Monday, 30 November 2009

Hearing Damage

Me + my sister + cinema = fun filled weekend. It is true. Betraying every sense in brain and body, I went to see New Moon. Begrudgingly. Okay, I wasn't dragged kicking and screaming. Nor were my hands tied and eyes propped open Clockwork Orange-style, forced to watch. But this is the Twilight saga. How would I describe my feelings towards this? Meh. Yes. Meh.

Sat down in our seats, I had the aisle. I like to be able to run if required. You never know when an alien life form of jelly-like substance may creep upon the unwitting cinema goer. You know, The Blob. Keep up reader, keep up.

We arrived early. Row upon row of empty velvet seats. Silence. Bliss. But it started. A slow steady hum of boots and heels in the distance. Raucous laughter and squeals of dolphin pitch that scratched ear drums twenty miles away. Louder it grew until the oxygen dwarfed and the cinema filled. From all directions hundreds of tweenagers poured in, squeezed through the gaps, marching up steps in near-darkness. Silver streaks glistened from T. Shirts emblazoned with 'Team Edward' and 'Bite Me.' Cheeks painted with uneven scrawls of 'Team Jacob' in black eyeliner. I had never felt so old in my life.

As the trailers finished, the sounds of popcorn munched and slushies slurped faded into the roar of screams from every pre-pubescent pair of lungs. A huge sallow-looking moon appeared on the screen. Screams. A green meadow filled with purple flowers. Screams. That sickly slouchy fellow with pained yellow eyes followed. Screams. 2 minutes had passed and I was deaf. It did not bode well for the next 128. I started to pray.

Prayers unanswered. Two hours of my life lost forever, snatched by evil Father Time in cohorts with Summit entertainment. Robust hearing built to withstand the toxic levels of my iPod obliterated in mere minutes. I don't remember much about the film itself. Abstain from sex blah. Vampires sparkle in sunlight blah. There was a lot of buff men running around the woods topless, dressed only in denim shorts. But I suppose I would remember that.

For the most part I stared aghast at my sister. Laughed at the madness around us. Worried about the hyperventilating teens along our row. By the time another batch of wild hysterics faded and we turned back to the screen, we'd missed about twenty minutes.

I am now scarred for life. Tweens and teens are the new enemy, riled up on sugar and desiring a man that eats animals and, oh yes, doesn't exist. I am too frightened to venture into my local cinema. They're not just under threat from The Blob. I think next time I'll wait for the DVD. Or perhaps I won't even bother. You know. Meh.

Thursday, 26 November 2009


There's a woman at my gym who walks on the treadmill at an incline of 15. This really bugs me. It isn't that she's holding on with a white-knuckled grip, struggling to keep the pace. It isn't that I can't possibly walk at an incline of 15 without flying off and causing myself (and others) serious damage. It's because this woman is the size of a broomstick. And no one seems to care.

Every bone in her back protrudes from sallow skin. Stick legs harsh and a face pinched tight. Her slack mouth gasps for air, eyes roll backwards, and I worry she's about to go into cardiac arrest. Whenever she is around I am on edge. I have to force myself to not make a scene. The floor is a refrigerator, my feet are the magnets. Week by week I watch her determination and that incline of 15 killing her.

It gets worse when other gym-goers talk with admiration. 'I wish I had such a small waist,' or 'I wonder how she got arms that thin?' She's been placed on a creepy pedestal and used as thinspiration. I must have a screw lose. They see beauty. I see serious mental issues. And someone crying out for help.

With my increasing worry for treadmill woman (and my need to understand) I found myself researching thinspiration. Hundreds of websites talk lovingly, promoting their best friend Ana. I soon realised who 'Ana' was. How naively clever of them. No one will realise you're Anorexic with such masterful disguise.

A recent article on Fox has suggested that these Pro-Ana websites do not encourage Anorexia because the disorder is biologically based. Furthermore, the idea that websites, blogs and images supposedly encourage eating disorders is not supported by either Science or research. I'm not convinced. Just because a handful of studies haven't found evidence, doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

The Pro-Ana message doesn't mean anything to me. It doesn't dwindle my senses or blur my focus on reality. But what about those easily influenced; highly impressionable people who think their hips are too big or their stomachs aren't toned enough? What about the women gazing up at that pedestal in my gym? Ana's message- 'the only thing that matters is being thin'- might mean something to them. And worryingly, it just might get through.

, what do you think?

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

I am Scrooge. Hear me roar.

I saw the Coca Cola Christmas advert on TV today. The one where a whole village runs to catch sight of the neon-lit lorries, and a giant face of Father Christmas on the back holding a bottle of diet coke. Hmm...big nose and rosy cheeks, I thought he was more a beer kind of fellow. Of course the hills are dusted white, there's a coldness in the air and a faint jingle of bells in the background. Doesn't it make you feel all christmassy?

In a word, no. It is only November. NOVEMBER! Businesses everywhere are wishing my life away, willing it to be that time of year where spending a fortune has replaced the real meaning of Christmas. You know, the whole birth of Christ thing? Ring any bells?

I can't buy a birthday card in November. Clinton cards has shifted those for all the cheap ones with cute reindeer and picturesque scenes of snow falling over thatched cottages. The last time it snowed at Christmas, I wasn't born.

In Sainsbury's, I could buy my Halloween pumpkin and a box of mince pies, if the feeling fancied. The Christmas spirit on TV, however, started a few weeks ago. Jamie Oliver and that tiny Top Gear bloke travel through country villages promoting real hearty home-cooked grub. Tell me, does Christmas only exist in villages? I'd like to see Richard Hammond walk his trolley through the streets of South East London. If he makes it to Morrisons in one piece, I'd have more faith in a Christmas miracle.

I am sick of going into shops that look like the Christmas fairy threw up glitter everywhere. I'd like to find a car space in Bluewater without all the panic-buying mum's and people on the dole who should be paying their gas bill rather than buying out Toys R Us. I'd like to make it round Tesco's in peace without the sales assistants trying to tempt me into tasting their mince pies. They all taste like crap to me.

By the time December 25th comes around my Christmas cheer is skating on very thin ice. No ice-skating-at-Christmas pun intended.

Consequently, I have decided to boycott all things Christmas until mid-December. So if you see a woman wandering around with three ghosts of past, present and future; that will be me. Yes reader, I am Scrooge. And I am not ashamed to admit it.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

The Hay Wain

I used to stare intently;
eyes met hands
as they ran along the print,
my chubby finger
poking away at the speckled sky
or the open window
on Willy Lott's cottage
and the man on the carriage
pulled by red-saddled horses
through the shallow River Stour.

It was always there for viewing
at the bottom of the stairs;
detail hidden in brush strokes
of white and green,
waiting to be found.
I wanted to move the man
or name the dog
barking at his owner
from the dusty yellow river bank.

I was eager
to retrace the curve
of the water's edge,
unearth the broken boat
as it lingered in overgrowth,
count the swift trail
of dabbling ducks.
As night fell around me,
I would await change
through that window
to some hidden sun-filled world,
where days never did end
and darkness never reached.

In my world
the picture
at the bottom of the stairs;
its paint film cracked,
glaze darkened
and colours diminished
as Flatford Mill ceased trade,
the Stour began to rise
and trees and shrubbery
outgrew its frame.
But that image
memorized, captured,
imprisoned in print,
always stayed the same.
It will never change.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

We shall keep the Faith

It's that time of year again. Out into the cold they tread, men and women, medals pinned to their chests. They jangle a tin of coins and present a box of poppies.

The poppy as a symbol of remembrance originated in 1918. Inspired by the war poem 'In Flanders Field' by John McCrae, US Professor Moina Michaels promised to always wear a poppy for those who served in the war. And so it goes...

Sadly, the Poppy Appeal has bought much debate in recent years. Last year Channel 4 newsreader Jon Snow refused to wear a poppy on air, stating that it should be a personal choice, not a political force. 2009 proves no different. In The Independent yesterday, Mark Steel asked, 'why should I be pressured into wearing a poppy?' He argued that the selling of the famous red flower was a government conspiracy; a ploy to ensure we keep on fighting. Even pubs and libraries have jumped on the 'poppy fascist' bandwagon by refusing to sell them.

I am disgusted.

They are missing the point by a country mile. The wearing of a poppy is not just about remembering those who have lost lives fighting for the freedom of our country. It's not just about the past. It's about hope and support for our future. To turn the poppy into a political symbol is outrageous and extremely naive.

The Royal British Legion use money raised in the Poppy Appeal to help provide financial, social and emotional support for those who have served and continue to serve in our Armed Forces. By actively refusing to wear a poppy, we are implying that these needs are not valid; that our forces are not important; that we just don't care. In times such as these; how is that right?

When my Nan passed away a month ago, we found a poppy amidst her belongings. Stuck to a small wooden cross, underneath she had written, 'To us you were the world.' This for my Granddad who died in the RAF in 1944. It represented his memory, her pride in his duty served. A tiny red symbol of her loss. Our loss. She kept that for sixty-five years. Political? I think not.

Just like my Nan, I keep a poppy. Every November I buy a new one and I wear it with pride. Not just for my Granddad but for all the Granddad's. Uncle's. Brother's. Friend's.

In the big scheme of things, it isn't difficult to pin a small red flower to your lapel. For one week, one day out of a year, that's all it takes to show some respect. Forget the political ramifications, the debate, and the conspiracy theories. Remember the dead, the injured, the families left behind. That's what the poppy really stands for.