Like many people, I've been closely following the Madeleine McCann story since it began. Now that her parents have been declared suspects, I don't know what to think, though I was angry to read something in the Telegraph the other day that said (to paraphrase), 'I've never liked her face so she must have done it'.
Jonathan Freedland in The Guardian has a good opinion piece which summarises the emotional and ethical dilemma of those of us who are simply following this story from the sidelines.
I have one which may not be in there - it's hot off the lips of some six year olds I know. Actually, a couple of months back co-parent said she heard a radio discussion of new slang which mentioned this and the very next day we heard Olle say it: "I'm going to verse you". It means "I'm going to play against/compete against you". It stems from the word "versus". (A misunderstanding of "versus", it could be argued.) He'll also say "I'm versing you". I heard another boy say it during the holidays too.
Then there was the time he ran onto the beach, saw something interesting and called to his friend to come and look - "Hey, this is sick!" I know that's old hat as far as slang goes, but it still gives me a little shock to hear it.
[Postings will be erratic for the next couple of weeks due to school holidays.]
I saw a bit of the Pope's funeral live on television - the bit between arriving home from work and going out to the movies (Being Julia - good fun, much much better than a pope's funeral.)
In fact it was co-parent who turned on the tv and wanted to watch it - out of historical interest, I suppose. I couldn't take the sight of all those old men. All those old men. Barely a woman to be seen. I look at that and think - 'This is nothing to do with me. I don't want to have anything to do with those old men.' Off out.
The next night I had already gone up to bed and was drifting off, but co-parent's narration of the guest list at the Camilla-Charles blessing made me wake up and go downstairs to watch. Why on earth was Richard E Grant there? And Rowan Atkinson? Phil Collins, not so surprising, he seems more the type to hobnob with Charles.
It looked very very cold outside Windsor Castle.
Like most other people over 30, I could not help but think back to watching Charle's first wedding live on television, in 1981. I watched it with my mother. I was one of the few people I knew who liked Diana's dress at first sight. This was despite the fact that the moment I'd read, months earlier, that Charles was engaged to a teenager, I'd snorted with derision - it screamed 'set-up'. As it was, of course.
It was so very very strange to see Charles and Camilla get out of the car and walk down that side-aisle together. I've followed this particular royal melodrama quite closely over the years - the documentaries, the biographies (authorised and unauthorised), the interviews, the magazine articles and of course, Diana's death and funeral. Yet even though I 'know' so much about these people and what they've said about each other, it still came as a shock to see that they are actually real - that it wasn't all made up by the tabloid media. He really has been having a relationship of some sort with Camilla for decades. There really were "three of us in this marriage".
Now there are just the two of them.
I liked Camilla's dress too. And if I were religious I'd have converted from Catholicism to Anglicanism on the spot - women were prominent in the procession and in the ceremony; it all seemed more lighthearted (I know, it wasn't a funeral), less ancient, less rigid, more modern. Maybe anything would have, in comparison to the scenes from Rome.
You can see I have something of a timelag going on here ... so, weeks later than every other blogger, I have a thought about the Terri Schiavo case.
It concerns the fact that she entered the vegetative state as a result of an eating disorder. Now there's a supreme irony: such global cacophony as to whether she should be 'starved to death' when in fact this was all as a result of her starving herself.
But that's not the only irony.
I knew someone very well who developed anorexia as a young adult. (She died too.) In her case, and I suspect in many more, the anorexia was partly a way of resisting, avoiding adulthood - adult womanhood. Being thin makes your body look more childlike, pre-pubertal - you lose your breasts, you stop having periods, you look more like an adolescent boy.
Reverting to childhood - now what's that about? Who's the most important figure in your childhod - your mother, of course. An adult woman.
There's an extensive literature on anorexia and the mother-daughter relationship.
In Terri Schiavo's case, it seems terribly ironic that her parents wanted to assert their parenthood - and her status as their child - to the bitter end, against the wishes of her adult partner, her husband. Maybe they were only mirroring what she'd been doing via her eating disorder - making herself more childlike. It makes me wonder about their family dynamic - the guilt they must have experienced about her eating disorder, the mother-daughter rivalry manifest in the eating disorder (played out finally as parent-husband rivalry), above all, the huge level of denial inherent in their actions in wanting to prolong her life.
A stampede at a north London branch of Ikea resulted in six people being taken to hospital. Even more amazing is the fact (buried deep within the article) that three people died at the opening of an Ikea in Saudi Arabia last year. The Guardian's Space editor (as in domestic space, not outer space) reckons none of this is surprising as Ikea treats its customers so badly. I've been regularly traipsing around the Moore Park *Supercentre recently (on the neverending search for a new couch) and I can attest to the fact that 'Ikea' is synonymous with 'chaos' (and terrible sofas) and checkout queues seem to be lengthening by the month.
*I can't bear to replicate the official spelling of 'supa'.
We were at a beach house on the central coast while the brunt of the tsunami news unfolded. We watched a couple of television news broadcasts and bought one newspaper, but otherwise tried not to dwell on it. Even so, I found the videoed images of waves crashing into resorts coming into my head when I was woken at dawn by the kookaburras.
A close work colleague spent three weeks on a surfing holiday in an isolated part of Sumatra a month ago. I immediately thought of him and was glad for his 'near-miss'. I had my own faint sense of identification: a decade ago, co-parent and I stayed in a luxurious beach hut in a resort called Fisherman's Cove, south of then-Madras in southern India. A Google search (on return home) revealed that the sea-huts were washed away in the tsunami - but no one was killed there.
I wondered about a family whose son was at preschool with mine - I was surprised a year ago when they told me that they spent every Christmas at Phuket. Yesterday a nighbour who is the child minder for their toddler told me they were safe, still in Thailand.
But the bad news got closer. A friend who was with us at the coast went for her regular massage from a German woman. One of the masseuse's old friends from Germany had been travelling out to see her. She and her partner had stopped off in Thailand en route. The partner telephoned the masseuse to say that her friend had been swept away in the wave... [This story bore an uncanny resemblance for me to an event in the 80s, when an Australian woman was murdered in Thailand en route to visit a friend of mine in London...]
International travel is so commonplace for those of us in the developed countries. It made all these 'overheard' stories possible. Even though I once landed in Bangkok on Christmas Eve myself, I was still astonished to read [sorry, no link] that 11,000 Australians were in Thailand on the day of the tsunami. And 20,000 Swedes, from a nation of just nine million.
Relatively rich tourists provided all those video images which I tried to keep out of my head. The resorts of Thailand are the focus for so much of our morbid fascination and voyeurism, and for a visit from our foreign minister, who presumably feels that he has to be seen to be doing something, as does Tony Blair, who cut short his holiday in Egypt after criticism. Although western nations have now been shamed into doing more than they were initially inclined to do, you don't have to be a bona fide cynic to realise that it was the deaths of Europeans, rather than Asians, which galvanised them. It's primarily those deaths which move us, speak to us, make us grateful we weren't there, this year.