Monthly Archives: December 2006

“christmas poems with swear words”

Someone landed here who had been looking for “christmas poems with swear words”.

I really wish they hadn’t.

You know I want to write one now.

I know you hope I won’t.

Waking up to the working girls

Are we finally developing a mature attitude to prostitution in the UK?.

The news reports about the victims of the Ipswich serial killer have all been kind about the women and supportive of their friends and family, with no exceptions that I have seen. [Since posting this I had a conversation with a friend who pointed out that this may say more about what I read than about what is written. I hate it when reality spoils a good theory like that. AB]

The police spokesman calls them “working girls” which is friendly and not disrespectful.

The local paper has set up a condolence website. Ok, local papers do this sort of thing to generate readers or website hits but, even so, I found it is notable that the paper responded by giving the women who work in the town’s red light district the chance to ‘pay their respects’ to each of the dead women rather than by getting hypocritical and prurient about the very existence of a red light district in a town like Ipswich.

The women’s families speak of their daughters with love and pride as well as grief. They use words like “sad” and “difficult” not “shame”. I am not a fan of the victim culture, but perhaps acknowledging that drug addiction creates victims, and that drug addicts lead lives that are nasty, difficult and impoverished, are steps towards accepting that we will only solve this problem when we stop viewing it as an individual’s moral failure.

There is a matter-of-factness about the reporting of the Ipswich murders, a lack of knowingness, almost a lack of prurience, which feels different from the way in which newspapers and other media used to write about prostitutes.

What I remember about the Yorkshire Ripper case was the sense that “respectable women” and “innocent students” lived in fear in case he mistook them for prostitutes. There was, as I remember, a sense that the students he killed were more innocent, and therefore more victimised, than the prostitutes.

If this story does show that we have more respect for prostitutes, then where has this come from? Cynthia Payne and Christine Keeler were not treated with respect. They were not drug addicts of course, and so they did not get any sympathy there. They were treated with rather sarcastic contempt so far as I can remember.

Is it just that there have been so many prostitution-related scandals over the last 10 years that we are saddened rather than shocked when the Director of Public Prosecutions is picked up near Kings Cross or when a candidate for the Lib-Dem leadership turns out to have an on-going relationship with a rent-boy. Are we Brits developing a gallic maturity about such things?

Is it because prostitution is no longer a silenced profession? Educated and thoughtful women like Compartments and a London Ebony Escort blog about their work. We find out what they think and feel about the work they do and about how it affects their lives. They do it in ways which force us to acknowledge that they are not morally bankrupt or shameful or fallen or lost or any of the other things that the good people of the 1850s and 1950s would have us believe. Others, like Belle de Jour are almost glamourising the life. It is writing about prostitiution, but it is not pornography.

Then of course wherever we are on the Internet we are only two clicks away from actual pornography, or indeed live sex on webcams. Perhaps we are just less sexually frustrated and so less prurient. I am not entirely convinced by that line of thought, but men writing about prostitutes and brothels in the 60s and 70s, and even in the 80s or 90s, wanted us to admire them for being men of the world. The subtext seemed to be, “aren’t I a bit of a dog?”

I don’t think they could get away with that now. These days we’ve watched documentaries on Channel 4 and Channel 5 showing porn films being made and we’ve watched Louis Theroux squirm with embarrassment in a brothel in Texas. These days the colonel’s lady has a much clearer idea of what is involved in Judy O’Grady’s life.

This is all very putative, incomplete and un-researched. The shift in attitude may be something I’ve imagined. But if there is a shift in attitude, then it is something we should welcome.

As you know, I rant and rage about the dangers of our surveillance society, but the one thing I am deeply glad about is that any killer as prolific as this one will, with absolute certainty, be caught.

Stuff happens. Get used to it.

Photo by Propboy - follow link for the originalI feel sorry for Mohamed al Fayed. I really do. No grief compares with that of a bereaved parent, and denial is a tricksy and difficult emotion.

So often the stuff churned out by conspiracy theorists boils down to the fact that they cannot believe that stuff happens. Diana was our collective golden girl (apparently) and so the conspiracy theorists cannot believe that stuff could happen to her.

Now the two things I know about life, if I know anything at all, are

1) Stuff happens
2) There, but for the grace of a god I don’t believe in, go any of us

So in my cynical and unromantic world, JFK was shot by a lonely and disfunctional man with a taste for glory. Marilyn killed herself by accident, taking the lethal dose of pills because she was grogged up by her usual nighttime dose. Diana was killed because the Feyed’s chauffeur was drunk. NASA did put men on the moon. Oh and, yes, America the rest of the world really does hate you enough for 19 men to want to fly planes into landmarks.

Whenever one feels denial, one feels conflict. At some level or another one knows that one is believing something that probably isn’t true, no matter how much one wants it to be true. The conspiracy theorists don’t want to believe that chance can be that much of a bitch. And this is one of the reasons I feel very sorry for Mohamed al Fayed; he is clearly a tortured and conflicted man.

The thing snapped me out of denial in the mid 1990s was the phrase “denial is always there for an ego reason”. And this surely is the nub of al Feyed’s response to his son’s death and the Stevens Report. If he had not employed a drug-taking drunk as a chauffeur, then his son and Diana would not have been killed. To lose a child must be unimaginably devestating. To know that you have a degree of responsibility for their death must make that pain unbearable. For al Fayed it is not to be borne, and so he persists in his conspiracy theories. The Daily Express are just being self-indulgent, manipulative and stupid with their outbreaks of conspiracist tourretttes, but Mohamed al Fayed deserves our compassion.

I wonder if he has ever met Princes William and Harry.

The search for my own true swear-word

Been there, done that, used stronger expletives! (I assume you know just how obscene the word “carob” is to a true chocoholic).
Archie, to Reed, on losing a post without saving it.

So what makes a good swear-word? Personally I think it’s the sound of the thing. If it was obscenity alone, one could say “what a complete blairing fool that man is”. Well, when I put it like that, maybe “blair” does work.

My favourite piece of invective came from a friend who has a first in Classics, and who was applying for a post-grad degree at Cambridge. That is Cambridge as in Cambridge, not Cambridge as in The Fenland University or whatever the former poly is called these days. So, hardly uneducated or illiterate, this chap. As it turned out, he did not take very kindly to the academics there. The phrase he used was “fucking cunting twats”. As invective goes, I find that hard to beat, and I think it is the sequence of consonants that makes it so effective, the two K sounds, then the two very hard Ts. The rhythm helps of course.

So I think a good swear word needs good constonants. One could really spit out the tories’ names: “Thatch the snatch” is too obvious to mention, and how satisfying to call someone “total tebbitty bastard” or describe someone else as “a heseltining wanker”. And as for the bottomleys. ‘Nuff said.

But this means that “Bush” and “Blair”, fucking cunting twats and complete tebbitty bastards though they undoubtedly are, don’t actually make the grade as obscenities.

Yet another reason to hate them.

Such a shame.

Britney, Paris and who’s-it: liberated sisters or nasty little whores?

I’ve been thinking about Britney’s bits recently.  Hard not to, really.  I hadn’t – you know – looked at them.  Or for them.  But the webgeist is full of Britney’s bits, Paris’s pudendum and what’s her names what’s-it and it is all a bit hard to avoid.

My first reaction was contempt.  I dislike prick-teases more than I can sensibly say and so I won’t try; but what else do you call a woman who displays herself without sharing herself?  I have more respect for Anabel Chong who at least put out for the 70 guys than I do for la Hilton, Ms Spears and who’s-it.  (I ought to look up her name, but if she’s doing it for the publicity should I give her the satisfaction?)

I also thought of the bored and pampered Roman aristas who whored themselves out to slaves and soldiers.  I thought of the symptoms of decadence in society.  I thought of concepts like integrity, responsibility, duty, self-respect, respect for others and controlling one’s power.  I thought of the contempt these women are showing the rest of us.  We can look but we cannot touch.

A couple of days later I started wondering if this is about freedom from control.    Whenever a man calls a woman a whore, he calls her that because he cannot control her.  Are these actually women who are comfortable with their sexuality and using their positions to reject male control?  Even if they are not bright enough to be doing that consciously, it is still possible that they are doing it instinctively.   Is this what is happening?

To be honest, I doubt it.   And if they are, then it has badly backfired.   The language which is used about them wherever the snatch-shots are shown is disturbingly misogynist.  Two examples will do:

Ugh, it looks like a rotten, , maggot-infested, diseased slab of meat. How disgusting. She needs to go to Dr. 90210 and get a vaginoplasty on that thing. … I bet it has teeth, it’s probsbly like a swamp in there. She has NO shame, class or intelligence. I guess money can’t buy EVERYTHING, huh? She makes my skin crawl, the gross, diseased, rotten slut. …

More briefly: 

Ugh. So….shriveled and overused looking…..I wonder why?

To me they just look like labia.  I am disturbed by an event which lets people describe labia in those terms.  I don’t want anyone’s labia described like that.   And this is another thing which disturbs me - that this contemptible behaviour can be used to justify such contempt.

There is another worrying thing about all this.   People are using these girls’ crotch shots to boost their blog stats.  There is something unpleasant about these bloggers who latch on to these beaver-shots like blood-sucking ticks, behaving like web-enabled vampires.  (I, obviously, am discussing the feminist and societal issues and not using it as a way of getting cheap hits.)  I am uncertain what to make of the relationship between the blogger who is using the socialite’s crotch-shot to get hits on their blog and the said socialite, bearing in mind she has knowingly chosen not to get out of a car while wearing a very short skirt and no knickers.  Who is exploiting whom here?  Is anyone being exploited at all?  I don’t know the answers to these questions or even if they are the right questions, but I cannot escape the feeling that there is something nasty going on here.

So, Britney, Paris, Lindsay (I cracked and looked her up) Ladies – please – it isn’t big, it isn’t clever.  Half the human race has one.  Please.  Put it away.

Unsung National Treasures – 1 – Radio 3

BBC Radio 3 Radio 3 is known as the BBC’s classical music station, but that description sells it short. It provides just over 2 million people with all sorts of minority programming: in fact I am not listening to the Theban Plays of Sophocles right now because I cannot listen to one set of words and type another.

Who else would broadcast Lifehouse, an obscure play (or is it an opera, ach, Pete Townsend calls it a ‘project’) which combines music by The Who with cyber-fiction and spiritual commentary?

What other station would wake you up with music by Mozart written for and played on the glass harmonica, which is an astonishing instrument apparently invented by Benjamin Franklin.

What other broadcaster would broadcast the complete works of J S Bach over a ten day period, as Radio 3 did last Advent?

Classic FM’s presenters drop their voice by a third or so and talllk realllly smoo-oo-thly. They tell you to relllaxssss with Classssic eFFFFF eMMMM, and intersperse their cheap seductions with advertisements for chocolate and weekends in York or Bath. The presenters on Radio 3 tell you what the music is, who is playing it, and maybe provide you with a fact or a point of interpretation to help you understand what you are listening to.

Radio 3 is unafraid of its own intelligence. If you want arrogance and exclusivity go to Radio 1. If you want radio that is easy on the ear and easy on the brain go to Radio 2. If you want radio that is politically engaged go to Radio 4. If you want the Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves go to Classic tweeting FM. If you want radio that considers its subjects for their own sake, engages with them on their own level and as a result is neither repetitive, patronising nor pretentious then go to Radio 3.

It is shocking that the 60th anniversary of the Third Programme went past earlier this year unannounced, unnoticed and uncelebrated.

Ladies and gentlemen, one of Britain’s unsung National Treasures, and thanks to internet technology a wonder of the world, I present to you BBC Radio 3.

Black dogs and super-heros

The black dog came around sniffing on Wednesday.

I’ve been working in hero mode for a while now, and I don’t like being a hero. All I want from my job is to be entertained and to be able to pay my mortgage. I don’t want glory or promotion or any of the other testosterone-fuelled hierarchical crap which goes with corporate life. But Aphra has been standing alone against the ravening hoards, fighting them off, and displaying rather a lot of gleaming breast and thigh in the process.

Worse. Not only was I being a hero. I was being trusted to be a hero.

I hate being trusted.

(There’s an aside story here – an acquaintance once said “you do know I can never trust you again, don’t you” to which my silent reply was “good – I never asked to be trusted in the first place”. Please, don’t trust me, I’ll never let you down).

Anyway. Wednesday. There I was. Ravening hoards all around me. Lightsaber in one hand, broadsword in the other. There were even backing singers:

Aph – ah-hah – saviour-of-the-universe

and a scantily clad lovely chirruping

Aph, I love you, but we’ve only got 14 hours to save the universe

Now I don’t know about you, but whenever a scantily clad lovely chirrups “I love you, but we’ve only got 14 hours…” the temptation to make them 14 hours very well spent and let the rest of the universe go hang seems overwhelming.

In my dreams.

So. Aphra the super-hero, with attendant black dog and backing singers.

Fortunately the real super-hero of the piece stepped in and said “there is No Fucking Way that can be done by Tuesday”, so we rebelled and made a stand for sanity.

“Deadlines? Just say ‘no’”.

The thing is, the really truly infuriating thing is, that I still can’t be that voice of sanity for myself in my own life. It always has to be someone else who says it, and the problem was that for the last month or so there’s been me and my imaginary friends and that’s it.

It turns out that the scantily clad lovely has always wanted to be a kennel maid so she’s put on some waterproofs and Sensible Shoes and is taking the dog for a Long Run. The backing singers were just session artists anyway. So I am left – glory be to the goddess – with my entertaining job and my mortgage.

PM’s window on our world

Like thousands of other peeps, I took a photie for Eddie at 500pm last night. It’s not up there yet, but I have been fascinated by what the UK does at 5.00pm I am stunned and made rather envious by the huge numbers of people who are at home, cooking and sipping wine at 5.00.


There are a lot of cats fed at 5.00pm, a fair number of children practicing musical instruments, a huge number of people driving home as I was, and a lot of people doing rather interesting work.

Anyway, here are some that shocked me, startled me or made me laugh. But this is like watching the grand prix highlights, you don’t get a feel for the real thing. I urge you to take a look at the lot. In the meantime, here is a selection:

Interesting work that R4 listeners do:

What? I mean What? It was sent by MMS from a phone so no caption to explain it:

Mmmmmmmm. “Smile for the Camera”

I can’t actually work out what this is:
A stone-mason perhaps?

Or this. I can’t avoid the feeling those trolleys might be moving

Chairs, do you think?

These photos moved me:

This was probably sent in by MMS from a mobile – hence no comment, but it is a lovely narrative photo, and I think it’s my favourite of the lot:

Yeah, right… – fibber! It was pitch dark in Yorkshire, there’s no way it was dusk in Edinburgh.

Mind you, I rather like the fact that they are putting up photos without editing or comment. This is another one which makes me say: huh?

Guilt and envy:

This one gives me kitchen-envy:

This one gives me pencil-envy:

And this one gave me kitchen-guilt (and no, it isn’t mine).

I am slightly worried about a kitchen which is that clean and which includes a medium sized boy:

Seeing ourselves…

This one has a comment with the almost ruthlesness of an almost-haiku:

And this shows a concerning grasp of reality too:

… as others see us

The experiment helped some people see their familiar worlds through new eyes:

Nowt so queer as folk:

Yes, well… She’s a priest, I suppose one can’t expect scientific scepticism, can one?

We’re impressed, or we are meant to be. All those adjectives. It’s a stone cottage, doncha know; it was a visit from the minister, natch. He’s a local councillor:

Who has a bath at 5.00pm every night?
Shift workers, I guess.

A parental dilemma, to take the photogaph or chastise the child?

And on the subject of boys and noisy musical instruments:

Photos as photos:

This is one of the few photos which has merit as a photo – but I think I prefer the lack of staginess of the others:

And here is another good photo, qua photo, taken with a mobile phone too

As is this:

And, less obviously, this:

“It’s a long way to Schadenfreude, it’s a long way, to go”
This one isn’t mine, but it so could have been….
and how many Londoners were staring at this at 5:00pm?

Not another dashboard pic:

As I said, take a look at the whole lot – it is a moving and fascinating collection.

Just call me George Washington

We had another one of those damned ice-breakers today. “Tell us a lie, and tell us something true, and we’ll guess which is which”.


I get very flustered by having to lie, and all I could think of was the things I wasn’t going to tell them. The best I could come up with was:

“I messed this up last time and everything I said was true” – which was true of course;


“I am the youngest of four children… oh shit, I’ve done it again, that one’s true too, I am really bad at this” – which was also true.

They all looked at me.

If I am asked to do this again I think I will refuse to participate ethical grounds.

Stroppy cow that I am.

it may not be medically proven yet…

… but anecdotally, you know it’s true:

Too much PowerPoint causes irritable growl syndrome