Friday, January 30, 2009

Spot the Difference

I'm sorting through the newspapers looking for landscapes and robots for a school assignment, and find one of those commemorative pull-outs on Obama. Captive audience. Opportunity for quick current affairs lesson. I turn the pages and speak to the photographs. These are all the people who turned up to watch the inauguration/ these are his little girls/ this is the former President. I find two columns of thumb-nail pictures of former Presidents. I say to my boys "Can you see any difference between these men and Obama here?" and point to a large picture of Obama on the same page. The boys look down the columns and across to Obama. My six-year-old nods. He points at Obama: "He's got bigger ears."

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Hail to the Chief

I wanted to be black yesterday. If I couldn't be black, it would have been good to be American. Ideally, of course a black American. I was in London - I only just resisted saying "You're black - so Obama then? What a guy, eh?" to the girl in the newsagent at King's Cross. I settled instead for: "No thanks - I'd only eat it" when she offered to sell me a brick sized bar of chocolate cheap.

The past few months have been great - a political soap opera with Clinton and McCain, the good guy winning through, and he's clever and he wants to change the world. Who could resist? We've all wanted to share in America's prize. Fair do's, we get to wallow in the pain of Iraq and financial ruin. In any event, our best and brightest new hope is Ken Clarke - so noone should begrudge us.

But, we can only share so far - all those stars and stripes, the "God Bless America", that feeling of acute discomfort when he told the world America was "ready to lead once more." Really? That's a good thing then is it? It's a bit like when your best friend gets married, or your sister. You love the guy and you really hope it's going to work out for them, but ultimately it's not your wedding. Still, he's a gem and raising a glass here, wish you all the best guys.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Prince and the President

America is gearing up for its first black President. Generally considered an all-round good thing. I hope he never gets to meet Prince Charles. I particularly hope he doesn't get to meet him and develop a warm and close friendship with him. Barack Obama is deciding between ties for his big day, while our heir to the crown is explaining how perfectly OK-yah it is to call property developer Kuldip Dhillon "Sooty." "Sooty"? You could not make it up.

At the weekend, we learnt Prince Harry dubbed his former Army colleague Ahmed Raza Khan "my little Paki friend"). He's 24 - fair do's. When you're 24, you often behave like a blithering idiot. He is a soldier and hopefully there are many, many other soldiers who call him a right royal ginger knob, or some such. Most people give him a break because there is a general feeling it is tough to be the younger son, he is not allowed to do what he wants to do, and in any case, he is not necessarily the sharpest knife in the box. Prince Charles however? Come off it.

Said "Sooty" has described his nickname as a "term of affection". In a statement, he reassured us: "I have to say that you know you have arrived when you acquire a nickname. I enjoy being called Sooty by my friends, who I am sure universally use the name as a term of affection with no offence meant or felt. The Prince of Wales is a man of zero prejudice and both of his sons have always been most respectful."
Dhillon's been described as a multi-millionaire property developer and a leading figure of the Cirencester polo club. Does he have a term of affection for Prince Charles I wonder? Maybe something like "Your Royal Highness"? I figure, if you're mates with a load of toffs who fall on their heads a lot, you get what you deserve.

Does Charles live in the real world? OK, stupid question. In any event, bear in mind, Charles is the son of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, whose gaffes are the stuff of legend. What's not to love about this family? "Paki" son of "Sooty" son of "slitty-eyed "Chinese. Now Obama has already referred to himself as a "mutt" - that's what you call giving Charles a nice wide open door to ride his polo horse through. Though stop a minute he doesn't play polo anymore. In any event, his own website makes it clear he didn't so much play polo as "raise money for charity by playing polo." Either way,he's retired. I can think of another thing that should have retired - words like "Sooty" and "Paki". Yah-di-yah-di-yah, the Prince's people have harrumphed loudly, poured themselves a pink gin, reached for the Bakelite phone and denied HRH is a racist. I'll believe you. He's not a racist - he just occasionally forgets that this is 2009 and he's not a character in an Evelyn Waugh novel. Yeah gods - Obama could end the war in Iraq just in time to start one with the UK. Let's keep it simple - let's keep Prince Polo away from The Man, shall we?

Monday, January 05, 2009

Happy days

Hurrah! It's nearly all over. Thank God. Christmas has come and gone, you can almost stop saying "Happy New Year", and no more children's birthdays till November. Our problem is one boy has his birthday on New Year's Eve and the other's was yesterday. And now that's it. No more presents. No more treats. Call me a party pooper but I've been on my knees here with the "welcome to our lovely home" routine with friends and family, making endless cups of tea and meals, spending money I haven't really got, and being "happy, happy, happy".(OK, I know I said I was going to be positive. It's just the relief. I'll be positive tomorrow.)

Friday, January 02, 2009

The History Woman

The thing about blogging is you are writing history. Not the big stuff history, all war and Presidents, but the little stuff history like what resolutions you made last year. I just went to look...
Wifey's resolutions 2008
1*to shout less and be more patient.
2*to revise the blog and make it more whizz bang (this one might take a while).
3*to revise my life and make it more whizz bang (alternatively to get more sleep).

Hmmm. Verdict
1.absolute failure, need you bloody ask
2.absolute failure though did manage the odd podcast and book trailer
3.absolute failure on both whizz bang and sleep counts.

Moving swiftly on.
Wifey's resolutions 2009
1*eat less chocolate. Have bought new diet book. Have not yet read it. Slight problem this one as feel morally obliged to eat my way through the nine selection boxes my children were bought which would certainly rot their teeth if only they were allowed any of the chocolate inside.
2*be more patient.
3*acquire a more positive turn of mind. Engage. Commit. Look on the bright side. Go get (something, not quite sure what.) Abandon negative, depressive side of personality that runs screaming from sport, parties, dinner parties with more than four people round the table, etc.
4*make the blog more of a community, rather than just a read. Not entirely sure what this involves, but basically "let's talk guys".
5*write a book. A made-up book. This may be a toughie, but has to be worth a shot.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Read This Before Pressing "On" Switch

Never all that keen on Christmas, for a start it usually involves instructions you are supposed to read. I never do read them which means that I spend the rest of my life knowing I am only using said item to 5% of its capacity, which is incredibly irritating. So far, I have failed to read the instructions for
*a little handheld organiser thingy which meant I couldn't ever get it set up properly. It sits half in and half out of its box on the top of my shelf a constant reproach.
*every mobile phone I ever had. These phones are apparently so clever they can make dinner for you then email a picture of it to your best friend who's on a diet just to make her feel bad. This means I am about the only person in the whole world who uses her phone to ring people rather than write messages, surf the net, take photos, record music and play video-games when stuck on trains.
*iTunes. I have just about managed to download a TV show, but it is locked in my notebook when I want it in my laptop. I have the same problem with the digital camera and getting photographs out of it and onto the computer.
*the new Wii the children got for Christmas. This could get embarassing - tonight I tried to turn it off because my sons were squabbling over it(when I say "squabbling", the big one was lying on top of the little one while the little one screamed and went purple) and I couldn't, which undermined my parental authority somewhat.
Why don't I read the instructions? Why, when I am faced with a small closely printed booklet, or even worse, a large glossy manual, do I toss it over my shoulder saying "I'm sure I'll pick it up as I go along." Of course I don't. In the same way, I don't pick up Swahili or the basic principles of electrical engineering - why would you? That's why they write the manuals - for idiots like me who need them. And I really do know that I should read them, but some boredom siren kicks in, drowns out common sense, and I think "No, life's too short even to skim these Frequently Asked Questions or this Troubleshooting section, I'll see how I get on." I hope Barak Obama is the sort of guy when he gets a new Teasmade at Christmas, takes it carefully out of the box, puts it to one side, reaches in and pulls out the manual, then reads it word for word. If he's like me, we're doomed.