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Metaphorical Elephants has moved to a new location!

Check out www.sarahchristinerobinson.com for all of my writing.

This evening, I stumbled upon this article by a criminologist who claims that no one has heard of serial killer Mary Ann Cotton. It’s true of course, that she isn’t as famous as Jack the Ripper and certainly isn’t the first who pops to mind when you consider serial killers. Nevertheless, I immediately knew her name.

It only took me a minute to realise why: “Mary Ann Cotton was ever so rotten.” Or perhaps: “Mary Ann Cotton, she’s dead and she’s rotten.”

Those who know the name Terry Deary and are familiar with the Horrible History books may recognise those rhymes instantly. They come from ‘The Vile Victorians’.

What interests me is not that this criminologist has wrong asserted that no one knows who this woman is. It is the fact that her name has stayed in my head, even though it was about ten years ago that I last read a Horrible History book.

It isn’t the name Mary Ann Cotton that has stayed in my head. I am admittedly awful with names, and only remember them after repeating them constantly in my head. I am a face person. It was the Horrible Histories rhyme that has stayed with me, and proves just how rhyme – and song – can last in your head.

A friend of mine recently visited an old person’s home, many of whom are suffering with a form of dementia. They don’t always remember where they are, the fact that their parents have been long gone, and wander around in circles trying to get somewhere. And yet, they remember the really old songs they used to listen to as teenagers and adults.

There must be many scientific studies that explain why people remember songs and poems throughout their lives, but all I can offer is that it’s very useful to remember rhymes.

It can be useful when remembering dates or names or places.

And songs can trigger memories in the way very few other things can. I can’t listen to Stacie Orrico without thinking about playing The Sims on my Playstation, because I always had her CD on for background noise whenever I played it.

It’s nice to think that even if my brain turns to mush, there may always be something that links me to myself and my personality. Or at least, I can hope so.

I have never really used LoveFilm, though a friend of mine does get sent the DVDs. I have never used their streaming service, however, so I will not be comparing the two.

I stream a lot of TV and films over the internet already, although I watch these either alone or with the boyfriend. DVD watching has always been a much more sociable activity as lots of people can crowd around a television and enjoy the film.

I decided to sign up for the Netflix free trial to watch Breaking Bad, since I knew the show had good reviews and all of my favourite shows were currently off the air.

I don’t think I would ever have become a regular Netflix user, and I possibly still won’t be with the £5.99 a month price tag attached. However, I got a Nintendo Wii at Christmas and it turns out that I can use Netflix on it. And suddenly, streaming films and TV shows has become a sociable activity, since I can use the Wii to display films on the TV.

There is still, I feel, a limited collection on Netflix. It has not got the full four seasons of Breaking Bad, though it does have the complete season of Prison Break. It has a few BBC and ITV programmes I perhaps would watch, and a few documentaries I’d never have heard of and would find interesting.

Its film collection is sadly very limited. It has a couple of films I really like (Philadelphia, Kill Bill, Stigmata), a few I’d never heard of but think could be interesting (Once, Black Book) and a few I know I definitely do not want to see (Top Gun, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang). Popular mainstream films are in limited supply on Netflix. Currently, anyway. There’s no Star Wars, no Lord of the Rings, no Matrix. There are a few interesting independent films, a lot of children films (though no Disney or Pixar) and quite a lot of Quentin Tarantino.

I wouldn’t pay for the service now. I think its collection of TV shows are too limited. I’m currently making my way through The West Wing, which aired in 1999, and that isn’t present on the Netflix service. Potentially though, if they are able to add new shows as they are released it could be a much more desirable service. Boardwalk Empire, for example, was recently released on DVD and would be very welcome on Netflix.

Potentially, Netflix will be an excellent service in the UK. I don’t know how many more films it has in the USA, where it is already very popular, but I presume its library is much more substantial. I would wait a little bit longer to sign up for a paid subscription, but I wouldn’t rule it out.

For some reason, the BBC haven’t put their video of the One Show from last night on BBC iPlayer yet. But I must ask – how many people who are complaining about Jeremy Clarkson’s comments today actually watched the One Show yesterday?

I ask, because anyone who did would realise Clarkson did not just say he wanted to shoot all of the strikers.

Only five seconds earlier, he spoke in support of their actions.

Then, Matt Baker or Alex Jones said something along the lines of it being quite mild-mannered or generous for Clarkson.

And then, only then, did Clarkson say the comments that are appearing all over the press today.

Jeremy Clarkson gave two separate, differing opinions on the strikers, and it is unclear which of these opinions is the genuine one. When the show comes onto BBC iPlayer I will transcribe the whole thing, so people can see what was actually said. It’s not as one-sided as the media the the unions are making out.

Before I write further on the issue of the BBC’s neutrality in regards to climate change, let me first state my position: I am a climate change sceptic. I will accept that the climate of the Earth may be changing, just as it has always changed. But I do believe it is an issue fueled by political agenda, rather than true science. And I do feel that scientists who offer alternative views for climate change are generally ignored. The scientific pursuit of ‘truth’ in the issue of climate change is therefore not being achieved.

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A few years ago, I watched a series of fascinating programmes on the Natural History Museum in London. The series gave excellent insights into the museum’s history, exhibits and the scientific research it continues to do. Then Jimmy Docherty ruined the entire series by mentioning ‘global warming’ and ‘climate change’. It had no relevance to any part of the series, and it felt to me as though I was being preached to.

Many BBC programmes touch on the subject of climate change, to the point that it’s almost inescapable. Even if you do believe wholeheartedly in it, it is enough to make you switch channels. ‘Frozen Planet’, the new BBC series narrated by David Attenborough has been truly wonderful, but the final episode has been rejected from the package in the USA because of its focus on climate change, and the fact that many people in the US would not accept it because of their climate change scepticism. I wish they wouldn’t ruin such a fascinating series with a whole episode dedicated to the assumption that the Earth as we know it will soon turn into something out of The Day After Tomorrow.

It has recently been revealed that the BBC has been accepting money from environmental organisations to produce programmes that follow their agendas. For example, a Mauritus-based company selling ‘carbon offsets’ had given the BBC money to make a programme, and it is evident that the BBC is forcing the issue on wind farms. The issue has been present on shows including The One Show and Countryfile.

It has already been decided on the BBC that the consensus on global warming was so overwhelming that it should be their policy to to actively promote it. In doing so, their aim was to keep  doubters off the airwaves.

This position is equally evident in the BBC’s enviornmental correspondent Richard Black’s recent article on the climate emails. The title ‘Climate emails: storm or yawn?’ suggests an impartial and neutral article, as generally expected on the BBC. What actually exists is accusations of email theft and the suggestion that the emails could have been doctored by the hacker.

One of the emails exposed by someone simply called FOIA, is from Alex Kirby, a correspondant with the BBC. He says: 

 But we are constantly being savaged by the loonies for not giving them any coverage at all, especially as you say with the COP in the offing, and being the objective impartial (ho ho) BBC that we are, there is an expectation in some quarters that we will every now and then let them say something. I hope though that the weight of our coverage makes it clear that we think they are talking through their hats.

Kirby seems to think the BBC’s impartiality is a joke, and it is clear that the BBC is not aiming for neutrality in the case of global warming.

If the Climategate emails tell us anything, it is that climate change is not as clear-cut an issue as the BBC promotes, and that even the scientists are aware that there isn’t always enough data to prove it comprehensively. The BBC however, refuses to represent this view, and instead remains a staunch promoter of climate change, despite the remaining doubts in the public, and most important, the scientists themselves.

A few weeks ago, I was in Athens for a holiday. As any good tourist in Greece does, I visited the Acropolis, enjoyed some delicious moussaka and spent two lazy days on the beach, basking in the sunshine. It was, however, impossible to ignore the financial tensions currently gripping the country.

On two separate days during our visit, we were confronted by strike action.

When we first arrived, we saw that strike action was already proposed for the 5th October, and so we did have a little bit of warning. It turned out that it was a transport strike, which put the rest of Athens at a complete standstill. All of the main tourist attractions were closed, including the Acropolis (as we found out when we walked to the top of the hill), the Ancient Agora and National Gardens. Luckily, we did find some things tdo amuse ourselves with, even if the day didn’t run quite as initially planned. Indeed, when we got to the Acropolis, we met with a Japanese TV crew who were there to talk to some tourists about the inconvenience caused by the strikes.

The second strike occurred when we were on the coast in Glyfada on the 10th October, when we were forced to get a taxi to the airport rather than a bus as initially planned, as the transport industry was refusing to work again.

Student protest posters at the university

Our hotel in central Athens was not in the nicest area of Athens, being away from the main Plaka area. Aside from the graffiti that was pretty much everywhere, prostitution was rife. I didn’t notice it at first, but after seeing the same women in the same place day after day, it was pretty obvious what they were there for. We even saw some of the women joking with the police, but another being taken into a police station. In Greece, prostitution is actually legal, all brothels must have permits and the women must carry a medical card that is updated every two weeks. Nevertheless, Greece does have a problem with women being illegally trafficked into the country and being pushed into prostitution, and a rise in HIV is being linked to prostitution and drugs. 

Drug abuse was also noticeable in the area we stayed in. We saw what could only be a drug deal taking place in a car parked at the edge of the road, one man sitting at a bus stop staring into space and another woman on a doorstep, a box of chips at her side and a souvlaki with a few bites taken out of it still in her hand; she had fallen asleep eating. One man stood in the metro station, bent over double. Even in the more touristy areas, people slept on the streets.

The truth is that while bus and tram drivers went on strike, there are people with serious problems that the government simply cannot afford to help. There are even reports of people purposely injecting themselves with needles used by people with HIV as a way of getting the added benefits associated with being infected with the disease.

While in the nicer areas Athens, surrounded with nice shops and restaurants, it was easy to forget about the protests. All that was reported on the news stations was of the strikes themselves, but even the British press have got tired of that story. But out in the open, just around the corner from my hotel was the real, human impact of the financial crisis. And it’s much worse than I ever expected it to be.

The fact is that Greece is a European country but some of its people are suffering in a way people in a European country should not. Their government has made some truly diabolical errors with their finances, but ultimately, it is always the normal person that suffers most. There is no real answer to the problem, and we can only hope that they can pull themselves out of the mire before even more people end up on the streets or addicted to drugs.

The BBC published an article suggesting that students’ mental health is ‘at risk’ because of concerns over finances and future job prospects, among other things.

I can’t speak for previous generations, but I can definitely understand why there are concerns.

There are more reasons beside those stated in the article too.

It was hard going to university having been top of the class at most things both in high school and sixth form. I achieved 100% in most of my A Level Law papers, and went to university feeling as though I couldn’t fail at anything.

The first grades at university were hard to take. A 55, meaning a 2:2, wasn’t fun. It felt like a complete failure. Thankfully, it didn’t count and I have improved, which is always a good thing. But there is a problem. I don’t know where my current grades stand against everyone else in the year. I don’t know if I’m terrible in reality, good or just average. No idea whatsoever. And I can’t ask random people their grades – that’s just mean.

I cried when I got that 55. Just alone in my room. I loved university though. I still do. I loved the people I lived with, I loved my course, I loved the amazing nights out, I loved the new boyfriend I unexpectedly acquired. But I found it hard to get used to no longer being ‘top of the class’.

There are probably numerous reasons why I feel more apprehensive than I ever have before. On October 12th, I start my third year. I have a vague idea of what I’d like to do when I finish, but believe I came up with these plans too late to get a job in that industry when I leave. The media has filled me with horror stories about employment. In my head, it feels like I’ll never get a job. Too educated for a shop, not enough experience for anything else. And I can’t afford a Postgrad. But I’ll probably need those qualifications to get into journalism. So I’d have to get some sort of job to fund it. But what to do?

But I can’t live with my parents. I need to move out. I do like living here over the summer, don’t get me wrong. It’s secure and happy. But I miss the independence I get back at uni. I miss cooking my own meals, eating them when I like, eating what I like. I haven’t had one of my yummy Thai curries in ages.

I have bouts of anxiety now. Not diagnosed anxiety, but just feelings of being totally overwhelmed. Sometimes, daydreaming, I imagine some nice future with a job I love and a really pretty little flat in London. But then reality strikes – I have no idea how to get there. The media makes me feel as though it is unachievable; the economy too poor, there are no jobs. And who would want me anyway? I just come with a mismatch of work experience placements.

If students are suffering with their mental health more than ever before, I can believe it. Every time I think about leaving education, it makes me feel a little bit ill. I don’t know what I’m actually good for. And I do know I can’t live with my parents for more than a year. But I’d need money to move out. Therefore, a job. But it won’t be easy to get one of those, supposedly.

Most students will feel the same as I do. But the truth is, many of us find it too horrible to think about. So, we don’t discuss it that much. I think if we did, I’d probably spend more time in tears than I’d like, and I refuse to cry in public. So I just quite feel alone.

– – – –

Apologies for the sad tone. I’m actually quite upbeat generally. But the BBC article struck me somehow. It’s a tough year ahead, and I hate not knowing where it’s going. But bear with me. I’m sure I’ll figure something out eventually.