Friday, October 27, 2006

The gloom

It's been a funny week; slap bang in the middle of it was a trip to North Yorkshire for an exhibition for HR professionals. It's a bloody long way and practically all of it on the M1, so it was the dullest journey. The Gloom descended.

The exhibition was rammed full of women in tailored black suits and natty shoes, it's like an HR uniform. None of them were interested in what we had to sell.

The week is bookended by sociable weekends. We'd spent Sunday at Dan and Lucy's having lunch and hanging out; it rained as we sat in the conservatory. The pounding on the glass sounded like we were in a tent; it was a good feeling. Russ and Sam called and we've arranged for them to come over tomorrow. Something to look forward to.

But this made The Gloom deeper. I don't typically get too morose about work; I like working hard and being busy and achieving things, but Millie has helped alter my perception. I'm more aware that getting paid is compensation for not being able to do something more interesting with your week; it's not a bonus on top of the privilege of working your guts out. We have great friends and seem to have a better social life now Millie is around than before, I'd rather work.

Then, on Tuesday, when I was in Yorkshire a chink of light appeared. Out of the blue, Katie texted, she's coming back from Australia at the end of next month. Penny, Mike and Lottie are over for Christmas, Willy and Leo and baby Joseph as well as Simon and Islay should be around, and, of course, it's Millie's first. Australia Jo isn't back until January, but Christmas is going to be great, The Gloom lifted and took me all the way to now; the weekend. Bring it on.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Veiled comments

My dad and sister once had a discussion about the cheapest food (no, I don't know why either). Dad said it was chicken, my sister said it was baked beans. My dad's selection was based on certain criteria e.g. the cheapest food which didn't sacrifice tastiness, nutrition, versatility and so on. My sister simply picked the cheapest food in Tesco.

They were both correct in their selection, but even though they appeared to be having the same discussion, they were arguing to different hypotheses. It reminds me of this veil debate. Most women do not wear a veil to cover their faces, in fact, few Muslim women wear the veil. Therefore it is not the norm to do so. Norms offer comfort areas in which most people (within any given society) are happy to live. People covering their faces is not the norm and therefore the custom moves people out of their comfort zone. Therefore, Jack Straw et al are simply stating that it is not something they're comfortable with because perceive that it offers a barrier.

And it is a barrier. I don't know much about Islamic law, but my understanding is that one of the purposes of the veil is to put a barrier between the woman and any unmarried man, therefore it is correct to say that it's a barrier. It is also a barrier in the sense it confirms, in no uncertain terms, the difference between a Muslim woman and non-Muslim.

This is a simple anthropological point; in UK society anything which is perceived as a barrier is outside comfort zones defined by the norm. The response, however, is made in religious terms. People like Aishah Azmi argue that this is demonising their faith. To be honest, I'm guessing the number of people with serious intentions of bringing down the Muslim faith in the UK in tiny. Most people just don't want to feel uncomfortable.

In other words, there isn't a shared understanding about what the debate is, let alone the resolution. It's like me turning up to a rugby field in cricket whites and getting upset at the rough tackling.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Running on empty

This week I have driven twenty miles on little more than petrol vapours, spent three days with no charge on my phone (and a broken phone charger) , five days with no ink in my pen (not a euphemism, I literally have no ink in my pen), and two days without my wallet or any cash. I need a rest, or a visit to the shops.

The broken charger (or broken phone, I can’t work out which) has finally forced me to buy a new handset. Whilst I wait for that, the old phone is in my rucksack; it can’t make or receive calls or text messages, and the little battery sign is white e.g. no juice at all. There is still enough charge to keep the screen going and for it, from time to time, to make a forlorn ‘I have no battery, you’re killing me’ beeping noise. It’s been like that for at least three days but it still won’t die.

Perhaps I could assist this long and slow death by turning it off.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The history channel

I like blogs that describe every day experience, in some ways the more mundane the better. That's not to say my blogroll is full of really boring blogs, it's just they tend to be people who can take the normal, and describe it really well. I can relate to that.

I took part in the greatest big blog history thing, although the search engine is pretty rubbish and I can't find it now. It aims to describe a normal day by normal people and record it as a snap shot of social history.

Some of the entries are really good, I like the person who complains that her breakfast is ruined when she finds there's only the dusty detritus at the bottom of the box. Others have been a little self conscious about making a historical statement. From those writing as though talking to an alien - 'I did the ironing, which is using an electrical appliance with an heated iron base to smooth out clothes we call shirts..." to the horribly ostentatious "I awoke as the sun yawned over distance horizon singing the chorus of a new day. I turned to see my husband who had drool all over his gaping maw". What history will tell us is that not everyone should be allowed to publish.

So, trying to avoid these pitfalls, I waxed lyrical about meetings in the Holiday Inn car park in High Wycombe and Leighton Buzzard and setting up exhibition stands in Birmingham. I became a bit unstuck with the question 'what does history mean to you'. At that point I came over all Bill and Ted and thought 'Um dunno, it's like, the past, isn't it?'.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The real life

Thank God for North Korea, now we've really got something to worry about. It's been halcyon days for No News, so something with a bit of substance is a relief.

Following the death and near death of Steve Irwin and Richard Hammond - both enjoyed top billing on the 10 o'clock news - came the football bungs scandal. This all sounds terribly exciting. In fact, this is about managers taking money to sign players. Given that there's no evidence that these managers sign bad players for money there is little net effect on the credibility of the game itself. Which, in essence, means we're talking about it a less than thrilling story about tax evasion.

Then comes Jack Straw who, we're told over a period of 3 days, has asked Muslim women to remove their headscarfs when meeting them. He doesn't tell them to or force them to, he asks them to. So screams the press: PRESCOTT IGNITES RACE WAR BY SAYING "IT'S A TRICKY ISSUE, I'M NOT SURE WHAT I THINK ABOUT IT".

Then... BOOMSHANKA, here comes Kim Jong-Il, I never thought I'd be pleased to see his face.

Monday, October 09, 2006

You who?

They call him Jez, sometimes Doughnut. I've known him as Jem, but always called him Jeremy. And I've known him a long time; all his life, in fact. He is my cousin.

Weddings are all about declaring love for one another. But a modern wedding declares much more; it unpacks your whole life; revealing, of course, your friends to your family and your family to your friends. The speeches disclose stories of the past, expose you to the ordeal of public speaking - in this case the little boy I played football with 25 years ago is now an accomplished presenter and effortless comedian.

The tables are named after something special the couple share (dive sites), the venue reveals notions of perfection and romance. Even the time of year and unearths much; semi-pro psychologists could probably open a pandora's box of subtext.

And then there are the personal touches - a card and personal message to every guest, a cartoonist and best still, choosing the theme from Rocky over the wedding march. All very Jez Jeremy and Flemeny Helen.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The one which only a handful of people will understand

It's 2016 and ITV is the only channel left on TV. The BBC was closed down due to a row that erupted when the government insisted that the Corporation's Charter include the sentence "...for the public good" appended with the words "and Ant and Dec". SKY is technically still going, but Roman Abramovich bought every player in the world for Chelsea and then sold them to a submarine he then lost in a legal wrangle with God over who actually owns the sea. Now SKY is wall to wall coverage of Abramovich staring blankly from his executive box onto an empty pitch wondering why football isn't as good as it used to be.

Despite having not made a TV programme which hasn't involved clips from old TV programmes in eight years, ITV continues to thrive, after The World's 100 Greatest Clip Show Clips (number 1: Stuart Marconie remembers Curly Wurlies) is the show Where Are They Now? And this episode is about the world's first reality sitcom; Linhope.

Linhope, which ran from 2001 to 2006, centred on three thirty-somethings living in West London; loveable boffin; Dring, rip snorting bon viveur Baz and enigmatic couch potato Davis. It told the story a trio struggling to come to terms with being adults. The show attracted huge audiences including here, here and here.

As Friends insisted on growing up with its stars and audience. Linhope religiously stuck to its original, winning, formula. Blokes drinking, swearing, seeing bands, climbing mountains, playing computer games and making mess. Audiences loved it, living their lives vicariously through the threesome. It couldn't last, however, as viewers became laden with marriage, children, mortgages the reality gap between their lives and those of the three stars widened. Ratings reached a plateau and in 2005 the character Islay was introduced as the love interest for the hapless Dring.

Linhope's star shone brightly once more, the onscreen chemistry between Islay and Dring was immediate leading to much speculation from gossip magazine's that perhaps something was happening off screen. In an improbable twist on 'The Rachel' many women adopted 'The Dring' hairstyle and a single by the duo, a cover of Elton John and Kiki Dee's Don't Go Breaking My Heart, was number one for months.

Dring and Islay's increasing profile in the show coupled with the script writers failure to dream up enough plotlines for the developing relationship saw the show lose its initial spark; it turned out that a particularly hyped episode which featured a Islay/Dring 'bust up' turned out to be a brief discussion about which takeaway they'd get that night. Dring wanted out of the show that made his name, and the script writers hastily re-wrote the final series to conclude the story of the three bachelors. Dring and Islay moved to Cambridge in a ratings winning season finale, whilst Baz moved into respectability by buying a flat. Davis' own story remained inconclusive and the internet buzzed with hundreds of fan-stories of what might have happened to him.

Without any of the Linhope chemistry the spin off sitcom "Baz!" was a ratings flop; bottoming out with the episode "Baz concludes that Direct Debit is a cost efficient and convenient way of paying utility bills". A reunion film was mooted to conclude Davis' story but the three stars couldn't agree contracts, and, with Dring in particular, storylines; rumours were rife that the key sticking point was that the writers couldn't contrive a way of including a Training Montage in Siberia for Dring "like what they had in Rocky IV".

The legend of Linhope ended on 30th September, will we ever see the like again?

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