Thursday, 31 August 2017

How did Princess Diana manage to stay sane with all that misogynistic vitriol?

All photos taken from the Diana exhibition currently on at Kensington Palace, London
There were many times in the 1990s when I wondered how on earth Princess Diana managed to wake up and go through the motions of the day. If you are a believer in the power of the Establishment then, make no mistake, this woman fought against the might of it on a regular basis.

The powers that be were misogynistic and cruel in their treatment of Diana. Remember when pompous Nicholas Soames cast aspersions on her mental health and relied on Parliamentary Privilege to get away with it? If not, read this.

When Diana was at her lowest because of her age and inexperience the Establishment kicked her even harder

The treatment she received from the pressmen could only be described as hard machoism. Long lenses were directed at her in her face. As she lay dying she was being objectified. Instead of helping her the press men were snapping her dying moments.

The saboteurs and such like pond life would defend their disapproval of Diana by telling people that she wasn't blameless, that she had invited attention and trouble by flaunting herself. 

It's a familiar 'putdown' argument used against women who are perceived to not know their place in life. She was beautiful and always well dressed and blonde. Perfect fodder for misogynists.

There is a fantastic exhibition at Kensington Palace titled. 'Diana: Her Fashion Story', which showcases Princess Diana's beautiful clothes but is much more than a fashion display or a memorial of some sort. If anything the exhibition is a touching reminder that her beautiful gowns and dresses were, at the end of the day, accessories to the way she interacted with the public in breaking new ground as a royal member.

Dressing glamorously seemed to be Diana's way of arming herself in facing the misogynistic patronising attitudes towards her.

Diana was meant to be a demure Princess in tow but grew in stature to become a Princess who led the way in confronting global issues like AIDS and landmines. Her dress style shaped the way the world thought about her. She dressed down to walk through a minefield. She wore gloves to meet AIDS victims and removed a glove to shake hands with them thus dispelling the myth that the illness could be spread through touch.

The royal family that so callously stripped her of the HRH title lost a gem 20 years ago today.


Saturday, 26 August 2017

A mother's account of coping with her daughter having leukemia one year on

Kirsty, left, with her mother, Dr Janet Chelliah

This is a particularly poignant blog post for me. Kirsty is my niece. A much loved darling. Dr Chelliah is my only sister and we have a very close relationship.

The words "She has Leukaemia, Babes..." still echoes in my head, even though it has been a year since I first heard those words from my husband, Neil.

My daughter Kirsty, who was 15, had just celebrated her birthday a few days before. It was a Friday at 6pm when I heard those words. I was just walking out of work having just referred a patient into hospital for suspected cancer.
Kirsty and her sister Melissa , together with their friends from Dancestars, had performed 5 street dances at a family event. It was meant to be a fun, exciting Friday as we then were expecting family and friends to arrive that weekend. We had spent the whole week planning for this weekend.

We were going to have a 15th Birthday party for Kirsty. Chocolate Fountain and Mocktails in the garden as her friends arrive, lots of singing, dancing, and games in the garden before they had Jacket Potatoes, Chips, Pizzas followed by the Ice Cream Bar. Melissa and I had baked the 'perfect' chocolate cake for Kirsty. It was all working out perfectly.

The week before we sat on a beach on the North East Coast of Scotland . The weather, the sights and the food was all great. I still remember saying to the girls, "remember this moment when we get home and we have a difficult day. Think of this beautiful moment to keep us happy".
Kirsty has Down Syndrome. She was just about to go into Year 11, we were thinking about her future, how do we prepare her for Post 16 Education, how do we help her build her independence, how do we help her achieve her dreams to be a dancer, singer, actor, an athlete who would one day be part of the Special Olympics and to work as a receptionist in her favourite hotel, Premier Inn?

Dr Janet Chelliah was deputy medical director at the Special Olympics held in Sheffield, August 2017

Our lives as a family, our dreams and most of all my teenage daughter's life came crashing before us...why, why why??
We have had a horrible year, probably another blog to tell you about it.

Our lives have changed. our priorities have changed , my younger girl Melissa has seen and experienced more than any 9 year old should experience, but most of all Kirsty's life came to a hold for almost a year.

One year on today...our family life hasn't got back to how it was. However there have been some happy moments. Kirsty celebrated her 16th birthday this week, she attended her school prom, she is walking more and using her wheelchair less than she did, she uses a trike, she has started singing and drama lessons, she is starting to attend her dance classes, she has a different hairstyle as her hair grows back, we managed to travel out to a caravan park, she has made new friends ,she has been shown how much she is special and loved by the many wonderful family and friends we have and, most of all, her beautiful smile and fantastic personality and sense of humours is shining through.
Kirsty has a long journey ahead of her. She remains on chemotheraphy till 2019 followed by monthly blood tests for a few years. I pray and hope she will soon catch up with the last year that put her life on hold.

Thank you to our family and friends who have continued to show their much needed love and support. I wish I could name you all here and thank you personally but I will just have too much to say.
A very special thank you to my sister Jane, who has encouraged me to put my thoughts in this blog and has been a great support.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Calling me a " Paki" does NOT make me feel like I am enabling your right to free speech

Somehow I don't think the founding fathers of the concept of Free Speech had insults and slurs in mind when they put their highly intellectual minds together and came up with it. At the very minimum, racist slurs defy any pigeon hole, square peg in a round hole and logic of equating words that are meant to wound and defile with the historical beginnings of Free Speech in 1948 after the two World Wars. 

The right to spread hate and incite disorder of any kind against a group in society is NOT Free Speech or a right to Freedom of Expression.

I have a right to say this because I don't like being a victim of racism. Being called a ' Paki' is not a fun way to pass a moment in a day or moments in a year.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, the mass bulk of the mantle of racist behaviour has passed from those who hate ethnic minorities to those who, post Brexit, now hate white people who come from Eastern European countries. This twisted logic of racism has not, however, absolved me from its' claws.

Logic doesn't come into it anymore. There is a simple reason for this. Racism has no logic and no standing or status in society. Equivating it to 'Free Speech' is a claim by the far Right/Alt Right to legitimise their prejudices. It's like covering a really badly baked apple crumble pie with custard sauce from Waitrose but worse, much worse. It's worse because there is a human being at the receiving end of these slurs. While you can spit out a pie you can't do the same when you are a victim of racist language.

Somewhere in this morass of discourse on what constitutes Free Speech academics, the press and ordinary folk have forgotten that it is human beings we are talking about who bear the brunt of whatever decision is reached.

My skin is Brown in colour but it does not possess an inherent attribute to justify racist name calling. The name caller or bloody racist shouting at me does not have an innate right to do what he is doing either. It is normally a White man, not woman, doing it by the way.

There are three factors I squarely place blame on for this resurgence in hating people who are not of the Aryan persuasion - UKIP, Trump and Brexit.

A few years ago when Nigel Farage was huffing and panting up the greasy pole (he looks permanently unfit with a cigarette and a drink in his hands) and said something which the press deemed worthy of reporting I would, the very next day, suffer the humiliation of someone getting up and going to sit elsewhere on public transport when I sat down next to them. This shifting around would always be accompanied with mutterings of '...Paki'.

Brexit has produced a very subtle ground shift but I am gradually becoming invisible in social, professional and political settings. At a simple level it manifests itself with conversations taking place over my head as if I am not there. At a more serious level it is the hostile stares and outright name calling.

Trumpism is racism dressed up in a Whitehouse or in gilded settings housed among green golf courses with impeccably dressed people - wife, children, grandchildren, hangers on - who are all personifications of 'Whitehood'. These players mistakenly assume an innate right to prevaricate over when and whether, if at all, to call out racism because it will never affect them. If anything, it benefits them.

Charlottesville is the 2017 rallying call for defining what Free Speech means within the context of what it does to those whose are being victimised just to enable an intellectually perceived fertile ground that ought to exist.

Free Speech has become a tussle between being a lived experience and one where any word that spills forth is a normative one.

Friday, 18 August 2017

My mother pride over my daughter's A level results

My daughter, Maelo Manning, obtained 2 A*s and 2As in her A level exams. Her first choice of university and course has been confirmed. It is to read 'Philosophy, Politics and Law' at King's College London.


Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Why is a 'jolly good fellow' always jolly?

A 'jolly old good fellow' by his Shepherd's Hut
It must be the 'silly season' i.e month of August otherwise why else would Jacob Rees-Mogg be the flavour of the moment when the mood is anti-Tory, anti-austerity and anti-jolly?

All stalwart Liberals/Lefties like me are weighed down with the worry of a nuclear war in the offing and Donald Trump's ill focus on the Governor of Guam becoming famous, ongoing austerity with no sign of lifting, climate change thanks to Al Gore's latest movie 'An Inconvenient Sequel' and escalating violence and rhetoric around racism.

There isn't anything to be jolly about and the very unjolly Polly Toynbee has struck the right note with her piece in The Guardian on Jacob Rees-Mogg, the current inheritor of the 'jolly good fellow' trophy. Jacob Rees-Mogg is one in a short line of recent such fellows, the others being Boris Johnsons and Nigel Farage. Before that, I can't quite remember the whole line of them, we had Kenneth Clarke, Alan Clark and, dare I say this, David Cameron.

All these men have at various stages been either overtly referred to as 'jolly good' men or been loosely bestowed with this title. What is the unifying factor? Quite obviously they are all white men, members of the Tory party or a pale imitation of it (UKIP) and rather well off.

By my reckoning, being jolly is a social divider.

The further up the social scale you are positioned the jollier you are. The lower down the ladder you are the harder it is to remain jolly and optimistic.

There you have it. Being rich allows you to be a 'jolly good fellow'. If you don't have to worry about how much next week's food shopping is going to cost because the kids are home all day during the summer, or about your child starting university next month and the hike in domestic expenditure that this will entail or about the cost of a day out to gawk at poor animals behind cages in what is called 'London Zoo' then you, frankly, can AFFORD to be jolly.

David Cameron is so jolly that he owns something called a 'Shepherd's Hut' priced at £25,000. Boris Johnson earned loads even if he has taken a pay cut. Kenneth Clarke smokes cigars and wears nice Brogues - rich. Alan Clark was someone I never liked and I can't be bothered to Google him to include a link but I do recall his comment about Michael Heseltine's furniture being new as opposed to being tatty because it was inherited. Nigel Farage was some sort of banker and always poses for photos grinning like there is no tomorrow.

Jacob Rees-Mogg seems to trump all the 'jolliers' though because he is obviously super wealthy to have had a nanny block his neck from the blistering sun by holding a book as a sun shield. I buy Factor 30 from Boots to block my daughter's neck. See the difference? I am not jolly. He is.

There is a serious purpose to this blog article and it is this - I am sick about the way jollity is used as a mask to portray the cruel and divisive political ideologue behind it. A smile, a laugh and a twinkle in the eye to win votes while all the while making a mockery of the gullible voter who falls for it all.

Boris Johnson used his 'jollity' as a lethal political weapon when he was standing for Mayor and during his stint as Mayor of London. More recently his jollity has been exhibited via jokes at the European Union's expense. Nothing jolly about this when you consider that he was a primary Brexiter who helped  peddle unproven facts like the £350 million a week that the UK will supposedly have.

I spent my journey into work this morning trying to work out how many 'jolly good' fellows I know. Three, readers, three. What does that say about my social mobility? Only one is a good friend, the other two attend my church whom I would term 'acquaintances'. All are White men who earn well over £150,000 which is the threshold for being a part of the 1%. I rest my case.  

Monday, 14 August 2017

A tribute to Heather Heyer who died in Charlottesville

My tribute of flowers in memory of Heather Heyer

Heather Heyer was killed in Charlottesville while protesting against the racism of the Alt-Right. The  moment she was killed was the moment that racism had reached its nadir this year because she was fighting against something that by any normal and moral standards of decency is WRONG.

The Alt-Right exudes a privilege that it has no moral or legal right to lay claim to but, by dint of being of being born White, these knuckleheads think they are superior. They stoke fear and division and thrive on it because this is the only way that they are capable of demonstrating their so-called laughable 'strength'.

Heather Heyer was White too.

Her murder shows us that the Alt-Right's logic is no different to Jihadism which kills more Muslims in the Middle East than Westerners in the West. Unless you are a clone of theirs you are not on the 'right' side and are worthy of violence.

The Alt-Right created and enabled an environment in which one of their members killed an upright member of society who had made it a mission of hers to keep fighting for justice.


Thursday, 10 August 2017

Sheffield goes for Gold with the hosting of the Special Olympics

About 2,600 athletes in Sheffield are leading the way in showing how sport is an inclusive event. These athletes from Scotland, Wales and England have learning disabilities and are celebrating a week of sporting achievement and glory in the city from 7 to 12 August 2017.

The 'Highland' team with their 'Highland Cow' mascot
I attended the opening ceremony and was blown away by the sheer energy and excitement of the participants. The 2012 Paralympics were instrumental in opening the nation's eyes  to the tremendous ability within sport to accommodate people with disability. The Sheffield games possibly carry on the legacy from the Paralympics but with a hugely important difference for the way it demonstrates the ability of ordinary people, both adults and children, to carry on this legacy of empowerment via sport.

Athletics taking place at Sheffield University Stadium
I was interviewed by BBC Radio Sheffield journalist, Jennifer Eels
If sport is about taking part, more centrally, rather than winning then every participant in the Special Olympics is a winner. Having said that the athletes who are winning medals are rightly proud of their achievements too but each participant demonstrates a personal perseverance and bodily endurance that is a constellation of the sparkling spirit that we associate with sport.

It is the largest sporting event in the UK held for people with learning disabilities and is hosted by Special Olympics Great Britain which is a country specific agency for Special Olympics, the world's largest sports organisation for disabled people.

A Dragon Dance display at the opening ceremony
Some participants are wheelchair bound
The events are free to watch and are taking place at various venues in Sheffield.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Nick Timothy blames sexism for Theresa May not getting enough credit for her policies

Any woman in any situation is a potential victim of sexism, granted, because sexism is a pervasive sickness that does not respect the woman or her position or her dignity. Having been a victim of sexism myself many, many times, like countless women around the world I bristle at sexism but I am bristling far more at what Nick Timothy had to say.

Nick Timothy, former joint Chief of Staff  to Prime Minister Theresa May, interviewed in a piece in theTelegraph, claimed "Mrs May had been a victim of “sexism” because some people in Westminster refused to give her credit for coming up with her own policies, preferring instead to believe that male advisers like him were behind them". 

It's a cynical and convenient use of a prejudice to spin a yarn to extricate his then boss, Theresa May, from the blame and shame that was heaped on her after the disastrous run at the general election by both the electorate and the Westminster bubble inhabitants. The electorate who voted for non-Tory parties at the general election very much blamed Theresa May for the policies.

While Nick Timothy's remarks only refer to "some people in Westminster...' it implies that these 'people'  overlooked Theresa May's good policy making skills and credited him, instead, with glory. Really? I recall days and days of opprobrium being heaped on both  Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill and Theresa May.  While the two aides were very much seen as a duo that backed Theresa May and advised her the PM was clearly seen as being the head of this working arrangement.

'Sexism' is never a trivial experience. It is designed to belittle and patronise the female victim. It comes in the guise of put-downs or slights. Nick Timothy exhibits male privilege in twisting this experience to serve his interests.

As a protest I am reclaiming 'sexism' as a humiliating experience that deserves the might of the law and society's disapproval from:
a. The clutches of those who live in gilded cages and bubbles where they can access their privileged networks to get lucrative jobs after making a hash job of their previous ones; and
b. Those who place new meaningless perspectives on the everyday personal experiences of ordinary women like me without power who have to take up real fights against sexist systems. 


Friday, 4 August 2017

A Friday joke about working from home

Find your bare minimum and stick to it
Establish the least amount of work you can get away with per day and do not exceed it. For example, three emails and a colourful graph.

Do not forget that you have a job
24% of home workers can’t remember who they work for and what they are supposed to be doing.
Write your employer’s name and job title on a Post-It note and stick it to the wall above your computer – this is a vital reference tool.

Alternate internet and television
It’s easy to waste the day looking at Youtube clips of ghosts ‘caught on security camera’ and buying scarves. Every two hours, turn off the internet and turn on the television. 'Doctors' is quite good, also 'Real Housewives of Orange County'.

Perfect a ‘busy voice’
Working from home is all about self-justification, and key to this is pretending you’re busy. If anyone rings up, tell them you’re ‘up against it’ and ‘flat out’ in a deep, serious voice.

Work in intense bursts lasting 45 seconds
You can get more done in a sharp burst of under one minute than in a whole day spent in the office. For example, open a Word document in a really intense way. Then go and do something else.

If anyone tries to stop you working from home, mutter about ‘productivity’ and ‘creativity’
Sooner or later people will realise you’re dicking about. Fight your corner in true corporate style by looking upset, putting on a pathetic, whiny voice and saying some things that don’t make sense.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

The toxic hyper masculine penis centred White House chaos

Apologies for the swear words contained in this post. I am mainly quoting what the White House staff have said.

The extreme levels of hyper masculine toxicity emanating from the White House would register danger levels if there was some sort of monitoring system in place to warn people about dickheads. Donald Trump has turned out to be a, metaphorically speaking, radioactive leader who leaves a trail of damage and destruction in his path.

The word 'bizarre' can't be used enough to describe the behaviour and actions of Trump and of those around him, predicated on some sort of Gorilla like chest beating Alpha male bollocks. This male dominated amateur theatrics, otherwise known as the Trump presidency, set in the White House, seems to centre on who can roar harder and louder.

References to penises using the word 'cock' have been flung around a fair bit and with such great ease that it only goes to show how comfortable these chaps are with exhibiting primate behaviour shorn of politeness, dignity and norms.

Anthony Scaramucci, the short lived White House Communications Director, ranted about Steve Bannon and told Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker, "I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock,”...“I’m not trying to build my own brand off the fucking strength of the President. I’m here to serve the country."

"Strength", what "strength"?

Steve Bannon, apparently, declined to comment. What could one say anyway to that sort of accusation- "Yes, I do that frequently" or "I am getting too old for that sort of thing these days"?

But, wait, Steve Bannon isn't blameless himself. He referred to Paul Ryan, speaker of the house, as a "limp-dick motherfucker". Are these men's brains situated in their dicks? How is it possible to have a "limp dick" and f... anyone at all?

This chaos within the White House is an extension of the brainless behaviour that took place during Trump's campaign. He repeatedly referred to the size of his hands as an indicator of the size of his manhood. The signs were there and the much maligned 'liberals' were alert to it. Some of his voters, however, believed that once elected Trump would, somehow, shoehorn himself into the role. The GOP were foremost in feeding voters this line.

Six months on there is a child in the White House, sitting at the Oval Office desk, who is 'throwing' his shoes and the shoehorn at the world. He hasn't done a thing yet to justify winning the Presidency. Instead, his family have benefitted from their association with the White House. Families have been ripped apart. The 'deplorables' who are Zombie-like hero worshippers hang onto Trump's every action and word even though these are proven time and time again to be dick-twiddling empty gestures.