Just finding the blogging mood again after the end-of-project exhaustion session. I thought I'd start with something amusing.
When I was little, there was a bogeyman. He lived in the cupboard under the stairs and if we went in there, we might not come back out again. If we were naughty, he might come out at night with his bag and steal us away, never to be seen again.
As children, we were terrified by the bogeyman but he wasn't there for fun. There was a reasoning behind him. Under the stairs was where the cleaning stuff and other dangerous household chemicals were kept. If you tell a child 'don't go in there' then the child will be irresistibly drawn to the place. If you tell a child 'there's a monster in the shadows at the back of the cupboard and he eats children who get too close' then the child will stay well away. As for the threat of the bogeyman emerging, well there's nothing like a sleepless night or two to discourage bad behaviour. Back then we weren't all equipped with bedside lamps and night lights. If you wanted to turn the light on you had to get out of bed. So strange noises were not likely to be investigated.
My parents knew these tricks fifty years ago. Their parents told them, and so on all the way back to the caveman days. My father worked as a coal miner, at the coal face. He was equipped with sufficient musculature that, if used in anger, could break bones. He very rarely used physical punishments. He used psychological means of discipline and subtle ways of teaching that had been unchanged for generations - and yet have all but vanished in a decade.
The tooth fairy and Santa, for example, did not work for free. If you wanted that sixpence you had to trade a tooth for it. If you wanted Christmas presents, you had to behave yourself and Santa expected a tip when he arrived. A bottle of beer, a mince pie and a cigar for him, a carrot for the reindeer and we were left in no doubt that if Santa didn't get them, those presents would go straight back in the sack. We'd always inspect the crumbs on the plate and the cigar butt in the ashtray and the empty bottle next morning and oddly enough, there was always carrot involved somewhere in Christmas dinner. Maybe the reindeer weren't hungry. The presents were there, so Santa was happy with our offering.
In that way, we learned that nothing is free. Not even the imaginary.
Now, Santa is denied his cigar. He can't even take it and smoke it on the roof in case he deposits third-hand smoke in the next house. He can't have alcohol because all that booze in one night is binge drinking. He can't have the mince pie because he's too fat. This year, when he spies one dry low-fat biscuit, a glass of water and a pack of Nicorette gum, there might be a few Christmas stockings with coal in them. You want that fancy game, kids? Booze, tobacco and sugary cake. Otherwise, no deal.
Children are taught to be terrified of smokers. If their parents smoke, they are told they will have to watch those parents die in horrible agony. That bogeyman is still under the stairs but he's not coming for children any more. What purpose does it serve to terrify children in this way? It serves the purposes of tyrants like ASH and the profits of the Pharmers. It's done for money.
Children are taught that drink is evil, that their parents will turn into something so evil Hell wouldn't want them, just to keep Don Shenker in a job and to keep their parents under control. Child abuse is profitable for these people. I'm sure they also derive immense pleasure from it.
Now, children are being taught that Santa is going to get diabetes and die because he's overweight. That's assuming he avoids lung cancer and liver failure, of course. No wonder all those local authorities are getting us used to the idea of not having Christmas. Santa is on his death bed. He'll be lucky if he can manage this year and if he does, kids, you'll know when he's around. Listen for heavy staggery sounds accompanied by wheezing and coughing. Perhaps, on Christmas Eve, you might be so good as to leave out some Setlers, cough medicine and a syringe of insulin.
This one is also to keep the health nuts employed. Santa has been targeted by smokophobes, booze puritans and the chubby-haters. Next he'll be branded a terrorist because he has a beard and a paedophile because he sneaks into children's rooms in the dead of night. All these pressure groups really need to realise something.
Santa isn't real. Santa is not a role model. No child grows up wanting Santa's job. Mythical characters can look like anything they please, eat and drink and smoke all they want and they come to no harm because they don't actually exist. There is no point in regulating the imaginary.
But then, they did away with Tom and Jerry...
Now it seems Halloween is considered too scary. Only it's not the ghosts and devils and tricks that are scary - it's the apples.
Children are advised to wear safety goggles when ducking for apples. Remove the stalk too - you could have someone's eye out with that thing. The bowl must be sterilised and the water purified.
Consultant ophthalmologist Parwez Hossain, from Southampton General Hospital, Hampshire, said dunking your head into a bowl of water to bite an apple was fraught with danger.
This is an allegedly educated man. A consultant. The top of the profession. Keep that in mind.
Where there is a chance of a high velocity impact, for example with an apple, you need to wear eye protection such as goggles.
What do they do these days, dive off the high board into a pool full of apples? It was a long time ago but I don't recall any high velocities being involved. All that would achieve is a nose full of water.
'It is also advisable to remove stalks because they could poke you in the eye, especially if you are playing in the dark and can't see what you are doing.
We used to do it blindfolded. You know, with a cloth covering our... eyes.
'I would suggest using bottled mineral water or boiling tap water and waiting for it to cool down, like we do for clinical trials.
'This is because stagnant water and tap water could contain water-borne organisms, which may lead to infection.'
This tap water is the same stuff you wash your face with every day. The same stuff you use to rinse fruit and salads and cook food. You shower in it and lie in baths full of it for ages. Some people swim in it and I have heard tell that there are those who even routinely drink it.
It's treated. With chlorine/chloramine to kill water-borne nasties. Before that, it's filtered through sand beds to take out any lurking lumps of horrible stuff. By the time it comes out of the tap, it's so safe you can even drink it. I wouldn't bother, it's pretty tasteless and it's zero ABV, but it's certainly safe enough for your child to wash his face in. Even if it does have apples floating in it.
And stagnant water? What kind of moron would go out and look for some stagnant water for the ducking apple bowl, rather than just filling it from the tap? Who would want any apples that might be bobbing about in that?
I repeat - this man is a consultant. He's at the top of his profession. What are the ones below him like? And they expect me to listen to anything they say? Really? When the head man is telling us tap water is deadly and apples attack children?
This is going to be a dull Halloween. No candles in pumpkins - fire hazard, and they give off smoke. No masks - face coverings mean you have something to hide. No sweets - instant diabetes. No small toys - idiots might eat them and choke. No scary things - someone might be frightened.
Well, there's always bonfire night. Not that there's a great deal of fun left in that one either. Although this year, there might be some fires out there with two guys on them.
One with a cigarette in his mouth and one with a potato head.