Stormy weather

 

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I’m recovering from my Christmas Day. Since you ask, I was kept awake until 2am by the yipping of a dog as over-excited as a toddler, only pacified by his beloved human brother, recently returned from Canada, spending the night downstairs on the sofa to settle him.

I was busy all day so there was no time for awkward moments, nor were there any forced or ominous silences, apart from the times when the young people started to talk politics and were firmly rebuked for doing so. Apparently an agreement had been reached not to do so.

I had warned my own offspring to be non-controversial too, so this is fair enough in my book. It’s not a safe space mentality or anything like that, although I regret slightly that such a thing might ever be necessary in my house, which I deem convivial and open-minded enough not to have taboo subjects, but I suppose there is a time and a place for debates about politics; religion; whether we run our families on traditional or modern lines; all that sort of stuff, and Christmas Day is not really it.

I’m all for self-expression but not at the cost of making someone feel uncomfortable or excluded on a day where we had come together to bond as a family. Our lives are busy and we hardly ever have the opportunity for a family get together and, as an only child who has lost one parent to death and the other to dementia, these days I’m often acutely aware of how alone I can be in the world.

I guess we all have to learn to make compromises, and learning when to do so without forfeiting the things we hold dear is part of growing up.

Why do I mention this? Well, it’s in reaction to yesterday but I’m thinking about a couple of things that have been said on Twitter this evening. The North West (in particular) of the British Isles has been hit by a succession of disastrous storms which have caused terrible flooding in Cumbria amongst other places. Tonight’s news is that Northern cities such as Leeds, York and Manchester are underwater as the rain continues to fall and rivers burst their banks. Down here in the South, our weather has been a bit squally and breezy and grey but overall we’ve been fine. All we can do is look at the pictures on the news and hope that our friends further north are safe and that they recover quickly if they are flooded.

It is, however, not our fault that the weather here has been largely clement, enough for us to indulge in our usual Boxing Day pastimes one of which is going to the sales.  I never do this: camping overnight outside a store, whether it’s Selfridges or Apple is really not something I’d ever consider and I find that the things I’d like are rarely included in the sales, so pedestrian are my tastes. Although I do like to dress reasonably well and I’m as susceptible to a pretty thing as the next person, I wouldn’t count myself as unduly acquisitive. Nor, however, am I a joy-sucking, disdainful puritan and I have little time for this sort of person.

Yes, the floods in the North are terrible but they are not happening here. And if people want to go to the first day of the sales to spend their hard-earned cash indulging their whims on things they want but don’t strictly NEED when people are flooded or fleeing war or famine or goodness knows what else in the world, who am I to berate them for doing so?

I become impatient with people who want to stand on their virtue-signalling soapboxes and tell other people that their priorities are wrong. How can they know the motivations of people who save up all year for one thing that they can only afford if its price is reduced in the sales? Perhaps they need it for work. Perhaps they work tirelessly as volunteers and donate huge amounts to charity. Perhaps they are a single parent with three small children and struggle to make ends meet. Or perhaps they don’t. But how dare they enjoy themselves when others are suffering?

You didn’t quite get what you want for Christmas? You’ve been given a jumper two sizes too big so that you have to exchange it? You don’t like sprouts? You find your parents’ decorative taste excruciating? How dare you complain when people are being bombed in Syria or others are depending on food banks for survival! How dare you even open your mouth when so many are in desperate poverty or suffering domestic abuse! Shut your mouth, keep it shut. Never say anything without first checking your privilege.

How can self-appointed arbiters of taste or decency stand in judgement over people whose priorities aren’t the same as theirs? Fine, be outraged at suffering in the world but do you think that being Negative Nora Wet Blanket is really ever going to endear you to the very people on whose help you ultimately depend?

I understand that people are trying to raise serious issues to a wider public but alienating and blaming people whose only crime is to be not suffering in a way you define is not the way to do it. As I said, learning that there’s a time and a place is part of growing up.

On Christmas stress

 

How are the Christmas preparations going?

I have unresolved messy lights on a potted tree outside my house. Today I bought baubles and hoped they would magically be placed on this tree but when I returned home this evening, they were still in the hall.

I brought my artificial tree – I find an annual cut tree too upsetting to chuck away – in and it sits looking far too small and, as yet, undecorated in the cavernous new sitting room space. Most other decorations are still in our storage locker in Bromley and will have to be retrieved tomorrow.

Have you written your cards yet? Have you sorted out the people in your diary to whom you send cards every year who never send you a card and you shrug and say, “Well, fair enough, they’re just not into Christmas cards,” (maybe you say “They’re just not into me,“) and then you get an unexpected card from them and you’ve deleted them from your contacts so you feel guilty and ashamed?

Maybe, like us, you’ve just got a card from New Zealand and you know full well that, even if you manage to reciprocate, the card you send won’t arrive there until Easter.

If you receive a faceless corporate card from a faceless corporate, do you send one back? Do you send one to each and every one of the people who have signed your picture of St. Paul’s Cathedral in the snow with robins? I don’t know.

What about the Christmas presents? Have you decided on a plan about who is to give presents to whom of those sitting around your Christmas table? As yet ours still hangs in the air. We seem to have decided that the younger generation will receive presents but as for their parents, well, who knows? Do we give token presents, (knowing full well that peoples’ perceptions of tokens differ widely) or do we decide that we can forego mindless consumerism and give nothing? Apparently, since I’m hosting, it’s my decision. I haven’t come to any conclusions yet and I’m aware that the clock is ticking inexorably towards Christmas day. My decision. My responsibility.

My favoured option is either a Secret Santa deal, which won’t happen because I’d have to organise it, or maybe people bring interesting consumable presents like, I don’t know, an artisan Somerset goat’s cheese or home-picked walnuts or something. Really, that’s not too controversial, is it? Whatever happens, if it goes wrong it will be my responsibility.

What really irks me every year is that I seem to be the one thinking of ideas for other people’s presents. As if I’m not doing everything else. As if some, not all, but some of these people haven’t got all the time in the world to think or shop. Which makes me anxious that one or other of my children will get a crappy present from someone in their own family because I haven’t stepped in to sort it out. I suppose I should be grateful that I’m not doing the internet shopping on behalf of too many other people this year, as I have before.

It’s all very stressful, isn’t it, and it’s the same way every year. Stop the madness, I say. Do your cards in July and if you fall out with someone in November, just don’t post their card. Refuse to get involved with the presents and then the givers will just have to use their damn brains themselves. Set an alarm to make your pudding or cake (I am set to make my Christmas cake tomorrow – watch this space for more of that.)

We all say it but we never do it.

As I write this, it feels so ungracious. At least we can have a Christmas unlike all those people whose lives have been ripped apart by homelessness and war or broken relationships or illness or loneliness. Maybe we should be grateful just to be able to muddle through.

 

 

Why do they do it?

Why do they do it?

Fellow #thearchers tweetalongers have been exercised for some months now about the revolting, slithery, Machiavellian character of Rob Titchenor, quickly dubbed The Titchyknob. Now that his character has developed in such a sinister way, I can no longer bring myself to refer to him by a comical moniker.

Quite apart from his gradual, yet stunning takeover of Helen‘s personality and independence, which is systematically robbing her of any self-confidence she might once have possessed, Rob Titchenor likes to meddle in other people’s affairs.

He works by charming people to trust him and share their confidences with him, perhaps while under the influence of alcohol or in other unguarded moments – because we can’t all be on our guard al the time, right? He then uses these tiny shards of information against people to pursue goodness knows what personal agenda.

Last night he informed soon-to-be wed LovelyIan about Adam, his intended’s, minor misdemeanour. We Tweetalongers, as well as the 5 million or so other avid The Archers fans, had our ears pinned to the radio tonight, phones on divert, to hear the dénouement of this story. Would Ian call off the wedding at the last minute? Would Rob stand up and declare an impediment? Many of us are beyond ready for evil Rob to get his comeuppance and we want to see his blood-oozing entrails spread out for a sky burial with the crows on Lakey Hill, so despised a character (and so well written and acted) is he.

Alas, we shall have to wait a while longer for our bloody revenge as Ian decided to be the bigger man and forgive Adam’s transgressions. We are all but flesh, I guess.

Rob was denied his messy scene – how choked he was at this realisation – and we shall have to wait a little longer for a resolution of this terrible storyline that has many devout listeners reaching for the off switch as they are finding this domestic abuse storyline so painful. It’s realistic, I’m told. Horribly so.

But I set to wondering exactly why someone feels that they have to meddle in other people’s lives; to extract incriminating disclosures from vulnerable, trusting people and use them only to for harm. What is their motivation? Why do they do it?

Could it be that they seek attention or validation? Is it that passing on heavily-embroidered gossip empowers them? Do they wish people to fear their impact? I don’t know.

I am a simple soul, I know this, and the thought of extracting and using such information to manipulate and humiliate people would never even occur to me. What sort of person would I be if it did? How could it do anything but harm my credibility?

And yet this has happened to me fairly recently in real life – I’m not going into the details again – and I’m left wondering about the motivation of the person who did it. Yes, I was indiscreet and I should not have replied with such candour to a leading question on Social Media, but generally one trusts those who purport to be one’s friends. And this friend was not worthy of my trust.

This person has now lost my trust and friendship and, it would seem, that of someone whom she valued more than me. Other people are still taken in by the charm and the flirtatiousness, but I am grateful to have now seen the other side of this.

Luckily this friendship wasn’t particularly close or longstanding, and I now see how my naive good faith was ruthlessly manipulated and exploited, but I still don’t understand what would prompt someone to meddle in such a harmful and undignified way.

It’s left me feeling bruised and wary. Who is watching? How can I be myself in public? How will any slight indiscretion be exploited and held against me? I also feel defensive: I seem surrounded by people only too keen to remind me and reiterate the “dangers” of exposing one’s soul on Social Media. I wonder how superior it makes them feel when they say those things that reflect their own personal prejudices. This just makes it worse.

It’s a December Monday night and I’m tired and hormonal and so this situation looks bleaker than it otherwise might. I am shaking my head and still finding it astounding that someone would behave like this. I have no doubt that Rob Titchenor will get Karma’s reward in the end – that’s how fiction works. I only wish that real life were quite so neat and tidy.

 

On airstrikes

Right. So Parliament has just voted to send airstrikes to bomb Syria in the hope of obliterating the disgusting totalitarian fascist monsters that are Daesh/Isis. I do hope their information is right and that we don’t live to regret it. I hope that airstrikes and more bombs falling on innocent civilians as well as terrorist targets don’t end up doing more harm than good in both the short and the longer term. My fear is that this escalation will make the conflict and bloodshed worse and further drawn out.

I am not a pacifist, as you know,  but I had severe misgivings about this airstrike policy. It doesn’t seem to have done much good wherever we’ve engaged in it in the Middle East in the last few years. I’m not anti-war per se, I can see why military action is sometimes necessary. Sometimes it is impossible to reason with people but if we came across one of these people on an individual level, we’d walk away. I don’t really think that doing nothing and pretending that it’s someone else’s problem is an option for us but it’s difficult to know exactly what to do for the best.

There are no guarantees that even the best thought-through strategy would work to destroy these people and my sneaking suspicion is that airstrikes, far from being a strategy considered in depth at length, is clutching at straws. And I hugely resent being labelled a terrorist sympathiser for having misgivings, for a lack of blind faith in the pronouncements of any political party.

I also feel disgust for people who are calling people on “the other side” names and making threats against them. To me, the decision seems finely balanced and there is no justification for taking an extreme view to the extent that one insults the other side. After all, the other side is supposed to be those bloodthirsty murderous hoodlums, isn’t it?

I’m sorry for the lack of coherence of this post. My mind has been on other things this week, as you know. I wanted to say something, but it’s late and I’m tired.

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