Another Bloody Post About Thatcher

I still can’t quite bring the words together cogently to make any sort of intellectual reflection on the death of Margaret Thatcher. Unlike some of my friends and acquaintances, I can’t quite get the emotional distance that they appear to have attained. For me the enmity is still fresh, the damage done still an open (indeed freshly re-opened) wound. I put this down to two significant things: I grew up working-class poor and I grew up gay. Thatcher affected me materially and personally.

Growing up working-class poor is hard to quantify - but it’s different to growing up middle-class poor, very different.  I grew up in a council house at the furthest edge of one of the oldest council estates in the UK. My mum worked part-time, perilously close to full time, but never quite there – meaning she didn’t enjoy full employee rights until she’d been working for some time. Money was always tight. I remember hiding behind the sofa from the insurance man and the rent collector; my piggy bank was frequently raided to buy food. As a child, noticeably when I was at primary and middle school, this wasn’t really an issue -everyone lived like that: my peers were all drawn from the same catchment area. Most people were from families that “got by,” or “made do,” or just plain struggled. It wasn’t unknown for kids to turn up at their neighbours’ houses to be fed when the month exceeded the money - it’s just what people did, no. Certainly, we “made do” and no more. Some people didn’t even manage that: we might have been poor, but increasingly, as unemployment rose, there were people with even less living in the same street. If it sounds picaresque or quaint, then I apologise: it wasn’t - we were just broke.

Secondary school exposed me to the middle classes for the first time. People who had more than enough (or at least their parents did) and brandished it your face, Harry Enfield “Loadsamoney” style, emblazoned with emblems and symbols of brands and labels; who believed they had a right to speak out, even if they had nothing to say; people whose expectation was to be the centre of everything.
More than the acquisition of things, this sense of ownership, of expecting success, of having a right to be heard (and to take part, and to take…) was the thing that seemed most remarkable. I never went on the school trips (unless shamefully-yet-discreetly subsidised), never took part in the French exchange (setting aside the cost, where would an exchange student have stayed? The box room at the back with no door, or my room with the rotten windows, the damp patch on the ceiling and a hole in the wall?), didn’t go to activities weeks, or after school clubs, I never learnt to ski, or paint or throw pots… and I certainly didn’t go on holiday. Anywhere. Ever.  I felt like an alien. My experiences really could have come from a different world.

They might seem like small and petty things, but as I grew older these small divisions seemed to get wider. The differences deepened. Attitudes more entrenched. The haves and the have nots had far fewer common grounds. Doors were shut to neighbours kids at dinner time; the groups of young people that used to just hang out in the streets became gangs; those who struggled before, began to sink. Thatcher’s pronouncement on society felt like a self-fulfilling prophecy. It wasn’t true at the time she said it, but the focusing on self -and identifying any lack of wealth as being a personal failure and not the product of a distorted political system – made people believe it.
This doesn’t even cover the tiniest fraction of how it felt growing up working-class poor under Thatcher - but I can say that for me I saw the world of opportunities getting smaller, not greater. Society, community and working for the greater good were never dirty words to me - but the false belief of individualism and entrepreneurialism made it seem so.

Growing up gay is easier to describe: Section 28 made being gay at school a nightmare.  Teachers - even if they wanted to - couldn’t teach about homosexuality without fear of prosecution (even though in the end no prosecutions were ever made under Section 28: the fear of prosecution in a profession already being assaulted on all fronts was far more efficient than any court of law). One of the insidious effects of this was that homophobic bullying went unchecked.

 I can remember clearly several occasions where this affected me directly: walking home from school I was kicked to the ground and spat on by a group of girls and boys while being called a “fucking dyke” - the school’s response was to tell me to be less “different” and keep my head down. I had short hair and didn’t wear make-up. That’s it. At the time, I wasn’t even sure I was gay; I just wasn’t girly at a time when blue eyeliner and a spiral perm was the norm. On another occasion during a lesson (somewhat ironically, a social science one) a group of students in the same class started a ceaseless, insidious chorus of Tom Robinson’s “Glad to be Gay” just loudly enough for me to hear. It was an accusation and a sneer, not a protest anthem. When the teacher finally noticed his response was to laugh. Possibly most confusingly, a couple of teachers once pulled me from an assembly wanting me to speak with another student they suspected might be gay to offer support. Their reasoning was that they “couldn’t, you see? We might get the sack.”  I had no support myself, was barely out to myself, let alone my friends and family and I panicked. I felt singled-out, terrified and wrong - and the expectation that I needed to be “braver” than these two grown men perplexed me - but this was the best they could think of.  When I got properly “queer bashed” by some strangers when coming home from meeting friends it’s probably of no surprise to learn that I told no-one - after all, who’d be on my side?
The ongoing effect of this sort of isolation, victimisation and bullying is to make you doubt and lose value in yourself, make you think that you deserve it all. You internalise the hate. When that hate is sanctioned by government, you feel hopeless. These feelings linger.

Homophobic bullying in schools hasn’t necessarily got much better, but now at least it can be tackled.  LGBTQ relationships can be discussed, taught, considered along with any other relationship; same sex couples can’t quite get married, but Civil Partnership at least recognises most of the same rights as marriage  - and without Section 28 we could have got there much sooner, with far less damage to people’s lives.

I won’t mourn Margaret Thatcher’s death -without even taking into consideration the devastating deindustrialisation of the UK, the ripping apart of communities, the favouring of tyrants, the wholesale selling off of public assets, the kneecapping of the unions, the growth and growth and growth of greed, her policies hindered and damaged me and countless others like me - and I did my celebrating in 1990 when she was kicked out of power by her own party. I’ll save my energies for fighting the current lot of greed merchants, exploiters and false patriots.

May she burn or rot (we all do one or the other in the end) I’ll look forward to her becoming nothing more than a post script in history.

"It is required you do awake your faith"

For a fortnight, along with much of the rest of Britain, I lost my snark. I watched the Olympics (and shut out as many of the  c*** Oily MPs as I could) and was overtaken by a sense of awe. Firstly at Danny Boyle's opening spectacular, thumbing his nose at his LOCOG paymasters and creating a vision of Britishness that connected with far more than  just the  flag waving jingoist few that many feared it might, then at the feats of the sportswomen and men taking part in the games themselves.

Awe is entirely the right word. I can barely comprehend the commitment and dedication the athletes and competitors showed in order to compete. Gruelling ritualistic training. Nutritional control. Hours and hours of repetition, drills, practice. For some, reaching the games was its own reward. To be able to compete with the sporting elite as an equal in front of a crowd - and what a crowd -  made the pain worthwhile. For others, nothing less than victory would do: you could see them crumpled and spent in defeat, husks of women or men, a hollowness in their eyes even when holding on to their silver or bronze medal.

I can't pick out a single moment as the greatest. It seems to cheapen the effort of all the other participants. But there were moments of greatness, lasting greatness, where people pushed themselves to the limit and saw those limits crumble. Redefining moments. Londoners, known for surliness, became friendly and welcoming; British sportswomen and men, known for defeat, became champions; emblems of aggression - that damned, sullied, right-wing hijacked union jack -  became benign.

Danny Boyle's opening borrowed from Shakespeare's The Tempest (not Prospero, but Caliban -  slave, illegitimate, unmagical, human), "be not afeard, the isle is full of  noises" but for a fortnight at least, Paulina in The Winter's Tale seemed more appropriate to me. Revealing the living breathing Hermione (disguised as a statue) to her husband who believes her to have been dead for 16 years, she prepares Leontes, "It is required you do awake your faith." Likewise, grey old Britain was revealed as vibrant and hopeful -  but only as far as sporting achievement is concerned.

Monday hit hard. The news bulletins returned to murder, war and crises; tax dodging and backhanded contracts; recession still holding us vice-like; our Government still self-interested, venal and toxic; big corporations and bankers still holding all the strings and us still seeming like puppets tied to our puppet masters. We have no faith that any of them at all know how to get us out of this mess.

For a fortnight, we saw nothing but good -   and  there is hope - and I don't just mean the Paralympics (which I await with an unexpected eagerness). If we work together, if we share our common good, if we celebrate the achievements of others and work together to help others achieve, if we believe we can be better and work hard to be better, then we can make a Great Britain out of this selfish, self-serving mess. However, it is required we do awake our faith.

Have The OilyMPsc Games Commenced Yet?

And  not forgetting

Jeremy Hunt almost hits woman with Olympic bell end 

Pavlov's Daughter

One Monday a couple of weeks ago, maybe ten minutes after I’d got home, the phone rang. It was my father.
“Now, don’t worry, but…”

That phrase guarantees a Pavlovian response.
It would seem that my father had woken up and found himself on the floor, unable to get up and with no recollection of how he got there. After a couple of hours, he’d managed to drag himself to his front door and get the attention of a neighbour. It had shaken him a bit, but he ignored it until he woke up a couple of days later unable to get out of bed. He was phoning to let me know he’d got himself an alarm button and a key safe, so if a stranger were to call me about him, not to be worried.
My father is not a likeable man. He is also not a good man (for several reasons, none of which I want to go into here). As a combination, it’s probably fair to say he is isolated and for the most part, that’s not a bad thing.  I speak to him a scant twice a year, and even then I feel angsty. Nonetheless, I don’t want to ever receive the phone call telling me my father’s remains have been found in an advanced state of decomposition, so in part I felt an immediate sense of relief (at least someone will be checking in on him) and the kidney punch of guilt (it’s supposed to be me).
Continuing with my reluctant daughterly responsibilities, I asked him if he’d seen a doctor. No, he said, he hadn’t. The Pavlovian worry thing kicked in once more - because of course temporary paralysis and memory loss are perfectly normal things to experience! Why would anyone want to see a doctor about those? I did my best to convince him to see a doctor. He reluctantly agreed. I asked that he let me know what the doctor said. He promised he would. I put down the phone and sat for a bit, contemplating what the hell I should be doing. Should I be doing more? Should I be doing anything at all? Is there really a should in this?
A few days later and still he hasn’t phoned, so I call him. He sounds frail and wavering. He’s not pleased to hear from me. I ask if he’s seen a doctor and he says he has, but I’m not convinced. I ask what the doctor says and he says nothing much. He needs to lose weight. And that he might have “a touch of Parkinson’s”.
This sets alarm bells ringing. My medical knowledge is as good as any online hypochondriac, but even I know that if you are suspected of having developed Parkinson’s disease it is not generally diagnosed as “a touch.” I ask further questions; any tests or assessments planned, follow up appointments, can you still drive? The answers? No, no and yes. I am now more certain than before he hasn’t seen a doctor, or if he has, the doctor is in idiot. He ends the conversation hurriedly and I am stuck with another round of what should I be doing? whirling in my head.
Another few days pass and I get home to a message on the answering machine: “Hello, I’m calling from Community Alarms. It’s about Dad…” My heart sinks.
My immediate response is, “-whose dad? Yours? Mine? The man has a name: calling him “Dad” is making a whole heap of assumptions I don’t really want to debunk right now. Who trained you not to use a person’s name? To attribute them to a role that they may or may not fulfil?” This makes me angrier than I could have imagined. I have no idea why that of all things is making me angry.
The news isn’t quite as bad as I’d immediately feared, but nevertheless worrying. He’d used the alarm service three times in a day, unable to get up and feeling dizzy and shaky so was waiting for a non- emergency ambulance. Might be a few hours. Not to worry.
Still, I phone my father and he’s still waiting. He doesn’t want to talk about it. He hangs up quickly.
What should I be doing?
My father phones me later to let me know that they’re not keeping him in, he needs to eat more regularly, maybe speak with the doctor about side effects to the new medication he’s been put on (yes, he’d missed that bit out each time I’d asked ). He’ll be sleeping in his chair tonight as he pulled the curtain rail off when he fell. He’s fine. No need to worry. Yes, of course he’ll see a doctor. He’ll keep in touch.
That was over a week ago and no word. I know I could call, but I still don’t know if I should.
Needless to say I am, of course, still worried.

But what would Hippolyta wear?

The Amazons of mythic fame were renowned warriors. To improve the accuracy of their archery, they severed one breast to allow them to fire arrows with greater ease. Me? I must be a modern descendent of the Amazons -albeit quite naturally: I have one breast far, far smaller than the other -  and I don't mean a bit smaller, I mean at least 3 cup sizes smaller, maybe more. (Yes, I see what you're doing with your hands...that much smaller.) Oh, and the other one? Well, it's big. Not "Jordan" big, but if it were to form the template for a soup bowl it could feed a family of four. Quite.

Until recently, I have had little choice but to wear bras that can only really be described as middle aged and miserable. They come with despair drenched names like "Doreen"  and descriptions such as "Soft Cup Firm Support". The colour palette is a uniform black, "nude" or white- the sexiest thing about them is arguably the box. (Alternatively, the sexiest thing about these miserable bras is what fills them, but I digress...). They also have a sort of drooping sadness about them (-the bras, not the breasts. They have a more resigned mien, not sad per se, but life-worn, which they are I suppose, so it fits....). Nothing pert, playful or perky can reside in these fabric fortresses where everything is locked away and safe from wandering hands or prying eyes.

I'm not perhaps the vainest of people. I think a fair number of  my clothes are older than my friends' children, I have shoes from the previous century and a haircut that is reminiscent of that shorn from a DJ in the late 80s. The last time I wore make-up on a regular basis was when I was in 6th Form (and even then it was a shit, proto-goth monochrome). But there remains part of me that wants to wear sexy underwear, that wants to be have a girly side to show off to my best girl, that wants to have age appropriate lingerie while I'm young enough to appreciate it (and for that matter, while I'm lacking in impairment enough to put the buggers on without mechanical assistance...)

So, with some light encouragement from my wife to be, I set out to attempt to buy a bra that didn't fill me instantly with doom. To continue the mythic theme, Odysseus would have balked at such a quest...

I'll spare you the details of the changing room puppy wrangling, the game of "guess the size" and the improvised prosthetics manufactured to try to create a sense of equilibrium - but you get the picture. It was not easy and it sure as hell wasn't fun. I have, however, ended up with a sort of sexier underwired number (in *gasp* crimson) that means I have breasts that appear far more "up and at 'em" than they did previously. Through the magic of modern manufacture, the balancing prosthetic (not so much a chicken fillet, more a whole chicken...) isn't noticeable, or worse, moveable and so, for once, I look less like an Amazon and more like amazingly average (ish).

But, (and here comes my point...) I know I'm not the only woman in the country with different sized breasts. Indeed, for most women one breast is larger than the other (most commonly the left is largest, trivia fans) and yet there are no off the rack (no pun intended) bras to accommodate us asymmetrically busted beauties. There aren't even that many bespoke services -even the bras available to women who have undergone mastectomies are woeful. For many women breasts are emblematic of female sexuality. They are an outward signifier of femininity.They are more than just functional, they are fun -but where is this reflected in the choice of bras available to the "imperfect" body?

I've never hated any part of my body -  it's mine, it's the only one I've got and although I might misuse it from time to time, my mind and body have grown to have a comfortable understanding - but I do hate how fashion makes me out to be a freak, unworthy of clothes that make me feel good, just because I don't fit into their mould. Trying to find a less oppressive bra has made me into an angry bird (*groan*)  but I'll continue trying not to let it get on my tits.

AAARGH! Christmas...

Doesn't it just creep up on you (like a mugger...)?

Anyhow, apart from the seasonal greet about "where the hell is our funding notification from the Scottish Govt?" and other such fare, I haven't got much to say (or rather I have LOTS to say, but am too angry/depressed/ranty to even begin to discuss how truly awful the current Westminster Govt is, or how they are creating poverty and social inequality so deep it will take generations to repair, or how whenever I watch the news of TV my immediate thought is "what fresh level of hell now..." Ach, you get the gist.)

Instead, here's one of the few tolerable Christmas themed songs I know.

Seasonal whatevers, folks.

40 - Love

So, I am now exactly 40 years and 1 month old.  It takes a little getting used to. A sort of "oh, holy shit, I really am that old" kind of getting used to. Not bad, just, "oh" & "holy shit". 

Of course, it comes with the requisite, "but what have I done with my life?" moments (answer: more than some, less than others *shrug*) and "what will I do with my life?" moments (see previous answer...) but I would have to confirm that becoming 40 was indeed a blow lessened by being taken to Paris by my most significant  -  indeed, affianced -  other.  I think all difficult moments in life could be improved by being taken to Paris (Parisians might want to go somewhere else, perhaps, but probably not...). Positive moments in life could also be made even more shiny and gilded by being taken to Paris. Paris, je t'aime indeed.

The photographic evidence is below, for your delectation.

Spot the Mona Lisa...

Il n'y a pas des bossus

Like Blackpool, but bigger

'But where's the inverted pyramid? Where's the inverted pyramid?'
Otherwise, well, I suppose now that I have finished studying (I am now a fully qualified "manager". Don't ask what it means, I haven't a clue...) I probably should return to this blogging mallarky. I'm sure I have things to say.  I mean, I must have, mustn't I? Hmmm...