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

 

 

 

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

The Fast Show?

It may well have escaped your notice that the season of Lent is almost upon us.  Lent is a period of fasting, as is Advent; and whereas people used to fast before the feast, now we forget the fast and fast-forward to the feast.*  And how: Easter eggs are already in Sainsbury’s and Easter is not until April 21st.  It’s not even Lent for another three weeks.

*see what I did there?

Not that most Christians actually fast during Lent.  It’s more common to give something up – chocolate, say, or booze.  The last church I went to had a more imaginative approach to this, suggesting that one might give up TV (we did that and ended up getting rid of it for good) or swearing or being critical (I’ve tried that and it’s really hard.  God, I’m so bad at it.  I’m a terrible person…)  This seems more conducive to spiritual growth than a token avoidance of chocolate, though if one is addicted to chocolate it would be beneficial.

What’s interesting is that while these fasting times of Advent and Lent are largely ignored in a frenzy of chocolate and present-wrapping, the emphasis has shifted.  We still have periods of abstinence, only now the emphasis is on physical health rather than spiritual growth.  And the periods have time-shifted: instead of Advent we have Stoptober for giving up the fags and Go Sober for October for giving up jokes (just kidding: I could never do that.)  Then there’s Dry January alongside all the other post-Christmas health kicks – so instead of December we have October and instead of March, January.  Everything has moved back a couple of months.

Hm.

But as for actual fasting as in abstaining from food and drink, I think the only folk to do that are the Muslims.  The difficulty of the Ramadan fast varies according to the country and time of year as it takes place from sunrise to sunset and is compounded in hot countries by the need to abstain from drink.  You are nil by mouth: some more zealous Muslims, so I’ve read, even refrain from swallowing saliva.  As for me, I find fasting extraordinarily difficult.  It’s not only the gnawing hunger that gets me, it’s a deep-seated fear which I can’t quite put my finger on: a fear of fainting, perhaps, or more probably a fear of death.  Anyway, since I’ve failed to lose much of the weight I put on at Christmas and am now borderline overweight, I am going to try OH’s watermelon fast.  This consists of eating watermelon.  Fast.  (Just kidding; if you’re trying to lose weight you should eat as slowly as possible.)

Oh, and the sofa should be being picked up today.  I’ll keep you posted on that as well…

Meanwhile just for a laugh, here’s a clip from the actual Fast Show:

 

 

Kirk out

Bee-owulf Movie

Strange noises are coming from the laptop next to me: I look over and see that OH is watching a trailer for Bee Movie dubbed into Old English. 

‘What really annoys me,’ says OH when the video is finished, ‘is that they keep saying eu instead of eu.’

‘What instead of what?’  I always get sucked into these conversations and I always regret it.

‘Eu!  Instead of eu!’

‘How dare they?’  I mean honestly, when people don’t even pronounce diphthongs in Old English correctly, what is the world coming to?  Is nothing sacred?  Do Old English vowels mean squat these days?

What with OH remembering Old English, my laptop now has dementia.  It was great to get a free model and after installing a hard drive we booted from a pen-drive (incidentally I wonder what folk from centuries past would have made of those terms?  A hard drive would be a long carriage-ride over rough terrain, and a pen-drive would be something like a whist drive, only for writers.  I ask these questions because I am watching the BBC’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’ yet again, and it has set me thinking: how do you explain one age to another?  We have the benefit of history in understanding the past, not to mention its literature and art, but how could we ever explain our age to Jane Austen, should she arrive one day in a Tardis-carriage?  Impossible.)

Anyway, why does my laptop have dementia?  Simple.  We have not yet formatted the hard drive because I don’t know how and because the instructions, as ever, are written in language harder to understand than Beowulf.  It says this:

Please use your arrow keys to select the unpartitioned drive.  Press the appropriate key to create a new partition.  You will be asked to set the size of the partitions.  Use the default amount unless you wish to create more than one.  Select the newly-created partition on which you would like to install the Operating System and press the appropriate key to continue with formatting.

Now to anyone who understands computers this may be clearer than daylight; but whilst I get that you have to select and click and what-have-you, I am hampered by not understanding the terms.  What is a partition and why do I want one?  What does it do?  Why do I need more than one?  Why does Linux need more than Windows?  I know I could just follow the instructions but without this knowledge I feel I’m stabbing at things in the dark and hoping they’ll work.  Why don’t they explain this stuff?

Answer: because they assume you know.  They assume that, since you’ve managed to buy the correct hard-drive for your computer, you will understand the technical terms associated with it.  But that’s a bit like assuming that because you’ve bought a car you know how the engine works.  I think there’s a big gap here and it’s because – according to what I’ve read – Silicon Valley is peopled by young men who don’t have a clue what it’s like not to be young and techno-savvy.  And don’t even get me started on older people and computers…

So, due to the unformatted state of said hard-drive, I am booting every day from a pen-drive.  And the pen drive forgets everything when it shuts down: all passwords, all add-ons, all downloads and attachments – gone.

*Sigh*

I suppose I’m just going to have to ask OH to do the formatting thing.

Kirk out