I recently returned from a fantastic twelve day trip to Uganda. I’ve been writing about it in my new page, Uganda with Amigos.
Today is my birthday. I thought I’d mark the event by looking at who else was born today; it turns out I couldn’t find that many inspiring September 27thers (apart from Irvine Welsh, author of Trainspotting, Filth and The Acid House), so I switched to others born in 1961. This produced a much more interesting list. The gender balance is rather off, but………… here’s my Top Ten of cool 55 year olds.
10. Ricky Gervais. Comedian, actor and animal rights supporter hailing from Reading where I spent my early twenties. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but often brilliant.
9. Tom Ford. Fashion designer, film director, creator of sublime perfumes.
8. Bill de Blasio. Mayor of New York City. I love this guy’s radical housing solutions. In a city where the locals are increasingly unable to afford rents (much like London), the mayor is building thousands of new homes specifically for low income families. The rent will be set according to the incomes of each individual tenant. Right on, Bill!
7. Alfonso Cuarón. Film director, here by virtue of his work on my favourite in the Harry Potter series, HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
6. Arundhati Roy. Author of The God of Small Things, political and human rights activist, environmentalist, goddess.
5. Barack Obama. President of the USA, saviour of the western world, most gracious and diplomatic citizen of planet earth. And Michelle is great too (though born 3 years too late to legitimately be on the list).
4. Steven Moffat. Film and TV writer and producer, responsible for such gems as Sherlock, Dr Who, The Adventures of Tintin and Murder Most Horrid (and more).
3. Tim Smith. Founder member, guitarist and lead vocalist with Cardiacs, one of the most unique, avant garde, idiosyncratic, fabulous bands of these isles, who I saw live on at least one occasion in the early eighties (precise memories of that era are rather thin on the ground). Try this ….
2. Julia Gillard. Politician who became the first (and, thus far, only) woman to hold the positions of Leader of the Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition and Prime Minister of Australia.
- k. d. lang. Possessor of the most beautiful female voice in the known universe; caramel and cream with just the right amount of pain and despair. Try this ….
Read what I thought of them here: Librarium 2016
Read what I thought of them here: Librarium 2015
Most of you will still be at work this time of day. Something serious has happened, but you don’t know it yet.
When you get back this evening, you will find your home has been demolished. Just flattened. You have no idea why. Your family may or may not have been in it. Everything you own certainly was. Your neighbours have disappeared. You stand there looking at the remains, trying to process the scene. It’s impossible. Then you start to dig frantically, but it’s no use. It’s just a mountain of rubble. You should call the police. You try your phone, but you’ve been cut off. You look for your car. It’s gone. WHAT IS GOING ON?
You sit on the curb confused. You’re tearful. You feel the whoosh of someone running past, behind you. When you turn your rucksack is gone. You look around, but the culprit is nowhere…
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Read what I thought of them here: Librarium 2015
Helen makes some very good points here about being a private tenant. I loathe the whole concept of Buy To Let; it gives landlords a free rein to charge ridiculous rents. My daughter is about to leave uni and find a flat to rent. I don’t know how she is ever going to manage.
Other than the election result, there are two things keeping me awake at night. One, my horse’s saddle doesn’t fit and two, I’ve been given notice to leave the home that I rent. The saddle very much comes under first world problems. It bothers me because I’m responsible for my horse’s welfare and have been working him in a saddle that is restrictive, although his previous owner spent a lot of money on it and had it professionally fitted. Despite my concerns, I can see that in the grand scheme of things it’s not a bad problem to have. The problem with my home is much more serious and something you might hope would be encountered only in the developing world not the first world. Sadly this is not the case. Even in supposedly developed countries those who rent are second-class citizens and security of tenure is a distant dream.
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In a few hours the polling stations all across Britain will be opening. I was told today that my village will have an extra polling station this year because a high turnout is expected. Let’s hope that’s true. Both my son and my daughter will be able to vote in a General Election for the first time – I hope they both take the opportunity to exercise their democratic right.
Last year I wrote a short piece about voting. Today I saw this video by Owen Jones, a columnist at The Guardian, author and political commentator. He talks about how seemingly insurmountable problems have been overcome in the past to bring about change and to give us all the right to vote. Let’s not lose hope.
“Again and again, people told me sexism is no longer a problem – that women are equal now, more or less, and if you can’t take a joke or take a compliment, then you need to stop being so ‘frigid’ and get a sense of humor. Even if I couldn’t solve the problem right away, I was determined that nobody should be able to tell us we couldn’t talk about it anymore.”
In 2012, Laura Bates set up The Everyday Sexism Project website, giving a voice to women and girls, a place where they could share their stories and experiences of being female in a male-dominated world. Frankly, anyone who can read those contributions without being appalled and embarassed about the inequalities between the genders, is burying their head in the sand. From all walks of life, all situations, day in day out, the stories poured in; stories of a constant drip, drip of comments, gestures, attacks and worse which all served to put women and girls in their place, ie on a strata below men. Our girls are growing up in a society where they are nominally equal, but obviously less than equal. In 2014 Laura Bates collected thousands of the stories that had been shared via the website and published them in a book called Everyday Sexism and which I reviewed on my Librarium 2014 page. I think it’s essential reading for everyone.