Rule the World

It's time to begin my manifesto.

Friday, April 29, 2005

No. 009: Brassieres

When I rule the world: certain regulations will be put in place to govern the wearing of bras.

Most post-pubescent women wear bras (or upper-decker-flopper-stoppers, or over-shoulder-boulder-holders). However, a lot of women seem to struggle with the concept of when and how to wear a bra, and which bra to wear for which occasion. I will set up a crack team of Breast Police to enforce the following bra-related rules and to regulate the bra-making industry.

Bras must be worn in public unless the subject is a B cup or less, in which case a vest with built-in bra support may be substituted (as long as the subject is not running around anywhere, threatening to give herself a black eye). However, the subject does not have to wear a bra in the privacy of her own home if there's no risk of visitors.

Dark-coloured bras must not be worn under light-coloured clothing. An elementary bra-wearing law, but one which is frequently broken.

Bras with a lot of lace detail are not to be worn under clingy clothing. The effect is of lumpy, rippled breasts, and it isn't pretty. Save lacy bras for wearing under thicker clothing, and wear seamless bras under clingy clothes.

A controversial one, this: bra straps may be on show. However, they should not be white-turned-grey from too many washings. They should ideally be a pretty colour which complements the subject's outfit, and should be thin. Not all bra straps are created equal.

Bras must fit properly, and women will be required to have their sizing checked every time they buy underwear. Breasts should not bulge over the top of the cup - go up a size. And back straps should not carve out great shelves of fat and leave welts on the skin - again, go up a size. There's no shame in it. I was a 34D six months ago, but after a lot of exercise I've lost fat and gained muscle, and now I'm 36B.

Sports bras must be worn whenever the subject undertakes any exercise. Nobody wants to kick their breasts around in the shower as an old lady.

Strapless bra technology must advance to provide comfortable bras that stay up when the subject wants to dance.

Bra manufacturers will be required to make pretty and fashionable bras for all sizes, from AA to GG. Pretty bras are a right, not a privilege.

The Breast Police will be other women, so pervy guys who think their life's calling is to ogle breasts should consider another career. If they see a subject with an inappropriate bra, they will take discreet action by passing the subject a small card, detailing their bra misdemeanor. The subject will then call a freephone number for bra advice and support.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

No. 008: Old People

When I rule the world: old people will be treated better.

Old people get a bit of a rough deal. Mind you, they bring some of it on themselves. Kidding! I am the first to admit that old people can have sometimes have frustrating habits, but I don't think that excuses the way a lot of them live in poverty, existing on a miserable pension, with nobody to visit them from one year to the next.

Most old people have interesting stories to tell - stories which could help the younger generation. The difficulty lies in convincing the old person in your life that stories about their wartime adventures are more interesting than a three-hour story about how their cabbages are coming along. It seems like old people forget what they used to find interesting when they were young. I don't think, for example, that my 90-year-old Nanna spent her youth discussing the wind for which her city is famous keeps people healthy because it blows all the germs away, but whenever I see her she never fails to tell me all about it. She usually follows it up with a tale of limited adventure involving a trip to the opera and her great-granddaughter, who was apparently precocious enough to find her own way to the bathroom during the intermission. And she's a sprightly and highly alert example of the grandmother group, so I shudder to think what more aged specimens are inflicting on their hapless families.

There may be nothing wrong with innocent stories like these on the first telling, but when you start feeling your grandmother is set on a continuous repeat loop and only has ten things to say it can become difficult to convince yourself to visit her. Added disincentives will usually involve questionable cookery and a slightly blase approach to kitchen hygiene.

But you should persevere! Grit your teeth and look beyond the smeared teacup. Better still, ask for some alcohol - grandmothers like mine have a heavy hand with the vodka bottle. Even the most mundane story of octogenarian adventure can take on a new shine after a couple of stiff drinks.

My Nanna has great stories, if you can get her focused to tell them. She's lived in the same city for over 75 years. She's lived in a time where the way society views women has changed beyond all measure. When she was newly married her father would visit once a week to scrub her kitchen floor for her, but also once told her she was a disgrace because she walked around in public with a pregnant stomach on show (not naked, obviously. Nanna was never that much of a raver). She was thought daring as a teenager because she chose to walk down the street where the Chinese people of the city lived, even thought her mother had issued dire threats about the fate of people who strayed down there.

My grandfather also had great stories, but he had little chance of getting a word in when my grandmother was on the scene, and now, sadly, he's dead. It's advisable to spend time with grandparents separately if you want to get any sense out of them, as people who have been married for more than ten years seem to form a strange double-act, where they both make noise without saying much.

I will increase pensions across the board, so old people don't have to worry about where their next packet of biscuits is coming from. This should help break their habit of, for example, buying bad birthday presents from charity shops.

And we'll have special training at school to develop our 'listening to old people' skills. It's tricky sometimes to gently direct conversation away from the girl with the funny hair on the bus, and back to the topic of interest, be it family history or whatever. And perhaps I'll bring in some kind of red card system, so when an old person tells you about their cat for the forty-seventh time that day you can just give them a quick visual reminder not to bore you with the same story.

Everybody over the age of 65 will automatically get a free cleaner, neatly solving the kitchen hygiene issues and prompting younger members of the family to visit more often. Those who require it may also get a cook. My Nanna will be on this list.

And old people who still feel social - like my Nanna - will be offered part-time jobs as bartenders. We'll all party like there's no tomorrow if my Nanna's pouring the drinks.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

No. 007: Tattoos

When I rule the world: it will be much more difficult to get a tattoo.

I'll be honest here - I can't even begin to see the appeal of tattoos. Paying somebody to draw on you using a painful version of a permanent marker seems an odd thing to do to me, but I can appreciate that some people, for whatever reason, want to decorate their skin with their lover's name or their favourite aquatic creature. I just want to make sure people really think about what they're doing.

From what I've heard a lot of people live to regret their tattoos. What seems whimsical at 18 just looks stupid at 35, when you're having to explain to all and sundry why you have Ren and Stimpy cavorting on your left shoulder blade. And, sadly, a lot of tattoos proclaiming a lover's name seem to last considerably longer than the relationship, and then you're left in the same boat as Angelina Jolie, having to wake up every day with your batshit crazy ex-husband's hill-billy name on your bicep.

Then there are the tattoos that distort as time, gravity and circumstance change your body. A perky dolphin tattooed on a flat teenaged stomach can easily turn into a Orca whale post-pregnancy. Not pretty.

Perhaps worst of all are the foreign tattoos - the Hindi word, or Japanese or Chinese symbol. Even David Beckham, with all his millions, couldn't avoid his
tattoo being mis-spelt. Apparently a lot of people are walking around with Japanese symbols that they think say 'peace', 'love', or whatever, but which really say 'stupid', or 'smelly bum'. (I may have lied about that last translation.)

I can't fully express the contempt I feel for the likes of Mike Tyson and Robbie Williams and their Maori tattoos. In brief: they're complete dickheads, and they devalue a culture they don't understand by cherry-picking design elements to try to look tough.

Sure, you can try to disguise a regrettable tattoo by turning it into something else, but it seems these attempts are usually forlorn and misguided - Exhibit A being Johnny Depp's 'Wino forever' tattoo. And good luck covering that big black tribal band with a coronet of flowers. Or you can get tattoos lasered off, but that costs a lot, has mixed degrees of success, and probably doesn't tickle.

So my tattoo regulations will not just check that the recipient is chronologically old enough to get a tattoo - they will also investigate the lifestyle and impulsiveness of the person. The aim will be to try and establish whether the prospective human canvas is inclined to do rash things they later want to change. Several questions will need to be answered, like:

When did you last colour your hair? How long did that colour last before you changed it? Do you change your hair colour as often as some people change their underwear?

How many times have you had your ears pierced? Do you still wear earrings in all the holes, or have you allowed some of them to close? Do you ... I don't know ... REGRET those extra holes?

(if the person wants a tribal band tattoo or Maori or Polynesian tattoo) What do you actually know about the tribe, or the culture? Do you have any tribal affiliations at all, or do you just think it looks cool? Are you prepared to have your tribal tattoo done 'old school'?

(if the person wants a foreign symbol or foreign word tattoo) What do you think that symbol/word means? Do you want to know what it really means? Will you ever travel to China, Japan or India, and are you prepared for people to point at your tattoo and laugh?

(in the case of name tattoos) How long have you been together? When did you last fight? What was it about? Do you have the names of past lovers tattooed on your body? And how did those relationships work out, huh?

If the prospective tattoo recipient can answer these questions in such a way to suggest they don't often do impulsive and regrettable things to their body, and can moreover prove that they are with their lover for life / have a strong tribal affiliation / are fluent speakers of the language in which they are to be tattooed, then they will be required to submit a digital photo of themselves, highlighting the body part they want to be tattooed. The image will have the tattoo added, and the resulting picture will be distorted to demonstrate how the tattoo will look as the recipient grows older or fatter.

If people still want a tattoo after all that, then good luck to them. They won't be able to say I didn't warn them.

Friday, April 22, 2005

No. 006: Healthy Eating

When I rule the world: we will make healthy food choices.

From what I gather, the Western world is getting fatter and fatter. Blame working mothers, blame busy lifestyles, blame too many hours spent watching TV - the upshot is our bottoms are getting bigger, our arteries are clogging up, and we're eating too much crap.

And our governments get all in our face about it every now and then, and issue guidelines about how we should eat five servings of fruit and vegetables every day, and not cut out carbs to lose weight, but most of us ignore them and keep eating stupid things and then complaining when we can't fit our jeans. So we stop eating carbs for a year, only poo once a week, and then wonder why we end up with bowel cancer forty years from now.

Who knows what a 'serving' is, anyway? I do, but who else? And why is it that healthy food is always more expensive than KFC? Where's the incentive to buy a basket-full of vegetables and laboriously make a nice soup when you could just buy a pizza instead? And why does organic food cost so much? We're told that our fruit and vegetables are covered in pesticides, our eggs and dairy products are probably full of dodgy antibiotics, our meat may have been raised on a carnivorous diet, and our fish could give us mercury poisoning. We're told what we should do to be healthy, but we don't get any help. I'd change that with my D.E.L.A.P. (Don't Eat Like A Pig) policy.

For one thing, farmers will have to feed cows and sheep grass, and chickens will only eat grain, so we won't be eating weird Frankenstein foods. I'm not yet sure what I'll do about the fish. I don't eat fish, so I can't pretend it's top priority for me, but I'll find a Fish Expert to iron out the details. And meat will be sold with the fat trimmed away. None of us really need to eat crackling. It's bad and wrong.

Fruit and vegetables will be sold pre-washed and pre-prepared. It will be as easy to buy carrot sticks as it is to buy chocolate. England's supermarkets are already pretty good about presuming complete laziness in their customers, and it's brilliant. It's so much easier to eat stuff you don't have to peel or wash yourself. Fruit and vegetables will become convenience foods.

This will be paid for by taxing unhealthy foods, thus further incentivising us to make healthy choices. So we'll still be able to scoff a bucket of KFC if we just can't resist it, but by doing so we'll be helping subsidise healthy food for somebody else. This would reverse the current trend of lower-income people eating the least healthy (and cheapest) food. Healthy food will no longer be a luxury item. And increasing the cost of a Mars bar to $5 might make us a little more likely to reach for a 25c banana when we get the munchies.

There will be a zero tolerance policy of any 'cut carbs' / 'cut protein' / 'never eat fat' / [insert fad diet of choice] eating plans. And the people who have peddled the Atkins Diet and its ilk to us over the years will have to hand over 50% of their profits to help subsidise sensible diet groups, like Weightwatchers - these will all be free. Kids will learn about nutrition at school. Food won't be used as a reward, and giving children too much sugar or artificially-coloured food will be akin to peddling them crack.

And Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver will go door-to-door, teaching us how to cook. Nigella promises to tie her hair back first. Jamie promises he won’t talk in that fake Cockney accent.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

No. 005: Chain Emails

When I rule the world: people who send chain emails will be punished.

We all have friends who think that forwarding an email is the same as staying in touch. Whenever I receive one I have to take a moment to remind myself that I do love the person concerned, and that I shouldn't think less of them because of their emailing habits - but sometimes it's difficult. There is a
wonderful website designed to separate the rubbish emails from those which are true. If you have ever sent a chain email without first checking it I urge you to change your ways, because soon there will be consequences.

The level of punishment the sender receives will depend on the severity of their crime, and in many emails your victim (the poor friends you send these emails to) will benefit from your misbehaviour.

The scale will be as follows:

Level 1: sending an 'aren't friends great! I love you guys!' email (without an accompanying story - see Level 9). Touching, but meaningless. If you love a friend that much, send them something original and don't copy it to ten other friends at the same time. Punishment: do your friend's laundry for a week.

Level 2: sending an email about how a big corporation is going to give away free stuff if you forward their email enough times. Never true. Corporations didn't get big by giving stuff away that easily. Plus, you can't track forwarded emails in that manner. No, it's not 'worth a try!!!' as so many people who forward this kind of email seem to think. It's just stupid. Punishment: buy your friend the thing the corporation was supposedly giving away.

Level 3: sending an email that urges the reader to add their name to a long list of recipients, with the eventual view of forwarding the email to another country's government and thus ending dog-eating/bear farming/whatever else. While the dreadful behaviour might be true, emailing the governments concerned won't make a blind bit of difference. And fooling yourself into thinking that you're somehow striking a blow for the dogs and bears by merely adding your name to an email is just silly. Punishment: donate a week's salary to a charity that actually helps the cause concerned, in your friend's name.

Level 4: sending an email about a poor sick child who will somehow be helped or cured if you keep forwarding the email. Punishment: a week's unpaid labour at the local kindergarten of your friend's choosing.

Level 5: sending a scary email about some essential personal hygiene product causing cancer. Punishment: buy your friend a year's supply of their favourite personal hygiene product.

Level 6: sending a scary email about strangers hiding in parked cars or parking buildings, waiting to rape and murder helpless women. Punishment: wash your friend's car for a year.

Level 7: sending false virus warnings. Punishment: no internet access for a month.

Level 8: sending completely improbable and stupid emails about impossible things like Bonsai Kittens. Punishment: no chance of a Bonsai Kitten for you, ever.

Level 9: sending a 'my friends rock!!!' or 'love thy neighbour!!!' email, accompanied by a tooth-rottingly sweet story of a suicide avoided/car crash regrets/drug regrets. Punishment: a year's therapy for your hapless friend. Punishment to be doubled if your email contained a poem. Punishment to be tripled if your email suggested bad fortune faced people who didn't keep forwarding the email.

Level 10: sending the 'Instructions for Life' email supposed to be written by the Dalai Lama. Punishment: I can't actually think of anything bad enough. You've defamed the Dalai Lama! How do you sleep at night?

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

No. 004: Inky Hands

When I rule the world: all newspapers will be printed with non-transferable ink.

I hate inky hands. I hate dirty hands in general, actually. I don't like being dirty at all. I'm not phobic about it and I don't wash my hands twenty times in boiling water, accidentally touch the rubbish bin as I throw away my paper towel, and then start the whole sorry process over again, but I don't like being mucky. I spent my formative years knee-deep in mud and horse poo, so it's strange that I am so averse to dirt, but hey! That's what makes me complicated and mysterious.

Of all the dirt that may end up on my hands during the course of an average day, newspaper ink is, in my mind, the most annoying. It's particularly bad in the summer, when I'm wearing light-coloured clothes and risk ruining a favourite item by thoughtlessly trying to retrieve a slipping bra strap or something.

In my experience newspapers have to be fairly old before they stop transferring ink, but if I leave them to reach that stage before reading them the quality of the news tends to be diluted. It's all very well reading about imminent snow storms three days late, but that won't be much help when I'm the fool on the train in my summer dress, and the blizzards are blowing around my carriage, and I've got a ten-minute walk to my office when I get to London.

Until newspaper ink technology can definitively solve the transfer problem I will continue to read my news from sterile online sources.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

No. 003: Flying Cars

When I rule the world: the best technological minds on the planet will concentrate on developing flying cars for general release.

I'm obsessed with flying cars. When Monkey urged me to having driving lessons recently I argued that it was a waste of time, as I'd just have to sit a different flying car test in a few years' time. He was undeterred, and suggested I might benefit from being able to drive terrestrial cars in the meantime (and it turns out he was right).

Interestingly, I watched
Richard and Judy whilst visiting the in-laws last week, and they interviewed some science magazine boffin who touched on the whole flying cars issue. He said current research is focusing on the ways swarms of insects and flocks of birds move together, to make sure flying car technology would avoid collisions.

Life will be brilliant when we all have flying cars. I imagine there are several logistical problems to be ironed out - the need for flying car freeways and floating refueling depots, that kind of thing - but one of these days we'll think nothing of buckling up in our own private flying machine and zipping off to the supermarket. After all, Back to the Future Part II was set in 2015, and flying cars featured heavily. They're just around the corner, I tell you!

Flying car-related links:

An explanation of how flying cars might work - "After a century of unfulfilled promises, flying cars may fill the skies in the next few decades. There are still some obstacles to overcome, including receiving approval from the FAA, but the cars are close to being finished."

Real live flying cars! Only $995,000!

The BBC know it's just a matter of time.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Photos from Yesterday

We interrupt this manifesto: to bring you the photos I took yesterday. They are all stored in Yahoo Photos - a service which can sometimes be a little temperamental. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Nobody likes a quitter.

Here is one
view from our bedroom window. It may look peaceful out there, but you wouldn't believe the racket passing horses and riders make. It’s like the Pony Club M25, some days.

view from our bedroom window. I think I've only been down that road a couple of times in the entire six months we've lived in this cottage. I really need to get out more.

view from Monkey's study - 'Monkey' being my secret code name for my husband. He's not a real monkey, and he doesn't look at all simian. It's just a nickname. Stop analysing everything.

That garden looks pretty wild, doesn't it? It's like The Day of The Triffids out there. Monkey attacked the front garden with a strimmer and an electric mower, but it didn’t really improve things – he cut grass and trimmed our front hedge, but he didn’t pick up the trimmings. In fact, it looked like a hurricane had hit our garden. Hurricane Monkey.

Here is the
view from my study, which is conveniently located next-door to Monkey's study. This photo shows our untamed lawn. We hadn't spent any time there over the winter, so last week we paid it a visit and were dismayed to realise it's enormous. We could be weeding and mowing every weekend and it would still look like the Scottish highlands (but without the hills). Mind you, if we decide to throw a garden party for 50 people we've got plenty of room for the marquee.

This cottage is fabulous. We've very happy here. It has one big bedroom and two small spare rooms, and we love having our own study each. Monkey particularly loves the fact that he doesn't have to share a study with me. My study is packed full of stuff, but his study is very minimalist. One of these days I'll do a photo-tour of the whole place, so you can see. I'll have to vacuum first, or you'll think I'm a slattern.

Just to prove we really are in the countryside, a nice
view across our neighbours' garden and over the fields. Our neighbour is a real country man and no doubt thinks we're posh city wankers. He does something to do with hunting - beating pheasants out of the undergrowth, I think. He has a black lab that barks excitedly at me if I go outside. I’m perfecting a very angry voice that seems to work well on it – one shout from me and the barking stops.

Our neighbour is very overweight, and is missing a couple of high-profile front teeth. He’s no Rupert Campbell-Black, that’s for sure. Last weekend we heard a squeaking and banging noise late at night, and concluded he was doing the sex with his Significant Other. It prompted a night of strange, unsettled dreams.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

No. 002: Weather

When I rule the world: I'll have a word with [insert deity name of choice] regarding the weather.

I don't think weather was adequately planned. Too often we all hope for sunshine and instead get rain, ruining wedding photos and waterlogging my mother-in-law's clay garden. England suffers through soggy winters, followed by hosepipe bans all summer. And places like Perth slowly run out of water altogether. Crops fail, cattle go hungry. It's madness.

Nobody really wants to be out and about when the rain comes. But we all want a little bit of rain every day, to keep our water supplies flowing and ensure our fields look green. So my plan is this: reorganise the weather so it rains every night, from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. - after all, most of us are tucked up in bed during these hours, so we wouldn't be inconvenienced. A couple of hours of steady rain every night would ensure the rivers continue to flow, but without washing away all the houses built on flood plains. It makes perfect sense.

The weather was beautiful in Hertfordshire today. We drove to the gym with the top down (and the heaters roaring). I even took photos to prove that the sun sometimes shines in England.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

No. 001: Blurred Vision

When I rule the world: laser eye surgery will be free on the NHS (or your Government-sponsored healthcare plan of choice), and will be completely safe and reliable.

I am sick of wearing contact lenses. Some days my eyes love them, and I can wear them for 18 hours without a complaint. Other days, they get dry and scratchy after twenty minutes. And it's not even like I push my luck and wear lenses that haven't been cleaned properly: I only use daily disposable lenses.

Glasses are even worse. My glasses are always smeared, and it infuriates me. My eyesight was fine until my mid-twenties, and I suppose I should be grateful that I haven't had these issues since childhood, but I just hate not having 20:20 vision. I probably should have eaten more carrots as a young girl.