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Temporary Respite

25 Sep

Christopher and I have recently returned from our September holiday. It’s always good to get out of the comfort zone of one’s home from time to time, especially when that home is being entirely repainted and you don’t want to deal with fumes from the workers and/or their work.

Quite frankly, as much as I love the Whitt-Wellington homestead (especially now that the walls have been given a fresh lick — lilac in the bedroom is even more perfect than I’d predicted), our trip away was a real respite from the grind our daily lives had become. Often, travel in and of itself can be exhausting, but with a combination of good planning and a little luck, ours was quite rejuvenating.

A few flights were required, but we were able to reduce our carbon footprint by primarily traveling by boat and on foot. I don’t know what the legal definition of jungle is, so to avoid prosecution I won’t use the term here, but I will say that most of our journey was hot as fuck. It’s good to know that this old girl still has enough strength and energy to get herself around, even in high temperatures. I did not ask Christopher to carry me once, even though I’d assumed he’d at least offer to. (He did not.)

EvergladesBoardwalkGatorVintageSmoothThe scenery was breathtaking, and I was intrigued by the new species of wildlife we saw. Christopher, on the other hand, was scared up a tree when he stumbled across a rather large snake — as you know, he’s quite a sensitive boy. The fact that the snake was clearly dead reminded me he’s also quite dim, but this time, his stupidity was both charming and funny.

However, my favourite part of our vacation spot was the biggest surprise: a local law banning all internet use. Initially, I naively assumed this was some thought-control act by a freedom-hating dictator. It turns out, though, the policy was democratically approved by the entire village’s population. Before we were given the keys to our small cabin, we had to sign a sheet, promising to respect the reason behind their unusual choice: to keep the region bujando-free.

There’s no precise English word that reflects the full meaning of their word bujando; the nearest translation is “bullshit.” I was 100% behind the policy (and took full advantage of it by asking Christopher questions I knew he’d have to answer honestly, and it was truly enlightening). However, even on vacation I like staying up-to-date with the news, and I worried I’d be unable to without the internet. This was not the case. The villages were very knowledgeable about things going on outside their own borders. News updates were delivered each morning, and the cocosplitnu (their current events group) translated them immediately to be distributed throughout the village. We all gathered around a fire each evening, smoking something that would probably be illegal here while discussing the best ways to solve the moral challenges today’s world faces. The conversations were insightful: it turns out the lack of bujando meant people were clear in their points and open to listening to others’ (and no one cited the Denver Guardian once).

There was one detail, though, of which they were ignorant, and that was the name of the current US President. I suspect they knew — it couldn’t be a coincidence that their no-internet law was passed on 17 June 2015 — but neither Christopher nor I mentioned him, and I have to say it was liberating. We hadn’t forgotten, of course; I was hoping that whatever we were smoking might’ve destroyed that part of our memories, but all it did was give Christopher a twitch (which we were assured would disappear by Christmas). But God, did it feel good not to see Trump’s face or hear his name.

Alas, coming home has meant we are back to the full painful reality of 45. We hadn’t expected him to act like a reasonable, grown up politician while we were gone, but when we watched the president’s horrifying UN speech, we were both left speechless. Just as mind-blowing is the fact that he decided to take time from bringing the world closer to nuclear war to urge the NFL to fire Americans who express their First Amendment rights — all in the name of ‘ratings’ (which I believe is his misspelling of the word ‘racism’). He sure has been a busy and embarrassing boy.

Clearly, being back means our lives are no longer bujando-free; however, Christopher and I have both promised to limit the bullshit that invades our newly beautifully-hued space. We are back on the internet (obviously), and so in closing, I’d like to thank those of you who flooded my Inbox with autographs requests while I was away. They mean a lot to me.

However, in the spirit of honest and open communication, I can tell you right now: I’m probably not going to get to sending those out anytime soon.

So You’ve Become The US President and It’s All Gone Horribly Wrong

30 Aug

Have you recently become president because, despite not having an understanding of the job or the ability to do it, you really get off on people cheering your name?

Sure, we all have.

But being an idiot who is also a racist and the president of the United States can be stressful and have a damaging effect on your hair and skin, so it’s good you’ve decided to pick up this pamphlet. Like all information available in a doctor’s office waiting area, it primarily contains common sense ideas that you or the grown ups around you should already be aware of, but keep reading as it’s a better use of your time than getting stumped by the partially completed crossword puzzle in that 2010 issue of Highlights magazine.

Back when you were 69½ , it probably seemed like a good idea to run for president. You could shout whatever you want into a microphone and people would cheer and, of course, you could gets lots of attention on television. Those are some of your favourite things, so it makes sense you’d consider a full time gig. But after seven months in the job, you’re suffering weight gain, lethargy, and mockery from reasonable people all over the world. Is this normal? Is the damage reversible? Is there anything you can do to keep things from getting worse?

First off, you need to know that this is not normal. Nothing about this is normal.

However, the good news is things can change. Obviously our first suggestion is to drink more water. Staying hydrated seems to be the go-to suggestion in any and all lazily written medical advice pieces, so be sure to get at least eight glasses of water a day.

Otherwise, there is really only one option: stop being the president. Stop talking and threatening and lying and embarrassing yourself and your country.

Seems simple enough, but we all know that making healthy choices is often easier said than done. You might be asking, “How do I get out? Before I even got elected, I mocked a disabled person and bragged about grabbing women by the pussy and tried to ban Muslims and called Mexicans rapists. Still people cheered. I lie about literally everything and continually contradict myself — for Christ’s sake, I defended Nazis! I’m trapped in a wicked cycle: yes, I despise my growing waistline, irregular pulse, and the complete lack of movement in my bowels, but god, do I love seeing my face on television. Every time I do something stupid, it becomes breaking news — how could I possibly turn my back on that?”

We knew you were going to say that, but sorry, the answer is still to stop.

However, stopping doesn’t mean your life will be unsatisfying. All of the urges, desires, and emotions that are parts of your shamed presidency you can still get with your new healthier lifestyle.

Clearly you fear abandonment and losing the love you receive at your rallies, but do you have a partner and/or children between the ages of 39 and 11? They are probably willing to accept your love and give some in return. Why not try buying them something shiny? You may be surprised, but love from members of your own family can be just as fulfilling as the monosyllabic chants of thousands of racists waving misspelled placards.

Are you familiar with the game Risk? It’s a great and safe way to fulfill your power fantasies, but unlike what you’re doing now, no one ends up dead. You can make alliances with the baddies and you can control any entire continent if you’d like. In fact, you can even command an army and ban whomever you want from serving because everything’s imaginary and you’re not destroying real people’s lives.

Once you do stop, it’ll be important to remember that what you’re really craving is just a feeling. Feelings pass, so you may find that after a week, your desires have evaporated.  If they haven’t, though, you have the option of turning to memories to relive some of the more positive emotions. You should be able to find footage of your lies and irresponsible behaviour literally all over the fucking internet, so if you need an ego boost, watch a couple of your videos and bask in them. You’ll get some satisfaction but without doing  any more damage to your country’s reputation. (Note: damaging a country’s reputation is the number one cause of digestion problems in 71-year-old jackasses.)

Speaking of poor digestion: eat fibre.

If your presidency has gone horribly wrong, it may feel like there’s nothing you can do to change it. But there is: you can stop. It takes stamina, but you’ve got that, right? You’re a big boy, aren’t you?

It may be difficult in the first few days, but you can always hold tight to the fact that you are really rich. You are. You’re really rich. Let that give you hope. Some experts suggests creating visual reminders of the things that make you happy — small images displayed in prominent places to reinforce the fact that even if you’ve stopped being president, you’ll still really rich. Perhaps you could rig up something like that?

So your plans for your presidency didn’t really pan out . . . there are worse things in the world.

Things can change for you.

Now is the time to stop.

 

Challenging White Privilege

25 Jul

So you’ve heard the phrase white privilege (possibly with the words ‘check your’ or ‘thank Christ for’ preceding it), and you’re wondering what’s going on and why those kids keep egging your house.

I’m here to help you, but you should know from the start that my goal will be to encourage you to challenge white privilege. So if you’d rather stay blissfully ignorant, stop reading right now. Here’s a short film to keep you entertained while the grown ups are talking.

Okay, now first, let me clarify something.

I’m speaking to white people here. Why? Because in many places, just being a person of colour is in itself a challenge to white privilege. What do I mean by that? Did you know that in some parts of Mississippi the police have added ‘driving while black’ to their official list of misdemeanors? Of course, they haven’t, but for a moment, you wondered. The experience of people of colour is different than white people’s in many arenas of life. If you want to know more about what their lives are like, you really shouldn’t be asking me. Instead, you could try listening to them. Here are some you could listen to right now.

So it’s whitey to whom I’m writing. I don’t intend to blame you for slavery or call you a racist. Acknowledging white privilege is not a slur on your character, any more than it is on mine (and we all know that my character is entirely slur-proof, unless my promiscuity is the topic and quite frankly you should praising, not criticising, me for that). Nor does it mean that everything about your life is perfect and carefree. I’m sure it’s not. Lastly, it doesn’t mean that you’ve not experienced inequality yourself. You probably have, because sadly, there’s plenty of bigotry to go round (I’ll address how to destroy the patriarchy and win the class war in future posts).

White privilege is just a fact. If you look at the historical context of either of my home countries, you’ll see that being white has had quite a few benefits. Or maybe you don’t see that. Let me show you what I mean.

I come from a wealthy, white family. We got that way because my great-great-great-great-great grandfather was involved in what was, in retrospect, a somewhat dodgy deal involving China and a shitload of opium, through a contact he had made in college. He died a very, very rich man, which meant my great-great-great-great grandfather was a very, very rich son of, let’s call him what he was, a dead drug dealer. That grandfather fattened his bank book through his work as a physician. His son, thanks to his inheritance, trained in Europe as a pianist and once played for the President, and his son was able to travel as an archeologist and dug up something which he earned him big dollars. Basically, my whole family has done pretty damn well for itself money-wise; even when they’ve been failures (my great-great grandfather’s young adult sci-fi novel went nowhere fast), they’ve been frugal failures, and as a result, I’ve never been without a penny or two in my pocketbook.

Why does this matter? Well, besides being an interesting historical tale, thank you, it matters because hundreds of Whitt-Wellingtons have reaped the benefits of one man’s successful networking during his college years. Years in which the great-great-great-great-great grandfathers of African Americans were slaves, and thus unable to set up shop with a classmate who had ties to the Chinese opium market.

Now, stop yourself for a moment if you’re thinking, Agatha, my white family has never had the financial benefits of yours. I appreciate that. Many haven’t. Yet I’m guessing that your white family has done a variety of things that, at the time, your black neighbours’ families were not able to do. Those freedoms have their consequences, and many of those consequences have meant good things for your family or for your community, either directly or indirectly.

And if the benefits of those freedoms are still being felt today, it makes sense that the lack of those freedoms still has repercussions. You don’t have to feel personally responsible for that. But you do kinda gotta acknowledge it.

And we also can’t pretend inequality is a thing of the past. When I drive through a town in America and a cop pulls my car over, I don’t worry the event will end with my being dead. I don’t. Because, although I’ve been pulled over a few times, I’ve never once been shot dead — not even the time I was holding Truman Capote’s gun in my lap (long story, remind me to tell you another time). I have received one $20 ticket and zero police bullets.

So white privilege exists. What should we do about it?

If you’re really interested in making substantial change to the current system, perhaps you should be reaching out to more appropriate and less sarcastic sources. There are plenty to choose from. Visit your local library, check out some websites, and get involved in political action.

However, if you’re looking for some starter suggestions delivered simply by a charming international mover-and-shaker, you’ve come to the right place.

There are three easy instructions: think, decide, own. Let’s break those steps down a little.

Think
This guideline should come as no surprise to regular readers; there’s very little in life that wouldn’t benefit from thinking carefully first (Russian Roulette is one exception: with that, always go with your gut). Consider the situation in which you find yourself and think about what role white privilege may have played in getting you there. Sometimes its impact is large (you are able to vote despite not having your ID on you); sometimes its impact is negligent (you’ve tripped over a crack in the pavement). Think carefully, and beyond that precise moment in time.

Decide
If white privilege hasn’t played a role in your current quandary, your decision is probably quite simple. Brush yourself off, get up, and pay more attention as you walk down the street. If white privilege is involved, though, you have an important choice to make. One reason white privilege still exists is because white people benefit from it. Are you going to play even a small role in perpetuating inequality? I can’t tell you what to do in any situation (however, I don’t recommend that you ever voluntarily try to get shot by police, just to prove a point). Ultimately, you have to decide for yourself.

Own
Whatever you decide, own that decision. If you make a choice that feels like a bit of sacrifice, it’s okay to feel good about yourself (but for fuck’s sake, don’t post on Facebook trying to prove how woke you are). If you make a choice that takes advantage of white privilege, own that, too. Even if someone challenges you. Own it. Promise yourself you’ll keep thinking and questioning.

Let’s look at a few practice scenarios:

  1. You and a black man exit a store simultaneously as an alarm goes off. The clerk stops the black man but waves you away. Do you walk off?
  2. You are a white woman who has thoughts about Beyoncé’s twins that you’re sure the world needs to hear. Do you write a blog post?
  3. You’re at a business event where a colleague makes a racist comment you do not agree with. How do you respond?

What did you think about? If you’d really been in these situations, would have been able to own whatever decisions you made?

Please do not misinterpret my confident tone and excellent taste in eyeglass frames as evidence that I have perfected the three step programme. There are times when I don’t think enough until it’s too late, and there are times when I regret my decisions. However, I do try and you can, too.

Making it all the way to the end of this post is a good start, but let’s face it, it ain’t your good deed for the week. It’d probably wise now to continue learning and thinking and challenging.

It’s all right if you need to eat something first. Are you hungry? You look hungry. I worry about you, you know. Eat first.  And then go from there.

 

Why You Must Vote on June 8

7 Jun

Trump Collage.jpgTrump HeadlinesIn November 2016, 60.2 percent of eligible Americans voted in the presidential election. Yes, some did vote for Trump, but many who did not vote at all could have changed the result, had they exercised the right that so many people have fought for.

Of course, those who voted for someone other than Trump still ended up with him as president. That is undeniably true and undeniably heartbreaking. But at least those people tried to avoid the disaster that has now befallen America (and the world).

You should try, too.

Don’t give away your rights: make the choice that you think might lead to a better world.

Vote.

What Matters

7 Nov

Words matter.

Actions matter.

Voting matters.

bystanders

 

We Have Returned

14 Aug

vintage_bunker_photoChristopher and I have been underground for the last few weeks, testing our bunker. Given the events of 2016 thus far, we decided it’d be wise to check things out in case we need to go down permanently.

I spent most of yesterday skimming the news and can see that our choice was a wise one. God damn, son, things are bleak. It’s hard to imagine a future that doesn’t involve everyone hating everyone all the time and eventually being murdered or a murderer. Yeah, I know the Olympics are going on as well, but I’m afraid they just don’t do much for me. I mean I’ve not got anything against them, but as far as I can tell, their primary benefit is that they occasionally move Donald Trump a little lower down the front page.

The fresh air feels good at least.

If you too are considering leaving the above ground nightmare, we’ve learned a lot and are happy to share some of our mistakes and victories. The main thing is to plan ahead: we had been assuming we’d make our final move on the 9th of November, but I’m worried now that doomsday might come early, so get started sooner rather than later.

THINGS TO PACK:

  • The keys to the bunker door
    We’d actually planned to just stay overnight on the first of July, but someone — I’m not mentioning names, but it was Christopher — did not realise the keys had fallen into the grass until a few moments after we’d shut the door. A paperclip will eventually do the trick, but it takes much, much longer than expected.
  • A heat source
  • An icebox
  • A water purifier
  • Thirty gallons of water (per person, per week)
  • Teabags
    Don’t forget to tell your milkman to push the bottles through the cat flap in your bunker door.
  • Food
  • A bucket and toilet roll
  • Reading material
  • Masturbatory aids
    Take your usual, of course, but consider things you’ve sneered at in the past because Christopher reports that the Heat‘s Circle of Shame quickly lost its appeal and he found himself relying on the water purifier’s instruction sheet instead.
  • About 100 more cigarettes than you expect to smoke
    You will smoke them. Trust me. It’s fucking boring down there.
  • Lemons
    I won’t tell you why, but they come in incredibly handy.

THINGS NOT TO BOTHER WITH:

  • Your phone
    One of the main reasons for going underground is to avoid the news, so bringing in your phone puts your sanity at risk. Be aware that there are no Pokémon monsters in underground bunkers. If you are worried about missing out on updates from family and friends, don’t be — they will likely soon forget you exist until you reappear on the first of each month to empty your toilet bucket.
  • Tins of beans
  • Silverware
  • Your bra

Now obviously, I hope that the world can manage to get its shit together soon and no one needs to give up on humanity and try to restart their lives elsewhere. As we continue our preparations, we’ll be trying to maybe do some good and make some changes. Maybe you could do this as well. Maybe if we all did, things could get better. Maybe.

I say let’s give it a try. Because Donald Trump isn’t a joke. And neither are the people who support him who will still be around regardless of November’s result.

There Will Be Blood

9 Aug

There’s an old cowboy song called “Red River Valley” that includes these lines:

For a long time, my darling, I’ve waited
For the sweet words you never would say
Now at last all my fond hopes have vanished
For they say that you’re going away

Y47AjNow history tells us the title probably refers to the Red River in Manitoba, but as someone who almost completed a minor in Feminist Literary Criticism, I can tell that this is a lyrical explanation of the mood changes that can be caused by menstruation.

Menstruation. It’s a word we don’t say very much in polite society. Is it because of that weird u that doesn’t really get pronounced even though it seems like it should? Is that why we rarely say it despite close to two billion people on earth spend two months a year doing it?

Of course, that’s not the reason. It’s more likely because it has to do with downstairs lady parts and even though there’s about three and a half billion of us walking around with said parts in our pants, they don’t come up too frequently in conversations, until a scared man gets called one or a strong man feels like pounding one.

Isn’t that lovely?

Anyway, I am going to talk about menstruation for a moment. It’s relatively simple: the uterus has a lining where an egg, if fertilised, hangs out to get nutrients and whatnot. Now uteri like to keep a tidy shop so if there’s no blastocyst in need, it cleans house, abandoning that lining and getting to work on a nicer one with a little more kerb appeal for the next month’s possible buyer. (Please note: this is a metaphor. Do not consider burning candles or baking bread in your uterus to increase the chances of a fertilised egg moving in.)

That’s all menstruation is, the shedding of the uterine lining. Nothing magical or mystical or mysterious about it. Just like we shed thousands of dead skins cells each day, women’s bodies are just eliminating something that is no longer needed.

Except it’s not quite as simple as that, is it? No.

Firstly, because it’s gross. Let’s be fair, it is. The endometrium is a mucous membrane, and when the word mucous makes an appearance, it’s never pleasant. What’s expelled each month is basically blood and tissue, which is, for most people, kind of disgusting. And painful too. Unlike with a nose, a good blow won’t clear this passage. It often takes uterine contractions, and those can hurt.

So what comes out and the process of getting it out aren’t the nicest. Plus the place out of which it comes is generally a private, members-only club, so could that be why people (and when I say people I mean men) struggle to talk about it? No, because those things could describe urine and excrement as well, and god knows, men love talking toilet business.

What makes menstruation different is because men know hormones are involved. Some men get confused by the concept of hormones. They think there are two hormones and each functions only as an excuse: the male hormone makes them think about sex at inappropriate times and the female hormone makes women bitchy once a month (or when moderating presidential candidate debates).

Some men think this because they are idiots.

The human body is pretty fucking complicated. With the greatest respect for and the least amount of interest in the complexity of science, let’s just boil it down to this: the human body is full of chemicals that move around our bloodstream telling different parts to do this or not do that. Essentially, they regulate us — all our systems, our sleep, our growth, our metabolism, our behaviour, and our moods. There’s a whole mess of them in there, and they control a lot.

So yes, sometimes oestrogen can affect a woman’s mood. It’s true; sometimes you’re just going to have to keep waiting for those sweet words I’m not going to say. But guess what, men? You’ve got oestrogen in your body as well. So there. And that testosterone you’re so proud of? It does more than just explain your boner, you know. Just to pick one example purely at random, some studies have shown a connection between testosterone and risky financial decisions. And women have testosterone in them as well, which may explain why I gave Christopher twenty pounds for his taxi ride home even though there’s a chance I’ll never see the change from that. Perhaps it was testosterone what made me do it.

Except probably not. Because even though our hormones do affect the way we act and feel, there are some things that we can control. For example, in stressful situations, our autonomic nervous systems use hormones to prepare a fight-or-flight response, but most of us don’t punch the television or run out of the room and hide just because the news upsets us. We don’t always eat when we’re hungry or leave the Sunday sermon early just because we’ve had a rush of sexual arousal (except that one time, but he was flying back to Uruguay that afternoon so time was of the essence). Even if my oestogen levels are playing havoc with my mood or I’ve got blood coming out of my wherever, I’m still a professional at work, and I will keep signing books until that queue is gone or I’ve at least earned enough to cover the costs of this new dress.

As you all know, I’m no scientist and the few I’ve slept with didn’t do a lot of talking while we were together, so I know my explanation does not reflect the full intricacies of the human body, its processes and their effects. However, I’m hoping I’ve at least made you realise that menstruation, while not the loveliest part of a woman’s experience, is natural and nothing to be afraid of.

Unless you’re a misogynist billionaire racist. But if you are, I imagine you’ve got quite a few items on your list of things to be worried about, like maybe why do I continue to embarrass myself and other Americans on an international stage or if it’s really true that the taller the tower, the smaller the penis. How about you get those other issues sorted before you start sharing your views on menstruation, yeah?

Everybody Gets So Much Information All Day Long That They Lose Their Common Sense — Gertrude Stein

10 Mar

As the election approaches, all the parties are pulling out the usual stops, such as chatting with the normals, getting botox and going on about common sense. Whether it’s about spending, education or ‘British values’, every politician’s rabbiting on about good ‘ol common sense. Except for the Greens, obviously, but that was clearly just down to nerves.

But here’s the problem, chaps: if everyone’s using common sense to decide policies, every party’d have the same policies, natch.

But they don’t.

Or do they?

Here’s the thing: I’m not going to fight about that because, in all honesty, I find it really hard to concentrate when any of that lot’s talking. We need politicians who actually understand common sense rather than just barfing out the phrase as a sound bite.

Unlike Al Murray, though, I’m not keen on running my own campaign. However, I do have some suggestions which fall under the common sense umbrella. Please consider adding some of these strategies to your platforms, especially if you’re courting the international mover-and-shaker vote.

1.  Americans often vote for personalities rather than policies; I’m not suggesting British voters do the same. However, the leader is the face of the party, and I’m afraid the parties all have the wrong faces. The British public already said no to a couple of these mugs during the last election; why they think we’d find them any more fanciable the second go round, I have no idea. And while the phrase muppets is often used by the public to describe politicians, it’s usually said with a small letter m.

Muppets2.  The phrase ‘falling pregnant,’ though quaint, should be banned. No one falls pregnant (just like no one falls onto their hoover attachments, so why you thought the A&E doctor would believe that, I’ll never know). And they really don’t ‘unexpectedly fall pregnant’ and, god almighty, how can anyone ‘unexpectedly fall pregnant again‘? Get this legislated asap.

3.  Don’t argue with celebrities. Don’t engage with them. Literally don’t even get by them. First off, celebrities don’t know anything except how to win over the entire population, and that’s of no use to anyone running for office. Secondly, if you get burned by a celebrity, well . . . that’s a hard burn to recover from. You think Putin’s going to take you seriously if you’ve been humiliated by Mylene Klaas on the telly? I can assure you he ain’t gonna.

4.  That said, if you are going to mess with the beautiful people, don’t let them get away with bullshit like blaming you for “the politics of jealousy”. Capitalism is all about jealousy, and there are very few celebrities who aren’t digging the capitalism scene, man. However, if you take on a star, he’s going to write you a letter in response and then you’re going to have to write him a letter in response, and the Guardian‘s going to get all bogged down with that shit instead of its constant Benedict Cumberbatch updates and how will the world survive without those?

5.  Always wear a hat. Hats should make a comeback. I like hats.

6.  I know there are countries out there who are bad and mean, but the truth is, most countries’ values are surprisingly similar to those you’re selling as particularly British. Again, I hate to refer to the nation of my birth, but you’d never hear of them acting as if concepts like freedom or bravery are unique to their boundaries. Don’t act like being good is exclusive to one particular party and don’t work the nostalgia angle. Things weren’t so great before, you know. Do you remember Walkmans? Try to tell me those were better than iPods. You can’t.

7.  When you do have to deal with the baddies, hold them responsible. Whether they’re warmongers or bankers, they should be held accountable and, for fuck’s sake, don’t take their money.

8.  Income disparity is bull shit. If you can’t say this aloud, you’re obviously a posh twat who can’t serve your country. If you say it aloud but don’t really mean it, go to the back of the queue.

9.  Anyone who talks about women shaving their vaginas should be issued a £50 on-the-spot fine (£100 if it’s said on television). Yes, it is an anatomically correct term, but, sweeties, it’s the wrong one. Language is important. Get it right.

10.  No mustard trousers.

The Forgotten Victims of the US Government Shutdown

4 Oct

404 ShutdownWe’re a few days into the US Government shutdown, and quite frankly it’s a wonder there are any Americans still alive at this point.

The shutdown is no joke, people. It’s not for me to say who is to blame for the situation (it’s the Republicans), but every day that it continues, the more bad shit that’s coming America’s way. NBC estimates that the shutdown costs $12.5 million an hour. That’s a brilliant way to solve budget disputes, isn’t it? No wonder the rest of the world thinks Americans don’t understand irony!

It’s not just a vague disgrace that’s going on — it’s one that affects many Americans in very real ways. Hundreds of thousands of government employees have been furloughed and are not receiving paychecks. Services like food programs for low income pregnant women and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention flu program aren’t running. National parks are closed; even the National Zoo is affected. Animals can’t even vote yet they’re feeling the pain of the GOP’s childish behaviour.

However, when talking about groups of people (or pandas) affected by the shutdown, we can’t ignore the individuals — the ones who don’t get mentioned in the papers — whose lives are being tragically altered forever.

I’m talking about the children who just a few short days ago saw politics as a high calling, a career path for those who care about and want to help others. Who will explain to the little ones how terribly, terribly American politics has gone wrong?

I’m also talking about the nail technicians, telemarketers and tabloid journalists around the country. They wake up in the morning eager to get started on their life’s work and read that the government has deemed so many of its employees “non-essential.” If working for education or the environment isn’t seen as an essential task, well, that really puts other jobs into perspective, doesn’t it? It wouldn’t surprise me if people started topping themselves left and right. Sadly, this will only lead to more problems since the Federal Department of Suicide Clean Up is currently running on a skeleton staff.

And, of course, I’m talking about all those Americans out there who were taught in elementary school to look towards elected officials as models of responsibility. Those models of responsibility have decided that if they don’t get to play their way, they’re shutting the whole operation down (while still collecting their pay, natch). Why should Lenny over at the liquor store have to pull three late night shifts in a row; why shouldn’t he just lock up early and head home? Steve in an accounting might just up and say screw it and his company will be powerless to conduct business. Who will sponsor the t-shirts for Jerry’s daughter’s softball team then, I ask you? All of these little effects have roll on effects which could, quite frankly, bring the world’s most powerful nation to its knees.

Which would be a shame. Because I’m American and I hate to see this happening to my country.

A Party in The Pub

9 Apr

You know how I feel about busy bodies. We’ve got one on our road–you know the type, always trying to build community, sharing news, getting signatures for cards or money for flowers when one of the neighbours gets married, gives birth, or dies (not always in that order). Ours is called Martha Montgomery, and it was with much trepidation that I opened the door to her yesterday evening.

“Miss Agatha, I’ve scheduled an urgent neighbourhood meeting. I’m sure you’ve heard the terrible news that Mrs Roberts has passed away and we’ve got to organise some kind of response,” she squeaked breathlessly, before handing me an invitation and running to the house next door.

Now, I confess I really didn’t know Mrs Roberts because when I moved into the area, she was described to me as “unfriendly and close-minded” and why should I bother reaching out to someone like that? However, I know that my presence is so valued by those around me that I felt I should attend.

The meeting was held at our local, which was the first of Martha’s many mistakes of the evening. A few of the men were already drunk by the time she clinked two glasses together to quiet the group. Thankfully, she did not suggest we open with a prayer, but instead launched into a short essay of tribute (I don’t doubt she has pre-written obituaries for everyone in our postal code). However, before she could finish listing all of the family members who are left to survive without their grumpy, old granny, she was interrupted by the landlord.

“Quite frankly, Miss Montgomery,” he said calmly, “I’d rather you move this meeting elsewhere if you intend to keep singing the praises of that terrible woman.”

Martha let out a gasp of shock, without realising that most of the group was already aligning itself behind the barman.

One of the non-drunk men (whose wife wasn’t present as she was attending a healing service at the Spiritualist Church) said, “I don’t mean to speak ill of the dead, but Mrs Roberts was a mean, mean person, and I don’t think we should pretend otherwise.”

A chorus of “amen’s,” “right on’s” and “get us a Stella, won’t you’s” echoed round the room.

Then, an elderly couple who had yet to speak or even move (I had been tempted to tap them to make sure they too hadn’t passed) stood up and looked at each other. “You say it, Timothy,” said the woman. Timothy nodded as his wife sat back down.

“We have lived in Number 8 since 1979. Mrs Roberts moved into Number 10 the same year. She was a horrendous neighbour. She was a horrendous person.

From the get-go, she was trouble. You lot are probably too young to remember, but she tried to get a petition going to have the milk float banned from the village. A few years later, she started in on the estate agents, posting a long list of ‘undesirables’ she didn’t want them showing around any houses. We’ve only got five curry houses and two Chinese, thanks to her worry about the village being swamped by Asians. She did everything within her power to destroy this area and the livelihood of everyone who has lived here.”

“And her children,” his wife piped in, “they were just as bad. She spoiled them rotten despite the fact that she made it patently clear that she hated minors.”

“Indeed,” said Timothy. “The truth is I occasionally wished her harm and I shouldn’t have done that. But now that’s she dead, I don’t mind. Rather than celebrate her life, I think it would be a much more sensible use of our time to try to undo the wrongs she did.”

And with that, it was agreed. En masse, we spread out, stopping at a variety of restaurants (all except the one on Devonshire Road as two people had heard the authorities had been round recently) to purchase meals and then picked up a School-Milk-006pint of milk for each of us. By the time we returned to the pub, the landlord had already set up a tin for donations and had collected close to twenty pounds. We spent the rest of the evening reminiscing and planning and appreciating those who are alive and who are not evil.