Well the election period is well and truly under way, so I thought I'd blog a campaign trail diary about my experiences. I'm running for council in Castlereagh South for the Green Party and I'm an active part of the South Belfast Green's Vote Clare Bailey on the 5th May team, in support of our MLA candidate.
I took a childcare break just over two years ago to have the Shugmeister and while I've been keeping myself busy with writing, blogging and bits and pieces in addition to motherhood, these past few months have really seen my involvement with the Green Party in Northern Ireland step up a pace. The whole thing is proving to be a complicated, interesting, difficult, yet amazingly fulfilling process. I hope that what I write is of interest to those politicos out there, but also to other parents who are looking to share experiences with trying to manage childcare and other commitments.
Thursday 24th March 2011
I've had to invest in a hand bag. After years of being able to fit everything into well organised pockets, the work load is now too much. So after picking one up and realising my life could have been much simpler had I decided to do this earlier (nappy bag doesn't count as it filled to the brim with baby stuff), I'm off to meet the representative for the Big Lunch. I will be holding a pool on just how long it takes me to loose the new bag as I'm not used to carrying something around with me.
The meeting is very informative, such a great idea and due to it's change of date (from July to June) can now be enjoyed by more people in N. Ireland. The idea that communities can come together for a lunch, dinner or picnic is a great one, and the Green Party are throwing their full support behind it. The South Belfast Greens are holding an event in the Ormeau Rd area and we've two more planned in East Belfast and Castlereagh.
The evening is spent meeting up with the SB Greens and doing some door to door in The Kimberly & Walden Street areas off the Ormeau. It's a good night, people seem genuinely interested in hearing the alternatives on offer - a combination of being fed up with the status quo here and very much to counter balance the actions of the ConDems across the water.
Clare Bailey and I chat afterwards about the getting the balance right between the increased workload of campaign season and our respective families. Clare has two older children and a job to contend with - I have a toddler but no job, so we've been comparing war stories. We both acknowledge that the next few weeks will require us to be a little more selfish; certainly from my point of view I know I've been relying on childcare coverage from my husband and sister more than usual. I have a funny feeling that post May 5th, I'll be the nominated baby sitter for all subsequent big events.
Friday 25th March
Preparing press releases for the bulk of the morning and checking in with our social media accounts. Far too tired to stay awake for Question Time last night, so checking up on the tweets for that. The tweets are probably more insightful and definitely more amusing than the show itself, but hopefully I'll get it watched on i-player at some point.
The wee man's on good form, though is conscious of my absence for most of yesterday and is being clingy. I make him breakfast and sit playing blocks with him until he gets sick of the sight of me and danders off to partake in his favourite past time - pouring juice from his cup into all manner of other containers, and making a bloody mess.
In the afternoon I'm off to Queen's to launch the Green Party's Big Lunch with Mark Simpson and Clare Bailey, which you can read more about here. We're promoting the local produce aspect and Clare's raffle of 20 bags of horse manure for grow your own purposes. As a result I have to carry a shovel on the bus with me. Do I look like a keen gardener or a serial killer? I'm in my suit, so I'm going to opt for serial killer.
The photos are being taken at the same time as QUB and the residents of the Holylands are launching their lunch. We don't intrude as they don't want to politicise the event too much. However, the cameras attract the attention of a candidate from another party who is in the area putting up posters. He danders over, clearly not knowing what the event is about and muscles in on a few photos. He then has the audacity to ask the organisers how long this is going to take, as he's very busy. He attempts to sit down with the students and residents and enjoy a free meal, but is promptly told to skoot.
Afterwards I re-group with Clare and go over our respective schedules for the next few weeks. It's clear that my sister is going to own me before long, perhaps I'll offer her a kidney in exchange for all the help I'm getting from her.
Saturday 26th March
Then off to the city centre with the rest of the NI Greens to march in the anti-cuts rally. NI is one of the most public sector reliant areas in the UK, and the people over here have been campaigning long and hard to bring their pay in line with the rest of the country. Cuts in this area will be devastating for far too many reasons to go into fully here, but there simply isn't the investment in private industry to pick up the slack when people find themselves out of work. The Green New Deal would be a perfect way to redress the balance if only more politicians would take the matter seriously; instead it's a convenient means of greening out their portfolio in the run up to elections. It would make NI more self sustaining, unlike the cut in corporation tax which will only ensure private enterprise loyalty providing no one else makes them a better offer.
It's a good afternoon, peaceful, and I'd say almost double the turn out compared to the same rally in November (the weather probably didn't hurt the cause either). The only thing that soured it slightly was this overheard conversation between a spectating mother and her child:
Mother: "That's a parade, but not a good one"
Child: "What they marching for?"
Mother: "I dunno."
After that I meet up with D and the Shugmeister for a picnic in the grounds of City Hall, then home for a relaxing low tech Earth Hour evening.