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Perennials – from Thatcherisms to Helping Those in Need

With the death of we are a grandmother Margaret Thatcher last week, it made me think of one of her other classic statements there is no such thing as society, which both epitomised her style and enraged so many of us. These are the quotes which will keep on coming around. Sadly though, what seems to have had staying power since those days is a pervasive acceptance of self interest at the heart of life – and I don’t excuse myself entirely from this malaise, though I am trying.

While not many people would argue that it was all fine before Thatcher, the ideological hatchet job her government did on the Trade Unions was done with scant regard for the long term consequences of that bitter savagery on the actual communities it affected.  I’m no economist, but surely a gentler slower way could have been found to cope with the decline of traditional industry, creating new and solid industries in its place.

While individual responsibility is necessary to life and not something to be frowned upon, society should also mean that there is something actually there when people fall, a cradle of compassion if you like, a sense that the fortunate amongst us will help the struggling, for whatever reason.

I’ve always subscribed to this belief, though without really thinking that one day we might need some help ourselves. A socialist would say this work should always be the responsibility of the state and carried out by the operations of government in order to shape a fairer, more redistributive society. This was always a great excuse for liberals such as myself to hope that it was being done by someone else, somewhere else.  But in the absence of these made-up utopias, charities do have a big part to play.

However I don’t buy the Big Society twaddle – empty words Cameron, empty words. In practice it means things like my friend, a speech therapist in the NHS, has been told that there is only a budget to treat the most acute emergency cases, while the valuable work she was doing with severely autistic babies has been cut and she is having to tell new parents whom she was working with that they are now on their own.

I am sick to death of the rhetoric abounding about at the moment which vilifies the poor and the vulnerable. Have you counted how many times the phrase hard working families has been bandied about? Almost as much as benefit scroungers and workshy cheats. Like brainwashing. If you say it enough times people will start to believe it. Sure, there are people who take the piss, but compared to the amount that the treasury is losing from tax evading companies, its peanuts. Interestingly I heard on the radio this morning that it was actually in Thatchers time that so many people went on to incapacity benefit, the thousands of people who had lost their jobs as a result of the closures, as she wanted to fiddle the unemployment figures – running at nearly 4m, remember that? That’s what I’d call how to give people hopelessness not hope.

We’re certainly not all in this together. While the poor are being capped left right and centre, it’s totally ok that huge companies don’t pay their tax and chief execs have unlimited bonuses for banks in public ownership. Places like London have become playgrounds for the super rich while the differential between the haves and the struggling is getting wider and wider. Something is seriously at sea here.

But my post today is also about the charity Perennial, (patroned by the real Queen!) with whom I do some volunteering. I discovered the charity through the website www.turn2us.org.uk which a lovely friend (the one above, thanks M)  told me about when illness struck my husband. We were fortunate in the sense that we didn’t need financial assistance but we found ourselves reeling from the impact of what was happening ie: our world being turned upside down. We were assigned a case worker and just having someone visit us who had an inkling of what we were going through and understood the turmoil that ensued was incredibly comforting. They also helped with the minefield of long forms which needed to be filled out in great detail and were pretty distressing. And 0ur case worker has continued to support us. Of course it’s possible to empathise with people who are going through difficulties, but until it actually happens to you, you’ve really got no idea.

So this is to say thank you to Perennial and to hopefully help promote the excellent work it does and spread the word, both to people who are in the outdoor industries who might need help and to people who may want to support it.

Anyway, we raised £1082.84 recently at the Cornwall Garden Society’s Spring Flower Show at Boconnoc House and Gardens. The success of the Cornwall group is due in the main to George Kestell, who despite being a gardener and lecturer  gives up tons of free time to organising and attending all the Perennial events, as well as appearing regularly on a gardening programme on local radio.

Another freezing day,  at least on the Sunday, when I was there, but the plucky public turned up to peruse the exhibitions and buy the wares on sale. Check out those coats!

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Flower Show www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com

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Sharon, a fellow volunteer

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George, on the left.

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If you know anyone who might have a need of Perennial, now or in the future, please share this information. Or indeed if you’d like to help, donate or whatever…actually they have lots of gardening type information on their website and run workshops, tours and have a volunteer pool of speakers for gardening clubs etc. www.perennial.org.uk

Oh ok I know you’re missing the cows…they’re missing you too…

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Hello, they say

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38 Comments Post a comment
  1. spabbygirl #

    Well said Cowgirl, Thatcher did act without thinking, as in ordering to sink the Belgrano without discussing a peace strategy.

    April 13, 2013
    • That just wasn’t on the agenda was it? Depressing to remember.

      April 14, 2013
  2. Well said indeed! That vile, spiteful, vindictive harridan did more damage to the fabric of society in this country than anyone else I can think of. I can’t remember who said it but a great quote about her was ‘…she knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing’. How true.

    Enough said about that though. Hats off to yourself and Perrenial and all folk who volunteer to do charity work and prove that we still have a society!

    Lovely shot of the girls at the end too:-)

    April 13, 2013
    • So true! Costs not values. I also heard an interesting comment about her being anti- intellectual and how this had fuelled the idea that it’s ok to just be concerned with oneself and immediate family, a kind of shrinking of concern.

      Glad you like the shot of the girls, they’ve usually got their heads buried in hay so I took this one while they were waiting expectantly 😉

      April 14, 2013
  3. I think we should be checking behind Ms Thatcher for the Sir Humphrey’s that pushed her into power. Do we really think that a woman would have attained that level of power without some slimy politician’s agenda being slithered in behind her? She was obviously a very strong woman and more man than woman most probably BUT we ended up with most of the hatchetted trade unionists here in Australia and if you ask me, the U.K. isn’t all that much better off than it was prior to thatchers utopia. Our own labour government copped a bollocking for the “Working Families” platform. We Aussies are a bit more vocal about our lacklustre politician’s than you polite Englanders ;). Our own Female Prime Minister has done a hatchet job on herself. Stupidly taking the position of power with the chance of political fame over doing the right thing for the country and she won’t be there next year. I vote labour. I come from a staunch line of union reps and “power to the people” revolutionaries BUT I can’t say that I want to vote labour this year. Its pretty much a carbon copy of liberal (our liberal is your labour go figure 😉 ) and there are no alternatives.

    Love the horty gorgeousness and love the ethos :). “The Plucky English” are the stuff of legends. That’s where the western world got its balls. You guys put the stubborn back into “Keep on keeping on” ;). Sorry to hear about your husband :(. Hope that everything is back on track now. It is a measure of society that we extend a hand to people who need it and when we start to cut services like this, we cut ourselves. Supporting capitalism whilst slashing everything else is only going to end up right back where we were when Ms Thatcher arrived…the poor being pissed off and a revolution in the brewing! Good luck finding another Thatcher this time…we are onto you now! ;). A lovely post full of the undercurrent of people helping themselves. A place where political grandstanding just doesn’t factor. True people power :). Love to the cows 🙂

    April 13, 2013
    • Despite my loathing, she did come out with some crackers too. About her all male cabinet ‘the cocks can crow all they like but it’s the hen who lays the eggs’ So yes she was a powerful woman, but actually did little for her sisters. Most people agree that she enjoyed being unique and surrounded by men and probably wouldn’t have tolerated competition from another woman. Funnily enough, back then I used to think she looked terrible…but now I see some of that old footage and thinks she was quite an attractive woman! Not sure what’s happened to me 😉

      Ah yes you won’t part us from our fetes and flower shows! NOTHING will keep us away 😉

      And very true that when we cut services we cut ourselves. Don’t know if you’ve read the other comments but there’s a good link in one to the myths about poverty – I’m going to keep it at hand to naysay anyone who tries to tell it any other way.

      Thanks for your concern, fraid it’s an ongoing situation and not likely to change, but we muddle along. Blogging helps!

      April 14, 2013
      • Blogging certainly helps and it shares the load with blogging friends all over the globe :). Hugs from sunny (but bloody freezing) Tasmania 🙂

        April 14, 2013
  4. Anonymous #

    Thanks cowgirl, for thinking, and sharing your experience and inspiring us all to share our gifts for a greater good. This weekend I am volunteering at our our own local garden show. Someday I would love the opportunity to experience one of yours…….as always I appreciate your viewpoint and your photography.

    April 14, 2013
    • Thanks very much for the appreciation. You’ve come up as anonymous, is it Gué by any chance? What were you doing at the garden show? Oh yes, try to come for the Hampton Court one it’s great…lots of space in a grand setting, loads of show gardens and plenty of displays.

      April 14, 2013
  5. …and breathe…!
    Fantastic result for a fab charity. Agree with the other sentiments too:)

    April 14, 2013
    • I noticed you’ve got Perennial down as one of your links, I’ll do the same! Thanks for the comment.

      April 14, 2013
  6. Charlotte #

    Well done for writing about Mrs T – I can’t think about her without getting cross. All these programs about her is doing my head in – keep remembering how awful it was. So great that Perrenial do what they do – of course don’t suppose the founder has been recognised in the honours list? Those cows are too cute – what lovely legs….

    April 14, 2013
    • After your comment I had a look at their legs and you’re right they are lovely!

      And yes, too much on TV about Thatcher….aaaghh when’s it going to end. I think I would have to protest if I was up in London. A (sort of) state funeral…pah! And Pinochets daughter invited…best buddies they were

      April 14, 2013
  7. Harriet #

    I’ve felt sad this last week remembering how that government despised, vilified and bullied ordinary gentle people.
    The report ‘The Lies we Tell Ourselves’ debunks the myths about poverty that you talk about http://www.jointpublicissues.org.uk/truthandliesaboutpoverty
    And I have made a donation to Perennial 🙂 Practical compassion far away from politics!

    April 14, 2013
    • spabbygirl #

      I quite agree, I loathe that woman and Cameron, I have to look away when they’re on. I liked the link to the social justince page too, I didn’t know Wesley said similar so long ago. Food banks are already short on food and the cuts have only just started.

      April 14, 2013
    • Good for you 🙂 Thanks for the link I’m going to print out the pocket version to keep by me at all times! Wesley wasn’t stupid was he?

      April 14, 2013
  8. Rhonda Crowe #

    This post is so interesting to me as I see so many parallels to conditions here. Our state governor, who is thankfully out of office now, did his best to break up the unions. Reagan (Thatcher’s buddy) did likewise. I come from a union family – in addition to the farm, my family worked in the construction industry and local factories to supplement income. Husband is a union plumber and pipefitter and if he was just starting out instead of nearing retirement, I would be very pessimistic about his employment future.

    April 14, 2013
    • Thanks Rhonda, interesting to hear it’s struck a chord…not too up on US politics. There’s a whole generation of people growing up now who probably think ‘trade unionist’ is a dirty word, when it is simply a way to protect workers terms and conditions…how could anyone object to that? Sure, they did have a bit too much power here back in the seventies, but there had already been work done to negotiate with them – lots of people think that if this policy had been persued we could have got through it without the bitterness which ensued – and is still going on today.

      April 16, 2013
  9. Rhonda Crowe #

    I should add, our new gov is doing the same, unfortunately. My best to your husband – I”m thankful that you have a good support system in place. I know from experience how much it helps both the person dealing with chronic illness and their family. Speaking of family, the girls look quite well!Please give them a pat for me 🙂 Hoping it is getting more spring-like there – we are finally having some nice weather here!

    April 15, 2013
    • Much appreciated, thankyou! I will pat the cows 🙂 Yeees finally a spring like day. Hurrah.

      April 16, 2013
  10. Its difficult to comment on your post without writing a small essay because it touches on so many complex an emotive subjects. The subject of Margret Thatcher alone seems at the moment to require a lifetime of discussion and analysis which I think points to the only thing about her that all people can agree on – she engages people in talking about politics. And there are few things worse for democratic society than political apathy. Debating the thatcher effect is a good thing, especially if it encourages us to think about how society could and should be and lets face it, in terms of were we are heading environmentally there’s lots of room for improvement.

    April 16, 2013
    • Indeed Plot52, and in the face of the decimation it’s easy to become politically apathetic because it’s hard to know where to start. Why don’t people love the insects? I was talking to a friend yesterday and he asked and wondered why environmentalists aren’t more radical. Hmm I don’t know. There is a woman in the Tasmanian rain forest up a tree to stop the logging so it’s not all gentle…

      April 16, 2013
      • Thatcher is given a great deal of praise for her struggle against militant socialism but basically her vision for society was extremely conventional. The woman up the Tasmanian tree is a lot more deserving of praise for bravery because she is struggling against an aspect of global capitalism. A system we are often told is now the only workable option,”No! No! No!” (my favourite thatcher quote).

        April 16, 2013
      • I agree! No No and NO. 🙂

        April 18, 2013
  11. I forgot to say that I know what its like having a partner who becomes seriously ill and how stressful that can be. My family was helped by the Artists General Benevolent Institution (AGBI) at a very difficult time and it made a big difference financially and in terms of general support.

    April 16, 2013
    • I’ve never heard of them, they sound great too. Glad they helped at such a stressful time. Thanks for understanding.

      April 16, 2013
  12. I’ll pass on commenting on Thatcher simply because it’s clear that your experience of her was both closer at hand and quite different than mine. It’s a rule of life – details disappear at a distance!

    As for the unions – they’ve changed in this country, and radically so. I have coal miners in my family history, as well as factory workers, and in the 30s and 40s – even into the 50s – unions were critical in the development of safer working conditions and better pay. Today? The union bosses tend to function as mob bosses, using rhetoric about helping the worker to fleece the workers. The pendulum always swings, of course, and there are stirrings in the rank and file that may bring reform.

    As for Perennial – what’s not to like about an organization that helps horticulturalists? That’s a sign of a civilized society, for sure! I’ve never heard my English gardening friends mention the group – I’m going to see if they know about it. The fact that it’s been around since 1839 is amazing.

    And your photos just made me laugh. The combination of all those coats and all those flowers just brought a smile. Plucky blossoms, plucky people! And I’m certainly glad that you found some assistance. Serious illness always requires more adjustments and coping than anyone realizes, until they have to deal with it.

    April 17, 2013
    • Many people from afar admired MT as a strong woman and that certainly can’t be argued with! However, here in the Uk, even at the height of her popularity only around 40-45% of voters wanted her in, it’s just that the voting system allows these kind of things to happen – the alternative is proportional representation which has it’s own problems of course! During the funeral mainstream media were bound to focus on the good bits in a patriotic fervour but I should say there are probably more people here who were anti than pro. You didn’t see that many of them! Or only the ones who were having celebration parties and burning effigies…some of that bitterness I was talking about.

      Interesting to hear about what goes on in the US, power does have a habit of going to peoples heads – this can happen if you’re head of state or indeed a union leader!

      I do hope you’ll tell you’re gardening friends about Perennial, thanks. I think they were in some doldrums for a while with getting their message out (maybe that 1839 sensibility 😉 )but they now seemed to have caught up with social media as a tool.

      I’m glad the photos made you smile – it was a case of gritting your teeth on the day!

      Adjustments and coping….very true…and on a daily basis. Still, it has it’s compensations…lot’s more time to write 🙂

      April 18, 2013
  13. Oh me, oh my. I just was reading the Havana Times (an English blog from Cuba) and I found this entry re: Margaret Thatcher. This isn’t the sort of thing that shows up in our newspapers much – quite a different take on the woman and her life.

    April 18, 2013
    • spabbygirl #

      Thats an excellent article shoreacres, Thatcher did bring a culture of individualism & greed which is a great shame.

      April 18, 2013
    • Oh me oh my indeed! Actually this tickled me a bit – very old fashioned in it’s red blooded rhetoric – stirring stuff. Though some of the conclusions I’d have to agree with – apart from the evil bit. Braying toffs – sado monetarism…priceless! The apocalyptic picture of a shallow money obsessed Britain falling apart may be a bit strong but he’s got a point 😉

      April 18, 2013
    • Off to read your Cuban Gold post…

      April 18, 2013
  14. Started with Thatcher and ended with flowers… Strangely poetic 🙂 Always fun and interesting to read. Glad Mrs T is in the ground and also glad to hear that you’re helping horticulturists from the ground up 🙂

    April 18, 2013
    • Thanks Debbie. Maybe reunited with Dennis will help something bloom 😉

      April 18, 2013
  15. Gue' #

    Oh, my goodness. What lovely plants. If it had been within day trip distance, I know I would have gone mad, spending money!

    What are those purple flowers? They look like our maypops (passion flower).

    April 20, 2013
    • Yes, luckily I was too cold to spend! The flowers are Hellebores, early flowering.

      April 20, 2013
  16. Ok, I’m liking the way your posts (and your mind) work/s. Having just mentioned the iron clad, Ritz residing Mrs in a recent post (Costume) it would seem only right to give Cowgirl another follower.

    June 2, 2013
    • My mind sometimes works, otherwise I just take pictures. Glad to have you galloping along. I’ll be along to chez carmichael to round up a few posts soon 😉

      June 3, 2013

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