Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Madonna has the right idea

When my son was small I went through periods of thinking that I should adopt another child. It seemed unfair that my little boy should have so much - toys, books, games - when other children had so little. For various reasons - mostly because I had to work full time to provide those toys, books and games - I decided not to pursue it.
So I can totally relate to Angelina Jolie and Madonna's urge to keep providing homes for disadvantaged children. While you could argue that they seem to be involved in some sort of competitive adoption (you adopt from Malawi, I'll raise you India), I can understand that overwhelming feeling that when you have so much, you want to share it with those that don't.
Critics argue that they should simply donate money to deserving causes in poor countries instead, but as I understand it, they have both done this, too. And I think there are few of us who could visit a village of some of the world's neediest children and resist the urge to swoop them all up in our arms and bring them home.
Others have said that Madonna should not be thinking about another adoption a) as a single parent and b) so soon after her divorce. But children are only better off in two parent homes if they are happy homes. And you only have to see Lourdes with her mum to know how well-adjusted she is. I have no doubt that a new child in the family will be something positive for Lourdes, her siblings and her mother.
I have never bought the argument that children should be adopted by their own race, either. Two of my close friends were adopted by people of different ethnicity, and they both thrived in their adoptive homes. To suggest that they would have been better off waiting for adoptive parents of the same colour who might never have materialised is ludicrous. It is much better for children to have loving, caring homes - of any kind - than to be left wanting.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Let the Primark Princess rest in peace

She lived her life in the spotlight - and now Jade Goody's funeral is becoming a three ring circus. The latest development - apart from Jordan being banned from the church - is that Michael Jackson is rumoured to be planning to attend.
For Jade's sake, and her family's, I hope this isn't true, and if it is, I hope he reconsiders. His attendance would mean an even bigger crush of paparazzi and security, and turn what should be a chance to say goodbye to the woman Russell Brand has so brilliantly dubbed the 'Primark Princess' into a total farce.
Jeff Brazier is clearly a sensible bloke. His decision to take his sons to Australia for three weeks rather than have them cope with their mother's funeral is exactly the right thing to do. It's time to put their needs first.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

keep your friends close...

You can almost feel the heat coming off Jacqui Smith's cheeks this morning. Just weeks ago she was being tipped as a possible successor to Gordon Brown. Now the whole country knows that her husband claimed for two 'adult' films on her expenses.
Leaving aside the crassness of Richard Timney's decision to watch £10 porn, there are two issues here. The first is that in 2009 the Home Secretary has to be seen as setting some sort of moral example to the rest of the country if she's going to get any grip on law and order - and filing expenses claims for porn, or keeping two houses, or buying white goods at the expense of taxpayers just doesn't cut it.
But more importantly, it's probably no coincidence that this should come to light now, just weeks after speculation that she could be the next Leader of the Labour Party. It seems pretty clear that someone wants Jacqui Smith out - and it may not be the opposition.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

not plastic fantastic

Amanda Holden, 38, is reportedly planning to have cosmetic surgery in an effort to counteract the march of time. She has already had Botox, and next on her shopping list will be an eyelid lift and probably 'half a facelift under my chin.'
It has always struck me as strange that actresses, who surely need full control of all their facial expressions, should resort to going under the knife in an effort to retain their looks. Hollywood is littered with the grotesquely rubbery, and interestingly, many of those who have resorted to surgery actually struggle to get roles, presumably in case they frighten cinema-goers.
But you only have to look at Helen Mirren, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench and Julie Walters to know that true talent doesn't need artificial enhancement. If you've got it now, you'll still have it in thirty years - and if you resist the urge to mess with your looks you'll probably get more parts, and enjoy a longer career, as a result.

double tragedy

16-year-old Jimmy Mizen was a young man with so much potential who lost his life simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. His parents, siblings and friends have coped with their loss with breathtaking dignity and my heart goes out to them.
Every time my own teenager goes out of the door to meet his friends on a Saturday afternoon my chest contracts with anxiety, and I have to fight my overwhelming urge to force him back into our home, where at least I know he is safe.
My fear - like that of so many parents - stems from the certain knowledge that no matter what you do to protect your children, you cannot prepare them for every eventuality. So while you may expect trouble at a bar on a Saturday night, you don't expect it at a bakery on a Saturday afternoon.
Jimmy's assailant, Jake Fahri, had aspirations to be a rapper, but he was also a loose cannon with violent intentions. Yet the photo of Fahri as a little boy in today's papers reminds us that here was a once innocent child who somehow became lost in broken Britain and grew up to become a killer. The tragedy is that because of his actions the lives of two families have been ruined, not least his own.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Somebody's watching me...

Logging on to Google's Street View, I couldn't wait to find my own house. After struggling to get to grips with the cursor I soon spotted my front door (and my neighbour's ramshackle wall), and eagerly clicked for a closer look.
To my astonishment, the image was crystal clear - and I could even see a shadowy figure inside. Me.
I'm not sure when this image was taken. Clearly last summer, as the windows were open and the leaves were on the trees. Thankfully I was fully dressed. But still it feels like a gross invasion of privacy.
It's only a matter of time - if it isn't happening already - before we're being monitored by Blade Runner style technology, which enables the Government/Whoever to capture us in our most private moments. Sleeping. Having dinner. On the loo.
There have been plans mooted for monitoring facebook and other social networking activity - although thankfully this appears to be an unworkable proposal. But identity cards are still set to become a real (and expensive) part of our daily lives. The Home Office claims that the cards will 'help us prove who we are'. Presumably they will be able to round us up on street corners and demand 'where are your papers?' too.
The main thinking behind identity cards - and no, I'm not buying the 'easier access to services' line or even the prevention of identity theft - is that it will help prevent terrorism and help the Government get some sort of grip on immigration.
But identity cards would not have prevented the recent murders in Northern Ireland, or even 7/11 - atrocities committed by British citizens on British soil. It won't stop the incitement to hatred by legal immigrants. And I doubt very much whether it will stop the influx of illegal workers - only tighter border controls will do that.
Yet Home Secretary Jacqui Smith claims that abandoning the scheme now would cost the Government - or any subsequent Government - £40million.
That's an awful lot of police.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

That's not entertainment

Years ago I was introduced to a tall stranger with piercing blue eyes. He grasped my hand firmly, fixed my gaze and said in a low voice 'Hello Liz, good to meet you.'
My knees went to jelly, my eyelashes fluttered involuntarily, and ever since that moment I've been a massive fan of Jonathan Ross. Whether he was guesting on They Think It's All Over or hosting Comic Relief, there was one thing you could always count on from JR: entertainment.
But even though I used to tune into his Friday night talk show religiously, I have felt - and I know I'm not alone - that over the past 18 months the programme has become something to be endured rather than enjoyed. Not just because of the cringe-inducing leering and inane pre-chat patter, but because it has actually descended deep into Dullsville and there doesn't seem to be any way back. It's only as ever as interesting as its guests, who are often not very interesting at all, and the biggest bonus of the seriously over-hyped Sachsgate was that it was actually off air for three months.
Which is what makes the decision to shortlist Friday Night With Jonathan Ross for a 'Best Entertainment Performance' BAFTA so surprising, and begs the question: have the Academy actually been watching what the rest of us have been watching?

Sunday, 22 March 2009

precious moments

It is the cruellest stroke of fate that Jade Goody has died on Mothering Sunday. For Jack, Jackiey and the rest of her family and friends, knowing she won't be suffering anymore must provide some comfort, but even though they knew it was coming they will be devastated by their loss, and my heart goes out to them.
For Liam Neeson, his sons and the Redgrave family, it will also be a difficult day, full of sadness and memories. To lose Natasha Richardson so suddenly means that there will always be a thousand things unsaid.
I probably won't get a card today. I certainly didn't get breakfast in bed, as my teen is at a sleepover. But I know that tonight we'll watch Lost on the sofa together, I may get a hug, and I'll feel incredibly blessed.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Borderline

As someone who spent most of the Eighties undergoing more style transformations than Madonna and Kylie combined, it's beyond me why designers have seized on this particular decade as inspiration for the summer's key trends.
From ra-ra skirts to Rude Girl mini skirts, wet-look curly perms to giant backcombed bedhair, dungarees to strategically ripped jeans, frilly shirts to 'Choose Life' t-shirts, padded shoulders and fluro tops, I didn't so much follow fashion as absorb it.
But like the Simply Minds song said, that was then, this is now. While some good things did come out of the Eighties - mobile phones, The Young Ones and New Order, for example - style simply wasn't one of them, and I have the photos to prove it. I'm all in favour of recycling, but I draw the line at deelyboppers and legwarmers.

A little less conversation...

President Obama's special Olympics gaffe on the Tonight Show - less than two months after his inauguration - has raised the ghastly spectre of George Bush-style cock-ups. It was offensive and crass but, disappointingly perhaps, a reminder that he is in fact a mere mortal who sometimes speaks faster than he thinks.
If his advisers have any sense, they'll put a blanket ban on any more guest appearances on late night chat shows for the foreseeable future. Actions always speak louder than words. And what the world needs right now are results.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Number on a list

As simple but effective marketing ideas go, it's probably close to genius. 101 Housework Songs is a new album featuring songs to make hoovering, dusting and mopping the floor fun. You get Queen's I Want To Break Free, Dolly Parton's Working Nine To Five, and so on.
The possibilities for adding to this new compilation franchise are endless. You could have 101 Gardening Songs, featuring Flowers In The Rain or Here Comes The Sun, depending on the weather. 101 Getting Ready To Go Out On The Razz Songs, including Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, It's Raining Men and Club Tropicana, to suit every predilection. And one 101 Facebooking Songs, including I Always Feel Like Somebody's Watching Me and Me Myself I.
Or maybe one to suit the current national mood. 101 Job Seeking Songs, featuring Money Money Money and UB40's One In Ten.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

No, things didn't really get better

Well it had to happen eventually, didn't it. The Conservative Party have seized the day by revamping their hugely successful 1979 election poster with the tagline 'Labour still isn't working'.
And in the current climate, it's hard to argue with that. Unemployment is now the same as it was when Labour came to power in 1997, and the next 18 months look bleak. University fees are set to rise, making further education a distant dream for many of those who would benefit the most (so much for 'Education, Education, Education'). Repossessions - despite all the promises of protecting homeowners - are on the increase. Crime - particularly knife and gun crime - is reaching epidemic proportions. Huge tax rises are on the way. And to cap it all, the UK is set to be the country that suffers the deepest, and longest recession. It's like being in an Orwellian time warp. They even want to monitor us like Big Brother.
Yes, from the moment Alistair Darling gave that kamikaze-style interview to Decca Aitkenhead in the Guardian, it has seemed as though this Government has been hellbent on its own destruction. Bringing back Darth Mandleson was probably the final nail in the coffin. Forget Cool Britannia and ruling the waves - right now it feels like we're on board a sinking ship.
But while the Conservatives continue to do what they've always done best - point their manicured fingers - they are yet to offer any tangible insight into how they will pull us out of this mess. For those of us who voted in Blair, the babes and the rest because we really believed things were going to get better, giving a nod now to the Tories - the party that, lest we forget, gave us 18 years of living hell - is definitely a step too far. That they've chosen to resurrect an ancient election campaign poster simply proves they have nothing new to offer or say.
No, there's only one viable alternative to Labour. They may be less showy than the so-called 'opposition', but still waters, as they say, run deep. Vince Cable, Nick Clegg - it's time to step up to the plate.

Monday, 16 March 2009

shoplifting the pootie?

If reports are to be believed, Madonna has moved her young (young) man into her apartment after just three months of dating him.
Of course, if Madge, 50 really thinks that Jesus, 22, is the Second Coming then good luck to her.
But... and here's the rub. Madonna isn't a single woman with only herself and her own needs to think about. She's a single mum.
How her three children are expected to react to this latest development in what have already been a tumultuous couple of years is anyone's guess.
I know of other single mothers who have moved equally fast, introducing their bewildered children to a succession of 'mummy's friends'. Needless to say the kids have grown up more than a little confused, and in some cases, angry and resentful.
You have to wonder also whether Jesus - again, 22 - is really ready to assume the role of surrogate 'dad' to three children aged 13, eight and three?
As Cuba Gooding Jr said in Jerry Maguire, a single mother is a sacred thing. You don't mess with them. Or their kids.

booze control

The proposal by chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson to impose a minimum 50p per unit of alcohol was, frankly, laughable. No wonder the PM has distanced himself from it.
Anyone who has ever been to Europe knows that availability of cheap alcohol does not necessarily produce a nation of binge-drinkers. Anyone who has ever been a student with limited resources knows that it's always easy to get hold of cheap booze - if you can't afford a bottle of wine, cider will do; and anyone who has ever been on a tight budget knows you can always find money for a drink, should you choose to do so.
If Sir Liam spoke to the police, or to the paramedics and staff of the A&E departments who treat victims of excess boozing, I'm sure they'd tell him the same thing: that the problem of binge drinking has been steadily increasing since 2006 - when 24 hour licensing laws were introduced. It's simply too late to shut that stable door, Sir Liam. But it was this Government that allowed the Shire horse to bolt.

Friday, 13 March 2009

brass tacks

So, Kerry Katona has announced that she is to divorce Mark Croft. While the reasons aren't entirely clear, there is widespread speculation that their split has been fuelled by the couple's considerable financial difficulties - which would make them the first high profile celeb victims of the credit crunch. Bizarrely, this afternoon Kerry made a statement to this effect while accompanied by a representative from a company called 'Celebrity Financial Planning', for reasons known only to them.
I'm not suggesting for one moment that Kerry isn't genuinely devastated, and of course it's impossible not to feel some sympathy for her. The girl is pure car crash.
And I'm sure the timing of this announcement - in a week when the celeb press has been largely dominated by both Jordan and Jade - is simply a coincidence.
But the thought of all those magazine deals detailing your marriage breakdown (and any possible reconciliation, or God forbid, yet another renewal of those wedding vows) must be very attractive when you've been declared bankrupt.

The Yummy Mummy Factor

Yesterday a friend rang. 'X won the fancy dress prize,' she told me breathlessly. 'He went as Robin Hood - I made him a tabard.' 'That's fantastic,' I replied instantly. 'Congratulations.'
We didn't say it, but we both knew what she meant. Little X didn't really win the fancy dress prize. My friend did.
Because even though her children are aged just five and two, she's now in the Competitive Mums Club. I know, because I've been a fully paid-up member from the time my son first toddled through the school nursery gates.
Before you get all PC on me, I don't mean competitive about our children - of course we're proud of them, whatever they achieve. This isn't about them. This is about us.
I'm not sure where this urge to fight them on the playing fields and in the playground comes from, but in my experience it's particularly strong in Working Mothers, anxious to prove that anything the Stay-at-Homes do, we can do too - (and better, actually, so sod off you smug cow, who cares if we're never at the school gates, we can still pull it out the bag when it matters).
The first battleground is inevitably the Mums egg-and-spoon race at sports day, where the gloves - and shoes - are always off.
Next up is the World Book Day Fancy Dress parade. Unless you want your child to endure endless pitying looks from the other mums, you can forget buying a ready made pirate or fairy outfit. In the playground arena, shop bought just doesn't cut it. It's got to be handmade - and it's got to be clever. It doesn't matter how rough around the edges it looks - in fact, the less perfect, the better, because it proves you've Made It Yourself.
I can remember one year spending three evenings (after working all day, of course) hand-stitching my son's Legolas-from-Lord-of-the-Rings outfit, complete with homemade sword and scabbard. I even made him a wig and plaits from wool, and ordered him special elf ears from a movie props company.
He looked amazing - everyone said so. But he lost out on the first prize to a girl dressed as the the Very Hungry Caterpillar - a particularly dynamic feat of needlework.
The following year my little boy went as Iorek Berneson, the polar bear from the Philip Pullman Northern Lights trilogy - which involved copious supplies of white fun fur and endless sewing with white cotton. By the time the damn thing was finished I was snow blind. But all that effort paid off - and my heart was fit to burst as my precious boy walked off with the main prize. I don't even remember what it was now. But we kept the bear outfit.
Then it's the school fete/jumble sale, which brings endless opportunities to show off your talents - particularly in the cake-making department. And don't even think about buying a ready made box of baked goods and passing them off as your own.
I soon learned to cancel any arrangements in the two nights leading up to our primary school's annual fetes - as I would be spending hours on end creaming organic butter and free range eggs to make lighter-than-air fairy cakes (using Nigella's recipe, of course.) Each cake was carefully iced in a rainbow of assorted colours and equally carefully scattered with hundreds and thousands to give them that shabby chic touch. It was all worth it as child after child eagerly handed over their 10ps.
At some point, of course - usually when they leave primary school - all of this becomes less important. You have to find a new outlet for that competitive spirit. But there's always the costumes for the 6th form play...


Thursday, 12 March 2009

Jade's heartbreak

There was an unbearably poignant moment in last night's Jade when she looked out of the helicopter taking to her wedding venue at the sunset and fields and trees below. 'If I die, I'm going to miss all this,' she said, her enormous eyes filling with tears.
And in that simple statement she summed up the absolute agony of her plight.
By the time I got to bed, the dawn chorus had already started. My son was safely tucked up, fast asleep. And I felt like the luckiest woman alive.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Hello dolly

Barbie is 50 today, and apart from her failed marriage to the clearly closeted Ken, she's spent the last five decades enjoying incredible success as a leading cultural icon. She's seen off the likes of Pippa and Sindy to maintain her status as the No 1 doll of choice, enjoyed the kind of mass merchandising Katie Price must dream about, starred in several hugely popular animated films, and been immortalised in an annoyingly catchy Danish pop song.
But most importantly, she has maintained her flawless skin, cellulite-free thighs and super-toned tummy without the need for botox, lipo or a tummy tuck. And that makes her a heroine for women everywhere.

Lost in a bizarre love quadrangle

Just when you thought it couldn't get any better (or more confusing), Lost goes and throws a curveball.
In the beginning, as far as love on the island went at least, it was all so simple. Jack fancied Kate. Kate fancied Jack. Sawyer also fancied Kate, but even though she knew he looked good with his shirt off, she was repelled by him.
Then Kate and Sawyer were locked up together and she realised she did fancy him, after all. Meanwhile, evil doctor Juliet became one of the good guys, and Jack realised he fancied her, and she realised she fancied him. Everyone was paired off nicely. But then Kate and Jack left the island... leaving Sawyer and Juliet behind.
Last night's episode revealed that Sawyer and Juliet are now living (along with Jin and those two scientists) in the Seventies. It's too complicated to explain why. They are now part of the once feared Dharma Initiative, a sort of commune. Juliet has long hippie hair and Sawyer is wearing fetching floral shirts. He is clean shaven and has new glasses.
But their retro style isn't the only dramatic change. Because Juliet and Sawyer are now an item. First we see them snogging by the sink, and then they're in bed together. 'I love you,' Juliet purrs. 'I love you too,' Sawyer says.
But we know she's not the first to capture his complicated heart. 'I used to love a woman,' Sawyer tells the eccentric leader of the Dharma Initiative. 'But I've forgotten what she looked like.' He doesn't say her name, but we know he means Kate.
The next morning, he's in bed with Juliet. Suddenly the phone rings. Sawyer races off, wearing his beige Dharma Initiative jumpsuit but still sexy as hell, and arrives on a clifftop just as a blue VW camper pulls up.
No prizes for guessing who gets out. Yes, straight from the year 2000-and-something (no time to explain why) it's Hurley, Jack... and gasp, Kate. She is looking at him from underneath her eyelashes, smiling shyly. Even though we know she's slept with Jack in the meantime, it's clear she hasn't forgotten Sawyer. She still wants him.
And it's clear from Sawyer's expression that not only has he not forgotten what Kate looks like, he still loves her.
Like I said, a curveball.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Tough love

Julie Myerson is clearly an intelligent and gifted writer. She says she and her husband tried everything they could to persuade their eldest son to give up skunk, before finally admitting defeat and asking him to leave their home.
It seems a particularly harsh step to take, but I don't doubt that she is a loving, caring mother who found herself in an impossible situation. While I cannot comprehend why she and her husband would have thrown their eldest child out of the family home at the age of just 17, I believe her when she says that after two years of constant battling, they thought that was the only course of action left to them.
Of course, as a writer, this must have seemed like obvious material for a book, a gift. The book, The Lost Child, is published next week, already guaranteed a place in the bestseller lists thanks to the advance publicity caused by the public war of words between mother and son.
Caught up in a media furore, Julie is now giving interviews lamenting the fact that her entire family have been doorstepped by the press. 'It's really hard to talk about it,' she says in an interview with today's Sunday Times, apparently close to tears. 'It's hard to talk about it,' she said on this morning's Sky News, again apparently close to tears, adding she has been taken aback at the attention.
Given her experience as a writer - not just of books, but also for magazines and newspapers - this seems ridiculously naive and also disingenuous.
Presumably when she and her husband locked their son out of his home they were hoping he would realise the consequences of smoking skunk, and come to his senses. Perhaps she should have thought about the possible consequences of her actions - and in particular, the impact it might have on her two younger children - before she decided to invite the world into her family's private life.

This must be Jade's legacy

I was 20 when I was diagnosed with pre-cancerous cells. Fortunately they were caught in time, and after laser treatment, I was as good as new.
Since then, however, in England the age for having your first smear test has been raised from 20 to 25. The argument is that there are so many cell changes happening anyway during this five year period that testing can throw up misleading results.
But if that's really the case, why is it only in England that woman are tested from the age of 25? In Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, it's still 20. Are we really to believe that English women are less at risk from contracting cervical cancer, or less able to cope with misleading results, or start having sex later, than our Northern Irish, Scottish and Welsh cousins? Of course not.
So the argument that it's not in our interest to be tested from 20 simply doesn't work. I suspect that, like the IVF postcode lottery, it's simply a question of funding.
What we do know is that in Jade's case, her cancer was, for various reasons, missed - until it was too late. Whether or not it would have been caught had she had a smear test earlier, which might have revealed cell changes, it's impossible to say.
But if there is even a chance, however small, that a young woman's life might be saved by early screening, then surely it's a chance worth taking.

alien vs predator

From the moment my family queued round the block to see Star Wars at Streatham Odeon, I've had Scully-style leanings, fascinated by the idea that We Are Not Alone. If I won the lottery, I would definitely become a space tourist - I can totally understand that urge to explore the final frontier.
What I can't understand, however, is why, when US unemployment figures are at an all time-high (and apparently continuing to rise), NASA have just launched a $650million (at least) exploration mission in a bid to discover signs of life on other planets. Forget life on Mars. In the current climate, it's life down here that counts.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Singing the blues

Poor Cheryl Cole. The air must be Chelsea blue around Mount Kilimanjaro today. Because while the nation's sweetheart has been scaling a mountain in aid of Comic Relief, her wayward hubby Ashley has been arrested for being 'drunk and disorderly'.
But is anyone really surprised at this latest turn of events? Ashley appears to be suffering from a major Peter Pan complex - he simply refuses to grow up. So, like a little boy, he wants lots of toys (we won't go there) and shiny cars. And as soon as his wife's back is turned, he misbehaves. You half expect him to throw a party and announce it on Facebook.
Unless Cheryl wants to play Wendy for the rest of her married life, maybe it's time to kick him into touch.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

one day at a time

It has finally happened. The moment I have been waiting for for the past three years. All those years of cajoling - or as he defines it - 'nagging', have paid off at last.
Because this morning, totally out of the blue, my teenage son actually made his bed without being asked.
I am trying not to get too excited. His dirty pyjamas still hadn't made it into the laundry basket, and there's a sticky mess made by a leftover sweet on the top of his chest of drawers. But it's progress.
What makes it particularly surprising is that like all males, including his father, grandfather and uncles, he has developed that stock-in-trade response to any reasonable domestic request: 'I've only got one pair of hands'.
This simple sentence is continually repeated like a mantra by men the world over. And it's probably one of the biggest lies they tell women (along with 'Of course your bum doesn't look too big' and 'Of course I'll still love you tomorrow'.)
Because even though they can play any sport, down any drink and master any XBox or Wii game while simultaneously chatting to their mates, men continue to perpetuate the myth that they can Only Do One Thing at a time.
Therefore, although it is perfectly possible for them to eat and make a mess, they cannot then stack the dishwasher and clean up after themselves. While they can get dressed, they cannot use the washing machine or tumbledryer. And so it goes on.
So while I'm hopeful the bed-making incident heralds the start of a new domestic dawn, I suspect I'm going to be disappointed.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

A bird in the hand...

A press release has just pinged into my in-box announcing the arrival of the latest beauty must-have from Oz: the Tasmanian Triangle, or to use its nickname, the 'Tasi'.
If you're of a nervous disposition, look away now. The Tasi is a bikini wax which apparently gives you slightly more modesty than a Brazilian. To make it even more low-maintenance, you can have those unsightly hairs... (wince, cross legs) lasered off.
Tweezing and waxing are all very well (in moderation), but I've never really understood the obsession with defuzzing your undercarriage until it resembles a plucked chicken. Like Kath Day-Knight-style perms or a naughty text from Shane Warne, this is a trend probably best left Down Under.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Dare to bare?

Horrors. Apparently the exposed midriff is set to be revived as one of this summer's big looks. The No1 rule of fashion is that if you wore it first time round, you shouldn't wear it again. So, like the exposed-thong-over-jeans look that was so popular in the early Noughties, unless you're under 25 with a stomach as flat as an ironing board, this is one trend you probably shouldn't follow. My own belly looks like uncooked pastry. I'm sure it will come as a relief to know that I'll be remaining fully covered up.

Roots

It comes as no surprise that genealogy is now huge, with more and more of us trying to confirm who we think we are.
Four years ago, I embarked on researching my own family history. It's frustrating, time-consuming, can be expensive (particularly if you need certificates/parish records) but ultimately incredibly rewarding.
The reason for my journey was simple. My dad died shortly before my 21st birthday, totally unexpectedly. He was a wonderful man who treated my sister and I like rare gems, and I felt - and still do feel - his loss acutely. But with him died answers to a thousand questions about his family, his ancestors, that I had never thought to ask while he was alive.
Through research, I've managed to get back to the 17th century on my paternal side (the maternal, mostly Irish side is slightly more complicated). I've uncovered long lost cousins, war heroes, tales of incredible bravery, and desperately sad stories worthy of any episode of Who Do You Think You Are?
Gradually I have built up a picture of my dad's family background, and the experiences which made him into the person he was. I feel I know him better now. And it means that, when they ask, I can bring his story to life for the grandchildren he didn't live long enough to see.

Not another brick in the wall

My ex has just been made a director at a globally renowned company. My brother-in-law has also been promoted at the high profile government organisation where he works. Both these men hail from different parts of the world, but the one thing they have in common is that neither of them have a university degree.
For those graduates looking with despair at the current job market, or those students nearing the end of their courses, it must seem like the last three or four years of their lives have been a total waste of time.
Yes, well, been there, and tried on the t-shirt. My friends and I graduated and joined the job market just as the last big recession hit Britain. Some of us temped until we got into our chosen field, or saved up to go travelling. Children, mortgages and responsibility were a long way off, so the one thing we did have in our favour was freedom.
Slowly, however, all that grafting started to pay off. My first proper job in journalism paid a whopping £8k per annum. But I slogged away and kept learning and by the time I was 24 I had a column in a national newspaper.
Those mates who used to join me propping up the student union bar are now TV producers, journalists, politicians and solicitors. None of us did 'vocational' courses at uni. Instead we enjoyed learning for learning's sake (and a healthy amount of partying, of course).
Yes, there have been dark times for all of us (although maybe not quite as dark as this). But hard work and perseverance always pay off, and although we may have regretted some decisions, going to uni definitely wasn't one of them.
A friend who is a member of the landed gentry is amused by what she describes as the 'middle class obsession' with education. But she was born into a life of privilege. The rest of us have to earn to achieve our goals, and while a degree or diploma won't guarantee you'll walk straight into the job of your dreams, it will improve your career prospects.
Of course, I am fiercely proud of what my ex and my brother-in-law have achieved. Would they have got there a little faster if they had a degree? Who knows - and in the current climate, it doesn't really matter. University isn't necessarily a means to an end, and if you view it that way, then you'll be disappointed. What it is, however, is one of the best experiences of your life - and you can make of it whatever you choose.

It's not what you know...

Some girls have all the luck. Dasha Zhukova, the beautiful, wealthy girlfriend of Roman Abramovich, has been made Editor of Bauer's Pop magazine. She has, apparently, fantastic contacts and vision.
What she doesn't have, however, is any experience as a journalist, and that's why her appointment is bad news for those of us who work in the media, and for magazines in particular.
At a time when major publishers are shedding hundreds of jobs, the concept of someone waltzing in as an Editor simply because they know, are related to or are sleeping with the right people sends out an appalling message. For all those interns and work experiences struggling to make their mark, for all those journalists struggling to keep their jobs, for all those Editors struggling with ever decreasing budgets and the threat of redundancies looming over their teams, it suggests that talent, news sense, enthusiasm and commitment will soon count for nothing.
The Devil doesn't just wear Prada. She has a Russian billionaire boyfriend as well.

Learned behaviour

Parents have been bombarding the BBC online message boards with angry posts. No, Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross haven't been presenting Big Cook Little Cook, although I'd pay my licence fee twice to see that. No, the target of their fury is Cerrie Burnell, the 29-year-old CBeebies presenter.
Cerrie is a warm, friendly, attractive young woman who happens to have been born without a hand. She takes her disability in her stride and has chosen not to wear a prosthetic arm.
What a shame the parents who have complained to the BBC can't be more accepting. They claim she has been 'scaring' their children. One dad has even banned his child from watching CBeebies altogether, stating that seeing a woman with one hand will give them 'nightmares'.
What a load of balamory. I doubt very much that the little ones who had tuned in to watch their favourite CBeebies programmes were instantly repelled by Cerrie. After all, they watch a slightly disturbing talking sponge and a group of unintelligible creatures with TV aerials sticking out of their heads with no apparent ill-effect. They should be able to cope with seeing another human being with a slight disability.
I suspect what happened is that their parents over reacted to the sight of Cerrie Burnell on their TV screens, and voiced their disgust to their offspring. Children are very susceptible to the power of suggestion, whether it's from their parents, their peers or their carers, and that's why it's up to us to ensure they don't fear, isolate or reject anyone who might be different to them.
The fact that some adults, who really should know better, think it's acceptable in 2009 to complain about a disabled TV presenter means that we really haven't made any progress, and that's very worrying. We all need to confront our own prejudices - and resist the temptation to pass them on to our children.