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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.

– – – – – –

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.

I was watching a House Season 8 first look video today.

Beneath it were the comments such as “so weird to hear him talking in his normal voice.” By ‘him’, of course, they meant the very, very English Hugh Laurie, whose American accent was so convincing when he auditioned for House, even the casting people didn’t realise he wasn’t from those parts.

Even for me, someone who has watched Blackadder and some scenes from Fry and Laurie, it is odd listening to Hugh’s normal voice.

But reading those comments, I felt a little bit of pride. It was an odd sense of something like patriotism, but not quite. I felt almost like I, and other British people, were lending Hugh to the Americans. We were letting them have a taste of true British style, humour and talent, and soon, we would pull it out from under their feet, just to remind them that they’re our talented actors, not theirs.

It is perhaps unthinkable that anyone could play the dry, witty, sarcastic House as well as a British actor. After all, are we not famed for that? Indeed, it has been said that people don’t always understand our sense of humour. A simple: “oh great, rain,” could be taken as though the person was genuinely happy for it to be raining. (Unlikely. We in Britain complain when it rains, and we complain when it’s 28 degrees Celsius, as it has been the last few days).

British talent is beginning to seep into the very corners of American television. Whether they’re happy about it or not remains to be seen, but a number of British actors are acting in some very high-profile roles. Hugh was one of the first of this new boom, but there was Anthony Stewart-Head before him in Buffy, and currently there is Scottish-born Kelly Macdonald in Boardwalk Empire, Jaime Murray, previously of Dexter and now in Ringer, starring alongside Welshman Ioan Gruffudd. The Walking Dead stars Andrew Lincoln of Love Actually fame, Stephen Fry has popped onto Bones for some guest appearances and Game of Thrones starred Sean Bean. Even some of America’s most loved reality shows are merely the children of British ideas: both American Idol (now the X Factor) and Dancing with the Stars are Britsh imports. And Downton Abbey came away with 4 wins at the recent Emmy Awards (beaten only by Modern Family with 5 wins). And I haven’t even started on two people who are bizarrely popular in America and presumably despised by equal amounts: Simon Cowell and Piers Morgan.

The truth is, the Brits are taking over, and are being very successful too.

There is a lot of talent sitting here on our shores. Matt Smith has walked in the shoes of some incredible Doctors in Doctor Who and the BBC have started a new iPad app in Australia, similar to BBC iPlayer so those Down Under can enjoy our programmes. Our shows are being broadcast worldwide, and the BBC is one of the most respected broadcasters.

But, just as with Hugh Laurie, our great actors are only out on loan. Because although I still feel a tiny bit proud that our British stars are being so successful over the pond, I want them back in our great award-winning shows too, eventually.

While procrastinating on Twitter, I came across the profile of a reasonably well-known BBC sports presenter. Not so well-known that I recognise him, but some people would. He described himself thus: “Cake lover, Christian, husband of 1 & father of 3”, after describing his occupation.

It got me wondering about what people use to define themselves. In this case, I supposed it was his job, his religion, his family and his love of cake, which he probably includes on Twitter as many people do also love cake. (Though I don’t actually ‘love cake’ myself).

I use Twitter to talk mostly, and unashamedly, about sport, and so my profile says: “Athletics aficionado. Hampshire supporter. Loyal Luton. Cricket nut. I am a sports addict with a passion for sport writing.” Is this how I define myself? As someone who likes sport a lot and also happens to enjoy writing? The man’s profile seems much more personal, and yet, I don’t really care that much that he loves cake. I wouldn’t follow someone on the basis of their food preferences after all.

In this man’s profile, it was the use of ‘Christian’ that intrigued me the most. I wondered how much of a difference that would make to his potential followers. Do people choose to follow him because he says he is a Christian? Would they therefore believe he has a strong moral code?

I’m happy for anyone to be whatever religion they want, as long as it’s not some sort of kitten slaughtering religion, but it surprised me that someone would use it so openly on a social networking site. I’ll admit now, I struggle with religion. It isn’t because  I’m waging a big war in my head between myself and God/s about  whether to believe in him/her/them/it or not. (I use ‘it’ because as a child I genuinely believed God was a turtle). I am just not religious at all. And I will openly admit that I don’t understand it. Not one single aspect of it.

I understand that religion plays a massive role in many people’s lives, but their religious beliefs (aside from kitten slaughter) would not have a bearing on whether or not I would follow them  on Twitter, or indeed, whether I would befriend them in real life.

That was why this man’s openness about his religion surprised me so much. Does he believe that his religion defines him just as much as his job and his family life?

I did wonder about what does actually define a person.

I decided to use his criteria to make a profile for myself: Occupation, something I like, beliefs and something that means a lot to me.

I came up with this: Student, sport lover, agnostic/atheist, hopefully good friend, daughter and girlfriend (though not to the same person. Obviously.)

I don’t like it, though. Maybe it’s different when you’re married and have children? And maybe it’s different when you actually have a religion. Indeed, I feel kind of odd about broadcasting my non-religious beliefs, in part because I feel as though I have no right to discuss religion. Does somebody with no religious beliefs have a right to talk about it? And indeed, I’m not sure I can talk about it without being offensive. On Facebook for a long time, my religion was cricket. It is now listed as pastafarianism because I think the whole thing is hysterical (and agree that creationism should not be taught alongside evolution).

Maybe it’s my lack of belief that makes me feel uneasy about people that do define themselves by their religion, as if their being was purely to be good in the eyes of God/Gods/turtles.

I suppose, because I don’t define myself by religion (and don’t really intend to), I just have to define myself by other means. I don’t really have anything to prove to anyone except myself, and and if I am a horrible person, ultimately I am only letting myself down because I don’t believe that I will go to heaven or hell for my wrongdoings.

But if I can’t define myself by my religion, nor by my family since I have no children, do I by default have no definition?

Perhaps it is better to be just a person? After all, nobody would write a rambling, nonsensical blog like I have just done about a person with nothing really to define them.

Or maybe I can be defined by my love of sport, my generally cheerful self and my enthusiasm for writing?

Any thoughts? Reply here, or send me a message on Twitter. 

Yesterday, I mentioned how Facebook may have been appealing less to the idea of friendship.

Then, suddenly, there was the announcement of Facebook Timeline and everything went crazy.

Facebook Timeline is still in the beta stages at the moment, but will become standard on the social networking site by the end of this month. I was able to change my profile to see what it would look like. Here it is:

When I first set it as my profile, it made me panic. My status updates were no longer as chronological as I would like. Instead, they seemed randomly spaced across two columns. But then, suddenly, I realised what was so amazing about it.

On the right hand side of the above photo, you can just about make out where it says ‘Now’ down to ‘Born’. If you click on ‘Born’ on my profile now, it takes you right down to a picture of when I was cute and surrounded by teddy bears. (For some reason, it also says my brother is older, even though when you click on 1992 it clearly shows that he was in fact born in 1992 and is therefore not older than me.)

But those buttons, dating from today to the day I was born is what is instantly wonderful about this new Facebook Profile. In the last hour, I have been scrolling through the years I have been on Facebook, reading statuses I forgot I made, wall posts I probably would never have read again otherwise and seeing photos that, although in folders all over my computer, I hadn’t seen in a long time. My Facebook Profile does tell you about my life.

I had to add a few things. My holiday in December 2009 to the Caribbean seemed not to exist, and my holiday to Edinburgh was not visible. A few clicks, and they appeared.

With Timeline you can choose what is visible and what isn’t. I have always said that I had nothing to hide on my Facebook, but some statuses were too uninteresting to keep visible forever. Equally, some important parts of my life were missing.

But, nagging in the back of my mind was one word: privacy, privacy, privacy. I wanted it back.

I did notice that as I created new little posts, the bottom of each one was automatically set to ‘public’. As I said yesterday, my Facebook is a very private creature, accessible only to friends and family. I did not want the details of my birth and graduation from high school open to the whole world. (Okay, the whole world would never care enough about me to read my profile, but it’s the principle that matters).

There is one important setting with the new Facebook that anyone similar to me must, must click. If you go to your privacy settings, there is an option that says: “Limit the Audience for Past Posts.” This changes all of your public posts to friends only. A big relief for people who don’t want to be accessed by the whole world.

A story caught my attention yesterday. A woman used baby photos from another woman’s Facebook to convince her ex that they had had a baby together. First off – creepy. But it does remind you that Facebook is on the internet, and the internet is a public domain.

Imagine walking into town and seeing a huge billboard filled with photos of you. It would be unnerving. Leaving your Facebook Timeline (it is not a Wall anymore) public is the same thing. Anyone can see it.

The new Timeline is wonderful. I loved reading my old messages, seeing all the things people wrote to me on my birthday and viewing all my old photographs. But nothing was automatically private. And I hated that.

In a week’s time, everyone will experience the new Facebook Timeline. Just be sure to take a look at your privacy settings when it does emerge.

By the way – the cover photo (the large photo) is public. There is no way to change this. So, be choosy over your cover photo.