Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Ten things I hate about youth

You know you are getting old when you start tutting about the behaviour of the 'youth of today', that and thinking policemen and teachers look younger every day, oh and and believing that young people never had it so good.

This is how I know that I am categorically getting old, as I recently found myself listing all the things I hated about young people. Perhaps it is because I am afraid that my sons are on the brink of turning into young people, as opposed to children, who at least have cuteness on their side and I am deeply afraid they will start aping some of these dispicable characteristics.

As a guide of just what I am looking out for here is my definitive list of the 10 things I hate about youth:

1. Tattoos 
When I was growing up these were the preserve of criminals, sailors and the worse kind of chavs. An indigo smudged LOVE and HATE emblazoned across the knuckles was a sign to steer clear, ditto the blue bird flying up the neck of an ex-con or a dodgy anchor hooked across a paunchy shoulder. Now the young can't wait to get inked, and all over. I could deal with a discreet star or heart in an unobtrusive place, but a whole multicoloured universe splattered across the backside is beyond the pale. I am simply hoping and praying that by the time my boys are old enough to get inside a tattoo parlour this fad has gone out of fashion.

2. Piercings
See above. Earrings yes, a bolt through your nethers, no. Self mutilation is never a good look, but while a 20-year-old may be able to just about carry it off, what happens when they are 40-odd and that hole just won't seal over?

3. Beards (to include ridiculous facial hair of any kind)
I will admit that as a child raised wasting her Saturday afternoons watching old movies from the 40s, I once had a bit of a thing for pencil moustaches - blame Rhett Butler. But essentially I hold a deep and intractable belief that a man looks best clean shaven. I cannot bear the fact that while women have grown noticeably more bald all over, and I mean all over to a Brazilian degree, men appear to have sprouted that excess pubic hair all over their faces. Huge, bushy, lumberjack beards are de-rigeur amongst the hipster crowd and I just hate to think what kind of ecosystems are emerging within the deep pile on the chins of trendy young men.

4. Queueing
Now this one really does mark me out as a fogey. When I go out to eat I want to book a table and know that I will be able to sit down at it at the allotted time. I do not want to be told that I will have to wait two hours in a dismal queue before being granted the dubious pleasure of scoffing down a mediocre 'gourmet' burger from a novelty plate, while perched on a rickety second hand chair at a scuffed communal table. All this done while watching the crumbs from my hipster neighbour's meal work their way deep within the dense foliage of his facial fur. This is definitely dining young person style.

5. Socialising (or not)
I am not a total Luddite, though I am sure that by even writing a blog, I would be marked out as one by anyone under the age of 25. But I detest with a passion that youth culture seems to exist entirely through the lens of social media. That is not actually seeing or talking to friends, but contacting them via some sharing site that I won't even attempt to guess at as the platforms change far too fast for my ancient brain to keep up. I guess it is just a mirror of my own teen telephone addiction, but it is just so deeply anti social to be endlessly staring into the abyss of the internet rather than interacting with anyone. I am sure it is what lies at the heart of the growth of teen anxiety and suicide. I know I couldn't have got through my teens without seeing my friends, and I don't think that swapping pictures of our privates would have had quite the same frisson as an illicit fumble.

6. Sexism
I am a child of the 80s and I thought that sexism would soon become a thing of the past. Now I laugh at my own naivety. With boys introduction to girls and sex no longer being made through a quick flick through a dirty magazine, but through an internet that gives them a hotline into the most deviant and perverse expressions of human sexuality, the idea of sexual violence seems to be as everyday as French kissing. Men troll women they don't like, not with blunt insults like 'Fat cow' or 'Stupid bitch', but with threats of rape, mutilation and murder. It's a scary world out there when you have prepubescent boys who you rather hope won't grow up into misogynistic fools.

8. Confidence
OK I admit it, I am bitter. When I was  young the last thing I had was confidence. My peers and I were a shuffling herd of insecurities, embarrassment and self doubt. Now young people seem to be like mini adults, shining with inner confidence. Perhaps it is essential now that you need to be a ridiculous overachiever in order to have any hope of owning a home of your own before retirement age, but it's terrifying. When I was 16 my main achievement was having found a concealer that hid my zits effectively, now teenagers seem to have built a CV to rival my own before they even leave school.

9. Over confidence
The flip side of my previous point is that the most unprepossessing specimens appear to believe that the world owes them a living. I still remember my first job, which consisted mainly of making tea and photocopying, for which I was eternally grateful. It gave me a step up on the ladder, without taxing my very insignificant skill set. I could watch, learn and hopefully make a good impression with my expert wielding of milk and two sugars. I expected to be the bottom of the pile, to get the shit jobs that no one else wanted and to work my way painfully up the ladder. Today's breed of young adults appear to be under the impression that thanks to their zillions of qualifications, often gained in Mickey Mouse subjects and overpriced colleges mean they deserve to shoot right to the top without even a nod at making the tea.

10. Youth
I don't long to be young again, but like every parent who has ever lived I wish I could inject a bit of my wisdom back down the line so that youth wasn't always wasted on the young. My sons count every moment until they can get older and do more. I remember that suffocating feeling, that the adults had the keys to some magic kingdom of licentiousness and they were keeping us out of it just to be mean. Now I understand that they were trying to preserve our innocence and not let us in on the secret that being grown up is, in general, pretty rubbish. When you are kid you have no power, but equally no responsibility and I know I am not alone in feeling quite happy to swap watching 18 rated movies and staying up late, for not having to pay a mortgage or worry about how to pay the bills.

Thursday, 8 January 2015


Tonight I can't sleep. Now insomnia and I are no strangers to one another. I have wasted many a witching hour tossing and turning, reading, piecing together jigsaws with bleary eyes trained on the clock watching the hours tick by until I need to be up again. But tonight the reason for my sleeplessness is much more real than a racing mind caught up in knots over its own inability to capture the silken web of slumber.

Yesterday saw terrorists gun down a group of journalists as they held their editorial meeting and I can't help but picture the scene on and endless, horrific loop. I imagine it was the first time the team will have met after the New Year. The would shamble to seats in a cramped meeting room, coffees and notebooks in hand, exchanging the odd Bonne Annee, discussing food eaten, parties attended, nights spent slumped in front of the television rather than revelling to celebrate the arrival of 2015.

Then down to business, this was a satirical magazine, so I imagine the order of the day was which political or religious bubble would be burst by their rapier pens. Now I make no claim to have known about Charlie Hebdo before today, and after a cursory glance at its work its not a publication that would particularly appeal to me.

The cartoons are too graphic, gross and yes, offensive for my taste. But what resonates with me is the familiarity of the circumstances in which this magazine would have come to life. I spent most of my 20s working for magazines. They weren't as high profile and or as contentious as Charlie Hebdo, but I can't help but think that the environment would have been pretty similar to the one into which bullets came flying and blood was shed.

Magazines are laid back places to work, the people who work on them tend to be pretty cynical, iconaclastic - if not they would probably have got proper jobs working as accountants or management consultants. Instead they were the ones messing around at the back of the class, refusing to take what they were told at face value and poking fun at those who did. They are bright, quick witted and more than a little bit disaffected.

This was my happy home for over a decade and even after I left I continued to work as a freelance journalist so I feel a kinship that makes what happened in Paris somehow more personal and painful, more difficult to forget in favour of a good night's sleep. The idea of those slacker writers and fastidious subs being ripped to pieces by a rain of bullets from a military trained terrorist just jars my brain. The juxtaposition between these acerbic cartoonists armed only with their wit and a smart drawing pen and combat ready maniacs wielding AK-47s just doesn't make sense to me.

While I have never raised my head above the parapet to do anything remotely worthwhile with my own career I have admiration for those who have chosen to use their exposure in the press to push forward an agenda that forces us to continue to look beyond trite philosophies spoon fed to us by those in authority. It was what I meant to do, but never really had the balls to follow through on.

It is heartbreaking that anyone would want to see that way of life smashed and silenced by a rain of bullets. That the way such warped thinkers wish to repay a country whose very tolerance is the reason they and their families were able to make a life there is by trying to extinguish it.

Of course I am aware that life is not always easy for immigrants and their descendants in any society, but what I find so confusing is that rather than try to find a way to work within the country that they have made their home, they seek to destroy it and all its values. This surely makes them as guilty as the 'infidels' who they despise so much, as the very reason they hate the West is that it meddles in the affairs of countries that are really none of its business.

While I suspect logic plays no part in it, perhaps we are reaching back in to the medieval way of thinking where an eye is demanded for an eye. But even if can accept this rationale I still cannot understand why the lives of innocent journalists, who almost undoubtedly held no more respect for their political leaders who dragged them into foreign conflicts than they did for religious fanatics who opposed them. These men were not the establishment, they were anything but. They didn't reserve their scorn for one religious or political faction, everyone was fair game and this is as it should be in a country where freedom of speech and of the press is a cornerstone of its society.

I am sure that the ramblings of a half asleep woman waiting for the pills to kick in so I can get some shut eye add not an iota to the debate that will rage about the implications and causes of this atrocity, but perhaps I can find a little peace for having blurted my thoughts out onto the glowing void of the internet.

A good night to you all and may those killed in the Charlie Hebdo attack rest more peacefully than I tonight.