Rambles, rants and raves

A lot of opinions spilling out of my brain


I do

Yesterday, in the UK, the Houses of Commons voted for gay marriage in a pretty big majority. Now that bill needs only pass through the House of Lords and receive Royal Assent and ta dah! It will be law.

This will mean that gay people will be able to actually have a wedding rather than a civil ceremony. Religious institutions still have the option if they will or will not perform same-sex marriages and couples who feel that marriage is important to them can feel that their ceremony is just as important as couples who comprise of a man and a woman.

It’s an obvious right in my opinion. I know people disagree and I respect that some people are uncomfortable with the idea of same-sex marriages but it does not mean I agree. It just means I have a respect for people’s views.

Today on Facebook a friend who is religious posted on his Facebook that in his opinion he could not be happy about the vote and the new rights. Fine, it’s a matter of opinion. He then went on to say that the flaw in the argument of the people that were for gay marriage was that you could not redefine marriage. This is where it is no longer fine. Because that argument is invalid, society redefines words all the time.

The definition of marriage is not sacred. As much as a religious institution may want to monopolise the ceremony, it cannot simply because it does not have the right too. Language is consistently evolving as is our interpretation of it. The way we speak now and the way I’m writing this would have been unheard of 100 years ago.

Of course we can redefine things, it is how we evolve as a species. It is how new things can be discovered and how we can build on what we have learnt. If we did not redefine anything then women and those that are not white would still be considered second-class citizens. If we did not redefine things then we would never progress, things wouldn’t move forward – the world would become stagnant and stationary.

To oppose something because of your beliefs is understandable. After researching several religions I realised that none were really suited to me. Some less than others. I have chosen to not be religious as such. In that I don’t follow one religion, I have my own beliefs and that’s that. Just as many people have chosen to follow religion be that following Allah, God or anyone else.

But it seems strange to me to oppose something because you think we don’t have the right to redefine it when we are in fact doing that all the time. Religions themselves redefine things, science redefines things and that is how the world works.

In my opinion this is progress, slow progress but progress nonetheless. Denying someone a right for no reason is unfair. Criminals that lose their right to vote while serving time in prison: that’s fair, they lose that right through their own actions. An animal abuser not being allowed to own animals for the rest of their lives: that’s fair, because they have abused that right and therefore should not be allowed to keep it.

Two men or two women not having the same rights of marriage as a man and woman: that’s unfair, gay people haven’t actually done anything to have this right evoked. It doesn’t make sense why one set of people that are in love, or not, and decide to get married can and another set of people cannot.

The fact that this new legislation will make gay marriage legal is wonderful. It does not make sense to discriminate against someone due to the gender of the people they are attracted to. That’s they same as discriminating against people with brown hair. Or telling someone who has freckles that they are not entitled to the same privileges as the others in society.

This is a small but significant step towards equality and it’s about time too. And in a 100 years, people will read about this and think the same thing as the majority of the world now thinks of women not having the vote or of black people not being entitled to live around white people: absolutely bloody ludicrous.

By this time next year, anyone will be able to say I do. About time too.

I could find a suitable image to go with this piece that wasn't overly cheesy and just, well, so OTT it was weird. So I settled for cake, because cake is always appropriate.

I couldn’t find a suitable image to go with this piece that wasn’t overly cheesy and just, well, so OTT it was weird. So I settled for cake, because cake is always appropriate.


I sometimes judge books by their covers

Black Beauty book cover from Penguins. It’s actually embroidered! Amazing right?

I love books. I am a book fan, a book worm, and a lover of the written word. Going into Foyles is one of the best things about shopping in Westfield, London. When I went to New York, on the top of my ‘must see’ list was The Strand Bookstore. If I ever go to antique fairs, or markets I always keep an eye out for any books that may take my fancy.

I sometimes use the cliche of not judging a book by its cover even though I hate cliches. It’s usually to illustrate further a point that has already been made, like that extra punch. I use it, but I don’t actually agree with it.

I judge books by their covers a lot. Especially if I haven’t heard of it, or read any thoughts or reviews on the book or the author. If the cover doesn’t appeal to me, then it’s more than likely that I won’t buy the book. The blurb, if good enough, can change my mind but it rarely does.

I can’t help it. I love my books. But I don’t just love the words written inside them, I love the care, consideration and art that goes into what protects those words: the book cover.

It may make me superficial. In fact, I think it probably does a little. I see books, my reading, as an experience – an escapism. Some people watch films, I read books. A tiny bit of that experience comes from the book cover. It is like the beginning sentence, maybe not as important, but just as valid.

A bad cover will not take away from an amazing story. However a brilliant book cover may add to an incredible story and may make you read a book that isn’t as good. A book cover, to me, helps make my books more of a visual art to hold what’s inside.

A picture paints a thousand words; the introduction of the book could, in essence, come from the cover itself.


The bookshelf

I have been an avid reader since my mother bought my the Ladybird books in Woolworth’s when I was too young to remember details. When my sister and I were little and shared a room, my mum would read to us every night before we went to bed. As we both got older, we began reading alone and choosing our own books. It was exciting, and it still is.

My favourite shops are book shops. The huge Waterstones just off Piccadilly Circus in London makes me weep for joy. I could spend the whole day in a bookshop, time stops when you’re there. I was lucky enough to go to The Strand Bookstore in New York when I was there this summer. It was indescribable: 18 miles of books: old and new. It was heaven. A book lover’s dream. I added at least 100 new titles that I want to read to my ever growing reading list.

As a book lover, I am in love with my bookshelf. To me, my books are like children – silent, beautiful, well behaved, continually entertaining children. I have tried to give many up during various clean ups of my ever growing pile of ‘stuff’ and my books are always saved. Each one has a memory, each one reminds me of a moment in time when I was reading that book. Most of my books I’ve read at least twice apart from a couple of handfuls that I read only once and deserve a medal for the feat. I have bookshelves inside my wardrobe and one in my room and a load of books in boxes stored around the house.

I am very proud of my bookshelf. Mainly because I love the books on it. I read on The Guardian website about your bookshelf saying a lot about you. You can read the comment piece here. I agree insofar that your bookshelf says a lot about you, mainly due to the titles on that shelf. After all, it will show your interests and your likes. However I don’t think that my bookshelf is my chance to show off: I would never think to organise my bookshelf, and my books, in a way that would be appealing to somebody else in order to instigate a conversation or brag about having read certain books considered more ‘high brow’ (some of them not as special as many lecturers would have you believe).

My bookshelf and the books that I read are solely for my enjoyment. Much like the clothes I wear and the food I eat. I do it for myself. It seems illogical that I would need to organise it in an aesthetically pleasing way to someone that does not have the emotional connection to my books as I have.

It seems that in society now, we are developing a sentimentality of having to always impress, of needing to brand and improve our outer selves to show people just how great we are. I may sadly conform to some of this (for example I don’t pop my blackheads in public or swear like a sailor around strangers) but things such as reading, fashion and food are things that are scared to the individual. They provide escapism, inspiration and a little individuality in a world where we are unsure as to how unique we should be while still being part of a majority.

The bookshelf is a humble piece of furniture that holds some of the most precious possessions I own. Books that have been brought for me by the boy and have been some of the best reads of my life; books I purchased when I was feeling lonely; books I was given for inspiration; books that encouraged me to keep going; books that took me away from my cold, student housing; books that made me grateful and opened my mind.

When I’m grown up enough to be able to afford my own mortgage; I plan on having a room dedicated to all my books. Ceiling to floor bookshelves filled with books and picture frames. Two big, comfortable chairs, one bright light to read when it’s dark and a super comfortable rug for those days when I like to lie and read. That is perfection, and I could not care less about what my bookshelf says to the outside world about me.

Reading for me is an internal, personal things. It has been ever since my mum began reading to my sister and I before bed. As a result, my bookshelf is a little like my body I guess. I’m very proud of it but I’m not going to show the whole world what it looks like just in the hope they’ll think a little better of me.

Oh, look heaven. Let me live here. Please. Maybe with a few windows for some natural light. But still. Please.

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Arrogance is ignorance

Going to university, having two jobs and just being the type of person that has to make random observations to strangers about our surroundings; I’ve met a lot of people. Many people tend to be going about their way, hoping for better and aiming for more. Other people only want for others and all people like to think they are different. All people hope they are unique, and that there’s at least one thing about them (no matter how small) that makes them special. I have also met arrogant people.

Arrogant people are interesting because they are unlike many people in the world. I’m not saying this as a dig at arrogant people but as a fact. Arrogant people are different to the majority of other people I have ever come across because they believe they are better; even though if they themselves are questioned they would be unsure how to retaliate without putting up a wall. Even those people that state they ‘need to find themselves’ are able to give more insight into their thoughts and feelings than the arrogant person. The arrogant person is always unsure because they don’t want to give to much away less you remove yourself from their way of thinking: that they are blooming fabulous.

The funny thing is arrogant people tend to be the most ignorant and naturally, the most immature. They refuse to grow, or do not grow as fast, because of their stubbornness and their need to be right and justified: always. The arrogant person believes they are always right, they believe that they are justified in all their actions, they can never be wrong. The arrogant person, therefore, is more close-minded to learning from others be they older or younger, and from the world in general. If you believe you are above your place then what is there to learn?

In being like this, in crossing the confidence line into arrogant territory; the arrogant person loses out. They are not as easily able to learn and adapt, they cannot as easily believe in things; they are too wrapped up in self pride. And as people continue to develop and evolve, they do not – because they are always right and pretty much always justified. Arrogant people are stuck in their ways, they’re the ones that take a little longer to adapt, they’re the ones that are frustrated more easily when they realise their grip on everything is not possible to sustain.

The arrogant are almost childish in their belief of their own great self importance. A great person is able to understand that there are better people out there, that there is always room for improvement and space to learn. The arrogant person feels like they’ve been at the peak, the pinnacle, of themselves their whole lives.

Arrogance is silly. Arrogance is ignorance. It will only get the person so far, it’s good to be wrong sometimes and it’s good to know or accept when you are wrong. There’s a Portuguese proverb that says, in a roundabout translation, that the stupidest person is the one that has never made an error. I think it applies here.


What is brave?

“Bravery is not the absence of fear but the judgement that something else is more important than fear”

I do realise that the title of this post makes it sound like I’m about to go all deep on you dear reader and blow your mind with some philosophical, psychological bubble. I hate to disappoint but I am happy to say (a contradiction in terms, I know) to say that is not what I am going to do. I simply could not think of a better title.

These past few weeks, cowardice and bravery have been demonstrated to me in several different ways. I realised that there is no such thing as a one definitive answer for the question in the title. Like the quote says: ‘Bravery is not the absence of fear but the judgement that something else is more important than fear.’ Fear for each person is different and so, logically, the definition of bravery for each human being should be different to.

But I don’t feel this is a fair justification of brave. I’ve been debating with myself (first sign of madness I know) whether there is something that a person does be they small, tall, fat or skinny that could deem them as brave or courageous. I came up with a few ideas…

Bravery, for me, is someone that isn’t afraid to tick up for themselves, be it against strangers or best friends. It takes courage to have an opinion, stick to it and fight for it; however there is a thin line here between stubbornness. If you’re wrong and proven wrong then it’s probably worth admitting defeat. Defeat doesn’t mean you’re weak, it just means you’re smart enough to realise that you were mistaken.

Brave is being able to step away from a situation even if it’s not the easy option. Brave is being able to take the higher ground, no matter how much you think you should do something else. Brave is being able to tell yourself enough is enough. Brave is being able to know what makes you happy and not being afraid to go after it. Brave is chasing your dreams even if they don’t seem possible.

Brave is being yourself. I have no real way of closing this argument (the consequences of poor planning) but I think this quote from E.E. Cummings sums up bravery pretty damn perfectly.

“To be nobody but yourself in a world that’s doing its best to make you somebody else, is to fight the hardest battle you are ever going to fight. Never stop fighting.”

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I work for the student paper at my university. I want to go into journalism and therefore it was a pretty obvious opportunity for me to grab with both hands. I love working for it, having previously been a section editor and now being Deputy Editor of the whole paper. I was looking forward to having some more freedom and creating an innovative student paper. After all, it is advertised as students writing for students, where anyone can write about anything (within reason obviously).

After being in the job for about 10 weeks or so I have found that that is definitely not the case. In all honesty I was a little naive to assume that a paper that gets the little money it does from the Student Union would be able to have complete freedom of speech. There is always an opportunity and apparently, even at university, there is no such thing as complete and utter freedom.

In all fairness to the powers above us at the paper, they have to make sure every student is being looked after and that no one is too overly offended by anything that is written in the paper. So I understand when we’re reigned in if we’ve allowed a particular article through because we find it tongue in cheek and not to be taken seriously but the potential for offence is there. So fair enough, sometimes that perspective is needed. When you’ve been working on something for a while, and you’re so proud of it, then you need an outside opinion to show you how to improve.

My problem comes from the need to change things to ensure that the Students Union has everything they want at the potential detriment of quality of the paper. The need for adverts in certain places, screwing up the layout; if a few complaints are made (you can’t please everyone) the need to become super strict at the risk of alienating the very people that write for the paper. Certain stories are never allowed to be published if they show too much bias against the university. Yet the paper is advertised as a medium for people to voice their opinions; if their opinion is lucky enough to get through the censorship then the editors get a telling off as a result.

Censorship in the media is obviously a very real thing, and more a problem too in my opinion than a saving grace. But I can appreciate that it is necessary in national papers and publications. Censorship provides a little control to an industry whose aim is to know everything about every person and situation. However in a student paper? Your student days are supposed to be complete and utter freedom before you reach the grown up world and need to fight a little harder for that freedom every human so rightly deserves. But apparently not. I think that’s why the internet is so popular, although a lot of wrong is bred in this online web of connected computers; it gives the chance for people to say what they want with very few restrictions. Not always a good thing of course, but for those that use it properly, it’s the chance to voice an opinion without someone saying you can’t. It is freedom of speech taking to the very extreme, pushed like elastic to its limits. Which, I guess, is both a positive and a negative.