Our Daughter in India

As the mother of  two girls and one of three sisters myself, the statistics about rape are a permanent reminder of just how unsafe the world is, to a person. The fact is that one in four women will be raped; this fact holds true in that within the number of girls and women named in the previous sentence, one indeed already has been raped and another the victim of childhood sexual molestation. We are middle-class, educated. . . . It doesn’t matter.


Fillmmaker Leslee Udwin pictured with the mother of two of the convicted rapists– the one who killed himself in prison after the arrest and the other whose interview forms the major narrative of the rape in the film. / Photo from the Guardian.

I watched Leslee Udwin’s documentary, Storyville: India’s Daughter with my husband last night. Originally set to premiere on the BBC and worldwide on International Women’s Day, March 8th, the BBC moved the airing upon hearing that the Indian government had banned the film from airing in India. It’s not surprising, given the level of corruption and openly-held misogynistic views of women held by some of the men speaking in the film. I was safely in my living room, viewing the dark side of human sexuality and power, a case of a desperate need for social and political change.

It’s a story of a amazing girl with amazing parents, “traditional people with modern values,” said Jyoti’s tutor, a young man whose words, in their very breath, held hope of the way forward for India — with compassion, respect, kindness. Such was his regard for his friend, Jyoti Singh.

Storyville was remarkable in its restraint. Jhoti’s adult body was never shown. As someone in the film said, it became about more than her. It became about awakening the voice of young people from the “old ways.” And it never became angry. Neither from the grief-stricken nor the perpetrators.

In the end, it seemed to say that there was enough anger in the crime that is the basis of the film. And we all were exhausted from that alone.

Storyville isn’t a case of prejudiced editing or filmmaking, though I’m sure many will make this accusation in an attempt to save face — I am referring to the resistance of the Indian government to the issue of endemic sexual violence, as discussed in the film and as now witnessed in the government’s banning of the film. — But it’s not a face worth saving. I would say to those people to think, instead, of all the faces that are worth saving.

Storyville is available on iPlayer for a short while and will air again on BBC Four on International Women’s Day — Sunday March 8th at 10pm.


Safer School Runs

Redbridge Neighbourhood Watch got in touch this afternoon to ask us to publicise this message from a PCO in Fulwell:

A request to all those of you that take part in the school run: We are receiving numerous complaints from all of our Primary Schools in relation to inconsiderate and dangerous behaviour when dropping our children off too school. If parking is at a premium at the school you are going to please allow sufficient time to find a spot and get your children school safely. I know that this is a stressful time and the roads are extremely busy, but it could be your child that is injured if you don’t address this issue.

There has been a significant increase to trend to stop and drop, where you just stop in the middle of the road and let your children get out there and then not only are you causing an obstruction of the highway doing this (yes this is an offence), but most importantly you are putting your children’s life’s at risk. We have recently had a child knocked over after getting out of a vehicle that had stopped and dropped. Very fortunately their injuries were not serious, but it could have been a lot worse.

school crossing
Personally, I’m glad to have seen two Community Police persons during our school run yesterday, standing on the pavement near the gates. It simply amazes me how many people park right over the yellow lines or climb kerbs on the road right in front of my daughter’s school at peak drop-off time.
Here are some other things that can help improve safety during the school run:
  • Don’t make three-point turns in the roads around school.
  • Don’t park over peoples’ driveways
  • Park on an adjacent street and walk a block to the gates.

Girls will be . . .

Gender-stereotyping---is--008I’ve got two girls, and adults very often call one a “tomboy” and the other a “girly girl,” even though they both love princesses, playing dress up, climbing tall things, being active, building with blocks.

Even I am guilty of thinking of them in these sort of different types or labels which carry with them a set of preconceived and gendered ideas.

So why do we insist on labelling or typing children? And is it potentially damaging or limiting to their sense of self?


Space Safari

After a fairly relaxed half-term holiday, I decided a day out would be in order. A little looking around online unearthed a great surprise: a live planetarium show for under 7s at the Peter Harrison Planetarium at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich. Brilliant.

Having grown up in South Florida near a planetarium and NASA, I remember the sense of wonder the Planetarium shows gave me as a child. This show, called Space Safari, is hosted by a real-life Astronomer called Tom and his animated friend Ted, a bear. I wasn’t expecting that we would have the privilege of an Astronomer, to be honest, as so many childrens’ offerings seem to be a little dumbed down. So this is especially good. Really, especially, intelligently good.

space safariThe Safari takes young children on a journey through our solar system looking for a “great big bear,” which we eventually learn is the constellation Orion. My nearly three-year old was a little frightened at first, but quickly removed fingers from eyelids after deeming the show “not scary.” It was a kind and gentle introduction to outer space, a little sing-songey (not enough to drive you bonkers). There’s plenty to see in the beautifully illuminated planetarium space with amazing footage of the ground on the Moon and Mars, solar atmospheres, and much else that science has found and ferried back to Earth for us. Plenty to learn for the older children of the 0-7 set and beautiful, natural visuals and a story to include and entrance the younger ones.

We had a look around the Observatory grounds and then shuffled back down the hill, through Greenwich Park, and spent the afternoon in the Royal Maritime Museum where we looked around, sat nice and quietly for the Chinese New Year storyteller, and saw some “old things.” All for free.

A quick 40-minute train and DLR journey (a bargain at around £5 round trip on a Saturday from our pad in East London–zones 3 and 4) and tickets to the show are very reasonable at £6.50 for adults and £4.50 for children 3+. A complete day out (including snacks and lollies) for about £20. Not bad.

The Space Safari runs on weekends and Tuesdays in term-time (Spring 2015). Booking online is probably essential. And do leave early as you must arrive 10 minutes before showtime and the Observatory is, of course, up a nice hill. The pre-schooler, the toddler and I walked / ran / hopped (no buggy) from the Cutty Sark DLR station to the Observatory in 15 minutes.

No news here. . .

According to the Guardian, in an article published today, “Childcare is now so expensive that families are increasingly better off if one parent gives up work to look after their offspring, a major new report has found.”

Trust me. I’ve known this for a fact for the last 4.5 years. We are part of the middle sector who earn “too much” to qualify for any real help (and still recovering from losing the formerly Universal child benefit, as it was our only means of creating savings). And we earn too little to be living better than hand to mouth.

Resourceful as ever, we just carry on as best we can, making the sacrifice and doing the best we can for our family. We also realise that lots of other people face an even tougher situation, so public moaning is not appropriate.


The cost of childcare and the effect on the squeezed middle class, helping parents who have been out of the work force because they’ve stayed at home to care for their children–not always by choice. I want to hear more about this during the upcoming election.