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Consideration’s What You Need

When I was sixteen I went to Athens on a school trip; it was total carnage. Sixty rampant teenagers, eight frazzled teachers, two rickety buses and countless pissed off, Greek hoteliers. That’s not the story I’m going to launch into, (although it’s a good story, even the head-girl gets wasted) but when I was a sweet, young thing in Athens, all those years ago, we stayed in a grotty hotel that was right in the city centre, and I fell in love with the lifestyle.

We were in a back room, and I woke up early one morning, about 04:30. It was already hot, and I decided to sit by the open window and watch Athens awaken. The view from our window was not what one might traditionally refer to as ‘scenic’, it looked directly into about 300 other flats and hotel rooms due to an odd, architectural glitch that left a space of about 10 metres between me and my many neighbours’ intimate details.

Over the next hour, while my roomates, The Two Lauras, turned their snoring into grumpy demands for “not cheese and ham for breakfast” I was enthralled by the most extensive people-watching I had ever been involved in. I loved every moment of it, and right then, I vowed that one day I would make somewhere like this my home, and would wake every morning in the buzzing hive of humanity that is dense city living.

Fast forward twenty years and here I am, on the 7th floor of a block of flats in a large complex of buildings, surrounded (at a comfortable distance) by the humanity I love so dearly. It’s early in the morning, but I did not choose to rise to listen to the sounds of Salford making its breakfast, I was woken up by the massive gob of a deranged and drunken woman who felt the need to shout for one whole hour from 04:00 onward.

There is something about the sound of a drunken Mancunian woman, bouncing relentlessly off 1000 perspex balcony doors that rips a piece from the deepest core of one’s soul. This bitch sounded like an electric saw and a kazoo were talking over eachother into a massive PA system.
The reason for her ear-splitting shouts was that she appeared to have lost her friend, “Owen”.

Now, not being able to find a friend is a terrible thing, but at 04:00 on a Thursday morning, in the middle of a city-centre, in the 21stC, it might be reasonable to assume there are better ways to search for one’s friend. I’m not going to list them, anyone with more than five brain cells will be able to contribute something to that list.

I’m sure this girl wasn’t in peril, her shouts were not panicked, they were lazy. We’ve all done the same shout, you know it, when you want something and someone is upstairs and you could walk upstairs like a considerate human being, but you don’t, you shout it, and then repeat it four times with increasing volume until they come downstairs because now they think they’re missing something, and it turns out what you want is upstairs anyway.

So, we have that tone of shout, in a well projected, nasal, squawking voice, repeating the word “OOOOOOOWWWWWEEEEEEEENNNNN” over and over, for one hour, from 04:00. As I watched the sun rise this morning, I wished for a ramshackle house on an abandoned piece of countryside.

Then I realised that I’d given up on my close, city-living dream too easily. City-centre living is fantastic, with every joy and advantage a single person my age could want on my doorstep. My morning was not ruined by city-centre living, it was ruined by one person being an inconsiderate twat. City-centre living, like anything where humans are required to play closely together, requires everyone to behave as such that they are considerate of others to the level they expect others to be considerate of them.

Not the way The Owen-Hunter thinks, clearly. At any point during that hour, she could have wondered whether she might be adversely affecting one of the 1000 bedroom windows she could see from where she stood. I appreciate that she was drunk, but that shouldn’t be an excuse, if she is that loud and mobile when she’s uncomprehendingly drunk, then it’s not a surprise to me that Owen disappeared.

When I’m pissed off with someone else’s behaviour, I try to size it up against myself. I ask myself “if I was in their exact situation, would I have behaved better?”. Most often, the answer is “no”, so I try to find forgiveness.

In this case, my answer was “yes, I would have behaved better”, I can say with all certainty I wouldn’t wake 1000 people up because I was pissed, not in peril and couldn’t find my friend. I’m not a total cunt.

My flatmate and I met over a coffee in the sitting room at about 06:45 as he prepared to leave for work. He was red-eyed, grumpy and not impressed with Owen-Hunter. His assessment of the situation was similar to mine, there was no way he’d have behaved like that either. We just wouldn’t have considered that us making noise for no reason was more important than 1000 working people getting their last two hours sleep.

We wondered what the difference was. Why do some people fail to consider anyone else, where as others will make decisions that acknowledge other people’s existence?

Is considering others a weakness? Shouldn’t I just try to get my own way all the time, or try to do what I want all the time; surely I’m the biggest winner if I get away with that?

Owen-Hunter wanted to shout, I wanted to sleep. She got what she wanted, and I didn’t. She wins.

So who is to blame for me starting the journey of being a considerate fool? I can’t speak for all considerate saps, but in my case, I blame my mother. She ruined me by making me share things, and not letting me suffocate my little brother and stuff. That evil witch made me care about people.

I am now 34 years old, and if my mother heard me carrying on in the way Owen-Hunter did this morning, I’d be skelped (Scottish term for a sharp whack to the back of one’s head) and roughly told what a state I was.

Why would my mother, who loves me, train me to be considerate about others (it’s not a gender thing, she did it to my brother too) when it seems I lose out as a result? I have to give way, and I don’t always get it back, because sometimes other people are wholly inconsiderate for no apparent reason. My own mother has cheated me; she’s helped create a world where the majority consider others, but the odd individual seems to get away without ever having to do that. This is not fair.

Then I think of the alternative; a world where nobody has any consideration for anybody else, no matter how close, and that place sucks.

The truth about having consideration for others, especially in a dense environment, is that it benefits us all in the long-term. There is nothing “nice” or “friendly” about making choices that benefit as many individuals as possible, because it strengthens the group as a whole which provides direct benefit to the individual making the choice. In addition, sacrificing benefit immediately when the need is not so great can ensure resources are available when the need is desperate, which is a good strategy.

Sometimes, we are all forced to act in a way that means we cannot be considerate of others; times become hard, situations become impossible and emotions run high. However, if we go our whole lives assuming that our situation always outranks someone else’s, and that we always require to be considered first, then eventually, we’ll use up the valuable resource of other people’s consideration for us.

It’s not about being “a good person”, it’s about ensuring the group tolerate us as long as we need them and consider our situation in a time we are desperate.

If I had a crossbow, I’d have been pointing it at Owen-Hunter’s head this morning. Would I have pulled the trigger? No.

I think she deserved it, I was grumpy, but the fall-out of that action is such that I would not be being at all considerate if I did it.

What about Owen-Hunter’s mum and dad? Admittedly, they’re a bit sloppy and they’ve raised a disgrace, but is my getting woken up one morning comparable to their grief if I shoot their daughter? Probably not.

I hope to find a happy medium between being entirely submissive to everyone else’s will and consistently being a domineering bully. I can’t pretend I’ve found this balance, and I’m woman enough to admit I lean on the side of inconsiderate too much of the time.
I am trying to live my life by a single, easy-to-remember motto, and that is: Don’t Be A Total Cunt All Of The Time.

If Owen-Hunter had lived by that rule then 999 people wouldn’t have gone to work in a bad mood this morning and 1 person wouldn’t have spent an hour imagining what her face would look like with an arrow sticking out of the eye socket.

I had a clean shot as well, consideration in fucking action right there.

Forget To Remember

I turned 34 last month. It pissed me off a bit, I don’t like getting older, so I don’t like my birthdays. I wish Facebook would forget, and not tell all my friends that it’s my birthday.

I have lots of lovely friends, who all wished me ‘Happy Birthday’. They meant well, but I think I’d have liked to forget it was my birthday, I’d have found it easier to keep up my internal lie that I’m somehow magic and not aging like everyone else.

I wish people would say “Happy Tuesday” instead of “hello”. Let’s have some happy on a day that doesn’t force me to come face to face with the truth that I exited my sweet old mam’s vagina on this exact day three and a half decades ago.

Nearly three and a half decades ago.
See? This is what I mean; I’m far too worried about counting the years. I’d love to be unaware of exactly how old I was. I’m actually aging well, mainly due to a diet high in preservatives and a pathological fear of sunlight. I shouldn’t be worried about exactly how many years have gone past.

I remember talking to my Grandmother when I was a child and being amazed at how much she could remember from her life. My Grandmother ( I called her Nanny) had a good memory and was a natural storyteller. I’m not saying she told lies, but where her memory was sketchy, her brain would quickly fill in the gaps. Who cares about tiny details in the story of old memories anyway?

It made her interesting to talk to, and sometimes she would become excited by a memory, something stirring that hadn’t been considered for years. Nanny remembered big events, like birthdays and holidays and weddings, but she also had little memories, of tiny human moments.

There was one time when Nanny remembered something, I can’t even recall what we were talking about, but it was from a long time ago and it made her cry. I had nothing to say on the topic, I remember that much, so I held her hand, and I don’t know why, but I started crying too. It was an incredibly intimate moment, one of my favourites in my life. Sometimes, when I really miss my Nanny, that’s the memory I go to, and, sometimes, I cry again.

I can’t say this brought Nanny and I closer, we were already very close. We never mentioned it again, but I’m sure she thought of it too. I like to think that our moment together made the initial sad memory happier somehow; it’s a happy memory for me, tears or not.

Time is a wonderful healer, mainly because things happen in time, and things change how we feel about things. Keeping up with this erudite academia? Good.

Our brains are pretty clever, and they store memories in a way that means those memories will change with time. A computer is often used as an analogy for a human brain, and that makes a lot of sense, but computers don’t change what they remember. A computer stores information in one place, and yanks it out in one chunk on request.
Our brains don’t work like that, information is stored in different places, and when we recall a memory, we pull bits of info from all those places, essentially ‘reforming’ the memory as we experience it.

Remembering something changes it, that’s why time is such a great healer. Painful memories can be softened, moulded and ever so slightly altered, so they hurt less. New information is tangled up with old memories, making them less powerful. Just imagine if you could never forget heartbreak, or grief, and that every moment was as painful as the first time you felt it. We’d all be a complete mess!

My Nanny never joined the technological revolution. There’s not even many of photos of her, let alone any Youtube videos, Facebook pages or Twitter accounts. On one hand I’d love to see a video of my Nanny now, but one that ties in with my memories, not one of her pissed up and swearing at a Reverend Father (my Nanny never did this, or, if she did, I don’t want to know about it).

I was having a chat with a young lad who turned eighteen in March. He was telling me that his Dad was trying to make him watch a video of himself being born, which the lad didn’t want to do. I’m usually direct to the point, so I asked him:

“Is it that you don’t want to see your mum’s minge?” and he replied:

“Yes. But not just that. What if I end up actually remembering it? If I was supposed to remember it, I’d remember it. Like I remember where I live, or my name and stuff. What if I remember what it’s like to be born? That is not right.”

And he’s not wrong.
Digital memory is an actual thing; it’s starkly accurate and it’s a weird way to access memories.

When you talk to someone, and something about the conversation reactivates a memory for you, you start thinking about that memory from that exact angle. There won’t be any focus on any particular part of a memory, whichever parts are most relevant will just sneak back into your thoughts. Some of it won’t be accurate because that’s the way human memory works.

When you look at a photograph, or a video, you’re seeing absolute reality, where as a memory always includes a pinch of imagination. We seem to be doing very well at creating a digital bank of really inarguable memories that are not real memories at all. They are snapshots of fact, and I’m not convinced they are helpful.

A photo of me popped up on FaceBalls the other day, and I had no memory of it. It wasn’t an embarrassing photo; not that I’m easily embarrassed, just statistically it must only be a matter of time until I appear on an “eating on a train” website. I long for the celebrity.
In this unrecalled moment, I was in the background talking to someone I have no actual memory of talking to. I remember her being there, now I’ve seen the photo I think I remember her face, but I’m not sure.  I looked emphatic in the photo, but I cannot recall talking to that girl at all. That photo is a memory that I don’t have, and obviously don’t need, but forgetting it has worried me; a digital memory reminded me to worry about forgetting.

Sometimes, we need to forget things. We need to move on, we need to stop being reminded. Our natural memory is largely outside our control. We can work to improve certain types of memory, but there is not much we can do to force our natural memory to forget. There’s only so far drink and drugs can take us before they do more damage than good, and it’s not that far.
Our digital memory is more within our control, and we should take control of it, especially where it puts our natural memory at risk.

I am getting over someone, someone I thought that I loved . That’s hardly unique, everyone has had to do that, right? It seems to have taken me a disproportionate amount of time, and I’m convinced that photographs and internet access to new details about a person I need to forget has seriously hindered my progress.

I decided to press the delete button on my digital memory about a month ago, it has taken some serious will-power, but it has definitely helped. I have deleted all photos of this person, all their messages and voice recordings, every trace of them on my technology has finally gone. It’s been a mission, because things keep popping up, but I just keep on pressing ‘delete’.
Some days, I’ve missed having these digital recollections, but now, instead of looking at a picture of us smiling and happy when I think I miss this person, I remember why I want to forget instead. It is helpful not to revert to an old version of me contained within a photograph, the computer can only remember it one way, and I’ve had new information since then; those memories need changing.

The person I want to forget feels much more distant than they did a month ago, and that is how it should be. Eventually, they will be no more than a footnote in my story, part of the history of a growing character rather than a fact in an unchanging digital documentary. My memories are becoming what they should be, vague apparitions of the truth, filtered through my imagination. My memories have been improved by helping myself to forget.

Technology appears to make everything easier, but in the case of memory, I don’t believe it does. We’re designed to forget things, to leave things behind, digital memory is designed to remember everything, forever, which in some examples of human emotion, is far too inhumane.
One of the most important components of human memory is the ability to forget, and we should all regularly remind ourselves to remember that.

Women’s Rights And Wrongs

You’re about to read 2571 contentious words.
Oh, hell, let’s slap a rasher of bacon on that sausage, you’re about to read 2571 contentious, opinionated, feminist words.

I am not a Feminist, and no amount of weepy-faced, crayon-drawn placard holding photos is going to change that. These words are feminist because they relate to the attitudes and values held typical of women and women are the cultural representation of the feminine.

These words are opinionated, because they are my opinions. This is my little corner of the world, and I’m about to let some personal rage out, so brace yourself. The odds of you reaching the end of this without being offended are very slim.

These words are contentious, because they are about physical and sexual assaults on women. My blog is mainly lighthearted, because I’m usually too much of wimp to tackle anything serious. Although I write in a flippant manner here, I do not take this particular subject lightly at all.

Are we sitting comfortably? Then I shall begin:

Something needs to happen in the world of young women, they need to stop putting themselves at risk. They are damaging themselves, they are damaging the world and they are pissing me right off.

Too many sexual and physical assaults of young women happen because they put themselves at risk. I’m not talking here about domestic abuse, or rape by someone a woman knows and trusts; I specifically mean assaults and rapes that happen at the hands of strangers when women are drunk or on drugs.

I will award the prize of an 8lb gammon steak to the first cunt who shouts ‘VICTIM BLAMER!’ at me in a shrill voice. I can only start to think about blaming a victim once they have become a victim, I’m a Preventative Measure Monitor, I don’t want there to be victims.

I don’t just have an idealistic view of how the world SHOULD be to mean there are no more victims, I actually want there to be less victims, starting now. I’m not comfortable with a level of sacrifice to expedite cultural change, that’s what WORDS are for, I just want there to be no victims at all, starting today.

My main issue with young women is their consumption of drink/drugs.  Don’t get me wrong, in my younger days, I knew how to party. I liked drugs and I took them, they were great. I have never been a huge drinker, it seems like a hard drug to handle, but for the purposes of this rant, we’ll assume drink and drugs are one and the same, in that they get you mashed-up if you overindulge.

In my party days, I enjoyed a good mash up, I’ve been so wrecked before now that I (apparently, I have no memory of this) spent three hours chatting up a potted spider plant, and cried at the wrenching separation anxiety when my friend said it was time for her to drive me home. My sober friend.

Before I’d got mashed that night, even at eighteen years old, I had a plan. It was my turn to get disgusting, and it was my friend’s turn to get us home safely. Our night out was actually at a house party of another friend, meaning the only time we were outside alone was on the driveway between the front door and the car. If we’d been out in town, or somewhere public, I would not have got so wrecked. I have always been keen to minimise my risk.

I’ve never really been comfortable out on the town under the influence of anything. I have done it when there has been a large group, and we were staying within a busy area. I will not, under the influence of drink or drugs, walk alone, or in a small group anywhere unknown, unclear or unlit. Actually, I won’t do it sober. I like to minimise my risk.

On the rare occasion I do go out to meet friends alone, I have never, not one time, been left without a plan of how to get where I’m going, or how to get back. I never spend my cab money on booze, and if I feel I’m getting a bit too tipsy, then it’s hometime, even if it’s 9pm. I will never use an unlicensed taxi to save money, and I’ll only use a bus if I don’t have a long walk at the other end. I keep flat shoes in my handbag and wear them on the way home so I can leg it if I need to. I will minimise my risk.

I may sound like a right kill-joy, but frankly, I don’t care one iota, I’ve never been assaulted and/or raped, and I still think I’m lucky, even when I have accounted for risk at every available turn. Why do I think I’m lucky, and not just being rewarded for minimising my own risk? Because rapists maximise their opportunities; I could do everything right, and still be attacked, so I know I’m lucky.

These ideals of self-protection were natural to me and my friends, and I assumed every young woman would account for their own vulnerability and attempt to redress the balance, but I can see with my own eyes that many do not.

I cannot list all the anecdotes I have about peeling young women off the floor in clubs, intervening in blatantly rapey attempts from opportunistic men, stopping my own taxi to collect a young girl wandering pissed down deserted roads at 3am, arranging ways for them to get home, taking them home, giving them money, stopping them drinking when they can’t even speak, stopping them getting into cabs with strange men… the list goes on. I shudder to think of all the balls I’ve dropped, of all the young women that escaped my beady eye on a night out and were either attacked, raped or murdered that night, all for the want of a safety strategy.

I am a hard woman, but sometimes, I get very upset about this issue.

Women are putting themselves in unnecessary danger all the time and then saying it is their right, to be pissed, alone and wearing stupid heels in a dark part of town in the middle of the night. It is not your right to do this and then avoid all responsibility for any consequence, if you think it is, you are an idiot.

I will not go so far as to say that women who do this deserve to be attacked, no-one deserves to be assaulted, but I think they deserve it more than I do, because I minimise my risk.

That’s pretty harsh, right? Well, yes, but it’s how I feel.

There is always risk. I have worked nights for a decade and I have had to walk home alone at the end of my shift, several times. It was not the best way to minimise risk, but I am not an advocate of fear.  Women have to live normal working lives, and get about in the world on their own. Life is risk, but my problem is with women who are inebriated and alone. Work/family/school are good reasons to shelve your fears, partying is not. Getting mashed in public, around strangers, with no support network is the highest order of stupidity and lack of self-respect.

It is my opinion that women who behave like this, especially ones that do it regularly, obviously have less care for their bodies than I do, and deserve to be attacked more than I do. Under their own volition, they have demonstrated total lack of care for themselves, and yet they will be shocked and horrified if anyone else treats their body like a dump. Before you take your first drink, you know there are nutters out there, you know that you could do everything right and still be assaulted, that doesn’t change just because you get sloshed.

It’s a numbers game. The more times we put ourselves in a risky situation, the more likely it is there will be an adverse outcome. That is very simple to understand, and yet so many women are championing the condition of lack of care. I believe that if you entirely deny a woman’s responsibilities to herself, you are an advocate of rape scenarios.
Don’t advocate the rape of women and then tell me you’re ‘a Feminist’, I will punch your stupid face.

What the fuck are we doing to ourselves?

I am so sick of hearing what women ‘should’ be able to do without being assaulted. I should be allowed to be half dressed, I should be allowed to be pissed, I should be allowed to be alone at night in a strange place and not live in fear of assault. Yes, you should be able to, but you’re not. Life sucks, make a plan and get a fucking helmet.

There are some awful people out there. There always has been, and there always will be. There is no eliminating assaults, rapes and murders from the world, there is only minimising the risk to oneself and loved ones.

Living so close together in a cohesive society has its obvious benefits, but it lulls us all into a false sense of security, like somehow our urban jungles are safe, and all the other animals are like us. This is dangerous thinking, we are not one big happy family, and some of the other animals are preying on you. Getting whacked up and then sauntering into their lair is risky; it’s entirely your right to take a risk, but you have to then accept some responsibility.

When I think of all the women who have been assaulted by people they know, in entirely unpredictable situations, in an environment where they could not have further protected themselves against risk, I want to cry. These women are inarguably victims, they have no responsibility for their situation, and yet these awful things have happened to them. If they can witness a young woman out, alone and drunk without feeling resentment that they were the victim and not the careless drunk girl, then they are a better woman than me.

I find it an insult to the women who had no escape to lump the crime against them in with the assaults against drunk women who have made no attempt to protect themselves. Feminists and their supporters love to say there is no distinction between physical and sexual assaults on women, but I am categorically, openly, and loudly disagreeing with this.

In an attempt to sweeten the bitterness on the palate, I will use an analogy here:
You and a friend are doing a parachute jump together. Your friend decides that she’s not going to use the parachute, she’s going to rely on something else breaking her fall, she’ll think about it when she gets there, it’s her choice, after all, it’s her life. You both jump; one with her parachute, and one without. If one of you is going to be seriously injured, or killed, do you think you or your friend deserve it more?  When she splatters all over the ground, is it 100% the fault of gravity, or should she take some blame for not wearing her parachute? Even if she survives unscathed, is it right that she recommend to others that they should jump without a chute?

We can all sit around, scratching our minges and saying “it’s men’s fault” as much as we want, but that will not actually reduce the number of assaults on women. There may be an historic, cultural argument to lay some blame on men for the current situation, but that is a different topic and of no practical use in the here and now.

The majority of adult men are at least as disgusted with some of their gender’s behaviour as women are. Not all men are violent, and not all penis-bearers are potential rapists; yet again, noise from Feminists dilutes an issue.
We cannot blame an individual man, until he becomes an attacker, and then, for that one woman, it is too late. I don’t ever want it to be too late for me, my friends, and their sisters, their daughters, or their wives.

If all women stopped putting themselves at risk under the influence of drink/drugs and lack of support planning, then the number of assaults would drop. I do not believe these opportunistic attackers would start knocking on random doors looking for someone to rape, I’m sure some would, there’s some bad bastards out there, but overall, there would definitely be less assaults on women.

The constant stream of bullshit about ‘women’s rights’ being inclusive of them doing whatever the fuck they want, whenever the fuck they want and then blaming phallocentricity when it goes tits-up is overshadowing a more important issue of the women who are assaulted when they are doing everything they can to avoid the dangers of the jungle. These are the women who deserve our attention.

There is so much defence for a woman who claims she has been raped but cannot remember anything because she chose (ie not spiked) to get off her skull and not organise a safe way home that night and ended up going back to a stranger’s house on her own. I believe defending this woman’s actions is as bad as defending the rapist’s actions, because it advocates assault scenarios.

If you say a man should go to prison at the call of rape from a woman who cannot remember anything through her own choices, then you are saying that a woman’s responsibility begins with her report of the rape/assault, and I do not think that is a good lesson for young women. You are saying that the problem STARTED with him raping her, when actually it ENDED with him raping her, she STARTED it herself. If she’d not had those last four drinks, and got a taxi when her three other mates left, he may not have had such a clean opportunity to be an attacker, or she a victim. She’s probably started it on many occasions and on this one, she was very unlucky, but we women need to start admitting to ourselves that the more we gamble, the more likely it is we will get unlucky.

I appreciate some of this is brutal, but it is my truth of principle, and I can’t help that. I’ve singled out women here because it’s an issue I’m passionate about, but the principle applies to all people, all the time. We need to shake the Nanny State mentality that somehow we’re all owed protection and security, when we need to establish it for ourselves every day, in a wide range of situations. I will never challenge anyone’s right to do whatever they want, but I do challenge them totally passing responsibility when something goes wrong after they made a succession of increasingly bad choices.

Stop telling young women it’s okay to put themselves in dangerous situations. Stop telling them it is ‘their right’.
If a young woman is so naive about the world that she actually buys into that crap, then you are partly responsible for any assault on her, because you gave her bad information about the reality of a horrible situation; you have sold her a vicious wrong under the guise of “Women’s Rights”.
Stop. Please, please, just stop.

The Kings of UKIP

I’m a middle-class liberal, so I hate UKIP and everything and everyone to do with UKIP; I must do, it’s in the hand-book.

I hate UKIP so much, I’ve had a moral dilemma over wearing purple clothes at the same time as having blonde hair, lest someone mistake me for a UKIP sympathiser.

UKIP are composed entirely of racist, homophobic and misogynistic morons, aren’t they? That’s what the papers I read write, that’s what the intelligent and educated people I follow on Twitter tweet, that’s what I think; I hate everything to do with all UKIP supporters.

Then I met Paul White, the UKIP Candidate for Fylde, and I didn’t hate him. Oh shit.

Paul runs a BnB in Blackpool, and I went there this week, to get drunk and buy some seaside rock in the shape of a penis. I have a big, important life, you should be intimidated. We booked his venue having no idea that he was a UKIP candidate, there was no mention of this on the website. Had there been, I wouldn’t have booked it, and I probably would have had a prolonged discussion of how terrible it is that people have fascist political leanings and are still allowed to run a business in 21stC Britain. I would have made a clever joke about Hitler running a Gregs, had another glass of Merlot and then gone to bed, having booked a room in a nice, non-genocidal establishment.

Paul greeted us as we arrived, and I was instantly thrilled to see that he was reminiscent of Barry Chuckle. I attempted a ‘to me to you’ moment with my suitcase, but he was having none of it. He’s a friendly guy, warm and welcoming, a perfect hotelier personality, and he showed us his well-stocked bar and clean restaurant.

I’d gone with my sister and my friend, and we’d booked a triple room. On arrival, it transpired that this was not the single and bunk beds we’d hoped for (retro!) but one single and one double bed. None of us wanted to share the double bed, so we started arguing about it, like children, in the bar of the hotel. Paul stepped in and said he had a very small single that was empty and that we could use it at no extra cost. Unaware of his UKIP leanings at this point, enamoured by his Chuckle brother vibe and impressed by his generosity, how could I not like Paul at this exact moment?

He showed us to our rooms (2 for £75 including 3 breakfasts), and they were immaculate. I’ve stayed in a few BnBs in Blackpool and this was the best by a prize-bingo mile. The attention to detail was unbelievable; there were tiny little bottles of all sorts of things, the décor and bedspreads matched, there was a wide range of complementary in-room treats to drink/eat. I made a comment to Paul that his wife was obviously responsible for these details and he was wounded! It was all him.

We mooched out for dinner, had a couple of drinks in off-peak, ghostly Blackpool and then came back to the hotel for a few more drinkies. I have always been partial to a brandy coffee, but I don’t expect to see it on a BnB bar menu at midnight. Paul had dressed up for the evening, and he was wearing a yellow and purple striped tie. I didn’t notice, because I was too busy moaning about how hard it was to get a decent brandy coffee in this town.

Paul disappeared and made two perfect brandy coffees, complete with tiny chocolate shavings on top. I was starting to love this guy a little bit and I asked him how his evening had been, I may have been flirting, it’s hard to tell with me.

He told me he’d been to a meeting as part of his duties as a local candidate for UKIP, and a little bit of cream dribbled out of my nose as I realised that I was having a nightcap with a fascist. He asked me if I’d noticed his tie, which of course, I hadn’t.

We entered into an interesting discussion that lasted some time. I liked his approach as a politician; when I asked him questions, he didn’t always have an answer. At one point, he actually got up and got a copy of the UKIP manifesto to help him clarify his points. He was genuinely passionate about the cause of his party as it had been presented to him.

I would vote for Paul. I can’t, because he’s a UKIP candidate, but I’d vote for him as a politician. I’d love to see a party leader respond to a question with “Hmmm. That’s a good point. Let me think about that and read this before I answer”.

Paul is not racist, homophobic or misogynistic. Paul is not a fascist. He’s been very ill and he genuinely loves and values the NHS. He has a family, with young grandchildren, and he is obsessed with them having the best future possible. Paul is really nice man who works very hard; if every UK citizen (including our top politicians from all parties) had his work ethic, Britain would be in less trouble right now.

When I talked to Paul about the policies of his party, he explained them very differently from the liberal media, of course he did, it’s all a circus. The point is, he was genuine in what he was saying, he was not trying to garner votes with a disingenuous voice, he was 100% sure that his party could make Britain better for working people.

Paul didn’t swing my vote, I won’t be voting UKIP. That’s not just because I’m a liberal, it’s because UKIPs policies have extreme physical and practical consequences for the UK, important beyond even the moral implication of withdrawing aid and amnesty to other non-British humans. I’m quite happy to attempt objectivity when thinking about politics.

Honestly, if we could definitely improve Britain by leaving the EU, closing our boarders and shipping out a load of established Polish families, I’d probably vote for it. But UKIP, like every other party, can’t actually explain HOW they will achieve the things they say they will. None of the parties can actually show where money is coming from any more than they can explain where it’s gone.

None of the parties have addressed the issue of lobbying the EU Parliament to make moves to change legislation that allows massive corporations to have a tax-free party in Europe whilst European citizens go hungry and die waiting for hospital treatment, or whilst disabled British citizens are forced to relinquish live-saving benefits.

I had a great time at Paul’s BnB, but I was left feeling doubtful if I should recommend it to anyone, purely because of his UKIP leanings. His hotelier skills are second to none, should I attempt to punish his business because of his political leanings? I may never have even found out that he was a UKIP candidate, I wouldn’t have thought twice about recommending his establishment then.

I don’t think I was rude to Paul during our discussion, but it would have been very obvious that I did not approve of his political views; I directly called him a hypocrite at one point. The next morning, he cooked me a delicious breakfast with a big smile.

Meeting Paul made me double check what ‘liberal’ meant to me. My first response to any mention of UKIP is not a liberal one. If I am to continue describing myself as a person of liberal views, then I need to check that response in myself, and quickly.

Admittedly, it’s election day, and I’m probably just a bit overexcited. Politics never seems so relevant as in the week of a general election, but I need to remember who I am.

I am tolerant. I am balanced. I will not allow an instinct of hate towards another human just because he acts or thinks differently to me.

If I’d arrived at The Kings in Blackpool, and it had been a purple building called “The UKIP Stopover”, I would have turned around and gone home, and would have done myself out of a night in a fantastic establishment as a result.

If I’m going to look at one part of a human being, and based solely on that, make a judgement about who they are or what they deserve in life, without further examination, then I am doing exactly what liberals should denounce in others. Meeting the UKIP candidate reminded me how easy it is to get whipped up in political hyperbole and become hypocritical.

Paul is a nice man, he runs a tight ship, and if you’re ever in Blackpool, I officially recommend his hotel. I do Believe In Britain, I believe her citizens have the right to hold any political beliefs they want, without fear of reprisal in any form outside hearing other opinions on politics.

Meeting Paul may not have affected my vote, but it was a timely reminder of the best reason for a democratically elected government in the first place. I don’t want to see UKIP running the country, but I will always vote for their right to try. I will always be a liberal, and I hope no amount of election media persiflage will ever make me forget that again.

How To Hate Katie Hopkins

There are a lot of things I love about Katie Hopkins. She’s loud, she’s opinionated, she doesn’t give a toss what anyone thinks; she’s not a whiny cry baby who makes out she’s being bullied if you call her rude names. I know not everyone likes people like that, but I do.

She calls men “sweetypeeps” as she emasculates them and tucks their balls into her handbag, and best of all she doesn’t apologise for it. I’m not saying this is how all women should be, or even all people, but men behave like this far more regularly, and it’s nice to see a woman have a go occasionally.

Aggressive men nearly always manage to make women back down, but not Katie. I know too many women who could afford to be a little bit more Katie Hopkins.  That said, whilst I used to think she was a powerful category of woman, I now think she’s a first class cunt and I’m going to tell you why.

There are similarities between Katie and I that extend beyond our names. We look vaguely similar, (she could be my mum), we sound alike and we behave alike. I am aggressive, bullish, rude and unflinching, just like she is, so, unlike some of her legions of loathers, I can’t attack any of these things. Like me, she’s smart and well educated, so I’m not going to call her stupid when it’s not true. She seems to get people’s backs up very easily, I have that skill too (it’s actually surprisingly useful) although I also have the skill of super-charm to smooth it over, I’ve not seen evidence of this from Katie, although that’s not to say it isn’t there.

Katie and I come from similar backgrounds- hardworking, middle-class parents who focused their resources on giving their children a good, strong headstart with a private education. Both Katie and I are very privileged people; the main difference being that I recognise this, and she doesn’t seem to. This is the point that ignites my new found hate for her.

The first time I saw something of her that made me wish I didn’t like her so much was the interview on “This Morning” with Holly Willoughby. I don’t watch much TV, but a friend sent me a link to the video with the attached message “Haha! Turned on the telly and there you were, having a rant as usual!”.

https://youtu.be/-fKkMlPpjSA

Hopkins was laying into “lower-class” parents for naming their children things like “Apple” and “Brooklyn” (her daughters are called “Poppy” and “India”???) and saying that the name of a child is a clear indication of what ‘class’ their family is, and that working-class children are not suitable playmates for her infants. I defend people’s right to hold their opinions, even if I don’t agree with them, but when someone is educated, I expect them to be better researched, and not just spouting thoughts off the top of their head, especially on a national forum.

I was also uncomfortable with what I found to be a fairly disingenuous stance; I wasn’t convinced by her own belief in what she was saying. I don’t believe that people can help how they feel, which is why I will respect someone’s opinion, even if I hate it, but I didn’t believe it was her opinion. I’ve included the link to the clip so you can examine her body language. She is very measured as she is attacked by both presenters and the other guest, and she is does not display physical defence mechanisms. When our deeply held opinions are attacked, we naturally and uncontrollably do this because we are letting another person see who we really are and that is not easy. Given that she is on television, she is far too relaxed in her defence, and this suggests even she doesn’t care about the vitriol she’s spinning. I didn’t understand why she was saying those incendiary things if she didn’t really believe them.

The moment I worked out the reason, I started to hate her. She just wants to be famous, she wants attention, she wants people to know who she is. Katie Hopkins is a professional devil’s advocate, a rent-a-gob, a mercenary mouth; she is nothing but an intellectual whore. She is the lowest class of person; she is a self-serving liar.

After growing up in a very wealthy town, I have spent the last decade living in one of the roughest council estates in the country, and it has taught me to love humanity. When the world I knew kicked me out because I had no money, a world I was an alien to accepted me without question. Did I deserve it? If my family’s money hadn’t evaporated in the 90s recession, would I now be exactly like Katie Hopkins? Would we have a two woman show? Kat and Katie Piss On The Poor? I reckon someone would commission that, it would probably sell.

That would be enough for Katie, but it would not be enough for me, because I am not a whore. I think back to when I was rich, and even as a child, I was always in trouble for sticking up for what I thought was right. I remember being about 7, at primary school, and a teacher made a girl cry because she couldn’t tie a shoelace. She was really awful, and I weighed in, shouting at a teacher. At seven years old.

As I got older I have been dragged into school offices and work offices and severely bollocked. Once, I thought the company I worked for was syphoning too much into shareholder profit and not enough into the customers/staff, so I wrote a poem about the injustices and posted it on the companywide internet notice board. It denigrated the establishment and got me a disciplinary; the notion of free-speech probably meant I kept my job. Afterwards, many people I didn’t even know quietly told me how much they admired the act. That poem made me microcosmically famous, but did it make me a fame-hungry, intellectual whore? No, because it was my genuine opinion.

I don’t hate Katie because she’s opinionated, I don’t actually think she is. I don’t hate Katie because she uses racially and socially offensive language, many people do this. I hate Katie because she will say or do anything for money and fame, without ever considering the consequences of her own actions. I’d be less enraged by this if she was an idiot, but she’s not, and it makes her so fucking dangerous.

She is smart enough that she must know what’s going on, she just doesn’t care. She will continue to say more and more offensive things, not because she believes in them, but because it makes her famous. She doesn’t care about anything else, not the tax-payers, not the economic situation, not the state of the NHS; she just cares that more and more people know her name.

Katie’s Wiki entry states she is “known for making controversial remarks in the media”, what an accolade, eh? Her notoriety escalates her notoriety and she still fails to do anything approaching research on the huge and important topics that she so publically discusses. She doesn’t need to, incendiary rhetoric is potent, just look at what Hitler made it do.

Everyone’s struggling in the current economic climate, even the middle-classes. They’re having to take less holidays, keep their cars for more than a year and are not able to buy as many extra houses. Of course, the working-classes are standing in food-bank queues, but you know, the middle-class tax-payers that Katie claims to speak for are obviously in greater need of a defender.

Except it’s not the middle-classes that love her, in the main, they think she’s awful, because she apparently has no compassion, lacking the ‘love for humanity’ that the middle class assume they have as they discuss poverty over a biscuity Chardonnay. It’s the working-classes that love her, because they see a posh bitch who seems to be ‘on their side’, who seems to be saying ‘what they think’.

If I’d met a Salford local in a pub who’d said the things to me that Katie wrote in the recent ‘Gunships For Migrants’ article, I’d have been more accepting. He’s had a hard life, and just as I stated at the start of this article, it’s impossible to blame someone who is exactly the same as you, so you have to look for difference. Race and nationality are such obvious differences, that I cannot immediately blame someone for turning to that. If someone is born with low intelligence and not offered educational opportunities, I cannot hate them for not having clever and/or well-educated opinions.

I believe in free-speech, as far as it is a real possibility, which is arguable in itself from a philosophical standpoint, but that’s not the issue here. If we assume free-speech really does exist, then we have to see that Katie Hopkins is abusing it. She does not demonstrate free-speech, she uses monetised words.

There will not be a viral explosion if she writes an article being moderate about migrants, or stating actual statistics, because it’s not controversial. If Katie thought that displaying a modicum of humanity towards men, women and children dying alone in the sea for no other crime than being born at a massive social disadvantage would make her more famous, then she’d have written that article instead.

When you read Katie Hopkins, you are not reading an opinion, you are not enjoying the fruits of the much lauded state of free-speech, you are reading self-promoting propaganda from an ex-PR woman who has branded herself effectively and is now maximising all fiscal and intangible profit streams. She does not care about the issues on which she speaks.

She is engaging because she is clever, she is educated and she is good at speaking and forcing her words into the arena. I hate her, because all these skills could be used for positive development, but, because that is so much harder, she cheats and, disingenuously, takes the easy route, every single time.

Katie Hopkins is lazy, like she claims fat people are; it may be intellectual laziness over physical laziness, but the trait is still prominent. She is an awful example to young women, as she claims tattooed people are. She is exactly what she claims to hate, just in an expensive dress and designer shoes. The reason she doesn’t recognise this is that she doesn’t actually hate these people, she made all that up to get attention, and it worked, as she knew it would, because she’s very clever.

The worst part about Katie is that she doesn’t even care about how this affects her own children. She admitted in an interview that the negative attention in the press affected her family, but she still hasn’t stopped, her own fame is so much more important than her children. How can anyone take life guidance from a parent who puts themselves before their children?

If I had children, I wouldn’t let them play with Katie’s children, because those kids are gonna be royally fucked up; who knows what misery they carry around that might spread to my infants? I feel much sorrier for the Hopkins children than I do a working-class child called Tyler whose fat, unemployed Dad has neck tattoos. Katie’s children have a mum who doesn’t love them as much as she loves public notoriety. I don’t know how a person recovers from that.

The latest article from Katie Hopkins has broken the law, and she needs to be punished. When poor people steal stuff, they are punished. Katie has stolen from the Bank Of Intellect and is somehow being allowed to dance around with her booty and rub it everyone’s face.

She is on track for disembowelment, when the balance tips and she becomes an untenable tool for selling papers and encouraging clicks, she will be dropped. The media monster will extract its hand from up her puppet arse, and she will be left in a lifeless pile of damp, social ridicule. I look forward to the day, and I will not feel pity for her, I will be glad that she drowned in the sea.

Crème Eggs and Christianity: An Easter Dilemma

It is Easter, arguably the most important date in the Christian calender, and certainly my favourite, as I am a lifelong chocoholic.

I remember the glory days of Easter, before shops had no choice but to make sensible purchasing decisions due to the economic implosion, when Easter Monday would mean me leaving Sainsbury’s with luggage comparable to that of a Victorian lady embarking on a transatlantic cruise. When someone says ‘Easter Sales’ to me, unlike other women my age, I don’t think of shoes and handbags, I think of gaudily wrapped chocolate and tiny, sugary eggs, and I salivate.

I was raised as a Christian, and was a girl of Faith for many years. When I believed in God, I happily accepted that Easter was His Foil-Wrapped Festival Of Life, the Easter Bunny his heavenly minion and that Crème Eggs were pearls of his benevolent wisdom made manifest. I never understood the tangible link between God and chocolate, although on a sensual basis, as a person dangerously addicted to chocolate, I could well understand the association.  As an adult atheist, I remain convinced that chocolate is the closest thing I now have to understanding ‘God’.

At the time of being a Christian, like a lot of people of faith (by no means all) I was not in the habit of questioning what appeared to be the ‘Will Of God’ when the ‘Will Of God’ suited me just fine. God wanted me to eat chocolate eggs, I liked eating chocolate eggs; I was at peace with the design of my magnificent maker, even if it included diabetes.

Please, leave us alone together... just for a moment.

Please, leave us alone together… just for a moment.

This blog was prompted by a conversation with a Muslim man I know. He is not an extreme theist, but he is a man of Faith. He is also a man with a penchant for Crème Eggs (frankly, I distrust anyone who doesn’t like them). He showed me a card from his local shop whereby he collected a sticker every time he bought a Crème Egg and when he got 10 stickers, he got a free Crème Egg. He was chuffed as fuck with it. I, being a cynical twat, said:

“Ooh. Buy ten religions icons, and get one free!” It was a gentle gag, at best, but he had a box of six Crème Eggs on him at the time, and a large part of my energy was taken up with constructing a Machiavellian plot to get one of them in my mouth.

He looked at me and frowned.

“I don’t think Crème Eggs really count as religious icons, Kat.” I was torn between entering a discussion that sounded interesting and instant intellectual submission to ensure the Crème Egg/Kat Mouth continuum. I’d already eaten two Crème Eggs that day, so I went for the discussion, with a Crème Egg ninja idea hanging onto the back of my train of thought.

“They probably should. They’re EASTER eggs, and Easter is definitely something to do with Christianity. If you just let me hold them…” He looked at his box of eggs, moving them slightly out of my reach.

“I sort of assumed it was just shops making profit out of Easter. It’s not an icon like a necklace with Jesus on a cross. It’s not like they hand out Crème Eggs in Christian churches. Do they?”

“None I’ve been to, I’m sure some do.” He ran his thumb tantalisingly under the seal on the front of the box and ripped it in twain.

“So not all churches have Crème Eggs, but all churches would probably have a cross with Jesus on?”

“Not always with Jesus, but yeah, probably crosses.” He was opening the box.

“So they’re not religious religious. I don’t like to sound like I’m taking the piss, but seriously, what is the connection between God and chocolate eggs?” He looked at me expectantly, holding the lid of the box open with both thumbs. Six perfectly wrapped delights sparkled at me, I was captivated by their beauty. I stared back at him, dumbfounded.

“I have no idea.”

“Exactly. Sugar Filled Icon?” He offered me the open box, I politely took only one.

This is a photo of some Creme Eggs.

Some Creme Eggs.

As we stood and ate our eggs, I realised that I wanted to know if I was taking part in a religious ceremony, or just munching on chocolate-coated capitalism. As I sit here now, on Easter Sunday, with a bowl of mini-eggs on my lap, I have that question in my mind.

If eating chocolate at Easter is somehow associated with the Christian God, am I currently being a good Christian, by no virtue other than witlessly adhering to a tradition?

The reason for the symbol of eggs seems to be fairly easy to uncover, a logical symbol for fertility and rebirth, to remind Christians of the time Jesus came back to life. If you don’t cling on too hard to Sciency-Wiency, then okay, fine, I suppose the egg thing makes sense in the context of the story. When I asked a Christian friend why eggs were around at Easter, he said it was because the stone at the face of Jesus’s tomb would have been shaped like an egg. I prefer the second, simpler story (a quick Wiki glimpse at the alien nature of avian reproduction puts me right off bird eggs as symbols for human fertility).

The symbolism is also weakened by traditional Easter games, such as rolling them down hills or dancing about with them on the floor and trying not to break any. Any chicken who can survive that gestation period would be a gobsmacking symbol of fertility. Obviously, none of them do.

The tradition didn’t start with chocolate, it started with aesthetics, hand painted or dyed chicken eggs. From austere beginnings as simple red eggs (red like the blood of Christ, obvs) the eggs became gifts as well as symbols, and also became prettier and more colourful, more celebratory than representational. Our Lord And Saviour has died and risen, have a brightly coloured chicken abortion with a bow on it. Amen.

It may sound like I’m taking the piss, and that will be because I am. The most expensive Easter Egg ever made was a $10mil Faberge Egg, and that’s symbolism gone wild. Symbolism’s tits were screen-washing a middle aged guy’s Corvette at a junction the day that Easter Egg got made. If a religion creates something like that via its wide reaching ‘traditions’ then it should be ashamed, and should prepare to have those traditions mocked.

If I try to stay on the right side of objective, I have to conclude that the $10mil Faberge Egg cannot be blamed on Christianity, because the symbol of an avian egg as one for human fertility, cannot be owned by Christianity. It is arguably a Humanist symbol, and the aesthetic point is fair; mammal embryos at that stage look gross, whereas a bird egg is such a neat little package. If something has already been chosen because it’s prettier, why not make it even prettier than that?

When I hold a brightly coloured egg in my hand, I’m connecting with a tradition that far predates Christianity. Decorated eggs have been uncovered by African archaeology that are tens of thousands of years old! As humans we connect with the symbol of an egg for ongoing life, and we always like to make things pretty. Humans invented the idea, Christianity hijacked it.

Ooh! Look! Poison free!

Ooh! Look! Poison free!

This means I can no longer blame the foolishness of the tradition on Christianity, but Christianity cannot lay to claim to me when I shovel chocolate eggs into my face, even on Easter Sunday.  The symbol does not belong to Christianity, and the crossover into my life is due to chocolate, and chocolate is definitely not owned by Christianity.

There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of chocolate eggs until as recently as the 1800s, but I haven’t done extensive research.  I have had a nice morning reading about early methods of chocolate production, and it would seem that the late appearance of chocolate Easter eggs may have been due to underdeveloped manufacturing techniques.  The fall-out of the Industrial Revolution affected chocolate makers, as well as everybody else, and somebody invented a cost-effective way to mould chocolate. Amen, the glorious birth of ‘religious’ tradition.

I made a cheap joke about a serious issue, and my punishment was considering and writing this blog. I honestly do not want to partake in activities that support religious ideas, or be an advocate of any religious group. If I take part in things that I know are happening purely because of a non-secular holiday, I would be celebrating the God relevant to that holiday, and I don’t think I should do that when I don’t believe in a God.

I don’t believe religion should be automatically approached with reverence, but I do think powerful symbols should be handled with care, and if my level of interaction with a symbol demonstrates an affiliation with a group I don’t want to be associated with, then I should stop doing that.

After some thought, I don’t believe that a Crème Egg is a powerful religious symbol, and I don’t think I am aligning myself with any sect of Christianity or admitting any Faith by consuming my body weight in chocolate eggs on a weekly basis between February and May. As I approach the bottom of my bowl of mini-eggs, and look forward to an evening of reading, napping and secular karaoke, I know that eating chocolate eggs on Easter Sunday does not make me a Christian Missionary.

I’ve been reminded that I should be careful with symbols, and make sure I understand them before I use them, or even dismiss them. If a symbol is representative of something specific, then I believe I should only wear/use/display that symbol if I really have a belief in what it stands for. A powerful symbol cannot just be fashion, or flavour, it means something, even in unwitting hands.  I shouldn’t be making weak gags about religious icons, I should be thinking about the potential impact of an insidious ideological attack.

When my mate asked me, “What is the connection between god and chocolate eggs?” I should have been able to instantly say:

“Absolutely fuck all. Gimme one.” Next time I will, and next time something like this comes up, I’ll keep my mouth shut until I understand at least a little bit of what I’m saying. If I’m talking, but I don’t know what I’m saying, then exactly whose words am I speaking?

Bunny Egg

The Offence Cycle

“What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.” – Salman Rushdie

What offends you? Think carefully now, I’m really asking you to find something that affects you deep inside your sense of self. I don’t mean when you publically fake offence to be polite  (as when someone makes a loud comment about pie-eating in front of a fat person and you look shocked because you want to show you don’t think they deserve to have their feelings hurt, not because you really feel offended by fattist comments).

When talking about something as apparently universal as ‘offence’, I like to make sure everyone’s working from the same definition for the purposes of the discussion. Since this is a one-sided discussion, let me tell you what offends me and what that feels like.

I am not offended by much, it’s a short list:

1) Homophobia

2) Racism

3) The creative integrity of Hollyoaks

Racism and homophobia are my two major switch points. Racist/homophobic actions, thoughts and words are offensive to me and I believe they should be actively addressed and forcibly altered. I haven’t just been told that racism is offensive, I’ve been lucky enough to have been nurtured in a direction that means expressions of racism that I recognise induce a physiological response.

It starts very like anger, I get a punched-in-the-belly feeling and my face gets really hot. However anger is immediately useful, and eventually burns out, whereas offence is accumulative and constantly reignited. Anger releases stress, offence feels very impotent.

I will say I do not have an objection to being offended. I don’t assume that people cause me offence as a deliberate attack, I assume it’s because they’re stupid, and haven’t yet had the good fortune of me educating them. I can’t complain about racists and homophobes offending me, because I’m probably about to offend them right back by telling them how stupid they are, and I promise you I don’t care a tiny jot about them feeling offended.

Somehow, it’s become important not to offend anyone. I work for a large company, and if I persist in a conversation on a topic that a colleague within earshot tells me they find offensive, I can eventually lose my job. The right not to be offended is one that is protected by law, if I keep offending you, I’m guilty of harassment. This sounds reasonable at first, but my problem with this is that it allows the racists and homophobes to have their sensibilities protected, and I don’t think they deserve it. I’d rather give up my legal right not to be offended than let the stupid, ignorant and nasty keep theirs.

The last time I can remember being truly offended was on a train from Manchester to London when a pissed up Scottish guy started verbally attacking an Indian family. Obviously, his main insult was ‘Paki’ because he was JUST THAT MUCH of a genius. Nobody said anything to him. The father of the family was clearly wary, and there were a few tuts and the occasional hiss of breath from other passengers, but otherwise, his loud, sweary racism went pretty much unchecked, by everybody, including me; although I was genuinely offended.

Once, he got up to use the toilet at the end of the carriage, walking past the family, but was surprisingly quiet when in immediate physical proximity of the father. Otherwise, his verbal onslaught lasted almost consistently for about half an hour. Many people put headphones in; I’m not sure why I didn’t.

A girl came with a drinks trolley and someone further down the carriage had a quiet word with her about him, but she just sold the Drunk Racist two beers on her way past and actually appeared to be amused by him talking in a ‘language’ consisting entirely of the words ‘bingy’ and ‘bong’.

Drunk Racist belched the word ‘Paki’, laughed at his own great wit, and then crushed his can, before lazily launching it towards the family. It hit the mother on the leg and slightly wet her clothes. She said something to her husband, openly disturbed, and Drunk Racist shouted (in barely comprehensible English):

“Speak English. We’re in England, you Paki bitch.”

I was so offended, I snapped like a dancing-fat-girl’s g-string. I went for the racist cunt.

When I say ‘I went for him’, I mean with my mouth. Don’t be disgusting.

I presented him with a mouthful of words. I’m good at verbal man-baiting, which is the time honoured sport of using only words to wind a man up to the point where he wants to hit you, but he can’t, cos you’re a girl*. When engulfed with the red-mist of offence, I tend to forget that the more drunk and stupid a man is, the more likely he is to hit a girl, with no regard for how hard it would be to get blood out of a peach-coloured, vintage Vivien Westwood cardigan.

This guy was very drunk, and very stupid, and I told him that. I told him he was a drunken embarrassment to humanity, I insulted Scotland (to get at his Scottish pride, I didn’t mean it, I love Scotland), I told him people like him should be melted down and used for tallow. I swore at him, in front of children. The Drunk Racist (to use a charming local Manchester phrase) “got told about his dirty underneath”. I wrapped up my tirade of abuse at this creature with a favourite finisher of mine:

“The only reason to let a disgusting cretin like you live is to let you half-wittedly breed so your ugly, stupid offspring can be cannon fodder in pointless wars.”

He came back at me, and not with his mouth.

He unfolded his surprisingly long body out of his seat and drunkenly swung his fist towards me. His arm was grabbed by a large man who was sitting in between us. Large Man stood up and pushed Drunk Racist back into his chair. I’m lucky he did, because in the throes of offence, I’m always convinced that I can fight anyone, when actually, I couldn’t fight anyone. Well, maybe a small child, although not one trained in the martial arts.

Thanks to Large Man, I avoided a beating, and Drunk Racist looked pretty scared as a few other people piped up with “yeah shut up” and “idiot”. Shortly after, Drunk Racist got up for another wee and never came back.

I don’t feel much of a victory was had here for any anti-racist cause; what exactly did I achieve by raging against the offence machine?

When I told my friend about the topic for this blog, she said I should feel proud that I “stuck-up for the Indian family”. I want to be clear here, I did not ‘stick-up for the Indian family’. I didn’t give a shit about them, not really. I stuck-up for my own offence. This was not me articulately defending the multi-cultural rights of modern Britain, this was me losing my rag because that guy made my rage from the very pit of my stomach.

Drunk Racist will always be a drunk racist. Maybe he’ll think twice about being so openly racist on a busy train in the future. Or maybe he’ll just decide to stay sober enough in public to only be so openly racist around people he can beat up. Realistically, and sadly, the best I can hope for is that he’ll stay just the same and eventually offend a massive, muscle-wrapped meathead of a man and get beaten till he shits through his nose. I still don’t think he’d learn anything, but at least there would be some revenge for him offending me.

How petty I am when captured by my own offence! Ten years ago, my offence might have encouraged me to engage this man, to have a conversation with him, to see if I could change his mind. Ten years ago, I might have imagined that our train would arrive in London with us all holding hands and singing secular world music.

Now? I’m harder. I’ve wasted hours being nice to racists and homophobes, and watched reason and moderation slide off their thick skulls. Now? I explode like the powder-keg of resentment I am after years of just having to be constantly offended by these people. The best I can do is attempt to offend them back.

Since the incident, I’ve asked myself why I let it go on so long before I jumped up. If I was prepared to potentially take a beating in the name of offence, then why not shout at him straight away, or at least five minutes in? It’s a question I haven’t been able to answer. I’ve also wondered why the other people in the carriage who cried offence after a fist flew towards me waited that long too.

It would seem that offence works in mysterious ways.

*This may sound like the most sexist thing ever, but I blame the male homo-social cultural situation where fighting dominance STILL wins you points but girls aren’t allowed to play. Come-on boys.  And mothers, sisters and daughters of boys.

What Is Love? Love Is A Drug.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines love as ‘a pile of old shit’.

That’s a lie, I define it as that, but no-one ever started a wedding speech with “Kat Arnsby defines …”, so I figured bringing in the OED would have a more immediate impact.

My definition is actually clearer than the OED’s, which turned out to be a whimsical, link-clicking frenzy of lexical tautologies and confusion. As an atheist who is excited by words, the OED is the closest thing I have to a bible, and its failure to even start to define a word that everybody uses all the time has disturbed me. I’m going to get to the bottom of this romantic ideal, and the OED have already agreed to use my clear-cut definition going forward. Okay, that’s also a lie, but maybe you’ll agree with me, and start to use my definition, and possibly my name, the next time you’re called on to make a speech at a wedding.

Since last year’s cynical and miserable Valentine’s blog, I have fallen in love. Yes, with another person, not my own reflection, although I do wink at myself every morning, and why not? Flirting is fun.

Herein lies my first issue with the definition of romantic love… why do we put the verb ‘fall’ in front of it?

Falling usually isn’t a good thing, we fall down holes, we fall off cliffs and we fall into disrepair, and yet we use the same verb to describe our engagement with what is supposed to be the most wonderful of positive emotions. Even French, officially the most romantic language ever spoken with a smug intonation, uses the same verb (tomber amoureux). Why don’t we say ‘I chose love’, ‘I met love’ or ‘I rise in love’? I think we say ‘fall in love’ because we all instinctively know it’s dangerous. When you fall, the potential for pain is high, which is why we tag it onto love; one might want love, but one is going to have to take a fall to get it.

Love is already proven to exist, by the real-life folk of Science. Who in the humanities department do I think I am to argue with them? Science has taught us that when we begin to engage with another human at that level, our bodies produce a giddy-making dose of neurochemicals which have the potential to send us all a bit batty. Love is, literally, a drug; it’s called Oxytocin, and it’s widely and cheaply available from the street-corner pushers of your mind.

So why has nature given us this drug? If this neurochemical has survived millions of years of evolution, then ‘love’ must be important to our species, right? A quick look at the etymology of the word Oxytocin might shed a less than romantic light on this. It comes from the Greek oksys (swift) and tokos (birth), which put together says ‘swift birth’. I can only conclude that the neurochemical we call love and write poems about is nothing more than a species propagation expedient. Put more simply, it’s a way of making us so horny we increase our odds of having more babies, and quickly, before the last one we pumped out gets eaten by a velociraptor. The earliest humans will have felt love akin to what we feel today, but if they had made it the high cerebral issue that we try to then I wouldn’t be typing this, you wouldn’t be reading it, and lizards would probably be the dominant species.

This doesn’t seem entirely fair to love, after all, plenty of people have long-term romantic relationships that eventually end up as sexless, but the parties concerned would still define their relationship as one of love. When I look at old couples, I can see a love I feel jealous of. Recently, I watched an old man spend seventeen minutes helping his frail wife into their car. I could see the love on his face, he nearly shat himself with the effort it took, but I am sure he’d have died doing it, because he clearly loved his wife.

Suck on that, love cynics! They were both in their eighties and there’s no way they were going home for a sweaty romp, followed by the happy arrival of a shiny new human in nine months. Love is not just about having babies, it’s a feeling in its own right!

If love is a drug then we have to recognise that it will be habit forming, as all the best drugs are. Mammalian offspring require attention for a long time after birth, and it’s beneficial to our survival to have our parents stay together with us; if one of them is killed hunting, then the other is still around. When it comes to raising infants, multiple heads are better than one. During the course of our evolution the offspring of those who responded better to the habit forming properties of Oxytocin had a greater chance of survival. Psychologists refer to this stage of Oxytocin abuse as ‘attachment’. When I watched that old man help his wife, I wasn’t looking at romantic love, I was looking at a lifelong drug habit that it was far too late to break.

Oxytocin doesn’t just bring babies into the world, it’s also responsible for many cringey poems, soppy songs and the systematic murder of roses for centuries. What is the need for the cultural apparition of love, if it’s now understood that it’s just a nice word for making the realities of procreation a bit less awful?

This is a big question, and brighter minds than mine haven’t been able to answer it, so I’m not going to try here. If you have any ideas, please share, I’m genuinely interested. The problem I have with the cultural tenets of love is that sometimes our cultural habits are so spectacularly fucking stupid that it’s hard to see love as something untainted by human idiocy. Remember when it was a cultural standard to not let women or black people vote? Or when we imprisoned homosexuals?

I can’t answer the question of why love is such a dominant cultural ideal if it’s not a real thing, but my understanding of previously normalised cultural atrocities heavily undermines my blind acceptance of love just because society says it’s good, real and necessary. In 200 years, will future humans look back on our cultural presentation of love as separate to a drive for sex and laugh/be embarrassed? Very possibly.

Love is a word we have for an idea that acts as a smokescreen to the depressing truth that the only real purpose we have is procreation. As a species, we have a long history of searching for something higher, something more important than eating, sleeping, shitting and fucking. We’re all suckers for the concept that we are worth more than an animal, that we are beings greater than a pointless biological fact.

At the start of this rant, I told you I’d fallen in love this year, and you’re probably wondering how someone in love can be so harshly cynical about this popular concept. Truth is, like all drug highs, it didn’t last and I came out of it with a bit of a headache and a funny taste in my mouth. I just feel lucky that I didn’t get too addicted. I didn’t so much fall in love as step in it, and now I have to wipe it off my shoe.

So, after all this, here is my final, OED ready, definition of love:

Love [lʌv] noun A pile of old shit.

Yep, I’m sticking with it. You can use it in your next wedding speech, free of charge; you’re welcome.

Somebody Save Our Stunnas

“Who the fuck is Richard Herring?”

“You know, from Lee and Herring.”

“Isn’t that a sauce? The salty one?”

“No. The comedy duo, from the 90s.”

“I was born in 1994.”

“Oh.”

I’ve had that conversation a few times over recent days when discussing the disappearance of the Sun’s page three ‘beauties’, ‘lovelies’ and ‘stunnas’, and their associated breasts. Young men know about page three boobs, but not about Richard Herring. Weird.

An (apparently obscure) male comic has been at the centre of my discussion on whether the page three concept is degrading to women and/or their breasts. How did that happen? Well, it happened because, via the medium of Twitter, he put himself there.

He did the same thing at the beginning of last year with a persistence gag based around International Women’s Day. It was a funny gag, and very persistent. I laughed for ages, stopped laughing for a bit, and then laughed again; persistence genius, no-one can say Herring isn’t a quality comedian. Just like his recent explosion into gender debate, he entered the discussion last year in apparent support of women, but ended up single-handedly making the phrase ‘International Men’s Day’ trend on Twitter… on International Women’s Day.

Richard Herring started the ‘sunmannips’ hashtag on Twitter. If you haven’t seen it, don’t look, spare yourself. It is exactly what it sounds like, a collections of furry little man-nips; ain’t nobody got time for that. Ostensibly, the point of this horror show of scruffy man tits is to highlight the sexist nature of the Sun’s page three displaying only feminine mammaries. Or something.

I think these men are being a bit dismissive of their penis-bearing brothers who actually are models. One look in Cosmo or Attitude will show anyone that male models’ bodies are as well maintained, waxed and photoshopped as their female counterparts. The nipples displayed on #sunmannips are not so close-up ready; these men are, like me, not currently qualified to be models. I can see droopy, unwaxed man-chests by looking out my Salford window between May and October; I don’t need to buy a magazine or newspaper to see that sort of body!

If the point of this hashtag was to show that all imperfect bodies can be beautiful, then why not have #imperfectnips? Why would a comedian jump on the gender bangwagon other than to use it as a vehicle for self-publicising? Oh.

So what’s my fat, feminist problem here? Shouldn’t I be happy that something as ‘out of date’ and ‘demeaning to women’ as page three is being obliterated, however that is achieved?

Well, I’m not, and not just because I’m a lifelong fan of a beautiful pair of luscious lady lumps.

Wiping models off the 3rd page of a print newspaper is not a significant victory towards the eradication of the ‘sex-industry’ which has for so long mortally offended feminists. All it achieves is the removal of what I can only imagine was a fairly well paid shoot by industry standards. The Page Three Lovelies will now just have to whap out their baps for a lower fee. Well done, feminists and supporters; next stop, The Internet, good luck with that.

The root of this issue is not the exposure of the breasts of either sex, it’s that we’re all so damn comfortable objectifying each other. We all so quickly objectify another’s body either as one to want to look like, a body to fuck, or a body to use as a symbol for a cause. The other is just a body, where the self is so much more, right?

How can we show young women (or men) images of liberated, owned bodies and talk over that with a narrative that suggests monetising one’s supposedly free-flesh is a negative? An open dialogue on the reality of that lifestyle has got to be far better. Cultural repression is undesirable, wherever it comes from. By this, I mean, somebody obviously wants to look at these tits, how is ever better to pretend that isn’t the case?

Every service in our economy tends to basic needs or fulfils natural desires, and yet somehow the industry that tends to that most basic of needs and glorious of natural desires is a kept as a dirty secret. Get it off the front page.

The change that needs to be affected is that we all need to understand that a person may offer themselves in the service of other-objectification but that this cannot be applied to all people all the time. You go to a supermarket to buy milk and bread, you don’t just hand your food stamps to a random guy on the street and think that’s okay. It is never helpful to deal with the symptoms of an oppression and ignore the root of the problem. The lairy feminists who claim page 3 sexist, or those who call for equality by demanding The Sun display man-boobs too, are doing just this.

The men on #sunmannips aren’t affecting any change, they’re just re-iterating that objectification is ‘normal’ and ‘equalising’. Use your words, not your nipples, lads. I’m very sure they’re all well-meaning chaps, but they are not helping any cause except Richard Herring’s campaign of self-promotion.

Objectifying a male or female model in the pages of a magazine is not wrong, they have given me permission to do that by arriving at the photo shoot, stripping off and rubbing themselves down with glitter oil. Failing to recognise that model as a person behind the images or assuming that all bodies of that gender should or do look like that naturally, is wrong.

Don’t automatically objectify another on your own terms and you are contributing to changing the mentality of society. If you simply jump on an apparently beneficial bandwagon that is fuelled by the old regime, then you are compounding an archaic way of thinking. I’d be happier in a world where the institution of Lee and Herring had greater longevity than bare boobs in a national rag, but that is not how it is. It is not possible to change natural human desires, it is possible to change how we manifest them and increase our own understanding of them; repressing outlets for sexuality can only ever hinder this process, and it’s already a long one.

These are just my opinions, but whatever your opinions, acting in the truth of your beliefs is always more admirable than hijacking an issue in an attempt to breathe life into your career. If Richard Herring becomes a penis-POV spokesperson for ‘feminist issues’ I’m having a species change and becoming an iguana. Watch out for #reptilenips, it’ll drive you wild with sex-feelings you’ll be instantly told to repress.

Have A Golden Mean New Year

What to do on New Year’s Eve?

This isn’t going to be a blog about a terribly lonely person with nothing to do. Nor will it be a blog about some diamond studded baller with more caviar soaked, sex-party invitations than she can count*.

I am an average woman, of average income, of average intelligence and bears. With golden locks. Wait… I’m getting off track. I have two very nice party invitations, and I don’t know which to choose.

Maybe you can help.

Invitation 1:

Over 30 friends with all the kids

Pros:

  1. Nice wine
  2. Good conversation once the kids are packed off
  3. M+S finest nibbles
  4. Some of the kids will be old enough to have really good toys

Cons:

  1. Someone will drag out a super fucking lame active group party game (probably ‘adult themed’) and I’ll want to die in flame
  2. Sometimes people who are parents have forgotten how to be children
  3. Reasonable chance of getting covered in baby sick.

Invitation 2:

Under 30 friends without children

Pros:

  1. No-one gives a shit when I inevitably spill everything
  2. I can dress like a maniac and no-one looks scared
  3. Twenty-two year olds always want to argue ad infinitum about pointless nonsense
  4. I’ll feel young

Cons:

  1. Someone’ll suggest ‘Truth or Dare’ because they’re too young to say ‘I wanna fuck you’
  2. I’ll be starkly reminded that I’m not twenty-two
  3. High chance of getting covered in drunken sick.

WAIT!!

SECRET CANDIDATE NUMBER THREE!!! DRUMROLL…

(Fantasy) Invitation 3:

Single/Childless people my age eating some food

Pros:

  1. No-one’s getting wasted, man
  2. No-one’s running upstairs to de-shit Little Laura’s pyjamas
  3. We sit round a table and talk about big subjects. Chat some nonsense, uninterrupted
  4. The topics of conversation don’t constantly revert on the rearing of small, bald apes
  5. Maybe someone’ll get laid
  6. Maybe someone will get heartburn, get your number and catch you later
  7. We might play a game of dominoes, or Rummy or Trivial Pursuit
  8. The night’s a cornucopia of mystery when you’re not that old and childlessly single

Cons:

  1. The food might be terrible. Not being able to cook is common among my people.

I want to spend New Year’s Eve with a low forecast for getting covered in sick. I want to spend New Year’s Eve with vibrant, young thinking people who have chosen, or been forced, to have a different life path than the 2.4 family set up. But not people so young of mind that they have no idea what path they’re on. I want to spend New Year’s Eve with people who are confident enough to make fools of themselves without having to blame it on drink or drugs and yet are still unfettered enough to see themselves as the number one focus of their own lives.

Where are these people?

I am an average woman, of average income looking for some middle-of-the-road friends. Not too parent-y, not too child-y, but just right. I want to spend New Year’s Eve, and in fact, more time generally, with some proper adults who still have the right to be as selfish as children.

Maybe the middle of the road is where I should always aspire to be, in every area of my life.

Wow. Let me just extract myself from up my own arse there.

It is so delightfully easy to be philosophical on NYE, isn’t it? Even the cynical faces who say ‘it’s just another day of the year’ are being deep. What the cynics say is true and beautiful; every day is ‘just another day of the year’, every day starts a new year between that day and the same day a year later. Whatever the date, you are always at the start, the end and the middle of a year.

I’ve sat quietly on previous NYEs and considered how I could make my life better going forward. Asked myself massive questions like: “What do I want?” “What do I need?” “What do I have to get rid of?” and then changed nothing that night, the next day or any of the days after.

I’m getting wise to myself and I’m ready to challenge me.

I’m going to search for the middle ground. I’m going to get a little bit less excited about some things and reduce my misery in respect of others. Before I wail in grief, I’m going to force in a happy thought. Before I get caught up in something, I’m going to be surer it’s not a net. I’m going to hunt for balance.

Where I’m stuck for choice between two excellent options, neither of which I actually want, I’m going to walk right between the polar opposites and find the thing I do want. And when I inevitably fail on a day and go to bed overexcited or crying, I can wake up the next day at the beginning, end or middle of the year and start again.

At the very least, I’ll zig-zag stagger across the middle path.

So… Should I go out tonight? Or should I stay in and stroke my soft toy collection that I pretend are live cats? If I go out I’ve got a better chance of having an amazing night and meeting some new people. If I stay in, there will definitely be no tedious drama or abject boredom, but I’ll be spending 23:59 on NYE totally alone.

This is preferable to me over the tradition of hugging/kissing someone (anyone) at exactly midnight. Physical contact on the clock, from a random stranger/work colleague/mate’s cousin/Joyce who looked after our Sally when she were a nipper, is my idea of a personally crafted hell. And then they queue up to kiss you! FUCK OFF! Let’s all hug and kiss total strangers and then worriedly discuss the spread of Ebola! Why don’t you keep the hug for now, when I’m holding a glass of wine I’ll probably spill on you, and save it for a day when I look sad. Hug me randomly at an unpredictable time because I look like I need it. Spread it around a bit… get some in the middle there.

As a woman of average income, I also have to consider the financial ramifications of going out tonight. If I spend my limited leisure resources in the longest, coldest financial month of the year on a night out I don’t want to be involved in, I might be forced to miss one later in the month that I do.

If something’s going to throw me off balance either way, then it should be something I really wanted in the first place, otherwise I’ll make my way back to the middle path anyway and realise I’ve just been wasting time. Heart-break and joy are so close, that to experience either is a gamble that should not be taken lightly.

The guaranteed, glorious and safe pleasure of a hot bubble bath, a cold glass of wine and a book against the potentially higher stakes win/loss scenario of going to a party which, in truth, I’ve been to before. Do I take the gamble or do I get my slippers on?

I think the fact that it’s 19:00 and I’m still in my pyjamas demonstrates that a decision has already been made about going out tonight. I don’t care that it’s New Year’s Eve. Tomorrow can be New Year’s Eve and the day after that, and the day after that, et cetera. On a night that I feel like going out, I will, and party like everything starts again tomorrow. But not tonight, not just because of the date.

I hope I’m not just a blob of seasonal party poop. I don’t mean to be. I should have done a positive message round up of the year, or even just my year, but I bet your year was much the same. Periods of high and low and the somewhere in between. Let’s not share too much, I hardly know you.

As I freeload off the fireworks that Manchester’s residents let off at 00:00 tonight I will be peaceful. I won’t be having loads of fun, but I definitely won’t be suffering the extremes of holding back a young person’s hair whilst they vomit or being sleazed on by the only other single person at the parent party.

In the absence of something definitely worth sticking on my eyelashes for, I think I’ll stop here in the middle instead, at calmly proportionate peace. I’ll drink some vintage, eat some cheese and enjoy the golden mean pleasures.

Happy New/End/Middle Year To You!!

Every. Single. Day.

*If anyone’s actually having a caviar soaked sex party, I would like to come. At least once.