The holy smoke has spoken…

pope

The holy smoke has spoken…

The white stuff has spoken. We have a new pope. While the recently usurped and renamed Benedict hides out in some mansion overlooking a glistening lake being tended to with goblets of tea and shortbread biscuits in his rabbit fur-lined chair, a new man has taken his place.

Francis is Argentian and being promoted as a humble and simple man. Instead of limousines he takes buses and pays for his own meals. Catholics across the world are swooning (perhaps due to a sleeping gas impregnated in the smoke that only affects the really holy). At first glance he seems ‘better’ but is that really the case? Let’s look at the facts:

1) He is anti-abortion. You have no choice irrelevant of the circumstances. Just have the child, the holy spirit will buy it clothes and food.

2) He is against gay marriage. Only women and men have a right to marry in the eyes of the church. Even though churches are run by just one sex and women are shunned. Remaining celibate and single is the only other option.

3) He opposes same-sex adoption as it denies a child a mother and father. It doesn’t matter if said mother and father are unfit and/or neglectful. The possibility of a nurturing upbringing is exclusive to heterosexuals.

4) He also opposes euthanasia. If you’re terminally ill just have to put up with the pain until your body gives up. God will decide.

Can someone please tell me where does the ‘new’ come in?

Zombies are on the loose & it’s bicycles they’re after….

Road

Zombies are on the loose & it’s bicycles they’re after….

I have recently taken up cycling. The main impetus was to get healthy, but the fact I can come and go when I like is a bonus. Getting to work from home and visa versa is easy. I am no longer reliant on public transport that seems to have a mind of its own when it comes to turning up. It is a freeing experience and I’m glad I took it up.

That said I am not sure if the pros outweigh the cons. Yes I like to feel the wind in the hair when I can actually feel it under the vice-like helmet. Yes I like getting to places faster through narrow alleys and empty one-way streets. And I definitely like the fact my thighs no longer feel like jelly, but rather a well set blancmange. But, and nobody told me this, there are a hell of a lot of cons.

1)      The amount of gear you actually need. Naively I thought a lock and helmet were enough to get me started. My brain was secure in a Styrofoam shell and I had a way to keep my bike attached to a metal pole or bend. I was wrong. The more I cycled, the more I required.

i.        Wet gear

ii.       Many, many lights

iii.      High-viz gear

iv.      Layers of warm clothing

v.       Gloves that feel and move like steel

vi.      A basket so I don’t end up like Quasimodo

vii.    Bike clips

viii.   A bike pump

ix.     A puncture kit  – which I don’t own yet, but is on my list

x.      There’s more, I just haven’t come across them yet…

2)      The weather. It’s evil. It’s as if it waits for you to leave the house/work to pelt down with rain, unleash a wind that belongs to an apocalypse or plummet to a temperature that makes your teeth freeze.

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In the fight for equality, women seem to be losing….

Girl and butterfly graffiti

In the fight for equality, women seem to be losing…

I was once stopped in the street for a vox pop quote. It was a well-known radio station and the question was simple – Do you think women are treated equally? At the time I said yes. I waffled on about glass ceilings and women being able to work, earn their own money and make their own decisions. And that’s true, at least in the tiny bubble I was living in and referring to. In my part of the world there are opportunities, options, choices (albeit reduced since the life sucking recession) for women, but that is not universal. I still cringe when I think about my answer.

Strangely the trial of Oscar Pistorius has brought the issue of women to the forefront. The Guardian reported that in South Africa there were more than 64,000 sexual offences, including rape reported in the year to April 2012, while domestic violence against women is common. That figure is staggering while the word ‘common’ being used to describe domestic abuse is hard to get my head around. Somehow the practice is normal and accepted.

I think a lot of women (including myself) have forgotten that others are not as lucky. While we reap the benefits of the feminist movement and changes in society, many are stuck in the same situation they have been in for thousands of years with little or no sign of change.

I spent a lot of my childhood in the Middle East. Part of living there was that we were segregated from the people we lived around and beside. As expatriates we all lived in compounds with high and thick walls. I was never sure if it was to keep us in or others out. As a child you adapt and get used to things. It wasn’t strange for me to see women swathed in black with only a slit for their eyes. I remember thinking how hot they must be. In temperatures of over 45 degrees celsius they were forced to walk around in the greatest heat seeker ever invented, while the men wore white long robes that reflected the blazing sunshine which was often raised to be used as a fan. It was as if the garb was made just to add more weight to the woman’s burden, always dressed as night even when walking in day.

It was and still is a culture of superiority and repression. Testosterone is the ruling factor and anything less – is well, just less. I didn’t see it when I was younger, never understood the implications. When I visited as a teenager I found it oppressive. I had to watch what I wore, make sure that my sleeves and hems were long enough. It was a shock to the system despite the many years already spent there. I was acutely aware of my body and felt like I stood out.

International Women's Day logo

The experience made me aware of my gender. I have always felt comfortable in my own skin and going to a mixed primary school, never thought much about the difference between men and women, at least not past the practical sense of physicality. It may sound naive, but I took people for who they were and (a) gender was something I just was.

As I got older I noticed things more, paid attention to the differences. After a stint in an all-girls secondary school I realised that I didn’t like girls much. At least not girls stuck together with no male buffer. It was a bitchy and tense environment where I constantly had to be on my toes, to not offend, say the wrong thing or reveal too much. It was not a place I enjoyed or would like to repeat. Nothing untoward happened. I just don’t think it’s a natural environment for any child, either all-male or all-female. Why exclude half the population? Aren’t you just setting a precedent for this division as ‘normal’?

Admittedly men and women think differently. Men seem less preoccupied with things they cannot change. They have an enviable ability to accept and move on. Pragmatism must be embedded somewhere in the Y chromosome. They also look for solutions rather than dabble in the problems. In my experience women love the problems – or rather the steps to resolution. We want to get there, but have some angst/fun/enamel gritting along the way. But isn’t it the differences that have got us into this, seeking what separates us rather than binds us?

The fact is there is still a huge gap between men and women. It is narrowing in certain cases, but in many such as India where the gang rape of a medical student in Dehli caused protests and outrage, the case of a 16 year old being set on fire for accusing a man of rape (again in India), the widespread practice of female genital mutilation across the globe along with the arranged marriages of children not even in puberty, the chasm just seems to be widening. The ‘weaker sex’ are being kept weak.

I have always hated that term  – ‘weaker sex’ along with ‘bird’, ‘chick’ and anything other feathered reference. It is derogatory and is meant to be. Why does one gender have to be superior to another? Can identity not be linked to what we do and are doing, rather than the costumes we were born wearing? Can’t we just be known by our name?

International Women’s Day takes place on March 8th.

Girls will be girls….or will they?

m&m

Girls will be girls….or will they?

This morning I read an article in thejournal.ie that listed 11 things that girls like. As a girl (and apart from the lazy journalism since these facts are all garnered from tweets) I found some of them ridiculous and others just dumb. For that extra dose of Wednesday madness, which ones do you think were said by a girl/woman or boy/man?

1) Having a bobby pin there right when you need it – not named after a random Bobby, but the bob hairstyle where it was used to keep the hair in place. They are rubbish, always fall out, never stay in the right place and poke you dagger-like on lying down when you forget they are there (as they usually fall out). Give me a hair tie any day. NEXT…

2) M&Ms – They’re chocolate, colourful, wear strange oversized white gloves and it’s cliched, but in most cases probably true, especially when at the cinema.

3) Fictional characters and celebrities twice their age – These two don’t seem to go together. Was this person somehow watching Snow White and suddenly George Clooney popped into their head? Did they experience a dream where Hugh Hefner’s visage was in place of Shrek’s face? Both statements may be true. Fiction is frequently more fun that reality and celebrities, well, they are well groomed, PR’d to the hilt and as you will never meet most of them are a fictitious character anyway. Ah, now I get the link!

4) When our bra and underwear match because it feels like we have our life together – I wish ‘having my life together’ was that easily accomplished. I wish when dressing in the morning that wearing all black, red, pink, etc. meant that the day and my life would run smoothly. There would be no meetings you would rather pull your teeth out than sit through or mad dash for the bus with a driver that pretends not to see you and shuts the door in your face. It’s all rainbows and ponies. But what happens when you run out of underwear matches? Is your world suddenly sent down a spiral of devastation and despair? Will your day just go from bad to worse? The risk is too great so I’ll stick to whatever comes to hand! Drivel….

5) They like to post a sh*t ton of photos of themselves and get 100+ likes on them on FB – I think this person is just angry. At the world, at social networks, at women. Steer clear…

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The Reluctant Ranter is thrilled (a rarity) to receive The Liebster Award!

Liebester blog award

I am delighted to be the recipient of a Liebster Award from Experienced Tutors.

On starting this blog two months ago I had no idea what would happen. It has been a head-scratching and exciting experience. Everytime I press the ‘publish’ button it is a mixture of exhilaration and fear. Will anyone read it? Will what I am saying resonate? Is the writing up to scratch? I guess it’s the same with anything new and unchartered, but it has been a great journey so far and this award is a a wonderful boost. I’m still finding my blog-legs, but am glad I seem to be doing something right!

According to the Liebster rules I have 11 questions to answer, 11 questions to ask other bloggers I pass the award onto and 11 random facts. I want to take my time to choose the blogs to pass the award onto so for the moment I will tackle 11 random facts.

11 things about me –

  • My idol is David Attenborough (I will not accept Brian Cox as his replacement, no matter what people say)
  • I have ten stitches in my head
  • I spent 10 weeks in a Bornean rainforest with orangutans
  • My first novel is sitting in a drawer screaming for its next unrecognisable draft
  • In another life I was a sloth
  • I am the eldest with 15 years between me and the youngest
  • I can balance a pint glass on the back of my aforementioned needle-cushion head
  • I walked past Jude Law once and fell into the bonnet of a car
  • Slugs and snails freak me out
  • I am working on a rhyming children’s book that features a beaver and alien
  • My feet hate shoes

I’m off to conquer those other 11’s now!