BIRTHDAY

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This week has seen my daughter’s 10th Birthday. So I thought a look back at the cakes she’s had for the last 10 years might be in order.  This idea came to me after seeing the hilarious blog about people being unable to effectively realise things they’d seen on Pinterest. I hope our efforts were not quite worthy of inclusion there. Much effort was put in. Well, some years, some effort was put in. Though things didn’t start well. But what the hell, she was 1, she didn’t have a clue what a birthday was: Image Okay things get a LOT more creative for her second birthday, looking at the cakes also demonstrates her ever-shifting tastes and interests. In 2006 it was clearly Greendale’s finest. I seem to recall it being mostly made of battenburg and us having a lot of trouble with Pat drying up before we got him in place. I was particularly proud of Jess however: Image So in 2007 we have the epic Cinderella castle.  I know, you thought you were looking at a photo of Disneyland, right? No, my friend, that’s a cake. It’s a cake that caused a massive tantrum and a domestic and food colouring to get spilled on the new sofa. I was only responsible for one of those things happening. It’s your standard Swiss Roll and Giant Swiss roll combination, with ice cream cones for the spires. What else?  What can’t be seen in this picture is the Pumpkin Coach.  Which for reasons best known to ourselves was a Chocolate Orange covered in icing:Image I think by 2008 we’d hit our creative stride. When I say “we”, Steph did most of this – perhaps this was her making good the incident where one of the spires was thrown at me in a fit of frustration about which 6 years later she still feels shame. Anyway Lady and the Tramp was en vogue for the 4th birthday, I really don’t know why:Image In 2009 we move from a Disney classic to a Disney current and an obsession with High School Musical.  This one was me, albeit with the aid of some printed imagery for the cupcakes, cunningly designed so there was a bun for everyone at the party.  Cutting out that West High Wildcats logo to go on the top tier was a right pain the backside, let me tell you. All the while the icing drying out:Image Home based party meant efforts were not put into cake in 2010.  Instead efforts were put into going to ASDA and buying a Muppet cake, even though she really didn’t have the first clue who Animal was, except we all had items of clothing with him on: Image Another cop out in 2011 – this is not just any birthday cake, this a Marks & Spencer birthday cake, it was delicious. At the price we paid, I should bloody hope so. Why don’t my decorated cakes look so neat? 😦 Image Now 2012 was a joint effort along with my baking maestro pal Ailsa. She MADE the cake and decorated the Big Top. I sugar crafted the Lion, Ringmaster and Clown. Just don’t mention the fact that it looks a bit like a stripey boob:Image Vague cop-out again for the 9th birthday, again facilitated by ASDA.  Charlotte almost coming to blows with the man in the bakery counter who said the image that I’d created couldn’t be put on the cake because of copyright. “It’s MY name and MY picture” she insisted. I assured the gentleman that it was a widely used public domain motif and thus not subject to copyright. Charlotte continued to voiciferously protest. I wasn’t aware they’d been spending much time on the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 in her primary school. Anyway after the shop assistant spoke to his manager the design was printed and stuck onto the cake within a few minutes. Though, ASDA, if you’re listening – you need to make the boxes re-closeable for these print your own cake things, you have to rip ’em open to get inside and then you come perilously close to the thing sliding out constantly. Trust me. Image And so to this year’s effort. Disney themed again, as her present is being taken to Florida this summer holiday.  I looked back at my previous efforts and with the aforementioned blog in mind decided not to go for the “Full Mickey”. There was no way I was going to get something that looked accurate enough to be Mr Mouse, so I thought, little Mickey Mouse head shapes all over in a random pattern. Mickey Mouse cookie cutters, they’ll be easy to find, right?  Not so much. An 80 mile round trip to an eBayer’s house in Barnsley got me the goods however. So it might be one of the more simple self-decorated cakes that we’ve done, but it actually probably took the longest to do. And considering some of the early efforts (Postman Pat, Lady & the Trap and Cinderella’s castle) involved us pulling almost-all-nighters, that’s saying something. Image So, there you have it. My daughter’s 10 years on the planet told through the medium of cake.  Some of which feature in the mock-up Facebook Look Back video that I created for her., THAT took me 12 hours. I hope she bloody appreciates all the effort that goes into these things.

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GAY

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So the very talented actress Ellen Page has come out.  Good for her.  I don’t care.

Really.

Absolutely no interest whatsoever.

It angers me that people still are forced to come out publicly like she has done – in Ellen’s case clearly quite a difficult and painful experience, her speech whilst brilliant and delivered eloquently was clearly the most difficult thing she’d ever said.  She’d agonised over every word and run through that speech a million times in her head, I’m sure.

But really someone’s sexuality should not be an issue for anyone but themselves and whoever they wish to share that with.

I wish there was no such thing as “coming out” and I long for the day that these stories stop being news.

It seems a ludicrous double standard to me that we’re just weeks away from the historic change in the law to allow same-sex marriages in England, yet there’s still a prurient interest in a celebrity openly revealing themselves to be gay. 

But what makes Ellen Page’s coming out announcement different is what she says in her speech – she’s already countered my point about it not being necessary quite neatly.

She says as someone in the public eye, with a  profile – a celebrity, if you will, it’s her “personal obligation and social responsibility” to speak out about her sexuality, so that others in the same position as her might take some comfort that they are not alone.

So, now I feel like a bit of a shit, for saying “I don’t care” in the first line of this blog post. ‘Cos that’s really, actually quite important what she’s saying there.

As a white, straight, middle class male – I’m lucky to have never been the victim of an –ism or a –phobia.  Nobody’s mocked my skin colour, nobody’s made lewd comments about my appearance in the street, nobody’s picked on me because of who I fancy.

So maybe I shouldn’t weigh in to this issue about coming out.  It’s not my department.  Nothing to do with me. And I should let those who’ve suffered speak up and speak out, for they know how it feels to be a victim and I don’t.

Except, I think it IS something to do with me – and everyone.

Just as Ellen Page says her announcing her sexuality is a “personal obligation and social responsibility”, so I should speak up and air my view that we ought to be in a position where nobody bats an eyelid – or even better that there is no appetite or interest in these sorts of stories in the first place. Because I think it’s just as important for the victims of bigotry to know that not everyone else in the world is a bigot and actually yeah, I know there’s loads of people who’ve gone through what you’ve gone through and can empathise from direct experience, but I and lots and lots of people like me can/will/do support you too and are supporting change for you, even if it doesn’t really affect us personally ourselves.

So, to edit what I said right at the start of this posting: Ellen Page has come out – excellent news, I’m really proud of her, I hope she’s happy and her words give comfort and confidence to thousands of others. And Ellen and all those that come – as you might term “after Ellen” – you have my support any time you need it.  Which you probably won’t.  But the offer’s there 🙂

WOMEN

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Two things that I have seen on Facebook today have got me thinking and in fierce debate with my nearest and dearest.

And they are both the same thing when it boils down to it.

Firstly, the news that the BBC is to ban all male panels on its quiz shows.

Secondly, Debenhams using women of varying shapes and sizes in their catalogues.

It needs to be said at this point, I suppose, that I am an out and out equalitarian. I believe that all people should be afforded the same opportunity and respect regardless of their gender, race, orientation, age or any other facet of their being that you might choose to single out.

But the BBC male panel ban – and their previously announced desire to get 50% off their local radio breakfast programmes hosted by women by the end of 2015 – does not sit well with me. Appointments to these positions should be made on merit, the most talented people should be getting the jobs. It does nobody any good for rubbish women to get jobs, just based on their chromosomal arrangements.

1) It diminishes the quality of the programming, which we all pay for this being the BBC
2) It is patronising for the women involved, who will be cursed with forever wondering if they were only picked because they don’t have a penis
3) Having poorer quality women only goes to reinforce attitudes that women can’t do these jobs in the first place

But equally, something has to be done, as the representation of women is woefully low in both of these areas. Just 2 solo female presenters of BBC local radio breakfast shows from all of them across the country? That is abysmal.

I suspect that figure is rather better than commercial radio manages though, but that is a whole different conversation.

And only 5 guests out of 38 and none of the regulars on Mock the Week were women.

Again, very poor. I know QI have attempted to redress this criticism with female only guests on several occasions, which have been no less entertaining or appealing to me. So maybe I am barking up the wrong tree and it IS a way to get things shifting in the right direction.

And quite frankly if Mock The Week put in a mediocre woman or two it’ll stop some of the mediocre men getting on the show. Which would be an improvement.

So onto the second issue and the Debenhams catalogue having a gorgeous curvy model, some non airbrushed saggy bits on other models and a couple of amputees.

The problem that I have with this is that they are all still gorgeous. The “reality” as it’s described still confirms to a rather narrow definition of traditional beauty and the cynical old hack that I am can’t help thinking they are doing this solely to generate talkabilty and therefore increase sales.

I was called “mean spirited” for expressing this. Perhaps so. Maybe I am just impatient. Debenhams have done this sort of thing before, making a big to-do about having “normal” shaped mannequins in their stores. Maybe this is part of an ethos change at the company, maybe it’ll last forever and change perceptions and everyone else will follow suit.

At the moment both the BBC and Debenhams seem to be engaged in tokenism for the sake of it rather than for affecting actual change.

Like I say, maybe it’s just the jaded hack speaking here and this is an unfounded concern and I’ll be made to eat my words.

Which I will be happy to do. Cos I really hope I am wrong.