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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 -