Friday, May 30, 2008

When food fights back

I nearly died yesterday. Oh yes. I nearly choked to death on a piece of meat*.

I have decided that is not the way I want to go out: far too embarrassing. "Yeah, my mum choked to death on a piece of meat."

I laughed heartlessly at George W Bush's pretzel incident**. To prove that I have not learnt humility from my own experience, I still have no sympathy at all and lean to the view that the pretzel could have tried a bit harder in its assassination attempt. Honestly, weak-willed bread-product, where was your training, your grit?

I am actually much chastened by the incident and only relieved that I managed to avoid the necessity of the Heimlich manouevre, just. I did virtually vomit on my plate, which was nice for my dining companions.

I think I should like to drop dead like my dad, although not so young. I don't think dragging on like my gran is for me. Suddenly, unpredictably, just when you're least expecting it, that's when to do it, I reckon. But not by choking on a piece of meat, that just takes out all the drama and turns it comedic. I want drama.

*I am trying not to make any double entendres but it's really hard... Oh there I go again.
**Oh dear, I'm laughing all over again at George Bush's pretzel incident.

Bang bang bang: that's my head on the desk, that is.

I can't begin to tell you what's wrong with this facetious-but-still-just-frustrating picture-led article: I'd be here all day. Just let it be known, it makes me grind my teeth alarmingly.

The one bright spot is that, ironically, the con listed with some of these jobs is having to deal with lecherous men.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Oh Golly

I was quite disturbed yesterday when I was shopping to find "Golliwog" moneyboxes on sale in a Spar shop.

I guess some people see them as harmless and have fond memories of them in childhood. I don't see them that way at all. They're apparently caricatures of a caricature, the Black minstrels, and are products of a very racist time.

Can they be sanitised?

And moreover, should they be?

To satisfy people who remember them fondly? Isn't that a bit of weak reason: I like it therefore it's OK? "I remember something with happy nostalgia, therefore it makes it alright, because I'm not a racist. Some of my best friends are..." But hang on a second, why should something racially insensitive that harks back to an even more divided society become acceptable now? Are we in a perfect world where everyone gets along and no-one suffers discrimination and prejudice, and I just didn't get that memo?

A symbol is not isolated, it represents something: that's the whole point, the very definition, of a symbol.

You can try to divorce the two and try to mainstream them, but at base the Playboy bunny logo represents Playboy, for example, and the "Gollies" represent some very unfortunate racial stereotyping. The very shifting of emphasis in merchandising to the first two syllables of their name is deliberate in order to distance them from one racial epithet. This shows awareness of the issues, but in no way changes anything: these are not just toys or images, they are toys with ugly connections and that their names can be used as racist terms just makes it blatant.

Whether the person looking at them necessarily sees the connection doesn't mean it isn't there. The little girl who just sees bunnies, and the adult who just goes on a nostalgia trip for their childhood, don't take away from the essential fact of what those things represent.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


There was immense excitement, shrieking, squealing and laughing today. And the cause of this hilarity? Could it be a giant slide, a roller-coaster, a speedboat trip?

Nope, it was going through a car wash.

Kids are fabulous. I love seeing things anew through their eyes.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


I am pleased with the results of the vote on the abortion time limit cuts. Hurrah for the Tories' defeat on that one.

Cameron is a total arse really, wanting 22 weeks as the limit: it was neither one thing or the other so would have satisfied no-one.

I'm very relieved about the whole thing.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Apparently yesterday my husband had to wrestle his way through the thongs of a great many people.

I'm not sure I was the right person for this startling piece of information.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

If it's good enough for the dog...

A neighbour saw her dog had done a poo behind her car, so went to get a shovel to clear it up.

When she returned, she found not one, but two piles of poo and was a bit bemused, thinking her canine was more, ahem, productive than usual. She let out a frustrated cry of said dog's name.

"No, Nana, me!" came an indignant small child's voice.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

As my fist nears hotmail...

I log into my Hotmail account to be greeted with the headline: "As Jordan nears thirty, we ask you which celebs are ageing gracefully?"

I'm a feckin' geriatric then! Out of the twenties, we all might as well be dead.

I'm glad we've got that established.


Du Maurier's opening line: "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again" and the superlative descriptive passage that follows are perhaps one of the most memorable beginnings among novels. Rebecca is an intriguing and evocative gothic creation: on the surface a romance, a love story, but with sinister underpinnings and a way of throwing the reader off balance.

The unnamed protagonist is a naive young woman who is swept into an unfamiliar world by her sudden marriage to Maxim, the owner of the great house Manderley. It's a "whirlwind romance" that is strangely lacking in romance, which leads to their marriage, although her love for him is desperate, infatuated and puppy-like. When they return to England and his stately home, the untried heroine is a fish out of water and feels herself under the shadow of the deceased first wife.

It's a text that can be read on several levels, simply as a romance or a mystery, but there is definitely something else going on as well. Immersed in the lead character's narrative, it can be difficult not to solely identify with her struggles but it's also a novel that raises questions about what love is and what would you do to keep it, and are there any happy ever afters - or should there be?

Monday, May 12, 2008


Slow worms are not at all slow.

Nor are they worms. But the slowness is particularly wronger than a wrong thing about their name, as it goes. Although worms would probably have something to say about the worm aspect.
I saw one today as I gardened, which is why I seek to benefit you with this not-so surprising knowledge that you may well have already known. I knew it beforehand too, but it's nice to see it demonstrated by the critter itself. I hadn't seen one since I was a child*.

I am loving the sunny weather of the last few days - we've picnicked and beached. I swam in the sea yesterday, and by fuck, it was cold! Still after about quarter of an hour of determination it felt warmer.

Or possibly I'd lost all sensation.

* I know there are too many word repetitions in this post, but it was deliberate and it made I larf.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Reproductive rights

In the next few weeks there is going to be a vote on a possible reduction in the time limit for abortion in the UK. This is not a subject I would usually touch with a barge-pole, however...

I strongly believe that the reduction in time limit would only affect the most vulnerable of women.

Less than 2% of abortions are performed after 20 weeks; 89% are before 13 weeks. Of course, this is not the picture the pro-lifers want to present: a cluster of cells versus a 4D picture of a 5-month foetus? No contest.

But you may think: well, that's not affecting many people, why worry?

Because that less than 2% are mostly comprised of the women who are most vulnerable: unaware of their pregnancy, due to suspected menopause, faulty contraception or being so young their cycle is unsettled or hasn't properly begun. Or they are the ones most likely to be mentally ill or disadvantaged, so not realising/understanding/denying their pregnancy until the later stages. Or traumatised by rape or domestic abuse.

Contrary to hopeful media coverage, advances in technology have not significantly increased the survival chances of premature births under 24 weeks... Look it up - the nationwide EPICURE survey.

Unless you are wholly opposed to abortion under any circumstances, in which case you're not really my ideal audience, haha, the 20/24 weeks change is futile and will only affect those in desperate straits. Please lobby your MP to prevent this change.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Why People Believe Weird Things

Shermer discusses and dissects some weird beliefs in this text, dealing with such things as Holocaust denial, alien abduction and young earth creationism*. These case studies are quite alarming, particularly the Holocaust deniers, but fascinating.

I liked that Shermer tackled the idea of why intelligent people can form weird (at least to outsiders) beliefs, which is often dismissed in debates (or at least online ones): believers can be treated as though they are stupid, when clearly they are not. His contention, that they are best able to rationalise their beliefs and build complex defences of them although they are just as likely to have acquired the beliefs for "non-smart" reasons, seemed plausible.

It is perhaps counter-intuitive to realise that "smartness" has no relevance to gullibility, or actually can work disproportionately the other way: an audience of highly-educated people can make the illusionist and cold-reader rub their hands with glee; for once you've got them, it's hard to unconvince them and they'll work to help him or her prop up the illusion.

He puts forward explanations and suggests some reasons why such beliefs can take such hold, such as attribution and confirmation biases, which is where it got really interesting to me. However, this was very much towards the end of the book and it ended rather abruptly as though he had a deadline either in word-count or time and I felt a bit cheated by that.

*Talking of young earth creationism, I read someone online saying that to accept a metaphorical reading of Genesis would be to throw out huge swathes of the Bible and therefore render the whole thing meaningless. Which reverses the point that I would perhaps make that to throw out evolution is to throw out paleontology, geology, biology and many more -ologies. It seems strange to me that a single book outweighs everything we can learn from the natural world in some people's minds. Yet I suppose if you are coming from the perspective that the Bible is God-breathed, etc, then all human efforts are compromised and subject to an almost conspiracy theory outlook.

I am increasingly of the opinion that it is impossible to convince anyone of anything they don't actually have an active desire to accept. This would seem to be borne out by what Shermer says of the way that people apparently fail to register/remember arguments against what they already believe to be true. Perhaps what has frustrated me in the past about the circular nature of online debate and how people whose arguments in my opinion got totally shot down one day will be back the next day repeating the same stuff should not annoy me so.

They would say the same about me.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

On the quirks of cars

My car, or rather our car, is a male chauvinist pig.

I know this because it will only allow me to open it from the passenger side: my key will not work in the driver's door, while M's does.

Clearly it does not agree with women drivers. QED.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

On child-hating miserable goits

Bank holiday Monday was a day well-spent: we went to some local silliness with friends and there were Morris dancers, beer and bbq. It was all very jolly by the beach.

Towards the end, it was starting to rain and the children were already a trifle soggy from paddling so we went into a pub and sat in the back area, out of the way of the general crush. The children sat nicely and we chatted. After a while, M noticed the children were looking a bit fed up, so he started to play a spooky-spider-hand game with them, which cheered them up no end and they were laughing and squealing. I admit they squealed. A few minutes, and we calmed them down again and M tootled off to the loo.

At which point some bloke came past and snarled that we are the kind of parents that make children unwanted in pubs.

I was rather taken aback and had no response but now I do, frustratingly.
A. The children were not tearing round the place or causing a nuisance, they just got a bit noisy for a few minutes.
B. The pub was absolutely full of people, very loud, you could hardly hear yourself think, with many many adults laughing raucously - so why is a bit of childish laughter and squeaking so very grating, you nasty miserable moon-faced shite bastard?
C. If you have a complaint against our parenting, why did you leave it until M had absented himself, since he was the one making them laugh? Could it be you're a big fat coward?

Friday, May 02, 2008

Obby Oss

Now sometimes playing on the internet can be seen as a negative thing, taking up too much time and getting in the way of real life. Yesterday, however, it was a factor in motivating me to do something: last year I blogged about the Obby Oss going on, but I didn't actually go. This year, I didn't want to blog the same (of course, I could simply have not mentioned it, but there was no way that was going to happen, the Obby Oss deserves blogging about). It was not the only motivating factor, (things like it being fun, wanting to take T to his first Oss and regretting not going last year played a part too!) but it was there in the background.

Padstow's Obby Oss festival is a Celtic celebration of Beltane: the coming of Summer and return of the sun god Bel, and it's debatably the oldest such festival in Europe, certainly the oldest in the UK.

So after school I gathered the troops and we zipped down to Padstow on a whim. Last time we went, we followed the original Old Oss from the Golden Lion on its merry jaunt, but this year we began with the Blue Ribbon Oss. T jigged along to the music, although he didn't like the scary face of the Oss.

One year I'd like to go for the whole day and camp nearby, I think, leaving the kids with my Mum so I could get entirely immersed in the revelry. It's no great hardship that the Osses are stabled in pubs, you see.

The Blue Ribbon Oss

The Old Oss

Blue Oss supporter