Monthly Archives: May 2007

Now Even Our News Has To Be Pretty?

This week a study came out which said that more than 31 million prescriptions for anti-depressants were written last year. This was 6% more than the previous year and probably 80% more than it needs to be. The fact that this is so is for a combination of reasons too complicated to get into right now. For those of you pointing out the fact that I am not a doctor so what do I know – you are partially correct. I am not a doctor. However a few years back I was part of a nightly health series. The premise of the show was that each night there was a different condition highlighted. We would bring on someone who was currently suffering, someone who needed to be cured and a doctor. It became a running ‘joke’ with us on the show – ‘disease of the toe: antidepressants; ‘loss of hair: antidepressants’; ‘loss of husband: antidepressants’. Issues to due with prostates, erectile dysfunction, testicular anything: Proper Treatment. Of course there is a legitimate place for antidepressants but 31million prescription………….come on now (frown).

What does this have to do with politics or social-theory? A lot. It is a reflection on the ‘I don’t want to feel anything’ culture that we now choose to inhabit. Anything unpleasant rears its ugly head and we need to mask it or avoid it. God forbid we actually do anything about it. Why is that? Probably because most of us feel we can’t do anything about pretty much anything ‘bad’ in our world so if we can’t change it then let’s rob it of its power to hurt us. We hold it in, bottle it up, hope it goes away. Well of course it doesn’t. So every few years we need to release all this pent up hostility/aggression/frustration/sadness/et al. And it could be anything that trips the switch. Someone new to ‘hate’ on Big Brother, someone new to ‘love’ on X-Factor. That’s why so many of us like politics, a constant fresh crop of demagogues.

The first time I really became aware of this ‘collective outpouring’ was when Princess Diana died and now we are seeing a repetition in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. Let me be clear. I was devastated, nay distraught when Diana died. Trotted off to Kensington Palace pushing the buggy with the child carrying one rose and us grownups lugging the contents of an entire flowershop. Weeping, bawling and general gnashing of teeth. Railing against the universe, you name it and it went on. Did I really give a monkey’s about Diana? Still not sure – yes she seemed nice enough but were there more important things in my own life that needed attending to both practically and emotionally – most definitely! But what was easier, crying for me or crying for a stranger?

As a mother I can completely empathize and understand the distress the McCann family must be going through.

However there is something terribly, terribly wrong in how this has been covered and it leaves a bad taste in some mouths. Are some lives more valued than others? Is the pain of some families deeper? If Madeleine had been on holiday with her single-mother from Slough would we care as much? If Madeleine had been a wee brown girl from Merseyside would we have cared in the same way? And most importantly are we man enough to admit the answers to those questions………..

Many commentators infinitely more competent than I (which means just about everyone)……..are now starting to raise their heads above the parapet and ask these questions and I say hats off to them. This is NOT about poor Madeleine and the distress of her family. This is about how the media chooses what we are interested in, sometimes to their own advantages. When we see primetime anchor newsreaders climbing out from behind their desks and going a couple of yards away to see what happened to two toddlers found dead in their beds rather than hopping on a plane to go somewhere sunny so they can show concern and support – then we may feel a bit more secure that we are really getting a cross-section of news, not just what’s ‘pretty’…………

Am I saying that we shouldn’t care about Madeleine? Absolutely NOT! Forward emails, put up posters, tie ribbons everywhere you can think of ——– but do it for everyone not just the pretty ones. Maybe if/when we start caring about more of the pain and suffering that goes on around us on an everyday basis – and doing something about it –there will be less of it, who knows we can only pray…………

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Beware the Man Behind the Screen – Gordon Brown comes out of the shadows

Sigh………I guess promising the Universe that I would be a good girl and eat my spinach if it would ‘just make that man disappear’ didn’t work. OK then fair enough I’ll have to put some elbow grease into this then.

‘I do not believe politics is about celebrity’………is like when I make comments along the lines of ‘only girls with loose morals go topless’ – in other words it’s not that I really believe such a thing, it’s that I know I can’t play the game that way so I try to change the rules to suit. We live in a media-driven world and while the majority of us wish it wasn’t so – it is. If you are a politician you need to acknowledge the power of ‘presence’. Of course politics is not about celebrity but ignoring that the playing field now has different obstacles to navigate is like people who say ‘I don’t have a mobile phone because I want to rule my own life’. Grow up. The best way to win the game is to play it from the inside and beat them at their own rules.

‘Put citizens in control’………….once again the metaphor of the not-too-popular kid running for school election who in a desperate attempt to gain power promises beer in the soda machines and smoking in the playground. Citizens who want to have some ‘control’ know that it involves raising themselves up off the sofa and shuffling (or powerwalking) down to the polling booths…..but of course Gordon isn’t going to be encouraging that wee activity anytime soon.

Much has been made of his image. There is a contingent of persons (mainly female) who are ready to anoint him LL Cool G (in homage to the 80’s rapper LL Cool J which stood for Ladies Love). Personally I don’t get it but as he is quick to point out – and I am quick to agree – it’s not about his sex appeal (or lack of it).

However it is about his personal appeal. It is about how we react and respond to the man. There was an interesting woman on the news tonight who advises politicians and other folk on how to make themselves more accessible to all and sundry. She pointed out that the smile really needed some work. Personally I would rather he not do it at all – it scares me and reminds me of ‘come into my parlor said the spider to the fly…’ Miss Body Language and Presentation Advisor was saying that there is nothing more off-putting than a fake smile and that he needs to learn how to be happy on the inside so that his smile is genuine. Hmmmm if I were he I’d be happy as Larry. And for those people who keep harping on ‘but he’s so lovely when you see him talking to children’ – fine, then let him be a primary school teacher. While the likes of George Bush do appear to have the emotional intelligence of the shortpants brigade the fact of the matter is that I for one am extremely uncomfortable at the thought of being led by a man who only comes into his own when talking to 10 year olds……

For all the people who complain about the money that Labor did NOT spend. And all the taxes they did collect. And all the services that went down. And all the people in need. What do all those things have in common? Money. Who was in charge of the kitty? Gordon. So what, is he now going to have a total change of heart and decide that maybe it is a good way to spend money after all – these issues that he wasn’t willing to cough up for before will suddenly be worthy? Give us break. And this is probably the biggest reason to vote Conservative – if you really want a change. Gordon Brown, and I’m trying not to be pessimistic here as it goes against my nature, will bring us more of the same if not worse.

He wants to ‘put the citizens in control’………..fine……….the citizens (at least a fair few of us) want a General Election. You’re so confident in yourself then let us have a chance to confirm your mandate. Come on be a brave boy and put our money where your mouth is……….

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Bye-Bye Babemaker

With Head Held High and a spring in his step Tony Blair bounded up the steps of the Queen’s transport today headed for Sedgfield to reveal the worst kept secret since Victoria Beckham’s ‘has she or hasn’t she had them done’. As we ALL now know Prime Minister Tony Blair will knock on the Queen’s door on June 27th. He will walk into her presence as Prime Minister – he will walk out of her presence no longer such.

Don’t know about the rest of you but I’m slightly confused as to what I feel. As one who tends to look for the positive in any situation I have been casting my eye over the past ten years to see what good has come out of the Blair Years… ….ok….done that. Now let me cast my eye over the bad………ok……. now done that as well. How does it balance? As he said it’s for us to decide.

Morag unpacked her suitcases on these shores in 1992. Arrived from New York (via Belfast) – after years of holidaying here marriage and circumstances dictated this was going to be home for the foreseeable future. Old Jamaican saying of ‘come see me and come live with me’ proved spot on. Lollygagging in Annabel’s and shopping in Liberty was slightly different than the Northern Line and Safeway’s (Morrison’s to you young folk). A lot of the quirks I had found endearing became instantly annoying. Everything closing at 10, bad service, grumpy people, constant pessimism etc.etc. Then once I settled in, the UK became like that lovely great-aunt that you always loved and then somehow accidentally ended up living with. She wasn’t the same when she removed her hat but she let you play with her hair and you loved her for it.

These were the Major years. For reasons too cumbersome to explain in those days Morag spent a bit of time wandering the halls of Westminster (in a purely social sense). Sitting in the bar with people pointing out John Smith and saying ‘There’s our next Prime Minister’. Sadly that was not to be. Politics were grey. Politicians were even more so. Many of the women wandering the halls of Westminster were in patent stilettos and had security passes that said ‘Guest’.

Fast-forward to 1997 – enter Tony Blair. What did he do? Did he do anything at all? Well yes he did. For all the things that he can be faulted for some things were accomplished over the past decade. There are many more competent than I who can list all the plusses and all the minuses so Morag will do what Morag does – talk about the intangibles. Oh and to note that there are now more women in Westminster wearing sensible shoes carrying attaché cases.

Yes Labor’s expectations were too high. And our temperament as a nation being what it is it is much more fun to bang on about ‘they said they would do this and they didn’t’. Yes one needs to be held accountable. But at least they tried. And that is part of the legacy that Tony Blair left. More of us now seem to care and have something to say. Now we will at least try and if we start putting some action behind our whingeing then we’ll be in business.

As for Iraq. Morag isn’t the best person to comment. I’m one of those who did not for one single minute EVER believe that the Iraq War/Conflict was about WMD. Also never believed that Saddam’s was anyone’s idiot and would have been sitting there patiently waiting for anyone to show up and catch him at it. I have always been informed, and I believe correctly, that we sold him a lot of the stuff to make the WMD so unless he had some intensely peculiar garden ornaments in his many palaces he probably put it to fit purpose. Why did we not find any? You’re home alone perusing the latest copy of NakedFarmGirls and your mummy calls and says she’s on her way home – what do you? Exactly………stash it, wash your hands and look innocent. The Iraq War was always going to be mainly about the Yanks and lining their pockets. The fact that we idealistically went along with that programme of foolishness…..well like I said – I’m not the best person to comment.

What Tony Blair did manage to do was drag politics into the 20th century and as he said leave it ‘comfortable in the 21st century’. Of course that is a huge exaggeration – we aren’t comfortable but at least we’re there. Finally. Yes he changed the way the office was run – but it needed to happen. And proof positive that things needed to happen is that we are now more than likely to be stuck with that entity that is Gordon Brown (but I shall save that for my next rant).

What happens now? Until a year ago I was Labor – but now I am Conservative. I think that is the way to go – with or without Gordon Brown in the driver’s seat (though even more so with him as PM). I think the only way for right-minded folk to proceed forward is to join the Conservatives – cut down on government interference and step up individual social responsibility.

But in the meantime I have to say I did stand up today and give a hand to the Boy Wonder. “I give my thanks to you, the British people, for the times that I have succeeded, and my apologies to you for the times I have fallen short. But good luck”(TB)

…………..he’s right if we don’t tip them out we’ll need it.

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What does one do with 1,000,000 camels?

Did you know that parts of Australia’s Outback are becoming overrun by wild camels? Yep, the country is now home to around 1 million camels roaming the vast tracts of desert. Camels in Australia?! Where on earth did they come from in the first place? Apparently camels were first introduced to Australia in the mid-1800s to transport goods across the desert.When trucks and trains made the beasts of burden unneeded, their owners simply turned them loose. The camel population has now exploded in parts of central, northern and western Australia. “The feral camel population is growing by about 10 percent each year and doubling in size every eight years,” says a local expert. These wild beasts are beginning to encroach on agricultural land, causing extensive damage. Camels used to be out of sight, out of mind, living in the more remote desert areas but now they are moving out into better country, to pastoral land. So in a nutshell these poor camels were deemed useless, thrown out to fend for themselves, they got annoyed and now they’re chomping back. There’s too many of them to manage easily and if one decided to do something along the lines of ‘eliminating the problem’ then animal rights activists from one end of the globe to another would be up in arms.

Where am I going with this………..

Yesterday afternoon I opened the door with my normal joy at seeing my son return home from school. He was standing on the doorstep, tall and tidy but his eyes were filled with tears, ‘Mama I just got mugged’. He was so calm that at first I thought he must be joking (he’s going through that strange 12-year old sense of humour bypass stage where he thinks the most peculiar things are funny) but when he fell into my arms I realized this was serious. ‘Are you alright?’ ‘Did they hurt you?’ ‘What happened?’ ———- the stock questions all come tumbling out. But what you really want to ask was ‘Why wasn’t I there?’ ‘How could I let this happen?’ ‘Why don’t I take him to school, sit outside his classroom door and bring him home in the evenings?’ – Well of course you don’t because you can’t and you shouldn’t.

My son was walking along minding his own business, 5 minutes away from his home. He was not using his phone (a Christmas present from his father). He was not playing his gaming console (a Christmas present from his godfather). He was not waving around his new watch (a £20. watch I recently bought him as reward for doing so well on his last school report). He was just walking home after a hard day at school, getting ready to have a snack, a 15 minute break and then beginning his nightly revision. 6 older teenage boys surrounded him ‘Keep walking!!!!!!’ – apparently this is the new method that way the incident attracts less attention and just looks like a group of boys walking along while they threaten you and relieve you of your possessions.

The police arrived at our door shortly afterwards and bless his cotton socks he was brilliant my boy. He was calm, unruffled, remembered lots of details. But I sat there quietly to one side realizing that his innocence is now firmly gone. My Baby Boy has experienced yet another rite of passage that is sadly oh too familiar in today’s society. He told me that he will be the 4th boy in his form room in the past few months to be mugged – and the only one who wasn’t hurt. Apparently the logic is that you see a boy in a private school uniform then that means he is rich and ‘has stuff’. Well of course that couldn’t be further from the truth in most instances. It might just mean, as in my case, that I thought if I work hard and sacrifice to send him to a good school then maybe he won’t be hanging around on the streets with 5 other fellas looking to harass other kids intimidating them and stealing their belongings.

What does my son being mugged have to do with 1,000,000 camels?…………A small segment of society that no one cared about? Ignored and put on the periphery of society? Left to fend for themselves? Multiplying? Running wild? Invading territory where the pickings are more abundant and there is more to feed on? Situation now way beyond the point of an easy solution…….

We all know that on many subjects I am just to the right of Genghis Khan. And I am certainly NOT going to give the ‘let’s give them some hobbies so they won’t be bored’. More inclined to say ‘let’s give them some morals so they know right from wrong’. But we have got to do something. These 6 kids aren’t out there mugging my son because they’re bored. Though there was a conversation between them about the wisdom of taking his Oystercard, you somehow know it wasn’t so they could have free transport to go to the nearest museum or library. These kids are out there mugging and getting up to all sorts because they have no sense of decency. No pride in themselves. Nobody putting a boot up their backside and telling them to toe the line. And I do NOT want to hear ‘and nothing to live for’. You don’t get an envelope with your birth certificate containing a slip of paper with ‘What you are here to live for’. You find that out yourself. And please don’t tell me ‘That’s not our job that’s what they have parents for’. Good theory – isn’t working as a reality – we’re picking up the pieces, or wiping the dust of our children’s knees.

We can think it’s not our concern as much as we want – it is now most places, and ‘soon to becoming everywhere and to a leafy lane by you.’ There are no ivory towers anymore and remember : If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.

Please send postcards with solutions/ideas to : Miss Morag Mindbender and her son, Close to Leafy Lane, Close to Your Home, Next Door to Your Children.

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