Iguanas, Chameleons and Crayfish

When I asked my kung fu instructor what I should write about next, these were the suggestions put forward. I’m not entirely sure what that says about my kung fu instructor or my classmates in general. I was trying to avoid a rant, which is why it’s been a while since I last posted, but no matter. Iguanas, chameleons and crayfish aside, there have been some strange goings on in the UK of late. By some odd *ahem* “coincidence”, a lot of those things have happened since the general election last March, when 24% of the country (yes, that’s ONLY 24%…) were – I hesitate to cast aspersions on people I don’t know, but I’m going to, anyway – 24% of the country were dumb enough to vote Conservative.

Now, I have never voted Conservative in my life. I grew up when Maggie Thatcher was PM, and believe me, if your family had little or no money, Mrs Thatcher was not your friend. Ergo, I grew up in a household that was distinctly anti-Tory. My dad said recently that he could be on his last breath, and he still wouldn’t vote Conservative. I think that just about sums up how he feels about such matters and as I agree with my parents (in that Maggie T was a hard-nosed old battle-axe and I was glad when she died), I don’t think I need to explain any further than that.

A lot of things have happened since the Tories were voted back in, so it was no surprise at all when they announced they wanted to amend the Hunting Act. Some flimsy excuse about coming into line with Scotland, when to those of us who aren’t wearing blinkers it’s obvious they just wanted it to be legal again to set dogs on wild animals so they could take pleasure in seeing them ripped to pieces while still alive. That’s not something most of us want to see in 2015. It belongs in the past, along with hanging, drawing and quartering, illiteracy and school dinners. Can anyone take pleasure in seeing animals tortured and still claim their humanity is intact? I wonder how they sleep at night, but then, if they think it’s OK, then their consciences are clear. I feel terrible when I accidentally step on a snail, but these… people (for want of a better word) think nothing of scaring an animal out of its wits, running it into the ground and finally seeing it torn limb from limb while fully conscious.

Don’t forget, these are the same “people” who think it’s OK to make those with nothing suffer even more than they do already. Those who have nothing and are unlikely ever to have anything are dying by their own hands, because they can’t see any other way out. Disabled people, elderly people, children, all are suffering at the hands of the Tories. And the worst of it is, most of us knew this would happen, and yet they still won the election, however small the majority that took them to power. We were already used to seeing libraries closed week in, week out, even when the Tories had the Lib Dems to rein them in. For some reason, literacy, and reading in general, is not seen as an important skill. They say it is. Literacy is one of the things they teach in schools, now. But it’s not literacy as I’ve always known it. To be literate means to take genuine pleasure in reading, not simply have a high enough level of literacy to read a paper. From what I’ve read, it seems phonetics are a big thing, now. Which is all very well, but on its own, it’s not enough. English is a highly complex language, made up of words from various different sources. Take the diphthong ‘gh’ as an example. We have ‘though’, ‘cough’, ‘bough’ and ‘thought’, all of which have ‘ough’ pronounced in different ways. (And by the way, how many schoolchildren even know what a diphthong is? I’d guess a large percentage of adults don’t, either, and how can we teach children if we don’t know ourselves? It means that, as a generation of adults, mostly, we’re unequal to the task, and that’s shameful.) I’ve been told by a reliable source (my mum) that I was reading actual books by the time I was four years old. My reading age was always at least a couple of years ahead, and I have always, but always, loved to read. I have so many books, in fact, that I’m seriously considering building myself a coffee table out of some of them to give myself more space on my groaning bookcases. And yet there are households today without a single book in them. I forget the percentage, though it’s around if you look, but what I do remember is that it’s shockingly high. The government ought to be thoroughly ashamed (and, in case you didn’t notice, I’ve used that ‘ough’ combination again, in yet another pronunciation). And yet they seem strangely proud of our education system, as if they’re not letting our children down every day of their young lives.

I complain, only half-jokingly, that I’m getting old. I’m 40 now, but I’m increasingly glad that I grew up in the 70s instead of having to endure the madness that’s going on now. It was quite mad enough when the old bag (sorry, I mean Margaret Thatcher) was PM, but I swear David Cameron is the worst we’ve ever had. Certainly there have been recent polls that suggest he’s the least popular leader in the history of Great Britain, which is no surprise to me at all, but which says a lot about how people in general feel.

But some much better news. On the day after the Tories aborted the vote to bring back hunting (because they knew fucking well they’d lose, especially after the SNP said they would vote against it, yay Scotland, woo!), New Horizons flew past Pluto, which for decades has been nothing more to us than a mysterious dot in the sky, only visible in the most powerful of telescopes. Now we have actual photos of this distant little planetoid, so clear that it feels we could reach out and touch it. Nine and a half years travelling 3 BILLION miles. Lots of time for things to go wrong. And they didn’t. The craft reached Pluto, and our solar system has been opened up to us even further. Where space exploration is concerned, it’s a great time to be alive, and I feel privileged to see those photos of the beautiful (not)planet Pluto. Clyde Tombaugh would have been so proud that his initial discovery in 1930 has led us to this.

There are ups, and there are downs. If you’re not careful, you’ll concentrate on the downs and lose sight of the ups. But focusing on the ups will also make you lose sight of the downs. And we need to see the downs. Because if we ignore them, what chance do we have of changing them?

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