Friday, 21 October 2011

A new era

So unless you've be living under a rock you will be aware that yesterday Muammer Gaddafi was killed.

And with it has come an absolute personal outrage at the way the media has dealt with this.  Oh, it is undoubtedly news of enormous importance but it is not important for us to see extremely graphic images of Gaddafi's last minutes, of a bloody corpse being dragged through the streets of Sirte.

Because as Spiderman/Voltaire (whoever floats your boat!) said "with great power comes great responsibility" and the media industry without doubt wield huge power-but they also have responsibility to act in a manner that isn't just akin to gratuitous voyeurism.  The responsibility to use sensitive imaging in a responsible way if it is absolutely necessary to use it.  What we didn't need to see was row, after row of paper - tabloid and broadsheet - depicting the death throes of an old man on the front page.  How can I ensure my child isn't exposed to age inappropriate material when, in fact, it is pretty much unavoidable anywhere that sells the news.

I fully understand that the people of Libya needed actual photographic proof of the fall of Gaddafi.  We didn't need to see it.  We didn't need to see video footage of a man begging for his life before being shot.  We didn't need "breaking news" to pop up on the channel we were watching including an image with "Gaddafi killed"emblazoned across the screen.

The media is so quick to set itself up as moral arbiter of our viewing, sex scenes too full on, video games too violent.   Yet both of those things are age restricted -as a parent I can easily ensure my child avoids them. But I can also say as a parent I would far, far rather explain a sex scene or a video game to my five year old than what we have seen on the news today.

We are told it is a new era for Libya.  What I fear is that this heralds a new era when the press seems to have no willingness to even contemplate what may/may not be appropriate and necessary information.

As a human being with a human heart I hurt from what I have seen.  There is never, ever a reason to celebrate death.  We should have been focusing on what the future holds for the people of Libya rather than on the trophy killing of an individual.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

A very sexist Christmas and a happy new year!

 And so it begins....

The annual receiving of Christmas catalogues and the ire that follows due to the frankly ridiculous way the children's section is set out.

Let me give you a sneak peak of the Boots Christmas Catalogue.  This year the catalogue started out quite promisingly with a "Gifts for Kids" section (OK, I cannot abide the term kids but at least it's inclusive!) full of bright, primary coloured toys.  Good start Boots, I thought.  This continued for 20 or so pages and I'm beginning to think that they've sorted themselves out from last year.  Until I find the section entitled "girl's toys".....yawn.

And I'm sure you don't need me to tell you what this section includes.  Baby dolls, fashion dolls, Hello Kitty, Barbie, a pink fluffy hamster.  An awful range entitled "Glitter Babes" which comes with the strap line "gorgeous girlie treats and sparkly make-up for little girls who want to be pretty in pink"- shame it doesn't come with a sick bucket for the parent too.  This continues to the craft section which - I foolishly -hope will be better.  Except it isn't.  There's a princess making kit, a tea set painting kit, and various jewellery kits.

Onto the boys' section.  This includes dinosaurs, Lego, scooters, playmobil, Dr Who, Star Wars, Toy Story (all of which my 5 year old girl loves - clearly she didn't get the memo about liking pink and sparkles).

The worst offender of all is the Science Museum and National Geographic kits which appear only in the boys section.  Because apparently only boys like science.  Although I do tell a lie.  We're lucky to have on offer, for the girls in our lives, a "Super Science Make Your Own Perfume" kit.

I'm not saying girls and boys shouldn't like different things.  What I am saying is why are places that sell toys so keen to segregate.  Why can't there just be a toy section.  Is it so unheard of for a girl to want to play with dinosaurs and playmobil or a boy to like baking and baby dolls. 

So that's it.  Tune in next week for a rant at WHSmiths and why they see the necessity for a pink globe to teach girls about geography.

Monday, 25 July 2011

They tried to make me go to rehab...

I said "no, no. no"

So no prizes for guessing what this blog post is about.

When the news broke that Amy Winehouse had died, my first thought was that I wasn't surprised.  And therein lies the tragedy of it all - to not be surprised that a 27 year old has died is a dreadful thing.  And it was a tragedy, for all the comments of "well she was offered the help and wouldn't take it" or "she was just a junkie, it was all self-inflicted" it cannot be denied that for anyone to lose their life at 27 years of age is a tragedy.  And for such a person - young, beautiful and undoubtedly talented, the tragedy is heightened.  It isn't ironic that she sang about it!

And before the reasons for her death have even come out there are the assumptions....drink and drugs, drink and's an overdose etc etc etc.  Making the assumption from the well-documented problems of Amy's turbulent life.

I find myself wanting to shout addiction IS an illness.  It really isn't as easy as "oh right, let's just stop then" - it is a complex and heartbreaking condition that can reduce a fully functioning human being to a shell.  

But, Any Winehouse isn't the only person having gone through addiction.  Countless people lose their lives every day through conditions related to alcohol or drug abuse.  Perhaps if anything positive is going to come out of the death of such a talented person as Amy Winehouse it can be to raise awareness, to highlight the plight of thousands of young people who are in the same positions.  To maybe highlight to younger people that getting involved in drugs isn't cool and it is a life-changing thing.

So tonight as the world of music is still coming to terms with the loss of another artist desperately young, a family is trying to work out just how there is a huge hole in their lives there are people finding the best way to make a quick joke, the best way to get something really funny going viral on twitter.

But it isn't funny.  And the best thing we could get going viral on twitter right now would be directions to sites where people suffering from addiciton can help.  So, in the interests of getting something positive out of a senseless waste: -

Alcoholics Anonymous

Drug Addicts Anonymous

Monday, 11 July 2011

Monday's SPR

That's Small and Pointless Rant, the first of which can be found and read here

Actually today's SPR should be directed at me for my sheer lack of blogging recently.  But it's not.  Today's SPR is directed at Jeremy Clarkson.

Jeremy Clarkson.  Where to begin? A man who seems to have far to inflated a sense of his own self-worth and comedy value.  Let's face it Top Gear was mildly amusing circa 2005.  It's now samey and jaded and really not very funny at all.

So when Jeremy Clarkson says "I'd rather quit Top Gear than follow the BBC up North" I can't have been the only person giving a silent cheer.

Just FYI Jeremy when you're talking about your reluctance to relocate "it would be too disruptive to my family" and "it's not the right time for me to make such a move" are fine, perfectly reasonable and inoffensive reasons as to why you don't want to move.

Suggesting Salford is "a small suburb with little to offer beyond Starbucks and a canal with ducks on it" and to label London "the nation's Oxbridge, full of the nation's brightest and sharpest brains" isn't a great way to go about doing anything other than really pissing a lot of people off much less stating "if we ran the show from Salford, we'd be employing people from Salford, People who were born there and thought “Yes, I like this. I see no reason to go anywhere else”.
‘And in the world of television that could be a genuine handicap. Every year we’d end up making a Christmas special from the Dog and Duck or the nearest Arndale Centre.'

Well Jeremy, how awful.  Imagine, can there be anything worse?!  Believe it or not Jeremy, there are people in the North who are bright and have sharp brains and would be an asset to your show and may actually bring something new and exciting rather than the tired old formula you live by!
And my final point, where does Jeremy Clarkson come from - clearly he must be from that bastion of all that is good and right in England....pardon? He isn't? Oh....he's from Doncaster......right...... 

Monday, 13 June 2011

The Thirty Day Book Challenge - Part Two - Days 11 - 20

I'm finally getting around to doing the next part of this (work and school holidays getting in the way!).  My first part of the challenge can be seen here. So without further ado here are the next ten books.

Day 11: A book from your favorite author - Murder Most Royal - Jean Plaidy

This one was really tough for me as I don't particularly have one favourite author.  So I decided to go on the basis of number of books owned from a single author and Jean Plaidy is by far and away the winner! Murder Most Royal is probably my favourite one, telling the story of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard.  Sad at times, infuriating at times, slightly inaccurate at times; nevertheless this book is vivid, colourful and I can never put it down!

Day 12: Book that is most like your life

I have really struggled with this one.  In fact I'm still struggling with this one.   I can't think of a book that is like my life because my life has been very, very normal.  Wonderful but normal.  So if anyone can suggest a book about a girl with a wonderfully happy childhood, who marries her soul mate and has a child then answers on a postcard please!

Day 13: Book whose main character is most like you - Harry Potter series - JK Rowling

 My mother would say Scarlett O'Hara - which I refute most strongly...... I would have to go for Molly Weasley.  Nurturing, adore my family and over-cater on every know occasion.

Day 14: Book whose main character you want to marry - Rivals - Jilly Cooper

I defy anyone, ANYONE who has read this book not to immediately want to shack up with Rupert Campbell-Black!  He might be dreadfully profligate but he's gorgeous and very, very rich. 

Day 15: First “chapter book” you can remember reading as a child - Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery

I think I must have been about 6/7 at the time.  I can still re-read it over and over again!  It captured my imagine so much I went on the read all the other "Anne" books.  I can vividly remember playing with Victorian playmobil and having on rather conveniently with a long ginger plait that was my Anne!

Day 16: Longest book you’ve read - Dynasty series - Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

I'm possibly cheating slightly but given this is a series then I think I'm allowed.  And frankly who's going to care anyway! Starting in Tudor times the Dynasty series is a huge undertaking that Cynthia Harrod-Eagles is going to take to present day.  She is currently at book number 33 (I own up to 32 - have to be in paperback to match!).  My grandmother collected these books and every year I would buy her the newest for her birthday.  I was given the series of books when she died.  The collection will be finished one day Grandma, I promise!

Day 17: Shortest book you’ve read - The Turn of the Screw - Henry James

Short, sweet and very, very scary!  What's not to like?!

Day 18: Book you’re most embarrassed to say you like - Twilight series - Stephanie Meyer

My name is Rachel and I like Twilight.  There.  I've said it.  They're not the greatest works of literary fiction every but entertaining and very, very readable.  Especially if one is into vampires, which I am. 

Day 19: Book that turned you on - Once - James Herbert

I know, I know bear with me.  On the face of it a horror novel shouldn't particularly turn you on and I swear that it isn't the ghoulish horror aspect that does it.  However there are two very vivid scenes that are very erotic.  And I'm not going to tell you which, you'll have to read it and find out!  They are shall we say it.....solo situations and highly, highly arousing!

Day 20: Book you’ve read the most number of times - Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte

I know I'm duplicating but I really have no choice.  I have read the book at least once a year since I was 9.  That's 21 years of loving and reading this book and I still find bits that I don't remember!  The alternative option is to say that the book I have read the most number of times is "Bear Snores On" by Karma Wilson.  I have read this book Every. Single. Night since February 2008.....when you have a poor sleeper for a child you will do anything and I mean anything to ensure an easy bedtime.  So daughter requires this to be read to her every night.  And there I recite read it to her every night.  It takes two times through for her to be asleep.

Tune in shortly for the third and final part of this challenge!

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

A small yet pointless rant....

These are going to become a regular feature in my blog for no other reason than in the name of catharsis!  The things that feature here are likely to be small, irrelevant things, but goodness they make my blood pressure rise.

So the first of my SPR (small pointless rants) is against the media.  Yes all of it. 

No in all seriousness, NOT all of it.  This is directed at certain tabloids, people who get their information from certain tabloids, a certain type of magazine and celebrity gossip websites.  Why, in the name of all that is sacred, why must you insist on persistently shortening the names of famous people to make, what I can only imagine you think to be "cool" monikers. 

Let us start with the recent Royal Wedding.  Arguably one of the main protagonists was a young lady with a beautiful, feminine name.  So why on earth is it virtually impossible for one to read about Phillipa Middleton or even Pippa.  Why must one read of the antics of the dreadfully monikered "P Middy". And then onto the wife of the Prime Minister, a position that brings with it a certain gravitas is apparently best described by the name "SamCam". Is it really so, so difficult to add an extra nine letters and call her Samantha Cameron?

It is all so "J-Lo" isn't it which in turn is all rather 1990s.  It may have worked for a pop star as part of their image and brand but it really, really doesn't work for every celebrity there is so if there's a chance we could call people by their proper names that would be smashing!

Thanks awfully.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

The Thirty Day Book Challenge - Part One - Days 1 - 10

There have been various of these challenges flying about on Twitter and Facebook (see my responses to the 30 Day Song Challenge here ) but as a self-confessed bibliophile I simply couldn't resist this one and I'm showing remarkable restraint to do it over 30 days and not cheat and jump ahead! Yes Stupidgirl, I'm looking at you with your shiny completed book challenge which can be read as Part One and Part 2 on her fab blog.   You can also read StripyZebra's thoughts on the challenge on her blog

So here goes my first 10 books for this challenge

Day 1: Favourite book - Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

I have adored this book since I first read it aged 9.  It was the first book I chose to borrow from my new prep-school's little library (this library was so small it fit into an alcove that housed a fire!) and it captured my imagination.  There is nothing not to like about this book, beautiful writing, great characters and a really strong storyline.  Everyone should read this book at least once in their lives!

Day 2: Least favourite book - The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Words cannot express how much I hate this book.  Honestly.  I actually resent the 3 hours of my life I spent reading it.  I thought the writing was dull and lifeless, the characters eminently unlikeable and the plot full of holes.  Obviously I am also avoiding the film at all costs although I suppose the film may have cut out huge chunks of the book which can only be a good thing!

Day 3: A book that makes you laugh out loud - Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson

I love all of Bill Bryson's books but this one is absolutely hilarious.  Plus I think it makes for much more entertaining reading given its about "home".  I love the scale of what he set out to do and love the way he records it.  Not a book to read on public transport if you want to retain a modicum of dignity as I guarantee you will be guffawing before the end.

Day 4: A book that makes you cry - Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

I must admit that I'm a bit of a sap when it comes to books.  I can quite easily cry at an awful lot of books.  I find choosing a sad story and crying at it very, very cathartic. But if I had to choose one book that I can absolutely guarantee will make me cry it is Anne of Green Gables.  There are two passages that set the waterworks going for me; the first is when quiet, unassuming Matthew takes it upon himself to buy Anne a dress with puff sleeves that she has been coveting.  He is so obviously out of his comfort zone yet he buys this dress for his little orphan girl and when she opens it - sob, sob, howl! The other part is where Matthew dies and the descriptions of the different griefs felt by Anne and Marilla - too traumatic for words!

Day 5: A book you wish you could live in - Harry Potter by JK Rowling

I'm going to cheat a bit here and not choose one book per se but rather a series.  I want to live at Hogwarts, it is true! I want the feasts, I want to learn Transfiguration, I want to visit Hogsmeade and I quite fancy trying my hand at Quidditch.  I think I'd be a Slytherin - rather cunning you see (not to mention perfect access to certain Death Eaters....)

Day 6: Favourite young adult book - The Whitby Witches by Robin Jarvis

I love this book - although starts with a fairly dark situation in terms of two unwanted orphans, it soon develops into a fabulous tale of supernatural beings and the endless fight for good against evil.  Lots of fun.

Day 7: A book you can quote/recite - Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

I don't care that I'm duplicating.  And although I cannot foresee an occasion where I would be required to recite Jane Eyre, I can quote large quantities of the book simply because I've read it so many times.  "There was no possibility of taking a walk that day....."

Day 8: A book that scares you – The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

This book is frightening simply by deign of that fact that it puts your imagination into overdrive.  Nothing in the book is particularly scary in itself but the combination of seeing strange women, hearing a ghostly horse and carriage and an infants screams all adds to the feeling of impending doom.  This is novella length actually but I simply could not put it down and the author grasps in such a short space what many novelists have failed to do in much longer novels - quite simply how to scare.  Brilliant.

Day 9: A book that makes you sick – Lord of the Flies by William Golding

I very much have a love/hate relationship with this book.  It is such an excellent book and really gripping but the bullying and torture culminating in the death of two boys really upsets me.  I guess this is why this book makes me sick - that in such a short space of time children can become so feral as to deliberately inflict pain and suffering on their peers.  Very, very disturbing.

Day 10: A book that changed your life – St Thomas’ Eve by Jean Plaidy

This book actually belonged to my mother when she was young and my grandmother found it in her loft and gave it to me to read when I was about 10.  I instantly fell in love with the story and the author and since then have been on a mission to collect all Jean Plaidy's
So there we are - days 1 to 10 of the 30 Day Book challenge.  Parts two and three to follow when completed.

What do you think - do you agree/disagree, I'd love to hear your thoughts.