A bit of Gloom

I had a bit of a blip last week – not surprising as I have been semi isolating since March — and this was before Boris’s weekend lockdown announcement. My IPAD and I became best best friends as oppose to just best friends.  I sat on my rocking chair watching hours of Netflix,  BBC dramas and listening to Radio 4 plays.   Mind numbing but it was just about all I could muster up any enthusiasm for. It didn’t  help that my oven packed up, my Kindle broke and I had a row with my unreliable  roofers who having let me down four times  refused to do the job  because apparently I had been rude to them! Leaving  me with scaffold costing over £500. So,  guess going into a bit of fug  under the circumstances can be excused.

 But I realise just how dangerous it can be if we allow ourselves to get sucked into a gloomy place.   I had  to go to the  —   how-lucky-am-I place  —  and I am, and I know it.  I just needed to remind myself. And it came in the  guise of a  children’s book that  was recommended.   When Stars are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson is a  graphic children’s book  which tells the story of 11-year-old Omar who aged four fled worn torn Somalia with his little brother to a refugee camp in Dadaab in Kenya. Separated from their mother, they were looked after by a friendly stranger.  As I know only too well from my work with refugees and asylum seekers no one chooses to be a refugee. And with  so many mixed stories circulating about refugees and asylum seekers children can become confused and in some cases frightened by newspaper headlines. So, I was delighted to be able to find something to purchase for my god children. I know not a very exciting Christmas pressi, but they will get something else as well. Isn’t that the role of a godmother. I might not be very   godly, but I do have a social conscience and thus can hopefully steer them in the right direction.

 Omar and Hassan  spent 15 years at the camp before being resettled by the U.N. to Arizona. Omar graduated from university in 2014 and now works as a resettlement case manager in Pennsylvania, working with refugees to help them reach self-sufficiency in the US. So, although a sad story there is a happy ending of sorts.

Helping children to understand some of the complexities of life is important. I remember sharing the graphic novel The Black Dog with my children to help them understand their father’s depression. It is an excellent book and really helped them. Definitely recommend it and its sequel Living with the Black Dog to parents and indeed to partners of those who suffer from depression.  Hopefully When Stars are Scattered will also help children to gain an understanding of how no one would ever want to leave their country unless circumstances forced them to. It should be required reading in all schools.

I realised also last week the importance of structure on one’s mental health during this COVID time. Reading some of my early blogs it became apparent that my structure had slipped and last week it had become almost non-existent. Just getting out of bed was an effort. Luckily I saw the warning signs and I am happy to report that I am back. 

Psychologists agree that structure is increasingly important when we are stuck  in a lockdown and that the reasons why  so many of us are feeling lost at the moment is that humans tend to thrive off structure and routine.

 “A daily routine helps us put healthy habits in place, so we get the most out of our day. And when we feel like we’ve achieved something – no matter how small – we’re going to generally feel much happier in ourselves,” explains psychologist Dr Elena Touroni. Of course, I knew this I had just allowed myself to become lazy and a bit too self  indulgent.

And remembering Joan Bakewell’s comments about scheduling reading time in one’s daily plan I ordered Isabel Allende’s book A Long Petal of the Sea.

“Let’s be careful out there”

Poignant Moments

Feeling grateful this morning that I am alive. I have just spent the last few hours trailing through a list of names on My Heritage for a possible tv documentary looking for people who might have been saved by a friend’s uncle from the Nazis. It is a very sobering experience and puts everything else in to context.

The list is long. All these names all these people who had families, stories, lives, friends, lovers and yet so many of them perished. Born in Berlin, in Leipzig, in Vienna, in Romania, in Poland, died in Auschwitz. One entry was particular poignant; born December 1942 in Auschwitz, died January 1943 Auschwitz.

It’s a place I rarely go as it is too painful. As a young Jew I went through a stage of reading everything about the Holocaust – I needed to know. But stopped after reading Primo Levi’s Book If this is a man. A good place to stop. Remarkable book. Remarkable man.

Odd that it coincided with me finishing reading last night The Last Kings of Shanghai by Jonathan Kaufman which shines a light on the role China played in offering a temporary refuge for some 18,000 Jews fleeing Europe. Shamefully one of the few countries to offer a home to eastern European Jews escaping Hitler. Despite Britain’s pride in rescuing several thousand Jewish children before WWII, the truth is that successive British governments failed Europe’s Jews before the Holocaust – and afterwards.

It is something I am acutely aware of when looking at the plight of the current refugees fleeing their war torn countries. It feels like there is an uncomfortable parallel in the language being used to describe those seeking asylum today and the language used to describe Jews seeking refuge in the 1930’s. The Daily Mail back in 1938 referred the Jews escaping Germany as “Stateless Jews pouring into this country” and it warned of “aliens” entering the UK through the “back door”. Sound familiar?

I know its all getting very heavy so I will leave writing about Patrick Melrose, the SKY drama series, depicted by the brilliant Benedict Cumerbatch and whether his psychopathic father was genetically evil. I had been thinking of discussing whether one could be born evil or whether the environment had a part to play – but maybe I will leave that for another day.

Instead I will end with the random statistic that apparently according to a new study by Leeds, Edinburgh and UCL universities Earth has lost 28 trillion tonnes of ice since 1994 . But of course climate change is a myth!