Category: Opinions and rants

When the weather matches your mindset

Grey, miserable with the occasional sunny spell. That’s how I feel, mentally, following the terrorist attack in London on Saturday night.

London skyline

Mindless killing in the name of “Allah” – I don’t think so! Real Muslims are currently fasting for Ramadan, honouring their God and the Koran.

Terrorists are not real Muslims.

And real Muslims are not terrorists.

Scary times. I know that’s what they (the terrorists) want, and I know we (the general public) aren’t supposed to give in – that we should be strong and stoic and refuse to change our behaviour, but I’ll admit, I’m scared. I’m going to London for the Guns n Roses gig next Friday and I’m nervous.

But enough about me. The current time should be for sending thoughts and love to any of the victims, their families and their friends. And to the amazing emergency services who selflessly put themselves on the front line, not knowing who or what they’re dealing with.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

Friday Feeling [8] Muslims are people too

Following the horror of last week’s terror attack in Manchester and the humbling response by people in the City pulling together, I’ve been so uplifted by seeing Manchester and beyond showing strength and solidarity.

This story embodies it for me.

It’s a fairly long watch, but worth it. My eyes were squishy by the end and I felt proud of my fellow humans – whatever age, colour, or faith – showing this brave young man that we’re all in this together.

Just have a look.

We stand with you, Manchester.

Thanks, as always, for reading . x

 

My latest thoughts on the upcoming General Election

A few weeks back, when the General Election was announced, I summarised my thoughts on the options available, the parties and their leaders. At the time I already knew that I wouldn’t be voting Conservative this time around, but didn’t really see a good alternative.

I’ve changed my mind.

I realised that my opinions on Jeremy Corbyn were unfounded, because I’d never even heard him speak! Perhaps I had been swayed by the media coverage telling me he wasn’t leadership material. More likely I had made a passing judgement without investigating further.

Jeremy Corbyn

I’m not afraid to hold my hand up when I’ve made a mistake, and this is one of those times. I believe I made a mistake in my opinion of Jeremy Corbyn. The more I see of him and listen to him, the more I see that he is a viable alternative to the Prime Ministers of the past. Just because he’s different; quieter, less power hungry, doesn’t make him a bad option. In fact it makes him a stronger option. Because, in recent times, all of our Prime Ministers seem to have been cut from the same cloth – media personalities with a personal agenda – and look where that’s got us? We’re somehow in a position where the governing party wants to privatise our NHS. How is that representative of the people and it’s needs?

JC isn’t a shouter, or a bold statement maker (“strong and stable”, anyone?) He’s measured, he answers genuinely and calmly, he doesn’t get drawn into inane bollocks from media reporters who are obviously trying to catch him out. He comes across as genuinely having the best interests of the country at heart, rather than the best interests of a few.

Contrast that with Theresa May, who is seemingly so arrogant that she’ll win that she’s dishing out all sorts of controversial policies – fox hunting, school meals and social care being at the forefront. That kind of behaviour almost seems like self-sabotage, yet there are still people – hard working people who will be negatively affected by a Tory government with it’s privatised NHS – who are planning to blindly vote Tory because May is our best bet for a strong Brexit. I’d say she isn’t. Her bolshiness and thinly veiled threats to the EU aren’t going to put us in a very good position. I’ve said all along that we cannot dictate to the EU what the terms of our departure are. If they want to make life difficult for us, they can. It’s a fallacy to believe that “they need us more than we need them”. We’re not in the days of the British Empire anymore, we’re just a little island where even the neighbouring parts of our union want to devolve and seek independence. Hardly the most attractive prospect.

Also very much in Jeremy Corbyn’s favour is the fact that he turned up to take part in last night’s televised debate, whilst Mrs May stayed away and sent Home Secretary Amber Rudd instead (whose Dad died only on Monday – compassion in the workplace, eh?)

I mentioned in my last post that I didn’t think the Conservatives were necessarily a shoo-in, and it seems that the tide is turning somewhat, with the Conservative majority having slipped massively, if opinion polls are to be believed. With just a week to go, I wonder if Theresa May is beginning to regret calling what was always an unnecessary election – designed purely for her own vanity and popularity. As her public appearances become more awkward and strained, whilst the other political party leaders stick the boot in about her cowardice in avoiding face to face debate, next Thursday could indeed be a turning point for the Tories, and equally for Britain.

The most important thing I can say is – VOTE! If you’re eligible and have registered then please don’t squander an opportunity to have your say in the future of our country. Democracy belongs to all of us.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

Teachings of Islam at Masjid Kapitan Keling in Penang

I had planned this post as a standalone to my other Malaysia trip posts as soon as I left the Kapitan Keling mosque in Penang and, in view of the bombing in Manchester, which has now been claimed by Muslim terrorists, today seems the right time to write it.

I love religious architecture; the grand scale, the intricate detail, the commitment to beauty. As I mentioned in my previous Malaysia post, the temples were one of the things I couldn’t wait to visit on our trip. I’m fascinated with churches, despite being a firm atheist, and will always seek out grand religious buildings whenever we’re on a trip.

Yet I’ve never been in a mosque.

On one of our visits to George Town, capital of Penang Island, we walked past the Kapitan Keling mosque – a stark, white building in the middle of the city, with it’s strong arches, rounded domes, and towering minaret.

Masjid Kapitan Keling outside

We took some pictures from the outside and were spotted by a volunteer in the foyer, who invited me in. I was given a scarf to cover my head (I was already dressed conservatively, with my legs and shoulders covered because of the possibility of visiting religious sites, but people who were dressed in strappy tops and shorts were cordially invited in and given clothes to cover themselves) and the young female volunteer began to tell me about the history of the mosque, and more about the Muslim faith.

I was struck by the simplicity of the inside of the mosque. In contrast to churches, and the Buddhist and Thai temples we had visited earlier in our trip, there were no physical depictions of Allah, no decorations or ostentatious shrines.

My guide explained to me that Allah’s physical appearance was never described anywhere in the Koran and so there are no imaginations of what he looks like anywhere – not just in a mosque but in every day life. Also, it is against the religion of Islam for any person or animal be represented in a mosque, part of which is that it can lead to idolatry, and also that there is no distraction during the praying process. Praying is a direct connection between the individual and Allah.

She explained to me about the pre-prayer washing process, which has to be done in a particular order, and that prayer water is inhaled into the nose and mouth for healing and purity reasons. She explained to me about the call to prayer, and prayer times – I incorrectly thought a prayer time had to be adhered to exactly, but she told me that as long as prayer is taken between the first call to prayer time and before the next call to prayer then that’s acceptable. She pointed out the segregated women’s prayer area, showed me the Koran, and read the Islamic prayer which is said to Allah 5 times each day.

It was incredibly enlightening, calming and interesting.

When I left the mosque she gave me some leaflets to take away and, because I’d been gone for a while, the husband joked that I’d been radicalised which is just the kind of sense of humour we have but not quite so funny in view of recent events.

Leaflets about Islam

When we got back to the hotel I sat and read the leaflets (more inappropriate radicalisation jokes!) which are designed to dispel some of the myths, rumours and negative press that Islam gets across the world.

Two quotes stand out to me:

“Have you ever wondered why a nun can be covered from head to toe and she’s respected for devoting herself to God, but when a Muslim woman covers, she’s viewed as “oppressed”? Or why a Jew can grow a beard and he’s just practising his faith, and when a Muslim does that, he’s an “extremist”?”

And this:

“Would you send your car to a butcher for repair, or a sick child to a florist? Of course not. A butcher is not qualified to repair a car, nor a florist qualified to treat the sick. Likewise, people without Islamic knowledge are not qualified to inform others about Islam. So why is it that people are willing to accept information about Islam from those that do not have the required knowledge?”

I’m not here to preach or change people’s minds, or even to share the content of the leaflets, but the way they approach common misconceptions was definitely an interesting read, and something I believe a lot of people could benefit from reading (EDL and Britain First members, I’m looking at you).

Whenever there’s a terror attack, the level of vitriol towards the Muslim community rises, and it’s so often misplaced – aimed at innocent people who simply believe in a religion and a God who is there for them; in the same way as a Christian or Catholic may believe in religion and God. We don’t turn against Christians when a Christian fundamentalist commits a murderous crime. We don’t see the religions of criminals reported in the news – unless they’re Muslim.

Crimes committed by Muslims in the name of Islam are anything but what they profess to be. They are extremist individuals who have a twisted view of “their” religion and the world at large, and try to justify a thirst for blood and an anger against a perceived threat in the name of a God who would deplore such actions.

Apologies if there are any inaccuracies in my writings about the mosque, but that’s the information as I recall it.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

Feelgood Friday [4] – real men love each other too

This story is a couple of weeks old now, but definitely deserving of a Feelgood Friday spot!

Two gay teenagers were attacked in Anaheim, Holland, for holding hands in public. They were on the way home from a night out when a group started shouting homophobic slurs at them, before launching a physical attack which left them both hospitalised.

It’s all the more shocking as The Netherlands has a reputation for being a very liberal country, and was the first country to legalise same sex marriage in 2001.

In a show of public support for the teens, and in condemnation of the attack, Dutch male politicians took to the streets holding hands.

Alexander Pechtold and Wouter Koolmees holding handsAlexander Pechtold, left, leader of the Democrats D66 party, and Wouter Koolmees, financial specialist of D66, hold hands as they arrive for a political meeting

Read the full story here.

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

#GE2017

When news filtered through yesterday that Theresa May was going to make an unscheduled public announcement, theories included that she was stepping down from office due to health reasons, that the Queen or Prince Phillip had died or – my personal tongue in cheek favourite from our office – that she was pregnant!

It couldn’t be that she was announcing a General Election. After all, she said when she took on the role of Prime Minister that there wouldn’t be an election until 2020.

General election 2017

Then again, David Cameron said he wouldn’t resign if the country voted to leave the EU (he did).

And the Vote Leave campaign promised an extra £350 million a week to the NHS if we left the EU (then backtracked).

So, politicians lie. Who knew?!

Back to the impending General Election. I’m reading a lot of people who think this is a really good tactical move from Theresa May and her advisors. Opinion polls show that the Conservatives are way ahead of any of the opposition parties, so it seems like winning is a foregone conclusion, and that will answer any of the naysayers who argue that Mrs May is only in power by default, rather than by the people’s will (having inherited the job when David Cameron resigned). The cynic in me thinks that it’s also a protection for her, when/if Brexit negotiations go tits up, or we as a country end up much worse off, so that she can say to the voting public “you put me here”.

Whenever I’ve voted in a General Election in the past, I’ve always voted Conservative. This time around, I’m not sure I morally can. While I think that Theresa May is probably the strongest leader, I don’t like the “hard Brexit” line, and I don’t like what the Tories are doing to the country in terms of funding cuts from the very pillars of our society like education and healthcare, as well as vulnerable people and those with disabilities.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, for me, just isn’t an option on the world stage – he’s a campaigner, not a political powerhouse.

Which led me to investigate the Liberal Democrats. I realised that, since the demise of previous leader Nick Clegg, I didn’t actually know who the leader of the party is! So I headed over to their website to find out more. First impressions were good; their policies align in many places with societal beliefs I hold. But then I read up more on party leader Tim Farron, and he too has his shortcomings. He doesn’t support gay marriage due to his Christian beliefs – as far as I can tell he’s never denounced it but neither does he think it’s ok. That’s not OK with me. Also, having heard him briefly on the radio this morning, he too doesn’t come across with country leading attitude. Could he have enough clout in a major political arena?

Which brings me to one of the points that I believe is a big decider in politics, and it has little, if anything, to do with the actual policies. People vote for people. And if you don’t like a person, or don’t see them in the role that they’re aiming for – for whatever reason – you’re not going to support them. I can’t honestly say that I like any of the main party leaders, as people. But as leaders, there is a clear distinction between Theresa May and Corbyn or Farron. So where does that leave me?

In a quandary, that’s where!

I think I feel like many people when I say that I don’t honestly believe we have a party represented in the UK that is the best party for the job. All of them, and their leaders, have somewhat insurmountable faults. I think this is why some people are apathetic about voting – because they don’t know who to choose. Is it really about the lesser of two/three evils? It certainly shouldn’t be!

Whatever the result, I think the next few weeks will be interesting and somewhat scary. Apart from last year’s Brexit vote, this could be the most pivotal vote of my life, certainly so far. The result could change the face of the country’s Brexit approach, which is groundbreaking in itself.

My last word on the matter is that I don’t think a Conservative win is a foregone conclusion. I think a lot of people are disillusioned with politics and disillusioned with the seeming lack of real choice. There may well be an upset – just look at Donald Trump’s victory! In the current political landscape, and I refer to worldwide, not just at home, it seems that we should expect the unexpected.

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

When did drinking become so normal?

As Lent came to an end over the weekend, and all the brave people who committed to giving things up for 40 days returned to their usual indulgences (including Ellen – read her Lent diaries here!), I got to thinking about boozing, and how it’s just so so normal.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not criticising it in anyway. I drink a lot. Too much! I lie to my dentist and doctor when they ask me how many units a week I drink (I know, I know, but it’s just so much easier than sitting through the inevitable lecture!) In our house we treat everything with alcohol. Something to celebrate? Let’s have a drink! Bad day at the office? Let’s have a drink! Indifferent to everything? A glass of wine will help!

(pics taken from my instagram over the past week)

(This makes me sound like an alcoholic, which I’m not, but I do really enjoy the warm fuzzy feeling of booze and I’m not going to apologise for it)

I know I’m not the only one who drinks more than they should, whether that’s through the course of the week or in a binge at weekends. I just wonder when it became so socially acceptable?

When I was a kid my Mom and Dad might share a bottle of wine on a Friday night, or buy a bottle if we had people over for Sunday lunch. I wouldn’t even contemplate sharing just one bottle of wine these days! A bottle of wine is only 3 large glasses (although it sounds better to say you’ve “only” had 3 glasses than drunk a bottle, admittedly!) and 1.5 glasses each if you’re sharing with another person isn’t going to last you more than an hour, at best.

Where pubs used to be the domain of men having a couple of pints after work, or on a Sunday lunchtime, now women are stepping out of the kitchen and into the boozer, and rightly so! No element of a modern society should be skewed to any gender, and equality includes the right to drink where and when we choose.

Maybe it’s because there’s more visibility now, through social media, that we realise how much and how often people are drinking. Thirsty Thursday is a recognised hashtag on Instagram and Twitter, and the majority of people seem to associate the weekend with drinking alcohol. Sitting at home with a glass of wine is the norm, as is women with screaming toddlers exalting bedtime so they can kick back and soothe away the day with a G&T. I can’t imagine that being the case when my Mom was my age (which isn’t that long ago). The statement of “I need a drink” is synonymous with people receiving bad or stressful news, and it’s completely ok to “drown our sorrows”. Ask someone “is it too early for a drink” and you’ll quite likely be given an encouraging “well the pubs are open”, or “it’s always 5 o’clock somewhere” in return. Go to any airport departure lounge at any time of day and the pubs will be heaving with people having the obligatory pre-holiday drink, whatever time of day! (I’m also guilty of this, I have many photos of me proudly holding a glass of pink wine at 5am!)

So why is it that a lot of people are drinking more frequently than in the past? Is it because, generally, we have more free time and spare cash than generations before us? That it’s more acceptable to be steaming drunk than it used to be? (this is more specific to women, I think, who still get judged more harshly than men). That our lifestyles are more stressful, with longer hours and more responsibility, and we feel that we need or deserve the escape?

The fact that, as a race, we’re more clued up on healthy living and the effects of our lifestyles than ever before, you’d think that we’d be more afraid of the well known effects of alcohol (weight gain, memory loss, liver damage, the list is long) but seemingly we turn a blind eye, instead only looking at the perceived benefits (we feel less stressed, more sociable, happier).

While drugs are illegal and smoking is becoming less and less socially acceptable, drinking is only ever frowned upon at the point at which someone has become addicted to the point of ruining their life or the lives of others. We live in a drinker’s society. You can buy booze so easily and cheaply; at all hours of the day. You can drink a beer at the cinema, or a glass of wine at the theatre. Pubs often do meal deals to include a free drink. A few years ago I took my Mom for some spa treatments for her birthday and we were given prosecco on arrival. Some hairdressers give their clients booze! Now replace any or all of those scenarios with a cigarette or a line of cocaine. It’s unthinkable.

Does any of this change my opinion of boozing? Look, in truth, I sometimes wish I didn’t want to have a drink on a night out. It would be great to save money and lose weight as a side benefit too. But, in truth, it ain’t going to happen! It’s too ingrained in society, and too ingrained in me.

What are your thoughts? Do you enjoy the odd tipple? Are you a celebratory drinker? Should alcohol be treated more like the drug it is? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

Is Harry Styles the next David Bowie?

So asked The Guardian a few days ago, referencing an article from the NME.

(for the uninitiated, Harry Styles is a member of boy band One Direction, who were put together by Simon Cowell on TV talent show X Factor)

The very short answer is, quite obviously, no.

We don’t need another David Bowie. He was one of a kind, a visionary, with an eclectic history, back catalogue and chameleon like appearance. He started out at a time when making it in the music industry meant slogging your guts out, writing your own songs and being original.

Harry Styles was thrust into the public eye along with 4 other good looking boys in a manufactured, made for TV group, singing songs written by other people, not playing an instrument and with his career shoehorned into the public eye by the very powerful Simon Cowell. That isn’t music legend calibre.

Not to take anything away from Harry Styles. In fact I think his new song is absolutely amazing, and was truly shocked when the husband played it to me and told me who it was. I think it has the makings of becoming an epic song for a long time to come. But it isn’t 100% his song. He’s co-written it. I’m sure it’s been very carefully put together and orchestrated by Harry’s management company with a view to distancing people from his boy band past and turning him into a credible and respected artist. And maybe it will work. Maybe he’ll become a hugely respected solo star. Who knows?

But the media need to stop trying to recreate and replace music legends who have been and gone. Let singers be an artist in their own right.

David Bowie was an immense artist, with a career spanning decades. He’s an artist that I’m proud to wear across my chest (and did so today!)

David Bowie tshirt flared jeans and clogs

Will I ever wear a Harry Styles tshirt? Doubtful!

Read the for and against arguments of the Bowie likeness from two different columnists for the Guardian.

What do you think?

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

Feelgood Friday [2] – racism is taught

Continuing my new feelgood Friday series, here’s this week’s pick!

Little Sophia is 2 years old and obsessed with being a doctor when she grows up. Because she’s doing so well at potty training, her Mom took her to the shops to buy a treat to say well done.

Sophia chose a doll dressed as a doctor. The doll also happened to be black.

At the counter, the sales assistant suggested to Sophia (who is white) that she might want to choose a different doll because the one she’d picked didn’t look like her.

And Sophia said…

“Yes, she does. She’s a doctor like I’m a doctor. And I’m a pretty girl and she’s a pretty girl. See her pretty hair? And see her stethoscope?”

L.O.V.E

Proof, as if it were needed, that children don’t see colour, or certainly don’t see it as a difference or a negative thing. Racism isn’t ingrained or inherited. It’s taught – by small minded, ignorant, bigoted parents. People who should be doing completely the right thing for the little people they have created, but instead are teaching them negative opinions and ways.

Look how happy Sophia is with her doctor doll!

Sophia and her doctor doll

Take that, racism!

Read the full story here.

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

 

That’s not journalism

It’s been a historic week here in the UK – Article 50 has been triggered and we’re the first EU member state to leave the union; Nicola Sturgeon has garnered support for a second independence referendum for Scotland; our future as a nation is currently in a state of flux as no-one really knows the implications of either of these actions.

But this is how the Daily Mail (an abominable racist mainstream UK newspaper pretending to have the best interests of the country at heart) reported on the meeting between these two political heavyweights.

Daily Mail Teresa May and Nicola Sturgeon

What. The Actual. Fuck.

Seriously? Seriously? The writer of this article (amazingly, a woman) and the editor of the rag honestly believed this was a good idea?

Would previous Prime Minister David Cameron have been subjected to similar treatment? Of course he bloody wouldn’t!

Words fail me.

Daily Mail, you’re a disgrace to journalism, a disgrace to publishing and a disgrace to reporting.

Thanks, as always, for reading!