An up and down sort of month or so…

Going up at home:

Life at Merebank Towers is getting better in some ways. After a false fire alarm last Friday there was a lot of bonding while wearing pyjamas and warm coats. We discovered that a lot of people have illegal pets. The firefighters were, to a man and woman, all extremely attractive and friendly. Best of all our building’s most popular resident, Andy, seems to have awaken from his annual self-imposed quarantine. Now he can begin to spend all his free time juggling concerns and complaints about the building from fellow residents and neighbours. I would hate that level of regular interaction with, well, anyone really – but he has quite bad depression and thrives on the little conversations that aren’t just social twitter. He likes to get things done – and, apparently, nobody else has mastered email or phone exchanges with the building manager. Or perhaps they have but they just like giving him little projects to keep him engaged.

In other news my neighbour, Mustafa – who regularly joins us on the school run – has started to wear his ‘big coat’ without me shouting at him. Also Child 1 found one neighbour – on our actual floor – to sponsor her for her Run For Life attempt. Yes!

Going down at home:

Electricity bills at the Towers have increased all around and people are angry. Like Angry People In Local Newspapers angry.

Our wonderful neighbour, Laura – professional footballer and all round brilliant example to girls, young women and, really, all the adult women in the building – is leaving. She’s off to play for a team that is better funded, better supported and, well, just better. Not to put too fine a point on it a professional athlete’s career has a shorter lifespan than those in other industries. However I am sure that she’ll always be a great success and credit to any employer lucky enough to pay her salary.

Some little scrote has taken my parking space – in fact a new influx of residents has brought all kinds of car park related drama. These recent blow-ins have also been blocking the bin shed willy nilly. They don’t respect the quiet and they are trying to, ahem, socialise with other residents. What? No thanks. You need to wait at least another year for people to want to know your name. Learn some tower etiquette, please. Start with acceptable times and subjects for conversation. These being, respectively, a) in the lift up or down during commuter hours and b) the weather; how shit the building management company is; electricity prices; Andy’s mental health (tread carefully there); how smart the kids sharing the lift are and, finally, national high days and holidays. For everything else, make a poster for the notice board, slip notes into relevant mailboxes or advertise on a piece of paper in the lift – but this only works for parties or free furniture.

Going up in Liverpool:

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Britain’s first astronaut (actually cosmonaut) and the first woman on the Mir space station – Helen Sharman (not that glorified pilot Tim Peake) – visited the city in early June and we got tickets. I’ve seen her before – I must have been in primary school, like Child 1, back then – and it was magical. I think Child 1 enjoyed it as much as I did back then. She wore her entire NASA Mars mission outfit – which was a Christmas present that proved very popular on Instagram with (among other smart people) the social media departments of both NASA and the NASA intern program. I think her popularity on ‘Instablog’ may be her proudest accomplishment thus far in her entire 7 and a half years.

Going down in Liverpool:

The parks and green spaces budget has dropped slightly. I’m not too worried as the landscaping is mostly centuries old and the gardens are very well established but I’d be a terrible community representative if I forgot the concerns of the very noisy Boomer population.

In more important bad news, record numbers of caregivers and families in Liverpool are having to claim school uniform grants. It’s so sad that the uniform bursary scheme is even necessary but, sadder still, is the fact that most parents of school age children who need to access it – and are eligible – don’t know it exists so don’t claim it. If you need help with the cost of uniforms, contact your children’s school and they can talk you through the application process more quickly than going through the present government website. You would be surprised how many people qualify. In the first year or so of a new school it will be especially useful as the entire kit needs to be purchased.

Going up in Britain:

Gentleman Jack has been a great success on Sunday nights and is a surprising break from the usual fare. Riviera is back for a second season on Sky. It’s totally rubbish but it’s too pretty to ignore if you live in the north.

In politics Theresa May finally announced her leaving do. Anyone at a loose end on the 7th of June had no excuse not to buy a cheeky bottle of wine.

Going down in Britain:

Line of Duty has ended. I told everyone that Gill Bigeloe was a wrong ‘un and I was vindicated. That’s a hollow victory, though. I’m going to miss it.

Avengers: Endgame has come out and I still haven’t seen it – like many many other parents whose kids are just too little to fake being eligible for entry to a PG-12 film. I’m just going to have to bug Pippy at work until she relents and tells me all about it. Yes, I’ve looked up the story – but I want the definitive opinion of someone who went to the showing one minute after it was released.

Brexit…what can I say? It’s still a big mess creating havoc throughout everything. It’s racism, homophobia, antisemitism and every other shade of hate in between. And now professional bellend Boris Johnson has thrown his hat into the leadership ring. Can it get any better? Why yes, yes it can. Almost anything that happens right now would be an improvement.

On a personal note, I wish I’d never done a social media campaign for a candidate in a local constituency in the run up to the last election. It’s making me look at the candidates as marketing and PR jobs. That means that I’ve actually thought about how I’d sell Dominic Raab. He’d be the easiest for the electorate but, apparently, the 160,000 boomers who are actually eligible to vote for the next PM don’t think about that. If you’re wondering why I’d sell my soul to him (because that’s what PR for a political campaign is), it’s because he was the best looking candidate, he’s better qualified than the other candidates and he can ‘do’ law, economics and foreign policy. But it’ll never happen because it turns out that nobody liked him and I have some integrity. Who knew?

Going up in the world:

Taiwan has legalised gay marriage. Happy news. Who doesn’t love a nice wedding?

Going down in the world:

Jesus Christ. Where to start? The United States is as good a place as any. More states are passing legislation seemingly designed to overthrow the Roe vs Wade verdict that made abortion legal. In Alabama abortion will not even be countenanced in the case of rape or incest. It appears that these rulings may not be upheld by prosecutors or in appeal courts but it’s starting – that slow but steady move towards enforced birth and removing choice from women. All this just a year after Ireland’s historic referendum on abortion legalised it in what must be the most Catholic country on earth.

In racist news a Pennsylvanian school used a middle aged, tanned man wearing a kaffir to simulate a school shooter. Heaven forbid they acknowledge that school shootings are carried out by young white males.

And we may be going to war against (I refuse to say ‘with’) Iran. On what everyone knows is evidence that amounts to not much more than a blatant false flag. Super.

Going up in general:

Cher turned 73 on the 20th of May. I’m sure the fact that a large part of her is no longer made from human tissue is now accepted as a method of cheating death.

Grace Jones reached 71 on the 19th of May. I thought she was much younger but she was a Warhol muse from the late 60s all the way through the 70s so, yeah, that makes sense.

Meh at the moment:

Morrissey is now 60. I can’t really get excited about a man who used to be emblematic of northern socialism but then reached ‘a certain age’ and became a pro-Brexit casual racist who somehow feels immune to criticism and seems to be unrepentant when educated on subjects he is entirely ignorant about. Yay, dickhead. Maybe some evil younger relatives will confine you to your home for everyone’s benefit soon – even if they’re only motivated by a desire to get their hands on your bequests.

Going down in general:

The Met Ball’s ‘Camp’ theme had so much potential but people just didn’t get it. I was truly disappointed. If you get an invite to that event, put some effort in. It’s like The Devil Wears Prada – except it’s a thousand girls who would kill for that invite. For me only Ryan Murphy, wearing Christian Siriano, summed up the legacy of camp icons like Liberace with any panache.

Personally, this has been a heavy time for me – due to grief. So far, a friend’s mum has died, a friend’s Grandma too and also a very dear personal friend this year. Add to that Doris Day and Gloria Vanderbilt and it feels a bit dark at the moment. Doris Day really was a ray of sunshine wherever she went. The world needs more people like her.

Of course, Grumpy Cat has also left us. His legacy is an unwitting contribution to the world of memes.

Lastly, Niki Lauda – the three times Formula One World Champion died. It’s a miracle that he survived the 1976 crash that left him badly burned and in emotional turmoil:

Lauda was trapped inside his own burning car for over a minute, damaging his lungs with smoke. His scalp, forehead and hands suffered severe burns that left him in critical condition. Part of one of his ears was burned off as well.’.

It’s testament to his determination that, a year after the crash that nearly killed him, he was crowned World Champion.

I met him and James Hunt often during my childhood. In fact, James Hunt taught me to swim. However I was absolutely overwhelmed by Lauda. He was a force of nature. Nothing stopped him. He talked to me as if I was an adult. He didn’t think that my ambition to be an Olympic Three Day Eventer was unrealistic. To be fair, back then it might not have been – but who takes a child who says that seriously?

Hunt and Lauda are often compared but the competition between them was grossly overstated. In the end the dangers of Formula One united them. If Niki Lauda could be a victim, anyone could be. He was so exacting and so precise that he was called ‘the machine’. He didn’t take stupid risks, wasn’t reckless and never endangered his competitors. More and more I admire his objectivity and lack of regard for the social niceties that meant that people were too scared of hurting feelings to offer sound criticism. Hunt was fun but Lauda got things done. Who would you rely on in an emergency?

I like people who get to the point. Often I don’t really grasp the subtlety of human interactions. He didn’t even try to adopt them. I needed that as a child.

And there we are. I’m glad to report some positives from the negatives – but they’re small gains in a big world.

I’m also really going to miss our dear neighbour. A player known for her tenacity and determination, a hard worker and someone who always had the time to talk to my kids about school, roller derby, school holidays, pumpkin muffins and everything else. She inspired us in both big and little ways.

She will never know how many times I used her professional commitments to make sure the kids played quietly or stayed in bed for an extra half an hour on Saturdays and Sundays. After all, ‘Laura needs to get her sleep for match day’. Not many neighbours inspire the kind of love and respect that makes children go back to bed at the weekend. In fact, none of the others do. It may not always have been a success but we all tried.

An England player with 20 caps who managed to score 4 goals – as a midfielder – she never stops. She doesn’t kick her feet up during the off season – instead she buggers off to the ends of the earth to coach other women. She wasn’t happy about the World Cup being played in Russia – because of their record of persecution against the LGBTQ+ community. She made no secret of her desire to win. She also cooked food that smelt delicious. She was there if you needed a tin opener or a corkscrew. She too disapproved of the w*nkers in #22 – and complained about them…leading to them throwing a party on Christmas Day for residents who were alone. They’re up to their usual tricks again but we got a month of peace. Which we badly needed. All of that fawning leads neatly to a surprising new heading…

Brilliant news!

It’s the Women’s World Cup! I’m not a great football fan. Our local professional player called my daughters and me ‘girly girls’ – as a compliment, I think! She appreciated seeing our collective efforts on World Book Day – we love an excuse for fancy dress; hearing about our shoe design projects and the girls’ Barbie Project Runways – but she also acted suitably impressed when they told her about roller derby and the rock climbing practice centre.

In truth I overdosed on it as a child. My great grandfather was a professional player and manager and his shadow always hung over family time with my dad.  Grandpa George cut an exciting figure. He played for 16 years and on the 6th of September, 1913 scored the first goal for Arsenal at the then unchristened Highbury stadium. He was stretchered off in the second half – on a milk float. That was fairly typical for him. Let’s call his style of play ‘attacking’ and read between the lines. He was also Derby County manager between 1925 and 1941. His length of tenure was equalled only by that of Brian Clough. Apparently he’s a legend.

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However, I’m parking my usual cynicism about the ‘beautiful’ game (come on, it’s a contact sport – not dressage) at the moment, though – because, when women play it it is a beautiful sport. It’s faster (fewer histrionics over refereeing), more balletic and technical (why crash into other players when you could use – of all things – your actual feet?) and there’s more sportsmanship. If everyone who plays a sport is regularly and routinely diminished by an often critical public, paid a lot less than their male counterparts and receives much less media coverage than they deserve (the GB team is actually in with a chance of victory) then it stands to reason that a kind of sisterhood in the face of these obstacles will flourish. It’s the only football tournament where a player will help her opposing counterpart up and brush her down if she hits the deck.

More people should follow women’s sports. You’ve got all the opportunities you need during this World Cup month. The England team need our support after a vile campaign by internet trolls. Enjoy the matches and show the media that more than the pitiful 4% of sports coverage given to women’s sports is deserved and wanted.

There – maybe we do have some things to look forward to.

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