Tag Archives: Unity Rally

The Woes of Resting Bitch Face

So I’ve recently returned from a positively lovely weekend in Hertford visiting friends from Uni.

I traveled on the overnight National Express bus on Thursday, arriving almost without a hitch in Stevenage bus station at 7am on Friday. I was met there by Tamara – one of my housemates from first and second year – who had brought me the world’s most appreciated flask of hot, milky, sugary tea, ready for our connecting train to the beautiful Hertford. If there’s one thing you learn about each other whilst living together for two years at Uni, it’s how people like their tea! You drink a lot of that shit and you can’t be seen to be dodging putting-the-kettle-on duties. That is of course unless you’re me, as my cuppas are in many ways like snowflakes, fingerprints or a tiger’s stripes, i.e. no two cups of tea that I have ever made have been the same (in taste, colour, temperature, consistency). So I was practically begged not to make them.

In fact the first (and one of the last) times I offered to make a ’round’ of teas was in my first year of Uni and it really was a sight to behold. Although most people asked for them exactly the same we were able to spend 10 minutes once they were made arranging them in order of colour, from deepest brown to murky grey.

It’s just occurring to me now actually that it’s fairly fitting that I should meet Tamara at a bus stop after not seeing her for a few months. After all I actually met her for the first time, along with the rest of my 1st year adoptive flatmates, in the same place (a bus stop I mean, not specifically a bus stop in Stevenage – the original one was in Sunderland). It was the morning after my utterly disastrous first night out in our campus bar, where I made what you wouldn’t so much call friends, as mildly uncomfortable acquaintances whom for quite a while I harboured the desire to poke enthusiastically in the eyes. The 4 girls I went out with decided at around 1am that they didn’t want to wait any longer for a 6-seater taxi and got into a regular one, leaving me stood on my own without a clue of where I was. Anyway the next day, carrying on the theme from that gloriously Inbetweeners-esque episode, I was being the way cool guy that I always have been and heading to Uni to register on my lonesome, definitely contemplating in some dark recess of my mind calling Mammy and making her come get me; when I bumped into Becca, Fee, Sophie and Tamara, at the bus stop outside my halls. After a day that consisted of us registering then wandering aimlessly around town together struggling to understand each other’s accents, followed by the succession of rather messy nights out that comprised our Fresher’s Week, I promptly more or less moved into their flat, proceeding to use the room in my flat across the car park as a glorified (and expensive) wardrobe for the next 8 months. The rest, as they say, is history.

Anyway back to my journey, I say it went almost without a hitch because there was a bit of a dodgy 30 minutes there when we were stuck in traffic outside Milton Keynes (at 5:30am, these Southerners need to learn to go to sleep) and I was perilously close to missing my second bus from Milton Keynes to Stevenage. Thankfully I didn’t and was spared the joys of waiting in a cold and not entirely safe bus station for 4 hours, for another bus!

I’m happy to report, though, that my falling-asleep-in-public skills did come in very handy on this outgoing journey and I slept for a good few hours of it.

The return journey on Monday was a lot shorter and marginally more comfortable, which was much appreciated after a weekend during which the ratio of hours spent asleep and hours spent consuming alcohol was a very enjoyable one, but not without it’s negative consequences. I got the train from Hertford-Stevenage then Stevenage-Newcastle, followed by the Metro to Four Lane Ends and a lift home from there.

The first thing I learned from the weekend’s is that I desperately need to pass my driving test and invest in a car.

The second issue that was thrown into the limelight of my irritatingly over-active consciousness during all of this time spent on public transport, was my chronic Resting Bitch Face (RBF if you will).

Now I have been aware for a long while that I possess this affliction, so it’s not like I experienced some kind of awful epiphany whilst travelling over the weekend, about the fact that at any time when I am not actively talking to someone, smiling at something, or laughing, I tend to have – to use what I think is the most accurate and simplest description – a face-like-a-smacked-arse.

I already knew this.

The clues have always been there in the frankly unnecessary amount of times I am told by friends to smile, or – slightly but not much less often – asked if I’m OK.

I don’t know what causes this phenomenon and I know I’m not by any means the only one to experience it. I guess my face just likes to screw me over.

This is a classic example from many, many moons ago and an absolute favourite snap of mine, don’t I just look thrilled to be alive…

Resting Bitch Face (RBF) at it’s Absolute Best

Anyway, what I do know is that when you spend hours on end on your own on board public transport where there are strangers in the form of other passengers, this issue can be greatly highlighted.

I also have quite a tendency, owing to the aforementioned over-active brain and the amount of thinking that it insists on doing at all times, to stare off into the distance (or what I believe at the time is the distance) for often undetermined periods of time. Now the problem arises on occasions – and there have been many – when my eye line towards said distance happens to be inconveniently occupied by another human, or as in the following example, another passenger.

Basically what I’m saying is that when you’re sitting on a bus across from the same guy for 7 hours+ and you haven’t said hello or otherwise acknowledged him – because it’s an overnight bus and nobody wants to make small talk that will only serve to prevent themselves and others from being asleep – it comes as an unpleasant surprise when you find that said fellow passenger is looking at you uncomfortably out of the corner of their eye  – and realise that you’ve been staring straight at them, most likely looking vaguely angry, for who knows how long.

Happily this happened not long before I was able to escape from that bus and get on a different one, so I didn’t have to feel like a big weirdo for too long.

It’s no wonder really that even though I don’t think I’m too much of a social catastrophe most of the time – although I definitely do have my spectacularly embarrassing moments, much to the enjoyment of my closest friends – I can give off a not-so-agreeable first impression.

It’s not just the once that I’ve been told by a friend that when they first met me they thought I was anti-social, or not-so-diplomatically, “a bit ignorant.”

A few years ago when I worked at McDonald’s, some of my work mates broke the news that when I first started, they couldn’t believe that I was the daughter of Aileen, one of their favourite semi-regular customers, because Aileen was really nice!

I think the problem is that I’m shy and nervy when I first meet people but I don’t think that comes across, as I’m also really quite chatty and loud, pretty much at all times. And especially when I’m nervous, call it a defence mechanism. So mix that together with an accidentally constant Resting Bitch Face and you can see why I may not always an immediate hit!

And let’s face it, the high sarcasm levels don’t always help.

Basically, if I was a friends character I’d be Chandler, every time!

Charlie Hebdo, Free Speech and the Wise Man on the Bus

Picture the clichéd image of a bedraggled man or woman sitting in a chair hunched over a typewriter. They appear to have been in the same position for at least three or four days. Every now and then they stop to violently tear the paper out of the machine, ball it up as small as they possibly can, and toss it into an overflowing waste paper basket. Each time they spit forth a tirade of foul-mouthed self abuse as the rejected sheet descends to join the pile of other useless rubbish in the bin – all there is to show for the three or four hours that they have actually been sitting there.

That’s how I write.

All I can say is that I’m thankful for laptops and word processors, especially for the ability they afford me to repeatedly cut out huge portions of my writing and start over, without single-handedly destroying the Amazon. To put it mildly I’m a ‘drafter’ – the writing process for me, as I’m sure it does for many others, involves copious amounts of cutting, pasting, deleting and re-writing – and occasional swearing (out loud, not on the paper). But usually I get there, I end up with something that I think gets across the point that I am trying to make.

What has made that process so much more difficult this afternoon is that, as I’ve just realised, I actually have no idea what the point is that I’m trying to make; or rather what my stance is on the issue that I’m trying to discuss.

I’ve been trying to write about my views on the public reaction to the Charlie Hebdo killings that tragically occurred 11 days ago. Everything surrounding this tragedy is terrifying and I’ve been thinking about it a lot.

Of course this is always going to be a difficult subject to write about. It is a story of inconceivable tragedy that tugs at the heartstrings, not just the political sensitivities, of many nations. It has come at a time when (speaking for a moment of the UK in particular, as this is all that I have personal experience of) many people are becoming increasingly disillusioned with the system of government. I have personally heard people who would never before have dreamt of abstaining from voting in a general election, considering doing just that. Not because they can’t be bothered but because they simply no longer buy that there is any difference between the parties on offer. Many of the people who are considering ‘waiving’ their right to vote don’t see it as that at all, they see it as exercising their right not to do so. In a nutshell (admittedly one inside which the emotional topography of an entire nation is hugely over-simplified and generalised) the population is angry. The “this country is going to the dogs” sentiment abounds and although that idea seems always to have held appeal for the older generations who fondly remember a “better time” that in reality may not have been any better at all; now the younger generations are starting to agree. But how do you fight against an establishment which is so.. well.. established?

In the midst of all this uncertainty is escalating religious tension, and one thing that I am almost sure about (I say almost because I’m less qualified as a politics expert than I am as a zookeeper) is that the aforementioned political parties don’t really mind that tension, not one bit. After all it is not only distracting us from how utterly uninterested they are in the wellbeing and quality of life of anyone below them in the class and power foodchain, but is an ideal basis of useless rhetoric and empty promises with which the various parties can divide the population into comfortable voting categories – then pretend they care who we vote for as they all enjoy remaining in power together, the bestest of buddies living the high life behind closed doors. The escalation of religious tension between Muslims and – it would seem – everyone else, has provided the opportunity for UKIP and Nigel Farage to rise up from the masses (this description requires us to forget for a moment that Farage has basically the same background as the rest of the major players – give or take a few years of make-me-rich banking) and try to convince us that they are the ‘revolution’ that this country so sorely needs. They’re reminiscent of a manufactured pop band and I suspect they’ve been designed by the people in charge to make us think that we do not need to question what’s really going on, we just need to rebel by voting for UKIP in May and everything will change; we’ll all have more money, there will be 0 unemployment for the white man and they’ll find the cure for all cancers, in early June. If UKIP do get into power I imagine it will turn out to be more like the time when Rage Against the Machine stole the christmas number 1 from the X-factor – only if we had found out soon after that the band were in fact managed by Simon Cowell all along, and they’d immediately started covering Leona Lewis songs.

But that’s a subject I could write about all day. What I find so much harder to do is form a solid opinion on the human issues surrounding the tragedy of 12 people murdered in their office as they went about their day and how this can come to happen, in the midst of so much more hatred than I ever want my future children to be surrounded by.

Like everyone else, I’ve read a lot of opinion pieces about this tragedy over the last 11 days but I’ve honestly found myself more confused after reading each one.

In trying to form an opinion I have considered writer Mehdi Hasan’s assertion that Charlie Hebdo has never published cartoons about the holocaust or 9/11 as this would be offensive; and that this destroys the idea that they believe in freedom of speech without limits?

But hang on a minute, while Charlie Hebdo have indeed never published either of the above (thankfully!) but to the best of my knowledge, nor have they ever published jokes about thousands, or millions, of Muslim men, women and children being massacred. Surely their Muhammad cartoons are all about denying extremism that’s based on the belief that people deserve to die for refusing to follow a prophet? Surely that’s their reasoning for ridiculing Muhammad? Not racism, not hatred of Muslims?

But then there is a lot of discussion around whether it as seen as acceptable for other religions, in particular Judaism, to be mocked in the same fashion as we are expecting the followers of Islam to accept. This seems to centre mainly around the reported sacking of Maurice Sinet in 2009 for allegations that he made anti-semitic remarks in his work.

In my view, all religions should be allowed to be mocked and need to be mocked, if we are to ever come to understand that they are flawed human creations, not divine catch-alls for whatever monstrous behaviour we as flawed human beings want to get away with at any one time (which they have served as across all religions for centuries). But of course that has to apply to all of them.

A question that I have seen asked by many, after first being posed by Professor Brian Klug, which has caused a lot of debate, is mentioned in the Mehdi Hasan article and which did really make me think, was this: would someone joining the unity rally held in Paris in reaction to the shootings, holding a placard showing that they support the gunmen and their ’cause’, have made it out of that situation unharmed? I don’t think I can answer that question confidently. So does this prove the hypocrisy of the idea of free speech without consequences?

Then I read another article just today, that has been written in response to the first one, and this too made a lot of sense. In it, among many other good points, the writer argued that none of those defending Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons “have or would advocate (government-sanctioned) suppression of Holocaust jokes, however repulsive they might find them,” because they believe in free speech.

But wait, the question posed is not about Government-sanctioned judgement. This still leaves the question of whether all of those attending that rally really would have been able to allow the man with that placard his right to free speech without violent consequence, given how deeply offended they would have been by what he was saying?

Indeed, many of the sickeningly racist comments that I read attached to a video (LINK) of a radical Muslim being attacked by two British men for preaching on an British high street, certainly did not reflect the opinion that voicing their views (no matter what they are) should not put a person in danger.

As I write this I realise that of course, trying to work out what would have happened in Brian Klug’s scenario is all conjecture and nobody can really say what would have happened in that situation. I suppose the point I’m making is just that I am confused about what I think here.

So all I can do is go back to the things that are easy and are facts in my mind – because sometimes it helps to take things back to basics for a minute and look at what we really believe:
1. What happened to those journalists is not OK. It can never, in any way, be justified.
2. Mass persecution of people of any (or no) faith, can also never, in any way, be justified.
3. For as long as we keep allowing our governments and press to guide our opinions of each other, we’re screwed.

That’s it as far as things that I am sure of on this subject goes, that’s all I’ve got and I’m aware that it isn’t very useful at all. In fact it’s probably nothing more than common sense, but the problem is that amidst the bombardment of information that we all receive on a daily, hourly, minute-by-minute basis, maybe our view of common sense has gotten a little lost in the white noise?

An elderly gentleman on my bus the other day, who smelled quite bad and talked loudly to himself for the whole journey – soliciting more than eye-rolls and sniggering then I would have hoped to see in 2015 – at one point said something that I think maybe we all need to stop and remember. He said “we’re not all the same though are we, whether you’re a man or a woman or whatever, we’re all different from each other, every one of us.”