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Monday, 15 August 2011

London's Burning

I thought long and hard about whether to write about the riots, not least because they were a week ago and it’s kind of late to be jumping on the bandwagon but also because I’m not sure what my opinion is. I’ve found it strange/amusing that over the last week every politician that’s been interviewed has said ‘Can I start by saying that I completely condemn these activities’ as if we were all sitting at home thinking: “Now I wonder what David Cameron thinks of these savage and unprecedented attacks on our country? I bet he’s all for it” .

There seems to be two views emerging. One that these are all little bastards who should be stamped on and beaten and have all their benefits and housing taken away and then set fire to; and the other view that these are poor delicate flowers who had no other option that to loot Curry’s as our society is so evil. I think like everyone else I am somewhere in between. Some of them are deprived, some are not: either way – setting fire to people’s homes is not the answer. The big question is where do we go from here. Here’s what I think:

Bring Back Grammar Schools
Brightness and intelligence is not related to class or wealth. However with school fees for public schools costing thousands of pounds a year their attendance is the preserve of the rich. Attendance of state schools is based on location so at the moment if you live in a deprived area then you’re going to go to a struggling school and not get the education you deserve. Grammar schools would enable those with academic abilities to be with others learning at the same rate and give them access to more qualifications. It would also encourage social mobility and mean that good jobs are not restricted to those that have had a private education. Which isn’t to say that those who are not academic would be abandoned, they would be able to learn in classes with others working at the same speed and not feel left behind or different. Which leads me to my next point.

Stop constant tests and the thought that everyone needs to go to university
We’re not all good at everything. How many of us have sat in a Maths class (or my personal nemesis– chemistry) not having a clue what is going on and knowing full well that we’re not going to use this in our real lives. Now let’s face it, most of us aren’t going to use these things in everyday life. Now I’m not saying abandon learning all together and there is a strong argument of learning for learnings sake but it’s not for everyone. So give everyone a solid grounding then let people specialise. Those that want to be academic can continue on that path, those that aren’t led to that area could have training in vocational subjects. Everyone needs a skill and a job and all should be equally valued and catered for. It’s not fair that we only concentrate on academia. We also need to limit the numbers that go to university. Not everyone needs to go. Many degrees are worthless. If we cut the numbers of those that need to attend then tuition fees could come down and then those who are academically gifted could attend and not be held back by their financial circumstances.

We need to glorifying people because of their status. We need to value everyone’s contribution to society and stop glorifying people based on their wealth. No more articles in magazines about WAGs, no more Jeremy Kyle. We need to stop viewing success as fame and fortune but instead value it on what contribution you make to the world.

Make it worth your while to work
There are people growing up in households where 3 generations haven’t worked. Yes, we need to help the vulnerable in society, yes we should be proud of our strong social security system but we need to make it worth peoples while to work. Raise the minimum wage, tax breaks for those on low salaries – it should not be easier to be on benefits.

Rights without responsibility
Respect needs to be earned not just given. If you want people to give you respect than behave in a way that earns it. And this is not reserved for children. Parents too. Too many children are bought up in homes where parents have absolved all responsibility for their children. If you’re a bad parent then yeah, I’ll judge you – man up and take responsibility.

Repopulate town and city centres and change our culture
If you walk around city centres in the continent then often you’ll see friends catching up over coffee until the early hours. Admittedly we don’t really have the climate for pavement dining but if coffee shops etc were open till the early hours then there would be more people on the streets and more importantly, more people on the streets not fuelled by alcohol. On the same note if there were more residential buildings in town and city centres then cities wouldn’t become no-go areas at nights and groups couldn’t congregate to the same extent.

All of the above is well and good but sometimes bad stuff happens. In that case the full force of the law should come down on you. We work together for the common good. Not for the promotion of the individual.

We have to accept that we are all in this together. We have to value everyone’s contribution to society, so many of these kids have been made to feel like they don’t matter and have responded accordingly. We need to react against the 80s – there is such a thing as society and it’s up to us to make it as good as it can be, no man left behind

Thursday, 4 August 2011


I rarely find myself spurred in to action. I don't have a quick temper, I slowly build myself in to epic tantrums and then thirty seconds in to the tantrum realise I'm being a bit of a knob and simmer down. I get over myself pretty quickly. However sometimes the rage likes to direct itself in to letter writing and now so many companies have little links on their website encouraging me to 'contact us' I occasionally write overblown emails. Many is the time I have come home to find letters from companies apologising for stuff. I can rarely remember what I wrote and can never remember what prompted such fits of rage. They are usually directed at train companies, power companies and makers of substandard eye liners. However this week I took on a new giant - magazines.

Let me be clear. I love magazines. I've worked at a few and although I don't buy as many as I once did I still dip in to one or two of the weekly gossip ones. It's worth noting that this isn't directed at monthy women's magazines. I have issues with them but they are normally along the 'who spends £700 on a pair of trousers' type issues. Anyway. A couple of months ago I stopped buying Heat. I've read it pretty much weekly for ten years and I found it quite amusing. Not as amusing as they find themselves but I'd still buy it. Then one day I was reading the tv reviews and I can't remember what the programme was (I think it was Derren Brown but I can't be sure) but the review, written by Boyd Hilton, said something along the lines of 'blah blah takes on religion, this should be quite easy as God doesn't exist'. I found that quite astonishingly rude. He's entitled to his opinion, he can think what he wants (that's his God given right, boom boom) but to casually disregard thousands of people's beliefs in a smug and patronising way I found pathetic. So I stopped buying it.

And I started buying New! instead. Drawn in by it's optimistic exclamation mark and cheap price tag. It's not a taxing read and it kept me amused on the commute, it's always interesting to get Peter Andre's take on world events. However, little did I know that it was to lead me to my next campaign. They have a page called 'celebrity shame' or something. Basically it's pictures of celebrities not looking their best with the offending articles helpfully ringed in red so we can really know how they've screwed up. Such things as having their flies undone, a horrible top and the like are all ringed. So far so asinine. Each misdemenour is accompanied by a bit of text ridiculing the said celebrity. It's not nice but I usually imagine that the celeb in question couldn't really give a monkeys.

However on Tuesday I took a look and there was a picture of Penny Lancaster. I literally have no opinion on this woman. None. However New! magazine had ringed her boobs in red and entitled it 'Penny's massive nipples'. Then followed a blurb ridiculing her for the afore mentioned transgression and (this is the bit that got me) saying that she should get a personalised number plate that said B1G N1P3. I actually said out loud 'Oh for fucks sake'. This had the benefits of slightly relieving my frustration and giving me a bit more room on the train as people backed away from me. I never thought I would have a reaction to Penny Lancaster but seriously. Ridiculing a woman for something she has no control over (by the way, in the picture she looked fine), she has also recently given birth and is probably still breast feeding and now she's getting mocked in public. It annoyed me that this is acceptable. That it's someone's job to sit there pulling people apart and writing bitchy copy about some poor woman who's just getting on with her life. It's not fair and I don't want a part of it. So I'm not buying New! anymore. And I wrote them an email telling them to grow up.

So that's been my week. I started my own cultural revolution based around Penny Lancaster's breasts. Not a sentance I ever thought I'd write.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Tea and Sympathy

I was ill last week. I don't wish to overplay it but I'm fairly convinced it was dysentery. Some of sort of 24 hour dysentery. Either way I exploded for 12 hours non stop and then spent 12 hours laying around softly moaning. The next day I was fine and merrily tucked in to piles of toast whilst at work while people around me muttered to themselves 'wasn't she off sick yesterday? Doesn't seem very ill to me'. I didn't like to rid them of their illusions and tell them that it was possibly one of the most violent episodes I had every had the misfortune to be a part of. Instead I smiled and said 'bit of an upset stomach, all better now'. Luckily I work with people who have the same approach to illness as myself. That is: check the person is better and then tell them not to give it to you. I just can't be doing with over sympathetic people.

If I'm throwing up I want the nearest person to me to be in Wales. I don't want you holding my hair back, I don't want you banging on my door to see if I'm OK, I want to be left alone to deal with this by myself. If I'm having to get up fifteen times in one night to empty myself then I have enough issues. I don't want to have to worry about making conversation at the same time. I'll be in touch when it's all over.

It was the next day I really wanted someone around. I was knackered and everytime I lifted my head I was so overwhelmed by the need to throw up that I decided not to move for three hours which led to some serious dehydration. I lay there and I wondered who I could text to come in and get me a drink. There were a few options but as I lay there, phone in hand, I remembered that I had locked the front door so I would have to get up and let them in anyway. So I rolled out of bed and then slid down the stairs on my back. By the time I got downstairs I was so tired I couldn't be bothered to get a drink.

All the same I was relieved there was no one there. I wasn't longing for company, I was longing for a drinks dispenser. I don't deal with the milk of human kindness very well. Which is why I was relieved to be greeted with these kind words on my return to work. 'You been vomming? Urgh'.