Wasn’t There Supposed to Be Cake?

Hey Hey Guys!!

Cake is a curious thing.

It’s something that is expected in certain situations, can have strong connotations and memories associated with it, the taste, the texture, the scent, the colour. Where you had a certain piece and how it made you feel.

Then there is cake in a general sense. It appears in certain situations; birthdays, weddings, anniversaries… funerals.

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Have you ever noticed (well, you will have, even if you don’t immediately realise it) that cake is often present to sweeten the pill in horrible situations?

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Fancy Shmancy little Battenberg...

Fancy Shmancy little Battenberg…

Now, I’m going togeneralise here and cast the same net over certain biscuits as well as cakes. In fancy waiting rooms, there is often a sweet “treat”. You might be offered a slice of battenburgh with a beverage, or a very British, Victoria Sponge, if you are particularly fortunate (and so help you god if you mention the fact that you recognise that cheap, dry sponge and overly sweet, grainy filling as the £1 round you get from the co-op when you are absolutely desperate for a favour to take to the neighbours’ BBQ).

homemade cupcakes

homemade cupcakes

**As a wee aside, I actually hate Battenberg cake and am always bitterly disappointed to see it in a selection. Marzipan is the devil. It is always a bad omen.**

I absolutely HATE Battenberg...

I absolutely HATE Battenberg…

The thing is, there are some situations where cake is a terrible omen. Whether you are presented with a stale selection of sponges that might be the same ones you declined from your elderly neighbour, or strike gold with one of those pick ‘n mix boxes of biscuits, the result is always the same and always two-fold; the custard creams, jammy ones, cookies and anything containing chocolate are snapped up as soon as the seal is broken and the Garibaldis’ and those weird little wrinkly edged ones that taste like cardboard and aren’t quite a tea biscuit, nor a shortbread, are always left neglected. And you are in for some serious news. Generally, bad.

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See, these are the sweets and semi-sweets that are broken in places like hospitals, doctors surgeries, lawyers offices. Places where there is a 50/50 chance you were to nervous to have lunch before you went there so just swigged from the open wine bottle in the fridge, put on you best “I’m totally in control” mask and walk in there like you’re heading to the gallows. Those who run these establishments know this and it means all sort of paper work for them if they have a client pass out on them, so they try to gently pump you full of sugar.

But when I got my bad news today, it was over the phone. I was on my way back to my (soon to be vacated) flat. I was outside. So I ask you;

Wasn’t there supposed to be cake?

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SSDD

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Casual Sexism Has Comebacks

Casual sexism is making comebacks, not just coming back.

So you want to send the women to the kitchen, do you?

So you want to send the women to the kitchen, do you?

Women are w whole lot wittier and less subduable than we were. That antiquated 60s resignment of  kitsch to the kitchen is so abhorred now that FEMINISM is a whole being on its own, not just a whispered idea at a womans’ only book club or afternoon tea ceremony.

Feminism is something that’s not so much grown legs as grown the ability to breathe fire and propel rockets out its ass! We aren’t afraid to tell a man to get the fuck up off his lazy ass and get himself whatever he is asking for, if it’s derogatory. Coz, you know, if you’re in the kitchen already and he’s just asking for a coffee, to say no would be, you, know… kinda bitchy.

Females in general are the “fairer sex” but that doesn’t mean we are the “softer” sex. We have strength and ability, ambition and creativity – but that’s old news. No one wants to hear that about women. Where’s the new angle? Honestly, even the wordFEMINISM” to me is a little discriminative – we’re already a separate gender, do we really need another label to be further distance from the so-called dominant males?

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Honestly, there shouldn’t have to be one, yet it’s an ever-evolving subject. These cute ideas of what women should be, like being in the kitchen and making sandwiches all hours of the day and night are changing too (by the way, the amount of sandwich jokes I hear in a week would suggest that every woman on earth should be feeding about 2000 people a day; I would like to be shown one person with that many male mouths to feed or even one person capable of munching that many sandwiches – men who request these, prove to me you can eat the number of sandwiches you request and them consider me impressed).

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Is THIS the perfect woman to you?? Really??

Now, the idea of the perfect woman has changed. It involves big boobs, make-up and a dependence on the man to save you from the bother of responsibility. You need to look only at most action movies to see this. Exceptions to the rule are slowly on the increase, thought they’ve been around for years. Unfortunately, most of them could be found only in literature. And not the sort that guys were likely to pick up. One of my favourite female writer, Laurie Penny, recently wrote an excellent post for the New Statesman about this. Link HERE. Also, she starts some really interesting convos on Twitter.

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My favourite book for example, is The Amber Spyglass, by Philip Pullman. For those of you (crazies) who haven’t read it (why the hell not, it’s awesome!?) may need some educating. Aside from it being the awe-inspiring concluding part in one of the greatest, most life changing trilogies ever penned, film watchers might be aware of the (extremely poorly made) film adaptation of the first book, Northern Lights, aka. The Golden Compass.

Dakota Blue Richards as the heroine of my childhood, Lyra Silvertongue

Dakota Blue Richards as the heroine of my childhood, Lyra Silvertongue

The protagonist, Lyra, formed my idea of what a proper children’s book heroine should be. She was (is, is, Lyra will never die in the Neverland of my most intense childhood memories) what I considered to be the perfect character for the books that would pretty much influence and help form my opinion on everything from religion to relationships to the evolution of people as people. What makes you take certain actions? How can an opinion change so drastically with the passage of time? How can the dreamland of a childhood playpen, safety net, the enclosed treasure chest of home, suddenly stop being so, and transform into an extension of a world of suspicion and fear, full of people who seek to exploit and who do not have you best interests at heart?

Lyra in sleuth mode

Lyra in sleuth mode

The answer was simple: because we grow up.

Dakota now... a young adult herself, growing up as her character did.

Dakota now… a young adult herself, growing up as her character did.

In my head, at the time, there was no question as to whether it was her gender that instilled her with such strength and resilience. These were attributes and by-products of her other, sexless qualities; fair-play, a non-judgmental, trusting view of the world through the child-like innocence of rose-tinted specs and the lack of knowledge of the gender divide. Her best friend was a boy. She abhorred “dressing up”. Was a tom boy of a most determined level. She personified a certain androgyny that made her so attractive to read about. I was frustrated at the lack of interest in reading from my male classmates, pawning the practice off as “nerdy” (at the time a less than fashionable label to be assigned).

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As time passed Lyra grew to become a young woman, as she experienced more of life and formed herself as a person rather than a child, yet lost none of the qualities that made her so enticing a character to begin with. Her increasing femininity added to the robustness of her persona and added flesh to the embodiment she gave to the representations Phillip Pullman was trying to convey – about the importance of youth, and the equal importance of losing it. She was a hero despite gender, fighting alongside grown men and being accompanied by a boy her own age. She was not only equal, she was respected. Her individual merits and unique talents were valued. A boy might admire the way she shunned her feminine ways. A girl might admire how she wore them while giving as good as she got.

It is characters like this which are becoming more common in literature and film. Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games being the big one recently. She, to me, is like an older version of Lyra. A fighter, a motivator, an action taker in the face of danger who can still rock a skirt should it take her fancy. But most of all,  a protector and freedom fighter.

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The stunning Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen

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JL flippin’ the finger like a boss XD

Proving women can be Robin Hood

Proving women can be Robin Hood

...And also pull of an LRD like a pro. Weep boys, for she is far too good for you

…And also pull of an LRD like a pro. Weep boys, for she is far too good for you

So as far as feminism goes, this is what I want to see more of. Not so much androgyny as equality. For women to be looked upon by everyone as whatever they want to be seen as, rather than just pretty little objects. If they exude strength, then treat them with respect. If they want to be nerdy, take an interest rather than scorn them.

We women have minds and we enjoy using them. Men should take note and deal.

SSDD

Today, The Tyranny of Thatcher Is Truly Burried

Today, the tyranny of Margaret Thatcher was finally laid to rest. Literally.

Great Britain’s longest serving and only female Prime Minister, Baroness Margaret Thatcher, was granted a funeral at St Paul’s Cathedral, London.

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More than 2,000 guest were present in the cathedral, which has served as the funeral location for some of the nations most famous leaders, including Winston Churchill, Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington. Lady Thatcher’s coffin was carried from the cathedral and returned to a hearse which took it to the Royal Hospital Chelsea. From there is was taken to Mortlake Crematorium in south west London for a private cremation.

The streets of the capital were lined with thousands, the crowds containing both of mourners and critics. Celebrations were held across the country, some in commemoration of her life and rich political history, others in jubilation at her death, aged 87.

Famous in this country for all the wrong reasons, haters of this prominent figure of British political history seemed to grossly outnumber her supporters. Not only was she the first and only female Prime Minister we have ever seen, she was the longest serving. During her 11 year rule her decisions inspired much hate and controversy, implementing policies which became known as “Thatcherisms“. Despite her strong leadership in difficult times, to say she was popular now would be wildly inaccurate.

_67056105_67056104Without a doubt she was not the working mans candidate, favouring business over labour, privitisation over Trade Unions. She had several names. The Iron Lady, for one. Know as “The Milk Snatcher”, she took free milk from schools in 1970 as a result of educational budget cuts.

Her name will forever be synonymous with some of the darkest times of Great Britain’s history, but the public reaction to her death has been something utterly unprecedented. Instead of laying to rest a political figure who divided a nation, she has died as she lived – in a haze of controversy and antagonism.

Upon word of her death from a stroke, parties were held in the streets, including one in George Square in Glasgow, a practice that was quick to be condemned by the local police force. Protesters today were in uproar at the fact that, despite these times of austerity, the taxpayer was still obliged to fork out an estimated £10m for the pleasure of seeing her burried with honours similar to those of the late, and much loved, Princess Diana.

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Yet despite her many adversaries, final respects were payed to her with cheers as her body was taken to be cremated. Few deserve to be jeered and spat at, purely in spite, in anger, in disgust at their audacity to die. While her policies may have been unpopular, many of those disrespecting her memory were not even born during her reign. Such barbarism is deplorable, especially from those who are uneducated and had no experience of her a leader. This behaviour is an example of inherited prejudice. Perhaps now that she is gone, such anger will finally dissipate and this country can rid itself of Thatcherites and move on to hating David Cameron for his failing efforts at “New Conservatism”.

No politician gets it right for long, as the Baroness so acutely demonstrated. Yet it cannot be said that her career was a failure, It id certain that she has left an indelible mark on our country. Whether that mark is a light or a smear, is for the individual to decide.

 

MARGARET THATCHER, 1925-2013

BBC News Gallery of Margaret Thatchers Funeral

SSDD

No More Page 3!

No More Page 3!

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The Sun is famous for all kinds of things, few of them good. It isn’t known for it’s high brow reporting, nor it’s dedication to providing the truth. Nope, The Sun is known for being owned by Rupert Murdoch, the man responsible for The News of the World (and we all know how off the reporting rails they went), having more pictures than a comic-book, salacious gossip and… Page 3 – topless models.

It doesn’t pretend to be in the leagues of the likes of The Guardian or The Independent, it’s tagline being “The Best for News, Sport, Showbiz, Celebrities” – not exactly a representative for international affairs, more the working man’s rag. But that’s ok. We need something for everyone. It keeps the press versatile and interesting. But there is “not exactly high brow” and then there’s “morally bankrupt”. The Sun comes under the latter.

There has been a huge debate in recent months regarding page 3 girls, mainly due to Lucy-Anne Holmes starting a petition on change.org last August. As of right now, it has amassed 94,396 signatures. She began the petition after tiring of the patronising way page 3 photos misrepresent women.

You know the ones; topless, naked except for skimpy knickers and, if they’re luck, a pair of cowboy boots or stilleto heels.

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So… this is meant to be “tasteful”??

Now I personally don’t want to see this sight on the inside of my paper. When I open The Sun, I want – well, I say want, I mean expect – to read articles with fewer words than a receipt and bigger pictures than a billboard, telling a peculiar mixture of half truths and “public interest” stories. What I don’t want to see is an unnaturally large pair of tits. I have nothing against the female form; lets face it, if you’re female, you have the same equipment as these women; but the only good thing I can say about page 3 pictures is thank god they’re not man-boobs. Seriously, that’s the only small mercy I can afford such objectification.

Newspapers are failing, readerships plummeting since the rise of the internet and online magazines and forums. They are having to use different tactics to pull in as many readers as possible, from cheaper subscriptions to online versions of their paper equivalent. But selling newspapers using poorly disguised porn is a step too far. It’s cheap. It’s disgusting. It’s meant to be a family newspaper.

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1950s Bullshit

Would you hand a 5 year old a copy of Playboy or Zoo? Of course not! Would you hand them a copy of The Sun? You should be able to, but if you do I’d say you were crazy. Conditioning readers to view women as sex objects is so 1950s. Have they not heard that women have the right to be seen as people, not just porta-boobs or talking uterus’s?

I realise that models make a living doing this kind of shoot, but if you have the figure to be accepted for a topless feature, I’m sure it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to find someone willing to take pictures of you with your clothes on. Neither am I oblivious to the fact that some women feel liberated by how comfortable they feel in their own skin – that’s great, I absolutely accept, even admire this quality – but please, feel liberated and sexy somewhere more appropriate than a newspaper that kids can see.

Call me a prude, but there are countless other places you can get your rocks off if that’s what you really want. As Avenue Q say, The Internet is for Porn. I wouldn’t advise using it for that exclusively, but the resources are there. Let us keep the dignity in reporting. Or at least, let’s try grasp some of it back. It’s clear to see that we’re losing some of  eminence and ethics in journalism, as it slides through our fingers as it vanishes into a web of fiber optics and trolls.

If we can bring back the dignity to one daily newspaper then it would be the first step towards earning back some of the respect reporters have lost in recent years.

NO MORE PAGE 3!!

 


SSDD

I Brought My Own Coffee, Thanks

There is a major problem with office workers.

How the hell they expect someone to survive in an office environment with crap instant coffee is utterly beyond me.

This was the predicament I found myself in recently, when I had two days work experience at my local paper. Now this post is in no way to be considered poor reflection on those fine wordsmiths at the Greenock Telegraph – which, in case you hadn’t heard, is in fact the finest local newspaper in the West Coast of Scotland – no, in the whole of Scotland! (and if that isn’t a claim worthy of the Sun then I don’t know what is) It is merely meant to reflect my utter admiration for people who work under stressful conditions – without super quality caffeine on an IV.

When I began my two days I knew roughly what to expect since I had spent some time there before. I felt prepared.

So this time, when I walked through those double doors at 9:30, I did not feel such an amateur. I slid in front of my very own computer booth, tapped in my personal log-in and snapped on my secretary-come-secret agent headset. Reporters notepad on desk, pen in front pocket and handbag stocked with reporter-like things tucked at my side, ready to be grabbed at the click of my editors fingers.

Everything was going well as I spent the morning fashioning nibs from local ads (what we in the industry call those little fillers at the side of the page that tell you of local events and whatnot). It was only when my trust-me-I’m-a-journalist shirt began to feel just a little chilly, that I noticed the other warning signs. The thirst. The headache. The tightening around the eyes that seemed to spread to my jaw. Eventually using a slightly shaking hand to straighten my short-in-a-sexy-yet-sensible-way skirt I had to admit it – it was coffee time!

10:30am. Damn it. I had hoped to make it til at least 11 before I let the caffeine get the better of me but hey, strong coffee is a mark of a true journalist, right?

But when I get to the tea room, I was a little… disheartened. Not so much disappointed, that would be too much. But my heart swelled a little at the sight before me, and not in that joyful way it sometimes does, more in that way that tells you something awful has happened but that your too pumped with adrenaline to appreciate it.

There was coffee, sure. And it was instant, which is fine, more than fine, it’s great. But it was the second most intolerable instant coffee known to man. It was that dreaded fiend, Tescos own brand. Not even one of the decent ones that tasted just like the good stuff but a slightly more aerated colour in a different jar. It was that rubbish that takes two spoonfuls to have a taste, two more to just about bear some morose resemblance to coffee. And the worst part – it was decaf! I know, I felt it too; the horror. I mean for goodness sake, why even bother drinking something characterised by its potentially heart disease creating key ingredient in favour of a version which might boost you concentration a tiny bit more but has only been so far proven to do in mice!? I can think of other kinds of murky water that could well have the same effect and probably taste about the same!

This sad scene put something of a dampener on my morning, but I was not prepared to let it beat me; so I had three more before noon and by then, things began to look significantly brighter.

I have nothing against the humble instant coffee; I drink cups of the sweet brown nectar everyday (black, two sugars, if you’re interested), and I did feel so suave and journalisty sitting in front of my pile of half read dailys, shorthand notes and copy print-outs. The steaming mug to my right was the perfect addition to my completed look; keen young reporter at work, disturb and face her cutting wit. Even the glasses perched half way off the end of my nose since I wouldn’t see the computer screen from the ridiculous distance it was stationed away from me made me appear somehow like I fitted my situation. (whoever sat at that desk before me must have been the most long-sighted fellow ever to have lived, by the way, and I think they superglued that tower to the flippin’ desk because for all my efforts, it would not move closer)

But be serious. I am only 19 years old and while yes, I may have acquired an unhealthy addiction to strong coffee at a young age, the rest of the people in that office were there every dayDrinking that stuff.

I knew I would be flagging after two days of that. My means of remedying a potentially embarrassing situation?

I brought my coffee, thank-you very much.

That’s right, in a sandwich bag. I brought enough of my favourite from home to last me the day and low and behold, my two days ended marvelously. I had a couple of pieces submitted for the paper for the rest of the week and went on my merry way, even with the promise of future days work to come.

So, ladies and gentlemen of the press, I would like to take this opportunity to impart these words of simple wisdom to you: If you work in an environment where concentration is key, make sure you are well stocked in whatever you need. Be that cigarettes for the nicotine addicts out there; biscuits and bananas for the diabetics, as I can only assume Eric, who had the desk next to me must have been since for all the time I was there the man never stopped snacking yet was not fat; or in my case, decent coffee. Make sure you have what you need and it will give you the confidence and the focus to enjoy the experience more.

See you in the headlines!!

SSDD