Friday, 28 May 2010

Can't we all just age gracefully?


I have a confession to make. I am 30 – and I am probably more comfortable with my appearance now than I was when I was 21. It’s not that I’m particularly narcissistic, but, bearing in mind I weigh six stone less than I did when I was 18, I actually think that, like a fine wine or a chunk of Stilton, I have improved with age.

However, whenever I turn on the telly or open a magazine, I am reminded that getting older is a bad thing. Whereas 10 years ago the focus was well and truly on a woman’s weight, it seems to be that the natural ageing process is the new enemy we women are forced to wage war upon. Ageing is the new fat. Adverts for skin creams promise us that they can delay the ageing process, protecting our skin from free radicals, shielding us from harmful UVA and UVB rays, and even reduce the appearance of the lines we have been unable to prevent through careless laughter and frowning.

The average woman who, like me, indulges in the odd glossy and usually relaxes in front of the box for at least an hour or two a day is probably exposed to advertisements for such products for longer than the length of an episode of EastEnders. And, like anyone facing an onslaught of propaganda, she probably starts to believe it. Yes, ageing is bad. The appearance of wrinkles will signify the end of your life. You must stand up to nature and fight it to the death – literally.

Then of course there is the cost involved. These lotions and potions don’t come cheap. Staying youthful costs. When doing the weekly shop, it dismays me to see how much more money I spend on toiletries than my other half does. While he can get away with a can of Lynx and a cheapo moisturiser, I have to cleanse, tone and moisturise, not to mention invest in spot cream for the occasional blemish and the obligatory weekly face mask and scrub.

The critics among you will no doubt notice that I used the expression “have to”. Of course I don’t have to spend my hard-earned cash on these things, and, to be fair, I spend a hell of a lot less than a lot of people, opting for cheaper brands rather than your ultra-pricey clinically-proven scientifically-formulated wonder-stuffs for which you can pay through the nose. But I do spend more than my fella. I could boycott skincare and turn to soap in protest – but I dare not. My skin might break out in spots whilst simultaneously crumpling like a screwed-up newspaper. Age spots might appear. My jowls might sink, leaving me with the face of a bulldog. I shudder at the thought of what might happen if I let nature take its course.

“What will it be next? Foetus-soft skin?
Egg-smooth hair?”

Having said that, I have my limits. A bit of magic moisturiser? Yes, please. Plastic surgery? I don’t think so. Botox? Actually, I think I’ll pass on poisoning my face, thank you. But, in a society that values youthful-looking skin more than life itself, my principles could soon be under attack. Not because I think I will cave in under normal circumstances, but because, by the time I am 40, Botox is likely to be the norm. Women who don’t have Botox and choose to stick to the more traditional anti-ageing processes will look old and haggard compared to their nipped and tucked, frozen-faced peers. Even slathering your face in factor 50 every day isn’t going to compete with that.

So, there it is. At 30 I might be getting away with my trusted moisturiser for combination skin with UVA and UVB filters. But by 35? Maybe the pull to freeze my face in time will be too strong to resist as everyone else jumps on board the Botox Bandwagon.

In the meantime, there is hope. Don’t you know that you can now get a foundation that promises to give your skin the appearance of a baby’s? And I’m sure there is a hair dye on the market that will colour your hair baby blonde. Ageing? Sod that when I can achieve the youthful vigour of a newborn. What will it be next? Foetus-soft skin? Egg-smooth hair?

Actually I’ll stick to looking my age, thanks all the same. Read more by Shelly.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Sam Peczek's Grumpy Election Review

This is my list. It is annotated for your reading pleasure. Going into detail will push my rant buttons (yes, they are plural) so I shall keep it short and ‘safe’:

1. TV debates. Great way of getting people interested and seeing how the candidates work under pressure, but impossible to decipher what the policies really mean. You want me to READ them all? Can’t you spoonfeed me the answers? I bet Wikipedia can tell me what it’s all about ... but they can’t explain why Sky and ITV decided to deck out the debates like pilots for sad 70s game shows that never made it past their ill-conceived debut. Shame on you all!

2. Tactical voting. The pragmatic option? Backfired this time, idiots. Live and learn? Not on my watch.

3. Cleggmania. Who? Oh, him. Yeah. Too late. Who’s gonna vote for someone who’s name we only learnt 4 weeks ago? Not England. Oh no.

4. Where are the women? Oh, they’re married to the men. Gosh, rumour has it there are some female MPs ... and yet we know more about which wife is the lesser train wreck. Nice.

5. People voting for the BNP, ‘because it’s funny’. If I was in a grave I would be rolling over in it. All in good time.

6. Rupert Murdoch. Is a dick. Monstrous, manipulative, and munching away at everything in its dirty path ... ‘M’ also stands for ...

7. The Media*. It’s big but it’s not clever. And it just happens to capitalise on the fact that most people aren’t much clever either. Classy.

8. Candidates lurking outside your Polling Station. NOT classy. I also saw a lot of blue balloons ... tempting, and yet (go on, say it) fine, the pretty little bits of gassy elastic will last longer than their promises. Cheesy yet true.

9. People who waited until after 9pm to vote. It’s your own damn fault if you missed out; don’t moan about something you’re not that bothered about.

10. Hung Parliament. Interesting. Dilute your policies or get them dirty? Tis a tricky business, but you’re not in it for the fun. Even the twisty political kind.

11. (Because 10 would have looked like I was going for a theme) The beginning of the end. Nah. Maybe we won’t even notice. Not unless the papers tell us we should be angry or sad. We can but wait.**

*Yes, even the Guardian. Another example of too little too late. Try staying ‘impartial’ next time, guys. Your notion of support is confounding.

**Which is something you’re probably used to if you live in Hackney South. Major counting/organisational fail.

Read more by Sam.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Personality does matter!

Am I the only person who is openly admitting that personality has a big bearing on who is going to get my vote today? I’m not a complete idiot advocating a Martini ‘vote for the pretty people’ style approach to politics. Of course it’s also about substance. But can we all just take a minute to be honest and admit that as human beings our perception on a particular person is going to impact on whether we buy into what they’re saying. Personally I’m getting to the end of my tether with people explaining to me in patronising tones that it doesn’t matter whether I’d like to invite Mr. Brown or Mr. Cameron round to tea; it’s about how they’d get on with the business of running the country. Really? Thanks for pointing that out to me. Are you sure we simple, empty-headed women should really be allowed to have a vote anyway?

What I wish people like this would understand is that now the ideological gap between the major parties is narrower, then there needs to be another way of comparing them. Surely how a person comes across should be and is indicative of how they approach other things in life such as their job.

So let’s take a look at those demeanours. On the one hand there’s Gordon Brown who quite frankly gives me the creeps, especially when he smiles. I am still having regular nightmares over the ‘penitent sinner’ grimace. Then there’s David Cameron who is not only totally devoid of an upper lip but always seems to be endlessly shiny. You’d think what with all the money being poured into a general election campaign, someone could at least pull him to one side and dab a powder puff on his nose once in a while. This is Britain after all, not some tropical climate, so it’s not as if he’s out there shaking hands in the blistering midday heat. His constant glowing always makes me think of politicians as oily, slippery creatures and then it’s rather hard to trust them - or more to the point him - completely.

Then we come to the fresh-faced Nick Clegg. No wonder he’s doing so well; for starters, he doesn’t have any apparent facial problems. After watching the televised debates, I’ve taken to him. Is it because I agree with his policies? Well according to, not in the most part. However, I do find him agreeable. And before you ask, yes I probably would invite him for dinner. Having that likeable quality, a type of charisma, is key to being a successful leader. If it really wasn’t about personality at all then surely they’d be called representatives or spokespeople. But they’re not: they’re leaders. Someone, who by definition, will encourage others to follow them.

What’s wrong with wanting the people that represent you to be nice chaps and good sorts? People who embody what you believe in. Take my local MP, who has held his incredibly safe seat since 1992 and until recently most probably lived under the impression that it would take an act of god for him to lose it. That was until the expense claim debacle. Abroad at the time it happened, I recently have learnt that said MP who lives in zone 6 (like me) claimed disgusting amounts in second home allowances. Suddenly I don’t care about his policies or which party he represents. All I can think of is the many mornings I squeezed onto an unpleasantly packed train to commute into Central London to be paid a lot less than an MP, or the fact it takes about seven minutes to walk from London Victoria station to Westminster. Something clearly beyond his capabilities; as a result I have no intention of helping him to stay on.

Call me cynical but I do have trouble believing that all the promises currently being made can be kept and that the voter-friendly manifestos now being pushed won’t be changed, scaled down or scrapped once the new government (whoever that may be) gets its feet, weary from campaigning, back under the table. In which case, then what have you voted for? Hopefully someone, when all is said and done, who is a decent individual who will try their utmost to do what’s best for the nation, not their own pockets. With all the extended television coverage we’re getting of the candidates it’s almost like we know them. It’s enough to follow our natural gut instincts as to whether they’re someone we want bestow with the great honour of our vote.

However, whatever you decide, may I recommend the heady pleasure of telling every bumptious pain in the posterior who condescended to you about your political ignorance that you voted for the Monster Raving Loony Party - and only because someone you vaguely know lived next door to their Minister of Fun while at university. Read more by Rosie.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

This be the grumpy verse!

Who are these people at my door?
I know I’ve never seen them before.
Disturbing my peace when I want to unwind,
To try to impress me with well-rehearsed lines,
Ready to confirm they’re the best one to choose,
The acts of the others that’ll cause them to lose.
They wander the streets tightly gripping their files,
Trying to blind with the brightest false smiles.
They talk of new wheelie bins and reduced council tax
And speak of all their opponents being totally lax.
Who knows how many trees they’ve killed
To create all the flyers for which we’ll get billed?
Endless letters create more postage cost,
Promising the world before they get lost.
It’s the tip of the iceberg in the national debate,
So we can decide which leader we least hate.
The television and newspapers are filled to the brim
With conflicting opinions on him, him and him,
Studying all aspects of each of their lives,
(As we’re bound to be swayed by the state of their wives)
Creating false stories and digging up dirt,
Promote their campaign while the others’ they hurt,
Trotting out supporters and enemies alike,
Each seeking credit for the greatest sound bite,
Proclaiming they’re what people of the country need,
Hoping their voice is the only one we heed.
Best image and policy are the name of the game,
When, in reality, they’re very much the same.
Sweet words to deceive us as they think we don’t know
We can see it’s a circus and all part of the show.
This excessive fuss is almost more than I can bear;
In the great scheme of things, who the hell cares!