Monthly Archives: January 2007

NOTES FROM A NIGHTDRESS

About a week ago Morag was meandering along, minding her own business – well pretty much – when she was reminded once again that there are forces out there just waiting to get you. The past week has been spent in a bit of a daze of snivelling, crying, coughing, clutching of sore ribs and repeating of the litany ‘Oh Lord take me now’. Thank God he knew I didn’t mean it but I must say I don’t remember ever being this sick excluding a time in Mombasa airport that is best left unmentioned. Still not back in fighting form so please excuse the random nature of communiqué. One of the interesting things about being ‘out of it’ is what penetrates your consciousness through the fugue.

FIRST DIBS ON THE EN SUITE – John Reid’s rather bizarre notion that we should send all the naughty people back out into the real world as there is no space for them to stay as a guest of Her Majesty. My first reaction was – no problem, we’ll all just move in with him then! He must have all sorts of protection and security that those of us with regular jobs don’t get. If he thinks that’s the way to solve the issue, okey dokey as long as he plans on making sure me and mine are safe. So I say we all pack an overnight and decamp to his environs. If he wants to put us all in danger then he can damn well protect us. Then today’s story about our child-fiddler, who we’ll keep here indefinitely, made me remember a story I heard in my daze that a really high percentage of people in our prisons are actually foreigners and that if we ‘sent them all back where they come from’ then there would be more room. Now at the risk of sounding a bit too Far Right for comfort – maybe that’s not such a bad idea. I mentioned it to a seriously Leftie friend who started explaining ‘well what about their human rights’ – now correct me if I’m wrong but where were the little girl’s human rights in the scheme of things in this man’s mind when he was fiddling away. Never mind what sort of message does that send out to miscreants from abroad ‘give us your wayward and your deviant…’

AN APPLE A DAY KEEPS THE DEVIL AWAY – How difficult it must be to be of the religious world in this day and age. Do you advertise the church on condom packets or do you stick to the old methods even though they obviously are no longer doing the job. If you take advantage of the new technologies and marketing methods – where do you stop? At one point does it become tacky? Congrats then to the CofE with their new campaign to get people to commit good deeds everyday. I suspect the idea being that when people get the ‘buzz’ of being nice they might just make a habit of it. I think it is a brilliant plan. As a society our morals are in crisis – get people to introduce some sort of moral structure in their lives and the rest will follow. And if you give them the option to participate and choose it will work even better. THEN they will turf up on a Sunday and listen to what is being said and if it is said in a language they can understand we’ve done our job.

DOES ANYONE HERE SPEAK ENGLISH ANYMORE? – When I was in my first flush of youth I wanted nothing more than to live in Paris. I would have left my fancy job and gone to Paris to run a crepes stand. But – I couldn’t speak French, at least not at the appropriate standard. And as the French do have some sense in such matters they do not make a habit of hiring people to deal with the public who errrrm don’t speak French. Why do we not adopt that practice here I wonder? My friend MD*works with social services driving folk from one place to another. Most of the people she drives are non-English speaking. She ferries them from home to doctor’s appointments (while our own older folks are hobbling along on the bus). She ferries the children to school (while our own children are tubing it and bussing it). She tells me stories of going to pick up children from school and a father, driving his own car, coming to drop something off while she ferries the kids – at our expense. While all this is going on – an interpreter has to be present. Even if nothing needs to be said, the rules are such. That is why it was no surprise to hear today (or was it yesterday, sorry) about the millions, upon millions, upon millions that we are spending on translation services. I still do NOT understand why learning English cannot be a requirement for employment. Give jobs ratings to do with public contact – the higher the contact the more the need for functionality in English. Give a proficiency certificate, which must be presented when applying for a job. Maybe I’m just mad that I never ran a crepe stand by the Seine………

I think it’s time to go back to bed now. I’m rambling even more than usual so I must not be as better as I thought L Time for my 436th Maximum Strength Lemsip……….Morag lies weeping (and gagging)………..

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The Cripple, The Bleach Cream and The Fat Girl

A Tory activist, John Hawkesworth, has been called on the carpet for an email he has sent describing the local Labour Party chair as ‘the cripple’ and ‘a reptile’. He has been told that his comments were ‘obviously offensive’. He has been ‘rebuked’ and he has ‘accepted that it is inappropriate’. Well that’s that sorted then! He, a grown man, has had his transgressions pointed out to him – his hand slapped and The Naughty Step pointed out to him. I’ll bet he’ll never make that mistake again – now that he knows it’s not nice to refer to people by their physical afflictions or blood temperature. Who are we trying to kid?

Big Brother debacle ends with Jade Goody (who has always been accused of having that appalling condition ‘diarrhoea of the mouth) coming out and saying she was being racist and she was/is really sorry. Should we be upset that while the newspapers were hollering ‘Hang the B***h’ (or close enough) many of them didn’t think to mention that Jade was mixed-race. Yes that doesn’t preclude her from being racist but it ups my platform of More Likely Just an Idiot.

Or should we have been told earlier that one of the reasons the most fragrant Shilpa was accused of that most heinous of crimes’ wanting to be white’ was actually because she was applying bleachcream to her face. Why on earth anyone would do such a thing while being watched by millions is beyond my ken. And let us be clear that Morag is not unfamiliar with the product as she has been asked on fair few occasion ‘you are such a lovely shade do you use bleachcream’ – for the record the answer is no.

Izzum-it is continues………On Friday, in the line of work, I met a girl who has lost almost 11 stone in weight. She stood up in front of a roomful of people and talked about what she used to experience when she was heavy. Strangers would come up to her on the street constantly telling her that she was a disgrace, repulsive, gross and nauseating. Imagine what this feels likes when your issues from food stem from being sexually abused as a child and feeling the need to build a physical barrier to protect yourself from invasion.

In any given day without too much effort in the UK and all the other countries that we all hail from – you will see examples of Race-ism, Sex-ism, Size-ism, Class-ism – and about a million other –isms. In fact the problem is that we have become so used to people passing remarks about others that we barely blink an eye any more. To call someone a cripple is rude, hurtful and cruel. To call someone poppodum would not bother me in the slightest – however being told that I was repulsive because of my size would. As would ‘you just want to be white’ – which I have been told on countless occasions. It’s unpleasant and seriously doesn’t feel very nice. And for the record – I don’t. So whom do we blame for the current state of affairs? Why is it getting worse? How come despite all these Commissions for This That or The Other it’s not getting better?

Possibly because too many of the people ‘in charge’ of what we wash our brains in have a limited agenda. Channel 4 wanted to make money. I had a conversation with a respected tv-producer this morning who said what should have been done was those three girls should have immediately been called into the diary room, hauled up by their bra-straps and read the riot act. But Endemol and CH4 had a dull series that no one was watching, let’s spice it up and it got out of control.

Let’s hope and pray that this bites Ch4 right where they have been needing to be bitten for a long, looooooooooong time now. A lot of their programming is splendid but shows on the benefits and joys of sex with animals, How-to play Russian roulette, the beyond shocking Shameless and the soon to start inexcusable childporn that is Skins needed to be taken off the air. And if this Big Brother debacle does that then it’s all been worth it.

But beware of those who point the finger as well. I read in the paper today ‘someone’ explaining that all this had happened because of a group of young white men at Channel 4 – for the record the last time Morag knew of it the person in charge of BB for CH4 was not young, not male and not white. Those that purport to protect us often have agendas themselves.

So here we are – a world struck by an epidemic of Izzum-it is. Everywhere we turn someone is either doing it to someone or complaining it has been done to them. What do we do? Answers on a postcard……..Morag’s thought?…. ‘do unto others as you would have done unto you’ – it works for me!

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The Big Brother Beastlies versus The Bollywood Beauty

One hundred years ago – or so it seems – I sat down to watch Episode One of a new series that was about to begin on Channel 4 called Big Brother. The idea was that it would be social experiment to observe what would happen if you put a group of strangers together in a controlled environment, and a la George Orwell’s 1984 – you watched them 24/7. There is no point in dissecting what has happened since our version of Big Brother started, let’s just say ‘it was a good idea that went awry’.

For various professional reasons too complex to get into right here right now Morag has watched a lot of BB. Then a couple of weeks ago the decision was taken Chez Mindbender that enough was enough. And why? Well for exactly the reasons we are seeing now. I was becoming ashamed.

Watching BB had become a furtive activity involving watching God-awful people being beastly to each other and whipping the nation into a frenzy to do the same. As per usual Racism and Bullying are the words being trotted out by all and sundry – and Morag would bet the farm that the production company is behind a lot of this furore. I was at a business luncheon today with media (as in telly) folk and they were tut-tutting about how the media (as in newspapers et al) were being led on a merry dance by Channel 4 and the production company Endemol. They had a show that no one (in numbers terms) was watching – so they have fanned the embers into a roaring flame and presto they add a couple million viewers overnight. Some of the tabloids are now hellbent on convincing us that India is about to declare war on England over the treatment of their fair maiden – guaranteed ratings will continue to rise through the roofs. And THAT’s the problem.

Let us be clear. There is some SERIOUSLY appalling behaviour going on in there. As one who watched BB for years I can say that there always has been some sort of appalling behaviour going on in there.

But this is different because this is embarrassing. The behaviour of the three lasses in question – and the ‘gentleman caller’ of one of them, is a reflection of a certain segment of UK society and seeing it blown up on screen for The World to see is shameful.

What our English Roses are doing is showing an ignorance, lack of tolerance and downright lack of manners that would put anyone to shame. Yes we don’t know these three. We are not their friends, their parents, their partners but we are their countrymen, and rest assured these girls are quite indicative of the mindset of many of our young people. One of them was Miss England, one of them is rated the 25th most influential person in the country (or so she says), the other is one of our premier popstars. These are whom our youngsters are idolizing and this is where we have to worry. These are the sort of people who are achieving celebrity, money, adoration, and fame. These are whom our boys and girls are emulating. Thick, mean, ignorant and unkind – is this what we want our children to aim for? We have got to reclaim our image from these ‘folk’.

As Shilpa (The Bollywood Beauty) said today “I am representing my country. Is this what today’s UK is? Scary….”

…oh the SHAME !!!

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KEEPING UP APPEARANCES – Blair and The Butler

There are those who believe that we must make it our daily duty to yank the choke-chain on any Blair Behaviour we find objectionable. Blair must pay! He must grovel, apologize, prostrate himself and if you listen to some – castrate himself. Morag doesn’t go in for that sort of carryon being more about moving on than banging on. Every now and then the conversation needs to be about the principle not the person so in defence of Mr.Blair and today’s tempest in a teacup…………..

The United Kingdom is known for many things. We have a reputation around the world and are considered by many to be a most caring country. A well-educated country. A country with a deeply developed sense of right and wrong. You can’t beat it for pageantry. Geographically truly a jewelled isle. A populace both diverse and independent…etc.etc.etc. But let’s face it we are also known as being a wee bit frumpy, a wee bit frayed around the edges and more than a wee bit ‘we’ve always done it that way and that way has always worked for us’.

So Mr. Blair is looking for a butler? And about time I say. While the ‘less is more’ attitude towards keeping up appearances might be charming in the shires it is not appropriate for world rulers. Tony Blair doesn’t need a butler – but The Prime Minister of Great Britain most certainly might. I suspect until quite recently it was par for the course.

You go to any banana republic as a visiting dignitary and you will be greeted by a few hundred dancing locals – in full regalia. A couple of animals will have been slaughtered, someone’s written a song and there are fireworks. Sumptuous palaces, grand entertainment, why shouldn’t we keep up with the neighbours. Why do you think Diana was such a hit? Because we finally had someone who added a bit of, God forbid, ‘allure’ to our image.

The office of the Prime Minister – and all that goes with it – is the modern face of our country. It must reflect our status as a powerful, strong and successful nation. Don’t let our penchant for ‘keeping our heads below the parapet’ cause us to fall behind on the world stage. We are losing face in many areas. Some think we blindly only follow America, others feel we blindly only follow our past. Having a Prime Minister whose jumpers come from Matalan might have been all well and good on the ‘keeping it real’ level but if you are trying to cut a figure on the world stage then you need to up your game. It isn’t about “Tony Blair” it was/is about lifting our nation’s image and bringing it inline with the nations we keep company with.

I know this started out as ‘a bit about a butler’, but it really is about a lot more than that and we all know it. We widdle away money in so many ways that we should be concerned with – entertaining Oasis at Chequers and Number 10 having butler is the least of our worries. Tony Blair may or may not want to, but the Prime Minister now has to. In a country addicted to every kind of God-awful makeover programme imaginable why is it so hard to conceive that our political image needs a makeover as well – and fast.

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LIVE HONESTLY, EAT SLOWLY and LIE………….

The comedienne Lucille Ball once said the secret of staying young was to live honestly, eat slowly and lie about your age. I am all for living honestly, already eat annoyingly slowly and have now developed a strategy of counting backwards and avoidance of answering ‘how old are you anyway?’ which covers the lying.

Age and how we perceive and deal with it is actually at the root of many of the biggest issues we face in our society. 1 in 6 of the UK population is 65 or over. The fertility rate is declining, as is the mortality rate. The under-16 population is shrinking, the over 65’s growing steadily. Population soaring right after WWII and in the Swinging 60’s means that by about 2050 there will be over 7 million over-80’s. That might seem too far in the future to worry about but if you think about the fact that by 2011 there will be 12.2 million people of pensionable age you then see why we have to stop ignoring the problem.

It never ceases to amaze me how we blissfully ignore The Third Age in this country. It is as if by pretending it doesn’t exist then it won’t arrive. When I arrived on these shores a-long-while back I made the declaration ‘if ever I leave this country it won’t be because of the weather it will be because of the attitude towards ageing’. This ‘anyone over 29 is fit for the knackers yard’ attitude is really useless.

There is no use saying ‘yes the government treats us badly’ – we treat ourselves badly. How many of us whinge and whine about how old we are? This aches, that hurts, the other doesn’t work as well as it used to. It is considered appropriate to be curmudgeonly – fair enough until you realize that your attitude rules your reality. Your reality rules your health.

We have an enormous group of people in this country with a lot to offer who are being sidelined. 50 year-olds who can’t find a job because they’re considered too old. People in their mid-40’s frightened by computers declaring they’re just too old to learn something new. With that as our reality what hope is there for the over 60’s, 70’s and heaven help us 80s?

So let us take our hats off to the government in Hong Kong who are putting into place a scheme to open up schools in the evenings and give classes to Third Agers. Before you start saying ‘And who is going to pay for this?’ I would say I’d rather money that currently goes towards things like tango lessons for those of us who are too fond of the buns; and sponsored jollies for MPs; to go towards retraining our older population. Their work ethic is usually vastly superior and many of them want to work.

As time goes by and the money from pension funds and government drains away we are going to find ourselves with a population that needs to be maintained but who in truth would prefer to be maintaining themselves. We need to restructure the way we currently do things so that there is more available work for more people who want to work and that those who currently work are able to do so in conditions more amenable to themselves and the lives of their families.

“In spite of illness, in spite even of the archenemy sorrow, one can remain alive long past the usual date of disintegration if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things, and happy in small ways.”
Edith Wharton (1862 – 1937)

P.S. Speaking of aging……. Morag has decided to instiute a special Hats Off Award. Each week we will Hat’s Off to someone who has behaved in a spectacular way in the previous week. Sometimes it will be spectacularly inspirational etc. but this week is Spectacularly Silly. The First Weekly Morag’s Hats Off!! Goes to LibDem Lembet Opik for his spectacularly crass performance in Parliament this week. Whilst Morag understands that he is proud (as a man in his late 40’s) of snaring a Cheeky Girl (she in her early 20’s) we think that Westminster is probably not the appropriate place to crow. Take your smugness down to the pub and backslap with your mates – the rest of us do not want to hear about it, it is unseemly. Thank you.

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Gordon, Gordon Go Away……

Despite the name Morag isn’t actually Scottish; but while she does have a penchant for most things from North of the Border, she just cannot seem to come to terms with Gordon Brown. The idea of years and years of this man at the helm is making emigrating and getting a job driving a Lord of the Rings tourbus in New Zealand sound awfully appealing.

I don’t know what it is but whatever this man does lately gets my blood boiling. Am I on my own in this?

It strikes me that he is desperate to be PM and will do/say anything to ensure that it happens. That’s fair enough; Morag likes her politicians to be driven. But somehow there seems to be something just a wee bit smug and fingerwagging about his current conduct. He’s like the one kid who immediately pipes up with “Miss Mindbender I told them not to that but they wouldn’t listen…………” when the teacher returns to an out-of-control classroom.

Yes what we have now is an out-of-control government but who has been front and centre all this time but one GB? But all of a sudden ‘It wasn’t me Miss Mindbender, honest!’ Look Gordon no amount of “I’ll give everybody a Ferrari if you all play nice’ is going to work. We are not children and we are not stupid. ‘More power to Parliament and the people…’ a blatant ploy to get the disenfranchised on side.

Mr. Brown is basically saying ‘You come play with us and I promise you too will have power’. Reminds me of those American High School films you see where some mophead stands up and offers the studentbody ‘no homework, no exams and beer in the vending machines’. ‘The state as a servant state (?)’, ‘The government working for the people’. We can see who would have flunked Politicking 101, ‘never underestimate the intelligence of the people you are trying to woo’.

I for one find this blatant pandering offensive. But then again Gordon you would never get my vote any way so I guess you can just carry on as you’re going. In the meanwhile those of us who are interested in a radical change of government need to make it our business to oust this man by whatever means necessary. The hair-on-the-back-of-the-neck-o’meter is working overtime. Sit back and allow him in because ‘there is no other viable alternative’ or ‘our man isn’t ready yet’ and we will rue the day. Tony Blair might not have been everybody’s cup of tea but this one is an altogether different and more dangerous proposition – ignore that fact and we will live to pay the price.

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FREEDOM OF SPEECH IN TODAY’S UK -Where has it gone and why?

In a free state there should be freedom of speech and thought.
Tiberius (42 BC – 37 AD)

People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.
Soren Kierkegaard (1813 – 1855)

It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either of them.
Mark Twain (1835 – 1910)

Freedom of speech and freedom of action are meaningless without freedom to think. And there is no freedom of thought without doubt.
Bergen Evans (1904 – 1978)

The question of freedom of speech has been on our tongues since the first caveman said to the second caveman “I don’t approve of the way you beat your wife and if you don’t stop it you’ll have to move to that fire over there”.

As humans we seem to be born with the desire to mind each other’s business. Nothing we enjoy more than telling each other what we think – and if you’re here right now you probably have this desire more than most.

We all love to be heard, even when we are talking rubbish. But of course we rarely do that, it is only The Other Fella who talks rubbish – and almost always at that. Why doesn’t someone tell TOF to pipe down, after all no one wants to hear what he or she has to say now do they?

In the olden days (anytime before 2002) we learned from listening to each other. You decided what you thought about something. Then you tried to find out what everyone else had said or were currently thinking about your preferred topic. You put all the info and opinions into the cauldron that was your brain – stirred it around and jiggled a bit – out popped an opinion. Your own opinion.

What on earth has happened to that concept? Where has it disappeared to? When did we become a nation of people who mainly only want to hear from people with whom we agree totally? “Did you hear what This One said about immigration last week? Shocking – just shouldn’t be allowed!” “Did anyone see Her That Woman on QT last night? She shouldn’t be allowed to voice opinions like that!”

Have we completely lost the plot here? Freedom of speech means having the right to put forth your ideas without fear of impunity. That means you should be able to voice your opinions on abortion, immigration, repatriation, privatization, gay adoption – anything really – without fear of losing your job, your position in society or being ostracized (unless you are an elected official or a member of the clergy in which case you need to consider your boundaries).

HOWEVER there are caveats, and of course this is where it gets tricky. There is an ENORMOUS difference between expressing your opinion and inciting. If I say to you “I don’t like scientific experiments being conducted on animals” then I am expressing an opinion. If I say to you “I don’t like scientific experiments being conducted on animals and you shouldn’t either, furthermore you need to go out and take action to prove that you’re with me on this” then I am inciting behavior that is considered socially unacceptable by mainstream society.

That is where it goes terribly wrong. Because certain members of society have taken to ‘inciting behavior’ we now are loath to allow others to ‘express an opinion’.

Yes we need to discourage people whose rhetoric encourage violent or unlawful behavior. Yes we don’t need to have people on our evening news waving their arms about trying to encourage certain members of society to take up arms, do harm, restrict the freedoms, make life generally uncomfortable for other members of society.

But we do need to start encouraging debate from everyone. Not just the people that we like. Besides, as Sun Tzu said ‘to vanquish thine enemy one first needs to know him’. If we shut them up then how will we know their weak spots. And if we don’t know their weak spots, how we will we vanquish them once and for all.

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