Helen Goddard – should she really be branded a sex offender?

Rex Features

Rex Features

Yesterday, music teacher Helen Goddard, aged 26, was jailed for having sex with a 15-year-old female pupil at a fee-paying school outside London. She was sentenced to 18 months in prison, has been put on the Sex Offenders’ Register for 10 years and has been banned from working with children for life.

On reading this story, I was forced to question the morality of such a punishment. Anyone that has read the details behind the case will know that the relationship between the two was most definitely consensual, instigated by the pupil, and was of an intimate and loving nature. Yes, sex was involved, but it was not the driving force of the affair and not the only thing to focus on.

The girl’s parents are rightly outraged that their daughter lied to them and that a teacher, which they effectively pay, misused her authority and position of trust.

But isn’t that the end of it? The girl wasn’t morally raped – she was legally raped. Having sex with someone under the age of consent, 16, is rape in the eyes of the law. So why does it make me uncomfortable that I don’t seem to be seeing through these same eyes?

Goddard has lost her career, her integrity, her reptuation (a former child trumpet prodigy who played at the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympics in 2000) and been through a very public and humiliating trial with sordid details of her sex life exposed in most of the nationals. This is a young woman whose primary action was to fall in love and to act upon this love.

Many people will argue that there is more to this than love – that she was in a position of trust, that she took advantage of a hormone-fuelled teenager, even that she is some sort of deviant for having found affection in the arms of someone 10 years her junior. But is she a predator? Is she a rapist? Is she a sex offender?

There has been no question that she pursued the pupil – a relationship was formed out of a friendship, a closeness that became something more – something that has happened to most people the world over – you meet someone, there’s a connection. Of course, no-one forced Goddard to act upon this desire. She is a 26-year-old woman, and speaking myself as one, I know that by no means am I always grounded enough to make the right decisions, especially when it comes to matters of the heart.

Rape is a hate crime. Is this what we are discussing here? It is a nasty and ugly abuse of power, an act of force and usually violence, not a romantic weekend in Paris, not a walk in the park that turned into a kiss, a text message that reads: ‘It’s going to be a beautiful day. I love you. You are on my mind all night.’

Fifteen-year-olds, and younger, across the country are having sex. They have sex with other people their age, with those older, younger – to criminalise each action would be absurd. Goddard was a teacher, so of course, she must be held accountable for her actions; lose her job, maybe face a teaching ban, but she is not a sex offender and does not need to go to prison to understand the mistake she has made.

The media loves this sort of story. Ooh it is a sex story – even better a nice little teacher pupil-fantasy scenario. And a lesbian? Bingo – let’s splash it across the front pages with a nice picture of the so-called sexual predator, looking very err… predatory as she walks into court (where she later bursts into tears on being sentenced). What could possibly satsify the salacious appetites of the tabloids, and sadly, the nationals, further? Surely only fluffy handcuffs and sex toys (god forbid) can taint her character just a bit more? (because these are the tools of the devil don’t you know?).

This is all without the mention of paedophilia – as necessary as the humble printing press in creating a tabloid these days. The media is full of this kind of paedo-hysteria, stranger danger bullshit, constantly implying that the world is full of predators stalking our young people and forcing them into bad and dangerous ways.

Look behind the Goddard story, behind the draconian and blanket laws, and find a story that is both sad and heartening. The judge in the case chose not to impose a ban on the couple seeing each other, despite the law essentially branding Goddard a sex offender so implicitly admitting that they do not actually believe this to be the case. The judge rejected a prosecution request to ban the teacher from contacting her victim for five years, claiming it would be ‘unnecessary, unkind, and cruel to the victim’. Does this not also give the impression that the girl would be worse off for not seeing her lover than by having contact?

This lack of ban means that she will be able to contact her from prison, as well as see her privately when released. It is obviously something that the couple, at this stage, plan to do, with Goddard punching the air in victory in court, when being told that no such ban would be imposed.

Obviously, the court is not accepting the fact that Goddard is a risk to the pupil. The judge also refused, another prosecution request, to ban Goddard from being allowed to be alone with underage girls – once again, demonstrating the fact that the teacher is not viewed as a threat to young people in any sense.

According to Goddard’s barrister, the teacher ‘is quite young for her age’ and he claimed that the couple continue to ‘love each other very much’.

The law is in place to both protect and punish. Yet cases such as this merely show how black and white law is when applied. Surely cases should be judged on individuality? Surely a ‘victim’s’ wishes and thoughts should be taken into account? This is merely a sentence for sentencing’s sake. Goddard will have a large part of her life absolutely ruined and is being portrayed as some kind of sexual monster because of it. The judge admitted it was a ‘difficult’ case, yet was powerless to use any sense of perspective or proportion.

Someone once used the analogy of if you picked up a pound coin on the ground and put it in your pocket, then by the principles of law, you could be charged with theft and sentenced accordingly. Is this not one of those cases? A knee-jerk overkill reaction to a crime that is essentially innocuous for all parties? It was something that could have been dealt with within the school, not made public, and not brought to a criminal trial.

A statement by the girl’s parents (as printed in the predictably biased Daily Mail piece) states: ‘Our teenage girl has been led to believe by Miss Goddard that their contact is within the bounds of a normal relationship, apart from the fact that our daughter is a few months underage. From our understanding, Miss Goddard and our daughter feel that it is possible to continue their relationship without difficulty when our daughter is 16 at the end of this month. In conveying this to our daughter, and taking no responsibility for her actions, we do not believe Miss Goddard has fully understood the seriousness of her breaking the boundaries and completely breaching the trust embedded in the teacher-pupil relationship.’

While I am sympathetic to the parents, it is all to easy to blame Goddard as the vile perpertrator. Their contact, although unusual, is ‘within the bounds of a normal relationship’ if they chose to let it be as they are both consenting and by all accounts, the pupil has reached a level of sexual maturity in order to be able to make this judgement. The girl is nearly 16, so agonisingly close, it makes you wonder what Goddard’s punishment would have been if she were to have embarked on this affair just a few months later. Would the world look kindly on their plight? Would she have gone away with a rapped knuckle and a P45? The world of ‘what ifs’ is probably plaguing her right now as she sits in a cell wondering where it all went wrong. The parents claim she has not fully understood the seriousness of her actions – I would say that she most definitely has. As a teacher and a woman of 26, she will have known the risks involved, even if she did not fully grasp that a nasty future of incarceration and humiliation would be on its way.

Love makes us do stupid things. It makes our judgements cloudy, makes us rebellious, makes us defy the odds. Literature is awash with these Romeo-Juliet, love across the boundaries-type sagas and usually they have us swooning, hoping that our love-torn protagonists will beat the system, overcome the prejudice and be entitled to achieve what they both, as two human individuals, truly and independently desire.

As Helen Goddard ponders her future now, I would love to ask her just one question? Would you make the same mistake again? And if I was a gambling woman, I would place my bet on a ‘yes’. Love is not a choice as this harsh and stoic law would assume. It is grey, complex and extremely divisive. Young people are entitled to their opinions and laws which seek to protect them must, in turn, respect this. I just hope that the couple’s feelings can withstand the media and parental pressure, which has undoubtedly harmed the young girl more than any caring and loving relationship ever could, and they can go on to prove the legal system and its army of Daily Mail reading, democracy-hating followers, well and truly wrong.



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How the Cornflake Girl ate Hammersmith for breakfast


Straddled, she sits, her legs clad in shimmying silver tights atop killer black heels.

Aflame, her hair long, unnervingly straight, a cloak behind which to hide her pale, unassuming face.

Now we get a lot of oddballs in Hammersmith – it’s not uncommon to see the full spectrum of society waiting for a bus outside HMV so a slightly disturbed 40-something muttering the word ‘motherfucker’ over and over under her breath is just rite of passage round here.

Difference is, hundreds of people have paid to see this one – and not just in London – all over the UK. We are, of course, talking about Tori Amos. The feisty fireball from North Carolina came and delivered to a packed audience at the legendary Apollo arena last Thursday (10 September).

When I arrived, I was late. I had to climb over legs to find my seat and Amos was already in full swing (damn, missed Cornflake Girl). It took only moments for me to realise what I was witnessing. There she was, legs akimbo in a cage of keyboards, belting out a song I hadn’t heard in years, but had stayed dormant in my psyche.

It was my first Tori live experience and I was stunned – the voice was so powerful, the stage presence even more so, considering it was just her alone with two guys in the dark far corners facing out to the eager crowd.

Tori Amos isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. She wails. She says some odd things. Her melodies are often hidden beneath layers of complex piano playing and wolf-like howls.

Yet her talent is undeniable. That night, it came and smacked me in the face with the full force that Amos has always intended it to. Her music isn’t forgiving – it’s not meant for the faint-hearted, or those who wish to have their music presented in a simplistic three-minute format – an intro, verses, chorus, more verses, chorus, bridge, chorus, bridge – throw in a key change for dramatic effect, if you will.

No, instead there are lyrics so undiscernable that even Alan Turing would have a problem deciphering them. Listen closely and there’s poetry in every line; a feeling conjured up, a place, a memory.

But I can’t attempt to write a review without coming back to the very core of her performance – the piano. It was staggering to see a modern musician so competent at music in a world where we are often so used to having just a charismatic front person who may hold a guitar in the odd song.

Watching someone play the piano isn’t typically a visual treat. It’s grounding and unsociable when a big crowd is watching. Yet Amos delivered each song from between her pianos with such vibrancy, such energy, such passion, that the keys and their sound became all we could think about. She was captivating as she writhed, sexually, over her stool, kicking her heels and occasionally coyly looking out from behind the wall of ginger at the adoring faces before her.

The applause was raptorous, the songs unforgettable and the lady – who is a rare reminder of a musician that has refused to sell out to commerciality despite tens of albums – is not for turning. For fans expecting to see the voice that they had listened to in their bedrooms for years, this was Tori Amos at her purest. Long may those Little Earthquakes in the world of modern music continue… it was a motherfuckin pleasure.


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Not enough gay girls on film

ellenIt’s Saturday night. Soho is bustling with crowds, all jostling down the cobbles, flashes of colour and lots more besides.

I’m sitting with Vernon Kay and wondering what his wife is like is in bed.

No, not another of my warped dreams, it is in fact, a reality. The Bolton Wanderer is on the TV and the images of Soho are a distant memory in the back of my mind.

It’s Saturday night, and I am sitting in, playing along with a gameshow that used to be on when I was 12. It’s like one elongated menstrual cycle with lots of pain.

Flicking through the TV guide (the printed one, I am rejecting digital until they force it on me in 2012), I see Graham Norton, people jumping over a giant totem pole in lycra, John fucking Barrowman, Graham Norton, Little Britain, more lycra, and did I mention Graham Norton?… I mean, no wonder I am thinking about Tess Daly in a gimp suit (joke, honestly).

But seriously, what the hell am I supposed to do? If I want to see another lesbian, it’s either hop in a cab, watch Bad Girls for some pretend ones, or that increasingly all-too-familiar friend, the internet.

Now, maybe if I did have cable, then I could watch The Ellen Show on repeat or catch a glimpse of a lesbian in Gray’s Anatomy, but I don’t. And I won’t for that matter – it’s a completely baseless point of principle, so don’t ask me to explain, I just like to feel outraged from time to time.

Am I asking too much? In a word, no. Lesbians aren’t an endangered species, but I am more likely to spy one up a mountain, right behind the snow leopard on the BBC’s Planet Earth. So where the hell are we on the small screen?

I’m not talking about the fake ones either – in Hollyoaks, Eastenders etc. I mean, I don’t turn up my nose at these, but it’s a bit like booking a magician for your birthday and ending up with Derren Brown.

What about good old Rhona Cameron I hear you cry? She’s been holding up the entire UK lesbian quota for the past decade it seems, and even she has disappeared down a big L-shaped hole of late. Christ, the poor woman is probably in The Priory for exhaustion.

So who else does that leave representing Britain? Like UHU, I’m stuck. Answers written on the back of a postcard, or maybe a stamp, please.

This really is a national disgrace.

Gay men get on TV more easily than dust. They present primetime TV shows and although they are usually made to come across like crotchless Action Men – gay in spirit, humour and manner, just not in bed – at least they get a look in.

Children growing up, exploring their feelings, look up to people on television as role models. So who are our young lesbians looking up to? Pat Butcher? Now I’m not saying life wouldn’t be easier if all lesbians didn’t wear pink earrings and bitch slap Babs Windsor for a laugh – it would certainly make them easier to spot – but this is a serious issue and one that broadcasters should be taking head on.

It is great when big TV dramas include lesbian storylines, but why not use some gay actors for once? Why are they always straight and pretending? It shouldn’t make a huge difference, and if we were represented substantially, I wouldn’t even be making this point, but we’re not, and it sucks.

Maybe we like to hide our lights under our (ahem) bushells, but why are we not doing something on our television screens regularly, and why when it is, is it always sexual? I mean Christ, there must be a few cat lovers willing to go on Pet Rescue or something.

By sitting back and watching on in silence, we are driving our lesbian youngsters underground; forcing them to seek their only solace in YouTube clips, blush in front of an Emmerdale liplock with their Mum watching on, steal copies of Diva off the top shelf, and have to laugh at silly films by silly boys about vampires.

So unless Tess Daly is about to come out live on the lottery, which is about as likely as my numbers coming in (or Derren Brown predicting his own demise), things aren’t looking promising for my night in. As some bloke called Simon Cowell said recently, Britain has got talent – let us remember, that some of it is, in fact, lesbian.

So a round of applause to that Cowell bloke for taking on America’s most recognised gay woman, Ellen DeGeneres, and giving her a judging role on the biggest TV show in the land, American Idol. Sexuality aside, I am sure she will be a great judge and make a very humorous contribution.

Shit, is American actually becoming the land of the free? Black presidents and gay women on American Idol? With Cameron waiting in the UK government’s wings like Fagan with a hard on, ready to steal our money and our morality, Britain runs the risk of going back to the Stone Ages. As much as it pains me to say it, we should follow America’s example and promote minorities (especially good looking ones – joke) as beacons of hope for the rest of us, who are sat at home in their pyjamas, plotting to kill Graham Norton in despair of it all.


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Can’t get no city satisfaction

Just Mooching Around (geddit?)Life shouldn’t be a battle. So why is it that I constantly feel like the rope in a tug-of-war? It seems that this modern world has left me feeling torn. No, I haven’t been drinking at lunch time, I am actually trying to make a social commentary here.

Walking along the dirty streets of Hammersmith, my soul cries out occasionally like one of those mad beggars you see outside tube stations, telling me to pitch my sights a little higher. What it means is flee – find a job that involves milking the laughing cow or selling organic pastries off the back of a goat. Forget this 9-5 bollocks – you don’t even get to watch Neighbours on a weekday.

It’s easy, some people say. Just sell up and move to the country. There’s even a programme about doing it. But when it comes to it, I panic. As wonderful as the thought of homemade cakes and acres of grass to skip about in, who the hell is going to bake the scones and mow the lawns, because it certainly ain’t me. And therein lies the rub. I would have to be rich to make this country escape a worthwhile one. Otherwise, I’ll just be poor with a mouse problem. A London werewolf in Ludlow or somewhere, only coming out at night to avoid the farmers.

Another worry is that I might (whisper) be a little bored. My mind is fine-tuned to be incredibly lazy these days. Television, the internet and radio do most of my thinking for me. There is barely a time when I am not reading or listening to something. What would I do faced with the back-end of a farmyard animal, or worse still, a load of farmers?

Don’t get me wrong, I have lived in the countryside before now. I got by then – I frolicked in fields and had lots of pets. But that was the Dark Ages – no computers, no digital TV and no music on demand.

Would the scent of manure fill the void of Sky Breaking News? Probably. But what about all that information that I am accustomed to? I am intelligent enough to realise that the rat race would function pretty well without me. It’s not a system that cares. There’s plenty of hungry little rats to keep on running and even more so that don’t question why they are doing so. If I toddle off to the country like Dick Whittington, I am confident in the fact that ‘my world’ will carry on regardless.

So why stay? I could convince myself that I am destined for great things, however, no matter how hard I try, great things are just never going to transpire so long as I work in journalism. Salaries suck, jobs are getting axed – and the bottom line – I can’t really be arsed most of the time.

But like some kind of hardcore drug, I am hooked on this modern world. I hate its dependence on fleeting emotion, its triviality, its impatience. I am a product of it and, as ‘they’ say, you can’t choose your parents.

So unless I become a self-appointed evacuee, I am going to have to stay for now. I am just going to have to prepare myself, start my withdrawal slowly. I can’t just go rushing in with my Wellington boots on and the Wurzels playing on my MP3. I am going to have to get used to the idea. TV will be switched off at 8pm. I will try to avoid screens of all kinds (work are going to have to get used to this idea) and I am going to do test-runs into the country.

Under this plan, in approximately 12 years, I will be ready to face the country and its eerie silence. I will just have to beware of the moon, as they say on the moors…

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Saying NO to perfect sex

spamSay YES to perfect sex! So says Raymond Mcdermott. I mean, who wouldn’t? Most people I know wouldn’t say no to any sex, yet alone this ‘perfection’ that my friend Raymond talks about. Anyway, just to make it clear, when I say friend, I mean email contact. And when I say email contact, I mean someone who somehow knows my personal email address and messages me from time to time about my erectile dysfunction (yep, I have major problems in this department apparently and not having a penis doesn’t seem to warrant a good enough reason why I can’t get it up).

As you may have guessed, I’m talking about spam. Not the sweaty meaty type that comes in a can, but the equally unpleasant stuff that invades my email account almost daily.

Now I’m not anti direct mail by any means – it’s a good way of grabbing new customers for businesses. Yet I would appreciate a little more effort by way of personalisation. People should make a bloody effort. My name is a girl’s name – I’m not a ‘Toni’ or a ‘Francis’, or even an ‘Alex’, the chances of me having penis-related problems are non-existent. And I am 26 – do I really need Viagra yet?

Improve your sex life! Says Dino Bunch. Well, thanks Dino, but I don’t like the insinuation that it’s bad already thanks very much, especially from someone called Dino. It gets worse however. Girls don’t like you? We have a solution! Says Homer Buckner. Well they do. And I like them. I don’t see the solution here. Other than changing your name by deed poll.

She will love you more than any guy, says Casey Smart. I take it ‘she’ is bisexual then. But wait, what’s this that Hugh Land is telling me today… You can drill your woman all night long without having any worries. Err… I think my woman may be a little concerned if I turned in with a Black and Decker under my pillow.

But a personal favourite of mine has to be from the so wonderfully named Trina Slaughter. For a start, if you are going to call yourself a made-up name to attract customers, choosing a word that conjures up images of meat hooks and hacksaws may not be the best starting point. But it is what Trina offers that intrigues me… Apparently: She reveals all the juicy secrets that women will NEVER tell you and she does it with a smile on her face. Her proven-to-work tips cover all of the basics, so this is a great starting point for new pick up artists. Attract women like a magnet with these techniques!

If I didn’t think that I would pick up the computer equivalent of an STD on visiting Trina’s site, I could be tempted. Don’t go assuming that I am a ‘pick-up artist’, I am just curious. Dating tips from someone called Trina Slaughter can’t be underestimated, even just for the novelty value. Plus this smile on her face while she tells ugly people how to pull – it’s got to be worth a click through maybe?

Back to the point though, where the hell do these people get their data from? Which company have I forgotten to tick/untick a box on a form for and, as a result, have signed away my entire life history to without my knowing? I guess this is the point  they haven’t got it from anywhere, because, according to their records, I am a really lonely man who can’t get it up and has a health condition that requires inhuman amounts of prescription drugs that I can only buy in Canada from a chap called Reed Dickson (who interestingly informs me that my happiness is tightly connected with my health condition).

If they want people to click through to these sites, there’s got to be at least a very thin air of knowledge about who they are sending these emails to. I don’t need Viagra (not yet anyway) and I don’t have a painkiller addiction (despite the wrath of Satan descending on my womb every month).

So I am taking a stand. I am deleting my Spam inbox and saying no to Dino, Reed, Homer and Trina, and saying NO to perfect sex.

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How Zac Efron rescued me from The Rock and a hard place

zac-efronAs part of my child-friendly weekend, I got to watch a lot of films. Blockbuster was offering a four for £10 for four nights (shit this sentence is so unattractive). A selection of films were chosen:

  • Marley and Me
  • Race to Witch Mountain
  • The Kite Runner
  • 17 Again

I had only heard of two of these before, Marley and Me – something about a dog with Owen ‘The Scarecrow’ Wilson and Brad Pitt’s cast-off Jennifer Aniston – and The Kite Runner – my choice, something a little cultural perhaps. With no dogs (or other talking animals).

First off we watched Marley and Me. It was better than I expected. Aniston was decent, Wilson was actually quite good and the dog was good in a dog acting kind of way. It was quite an emotional film, not just the giddy ‘caper’ that the promos all suggested.

Then Race to Witch Mountain. I have little to say on this, suffice to say that it involved Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson trying to help two teenage aliens to save the world from pollution or some such shit – think Al Gore with acne and trouser tents. Dwayne was as appalling as only someone called Dwayne could be and the kids were the kind that you hope will be found at the bottom of a canal someday. With bite marks.

So then we got to the gritty one, The Kite Runner. I swelled up with pride as I inserted the morally sound and culturally rich DVD into the player. This was going to be education and fun. Beat that Dwayne. It began inconspicuously, a heart-warming tale of two friends in Afghanistan in the late 1970s. There were kites, chases through the street and myself, my girlfriend and the 11-year-old were doing well. I think I even managed a few smug looks across the room, asserting my film choice superiority with a simple curling up of the corner of my mouth.

That was until the anal rape scene. I would say my arse fell out, but that might be inappropriate given the subject, however, I was mortified. The 11-year-old’s innocent eyes were fixated upon the screen where a teenage boy was raping a boy of about eight as a punishment for his social standing and religion. The dreaded words came to my ears like a a hammer hitting steel. ‘What happened Chloe? Why is he crying?’


‘Why is he walking funny?’

I pause the television and take stock. This isn’t what I had intended. Where the fuck was Dwayne now?

I glance at my girlfriend who has one of those looks on her face, the kind that makes you feel as if you just unzipped and raped him yourself. So I began to try and explain. ‘The older boy wants to punish him, wants to make him feel small and silly, so he has raped him. It is a very nasty thing, the worst thing a person can do to another. It has hurt him.’

As if it couldn’t get any worse… ‘What’s rape?’

Sex education, the birds and the bees, all that stuff, it is the butt of a million parenting jokes – how to explain where babies come from and so on. But rape? That’s jumping a million stages. It’s like telling a kid that Father Christmas is probably a paedo with a stick-on beard sat in a shopping mall just as they head off to bed with a mince pie on Christmas Eve.

I froze like a wildebeest in a corner and let my girlfriend take over. She said some choice words like ‘forced’, and ‘up his bottom’ while I searched the room for the box to check the certificate. It was a 12. Not even a 12a. Things didn’t improve much when later on in the film a woman is stoned to death by men with rocks for being an adulterer (another ‘pause and explain’ moment) or when a guy’s face is smashed into a mirror later on.

Plus, my joke about how it should be renamed The Kite Bummer didn’t go down too well either. After some chocolate-related counselling, and much talk about how far away Afghanistan is, we sought Hollywood-style comfort in the form of Zak Efron in 17 Again, my girlfriend’s squeaky clean choice, of course.

The cover of this DVD promised a ‘Tom Hanks in Big‘ kind of movie, so I had high expectations. Without writing a full-on review, it was a good film – plenty of laughs, Efron filling the main role’s boots fairly effectively (although the idea that a grown-up Efron would end up looking like Matthew Perry was as likely as me giving The Kite Runner as a gift to my niece on her birthday). Still, it was easy watching and the perfect ‘post anal rape scene’ remedy.

And more than this, it got me thinking. The premise of the film is that Matthew Perry is a 40-something guy who is on the verge of divorce and doesn’t ‘get’ his two high school kids. He was once the star of the basketball team and Mr Popular, but spends his days wallowing in what could of been (if he hadn’t got his then girlfriend pregnant at 17 and jacked it all in).He meets a weird Captain Birdseye lookalike janitor who sends him back to being 17 (and looking like Efron again) in order to put things right, blah blah blah.

I began to wonder as I watched this, would I want to go back to being 17 again? What would it be like? Would I do anything different? Maybe I wouldn’t be sitting in work writing a blog. And maybe I would be rich. And successful. I probably wouldn’t be a ‘journalist’. I would be an inventor wowing the suits on Dragons’ Den with my ingenuity and innovation and generally taking over the world (I could tell you about my ideas but I would have to virtually kill you, somehow, or you would steal them and I would become even more bitter, write even more crappy blogs and develop anger-induced RSI).

But what about actually being 17 now, in this day and age? Would it be any different? There wouldn’t be Opal Fruits or four TV channels, slouch socks or Swatch watches. I would have to engage in predictive texting and know all the words to High School Musical.

It’s funny how you spend most of your adult life wondering where the time went, perhaps regretting not doing certain things and resenting the fact that the 9-5 rat race has swallowed you up like Jonah’s whale, despite your teenage protestations that it never never never would.

Yet the thought of a ticket back to teenagedom is a scary one. It is a world that hummed of badly disguised body odour, was full of lecherous boys wearing 501s with curtains and where my facial skin was an almost attractive example of pebble dash (an exterior wall finish composed of mortar against which, while still wet, small pebbles have been thrown and pressed in, in case you didn’t know. Quite a good analogy I reckon).

What’s changed, you might ask. Well, luckily quite a lot. Life isn’t so bad and I don’t have to contend with (as many) hormones these days.

The big difference back then to now is perspective. In the 80s, I had hope for my future – I was going to live in a big house, always start my pension early and be earning over £40k. I may even have a holiday home in Provence. I would go on lots of holidays (back then I still thought school holiday rules applied) and do my food shopping in M&S (the pinnacle of home shopping).

Little did I know, that reality like a thief in the night would break in and anally rape me of my dreams.

I can’t complain too much I suppose. But I do. It’s what I do best. So if I am walking a little funny when you next see me, don’t ask too many questions, okay?


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The end of board games? I haven’t got a Cluedo

BoardGamesSelectionI had a child staying with me these past few days. Not a random child mind – I met her at a service station. Now I am being deliberately misleading, probably to my own detriment so I will stop. Anyway, the aforesaid child is my girlfriend’s ex’s child whom they brought up together for several years (Cue Eastenders theme tune).

Anyway, much of the weekend was spent being justified in immaturity for once – and I loved it. I nearly drowned in the Thames on a rowing boat (I thought tides were for wimps) and I sat in the sun in Hyde Park while the majority of my contemporaries were wasting their lives in office blocks across the city. I got to eat spaghetti shapes that looked like Scooby Doo and eat Haribo until my skin started to seep out cola flavouring and my eyes looked like jelly eggs.

If this wasn’t enough, I went to a ceramics cafe and made myself an olive dish. It is pretty shit, but it has been some time since I attempted pottery of any form and my former impression of Demi Moore splattered in clay has been irreversibly destroyed. Still, I have an olive dish. Now I just need to start eating olives.

What else you ask? I played on an EyeToy. I am at a loss to actually explain what this is, suffice to say it is a webcam that you put on top of your TV and it supplants your head onto that of a cartoon character. It somehow knows when you are moving and how fast and is able to score you on how efficiently you punch up in the air or run on the spot (which is not very in my case). I dismissed this kind of ‘toy’ as modern trash before playing. In fact, as I began to play Simon Says with a virtual drill sergeant on a screen, I cried out, sweat dripping like salty tsunamis from my forehead, ‘What ever happened to board games?’. I admit, Pictionary to me as a child was The Future. It seemed so forward-thinking, all that pencil and paper, coloured squares and big words. I was seriously blown away by the introduction of a small tub of playdough when Cranium burst onto the scene and am still reeling from Monopoly – the DVD edition.

It seems that the days of sitting about on the living room floor getting sore arses playing Cluedo with your grandma are over. The EyeToy and such like are the next generation of interactive games. As much as I hated the concept, and although I know that the assault course would terminate my grandma’s very existence, it wasn’t that bad. I secretly enjoyed beating an 11-year-old in a game of virtual volleyball and I actually did some exercise – so much so that today I feel like I was hit by an HGV on the way to work.

I suggested Scrabble as a suitable post-workout comedown. Instead, we posed for a series of pictures that the i-Toy took of us standing in my living room. On reflection, I worry that the EyeToy is in fact a Russian spy. Or, more likely, a spy from my local council. If you think about it, it is a cunning plan. Trick loads of kids into buying a ‘toy’ that actually can watch people for hours on end in their own homes without arousing any suspicion.

If you read the Daily Mail today (please don’t), it says 1 adult in 78 has come under state surveillance. I wonder if I was one of them. More to the point, what would they discover about me? The fact that I can throw an imaginary javelin 44 metres? Or maybe that I have fake tan on my legs today?

In order to spy, surely there has to be something worth spying on? I can’t believe that every 78th adult has anything worth watching. Maybe I just lead an unbelievably boring life, but what really can these government spies determine from a bit of snooping?

It used to be that being a spy was a cool job. Just look at that James Bond geezer, he did alright out of it. Yet the whole concept of being a spy is getting pissed on by this latest government debacle. It is claimed that police and other officials tapped phone calls and emails an average of 1,381 times a day last year. I wonder how disappointed they would be to hear my phone calls:

‘What time are you home tonight?… Yes… I’ll make tea…. Pasta probably…. Yes, I know it’s the third night in a row, but I have Italian blood… Okay, I don’t, I’m a BNP member’s wet dream… Yes, I know I am… I finish at half five, not a second later… Cool, see you then… Bye.’

Despite there being, I imagine, a kind of kudos associated with being the subject of your own personal spy, it is a breach of privacy. One that I wouldn’t particularly want – I get freaked out at the thought of the spirits of dead relatives watching me have sex.

So what is the world coming to? After spending a few days with a representative of the next generation, I am still undecided. As technology develops, so does the world around us, whether that’s games or phone taps. It is unfortunately an inevitable consequence that we lose a part of ourselves as humans as the machines take hold. This doesn’t necessarily mean a Terminator-style apocalypse, but it does mean that we are trusting technology more and more, and with it, the few people that control the technology grow more powerful.

As Chris Huhne of the Lib Dems so eloquently put it: “We have sleepwalked into a surveillance state, but without adequate safeguards. Having the home secretary in charge of authorisation is like asking the fox to guard the hen house.”

There’s a very simple answer to all of this Mr Huhne – bring back fox hunting…

PS What’s your favourite board game and why? Comment and let me know… not for any reason, just because I am nosy and want to spy on you.


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