The colour of Britain

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Let’s keep it vibrant.

First things first, I’m white. I feel that’s important to say.

emotionless black man in bead necklace

The Black Lives Matter campaign had a strong voice during lockdown. Can we keep the momentum?

It struck me that if we’re going to continue using the word Great, we need to earn it. (Yes, I know it doesn’t necessarily mean great of size or stature or achievements, different origin).

Blacks are prevented from achieving their own potential (hence disabling the potential of Britain) because we’re actually threatened by what we feel they could do. Outshine us, outwit us, out rule us?

All campaigns and activities lose their impetus but this mustn’t be allowed to. Why? Because it’ll be like voluntarily tying our hands behind our back, wearing an eye patch, earplugs, gagging ourselves. You get the idea. By having that glass ceiling which stops competent, brilliant blacks from holding positions of power or authority, we’re limiting this country’s possibilities, stifling its potential.

This is painful to write. We’re comfortable associating blacks with music, parties and trouble – I’m curious about why this is still happening. And my thoughts go like this.

Blacks are prevented from achieving their own potential (hence preventing the potential of Britain) because we’re actually threatened by what we feel they could do. Outshine us, outwit us, out rule us?

We’re killed all the bears here. Why? Because they threatened us. It seems to be what we do. Other countries seem able to live with wild animals, not us. We have to obliterate the threat. That’s how we come to lead is it? Black people are not a threat but we squash their energy, oppress them, make success sop draining it takes the strength of a bear to plough on

A black PM – I look forward to the day. (Maybe like many, blacks look on this as heinous – few want to take on the white, male, middle class, corrupt world of politics.)

We need good people, not form filling.

Blacks have an oratory skill which surpasses most of us. Their intonation is new and makes us sit up and listen. Aren’t we yawning with the tired schoolboys shouting at each other in the Commons? Making in jokes, insulting in that unique English way where only they understand – something between a slanderous joke a jaded married person makes which sounds funny to others and is in fact acutely hurtful and personal.

OK if not politics then teaching, counselling and therapy, architecture, healthcare services (chiropractic, osteopathy, Reiki, optometrist…) Let’s face it, anything.

Could be that the idea is that being  introduced to us gradually. Blacks are now much more present in advertising. Shower gels, technology, breakfast cereals… Maybe the powers that be feel they must spoon feed us as though starting a toddler on solids. But let this not be a fad. Let’s keep going.

I’m wondering how enviable, exemplary, outstanding this country could be if we were just to use the talent we have here. And that means more, much more than ticking boxes to say we’re given work to the right number of underrepresented people. We need good people, not form filling.

But then we need good recruiters and we’re back to square one. A good recruiter must be someone who is intelligent enough to see talent, swoop and exploit it (in the most productive, creative way.)

I think it might start at school. Maybe good teaching isn’t always someone who’s followed the conventional path. Could it be we need to be more imaginative and open to other routes to teaching? The Waldorf-Steiner approach strikes me as a good start. https://www.steinerwaldorf.org/steiner-education/what-is-steiner-education/

Often racism is so much a part of our culture and system, we’ re unaware – many barely know what it is and how it manifests itself.

I’ve come across a number of teachers who have immediately struck me as being gifted. They just innately know how to relay information to those easily distracted, wandering minds. They do it with vigour and passion. Knowing the stuff isn’t enough.

We’re not usually aware of our prejudices. Most of us think of ourselves as egalitarian, without prejudice. This doesn’t explain the disproportionate number of blacks being stopped by police or the inflated number not surviving the new virus. It’s in the air we breathe, so subtle is the prejudice.

Often racism is so much a part of our culture and system, we’ re unaware – many barely know what it is and how it manifests itself. Again education – education led by the culturally underrepresented.

What are we afraid of? That someone who’s not white and middle class might influence our children and make teaching weighted, led by their own experiences? Minorites here have lived with that for an eternity.

Change can be marvellous. I’m excited to see where it might take us. To the limits of our abilities maybe.

I’m keeping this short: sometimes a quick firing of strong opinion is more readable than a slow, painful essay.

Change can be marvellous. I’m excited to see where it might take us. To the limits of our abilities maybe. Let’s not cripple ourselves with our historic fear. Free ourselves and we free the nation, its talent and potential. Think where that could take us. It’s dizzying and I want it now!

The state of the English language

Language of Shakespeare, kings, nobility, artists, academia and the illiterate. A conversation.

Photo by Sarah Trummer on Pexels.com

Me: Who’s to blame? Personally, I blame the ad makers whoever they are. Media graduates who’ve been told the intricacies of English don’t apply to advertising – make up your own version!

Her: Yes but language moves on. We can’t all be talking formal English. What do you want, thee and thou again?

Me: No, just understandable English. I think they still teach that in school. Kids still read Jane Eyre and An Inspector Calls.

Her: Oh that… Well they might be part of their curriculum but I wonder how many read them. And if they do, what do they make of them.

Oh, what, don’t you understand when people talk now? Isn’t that your fault?

Me: Yes! I forgot that part. Give a teen a book and it’ll live in their backpack for three years… But I recall from young being taught the meanings and uses of ‘there, their and they’re’. Now readers have to guess and be forgiving and generous. (A recent eBay ad read: swede boots. I was intrigued and exasperated.) The writer feels no responsibility to use the correct spelling. How has this come about?

Her: Oh, what, don’t you understand when people talk now? Isn’t that your fault?

Me: Listen, there have to be some ground rules. Now, it not so much moving the goalposts as redesigning the entire pitch. “Wouldn’t the pitch look pretty with some lines over there, make it easier to understand the game – for me.”

Her: That’s it isn’t it? You’re averse to change. Because of your failings to keep up, we have to return to an archaic version of English. Not everyone has the same level of education. Some need assistance.

Me: I accept that. But it feels like those who don’t know the rules are writing new ones because they couldn’t understand the old ones.

Here she rolls her eyes.

Me: The one that springs to mind is the Asda ad: Get your cook on. I think they mean get cooking or get excited about preparing your next meal with Asda’s wide range of superb, locally sourced foods. There’s a possibility they mean Get your oven on. Get your cooking on the hob… Or get your cooking apron on? Any number of food preparation suggestions. Shorthand we’re not supposed to know? But, Get your cook on’? I have images of hurling a professionally-trained cook onto the hob and turning him slowly until they’re browned all over, while still succulent and retaining all their natural juices and flavours. Serve with a waiter or two?

So as you aim for the young and illiterate, you exclude most others?

Her: They’re just trying to advertise their ware. And trying to sell to the young.

Me: The young and illiterate?

Her: You have to cater for them too

Me: So as you aim for a young and illiterate, you exclude most others? I see. To cook. Verb. While it’s also a noun, I don’t think they mean to use it as one.

Her: Big deal.

Me: Who grates on me more? (And I know she wouldn’t have written it herself so no blame there.) Alesha Dixon as the face (hair?) L’Oréal. Either she’s desperate for work and will take any rubbish churned out or she has no power in challenging poor (actually destitute) scripts. She colours her hair because it makes her feel super fresh. Good. Because a stale Alesha would be hard to bear.  Going brown at the edges, drying out, maybe turning mushy while looking OK on the outside? What? More unintelligible rubbish.

“Her: Well maybe that’s true. Have you ever coloured your hair?

Me: Once. And ‘fresh’ isn’t how I’d describe the feeling.

She sips her tea and leans back knowing there’s more.

Hello possibilities I could tolerate. Hello to what’s possible even.

Her: Anything else?

Me: Yes. Sky mobile with their ‘Hello possible’. More rubbish. (Or maybe I now have to say garbage since we’re well on our way to being American.) Hello possibilities I could tolerate. Hello to what’s possible even. And that’s not the end of it. The confused.com ad is on more than necessary. Someone actually thought up, “I’m not confused, I’m confused.com. Has this got any meaning? None. Who decided that payment for this was appropriate?

Her: You’re not moving with the times, girl.

Me: No I’m not if this is the result. Are we now permitted to invent our own version of English and assume we’ll be understood? Language must be inclusive not excluding. And if we keep boasting about England, surely we should have a language that all can use? Not a bespoke version only accessible to our small group of equally foolish peers.

Her: I’ve heard enough. Thanks for the tea. I’m off.

I know I haven’t influenced her. Most will take her view. I’m sticking to my guns.

Pick me!

Image result for shrek donkey

Need some scintillating copy? The five top reasons why I’m right for the job.

Reading the article title, critics might retaliate with some of the insults hurled at the poor creature in Shrek. ‘annoying, talking Donkey’ and Puss in Boots manages much worse. Well I vow to be anything but that. Writers are quiet, pondering thinkers. It’s hard to be chatty and reflective.

Me? I sit quietly in my office while staring intently at the copper beech and new raspberry bush in the garden.  I’m thinking long and hard before writing.

Some of the industries I’ve created copy for include beauty, hospitality, entertainment (vocalists, film and TV music composers, dance companies) web designers and property consultants. I now consider myself a specialist in this field. And I gloat I’ve never used the word, ‘stunning’ to describe a house.

But words aren’t everything. Sentence length. By-lines. The ordering of ideas. The very first word. The closing line. There’s debate about whether creative writing can be taught successfully or not. I’m curious.

Sure, we can all put some words down and submit them as text. But do those words speak to the reader? Do they create a feel for your product or service? Are they even spelled right? And oh! is the grammar correct? Do they fit with your business’s look and feel? Are they in line with other elements of your business? All these matter.

But words aren’t everything. Sentence length. By-lines. The ordering of ideas. The very first word. The closing line. There’s debate about whether creative writing can be taught successfully or not. I’m curious.

I wouldn’t consider myself a horticulturalist because I prune shrubs and repot my plants.  Or a mechanic because I can top up the oil and fill my car with fuel. Many give themselves the title of writer when what they do is fill up a page with words. Is this what any client wants?

When writing for a historical pub in Sussex, I went along. Yes, thankless work… Brought wonderful drinks and fine snacks, I explored the grounds and watched what other guests were doing. This was invaluable.

I’m in favour of people doing what they’re good at. What they love doing. This is why I stick to creative writing. It’s my skill. My interest and my strongest ability. That, I’m convinced is what you want for your business.

In order to write appropriate text for a business, the writer needs to have:

  1. Access to interesting and varied vocabulary. The ability to put words together superbly. (Inventive thinking.)
  2. A knowledge of how writing speaks to your audience (some of this comes from reading extensively, some from experimenting.)
  3. The ability to ask the right questions of the client to get the answers needed to start the creative process.

There are of course many more reasons. Choosing a writer to do your writing makes sense. (See above.) Would you expect a horticulturalist or car mechanic to create superb copy?

Once given a project, I’m engrossed. If it’s a sector I haven’t worked in before, I become a little obsessed. If possible, I pay a visit.

When writing for a historical pub in Sussex, I went along. Yes, thankless work… Brought wonderful drinks and fine snacks, I explored the grounds and watched what other guests were doing. This was invaluable.

While I’d been given notes and images, nothing came close to what it felt like being there. Cows in the adjacent field. That smell of ancient timber and log fires. The sound of conversation – different from pubs I’ve been to in other places: intimate, low-key and somehow dignified. The sound of a friendly community meeting up.

That said, most of the properties I’ve created text for are done remotely. The agent sends me images. And with the experience I’ve gained in this field, this is all I need. (New vendors have asked the said agent if I would create their brochures/write their property descriptions … so I deduce that my approach works.)

My toolbox will never be complete. This doesn’t mean that I’m not equipped to carry out specialist jobs, just that my work improves year on year as I add equipment.

I’m aware this might sound smug and arrogant – I’m not ashamed to say I’m improving my skill every day. Already I have a specialist set of fine tools, chosen carefully. But acquiring new ones – small accessories that will add to my glorious set – is also incredibly exciting.

My toolbox will never be complete. This doesn’t mean that I’m not equipped to carry out specialist jobs, just that my work improves year on year as I add equipment.

One way or another, I will hammer, bend and shape good words in my literary workshop. This is what I do. Picking me ensures the service of a professional wordsmith. Why would you want anything less?

The Great Race: first across the line for an inclusive and rich society

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(Probably won’t be the UK…)

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Ten facts about Gherkin. Ignoring a pretty sizeable one.

The chaps in capes, blue tights and questionable boots might manage. And the women wearing copper headbands and bodysuits might well cope too.

But unless you fall into the superhero category, Britain seems incapable of serving the whole of society. Making all areas accessible; being inclusive.

“You simple-headed gherkin!”

Ever seen the film The Great Race? Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon. Natalie Wood and Peter Falk. The Great Leslie and Professor Fate… And the downtrodden Max.

Well the quote comes from that film. The not-so-smart Max gets yelled at (again) by Professor Fate when trying to concoct a cunning plan to foil the competition. It’s not the most well thought-out plan: the plan fails.

This genius design element presumably also excludes the elderly, those recuperating from any major surgery, new limb amputees, anyone without the strength or wish to scale a long flight of stairs.

From now on I’m adopting that word (gherkin) as an insult of the basest sort. Why? Because designers of our London ‘landmark’ have managed to construct this ‘iconic’ building without provision for the disabled. Toilets and access to the very top floor is by stairs only.

This genius design element presumably also excludes the elderly, those recuperating from any major surgery, new limb amputees, anyone without the strength or wish to scale a long flight of stairs.

How has this happened? In the 21st century. Can we continue calling this a landmark building? Nope.

So the Gherkin (let’s just call it 30 St Mary Axe eh?) is exclusive and thereby excluding. How proud we should be. A magnificent part of our capital. How tourists must be in awe of it. You can keep it. It’s a disgrace.

This leads me seamlessly on to the whole disabled access catastrophe.

Ramps where the entrance itself is stupidly impossible to use. Public conveniences that anyone with a stick, any spine or leg weakness, breathing or balance issues simply won’t tackle. Staircases with no bannisters… Inclusive my eye.

This is paying lip-service. Just scraping through regulations. Box ticking for some myopic clerk. It’s not a working way of ensuring people with movement difficulties can remain part of mainstream society.

And do you know what that means? That a swathe of brilliant people cannot take part whether in work or outside work.

And do you know what that means? That we might be making do with the least capable. The less talented. Those who have been chosen to do certain jobs just because they can scale stairs to use the loo, talk to the director, do presentations in the board room. That horrifies me.

Whether we’re in or out of Europe, Britain must have an intelligent, 21st-century approach to disability. It’s no good thinking that an able-bodied person must be right for the job. That’s idiocy.

This is not the way to be great again. And goodness knows we need that more than ever. We’re asking to be overtaken. Ruled by those who have catered for all parts of society and who can access the brilliance of all its members.

Those who have provided opportunities and ensured that the most able (and I use that word in its true, broad sense) are picked for the job. A gifted economist who has a calliper. A talented teacher who needs wheelchair access (to all areas in the institution.) A musician who sometimes needs assistance and well-thought-out planning. Chefs, nursery staff, researchers and innovators…

Can you imagine an interview like this?

“Hello. Welcome. You have a glowing and highly impressive CV. You’ve been at the forefront of ecological research. It says you’ve found a way to save the planet.”

“I have indeed. Twenty-three years of my life’s work.”

“Just the person we’re looking for. You can start Monday. Can you work on the top floor?”

“Of course. I can work anywhere.”

“Can you tackle twelve flights of stairs? There’s no lift for the top floors.”

“Then no. Not without a lift”

Next!”

“Come in Dave . Now. can you tackle twelve flights of stairs?”

“Of course I can. I’m a professional mountaineer.”

“You’re hired.”

It’s economics and in the interests of national GDP, preservation of our status and standing in the world. And that’s worth fighting for. So let battle commence.

As it is we’re struggling with zero hours contracts, minimum wages and an array of employment challenges. The solutions aren’t easy but they’re worthwhile.

I know of one forward-thinking company that employs a chap with autism. A specialist. They’ve moved the office around a bit, ensured he can work comfortably. Other staff have been briefed on some of the new issues each might face and been advised on the best ways of working together. Why all this trouble and expense Because he’s the only man that can do the supremely technical job he has to do. ‘Nuff said.

Whether we’re in or out of Europe, Britain must have an intelligent, 21st-century approach to disability. It’s no good thinking that an able-bodied person must be right for the job. That’s idiocy. Cater for all individuals as best as you can and see how successful and enriched the country becomes.

We owe it to ourselves. It’s not charity. It’s not something for nothing for the undeserving. It’s not a thinly disguised tax hike or quiet removal of services. (We seem not to mind these…)

It’s economics and in the interests of national GDP, preservation of our status and standing in the world. And that’s worth fighting for. So let battle commence.

Lose the accent!

How advertisers use stereotypes to sell

This time it’s about voices. Accents in particular.

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How would you sell to people who lived here?

Are ad makers still using northern English accents to denote frugality? Trustworthiness? Close-knit communities and old-fashioned standards. And American accents to hint at some sort of old-age freedom? (Before the newcomers hadn’t yet slaughtered all the native people.) Or mob-type approach.

Then I wonder whether the ad is trying to appeal to the growing swathe of ‘silver surfers’. Don’t they want to feel that the world hasn’t really changed?

The PlusNet ad seems want the web to seem homely and safe. Doesn’t that instantly make it suspect? Don’t we want our internet connections to be fast and reliable? And cheap.

Then I wonder whether the ad is trying to appeal to the growing swathe of ‘silver surfers’. Don’t they want to feel that the world hasn’t really changed? That you can still pop over the road and leave your door unlocked, be kind to strangers calling at your door sort of thing.

Well Mrs. don’t leave your internet connected and your door open. Someone will creep in and steal your bank details, send rude emails to all your contacts, run off with your jewellery and leave a list of questionable sites in your history. (“Oh! How did she get there? She needs a vest on. Looks chilly…” )

There’s something they’re not telling the old folk and I disapprove. Don’t be fooled by the northern accent: the internet can be ugly and unsafe.

The token female suggests there are girls who don the hi-vis jerkin and heave steel tubes about. I don’t think they do

Almost worse than this is the money supermarket ad with a female site worker. Looking like they’re challenging all the prejudices about women working in this ‘man’s’ sector (are there any?) but relying on stereotypes anyway. She’s built big, has been made to look angry and doesn’t actually do anything remarkable with her body (like the male actors do). Why?

The token female suggests there are girls who don the hi-vis jerkin and heave steel tubes about. I don’t think they do. More fiction from the media industry. So again, just a stereotypical view of what sort of woman might work on a building sire. Will this help the ad?

And then there’s the Open University. Ahhh, almost more predictable than all the others. Which area to better represent brains than Scotland? For me, this one works. Doesn’t matter whether it’s a Scot talking about cooing, money, pet care or politics, there’s something innately smart-sounding about the accent. (Sorry to admit my own prejudice here…)

As for the Trivago TV ad… I don’t know where to begin. Some antipodean chick in a terrible set of mismatching clothes (did she buy all Liz’s stuff from eBay??)

And Ikea, well, might be my small world of travels but to me the chap sounds like Antonio Banderas in Zorro/Puss in Boots: ‘the wonderful every day. Señor…’

Oh dear. Changes the whole sense and mood, doesn’t it? Suddenly PlusNet is targeting wealthy widows with a fat pension, offshore investments and live-in staff.  

What would the eBay ad sound like with the Ikea actor’s voice? “Hotel? Trivago.” “’Otel? Treebargo.” (That’s a Spanish/Swedish accent.)

And could the eBay ad find a new audience by using Richard E. Grant’s voice? Plummy. Posh. Pubic school. They’d have to change the names. Possibly the script too. “Oh Jemima, you do so like to stockpile your old paraphernalia…” Probably wouldn’t have the same feel to it. The Open University promoted by someone with a Leeds twang…?

PlusNet using Emilia Fox’s voice? Could she get away with their slogan? “We’ll do you proud.” No. So they’d have to change the slogan to something like, “A service any mature and immensely patriotic northerner would be glad to use…”

Oh dear. Changes the whole sense and mood, doesn’t it? Suddenly PlusNet is targeting wealthy widows with a fat pension, offshore investments and live-in staff.

I’m not in the business of creating ads so can’t come up with any workable options. And I do see that older beliefs about nations are slowly being smashed and rehashed. The Irish are now showcasing their lovely culture and country. And their accent is the sound of poetry, music and an erudite population.

But would those who make a living out of it, try and steer away from old stereotypes? It just makes the ads dull and passé.

I don’t think northerners are any more trustworthy than anyone else. Or female site workers are all frightening, slightly butch with badly bleached hair. The Swedes may well have an identity crisis and aspire to be Spanish and the Australians possibly do have appalling taste in clothes and a penchant for cheap hotel stays.

And maybe (and this costs me a lot to say) the Scots aren’t any cleverer than the rest of us. But I’ll hold on to that prejudice til I’m proved wrong.

What’s on TV: joined up thinking

From fondant, filo pastry and fine finishes to  pig swill and scraping the barrel

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It’s been about a week since The Great British Bake Off concluded, and we’re already being treated to all the Victorian Bakers has to offer. This is BBC gold.

You only need to watch a clip from Victorian Bakers to notice the poor light, the cramped spaces they worked in, the rudimentary equipment (where’s the Kitchen Aid stand mixer eh?) and exhausting physical demands of the work.

It’s no good older people telling us we’re lucky. That things were harder in their day. Money tighter, food pricier and much more limited. Sometimes we have to see it for ourselves.

In contrast Bake Off was staged in a well-lit tent in an area that could house a Victorian slum and the finest, most reliable equipment. I’m not slandering either programme: they’re both unmissable.

Was this light historical underlining on the BBC’s part? Look how far we’ve come. Look how lucky we are. If so, they’re forgiven even though it’s not their job. We need that sometimes.

It’s no good older people telling us we’re lucky. That things were harder in their day. Money tighter, food pricier and much more limited. Sometimes we have to see it for ourselves.

When I shop and store and think up what to cook for my family’s meals or ponder ways of using up leftovers, I can feel smug and smart. If I start pricing up what our meals have cost per head. I can be intoxicated with how wonderful I am. I do pretty well.

But watching the Victorian bakers literally put their backs into kneading, heaving sacks of flour abut and working in those small, hot spaces, I’m soon put into my place. What I do is nothing compared to what went on in last century.

Feed your children something edible food and eat animal fodder yourself (can’t afford to feed the whole family). Who in Britain has to make that decision today?

But deciding to show this programme right after the wonderful indulgences of 21st-century contestants was the right thing to do.

Bake Off was the broadcasting of skilled people showing off and playing with food really. (How many creations went wrong and were binned?)

Victorian Bakers is a sudden but tender jolt telling us what the poor endured. Feed your children something edible food and eat animal fodder yourself (can’t afford to feed the whole family). Who in Britain has to make that decision today?

Both programmes are important. Both entertaining. Though I begin to be plagued with guilt when considering that watching what people endured is providing me with mere entertainment… that can’t be right.

While I don’t want to see any TV channel moralising or sending sinister messages through programming, I see nothing wrong in this kind of contrast. To me, that’s all it is.

Halloween: don’t darken my doorstep

It’s that time again and boy do I resent it.

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BEWARE OF THE WITCH…

I’m obliged to carve pumpkins and buy sweets for other people’s children who – masked and disguised – turn up at my door uninvited after dark to… well… beg for sweets.

Sure, I don’t have to display a pumpkin but my young would like to take part and help carve one. This is the part I like. Mine tends to win on the horror scale (unplanned).

It’s the doling out of sweets to people I’ve never met I resent. But today, while shopping for junk to give to other people’s children, I had an idea. Break the habit.

Healthy treats. They’ll never return. So everyone’s happy.

So as a deterrent, here’s my solution. Stock up with fruits and berries. Carve the said pumpkin and display as required.  But… when the little ones stand there expecting a whole tub of chocolates, offer them fruit! I can tell they need it. Berries, slices of apple and pear, chunks of coconut… Healthy treats. They’ll never return. So everyone’s happy.

And anyway what’s the meaning of the horrible whiny taunt, ‘Trick or Treat’?” ?Well, it’s vague at best and has been contorted by… um… guess who… the US.

This site tells us:

Although it is unknown precisely where and when the phrase “trick or treat” was coined, the custom had been firmly established in American popular culture by 1951…

(Ah, that explains a lot.)  And a little further down

Poor people would visit the houses of wealthier families and receive pastries called soul cakes in exchange for a promise to pray for the souls of the homeowners’ dead relatives

http://www.history.com/topics/halloween/history-of-trick-or-treating

When I ask for a trick, none of them oblige. Their whole purpose is to dress up and amass sugar.

I quite like the idea that the origins of Halloween aren’t clear but like the notion of honouring our dead on that night (our very own Día de los Muertos) And like it even better (makes more sense to me) that it goes back about 2000 years following Celtic traditions.

I always thought that the ‘Trick or Treat’ meant that I supply a treat or if I don’t’, they play a trick on me. When I ask for a trick, none of them oblige. Their whole purpose is to dress up and amass sugar.

And what have we done with that rather spiritual tradition? Disposed of the spirit of it, capitalised on the buying/eating aspects and ensured it’s lost all gravity and any reference to what could be an honourable and meaningful date. We’re good at that.

And it’s the little spongy faces with the downcast eyes, their disappointment/disgust barely disguised when they see what I’ve offered them

So there’s my guide. Sure, have some pastries but in return go and pray for my deceased loved ones.

And it’s the little spongy faces with the downcast eyes, their disappointment/disgust barely disguised when they see what I’ve offered them. Four Celebration chocolate?! Is that it you tight old lady? Don’t you realise we’ve got to share bootie equally between all seven of us? And we’ve already got Celebrations anyway…

Ok so this year kiddies, it couldn’t be clearer: if you like autumn fruits and berries on sticks, you’re all welcome. I’m happy to offer soul cake but be clear what I required of you in return.

I may be displaying a horrifically carved pumpkin outside but this isn’t a free-for-all sugar station. You’ve been informed and warned.

All Grown Up!

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Wearing the right clothes; carrying the right handbag, look I’m an adult…

When I was about seven, I thought if I had a handbag, a shiny red one preferably, I’d be a grown up woman.

A little after that when playing with Barbie dolls, my sister and I agreed that since they lived alone and had a split-level apartment, they were real women.

At about twelve, I thought make up would do it. Between about 15 and 18, I was sure that if I had a car and could drive, then I’d be grown up.

Oddly enough, I never considered children to indicate ‘grown-up-ness’. Part of my inherent immaturity no doubt.

What can I say? I’m what any rational young person would call grown up, yet I promise I don’t feel any different.

These days, I play the piano, knit a little (a very little), cook nice things to eat, garden a little and sometimes put a pair of heels and make up on and act all grown up in a bar or restaurant.

So what makes us adults?

Yes, having children is a sort of ‘adulthood landmark’. But not just giving birth to a baby. (“I gave birth. I’m now all grown up.” Ha!)

Now, I can say with an almost biblical oath that paying bills, dealing with organisations and councils and agents and other grown-ups (who are usually much more grown up than I am) comes close to defining an adult.

Yes, having children is a sort of ‘adulthood landmark’. But not just giving birth to a baby. (“I gave birth. I’m now all grown up.” Ha!)

The ensuing physical challenges (fatigue, stamina, mental agility all under the shadow of severe sleep deprivation); social and moral dilemmas, the choices where you don’t know what the outcome might be for another human life you adore until about fifteen , twenty or thirty years down the line; the shaping of answers to difficult questions, these begin to define the adult I believe. Because they rely on self-knowledge and introspection. Without those, we’re barely human.

…I’ve been confronted with children who have asked me how I am, asked about my own child’s exam results, asked about my husband… What?! Go and play little one!

So what is it I see these days? A disturbing phenomenon. Infantadults. And of course, the other symptom: Babies in Adult Bodies!

In the last three days, I’ve had encounters with children (yes, persons of 8, 12 and 13 are to my mind most definitely children) who’ve been shoved into adult roles and have (obviously) not done it with finesse, elegance or actual knowledge.

So I’ve been confronted by children who have asked me how I am, asked about my own child’s exam results, asked about my husband… What?! Go and play little one!

The parents would define themselves as ‘professional’ and ’mature’ I think, yet somehow they relinquish parental duties and hand them over to their children. It more than bothers me. I find it unsatisfying and insulting. And I find myself having adult conversations with little ones who have only just learned to tie their shoelaces, ride a bicycle or tell the time. As you’d expect, I have a theory…

Like enormous toddlers – unfit to govern themselves or anyone else.

The parents of these precocious little darlings (late-thirty-early-to-mid-forty-somethings) had career parents. So as little ones they had to take on responsibilities: Get themselves to school in the morning. Let themselves in after school by the time they were six, look after Mummy and Daddy because they were exhausted after a day’s work; answer the phone, do little errands… These little people were all grown up by fifteen. Precocious, resentful and burdened with the weight of a childhood lost too soon for no good reason.

So what do they do? They partner up and have their own wee ones. ‘Aaaah’ they think, ‘another few years (let’s say five) and I’ll have someone to take care of me: my children!’ On it goes…

My heart breaks for them even though these arrogant, little know-alls are immensely annoying.. Like enormous toddlers, unfit to govern themselves or anyone else. But at the start, quite beside themselves with the honour of being thought grown up. That’s the child in them: Mummy and Daddy say I’m grown up because I can answer the phone. Yeah, Mummy and Daddy are outsourcing their duties, dearie.

Their future? Much the same as their giant, media-fed neurotic child-parents. Be a grown-up at seven, get a job; partner up; breed; spend six months being a parent (maybe); offload their young onto another organisation; treat them like adults by the time they’re in first school… And let society deal with the fallout. Aggravating but ignorant people.

Real children are charming: fully formed adults can be fascinating. A messy combination of the two is just trouble lying in wait.

Santana had a song, Let the Children Play. Maybe someone will redo the theme with Get the Children to Work or something.

One last word: please keep your young people away from me unless they behave in an age-appropriate manner and at nine years old are knowledgeable about climbing trees, playing chase, making huts, fighting, dressing dolls, making weapons out of sticks or chasing around the neighbourhood armed with tubs of water.

Real children are charming: fully formed adults can be fascinating. A messy combination of the two is just trouble lying in wait.

Undecided… stay put or get out?

This isn’t a marital problem… Though the similarities are uncanny.

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I’ve been in this relationship a long time. The way it functions is familiar to me. There’s a degree of stability. I’m comfortable. Everyone tells me I’m doing well.

But there’s this nagging at the back of my mind and it forces me to ask some questions. Could things work better apart?

The EU debate is probably over most people’s heads. We can only decide given the information provided. Most of it feels like propaganda. (A bit like the church telling me marriage is sacred. Ordained by God. ‘Til death do us part…)

So how would everyone fare if we separated?

We talk about a nanny state here. It’s nothing compared to the overseeing of everything we do that Europe does.

This is a very personal feeling. About governing myself. Making decisions in the small group I belong to. Someone highly intelligent compared the EU membership to India’s Home Rule campaign. If that wasn’t infantilising a people, I don’t know what was. Isn’t this similar?

We talk about a nanny state here. It’s nothing compared to the overseeing of everything we do that Europe does.

My way of seeing it is this.

When we make decisions in the family, my husband and I talk. We share the same hopes and goals for our unit (the family). Now the children are older, we involve them a little more.

If we had to ask both sides of our families too and the neighbourhood and perhaps their children… I suspect nothing would ever be decided on. We’d have to choose a smaller, representative group to lead the family. And trust they’d know what they were doing. And would be working in our interests.

So everyone makes compromises. Some more than others. Usually in any group, some voices are louder. What about the neighbourhood bully? Or the one with more financial clout? A louder voice? What about the individuals who are shy and don’t speak up? What about their voice?

Without the EU, we forged the NHS, the Welfare State, police force and BBC.The country has the resources, the intelligence and drive to achieve great things. Small is beautiful.

If we as a group/neighbourhood had to pool finances and make decisions on expenditure, I can’t see any sane way forward. There would inevitably be red tape. Rules and clauses and sub-clauses. Most of us wouldn’t get to see them or agree with them. But that’s the price of trying to make a large sprawling group work.

Many against staying in the EU have immigration as their prime focus. As the daughter of two immigrants who have done incredibly well, this isn’t my issue.

Without the EU, we forged the NHS, the Welfare State, police force and BBC. Without doubt, institutions that are cited as world class when talking about the UK. This country has the resources, the intelligence and drive to achieve great things. Small is beautiful.

And from what I see there’s an increasing desire for small groups to break off and rule themselves (Wales and Scotland come to mind) becoming even smaller.

Well it might seem childish but Britain does have friends. Again, we weren’t part of the EU when either of the World Wars broke out. But we had allies.

It feels as though ‘squaring up’ to the US or China (economically and militarily) are the main reasons for remaining in the EU.

Well it might seem childish but Britain does have friends. Again, we weren’t part of the EU when either of the World Wars broke out. But we had allies.

It feels a bit like joining a group of people at school whose principles you don’t really agree with or personalities you don’t get on with. But you’re protecting yourself against being bullied by another gang. What about our own ethics and principles?

Isn’t there something to be said for governing the group from the inside? Making decisions in small units? Using people who also know how that unit is made up?

I keep thinking about all the member states. I’d have to trust that the leaders were supremely informed about rural Lithuania, urban Spain, remotest Estonia… Are they?

I feel we can still be a good nation: strong, creative, economically and culturally successful and progressive. And that other nations will still want to deal with us.

A recent BBC debate on the subject threw up a fascinating question by a member of the public: why do we feel the EU has the moral high ground? Aren’t they people like ourselves? Don’t they have prejudices just as we do? Don’t they also have their own interests and agenda – for themselves and their own nation – at the centre of things like we do?

In all this muddle is the overriding feeling that we can do it ourselves, thank you. Not even counting the fact that remaining in could prove detrimental to my family’s businesses or our own, I feel we can still be a good nation: strong, creative, economically and culturally successful and progressive. And that other nations will still want to deal with us.

A layman’s point of view but no different to the majority of vaguely informed voters.

I welcome opinion, disagreement, another perspective, so do respond with thoughts and ideas. Because in this strange and long-standing marriage, I want to do the right thing.

Restricted mobility? Might as well stay at home.

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How Britain pays lip service to those with difficulties.

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The BAFTAS the other day seemed to have two related themes:

  1. Don’t dare get rid of the BBC and Channel 4. Apparently some MP mentioned this in earnest
  2. TV and film-making needs to keeps funds so they can continue to be diverse – both with subject-matter and those they can employ.

Do we really need to be saying this in 2016? Seems so.

Readers familiar with my posts might ask, What’s she going to rant about this time?

Ramps, parking, help at airports, general support for those who struggle. Are we that callous that we refuse to accommodate them?

London? Forget it. Your blue badge means nothing. A disc to assuage the do-gooders’ sense of guilt that the system doesn’t really work.

This is the reality. Difficulty walking? We’ve put a ramp near the toilets so you can use them. What no one has thought of is the five flights of stairs (part of the way with no banister) to get to the loo. How the hell is this supposed to work?

There can be few who are unfamiliar with uneven paving. Round our way (Bucks – glorious, educated, middle England… pah!) it doesn’t matter anyway: drivers mount the kerb to get where they’re going. One day very soon, a parent pushing their child or someone in a mobility scooter is going to be hurt. Badly.

In the meantime, anyone using the pavement (on foot) is going to be challenged. Children, those whose sight isn’t what it used to be, anyone whose mobility isn’t what some bacon-headed councillor thinks it should be, older people, those who are recovering from illness or injury… We’re denying an awful lot of people access.

London? Forget it. Your blue badge means nothing. A disc to assuage the do-gooders’ sense of guilt that the system doesn’t really work. Can’t find a disabled parking space. Can’t park in double or single yellow lines. Like those plastic funfair tokens: I want to go on the big wheel again! Sorry love, should’ve got here before half five. Not valid now

Looking like we’re doing the right thing by disabled and less able citizens, well,  we seem to be able to get away with it. What we’re doing is depriving everybody.

What are we really saying to the people in this country – both able and less able?

If ethnic minorities or children or older people were stopped from taking part and contributing to society, we’d probably be hauled in front of a European court. Looking like we’re doing the right thing by disabled and less able citizens, well,  we seem to be able to get away with it. What we’re doing is depriving everybody.

If a teacher was prevented from working because of this, half-baked ‘awareness’ of the needs of the less able, who would lose out? The teacher and the students. Same with everyone in the creative, legal and medical professions. Those who are homosexual, heterosexual, depressed, have hearing or speech difficulties… And in fact anyone with skill in any profession or service. How can this be allowed to happen? Access all areas? Only if you’re young, fit and able.

When there really isn’t equality between those who maybe have full use of their movement and those who don’t, we’re failing. Failing the population and as a country.

Making do with second or third best just because those people can climb stairs/ walk on raised paving slabs or see without help for example. Great Britain? I don’t think so.

We’re paring our society down horribly by not doing enough to include the many who find getting about harder. We’re dismissing talent and ability by not catering for those with mobility problems. We’re not using their gifts. Not using the best, most able and qualified people in their field. Making do with second or third best just because those people can climb stairs/ walk on raised paving slabs or see without help for example. Great Britain? I don’t think so.

This grates on me. We’re holding a referendum next month on whether or not to stay in Europe soon: a big topic. What I want to see is the country taking care of its own. Caring for them. Using their wealth of skill and knowledge. Accommodating its people and making sure everyone has access to all the facilities the country offers.

Too much to ask? Let’s drop the ‘Great’ then and just say it like it is. A small, little island that is, as Ofsted might class it, improving. I think even that’s optimistic.