Friday, March 30, 2012

Today I are mostly being angry....

What is it with people that they profess not to believe a word that politician say then, the moment they suggest that we might like to keep a little extra petrol in, just in case, they are queuing for hours outside petrol stations across the land. The government is held responsible. Wrong! Stupid people are responsible for panic buying. No-one made them do it,

I'm one of those irritating people that refuses to accept anything at face value. I check out every 'Like/share this
and the little kitty won't get it' page I find on Facebook, if X company is giving away Y, I google it to check it out.  Pensioners are worse off than illegal immigrants,? Yup, I'll check that one out too. I'm the irritating person who comes back with 'urban myth', 'internet scam and Facebook hoax.  I subscribe to and  I even prefer them to the John Lewis website. 

So when I first saw Francis Maude saying 'people might like to think about stocking up a bit' which has sadly been interpreted by so many as 'you must now go out and sit for several hours in a queue at your local petrol station', ' I thought I'd have a look at the facts.  No strike has been called.  If the tanker drivers do decide to strike they must give 7 days' notice. The next meeting between unions and management is on Monday. That means there are at least 12 days between now and then before a strike could actually start. Now, does that mean I should rush out and panic buy petrol? No. It means I can carry on as normal.  

The meeja was full of earnest reporters standing outside petrol stations interviewing people in the queue who were saying 'well, it's a load of nonsense innit, no-one's even called a strike yet.'  So why are you there numbnuts, wasting hours of your life in a queue to fill up your car?  Shots were taken of people filling up multiple jerry cans, just in case of apocalypse. Err, do you know you need a licence, sir? No? Well, the law states that if you want to stock more than 2 5 litre jerry cans at your home, you need to have a petrol licence. So you'll be heading off down to your local authority to get one will you? Or maybe you're just happy to turn your garden shed/garage into an incendiary device.

And now, of course, the government has said 'don't panic buy, there's no need' everyone has reverted back to type and they are saying 'well, of course, we can't believe a word the government says so we are just going to carry on panic-buying'.  Have we really turned into such a nation of lemmings?  And meanwhile, the price of petrol on the forecourts seems to have taken a little upward jump so not only are these people stupid but they are also pushing up the price of petrol for the benefit of the petrol companies. As if they need any more money....

Because there are stupid people about!

Monday, March 19, 2012


Last week my beloved BlackBerry decided to nuke itself and head off to that great fruit compote in the sky. 'Fantastic', said my friends, 'now you can buy an iPhone'.  The only thing is, I don't want one. I'm seriously trying to get through my life without anything beginning with a lowercase 'i' in front of it. I don't want an iPhone, an iPod or an iPad. Call me old fashioned (and you probably will) but I just don't. 

I wound up a friend that it was because of Apple's poor record on working conditions, pollution and poisoning it's underpaid workforce, after all, not many companies have actually had to make employees sign a legally binding agreement that they won't commit suicide, but it wasn't. I'm probably no more of an ethical consumer than the next person. But if I was, I wouldn't touch Apple.

To me, the iPhone is a toy that you can make phone calls on, like the adult version of the Fisher Price Chatter Phone.

It's like the iPhone for babies!
And while it may have an app for turning on the TV (I have a remote for that), another one to tell me where my friends are (try phoning them) and an HD weather app (I still maintain that the best forecast you can find is just looking out of your window), it also has some of the useless, most pointless apps in the universe.

Rate a Fart - want to rate your farts? This one is for you. No? Me neither

Talking Tom - a cat that copies what you say and pulls faces. Why?

Woohoo - hold down a button and your phone says 'Woohoo'.  And? No, that's it. That's all it does.

Poop the World - want to keep a record of places you have crapped around the world? You can with an iPhone. Sorry to be a party pooper but what's the point? Better still, it'll cost you a couple of quid for this pile of crap.

Pull my Finger - pull the finger on the screen and it will emit the sound of a number of pre-installed farts. Hooray. How useful is that? Errr, not very

Kissing Booth - want to rate your kissing skills? Simply put your germ ridden phone up to your mouth and it will tell you how good your kiss is - and cost you a few smackers as well. Perfect for sad, single men who still live at home with their mothers

Head Skin - suffering from male pattern baldness? Never fear, your iPhone is here with the marvellous and clearly scientifically proven (no, really!) Head Skin app. Simply rub your iPhone over your bald pate and it will emit an inaudible frequency which stimulates hair growth. If you are really stupid enough to pay for this then you deserve all the strange looks you will no doubt get and don't forget to keep some money back for screen cleaner

Sexy Girl Talk - probably equally popular with the sort of man who has bought the above two for his iPhone, this marvellous app reads out the letters of the alphabet in a 'sexy and sophisticated' way.  A sort of cunnilinguous perhaps?

Hangtime - ever wondered how high can you throw your expensive iPhone? This app will show you. Simply throw your phone as high as you can and it will measure how long it takes to come back down. Costs a few pennies, plus the cost of a new iPhone when you fumble the catch.

UK Payphone - need to find a payphone? Then this app will help you. But hang on, you've got an iPhone. Why do you need a payphone?  And will it tell you in advance if it's been vandalised?

Bieber Hair - Always wondered what you'd look like with Justin Bieber's hair? No, me neither. But just in case you have, you can take a photo and put JB's hair on yourself, your dog, your hamster....

I could go on well into the middle of next week with all the pointless, useless and just downright stupid apps that I could get on my iPhone, if I had one. Strangely enough, it's not doing it for me.

So why should I get an iPhone? Educate me......

What a load of crap!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

More death in Afghanistan, but this time it's personal

Yesterday our little town was rocked by the news that five of our soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan. It is the biggest single loss of life since 2006, a dubious honour that we would prefer not to have had.

I drove past the barracks yesterday morning before the news had officially broken to find it crawling with TV cameras and photographers. It could only mean bad news.  When I got to the garage to pick up my car, an older lady in reception was in tears. The news had just broken. Her husband was an ex-soldier and she said it just took her back to the time when he was serving in Northern Ireland. I felt desperately, desperately sad.

It was only a few weeks ago that I was in town when Corunna Company from the 3 Yorks paraded through to say goodbye before they deployed. It saddens me enormously to think that five of those men that the town cheered and waved will never return to England.  I wonder if it's any coincidence that the flame lit by the youngest member of Corunna Company, which will burn until they all return from deployment, blew out yesterday.

Before  I moved here the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were just news items. They didn't really affect me. Up to that point my previous experience of the military was largely in Bahrain, during peacetime. Apart from a brief relationship with a American bomb disposal export - a man who put the psycho in psychopath -  we spent a lot of time being wined and dined by the US Sixth Fleet which was based there.  I narrowly missed becoming the wife of a Navy dentist.  It was a happy and reasonably relaxed time for the military.

Now, my children are at a school where 20% or more of the children are from army families. Their friends have parents in the army, we pass soldiers on the street every day, we stand next to them in the supermarket queues, on Bonfire Night we go to the fantastic firework display they organise in aid of military charities. It's not unusual for a Warrior to pull up at the traffic lights next to you. They are very much part of the life of the town as well as part of our own life.

The British military has been on a war footing since 2001, over 11 years. The Second World War lasted 6 years. We can only imagine the impossible strain that this is putting on the soldiers, sailors and airmen themselves as well as their families. My own experience, limited though it is, is that the reality is less Military Wives Choir and keeping the home fires burning, and more a mess of broken lives and wrecked marriages.  This is nothing new. The psychological damage done to the forces during and after the Vietnam war is well documented. 

The husband of a friend who is a serving RAF pilot, commented to me yesterday "Even more sad than that (the death of the soldiers) is that the suicide rate of ex-armed forces members is over 3 times that of civilians. There is a huge problem brewing in the next 10 years..... Let us not forget that more ex-Falklands conflict soldiers committed suicide post the war than died during it!"

The MoD, having failed to protect so many of the soldiers in the battlefield, continues to fail to protect them off it. What psychological help is available is largely chemical and aims to treat the symptoms not the causes. There seems to be an underlying feeling that any request for help is a sign of weakness and the idea of a holistic approach to the welfare of the military is not even a consideration. My friend's husband told me "I would happily do yoga if the MoD paid for it. The problem is that the Psych care provided by the MoD is scientific based care only - they do not believe in holistic therapy or alternative therapy and therefore will not fund it. Shame. Shame on them."

Drug abuse, mental health issues, homelessness are all areas where the ex-armed forces are over-represented, a situation that can only get worse the longer the military are entrenched in Afghanistan in a war that few of us understand. It's gone on for so long now it's just there.  But for the men and women who served it will be 'there' for a long time yet. Maybe years, maybe the rest of their lives.

We are waiting anxiously for news of the fathers of two of their friends who are in Corunna Company. We are hoping for good news of course but their good news means bad news for another family. I saw The Girl's best friend's father yesterday, a welfare officer for the Yorks. He was drained and exhausted. He knows who the families are but military lips are sealed until an official announcement has been made. Even Facebook is silent.

A shame, therefore, that some of the journalists were stopping the school buses yesterday morning to try and prise information out of the school children and hanging around the school gates. It was the first that most of them had heard of the tragedy.

For five local families and a sixth up in Catterick where the Lancasters are based today will be their first day without a son, father, husband or brother. There lives will never be the same again. For the men of Burma Company, 3 Yorks, who deploy to Afghanistan in a few weeks, the reality of war has been brought starkly home. For the other men and women of the armed forces, life will continue but if they don't get the support they need to deal with combat stress, the effects will be felt for decades to come unless more is done to help them.

The soldiers of Corunna Company, 3rd Battalion, The Yorkshire
Regiment, on their farewell march through Warminster

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Help! My children aren't delinquents

Anyone who reads the Daily Mail or watches the daily diet of low-rent reality programmes churned out by the less mainstream channels, you know 'Binge Drinkers in Benidorm', 'Legless in Limassol', that sort of stuff, will know that British teenagers are a rum lot - or is that full of a lot of rum?

Ooh look, even Time thinks so
They wear hoodies and hang round on street corners haranguing innocent pensioners, assuming they are not off shooting/stabbing their peers that is, they binge drink on  cheap alcohol and spend their Saturday nights lying in the gutter with their thongs on show - and that's just the men.

A few weeks ago, The Girl had a sleepover with a bunch of her friends. I was invited out to dinner with friends down the road so left them to it.  In my day, parental absence was a excuse for illicit sex, recreational drugs and a fair bit of vodka so I was horrified to come home and find a re-run of the Great British Bake Off taking place in my kitchen.  Instead of the kitchen being strewn with empty cider bottles and cigarette butts, cupcakes were browning in the oven and a rather superb victoria sponge was sitting on the table. They had made a bit of a mess with the icing sugar though.

Oh knickers! Why don't mine do this?
Last weekend The Boy had a party for 30 of his school friends, all 16 year olds. There would be alcohol (I should mention here that I buy The Boy two cans of low alcohol cider if he's going to a party but refuse point blank to provide alcohol for anyone else's child.)  Finally, a chance to prove the Daily Mail right.  Surely among this lot someone was going to get drunk and be sick on the carpet or pass out with their head stuck down the side of the toilet? Maybe run round the graveyard opposite mooning? That's what they did in my day. The Boy went round to the neighbours and put a note through their door to say he was having a party, apologised for any disturbance and assured them that the music would go off at midnight.  They didn't do that in my day.

I went down to the village pub with friends, promising to pop back at 11.30 to bust a few shapes on the dance floor. Well, why miss out on a great chance to embarrass your children?

When I did pop back, I couldn't believe it. I couldn't hear the music from the other end of the village - in fact I couldn't even hear it from 100 metres away. Pathetic! If a bunch of 16 year olds can't upset the neighbours there's no hope. I left in disgust for a post-pub coffee down the road, hoping that by the time I finally came home  they would have at least trashed the lounge.  

By 1am I felt it was time to brazen the Mongol Hordes so I crept back in to...... silence. Everyone had either gone home or bedded down in sleeping bags for the night.  The remaining 4 people who were still up were tidying up then asked if they could possibly watch a video and have a cup of tea. I mean... Rock and Roll!

Where have a I gone wrong? I was a hideous teenager and my mother has lived in hope that my own teen terrorists would be suitably revolting and put me through what she went through. That would be divine retribution for all the sleepless nights I gave her. I feel a total failure. I am not a feckless parent of feckless children. I've tried, really I have, but damn it, they are just so.... bloody well behaved! Should I teach them to sniff glue? Give them binge drinking lessons?  

I always say if you can't be a good example, be a terrible warning. Maybe I've done just that?

But just in case you think that they sound perfect, I'm going to burst your bubble by pointing out that The Boy is an opinionated little shite at times (wonder where he gets that from?) and The Girl is busy recreating the slums of Calcutta in her bedroom. Guess we can't have it all ways!

This is not my son