How to stop young people sexting and get them reading instead

Image: Pixabay

Image: Pixabay

Sometimes I think we have our priorities wrong.

As a pedestrian, I feel mildly narked I’m kept waiting at a crossing as vehicles are prioritised and fly merrily on their way. (Well, let’s be realistic. With the state of Bristol’s traffic, they crawl at the pace of a tortoise that’s just been discharged from the vet’s after a double hip replacement.)

It’s as if a ton of metal, spark plugs, fan belts and a hundred odd years of invention is more important than a messy old heart muscle, a pair of wheezy lungs and millions of years of evolution.

That’s when I’m a pedestrian, of course. When I’m riding in the bus or on the rare occasion I’m in a car, I’ll swear at the red lights as much as the next traveller.

It’s sad how we prioritise the young over the old, too, holding up the bloom of youth, our days of acne and dangerously high hormone levels, as the pinnacle of our lives from which the only way is down. We don’t revere the experience that the elderly have, the wisdom, the sheer bloody mindedness, tenacity and old school opinions that can make them so interesting to talk to – if a nightmare to share a Christmas with.

Of, course, I’m increasingly feeling this way as I grow into what other people would term ‘older lady’ status. I feel I have a truck load of knowledge and experience to impart to younger people, especially my son – just don’t expect me to recall any of it quickly.

The reason for my PRE – RAMBLE (a rambling preamble and a word I just made up, but will now use more often) is reading.

You see, I don’t want reading as a wonderful, engaging, enlightening pasttime to go the way of the dodo and the ra-ra skirt. I want to encourage young people to continue reading and not turn to gaming and publishing photos of their genitalia on social media as ways to pass the long hours before the sweet release of death. To do this, may I suggest prioritising readers by installing


You know, like cycle lanes but for the less physically fit. Special paths (with a drawing of a book on the ground in lovely, luminous paint, of course) would be made extra smooth, to avoid trip hazards – no raised curbs or wonky paving slabs here. Also, readers will automatically have right of way when crossing a road, so they don’t even need to look up from their books, no longer having to choose between life and finding out whodunnit.

You might need an especially adapted Sat Nav (with a lovely, soothing voice – probably Stephen Fry) to stop you from veering off into the river / flower beds / oncoming traffic, though.

We could extend the idea to make the top deck of buses a Quiet Zone for readers, installing book rests and overhead lamps at every seat and a lending library at the back, so you could borrow a book from one bus and when you’ve finished, leave it on the next bus you travel on.

I think these ideas might make us love the written word just a bit more.

Or not.

What do you think? What innovations would you bring in to encourage people to read?


Wednesday Word Tangle: Why today is like Jazz and Stephen Fry

Actually a lot more interesting and beautiful than a dreary day in Bristol. Image: Pixabay

Actually a lot more interesting and beautiful than a dreary day in Bristol.
Image: Pixabay

Oh, lor, it’s one of those days.

If you’re a Brit, you’ll know exactly what I mean. It’s a dismal day, a day when you have to resist the temptation to keep the lights on 24/7 so you can see what you’re doing and don’t end up tripping over the cat / toddler / pile of Lego bricks on the carpet.

Now, if you live in one of those blessed places where the sun shines most of the year, where the light sparkles through an azure sky onto a similarly blinding sapphire sea – allow me to describe what the British weather is like for 52%* of the year.


It’s day time. You know this because your alarm rudely rattled you awake a couple of hours ago and it’s definitely lighter than it was when you got up for a wee at mignight. But the sky is so flat and featureless you can imagine skimming a stone on it. It’s not a flat, cloudless blue, but a flat cloud-filled grey – think of a pair of knickers that have been stuck on an endless ‘delicates’ wash with a new pair of Levi’s and you’ll know what I mean.

On days like these, the house is never quite free of shadows. Every corner could hide a something – invertebrate, mammalian, alien, you don’t know, but you sure as hell don’t want to stick your hand in to find out.

It’s what you’d call (Wednesday Word Tangle coming up)


I like the word gloomy – maybe it’s that double ‘o’ sound, but it suits the meaning. You sound depressed just saying it.

Its derivation seems unclear, though ‘gloom’ is probably from a Scottish word for ‘sullen look’, which fits a day when even the weather seems to be sulking. Though, it’s not linked to ‘gloaming’, the Scots for twilight, which is a shame. (Think we should have a Gaelic translation of Stephenie Meyer’s books called Gloaming? Quite like that idea.)

The word always reminds me of jazz music and Stephen Fry.

No, I don’t get depressed when listening to either – if I could persuade Stephen Fry to narrate the interior dialogue to my life I would. It’s because it was on QI that I first heard of Billie Holiday’s recording of Gloomy Sunday.

On first listen, it’s no more depressing than say Strange Fruit – a song describing the lynching of African Americans in the Deep South – but Gloomy Sunday has been dubbed the Hungarian Suicide Song.

Well, to be fair the lyrics are sung from the point of view of someone contemplating suicide, there have been several stories of people committing suicide after / whilst listening to the song – and the composer (a Hungarian called Rezső Seress) threw himself from the top of an apartment block in 1968.

So my advice today?

Put the lights on. Make yourself a hot chocolate. 

And avoid jazz.

*I learnt this statistic from a Bill Bailey DVD. I have no idea if it’s correct, but it feels correct 🙂

Thanks, as always to the lovely Kat, the founder of W4W

Wednesday Word Tangle: Sorry seems to be the hardest word

Image: Pixabay

Image: Pixabay

Did you ever have to make a speech?

It’s something that we did every year at my Secondary School. In the First Year it only had to be one minute long – that’s not really a lot of work when you think about it. I could talk for more than a minute on how irritating it is that chin hair dares to grow back when you’ve taken the trouble to pluck it, let alone something that’s actually interesting, like dragons or the existence of the Loch Ness Monster.

And it’s not as if you had to abide by the BBC Radio Four show Just A Minute’s rules, speaking  for sixty seconds on a given subject ‘without repetition, deviation or hesitation.’

We could be as repetitive, hesitant and deviant as we wanted. Well, you know what I mean.

Granted, the task became more difficult. In the Second Year, the speech had to be two minutes, in the Third three and so on until you had to write a full five minutes in the last year of school.

I dreaded the thing, every single year, even though I only had to speak in front of my own class, filled with best mates, worst enemies and a fair smattering of kids whose existence elicited nothing more from me than a ‘meh’. Still, it was a chore. It was a chore to write, a chore to learn, a chore to deliver and it never got any easier.

My son has had to do a similar thing throughout primary school, though it’s only been a minute speech each time. And he’s had the same approach to it as I had – do the least amount of preparation as possible, turn bright red the moment it’s your turn, gabble the words out in a monotone, scurry back to your chair the millisecond you’re done, sit back and watch with smug satisfaction as the next victim steps up for the ritual humiliation.

And yet …

I actually think the school did us a disservice by not making us do more public speaking. Shall I tell you why?

When you see MPs and PMs talking on the news and in the House, it’s clear even when they’re pimply bottomed newbies to the benches that they’re used to talking in public. Often this is because they were privately educated and private schools encourage rhetoric and debate. All that practice in debating societies gives the young oiks a tremendous sense of confidence when it comes to voicing their own opinions.

I envy such training.

I like to think I’m not too stupid. I’m no Stephen Hawking – I’m not even the marvellous Stephen Fry – but I have got a brain. However, when it comes to debate and argument … I can and have been beaten into a gibbering mass of twitching, gulping, inarticulate spasms when faced with someone who can speak with confidence.

Now, I know this failing has something to do with mental agility – my brain must be clogged with silly putty for the speed my neurons fire. But I can’t help but think, if only I had been forced to use my rhetorical skills more often when my brain was still a bright and shiny mass of growth, not the calcifying lump of dead coral it is now, then maybe, just maybe, I could win the odd argument.

Today’s Wednesday Word Tangle is brought to you by the word

APOLOGIA, a form of rhetoric used to defend actions or opinions.

And next time you read one of these written by an MP or a PM, explaining why they started an illegal war or cut disability benefit or closed another mental health unit, remember – an APOLOGIA is not the same thing as an APOLOGY.  The clever public speaker has to show no remorse at all to present an APOLOGIA, merely an explanation.

See, I knew I should’ve worked harder at those speeches.

And now, an actual APOLOGY. Ahead of me lies six weeks of summer holidays, in which I somehow have to entertain an eleven-year-old boy enough so that neither her nor I are driven to the sharp knife draw in desperation. There are weeks of climbing, cycling, swimming ahead – not an easy ask for a woman more used to exercising her fingers on the keyboard than her biceps and quads.

So I’m sorry, dear fellow bloggers, if I don’t visit, read, Like and comment over the summer as much as I usually would. Normal service will resume in six weeks.  

To visit the originator of W4W, go to the super Kittykat-bitsandbobs.