Thursday, November 26, 2009

1, 2, 3, reasons to be careful

My brother-in-law has been in the throes of a nasty divorce for a year or so. His now ex-wife has custody of their children and so I'm concerned that my children will lose touch with their cousins altogether. As it was, we barely saw them.

It's soon the eldest's birthday and so today I got the children to write her a letter to go with her present and printed out some pictures of them to put in. I'm really anxious to get this right.

The eldest has rejected all contact with her father and also with her granny, my mother-in-law. She made herself too clearly on Dad's team, I think, and alienated her. Poor child has found herself in the position of choosing between, which should never have happened. She does want to maintain contact with father-in-law (the two parents-in-law divorced many years ago).

I made the damn fool mistake of going along with mother-in-law regarding sending presents to where the dad is now living, because she wanted us all to show support to him and so he could provide super-duper birthday/Christmas times during access. But with eldest refusing to see him, that doesn't truck too well. I didn't want to rock the boat and upset mother or brother-in-law. And because she's a retired social worker, I assumed she knew what she was doing. But of course, she's too emotionally involved. I don't know why I didn't see it before.

So now, to put this right. Daughter will obviously want a reply from her cousin to this letter she wrote today, and ideally a penpal relationship if nothing else. I'm hoping that this will be acceptable to the mum and that we don't fall into the rejected pile of the child.

I don't want to cause a problem by just barging in and going straight to the daughter, possibly offending the mum who might not want us in their lives. And of course, she will likely pick up the post so it's not like sneaking is an option! I'm thinking that I should send the parcel with a covering letter to her, explaining that we'd like to keep in touch. It's a tricky one to write. I can't ignore the divorce, but I'm certainly not wanting to take sides or engage with the rights and wrongs of it all. So I thought I'd just acknowledge they've had a difficult year and voice the hope they'll have better times ahead.

Even if this goes well, and they respond, I'm worried that mother-in-law and brother-in-law will see it as disloyal. Should I tell them about it or just see what happens? Should I send presents to both places (can't afford it, so it's moot)?

Staying in touch with the children has to be more important than other considerations, hasn't it?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


I really like the trip to Bournemouth, east along the A35. This post consists of my Tweet-like responses to the journey.

  • At Honiton there's this weird terracotta turret-house with battlements. You've got to wonder who designed it. At least their post shouldn't go astray.
  • Later on a sign to 'Triffords' and thought perhaps it was a cunning mis-spelling to throw us off track while the homicidal plants gain strength and size.
  • Past 'Deep Cut Farm' where the cows mysteriously commit 'suicide' with their own horns.
  • The first view of Dorchester and it looks like Noddy's Toytown. I want to move in immediately.
  • And then we find Troy Town where hopefully it's more Homeric than Star Trek, as Deanna was the most annoying character ever. My least favourite Star Trek series is TNG, and it was largely her (and Ryker's) fault. Not because of their on-off romance but his character's smugness and her character's wishy-washy, touchy-feely, hearts and flowers, new-age soppiness. "We come in peace, shoot to kill, Scotty beam me up!"
  • And then there's Puddletown on the same sign as various Piddles, (which cause puddles) and hey, I'm easily amused.
Why was I on my way to Bournemouth (shortly changing its name to Jason Bournemouth for the extra tourism, hat-tip Eddie Izzard)? Well, the clue's in that last sentence there.

Yes, I went to see Jason Bourne. But I saw Eddie Izzard instead, which was a much more amusing experience and frankly what I'd paid for. I'd have been quite disappointed with some stressed out assassin-type bloke who doesn't even know his own name.

I came away with aching sides and a cake-or-death mug. Life doesn't get much better.

Friday, November 20, 2009

You and your racist friend

It took a good long while but me and an old friend started to interact more after several years of estrangement. We exchanged mobile numbers.

The first text she sent me was a racist joke.

The full weight of my PC gorn mad disapproval lumbered forth and sat po-faced on my mobile keypad. I didn't honestly know what to do about it, as changing hearts and minds ain't really likely in a text, is it? So I could have replied coldly and told her off, or pretended it was ok or funny (and racist content aside it wasn't funny), or not respond at all. Which is what I did.

Thing is, I sympathise in some ways with her, because I can point to and remember where her racism was either born or shored up. It was bad and it was a sexual assault. This doesn't mean to say she has a right to be racist: it's just I know where it was compounded.

It may be that she and I are on a road to nowhere. I think we all shove things we don't like about people (their little foibles or hobbyhorses) into little boxes that we don't inspect too closely for our convenience and social harmony, or at least we prioritise our family/friends' good points over their flaws - but where do you draw the line? Some things probably don't jam into boxes too well.

The cruelty factor

I watched some of I'm a celebrity - Get me out of here and was nonplussed by it.
They do it to themselves, it's true, and that's what really hurts.

You know how Tarrant's audiences gasp with shock when they're shown some types of Japanese gameshows and you can feel the pleasurable frisson & whispers of 'ooh those Japanese people they're so weird and not like us' palpably running through them? I bet they're the same people watching the jungle and I've news for them: they're exactly like 'that'.

On the whole, I prefer sleb versions of reality tv generally because at least the people involved know the industry and very likely have agents and advisors who will help them to make the best money & get most mileage out of it.

Britain's Got Talent
and X-Factor make me uneasy, on a number of counts, particularly the early stages where the auditioning public often get thoroughly worked over by the likes of Simon Cowell. I think Matthew Wright used to refer to BGT as 'Laugh at the mentally challenged' or something like that and it does seem to be that way. Sure, once you reach the final stages it's supposedly about talent and performances winning out, but before that there's ritual humiliation for the majority of try-outs.

Of course the winners go on to high-profile careers (or most of them do) so there is that carrot and that hope for them in it. Big Brother doesn't appear to even have that going for it. One of the winners I think used to build for a DIY show and that screechy woman sometimes does talking head appearances for cheapo crappy "best 100 ___ of the year" clip shows. Otherwise they seem to tumble right back into obscurity. Which is no doubt a good thing for tv audiences everywhere, but presumably not what the contestants were looking for.

I suppose there used to be New Faces which was acceptable in the eighties. Iirc they had three judges sitting up in a box (like Statler and Waldorf from the muppets). I wonder if they were as scathing in New Faces as they are on these modern versions, I can't remember.

Reality tv is car-crash tv but this is where Strictly Come Dancing gets a big fat portion of win relatively, if you ask me. The worst humiliation a sleb gets there is if they just don't dance very well. The comments can be a bit cutting but being told (quite rightly) that you dance like my old dad isn't going to send anyone into a loony bin anytime soon.

Friday, November 13, 2009


Christopher Hitchens: God is not great: how religion poisons everything.

I was not sure what to think about this book. I went into it as a relatively resisting reader, not expecting to enjoy it at all, but it was a brisk and easy read as it turned out. (I suspect that would not be the case at all for a theistic reader).

But at the end I'm not convinced. It was mostly because of the socio-political history that Hitchens refers to and uses that, well, I know I don't know enough about, but I felt fairly keenly that his biases are showing, and not necessarily just about theism.

I was uncomfortable with his reference material and would be a lot happier had there been the meticulous referencing you might find perhaps in Dawkins' works. Hitchens is an essayist and this was a polemic, but I felt there wasn't really enough substance to this book and that the reader was expected to know where he was coming from and have reached similar conclusions about recent historical/political machinations, and there wasn't a lot of room for diverting views.

What Hitchens and I can agree on is sort of the more we know the more we realise we don't know and that's really exciting and enthralling rather than frightening.

But I'm not entirely convinced he really believes he has much to learn.

Monday, November 02, 2009


Forum bod on the subject of the twins from X-Factor's performance* this weekend:
"I just feel sorry for the people who have spent all that money on the large hadron collidor to get particles to spin round at the speed of light, when all they had to do was stand around poor Freddy Mercury's grave last Saturday night and watch him do it."

* Yes, I had the misfortune of seeing that bit. It was allegedly family-friendly** viewing while the children had some milk before bed to settle them after their exciting hallowe'en.
** I'm pretty sure it was unsuitable viewing. Should've come with a warning label: may cause headaches, dizziness, nausea and potential jaw-dislocation.

Arsey with my RC

I really loathe remote controls. I wish all tvs and digi-boxes and such had proper pressable buttons upon their very boxy bits. Why make me dependent on a small thing that can slip through undetectable interdimensional vortices and between cushions when a few buttons on the device itself could make me confident and self-assured and happy?

Losing remote controls in the living room makes me fiercely angry in a slightly worrying just within grips of insanity kind of a way. Where is it? Where is it?


I had a most pleasant hallowe'en, not having expected to enjoy it at all. But it worked out nicely.

Daughter was dying to go trick-or-treating, but I couldn't see it working in the village. Then son was invited to a hallowe'en party, (she was invited too), but because of the demographic of the party-goers (small boys) she didn't fancy it. I'd also agreed to do face-painting that afternoon, so that was a time constraint, and I was worried about inviting her friend over (it was our turn) only to have them running around at the venue while obviously I couldn't supervise them properly. It was all a bit hmm and a bit haw.

I was at a loss until she was invited by her friend to go trick-or-treating from theirs. Yay.

The face-painting went well and I was pretty happy with how my faces turned out. And everyone who had 'em done was complimentary.

The children's party held by a friend was fun for me as well as son. Loads of people came to their door trick-or-treating and there were some fantastic costumes: one was an amazing paper pumpkin head, which actually lit up. I wish I'd taken a picture.

Everything meshed well with timings so it wasn't this horrible stress of rushing about everywhere, despite having to go here and there for dropping off and all that. Ah, t'was good.

I was most bemused by this article when I got time to myself for internet trawling. Okaaay. Apparently hallowe'en's all abominations and curses, very exciting, very old testament... I have to admit to some concern over revel nights being so very wrong. The coffee ones taste good.