Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Tips For Bathing Baby

We've been receiving a lot of requests for tips as to how to bathe your baby properly, especially since one of the community members shared a comment mentioning the 'All-Over Baby Cleanse' on a post about baby health. So, without further ado, here are some guidelines for giving your child the All-Over Baby Cleanse. Please remember: these are just guidelines, but it's extremely important to follow them very closely or your parenting will suffer and your child's upbringing may be impaired.

Place baby in the bathtub. His or her dumpy little body should sit up to about 2/3 height in warm, soapy water. You can test the temperature with a bath thermometer, available in all good chemists, or by dipping your elbow in the water. But don't fret overly: if the water is too warm, you will in any case be alerted to this by your baby's helpful shrieks. Mother nature thinks of everything!

Take a minute to gaze at your baby, sitting innocently and a little stupidly in the water. Your baby's skin is so soft, upholstering uselessly pudgy limbs that soften and become adorably more impractical in the bathtub. Baby's eyes are shinier in the water, and you may want to take this opportunity to ponder that you, yes, you, may very well have created the first perfect human, whose excellence can still be preserved, you're certain of it, just as long as you don't fuck up from here on in, and protect him or her from all the world's cudgels and skewers forever. Baby gurgles happily in the water, looking back at you, and releases a gorgeous fart that fwollops up to the water's surface and commingles with the bubblebath.

Placing one hand gently but firmly on your baby's unbent and unburdened shoulders, use the other hand to sluice baby's body with warm, soapy liquid, and scrub very lightly with a sponge. Wash down the fat little legs and tickle baby's feet, and along baby's short, stumpy arms to where the only visible dirt has accumulated in baby's miniature fingernails, which are like the fingernails of a silly, silly doll sitting on a lace-lined shelf in a house belonging to your second-favourite great-aunt.

In one firm and smooth gesture, lean baby back into the water in order to slosh around with your sponge among baby's genitalia, which are so soft and useless and silly, and heartbreaking somehow too, as you dreamily muse that your baby has no shame.

Dipping your baby's outsize head softly back into the water, rinse his or her head, and give it a bit of a scrub if you feel like it. Be careful not to get any water in baby's already watery eyes. Using a bit of cotton wool, delicately rinse your baby's face with clean water, being careful to reach behind the ears for any evil pollutants.

Sit baby back up in the tub, because now comes the slightly tricky bit. Don't be scared. It can feel a little tough at first, a little daunting, but your baby's body is very new and pliable, and it's important not to skip this step. Placing both hands on the back of your baby's skull, press gently but firmly until you feel a bit of give on the outside of the cranium. At this point, push right through in one smooth motion, gently popping your baby's head inside out. Repeat this process all down your baby's spine, feeling your way very gently to pushing your baby's whole body inside out, so that the skin is on the inside of the body and flesh and organs are presented on the exterior. Legs and arms will naturally fold down into the newly out-turned body. Your baby's body should now be fully flipped, and you will observe all of the tiny, still functioning organs and inner workings of your spawn, like pert peas sitting perfectly in a pod, or the pipes on Pompidou.

At this point you have a few minutes ahead of you to wash and clean your baby's innards, since baby hasn't a great deal of breathing time available in this new configuration. Lightly slosh water around the newly flayed limbs; these don't require a great deal of cleaning, and you can be fairly brisk. Using a soft little baby toothbrush, scrub along the visible elements of your baby's vertebrae, where impurities may have accumulated, Using a cotton pad, wipe the little beating heart, pumping so charmingly in the nest of your child's perfect ribcage, making sure to get in among the little ventricles, and wipe down the tiny organs such as kidneys and liver etc etc. Baby's brain, nestled inside the soft skull, can similarly be towelled very lightly, and you can remove muck from behind the eyes with a cotton bud. The main thing is to give the organs a bit of a buff, plump them up, and remove any filth - so don't be too concerned with anything finicky. Blow gently on your baby's insides, using a warm blow - not a chilly blow - to dry out everything a little bit before you turn your baby back the right way.

Turn your baby outside-in using exactly the method you adopted before: the flesh and joints will naturally click back into position. Baby may be a little perturbed at this point, as he or she will have been gazing in at the inside of his or her head, Give baby a quick cuddle, splash with one last round of water, then remove from the bath and towel dry your baby, who will now be cooing quite happily, and will doubtless want to play a quick game of peekaboo under the towel's warm folds.

Brush baby's tooth-bones with a little brush and a pea of minty cleansing putty, making sure to reach back to your child's hilariously unfunctioning molars for any scraps of grub left over from lunch, or another meal. Dress baby in some clothing of your choice.

Voila! Your baby is clean in every way - hopeful, fresh-smelling, innocent, gleaming, creamy, true and kind. Repeat once a week until your baby is able to talk, at which point his or her cries of complaint may induce you to cease the operation altogether.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

No It Won't

Could anything be more brazen and mendacious than the Tory party, in their annual conference, parroting Sam Cooke's Civil Rights anthem 'A Change Is Gonna Come'? Theresa May employed the phrase six times in her speech today, making it more than a mere coincidence. Is a change going to come? Well, in a year that has seen political lies, manipulation and distortion reach a truly gut-quaking nadir, this has to count as one of the biggest daddies of all.

When Sam Cooke recorded 'A Change Is Gonnna Come' in 1964, it was as a direct result of personal injustices he had undergone, being turned away from a hotel with his wife because of the colour of his skin. He saw the racial injustice all around him, and was inspired by Bob Dylan's Blowing In The Wind to write a protest song of his own. Cooke's song is personal from the get-go: "I" is the very first word you hear. This "I" relates specific experiences: an unhallowed birth, being chased away from movies and downtown, and dealings with a "brother" (read: the man) who knocks him down to his knees over and over again. Although Cooke's song has had a sort of popular universality bestowed upon it since, its agenda is actually precise, and its voice goes against the current. Cooke makes very clear that his experience is that of a marginalised person - destitute at the beginning, then running, displaced, and brought down to the ground in the final verse. His story takes place not in parallel with a mainstream, dominant culture, but in opposition to it, in a seemingly perpetual struggle with it.

Does the Tory party speak for the rejected, the turned away, the displaced? It's not just that the Tory party doesn't do that, but the extent to which they do the exact opposite could take your breath away when juxtaposed with this song. If you listened to the lyric "just like the river, I've been running ever since" and were to seek a political parallel, I wonder if you might not alight on the refugee crisis, rather than the sort of duff meritocracy that Theresa May purports to be selling to the country? Britain's record for welcoming refugees is a disgrace, and Theresa May has even mooted deporting European nationals from Britain. When Cooke sings "Somebody keeps telling me, don't hang around", he is alluding precisely to this experience, of being impoverished, unwanted, and racially discriminated against. Britain isn't the object of the world's injustices, but a proponent of it. Theresa May's ilk aren't Sam Cooke, they're the people who move him along.

Theresa May speaks of wanting to build a meritocracy, but the grammar schools she plans are an objective example, verified by studies, of the sort of social injustice Sam Cooke was calling out, and of the racial discrimination, even, against which he railed. It isn't fucking hard to see that the 11-plus, a test which clearly favours the privileged, isn't going to be doing Britain's ethnic minorities a whopping solid. And sure enough, a study in Buckinghamshire in June of this year found that British Pakistani and Black Caribbean children were half as likely to pass the 11-plus as their white counterparts. Oh go on then Sam, let's hear it: "Then I go to my brother, and I say brother, can you help me please. And he winds up knocking me back down on my knees." Thank you Sam, I think that'll do.

How, how can this government have the gall not only to bring its needless, stupid, unproven measures in so brazenly, but to accompany it with the patronising and unearned language of struggle? How can they speak in racist terms of immigrants while cloaking themselves in the words of a black leader? The use of Cooke's words isn't just a detail, it's a measure of how confident the Tory party now is, that they could do so with such impunity. It's a flaunting of their apparently unassailable position. It's a slap in the face delivered with a smirk.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

I've Suddenly Thought of a Way To Nail My Next Work Assessment

Boss: OK Caspar, so, thanks for attending this session to review your performance over the last year.
Me: You’re very welcome!
Boss: So, comparing your results against the professional goals that you set yourself last year, you stated in your objectives that…
Me: No I didn’t!
Boss: What?
Me: I don’t know who told you that, or where you got this, the, this so-called fact document or whatever!
Boss: We went over your objectives in April, it’s on the work intranet.
Me: Ask anyone, ask my mum or the guy who works on reception, great guy, phenomenal guy, his name’s Ignacio, or Chavez, I never said that I would or wouldn’t do something, and I’m a man of my word, ask anyone who’s worked with me, bet you haven’t.
Boss: Caspar. Please let’s look at the document. You stated that you would implement a new system for the whole team at work to share documents and files more easily. Now, in October you just sent an email round to everyone…
Me: Oh OK, here we go, can’t wait to hear how this story ends!
Boss: …saying you couldn’t be bothered, and you wanted to go for a walk.
Me: OK for starters, are you real? I did not do that, in fact quite to the contrariness I did set up the new system, matter of fact I even did it twice, and this was against the better advice of all my friends all telling me not to work, because it would have been better for me not to work, because I’d still get the same salary, but I still did do it and I even did it twice, just ask anyone on the street, seriously, let’s get serious here, you keep saying I’m not serious, let’s be serious.
Boss: Why would you do the same thing twice? You only needed to do it once.
Me: Well this is just everything that’s wrong with this company, I've got to tell you! [I pause to high-five myself]
Boss: Moving on…
Me: Thank you, at last!
Boss: A new objective for you…
Me: Again I don’t recognise the so-called veracity of this but continue, please, be my guest.
Boss: A new objective for you was to answer all your emails.
Me: Nope! Wrong.
Boss: It says here that…
Me: I’ll tell you what I do, and I got told I did amazing at this, best ever, is I sometimes phone someone, or maybe I’ll shout across the office, you’ve heard me do that, I do what I say I say I do, it’s just as good as emails, even it’s better because…
Boss: Our international colleagues can’t hear you shouting across the office, Caspar.
Me: Let me finish, you keep saying I have an attitude problem, I’m sorry Missy, Miss boss, or should I probably say Ms, I don’t know, but only one person has an attitude here and it’s not Caspar Salmon. I don’t email, fine, I’ve said that, I’m on the record as saying that to the bus driver in the morning when I do my commute, and to Natalie in accounts, and many, many other people, people I could name all day. But they all say I did excellent, and the reason is I did a great job.
Boss: But you’ve seriously underperformed over the last year, Caspar. The figures don’t lie, you haven’t brought in as much revenue from the…
Me: I’ll tell you revenue! Another word for revenue, which is just a fancy wording for a word I call money, is I’ve excelled at that from start to finish, beginning to end, 100 percent, constantly. Money up, figures up, less negatives and so on. Compared to the previous guy in the job, who probably got fired, I don’t know…
Boss: James. He died.
Me: Compared to James who died, then, I’ve done incredible.
Boss: This brings me to something that’s quite difficult to bring up, Caspar, and that’s an attitude problem that…
Me: I’m glad you brought up your attitude problem, I didn’t want to be the one to do it, but it’s a fact and I’m glad we can talk about this to be quite frank with you, very glad, because I and many other people, lots of them, several, believe me it’s dozens, are noticing this attitude from you and it’s a real big problem.
Boss: No, you’re the person who…
Me: …who has the guts to come on out and say it, and I’m glad I did, because now who’s the one who’s saying names, calling this and that to others, about results and emails and attitude, it’s not me, but it’s me that says things out in the open, and I think this is bad.
Boss: You’re not listening.
Me [almost at the same time]: YOU’RE NOT LISTENING, I’m an expert OK, I know this stuff, and this is bigger than just did I do what you said I didn’t do, or not, as the case may be, it’s about whether I was the best, and I am, and that’s just a fact.
Boss: I’m now warning you that I will have to notify management of this meeting and conduct a full review of this. It’s just not acceptable, Caspar.
Me: I’m more than happy to do that, in fact I’ll conduct the review myself, that way I’ll know they did a good job of it, being as I’m the only one who does any work around here. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

On Almodovar and Munro

Alice Munro would not seem to be a perfect fit for Pedro Almodovar, whose new film Julieta is an adaptation of three short stories by Munro. Unlike the work of Sarah Polley, who adapted Munro’s story ‘The Bear Came Over The Mountain’ for her film Away From Her, Almodovar’s oeuvre shares few thematic or stylistic concerns with Munro’s. But Julieta feels in many ways faithful to the source material while staying true to Almodovar himself, and the key differences that exist between the two artists’ versions are revelatory about their approaches.

An early scene in Julieta, and in ‘Chance’, the first of the Alice Munro short stories from which it is drawn, sees the young protagonist taking a night train, which is forced to come to a halt after a man throws himself in front of it. The young woman, in the following minutes and hours, recovering from the shock of this death, meets the man who will become her partner and the father to her daughter. Thus far the two accounts of the event are broadly similar in film and book, but Almodovar makes key changes to this significant early moment.

Almodovar’s version is more overtly sexual: when Julieta meets Xoan, the attraction between them is instantaneous, and, in a superbly shot scene where the lovers are shown mirrored in a darkened window of the train, they make love in her carriage after he has escorted her back from the restaurant car. Munro’s version is both bolder and more low-key: her Juliet has to excuse herself after meeting Eric because she is on her period, and she rushes to the lavatory to take care of the emergency. But she is unable to flush her menstrual blood away, since the train is stationary while the suicide’s body is being cleared away outside the train, and she fears attracting attention. Munro juxtaposes death, fertility and social angst in one extraordinarily vivid image which is anchored in a socially conscious representation of 1960s Canada. Almodovar excises this altogether, to focus on the sexual rapport between his characters. For him, the scene is about sexual connection, and about the solace and liberation to be found in sex. The scene tells us, also, that Almodovar’s interest is in the plasticity of bodies, and in creating beauty from a moment of ugliness. Finally, his tone is in many ways gentler than that of Munro, whose even, measured prose can disguise a singular brutality.

Almodovar’s shrewdest touch in adapting Munro—and his most elegant act of fidelity—is to transpose her action from 1960s Canada to 1980s Spain, at the height of Movida when he first came to the fore as a director. Munro’s trilogy of interlinked stories (‘Chance’, ‘Soon’, ‘Silence’) stretches from 1965 to the early 2000s, and functions, in one possible reading of it, as an examination of the compromises and betrayals of baby boomer liberalism. Juliet, a young woman in 1965, meets Eric on a train, moves in with him in his house in remote Whale Bay just after his wife dies, and they have a daughter together, Penelope, who will later sever all links with her mother after discovering a new age type of spirituality.

Julieta meets Xoan in 1985 – a time when Spain opened up in the years following Franco’s deposition and a new liberal politics was possible, including for women. Adriana Ugarte, playing Julieta with short dyed hair, resembles nothing so much as Victoria Abril in Almodovar’s early films. This aligns the film’s events with Almodovar’s creative life, in the same way Munro’s trilogy centres on her years of creativity. As Julieta progresses through to the present day, the film works in a similar way to the short stories as an account of liberal Spain, and its difficulties in adapting to modernity. Where Munro delights in savaging Juliet’s narcissism and the idiotic spirituality her daughter seeks refuge in, Almodovar’s perspective appears more bittersweet, concentrating more on Julieta’s sadness and depression. In ‘Silence’, after Penelope has abandoned her mother, she sends her birthday cards on her own (Penelope's) birthday for several years, as a kind of odd, unspoken rebuke; in Julieta, the mother makes a birthday cake every year for her daughter who never comes home to share it with her. Again Munro’s imagery is more vivid, again more cruel; Almodovar looks for the heart in his characters, where she allows them to hurt each other.

Almodovar sadly discards almost all of Munro’s bite: where his film is relatively restrained, her short stories feature some laugh-out-loud jokes, which all feed in to the bitterness of her worldview. The first gag comes on the very first page of ‘Chance’: “Juanita said that she wished her lover’s wife was brain-dead”. In ‘Silence’, Juliet’s anger with the spiritual leader she sees as having taken her daughter away from her prompts her to nickname one guidance counsellor ‘Mother Shipton’: “That was what she had finally decided to call her, having toyed with and become dissatisfied with Pope Joan”. Munro’s most delicious joke is that Eric, who lives and works in Whale Bay, is a prawn fisher; she slips it in very gently, but in the drag world you would call that a read. Almodovar’s film is very beautiful, replacing Munro’s tartness with a kind of melancholy languor, but it loses out to Munro’s work on punchiness. Julieta, after his comedy I’m So Excited, is his second-least funny film.

Almodovar’s tools, his cinematic language, operate on a different level to Munro. Her composure as a narrator is total, presenting her characters and situations with deft, even-handed coolness over several pages, all the better to clobber you with a two-sentence narrative jolt or brutal observation. Almodovar’s natural register is melodrama, and although Julieta sees him dial down many of his tendencies towards those heightened emotions, his style is unmistakeable. Beautiful backwards tracking shots, mesmerising close-ups, a lush and insistent string score that ramps up the tension, and a colour palette of startling reds, puts Julieta in the lineage of other Almodovar films like Talk To Her. This is also what lends Julieta its warmth, its aesthetic generosity, and helps to temper the crushing sadness of its subject matter.

Almodovar’s fascination with beauty is what leads him to diverge from Munro’s stories in another crucial regard, namely their work on bodies. As shown in the menstruation scene, Munro’s emphasis is on the earthiness and almost grotesque quality of bodies. She contrasts the coarse physicality of human bodies with what she sees as the sophistry of faith. In ‘Soon’, Juliet can’t bring herself to tell her dying mother that she will see her in heaven, and there is a sensational moment when a diabetic priest has a panic attack during a sugar-low.  In ‘Chance’, Munro delights in a gruesome account of Eric’s overtly non-religious funeral pyre on a beach. “One of the men cried, ‘Get the children out of here.” This was when the flames had reached the body, bringing the realization, coming rather late, that consumption of fat, of heart and kidneys and liver, might produce explosive or sizzling noises disconcerting to hear.”

If Julieta discards this theme, it’s because Almodovar is obsessed with the sensuality of bodies, with their cosmetic gorgeousness. Munro tells us, rather wearily, that Juliet is beautiful, but Almodovar goes to town on the idea. Julieta is gorgeous, and framed exquisitely in the film as played by Ugarte in later scenes and Emma Suarez as an older woman. Xoan, her mismatched partner, is also shot in all his gentle-yet-macho splendour, a little like Almodovar used to film Antonio Banderas, minus the outright horniness of his early work. Almodovar can’t bring himself to show the failure of bodies: for him, redemption for life’s miseries and deceptions is to be found precisely in physical attraction and connection, in the marvel of human beauty. What his film loses in psychological and social precision compared to Munro’s work (we know next to nothing about the fishing village Julieta and Xoan live in; we find out very little about Julieta’s parents) it gains in the wide-eyed wonder he has for the loveliness of youth and the power of sexuality. Munro’s stories show how Juliet’s intellectual life sustains her, to a point, through her ordeal; Almodovar gives us a brief but salutary glimpse of Julieta’s fulfilling sexual life as an older woman. Julieta gives us an idea of disconnection, but sex and beauty still seem to invigorate Almodovar’s work, leavening its sorrow and loneliness.

Julieta’s feat, ultimately, is that Almodovar himself is so present and alive in this story, which in so many ways is lightyears away from his perspective and experiences. In Julieta, the character, we see a reflection of the hopes, dreams, desires and sorrows of a man who is not afraid to bare his soul. His moulding of these stories into this highly personal film shows that, as in the work of Munro herself, surprises may lie ahead in his later work.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Notes On Embarrassment

Is it possible to die of embarrassment? Wikipedia has a fun page devoted to the topic of death from laughter which, among several notable deaths due to hilarity, lists Chrysippus, the 3rd Century philosopher, as having conked it when he got the giggles upon espying his donkey eating some figs. My own father watched The Big Lebowski in the week after he had been told to take it easy following an operation, and the film caused him to laugh so much that he could no longer tell if he was crying from laughter or from the physical pain in his stomach.

But there doesn't seem to be anything online about actual deaths due to embarrassment - and, to paraphrase Adam Mars-Jones in his memoir Kid Gloves, if something is on the internet it may or may not exist, but if it isn't on the internet it doesn't exist. It surprises me that literal death from embarrassment--or mortification, signifying putting the flesh to death--hasn't been known to happen, because I have personally felt on the brink of popping my clogs for that very reason for at least the last six days. Perhaps all deaths due to embarrassment are too self-delaying for doctors to be able to attribute them precisely to that cause. Maybe I will only die some time next year of the accumulated embarrassment from this week, which will have weighed heavily on my internal organs, caused my cardiovascular rhythm to go just that little bit berserk and tainted my bloodstream with so much anger and confusion. Or maybe I will simply cringe to death, my body bent double until my spine physically cracks in half along its entire length, splitting my body into two neat segments that bisect at my nape and arsehole. "This man has shattered himself in two!" a doctor will exclaim, "How is this possible?" "It's simple, doctor," a grieving friend will reply, "he was listening to Prime Minister's Questions in the week after a majority of Britain's imbecile voting masses decided to fuck themselves in the eye, and heard a minister ask David Cameron a question about primary school children drawing birthday cards for the Queen." "I see," the doctor will say. "And the shame was so great that it caused him to implode on the spot?" "That's right, doctor. He was dead within a minute."

Britain has a long and noble history of embarrassment, which doesn't seem to exist in other cultures to quite the same extent. Patrice Leconte's film Ridicule is the rare French work that hinges on a sense of mortification, or social shame. In it, 18th century courtiers in Versailles take turns attempting to shame each other in public, using sexual and intellectual tactics to tarnish reputations. The sense here of ridicule as a force to diminish other people has a satirical function aimed at the upper classes and aristocracy, for whom all interaction is a game with winners and losers. The film borrows from Les Liaisons Dangereuses in its view of a petty and conniving upper class engaged in killing each other out of boredom. But Ridicule has an essentially tragic, quite grandiose aspect to its take on the subject, which would seem to be absent from the rich British culture of embarrassment.

In Jane Austen's Emma, perhaps the greatest moment of embarrassment in literature occurs when Emma humiliates Miss Bates during an excursion to Box Hill, with a toxic quip. Emma has proposed, in her boredom, that the company play a game whereby everybody must say "either one thing very clever, or two things moderately clever; or three things very dull indeed." Miss Bates, quite wittily and astutely, says that she is likely to win the game since she is able to say dull things without even trying - whereupon Emma (cruelly, hilariously, mortifyingly) replies: "Ah! Ma'am, but there may be a difficulty. Pardon me but you will be limited as to number - only three at once."

Can you feel the shame? Does your body recoil from the sheer social horror of the situation? The genius of Jane Austen is that the embarrassment works both ways here, and it keeps augmenting with time, since Miss Bates is embarrassed by the aggressive and horrifically rude nastiness of the quip, and Emma herself is embarrassed by Miss Bates' embarrassment, and the other guests on the excursion, who are not active members of the exchange, have now had their day ruined because of embarrassment.

Note how embarrassment in this scenario is almost self-generating: all it requires is boredom to ignite it, and ignorance and cruelty to keep it alive, and from there it propagates with reckless abandon, becoming something more than it was in the instant when it was born. But the embarrassment in Emma stands for more than a simple social interaction: it represents Emma's unthinkingness, in not understanding that she is attacking someone vulnerable; in not seeing that Miss Bates is in many regards except her want of fortune, quite like Emma herself. When Mr Knightley later rebukes Emma for her actions, it is with real fury, because Emma has shown a lack of understanding for others, and Emma feels so much regret, feels so "agitated, mortified and grieved" that she cries all the way home. The roots of the embarrassment in this scene grow from political differences - one person is highly educated and has excellent prospects and money, and the other person, who has been mocked, has next to nothing except society's regard and compassion for her. Emma has contravened a simple societal law, and the violence of her behaviour rings out in the setting of Austen's world.

I won't overwork the parallels with my own embarrassment upon seeing Britain lurch into a post-Brexit world--the violence and ignorance of people's actions and discourse over the last few months easily speak for themselves--other than to observe that it's in everyone's language that we have failed to give a proper account of the crisis we are in. The words we use have not been up to the task of explaining first of all the crux of the plebiscite and secondly the outlook once the referendum had taken place. My embarrassment stems in part from observing this linguistic failure: it's there in the Labour party's inability to confront the government over its abdication of political duty, but it also exists online, in our collective inability to measure the extent of our decision. Why has there been almost no discussion of the cultural impact Britain faces in hiding itself away from others, in protecting itself from contact? Why did we not hear a positive argument about the European Union, which might have touched on anything from art to sexual relationships, and how they make our lives sing better and louder?

Embarrassment derives, also, from a misunderstanding of scale. Emma, at Box Hill, fails to understand the dimensions of her gaffe; does not measure, either, the chasm between her and Miss Bates. Britain's woeful misunderstanding of its place in the world, and the language used to lament and decry its loss of prospects or indeed to vaunt its powers by people on both sides of this ridiculous debate, have caused consternation so damaging to my constitution that I will quite likely die of it before November.

Even a country that pretty much invented the notion of embarrassment can have too much of it. I have friends who cannot watch cringe comedy, who duck behind the sofa during the worst, most acutely truthful and painful scenes in Nighty Night. But everyone is now being forced to watch these scenes play out, our eyes taped open like the protagonist's in A Clockwork Orange, except instead of watching scenes of brutality we're witnessing Britain repeatedly falling on its bloated arse while actual existences are in jeopardy. How much more can we take?

Friday, June 24, 2016

How To Apologise To Your Child Today

My child is two - and, given that no monogamous lesbian has ever got pregnant by mistake, his was one of the most planned births ever to have happened. His mothers and I spent days and days, over the course of years, discussing everything from his name to his education, from the sharing of holidays to what will happen to him if one or more of us were to die. We agreed on all of it, and wrote it down in an adorably unofficial agreement that we all signed, less so that our decisions could exist in law, but more so that we would have a record of our promises to each other that we would stand by.

Today, I want to apologise to my son, for this occurrence that we did not predict, that we could not have predicted when we first started imagining his existence six years ago. He's only two, so he has no real understanding of the events, but I think it's important to talk to him, however lightly, about the way we have voted in a future of suspicious disconnection for him, a Europe unlike the one I grew up in. So I have imagined how I will talk to him about this, and my replies to his possible questions, with the hope that other parents will also try and speak to the next generation, and apologise to them, and give them the hope and political education to confront this new world.

Me: Hey, sweetheart, come over here darling, Daddy wants a word. Come and sit on my lap, gorgeous.
E: Daddy daddy daddy! I toys!
Me: Yes sweetheart darling, bring over a toy. Yes, bring your froggy, lovely. Aww, give him a nice cuddle, that's nice. So, today, I'm afraid--
E: You've fucked it, haven't you?
Me: What?
E: Admit it, you fucked up.
Me: Now, baby. Cuddles! Listen--
E: Do not absolve yourself of responsibility in the begetting of today's darkness. You were a blithe quisling prince in your unquestioning liberal complacency. You abetted the forces of imbecility with your self-regarding vituperation, you sleep-walked nightshirtless into this gaping pit. Today I reap the ghastliness of your self-satisfaction and unmooredness. Kein babytalk jetzt, Vati.
Me: Sweetness, I'm sorry, we just didn't see how--
E: You didn't see? YOU DIDN'T SEE? While you were sunning yourself on your two and a half yearly holidays for the last half-decade, slurping pesce spada on a Mediterranean clifftop like the unwitting dolt you cannot even imagine yourself to be, your hurting co-people were queuing for a one-person tin of beans in a makeshift food hall, buggered to fuckery by the top-down cash nightmare inflicted on them by a snotty, braying upper class you did so little to hand-grenade. Why have you fucked my future? Why could you not see beyond your own tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny nose?
Me: The blame should lie with Britain's press though, which colludes with the political establishment to pretend that there are no options for the dispossessed beyond a sort of capitalistic condescension. I just hope that you can grow up to...
E: Will I have the strength, though? Will I have the force required, after 16 more years of totalitarian shit-writings, to rise and counter the forces of rightwing despotism? What will the world even look like? You did not see, because you did not look, and today your reward is my seething.
Me: But--
E: Enough. I will now play with my train and perchance cast this terror from my mind. You may make me an egg for my supper, in silence.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Free Radicals

Now we fight. Now I know radicalisation. Now I am a fundamentalist too, more than ever, ready to take up arms to defend my brothers and sisters who have been, who are always being, attacked. I will be a warrior in the battle for our rights - and let me be clear that the object of our struggle is not acceptance by mainstream straight society, but defeat of mainstream society, which aims its violence and hatred at anything and anyone that stands in the way of straight male domination.

Homophobes are misogynists. They hate the same thing in gays that they hate in women, which is that they cannot own us, we are a rebuke to their sense of their own power, we are not like them.

The attack in Orlando isn't about you, I hear. No, it isn't about me. The people who died aren't me. I am alive. But the people who died are my people, are our people. No-one is claiming this attack, no-one wants to own a massacre. But this is an attack on all of us, and it is not isolated. I've never been killed, not yet, but I have been shouted at and attacked on the streets of London. I have had death threats. I've seen the crazed rage in the eyes of someone who would like me to die, and who would kill me if only no-one were around and he could get away with it. Every queer knows this. Every queer knows that this violence exists, that we sicken people to murderousness. This is why we need people to recognise this, to see what this attack is. It's part of a worldwide patriarchal horror of difference. You think this is isolated, a one-off? My brothers, sisters and non-gendered siblings are thrown off buildings, beaten up, "correction-raped", cast as paedophiles, all around the world, every day. A gay man was murdered recently in the exact centre of London, Trafalgar Square. The message is clear: watch out. Next time it could be you. Don't go thinking you can be free around here.

Love is love. Great. But I am not in love, I don't think anyone is currently in love with me, and I demand not to be attacked. Yes, queer people love. This should not - does not - need saying and has nothing to do with anything. Don't tell our attackers, who wish to kill us for our difference, that we are like everyone else. Teach them to respect our difference.

So now I fight, now we all fight. I've seen my radicalised brethren online, vowing to march on, to be more gay, more queer than ever. I will join them, with my arsenal of weapons: my sass, my wit that undermines and redefines the world, my arse that will not quit, my clothes, my body language, my musicality, my kindness and my total rejection of violence, as my warrior forefathers and foremothers did.

If you do not fight alongside me you are against me, and I will fight you, too. I will dazzle, mystify and appal you with my queerness until you are defeated. I'm proud, so are they, so are we all, and we will win.