Tag Archives: Commentary

Soapbox Tuesdays – Christmas Commercialism

Christmas comes but once a year, but you’d be forgiven for thinking it was more than just one day – more like several months!

I am not remotely religious and do not celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday. For me, it’s about spending time with friends and family, exchanging a few gifts and having a nice meal together. I’ll be honest; I love giving and getting gifts (who doesn’t?), but I’m certain I can’t be the only one who feels rather jaded by the tim ethe Bog Day rolls around.

The reason for this is the early promotion of all things Christmas.

I remember reading months ago that one store (I believe it was Harrods) had put up a Christmas display IN AUGUST. Forgive me if I sound a bit Scroogey, but August? That’s four months before Christmas. That’s still the summer. The kids are all still on their long holiday from school. Who wants to be thinking about Christmas in August?

A friend of mine posted on Facebook the other day that it must be Christmas because she’d just seen the Christmas Coca Cola advert on the television. My American friends haven’t even celebrated Thanksgiving yet, but here in the UK, it’s Christmas already.

Personally, I don’t think any Christmas-related products should be sold in shops before 1st December. No Christmas compilation albums being pumped through the sound systems until we’ve entered the twelfth month of the year. No Christmas trees up; no decorations; no crackers or bells; no stockings, cards or gift-wrap before November is out.

I once quit a job at The Sweater Shop because of Christmas music. The CD got stuck on the same song (Christmas Rapping by The Waitresses) for the best part of an hour and it literally drove me nuts. I handed in my name tag and told the manager I was leaving, never to return. It was still November and I had been hired for the festive season. I will never be able to set foot in another Sweater Shop as long as I live. I think the company is no more, so, thankfully, I’ll never have to face that possibility. I also still feel physically ill whenever I hear that song.

I feel sick when I see Christmas being promoted even before we’ve reached Halloween. But then, I’ve noticed they start getting in the Valentine’s Day Cards and Easter Eggs as soon as Christmas is over too.

Please, can’t we just have a shorter run-up to the holiday season so we don’t all get Christmassed out and turn into humbugs?

I’d be interested in hearing your point of view, whether you agree or disagree. Please leave a comment below and, if you post on your own blog, please leave a link to your Soapbox Tuesdays post!

Advertisements

Soapbox Tuesdays – Alcohol vs. Class A Drugs

Yesterday, I came across an article on Yahoo News with the headline Alcohol ‘more dangerous than heroin’ and  I just have to comment on  it for my first Soapbox Tuesday.

You see, I actually agree that alcohol is more dangerous than Class A drugs.

Yes, I know that you can (and most likely will) become addicted to heroin after taking it just once, whereas most people do not become alcoholics, so the issue here is not necessarily one of the likelihood of becoming addicted (although I’m sure nobody will disagree with the statement that one may become addicted to either), but in terms of long-term effects, I really do believe that alcohol is the more dangerous drug.

From the article:

His [Professor David Nutt] team analysed how addictive a drug is and how it harms the human body as well as other factors like environmental and socio-economic costs, such as health care, social services, and prison.

They found heroin, crack cocaine and methamphetamine, or crystal meth, to be the most lethal to individuals.

When considering their wider social effects, alcohol, heroin and crack cocaine were the most dangerous. But overall, alcohol outranked all other substances, followed by heroin and crack cocaine. Marijuana, ecstasy and LSD scored far lower.

Marking substances from zero to 100 based on their criteria, alcohol scored 72 overall, compared to 55 for heroin and 54 for crack.

Now, I will hasten to point out that I do occasionally drink alcohol, although these days, not very often and not very much, but I’ve had possibly more than my fair share of drinks in my lifetime, and I’m not disputing anyone’s right to have a drink, in a pub or club or in the comfort of their own home, but please bear with me…

Above, in brief, are some of the short- and long-term effects of heroin on the body (pinched from Wikipedia). I’ll also add to that the well-known fact that you can die from an overdose the very first time you use it…

… the same can be said of alcohol!

Yup, you can overdose on alcohol to the extent that you get alcohol poisoning and die as a result. I’m also willing to bet that if you injected alcohol into your veins, you’ll be dead pretty quickly too.

But that isn’t the only danger where alcohol is concerned. How many people do you know would shoot up and then get behind the wheel of a car? Now think again, how many people you know who will have a drink or two and then drive home from the pub. Fair enough, they might be below limit, but the drug is still in their system and reducing their effectiveness while in control of that vehicle. Go a step further – I’m sure many of us know someone who has driven a car while over the limit, whether by a little or a lot. Not all of those people will be involved in an accident, but many will. Those who do risk killing themselves – and others.

And then there are all those incidences of people who, with a few drinks in them, become very handy with their fists. You know the ones – they lose their temper more easily and it flares up to the point where they’re swinging punches. Or picking up blunt objects and hitting someone with them. Or a broken bottle. Or a knife.

One hears countless news stories of those who have brutally beaten and/or killed while under the influence of alcohol. Funnily enough, I don’t think I can recall many such stories of heroin-users doing that whilst under the influence of their drug of choice.

I’d be interested in hearing your point of view, whether you agree or disagree. Please leave a comment below and, if you post on your own blog, please leave a link to your Soapbox Tuesdays post!

I just don’t get it!

There’s always something that you just don’t “get” – you know, the programmes, the lingo, the allure of a certain so-called celebrity, and I thought I’d list a few of mine here:

1. People who don’t read
I’ve never understood how anyone cannot enjoy reading a good book. Dale has read two books that I know of the entire time we’ve been together and it’s been just over ten years. Conversely, he can’t understand how I can bury my nose in a novel and disappear between the pages for hours at a time. It’s different if you can’t read or have a difficulty with reading – I just can’t understand those who can but feel no desire to do so – it boggles my mind.

2. Reality TV
What is it with the reality TV overload? The so-called “talent” shows like X-Factor and the never-ending search for stars for musicals like Any Dream Will Do, which drive me nuts. What’s wrong with holding auditions the normal way? Then there’s Big Brother (what’s interesting about watching a bunch of people scratching themselves on a sofa and talking about nothing at all whilst trying to get into each other’s pants?) – thank the Gods they’ve finally pulled the plug on that!

And then there are the “fame” versions where z-list celebrities battle it out and pretend to be “normal people” when they’re clearly both desperate and off their rockers for agreeing to do it in the first place. If I had my way, I’d pile all the contestants who have ever been on a reality show and put them into a new show called I’m a Reality TV Celebrity – Get Me Out of Here, the premise of which would be to have them all kill each other off, Battle Royale-style. The winner would then be painlessly euthanized and we’d be done with them. Now there’s a show I’d watch!

3. Video clip shows
From You’ve Been Framed to You’ve Been Maimed, I can’t see the point. It’s just a load of idiots showing themselves up and acting in outrageously dangerous ways. I’m surprised more of them aren’t dead! And much as I tend to dislike children in general, the amount of clips that show babies, toddlers and very young kids falling down, hurting themselves or getting a major fright is startling. What amazes me more is that people think it’s funny. The same goes for the poor animals that fall off things and look like they’ve just missed snapping their spines.

4. Chav culture
I know it’s not all head-to-toe Burberry and Elizabeth Duke jewellery, but the whole chav culture makes me sick. The very fact that these people seem to revel in their own ignorance and ill-education makes me seethe with anger; their pride in the fact that they live off government handouts and “stick it to the man” at every chance makes my blood boil. Now, I’m not talking about those who are on disability allowance or have a genuine reason why they don’t work and need government help; I’m talking about the scummy gits who make it their life’s work to get as much from the system as they can without lifting a finger – usually by popping out a dozen kids to get a nice, big house. Perhaps another Battle Royale-esque game show (I’m a Chav, Get Me Out of Here) would be an idea…

5. Shameless and The Royle Family
This follows on from the Chav thing, really. I’d love to shoot the lot of them. I feel physically sick just looking at the male leads of both shows and have to change the channel the moment their mugs fill my screen. Is it any wonder I don’t watch much TV?

6. Commercial breaks right after the opening credits
I’ve just sat down, the prologue to Desperate Housewives has just finished, the opening credit sequence has ended and… we cut to four minutes of commercials! WHY? The programme hasn’t even started properly yet – we’ve had a total of three minutes of entertainment and my attention span is slightly longer than that – ooh, look at that butterfly… Ahem! And then once we’ve had the programme of our choice back on the screen for another seven minutes, it’s time for… more adverts! It drives me nuts!

7. The news in the middle of a film
Why schedule a movie to start at 9pm, knowing full well it’s more than two hours long and knowing full well that you’re going to have to have the news bulletin on for half an hour at 10pm? It makes no sense at all! And yet it’s happening more and more often. It’s bad enough that there are commercials on every five minutes without having a 30-minute break in the middle, just as the villain is running off with the booty and the hero is in a dilemma over how he’ll rescue the girl! Don’t do that to me! Now I’m going to be too tired to stay up and watch the whole bloody film and I have no way of recording it. Do you realise I’m now going to have to fork out for the DVD now, either as a rental (I‘m no longer a member of any rental clubs, so that’s out) or actually buying it to find out how it ends? Not only that, but I’ll probably only be disappointed by an obvious ending and so will have wasted my money. Why do I bother with TV at all? Where does my license fee go?

8. The TV license
Overpriced and pointless. We pay a huge wodge of cash just so I can watch Eurovision and a couple of movies a year – honestly, that amounts to my entire BBC repertoire. I could spend less buying them all on DVD, but then I’d not be able to watch them because if I didn’t pay the license I’d be breaking the law if I watched my TV at all – all because of the bloody BBC! Give up the ghost, guys. Just take on some tasteful (well, as far as that’s possible) advertising and position it wisely so as not to wreck the few decent programmes you have and stop making us pay through the nose. There was a country that had their TV license abolished because enough people refused to pay it any more. I think it was Australia or some other place Down Under. Good for them, I say. Now if the UK could follow suit I’d be a happy bunny (and slightly better off too).

9. Talk Shows
No, not the kind that interview celebrity guests, although I don’t really tend to bother with them either, I’m talking about the ones that get “Joe Bloggs” off the street to come in and rant about their family – you know the ones; Jerry Springer, Trisha and their ilk. The only one for whom I have ever had a modicum of respect is Montel Williams as he usually represents the voice of reason, and not encouraging the ensuing rampage. And the people who go on those shows – where on earth do they find them? There must be a factory somewhere churning them out. I mean, occasionally you’ll get a perfectly nice person on just looking for their missing Dad or trying to find their birth mother, but the majority are screeching harridans, chavs and monsters.

10. Pagans on chat shows
Now this one might get the back up of a few of my fellow Pagans, but being a Pagan myself I think it’s important to stand up and say that most of the Pagans that actually go on these shows do absolutely nothing to further the cause of anyone following an earth-based religion. I’ll admit I wear a lot of black and on occasion will wear a bit of heavy eyeliner (I was a Goth in my teens, but that’s something I kind of grew out of), but our representatives on the likes of the, thankfully now no more, Kilroy show made us all look insane. If you go by what they say, we’re all a bunch of loopy weirdos who run around naked in woods, drinking blood and taking drugs whilst sacrificing cats to Satan.

Why, for once, can they not get some normal folks on who just happen to be Pagan and who can show the world that we’re not all scary nut-jobs? Why is it always the Grand High Poo-bah and his Grand High Lady Majestic Priestess that get the airtime? I know, I know, it makes for great gawking TV, but it’s not real! We’re not like that, honest! And we don’t all talk out our arses either. Just for once I’d like to see a down-to-earth Pagan on one of these shows, making sure we don’t all look like imbeciles. And no, I’m not volunteering myself – I don’t think they’d put me on as I’m sure they’d not think much of what I think of the presenters (who know nothing about the subject except for what the scaremongerers give out) and I’d probably get lynched by a bunch of black lace-clad Wicca-wannabes on the way out!

This is just a small handful of the things that make me throw back my head and inwardly scream “Why? Why? WHY?” You’ll have noticed many of them are TV-related which goes a long way towards explaining why I don’t watch much of it.

Is there anything that you just don’t get? I’d love to hear about them.

Stay-At-Home-Mum

I recently came across a question posed by a Mum on a parenting forum:

Is it really that much hard work being a Stay-At-Home-Mum?

There were already lots of replies, some saying something like  “Yes, its bloody hard work and don’t you forget it!” and others saying “No, they have it easy!” or words to that effect.

My own answer may surprise some people:

Being a Stay-At-Home-Mum is as easy or hard as you make it. If you let yourself get harassed and feel rushed, then you’re going to find it hard. If you prioritise and take things at an even pace without worrying about it all, you’ll find it a lot easier.

For me, the hard part is feeling like I have to justify being a Stay-At-Home-Mum because so many people assume you sit at home all day doing nothing and watching daytime television. I find myself very busy and actually have to use a diary to keep track of what we’re doing every day so I don’t schedule an outing at the same time as a doctors’ appointment or when someone is coming to visit. Xan is now of an age where he finds it fun to join in with some of the housework, so I let him run round the livingroom waving a feather duster or sweeping the kitchen floor while I do a little cleaning, and he loves to help with the laundry – so much so that he actually shouts “Washing time!” when he thinks we should do it!

I’m lucky in that my hubby does still pitch in with the housework, but that’s just the kind of person he is. Yes, he works a full-time job, but he appreciates that so do I – I just don’t get paid for mine. His thing is to do the laundry with Xan because they have fun while they do it. Hubby gets playtime with Xan while I make the dinner and do the dishes – it’s a fair deal. 🙂

Yes, there are days where it feels like I get nothing done because Xan is demanding all of my attention that day for whatever reason (sometimes because he’s feeling under the weather, sometimes because he’s going through a developmental milestone and just wants me to be with him), and there are days when I just get done only to find that the place is a mess again already – those are the frustrating days – but there are days where everything goes smoothly too. And every day feels like a major accomplishment because we’ve always done something constructive together, whether or not the housework got done that day!

Anyway, after that rambling post, all I wanted to say is that it’s other people’s perceptions of being a Stay-At-Home-Mum that makes things most difficult because we are often made to feel what we do is worthless or pointless and are made to feel guilty that we’re not out earning money. Not so very many years ago, it was the reverse – mothers who went out to work were frowned upon and the Stay-At-Home-Mums were thought of as the norm and it was the expected thing to do!

Oh, and by the way, I do have an evening job a few nights per week, but my daytimes are all about Xan!

Crime and Punishment

I spotted a headline on Yahoo news this morning that read “Prisoners Are Set To Work 40-Hour Week

My Dad is a prison officer, so stories about prisons and the prison system interest me, but I was shocked to hear that,

a) prisoners don’t already work while they are incarcerated, and
b) they earn, on average, £9.60 per week by attending classes, workshops and other sessions

Forgive me, but I was always under the impression that prison is supposed to be a punishment for breaking the law. They most certainly shouldn’t get Sky and computer access (which I know many of them do!) or be allowed to lounge around at their leisure or using the gym facilities.

A few years ago there was a big hoo-haa about in-mates at some prisons having to “slop out” because they had to go to the loo in buckets during the night as there weren’t toilets in the cells. I have no problem with that! Why should the cells al be en-suite? My home doesn’t even have an en-suite bathroom – I have to share with my husband and son. Surely it’s not too much to expect prisoners to have to do the same?

Prison should automatically mean the with-holding of all luxuries – that means TV, gym facilities, computers and the like. It should not be a holiday camp.

Prisoners should definitely be expected to do something that will benefit others as well as support the prison system that feeds and houses them throughout their incarceration. They should also have to serve their full sentence with no time off for “good behaviour”, after all, it’s their bad behaviour that led to them being there in the first place, but with time added on for misbehaviour.

I say bring back the chain gangs for lower-level prisoners (i.e. non-violent etc) and the pot holes in our roads would soon be taken care of!

Put the rest of them to work making goods that can be sold or providing a service that can be offered from inside the prison. Yes, give them some small amount of “pay” from their efforts, but only a very tiny proportion of the income they generate should be given to the prisoners themselves – after all, they are there to be punished for their wrongdoings – and it should only be given to them on their release to put towards getting themselves settled back on the outside when their sentence has been served.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for rehabilitation programmes, but I truly do believe that in addition to that, prisoners should be expected to contribute in some meaningful way at the same time – no free rides!

Earth Day 2010 – 40th Anniversary

22nd April 2010 is the 40th Earth Day – a day to celebrate the Earth in all its natural beauty and to really think long and hard about how badly we abuse our planet as well as what we can do to rectify that.

Do something good for the planet today. It doesn’t have to be anything complicated, just think about what you’re doing:

  • If you’re shopping, take your own bags with you, instead of using new plastic carrier bags (if you have natural fibre bags, that’s even better!)
  • Only buy things with minimal packaging and try to buy local produce (the shorter the distance your produce is transported, the better!)
  • Recycle all your glass, plastic and paper
  • Plant something – it can be something as simple as growing cress for your salad, or you could go ahead and plant a tree, or a butterfly garden
  • Check which organic waste can be used for composting and compost it! If you have a garden and don’t already have a composter, get hold of one (they’re not all that expensive) and start giving that waste a chance to do your garden some good
  • Use environmentally friendly products (e.g. roll-on or pump-action deodorants rather than aerosols, or even use crystal deodorants)
  • Walk or cycle to work, use public transport or car-share – just don’t use your car just to transport yourself and nobody else!
  • Go on a litter pick, or organise one yourself – there are countless beaches and parks that could benefit from all the litter being disposed of properly (just make sure you do it safely and wear sturdy gloves!)
  • Switch off electrics (such as TV, radio, DVD player, etc) at the wall when they’re not being used – don’t just stick them on stand-by

These are just a few ideas off the top of my head, but there are countless things you could do. I plan to try my hand at planting some seeds and growing my own food. It will be a windowsill project, but I’m determined to give it a try.

What will YOU do?

Have you ever heard anything so pointless?

I don’t often read the news because it’s usually a combination of celebrity gossip and depressing stuff, but this afternoon an article on Yahoo News caught my eye. The headline read “Pay Pregnant Smokers £10 A Week To Quit“.  The article suggests that “pregnant women who give up smoking should be given a £10-a-week “reward”, according to a political think tank.”

You would think that not harming their unborn child with their bad habit would be reward enough.

If ever there was a good time and reason to stop smoking, it’s because you’re pregnant and want what’s best for your child. I know not everyone can manage it, but surely all pregnant smokers should at least want to try, and not just because of a cash “reward”.

How about a reward for all those pregnant ladies who already don’t smoke?

Let’s take it further.

There are already schemes in some parts of the country that reward parents for making the environmentally ethical choice when it comes to nappies by reimbursing part of the cost of cloth nappies, which is great, but how about rewarding Mums who breastfeed? At the moment it’s all back to front with vouchers to go towards formula when surely it makes financial, medical and common sense to encourage breastfeeding over formula feeding?

I know there are some women who cannot or choose not to breastfeed their babies and that is entirely up to them – I do not refute their right to choose – but from a government point of view, are they really doing enough to promote breastfeeding?

During “breastfeeding week” an advert is broadcast in Scotland about breastfeeding, but you never see it the rest of the year. It’s a shame that breastfeeding needs a national awareness week when it’s something that should really be the norm, after all human beings are mammals – mammals have mammary glands with which to feed their young. That is the true primary function of the female breast. Sexual pleasure is a mere secondary consideration and it’s only the western so-called civilisations that have sexualized the female breast to the point where it is seen as obscene to show them in public. Not that I’m advocating just “whipping them out” when you’re walking down the street, but feeding a baby or toddler is completely different and is completely non-sexual – there is no comparison. A nursing mother’s intention is not exhibitionism, it is the nourishment, comfort and wellbeing of her child that is foremost in her mind and you can bet she’s trying to flash as little of her post-pregnancy flesh as she can manage!

Anyway, to go back to the point I was originally trying to make – there are far better ways for the government to spend money when it comes to pregnancy and motherhood.

They should be channeling it into getting accurate information and proper support to all mothers and making sure that all health practitioners are on the same page, so that the quality of care and information isn’t wildly different depending on which person you happen to see.

It should be channelled into setting up milk banks for premature babies (I would gladly have donated milk form my over-productive boobies when I was nursing Xan, but the closest milk bank to Aberdeen is in Glasgow and they do not collect this far north).

It should be channelled into educating mothers from all walks of life on just how capable they are and what their bodies are capable of doing (really, many would be amazed to discover it’s a very low percentage of women who are genetically predisposed to not producing enough breast milk to nourish their babies, but poor support and inaccurate information which undermines the efforts of a nursing mum result in declining milk production!).

And finally, it should be put towards educating the public to the fact that when it comes to feeding your baby, breast really is best, so anyone who sees a nursing mum should be thinking “Good on you!” rather than harassing her and making her feel uncomfortable.

£10 a week to reward smoking mums for quitting? Come off it! What will happen is you’ll get chancers saying they smoke (or even starting to smoke!) in order to get an extra tenner off the government.

Is that really what we want or need?