I’ll have a tall skinny loft apartment, a two-bed semi and a danish please.
No sugar, ta.
I’ll have a tall skinny loft apartment, a two-bed semi and a danish please.
No sugar, ta.
The best thing I can offer you for Christmas, gentle reader, is something I found on Patry Francis’s blog. It is a quiet and loving story about her mother and grandfather one Christmas many years ago; it is a moving story, beautifully told.
And all that’s left for me to do is wish you peace and joy at Christmas and happiness and prosperity in 2007.
I had a hire car delivered this morning. It’s something to drive while my car is out of commission having been rear-end shunted a couple of days ago. (Have I mentioned that I hate tailgaters?).
The lad who delivered the car had a blackberry or sim’lar for me to put signatures on to with one of those scribey-pen things.
Then I get home, fire up the PC and find myself downloading an email with PDFs of the hire agreement, complete with my signature.
I am, as I said, impressed.
Ok, not a category error as such, but a mental derailment all the same.
There I was, chatting away at the WI Christmas party with another member. It turns out that she’d had a pub about 20 miles from where I used to live. It further turns out she used to work for the local MP running his constituency office. It further further turns out she is a raving, raging, spittle-frothing tory.
We had a slightly one-sided conversation about Wonderful Tories She Had Met. “Michael Hestletine, he’s a very interesting man”. “That Boris Johnson, everyone under-estimates him”. Even, “Jeffrey Archer did a lot of good” and “Margaret Thatcher, what a lovely lady”.
I made suitably non-committal replies. I was brought up nicely. I have good manners.
Then she said
“Ann Widdecombe, I’m a big fan. She talks such sense in the Daily Express every Wednesday”.
(The Daily Express thinks that Prince Philip took out a contract on the Princess of Wales, so we are not talking about evidence-based news-reporting, really).
Now it may be that there is much that is great and good about Ann Widdecombe, but unfortunately friends of mine used her name as a safe word during what the Daily Express would probably call “kinky sex sessions” and this struck me as being a rather good idea. You see, unless you are Paul Merton (who is a twisty so-and-so if ever there was one) you cannot think about Ann Widdecombe and sex at the same time. Or not in a good way, anyway.
It cannot be done.
Not without feeling enormous physical and mental discomfort.
On the other hand if you have summoned the spirit of la Widdecombe to rescue you from pleasure past bearing, then she is inextricably bound up in your mind with kinky sex. Not a pleasant image I grant you, but that is rather the point.
So there you are. Not actually a category error. But while “rabid Tories I have known” might be a suitable subject for a chat at the WI, “choosing and using a good safeword for bondage games” isn’t really.
Or not at the one I go to, anyway.
I am fine with all the questions in this NYT list of Things To Discuss Before Marriage – very wise and prudent they are too. I did in fact discuss all of this and more with the former Mr Behn before I jumped over the broomstick with him. Didn’t make a jot of difference in the end, but there you go.
So there I was reading this and checking them off in my mind – have I Discussed this with the One I Discuss These Things With? But then my mental train jumped the track for a minute:
I am sure that relationships deteriorate into acrimony and end awash in bitterness because of this. It used to be toothpaste tubes before they were plastic and you couldn’t squeeze them in the middle; and of course times change.
But is it me, or is #7 in a completely different category from all the others?
I am sickened that this is frequently among my top three or four posts, so I have deleted both the original post and the comment that I had copied it into.
Suffice it to say that there was a spam comment caught by Akismet which appeared to contain links to pornographic images of children. These images are illegal and since they show criminal acts of abuse, and I wanted to report them to the authorities. We should all do whatever we can to help the police track down paedophiles.
Or so I thought.
Useful suggestions about what to do came from tammy vitale who suggested a PR campaign and from Phil who suggested the Internet Watch Foundation, which I did in fact contact. I also cut and pasted the original message and passed it on to Crimestoppers.
However, if you read the comment thread you will see that WordPress take the pragmatic view that there is so much of it out there that there is nothing anyone can do.
It upsets me that I have come to think they may be right.
Does anyone have any suggestions about other blog sites?
I expect to move away from WordPress soon. I’ll tell you why I’m moving when I do it, and I will leave a link here of course.
This means that I am going to have to find another blog site. I’ll be looking around for one myself, but if anyone has any views on other blog sites, please leave them here.
Mrs Timothy Laurence is the Queen’s second child and only daughter. The equine features of HRH the Princess Royal stand out cruelly in a family which produced people as attractive as Princess Margaret and Prince William.
She has never courted the media. Whatever pain she felt because of her first husband’s infidelity, she kept to herself. In the 1970s she famously told a bunch of photographers to “naff off”, though in retrospect it seems much more likely that the word she used began with an f rather than ending with two of them.
The Princess Royal is the only member of the Royal Family in recent times to have achieved national standing for reasons other than her birth. In 1971 she one the individual European Three Day Event, and in 1976 she represented Britain in the Three Day Event at the Montreal Olympics.
You have the feeling that she leads exactly the life she would have led if she had not been royal. She lives on a working farm, admittedly one with a large house and good views. She does practical things for practical charities. She is simply at one end of a scale which has along it all the countless women who deliver meals on wheels, rattle tins for the Red Cross and staff the WRVS shops in hospitals.
Her visits to third world countries are unphotogenic and unphotographed. This quiet pragmatism makes her seem ruthlessly unsentimental:
“The very idea that all children want to be cuddled by a complete stranger I find utterly amazing”.
She does have a point. She may not respond physically or with gushing emotion, but she is fully engaged intellectually with the charities she supports. She has been President of Save the Children since 1970, and Mike Aaronson the charity’s Director General describes her contribution like this:
“In her readiness to think laterally and to question conventional wisdom – often through vigorous debate – she has always displayed great courage and intellectual integrity.”
Integrity is a good word to describe the Princess Royal. She is the most egalitarian of the Royals. Her husbands and children have not been granted titles. Her children are 10th and 11th in succession to the throne; they are Mr Peter Phillips and Miss Zara Phillips, and their commoners’ names stand out sharply among those of their cousins who are princes and princesses.
She is modest, but she is also frequently the most hard-working of the Royals. League tables are suprisingly hard to find, but the 2001 table of royal engagements published in the Guardian shows her public engagements outstripping those of Prince Charles 5 to 4, and those of her mother by almost 5 to 3.
The Princess Royal has passed on on this hard-working and practical modesty to her children. Zara is pretty and blonde but she also wins European Three Day Eventing Championships. Peter works for the Royal Bank of Scotland managing their relationship with the Williams Formula One team. The Princess Royal herself was ridiculed for saying that if she had not been a royal she would have liked to have been an HGV driver, but in fact she has an HGV licence and uses it to drive horse-boxes around the country.
Perhaps the story which sums the Princess Royal up the best is the one that Jackie Stewart used to tell about meeting her at one of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year functions in the early 1970s when he was winning Formula One races and she was winning Three Day Events. He was expecting a la-di-da aristo who’d had everything given her on a plate. Then he shook her hand. It was the hand of someone used to manual work.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the one royal who’d survive a revolution, the one who would have preferred to be a commoner, the hard-working one: I give you HRH the Princess Royal.
The grass is always greener and the past is always golden, (though in future the summers will be longer and hotter, but that just goes to show, doesn’t it?)
Where was I? Oh yes.
Attention spans are shorter these days, exams are easier, people are fatter and lazier, and we are all going to hell in a web-enabled Wii HDTV-ready handcart.
Three things I read recently and one thing I heard made me feel that this view could be true.
The history of Radio 3 and of its predecessor the Third Programme says that when it was founded in the late 1940s it was “very attractive to” 4% of the working class. Not a high proportion but still a large number of people, people who by their own accounts included Sir Peter Hall, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies and Harold Pinter. I was listening to Sir Arnold Wesker on Radio 4, talking about his working-class childhood in the East End, a childhood which was full of love, ideas, discussion and debate. These days when working class kids make good we get Victoria Beckham, Jade Goody and, goddess help us all, Ant and Dec.
Then I read these two blogs.
The main premise is that while a lot of people who are “poor” today have as much material as the middle classes of an earlier era did, they are poor in a different sense.
The modern-day member of the underclass is not hungry … it is not material poverty that separates him from others.
Rather, what stand out are the symptoms of intellectual neglect. The poor of today watch television for half the day. These days, television producers even refer to what they call “Underclass TV.”
But the main thing that sets the modern poor apart from the industrial age pauper is a sheer lack of interest in education. … He likewise makes little effort to open the door to the future for his own children. Their language skills are as bad as their ability to concentrate. The rising rate of illiteracy is matched by the shrinking opportunities to integrate the underclass.
When you read about poor people in times past, it seems like there was often an insistence by the parents that their children get more and a better education than they themselves had. When I see rural poverty cycling through generations today I don’t see that; instead I see one generation shoving over on the couch so that the kids can watch monster truck rallies. On cable – of course, they have cable. There’s no money for books or music lessons but there’s always money for cable TV or a satellite dish.
The eerie apricot says that that this is not just about low expectations and a lack of ambition at home, she says that schools like the one she teaches in are also responsible:
… it’s that all the adults in their lives … do not encourage them to achieve. When the students do only the minimum, we all shower them with praise and attention. Later, in advanced classes or the real world, when they are asked and expected to give one hundred percent, suddenly the students are overwhelmed and their self-esteem suffers. No one has ever asked or expected one hundred percent from them before. Every task becomes “too difficult” and they give up without a fight. We do a serious disservice to these kids …
How do we expect the children to learn to take things seriously when the school and the parents do not?
I urge you to both posts in full – the eerie apricot in particular describes the most shocking and depressing school concert I could ever envision.
I don’t have any answers but I am sure that both the eerie apricot and Diaphanous are asking the right questions. There are other questions of course.
Surely ambition needs you (a) to dislike where you are now, (b) to know that there is something better, and (c) to believe that it is possible for you personally to get from a to b? These days “something better” is celebrity rather than achievement. Young people now want to be famous. They don’t want to be famous for anything, just famous.
Education used to be the route out. The advantage of a meritocracy is that it rewards people who are able, and education is the quickest and simplest way to improve your capabilities. It is a system which rewards academic and sometimes artistic achievement. It isn’t quick and simple, but it used to be quicker and simpler and more likely that a working class boy would get a degree than, say, to marry an heiress.
Now we have a pulchritocracy, the rule of the beautiful. Why bother working at school when a pubic wax, a fake tan, a reality TV show and maybe an opportunist celebrity bonk can give you all the designer labels your bedazzled heart desires?
The spiralling ironies of the story of Chantelle Houghton illustrates this perfectly. She was a pretty but not a successful girl who got her 15 minutes on Celebrity Big Brother. She succeeded in fooling the real celebrities that she was a singer in a girl-band, even though she wasn’t. She looked vaguely familiar to them though because she looks like Paris Hilton. So what we are talking about here is a woman whose route to vacuous fame is being a cheaper and even chavvier version of Paris Hilton. The mind reels.
But if the problem is the fatuousness of the role models provided by our all-pervasive celebrity culture, what is the answer?
I wish I knew.
[Jade] Goody competed in Celebrity Mastermind in 2006 for Sport Relief. Her specialist subject was EastEnders, but she was beaten by Chantelle Houghton, whose specialist subject was Coronation Street.
I am now speechless.
I’ve just spent the last 30 minutes or so producing this with Mr Picasso Head. I’ve justified it with the thought that adults don’t play enough in our society. It’s a fun toy, but I don’t think the site saves the pictures any more. I nabbed this with a screenshot.
It’s harder than it looks.