What to write about this Friday as we lurch towards Christmas and my creative juices are on a go-slow?

Trawling through the UK newspapers looking for inspiration whilst trying to avoid anything vaguely political, I fell upon three separate stories that perhaps articulates modern life as it stands at the moment. For instance, a new toilet that slopes down in an alarming fashion has been designed to discourage people from sitting on it for too long is causing a stink. It appears that this new angle of dangle is set to stop, for instance, office workers sitting for long periods in trap three either reading their copy of The Sun or scrolling through social media postings. Apparently employers for quite some time have been seeking a way to stop workers skiving off work in the bogs. For instance, did you know that extended lavatory breaks cost British businesses about £4 billion a year…I wonder how they calculate that figure? Anyway this new toilet that slopes downward by 13 degrees is supposed to improve - er, flow and productivity because making employees adopting a ski position when attending to their ablutions is the only logical alternative to actually timing toilet breaks. I think it will become known as a ‘discomfort break.’ This brings me to the undoubted horror of having to ‘spend a penny’ in a public lavatory. Do you hover, or just take a deep breath and get on with it? Not many people will want to hunker down in a malodorous khazi with their Majorca Daily Bulletin - more, in-and-out in seconds, preferably before inhaling I would have thought.

As a liberal minded sort of person, who - by-and-large doesn’t take kindly to vile threats and the sort of mindless abuse that has become all to common over the past few years, with particular regard to racism, religious bigotry and homophobia; sometimes, I wonder if we go out of our way to uncover other cases of ‘hate crime’ in our society. The latest grouping who have self Identified as ‘victims’ in the modern world are those with IQ levels way above the range of all us thickos out there. Really? Yes, indeed, that’s according to a certain, Sonia Falck, a senior psychotherapy lecturer (yes, you guessed it!) at the University of East London. She says that calling brainy people “geeks or nerds” should be a hate crime as such terms were “humiliating” and represented the “last taboo” in modern society. Somehow, I doubt if that last statement could possibly be true, as there must be scores of similarly affected groups out there just waiting to demonstrate how they are being discriminated against. I am not a moron, nor am I a bully, or someone who goes out of his way to discriminate against others - but I know of people who do. Nevertheless, this constant search for victimhood is now becoming counter productive, because whilst we agonise over brainy people being called “brainy” - the very real subject of hate, bullying, and cruel discrimination, becomes watered down amid the welter of accusations of things such as “Anti IQ slurs” set mainly in the mind of those such as ‘psychotherapy lecturer’ Ms Falck, who let’s face it, clearly has an axe to grind. Come on please, yes - calling anybody names, or attempting to bully them because they are clever is not especially edifying. But, I suspect that this has less to do with a persons IQ or lack of it, a persons colour or lack of it - a persons voting intentions, or a persons football team that they support - but because society in general has become harsher, cruder, crueller and less tolerant. Nevertheless, making every single slight against every single group we can think of a hate crime - is certainly not the answer. The challenge is perhaps for society itself to change its ways, if it has the will to do it.

Did you know that in the United Kingdom you can study for a university degree in puppetry, or if that seems a bit too intense, what about surfing? Honestly, I don’t want to go back to a time where you’d only get into university if your parents had lots of money and you were privately educated, or you were a genius with rather weird taste in clothes - think, double corduroy and leather elbow patches on oversized hairy jackets. Nevertheless, surely that has to be better than three years ‘studying’ perfumery or you could spend £9,000 a year to learn about electronic music and become a really irritating DJ. Hey, this is not old-fart me moaning about daft degree courses, this is students themselves who find some of the courses “a bad joke.” In a recent survey of 2,500 unamused students, a long list of “useless” or “pointless” degrees were named and shamed, including the aforementioned puppetry degree and taking in other challengingly esoteric subjects such as a course in Parapsychology i.e. “the study of the paranormal, but not the ability to communicate with the deceased,” - as Edinburgh University explained in a rather over-defensive statement defending the slightly left-field-and-loopy course. Perhaps rather surprisingly, students were also not amused by a degree in comedy writing and performance at Salford University, even though alumni of the university (although not the course) include Peter Kay and Jason Manford; only one of which actually makes me laugh. But what do I know?

TURNED OUT NICE AGAIN!

I have this theory that we Brits take a perverse pleasure in complaining about the weather, sometimes well in advance of it. Example: Wednesday was a beautiful day in my part of Her Majesty’s Kingdom, the sun shone brightly in the chill air and all was good with the world. As I closed my front door looking for a brisk stroll up my local High Street, I encountered my next door neighbour. “Good morning what a lovely day?” I chirruped - he in turn, replied rather sourly - “It’s going to turn to rain about 3 o’clock this afternoon - and it looks set for the rest of the week.” Thank you for sharing that with me!

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