Monday, 21 July 2014

'Sticks and stones...' or The perils of language

*Spoiler Alert* Beware, faint-hearted reader, this missive contains language likely to offend.  Read on at your peril and don't say I didn't warn you.

Hearing the word 'fuck' from the mouth of a seven year old is never going to be a happy occasion for any parent.  But like everything else you're not quite prepared for, you deal with it as best you can at the time you are faced with it and keep your fingers crossed that you won't spend years paying for therapy as a result of your helpful/encouraging 'anything goes' attitude to questions between mother and child.
Language is a tricksy creature: majestic and mercurial; slipping and sliding; context dependent; designed for so many purposes and as a consequence, so ripe for misinterpretation.  I have no idea how we got to the subject of swearing, but along with anything to do with toilets, bottoms, farts, poo, willies and vaginas, as a parent you can kind of hear the warning bells going off when it's too late to discover that there is no room for a U-turn in this particular linguistic cul-de-sac.  
My helpful answer to the innocent query as to why some words are considered rude went something as follows - 'well, it depends on who is saying it, why they are saying it and where, oh and to whom and it is usually something to do with your private area as people seem to find this insulting' (cue explanation as to what 'taboo' means as I usefully used that term to someone for whom it simply muddied the waters further by introducing another piece of marvelous language which had hitherto been unknown and indeed, un-needed).  At some point it also became clear that the 's' word was going to be mentioned  - as in 'why is sex rude then'?  Because I'd said that some swear words meant more to do with sex; 'remember, that's when the man puts his willy into the woman's vagina and it's one way that you can have a baby when the sperm meets the egg?' (as you can see, we were hitting all the marks for 'difficult' conversations in one fell swoop).  So as a result, I then had an interesting chat beginning, 'but why is sex not a rude word but fuck is when they mean the same thing?'  It isn't until you have a simple conversation with a child that you begin to see quite how empowering some words with a sort of linguistic superpower is really quite ridiculous.
I think we sorted it all out.  At least, nobody woke screaming in the night and I haven't had to wash anybody's mouth out with soap.  Yet.  Essentially, the message was; language is immensely varied and exciting and you should enjoy using words, experimenting with words and discovering what they can do for you.  However, use certain 'taboo' words in the wrong situation LIKE AT SCHOOL OR TO ANY ADULT OR FOR THAT MATTER, ANY FRIEND WHO IS LIKELY TO GO AND TELL ON YOU and you will regret that particular linguistic adventure.
I remember seeing Mamet's Oleanna in London when it starred Aaron Eckheart and Julia Stiles - she is a student, struggling with her classes who (and this is up for discussion and dependent on your personal viewing of the play) misinterprets her professor's offer of help as an act of sexual exploitation which ultimately leads to her accusation of rape and the destruction of his career.  The part that I remember the most, is what he called her - should I refer to it coyly as 'the c word' or just go for it and say 'cunt'?  Well. I've said it now and the world hasn't stopped turning.  I don't particularly have a problem with that word, any more than the use of any gender specific language which is used in a derogatory manner towards women, or for that matter, men.   I think what has made me remember this and indeed, what caused the audience to gasp (at a word which though still considered 'taboo', is hardly a rarity in its usage) was the meaning behind it; the anger, hatred and fury which accompanied it and the personally destructive nature that the word had on the recipient.  It was a very good use of the word if in using it, Mamet intended to shock the audience.   
This then shows, I suppose, the positive of the occasional use of 'taboo' words; when well placed and unexpected, they really do punch home meaning which is why, when these words are over used, they loose their power to shock and draw attention to themselves and are rendered useless.
It's the first time I've ever been a mother to a seven year old so I hope my honesty was well judged and won't catch me up on a dark night sometime, making me regret not simply moving on quickly to safer bedtime conversational territory.  
I think it's fine.
I still hope I don't have a phone call from school telling me about a certain young man experimenting with inappropriate language just yet though.

Saturday, 19 July 2014


I am new to the world of chicken keeping.  I'm not sure really why I wanted to have them but I suspect it taps into my dream of having a smallholding where I could keep my horse and pigs (there's no chance of ever having a horse or pigs so chickens seemed the closest farmy type creature that I could have... I know, go figure).  
Eggs are not cheap to buy, not if you buy ones where the hens have actually had the opportunity of having a decent - if short- life where they have space to move around and can experience the sun on their backs and dust baths.  I have discovered that chickens REALLY love a dust bath and they are very funny to watch as they try to roll over and then hold their wings out to catch some rays.  It's a win win situation when both parties are amused. At least I think the hens are amused.  I'm not great at reading human faces, less so with chicken ones.
The eggs my hens produce however, must be the most expensive known to mankind.  If I factor in the corn, pellets, treats, wormer, calcium supplement, liquid vitamins, purple spray for when they peck each other, wound powder for when they get their feet stuck in a door (...!), anti peck spray for the poor girl who is picked upon, sawdust and bedding, Eglu hen house and run (with an additional 2 metres as it looked too small), each egg must be worth about £10.  In addition to this, the eggs they lay are sometimes shell-less (hence the calcium supplement) so you either find something that looks as though it is the result of a science experiment or a squashed flat blob that once had the audacity to think it was an egg AND they go through periods when they don't lay any eggs so you end up buying them from the shop anyway.
In addition to this, hens REALLY love flower petals.  Let's get this straight, they don't actually eat them, no, because that would allow me to believe that destroying the garden was for a worthwhile, dietary purpose.  What they actually do is to take the most beautiful blooms, shred them and then leave them in a triumphant pile while they move on to further destruction.  The garden now looks as though I'm cultivating chicken wire as this is wrapped around anything (like the wildflower patch and veg patch) that needs to be not eaten.  It's an interesting look, not out of place in a Chelsea conceptual garden.  However, I think that there would be less chicken poo at Chelsea.
Keeping pets is brilliant for children and teaches them so much. It is also fun for adults.  I just need to remember that the next time I go into the garden with bare feet and stand in something squelchy.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Rubber bands can be so much fun...

I love a craze.  It is after all, something that I can ignore for as long as it is en vogue and then get into once everybody is bored of it and has moved onto something far more interesting.  This happens a lot with tv and music now and was a prominent feature of my childhood when essentially if the new thing wasn't about anything equine, I was just, like, so not there.  Okay, I did have a brief flirtation with a jelly bag but I drew the line at the shoes. 

I know, it's so cool, even now...who wouldn't want one?

But... thanks to the virtues of being a mother, I am here, right now, at this very moment WHEN I COULD BE DOING ANY OF THE SEVERAL THINGS ON ONE OF MY MULTITUDINOUS 'TO DO' LISTS, making loom bands.  The noise you can here above the sound of the laptop keyboard being tapped is indeed my teeth grinding at the sheer boredom of it all.  Yes, that's right - I have managed to be 'on trend' with this fad while simultaneously having the experience of one who has seen the initial high and is now just past this thing and needing to be on to something far more interesting.  I am making the blasted band as the person in the house who actually wants them desperately has ended up in tears because he couldn't make them and it's bedtime and nothing, not even coloured, scented (of what?  Rubber?) bands get in the way of bedtime.  Cue youtube (I love youtube - I bet there isn't anything you can't find on there.  Actually, I daren't look to check out my theory) tutorials for me and something else to do that is allowing me to avoid sewing up holes in tights and shorts, write my masterpiece, read the brilliant new book I've just started and get into a new tv drama starring Maggie Gyllanhall.  Didn't stop me blogging about it though.  I'd better get back to the bands or most of them are going to go up the hoover tomorrow at this rate.  The blighters are everywhere!!  I think they're breeding.

And come to think of it, who wouldn't want their circulation compromised with these beauties?