Latitude 2019. We went, we saw, we didn’t wash. We five slept in a four man tent. We argued about air pumps and tent pegs. We got bitten by mosquitos. The toilet cubicles were full of private school kids washing their hair over the sinks so no one could use them. Kids called Jonty and Avocado were pulled along in original Radio Flyer wagons, adorned with Cath Kidston bunting and solar-powered lights in the shape of dinosaurs.
We only ate things covered in salt or sugar and wiped cheese stained grease on our dusty legs to help them tan. We went into the Speakeasy tent to shelter from the rain, or sleep through ted-like talks from guilty feminists. I felt guilty for not listening but is there a better sound than rain on canvas?
The overpriced trolley brought on Amazon Prime broke on a stone midway back to the car. I won’t say it was overloaded by an overly ambitious husband. Oh, I just did. It only worked if pushed. Many men, far more than have ever asked for my number, stopped, not to help, but to tell me I was supposed to pull it. I told them ‘Silly me, here I was thinking the handle was a chin rest. Thanks for the mansplaining.’
We have this stupid new rule that we have to do a push up if we swear, so after my torrent of non-guilty feminist abuse I had to drop and kiss the dirt.
I wanted to see Underworld play Born Slippy so of course the kids didn’t. We went back to the tent instead and I heard ‘mega mega white thing’ drift towards me on a haze of organic sun-cream and vegan sausages as the solar fairy lights twinkled like stars overhead. I wanted to hear Primal Scream get their rocks off, but stood at the back of George Ezra instead and wondered why he sang with that accent.
We whittled sticks and painted spoons and were punted up the river edged with fat pink sheep, like Mole and Ratty on the river. We made bunting and heard Wendy Cope read ‘Flowers’* out loud and tell us there was no need to clap, and Simon Armitage read ‘Thank you for waiting’* and ‘Zodiac T-shirt’.
We watched Gomez light up the stage with Whipping Picadilly and new pop sensation Lets Eat Grandma sing their 19 year old hearts out, from right at the front, where the bass pumped through us like heartbeats.
I stopped writing my column for the Argus for various reasons which I won’t go into detail here about (DM me hun!).
Last October I got accepted on the ‘MA in creative writing’ course at Faber and Faber in Bloomsbury. Yes I felt out of place, depth and comfort zone, in my ripped jeans, trainers, undercut, tattoo, slogan t-shirt but who else could I go as but me?
A good friend wisely said I’m more or less a finished product. I may wilt a bit, sag here and there, like the foam inside a much loved sofa, but other than that, this is me. Not in a jazzy Greatest Showman way, in a ‘I’ve tried to be other people and failed’ type way.
I had no ethnic bangels from the year I backpacked round India. Hell, I hadn’t even been to London on my own before. No degrees to name or tenuous links to impress people with. So I waved like my youngest daughter, knocked over my water glass, swore and admitted I hadn’t read the teacher’s book, let alone War and Peace.
The weeks rolled over. The leaves on the train tracks turned from orange to brown, and the Fortnum and Mason window replaced Alice’s Wonderland with jelly tot coloured Christmas lights and fake snow. I could see my breath as I marched past Buckingham Palace, a sure-footed little goat trotting along.
I could see, for the first time, the beauty of pigeon shit stained ancient splendor, banana yellow graffitied bus, green park coffee bean, bit of bother, morning jogger, late train, free sample, clock tower, British library, vegan protest, meat market, microbrewery, flash mob, trollied against Trafalgar, black cab, fit-bit, cigarette thin, brown polished leather shoes, matching briefcase, curry armpit, some dropped one, hot train, one arm clinging, over shoulder reading, sorry, excuse me, have you got any spare change, cardboard cup collection, wet big issue, traffic jam, diversion, look right, look left London.
Here in Brighton, we think nothing of seeing gay people hand in hand under rainbow umbrellas, ballet dancing over puddles. It’s not a choice. It’s not a decision. It’s not like Teresa May and Corbyn sitting down to try and work something out. It just is.
But not in Brunei, where new Islamic laws make sex between two men an offence punishable by stoning to death. Stoning. To. Death. Lesbians get forty strokes of the cane and ten years imprisonment. As a feminist who wants equality I don’t know where to start with this. They are also introducing punishment for theft by amputation.
One Brunei gay man said, ‘You wake up and realise that your neighbours, your family, or even that nice old lady who sells prawn fritters by the side of the road doesn’t think you’re human or is okay with stoning.’
I’ve always been fascinated by hate. Are we all born with cells of contempt inside us, like a sleeping lion, like cancer? Do those cells mutate for no reason, indiscriminate and impartial, or are some of us just evil?
I have read about hate experiments on humans. The Milgram experiment (obeying an authority figure), where men from a wide range of occupations and varying levels of education, were asked to administer electric shocks to ‘learners' if they got answers wrong.
The shocks gradually increased to a level that would have been fatal, had they been real. The whole thing was fake, but the results were shocking. It showed a very high proportion of men would fully obey every instruction to increase the shocks, albeit reluctantly, while the ‘learner’ begged them to stop. Cried out in pain.
The Stanford prison experiment, a ‘jail’ set up in the basement at Stanford University. The prisoners were one half of a group of volunteers, the other half were assigned the role of guards. What followed was described as ‘a metamorphosis of good into evil.’
Well-adjusted young men became increasingly brutal as guards. They stripped prisoners naked, hooded them, chained them, denied them food. Sodomised them. The experiment, led by Zimbardo, concluded that normal people could be transformed into sadist tyrants or passive slaves. Not because of any inherent personality flaws, but because of the dehumanising environment they’d been put in.
Does this excuse the Nazis? Does this exclude anyone or anything? I know when I’m doing something wrong or bad because my stomach, the ‘second brain’ hurts. Would that pain go away over time if I was continually subjected to situations like the above?
Are we all already monsters, or can any man or woman be made into one. How far away from us, is the worst thing we could ever do?
I try and find the good in all things, but am convinced foxes are evil. Everything about them is horrible. The way they scream like a baby abandoned in a burning building. The way they toy with their prey. Their musky smell, like a hint of teeth, like a bad idea. Like something is about to kick off.
Big news. Tottenham Hotspurs has a new stadium. Only it’s not big news at all, unless you are the husband, who watched the opening ceremony with as much reverence as Mary watched the angel Gabriel float down from the clouds to announce she was carrying god’s baby.
‘A true miracle. Look at those seats’ he marvelled, ‘It’s the biggest single tier stand in Europe’.
I’ve never seen him look at anything, me or the children, with the same look of adoration he looked at that field with.
‘It’s not a field, you ignoramus! It’s an emerald carpet of opportunity.’
‘Where’s Dizzy rascal?’ I said ‘Where’s the Queen and 007. Where’s the flaming torch?’
‘Pssh. It doesn’t need all those bells and whistles. Cheap gimmicks. The quality of the building speaks for itself. And it’s got its own microbrewery onsite.’
I wish my husband loved me as much as he loved Spurs. The house rattles with his roars when they score, and quivers with his rage when they are ‘robbed’.
When I told him about the mean-man up the beacon and his sex-pest dog scratching my leg, even though I’m a feminist and don’t need a man, I obviously wanted him to say something along the lines of ‘Insupportable. How very dare he? Tell me where you last espied this bounder, this cad. Nay, tell me not, lady-fair. Snow of face, eyes of moon. Rest ye weary head. I shall traverse the beacon in the mightiest storm to apprehend him and chaperon him back to you to bend at the knee and pledge fealty.’
Ideally, he would have said this whilst wearing a large frilly white shirt, open at the neck and just stepped out of a lake.
It didn’t happen. He was wearing a basketball vest and nothing else and said ‘Well if anyone can put him in his place it’s you. I pity the bloke for the ear bashing you no doubt delivered.’
When he’s not watching Spurs, he’s trying to create his own ‘emerald carpet of opportunity’ in the back garden. We have dogs so this is impossible, but fun to watch. He does his ex-RAF military match up and down the lawn singing ‘It’s a long way to Tipperary, it’s a long way to go. It’s a long way, to Tipperary, to the sweetest lawn I know’ as he sprinkles Miracle-Gro and Patch-Magic.
I wait till he’s done, then let the dogs out, who immediately start digging. Comedy gold, him chasing and hollering at the Labrador, who barks in joy as the husband lands barefoot in a pile of his poo.
‘How’s your emerald carpet of opportunity coming on?’ I ask sweetly as he hoses in-between his toes. ‘Shut up. I’ll never have a nice lawn with you lot’ he says bitterly.
I’ll never have a nice house while he and the kids live with me. It’s like cohabiting with blind, noisy mice. I once read that ‘if a job takes two minutes or less, do it immediately.’ (The husband took this to mean something different to me, obviously.)
Now I go around the house thinking ‘it only takes two minutes to unload the dishwasher/put the washing on/clean the loo/fold the laundry’ and before I know it, I’ve spent two hours on two-minute jobs.
I’ve been following house cleaning ‘inspirators’ on Instagram. Mrs Hinch being the most famous. She’s written a book on how to clean your house, called ‘Hinch yourself Happy’.
Spring has sprung, The dickie-birds are in the apple tree. Outside time has come again, which means my garden needs a lot of work (not a euphemism for hair removal). It’s like day of the triffids in my yard, and my hay fever is already in full swing. I’ll be sneezing away weeds for weeks.
How can I moan though, about my garden coming alive, when heartless developers in Guilford have put netting round trees to stop bird nesting, so they can be cut down? I wonder how this is allowed.
We seem to have no respect for transient homes, be them for birds or people. ‘Anti-homeless’ spikes have been put down outside ‘luxury’ buildings. A Southern Rail staff member was caught on camera pouring the contents on his mop bucket over a homeless man as he lay on the ground at Sutton station.
I can’t help but liken the birds and beggars to those wanting to remain in the EU. Wanting to bury their heads, sleep through it all. Pretend it’s not real. Meanwhile the leavers are felling trees and hosing down hobos to clear the exit. I am not saying either side is right or wrong. It’s the divide that hurts.
The women who started the petition to stop Brexit, has been sent death threats. Why does she deserve to die for giving a glimmer of hope to those who see it that way? Those who don’t want to leave the EU have been labelled ‘Remoaners’ and those that do been called equally childish names.
How can we find a way forward together? Personally, I’ve never had a problem holding up my hand and saying ‘Actually, terribly sorry, but I’ve changed my mind’. It’s not always gone down well, but I’ve never seen contemplation as a weakness.
We don’t need to drive through a decision that won’t benefit us because ‘we said we’d leave so we bloody well will’. It reminds me of when dad used to say; ‘That food cost me a lot of money, you’ll sit and finish it.’
There are two sides. My dad’s, who’d spent all day under a lorry, covered in grease for oily customers. Who came home sore and covered in mud and bruises, only to watch me chase peas across a plate of my mum’s ‘Moussaka’. How to him, it showed a lack of respect and appreciation. Him, who’d had to eat suet pudding for dinner at Grandma Punchard’s house.
Then, on the other side is me. Me trying to finish a dinner my brothers had poured their orange squash over, because that is what brothers do. My vegetables floating in watery Ki-Ora. The dubious looking minced lamb turning florescent. My constant reminders to mum that I was a vegetarian.
My dad, telling me to eat it. Hand on the back of my chair. Me, throat closed with anxiety. Knowing it wasn’t the right time to throw my brothers under the bus or mention my aversion to meat because ‘I really love rabbits’.
Plate clearers often go on to have eating problems. Men who don’t feel appreciated often suffer from depression. Both sides have valid feelings, where’s the common ground? More than this, who is right and who is wrong and why do we have to attack people because they don’t think the same way as us?