Sunday, 26 June 2022

No, you can't

I don't usually write about politics, but I have to share my shock and dismay at the US Supreme Court's new ruling that the Constitution doesn't include any right to abortion.

It's more than politics of course. It's a major blow to millions of women who for very good reasons don't want to have a child and will now be driven to desperate measures - travelling abroad or to another state, or using back-street abortionists - to free themselves from pregnancy.

Judges Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett voted to overturn Roe v Wade. The other four judges voted to keep the original decision.

As any woman knows, there are many valid reasons for seeking an abortion - the woman was raped, she accidentally became pregnant, she's extremely poor, she's extremely ill, she couldn't cope with another child, the child would be disabled in some way, or the child is incestuous - and forcing her to give birth is cruel and doctrinaire and utterly blind to the circumstances.

Of course the decision to have or not have an abortion should be up to the woman concerned, and it's absurd that the law can intrude on such a personal matter.

Those who oppose abortion sometimes maintain that women "casually" rid themselves of a child, as if they're discarding an unwanted present. They must surely realise the emotional anguish and turmoil that accompanies both the fraught decision to have an abortion and the aftermath of what they have done. To suggest the woman takes the decision lightly is ridiculous.

I can only hope that some way is found to reverse this new ruling and restore the original judgment in Roe v Wade.

(My apologies for all the mansplaining!)

Pic: Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Donald Trump

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NB: Some of your comments are still not appearing on blog posts, but I'm getting them by email so I can transfer them to the blog.

Tuesday, 21 June 2022

Put it behind you

How often have you heard a politician or some other public figure - or even a family member or friend - refer to some traumatic event in your past and say "You've got to just put it behind you"?

Do they realise how deep a trauma can be and just how hard it can be to "put it behind you"? Yes, maybe you can bury a minor personal upset, but a truly devastating emotional injury is a different matter.

A serious trauma can embed itself in your psyche so deeply that it lingers for years, set off by one chance trigger after another. You can't simply tell it to go away. You can't simply shove it in your mental attic, shut the door and forget about it.

So those people who tell you to put it behind you are being both offensive and ignorant. Offensive because they imply it's something quite superficial and easily disposed of, and ignorant because they don't understand the reality of living with profound emotional anguish.

My mum's brother was flying a Spitfire in World War Two when he went missing and was never heard of again. I think my mum was still grieving her loss when she died at 96.

Northern Irish people are told to "put the Troubles behind you". Survivors of the Grenfell Tower inferno are told to "put it behind you". Ex-prisoners are told to "put it behind you". What if they can't?

But it's a convenient attitude for people who don't want to deal with the intransigence of someone's mental suffering and just want it to be gone. Do they think you can wave some magic wand and poof, it's all done and dusted?

Friday, 17 June 2022

Unruly shrubs

An 84 year old Essex woman has been told by her local parish council to cut back the shrubs in her front garden as they're obstructing the pavement and creating a health and safety risk. They say they're responding to complaints.

Becky Curtis can't understand what all the fuss is about. She says there's still plenty of room on the pavement and nobody should have any trouble getting past the shrubs.

I can't understand all the fuss either. Why doesn't the council just tell the complainers (surely no more than two or three) that the shrubs aren't an obstacle and they have better things to do than monitor shrub size? This is the proverbial sledgehammer being used to crack a nut.

In out neighbourhood there are loads of privet hedges that encroach on the pavement but nobody ever suggests cutting them back. Even cars parked partly on the pavement are never sanctioned, although they're a genuine hazard to pedestrians.

Parish councils have dozens of important duties. You'd think they would focus on something more essential than a few exuberant shrubs. Some under-employed jobsworth obviously thought this was an excellent way of killing some time.

Mrs Curtis, a longstanding member of Dedham Horticultural Society, is resisting the council's demand with the support of many villagers. She says lots of people compliment her on her front garden.

It's not clear what enforcement action might be taken. Will the council send in some shrub trimmers? Will Mrs Curtis be fined? Will her rubbish bins not be emptied? The mind boggles.

Pic: Becky Curtis and the naughty shrubs

Monday, 13 June 2022

The right image

Nobody wants to admit it, but one of our key objectives as an adult is giving ourselves a positive image. We approach every situation with an eye to what behaviour will make us look good and what behaviour won't.

There's no return to the days when we were small children and just blurted out whatever came to mind, without any thought for the consequences. We could look foolish or stupid or mean or rude many times a day because we hadn't yet got the knack of image-management.

As an artful adult however I do my best not to look in any way "bad" and I try to manage other people's reactions so they have a positive image of me. I try to avoid any impression that I'm anti-social or a law-breaker or that I'm selfish or arrogant or violent or domineering. I want people to think "He's a nice bloke, a sensible sort of guy, I like him."

Of course nobody wants to confess to ongoing image-massaging, it sounds so calculating and cold-blooded, but that's what we do. Nobody wants to be the bad parent, the bad patient, the bad student, the bad neighbour. So we tweak our behaviour to make it reassuringly "as expected".

And naturally we gloss over those big mistakes, or hastily conceal them. Those embarrassing workplace cock-ups or domestic blunders we'd rather not own up to. The car we wrecked or the kitchen we set on fire or the valuable antique we threw away. No no, they never happened. Or not the way you think.

If we believe our behaviour is spontaneous and unrehearsed, we're kidding ourselves.

Thursday, 9 June 2022

So unnatural

It makes me laugh when people say that some activity or other is "unnatural", as if it's somehow totally perverted and bizarre.

Don't they realise that most of the things we do and most of the things we possess are "unnatural" - meaning they don't arise in nature but have been artificially created?

What's natural about plastic or mattresses or cars or violins or.... ? (I could trot out a very long list here). Our whole modern way of life is based not on nature but on hundreds of human inventions that have given us (or given most of us) comfortable, convenient lifestyles and all sorts of ingenious leisure pursuits.

Yet still there are those individuals who insist that homosexuality or talking in a foreign language* or men wearing dresses or women in high-powered jobs are "unnatural" and these deviant practices should stop.

The last thing I want is to be natural. I wouldn't fancy living in a mud hut in mid-winter foraging for food every day. I wouldn't fancy being without blogs or books or TV or newspapers. I wouldn't fancy catching all sorts of nasty diseases because of the lack of vaccinations and advanced medical treatment. Thanks but no thanks.

Predictably enough, activities that were seen as "unnatural" a few decades ago now seem totally normal, like homosexuality and same-sex marriage and women wearing trousers and men changing nappies.

Mind you, it's obviously unnatural not to possess a smart phone. I mean, how perverted is that?

*There have been several incidents on public transport where people have been told to stop speaking a foreign language. If they don't comply, they get physically attacked. Pure xenophobia.

Sunday, 5 June 2022

Dressing your age

We oldies are often advised to "dress our age", whatever that means. As if left to ourselves we'd dress like lunatics or like Coco the Clown.

Thanks for the advice but I won't be following it. I'll dress the way I've dressed ever since I was a teenager - in a shirt and jeans (I'll gloss over the occasional budgie smugglers). Of course it's different for women, who have a wider range of clothing and are more likely to fall foul of the sartorial busybodies.

But what exactly does "dressing your age" mean anyway? Does it mean hiding all the wrinkles and wobbly bits and other signs of ageing? Does it mean not showing any flesh? Does it mean dressing respectably and discreetly?

Why should anyone have to tone down their clothes to satisfy some arbitrary notion of what's "appropriate" or "suitable" for old codgers? If people want to wear flamboyant, startling, highly coloured clothes and flash a bit of cleavage, why shouldn't they?

Why is it okay for young people to wear revealing, flesh-baring, figure-hugging clothes but not okay for oldies to expose a bit of leg? Why this age-based censorship? Why this squeamish puritanism?

As for the long list of what oldies should never wear under any circumstances - leather trousers, miniskirts, elastic waistbands, chunky earrings, leggings, sheer clothing, velcro shoes, low-rise pants etc etc (and that's just the women) - why should anyone take any notice? Who takes these prohibitions seriously?

Flaunt your wrinkles and wobbly bits, I say. They're the sign of a life well-lived.

Pic: The actor Karen M Chan

Monday, 30 May 2022

It's the hormones


It's common practice to excuse men's misbehaviour, in particular teenage craziness, by saying it was "testosterone-fuelled" and so they couldn't help themselves. "The hormones took over".

I think that's total baloney. Where's the evidence that testosterone was the culprit rather than simple loss of self-control or unfettered rage or a sense of entitlement? How come some testosterone-soaked men can control themselves easily enough while other men can't?

There's little scientific backing for the supposed link between testosterone and misbehaviour. Studies of aggressive behaviour and testosterone are inconclusive. About half the studies found a relationship and about half of them didn't.

I must say I was never aware of displaying any testosterone-fuelled behaviour when I was a teenager. Of course for several years I was at a strict boarding school, which greatly reduced the possibilities for extreme behaviour. But even after I left, my behaviour wasn't especially wayward. I certainly wasn't sex-obsessed - I had no sex of any description till I was 22.

I didn't go in for wild rampages or shoplifting sprees or wanton vandalism. I was commendably well-restrained (or as well-restrained as any teenager is capable of being). We had no family car so I wasn't about to go for an illegal drive and smash it to pieces.

It's too easy to blame men's misbehaviour on testosterone. It excuses them from responsibility for their own actions and the responsibility to behave decently and sensibly. It's about time this nonsense was dumped.

Thursday, 26 May 2022

Go with the flow

Anxiety is seen as something very abnormal that we shouldn't be experien-cing. The assumption is that it needs to be banished or at least greatly reduced. But is that right? We live in an increasingly uncertain world in which the future is far from predictable, so isn't anxiety a rather normal reaction to what's going on around us?

There's climate breakdown, the invasion of Ukraine, the cost of living crisis and the crumbling NHS, just to pick the most obvious problems.

Yet we're told we should be free of anxiety and trundling along happily in our little domestic bubble, not paying too much attention to what's happening in the rest of the world. Just go with the flow and follow your instincts.

But if more and more people are saying they suffer from acute anxiety, doesn't that suggest that anxiety is actually a normal reaction and that calmness and serenity (or whatever is the opposite of anxiety) are not normal at all?

In which case, what needs adjusting is not our individual reactions, which are perfectly healthy, but the world around us that's causing those reactions?

I've been an anxious person for decades, and no matter what I do to lessen the anxiety, it stubbornly persists. And I think it's significant that I wasn't anxious as a child but very happy-go-lucky and carefree. It was only as I got older and learnt more about the wider world that my anxiety developed. Is that really so surprising?

Perhaps we should live with our anxiety as a healthy emotion and not bust a gut trying to get rid of it.

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Five comments failed to appear on my last blog post. Only two comments were missing on this one. Things are improving.

Saturday, 21 May 2022

Footie

Supposedly men are all obsessed with football, cheering on their favourite team and trashing whoever their team is playing against. They'll sit in the pub for hours discussing the finer points of X's missed goal or Y's penalty kick.

It all leaves me cold. I was required to play football at my prep school but I hated every minute of it. I couldn't see what was so compelling about men getting balls into nets. Wouldn't they prefer to settle down on the sofa with a good book? Apparently not.

The young lad next door goes in for long sessions of ball-bouncing. That's okay for about ten minutes, but then I start to wonder if he could find some slightly quieter pastime. Like weightlifting.

My thoughts turned to football after repeated pitch invasions this week by football fans, with one fan head-butting a player, other fans throwing smoke bombs, and a club manager being taunted. Football clubs are urgently discussing how to prevent the disorder escalating.

All I can say is, why oh why? What's the point of running onto the pitch and causing mayhem? It just makes football fans look like uncontrollable lunatics.

As for the obscene amounts of money footballers command just to turn up and play a few games (Christian Ronaldo, Manchester City, £29 million a year; Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester City, £23 million a year), how can they possibly be worth such inflated sums? Is a footballer really worth 300 times the salary of the average hospital surgeon?

It's a nice little earner though, if you're a dab hand at getting balls into nets.

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Comments from five of my blogmates - Mary, Joanne, Ramana, Beatrice and Wisewebwoman - haven't appeared on my blog. Presumably a technical glitch at Blogger. I hope they sort it out soon, it's a bloody nuisance.

Monday, 16 May 2022

Hassles and hurdles

Jenny and I are back from a week in Liverpool. And what did we conclude after our trip? For one thing, we've lost some of our enthusiasm for travelling - especially long distance travelling.

We're getting less patient with all the hassles and hurdles we have to negotiate just to spend a few days somewhere different. In this case, fiddly journeys to and from ferry terminals, a ferry departing 2½ hours late, noisy guests in nearby hotel rooms, and a biting wind that prevented any proper walks along the waterfront.

Not to mention the tricky ins and outs of booking a holiday in the first place. Which is the best airline? Which is the best hotel? How much are we prepared to pay? What does Trip Advisor say? Will the flights be cancelled or delayed? Will the hotel be in the middle of building work? So many imponderables.

Of course there was plenty to enjoy in Liverpool. We revisited some of the excellent museums and galleries, we met up with a couple of old friends in Chester, and we had some great food and drink. And we had a fabulous view across the Mersey from our ninth floor hotel room. But are the enjoyable bits worth all the annoying bits? We decided that maybe they weren't - unless we were so keen to go somewhere that the annoying bits simply wouldn't matter.

So we're still happy to visit places in the UK or Ireland, but we'd be loath to visit anywhere farther afield unless it was somewhere we really really wanted to go to. Especially when my energy levels at 75 are flagging somewhat.

But watch this space. We may suddenly have a burning desire to visit Costa Rica. Or Jamaica. Or Mexico. Who can predict the odd twists and turns of the human brain?

Pic: Tate Liverpool

Tuesday, 3 May 2022

The old normality

Belfast is rapidly returning to a kind of normality after two years of pandemic restrictions. Very few people are still wearing masks or using hand sanitiser and few shops still have limits on customer numbers.

But it's not the new enlightened normality a lot of people were predicting, it's more the old restrictive normality that people wanted to change.

When we were all outside our houses on Thursday nights clapping for the health workers who were dealing with incredible pressures in an underfunded NHS, and we were aware of all the other frontline workers who were keeping society going - teachers, lorry drivers, supermarket staff, transport workers, postal workers, the emergency services - it looked like a big step forward.

A lot of us hoped that once the pandemic was over, those frontline workers would get the proper appreciation they deserved - big salary rises, special bonuses, better staffing levels, better working conditions. They would be seen as vital cogs in society and not invisible minions nobody cared about.

Some businesses did indeed compensate their employees generously, but most didn't and in fact if anything salaries and working conditions are now worse than they were pre-pandemic. Not only are wage levels still in many cases dismal but the rapidly rising cost of living is eating into them.

Most people are once again taking frontline workers for granted or even abusing them when they slip up. The politicians are setting the tone by refusing to reward them for their hard work and their high exposure to covid.

Health workers who always went the extra mile and did absurdly long shifts (and still do) are now taking out loans and using food banks in order to keep going.

The old normality is reasserting itself quite ruthlessly.

Friday, 29 April 2022

What did we do?

I was wondering how parents react to a perceived failing in their child. Do they blame themselves for something lacking in their child's upbringing, or do they say, it's just one of those things, we're not at fault?

What got me wondering was reading Carol Shields' book Unless, in which a young woman suddenly abandons university to live on the street with a sign saying "Goodness". Her parents are baffled as to why she's taken this path, and her mother in particular wonders whether something in her upbringing has caused it.

Of course the daughter's strange behaviour could be caused by any number of things other than her upbringing, but naturally her parents start pondering their own possible influence in what's happening.

I also wonder if women in general are more likely than men to assume a personal blunder when a child goes off the rails (or just does something disappointing).

I get the impression (nothing was ever made explicit) that my parents were disappointed by my choices in life and felt I could have "made more" of myself. They maybe expected me to be a high-flying journalist or a best-selling novelist. In which case, did they blame themselves for not making me ambitious enough? Who knows?

It must be tempting for parents to criticise themselves for all sorts of perceived failings in their child, even if there's no obvious cause, and even if the supposed failing is not seen as such by anyone else.

It must also be tempting to have grand ambitions for your child that are simply unrealistic, and will inevitably lead to parental disappointment. Let's face it, you're more likely to be raising a tone-deaf karaoke fan than a budding Beethoven.

Monday, 25 April 2022

Dying for a pee

One big advantage of being a bloke is that I'm not expected to wear all those impractical, uncomfort-able clothes that women submit themselves to. I can wear clothes that don't impede me in any way, clothes I'm not desperate to remove after being in them for half an hour.

The comedian Jessica Fostekew was describing a party she attended, saying that her bunched toes were agony inside her pointed high heels and going to the loo in her spanx-lined jumpsuit was so complicated she was holding her pee in for as long as possible. Not to mention the make-up she was trying not to smear.

So why does she wear all this stuff? As a self-employed comedian, not subject to any workplace dress code, she can wear whatever she wants so why not just wear something comfortable?

If a man can be hilarious in a jacket and pants and sensible shoes, why not a woman? Is a woman's joke only amusing if  she's torturing herself and desperate for a pee? Of course not.

If a man was required to wear stilettos all day, he'd soon be ripping them off and refusing to wear them. I'm amazed so many women actually claim to enjoy having them on. Who are they kidding?

Wednesday, 20 April 2022

Costly panic

I must say I sympathise with Kevin Berling, the Kentucky man who told his boss he didn't want a surprise birthday party because he suffered from anxiety and the party might give him a panic attack. His boss took no notice, the surprise party went ahead, and Mr Berling did indeed have a panic attack, forcing him to leave the party. He was later sacked.

He sued the company for discriminating against his disability, and was awarded $450,000 (£346,000) by the jury - $300,000 for emotional distress and $150,000 for lost wages.

The company claimed he had violated a workplace violence policy and that the other employees were the victims, not Mr Berling. The jury thought otherwise.

Clearly there are firms that still have little understanding of mental disorders and refuse to make any allowance for them. They trivialise the problem and force the employee to "soldier on" regardless. A costly mistake in this case.

I'm sure there are plenty of people who dislike surprise birthday parties (or surprise anything come to that) Why should they be compelled to attend and feign enjoyment, if that isn't how they feel? It just amounts to total insensitivity on the part of those other employees who were determined to hold the party whether he liked it or not.

In my lengthy working life I was never subjected to a surprise birthday party. I'm not sure how I would have reacted. Pleased or mortified - or a mixture of both? I was given a surprise leaving ceremony and present at my final workplace, which left me both chuffed and nonplussed - mostly chuffed.

Luckily I'm not prone to panic attacks, and no budget-busting law suits were called for.

Saturday, 16 April 2022

On a postcard

I was saying earlier I know little about my mum's thoughts and feelings, not only regarding my early childhood but many other things. She was very secretive about whatever was going through her mind.

The same goes for my sister. We've never been close and we've never kept in touch on a regular basis, so there are lots of things I still don't know about her. Such as:

  • Would she say she had a happy childhood?
  • Did she like one parent more than the other?
  • Were her schooldays happy?
  • What does she feel about having a terminal and severely disabling illness?
  • What did she feel about having to give up her work?
  • What are her likes and dislikes?
So what do I actually know about her? I assume she enjoyed her schooldays and had a happy childhood. She got on with our father much better than I did. She started a nursing course but didn't complete it. She had several jobs at the BBC (she almost became a radio newsreader), then had various jobs at a hospital, a doctors' surgery and an infants school.

After marrying, she had a daughter in 1982 and then in 2005 was diagnosed with motor neurone disease. The reason she has survived so long is that her lungs and heart are still healthy despite her general physical decline.

Oh, and another thing - she has a photographic memory. So if aged five I broke her favourite doll, she'll remember it vividly.

So what I know about my sister could be written quite comfortably on a postcard. Considering I've known her for 73 years, that's remarkable. But I guess I'll just have to be satisfied with the bare outlines!

Tuesday, 12 April 2022

The price of cake

Should a restaurant charge you for bringing in your own birthday cake? One man who asked a restaurant if it would be okay to bring in a birthday cake was told there would be a "cakeage" charge of £10 a person.

It's not clear if he went to the (unnamed) restaurant anyway or whether he went elsewhere. But his complaint started a predictable Twitter storm, with some people saying the charge was unjustified and others saying it was quite reasonable as the diners would be using a restaurant table and probably wouldn't have ordered a dessert. It was also pointed out that restaurants operate on very low profit margins and can't afford to let people sit and eat their own food.

I must say I'm on the side of the restaurant. I don't see why people should be allowed to eat their own food when the whole point of going to a restaurant is to have food provided.

I gather a cakeage charge is very common when diners want to bring their own celebration cake. Maybe £10 is a bit steep, but if you have a dozen diners and none of them order a dessert, that could be a loss to the restaurant of £80 or so - hardly a trivial sum. And don't forget the cost of washing up all the dirty plates afterwards.

London restaurateur Asma Khan says she not only bans diners from bringing in their own cakes, she also bans them from singing Happy Birthday. That seems a bit extreme. There's no cost involved and in my experience other diners find the celebrations rather charming.

Not that I need worry about cakeage charges. I haven't had a birthday cake for many years. I prefer Lindt truffles and choc ices.

Friday, 8 April 2022

Out it pops


Because such things weren't talked about much when I was young, I was actually middle-aged before I realised that pregnancy was quite a complicated and perilous business.

For a long time I thought it was all very simple - you got pregnant and then nine months later out popped the baby. What was all the fuss about? Why were mothers always congratulated for doing something so routine?

It gradually dawned on me that pregnancy was in fact quite a trial. Every stage can be problematic. You can fail to conceive, fail to remain pregnant, fail to have a healthy diet or a healthy lifestyle. The baby can be premature, or defective, or harmed by medical mistakes, or suffer a cot death.

So if you manage to overcome all those hazards, congratulations are very much in order. Hardly a case of "out pops the baby". More a case of surviving a tough obstacle course against all the odds.

So I welcome the increasing trend to be more candid about pregnancy and all its difficulties. It means I'm much more aware of the ordeal women may be privately going through, however straightforward it may all seem from the outside.

I'm amazed that after all the problems of pregnancy, women don't always say "that was dreadful - never again" but are often willing to go through it several times to satisfy their burning desire for children. I can only admire their unflagging determination.

I'm very glad pregnancy is something that only happens to other people.

Monday, 4 April 2022

Childhood blanks

It suddenly came to me that I know next to nothing about my early childhood. My mum was very silent about a lot of things (like the second world war and her personal ailments) and my infancy was one of them.

There are so many unanswered questions that only now occur to me. For instance:

  • Did she conceive easily?
  • Was her pregnancy easy or difficult?
  • Did she have a miscarriage?
  • How long was she in labour?
  • Was it an easy birth or were there complications?
  • Did she have a a caesarean?
  • Was I an easy or difficult baby?
  • Did she adjust easily to being a parent?
  • Did my father give her enough help?
I have some of the answers but mostly I'm in the dark. I assume she got pregnant easily because I was born very soon after the war (March 1947). As far as I know it was an easy birth and she didn't need a caesarean. And presumably I was an easy, well-behaved baby but maybe she just preferred not to remember what a pain in the arse I was. But I didn't speak until my sister appeared in April 1949 (it must have been the excitement of getting a sister).

So in general my early childhood is a bit of a mystery. All I really know for certain is that my mum got pregnant, gave birth to me and changed a lot of nappies (and they were the old-style cloth nappies, long before disposable nappies came on the scene).

Unanswered questions - the story of my life.

Thursday, 31 March 2022

Whodunit?

I envy those people who can remember all the salient plot details of a TV drama, and can tell you instantly that X was suspected of murdering Y in episode three, when I can barely remember who X was and who was murdered.

Either I have a very defective brain or some people just have a brilliant memory for detail while I promptly forget half of what I'm watching.

I have a better memory for the characters than the plot. I don't really care "whodunit". I'm not interested in all the red herrings and false trails and bogus clues. Just name the villain and stop wasting my time!

But I'm very aware of the introverted florist who hates swearing and is devoted to her tabby cat, even if her part in the plot rapidly escapes me. Never mind the identity of the murderer, does the florist become more outgoing? Does she develop a potty mouth? Does her cat live to a ripe old age? That's what I really want to know.

The detectives are usually more interesting than the plot or who did the dirty deed. They've invariably got drastic personal problems of one kind or another. Alcoholism, mental disorders, domestic violence, drug addiction, you name it. My favourite is Saga Norén in The Bridge. Her social clumsiness, lack of empathy and emotional ineptness make her seem cold, insensitive and blunt, but she's honest and direct and a brilliant detective.

Jenny loves speculating as to who's the murderer. She'll come up with wonderfully elaborate theories about the culprit. And she'll remember all those incriminating details very clearly. Sometimes she's spot on, sometimes she's way off track.

Well, I'm pretty sure it was Colonel Mustard with the candlestick in the billiard room. Though it might have been Professor Plum. Who knows?

Sunday, 27 March 2022

A long way to go

A lot of people assume that since the Belfast Peace Agreement of 1998, the toxic legacy of sectarianism is gradually dying out. However this isn't the case and people are still being picked on for their religion (or perceived religion).

Just last Wednesday 13-year-old Louis Kerr from north Belfast was subjected to sectarian abuse by a gang of around ten youths as he made his way to football training. He was also physically attacked and given two black eyes and a bruised head.

He was attacked simply because he lives in a protestant area. He probably isn't even actively religious but his presumably catholic attackers didn't care about that. He was just seen as a "wrong 'un" who was "in the wrong place".

There are plenty of community workers, teachers and others trying to replace sectarianism with more normal attitudes, but progress is slow, especially when such attitudes are passed down through the generations.

Thankfully our neighbourhood in east Belfast doesn't see any such incidents. This is a very mixed area with people of different religions, skin colours and sexual preferences living peacefully together. A more middle-class area, in short.

Unfortunately our politicians aren't above aiming sectarian remarks at each other, which hardly encourages ordinary folk to mend their ways.

It's hard to see what more could be done to eradicate these noxious attitudes. So called integrated schools (schools that take pupils from all religions) are slowly increasing in number but they're still few and far between. Again certain politicians do their best to stop them opening.

Regrettably sectarianism will be with us for a long time yet.

Pic: Louis Kerr