The ranter went relentless and it wasn’t pretty

This weekend I was coined as relentless. I nagged and didn’t seem able to stop while being unaware I was doing it. This was not good. It didn’t help that I was irritated and had a lot on my plate but – relentless –  is not a word I want to be alongside, never mind crawl all over. On consulting with my good friend dictionary.com I found out its many meanings and started to feel worse.

re·lent·less

[ri-lent-lis]

adjective

that does not relent; unyieldingly severe, strict, or harsh; unrelenting: a relentless enemy.

Origin: 
1585–95; relent + -less

Synonyms 
rigid, unbending, obdurate, adamant, unyielding. See inflexible.

Antonyms 
merciful

So not only am I unrelenting, strict and harsh, but according to its antonym I am unmerciful. I have subjected my boyfriend to a day and a half of pecking like a dominant bird in a nest that doesn’t want its sibling to live so it will get more food. It was a revelation to me. I started this blog because I like to rant about things that matter, silly things I notice and people or events in everyday life that are just irritating. But I never wanted to become a nag. A relentless nag at that.

Bird pecking

So at what point does ranting become henpecking? How do you know where the line is and how not to know to cross it? I just thought I was giving out a little bit at the weekend. Perhaps giving out a little bit too much ‘I know more than you’ advice. But when I sat back and thought about it he was right. I was being relentless. It was as if all the things that irked me slightly all came to the forefront like a mob being let through the doors to buy a new iPhone. The clambered over each other and wouldn’t relent until I expelled them from my rapidly moving mouth and eye rolls.

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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.

It all blows up when you watch the IFTAS

explode

It all blows up when you watch the IFTAS

This weekend I learned just how traumatic staying over at someone else’s house can be.

It was meant to be a relaxing weekend, one full of sleep and creativity. Instead it somehow turned into copious amounts of wine, biting and a taunting blow up bed.

The aforementioned mayhem had that extra dimension due to the fact it all took place at my boyfriend’s house, a quagmire of potential faux pas and mishaps as it is. When I arrived it was obvious some drinking had taken place and I joined them in the pub. Due to a deadline for a family dinner, given with the sternest of warnings, we navigated our way our way out of there after one swift drink.

Once at dinner the wine glasses kept getting topped up. Gravy slopped and slipped, jokes shot out with boomerang efficiency and dessert time came. The sugar perked everyone up, particularly the younger contingent of nieces and nephews that along with a saccharine rush realised that in only 10 hours they would be on a plane with gadgets to enjoy and their parents in a confined space to torture. After a lot of jumping and goodbyes they left with a hassled looking mum with an encyclopedia of ‘things to do’ ahead of her.

Down to four we moved into the lounge and waited for the IFTAS. I usually avoid these award shows full of backslapping and overzealous praise, but as my boyfriend plans to be up for one of them next year I watched in the vein of support. Collectively we groaned; at the bad singing, stumbled introductions sped through like a nervous child rather than as an accomplished actor in a lead TV series and at the plethora of black dresses (this was mainly me really) that made me feel like I was watching a live funeral. It was a desperately awkward version of the Oscars with calipers and bottle-top thick glasses.

While all of this exuberant berating was going on we kept drinking. Bottles ran out and others appeared. Now I am not complaining about this fact. Wine is great, particularly as an accompaniment to giving out to the television, but some were drinking more than others. There was some indication of this throughout as I felt a pair of teeth biting me intermittently. No it wasn’t the dog, but my ‘getting drunker’ boyfriend who thought the pain infliction and impending ‘owww’ was hilarious.

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It’s a Numbers Game (the conclusion) – the drunken one!

heart

This is the final installment of a piece I wrote about online dating when I was single and neck deep in the process. On re-reading I realise what a depressing experience it was for me. The third installment was the arrogant one. Others who love the process may disagree (either way please feel free to share!)

On the last one I got drunk, wildly inappropriately drunk. First there was wine. I opted for red to drink it slowly with the pretence of more sophistication than I owned. The first bottle was emptied in under an hour, followed by a second. A return from the toilet revealed more glasses, tall ones full of ice and vodka, a can of Red Bull at the side. Between gulps we talked. Subjects jumped from one to the other shooting off in tangents starting at science fiction to end up at abortion; a dialogue of snakes and ladders.

We talked in spurts as if not able to get out words fast enough. We were putting the world to rights, offering suggestions, snippets picked up from newspapers, documentaries and overheard conversations. Second hand information that made us sound cleverer than we were, When the lights flickered we downed what was in front of us, gasping to make the most of last orders as if the world was running out of booze, like those laden trolleys pushed around supermarkets on the eve of a bank holiday weekend.

Swathed in laughter we stumbled into the night. A late bar was across the road, the perfect late night spot. I was high on alcohol and relief. This one was going well, held promise. Seated at the bar we kept on going. More drinking, more talking or shouting really as the music got louder and we got more incapable of understanding. Last ones out; we waded outside in an alcohol haze. Just like insects we were drawn to the yellow lights, ordered in their rows. He opened the taxi door and squashed in beside me.

“To the Cemetery, just past it please.”

The rest of my attention and air was on him. We fell into each other, lazy tongues flopping over each other in the same way sea lions move on land.

“Right at the next set of lights.”

He was mute. Tongue lolling to one side and eyes dull like a masticating cow. I pushed a note into the drivers hand and we fell out, poured onto concrete. The door code was engraved on my brain, one of many sets of digits to remember as if our lives now require permission from electronic devices to do anything. I mentioned this and he nodded.

“Terminator’s gonna happen!”

The key hunt followed. Always at the bottom of my bag stuck in a pocket or caught in the lining. In frustration I turned it upside down, allowed the contents of my life to spread onto carpet; lip-gloss, gloves, tissues, umbrella, phone and a stray tampon. He looked from the floor to me and back again, the dullness lifting.

“Is that yours?”

With a shaky finger he pointed at the tampon. I nodded. Of course it was mine, who else’s would it be?

“Not a chance.”

He turned without a word. I listened to the hollow slam of the first door and then the next.

************

All the recollection makes it worse, my montage of failures. It makes me angry, cheated even.

I challenge this idea that online dating is progress. That everyone is so busy this is what we are stuck with; an electronic middle man telling us what is best. Isn’t it all just an excuse? To stay indoors and fool ourselves the isolation is okay, because we are reaching out; talking to someone; keeping humanity intact.

It’s just a conduit, a tool I hear those successful pairs cry! You may be right. There are definitely enough tools subscribed.

Well I give in. Let me go back to flirtations at the bar, stolen glances across a room or phone numbers exchanged at bus stops. At least then you know what to be disappointed about, rejected by something with a beating heart.

I pray the one walking towards me now proves me wrong. He looks normal, promising even. Against all the odds maybe he has slipped through the needle’s eye to be my faith restorer, Cupid’s minion, Polyfilla for a fractured heart.

Unfortunately he didn’t, but one finally did and I’m keeping him!

It’s a Numbers Game (part 3) the arrogant one

Heart and paint

This is the third installment of a piece I wrote about online dating when I was single and neck deep in the process. On re-reading I realise what a depressing experience it was for me. Last time it was the nervous one. Others who love the process may disagree (either way please feel free to share!)

We met during the day at the National Gallery. Cold and wet he was late. I wasn’t sure how long to wait, wondered where the scales tipped from patient to desperate. In my head I heard the music of Countdown, letters and numbers clambering over each other to get in the right order. Then across the road I saw him, or at least a larger, balder version of him. He hesitated at the entrance as if temporarily paralysed. Then he spoke, in deep tones. He oozed charm and confidence, jokes flying left and right.

Unfortunately none of it was directed at me. It was all for the person on my left, a bewildered security guard alternating between nods and turns waiting for the bombardment to stop. Impatience growing I called his name. He went quiet and turned, looked put out by the interruption. A limp hand sat in mine.

I suggested something to eat. “Yes” came out, but everything else went the other way. As I lingered over sandwiches he waited by the till and stared down. People questioned him, asked if he was in the queue. He waved them past with a grimace. I plucked a sandwich from the row and walked down. At my arrival he uttered “there you are” as if I had been somewhere else entirely.

“Together or separate?”

Before I had a chance to answer he jumped in.

“Together of course” and handed over a twenty euro note.

He leaned over, his breath hot at my ear.

“I know what you artist types are like.”

It was said like a compliment, as if bestowing a gift of generosity. Every mouthful stuck to my tongue as he watched me eat.

The rooms went on forever. Sculptures and paintings registered but didn’t sink in, as if pleasure was impossible in his company. I’ve no idea why I stayed, curiousity or maybe masochism.

“Modern art, what a load of rubbish. It’s just lines and shapes as far as I can see. A child could do it.”

I tried to run, move faster through the rooms.

“Picasso, now there’s an artist.”

Triangles of eyes and limbs crept over one another.

“Really, you like Picasso then?”

He launched into a synopsis, descriptions of colour and technique that belonged in a book. Across the room I pointed to a painting.

“What about that one?”

“Awful, so simplistic and dull. The colours even, they are just bland, no life to them.”

I let him go on; adjectives rolled out and formed a noose. We moved in closer and his eyes fell on the placard. He spluttered and went rigid. I left him there, sauntered through the arch alone. It was a tiny triumph, but delicious. An old Picasso ripped apart by someone who claimed his genius.

I walked on and left him there staring.

Next & last is the drunken one…

Is loneliness the only thing to look forward to?

footprints blurred

Photo by The Reluctant Ranter

Is loneliness the only thing to look forward to?

Apparently in a world with less and less space, people are getting lonelier.

So while the population keeps on growing, exploding even to a jaw dropping 7 billion, a lot of us are finding life lonely (according to the Guardian). Granted a huge proportion of them are over 65 with their working life behind them. But as we live longer and get older, the prospect of the TV the only companion makes my bones chatter. And at 65 years and over, that chatter would be more like a troupe of maracas than a soft clunking.

TV for me now, particularly in the apocalypse of winter is background noise; something I clean or cook to. There are programmes that I am fond of, but they are few and far between. Plus the addition of a Sky box means that the recordings pile up with no time or inclination to actually watch them. But in the UK there are a whopping 5 million older people relying on the TV as a friend, as noise, as their other half.

Since there are so many of us on earth, what are we all doing?

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