Bow Selector: Libtard Nonsense

The theme this issue is community they said, and that sounded great, until I began wondering exactly
what the word means. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the actual definition, my voclab… er… vocable… list of words I know… is pretty good. But what is the Beeston community? Is there one?

Yes, obviously. But is there just one? No, just as obviously.

As I walk down Wollaton Road taking my daughter to school the other morning I see a huge number of people I don’t ever really interact with or know about – people who have different lifestyles, opinions, politics and even languages to mine.

I have my own routines, my circle of friends, people I work with or share hobbies with but how much interaction do I have with these strangers, what do we share?

“We live in the same town, are all affected by some of the same events…”

And yet we do share something, even with people we don’t know. We live in the same town, are all affected by some of the same events (as I type the increase in cases of coronavirus is headline news, who knows what it will be like by the time this is published). But tramworks, roadworks, shop closures, cinema building as well as those perennial favourites of shoe shops and public loos probably affect the majority of us in some way or another.

And you, dear reader – I may not know you personally but I imagine there’s a distinct ‘Beestonian’ community too, people who are interested, involved and have a real passion and pride in our town. You may not all agree on the same things of course – as I’ve mentioned previously our street art certainly divides people as does the number of student residences for instance, but I’m quite sure most readers could happily share a conversation and thoughts on our experiences and lives here.

And I like that – a lot. As a middle-aged bloke who’s lived in Beeston almost all of my life (I’ve had brief periods living in Nottingham itself, London and – for a short time – a castle in Cheshire) I love being part of something bigger than just my experience or limited worldview. The people who make up Beeston now come from the town itself and sometimes much further afield, including our annual influx of students too. We have a wide variety of restaurants – Persian, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Chinese, Italian, Indian – pretty much global – run by people who know and have a passion for their own cultures and cuisines but a desire to share that with others to add to the diversity, choice, interest and variety on our doorsteps.

And yet there are also those who don’t have as wide a choice as the majority; it would be a particularly inattentive person who hadn’t noticed the increase in the number of people sleeping rough or at least living on the streets in Beeston. There has been some robust discussion on the Beeston Updated Facebook group about the reasons and causes of this – as I mentioned, politics sometimes differ – but from the incredibly expensive houses of Beeston Fields Drive to sleeping bags on the High Road it can certainly be said almost all human life is here.

As a man who plays at being the country’s most famous outlaw, famed for a rather proactive redistribution of wealth, I’m not advocating anything as radical but I hope we can all realise we’re part of something bigger, to see outside our own narrow frame of reference and help each other – even those we don’t know – to live and thrive in our great town, one I truly believe is one of the best and most welcoming in the country.

TP

 

 

Chapter 15. Everybody Panic!

As a nation, we seem to be teetering on the verge of a very middle-class apocalypse, one which is holding eye contact while unflinchingly increasing the price of hand sanitiser between each worried looking person in line at the chemist. An end-of-days parade of wide-eyed, polite folk roaming loose around supermarkets, trying to look nonchalant in their quest to find the last bottle of pineapple scented hand gel. People who wouldn’t WANT to fight, but…

Our daughter’s school has issued warnings and advice, we are singing the prescribed two verses of Happy Birthday while slowly washing our hands, staring forlornly into the bathroom mirror like the ghosts of sad Victorian orphans. My hands are looking like something from Cocoon. We are too British to panic, but we shall tut and huff and encourage our kids to avoid playing with Sneezy Joe at school, all while being grateful that it seems to be happening to other people for now. But, and I don’t say this lightly, kids are filthy. If the end times come soon they shall be heralded not by four horsemen, but by four snotty year 2’s playing the shared class recorders.

These germ delivery drivers are IN OUR HOUSES and it’s impolite to throw them out when they can’t legally look for alternative accommodation because they are still ‘only five mummy, please.’

“We have to start hosing them down when they get home with the enthusiasm of a gap-year student at an elephant sanctuary.”

Short of quarantining them all at Hogwarts or Eton or anywhere else which produces smug magical beings while us muggles work our fingers to the bone while they swim in vaults full of gold, we need to take drastic measures. We have to start hosing them down when they get home with the enthusiasm of a gap-year student at an elephant sanctuary.

Spray anti-bac directly into little Jimmy’s eyes, sheep dip the neighbours’ kids in last summer’s paddling pool before they can come inside. Put marigolds on the end of mops and greet them with a long-distance hug when they get home from school. Make them live in a tent in the garden and call it camping, kids love that stuff. Send them on a play date and leave the country while they are out.

Use your heads people, don’t let the kids win.

DL

University of Beestonia: Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015 the United Nations released a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and improve the lives of all. This ambitious blueprint outlined 17 Goals and a 15-year timeframe in which to achieve them.

Sustainability is a challenging concept but is broadly defined in this context as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs”. The focus on the SDGs and sustainability in general has opened a wealth of opportunities for scientists. One of the biggest shifts in the UK has been in the nature of the funding landscape, with the introduction of the “Global Challenges Research Fund” in 2015 – a £1.5bn UK Government funding initiative. This has in turn seen many Universities and Research Institutes align their research strategies with the SDGs – for example, the British Geological Survey’s “Geoscience for Sustainable Futures” programme, or the University of Nottingham’s Global Research Theme “Developing Sustainable Societies” and Future Food Beacon of Excellence, which have been discussed previously in this column.

Geoscience, our focus at the BGS, as well as other (and arguably all) science disciplines have a crucial role in underpinning and delivering applied solutions to improve economic and social welfare both at home and overseas. Perhaps the key to achieving the goals is tied up in Goal 17 –Partnerships for the Goals. We can no longer be scientists that sail our own ships, the need for crossdisciplinary working has never been stronger. We also need to work effectively and appropriately with overseas partners – be these academics, government bodies, or local communities – working together to co-design research, and co-produce knowledge to positively impact economic, environmental, and social development at local to global scales.

Achieving the UN-SDGs by 2030 might seem like an insurmountable task, and will be challenging, but does represent an exciting opportunity for scientists both in the UK and overseas to contribute to making positive change at a global scale.

Thanks to Dr. Keely Mills from the British Geological Survey (BGS) for contributing to the column this issue.

Beeston Safari

It occurred to me, sometime last Christmas, that to enter one of the Top Ten Eco Destinations in the World (according to BBC Wildlife Magazine) I didn’t have to do much more than walk a few steps from my house, cross a railway track and push a swing gate open.

I don’t live on the edge of a rainforest in Borneo. I don’t live on the fringe of the Red Desert in Namibia. As you may expect from someone who runs a magazine based in Beeston, my digs aren’t quite so exotic. I live, as many of you reading this will also do, right close to Attenborough Nature Reserve.

It also occurred to me that I didn’t know a great deal about what was within that reserve, or my own back garden for that matter, which felt an awful waste. Sure, I knew my swans from my geese, my starling from my sparrow; and I’d coaxed a few robins to feed from my outstretched palm on occasion. But what else was there? Finding a trap-cam and a bird-book in my Christmas stocking, I decided to put them to use. I would start a safari in Beeston, with the Nature Reserve, the Trent and my own rather overgrown back garden as my focus.

 

The challenge was simple: every day I would find and photograph a new species of life, research exactly what it was and what it did, and put it up on Instagram and Facebook. On the first day, while the outside world tussled with New Year hangovers, I checked my trapcams at dawn and found only curious cats. No matter. I stuck my camera out of the front window and onto the bird feeder, where a grey squirrel performed tail-based acrobatics and thus became my first subject. Next day, collared dove. Third day, the first creature I had no previous idea of, only identifying through a microscope: a planarium flatworm, making its way through the soil. A shiny glass snail – I’d until then assumed there was just two types of snails, garden and pond – with an aphid, coal tit and a common centipede rounding off the first week.

“Nature is an incredible array of stories, histories, etymologies and often bizarre facts.”

With each new species came a desire to not just photograph it, not just know its name, but know why it is unique. Why is a mute swan mute (it’s not)? Why do hoverflies look like wasps? Who the hell was responsible for naming fungus, and were they getting a bit too fond of the more psychedelic versions while at work that day? Nature is an incredible array of stories, histories, etymologies and often bizarre facts. I became addicted to it.

As spring broke through the frozen ground, I became spoiled for choice. Hedgehogs and badgers would regularly visit the trap cam, and the wealth of species that appeared in the nature reserves was heady: I became fascinated by beetles, amazed at the habits of butterflies, enthralled by the impossible flash of a hawker dragonfly in full flight. Rather than have nature as an auxiliary support, there to dip into when needed, I began to become immersed and wilfully lost in it. I could happily spend hours piling through scratching brambles all just to get a grainy shot of a blackcap. Windows were left open and lights left on during the night to lure in fascinating moths. My photography skills vastly improved. My own backyard became my own Serengeti, a joy taken in the minutiae.

It started to get noticed: numerous appearances on Notts TV talking about the safari ensued, and people would send me their own pictures, seemingly inspired by my efforts. The ultimate accolade came in late May, when a hero of mine who radically changed how nature is written about, Robert Macfarlane, crossed paths with me due to a work event. We went for dinner together at Cafe Roya, where he told me he enjoyed my daily pictures. I probably resembled a smug Elephant Hawk Moth right then, as my head swelled
accordingly.

Something more important happened too. I fell back in love with nature, and I once again understood what a balm it is. Immersion into nature takes you somewhere far from the daily stresses, the petty internal debates. By reducing you to just another temporal organism amongst many billions, a transcendence can begin. Understanding more about the creatures we share this patch with lends a greater respect, a deeper empathy and a greater need to look after what we have. To quote Robert Macfarlane “We find it hard to love what we cannot give a name to. And what we do not love we will not save.” And right now, we need to bridge that gap between nature and humanity, for it’s sake, for our sake.

This year, I’ve restarted the safari: as I write I’m watching a charm of goldfinch on a feeder, while a cautious female blackbird pecks at an apple left on the floor. Keep up with the safari over on my Instagram: @beestonia.

MT

 

 

Eco Friendly Parenting

The phrase ‘eco-friendly parenting’ summons up images of forest schools and vegan lentil puree and sharing circles where mums hang out in wafty kaftans while beardy dads whittle musical pipes to sell at local craft markets, but I have a very vivid and judgemental imagination. As someone with less free time than Prince Andrew in 1999, I know how hard it can be to actively do my bit for the environment as well as sort out childcare, work full time and remember which charity your kid needs a pound for at school.

There are, however, a few bits of fairly sensible advice I’ve picked up over the years from people who are far more qualified to bring up a child than I am, so I’m going to shamelessly pass these off as my own and gain your immense admiration and respect.

Buy books. Books hold their value for far longer than the latest LOL doll or surprise bag, and can be passed on to your local charity shop or a mate with a younger child when yours gets bigger. They make great personal gifts, you can get them in the pound shop, and they don’t take up too much space in small bedrooms. Buy reusable water bottles and avoid snacks in single-use plastic containers. Baby-Bels are fun but a block of cheese is cheaper and produces less waste. Same with fruit and biscuits. Buy bulk and cheap where you can, and ignore the tiny protestations of the 3-year-old who wants Transformers yoghurt pots. You are bigger than they are. Be strong. Sit on them if necessary.

“Scour charity shops for stocking fillers and remember that it’s fine to buy second hand.”

Shop local; find smaller gift items on your high street from independent retailers and avoid those big chains who avoid their taxes. You’ll be supporting local individuals rather than billionaires. Check out the website Etsy for some brilliant one-off gifts which are more personal than a Frozen 2 lip balm set. Scour charity shops for stocking fillers and remember that it’s fine to buy second hand.

Above all remind your kids about the great outdoors. Parks are free, and if they grow up loving the outdoors they will grow up to want to protect it. That’s really the best thing you can do, and it costs nothing. Chuck on something narrated by David Attenborough and remind them that we share the world, that it’s not ours. (Skip the bit where the baby seals get eaten alive though, our kid hasn’t slept for 7 weeks and we’re all very tired.)

DL

Bow Selector: A look back on 2019…

As I write this I’m dressed in a silly costume, representing a world-famous character who is renowned for doing the right thing and being very generous – although this time I’m not Robin Hood, today I’m being Santa at a sold-out Nottingham Albert Hall for two performances of their annual Kidsophonic Christmas Concerts which combine festive music played by a brilliant orchestra with games, poems, songs and carols and of course a visit at the end from the portly philanthropist.

It’s a lovely event and for my five-year-old daughter Scarlett (six on Boxing Day) it’ll be her fourth time of attending – and each year I wonder if this is the year she’ll spot her favourite Santa (who mysteriously knows so much about her) is in fact me! Maybe this year will be the one, I don’t know…

But whilst Christmas is a time for tradition, the New Year, also rushing towards us apace, is a time for reflection and change. This year has been one of huge change for all of us and I don’t expect 2020 will be any less tumultuous. Obviously things have been ‘interesting’ this year for any number of reasons – national and international politics for a start – but don’t worry, I’m certainly not going to dredge all that up again. One of the other hats I wear (aside from Robin Hood and Santa hats) is that of an admin for the wonderful ‘Beeston Updated’ Facebook group and it’s been fun (I think that’s the word) trying to keep the place as apolitical or neutral as possible whilst a storm of divisiveness crashes around us all.

But things have changed here in Beeston too this year – some of it sad, with some businesses closing their doors for the final time. Personally, I was gutted to see the wonderful games, comic store and social hub Chimera disappear from the Broadgate end of the High Road and of course, The White Lion also shut.

There are good news stories too though, farewell Table 8, hello Yak and Yeti for instance. And Andy and Heather from Chimera are keeping the legacy of their store and community alive by running ‘pop up’ gaming sessions in other local venues like our splendid micropub the Pottle (near Sainsbury’s) which keeps the social and retail aspect alive and fresh without the worrying cost of keeping a physical shop going; it’s a great way to utilise and promote other local venues too. The White Lion looks to have a new team coming in soon and there are even vague rumours that the redevelopment of the dead land by the tram station might actually come to something!

“The enthusiasm I see from the people of Beeston is incredibly heartening…”

The downside of that is that the Beeston Beach may not reappear again – much to Scarlett’s dismay as she loves it – and sadly the splendid mural of Robin Hood will have to be demolished (but I’m happy to stand in its place for hours on end for a very reasonable fee, I promise). The vibrant art scene in Beeston is another wonderful and unique ongoing point of interest – again on Beeston Updated there were a number of views expressed including some folks who thought (and presumably still think) that such public art does nothing for the town; I must admit I side with those who think it’s beautiful and enhances the place.

I know we’re all still waiting for the arrival of a shoe-megastore and some proper public toilets but the enthusiasm I see from the people of Beeston is incredibly heartening and gives me some real hope for 2020.

And now I’ve written all of this I can reveal that there was another change this year – at the end of the concert, just as she’d had her photo taken with Santa in his sleigh Scarlett turned round, hugged me and whispered in my ear “I love you Daddy.”

It’s the end of an era – but also the start of another.

Happy New Year!

TP

Call me captain planet

It’s nearly midnight and I’ve just come back in from taking out the recycling, something that I always do in the dark, mainly because I don’t want the neighbours to see how much alcohol I drink. There is only so many times you can have a Christmas party before someone suggests you have a problem, especially when it’s May.

The environment is becoming a huge political hot potato, albeit one which was heated in a solar-powered oven made from mud. We are constantly being bombarded with messages of how little time we’ve got left and how we are on the cusp of Armageddon.

The straws

Don’t worry though everyone, it’s all going to be okay because we’ve banned the plastic straws.

These cardboard ones aren’t the answer though. Of all the materials that are suitable for being submerged underwater, cardboard would be way down that list. I’d like to say that these new straws sucked, but they don’t even do that. Ten seconds in a diet coke and it just gives up, it’s like trying to smoke a roll-up in the shower.

I don’t know what the answer is. Maybe we just have to put up with it, or I suppose we could drink directly from the glass, you know, like grown up’s do.

We need to have bigger changes than this, otherwise, we’ll be sat there on top of a skyscraper in fifty years’ time, tidal waves lapping at our feet, watching cattle float by like driftwood, sipping that same milkshake thinking, “Well I just don’t understand why we changed the straws?”

Extinction Rebellion

We have recently seen the rise of the protest group Extinction Rebellion.

The group were formed after founder members met at a Psychedelic Drugs retreat. That’s quite impressive. Most people who spend most of the day off their face can’t even organise a trip to the all-night garage, never mind a political movement.

Recently an anti-terror chief said that they should be treated as a terrorist organisation. Really? I’d like to see them try and radicalise some unsuspecting arts student:

“Oh yes, we started to notice his behaviour change. He would often wander around the house switching off lights and turning down the thermostat. He’d spend all day in his room, watching Greta Thunberg Speeches and just silently recycling. Then, two weeks later he totally flipped and tried to hijack that oil tanker with a gluten-free breadstick.”

Shamed into action

Like most things with the environment I think we need to be shamed into doing something, it’s the only way. That’s why a teenager like Greta is having such an impact. We feel embarrassed when our own kids make us look like morons, never mind someone else’s.

When I have a dental appointment, the day before I suddenly start caring about my teeth. I brush till my gums bleed, floss, gargle mouthwash; all so I don’t get told off by my dentist. Cleaning the house is the same. Some days I arrange for people to come and visit me, just so I have no choice but to get off my arse and do the hoovering. This is what we need to do for the environment.

“Right I’m going now, but I’ll be back on Friday to look at your environment, don’t let me down.”

We’d have it sorted in record time.

Our children

We are worried for the next generation. They are pumped full of guilt and fear, and so they should be, it’s partly their fault. Having a kid is terrible for the environment. For the first few years, all they do is consume food, energy, and resources. The amount of arts and crafts they churn out is an environmental disaster that could rival any oil spill.

Every day my three-year-old comes home with more things she’s made at playgroup. It’s a nightmare. I can’t throw it away because she’ll know it’s gone and I can’t recycle it because it’s just a congealed mess of glue, lollipop sticks, paper and glitter. My fridge door is straining at the hinges with the weight of this poorly executed emotional landfill. They are using up more resources than the US at the height of the industrial revolution.

“Look, Daddy, I’ve made you another picture of a sheep in dried pasta.”

It’s no wonder free school meals are in crisis. Stop sticking the stuff on paper and cook it!

I swear the things they make are getting bigger. It’s a conspiracy to stop you from throwing it all away. They started as A4 cards, then a painted plate. The week after it was a wooden spatula, by the end of term they’ll be sending them out the door with a sequin-covered surfboard.

My eldest daughter Olivia, is a vegetarian, at nine years old. She’s doing it both for ethical and environmental reasons. These dietary requirements are something my parents never had to deal with. At her birthday party this year it was a nightmare. We had two vegetarians, a vegan, someone who was wheat intolerant and a celiac. I don’t know where we’re having her party next year, probably Holland and Barret. It’ll just be sixteen bored kids, sitting there playing pass the parsley for three hours.

Disposable society

We live in a disposable society where we just endlessly consume and things cost more to repair than replace and that’s fundamentally wrong.

Our Tumble dryer broke recently, so I got in touch with the company:

“Don’t worry Mr Bennett for £15.99, a month, we can repair your tumble dryer and that will also cover you for all future problems.”

My life insurance is £8.99 a month. I told my wife Jemma, “Can you believe it darling, to repair this tumble dryer it’s going to be twice the price of my life insurance.” She looked at me and said, “Yeah, but the thing is, we couldn’t live without that tumble dryer.”

I wanted to repair it myself, I’m fairly practical, but it was impossible. The manufacturers don’t want you to. I couldn’t even get into the thing!

There are many screws that the designers could have used, ones that fit, say a conventional screwdriver. But no, my tumble dryer has a screw with a head on it that can only be turned by the toenail of a Komodo dragon! Not a flat-head, not a crosshead, this one is like a weird triangle. Who built this thing? The Illuminati?

Before we start trying to tackle bigger issues facing our planet, we need to have a change in our behaviour as a society not just as individuals. It needs to be a huge global effort in collective thinking; rather than being led by these huge companies who consistently look to put their profits ahead of the planet.

SB

Scotty’s Soap Box: Halloween Special

Now is the time of year our streets will be teaming with youngsters, all wearing costumes and face paint, marauding through the local community, angrily making their demands. No, I’m not talking about the next protest from Extinction Rebellion; I’m referring, of course, to Halloween.

I’m baffled as to why it seems to be such a big deal these days? I think it’s the closest us Brits get to having an affinity with the Americans, apart from our growing obesity problem and embarrassment with our political leaders. It’s a major feature on the calendar now. The kids get excited like it’s Christmas and it nearly rivals Easter when it comes to the calorie count.

When I was a kid back in the 1980s Halloween wasn’t even a thing. I can only remember going trick or treating a few times. The first time was when I was about three years of age, a mere amateur in the game. My parents took a photo of the occasion. I was there sporting a massive black bin bag, with skeleton bones crudely drawn on the front in Tippex. I looked like a walking ISIS flag. I was wearing my father’s wellingtons as they were black and presumably, my Fireman Sam ones didn’t have the required scare factor. I was sat in my Batman go-kart and my poor dad was pulling me around the streets with a rope. I think I was the only Trick or Treater to be chauffeur-driven.

The second time I was about 12, which in trick or treater years is approaching retirement. I was with a friend and went trick or treating around his estate. It was a strange night. The only people to answer the door were his parents, his grandma and one of his highly religious neighbours, who gave us a little note of some bible scripture, warning us against dabbling with the occult. My mate ate it as he thought it might be some sugar paper, it wasn’t but he’s now a fully qualified vicar so it was certainly laced with something.

They even have zombie walks through town centres now. Hundreds of people, walking with a vacant stare, moaning and groaning. I’ve seen it in Nottingham many times, although not exclusively on Halloween.

I often wonder if trick or treating is different in really posh areas. The kids would probably only be able to do two houses as it would take half an hour to walk up the driveways. They’d all be dressed in designer Halloween costumes, a little off the shoulder gothic number by Gucci, with a swan slung over each shoulder and they wouldn’t say trick or treat, it would be “Hoodwink or delicacy?”

Unless it’s Green and Blacks 80% organic fairtrade chocolate, they’d not accept it and the tricks would be a little different too, something more in-keeping with the area. “I say sir, haven’t you heard, house prices here are set to plummet by 5%!”

I have two children, nine and three, strange names but easy to remember. They both love Halloween. At my eldest daughters’ school last year for Halloween they were allowed to go in fancy dress, she said to me, “Daddy I want to go as something really scary.” So I had a think about it and sent her as an Ofsted inspector.

We don’t send them out on their own trick or treating, it’s a different world now. So, we have to accompany them like a pair of weird bouncers. Waiting at the bottom of the driveways and mouthing an embarrassed “sorry” as they storm into our neighbour’s hallways to mug them of all the Haribo they have.

The street I live on really embraces Halloween, because the demographic is mainly young families. It started out quite low-key, a couple of pumpkins, maybe a cobweb here and there. A morning at Costa and a WhatsApp group later and its now Grand Designs meets Friday the 13th. It’s a competition in one-upmanship. We’ve got gravestones in gardens, smoke machines and spooky music on Bluetooth speakers. Last year one resident had the idea of putting a life-size dummy of a killer clown in the front seat of their people carrier. It was a nice touch until one child had a panic attack. I think they are still in therapy now.

I don’t know where this madness is going to end. I wouldn’t be surprised if my wife tries to convince me to bury myself in the garden, with nothing but a paper straw to breathe through. She’d tell the children I was working away and then on Halloween night, as soon as the first bars of Michael Jacksons “Thriller” are blasted across the garden, I would emerge from the soil like one of the Living Dead.

Towards the end of the evening, we tend to get the stragglers coming, to pick off the last of the sweets. These are the kids who are too old for the trick or treating game. The ones who have worn the tread on the tyres, jaded old hacks who should know better. The cut-off point is when The One Show intro music starts, everyone knows that. Once the pumpkin is extinguished it’s over. Yet they still come, all charged up on E-numbers, mobile phones lighting their faces like low budget ETs and hammer the doorbell. I expect the reason they were late is because some of them are old enough to be working at Subway and they needed to finish their shifts first.

The carving of the pumpkin is something I try to involve the children in. It’s a calmer, more traditional taste of Halloween. The kids try and carve, but ultimately, they get bored. They start off with such big ideas, “I’m going to carve Harry Potter’s face into this one Daddy!”, “I’m going to do a full-scale picture of Hogwarts in mine Daddy!” this all fades away at record speed when they realise how difficult it is to cut into and all we end up with is two pumpkins with a glory hole in them.

This years Halloween will be very different. I won’t be able to celebrate it as I am performing my tour show “Leap Year” (tickets available at www.scottbennettcomedy.co.uk/tour.html yes this is a plug) in Amersham, Hertfordshire.

Let’s hope that it’s a treat for me and not a trick where no one turns up. Or worse than that, one person turns up, in fancy dress as the grim reaper.

@scottbcomedyuk | scottbennettcomedy.co.uk Find The Scott Bennett Podcast on SoundCloud and iTunes.

Motherhood: Halloween

In our house, Halloween is as big as Christmas. Costumes are decided during the end of summer sales, our amazing porch (tiny front window directly onto the road in front of our small terraced house) is decked in crunchy burnt-orange leaves, pumpkins and skulls, neighbours avoid us until mid-November.

Previous costumes themes have included Stranger Things, The X Files, The Walking Dead, and weirdly, Parks and Rec. This year we have decided on Fleabag as our muse. I’m Fleabag (of course) my husband, despite being 6’2 and bald, is the sexy priest, and our little girl is Hilary the guinea pig. We pride ourselves on having a 0% success rate for people guessing who we are.

Our little family are all huge horror fans. My favourite film as a child was the 18-rated Troll, which we rented so many times from the video shop that the guy who owned it eventually gave it to us for free because the tracking was wearing out. My daughter loves Goosebumps and is sniffing around my old Point Horror collection. My husband likes anything with fighting and blood in it.

We are natural Halloween enthusiasts. Part of the attraction for me has always been the subversive nature of celebrating a pagan ritual, a two-finger salute at religious holidays and a chance to run around in the dark demanding people give you stuff for free.

My fondest memory as a kid was of my parents unrolling bin bags and my mum getting crafty with scissors and sellotape. I was a witch every year for 8 years. When I was about 6 my dad took me trick or treating and told me to beware of witches lurking around corners, just as two unwitting students came around the bend in our road and through my screams of pure terror I felt that first rush of white-hot fear, and instantly knew that being scared was awesome. My daughter is the same. She will beg me to make her jump or tell her a scary story, to the point that she’s exhausted herself with screams and laughter. I’ll tell her stories of working as a scare actor in attractions around London, and of the people who fainted or threw up or begged to leave. It was the best few years of my 20s.

Whatever you do this Halloween, don’t be a scare-scrooge and avoid the doorbell. Grab a bag of pound shop sweets and tell the kids they look awesome, they will remember it forever. Or do what we did and set up a smoke machine in the hallway, and terrify the living souls out of the local children by answering the door dressed as a dead Mulder and Scully. You’ll remember that forever too.

DL

University of Beestonia

A global top 100 happy university.

I was thrown a right editorial curveball this issue, I was ready and primed for a whole year (I’d set myself a challenge) of positive celebrations of Higher Education (HE). If anyone has ever read this column you may have noted the occasional grump, the odd bout of cynicism, and sometimes a pointed suggestion of where things might improve. Not this year, there’s loads to be happy about (should not have used positive and celebration in the same phrase earlier, internal thesaurus’ run out already), and this is what the column will focus on for at least the next 12 months.

And then we hit the start of the new semester, it started raining and the theme for this issue comes through (thanks new Ed.). Amazing how quickly my head went to “HE Horror Show” or “Halloween is traditionally the time to remember those that have passed, like our HE system”. But neither of those things is true, it would have been lazy writing, and I see enough of that from some of the professionals these days.

There’s always a buzz about the beginning of the new year, often created by 100 young (and by golly they’re getting younger) coughs raining, often literally, down to the front of the lecture theatre (there’s a seasonal image for you). The campus is full of people again and the academics are chuckling about how they always forget what this time of year is like, even those that haven’t done it before.

So that bright light isn’t an oncoming train, after all, a rare occasion when the gentleman of Half Man Half Biscuit were wrong, at the end of this year’s tunnel there is joy, rainbows and undoubtedly bunnies (not the Monty Python type). Alternatively, I’m well and truly down the rabbit hole, but hey if I am it’s nice here and I’m not coming back. Reality sucks. Is that your Sanderling?

MJ currently has part of his salary paid for by The Future Food Beacon.

MJ

 

 

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