Prejudice, Equality & Gender

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I was recently asked by a friend to take part in a mini questionnaire on variant topics surrounding prejudice, equality and gender.  I was asked, for the purposes of the project to keep my answers brief.  Below is the result.

What Stereotype Or Prejudice Have You Experienced Because Of Your Sex?

I have experienced instances of judgement based upon my gender.  There is probably an appearance, from the outside, of prejudicial behaviour however that is not always the way I view it.  Intent plays a keys role in deciding whether someone was purposefully discriminatory towards another.  Sometimes, though not excusable, a learned behaviour drives the prejudice – and this has not necessarily been question or attempted to be re-taught.

My sexuality or at least the perception of my manner, physicality etc…can be assumed to be “unmanly” and not the way in which “real men” behave.  I am not speaking of anything sexual; but by not fitting the clichéd stereotype to which most children in the UK (who grow to be adults) are surrounded by, you get judged.  Judgement is also not a bad thing – it is imperative to deciding and evolving friendships and trust, but if badly aimed the judgement could be deemed to be prejudice.

 Have You Ever Lost Out On A Position Because Of Your Sex?

I don’t personally know of any occasion where I specifically lost out on a position due to the fact that I am male.  However, I can see situations where it would happen and almost be acceptable for this to occur.  For example, were I to own a health spa that catered to a predominantly female crowd, which gender of staff would my customers prefer to be served by?  Which would I trust more?  This leads back to the previous question – it is judgement.

Were I to have two applicants for a vacancy at the hypothetical spa, one defined male and one defined female and both were of equal skill, similar age and experiences.  I feel I would opt for the female in this situation.  Maybe this proves that there is a slice of me that I dislike seeing in other parts of society.

It is difficult in certain jobs / positions to allow any form of positive discrimination (although it does exist).  I don’t want equal amounts of each gender, race, sexuality in politics purely based on those credentials.  I want to see the people who are best suited to the role.  An American politician once said, “She got the job but she was second choice.  The reason?  The first wasn’t female”.

Do You Feel There is Equality Between The Sexes?

I think that equal amounts of discrimination occur to people of both sexes.  Quite often it is easier to notice the inequality from the female perspective rather than the males.  This could be due to the past imbalances and inequalities from the right to vote, to expectations on life achievements and so on.  However, these days I feel that males and females are more or less on an equal platform and some of the perceived inequalities are actually based upon the simple fact that differences exist: mentally, physically, sexually and so on.

I think the biggest inequalities and discriminations are towards those who may be described as inter-sex or transgendered.  There is still a lack of understanding, a lack of knowledge and education and for as long as this ignorance occurs – the prejudices and inequalities will only deepen.

What, In Your Opinion, Is The Main Difference Between The Sexes (other than physical)?

I am not certain what to write here as each notion I can think of in terms of differences, I then find a major exception.

I think we all are capable of making the same mistakes; we are all capable of handling a situation in similar if not identical ways, we are all capable of feeling victimised and isolated and so on.

I think the perceived differences that are not based upon the physical are linked to all my previous answers: learned behaviour, expectations, a desire to conform and a fear to stand alone.

What Is Your Opinion On Gender Reassignment?

I do not feel that I was born in the wrong physical body.  I don’t have to wonder or worry whether I am male or female, because I was born identified male and that gender suits me just fine.

For those that are born and then have to live life feeling like an alien in their own body, feeling like “an outsider to themselves” is a pain and confusion beyond my comprehension.  I don’t think anyone can fully grasp how that feels unless you are in that position.

I have the privilege of counting several transgendered people amongst my close friends (both FTM and MTF).

Gender reassignment may be seen as “out of the norm”, as it is a minority group that decide to undergo these procedures, but if it allows someone to be who they are and free them of a trap that they are in – then it must surely be all for the better.

Do You Believe There Are ‘Men’s Jobs’ And ‘Women’s Jobs’?

I cannot think of any job that I could define as only suitable for males or females.  Both are equally capable of performing the same tasks.  Women and men can be of equal strength, intelligence and ability.  It all depends upon the candidates that apply for the position at the time.

There are jobs that could be described as “male only” but they will have their female counterpart and vice versa; i.e. Male Stripper / Female Stripper, Male Footballer / Female Footballer.

I reiterate, as long as the person in any role is suitable for the job it shouldn’t matter what sex the person is defined as.

God: By An Atheist

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Religion is a topic from which many people run scared; afraid of hurting somebody’s feelings, of demonising a faith, scared and sick to death of the age old answers and comebacks that one is about to receive.

I should start this article by stating that I do not believe in the existence of God, I do not practise any religion and the Bible does not form the basis of my moral compass.  Those who wish to maintain their beliefs, affiliations and moralities in the opposite way to me are entitled to and should not be judged for keeping their faith in their way.

I was born into a family with a Roman Catholic background but was not raised in or under the guidance of the church.  My parents have a profound mistrust in the Catholic Church but are divided in their beliefs even ‘til today.  One is an atheist – a total non-believer.  The other believes but is not a devout church-goer and will turn to a higher power when she deems it necessary.  Both had a good knowledge and understanding of the Bible.  So I was essentially raised with an unbiased view upon the existence of God, but always had a cynicism instilled into me about the Roman Catholic Church.  This cynicism has grown and continues to do so.

Why No God?

I like things that can be proved (or that make more sense) with scientific reasoning, facts and theories.  As we progress in science with our research and understanding, certain ‘facts’ will inevitably change.  There is no denying that science can be wrong, but it more easily accessible and understandable than believing in the fantastical.

Children cling to imaginary friends as long as they are able…these are pets, these are comforts and companionships that alter and grow as the children grow.  As adults we know that children will grow out of this ‘phase’ for surely if they continue to talk to imaginary beings, they will be classed as insane and probably be sectioned or under some form of care for a mental disorder.  However, when adults bow their heads and pray to God, a kind of imaginary friend, this is seen to be normal.  To me all believers, though free to hold their views, should be in the category of ‘nuts’.

I have seen no scrap of evidence that makes me believe in God…because there is none.  People will quote the creation of the Earth as a sign that He exists…however science has always given more practicable solutions like the Big Bang Theory etc…  Science also proves that we live on a dying planet…so if God does exist, why create such a beauteous thing only to watch it destroy?  If God created Earth….who created the other planets in our galaxy?  Did they appear the way science explains?  Or did they too have their own Gods?

There are too many unanswered questions for me to believe in God.

The reasons to believe that God doesn’t exist are simple but plentiful.  Here are a few that seem to have no comeback or defence from religious / faithful people.

One child dying every seven seconds in Africa due to starvation and hunger

In 2004 Band Aid 20 was formed with Bob Geldolf (producer) back as leading orator.  At this time it was made clear that every seven seconds one child dies in Africa.  He created a thematic motif that was repeated around the world whereby he clicked his fingers at a regular rhythm saying “every time I click my fingers, an African child dies”.  No atheist can disprove the existence of a greater plan any more than a person of faith can prove the existence of one – however, if there is a being controlling and watching and crafting a greater plan, it’s not a very good, kind or moral one.  So rather than believing in an evil, vengeful God; I choose not to believe in a higher power that allows in its scheme the needless death of millions of children each year.

1,833 people (at least) died in hurricane Katrina and the floods that followed

If a great design was formulated by God then it is heavily flawed and corrupted by ‘natural disasters’.  As an apparently omniscient God, He surely knew that he was creating a destructive force, a dying planet and pain and suffering to millions.  No?  He couldn’t know?  Then how can one claim that God is all-knowing.  Why create a planet and all that exists thereupon only to hurt and ruin it?  Some religious people will quote God’s punishment and vengeance for breaking the ‘natural way’ or for committing sins – but these things we do may be natural to each individual (so called ‘made in His image’) – so to follow the rules and wishes or face the wrath of one being – isn’t that communism?  Isn’t it widely accepted that communism is a dangerous, scary and freedom-repressing regime?  Religion is communism shrouded in mythological clothing!

Our species, according to many scientists, has been in existence for somewhere between 100,000 – 250,000 years.  So if science is to be believed why did God only reveal himself about 3,000 years ago?

Professor Richard Dawkins (amongst others) have proven that Homo-sapiens came to being around 250,000 years ago.  This is via the examination of remains, ancient peoples and social structures and the advancement of the species.  If this is true, which I believe it is, it seems unusual and almost impossible to understand why God only revealed himself 3,000 years ago.  Where was the creator for 257,000 years?  This also paints a somewhat murky concept of the creationist theory.  If God, as inventor, did indeed create Earth and all upon it – why was his help so delayed in coming?

Prayers are never answered.  Natural coincidence, strategies and / or hard work answer prayers

The concept of private prayer is a wonderful thing and can be of comfort and support to those that partake in this medium.  However, aside from the elements of witchcraft naturally applied to praying to an unknown quantity – I find it difficult not to notice the obvious lack of understanding of coincidences and science.  People speak of praying for cures to illnesses for their loved ones, and if their loved one is to recover they say that their “prayers have been answered”.  They completely disregard the medical treatment they have received, preferring to defer to a higher, yet still unknown, power.  This belief is somewhat absurd.  For if prayers were truly answered, and God was truly omnipresent and omniscient – why do we still have famine, AIDS, cancers etc…?  World peace can only be achieved by the actions of well meaning men and women (who maintain their own moral compass) not by speaking to an illusory leader.  If people hear voices or talk to other mentally created beings – they are potentially said to be suffering from delusions or schizophrenia – but this is inexplicably excused when God is the imagined being.

The Gospels are said to have been written around 80 – 100 years after the death of Jesus.  Stories can be elaborated, changed or even invented in that time – the Gospels by definition are hearsay not factual

I won’t dwell on this point too long here as later I discuss religious literature in more depth.  I will say that it is hard to hold good commitment and belief in anything that could be defined as little more than hearsay.  The human race is given to conversation and thought – allowing creativity to flourish – this begins the idea of fiction writing.  Were these works of fiction taken to a literal mind?  Play a game of Chinese Whispers and see what “Gospels” you can materialise.

Not one scrap of hard evidence has ever been presented to prove the existence of God.

No hard evidence, no real proof has ever been presented to the world to prove that the deity exists.  All we have are the words of religious leaders who themselves maintain no real proof except personal belief.  These leaders have also created hatred via their teachings: the denial of condoms, the advancement of genital mutilation (on adults & children), and they have ignored the facets and abilities of the female species for thousands of years.  The Bible becomes their mantle, a book of only limited age containing stories of such difficulty in truth that they would fit well in a Hollywood super-hero movie.  An immaculate conception does not, cannot scientifically happen.  If it did, why have their not been further immaculate conceptions?  Why is their no figure on Earth to spread the message that they wish spread…except human self-ordained religions?  Ask basic questions to yourself and answer them with proof, which I doubt you can: what does God look like?  What does God sound like?  How can he hear the prayers of billions people at the same time?  Supernatural things have no basis in reality or nature and fit the same bill of description as God, religion and faith.

Religion is a man-made invention.  Which teachings or Gods are the correct ones?

Organised religion by its very nature is created, by man, to form a community that obeys certain teachings and follows by certain codes of human-ordained moralities.  Whether Catholic, Church of England, Mormon, Hindu or any other denomination: different structures and teachings (not to mention alternate scriptures) are in place.  This, ultimately, leads to there being different versions of god or gods.  So it becomes impossible to differentiate as to which is the real one, for if only one being created Earth and handed down morality (via the Ten Commandments for example) then how comes so many religions are created.  Surely, one faith is the expected outcome.  Only a man-made difference of opinion and preconceived understandings (handed down through generations) could lead to so many religions (many profiting from the profligation of mythology).

The perceived “power” of God has historically diminished (to believers) and has died to atheists!

The so-called estimable “power-of-God” has clearly weakened or perhaps waned through time.  From the super-power of Earth creation and delivering of miracles on Earth to now seemingly having his “face” or that of Jesus appearing on burnt toast, seems to show a distinct lack of supremacy.  Believers will say that He will come and show his powers again…but how is this known?  Is this merely a figment of fancy planted by the aforementioned organised religions?  I believe so.  The idea of having a powerful creator to many people of faith is a comfort – but, dependant on the texts one chooses to believe, his abuse of power is the equivalent of the abuse of position delivered by many modern day dictators like Hitler, Rafael Trujillo (who made churches display signs stating “God In Heaven, Trujillo on Earth”), Idi Amin Dada, Muammar Qaddafi, Francisco Macias Nguema (who changed the national motto to “There is no other God than Macias Nguema”), Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier, Kim Jong-Il (who claims a supernatural birth, is praised as creator of the universe, and many of his people are tortured) – yet these tyrants and dictators are supposedly made in God’s image.  This doesn’t give much encouragement or faith in God to me.  Now people will say that God is perfect then why did He make such people in His image ergo He cannot be perfect.  Or are these people, many believing or stating that they carried out their role in the name of God, merely following the despotic examples laid before them in the scriptures?  Flooding the planet (thus destroying and killing), causing plagues (thus harming crops and spreading disease), the smiting of Sodom and Gomorrah and the destruction of Canaanite Cities are just a few of the atrocities handed down by God.  Are these the examples of morality that his power teaches and inform our modern world?  Believers must question the validity of an all-powerful God idly watching as His creations wreak havoc on Earth; where is he now?  Non-believers, like myself, will wonder and do wonder where this so important a figure has gone in our modern day world, and that’s without finding a shred of evidence to his existence in the beginning.  His Biblical demonstrations have ceased…where are the modern miracles?  Where is the Bible of today to inspire future generations to continue the misguided flock on their unworldly beliefs?  From the tempestuous reputation of the Wizard of Oz, to seemingly no more than man shouting rude things through a neighbours’ letterbox.

The advances in neurology and neuropsychology now disprove the religious view and hyperbole that has commonly become known as “the soul”

Those people who believe in the existence of a soul tend to feel that this “soul” carries without some information about “who they are” – the essence of character, personality, self and perhaps memories.  This can act as a comfort to many, especially when dealing with death – but often leads to a supernatural notion of feeling “a presence” which, biblically speaking, is witchcraft.  Those that feel the soul contains some essence of core personality must accept that neuroscience has proven that, in the event of a brain injury, ones personality can be dramatically altered.  So it follows that ones soul would be altered also as it carries the person through their life.  People often claim that a soul can retain memories after the death of the individual has occurred.  Alcohol, brain trauma and substance all kill (or can kill) brain cells which leads to memory loss in many cases.  When a person dies their brain activity ceases, the brain cells die – thus all notions of memories are destroyed not carried away in an ethereal core.  Neuropsychology also states that memories may be altered by suggestions; by repetition of ideas or time-lapsed notions.  The mind is like a computer hard-drive that once erased is blank.  Many will argue that although, in life, we may lose access to certain memories or parts of our “soul” these are always present in the “soul” and can be relived in death.  No proof exists to the existence of Heaven and Hell as no proof exists to the soul – whilst I cannot say with proof that these don’t exist, our scientific advances and knowledge of how the body and mind work distinctly suggest that it is implausible for these things to be.  Energy and atoms may remain forever, but does that make them “me”, does that make them a soul?  Doubtful.

Hereditary religion removes ones own choice and natural feeling to a higher power

Hereditary religion is a term used to describe a system of belief that is given and placed upon a child without their consent or in many cases knowledge.  If your mother is Jewish then so by birth are you, most children are baptised or christened into a religion before they have developed their own sense of values and being.  This means that an ultimate connection has been forced upon them before they have even decided on their faith.  In this day and age it seems irresponsible to allow this institutionalised corruption to continue.  Were someone to be raising their children to be intolerant on race, sexuality, roles etc…then a Social Services team may be excused for investigating.  Although, it must be stated that these prejudices and discriminatory views are a huge part of religious teachings though not exclusive to secular or religious followers.  Surely, it is better to allow any individual to use their own compass and guide their beliefs in their own time rather than have it pushed upon them by those that have already chosen their course.

The incompetence of “God” to carry out the duties and moral code He supposedly created for us

God, in the King James Bible, is referred to or described as Holy, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, majestic, a redeemer, provider, perfection, beauty, almighty, supreme power, truth, beauty and compassionate (to name a few).  These words form much of a believer’s interpretation of who or what God is to them and to the world.  As He is all-seeing and all-knowing – He is aware of the troubles upon Earth.  He knows His creation (Earth) is dying but is unable or just hasn’t bothered to change that which undermines the titles of “Almighty”, “Super Power” and “Perfection”.  On this planet, every day, people die from starvation and thirst – where is the “provider” then?  Where was the “redeemer” during the Holocaust?  Where is the “beauty” and “compassion” to His creations (animals and humans {if I can make a difference}) during natural disasters like the eruption of Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii and its people and creatures?  Where was He during the Chinese floods in 1931 which killed an estimated 4 million people, or in the 1920 Haiyuan Earthquake, or the 1737 Calcutta Cyclone, or during the 1212 North Sea Flood and storm surge?  This all-powerful being seems incapable, and seems to have been powerless, of helping or following his own moral code that he passed down on Mount Sinai.  Believers will now be screaming that this is His way of testing and punishing those for not-believing and for their sins.  That shows a distinct lack of forgiveness and a complete lack of selection.  All sins are forgiven remember, if you are a person of faith – unless Catholic in which case they could lead you to Hell or Limbo.  I am more inclined to follow literature, “be all thy sins remembered”; and I can only hope that if He does exist that He would be punished in the most unthinkable manner for the crimes He has committed (and continues to commit) against humanity.

Religion becomes an excuse

Crimes against humanity are often carried out by the most tyrannical leaders of oppressive, Communist states in the name of religion or the name of God.  Religious Crusades, conversations with God, “it says it in the scriptures” are all excuses often used to hide behind when atrocities are carried out.  Please take the time to look up the Spanish Armada, the Reverend Fred Phelps, the events of 9/11 in America or 7/7 in England, slavery, sex abuse in Catholic churches (many leading figures still hiding away within the Vatican) and so much more.  Religion itself doesn’t cause evil by any means, but its very existence creates a blanket cover for almost anything anyone wishes to carry out.  Many murderers, psychopaths and the like say they acted upon the word of God.  The very existence of God and religion create factions and segregations within communities that are held so deeply that people will do almost anything to uphold their beliefs.

After all of that, I think that I have made my views clear.  As I say, I would never judge the individual believer on the street who are generally nice people, but the very institutions and beliefs must be apologised for.  When religion can and has dictated who one can love, share ones bed with (and in what positions), tells women they are not work or to be submissive to a superior male – there are still messages that must be rescinded.  I shall leave the final words of this article to the late Christopher Hitchens (journalist, atheist and debater), “that which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence”.

Letter To My 13 Year Old Self

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Without clear boundaries or guidelines, I was asked to write a letter to my thirteen year old self.  I tried to remember what I was like back then which wasn’t easy (sixteen years have passed).  I wondered what advice would I have wanted, what did I really want to know and what dreams did I have.  Maybe it’s for the best that my thirteen year old self can’t actually read this…I don’t think he would have wanted to hear it all.

I realised as I wrote the letter that I have a lot of anger, loathing and hatred towards the person I was and, in a sense, towards the person I’ve become.  It’s an interesting exercise to write this letter, so here it is.

“Simon (aged 13),

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Stop being scared of everything and everyone.  Don’t pretend to be happy all the time when you’re hurting inside and while people are walking all over you.  The bullying won’t stop until you deal with it – and once you deal with it you need to stop cowering in the shadows afraid that people are going to hurt you.

I wish you would learn to open up and speak to people.  Hold your head high and feel confident about yourself and who you are – it’s then that people will begin to appreciate you and acknowledge your strengths rather than focusing on the weaknesses.

Somewhere in your private mind and in the privacy of your own space you have always managed to relax and be yourself.  Let people in…but choose carefully.  You are easily hurt and still fragile.  Remember that the fragments of a broken heart leave lasting, unforgettable scars and a worried, secretive mind causes a chaotic fear that you will spend the rest of your life trying to break free from.

You know what your passion is so stop keeping it from people.  I know you feel like you’d be a bigger target for ridicule but believe me, the stage is the safest place to be.  You have a power on stage…controlled skill.  Enjoy it and shock people with your enjoyment in what you want to do.  I read a song you wrote in which you said “never let your love hide”; don’t just write the words…write the book and rewrite the rules.

You’re not ugly!  You’re not a gargoyle!  You’re not evil!  You’ve done nothing wrong!  Sometimes the most creative people are outside of the group, never quite in any circle – it’s a better place to be.  You can be individual and observe.  I know you won’t listen to the words…but maybe one day you’ll understand what I mean.

Hair is growing in those places where it’s meant to…so don’t worry about it.  You can shave it all off when you’re older!  Spots are normal and it’s natural…look closely at your peers – they all have them.  I know how much you hate being short – you’ll grow.  I know how much you despise wearing spectacles – you can switch them for contact lenses in a few years.

I imagine that some of these words will have gone right over your head…maybe you’re not ready to hear them yet.  Maybe you never will be.  I’ll leave you with one short sentence of advice: be happy, be free, be yourself and be proud.

My heart is guiding you on,

Simon (aged 28)”

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I think you should all now go and write to your thirteen year old selves and see what you learn about yourself and remember yourself in a true light (no matter how painful).

Mobile Phones: The Take Over

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This blog isn’t intended to make me sound like a dinosaur; a troglodyte if you will but the crux of this piece is to examine the extent to which mobile phones have penetrated every aspect of our lives.

To be immediately contactable and to have instant access to information are now seen by many as a basic human right.  This is not altogether a bad situation as there are times when we do need certain pieces of information or when we must urgently contact someone – the technology allows us to do this very thing.  However, the downside seems to be the addiction to it.  A compulsion to constantly be checking, using or holding your phone is common, and for younger generations is seen as simply “normal” behaviour.

The habitual checking to see whether one has missed a phone call or received a message interrupts the natural flow of a conversation, diverts attention away from what is often important.  How many times have you been chatting to someone who does nothing but look at their phone?  Annoying, isn’t it?

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The mobile phone takes precedence over whatever we are doing at the time.  You may be in the middle of a conversation (general or important) but as soon as the ring tone begins to chime you are forgotten and taken away with immediate effect.  Fewer and fewer people are turning their phones onto silent whilst out with friends, and more and more people are allowing the mobiles calling to dictate what must occur in their lives.

I think an element of this is understandable and has been around as long as phones (not just mobiles) have been.  The issue now is that it feels as though everyone owns a mobile and people own them from young ages.  Why on Earth would an eight year old need a mobile?  The answer is: they don’t need them but it is now so imbedded into our psyche that there is no turning back.  Also, the wonder of pester power: “…but Mum…Alice has got one…”, a sentence uttered thousands of times a day minutes before the adult is coaxed into buying one, signing up for contracts and allowing their child access to the internet, to calls and leaving them open to muggings.

The reason people have become so hooked on their phones is simple – as phone technology has improved more and more can be achieved, stored and done with them.  People now use their phones all day long: as alarm clocks to wake up to, as a clock, to call, to text, to research, as a diary, as a camera, as a calculator, a converter, a calendar, a phonebook, a radio, a juke box, a hand held game, a photo album, a voice recorder, a stopwatch, a timer, as a fashion accessory and much, much more.

We have become dependant and dependency by its nature is a form of addiction.

Two friends of mine recently went to a restaurant on a first date and spent a large portion of the evening using their phones.  They responded to texts from friends, answered calls from people wondering where they each were, posting statuses and comments and pictures of the date on Social Networking sites and of course, the obligatory check every seven minutes in case they didn’t hear the insistent chiming of the phone.  The mobile phone has numbed our ability to communicate in face to face situations.  The mobile, along with the computer, has allowed us to tell more about ourselves to hundreds of acquaintances than would have ever told our closest friend before the rise of social networking.

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As I type this I realise that I am just as guilty…having checked my phone at least eight times whilst typing this.  I hear the “tut-tut” in my own head so you can save yours, but at least I am alone right now.

The positive aspects of being able to stay in touch are incredible and the options of many different communications are superb.  I can contact anyone I know at almost anytime and be fairly positive to reach them.

I still don’t think that I will ever be able to warm to those who speak loudly on a train carriage to tell their loved one that they “will be home in ten minutes”.  The amount of pointless conversation and unneeded babble the mobile phone has created is beyond doubt the worst aspect for me (that and playing a game on your phone whilst trying to converse).

It seems that the take-over has already happened and will no doubt continue to build and progress.  In the future people will we still use the spoken language or will we just text each other and poke each other on Facebook?  I have a feeling that we will speak, but dread that it may be “text-speak” spoken aloud.

 LUV U PPL, THNX 4 2DAY, C U L8R  

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Is Poetry Still Relevant Today?

As the Saison Poetry Library celebrates its 60th birthday with a series of Autumn events at the Southbank Centre, I got to wondering as to the relevance of poetry in the modern era.

As a writer, reader and lover of poetry it worries me when I hear people saying that “poems are just a jumble of words”, or when they describe them as “pointless”.  I think a hatred of poetry stems from a forced learning at school, in much the same way as a fear or separation from Shakespeare occurs.  The deep analysis of the words and their meanings often creates a sense of frustration, disillusionment and trepidation within the young and this can easily travel into adulthood.  This dread of poetry often stops people enjoying language at its most descriptive and passionate.

Being bogged down by form, content and context can often lead one away from the heart and soul of the piece.  Despite an educators best attempts, they will never persuade me that every time pen is put to paper – planning, preparation and thought occurs.  In my experience writers create before considering, and consider before editing, trimming and tidying…should it be necessary.

“Who will believe my verse in time to come,
If it were fill’d with your most high deserts?
Though yet, heaven knows, it is but as a tomb
Which hides your life and shows not half your parts.
If I could write the beauty of your eyes
And in fresh numbers number all your graces,
The age to come would say ‘This poet lies:
Such heavenly touches ne’er touch’d earthly faces.’
So should my papers yellow’d with their age
Be scorn’d like old men of less truth than tongue,
And your true rights be term’d a poet’s rage
And stretched metre of an antique song:
But were some child of yours alive that time,
You should live twice; in it and in my rhyme.”

Sonnet 17.  William Shakespeare

Hundreds of books have been written on how one should go about analysing a Shakespearian sonnet; proving that not only do they want us to delve deep but they want to tell us how to do it.  Most of these books will give rather broad brushstrokes followed by intricate details i.e. Examine The Literary Devices – seek out alliteration, antithesis, enjambment, oxymoron’s etc.

The idea of this analysis is obviously to teach different forms but it is well known that Elizabethan writers, amongst others, paid little attention to literary devices and neither did early editors.  So, the deconstruction of a sonnet allows us to understand the literature in a postmodern theoretical sense but allows little insight into the passion and power of the words.  Shakespeare was first and foremost a playwright (Hamlet, Macbeth, Much Ado About Nothing) therefore much of his writing can be brought to life more rapidly by performance, including his sonnets and poems.  A reading, rehearsed or otherwise, might allow people to access the words and meaning (as they individually see it) far easier than by noting down every dropped consonant.  Of course, a knowledge of the history of words and their definitions is sometimes necessary, particularly if there are words that are no longer in common parlance but is there such a thing as a right or wrong view?

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To me Shakespeare has lost none of his relevance as the themes and issues he dealt with in his lifetime are still present today.  Love, anger, vengeance, jealousy, greed and sex are part of everyone’s psyche.  This of course doesn’t mean that you have to like or enjoy his works or, for that matter, even appreciate them.  So does Shakespeare help make poetry relevant?  To a degree his works will always be understood, but time ages and distances individuals as more recent and current pieces appear.

When talking about John Keats, Andrew Motion once described his works as “Astounding, contemporary-seeming brilliance and deep wisdom.”  So a poet whose most well known and appreciated works were written between 1817 and 1820 can be described as ‘contemporary-seeming’.  Keats has managed to stay viewed as current even though his works were written nearly 200 hundred years ago.

“The poetry of earth is never dead:
When all the birds are faint with the hot sun,
And hide in cooling trees, a voice will run
From hedge to hedge about the new-mown mead.
That is the Grasshopper’s – he takes the lead
In summer luxury, – he has never done
With his delights; for when tired out with fun,
He rests at ease beneath some pleasant weed.
The poetry of earth is ceasing never:
On a lone winter evening, when the frost
Has wrought a silence, from the stove there shrills
The Cricket’s song, in warmth increasing ever,
And seems to one in drowsiness half lost,
The Grasshopper’s among some grassy hills.”
On The Grasshopper and Cricket by John Keats

Written at the age of 21 “On The grasshopper and Cricket” stand out as a reason why Keats is still accessible.  A love of nature remains almost unchanged – the appreciation and warmth a person might feel from hearing a cricket’s song is the same in 2013 as it would be in 1817 and as it will be in 2099.  Keats, unlike Shakespeare, used often simplistic and basic imagery paired with a romance and youthful exuberance which shone through his poems.

John Keats

The public also seem to have a close affection for a tragic story, for instance the idealistic tragedy attached to “The 27 Club” – singers and musicians who have died at the age of 27.  This could be the same with Keats as he died in poverty and obscurity aged only 25.  His short but brilliant life became the subject of a film in 2009, Bright Star, which catapulted his works back into the spotlight and thankfully back into schools.  However back into schools might eventually mean back onto the shelves of time collecting nothing but dust, and reams of analytical studies, theories and dissections.  His tombstone reads, “Here lies one whose name was writ in water”.

Other poets whose resonance can still be felt, in my opinion, include William Blake (Songs of Innocence & Experience) and T.S. Eliot (Rhapsody on a Windy Night).

What about poets of more recent times?  Is there still a place for them in the world of today?

Wilfred Owen was an English soldier who was killed in action aged just 25 in 1918…he also happened to be a poet who, like most, wrote about his experiences.  In much the same way as Siegfried Sassoon, Owen wrote about his knowledge of warfare, his understanding of the horrors of the trenches and of the reality of the situation he and his comrades faced.  His poems heavily contrasted the vividly glorious picture painted by the media…he revealed what was happening in The Great War.

In the case of Owen, and many like him, it is the honesty and seeming integrity which still strikes a chord.  The pain of war doesn’t change though its techniques and armoury may.  His stirring descriptions could be used to portray almost any war situation since World War I.  Similar to Keats, his own tragic story softens the reader to his words.  He wrote about warfare, he lived through warfare, he fought in the war and he died at the hands of war.

“Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep.  Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod.  All went lame, all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas!  GAS!  Quick, boys! —  An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime. —
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin,
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs
Bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, —
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie:  Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.”

Dulce et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen

Sylvia Plath remains one of the most fascinating characters in literature, I’m sure many of you saw her portrayed by Nicole Kidman in ‘The Hours’, and her poetry stands amongst the finest ever written.  Plath had suffered from depression most of her adult life, something that is a common theme throughout her works which almost all of us can relate to.  Like cancer, depression touches everyone on some level, knowing someone who suffers, has suffered or may have suffered yourself.  Her modern turn of phrase and incisive perceptiveness make her easy for ‘non-believers’ to appreciate.

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In the following poem, there is perhaps a hint of Plath’s own depression, her own image seen in the looking glass and even a cry for help.  This emotive response to her work is far more important to me.  The visceral response rather than the critical captures more and ensures relevance beyond a simple textual understanding and allows all readers to be captured by her work.

“I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.
Whatever I see I swallow immediately
Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.
I am not cruel, only truthful ‚
The eye of a little god, four-cornered.
Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.
It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long
I think it is part of my heart. But it flickers.
Faces and darkness separate us over and over.

Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me,
Searching my reaches for what she really is.
Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.
I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.
She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.
I am important to her. She comes and goes.
Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.
In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman
Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.”

Mirror by Sylvia Plath

Plath remains a figure of intrigue not only because of her works but because of he life story itself – she was married to another great poet of the 20th Century, Ted Hughes.  She committed suicide (1963) aged 30 just six months after separating from Hughes.  Hughes remarried.  His second wife also took her own life…leading to much speculation about whether Hughes was ever cruel to them both.  In 2009, the son of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, Nicholas, committed suicide aged just 47.  This tragic story could be the inspiration for their words…but we’ll never really know.  We are just lucky that we have them in our homes and not hidden away unread.

Other modern poets who have inspired me and encourage my belief (yes, I’m a believer) that poetry is still relevant, important and vital to the survival of the English language are William Wordsworth, Sir John Betjeman, William H. Davies, D.H. Lawrence, Dylan Thomas and Judith Wright.

Nowadays there is a tendency for people to view poetry as overly romantic or torturously serious, which just isn’t true.  Shakespeare and Betjeman both used comedy to fine effect to convey their points.  Sometimes comedy is taken to the hilarious and absurd.  The great comic, actor, writer and poet Spike Milligan made humour seem effortless when on our radios or our screens, but he could do the same in his poetry, which much like his humour was eccentric and a form of “controlled madness”.

“Said Hamlet to Ophelia,
I’ll draw a sketch of thee,
What kind of pencil shall I use?
2B or not 2B?”
A Silly Poem by Spike Milligan

“On the Ning Nang Nong
Where the Cows go Bong!
and the monkeys all say BOO!
There’s a Nong Nang Ning
Where the trees go Ping!
And the tea pots jibber jabber joo.
On the Nong Ning Nang
All the mice go Clang
And you just can’t catch ’em when they do!
So its Ning Nang Nong
Cows go Bong!
Nong Nang Ning
Trees go ping
Nong Ning Nang
The mice go Clang
What a noisy place to belong
is the Ning Nang Ning Nang Nong!”

The Ning Nang Nong by Spike Milligan

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Milligan’s marvellous wit still leaps of the page with unrivalled fearlessness and craziness.  This makes it easy for anyone to enjoy these works, from childhood to adulthood – his works can come with us all.  Some of his works are more complex and can be viewed critically (just take a look online and see the amount of pieces written about his works) but one can take pleasure in their simple charm which is how I like to think he wrote them.  No thrills, no examination – just creative thoughts and a blank piece of paper waiting to be filled.

Another famed star whose works have a dark, gruesome appeal is Tim Burton, the genius behind Batman, Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow, The Nightmare Before Christmas.  In one of his collections, The Melancholy Death Of Oyster Boy & Other Stories, Burton brings to life a group of bizarre, unusual, macabre children and exposes, in a sympathetic ultra-modern way, the difficulties of adolescence and of being an outcast, a misunderstood citizen.  These poems are accompanied by brilliant illustrations that are as essential to the poetry as the words themselves.  The characters are brought to life, and the grisly impact is widened.

“Her skin is white cloth,
and she’s all sewn apart
and she has many colored pins
sticking out of her heart.

She has a beautiful set
of hypno-disk eyes,
the ones that she uses
to hypnotise guys.

She has many different zombies
who are deeply in her trance.
She even has a zombie
who was originally from France.

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But she knows she has a curse on her,
a curse she cannot win.
For if someone gets
too close to her,

the pins stick farther in.”
Voodoo Girl by Tim Burton

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 “‘The time has come’, the walrus said” to talk of one of the giants of poetry today.  Born in 1955 in Scotland, she has gone on to become one of the most well-known and most publically taught and loved poets of all time.  In 2009 when she became Poet Laureate (a post she still holds) she was the first woman, the first Scot and the first openly LGBT person to ever do so.  I am talking about Carol Ann Duffy.

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She and her work have been described respectively as “witty, penetrating and lucid”, “poems of beautiful lyricism”, “extraordinary verbal power, cutting scepticism, vivid compassion and humour”, “a genuine and original poet”, “a sense of life as it is lived now”, “brilliantly idiosyncratic and subtle”, “a fresh voice…a dexterity with language”, “effortless”, “current” and “spectacular”.

Her collections from Mean Time to Rapture and The World’s Wife to Feminine Gospels all display her skill as a poet.  She is a technician.  But she clearly writes from the heart with no need to overstate a point but a “tell it like it is” attitude to form, content and context.  The reader is grabbed not by a critical view but the feeling of association with ones own life.  She is speaking about the modern world for the modern person to the modern reader.

She is taught extensively in Secondary Schools and at Universities…which may have a similar effect to Shakespeare etc…future generations will not be allowed to simply enjoy her writings.  However, she may be the one exception – she is being taught in her time and being shown to be part of her time.  Her clever retelling of Clement Moore’s “The Night Before Christmas” is a joy to read.  It keeps the traditional fairytale Christmas spirit alive but with modern references that children (and adults) of today could understand.  Young parents would more than likely find a better common ground with her re-telling (‘Another Night Before Christmas’) than with Moore’s original.

In Carol Ann Duffy’s retelling, Santa has just come somewhat noisily down the chimney into the room where the little girl is sleeping,

“All this noise woke the child who had fallen asleep,
so she popped up her head and made sure she could peep
(without being seen) at whoever it was
who stood in the fireplace. Big Wow! Santa Claus!

Though she lived in age where celebrity ruled
and when most of the people were easily fooled
by TV and fashion, by money and cars,
this little girl knew that here was a real STAR!”
Taken from “Another Night Before Christmas” by Carol Ann Duffy

Duffy’s collection, Rapture, featured a series of poems on the subject of love – in essence it is one long love-poem.  It is more complex than that as, through her knowledge of poetry and her natural urge to get the words out and to express, she creates a world of lust, compassion, infatuation, separation, grief – every stage of love, from it’s awkward beginnings to it’s sometimes sad demise, are expressed clearly, succinctly and beautifully.  Below is my favourite poem from the collection:

“I like pouring your tea, lifting
the heavy pot, and tipping it up,
so the fragrant liquid streams in your china cup.

Or when you’re away, or at work,
I like to think of your cupped hands as you sip,
as you sip, of the faint half-smile of your lips.

I like the questions – sugar? – milk? –
and the answers I don’t know by heart, yet,
for I see your soul in your eyes, and I forget.

Jasmine, Gunpowder, Assam, Earl Grey, Ceylon,
I love tea’s names. Which tea would you like? I say
but it’s any tea for you, please, any time of day,

as the women harvest the slopes
for the sweetest leaves, on Mount Wu-Yi,
and I am your lover, smitten, straining your tea.”

Tea by Carol Ann Duffy

Her power as a writer is her ability to reach out and touch anyone who reads her works; writing with the same verve and tenaciousness whether for children, teens, young adults, middle-aged or the elderly.  Like all good writers time and age are no barriers to the words on the page.  Many adults enjoyed the works of Roald Dahl and Rowling’s Harry Potter series, many children enjoy the works of Duffy – even the ones not aimed at them.

Is poetry relevant?  Does poetry have a place in the world today?  For me the answer is simple.  Yes.  It may not be for everyone, but for everyone there is something to be held precious and that is the freedom to express through whatever medium you choose.

Poetry is alive and well on the internet with many sites devoted to letting people post their poetry and get comments and views.  Type in ‘Love Poems’ into a search engine and you will be inundated by famous poems, new poems and unfamiliar gems that sparkle in the sea of words.

My advice is to get out there and read some poetry – you never know it just might change your life.

“Sifted like flour,
I’ve been removed from the good,
Discovered as bad,
Waited for hours,
‘Neath the cover of the hood,
Torn, lonely and sad.”
The Burden Of Ostracism by Simon Clark

“Not as a possession,
Not as a prize,
But as a lover,
Here at your side.

Yes, I want you for always,
Want you for life,
Not as your keeper,
Nor as your wife.

Don’t mean to sound needy,
Pressurise you,
Don’t want this to change,
Just being true.

Yes, I want you always,
Want you to know,
I’ll be your safety,
And watch us grow.

Yes, I want you always,
Here in my heart,
As lovers and friends,
Finish to start.”

Want You Always by Simon Clark

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Tapestry by Carole King: A Review

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As it was Carole Kings birthday over the weekend, I decided to revisit her classic album, Tapestry.  Listening to the record again after quite a long time I was reminded of her brilliance as a songwriter, singer and as one of the most influential female performers of her generation.  Tapestry still sounds as fresh and invigorating as when it was first released…it hasn’t aged…but then again great songs never do.  People can still relate to the lyrics, the unforgettable melodies and her stripped-back, no thrills raw talent.

The 1971 masterpiece was produced by the legendary Lou Adler and stayed at the number one spot for fifteen weeks.  Perhaps even more astounding than that, it stayed on the charts for more than six years and earned four Grammy Awards: Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female.

So how do you set about reviewing a classic album like this?  Well…I’m not sure so I’ve decided to go through each track individually and then take the album as a whole.

I Feel The Earth Move: This is a fantastic opening to the album.  A great upbeat song that packs a sexy simple sound.  Her casually natural and honest lyrics set the tone for what is about to come.  The enticing piano introduction which has a hint of The Beatles melody craftsmanship to it suddenly gives way to strong, raspy, soulful vocals.  About halfway through the track we are given an opportunity to hear the brilliant blending of the musicians in an instrumental section, including Drums, Electric Bass (excitingly played by Charles Larkey), Electric Guitar and Keyboards.  This is a song that makes you yearn to hear more.

So Far Away: In my view there is no better example of how to express longing and that search for familiarity than King manages to do here.  A very simple, subdued and at times almost invisible backing allows the lyrics and her achingly soulful voice do the talking.  “Travelling around sure gets me down and lonely, Nothing else to do but close my mind, I sure hope the road don’t come to wn me, There’s so many dreams I’ve yet to find”.

It’s Too Late: A song that has been covered by many artists is sometimes very hard to appreciate but with Carole King & Toni Stern’s clever arrangement, words and music one can never tire of hearing this song.  A perky ditty.  A perfect pop song.  A heartbroken, forlorn woman at the heart of it all.  Beautiful.

Home Again: With the great James Taylor on Acoustic Guitar and Larkey on String Bass – the gentle mellow mood of this song is set.  This is possibly the most simple lyric on the album and yet has one of the most profound affects on the listener.  It is another song about longing, but it’s also a song about searching for a safe place, a home.  I never felt that the story knew where home was and this lost girl without love, without friends was desperate to create a place – to be home again.  “Snow is cold, Rain is wet, Chills my soul right to the marrow, I won’t be happy ‘til I see you alone again, ‘Til I’m home again and feeling right”.

Beautiful: Following a very moving ballad Carole King decides to pack a punch or two with Beautiful.  This song has a lovely message, a jaunty pop melody with real hint of jazz – this is one of those songs that changed the way that people play and write today – heard of Tori Amos or Adele?  A one chord introduction doesn’t give you much chance to breathe before being plunged into the deep end of one of the most infectious hooks ever composed.  A frailty in King’s vocal performance only adds to the charming message within the song.  A shining light on the album.

Way Over Yonder: Now we are halfway through the creation of Tapestry, so Carole King decides to take us to away from pop and lead us to a new sound – a blend of Atlantic Soul, Motown ballads, New Orleans heart with just a pinch of rough rock voice to add to the mix.  A great song that has been covered by many other greats but no one quite comes close to touching this version.  The emotion that pours from King’s vocal chords and out of her dexterous piano-playing fingers is unequalled.

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You’ve Got A Friend: Yet another genuine classic.  Covered by many but rarely equalled.  I say rarely as there is one particular version which comes close sung by Aretha Franklin, CeCe Winans & BeBe Winans.  Listening to the Carole King original again I was struck by how badly I remembered her recording.  I had remembered a very stripped back piano with a forceful vocal line but I couldn’t be more wrong.  The piano is the dominant instrument and the vocal is carefully building to a fully rounded delivery of a pop song.  There was a String Quartet hidden in the chorus, a Conga throughout and the brilliant James Taylor on Acoustic Guitar.  Lyrically, this song carried a message of true friendship and love that is only matched in two other songs, Dionne Warwick’s That’s What Friends Are For and Bill Wither’s Lean On Me.

Where You Lead: Written with the glorious Toni Stern, I suddenly realise that I want to use the word “classic” again but I’ll avoid the urge.  This song is a wonderful blend of pop, gospel, soul and country – she creates her own unique take on Bluegrass.  The melody is delicately climbing to a climactic finish with the vocals moving from restrained to sanctified and onto “belter-mode”.  “If you’re out on the road, Feeling lonely and so cold, All you have to do is call my name, And I’ll be there on the next train”.

Will You Love Me Tomorrow?: This is a question that anyone who has ever been in love will ask themselves but rarely with such genuine fear, dread, doubt and conviction in the voice – and never so eloquently delivered.  This Gerry Goffin and Carole King song has become something of a pop and soul standard covered by the likes of The Shirelles (the most recognised version), Brenda Lee, Ben E. King, Dusty Springfield, Cher, The Four Seasons, Roberta Flack, Smokey Robinson, Dionne Warwick, Brotherhood of Man, Neil Diamond, The Bee Gees, Bryan Ferry, Lauryn Hill & Amy Winehouse.  The calibre of artists wanting to sing this song goes to prove just how much of a jewel this song is.  One of the many unknown facts about this song is that another 70s folk/pop legend features on Background Vocals: Miss Joni Mitchell.  Oh, I’ll say it…CLASSIC!

Smackwater Jack: One of the finest songs about the gun-laws and gun culture in the United States.  Set in what feels like “Cowboy” time, this up-tempo song carried a powerful punch and is often the overlooked song on the album.  But with great lines like, “Smackwater Jack he bought a shotgun, Cause he was in the mood for a little confrontation, He just let it all hang loose, He didn’t think about the noose, He couldn’t take no more abuse, so he shot down the congregation”, it’s no wonder this song still stands out as a dramatic, powerful statement against guns, segregation and capitalism.

Tapestry: As the title song, this track always seem to carry a little more pressure than the others.  However, by hiding it near the close of an already outstanding album – the listener forgets the usual standards you judge by and is just absorbed into this lullaby of a piece.  So gentle and tame and so sweetly written without ever being sickly.  The piano and vocal blend as one and King’s voice sparkles with innocence and experience all at once.  Her lyrics here are just stunning and we start to get the feeling that this tapestry of a project is being sewn up nicely.  Love is back and is “coming to take her back”.

(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman: Closing with a song that King wrote with the genius that is Gerry Goffin and the immaculate Jerry Wexler was a stroke of genius.  If the listener was in any doubt of the sensual side of King’s performance – this song removes any misgivings they may have had.  Sexy, powerful and almost religious in its fervour, A Natural Woman closes the album perfectly.  It has led us on a journey that feels complete.

For me personally, this album stands alone in a rare group of music-changing recordings and is my top ten records of all time.  The attention to detail, the sense of period and the skilful song writing ability makes it stand the test of time, the test of heart and the urge to keep listening time and time again.  Listening to this album again has made realise why it reached Number 39 in VH1s 100 Greatest Albums and Number 36 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time.  Most of these songs have become loved not only for King’s own recordings but for the many times they have been reinvented, proving how a good song can change and still retain its original authenticity and spirit.

As a complete work, few recordings will ever touch Tapestry and Carole King can live forever in the knowledge that nearly 20 million people have purchased the album and billions more have enjoyed her music and will continue to do so for as long as sound is in our world.

If you don’t own it, rush out and buy it….if you own it – take another listen and remember how you felt when you first heard the magic of Tapestry.

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Happy Birthday Carole King

Gay Marriage: A Step Forward

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Minutes before Tuesday 5th February’s historic vote on the Gay Marriage Bill in the United Kingdom, Prime Minister David Cameron made a statement saying, “I’m a big believer in marriage. It helps people to commit to each other, and I think that’s why gay people should be able to get married too”.  And, aside from the formalities, they now can thanks to a massive 400 to 175 majority in favour of gay marriage.  However, as we all know it is not 100% in the bank yet as this was just the first of several necessary votes required for its passage to legalisation.  Yes, it has “passed”  the House of Commons but it still needs to pass through the House of Lords – i say “passed” in inverted commas because to be technical they have only approved a second reading of the bill not passed a law, however with a 2:1 vote the rest, even if a struggle, is basically a done deal.  The Commons has expressed its will.  Although, this will no doubt cause huge rifts within the Conservative party with more than half of Cameron’s 303 lawmakers either voting against or abstaining.

However, I agree with the Prime Minister when, after the bills second reading was approved, he announced that this was “a step forward for our country”.

This blog will be more factual than opinionated I fear as I think it is obvious that any forward-thinking, right-minded person would want Gay Marriage to be a part of a civilised, Western and free society.  Although as I write that I am reminded of what Mahatma Gandhi said when asked what he thought of Western Civilisation and he stated “I think it would be a very good idea”.

The Gay Marriage Bill gained huge, though not complete, support from the Labour and Liberal Democrat Parties which makes sense.  Both parties have struggled over recent years and with such a divisive issue as this for the Conservatives, it is a good time to take advantage of public feeling and raise your standing in the polls.  This may be working in favour of Labour but the Lib Dems have got quite a lot of political baggage that they need to offload before they see any improvements.

It is also important when discussing this to see which other countries have legalised Gay Marriage, in order that we see how far ahead or behind of other places the United Kingdom is.  That list is:

  • Argentina
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • Denmark (although not in the consultation paper, it was introduced in Summer 2012)
  • Iceland
  • Mexico
  • United States of America (before you all yell I’ll explain the inclusion of USA.  It is allowed in 9 of the 50 states and in the District of Columbia.  However, the marriage participants do not qualify for any federal tax benefits. A long way to go yet before they are equal but their process started long before the UK’s did.)
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Portugal
  • South Africa
  • Spain
  • Sweden

It is also important to note that whilst talking of the UK in these terms – the bill that was approved at the second reading yesterday would only apply to England and Wales.

David Cameron’s support goes right back to his first speech as Conservative leader at a party conference:

“When you stand up there, in front of your friends and your family, in front of the world, whether it’s in a church or anywhere else, what you’re doing really means something.  Pledging yourself to another means doing something brave and important.  You are making a commitment.  You are publicly saying: it’s not just about “me, me, me” anymore.  It is about we: together, the two of us, through thick and thin.  That really matters.  And by the way, it means something whether you’re a man and a woman, a woman and a woman or a man and another man.”

Sadly, the biggest dissent was within the Conservative party with 136 MPs opposing the bill (134 voted against and two tellers), and 35 Conservative MPs did not vote.

Labour MPs: 217 voted in favour, only 22 voted against and 16 did not vote.

Lib Dems: 44 voted in favour, only 4 voted against and 7 did not vote.

I will leave you with the names and constituencies of those who either opposed or did not vote from the three major parties.  It was quite disheartening to see my local MP, Bob Neill on the list of Tory opposition, but then one cannot expect him to change views he has held close to his bigoted heart for so many years for the sake of the people he is serving.  The list below is courtesy of The Guardian.

The Tories who opposed the Bill were: Nigel Adams (Selby & Ainsty), Adam Afriyie (Windsor), Peter Aldous (Waveney), David Amess (Southend West), James Arbuthnot (Hampshire North East), Richard Bacon (Norfolk South), Steven Baker (Wycombe), Tony Baldry (Banbury), Guto Bebb (Aberconwy), Henry Bellingham (Norfolk North West), Sir Paul Beresford (Mole Valley), Andrew Bingham (High Peak), Bob Blackman (Harrow East), Graham Brady (Altrincham & Sale West), Julian Brazier (Canterbury), Andrew Bridgen (Leicestershire North West), Steve Brine (Winchester), Fiona Bruce (Congleton), Robert Buckland (Swindon South), Simon Burns (Chelmsford), David Burrowes (Enfield Southgate), Alun Cairns (Vale of Glamorgan), Douglas Carswell (Clacton), Bill Cash (Stone), Rehman Chishti (Gillingham & Rainham), Christopher Chope (Christchurch), Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswolds, The), Geoffrey Cox (Devon West & Torridge), Stephen Crabb (Preseli Pembrokeshire), David Davies (Monmouth), Glyn Davies (Montgomeryshire), Philip Davies (Shipley), David Davis (Haltemprice & Howden), Nick de Bois (Enfield North), Caroline Dinenage (Gosport), Richard Drax (Dorset South), Charlie Elphicke (Dover), Jonathan Evans (Cardiff North), David Evennett (Bexleyheath & Crayford), Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks), Dr Liam Fox (Somerset North), Mark Francois (Rayleigh & Wickford), George Freeman (Norfolk Mid), Roger Gale (Thanet North), Sir Edward Garnier (Harborough), Mark Garnier (Wyre Forest), Cheryl Gillan (Chesham & Amersham), John Glen (Salisbury), Robert Goodwill (Scarborough & Whitby), James Gray (Wiltshire North), Andrew Griffiths (Burton), Robert Halfon (Harlow), Simon Hart (Carmarthen West & Pembrokeshire South), Sir Alan Haselhurst (Saffron Walden), John Hayes (South Holland & The Deepings), Oliver Heald (Hertfordshire North East), Gordon Henderson (Sittingbourne & Sheppey), Philip Hollobone (Kettering), Adam Holloway (Gravesham), Sir Gerald Howarth (Aldershot), Stewart Jackson (Peterborough), Gareth Johnson (Dartford), David Jones (Clwyd West), Marcus Jones (Nuneaton), Greg Knight (Yorkshire East), Kwasi Kwarteng (Spelthorne), Mark Lancaster (Milton Keynes North), Pauline Latham (Derbyshire Mid), Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford), Edward Leigh (Gainsborough), Julian Lewis (New Forest East), David Lidington (Aylesbury), Peter Lilley (Hitchin & Harpenden), Jack Lopresti (Filton & Bradley Stoke), Jonathan Lord (Woking), Tim Loughton (Worthing East & Shoreham), Karen Lumley (Redditch), Karl McCartney (Lincoln), Anne McIntosh (Thirsk & Malton), Stephen McPartland (Stevenage), Esther McVey (Wirral West), Anne Main (St Albans), Paul Maynard (Blackpool North & Cleveleys), Stephen Metcalfe (Basildon South & Thurrock East), Nicky Morgan (Loughborough), Anne-Marie Morris (Newton Abbot), David Morris (Morecambe & Lunesdale), James Morris (Halesowen & Rowley Regis), Bob Neill (Bromley & Chislehurst), Caroline Nokes (Romsey & Southampton North), David Nuttall (Bury North), Stephen O’Brien (Eddisbury), Matthew Offord (Hendon), Jim Paice (Cambridgeshire South East), Neil Parish (Tiverton & Honiton), Priti Patel (Witham), Owen Paterson (Shropshire North), Mark Pawsey (Rugby), Mike Penning (Hemel Hempstead), Mark Pritchard (Wrekin, The), John Randall (Uxbridge & Ruislip South), John Redwood (Wokingham), Jacob Rees-Mogg (Somerset North East), Simon Reevell (Dewsbury), Sir Malcolm Rifkind (Kensington), Andrew Robathan (Leicestershire South), Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury), Andrew Rosindell (Romford), David Ruffley (Bury St Edmunds), David Rutley (Macclesfield), Andrew Selous (Bedfordshire South West), Alec Shelbrooke (Elmet & Rothwell), Sir Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills), Henry Smith (Crawley), Sir John Stanley (Tonbridge & Malling), John Stevenson (Carlisle), Bob Stewart (Beckenham), Mel Stride (Devon Central), Julian Sturdy (York Outer), Robert Syms (Poole), Sir Peter Tapsell (Louth & Horncastle), David Tredinnick (Bosworth), Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight), Shailesh Vara (Cambridgeshire North West), Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes), Ben Wallace (Wyre & Preston North), Robert Walter (Dorset North), James Wharton (Stockton South), Heather Wheeler (Derbyshire South), Craig Whittaker (Calder Valley), John Whittingdale (Maldon), Bill Wiggin (Herefordshire North), Gavin Williamson (Staffordshire South), Jeremy Wright (Kenilworth & Southam) 22 Labour: Joe Benton (Bootle), Ronnie Campbell (Blyth Valley), Tom Clarke (Coatbridge, Chryston & Bellshill), Rosie Cooper (Lancashire West), David Crausby (Bolton North East), Tony Cunningham (Workington), Jim Dobbin (Heywood & Middleton), Brian Donohoe (Ayrshire Central), Robert Flello (Stoke-on-Trent South), Mary Glindon (Tyneside North), Paul Goggins (Wythenshawe & Sale East), Dai Havard (Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney), Michael McCann (East Kilbride, Strathaven & Lesmahagow), Jim McGovern (Dundee West), Iain McKenzie (Inverclyde), George Mudie (Leeds East), Paul Murphy (Torfaen), Stephen Pound (Ealing North), Frank Roy (Motherwell & Wishaw), Jim Sheridan (Paisley & Renfrewshire North), Derek Twigg (Halton), Mike Wood (Batley & Spen).

The tellers for the no votes were: Peter Bone (Wellingborough) and Therese Coffey (Suffolk Coastal).

Another five Conservative MPs voted both for the bill and against it, the traditional way of registering an abstention. They were: Angie Bray, Andrea Leadsom, Phillip Lee, Charlotte Leslie, and Rob Wilson.

Some 35 Conservatives did not vote: Harriett Baldwin (Worcestershire West), Stephen Barclay (Cambridgeshire North East), Jake Berry (Rossendale & Darwen), Brian Binley (Northampton South), Nicola Blackwood (Oxford West & Abingdon), Jonathan Djanogly (Huntingdon), Jackie Doyle-Price (Thurrock), Philip Dunne (Ludlow), Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth East), George Eustice (Camborne & Redruth), Graham Evans (Weaver Vale), Richard Fuller (Bedford), Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield), Philip Hammond (Runnymede & Weybridge), Rebecca Harris (Castle Point), Mark Hoban (Fareham), Nick Hurd (Ruislip, Northwood & Pinner), Chris Kelly (Dudley South), Eleanor Laing (Epping Forest), Ian Liddell-Grainger (Bridgwater & Somerset West), Patrick Mercer (Newark), Anne Milton (Guildford), Sheryll Murray (Cornwall South East), Jesse Norman (Hereford & Herefordshire South), Claire Perry (Devizes), Stephen Phillips (Sleaford & North Hykeham), Mark Prisk (Hertford & Stortford), Lee Scott (Ilford North), Mark Spencer (Sherwood), Gary Streeter (Devon South West), Graham Stuart (Beverley & Holderness), Edward Timpson (Crewe & Nantwich), Andrew Tyrie (Chichester), Paul Uppal (Wolverhampton South West), Nadhim Zahawi (Stratford-on-Avon).

The 22 Labour MPs who opposed the Bill were: Joe Benton (Bootle), Ronnie Campbell (Blyth Valley), Tom Clarke (Coatbridge, Chryston & Bellshill), Rosie Cooper (Lancashire West), David Crausby (Bolton North East), Tony Cunningham (Workington), Jim Dobbin (Heywood & Middleton), Brian Donohoe (Ayrshire Central), Robert Flello (Stoke-on-Trent South), Mary Glindon (Tyneside North), Paul Goggins (Wythenshawe & Sale East), Dai Havard (Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney), Michael McCann (East Kilbride, Strathaven & Lesmahagow), Jim McGovern (Dundee West), Iain McKenzie (Inverclyde), George Mudie (Leeds East), Paul Murphy (Torfaen), Stephen Pound (Ealing North), Frank Roy (Motherwell & Wishaw), Jim Sheridan (Paisley & Renfrewshire North), Derek Twigg (Halton), Mike Wood (Batley & Spen).

The 16 Labour MPs who did not vote were: Dame Anne Begg (Aberdeen South), Gordon Brown (Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath), Alex Cunningham (Stockton North), Bill Esterson (Sefton Central), Pat Glass (Durham North West), Roger Godsiff (Birmingham Hall Green), David Heyes (Ashton Under Lyne), Jim Hood (Lanark & Hamilton East), Khalid Mahmood (Birmingham Perry Barr), Michael Meacher (Oldham West & Royton), Ian Mearns (Gateshead), Yasmin Qureshi (Bolton South East), Virendra Sharma (Ealing Southall), Gavin Shuker (Luton South), Stephen Timms (East Ham), Shaun Woodward (St Helens South & Whiston).

The four Lib Dems who opposed it were: Sir Alan Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed), Gordon Birtwistle (Burnley), John Pugh (Southport), Sarah Teather (Brent Central).

Lib Dems who did not vote were: Norman Baker (Lewes), Martin Horwood (Cheltenham), Charles Kennedy (Ross, Skye & Lochaber), Greg Mulholland (Leeds North West), John Thurso (Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross), David Ward (Bradford East), Jenny Willott (Cardiff Central).

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Shakespeare’s Lasting Legacy

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William Shakespeare is possibly the worlds most famous and revered playwright and poet.  His legacy is endless.  Not that much is known about his private life and that is not what I’m here to discuss.  I won’t be musing on whether other people write some of the scripts attributed to him, whether his sexuality was all it seemed or probing into his religious and political beliefs – I will just simply try to demonstrate why I think his legacy has lasted for hundreds of years after his death and is possibly stronger now than ever before.

Although his work has been pretty popular from his lifetime onwards, it wasn’t until the Victorians began their worship of him that he became the most performed playwright of all time – George Bernard Shaw labelling the worship “bardolatry”.

His legacy for me begins in the words – he wrote so beautifully, so dramatically and so clearly that even the most horrific of moments could be played with an elegance that his rhythm demands.  He is also credited with bringing new words and new phrases into the English language – many of which we still use today.  Without Shakespeare we wouldn’t say, amongst thousands of others, the following:

  • Bated breath
  • Cruel to be kind
  • Foregone conclusion
  • A tower of strength
  • Wild-goose chase
  • Eaten me out of house and home
  • Besmirch
  • Accused
  • Critic
  • Fixture
  • Traditional
  • Stealthy
  • Shudders
  • Outbreak
  • Importantly
  • Watchdog
  • Too much of a good thing

All of the above phrases and words have been used by most of us at some time or another.  Someone who brings quite so much to a language deserves a respect and demands attention – he will always be of fascination even as new words enter the language, it is unlikely that anyone will impact upon and change the daily conversation of our lives quite as much as William Shakespeare.

Many of his plays (Comedies, Tragedies & Histories) have stood the test of time, not merely as classics from their time but as relevant and as understanding of the human psyche as any modern play.  Many roles he created demand a performance so great from an actor that few would dare to play them – and fewer still play them well.  Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear and Titus Andronicus are some of the most famous plays of all time and are also some of the most compelling title characters from any play.  Watching Hamlet as he vividly portrays both true and feigned madness – from overwhelming sorrow to seething rage – and explores themes of treachery, revenge, incest, and moral corruption is one of the most compelling and well constructed plays and characters of all time.

“To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them:” – Hamlet, Act III, Scene 1

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His madness and almost modern illusions in A Midsummer Night’s Dream are thrilling audiences to this day and still raise questions that will never be answered for sure.  The gentle humour of Cymbeline and the bounce and vividness of Twelfth Night is spellbinding.  His Histories are no always seen as accurate but do give us some view into a public perception of a period in time, a time without cameras, television etc… his plays act as a guide to public perception.  His creations show that his character development and need to entertain came foremost and that is one of the key reasons his works are so important today.

“Pleasure and action make the hours seem short.” – Othello, Act II, Scene 3

 And then we come to his poetry which to me is a land so beautiful and wonderfully written that it can cheer you, move you and embrace you and even until today make you think about life, love and the lessons we can all learn everyday.

“Who will believe my verse in time to come,
If it were filled with your most high deserts?
Though yet heaven knows it is but as a tomb
Which hides your life, and shows not half your parts.
If I could write the beauty of your eyes,
And in fresh numbers number all your graces,
The age to come would say ‘This poet lies;
Such heavenly touches ne’er touched earthly faces.’
So should my papers, yellowed with their age,
Be scorned, like old men of less truth than tongue,
And your true rights be termed a poet’s rage
And stretched metre of an antique song:
But were some child of yours alive that time,
You should live twice, in it, and in my rhyme.” – Sonnet XVII.

Shakespeare questioned his legacy and life through his works on many occasions – often under the guise of some character or another and so I’ll leave the last words to him:

“No legacy is so rich as honesty.”  All’s Well That Ends Well, Act III, Scene 5

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Dealing With Sexuality and Bullying

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Jadin Bell

This particular blog has been inspired by the very sad story of Jadin Bell, a 15 year old American teenager who hanged himself on playground at an elementary school.  He died in hospital two weeks after the attempted suicide.  A week prior to the incident the teen is said to have complained about homophobic bullying and had talked to a counsellor at his high school.  Read more about his story and others here.

Whilst my blog isn’t about Jadin Bell’s case…it did get me wondering about how often this happens, the reasons behind it and how to prevent this unnecessary loss of life.

Coming to terms with your sexuality in terms of understanding what it means to you, the effects it may have on your life and the lives of those around you and the eventual realisation that not everyone is capable of comprehension, and not everyone is willing to accept the differences in lifestyles.  Struggling through your own personal demons and fears at a young age is hard enough, but add to that a feeling of insecurity, isolation and depression following a spate of bullying about who you are – what options are you left with?

Every month a story emerges about a teenager or young adult that has taken their own life due to homophobic bullying.  Sometimes the bullying can be a prolonged experience, starting before a person has even “come out” and other times it can be just one comment or one misguided insult at a moment of insecurity that send people over the edge.  Remember that bullying can come from many sources:

  • FROM THE FAMILY: Parents that are struggling to believe or dislike the idea of their child being homosexual.  This can be driven out of ignorance, religious beliefs or, often times, out of fear of what their child may endure. 
  • FROM THE PLAYGROUND: Other pupils at a school can be cruel.  Most of these children will not realise what they are doing or saying, it is the nature of a playground for people to pick on the differences and the “odd one out”.  Being strongly religious, having an unusual name, wearing glasses, being gay, being obese and being ginger are often things that get noticed and poked at by other children.  Where the bullying is a problem is when it comes from a place of ignorance and deliberate torment – some children are capable of this certainly by their teenage years.
  • FROM COLLEAGUES: If a good relationship is formed with colleagues and banter becomes part of the status quo – it is conceivable that casual name calling may take place but sometimes though outwardly laughing the words can be felt deeper by the receiver of those words.
  • FROM A COMMUNITY: In some cases the bullying can be so extreme that it takes on a lynch-mob mentality.  A community based around a church, a local pub, a theatre group, a choir etc… can be easily rallied into thinking that the comments are harmless fun but the more and more people joining in and referring to the person as “gayboy”, “faggot” and so on – the harder it becomes to handle.

I always feel that there’s only a certain amount of insults and pressure any one person could take before the human spirit starts to crack.

At any age finding your way through the maze of bullying and the pain that it can entail can be traumatic but as a teenager when you are finding yourself, with or without sexuality / gender identity conflicts, can be horrendously draining.  Teenagers are already dealing with puberty, experimenting with social boundaries and, within most schools, a need to fit in is key to survival.  This is where my slight concern gets tangle.  Do schools educate properly on the issues that affect our out of education lives…a world where people come in all shapes, sizes, identities, ethnicities etc…

Until I had left school I had never, to my knowledge, met a transsexual person.  This could be because they weren’t open or that I had no awareness of this identity.  I also understood that people could be “gay” or “straight” but not bisexual, let alone the wealth of other definitions from pansexual to polyamory and not excluding asexual beings.  Sexual education within schools should be able to describe and promote an understanding of the many different types of lifestyles that exist in the world.  This can be done in the context of religion, explaining why some beliefs may not fully support certain ways of living, but it could help to build bridges and remove the “sinner” / “outsider” / “unnatural” arguments.

It’s very awkward to fully exterminate homophobic bullying within the school system when the outside world has so many abhorrent views like:

  • “If you’re involved in the gay and lesbian lifestyle, it’s bondage. It is personal bondage, personal despair and personal enslavement.” — Senator Michele Bachmann (2004)
  • “Sexuality is a choice”
  • “gay people spread disease”
  • “AIDS is a friendly disease because blacks, drug users and gays have it.” – Mark Collett, BNP Director of Publicity
  • “all homosexuals are predatory”
  • “we must protect our families and children”
  •  “The TV footage of dozens of ‘gay’ demonstrators flaunting their perversions in front of the world’s journalists showed just why so many ordinary people find these creatures so repulsive.” – Nick Griffin, BNP Leader

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When people in powerful positions like Mark Collett, Nick Griffin and Senator Bachmann still spout this ridiculous viewpoint it is hard to encourage other doubters and anti-homosexualists to convert their views, to educate themselves, to realise that people are just people and what they do in the privacy or open of their own lives, providing it’s lawful and consensual, is absolutely nobody’s business but their own.  However, because these ridiculous views are now less and less common, they gain more and more airtime (TV, Radio, Magazine Articles).  A view that is now seen as outdated still attracts more people to the story in outrage, support and out of intrigue.

Now imagine a 14 / 15 / 16 year old child coming to terms with their identity having to hear these phrases and words orated around them – it could make them feel wrong, dirty, evil and as though they had something that should be hidden and never openly talked about.  This can force people into a corner, an alienated place where you feel nothing but loneliness and self-loathing.  This unuttered truth of being yourself, that leaves you silent, also leaves the pain silent and allows little or no chance of seeking help and support.  Many people develop a mask and manage to put on a brave face and help others, fit in with those they detest – only to eventually crack and be driven deeper into the mire where the only option remaining to you is suicide.

This has to stop.

The stories of people like Jadin Bell, Matthew Shepard, Anthony Collao and many many more only go to prove just how desperately we need to change the way our young people, our adults and particularly the way our educators educate.

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Do Cheap Drink Deals Lead To Anti-Social Behaviour?

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Binge drinking has been a hot subject amongst medical professionals, news readers, reporters, off-licenses and pubs for a long time.  There is a view that alcohol related anti-social behaviour is on the rise due to the increase in binge drinking, which in turn has augmented through incentivised drinking.

Let’s make it clear what we mean, so binge drinking is having the primary intention of becoming intoxicated by heavy consumption of alcohol over a short period of time.  The short time span and the intention are key to understanding this problem: binge drinkers are not planning on socialising and including drink in that arena, they are drinking and happen to be able to socialise at the same time.  Anti-social behaviour is acting in a way that shows a lack of consideration for others and may cause damage to the society, whether intentionally or through negligence.

Alcohol is often said to release our inhibitions thus allowing us to say and do things that in the sober light of day we would not normally think of, this is the main reason behind the drink aware scheme.  However, most people realise that they do change under the influence of alcohol but can we blame alcohol itself when the vast majority of people can enjoy a social drink, or a bottle of wine with dinner without ever causing a problem to themselves or others.

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But supermarkets, pubs and clubs often entice people to drink more than they should, or perhaps create a way to allow people to drink more alcohol buy letting their money go further.  Supermarkets will often have deals on wine, beers, spirits and alco-pops.  Some supermarket deals I have seen are:

  • 3 for £12 on selected red, white and rose wines
  • save 50% on selected red wines
  • 3 for £5 Beck’s lager (660ml bottles)
  • 2 packs of 6 Budweiser for £9.00
  • 2 packs of 4 Cobra for £8.00
  • 2 packs of 4 Bacardi Breezers for £7.00
  • a pack of 10 Gaymers cider with raspberry for £8.00

So the price of these deals is reasonable and easily affordable, this could encourage people to drink more comfortably in their homes.  Whilst this could potentially encourage a higher alcohol consumption it may not necessarily increase anti-social behaviour on the streets (although noise pollution from music could be increased as could pre-drinking.)

Pre-drinking is a trend that is occurring with alarming frequency.  This is to save money on the boosted prices that pubs and clubs charge (as well as door charges in some places), however this does mean that people are already somewhat intoxicated when entering the public arena, so inhibitions are lowered, reactions are altered and decisions not as clearly made.

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Once these pre-drinkers enter pubs they are then bombarded with drink deals – there are very few pubs that don’t offer deals, particularly in cities such as London, Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Dublin and so on.  This is quite often driven by the competetive nature of the business, but also through a realisation that if people are drunk they often think they are “having a good time” and once inebriated will often purchase more drinks for themselves and other people around them.

Some of the deals I have recently witnessed are:

  • All shots £1 all night
  • £1 on selected bottled beers
  • £2.50 pint night
  • £2.75 vodka and Red Bull
  • Double up on all spirits for £1
  • Buy a pint and Get A Shot for free

These deals are fantastic for the individual wallet and for the sensible drinker – but if your mindset is that of a binge drinker then you are more likely to over-indulge and eventually react out of character in way that could possibly lead to anti-social behaviour.  It is worth mentioning that the numbers prove that anti-social behaviour carried out by those under the influence of alcohol is far smaller than those who behave in a social manner – decency is still the majority choice!

Whilst I realise the effect that alcohol has on individuals, the mental changes and the health implications – I still believe that the biggest cause of anti-social behaviour whilst under the influence of alcohol is licensing laws.  Because of our work patterns and licencing laws – pubs open for a very brief period of evening/night time, which encourages people to drink more in a short period of time giving no time for the body to absorb the alcohol, no time for food and relaxation – one must drink!

The other problem is the closing time – in my area, for example, there are 7 pubs/bars on the same road and 6 of them close their doors at the same time thus forcing hundreds of people out onto a high-street.  With that many people, under the influence of alcohol. all trying to get home, to see if another bar is open – there is bound to be trouble.  A staggered arrangement would be better at half hour intervals e.g.

  • PUB 1: close at 11pm
  • PUB 2 & 3: close at 11.30pm
  • PUB 4 & 5: close at 12pm

This would mean less people on the streets at any one time – but to ensure they don’t bar hop – no admittance to those bars after the first bar has closed its doors.  I believe this will dramatically drop the rate of anti-social behaviour in all its forms from violence & criminal damage to noise & public indecency.

I also feel that we need to educate children on the risks and truths of alcohol in the UK, explaining that it is a social, enjoyable thing to do but something that is still a drug and is dangerous in high doses.  Rid the myth that it is “cool” to drink and make them realise that it something that a large number of people do and enjoy and it is not special but normal and that it must be treated with respect.

Well…alcohol rant over.  (I could do with a large glass of white wine now!)

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