Total Pageviews

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Blog 40 T.O.E.S for heaven’s sake!!!

Toes, toes, toes.

Had it not been for the pending Bank holiday Monday and an unusually slow queue in Lidl, I might never have become aware of this issue, would not therefore have been able to write this blog and you, dear bleaders, would have remained in sad desperate ignorance of the problem.

On Friday, as I had several minutes to peruse the covers of the dozens of stacked glossies, something quite shocking struck me. Amid sleek, made-up, airbrushed, grinning, geurning, pouting faces was the usual battle cry to GET READY FOR SUMMER. If you missed this body-blitz hysteria last year or the one before that or that or that – these publications are available to guide you through preparing your; tan, tummy, teeth, eyes, thighs, lips, wardrobe, shoes (obviously), accessories (as opposed to general wardrobe), hair etc, etc,etc.

You can get rid of your cellulite, eye-bags and bulges. Increase your bosoms, reduce your waist line. Peel or plump your skin (yes – I know – I too thought that was a recipe for chicken). You can glow, shimmer, shine, enhance, entrance. There are ways to feel revitalised, youthful, happier, more confident. Frankly you should have been GETTING READY FOR SUMMER 2013 from about September 1st 2012 if not before.

By now you should definitely be getting your Bikini Body ready. I have mine in the shed behind the lawnmower just waiting for July. I believe in being prepared for the summer – I do – I do (sorry I just morphed into Peter Pan). God forbid that I or anyone else should be caught out by SUMMER not looking PREPARED.

Some of you I fear may be screaming ‘Hypocrite’ at this blog right now. And yes, I cannot lie. I have not been to a hairdresser since about 2004. I have not dyed out the grey in my hair nor have I straightened it. That is not because I cannot be bothered – perish the thought -nor is it because I have an uneasy feeling that ageing in relative comfort is fast becoming an undervalued luxury. It is a little known fact that hair straighteners and hair chemicals are actually illegal in this part of Northumberland.

 When I was young and did as I was told, my mum took me to an afro-hair salon where my hair was straightened with ‘relaxing’ chemicals. Never have I experienced anything less relaxing. The stuff literally burns the scalp. I remember one veteran torturer telling me proudly after applying the ammonia stinking, eye-watering concoction, ‘when you can’t stand the burning any longer you’re ready’ - OMG.

Anyway – I’m wandering off the beaten track, as usual.

So, the hair is as it is for reasons of legality / cowardice / lack of motivation. My summer body is ready as long as the mice haven’t eaten it. I bought a skirt from Oxfam so the summer wardrobe is sorted – although frankly the way the forecast is looking, that may have been a massive overspend. I have skin sufficient to cover me up. My summer hips and thighs and waistline will be covered by the afore-mentioned skirt so that’s ok.

Nowhere but nowhere could I see information on what to do with one’s toes.

Do they need botox? Do they require straightening? Are they too fat, small, un-tanned, un-toned? There was not a single celebrity drooling over her silicon toe implants and explaining how they changed her life, got her a better bloke / acting role / somewhere to rest her tea.

Who is taking the lead on toes? I can’t sleep for worrying about it. Are mine like everyone else’s? Should I get them plucked or buffed? I’ve no idea what to do with them. At this rate they will end up just sort of there -sticking out of the ends of my feet!

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Blog 39 What is the POINT of Newcastle Council...

...if it fails to protect elements of public provision that alleviate social inequality?

Despite the way the bulldozing of cultural provision has been marketed, it is one of the most spectacularly anti-working class cuts the city has proposed.

A city without decent Arts & Libraries provision is like a large house without windows or doors. In the face of increasing social inequality, removing some of the remaining opportunities for ordinary people to access those things that are heaped on the better off, is negligent.

Back in the bad old 1980’s and early 90s when I was a young naive Newcastle City councillor I would often despair when it came time – on the Leisure committee – yet again to ‘defend’ community Arts. In those days Libraries were not, fortunately – seen so much as an add-on extra. What felt strange to me then and is utter madness now was the attitude of those who linked their sneering resentment of cultural provision in the city (supposedly the regional capital) to their working class credentials.

The current thinking behind the cuts (if we allow that brain activity has been involved) seems to have more to do with the testosterone politics of ‘my austerity cuts are bigger than yours’. The very word austerity – once synonymous with post-war British backbone and a make-do and mend mentality - has become a political fig leaf. Behind that pathetic covering dangle determined stupidity and wilful dishonesty.

Let us deal with stupidity first.
Never has there been a time when children in particular, needed more help, more support, better access to broader horizons. We know that getting on in the world is not simply a matter of ability (for heaven’s sake just look at the current crop of MPs). Fulfilment of potential and success in life is to do with aspiration and a feeling of entitlement. These are practically core subjects for the well heeled. It’s as if the cookie jar of opportunity gets handed round and when it stops in front of regular Newcastle residents, the council is there to slap their hands away. It’s cruel, it’s unfair and it is anti-working class.

Then there is the dishonesty.
Cutting provision that gives free education, recreation, life opportunities and access to the whole world of ‘other’, in the name of austerity, stinks. It acquiesces to the insinuation that the current financial troubles are the fault of ordinary people. Let us remind ourselves that the national and global economic crisis was brought about by the greed and the corrupt, unpunished criminal activities of people whose incomes make the budgets of some small countries look like pin money. They have not suffered reductions in their lifestyles and comfort. This is an extension of the lie that we are ‘all in this together’. We are not. We never were.

It begs saying again though it has been said many times. When the rich get it wrong we give them eye watering amounts of money to shore up ‘the system’. THE SYSTEM being that set of rules and practices that suits the rich so well in the first place. The rest on the other hand, must not only see standards of living reduced in terms of lower wages or lost jobs  or the stress of repeatedly re-applying for their own positions or more expensive commodities, they must lose the very services that might help them and their families regain some ground. They must suffer the decimation of institutions that have a proud track record of showing a path to a greater world and that might help float a future for their children.

Surely we cannot have forgotten the lessons of Bill Farrell and the Settlement movement and that “Way to the better” for ordinary people.
(See blog10 My One Night Stand with the Ghost of Bill Farrell - Whitnigahs)

Everyone should have the opportunity to create a life for themselves that is the one they want and not the one circumstance has thrust on them. Libraries have always been part of that chance for fulfilment.
To misquote the last line of W.B Yates He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven
“Tread softly because you tread on (their) dreams”

Yes Newcastle has a large central library building. I use it often, being one of the weirdoes who do not have internet access at home BUT, part of the point of a library is local provision. Perhaps like some MPs, local councillors are just too cosy with what they have. Do they understand that some folk actually find it difficult or expensive to travel; some people do not have computers or kindles and find books prohibitively expensive to buy? Home grown theatre, locally produced dance, a brilliant pianist from a local state school can light a pathway for others to follow out into a wider world. A library can provide access to a whole galaxy of learning; of science, art, music and literature. But maybe the people who made this crass nasty decision spiralled off this planet some time ago.

See also
Blog 26 Library Love

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Blog 38 I DID IT!

It was me. Yeah. I did it. Mea culpa.

No! I did not shoot JR. Nor was it me on the grassy knoll.

I didn’t bath in baked beans or run 13 miles dressed as a peanut butter sandwich for charity. In fact there was not actual point to the act, which made it more wonderful.

Perhaps it was some psychological delayed reaction to the hideous elections and hideous jaunty attitude of the media to hideous N Farage (see last week). Or nervous worry about bees or exploitation and general global madness – who will even know.

But I was happier after the event than those ecstatic advert-bland women who find they have banished unwanted odours from their living rooms with a plug-in air freshener that pumps nasty chemicals into their homes (clean or get rid of the dog ya dirty sows).

I was more content than the post face-lift manikins who only smile because their faces have been set that way.

The thing I did was on my subconscious to-do list like digging out the compost heap or getting on the Booker shortlist or the long list or being considered to be in the list of books that get chucked in the bin while they are sorting the long list...

Suddenly I got the chance. And more importantly I took it.
I grasped the nettle, bit the bullet, grabbed the bull by the horns. Carpe diem and all that.

SO stuff you ordinary thrill seekers with your bungee jumping and sky diving and parachuting and off piste-ing and smoking and drinking.
I did a spontaneous train announcement.
Knackered and still with a way to go, I was being rattled about in the corridor of a train pulling into Leamington Spa train station late Friday night, en route to my granny’s 90th birthday party. The guard picked up the black   phone-looking thingy with the orange button in a booth where we were standing. In a voice flat with drudgery and boredom he announced our imminent arrival.
“I’ve always wanted to do that” I blurted out stupidly.
“Go on then” he replied with challenge flashing across his face and a you-wouldn’t-dare sneer in his voice. “People always say that” he continued more wearily and much to my discombobulation and partial deflation.

Still I might have backed down in the face of the sudden potential realisation of one of my deeply suppressed desires, dreams, ambitions, aspirations BUT there were two fellow passengers standing right by who’d witnessed the whole exchange.

With uncharacteristic bravado and willing myself to be recipient of my own wisdom re making a fool of oneself (see blog.4 - 4th Sept 2012) I stepped forward boldly going where I’d never been before. I plucked the mouthpiece from the holder and pressed the orange button and

And no – I’m not going to tell you what I said.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Blog 37 Oh Go On Scotland!

On behalf of the rest of us...
It may seem a strange reaction to last week’s local election results but if the best that disaffected voters can do is vote for that a-hole Farage then the following proposal is simply bursting with merit just like processed health foods / chemical hair products with fruity names are always ‘bursting with natural goodness’.

Under better circumstances the argument might lack punch, appear bland, cowardly, dead, uninspired – all of the above. However, by default it may have become ground-breaking. Never has the hard baked ground of conformity and entrenched privilege needed breaking more than it does right now.

Yes, this is about a Scottish break-away.

And if you think this approach lacks positivity, maybe you are right but boy are we ripe for active negativity right now. Why? Because everything that happens, everything promoted as a development or policy or new idea or step forward winds up with you and me, ordinary people being nailed to the floor with one more spike. We’re not just being bled dry we are being flayed, gutted, dismembered and scalped and what is more we are supposed to agree that it’s doing us good.

I’ll go through a basic list just because from time to time it helps to join up the dots – like those pictures in cheap colouring books your mum used to buy for holidays or long journeys. Usually you could work out the image without joining up the dots sometimes you could not but joining them up certainly gave a much clearer image of the puppy / bucket & spade / flower. So;

As a gobsmacking example of sheer brass neck, the topic of unpunished bankers remains live. Until such time as anything actually happens that should happen in terms of knuckle rapping for criminal behaviour the subject is open as far as I am concerned. As an illustration of a whole sector that screwed us royally and globally and then got rewarded and protected by the government bailing them out with public money, there has never been a better example. So we’ll have that dot.

The police and journalists in the same cess pool is one huge can of worms that is too gruesome to visualise but yes the keepers of the peace and the self-appointed keepers of the public conscience have been in nasty bestial unholy alliance.The resulting Leveson enquiry is circus of self aggrandisement, self focus and an excuse to ignore real issues such as the world has possibly never seen before. Anyone who thinks it’s anything to do with ordinary people just because the celebrities or the press or the police or the people running the enquiry occasionally remember to mention a non-celebrity caught up in the moral road crash is being naive to a point beyond redemption. There are several dots here.

Institutions we might have expected more from have shown themselves, over recent years, worse than those we might naturally have been suspicious of for example;

The BBC – more in thrall to celebrity than characters in even the silliest sitcom but still paying themselves plenty at the top and pulling in a licence fee as if they are providing the public service of post war years.

The Anglican Church - more misogynistic than Henry VIII (oh yes there is a connection there!) but still the state church in all ways.

The Catholic Church – more of a danger to children than Herod but still handled with kid gloves with just a few who have the energy to pursue individuals through the courts for a very very long time.

Privatised ‘public’ transport - screwing us over madly year after year, in the name of the free market with train companies attracting more subsidy than they did when they were nationalised. Somehow the free market (thanks Maggie) means that our money goes into shareholder’s pockets rather than into the service.

Privatised energy companies - (thanks Maggie) screwing us over legally. The latest introduction of standing charges simply means that those who use the lowest amount of energy either because they have a small income or are ideologically opposed to knackering the planet (me on both counts) get exploited disproportionately.

And I could go on but I think that’s possibly enough dots. Basically, however much you can see that things are just wrong and bad people in positions of power and/or influence are doing horrible stuff - somehow it just carries on. Those-that-have receive more and those-that-have-not and did not create the mess, are getting hammered in to the ground.

So how does this relate to Scotland?

Well – just maybe, just this once – the good folk north of the border should not worry too much about the logic of the situation or worry about the imponderables such as the economy, whether they would be better off without playing host to Trident or being ruled from Eton (sorry Westminster – see April 23rd’s blog). Maybe they should just use the referendum to show that ordinary people CAN actually change things. Ordinary people can make things happen that the establishment don’t want.

And maybe – just maybe this once in history THAT is as powerful as the argument gets.

Whilst I can’t forgive Mel Gibson his anti-Semitism this really is about FREEDOM. Not freedom from English oppression but freedom from the corrosive effects of political inertia.

So go on Scotland