the day before

We didn’t even make it to the hotel without some minor crises: Ditzy D spilled coffee all over herself before we got on the train, Treasurer nearly lost a leg when the taxi pulled off as she was getting in, and Chairperson was so heavily laden with posters, leaflets and tshirts that we feared she may drop some of the sparkly stuff.

Probably because Chairperson and I had been supremely annoying in the build up to the conference, our offers of help for the afternoon set up were politely declined. This provided an excellent opportunity for window shopping or a pre party bath and snooze. (I’d hoped for the former, but enjoyed the latter.)

We had our charity first birthday party- cake, sparkles and giggling- a happy half hour of silliness before we went downstairs for grown up mingling.

ready

steady

go!

Downstairs, it felt a bit like being at a family wedding- I knew some people but wanted to get to know the others; we have the same issues and concerns and will maybe know each other for years after this.

I met Jamie, featured in this video, who lives with Ehlers- Danlos Syndrome. The film is informative, but I learned much more about him, his world, and the impact of his condition, as we blathered in the bar for a bit.

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Doesn’t the valuable stuff often happen round the edges? Away from the pomp and formality, where we’re relaxed and informal.

Luckily, unlike some weddings, nobody lost the run of themselves and all went to bed at a reasonable hour.

We volunteers are professional after all.

I feel fine

Tom is having a blog party today. A solstice/ end of the world/ a ‘sure, why not?’ event.

solstice party

Grab a glass of whatever, and make some time to catch up on all that blog reading you mean to do. However, if you really think the world is going to end, get off the internet and spend your last hours with the people you love. What are you doing here?

A good party needs music. After listening to Tracey Thorn’s album on an almost continuous loop for two weeks, I’ve expanded my range a little, but it’s still generally seasonal.

I’m not normally listening to apocalyptic sounds, but maybe today is the day?

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No, perhaps I need to celebrate the solstice, the imminent return of the sun.

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Does this party really need christmas music?

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I hope somebody brings mince pies.

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I’ve tried, I really have, but it seems I am too predictable to resist.

flag waving

I’ve been planning on heading to an exhibition on flags, but have been either unusually busy or asleep. Of course, it’s over now and I’ve missed it. Life getting in the way of life.

Flags?

No, really, flags?

Well, one. Sort of. The exhibition was The Union Flag: Change and Diversity.

The combination of the jubilee and the forthcoming olympics has meant that it has been possible to buy any amount of items branded with the union flag. Cups, tshirts, cushions, stationery, bedding, jewellery, partyware. Think of the item and you can be sure that somebody has stuck a flag on it. I’m wondering about who’s been buying it all? Do the buying patterns in Northern Ireland vary from Great Britain?

I grew up in a contested society, where flags carried a lot of weight. They demarked an area, showed control, inspired fear. Nobody waved a flag without knowing that was making a statement about who they were, who they wanted to be, and who they very definitely were not.

In Northern Ireland the union flag and the tricolour have been loaded with meaning. My family avoided flags. If pushed we’d be Irish (northern), but not enough to fight about either aspect of that. Anyway, the passports were British.

Flags said too much. The sort of saying that could get you killed. We avoided flags. All the flags. All the colour schemes. It has taken me a lifetime to wear a navy dress with a red and white scarf. It looks fine, and I am aware that the screaming of “wearing red, white and blue” is only in my head. I’m working on it.

The exhibition I missed demonstrated how surprisingly fluid the concept of a flag can be. Our society is still far from normal, and flags may still be an issue. We have a way to go. But there are small steps. There’s less fear. The passport is Irish now.

Girl2 was at a birthday party during the jubilee weekend. Lots of little folk singing and dancing and eating and laughing. None of them noticing how their Polish hosts had decorated the house for the event. Nobody blinked at jubilee party plates, napkins and bunting.

In the meantime, my head exploded.

flags picture from culturenorthernireland.org