Flying Ant Day 2014 – they’re back with a vengeance

I look back on 2013 very fondly. Our Maria got married. We went to Abersoch and it was glorious. I didn’t cry on my birthday for once. But, best of all, I only saw about two flying ants all summer.

NOT SO THIS YEAR.

I thought that we’d escaped the worst for a second year running. On Saturday, I saw two. Jenny killed them with her windscreen wiper and I believed we were safe. Oh, how naïve I am.

My first alert came courtesy of Louise, who informed me that “millions of the bastards” had hit Aintree. I whimpered at my desk, but told myself that Aintree is miles away from the dark side so I would be alright. Alas, my optimism was short-lived. Allan spoke of a “flying ant apocalypse in the L5 and surrounding area.” Lauren encountered a thousand of them on Renshaw Street and cheerily stated that she “thinks it’ll be worse tomozza.” (Thanks babe.)

At this point I was seriously considering sleeping under my desk at work to avoid the issue, but then the dread of turning into a wool if I stayed the night in Birkenshed overcame my fear of the dreaded winged beasts. I wish, with all my heart, that I had stayed put.

One hit me on the forehead on the way to the train station. Another nearly fell into my bag (I’ll have to throw said bag away.) I then had to endure standing in a swarm of them on Victoria Street while I waited for the bus, which (again naïvely) I thought would be a safe haven, but was in fact worse than being outside, as there was NO ESCAPE.

I spent the entire journey watching them crawl all over the windows, trying not to make eye contact with them in case they attacked, slapping my arms whenever one flew near, scratching my head incessantly and quietly moaning with fright. (To the credit of all my fellow passengers, no one batted an eyelid; they probably thought I was just the obligatory 15 bus crank.) We drove past beer gardens packed full of sun-seeking revellers. I was agog. Are these lunatics unaware of the plague currently upon us?

Thankfully, I’m now safely ensconced in the flying ant-free Crilly abode. Naturally all doors and windows will remain shut until I say otherwise. I am ignoring the fact that by doing this we may run the risk of slowly roasting to death due to the furnace-esque temperature in the house.

I’m off for a shower because I can still feel them crawling on me. It will have to be a sit-down shower, as I am WEAK FROM TERROR.

Let me know when it rains and they’re all dead.

Record of Rage, Volume 6

After enduring a morning that can only be described as being very Crilly, and by Crilly I mean farcical, and crap, I feel compelled to pen my first Record of Rage of the year. The first four combined have all contributed to this morning’s anger. The fifth is just an ongoing annoyance. I am not a happy bunny.

Cash machines that charge you for taking your money out

I find it outrageous that you can be charged for withdrawing your own hard-earned cash. I had a tenner in my account. The majority of cash machines on my route to work charge 18.5% of that amount just to get to said tenner. Naturally the first free one I selected was only dispensing twenty pound notes. Kill me now.

All beauty products running out at the same time

My foundation, eyeliner, moisturiser and dry shampoo have all run out on the same day. I also nearly stabbed myself in the hand trying to cut open the tube of foundation with nail scissors, in an attempt to get to the very last dregs. I am fuming – it costs a lot of money to look this average.

The shop over the road from my work

It sells bugger all apart from out of date Fruit Salad bars.

People who talk for the sake of it

You know the type. Rather than existing in comfortable silence, they feel the need to fill the void with meaningless chatter. These people will also reply to a text that is quite clearly a conversation ender in a vain attempt to continue communication even though it’s obvious you don’t want to. Please, I beg you – be quiet.

Wacky tableware

The current craze for serving food and drink on or in items other than a plate, bowl or glass makes me see red. I’d like my drink in a glass, not a jam jar, and my food on a plate, not on a slab of wood or Frisbee. Thanking you in advance.

Channel 4’s Benefits Street made my blood boil

So, I watched a lot of television last night. We started off with University Challenge (I only got one question right; Mad Tam got four; David smashed it – fair play to the lad), then on to Celebrity Big Brother (half of them are sex-crazed; the rest are dull; Lee Ryan is in a criminally daft class of his own, and you know it’s bad when Liz Jones is coming across as one of calmer members of the group), and I finished up with Kerry Katona’s Channel 5 documentary, My Secret Past, about dealing with her bipolar disorder – very moving and well worth a watch.

However, the programme that really grabbed my attention was Channel 4’s Benefits Street, billed as a look at the reality of life on benefits, which focused on James Turner Street, a road in the Winson Green area of Birmingham where 90% of its inhabitants are on benefits.

I was appalled, frankly, by the whole thing – I haven’t watched such a manipulative piece of television in a long, long time. It was exploitative too – needless to say, the people featured on the programme have spoken of their anger at being misled about the objective of the series, and their concern about online death threats they’ve received. I half expected David Cameron’s name to be featured as an executive producer in the closing credits, such was the overwhelming stench of Tory propaganda around it. At a time when such scrutiny is on the welfare system, this hugely biased series quite clearly intends to portray it in a totally negative way, and, looking with dismay at the outrage about “doleite scum” on Twitter, it’s done its job.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not naïve enough to think that there aren’t people who scrounge, who play the system, who supplement their income on benefits through criminal means, who have no intention of ever gaining employment. But to solely focus on benefit claimants like that and attempt to pass it off as the “reality” of life on benefits is so very wrong.

I’ve been on benefits before too. Benefits Street did not portray what the reality was like for me, or for other people I know who have had to claim. I was only out of work for a relatively short period of time (five months) but it was without doubt the most soul-destroying process I’ve ever had to endure and one which I hope never to have to repeat. Thankfully, I was lucky in that I had semi-decent qualifications, so found work fairly quickly, and also my family ensured that I would never go hungry or go without a roof over my head. However, I’m still, years later, suffering from the financial repercussions of being on benefits for only five months. And I’m one of the lucky ones – I’ve found work, and my family would never see me go without. What about those residing in Winson Green, which has had the highest rate of unemployment in the country for the last eight years? They’re trapped in a vicious circle and the current system is going to do nothing to change things for them.

I eagerly anticipate a series featuring people struggling to cope with the bedroom tax, or those who are sanctioned for up to three months and have to live on hardship rates due to miscommunication between Work Programmes and Job Centres, or how about long-term Incapacity Benefit claimants, who have been deemed fit for work by the infamous ATOS medicals and have to claim Job Seeker’s Allowance even though they’re clearly not capable of doing so? Sadly, I think we’ll be waiting a long time to see the other side of this particular coin represented in the media.

RECORD OF RAGE – why I couldn’t give a toss what size a shop mannequin was

I’m writing this rant because I have been in a terrible mood all day for no reason whatsoever. This ridiculous article has tipped me over the edge to total rage but has, at least, given me a reason for my previously irrational anger.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/07/size-16-mannequin-flat-stomach-debenhams?CMP=twt_gu

For those too lazy to read it, it basically implies that Debenhams’ recent decision to introduce size 16 mannequins in their stores as well as size 6 ones is just as “harmful” to how women feel about their bodies as the stick-thin ones.

Now, I have as many body hang-ups as the next woman – I will never have a flat stomach; my knees are knobbly; my hips don’t lie. However, the reasons for these “quirks” are a combination of genetics, primarily, coupled with downright laziness on my part – I eat too much crispy duck and pancakes, I am a fond of a glass or ten of Prosecco, and, save, for running for the bus, I don’t do any exercise either. I only have myself to blame for the latter part of this and I accept this wholeheartedly.

Don’t get me wrong. Don’t for a second imagine that I wander around in a smug self-satisified haze because I am happy with my body, flaws and all. I’m not hugely happy with every aspect of my body by any stretch of the imagination. I shy away from body-con and mini dresses, because I know they will not suit my figure. I had a whinge last Friday night because I looked like a burst sausage in the dress I was going to wear. Similarly, I wish I could motivate myself to do some bloody exercise – I know my lifestyle is detrimental to my health. However, I can safely say that I have never walked into a shop and been influenced by the mannequins in my midst. Equally, whilst I may admire the majority of supermodels’ figures, I know that clothes will look just a tad different to them than they do on me, because that’s life, and because if everybody looked the same, we’d get tired of looking at each other, to paraphrase Groove Armada.

‘What they [the size 16 mannequins] represent is even more harmful, in fact, because they’re pushed on us as something “real”.’ writes Harriet Walker, the author of this tripe. Errr…sorry to break it to you, but some women are a size 16 and have flat stomachs, and therefore this body shape is real. One contributor to the comment section states that “a tall woman with an athletic build can easily be size 16 without fat rolls.” Quite. It might not be a commonplace occurrence, but such people are in existence, and equally some people featuring the dimensions of the usual mannequins in use i.e tall, size 6 and flat-stomached walk this planet too. I’m size 12 on top and a size 14 on bottom. I’m not represented in mannequin form anywhere. BOO-FRICKIN’-HOO.

My issue is with people like Kate Moss coming out with crap like “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” That’s damaging. My issue is with impressionable young girls witnessing the likes of Miley Cyrus morphing from the clean-cut wholesome Hannah Montana of old to a sex-crazed semi-naked maniac. That’s damaging. My issue is with the likes of ASOS employing a number of models that look like they are about to keel over due to malnutrition. That’s damaging.

My issue is with nonsensical articles, such as the one that inspired this diatribe, patronising women into thinking that any of us give a toss whether a mannequin in a shop has got a flat stomach or not. If a woman is truly influenced by the vital statistics of a shop model or a photo of Abbey Clancey’s stomach in Heat magazine, to the point that she feels bad about herself, then I’d hazard a guess that there are far deeper-rooted psychological issues that need to be addressed.

Instead of highlighting how unhappy all women supposedly are because they don’t fit into the body beautiful ideal, can we not focus on promoting healthy body image, and educating young girls that, as long as they’re healthy and happy, it doesn’t matter what size you are?

RANT OVER. (For now.)

Rainbow laces campaign – #RBGF

Every so often, Joey Barton takes a break from winding people up on Twitter to actually say something that makes some sense.

This is one of those times.

Barton is one of the high-profile stars lending their support to the campaign which aims to highlight the issue of homophobia in football. It’s a joint venture between gay rights charity Stonewall and the betting firm Paddy Power, and has seen rainbow laces sent to all professional teams in England and Scotland during the past week.

I think it’s a great idea. It is addressing an issue that should not even be an issue in this day and age. There are currently no openly gay players in top-flight football – the odds that this is actually the case are tiny. Yet fear of a negative reaction from teammates and fans – not to mention the all-important implications on their commercial interests – is clearly preventing gay players from coming out of the closet.

Everton (go ‘ed my Blue boys!) were the first Premier League club to confirm that they were lending their full support to the campaign. Phil Jagielka, their captain, said “For me and the rest of the lads at Everton a player’s sexuality is not important, but their ability on the pitch is. We don’t tolerate discrimination of any kind at Everton and the whole club works hard to get that message out to the fans.”

A great message and a great example to be setting.

Unfortunately Everton are in the minority. The Premier League and almost half of its clubs have expressed “disappointment” that they weren’t consulted sooner as the involvement of Paddy Power meant that their “commercial interests” would be compromised – yet another example of the fact that, in football, money is all that matters. Barton expressed disbelief that a TalkSport debate was musing over the “technical issues” faced by players changing their laces, confirming that he’d worn them twice and had not experienced any problems.

Well I’m sorry but this all sounds like a cop-out to me. Quite apart from being a PR nightmare, for these high-profile clubs to take this stance and blame “lack of time”, “commercial conflict” and “technical issues” as excuses is just no good. If this were an anti-racism campaign, I doubt hugely that it would have been met with so much resistance, whether Paddy Power were involved or not.

Granted, the hashtag #RBGF, which stands for “Right Behind Gay Footballers”, isn’t the best choice of tagline for such a campaign – I refuse to believe that it’s an innocent choice of language – but then again, it’s been included in over 230 million tweets since last Sunday, according to Stonewall’s Twitter, so surely raising awareness in this (admittedly linguistically crass) way is a good thing?

If all of these frankly pathetic reasons are truly why the majority of clubs are reluctant to participate, then Stonewall and Paddy Power need to change tack. They need to liaise properly with the League and with Kick It Out (the anti-discrimination campaigners) to ensure that every nonsensical administrative box is ticked, that all “commercial interests” are content, that all technical issues are addressed, that vulgar and provocative language is not used.

I’m afraid to say that I am not convinced that the outcome would be very different – there’s a long way to go with this particular issue.

Record of Rage – Glastonbury Special

I’ve just read this article after @GlastoWatch tweeted the link to it and I am FUMING:

http://www.westerndailypress.co.uk/Glastonbury-fans-harder-ticket/story-19817518-detail/story.html

Firstly, I’m angry because they have misspelt the word “festival” in the headline, which is frankly shoddy.

However, the main reason for my rage is the fact that I can absolutely guarantee that the majority of the freshly registered contingent are scallies, plain and simple.

I did notice this when I last went to Glastonbury in 2010. The amount of chavs had increased tenfold and the reason for this is that festivals are now “cool” and places to be “seen” at. Urrgh. Now, when festival season arrives, all I see on Facebook and Twitter is check-ins from scallies that I went to school with – scallies who laughably called us goths for going to Glasto when we were still at school, may I add! (Sidenote – the memory of us being called goths never fails to make me laugh. The comedy. Although, to be fair, I did wear a lot of black.) Said scallies think that “the one with Sex on Fire on” was Kings of Leon’s first album and get on the coach to festivals with rollers in.

I’m aware that this all sounds a bit snobby. And perhaps it is. But in 2010 I noticed a change (for the worse) in atmosphere that coincided with the change in clientele. Glastonbury is special. They can overrun V, and desecrate Reading and Leeds, but I wish they’d leave Glastonbury alone.

Granted, when I first went in 2002, I’d imagine that stalwarts who’d been attending year in, year out since 1970 took one look at us, fresh from sitting our GCSEs, wearing appalling hats and double denim and eager, innocent expressions, and thought “what THE HELL are these children doing here?” But to be fair to us we got into the swing of things – we didn’t cause any trouble and, forgive me for saying this and sounding like the most pretentious person of all time, but we went for the music, not to show off our Hunter wellies.

I blame the Kaiser Chiefs for this entirely. There is a direct correlation between “I Predict A Riot” making indie mainstream and festivals becoming so popular that they sold out within minutes. Franz Ferdinand could be implicated here as well, I suppose, but I like them, so I am laying the blame solely at Ricky Wilson and co’s door. By the time Kings of Leon’s demise was completed by releasing Sex On Fire (oh, how I long for the days when this band were brilliant), we were all pretty much doomed.

Naturally, if my friends and I all manage to get our sweaty paws on tickets, then this rant will be rendered null and void. But if not, there will be hell to pay.

Why I dislike Katie Hopkins

Because hate is a strong word…

 

So, Katie Hopkins is at it again.  Fresh from her appearance on This Morning which hit the headlines as she snootily declared that she would not allow her precious cherubs to associate with children with “common” names like Tyler and Charmaine (The Willoughbooby was NOT impressed), and not long after stating that ginger children were “harder to love”, she’s now written an article listing the ten reasons why women hate other women.

 

Here’s a link:

 

http://www.bestdaily.co.uk/your-life/news/a503520/katie-hopkins-the-10-reasons-women-hate-other-women.html

 

What a load of poisonous nonsense.  I only dislike people – women OR men – if they are, to give a few examples, dishonest, or bigoted, or if they hurt my family and friends.  To use ol’ Katie as a case in point, I do not dislike her because she is happy with her lot, or because she’s “got what she wants.”  I dislike her because she is a snob, and because if I had children, she would probably dismiss them as unworthy for her kids to play out with.  I dislike her because I feel that her opinions are damaging and that they are encouraging women to turn against each other.

 

To prove the latter point, I am saddened to see that her Twitter timeline is awash with women agreeing with her views.  Is that what she wants?  Women admitting that they are jealous of each other, and are bitter about the fact that they are not slim, or successful, or haven’t got a nanny?  Whatever happened to Girl Power?  These people would never have made it as Spice Girls, I tells ye.

 

Like Liz Jones (frankly terrifying) and Samantha Brick (frankly deluded) before her, she is just another spiteful hack who thinks she’s telling it like it is.  In reality I strongly believe that all of three of these women don’t believe the majority of the bile they pen – they are solely doing it for attention. 

 

So for that reason, I will speak about her no more.  She craves the attention.  Hopefully, if we all ignore her from now on, she will realise that no-one is listening anymore and will fade away from the spotlight.

                                                                                                 

Side-note – my favourite quote in the article is the following:  “Men are capable of looking one another in the eye and telling it straight.”  Really?!  The majority of men I know are frankly useless at communicating.  Lovely men nonetheless, but rubbish at “telling it straight.”  So to give Katie her due, that at least raised a wry grin.