Fairyhell Marriage

Millions of words have been written about Princess Diana and even more pictures printed but we had to wait until after her death to learn that Andrew Morton’s biography  was based largely on tapes she recorded secretly with the author.

It’s a story to break your heart: a classic Grimm fairytale with enough evil stepmothers, ugly sisters and neglectful husbands to fill an entire library.  Diana’s married life – and possibly her life even before marriage – was utterly devoid of human warmth and compassion: according to her account during her worst hours the Royal Family, her husband and even her own sister failed to support her.  Buckle up and get on with it seems to have been the order of the day: but what must have made an intolerable situation far worse was having to present a smiling face to the world.  The world needed to believe in the fairytale of a commoner marrying a prince and living happily-ever-after: it was a fantasy in which the hapless couple were forced to be complicit as they were not only followed everywhere by cameras but cross-examined in interview after probing interview.  Diana must have felt she was carrying the weight of the whole world on her shoulders.  There were times when she wanted to cancel the wedding but once announced the preparations were like a rocket already launched and could not be stopped.  Imagine: it’s hard enough for a commoner to cancel a traditional wedding once preparations are in train; if you add into the mix the cold, inflexible royal protocols and an unprecedented level of press intrusion, you have a recipe for 360-degree hell.  On her wedding day she was sick with bulimia (who wouldn’t be?) and wanted to cut her wrists.  Had her marriage been happy the rest might have been tolerable, but it wasn’t: she had little in the way of love and support from her husband as he was always more interested in Camilla.

Diana must have been made of steel, because she not only survived this hell but made a role for herself, a role which seemed genuinely to use her gifts and talents.  She had the common touch and an ability to connect with ordinary people, particularly those suffering from AIDS and injured by land-mines.  But sadly the press never left her alone and although it’s not clear that they were directly responsible for her death, they surely must bear part of the blame.

The story of Diana has many possible narratives and in fairness her version is just that, a version.  I have no reason to doubt what she says, but every witness is partial and there are always other points of view: in a sense Charles was as much of a victim as Diana, being unable to marry the woman he loved and forced to wed for the sake of the succession.  In the past he’d have been able to carry on with Camilla in secret whilst presenting a respectable public face but modern levels of scrutiny make this impossible.  Besides nowadays the royals, like the rest of us, are supposed to marry for love.

The story also illustrates a paradigm shift, as pointed out in The Queen: a ‘shift in values’ between the old stiff-upper-lip of royal protocol and the more human and compassionate face which Diana represented.

I hope no future royal princess will receive that level of intrusion because we have no right to demand it of them.  They are not there to fulfill our dreams, we need to do that for ourselves.

Here’s the film:

https://bit.ly/2BDYj4Y

Kirk out

 

 

 

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We’re Here Because We’re Here Because You’re There Because We’re Here

The older I get and the more I look at unjust societies (which is practically every society) it occurs to me that oppression is based on nothing at all.  The ways in which women were held to be inferior were myriad: from the size of our brains to the predominance of our hormones, no matter which way we turned reasons were advanced as to why we must advance no further.

But suppose a woman did show evidence of superior intellect; suppose one or more women demonstrated their ability to keep a cool head under pressure, what then?  Would the men admit they were wrong?  Of course not!  The women would be demonised, labelled as ‘not proper women.’  Because women can’t do these things.  Why can’t they?  Because they can’t – and if they can, they’re not real women.  So there.  QED.

Someone recently told me about a car journey they’d taken with a male driver, someone they didn’t know very well.  He got lost, so she dug out the road atlas.  ‘Women can’t read maps,’ he said.  He kept on saying it with the frequency of little white lines in the road.  ‘Women can’t read maps.  Women can’t read maps.’  She persisted in reading the map and got them to their destination, folding the map in triumph as they pulled in.  ‘Well, you mustn’t be a woman,’ he said. 

There you have it, in a nutshell – and that was only a few years ago.

The absurdity of these ‘arguments’ is so clear from a distance, you wonder how anyone could possibly be taken in by them.  But the oppressors don’t just rely on argument: the status quo is maintained by force or the threat of force.  This can be physical but often it’s mental (I won’t list the ways and means because they’ve been covered thoroughly in recent decades.)  The trump card in this scenario, however, is religion.  Why wouldn’t it be?  If you can claim that you rule by divine right it doesn’t matter whether you’re a monarch or a husband or a white man or a priest, you hold the trump card now and for eternity.

It doesn’t matter whether the landscape is gender or race or sexuality or something else, the game’s the same.  1. Things are the way they are because they’re the way they are.  2. If they weren’t the way they were they’d be wrong.  3. This is the right way for things to be and 4. if you want further proof read the Bible.  Or Koran.  Or whatever.

So there.  We’re here because we’re here and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Kirk out

 

Little Red People? Here We Are, Come and Get Us!

They are doing this on our behalf, without consulting us, droned the guy on the radio.  What could he be talking about?  Brexit?  They are sending out messages without any idea of what the consequences could be for our culture.  Definitely Brexit.  If alien life is out there we are basically sending them a signal that says, ‘here we are, come and get us.’

Could still be Brexit… but no: turned out the guy was talking about signals sent out in the hope of contacting alien life.  He was worried that instead of making friends we might be advertising our existence and possibly inviting an invasion.

My first thought was, my god – what a paranoid vision!  But then it made me think because yes, to be fair, they are doing this without consulting the rest of us – though how world-consultation might be achieved is not clear – but also there does seem to be an assumption that this is a risk-free process.  Do we see the rest of the universe as benign and ourselves as the only wicked species?  I think perhaps we do.  Could we be wrong?  Of course we could.

Not knowing what to think about this, I consulted the oracle.

Me:  Do you think it’s dangerous to try to contact alien life?

Jeeves:  You already know what I think. 

Me:  Oh, do I?

OH:  Yes, I told you before.

Me:  Oh well that’s all right then.  Obviously I know

OH:  Obviously.  (Come to think of it, OH is sounding more like Sherlock than Jeeves.  Not nearly polite enough.)  Anyway, I blogged yesterday. 

Me:  Oh, what about?

OH:  About Dalek.

Me:  Daleks?

OH:  No.  About Galek

Me:  Garlic?

OH:  No!  Galek!

Me:  What the hell is Galek?

OH:  Galek!  The language!

Me;  Oh for god’s sake!  You mean Gallic!

OH:  (stubbornly)  It’s pronounced Galek.

Me:  You’d always rather be correct than be understood, wouldn’t you?

Anyway, back to the aliens – because OH’s view is, as I was subsequently reminded – that any species as wicked as us would have wiped itself out already, so whatever remains must be benign (definitely more like Sherlock).  I’m not sure I go along with that as we haven’t yet wiped ourselves out, (though that may only be a matter of time) so why would these other hypothetical races?  And yet the idea that people some people view alien life as potentially hostile is utterly depressing to me, giving rise as it does to visions of star wars and galaxy wars and the whole disgusting scenario being played out over an ever-widening area.  Are we really no better than that?  If that’s the best we can do then we probably should be wiped out.

*Sigh*

One of the most interesting aspects of the play I went to the other night (I’ll say more of that in a minute) was the number of peace initiatives which sprang up before and during the First World War.  I hadn’t heard about any of these and needless to say none of them managed to stop the carnage before it ground to an inevitable halt.  What scares me is that war has its own momentum and that once you put measures in place it’s very hard to stop it.  But god knows we have to try because if we start regarding alien life as hostile before we’ve even discovered it, what hope is there for us?

Anyway, the play was called Remembrance.  Written by Bill Brookman the narrative centred on letters between a Sergeant on the front and his wife at home, the action spanning a number of wars between 1916 and the early ‘sixties.  It was a story not only of war but of the Home Front and the emancipation of women and the action was interspersed with songs and hymns, some of which the audience joined in.  It was a great evening.

And a propos of female emancipation here’s a statue of Leicester Suffragette Alice Hawkins made out of Lego:

IMG_0872

Kirk out

 

 

 

What Am I For?

Sometimes this blog stops dabbling in toasters and sofas, ceases to philosophise about contentment and end-gaining, halts the process of reviewing TV programmes and real ales and remembers what it was supposed to be about; namely, moments in the life of a self-underemployed writer.  I had such a moment yesterday when I found myself completely blocked in writing the novel.  I’d started a new chapter and managed to write a few pages but they weren’t leading anywhere: clearly, I needed new inspiration and a fresh direction but where were they going to come from?  When I’d been for a walk and watched a bit of a video and had a rest and nothing worked, where the hell was I going to find my mojo?

Today’s writing quote has this to say on the subject of moving on:

‘A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.’

There’s something about starting a new project, whether it’s a book, a poem, a story or a new chapter, that is daunting.  You seem to feel the need to raise your game; to up things by a quantum level.  This new thing is bigger than you are and you need to grow in order to challenge it.  And there lie the roots of writer’s block: the feeling that you’re not good enough.  Maybe if you wait a little, do something else for a while, that stunning inspiration will come and you’ll be able to move on.

Nope.  Nuh-uh, ain’t gonna happen.  Not no way nohow, no sir.  I don’t know why these ideas get into the DNA of writing that don’t seem to occur in other fields, but they do: you wouldn’t find an athlete saying ‘I’m not ready to run a marathon yet; maybe if I wait a little the inspiration will come’; you don’t hear musicians saying ‘I can’t tackle Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in D minor yet but if I stop playing for a while I might.’

And yet there is a truth there.  Sometimes we need rest and change; sometimes there is a need to digest what has gone before in order to be ready.  But when you’ve done all that and it’s still not coming, it’s time to pick up the pen or stick the pen-drive in the slot again and just do it.

Ages ago I wrote some tips for overcoming writer’s block.  And did I remember them?  I did not; but eventually some memory went thunk in my brain and I recalled the first one: Set an alarm and write without stopping for five or ten minutes.  So instead of breaking my brain trying to write all afternoon or giving up and watching a video, I alternated: ten minutes writing, ten minutes video.  And guess what?  I wrote 1500 words and they’re actually not bad.

Wordsmith, heal thyself!

Kirk out

 

 

 

A Senior Moment?

IMG_0870

OK I’ll be honest: I qualified for a Senior Railcard more than a year ago but didn’t get one.  I resisted; I put it off, partly I wondered whether I used the trains enough to justify the expense but mainly, if I’m honest, it was seeing that ‘S’ word that stopped me filling in the form and stumping up my thirty quid.  But now I guess the sting of hitting sixty has faded a little (life in the fast lane, eh?) plus I’ve made a conscious decision to drive less and take the train more, so here we are: yesterday I filled in the form, stumped up the cash and received confirmation which seemed to be competing to get the most repetitions of the word ‘Senior’ in one email.  Dear SENIOR citizen, thank you for applying for your SENIOR railcard now that you are a SENIOR person.  Get all the SENIOR benefits from you SENIOR card… OK, I get it!  I am now Senior.  I am having a Senior Moment and will go on having one for quite some time.

When I was young the elderly used to be called Senior Citizens if you were being polite and old people if you weren’t, but nowadays nobody is actually ‘old’ because being ‘old’ is next-door to being dead and no-one wants to talk about that.  Death has long since replaced sex as the great taboo; we postpone it for as long as possible (no death before seventy, please) and most of us never see it happen.  Death is tucked away in clinical environments, hidden from view: even accidental or criminal death is very soon hidden behind forensic tents and crime-scene tape and few of us actually witness the death of a loved one.  My sister and I insisted on staying with our mother when she died (she’d been unconscious for ages) and though it was hard, I’m glad we did.  It was peaceful and I’m sure it helped the grieving process.

In the midst of life we are in death.  Oo look, I’ve gone all biblical now: but I think that’s something we tend to ignore.  We have an uneasy relationship with the dead, being unsure how to commemorate their passing (do we dress in black and look sad?  Do we wear bright colours and celebrate?) and funeral corteges go at quite a clip compared to when I was a child, so as not to hold up the traffic; after all we can’t have the dead inconveniencing the living, can we?

I have to confess, I’m not a fan of the ‘wear bright colours and celebrate’ trend.  I dislike being told to ‘wear bright colours’ (though to be fair, I dislike being told what to wear in general) because there’s an implication that one is being told how to feel – and I may not feel like being glad and celebrating: the mourning gets squeezed out, somehow, in these events.  But then I’m not a huge fan of everyone wearing black and being deadly serious.  There should be laughter and joy as well as mourning.

It’s hard ain’t it?

But this remains one of my favourite funeral scenes, containing as it does both laughter and sadness, joy and grief – and of course, poetry:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bPgkl2dPqGw

Kirk out

 

 

 

 

Half the Sofas, Double the Posts

Something weird happened yesterday and I’ve only just twigged: not only did the sofa post reproduce itself (a tad ironic, since the post was about reducing the number of sofas) but it failed to include the saga of the toaster.  I don’t know how that happened but I think I can guess: I got lost between two blogs.  I knew I’d written about the toaster somewhere but I couldn’t find it, so concluded it must be languishing in the Drafts folder (things do a lot of languishing around here; they must be taking languish lessons.  Ho ho.)  Anyway, I did find it in a draft over on the other blog.  It gets very confusing having to sign out and sign in again as my profile over there is a Quaker one but over here I’ve doffed my Quaker hat and donned my Lizardyoga costume (incidentally did you know that the reason Quakers are traditionally shown wearing hats is that, as confirmed egalitarians, they refused to take their hat off to a ‘social superior’?)

I have a distinct memory of copying and pasting the toaster saga into yesterday’s post – yet when I checked, there it wasn’t.  Most mysterious.  Anyway, here it is:

Last week I went to a repair cafe, organised by Loughborough Transition Network, toting my defunct toaster in a big black bag.  It was a four-slice toaster and I was pretty sure that one side at least would still work but the knob wouldn’t stay down.  I passed the toaster across to a lovely guy who spent the next 3/4 hr on mending it; most of that time in trying to get the very stubborn casing to open.  But though the screw was stubborn Stuart was more so, and eventually we prised the plastic base off the metal housing and looked within to a hell-hole of dust and crumbs.

It’s part of the ethos of the cafe that you stay and watch the repair so that you learn from it.  I learned loads about the inside of a toaster, how there are magnetised parts inside which are brought together when the knob goes down and released when the timer finishes, and how once the element is gone there’s not much you can do except buy a new one (hardly worth it.)  Enough crumbs came out of my toaster to make a new loaf; and whether it was the cleaning of the crumbs or the polishing of the magnets or the stubbornness of Stuart convincing the toaster to give in and jolly-well work, he got it going again.  I did try to freecycle it but unfortunately the pop-up device isn’t working so it will stay with us as a back-up toaster.  But I can’t describe the satisfaction I got from having something mended that was previously defunct.  It really felt like one in the eye for pointless consumerism – and don’t even get me started on built-in obsolescence.

If you’re in Loughborough, check the transition blog for more details, and if not then google your nearest repair cafe.  You’ll thank me.

Kirk out

The Reduced Sofa Company

You’ll all be relieved to know that the number of sofas in this house has been reduced to one, thanks to those lovely guys from SOFA.  I highly recommend these people if you have furniture to donate: much cheerier than the British Heart Foundation and far less sniffy than LOROS who won’t even take something if it has a bit of dust on it, these guys set to with a will, undeterred by ink spots and merely concerned with how sturdy the structure was.  Now that’s my kind of recycling.

In the process though, I have found a couple of useful bits of info, to whit Leicestershire and Rutland re-use network (though the website is temporarily offline) which actually carry out repairs and upcycling, and www.freeuseit.org (though they merely give suggestions rather than taking stuff).  It was also suggested I might try the Red Cross who help refugees to set up home (legally, lest any Daily Mail readers should start frothing at the mouth) and any of these would have been my next port of call.  Failing all of them I’d have freecycled the bits as foam cushions and pieces of wood.  I was determined to save it from the tip.

Give that woman a gold star!

I mean it.  I want my gold star.

Now, a propos of all this recycling and retoastering (did I tell you about the toaster?  Possibly not; I’ll get to that in a minute) I’ve started another blog in conjunction with Loughborough Quakers.  It’s all about our efforts to live more sustainably and you can find it here.

Kirk out