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Posts from the ‘Opinion’ Category

It’s festival season…

It’s festival season. This is the time of a year when a variety of well-meaning fashion individuals let us know we need to dig out the Hunters and denim hot pants before wading around in a field made slightly damp from a mixture of rain, sweat, alcohol and wee.

I am as guilty as the next infrequent female festival goer. I scan magazines for suitable festival outfits, consider ridiculous eye make-up I’ll never be able to successfully apply in a tent, and pack expensive eye cream alongside the wine in the hope it will make me look fresh and like I’ve actually slept. For the record, unless it’s blazing sun, I loathe festivals. I once spent two miserable days at V Festival in a cheap Tesco tent which leaked in the torrential rain. My hair, and patience, did not enjoy the experience. The only redeeming feature of the whole experience was seeing Scouting for Girls – a band I’d been ‘meh’ about beforehand, but converted me into a diehard fan through their live performance.

But then that’s the whole point of festivals, isn’t it? It’s all about the live music and that tingle you get when you see your favourite artist go on stage and belt out your favourite song while you sway or jump up and down enthusiastically with thousands of complete strangers. Or the buzz you get from discovering an artist you’d never heard of on a small indie stage and knowing you’re going to download their album as soon as you have signal (which on a festival field will be never – write their name down!)

So now I come to my main problem with festival season, the constant piping of live festival music through the radio or TV. Radio 1 Live Lounge it is not. Sure, it sounds pretty amazing when you are there, probably because you’ve had a few drinks, people are singing around you and the background music is loud. You are swept along with the atmosphere so the odd off note doesn’t matter or isn’t even noticed. For most sets on the radio or TV however, it sounds like cats being strangled with white noise in the background. If I’m not at a festival, I don’t want to hear it thank you. What I want to hear is the nice polished mp3 that I would buy. There is a reason why artists don’t, as a rule, include festival sets on their albums. I’d quite like to do my commute to work with the radio on without an assault on my ears. Stop this please, or I might have to don some Hunters and head for the countryside to pull out the plugs on the recording equipment.

Lance Armstrong and forgiveness

Photo from Anita Ritenour’s Flickr. I believe in forgiveness. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean that I agree with behaving irresponsibly, dangerously and damagingly with the belief at the end that you can be cleansed of your sins without consequence. That’s a particular thought process – the type of thinking that it doesn’t matter if I do this horrible thing now, because in the end I will be forgiven for it. I don’t think Lance Armstrong believed this at any point. I think he deserves forgiveness and to be allowed to move on.

I have now watched both parts of ‘Oprah and Lance Armstrong: The Worldwide Exclusive’ and I feel for him. I know he was a cheat and a liar, but I think the ‘was’ is the most important part of that sentence. We have all done stupid things when we were young (and continue to do so). We have all lied to cover up a lie at some point. Can you imagine what that must be like in the spotlight? And the longer you lie, the harder it becomes to go back on it.

Lance went into sport aged 16 and became a professional cyclist aged 21. At the time, if the reports are to be believed, doping in cycling was wide-spread. Lance says in his interview with Oprah that to him it was “like having air in your tyres, water in your water bottle” – to him it was normal, just another part of his day-to-day racing. At the time, he didn’t feel like he was cheating, he says it felt to him like a level playing field. If most people were doping, why wouldn’t he think it was level?

The lies to cover up his doping have possibly caused more anger and discontent than the doping itself. Several cyclists and those close to them have come forward over the years to call him a liar, but Lance has, in his own words, been “defiant”. He sued them. He says he “bullied” them. Lies to cover up more lies – it was never going to end well.

When he was diagnosed with testicular cancer (which had spread to his brain and his lungs) and was given a 50/50 chance of survival in 1996, he fought back and once he had beaten it, he set up the Lance Armstrong foundation, now known as the Livestrong Foundation, which has, to date, raised 500 million dollars to help those affected by cancer. I don’t think that should be forgotten in all this. As an individual, he has taken his experience and helped others. He has grown as a person. At this point, he was so deep into his lies it must have seemed impossible to go back. He went on to win seven Tour de France races in a row from 1999 onwards, then retired in 2005. When Lance returned to professional cycling in 2009, he says he came back clean at the request of his ex-wife. He says he also believed that the sport was now clean and it would be a level playing field. I believe him. He has nothing to gain from lying about this at this point – whether he did or not he will be branded a cheater and a liar.

The idea that any person is not flawed is ridiculous. Every person is a mix of good and bad. Everyone we hold up to impossible ideals is bound to feel the pressure to conform and hide any part of themselves that they feel will impact the perfect vision we have. The longer this perfect vision continues, the higher the people rise, the further they have to fall.

USADA are making an example of Lance by stripping him of his wins and giving him a life ban. Other riders who also cheated by taking drugs have received shorter bans in return for coming forward. Lance was too big, too much in the public eye, too openly defiant and openly lying to be ignored. On his head be it. This is his punishment and it fits the crime. Cheat in a sport, receive a ban.

I do think the rest of us should forgive him though. He’s come forward for his children, so they don’t grow up in a web of his lies. I respect that. He’s said that he appreciates that he’s flawed and that he should have said something earlier. I respect that, too. In the interview with Oprah, he watched videos of himself back and recognised that he had been a jerk, in the wrong and said outloud “I don’t like that person”. He said he was sorry. I definitely respect that. It takes a big person to come out, say they were wrong and that they are sorry when they know most of the world won’t care. He’s making a change and when anyone tries to make a change for the better I think they should be supported and forgiven. It’s time to let the past go and look to the future.

Campaign for more realistic Christmas adverts

Image from Jim Winstead’s Flickr.

I hate Christmas adverts with their stupid, fake, 2.4 children families. Unless you are eight years old and living in a family with Stepford wife, Christmas will never be that shiny, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t be absolutely, stunningly brilliant in its own way.

Next year I don’t want to see wives slaving over stoves to create Christmas dinners while their husband takes several hours to bring a bottle of Champagne downstairs which, apparently, is supposed to erase the fact he hasn’t helped at all with the food or the 2.4 children. I also don’t want to see snowmen only becoming happy after struggling to the shops to get their perfect snowwoman a gift. I definitely don’t want to see dogs being fed Christmas pudding (it causes kidney failure).

What I do want to see is single mums or dads happily opening presents with their kids, same-sex couples visiting inlaws, grandparents watching the Queen’s speech with their grandchildren and singletons indulging in their favourite activities with Christmas lights in the background. I want to see cat people giving their pet a stocking, volunteers serving up Christmas dinners at homeless shelters, mixed-race couples watching Elf and soliders celebrating in Afghanistan. Think about how diverse we are as a society and how this is completely ignored in the advertising.

My message is you don’t have to be the ideal, perfect family doing a traditional meal to have a great Christmas. To me, Christmas is about being with those you love, thinking of them if you can’t be with them and enjoying yourself. Are you listening ad people? I just gave you a fully-formed idea, let’s split it 70:30. What do you think?

2013 downsizing

Image from Sean MacEntee’s Flickr.

I know that everyone else is still all hung up on the Christmas season and, yes, officially the actual day of the birth of the baby called Jesus has not officially passed but, to be honest, I’m all Christmassed out and all for a little bit of New Year New Life planning.

This probably comes from working on a magazine where we are just about to start our Spring issue (it comes after the March issue, in case you were wondering, which you probably weren’t) and my work Christmas decorations came down a couple of months ago. Any bright and shiny festive spirit will be likely to reoccur after I work at the Olympia Horse Show next week – nothing says ‘wake up and smell the mulled wine’ like a horse show in the middle of London.

So blogging about the festive season aside, at least until next week, I’m thinking about what I’m going to do in the year of 2013 and it mainly involves downsizing…

A) Myself. As impressed as I am that I managed to maintain actual exercise in a real life sweaty gym for virtually the whole of 2012, I must try harder. Next year I want there to be less of me, not just to be fit enough to carry my bulk.

B) To aid point A, I must also reduce my office snacking by improving my willpower and drinking herbal tea. This already sounds dull and difficult.

C) Handbag – I have ‘handbag shoulder’, which is like tennis elbow except completely related to carrying a bag the size of a small country around filled with heavy things like notebooks and useless coins (I even have Icelandic coins rattling around). Notebooks are coming out. Rediscovered Pocket Malden Filofax is going in as a purse/diary. I will find a smaller bag, too. After all, if I achieve point A, I might very well collapse under the weight of my own bag.

D) Time spent watching reality TV. What a waste of my life, unless I’m getting paid to review it, in which case I’m all over it like a rash.

E) Money out of my bank account. Enough said.

F) Wine. According to the research I did for a feature recently, wine causes lots of bad things like irregular brain patterns, messing up digestion and bloating as your body tries to dilute the toxins you’ve put in. Also January is Dryathlon month, where you can give up alcohol for one whole month to raise money for Cancer Research, so I figure why not combine the two?

Well that’s all I can think of right now. Are you downsizing in the new year? I want to know how! Also, a suggested starting point – sign up for the Dryathlon and do it with me! What a great way to kick off your Christmas detox and raise money for a great cause at the same time.

Why it’s okay to have an opinion on Rihanna’s private life

Photo from Rihanna’s Instagram feed

I get it. I really do. When people are in love they do stupid things and forgive things that they shouldn’t forgive. I’m mostly of the opinion of live and let live (unless people are getting hurt in the process), and everyone makes mistakes. However, by choosing to become a popstar in the public eye, I believe that Rihanna has given up part of the right to do exactly what she wants all time.

No matter whether she wants to be a role model or not, she is – it’s the nature of the job. She choose to work in the music industry and to work towards becoming the music star she is, and so she also choose to be a role model – you can’t separate the two. I feel very differently about people who choose to have fame and those who are born into it without a choice.

Going back to a man who has not just hit you but beaten you until your face has swollen up, bitten and choked you is sending out the wrong message. It’s saying to young impressionable people that domestic violence is okay and that you should go back to the person that hurt you instead of breaking the cycle.

If she was a normal person living a normal life, I would still say ‘get out!’ but it would be different. The number of people she would be damaging with that relationship would be more limited. Instead she is a global pop icon, with all the money, fame and social reach she could possibly ever want. She definitely has responsibility to her fans, after all they are the ones buying her music and keeping her in the lifestyle she enjoys so much.

And if she can’t do that, if she can’t break off her relationship while she is in the public eye, then she should stop sharing it with young impressionable people on social media. It is your relationship, you are making these choices, love makes you do crazy things… just please don’t make it seem okay to the young people who do look up to you as a role model, even if it’s not a position you want to hold.

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