Wednesday, 20 January 2021

A bit lacking

There's a general assumption that both extroversion and introversion are normal, natural tendencies, and that each are valuable in different ways. It's not the case that one is more normal or desirable than the other.

But is that so? I can't help feeling that extroverts are actually the exemplar, the ideal, and that introverts may have their strengths but in the last analysis are a bit short of the basic human traits - like self-confidence, friendliness, sociability and openness.

Isn't it only natural to be gregarious, to seek out other people, to be able to chatter freely to them? Isn't it natural to feel comfortable in other people's company, to enjoy getting to know them?

And isn't it a bit unnatural to want to keep to yourself and avoid other people? Surely we're all essentially social animals?

I know introversion is largely inherited, and your upbringing can only modify it to a limited extent, so in the end we introverts just have to "suck it up" and make the most of it.

Of course we justify our difference by saying we think things through better, we dream up important inventions, we produce wonderful art, we're good listeners, we're more observant etc etc. But that seems more like making the best of a bad job than a convincing defence.

In any case, extroverts can be all those things as well, they're just more talkative and more gregarious while they're at it.

I happily hype up my introversion for public consumption, but deep down I always feel a bit of a social duffer compared to all those outgoing chatterboxes who love to be surrounded by other people.

I feel like the little boy trying to learn to swim, while all around me seasoned swimmers are effortlessly ploughing through the water.

Saturday, 16 January 2021

Puttering along


I'm grateful for the fact that Jenny and I have weathered the pandemic and the various lockdowns so successfully. There haven't been any big psychological or emotional traumas, and we've just puttered along comfortably.

That's not the case for many others who've found the pandemic hard to cope with and have been driven to unexpected extremes. They've divorced, or had affairs (or discovered them), or developed mental problems like anxiety or depression, or had violent arguments over housework or shopping - or just different attitudes to fighting the virus.

Of course it helps that Jenny and I are such a long-standing couple and have had plenty of time to adjust to each other's personalities and quirks and weaknesses. The pandemic is just another crisis we've adjusted to together. Therapists have noticed that long-standing couples are coping better with the pandemic than short-term couples.

Sometimes I miss the old freedoms we took for granted - going wherever we wanted, going to the cinema or art galleries or literary events, jetting off to some exciting destination - but most of the time I'm happy to hunker down with a good book or a glass of wine. After all, I've been retired for almost three years, so I'm used to amusing myself.

I'm also glad all this has happened now, when I can share the crisis with a partner in a big, warm house. If it had happened in the seventies, when I was living on my own in a bleak, freezing bedsit, I would probably have been very miserable. For a start, I wouldn't have had the internet to entertain me.

The only thing that worries me right now is, will I get my usual slap-up birthday meal at our favourite local restaurant, or will it still be closed? Will I have to make do with a mushroom pizza and a few swigs of pinot grigio? Time will tell.

Monday, 11 January 2021

Not for me

Sometimes I ask myself, what is the worst possible job I could have done? What would I have absolutely hated doing? What would I have been utterly unsuited for?

There are plenty of contenders, plenty of jobs where I would have been floundering desperately or totally humiliating myself or wondering why on earth I took the job. Or all three.

One thing I would hate to be right now is a police officer. They have a thankless job at the best of times, but in the midst of the pandemic they're being asked to do the impossible.

On top of all their existing tasks, they're expected to police all the new laws and restrictions and stop people from disobeying them. How on earth can they do that with a chronically under-funded police force and thousands of people determined to ignore all the restrictions and do whatever the hell they like?

But there are so many things that would stop me taking the job, however generous the salary. For example:

  • Enforcing laws I don't necessarily agree with, like possessing drugs or producing obscene publications or being drunk and disorderly
  • Facing violent opposition from bystanders like brick-throwing, kickings, or being pinned to the ground
  • The widespread hostility towards the police, based more on blind prejudice than what the police are actually doing
  • Being blamed for "heavy-handed" behaviour, when often the police are deliberately provoked by aggressive crowds
Of course the police can sometimes be their own worst enemies, picking on black people (and killing them), laying into peaceful demonstrators, stopping people for trivial offences, roughing up detainees and so on. But they do a very difficult job and have to contend with some extremely ugly situations.

Would I fancy joining the forces of law and order? Thanks but no thanks.

Thursday, 7 January 2021

The good old days

Was life really better in "the good old days"? I don't think so, but it seems many people do. A survey a few years ago found that half of adults over 50 thought life in the past was preferable, while just 19 per cent opted for the present day.

Their reasons? Less traffic, longer-lasting products, a slower pace of life, more patience and consideration, no distracting internet, better TV shows and music, more community spirit, free university tuition, cheaper houses.

Yes, they mention all the things that were better, but what about all the things that were worse? Rampant sexism, homophobia and racism; plenty of sub-standard housing; deference to authority figures; freezing homes without central heating; hand-washed laundry; limited access to information prior to computers and search engines; far fewer university places. And no doubt other things I've forgotten about.

Perhaps what people really mean when they talk about the good old days is that modern life baffles and frightens them and they can't adjust to all the changes. Sure, there's a lot of problems, but they overlook all the good things - especially the internet and how it's made life easier in so many ways, and better treatment of women and minorities.

Certainly I don't see any "good old days" in my own life. My childhood was far from happy, and my early adult life was pretty discouraging - spartan bedsits, not much money, lots of disappointing dates, little contact with my family. It was only in my thirties that things started to look up.

I think the "good old days" are more a product of rose-tinted spectacles than an honest look at how life used to be. I for one wouldn't want a re-run of my early years and all their ordeals.

Apart from anything else, how would I have got by without all the delights of blogging?

Sunday, 3 January 2021

Books galore

When does book collecting become book hoarding? When do you have a normal number of books and bookshelves, and when does it become abnormal? When does book-buying become such a wild compulsion that you no longer have enough bookshelves for them, and there are piles of books all over the floor?

People with absurd numbers of books (like tens of thousands) will justify them by saying they fully intend to read them all one day, or they're of sentimental value, or they can't bear to part with old favourites, or they're related to a particular interest (like hundreds of bird books).

Jenny and I have always kept our book stock to a modest level - about a thousand books at the last count - by aiming to discard as many books as we buy. This routine has served us well so far. Luckily there's a charity second-hand bookshop just down the road. so our abandoned books will find new readers. Of course we may simply be encouraging book hoarders to buy dozens of cheap second-hand books....

There's a temptation to acquire as many books as your home can accommodate. The first flats Jenny and I lived in were too small for large numbers of books, so we were more likely to "read and discard", but as we moved to bigger flats the need for a rapid recycling of books declined and they tended to linger.

We keep a lot of books on the basis that we're sure to re-read them some day, only to find that many of them never get re-read and just gather dust. Sooner or later our tastes change and that wonderful old book from ten years ago suddenly seems clunky and rambling and ready to be thrown out.

At least I don't buy books I know very well I'll never read, like Ulysses or War and Peace or In Search of Lost Time. That's a few less to worry about.

Wednesday, 30 December 2020

Something positive

After this awful year of a rampaging virus, all manner of personal restrictions, thousands of people losing their jobs or getting into debt, rising alarm about climate breakdown and anxiety about the possible consequences of Brexit (for us Brits, at any rate), I thought it might cheer us all up to recall some of the good things that happened during the year.

  • Marcus Rashford, the footballer, secured more free meals for school children and launched a book club to encourage children to read
  • Captain Tom Moore raised almost £40m for NHS Charities after walking laps around his garden ahead of his 100th birthday
  • Frontline health workers saved thousands of people from dying, and risked their own health to do so
  • Kamala Harris became the first female, first black, first South Asian US Vice President Elect
  • Due to movement restrictions and a slowdown of social and economic activities, air quality improved in many cities
  • There was a huge wave of support for Black Lives Matter, and increasing anger over police violence towards black people
  • Birthdays became less about presents and more about creative ways to connect with loved ones
  • Lashana Lynch became the first black female 007
  • Scotland became the first country in the world to provide free and universal access to period products
  • Comfy clothes reigned supreme as more people worked from home and didn't need to dress up for work
  • Musicians used social media to give us personal concerts from home
  • Harvey Weinstein and other prominent public figures were brought to court for sex crimes
  • We had more time to bake/read/cook/exercise/play Scrabble, and to make new plans for our lives
So all we can do now is hope for a much better 2021 and a return to a more normal way of life. And lots more videos of obstreperous cats.

Pic: Kamala Harris

Thanks to Glamour UK

Saturday, 26 December 2020

How very reassuring

One thing we all learn as we grow up is the art of reass-urance - how to make the totally weird or alarming seem quite normal and manage-able. If we didn't pick up this vital skill, we'd all feel permanently overwhelmed by the horrors and peculiarities of the world around us.

From the government insisting the pandemic will soon be over, to mommy asking little Rebecca why she's crying, we become adept at playing things down, minimising things, insisting nothing's as bad as it seems.

Sometimes it's to reassure other people who're feeling panicky and anxious and powerless. Sometimes it's to reassure ourselves.

Politicians in particular are well versed in playing things down. No no, poverty isn't as widespread as we think. No no, there are plenty of jobs available.

Parents are equally adept at soothing their children's umpteen worries. No of course we're not getting divorced, darling. No of course that dog isn't going to bite you. No of course the planet's not about to explode.

Those reassurances may be total lies, but rather that than leave someone floundering in a state of helpless fright.

Jenny and I are always reassuring each other about something or other. We both know the other is deliberately reassuring us, and we only half believe what we're hearing, but we feel better for hearing it, which is the whole point.

My being a worried-well type, always imagining the slightest physical aberration might be the first sign of something horrible, reassurances from doctors are especially welcome.

Reassurances from politicians on the other hand aren't at all welcome. We all know frequent lying is part of the job description so I'm seldom convinced.

Finally, I can reassure you that this blog post is entirely harmless and reading it will not precipitate skin rashes, blurred vision or any horrid neurological conditions.

Tuesday, 22 December 2020

All about beards

Emma Brockes in the Guardian says she's always trusted men with beards. And a study by the University of Texas backs her up, finding that salesmen with beards are seen as more trustworthy than those without.

She has argued with friends about it. Some see beards as a cover-up - what's the guy hiding? But to her they mean respectability.

People are very polarised about men with beards. In general, they either love them or hate them. The pro camp like their masculinity and find the man more attractive than his hairless mates. The anti faction find them pointless and distinctly off-putting. Women may find kissing less enjoyable if they're negotiating a thicket of hair.

Personally, as you know, I'm not keen on beards. I had one briefly in the seventies when I fancied the John Lennon look, but I've been clean-shaven ever since. Those men who grow their beards to absurd lengths just look ridiculous.

Also, beards need constant upkeep. They have to be trimmed, they have to be kept clean, bits of food get stuck in them. Who knows what you might be kissing? And they can be horribly itchy.

But beards are very fashionable nowadays. I see more and more men with them. Maybe they simply can't be bothered to shave. Maybe their partners prefer them with beards. Maybe they're just proving they're man enough to grow one. Or maybe their religion requires men to have beards.

Fashions come and go, though. Apparently in the mid 18th-century being clean-shaven was seen as the height of manly sophistication, and very few men had beards. But facial hair was so important to the Victorians that many men, unable to grow their own, were forced to buy false beards and moustaches.

So would I trust a salesman with a beard more than one without? No, it makes no difference to me. What I'm looking for is a trustworthy product.

Friday, 18 December 2020

Crush resistant

Can seventy somethings have crushes? Or are we much too old and world-weary for such romantic nonsense? Have we become immune from such over-the-top responses to other people?

The jury seems to be out. Some people say, yes of course oldies can have crushes. We haven't become so stony-hearted and emotionally tepid that such reactions are no longer possible.

But others maintain that oldies are much too savvy for such flights of fancy, much too level-headed. We see people exactly as they are and not through rose-tinted spectacles.

I was never a crush-prone individual, so I can't really say one way or the other. I think crushes have to involve idealising the other person, and I was never one for idealising people. I can only recall two serious crushes in my lifetime, and the second one was extremely fleeting.

The first was a server at a London restaurant I used to lunch at every day - The Stockpot near Trafalgar Square. In my late twenties at the time, I was smitten by her distinctive way of walking and her enormous self-confidence. I couldn't stop thinking about her. For months on end I kept telling myself I should ask her out but somehow never had the nerve.

The second was a woman who was interested in buying our previous house, when I was 62. I can't begin to explain my extraordinary reaction. There was something about her that totally threw me. I can only describe it as electrifying. She turned me to jelly so completely I could barely maintain a conversation.

However, that crush lasted about ten minutes because I never saw her again. It wasn't so much a crush as a helpless emotional meltdown.

But some people swear they've had constant crushes throughout their lives, even into their sixties and seventies. Can that really be true?

Monday, 14 December 2020

If I'd been a girl

Like most men, I guess, I sometimes imagine what my life would have been like if I'd been a woman. Strangely though, considering my advanced age, I've never imagined how my childhood might have changed if I'd been a girl.

Instead of being packed off to an all-male boarding school at age 13, I'd probably have gone to the same secondary day school as my sister. This might have changed my life quite a lot.

Why? Because till the age of 13 I spent a lot of time with my sister and was very close to her. We played together, did things together, hung out together. But once I was at boarding school I only saw her occasionally and we were no longer so close. I was living my life, she was living hers, and this created a distance between us.

If I'd gone to the same school as her, we'd have shared our experiences as girls - how we were treated by boys, our periods, our clothes, our crushes, how we saw our bodies and all that stuff. We'd have been together at home, doing the domestic chores, doing our homework, going out with friends, and presumably the closeness would have continued.

Unfortunately that wasn't to be and after I left boarding school, although I tried hard to restore the old closeness, it was gone. After a while we both left the parental home and again we were leading separate lives that added to that sense of distance.

Nothing has happened over the years to change that, and despite all my efforts there has only been the bare minimum of contact between us. We can't have exchanged more than a few dozen emails in several decades.

Life is what it is and I've had to come to terms with the estrangement. But my life would have been so much richer if I was still as close to my sister as I was in my early childhood.

There's a deep sense of loss that can't be shed.

Thursday, 10 December 2020

Health warning

I was startled to read that so many footballers and rugby players have developed dementia at an early age, probably as a result of heading balls (the former) and violent tackles (the latter) and being concussed. Clearly these sports are more dangerous than we realise.

I was especially interested because I played both football and rugby at school and because I have a very poor memory. But I doubt if there's any link between the two. As far as I remember (!!) I've always had a poor memory. And I never had more than minor injuries when I was on the field.

In fact I loathed the two games so much I did everything I could to avoid both the ball and the other players. I never headed a football and I never made any violent rugby tackles. I was always against violence of any sort. Being a well-brought-up young man, I was more likely to tap the other player on the shoulder and ask if he would be kind enough to give me the ball for a minute or two.

If I do ever develop dementia, the cause is more likely to be bashing my head on door frames because they're not high enough for me. I remember getting quite a thwack on a door in a holiday cottage that presumably was built for much shorter occupants a century or so ago.

Otherwise I've never had head injuries of any kind - not from cycling or car accidents or from accidents at home. So hopefully I'm fairly safe from any head injury-related dementia.

How soon before fathers stop encouraging their sons to play football and warn them against it?

Sunday, 6 December 2020

Rush to judgment

It suddenly came to me that something very odd is going on. There's a growing trend for authoritari-anism but also a growing trend for anti-authoritari-anism. How can they both be happening at once?

On the one hand, people rush to pass judgment on others, often people they've never met and have only heard of through the media. They home in on anyone who's provoked a bit of controversy and tell them forcefully where they're going wrong. They call for people to apologise for their actions, recant their opinions or lose their jobs.

Or they think people getting welfare payments or public housing or being granted asylum are being treated too generously and demand a stop to this burden on the taxpayer.

Or they call for harsher punishment for criminals and complain that prisons are too luxurious and should be more repressive.

At the same time there are people demanding more freedom and declaring they won't be told what to do. They object to the virus restrictions and oppose vaccines, face masks and distancing. They go to huge parties where hundreds of people are crowded together, spreading infection.

Or they object to any measures to reduce obesity-related health problems and insist on their right to be as plump as they wish and eat whatever they fancy.

Or they complain about complicated recycling rules and make a point of dumping their rubbish in any old bin. They won't be ordered about by the "nanny state".

Well, I'm not sure what that makes me as I wouldn't identify with either tendency. I'm one of those irritating middle-of-the-road types who takes whatever attitude seems to be most sensible - which might be authoritarian (if absolutely necessary) or might be the opposite. I don't take a position simply because it's fashionable/ woke/ trending on social media.

I naturally recoil from extreme opinions of any kind.

Wednesday, 2 December 2020

Nasty niffs

Interesting to read that during the pandemic 25 per cent of the population have stopped showering every day and 14 per cent have stopped using deodorant. Presumably because people aren't going out so much and don't see the point of such scrupulous hygiene.

It reminds me yet again that we're all a lot fussier about cleanliness than we were a few decades ago. When I was growing up I had a bath once a week and that was basically it (very few homes had showers at that time). I might wash other bits of me when the need arose, but otherwise the weekly bath was considered more than enough. And deodorants weren't used as routinely as they are now.

A lot of people must have been pretty whiffy but either nobody noticed or they thought it rude to mention it. I never noticed any general smelliness when I was young (apart from cigarette smoke), but then my sense of smell was always poor.

At some point people got much more hygiene-conscious, everyone was installing home showers, and deodorants were being lavishly applied. The under-washed began to feel distinctly unpopular as the super-washed multiplied.

But have we now gone to the opposite extreme of obsessive cleanliness? Some would say yes, that too much showering and washing removes the protective organisms from our skin and makes us more prone to infections. We've become terrified of producing the slightest unsavoury odour.

Personally I can't be bothered with baths any more, and I don't shower every day, only when I feel the need. Our bath has been used about three times since we moved in to this house 11½ years ago. I've never been keen on the wallow-in-a-bath-with-scented-candles scenario.

But one thing's for sure - blogging avoids all nasty niffs.

Friday, 27 November 2020

No longer taboo

In general I couldn't care less about the royal family, but I think it's great that one particular royal has revealed her distress over her miscarriage, and encouraged others to talk about what is still very much a taboo subject.

One big benefit of all the ongoing feminist campaigning is that so many once-forbidden topics are now openly discussed and women can share their experiences and get the support they need.

Things they once struggled with behind closed doors, things that were considered shameful and humiliating, are now out in the open and subjects of concerned public debate.

Miscarriages, still births, post-natal depression, domestic violence, sexual harassment, the glass ceiling, the obsession with women's appearance, women who're not listened to or taken seriously, and many other issues - now we hear about them all the time and it's not so easy to sweep them under the carpet.

This widespread trend for bringing taboo subjects into the daylight has prompted men to be more open as well. They're more likely to talk about erectile dysfunction, impotence, the straitjacket of "masculinity", their parental anxieties, or workplace bullying. They're more likely to share their emotions, be it sadness, grief, disappointment, inadequacy, despair or helplessness. They're less prone to hide everything behind a facade of tough, unflappable maleness.

To my mind, this is all very positive. The more you share, the more useful feedback you will get, and the more your experiences become normal rather than some disgusting secret. I don't think there's any such thing as "over-sharing", except perhaps when what you say might offend or hurt someone. Sharing something must surely be better than it festering away inside and becoming more and more distressing and painful.

The fewer taboo subjects we have, the better.

Monday, 23 November 2020

The ticking clock

This is puzzling. Janet Sewell, a woman in her forties, writing in the Guardian, complains that people are always asking her if she has children, and if not, whether she's going to have any. "After all, the clock is ticking" they remind her.

People say "You'll be so happy if you have children". And she thinks, "I'm actually happy as I am but will I be happier if I have children?" She feels like she's being told she doesn't carry her weight in society.

Well, the reason I'm puzzled is that neither Jenny or I have had any such "child harassment". We've never had people badgering us about our child-free status or telling us we're missing out on a wonderful experience.

So why is that? Did we look like potential child molesters who mustn't have kids under any circumstances? Did we look so poor our kids would be seriously disadvantaged? Did we look like neglectful slobs who would let our children starve to death? Did we look like angry, belligerent individuals who would terrify our offspring?

Or did we just happen to associate with courteous, easy-going types who felt no need to ask if we were planning to reproduce?

And on the other hand, why are people always asking Janet Sewell if she's going to have children? What is there about her that encourages such a question? Or does she simply mix with a lot of nosey parkers who think the future of her womb is something they have a right to inquire about?

Why do people think it's okay to ask such questions? Especially as the explanation for being child-free might be an embarrassing one the couple would rather not reveal.

But bearing in mind the sort of people Jenny and I associate with, it seems quite normal that people were more interested in our political leanings than in whether we'd reproduced.

Pic: not Janet Sewell

Thursday, 19 November 2020

Anti vax

Of all the odd causes people are passionate about, one that really baffles me is the campaign against vaccinations. I can't for the life of me understand why something that has transformed public health and prevented millions of deaths is seen as some sort of toxic conspiracy.

The anti-vax movement is now so big there are calls for social media to delete all anti-vax sites as they could be a serious obstacle to the take-up of coronavirus vaccine (an estimated 31 million people follow anti-vaccine groups on Facebook and 17 million on YouTube). The anti-vaxers insist, despite evidence to the contrary, that the forthcoming vaccines have been rushed along too fast, haven't been tested properly and will be dangerous to the recipients.

Although the scientists developing the vaccine insist they've been thoroughly trialled and have no serious side effects, the critics maintain that's a lot of whitewash and the dangers are being systematically hidden.

Well, personally I have every confidence in the new vaccines and their developers, and I'll be happy to get my virus jab at the earliest opportunity (and as a 73 year old, that'll be sooner than the general population).

After all, I've had loads of vaccinations in my life and none of them have had any adverse effects. I've had jabs for diphtheria, whooping cough, polio, measles, mumps, chicken pox, tetanus, flu (several times), pneumonia and shingles, quite uneventfully. So why on earth are the critics getting so hot under the collar?

Do they really think the NHS is setting out to poison and kill people? Why this perverse distrust of health workers? And why do they not recognise the huge health benefits vaccinations have brought since their invention in the 18th century?

Sunday, 15 November 2020

Me time

What a golden opportunity it is when your partner goes away for the day or the weekend or even the week (and takes the children if you have any). Suddenly you have a nice big chunk of me time and you can do absolutely anything you want, free of the usual chores and obligations. Unmitigated pleasure and self-indulgence awaits.

Except of course that it seldom works out that way. Instead of all the unmitigated pleasure - long country walks, starting the new box set, trying those exciting new recipes, tackling that online course on everyday life in the Middle Ages - you find yourself spending the time quite differently. Hours have unaccountably sped by as you:

  • Plucked your nasal hairs
  • Looked again for the missing screwdriver
  • Placed online orders for stuff you don't need
  • Watched yet another endearing cat video
  • Cleaned behind the taps
  • Pondered why letter boxes are red
  • Adjusted all the crooked pictures
  • Purged all the socks with holes in
Then when your partner returns, along with all the old distractions and expectations, you kick yourself for not having used your precious me time more intelligently. And you dream of the next chunk of me time when you really really will make good use of it and not arse around like a ten year old.

To rub it in, your best friend gleefully recounts all the brilliant things she did during her own recent me time while her girlfriend was at a conference in Budapest. It seems she barely had time to sleep.

After that it's back to business as usual, and you find the missing screwdriver down the side of the fridge. And all the pictures are crooked again. And there's a nasal hair you somehow overlooked.

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Naked controversy

Fierce controversy over a new statue of Mary Wollstonecraft at Newington Green, North London. People are asking why she's so small and totally naked and saying this is hardly a suitable way of honouring her memory.

The artist, Maggi Hambling, has vigorously defended the statue. "The point is that she has to be naked because clothes define people. We all know that clothes are limiting and she is everywoman. As far as I know, she's more or less the shape we'd all like to be. Statues in historic costume look like they belong to history because of their clothes. It's crucial that she is 'now'."

This seems to me a bizarre explanation. People aren't defined by their clothes but by their personality and achievements - in this case her passionate pursuit of feminism. Neither is she everywoman, it was specifically Mary Wollstonecraft that campaigners for the statue wanted to memorialise.

Caroline Criado-Perez, who helped campaign for a statue of Millicent Fawcett in Parliament Square, said the decision-making process had been "catastrophically wrong. This representation is insulting to her." She argued that, as a piece of political art, it should have depicted a recognisable Wollstonecraft, as less than 3% of UK statues were of non-royal women.

The writer Caitlyn Moran said "Imagine if there was a statue of a hot young naked guy 'in tribute' to Churchill. It would look mad."

It would look totally bonkers. Personally, I think the Hambling statue should be replaced with a fully-clothed, clearly identifiable statue of Mary Wollstonecraft.

I suspect Maggi Hambling knew very well that her statue was bound to be controversial, and she's enjoying all the fuss and attention. Two other Hambling statues, Conversation with Oscar Wilde and Scallop, were equally contentious when first erected in 1998 and 2003.

Mary Wollstonecraft deserves better.

PS: The statue was commissioned by the Mary On The Green Campaign, which unanimously chose Hambling for the sculpture. Jude Kelly, Patron for the Campaign and Artistic Director of the Southbank Centre, said "She is a wonderful choice to capture the spirit and strength of Wollstonecraft."

PPS: A crowdfunder has been launched for an alternative statue of Mary Wollstonecraft by Martin Jennings. This statue would be of Mary Wollstonecraft herself.

Pic: the statue

Saturday, 7 November 2020

Lady appeal

It amuses me to read all those articles telling men "how to make yourself more attractive to women". Probably behaving like an intelligent and civilised human being is all that's needed, but self-appointed romance experts produce long lists of things you should do to have the ladies falling all over you.

Men are advised on what women find irresistible - what brand of perfume, what length of beard, how much muscle, what sort of music, what make of car, what style of clothing, what hairstyle, what conversational gambits.

Well, women are all the same, aren't they? They all respond to similar things, so you just have to get those things right and they'll be putty in your hands.

I must say, if I were a woman, I'd probably run a mile from a guy who's constantly tweaking his appearance and his possessions to make himself woman-friendly, rather than just being himself.

For that matter, long ago when I was still looking for a partner, I'd have run a mile from a woman who was clearly putting on an act for my benefit.

Men who're obviously "performing" for a female audience are very tiresome. Luckily most of my life I've worked with men who found such performing laughable and wouldn't be wondering if women might disapprove of their beard length. More likely they'd be wondering if women would find their political views feminist enough.

According to the romance pundits, I've probably done the wrong things all my life and alienated every woman in sight. Clapped-out cars, dodgy music, outmoded clothing, dumb hairstyle. None of which bothered my partner when I met her in 1981. She would certainly have high-tailed it from some smarmy Mr Pulling-Power.

But it seems plenty of guys still fervently believe in romance-by-numbers.

Tuesday, 3 November 2020

Smug gits

It seems to be taken as read nowadays that anyone visibly privileged or successful or advantaged or fortunate is therefore smug/ self-righteous/ condescending/ gloating and generally looks down on the less fortunate. I seem to have fallen into that category, which is weird to say the least.

This is a very simplistic view of other people. Yes, a lot of privileged people do indeed look down on the less fortunate and blame them for their own setbacks. They do indeed sneer and scoff from their ivory towers.

But there are plenty more who are well aware that their privilege is very much a matter of good luck and personal circumstances and that those who're struggling in life simply haven't been as lucky and are coping as best they can in distressing and daunting situations.

I think for example of those celebs who have called for better mental health services, an end to food poverty, an end to homelessness, an end to domestic violence and all sorts of other social advances - as well as donating large sums to charity.

Lots of famous figures have stressed that they grew up in abusive and impoverished households, and it was only through a lot of luck and unexpected opportunities that their adult life has been more favourable.

It's easy to get the wrong impression from all those self-satisfied individuals - MPs, business owners and the like - who regularly appear in the media flaunting their wealth and power and clearly quite ignorant of the hand-to-mouth existence that typifies so many ordinary lives in this brutal political era.

Yes, I'm more privileged than most, but that doesn't mean I'm indifferent to all the poverty, misery and dashed hopes hidden behind other people's front doors.

You'd have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to see it and be upset by it.

Pic: Multi-millionaire Old Etonian MP Jacob Rees-Mogg