Maybe You’re Just NOT THAT Creative !

Sorry. But it could be true.

But hey, it doesn’t matter if you don’t mind.

Just don’t try telling other people what to make, write, draw, design, sew, compose.

Maybe you think you have something special going on. Maybe you think you have something to sell. Maybe you’re going to be the next big thing. That what you do is ‘my creativity’. Maybe you have urges to make things. But where does true creative talent end and hobby craft begin?!

I know some people are going to read this and think ‘You sanctimonious bitch’, and you may be right.

This is going to be harsh. Look away if you have a weak stomach.

Top 30 Boo Hoo GIFs | Find the best GIF on Gfycat
Fat Bastard says ‘Boo hoo’.
From gfycat.com

1. But my mum said my voice/painting/ is great

That’s wonderful, but don’t confuse parental praise with real, honest, healthy criticism. Of course your mum would say that, she’s your mum! And friends are, often, no better. They don’t want to HURT YOUR FEELINGS.

If you’re thinking of going professional, semi-professional, or exhibiting your creativity in public in any way, shape or form- you’re going to need a thicker skin.

I once spoke to an art student about what she was going to do after college. Sell my work in a gallery, was her naive response. HER WORK WAS SHITE! And what if they don’t like it? I asked politely. She stared at me as though I was saying something in a foreign language. This young woman had no idea how talentless she was.

Stop living in fantasy land. It’s just self-deception.

Be brutally honest with yourself.

Otherwise, things are going to get painful somewhere down the line.

2. Your creative endeavours are original

Are they? Really?

Nothing is original. Everything has been said before. We just try to find a unique way of re-purposing the original message. It might be that the wonky-eyed portrait of your pet poodle looks unique, but is it really creative. And let’s be honest, should you even expose the world to it?

Please don’t set up an Etsy shop, and proceed to fill it with tat. It is quite simply embarrassing. Don’t do that to yourself.

Why would anyone want to buy your shit?

Why do you think it merits equal attention as someone who has worked seriously and with total dedication for decades?

Look at it – it doesn’t!

3. You love being free and Bohemian, surrounded by tubes of paint/paper/fabric/instruments

You think this is the 60s? You want to remain in a student state of mind forever?

Time to grow up.

For most artists, creativity does not come from flopping around in silk dressing gowns, traipsing through a mist of linseed and oil paints. It’s fucking hard work.

You must work at honing your skills on a daily basis. You must practise your craft – and I use this word in it’s true sense; ‘skill, dexterity, strength, talent’. You must learn that what you created last year, is not as good as what you will produce this year. It is a never-ending striving to reach something over there.

Art doesn’t make itself. The tools of your trade, whether they be brushes and pens, electronic devices, piano, fountain pen or keyboard, will need to be used on a regular basis for you to learn what they can do. After that, your brain needs to be trained, put into gear and applied to the problem at hand.

One doesn’t simply wake up one day and dash off a masterpiece. Your painted stones with hideous dog and cat faces are NOT ART!

One does not simply. Made on imgflip.

4. I’m an introvert, therefore I must be creative

No. Not necessarily so.

Stamping INFJ, or whatever the fuck, all over your social media pages doesn’t make you a better person, or more interesting, or more thoughtful, or creative!

And then you get upset if someone passes a remark that doesn’t fit your idea of yourself. And weep copious tears so your ‘Followers’, or whoever, send hugs and kind thoughts, and tell you to ignore the vicious bitch in the corner, because you’re a ‘beautiful person’.

Bull. Shit!

Just because you class yourself as introvert, doesn’t mean you have to affect a delicate flower demeanour. Introverts live in the real world, we just need time to recoup energy away from other people.

Plus, just because you’re a ‘beautiful person’, doesn’t mean you have a ‘creative soul’.

5. But isn’t creativity whatever I say it is?

Well, if we’re sticking with creativity as meaning using one’s imagination to create something – to invent, then yes.

But simply painting from a photo is not using one’s imagination!

Making fan fiction – I hear a gasp of horror – is not true creativity. The honest truth is that most fan fiction is fucking awful, and why?

Because it is the soup of the soup. It can never be as good (or tasty) as the first/original.

Why is it that we can all spot a truly gifted sportsman or woman when we see them in action? We know that Serena Williams is one of the best tennis players, and that Usain Bolt cannot be beaten at his game.

Because we can see the evidence with our own eyes. When a footballer scores repeatedly, that tells us they’re one of the talented ones. We know who is the best, the talent oozes from gymnasts and boxers and cricketers.

But art is another thing. Most people won’t have a clue what makes Turner fucking amazing, whilst Tracy Emin is shite. Many will say that’s my personal opinion – and there’s the rub!

People today simply don’t have the ability to determine what is good and what is bad. Should we say that someone who has been practising their craft for over 30 years can have the right to make this decision?

But newcomers don’t want to know. And the talentless get mardy and whinge and whine because, “I have a right to make art as much as anyone.”

Yes, you do.

But don’t try telling an experienced and ‘time-served’ creative that you know better than him/her.

Maybe listen to criticism once in a while.

Perhaps give the experienced people the benefit of the doubt, and look at what you’ve created, and say ‘Shiiiit, I really am bad at this, maybe I ought to go and do something more useful with my time.’

And stop putting it on Etsy for fucks sake!

May You Live In Interesting Times – or – Let Us Not Forget

These are extraordinary times we are living in.

In fact, ‘Interesting times’. This expression is fairly well-known in England, and is often attributed to the Chinese, although there is no proof that it originated there. While appearing to be a blessing, it is in fact a curse. The expression is used ironically, with the inference that ‘uninteresting times’, of peace and tranquillity, are more life-enhancing than interesting ones.

It basically means that interesting times are not peaceful, they are times of war, uprising, change – or pandemic.

Last night, I stood on my doorstep, along with some neighbours, to applaud and show our appreciation for our country’s NHS staff (Clap for Carers) – who are doing an exemplary job under strained conditions. On social media, we see this ‘trend’ occurring across the world. We are all seeing just how vital our hospital staff are. It’s just a shame that it takes something like COVID-19 for those in government to truly appreciate this.

But around the world, there are other people who are still working through this. They provide us with products and services, and some, many, are invisible to the general public.

I wanted to take a moment to show appreciation for these people. Many of whom do very unpleasant work; sewage workers. There are people who are putting themselves at risk daily so that you and I can continue to live our lives as smoothly as possible.

Let us not forget the:

Shop workers – Supermarket employees are working very hard at personal risk – and always appreciate a thank you. While you’re hunkered down at home, supermarket employees continue to show up to work every day, putting themselves at risk as they come into contact with hundreds or thousands of people who may be asymptomatic.

Bin/Refuse Collectors – “The Covid-19 pandemic poses a serious and unique risk to the 6,000 Teamsters employed by Waste Management. Over the course of each workday, our members visit thousands of homes, businesses, schools and hospitals,” https://www.wastedive.com/news/coronavirus-covid-waste-recycling-safety-collection-mrf/574359/

Sewage Workers – Sanitary workers around the world are carrying out, potentially, life-threatening tasks, some without access to the most basic hygiene. In many parts of the world, they often descend into the sewers without gloves or any other protective gear for very little money or respect. The work is usually accompanied by a set of risks, some of them life-threatening. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/03/sanitary-workers-risk-lives-spread-coronavirus-200325051916407.html

Long Distance Lorry Drivers – “Truckers aren’t health care workers and we’re not anybody special. We just have to keep working because, what else are we going to do right now? And people need their toilet paper.” https://edition.cnn.com/2020/03/26/cars/truck-drivers-coronavirus/index.html

Zoo-keepers and Animal Sanctuary Staff – ‘COVID-19 could infect great apes’. Those who care for animals must go to work, who else is going to feed and minister to them?

Emergency Services – It goes without saying that our Police, Firefighters, Ambulance, Paramedics etc are doing extraordinary work. Remember, not everyone is as willing to be as thoughtful as you and stay at home. Some will test the boundaries of authority for sure. People with nothing to do, people with no moral compass, people with learning difficulties who simply do not understand the situation.

Farmers – Your food does not come from Tesco, Morrisons, Asda, Lidl, etc. In the first instance, most of it comes from farms. The challenge is how long suppliers will carry on supplying the farmers with feed for the animals, with diesel and fertiliser. Without that supply, the farmers cannot provide you and me with our fruit, vegetables, meat, wheat for cereals and more.

If you work in one of the ‘industries’ I have mentioned above –

I thank you.

If you work in an industry I have not mentioned, that is keeping me supplied with goods –

I thank you.

If you are enabling me to live as normally as possible diring these difficult times –

I thank you.

It is not the billionaires who will get us through this. It is the low-paid, the put-upon, the invisible, those usually taken for granted, those who in normal circumstances we do not spare a thought for.

Let us not forget – it takes all sorts to keep a community, a country, a planet working daily.

Let us not forget – that there are people performing job roles that you and I have not even thought about, who are working very hard at this moment.

Let us not forget – to say ‘Thank you’, to these people, let them know we appreciate them.

FOR CRYING OUT LOUD – WHY DID YOU HAVE KIDS?!

I felt a strong urge to update this post – it’s currently the summer vacation time in UK for schools. (sigh) If you visit here regularly, you should be used to my irate rants by now, for newcomers; in the words of April Ludgate ‘Welcome to the terror dome.’

Image result for april ludgate welcome to the terrordome
April Ludgate from Parks and Recreation

So…..

If you don’t like profanity – stop reading.

If you don’t like being told what to do – stop reading.

If, as a parent, you don’t like other parents berating you – stop reading.

ETC. ETC.

*This primarily refers to the UK, parents from other countries are ‘available’.

FOR CRYING OUT LOUD – WHY DID YOU HAVE KIDS?!

I cannot tell you the number of times myself, a friend, or colleagues have said this.

First of all – once a parent, always a parent. It never stops, EVER, get that straight first off. Christ, my mother is 82 – and still worries about me and my brother! (Dad died this January 2019). She still has parental concerns. Still hopes we are managing okay.

Related image
New Parents Don’t Have a Social Life!

Secondary schools are busy telling 13 year olds that their GCSE options are the most important decision they will ever make. NOT TRUE!!

Listen up – There are only 2 – yes two – decisions you will make in life that have great importance.

1. Do I spend the rest of my life with this other person?

2. Should I/we bring another human being into the world?

That’s it. Everything else is gravy.

Assuming you, reading this, said ‘yes’ to number 2, then I hope you have thoroughly prepared yourself for a life devoted to another human being’s well-being until said being is a fully independent adult – (this might extend to 25 as the new scientists are saying this is the age of real maturity for humans today!)

Question – What do you think IS the role of a school teacher?

I recently read a comment on Twitter from a young mum. It was in response to a thread about young people today not being able to tell the time on an analog clock. What? she asked, were teachers doing these days. Why weren’t they teaching her daughter to tell the time? She was vaguely outraged. I responded – as you do on Twitter, without engaging my ‘Do you really want to get involved in this?’ brain portion as follows:

Me: My mum taught me how to tell the time. I taught my daughter how to tell the time. Not teachers. Why is it always the teachers fault?

Her: Good for you. I’d expect my kid to learn time in school considering she’s there 8 hours a day.

Let’s break this down – she expects her kids to learn to tell the time in school – because she did. Plus the Maths, Geography, History, English, General Studies, etc that teachers are required to teach. When have they got the time?(No pun intended). What is she doing with them herself if she cannot devote 20 minutes a day to play with her kids and incorporate time-telling?! Second, her kids are in school 8 hours a day?! I thought school day went from 9am to 3.30pm. A 6 1/2 hour day is usual, so unless they attend after-school clubs, I’m not sure where these 8 hours come from.

But the point is – teachers are now being asked to take on a bigger workload, why can’t you, the parent, do some of the work? It’s your child! You chose to have it!

FOR CRYING OUT LOUD – WHY DID YOU HAVE KIDS?!

Do you realise that in hundreds of primary schools across the UK, teachers are having to –

a)Teach children how to tie their shoelaces.

b)Teach children how to use a knife and fork.

c) Teach children how to blow their noses.

d)Teach children how to use the toilet.

e)Teach children how to write their own first name.

f)Teach children to be nice! FFS!

This is basic stuff folks. Your child should be able to do all of the above before he or she begins school. At this point I will say that in some instances, some kids aren’t going to be able to do these things, because they may have a physical difficulty; say cerebral palsy, which vastly reduces their co-ordination skills. In my experience, mostly, these parents have found ways to help their kids deal with this – so it’s not those parent’s I’m talking to – it’s the dolts who don’t give enough of a fuck to make an iota of effort to do something to help their own kids!!!

FOR CRYING OUT LOUD – WHY DID YOU HAVE KIDS?!

Then there’s the little maggots who are apparently so darling, that mummy and/or daddy will cosset them to the extent that they cannot do or cope with anything by the time they hit their teen years. They even got their own moniker – ‘Snowflakes’, think they’re special and unique but emotionally melt if challenged or made to feel ‘uncomfortable.’

‘Entitled Parent’ and ‘Entitled Children’ are yet another breed. YOU ARE NOT ENTITLED TO WHATEVER YOU WANT! GROW THE FUCK UP! Makes me puke!

FOR CRYING OUT LOUD – WHY DID YOU HAVE KIDS?!

1. Forget about ‘rights’ – we all have the right to have a baby, I hear someone wail – really? You think? What about the child’s rights to be nurtured and loved and fed correctly and clothed and schooled and nursed and so on and so forth. You do not have to have children. It is NOT ‘what you do’ because everyone else does it! I see so many young mothers with multiple offspring who complain about their kids! You made a choice – get on with it! And use contraception next time!

2. Children come first. YOU hold sole responsibility for your child before he/she starts school. YOU are the primary carer – ALWAYS! Get over yourself if you think that your interests are more important than your child’s well-being.

3. Stop handing over responsibility! Teach your child something before he/she goes to school – for Christ’s sake!!!! It is NOT the schools job to teach your child how to – use a knife and fork, tie her shoelaces, blow his nose, wipe her bottom, fasten shirt buttons, tie his school tie, pronounce his name correctly, write her own name, recall own home address, learn some manners. All these, my daughter could do before attending Nursery school aged 3 1/2. No, she isn’t a child genius – she was prepared. It’s what parents used to do in the ‘good old days’ before teachers even had the massive additional workload they have today.

4. If you annoy me is it okay for me to punch your lights out?! At work, we can often spot the teen who has been smacked by his parent/s. Stop it. Just, stop. There is absolutely NEVER any need to smack a child. You are the grown-up, find a way to deal. Babies and Toddlers are not naughty, really; they are exploring the world around them – so you’re going to make them angry at the world from an early age – just because you are?! Grow up.

FOR CRYING OUT LOUD – WHY DID YOU HAVE KIDS?

Parenting is hard fucking work!

But the rules are easy – so long as you stick to them. Here we go –

1. If you aren’t prepared to put yourself second – don’t have kids. No exceptions to this rule, nope. Stop right now. Go get a dog, better still, a mouse – they only live for two or three years.

2. Assuming you agree that you are, in fact ready, prepare. Like military preparation, stock up on knowledge – that’s your weapon stash. Read stuff. Inform yourself. Take classes. Whatever it takes for you to gain knowledge about parenting, do it. (*Pssst…as a side note, but not to ruin it…you can never be prepared for the reality.)

3. Get them out of the damn nappies before they start school. FFS! And teach them how to wipe their bums – why should someone else have to wipe your kids arse because you were too damn lazy to show them how?! And blow their own nose – who wants to see all that green candlewax?

4. Let your child have fun – that’s what kids are meant to do. You did not give birth to your own domestic servant. Praise them when they try. Everyone likes to have their efforts recognised. Your kids do great things too, so tell them.

5. Have rules, and stick to them. Regular bedtime. Regular mealtimes. Consistency is key!

Take responsibility. Sure, we all make mistakes at times, we can all get stressed and make a cock-up of a situation. But if you’re not making the effort in the first place….

FOR CRYING OUT LOUD – DON’T HAVE KIDS?!

If you made it to the end of this rant, congratulations. I don’t have a prize for you, but I do offer my gratitude and delight that you stayed the distance.

Now go be the best parents (or non-parents) you can be.

 

Black Javert

David Oyelowo as Inspector Javert

Over the past six weeks the BBC has been showing their latest adaptation of Les Miserables (UK).

It seemed from the start that what a lot of people concerned themselves with was the colour of Inspector Javert’s skin – he was portrayed by David Oyelowo – and whether a black actor should be representing a copper in 19th century France.

Let’s not call anyone racist, as many folk are probably genuinely puzzled by his inclusion into this, perceived, #whiteworld. As a white person myself, I cannot help the world I grew up in – white family, white friends, white neighbourhood. I would guess that over 90% of children in my schools were white, but in my Primary school class there was one girl of Chinese parentage and one boy who was Black British. But overall it was a very white world.

This was not my choice. Children do not choose where they grow up. We are the result of our culture and upbringing. So if the people on social media question David Oyelowo’s casting, then let’s accept it as simply that – questioning.

It’s the naysayers who can make things uncomfortable for the rest of us white folk. “No!” they say, “No way could a black guy become a police officer in that period.”

One of the things Victor Hugo hi-lights in his story, is the way people are born into a class system and, mostly, die in that class they were born to. However, some rise above it. Jean Valjean, a convict, rises at one point to become Mayor of a small town. Inspector Javert was born in a prison to a Fortune-Teller mother, his father is also a prisoner. His beginnings suggest that he may never rise to the top of the class system, but he becomes a law enforcer, and this world has it’s own hierarchy. For one man, change is the force that makes him a better man, for the other it is what breaks him.

Most people will have heard of Alexandre Dumas; author of The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers. A similar thing happened when his books were made into films and TV shows – at least in the UK – white actors all. And yet, Dumas was himself a Person of Colour. Are we to believe that he only wrote white characters?

Alexandre Dumas

And what about that claim that black people could not rise to prominence?

Dumas’ own father, became a military General and served with distinction. In 1879, Severiano de Heredia became president of the municipal council of Paris – he was bi-racial. Blaise Diagne was a SenegaleseFrench political leader and the Mayor of Dakar. He was the first black African to hold a position in French government in early 20th century (in 1899 he also became a Freemason!) There are other examples.

In the UK, Norwell Roberts was the first black officer in the Metropolitan Police force – 1967. However, recent research has revealed that actually, one of our first (recorded) black officers was John Kent, who served from 1837 in Carlisle. The point is this –

Yes, a black person could have become a police officer in 19th century France!

We must also remember that this production – Les Miserables by the BBC, is entertainment. And the actors are just that, actors. They aren’t really those things they portray, so some level of flexibility of mind is not a great ask. For my part, I thought Oyelowo portrayed Javert wonderfully. Rigid with indignation, self-satisfaction, obsession and possibly shame, he cannot, he realises, continue after experiencing the self-sacrifice of Jean Valjean. That final moment we see as he determines to commit suicide, the agony of his inability to commit himself to the act – then the clarity of understanding that his life has been wasted – he could have been a better man – and finally truth descends, no more tears, he is ready to die.

Also, in the spirit of Victor Hugo and his representations of the struggles of humanity – might we not come to be less poor of mind and spirit ourselves; as well as physicality and station in life, if we could just be more accepting and open-minded about each other – regardless of skin colour? If we do not open ourselves up to possibilities and change, if we retain and do not question what we learnt in our childhoods, then might we all just be Javerts?

*Three images of David Oyelowo from BBC iPlayer – https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer

Let’s Talk About Death

So my dad died last week. At the time of writing this we still haven’t had the funeral. So many old people have died that the undertakers, crematoriums and churches are fully booked.

We finally got a date; Monday 28th January at 11:20. We had wanted an afternoon so that people could have time to travel, but what can you do?

So how do I feel? Have I cried? Have I struggled to do my job? Have I sat and gone through all my memories of him?

The answers in order are – I’m not sure. A little; briefly. No. Some.

There is this thing happens when someone dies; in my experience. Colleagues and friends become all ‘mushy’ and ‘ah’ and sympathetic. “So sorry for your loss.” They say, and “Oh, no!” as their head goes to one side and they make a sad face.

Others get all uncomfortable and go silent. The fact of the matter is, we don’t do death very well in the west.

coffin
Image from, Lincoln Heritage Funeral Advantage

How our ancestors handled it.

The Ancient Greeks feared it and attempted to not displease the gods through correct burial services.

The Egyptians were totally obsessed with it, believing in a happy afterlife. Vikings burnt those of high status on a boat pushed out on the water, or buried the whole thing!

death blog vikings
Photo from: Order of the Good Death web page

Around the world.

In a part of Indonesia, the annually dig up the dead and ‘socialise’ with them. In Japan, the family have to put the bones after cremation in an urn themselves – using chopsticks!

While the New Orleans Jazz funerals celebrate the deceased with costume, parade and loud music.

While some of these behaviours might seem odd to us westerners, there is something that the relatives and friends get that we don’t. Closeness to death. Being around the deceased for a length of time allows one to realise, internalise and accept that this person is gone, they will never be coming back – and that is normal.

Image result for indonesian funeral custom dig up the dead
Indonesia Custom (Image from, Daily Mail)

We are all going to die.

When I was a child, my mum was a nurse, my aunt was a nurse, my uncle was an ambulance driver, my dad a First Aider. So I grew up surrounded by conversations about the sick and dying, of all ages. As a family, we watched medical programmes. I had conversations about when our parents die, only much later did I understand that this was not a normal thing for British families to do. We seem squeamish about the whole thing.

About ten years ago, my parents said they had made out their wills and me and my brother were the executors. My brother left the room and wouldn’t talk about it. He has a weak stomach for all things emotional and responds by ‘running away’. The result is that I have been making all the arrangements and clearing up dad’s paperwork and helping mum make funeral and reception bookings.

One day, my daughter will have to do the same for me, and her dad, as she is an only child.

 

Practicalities.

I could not believe how much has to be done after a death. When someone dies in hospital in England, someone gives you a Bereavement booklet with information and a list of things to do – this includes: Informing friends and family – yep, you gotta make those calls and say the words, “My dad has died.” Over and over again.

Me and my mum spent six hours on the day he died finding all his documents and sorting through paperwork.

We only get 2 days off work here. So I have been getting phone calls from the funeral director, the printer who is making the Order of Service booklet, and dad’s pension fund whilst I’m in the middle of working. I found it easier to tell all the staff I work with and my students what had happened, so that it was out in the open – but most importantly, normalised.

Death is normal. It happens to every living thing. So why don’t we talk about it more?

Also, why do we feel the need to say only nice things about the dead? Surely every man and woman who ever died was not, “A wonderful human being.” “The light of my life.” and so on.

Related image
Pericles Funeral Oration

In Praise of?

And then, somehow, I am to deliver the eulogy. This is the spoken tribute, a speech given in praise of the deceased person. A close friend told me that she did not contribute to her dad’s ceremony because – “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

Well, my dad was not the best father in the world. He was not kind, he was not affectionate. He believed in that old British axiom, ‘Spare the rod, Spoil the child.’

I considered a poem, but it made me cry – not for my dad, but because the poem was so beautiful. So I wrote a thing. It doesn’t make me cry when I read it.

Because the truth is, not everyone has perfect parents. Not everyone was, or is, devoted and bound to their family with love. I had a balancing act to perform, not offend or upset my mum, and to tell the truth. My dad would have approved actually.

 

Death Becomes You

Comes to us all. We have no choice, we cannot barter or buy our way out of it. If you believe that cryogenics will help you live again, then you need to revisit your biology lessons. Besides, it is natural. It is natures way of making room for the next lot of life on Earth. We need to talk about it, confront the one and only irrefutable truth – you are going to die one day!

On the one hand, I hope my dad’s funeral goes without a hitch. On the other, I perversely wish something would happen like in the comedy shows. Either way, like death, it’s going to happen.

Related image

Writing Interruptus

grumpy-old-men-walter-matthau
Walter Matthau as Max Goldman – in reality, I might have strangled him!

So, the schools and colleges and universities of England have broken up for the summer holidays – no, not vacation, we don’t say vacation in England, unless you are going away from home on an actual vacation! (The English language huh?!)

You’d think I would have time to settle into a decent writing routine, wouldn’t you?

Previously I had been posting for this blog on a bi-weekly basis, then I cut down to one as, working and fiction writing demanded more time.

Upon the arrival of end of June, I was raring to go. I had plans to edit a series of stupid stories and self-publish them. I have a complete manuscript that I am ploughing through for the umpteenth time, plus the short story I am currently working on, and the handful of submissions for short story/anthology open competitions/submissions.

First week off, the phone rings – my mother is in hospital

My folks are old, like octogenarian old. My father now shuffles – literally- at a pace that boggles the mind, he’s losing his eyesight, and his hearing, his appetite, his balance. Yet he remains as obtuse, argumentative, opinionated and bloody annoying as ever!

My brother and I can’t imagine why our mother ever stayed with him.

So now, instead of spending happy hours immersed in words, I am driving two or three times a week, on a 2 hour round trip to collect my old dad, through roadworks, hold-ups, congestion, to visit my mother in hospital and take him home again.

She had a half-hip replacement, so is learning to walk again. She’s doing well, considering. I wonder she doesn’t just pretend she can’t do it so she can have a longer break from my dad!

You might wonder that I don’t go more often – but we have one car and hubby needs it to get to work. You imagine living in suburbs that the bus service would be great – it isn’t. Anywhere outside of London has appalling public transport systems.

And so I drive the car whilst my dad points out every bus that passes and tells me it’s route, and exclaims at empty buildings and tells me his ideas for, well practically everything- “These people don’t think!” he rants in his now high-pitched voice – because he knows best. And points his hand across my face as I try to peer over and navigate the road, because he wants me to look at where the British Legion used to be, or where an ex-neighbour from twenty years ago, whom I do not remember, moved to. And we get into arguments because I cannot let him get away with saying things like, “Why do you drive this way? Why don’t you go along the Northbound? You people just can’t think in a different way.” And I rise to the occasion,( I have become in his mind You People, and it irks) reminding him that he had an hour long moan when I washed his tea-pot after doing the dishes.

“Why does it matter?” I had said.

“Because that’s the way we always do it.” He said.

“But it’s all done, see? The dishes are washed and put away, I’ve done the tea-pot, and wiped up, so why does it matter what order it gets done in?”

He pointed at the counter, “There’s water there.”

I stood and faced him and made him tell me why it made a difference. He, of course had no logical answer.

And so back in the car this Friday, I couldn’t resist bringing up the tea-pot argument when he criticised my route.

“Why do you wash the tea-pot before the dishes?”

“Habit.” He said.

“Well, there you go.”

He still harrumphed, so a sent a parting shot – “Pot, kettle, black. Sound familiar dad?”

This morning,as I was reading ‘Dress Your Family In Corduroy and Denim‘, my husband said I should use my writing as a catharsis and write, like David Sedaris, about my family. I’m afraid I don’t have the wit of Sedaris, or the unusual and interesting family, or events to satisfy anyone, just a stubborn set of parents and brother who all seem stuck, like flies in aspic, in a 1950s England, who enjoy complaining as much as the next Brit.

And I fear I might be the same!

Cultural Appropriation – Am I Guilty?

Cultural appropriation – I’ll admit it, I’m confused.

This year, yes 2018, was the first time I came across these two words – cultural appropriation. I may have had my head buried in the sand, I may have not been reading the ‘right’ journals, or watching the ‘right’ shows, I may simply be an ignoramus.

But in the last few months, I seem to have found myself on a roller-coaster of confusion and bafflement as I watch Dear White People (Netflix), read The Root (online magazine), and try to get answers from people on social media who are black or POC (people of colour).

Lets say this right now – I am a white woman. I am a middle-aged, white working-class woman. (MAWW) I may, to some, have led a dull life, a mediocre life, a life of ‘white privilege’. I can’t argue with that. But I’m curious, I want to learn, I want to expand my horizons and discover the whys and wherefores of other people’s lives. I do not want to offend anyone due to my ignorance.

BUT

Am I doing more harm than good when I ask questions about the clothes I wear, the make-up I use, the words I say, and the songs I sing? I have an Indian salwar kameez (though the salwar don’t fit anymore) that I have not worn in years. I used to paint Egyptian style eye-liner on my lids when I went out in the evening, I call my girlfriends ‘bitch!’ and I listen to and sing Blues and Mo-Town – but only in my home. I love the minimalism and simplicity of Japanese design; interior and clothing.

BUT

Am I appropriating those cultures?

I attempted to learn Japanese some years ago, I have been interested in the history and culture of that country for a number of years, I watch animé and read manga. I once learnt calligraphy. I have taken an online course called Japanese Culture Through Rare Books. I have been interested in Egyptian history since a little girl. I have visited Egypt and stood looking in awe upon the art and architecture.

When did I, if I did, cross the line from appropriation to appreciation? Or vice-versa?

We may think imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but not to the person whom we think we are flattering – or so I have learnt. I think I first saw the term ‘cultural appropriation’ was on Twitter; I watched an awful slanging match that snowballed, the way these things do, into a ‘them and us’ scenario.

AND SO

I did some further reading. I recently read Kit de Waal’s piece in The Irish Times: Don’t dip your pen in someone else’s blood: writers and ‘the other’, in which she hi-lighted this conundrum. When is it okay to write in a voice that is not your own?

Similarly, When is it okay to wear something that does not come from your culture? When am I appropriating another person’s culture? From de Waal’s text I took this extract: The dictionary definition is this: “Cultural appropriation is the adoption of elements of a minority culture by members of the dominant culture. It is distinguished from equal cultural exchange due to the presence of a colonial element and imbalance of power.”

Then I saw something in de Waal’s piece that I hadn’t seen in any other article – There is no one person that can speak for the whole of Ireland. Nobody can give the definitive answer to how a culture behaves or what they believe or why.

THE IRELAND, WALES & SCOTLAND QUESTION

Every article, and I mean every article I have read, talks about cultural appropriation as a thing done by white people to non-white people. But here I was reading something I have, as a child of an Irish immigrant, felt for years to be lopsided. I am white and had felt ‘done to’. Don’t we all appropriate from other cultures? The Irish, Welsh and Scots have been suppressed and oppressed by the English for decades, and yet today English people can be heard boasting their Gaelic/Celtic heritage/ancestry.

Irish cultureThe combination of Corn Laws, the first Land Act, trade agreements and a succession of famines resulted in over a million people dying, another million leaving the homeland. Upon arriving in England and the USA, Irish people were often classified as peasants, thieves, feckless, smooth-tongued blaggers, the ‘drunken paddy‘.

In the 60’s and 70’s England, the Irish were the butt of every joke. TV was flooded with stand-up comedians who openly told anti-Irish jokes, daily, because the Irish were ‘thick’, and ironically at the same time mistrusted as con-men who would jam a foot in your door to get a job cleaning windows. If you were the child of Irish parent(s), then you had to be prepared to be teased, bullied, have things thrown at you and labelled the thick one in class.

No Irish

And yet – On St. Patrick’s Day, thousands of non- Irish use it as an excuse for a piss-up. Thousands claim Irish ancestry because they a)had a great-great-great-grandparent who came from Ireland during a potato famine, b)have an ‘Irish’ surname. (Citizens Information says: Unless at least one parent or an Irish-born grandparent was an Irish citizen at the time of your birth, you cannot claim Irish citizenship on the basis of extended previous ancestry (that is, ancestors other than your parents or grandparents)).” Lots of white English/British claim Irishness from some sort of romanticised idea of what it’s like to be Irish-born. Irishness has been commodified, in particular, by Hollywood, perpetuating stereotypes of Irishness in films– Finian’s Rainbow, The Quiet Man, Darby O’Gill and the Little People.

Suddenly, it’s ‘cool’ to proclaim your Irish heritage, send in the Leprechaun hats, ‘based on’ Celtic jewellery and ‘Celtic’ tattoos.

JAPAN-IRELAND-FESTIVAL

Scottish CultureScotland according to some commentators, was ethnically cleansed by the English. The Highland Clearances had Gaelic peoples moved from their ancestral land to make way for – sheep. Scots were banned from wearing their traditional tartan. The English effectively eliminated a whole way of life from The Highlands.

Map of British Isles - Scotland

They were later subjected to anti-Scots jokes, labelling them as dour, penny-pinching, alcoholics who were always ready for a brawl. The weather map of the UK has, until very recently, portrayed our island on a tilt, thus ensuring that England looked bigger than Scotland – for English viewers it did not strike them as odd. The Union Flag/Jack has the Scottish white saltire in the background with St. George’s (English) red cross over the top. Golf, hurling and shinty originated in Scotland. Halloween comes from Gaelic Scotland (as well as Ireland and Wales). Bagpipes were deemed tools of war’, yet were adopted into the British Army later on. The Scottish accent a point of confusion and derision amongst the English.

Chinese man in Scottish tartan

And yetTartan in many forms, not just kilts, became utilised initially by English Royalty, filtering through history until becoming something for the masses; like Burberry attire, worn mainly by those with some dosh to spare. Paul McCartney, an Englishman, has utilised the sound of bagpipes in his music: Mull of Kintyre.

Black Guy in Kilt

Welsh Culture – The Welsh are the ‘original’ British, pushed to the margins of Britain both geographically and politically. Military, political, economic and cultural power was exercised by the much more populous English over the Welsh for many centuries. Many elements of the Welsh economy and society since then have been shaped by demands from England. They had their language suppressed. They had a whole village evacuated then flooded; to provide water for Liverpool. Portrayals of Welsh on TV in the 70s amounted to little more than hideous stereotypes with buck teeth, extreme accents and a clear message to the English that this was ‘the other’. Even today, the Welsh have to listen to insults such as their country being called a “little shit place” – Eddie Jones, Rugby Union coach. A.N.Wilson, newspaper columnist and writer, said: “The Welsh have never made a contribution to any branch of knowledge, culture or entertainment. They have no architecture, no gastronomic tradition, no literature worthy of the name.

Really? How about Dylan Thomas, R.S. Thomas, Roald Dahl, Sarah Waters, TE Lawrence? Or Doctor Who and spin-off Torchwood (both filmed in Wales with some Welsh actors)?

And yet The English, and the world at large, have the Welsh language to thank for words such as: Bard, Corgi, Crag, Flannel, Druid and Penguin(possibly). ‘Lush’ and ‘Cwtch’ (means cuddle) are recent additions from the TV comedy, Gavin and Stacey. I hear English people at work using ‘lush’ all the time.

I have never heard a Scottish, a Welsh or Irish person complain that their culture has been appropriated. I have never read an article in which a Dane, a Norwegian or Swede complained about the way others wear Viking horned helmets, thus perpetuating the myth of Viking attire.

Image result for welsh rugby supporters daffodil hat Related image

Image result for sports fans fancy dress viking ukImage result for welsh rugby fans

Sports fans don’t seem to mind who wears what

 

 

It seems to me that it isn’t purely a black/white issue. The world is a huge place that we, the human race, cover and move like a tide; ebbing and flowing within a time-frame way too large for an individual to perceive, cultures, communities, empires rise and fall (what would the ancients think of the modern taste for ‘Roman sandals’?) It seems we all could do with a little more education and tolerance regarding this issue, that or we all just throw up our hands and have a free for all on everything.

Am I being insensitive? Am I missing something? 

Or maybe I have had my head in the sand?

Have I got Misophonia, or Am I just an Angry Person?

Image result for Misophonia or just easily irritated

Imagine you are at the theatre or cinema. You quite possibly don’t come very often; it’s expensive isn’t it? You sit through the crappy adverts and trailers…the theatre goes dark…music…opening scene and… BAM! Some bastard opens a packet of sweets.

Do you ignore it? Can you ignore it?

I sure as hell can’t.

 

Trigger un-Happy

Misophonia is defined as the hatred of sound. But not just any sound, there are usually specific sets of sounds that trigger a response in the listener. For many it is lip-smacking or open-mouthed-eating noises, or pen clicking and repeated sniffing.

Cinemas Should Sell Quiet Food

I personally cannot bear it when people sniff repeatedly – I offer a paper tissue. Pen clicking makes me want to slap the writing implement right out of their hand.

But most annoying is background noise in theatres. Watching Black Panther recently, a man seated in the row behind me opened his sweet packet after the movie had begun – why not do it before-hand? And at regular intervals, he opened a noisy wrapper, and even stuffed his hand into the packet on his kid’s lap. Honestly, just shut the fuck up!

Fight or Flight

And it doesn’t stop at the ears. For the duration of one of these trigger events, my muscles tense, my jaw clenches; I can feel my heartbeat rise – my body is essentially preparing for a fight!

So, for the rest of the movie, my ears were attuned, not to the wonderful experience before me, but to the crunchy, scrunching behind me. I was fit to burst by the end.(It didn’t help that the woman next to me read all the subtitles to her son).

misophonia2
“Aargh!! Eat your food quietly!!!”

Anger

Seriously, if it wasn’t for the fact that my husband was with me, I may have clobbered the man with his own child. Hubby says “Just ignore it.” or “Tune it out.” The problem is, I can’t. Believe me, I have tried.

But why was I so angry? I mean, I was REALLY angry. I swore all the way home, driving in a manner to cause hubby to leave nail indents in the car seat. I would have loved to vent my anger on sweet-wrapper-man (and the woman), to drown him in a barrage of expletives and venom.

Is It Just Me?

So, do I have an anger management issue, or some perception of sound issue? This is a regular event for me. At work there is a lady who makes this little half-cough-half-noise in her throat, we are only in the same room for staff development once or twice a year – but I want to strangle her by the end of the morning. Another person I know breathes heavily! I want to shout “Stop fucking breathing! You might die? So what!” My own father used to make weird shuffle motions and noises with his hands and feet when watching the TV, (I did shout then), a student smacks his lips and my hackles rise. Another has a snuffly cold and I’m tempted to punch him in the head!

Misophonia is difficult to identify. Studies have been done, but it doesn’t come under an particular ‘umbrella’ – it isn’t a physical difficulty, it isn’t a mental health issue, so what is it? And is there a way to ‘cure’ it?

Maybe cinemas and theatres should have Misophonia Days, so people who may fall into this uncategorised category can watch their entertainment in peace!

What irritates you, drop me an angry comment.

misophonia3
That means you cinema-sweet-wrapper-man

PDA Syndrome

PDA1

* WARNING *

*May contain images offensive to some people *

I had a funny conversation with friends last night. They are a married couple and were complaining about public displays of affection – PDA. When they were going on holiday last summer, a young couple in front of them were doing some heavy snogging –  what my friends regard as ‘heavy snogging’ compared to me, or anyone else is all relative.

ME: “Was it open-mouthed?”

HIM: “Yes!”

ME: “Tongues?”

HER: “Ew, yes. It was gross!”

PDA6
No PDA here.

I laughed, maybe they were very much in love, or going on honeymoon, I suggested. Whatever, I thought my friends’ outrage funny. So I posed a series of questions – How much PDA is too much? And here, I am not talking about the rare instances when a couple feel they have to go into the realms of extreme – like this couple –

PDA3
Serious case of PDA. What were they thinking?!

Holding hands – Fine, no problem.

Arms around each other – Okay.

Kissing on the cheek – Fine.

Kissing on the lips – Hmm, no.

Squeezing a partners buttocks – No!

Full on deep kissing – Absolutely not!

HIS addendum was; if the show of affection was politically motivated – ie: two gay men/women at a Gay Pride event, or similar, did this, then he could accept that it was done with purpose. But stepping out of a store onto the street to find a couple enjoying a grope and a bit of mouth action – No Thank You!

I told them they were too English. We do have a reputation for being rather restrained and ‘stiff upper lipped’. And apart from when we get steaming drunk and everyone is a friend, we tend to be reserved about emotions – especially affectionate ones!

Why do we feel uncomfortable when we see a couple engaged in PDA? As long as they aren’t getting naked and having full on intercourse or doing heavy petting in the park, then shouldn’t we be more accepting? Is it about etiquette and good manners? Does the sight of an older couple kissing spark revulsion more than if it were a young couple – or vice-versa?

PDA2
Public Affection can be sweet.

Does the public space make a difference? I asked my anti-PDA friends, what if there is a couple kissing deeply under a tree in a moonlit Paris? That was fine apparently. What about Hyde Park? No! One of my friends is a high school teacher and occasionally encounters a couple of students kissing in the corridor, when she tells them to stop and they query her, her response is great: “Would you want to see Mr and Mrs Finnegan( a married couple) kissing around the school?” They would not, is the reply – so don’t you do it!

PDA5
Tongues on a Train – the follow-up to Snakes on a Plane!

I know there are countries around the world where PDA are taboo; if not illegal. I read comments from the British Middle Classes calling PDA ‘repellent’ and ‘ghastly’. I think they/we need to get over ourselves. But I wondered where in the UK were we most and least demonstrative with affection. Should public displays of affection be banned? Some people think so!

PDA4
A quick kiss in Kerala 

Londoners appear to dislike it the most. Nottingham likes a bit of public romance. Manchester, Leeds and Cardiff like a street smooch. I couldn’t find any solid statistics – though I have to admit I didn’t search that hard – but I did find lots of articles calling for less shows of affection in the UK; even light kissing.

Personally, I don’t care if it’s ‘showing off’, or over the top. If a couple feel the urge to express their romantic inclinations then I think it’s lovely. Maybe if more people were snogging and squeezing each others bums and being affectionate, we wouldn’t have all the discourse, wars and aggression and so forth. Of course there need to be some boundaries, but so long as bedroom activities aren’t in public, then what’s the harm?

Next time you balk at PDA, ask yourself two questions –

1.Would you rather they were fighting?

2. Aren’t you just a teensy bit jealous?!

PDA8
One of the most iconic images of PDA. VJ Day picture taken by Life magazine photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt  on August 14, 1945

 

 

 

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/sex/relationship-advice-and-romance/11251250/Kissing-in-public-No-thanks-were-British.html

https://www.express.co.uk/news/weird/157803/Should-kissing-in-public-places-be-banned

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3783454/Woman-iconic-V-J-Day-Times-Square-photograph-died-aged-92.html

http://www.freepressjournal.in/weekend/kissing-in-public-kerala-triggers-a-debate-for-change/501941

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_display_of_affection

On Autism #2

Oliver – We Love You Just The Way You Are

Oliver * has a huge, bellowing, hearty laugh. His pink face lights up behind his glasses as he responds to a joke told by his friend. He is a larger than life character…

I worked with Oliver from when he was 18 years old to 21 years. If you did not know him, you might think he was just one of those loud, occasionally foul-mouthed teenagers you see around the UK. He would speak too loudly in class, he laughed too loud, he laughed at inopportune moments, he swore regularly and brushed it off, when staff commented, with a wave of his hand and a ‘whatever’ sound.

Whoever said people with Asperger Syndrome do not smile, were so wrong…

 

To read more of this post, please go to:

https://sfachikitsya.com/2017/08/29/oliver-love/