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Tuesday, 15 December 2015

blog 167 Donald Trump / Katy Hopkins SCIENTIFICALLY explained.

No it’s not pretty and it is disturbing but there's an explanation and that always helps. The rabid Donald Trump, noxious Katie Hopkins and even pub fascist Nigel Farage can be explained by science. Hooray.

I am so relieved to be able to bring this to you in my last 2015 blog.
Last week I heard an interview with ‘scientist’ Alex Travis. He is part of a ground breaking (let’s hope Nobel Prize winning) team. For decades these science philanthropists have tried and tried and tried – bless 'em - to perfect IVF in dogs. I know – you’re thinking what I thought at the time - THANK HEAVENS. Because what the world is desperate for right now is IVF puppies. The globe needs IVF puppies like we needed Viagra and Botox (See blog 97 Viagra – Yes. Effective Cure for Malaria – No!) Well done Science.

But consider this -

What happened over the decades to those failed, malformed, IVF experimental, abnormal, botched, freak doggy embryos?
Yes - Trump – Hopkins – Farage...

During the interview the BBC interviewer laboriously (labradoriously?) fed Travis the usual line that this would – wouldn’t it – help us find cures for human problems – wouldn’t it. To which Mr doggy scientist stumbled an unconvincing yes. This was odd as he’d spent the rest of the time saying how doggy IVF had taken so long to perfect because it was so entirely different to the biological process in humans.

But at least now we know. And if anyone does come across Donald or Katie or Nigel don’t get too close and do call the dog wardens.

I hope you enjoy the festive season. I'll be having a winter snooze being very tired. (I blame writing a weekly satirical blog – I think my irony is low...)

See you in January.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

blog 166. OUT is the new IN

Weheeey. Get me. Ms Brown girl OUTSIDE the Ring - I’m so OUT I’m IN...

I read last week – on the internet so it must be true – that mixed race is the fastest growing ethnic minority in the UK. Mixed Race is cool.

As usual, commercial needs have trumped an institutional grasp of this situation. You can barely look at a billboard in the UK without seeing a pretty mixed race kid advertising cute clothes or whatever. And I am old enough to recall a time when if my parents saw a black face on the TV my brother and sister and I would be called into the living room to witness this strange phenomena. (See Stephen K Amos for really funny sketches on this point)

Ok so my parents were many decades ahead of their time and I am too old to give a fig about ‘cool’ now but it’s still nice to know.

In the 80s debates raged about terminology. For example did you refer to Asians separately from the ‘Black’ umbrella? In the US 'people of colour' was an acceptable term whereas 'coloured' was viewed as disparaging in the UK. It was a time when racism flourished and the politically conscious-raised simply regarded non-white as black. 

I recall a couple of years ago at a Meet the Promoters event in Newcastle trying to point out to the audience of venue key holders that many people - even in the NE - now looked like me. The entirely white, predominantly male barriers to the arts venues in the NE looked at me blankly. But it’s true. And what I love about it is that mixed race children seem to be the ultimate response to racism. Despite the endemic prejudice of our immediate history, black and white people have quietly got on with falling in love with each other.

It then occurred to me that other groups that think of themselves as outside the mainstream are possibly also more IN than they realised.

Gay men have always used the term ‘out’ when referring to admitting their sexuality. There is another implicit ‘out’ there as well. Some must realise that white hetro able bodied middle/upper class yada yada yada is the most IN club there is. So in coming out they are not only revealing their gayness they are stepping away from the benefits of that exclusive club. And it’s an odd one anyway because some in the gay community or the hetro have felt bound to ‘out’ gays who didn’t want to be out. The guy who employs my youngest daughter has a mug which says “no one knows I’m gay” which sums up the whole thing neatly.

Disabled people, like black people, don’t get to choose if the world knows about their ‘outness’ or not. And frankly neither do working people who bear the yolk of the world’s grind. And ironically some of the groups who clearly do not in any sense make up a minority in the way we mean when we discuss these bizarre human constructs – are not in a minority. Women. The afore-mentioned working people. If we could just tweak our perceptions enough we’d realise that OUT is the new IN. Minorities are the majority.  If you add up all the people outside the exclusive club of white male hetro able bodied born-with-a-silver-spoon-in-your-gob people who think the world owes them - they are so few and we are so many.

We, out here, make up the biggest club. We are so unbelievably out there – here - that we are totally in there (!). When you start to include other ‘outs’ the red heads, the ones with regional accents, the people who don’t conform to physical ideas of what is body-acceptable we are almost everyone.

In fact I think there are only about 3 people left in the IN club. Three shrivelled up apparently hetro able-bodied white guys who live in cities, have money and power, went to the right schools, married their cousins somewhere along the family tree were born with a sense of their own indispensability.

The only thing is they are behaving like they own the world and we are letting them get away with it.
So we need to have a think about that one.

Meanwhile – welcome to the new not-very-exclusive in club of not being in the club

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

165. Syrian air strikes & living in the Penissic era.

We’ve had the Jurassic epoch, the Triassic, Cretaceous and so on. This is most definitely the Penissic age.

It’s impossible to think of a time in history when avaricious, aggressive maleness made such a total mess of everything. They may have had the will eons ago but not the tools... so to speak.

The latest call for more bombing of Syria is so mindless, as to be explicable only as an excess of testosterone induced lunacy. There are a minimum of two very good reasons why we must not join in the Syrian bombing party -
a.     We know it won’t work (it never has before)
b.     We don’t really know why we would be doing it other than its something to do and we get to kill randomly with phallic shaped objects.

Oh and there is the issue of not hitting the correct targets – remember 40 dead working for or in the care of MSF recently? Even military types reckon bombing kills on average 80% innocent people.

Oh and there is also the horrible disgusting utterly revolting issue of rank hypocrisy. We would be bombing (trying to bomb) a group who have partly grown in viciousness and numbers thanks to previous disastrous Western interventions and who are occasionally funded by vicious regimes we still SUPPORT  and do arms deals with (cough – Saudi Arabia)

We’re overdue the Dawn of the Rise of the Fanny. Why is it not happening? We know that fiscal corruption is less likely when at least a significant minority of women are in strong positions in large companies – we need the same in international diplomacy.

Sadly, on the African continent, too many women are oppressed by poverty, lack of educational opportunities, FGM etc. In many places in the East women are hampered by a fascist interpretation of Islam. And everywhere they are stamped on by the boot of bigotry entrenched in other major religions. In the affluent West women are oppressed by – well frankly – women’s magazines, addictions to soap operas, bingo, consumerism and other embarrassing shit. 

So the testosterone fuelled dicks of the world are in the ascendancy. The global phallus just keeps rising and rising.

Interestingly if you take a good look at some of the world’s leaders as they wet dream of bombing Syria, you don’t have to readjust their features much to see the dick in them. Wherever there is mindless destruction there’s a nob. Assad is literally a walking penis with a bit of hair on top though someone did misplace the ears – they’re too low and just don’t look real.

Cameron with his tape worm Eton mouth is just a dick with the opening on the side instead of the end. Putin – say no more. No need to mention the Liberal has-been (never was) Clegg whose wife was so keen to tell us about his cojones. Lest I make you puke I won’t refer to Mrs Blair’s insistence on allusion to his bed prowess.

Months and months ago (even before I accurately predicted the UK election results) I fantasised about a world where the women politicians – Merkel, Clinton, that Welsh bird and Sturgeon, would get it on politically and start to deal with the boys. Sadly that dream came to nought. Merkel is valiantly battling, on her own, against a veritable tsunami of testosterone.

We don’t know what if anything is going to happen with Hilary in the US, The Labour Harmon – who although lacking in many ways maybe could have been something with the support of the other blonde bobs - is now politically defunct. But I still wish the women we have could form some sort of rearguard action. Couldn’t they be a 5th column to stand up to the puerile peni?

My good friend Oonah referred to the world as being run by DICK. She does not mean someone of that name and she does not mean ‘a dick’ she means – unless I am mistaken – the whole notion of masculinity gone very very badly wrong. Out of control.

We are living in the Penissic era. And, like the Cretaceous, ultimately it will be a flop.

Last week I referred to the unholy alliance of two drug giants. On the one hand the American company that draws massive profits from the sale of Viagra. On the other the Irish pharmaceutical that makes lots of dosh from paralysing women’s faces with Botox. It is a joining of monsters for tax avoidance. This week I realise that it’s not just horrible. It is not just a grim judgement on our priorities. It is in fact a painfully accurate microcosm of the state of the world. 

The penises are drugged up on machismo and out of control. The fannies are paralysed and the goal is money, money, money, power, power, power.  Never mind the ongoing humanitarian disaster.

God (I hope she’s listening) help us.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

blog 164. I Don’t Like this Ad...

Whether it’s a printer with a cash-back option or  Myleene Klass smirking smugly in another frock your mum would like or boiler cover from ‘just’ £10 per month, it’s impossible to get rid of them.

No matter how often the ‘I don’t like this ad’ red cross is clicked, another one pops up almost immediately. It’s like being involved in a permanent survey of things that really really really piss you off. And if I go the next step and tick a reason why I don’t like this add they thank me for helping them improve the experience then the same one will pop up again anyway as if to say you think we really give a ---?

When I first turn on my Yahoo email (other providers do it though Yahoo is possibly the worst) the little time circle of dots swirls around and my mail wont load until someone I don’t know and will never meet manages to load their gush onto my private e-mail, while my life ticks away. I cannot get rid of this constant invasion unless I PAY.

Spam is the same. No matter how many times you report it the same stuff keeps right on returning. But the ads are in your face. They don’t default to somewhere you can’t see them until you check the folder to see which bank wants your password or who wants to sell you some medication – usually Viagra. And now that the US company that makes Viagra has married the Irish company that makes Botox in order to avoid tax, it won’t be long before we are getting joint ads for paralysed faces and budget erections...

It’s like someone letting their dog piss up your leg and saying ‘I will get him to stop if you pay me’.

And you can’t ignore the bloody things.

So I am trying to email my mum and find out how her pepperpot went on Wednesday and my eyes are drawn to a message that takes up about 1/3 of the type space asking ‘Should you be selling your stocks?’ I only own vegetable stock cubes. Who would want them?

Someone called Ken wants me to download his report about a retirement plan. Ken, honey, we won’t need retirement plans, they are gonna legalise euthanasia for ordinary people.

Then BT want me to get their TV. The face of the woman in the ad says it all. She looks horrified and dismayed – she clearly hasn’t been botoxed. That is how I would look if I ever had to have anything at all to do with BT ever again - ever.

Then there are the ads containing items I recently searched for on the web making me feel like Yahoo is stalking me. It’s creepy. The stalking ad is followed, paradoxically, by an ad for human rights. Oh the irony.

A gymnasium wants me to pay £19.99 per month for membership. Almost £20 to exercise indoors with other people’s carbon dioxide, sweat and body odour and, worse, all the bloody horrible chemicals they use to suppress the b.o. – why? Get rid of your car. Instant exercise on tap every day AND you double save the price of running a car and the gym membership.

Hey – you know what – never mind Ken it’s me who should be giving financial advice.

Then there are banks offering credit cards. Presumably to pay for all the tat these ads pressure you into wanting that you didn’t know you wanted until you logged into your e-mail to try to contact your mum.

Then there is an ad for half price Sky movies showing pics of flicks I wouldn’t go to see if THEY paid ME.

Then more BT this time offering a sport app.

And I still haven’t finished the e-mail to my mum.

So I am going to advertise my new paperback book that I just managed to get OUT THERE. I nearly had a cataclysmic personal implosion dealing with all the IT stuff but I’m sure it’s good for my character. Anyway Maybe I’m not a Pigeon is ready in paperback for you or your mum, aunt, sister, cousin to fill that quirky, fun, stocking filler gap. Then you can cosy up with it on Boxing Day while everyone else looks at shit in the sales and diet products on the internet.

If you don’t want to see my ad just pay me some money every month for the next year.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

blog 163. Irony & Misery

This will be a very short blog as there is only one thing to write about and little that hasn’t already been said about the horror and the sadness.

Ironically, harking back to last week’s blog I was asking why we can’t remember the lessons of the so called ‘great’ wars more than once a year and then Paris...  Just the latest dreadful example of how badly we’ve let down the next generation.

I hope if one good thing comes out of the hideous tragedy in the French capital it will be a sense of time for unity. I am not a fan of out of control bureaucracy or multi-layered governmental control. However, let’s hope that the current madness of our PM trying to appease the nasties and the right-wingers and the xenophobes will cease. Let’s hope everyone realises that this is NOT the time to attack or try to destabilise the European Union.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

blog 162. Remembrance Day v Political Amnesia.

Maybe it’s the effect of the poppies but this government seems to have severe, selective amnesia.

Just last week I was aghast listening to a story of a London organisation that vacuums up single homeless men and puts them in homes fit for rats. It does this in order to make a profit by cashing in on housing benefit. As we all know, ex-servicemen are disproportionately represented among the homeless. This is immoral but not, apparently, illegal. All while the government are making a crusade out of cutting benefits to the vulnerable.

Despite their significance from 1915, it was not until the 1920s that the Flanders poppy became an established remembrance symbol of the unimaginable suffering and loss of WWI. But an idea that took on more immediacy was that of homes fit for heroes. One wonders what Lloyd George would have made of the above scenario or the bedroom tax or the attempted cuts in tax credit that currently keep many working families in the UK just above the bread line.

Move to WWII and yet again the idea of a better life for those who sacrificed so much was the order of the day. Of the 1m houses built by Attlee’s post war Labour government 80% were council houses and many built to replace those destroyed by Hitler. The selloff of those properties by Margaret Thatcher – a policy endorsed by the current administration – has done more than any other to put the low paid at the mercy of the worst elements of the private rented sector and exacerbate the problems of homelessness.

An NHS free at the point of use was another Attlee vision, not one that has become an underfunded postcode lottery with many sections made vulnerable to profiteering.
The working classes were to be offered a decent education; one that would give them a chance to compete with the well-heeled. In 2015 in the UK we know that a child’s circumstances at birth will influence its life chances more than any other single factor. The time when those at the bottom could rise according to their abilities was a brief flowering of egalitarianism, quickly stamped out by the establishment. The introduction of tuition fees is part of the same pattern and a recent announcement stated that even the grants made to the very worst off students are now to be converted into loans - debt.

As I battled on Sunday through the Remembrance Day crowds in Edinburgh to a service at my own church I was chilled by more than just the rain and the wind. Just what has happened to our hopes and dreams of a fairer society since the guns fell silent on the Western Front in WWI?  Woodrow Wilson called it a war to end all wars but 1939 saw the dawn of a second ‘great’ war. At the end of each, the hope for a fairer, more peaceful world was great.

But in this country the gap between the haves and the have-nots has grown exponentially since the 90s into a vast chasm.

Instead of a fighting force engaged in security measures we are enmeshed in the global aftermath of one of the most stupid, testosterone fuelled bits of international madness any government ever engaged in to the point where we are morally constipated. We make embarrassing overtures to the Egyptian leader in the hope that he will help sit on ISIS while ignoring any number of human rights abuses in the attempt to make the sticking plaster of risible international diplomacy stick. (I already covered our embarrassing slavering to the Chinese a couple of weeks ago).

We managed D-day but couldn’t repatriate a few hundred holiday makers from sharm-el-sheikh. In WWII we (belatedly) took in Jewish refugees without complaining about school places or benefits. However, having failed to stop Assad’s apocalypse we bellyache about taking in Syrian refugees. People had so much less then. Is that maybe why they were more willing to share?

We defeated Hitler and Mussolini but there was an embracing of Farage and his watery nastiness at all levels that made good people nauseous.

Why do we remember the lessons of the two great wars for just one day a year?

Give us an administration that cares all year and remembers the hopes and dreams of those who survived the horrors. We’ve no use for a poppy-one-day-a-year government, shafting ordinary people the other 364 days.

If this government want to truly honour the war dead and the sacrifices they made for freedom and a better life, let’s see more fairness. Let’s see better schools, better health care and let’s see the very comfortably off (and eye-wateringly wealthy) friends of those in power paying their bloody taxes.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

blog 161. If you’ve ever wondered...

...what it might be like to be a young black mother in the white / male dominated fiefdom of the UK capital of the North in the 1980s / 90s?
I may be able to tell you.

In yet another departure from my global apocalypse ramblings, I have done battle with my IT demons and produced my first straight-to-e-book book in a literary experiment that cost me at least half a dozen more grey hairs.
Albeit that I piddled about with the text post proof-read, introducing new typos AND that the process of uploading the damn thing – which should have taken 20 minutes - took me three days.... it is done. And it is available. And here is the obligatory blurb.

Maybe I’m not a Pigeon !’  
(My Lives & Me in Ten Houses)
by Amanda Baker

In 1988 the capital of the North elected its first black woman councillor. Now, after a stint in law (without much order) she has produced this genre bending, humorous, sortofanautobiography. Bizarre memoirs wrestle for space with amusing anecdotes. Painful revelations, apocalyptic short stories, satirical blog posts, flash fiction and other extracts from her published writing are marshalled to serve up this appetizing offering.

You may get dizzy as you ricochet from a creepy encounter with pre PM Tony Blair wearing can-you-really-walk-in-those tight trousers to a near death toilet experience. Hang on as you are flung from hitchhiking with a ginger tom cat on a lead, to accidentally becoming a stand up comedian via child~prefers~pear~to~Nelson~Mandela shame.
There is love, loss, and a house renovation that makes Grand Design look like a Lego project, finally splat landing in the congealed spaghetti of the fostering process. All in an off the map literary mashup from this mixed-race, mixed up, Brown Girl Outside the Ring.

 “ was the shape of things to come. I’d been elected to Newcastle City Council despite having no political aspiration. In the future I was to be a finalist in a national BBC sitcom writing competition despite not owning a television, a quarter-finalist and finalist in two separate national Stand-Up-Comedy competitions, despite not being a comedian. In 2014 I voted SNP in the referendum even though I am neither a Nationalist nor a Scot.
The thing is never to let logic get in the way of the unexplored path...”

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

blog 160. One Day Opt Out, Sanity Survival Guide.

Following on from the Polylanna blog last week, which was in turn a response to claims of an especially dour run of posts, I am again going to offer perky positives. This week I’ll provide my dear bleaders with a one day emergency guide to surviving reality with your sanity intact.

Turning away from the need and mess is not edifying or moral behaviour. If we can’t help we have a duty to ‘know’. But I’m working on a papal dispensation for what will be just one day of respite where the lucky ones (those not trying to cross the Med in a sieve, survive a corrupt dictatorship, feed a starving family or endure environmental disaster) but wracked with guilt and helplessness, can plug out for 12 hours. So, for example, in this country you may wish to switch off from the Tories' full on attack on the low waged. If you live in America I would say try not to think about just how many people of unstable mind are, right now, armed with sufficient weaponry to give an entire town a really bad day. If you care about the planet try not to focus on the increasing backlash from Nature as we scorch the earth and so on and so forth. And here is a guide on how to spend that day.

Firstly, if you’ve not already given up on the box at least turn it off. There is no point having it on but avoiding the news because the alternatives are morons on game shows, programmes about high maintenance gardens and poor quality freak shows masquerading as reality TV. And in this country, despite it being 2015, black representation in the publically funded broadcast channel has actually significantly decreased rather than increased. So just turn it off.

If you have £2 to spare go to the co-op (or equivalent outside the UK) and buy their own brand cheesecake. It’s not as good as homemade but it’s pretty nice and a real budget treat. And frankly – though the food industry is working so hard to hasten our untimely and unpleasant demise - more than just about any other global force – this aint the time for a tofu salad.

Then get yourself a DVD collection of old Columbo episodes or if you are more modern than me download them. I can highly recommend Candidate for Crime, Prescription for Murder, Suitable for Framing. The importance of this choice is that you can spend a couple of hours fantasising that the application of logic, decency and hard work will always triumph over corruption, egotism, narcissism and criminality. Plus you get GREAT dialogue, fully drawn characters and subtle humour.

Paint the walls of your house orange and brown and wear a flowered kaftan and pretend it’s the 1970s because although it was not a good era for music, fashion, sexism, racism and there were lots of paedophiles operating with impunity in our institutions, at least back then we were still in a position to save the planet.

I wouldn’t recommend trying to become self sufficient in a day or even in a hurry. I started with an apple tree. The pesky squirrels got most of them, the magpies pecked a couple (I didn’t even know magpies ate apples) and the wind just blew the last one down. Although I rescued it from the slugs it wouldn’t keep us fed through the breakdown of law and order, crop failure and Armageddon.

I do suggest that you keep a copy of Anna Karenina to hand and just glance at it during the day off and bear in mind that if martial law is declared and you can’t leave your house, there is a book that can be read and re-read and re-re-read.

And lastly, if you live in the UK, move to Scotland. Oh! I already did that, though it did take longer than a day...

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

blog 159. China’s steel grip on UK nuclear power will be happy, jolly, super duper, smiley, happy, funny fun, fun.

A few times – and especially after my last post - I’ve been told that my blogs can be a wee bit dark. Even the humour is dark. Personally I think humour is like chocolate – the darker the better, but ok. Even though my mate Elayne and I, when we are putting the world to rights, invariably conclude that if you aren’t worried you are not paying attention, I am going to redress the balance this week. Here goes with this week’s happy, jolly bloggy.

So – I understand that the idiot box is showing lots of lovely programmes about baking which, let’s face it, couldn’t possible fail to make everyone happy and realise just what a world of fluffiness we live in where there is nowt more to consider than who has the best muffins. And even if you don’t watch, you wont miss out on the glorious chirpy happiness because some of these baking shows make their way onto the radio as ‘news’ items and they are all over the covers of magazines in the shops.

And, talking of magazines, in the supermarket the other day, I stopped and stared at the glossies. No shortage of vacant women simpering at the reader from behind their photo-shopped, made-up, soft focused covers. And they are all so so so happy they just can’t wait to tell you how they fitted into THAT dress or how the way they look is completely natural and all achieved by drinking gluten free water and eating air and mung bean fritters fried in mermaid oil. They did look happy.

Next to them were magazines with expensive cars that probably use no fossil fuel at all and more magazines about people in soap operas who don’t really exist. Leading me to see that life is one long fun filled fantasy.

And there are lots of pretty women who can’t afford any clothes at all just thin bits of gauze stuck to their tits and fannies but some nice people occasionally provide a red carpet for them to walk on which is so kind.

In the UK Parliament, the wealthy elite who have always had things their own way still do. And who doesn’t like a bit of tradition. It’s only a shame they did away with other traditions such as little boys working up chimneys and women not being able to vote.

Talking of tradition, a friend of mine who is searching for a job applied for a driver’s position. The employers have a really quaint system where anyone wanting a job turns up at 7.30am. The man in charge tells a few lucky ones they can work and they get to hang around until 11am with no pay and the others all get to go home without any work. It must be like getting to play the can-I-afford-my-rent lottery for free EVERY DAY. How cool. And it certainly brings to mind stories from those halcyon days when unions didn’t ruin everyone’s fun by insisting on a fare wage for a day’s work.

And as I’ve blathered on about tediously on this blog – even though we’ve not got effective medicines for some of the really horrible diseases on this planet at least we have Viagra so that Western men can have sex whenever they want. It’s something the planet should really worry about – men not shagging enough.

The UK government continues to sell Britain off to the highest bidder but at least the nuclear industry is going to the Chinese – who – let’s face it – by dumping steel on the global market did SUCH a fantastic job of giving lots of workers in Britain lots and LOTS of future leisure time. And now, if there is a nuclear catastrophe we won’t be told about it so worry about potential mass horrible deaths, which would be no fun at all, will not be added to potential mass horrible deaths.

Some disingenuous sorts still bang on about inequalities in education meaning that the richest rather than the brightest get ahead. And still more complain that tuition fees have exacerbated that situation. Folk whine on about universities acting more like supermarkets and students have scary financial obligations but decreasingly valuable degrees. Well – what I say to that is – at least no unpleasant shocks in later life.

And it all goes to prove that if you just look hard enough everything really is jolly and happy and completely super duper.

This week just call me Pollyanna.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

blog 158. Global Danse Macabre...

The Walking Dead may be the current teen sensation but it’s also us. Listen carefully and you can hear the slow, slow, quick, quick, slow of the global Danse Macabre...

As the boys get out their war toys again and the dispossessed are on the march again and we poison the air we breathe, the water we drink and the ground we need to survive, you can feel the rhythm.  The 1% still squirreling away ill gotten billions in tax havens and offshore accounts don’t hear it. But as those – for example the British elite that sit on inherited (unearned) wealth - join forces with those who have more recently become obscenely rich by ravaging the resources of struggling nations that do not have the infrastructure to stop them, the music gets louder the movements more exaggerated.

The Danse Macabre was an artistic vision of mediaeval times. Long before Saint Saens’ music, DM was a depiction of the dead dancing to their graves. The point was to show the elite with their crowns and sceptres and gold alongside the poor and ragged of the earth all jigging towards their burial places in a last desperate darkly joyful moment – levelled by Death.

Yes – you may say – those were times when war, famine and disease could wipe out significant proportions of the earth’s populous without warning and with frightening speed. That was then, you may say, this is now. Then I will come back to you with this. Have you already forgotten Ebola? I know we ignored it for years because it was just the darkies who got it but we know it’s breaking out of its viral comfort zone. Haven’t you heard, way before we’ve found cures for some of the deadliest diseases on the planet, the medicines we’ve relied on this side of WWII are no longer playing ball.

Each sect with a new End of Days prophecy is spot lit and ridiculed by the mass media. The really bad joke is that we are at the End of Days; it is an ongoing event that we are speeding up alarmingly. With every thoughtless action, with every decision made for profit instead of people, with ever pound or dollar we spend on war instead of security, with every act of excess instead of restraint, we dance faster towards Earth Zero. And if you are reading this behind the comfort of your scepticism remember – I accurately predicted the 2015 election results. It’s past time to be uncomfortable. The period when we could, in all reasonable hope, turn things around passed early in my lifetime.

Unlike our 14th Century forebears we are simply not facing up to reality; with humour or at all. Maybe that is why you’ll hear on the ‘news’ a cursory account of how the corals around the planet are crumbling as sea temperatures rise followed by lengthy detailed reports about which bunch of blokes kicked or hit or ran with, various different shaped and sized balls... I listened with incredulity this morning as Sainsbury, a major supermarket chain here in the UK, encouraged people to get in their cars for some extra journeys this month in their ad for discount fuel.

Since we succeeded in destabilising the Middle East – again – the rupture, the crack in the thin veneer of civilisation has been growing and no sticking plaster is now big enough to cover it. History tells us that social breakdown, mass exodus and planetary pandemics follow.

Hospitals, if you are lucky enough to have them, are over burdened and underfunded and we are short on compassion. In this country our basic infrastructure has been sold off to the highest bidder and nothing can now stand in the way of the profit juggernaut. Perhaps the most blatant recent example of this is the Volkswagen debacle. In the face of even the flimsy laws attempting to limit air pollution, human beings (who also need to breathe this air I presume) have spent time, money, and ingenuity creating and fitting technology to get round that legislation.

It’s like we’re all clinging to the outer branch of a very old, tired tree and the people in charge are making big piles of sawdust for themselves by sawing away at the part of the branch that connects us to the trunk – and we are all just watching...

Time spent developing drugs to ensure a bloke can shag when he wants equates to time that has not been spent keeping Malaria drugs up to date or educating the population on the use of medicines that have become essential to us such as antibiotics (see blog 97. Viagra – Yes. Effective Cure for Malaria – No!). There is no excuse; the Chinese had medicines for Malaria 2000 years ago.

One of the elements the DM deals with is the human desperation for a final fling, last dance, last hysterically elated act. On this blog I’ve often decried silly, superficial, consumer mad triviality in the face of human suffering and real anguish. But maybe those determinedly drinking / drugging / gambling / gorging themselves to death or spending themselves into oblivion or flaying themselves for attention on social media are doing just that - taking part in the Global Danse Macabre...

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

blog 157 Mixed-race magic, mother love & HAIR...

Check out Chris Rock’s docu-movie ‘Good Hair’ if you never realised hair was a culturally/racially charged issue. Then help yourself to my free click ‘n scroll children’s picture story at the end of this blog.

My earliest memories of having my hair done were of my mum scraping through my afro mop trying to get it to ‘behave’. Behave meant trying to look like white girl hair.

Per electric hair-straightener days, my mum used a hot comb on herself. This implement of torture was a strange iron contraption with a wooden handle and thick tines of charred metal. It would rest on the hob of our gas cooker – sometimes until it glowed an evil orange colour – then she would COMB HER HAIR with it to make it straight. The smell of singing hair (and sometimes flesh) was something else.

When I was about 13, I was taken to a black hairdresser in Birmingham to have my hair relaxed - a misnomer if ever there was one. Vile smelling, eye-watering chemicals would be applied to the hair and scalp. Then you were left with the assertion to “let me know when it starts to burn”. The disconcerting sensation of the skin on your scalp frying and melting was, apparently, the indication that it was working! You came out with hair that was unnaturally straight and felt a bit like straw. But you could get a comb smoothly through it. Sometimes it fell out.

Although I gave up on the horrible chemicals in adulthood I didn’t really start to wear my hair naturally until I was in my late thirties. Take things one step further into a world where a Caucasian mother may have a child with afro hair or vice versa and things get really knotted.

Freud claimed that females have penis envy – I’m not convinced about that - but brown and black girls are brought up – usually by their mothers sadly – to have white-girl-hair envy as they internalise the racism of the dominant culture.

Being born into a mixed race family in the 60s, it never occurred to me that not looking like your parents was strange. What it did do – I think – is exacerbate the whole black v white issue of what was acceptable/desirable in physical appearance.

When my first daughter Ebony was born –pale initially with more Caucasian type hair – I took her out in the pram as you do. I was very proud of my new baby and keen to show her off but was often taken for the nanny. By the time my second daughter Ella was born – with a thick mop of Elvis Presley hair – I’d got used to that.

Over the years we dealt with knots and tats and even the dreaded school nits; hairstyles for dancing, trimming split ends, growing and ‘keeping it out of the way’. Throughout the ages, managing hair has been a bonding experience for mothers and daughters and this domestic activity has special resonance in mixed race families.

Now my youngest daughter Raven is a teenager and wears her hair short and sometimes blue!

Ella and the Knot Fairies was written for daughters and all mothers who ever picked up a hair brush. It is a very particular fairy tale about mothers, and magic and daughter’s and hair and the tangles of mixed race families. Written and illustrated by yours truly. (Made available online by David Forbes - thank you)

Check it out at -

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

blog 156. Ashcroft’s pig-tales tell us nothing new.

If you’re reading this from outside the UK and are bemused – it’s about a rich bloke using his big money to produce a book outing another rich bloke for doing something vulgar with a pig’s head because he (the first rich bloke) didn’t get what he wanted. Yes – while the world is going to hell in handcart...

To anyone with a brain cell who pays even passing attention to who holds power in this world, the gross goings-on of the grossly privileged elite have lost their shock value. They probably run at about the same level of interest as the lesser characters in soap operas.

From a drunk, bra-wearing lord (in charge of the Standards Committee!) snorting cocaine with prostitutes while slagging-off politicians to a nazi-uniform wearing prince and racist consort to MPs who think it ok to abuse the police and lie about it (you see I refrained from calling them by that 1970s Brit moniker - The pigs!) it’s like pouring a thimble of water into the ocean.

Is it even worth mentioning another arrogant privately educated PM who OK’d an illegal invasion in the Middle East and kicked off Armageddon? Alright, I won’t. Not long ago we were reading about so many MPs with their snouts in the trough that Parliament was starting to smell like a bacon factory.

Ashcroft may have hogged the limelight with his pig-headed, boar-ish revelations of porcine debauchery but in reality he’s the one whose biographical de-composition is giving off a whiff of degradation.

My opinion of Cameron and his breed certainly isn’t lowered by this bit of spite (spit – roast pig??? Ok we’ll leave that one). He falls no lower in my opinion because there is nowhere lower for him and his set to go. Whether it’s the Bullingdon club or any other exclusive group where rich boys do stupid things to be regarded as ‘in’, it all turns my stomach. These rich boys float along feeding on the fat-saturated pigswill of inherited wealth without the oxygen of merit. They stink of old money made in the slave trade and the other historical miseries of humanity.

But if there is another level of ‘low’ it has to be someone who is so desperate to get into the pig’s heart of the ultimate club - The Establishment - that they will debase themselves by trying to buy their way in with eye watering amounts of dosh.

I recall once years ago –finding a friend’s daughter taking money out of my purse. As you can imagine we were all mortified. Our upset turned to pity when – on delving deeper – it turned out that the girl, who had an obvious disability, was using money acquired in this way to pay-off school bullies and to try to buy friendship. But she was a disabled, disadvantaged, young girl. Ashcroft is an adult. He has had countless advantages in life but behaves like Dudley Dursley in Harry Potter, who ironically ends up with a pig’s tail. Having received 36 presents he’s squealing because he didn’t get 37.

Ashcroft is paying and displaying his inadequacies more clearly and embarrassingly than anyone I’ve ever observed. On the dignity-meter of life he’s ticking in the red and if he had any self respect he’d be blushing.

If he has a few quid to spare – rather than this gross vanity/malice project couldn’t he have got that woman to write about someone doing good in the world then use his publishing business and finances to promote that?

What a hideous man living a hideous life – how poor in spirit and humanity. How grasping and mean. How pitiful.

If Cameron’s pig-tale is true I’m not surprised. If it’s not true I don’t care. But – if this is how the rich and powerful spend their time and considerable resources when the world is burning, heaven help the rest of us.

The only one who emerges with quiet pignity from this latest privilege pile-up is the dead pig – real or imagined.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

blog 155. Designer handbags are a symbol of failure not success!

Ask Marie Antoinette.

Counter-intuitive? Well maybe it depends on the definitions of success and failure.

Way back in the mists of bloggy time I wrote a piece called Armageddon Will Not be Televised (blog 12 in the archives) and asked in that post -

‘Is it too extreme to suggest that the woman parading down the high street with the $1,000+ designer handbag may as well be walking round with a sick child under her arm’

With hindsight that proposition was an understatement – a hugely, massively, grossly, exaggerated understatement.

Back in the day I found it amusing that some women friends of mine couldn’t buy a thing unless it had a LABEL. If I failed (as I invariably did) to notice / be impressed / understand the relevance / realise the price tag implications of said label, they would help me by pointing it out.

It’s not that I’m averse to checking labels. If, for example, I read a tag that indicates a need for ironing, the item will be back on the hanger quicker than a Tory benefactor who didn’t get a peerage can cut his cash donations.

As someone who generally rips labels off stuff when I buy (Barnardos – Oxfam – British heart foundation) I just never got it. But then I don’t see shopping as a leisure activity and would most certainly feel demeaned if I began to identify as a consumer.

I have been known to go to some effort to cut labels off items I otherwise like if they are visible. Why would you parade around as a free billboard?

I had one friend who really tried very hard to educate me. If she put her latest designer handbag on the table between us in a coffee shop and I didn’t fall off my chair or start cooing like a constipated pigeon she would EXPLAIN to me how exclusive / expensive / desirable it was and even bring up examples on her phone of other desirable women who had the same desirable sort of bag. And I know you are thinking that I probably was scornful but I was not. Once I realised she’d gone all tight lipped because I’d missed the point AGAIN I really tried. But it was akin to when you have to explain a joke to someone. The moment is gone.

Have you noticed that no despot’s wife is without her designer bag! But then there mustn’t be much to do apart from shop if hubby is busy killing his political opponents.

But hey - I get enthused about things other people don’t care about and I am sure there have been countless times when some poor girlfriend has been bravely stifling a yawn.


Now social media is everywhere (and I speak dear bleader as you know from a severe Luddite perspective) none of us can pretend we don’t know. We know the earth’s resources are carved up in the maddest way. We know that otherwise healthy children die for the want of a diarrhoea tablet costing a couple of pence. We know that women are maimed and killed in sweat shops churning out disposable fashion for the west. We know apocalypse is happening in the Middle East and the dying and the desperate are fleeing with nothing. We know that there is enough food on the planet to feed everyone while people spend days worth of hours watching the great British Bakeoff et al then throw away huge amounts of food they bought in the supermarket.

Although most historians suspect that Marie Antoinette never actually said ‘let them eat cake’ when presented with news of the Paris poor having no bread, that phrase echoed discordantly through time because of what it represented. Today’s bag women are the Marie Antoinettes of our age. Worse - because they do know. Just as the peasants of France were not ignoring boulangerie full of gateaux because they just preferred la baguette, those starving or dying in poverty are not doing so out of choice. They are doing so because in the simplest terms they don’t have enough of any of the basics – bread, security, peace.

So the overpriced ‘thingy holder’, far from being a sign of success is a sign of failure – failure to launch, failure to empathise, failure to grasp just what the hell is going on.

If I ever apologised for that bit in Blog 12 (I probably didn’t) I retract the apology – in fact I apologise for apologising.

Anyone who could in all conscience go spend a few thousand pounds on bit of leather / plastic / hessian to put their lipstick, purse and phone in, is off their trolley or a twit. Stick that in your handbag and swing it.

Ditching the designer tat may not immediately solve the world’s problems but it may represent one tiny indication of an understanding that we all live on the same planet.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

blog 154. I’m going grey – why is no one else?

Is grey hair the ultimate Western image taboo for women?

So instead of banging on about global Armageddon as usual on BGOTR let’s untangle the ultimate aesthetic western issue for women. Lighten up a bit. But even this apparently trivial topic has an uncomfortable subtext. In the developing world too often people don’t go grey because – frankly - they don’t get the chance. At the other end of the where-you-were-born lottery we kid ourselves that because we have everything else money can buy – we can buy youth. Or an approximation.

I’m not dying out my grey hair because frankly I can’t be arsed. But as I look around me I wonder if going grey IN PUBLIC is the equivalent of walking round with your skirt tucked into the back of your knickers. Are people sniggering at me – pointing behind my back? Do they expect me to start picking up litter in the middle of the road while muttering to myself?

And grey is so IN. Look at Jeremy Corbyn. On the other hand – you are right – he’s a bloke and generally it’s still us women (even the sensible ones who have decided not to bother with extreme dieting or face lifts or botox or boob jobs or any of that oppressive crap) who still will not let grey hair show.

It’s a novel contradiction because grey is a colour we just adore in public life. There are huge grey areas in morality for example. Look at the army of politicians and other public figures who seem not to realise when they should resign. Should I refer to the bankers who did not end up in jail? Or is that - as one journalist put it - just too boring to be bothered with. ‘So yesterday’.

But today I want to stick with a more work-a-day but in some ways telling greyness. Grey hair. Or lack of evidence of its existence.

I don’t especially enjoy seeing the creeping greyness on my own pate (you can see some in my new blog profile pic though the shot isn’t clear enough to show just how much there now is). I am beginning to get that out-of-step sensation that is never far away from me. However, I also realise, because as I said I spend a lot of time scribbling about the unfairnesses of the world, that I am bloody lucky to get the chance to go grey.

The oddness of NOT dying out grey hair came home to me a few months ago when working with a school writing group. Week 1. I’d worn a headscarf. Week 2. I wore my hair down – which meant a lot of the grey didn’t show. Week 3. I wore my hair up without a headscarf. As we sat down to say our hellos a boy shrieked,
“Miiiiiss – you’ve got GREY HAIR.”
He said it like you might say, ‘you’ve got a tarantula on your shoulder’ or ‘Miss you’ve just trodden on my ingrown toenail’ or ‘Seriously Miss - you’re related to the Bay City Rollers?’ (which I sort of, kind of am – very indirectly).

There are some insightful quotes about aging which suggest we have acknowledged for generations just how ridiculous our attitude to the issue is -
I have everything I had twenty years ago – it’s just all a bit lower’
Gipsy Rose Lee
‘I prefer old age to the alternative’
Maurice Chevalier
(Variations of this have been attributed to many people over the years but most know it from Maurice)
One should never trust a woman who tells one her real age. A woman who would tell one that would tell one anything’
Oscar Wilde
However, Mr Wilde also said
Quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit’ – so I will stop there.

Surely the one we ought to pay most attention to is the one attributed to Maurice. Grey hair should be some sort of status symbol; far more impressive than a yacht or expensive car or designer handbag.

Shouldn’t a woman with grey hair be more likely to be listened to, respected, attributed with a modicum of understanding of the strangeness of this world? Instead it seems to denote some indolent slattern who can’t be bothered to get herself along to the hairdresser once a fortnight for chemical alteration. Maybe if she lets her grey hair show she also has dirty skirting boards or out of date food in the fridge?

On the other hand – when the cosmic time register is totted up – you know the one – x amount of hours spent watching TV at home (since 1999), x amount of time stacking a dishwasher (ever), x amount of time dying grey hair – I am glad there will be a big fat zero next to my name.

 Let’s be honest, even if you are lucky enough not to have been born in a country where the world thinks it’s ok for you to die before your 5th birthday LIFE’s TOO SHORT.