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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Flights of Angels

This post is dedicated to the children who have lost their lives this week both in the Doha Mall fire and in the Houla Massacre.

My heart hurts. It actually hurts. Its almost unbearable. This week has seen the loss of innocent lives on a scale its almost impossible to comprehend.

In what is undoubtedly the worst atrocity since the Arab Spring began 108 people, many of whom were children in Syria's Houla region, were summarily executed, Reports say most of these received single bullet wounds to the head. The culprits are reported to be the Army under the orders of President Bashar Assad.

The horror of this massacre comes after over a year of violence is Syria and mounting pressure from the international community on Assad's regime. It leaves me wondering how far things have to go in Syria before that same international community step in.

The second is a tragedy on a smaller scale, but that has touched me more deeply and more personally. At 11am local time on Monday 28th May 2012 a fire broke out in the Villagio shopping centre in the capital of the Gulf nation Qatar, Doha. A fire that was to claim the lives of 19 people, 13 of these young children, little more than babies. Whilst the cause of the fire, is at this time, unconfirmed, what is known is that the fire caused a stair case leading to a nursery school to collapse, thereby trapping the children and their teachers inside the burning building. Fire fighters attempted to break through the ceiling to rescue them and two lost their lives in the process, but alas in vain.

I lived in Doha for several years, shopped in that mall, was part of that community and I will admit, this event has hit me harder than expected it could. I don't know any of the families personally and yet my heart is utterly broken for them. At least two families lost three children in the blaze and it is hard to imagine that these families will ever fully be able to heal from such a loss.  As a parent I have spent a lot of time looking at my own children today and in turn counting my blessings and feeling horror and anguish at the thought of what it must be like to have your children taken so suddenly and so young. Imagining what it must have been like for those children, not much more than babies, a million what ifs in my head. And what I am feeling probably does not even scratch the surface of what these families, families from across the globe, are going through right now. Families who have lost children, those lives that will never reach their potential. I'm not a religious woman, but if anything would make you hope for something after this world, it is a tragedy like this, like Houla. Tragedies in which the most innocent of us pay the price.

Tonight I hugged my kids extra tight before they went to bed. My bigger girl got an extra story and and when, as she does every night she attempted to get me to hand over some extra smarties, I gave them to her. Because I am one of the lucky ones. Tonight, I got to put my kids to bed, to kiss them goodnight, in the morning we'll have breakfast. I'll nag at my eldest to eat her breakfast, brush her teeth, put her shoes on. I'll trip over my baby boy as he crawls around whilst I'm trying to get everyone ready. And I'll be grateful. Because tonight not everyone is so lucky...

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Why Zumba can save the world.

I woke up  this morning, it was dark, I'd slept badly and was woken from the middle of really interesting dream (I was lion if you're interested, a talking one) and I won't lie I was not in a good mood. In fact, had I been a cartoon character I would have had big cartoon bags under my eyes and a black cloud over the top of my head. I did my usual early morning stuff and then trudged to gym for my Zumba class. In fact trudged might be too tame a word. Stomp, might put it better. An hour later I was red faced, sweaty had almost lost my balance at least three times had ground to a halt in confusion twice and been stood on by the woman next to me once. And, I was (and still am) in a brilliant mood. Yes, of course I know a large part of it is the endorphins, a rush I could most likely have gotten doing any kind of physical exertion, but there is something a bit different about something like Zumba and this is why, I think, it can save the world.

(Zumba is, for those who are unaware of its existence a latin dance based exercise class that popped up a few years ago and seems to have been on the rise ever since.)

 So let imagine, that every morning of the G20 summit, or the G8, or any get together of the UN, or basically anywhere that those people who make decisions that the rest of us have to live with gather to make said decisions, all those people had to have a big Zumba class. I genuinely believe the world would be a happier place. Its a lot harder to be cross with someone who you have just busted out a high energy cardio workout routine to LMFAO's 'I'm Sexy and I know it' with. Even when the lady next to me stood on me and put a big mark on my new trainers I just smiled and shrugged it off. If that had happened an hour previously I would have cut the bitch. Another reason it has to be Zumba is that it is completely non competitive. You could get them to run round the park together, but that would turn into a race, you could send them to the gym but that would turn into a competition to  see who could lift more, team games are right out for obvious reasons. But Zumba is a level playing field. 99% of the people who do it are at best mediocre, a significant number of those are completely crap. (In the class I would say out the 50 or so people about 5 are decent and one of them is the instructor, I look like I'm fighting off a swarm of angry bees whilst running across hot flag stones and there is a lady who appears to be dancing to an entirely different set of songs to the rest of us) Yet every single one loves the class, comes out smiling. You catch someones eye during a turn and smile at each other, you're are in it together. A flailing mass of uncoordinated limbs united in the sheer joy of putting your hands in the air like you don't care.

So lets make Putin, Cameron, Merkel, Hollande, Obama and the rest bust a move every morning. It won't make the problems go away but it might make them feel a bit more like they want to work together to solve them. (Plus it would make Parliament TV a lot more interesting than it is most of the time)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Bricking It

Oh she's at it again. Many of you have probably read this article in which journalist (and I use that word in its loosest possible sense), Samatha Brick bemoaned the fact that women hate her purely for the crime of being pretty (conveniently omitting the fact that having read the article it was apparent to many of us that women didn't like her not because she's prettier than us, but because she doesn't really come across as someone you'd especially want to be friends with). She received a massive backlash across several mediums, including twitter, made the news in the US and reached a certain level of international infamy. Not content with her 15 minutes of fame Ms Brick is back with this . Here she extols the virtues of life as trophy wife, valued for her looks not her mind. And I won't lie, I'm a little bit frightened.

Almost every woman I know who has read this article has rolled her eyes and responses have ranged from stomping around the house muttering profanities (mine) to questioning just how tenable her position is if this is really how she views herself. Leaving aside for a moment the very serious issues such the message articles such as this send out to young women as to what a relationship should be, she seems herself unaware of the fact that if the scenario she puts out for us, is in fact the reality of her relationship, she's on borrowed time. Her husband is in control of everything in her life from money to her weight and  looking good is her job within the relationship. She appears ignorant (willfully or not) of the fact that her looks and youth will not last forever. And if her husband, regardless of the love and respect she claims they do share despite the fact that she is viewed (and views herself) in such light, no longer feels she fulfils her end of the bargain, what then?

Its safe to say that Samantha Brick is not my kind of woman.

Whilst Ms Brick, in isolation, is an irritant, just the Daily Fail stirring the proverbial latrine, it is part of a bigger and slightly more worrying trend that seems determined to set women back fifty years or so. There are the machinations of Nadine Dorries and her ilk who are actively campaigning for significant changes to the current abortion laws in the UK and the way that education on this matter is approached. In America although it has gone a little quieter in the light on President Obama's statement in favour of same sex marriage, the battle over the right to access abortion rages in many states and the argument over whether employers should be made to cover contraceptive costs for female employees. Women and their role in the world seems to be firmly front and centre, but there seems to be huge debate over just what that role should be. Brick and those like her would have us all nothing but purely decorative, there to stroke our men's egos (amongst other things, she claims to be a 'consummate professional both in the kitchen and the bedroom'), the likes of Dorries would have us returned to the 1950's when our bodies were not our own, men like Rush Limbaugh would label us as 'sluts' and 'over educated but not necessarily intelligent' for daring to speak our minds on issues that effect us. Even the women who we should be able to hold up as examples, women like Sarah Palin and Michele Bachman, women who, regardless of your opinion on their politics have climbed to the top of their professions, yet still pander to the idea that women are somewhat less than their male counterparts. Bachman herself famously stated during her run as a presidential nominee that a wife should 'obey' her husband.

So where do we go from here? Will we continue or march forward and be allowed control of our bodies, careers and god dammit out wardrobes? I for one hope so, the alternative is just too scary to contemplate...

What do you all think? Feel free to leave you comments below.