All we ever do is argue, fuss and fight.

Sometimes I love the internet. When I’m looking for something to procrastinate with – like pictures of cats, cats falling off things, anything by Adam Buxton, or this cricket match for example. Or when it helps me find out that an Texan senator is fillibustering for 11 hours straight to stop a bill being passed that would be massively detrimental to women’s rights. Or when it allows me to watch a man jump out of a rocket and land safely on earth. Or allows me to find out who Charlotte Despard is when I wonder who a pub is named after. That’s when my computer really is the “everything machine”.

But there are times when I really don’t like the internet. Or more specifically the people who use the internet.  The problem with it is this. Everyone has an opinion. But now everyone can publish their opinion. And everyone else can argue against their opinion.  I’m not a big fan of argument for argument’s sake. I’m not really a big fan of arguing. I do debate things, but I don’t actually enjoy it, and unless I’m in a really bad mood you won’t find me playing devil’s advocate that often. I’m emphatic. That is true, but not overly argumentative. And the internet is REALLY argumentative. People just HAVE to say what they think about something someone else has done.  I have a rule that I never read the comments section of anything. And the reason is the arguments. If you read the comments section you’ll disagree with someone on there, and then there appears to be a temptation to TELL them. And if you can’t tell them on the comments section, why not find the email address, or Facebook page, or twitter account of the person you disagree with and tell them there instead?  I left Facebook a while ago because someone I didn’t know felt the need to argue with me about something I’d said to a mutual friend. That wasn’t the only reason I left. It was one of many but it was the final straw.  My mate Wendy wrote this for the Huffington Post. I liked it, but a lot of people didn’t.  I didn’t feel the need to tell her I liked it, but boy, do people feel the need to tell her they don’t!

I suppose what I hate is the negativity of it all.  We are so quick to tell people when we don’t like something.  And I don’t know why.  Why do we take it so personally when a piece of art, or comedy, or writing isn’t to our personal taste or doesn’t fit with our politics and beliefs?  I don’t like a lot of stuff, but I have rarely been so incensed by a bad piece of theatre or art or television or a blog that I’ve felt the need to tell the world. If I don’t like something, I stop reading it or watching it.  Or I make all of my friends watch it so that they can feel my pain. But I don’t think (and I may be wrong) I’ve ever felt the need to comment about it on a public forum. I’m not talking about important things, like torture or human rights or a journalist slagging off a dead pop star with erroneous facts (I did complain vociferously and publicly about that). I’m talking about whether people like The Wright Way or not. And I don’t mean making a jokey comment about it, I mean when people get self-righteous and angry and aggressive or insulting about something and start a verbal fight.

Maybe it’s that we now think that a facebook friend is a real friend? So me texting friends, “Turn on BBC1 now, I insist. You must see this execrable waste of talent, time, money and energy”, is the equivalent of someone else saying, “U are rubbish, I hate ur views, Rgue with me” online.  I’m aware that this blog is opinion. But I write this more for myself than anything else, because writing this is a good way of kickstarting my brain  for proper writing work. And I’ve disabled the comments section (mostly because all I get in response is “Hey I like your words you wrote, this is a good blog, now check out this website”) and I don’t have a contact me section (or at least I don’t think I do because I’m technologically inept and need someone else to set that up for me)  I’ve done this not because I don’t care about other people’s views, but because I don’t care to argue. And because if you don’t agree with what I say you can write your own blog saying so, and I will read it and think, “Oh, I don’t agree with that” and then go and eat some foam bananas that I won at a pub quiz.  Which reminds me. I won some foam bananas at a pub quiz last night. I’m off to eat the spoils of my general knowledge.  And leave you with a reason to love the internet. (but you might hate me afterwards – it’s very very catchy…)

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Do I speak for more than just me?

No.  I can only speak for myself.  And that’s something the media seems to forget a lot of the time.  Not about me.  I don’t think the media give much of a shit about me thank god.  The only two interviews I’ve done about myself have been littered with mistakes, which makes me think the journalists were looking at pictures of baby-photobombs on the internet while they were talking to me (to be fair I was doing that too, but I didn’t have to write down what I was saying.)  But the media forget that famous people only speak for themselves.  I’m focussing on women. “Celebrity” women.

It’s oft quoted that when a man gets on stage to be funny, and he isn’t, he is simply not funny; when a woman gets on stage and is not funny, that proves that ALL women are not funny.  A woman gets on stage with the weight of womanhood on her shoulders, doing it for all the sisters out there.  According to the media.  When I get on stage to be funny, it’s because I’m a show off and I like saying and doing stupid things to make people laugh.  Sometimes they do, and that means I’m having a funny day; sometimes they don’t, and that means they are wrong.  But neither scenario means that therefore all women are either funny or unfunny.  Just me.  And I don’t get on stage to prove that all women are funny.  They aren’t.  Just like all men aren’t funny.  There are some very unfunny people out there.

Likewise, when a woman says something that is quoted in the papers, she may seem like she’s talking for all women, but she’s not.  She’s just saying something for herself, something she believes.  To me, the problem lies in asking actors (male and female), chefs, bakers, singers to comment on things about which they are not qualified to comment.  I’m probably doing that now.  But it seems to me that often women are quoted as saying things which do more damage to women than good for us.  And do more damage to men as well.  It’s often women in positions of some authority, or with respect in their given field who do it and that makes it worse because people listen.  So you’ve got Mary Berry quoted (admittedly in the Daily Mail which has an agenda all its own) as saying that because she respects men, she doesn’t want to be a feminist, because feminism means shouting at them when really “You’ve got to persuade them [men] gently to do things and, of course, when they come back they say, “Oh, wasn’t that fun?”  What?  WHAT?  Not only does this misunderstand precisely what feminism is, but it infantalises men.  They are not children who have to be cajoled into doing the things you want.  Certainly my fella isn’t.  When I want him to do something, I ask him to do it.  It’s the simplest, best way.  Guess what?  It works.  I don’t shout at him. I ask him.  I don’t persuade him.  I ask him.  I’m not speaking for all women, or all men here, just me and my fella.  God I’m glad I’m not Mary Berry.  And I LOVE Mary Berry.  But then she says, “I would always stand up for women but I don’t want women’s rights and all that sort of thing.”  Heaven forbid women should have rights, Mary.  That would be truly awful.  I’m fine with Mary Berry telling me how to bake a cake.  She is very very good at baking cakes.  I’m not fine with Mary Berry defining feminism.  She’s not very good at it.

Next up, Joanna Lumley.  Now, she’s done a lot of good stuff.  Gurkhas and Ab Fab and being in a cat suit.  She’s an actress.  Good.  And yet…  she has recently said that girls need to “behave better” and be “more proper” in order to avoid being raped.  Oh, Joanna.    She says:  “I promise you it is better to look after yourself properly, which means behave properly, be polite, be on time, dress properly – I don’t mean dully – but don’t be sick in the gutter at midnight in a silly dress with no money to get a taxi home, because somebody will take advantage of you, either they’ll rape you, or they’ll knock you on the head or they’ll rob you.  Don’t look like trash, don’t get drunk, don’t be sick down your front, don’t break your heels and stagger about in the wrong clothes at midnight. This is bad. ”

Yes, Joanna, this IS indeed bad.  You are BAD.  I’m often late for things because I don’t have a good sense of time and I think I’ll be able to paint the hallway in the twenty minutes I have before leaving the house.  I’m wrong.  According to this quote, I’m on the slippery slope to being raped.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I think the way some people dress is RIDICULOUS.  There was a girl on the train the other day whose shorts were so short you could see her bum cheeks.  It seemed to me that she may as well have not bothered putting them on at all.  I thought she looked awful, but that’s her choice, and I certainly didn’t think, “Well, she deserves to be assaulted later.”  I just thought, “Her bum must be really cold.  She might get piles.” and then my brain went off on a “piles” train of thought about not sitting on cold concrete or hot radiators.  My point is, often I see women dressed in clothes I wouldn’t be seen in, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be allowed to wear them, or that if they do, they are asking to be assaulted.  My fella doesn’t think they should all be raped either.  Because he’s not a rapist.  It’s not women’s clothes that are the problem.  It’s not men that are the problem.  Rapists are the problem.  And here’s the double standard I see.  When I see a young man walking along the road with his trousers hanging below his bum so I can see his (probably rip-off) Calvin Klein boxer shorts, I might think he looks stupid.  (I will admit that once, while tour-guiding I laughed incredibly loudly at a youth with such a fashion look, who had to run across the road in front of the bus.  His trousers fell down and he had to waddle across the road with them round his ankles, losing any of that bragger swagger he once had.  Brilliant.)  But I don’t think “He really is asking for it.  He’s got his bum on show.  Someone’s probably going to rape him.”  Because if a woman wearing a short skirt and being sick in a gutter is asking for it, a man running across the road with his bum on show is too.  So I’m fine with Joanna Lumley telling me how to live on a desert island and being an actress.  Because she’s good at it.  I’m not fine with Joanna Lumley telling me how women should avoid being assaulted.  Because she’s not very good at it.

This has become more convoluted than I planned (partly cos I thought of this in the shower and it’s become a lot of thoughts instead of one – this would have got a B at A-level) but I guess what I’m saying is, if you’re a feminist then these things should annoy you.  And by feminist I don’t mean someone who hates men.  That’s not what a feminist is.  I’m a feminist because I love men, and I think they’re better than they’re often painted by the world.  There are some absolute dickos out there, don’t get me wrong, but a lot of them are really great and don’t want to rape women who wear skimpy dresses (or men who wear their trousers under their bums) and just want to be asked to do something, not subtly persuaded and passive-aggressively commanded.  And most of all I don’t want to read about women as if they are talking for all women.  They’re not.  They’re not talking for me.  They don’t represent me.  Stick to cakes.  Stick to acting.  I’ll stick to making stuff up, and writing a blog full of opinions.  Where I speak for myself and for no-one else.*


*unless they happen to agree with me.

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If only nostalgia were accompanied with pictures of me looking hot

Nostalgia is an odd thing. Often prompted by the tiniest of triggers, a smell for example. (There is a man on a stag do sitting next to me on the train, while his fellow partygoers shout to one another at a level usually reserved for people working in a noise factory, but for these men is the perfect level to chat to the person next to you – while deafening and annoying the rest of the overcrowded, overheating train to Edinburgh.  So far four people have stood up to ask them to be quiet, it’s had no effect except to make them argue amongst themselves at increasing decibels.  There will be fisticuffs.  The man sitting next to me is not shouting, or doing many of the shots being passed around but he is interested in what I’m writing.  He’s told me that he’s often nostalgic and that he likes it a lot, and that it’s mostly smells that set off his nostalgia, particularly round his Dad’s house now that his mum’s died. He’ll often smell something there that reminds him of her.  He’s quite sweet for a man who is intent on getting through an entire bottle of red to himself at 11am. He’s becoming less sweet due to the decibel levels of his friends and his reluctance to tell them to shut up.  I have told them to shut up and simply encountered a wall of noise in response.  Thank god I’m getting off at Darlington…)  Nostalgia can be triggered by a sound, a snatch of song, or someone sending you a link to a picture of the 16 year old you, once hidden in a box only to be brought out by over-zealous parents who remember it as a golden time and to embarrass you in front of potential mates, but now shared with the entire world via the internet. Yes, a picture of me at 16 is now on the internet so anyone who fancies (and probably quite a few people who don’t but have just stumbled upon it) can check out my bowl haircut and uncomfortable smile.

Millions of people can see a haircut I wish had been sent to oblivion – I certainly don’t have any photos of myself at that age, with that terrible bowl-growing-out-a-misjudged-shaven-headed-moment-of-rebellion do.  I threw out hundreds of photographs in a spring clean a couple of years ago.  I had albums and albums of photos and boxes of images which I have whittled down to one small box. Many of my friends were horrified that I had thrown away any photographs, but loads of them were duplicates, loads of them were out of focus and lots of them weren’t very good, or were simply embarrassing.  So I threw them out.  Ripped them up and recycled them (I don’t know if you can recycle photographs but they all went in the recycling bin – for all I know I could have caused a whole load of recycling to be ruined – oh the middle class guilt) And I didn’t feel bad about it at all.  I wasn’t getting rid of memories, I was getting rid of evidence.  And making space for the lovely man to move all his stuff in.  He’s better than photos because he can make me tea.

But someone kept some evidence and I was confronted with the past. And through my embarrassment and squeals of “ergh haaaaaaairrrrr” something else emerged.  Doug who had sent it to me said “check out the other ones, including me in a turquoise ski suit and a haircut to rival yours”.  I hope he’ll forgive me for saying his hair was much like Sideshow Bob.  And Kate, who was also in the shot, said something along the lines of “wow, we’ve improved”.  But it made me realise that I have kept in touch with these people for over 20 years.  That we made friendships despite the hair and bad fashion choices; friendships which have lasted longer than we had been alive at the time those photos were taken.  That I love those people.  Really love them.   Doug said what he sees when he looks at those shots is not awful hair and awful clothes. Well he does see those, but beyond that, he says: “When I look at those pics (and there are others, if you haven’t looked around that site), I remember that sense of quiet confidence, that we were the chosen among our generation and greatness would somehow fall in to our laps.  And of course, we would bear it dutifully, as we must.  That this may or may not have transpired isn’t the point…the point is, I miss that optimism.  Love you both”

And all that from a hideous train journey with bellowing men, a terrible haircut and a 90s fashion disaster.

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