Pink raincoat and red wellies…

What to do on a rainy Bank Holiday in May?

We headed to the garden centre. Drifting through the colourful rooms full of gifts, exotic houseplants and garden furniture I was filled with longing for my old garden. It was huge and sheltered but horribly neglected. I now have a small, but easy to care for yard, and last summer it was filled with overflowing pots of colourful geraniums and lobelia. I love it, but often wish that I had a bit more space to cram vegetables and larger shrubs in.

I love geraniums. Red geraniums. I remember a holiday in Greece, on the island of Andros, many years ago. A little ground floor apartment that opened onto a courtyard with a little fountain and packed with bright red geraniums. We woke in the morning to the buzzing of bees as they darted from flower to flower in the heat. A gardener would come every day in the early evening and water them, Ever since, the scent of freshly watered geraniums transports me back to Greece and lazy summer days. But I digress.

This garden centre has a whole aisle of red geraniums in the cathedral-like area covered with a plastic roof that allows sunlight to pour through on good days. Not on Monday. The rain poured and thundered on the roof. Leaks allowed the rain to pour through here and there, while staff ironically continued to water pre-planted tubs and baskets.

Suddenly the intensity of the rain increased dramatically, and the noise reverberated around me, drowning out all other sound. I stood still, eyes closed, taking in the scent of the damp plants and letting the sound of the rain hammering on the roof wash over me.

I opened my eyes and in front of me stood a little imp. A beautiful little girl with blonde curls gathered into a top knot. She was wearing a shiny pink raincoat and red wellies. And she was gazing up at the roof with a look of absolute joy on her face. Her mouth open and her eyes sparkling. Every now and then she gave a little wriggle of delight.

I watched her for a few moments and the noise died down a little. She looked down and caught my eye. “Wasn’t that amazing” I said. She smiled and nodded enthusiastically. “Its raining” she said.

I asked her name. “Gabriella, I’m 5. These are my wellington boots for puddles”

She seemed to be completely on her own, so I asked her where her mum was. She told me she didn’t know but that she was with her baby brother. I offered to help her find her mum and brother and she smiled angelically. “Its ok” she said. Suddenly the rain pounded the roof again. Without warning Gabriella ran over to me and threw her arms around my leg burying her face in my thigh, laughing with happiness. I offered her my hand and she took it and we stood listening.

In that moment I was blown away by such a huge insight that I could hardly breathe. That I, a 60-year-old woman, with so many years behind me, and this little girl, with so many years ahead, were the same. Despite the years between us I felt a oneness wash over me. That she and I and every woman ever were the same. Shared the same presence. The same existence. We smiled at each other and for a second everything was perfect.

I heard her name being called. Her dad had found her and exhorted her to stop bothering “that lady”. I reassured him that she was no bother.

“We were listening to the rain Daddy” she said.

The politics of caring…

This morning I went to the polling station to vote in what could possibly be the most pointless election ever. Electing MEPs to a parliament that we may not even be a part of soon. To be honest I am not even sure if we ever needed MEPs – but that’s a whole different discussion.

Yesterday I spent the day at the Midland Hotel in Morecambe at an event called Love Society where people from across our region were looking at ways to improve our community and create a more loving, kind and compassionate society.

There were all sorts of people there. Doctors, teachers, care workers, people from charities, local councillors, sociologists, holistic practitioners and people like me who care.

We listened to two amazing women. Bev Skeggs, a sociologist and Hilary Cottam, a social entrepreneur whose work focuses on solutions to social challenges such as ageing, loneliness, chronic disease and inequality. It became obvious how important connection and community are in these situations.

There was heartfelt and moving discussion in the room, and it felt good to be spending time with so many people wanting to help and improve things. Caring.

However, during the break-out discussions I became quite uncomfortable with how conversations became a political blame-game. Voices were raised and there was some metaphorical banging on tables. I know that every person in the room was passionate about change and desperate to make a difference but there was so much anger.

I have never been much of a political animal. I always see good and bad on both sides. I do not believe that any one political party is perfect. Recently here in the UK we have seen our parliament implode and for me…well I believe that politics is broken. Much like our benefits system and the NHS. Whether we were for Brexit or against, the one thing we can all agree on is that the last 3 years have been a total shambles. Nobody has come out of it well. And we are not out of the woods yet.

I have written before about how much I hate the spitefulness and disrespect in parliament. The British system of government has been adopted all over the world. Our traditions were respected and even revered. But that was then, and this is now. It is time for change.

Big decisions need to be taken to fix our broken society. And our politicians should be leading us, showing us the way, demonstrating the correct way to behave. They should be working together towards common goals, with a vision of a loving and respectful community. Not constantly slagging one another off and putting people down. Setting an example for everyone, here in Britain and across the world.

I truly believe that some things transcend party politics. Sometimes the ONLY solution is love. Love of each other, of truth and honesty, of respect for every human being. That is how we change things. I believe it is incredibly simple. Sadly, I cannot think of one politician from any party that inspires, encourages and could lead us selflessly and honestly towards a better future. I am fearful.

But sometimes from great adversity comes great courage. Somewhere there must be someone who can make a difference. Who sees that respect, compassion, love and caring is necessary to heal and repair. We need a hero. In the meantime, let’s all try to be local heroes. To work in our communities to bring change and improve our own little corner of the world. Start a ripple and send it in the direction of Westminster. In the name of love, not a political party.

The harvesting of our discussion yesterday