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The changing perception of loss

15 Mar

gravestone

I like to wander around old graveyards. Not in some macabre way (an unhealthy resurgence of my death-obsession),  I just find them fascinating, thought-provoking and strangely comforting.  To ponder how people lived, loved and died alongside their families, to witness how their remains have married with the earth, weeds growing round and into and under the headstones, destroying yet throwing forth life.

In the quiet and the stillness I always feel like an intruder, an interloper on past griefs.  Memories and emotions once so raw now mere whispers on the morning air,  dissipated and unnoticed but now momentarily disturbed by the inquisitive trespass of a stranger.

Thought-provoking and chastening that things once so important should have been brought to this.  And yet such a strangely reassuring display of the natural passing of time.

Do events and feelings and lives become irrelevant when there is noone left to remember them? Does it even matter?

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The other day as I ambled through the graveyard of my local church, my two dogs aroused by the smells of morning dew,  I came across the headstone of a Victorian lady that had lost her husband in his forties, only to lose her 1 yr old child less than 4 months later, and a few years later her 10 yr old daughter.  Unconvinced that I could find another loss to beat this one (a sick graveyard game I often feel compelled to play), I  stumbled upon another grave erected to mark the passing of a young couple’s 3 girls who had died just 3 months apart.  10 months, 4 years, 6 years in age.  Cause unknown.

Sometimes my loss feels so enormous, and yet so small when I read of other families devastated like this. To lose a mum at 71 would have seemed mere fantasy 100 years ago. To get through life without feeling the loss of a child? Blessed good fortune.

And as I turn on the television tonight to hear of the plight of those in Africa, thousands dying from Malaria and Aids, I realise this luck isn’t only divided by time, but by continent too.

And  I feel acutely my luck, rather than my loss.

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Don’t forget to donate to Comic Relief this Red Nose Day. 

the long face of celebrity: SJP and those horse pics

21 Nov

I got told to get over myself the other day.

It all started with a tweet. A tweet about a website this person had sent out as “the funniest thing (they’d) seen in a long time”. It was your usual web fare –  a mash up of Sarah Jessica Parker and various horses, a chance to expound her equine similarities.

My issue wasn’t that these mashups were, frankly, rubbish, but that I just found the whole thing, well, a little bit mean.

What if SJP was your sister, daughter, friend – would you still laugh? Maybe you’re having the same reaction as my fellow tweeter did – “Lighten up Milk, it’s just a bit of fun!”. But is it really okay?

Of course, the “Is she fair game simply because she’s in the public eye?” debate is nothing new, but is this kind of behaviour becoming even more normalised in a virtual world where it is easy to make and distribute this stuff and where anything goes as long as it’s funny? Does this easy, laissex-faire medium turn all of us Guardian-reading liberals into digital Bernard Mannings?

I’ve done it. I’ve giggled at the lesbians that look like Justin Bieber or Female celebrities that look like men, so I’m not sure why it took SJP to make me stop and reconsider.

Maybe I am taking it too seriously but I do wonder what it teaches our society about how we should treat people? That it’s okay to criticise, take the mickey, guffaw at another person if they’re in the public eye, and especially if the medium is an intangible, virtual one? That you can rip the piss out of someone, anyone as long as it’s typed on Facebook and not said out loud in the playground?

Thankfully I’m well into my 30s now, my heat-buying-days are over,  and I honestly don’t care whether Cheryl cole is suffering from premenstrual zits or Claudia Winkleman has forgotten to wax her tash (made up, don’t sue).  So shouldn’t us Tricenerians be setting the bar for the younger ones and reminding them that while it may be attractive comedy fodder, not everything goes?

I think i’ll stick to Cats that look like Hitler and Vegetables that look like penises. It’s what the Internet does best but without the laughing at someone’s expense.

Milk retrospective: Alcoholic mother in training

10 Oct

One of my very first posts, just to tickle your fancy while I continue my unplanned break from writing anything new. Not that i’m fuzzy headed or incapacitated or anything…..

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When I first saw these on bottles I had just given birth to my second son. Second time round it had been hard. I had found pregnancy pretty miserable – struggling 40 miles into work each day, coping with a demanding toddler, trying to stay balanced. Yes, I had enjoyed a couple of drinks here and there just to keep me feeling “normal”, less fed up about all the things i couldn’t or wasn’t allowed to do.

As far as i knew that wasn’t illegal…..in fact, I had pretty much followed the UK guidelines to the letter. (no more than one or two units a couple of times a week.) So when i saw this new labelling I was pretty annoyed. How patronising, condescending, sexist. Were women incapable of making their own informed, sensible decisions? Apparently not. Perhaps all those pregnancy hormones running around our bodies do turn previously well-adjusted, sensible women into irresponsible nutcases? In any case, surely it’s a question of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted? Presumably by the time women see this label they’ll have already purchased the bottle, and as they say, once purchased always consumed. (or is that what i say?)

As far as i know under 18s still can’t buy alchohol, and it’s definitely illegal to give any to the under 5s, so where are the symbols of small kids with a line through them? And what about the fat-arsed, beer- bellied men who regularly put themselves at risk of heart attacks? Perhaps they couldn’t fit those on the label.

Apparently staying at home can make mothers drink. According to Dr Toni Galardi we are most likely to turn to alchohol to cope with the demands of children if we have previously had a successful career. Weary, dejected, we turn to alcohol to dull the boredom. No hope for me then.

So perhaps this drinking lark during pregnancy is beneficial after all. It must be good practise to have a few just to get into the swing of things for what’s to come.

Click here for referenced article.

In all honesty it is a pretty interesting article, and probably quite truthful, if only we had the time or energy to put the wine glass down and read it.

Amy Winehouse and a foolish disregard for life

1 Aug

Image courtesy of whatculture.com

So we’re still waiting to hear what caused the death of the very troubled Amy Winehouse. Was it drugs, drink, a last ditch attempt to give them up? Somewhere in there I’m guessing was addiction, no doubt fuelled by low self esteem, maybe even depression. A tragic loss of life. But should we have sympathy for her? Or did she bring it all on herself, and so deserve none of our pity?

Quite a few people were quite scathing about her in the aftermath, some even cracking jokes as the news came in. “I don’t have any sympathy for her”, “Like, finally! Been waiting for this to happen for ages”, ” Should have gone to rehab!”, “She had money, why didn’t she just buy herself out of addiction?”.  I was quite taken aback actually. I’m always sad whenever a life is lost early, whether it’s through illness or something (arguably) of their own making – addiction, suicide etc  (Actually i don’t think addiction is anything of the sort, far from it actually). In any case it seems a lot of people don’t agree with me.

One of my friends was quite harsh, and initially it surprised me. But then I got it. She had survived cancer. Twice. She had fought so hard for her life, battled her way through harsh and sickening courses of treatment. Clung on to life, hoped for, cried for it at her lowest, and there was someone who seemingly, churlishly had just thrown it away.

I can understand that.

Like I can understand the pain and anger for someone suffering infertility of watching tens and hundreds of people around them terminating their own pregnancies. Or for someone with an hereditary liver disease watching another drink themselves into oblivion.

It must be so hard to watch something you have agonised over yourself, something elusive and yearned-for being mistreated by someone else.

I still think Amy Winehouse is deserving of our full sympathy, just as I feel for any addict, or mentally ill person who takes their life, or any victim of a lifestyle-related illness.  I also believe that life is sacred and should be cherished every moment of every day.  Life is full of these dichotomies, complications and hypocrisy. The best we can do is try not to judge others too harshly.

What can bring one person pain and heartache, can be the solution to another one’s dreams.

Diet drinks make you fat!

4 Jul

According to a study published last week diet drinks make you fat. Apparently results showed fairly conclusively that those that drank diet drinks over a period of 10 years put on considerably more weight than those that preferred their full fat counterparts.

Apparently the scientists aren’t entirely sure why this happens, but it may be something to do with tricking your body into expecting a large sugar boost and then not delivering it. Sorry, but D-U-H! Do you ever listen to reports like this and think “ummm, save those pennies Mr Medical Minister I know the answer to this one”?

If you’ve ever read my post The difference between thinnies and fatties you’ll see I’ve already got this one sussed. Diet drinks don’t make you fat any more than people tub up from too many ryvitas, just that only fatties drink them. Thinnies drink full fat coke, fatties drink diet coke. Simple. Look at any supermarket trolley on a Saturday morning and my hypothesis will be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. It’s only overweight people that have low fat yoghurts, ryvita minis, diet colas, sweetener etc riding their belt at the shops. Anyone remotely sane (i.e thinnies) wouldn’t go near this sorry stuff. They eat exactly what they want, when they want, but the difference is they will stop when they’re full.  So of course they choose the stuff that tastes the best.

Fatties on the other hand, will stockpile these cardboard delights in the vain hope yet again of regulating their eating that week, only to send hubby out at unsociable hours on a chocolate run after a few wines have robbed them of their self-control. (That or raid their children’s biscuit tin of course). And they’ll eat these chocolate delights way past fullness, and right on into sickiness. And the diet drinks? Easy – only fatties will walk into a Macdonalds, order a big mac extra meal with quadruple size chips, and request a diet coke on the side. Why? Because we don’t want to waste the calories on a drink. There’s simply not enough fun in a 200 calorie drink to make the subsequent guilt and self-loathing worthwhile.

So why do diet drinks make people fat? They don’t. We just get fat eating all the other rubbish we get to go with them. (My pleasure Mr Medical Minister, I’ll take doughnuts for payment.)

A good death

30 Jun

Obviously I should have run a mile but in typical Milk style, the other evening I sat down to watch the infamous Terry Pratchett documentary on euthanasia. I breezed through with surprisingly few tears until the final scene where you see an assisted death played out. I didn’t cry because it was horrific or wrong, I cried because the last and only death I’ve ever witnessed was my mother’s, just 2 months ago. So it was pretty raw. But I also cried because the ending of a life so stoically and peacefully was strangely beautiful.

For once my opinion is absolutely steadfast on this one. I cannot see any single legitimate reason not to legalise euthanasia in this country.

Sure there were unnatural, unnerving things about the way it was being done in Sweden, but they were all down to logistics, not morality.  Hidden away on an industrial estate forced by law out of the residential areas, a strange, artificial, psuedo-house. Not a place you would choose. Not the people you would choose. A horrible unfamiliarity. And people were choosing to go too soon, when they still had legitimate life left to live, through fear of leaving it too late.

All these points could be solved simply by allowing people to die at home, in their own country, in their own bed, surrounded by the ones they love.

I feel passionately that everyone deserves to have a good death. Noone should be forced to eek out some miserable existence, painful in spirit or in body, right to the end. To die without dignity, without personal choice; to me that is truly inhumane. 

My mum had a good death, and I am thankful every single day for that. There was no pain, no real distress, just love. My sister and I took the decision to withdraw medical treatment and my mum died a few hours later. Our decision was taken swiftly, with little of the expected agony, because we instinctively knew it was absolutely the right thing. She had told us herself hours before “I am dying, do not cry”. Had clearly accepted that it was the end, that there was no more fighting to be done.

I would want everyone to have the opportunity to pass away peacefully as my mother did. Despite the devastation and the agony of losing her, the anger that the bastard Cancer could do this and so swiftly, it is an enormous source of comfort to me that she slipped away like this. And really not so different from the man in the documentary.

There are loads of arguments given against legalising assisted dying. Let’s consider the three most popular ones.

“Voluntary euthanasia is the start of a slippery slope that leads to involuntary euthanasia and the killing of people who are thought undesirable” This is simply bollocks. This hasn’t happened in any of the countries where it has been legalised; it is based on some kind of fatalistic assumption that morality and civility will decline if you open the door just a little. Beware the Frankenstein monster.

“Euthanasia weakens society’s respect for the sanctity of life” But what about the sanctity of a peaceful death?

“Euthanasia affects other people’s rights, not just those of the patient” There’s no denying that a death makes ripples far and wide, but how much worse to watch someone you love die a slow and painful death, or to find them strung up against a tree driven to brutality through desparation?

The truth is, most people will cling to life even when there is little hope. Survival is the strongest instinct there is. So in reality, and given the choice , most wouldn’t choose to die. But if an individual chooses it for themelves, with full knowledge, careful thought and freedom? Tell me what is so wrong about that?

A booze filled hole

23 Dec

A while ago i caught a documentary that looked at each stage in a woman’s life from “underage” through “student” to “mother” and even on to “grannies” and reflected on their relationship to alcohol. Yes it was a rehash of a lot of what we’ve seen before about the booze culture that pervades these shores. Yes there was vomiting and drunken girl on girl snogging (yawn) and the drunken female equivalent of “winding” (ewww).  Yet, for some reason this one was even more depressing than usual. It managed to portray an even bleaker, more tragic picture.  Why?  Because you got to know the people as individuals, and started to see that, pretty much, they all drank due to some deap-seated psychological issue. Usually because they hated themselves.

I’m not even talking hopeless drunks, though there were some of those of course. I’m talking people who just enjoyed a drink, most days, a laugh with their friends, you know not much different from me and you. But watching from the outside in, it was obvious. Issues of loneliness, worthlessness pervaded.

What is it about the Brits that drives us to fill a hole with booze, a hole that should rightly be filled with self-belief?  Why do we forever feel we need “dutch courage”, “one for luck”, “one for the road”  just to get up and on with our lives? To have the confidence to do stuff we don’t, soberly, believe we can do.  Is drinking for confidence as normalised for children growing up as the idea that a good night out must always involve copious amounts of it? Are we a nation of tattered egos, broken spirits, lost souls desparately on the search for something to fill that hole, whether it be alcohol or armfuls of big macs? Or are we simply complicating it. It’s a good laugh, freely available, and quite frankly we’re all just a little bit addicted…. (including those MPs pussy footing around the issue because they’re too scared of having their own crutch taken away).

It’s all a bit depressing really, and nothing more than having to watch those girls again with their pants around their ankles. Girl power? Makes you wonder what my heros The Spice Girls fought so hard for.

Better go drown my sorrows…..

over-tweeting

18 Dec

image courteousy of SWNS.com

What is it about twitter that people say stuff they wouldn’t dare say in real life. Is it the spontaneity of it, the fast paced banter? Does it make you more impetuous, fire you up into something you’re usually not? Do we tweet before we’ve really thought it through? You’re probably thinking “she can talk” having come fresh from a post about loving a debate. But the point is i rarely say anything online i wouldn’t say in real life, given the right circumstances.

Chris Evans and Alan Sugar were at it a week or so ago. What started innocently enough soon got them all fired up, and soon they were throwing poisined darts across the ether. The most bizarre of couplings behaving in a way you’d never imagine them doing in “real life”. So out of character. (I say that, apparently Lord Sugar’s a resident twitter tirader).

Before that it was Denise van Outen and Natalie Cassady challenging eachother on their respective parental merits. I can’t imagine they’ve even met eachother in real life, and yet something happens and they unleash their inner Ginas through the tap tap tap of their keyboard.

Usually so consumed by their own egos, the importance of how other people perceive them, of bad press and shady journalists twisting their words, but when it comes to the little blue bird – celebrities go at it like a bunch of toddlers locked in a room with a yard of track but only one Thomas. Usually so screened off by their PR machines, they finally free themselves unbridled and uncensored. And we’re not talking about my favourite kind of healthy debate, we’re talking petty squabbling.

And then a few days ago, Liz Hurley announced her split from her husband on twitter, following a few weeks of flirtweeting with ego-maniac Shane Warne. Arrguably the most public sphere on the planet and people behave as if they are in room alone with the other person. It’s like some weird dichotomy. A medium so exposed, and yet regarded with false (and dangerous) intimacy.

It’s true that twitter and wine can be a fabulous partnering. Fabulous in a slightly unhinged kind of way. So were these celebrities suffering from some kind of inebriated over-tweeting? I’ve shied away from “twitter parties” for precisely this reason, not because i think it’s a crazy, sad-arse idea (though really i should and would have a year ago, but alas i’ve been spanked by the twitter bug), no, it’s because i’m worried i’d down a bottle of prosecco in my dressing gown while simultanesouly offending the wallflower in the corner with insensitive banter and flirting outrageously with someone I later find out usually goes under the username of chunky_cheese.

Perhaps these celebrities need to take a leaf out of my book, go to bed quick smart and sleep it off.

Milk Retrospective: According to Karren Brady you can have it all

30 Oct

I thought it was time for another Milk Retrospective because i have bugger all new ideas i was really concerned some of my later readers might have missed some early gems.

This post came early on in Milk’s career at a time when i was, shall we say, just a little obssessed with the question of whether women could have it all. Angry – for feeling a bit let down by all those people who’d told me i could and would be able to, amazed at how other women seemed to be doing it, resigned – to giving up a career i’d worked hard for but was unprepared to make the sacrifices for.

Now, having gone back to work on a contract part time doing what i love, i have to admit it’s maybe not all the doom and gloom my early Milk self wanted to believe. My hopes are up (just a bit) and i’m experimenting. I’ll let you know what i find.

In the meantime, enjoy.

As if answering my post Having it all Karren Brady was interviewed in yesterdays Daily Express stating defiantly “My goal is to have it all” with a photo of her looking more than a wee bit smug. I read on hoping to be enlightened. Just how did one of the UK’s most successful business women (MD of Birmingham City Football Club at 23) manage to find a life balance between her high pressured career, and raising 2 kids (now 13 and 11)?

She talks passionately about wanting girls to believe they can do anything they want “brain surgeon, engineer, scientist” clearly believing, no doubt through experience, that women can succeed even in the most male dominated industries. Acknowledging that she has a “hectic family life” she goes on to boast that she “doesn’t have any full time help”. I am impressed.

Apparently the key, according to Karren, is to share the childcare with her husband (also a football manager) and to work as a team. Hmmm, no real insight here. I read on, hoping for some tangeable hints and tips on how she actually makes it work. However, this is where the cracks begin to show. She advises the reader that it takes sheer hard work to get to the top and sacrifices along the way like missing swanky nights out (ok could deal with that, not much of a party animal anyway), .. all the christmases …., the holidays, the….”. Hold on, did she say christmases? I can’t imagine missing one christmas day with the kids, let alone plural.

And so the truth comes out. In the end, it is still all about making choices. Work or kids. And as Karren finally admits: “If you choose work you can’t sleep at night, because you feel bad you’ve not been there for your kids”. Sounds like she’s got a lot of experience in that department. Thanks Karren for finally coming clean.

It seems even Karren Brady doesn’t have any real answers. You might be able to “do” it all, but that is still a far cry from “having it all”. I suppose, in fairness, Karren Brady did just say her “goal” was to have it all. She never said she’d succeeded. I stand by my original post.

Click here for article in full

Paparazzo or pervert?

25 Sep

Photo courtesy of bruniroquai at flickr.com

If i was walking along the street and a random guy decided to lie down on the pavement and take a good look up my skirt what would my husband say? He’d just shrug his shoulders of course.

And what if i had no knickers on? (ok so i always wear knickers, but you know in a different world i might be having a kinky day). Well he’d just say “Oh well dear, if you’re gonna go out with a bit of loose change and no purse to keep it in you’re asking for it really”. Of course bloody not.

So why is it okay for lowlife photographers to thrust a camera up a “celebrity”‘s skirt to get, what i can only imagine they refer to as, the “money shot”?

Surely it’s assault? Or invasion of privacy? Or just down right morally wrong?

So who would blame Russell Brand for getting a bit agro when some seedy pap tried to get his lens in close proximity to his lady-wife-to-be’s dinglies? Well apparently its his actions and not those of the photographer that require the long arm of the law.

I just don’t get it.

I can’t even imagine opening up a magazine or newspaper and seeing my flower peeking out from amongst the leaves. And that’s putting it politely. Usually it’s a slightly hazy picture (enlarged 10 times of course) of a few folds of skin reminiscent of a shar pei’s neck. The title screams “Miss X goes out without knickers and shows a bit too much”. Well if you shoved a zoom lens in between my legs while i was getting out of a cab i’d probably show a bit too much of my ladybits too. With or without knickers (let’s face it they’re usually displaced / swallowed up from all that wobbling while on the move anyway).

Perverts masquerading as paps?

Burn the paparazzo pimps and all their filthy tabloid customers.