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12 September 2007 @ 02:30 pm
There's an interesting article in The Times today about thug culture and how we can teach young people to have some basic respect for others and not go around killing people.

One quote really struck me:

He [a father in Norris Green who wisely declined to be named] said that to describe these groups of wild children as gangs was a misnomer – they were not that disciplined, but they certainly were dangerous, “precisely because they fear no one, and they are too stupid to understand that when you pull the trigger death is for good”.

They're not too stupid to understand. They understand all right. They just don't care.

I attended a pretty thuggish primary school and witnessed, and indeed fell foul of, some evil lowlifes. My school was banned from the Thousand Voices, which was a massive annual event involving every year 6 kid in the borough, because a boy in my year had brought in a pair of nunchakus to school - real ones, that can easily kill someone with one blow (I should know - I twatted myself in the neck the other week with a foam-padded, supposedly safe pair and was in pain for days) - to beat up another kid outside the school gates, seriously injuring an old lady who tried to intervene.

Because I was a bit weird and brainy and not very pretty, the other kids thought it was tremendous fun to do things like set fire to my skirt or strangle me with a skipping rope, because being a bit weird and brainy and not very pretty made me sub-human in their eyes and therefore they could do what they liked with me. They gained pleasure from my suffering because they didn't empathise with it.

It was when I was in Year 5, the same age as the boys who did it, that Jamie Bulger was tortured and murdered by a pair of ten-year-olds. My headmaster delivered a "shocked and appalled" assembly, questioning how on earth a child of our age could bring themselves to do a thing like that. But I wasn't shocked at all, and I don't think my classmates were either. Doing something like that requires nothing more than a suspension of respect for human life, a suspension of empathy and a taste for violence, all of which a lot of kids have in great quantities.

It seems as if even normal children develop an instinct for cruelty a few years before they develop morals or empathy. There is no creature on earth with a greater capacity for unfeeling sadism than a child between the ages of ten and twelve. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if all children go through a stage of pre-pubescent psychopathy.

The moment at which I realised I was no longer going to be seriously bullied happened in my first year of secondary school (which in my spacky education authority was actually year 8). I can't remember the exact details of what had happened, but somebody had done something wrong in class and the teacher had wrongly identified a culprit, whereupon the boy who had actually done the dirty deed raised his hand and admitted guilt rather than watch a classmate go unfairly punished. It was such a petty little incident, but at that moment I knew that everything was going to be ok - that my peers were starting to gain some respect for the lives and feelings of others.

I don't think you can force anyone to really give a toss about other people - that's a personal choice, and it might even be a developmental thing that some kids take longer to acquire than others. What you CAN do is not to let them get away with it. In an ideal world, everybody would just want to be nice to each other and not go around beating people up and, in some cases, shooting them. But much as it pains me to sound like a Daily Mail reader, what are these parents doing, even letting their kids outside the house if they know they're capable of cruelty and, in recent cases, murder? The way I see it, if you're twelve years old, going out with your friends is a privilege not a right, and it's a privilege you shouldn't have if you're a junior psychopath, or if the friends you want to hang around with are junior psychopaths. What the fuck are their parents thinking? And what about school too? One of the reasons bullying should never be tolerated however petty is not just because of the distress it causes the victims, but because of the habits that can become ingrained in the bullies if they are not curbed. Sometimes it seems that people are frightened of discipline, because the word itself conjures up images of horrid Victorian values and ruling with a rod of iron and stuff. But really, all it means is having clear boundaries, high standards of behaviour, and intolerance towards bad behaviour.

Anyway, I'm just rambling now, but I just can't help feeling that if these kids had people actually bothering to tell them that lacking respect for human life was unacceptable and that there would be actual consequences for such behaviour rather than just an ASBO, it couldn't be a bad thing.
12 September 2007 @ 09:49 am
It's funny how the tiniest mistakes can spell disaster. Obviously last night I forgot both to set my alarm and to take my asthma medication, which is how I ended up waking up at 7:50 this morning wheezing like a 50-a-day smoker.

Luckily I'd taken a shower the night before after taekwondo, so really I didn't need to do anything except get dressed and get my stuff together, but I had to sit quietly for ages waiting for the asthma medication to kick in before I could walk to the station without collapsing.

Anyway, I arrived only three minutes late for work! I think this is really good going, especially since had I not gone on a detour to Pret to get some breakfast (I absolutely cannot function without breakfast and don't understand people who can) I would actually have been a bit early.
05 September 2007 @ 11:31 am
I hate this time of year. And not just because the weather is getting colder and the evenings darker. I hate it because I appear to be allergic to midge bites. Not properly allergic obviously, although at the rate my reaction to them seems to be worsening I wouldn’t be surprised if in ten years time I spend the whole of autumn in anaphylactic shock. I don’t normally get bitten by insects at all, and when I do, it’s not too bad. Mosquitos don’t bother me. They don’t seem to find me particularly tasty in the first place and I’ve never had a bad reaction to a mosquito bite. But those tiny little English midges that don’t have much of an effect on most people bite me to pieces, which come up in hideously painful welts that drive me crazy and take weeks to go away.

A couple of nights ago I felt a slight burning, prickling sensation on my abdomen, pulled up my top and actually watched my skin swell and blister before my eyes. I have four bites on my stomach, which are so painful I want to rip my skin off. I felt really sick for a while after they first appeared, and I’m not sure if that was just a reaction to the pain or yet another symptom that I’ve started having. I am now dreaming of my next “fix” of antihistamines in a Trainspotting-style, hair-tearing state of withdrawal.

Goddammit I hate midges! The world would be so much better off without them. Nothing seems to eat the bloody things so it’s not like their extermination would bugger up the ecosystem. Annihilate the greedy, bloodsucking fiends, that’s what I say.
17 August 2007 @ 10:26 am
For anyone interested in such things, I have recently become a professional ranter. I've been invited to join The F-Word's team of bloggers. The F-Word is THE UK-based feminist website. This is quite a big deal and will look fantastic on my CV. I'm feeling rather pleased with myself!
Current Mood: accomplishedaccomplished
13 August 2007 @ 02:07 pm
It's been a while since I was able to furnish my lovely readers with any gossip of a man-related nature, but now I may just have some...

Fit American Boy is back!

Who remembers Fit American Boy? Fit American Boy is the guy who I met at a friend's birthday party last summer and had three very successful dates with before he went back to San Francisco (I obviously made a great impression on him then). We lost touch, as you do when you've only known someone for two weeks before they bugger off halfway across the world for four months, but a week ago he popped up on one of my friends' facebook pages, I friended him, we arranged to meet up and had another extremely successful date involving sitting around drinking coffee, eating cake, discussing feminism, literature (he is scarily well-read. I feel like a right idiot) and politics, and him insisting on walking me home a mile out of his way.

I like Fit American Boy.

He has never been to the Proms, so we are going next Sunday for an awesome programme of Shostakovich and Bernstein. Watch this space...
Current Mood: excitedexcited
07 August 2007 @ 09:47 am
Yesterday I bought a 65L gap year wanker rucksack, made by a reputable manufacturer, for £24. For those not in the know, this is pretty amazing - something like this would normally set you back at least £70. And it wasn't even on sale. The place where I bought this was Sports World, bastions of the worst customer service in the known universe.

Sports World are a chain of sports shops that sell ends of lines and last season's sportsgear at hugely discounted prices. Their shops are veritable warehouses full of every cut-price sportswear you could possibly want (except martial arts shoes, grrrr), provided you're not too bothered about having the latest gear. Sports World have been steadily going out of business for ages and it's only a matter of time before they admit defeat. The reason for this? I think it's entirely the fault of their staff and shop floor management.

They simply can't be arsed with their customers at all. They don't care whether or not they sell you anything. They don't even notice you're there. They're rude, surly, unhelpful, inarticulate, lazy morons.

Take yesterday for example: In addition to the rucksack I had found a pair of shorts that I wanted to try on. I couldn't find a changing room, so I found a member of staff and asked him where it was. "It's closed," he said, turning away from me and wandering off. No apology, no suggestion of when facilities would be available, no explanation of their returns policy.

So I found a mirror in front of which I held the shorts up against myself, trying to work out if they'd fit me. Another member of staff pushed past me without apologising.

I decided that the shorts would probably fit, so took both them and the rucksack to the checkout. There was a fairly long queue, several tills unmanned, and several staff lolling around doing nothing. When I finally got to the front of the queue, I was held up because the woman in front of me was trying to return a faulty item. "I can't give you a refund, it's company policy," the moron behind the till kept saying so inarticulately I could barely understand him. Call me classist, but I really don't think someone who can't speak proper English should be in a job where they have to speak to people. "Company policy, company policy, company policy..." The woman gave up. She should have asked to speak to the manager, but I doubt that that would have got her any further.

Whilst all this was going on, I seriously considered giving up and going to Blacks where I knew that I would receive fantastic service from staff who knew what they were talking about, but I knew that at Blacks I would pay three times the price for a similar product. I'm not willing to put my money where my principles are for £50. However, if I'd just been buying the shorts I'd have given up straight after the changing room incident. There are very few bargains awesome enough to make me put up with shit like this. And that, my friends, is why Sports World are going out of business. They make it so unbelievably difficult for people to buy anything from them!

I don't want to see this company go under. I like cut price sports gear as much as the next person. However, they need a good kick up the arse. They need to sack 90% of their staff and hire people without attitude problems. Perhaps they need to start paying them commission. They need to keep their stores clean and tidy. Surely it's an absolute no-brainer - if shopping somewhere is an unpleasant experience people aren't going to go there, no matter how cheap they are.
Current Mood: aggravatedaggravated
01 August 2007 @ 11:02 am
For the last few weeks I've been having headaches and fainting spells with annoying regularity. I've been exhausted a lot of the time, struggling not to throw up on the tube every morning and having to wear sunglasses permanently like a movie star because I can't stand bright light. I did see a doctor about it last week, who said that it was probably my hormones finally catching up with me. I've had a contraceptive implant for the last couple of years which has completely stopped my hideously painful periods, but recently I've been menstruating about once a week (albeit with no symptoms other than mild bleeding, so I don't really mind) so the doc thinks it's my newly-instated periods triggering migraines and that I should have the implant removed.

I'll have the implant removed when hell freezes over. No longer having periods has given me my life back, and I'm buggered if I'm relinquishing it again.

Anyway, I've been feeling better over the last couple of days. I went to taekwondo last night and for the first time in weeks, didn't have to give up halfway through. I'm really, really hoping that what I've been suffering from is a random virus and not anything to do with my hormones.
25 July 2007 @ 03:23 pm
My travel plans for the year are pretty much sorted! It's all down to the suggestion of my friend Raz. We had coffee a few weeks ago and she suggested that I went somewhere on my own. Now, I didn't realise that normal people went on holiday on their own - I thought it was just for losers with no friends - but she told me that virtually everybody she knows has done it. Apparently the thing to do is to book a place on a guided tour. Again, my view of tours was of obnoxious chavs going round the Costa del Sol in a coach, complaining about the fact that you can't get baked beans there, but again, apparently this is not the case.

So, the short version of the story is, I went down to STA Travel and booked myself onto a tour of Central America at the end of the year. I will be flying into Cancun on 25th November (my birthday! Spending my birthday on a plane for 17 hours, great...) travelling through Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, and returning on 30th December. I will have the opportunity to go riding lots (which with rising insurance prices is the preserve of people who own their own horses in this country), swim with dolphins, and on Christmas Day, I will be zip-wiring over a jungle.

I'm buying everything I need to buy for this now seeing as most of it's on sale at the moment, and any clothes I need to buy will have to be of a summery nature (oh yeah - it'll be between 20-30C, and the height of the dry season!) and I'm just loving the fact that whilst every other girl I know is shopping for trendy skimpy tops for their holidays, here are a few highlights of my shopping list:

  • Gap year wanker rucksack (think I'll be able to borrow this from someone though)
  • One of those money belts that you can keep under your clothes
  • A pair of those trousers with bottoms that zip off to turn them into shorts, which make you look like a twat in London but quite cool on holiday
  • Malaria tablets (even though I never get bitten)
  • And my personal favourite....walking boots, because you can't wear sandals in the jungle in case you step on a deadly poisonous snake

    But the best part? I still have one day of holiday left to take! So perhaps I'll go for a long weekend somewhere too...
    Current Mood: excitedexcited
    19 July 2007 @ 11:54 am
    More free Prom tickets last night, this time to hear the combined forces of the LPO and the Orchestre National de France under the baton of Kurt Masur playing the Tchaikovsky Serenade for Strings and Bruckner 7.

    I unashamedly love the Tchaikovsky – it’s such a fun piece to play. Their playing style wasn’t really Russian enough for my liking though – it was all a bit lukewarm and English. The ensemble was a bit dodgy at times too, although this wasn’t the players’ fault at all. Masur doesn’t seem to conduct so much as just randomly wave his arms about and dance around like a little girl. Pretty disastrous, seeing as most of the brilliance of Tchaikovsky’s orchestral writing, even in large-scale symphonies, comes from unison strings. If it’s not perfectly together, it just doesn’t work.

    The Bruckner was fantastic. Bruckner is pretty much the last thing I’d listen to at home, but it’s just so great live. I was so impressed with the orchestra for playing something like that essentially without a conductor. I don’t think I saw a single downbeat in the entire evening – he was just waving his arms around in a rather effeminate manner whilst they followed the leader. How do conductors like that get where they are? It’s incredible.

    Unfortunately, the orchestra came completely unstuck in Die Meistersinger overture, which they played as an encore, to the extent to which at one point I honestly thought they were going to nosedive completely. They got back together though, and the piece ended well.

    At one point at the end of the concert, Masur took a bow on his own without bringing the orchestra to their feet. A more appropriate end to the concert would have been every section leader getting the opportunity to soak up that adulation instead. There are some conductors that orchestras follow, and there are some that they don’t. If the orchestra had attempted to follow the conductor on this occasion, the entire concert would have been an unmitigated disaster. They get away with it, because professional orchestras are accustomed to having to deal with incompetent buffoons like this. They’re capable of ignoring the conductor and staying together on their own, and then the corpulent buffoon who’s just spent the last half hour mindlessly waving his arms around like a geriatric windmill takes all the credit. It’s so gay.
    15 July 2007 @ 10:52 pm
    I am apparently obliged to post this first, according to The Management:

    1. Leave me a comment saying anything random, like your favorite lyric to your current favorite song. Or your favorite kind of sandwich. Something random. Whatever you like.
    2. I respond by asking you five personal questions so I can get to know you better.
    3. You WILL update your LJ with the answers to the questions.
    4. You will include this explanation and offer to ask someone else in the post.
    5. When others comment asking to be asked, you will ask them five questions.

    The following are courtesy of radinden

    1. Talent, hard work, raw back-stabbing ambition, low standards on who you'll sleep with, or all of the above: what do you really need to get ahead in the music world?

    All of the above help, but what's really important is low aspirations and lack of self-respect.

    2. According to Facebook (yes, I've been doing proper research for these questions!), you've lived in Spain. I'm sure I hadn't heard about this before. Tell?

    That's a pretty tenuous statement to be honest. I've worked there, but only for a total of about 3 months. I just thought it made me sound more interesting.

    3. What's the most stupid thing you've done when drunk?

    Ummm, shared my personal space with a turd in Burger King the other night? Texted people I shouldn't? Had screaming matches in the street? Oooooh, I know! I was a bit pissed at a house party a while ago, and standing next to me was this girl who was skinny with short hair, and just out of the corner of my eye for a split second I thought she was a bloke. So I turned and said, "Hiiiiiiii, how are you, we met at Olivia's leaving party, it's so funny, right, for a split second there I thought you were a really short bloke!!! Mwahahahaha!!!!!" She didn't see the funny side. Oh, and she'd only just arrived, so she was stone cold sober. Whoops!

    4. "You are by far the yummiest specimen of gorgeousness ever to have appeared on the programme." Have you ever written any other fan letters? ;)

    Nope, just that one.

    5. There's people who would kill to have your life, or at least that part of it that's externally visible: good job, diverse bunch of friends, odd but impressive collection of skills and hobbies, and good looks and health. Nevertheless, you seem to be in a state of permanent dissatisfaction with yourself. Do you just aim high? And what would you change right now if you could?

    I'd change my entire life. I'd go back and do it all better. I wish life was like a computer game, whereby every time you screw up, you can just kill yourself, Game Over, start again. A brief and by no means comprehensive catalogue of my misdemeanours: Not getting stright A*s in my GCSEs like everyone else I know (although at that age I'd never heard of anyone managing this), only doing 2 A levels, not going to Oxbridge, not being pretty enough, not getting a first in my degree, screwing up the one time I've ever been in love (and no, it wasn't the bloke I was living with a while back. I know, I know!), lacking general knowledge, having virtually no friends who regard me as anything more than a vague acquaintance. Bottom line is, if hardly anybody likes me, I must be doing something wrong.