Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Is it always the younger generation?

We regularly hear in the news all sorts of stories that fuel hatred of the younger generation, the so-called  ‘youth of today’ as we have become negatively titled, words which in themselves do not suggest any sort of resentment, but which have become synonymous with connotations of thuggery, violence and a lack of respect towards elders and, well, anyone. It cannot be denied that there are a select few young people out there who fit into this category, however I cannot help but feel that the media choose to focus on these people and use them as a stereotype for a whole section of society. They know that the public enjoy a good old moan about the youth of today, and so choose to gratify their readers/listeners with carefully selected stories about the wild behaviour of young people. Meanwhile, older generations are portrayed as the victims, often too scared to leave their own homes or walk down their own street from fear of ‘ASBO kids.’ The reality is that the majority of young people are respectful, law-abiding citizens who are only too willing to give up their seat on the bus or help an elderly person with their shopping.
About a month ago I had a couple of friends from uni come to stay with me at home in Kent, one from Plymouth and one from Birmingham. One day we took a bus to a local shopping centre. Waiting for the bus back, a queue gathered, and as the bus pulled in right in front of a bus shelter, the queue of people split, with people queuing either side. When my friend got to the front of our queue she stopped, courteously, to allow people from the other queue to board the bus. Once we had been waiting, only for a few seconds, we heard a tutting from behind us and turned to see a lady of about 70 pushing her way through the queue to the front, regardless of the 10 or so people queuing in front of her and perhaps 8 more behind. She managed to make it all the way to the front of the queue and onto the bus, the people in the queue either too shocked, or too scared to say anything. Straight away, another woman started pushing through the queue, this one only aged about 40, taking advantage of the parting the first woman had left in the crowd. Every one in the queue looked at each other and tutted, but no-one seemed keen to do anything about it, not even the driver who had seen this happen. Yet I cannot help thinking, and I’m sure that many people will agree, that if anyone else, particularly someone around my age, had tried this, they would have been confronted, stopped, and succeeded in further blackening the image off young people today.
What is it about the older generation that allows them to think (mostly correctly) that they can get away with this sort of thing, whilst younger people can’t? I do not know whether this lady thought that she had a right to be at the front because of her age, or if she just saw her chance and took it, but I know that my friends were shocked and I feel ashamed that they saw this happen in Kent when they both agreed that it would never happen where they came from. I am not suggesting that the entire older generation would consider it appropriate to behave in this manner, but just like people need to understand that not all young people are ASBO thugs, it is also clear that not all older people are innocent victims, although the majority of both categories do not cause any harm.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Things that make me happy # 2-September mornings

A fog hangs over the sleeping earth, silent except for the occasional chirp of a starling or sparrow as they awake at the crack of dawn, creating an eerie effect reminiscent of a Peter Jackson film set. Yet despite this creepy atmosphere, there is something  I love about crisp September mornings. Having never had a chance to properly appreciate the early mornings at this time of year before, I have found myself enjoying rising early and enjoying the refreshing bite in the air as the sun emerges and burns off the fog.
Walking across a dew drenched field in the early morning, leaving a trail of footprints in your wake significant enough to make you feel, just for a second, that you are the first person to walk the earth, leaves crunching under your feet the only sound breaking into the world.
Cobwebs form a silken blanket over the browning bushes, as if trying to protect them from the impending grasp of the winter frost that will strip them of their natural finery, the architects of such beauty hidden away from the biting chill of the autumn daybreak. All of this conjures up images reminiscent of the hymns sung in junior school harvest assemblies. It is a shame that all too soon it will be winter, the dark mornings will be drawing in, leaves will have fallen from trees and many of the woodland creatures will have gone into hibernation for the winter.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Clarkson's call for leniency in courts

With all of the drama surrounding the BBC programme ‘Top Gear’ in recent weeks, regarding the identity of the Stig being revealed and the ensuing court battles, it seems that another of Jeremy Clarkson’s questionable comments has gone by unnoticed.
The Top Gear presenter and Sun columnist has been in trouble before for his offhand comments, coming to blows with gay rights groups in 2006 due to his description of a car as “gay...yes very ginger beer” and  at other times making Nazi salutes on the BBC programme.
I was surprised then, that his column in the Sun last week appears to have gone by, uncommented and uncontested.  Although not offensive to any particular group, he was asking for courts to be more lenient on those who have committed ‘minor’ driving crimes, such as speeding, claiming that losing a licence can mean a lot more than just that-the loss of a job, a family home etc. Whilst I agree that losing your driving licence can have serious repercussions, it takes several errors and a build up of points on your licence before it is removed, meaning that otherwise meticulously careful drivers who make one stupid mistake are not punished in the same way as careless drivers who most probably should not be on the roads in the first place. Clarkson, however, went on to argue that there is no harm in “a teeny little call home on a quiet road”, despite it being against the law, and went on to suggest that he himself has done this a few times.
Although his controversial comments and actions over the years have earned him much criticism,  he still has a great number of loyal fans, particularly in the motoring world, many of whom respect him as a figure of authority and wisdom on cars and driving. Is this therefore any example for him to be setting these people?

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

A thought that occured to me this morning whilst brushing my teeth....

Why is it that for the two minutes of the day you can’t speak, you find more to say than during the entire rest of the day? I’m in the habit of wandering round the house whilst brushing my teeth rather than standing still over the sink as I have been led to believe is the norm. Doing so this morning, I headed to the bathroom only to realise that there was someone in there, so stood in the kitchen and waited for them to come out before I could spit my toothpaste out. During the two minutes (although it felt like an hour) that I was waiting, my brain went into overdrive.  I remembered that I wanted to ask my Dad the name of the place we went on holiday one year. And then to offer to put out the washing. And to tell him about something that had happened to someone we know recently, and point out the large spider in the corner of the room (“we never get spiders in the house” he regularly claims). As all these thoughts rushed around my mind with no way to express them, my dad pottered off into the garden to hang the washing out and the bathroom became free. Looking up from the sink as I rinsed my mouth out I realised that I could no longer remember half the things I wanted to say, typical now that I could, and I noticed that the spider in the kitchen had disappeared, as if his aim in being there had been to taunt me that I couldn’t prove my dad wrong about his no spiders in the house theory.  My brain, having had it’s most active two minutes of the day, came up with little more for me to say for the rest of the day, and so I reverted to my usual comments about the weather etc etc. Maybe it’s something they put in the toothpaste?

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Things that make me happy #1-Views of Portsmouth

It may not be the edge of the Grand Canyon, or a vista over the sweeping valleys of Tuscany, but the view over the southern city of Portsmouth has a special place in my heart, and instils in me a pride of being English. I cannot explain what it is about this historical sea town, after all it is not surrounded by the mountains of the Black Forest or exquisite views of Ayres Rock, yet I still find it breathtaking, just for a second, every time I visit. Perhaps it is the sense of old meets new, history meets future, metropolis meets tranquility that the city emits. After all, Portsmouth is steeped in naval history, and is the birthplace of Charles Dickens, yet it is moving forward into the future, as can be seen from recent developments such as the Gunwharf Quays shopping centre and the addition of the Spinnaker Tower to the skyline.

Being as I am, a semi regular visitor to the area (due to family ties, I visit 3-4 times a year), it seems to me that the sun is always shining, which has perhaps helped to form my positive opinion of the area, although locals who live here all year round may disagree.

Approaching the area, as the A3 becomes the A27 (admittedly, directions like this do not make Portsmouth sound like a place that dreams are made of) the road runs next to a marshy area known as Langstone Harbour, and it is here for me that the excitement begins. The scene of the water gently lapping the sides of small sailing and fishing boats is reminiscent of Cape Cod, or perhaps the French Riviera, creating a sense of tranquillity and calm.

Further up, the ‘top road’ which runs along the top of a cliff overlooks the entirety of the city plus the land masses of Hayling Island and Gosport either side, and, on a particularly clear day, the Isle of Wight. The view on a clear day is even more impressive. In high summer, a heat haze lingers over the city, as if aspiring to match the smog of Beijing. That, combined with the image of the Spinnaker Tower and other tall buildings in the distance, creating a wall between the buzz of the city and the calm of the Solent, reminds me of a picture I once saw of Singapore Harbour; the skyscrapers, the boats, the water. Not bad for an old English naval town.