Today’s post, coming to you from the “Land of No Fathers.”

I think I should just cut my losses and rename this blog “My Life on Public Transport.”

After all, it seems like that’s all I have to write about.

This week, I have been lucky enough to be helped by no less than two bus drivers to lift a folded buggy into the luggage rack of a crowded bus (credit where it’s due), but sadly this laudable improvement in customer service has not saved me from the perils of Ye Great British Bus-Riding Public.

Today, as I took a seat at the back of the bus with a surprisingly well-behaved Piglet, I was greeted by one of these members of said Public, who began his conversation with me by enquiring about Piglet’s gender.

Now, there’s quite a lot I could say about gender here.  Like, for example, how as women we are expected to smile sweetly and nod along with the preposterous gobshite uttered by so many of Britain’s less educated males when they regale us with tales of how they don’t believe in Facebook-too full of middle aged women (or, as they may have been described here, “hippos,”) posting pictures of themselves when they were younger and slimmer-oh, the shame!-but I will leave this point for another day.  The same individuals always think they know all the latest trends in acceptable child-rearing policy, and can’t wait to inform you (“he’s a boy?  He needs a haircut!”  “He doesn’t have a dummy?  Oh good, it’s a disgrace, all these six year olds going around with dummies in their mouths!”)  However, today’s Gold Star comment came when the gentleman in question enquired if I was married (“do you have a hubby?”)  He was quite clearly waiting for me to say no, and when I did, he loudly stated the name of a local council estate known for high levels of social deprivation, and labelled it, “The Land of No Fathers.”

Quite what the connection of Piglet and I to this place was supposed to be was not explicitly stated, but the implication was that I was the stereotypical “benefit scrounging” single mother of the type that the Daily Mail loves to hate.  I won’t flatter myself by saying I might have passed for a teenage parent (although I desperately hope so, for reasons of vanity) but despite my liberal Guardian-reading moral outrage at the broad stereotyping of an entire geographical area (which of course, I would NEVER DO) the comment was so ludicrously inaccurate that I almost fell off my chair laughing.

Me, the benefit-scrounging, uneducated single mother.  Because that’s what we’re all like, right?

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Ten Reasons Why I Might Be a Failed Blogger

So at the weekend I went to Mumsnet Blogfest.  I am planning to write about this at some point, but for now, let’s just say I am having a slight problem with the photography.

This is just one reason why I am failing at blogging (and life, but I wrote about that here).

No, I am not a photographer.  I am not one of those people who just casually walks around, SLR (is that what it’s called?  You know what I mean, the big camera thingys that used to be the ridiculed preserve of Japanese tourists on pan-European coach tours, but which since the advent of the Internets have suddenly become the hipster accessory du jour) in hand, snapping at random objects in an artful manner.

I have also failed to take lessons from Buzzfeed, which is why I have not numbered this post, despite it being headlined “ten things…”  It probably won’t even BE ten things.  Then again, Buzzfeed is not to be trusted, having recently posted something about the “greatness” of Love Actually, which is a film that I used to sort of like but could never quite work out why I felt slightly uncomfortable about it, until I read this piece of brilliance and realised why I was creeped out by the Keira Knightley storyline that was supposed to be sweet, but was basically a story of stalking and harassment dressed up in a friendly Andrew Lincoln-from-Teachers shape; and the storyline about Colin Firth getting a bit obsessed with someone who couldn’t speak a word of English, which says volumes about the fact that women in our society are considered far more attractive when they don’t talk.

Then there is the fact that I have no idea what is meant by such technical jargon as “SEO,” “nofollow links” (I don’t think I want one of those.  They sound bad), and it took me about two years to work out how to resize a photo so that the occasional snapshot that does make it onto the blog-usually a view of the back of someone’s head-isn’t ridiculously tiny.

Oh, and I’m not all about the positivity beloved of so many parent bloggers.  Have you read any of my posts recently?

Oh no, you haven’t because you haven’t a clue who I am.  There was me, at Blogfest, running up to people and telling them I recognised them from Twitter, or, more frequently, just looking at them from afar with a sort of creepy admiration, wondering how they managed to have so many “blogger friends” when I was hanging around wondering if it might be time to give up and go and have a conversation with my own reflection in the mirror, and ABSOLUTELY NO ONE knew who I was.  Not. A. Single. One.  After all, I don’t have any photographs of myself on the blog, so how would they know?  Deduce from the appearance of Piglet that I look vaguely like him and therefore must be his kin?

I’m not very good at the, er, self-promotion.

You won’t find me on Pinterest, because I don’t have any decent photos on the blog.  You won’t find me on LinkedIn, because isn’t that something boring for business people?  You won’t find me on Periscope, because I don’t know what that is, and it sounds like it might be submarine-related.  On a completely unrelated note, the last time I went on a submarine (in 1994, which sounds like a long time ago, but bear in mind that even back then in Ye Olden Nineties, women did have the vote and some of them even had jobs) I asked what I thought was a pertinent question about why women were not allowed to work on submarines, and was told that the answer was because we would all synchronise our periods and have PMT at the same time, and that if that was to happen, with all the nuclear warheads on board, the only logical outcome would be that we would be a danger to national security, international stability, and indeed the continued existence of the entire human race.  BECAUSE NO MAN EVER STARTED A WAR EVER.  All those pesky women, going around causing international incidents.  I mean, look at Boudicca!

That is why I don’t like the sound of this Periscope.

So yes, ladies and gentlemen (mostly ladies.  I don’t think any men read this blog, although I will be happy to be proved wrong) I am a Bad Blogger.  I don’t even post pictures of my Mum-style Breton tops or the paleo diet kale and courgettini superfood smoothies I drink every day.  Forgive me, O blogging brethren.

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How about…let’s teach men not to rape, OK?

So today I fell victim to the curse of public transport known as the Angry Bus Driver.

I don’t know what it is about bus drivers.  I’ve never been one, so I perhaps they just have an incredibly stressful job (who doesn’t?) and don’t get paid enough (who does?) but many of them seem to be ANGRY.  Angry at passing motorists, angry at their passengers, angry at life.

Today’s bus driver was all of the above.

There was I, innocently standing at the bus stop, getting on the bus and all of a sudden it was “LOOK OUT FOR YOURSELF YEAH?  THINK FOR YOURSELF!  PUT YOUR HAND OUT!  I VERY NEARLY DIDN’T HAVE TIME TO STOP!”

“OK, OK…sorry.”

He was still carrying on moaning at me even after I thought he had finished his complaint and retired to the back of the bus, trying not to roll my eyes in a too-obvious Kate Middleton in America wrapping presents, kind of way.

“OK, sorry again.”

“That’s all right darling!” he called out from the front of the bus, as though all he had been looking for was a grovelling apology from me that I had had the BRAZEN AUDACITY to assume that some of the other fifty million people on the bus stop were about to catch the same bus and that the bus might, like, stop or something, rather than ignore all potential passengers as a matter of trying to prove some ridiculous point that we were all lazy benefit scrounging parasites who had the sheer unbridled cheek to stand at a bus stop in the middle of the day and think that it might stop, and that it might be embarrassing, not to mention something of a road hog, if all fifty million people decided to leap in front of the bus eagerly, arms outstretched, at the same time (you know what I’m talking about, people don’t you?  It’s either “ALL RIGHT THERE’S NO NEED FOR ALL OF YOU TO PUT YOUR HANDS OUT AT THE SAME TIME I’M GOING TO STOP OK?  OK????” or “YOU ARE ALL A BUNCH OF PEASANTS WHO NEED TO PUT YOUR HANDS OUT IF YOU THINK I WILL STOP THIS BUS!!!”)

Anyway, as I seethed with rage quietly at the back of the bus, thinking that this had blatantly happened because I was a woman, and what was this joker doing calling me  “darling” anyway, as though I was some sort of family pet, and I am 35 years old and a woman and I AM NOT GOING TO BE PATRONISED DAMMIT, the driver continued venting his rage at anyone who crossed his path.  An old man with a stick ( a STICK, I tell you, he was actually mobility impaired) who should “MIND THE DOORS!  Don’t get stuck in those doors.  You might DIE!”

By the time we were half a mile up the road the driver was taking on a long line of random motorists who dared cross his path (“I’VE GOT A JOB TO DO, YOU KNOW!  What am I supposed to do; PARK UP AND WAIT FOR YOU?”) and then aiming his enormous bus at them and forcing them to reverse back up the road.

Now, as I haven’t driven a car since since I failed my driving test in 2005, I’m no expert in The Rules of the Road, but I’m pretty sure he was breaking most of them.

Eventually, I got off the bus, mentally preparing myself for another tirade about how I shouldn’t have got up until the bus stopped, and I could go flying through the windscreen, you know.  Or I should have got up before the bus stopped, and I very nearly missed my stop, you know.  I wasn’t sure how to play it.  Anyway, I got off the bus, only for the driver to apologise for ranting at me, and to then say that the only reason he did it was because he is concerned about females late at night.

Late at night.  It was two O’clock in the afternoon and broad daylight.

I looked at him, deadpan.  “It’s the middle of the day.”

Ah yes, but one day I might fail to put my hand out when waiting for a bus in the middle of the night and the bus won’t stop and he once heard from a friend of a friend of a friend about someone this happened to who ended up being raped.

“Right,” I replied.  “I am an adult.  I am capable of looking after myself.  And if you are so concerned about females alone at night, why don’t you tell men not to go around raping them?”

The two elderly women who were about to get on the bus and who had only heard the tail end of that conversation looked utterly aghast.

I walked home feeling almost as angry as the bus driver.  Not quite, as I didn’t want to end up in an early grave due to the sheer exhaustion of being so angry all the time, but why is it that it is my responsibility (and that of all women) to avoid being raped?  I grew up being told by friends, family and everyone in between that I should never walk home alone at night, and that certain areas, due to the mere fact that they were dark and had few buildings, were basically no-go areas at night, just because I was female and MIGHT GET RAPED.  Where were the reminders to all the men that they shouldn’t be doing the raping?

NOWHERE.

Now I’m not advocating getting roaring drunk and going stumbling about alone forgetting all semblance of common sense, but I think that is important advice for members of both sexes, no? And, more importantly, lack of common sense is not an invitation or excuse to rape.

So, Angry Bus Driver, I will be ignoring your advice about waiting for buses (shock, horror) in the hours of darkness, but I will be teaching my son that it is HIS responsibility not to go around raping people (I hope that we will not reach a point where I actually have to spell this out to him in very literal terms, as hopefully basic respect for all people will follow naturally from the upbringing I give him, right people?  This will be OK, right?)

I will put my hand out next time though.  Just in case it’s Angry Bus Driver again.

The Wrongness of Most Nursery Rhymes

One of the things that has surprised me most since I became a parent is that nursery rhymes still exist.

Not only exist, but they are EVERYWHERE.  And kids actually LIKE THEM.

When I myself was a wee nipper I had a book of nursery rhymes, which disturbingly included one about a child being whipped for sitting too close to the fire, or something along those lines.  It was illustrated by a sad-looking red-headed girl, and even at the tender age of four, or however old I was when I used to read that book (I was a precocious reader.  I can actually still remember starting school and being really annoyed that there were some other kids who were on higher reading levels than me, just because they were older and had started school before me, and not because they were, like, more intelligent or better at reading or anything.  I WAS THE BEST I WAS THE BEST I WAS THE BEST) I realised that that was no way to treat a child.  It certainly wasn’t the way I was treated, thank goodness for that.

Anyway, times must have moved on a bit as that nursery rhyme appears to have been consigned to the dustbin of history.

Get thee to the Dustbin of History, thee nursery rhyme of horror
Get thee to the Dustbin of History, thee nursery rhyme of horror

However, that does not mean that all nursery rhymes are now sanitised, politically correct, right-on Poems of Virtuousness worthy of a weekly column in the Guardian reporting from the frontline of Austerity Britain.  Oh no.  In fact, there are quite a few that I still have a fair amount of beef with.

Let’s start where it always starts, with that old chestnut Baa Baa Black Sheep.

Now I know, you knew I would start with this one.  You thought I would have a rant about how singling out a black sheep to produce wool for its colonial masters, the “Master” and the “Dame” is racism in the first degree, and just like the Daily Mail you were about to throw your arms up in indignation at the thought that this innocent children’s classic could be brutalised by being renamed Baa Baa Rainbow Sheep in an attempt to mollify all those angry, lentil-weaving Guardian readers and before you know it they’ll be banning Christmas as well!

Well, reader, I will disappoint you.

I have no issue with the sheep being black.  On the contrary, why not have a character in a nursery rhyme who is something other than lily-white.  It would make a nice change.  The ones who really make me uncomfortable are the “Master” and the “Dame.”  It’s just so MEDIEVAL.  Who calls themselves a “master” or a “dame” anyway?  Who is this sheep giving wool to?  Dame Kelly Holmes?  Dame Judi Dench?  Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson?  A pantomime dame?  And more importantly, who is the “master?”  This smacks of patriarchy to me.  Master, indeed!  WHY ARE THE MEN ALWAYS ASSUMED TO BE IN CHARGE?  It’s like when I got a phone call from a call centre in India trying to get me to claim money for the car accident I had that wasn’t my fault (when?  In 1981?  BECAUSE THAT WAS THE LAST TIME I WAS IN A CAR ACCIDENT) and they asked to speak to the “Master of the House.”  Which would be who, exactly?  Piglet?  He pretty much does rule the roost round here, if truth be told.

And while I’m on the subject, who is this “little boy who lives down the lane?”  Why is it always a boy?

I must admit, strides are being made in this area, and by strides, I mean the librarian at Wembley Library who does the Saturday morning sing-a-long sessions changes the words to a monstrous tune known as “Three Little Men in Their Flying Saucer” to “Three Little Girls in Their Flying Saucer,” and gives a subversive grin whilst doing it.  Go her, I say.  That’s progress.

And so that brings me to another potentially racist little ditty.  I must admit that I thought I had heard the last of that one that goes “with a a knick-knack paddy-whack, give a dog a bone.  This old man came rolling home,” but when I heard it at the children’s centre I realised that I was sadly mistaken.  Let’s look at this in a bit more detail.

“Knick-knack paddy-whack.”  What is this about?  Because it sounds a lot to me like a racist term for an Irish person.  Who is being hit.  So this is a song about hitting Irish people.  A children’s song about beating up the Irish.  Great.  And it gets worse.

“This old man came rolling home.”  Why was he rolling home then?  Oh, I see, he was DRUNK.  So what you are saying here is that all Irish people are drunk, and get into fights, amirite?  And this is a song for children, people.  CHILDREN.

Next I come to the other one everyone knows about: Ring O Ring O Roses.  This is about the plague. THE PLAGUE, ladies and gentlemen.  You know that thing that killed, like a THIRD OF EUROPE in the Middle Ages.  JOKES.

Another one I have an issue with (I know!  Another one!  Are there any left that we are allowed to sing?) is Rock-a-Bye Baby.

Rock-a-Bye baby on a tree top (what is a baby doing in a tree?  CHILD ABUSE!)

When the wind blows the cradle will rock

When the bough breaks to cradle will fall(!!!!!!!!)

Down will come baby, cradle and all.

Utterly terrifying.  Need I say more.

My mother also sings one that starts with “Oh dear what can the matter be.”  The matter, according to this little ditty, is that “three old ladies” are “stuck in the lavatory,” where they then remain for A WHOLE WEEK.  This is at best a very unfortunate turn of events, or worse, elder abuse.

So there we have it, all nursery rhymes appear to be invented with the express purpose of either initiating young children into the more unfortunate aspects of the current status quo, or teaching them to be utterly terrified as the world is a very scary place full of violence, pestilence, extreme weather and frankly unpleasant people.  Even London Bridge is falling down.  You can’t even trust architecture.

Or perhaps children need to learn the unfortunate facts of life.  It’s not all one big Night Garden out there after all, and we can’t wrap them in cotton wool forever.  What do you think?

 

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Uproar at Gender Segregation Taking Place on UK High Street

Just come back from a visit to the health visitor where, in typical fashion, Piglet did an enormous wee on the baby weighing scales and I was told off for not taking vitamin supplements, despite the fact that (as I protested to the health visitor) they have been repeatedly shown to be useless.  Better just get used to the fact that whatever I do, there is always going to be someone judging my parenting decisions.

And speaking of judging, what is one to make of this?

Yes apparently, according to that bastion of the British high street, Poundland, these are the two vocations open to babies.  Pink-clad jockey, if you are a girl, and superhero, if you are a boy.  There are, of course, many problems with this.  Firstly, I have seen many pink-clad jockeys during my less productive Saturday afternoons spent channel hopping through Channel 4 racing, and few, if any, were women.  Secondly, superheroes clearly don’t exist.  However, these points are unimportant (although more female jockeys please.  Given that women are generally smaller than men, is it not odd that horse-racing is mostly the domain of really tiny men?)  Bearing in mind the fact that encouraging a girl to ride a horse is significantly less bad than encouraging her to be a princess, I now give you that other bastion of the British high street, Wilkinson’s (I know, I know, but when I say “British high street” I more specifically mean Wembley High Road, where the most upmarket establishment is a shop called Bland’s that sells a curious mixture of cheap-looking prams and cots that actually aren’t that cheap, ladies’ underwear and hideous meringue ballgowns.  Because what everyone in Wembley needs is a hideous meringue ballgown to wear down the pub of a Friday night).

So this is a snapshot of the girls’ toys section in Wilkinson’s.  Now it goes without saying that the idea that there needs to be separate sections for boys’ and girls’ toys is itself abhorrent, but let’s ignore this for a moment so we can look in more detail at what Wilko deem to be acceptable toys for young impressionable girls.  So let’s see: we have a Barbie in a pink dress, a pink tutu outfit, a pink KITCHEN and a-yes, it really is-a PINK BABY CARRIER.  The boys’ section is not shown here as I was too boiling with rage to linger in the aisles, but suffice to say it included police officer and fire brigade hats.

Yes ladies, the message here is clear.  Boys do the real jobs, like fighting fires and catching criminals, while the girls stay in the kitchen looking after the children.

The most ridiculous thing is that not only have things not moved on since I was a wee lass flicking through the toy pages of the Peter Craig catalogue lusting after a pink Barbie house and an A La Carte Kitchen, but they have got worse.  At least the A La Carte Kitchen wasn’t pink!  And there were gender neutral toys available, such as the legendary Teddy Ruxpin.  Now admittedly I wasn’t allowed any of the three toys mentioned above as they were all too expensive, but I do have photographic proof that for my second birthday, some progressive soul gifted me with a toy carpet sweeper.  Because, like, being a girl and all, all I could aspire to was a piece of already-obsolete equipment for cleaning a house, but AT LEAST IT WASN’T PINK!  End this madness now please!

For my part, I purchased both the bibs in the first picture, as at least then Piglet will know it’s OK to be a boy who likes pink, right?

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