Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Stormy weather in Henley

In the beginning there was a UKIP town councillor and he had dominion over the good people of Henley-on-Thames. The name of this councillor was David Silvester and it came to pass that David had a message for his people. So he wrote to his local newspaper, the Henley Standard:
"Sir - Since the passage of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act, the nation has been beset by serious storms and floods... Is this just 'global warming' or is there something more serious at work?"
Flooding in Henley-on-Thames, Thameside
Biblical floods in Henley?
And that letter, linking the recent flooding in the Thames Valley to God's apparent wrath over same-sex marriage, was enough to unleash another storm. But behind the headlines this week about Silvester's folly, there was a quieter story about a community pulling together and the power of grassroots activism. 

It all started last Friday, when Emma Vanstone, a manager at BT Global Services, posted a message on Facebook. She alerted her friends, including the BBC Radio Berkshire presenter Andrew Peach, to Silvester's letter in the Standard. "Try not to spit out your coffee," she told us, before describing how Silvester had drawn "a biblical link between our recent foul weather, and the rights of our gay brethren to marry". 

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Once we were cute...

When my daughter was little, people used to stop us in the airport and say, "Aw, how cute!" I would glow with pride, as if I was the first mother ever to have a cute child. Then it was my son's turn. I still remember the holiday when he started to garner all the attention, after my daughter tipped over from chubby toddler into gawky school-age child. Now, no one stops us anymore. Our collective 'cute' factor is pretty much zilch.

There are, however, consolations. Scoring zero on the cute scale means that my hand luggage no longer contains an impressive, Mary Poppins-style inventory of nappies, baby wipes, calpol, healthy snacks, toys, books and a fresh set of clothes (for everyone). These days it's just an ipad and a packet of sweets.

And when the kids go back to school at the beginning of term, I actually miss their company. There's a good reason why small children are cute: they are also HIGH maintenance. As scientist Konrad Lorenz argued in the 1940s, infantile features, such as big eyes and chubby cheeks, are designed to trigger a nurturing instinct in adults. These days my children may not be so adorable, but they can self-entertain during the holidays. 

Labrador puppies
Just look at those little faces!
It's the same with puppies. If my new Labrador hadn't looked so damn cute while he was weeing all over the kitchen floor and chewing up school shoes, we would have given up on him long ago. He's big and brawny now, but a lot easier to look after.