Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Making my sister snort water out of her nose

My sister has the worst memory ever, she doesn't remember anything. So I tell her about stuff we did when she was a kid, things like the fact she was the clumsiest kid ever. She somehow managed to fall over her own feet while stationery and split open the top of her forehead, which my mum sorted out (one of the many benefits of having a nurse for a mother) with some butterfly strips. I know it doesn't sound funny typed out like this, but stories like it have my sister in stitches. I also tell her about other stupid things that happened, the time she ate a whole clementine, peel and all, or an entire apple and when my mum asked for the core, my sister didn't know what that was. She was a weird kid, prone to doing and saying things no one else would, often in her own little world. It was OK, they knew her there.
The funniest thing about telling her stories of herself is that, she laughs so much that water will come out of her nose if she's just had a drink. She gets the giggles so much that on occasion she's started to choke a little. My mum isn't too impressed when that happens, although she often joins in the story telling. I've never met anyone that finds stories of their own mishaps so funny, but then I suppose if you can't remember them happening and they're told in a humorous manner then it would be hysterical.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Sometimes a rant does you good

I get the London Underground every day to and from work, I use it at weekends and in the evening to see friends, go to the theatre or out to dinner, or just to head somewhere different in the city of a million faces. Yet it frustrates me that The Boy can't do this with me. For him navigating the city requires knowing which stations are accessible and where all the buses go. I'm so used to jumping on and off the Tube, wandering down side streets, knowing I'll find a station in a minute or so and then I can navigate my way home. Things are, incredibly slowly, improving. Lifts are being put in at more stations, though not enough, ramped platforms are being created so the train is now level enough to negotiate a wheelchair onto without risking falling out and cracking your head open. But it feels like it's too little too late. The Paralympics are coming in a matter of months and vast amounts of London's transport network does not cater for disabled passengers. There's a Mayoral election in May, yet none of them have mentioned this fact. We're always being told that the eyes of the world will be on London this summer, some of those eyes will belong to people for whom London is not spread wide open, but denies them access to all sorts of interesting places and ease of travel. Whoever ends up Mayor really needs to stop worrying about the unions demands for more money for working during the Olympics (the rest of us will be expected to do our jobs without this increase, including doctors, nurses, ambulance crews, firefighters, and police) and make London a truly welcoming city, for everyone.

Friday, 9 March 2012


I graduated this week from uni, for the second time but the first ceremony I could attend. So I now have my Masters officially and the alphabet after my name has grown, but I think I'll give academia a rest for the time being.

A Song of Ice and Fire - George R.R. Martin

I could have called this; Does George R.R. Martin have a problem with women?
I've just finished reading the first two books in the above series, the basis for the TV series A Game of Thrones, which is also the title of the first book. I haven't seen the show, but if it's as rape-filled as the book then I don't know if I want to.
Now I'm not an idiot and I know from history that one of the nastier side effects of war and conquest is rape. Men don't just steal everything worth taking and burn the place down, they have to take out their rage or whatever on the women. I've never really understood why. Rape is not about sex, it is about power and control. But in the first book, it is rife. And so unnecessary, mention it if you must, but is it really so vital to the plot that it needs to be taking place on every other page? I really don't think so.
By the second book, A Clash of Kings, the female characters are faring a little better, there's still a lot of sex, and quite a few rape scenes, which are treated incredibly casually, but the women who have been given names and a role in the complex plot are getting by.
I was talking to The Boy about this concern of mine, and he said he had read somewhere that Martin couldn't write women and suggested that maybe that's why they're so poorly served. Personally I think he just has a real issue with them/us.
I remember writing an essay on whether 'Hamlet' was a misogynist or Shakespeare was. I think I concluded that while the play mistreated it's few female characters badly, it was partly a product of it's time and also not the best evidence as to the writer's own feelings as there were only two women in the play.
Martin can't really use that as an excuse, the first book was published in 1996, not the 16th Century and there are quite a few women roaming his pages. Yes some of them are pretty vile, like Queen Cersei, but others are more sympathetic, Lady Catelyn, her daughters Sansa and Arya for example, but the sheer volume of violence done to women is just unnecessary.
I read a lot of fantasy fiction, and am aware that for a long time it was pretty much a boy's own club, women writers have had to fight to get a foot in the fantasy door, but this kind of misogyny is completely out of place nowadays. Writers with these sorts of views seem to have largely died out, and there are enough feisty heroines around to make it a place for female readers too.
I also know that Martin's setting, another world during a period much like our own feudal one, means that some things that seem anathema to us now, the marrying off of young girls in order to form alliances, the forced marriage of women left widowed and in possession of large amounts of land and wealth, the keeping of whores and brothels by wealthy men, are not something perhaps to be too angry with, as it's set in a time where women are chattels and their only uses are as wives and mothers to heirs or else prostitutes and servants if they are not nobility.
However, I do hope that Martin's later books in the series (which I have yet to read) lessen the systematic violence inflicted upon the women in his world, or he risks alienating female readers (and viewers of the TV adaptation) from all his books.