Johnson may be a joke, but his words aren’t always funny

For a few years I have suspected that Boris Johnson has been rather anti women at university. I don’t know whether it began the time I wrote to him in my first year while studying a journalism module regarding his views on the student protests, or when I wrote to him in the third year asking for an interview towards my dissertation on the London Underground. I didn’t think it was unreasonable to ask, as both these topics seemed relevant for our mayor to maybe pass a comment on, albeit via a minion working in the bowels of City Hall. When the first email came back addressed to Mr Duffree I should have guessed he had not been able to contemplate that a female was at university. Yet I gave him the benefit of the doubt – after all us ‘fairer sex’ can be quite forgiving, as I think Mr Johnson has noticed over the years – so I wrote again. Alas my email seemed to coincide with him proclaiming that unless someone (and here we must assume he meant ‘a man’) was studying Classics at Oxford there really wasn’t much point being at university. So the reply I received along the lines of ‘Thanks for writing but the mayor is busy,’ did not come as a surprise. What chance did a female studying Creative and Professional Writing in London have of being taken seriously? Two actually. Slim and fat.

Mr Johnson’s latest effort in putting down the female sex is to make a joke of why women attend university. Quoted in Malaysia as saying that the high number of female university entrants is because they “have got to find men to marry” has created quite a response. Yes he thought it extremely funny – and why wouldn’t he. His background of belonging to male dominated societies and his treatment of wives and mistresses should lead us to expect this of him. Before his re election in May 2012 he found himself having to deny claims from Jennette Arnold, the then Labour chair of the assembly, that he had shown ‘disrespectful’ and ‘patronising’ ways at meetings towards female members that he had not displayed when dealing with male assembly members. His response was, “I do not believe I have been remotely sexist.” I think that response is quite telling. I wonder what his idea of being sexist is? Judging by the responses gleaned from exchanges with female members of the assembly which include, “blah blah blah, fishcakes,” and “rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb”, he seems blissfully ignorant in manners regarding responses to women. It suggests that they don’t need to be taken seriously so why worry what you say to them. And it isn’t, Mr Johnson, that we don’t have a sense of humour; we just have a right to respect.

Unfortunately I am going to disappoint you if you think that women attend university to ensure they find a husband. There are other places to have a go at that, dating agencies for a start. Until the early 1990’s more men than women were going to university – but since then women have taken up an increasing proportion of places. According to figures from Ucas, at the end of 2012, the fall in the number of men applying was about twice that of young women, with entry rates for both at 24.6% and 32.5% respectively. The fall it was suggested was due to the increase in fees, but maybe, just maybe the men had heard universities were becoming a breeding ground for women looking for husbands and had become scared off. Get a grip Boris. I’ve had a husband, and with all due respect to him, they aren’t all they’re cracked up to be – as I’m sure many would agree. Who in their right mind would pay at least £27,000 (and that’s without living costs) to find themselves a husband at 18? Wake up man! This is the 21st Century. We have better things to do with our debts.
I myself would hate to be sexist, so in way of a balance I would like to finish by adding that Mr Johnson is not the only ignorant mouthpiece from the news this week. The other blonde haired upstart that is Katie Hopkins has also come out with some ignorant comments – again, no surprise there. Hang on…I wonder, has anyone ever seen the pair of them in a room together…? Just asking.

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Not Unrelated To A Hilarious Insightful Read.

 

A couple of years ago I had the good fortune of being invited to sit in on a broadcast of the Richard Bacon Afternoon Show on Radio 5 Live, and appear afterwards on the Daily Bacon Podcast. I say ‘invited’ but I guess I might have press-ganged the generous broadcaster into asking me, having ambushed him at a television recording, greeting him like a long lost friend and offering to hand over some baby blankets for his soon to be newborn son. Anyway, the point I’m making here is that I happen to be a fan of Mr Bacon although for some strange reason there are some people that describe him as like marmite – I don’t mean dark and slimy – I mean they either like him or loathe him. Some people, and Mr Bacon is one of them I believe, can take it or leave it, so actually it is rather a bizarre description. As I said, I like his broadcasting style and so it was with great pleasure that I realised his much awaited autobiography was now out on the shelves. This was excellent timing for two reasons:

1) I had just finished university and was no longer dogged by deadlines and

2) I was off to Tesco’s (other supermarkets are available) the following day which meant I could pop it in my trolley along with my cheese, depilatory cream and strawberries… And Bingo! I was set up for the weekend with my own series of unrelated events.

A Series of Unrelated Events is Bacon’s autobiography, subtitled Misadventures of a Modern Man. On twitter he was asking people to skip the first chapter which tells of his downfall from being a ‘successful children’s television presenter that nobody had heard of to an unsuccessful children’s television presenter that everybody had heard of.’ I however found the first chapter had me laughing, sympathising with him and his parents and thoroughly enjoying the tone of his book. I believe it was a clever idea to start with this chapter in his life as despite the often irreverent attitude to himself in the book you feel that he really cared about how his parents had been affected and that he still feels guilty for what he put them through. But don’t get me wrong, it is all told in a humorous manner, one you are used to  if you are a 5 live listener; you are glad to be able to hear more of the man’s stories that feel like an extended show with him talking and none of the guests having to say a word. (Not that I’m knocking the guests, I just mean it’s good to hear the detail of some of the stories that he has mentioned over the years.)

 

A chapter on Sally the Psychic is a master class in assuring one doesn’t get sued…and will make you laugh whatever your beliefs. Okay, I’m not sure Sally will be laughing but you can’t please all of the people all of the time. His escapades into film reviews which involved not actually watching the films – nor after a while writing the reviews himself – which just goes to show how much he is either liked, or has influence in the business, as he has recently become a member of BAFTA. Following Bacon’s style of adding footnotes throughout the chapters, which works brilliantly and reinforces the chatty voice, I feel I should add one myself here along the lines of, ‘I am not suggesting in anyway whatsoever that Mr Bacon does not watch the films he votes for as a member of BAFTA…nor if I’ve dreamt this bit about him becoming a member of BAFTA I do apologise unreservedly. But I do know he is having a cinema built into his home and who does that other than if you have a serious interest in films. Or if you are a Premiership footballer. Which he isn’t. He doesn’t like football as can be seen from footnote 72.’ (See, unlike some film reviewers from The People I have actually read the piece before reviewing it.)

 

There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments as Bacon takes us through his time working at McDonald’s, his stint on The Big Breakfast, his wedding day and an unfortunate moment during a dinner party. His ability to laugh at himself and take the reader on a journey of his thoughts on various situations, make this book a perfect read. Even those who do not enjoy his broadcasts should read this book. I’m pretty sure you would get a better understanding of where his cheeky, tongue-in -cheek humour comes from. The stories are entertainingly told- especially the one about the multi-party sex sessions. Or lack of them. And how his career could have taken a completely different path thanks to a MilitaryAcademy ‘senior brass’ at Sandhurst.

 

The only thing I disagree with is footnote number one. He has dedicated the book to his son, Arthur, but with the footnote, ‘Arthur, please don’t read this book’. I think this is the perfect book for a son to read. It shows his father in a human light and one day he will be very proud of all the unrelated events he has penned here.

 

A Series of Unrelated Events, Misadventures of a Modern Man, by Richard Bacon. Published by Century , Random House.

ebook available.

 

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Proud To Be Wearing The Colour Purple for London 2012

‘A summer like no other’ claimed the strap line. You can say that again: people actually talking to each other on the tube, Londoners smiling on their commute to work because there is no traffic, policeman willing to swop hats and have silly photos taken and tube drivers giving witty comments at every stop and in between. Welcome everyone to London 2012.
I was lucky to be involved with this sports festival as both a Games Maker and a London Ambassador. The former helps the people who run the Games and the latter helps those, both tourists and locals to enjoy them. I think I can safely say both sets of volunteers have been much appreciated by all parties concerned – and that the volunteers themselves have been very proud to be doing their jobs.
When I applied to help at London 2012 I decided to apply for both jobs in the hope that I would get through one of the interviews to help be a part of the Games in London and be able to give something back to this fabulous city. After a PR team from the Olympic Press Operations arrived at university to show us how we could be involved as Games Makers, I was hooked. I nearly didn’t attend the meeting – what a shame that would have been. To cut a long story short I applied, months later had an interview at Excel (where our very own Nicola Adams would be attaining her gold medal in women’s boxing just over a year later) and then found out in the December of 2011 that I had a place working with the Press Operations as a Workroom Team Member in the media centre at North Greenwich Arena (NGA). This was the venue for Artistic Gymnastics and Trampolining, followed by the Basketball finals. I was to be part of a team who would welcome journalists and photographers into the centre, help with their lockers and any questions that needed answering during their time at the Arena. This ranged from “Where can I get something to eat?” or “What time is the last bus back to my hotel?” through to “Where is the press conference and am I entitled to film when I am in there?” In fact the questions came in thick and fast and sorting them was only part of the job. We also got to help in the mixed zone (where the athletes come off the field of play and speak to the press) and in Press Conferences. My job during these was to crawl around on my knees keeping out of the camera shots whilst handing a microphone to enquiring journalists. This was one of my favourite aspects. Not least because we got to get close to the athletes wearing not just their medals but (particularly in relation to our Men’s Gymnastic team) the widest smiles I have seen. I will never forget listening to Louis Smith as he spoke so graciously about his medal wins.
Back in the press room there was never a dull moment. The tables had to be kept tidy, (can you imagine how much coffee and coke gets drunk by journo’s during a two week period?) Lost property needed filing and uniting with its owner and T.V’s were to be keep on the correct screen. Not always easy when hundreds of journalists from different countries are trying to cover separate sports. Although the Gymnastics were at the Arena, being sports journalists they were covering many different parts of the games. My favourite moment regarding the T.V.’s came when a foreign journalist asked me to put the shooting on one of the screens. I was unable to find it and asked my colleague for help. “This gentleman needs shooting.” I said. She looked at me with raised eyebrows and a wry smile and we both tried to hide our grins as we realised what I had said. The poor man looked on confused. Alas not even the BBC were showing the shooting at that time; and even though we had been unable to help him he was appreciative of our efforts. In fact we had many people thank us and tell our Manager that the volunteers had been a huge help throughout the Games.
The people I worked with came from diverse backgrounds ranging from students like myself to teachers and broadcasters. We had a great camaraderie and were all there to help deliver an efficient Games. Without exception we had the time of our lives. One evening after the mad rush had died down our manager said we could, barring one person, go home as she didn’t need us all. None of us wanted to leave. In the end we had to draw straws to see who would be going home. I think that sums up how much we were enjoying ourselves. I’ve had a few paid jobs in my time and that has never happened in any of my workplaces. Mind you, I can’t remember being told I could ever leave early.
Half way through my Games Maker role I was shifted to work as a London Ambassador. These volunteers were part of Team London, rallied together by Boris ‘dangling’ Johnson and I had been offered these shifts back in September 2011. It was a shame that the rotas clashed but I was able to work at both, one evening hanging up my pink and purple Ambassador uniform at nine o’clock, getting changed into my purple and poppy one and travelling onto a late shift at the NGA.
The Ambassador role was at Victoria Park, Hackney and involved being available to answer any question put our way. We had pink ‘pods’ where the public could come in and find out anything they wanted to about the Olympics and beyond! We also moved around the park answering questions and pointing people in the right direction to trains and busses as well as the correct big screen to watch the Olympics on. The team were fun to work with and we all had our own skills that we brought to the job. The atmosphere in the park was incredible. There were people from all countries, including thousands of locals, enjoying London and what it had to offer. My favourite moment was when a woman spoke to me about how she would like to bottle the occasion; all the different nationalities brought together in the park watching the sport and cheering each other on. No racism, no trouble, all being as one. She wanted to show the world how wonderful London can be.
And that really was the reason I volunteered in the first place. To give something back to one of my favourite cities and help show it off to the world. It comes in for stick most of the time. I’d like to think local and globally London has been seen as the city it deserves to be. This Olympic spirit needn’t go away just because the athletes have returned home. For a start we have the Paralympics – and I for one cannot wait. I shall be back in my role at NGA media centre and wearing my uniform with immense pride. Go GB- all over again! Let’s make every summer like this summer.

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2000trees 2012 – It’s not just about the weather…

Image

Having driven to the festival on the Thursday ‘early doors day’ in bright sunshine we knew we were not going to be in for a continuous time of this- but we made the most of the sunshine in the orderly queue to get in. There was a very warm welcome from the organisers and security which set the mood for the following days. We pitched our tent in the dry on a lovely bed of clover- which had disappeared under a quagmire within 24 hours. The clover, I hastened to add, not the tent. Although some weren’t so lucky!

“If you’ve never been to a festival before, come to 2000trees. It will get you in the mood, you’ll experience the whole vibe of it and it’s a great place to come with friends. The more you bring the more fun you will have.”

            So said Amy, a festival-goer from Kingston, London, who was at 2000trees 2012 with her friends- and I completely concur. Yes it was raining every night – and for 3 days; yes, it was the muddiest one in all their six years, but as was also pointed out by her friend Ben, “The weather makes a festival, just enjoy the mud, be a little kid again.” And you’ll be in great company, as families are well catered for here too; The Trolley Tots are available for hire to wheel your little darlings around from stage to stage. I have to admit though, I saw more booze being shifted in them than tiny tots. Still, priorities I guess. And there is a separate Family Camping area at the top of the hill furthest away from the larger stages.

            Before taking root with a pint or two of Cotswold cider we decided to have a ‘get our bearings’ recce. The great thing about this festival is its size. There are four stages: The Greenhouse, a capacity of 300, with acoustic music and comedians plus a silent disco for after hours; The Cave, capacity of 800, where as the organisers like to put it you can hear ‘heavier and weirder , hardcore, prog and metal bands’; The Leaf Lounge, which holds 450 with a diverse mix of indie folk-music and more besides; and at the Main stage, capacity 4000, where exciting bands such as Hundred Reasons, The Futureheads and The Guillemots would be entertaining us and blasting out into the Gloucs fields. A certain thrill ran through the blood looking up at it, very striking with the backdrop of the trees and fields.

 The layout makes it easy to get from one stage to the next, (even with the ‘avoid the mud detour’ that came in on Friday) take in some delicious food, (more of which later) drink and merchandise. Speaking of merchandise you can take the girl out of the shops but you can’t take the shopping out of the girl, so I had to check out the 2000trees merchandise tent, which was, along with everything else, easy to find. They only take cash so I had to weigh up whether I should spend my hard earned student loan on pints of cider or a t-shirt? I compromised and went for a Beanie for a fiver, which considering the weather was a wise choice, leaving me plenty of cash for drink. Let me say though the prices at this festival are very good value –something I overheard many people saying over the weekend. I certainly wouldn’t be able to step out of my home in London and get a much needed decent sized cup of coffee for a pound! (More power to your elbow Suzie for your little gem of a catering van positioned near The Cave.)Worth a mention too were the PieMinister and Simply Thai- good value tasty hot fare.

So onto the Thursday line up at the Greenhouse where there was an array of comedians and acoustic comedy. The Greenhouse has been described by a festival goer as an ‘oasis of calm’ in the corner of 2000trees. It certainly was that although not particularly on Thursday evening when the comedians let rip with outrageous jokes and caused much hilarity within the audience. Seats of straw bales and a bar next to the stage it was the perfect place to take stock of what was on offer. I was particularly taken with Fair And Square, Cambridgeshire’s acoustic-comedy duo of three (Square was poorly) who provided great entertainment with their songs Revision, Awkward Situations and a letter To My Future Wife. The boys didn’t look old enough to drink but I can tell you they have years ahead of them in a successful career of entertainment. And’s comic face will earn him a fortune just by turning up.

KWAT a comedy group who would have been at home at the Edinburgh Fringe gave the audience a lesson on not being cool (which is cool) and a familiar story from the horses mouth, (well the brain, liver and stomach), regarding hangovers. Stronger in some parts than others it still raised laughs from the audience. A crowd was gathering outside the covered area and I think it says a great deal about the entertainers that punters were happy to stand in the relentless rain.

The compere for the evening had been held up on the M6 but the stand in Mark was entertaining. Once Richard Massara did arrive it was a smooth transition- if smooth means watching Matt in his onesie returning to the stage, tuning his guitar ready to stand in and sing to us before Richard arrived. All poised to sing, Richard did arrive and the Tiger onesie promptly left the stage! Much to the audience’s disappointment. Not for long though as Richard had us all laughing and introduced some excellent entertainment. The acts continued with Flange Kramer picking up the biggest laugh and (I got the impression) following of the night. A self styled ‘Olympic skiing sensation and world class ladies man’ he was not for the faint hearted or family audience and the guarantee of making you laugh was fulfilled many times over. Eat his powder indeed.

The following morning brought a let-up in the rain, for most of the day at least. We decided to visit The Leaf Lounge to watch ‘This Is The Kit’ a Winchester based folk group described as a ‘warm bath’ and since it was the nearest we were going to get to one in the next two days, it was well worth a visit. Kate Stables did not disappoint, being very chilling (but warm in a bubble bath sort of way) and hypnotic. The audience gave her a great deal of appreciation to which, to add to her charm, she looked genuinely surprised at their reaction. Have faith Kate –it was deserved applause.

The break in the weather uplifted everyone’s spirits, although I have to say I don’t recall anyone looking miserable throughout the festival. It may have had something to do with the Badgers Bottom cider or just that the people who attend 2000trees are friendly folk.  At the Greenhouse stage we were able to sit on the slopes and chill to the sounds of Joe Summers and the guest appearance of his sister who sang a few harmonies for him. He told us the story of how he had to put up her tent the day before in the rain and it nearly drove him to tears.  Obviously not enough camping holidays for the Summers’ family and I feel this should act as a warning to all parents out there: take your children on plenty of camping holidays, they may need to put up a tent if they become festival artistes.

Following Joe onto the stage was Gaz Brookfield who lived up to his billing of ‘instantly accessible’ with anti bullying, anti -establishment/anti-Simon Cowell and manufactured music lyrics… “You sing it best, when you sing nothing at all… “Let your children hear something fucking real” struck a chord with the audience – as it should have- otherwise why would we be there?  The crowd loved him. I caught up with him after his set and he told me it was his second time at playing 2000trees.

“ I love it, it is my favourite festival. I came as a punter two years ago and played here in 2011. It is the only festival where I stay, the atmosphere is incredible.”

 Performing for about 15 years but as a professional for the last three he gives his lyrics precedence and the music follows. He said, “It has to be that way as my guitar playing isn’t good enough.” I’d let the audience be the judge of that Gaz.

Later as the rain decided to return – and who could resist this festival anyway? – we made our way to see The Futureheads (A Capella style) in the Leaf Lounge. With a hugely popular set this group of “legendary post-punk heroes” put their instruments down and wowed the crowd without their guitars. The crowd warmed to the Sunderland accents and were leading ‘The Old Dun Cow’ Macintyre shouts – the band happy that the crowd were well tuned into the response they required. The energy was immense and when they appeared on the Main Stage later that night no one would have guessed they had already sung their hearts out earlier in the day. There is definitely something about a 2000trees crowd that feeds the bands playing here. And along with most other bands they were pleased to acknowledge it.

Friday night bought a complete change to the festival. Rivers of mud and flooded tents… we muddled through though. It made for more bonding and exchanges of views on the previous line ups. Reports of how amazing Gallows had been at The Cave and how Pulled Apart By Horses hadn’t quite matched up to their vibe was doing the rounds. Who says us Brits just talk about the weather?

Have I mentioned the weather? Because it rained Saturday too and became a tad colder, which made it a perfect choice to go and watch The Cadbury Sisters. Nothing like an image of chocolate (other brands are available) to warm the cockles. Although in this case it was more cider. Even Farmer John, taking a break from his tractor, was down at the Greenhouse ready to listen to the Bristol-based Cadbury Sisters singing folk inspired pop. Call me a softie but their song based on their Mum Sarah was a crowd pleaser. They wrote it because “Mums are strong”. Now call me biased, but I agree wholeheartedly. A sense of calm came across the crowd sat on the bales, which had become half submerged in the mud; (probably due to the amount of cider being downed by their occupants) even the rivers of mud which flowed passed did so as if there was no reason to hurry. Well of course there wasn’t- it wasn’t as if we were going to run out of rain! A man in a checked blue shirt quietly reprimanded a woman with a pink fringe who was talking through the set, but even that was done so with a polite air barely shaking the mud of the many Hunter wellie wearers gathered round to appreciate the music.  The crowds here, whichever day, were genuinely supportive of the acts.

On Saturday there were a great number of fancy dress costumes including Captain America, Angry birds and two guys dressed as Tetris. Some people had left after – yes you have guessed it- another night of torrential rain – with many flooded abandoned tents. However they were in the minority and happy festival folk were a plenty, walking around with cider and being entertained by mud surfers on air beds. It was a pity Team GB was too late to enter a team for the Olympics – we could harness a gold I’m sure.

Hundred Reasons were one of the bands playing before the headliners on the Main Stage Saturday night. They played their debut album Ideas Above Our Station in its entirety – and there were many grateful fans who had this chance to see them before they bow out in November.  The Guillemots rounded off the acts here; the programme promised they would be ace- and they didn’t disappoint. A huge presence, and a huge following.

Of course the fun didn’t stop with the end of the sets at eleven. There were many takers for The Silent Disco which rocked…er silently on til the wee small hours. The pink metallic headphones could be spotted around the site and it was the talk of the festival throughout the weekend. I had to feel sorry for the guy who had his knocked off his head during the first song and never spotted them again! You pay your deposit, you take your chances…

Sunday dawned somewhat brighter – it was just a shame we all had to pack up and leave. Leave being the operative word here – muddied tents, airbeds, clothes, sleeping bags even wellies! Now muddied sleeping bags I kinda understand – but how difficult can it be to wash a pair of wellies? Actually I now know and suddenly it all made sense. However I’m glad I didn’t abandon mine because I’ll be needing them for next year. Rob one of the hard working organisers told us “It was worse on the weather front than 2008 and we thought that was bad enough. But it can’t get muddier than this surely?” Let’s hope not… but I’ll be packing my wellies just incase. Tickets on sale already! What are you waiting for?

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Mothers spending time with their children? What is your problem Cherie?

Just when you think Cherie Blair couldn’t become anymore annoying she opens her mouth and comes out with more ridiculous statements that do nothing to assist the women in our society.  Her latest proclaim made during a speech at Fortune Magazine’s ‘Most Powerful Woman Event’ is that so called ‘Yummy Mummies” are happy to put their children first before a satisfying and rewarding career what with them being married to rich men.

Apologies for the delay but I am busy tearing my hair out here trying to understand how any mother can possibly think that a career is more important than nurturing and teaching a child of theirs how to live independently, securely and respectfully within our society. I have no truck with women who decide not to have children. I have no truck with parents who decide that the male partner should stay at home whilst the woman goes out to work…but where did it ever say in the parenting manual “It is best once you have had your child to concentrate on your career and forget about the really important job of bringing up this child- hey they don’t really need you- you’ve given it nine months of security, carrying it around inside, blimey farm it out as quickly as possible…that’ll teach it independence!”

I’m sorry Cherie you are wrong. Having children is a choice-for those of us lucky enough to be able to. I do believe however with your youngest one that it was more the fact that you were, (whilst staying with the Queen at Balmoral), too embarrassed to have the servants unpack your “contraceptive equipment” so you didn’t bring any. Mmh, that’s responsible. This is how you so lovingly referred to it in your book, which I might point out, if you hadn’t been married to a PM at the time, I’m not sure anybody would have been interested in reading it. Sorry, what was that bit you said about being with rich and powerful men?

So, once this choice is made the responsible thing to do would be to put the child first and bother spending some time with it, wouldn’t you think? Cherie says, “I also want to be the best possible mother, but I know that my job as a mother includes bringing my children up so actually they can live without me.”  Yes, thank you for stating the bleeding obvious. Surely every parent wants that. However has it not occurred to you that being with your child at home actually gives the child a secure platform from which to venture out into the big wide world?  Having a parent at home teaches children how to be independent and respect others. They aren’t fighting for attention at the childminders wondering why a parent isn’t there to re assure them. And don’t take my word for it. According to Brian Rushfeldt, Executive Director of the Canada Family Action Coalition, researched evidence has shown, “that when a parent stays at home with a child there’s much more likelihood the child will be better adjusted and also less likely, as evidence shows, of getting into crime or drugs. …Parents do a better job of raising their children than somebody else can.” This is surely common sense?

I also appreciate that some mothers have no option but to work, through circumstances beyond their control. Cherie is happily condemning those who have a lifestyle which enables them to be at home and not have to worry about finances. Although I was able to stay at home when my children were small, we cut our cloth accordingly and made do. I certainly wasn’t sitting in coffee shops chit chatting about something and nothing. I did my best to socialise my children and be there for them so that they felt valued and loved. Bringing up children is bloody hard work Cherie, and a career in itself! It’s called Bringing up the Next Generation and I’ve been known to put that on my CV and be proud of it. We don’t get paid for it, we just do it because sometimes life means having to put other people first…especially when we’ve chosen to have these other people. But just because I didn’t have a career didn’t mean that I was at their beck and call 24/7. They learnt that parents need their own time; I’d hate to have suggested to them that the world revolves around them. It isn’t anything to do with marrying a rich man and retiring! The sooner society, and those with apparent influence, stop being so intent on making the job of full-time mother sound fifth-rate the sooner we can get it back on an even keel. Teaching children independence isn’t done as professional mother breezes in to kiss said child goodnight  on her way to put her feet up with a G&T and sort out her papers for the court case the next day. And while I’m on the subject, buying them a flat as they venture out to university isn’t doing much for their independence either Cherie. For those who don’t remember those crocodile tears shed in December 2005 it makes for quite an interesting story.

Just because she didn’t feel satisfied as a full time mother doesn’t mean that no one else will either. Sometimes it can be unsatisfying. It’s not all first smiles and steps. There are nappies and sick days, sleepless nights, organising PE kits, lunch boxes, cooking ingredients you’ve only just been told they need about two minutes before you leave to take the children to school – but that is the responsible path you take if you chose to bring a child into this world. They need looking after and pointing in the right direction. They also need to know from an early age that they are important in your life. …So that you can wave them off at 18 with one hand and change the locks with the other. (It’s called multi-tasking Cherie and one of the things stay-at-home-mums become very adept at.) May I suggest next time you want some publicity you find something else to harp on about, something which you might have had experience of?

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Forbidden Fruit

Cozily curved cuddling

your yellow skinned

Partners in crime

hanging from hooks.

Thick skin protects

the cream flesh

none have seen.

 

 

Your virgin insides

are secret safe

until stalk snaps

allowing buttery aromas

to infiltrate passages

or harshness catching

backs of throats

depending on ripeness.

 

 

I miss you.

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An Olympic Walk in more ways than one

Yesterday was spent experiencing the highs and lows of humanity. I joined a group who were off on an Olympic walk. The idea was to start at the old Olympic site at White City and walk across London to the new park at Stratford. With the beautiful clear skies, sunshine and a perfect breeze it was hard to argue with my alarm clock when it woke me at half six. By nine o’clock we were gathered outside White City tube raring to go. On-the-go coffee was bought and sun cream shared around. I had not met any of the group before but everyone was chatting to each other and soon it wasn’t just the factor 25 being shared but interests, such as our love of London.

Having seen the old site we headed up towards Wembley where the arch, appearing over the horizon confirmed we were walking in the correct direction. There was more Olympic memorabilia at Wembley, with plaques and information about the 14th Olympiad that took place at the stadium. Yesterday it was starting to throng with football fans who were there to witness, though they didn’t know it at the time, Crewe being promoted in the League Two play offs after a 2-0 win against Cheltenham. At least some of the fans will have remained as jubilant as they looked when we passed through Olympic Way and off toSt John’s Wood.

I have to confess this next bit of the walk involved the tube. We could have walked but it meant retracing our steps so a decision was made to board the Jubilee line and break out in to St John’sWood. Which we did – straight to The Duke Of York which provided us with a much needed pint and comfort break! (Well you know how tiring travelling on the tube can be…)

More friends secured over the beer and cider and we strolled down the high street to find the canal, taking in Lord’s Cricket Ground and the aviary at Regent’s Park Zoo. The canal side was such a contrast to our early part of the walk – such greenery and wildlife. Geese, ducks, cormorants even a turtle sunning itself on a log, all living out their lives in one of the most famous cities in the world. And all so peacefully. It brought a smile and sense of contentment to everyone. It is easy to forget that London is not just about fabulous architecture, transport systems and culture, but a whole society of different species all living together in some very green spaces.

After another stop at the exceedingly busy Camden Lock and being tempted by foods from around the world it was time for the last push through toStratford. It was fitting that we were experiencing food from the many cultures on offer as there were many nationalities in our group including Hungarian, Brazilian, Indian, Dutch, English and Scottish. So many stories to tell each other – and we all agreed what a beautiful diverse city was the one we were living in.

As we made our way into the East end we came across friendly faces on barges selling vintage clothes, books and entertaining us with jazz bands. Quirky bars hidden away at the side with smells of roasted meat emanating into the breeze.  Along the canal, groups of Londoners enjoying the sunshine with their friends and families were positioned. Next to the bins were empty bottles and cans stacked high, evidence of last night’s partying into the evening cool and Sunday morning’s need of hair of the dog. I loved the way they were stacked so orderly despite there being no room for them at the bin.

Making our way from the waterside revellers we took a turning into Victoria Park, which Roger, a retired journalist and member of the group declared the ‘Hyde Park of theEast End’. He wasn’t wrong. It had a Pergoda and a boating lake and masses of green areas which were swamped with families basking and barbequing their way through this glorious Sunday. We all took to the grass although wondered if we’d be able to get our legs motivated again as some of us were beginning to feel blisters and muscles that we hadn’t felt for a while.

With the walk back on its feet we were once again alongside water. The pace was slowing but not the enthusiasm. We were in sight of the stadium and Anish Kapoor’s red Orbit observational tower. It wasn’t long before we were inside the Westfield Centre at John Lewis’ viewing platform taking in the sights of the Olympic Park. We all felt tired having walked in the heat but also that we had accomplished what we had set out to do. As a bonus we had made friends and learnt about some hidden treasures of the London we know and love.

So where, you may be wondering, were the lows of humanity in this day of friendships and sunshine? It was from a phone call I took whilst in the gorgeous green Victoria Park. A friend of mine rang to tell me that a friend had been attacked the previous night. Racially motivated; her skin was a different colour to the two morons that fractured her jaw. I was saddened that this should have happened anywhere, but on a sunny day where friends and families were having such great times together it seemed even more hideously pointless. If that’s possible. These events can happen in any city – but rather like the riots last summer, when it’s your own home ground it hurts twice as much.

It also made me glad I had bothered to spend the day experiencing new sights, smells and making new friends; we all need to make the most of good times as we never know when the bad times, hopefully few and far between, will rear their very ugly and ignorant heads.

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