Thursday, 31 December 2015

Sex symbols

It must be weird when the world sees you as a sex symbol.
Like George Clooney or Scarlett Johansson.
They must know very well they're no sexier than anyone else.
Who knows, they may even find sex utterly boring.
But people see them as some red-hot seducer.
Quite a reputation to live up to.
I'm rather glad I was never seen as anything resembling a sex symbol.
I'm the most ordinary person to look at.
If you saw me as a sex symbol, I'd just laugh like a drain.
I'd assume you needed new glasses.
People never gave me a second glance, even when young and wrinkle-free.
Nobody was ever panting to get me between the sheets.
Thank goodness for that.
I'm happy to be known for other, more essential qualities.
Like kindness or compassion or loyalty.
I'm happy to be the amused onlooker
sipping my glass of wine
as others flaunt their wares and seduce each other
with a shameless appetite.
I'm happy that what I think
is more interesting than what I look like.
Maybe I'm a red-hot, sultry thought symbol.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Things I enjoy

It being the season of goodwill and all that, today I shall desist from any sort of moaning and whinging and celebrate the positive - like things I enjoy. So here are a few random pleasures off the top of my head.
  • Murmurations
  • Squirrels and cats
  • Sunrises and sunsets
  • Weeping willows
  • Beautiful men and women
  • Oddballs and misfits
  • Acrobats and gymnasts
  • Stilt-walkers
  • Dresses (usually on other people)
  • Modern art
  • Music/books/films
  • Chess
  • White wine
  • Vegetarian and vegan food
  • Ice cream
  • Chocolate
  • The sea
  • Mountains
  • Thunderstorms
  • Fountains
  • Waterfalls
It only remains to say: Happy Christmas. May the Force be with you. And may traffic wardens stay away from your street.

Friday, 18 December 2015


I was asked if I had any scars.
No, no physical scars.
I've never had an operation.
I've never had a serious accident.
I've never been beaten up.
So the answer is no.
But I have plenty of emotional scars.
I've had a strange life.
Things haven't always gone according to plan.
I've had my share of pain and grief
along with fun and happiness.
I've had to confront some dark corners
of my own personality.
I've found things I'd rather not have found.
I've wrestled with demons.
But I've lived to tell the tale.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Parental blues

Who'd be a parent? Wherever you go, other people are privately (or publicly) judging your parenting skills. Neighbours, relatives, teachers, total strangers. Not to mention your own nagging self-criticism. And not to mention all those contradictory parenting guides.

There can't be many parents who're blithely confident that they're doing fine, that they know what's good for their kids, and aren't always looking over their shoulder at what other parents are doing.

I'll admit to a bit of censorious tut-tutting myself. Kids who run riot in restaurants. Kids who sit next to me on the bus and are jumping up and down for the next 20 minutes. Kids who drop chocolate wrappers in my front garden. But at least I keep my petty whinges to myself and don't load the parents with yet more guilt and self-blame.

So many people think they could do a better job than the parents themselves. Surely all that's needed is a bit more discipline, a bit less lazy indifference, and a few basic behavioural guidelines. How hard can it be?

Those who're doing the parenting could tell them exactly how hard it can be. Relentlessly truculent children, relentlessly hyper-active children, relentlessly destructive children. Just put yourself in our shoes, they might say, and you'll see what a constant struggle it can be to turn wayward children into civilised human beings.

How thankful parents must be if they're blessed with polite, considerate, diligent children who're a delight to have around and not a permanent embarrassment. And how sympathetic they must be to those whose children are an endless headache.

I've never had children, but I sometimes wonder if my own children would have been little horrors or little angels. In my worst nightmares, they would have been the offspring from hell. And the censorious tut-tutting would have been a deafening clamour.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Like for like

Should a character in a play or movie with a defining trait be played by an actor with the same trait? Should a disabled person always be played by a disabled actor, or a transgender woman by a transgender woman, or a lesbian by a lesbian?

There's been a lot of controversy over this question recently. Activists objected strongly to transgender roles being taken by non-transgender actors. Flynn in "Breaking Bad", however, who has cerebral palsy, was played by Roy Frank Mitte, who himself has cerebral palsy. Yet nobody thought it strange that the two lesbians in "Carol" were portrayed by heterosexual women.

On the one hand, it's argued that the whole point of acting is to depict someone different from yourself, and it's your acting ability that makes the person convincing. The opposing view says that however good an actor you are, you can never be as convincing or as natural as the real thing - someone who is actually disabled, lesbian, or whatever.

My thinking is that you should use actors with the same trait as the character, as they do tend to be more authentic. But how far do you take it? You could apply the principle so widely it becomes not only absurd but impractical. Should you insist on a an actor who's a genuine anorexic, or alcoholic, or rapist, or hit-and-run driver? The casting process would be a nightmare. And suppose you wanted someone who was anorexic and a hit-and-run driver? The mind boggles.

On second thoughts, maybe you should just ask actors to do what they're supposed to do - act. Why spoil their fun?

Pic: transgender actor Rebecca Root

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Wild emotions

I'm not known for expressing wild emotions. The wild emotions are there all right, I'm very aware of them churning away inside me somewhere, but I keep them to myself rather than hurling them at everyone else.

Others are less restrained. They shout abuse at the TV or the neighbours. They scream at other motorists who've annoyed them. They throw crockery or books. They send vitriolic emails. They slice up their cheating spouse's clothes.

Do they feel better for such extreme behaviour or worse? I've no idea. But I definitely feel better for keeping my more fevered emotions to myself. I don't want to end up doing something I bitterly regret 24 hours later but can't undo.

I find it embarrassing and disturbing when I'm present at such outbursts, and feel much relieved when things quieten down again. It's not that I don't sympathise. I know it's a natural response to utter frustration or distress. But I still find it acutely uncomfortable to watch.

I hate seeing parents shouting and screaming at their children. I hate seeing couples having violent arguments. I hate it when people let rip at hapless sales assistants, waiters or airline staff. I'm sure there must be less frenzied, less melodramatic ways of dealing with the problem.

On the odd occasion when I'm so consumed with rage that I express it openly and volubly, people are amazed. They're so used to me as the picture of calm and reasonableness. They're so used to me as the mediator, the one whose first instinct is to settle differences and patch things up.

Oh, and I cried freely at work once over the way I'd been treated by the boss. He must have been pretty vile, as I rarely cry, even in private.

But road rage? Chucking crockery? Cutting up clothes? About as likely as a lunar eclipse.