Monthly Archives: December 2006

Who Wins Keeps Christmas :Morag vs The PC Brigade

“Please accept without obligation, express or implied, these best
wishes for an environmentally safe, socially responsible, low stress,
non addictive, and gender neutral celebration of the winter solstice
holiday as practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the
religious persuasion of your choice (but with respect for the religious
or secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or for their choice
not to practice religious or secular traditions at all) and further for a
fiscally successful, personally fulfilling, and medically uncomplicated
onset of the generally accepted calendar year (including, but not
limited to, the Christian calendar, but not without due respect for the
calendars of choice of other cultures). The preceding wishes are
extended without regard to the race, creed, colour, age, physical
ability, religious faith, choice of computer platform, or sexual
preference of the wishee(s)”.


Morag has to hold her hand up and say she is a true Christmas Bunny. Loves everything about Christmas and neery a bah-humbug escapes from her lips. At the crack of sparrow today Morag decided to brave the crowds and venture forth early into the nearest M&S Food Hall to avoid The Curse of the Amateur Shopper. With Tall Child at the trolley and a determined ‘Don’t even THINK of messing with me’ attitude, Morag was through the aisles and at the checkout in next to no time.

I probably spend more time than I should in say emporium so am on nodding acquaintance with most of the staff. Due to my Man on a Mission approach my 17 containers of brandy butter and one packet of broccoli were packed and boxed for collection in record time. Pin-number checked in and I am in an ‘all’s right with the world kind of a mood’ so before departing I cheerily say to Lovely-Indian-Lady-Usually-At-Checkout-9 “Merry Christmas!”

…. Immediately the noise level in Brent Cross M&S went from North London’s answer to the Tower of Babel to Boxing Day in Santa’s Workshop – you could hear a pin drop. The woman in the queue behind me actually started to blush!

Lovely-Indian-Lady-Usually-At-Checkout-9 looked around, shrugged her shoulders, handed me back my well-worn bit of plastic and said “You too!”. But not before giving me That Secret Look – the look that implies ‘at least YOU have some sense and aren’t like all these pillocks’.

Here’s the word from the trenches people – because someone looks different than you do doesn’t mean they’re not Christian. Just because someone isn’t Christian doesn’t mean they don’t celebrate Christmas on some level. Morag and Tall Child are continuing their tradition of going to Jubilant Jews for Christmas lunch and will then move on to Mild-Mannered Muslims for Christmas pudding.

Yes Christmas is to many a religious holiday – it has also come to symbolise to many a spirit of ‘peace on earth and good will to ALL mankind’. Not just the mankind we like.

So the next time over the next few days that you feel the urge to be proud to be Christian, or just happy to be a member of the human race say whatever you want to whoever you want, it’s the smile that goes along with it that’s important.

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL… ( and a year of good nights )




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To Frock or Not to Frock (Marriage vs Cohabiting)

What does this topic have to do with politics? There is an amazing discussion going on over with Ian and co , put that together with our recent discussions here and in the media about the effect that non-traditional households are having on the state of our youth which got me thinking. The fabric of society is wearing thin in so many areas and one of the most threadbare is the state of our young people. As someone on the ground in this area Morag will say (without being patronizing) that there are thousands of wonderful parents and even more wonderful young people out there. But we don’t get the stats on them. The numbers we hear are of those in trouble. It is now being said that children growing up outside of marriage are having more trouble than most. So however much we don’t like it there are some home-truths we might need to face up to.

I came out recently in support/defence of the idea of marriage as something that is preferable for our children. Be assured that of course I don’t mean ‘any old marriage’. And of course a union that is really ‘bad’ is not good for children. However that is another discussion entirely.

Here are a few things we may want to think about.
• Unions where people are cohabiting are more likely to break up than marriages.
• Most such unions last less than 2 years before breaking up (or sometimes changing to marriage)
• Co-habitations with children are more likely to end
• 50% of women who have children in a cohabitating relationship will end up as lone-unmarried mothers
• Looking at children born in 1997 show that 70% of those born into households where their parents are married will spend their entire childhood with both their parents, whereas only 36 % of those children born into cohabiting households will have that experience. (* goes into all this in more detail)

What does any of this mean? Or what difference does it make in the end? More than anything children crave stability. The shenanigans involved in ending a relationship will cause major disruptions. Children, craving stability, sometimes become lost in the ensuing confusion. Also there are often very radical financial consequences which cause additional changes and far-reaching repercussions for a very young child to deal with.

So the purpose of Morag’s musings weren’t/aren’t to tell people what to do re their personal choices. It was to open the discussion about the fact that as much as we now tend to do whatever we want – and then make up reasons why it’s perfectly fine to do it –and often the most vulnerable amongst us suffer for it.

For Morag the mission is to get more people to consider marriage as the preferred choice. And having made that choice to try to get people to make a bigger effort to keep to the commitment and not go running off the first time someone other than your intended winks at you and tells you you’re wonderful.

You have committed to each other, you’ve committed to these children who didn’t ask to be born. If your marriage gets broken at least try to fix it. If you can’t fix it then at least make sure your children don’t get broken as well in the process.

Someone said the other day that I was being smug and to set the record straight that it is probably more of a twisted rather than smug grin. I am not some alice-band wearing, 4 x 4 driving yummy mummy. I am an up at 6.30, getting people whose Latin is better than mine to help with the homework type of yummy mummy. I am a lone parent (from a marriage that ended when my son was 10), and part of my work involves working with families in crisis.

I have walked this path and continue to do so. Morag is just a parent trying to close the distance between what we read in the papers and what we live in our own lives. Trying to turn see what we can do to connect the dots between the stats and our lives. As they say ‘Politics by the people, for the people, of the people’.


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The More We Know The Less They’ll Blow

About 18 months ago Morag received a phonecall from a major financial institution. They had friends within the halls of power who had gotten wind of a new plan the government was considering to revolutionize the pension industry.
Research had shown that at the rate we were going the not-too-distant future would find us in deep-doo-doo. We are living longer, saving less (if at all), living in debt – all a recipe for disaster.

Put that together with the fact that if it all went terribly wrong where would everyone be looking to for rescue? They would be looking to Nanny of course, and Nanny’s handbag was going to be empty. I would suspect it was quango’d and masticated to death before it got to Morag’s level but here was what was ‘allegedly’ decided. Before I give you the bare bones of it let me say that this information was from a multi-national, multi-billion dollar/pound/yen/shekel financial institution who was investing quite a chunk of money in something they believed would put them in a good position when the plan was put into action.

The theory was that the government was never going to be able to bail us out when the proverbial hits the fan so novel concept – they were going to show us how to help ourselves!!!! Yes, Labor was finally going to hold up their hands and say ‘let the people learn how to take care of themselves’.

The idea was an education scheme. Money was going to be allocated (the amount I was told was approx £150. per employee) to educate the population on the benefits of savings. The money was going to be paid to employers with the proviso that it had to be spent on the education of employees. It was going to be monitored to be certain that it was spent appropriately and everyone from Mr. Patel at the cornershop with two employees, to a car-manufacturer with 2,000 was going to have to participate in this scheme.

The government was not going to do the educating, that was going to be run by individual accredited concerns. The institution that hired Morag brought me in to do research and come up with ways to make the concept of saving user-friendly.

The average person, Morag included, just sticks their fingers in their ears when anyone mentions saving. The idea was Morag would come in and in a warm, cuddly, non-threatening way (no sniggering!) speak to people about the emotional benefits of saving and the disasters of not saving. Then the accredited fellas with the letters after their names would come in and educate all and sundry to the available options. Then we would all go away, chat amongst ourselves and take charge of our own future – for a change.

OK it might not have worked but if you look at it with a Conservative mindset surely you would believe that when presented with appropriate information geared towards their circumstances that most people would be sensible enough to make the right choices. What we have now is bad for the employee, bad for the employer – and lets face it most of us are either one or the other.

£150. an employee was too high and not necessary. Morag sat down with a calculator and a couple of City whizzkids and we figured out that £25 – £40. was more than enough to do the job properly.

This educational expense could have been gathered in one of three ways. Either employers could have paid the entire amount (which would have been a one time payment and a hell of a lot cheaper than what they now have to do). Or the government could have paid the entire amount (it is also more cost effective than what they’re going to have to do now. Or thirdly they could have split it.

In any event it would have been a hell of a lot cheaper than this nonsense that they have now come up with. No one wants this and there might be three people who think this rubbish will work. They had a choice to facilitate people learning to help themselves and taking control of their own futures but we couldn’t have that now could we. After all what is a Nanny without children on the end of her apronstrings……………..

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Please Don’t Slap the Mummy – Breakdown Britain

One of the reasons that Morag came into existence in the first place was in an effort to find an environment in which it was possible to say whatever she felt on whichever topic she chose. Do not be fooled we may not always have to pay for it but in modern day Britain our speech is not always free.

There are two topics in today’s climate that are no-go conversational areas under any circumstances: one is the importance of marriage; the other is why it is better for children to be born into a two parent family unit.

Feel free to put forth thoughts on everything about family structures from ‘Why little Johnny has two Mummies’, to ‘Having a child on your own, the brave woman’s choice’. But have the temerity to say ‘Well actually that might not be the best idea……………..’ on any of these subjects and there will be a voice whispering down the microphone in your ear, or a radio presenter waving frantically ‘no don’t go there’. If you’re trying to do it in print you will often be told, ‘I’m sorry but this will offend our readers’ or ‘thank you very much but we were unable to use the piece after all’.

Stand up and be counted as one of the few who is willing to say ‘Marriage is a good thing no matter what the stats say’. ‘Children tend to function better in a stable environment with two parents present’. You will look around and find you are pretty much standing alone.

What has happened to our society when standing up for what one believes in has become a badge of disgrace? When saying ‘listen we may not like to hear it but this is what is best for our children’ became something one didn’t do. When did we become so afraid of not ‘hurting people’s feelings’ or ‘stepping on anyone’s toes’ that we kept our mouths shut while all else around us failed?

So today we stand up and be counted. We make it known that as a party we believe that couples should be married, ‘how quaint’, and that it is better for our children. ‘Not true’ will be heard at dinner parties from one end of Islington to the other. Well marriage is not quaint – it’s hard bloody work. And just about every report on the subject will tell you that yes it is better for your children if there is a Mummy and a Daddy who store their shoes peacefully in the same bedroom.

BUTBUTBUTBUTBUT —– WE MUST BE CAREFUL!!!! We must be very, very careful how we approach this octopus of an issue. On one hand we have a deep-rooted belief in the sanctity of marriage. We believe that marriage is the bedrock of society. We believe that people need to know that ‘marriage is for a lifetime not just for a Saturday in June’. We need to do what we can, when we can to reintroduce the idea of marriage as the way forward and in general ‘a good thing’.

However we also need to be realistic and look at the figures. The divorce rate in this country is now heading towards the 50% mark. And this is where the octopus issue comes into play.

We must campaign for marriage but we must be very, very careful not to campaign against mothers on their own.

Yes we should stand tall and be counted and say loudly that we do not believe in women going out and making a conscious decision to have a child on their own because ‘I just want one that’s why’.

But we must also be very, very careful that we don’t ostracize or penalize any further people who by the choice of the other half of their ‘til death us do part’ decided to go walkabout. I hate the thought that through a decision made by someone other than me, that my son and I now be shunted into some sort of oddbin. Destined to be regarded as second-class citizens and him destined for a life of crime and social exclusion.

He isn’t. Not as long as I am his mother and his father makes the effort that he does. My job is difficult enough without being told I won’t succeed because his father occupies a different postcode. That wasn’t my choice and don’t slap me for it life has slapped me enough.

Yes by all means champion the cause of marriage – tell me where to sign up. Despite everything that has happened I would be the first one to say ‘I do’ to the right chap. There is no institution finer than that of marriage.

But at the same time let us also stand up and loudly say we also need to show people how to do well by their children if the ‘I do’ becomes I don’t.

Don’t let Labor beat us on this one if we ignore the facts we’ll end up slapping Mummy and she just doesn’t deserve it.


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Will They Buy Me A Frock As Well?…dancing with the NHS

Many years ago Morag met a couple who had been happily married for almost 50 years. When I asked the secret to them being more in love at the end than the beginning of their union, they said in unison “Very simple, we dance every morning”.

It turns out that this couple, no matter what their schedule, always made time for a quick turn around the kitchen before beginning their day. He would take her hand (regular contact), look into her eyes (romance), they would sing a song (shared activity) and off they would go. Awwww…..and yes it certainly did seem to work.

If you dissected what they were doing, as I just have, the formula does make sense. Apply this to the new government initiative to get people dancing as a way to get them healthy and ‘duh’ yes it will work. Get up off your backside and get out dancing and you’ll be more healthy. However should we be paying for it? HELL NO!!!!

I am the first person to say that the NHS does need to spend money on educating people. Education will always save you money in the long run, whatever the topic. ‘The more they know the less you’ll have to blow’ should be the NHS mantra – but this new initiative is just taking the Michael.

When I first moved here years ago and heard the term ‘nanny-state’ to tell the truth I found it quaint and quite cuddly. However I soon realised that it wasn’t nanny like Mary Poppins but more nanny like Ruby Wax in a pinafore…someone badgering you and annoying you to the extent that you finally throw your arms up in the air and go along with what they’re saying just to shut them up. Cardinal Rule to helping people ………. ‘Show them how to do it, don’t do it for them. If you do it for them they will never learn how to do it for themselves’.

Dancing lessons…….what next personal trainers? Oooops – yes actually they’ve mentioned that as well, for the ‘seriously challenged amongst us’. Listen I want to learn to salsa as much as the next person but this is just nonsense. I want the NHS to hold on to the money for the dancing lessons so that later on when I need my hip replacement (that I’ll need from all the dancing and other nefarious activity I now indulge in at my own behest) they’ll be able to help me out. I can dance on my own thank you, help me when I need to walk.


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