Carpe Diem

Caroline Aherne

 

There is nothing the British like better than talking about the weather.  It doesn’t matter what sort of weather it is; rain,wind, snow, or wall to wall sunshine, we like to talk about it and we enjoy a good whinge.  When it rains we wish it would stop, when it’s windy, we complain that we can’t use an umbrella because it is too blustery or it makes our hair go pouffy.  We don’t mind snow because much to the amusement of some of our European and American friends, the entire country grinds to a halt if we have snow.  Really.  I have no idea why but we seem to be entirely unequipped to deal with a bit of snow.  Probably because we only ever have a little bit of snow. However, in spite of being unequipped to deal with it, we do have specific criteria for how we like to receive our snow; heavy snow for twenty four hours only so we can all have a day off work, kids a day off school, a bit of a sledge, snowball fight and make a snowman, and then it can all go away please and be of no further inconvenience, thank you.

At the moment in England at least (and I say that because that is where my bottom is sat), we have the wall to wall sunshine option.  And it is roasting hot.  Very warm indeed for England.  As I look out of one window, I see sunshine. The other window, sunshine. And a large paddling pool that my children will no doubt launch themselves into the moment that they get home from school that I bought yesterday.  Even the dog had a dip yesterday –  Man of the House turned his back and he was in, having a whale of a time.

Now when we get this sort of weather in England, strange things do happen. For some men who insist on dressing for the body they want rather than the body they have, it is the time to disrobe and walk the streets half naked and usually sun burnt. For mothers it is to plaster your child in suncream and insist on a sun hat.  If your child is really small you can play that hilarious game when you put the hat on your child and they immediately take it off.  And you can do it all afternoon.  That is when they are not demanding a cuddle, which is what you want in oppressive heat.  Old people will insist on wearing a cardigan and whilst you open a window in desperation, they will reprimand you for creating an Arctic-like draft. However, even if we keep our tops and hats on, but our cardys off , the one thing that most of us will become involved with in some capacity is a barbecue.

Immediately the weather gets warmer, everyone, or perhaps more specifically, men, have an uncontrollable urge to cook outside. And it is often men who don’t really cook that this happens to.  Men who have shown no interest whatsoever in the happenings in the kitchen suddenly decide that they want to cook.  In a manly and primal way.  Meat.  Outside.  On an open fire.  Possibly in an amusing pinny. Clutching a beer.  At the hottest time of the day.  On the hottest day of the year.

On the morning of such a day, particularly if it falls over a weekend, the supermarkets are seething with people stacking their trollies up with food. Burgers, sausages, steak….you name it.  I was in there yesterday, beating my way through the masses, (my excuse being that my fridge had chosen the hottest day of the year so far to break and I had had to throw everything away) and I can attest to the empty shelves.  I always wondered why on earth supermarkets limit some special offers to “twenty promotional items per customer.” Now I know. So in spite of being a serial over-caterer, I was a small fish in a big pond.  My mother is also a serial over-caterer and her mother, my grandmother, was before her.  If you invite someone round for food and they don’t have to have a lie down on the floor after lunch, then you haven’t done your job properly as far as my family is concerned.  But we ain’t got nothing on pretty much everyone frequenting the supemarket yesterday.

Most people were purchasing an amount of food which suggested that not only friends and family were coming round for a bite.  They were also expecting friends and family to bring everyone they know as well, and in addition, at some point, the host was fully expecting their house, garden and everyone in it to be under siege from some hitherto unknown army, for at least a week and utterly incapable of rescue. Which also explains the mass purchase of the Nerf guns.

Once food is purchased, it is customary for people all over the country to pile up charcoal briquettes over an enormous number of firelighters, and mutter under their breath that they can’t get the damned thing to light.   It will take so long to light that by the time it does everyone will be so ravenously hungry, there will only be one deeply unappetising sausage ready and that will have fallen through the grill onto the briquettes.  It is usually the sausage that you give to the dog.  However, someone will have burnt their fingers retrieving that sausage and in desperation will eat it anyway.  As people are getting really rather hungry now, some of the women present will rashly suggest using the oven inside the house that is perfectly acceptable, or even superior, on any other day of the year. Naturally, their suggestions will be spurned whilst the water guns are brought out in readiness for the siege by the army of unknowns.  By the time that everyone has eaten and everything has been cooked, the barbecue is going really well.  Now, the day after, all that will remain is for us to spend an hour cleaning the grill, eat a strange combination of cold food for three days and also spend quite a lot of time finishing off random bits of pudding.

And when the sun comes out again, we’ll do it all again because we’re British, and when it comes down to it, we’re nothing if not hopelessly optimistic and a bit odd.

Fly Maybe

The Rescuers

I expect that Flybe are hoping that today might be a good day to bury bad news.  If you can negotiate your way through all of General Election gubbins, you may stumble across an article that says that Flybe is promising an overhaul after posting a twenty million pound loss. That’s a big number isn’t it?  It is reported that they are going to turn the business around by reducing the size of their fleet due to a slowing growth in consumer demand. That sounds measured and sensible.  I might be able to help them with some suggestions because I had the misfortune of flying with Flybe for the first time last week.

It was a week last Saturday, which was also on a day that was a good day to bury bad news because whilst me and a hundred or so other people were sat twiddling our thumbs at Birmingham Airport, thousands of people were ensnared in the BA balls up.  Our delay had nothing to do with the BA thing.  Nothing.  Our delay, both outbound and inbound was due to complete and utter incompetence. Not that the BA thing wasn’t.  It is just that this incompetence was not related to that.  So before you book your holiday avoiding BA but plumping for Flybe, just read to the end.  Please.

Our flight was due to take off at 11.15am.  The plane was on the tarmac.  Later than expected, but nothing too awful, we boarded a bus to be taken to the plane.  The doors were closed.  And we were kept on the bus for half an hour.  The doors then opened and we were deposited back at the gate.  For five hours. For about four hours, we were told nothing.  The screens were not updated (although they kept taunting us with promises to update) and not one member of staff appeared.  In desperation I took to Twitter, and was told a load of rubbish by whoever picks up their messages. My travel agent was trying to obtain information and was also told a load of piffle.  I asked via Twitter for everyone to be updated.  Nothing.  When it all became too taxing for them, I mean, we were only customers; radio silence.

After about four and a half hours, a Member of Staff appeared at a desk and was deluged.  A lot of people had drifted away from the gate, so were not a party to what was being said, and no one appeared to have thought that updating all passengers was important, so only those within earshot got the information.  Member of Staff then walked down the gate and Man of the House stopped her asked her what was going on. She advised that thirty four people were not able to get on the plane.  She had asked people to queue up (those in the siege who had heard this had indeed already done so) and the last thirty four people to do so would not be leaving Birmingham on that flight.  Man of the House queried this and asked if she was seriously suggesting that people fight their way to the front, children fighting adults for their place.  Her response?  Without pausing for breath she confirmed that was the case and that was why she had asked the police to attend.  She then gestured to two police officers.  And we all know that police officers have absolutely nothing better to do at the moment, so I imagine that they were particularly pleased to be there. It is difficult to describe the expression of Man of the House at this point, but I suspect that it is the same as yours right now.

When it came to boarding (bearing in mind that only those people who had already formed the queue and Man of the House because he had made a direct enquiry had a clue what was going on), Member of Staff announced to those within earshot that those with ferry connections and (possibly after having had the opportunity to reflect) those with children, were permitted onto the plane first.  I am not able to comment on the scene after that as I was fortunate enough to be on the plane, trying to calm my now near-hysterical daughter.  I did, however, speak to the last person to get on the plane.  She said that seeing that the plane was boarding, people had started to queue up.  The Member of Staff had then put her hand behind her back and told the people behind her to stop.  The last lady on the plane had no idea why that had happened until she got on the plane, the people behind her had no idea why either.

When we got on the plane we were told the truth. The crew had been told that twenty or so people would be getting on the plane that morning.  All the weight/fuel calculations were done on that basis. The crew were then told it was over one hundred people and at that point the plane would be too heavy to have everyone on, even just to be on the tarmac.  Apparently the people who could remove the necessary amount of fuel from the plane at Birmingham Airport don’t work weekends, and it would seem that Flybe were fresh out of ideas, not that they had any in the first place.

So, we took off five and a half hours late.  But we were the lucky ones.  Thirty four people were left in the terminal.  I understand that they left Birmingham Airport at ten o’clock at night.  Thirteen hours after they were supposed to.  They were twenty minutes from their destination when the destination airport advised that they closed at midnight and the plane could not land.  They were diverted to Athens.  Seven hours away from their destination by road.  Checking even the most basic of information and procedures does not seem to be a priority for Flybe.

Hoping for the best but expecting the worst, we were also delayed on the inbound flight.  Three and a half hours this time.  I knew when we checked in because a fellow passenger had ascertained that the flight coming from Birmingham hadn’t even taken off.  Back I went to Twitter.  Apparently staff sickness was the issue.  Is Flybe so thin on the ground for staff that if someone calls in sick they have no plan to deal with it?  We were given no other information in the airport, except from holiday reps desperately trying to find things out, just as we were, and none of the information they were given was accurate.  Feeling every so slightly tetchy, my sarcasm was now getting the better of me and I suggested to Flybe on Twitter that perhaps we should just have a passenger sweepstake on guessing a time for take off, given that they had no idea when their own plane would be arriving.

Eventually we did leave.  Turns out that that staff sickness crap, was just that, crap.  The plane had gone in for its service and came out late to the crew, hence it being late taking off from Birmingham and that being the knock-on effect.

Flybe, I would suggest that the decrease in your customer demand is because the dreadful way you treat your customers is causing them to shop elsewhere.  Your routes are loss-making because of the vast amount of compensation that you have to pay out to people due to your inability to organise your own schedule, a steadfast refusal to communicate with your customers and the way in which you insult their intelligence with “the dog ate my homework” types of excuses on the occasions when you do.  If you have profit-making routes, I suspect it is because they are sufficiently short distances for the compensation to be in the lower band provided for by the EU legislation for you to financially get away with paying the compensation and still make a profit.  However, if you don’t put your house in order, and sharpish, you won’t survive because all of your routes will be loss-making.  People work hard for their money; their time and their holidays are precious to them and they will choose not to spend it with your company.  If you continue to treat your customers with such contempt when they are simply expecting the service that they have paid for, and which you have promised, your business will not, and does not deserve, to survive.

 

 

 

 

 

Picture: The Rescuers – Walt Disney Animated Classics

 

 

All the King’s Horses

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Billy Connolly once said that the desire to be a politician should forever exclude someone from actually being a politician; he had a very good point.  I wonder what kind of Parliament we would have if it was made up of MP’s who when first asked if they wanted to get into politics responded with “Hell, no” and made a run for it.  I wonder if we might have a better government and a better democracy, rather than the well-sauced gravy train that we seem to have at the moment.

Mr Connolly also said that we shouldn’t vote, because it encourages the politicians.  Again, given our ridiculous voting system, and the selection of votees currently on offer, I also have sympathy with that point of view.  I suspect that most of us would agree that encouraging politicians in any capacity other than to learn how to answer the damned question being put to them, should be positively discouraged.  It’s a bit like celebrating there being more estate agents in the world or being pleased about the increasing number of solicitors on the roll.  No one is ever happy about those things.  However, although I can see the point,  I cannot subscribe to it.

Before the term was bastardised for a day when people disgrace themselves buying things they don’t need, for prices that are not really discounted, the real Black Friday was on 18 November 1910.  Women who were protesting were removed from the Houses of Parliament and many were seriously injured in their removal.  On 4 June 1913, nearly three years later, things had not improved for women and Emily Davison famously died after having thrown herself under Anmer, the King’s Horse at the Epsom Derby.  She died four days later on 8 June 1913.  I write the words describing it now.  Everyone knows about the woman who threw herself under the King’s horse.  Her life reduced to one sentence. Can you imagine what a horrific death it must have been to have been trampled to death by a horse and then taking four long days to die?  All she wanted was to be treated equally and have the same rights to vote as men.   It seems a tad harsh to me.

After Emily died, in order to try and beat the women who were on hunger strike into submission, the government (all male) introduced what is known as the Cat and Mouse Act, because of how cats play with their prey before they kill them.  Women were imprisoned.  They went on hunger strike.  Emily Davison was force fed forty nine times.  When the women were sufficiently ill, they were let out of gaol until they were well enough to serve the rest of their sentence. Then they were returned to gaol where they went on hunger strike.  And so the cycle continued.

Of course, as well as Emily Davison, we’ve all heard of the Pankhursts.  There is also another suffragette called Sophia Duleep Singh, of whom you may not have heard.  She was such a pain in the arse that apparently King George V declared “Have we no hold on her?”  I fervently hope not.  Sophia died at the age of seventy two having dedicated her life to women’s rights.

It is easy for us to speak of these women with our mouths, and to forget with our heads what it must have been like for them.  To be arrested and imprisoned for wanting to be treated equally.  Equal treatment is not shocking today, but only because those women and the necessity of two World Wars beat the government into submission. Would I be prepared to give my life for it?  Would I be prepared to be beaten up, or go on hunger strike for the rights that I now have?  I’d like to think that I would.  But it is not something that I have ever had, or will ever have to seriously consider; those women lived it.  Some of them died for it.

No one really likes politicians do they?  I was incandescent when Nick Clegg said he wouldn’t vote to raise tuition fees and the minute his feet were under the table, he voted to raise tuition fees.  If Theresa May says “strong and stable” one more time in one of those ridiculously staged public appearances, I will think that she is really a robot whose programming has hit a glitch.  And Diane Abbott’s grasp of figures is worse than mine, which I didn’t think was humanly possible; life is full of surprises.

Considering the selection, I really do think that we have come to the time in our political history when a box “None of the Above” should be included on the ballot paper. Things would get really interesting when “None of the Above” get in.  I suppose that’s when we start rounding up all those people who don’t want to be politicians, to be politicians.  But until that day, even if you just spoil your ballot paper, please register to vote and then vote.  Not for your country, not because the Press told you who to vote for, but because what is now your right was once considered a privilege.  On the 8th June, it will be one hundred and four years to the day that Emily Davison died, never having lived to see her dream come to fruition. Putting a cross on a piece of paper or a scribble through it is the only way I can think of to best honour her sacrifice.

Tea and Cake

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Afternoon tea is very in at the moment isn’t it?  Or it certainly seems so.  Not that it ever really went out of fashion.  The idea of tea and cake becoming unfashionable seems to me to be very odd indeed.  Perhaps with the advent of ‘Friends’ and the rise of the Starbucks and Costas of this world, the unthinkable happened and the popularity of tea wained slightly in England.  Well I am pleased to see that it is back, and so is gin apparently.  Yippee! I need to do more research on the gin before I am able to write with any authority on that particular subject.  And I also suspect that you might also need to do some more research before you are able to see whether or not you agree with my views on gin whenever I come to express them.  So let’s agree to re-group on that one in the future.

Yes, so afternoon tea.  Imagine my friend’s delight when she was invited to afternoon tea with a group of friends.  This is my friend who openly admits to never having met a cake she didn’t like, so she was very happy indeed.  I am not sure she has met a gin she didn’t like either.  Nevertheless, she womanfully presses on with trying to find either a cake or a gin she isn’t keen on.

Unfortunately the date of the afternoon tea fell on a day when her significant other had to go to work, and she was going to have to take her (very well behaved and older) children with her.  I’ve been both in and out with these children on many occasions, not only are they very well-behaved, they also entertain the other children, which is a win-win situation as far as I am concerned.  In the meantime, my cake/gin loving friend had another friend get in touch with her who was having a childcare nightmare on that day; she and her partner had to work and there was no one who could look after her child.  My friend agreed to help out, because that is the sort of person she is. The child happens to have a severe food allergy.  My friend checked it out with her parents, the restaurant where the afternoon tea was to be taken and also happens to be trained in the use of an epipen.  All was in hand.  Everyone who needed to could go to work.  And everyone else was having cake.  Marvellous.

I need to declare an interest here.  My son has a food allergy. Several actually.  Thankfully none of them are life threatening, but if he has an allergic reaction it is pretty unpleasant for him.  He gets hives on his hands and his face, his lips swell, he can find it hard to breath and eventually he throws up.  He usually feels rather ill for the rest of the day.  He has medicine, which he usually throws up as well.  I discovered his food allergy when he was eight months’ old.  I won’t bore you with the details, but after about six months’ of carefully noting what I had prepared and a process of elimination, I had nailed it.  The hospital confirmed that which I already knew.  My son is pretty wonderful about it – he has never let it put him off trying new foods or eating out.  And I know that many many children have so many more serious things to worry about.  Most people have daily shadows lurking in the back of their mind when it comes to their children, that is one of mine.

Back to the story.  After having taken every precaution, my friend then notified the afternoon tea organiser of the additional child.  Down to the last exclamation mark, this was the response she received:

“Seriously!!!! I thought she had a severe allergy!!! Don’t want to put you off but it’s not a risk I would take!!!! I’m there to have a giggle with friends not stressing about someone’s allergy!! Sorry if that sounds harsh but I do panic about these things 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 (: (: (: (: ”

My friend asked me if I thought this rude.  I thought it exceptionally rude and told her so.  In addition, I have a few comments in response because my friend is far too polite to say them, nor does she have a blog:

  1. Yes, you do want to put her off.
  2. You’re not stressing about anyone’s allergy, you don’t want the child there.
  3. It doesn’t sound harsh, it is harsh. Couching it with a ‘sorry’ at the start does not make it less so.  Besides, you’re not sorry. And you don’t panic either.  You have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.
  4. A sarcastic person might suggest that it must be very difficult for you spending your days stressing about the food allergies of other people who are not in your care.

Now we all know what is really going on here.  And I agree with what is the main thrust of the women’s response is that children can be a pain, particularly one’s with allergies. But that’s life.   It very rarely fits neatly into boxes.  Children certainly don’t.  Suck it up.

We don’t really get to choose many things in life – our looks, our intelligence, who we fall in love with – all of these things are outside of our control, however much we like to think that they’re not.  But there two things that we can choose.  The first is that we are sufficiently privileged in this country to be able to choose to have children.  For me, having children meant that however they were to come to me, they were mine to care for, come what may, until the day I die.  And when our friends have children, they become part of our lives too.  And the second, for which I am grateful every single day, is that we can choose our friends. The one who will be pissed off if my son happens to be ill in spite of carefully checking everything?  Or the one who will hold my son’s head whilst he is sick on her shoes?  Hmmm…tricky….The one with the barf-spattered trainers please. I choose that one.  But I promise faithfully to replace the shoes.

 

 

 

Photograph courtesy of OneManOneShed on etsy.com/uk 

 

 

Please

 

MakatonI have turned into Enraged of Tunbridge Wells. This is not a good thing.  There have been some roadworks around where I live recently and various road closures etcetera to accommodate these.  Not a problem. Happens all over the country when the weather warms up and is very necessary to keep the roads and us all safe. We all know that.

Yesterday I was driving down a road whilst the workmen were in the process of closing it.  One of the workmen gestured to me and I wound down my window – he took the time to explain how long the work was going to take them, what time he thought that they would be finished, and whether I would be able to go back that way for the school run – he was lovely.  Really quite lovely. On the way back later in the day, just as the work was completed, but the signs were not down, I spoke to a colleague of his, who was equally polite and helpful, and said that it was fine for me to go down the road to collect my children, but please could I do so slowly and with my hazard lights on.  Don’t tell Man of the House this, but I did as I was told.

Today, I went down the road towards school and half way down it was a sign “Road Closed.”  As I was half way down the road and there was no way of turning off I thought “oh well, maybe it’s like yesterday and they are just putting the signs up.”  I got further down the road and the road was most definitely closed.  There was a barrier across one half of the road and a van across the other.  In the van was a man.  I raised my hands to see if there was a possibility of him letting me through as I clearly had children to get to school as evidenced by my son sat in the seat next to me.  He folded his arms and stared at me.  Entirely expressionless.  And he continued to stare.  In fact, he didn’t take his eyes off me.  And I don’t think it was because he was beguiled by my stunning beauty.

I do not believe that I am a person who is backwards in coming forwards, and I was very cross at his behaviour.  Particularly at such behaviour in front of my children, and I could tell that my son was getting quite anxious.  However, at this point I had to make a judgement, as I expect that all women have had to make, and has probably never entered the heads of their male counterparts or peers.  Did I get out of the car and suggest to this man that his people skills needed some work?  I considered it as he continued to stare at me from his van. I decided that all I was probably going to get was a load of abuse, or worse, which was presumably the desired effect of the staring.  So in fairness to him, it worked.  Whilst I did not find his behaviour in any way acceptable, I didn’t want a row and I didn’t want my children to see it.  So I turned the car around.  As I drove away, I wondered to myself if he would have done such a thing had Man of the House been on the school run?  I suspect not.

After the kids were safely as school, as there were a number of workmen around, and being a stroppy madam, I considered locating this man’s superior and making a complaint in person.  Due to the nature of the staring, and already being quite upset about it, I didn’t want to risk being shouted at by several men.  I should like to apologise to these men for judging them by their colleague’s woeful standards, but that is how I felt.  Instead, I took a mental note of their company and telephoned them when I got home.  The lady to whom I spoke was perfectly pleasant and assured me that he would be spoken to.  I wonder if my car happens to be keyed at any point over the next twenty four hours if it will be a coincidence.

Although as it happens, there will be a second candidate for the car keying.  After I got back from taking the Hound out for his morning constitutional, a man delivering something to my neighbour seemed to find no issue whatsoever with not only parking across my drive, but also blocking my car in.  He must have been the passive aggressive twin of Man in Van Starer  because he did not look at me at all.  Even though I was sat in my front window on my computer, which is entirely and wholly visible from where he had parked.  He did not look up.  He did not turn to face me.  He kept his sunglasses on which presumably meant that if I couldn’t see his eyes, he wasn’t really there.

If I could just pause – I have no problem with him parking there if it makes his life easier – I didn’t need to go out – not that he knew that. Equally, he could have parked across the road which would have been safer all round for him and for other road users.  However, his poor safety choices aside, a few words to say that he wasn’t going to be long and to ask if I minded would not have gone amiss. It would also have not required him to lift a small roll of gaffer tape onto his shoulder like he was carrying a newly felled tree as if to emphasize the arduous nature of his delivery to me.

When it became apparent that he was going park for as long as he damned well wanted, I considered the question again for the second time in a morning.  Did I tackle him and his colleague direct?  Yes, there were two of them, both ignoring the fact one of them was blocking me in by parking on my land.  I considered it.  But then again, I live in a quiet village and they could, if so minded, make my life thoroughly unpleasant and really upset me in that moment if they chose to.  So I decided against it and fumed quietly.  Well not very quietly.  I have emailed his company to ask if in future, their drivers wouldn’t mind just asking homeowners if they object to their drives being used and cars being blocked in?  All the time I wonder, would they have done that if Man of the House had been in and not me?

I know that all women often have to make such judgements when faced with a man acting like a toddler.  It makes me so bloody angry because we know, all women know, as do their male partners and friends, that these men would not behave in such a way to them.  Which obviously means that they should not be behaving that way at all, if the only thing stopping them from doing so is the prospect of a smack in the gob.

So as I continue to fume, I shall leave you with this.  My son and daughter are learning karate.  Their Sensei is a second dan black belt and also happens to be a woman.  She is an unassuming but quite brilliant woman, and you would never know to look at her that she could, if she chose to, down with you one flick of her hand.  When she was nineteen and had not been driving long, someone rear-ended her at a roundabout.  Her first, and hopefully her last, bump.  She got out of the car expecting to be faced with an enraged driver.  Now you may ultimately conclude that I am doing this man a disservice, but apparently he was charm personified.  She said that he checked her car for the scratches and whether it was safe for her to drive.  He made sure she was okay and not too shaken up.  They exchanged insurance details and went their separate ways.  Sensei got back into her car, surprised at how pleasant the whole incident had been.  Then she looked down.  She was on her way to training.  In her gi.  She was a brown belt at the time.  Oh how I wish that I had had her with me this morning.

Stop!

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Another week, another opportunity for me to be enraged about something.  You may have seen Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the SNP and Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Tories being furious with each other over what has become known as The Rape Clause.  Ms Sturgeon wants it scrapped and Ms Davidson thinks it is a good idea and has been misunderstood.  Twitter has had the hashtag #scraptherapeclause doing the rounds.

As a woman, mother and solicitor, I thought that I probably ought to know more about this so I looked it up.  Less-than-gorgeous George announced the government’s intention to introduce the Welfare Reform and Work Act in the 2015 Budget and it came into effect on 6 April 2017. An Act that the government claims is “incentivising work”.  Previously the Child Tax Credit may have been claimed by families for children under sixteen or up to aged twenty if they are in eligible training.  This is being phased out and replaced by the Universal Credit.  There is a Child Element to the Universal Credit, which is now limited to a claim for two children subject to certain exceptions.  I knew about the two children, I didn’t know the specifics of the exceptions and in particular the rape exception.  You didn’t either?  Well that might be because the government’s response to concerns over the rape exception that had been raised were published on 20 January 2017, which was the day that President Fart was inaugurated.  From what I can gather, essentially the government’s response was “very interesting, we’re doing it anyway” and the legislation was quietly amended without parliamentary debate.  Nothing like a good day to bury bad news.

A woman may claim the Child Element for a third or subsequent child if the child concerned was conceived “as a result of a sexual act which you didn’t or couldn’t consent to” or “at a time when you were in an abusive relationship under ongoing control or coercion by the other parent of the child.”  A woman cannot claim if she lives with the co-parent.  But she can “qualify” if there has been a court case or a criminal conviction. The woman concerned should send a form to the DWP that she may complete with the help of “an approved third party professional”, but no one seems to know who that is, or has trained anyone at the DWP.  That is probably because there are no figures for how many women will be affected by this exception and no one knows just how many children are conceived as a result of rape, a lack of a statistic that tells its own story.

A government spokesperson has been quoted as saying that the exceptions were “consulted on widely.” Given the concerns voiced by many charities and people who work with abused women and their children, I am wondering who was consulted “widely” because it appears not to have been anyone who might have been able to assist.  The Equality and Human Rights Commission has described the legislation as “regressive.”  Rachel Krys, co-director of the End Violence Against Woman Coalition has said “this whole policy betrays a lack of understanding about domestic and sexual abuse.”  The DWP and HMRC have justified their stance by saying that the handling of the exceptions is “sensitive” but “it is important to have an exception in place to support claimants in these circumstances.”  The Child Element of the Universal Credit, which could be worth up to £7,000 per annum for a disabled child, so, yes, I can see why that money could be vital for some women. It has been clarified that neither DWP nor HMRC staff will question the claimant about the incident other than to take the claim and receive the supporting evidence from the third party professional. “We propose that the assurance required from third party professionals be based solely on evidence that the claimant has made contact with the third party and demonstrated that their circumstances are consistent with those of a person whose child has been conceived as a result of non-consensual sex.”

First, this exhibits a fundamental misunderstanding of abusive relationships and their ongoing damage.  The rights and wrongs of rape cases and trials is an entire other issue that I cannot tackle here.  However, research has repeatedly shown that rape victims do not report the crime because they feel that they will not be believed and rape is notoriously difficult to prove in court.  Some women would never talk about it.  If they have managed to get away from such a partner, it is probably all and everything that they have done to survive and go on.  Those women who may feel able to talk about it, I strongly suspect don’t want to relive it in the re-telling.  And the notion that they would be coaxed into doing so to a “third party professional” to get some additional money that they are entitled to and most likely desperately need is so appalling that I don’t even know where to begin; they just wouldn’t.   Particularly if it meant that there was a possibility that their child would find out, or at least wonder at some point between their birth and the age of twenty why their mother gets some extra money for them, when their friend’s mother does not.  I suspect that most women would rather starve than risk that damage to their child.

Secondly, what about the men involved in this?  They could be named on a piece of paper and that piece of paper is sent to the DWP, processed and the exception is granted, essentially because “a third party professional” is satisfied that their former partner was raped by them.  And even if they are not named, but are on the child’s birth certificate as their father, or known as the child’s father, assumptions, founded or not, can and will inevitably be made.  People find things out.  People talk.  As I mention above, there are a number of issues with rape cases being brought to trial that are for another piece on another day.  However, rape is a serious crime and it should be treated as such. It is wholly unjust that men could be labelled in this way.  Everyone has a right to a fair trial, and this side-steps the entire criminal justice system.

Thirdly, I should like to bring up the child.  Section 1(1) of the Children Act 1989 is unequivocal that in all of their dealings with children “the child’s welfare should be the Court’s paramount consideration.”  Now the government have side-stepped the courts with this legislation and dumped it on the “third party professionals” to decide what constitutes rape.  However, should not the child’s welfare be the paramount consideration to all of us full stop?  In what world does the government think that a child being a risk of discovering that they were conceived as a result of non-consensual sex makes their welfare paramount?

Finally, “third party professionals”  are to be the gatekeepers of the exception. This is not just a financial transaction.  It is not a tick box and then the money goes into your account each month.  The third party professional will need to be persuaded that the woman is telling the truth in order to tell the DWP that the claim can be processed – look at the language I have quoted above. Women need to “demonstrate” in order to “qualify” – the implication that there is a standard to be reached by providing evidence of some sort. This is asking a woman, a survivor, to come forward and say to a stranger that she was raped and that the child whom she adores was conceived as a result of that rape, and that stranger will need to be persuaded that that is the case in order to release the cash.  That woman will then live everyday at risk of that child finding that out because she needed some money to survive. Now that child may already know, or their mother may plan to tell them, but that is not for the government to decide, or risk, if the child’s welfare is truly paramount.  That child could have their entire world shattered by happening upon a bank statement or the realisation from a conversation with a friend. Essentially men are to be labelled rapists without the accusation being put to them and without being given any opportunity, as is their fundamental legal right, to a defence.  And “third party professionals” are being asked to make that call.  That is a burden that would keep me awake at night, and it is not one that I could bear.

I would like to be able to give the government the benefit of the doubt on this and to try and believe that their intentions were honourable, even if the outcome is an utter disgrace. If Ms Davidson is right and it is misunderstood then I should like her to explain it to me so I can grasp what it is she thinks that I and everyone else have missed.  As it stands, there seems to be a potentially devastating effect on parents and children to be brought about by this monstrously ill-thought out legislation, and an indeterminate amount of money saved.  In short, government, you have fucked up.  Big time.  And not for the first time. Go away and have a re-think.  And when you have had your re-think, ask the people who know about the subject matter and who are likely to disagree with you for their input.  Then have another think. Finally, at the end of that process you will then stand a cat in hell’s chance of having some legislation that is worth the paper it is written on.

 

 

 

Picture by epennington523

Codebreakers

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My sister is a complete nerd – a total and utter spod.  Computer Scientist. “Ah!” you all say, immediately understanding.  She tried to explain computers to me once: “it’s ones and zeros Natalie, it’s either right or wrong.”  Of course it is, don’t I feel a fool?  Thank goodness she cleared that up for me.  As far as computers are concerned, rather like my car; I own one; I use one and I know who to call to fix it when it goes wrong. I am sure that the reason my sister does so well with her students is because the subject is so bloody boring that they are bright enough to realise that if they don’t listen to what she is teaching them the first time round there is a very real and present danger that she will repeat it and frankly, life is too short.

About twenty five years ago, and long before the Hollywood spotlight rested briefly upon it, my sister told me about a place called Bletchley Park, which now needs no introduction.  My sister had read about it and it has captivated her ever since.  She knew about the project to restore Bletchley and has taken her students on trips there to teach them first-hand and also to support the restoration project.  She even admitted to standing in the National Museum of Computing getting sweaty palmed and giddy because she was so excited about seeing Collosus.  I always listened and made encouraging and supportive noises, all the time making a mental note to intervene and get her some professional help when she was really going over the edge.

Bletchley Park Estate was purchased by the British government in 1938 to house the codebreaking and intelligence work of the Government Code and Cypher School.  At its peak, ten thousand people worked there and women outnumbered men three to one.  The most famous of these men was Alan Turing, whose treatment after the war was so spectacularly shameful it is hard to comprehend.   The names of the majority of people who worked there, women, we will never know. The site changed owners until it was purchased by the Bletchley Park Trust in 1992 whose object is to preserve the site for the nation.

I went to Bletchley Park with my children for the first time today.  After fielding a barrage of questions that I was entirely unequipped to answer, I felt confident that a number of these stinkers would be answered by our visit.   There is a lot of interactive stuff, which the children enjoyed poking and prodding, ironically taking it all for granted but borne out of the work that took place at Bletchley.   It explained to me in short words, but without being patronising, how computers came to be. I went a bit cross-eyed trying to understand some of it, but I have a basic grasp now.  Many of the huts have been restored so you can wander around them to see what they were like, to understand the conditions that people worked in and to see what looks like a lot of typewriters, some of them actual typewriters and some of them cipher machines.   You can imagine just what it looked like in the war because it wasn’t that different to how it looks today.    Spend a few hours there and you can begin to understand the long, often tedious, yet painstaking and vital work that was carried out.  In shifts for twenty four hours a day.  And my guess is that it was not the sort of job where you knocked off on time – if you were in the middle of something you couldn’t just think to yourself “Ah, I’ll finish that off tomorrow.”  Tomorrow the Nazis could have been on the doorstep.  The actual doorstep.  With tanks.

Let me not overstate it; you are not going to be blown away by all of the bells and whistles, for there really aren’t any because it was all so secret.  It’s quiet and understated.  You can stand there and feel, not just see, but feel what those people did. And you can see entirely how no one knew it was there except the people who worked there.  I am sure that day to day there were gripes and annoyances as everyone who has ever worked with anyone has, but fundamentally, everyone had a job to do and they got on with it because they knew the survival of the nation depended on it.  After the war, all of those people went away and never spoke about what they did.  Or how they contributed so much to saving us.  Can you imagine that happening today?  Ten thousand people being asked to keep a national secret for the rest of their lives and it actually happening?

We face an uncertain future in a post Brexit world. The US and North Korea are arguing about who has the biggest nuclear warheads, whilst Syria and its people seem to be being used as the most brutal of testing grounds.  If we’re not scared, we damned well should be.  I wonder how long it will be before some of us may be asked to do what will be our generation’s equivalent work of Bletchley Park.  We all need to know that should that time come, we will try to be as brave and as unconditional as those at Bletchley were.  Even though, like them, our names will be forever unknown to history.

……-.—….

War Games

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Although you may currently consider it not an unattractive prospect, unless you live on another planet, you cannot have failed to hear about the Idlib attack in Syria on 4 April.  Similarly, you also cannot have escaped the finger-pointing that has, and continues, to go on in the aftermath.  It’s like eavesdropping on a school playground; he said, they said, I didn’t, he did.  On this occasion, those participating in the hair pulling and shin-kicking have forgotten that children went to bed that night, and they didn’t wake up again to go to their school or its playground.   As none of these people seem particularly interested in finding out what really happened, in this post-truth era where shouting your mouth off the loudest seems to count as reality, I have decided to be avant-garde and look for some facts.

Before I get to the facts, I would like to cover a few basics.  Sean Spicer, if you’re reading this, perhaps you would like to pull up a chair.  Here are a few pertinent definitions from the OED, which I think in the nicest possible way can be considered the horse’s mouth as far as the English language is concerned:

True  :  in accordance with fact or reality; genuine; real or actual; accurate and exact.

Truth  :  quality or state of being true.

War Crime  :  an action carried out during the conduct of a war that violates accepted international rules of war.

If you can just put aside the strange notion of war as having rules, here is a very basic precis of international law on war crimes as I understand it to be.  Bio-chemical warfare is dealt with in the Geneva Protocol signed on 17 June 1925 and which came into force on 8 February 1928.    The 1969 United Nations Resolution 2603 (XXIV) was the Resolution which prohibited the use of chemical and biological weapons in international armed conflicts, but only in so far as it applies to the countries who signed up to it, and to them only in so far as any qualifications they put on their signing up to it.  As it is pertinent to this piece, the UK, the US and Russia all ratified this Resolution.  Originally, all three countries had reservations to their ratification.  Russia withdrew all of theirs in 2001, the UK followed in 2002 and the US have retained one reservation.  That reservation is that if chemical or biological weapons are used on the US or one of their allies, in not respecting the Protocol, the US could be free to retaliate in kind on the aggressor.  In short, if someone uses a chemical or biological weapon on the US, all bets are off.

By the way, you haven’t mis-read it; the 1969 Resolution originally applied to international armed conflicts i.e between countries.  If you have a look at Article 8(2)(b of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court  dated 17 July 1998 (‘the Rome Statute), it goes a little further – the intentional direction of attacks on the civilian population are also cited as a war crime.  From what I have read, the use of biological or chemical weapons in non-international armed conflicts is now also considered to be a war crime in customary international law, twisted comfort as it is.

In order for a war crime to be proven as such, there is a burden of proof, which is on the prosecution.  The prosecution have to prove the guilt of the person or persons beyond all reasonable doubt.  In order to do so both the mens rea (it was in the mind of person or persons committing the offence) and the actus reus (the act itself) must be proved.  Without mens rea there cannot be criminal responsbility.  As far as the mens rea is concerned in relation to a war crime, under Article 8(2)(b)(iv) of the Rome Statute, there has to be both intent and knowledge with intent being an “awareness that a circumstance exists or consequence will occur in the ordinary course of events.”  Being negligent to that consequence also counts as having sufficient mens rea for a war crime.  The actus reus, the act itself, one would hope, is self explanatory.  Everything that I have read suggests that it isn’t so straightforward in practice.  There is a lot of commentary on both of these points which is impossible to cover in this piece but suffice it to say that one can only hope that common sense would prevail were it not to be clear. Or the ICC would take what lawyers call a policy decision.

So facts.  This is what I have been able to find as true, that is factual Sean, with regard to the attack on Idlib:

1. At around 6.30am on Tuesday 4 April, four bombs were dropped on Idlib.

2. More than seventy people were killed, of which twenty seven children and five hundred and forty six people were injured.

3. The WHO reports that the symptoms exhibited by the victims were consistent with “exposure to organophosphorous chemicals, a catergory of chemicals that includes nerve agents” that are banned under customary international law.

4. Medecins Sans Frontieres concurred with the WHO’s assessment.

5. Postmortem results carried out by WHO officials in Turkey confirm that chemical weapons were used.

Other interesting pieces of information that merit further investigation and corroboration:

1. Soil samples are being gathered by rescue workers to determine which nerve agent was used.

2. A witness, Hussain Salloumi, a volunteer with the air-raid warning service in rebel-held areas said he saw a Syrian army jet approach at low altitude and four bombs were dropped all together.  Mr Salloumi was around one and a half kilometres from the site.

3. Kareem Shaheen, a reporter with The Guardian, one of the first western journalists at the scene said he saw a hole in the road but surrounding homes and buildings remained untouched.

4. The US have said that a review of radar and “other assessments” showed Assad regime aircraft flying over the area at the time of the attack.

So we know that someone deployed a chemical weapon(s) four times on that date and time, which led to the deaths of scores of people and many more injured.  We also know that a war crime has been committed.  The person or persons committing the offence either knew or was negligent to the consequences of dropping those four bombs, and they dropped them, either at their own behest or someone else’s.  We do not yet know what the chemical was and we do not know who the perpetrator was.

Russia has asked for rebel forces to “offer full access to study the area and collect necessary information.”  I realise that it’s not as headline-grabbing as dropping bombs back to show that yours are just as big too, but this does not seem like an unreasonable suggestion to me.  Surely an independent team may be agreed on by the Assad regime and the rebels (and Russia and the US as they treat everyone like pawns in wizard chess) to find out the truth?    To quote from the CPS and their recommended approach to international criminal matters: “If a safe and effective investigation in that country cannot at this stage be carried out then it will not be possible to identify the suspect.”

Doesn’t anyone want to identify the suspect? Has anyone stopped amidst the frenzied eye-poking to consider that a few facts might not go amiss?  I realise that the answer may not be found, and it may not be politically convenient if it is, but surely it is our obligation to try.  We know about this atrocity.  We all know.  President Trump said that “no child of God should ever suffer such horror.”  I don’t think anyone can disagree with the sentiment of that statement.  If he and all of the other Heads of State involved in this mess truly believe that, then they should grit their teeth, co-operate and put their money where their very large and very loud mouths are.

Visions of Loveliness

 

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My new found radiance (see Complex blog from last week if this has passed you by) has taken something of a knock due to me getting a cold this week.  I fear that my shower mousse is not up to the task it has been presented with.  There is no need to rush off searching for your violins, I don’t want any sympathy.  You’ve probably all had it too if you live in England.  And if you haven’t, you no doubt will over the Easter holidays.  Just to warn you, it’s a three day headache where at one point you will lie down on the sofa and wonder if it would hurt less just to cut your head off.  And a nose like a tap that is so bad that you will end up just stuffing a tissue up each nostril.  Once that is all over you will end up with a cough that lasts for about two weeks. A really irritating tickly raspy cough.  Today is the first day that I have felt normal.

We all know that what you really need when you’re not feeling your best is a child around you.  Not just to look after, but for an encouraging word or two, to get you through the day.  Those of you who have children, work with them, or have spent any time with them whatsoever, will be aware that their tact, diplomacy and sense of embarrassment are entirely lacking.  I have three of these living with me in my house.  Each and every day there is a new and exciting opportunity for a derogatory personal remark or observation to be thrown in my direction. And I am around lots of others children, so the possibilities for a well (or even poorly) timed put down are both numerous and endless.

Earlier on in the week, not at my most erudite, I had prized myself out of bed and forced myself into the shower in the hope that it would make me feel vaguely human.  Before you all put your violins down and start hunting for the Febreze, that is not to say that that is the only shower I have had – I have one every morning without fail.  It didn’t really work as I still felt awful but lying in bed and expecting to be looked after was not a runner.  As I was getting dressed my daughter was chatting to me and asked me, entirely innocently, just as you would ask why birds have feathers or why the Earth revolves around the Sun, why I have so many wrinkles.  I was a little surprised to have this brought to my attention.  I have some wrinkles (or “expression lines” as my pot of moisturiser advises).  I hadn’t thought that I have so many that they are worthy of comment.  Just the number that would roughly indicate my age should one wish to examine my face in detail.  Pressing on, she then went onto ask me why my teeth are yellow.  Again, I have never considered that my teeth were those of an old crone, never having smoked and had my first filling aged twenty seven.  They are all my own.  I brush them twice a day.  My dentist seems happy enough.  They’re teeth.  What more is there to say?  I was beginning to feel a little got at.  As I sat down on the bed to slather on another layer of moisturiser, I also considered a second brush of my teeth and maybe gargling with bleach.  Imagine my delight when my tummy was patted by a little hand and I was then cuddled by my daughter who said: “it’s okay, Mummy.  I don’t mind that you have lots of wrinkles.  I still think you’re beautiful with them and I still love you.”

I was telling a friend about this charming incident, as she had telephoned me to cancel a lunch date; she too had been struck down by this cold and she sounded like Barry White.  Being sensitive, I mentioned this to her and she claimed that she also looked like him, but I suspect that she was exaggerating.  On taking her son to school that morning my friend had also managed to get herself up and dressed and into the car.  When he joined her in the passenger seat he took one look at her and with a panicked expression said “oh, you haven’t got any make-up on.” After a few minutes of concern, he then decided that it would be all right to be taxied to the school door as my friend had assured him that she had no plans to exit the vehicle at any point.  No one would see her.  No one would know that she was his mother.

Not wishing to be left out, the previous week her daughter had commented on how awful she looked.  How lovely.  Who doesn’t need to hear these things?  When my friend brought it up with her daughter later on that evening, realising that she may have hurt her mother’s feelings, her daughter said “Oh I didn’t mean all of you.  Not all of you. Just your face!”  Well, why didn’t she say so in the first place?  That’s so much nicer isn’t it?

I have decided that I am going to send these three children on a holiday over Easter.  They are going to the UN Security Council.  And they are going to tell them what to do to sort out what is happening in Syria. Then maybe instead of worrying about everyone’s sensibilities, agendas, who has armed who, and who did what, all of the supposed adults in that group will collectively agree that, whoever did it,  killing children is a war crime.  And it must stop.  Now.  And that they will, they will, find a peaceful solution.

 

 

 

 

Photograph diogenes_3

 

 

Complex

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I hope you don’t mind me asking but do I look any different today?  Not at all?  Not wishing to put words into your mouth, but is there any chance that I look radiant?  That is to say, even more radiant than usual?  Refined even?  Okay, supple? What do you mean “no”?  Oh I see, I always looks radiant.  Thank you.

The reason I ask is because I was poised to write a piece about the touch paper of the Brexit bomb being lit by the PM yesterday.   I was thinking on this in the shower this morning.  I was using a shower gel, ah-hem, I mean a shower mousse which confidently stated without any caveats whatsoever that should I venture into the shower with this product, that I would emerge with my skin being “cleansed, radiant and refined.”  It also has a special nozzle that it helpfully advised me was reminiscent of the nozzle for piping cupcakes, which is obviously what I do when I’m not stroking my kittens or riding my ponies. And just in case I wasn’t sure that I would understand it in English, it also gave it to me in French as well. Having used it liberally, I was rather hoping that the effects might be obvious, but it would seem not.  How disappointing.

Anticipating that the effects from this miracle mousse were not likely to be as successful as promised, I started looking at the wording on all of the beauty products that I have (of which there are many) and then I wondered what the wording was like on products for men and decided to compare the two.  I report my findings to you.

First, there were a lot fewer products in the bathroom, or indeed the house, for the Man of the House.  He’s not a particularly vain person, which is just as well because I have a rule that a woman should not be involved with a man who spends more time in front of the mirror than she does.  However, I think he is a fairly typical man in that respect.  I have a lot of lotions and potions for a variety of first world beauty needs, which are obviously not needs at all.  The disparity in the number of products tells its own story.   However, in spite of there being precious little to choose from, there was a manly shower gel.  Well actually it was a hair and shower gel, so it performs two functions at the same time.   I have a separate shower mousse, shampoo and conditioner.  The bottle was a dark and manly colour, with hard edges and an easy to use top.  No fancy cupcake nozzle for him!  No, no.  He has manly work to get on with like striding around on his mobile ‘phone shouting “I need you on this deal, dammit!” and “buy” or “sell”.  This is why he needs one product to do everything as quickly as possible.  I had a look at the bottle.  There was one line on the front: “For the man who wants to look good effortlessly.”   On the back there were some short and clear directions, in one language, as to what to do with the gel if you were such a man.  Wash with it.  It also advised that if you get it in your eyes, to rinse them.  Bless.

I moved on.  My products have lots of writing on them which include words like “peptide”, “expertly created”, “latest scientific advancements” and “essence” on them.  Frequently there is an accompanying leaflet and a box.  They also make claims as to the effectiveness of the product such as “anti-ageing” and “leaving skin feeling supple and comforted”.  And if all of this is not repeated in French, then it is frequently peppered with French, because let us be honest, everything sounds so much better in French.

Boy stuff?  Theirs has directions as to use.  One body spray specifically advised to “shake well….hold upright….15-20cm from body and spray.”  Another helpfully advised the nervous user that it was okay to use their product everyday.  Just what kind of a man are these products for? Some years ago, a friend of mine (who had just got his own flat), was cooking chips.  He put the oven on to heat up, then when at temperature, got the chips out of the freezer.  All as advised on the instructions.  Very good, well done.  He opened the oven door and got his baking tray at the ready.  Just wanting to check how long they took to cook (because you get chips out of the oven when the instructions say so whether they are actually cooked or not), he placed the bag on the hot oven door…. he only did it once, presumably because he didn’t need to do it twice because the instructions were forever to be viewed on the oven door…….He now runs his own successful business.  Surely if you spray yourself in the eye with a body spray you are only going to do it once?  And isn’t the clue in the name? Presumably they felt that they had to put something on the bottle rather than leave it blank.

Meanwhile, ladies, one of my products advised me to “Forget the diet”.  If you have read my blog about my shopping experience then you may be forgiven for thinking that I might need to go on a diet.  However, I am not on a diet.  I have never been on a diet.  I have no intention of going on a diet.  Ever.  They are not helpful for me.  That is not to diss women who are on diets, because I have lots of friends who do find them useful as a way to help them feel better about themselves.  However, what particularly irritated me is the assumption that all women are on a bloody diet and a numpty somewhere thought that an opportunity to bring it up on a body wash was a good idea.  Someone proposed it in a meeting, presumably to nods of approval, and then at another meeting, and then it landed on someones’ desk, and it ended up on a container of shower mousse and in my shower. With entirely the opposite effect of the one intended because it really pissed me off.

Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon, the two most prominent and powerful politicians in our country met earlier this week to discuss what will inevitably be the most tumultuous time for our country since the European Union came into being.  As you would expect with such an important meeting, there was a photograph on most front pages.  One newspaper (I use the term loosely) thought that rather than comment on the importance or significance of this meeting, a headline about the attractiveness of the legs of the two protagonists was appropriate.  I am heartened by the ridicule that this headline was subjected to. In contrast, yesterday, when Tim Barrow presented Donald Tusk with the letter triggering Article 50, I searched for a similar headline.  Nothing.  Not a peep.  Not one comment about Tim Barrow’s bottom or Donald Tusk’s enviable figure.  I was really quite put out.  I bet they were too.

Generally speaking, it doesn’t matter one iota that women like to have more moisturisers than men.  We all (men and women) want to try and look our best, or if we are being really honest about it, feel a bit better about ourselves.  It is the ingrained nature as far as women are concerned – the notion that we are treating ourselves on the one hand (with a nice shower mousse) but then getting beaten over the head with the other (“forget your diet, but only while you are using this shower mousse oh chubby one!”) and men just have a shower and then get on with being important.  Two women meet and their bodies are commented on: “Ooooh look at the girls having a bit of a play at politics, don’t they look nice?” Two men meet and the headlines, quite correctly, stick to the facts and the job that they are doing.  Which, as we all know, was delivering a letter from one of the women who was the subject of the exceptionally dubious headline earlier in the week.

I hope she’s not panicking about her diet or how emollient rich her make-up remover is.  I hope she’s not playing at it.  Because if she is, we really are never going to get out of the shit that the boys from Eton have left us in.