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Blog - Deborah Caulfield

Back in the day: now and then

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Drawn in black ink with muted colours - brown, red and green. Five seated figures on stage, behind a table. In front: someone makes a speech. Above: banners say 'Nuclear free air, land and sea.' Signed Deborah Sowerby, my other name

CND conference 1989. Black Ink and coloured pencil on paper

I had shingles over christmas and new year. Although it was a relatively mild attack, added to the usual impairment shit, its effect on my energy levels and states of mind has not been altogether positive.

I keep thinking any day I’ll be better and back to where I was.  But then, where I was wasn’t exactly a good place. I took on too much, hardly notice when I over-reached and didn’t really take enough care of myself.

These days I’m more passenger than driver. It feels weird and I don’t like it much. Back-seat puking isn’t my preferred style, it just isn’t me. Not the old me, or more accurately, not the young me.

The younger me battled through the pain, on and on. The older me spends hours and hours prone upon the sofa, in an enforced state of horizontality. Reluctant, mildly irritated yet arguably, blissfully resigned. Mindfulness works, but in case you’re wondering, I do not love Big Brother, I never will.

In this position, if I’m in the mood and not too tired, I can be quite productive, e.g. writing, reading, drawing (on the tablet) and talking (on the phone.) Mostly, though, I just listen to the radio.

Verticality generally involves stroking/feeding the cat, doing the washing up (eventually) and making approximations of meals and microwave cakes.

Occasionally, ideas come to me, like unexpected visitors. Reasons to make a cake and put the kettle on.

But here’s the thing: everything about me is old, including my ideas.

Yet who can blame me? Sometimes it feels like the 80s and 90s again: waiting for the bomb, cursing the system and hating the Tories.

And another thing: is it me, or are things worse than they were then, back in the day?

Politically, I’ve never felt so scared, gloomy and defeated.

Yet strangely, I’m also not surprised. I guess I’ve always known which way the wind was blowing. I just hoped for better and believed that if we worked and fought hard enough, together we could change things. I’d like to think this is possible, even now.

So how can I help? What can people like me (ancient, achy, sad, cynical etc) actually, realistically do?

Back in the day, and to a lesser extent as recently as 2012 and 2015, I did useful stuff: letters, press releases; posters, placards and flyers. I organised and attended conferences, meetings and workshops; I marched, chanted and stood around.

And so on. In the 80s and 90s I was a very active activist, for example as a member of CNDAACAAT.

Later came disability rights, another story about rights, wrongs and times gone by.

Which brings me to this point: I worked hard so that what has happened wouldn’t happen. I tried to stop them doing what they’ve done.

I failed. And there’s nothing I can do about it.

I remember then, and I see now.

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