in which I lose a very dear friend

On Tuesday this week I was devastated to receive the news that one of my best friends had died.  We hadn't seen each other for a long time, but we'd been back in touch for a couple of years and I was hoping that, at some point soon, we would get to rekindle what was one the closest and more important friendships of my life.  It wasn't to be.  Her death was a shock and there's gaping hole in lots of people's lives as a result.

Whilst battling the mixed emotions caused her loss and by tracking down our mutual friends to let them know (there is such joy in finding people who used to be good friends and discovering that they're happy to hear from you, but it is coupled with such sadness that the reason for this reunion is the fact that a person you have in common has died), I did what I always do when I cant say the words I need to say - I wrote them down.

This is my letter to my friend.  I wish I'd sent it when she was alive.  I wish she knew how much I still cared about her and how much I will miss her.

My darling friend

You were my best friend.  We met when we were just 15 and together we navigated the tricky years, and terrible hairstyles, that took us to the adulthood we’d spent our teenage years planning - an adulthood that was never quite what we envisaged, not least in so far as neither one of us married Anthony Andrews (although we did meet him, so part of the plan was achieved).

You were petite and blonde, and very cool.  The opposite of my tall, brunette, not-at-all cool-ness.  I still remember the first time I saw you – it was my first day at a new school and I was feeling very new, and slightly scared, when you walked into the classroom (a little later than everyone else).  You smiled at me.  You were definitely the coolest girl in the class.  I don’t remember exactly how we became friends, but I think that drama class had something to do with it. Certainly by the start of the next school year we were best friends, inseparable, sitting together in every class we shared - that mad, elusive, inexplicable connection that creates a close friendship had been made.

In our teenage years, I was your fiercest protector - one early boyfriend really disliked me precisely because I was always on your side and, knowing me, probably quite gobby about it.  I’m still glad about that.

We did lots of drama productions together – O Level, A Level, school productions, an amateur production of Brigadoon (where we delighted a little girl with our ‘Gwendoline and Cecily’ impression).

Brideshead Revisited will always remind me of you.   Not the TV series that created our mutual love for Mr Andrews, but the book.  I remember us babysitting one evening, and reading extracts of the book out loud (Sebastian and Aloysius and the ‘bad Italian bears’) and laughing until we cried.  I remember skipping school for the day so that we could go to the National Theatre to see Anthony Andrews in a play (Coming in To Land, by Stephen Poliakoff, I still have my copy), it also starred Maggie Smith, but we didn’t care about her (!).  It was a beautiful, warm, sunny April day.   After the play we ate sandwiches on the South Bank.  That was when I spotted Anthony Andrews leaving through the stage door.  It was you who insisted on asking for his autograph – but when we got to the stage door you were so overwhelmed that you literally couldn’t speak.  I did all the talking, asking if he’d mind signing my copy of the play.  He then looked at you.  You just stared at him mutely and nodded – he signed the piece of paper you held up with shaking hands.

We loved going to London (we’d often visit Simpsons on The Strand – it WAS owned by Anthony Andrews’ wife’s family after all….) and go to the beauty counters and put on the expensive perfumes – to this day Chanel No 19 reminds me of visiting London with you.  We ate strawberries and drank wine in Green Park.  I imagined a life when we’d live in London and do this whenever we wanted.

You were so funny.  You could always make me laugh.  I can still picture you singing the (utterly inexplicable) lyrics of the Echo and the Bunnymen song, Thorn of Crowns.  I have that album on my ipod today and every time that song comes on I think of you and smile.

For the next twelve years you were a constant presence in my life.  When we’d left school and gone on to different Universities, then new careers, and then new homes, we could only see each other a few times a year, but when we did get together it was like no time had passed at all.  Within minutes we were laughing, remembering, finding out what was new.  I remember the distinctive spider-scrawl of your handwriting, always legible (unlike mine) and how you never forgot my birthday – I always knew which card was yours before I opened it.

The last time I saw you were heading back home after Christmas and you stopped over at my flat.  You had a kitten with you, that you’d called ‘Lepton’ – because he leaped on to everyone’s lap.

We did lose touch when we got older, but you were never far from my mind.  Friends and family would always ask if I’d heard from you and how you were.  Any discussion of school or youth would always lead to you – you were inextricably part of my late teens/early twenties.  Every Christmas I would write a card.  Every November 26th I would wish you a happy birthday and wonder what you were doing.   As my own oldest daughter reached the age of 15 I would tell her tales of our exploits.  I’d watch her with her friends and remember us with ours.  I missed you so much.  I’m so grateful that we did reconnect a few years ago, but that’s tinged with such sadness that we never got to meet, or hug, or make each other laugh, again.

You will always be in my heart.   There you are forever young and beautiful and safely tucked away with my golden memories of our shared past.

I will miss you.

Sleep tight sweetie.


in which I buy a calender

As this blog has documented, I am used to being pretty much the sole voice protesting against the unfairness and idiocy prompted by (to date) yoga hating christian extremists, and mac obsessed apple evangelists.  Both of these disputes have been characterised by the fact that I was pretty much the only person prepared to put my head on the block to fight for something that I believed in.  So, when the Lord's lap dancing club was given the green light by council officials, I was slightly shocked to find myself in a group that apparently represented a substantial chunk of the community in which I live.  This is a new experience for me.

As one of my earlier entries pointed out, one of my concerns about the campaign to stop the club was that just not enough people were bothered about it and that perhaps, therefore, those of us who were not happy might have to accept that we were in a minority.  Not so. A petition objecting to the licence being granted has gathered well over 2,000 signatures - not bad when you consider this is a community of around 7,000 people, of whom about 5,000 are adults and therefore old enough to sign a petition.  This looks like a mandate of around 40% of the adult community.  Most local councilors would be grateful for that kind of percentage in a local election.

However, the thing is that all 2,000 or so people who object to the lap dancing club do so for a variety of reasons.  Some on moral grounds, some on location grounds (these people wouldn't object to a lap dancing club in a different location, just not in the town centre), some on feminist grounds, some because they have small children and worry about what they might see, some because they worry about crime levels in the town centre, some for all of these reasons, some for none of them.  For every individual there is a different reason to object.  There was a protest meeting in the town centre attended by about 700 people, and one of the people interviewed by the press pointed out that there were lots of men present and that therefore this wasn't 'some feminist protest'  - I assume he said this to point out that the protesters were a broad representation of the community as opposed to suggesting that feminist protests had no validity, however, this serves to further demonstrate that everyone has a different reason for opposing the lap dancing club.  I learned this the hard way recently when I was asked if I was one of the people who had objected to the lap dancing club, and, I said "Oh yes, of course, on feminist grounds", the reply I got was a hard stare and a sneery "oh?  not on Middle Narnia grounds then?".  I was slightly taken aback by the coldness of the response, but I guess everyone has an opinion and naturally, not everyone agrees on everything.

The most recent split in opinion has been prompted by the arrival of the Middle Narnia Calender Boys.  This is a group of local men who have posed naked, with their bits strategically covered, for a calender to raise money for prostate and testicular cancer.

To publicise the calender, the Calender Boys posed nude (with their hands covering their bits) in the town centre in a spot in which the building housing the lap dancing club is visible. A small group of people have responded to this not only with accusations of hypocrisy (the people who make this objection seem to be people who are keen to rubbish the campaign and suggest that Middle Narnia is full of puritanical, hypocritical, nimbys) but also with accusations of 'undermining the campaign'.  For some people, the fact that these brave chaps posed naked in the town centre on a bitingly cold October morning (I'm guessing the temperature made it easier to cover up their bits), it is not an example of their sense of humour and their commitment to a good cause, but an ill thought out move that is detrimental to the campaign to oppose the lap dancing club.  All complaining parties seem to be questioning how people can be opposed to a lap dancing club featuring sexualised female nudity and yet support a calender featuring (tastefully covered up) humorous male nudity.  I didn't understand, still don't understand, how people can confuse the two.

A lap dancing club posits women as sexual objects who are there simply to be looked at (we hope nothing more) by men who pay them to dance for them.  The charity calender is so far from sexually objectifying the men involved that I don't know where to begin to explain the difference.

Lets start by looking at the very first Calendar Girls.  Back in 1998 a group of Women from the Rylstone & District Womens Institute decided to produce a nude version of the annual WI charity calender.  This was a deliberate move away from the traditional WI calender featuring scenery or pets and also an ironic take on that bastion of motor repair garages and other male dominated work areas - the 'girly calender'.  Calenders like the Pirelli Calender which, since the mid 1960s, has featured an annual feast of young, sexually available looking young women posing in various degrees of undress in various car related environments.  The Rylstone Calender Girls took this tradition and turned it on its head.  It featured several women of a certain age, posing nude in various locations, but always with their boobs and other vital bits strategically covered.   The Pirelli calender and others of its ilk presented its models as sexual objects, the Rylstone calender did the opposite - it celebrated the humour and self deprecation of the women who took part, it cocked a snook at and undermined girly calenders.  The Middle Narnia Calender Boys are simply following in this tradition.

I think it is a crying shame that they are being given such a hard time, especially given that just last year, in those halcion days before a lap dancing club here was a remote possibility and the Lord was just a sometime antique shop and cafe owner, we had our very own Middle Narnia Calender Girls, whose calender raised a brilliant £13,500 for the Samantha Dickson Brain Tumour Trust.  No, these girls didn't pose nude in the town centre - lets face it, its more difficult for women to cover their modesty than men (who only need a pair of hands) - but even if they had, I bet they wouldn't have been given as hard a time about it as the men have been this year.  The other sad thing is that many of the men involved in the calender are also part of the 2,000 people who signed the petition and were among the 700 who turned up to protest against the lap dancing club.  

In my opinion (and I know that not everyone agrees), to suggest that posing nude in the town centre somehow undermines the campaign is to suggest that the campaign is somehow just about nudity, or to say that all nudity is sexual, or perhaps to suggest that the men in question were somehow providing sexual entertainment.  Surely it isn't?  Surely they weren't?   Surely, even if ,the campaign isn't 'some feminist protest' it is about opposing the sexual objectification of women, highlighting concerns about the sexual entertainment industry itself and pointing out the inappropriate location for a sexual entertainment venue?   I don't see how any of these goals are undermined by the calender or its publicity.  In fact, surely the fact that these men felt able to pose in this way to publicise their calender without feeling threatened shows what a family friendly town Middle Narnia is?  Perhaps the fact that it's impossible to pose anywhere in the town centre without being near the lap dancing club also serves to highlight again what an inappropriate location it is in?

Anyway.  I'm looking forward to getting my copy.  I don't wish to offend any of the gentlemen involved, but when I get my calender, it won't be so that I can ogle the men, it will be so I can have a laugh at where they've posed and the humour with which they've covered their bits up.  I'll enjoy the calender because it's funny, because it's raising money for a good cause and because I'm proud to be part of a community which has people prepared to do this to raise money.
  • Current Mood
    contemplative contemplative

In which I try to teach the cat to reverse

My sister and I have done a 'child swap for a couple of days. So, Oldest Son is down in Midsomer Harrumph until Thursday, whooping it up with his 11 year old cousin (good luck to my sister with those two).  To my horror, Oldest Daughter (aka my right hand girl, indispensable helper and Saffy to my Edina) has also hitched a ride down there so she can stay with my parents and see some of her friends.  Her departure has left the Fourkids household without a sensible calming influence, who also knows how all the technology in the house works.  I am bereft.  

In exchange, I've got my niece who is best friend of,and co-conspirator in various dark deeds with, Youngest Daughter.  I have to say, in terms of volume, and possibly mischief (although the jury's out on that one), I've got the better end of the bargain.  However, in terms of clothes being left on the floor and beauty products being sprayed everywhere, I think I lose.  

Youngest son has been their chief project and has appeared in various outfits with various clothes at various points over the last couple of days.  Until yesterday afternoon he was quite enjoying this (and a whole bottle of my expensive styling spray has gone into his various 'looks') and despite smelling vaguely of cheap perfume he's been happy to go along with their various games. However, I did have to rescue him yesterday afternoon, when it went a bit wrong.  I'd been hearing I shrieks of gleeful laughter and calls from the girls to come and see a 'fashion show' for about ten minutes, which I'd ignored because I was wrestling with a knotty killer sudoku.  However, when I realised that what I'd thought was hysterical laughter was in fact heartbroken sobs from Youngest Son, my keen parental senses were alerted (!), and I wearily trudged upstairs to see what was amiss.  I came across a scene probably repeated in drag clubs across the country -   youngest son standing, sobbing, in front of the bathroom mirror, wiping at his mascara-streaked face with cotton wool, wearing only his pants - an abandoned red velvet dress wilting in the corner.  

A quick assessment of the scene determined that what was needed was make up remover wipes.  As I cleaned the face of my sobbing son I got to the bottom of the matter as he explained: "they... (sob)........ said (gasp)..... I couldn't go to prom........ (sob).......unless I was a.......(gulp)....... girl'.  He was just about calmed by his face being restored to normal and a pair of shorts and a T shirt to replace his dress, when he spotted his toes......... they'd given him a multicoloured pedicure.  This took a bit more work to remove - Youngest Son was horrified by the nail polish remover and you wouldn't believe how bloody long it took to get the stuff off his toenails!  I think Youngest Son would claim that this child-swap was not entirely successful. 

Having calmed all of that down, things went pretty smoothly.  Youngest Son fell asleep, muttering about proms and girls and mascara brands and I settled down to an evening in front of the TV (which ironically featured a fantastic drama with Sean Bean as a transvestite - brilliant as it was, I couldn't help but think of Youngest Son's trauma every time there was a scene with him removing his make up).  I was about to go to bed when I heard Youngest Son (who had by this time migrated into my bed) shout "Mummy!  The cat's doing something dangerous!".  Now, given that he's prone to shouting all sorts of stuff in his sleep, I didn't pay too much attention, however, when I got to my bedroom, ten minutes later, I wished I had.  

Youngest Son was not talking in his sleep.  My bedroom has a bay window, there are two windows that open - one on the right, that opens to the right and one on the left that opens to the left.  I usually open both of these windows when I go to bed and the cat often walks between the two open windows and sleeps on the windowsill.  What happened last night was that one of the kids had opened the right hand window and the cat had wandered out, and with no left hand window to stop her,had just continued round the corner until she got to the wall at the end of the windowsill and realised she was stuck.

Now, I don't know about you, but I have no idea how to explain to a petrified cat that all she needs to do is 'reverse' and she'll be fine.

After ten minutes spent hanging out of various windows on the first floor to see if I could coax her in, I decided that perhaps if I just left her she'd calm down and work it out.  So, I left the window open and and Youngest Son and I  lay down in the dark and waited.  After five minutes of her distressed howling I realised that this wasn't going to work and realised I might have to take drastic action.

You have to bear in mind that we're renting this house, and most of our DIY stuff (things like ladders) are still in our shed in Midsomer Harrumph.  As an added complication, my Landlord lives in the house which is basically in the front garden of our house.   He and his wife were awake the whole time this was happening - I could see their open patio door.  So, the whole time I was leaning out of my bedroom window saying "come on sweetheart", I was aware that my actions could be construed in a less than positive light.  

A review of the situation (I couldn't grab her by the tail and there was no way in through any other window), led me to the conclusion that the only thing I could do was to remove the left hand window by its hinges.  That way I could pick her up safely and worry about fixing the window in the morning.  Leaving aside the complication of how I'd unscrew the, outward facing, window with one hand and keep hold of it with the other (oh Oldest Daughter I miss you), I went in search of a screwdriver.

It was when I got to the toolbox (located at the back of the garage under various spiderwebs and suitcases) that I realised the screwdriver was missing.  This was the point where I remembered Youngest Daughter gleefully telling me she'd fixed something 'using the screwdriver and everything' last week.  This meant it could be absolutely bloody anywhere.  So, whilst berating myself for not listening and picking dust and spider webs out of my hair I trawled the depths of Mr P's toolbox to see if there were any other screwdrivers.  This was not what I needed at 11.30pm.  Eventually I found a single, slightly rusty, screwdriver, and hoping that it had the right sort of head I ran upstairs to the bedroom to tackle the window.

Of course, sods law dictated that, by the time I'd found a screwdriver, the bloody cat had now managed to turn around and was actually facing in the right direction, so (in theory) all I had to do was persuade her to walk forwards and through the right hand window.  

Well. after various attempts, and cajolings and waving her food bowl out of the window (God only knows what the Landlord thinks I was doing), I realised this was also not going to work.  So, going on the basis that cats apparently always land on their feet, so if anything went wrong she'd be fine, I went for the radical option.  I capitalised on the fact she'd turned around,opened the left hand window and literally grabbed her by the scruff of her neck dragged her under the window frame and up through it.  Cat saved. 

From today I have learned some valuable lessons.  I have learned that sometimes even the best mascara isn't good enough for a potential prom queen, that little girls can make nail varnish stick like superglue and that Youngest Son is not comfortable with his feminine side.  Most importantly however, I have learned that you should never just assume your six year old is talking in his sleep and you can't teach a cat to reverse.

  • Current Mood
    happy happy

In which I clarify

Good morning.

Not much news to report re the Club today (so far, the day is young).   Although, interestingly, there is also a campaign going on in the (much larger) town a few miles to the north of us to implement a 'nil policy' regarding strip clubs there.  So the people of Middle Narnia aren't alone in having concerns about these sort of venues.  

I'm really honoured to say that my blog has been posted on the Middle Narnia objectors facebook page.  Apart from a brief period in April 2011 when about 100 people in Singapore read my blog to see how it had caused my kids to be kicked out of school, I don't think it's ever been read by anyone apart from my Mum, Dad, Mr P and a couple of loyal friends.  I'm also relieved to say that, so far, all of the comments about my blog on the facebook page have been kind and considered, I can't tell you how grateful I am. Hopefully this means it won't cause me to be exiled from Middle Narnia.  

I did just want to clarify one thing though.  I've been picked up for referring to the Club owner as 'the Lord', with the suggestion being that this lends him some sort of gravitas.  I'm sorry if that's what I appear to do.  Trust me, I don't see a title of any kind as impressive in and of itself (although people who 'earn' their titles like lovely Dame Judi Dench impress me very much).  Hereditary titles don't impress me and anyone who feels they can use a hereditary title to 'add weight' to their argument, is just showing how worthless their argument is.  I'm sure, therefore, you can imagine how seriously I would take anyone who would buy a title, or change their name by deed poll to suggest one?  

I know that the Lord isn't a Peer.  My use of the term 'the Lord' is just a simple way for me to refer to him without naming him.  I've never named anyone in this blog  - I can get into enough trouble when it's anonymous, if I started naming people I shudder to think how large the defamation case bill would be. :o
  • Current Mood
    embarrassed embarrassed

In which I get down off my soapbox

Yes - you did read that right. 

I've been following events regarding the Lord's Lap Dancing club with interest, and actually, what has surprised me more than anything is how little support the objectors seem to have,  There are just over 100 people who have joined the facebook page which is trying to spearhead some sort of action, and when you consider that Middle Narnia has a population of around 7,000, that really isn't that much. I think the fact that only around 1.5%* of the town's population are bothered enough to protest, suggests that people are not that bothered,  Even if you accept that the facebook page might not be representative of the total number of people who object (many might not have facebook account or internet access), and double the figure, it's still not very many.  Don't get me wrong, I think they are a noble, principled and sincere group of people and I admire and respect their beliefs and their determination to make a stand.   Goodness knows, and as this blog has shown, I've been a lone protesting voice often enough - I'm the last person who would ever criticise anyone for standing up for what they believe in. 

My personal take on the Club is that it probably won't last for long and it almost certainly won't have that big an impact on the town centre.  I don't really buy the argument that it will 'lower the tone' of the town.  Middle Narnia is the lovely place it is, not just because of the shops but because of the people, and they won't change. - you can't make a convent look like a brothel by getting one prostitute to knock at the door.  This is one building, one business in a town full of lovely businesses and the other businesses will stay the same - especially because they are all open during the day and the Club doesn't open until they've all closed.  I could be wrong - this time next year Middle Narnia's lovely town centre could be a red-lit Soho, with  a string of Massage Parlours lining the town square.  But, somehow I doubt it.  I accept that there may be a small increased crime risk - but, again, I think that the local police will be well aware and it's in the Lord's interest to ensure that there isn't any trouble - he must know that the locals will report every minor infraction that occurs.  I won't be letting my teenager walk home alone when it's open, but this isn't because I think the town will suddenly be full of perverts, wearing macs and fondling their bits in public, but because whilst 99.99% of people who go to the Club will be fine (well, apart from their dubious taste in entertainment), it's the 0.01% risk that someone dodgy will be around, and if I can avoid that risk, then I will.  The other thing is, IF the Club does have a negative impact on the town centre and crime rises, then, assuming it actually stays open that long, the licence won't be renewed next year and the Club will close.   

I do think it is a great shame that a better use can't be found for such a beautiful building, but, ultimately, the business is perfectly legal and the Lord is perfectly within his rights to do what he wants there as long as he's acting within the law.  I suspect this may be why there isn't as much objection as I thought there would be.  The Club is certainly the talk of the town - but most people I've spoken to still seem vaguely amused by the whole thing - I've spoken to many ladies 'of a certain age' who have joked about a career change.  If If they're serious, I think the Lord will get the shock of his life on audition day.

Yes, I object to the Club, any such club, on feminist grounds, but I've been carrying my feminist principles around with me, like a well used, somewhat battered suitcase ever since I was 15 when my brilliant English teacher first taught me about patriarchal societies.  However, whilst my beliefs are almost as important to me as breathing, I accept that to others they are irrelevant, unimportant or even downright laughable.  I have many friends with very deep Christian beliefs - I understand and respect them but I don't share them.  I have long accepted that this is the case with my beliefs and whilst, when asked, I will argue passionately for their truth, I don't believe I have the right to force them on everybody in every circumstance.  I have to accept that we live in a society where a a 'public figure' like Des Lynham can make comments about female voices commenting on sports being inferior to male ones, and take some consolation from the fact that a sexist rag like the Daily Mail is outraged by him, and try not get too worried about the fact he thought he had the right to say it in the first place.   I'd rather we lived in a society where there was no desire for Lap Dancing Clubs, but we don't, and I have to accept that, or I'd be writing letters of protest all day.

I just hope that, if the protests are unsuccessful, that the people of Middle Narnia who object to the Club can show what a class act they are and respond with dignity to this intrusion on their beliefs.  I read on the facebook page that someone's husband, who apparently bears a resemblance to the Lord was given dirty looks as he walked through town.  That makes me almost as sad as the fact that the building isn't being used for something different.  If, as has been widely reported,  the Lord doesn't like the people of Middle Narnia, then treating him with hostility and disdain, or writing insults on his windows in lipstick, is hardly going to prove him wrong.   

The other thing I think we need to focus on if the Club opens is the welfare of the girls who will be working there. One of the first people to comment on my earlier blog entry regarding the objectification of women, said that she knew lots of people who worked in strip joints and Lap Dancing Clubs and that, far from feeling objectified they felt they were earning good money and exploiting the men who were paying for them to strip or dance.  I can't argue with that - I would go as far as to say 'good on them' - but I would argue that they're still working within the system that allows women to be treated as sex objects.  However, I have also read some horror stories about how the girls are treated, and I think it's vital to make sure that the girls in the Middle Narnia club are treated with respect - both by customers at the Club and residents of the town - after all, they are earning a perfectly legal living and it's not their fault that the venue they work at is unpopular.  

In the meantime, good luck to the Middle Narnia Objectors.  I think, as a group, they are doing well.  They have weathered a couple of snarky editorials in the local press, including one fairly patronizing one explaining to them how they should have objected in the first place (which I think, as intelligent people, they already knew).  There does also seem to be an element of people who are enjoying the fact that Middle Narnia, which is known for its 'poshness', will have a Lap Dancing Club in its town centre and are delighting in throwing accusations of snobbery and Nimbyism at them.  I don't think they are either of these, but it's difficult to object to something which has so many moral arguments involved to it, without seeming to be both.

I'll keep watching with interest.  Apparently, our local MP, who used to be quite chummy with the Lord (well, her blog from a few years ago mentions that she let him park her car - that must take a degree of trust and friendship)  has taken time out from bigging up Boris Johnson as the future Tory Leader, to say she shares locals concerns about the Club.  Who knows, maybe she'll be able to add some welly to the objectors' campaign?  

*apologies - I've just amended this figure, after it was politely pointed out to me that 100/7000 most definitely DOESN'T constitute 0.01% as I originally wrote.  I can only apologise - I know as well as you do, that 70 people in 7000 constitute 1%, I made the mistake of blindly trusting my laptop 'calculator'.  I suspect this may be at the root of several of my 'accounting errors' over the past few years - Mr P take note - it's not me it's the laptop!  :)

  • Current Mood
    contemplative contemplative

In which I find a letter

Things have all gone a 'wibbly wobbly timey wimey' here in Middle Narnia today.  As I was sorting out the recycling this morning, I found the letter below.  Weirdly it is dated December 2013...........

Dear Grandma

I'm sorry I haven't written for a while.  Things have been very exciting here in Middle Narnia.

Do you remember last year I told you that a Lap Dancing Club was about to open here?  Well, open it did and I can't begin to tell you what a change it has made to local life.  

For a start, the locals really got behind the business  - we took the Lord  who owns the club at his word (Yes!  A real life Lord!  Apparently he wasn't born to the title, he bought it, but hey - a Lord is a Lord and he's certainly added a touch of class to Middle Narnia) and everyone who met his criterion (dancers aged 18-60, male, female, gay, lesbian, transgender, no experience required as training will be given) auditioned for the Club.  You'd be amazed at how many transgender lesbian 60 year olds there are in Middle Narnia - those auditions got more than a bit competitive apparently.  There was also a bit of protest from people in the town about the age limit - one octogenarian even sent a youtube clip of himself  break-dancing  to the local paper to prove that his age group should have been included.  But, after a while, things calmed down, the Lord chose his dancers (of whom most were Middle Narnia ladies aged from 40-60, so he's also boosted local employment) and the Club opened just before Christmas last year.

Well, since it's been open, it's become such an important part of the community.  You would really have enjoyed this year's Gala Day.  This years theme was 'dances of the world'.  The Club took first prize for their display in the walking parade.  Sadly the kids from the two playgroups and two lower schools (one of which normally wins each year) were in tears.  Unfortunately though, their dance themed displays (ballet, hip hop, tap and expressive dance) just couldn't compete with the Club's brave display of naked limbo and salsa.  Their display was described by Middle Narnia's Mayor as 'eye popping' and indeed it was - I don't think Middle Narnia has ever seen anything like that before.  I think the highlight was the two 'human towers' of ten naked 50 year olds salsa-ing their way through to Middle Narnia Great Park.  Truly amazing.

As a valued part of the community, the Club have also been involved with lots of local events.  Their sale of battery operated glow in the dark novelty 'toys' really lit up the annual Fireworks display in the Great Park and I can't even begin to describe how they transformed the annual 'turning on' of the Christmas lights ceremony.   They are such a valued part of our little town, and located so centrally within it, that we've renamed our local newsletter (previously called Around The Pump) to 'Around The Pump and Grind', most appropriate.

There have been other, unpredictable, benefits to the local economy too.  Due to the number of local people aged 40 plus employed by the Club, the local chemist is reporting that sales of Glucosamine have rocketed.  There were a few days where they'd struggled to meet demand, however, they now assure us that they've sourced a new supplier and there's no need to panic buy anymore.  Pocket money among local kids is also up - they complained that it was impractical to put pound coins in the pants of the Club dancers, so parents have been forking out five and ten pound notes every week.  Sadly, the local hospital is also reporting that the number of hip replacements requested for Middle Narnia patients (who are dancers at the Club) is also up, but hey - every silver lining has a cloud.

Oooh yes - I forgot to tell you.  Remember I told you about the 'Lipstick Attacker' last year?  Well, we had another regrettable incident last week (someone used lipstick to scrawl 'I am a little bit miffed' on the Club window).   So, we called Barnaby and Troy up from Midsomer Harrumph.  So far they have determined that the shade used was 'Rampant Ruby' by Rimmel.  Now that there have been two incidents in 18 months everyone is now keeping a serious eye out for this maniac.  At first I thought it was one of those pesky feminists, but someone pointed out that they don't wear lipstick, so I've now put together a short list of the twenty or so 60 year old transgender lesbians who didn't make the final cut in the Club auditions - I reckon we'll find our girl there.

Anyway, that's all of my news for now.  I can't wait to see you next week.  I've got you the nipple tassles and the thong you asked for and the Lord says you can audition for him at 2pm on Monday!  Good luck!

Loads of love

Me xxxxxx
  • Current Mood
    quixotic quixotic

In which I don't write a letter

Since I last wrote we've moved back to England.  We haven't moved back to Midsomer Harrumph - after all I've got form there, and I've pissed off the vicar, so it wasn't really an option.  Instead, we've returned to our family roots in the place christened by fireflyliv as Middle Narnia.  I was born just down the road and lived here until I was fourteen, we then moved to Midsomer Harrumph because of my Dad's job.  Thirteen years later Mr P got a job in the area and we moved back.  We then spent ten very happy years here before our decision to move to Midsomer Harrumph (to be near family) and whilst we were in Singapore we decided that, actually, we'd like to come back here and settle for good, when we went home.  So here we are.  

Well, I say 'we', unfortunately Mr P is still in Singapore.  He's there until December.  The reasons why are a two bottle of wine story - where you glaze over with boredom and nod politely whilst I wax lyrical about what happened and how much I despise the company that Mr P works for (Even I don't dare put those particular thoughts into a public blog.....).  Anyway, me, the kids and our Singapore cat are now  nicely settled into Middle Narnia and we are really happy to be here.

It's amazing how little has changed here in the five years since we moved away.   The main reason we wanted to return was the strong community and that is the same and as welcoming as ever.  The first time I walked into the town centre I was quite taken aback when someone walking past me said 'good morning' and commented on how lovely the weather was.  I'd forgotten that people did that.  In Singapore, people are lovely and polite but they don't talk to strangers on the street. The same events that we used to love participating in - the annual summer Gala Day, the fireworks display, the turning on of the Christmas Lights and the carols round the Christmas Tree are all still happening and the town is still as  lovely as I remember it.  I say 'town' because that's technically what it is, but it's more like a village in most people's understanding of the term - it's small, it's rural and it has a lovely array of mostly local shops (no sign of a Starbucks, or a McDonalds here).  In fact the only 'high street' shops here are a Martins newsagents and a rather lovely Waitrose.  You can still buy your bread from the local bakery and get your meat from the local butcher.  There's a market every Thursday where you can stock up on fruit and veg and get clothes pegs and plants and choose a lovely cake from the WI stall.  The schools are all within walking distance and there is a beautiful park to go with the kids.  It really is a lovely place to be.  

However, things have been shaken up here a bit at the moment, by the granting of a sexual entertainment licence to a premises which face directly onto the central town square.  Yep  - I kid you not.  Middle Narnia is apparently about to get a Lap Dancing Club.  

As a woman and a feminist (and I don't see how you can be one without being the other) I don't want a Lap Dancing Club, or any establishment that encourages the sexual objectification of women, anywhere.   However,I am fascinated by some of the local reaction to this.

Middle Narnia has a long and noble history of objecting to stuff and something of a reputation for snobbery and nimby-ism.  In the ten years we lived in the town, there were petitions against building a supermarket in the town (until Waitrose proposed to build one, at which point there was actually a poster campaign urging residents to support it 'because it's Waitrose'.....), there was much protesting about the building of a new Centre Parcs holiday village a couple of miles down the road, many objections happened regarding the building of the Nirah research centre ten miles away and you should have seen the reaction when the county council proposed changing the way the schools were run.  Recently there was a bit of a fuss when a tattoo parlour opened in what used to be an antique shop.  I was rather proud of the fact that most local residents (even those not keen on getting a tat) supported the fact that it meant a empty shop was now an operating business.  One person, however, took it upon themselves to conduct a defamatory leaflet campaign suggesting that the tattoo parlour would lower the tone of the town and that people who end up walking past discarded needles and bloodstained tissues as they walked past the shop.  Fortunately this person was very much in the minority.  

As this blog has proved, if I believe in something I throw myself into it heart and soul, but throughout all of these local issues, I have sat quietly and watched what happened, with a vague sense of being the only person who either supported the proposed change, or who didn't have strong feelings either way.  As someone who doesn't drive and walks everywhere, I was quite keen for a new supermarket, I loved the idea of a Centre Parcs just down the road (all those spa days), I didn't care either way about Nirah, I had no idea if the school proposals were good or bad and I could see no problem with a tattoo parlour.

When the notification of the application for a sex-entertainment licence was first posted (in the window of the proposed premises), I assumed it was a bit of a wind up.  The person who owns the lease on the building is not exactly known for his love of Middle Narnia and the opportunity to wind a few people up would have been too good for him to miss.  His follow up notice, in the same window, asking for entertainers of all sexual persuasions and aged up to 60 to audition for his establishment was genuinely funny and made me laugh out loud.   However, it did seem preposterous that a premises in a small residential area like the town centre could be granted a sexual entertainment licence.   As I've said, my objections to this are more general, however, when applying for licences moral or philosophical arguments don't apply, and ones re 'location' do.  So, like everyone I was surprised when the licence was granted.

Cue the good people of Middle Narnia doing what they do best and objecting.  

As I've said, I fully support the objection to the establishment being created.  As a mother of daughters I don't want them to think it's ok for women to be treated that way.  As a mother of sons I don't want them to grow up and think it's ok to view women as sexual objects.   But I am surprised by the direction some of the reactions and objections have taken.  

I think my main concern is the 'not in Middle Narnia' thrust of the objections. Whilst I understand that this is probably one of the only legal ways to 'object' to a licence being granted, I suspect it will simply confirm in many people's minds that the people of Middle Narnia are snobs and Nimbys.   It's absolutely not snobbery or Nimby-ism to say you don't agree with the sexual objectification of women.  The fact is that this sort of establishment is unacceptable anywhere.  However, by saying 'not here, but somewhere else' are we saying that, in the 21st century, it's ok to treat women as sexual objects?  What does that say about us as a community?  The fact that Middle Narnia is objecting should be, could be, an enlightened stance as opposed to one based on 'we're not that sort of place' which seems to suggest that people here think a sex establishment is ok somewhere else?  Is that really what we're saying?

One of the main objections that I've seen so far is that the establishment will be opposite a 'popular local toyshop'.  Well, yes, it is.  Now.  But, the toyshop only moved there a few weeks ago.  Also, the establishment is only going to be open at night and as far as I'm aware most kids don't buy toys from 7pm until 1.30 am.  Secondly the entrance to the establishment will be at the back of the property, which I think means, that nothing will really be visible from the front.  You'd have thought from some people's reactions that the premises' frontage was about to be bedecked with red lights and feature provocatively dressed ladies, pumping, grinding and generally cavorting in the (rather lovely) windows at the front of the property, whilst being leched over by greasy old men in macs and giving four year olds - who are innocently buying stickers in the toyshop - 'come hither' looks.  

Another point, apparently raised at a meeting held on Sunday, is that the town centre was once a 'no go' area and that it's now a safe place to be and that this establishment will spoil this.  Now, I've lived, or have had friends and family, in this area most of my life, and I don't remember the town centre ever being a 'no go' area.  However, I agree that I won't feel comfortable on my own in the town centre if this place opens. This is precisely because , as I said before, it's more like a village here than a 'town' here and any change in the trading population of the town centre has much a bigger impact in a small place than it would in a large one. 

I fully understand and share people's concerns regarding the men who will be visiting the establishment and who will be in the town centre, and I must admit, I won't be letting my teenage daughter walk through the town centre on her own in the evening if this place opens.  I simply have too many reservations about the men who would want to visit that sort of place, and any risk, however small, is too big a risk to expose her to.

However, despite my reservations about the way some concerns have been raised, I think the locals' plan to report every incident that occurs in the town centre from now on and demand a 'crime number' (which means it has to be logged on police statistics - if things aren't given a crime number they are not counted) is a stroke of genius.  After all - until now there has only been one *recorded* crime in the town centre.  I can see the wonderful Middle Narnia locals proving that crime has risen by 1000% since the licence was granted at this rate.

The most recent news is that apparently someone wrote 'scum' on the window of the proposed premises in lipstick.  No-one knows who it was (my money's on the tattoo parlour leafleter), and I will now, Miss Marple-like be watching the local woman very carefully for signs of misuse of lipstick.  

In the meantime, amusingly, the lipstick incident has now been given a crime number  See - crime has already doubled and the establishment isn't even open yet. 

  • Current Mood
    contemplative contemplative

Blog On........

On 11th March 2011 I received an email from my children's school about a laptop scheme.  On March 28th I wrote an entry about what was happening in this blog, something which set in motion a chain of events no-one could have anticipated. Nearly a year on, I'm still slightly staggered by what happened.

Before March 28th, my blog had only been read by a handful of friends in England and my Mum and Dad. In fact, the only reason it was publicly available at all was because Mum and Dad weren't livejournal members but wanted to read it.

However, within just eleven days of that first blog entry the school had decided that what I had said in the blog was so insulting and offensive that they could not teach my children after the current school year had ended.

Like many other amateur bloggers, I've always used my blog as a way of 'letting off steam' and of laughing at myself and at situations in which I find myself and others ridiculous.  As such the blog is not really a representation of 'me' - or at least not me as a whole person.  It's certainly a part of me - the part you might see down the pub having a rant about how crap council tax rises are, getting political about how I loathe the Tories, or laughing about the time I fell over drunk, headfirst into a hedge, and lost a bag of shoes.  It's highly unlikely though, to represent the me that's 'nice' or pleasant, or polite - after all there's not much point, or much fun, in writing about 'nice' stuff (Dear Diary - today I dropped the children off at school, I smiled at the teacher and told her to have a good day' - this actually happens every day, but no-one, not even my Mum would want to read that).  So, I can understand that, if you don't know me and you come across this blog, you might think I'm curmudgeonly old battleaxe (not true - yet - I aspire to be a curmudgeonly old battleaxe), a middle aged housewife with nothing better to do than write letters of complaint to busy people (again, not strictly true, I do have much better things to do, it's just that sometimes I think something is so important that someone should write), someone with a pathological dislike of schools (I know, I know - this blog has been mainly about schools - but I have actually only criticised two small things about two out of the six schools my kids have attended), or possibly a borderline alcoholic with a chardonnay problem (mea culpa).

Yet within days of starting what I intended to be a humorous, but factual, account of events, in a personal blog, I was dealing with four heartbroken children, who were still new to Singapore (we had only been here eight months at the time) and was left wondering what on earth had happened.  I didn't understand how a situation, a debate, between grown adults could come to the point where four children could be asked to leave a school.   One year on I still struggle to understand what went so wrong, how what I wrote could have caused such offence.   However, clearly the person I appeared to be in my blog was a person that they felt they did not want to deal with.  

My blog reflected the fact that I was taught, and I have taught my children, that you should stand up for what you think is right even if it does make life difficult.  I still believe that, but I do understand why people don't do it.  I understand why people decide to keep quiet about things they think are wrong (from the little things in life to the great big things), to protect people they care about.  If standing up for what you think is right leads to people you love being hurt, then, perhaps sometimes keeping quiet can be the better option?  I must admit, I had no idea that my children would be affected by my writing about something so relatively minor.  Perhaps if I had known I would have done things differently.  I don't know - I suspect my inner battleaxe would probably do the same thing all over again if faced with the same situation (although maybe next time I'll lock the blog entries - no-one can say that I don't learn from experience. :D).  

Anyway, I'm glad to say that one year on, the children are all ok.  They love their new school, they also joke and laugh about their old one and what happened there - they see the funny side of what happened to them, even if I struggle to.  My Oldest Daughter even started her own blog as a result of what happened.  So far  she's even avoided offending anyone (she's a chip off the old block and has got plenty of time though).
In the meantime I'll keep blogging.  Just think, from September, my four children will be at three schools between them.  Can you IMAGINE how much trouble I could get into?

A week off

Well, the kids have finally completed their first 'half' term (aka eleven weeks, yes ELEVEN) at their new school. After eleven (ELEVEN!!!) weeks of 6 am starts, frantic shouty mornings ("get your bloody shoes on NOW, or there'll be no computer for the rest of the day!") and frantic shouty evenings ("of course you've got bloody homework, I've looked on your class website! Now sit there and DO IT, or there'll be no computer tomorrow!"), we finally had a week off.

It was bliss. Naturally, after ELEVEN weeks of having to drag them out of bed every morning at 7am, Sods Law dictated that they were all awake, bright eyed and bushy tailed by 6.30am (well, not Oldest Daughter, she's a teenager in training and clearly intends to specialise in 'lying in'), but I had told them that it was against the law to disturb me before 9am. So the laptop and the TV took care of the childcare for a couple of hours each morning and, along with Oldest Daughter, I worked on perfecting the art of the lie-in for a few days.

I had all sorts of plans to do 'stuff' with the kids during our week off. In my head I was living some sort of Sound of Music based fantasy where I merrily trotted the four of them off to one of Singapore's many wonderful, child-friendly places like the Zoo, the Botanic Gardens, the Bird Park, or the East Coast. Or, infused them with knowledge and culture at places like the Science Centre, Little India, China Town or one of the Museums or Art Galleries. Or even did healthy stuff like walking and looking for monkeys at the Nature Reserve or the Reservoir. In all of these fantasies my children were perfectly groomed, wonderfully behaved smiley little moppets and I was an immaculately presented, completely unsweaty, and perfectly calm Julie Andrews, leading my little troupe through the streets of Singapore smiling beatifically, (singing 'do re mi'), and charming everyone we passed. Obviously the reality was slightly different - in fact - to my shame we didn't even make it to our condo pool until Thursday, and when we did, far from being charming little moppets, the children were mutinous little buggers who didn't stop squabbling and ended up being escorted back home in disgrace, whilst I desecrated the Julie Andrews image by screeching at them like a fishwife to "be nice, or I'll throw the computer over the balcony".

At the end of the week things got a bit busier. It was my birthday on the Friday. This was a double edged sword - I got several gorgeous, thoughtful, hand-made cards from the kids, which was lovely. However, everywhere we went (by Friday I was ready to actually go somewhere) the kids insisted on telling everyone it was my birthday. Youngest Son, naturally, had to tell everyone exactly how old I was. Cue - lots of people, unable to disguise their horror at how old I actually am, trying to be polite and tell me I didn't look it - trust me after a week at home with the kids I looked every single one (and probably a few more) of my years.

On the Saturday, we went to Malaysia for the day......... Mr P was doing a talk in Johor for the afternoon, and we thought it would be a good idea to take the kids out for the day (the hotel he was talking at provided a car and a driver for us for the day). I don't know what on earth we were thinking, or why we thought this would be a good idea. We have four kids. We have been in the car with these children. We still thought it would be 'fun' to incarcerate ourselves in a car with three excited children and one (Oldest Daughter) stroppy one. Oh - and add to this, the fact that, because we don't own a car out here, the kids haven't been in a car for more than about twenty minutes at a time since we lived in England, and I'm sure you get the picture.

However, it was lovely to see this part of Malaysia. Unlike Kuala Lumpar, Johor is less geared up for tourists and less city like and 'showy' - it therefore felt more like we were seeing the 'real' Malaysia. Our driver was from Johor and he showed us round the town and told us some of its history. The trip also made me realise how sanitised Singapore is. We drove up to a place called Kota Tinngi to see some waterfalls and on the hour long drive (during which my delightful children bickered almost constantly) I saw derelict buildings and big wide open spaces - none of which, for obvious reasons, we've seen in central Singapore.

We finished off the day with a Halloween party when we got back to Singapore. The kids loved it - there was a chocolate fountain - I need say no more. We loved it, as well as lovely friends - there was chardonnay - again no further words are needed.

On Sunday, Mr P spent the morning creating a water feature and shifting furniture and a barbecue onto our balcony. Some neighbours are relocating to Indonesia and were giving away their balcony furniture. To date our balcony has been a sad little affair boasting a decrepit table and chairs from our garden in England, and leather rocking chair that someone was throwing away and, thanks to the humidity, is now going a bit manky and peeling and leaves little black leather spots on the skin of anyone who sits on it. However, it's my only bit of private outdoor space and I treasure it. Thanks to our relocating neighbours, it now boasts plants and a water feature (which was assembled with only an hour or so of swearing from Mr P). I've added some candles and it's now a lovely tranquil spot to sit. I'm also looking forward to using the barbecue. Like many places in Singapore our condo didn't have an oven in the kitchen, just a gas hob. We therefore make do with a hideous working top based excuse for an oven, which has one shelf and only cooks for an hour at a time (so, if you're doing a roast, you have to keep moving the timer back round). It does have a grill function, but it's a bit rubbish. So - actually grilling steaks, or chicken or anything on the barbecue will be bloody wonderful.

On Sunday night the kids went trick or treating. It was organised so that anyone who wanted to take part registered their names/condo number. We were then given a picture of a pumpkin to stick on our door. This meant that only people participating got 'trick of treated' and everyone else was left alone. It all went very well - Oldest Daughter took the two boys, Youngest Daughter went with friends, so Mr P and I got to test how well the newly tranquil balcony lent itself to chardonnay quaffing. Also - unlike last year - Mr P didn't manage to make any of the trick or treaters run away in terror when he opened the door, so all in all a good night was had by all.

So, yesterday it was back to school. I'm pleased to say that the next half term is a much more reasonable seven weeks. Or, at least I would be, if this didn't mean that this means there are only eight weeks to go until Christmas......

*starts panicking*
  • Current Mood
    happy happy

So long and thanks for all the iStuff

So. Steve Jobs has died.

One thing about this does not surprise me - his death. The poor man has looked really ill for a few years now. I'm amazed he survived this devastating and cruel illness for as long as he did. I'm genuinely sad for his family and friends and I do think that the computing industry has lost one of its pioneers.

However, his demise is the only thing that hasn't surprised me. Over the past few days I have been either bemused, amused, or slightly horrified (often a mixture of all three) by some of the reactions to his death. Obviously, it is very sad that such a dedicated perhaps even visionary man, who has made such an impressive contribution to his field, has passed away. He was obviously a good man and his loss is very sad, but surely the weeping, the wailing and the 'group sadness' bandwagon that some people seem to have leaped on is a little over the top?

In the last few days I have seen newspaper articles and facebook and twitter entries that claim 'Steve Jobs Changed my Life'. Really? I mean, really?? Of course iPads, iPods, iPhones, Macbooks, Apps, Apple TV and all the brilliant products that Apple created are impressive. They are fantastic (if bloody expensive) products. But life changing? You mean, really, properly, life changing? Like curing cancer, ending apartheid, or achieving equal rights and tolerance for everyone regardless of their class, religious beliefs, sex or colour? I could almost understand this claim if Jobs had actually invented computers (that was Charles Babbage), or the internet (various people in the 60s), or touch screen technology (dunno - but didn't they have that in Star Trek?) or the even concept of walking around listening to your own private music collection through speakers in your ears (don't know if this was Sony, but they certainly had one of the first products on the market in 1979). But he did none of this. What he did do was make using all of it easier and more appealing, and therefore easier to integrate into day to day life.

Steve Jobs saw in rough clay the fine china that could be made of what already existed. Being a man of the twentieth and twenty-first century, he recognised potential and created a premium brand and in doing so created a personal fortune beyond most people's imagining. Don't get me wrong, I don't begrudge him his money. But lets not lose sight of what Apple is; a profit making company, a brand - just like Coca Cola, McDonald's, Tesco, BP etc - its primary interest is making money, not changing lives. Let also not lose sight of the fact that, in common with most other leading technological brands, in making that money, there have been issues raised over the years about the nature and treatment of the cheap labour used to manufacture the various products that we all use every day. Apple is not whiter than white. Jobs may have been 'a visionary' but, Apple, like every other corporation is a business that is there to make money.

Another aspect of the reaction to Jobs' death that I have found quite disturbing is the 'Messianic' way in which some people seem to speak of him. Not long ago a piece of research suggested that Apple products triggered a response in it's followers brains, similar to one triggered by religious fanaticism. In research neuroscientists compared MRIs of Apple fans' brains to the brains of people who called themselves "very religious." They found that Apple and religion light up the same part of the brain. Thus suggesting that Apple products and loyalty to them triggers the same feelings and reactions in people as intense religious beliefs. Thus, the people who describe themselves as 'Mac Evangelists' (and trust me they actually exist, I've encountered them), are not being facetious (in the way I would be if I described myself as a 'Chardonnay Evangelist'..... although, actually.....), they quite probably mean it. The Apple brand seems to have created a devotion among some of its followers akin to a religious following.

The other, in my opinion, rather disturbing aspect of Apple and the way it is developing its brand, is its creation of 'Apple Distinguished Educators' (ADEs). Now, I think all of us would, quite rightly, be concerned if an 'interested party' such as McDonald's, or Tesco's, or the local chapter of 7th Day Adventists wanted to have a substantial stake in a school. Questions would, rightly, be asked about what they hoped to gain from it. Parents would (hopefully) be up in arms at the very notion of a school 'sponsored' by a business, or religious organisation, and would question why the organisation wanted to put money into the school and what they would gain from it (the assumption would be profit or converts). (I'll leave the debate about state funded Church Schools, out of this for now, although obviously churches are just as much of an 'interested party' as a business, and should, in my opinion, be viewed with the same level of suspicion). Apple seem to have taken this to a whole new level - and through their ADE programme seem to be able to gain both converts to the Apple brand and profit, without actually investing a penny.

I'm not sure how ADEs earn the right to their title - the website is quite vague - but there is no mention of any academic requirement or vetting. What seems to be needed is a devotion to using Apple products in the classroom and a willingness to send a video of yourself doing this to Apple. (So an ego and and iPad seem to be essential in the early qualification stages.) Again, please don't get me wrong - technology in the classroom can be, should be, and is a wonderful, education enhancing thing and people who know how to use it to enhance and develop education are obviously good teachers. But surely, limiting the technology you use to just Apple products, is contrary to the spirit of adapting the technology to what you need. If you will only use Apple products, surely at some point, you will end up tailoring your educational material to the technology you have available? Thus, in creating ADEs, Apple seem to be very cleverly used their (fanatically?) dedicated customer base of Apple fans from the education sector and have effectively sent an Apple sales force out into the schools in which they teach. Kids are impressionable and when they see their favourite teacher presenting an enjoyable lesson they will soon 'learn' that Apple products are better than any others. I can't be the only person who is concerned by what seems to be a 'get 'em when they're young and impressionable' approach?

That brings me to another aspect of Apple, and other, products. I don't know if it's the same in other parts of the world, but here in Singapore, the sight of a toddler, sat in his or her pushchair, playing on an iPad, or other handheld game, is quite common. Every day I see kids, young and old, sat with their parents in restaurants or waiting for siblings at school, blank faced and silent and scrolling between apps on iPads and iPods. Out here it seems to be an accepted way to keep the kids quiet when out in public. I know that much has been made in the UK over the years about parents using television as a 'babysitter' and many holier-than-thou's from TV presenters and child psychologists to the really annoying 'perfect mum' (we all know her - she feeds her perfectly groomed, perfectly behaved, kids organic, home cooked food, reads to them at bedtime, never shouts, never swears, helps them with homework with a smile on her face and makes fabulous cakes for the PTA cake stall every term), all of whom have said that knackered parents who sit their kids in front of the TV for a couple of hours instead of stimulating them by discussing organic honey production (or something along those lines - I don't know, I'm far from a perfect parent) are failing them and damaging them in some way and ensuring that they will end up obese, unable to interact socially and unprepared for 'normal' life . How is giving them an iPad to keep them quiet for the duration of a two hour restaurant meal any different from sitting them in front of the TV?

Still, having said all of that, I'll happily admit that even if Jobs' contribution to modern life hasn't been life changing, it's certainly been life enhancing. As I said in my previous blog entry, I love my little iPod, and Oldest Daughter loves her Macbook. We haven't yet gone down the line of Apple TV - but that's probably only a matter of time. I admit that for someone like me, who is not office based and doesn't need to synchronise diaries and meeting notes, the impact of Apple on my life has been fairly minimal, but I suppose that other people will feel the impact more strongly. The fact remains that Jobs has made a difference and deserves to be recognised for it. I just hope the evangelists and fanatics get a sense of perspective.

Oh - and I wouldn't say no to an iPad............
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