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Friday, 29 April 2016

LOOK OUT, I'M ON THE ROADS PEOPLE!


I passed my driving test today. Those of you that regularly read my blog know that I have been driving for a very long time, 28 years in fact (yes, yes, I’m old). Granted, most of that time was in the United States, but regardless, I’ve been on the road for a very long time and I’ve yet to run a car into a living room window (I’m saving that up till I’m super old and they can’t hold me accountable). As I live in the United Kingdom – and eventually we want to a get a car one day soon - I had to take lessons, study like a demon and take my practical exam all over again. So today was the practical exam, and as expected I was nervous as hell. That’s the funny thing, no matter how long one has been driving if you tell them they are going to have an exceedingly grumpy stickler beside them with a clipboard judging your every move, well, nerves are bound to be a factor. Coupled with that, the pass rate in this country is extremely low and it’s getting lower all the time. The infuriating part is that there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to it (when you talk to the instructors who teach driving). Some examiners are known to be hardcore when it comes to the rules (and will fail you for the most minute of discretions) and some are more relaxed and well, human about the whole thing. I don’t have to tell you how hard I was praying for someone with Valium running through his or her veins.

So for anyone that has not taken this exam for decades, you get to the test center and you sit in this little room with really bad wall color and wait for your examiner to come out. The instructors (who come with you as you can use your driving instructor’s car to take the test) all look calm and sit on their phones joyfully knowing that no one is going to judge them in the next 40 minutes. In my case, my instructor – god love him - was literally selling stuff on eBay as we sat there. The prospective victims – that’s us driving students – on the contrary all looked positively ill. As each person in front of me got called and their examiner came out, I of course was trying to judge who looked the most human and understanding. And trust me, this isn’t easy, as this polite blond woman I was hoping to get turned out to be a real stickler and someone I wanted to stay as far away from as possible.

So alas, after far too many minutes of pacing the room, telling myself to be calm and wise like a driving Yoda, my instructor came out. She was an elderly lady who at first seemed kind of stern. Trust me, I was reading her body language in hopes of getting any clue I could. But after she forgot something and kind of laughed it off, I took it as a good sign. Then again, I was taking the fact that it hadn’t rained and I still had a pulse as a good sign. We went outside and the first thing they do is ask you to read a license plate kind of far off in the distance. I of course went into panic mode as heck, a 5 can certainly look like an S to my 44 year old eyes. Thankfully they didn’t fail me and we walked to the car (which my instructor and I had strategically parked so that no one could park in front of me and I had an easy exit) and low and behold, some shmuck and sandwiched me in to the point that no amount of car grease was getting this car out of the space. After finding the guy and making him move the car, we got in and started the test.

At this point all you’re thinking of is, STAY CALM and remember every sodding thing the instructor told you to do in your lessons (even though I had been driving for decades, there are things they want you to do over here in the test that just seem, well, pointless). The other thing that passes through your head is please don’t let this be the day when people are diving into the road trying to off themselves cause I really wouldn’t know how to handle that. Needless to say, after answering a few ‘inside car’ questions (how do you tell the power steering is working bla bla bla), we set off. I was warned by my husband (who I quizzed within an inch of his life) that the examiner will not make chit chat and it’s to be 40 minutes spent in silence. Which, considering I’m supposed to be concentrating is a good thing. I swear, I’ve never looked in my mirrors more diligently in my life (center mirror, side mirror, signal, ebrake…). I felt like I had eyeball Tourette’s as I glanced in my mirrors, to my blind spot, back to my mirrors, don’t forget your blind spot! Ahhhhhhhhh!

All was going fine until my examiner asked me what I did for a living. My first thought was that she was challenging my concentration skills to see if I could talk and chat. Then when she then started asking me 20 questions about the minutiae of writing, I started to wonder if I had already failed and she was now just in it for the conversation. Or, in fact, if the inner writer in her was dying to get out and being a driving examiner was not her life’s quest. It got to the point where she was so curious (and talkative!) I was starting to ponder asking her to button it so I could focus on parallel parking.
Trying to lean on the positive side of the street, I told her that only the extremely persistent (who are great drivers!) are crazy enough to take on screenwriting as we spun around mini roundabout after roundabout until low and behold we were making our way back to the test center (definitely the most nerve wracking 40 minutes of the last year).

By the time we parked up, I’m pretty sure I had broken out in hives on my face from the sheer adrenaline of following directions for forty long minutes. Then of course you have that moment where they toy with you, and they pause….before telling you if you passed or failed. I won’t lie, when she said the word PASS I about hugged her talkative little body. And then you realize, OH MY GOD I don’t have to do this again until I’m so old and grey that I probably won’t want to drive anyway (taxi!!). 

Gooooood riddance and give me that license lady!



Friday, 22 April 2016

THIS IS WHAT IT SOUNDS LIKE WHEN DOVES CRY


I have written many times before about icons and how much it affects us when one dies. And of course, yesterday the world sadly learned that yet again we lost another true artist who went by the name of Prince (my son immediately remarked that this man had a really cool name). For those of us that were fans (or devotees...who are we kidding) it’s hard to encapsulate why the passing of someone you did not know is so hard to digest. Funny enough, I’ve often seen this with my own father over the years. If your parent is a public figure in any fashion, people feel a kinship with them for their own personal reasons, be it through their art, their service to the community, their ideals, what have you. And despite the fact that we in fact do not know this person, through their art, we can't help but feel like we do (or we tell ourselves that we know a part of them, the part that they clearly share with the world).

The loss of Prince for many is almost too hard to digest (I realize in the scope of what goes in the world today, loss is a perpetual thing and no one loss is more important than another, but hell, the man wrote some of the most memorable songs out there) because of what it represents. Without sitting here and listing Prince's very long list of accolades and accomplishments, because that would take me all day, it is enough to say that generations of people identified with him because of what he represented, the boundaries he pushed, and the talent he possessed in one little finger. Like the Bowie's of this world, Prince beat to his own proverbial drum. Hell, he played his own drums along with every other instrument out there (in his own studio I might add). As he always said, he learned quickly that if he became a proficient musician across the board, he could control his own vision. And that is the loss right there in a nutshell. He wasn’t packaged. He wasn’t manufactured. He wasn’t a ‘just (just a this, or just a that). He was an artist that was an everything - a composer, a musician, a dancer, a performer and a visionary. Like or hate his music, his albums were a true tutelage in what it means to be a complete artist.

As I sat there yesterday (once again) getting teary-eyed listening to Purple Rain (I loved thinking that I was amongst millions doing this exact same thing), it dawned on me that aside from losing one of our most accomplished artists of my generation (far too young I might add), for someone my age, it starts to become apparent that all of our great icons are either going, or are going to go soon. And that is simply terrifying (and mind boggling when you think someone like Keith Richards is still standing!) And of course, I frantically look around and think who the heck is going to be my son’s icon, and what does that even mean in today’s music marketplace? (I refuse to accept that Justin Bieber will be a musical icon. I just refuse). I am someone who is deeply affected by art in any form, especially music. I (like many out there) listen to music so I can weep, dance, sing till my lungs burst…feel. That is the power and beauty of music. And this man that set the world alight in hues of purple, well, he made one feel on so many different levels and that is something to which most artists can only aspire.

The King sweetly asked me if we were going to play Prince all day (the child knows me well) and welcomed the chance to hear his music booming from the speakers as I made breakfast and he danced with a dish towel on his head. I’m sure the neighbors love it when someone passes, as our flat turns into a music retrospective. I suppose it’s times like these when it also dawns on me that we should be dancing round the house much more often than we do – although to be honest, the King and I do pretty well on that score. 

So now, we mourn. We mourn another artistic loss, we mourn the loss of a what was said to be a very kind, humorous, insightful man. We go back through our memories shelves and remember the first time we saw him live, the first song of his that brought tears to our eyes, the first time we felt sheer awe at a man's prodigious talent. I suppose this is the best reverence that we can show a man like Prince. RIP. 

Thursday, 7 April 2016

MOVE IT, MOVE IT


The Chief Executive of the Royal Society for Public Health has recently said that food labels in Britain should state how long it would take to burn off that particular food or drink in order to fight the increasing obesity epidemic. Her explanation came on the back of a poll where over 50% of people said that they found food labels confusing and if they could see things spelled out more clearly it would affect their choices (I’m still not convinced of this, but I’ll give the benefit of the doubt).

With obesity rates climbing at an alarming level (by 2025 40% of the population will be obese according to statistics), I’m all for doing whatever we can to combat this frightening health epidemic; be it educating the masses, writing things on labels, or putting up large neon signs in the supermarket that say ‘IF you eat this you will regret it!’ I will however admit that I still find it baffling that people are so unaware of how their food choices affect them. This poll went on to highlight that not only do people not really understand what it takes to burn off a candy bar, but that they have very little idea when it comes to portion control. In essence, when they scoff down a giant Indian takeaway four nights a week and then put on weight they are baffled they do not look like Giselle. Okay fine, I’m being a tad harsh, but the way I see it, it’s always been very simple math. What we take in, vs. what we burn off - give or take. If you eat too much and move too little you’re going to get fatter. And furthermore (for those of you that are still confused), if think your 35-year-old body can ingest copious amounts of Snickers bars like your 18-year-old body, you’re going to have problems squeezing into those skinny jeans.

Recently we went to a restaurant where calories were on the menu beside every single dish. And trust me, it was sobering at best and made you reconsider what you ordered, or at least gasp in amazement at the tables that didn’t give a hoot and ordered half the menu anyway. Whereas I don’t always want to live by the site of a calorie count and believe a certain amount of indulgence is necessary, it is interesting how a calorie labeled menu influences your choices. Suddenly the taramasalata isn’t such a must when you can opt for hummus instead. Like anything in life, it’s about choice and the choice is up to you, scary as that sounds.

The bigger issue at play, in my opinion, is that we are not only a short cut culture – wanting things easy and fast – but we simply don’t want to have to work that hard to stay in shape. People that look athletic and fit are, well, athletic and fit. They exercise and choose what goes into their body with careful precision. Don’t get me wrong, you don’t have to live like a church mouse and eat crackers that taste like carpet (although funny enough, being Californian, I’ve always liked crackers that taste like cardboard), but you do have to choose your moments and grasp the concept of moderation.

My advice to anyone that cares enough about their body and what goes into it is try it for a week, total up the calorie count of what you eat without taking anything out and see how much you are eating (and drinking!). Then try not to pass out from shock. Then in the next few weeks make small substitutions for things you can simply live without out. Not to mention, it is a big world out there in the food department and often humans get stuck on a myopic gastronomical path. Branch out, try something new and for god sakes, MOVE. You might surprise yourself and actually enjoy it.


Monday, 21 March 2016

ON YOUR KNEES, MR. MOORE



An age-old argument has erupted in the world of tennis, sparked by the ineloquent and sexist CEO of the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, Mr. Raymond Moore. Mere hours ago Mr. Moore said that women tennis players “ride on the coat tails of men.” He went on to say that if he were a woman tennis player, “he’d go down on his knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal were born, because they have carried this sport.” I’ll let that one sink in for a moment (especially for you women out there). Cause gosh, there is no better place for a woman than on her knees thanking a man, now is there Mr. Moore (god I feel sorry for your wife).

Before I launch into this pig’s sexist, misogynist and myopic remarks, I will remind you of the women that have made the sport of tennis what it is today. Currently, Serena Williams is the world number 1 tennis player. She has done as much for the game as any male or female tennis player out there, perhaps more. She was 2015 Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the year, has won 21 Grand Slam titles (that’s just GS titles, her other accomplishments would fill a book), been the number one player on six separate occasions, and holds the most major singles, doubles, and mixed doubles titles combined amongst active players, male or female. Suck on that Mr. Moore.

Adding to the long list of women that have revolutionized the game, there are many many others that have dominated in a blistering manner. Steffi Graff for instance, with 22 Grand Slam singles, holding the number 1 spot longer than any other female or male player. Venus Williams holds 7 Grand Slam singles and 22 in total (including doubles), Chris Evert Lloyd, holds 18 slams, Martina Navratilova, Navratilova was World No. 1 for a total of 332 weeks in singles, and a record 237 weeks in doubles, making her the only player in history to have held the top spot in both singles and doubles for over 200 weeks, winning 18 Grand Slam titles. These stats are just a drop in the bucket. I could literally go on all day and tell you about records that have been broken, milestones reached, blood, sweat and tears poured into a sport that often has been dominated by men -- IN THE press. When people discuss the world’s greatest player, it is Federer’s or the Nadal’s that come into discussion. It is rarely the Serena Williams of this world who have broken more ground than any other athlete out there.

But to truly understand the audacity of this idiot’s words, one has to understand what it is to break into a sport not only dominated by men, but by white men who have the opportunity to do so. The appearance on the scene of the Williams sisters was not only unique; it was revolutionary in their single-handed dominance of a very white, upper class sport. Their power game utterly stunned the tennis world and to be frank, put butts in seats and smiles on many an advertiser’s faces. Moreover, it inspired a generation of women to realize their power, to become tennis players, to become anything. It showed the world that strength and power was not only sexy, it was beautiful and moreover, achievable. These two homeschooled, family coached girls from Compton proved that it was perseverance; hard work and sheer female power that was tantamount, not fancy entourages and hoards of money.


I think it suffices to say that the Williams, Grafs and Navratilovas of the world did NOT ride any man’s coattails into a sport. They earned their place in history on their own efforts and merits and to suggest otherwise is vile and sexist as hell. There are those that may want to defend this moron CEO and say he was merely suggesting that more people watch the men’s game, hence the women should be grateful; I say he should realize that myopic statements like that are what simply add fuel to a women’s power and women should be grateful for nothing more than perhaps if a male tennis player can reach something on a high shelf for them (and even still I’d be more opt to grab a ladder). We women succeed in a male dominated world, sporting or not, and should be grateful to solely the women that came before us and paved the way. We have to fight harder, prove we’re more worthy, juggle more things and come up against idiots like this man who want to take away our accomplishments.  So Mr. Moore, on behalf of Serena Williams, you can get down on your knees and thank her for revolutionizing the game.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

MR. DUMPF


As always, American politics is proving to be an incessant sensationalist sideshow that the world can’t take their eyes off of – and contrary to what some of you think out there, that is not a good thing. In fact, as a resident of the United Kingdom, it is often downright embarrassing. To be clear, I think it’s safe to say that if you have a brain in your head (sadly many don’t) most politicians are to be held at arm’s length, and not to be trusted. They operate within a world where sound bites rule, promises are a dime a dozen and the main aim is to appease the masses without having to hold true to pretty much anything. And not to be utterly cynical, but the system supports (and breeds) a certain type of individual that is easy to despise. It’s a world that is rife with in-fighting, hypocrisy, back channel deals and hard lined, often selfish agendas that have very little do with what is good for the common citizen. If you think otherwise, ohhhh how I wish to live in that perfect world again.

In this very vein, at the moment, Mr. Dumpf (one biographer said the Trump family name was just this before it “evolved over the centuries” so now this is the only name I shall use) has taken American politics from the circus that it already was (let’s be honest, we’re the only country on earth that conducts campaigns in the outlandish - and overblown - manner that we do) to the utter absurd, obscene and vulgar. If you disagree, stop reading, we will simply never see eye to eye on this man. To reiterate what’s already out there, Trump is outspoken to say the least. Which is actually one characteristic of his I can actually stomach. Where it becomes positively dangerous is when he wades into the waters of hate speech, racism and misogyny (this shouldn’t be news to anyone as he’s been a misogynist for a long long time). Whatever a politician’s views are, we’d all like to think they could express them with some eloquence, dignity and most importantly, some consideration for the country to which they’re speaking. 

America is a melting pot of men AND women, of all shapes, colours and creeds and like it or not that is what we were founded upon: a bunch of immigrants running from the mother ship disavowing tea (ha).  For a potential candidate to find it amusing – cause one thing Dumpf does is amuse himself to no end - to denigrate certain sects of people with such disregard and callousness, well, I find it utterly vile. To take it one step further, Dumpf is an outright racist – his own words have earned him this label - deeming Mexicans as rapists and all Muslims as threats in need of bracelet branding like they’re mere animals. Of course, not settling with just branding them, he's also called on an outright ban of all Muslims from entering the United States. Whatever you choose to believe, Islam is the second largest religion in the world with over 1.6 billion adherents, and Mr. Dumpf has spent a many of years doing business with the very people he now wants to tag and shove in Guantanamo. To truly humanize this (as often this gets lost in all the sensationalist b.s.), if you were a hard working Muslim living and working in the United States, and your own President to-be suggested you be tagged and or shipped out? How on earth would you feel about this? Like an animal no less, and to be frank, I'd be scared as hell. This happened once in history by another rhetoric spewing hate monger and we know how that turned out.

But moreover, what gets under my skin even more than Dumpf are those individuals that support him but claim to not espouse to his beliefs. If you support a candidate that is racist (he mildly disavowed the KKK. Not vehemently or immediately, but mildly after considering it a bit…the flipping KKK) and misogynist, you my friend are dancing dangerously close to being just that. (And if you are a woman supporting this man, I'm pretty sure you need to explore your self esteem issues). You are in support of a man that is quoted as saying that he thinks we should “treat women like shit.” You are in support of a man that attempts to humiliate a prominent female journalist by talking about her period as an excuse for her intellectual decisions. You are in support of a man that spews insults and ugly rhetoric like a bully in the schoolyard. And you are supporting a man who is against your undeniable right to choice when it comes to your own body. Recently, in a three day period, Trump changed his stance on abortion five times and concluded that woman who receive illegal abortions should be 'punished.' 

Now, for those of you screaming at the computer that you just want America to return ‘back to what it was…” What was it exactly? A country of immigrants? Yes, that’s what we started as, so fine, we can go back to that…A country of gun toting capitalists that shrink at the mere word socialism cause god forbid we should help anyone but ourselves? Gosh, there is something to aspire to. If you think that Trump is going to make America great again, I’ve got some sad sobering news for you.  A man that clings to hate speech and bullying is not what we stand for, what we’ve ever stood for, and its shameful to even conceive that this man should be a representative for us in the global community. Not to mention, the swirling culture of hate and violence at his own rallies is surreal at best, ending in the arrest of Trump's own campaign manager for assault on a woman attending one of his rallies. In pure and simple terms, the Trump campaign is a circus sideshow. 

As one (clearly intellectually stunted) woman stated, I’m voting for Trump cause America wants “more of a celebrity now.” That mere statement should scare the sh*t out of you.  I don’t know about you, but I want more from the leader of my country then a spray tan and a sound bite. 



Copyright © 2014 Anthea Anka - Delighted And Disturbed