For Sarah.

Steadfast we stand, we shine our lights in solidarity to the memory of your soul.

The tragedy that took away your cherished life is beyond unimaginable and I send my heartfelt love and sympathy to your family and loved ones.

It is so hard I have drilled it into my children and so many girls that I have taught about how to try to be safe on the streets. Not because I wanted them to be afraid, but because I didn’t want them to ever come to harm. As a mother for me, that has always been the one thing that was important, for them not to be harmed. What saddens me is that they have both already had to survive sexual harassment that is unwarranted and unwanted.

I have walked in the middle of the road on a dark night to avoid the parked cars, I have changed my route and taken a longer safer one, I have quickened my pace at the heavy sound of footsteps behind me, I have had my keys clenched firmly in my fist poised and my cellphone ready to dial.

I have avoided going out at night, been the sober driver so I didn’t leave myself or any of my friends vulnerable. I have gone to evening events and my mantra is always the same – I can have a glass of wine when I get home. I have worried as a mother, ensured that my girls could phone me at any time of day or night and in any state of drunkeness, My husband and I have rescued them in the middle of the night, provided a taxi service to ensure that no-one was left vulnerable or alone.

I have survived being followed, being stalked, being cat-called, seeing men expose themselves in public, (more than once- I was just 7 years old the first time it was in the Children’s play park.) I have been assaulted and stood my ground and had to protect myself and I am acutely aware that I am not alone and that most of what I have described is laughed off, unreported and unchallenged.

In my thirties I was assaulted and abused for going into my local bar without my husband and no-one in the bar stood up for me.

Yesterday at the age of 54 I went on a 5km walk alone, by myself, along the canal in the daytime, for me it was my attempt to reclaim the day in memory of Sarah Everard. I do go walking on my own but always in places where there are likely to be other people. There are hills I would still like to climb but I still lack the courage-it is a work in progress- I am working on it.

In Whangarei in May 2016 we did reclaim the Hatea Loop with what seemed like the whole town, following a shocking sexual assaultof a runner in the early hours of dawn. We turned out to walk at sunset, men women and children, and when this lockdown is finished maybe we can do this in memory of Sarah too.

© Alison Jean Hankinson

Past One O’Clock…

SO I am doing my own version of poetry month and this is a poem that will always have meaning for me and when she was younger this was my Ellen’s favourite….don’t want to break any copyright so here is just a snapshot:

“Night wraps the sky in tribute from the stars.
In hours like these, one rises to address
The ages, history, and all creation.”

Taken from Vladimir Mayakovsky– Past One O’Clock.

We love the whole poem and everything it represents, it is a very tragic story and the poem was found amongst his papers following his suicide and also formed part of the epilogue of his suicide note.

Mayakovsky was a leading poet during the Russian revolution and was jailed several times and reputedly began to write poetry during a spell in solitary confinement.

Past One O’Clock

Cat did a whoopsie

Cat did a jobby on the carpet

Mum’s not happy

Dad’s kinda snappy,

Gaffer might have to join the pigs at the market.

©Alison Jean Hankinson

Well I know this isn’t a literary masterpiece, and I now realise that it isn’t national poetry month, apparently that is in April if you are in the US, no idea about anywhere else, absolutely no idea why I thought it was March, maybe it is in March somewhere in the world. I feel I have committed now, so I will stick with having my poetry month as March this year.

In northern brogue and also in Scottish brogue, a jobby is a non offensive way of describing a whoopsie or a poop.

Light-hearted day 2 of Alison’s poetry month.

Perhaps we are grieving…

Some days it is harder to find the buoyancy, it is if we have all been stopped dead in our tracks. I wonder if it is because we are grieving, we are all grieving and in truth most of us know that at this point in time it is impossible to identify exactly what we are grieving for, but we all know that whatever is gained something has been lost.

Solitude and isolation, they are two very different experiences. I am adept at solitude, and to be honest on the whole I find it pleasurable, I can occupy myself with so many endless tasks and activities that are meaningful when I am alone and it doesn’t detract from the experience-but isolation isn’t solitude.

Isolation is more than being alone. Isolation is being removed. Being removed from society. Being removed from the social activities that are normally just the mundane mecahnics of modern life. The bus journey from the park and ride. It is a shared moment or activity with others, people who actually have no connection or meaning to your own life other than to share that 5 minute rattle and ride before another dreary day at the office.

We took so much for granted and now we find we are grieving for the mediocrity of our lives, the cup of coffee at the train station cafe, alone but yet with others, all equally alone. Such solitude was bliss, people watching, relishing the froth and hum of the social lives being played out and paraded alongside ours.

The gossip, the whisper, the other lives passing us by that reminded us that we were not one but part of a whole. All those other people. Now we are insular, we walk by on the other side of the road, we try not to raise our head or speak. We avoid the smell of another’s cologne or the hesitant brush of a human hand across our shoulder.

We grieve for our loss. We long to be in a crowded room, aroma of roasting coffee, sweet sound of idle chatter, music playing in the background, a smile across the room as eyes meet and for a fleeting moment share the understanding of what lies between them. We grieve for real human connection.

©Alison Jean Hankinson

Missing School……..

Many around me are worried about the impact of national lockdown on the education of their children. Our education system is merely a vehicle or system to encourage and support the acquisition of knowledge and understanding, ultimately to empower and enable our young people to stand up and be counted. It is not the only vehicle. Knowledge is important because ultimately it provides empowerment. It gives us the voice and confidence to stand up for ourselves and the others around us.

Undoubtedly there are and have been significant impacts from the three periods of lockdown over the last year that have taken their toll on the education and also on the physical and emotional development of our younger generations. It is impossible to quantify or label realistically what these impacts are or will be. We have a duty to recognise and acknowledge that the human race has always shown remarkable adaptability and resilience in the face of crisis, trauma and adversity. Perhaps we should focus on what can strengthen the resiliency of our younger generations and their families at this juncture in time instead of ruminating on that which we cannot change.

We already have much wisdom and knowledge in this field. We know what is successful and we know the value of strengthening protective factors. For many of our young, our old and probably across society as a whole it is the deprivation of quality social interaction that is causing more immediate harm than the lack of schooling. Our schools were hubs of meaningful and sometimes less meaningful interaction. It is the words that have become so much a part of our 2020’s vocabulary that are the most damaging in the long run, social distancing and isolation. Our children are probably grieving the loss of their social interactions more than the curriculum and education itself.

Hopefully we will return to some state of normalcy soon and we can begin the complex task of rebuilding and I suspect the curriculum in our schools will need significant remodelling to support the development of a strong and resilient society for our new future.

We cannot alter what has happened in the past year and we are unable to determine what the next twelve months will look like for our families, our education system our society or the world. We can focus on the strengths of our responses so far, the amazing job being done by so many families in very unexpected circumstances and give them the positive feedback and support that they deserve and need. Teachers and school support staff all over the UK are keeping regular contact with their families and doing everything they can to this end. When the dust has settled and we can see the way forward then we can look at what needs to be out in place to futureproof education system, and what needs to be done to support this current school-age generation to thrive and survive in spite of the challenges that the pandemic has brought.

© Alison Jean Hankinson

A woman’s lot…..

We have come a long way, so much has been achieved, so much has changed and yet so much remains the same.

Globally according to the UN during their lifetime 35 per cent of women have experienced physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence, or sexual violence by a non-partner. 

It isn’t much better in the UK-the figure in the UK is 29%

Globally every day 137 women are killed by a member of their family.

At least 200 million women and girls, aged 15–49 years, have undergone female genital mutilation.

15 million adolescent girls worldwide, aged 15–19 years, have experienced forced sex. 

This week I despaired as I read about the continuing plight of the Uyghur women detained and suffering in the camps in Xinjiang. It breaks my heart that we are no further forward and that we live in a world where rape is still used as a weapon of war and an instrument of torture.

I feel that I have been so fortunate to have had the opportunities that I have had and that I have had education, economic independence and the opportunity to be an advocate for others, but I also feel inadequate in that there still seems to be so much that we are unable to change or influence.

Dominic Raab gave a statement to the commons on January 12th about the issue of what is happening to the Uyghurs in Xinjiang. He stated we had a moral duty to respond. He noted that living conditions within the camps violate basic human rights and that there were also reports of the forced sterilisation of women.

The full speech given by Dominic Raab.

Facts and figures: Ending violence against women | What we do
Facts and figures: Ending violence against women | What we do (2021). Available at: https://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women/facts-and-figures (Accessed: 6 February 2021).

Image from Wikimedia, Creative commons. Uyghur woman from Kizilsu Merkezi, Kizilsu Kirghiz Autonomous Prefecture of Xinjiang, China.license:https://www.flickr.com/photos/alior/, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

© Alison Jean Hankinson

Te here tangata

It is fragile this thing called life but we are one.

All part of one tapestry in life. The warp is our connection to the past and the future, and the weft is that which connects us now. The present.

There is a Maori whakatauki, Ka mua Ka muri, walking backwards into the future. It reminds us that we can learn from the past and it will help us deal with what lies ahead.

I guess the difficulty is that we often don’t see the relevance, meaning and importance of moments- until they have gone. This is why, however difficult it might be we have to accept the current moment for what it is- and to value it regardless. And whilst singularly our life might seem insignificant or unimportant, that it is part of something bigger, that we are part of something bigger.

Perhaps we are like firefly’s. Perhaps we light the way for others.

©Alison Jean Hankinson

Beyond the horizon…

It had been a long journey, her feet bore the bruised hallmarks of a difficult life, but still she walked on.

She knew that even if she could not reach the rich promises of the future on the horizon she could leave footprints for those who mattered to follow.

©Alison Jean Hankinson

Safe anchor…

It is easy to feel adrift when the world is so full of uncertainty.

Hold on to the treasured moments, the significant people, the precious memories and the valued places that have provided you with shelter through life’s storm. Let them be your anchor.

© Alison Jean Hankinson

That which drives us

I look around me as winter reaches its finale and I am mindful of the fragility of our current existence.

It should be what we have that drives us, not what we have not.

©Alison Jean Hankinson