A few days ago, after the school run, I went round to my mums house for a cup of coffee. I wanted to use her washing machine because ours had broken and we had also planned to go out shopping together because I needed to buy some warmer clothes for my toddler.
When I got there she told me about a dream she’d had the night before.
She dreamt that for some reason we all had to evacuate our homes and never come back. She dreamt that she was looking after the kids and was trying to get them to each put their things into rucksacks. She was stuffing her own clothes and bits and bobs into an old suitcase and telling them to pack their things and they wouldn’t listen to her and were just playing with their toys and generally just acting like little kids.
‘Just go and get all of your pants,’ she was saying to them. ‘Just go and get all of your pants and socks and put them into a bag.’
In her dream she knew that we had to leave and we would never be coming back. We were all being evacuated. She desperately shoved stuff into bags, knowing that our transport would come and go and that it would be our only chance to get away.
She told me about this a few days ago now. We were sitting in her quiet lounge drinking coffee. Outside the street was still apart from the odd car now and then, and on all the trees lining the road, the leaves were silently and ever so slowly turning brown. The sky was a dirty grey and the air had been getting colder and colder over the last few weeks. I thought about how I really needed to get some long sleeved t-shirts for my toddler and we started to discuss whether we should go to Marks and Spencers or to Sainsbury’s.
We talked about how it was worth paying a bit more for some bits that would wash well.
I thought about his chubby little arms in his short sleeves and how I didn’t want them to get cold.
‘The thing is,’ I said to my Mum
in the quiet lounge
while my son played with a train set in the corner
‘The thing is,’
and outside the trees flicked their branches around in the wind and more leaves blew off into the sky
‘Don’t you just feel like here we are, living our lives just like normal, but then there’s just this sea of people, there’s just thousands and thousands of people who are just suffering and dying
like when I am on facebook or something and I just see these pictures of toddlers
who are just white with dust
who are just lying in the dust
of another blown up building
Where will they go?
What will happen to them?
What will happen to all of these people who have had to leave everything?
All these people who are living in tents in the cold and the mud.’
And we talked about it for a minute and we both said how awful it must be and how good it is that finally, FINALLY at least the children are starting to come, even though it is not enough and it is far too late for some.
We talked about how we see these stories on the television and on social media and we want to do something. We talked about how we just carry on living our peaceful lives, but just a few miles away, thousands of people live in a chaos of tents and cold and hunger and how there are children there, children with nothing and with no one to look after them.
We talked for a moment about how we would like to do more and about what we could do.
After a few minutes we stopped talking about the refugee crisis and started talked about where we should go to buy long sleeved T-Shirts again. We drove up the M2 to the shopping centre. I tried some stuff on but it didn’t fit me very well and my mum tried a coat on but decided not to buy it. When I had picked out some bits for my son and two T-shirts for me we went to the café and had lunch. I had a BLT and my son had the chicken nuggets kids meal.
We just carried on with our lives.
Carried on with the school runs and dinner making and work and watching telly.
Carried on with reading stuff on twitter and Facebook.
Carried on watching gogglebox.
Me and my husband carried on with our late night conversations about what day we should order the food shopping and what washing machine we should buy.
On the weekend I took my five-year-old to a birthday party. It was a great party and an animal man had brought some owls and birds of prey to show the children. He did a little talk about the birds and got them to do some flying demonstrations. As part of the demonstrations he laid a sheet down on the floor and got all the kids to lie down and had an owl fly over them. They loved it and they all lay on the floor in a line giggling next to each other.
We just carry on with our lives.
I watch the news and I google stuff I don’t understand and try to read about how things have gotten like this in Syria and in other countries where people feel so unsafe that they have no other choice but to flee. I sign petitions and click that ‘I am interested’ in going to certain demos and events, but I am too scared to take my kids along with me and also I couldn’t afford to keep going into London.
Those are my excuses anyway.
Do you remember when we all marched against the Iraq war in 2003?
It was said to be the ‘largest protest event in human history.’ I had never been part of something so momentous and big before. It was five days before my twentieth birthday. My last five days as a teenager.
I wonder how my generation would feel about politics if those demonstrations had made any difference. I wonder where we would be now.
I wrote all of these thoughts down the other day and I wasn’t going to publish them, but then last night when my kids were in bed and I was going through my photos on my phone and I saw this one photo and I just didn’t know where it had come from and I thought,
Did I screenshot something from a news article by accident?
Why would I screenshot something so horrible?
It was a picture of twenty or so children. Children the same age as my oldest. They were all laid out in a line on a sheet. They were all face up.
I looked at it a few moments more and I realised what it was. I zoomed in a bit and saw that it was my daughter and her primary school friends on the sheet, not because they had been dragged out of a bombed building, but because they were waiting for an owl to fly over their faces.
I deleted it.
I did not want to look at a picture of my daughter and her classmates all laid out on a sheet together. All in a neat little line. All those little faces that I see on playdates and birthday parties and at the school gates each morning, running around with their little bookbags flying out behind them.
And after I deleted it I decided I would publish this, despite it being a jumble of fairly ignorant thoughts on the refugee crisis.
I hoped that if you felt like me, maybe horrified and also a bit helpless as you see this endless suffering unfold in Syria and in the people who have had to leave and walk and walk and walk and risk drowning in the sea in order to find safety. That if you, like me, are thinking this week about the jungle as it is closed down and about the thousands of people who will be moved on again, then maybe we could at least give some money together.
I’ve read around a bit and found that unicef are doing some amazing work to help in Syria and to help in refugee camps throughout Europe, especially with children and families . I’m going to ask if you’ll give five pounds with me. It seems so trivial in the face of such a crisis to just give money. It feels so removed somehow but the thing is, maybe a thousand other mums will read this tonight. Maybe more if you feel like sharing this post on your social media. Maybe two thousand mums will read this tonight and if we all gave five pounds together then that’s really something, ten thousand pounds is a lot of money.
Please join in.
You could donate £5 to unicef by texting UNICEF to 70099
Alternatively you could visit their website to a donate a monthly amount to the Syria appeal here