Friday, December 29, 2006

A Way to Boost Rape Convictions?

I know people who visit me here don't often read the daily snail, but I like to keep an eye on it online, primarily for pieces like this, which never fail to shock me. I shall let you read the article if you wish, but perhaps it is more disturbing to read their readers' comments. Should you read them online, you may notice some punctiontion has been corrected; it was so hideous I couldn't host it here! You would think those with such righteousness on their side would be correct in all matters, but it seems not. I should add that my comment that rape is not about sex but power has gone unpublished, I can't claim bias, sometimes my comments are published & sometimes not & there are a couple of more sensible notions amongst the detritus.

Originally I was going to add a comment here, after each of the comments, if you see what I mean. But my blood pressure wouldn't take it. What I do think is interesting is that rape convictions are notoriously low, & this newspaper has decided to interpret one way of addressing this as "Men face jail for rape if women are 'too drunk' to consent in bed to boost convictions." it is a subtle inaccuracy which assisted the 45 people quoted below to respond as they have.

So even one drink prior to consensual sex will now mean rape has taken place? What sort of nonsense is this? Adrian, Reading, UK

About time too. But if we're not going to name the female victims from the start then maybe we should treat the men as not guilty until proved otherwise. Nigel, Doncaster, England

Many of the drunken women I have seen are jumping on top of men wanting sex. If this law is brought in they better build lots of new prisons! Ray Baker, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne & Wear

Yet another new law that removes any personal responsibility from the "victim". Women do have the right to the protection of the law but they should also have the self respect not to become falling down drunk and have sex with people they meet out when drunk. Will a guy be able to use this law against a woman who takes advantage? Typical NuLabour encourage binge drinking and drunkenness and then legislate more to try and control the fallout. Helen, Northamptonshire

It’s a very grey area and the courts will have their work cut out! Donald Dehaviland, Fleet Hampshire

This is just the sort of thinking which results in serious injustice though I have no doubt that many people will agree with this populist change to the law. Peter Hargreaves, Stockport, Cheshire

Another depressing example of the Labour 'right on' brigade venting their hatred of men. 'All men are rapists' used to be their feminist war cry, and it looks as though they now want to enshrine it in Law. Vote them out, or there will soon be an on the spot fine for being male! A. Howlett, Manchester

How drunk is drunk? How is a young man who is also drunk supposed to know if the woman is drunk? More of Blair’s ill conceived laws. I have three grown up daughters and need them to be protected from rapists but this sort of law is unworkable and is designed to give the impression that Labour is doing its' job. There is a reason that crimes like rape are difficult to prosecute and that is simply because they are difficult to prosecute. I know that sounds a stupid statement but it is true. Rape is typically a 'private' crime and is often one person’s word against another. Many times young people have woken up with someone and cringed at what they have done. Believe it or not, that is now a crime as on many occasions the girl will now cry rape. As this will now be very easy to get a conviction on, the police will go out all guns blazing and meanwhile the really evil predatory rapist (who is difficult to catch) will ply his evil trade with impunity. Well done Mr. Blair. Ian, Lincoln

So, follow this scenario: What if the woman, the next morning and thinking better of it, decides that she has made a silly mistake, and to salve her conscience reports the sex act. As a fib, she adds that she was drunk. Whose word would be believed? We have seen enough cases of lying evil women shouting rape in the last 12 months, I think that this new law will make it far too easy for a malicious self serving woman to destroy some innocent mans life; possibly even open up a new avenue for blackmail. David, UK

If its rape when a woman is drunk, then every time a woman has sex with a drunken man she is also committing rape in such cases I would, respectfully, suggest that more men are raped than women. Richard Stratford, Lewes, West Sussex

Of course this means both parties would have to be breathalysed BEFORE the act, but by whom? Will this mean a government watcher in every room, because action is not necessarily restricted to a bedroom? Peter, Sittingbourne UK

If a male is drunk and decides ends up sleeping with a woman who he would not normally do, can he claim rape? And if they are both drunk, then who raped who? Paul, Livingston

Women must start showing more respect for themselves by not becoming so drunk and disgusting that they are putting themselves at serious risk. Claire, LONDON

Women should be encouraged to have self respect and not get drunk, but of course that doesn't fit in with PC women’s lib thinking does it? The stupid lefties have let down a whole generation of women and continue to do so. Kenny, south of the river

After 25 years I can shed a tear knowing that the courts wouldn't point the finger at me if that rape had occurred at this time in history. I was very young and had gotten drunk at a party. Some older men were there (I was 17 or 18) and I was raped by one man who had secretly had an attraction to me. This has haunted me for years and had changed my naturally easy going, open personality ever since. I feel satisfied just with this new today. All men are not rapists, but men who take advantage of a drunken opportunity to violently force themselves on a woman are. Kim, New York City

How about ending 24 hour pub opening that way there may well be less drunken women and no need for this flawed law not likely to happen, as the only thing this government is competent at is denying it makes mistakes. Don, Cheltenham

And for married men? Is it rape if a couple go out and get plastered first? This will mean most consummations of marriages are rapes, as most wedding couples drink plenty of champagne during the day! Bring on the Tory landslide. We need these nut jobs out of power! Frank, Crawley, UK

If I were a man I would have a letter drafted up that showed consent by the woman and have her sign it provided of course she can write whilst being slightly intoxicated. Juli, London

It will take decades to put right the damage caused to our judicial system by this Government. Paul, Rochester, UK

Prescott, beware. Mike, Coventry

What are men supposed to do, carry a breathalyzer? Mike, Coventry

This law could easily become abused, as David, UK, has stated. Women still have a responsibility not to drink to the point where they are incapable of making a reasoned decision. Maxine, Taipei, Taiwan

The comments on this website, as usual are from angry men thinking that women make false rape claims when they have a change of mind the morning after. This is absolute nonsense. The percentage of women making false rape claims is the same for any other crime, around 4% whereas only 6% of reported rapes result in a conviction. I can't understand the mentality of a man who wants to have sex with a woman who is so drunk she has been sick or is unconscious. I certainly find drunken men a big turn off. I can only assume that these men use the opportunity to take advantage of women who have had too much to drink and should rightly be charged with rape. Not only that, I was under the impression there were levels of alcohol which make it impossible for a man to "perform" reducing his chances of having sex when very drunk. The government is attempting to make men responsible for their actions; something it seems most men are very reluctant to accept. Sarah Turner, London

To Sarah Turner, the 4% and 6% figures you cite are proven cases (of false reports and conviction rates). If you accept this as accurate, you must accept the 94% found not guilty to be the correct verdict. If you don't agree with that, then the 4% and 6% you quote are evidently nonsense. This proposed law will mean that men, in any condition, are the sole judges of precisely how drunk a woman is. A court may later decide otherwise, who weren't witness to the situation. Everyone has a responsibility to themselves if you don't like the judgements you make when drunk, then don't get drunk. John R, Essex UK

It is vulgar to abuse a woman who is in any sense seriously drunk, but where do you draw the line, legally? This will result in a lot of rape cases being brought to Court, the cases falling into the grey area where the woman was drunk, was thought by the man to have freely consented and then, for any one of many reasons, decided to report the alleged rape the next day or two later. This can only lead to injustice. Ian Millard, Exeter UK

The question that has to be asked is; when is a woman drunk? I suspect that different women have a different tolerance to alcohol. Some women would be drunk after a couple of glasses of wine; others will need a couple of bottles. Adrian, Witney, UK

Sarah, it's all right to say men should be responsible for their actions, but what about women. Nowadays you see far more females falling about drunk than males I work in the pub game so I do know what I'm talking about this law is very dangerous and as previous comments on this page have said, it is the government’s way of clearing up the mess they have created by introducing 24 hour drinking. Also, not all men are impaired by drink and many women (like men) have a definite rise in their libido when uninhibited due to drink. This is very dangerous ground and WILL lead to many false accusations. Cathy, Watford, England

Another half-baked law from a half baked government. Jeff, UK

Are the government worried about women and rape OR are they more worried about their statistics looking poor. Ah let me think? Doug, Birmingham UK

How come a drunken man is held accountable for his action but a drunken woman is not. The court seems to have double standards, while it is ok for a drunken woman to behave like an animal and be considered under the influence but a man under the influence must be able to behave like a gentleman. Both are equally guilty for drunkenness and whatever the consequence to that. Women should not drink more than the limit that makes them lose their judgement and alertness. Ann Hunter, UK

How can a law JUST protect women? As previous comments point out what if the man has also been drinking? It is totally unworkable and very unfair to men. They used to call us the 'Fair Sex'. Doesn't really apply anymore. Women have a level of responsibility for their own safety make them take it don’t bring in stupid laws.
Ann, Tiverton, UK

Does this mean that if a man rapes a woman while he is drunk he will be deemed to be not responsible for his actions? Dej, Hagley, England

To Sarah Turner if women really want equality then it follows that the Government need to pass laws to make women more responsible for their actions too; judging by your comments here this seems something most women are very reluctant to accept. Andrew Murray, Forfar, Scotland

Which idiot thought this one up then? I am a woman but if I ever heard a proposal for a new law that was open to abuse and misinterpretation this HAS to be Numero Uno!1. How will anybody prove whether a woman was drunk or not after the event?2. How many women will say that they were drunk when they know that it cannot be proven?When, oh WHEN will women be MADE to start taking responsibility for their own actions? Mrs. C, Surrey

Why do so many people assume that if a woman regrets having consensual sex with someone will cry rape? Would it not just be easier to, oh, I don't know, not tell anybody? Victoria, Essex

How long will it be before just having sex will be rape? Sad sad England. Barry E Platt, Palm Beach Florida USA

Hey Sarah: This is not about your grip with the male population; this is about a law development so that drunken women who have sex can attempt to charge rape. You should have figure out that a woman who is so drunk, as you described, can't possibly testify since the alcohol messed with her brain. So, it's "I don't remember your honour, but I'm sure he raped me". You don't even need a lawyer for this one. Alan, Minnesota

I agree with Claire of London. The behaviour of many young adult females these days is really appalling. Magazines such as 'Heat' regularly feature celebrity snaps of females like Kate Lawler and Ms Spears overly intoxicated with some humorous caption alongside. 'Cosmo' and 'Glamour' magazines print articles about how to have a night out on the tiles with the girls and still look great afterwards. Drunken women are not fun, they are certainly not attractive and they are absolutely irresponsible. No one should have to look after a woman on a night out, she should be able to take care of herself. Wendy, France

There is, of course, a simple solution to avoid falling foul of this law for both sexes....don't get drunk and don't have casual sex!! E. Nelson, Liphook, England

This is ridiculous. So a drunken woman is not held responsible for her actions? But a drunken bloke is. This will get thrown straight out of court the law is wrong on this one. Jeez what ever happened to equality? Frank, Herts

Well, I'd have thought that about 99% of sex acts during dates in the UK are after the two lovers have enjoyed a drink together, so we'll need an awful lot more courts to deal with the malicious rape charges which will result. The Government doesn't hide the fact that its sole intention here is to lock up more men for rape it clearly doesn't care whether they are guilty or not. This is a bad news for justice. Doug, Glasgow

So what if the man is also drunk when he has sex with his drunken female partner? Why should he be held more responsible for his actions than the woman?If women do not want to risk involuntary sex or rape, they should not get drunk and incapable. Period! Basil Howitt, Perpignan, France

Well said Sarah Turner, amongst a sea of such nonsense your post was one of the few that made any sense. I would like to say to all you who are getting hysterical over this whether you actually know what it's like to report a rape and to go through everything that happens from then on. There aren't thousands of women queuing up to make rapists out of someone they had a drunken one night stand with. There are however many women and men who are victims of some man's calculating and predatory behaviour. For those females who believe that this law is wrong can I ask whether you would think it acceptable if you had a few drinks and were a bit tipsy at a dinner party, or after the theatre and were followed by a man and raped by a man using extreme violence? Would it be your fault as it is apparently wrong to have a social life and to be protected by law? Just remember that it isn't other women that this happens to; it's women like you, your sister, your mother, daughter, best friend. Kirsty, Rochester, UK

Sarah Turner is right. How many male desperados wait in the wings looking for some drunken woman to take advantage of? Women that normally wouldn't look twice at them. Pazza, Milan, Italy

To Sarah Turner: You state: "I can't understand the mentality of a man" and "I can only assume”. You personal views do not make a bad law good. In your view: "The government is attempting to make men responsible for their actions..." It seems to me that the government is also trying to make men responsible for their partner’s drunken actions. Nigel Roberts, Milton Keynes

Last updated at 21:04pm on 28th December 2006, Add your comment; 45 people have commented on this story so far. Tell us what you think.

Please do tell them what you think!

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Truth or Dare

I have just finished a compilation of short stories, one of my favourite forms of fiction, but this time the stories were all truths. Justine Picardie's Truth or Dare: A Book of Secrets Shared is a collection of short memoirs from 12 internationally recognized writers; Nick Hornby, Zoe Heller, Julie Myerson, Esther Freud, William Fiennes, Sabine Durrant, Rachel Cusk, Andrea Ashworth, Alice Sebold, Jon Ronson and Sophie Dahl each with the aim of revealing a particular truth.
The pieces are revealing, each provocative in their own way, but unlike the game around which they're structured, not because of embarrassing confessions of shameful thoughts or experiences. Instead, the writers have each elected to explore certain truths within their lives. This is less about confession, and more about who these writers are and how they got that way. Andrea Ashworth language will be familiar to anyone who has read her book; One in a House on Fire, I can’t because it is too harrowing for me. Her story opens the anthology but, while the stories share a similarly unsentimental language, not all the pieces are as quite so brutal. Just as moving as Ashworth's piece, Ronson's funny side of self-examination reveals that the embarrassing and the silly are powerful life influences alongside struggle and pain. Fatherhood is a theme which crops up throughout the book (Ashworth and Ronson discuss fathers and children, along with Zoe Heller, Nick Hornby and Julie Myerson), but its Sabine Durrant's "At Sea" that is perhaps the most compelling.
Picardie suggests in her introduction, that to write personally and with unrelenting honesty is "an act of bravery on the part of a writer, to say, yes, this is how it is; this is who I am; this is what it means to be me." Her writers dare to tell their truths in markedly different ways, tackling their respective issues with a more serious tone that come together to reveal their own truth: that all of our secrets are relieved, even just a little, when shared.

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Noël Chez Nous

Neither a natural hostess, or cook, I am keen on the table looking nice. It does seem to appear shabbier in the photo, than I thought it was, but our dinner was delicious. We had roast lamb, a turkey being too big for 2 of us & we don't like it anyway! The poinsettia was dropped round by a young man I helped teach English to, he was attending a class my friend ran, & came to me for extra tuition. I was sorry I missed him & hope he got my vaguely addressed card, this year my phone went AWOL (& the card was irrevocably blocked by the time I recovered it) & my address book went home with someone else from Heathrow (we had just a lovely holiday in Italy together as well) so Christmas cards have been a bit of a shot in the dark. Our tree is 'tasteful', well tinsel-less, & has been the same for 3 years when my parents arrived with it together most of the decorations (SO claims real trees aggravate something). I have a feeling they were expecting not to need them because they would be spending Christmas plural with us... We haven't had them back, mostly because they don't really know how to be guests, & when I say that all my friends become paranoid. All I can say is that they were rude about our village, house & kitchen, all improvements including re-location are restricted by our budget, & if you ever come to stay please wash up or offer to make tea, especially when your required intake is 2 cups per hour. I was exhausted by the time we dropped them back, mainly because they didn't lift a finger, but (to be fair) there is little where we live so we had to be tour guides with no respite which can't have been easy for them either; we like our own space in my family. I am not sure I tailored the tours to the client either, although perhaps a murmur of appreciation wouldn't have gone amiss, but they believe in being honest rather than kind do my parents. They also had to stay for 4 days because they don't drive so were restricted by the dictates of public transport, but having stayed for a fully catered 4 night stay we would have been really happy if they had taken us out for supper just 1 night.

Last year we helped out at a care home where Christmas dinner is a logistical exercise & keeping track of which presents belong to who kept me busier than a very busy person armed with labels & a marker pen! The SO feels uncomfortable about my charitable acts, but accompanies me, although even I felt like lady bountiful when I helped out with breakfast for the homeless in Leicester. Apparently all the shelters in Leicester provide Christmas dinner, as well as presents, so there was little call for another meal & helpers awkwardly outnumbered breakfasters. Attempts at offering company were stonewalled & one (fairly unstable woman) yelled at me quite accurately that my enquiries were none of my business. We did manage to give one grateful lad a new sleeping bag though & went for a fantastic brunch at a friend's house nearby afterwards.
This year I particularly liked our mantlepiece, though if you wish to comment on the fireplace, it was not our choice, but I have now labelled it shabby chic in order to find it acceptable. The pink crocodile was for some Lacoste promotion, an example of the landfill SO designs (sorry Ed.), but if he didn't earn lots of money doing that, I wouldn't be able to retrain as a social worker & venture out into the world with a useful purpose. We are hoping it won't eat the chocolate santa, which is about 6 years old, so probably not edible at all, although Mary seems to have gone missing from the nativity scene unless she has a beard these days. We have children visiting tomorrow so I am sure they'll sort out who is who for us, tiny things need better eyes perhaps. Our presents were just fine, & SO has bought a computor gadget in a boxing day sale, so all is well except for the rubbish on TV. Some things don't change.
The only hitch this year was SO not finding the Christmas tree lights until after I had foraged through every major retailer in the area; his area of responsibility includes all things with plugs attached! The only ones to be found were these pink feathery things which looked dreadful on the tree & there were insufficient quantities, something it is too late to discover on Christmas eve. I really like putting up the tree on Christmas eve, having a sherry, & off to church for carols. Though I remained calm, it was all a bit last minute even for me, perhaps next year we shall assemble the ingredients in advance. I do really like my fairy grotto bed now though, as does SO , in fact he was keener than I which was a surprise. SO is off until 2nd January, & remembering to feed him is a bit of an issue, I tend to assemble something from the contents of the fridge (not a skill he has acquired) but I also know I will really miss him when he goes back to work after all this time at home. It is just great fun having your best mate at home with you, & I think he is even going to paint the hall, which is just as well because I have a dissertation to write.

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Monday, December 25, 2006

Advent in Israel

If the Holy Family made their way from Nazareth to Bethlehem to prepare for the birth of Jesus today, they would be greeted by a 25-foot barrier wall, armed guards, & a huge steel gate resembling those found on nuclear shelters. They could also be harassed for their identification papers, their belongings could be searched & it's quite possible they could be turned away, never allowed to enter Bethlehem. How different the story would be. In November of 2005, the birthplace of Christ was sealed off from Jerusalem; just in time for Christmas.In July 2004, the International Court of Justice, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, ruled that the construction of the barrier wall in Palestinian territory was "contrary to international law." & a report released in November 2006 by Israeli advocacy group Settlement Watch states that "39 percent of the land used by Jewish settlements in the West Bank is private Palestinian property."

The Bethlehem & Jerusalem I visited in 1986 is a world away from the tensions which would confront me today, so I was really happy to hear that a party who reflected the multi-faith diversity I witnessed, were to make a pilgrimage just before Christmas. I saw Jerusalem shared between Jews, Christians (of all denominations) & Armenians shared the space, & sometimes literally the buildings they used for worship*.
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams, Bishop Nathan Hovannisian, Primate of the Armenian Church of Great Britain & the Rev David Coffey, Moderator of the Free Churches, made an Advent visit to Bethlehem & East Jerusalem. The pilgrims crossed on foot from Jerusalem into Bethlehem & took part in a 4 station pilgrimage vigil which included the Star Gate & Manager Square. A Mass was a held in the grotto of the Church of the Nativity, on the site where Jesus was born.

The Archbishop of Canterbury condemned the Israeli wall around Bethlehem saying that it is “a sign of all that is wrong in the human heart”. Dr Rowan Williams explained that the pilgrimage was meant to show solidarity with the Christians of Bethlehem. 'We're here to say that the sufferings of the people here are ours to. We're visiting Christians who suffer terrible economic hardship & daily anxiety about their homes & their security. We'll be alongside people, Christians, Jews & Muslims, whose lives have been wrecked in different ways by terrorism & by the sense that they're hated & feared by each other. We'll be with people who are really desperate to find some sort of hope, some way out of the cycle of violence & insecurity.' Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor said: ' I came say to all Bethlehemites, particularly the Christians who are here, that the rest of the Christian Church is with them.' Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor told the BBC that the Pilgrimage was an 'act of solidarity. We are here to express our desire for peace in this land of conflict,' he said. 'Our presence here is not just symbolic.'Refugee Camps are home to Palestinians who fled what is now Israel & West Jerusalem in 1948 & 1967. The main artery between Bethlehem & Jerusalem is now closed. This main road previously sustained a vibrant economy in this area. Since the wall was built, 1.5k inside the Bethlehem district, the area has become a ‘ghost town’ as businesses have been forced to close. Jerusalem & Bethlehem have always formed part of the same diocese. The two communities have been historically interdependent through kinship, trade, education, medical & social services. The imposed separation presents a grave challenge to the survival of both communities & threatens to erase centuries-old traditions. Some historic Christian rituals, such as the colourful Easter Procession from Jerusalem to Bethlehem are already extinct. Families who live close to settlements have found themselves stranded between the wall & Jerusalem, without access to education & medical services.

A dove of peace for this Christma & the future.

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Saturday, December 23, 2006

Are We Just Making More of a Mess?

I have shamelessly lifted this article by Deborah Orr in its entirety. Published in Marie Claire, I decided I would find it hard to put it better myself, & I love Deborah partly because she is married to Will Self actually. She'd probably hate me for that, but just imagine their conversations over the dinner table, I do also like her bolshiness. I am not quite sure why Marie Claire publishes so much of the content online, they need the advertising revenue, & I won't be paying that ridiculous nearly £4 an issue now I know. I don't really know why I buy these magazines at all actually, they are rather like eating too much chocolate & feeling a bit sick afterwards, not that they have any effect on my body image! You might though want to read about India Knight's probably sensible route to weight loss which isn't on the website.
Iraq: Are We Just Making More of a Mess?

Laudable as the idea of unseating dictator Saddam Hussein might have seemed to many people, the fact is that his secular and brutal regime suppressed not just individuals but also warring factions. With Saddam gone, the various groups – most significantly Shia and Sunni Muslims – seized the opportunity to wage warfare among themselves. Bush and Blair made the naive assumption that the Iraqi people would be united in their gratitude that they had been liberated from Saddam, and would be happy to co-operate in establishing a West-loving liberal democracy. But instead, more than three years after the start of the war on 19 March 2003, the post-invasion chaos has allowed factional fighting to flourish.

It has also provided the opportunity to blame the violence on the ongoing presence of the Anglo-American coalition rather than the failure of the West to establish a solid leadership alternative to Saddam. This left the coalition with two terrible problems. First was the violence and instability, which the two occupying armies have had little or no success in controlling. Second, more subtly, was the ability to suggest, through propaganda, that this violence was directed against the West rather than being the result of a civil war. For political Islam worldwide, this has been a gift. It feeds into the idea that the West is the enemy of Islam when the truth is that Saddam was the least Islamic of the leaders in the Middle East.

Are the coalition forces making things worse by staying now? Not really. Things are going to get worse whether we stay or not. On the one hand, it is an awful thing to precipitate a civil war, then get out and leave it to descend into wholesale massacre – which it will. On the other, the coalition's continued presence will simply reinforce the idea that the terrible violence is caused by the occupation – a claim that becomes more tentative by the day. It has been apparent for some time that the coalition cannot win. That remains true whether American and British armed forces stay or go. There is no clean exit from this protracted imbroglio any more than there was a clean entry.

Yasmin Alibhai-brown also writes about the veil & made me think again, as she usually does.

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Friday, December 22, 2006

Mrs Twinkeltoes

My best friend is brilliant. I always knew she was talented, but she is modest, & it took a while after I first met her to find out that she drew Jessica Rabbit, as well as toning her down a bit! I met Mrs Twinkletoes (who named me Helen Sparkles) when she used to come into a local bistro/wine bar where I was waitressing my way through my degree. She was part of a group of thirtysomethings who were just good company & watched Thirtysomething a lot it seemed.

I got to know them all, but it was Mrs Twinkletoes I was really interested in, & not in any Sapphic way I hasten to add. Perhaps it was a case of opposites attracting, because she is so guarded, & I should be more so. Our first outing was to see The Sheltering Sky, after which we were both exhausted, but I had finally found someone who could critique the direction for me as well as sit through all the credits with me! Many moments of white chocolate gateau at Patisserie Valerie’s, Sunday morning brunches & summer days in Victoria Park followed, we laughed hard when they called it a village. All were often few and far between because we were both so busy, but the bond remained.

What really bound us together was our imagination, particularly our ability to take half an hour to say goodbye, which involved fantasising about what we would do with the house we were going to share, which we couldn’t afford at all. During this time her boyfriend would make noises off, but to little effect, because our imaginations were frequently running riot. I learnt so much from Mrs Twinkletoes; how to see beauty in those who had something less tangible than aesthetically pleasing symmetry, & how to make things nice without spending a fortune that neither of us had, but more in a way that we deserved to eat our cake off pretty plate with a proper fork. We also drove all the way to somewhere in the middle of nowhere in Gloucestershire to buy a Twingo, she'd found upholstered in beautiful leather by someone on the McClaren racing team, after working on the campaign. We broke down in the slightly more vintage Beetle we had driven down in for the viewing, one of those occasions which cost more money than anticipated because someone had forgotten to tell us their RAC membership had expired, & not been renewed.

Our ups were many and varied, & our downs included her break-up with her school sweetheart after 15 years, as well as the death of her father when I had no idea how she felt. I don’t really know what I did except follow her around London trying to stop her giving her jewellery away to strangers & dancing to George Michael’s then new album Faith in a dodgy Mayfair club. I know a bit more now about grief, emotional disturbance, & loss now but I still feel a real sadness that I had never made the journey up to Cumbria to meet him. I have since spent time with her mum & Mrs Twinkletoes has a great relationship with her nephew who is still happy to go to Glastonbury with her. Having met when she was turning 30, & I was 23, we are a little in denial about aging & tend to pretend we haven't actually got any older. Actually, a woman heading for 50 with purple dreadlocks is someone I'll have as a poster girl, can you wonder her 19 year old nephew's mates couldn't believe she was his aunt!

Now that I have moved away, I see her less often, but we managed to find each other in the mud at Glastonbury in 2004 & email is a vital link as I watch from afar her tenacity as she moves from animation to garden design.
I am sure she will be brilliant, the garden above is the one she worked on at Chelsea this year, & she is now spending 4 days a week working for the designer. Having managed 3 diplomas in 3 years, Mrs Twinkletoes has also been handpicked for the drawings on the new Beatrix Potter film, there is a lovely article in the local paper about her & the stars’ lack of ego, but they ego would have been fairly redundant around her, & I bet they were pretty impressed by her talents anyway.

Renee was very nice apparently, & now Mrs Twinkletoes is playing her hands which I want you all to pay special attention to when watching the film which you MUST go & see! Selfishly, I am rather hoping that we now have a new best friend in Ewan McGregor.

I found out something I didn’t know about myself this year, with the success of Mrs Twinkletoes, another friend being nominated for an Emmy, & various other achievements of others. I didn’t know if I would be jealous, feel envy, wonder what I was doing training to be something as glamorous as a social worker, but there is none of that. Well, quite a lot of the wondering bit, but the rest of it, I am just dead pleased for them & proud if friends have the right to be such a thing.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

A Happy Holiday?

I have just left a really upsetting meeting with a young offender (YO) & his mum. I do voluntary work with the YOT team, working with young people who have been given a referral order by the court, & most of the time (although I have been told I have been lucky) the YO engages with the process & the outcomes are really positive. Today I met a young man who is floundering, with a mum who is at the end of her rope & who has a partner who is leaving it all down to her & her relationship is reaching breaking point with son being blamed. Mother & son are fighting, both physically and verbally, mum is isolated, without transport, & it wouldn’t take much to find her on the doorstep of social services asking them to accommodate her son. If the young man doesn’t work with us, engaging with the process, we will have to return him to court where one of the options is a custodial sentence. He really is too vulnerable for either that or the care system, which I have renamed state neglect. Every Child Matters should also be renamed some children matter sometimes!

Although there is a brilliant organisation we are referring mum to, which will offer her great support, nothing will happen now until after Christmas. The season when we imagine everyone having a nice, family, time enhances her sense of desperation because she really isn’t having either. Did you know the suicide rate spiked after the 1998 election? People who were depressed saw the (misplaced!) euphoria of others, couldn’t engage with it at all but their perception of the happiness of others, led to a greater feeling of isolation & bleakness. Holiday seasons also matter & I am all too aware that this could lead to a crisis for mum.
I just needed to share.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006


I don't know how one can be nostalgic for a bus service, especially one which runs as infrequently as the 277, which fulfils the cliché of hunting in packs! This was once the start of a journey home which gave my imagination plenty of time to wander as our vehicle deigned to depart Poplar to carry us home. Sometimes I gave up & walked even when it felt too far after a long day, I was frequently not being passed by the bus, but it was a game of cat & mouse. Once I had reached the first 3 bus stops, they ran out, & I could no longer run for the bus. There was a certain point in the journey where I knew the gamble had paid off, where even if the bus arrived at that exact moment, I had still won! This was my daily venture if I hadn't cycled all the way in, or in the other direction to Bethnal Green tube station, because a bike had been stolen or or the weather would have meant me arriving bedraggled.
I waited for the 277 on Lauriston Road to arrive some unpredictable time later at Mile End Station. Deciding to wait took dedication, but was often lightened by the people one bumped in to, & there was real solidarity in the tenacity the 277 demanded of its passengers! All sorts of catching up, pure gossip, or delicious flirting took place at the Grove Road bus stop. The mornings on Lauriston Road were not quite so jolly but a coffeee shop type deli did open just before I left, & quite honestly, armed with The Guardian & a cappuccino, I was quite happy to sit on the wall & wait. Yes the service did disarmingly suddenly improve, & I am not altogether sure that it was the result of our bus stop petition, rather the law of the sod giving me less time to savour said coffee & newspaper...
I have know the area since I can remember, because my grandparents lived on the edge of Victoria Park in a council flat, I used to play on the Victoria Memorial (actually called something else entirely I think) & I always thought Lauriston Road was exotic. I don't really kick myself for anything, but it would have been nice to have bought somewhere there when it was cutting edge artistic, rather than before it became the very chichi location which priced me out of the market. That said, I wouldn't have then moved to Leicestershire, underestimated the culture shock, got depressed, met the SO, left the commercial job & be doing something really worthwhile that I want to do because I would be too busy working to pay the mortgage, & got happier!

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Monday, December 18, 2006

Not Such A Fairy Tale

I don't know about you, but there is only one Christmas song I can listen to with joy, but now I listen to it with a touch of sadness in my heart. In Irish pubs where they still sing together, Fairytale has become as much a standard as Danny Boy Today is the anniversary of Kirsty's passing. Six years on, and her death is not notable for the justice surrounding it. Her mother, Jean, is keeping up the Justice For Kirsty campaign on her website which you can check for the latest news. I wrote to my MP via the site once but he said it was out of his jurisdiction. When the Pogues sing the song these days, someone is nominated for Kirsty’s part, & it frequently goes to Ella Finer, daughter of Jem in the band who co-wrote the song with Shane MacGowan who thinks “it works fine with Ella, partly as it keeps it in the family, and partly because Fairytale is meant to be a song from an older man to a younger woman. And I knew her before she was born.”


Saturday, December 16, 2006

In Absentia

It is very hard to post today without mentioning the women who have been murdered in Ipswich, but I have debilitating toothache which ridiculously means I can’t think, so I am just going to leave you with some images of where I used to live. Well, nearby anyway. The legacy of the Hugenot’s in East London were these lovely houses, Tracey Emin lives in one now. SO has just arrived with the Bonjela so maybe I’ll write something sensible later.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A Very British Coup!

Burberry’s polo shirts currently originate in a south Wales factory, where they are made for £5, so that they can retail in the stores at 12 x that; a good return? One would think so, but no, Burberry, that quintessential English brand wants to relocate its manufacturing base to China. Having been stripped of all industry, 300 workers now face losing their jobs, many without transport to take them elsewhere.

A campaign against the closure has been running for 3 months, but the national press are paying attention now because the actor Ioan Gruffudd has got involved. Having taken part in an advertising campaign, he was reluctant to look a gift horse in the mouth, but has been persuaded.

Any tales of human woes or hardship is unlikely to sway Burberry's chief executive, Angela Ahrendts, so the campaign is based on the company’s very British reputation. Senior GMB officer Mervyn Burnett thinks that Burberry is uniquely vulnerable to the campaign he is running & I think he could be right. I am going to make no apologies for lifting the essence of this from The Guardian which reports that Burnett had told the company from the start “if you close this factory we're out to damage your image and damage the company's reputation” people “… want the 'Made in Britain' label." He doesn't think "Made in Beijing" will have quite the same appeal.

Ahrendts's annual salary, he says, is £3.6m; the entire redundancy payout for the Rhondda workforce, if the closure goes ahead, will amount to £1.8m. Burnett also estimates that the Burberry directors receive £15m to £18m a year. Burberry is very sensitive to the suggestion that closing the Rhondda factory suggests a withdrawal from the UK; Burnett's "Made in Beijing" jibe has struck a nerve. "We are a British brand and have a strong UK manufacturing facility," insists Mahony. "We account for 600 other manufacturing jobs in the UK, and the Rotherham factory would have closed if we hadn't acquired it in 2004. Most other British brands stopped manufacturing in the UK years ago. We are here to stay."

Methinks thou doth protest too much & I really wonder how long being here to stay will last? You can tell Burberry what you think now that you know about it!

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How silly I am, my WOTW photo is up, the lovely Fifi alerted me & now I am stupidly happy! Johnnie noticed that my narrative to accompany the picture was characteristically brief, not, but it adds just a touch of much needed colour!"This is usually where I am at 5pm, also usually wondering where the rest of the day went. The screen shows I have just sent an email but the PM blog is lurking behind as I find out what my fellow froggers are up to. The radio is always on, and always tuned to R4, the phone is usually ignored but I like to do 1471, I just don’t want my train of thought interrupted more than that! The book under the stamps and instructions for the camera (!) is Willa Cather’s My Ántonia which is a delight. The pamphlet behind it is on the assessment and treatment of sex offenders which is possibly less delightful, and there is always something to tell me what films I am missing.

My mug says “I’m not greedy I just like a lot” and is constantly filled with tea which I will drink at whatever temperature I find it to be when I remember I poured it. To the right of the desk is a picture of Einstein which is out of shot, because he looks like a kindly grandpa egging me on to be clever. I also have Damien Hirst’s Pharmacy because it reminds me of the first time I went to the Tate Modern, and how I thought the use of space was fantastic, but also how many people were making a pilgrimage there on a Sunday. I’d rather galleries were the new church than shopping!

The little blue box behind the mug has some handmade paper in envelopes I picked up in Amalfi this summer, not only does it remind me of a really great holiday, but also of being in Italy the day they won the world cup! We ate fresh pizza in the town square in Sorrento while watching the match on a huge screen, families watched together, people drank beer and wine in an entirely civilised European fashion, and Italy sent it’s entire stock of fireworks up that night. Piaggios honked their horns, nobody slept, and we were all pretty dead to the world on the boat to Positano the next day. But then we ate some homemade pasta under the shade of the bougainvilleas which work so well on that coast, drank some more, and swam in the sea… and all was right with the world."

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Saturday, December 09, 2006

A Dish Served Cold?

Revenge is odd, a normal reaction to betrayal, but one which exposes our bitterness to public scrutiny. None more public than Jane Doe who made hers more public than anyone. Her MySpace space goes into more detail;

"If you are reading this, I guess you are wondering what this is all about. Is it a joke or is it some kind of cryptic advertisement or something? I'm sad to say it's not. It's none of the above. It's just my way of getting my own back at the B*stard who I have devoted most of my adult life to, only to find out he is a piece of lying cheating scum! If you live somewhere around Birmingham you may know me as Jane Doe. I am the lady who has been emailing Caroline at Brmb to ask for advice about my husband. If you haven't, be warned girls, ALWAYS TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS! A few months ago I suspected my 'dearest' other half was having an affair. New clothes, new habits, trips away... I thought I was being paranoid; he MADE me feel I was being paranoid. But it turns out women’s instinct is a great thing!!! I was right! The b**tard HAS been having an affair!!!! And what's worse is the person he has been seeing behind my back is someone I THOUGHT WAS ONE OF MY DEAREST FRIENDS!!!!...... I even trusted her with my suspicions about him, and she offered me advice!! Can you believe that? She f****** offered to 'help' me... More like manipulate me to suit her own agenda!!!!!!!...... If you know her, or you are reading this - this is for you 'Shelley'... that's what he calls you doesn't he?..... Well, you can have him. He's all yours, you deserve him... You deserve each other... and despite the fact you have betrayed me and ripped away everything that is precious to me, I know that I AM THE ONE THAT IS BETTER OFF!! Because I am the one that can hold my head high wherever I go, knowing that I am a decent person who doesn't need people like you in my life!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Don't bother phoning, don't bother calling around, as far as I am concerned neither of you exist! TO ANYONE WHO HAS EVER GONE THROUGH BEING LIED TO AND CHEATED ON............ They say revenge is sweet, it doesn't feel sweet, it feels great to no longer be the little paranoid woman at home, and finally be able to take control of my own life again................ Thank you to everyone for all your advice and kind words, and thank you to Caroline and Elliott on Brmb for all your help personally and with this. They helped me with the billboard - if you want to see it - it's opposite the Bullring Markets on Upper Dean Street in town. Jane. PS Click become my friend to show your support."

I must admit to having a sneaking admiration but, the best revenge is living a good life. I don't know Jane or her husband, so I don't know what their relationship was like, but infidelity does rock us to our very core regardless. I would prefer not to have a husband who is prepared to have an affair with my friend & things can only get better without him. I would also prefer not to have a friend who would do the same with my husband, thus Jane is by default going to live a much better life just by these 2 no longer being in it. The evidence is that the unfaithful don't change, so I don't have much hope for the future for Mark & Shelley; the outcome is likely to be more pain than pleasure. I hope this is what Jane will concentrate on after her grand gesture, public humiliation of those involved, & media support. In a couple of weeks time, the press will have lost interest, Jane will have only herself to live with & I hope she has an excellent life.

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Friday, December 08, 2006

Homes or ASBO's

This face has haunted me ever since I watched Brain Wood's documentary Evicted, on the November 29th. Chloe came home to find her parents locked out of the only home she had ever known because there had been a delay with their housing benefit. The cheque to clear the rent arrears had arrived the day before they were evicted, and Chloe's mum had called the council's finance department to prevent action being taken, she thought she had everything sorted out. Later she was told that she should have made 2 calls, one to the other department involved, but nobody had told her and she just didn't know. The local authority eventually owned their part in the mistake, but in the meantime the family were told they had made themselves intentionally homeless which exonerated the authorties from accomadating them, Chloe's school refused to send her work to the family's B&B because she was out of their area, if only temporarily.
The other stories were equally heartbreaking but this one may have a profound effect on Chloe's psyche "When eight-year-old Chloe returned home to find her parents in tears... she lost far more than just a roof over her head. At such a critical stage in her emotional development her ability to trust her parents, any grown-ups, the world in general has been shaken to its core. Her confidence and stability may never recover."
I shall be posting soon on what we can do to help, meanwhile I shall be pondering why the anti-social behaviour is central to the public policy agenda, whilst we are simultaneously creating all the risk factors for these children.

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Turned Off By Turner?

The 2006 Turner Prize was won by Tomma Abts, Phil Collins, Mark Titchner & Rebecca Warren were the other nominees. Emma Brockes describes Abts' work beautifully in The Guardian; “Abts used to work on canvasses of all sizes, but somewhere along the line she started feeling most comfortable with a single size, a modest 19in by 15in, and has stuck with it ever since.""She paints sitting down, and the canvas fits the arc of her arm. She paints sitting down, and the canvas fits the arc of her arm. It's an agonisingly slow process, she says, and she will sometimes put a canvas away for a couple of years before returning to complete it. "They're such slow paintings to make that I think they might also be slow to look at ... that people might not really notice what's going on".""Abts' paintings are like palimpsests, multi-layered, and it gives one little jolts of pleasure to look at them, although it's impossible to say why. They require no external stimuli, no subject matter and no obvious end point." Some of her work can be seen at Gallery Giti Nourbakhsch. I like the Turner Prize and the way it makes us open our minds to art works we might otherwise have missed, I can even find meaning in the light bulbs going on and off, and have no truck with the question ‘what is art?’ Nobody asks a writer if they have written a book, they might ask if it is a novel, but that is a genre. It is a freedom of the 20th & 21st century that art doesn’t have to be tightly and stuffily defined, that it can be whatever the artist says is art. It was in 2001 that Martin Creed's light bulbs won the prize; "For the Turner Prize exhibition, Creed has decided to show Work # 227: The lights going on and off. Nothing is added to the space and nothing is taken away, but at intervals of five seconds the gallery is filled with light and then subsequently thrown into darkness. Realising the premise set out in Work # 232, Creed celebrates the mechanics of the everyday, and in manipulating the gallery's existing light fittings he creates a new and unexpected effect.
In the context of Tate Britain, an institution displaying a huge variety of objects, this work challenges the traditional methods of museum display and thus the encounter one would normally expect to have in a gallery. Disrupting the norm, allowing and then denying the lights their function, Creed plays with the viewer's sense of space and time. Our negotiation of the gallery is impeded, yet we become more aware of our own visual sensitivity, the actuality of the space and our own actions within it. We are invited to re-evaluate our relationship to our immediate surroundings, to look again and to question what we are presented with. Responding to the actual condition in which he has been asked to exhibit, Creed exposes rules, conventions and opportunities that are usually overlooked, and in so doing implicates and empowers the viewer.” Be empowered!


A Microscopic Window on the World

Stephen Bennett submitted this photograph for his PM window on the world; "Hello to all at PM. At 5pm on 5th December 2006 I was looking at some volcanic rocks under the Scanning electron microscope. In this picture, each of those 'crags' is 10 to 15 thousandths of a millimeter high." Quite a landscape.
I also love this rabbit from Andrew Staple; Bob is sharing their afternoon cup of tea!

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A 5 O'Clock Window On The World

Today PM asked listeners to post a picture of whatever they were looking at when PM comes on air at 5pm. Mine was as mundane as any one's I suspect, but I post it here so that you can go along and see what everyone else was up to.

Should you pop along to the PM blog, kindly hosted by our Eddie, I am sure the froggers would would welcome any of my visitors to join them on the beach..!

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