Paedophilia? Loving father comforting sick son…

BBC Trending: Is this picture disgusting or beautiful?

Shows how much better educated we need to be.

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This can cause far more damage… pushy parents, youngest kid asleep from boredom, seeing what’s ahead of him, vowing never to be any good at music…  

The opening line of this article alone has me in a purple and red fury. In some ways the picture appears to show a fairly everyday scene. It’s not an everyday scene for parents. But the use of the word ‘appears’ paves the way for the idiocy of some of the comments. Balanced reporting?

Though in the minority, the suggestion there’s abuse involved shows how much further we have to go in understanding what abuse is. This isn’t it.

Read the article and tell me you think there’s some sort of abuse here.

Even as a victim of abuse myself, I’m moved and warmed by this image. It shows vulnerability on the father’s and child’s side.

To me, the image shows neither an abusive parent nor a child victim nor even the seeds of abuse. Were the father to be abusing his son, it’s unlikely there would be no images.

How else is the father going to soothe his young son? Get in the shower fully clothed? Point a hose at the boy while he stands outside the cubicle? This would illicit the masses raising their hands up in horror shouting, Callous father!

I’m seriously beginning to doubt anyone really knows what paedophilia is. Ooh, a long word, that’ll make me look smart.

There’s a trend today where those who don’t know want to seem like they know. Throw in a medical term here; fling in some technical jargon there. He presto! I know stuff! Yes, I devoted an entire blog to these people. I’m afraid The ones who casually diagnose other people’s children as ADHD, OCD, on the autistic spectrum… That kind of tripe.

But I’m seriously beginning to doubt anyone really knows what paedophilia is. Ooh, a long word, that’ll make me look smart.

Educate yourself. Work with abused people. Read. Learn and then you might be qualified to use the word.

If we can stop focusing on the easy targets, (images like this) we stand a good chance of tackling real abuse.

There’s so much in this image that touches my feelings – about the true devotion of some parents. The sad desperation when your child is hurt or ill. The element of water, I think says so much. For the parents, symbolising literally a wash of tears and for the boy, just the helpless feeling of being bathed in the parent’s flowing love .

If we can stop focusing on the easy targets, (images like this) we stand a good chance of tackling real abuse.

But I think for many people, that’s just too much dammed trouble… A lot easier to bandy about words that will incite and look like you care.



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When I’m on foot

My hat cocked at a jaunty angle, my jacket nicely fastened around my fit and healthy torso and my lovely smart backpack with everything in it I’ll need on this excursion I am nothing if not smug.

People in cars pass me. I think: you’re investing in a nice paunch there. I’m going to stay trim and be able to walk distances when I’m an older woman.

 When I’m on my bicycle

Look at my beautiful thighs and buttocks. Working. Pedalling. Powering this magnificent machine.

And think about what my heart is doing. I’m alive! I’m sometimes going faster than you in your car. I’m nimble and responsive. Good for the environment and really quite marvellous all in all.

When I’m on my motorbike

I am without doubt the coolest, smartest road user. A cross between the eco-approved bicycle and those silly smart hatches that are little more than four-wheeled prams with engines (See Small Minds: Mini Mentality).

My leathers are flattering and fitted – trousers that hug my super thighs, a jacket that hugs my lovely waist, boots that just unify the whole look… Aren’t I just the most enviable road user?

I can go fast. I can slide in and out of you stationary cars. I can go ultra slow – my clutch control is second to none. And I can smell the air, hear the sounds of English life and be somehow in the world yet speeding past with the coolness of Shrek’s Prince Charming in his finest moments.

Similarly, I remove my helmet with a duly dramatic shake of my head revealing shiny locks and then remove my gloves to reveal immaculately painted nails.

When I’m on the bus

I don’t travel on buses any more. People coughing. Sneezing. Blowing their noses. Fidgeting. Scratching their hair… Bus drivers fulfilling their Formula 1 dreams with helpless, paying passengers on board. Road bumps? Pah! Sleeping policemen? Let’s wake them up shall we..? They should provide ‘waste bags’ on board like they do when you fly.

When I’m in my car…

You idiot! In your cheap velour shorts and nasty buttocks in my face. Get off the road! No one’s going to remember you for saving the planet riding that monstrosity, love. Orange skin and a bike that defies style definition. Oh, it’s a racer is it? Well, try racing in it woman…  If I ever get out of my car…

If only pedestrians would cross at crossings. Move, Mum pushing a buggy! You’re an offence to society. Warbling on your phone, holding your latte or hazelnut latte or iced latte you coffee drinking imbecile.  All your children will recall of their pushchair years is the smell of burnt coffee (yes they all burn it) and thinking Mummy talked to herself. Susie Orbach, the Dalai Lama, Deepak Chopra and all the nouveau therapy on offer would be unable to help.

Oh there’s a biker. Great. I’ll move over and let him through. He’ll be quick and will know what he’s doing. He’s got his life in his hands. There, he’s gone. Wish I’d have thought of that.

It seems almost impossible to put myself in someone else’s shoes/saddle. Why?

I don’t think it’s anything to do with today’s pace. It’s just being human. We all think we own the road.

Vehicles with engines pay road tax so I suppose drivers feel justified in complaining.  A bicycle rider would argue, well, we don’t destroy the road so we shouldn’t pay tax. Ditto for the pedestrian. I question the political/language definition of motorbike riders. When you tax your motorbike, the tax disc used to state: Bicycle. That’s so offensive.

I won’t end this in a saintly statement saying I’ll try harder to see the point of view of other road users: I know I won’t.

But maybe I ought to get out more as a pedestrian/cyclist/biker… Maybe that’s a way of reminding myself I’m hot always right when I’m in my car.

Sometimes the only way to see the other side is to leap over and be there. It’s futile to think I can recall or bear in mind the perspective/sense of danger of other road users when I’m driving. We’re not built like that as humans.

So, what to do? I suppose the conclusion is to be a good road user however I choose to get around. Trash the self-righteous stance if at all possible and just do what I’m doing well. Tolerance. Probably a good philosophy to adopt in life.

Things I should be thinking: I don’t agree with your mode of transport. Your baby needs attention. I’m glad to see you considering your carbon footprint on that hideous contraption. You’re in my blooming way. You look stupid. Can’t you go any faster? Move, idiot!

Well, give me time…

REVIEW: Ke Sabroso by José León

Unmistakable Latin over layers of soul, Jazz and Flamenco, the artist has evolved each style and made a sound that was always meant to be.

Ke Sabroso

Crisscrossing traditions, straddling them skilfully, creating sounds that will become etched in your musical memory

It’s not often I’m persuaded to write a review. It’s not often I want to. Hail this album, Ke Sabroso by José León.

You’d probably look for it in the Latin section: sung in Spanish with rhythms and harmonies that are instantly recognisable as Latin, the delight in this is the skill he’s used in bringing in other influences from Flamenco to Jazz to Rock and even beautiful references to Middle Eastern sounds.

…it’s as though a good friend takes you by the hand and leads a tentative you to the carnival. Once in, you’ll want to stay.

Ten tracks launch with the title track, Ke Sabroso. This surely has to be included in any Zumba teacher’s tracks! Light in its feel, joyful and with energy that feels limitless. Vibrating with sounds that lure you into a colourful world of skilled musicianship and authentic sounds, it’s as though a good friend takes you by the hand and leads a tentative you to the carnival. Once in, you’ll want to stay. It leads the album truthfully: what you hear first sets the high standard you can expect throughout the album.

Mueve La Cadera, has an animal quality: the raw expression of a man watching a woman dance. There are grunts and growls and deep and traditionally masculine vocals giving the track a wonderful predatory sense. But nothing in this album is just one thing. This isn’t the creation of a man who only knows how to do one thing.

Take the track Mi Amor. It has the tender and helpless ring of a victim of infatuation. It resonates and listening to it you can’t help but feel involved yet determined to take your fiend aside soon and have a quiet word.

Few will be unmoved: it describes the perfect sound of willing submission by a strong man. The sudden end to the track leaves us with some hope: he might come to his sense. Or not…

It brings to mind the opening scene of a violent, vibrant Cuban film. There’s so much going on behind the simple but universally understood lyrics Quiero entender como puedo ser el único en tu vida (I want to understand how I can be the only one in your life.) – guitar, percussion with that glorious trip in the rhythm – in between the main beat, creating a sense of deeper thought – which so adds to this track.  Few will be unmoved: it describes the perfect sound of willing submission by a strong man. The sudden end to the track leaves us with some hope: he might come to his sense. Or not…

There’s a track on the album which creates so many vivid pictures. Flamenkito conjures the tail end of warm Mediterranean days.; a holiday you won’t forget and know you couldn’t repeat. For me, it’s the beach at sunset, locals just out from work enjoying a slowly emptying beach, football on the sand, bocatas and a bottle of limonada. It’s Spanish to the core yet has a unique sense that you, the visitor, are being invited in. A rare and precious moment. José’s years working as a Flamenco guitarist give him full authority to weave Spanish guitar into the scene: it’s authentic and full of imagery.

The most powerful track in terms of the variety of sounds is Mira Que Bonito. The falsetto vocals at the start deceive the listener. Delicate, slightly fragile but the driving baseline pushes the track along with a potent urgency and gravity. It gives a slightly threatening sound and there’s a sense that it belongs to another track but has fallen into Mira Que Bonito. It hasn’t. The textures José delivers are sure-handed and carried out with the expertise of a pro.

It’s sometimes easy to overlook the glaringly obvious. In this case, vocals. José’ produces emotion of every kind. Tender and without ego (Amor y Candor); predatory and frank (Mira Que Bonito); sensitive and masculine (Quiero Bailar Contigo and Mi Amor). It’s the artistic exploitation of a versatile voice that brings so much to each track.

And then Pasión Flamenca which might be the sort of thing the invading Moors and existing inhabitants might have forged together in a moment of lucid artistry.

There are numbers which are almost heartbreakingly melancholy (Amor y Candor) but winningly uplifting; there’s Samba Sentimento, an instrumental which has the feel of an improvisation between a group of like-mined friends. Leisurely and easy, it has the pleasant feel of a Sergio Mendes composition. But this is not a sentimental journey back in time. José pulls it through the decades because of his sheer knowledge and being able to tap resources from RnB to Flamenco to Jazz and traditional Indian flavours.

And then Pasión Flamenca which might be the sort of thing the invading Moors and existing inhabitants might have forged together in a moment of lucid artistry. It plants such colourful imagery – vivid tiles, fountains, cobbles, pale sand, fine horses and the torture of conflict.

To end the journey is the lilting, tender waltz, Te Quiero Divina. With a distinctively retro feel, the track shows love in a rare and unguarded way. It’s sensitive and frank – there’s no shroud, no pretence and no shame in its utter devotion. A fitting finish to this astoundingly memorable album.

Don’t forego this album. It’s enriching, fresh yet with so much the Latin fan will want to hear.

The track whose lyrics stick in my head? Quiero Bailar Contigo. The track that exerts the most power: Mira Que Bonito and the one that makes me want to catch a plane to Andalucía now? Pasión Flamenca.

But save yourself the price of a ticket and get this album instead. It lasts longer, takes you further and the memories will inhabit your skin for much longer.

Get real people off the TV! (Part II)

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(To be read in conjunction with Part I)

Things we must hear in property programmes.

Our vocabulary about property must be dwindling. We’re stuck with a few repetitive and meaningless phrases which are supposed to conjure some sort of sense of the house. They go like this.

  1. Character property. The ‘muggle-guests’ (non-professionals lacking all the magic and wizardry of the trained) all have this on their list (more about this nebulous list later). To me, that must mean more than 70 years old. Stone built, inhabited by an old fisherman or his ghost. Cobwebs, wood, small windows… But this phrase is thrown about by every house hunter. And what do they do? Choose the ugliest, most characterless house. All uniform red brick and ghastly double glazed windows. I’ve concluded that the guests are talking about themselves. They want bags of character.
  2. Ticks all the boxes. Is there one universal form with a list of requirements that anyone, anywhere can use? I suppose in Europe it would have to include, door, windows, at least one room. So what the hell does ‘ticks all the boxes mean’? I can’t see your list. Your list probably has things like, ‘a house we can afford which looks like it costs three times as much’ or ’a garden that reminds me of Rosings Park’ or ‘this house will make me look like the character I want to be: established, secure, stylish, loved.’ Yes I think that’s it.
  3. The wow factor. What? Is this what we’re reduced to? The word, ‘wow’ to replace any fluent English conversation. With our rich vocabulary and infinite choice of adjectives, the muggle-guests choose ‘wow’. Hyperbole used ridiculously. Ok so it has some outside lighting. Or a few fruit trees. Or a range-style cooker. That’s normally enough. Wow!
  4. Oh come on now. You?! Lifestyle?! They want it to sound like they have hot tub parties with glamourous toned men and women. Or cook up exotic menus for their neighbours every week. Or go hunting or shooting.

What they mean is they go to their humdrum jobs every day in their Sharan. Eat a Galaxy bar and (to compensate) a yoghurt-jam combination for lunch at their desk. Have highlights. Buy microwave lasagne for dinner. Get drunk with their friends at the pub on a Saturday. Then maybe have sex (which will be blurred in future memory). Do some DIY. Have the notion that their memoirs might be interesting to others to read. Start a book. Buy the latest mobile phone. Have the notion that moving house will make them interesting/give them a reason to continue living/be the highlight of their memoirs… Lifestyle.

I won’t go on.

I’ll still watch housey programmes. I like looking at the properties. Unfortunately I have to tolerate the stars of the show (the homes) being ruined by real people.

Masterchef I can still appreciate. There’s very little talking and the ordinary people actually know how to do something: cook.

And don’t get me wrong some presenters are intolerable too. But they’re annoying because they’re probably trying to make a name for themselves.

So I suggest we segregate professionals from real folk please. Let real folk do the watching and leave presenting to the professionals? Thank you.

Stupendous failures of mine

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Among other things, Drama School, waitressing, revenge and applying make-up.

Youth is full of plans and dreams. Like many young people I felt capable of anything. I was young, fit and loveable. People would be willing to donate their life to my life. It was obvious. Well, I’m older now…

As a teen I thought I might want to be an actress. Well my brother and sister had succeeded on stage, I shared their blood so obviously I could do what they could.

I didn’t even have modest aspirations. I applied to RADA. Learned a passage from one of Ibsen’s plays. So astoundingly beautiful and talented was I, I didn’t read the whole play. Why should I?

I recited it with a few subtle gestures. Probably in one of those unimaginative dramatic monotones. I was sure their silence was out of awe at my ability.

I didn’t get in.

I had the same rejection letters from LAMDA and worked my way down until even the local Tina Jones (or something) drama school didn’t want me.

My dedication ended there.

I did a term at a Drama college where I was swiftly outshone by other youngsters who were brave, creative and born actors. Some had read Ibsen’s plays.

The disappointment wasn’t because I couldn’t act but because I couldn’t do the thing I thought I could. Ahhh, so lacking in direction…

While living abroad I found I was quite good at working in a bar. Blimey didn’t I look cool carrying that round silver tray filled with drinks. I was hugely impressed.

I managed to get people’s drinks right. Three coffees, one black, one American, one normal. Two Fantas, one bitter Kas (has anyone else come across that? Medicinal and very refreshing.) Two waters, one fizzy, one still. Three wines, one milkshake, one brandy…

I got tips and people were nice to me.

When I moved to working in a restaurant, all I got was yelled at by the owner and sulky looks from the customers.

Bear in mind I was abroad. The customers were English, German, Spanish, French and Italian. One owner was Spanish, the other (the shouter) was Swiss.

I wrote down orders in English (often translated from French or German); it was all I could think of to do.

About the third time I did this, the Swiss man came out of the kitchen with my neat order sheet in his hand, teeth clenched, hissing at me that the kitchen staff didn’t understand English.

“Write it in Spanish. What do you expect them to do? They’re cooks. They don’t have time to find the dictionary and look up your English words!”

So now I had to translate orders told to me in French, German, Spanish, Italian and German into Spanish on the spot and make them legible to the kitchen staff.

Errrm, OK, pork chop = chuleta de cerdo; frites = patatas fritas; jelly = ? Jelly! What’s that in Spanish? Gelatina?

My Swiss shouter would bring out a pig’s trotter in a bowl of thickening liquid. He’d shout at me and force me to take it to their table. Just desserts. Punishment for my imbecile order. The customer would shout at me too. Maybe hit me. No, maybe I can persuade them to have fruit salad.

I’ve never been so blatantly hated before or since.

Back in England I failed at operating a switchboard. I connected callers to wrong extension on a daily, hourly basis.

I didn’t succeed at being a travel agent either. My job was to sell customers the holidays that made the company most money. I wanted to sell them what they wanted. My manager and I had a pep talk, then we had a consultation, a one to one, then I had a warning then I left.

When I was a temp in a solicitor’s office, some suited little upstart mocked me in front of other staff members. I did my job well but she frankly didn’t like me. It’s all yours shorty, you post your own letters. I’ve hidden the stamps and crumpled all the envelopes by the way.

So where am I today?

Well none of the above. Obviously.

I tell people I live off the fat of the land. I manage the family’s estate. I’m a poet’s muse…

My failures were painful at the time. When that young, we really have such energetic aspirations and no experience to support our desires. I thought I really wanted those things.

Some of the blame lies in lack of training, some in just being a young fool with no confidence and a lack of direction.

Bring back military training. I could have done with an officially-sanctioned slap by some uniformed swine. “You’ll never be anything but a second rate person…! Go scrub the mess floor with a toothbrush!” Literally or metaphorically, I seem to do that a lot now anyway.

Are the obese the new persecuted?

It’s just that they’re beginning to look like they’re at risk of being oppressed.

Firstly, I’m not obese; not overweight either so I’m not writing this as a subjective plea for understanding and tolerance.

Secondly, why the focus on this group recently? Yes, numbers are growing, yes, questions about why they’re growing need to be asked but why are drinkers still being ignored?

The obese population is being blamed for a huge burden on our (UK) health care system with more hospital beds being taken up by those with associated health issues. They’re virtually scorned. And you only need to watch one US TV programme made for young girls (Zoey 101, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Really Me…) to see how they view anyone with more than just skin covering their bones.

The fat (or normal-sized) person will always be uncool, have a weird personality trait, be over-emotional, not be part of the core ‘sleek and skinny’ group. They’re just portrayed as ridiculous.

I’m wondering whether the next step is to make ghettoes for them. Or special homes, or camps…

If they’re a drain on the health service and on taxpayers money; if they’re not being employed as much as thinner people, aren’t we doing the opposite of helping? These news stories and documentaries only assist in cementing our existing dislike of larger people. And I think it extends beyond the obese.

It seems to encompass the slightly overweight. God help us if we adopt the US model of body beautiful.

In UK society, we’re already leaning towards a prejudice towards not just slim but skinny.

But… it’s the big folk carrying a lot of food storage who’ll survive in a national crisis. Famine and food rations and disasters where food is scarce will be water off a duck’s back. The bony, starved skinny mob will die within a week. Leaving the genes of the large to repopulate. Ha! What a surprise, in evolutionary terms!

Just a thought.