Friday, 26 April 2013

Daily Fail.

It's not easy being the daughter of a Daily Mail reader. On a near-daily basis, I find myself saying things like, "that's a slight generalisation, isn't it?" and "whoa, hang on, that might be a bit racist!" And possibly the worst one of all: "don't say that, you sound like Granny".

This post will contain a couple of ironies - mainly, that by complaining at length about said newspaper, I'll only be further boosting its profile, and secondly, a blog post that bitches about bitchy so-called journalists is in itself a massive contradiction.

Don't get me wrong, I love a good bitch. Some of the best conversations I've had with friends have involved a heartfelt slagging-off session of a mutual frenemy. Part of what brought the Boy and I together was our shared sense of superiority over [most] other human beings. (The other parts were vodka, and a mutual love of cheese. Find someone that really understands when you say, "that is some amazing Camembert" in an almost orgasmic tone, and you're set.)

What I'm not so keen on, however, is coming across newspaper articles that amount to nothing more than inches upon inches of bitterness and spite. Written by people who are in the privileged position - because we all know where print media is headed, let's be honest - of being paid to thrash out their opinions on a laptop and have them printed in national newspapers. Liz Jones, Jan Moir, Samantha Brick, I'm talking (typing?) about you. If I ever have to cast Macbeth, you three will be a shoe-in for the witches. (Note to self: calm down. Deep breaths.)

I am aware that those named above all write for the Daily Mail, and to provide some gender balance, there's Richard Littlejohn - also at the Mail - and undoubtedly numerous other offensive columnists at other papers. It's those three that drive me to distraction though, every time I have the misfortune to stumble across one of their pieces. In the same way that Fifty Shades of Grey was car-crash storytelling, Brick, Moir and Jones deal in car-crash newspaper columns - you read on, because you can't quite believe what you're reading.

On my way home from work on Tuesday (I get most of my blogging ideas on the train, mainly because it's the only time I don't feel bad about spending ages arsing about on Twitter), I noticed there was a lot of Twitter-based outrage at Jan Moir. (Again.) This time, instead of being vile about deceased boyband members, she'd sunk her claws into mezzo-soprano and let's face it, rather pretty lady, Katherine Jenkins. Now, I don't really have an opinion on Jenkins, and admittedly, getting your high-school bitch on is a far lesser crime than putting your vindictive, homophobic attitude down in black and white. My mum has a couple of Katherine's CDs, and yes, her voice is impressive. But I only have room for one girl-crush in my life, so I'm not here to stridently defend the singer.

But the tone of Moir's article was so breath-takingly bitchy, and seemed so utterly unnecessary, that it was hardly surprising that Twitter was buzzing with it and bloggers and columnists were tapping out responses as fast as their fingers would allow. So Katherine was wearing sunglasses when she ran the marathon - it was sunny. So her hair was "pulled back into an immaculate ponytail" - she was running a marathon. I should imagine that's hard enough without your hair flopping sweatily round your shoulders and getting blown into your face. So she might have been wearing some make-up? Jenkins herself did later deny that she was, but it doesn't bloody matter either way - some women I know will put something on their faces to put the bins out, given half a chance. Like I said, who gives a shit? She ran a marathon, raised £25,000 for Macmillan, a brilliant charity that provided help for her father, who died when she was only 15. Based on those things alone, writing such a nasty article just isn't on.

I highly doubt Ms Jenkins will be losing any sleep over it. If you're in the public eye, you must know that you're going to get a fair bit of crap written about you, so I'm not saying famous people should be exempt from having tabloids print that crap. I'd just like there to be genuine justification for it. There's a reason Charlie Brooker - as an example - is a far more pleasing read than Moir et al.; when he's being misanthropic, he at least displays a certain level of self-awareness so his audience knows he's got a heart somewhere.

Maybe this kind of thing comes from laziness. Maybe if you're a columnist on a national newspaper and it's a slow news week, it's easier to pull a name out of a hat and pick that person apart than it is to try and think of something that will give your readers something constructive, perhaps even uplifting, to mull over when they're commuting to work/on their tea-break/waiting for their dentist appointment. But we're not living in slow news times. There are so many things happening, so many things to write about, that people shouldn't need to resort to filling their column-space with venom and vitriol - especially when those at which it is aimed are doing good things. I get that it sells, and that those circulation figures are what the editors are primarily concerned about, but that doesn't mean it should be accepted. Journalists are meant to write "the first draft of history"; in such a jammy position, you'd hope they'd be beyond the playground bitching.

As I said, I'm well aware that posting the links to the offending articles in question only gives the writers more page-hits, but it's mainly so I don't have to paraphrase and thus risk giving an inaccurate synopsis. It's also in the interests of fairness. Of course.

I didn't really like this song the first time round, but I've been playing it non-stop this week.

If you don't have a sentimental bone in your body, you won't like my second choice. But it's very cute, very catchy, and the musical itself is nothing short of fucking brilliant. Click me.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

"Fashion changes; style endures."

Or, "fashion: the only thing so bad it needs changing every six months".

Alas, I can't take credit for either of those.

As the last three weeks have involved two blocks of working 6 days straight, and one three-day migraine (whoa, so many numbers), I took yesterday off, so that I could have an actual two-day weekend. I know, it's not easy being me. I've got so fed up of my clothes recently that I felt that a bit of a wardrobe overhaul was due, so I took myself to Guildford bright and early yesterday morning - because Horsham is God-awful for clothes shopping and Crawley is just God-awful all round.

I have a very on/off relationship with fashion - like most people, I should imagine. I can happily flick through Glamour/Elle/InStyle but when push comes to shove, I don't actually give a shit about trends. There are some things I totally object to, sartorially speaking - why would anyone wear a tracksuit outside of their house/a sporting facility? Why, also, would anyone let their Uggs meet any flooring surface that wasn't their bedroom carpet? Leather-look leggings - just why?

On the whole, I hate to look like I'm trying too hard. Indeed, I have to make a hell of amount of effort to look like I've made any effort whatsoever. I'm just not a fan of "too much". Big hair, dramatic eye make-up, statement jewellery, dresses that are in themselves a talking point - all things that look cool on other people. Just not me. I am not, nor will I ever be, one of those effortlessly elegant women, who always look perfectly put together, even when buying mangoes in Sainsbury's on a Sunday morning.

And traditionally, womankind as a whole is meant to love shopping. We're meant to be good at it, we're meant to be able to do it for hours. But I'm sure I can't be the only one who finds it's a lot like having your photo taken with Keira Knightley - you're never going to come out of it feeling anything but momentarily suicidal. Maybe I'm just getting hugely fussy in my old age, but yesterday's shopping attempt was about the opposite of successful. I just couldn't find anything that made me go, "that is so nice, I need it. Now." And that wasn't for want of trying. I even went into shops I normally won't go near, like Next (which is either too "officey" or too "harrassed-mother-on-the-school-run").

My thought processes went something like this:

Topshop - you have to be a borderline-anorexic sixth-former to suit 97% of their stock. I tried on a big slouchy cardigan, that was quite nice, but they didn't have my size.

Gap & Fat Face - nice enough stuff, but mainly casual. I need stuff that can do office and pub. One of my best friend keeps extolling the virtues of Gap-owned Banana Republic to me, but I think my nearest one would be in London.

Zara - I like the idea of Zara. I go in, and think, yeah, this is very me. Do I ever buy anything in there? No. Also, all the UK branches I've ever been to have been untidy, and I'm a neat freak, so this is a problem.

H & M - often good for basics like t-shirts, everything else is quite hit-and-miss, and I'm never totally convinced by the quality. That said, I have a couple of H & M tops that I wear a lot and they still look perfectly acceptable. If you ignore the odd hole and missing button and fraying seam... what? I wear my clothes hard.

River Island - Topshop on crack. Oddly, their jeans are great.

Oasis - very pretty and girlie, but edging towards too girlie.

Miss Selfridge - again, their jeans are pretty good. They have the occasional nice thing.

Primark - absolutely not. (Yes, I'm a snob, I know.)

New Look - good for inexpensive ballet flats. Everything else, nah, not really.

Dorothy Perkins - the rare flash of "that's actually really nice" - I have a stripey dress that is incredibly flattering and comfortable but also looks like I've made some sort of effort. But it's not often DP excites me that much.

Jack Wills - the only problem I have with their stuff is the price. The clothes are gorgeous.

Hollister/Abercrombie - see Topshop.

Argh. Who does a girl have to sleep with to get some decent clothes on the high street? (Probably a rich man, come to think of it. And then I could avoid the high street altogether. Wahey, a plan!)

Do guys have this problem? Is it just me being monstrously fussy? There is a chance I was slightly hormonal yesterday - I did text the Boy from a fitting room because I was having a hissy fit about feeling fat. Which only opens you up to ridicule when you're mostly a size 8. I didn't feel like a size 8, OK? There's a reason the most fun I had all day was in Boots. You don't have to be thin for make-up.

Right, that is more than enough from me. I was going to put this song up anyway, because it's bloody good - but the first verse is oddly apt. And she's just too talented.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

The kids are alright...

I know I said I wouldn't do much topical stuff, as I'm not very good at 'The News'. I'm really only interested in the politicians that are prioritising the further education and [un]employment issues of young people, and as that's basically none of them, it makes things very simple for me. This story, however, had "oh, for fuck's sake!" writtten all over it, so as the Handbook for the Overly-Opinionated Half-Hearted Hipster dictates, I thought I'd blog it out.

Paris Brown and I would never be BFFs, this much I know. She might be into the writings of Caitlin Moran and Grace Dent, girl singers with guitars, quirky little Anglo/Irish indie films and incredibly cerebral conversations about superpowers, but I'm not banking on it. (I sound almost quite cool when I describe myself like that; fear not, I also like Made in Chelsea and a dash of Paloma Faith - I'm not infallible.) But I've felt quite sorry for her over the last few days, as she's been dragged into the merciless sights of the British media and been forced to justify daring to behave like a teenager. A stupid one, yes, but good grief, when's the last time you saw a teenager and thought, "how wonderfully wise and well-informed you are"?

I believe I'm right in thinking it was the Daily Mail or the Mail on Sunday that started this shitstorm-in-a-teacup. If various current affairs blogs are to be believed, a journalist at the Mail on Sunday invited Brown to an interview and used that as an "in" to write a piece detailing her Twitter activities. And sure, she's said a number of things on there that are at best unwise and at worst offensive. And being young does not completely excuse her. But, aged 14-17, it is sometimes hard to see that a lot of what you say and do at this time will affect you later on. It's also a bit of a bitch that when you are a teenager - at an age where you should be free to be a little reckless and experimental - you are asked to make decisions that you're told will affect the rest of your life. There is also evidence to suggest that as well as all the physical shit you go through during your teen years, your brain goes through a bit of a re-wire too. But you're going to have to Google that one, as I can assure you, I am no scientist. In short, I don't think it's too much to suggest that a little bit of slack should be cut. A smidgeon of consideration should be had. I don't even think she put herself up for the job of Youth Crime Commissioner; I think someone suggested it to her.

The point is, judging by this girl's tweets - and indeed, her eyebrows - she doesn't seem like the brightest badge on the cardigan. I also find it hard to believe there are no other smart young people with an interest in youth crime (and a little more internet savvy) in Kent who would qualify for the job, but that's a complete aside. However (and it's a massive "however"), it just seems odd - no, ridiculous, actually - that a young woman is hounded out of a job because of things she wrote on one social-networking site long before she actually took up said post. And really, if we're going to start chasing people out of jobs because of things dredged up by the Daily Mail, then God help us. We're all fucked. There's also some irony in the Daily Mail getting outraged about a teenager's allegedly "racist" comments. Really, DM? Really?

There's no doubt that people should be careful about what they say online, because it can and will be held against you, should the circumstances arise. But that's just basic manners - you should be careful what you say in life. And not everyone has good manners 100% of the time. We wouldn't be human if we did. The internet is a brilliant, buzzing thing - but it's also a record of our stupidity. Once you write something on the internet, it's there permanently and it's find-able. I would cringe so hard I'd headbutt my desk if presented with my Facebook statuses aged 17-19. Hell, let me loose on red wine and then Twitter and it's a similar story now. Even here, on this little blog that averages maybe tens of hits, as opposed to hundreds or thousands, I have to rein it in sometimes, and remind myself that when I hit "publish", what I've said is out there for good, contributing to whatever idea of "me" any readers might have. I've had one particular post in drafts for months now which details the rather dramatic and upsetting demise of a friendship, but I'm not sure when, or even if, I am going to make it public. I don't mention names in it, and nor would I, but because I wrote it when the situation was fresh in my head and I was really bloody mad, it's a heartfelt piece of writing that I'm actually quite proud of (it's amazing how concise I am when I'm angry). I don't know if that post will ever see the light of day, because the last thing I want is to re-hash things from which people have now moved on.

The sad thing is, by Miss Brown deciding not to continue in her role as youth crime commissioner, she's unwittingly handed the Press - or a certain sector of it - more ammunition. They'll rub their hands with glee, and say that young people have no staying power or resilience, and that they knew it was a stupid idea anyway, giving teenagers adult responsibilities. I wish she'd decided to weather the storm, tough though that would have been, and then gone on to throw herself into that job, and make the role a worthwhile and valuable one. That would have made them eat their words.

On the subject of teenagers, have something gloriously bratty with a sing-along chorus. It's been getting me through my commute this week.

I am obsessed with this band at the moment - largely because I saw them live last week, and they were brilliant. Like the other song here, the chorus of this song is nothing short of glorious.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Cuckoos and nests.

Coming home after being away at uni on and off for three or four years feels like a massive step backwards, but it can be hard to articulate the every-day, nitty-gritty frustrations it can bring. Frankly, I'm surprised this issue doesn't get more coverage on Jeremy Kyle: "I'm 23 and my mum still thinks I'm incapable of cooking pasta (even the really quick fresh stuff)". Seeing Jezza get caught between a middle-class mother and daughter scrapping over the right way to load a dishwasher? That is an episode I'd actually watch without wanting to hurt myself.

While I am aware, as always, that I'm one of the lucky ones - my parents are generally very easy-going and let me do my own thing, and so far haven't said "right, that's it, we're changing the locks, you're on your own now" - there's also only so much "darling, this was in your bin, did you mean to throw it away?" that I can take. Yes, that was a conversation that actually occurred in my house. I hope the parental signifier in question doesn't make a habit of noseying through my bin; they might find a little more than they bargained for. Anyway.

It perhaps doesn't help that we're not a particularly close family. I don't say (type?) that with any self-pity; most of the time I'm thoroughly relieved that we're not. Sometimes, it does bother me a little - last weekend, for instance, when it seemed as if everyone else in my social circle was going to be having an Easter-based family gathering, I was the odd one out. I worked Good Friday, Saturday and Monday, and my mother was away in Houston from Friday to Sunday. What with both parents working for airlines, and pretty substantial age gaps between the siblings, I don't think it's surprising that I'm not big on family-time. We're a really different bunch - while Mum and I have a lot of similarities, such as freakish tidiness, a complete inability to get ready quickly, pretty dramatic mood swings, and being prone to migraines and panic attacks (thanks for those, Mum, they're especially useful), we also fight like cat and dog. Little bro and stepfather are generally similar - quiet, laid-back, happy just doing their own thing, and little sister is a mini version of Mother Dearest, but a bit more chilled out.

The rather sad side to this is the feeling I get when I do spend time with close families - those that make a point of doing things together, and seem perfectly happy to do so. It's simultaneous envy and claustrophobia: "I wish we did stuff like this. Or do I? Do I really?" Growing up, I always wanted an older sibling, one that was close in age to me, a year or two older perhaps. Or to be an only child. I obviously wouldn't be without my brother and sister now - they provide me with far too much amusement; it's like Outnumbered but not quite as funny. But we're all very different - and the large age gaps don't help. While it's quite nice being the oldest - I get told all the family gossip, for a start, and I have set the academic standard for the other two - I find myself "helping with" (read: completing) a lot of homework, despite not having studied anything that wasn't the finer points of the English language for nearly five years. I'm also the "trial child", being the first one - all the parenting got tested on me. I'm petty enough that I've lost count of the number of times I've thought, "you two get away with way more than I ever did".

I can't wait to live with someone I'm not related to. I can't wait to be able to cook [the limited amount of things I know how to cook] for myself again. To not feel guilty about watching what I want to watch on TV, to do my own laundry when I need it done, to have sex exactly when and where I want (and not feel guilty about any ...noise). To not have to explain to the person I'm living with why the Daily Mail is a vile and dangerous thing. About the one thing I do envy my dear actuary-in-training friend is that she can choose to see her family when she feels like it. I can't wait to have that luxury. I suspect they won't see me for months when I eventually do move out; the novelty of not having to negotiate my life around people I'm related to isn't going to wear off in a hurry.

Perhaps the weirdest thing about my vaguely anti-family sentiments is that I already know that I want the boring, unremarkable, "nuclear family" set-up if and when I have my own kids (two boys and a girl, who will all have flamboyant names that border on ridiculous. Lila-Rose, Cassius and Lysander, for example. I'd also consider Casper, Rollo and Claudia. Mustn't forget the chocolate Labrador called Gulliver, either). So, quite different to most of my childhood (biological father AWOL, mother long-haul cabin crew, spent first few years of life with my grandparents). While I think having one parent away a lot is pretty good for a kid's independence and is a quick way to nip any emotional neediness in the bud (for the time being, anyway), I think its impact won't be wholly positive. The idea of simply being in a long-term relationship with someone who travels a lot for their work leaves me cold - which is awkward when you're the girlfriend of an aspiring musician, but all anyone can really do is see how things go, and try not to get too stuck on plan-making.

I love my family, don't get me wrong, and credit where credit is most definitely due, they don't ask much of me. I'd just rather not live with them for much longer if I can possibly help it. And I'm hoping, that at the age of 23, that's normal.

You need this lady in your life. Listen to "England", and don't be fooled by the gentle, folky start.
And, because I'd hate you to think I'm one-dimensional, you also need these guys. I'm going to keep telling you til you agree.