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The older I get, the more cynical I get. It is not a fact I am proud of, but it is a fact. I disbelieve just about everything the establishment and the media tell us. I am convinced that we are manipulated into being the submissive, law-abiding robots that we have become. It grieves me greatly.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Enough about you, let's talk about David Beckham

I don't understand why everyone in British sports has to measure their performance and successes by what David Beckham thinks.  I doubt that David Beckham understands it either, he may even be faintly embarrassed by it.  During the 2012 Olympics, the BBC had to delay interviewing a British medal winner so the person could be congratulated by Beckham.  A more modest man may not put himself first at a time like this.  This level of fawning is not healthy for anyone, particularly me as every time I witness it, my blood pressure goes up.

For the first time in nearly 50 years, England now has a national football team that can not only perform well at international level on the pitch, but aren't hampered by scandal, ego and a conflicting life as a fashion model off the pitch.  Yes, England women's national football team have reached the semi-finals of the 2015 world cup.  Imagine how it must feel for them?  If you had the opportunity to put a question to them, what would be in your top five?

The ladies have not had anywhere near the support their male counterparts regularly garner just for putting on designer suits.  Should one of our strikers in the men's national team get the ball into an actual goal, the nation celebrates.  I include myself in this apathy towards the women's team.  I have watched some of this world cup, but not much.  I shall however watch tonight's semi-final against Japan - my bandwagon has been ordered.

Even though I haven't watched every game, I still expect professional sports journalists to afford the women's team the respect due to their performance.  Yesterday evening I drove home from the beach listening to Radio 2's 'Drivetime' - because I am at that age when I leave a beach as the teenagers with their skinny bodies, dreadful music and blue alcohol arrive.  At the end of the show, a
reporter interviewed Jodie Taylor of the women's team about the team's progress in this world cup.

Taylor, like many of her team mates, plays in the USA, not here.  Male players only move to the USA when the lucrative offers stop coming in from Europe and the US team wants a higher profile and a few shirt sales.  Jodie Taylor went out to there early in her career with a scholarship for Oregon State University.  Why do we not have our own scholarships here for both men and women?  I wonder how much more a player like Harry Kane would have benefitted from a system like this rather than wandering around the second and third tier.  We don't develop our young players very well, regardless of gender.

The women's team have therefore done incredibly well given the lack of home funding and support, not to mention beating the host nation in the quarter finals.  Their progress, the games to date and the up-coming semi-final all provide rich pickings for any journalist interviewing them.  The BBC's Seth Bennet preferred to focus on other aspects of the game.  His third question to Jodie was 'how does it feel when you are getting tweets from the likes of David Beckham?'.   The women's team have reached the semi-final for the first time in their history.  The men's team haven't reached the semi-final since Italia 90.  Despite this, Bennett seemed to think a tweet from Beckham was more noteworthy than the games and goals in themselves.

Bennett ploughed on with his line of questioning 'is this beyond expectation for  you?'.  Bennett would have done well to read the Guardian's Bandwagon Guide prior to his interview (link here).  The team have come on in leaps and bounds since the current manager, Mark Sampson, took over 18 months ago.   He then asked Taylor if she considered that Great Britain having a team in the Olympics was crucial to the England women's team winning international championships.  So that's why our national men's team are so poor, we don't get to play in the Olympics.  It has little to do with being overpaid, few youth academies and too much of the Premiership profits going on wage bills for superannuated overseas players.

Taylor very diplomatically noted towards the end of the interview that the focus was to 'keep doing well in this world cup first and foremost', just in case Bennett had forgotten what the interview was about.  I hope that there was a lot more to the interview than that and Bennett's questions were more insightful but just very poorly edited, because after their achievement so far in this contest, if those were all the questions he could muster, women have a long way to go in sports before we can be treated on anywhere near the same level as men.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

I love to loathe you

Occasionally I find myself drawn to people I loathe and I seem to get some masochistic pleasure out of loathing them.

I suspect I am not alone in this - why else would so many people follow the professional media trolls who fill the columns of newspapers? Not being alone in this unsavoury habit does not make it acceptable.   It is a complete waste of time and energy.  We get one life, and even if we get several, why waste them loathing people?  A point that is far more pertinent is why waste them loathing people I don't know?

My most recent bĂȘte noire was Liz Jones, a columnist for the Mail on Sunday.  I don't buy or read The Mail.  My mother buys it, and the day I most usually visit her is a Sunday.  I can't bring myself to read the paper, but whilst mum is taking an age to get ready for us to go out, I will flick through one of its magazines.  About two months ago, I started at the back of a magazine and found Ms Jones' column.  It was dreadful; self-obsessed, completely lacking in self-awareness, trite and painfully boring.  I couldn't believe someone not only got paid to write it, but also seemed to make a living out of just writing it.  I was incensed.  For the next few Sundays, I sought out her column the minute I arrived, working myself into self-righteous indignation as I read.  I thought about writing a parody.  I thought about writing a blog replying to each vacuous comment she made.  Finally I thought about getting a life and instantly gave up my Liz Jones addiction.  That is why she has that column, so people like me can enjoy hating her - even if only for a few weeks.  

She is far from my first anti-crush.  Twitter has introduced me to dozens of people I may never have encountered in sufficient measures to despise them as much as I did.  For months I hated both Louise Mensch and Owen Jones simultaneously, due to the frequency with which their retweeted comments appeared on my Twitter feed. I would sometimes sink to searching one of their profiles, to feed my hatred.  I started to think they were one person, imagining Mensch-Jones sat in a dark cave, tweeting like a demon, first in favour of the left then supporting the right, possessed of some freakish, Misfits-style superpower intent on irritating as many people as possible .  It would be a truly crap superpower (admittedly not as crap as loathing strangers), but totally in keeping with Misfits.  Even now that I am cured of this particular anti-crush, I occasionally resort to replying to a retweeted comment by Ms Mensch if it is sufficiently smug.  Needless to say, she has never acknowledged these comments, exacerbating the futility of such loathing.

I tried to work out if there was anything my anti-crush collection had in common - Mensch; Jones, O.; Jones, E.; Bleakley; Vorderman; Blair; Ronaldo; Cowell; Ramsey; Oliver; to name but a few.  I wonder if it is self-confidence;  my lack of confidence loathing each one of them for their abundance of it?  Is it the fact that for a while each one of them has been all over the media like a rash and I just got sick of them? I used to quite like Gordon Ramsey and Jamie Oliver, even Blair was OK for a short while in 1997.  I suspect it is more that I have an addictive personality and I occasionally sink to being addicted to despising complete strangers for no good reason at all.  

Surprisingly two people who are seemingly loathed by millions have escaped my addiction to stranger-loathing.  One I find so devoid of any redeeming features I prefer to deny their existence.  The other is Piers Morgan.  I don't like him, I do frequently think he is complete arse, but I can't loathe him.  Of late I have actually found myself warming to him.  So many people are so completely vile about him, but he remains as chirpy and smug as ever.  More to the point he remains as chirpy, smug and employed as ever.  No matter how thick your skin, it has to occasionally hurt to have so many people be so vile about you, but Morgan never seems to show anything but self-confidence.  As smug as he may be, I admire that and wish I possessed a fraction of his self-belief.  

Sunday, 19 April 2015

No one is watching

This afternoon I was walking down the road behind a man walking a dog.  He had headphones on and was singing along to whatever music he was listening to, loudly and quite badly.

I wondered if he was drunk or if there was 'something a bit wrong with him'.  As we sauntered down the road on a sunny but quite cold Sunday afternoon it began to dawn on me that the person who might have 'something a bit wrong' with them could be me.  Why shouldn't he sing if he wanted to?   The only person within hearing distance was me and I didn't mind, more to the point he clearly didn't care if I did.  Children laugh, skip, sing and run - and I find it entertaining.  When adults do it, I wonder what they are drinking or taking.  

My mother has lived her life by the mantra 'what will other people think'.   As children and teenagers my brother and I suffered considerably from her obsession with 'other people'.  The slightest deviation from behaviour that she considered acceptable would earn us the 'never been so ashamed' reproach.   Who were these people?  Why were their lives so empty that they stood around waiting for us to go by so that they could judge them?  Knowing what I do of her own childhood, I can see why she might think this, and I have a great deal of sympathy and understanding, but I don't understand why she carried it with her to the extent that it has ruled her life. 

When I was in my mid-twenties, I put on a great deal of weight. Since then I have lost and gained excess weight over and over again, I like food, I dislike me being overweight, I need to deal with that daily, not waiver between extremes, but that was the first time I had gained.  It became our constant battleground.  When mum had dragged every threat and insult into her arguments and they had failed, she then recruited other family members and friends to the cause, not that they actually knew they were part of her arsenal.  She would relay what others had allegedly said, and I would either ignore her or suggest she tell them to get stuffed.  Once she went too far and I actually started to call up the relative she claimed had insulted me.  Mum became hysterical, but still could not admit that she had lied.

During that time my mother and step-father hosted a ladies night for his local masonic lodge.  I was invited along with my then boyfriend.  Mum tried everything to get me to lose weight, 'so ashamed' was flung at me with alarming regularity, despite my obvious immunity.  Mum even bought me a very restricting and very expensive corset.  As I was not planning any trips to 1952, I refused to wear it.  The evening turned out to be a great success - and my mother and step-father openly admitted much of it was down to me.  I chatted with everyone and encouraged even the shyest person to get up and dance.  The next time I visited, all they could talk about was how many people had called them afterwards to say how lovely I was.  I asked her how many had said I was fat and mum looked at me as if I were mad.   

I do understand that it is not entirely mum's fault that she has this obsession and there is much more to her than this.  She was and is a very kind, caring person and will go without to help others.  She has been through some really tough times, remaining serene and calm. That perception may have been to fool 'other people' but it could also be comforting for those of us going through it with her. But it was not until I heard the man singing the street today that I realised that I still worry too much about what 'other people' think .  Like mum, I can tend to give other people control over my life and particularly my thoughts.  From my late teens my stock response to mum's mantra was 'absolutely nobody is watching us', I just need to believe it.   Thanks to Edward Snowden, we now know that at least two governments probably are watching us and very rarely for our own benefit, but as for everyone else, they really aren't watching.  My Sunday resolution is to be more like singing man and less like my poor mum.