Thursday, 3 April 2008

Steph History

When I started this blog, many weeks ago, I tried to explain how I got into the whole politics thing. I've just come across something I wrote on the very earliest day, when I had been to a hospitals protest in Cardiff last March. Looking at the piece with fresh eyes and hindsight, I feel quite emotional about just how far I have come in the last year-and-a-bit. I want to share it:
NB: SWAT = Save Withybush Action Team, and FYI, I have my driving theory test next Tuesday after work and should be doing the practical one within a couple of months, all being well.

Got the weather I'd asked for (sorry to those of you in London who got Pembrokeshire's weather instead), and got to the hospitals protest ok. I am quite enamoured of shiny, glossy Cardiff Bay, and I disagreed with one of the women on the protest who said that the new Senned building was a waste of money. I said that my preference would have been for them to choose a heritage building to renovate for it, but in the circumstances and to match the surroundings they did a very good job - it's important for the parliament building to be a focal point for national pride, somewhere that is imposing enough to say "this is where the Welsh people are ruling for themselves for the very first time".

The outcome, as is often the way with these things, was quite vague. We did have some press photographers out to meet us, which is good. Brian Gibbons met with senior members of the SWAT and assured them that Options 1 and 2 of the Designed to Deliver document have definitely been scrapped, and that option 3 is under serious consideration from the planning committee. We remain sceptical and vigilant - the chances are, given that the planning committee are for the most part the selfsame people who drew up the original options, that we will be spun their original ideas cleverly represented as a third way.

I didn't go into today with expectations of getting much out of it for myself. Although the people who are interested and passionate enough to show up for the protests are pleasant to converse with, I am a fair bit younger than all of them and I have a limited amount in common with them. I hadn't actually considered the fact that I was going somewhere where politically minded people abound, though. I was taken under the wing of some of the Welsh Liberal Democrats after expressing approval of their party line on this and many other issues, have joined the party which is something I meant to do when I was 17, but reserved judgment on in case I changed my mind as I got older. It was so refreshing to get into lengthy discussions with people who knew what I was talking about on pet subjects like Lords reform, proportional representation, ID schemes; and some British history of voting reform, the formation of the welfare state and so on. The company I have tended to keep for a long time has been mainly the type that feel no interest for history or current affairs and much as I have longed at times to rant about issues of the day in real life, with real people, I have kept my mouth shut knowing that I would just be seen as a show-off :(

The downside to the whole day for me was the fact that almost every person I talked to, well-meaning and lovely though they were, at some point inevitably caused that sinking feeling in my insides when they asked "so, what do you do for a living?". It's a horrible thing, for those of you who don't know let me tell you, to watch someone's face change from being captivated and impressed to slightly scornful, then quickly frame itself into something a little more charitable right before your eyes, when you tell them that the erudite and passionate young woman they have been so enjoying talking to for the last half hour has been unemployed for twelve months, isn't a post-grad as they assume, and can't even drive.

I do think my not driving, with the various attempts to learn being thwarted by whatever personal circumstances prevailed each time, makes a neat metaphor for my whole professional life. Stalling every time I start. To be perfectly honest, when I reflect on what jobs I *have* had over the years since I left full time education, I wouldn't have been proud to name any of them as my career to these people, either. I wish, I suspect along with a fair proportion of people of my age and ability, that some opportunity to prove myself, some answer for what I should be doing with myself would present itself from the heavens, because I really don't know what it is I'm meant to do, only that at the moment, I'm really not doing it.

What I did today was a small thing in terms of effort. All I had to do was get up on time and get myself to the right place to show a little support for a cause that has a direct effect on my quality of life and that of all my local friends and family. I think that's pretty much a duty, if you have the free time. Still, my mum is proud of me and I'm a little proud of myself too, which makes a change. It's the first time I've felt proper pride in myself since I was in Samaritans (which I would do again like a shot if I had the means to get to Haverfordwest in the evenings). It's just a pity it had to come with a gruelling day of repeatedly facing up to who I am in the eyes of people I would like to impress, and not liking what I faced.

This candidate is lush, but honestly not *a* lush!

Today was nice.

Lots of other days in the last two weeks have been not so nice - like finding out that one of the people I thought might support me on my ward has decided to stand herself, making it a tougher fight; or like having one of my nominators write their name in lower-case letters when the form asks for block capitals so I had to go out and get all ten signatures again at the eleventh hour. I'm not going to dwell on those days though, because now my name is going to be on the ballot paper and I can breathe a little easier for getting this far.

A group of five Carmarthen West and South Pembs Lib Dems descended on the Pembrokeshire County Council offices today, to drop our forms off and have them checked. It was good to spend time with some of them under less pressure than normal, we stopped in town for lunch and made each other laugh. Well, I rather suspect they did more laughing at me than laughing with me, but that's ok when it is justified.

Why would anyone want to laugh at me, eh? Maybe because I walked by the Palace Cinema at an inopportune moment and ended up wearing bird poo on my nice suit trousers (must have been one of those seagulls trained by the opposition!). Maybe it was because my usual tactic for dealing with stress was in full force and I was camp and hammy and wouldn't stop making silly comments. But more likely, it was because while we were on tenterhooks in a rather crowded waiting room at County Hall, I used a 'de-stressing' aromatherapy roll-on thing, and moments later a stranger behind me asked which one of us had been at the gin. Yes, in a futile attempt to calm myself down I had made myself smell like a drunk. Classic!