Friday, January 11, 2019


This is a not bad joke from Lucy Porter who is a stand-up;

“It’s really hard to define ‘virtue signalling’, as I was saying the other day to some of my Muslim friends over a fair-trade coffee in our local feminist bookshop.” 

Virtue signalling is when people mention the good they do.

I slipped it in because us Foster Carer sometimes get to feel that we are virtue signalling when it comes out in general conversation that we foster.

One night last week I was helping out at a fund-raising event for a charity organised by a friend, a gal called 'Reb' (short for Rebecca - she doesn't like 'Becky'). It was taking place in our church hall. I say 'our' church; I'm afraid I'm not much of a church-goer, but I'm happy for those that are.

Before the doors opened to the public I was chatting to one of the church's stalwart parishioners who never misses any of the Sunday services, in fact he told me he attends a special service on the Saturday evening the night before the Sunday worshipping, just to make sure his Sunday worshipping is as wall-to-wall as it can be. He was very nice and kind enough to tell me all about the church, that is to say everything I needed to know about the type of stone it's built from.

I was happy to listen because it clearly meant a lot to him to demonstrate his knowledge. And his dedication. There was a bit of virtue signalling going on. But before he could start another story about stone we were joined by another group of people who were also helping out at the fund-raiser.

They turned out to be the deputy mayor, the former mayor and his wife. When I say they were 'helping out', I mean that they were attending in their official capacity. The deputy mayor wore a short chain of office, explaining that the full chain was very heavy and he preferred the smaller one, which did the job; there was no mistaking that he was somebody. Moreover he was somebody who represented a body which visibly  cared and did good works. Such as sending dignitaries to worthy events. They joked about all the warm wine and canapés they had to nibble at their various charity functions.

The mayoral party were very jolly, nice people all, but couldn't help a bit of mild virtue signalling.

My friend Reb, who organised the event, came over and introduced herself to everyone. She has the original heart of gold, does great work for a great charity. Everyone reflected privately that although they had their virtue, they couldn't compete with her. Hers was a very modest, almost non-existent spurt of virtue-signalling, if any at all.

Then the deputy mayor turned to me and said "Forgive me, but who are you and what brings you here?" - and I had a mini-meltdown. See, I know Reb through fostering. Not that she fosters; I met her at the school railings a few years ago and we clicked. I replied;

"I'm just a friend of Reb's."

The ex-mayor's wife chimed in with;

"Through work?"

And I replied;

"I don't work.'

And the conversation moved away.

Later that evening Reb buttonholed me and hissed; "Why didn't you tell them you're a foster mum?' 

I told Reb a white lie, I said;

"Oh Reb, to be honest I spend day and night thinking and talking about fostering, it's nice to get out and have a break.'

But that wasn't the reason. 

The real reason is because whenever, wherever and with whoever it comes out that you foster, that is the end of all other conversation. It simply consumes everyone's thoughts, people want to know anything and everything about how it works, how you do it, what sort of children come to you. It's always important to respect children's privacy and I am always at pains to make sure that no child who has ever stayed with me could be recognised or identified by whatever I choose to tell them about my fostering and the great efforts of agencies like Blue Sky and our social services.

But the truth is I didn't want to risk taking the moment away from Reb and her charity, after all, that was what the evening was all about.

And before anyone spots that I've just put out a really subtle and brilliant bit of virtue signalling for myself, let me remind you of two things; one, I'm anonymous so no-one knows to pat me on the back for respecting Reb and two; Foster Carers (in my experience)  don't do virtue-signalling. 

So much so that half the time when our Social Workers visit they practice virtue-signalling in reverse ie they signal our virtues for us!


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