Indyref2: A Resident’s Perspective

So, I don’t usually write about conventional political stuff like elections for a number of reasons, the most compelling being that I don’t know very much about such things and I don’t want to sound stupid. In recent years catastrophic national and global events like the failure of the Scottish Independence campaign, the failure to campaign of the U.K’s Remain in the E.U. campaign, and the mind-blowing headf***  that resulted in Donald Trump becoming president of the United States have made me somewhat less hesitant to voice my opinions. If I say something dumb, who might notice?

If the mainstream media are to be believed there are two major losers of this election, namely Theresa May and Scotland’s chances of holding a second referendum on Independence.  The immediate and constant conflating of these two separate issues serves to make all put the most ardent ‘Yes’ supporter (of which there are many) head for the Brexit highway and accept their fate. You could be forgiven for thinking the impending independence referendum had already been held and resoundingly lost.

As someone living in Scotland it’s left me feeling a bit confused. On the one hand, the mainstream media are selling Scottish Independence as dead. On the other hand, I speak to activists on the ground and they laugh at the arrogant suggestion that the fate of Scotland has been decided by a Westminster government.

They have a point. Whilst the SNP sustained losses, including the formidable Alex Salmond, they are unquestionably still in the game. Whilst a Tory revival is never a happy event, it is the predictable consolidation of the ‘No to independence’ vote behind the party least likely to ever lose a square mile of the once great, but now simply British, empire.

The message of these activists appears to be ‘Game On.’

So who to believe?

Is it possible that they could both be telling a truth?

‘Independence is Dead’ shouts the mainstream media and these very cries inflict blows on the cause.

‘Independence is Alive’ responds the ‘Yes’ movement of Scotland, and you have to believe them, because their actions breathe life into their campaign.

I wish I cared.

I did care. Last time around. The 2014 drive for Scottish Independence was so vibrant and infused with promise, expectation and possibility (much like the Corbyn movement) that I caught the bug and became one of those people that believed change was possible. I put a ‘Yes’ poster in my living room window, and pinned a ‘Yes’ badge on my handbag, and reveled in the comradeship on the street. Once awkward silences in the supermarket queue had morphed into animated conversations about our future autonomy and all the fun we would have and all the social justice we would create. I have since read a number of articles from ‘No’ supporters who campaigned under the now hallow ‘Better Together’ slogan portraying a time of deep division and bitter conflict, and I don’t recognise their descriptions. It was actually a blast to be living in Scotland in the run up to the last referendum.  There was as much hope as you will ever find in a people not noted for their cheery disposition.

Then we lost. It was a dark day. All those prospects of a bright future eclipsed by the power of the status quo. I was very sad. Many people were very sad.

But not the core activists. Strangely enough, they claimed their loss as a victory. Much like Corbyn’s team are doing right now. And the subsequent elections every year since have, more or less, validated their position. The S.N.P. are the biggest party in Hollyrood. The S.N.P. are the biggest Scottish party in Westminster. However you spin it, enough people in Scotland continue to support them to make the possibility of another referendum on Independence a valid option.

This may seem like a political broadcast on behalf of Scottish Nationalism but it isn’t. It’s an observation of how things actually are in Scottish politics, at this point in time. I’m not even sure how I’ll vote, when or if there is another vote on Independence. I do know that there are far greater threats to global security, and even British security, than the Scots flying solo.

My debut novel Nailing Jess is being released by Cranachan Publishing on June 26th.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Patriarchal Rumours

I’ve decided to splash out on some professional photos to aid with my metamorphosis from unknown writer to global brand.  I got them done yesterday, it only took about half an hour. That was the camera stuff, obviously. The pre shoot hair and make up took an awful lot longer. It’s not, I must say because I’m in particularly bad nick for my age. In fact given that I’ve never been a mistress of what theses days we call ‘clean living’, I reckon time’s been quite kind to me. It’s just I do look my age and that in our youth and image obsessed times is utterly unforgivable because I’m a woman. If I was a man, it would be absolutely fine because everybody knows men age.

Given that I’ve written a book where feminism is a major theme, then my look becomes even more important. Yes, I do hear the irony but with the rise of ironic sexism, feminism needs to catch up. Of course eventually we will reach a point where everything is ironic and the word irony shall cease to have meaning but people say we’re not there yet.

As a writer I spend a lot of my time in comfortable clothes, face bare, hair in scunchy, chipped nails pressing keys on a computer and I have to say, it’s a good look. Without getting too biblical it’s how God intended me to be, and given we have so little common ground, I want to give him this one. It’s not even that I’m a natural slob, it’s just that life is short and netflix is vast and there feels like so many more meaningful ways to spend my time than in front of a mirror painting out hard earned living. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m low maintenance, itself a sexist phrase but only when not used in an ironic context.

I worry that my attitude to my image will prove a barrier to global domination, but I can’t see me changing much at this stage in life. See, I know they say women can have it all only I’ve never been convinced. I’m not even sure who they are and where they came by their definition of ‘it all’.  It obviously wasn’t in a dictionary. Because of the elusive nature of ‘it all’ and in the interests of only producing, quality, researched blog material I typed ‘what does the ‘it all’ in the phrase ‘women can have it all’ mean?’into google and I have to say I didn’t find a lot of consensus. The general theme for ‘it all’ seems to be striking some kind of harmonious balance between professional and family life, and I feel compelled to point out that as a definition of ‘it all’, it falls far short of even a very broad one.  There are many more things in life that belong under the umbrella term of ‘it all’. What about stella artois? What about scented candles? What about pirated copies of the award winning ABC network show ‘How to get away with murder?’ What about the search for existentialist truth and the core connectivity of all living things and all inanimate matter?

The more I think about it, the more annoyed I get at the phrase ‘women can have it all’. Bet I know where it comes from to, it’ll be one of those patriarchal rumours. Think about it – The sum of a woman’s desires reduced to working,nurturing and fucking, it’s got to be the patriarchy. For those unfamiliar with the term ‘patriarchal rumour’ – It’s a rumour, spread by the patriarchy, that is completely at odds with all scientific data and known information about the same subject. Other well worn examples include ‘Hell hath no fury greater than a woman scorned’ or ‘The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.’ Even the scantest amount of thought employed very quickly reaches the conclusion that the above statements like the aforementioned ‘have it all’ theory have no basis in fact whatsoever. Put simply, they are all utter bollox. I must say I’ve had it up to here with misinformation spawned by the patriarchy passing as truth. In fact, I think I’m going to drop them a line and tell them just that. If anyone is inspired by my bold move and wishes to follow suit then I shall provide an address for the patriarchy at the end of the post.

Dear Patriarchy,

Re: ‘Women can have it all’ rumour.

I don’t believe you and furthermore I, and I’m willing to wager, many women don’t want ‘it all’. In fact, were there to exist greater awareness that the sum of ‘it all’ equates to not very much at all, then I’m willing to further wager, even more women wouldn’t want it. Can you please desist from clogging up consciousness with ill conceived  gender generalizations and perhaps instead spend your time redressing the gender imbalance within the hierarchical structure of the workplace and the institutionalized misogyny in the legal system that leaves us struggling to get our hands on close to half of it. In layman’s terms – Stop stealing all the good stuff and most of the all right stuff and leaving us with all the shit stuff, when you leave us anything at all, and then maybe you wouldn’t have to make it up to us with empty promises and past their sell by date roses from a twenty four hour Tesco garage.

Thanks for taking the time to read this letter.

Sincerely,

Triona Scully

Address for the patriarchy : The Patriarchy, F***ing Everywhere.

My debut novel Nailing Jess is released by Cranachan Publishing on June 26th.

Marketing to marijuana smokers.

I spent yesterday at the magic meadows festival and had the chance to hand out some flyers advertising my debut novel Nailing Jess, being released by Cranachan publishing on June 26th. It was fun but ultimately fraught, as I spent much of my time trying to size up who among the festival crowd was most likely to smoke marijuana. For two reasons.

Firstly, I like to tell tokers about my book, coz my main protagonist D.I. Jane Wayne is partial to a joint or seven. Secondly, I wanted to make sure as few of them as possible take home my flyers. It is a sad truth that no matter how much enthusiasm a smoker may appear to have about your artistic idea your flyer will be taken home and placed by a window sill or on the kitchen table, where at some future point it will be torn into strips and used as roachs for cannabis spliffs. Of course, this is the long term fate of all Edinburgh flyers that don’t wind up in re-cycling bins, but if you are actively handing your publicity material to known or suspected weed smokers, then it is likely you will accelerate this process considerably.

It’s not an easy task to weed out the smokers in any crowd of people. In fact, it’s almost impossible. The young and those with a point to prove may blow it in your face, but in general most people who partake of illegal substances don’t advertise it. They don’t want to get in trouble.

It’s bewildering why dope remains illegal in a time when you can inject your own ass into your face. A 2011 call for a review of the U.K. drugs legislation by The Global Commission on Drugs Policy was rejected by the then prime minister, David Cameron. “We have no intention of liberalising our drugs laws. Drugs (sic) are illegal because they are harmful — they destroy lives and cause untold misery to families and communities.” It’s an interesting viewpoint, but doesn’t actually answer the question – Why is marijuana illegal?  Especially when you couple it with the knowledge that alcohol is legal in the U.K.

The Oxford dictionary definition of drug is as follows: Drug – Noun – ‘A medicine or other substance which has a physiological effect when ingested or otherwise introduced into the body.’ Re-read this definition, if you will, and recognise that this statement applies to most of what we eat or drink.

But, there will no serious talk of criminalising pie eating any time soon. Or introducing some kind of fine system for caffeine abuse, modeled perhaps on parking tickets, with the requirement that all coffee users be subject to random piss tests.

And as for prohibiting the sale of alcohol…

I’ve never got my head round the hypocrisy of a society that pretends alcohol is safer than weed. It’s such a mind numbingly ill informed opinion, and is completely unsupported by any evidence based or anecdotal data.  Think about it, how often is exclusive marijuana use a mitigating factor in a crime?  How many football hooligans tear up the centre of foreign cities, after having a few tokes at the back of the stands? How many rounds of a bong, before a group of stoners turn native and kick f*** out of each other?

The phenomena of drexting is a wonderful example of the universally held truth – that people do really stupid things when they consume alcohol to excess. Drexting, as defined by techopedia – ‘Texting friends, family, coworkers and significant others while intoxicated.’ I would add texting exs, people you hate, and people you cyber stalk to the endless list of individuals that may find themselves a victim of a drexter’s ill advised 4 a.m. rant.  The word stexting does not exist in Techopedia. That’s because stoned people don’t lose inhibition and reason to the the point where contacting someone that they haven’t seen since 2006 seems like a good idea.

All this talk of the idiocy of our drug laws has distracted me from the purpose of this piece. How to minimise the number of Nailing Jess postcards that will wind up in badly rolled 4 a.m. joints. The absolute truth is I can’t. And, thinking it over, I’m not sure it matters. Yeah, sure, they’re postcards of my book and I think they’re a work of art, a collectors item even. But many smokers turn joint rolling into an art form, so it’s actually a form of up-cycling. All I ask is that you put Nailing Jess to the back of the pile and smoke all the Vote Tory stuff first.

Still crazy after all these years…

I was somewhat of a neurotic kid, and I went on to be come an even more neurotic teenager. For most of my twenties the neurosis was clinical, tapering off to a more manageable ‘we’re all a bit crazy’ in my early thirties. Then something spectacular happened, I had a baby and it knocked the neurosis clean out of me.

I know many women go the other way, and I guess I got lucky. There’s something about the constant immediacy of a helpless living creature that focuses the mind entirely, and the urge to obsess about an incident in a bar in the early nineties dissipates completely. Like all the best metamorphosis, I can barely remember how I used to be, and I often think I make up stories about my misspent youth, just to sound interesting.

More recently, I’m starting to suspect that all my tall tales weren’t actually that tall at all. As crazy creeps into my bedroom at 4 a.m., and shakes me awake with another barrage of unhelpful what if scenarios, I long for a howling baby who shuts up when you feed it. Crazy, on the other hand, is a lot harder to put to sleep. If I engage, then the possibilities are infinite. What if no-one reads the book?  quickly becomes What if they do and they hate it? which begets the question Why would they hate it? which invites the answer They won’t hate it, if they do, it’s because they don’t get it  which poses the query Why won’t they get it? What’s not to get? which prompts the response They won’t get me! They won’t get me!, and suddenly it’s 1993 again, and there’s this incident in a bar…

Only, it’s not the nineties. I’m painfully aware of this, as I sip chamomile tea instead of sinking back Stella – the young lad gets very judgey if I’m drunk before breakfast. It’s all the exposure, see? It’s driving me a bit nuts. I know that’s ironic, ‘coz that’s what creatives types crave – attention, an audience.

Pondering this paradox takes another half hour, and the ship sails on getting more sleep tonight. That starts me worrying about my future lack of energy. How will it affect my performance and drive, in the days ahead, when I need to be on top of my game? Wtf did I become a race horse? It’s very confusing, all this sub-dividing of self into other parts. One part creative- one part seller – one part promoter – one part cheerleader. Just to be clear, I never signed signed off on the cheerleader part. That’s the self that hasn’t already been subdivided by Motherhood. One part carer – one part teacher – one part nurse – one part cleaner – one part cook – one part play mate – one part playstation repairer- one part social representative for your child in the outside world. So, keep your hair washed, and your nails clipped, or he might not get an invite to you know who’s party.

Now, I know other women do all this s*** and never complain, except to each other, where they are always sure to find a captive audience of empaths. Even then, there’s always a caveat about how much they love whoever they’re wishing harm on. Normally, those they’re compelled to care for. Why would you want to kill strangers unless your a psychopath? Which, statistically, most women aren’t.

Except in Nailing Jess, my debut novel, out on June 26th. Withering, the novel’s setting, is overrun with female psychopaths, which is one reason why you should read it. Another is that it’s very funny.

 

The Hard Sell

ARC – Advanced Readers Copies of my debut novel ‘Nailing Jess’ arrived about two weeks ago. Most of time since, has been divided between staring at them, a stupid post sex grin on my face, and stroking the cover, running my fingernails across the title and my name. The other thing I’ve been doing is handpicking influential people I want to read one and approaching them personally, asking them to do so.

So far, so textbook. I’m lucky, I’m on the ground in one of the cultural capitals of the world -Edinburgh. My home for many years, the birth place of my son and the first city that ever showed me kindness. The six degrees of separation rule halves in a city like this and you are never more than an overprised latte away from somebody who knows somebody whose floor Russell Brand crashed on in the early nineties.

I’m also lucky in that I’m an extrovert. I love having conversations with people, especially strangers. When somebody interrupts my reading on a train, to drunkenly tell me why their ex is such a prick, my eyes light up.

With this in mind, I have managed to orchestrate a few meetings with individuals I really want to have a copy of my book, and persuade them to take one.  Persuade is perhaps the wrong verb. In actuality, once you stand square in front of someone, a copy of your debut novel thrust into their space, they have to be harder than Ray Winstone to hand it back to you. The real challenge is getting them to read it.

So far, still text book. Last week, I had the pleasure of handing a lovely lady – hello lovely lady! – who works at the Edinburgh International Book Festival a copy of my book. At a guess, this woman gets handed a half dozen free debuts every week.  The front cover of my debut saysNailing Jess‘ – “The most shocking book you’ll read this year”

‘You must be happy your publishers wrote that,’ the lovely lady observed. Now, you might think I seized this opportunity to give it the hard sell by saying something like ‘Actually, I’m a bit concerned they’re understating it. I wanted them to go with ‘Nailing Jess’ – ”The most shocking book you will ever read” or ‘Nailing Jess’ – “A book so shocking you may never read again”

You might think I would use such a sentence as a chance to dazzle her with my profound intellect and innate authors ability to articulate. Don’t forgot she’s a literary type. I could have replied ‘What they are referring to is the subversive nature of the book’s core premise.  Namely, that the innate maleness – in origins, in concept, in design and delivery of the patriarchal structure mean that any apparent gains of any ideology opposed to it, are in fact an illusion.’ The trouble with this strategy is with every big word you use, you increase the chances of losing your train of thought and inadvertently sounding silly.

To avoid this, you might have think I could have led with with a more conversational approach. Referring to the fact that my book is set in a matriarchy I could have said. ‘It’s only shocking, coz it’s happening to blokes. Everything that happens in my book – well not quite everything – happens in the real world, every day, somewhere to some woman. And we are not shocked by that at all.’

Alas, retrospect and it’s all knowing analysis, have in no place in actual real time. ‘Nailing Jess’ – ‘The most shocking book you’ll read this year’  ‘You must be happy your publishers wrote that,’ says she. I find myself blushing, and mumbling ‘Well, they have to say something don’t they?’

So lovely lady, if you’re reading this, they didn’t have to say that, they choose to market my book with this line because they believe it.

Nailing Jess – Reading is Believing

Nailing Jess published by Cranachan out June 26th 2017.

On Editing.

I’m not particularly religious but I did find myself speeding through a few ‘Hail Mary’s’ last night. Hail Marys are the go to prayer of the catholic under pressure. It doesn’t matter how many years of my adult life have been spent dissing her, there’s still a mind controlled seven year old within who knows if the crisis is big enough only she can sort it. Those of you experiencing real crisis or personal tragedy should look away now ‘coz I am exaggerating for effect. Truth is, I’m just so f**king sick of editing my first novel ‘Nailing Jess’, that I’m reduced to praying it will stop.

This is an a-typical example of a first world problem. How many writers would kill, or at the very least commit some form of criminal infraction, to have their debut novel published?  I was one of those people once, and then I got a publishing deal. Which was wonderful…at the time. Publishing deals are fantastic as concepts go. They validate every drunken declaration you’ve ever made about one day becoming a published writer. They also look great on your C.V. and make you sound more credible when you fill in self-employment forms.

However, like all the best concepts, from ideology to practical application much of the romance gets lost. Publishing deals are f**king hard word. It’s this thing they call editing. Editing, before you’ve been professionally edited sounds like a great plan. ‘I need an editor, I can’t take this idea further without a real editor.’ I could be heard saying, often. I’m not sure what it was I thought an editor might do, but I had no expectation that would deconstruct my book chapter by chapter, paragraph by paragraph, line by line. Trim this…Lengthen that…Cut the other… W.t.f? Am I writing a book or making a dress?  Wait a minute did she say cut? What’s she cutting? Why would she want to take that out? That’s really funny. Doesn’t she get it?  F**k!  What if it’s not funny? What if I’m not funny? What if they realise it and cancel my deal?  Can they do that?  Cue half hour spent searching for publishing deal and another half hour pretending to understand a sixteen page legal document.

But, it hasn’t been all bad. I did what I was told, or most of it. Reluctantly, grudgingly acknowledging that these ideas and revisions were shaping a better story. Eventually, after many days and many nights, writing, thinking, procrastinating, swearing… The edit was over. I had hit the ‘send’ button. I could breathe out and get back to the business of watching netflix and telling everybody I had a book coming out.

Only it wasn’t that simple. After the first edit, there was the second, and after the second…well you get the picture. I started to realise that whoever had come up with the saying ‘The devil’s in the detail’ might not have been speaking metaphorically. Prone to hyperbole, I began to wonder if the bible had taken this long. Religious fervour blended with reality as I came to believe only a female catholic icon could save me from my editors.  Because there are not many female icons in Catholicism, on account of its hatred of women, my desperate mind quickly seized on Mary – virgin and mother.

The cynics among you should stop reading now because what happened next is truly remarkable. Today, as in only hours after last night, I got an e-mail from my editors saying they had uploaded the book to the printers. I know what you are thinking. A book that is on it’s way through cyberspace to a printer is a book that has no more edits required. It is a finished novel.

As the reality of what just happened kicks in, I’m seized by a new and different panic. Was it the prayers that had put an end to this relentless editing business or was the book by then finished? I’ve reconciled myself to the fact that I may never truly know. It’s difficult to imagine a catholic icon with a sackful of more important requests for spiritual intervention might have taken pity on a lazy blasphemer like myself. Yet, we are frequently told, by those with a greater authority than myself on such matters, that God works in mysterious ways.

It’s enough to make me almost regret the profane nature of ‘Nailing Jess’.

‘Nailing Jess’ is being released by Cranachan Publishing on June 26th, 2017.

 

 

 

 

Subjectivity and family law

‘It is not uncommon in contested family proceedings that one side, and occasionally both sides, are of the opinion that the judge’s decision was wrong.’  So says Judge Jeremy Lea, the bloke at the centre of the Samantha Baldwin family law case.  And just like that he invites the public to swallow whole the court line on Samantha Baldwin.

Many will, because it sounds quite compelling. Twelve day fact finding trial. Fourteen witnesses. Two thousand pages of documents. Competent council for all parties. What’s not to like? Other than the outcome.

With a wave of his gavel, Judge Lea stamps all over the public perception of Samantha Baldwin by releasing a limited amount of information into the public domain. Enough to make you shake your head in disbelief. Not enough to allow you make an informed opinion, but that’s his job.

So what did Judge Lea actually say today? In short – He doesn’t believe Samantha Baldwin and by inference, the children she is speaking for. In what appears to be a particularly gruesome move, he also chooses to believe that the indisputable drug traces found in the boys’ system were put there by Samantha Baldwin herself. So there you have it folks! Samantha Baldwin’s bat shit crazy! That’s why the state had to steal her kids.

For a minute there, it seemed to be suggested that the Family courts were regularly transferring custody from caring, protective mothers to paedo dads. But that is not the case here. It reminded a lot of people of the Rebecca Minnock case. Same idea. Pockets of the public thought that was about a paedo dad and a loving mum, until the judge put them right. She wasn’t crazy though, more ‘manipulative and attention seeking’. It even reminded some people of the Victoria Haigh case. Another mother claiming her daughter had been sexually abused by her father. Not a runaway mother, Victoria Haigh was just a very defiant one. She was named and shamed and her ex given custody and exonerated. What all these women have in common is how little information was ever released into the public domain about their stories, and how censored and edited the released data was.

Thus a carefully cultivated, if tired image emerges. Crazy lady with massive chip on her shoulder accuses doting dad of unspeakable acts. That is the family court default position every time news gets out that all is not well behind those gilded, closed doors.

What anyone who has ever seriously supported Samantha Baldwin needs to remember is nothing has changed. The woman who ran to protect her children because she was desperate and left without choice has not changed, nor have her motives for running. All that has happened is the man who forced her to run has released a public statement saying, that after listening to twelve days of testimony and submissions, in his subjective opinion, also known as a family court judgement, he doesn’t believe her.

We need to keep talking about Sam.

Anyone who knows me, or who has ever met me, or who has had the misfortune to share my space at a bar counter ten minutes past last orders, knows I’m obsessed with family law. There’s a reason for this. I have a family. What I struggle to understand is why everyone who has a family isn’t obsessed with family law, especially mothers.

Family law affects mothers deeply. It is one of the few bastions of power the patriarchy have not relented at all. Law in general is still a man’s game, as is evidenced by the lack of successful prosecutions of crimes that women are disproportionately victims of, and the continued framing of women as unreliable in the narrative about these crimes.

According to The Rape Crisis centre only 15% of victims of sexual violence report it to the police. This suggests the vast majority of rape victims, a group that is overwhelmingly female, do not trust the criminal justice system. If we do not trust a system that is open and accountable, at least in theory, to deliver justice for our women then how in hell can we trust our family law system, which is closed and lacking in anything but the most cosmetic form of accountability, to deliver justice for our children? We can’t! We can’t! We can’t!

Forgive the dramatic repetition, if we were in the pub now you’d be backing away! It’s just so obvious to me, that as a society, we need to be having this conversation. We had a chat, for about five minutes last week, when absconded mother Samantha Baldwin hit the headlines. ‘Why has she run?’ normal people asked, by normal I mean – not by nature family court obsessives. ‘Because family law courts are dark places run and staffed by deviant, dangerous people,’ the obsessives replied. ‘You would run too if it happened to you.’

There’s a great deal of confusion around family law, as befits any system that’s run in secret. In fact, unless you work in it or live in it, which is what it feels like if you’re involved in a family law dispute, you will most probably have no understanding of it at all.  And that’s the way the establishment would like to keep it.

It’s for the good of the children, we are told, but that makes no sense. The children, like all other sections of society, would benefit more from an open and accountable system. In its absence, how can we protect them? Seriously, if we don’t know what’s going on in these courts, and if when we find out, we are not allowed to print it, then how can we insure the safety and well-being of the children whose lives are determined by it?

The children have a right to privacy, it is argued, and they do. When children are either victims or perpetrators in criminal law, we can report on them and protect their identity simultaneously. It gets slightly more complicated when we have to protect the identity of the adults involved as well, which is the only fool proof way to protect the children on the ground. But it’s not an insurmountable challenge. It’s certainly not a valid reason for keeping the courts closed.

Samantha Baldwin’s five minutes of reluctant fame is over and I mean that in its most literal sense.  It is now illegal for Samantha Baldwin to talk about why she did what she did. It is illegal for anyone to talk about why Samantha Baldwin did what she did. Mumsnet, who have removed their thread on Sam due to reporting restrictions, are a very pertinent example of how effective the state’s censorship of Sam has been. In a nutshell, Samantha Baldwin has lost her children and her right to free speech in one fell swoop. She has been forever silenced.

To be clear, this isn’t the draft notes for the plot of a play set in some repressive foreign regime. This is Britain in 2017. This is how a democracy treats some of its most vulnerable citizens, namely children when they disclose abuse, and mothers when they believe their young. Where’s the public outcry? It’s hard to be outraged when your access to information has been cut off, it’s like what am I outraged about again? ‘I can’t tell you,’ a family court obsessive might say, but that itself should be a source of outrage. Censorship is outrageous, especially when it’s sold as a benevolent child protection measure.

Now I know, as you sit in your safe suburban semi, with a good man and an even better postcode, you truly believe it couldn’t happen to you. But here’s the thing, just like no kid ever dreams of one day being a junkie, no mother ever imagines standing before a family court judge pleading to be allowed to continue to raise her children.

In an extract from what is described as a summary of the courts principal findings in the Samantha Baldwin case Judge Lea says the following, with regard to the allegations that Sam raised, namely that her children’s father, and multiple other persons drugged and abused her children.  ‘I also found that the mother genuinely believed that he had done so, but that her belief was irrational and that the evidence of abuse was unreliable.’  What’s really important about this statement is how it exemplifies the damned if you do, damned if you don’t approach to allegations of child abuse in family law. Sam believed that her children were being abused. Therefore she was morally, and more importantly, legally obliged to protect them. To not do so puts her at real risk of losing her children to social services if anyone else discloses the same concerns.

But she drugged her own kids! ‘I also made a finding that in order to try to prove her case against the father the mother had caused the boys to ingest substances that would give rise to a positive testing for benzodiazepine products and zolpidem.’  Drugging children, as we all know, is a criminal act and there is no clear reason why such an issue would be dealt with in a family court. The statement also implies that it was Sam who introduced the drug evidence, which again feeds into the damned whichever way it plays analogy.  The suggestion, alas now ‘fact’ that Sam drugged her own children in order to prove they had been drugged is akin to the rapist explaining the victim’s bruises with the well worn and often accepted defense that ‘she liked it rough’.

In the middle of delivering my judgement on that morning, the mother abruptly left court. It is now apparent that she picked up her sons from an unknown location and disappeared with them. This put her in breach of the Court order. The police are investigating how she did this and I make no further comment save that it is my assessment that was plainly pre-planned and carefully executed.

Unlike much of Judge Lea’s statement, which is not open to any level of scrutiny and relies on a few self chosen extracts delivered sparingly and without context, this opinion can at least be independently questioned. Sam and her boys were found fifteen, count ’em, fifteen miles from her home in Newark. By any measure of what good planning might be, trapping herself at the epicenter of the search base isn’t it. Either she was very stupid or very desperate, but she most certainly was not very well organised. Unlike the tracking team that were looking for her. You’d be forgiven for thinking she was the most dangerous person in Britain so extensive and rigorous was the search, so limitless the resources spent locating an unarmed mother with no previous history of violence.

It begs the question, if the original police force investigating the original allegations raised by Sam, details of which are now subject to a gagging order, had been even half as thorough, had used even quarter of the manpower, or even a tenth of the resources to fully and completely investigate Sam’s claims, might this story have had an entirely different outcome?

Savile should have fixed it but he didn’t.

‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing’ A bloke called Edmund Burke said that. Of course, it would have to be a bloke ‘coz he did that men meaning people thing. But that was probably because of the times. In those days men were people. Women were less than that. Tied to domesticity. Excluded from playing any shape or form of meaningful role in society. Unable to vote. Uneducated. Lacking any autonomy over her identity, her body or her destiny, women were most definitely not whole people. Part mirror, part vessel. To reflect his greatness. To satiate his desires. To carry on his blood line.

Fast forward a few centuries and it’s quite a different picture! Women are whole people now. We’re everywhere. Running economies. Throwing general elections. Throwing referendums. We’re in boardrooms and law chambers and university facultys. We have most definitely arrived. This is optimum time in pockets of the West to be a woman. Or so it would appear.

It’s actually a bit more complex. It’s probably not a bad time to be a certain type of woman, I’m just not certain which type. Not poor. It’s absolutely a bad time for women to be poor as is evidenced by the #sexforrent. Some argue that swapping a few sexual favours for a pad in the city is an entirely valid arrangement. I’m sure even they wouldn’t disagree that it’s not as valid as a lease, a third party deposit holder, and a yearly safety inspection.

It’s also not a great time to be a woman fleeing domestic abuse given that they are closing women’s refuges and reducing their access to related support services.

It’s a pretty crap time to be a woman who ages because they are clamping down hard on that. Fighting the signs of aging is not only a legitimate pastime of the aging woman, it’s her moral imperative. Her face a battleground. Her hard earned living a mortal enemy.

It’s absolutely the worst time ever to be a mother. Whilst we wage futile war on our waist-lines and our tits, there is an actual ongoing all out assault on motherhood, and we are indifferent, if not complicit. Whether the British Medical Association is trying to take the woman out of motherhood, or the Women’s Equality Party is trying to sell equal parenting as a feminist objective, or the men in capes are banging on about the golden uterus. For the record, mine is not golden but it is functional making it one hundred percent more effective than the male uterus which does not exist.

No-where is the war on mothers more obvious than in our family courts. No-where is the war on mothers less obvious than in our family courts. It’s that behind closed door thing. We can only imagine what actually happens. For some reason, most people imagine things are ticking over just fine. The absence of free flowing information, combined with the presence of one authoritative narrative seems to be enough to allay most fears. North Korea, anyone?

Samantha Baldwin, and yes I am still banging on about her, is a perfect example of everything that’s wrong with our family law system. The single narrative that now exists about her case comes from the mouth of one man. Not just any man, an important one. A wig wearing high flyer who could site powerful and influential people as referees. Someone who we should trust, solely because of his standing in society.

Then, it starts to sound a bit more like the seventies. Do you remember that time? And anyone who has had access to British media at any point in the last five years will “It appears to me that the culture of the times both within and without the BBC was such that incidents of this kind were not treated seriously.” explained establishment figure Dame Janet Smith. She was referring to the B.B.C’s willful complicity in sex crimes including sex crimes against children over the course of four decades, but especially the seventies. They were real bad. We should all feel real good that it’s not like that now.

Before we reach our hands the whole way round and pat ourselves firmly on the back for our speedy evolution, we should take a moment to reflect. The so called seventies culture existed straight through till 2012, when the Saville story broke. Right up to that point, the establishment, across multiple including very high levels, had protected a paedo.

The Rotterham child abuse scandal didn’t reach public consciousness till a year later. That’s four years ago. As in not very long at all.

What the Saville and Rotterham and every other type of vaguely related inquiry have in common is that no-body believed the victims. They were liars. All of them. Hundreds of them. Thousands of them. Until we realised they weren’t. Turns out we were just really crap at believing them, recording their crimes, investigating their crimes, prosecuting their crimes and offering them any chance of meaningful justice, often within the lifetime of their perpetrators.

So we don’t know the ins and outs of the Samantha Baldwin story. But we do know from the state approved narrative that she made a number of very serious allegations against a number of men. I want to know how that initial investigation proceeded. Was it with the speed and precision of an episode of ‘Law and Order: Special Victim’s Unit?’ Were there mobile phones and laptops seized at the earliest possible moment? Given that there were allegations against multiple perpetrators in a potentially small geographical area, what special measures were taken to prevent potential suspects disclosing information to each other? How were the children treated? What level of expert training and support was offered to such young potential victims of such a potentially huge and heinous crime?

Now, I know all these things cost money, but what price the protection of our young? Also, we’ve got money. If there’s one thing the hunt for Samantha Baldwin taught us it’s that. If we are happy, as a society, to throw maximum power and resources at anyone who dares violate the orders of a civil court then we should be equally as happy, dare I say happier, to throw everything we got at anyone who is suspected of being involved in a paedophile ring?

When people say they want justice for Samantha Baldwin, what they mean is they want mothers to be able to safely report sexual abuse without fear of losing their children. Which is what most of us assume happens anyway.