In which Amiguruthi remembers a great man.

Terry Pratchett, as you may know, wrote a little series about a planet that traveled through space on the backs of four elephants, who all stood on the back of a giant turtle. It is called the Discworld. Over at my crochet blog, I recently Amiguruthi Discworld.

Some man in a British newspaper, neither of which I am going to quantify further because I don’t want to give him the clickbait, recently stated that Terry Pratchett’s work wasn’t ‘actual literature’, referring to him as ‘an ordinary potboiler’ and implied that his work didn’t ‘enrich the very fabric of reality’.

The second most insulting thing was his inability to see how Discworld books couldn’t ever ‘change your life, your beliefs, your perceptions’.

The most insulting thing was that he was making this judgement after starting his article with ‘I have never read a single one of his books, and I never plan to’.

*Headdesk*

That means that this is a man who is making such judgments having never known about the outspoken feminism of ‘Equal Rights’ in the 80s and it’s eventual come back for male benefiting feminism in ‘The Shepherd’s Crown’ this very month. It’s a man who hasn’t noticed the way the treatment and rights of Trolls, Dwarves and Goblins is a metaphor for our own treatment of a variety of races and supposedly ‘lesser beings’ over the years. It’s a man who has no concept of the portrail of a bond between father and son described so beautifully that it brought this childless woman to tears when reading ‘Night Watch’, ‘Thud!’ and ‘Snuff’. It’s a man who cannot see beyond his own snobbery over books that feature witches, and wizards and trunks with hundred of little legs rather than Victorian girls in long dresses and men who sit around talking for a couple of hundred pages and generally doing nothing. As I said on a discussion this morning, just because it’s happening to Goblins doesn’t make it any less real.

I first entered the Discworld when my brother left a library copy of ‘Mort’ on our kitchen table. As a child who devoured books, I simply saw it as something to read with lunch. Then I fell in love – with the outlandish but still relatable characters, with the bizarre little footnotes, with the fast paced plot and well crafted lands – in short, with a fantasy world that I have been immersed in for over half my life. When I went through my wannabe goth phase, my brother bought me ‘Carpe Jugulum’ to mock me. He later admitted it should have been ‘Lords and Ladies’ because he was also mocking my (very) brief dabble at Paganism. And the fact that these book existed for him to do that both amuses and humbles me greatly because they are genuine, worldly connections to the reader that you will never get with ‘Wuthering Heights’ and that ilk.

Have they all been great? Have they heck – give me a book staring Rincewind and I’ll groan and huff like a ten year old forced to do silent reading when they’d rather be chucking spit balls at the unpopular kid in class (disclaimer: I was NEVER than child). But some have genuinely changed my life, my beliefs and my perceptions. The Watch books are the ones I return to most frequently, the ones I feel a connection to, for reasons I cannot put into words which are ineffably there – as Terry Pratchett would say, they cause a susurration in my world that cannot be ignored. When I say I’m more bothered about the progress of Carrot and Angua’s relationship than my own, I am only slightly exaggerating. The adoption of Brick by Detritus tackled both infertility and misguided youth in just two or three lines. And Cheery Littlebottom, a female dwarf trying to break out of a man shaped mould, spoke volumes to a young girl who wasn’t exactly what her peers thought she should be. And I can bet she and her co-cast speak to a number of other people for a billion other reasons too.

When I found out Terry Pratchett had died, I did cry. For the first time ever, the death of someone affected me so much that for a moment I couldn’t function – and I have lost extended family members before. Opening up ‘A Slip of the Keyboard’ and reading ‘Terry Pratchett WAS’ in the about the author section nearly literally floored me in a Sainsbury’s cafe. I had to put the book down and just breathe. To say that the outpouring of grief for this amazing author is somehow lesser simply because he didn’t write high brow books is appalling. And thank Om he didn’t write high brow – his books were as down and dirty as the buggers they are aimed at, and clearly we love him for it all the more. Having just finished the last one, I can honestly say that there were tears in my eyes as I read even the copywrite pages before I accepted it was over.

Personally, I’ll be rereading the cycle of all 41 books in the series of this ordinary potboiler. And then I might start on the million other books he also wrote or contributed to. And my reality will once again be very much enriched, thank you.

The turtle moves.

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He For She

Just watched the latest speech where Emma Watson talks about the He For She campaign she is part of with the UN. In it she says that she wants to hear about people stories, and the line ‘Parents have you done everything you could to treat your children equally’ made me want to share a story about my Dad.

My Dad would not call himself a feminist. If you want someone to tell you your dress makes you look like a slag, or make a joke about your weight he’s right there. Not maliciously, not in a million years, but it’s gotten him into trouble before.

But I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be the feminist I am today without him.

From him telling me at a young age that he didn’t care if I came home with a man or a woman, of any age or ethnicity, as long as they made me happy and treated me well.

From him not batting an eye lid at my goth phase, or my tattoos despite the fact I know he doesn’t really like either.

From him taking me, his six year old daughter, to a boys only Beaver Scouts group that he ran and letting me join it anyway and play in their football team because noone makes his little girl feel like she can’t be one of the boys every Thursday night.

From him making the effort to colloquially call my transgender friend ‘son’ instead of ‘love’ even though he doesn’t really understand what he’s going through.

From the bumbling apology when his jokes do overstep the mark.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that even if parents sometimes say the wrong thing, there’s a hell of a lot more times when they get it exactly right.

In which Amiguruthi tries her hand at Ramadan

When not crocheting – which is unfortunately quite frequently recently 😦 – I work as a high school textiles teacher (I am UK based, so teaching 11 to 16 year olds). The school is small for the area, and three years ago was a completely different school which got closed down due to being below standard. New backers came in, breathed new life into the joint, and we’re slowly pulling it up to actually having a pretty good local reputation. It’s located in a very economically poor area of town, which isn’t well known for it’s academic ability or behaviour, but both of those things are being rapidly improved by the school which is excellent. I’ve been working there a year, so have come in at just the right time to be seeing the changes made take effect and to feel pretty positive about the future.

Sorry I got side tracked bragging about my school’s improvements. What was my point?

Because of the area being low income the knock on effect is that we actually have a very multicultural school*. We have probably over 50% of students hailing from the South Asian, Indian/Pakistani countries, plus a high proportion of Polish, Hungarian and Bulgarian students, as well as a large number of students with an Afro Caribbean heritage. I would estimate that around 25% of the school is white British. I think this is fabulous because you learn so much about other cultures, countries and religions just from every day conversations. Incidents of racism are also much lower than in other schools in the area, because students just accept that they’re part of a huge melting pot and have grown up mixed together – someone’s skin colour or clothing is of very little importance as a result.

*This is NOT me saying that other cultures than white British are thick/poor/badly behaved. This is a comment on that fact that in the town there are a lot of families who are immigrants and have been housed in this one area, be it ten years ago or be it ten days ago. It was actually an area which was once upon a time very highly regarded because of it’s ethnic make up and their affluence, hence why there is an above average number of non-white families, but has over time seen a major change occur which has unfortunately had a negative effect on attitude towards education and seen growth in gang affiliation. 

Which with a lot of waffle brings me round to what I really want to write about. A lot of the students I teach and quite a few members of staff are Muslim. July is a holy month for them, where they observe Ramadan. The reasons for and rituals included are much better explained here but the most well know one is the fasting. For the whole month, Muslims fast during the daylight hours, which means no food or drinks at all pass their lips between sunrise and sunset. It’s done by healthy men and women (generally not the young, old, ill or pregnant) from the age of puberty (the age of which differs according to your Mosque’s advice apparently, but is usually around 12 years old).

In order to better understand their students and colleagues, two members of staff decided they were going to follow the fasting rules for one day, donating any cash they would have paid for lunch or snacks to charity. They asked if anyone would like to join in and, because I’ve never worked anywhere with such a high number of Muslim people which means I’ve never really heard what it is like to put oneself through it, I said I’d give it a go. At the very least I wanted a challenge, and at the most I wanted to see exactly what effect it does have on the concentration levels and temperament of someone, so that I could get an understanding of my student’s needs.

Here’s how I got on.

1:30 am: Woke up because I needed the loo, and decided to have a sandwich while I could. Technically I should be waking before 3am to eat something anyway, so now is as good a time as any. Wolf down the sarnie and go back to bed.

3 am: It’s not light outside at all but this is apparently sunrise so the fast starts here! (I didn’t intend to be awake at this time, I just don’t sleep well so it was a happy(ish) coincidence that I woke up briefly here).

7 am: Actual get up time. Occasionally I might have a slice of bread or a biscuit or something, but I actually rarely eat a proper breakfast on a morning, so I don’t feel like I’ve missed out on anything. I bet this fasting business is harder if you’re used to eating on a morning. I go on my merry way, convinced that this will be easy.

8:30 am: Whoops! Almost got myself a cup of tea in the staffroom during staff briefing. Silly Amiguruthi. Go to run my form time and talk to one of the students about fasting. She says she couldn’t do it, but I am still pretty convinced I’ll be ok.

9:55-10:55 am: Teaching my first class of the day (I had a free period first lesson). It’s a small, well behaved year 8 textiles class, so I don’t miss my standard cup of water I have on my desk to revive my throat from calling across a noisy classroom because I just don’t need it. This class is my favourite class ever by the way – six low ability kids who genuinely push themselves and enjoy the work so they’re progressing in leaps and bounds. A dream class! No desire for chocolate yet, which I think there may be had it been one of my more challenging groups!

9:55am – 10:15am: Break time! Time for a cup of… oh. Darn it. Shrug and get on with some work to pass the time.

10:15am-11:15 am: Second class of the day, a high ability year 9 textiles class. I have heard the rumours of being ‘hangry’ (so hungry you get angry) while fasting, and I did worry that this class would be the one to tip me over the edge because I have a few members who have switched off their brains since they’re not taking it at GCSE so feel that means they don’t have to do the work. Luckily, one of them has been put on report so is on his best behaviour, one is absent, and one has specific one-to-one support today so most of the class in on task (side note – Teaching Assistants are an absolute necessity in classrooms. They’re more important than teachers I feel and the rate they are underpaid by is criminal. I could not be an effective teacher without my TAs). The one who isn’t on task I have decided to surreptitiously ignore just in case hanger strikes (I am starting to feel peckish and parched now!). I’ll catch him up tomorrow (to be fair to him he does actually do some work so fair play – hanger avoided!).

11:15 am – 12:15 pm: Ah the class I’ve been dreading! Not because they’re horrible (ok, maybe there’s one kid who is a bit of a nightmare) but because it is a year 10 food technology double and they’re cooking baked goods. Jam tarts, cheesecake, sausage rolls, Victoria sponge, marble cake – the idea of so many lovely things being cooked by some damned good little chefs is almost too much to bare. I get some cheesecake mixture on my hand and whereas normally I’d just lick it off then wash my hands, I have to curtail the urge and just wash it away. It looked damned good too…
One boy is in a bad mood, so starts messing about and being argumentative. I nearly snap at him because by now, surrounded by opportunity, I am getting bloody hungry, and in the heat of the kitchen my throat is starting to feel ragged with not being able to swig from my water cup. Hanger strikes and I have to walk away before I tell him to get his butt off the course if he can’t summon up the correct attitude. He is often like this so I feel like I’m going round in circles with the kid on a good day – on a day when hanger is suddenly turning from myth to reality, I can’t honestly say I won’t shout something that could get me into trouble if I don’t take myself out of the situation. One of the other things about Ramadan is being respectful and polite and turning the other cheek, so I am getting an opportunity to practise that too.

12:15 pm – 1:55pm: Lunch time! Students go off to eat (in my food tech class, none of them are Muslim so there’s noone to bond with). My hunger levels have actually gone down which is good because I don’t feel the temptation that I thought I would right now, however the desire to stick my gob under the tap is rapidly increasing. Funnily enough, I don’t normally drink a lot – just the odd sip now and again, plus a morning cuppa, so I hadn’t expected this side of fasting to trouble me so much. I work out the time left and it feels like forever.

1:55pm – 3:15pm: One more hour of teaching food tech, plus a bit of overtime for one kid to finish cooking. Nightmare boy has decided that he is going to stay behind too until his friend is free, and is spinning around the room on the wheely computer chair. He is annoying me more than he normally would – especially when he tries to get my to break my fast and try a bit of cake, claiming that I ‘don’t have to do it’ and ‘noone else would know’. He’s right, noone else would know, but I would and I would feel crappy for having failed on day one, never mind day 16 of Ramadan which it currently is. They finally tootle off and I can go distract myself with non-food related work! I really do get why fasting students crash during period 5 lessons – my concentration is rapidly receding and I’m starting to feel really tired. considering that my Muslim students probably got up before 3am and didn’t really go back to sleep I can see why their heads tend to hit the desk round now.

4:00 pm: I have left work having agreed to help supervise a film screening trip (a group of students made a shirt film on an iPad with a local film education company and they’ve arrange for it and three other short student films to be screened at our local Odeon). Anything to take my mind off the fact my stomach is beginning to rumble and my throat is starting to burn. The other member of staff in charge is also doing the fast, and we enthuse about how good that first cup of tea will taste as we wait for students to show up. Only five and a half hours to go!

5:32 pm: The other teacher has just whispered under his breath ‘Only four hours left’. Thanks for reminding me.

6:00 pm: The films were excellent – very proud of our students. Also very jealous – they all got popcorn…

6:30-7:20 pm: This is the hardest part of the day so far. Sitting at home with nothing to do. Normally I’d have my dinner around this time. My boyfriend looks at me as I walk into the house, comments on how pale I look, and offers to save me half of the bacon sandwich he has bought. It’s very sweet and I feel euphoric at the idea there is food waiting for me. I also feel very loved and supported, but mainly the happiness stems from the idea of bacon it has to be said. I distract myself with the internet and wish I had time for a nap – sleeping through the remaining three hours would be heavenly, but I have places to be.

7:30 pm: I am at the AGM for my theatre group. Distraction is good!

8:00 pm: Distraction is long and argumentative. Brain is starting to phase in and out.

8:32 pm: One hour to go! Have agreed to reprise my role as wardrobe mistress for one more year. Have managed to not get distracted by the fact that there’s pie and peas (which I don’t even particularly like but would wolf down) on offer, nor by the very inviting tea urn behind me. Mmm – tea…

9:00 pm: The trestle fence left up on stage from our last production looks like a chicken lattice. Starting to hallucinate? Or just very, very hungry now.

9:15 pm: Meeting adjourned! Must be sociable for ten minutes, but then I am out of here! If I leave at 9:25pm my first cup of tea can be brewed by the time I’m allowed to break my fast!

9:28 pm: In the car, on the way to my cup of tea! Hunger is actually receding again, although my stomach feels heavy and hollow at the same time.

9:31 pm: Kettle on, rice and veg for my curry out and starting to be prepared. Phone connected to the speaking clock so I don’t get hasty and break it too early.

9:32 pm: Time to break the fast! Tea not mashed yet but I refuse to rush this and get a substandard drink when I’ve been dreaming of it all day. Focus on starting making my dinner instead.

9:36 pm: OMG! TEA IS THE NECTAR OF THE GODS! I haven’t had a cuppa this good since I got home from a 6 week trek to Kenya aged 16 in 2004. So glad to be able to drink again. Not actually too fussed for food, but I need to eat.

9:45 pm: Ok, food is good. I love food. Omnomnom. Second cup of tea brewed and awaiting drinking too. Debating cramming down the cold bacon sarnie as well as my Korma.

So what did I learn today? Fasting is not something to be taken lightly because it does really effect you mentally as well as physically. I am so pleased that I managed it, but I know it’s nothing compared to the commitment that Muslim’s go through doing the full month of Ramadan. I applaud them for it – I can see why it brings them closer to God, and why it is such an important thing for their faith. What I have missed out on is the community aspect of it all – the prayers at mosque, the breaking of your fast with family and friends, the support from other people also taking part. Those things must add a whole other experience which I haven’t been able to access. I do however have a different perspective on why my students do struggle with coping with it – at 26 it is a hard undertaking for a day, so I can’t imagine how hard it must be for a 13 year old for a full month. And kudos the those people who do it year after year after year for most of their lives. I won’t be doing it long term, because I would very likely kill someone by the end of it, but I might do it again for a day next year, to see how different it is with a bit of knowledge behind me and some better preparation.

11:38 pm: Sod it – I’m having the bacon sandwich…

In which Amiguruthi laments the end of her favourite TV show (HIMYM: SPOILER WARNING)

*Stands up from chair*

My name is Amiguruthi.

*Holds for ‘Hi Amiguruthi’*

And I’m addicted to ‘How I Met Your Mother’.

I seriously am. I started watching it during the Stella season (season 3 is that? Maybe season 4. I’m an addict, not someone with a brilliant memory!) when my other half’s then house mate introduced me to it by accident. It’s the TV show I’ve put reruns of on when I’m bored, or when I had to study through my PGCE, or while I was drawing or crocheting. Basically for the last five years it’s been pretty constant in my life. I want to BE Lily, with my own Marshall by my side, and a gang of friends as disparate and kooky as Ted, Robin and Barney. So I was both incredibly excited and completely upset by the fact that last night was the final finale. Finally we get to see how Ted met the Mother! Finally we get to see where the characters end up! The pay off of nine seasons! How will I ever cope again?! I’m going to have to transfer my affections to a new weekly show (besides ‘My Little Pony’. And ‘Once Upon a Time’. I need a sitcom and ‘How I Met Your Dad’, the spin off, looks shite).

So I sat down to stream it today (damned UK delayed screenings!), still convinced it would be fabulous because I freaking love the show (are you getting that impression? I hope I’ve stressed it enough).

AND I WAS APPALLED!

Seriously, I was livid. I had to go pick up the other half from the bus station straight after watching it and I actually ranted to myself, alone, out loud in the car all the way there. Ok, so I’ve calmed down a lot, and I can see the good points (which I’ll sum up with so I can reassure myself before I sign off!) but my God what a balls up of my favourite show.

Here is my main problem SPOILER ALERT! We said good bye to the Ted and Robin relationship in season 2. It happened, it was fun, it didn’t work out. I didn’t mind because to be honest, I agreed with them splitting. And when Robin initially got together with Barney it just made so much sense – they’re so alike and want the same things. I was a bit peeved when they split up the first time but I sorta always knew they’d get back together. And then when they got engaged it was like my best friends had announced their marriage. I was so behind it! And season 8 has been all focused on the wedding and Ted letting go of Robin (that beautifully symbolic in a cheesy as hell way episode where she flew off on the beach was a perfect end to their story, as was the whole calming her down from freaking out thing). Barney has developed so much over this season from the playboy div to a suave gent and his big ‘I’ll never lie to you again’ vow was just the cherry on the cake.

AND THEN THEY RIPPED OFF THE CHERRY AND STAMPED ON THE CAKE!

Barney and Robin get divorced because they can’t stand all the travel she has to do for her job (surprise – a career woman’s career ruins her relationship! Hmm, that’s a whole separate blog post). Boom – whole season just gone to waste. And on top of that, Ted FINALLY finds the woman of his dreams, who is so perfect for him, and then THEY KILL HER OFF! In one hour he goes from too nervous to talk to her, to shacked up and completely happy for the first time in the entire nine seasons, to sitting by her hospital bed. Too much writers. If you were going to stick these two story lines on us, you should have had Barney and Robin get hitched at the end of last season, then dedicated this season to whipping through the next ten years, spending time on developing the divorce plot line and Ted and the Mother’s life together and given her a proper send off rather than one crappy line about her getting ill, then a throw away comment from her daughter six years later.

However, even all of that I could have maybe got behind (certainly the Mother’s death I could have got behind because it gives Ted a reason to be telling the story) if they didn’t complete invalidate the whole bloody show by having Ted GET BACK WITH ROBIN! The girl he spotted in episode one! Two hundred and seven episodes ago! We did that, we got over it, Ted moved on and then boom! Right back to square one. No. Just no. Firstly if Barney couldn’t keep up with Robin’s career, Ted certainly can’t. Secondly, the whole point of the show was that you find real, true love and it overrides anything that has come before no matter how strong that felt. Having Ted STILL in love with Robin, throughout his marriage, completely invalidates everything the show taught us. And having the kids listen to their Dad tell the story of how he’s always been in love with this other woman would not result in a ‘yay go for it Daddy!’ response. No, it’d result in tears and yelling. If my Dad ever did it I’d feel like my whole life was a lie, never mind having my opinion of the dominant relationship I base my own relationship wants on destroyed for me. And I’m a Daddy’s girl. Even if he assured me he had stopped loving her, only for the feelings to resurface after my Mum was well and truly grieved for, as I believe probably happened for Ted, I’d still feel betrayed because it would be the same as if he had just loved her all through. It’s like the writers had it planned out from the start (which they did obviously because the kids responses must be filmed at the beginning for them not to have aged – kudos to them for keeping the secret all these years!) and it’s like they’ve refused to deviate even if the story had evolved beyond that initial plot. I think they made a big mistake in sticking so rigidly to something conceived ten years ago.

*Breathe*

Ok, I’ve ranted, here’s where I calm myself down. Thing I have realised after letting the finale stew for a few hours.

– The message that love can come into your life, be all consuming and then when it ends for whatever reason be moved on from gracefully is very powerful. You rarely see what happens after happily ever after and it is nice to see a realistic aftermath.

– The show tied up Marshall and Lily, my joint favourite characters, wonderfully. Three kids, both of them obviously secure in their careers and family life, and being the only members of the gang completely settled suits them. It’s good to see a relationship actually last in TV land and get through the struggles of nine years (which yes, included briefly breaking up, but most importantly also getting back together), despite what I said above.

– Barney’s evolution, although tarnished, does get back on track with fatherhood. Would’ve been ace to see that played out longer though.

– At least there’s a point to going back so far! The Blue French Horn stealing mirroring the first episode gives a reason for stretching a story back past where it needed to be. Think about it: we want to know how Ted met the mother, so need to know why she was at the wedding in the band, and could need to know who introduced them, so need to hear the story of Cindy, and we could need to know they met at his professor job, and we might be interested in knowing he got that job thanks to Tony feeling guilty about Stella, and we HAVE to know about the failed wedding for that, including how they met when he drunkenly got tattooed after his relationship broke up. We don’t actually need to know how that relationship came to be since only the end of it has any real effect on the story of meeting the Mother – Robin could have been anyone really, we just need to know she broke Ted’s heart.

And the big saving grace – I can rewatch all the episodes, stop this one right after Ted meets the Mother and forget the rest of it exists! Like stopping ‘Moulin Rough’ after the show finishes and skipping over the whole Satine death thing.

In which Amiguruthi ponders war…

I posted a pattern on my actual blog last weekend for a Remembrance Day Soldier. It was a commissioned piece for my old youth theatre group doing a war related play. It’s had a great response, very positive from all sides, and all countries even those who don’t have a Remembrance Day. It’s been especially popular with women who have relatives currently serving in the army, especially US soldiers currently in Iraq and Afghanistan.

For those of you not in a Commonwealth country, Remembrance Day is 11th November, and a minutes silence is held at 11am to show respect for the soldiers who died in World War 1. More information can be found here.

I was in two minds about posting the pattern, for a couple of reasons. I wasn’t sure if people would respond to it or if they would think it was simply a gimmick to make me look good. It’s a bit twee, not to mention historically inaccurate. It ain’t exactly reinventing the wheel.

And because I do not support the armed forces.

Now don’t misinterpret me here. I believe whole heartedly in supporting, respecting and remembering those currently serving, wounded, killed or left behind due to their or their families involvement in the army (or navy, air force etc). I believe that people who go into war zones in service are braver than me, and do deserve the respect and honour they’re given. No offence, disrespect or condemnation is given to anyone at all. And objectively, I can see the necessity of the army and, if I try really hard, the UK’s involvement in battles raging in other countries.

I just wish we weren’t.

I know that’s a pretty naive way of thinking, that if everyone could just put down their guns and talk instead of shooting each other everything would be sorted. Well, probably not, but I do think we tend to rush in, weapons drawn, when actually we might be better off leaving people alone to sort themselves out, or facilitating a chance for people to actually talk. I feel that negotiation and discussion will always solve problems quicker and more securely than violence will, if the opportunity for it is given. Plus, isn’t it a bit patronising, saying ‘we have to be here because they can’t deal with this themselves’? Kinda like we think we’re better than everyone else?

Even with the pros and cons of discussion vs guns (and I can see that now we’ve started it’s very hard to get out, I can, and I do understand that it’s a simplistic view of a perfect world I’m cultivating, which will probably never come to pass), the one thing I really cannot get behind is the glorification of war that is presented to children.

It’s quite possible to get the army in school over here, coming to talk to us in Year 10 about how cool it is to be a soldier, and all the educational benefits it gives us, as well as the chance to train and use guns/tanks/fighter jets etc. We get told about the pride of leaving our country to go and assist overseas, where we will face danger and terrorists and help solve all the worlds problems. We also get told that hey, women are needed just as much as men, and it’s a pretty feminist thing to do. We get told all of this when we are fifteen years old.

Fifteen years old is too young to decide if we might want to risk our lives for a cause we don’t yet fully understand and have only really seen in video games and maybe the odd news segment.

What is especially sickening to me is that if you’re a bad kid, or you’re not academic, or you’re particularly good at sports, then you get extra talks, where they really try hard to recruit you. They take you on special days out to see the training grounds and go on the assault courses. They take you paint balling. They treat you all special.

They’re not recruiting soldiers. They’re recruiting cannon fodder.

If you’re a grown up, who has thought about all the reasons to go to war, and understands why such conflicts require violent resolution, or an armed force to protect the locals, and whose moral compass says that its ok to kill in the line of duty, then go ahead and sign up. I’m not saying any of the judgements a grown up makes are wrong, or immoral, or anything of the sort. But don’t tell me that kids are ready to make that decision because some guy in camouflage comes and talks in their assembly.

For Remembrance Day this year, in my minutes silence, I’ll be thinking about the people who were killed in any war, be it one from 1914, 1939, or 2013. I’ll be thinking of all the people currently serving, all the families hoping their soldier will come home, and all the families who that won’t happen for. And I’ll be thinking what a waste the whole damned sorry mess is to begin with.

 

In which Amiguruthi can’t get her head around gun control. Or a lack there of.

This news story just flashed up on my Facebook newsfeed:

Teenager shot and killed after jumping out of cupboard to surprise friend

If you’ve not time for the link hop, the article tells the story of an 18 year old girl called Premila Lal, who snuck into her home and hid in a cupboard to give her cousin, 21 year old Nerreck Daniel Galley, a bit of scare when she jumped out. She never got to jump out, because he heard noises in the cupboard and instead of looking inside, simply opened fire and shot through the door. By the sound of it, he was accompanied by a 15 year old boy he had also given a gun to, and she was hiding next to her 12 year old sister (who sounds to be uninjured).

What the actual heck?

Ok, so you hear noises in your house, naturally you’re on alert. And yes, maybe you grab a weapon. In the UK where I am you cannot own a gun, but I know my other half had a baseball bat at his old house for this very reason, and here has a wooden training sword from his TaeKwonDo days.

But in what mind set do you not open the cupboard and check it out first?! 

I’m not saying the girl wasn’t doing something silly, especially since she must’ve know her cousin had guns available. Personally I wouldn’t dream of jumping out on someone who could potentially shoot me. But I also would not in a million years expect that they actually would.

I don’t really have too much of an opinion on the whole right to bear arms thing, since it isn’t my country. I do think that America might be better off if it’s gun control laws weren’t so lax though. How many kids have got to shoot other kids with their own guns or with one they’re picked out of a parents arsenal? If you’re going to allow guns in private homes, then damned do you guys need to make sure they’re under lock and key, and educate youngsters on when it’s appropriate to shoot. Here’s a handy check list:

Is it a wild animal? No – don’t shoot. Yes – shoot if hunting is allowed where you are and you are specifically out to hunt, or just let it continue on it’s merry way otherwise.

Is it a domestic animal? No – see above. Yes – don’t shoot someone’s pet you sick git.

Is it a human being? No – see above. Yes – see below. 

Do you know them? No – see below. Yes – don’t shoot. Can’t tell – make damned sure you can before proceeding.

Are they about to seriously harm you? No – don’t shoot. Yes – shoot the leg, but only if you’re sure…

To be honest, the only people who need to own guns are people who use them in their daily, employed lives – anyone working with dangerous animals, gamekeepers, shooting instructors, the military (my opinion of which is a whole other post in itself) and, in the US at least, the police. There’re probably other legit reasons which I would be interested to hear about since over here we only get to hear about when things go wrong.

But really, why do you need one at home?

Is it really protecting your family, or is that just a convenient excuse…?

In which Amiguruthi ponders Miley Cyrus and modern music…

So, I’m not American, but even I haven’t avoided Miley Cyrus’ MTV awards performance.

My God.

I’m not jumping on the band wagon and saying it was terrible – when it first started and she came out of the giant teddy I thought ‘ha – that’s funny. Poking fun at being a kiddy star and it’s like she’s emulating Lady Gaga’. I was happy to see where she went with it.

Around the third time she appeared to finger her crotch after being on stage less than a minute, I started to get concerned.

Around the thirty twerks a second mark I got bored.

Around the nuke bikini bit I just felt sorry for her.

And when she started pretending her glove was a penis and grinding on whatshisface, I felt irredeemably sad.

I don’t think there was anything particularly shocking about her performance – Rhianna and Jennifer Lopez have both done similarly raunchy, almost naked routines which I’ve thought were equally attention seekingly pathetic. And if that’s who Miley Cyrus wants to be then more power to her – noone should be able to tell her not to be herself. But the whole thing really pissed off my Inner Feminist.

My inner Feminist has got a lot stronger recently. She’ll come out a few times on this blog I bet.

What annoyed me most was the whole penis-centricity of it. If she wasn’t felating the finger of the foam glove, she was stroking Robin Thicke’s crotch with it, or rubbing her butt up against him, or strutting round as if she had one herself with her hips thrust comically forward, or sticking the afore mentioned foam finger through her legs to symbolise one. And don’t get me started on that incredibly annoying tongue flick thing she was doing…

To me, it just looked like some bloke was stood behind her going ‘here, this’ll get the critics talking. And stop them talking about Disney’. It’s like the whole thing was DESIGNED to piss off the feminists.

Mind you, music in general seems to be. The song they dueted on is basically about how good girls are all dirty slags inside, just waiting to be shagged regardless of what they say (oh I know it’s CLAIMED that they’re trying to say women can be sexually liberated too but it isn’t. It’s still about how some man is going to free you with his penis whether you want him to or not. Fuck off – I can liberate myself thank you). All the female dancers were dressed to show off the maximum amount of flesh, even on the American footballer inspired costumes, while the men were fully covered and in the case of the two rappers looked positively slummy in comparison. Because that’s ok if you’re a man. If you’re a woman you’d better don the damned nude bikini and gyrate your arse until your hips hurt and all you want is a nice sit down and a cup of tea, never mind a shag.

The amount of songs out there from male artists which contain little more than a desire to fuck and fuck off, with a few bits of name calling (bitch) thrown in for good measure is staggering. In comparison, there seems to be a rise in songs from female artists dealing with heart break. Coincidence?

God I miss Westlife. I felt RESPECTED by Westlife.

So, am I shocked and appalled by Miley Cyrus? No, not really. She’s 20 years old, trying to shed a kiddy image and be seen as a grown up, and has clearly taken some bad advice. Am I shocked and appalled by popular music? Again, no.

I’m just a little bit sad it’s living up to expectation really.

In which Amiguruthi reads way too much into a kids cartoon.

So, my first post on a new blog. What do I choose to write about? My take on the UK Border Agency’s heavy handed approach to checking immigration status? A rant about why I should have the right to say what goes on in my vagina?

Nah. I’m going to tell you my theory about My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

Both of the more serious topics will possibly get covered in later posts, so don’t worry if you want to check back later.

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (MLP:FIM for short) is a bit of an obsession of mine. I’m unashamedly a brony (yes brony, not Pegasister/pegasistah. Although I am female, I just prefer the former term. I’m not sure I can pull off being a sistah…). I have four MLP crochet patterns (two my own, one freebie and one I actually paid money for), I’m currently addicted to the Android game, and I half collect the blind bag characters. They’re lined up on top of my Xbox 360, mainly because it annoys my boyfriend so much.

Recently, everyone in the brony community has been talking about one thing: Equestria Girls.

Equestria Girls is a MLP:FIM movie that came out at the beginning of summer. In it, the main characters are all humanised and there’s a plot centred around a high school dance and defeating the classic Mean Girls style villian girl. It’s not rocket science, but you know what? I actually enjoyed it more than I probably should have as a 25 year old woman. It was cute, it had some good songs and the tip of the hats to the brony community were numerous without detracting from the story line for the actual target audience of 5 to 10 year old girls.

Most bronies HATE it. Not just dislike it, actively HATE it. Most of this hate comes from points around it being very simplistic plot wise, and the little issues all getting solved within a scene. And a pointless romance arc we could have done without.

Hey – bronies? I love you guys, but get over yourselves! The film is aimed at FIVE TO TEN YEAR OLD GIRLS! You really think the lower end of that age group could sit through exposition aimed at us adults and still remember what was going on? Of course not! Enjoy the pretty colours and the jokes and the songs and move on.

HOWEVER!

Ah, there’s always a however. Come on boys and girls, watch Amiguruthi hypocritically tear down everything she has just said…

There is one huge flaw in Equestria Girls that will never make it sit 100% well with me, despite my generally positive attitude to it.

Twilight Sparkle is not high school aged!

Ok, here’s where non-bronies might get a bit lost. Sorry guys.

There are six mane (ha, pony pun) characters in MLP:FIM. I’ll take each in turn, and ascribe the age I see them being.

Lets start with Rarity, because Rarity is best pony. She is a fashionable diva who runs her own highly successful fashion line. She has a shop, and sells to Pop Stars as well as the everyday Ponyville folk. To have that level of business knowledge and have built up her name and fame, she must be at least in the equivalent of her early to mid twenties. Even if she didn’t go to uni, she would have done some sort of college (UK college, 16 to 18 year old) level courses, plus had time to build that reputation. I see her as one of the oldest characters, aged probably 22 to 25.

Keeping with the oldest characters then, next is Applejack, who looks after a family farming business, co-owning with or possibly just employing her older brother, and looking after both her primary school age sister and an ageing granny. In order to be allowed to look after her sister, she had to be at least 18, plus they’ve evidently been in this situation for some years since noone seems to mention her parents, leading us to assume they’re both dead and everyone has mourned and moved on. Again, I’d pitch her in the 22 to 25 age bracket, more likely at the older end.

Moving down then, we come to Fluttershy, another small business owner. She cares for animals, possibly as some kind of eco-hippy, but it’s also implied in one episode that she runs a pet sitting and grooming service, as well as fixing up other ponies with pets of their own. She’s also a grizzly bear chiropractor, which is a job title everyone wants surely? Because of her shy character I did think she’s younger than Rarity and Applejack, but since she’s very close friends with Rarity I would say not much younger. I put her in the 20 to 23 age range.

Rainbow Dash is easy to age as a result of Fluttershy, because she is actually shown in one episode to have been in the same class as her at school. So she can also be in the 20 to 23 age range. Plus, again, she works for a living, shunting clouds and dealing with the weather. She’s shown to be in a supervisory if not managerial role however, so can’t be too young even if she didn’t bother with further or higher education.

The youngest of the mane six in my eyes is Pinkie Pie. She is a very childlike character, possibly showing signs of ADHD but a damned good party planner none the less. That isn’t her job though – she is the only one not to have her own business, or be in a high up role in her job. Instead she works for an older couple who run a cake shop. She’s definitely a trusted member of staff, being left to run the shop or travelling with important competition cakes, but she’s not in charge, which makes me think she’s probably new to working but has definitely left school. I judge her as being in the 18 to 21 bracket.

So where do we rank Twilight Sparkle? Ah, she’s a student. So it sounds like my whole ‘too old for high school’ thesis is wrong eh? Nope. She is taking an incredibly high level course of study, which must be at least masters level if not PhD level. That would make her aged 21 plus. And she’s been studying for three seasons, in which we’ve seen two Christmas specials, so even if she started at 18 on a standard university undergrad course she’d be 20 by now. I think she’s around 22 – older than Pinkie Pie, similar to Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash, and younger than Rarity and Applejack.

So there you have it. If my estimates are correct, Twilight Sparkle should have walked out into a university campus in the alternate dimension. But I suppose alternate dimension is the key word isn’t it? She could have been 22 on one side, and 16 on the other.

I dread to think what it would be like to suddenly be 16 again…

Right, that’s enough of my theorising. Feel free to argue in the comments, but remember the brony code – love and tolerate the shit out of each other. I’m off to crochet ponies.