I’M not too proud to admit that I don’t like confrontation.
For much of my life, I have avoided it at all costs. I always cowered in the face of strong opinions, loud voices, judgments, theories, speculation and viewpoints.
I’m sure much of it was down to a lack of confidence and being told I was “stupid” as a kid — never having the confidence that whatever came out of my mouth would either make sense, be true or not get me into trouble.
But also because I was never particularly (in fact, at all) politically engaged.
I had no real social justice crusades.
The extent of my participation in activism was when I was 17 and joined Amnesty International.
I attended a couple of meetings because humanity’s inhumanity got the better of me.
But then life — studies, work and relationships — took over and I left writing to leaders of countries with dreadful human rights records far behind.
Fast forward a few decades and this 54-year-old Gen X bird and columnist finds herself proffering weekly opinions on everything and nothing and, more poignantly, clashing with one particular Gen Z in my household, who either shuts me down or tells me in no uncertain terms that I am wrong every time any discussion about current affairs or social ills comes to the fore.
Offended at everything
This wonderfully bright, savvy and well-read Ungrateful — a social justice warrior of great conviction — chooses one of two options when we have a discussion; I am either completely wrong or not permitted to have the opinion I wish to share.
So, I wasn’t too surprised to learn that a recent report by the More In Common think tank, which polled 10,000 Generation Zs, found half of them said they were scared when others have different values.
Worse still, they think anyone who disagrees with them is probably wrong.
And I can tell you, it can be utterly exhausting. I find myself with years of lived experience of historical facts — political and social — and yet, I’m shot down every single time because the Ungrateful’s facts are supposedly more worthy than mine.
It’s like banging my head against a wall, and I don’t mind admitting that my eye-rolling normally results in me zipping up and leaving the so-called “debate”.
Sometimes I extend what might nowadays be considered an outdated opinion — not a fact — just how something makes me feel, or how my experience of new labels such as “chest feeding” rather than breast feeding grinds my gears.
And then I am scolded for my lack of tolerance. Don’t get me wrong. I’m super proud of my Ungrateful for being so engaged at her nearly-adult age.
I love how she embraces facts thrown her way and even more how she engages in her own research about certain issues she considers vital to her future.
She’s been a staunch LGBT campaigner and had to educate me about the difference between pansexual and bisexual. She’s had to tell me what terms are no longer acceptable for this dinosaur to use and has scowled many times when I’ve accidentally tripped up and used inappropriate terminology.
She’s been passionate enough to go on environmental marches, but not too happy when I’ve pointed out that warming up her room with a hairdryer might be at odds with her ideology.
We don’t walk the same political path, I don’t see politics as black and white, but her dogma shoots me down every time because the church of beliefs she attends makes no allowance for any other option or opinion.
Not surprising then that this recent poll says that one in three young people believe those who disagree with them on politics are factually wrong.
The shame of all this is that, despite their dedication to the principles of democracy, this generation of young folk actually undermine it in practice.
They are flooded with so much information, and what they consider to be facts from the internet and — worse still — viral material, that they become deaf to anything else.
It’s little wonder, then, that this is one of the reasons why they have earned themselves the label “snowflakes” — for their amazing ability to take offence at absolutely everything.
Maybe now we should add “intolerant” to that label, too, despite the fact that they are the ones accusing us of prejudice and narrow-mindedness.
We know that someone, somewhere, has engineered a cancel culture. Any opinion that doesn’t suit is slammed and shut off, and I wonder where it will end.
The latest example this week is Professor Kathleen Stock, from the University of Sussex, who has been branded the worst “transphobe” for daring to suggest that “sex is an immutable biological fact”.
Surely our schools and universities should play a more significant role in preparing their students for healthy debate? I struggle to do it in my own at home.
And I am acutely aware that age doesn’t always equal knowledge. I was dictated to for much of my teenage years and it stunted the development of my own ideas.
I’m thrilled the younger generations are challenging us with new thoughts and opinions — but rewriting history demonstrates only one thing — that listening is a dying art form.
Threats to campaigning Chris are a hate crime
YOU’D be forgiven for thinking Chris Packham was a murderer. Or has at least savagely killed some little fur-baby puppies.
But no, this man has incredible intelligence and credentials as a naturalist, environmental and animal-rights campaigner.
And yet he has been the subject of trolling, abuse and intimidation, including death threats, having dead animals pinned to the gates of his home and human excrement put through his letterbox.
Chris is a statuesque man. He’s not a shrinking violet, he’s a man of great conviction and substance.
He may have looked calm when he spoke on camera about the most recent experience his family has endured, but some part of him must be scared.
His balaclava-clad opponents have upped their game and torched a Land Rover outside his home.
It is thought the thugs could be hunters and farmers objecting to his environmental campaigns.
There is no ambiguity about this – it has to be considered a hate crime.
In a moment of frustration about the lack of action taken against the relentless abuse he has faced on social media, Chris compared these crimes to the racism faced by black England footballers in the Euro 2020 final.
And I think he’s right – it’s not a competition.
Both are crimes and both are vile.
Let Lisa grieve at her own pace
WE need to talk about death. I know. It’s uncomfortable, not particularly jolly and it’s deeply awkward.
But we need to talk about it because we are notoriously bad at it.
I was reminded of it after hearing that actress Lisa Riley says she still feels judged for continuing to grieve for her mother, who passed away nine years ago. People think she should be “over it” by now. I totally get her.
Grief has no expiry date – unlike life, of course. Grief makes other people feel awkward, restless, embarrassed and ultimately fatigued.
Not only do we struggle to grapple with suitable vocabulary surrounding death, but when it comes to grief, people are not just lost for words, they actually grow impatient.
They need you to hurry up and recover from it because you quickly become draining and inconvenient.
I lost my father very suddenly and unexpectedly to a brain haemorrhage when he was only 53.
It was devastating as I was 27 and hadn’t even contemplated his death.
It was a whole month before his funeral could take place and, all the while I was planning his send-off, I felt he was really present and by my side.
I was advised against going to see his month-old corpse but ignored it and felt it was essential for me to see him in order to process his death.
It wasn’t the most charming thing I’ve had to do but I’m so pleased I did.
After his funeral, I was expected to just crack on with life. It was as if people had been content to support me through some kind of half-marathon and now I needed to freshen up and carry on as normal.
The pain on my face, my sombre moods and my exhaustion was becoming too much for everyone.
Except I couldn’t just carry on. Just when the world wanted me to be the Ulrika they had always known, I found it hard to cope.
The death of someone is so often the end. But for those who carry on living, the hardship, longing and grieving only just begins.
I’ve lost three dogs in the past four years and struggled very hard to recover.
To some it was “just a dog” but to me it was a friend and companion.
If you’re not allowed to grieve publicly or in the company of others, if you’re not allowed time and patience, your grief turns in on itself and it will take considerably longer to overcome.
Grief never goes away. But it does eventually become easier to live with.
Miffed at no gifts
NOT everyone loves Christmas. This much is true.
I’m somewhat of a Christmas-crazy bitch.
I love the build-up. I love the prep. I love the atmosphere. I love the hope of togetherness.
Most of all, I love the cooking. And yes, I’m mad because I do a Swedish Christmas Eve followed by an English Christmas Day.
It’s insane and it nearly kills me every year but I thrive on the challenge each time.
I’m a great planner. But it turns out that this year I’m probably already too late when it comes to Christmas presents.
No delivery drivers, Brexit, work visas – you name it – all these have conspired against Santa making it to my imaginary chimney and flooding it with presents.
And because the upcoming shortage of presents is now a fact, everyone will already have rushed to get theirs.
Incidentally, I went into my local Boots the other day and half its shelves were empty, too.
The supermarket’s stocks are also starting to thin out.
I’m now thinking about how creative I can get with presents for the Ungratefuls.
Currently there appears to be no shortage of cling film, hoover bags, cotton buds and crab meat. I mean, they can’t knock me for trying.
But at this point I completely see us getting up on Christmas morning with our hot chocolates, listening to Frank Sinatra, lighting the fire – which doesn’t run on gas – and purely exchanging glances.
Nothing more. Nothing less.