Today I woke up to an excited household. My parents were watching Pope Francis’s meeting with the Jesuits in the Philippines. My Mum is from the Philippines, and my Dad studied with the Jesuits there. Several of the Jesuits in the room are personal friends of theirs. I joined in watching the video, feeling happy that Pope Francis had experienced that Filipino sense of humour which I’ve grown up around.
Minutes later, this article came up, and my happiness quickly dissolved into anger:
I was brought up as a Catholic, and stopped going to church regularly when I was about 15. This article has reminded me why I don’t subscribe to Catholicism anymore. I’m always respectful of other people’s faiths, but as this is the one I’ve been brought up in, it angers me.
I have been a feminist for as long as I can remember. This doesn’t mean man-hater, it means I believe in equality between everyone. Banning contraception perpetuates inequality between men and women, and saying people aren’t fit to bring up a family just because of their sexuality is just sick.
I think it’s absolutely appalling that in this day and age, we have someone with so much influence in parts of the world, enforcing a ban on contraception. How is the world ever meant to beat the outbreak of HIV/Aids if we have the head of a church saying using contraception is wrong?
Long before I stopped attending church, I was very uncomfortable with how patriarchal it is. I would refuse to say parts of prayers which use ‘man’ or ‘mankind’ as a shorthand of referring to the whole human population.
It didn’t take me long to expand this thought to realise that the whole message throughout Catholicism is that women aren’t the same as men.
Women caused all the sin in the world
Women are only worth a mention during a catholic mass if they’re a Virgin
Women aren’t good enough to become priests
But I don’t think my ideology is limited to feminism, it’s a basic human right that we are all equal, and to have control of our bodies.
The ban on contraception reinforces inequality. By condemning birth control, it condemns women to perpetual inequality. They’re unable to take ownership of their own bodies, and firmly puts them in a subservient bilogical role of maternal nurturers. Because if women weren’t busy having babies, maybe they’d get ideas and want to be leaders!
Before I decided to stop attending the Catholic Church regularly, I tried to find a compromise. My logic was that as there’s an ‘actor’s church’, maybe there’s a feminist church. I googled feminist catholic church, and my horror escalated as I browsed through the results:
I literally wept while reading this. How could I continue to be part of a church which teaches people to think in this way?
As it seems women don’t stand a chance in the Catholic Church, it seems that gay couples have even less of a chance.
If heterosexual couples are such an ideal family configuration, then why can’t the same be replicated by a homosexual couple? Isn’t the key to it having loving parents? Why would it matter if a kid has two Dads, two Mums, or just a single parent?
It feels so much more personal that the pope has reinforced these messages in a country to which I attribute half of my heritage. They are a step backwards into times which humankind has since evolved from.
Wake up Catholics, it’s 2015.
Disagree with something I’ve said? Feel free to comment, I like a good debate!
I am completely guilty of pre-judging films. When I read the synopsis of Argo it took me a good 5 minutes to disassociate it with catalogues. My next thoughts were that it sounded so unbelievable there’s no way it could work. I’m glad to say that the film has nothing to do with catalogues, and that it does indeed work, very well in fact.
The latest directorial offering from Ben Affleck (which he also stars in), sees him branching out into unfamiliar territory. In a literal sense Argo moves across the states (Washington to Hollywood) and continents to Tehran. The subject matter also spans what could be perceived as more challenging for the actor/director. To tackle a period piece about the difficult relationship between the US and Iran is no easy feat, but Affleck pulls it off with great style.
The film is set during the Iran Hostage Crisis, which took place in 1979. Anger amongst revolutionaries outside the US Embassy in Tehran bubbles over and 52 hostages are taken. Six American diplomats escape and take refuge in the Canadian Embassy. The CIA need to extract them, so they implement their ‘best bad idea’. Tony Mendez (Affleck), flies to Iran with fake IDs, with the intention of convincing the Iranians that the six are a Canadian film crew who are in Iran to find locations for Argo, a space opera based on Star Wars.
I knew I was going to like this film within the first minute. A useful history of the political relationship between the US and Iran is told through a series of storyboards (drawn by Anthony Liberatore and Julie Liggins), interspersed with what looks like genuine news footage of the angry revolutionaries (but turns out to be re-enactments.) The continuity and attention to detail setting this film in 1979 is flawless, giving it a truly authentic feel.
The high quality look is matched by the pacing. The early scenes of the revolutionaries give a good sense of anger coming to a head, and boiling over into the embassy. Throughout the events that follow, the tension peaks in all the right places. It takes some skill to produce a film where the climactic scene is an encounter with airport customs — I held my breath throughout!
Despite the dramatic content and seriousness of the situation the characters are in, Argo manages to be funny at the same time. There are brilliant one-liners that are organically funny rather than forced. A catchphrase is successfully implemented without seeming clunky (“Ar-go fuck yourself!”), and the film industry is playfully satirised:
“John Chambers: Let me get this straight, you want to come to Hollywood, make a fake movie, and do nothing?
Tony Mendez: That’s right.
John Chambers: [Smiles] You’ll fit right in!”
During the credits I gained a whole extra depth of respect for the Casting Director, Lora Kennedy as well as the stylists, hair and makeup teams. Pictures and video footage of the actual six diplomats that were part of what became known as the “Canadian Caper”, and the resemblance the actors pay to them is unbelievable. They also showed pictures from news footage at the time of the Iran Hostage Crisis compared to shots from the film, and I soon was unable to tell the difference between the two.
A thriller that makes you laugh, doesn’t sound like it should work, but it does but it works! Affleck successfully takes the raw material that was the real story, layers the genres and subplots over each other to create a captivating hostage drama peppered with razor-sharp one-liners.
This is me when I was a baby. You might notice there’s a feeding tube going into my nose, although it isn’t very clear as this was the late 1980’s when real life wasn’t even high-definition yet. The tube is important as when I was a baby I struggled to feed. It turned out that this was because I had an intolerance to cow’s milk. My doctor prescribed that I should be fed heavily with SMA Wysoy Soya Milk. Unfortunately this was to be the cause of a very serious problem which still affects me 24 years later. I decided to write about it here because my condition is one that very few people are aware of, yet it could easily effect any child in your life. Therefore I ask that after reading this you share it as widely as you can, if my story can help to raise awareness it’ll make everything I went through seem more worthwhile.
It is a little known fact that Soya milk contains a high level of a hormone called Phytoestrogen. This mimics the female sex hormone, Estrogen. As I was fed Soya milk several times a day, it meant that I was having a dose of hormone which was the equivalent of several contraceptive pills per day. My parents were unaware of this at the time, and the negative affect it had on my health, would not be detected until a few years later.
The first symptom I remember having, is when we were on holiday in the Philippines. I was 4 years old and kept complaining of a pain in my knee. Back then I described it as a ‘bendy knee pain’. I remember it being a sort of painful weakness which meant I couldn’t walk for long distances. I’m unsure what order the events which followed took place in as I was so young, but they all happened within a few months of each other:
When we returned from the holiday my parents took me to a doctor about the leg pain. I was given an X-Ray and it was discovered that my bone age was several years beyond what it should have been. This means that my bones had matured too fast. In the same period of time I went into puberty aged 4. My menstrual cycle began, and my body started to develop as it only should have at the normal age to go into puberty. I was referred to the Endocrinology Clinic at Great Ormond Street Hospital, where Dr Richard Stanhope was put in charge of my case. After an MRI scan it was found that a cyst had developed on my Pituritary Gland (the gland which controls the release of hormones). I was diagnosed with Precocious Puberty, which is an early onset of puberty.
If left untreated, puberty would’ve continued and I would have stopped growing by the age of 9 as my body would have thought I had reached adulthood. I was given a course of monthly injections to slow my growth down, the idea being that this would slow the rate of puberty. My body continued to develop but at a slower rate, and my menstrual cycle stopped. The injections were stopped when I was 12, and it was thought that I would then continue puberty at a normal rate and have a growth spurt. Unfortunately this didn’t happen. When I finished the treatment I was just over 4ft7 (146cm). I didn’t grow at all, I was offered the option of having a bone stretching operation which would’ve meant breaking both of my legs, and adjusting pins on a metal cage to increase the gap between the bones by millimetres every day, thus giving me a few more inches of height. I decided that being taller wasn’t worth not being able to walk for a few years. I began a course of daily human growth hormone injections. This was meant to kick-start my growth, and we were hoping that I would at least reach the height of 5ft. After giving myself injections in the thigh every day for a year, there was no change in my height. Dr Stanhope kindly extended my course for a further 6 months, but there was still no change.
In terms of long terms of long-term effects, I am still the same height as when I finished my treatment. My feet stopped growing long before that, ending up at a child’s Size 13 in UK sizes. I developed Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), which means I have an irregular menstrual cycle. I was also hospitalised when I was 17 after a cyst on my ovary burst. I have struggled with my weight since I was a child, despite doing ballet several times a week and swimming every week I have never been able to lose weight successfully. I developed hyperflexible joints which means, due to the size of my feet being disproportionate to my weight, I twist my ankles regularly and fall over.
I believe that the hardest struggle however, has been psychological. Imagine dealing with teenage mood swings before the age of 5. My Mum often says that this was the hardest part for her, as I would argue like a teenager and she’d struggle to remember that I was still a child. One episode that I clearly remember is fighting through a dose of anesthetic which I’d been given to keep me still during an MRI scan, screaming about how unfair it was that I had to do it. Additionally, I had to deal with answering questions from other children about why I look different, there were even rumours amongst parents that I had been pregnant as a child and that’s why I had stretch marks. Teenagers have a lot to cope with in any case, but I had huge decisions to make about my future, and even had to discuss possibilities that my fertility would be affected. I don’t know if these were contributing factors to the anxiety disorder and depression I’ve suffered with as an adult, but I feel that the psychological damage done by my condition has been the most permanent.
Before writing this blog post, I was horrified to find that the exact brand of soya milk I was prescribed, is still being prescribed to baby girls that are lactose intolerant. I’m not saying that every child will be affected in the same way that I was, but I believe that parents should be told about the hormone content in Soya Milk. They should be aware of what exactly is going into their child’s body, and be able to make an educated, informed decision. My case is not one of a kind, and there are several articles on precocious puberty and soya milk from reputable sources suggesting a strong correlation. I often wonder how different my life would’ve been if I had been given the option of having another lactose free milk, like goats milk. What seems like such a simple thing, might have made a huge difference in my life.
The care I received at Great Ormond Street Hospital, and the advice my parents received from the Child Growth Foundation, made this difficult process a lot easier. I owe a depth of gratitude to Dr Stanhope for his treatment and care for the 11 years that I had to be seen at Great Ormond Street. I remember my times in hospital with fondness, even though I was often very unwell and kept overnight to have various tests and scans done. It is my aim that through this article I will raise awareness of my condition, but I’m hoping in the long-term to be more involved in providing support to children going through similar struggles, and to raise money to help research into growth disorders. Please subscribe to my blog to keep updated on how you can help.
Well I’ve only had two shifts as a Venue Entry Team Leader at the Paralympics. So far I love it. I’ve met some brilliant people, and all the nerves from the first day are gone (and there were a lot of them!). Of course I’ve already lost all sense of what day it is, and time is no longer relevant seeing as my shifts mostly start at 6:30am, but I have already noticed that there are key moments in my day while I’m on a shift that mark the passage of time. Therefore instead of writing a detailed write up, I thought I’d do a tongue-in-cheek ‘day in the life’, in pictures! Much like the ‘picture stories’ you get in magazines, but worse! They’re lazilly taken and poorly edited, so enjoy their terribleness!
1. Early O’Clock
2. Battle of the Armband
3. First thoughts of caffeine
4. Start of the Shift
5. When a decision has to be made
6. The crafty speech hider!
7. Somewhere near the end of the shift
8. My arrival home
Graduation was always going to be a happy day. I’d worked hard for 3 years, achieved First Class Honours, my parents looked like they were going to burst with pride, and we all scrubbed up well in the cap and gown. Just before the ceremony, I was surprised when I started feeling this knot of terror in my stomach. I quickly realised it wasn’t about getting up on stage, I’d even worn tiny heels to avoid falling flat on my face. This anxiety was something else completely. It was about what this graduating business symbolised. Mainly that this meant the end of my nice stable routine of commuting, assignments and complaining, and that I had nowhere to go in September.
For a while I forgot about the horrible feeling, enjoyed the day and felt quite proud of myself. However, it’s never gone away. In fact I can feel it right now.
I felt the first twinges of this bluesy feeling when he had a particularly demotivational careers talk in our final year. They showed us the statistics of what last year’s graduates are doing now. Barely any of them were in a job that has anything to do with English or Creative Writing, many of them were working in retail or bars. We were told if we were lucky we might get a job in a museum, which is what I was doing before I spent £21,000 on a degree.
I was determined not to let this get me down. I knew that I’d have to make looking for a job a priority. I started looking for a job way before I graduated. I always knew that it was going to be hard. I’m a realist and I’m not kidding myself about the struggle I face as a graduate, with a Creative Writing degree. I signed up for as many useful websites as I could, wrote a killer cover letter, polished my CV and set up a good routine of applying for as many paid and unpaid positions as I could.
The same week as I graduated I went to the Jobcentre. I knew it was going to be hard but wasn’t quite prepared for the extremity of their attitude towards graduates. Just before my first interview I overheard two of the ‘advisors’ talking about how they hate graduates, because they assume that they’re better than everyone else and don’t deserve help when they wasted so much money on a ‘piece of paper’. I took a deep breath and went through the interview as if I hadn’t hurt anything, but saw the face fall when I mentioned that I was a graduate.
A week later I had my first sign on day, my advisor was an hour late to see me after eating her lunch, chatting to her friend the security guard, and not checking to see if I was there to see her at all. She used a really rude abrupt tone with me throughout the session, demanding to know why I hadn’t worked during my degree, dismissing my answers as not good enough excuses. I had to repeat my answers several times, there were several points at which she seemed to be judging me and I felt intensely uncomfortable. By the end of the session I felt belittled, and like all of my confidence had been knocked out of me.
By the time my third interview rolled around I was dreading it. I’d applied for double the amount of jobs than they required from me per week. The woman I saw was actually quite friendly, until she casually said that she can’t sign someone on if they’re on drugs. I was completely baffled about what she meant, and then she said “Well you’re clearly stoned, your eyes are bright red.” I was so shocked. I quickly explained that I had severe hayfever, showed her the medication I take for it, but by then the damage had already been done.
This post graduation feeling can be described as a general feeling of hopelessness. This generation has been brought up to expect the worst, but it doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. I’ve always lived by the motto that ‘Success is the best revenge’, but in this case it feels like the path to success is going to be like going uphill during a rock slide. I’m determined to get a job as soon as I can, and as far away from the Jobcentre as I can, but I’m yet to receive any replies from my applications. I was prepared for that, but combined with Jobcentre’s attitude towards me, my morale is lacking a bit! The sense of not knowing what’s next is really unsettling.
I would love to know if other new graduates are having similar problems. Please comment with your own experiences, and hopefully there’ll be some good news stories too!
My Mum is an extremely cautious person. Telesales are lucky if they get more than 10 seconds on the phone with her.However, yesterday she fell victim to a credit card scam which was extremely well thought through. In hindsight there were several clues which would have alerted her to it being a scam, but it was executed in such a way that it played on her confusion, and manipulated her psychologically so that it seemed like a convincing situation. I’ve decided to write about it here in case anyone reading this finds themselves in a similar situation.
Yesterday afternoon, Mum received a phone call from a man who called himself ‘Martin Benton’. He claimed that he was from her bank, and alerted her that two large transactions had been attempted using her card. He asked her if she had used her card that day, then said that someone had used her card to spend £245 in Argos, and that the bank had stopped a further £500 from being taken by a camera website.
Here’s the clever part, he then told Mum to call the number on the back of her card, and gave her an extension number which would bring her straight to his direct line at the Fraud Department.
Mum called the number straight away, another man answered, he asked her for the extension number and then ‘Martin Benton’ came back on the line. He told her to cut her card in half and put it in the envelope, and gave her a reference number to write on the front of the envelope. He then said that they would send a courier to pick it up and bring it to the Hertfordshire headquarters where they could then investigate what had happened.
The next part I didn’t hear about until a few hours later, but as soon as Mum said it alarm bells rang VERY loudly in my head:
‘Martin’ said that in order to verify the card, Mum should enter her pin number in the phone keypad. He told her to leave one second between each button press. Once she had done this, he said that the courier was nearer to our house than he thought and to look outside. Mum confirmed that there was a silver car outside and Martin said that it must be the courier.
A heavy set man with thick dark hair, who looked mediterranean in ethnicity, approached our house wearing a leather jacket. He was reluctant to come close to the door. Mum tried to hand him the envelope, and he said ‘What’s this?’ Meanwhile ‘Martin’ was still talking on the phone, distracting Mum from how dodgy this all seemed. She asked the man at our door if he was the courier, then ‘Martin’ asked to speak with him on the phone. Mum passed the phone to the courier, who then nodded at whatever ‘Martin’ said, and took the envelope and drove away.
The more we thought about it, the more the whole situation seemed suspicious. I started googling if this was usual protocol for Natwest. Meanwhile, Mum started seeing holes in the whole situation. Firstly, Mum and Dad hold a joint account, with the exact same card number, yet the man on the phone had insisted that Dad’s card would have a couple of digits different, and evaded any of Mum’s attempts for him to deal with Dad instead of her. Secondly, he had used the name which Mum is known in informal sitatuions, it’s a contraction of her official name which appears on her bank card. Thirdly, she realised that he hadn’t identified himself as being from Natwest, she soon realised that through clever questioning she had given him all of the information he needed. As soon as she ran through the events again in more detail, and mentioned entering the pin number on the keypad, it suddenly became very clear,
The whole situation had been a construct, one huge hoax to get hold of Mum’s card.
After some further Googling, I found an article about credit card fraud which listed the exact thing which had just happened to Mum, you can read it here: http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/saving/article-2045512/Conmen-send-couriers-collect-bank-cards-nabbing-PIN-surge-phone-fraud.html
Unfortunately by the time we had realised this for definite, it had been 3 hours since the courier left. The only reason we hadn’t realised earlier, was that we couldn’t work out how someone would have intercepted a call to the official number on the back of Mum’s card. We later realised that all that the conman would have to do is stay on the line whilst Mum called out again.
Mum called the Fraud Department at Natwest straight away. They refused to deal with anyone apart from Dad as he’s the account holder. This confirmed in our minds that it was a credit card scam. Once Dad spoke to Natwest, they confirmed that someone had attempted two withdrawals of £300 at a cash machine in a post office in Euston. Luckily their transaction had been blocked. We called the police straight away, they booked an appointment to send an officer over at 8pm the next day. Mum typed up a full transcript of what had happened, and we explained the situation to the officer, who said that he hadn’t heard of anything like it in this area.
We are lucky that no money was taken from us, but the whole thing has left our family shaken. The more we think about it, the more we see signs where Mum should have realised this was a scam, and she is quite weary of everything.
I urge you to report it straight away if anyone calls you and attempts a similar scam. I hope that writing this article at least helps you and your friends to avoid being conned in the same way. Please spread the word and make sure people like this don’t succeed in preying on vulnerable people.