Category Archives: General bimbling

Please support Cancer Research UK’s The Answer Is Plain campaign

I work for Cancer Research UK, but even if I didn’t I’d be asking you to sign up to their new campaign pushing for plain tobacco packaging – The Answer Is Plain.

A quarter of all cancer deaths in the UK are caused by smoking. Tobacco is a uniquely damaging and addictive product, which kills half of all its long-term users.

Every year, 157,000 children aged 11-15 start smoking. Although there are many reasons why children smoke, one is that they are drawn to the increasingly attractive packaging used by manufacturers – effectively the last place they can advertise.  As they say themselves, “When you don’t have anything else, the packaging is our marketing”

Cancer Research UK is running a campaign called “The answer is plain”, pushing for plain packaging for all cigarettes. Read more about the campaign.

It’s important to stress that this *isn’t* about existing smokers, although there is evidence to show to plain packs help people to smoke less. It’s about preventing the tobacco companies from enticing kids to take up smoking with attractive packaging.

Don’t believe packaging makes a difference to kids? Watch this:

The tobacco industry is fighting back hard, because they know it will hurt their profits – for example: Plain packs awaken a sleeping industryTobacco industry reaction – fact and fiction

But why shouldn’t we stand up to the tobacco industry? Tobacco has killed millions of people worldwide – these are slow painful deaths from lung disease, heart disease and cancer, including members of my own family. I want Big Tobacco’s profits to suffer, because the money they make is at the expense of people’s lives. I don’t want another generation of kids growing up as smokers, becoming lifetime addicts and losing years off their lives.

Plain packaging won’t stop all kids from taking up smoking, but it will give them one less reason to start. I believe it  helps to make smoking look crap. Not cool, not underground, not naughty – just crap.

Plain packaging isn’t about appealing to existing smokers. It’s about taking the last bastion of advertising away from the manufacturers – a tool that they knowingly use to market cigarettes to children.

Please sign Cancer Research UK’s The Answer Is Plain Campaign.

I drive, I cycle, I walk, I use public transport and taxis. But Addison Lee can fuck right off.

Last week I was knocked off my bike by a driver turning left into me as I was cycling forward across a junction. She didn’t stop to see if I was injured or if my bike was damaged, she just drove off leaving me angry, hurt and very shaken.

Luckily I escaped with only some highly-attractive leg bruising and her registration number (which has been submitted to the police, along with a very long and boring collision report form), but the experience is still very fresh in my mind.

So I was mightily pissed off to see the cycle-hating editorial from the chair of Addison Lee cabs – a firm that I use regularly. We even used them for our wedding.  Maybe John Griffin – or “Dickhead”, as I prefer to think of him –  was just trying to court controversy by suggesting that cyclists should get off their bikes, learn to drive and pay “road tax” (a concept that doesn’t actually exist).

But surely there are better things for the head of London’s biggest cab firm to be controversial about – or in his words to “entertain and generate debate” – than the fact that hundreds of cyclists are injured or killed every year on the capital’s roads under the wheels of lorries, vans and cars, whether private or for-hire.

I would question the assumption that all these cyclists are “wobbling grannies”, and I would wager good money on the guilty party in a good number of those collisions being the one in the tonne or more of solid metal rather than on two wheels. Oh look – research shows that 75% of collisions are caused by drivers, mainly failing to look properly.

For what it’s worth, I’ve been cycling regularly for over 15 years. I also hold a full, clean UK driving licence and pay vehicle excise duty for my own car. I also use buses, trains, black cabs and minicabs, and am a pedestrian. I’m sure there are many, many cyclists who are in the same boat, so to speak.

Yes, there are bad cyclists that make my stomach turn as I watch them shoot red lights, whizz across zebra crossings or meander across the road (and don’t get me started on riders who either don’t have gears or don’t know how to use them…) but there’s a huge majority of good ones.

There’s also a minority of bad drivers amongst the majority of safe and careful motorists. And there are bad pedestrians who step out into the road in i-Pod oblivion, and mostly good ones who use the crossings and look both ways. We are all just trying to get along and share the city’s roads.

Anyway. As a result of all this shenanigans (including the hilarious cyclists “die-in” protest on Monday night) I’m boycotting Addison Lee cabs for the time being. Anyone got any recommendations for cab firms that aren’t run by a cycle-hating idiot?

I love you, Mum

Mostly because of the boundless love, support and encouragement you’ve given me and my sisters over the years – you are my rock, and you made me the person I am today.

But also because you do things like this…

Bad wedding photo

One man and his dog

Couple of pics from a recent trip home to the ‘rents, who live in the Chilterns. Such a beautiful landscape, and nice to spend time with their lovely new cocker spaniel puppy. I’m sure mum only got him so I’d come home more often…

One man and his dog

Ivinghoe Beacon

Ivinghoe Beacon

I’ve been a bit busy…

Signing the register

Normal blogging service will be resumed very shortly!

Puppy Love

Meet the newest addition to the Arney family – Ferdy the cocker spaniel puppy. Sadly he’s not mine, but belongs to my parents:

Ferdy and mum 2

Their old dog, Maisie (age 12) is not impressed by the new arrival:

Maisie is not amused

I went to visit at the weekend and am completely besotted:

Puppy love

Here’s a short video showing him trying to get a biscuit out of a bottle. I could watch it all day – your mileage may vary:

Steampunk malarky – Haunted Summer

Sunday Driver badge

I received a lovely surprise in the post the other day – a handmade Sunday Driver badge from Haunted Summer (aka Allegra Hawksmoor). She’s got some wonderful things in her Etsy store, from Steampunk-inspired slogan badges to tops embroidered with gorgeous hot air balloons.

My only problem now is trying to decide what to sew my new badge onto. Thanks Allegra!

Exactly what part of the word “choice” don’t you understand?

I don’t usually dabble in politics on this blog but something in the news this weekend really got to me – the proposed amendments to the Health and Social Care bill, led by MP Nadine Dorries (Conservative MP for CloudCuckoo Land), that the current system of providing impartial information at abortion clinics should be scrapped and replaced by any provider that bids for the services. And first in the queue – thanks to Dorries’ staunchly anti-abortion stance – are organisations driven by an anti-abortion (and often religious) ideology.

This opens the door to the possibility that the only information a woman can get access to in an abortion clinic is provided by organisations that are ideologically opposed to abortion.

If you can’t see why this might be problematic, please go away and come back when you’ve gained some skills in basic logic.

Although my personal beliefs are now moving towards the feeling that religion is a form of collective mental illness, I also believe that religious groups have the right to offer advice to pregnant women who are unsure if they want to continue their pregnancy. They can currently do this through independent counselling services that already exist, but – importantly – this is outside the context of the clinics where abortion is offered, which currently offer impartial advice about a woman’s options – *including the alternatives to abortion* – based on current medical and psychological best practice.

There is no need to change this current system of impartial advice available at the point of service, with alternative viewpoints available elsewhere should women wish to seek them out.  I strongly believe that the advice offered at the point of medical care should be impartial and based on scientific evidence, without an ideological undercurrent.

Let’s be clear. This is not a move driven by people with the best interests of women and their right to have autonomy over their own bodies. This is policy driven, at its heart, by religious ideology and the belief that women cannot be trusted to make sensible decisions about there own health and wellbeing because OMG TEH TEENY DEAD BABIEZ!!

This is a great article outlining exactly why this proposed amendment is complete bullshit – please also read the comments about women’s personal experiences of seeking abortions.

Abortion is a legal medical procedure that women in the UK have a right to have. I don’t care whether you’re pro-abortion or anti-abortion – you can do what you like with your own body, but you don’t have the right to dictate to me or anyone else. The issue is about choice – the right of every person to choose what happens to their own body.

This is not just a ‘women’s issue’ – this is about fundamental human rights and bodily autonomy. Seriously, if men had to put up with half the shit about their health and reproductive choices that women do, we wouldn’t even be having this debate.

I have never had an abortion. But if I discovered I was pregnant and unsure about having the baby (because, let’s not forget, women who are 100% happy with continuing their pregnancy tend not to end up in abortion clinics…), I hope I would get access to impartial information about my options, whether to have an abortion or not, about the medical procedures available, and their potential impacts on my health and wellbeing.

I would not expect to receive incomplete or biased information because the person providing it has an ideological agenda based against me ending a pregnancy that I do not wish to carry to term, no matter how well meaning. It’s my body. I will make the decisions about what happens to it, and I expect to be given proper information to help me make that decision.

In the same way, I don’t expect to be told that my only contraceptive options are abstinence before marriage when I go to ask my GP for the pill. And when I rent a house with my boyfriend, I don’t expect to be told that I can’t because we’re not married. Both of these situations would rightly be called out for the prejudiced bullshit they are – so why do we put up with it for the anti-abortion lobby?

So. whether you’re a man or a woman, please register your concern (or outright fury) at these proposals by contacting your MP through this handy online tool from Abortion Rights. And if you’re feeling really cross, you could always bung them a donation to keep up their work in ensuring that women have the right to choose what happens to their own damn body.

If you have the time, please consider changing the standard text in the letter to express your own opinion. I did a bit of cut-and-pasting of the standard text in my letter to my MP, Diane Abbott, which I’ve copied at the bottom of this post.

Finally, you may wonder why everyone has got thier knickers in such a twist over this. In my case, it’s because I’m a regular reader of US blogs such as Shakesville.  Lately I’ve been reading with wide-eyed horror as states across the US restrict access to abortion – and along with it basic sexual healthcare for women such as STD and cancer screening and contraception – purely based on religious ideology.

Although what’s happening here in the UK isn’t a patch on the desecration of women’s basic human rights that’s going on across the pond, it’s the thin end of a pretty fucking big wedge.

And finally finally, you should probably also read this: Ten things I’d say to the anti-choice fanatics.

Edited to add:

And this:  Abortion rules could set back system 25 years


Dear Diane Abbott,

I am extremely concerned – not to mention angry – to read about the proposed changes to abortion counselling in the UK. These proposals are a threat to women’s bodily autonomy, and I believe represent the thin end of an unpleasant, misogynistic (and, in the main,  religious) agenda.

The proposals require GPs to make provision for ‘independent advice and counselling’ to be made available to women seeking abortion, stripping abortion providers of responsibility for carrying out this role.

Not only is this unnecessary, it is completely misguided, leaving vulnerable women at risk of being deprived of impartial and independent advice at an extremely sensitive time.

Abortion providers are *already* obliged to ensure that women receive all relevant information about the procedure, including details of possible risks and side effects and information on alternatives to abortion.

Preventing abortion providers from offering decision-making support opens the door for organisations – such as those associated with religious groups – opposed in principle to abortion to become formally involved in counselling women on their pregnancy options. These organisations do not offer impartial, non-directive information, but rather seek to misinform and dissuade women from accessing abortion services.

This risks increasing delays in accessing abortion, which – contrary to tabloid belief is not a “lifestyle choice” – but usually a procedure required to protect a woman’s physical and/or mental health and wellbeing.

As a woman yourself, I hope you understand the importance of allowing women to maintain autonomy over their own bodies. We must be trusted to make our own decisions regarding their reproductive health – no matter how “well meaning” the alternative support offered – whether that is to keep a baby or to have an abortion.

It is vital that the information they receive remains scientifically accurate, based on medical and psychological evidence, and driven by clinical best practice rather than by an ideological agenda.

If these amendments are debated at Report Stage of the Health and Social Care Bill on 6-7th September, I strongly urge you to vote against them, to ensure that women continue to be able to exercise their right to safe, legal abortion without further impediment. And I hope you will ask your colleagues in the House to do the same.

I am extremely concerned about this move towards the erosion of women’s reproductive rights and bodily autonomy – something that we, and the generations of women before us, have done so much to secure.

Out of respect for your own body and human rights, and the right of women everywhere to make their own decisions about their health and reproduction without ideological coercion, I urge you to fight against this. A choice is only truly a choice if it is freely made, and we should respect every woman’s right to choose what happens to her own body.

Thank you for reading this.

On slang – I’ll show you mine if you show me yours

The Winner TacoEvery group of friends and colleagues has their own slang – words they use to signify things that are peculiar to that group – and it’s something that fascinates me.

As a child, my friends and I would describe something particularly good as an “Eggy one!” (nope, me neither – I still don’t quite know where it came from), although it was obviously very uncool if your Dad started using it…

At university it got worse. Regardless of the slightly archaic language of Cambridge in use in everyday life (bedders? plodge? P-hole?), we developed our own. Toilets became the “lageteria”, andanything that reached the pinnacle of awesomeness was referred to as “the Winner Taco”, in reference to a popular Spanish icecream.

And it still goes on. Within Sunday Driver, we have a habit of referring to a kurta, a traditional Indian shirt worn by several members of the band, as a “Norris”. Coined by Matthew, our old tabla player, this is nouveau cockney rhyming slang: Norris McWhirter = kurta.

I’ve shared a few of mine, and I’m intrigued to hear yours. What are the words that have become common parlance in your social group. Where did they come from, and why do you love them (or hate them)?


I have been busy doing this:










Plus, of course, the day job and a bunch of unfortunate personal malarky going on.

Off to the Green Man Festival tomorrow – normal service (and proper posts) will be resumed shortly.