Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Nobody can have anything but great sympathy for the parents of Madeleine McCann, what has happened to them is truly dreadful - but the blanket coverage, and the dissecting of the life of the British man being regarded as a suspect is starting to grate just a little.

It's a classic case of what the US media calls MWWS - Missing White Woman Syndrome. If the missing child were a boy, or black, or Asian, or anything other than white, female, young and cute - the coverage would have dropped off ages ago and the TV stations and newspapers would have found something else to pore over. As it is, every single news station in the UK seems to have sent dozens of people over there to interview locals and local officials alike.

As for Robert Murat, he may, or may not, be involved in her disappearance but the whole media circus seems to have decided that, guilty or innocent, every detail of his life must be dragged up. Yesterday morning, there was a camera crew outside the house in Norfolk where his ex-wife lives, complete with obligatory interview with 'concerned' (for which read 'delighted to be on telly') neighbour saying how 'shocked' they were at the news. The point being that there wasn't any news. At the time, Robert Murat hadn't even been arrested, let alone charged or convicted. But the old adage of 'innocent until proven guilty' doesn't apply any more in this age of 24 hour news.

All of this doesn't take away from the fact that her parents must be torturing themselves silly and one can only hope that Madeleine McCann is soon returned to them safe and well.

Last song on the iPod: Siouxsie and the Banshees - Dear Prudence

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The UK and France have both gone to the polls over the last couple of days. The outcome of both was relatively predictable in terms of how the opinion polls had read it, with a kicking for Labour in England and Scotland and a win for the conservative Nicolas Sarkozy in France, consigning the Socialists under Ségolène Royal to a third straight defeat.

What's more difficult to predict is what this might mean going forward. In the UK, despite gains for David Cameron's Conservatives, I still don't believe that there is any great enthusiasm for a return to Tory government. Not yet. I have no doubt that many people are heartily sick of Labour, as is to be expected in the middle of a third term. That doesn't mean that the Tories are home and dry. In 1992, the Tories were hideously unpopular but the voters were still not ready to embrace Neil Kinnock, resulting in a wafer-thin majority for John Major, and a government that was dead on its feet a matter of months into the new administration.

The only thing that seems definite from the UK results is that the electorate is disappointed and disillusioned and that they don't trust any party to be able to deliver the kind of vision they want to follow. That suggests two things - firstly that political engagement between the electorate and those who purport to represent them is becoming more and more difficult to achieve, and secondly that the voters haven't really made it clear what kind of vision they want, if indeed they know themselves. Those two scenarios are inextricably linked and point to even lower voter turnout in the future.

On the contrary, France's election saw a record 85% turnout with Nicolas Sarkozy emerging triumphant. It's the third win in a row for the right-wing party but this one feels different. Sarkozy is immensely unpopular in many quarters for some of his views and his description of rioters last year as 'scum' certainly ruffled a number of feathers. But although he is nominally from the same stock as Jacques Chirac, Sarkozy seems certain to be considerably more active in terms of changing French culture. He talks tough on crime and immigration, he embraces America and he has promised a 'rupture' with old-style France.

Can he get his reforms through in the face of union opposition? Is he France's Margaret Thatcher, thirty years later? Who knows - it might not be pretty but it will certainly be interesting across the Channel in the next few years......

Last song on the iPod: Billy Bragg - Sexuality

Thursday, May 03, 2007

This may (or may not for those who know me!) sound weird but my thoughts were occupied the other day by what constitutes the perfect lonely hearts ad. There's something utterly fascinating about people trying to appeal to others in just a couple of very short sentences and I've often wondered how I would write one about myself if the much-put-upon Mrs Momus ever saw the light and decided to put me off.

So after a bit of web-based searching, I came across a book entitled 'They Call Me Naughty Lola' which contains a collection of some of the quirkiest and funniest lonely hearts ads from the London Review of Books. These are simply wonderful and if they don't make you fall in love at first sight, they'll certainly pique your interest enough to delve a little deeper. Some of my favourites read like this;

'They call me naughty Lola. Run-of-the-mill beardy physicist (M, 46).'

'List your ten favourite albums... I just want to know if there's anything worth keeping when we finally break up. Practical, forward thinking man, 35.'

'I like my women the way I like my kebab. Found by surprise after a drunken night out and covered in too much tahini. Before long I'll have discarded you on the pavement of life, but until then you're the perfect complement to a perfect evening. Man, 32, rarely produces winning metaphors.'

'My ideal woman is a man. Sorry, mother.'

'I've divorced better men than you. And worn more expensive shoes than these. So don't think placing this ad is the biggest comedown I've ever had to make. Sensitive F, 34.'

And my personal favourite....

'Romance is dead. So is my mother. Man, 42, inherited wealth.'

Now don't tell me there are no potential partners there....!
Crikey, it's like moving into a new home.

I haven't lost the urge to pontificate and spout a lot of nonsense to anybody unfortunate enough to stumble on this place. But I have been away for ages. However, I do really like the new editing options on the Blogger site and I've taken the opportunity to update the look and feel of the place, add a few photos - which it's much easier to do these days - and generally give the place a bit of a spring clean.

It was a bit musty in here after being deserted for so long and a lick of paint will do wonders for the joint. Welcome back.