the tale of the someones

Nearly 30 years ago the water service were doing repairs near where I lived. As a way of warning us to fill kettles and saucepans full of water for the day, a wee man in a van drove up and down and around the streets announcing his presence via a loudhailer on the roof of the vehicle, “This is the WATER SERVICE. The water in this area is GOING OFF”. The water supply was stopped, and then started again by about 4.30pm. It was slightly inconvenient, but predictable and plannable for. The man told us what was going to happen, and it happened. The chief result of the process was that I still shout “WATER SERVICE” in my head when I think of it.

In truth, I haven’t had much cause to think about the water supply since. While our drains have caused chaos once or twice (read all about it, if you must, in previous posts), the water supply has just been there. Easy, reliable, convenient as turning on a tap. There’d be the odd bit of low pressure, but nothing to remark upon, until a young man in a big yellow coat (#1) appeared at the door.

There was indeed low pressure, and it might be our responsibility. His listening equipment suggested there was a leak near the wall. On the pavement side of the wall, it would be up to the water service to fix; on the garden side, we’d have to do it. A week later someone came out and checked the pavement side. Another week later, a different someone, tidied up the pavement. I phoned to see what was going on, and a fourth someone landed at the door to tell me I might get a letter.

Someone #5 phoned, sounding very knowledgeable. It’s a difficult leak to find, but they’re working on it, and hope to get out in a few days. Grand.

Message from #5- they’ll be out on Wednesday pm. Nothing happened. When I called to see where they were, #5 was adamant that all was done and fixed. They’d come through the green gate, and worked at the back of the extension. But I’d been in the whole time, and could see no sign of activity at the back. Eventually it began to dawn on us both that we were talking at cross purposes. There’s a person with a similar name, living in number 6, similar address, in a different town. Her water leak was fixed, through her green gate, and at the back of her wee bathroom extension. Somehow, the system had given #5 the wrong phone number, and he’d thought he was talking to that person all along. I’d thought I was talking to #4.

So, four weeks after we were told there was a leak, we were no further forward. In the meantime, the washing machine had died because we kept trying to use it. We’ve been relying on the kindness of others for weeks to get some laundry done.

As I was relaying the tale of the wrong water leak, the chap in the big yellow coat (#1) returned, bringing a colleague (#6, who never spoke) to stand at the door beside him. This time he was telling me we would definitely get a letter, as they’d decided the leak was on our side of the wall. Time to talk to the insurance company.

The letter came. #5 called anyway, feeling some ownership of a problem that’s never been his. He suggested I ask for a replacement pipe rather than a repair.

I phoned the insurance, who couldn’t confirm that we’re actually insured- if it’s not been accidentally damaged, it’s all ours to pay for- but they’d contact their local company. The company phoned, they’d send somebody.

#7 arrived today. He was here for about 2 minutes. Since #1 had done sound tests, #7 didn’t have to. He’ll send someone else out next week.

Over a month since the start, at least 7 chaps at the door and 3 women on the phone, we still have a water leak. It reminds me of the old story of four people called Everyone, Someone, Anyone and No-one.“There was an important job to be done and Everyone was sure that Someone would do it. Anyone could have done it, but No-one did it. Someone got angry about that because he thought that it was Everyone’s job. Everyone thought that Anyone could do it, but No-one realised that Everyone wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everyone was angry with Someone because No-one did what Anyone could have done!”

Of course, I don’t know which of those folk I am. When #1 appeared, should I just have gone straight to the insurance company in case it was our problem? Should I have hunted for a local chap to just come along and fix the blimmin thing weeks ago? How would I know where to start?

What if I was living alone, or vulnerable? How would the washing get done? Could I cope with all the Someones calling?

There has to be a more efficient system of maintaining the fabric of our services than simply passing from pillar to post, from subcontractor to subcontractor, and leaving the public with no idea what’s going on.

I’d really welcome the man with a van right now, shouting “WATER SERVICE”.

not a good look

Crying on the street that is.

A city centre street, full of offices and groomed people. And me, with unwashed hair, no make up, snivelling. How to feel good, guys.

I’d just come out of an office, where I’d been for a health assessment. Such face to face appointments are necessary as part of the UK benefits process. Those of us unable to work have to regularly demonstrate our illness, our vulnerabilities, our failure. We struggle to complete complex forms, to gather statements of support (i.e. beg for help from the goodwill of people we know). On days like today we struggle to make sense of questions, to remember all the important things, to twist and turn in ways we don’t normally, to remember all that we can’t do.

But I’m one of the lucky ones. Despite years of fatigue, pain and emotional turmoil, I’m lucky. I have a chronic illness, not a terminal one.

The current definition of ‘terminal’ for benefits payments a prognosis of 6 months or less. This is based on a medical report. What if one’s condition is incurable and will kill them, but with an unclear prognosis? What if there’s an unexpected rapid decline? A person whose illness will be the death of them, but not obviously in the next 6 months, has to complete the forms, have the extra assessments, wait months for a decision, maybe even an appeal, just to get the limited additional resources to help with personal independence.

60 of our local clinicians are suggesting a change in policy. These are the folk who know how skewed the system is, how they can’t always judge, and how unfair these processes can be.

Please, support changes in policy. Talk to those who may have influence. If you have an MP who is prepared to vote against UK government policy, please use them. Most of us in NI don’t have that.

An uncompassionate society, limiting the quality of life and access to support for its most ill and vulnerable- that’s really not a good look.

what my miscarriage taught me


I miscarried in early pregnancy. A blighted ovum meant that the embryo hadn’t developed properly. A loss for us. We grieved mightily for what may have been. Like thousands of others, many with multiple miscarriages and much loss. To the rest of the world, miscarriage may be commonplace, a simple statistic, no big deal, but it can be very sore on us.

We were lucky. Girl1 & Girl2 arrived, thrived, and are doing what teens do.

Ireland (the rest of it, not Northern Ireland) is having a referendum soon. I don’t live in the jurisdiction and I can’t vote, but it’s occupying my mind. As it stands, the 8th amendment to the Irish constitution gives equal right to life to the unborn, prohibiting abortion and impacting on medical care to all women, pregnant, pregnancy related or not. The forthcoming referendum is on whether that amendment should be repealed.

There are lots of discussions and campaigning. There is fake news (fake medical practitioners included). There was incredible crowdfunding for posters & information packs. Posters have been put up and taken down and put back up again. It’s not always a polite discussion- feelings and convictions are running high.

One post has caught in my mind; the one asking if a foetus is human, & if not, when does it become so. Years ago, my wee embryo didn’t even make it to foetus-hood. It stopped developing and ended up simply a ‘product of conception’.

It was human tissue, but not a human. Like a toe nail or an appendix, it wasn’t capable of becoming a human. Not all pregnancies can result in human beings. Human life cannot be said to ‘begin at conception’: tissue growth is not life.

The philosophers & scientists do their thinking and their research. They shape and advance our understanding of our world. I am neither of those. There are many issues I don’t understand or am not aware of, but I know that my first pregnancy would never have resulted in a human being. Nor would thousands of others. I don’t know when ‘human ness’ happens, but we cannot assume that it happens from conception.

Most abortions happen before 10 weeks gestation- around the time my product of conception was being evicted. How many people have the guilt and the stress of leaving Ireland or buying pills for a procedure that may have happened naturally? The expense, the uncertainty, the illegality for something not even guaranteed to grow into a human. Surely, appropriate local healthcare must be a better option?

Why would any compassionate society think that was a bad thing?

Why would any compassionate society not permit people a say in their own medical care?

Why would any compassionate society make doctors consult the constitution before their medical expertise?

With the 8th amendment in place, can Ireland claim to have a compassionate society?



This is not a new topic for me. See #oneinfour, this previous post on abortion access in NI and this one on Savita

what chance have you got against a tie and a crest? #Ibelieveher

There are plenty of people who have experienced non consensual sexual activity. I don’t consider myself one of them, although I know I’ve been lucky. There but for the grace of the gods…

There’s been an infamous trial in Belfast the past nine weeks. 3 elite rugby players were accused of various forms of sexual assault, another one of preventing the course of justice. The rugby players are well known. Despite anonymity for the prosecution witness, her name was mentioned in court and shared on social media. I don’t know her name, but I know more about her than I should.

Having been initially reluctant to go to the police, the woman ended up enduring 9 days of cross examination. Four defendants = 4 defence teams = 4 sets of questioning. I know about her unshaved legs, her blood stained clothing. I know about her friends and her internal injury. Her very underwear was presented to the court and passed along to the jury. The woman had no lawyer. She was not on trial, not accused of any offence, but the adversarial trial system made it seem so.

I also know that an international rugby player likes to sketch and babysits for friends. Apparently that’s all I need to know. The men sent each other texts and WhatsApp messages after the event, some of which were deleted and unrecoverable. They sent crude, misogynistic messages displaying a lack of respect for women and an “aren’t we the greatest lads?” attitude. What we’ve seen demonstrate appalling behaviour and world views. Worryingly, social media tells me that’s how young men talk to each other, and that I’m simply being old fashioned and prudish. This is simply the sort of locker room talk that Mr Trump enjoys, so what could possibly be unacceptable about it?

Yesterday, all the men were cleared of all the charges. And lots of (mostly, but not only) chaps began to demand that the woman be tried for perjury and/or sentenced for as long as the men would have been, had their guilt been proved beyond reasonable doubt. I’m to feel sorry for the guy who apparently missed out on winning a Six Nations medal and a Grand Slam ‘unnecessarily’. As if investigations and the legal process were something carried out on a whim, out of spite.

Those men have been feted their whole sporting careers, privileged and garlanded since school, because they are better than most at a game. I don’t imagine they understood the sexual activity as rape. But they were clear that there was no explicit, agreed consent. They admitted to presuming consent. The defence approach was ‘They’re the good guys, they didn’t attack a woman in a dark alley, she didn’t scream, so how could that be rape?’ They may not be able to bring themselves to doubt their drunken decisions and actions.

In some jurisdictions the difference between murder and manslaughter is the intention. Death is caused by recklessness or criminal negligence, rather by a deliberate act of killing. I hope somebody, somewhere, with a legal mind is considering what happens when there’s no clear intention to rape, but that through recklessness or negligence, harm has occurred amounting to rape. (I know nothing about the law; I’m suggesting this is an area worth exploring.)

We need to better support those women and men who report sexual assault. We need to move beyond effectively putting those people on trial.

We need to ban reporting on these trails until they are over. The media soap opera of this trial will have been traumatising for hundreds apart from the woman at its centre.

We need discussion on what consent actually is, beyond ‘no means no’. What if one is unable to speak or remove oneself from the situation? None of know in advance how we would react. ‘She didn’t scream’ should not be an acceptable argument.

The local press are having a great time after the verdict. Stories of sisters, coiffured mothers with expensive handbags, middle class respectable families, brave men and all they had to endure. Men being rewarded for the fact that their poor behaviour turned out not to be criminal. Woo hoo.

So today I went with thousands of others to a support rally. We stood outside the courts in Belfast, together. There were speeches I couldn’t hear. And a surprisingly emotional few moments of chanting I believe her.

I want to fix the world. I want to make so many things better for so many people. But oddly, I can’t do all that I want to. Still, my keyboard activism is being reignited.


Title from Eton Rifles