All About Eve

APW_9515My eldest daughter Megan is soon to being her final year at university; nine months of gestation leading to an outcome whose ripples will affect the rest of her life.  Whatever the outcome, I’m very proud of this  young lady, and have every confidence that she will rise to life’s challenges.  Being a woman, she will have to contend with many of the prejudices that come her way, but being Meg she will find a way to break through them.

In the last couple of days it feels like I’ve been bombarded with details that should just how far our world has to go in its treatment of women.  It began when I caught a snippet of Crossing Continents  on Radio 4 which was reporting on Chinese men from “bachelor villages” and their struggle to find partners.  In a variation on speed dating, the eligible women sat at red tables and the numerous men carried red roses.  Only if the woman accepted their rose, were they allowed to join their prospective partner to begin a conversation.  The story resonated with me as I compared my experiences from the world of online dating, but that’s a whole other story!  More to the point, this scene hinted at something far more sinister.  The social engineering that sought to control the country’s population through one child families, combined with a preference for male children created a culture where female foetuses were aborted and those who survived to birth often died through neglect or infanticide.  Consequently the nation faces a situation whereby there could be as many as 24 million more Chinese men that women by 2020.

The attitude to women as second class citizens was underlined because this week saw the conclusion of the Delhi rape trial that has galvanised opinion across India.  The four men responsible were found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging for their brutal assault on a 23-year-old student who died from her injuries two weeks later.  The court room has been besieged by protestors demanding the execution of these men, but there is a larger issue than the horrific treatment of this young woman.  A survey published by the UN this week, revealed that across many parts of Asia almost a quarter of men interviewed admitted to rape, and of these approximately half admitted to more than one instance.  Many saw it as their “entitlement”!  It will take more than the deaths of four men in India to change this.

Worst of all, I was talking to my friend Jane on Friday when she began to cry in response to something she had just seen; a report of an 8-year-old (yes, eight year old) Yemeni bride, dying as a result of internal injuries caused by sexual trauma on her wedding night with her 40-year-old husband.

There is a terrible conflict in Syria raging at present that has claimed the lives of over 100,000 people, leading to the leaders of two of the world’s super powers finally taking action to address it, yet this is seemingly a fraction of the numbers of women who suffer as a result of “cultural attitudes” that are left unaddressed.

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Megan is fortunate to live in a society which whilst imperfect allows women of all ages and races to contribute; at work, at home, and in the armed forces.  I despair at the prejudices that she and her sister will face, but I’m delighted at the freedoms that they will have in facing them.


Fourth World

Travelling home from work today I was listening to Digital Human on the radio and in particular a piece about Chris Kirkley’s search for authentic music in West Africa, and his discovery that a fiercely independent music culture such as that in Mali had developed surprising ways with the advent of technology.  Using pirated software bands are recording songs in MP3 format and then sharing them actively using bluetooth file transfer on their mobile phones.

The music remains staunchly sub-Saharan, but the method of broadcast shows the intrusion of western technologies, but on the Malian’s own terms.  The bonus of the programme was that there was some great incidental music, the downside, that it didn’t come with a track listing!

I’m no expert on world music, but it has always exerted some hold on me.  Long before Paul Simon’s controversial Graceland, the music of other cultures enthralled me.  Milestones in this musical journey have included much of Peter Gabriel‘s output, the Burundi drums of Joni Mitchell’s The Jungle Line, an album of Himalayan Melodies by Sarangi that I recognised in the alleys of Kathmandu from a hearing at a restaurant the previous evening, and of course:

Jon Hassell/Brian Eno – Fourth World Vol 1 Possible Musics.

Cover of "Fourth World, Vol. 1: Possible ...
Cover of Fourth World, Vol. 1: Possible Musics

This was an album bought by a school friend purely on the basis of having Brian Eno‘s name on the label.  His collaboration with trumpeter Hassell paved the way for the masterpiece that Eno would record with David Byrne; My Life in the Bush of Ghosts.  Featuring all manner of electronic treatments on a trumpet that sounds nothing like the horn you might expect, my friend hated this album and it eventually found its way to my collection.  I too found it a bit of an oddity, but over the years it has grown in appeal, and other works by Hassell have come my way.

Whatever the method, our sharing of music helps define us wherever we are in the world.

Appropriately enough my portrait today is of a young West African man, Kenneth.  Another Nigerian, I asked him to teach me how to say goodbye in his dialect, which I’m ashamed to say I promptly forgot, and all attempts to find the phrase in Hausa or Yoruba have failed me, so I must resort to Kiswahili and wish him kwaheri and assante sana.

It feels like years since it’s been here*


7.59 am.

A recent weather forecast, presented by Peter ...
Peter Gibbs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Radio 4 is broadcasting today’s weather forecast.  Appropriately the voice is Peter Gibbs, a native of Sunderland from my era.  His summary includes words to the effect of “I’m pleased to be able to say for the first time in a while that most of the UK will be dry and bright today!”

And what is more, the man from the Met Office seems to be right; in fact even at this hour there are so many individuals who have clearly been driven stir crazy by the cold and wet spell we have been experiencing that they have hit the beach without delay.  The seafront car parking is already 90% gone.

Recent rough seas have been replaced by a gentle swell.  The 7 or 8 surfers already immersed bob like seals playfully seeking attention.  None of them are going to be setting any records today for the tallest wave (recently set in Portugal at 78 feet!).

For others even that smooth bobbing seems way too energetic.  Better to just bask in the sun (more seal-like behaviour) than go to all that trouble.  Interesting choice of seating though.  A long bench adjoining the sun-worshipper’s perch lies empty, yet he has managed to squeeze his buttocks onto a narrow ledge at the foot of the concrete wall!

There are dogs & walkers aplenty of course. 

For some time the ball launcher, inspired by atlatl spear throwers, has become de-rigueur in the canine fraternity.  This simple tool gives greater leverage allowing even the most feeble to project their ball far enough to provide their dog with an entertaining chase.  Someone always has to go one better though.

Today I was not alone in photographing the shoreline traffic.  Perched on the parapet above Little Italy, was another photographer.  Armed with telephoto, and an already abandoned tripod, he and his companions were scanning the vicinity of the surfers.  Hope he got some good shots, though by the size of his lens and the distance he had put between himself and his subject he was making the job unnecessarily difficult.  I diplomatically resisted the temptation to point out the error of his ways.  For me the best surf shots need you to be at the water’s edge, as close to being in the action as you can manage without exposing your camera to the salt water.

And amongst it all in breeches and riding boots a woman and her small dog were purposefully heading into my path.  Debbie surprised me by being probably the most willing subject I’ve encountered (after Eseyoma anyway) and agreed immediately to being photographed.   With her hair scraped back and not a trace of cosmetics she acknowledged that “I’m not at my most glamorous.”  but who cares when you get such a great smile.I had no idea who she was at the time, but later discovered that she was the mother of one of the girls in the junior school photography club that I ran earlier in the year.  Fitting that she should have been so helpful then; I hope that she and Amy like the result.

*Here Comes the Sun George Harrison.