Friday, 30 July 2010

Demanding Justice - holding the police to account

Today I attended a protest outside the Office of Department of Public
Prosecution HQ. This was in response to the CPS decision to charge no one over the
death of Ian Tomlinson, despite a mountain of evidence showing him being
attacked by PC Simon Harwood at the G20 protests on 1 April last year.

The demo also served to highlight the deaths in police custody which have occurred over the years, for which, again, no one has been held to account. There was a real feeling of anger and injustice today - and rightly so.

This will be a long battle, but one that needs to be fought. If the police are not held to account for attacking and killing - depsite, in Ian Tomlinson's case, there being video evidence of what happened - we do not truly live in a democracy.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Support Breastfeeding - don't be a boob!

This morning my daughter and I attended a good-sized demo outside Haringey's St Ann's Hopital, ahead of a meeting of NHS Haringey board members. The demo was part of a campaign to reinstate the post of a midwife specialising in helping new mums to breastfeed after NHS Haringey scrapped it during National Breastfeeding Week.

There were breast-shaped placards and cakes which I can best describe as titillating.

Although the World Health Authority recommends that babies are exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months, with breastfeeding continuing for at least the first two years, UK breastfeeding rates are low and have been for decades: 42% of babies are being breastfed at 6 weeks, 29% at 4 months and just 22% at 6 months of age. Haringey should be doing everything it can to support breastfeeding in the borough – cutting breastfeeding support is exactly the wrong way to go.

It’s support as well as information that is essential – research from 2004 showed that 9 out of 10 women who gave up breastfeeding in the first 6 weeks said they stopped before they wanted to because they didn’t feel they had access to adequate support.
If NHS Haringey can afford to pay its Chief Executive, Tracey Baldwin, £190,000 a year, Haringey can afford to support breastfeeding mothers.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

They're my woods and I'll walk if I want to!

When I first moved to Summersby Road in Highgate, one of my work colleagues looked up my flat on Google Earth. "You lucky thing!" she said. "You are literally going to live in the woods!"

It's true. The block in which I live is surrounded on two sides by the edges of Queen's Wood, one of the four ancients woodlands in Haringey. I can get into the woods via an entrance a few steps from my front door, and it's fair to say I have totally fallen in love with the place. It is splendid in every season, and its unkempt, natural state (much less manicured than neighbouring Highgate Woods - though I love that too), means that I have spent a lot of time there over the last 4 years. Indeed, I'm a 'Friend of Queen's Wood' - the organisation recently celebrated its 10 year anniversary.

It's strange, however, when I tell people this. I often get a very negative reaction, especially from women. "Is that safe?" they ask. "Should you go there alone?" Someone even said recently "Wasn't someone murdered there once?" (I don't know, I'm not one for subscribing to 'Grisly Murders Monthly' - first edition comes with a miniature Peter Sutcliffe).

The fact is, I've always felt very safe there. I walk with my daughter, or by myself, and think thoughts. And those thoughts are not 'Hmmm...I wonder if I am going to be raped and murdered today?'

That said, my female neighbour was flashed at in the woods last week when walking with her son. I have advised her to tell the local safer neighbourhoods' team (the police, to you). I await to see what reaction she will get from them, and whether they will advise her not to walk in the woods without a big strong man to protect her...

I say this because I was recently working as a backmarker on Walk London, and we were traversing the beautiful Parkland walk (we're not short of scenic places to stroll around these parts!). A woman was walking with me and she said "It's great being back on the Parkland walk. I used to come here all the time, but a local policeman told me never to come here alone again, it was too dangerous."

This made me very angry. It would make the job of the police a lot easier, I suppose, if women all deigned to stay at home, because surely by stepping out of our front doors we are asking for it, massively. How incredibly stupid. Maybe the police should concentrate on catching criminals, and the justice system should be improved so that we get a higher conviction rate for rape, rather than imprisoning women with fear serving as bars.

Screw that - I'm off for a walk in the woods. Alone.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

A post-election project...

When I was out canvassing in Stroud Green, I’d often walk past a little unloved flowerbed which runs along the front of the Hornsey Vale Community Centre. I am a trustee there, and had many a ‘pang’ about how the space should be made use of for growing things both beautiful and edible. After the election, I told myself, after the election…

It turned out that I wasn’t the only one thinking that way. Members of Transition Crouch End were also planning and plotting, and today we started to make our shared vision a reality.

After weeding and de-littering the area, we stacked up big old tyres as planters (kindly donated by a local garage), and then filled them with compost. Plants such as herbs, geraniums and sunflowers have been put in and we’re setting up a watering rota – essential, of course, in this weather.

I returned home covered in soil and engine oil (from the tyres – the rolling of which was a joy. I definitely recommend rolling tyres).

The plan is to apply for funding for ‘Stage 2’, which will be to build a raised bed and replace the tyres with a more permanent garden.

This summer should be pretty blooming though, and it only took a small group of us a few hours work. The hope is that local people will get involved and it can really have a feeling a shared ownership. That’s the idea with transition towns, after all – building community, sharing skills, and moving away from multi-nationals and an oil-based economy, and towards growing food locally.

I had loads of fun today. Physical labour is to be recommended, I feel, though if I ache like a billy goat tomorrow, I may revise my opinion…