Sunday, 21 August 2011

Reasonable Punishment for Looters

As a teacher of pre-adolescents I have to dole out consequences for misbehaviour on consistent basis. In order for the offender to learn any sort of lesson to keep them repeating the misbehaviour, the 'punishment' must suit the 'crime'. In other words if a student is repeat gum chewer, the consequence would be to scrape off all the gum under the desks in the school during their free time, not give them a week of detention. It's all just common sense really.

In these weeks following the riots I've read about some of the sentences being handed to the convicted offenders and been appalled, to put it mildly, at how disproportionate and arbitrary the punishments seem to be in relation to the crimes that didn't involve physical violence. Then when thinking about the court and jail costs borne by the tax payers, these heavy-handed punishments seem even more ludicrous.

Oh and let's not forget the petition signed by over 100,000 people to take away benefits from anyone convicted of looting, as if that will really solve the issues at the root of the problem. Let's take a population of young people who have little opportunities, little to do and even less hope and who also have a wealth of disaffected anger and take away what little they do have. That will solve everything if those who have almost nothing are released from their prison terms to come back into society with even less.

What I haven't yet heard suggested is that the convicted looters are made to work to pay for the damage they caused or stole. This is just logical and reasonable to me. First, many of the youth who were involved in the looting have little in the ways of a skill set and not much available for them to do that's beneficial or interesting. So, making them work off the cost of the damage they have done would provide them with both a usable skill set and something useful. Plus, it suits the crime. You break it; you fix it. You cause damage; you pay for it. If you don't fulfil the guidelines and work mandated by the courts, then you go to jail and serve your sentence.

Perhaps this consequence may seem a little too simple, but that's the beauty of it. Surely if the courts have enough evidence to convict people for looting, then they have enough evidence to calculate how much damage each individual did, so the guilty looters could be put to work in the communities where they caused the damage instead of being thrown into overcrowded prison cells. Yes, tensions might be high between the victims of the rioting and the looters who will have to work off their debts at first. However, the end result will be that the looters will truly understand the extent of their damage, receive some training and skills and quite possibly feel more connected to their communities. And, all of this is much preferable than the type of humans that would eventually emerge from the prisons after being locked up for years for vandalism and theft.

I've not read a single word about a program where looters are being made to work off the damage they caused. Surely, I'm not the only person who has had this idea. There must be something somewhere!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Breaking up is hard to do

Breaking up is my least favourite thing to do next to toilet cleaning. Even if I've only been out with someone once or twice, I can never bring myself to say, "I'm sorry. I'm just not interested." To me, that just seems so mean. Somehow in my head it's better to make up a story. Note: I did not say lie. I said story. A story is much better than a lie.

The story that's worked the best for me when I've only been out with someone once or twice is:
-I really like you, but you remind me too much of my brother and I can't seem to get past that. It's weird. I'm sorry.

Some stories I have wanted to tell but have kept in reserve are:
- The term is ending, so I'm going to be super busy doing grades and writing reports for the next 10 weeks.
- I met someone else. Yes, that is fast since we just went out for the first time yesterday, but I'm fast. In fact you probably wouldn't want to date me because I'm so fast. No, I'm not going home with you now.
- I'm really ill and the doctor seems to think it's something I've picked up on my travels in Asia. Apparently it's highly contagious, so I'm going to have to live in a plastic bubble for a while.
- My ex just got out of jail so I'm going into hiding. You should too.

Even after having a significant long-term relationship go pear-shaped, I can never seem to end it properly, but I will eventually end it. There's usually an "It's not you; it's me," message involved- that is unless the guy was a complete twat. Then it's a "Fuck you and fuck off!" message. In the end I suppose it's the delivery of the message that's important. When breaking up with someone you want to do it in a kind, sensitive manner to save face and end up not looking like a horrid person, even if it's to tell your partner what they can stick up their lying, cheating ass.

Ways I've broken up with people that I really regret are:
-By text
-By email
-By messenger
-By standing up in the middle of my local and screaming at the person for being a shit.

Ways I've broken up with people that I've done reasonably well are:
-Over dinner
-Over a drink
-On the phone
-While on a walk in a scenic location
-By text
-By email
-By messenger

This summer had been absolutely fabulous with no need for me to break up with anyone until today. Today I had to end a seven year relationship with a man who has always been there for me. He always listened to me and provided me with comforting wise advice. And, he did all this while making me look and feel fabulous. That's right. Today I had to break up with my hair stylist.

Kevin (not his real name) is amazing with scissors. After every appointment I walked away with perfect hair that was easy to style. Plus, he only ever used Aveda products on my hair and I always got a glass (or two) of white wine and a neck massage. Why would I end such a fulfilling relationship? Kevin works in Surrey and over a year ago I moved to East London. He's just too far away and frankly too expensive.

Like every long-term relationship that I eventually end, I've been planning to do this for quite some time. I really didn't know how to tell him the truth. The "It's not you; it's me," message just doesn't work in this situation because it's not me. It's his prices and the fact he's inconvenient to travel to. That somehow seemed just to mean to admit. So, I launched a plot. I would simply cancel my upcoming appointment, play it like I was still in the US and that I wasn't certain when I could reschedule. This would probably be done with the receptionist and not Kevin anyway, so it wouldn't be so bad. Very passive aggressive of me, I know.

Every day since last week I woke thinking, "I need to remember to call the salon today and cancel." And, every evening I would go to bed thinking, "I need to remember to call the salon in the morning and cancel." Then finally today I got a text asking me to confirm my appointment on Friday. Fuck!

'Okay, this is it,' I thought and I picked up my phone and dialled the salon number prepared to hear the receptionist's voice. Alas, the voice on the other end of the phone wasn't hers. It was male. It was Kevin. Fuck!

I greeted him in a very breezy manner and asked how he was, etc. Then I told him that I was afraid I had to cancel and that I wasn't quite sure when I could reschedule. I could hear the disappointment in his voice. He knew I was ending it. No. No. I couldn't hurt him, not my dear sweet Kevin, so I asked him what he had available in the next few weeks. Fuck me, this wasn't going well. I was about to reschedule out of guilt, but then a miracle occurred.

Kevin told me he was off work for two weeks starting Tuesday. Hoorah! I tried to hide my glee while telling him a story about how I wouldn't be able to come in for the next five days, so I'd have to call back and reschedule when he returned. Somehow I managed to tell this story without giving a specific reason as to why I couldn't come in and slipping in a joke that made him laugh. Thus, it all ended on a good note. Phew!

So, now I just need to go somewhere else and get my hair, which is turning into a shaggy mess, done. My friend, Kim, has a fantastic stylist who is closer to me, charges less and serves champagne instead of white wine. I am not certain about the Aveda products or neck massage, but I'll trade the neck massage and white wine for champagne any day of the week and my Aveda addiction means that my bathroom is already similar to an Aveda spa. I just simply won't call Kevin to reschedule and if he does call me, I'll explain that I've met someone new.

Breaking up is hard to do, but at least I've done it...kinda.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

London Riot Banana Bread

In case you've been in a cave, London has been overwhelmed by riots for the last three days. Last night was definitely the worst of it and as a result constant sounds of sirens (some a bit too close for my comfort) kept me from sleeping well.

Today I woke up determined to help with the clean-up. I walked around my neighbourhood to nearby areas that I heard were affected, but they were already clean. I heard through Twitter that people were meeting at Hackney Town Hall, so I walked up there. It was already tidied and those of us on the clean-up crew ended up being more props in a photo opp than anything else. Then, I heard that they needed help in Clapham, so I hopped on a train and went down there. I waited with people for several hours for forensics to finish and apparently also for Boris Johnson to show up and have his little photo opp before we could begin. (As a side note we got heckle Boris, which was satisfying) I was able to help clean for about half an hour when I heard rumours that things were starting to be dodgy around my neighbourhood tube stop, so I decided I should head home. When I arrived I discovered that the rumours were in fact just rumours and that all was fine, although shops were closing early. However, as I walked down the street to my flat complex, I saw a police car enter the carpark. This disturbed me a bit until I discovered they were there because one of my neighbours had called the police on the neighbourhood kids who were playing in our carpark. They always do that.

I fell on the sofa, exhausted, had a think and decided that the day called for a bit of baking. Carolina, my housemate, had some bananas and suggested I make banana bread. I agreed. But alas, as I rummaged through the cupboards for ingredients, I discovered we didn't have a few items. Since the shops all around us closed early, I had to improvise. The result was quite yummy, so I've decided to post my recipe for what I'm calling "London Riot Banana Bread". You should know that the original recipe came from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook and I have made some...ahem...notes of my modifications.

-217g dark brown sugar
-53g caster sugar
(note: Original recipe calls for 270g light brown sugar, which I didn't have)
-2 eggs
(note: These were my last eggs)
-2 bananas peeled and mashed
(note: Original recipe calls for 200g, but who the hell weighs their bananas for this?)
-280g of plain flour
-slightly more than 1 teaspoon of baking powder
(note: I spilled some over the measuring spoon as I was chatting with Carolina)
-1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
-about 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
-slightly less than 1 teaspoon of ginger
(note: Yes, you guessed it. I didn't have enough ginger or cinnamon. This should have been 1 teaspoon each)
-140g light margarine
(note: The original recipe calls for unsalted butter, but I'm on a diet)
-95g white chocolate chips
(note: The original recipe doesn't call for white chocolate chips, but I had this 100g bag and needed to justify eating 5g of them)

Preheat the oven to 170C 325F or Gas Mark 4
(note: It's actually Gas 3 in the book, but my gas oven is weird so I go to 4)

Put the dark brown sugar in a bowl and use a mixer to smoosh them together so you can pretend you have light brown sugar. (Yes I made this part up)

Add the eggs to your fake light brown sugar and use a mixer to beat until well incorporated. Then beat in the mashed bananas.

Add the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and ginger into the sugar and egg mixture. Stir it with a wooden spoon until all the dry ingredients have been incorporated (The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook uses the word "incorporated" a lot) into the sugar and egg mixture. Pour in the melted butter and beat until all ingredients are well mixed.

Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf tin (I prepared mine with low calorie sunflower oil spray. I'm on a diet, remember) and bake in the preheated oven for about an hour. Bread should be firm to the touch and toothpick inserted should come out clean. Leave this to cool slightly in the tin on a wire rack before turning out completely.

Eat, enjoy and be happy that tonight in London is nowhere near like it was last night, but spare a thought to those in Manchester and other areas where the unrest continues.