality. Some people seem to be able to achieve their dreams despite the most improbable of blocks put in their way and who knows why that might be.

The other evening Gulwali Passarley who is from Afghanistan, now aged 24 and originally came to the UK as a refugee aged 14, came to Saffron Walden to give a talk about his book and his life. He was utterly inspirational in talking about his dreams and his dogged determination to achieve those dreams. He has gone above and beyond what the average human might be able to achieve and I would recommend reading his book, ‘The Lightless Sky,’ as a window into his world. It is his story but it is also representative of many people who make a gruelling journey to reach their dreams, or to escape their nightmares.

Last year, 10,000 children went missing in Europe. Children who had made a journey escaping war and poverty and travelling alone and these are the children that we know about. I suspect that the real numbers are a great deal more. 10,000 Madeleine McCanns and hardly a murmer is heard about them. The thought of what will have happened to those children should chill the bones of any decent human being, it keeps me awake. 10,000 children dreaming of reaching safety, of having a future, of having an education. If you speak to any refugee child about their dreams then the answer is pretty much always ‘To go to school.’ The dreams of the parents are that their children should live a safer and better life than they have lived. That is the dream of any parent. We all wish for our children to be safe, to be happy and to be able to live their potential. Why should any other parent be any different?

Our government has taken in  around 350 unaccompanied minors from Europe after having promised to take in up to 3000. A law was passed, the law was ignored. Children promised safety, the very basic of human dreams, are now left as fodder to those that take advantage of anyone who has nobody at their backs. It is a disgrace, it is more than a disgrace it is heartbreaking. It is terrifying that a set of people, whose only job is to speak and act for their people, is so capable of ignoring the wish of their people and actively behaving in a way that causes harm. They are not our responsibility, people may cry out in indignation. Children are everyone’s responsibility. That is an unarguable fact. Wherever there is a child that needs looking after there should be someone to look after them. Full stop. Anyone who has an answer of ‘Yes, but…’ should go and nail their head to the fridge.

Whatever dream a person may have, you could pretty much guarantee that becoming a refugee was not on their list of dreams. Not part of the plan. It’s not on my list of dreams that’s for sure. For whatever reason, a person may be pursuing their dreams of reaching safety, a better life, it is not for us to judge those reasons. Trust me, there are systems in place that are doing the judging for all of us and with knobs on.

Why are some people allowed to dream ‘big’ and others have to keep their dreams in a box? I’ve never understood why some people are more entitled than others, this remains a complete mystery to me. This goes for whole swathes of society. Different nations, different classes, genders, you name it. Something, somewhere, has decided that there are a graded level of dreams that we are allowed to aspire to. The school that I went to did not encourage big dreaming. Secretary if you were a girl (a studious nice girl) and plumber if you were a boy (a studious nice boy) and apart from that, most people at school probably just aspired to stay out of the justice system. Similarly, for refugees, they are encouraged to keep their dreams small, to stay in their box. So much potential, so many dreams, so much brilliance squashed in the name of fear, prejudice and power.

When I was little, my biggest dream was that one day I would be able to have a dog that I loved and that loved me and that he would sleep curled up on my bed. For years, I pretended that it was true and then it did come true when I left home and met my first furry four legged mate. When my dog curls up on my bed, I have a little smile and say to myself ‘I’m living my dream.’ I am living the dream of the younger me. Now I dream that the world would treat one another with humanity, that people would think in terms of humanity rather than money and statistics.  That children were cared for. That people could aspire and achieve their dreams regardless of where they come from and their circumstances or, maybe, especially because of where they come from and their circumstances.

Maybe if we start talking to one another about our dreams. Instead of asking ‘What do you do?’ ‘How big is your house?’ and about careers and cars and money, how about we ask ‘What is your dream?’ Wouldn’t that just feel a whole lot better? And if you question the journey that a refugee might make then just ask yourself, why are you allowed to dream and they are not?

Dear Europe …

Dear Europe,

Where to start? I am going to use the collective royal ‘we’ on behalf of this country although I realise that I am not speaking on behalf of all of the people. I am writing from me but it may voice the views and feelings of more than just me so I’ll use ‘we.’ At the moment, we are a bit embarrassed about what is happening and I just wanted you to know that there are whole rafts of British people who do not want this divorce to go ahead. We have a ridiculous set of people ‘running’ this country who are dashing about making decisions that are making many of us hang our heads in shame and disbelief.

28 years ago, yesterday, I was lucky enough to bring a bonny boy into this world. He was born in Italy where I was living at the time. Technically, my son and I now do not belong to the same nation/continent/call it what you will. Technically, the country has voted to separate me and my son but we are lucky enough to find ways around this and also to not let fear take a grip although it did manage to have a damn good poke at the time. If we listened to all the fear mongering and desperate narrative that is sweeping our nation then we would be living in fear of having to live in different countries. I know that this is a very real thing for many people.

One of the problems that we have in this country is that we have a media that is out of control and, quite frankly, completely bonkers and that is where many people get their information from. I know that you do not have that problem to the degree that we have but I would issue a word of caution to not allow it to reach the stage that we have arrived at. Although we are currently the laughing stock of Europe, please do not think that you are immune to such folly. I have no idea what news is reaching your shores about what our government is doing but whatever is being said will not be representative of all of the people in this country but, as with so many things in this world, we will all be painted with the same brush.

I would ask of you to please try and treat us in a way that has always been when we come to Europe. Please do not think of us all as people wanting to separate ourselves from being Europeans, as that is something that a great many of us consider to be a large part of our identity. Try and not laugh in our faces, hard as that may be to do. We are managing to keep our sense of humour intact (just) and I would ask that you do the same. Even if it does not feel it, we are actually all in this together.

One thing that did strike me personally, and I wonder if this is something that might be relevant to people in other countries, is that after the referendum results I realised how little I knew of many parts of our country. I looked at the map of red (leavers) and blue (remainers) and realised that I had spent little time in vast amounts of the red bits on the map. Actually, where I live is a staunch leave/Tory area so that throws that argument out straight away but, generally, it made me think about the many areas of this country about which I have absolutely no idea. We are anything but a United Kingdom it would seem in so many ways. It is no wonder then that the country has become so polarised, maybe it always has been. So many people living in pockets of the country with no clue as to what is happening just down the road for we are, essentially, a small island. Is this true of all countries?

One note of reassurance to people in this country, and perhaps to you, is that the areas with the highest populations of non British people were the ones who mostly voted to remain within Europe. The whole tag line of immigration is a complete myth cooked up by the idiots spinning us vitriolic narratives for those stupid enough to believe them. I still stand firm by the belief that there should be compulsory dna tests which might go some way to busting these ridiculous myths out of the water.

I would ask that you resist the urge to stamp on our heads until we beg for mercy although I can see how that might be tempting. As ever, it will only be us lot who will come off worse. Most of us do not have the ridiculous notion of being a world conquering empire, ready and able to stand alone against the world. Also we seem to be being forced into a nightmare friendship with Trump and, just that alone, should be enough to elicit some sympathy surely?

So, dear Europe, can we still be friends? One thing the people of this country are good at is laughing at ourselves so we will be doing that job for you. There has been a bit of a flap about people making their way on to this island of ours but I’m just worried about how we’re going to get off! When you are busy hanging onto your bellies laughing at the folly and insanity of this nation, please spare a quiet thought for those of us who are sitting head in hands trapped on a small island being run by a bunch of lunatics.

The photo is of a stone that my son carved the word ‘nothing’ onto. Nothing is written in stone. Clever eh.  Nothing is ever written in stone and we can only hope that this time in history sees us all coming out the other end intact. Currently, our government seems to be steering us back into the dark ages so if you see images of us bear baiting and jousting in the streets then that is why. Personally, I would quite like to do some jousting but not all the things that go with it like shoving children up chimneys and having all my teeth fall out because I can’t go to the dentist which is already a reality (the dentist I mean, not the children up chimneys).

So, here’s to nothing being written in stone and here’s to a general civility that hopefully can see us through this whole holy mess.