It’s been several weeks since I shared good news and as it’s the first day of spring, I thought I’d share a few headlines that have cheered me up lately.
More than 100 cities get most of their energy from renewable sources
I don’t think I’ve seen a news segment that doesn’t involve plastic, the Paris Agreement or plastic and the Paris Agreement since last year, but it’s not 100% bad news for the environment (just, er, 99.9%). According to the latest statistics, 101 cities now get over 70% of their energy from renewable sources – that’s more than double the number of cities in 2015. What’s more, 40 cities are operating on 100% renewable electricity. None of those cities are in Britain, but it’s a start.
Girl eats cotton candy and the world is transfixed
No, seriously, watch it, she deserves to be on Newsnight discussing her skills.
This has been in the works since the referendum results, when even my most right-leaning family members started to ask why Nigel Farage was still on TV, but UKIP as a party might be about to implode due to bankruptcy. The party owes £175,000 in legal fees after it was sued by three Labour MPs over a libellous speech, so this could be the actual end of UKIP as opposed to the spiritual end. HAPPY FIRST DAY OF SPRING YOU GUYS!
See, there is good news out there if you look for it. I want to try to do one of these every month or so, so send me good news as you see it!
Luang Prabang in northern Laos is one of the few places I saw in South East Asia that I would return to for a two week suitcase holiday. If you enjoyed yourself in Greece or Italy, you will like Luang Prabang. Awful incoming journey and unavoidable Asian plumbing aside, there’s something for everyone: nature, history, pretty sunsets, temples and waterfalls. Waterfalls!
The Kuang Si Waterfalls
Isobel, if you’re reading this: remember when we were messaging and I told you I’d just dropped my knickers in a drain? This is where that happened! So Kuang Si waterfalls are just outside Luang Prabang and they are absolutely stunningly beautiful.
That water lends a new meaning to the term ‘icy blue’ though, it was bloody freezing. But beautiful! If it wasn’t for the freezing thing, I would have moved right in forever. The trees, the running water, the wooden huts in which visitors change and, if they are not paying attention, accidentally drop their undies in a drain. It was a running drain full of, hopefully, waterfall water.
There is a little bear sanctuary-slash-zoo near the waterfalls, which I am in two minds about. On the one hand, caged animals is an oxymoron. On the other hand, sun and moon bears are seriously endangered due to poaching (apparently some SE Asian cultures think bear bile is good for sexual virility. I can’t think of anything worse for sexual virility). The enclosure we saw definitely seemed kind of small, but the charity that runs the sanctuary recently posted that they have just bought more land and the bears did seem pretty chilled and happy.
There are, of course, at least three wats in Luang Prabang. I checked out a couple, although if I am being totally honest, after a while one wat looks a lot like another wat. Then again, I can’t tell Michel Barnier apart from David Davis.
Luang Prabang has a market with the usual street food, clothes, trinkets and jewellery but it also sells gorgeous indigo-dyed clothes and accessories. I’m not sure how big the local textiles industry is, exactly, but one blue scarf would have set me back £25 after haggling, which was my daily budget and about 20 times more expensive than the average cotton scarf, so I think that the industry is a) highly skilled and b) relatively unique to Luang Prabang. I really, really want to go back and buy an indigo scarf.
There is a really cool alleyway in the town with vendors selling the absolute best street food I have ever tasted from giant pans. I think it cost 50p to fill up a bowl with vegetables and eat til I was ready to hibernate. Full disclosure: I did get a run of the shits while I was there, although that could have been down to literally anything. Possibly the encounter with the drain.
I already wrote about the Killing Fields of the Cambodian genocide and the Vietnamese War Museum and Cu Chi Tunnels, and Laos makes the third corner of a really shitty triangle. I will write more about Laos’ civil war and America’s ‘secret war’ when I post about Phonsavan, which is the next place we stopped in Laos. I blame my politics A Level, but of my favourite parts of Luang Prabang was its UXO museum. UXOs are ‘unexploded ordnance’, basically, bombs that were dropped but never went off. At least 2 million tonnes of ordnance was dropped on Laos by American forces between 1964 and 1973, but a third didn’t detonate (per capita, Laos is the most heavily bombed country in history). Over 50,000 people have been killed or injured by ordnance since 1964 and the clean up operation is slow, expensive and dangerous. I don’t have a picture, but there’s a whiteboard outside the museum detailing the exact number of injuries and deaths caused by UXOs per year since 1964; 2016 was the first year no one died from one.
I scrolled through my WordPress gallery and I seem to have shared a ridiculous number of photos of bomb shells. Ten points to anyone who can tell me the names of every type of munition in this photo!
As this goes live, I’ll be on a plane to Barcelona. I want to leave you all with the warm fuzzy feeling that I’ll have while in Barcelona (good weather! Food! Historical buildings!) so I thought today is a good day to resurrect The Six O’Clock News. For those of you who weren’t following Indifferent Ignorance back in 2012/14, The Six O’Clock News was a weekly segment I did while studying my politics A Level, in which I dissected and/or took the piss out of a news story. It died off a bit when I didn’t absolutely need to follow the headlines, and then Trump and Brexit happened and I thought ‘why read the news when I can read dystopian novels?’ When I was putting together the Indifferent Ignorance Awards 2017 it occurred to me I should probably spend more time focusing on the good news than all the other headlines, because a) 2017 was depressing and b) 2018 will probably be depressing so let’s spread some rare news-related joy before Trump declares war on North Korea/Iran/everyone.
So sit back and enjoy the feeling of warm fuzziness that the following – current – news stories impart!
Dog’s Leg Regrown in Laboratory; Same Procedure Could Be Used on Humans
According to the BBC, Eva the spaniel (I think spaniel?) broke her leg, and her bone was regrown in a lab by coating bone chips with plastic. This is a triply good story when you think about it, because a) the dog gets a happy ending, b) human trials using the same method could start in the next three years and c) plastic has some uses after all!
President of America Too Embarrassed to Visit Great Britain Due to Fears He Might Be Hounded Out by 91 Year Old Lady and Some Scots
That was the headline, right? If Trump ever comes to the UK as president, he won’t get a state visit, he won’t get a warm welcome from anyone in power and when he goes to one of his golf courses, he will meet the wrath of the Scottish people. It’ll be like in Home Alone when the two baddies go from seeing the kid as a minor inconvenience to a devil child. I almost wish he was coming in many ways, because it’s been a while since I had the opportunity to write the words ‘fuck off’ on a large surface area using a permanent marker.
I won’t make it to London for the Time’s Up march, but I may throw a small party when Obama’s invited to the Royal Wedding and Trump isn’t.
I must say it was trickier finding good news than I anticipated. I will persevere, though. If you see a good story, leave a comment, send it to me on social media or email email@example.com! I’m hoping to have enough material to do one of these a fortnight but let’s not get too excited…
This post isn’t about South East Asia! Anyway so in case you’ve been living under a rock (great idea, by the way), there’s a petition asking the government to downgrade President Dickhead’s state visit to a regular one. I haven’t signed it, because although a state visit for a US president during their first year in office is unprecedented, and despite the opportunities it gives Katie Hopkins and Nigel Farage to spout more self-aggrandising bile than we thought possible, I think a Trump administration state visit actually holds a wealth of opportunity for us all. No really bear with me:
The Queen will have to meet him
She might not be able to comment on politics, but she can publicly make subtly scathing conversation without raising an eyebrow. Various aides will have to murmur behind napkins ‘you certainly have done a lot’ does not mean she agrees with you on the Muslim ban, it means she can’t believe you haven’t been impeached yet. Yes, she really is offering you another biscuit.
Prince Phillip will have to meet him
Less subtle and witty. More like ‘the trifle is gorgeous today, isn’t it? So are you planning to start World War III with China or with Iran?’
There will be loud, intrusive protests everywhere the delegation goes
The British tradition of just not mentioning unpleasant smells won’t be enough for officials to avoid bringing up how angry people are about the US administration’s desire to defecate over everything it sees, and the UK government’s desire to hold the toilet paper as long as it puts us in good stead come Brexit. Because how do you avoid bringing up signs like these?
Petition for Ian McKellen to get another knighthood.
Boris Johnson will almost definitely insult Trump to his face
Using words like ‘piffle’ and ‘codswallop’. For the first time in Boris’s political career everyone will be pleased about it. I guess this would also happen on a regular visit, but if it’s during a state visit he might be wearing a black tie and tails and the memes alone will be glorious.
Banning a man who’s spent his presidency banning things is too much like playing his game, and the British game is so much more fun
A lot of people just want him barred from entering UK airspace and although any type of Trump visit will be detrimental to our air pollution goals, I just don’t think a ban is particularly British. I think what is British is satire, sarcasm and a succinct declaration that we are quite cross.
Remember Je Suis Charlie? Now’s your chance to make good on the free speech and satire quotations you retweeted then. When Trump visits – and he will, at some point – every mildly eloquent, satirical or artistic person with access to the Internet gets to let loose. Whether it’s Have I Got News for You or The Last Leg or some bloke named Steve live Tweeting a press conference, the message will will be unambiguous: we will not hold the fucking toilet paper while you shit on our values. Columnists will crack their knuckles; cartoonists will sharpen their pencils; protesters will take their signs, chants and sit-ins to acidic new levels; Banksy will decorate a high rise. Small children will ask ‘why does my mum break china when he’s on TV?’ to the point where schools will hold assemblies explaining civil unrest. Alt-right neo Nazi scum will look at one another and gulp. Republican higher-ups will blink and realise that the special relationship isn’t about the Prime Minister’s Brexit negotiations. It’s about neighbours looking out for one another even after the odd failed invasion of the Middle East and dodgy extradition attempt. We will invite you in for a cup of tea, Mr Trump, but we reserve the right to spit in it.
I can’t believe I’m 21 and just made a toilet paper analogy. Yes, I can. Anyway what are your thoughts on the state visit? Do you have any ideas for protest signs? Tell me. (Next post we go back to regularly scheduled chat about Cambodian beaches.)
I’ve been coming up with the annual Indifferent Ignorance awards for long enough that I know to keep ’em cute and to the point. But there’s something about 2016 that’s been so thoroughly appalling that I couldn’t just list a few bits and pieces. So here is the best and absolute worst of 2016.
Book of the Year
The Raven King, because of cars and kissing, or Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, because of cars and kissing. Mostly. Just read them.
Album of the Year
Troye Sivan’s Blue Neighbourhood, or the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack. Neither of them were released this year that’s further proof of 2016’s shittiness. (Actually Frank Iero’s Parachutes came out this year and it’s a gem. Whatever.)
The ‘I Can’t Believe I’m Living Through This Shit, Although it Will Probably Kill Me So At Least There’s That’ Story of the Year
The ‘I Witnessed this Shit Live and Wish It Had Killed Me’ News Story of the Year
Tough one. Brexit? US election? The return of Poldark to our screens? Nah man. The only moment my stomach really dropped at the news this year was at maybe 6:15 on a January morning when Nick Robinson interrupted my dozing to inform me, with audible shock, that David Bowie had died. I did not think anything could shock a Today programme presenter, let alone audibly. The return of Jesus couldn’t have redeemed 2016 from that moment on.
Outstanding Achievement for Distracting Me from the Horror of the Year for Five Minutes
Or an hour, depending on the broadcast.
Ed Balls’ Gagnam Style on Strictly Come Dancing It aired the week Trump was elected. Coincidence? Or does a benevolent god exist?
When Newsnight listened to their critics and played God Save the Queen Stand up, please.
The Twitter users who liveblogged the Rio Olympics and came up with 40 different jokes about green swimming pools
The Rio Olympics themselves
Whoever started those Joe Biden memes
American Idiot(the song, not the people)
Planet Earth II
Winner: this song, which someone shared the morning Trump was elected. I really, really felt better and so will you:
Outstanding Social Media Moment
This is another new prize, and the competition was tough.
Coincidentally this is the year I learnt what ‘throwing shade’ means. Oh, I didn’t pick a winner. You guys choose (I assume I can trust you with this more than I did Brexit).
Indifferent Ignorance Homophobic Dick Award
Donald Trump’s voters. All of them.
Indifferent Ignorance Ignorant Fuck Award
Donald Trump’s voters. All of them.
I thought I’d put a line there as a metaphor. Because a line is like a wall, right… seriously though I nearly wrote an essay about how the name I gave my blog aged 14 is coincidentally a term that sums up this year’s election results, but I held off because everyone else was writing the same essay and I am so tired of being tired of all the bullshit I’ve lived through recently. I think in 2017 I might use my outraged liberal millennial viewpoint to make art instead of complaining. And by art I mean small stories and postcards about people who are full of shit.
Anyway that is me done for the year. I wish you all health and happiness in 2017, although at this point it’s probably enough that I wish you make it there. Happy new year!
I’m not sure what the electoral college in the US is doing today (or what it does generally) but I am aware that there is a some sort of Trump verification button that needs to be pressed before he can move his gold chandeliers into the White House. As it is 2016, we can assume that the verification people will probably verify him regardless of, well, 2016. But I’m glad this has come of it.
Oh and here’s the original in case you don’t have time to watch Love, Actually. Probably none of us will watch it again because we’ll be running from nuclear war or something.
I can’t believe I actually did go running from a Trump presidency. Actually yes, I can – but I’m going to write about that another day, because I am weary both of the topic and of knee-jerk reactions to it. I have many things to say, and I want to say them with more maturity than some of the people I’ve experienced recently. In the mean time I want to do something constructive, so I decided to start something I’ve been thinking about for a while. It’s not, in the grand scheme of things, a huge gesture – but it’s something I’ve wanted for a few years… and god knows we’re going to need some escapism.
Here is a list, which I will add to as I go (and I would like you to add to as well), of LGBTQ+ art. A master list. Books, film, music, anything that other people have made. So far everything on the list is something I’ve seen or read, but if you have any suggestions (I expect you do), please let me know in a comment. You can also see the link in the dropdown at Transmissions in the menu (this post will definitely be swallowed up soon). I’m not expecting this to change the world, but queer people need – and have always needed and are definitely going to need – to see things that aren’t hateful. So this is my contribution. It’s tiny. It’s not setting things on fire (tempting), trolling Republicans (tempting) or moving to Australia (tempting). But it’s not adding to any of the hatred and division already out there, so let’s do it.
The new school year is upon the nation’s sproglets and there’s a new-ish argument in Parliament and the media about grammar schools. Am I glad to be back home. I want to add my two cents to the great grammar school debate, because I actually attended one – after 1974, which as far as I can tell is when most politicians left university – and no one seems to have thought to ask grammar school pupils what they think.
I went to a grammar school in Essex from 2007 until a couple of years ago, partly because I grew up surrounded by them, and their students looked very accomplished and clever and grown up in their uniforms and I wanted to be like that, and partly because my parents and teachers had worked out by the time I was eleven that I was a precocious academic brat. Also, the alternative schools were shit. They weren’t all shit schools, but they were shit for me. Had I gone to the local comprehensives, I would have spent my teenage years with the same people I went to primary school with. I did not like most of the people I went to primary school with. I was shy and awkward and did all my growing in year five, so I looked 15, not 10 – and wearing a bra and shopping for sanitary products when your classmates are still getting the giggles when they look up ‘vagina’ in the dictionary is less fun than it sounds. Plus I loved reading and reading = smart, right? SO I WAS GOING TO TRY OUT FOR THE GRAMMAR SCHOOLS.
At school we already had to do shitty tests and homework and SATs, and I signed up to the Eleven Plus assuming it was basically the same, which it was. I fucking hated all tests and homework right up until year 13 – so shout out to my parents, who gritted their teeth and walked me through my verbal reasoning book, and to my primary school teachers, who ran extra classes for the kids they thought could try out for the grammar schools, or the grammar stream that ran in one of the comprehensives.
I don’t remember much about the months leading up to the Eleven Plus, other than I listened to evening radio while I finished my verbal reasoning, and that’s where I got into MCR. But I do remember visiting the different schools, and one of my classmates mum’s saying to one of the teachers at an all-girls grammar: ‘Lucy much prefers boys to girls. She doesn’t get on with girls. Would that be a problem here?’ The answer was yes. Lucy went to a comprehensive. I never got on with her – and I thought boys were mostly gross, and I saw no reason to share a desk with them unless forced. My other resounding memory of that time is another child’s mum saying in the playground ‘I won’t let my daughter go to the girls school. It’s full of posh people and dykes.’
My friends and I conducted pretty thorough studies over the years and trust me, it’s really not.
Anyway, a lot of children at my school went in for the Eleven Plus, and a lot of us passed (again, shout out to the teachers for having faith in so many of us). A few went to the different grammars, but most went into the grammar stream at the comprehensive. I don’t know if that still exists, but if anyone reading this is worried their little girl might miss the company of the Y chromosome aged 12, consider that.
In my first week of year seven I was surprised at how quiet the classrooms were. My primary school was raucous and busy and chairs got thrown and kids hadn’t met their parents for years and kids were on medication and kids were loud. I couldn’t get over how much people wanted to learn (to anyone who taught my classes after year nine – sorry we couldn’t keep that up).
By the end of year eight I had learnt that I went to school with girls who were thick as shit but whose families had the money to tutor them through the Eleven Plus, with girls whose families didn’t have enough money to buy food and the expensive school uniform, with girls whose parents seemed to treat the grammar system as an extension of the private school system, with girls who are smart enough to run the country. I also learnt that I would not contract lesbianism by virtue of not being near boys, although I took an extra-curricular karate class just to be on the safe side. I still think boys are mostly gross but I would like to apologise publicly for confusing queerness with the flu. In my defence, I went to primary school with kids whose parents were twats.
I also learnt that I kind of hated school. I hated homework and poncy assemblies in which we politely applauded the latest hockey victories. I hated standing up when a teacher came in (show me some respect and I’ll show you some, dude) and the optional but-not-really letters asking for ‘small donations’ and the PE lessons run by people who never seemed to exercise and the ridiculous assumption that we should all go to university. I hated that the highest standard wasn’t high enough, I hated that the arts were ignored in favour of maths and science, and that maths and science was ignored in favour of sport.
But I loved my friends, my blazer’s many pockets and the weird little intricacies that came with a century-old institution. We had two staircases, one going up and one going down, and sometimes someone would lose a shoe on the way up. We celebrated our school’s birthday with giant fruitcake and a rousing rendition of Jerusalem. We’d visit foreign language teachers in spare offices once a fortnight to play with index cards about verbs. I hated that the highest standard wasn’t high enough, but only when it came to homework; I give the same attention to my work now that teachers wanted me to give to my work then.
I did well in my GCSEs by grammar standards, and badly in my A Levels by grammar standards. I’m doing okay now in life standards, although probably not grammar school ones – I didn’t go to university, I work for myself and I’m broke, there’s nothing about me that they can put on a brochure to encourage the next generation of precious academic brats.
If I had gone to any of the comprehensives, maybe the part of me that says ‘fuck’ a lot, dyes my hair pink and refuses to get a normal job would have flourished a lot earlier. Maybe I would have been more relaxed about homework and less frustrated by all the hoops I had to jump through as a student. Maybe I would have gone to university. Maybe I wouldn’t be blogging, wouldn’t be an MCR fan or wouldn’t be a writer. I have yet to see if being an alumni of my school can open doors; I’ve had more interviews based on my blog than I have my qualifications – although a during lot of local interviews people have mentioned that they went to a grammar, or their kid did, or their aunt’s cousin’s neighbour did. I don’t know if that’s an exclusive club I want to be in.
So, politicians and parents and teachers and, for once, the kids who are in the education system today:
I don’t know what’s best for you. Your parents might not know what’s best for you. A wonderful teacher and a supportive home life will get your far further than the number of A*s you’ve achieved. I didn’t do well in primary school because I was magically gifted, I did well because my teachers were brilliant and my family gave a shit. I’m no smarter than the children who didn’t go to the grammars, although my parents are smarter than the parents who didn’t let their children try out for the grammars. If you fail an exam aged eleven, you have the rest of your life to do everything in your life. If you want to try out for the Eleven Plus, do it. If you want to dye your hair pink, do it.
Only one of those things will ruin your clothes, your bathroom and some of your job prospects.