the brilliantly leaping gazelle

It’s always someone else’s fault…

I was going to post about another topic entirely, but I’ve just seen something in ‘The Guardian’ which has both angered me no end and is symptomatic of a growing trend amongst people to increasingly lay the blame for whatever misfortune befalls them at someone else’s door.

The article is on it’s front page, and is headlined;

Cycling UK angered by Highway Code’s ‘victim blaming’ helmet advice

Click-bait if ever I read it, with a sub-heading;

Group says driver education and safer roads matter more than protective clothing

Presumably the headline writers at ‘The Guardian’ know it’s bitterly cold where I am and knew I needed warming up and what better way to do that than to make my blood boil!

It continued,

Cycling campaigners have reacted angrily to a tweet from the Highway Code that said cyclists should wear helmets and protective clothing, saying the advice fuelled a culture of “victim blaming”.

The official Twitter account’s post encouraging people to wear “appropriate clothes for cycling” was met with negative responses from those who believe the suggestion to be ineffective. The code is published by the Department for Transport.

A spokesperson for Cycling UK said the recommendation led to a culture of “victim blaming” of cyclists and allowed careless drivers to evade responsibility.

“Helmets are only really effective in low-impact collisions, we need better infrastructure for cyclists and education for drivers,” they said.

“If you look at places like the Netherlands and Denmark, where there are more cyclists, it’s not helmets that contribute to low death rates for cyclists but roadscapes and townscapes that are designed to keep people safe.”

The article also thoughtfully included a video expelling why cycle helmets are not that good, together with some accidents waiting to happen, sharing ill-informed condemnation that contributed nothing of any relevance whatsoever.

Long before my brain injury, I had to cycle from East Barnet to Waterloo at least four times a week both in the morning rush hour – not great but at least it was downhill – and the return – at night, after a day at work and uphill – so I know a bit about cycling in London. The main thing I know is that I wouldn’t do it now. Not only because there are more cars, buses and lorries on the roads than before, not only because car drivers are driving faster and more aggressive than before. Not only because their is a bewildering array of traffic calming measures which have the opposite effect, not only because some of these come into force with little explanation – the new roundabout system at Elephant and Castle being an example. One of the reasons I wouldn’t cycle in London again – aside from me not being able to ride a bike anymore, that is – is cyclists themselves and their seemingly delusional belief that other road users have a kind of osmosis, one that informs them of a cyclists intentions without any need for the cyclist to indicate this.

What other possible explanation could there be that explains why cyclists perform manoeuvres without first checking it’s safe to do so? As a passenger in a car I’ve been constantly amazed at their foolhardy antics, swerving in and out between cars, riding two or three abreast but worst of all, sailing through red traffic lights. Why is it that cyclists expect every other road user to obey the Highway Code when they themselves don’t? And what is it with cyclists and epileptic fit inducing lights?  You know the ones like portable strobe machines? Or lights that are so small as to be as much use a cement football? And also to be clad in dark clothing, with no lights, on a dark night? Yes, I grant you, a helmet won’t do you much good if you’re hit by a car then, but then whose fault is that?

I’m not saying that other road users aren’t responsible for the lions share of culpability of accidents to cyclists but it’s never their fault! It’s always someone else’s fault!  Isn’t it ironic that so many of them have crash-cams now, to record the transgressions of others?

A misanthrope’s New Year warning…

One of the things I hate about New Years Eve celebrations is fireworks with music. I mean I hate fireworks to music at any time of the year but on New Years Eve it just feels more…wrong. For me it just reduces to whole thing somehow because the noise of the explosions should be enough. I know that not everyone feels the same way about this as I do, but that’s okay, I’ll allow them to be wrong.

Because they are.

And whilst I’m on the subject of New Years Eve fireworks, or indeed any celebration with fireworks another thing that annoys me is the excited squeals of delight from children as the fireworks explode. I don’t want to hear them or their irritating progenitors, as at least children have an excuse to be irritating but why must they do it within my hearing.

Because they do.

Another thing I find annoying about the New Years Eve celebrations televised on the BBC, is not that they have people herded like cattle into pens on the banks of the Thames, people who’ve paid for the questionable privilege of being treated in a way that would make people smugglers envious. It’s not that they always find some useless carbon unit to propose to some equally pointless oxygen guzzler, live on television for the entertainment of those watching. Every-time they say ‘Yes’, but just once I’d like them to say ‘No’

Of course I’d want them to say ‘Yes’ but later, in a private moment, away from the cameras, not as some piece of tawdry entertainment. I’m not wholly without feelings.

But  the thing I find the most annoying about New Years Eve is the false hope it offers, that simply by wanting the New Year to be better than the previous one, it will be. It won’t be, not this year, not least for the poor, and not so poor, in the UK. The wealthy will be fine, as they always are, protected by their wealth from the worst ravages of Brexit. All this guff about a hard or soft Brexit, about whether a ‘no deal’ is better than a ‘bad deal’, makes me think of a rapist being thought of as considerate because he wears a condom. It’s still an act of unspeakable violence with unknowable consequences for years to come.

The misanthrope’s advent calendar – day 25

The thing that I hate most about christmas – what I really, really hate about christmas – is that I hate chistmas. Whilst this might seem somewhat hypocritical, given I posted for all of this month about the things that I hate about christmas, nonetheless the question I have to ask myself is why do I hate it?

Christmas is meant to be a joyous time of celebration, good cheer and good fellowship, of gaiety and laughter, surrounded by family and friends, right?

Whats to hate about that?

I mean yes, I’m a misanthrope but where did that come from? I’m certainly not going to engage in some cod-analysis of my childhood to get answers; as such an exercise might be nothing more than a post event rationalization that provides a comfortable narrative.

Suffice to say that my childhood was certainly the root of it all, and telling a young girl a white lie about Santa Clause existing, is proof that at christmas miracles sometimes do happen.

The misanthrope’s advent calendar – day 24

One thing I hate about christmas – and there are a lot – is the hypocrisy it reveals. Now there’s a certain amount of lies, white lies, that are necessary for the smooth functioning of the social order lest petty squabbles don’t become drunken arguments that then escalate into crime scenes. When a delighted ‘Oh, its wonderful!’ or an enthusiastic rush to try something on might easily have avoided any violent unpleasantness on christmas day.

No, the hypocrisy to which I refer is to that particular brand of cant, practiced by the cants in this government who have not only designed a such harsh welfare system for the poorest in society, but their equally complicit fellow travelers who have voted these measures into law.

I’m thinking of James Brokenshire, the Housing Minister who said in relation to Office of National Statistics figures reporting deaths of homeless, rough sleepers and others, had increased to 600 last year,  blamed other factors

It was as if these tragic deaths had somehow occurred in a vacuum and not partly due to successive cuts to welfare provision and mental health services. I fully accept that the welfare bill needs cutting, its just at a figure in of £93 billion a year, it should be the corporate welfare bill tat should be cut. What about the monarchy?

How are we living in anything like a just society when those in control of taxpayers funds deem some costs somehow more worthy than others. The queen lives on state benefits. She holidays at our expense. Are the D.W.P ever told about her leaving the country? She has numerous dwellings around the country, but does the D.W.P ask her what happens when she’s not there? Or even when she is there? How many bedrooms can one person sleep in at a time? So is she being sanctioned for under occupancy? Her eldest son runs a business. Are the D.W.P investigating him for fraud or is he taking the biscuit? One of her grandchildren gets married and we pay for it?

What other pensioner would get an £ 82 million payment to help cover the cost of doing up the electrics at her gaffs?

In what way exactly isn’t she a benefit cheat?

Additionally, the hypocrisy of those in this government who champion free speech and bang on about how one of the most important functions the press is to hold government to account, sunlight being a disinfectant and other blah. Yet then are oddly quiet when this government imposes conditions on charities and other groups that receive government funding of not making any comments critical of this government’s welfare policy.

Now I’m sure Iain Duncan-Smith and Amber Rudd are generous and caring individuals to their friends, kind and forgiving when they want to be, but on the evidence of policies he’s enacted and she’s carrying forward proves that they don’t want be generous, caring, kind or forgiving very often.

But in my opinion the worst kind of hypocrites are those who bemoan the rampant poverty and injustice in society, yet have no qualms about voting Conservative. Its staggering beyond words how people can reconcile the two. There wouldn’t be a Conservative government if people didn’t keep voting for one, or not voting Labour.

They’re the biggest cants!

The misanthrope’s advent calendar – day 23

One thing I hate about christmas – and there are a lot – is the christmas catwalk. Whilst you probably haven’t been consciously aware of it so as to name it, you will have seen it and increasingly so in recent years. And it doesn’t always take place on christmas day either, although whilst it is highly likely, any day after christmas day is a good day to see some garments. But christmas day is when you’ll most likely see all the wearable presents someone can possibly leave the house with being paraded.

For as we as a society have become less abashed at flaunting our material trappings and more blatant in displaying our good fortune in an obviously ‘look at me’ way, we are doing helping to perpetuate the cycle of acquisitive consumer greed.

This trend for conspicuous spectacle, to be seen by as many people as possible is both a reflection of, and a savage indictment of a society that will, ultimately consume the planet to death. Not the death of the planet, but rather the death of the human race. And this is a good thing, as no sensible person taking a sober and rational analysis of humanity’s effects on the planet can judge it to be as anything other than an unmitigated disaster.

The planet on which we live is 4.6 billion years old – and you’ll recall that a billion is a million millions – whilst the modern form of humans only evolved about 200,000 years ago. Civilization as we know it is only about 6,000 years old, and industrialization started in the earnest only in the 1800s. While we’ve accomplished much in that short time, what we have accomplished isn’t much to be proud of. Since the Industrial Revelation, mankind – well the tycoons and businessmen anyway – have plundered the planets resources for their own short-term rapacious financial self-interest.

In years to come, that is if there are future generations to ask the question that is, they might reasonably ask ‘ But you knew what you were doing was causing irreparable harm to the planet. Temperatures were rising, so were sea levels, habitats were disappearing, species were becoming extinct, ice caps were melting, weather extremes were occurring with greater regularity all this and more you knew. The warning signs were unmistakable. And you did nothing, or what you did do was so utterly dwarfed by the sheer enormity and complexity of the problem. But heck, at least some of you drove electric cars. Mind you, you didn’t stop having children did you? More mouths, more consumers, living in less space and exacerbating the problems. Thanks for that. Cheers.’

Humanity deserves to suffer the same fate it subjected the dodo and knowingly condemns other species to.

The misanthrope’s advent calendar – day 22

One thing I hate about christmas – and there are a lot – are walks on Christmas day. I’ve the rather questionable pleasure of being subjected to more of these than I would wish and I never wished for them in the first place.

These walks are compulsory, I mean if one can withstand the sideways looks, condemnatory mutterings, barbed comments for a few days, heated but whispered arguments with your winter warmer in the bedroom you share with the thin walls in their parents house. And it was always in a partners parents house, more often than not the first time I’d actually met them, where I’d be trying to cultivate a good impression of me. Displaying anything other than raring enthusiasm to go out for a post christmas dinner walk wasn’t a great way to help achieve it.

I mean, is it only me or is the clue is right there in the name? It isn’t christmas breakfast or lunch, it’s christmas dinner and as dinners are usually eaten later on in the day, and it starts getting dark in December at about 3pm. So the question is, who in their right mind would go for a walk – willingly – in the cold and dark, when option b is to stay toasty in the warm and drink some more champagne?

I’ll tell you who.

Parents who suspect that you’re not ‘the right sort’ for the fruit of their loins and want their suspicions confirmed. Parents who under the guise of putting you at your ease, do the very opposite. Parents who insist on playing cherished family games, with impenetrable rules, which abound with ’You had to be there’ anecdotes, as hilarious to them as they are bewildering to you. Parents for whom it never occurs to them that you too might be sizing them up in exactly the same way and might find them wanting.

Parents whom are the butt of the joke of this John Lewis advert.

And above all, parents, who when you’ve decided you never want to see them or their children ever again, think it a good idea to take up your challenge to play against them as a family at ’Trivia Pursuits’.

It wasn’t.

The misanthrope’s advent calendar – day 21

One thing I hate about christmas – and there are many – is stealth alcohol.

I mean alcohol can be bad enough, but stealth alcohol is another thing altogether – and a special prize for anyone who knew there was a reference there to be had! Stealth alcohol is, as the name implies, alcohol masquerading as something entirely innocuous, mainly in food, especially at Christmas.

A good example is brandy butter. Not the kind you buy, which has flavourings that taste like brandy, but homemade brandy butter. Yes such a thing exists. People do make it and insist on having it with mince pies, of which they have an endless supply of, and try to eat them all. My recollection of homemade brandy butter gets a bit blurred towards the end.

Which is nothing as compared to the hidden potential of trifle. Now here I must make a confession. As a young boy on holiday in Ireland, my Aunt left my Uncle and myself to make a trifle for a family Sunday lunch. Fine. Everything was going gangbusters when we discovered there was no sherry to be had. Panic! Until disaster was averted when my Uncle thankfully discovered a bottle of whiskey. It was only later that it struck me that he might have engineered the whole thing. Anyway, he invited me to pour. Gingerly ay first I did and then I saw the smile spreading across his face and as he was my favourite Uncle and I wanted to please him, I kept on pouring.

To this day, I’m not certain how much I emptied into the trifle, but I do remember all the adults tucking in with gusto and each time I was there we’d always make trifle.

So beware Christmas trifles.

Another example is of course setting fire to the Christmas pudding, which whilst a quaint anachronism to every other family I’ve spent Christmas day with, the family who made their own brandy butter certainly weren’t backwards in coming forwards on this either. As the brandy had made its way onto the table, they seemed incredibly reluctant to see it leave.

Thus my recollection of that christmas dinner is bit frayed around the edges.

The misanthrope’s advent calendar – day 20

One thing I hate about christmas – and there are a lot – is being a passenger in a distant relatives car.

Basically with anyone I didn’t know, but had to be polite to.

Admittedly this doesn’t happen so much now, what with me not being a child, and having my own car – which for the good of other road users I don’t drive – but when it did it simply confirmed how correct was low opinion of most other people.

Because as a child, pretty much all my chauffeuring duties were undertaken by my mother, so much so that I believed that the only way to drive was by being mindful both of speed and distance from the car in front, giving indication of a maneuver well in advance and also observing the basic rule of physics. Namely, a moving object will carry on moving at the same speed if a similar object close to it suddenly stops. As a child, this obvious and irrefutable fact seemed beyond the understanding of other users of the motorway system.

So as far as possible, for selfish reasons – like wanting to keep my blood inside my body – I resisted travelling as a passenger in a car driven by someone who didn’t match the high standards my mother had set. Quite why women drivers were considered less capable than men – trust me, when I was a child, they were – always baffled me, because the worst drivers were always men. On one occasion when my brother was driving far in excess of his ability, I asked him to pull over so I could get out.

So being a passenger in a distant relatives car was nerve-wracking not just because of their driving ability or lack thereof, but also because of the stilted conversation, rich with bland platitudes uttered in the forlorn hope that something could be started that would prevent an awkward silence. A silence which would become increasingly more awkward the longer into the journey it lasted but the longer it lasted, the more it was destined to last. Like a self- perpetuating, never ending vortex of agony, the silence would become almost deafening in its intensity. Because, as Obi Wan Kenobi said ‘There has been a great disturbance in the force.’ in cases such as these, when a new dynamic is thrust into a well ordered system, in which the behavioral rhythms established over time, the in-jokes and easy comfortableness of a routine is abandoned on the altar of being festive.

The misanthrope’s advent calendar – day 19

One thing I hate about christmas – and there are many – is C and E churchgoers. I don’t mean Church of England god botherers, who bother god in a very polite, English way and sing hymns in a such a turgid and mournful way, its almost as if they’re trying to create the dead. If god did exist – and no he, she, or it doesn’t – possibly they might think ’They’re singing songs in praise of me. That’s great and everything, but why must they sound so miserable.’ I was going to write as miserable as a Smiths song, but the very existence of the Smiths is proof that god – any god – is a fairy story,

Before I stroll with gay abandon down tangent street and suggest that The Smiths chart success proves not only that god doesn’t exist, but also that the devil does, let me first explain what I mean by C and E churchgoers. They are people who go to church only at christmas and easter, and when they do, are horrified by all the religious content.

As a child I used to be an altar boy – but now I presume times have changed and the church promotes equality in indoctrination – and was entertained by the new faces at christmas, who were both unsure of what to do and when and were reluctant about singing in public.

I was reminded of this last night, when one of the people I share a house with, was describing the carol service he’d taken his daughter to at a nearby church. Now, had the carol service been held in a community centre or a school then yes, I’d fully understand his remarking on the ratio of religion to carols as reasoned criticism. But when you go to a church?

Complaining about the religious content one finds in a carol service in a church is like attending an orgy but complaining you have to go bareback!



The misanthrope’s advent calendar – day 18


Another thing that annoys me about christmas – and there are many – is the Coca Cola christmas advert. For anyone still not wholly convinced of my misanthropy, what follows is I hope proof of it.

The Coca Cola advert depicts, for those who haven’t seen it, a convoy of brightly lit Coca Cola lorries, making its way through a snowy countryside like series of Las Vegas carnival floats designed by Liberace. One the destinations is passes through is a small town in America, where news of this visual abomination has spread to the extent that throngs of people have inexplicably gathered by the side of the road to welcome its arrival. A small town in America where the seemingly the residency laws chime perfectly with the principles of the KluKlaxKlan and Francis Galton. A young boy races to get a glimpse of it, his eagerness matched only by his annoyingly wholesomeness.

Anyway, the convoy is driving through the town, people are cheering and unfortunately, the young boy arrives just in time to see the back of the last lorry leaving town. He breaks free of the crowds and steps into the road and every time I see it, I hope that the boy gets splattered by another truck that he hasn’t seen.