Why the anorexia hoody shouldn’t be banned

There’s been a bit of controversy this week because Amazon have been selling this hoody;

Understandably the crass, unfunny top which mocks two eating disorders has come under fire for its insensitivity and many are calling on the online giant to remove it from their site.

I can understand why many feel this way but I don’t think it should be banned. And here’s why.

It’s late September and a new university year begins. And that is who this hoody is geared to, a certain type of student.

Invariably male, they find themselves free of parental objections and flushed with student loan and overdraft. They’re online buying a Scarface poster when they see this hoody. It’s an obviously dark joke, so wearing it will show how edgy and grown up they are. They don’t shy away from jokes about eating disorders, no sir, and they’ll buy this to show the world how brave they are.

And that’s why they need to be able to buy it. Because they need to show the world, and the world needs to be shown.

Other students can see their unfunny attitudes early, before they waste more time on them. It’ll warn people to stay away, and move on to talk to someone who’s t-shirt doesn’t wear something so nastily stupid.

And if someone else sees them and thinks “funny, cool shirt” then two morons can come together and spend the next three years laughing at mean memes and playing Pro Evo leaving everyone else to enjoy their university experience.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


In defence of Prince Charles

Right, to lay out my position on the Royals. I’m pretty much neutral. I won’t be bending the knee anytime soon, but I’m not calling for us to wheel out the guillotine. I think they seem nice enough people, if odd, and do some good work for the country, through charity and tourism, but I just think the millions we spend on them could be put to better use somewher else.

One thing I don’t get is the rabid enthusiasm and obsession some people have with them. They’re just another group of celebrities, so why all the fuss?

And speaking of fuss…

This month marks 20 years since the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. As such the press has been going nuts about it, catering to a seemingly bottomless reserve of national obsession and voyeurism.

There are TV shows, magazines, newspaper features and the re-emergence of various parasitic people who have exploited their connection with Diana for fame or wealth.

While some seems to have been handled with delicacy, particularly an interview with her sons on ITV. However, depressingly an old, familiar story is being told, that of Diana as a near saint and the villain of the piece being played by her ex, Prince Charles.

I’m not going to say that Chuck was guilt free in their trainwreck marriage, but it seems like there was fault on both sides and other factors at work. Charles’ relationship with Camilla has been tainted for some by the fact that it was going on behind Di’a back. But more on that later.

As all this stuff gets raked up over and over the more tactful at least think how it effects William and Harry, but as his failed marriage is disected once again nobody gives a damn about Charles’ feelings. Or if they do it’s in stupid ways:

In answer, no. No, he won’t. Because I’m assuming he’s not a massive bellend and appreciates that his sons will miss their mum, and that their love for her doesn’t mean they don’t love him.

One of the most controversial things in this prolonged and ugly time of “tribute” was the Channel 4 documentary. This featured tapes of Diana talking candidly about her marriage and divorce, possibly because she felt it was private.

So complete is Diana’s ascension to secular saint status that everything she said was received as gospel. 

Look, we’ve all had mates who have gone through break ups. They come over and they get it all off their chest. You offer sympathy, you take their side but you take it with a pinch of a salt. You’re getting one, highly biased, version of events. It’s heavily edited highlights.

Of course, your buddy’s ex can fight their corner and this is the part that sucks for Charles. He can’t.

First of all, he’s been raised to be King. A King doesn’t go running his mouth to the press, he has to keep his personal feelings hidden, maintain a regal persona.

Secondly, even if he could he’d be bad mouthing the dead and the public would go nuts over it.

And most importantly, Charles probably doesn’t want to go and drag Diana’s name through the mud. Because he knows that it would hurt his boys.

Which means he has to keep quiet as he is turned into the villain. The hatred of Charles has ebbed and flowed over the years, but with the 20th anniversary madness it’s all been stirred up again.

Recent polls have shown that people want William to be King next, showing a startling lack of knowledge of how monarchies work. You don’t pick. It’s whoever is next in line and that is Charles.

If you want a daft, old fashioned system you have to follow the rules or else it may as well just be an open public vote for the next monarch. And if the field is open we could have someone more fun than William.

Charles and Diana probably should never have married. But they did, and it went wrong. As with many things it’s not a black and white situation.

The thing is that I find silly is that people regard Charles’ divorce as grounds for him being unsuitable for the big chair. This is stupid because (a) other monarchs have got divorced and (b) it’s 2017. Attitudes towards divorce have changed, thankfully and there are no other jobs where having divorced would cost you the gig.

I’ve always felt in a perfect world Charlie would have just married Camilla right away and Diana could have had a longer, more peaceful life away from the press.

I find it hard to understand why anyone begrudges Charles for having gone on to find happiness with Camilla and remarry. They seem to have real affection and connection, and it seems unfair that she should get blasted along with him for that. 

Charles and Camilla loving life. Of course they are, they’re with Brian Blessed!

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

Book Review: Twenty Tales from the War Zone by John Simpson

Like a lot of Brits, a lot of the major news stories of my life were delivered through my TV by John Simpson, the BBC’s foreign correspondent who always seemed to be in the most dangerous places. While he was often shown hunkering down as bullets and bombs flew, or engaged in a tense interview with a dictator, away from the news he seemed a affable, funny man. This book is a mix of both sides.

Each chapter is either based around a place or person, and it reads like a newer verse of “We Didn’t Start the Fire” dealing with the major stories of the last 40 years or so. The Troubles in Belfast, rebellion in Iran and Czechoslovakia, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, interviews with Gadaffi and Bin Laden and the fall of the Berlin Wall all appear.

They are quick accounts, but utterly fascinating all the same, with Simpson capturing the tension and peril, but also with little glimpses of wry humour and excitement. He enjoys the absurdity of sneaking into Afghanistan in a burqa or of meeting an old university friend at MI6 HQ. There’s an enthusiasm and focus on getting a story that runs throughout the book, and is obviously the driving force that made him go towards situations most would rather run from.

The tone shifts but the book flows well, and it works, capturing the scope of emotions he has experienced in his career. Simpson handles all of these well enough and his writing is involving.

This is a quick read, but it is a satisfying one. I will definitely check out the other books that Simpson has written.

Verdict: A good taster of Simpson’s stories and experiences as a reporter, the no frills writing is engaging and entertaining throughout. It’s an interesting glimpse of a life spent around historical momenta. 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

15 Minutes Blog #GE2017: The Trouble with Trident

The hate filled rag that is the Daily Mail today used it’s front page to attack Jeremy Corbyn. This is standard fare for the paper, which is so Tory it may as well be publisher with blue ink.

The reason for the attack was that Corbyn refused to answer if he would use Trident, the UK’s nuclear weapons, to “defend Britain”. I’m sure to the core readership of the paper this is further evidence of the hippy’s weakness as a potential leader and he should have answered the question.

The problem is that you can’t use Trident to defend Britain. It doesn’t stop a nuclear attack on the UK, not in a weaponized sense. Trident won’t shoot Russian nukes out of the sky. It works because nobody with nukes will attack us because they know we can retaliate. 

Mutually assured destruction is how the nuclear arms situation works. Nobody fires because they know if they do, that’s all she wrote.

This always makes me wonder if perhaps we could save money and bluff. Say we’re renewing Trident, keep the subs milling about but actually use the cash to shore up the NHS on the quiet. Or fund school lunches. You know something useful that wouldn’t potentially end mankind.

Corbyn has been attacked for not agreeing with the continued funding of Trident. But it’s a reasonable thing to object to. In times of austerity why continue to pay billions upon billions for a weapon that will probably never be used. Why not sit with other nuclear powers and discuss this? Find some way to end the stalemate that has reigned since the USSR built it’s first nuke, kickstarting the tense face off of the Cold War.

A British PM would only use a nuke in two situations- if they went nuts and fired first, or as a retaliation. Neither is a defensive move. If Russia, for example, wanted to it would only take around 10 bombs of 100 megaton payloads to essentially wipe out Britain aside from a few folks in the Highlands and other remote areas. That’s every major town and city gone. (You can work all this out on the depressing Nukemap website).

At that point firing our nukes isn’t defending ourselves, it’s a final, needless retaliation. 

Who could morally justify firing at that point? We’d be down and out, and the last action of Britain in the history books would be lashing out. Condemning millions of innocents to death without hope of victory or any greater strategy beside a vengeful “f××k you” from our death bed.

In that situation you hope a leader would react with compassion and not rage. To resist the urge to fire back, to stop the death and destruction there and not add more to the radioactive pyre.

The nuke question is routinely trotted out. Corbyn wouldn’t give the “if necessary” answer because quite frankly it will never be necessary. The other nuclear powers can’t use theirs for fear of what it would unleash. So, why not just say “no, I wouldn’t use nukes”.

Well, Corbyn would have been attacked for this. Look at the lefty loony who says he won’t slaughter millions and leave countless others suffering and disease, what a wimp!

I would be far more worried of a PM candidate who could glibly answer yes to the nuke question or worse gleefully announce that they would have no remorse pressing the button. 

But thankfully none of the leaders seem that cracked. Although, has anyone asked Paul Nuttall?

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

15 Minutes #GE2017: Who to vote for?

The general election is fast approaching, and I thought I’d write about it on my blog. However, to stop it just turning into a massive rant I’m keeping it simple and to a 15 minute timer. So here we go.


Ever since Theresa May announced the snap election a few weeks back the British press has been working itself up. The parties have been scrutinised, they’ve made announcements and they’ve started pitching their manifestos.

Now, I think voting is something everyone should do but I can understand people’s hesitation and doubts over our current system. I’m living in a different constituency at the moment, one currently held by the Conservatives and it leaves me in an odd position of not knowing who to vote for.

Under a proportional representation system it would be simple enough, and I would just pick the party I agree with the most. However, the first past the post measure that we employ in the UK means that there has to be some tactical voting, which sucks as it means voting against someone instead of for.

I’m currently inclined to vote for Plaid Cymru, as I respect their leader, agree with their policies and as we blunder into Brexit talks, would like someone to speak up for Wales in a way that I don’t think the other parties will.


However, Plaid aren’t much of a force in the Vale of Glamorgan and so it’s likely to come down to Labour vs the Tories.

The Tories are right out of course. Their austerity push has just caused people to suffer and there is a startling lack of empathy about them. Witness how the NHS is doing in England under Tory rule. I also don’t like the “no deal is better than a bad deal” argument and the bullishness approaching Brexit.

And frankly, I don’t trust the Tories to serve the public properly. And I don’t want to see the NHS slowly fall apart until they can justify scrapping it. Look at healthcare in the States, and you realise that for all it’s flaws, the NHS is a brilliant creation and something we should be proud of.

So, to stop them do I vote for Plaid and hope they have an upswing in support? Or do I vote for Labour, a party I don’t have much warmth for.

Here’s the thing, I regard Labour as better than the Tories, but that’s taken a beating in my lifetime. It was a Labour government that lied to the public and entered an illegal war which has caused far more problems than any it solved.

And the party hasn’t helped itself over the last year or so with some monumental gaffes, infighting and by failing to stage a meaningful opposition to the Tories. Theresa May isn’t a strong PM, but she’s never really had to look like one because Corbyn has been so ineffectual on the opposite side of the house.

He seems a decent bloke, and some of his ideas are sound, but I can’t see him as a leader and I think Labour are so fractured that they would struggle to hold it together. May might have pushed the “strong and stable” line to hard, but at least the Tories all seem capable of falling in line behind a leader. Labour seem to have split, and there’s a nastiness to both factions. They’ve made it alarmingly easy for the Tories, by looking massively incompetent and disorganised in opposition.

Worse yet, Corbyn has announced that he won’t make a coalition with other parties, which seems foolhardy. If both of the parties fail to secure a majority he’ll be in an impossible position, either holding to his position and allowing the Tories to form a coalition and retain power, or else go back on his word and catch hell for it.

No, I think as a party leader you have to acknowledge that if you don’t get a majority you’ll do your best for the public and form a coalition with like minded parties.

As for the other parties? Well, there’s not much there:

  • The Lib Dems- They have a few decent policies and have cleverly set themselves up as the anti-Brexit party after Labour put up very little resistence to May’s plans. But the sting of 2010 still lingers and they don’t seem to have much of a chance.
  • The Greens- I admire the Greens for their enthusiasm, and they have some decent policies, but they haven’t got a hope, have they?
  • UKIP- Never.
  • Independents- They may be well meaning but I can’t think of one who actually made it to Westminster, and once there they are a lone voice. That being said, with the right manifesto and the right candidate it’s a possibility.

I guess I still have some thinking to do on this before I go to the polls.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

Hey, speedy! You are a real criminal!

Apparently the punishment for being caught speeding is going to be stricter in the UK from next month (source). The announcement has been covered in a weird way by the press in a way that highlights an odd view of speeding we have here.

There are frequent articles in the tabloids where they whinge about speed cameras. The general feel is that this is a waste of police time and they should be going after “the real criminals”.

Here’s the thing, if you’re speeding YOU ARE A CRIMINAL. You’re breaking the law, and putting others at risk. Why this isn’t seen as a real crime boggles the mind, especially as the same papers are ready and willing to pile on when someone kills a kid while speeding.

If you regularly speed but haven’t had an accident yet, it doesn’t mean you’re a great driver. It means you’re lucky. Ayrton Senna was a great driver, and it didn’t work out for him.

The whole coverage is bizarre. They talk about speed cameras and anti-speeding measures like their some kind of cheap trick. That it’s grossly unfair.

People share where the vans are on Facebook like their getting one over on the cops and this is a good thing. But imagine any other crime handled the same way.

“Word to the wise, the police have got sniffer dogs at the airport! Don’t let the bastards catch you out!”

“Coppers caught me stealing a TV. I explained mine was broke and X Factor was about to start but they didn’t care. Heartless pricks.”

“The one time I assault someone I get arrested. Why aren’t the cops out there arresting real criminals instead of hassling people like me?”

It’s ludicrous. Take the Metro article and the headline:

“Here’s what you need to know” and yet the article isn’t just “Don’t Speed!” in big letters.

So, the punishment has got worse, you shouldn’t have been doing it anyway. 

It’s simple enough- there is a law for how fast you can go. It is a law designed to protect you and others. If you exceed it you are breaking the law and a criminal.

You can whine, you can make excuses, but the way to avoid the fines and hassle? Obey the speed limit.

Drive safe.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO. 

A belated thank you to Dr Heimlech

This weekend saw the passing of Dr Henry Heimlich, famous for his life saving technique. I’m not going to lie reading his brief obit from the Beeb there were two things that hit me (a) surprise, as I thought he was already dead and (b) shock, as I’d assumed the manoeuvre had been around a lot longer.

1974?! It took us longer to work out how to stop someone choking than it did to get to the moon! 

The manoeuvre being used by Mrs Doubtfire

Anyway, I felt bad that he had only just died as I should have probably written and thanked him because without the good doctor’s invention I wouldn’t be writing this post.

Back in the early nineties I was on the yard at primary school eating an aniseed ball and reenacting the death of a minor film character when the sweet lodged itself in my throat and began to choke. Panic rose in my friends and I but we hurried inside and found a dinner lady.

They may have almost killed me but I am now massively craving some

The dinner lady, her name sadly forgotten, kept a cool head and several abdominal thrusts (as the manoeuvre is known as by many) later the red sweet hurled from my mouth, skittering across the school corridor.
So, thank you anonymous dinner lady and Doctor Heimlich, for saving my life and stopping me from being a playground legend and warning against sweets.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

15 Minute Blog: Out and Down

I could write for hours about today’s events, but let’s keep this brief, shall we?

Britain has voted to leave the EU. Yesterday, reassuring MWF I had said that I felt the British people would do the right thing and not gamble the future on nostalgic nationalism, fear and intolerance.

I gave my countrymen too much credit.


And so we are out.

It feels unreal, and watching Nigel Farage celebrating is enough to chill the blood. This is the face of the British future, a rich, upper class toff cheering after he duped a nation into voting against it’s best interests.


Areas like Neath Port Talbot voted to leave despite the fact that it is the EU that provides funding for these deprived areas. And now they have decided to shut the door, and must hope that a Tory government in Westminster matches that money.


That is all I have left. The hope that our fears are not realised and that this is a step toward a better and brighter Britain, but I doubt it is.

The whole leave campaign has been built to play to the national character’s worst traits- misplaced nationalism, fear, intolerance and greed. Fear of the other, the different.

People who still see Britain as a global powerhouse, the country that ruled the world. But we’re not anymore. We are a small country, with no great industry left and must hope that we can forge trade deals on our own. That we can stand alone after leaving a network of support and cooperation.

Should the Leave gamble fail, we can’t just hit a reset button. And the next few years could get rough.

And going forward we seem to be lurching to the right. Anti-migrant feeling was stoked during the campaign, and they made out that somehow we had lost Britain and needed to “take it back”, and once that xenophobic genie is out if the bottle, we ain’t getting it back in. Bigots like Britain First and some UKIP supporters will be emboldened by this, and minorities must be anxious about what our future holds.

The whole Leave campaign played the ill informed masses like a fiddle. It used revolutionary language about “taking control”, “a new era” and “people power” but it was an act.

A new era? We will still have a Tory public school boy in Downing Street, it will just be a different one and Farage and Johnson are not the anti-establishment figures some view them as. Johnson is a dyed in the wool Tory, and Farage is just another toff who decided that he had a better chance carving out a niche with UKIP than as a Tory. That they convinced the working class voters that they were standing up for them beggars belief and celebration over David Cameron stepping down feels foolhardy.

Yes, Cameron is gone, but it will be another Tory who takes over and we will still be following the same theme. In fact we may even see them grow more right wing and able to do more now they are free of the EU and it’s policies. The hydra’s head regrows.

I am trying to stay hopeful. But as the future stretches out before us it seems a dark and uncertain path, and I expect there to be many stumbles on the way.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

Votey McVotefarce (see what I did there?)

Yesterday was election day here in the UK, with the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and English councils being decided. There were also mayoral elections in London and other cities.

As a lecturing do-gooder I urged my “friends” on social media to get down to the polls and vote, but at least I didn’t write a whole blog about it this time.

Election day is full of frustration as people whine about how pointless the whole thing is. If I hear that “if voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal” quote one more time I will explode. It’s almost as bad as the “all are bad as each other” argument. Really? You’re putting the Greens, who want us to look after nature, at the same level as Britain First, a bunch of moronic racists?


There are clearly parties that are worse than others, and that you disagree with less, so you have a preference. State it! At the very least your vote will diminish the numbers for the part you like least, and they may loose their deposit.

So, your vote does matter, and you should use it!

Although it is hard making this argument as after a day devoted to democracy the government then torpedoed a vote.

You probably heard that earlier this it was decided that the UK needed a new Arctic research boat. No big deal, but then it caught fire, because of the arrival of a well intentioned idiot, who decides that the population would get to suggest and vote for the name of the ship.

This is the British public who love a laugh and chance to take the mickey. This was a free vote, and the British public have illustrated that they will pay for this opportunity. Don’t believe me? Jedward, Irish talent voids made it to 6th place on the X Factor!


So, after a few suggestions of questionable names, one took on a life of it’s own.

Boaty McBoatface.

You can see why it took off. It was silly without being offensive, and it does make you smile. The first time.

It gained steam and stormed to an impressive lead, prompting some to complain that it was an insult to arctic researchers, demeaning and awkward to use on the radio.

So, democracy wins, launch Boaty McBoatface!

Ummm, no.

They decided it was silly and named it Sir David Attenborough.

Now, I have nothing but affection and respect for Sir David. Don’t all Brits? But it seems unfair to ignore the will of the people, even if it is a name we don’t object to.


No disrespect, sir.

If you ask for a vote you have to honour it. It’s your fault that you didn’t put in some kind of selection process or filter, you left the door open and the jokers stormed in. Deal with it.

Anyway, rant over. Despite my ire can we stop the Boaty McBoatface gags now? It’s all played out.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

Kids on Strike

It sounds like a dream. It sounds like something my ten year old self would have lost his mind over. A strike from school, all of us deciding to not go in, and our parents actually backing us up. It never would have happened.

But it has.

It’s all in protest against the SATs which are exams kids have to take at different key stages. I know the SATs well. In 1996 my class was the first to take them in our primary.

Parents argue that the exams are additional, unnecessary stress and that it stops kids from developing a love of education, putting them on the treadmill of exams. I agree totally, but I have mixed feelings about whether all of those reasons justify scrapping it.


Fight the power!

Our SATs arrived with little fanfare and our teacher, Mrs. G, played down the importance, she explained how it would work and how the tests would help them divide us up for comprehensive. Until now we were divided by age (I was the second half of the year) but in comp there were going to be about 200 kids and we’d be divided on ability. The SATs, along with our school reports would decide which class we were in.

This was kind of important and fairer than letting our teachers alone decide. Mrs. G was sound, but had it been left up to another of my primary teachers Mrs. B I’d have been in the bottom set. Hell, she’d probably have lobbied for me to go to borstal.

So the exams made sense. And as from the next year on we’d have exams every year, it was good practice. I mean, they could have dodged it but in secondary there were end of year exams so the shock of the first exam would just have been temporarily delayed.

One thing that did come into effect was stress. I remember despite the best efforts of Mrs. G it did get out that they were kind of important. It also didn’t help that some parents were a bit pushier and competitive than others and this bled through to the kids.

Thankfully, I avoided a lot of this stress by being pretty confident that I wasn’t thick and because of my natural laziness. My Dad in the coming years would despair of my “that’ll do” attitude where I did just enough to pass and move on with average grades.


He told me after my A Levels that I was just as smart as my sisters, but that they applied themselves better. They would work hard, pushing themselves and strive for greatness and reaped the rewards- straight As for the lot of them. I however, was more than happy with the B and C grades I collected and not that bothered by the E I got for Religious Studies at A Level (I’d missed a lot of lectures and was actually happy that I’d got more than a fail).

This attitude may have kept me on a track of mediocrity but at least I was happy and relaxed. I have two clear memories of the SATs, and one is related to stress.

S, a girl who lived on my street and who was not exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer, worked herself into a right state over the stress. She was oddly quiet on the bus stop, she wasn’t sleeping and several times she just burst into tears. It seemed unfair to heap that much stress onto a girl who had almost been broken by the Take That split.

Here my Dad actually showed a delicate, tactful touch that is utterly out if character for him. The day of the first exam saw the invention of “the magic sweets”. My Dad handed out Cadbury Eclairs and insisted that they were lucky. Perhaps his standing as a doctor, or our childish love of sweets was responsible, but it calmed everyone at the bus stop. S, would, however, be reduced to tears after every exam.


Magic sweets

My Dad also then found himself having to buy Eclairs every academic year to see my sisters and I through our education.

S did alright but was shuffled into a lower set. My best friend Dai and I were split up, both taking places in the middle of the pack classes, and we found ourselves latching on to whichever familiar face was in our class.

I think the SATs served a purpose, at least at 11, younger than that is just a waste of time, but did stress out some of my classmates and could have been done in a less formal manner. But on the other hand, it meant I was ready for my first end of year exams in comprehensive.

At least they were better than the 11 Plus exams my parents endured, which pretty much decided your life’s path at eleven. That seems grossly unfair.

Should kids do exams? Probably not, but you have to work out how well everyone is doing so they can be divided up in secondary school, and exams are the best way we have so far, even with their flaws.

I can see why parents aren’t happy, and I think the setting up of education as an old fashioned game where you just go level to level is a mistake, but will the strike help? And do the kids really care, or are they just happy for another day off? They just had a three day weekend! Now they’re stretching it to four? Kids today.

No matter. In the long run the SATs had no lasting effect on me, they cemented my suspicion that I was in the top half academically and that I could handle exams. And they meant that I require a sweet before any test I take, but that’s it really.

The only memory I have of the exams themselves was a science question about milk bottles. It was a series of bottles, each filled to a different level. The question was something like “If Johnny blows across the top of bottle it makes a noise. The noise is different depending on how full the bottle is. Mark which bottle would make the deepest noise.”

I remember looking at that question for at least a minute. Our science education was pretty basic, in fact I think we did two sessions when Mrs. G realised there was an exam coming. None of them had been about milk bottles.

I tried to work it out and then thought, to hell with it, and guessed. It’s twenty years later and I still have no clue how the fullness of the bottle effects the sound produced. But, shockingly, it hasn’t really come up since. Although maybe it has stopped me from being a bluegrass star.


Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.