I had intended opening on the subject of tomatoes but then, as per normal, a news item of discussion on Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine show incensed me. More about that in a minute – or several! Firstly, I was reading until 2am this morning, struggling to get to the end of a chapter in Melanie Reid’s, The World I Fell Out Of. As I remember mentioning, I started said book some time ago and it’s not that I am not enjoying it – I am – but the chapters are too long! No photographs, no illustrations, there is nothing to break the pages of narrative and I realise that that is important to me. I suppose, subconsciously, it always has been.
Back to Betsy, my infamous English teacher, to whom I owe so much. She was fanatical not only about literature but about writing, English language, words … Her red pen swept the pages of our homework encircling not only spelling mistakes but those of punctuation and grammar. Regardless of worthy content, one’s essay could be marked down or, worse, returned dependent on one’s use of English. She was passionate about her subject and we, the lucky ones, were taught properly. It is a skill lost in this digital world and the majority are ignorant of the impact, content to fall into habits borne of laziness and a lack of pride, really. Somehow, it has long become acceptable to start a sentence with the words ‘And’, ‘But’ or ‘Because’ but why? All three are conjunctions and one should never start a sentence with a conjunction! Sadly, most, today, would have no idea what a conjunction is …
Some years ago, I enrolled in a distance proofreading course and loved every minute of it. Lauded by my tutor, he suggested my skills were in line with that of a copy editor and perhaps, in hindsight, it is something I should have thought about but, in reality, one must throw oneself into the ring, prepared to jostle for position in a cut-throat world driven by money. That’s not for me; never was. Nor for my children which is proving a double-edged sword as they struggle to balance happiness and sustainability. Now, Pop, on the other hand … he wouldn’t have swapped his job for the world. A consultant psychiatrist, it was his vocation and enviably, living in the most beautiful rural environment, he had the perfect work/life balance. Money was never the carrot but his dedication to and success in a field he loved (not forgetting the steadfast support of my mother) ensured the remuneration to educate his children to the best of his ability … full circle. Where did I come in? Ah, yes, over-lengthy chapters in my current book. The thing is, as in life, everything needs broken up – well, you know what I mean! We all need holidays, self-indulgent days, things to look forward to and chapters in a book should not be too long; nor paragraphs. In fact, Betsy will forever be on my shoulder, as I write, and it is time to press return …
Should I get back to the Jeremy Vine news item which incensed me or talk about Eamonn Holmes and how he made me laugh, this morning? Let’s go with Eamonn Holmes. One of those people one either loves or loathes, he just makes Becca cringe! However, I have always enjoyed his humour, going back to the days of he and Fiona Phillips on the GMTV sofa, and he is nobody’s fool preferring to say it as it is. Anyway, one of the upcoming segments on This Morning (on in the kitchen!) was to be the debate over whether or not the next James Bond should be a woman? Serious stuff! Eamonn’s response: ‘Really? Well, that’s stupid, isn’t it!’ Superb! No qualms; right in there. Made me laugh. I love him for his refreshing honesty and his refusal to bow to a world gone mad. What’s more, he went on to argue with Ruth that Bond was a boys’ hero as she suggested he move with the times and why shouldn’t the character be female? Eamonn’s reply: ‘Why can’t you just create a new hero and have a woman being that? Why have you just got to muscle in on our stuff all the time?’ Amen to that!
Humorous that may be but it underpins the prevalence of something much more damaging today: namely, the ‘I want what you’ve got’ syndrome; or worse, the ‘You’ve got it so I have a right to have it, regardless’ syndrome. What of the importance of merit?
In this Me, too climate, I think feminism, in its true sense, is being belittled. Women fought for the vote, for their independence, for the right to choose but the serious issues are now being lost in trivialities more in keeping with a spoilt child. The demand that men-only clubs, of any ilk, be open to women is only the tip of the iceberg as Dr Who morphs into a woman and there is a call for a female Bond paying no heed to Ian Fleming, the creator of said character. Only this week, I heard that the age-old reference to ships as ‘she’ is now being brought into question … Where is it all going to end? Is this what the suffragettes fought for? Ignorance. Lack of intelligence. Lack of respect. All come to mind. Once again, the fact is that men and women are not the same. Accept that and, instead, strive for a world based on merit not gender! Merit. The benchmark for justice encompassing fair play and fair pay. As for the rest, women should man-up (slightly incitive!) and use their intelligence and initiative to start their own game rather than standing on the sidelines shouting ‘I want to play!’
Have I got time to mention Jeremey Vine? It was the subject of Labour’s proposal to add VAT to independent school fees which incensed me – obviously. It actually ties in very nicely with my general train of thought today: the idea that just because someone else has something, one has a right to it. No! It doesn’t work that way. Mike Buchanan, Executive Director of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC), was the voice of intelligence as he dismissed the notion that independent schools were only attainable to the rich. Longtime Headmaster of Ashford School in Kent, he cited the taxi driver who works all hours and all shifts in order to enable the best education for his child – the public face of the many parents who struggle. Adding VAT to the fees would only ensure that many more children flood a state system already unable to cope. Moreover, UK independent schools are considered the best in the world and parents from all corners of the globe endeavour to send their children here to be educated . There is nothing to be gained by their demise save, perhaps, the ignorant gloating of those too busy shouting ‘I want!’ to do anything about it. Yes, the state system in many areas is in crisis but the undermining of schools which, ultimately, provide a top class education is no solution. Why is there always this fixation on pulling down as opposed to a focus on building up?
Tomatoes … Top of my list if asked which food I could not live without! Anyway, I was just going to mention that, biting into one last night – organic (and handmade!) of course – the taste took me straight back to being six years old when I used to spend time at my friend, Rowena’s. Formative memories of Chapel, the most beautiful country house, and The Seekers, her father insisted we, girls, always wore skirts and tomatoes were always on the menu … definitely wasn’t Irn Bru that made me!
Finally … I happened to catch Mama Mia! Here We Go Again on TV last night – and, rather surprisingly, was hooked. Beautiful scenery and wonderful songs – Manny! Scrambling for pen and paper, I had to write down the following ,charmingly insightful, quote courtesy of Colin Firth’s character, Harry:
‘It’s no use climbing the ladder if you’re on completely the wrong wall!’
This is Trish, signing off.