16 New Rules for Public Transport (for When I am Queen)

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When I am crowned Queen of the World, the first laws I pass will relate to use of public transport. Here they are, for those still unsure whether or not to vote for me:

1.) No-one is allowed to pick anything: noses, teeth, skin, hair or anything else.
2.) Seats are for bottoms, not bags. Unless your bag has bought his own ticket, he needs to sit on your lap or go in the overhead shelf.
3.) Men have to sit with their legs closed and their bottoms against the back of the seat. No-one’s penis is so wide that they physically cannot sit this way. If it is, they will be given a special badge. And a special seat. Perhaps a special carriage – no-one wants to be near that.
4.) Turn your music down – your taste is embarrassing us all.
5.) Save your stinky, noisy food for when you get home – you are not going to die if you wait a few more minutes. If you are about to die of hypoglycemia for goodness’ sake eat with your mouth closed.
6.) Blow. Your. Nose.
7.) Do not look at pornography or other lewd images while traveling. If you must be so base, wait until you get home. Again, no-one is going to die from waiting a few minutes to do this.
8.) Turn your phone onto silent. I do not want to be notified whenever you get your next WhatsApp, especially if your chosen tone is that person whistling, which makes me want to die. If you have your key tones switched on, thus alerting us all whenever you touch any given key on your phone, your phone will be confiscated and destroyed and you will have to attend a course before being allowed a replacement.
9.) Similarly, if you have the sound effects on while playing a game on your mobile, you will have your hands confiscated, too.
10.) While I am writing this, someone is whistling tunelessly. No. This will not be allowed when I am queen.
11.) Wash, hydrate and brush your teeth, especially after coffee.
12.) Anyone inappropriately touching a woman or their own genitals, or leering in any way, will be instantly killed in a horrible way. Or maybe forced to attend a Consent Course until such time as they are able to function as a reasonable human, depending on whether or not I am being a benevolent dictator that day.
13.) Children and people who think it’s acceptable to talk to strangers will be confined to special sound proofed carriages.
14.) Trains are not for phone calls. I do not wish to know what Darren said, or what you said to him, or what he said to you ad nauseum. Nor, I propose, does the person on the other end of the phone, if indeed there is anyone.
15.) Keep your filthy feet off the seats, you animal. That’s what evolution is for.
16.) MOVE. DOWN. A. BIT. 

That is all.

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Nothing New About Racism

A post so called because I have nothing new to say about racism, and there is nothing new about racism.

Last night I saw a play about Miles Davis called Needles & Opium at the Barbican. It was the most breathtakingly staged play I’ve ever seen, but the ‘storyline’ was barely comprehensible. All I learned about Davis was that he liked the trumpet, he liked women and he liked drugs. I knew that already so I found myself reading up on him via Wikipedia on the train home. I came across this passage:

“After finishing a recording for the armed services, Davis took a break outside the club. As he was escorting an attractive blonde woman across the sidewalk to a taxi, Davis was told by a patrolman to “move on.”[44] Davis explained that he worked at the nightclub and refused to move.[45]The officer said that he would arrest Davis and grabbed him as Davis protected himself.[44] Witnesses said that the patrolman punched Davis in the stomach with his nightstick without provocation.[44] While two detectives held the crowd back, a third detective approached Davis from behind and beat him about the head. Davis was arrested and taken to jail where he was charged with feloniously assaulting an officer. He was then taken to St. Clary Hospital where he received five stitches for a wound on his head.[44] The following October, he was acquitted of the charge of disorderly conduct and was likewise acquitted the following January of the charge of third-degree assault.[46]

This incident took place in 1959 in America. Wow, how racist it was 57 years ago. Thank goodness we’ve moved so far from something like that happening today. Oh, wait…

 

A black man is arrested for walking across a street with a white woman in 1959.

A black woman is arrested for talking peacefully at a protest (about the way police treat black people) in 2016.

There is nothing new about racism, but that doesn’t mean that we are in the same place as we were in 1959, it means we are in a worse place. If we are not evolving as a society, if something as abhorrent as this is no different after 57 years, then we are getting worse aren’t we?

Maybe not. I saw this in a meme on Facebook and it keeps on going around my head:

“Things are not getting worse, they are getting uncovered. We must hold each other tight and continue to pull back the veil”

It’s perhaps clearer to see this as something being uncovered rather than something that’s newly emerging when you look at racism in the UK. There came a horrible rise in racist hate crimes across Britain following the referendum. This is not because racists suddenly appeared or because people suddenly became racist. It’s because they saw politicians in suits on TV telling us that Syrians would rape our daughters and that 80 million turks would come and take our jobs and our homes. 52% of the population who voted for Brexit were not racists, but the racists who did vote that way probably thought the rest did for the same reasons. So now this hate feels legitimised. Sprinkled politely in political speeches and backed up by a majority vote. They’ve been given licence to voice the hatred that was already there – that has always been there.

This is where I start to feel hopeless. I am scraping around for a conclusion for this blog post that doesn’t make me want to press CTRL-ALT-DELETE on the whole world. What would someone wiser and more optimistic than me say?

I guess they’d say something along the lines of another Facebook meme I saw today:

“People are still good, mostly” she said.

“Not from what I’m hearing.” he said

“Love is quieter than gunshots. But there is more of it.”

A Shopping Trip for a New Pair of Trousers or The Seventh Circle of Merry Hell

I needed to buy some new work trousers.

I currently alternate between duplicates of two styles: grey, with one hem unravelled so one leg is longer than the other; and grey, at least a size too big, much too long in the leg and utterly shapeless and unflattering. Why do I own such abominable garments? Because I hate shopping for clothes. I tried the latter ones on and they didn’t fit but I reasoned I’d adjust them with my expert sewing skills (of which I have none) or get fatter or something, just please let me get out of this shop so I can go home. I bought two pairs.

I have been wearing these awful trousers to work for several years now and although 95% of me doesn’t care, the other 5% of me dies a little every time I wear them. Since that’s nearly every working day, some shopping needed to be done. However in doing so I made 3 fatal mistakes:

I went to Oxford Street

Just before Christmas

On Black Friday Weekend.

I know now why they call it Black.

It was exactly like one of those awful anxiety dreams where you’re desperate to get to the train station/exam/job interview on time but things keep getting in your way. In this case, the things in my way were as follows.

1. Extra wide, extra slow people, in incomprehensibly large numbers

All I was trying to do was walk along a street to get to a shop. I usually manage to do that without wanting to murder everyone in sight with a huge scythe, but that is exactly what I immediately began to imagine while silently asking my victims: How is it physically possible to walk this slowly without actually being stationary? Why are you all walking in horizontal lines of 3 or 4 people? Do you even know each other? Why are your shopping bags so sharp and pointy and how are so many of them aimed at my limbs? Why do you keep SUDDENLY STOPPING IN FRONT OF ME?

2. Unbearable extremes of temperature

It’s cold right now so I wore warm clothes, a thick coat and a wooly hat and scarf. This was fine until I walked into a shop and was blasted with the suffocating heat of consumerist desperation. I wandered around, franticly clawing at myself to remove layers of clothing so I could cool down, before stepping outside again, empty handed and immediately shivering with cold.

3. My own body

One of the reasons I hate clothes shopping is because I am a woman who is shaped like an actual woman. I would be fine if we were currently in the 1950s, but we are not, and we haven’t been for quite some time, I’m told. It seems to me that it is impossible to buy flattering clothes if you are a woman in possession of any of the following things:

Breasts, hips, an arse, a waist, legs which are wider at the top than they are at the bottom.

It’s perfectly easy however for a woman to find flattering, well-fitting clothes if she is:

A man.

4. The inexplicable lack of normal trousers. Anywhere.

All of the trousers in all of the shops I went into seemed to be tapered and cropped above the angle. Now, I’m no fashionista, but anwer me this:

Why?

Why would anyone want to wear cropped trousers in December? Why would anyone want to wear them ever? That little section of my leg is deathly white and most likely very hairy because it’s winter and I need the warmth. Why would I want to tease people by exposing this frightening piece of flesh to them? Whose legs are shaped in a way that makes this style flattering? Am I the only woman whose thighs are not the same diameter as her wrists? Trousers like this make me look like MC Hammer. That is not the look I had in mind.

Eventually I did find two pairs of normal looking trousers under the random piles of clothes that had been thrown onto the floor by the Black-Friday-Crazed animals that came before me. One of them seemed to be designed for no human-shaped human, ever; the other actually turned out to be a pair of leggings with an elasticated waist and a sewn on pretend fly at the front to trick me into thinking people could still buy real trousers.

My last hope was John Lewis.

However, when I got there, I discovered that the womenswear department is exactly like the woods in this Blair Witch Project clip. Its layout is a huge, confusing circle of aparantly randomly placed clothing. You can try to be methodical but in reality you just keep going around and around, thinking that you’re making progress but then you realise you’re back where you just started and it’s that same dress, that SAME DRESS that you swear you just saw a minute ago and you sink to your knees in tears of despair as the will to live drains out of you because there were Still. No. Normal. Trousers. Anywhere.

Your correspondent: is wearing shapeless grey slacks again for work this morning

An Intruder on the Campsite

On the first morning of my weekend away camping, I gradually became aware of the bucolic aural delights of birdsong. The delicate sounds seemed to ripple and tinkle around our tent like tiny melodic bells, or windchimes that had all been carefully tuned to play in the same key. I listened to this natural symphony with delight. There was even a bird that sang with the melody of ‘Figaro, Figaro, Figaro!’ I could not name any of those birdsongs, but I knew one thing – I was not in Peckham now.

Then suddenly, ripping through it all like a roaring, violent fart, was a call that even I could name. A rasping scream of a birdcall with the exact rhythm and intonation of a toddler repeatedly crying ‘It’s MYY turn Dad-dy! It’s MYY turn Dad-dy!’ [Listen here] over and over again. Reader, it was the nightmare call of the wild pigeon.

They had followed me here.

The other sound that alerted me, and then repeatedly reminded me, of their presence, was the intrusive thwack of their shockingly inept excuse for flying. Have you ever seen a pigeon flying? They are the most inelegant birds I have ever seen. Other birds fly silently, expertly gliding on eddies of air, their wings propelling them with apparent effortlessness. Pigeons on the other hand, fly like they’re cheating. They haven’t quite got the hang of it, so they just flap as violently and as loudly as possible until they get caught out and have to fall crashing to the ground. I wish they bloody would. They sound like wet flannels being slapped across an unwilling thigh.

I started to wonder whether God had got distracted while he was making pigeons. He started off OK, with their heads and necks like beautiful iridescent rainbows that shimmer as they move in the light. But then he remembered he had a cup of tea in the kitchen that was getting cold and so he left the rest of it as the original grey pencil sketch and never remembered to go back to it. He didn’t get around to the bit where he designs its flight, its beautiful call or its ability to live in harmony with other animals, such as humans. He forgot to teach them manners.

So I think the lesson here is that pigeons were never meant to be here. They slipped through the cosmic net. They are intruders and imposters. The only solution, and the only thing honouring to God’s good creation, is a mass, worldwide cull. Are you in?

On Resting Bitch Face and Misogyny

The following is what I believe is termed as a ‘feminist rant’ (you may have got a clue from the M Word in the title). Click on, if you do not enjoy such things.

I was in the pub this evening. From where I was sitting, I could see a young woman with a physical disability of some kind that made her somewhat wobbly on her feet. As she got up to leave the pub, she accidentally fell against a seated man. She apologised profusely and he responded by looking intently into her face and saying, “You can fall on me any time you like darling”. So he was objectivly a douche.

Later on, my friend was at the bar buying us drinks and so I was alone at a table, staring into space. I am afflicted with Resting Bitch Face, meaning that when I am at rest, the corners of my mouth are naturally turned down. I do not grin at rest. I noticed the douche turning to me and trying to catch my eye. I knew what was coming next because I have been alive for 36 years and I have RBF. He mimed forcing a smile with his fingers. I responded with a fake rictus grin and he shouted, “That’s better!” I fumed, inwardly.

Shortly after, he came over to my table (I was still sitting alone and had the audacity to not beam broadly at nothing). He asked me again to smile. I read once on twitter about a woman on a bus who responded to such a request by taking both of her middle fingers and using them to push up the corners of her mouth. I wish I was that badass. The other way I would like to have responded was by saying: would you say this to a man? Has a man ever said to another man that they shouldn’t look miserable, or even a bit blank, and that they ought to smile? I’ve never heard it. It’s something that men say to women. So it’s made me wonder, why is that? Is it something about the idea that women ought to be pleasant to look at at all times? That we should be simpering demurely no matter what tragedy may have befallen us, or no matter how little a fuck we may give about who may be looking at our faces?

The worst is when people actually say “Smile, it may never happen!” to which I want to say, “How do you know it hasn’t? How do you know I don’t suffer from clinical depression? How do you know my mother has not died? How do you know I haven’t just lost my job? And finally, what makes you think ‘it’ didn’t just happen the moment you ruined my evening my demanding that I rearrange my face to improve your view?” What this particular guy actually said was, “Someone once told me, if you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours.” I felt compelled to fake smile and say how lovely or something because I Just Wanted Him To GO AWAY, which he did. He happened to have lost all of his front teeth so I was not grateful for the smile he had given me.

So. Anyway. I didn’t say any of these things out loud, but that is why I have a blog for miscelaneous thoughts.

OddBabble: would like a medal for each of the people she has not punched in the face.

The Ten Series: Two Songs

I spend a ridiculous and wholly unneccessary amount of mental energy reducing songs down to short lists. I wrote a whole separate blog with my 31 Songs stolen from Nick Hornby’s book of the same name. I have my list of Desert Island Discs ready for when I’m famous. 2 songs though, well, that’s a very short list indeed. So short that it makes me a bit cross. But I have submitted so here they are:

Song 1

I first came across this song while driving my car crying. This is something that has happened with such monotonous regularity in my life that I can’t remember what particular misery I was weeping over at the time. I wanted some music to sooth my sorry soul and I found this song tucked away among the thousands on my iPod. I probably hadn’t heard it before because the intro will have made me skip it: it sounds old, it’s sung by a man and there are no acoustic guitars on it. However I was both driving and crying so adding a third task of skipping a track was just downright dangerous. I listened to the words and discovered a song that is about why songs are important and how music can be medicine. It was just what I needed and is often the track I play when I need to drift away because ‘I don’t understand the things I do’ or ‘the world outside looks so unkind’.The song is Drift Away by the Dobie Gray

Song 2

I have been the outsider, the odd one out or just the plain old weirdo at many times and in many ways in my life. This is often a painful place to be and this song is the antidote. It is the anthem of the different and I consider it to be my own personal theme tune. I love it more than I can say here, so please, let’s just listen and enjoy: Make Your Own Kind of Music by the Mamas and Papas