How To Be Good

How To Be Good

It's a long time since I read Nick Hornby's book  and I don't remember much of the detail, but it is not surprising that I was d...

Saturday, 21 September 2019

A Scary Weekend in Galway

Something terrifying happened to me last weekend. 

All of my worst fears came together in one place.

Night demons, insomnia, sleep paralysis.

Zombies, with insatiable appetites, begging me to help them.

Insensitive robots, robbing me of my humanity.

Murder, homicide, manslaughter. Bodies in fields. 


Ungrateful heartsink patients. 

Patients that are too nice. 

Nurses from Roscommon.

Cancer talk.

Death talk (with details).

Outpourings of love.

Absolutely terrifying. 

I wish it had never ended.


Saturday, 31 August 2019

The Trope of Tralee

I want to be really critical about an opinion piece I read in the paper, but my criticism is that the author is being over-critical, and the irony is holding me back.


Ok, that didn't last long.

The Rose of Tralee is a peculiarly Irish phenomenon which has taken place at the end of every summer for the past sixty years. It is a competition for women, and the prize is to become the Rose of Tralee for a year, which means that the woman travels around Ireland, and the world, as a sort of tourism ambassador. There are financial awards through sponsorship and brand-endorsement deals, the use of a new car for a year, publicity shots, media coverage, and a nice tiara. A number of former Roses have gone on to develop media careers afterwards, but many more simply continue with their own profession once their year as a Rose has drawn to a close.

So we have educated professional women, from many walks of life, from reasonably diverse backgrounds (the women represent the Irish diaspora from all over the world), who apply to showcase themselves for an opportunity to represent their country on an international stage. 

If men were doing this, we would call it profile-raising, talent-showcasing, self-promotion. We would respect and admire them for putting themselves out there and showing self-belief. We would decide that one of them was better than the others, and we would respect that the judging committee would make a decision based on their overall suitability for the job. 

Because they are women, many, many, exhaustingly many, people feel that this competition should be disparaged as a "beauty contest", a "lovely girls competition". They deride and belittle the women, the judges, the presenter and anyone else who has anything to do with it. They rant about it being sexist, anti-feminist, antiquated. 

The particular article that has got my blood boiling, describes how the author watched the show (for just fifteen minutes), and found herself judging the women for how they presented themselves, and wasn't that terrible. She then (without duress, presumably) went to Twitter to see what other people were saying about the women. She thinks this is awful and terrible too, as she scrolled down (possibly tittering slightly when she read some of the wittier comments). But she mostly tutted, and sucked her teeth, and thought "those poor exploited women, would nobody put a sheet over their heads and escort them back to their mammies so that we can stop judging them". 

Not a notion of the irony of describing herself as a "rampant feminist" and yet dismissing thirty-two adult women's independent decisions to enter a competition which is based on how they represent themselves to a large audience. Yes, they wear lovely dresses. As do I, when I am hoping to make a good impression. They get their hair done, choose their [product-placement] jewellery carefully, put on make-up. Again, pretty much universal behaviour for women who wish to show themselves at their best. Men in a similar situation would likely wear a good suit, shiny shoes (maybe even without socks - shudder), have a hot towel shave, and do some silly flicky thing with their hair. I have judged those men in that sentence, exactly as I would do if they were up on stage. That is what we do! We are always judging and being judged. The world is hierarchical, and that is how it is. 

The author then moves on to discussing women's magazines, and the Daily Mail's Sidebar of Shame (of which I was blissfully ignorant, but she apparently is very familiar with). She criticises the tabloid culture of body-shaming and the objectification of women. She then snidely comments that some women are complicit in this, having tipped off the paparazzi and therefore presumably profiting from their own images. Shock horror. 

OF COURSE these hate rags are evil and sexist and racist and exploitative. I have just watched the Jade Goody documentary, and it raises so many questions about consent and privacy, but also about a person's right to exploit those publications right back by playing the game against them. Jade squeezed every last drop out of those vultures, and vice versa. Who had the moral high ground? The woman who saw the opportunity to earn  bucketloads of money for the boys she knew she was leaving, or the now-disgraced editors and PR agents? 

Yes society should not work this way. Yes people should be judged solely on their achievements, professionally and personally, and not on the size of their breasts or the pertness of their arse. 

But to dismiss a woman's choice to stand on a stage (fully clothed) and to tell her story, to represent her county or country, to showcase her talents and to do so in a competitive environment is one of the most anti-feminist things I have ever heard. That she does not see the hypocrisy in deriding these women is simply jaw-dropping. 

We should be lauding those women's self-confidence, self-belief and self-worth. 
Because that is what ill-informed, snide, uneducated commentary can strip away from women. 
If they choose to consume that kind of dirge. 

They could just read better newspapers. 

Wednesday, 7 August 2019


I’m going to go out on a limb here. 

Stage 4, metastatic, advanced cancer. 
Not the same as terminal. 
It is likely to become terminal, but it is not the same. 
You can be one, and not the other (with a probable yet in brackets).
So arbitrary rules that apply to terminal illness do not automatically apply to stage 4 cancer.
Free medical care for all would be a wonderful thing. Free medical care for all cancer patients would be a wonderful thing. 
But health economics is a tricky complicated multi-faceted balancing act, and unfortunately at present it is simply not possible to provide free healthcare for all of those people (remembering that 50% of us will get cancer). So then we need to decide which cancers are more cancerous than others. Well, there’s no stage 5, so stage 4 wins, right? 
But I still work as much as I can, and I am lucky enough to have income protection payments. I don’t have to have any treatment currently. I am well. And I have stage 4 cancer.

I don’t believe I should automatically get a medical card.

I’ve said it. 

Another perk that terminal patients get is amnesty from all public confrontation, criticism or approbation. 

Unfortunately I realise I have talked myself out of deserving that. 

It is one of the things I look forward to, when my time comes. 
But I am not entitled to it yet.