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“My Favourite Things”: Jes

My favourite TV show - This varies, and often depends on what I am watching at the time. Currently I am watching The Blacklist, which is brilliant! However I have a few which I have re-watched and re-watched because I think they are fab! These include Friends, Rick and Morty and Blackadder. Whenever I am in a ‘meh mood’, I guarantee one of these will be put on and soon my ‘meh mood’ evaporates!

My favourite place to go - Tolethorpe Hall- Stamford Shakespeare Company. Every summer the Company puts on 3 plays, they are delivered in an open air theatre in a beautiful and remote location in Little Casterton. My Dad booked tickets for us to see Much Ado About Nothing (my favourite Shakespeare play) back when I was studying the play for GCSE English, and we have been every year since. We are only allowed to watch the comedies by Shakespeare (Pa is not really a fan, but enjoys the comedies) or if they have a ‘different’ play on that is also an option such as Tom Jones

What is special about this place is, it is set in the countryside on beautiful rolling hills surrounded by nature and in the summer, it is breath taking. Before the play, we go via Tesco to get a picnic which always consists of strawberries and cream (because we are the height of sophistication), and we watch predominately older couples bring wine/champagne, proper picnic gear with them. There sits us, on our picnic rug (the same age as me), with our make-shift picnic, bottles of fizzy pop, punnet of strawberries and pot of cream (which we drink if we cannot finish with the strawberries)! We look very out of place but it’s a wonderful!

My favourite city - Paris! I love being a tourist, and I loved being a tourist in Paris! The city is beautiful, the monuments and art galleries/museums are wonderful, and the wine is also pretty top notch! We stayed in an air bnb, about a 30 minute walk from Notre Dame, and spent 4 wonderful days walking around Paris! Approximately 20,000 steps a day, during drizzly September, but it was amazing! So many hidden gems, as well as, the obvious beauties! I don’t think you could ever run out of things to see or do!




My favourite thing to do in my free time - Reading! Or running! I am not very good at the latter but it does wonders for my mental health (not to mention counteracting the amount of c**p I eat)!

My favourite athlete/sports personality- Honestly, I cannot believe I am putting this in writing as my partner will be overjoyed, but Ronnie O’Sullivan! I never used to like snooker, until my partner (who loves watching all sports) persuaded me to watch the Masters a few years back, and O’Sullivan is just brilliant! He is entertaining, talented and honest. He can be arrogant but justifiably so: he is brilliant. Novak Djokovic would be a very close second because I love his work ethic!

My favourite actor - This is tricky, because I don’t think I have a favourite actor, however if pushed for an answer I would probably say David Tennant. I was a huge Dr Who fan with Christopher Eccleston, and the oldies too (Peter Davison, Tom Baker), but Tennant’s portrayal was something else! Since then, I tend to watch most things he is in, confident it will be a good watch!

My favourite author - I cannot pick one! I have three: Jill Mansell, Tess Gerristen and David Baldacci. Mansell writes romantic comedies, which are witty, easy to read and normally read within a day- maybe two. She is the perfect author to read in the sun with a glass of wine! Gerristen is gritty, and graphic! Her ex-profession working in morgues adds a dimension to her detective/crime novels which are fascinating. She is also the mother to my favourite detective: Jane Rizzoli! Baldacci also writes detective/spy novels which are just first class! I own all of his books (except the new ones out in hardback- hardbacks suck, paperback all the way)!

My favourite drink - Coffee (I’m a 6 cups a day gal!), Diet Coke: always in the mood for a cold Diet Coke! And finally, flavoured Gin! Although I also love water

My favourite food - Mac 'n' Cheese, closely followed by pizza! (Nice healthy choices-oops)

My favourite place to eat - Beckworth Emporium (Thank you @paulaabowles and @manosdaskalou for introducing me to the beautiful establishment). Whether it be Afternoon Tea, a Panni or a filled Jacket Potato: it is always a delicious success! And their Coleslaw is the BEST! Do not get my started on their cakes…

I like people who - care - it is what makes us human 

I don’t like it when people - don’t say thank you: there is no need. I hold a door open for you: say thank you. I stop to let you go: say thank you. I buy you a drink: say thank you. It is not difficult: SAY THANK YOU! If you don’t, my friends and family will vouch; I’ll state YOU’RE WELCOME loudly and embarrassingly! You’ve been warned

My favourite book - Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton, closely followed by The Lost World, also by Crichton

My favourite book character - Jane Eyre! She inspires me, even if she is fiction!

My favourite film - Now, this is very tricky: I have three ‘go to films’ which I have watched over and over again, regardless of mood. I have written assignments, dissertations and lectures to these films and are always guaranteed to be winners. These are: Jurassic Park (1993), The Little Mermaid (1989) and The Princess and the Frog (2009). However, my all-time favourite film is Dead Poets Society (1989); this film makes me cry, laugh and fall in love!

My favourite poem - Variation on the Word Sleep by Margaret Atwood. This was read during our Wedding Ceremony and will forever be my favourite poem!

My favourite artist/band -Phil Collins or Elton John (it is too close to call)

My favourite song - This is hard but probably our first dance: Thousand Years Pt 2- Christina Perri ft. Steve Kazee

My favourite museum/gallery - The Ipswich Transport Museum. I spent many summer holidays, running around the old open top busses, cars and fire engines with my younger brother, whilst my Grandma volunteered here. The history is fascinating, it is interactive for children and the gift shop was ACE. The staff used to let me help stock, clean the various exhibits and serve visitors when I visited. Pure childhood bliss!

My favourite person from history - Got to be Elizabeth Fry!

Who falls through the net… #BlackenAsiaWithLove

Right here…

Right here where I am, it’s just been announced that we’re on lockdown from midnight. I am not sure how most people heard about it. A colleague mentioned it earlier in our texts about the day’s duties. Right now, my husband is sitting next to me on the sofa, texting back-n-forth with a neighbor who is freaking out about the stricter conditions. My neighbor’s got the travel bug, so being on lock down suffocates him.

In India…

I am listening to a podcast with Barkha Dutt, a journalist I met years ago in Delhi. She’s being interviewed about the “unthinkable” ways India’s migrant workers have fallen through the net. In India, public transportation was shut down only hours after the official order to shelter in place. Migrant workers were given no opportunity to return home. Meanwhile, as many in media have pointed out, much fanfare has been made of the government’s repatriation of wealthier Indians due to Corona. At the time of the writing of this piece, tens of thousands are walking home, “on empty stomachs.” They blame the D’elite (Delhi+elite) for not caring, despite the conditions of this catastrophe (ok, so like abandoning a sinking Titanic based on class)! What’s more, as compared to many countries – and ‘ageing’ Italy in particular where the virus is very virulent – India has a HUGE population of under 5-year olds, who are also thought to be more vulnerable to the virus.

In New Orleans…

It reminds me of Hurricane Katrina in too many ways to casually note down.  Only a year before Katrina hit New Orleans, I had just completed graduate school there, and shortly thereafter moved to Germany, then settled in India’s capital. I was flying home for a visit as Katrina threatened the gulf coast.  All were glued to the 24-hour live coverage. In Katrina’s aftermath, I watched as comedian Mike Meyers and Kanye West both nervously hosted one of those live, network TV fundraisers.

Apparently, the star hosts were given scant scripts to narrate helicopter footage of rescues and stranded survivors. Mike twisted back-and-forth with his hands pinned behind his back as he matter-of-factly spewed facts about the drowned city. Visibly anxious and ill at ease, hands (fists?) in pockets, Kanye says: “I hate the way they portray us in media: You see a Black family, it says they’re looting. You see a white family, it says they’re looking for food.” Remember, Kanye cautions, “they’ve been given the order to shoot us,” as the political response to the network news’ version of Katrina. Finally, Kanye blurts out: “George Bush does not care about Black people.” BTW, there are awesome memes about both statements. And right now, the streets of NOLA as just as empty, businesses and communities just as gutted. You can’t just throw beads at that, hoping it will “miraculously” go away in time for Easter, as 45 said standing next to health officials who knew better.

We thought that Bush-era was bad, but Americans have seen much worse since. Now, 45’s FEMA is saying “shelter in place.” So, too, it seems, had India not managed to avoid electing a big man, who carries a big stick and lets the actual working people fall through the net. At least India’s leader had the decency to offer a heartfelt apology and explain the reasoning in some efforts towards transparency. It’s clear today’s FEMA is a carbon copy of Bush’s, but in a digital world.

In America…

Momma is a senior citizen. So are her siblings. Yesterday I video chatted with momma and also got to speak with her elder sister, too. Aunty was suiting up to go to the store. She couldn’t find any protective masks anywhere she’d looked -even online- so she showed me how she’d wrapped a colorful scarf around her head, covering her nose, mouth and neck. “With my glasses and long sleeves,” aunty said “there won’t be nothing exposed!” She explained that she takes wet wipes with her when she goes shopping to sanitize the shopping cart and every single item she touches. “Look,” she said opening her eyes widely, “I took yo’ lil cousins shopping with me, and they thought I was being dramatic!”

I also got to speak with aunty and momma’s niece who’d not long ago arrived with her newborn to stay. I hear a newfound maturity and resolve in her voice, still I resist revealing my pity for her having to embark upon this whole new journey in the middle of this crisis. My little cousin doesn’t need my pity, nor does her son. How’re we gonna raise this kid not to be defined by the fear we’re all feeling right now!

Corona parties…

Dear Corona, we’ve all noticed the smog is gone, and from that we shan’t go back! The virus is demanding that we re-organize our societies against an unprecedented, clear and present threat. Societies know buckling down for war, but now there are no Corona factories shelling out pollution and bombs to explode elsewhere. There’s no attempt to go on with regular life, even if undercover. Right here, like cities across the world, we’re shut down, locked in, demanded by government to stay inside (in my case, a tiny 1-bedroom graced by a balcony). The only Coronas in my house are chilling in my fridge next to the lime. A neighbor, my husband and I are having a Corona party tonight, right here!

For any who doubted the force of nature, perhaps here’s where newfound respect begins. Here’s proof for those who doubted our inter-connectedness; Corona don’t care about your race, gender, class, religion, nationality or politics. Corona don’t care if you go to church or never seen the inside of one. Corona don’t care if you believe humanity is cursed, damned for sinning. Call Corona a “Chinese virus” if you wish…China’s global. So’s Corona. Join me in my global stay-home Corona party, we’re celebrating all there is to learn at this peculiar moment in the short span of humanity on Earth. Bring your playlist. All you have to do is turn on your jam and you’re right here. When in doubt, start with Disco, b/c “the feelings right, the music’s tight on the Disco night,” obviously.

Right there…

The hospital down the road has just been found to be a Corona party. Several health care workers and food service staff tested positive. *This may sound frightening but they’ve subsequently set up 10 area testing centres, including a nearby school. Lines of contact are being traced and they’re armed with two test types, including a rapid South Korean Corona test that gives results in 10 minutes. Thankfully thus few’ve tested positive out of thousands.

People have taken to social distancing, and chide anyone foolish enough to ignore the warnings emerging from public health officials around the globe. We argue over the efficacy of masks while their availability is rendered political – masks aren’t profitable … not until they’re valuable enough to score political favors and public adulation. Again, it was Walmart, not George Bush’s FEMA, who were the first on scene with water and relief to those Katrina had left stranded atop their rooftops. “We are not to be called upon as citizens…but as consumers,” Toni Morrison said in reflection upon Dubya’s call to action following 9-11: ‘Go shopping’. Sadly, her prophetic words about one catastrophe unfolded in another. Don’t let NOLA’s Katrina be America’s Corona. Wash your GD hands, and contact your congresswomen and men. Demand coordinated action. Demand a healthcare option as universal as Corona.

What’s clear is that nations who lack a public healthcare system will have many more who fall through the net. Basically, there is no net. While Wuhan’s was a surprise Corona party, the rest of the world has known its coming. And while Corona has changed a time or two since it left its hometown, we all still knew what we were getting; denial’s a bummer.

“My Favourite Things”: Shân

My favourite TV show - I’m excited for series 4 of The Good Fight about to start, spin off from The Good Wife. I felt like someone in my family had died at the end of the Good Wife series 7, and I couldn’t tell anyone because it seemed pathetic. The Wire was probably the greatest telly series I ever watched, but much too sad to watch again. I loved The Bridge, but it is also too sad and scary to rewatch

My favourite place to go - I run down the tow path from Hampton Court to Kingston Bridge, and it always makes me happy

My favourite city - London. Or Oxford.

My favourite thing to do in my free time - knitting and watching action films, or cooking and listening to audio books or R4. I totally switch off, and am totally happy

My favourite athlete/sports personality - Kath Grainger, awesome oarswoman, kind, and a tall woman superhero.

My favourite actor – at the risk of revealing myself as very shallow, Sandra Bullock

My favourite author - can I have a Playwright? Shakespeare. My husband and I are working through multiple productions of every play. It’s like he was born 500 years into the future and time travelled backwards

My favourite drink - I love coffee

My favourite food - homemade popcorn, in front of the telly, with my children

My favourite place to eat -The Trout, Godstow. Location for Phillip Pullman’s La Belle Sauvage, it overlooks the river where I rowed as a half blue, and is a walk across Port Meadows away from Oxford’s dreaming spires.

I like people who -are respectful to people who may not seem very important. That includes children

I don’t like it when people - patronise me

My favourite book - Middlemarch, George Eliot, it gets better on every reading. Any of the Earthsea books = let’s say The Farthest Shore, by Ursula Le Guin, which I read first as an adult to my children, and is profoundly true and moving

My favourite book character - Sparrowhawk in Le Guin’s Earthsea books, my favourite literary leader, along with Cromwell, in Mantell’s trilogy. George Eliot’s Gwendolen Harleth, who survives what life throws at her, and walks away whole at the end of a book not named after her. Can I have a play character? Isabella from Measure for Measure. “Did I tell this, who would believe me?” Very #MeToo

My favourite film -Some Like it Hot. Not a single dud scene, not a dud line

My favourite poem -“God’s Grandeur”, by Gerard Manley Hopkins. The last two lines are a fine example in English of the Welsh verse form Cynghanedd, a kind of syllable patterning. “Because the Holy Ghost over the bent/World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.” B…b/W..d..b..d..w..w…b..w..b..w

My favourite artist/band - Runrig maybe. I first heard their songs when I was a PGT and then PGR student at Strathclyde in Glasgow. Next time I heard them was 25 years later when my Scottish husband and I courted each other. Or Eurythmics. I love Annie Lennox’s voice

My favourite piece of music - Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A major. The second movement was the theme of Out of Africa, and now I think I love the 1st movement as much

My favourite art - Bridget Riley – explosions of shape and light channelled into structure and simplicity

My favourite person from history - I don’t know if it counts as history, but my College Principal, Baroness Daphne Park, was a spy in WW2, which was pretty impressive

A utilitarian argument for human rights

https://www.flickr.com/photos/46452859@N03

I am minded to write something about both utilitarianism and human rights as a consequence of watching the news the other night.  Two separate but linked news articles struck a chord.  The first about police being heavy handed in applying the emergency laws surrounding the restricting of movement and the second about the emergency laws being passed to suspend jury trials in Scotland.  Both have an impact in respect of human rights.

Turning to the first, the complaint is that the police across England and Wales have in some cases been disproportionate in their dealing with the public when attempting to manage the restrictions around movement.  The example shown was the uploading of videos onto social media depicting people walking around the Peak District.  The captions simply asked whether the trip was necessary.

The government guidance is pretty clear regarding staying at home but perhaps is a little less clear about travelling to a location to partake in exercise. I must admit though I am a little perplexed at the accusation of heavy handedness.  The Human Rights Act 1998 provides for a right to life and it has been held that the government and its agencies have a positive obligation to facilitate this. There are of course some caveats as it would be almost impossible to ensure this in all circumstances.  There is no doubt that people are dying from Covid-19.  The approach to enforce social distancing, presently predominantly through information and the reliance on responsibility and good will, seems to be the only current viable approach to combating this killer.  The curtailment of some Human Rights is it seems necessary to ensure the greater good and to preserve life.  The latter of course is a primary duty that most police officers would recognise.  The greater good for the many is it seems compatible with a key principle of human rights.

Turning to the second news article.  The right to a fair trial is a fundamental human right.  The suspension of a jury may be against longstanding legal principles but, the Human Rights Act does not specify that the trial should be before a jury, merely an independent judge.  The argument could be made that trials should be suspended but this might be impinging on rights in respect of defendants being held in custody awaiting trial. The convening of a jury would flout the rationale behind current legislation in place to enforce social distancing and would quite simply be contrary to obligations to protect life.

The notions of utilitarianism are often viewed as in conflict with individual rights and therefore the Human Rights Act.  Many see the two as incompatible, one relates to the many and the other the individual. This argument though fails to have vision, it is not truly consequentialist.  Human Rights are utilitarian in their very nature.  Is it not to the greater good that people have a right to life, a right to freedom of association, a right to a fair trail to name but a few?  Should it not be considered that every individual case that is examined under the Human Rights Act has consequences for the many as well as the individual? A breach of the Act if unchallenged opens the way for abuses by governments and their agencies, it is utilitarian in nature, it is there for the greater good, not just the individual circumstances that are being examined. But should we also not consider that there is a need to prioritise rights, particularly in the circumstances the country and world finds itself in?  Some parts of the Act are in clearly on occasions, incompatible with others. Curtailment of some freedoms and rights is necessary for the greater good but more importantly, it is necessary to save lives, perhaps even the life of the individual complaining of the curtailment.  We can but hope that amidst all of this, good sense prevails.

In ‘Clap For Our Carers’ we must #stopthewhitewash

Credit: Black British Bulletin

In the documentation of #clapforourcarers, the British media does what Britain often does best, neglect its diversity whilst simultaneously boasting about diversity. You cannot tell the history of the NHS without talking about the diversity of ethnic backgrounds that make up the workforce. This history is also a story about race and society, incorporating the lives of people from around the world.

After the War, the UK government put out a call to its empire for workers, not thinking that all these Black and brown people from the Caribbean, and Asian and African continents would come, not the White people from English speaking countries such as New Zealand. The NHS would have been stillborn had it not been for Black nurses in the beginning that saved it from collapse. Yet, today, with Coronavirus, the whitewashing of the NHS continues in the media’s representation of the workforce. You cannot go to a hospital without running into the people of colour that keep it afloat.

The late Jamaican philosopher Stuart Hall said “We are here because you were there” and it is in part because of Britain’s colonial project that we have migrants from places all over the world. For international viewers looking in, watching British press on Coronavirus, they are being lead down this path of dominant whiteness. From the people being interviewed to how the NHS is being represented in the media. As Britons, we know the NHS workforce is culturally diverse. Yet, any viewers without knowledge of the NHS will believe that it is as White as it is being portrayed to be.

Africans, West Indians, Pakistanis, Indians, Chinese and many people of colour make up a good percentage of carers in Britain today. The same can be said for students on health-related courses at our universities including nursing, social work and social care. Like Gina Yashere says, it looks like Britain is erasing this diversity from its history. When we look back on this in 20 years time, history will show it to be whitewashed, as many significant events in British history were before it; from the world wars to Renaissance Britain to the days of Roman rule. But wasn’t it a legion of African Romans (or Moors) that stood watch on Hadrian’s Wall for nearly 350 years?

As I sit at home now in lockdown, we must talk about the nuances of Coronavirus under inequality. Will people of colour be stopped at a disproportionate rate to White people under new police powers? Will they be detained at such a rate? This is a global disease but those receiving tests seem to come from a certain class. We have a government that advocated for the genocide (herd immunity) of its ageing population. We also have a government that put the whims of billionaires over all. Its contempt for the working class has not gone unnoticed. When this is all over, the public and parliament needs to hold the prime minister’s government to account.

Gina Yashere mocks the people saying it shouldn’t be about race, and she’s absolutely right to do that. Race is a social construct but it’s a social construct of which the global majority have been othered. However, you cannot talk about British healthcare without talking about race. From institutional racism within healthcare to the diversity of the workforce. It comes from the comfort of privilege to live your life not having talk about race in any meaningful way. And life isn’t binary. One size doesn’t fit all.

We are better than this, we need to #stopthewhitewash; and if race doesn’t matter (as they say), why is the British media representing the National Health Service in its own image?

“My Favourite Things”: Tré

My favourite TV show - my favourite television series at the moment (since 2016) is The Hollow Crown, the BBC's adaptation of Shakespeare's history plays. It's an unparalleled television experience that makes Game of Thrones look like a garden party. 

My favourite place to go - I spend most Saturdays at the cinema, enjoying the art of storytelling. Film to me is what life is about. The person that doesn't engage in stories only lives one life. The person that reads, watches, writes, lives many. 

My favourite city - I don't feel that I'm at all that well-travelled and compared to my academic friends, I feel like I've lived in a bubble. From the few places I have been, I don't think I can choose just one. Mississauga, Canada (2018) was marvellous. I also grew up visiting my paternal family in Birmingham. I love Birmingham, it's like London without all the faffing about. 

My favourite thing to do in my free time - I live for films. I love watching old films, specifically films released pre-1970 where many were filmed in monochrome. I spend a lot of time at the cinema, even going to special event screenings of old films.

My favourite athlete/sports personality - again, I'm an old soul. I don't think I can choose just one, so I would have to go for the iconic West Indies cricket team of 1980/81 that left Botham's England in the dirt. WI 5 - ENG 0. 

My favourite actor - Despite him doing some absolute oddballs these last few years, Robert DeNiro is still my favourite actor, being in some of the best films ever made, incl. The Godfather Part II, Once Upon a Time in America, Heat, Goodfellas and more. 

My favourite author - until recently my favourite author was Kathryn Stockett (The Help). However, I've come to reflect on the problematicness of this book. I think I would have to choose the late Andrea Levy who was voice to a whole generation of Black British Caribbeans through books like Small Island and Every Light in the House Burnin'. Truly a marvel who gave a voice to the Black British working-class and an inspiration to me as well.

My favourite drink - It's been called an old man's drink but I'm an absolute sucker for a pint of IPA. If we were to go to the supermarket, I would go for Goose or Greene King. I guess it shows I have been spending too much time with my grandfather!

My favourite food - curry goat, rice and peas with mac n cheese. Nothing else comes remotely close. It's the dish I grew up with. 

My favourite place to eat - Grandma's House. See above^^^

I like people who - who don't accept things at face value. Challenge themselves and their establishment. Ask the difficult questions and don't roll over. Many of my friends are activists and it shows, either through their writing as artists or taking it to the streets at anti-Brexit protests (for example). 

I don’t like it when people - claim to be authorities on things they know nothing about. Stop stroking your ego and step back. It's okay to say "I don't know enough about this to comment." I would actually think more of people if they did this. 

My favourite book - one of my favourite reads in the last few years is Carrie Pilby by Canadian novelist Caren Lissner. A charming young adult fiction story about a young woman trying to find her way in a world that doesn't relate to her. 

My favourite book character - I don't read enough fiction to answer this question genuinely. Recently, I'm inclined to go with Jaime Lannister from George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire the series of books that went on to "loosely inspire" the American HBO television series Game of Thrones (2011 - 2019).

My favourite film - Midnight in Paris, about an American writer stuck in what's called "Golden Age Thinking", the idea that a different time period is better than one you are living - and I don't think there's a person living that hasn't had this thought. 

However, when I do look to history, I think this is the best time to be people of colour; a woman; lesbian, gay, bi or trans; less able-bodied; the further back in history you look, the worse it looks for people who are not able-bodied White, straight men. 

My favourite poem - In recent years, I found Button Poetry where I was introduced to Canadian poet Sabrina Benaim. Her poem 'Explaining Depression to My Mother: A Conversation' struck a chord and continues to strike a chord to this day. 

My favourite artist/band - Bob Marley. If he had lived he would have been Prime Minister of Jamaica. Writer, artist, poet political activist, revolutionary. Legend. If he lived today, he would be standing alongside Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez in solidarity. And as we fight COVID-19, I'm sure he'd have something to say! Every song is mega, and Natty Dread (1974) is one of the best albums ever made.

My favourite song - London Bridge (1980) by The Mighty Sparrow is certainly one of my favourite. Written in time of of unrest in England, this is a commentary on English history and society. 

What's more, this is calypso music from my maternal grandparents' country, Grenada. Caribbean music is battlefield music and The Mighty Sparrow is one of our countrymen sticking it to our former-colonial masters in a way that's jovial and lively.

My favourite art - I'm partial to Vincent van Gogh's Sunflowers. Its stillness reminds me the world isn't all fast-paced and sometimes we have to take a moment to reflect. 

My favourite person from history - one of my favourite historical figures is Black mixed-race footballer-turned-soldier Walter Tull. It is safe to say I would not be where I am had it not been for Walter Tull. He is a testament to what can be achieved, irrespective of hostile environments. Moreover, not only is he a testament to all men but is a role model to Black men in 2020. 

Not only was he one of the first Black footballers in England, he was the first Black officer in the British Army at a time when it was illegal for "men of non-European descent" to lead White men. Walter is part of Black history, Northampton history, but above of all, my history and I am extremely proud of that. 

“My Favourite Things”: Paula

My favourite TV show - I am not really one for television, but I recently stumbled upon a 1960's series, called The Human Jungle, lots of criminological and psychological insight, which I adore. I also absolutely loved Gentleman Jack (broadcast on BBC1 last summer)

My favourite place to go - Wherever I go the first thing I look for are art galleries, so I would have to say Tate Modern. Always something new and thought provoking, alongside the familiar and oft visited treasures

My favourite city - I love cities and my favourite, above all others, is the place I was born, London. The vibrancy, the people, the places, the atmosphere....need I say more?

My favourite thing to do in my free time - Read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read......

My favourite athlete/sports personality - This is tricky, sport isn't really my thing. However, I do have a secret penchant for boxing,  which isn't brilliant for someone who identifies as pacifist, so I'll focus on feminism and pick Nicola Adams

My favourite actor - (Getting easier) Dirk Bogarde

My favourite author - (Too easy) Agatha Christie

My favourite drink - Day or night? If the former, tea....

My favourite food - Chocolate, always

My favourite place to eat - So many to choose from, but provided I am surrounded by people I love, with good food and drink, I'm happy

I like people who - read! 

I don’t like it when people - claim to be gender/colour blind....sorry mate, check your privilege 

My favourite book - (oooh very, very tricky) Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own primarily because of the profound effect it had and continues to have on my understanding

My favourite book character - (Easy, peasy) Hercule Poirot

My favourite film - (Despite my inner feminist screaming nooooooooo) The original Alfie with its wonderful swinging sixties' vibe 

My favourite poem - (Decisions, decisions, so many wonderful poems to choose from) I'll plump for Hollie McNish's Mathematics 

My favourite artist/band - The Beatles 

My favourite song - (Given the previous answer) it has to be Dear Prudence 

My favourite art - I love art, but hands down Picasso's Guernica is my favourite piece. To stand in front of that huge painting and consider the horror of war is profound

My favourite person from history - The pacifist, suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst, a beautiful example of the necessity to be confident in your own ethics and principles

The logic of time

I think I’ve mentioned before that I am a bit of a horologist.  I love time pieces and in particular old time pieces, grandfather clocks being my favourite.  To avoid discrimination though, I’m not adverse to grandmother and granddaughter clocks, no misogynistic biases here.  I wonder why there are no grandson clocks, probably due to some hidden bygone feminist agenda.  I do love a wind up.

So why the love of clocks, well I’m sure some of it has to do with my propensity to logic.  Old clocks are mechanical, none of this new fangled electronic circuitry and consequently it is possible to see how they operate.  When a clock doesn’t work, there is always some logical reason why this is so, and a logical approach needed to fix it.

This then gives me the opportunity to investigate, explore the mechanics of the clock, work out how it ought to operate and set about repairing it.  In doing so I am often handling a mechanism that is over a hundred years old, in the case of my current project, nearly three hundred years old. 

There is a sense of wonderment in handling all the parts. Some appear quite rudimentary and yet other parts such as the cogs are precision pieces.  Many of the parts are made by hand but clearly some are made by machines albeit fairly crude ones.  How the makers managed the precision required to ensure that cogs mesh freely baffles me.  What is clear though is that the makers of the clocks were skilled artisans and possessed skills that I dare say have all but been lost over the years.

Messing around with clocks (I can’t say I do more than that) also allows me to delve into history.  The clock I’m currently tinkering with only has an hour hand, no minute or second hand.  Whilst the hours and half hours are clearly marked on the dial, where you would normally expect to see minutes, the hours are simply divided up into quarters.  A bit of social history, people didn’t have a need to know minutes, they were predominantly only concerned with the hour.

My pride and joy, a grandfather clock, dates to the 1830s. When I took it apart I found several dates and a name scratched into the back of the face plate.  The dates related to when it had been serviced and by whom.  I was servicing a clock that had been handled by someone over a hundred and fifty years previously. I bet they weren’t standing in a nice warm house drinking a hot cup of coffee contemplating how to service the clock. We take so much for granted and I guess the clocks allow me to reflect on what it was like when they were made and how lucky we are now. Although I do also wonder whether simple notions such as not having the need to concern ourselves with every minute might not be better for the soul.

Solitude.

Time alone, socially with ourselves, can be a truly healing ordeal. When we’re alone, we tend to think. Thinking is hard work. It really takes a disciplined mind to reflect, to look at different items in life and piece them together differently than they are presented to us.…perhaps with more clarity. We may experience anxiety, left with our own thoughts in the solitude of quarantine. From whatever source or another, you may feel anxious about being alone. Develop calming practices. Curate calming activities in your life that bring you peace.

 

You may experience restlessness. What to do with all that time? Many of you will want to be productive. Do something you enjoy. What do you like to do with your (wrestling) hands? Hold a book? Saw wood? Bake? Knit me a scarf?!?

 

Whether you enjoy listening to music and talking about the memories and times music evokes, explore what you like to do. Me? I dance, read, write, binge on TV series, and digging my hands in dirt to grow stuff. I especially love propagating plants. I try any plant I can get ahold of. In my garden, I have a beautiful crawling flower I clipped in Barcelona. It spreads over soil and has bright green leaves with bright red flowers that unfold into a star at dusk. Curate creative activities in your life that bring you peace.

 

Solitude gives us time for introspection – a kind of dialogue with ourselves. We love all forms of art because of the internal dialogue with ourselves as we observe a movie, painting, sculpture, fashion, performance, etc. We know at the heart of each of those creations, there was an artist in solitude.

 

In my solitude…

 

 

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First edition

Alice walker sat and wrote The Color Purple with pen and paper. The screenwriters later came along and did the same. Each actor received their own script. On screen we watch Ms. Sofia tell Ms. Celie to “bash Mister’s head in and think about heaven later,” after confronting her for telling her step-son to beat her. Imagine how Oprah read all of THAT from just a few letters to god. On the page, Celie acknowledges her jealousy of Sofia’s power – she’s just as “poor, Black and ugly” as she. She apologizes and reconciles by helping Harpo’s next woman recognize her own power. There’s a whole storyline about this. The book more keenly develops more characters and their transformations. In our solitude, we read The Color Purple and for the first time view it in Technicolor.

 

In the book, of course, we neither see the bruises and blood nor hear the screams the children must have hears when Mister beats Celie senselessly throughout their marriage. We read how Celie gained the courage to leave this batterer. Oh, and the grandest surprise is that Shug reveals to Celie that God ain’t a man, and he ain’t white, neither. If God were a white man, neither could believe in him, according to the book. Both their redemptions came from there, not as the film shows. In the film, Shug is a floozy who redeems herself by becoming ‘respectable’.  The film doesn’t question the heteropatriarchal god, a central narrative in the book.

 

The book is really queer. Harpo loves to cook, clean and take care of kids while his woman works. Harpo resolves his Oedipal dilemma by accepting that he’s not a patriarch like his father. The film depicts his struggle but not this resolution. In the book, there’s an entire sub-narrative about how Celie’s kids in Africa – raised by her sister Nettie – reject the traditional gender roles. This is only hinted at in the film.

 

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Celie & Shug’s only on-screen kiss

Of course, Celie’s a lesbian, Shug’s bisexual and Mister is cool with their love triangle. In the book, Mister’s redemption is there, literally becoming just a tiny bit more feminist, though still not nearly as the flashy boxer Shug later marries. Another big twist is that in the book is that Shug and her husband split amicably; he moves south of the border with Harpo’s woman, Mary Agnes, to run their very own marijuana plantation.

 

Celie encouraged Mary Agnes to stop people from calling her Squeak, a sub-narrative that only is hinted at in the film’s iconic Thanksgiving scene, aka Celie’s uprising. I love Celie’s nasty retort to Mister’s sinister dad in this scene: “Seem like if he hadn’t been your boy, he might a made somebody a halfway decent man.”  Shug helps Mary Agnes have her own singing career, as implied in the Thanksgiving scene when she says she’s leaving with Celie and Shug Avery. In a deep hearty laugh that breaks the dramatic tension, Sofia declares: “Oh, Sofia(‘s) home.”

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“You told Harpo to beat me!” Oprah’s breakout character & breakout scene

 

Self-love and women supporting women are huge themes that can’t be captured in a movie, it needs a whole mini-series to watch at home.  Serendipitously, at the end of the scene when their boarding the car, Celie’s hex on Mister is almost taken directly from the pages. “Until you do right by me, ev’ry thing you even think about gonna fail!”

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Celie’s Thanksgiving uprising

Finally, in the book, Celie and Mister eventually become friends. Come back with her long-lost kids and the dear sister Nettie he’d banished and “whoop his ass.” I love, love, love the film, but all of this was erased from book to script. I discovered all of this in my solitude.

 

The Color Purple was originally written as Celie’s prayers, the way she escaped the hell of her existence. In the book, she found this through love. On the paper, we can see that she stops writing to “God” and instead addresses the letters to her sister Nettie, the one who taught her to read (in both versions).  The pages, not the movie, clearly reveal this spiritual transformation. Celie continues to write to Nettie, not knowing anything of her fate, only having found the old letters Mister had stashed away for years. Their love was so strong that in her solitude, writing the letters brought her peace. Curate writing activities that bring you peace.

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The revised book cover following the film’s success

Do you keep a journal, dabble in poetry, admire the prose in your head? Set aside time as a family for writing and reading. Experience solitude together. Share your work. Curate activities that bring you peace. Use this quarantine to strengthen your capacity to love.

 

Social Psychology in a Time of Crisis

I am currently sitting in an empty classroom because, although face to face teaching is not officially suspended until tomorrow, none of my seminar students have turned up. In this rather depressing situation, however, there is much for a psychologist to reflect upon, particularly the process of social influence.

First there is the phenomenon of obedience to authority. In his seminal series of experiments, Milgram (1974) was trying to understand the destructive power of obedience; the tendency of people to do what they are told even when it is morally wrong and they know it to be so. The current situation is different. While it is always important to question science (as anyone who has studied CRI1007) should be well aware!) large scale public health measures have no hope of working unless everyone obeys. Milgram did not just explore how obedient people can be – he also investigated the conditions under which obedience is strongest. One of the factors that enhanced obedience was an aura of scientific authority. Participants were more likely to obey when they were instructed by a person in a white coat, who worked in a smart laboratory in a reputable university and who made reference to science, research and experiments, than when they were confronted by someone in scruffy clothes in a run-down building in a tatty back street. Boris Johnson has a poor record of telling the truth and inspiring trust. It is no coincidence that he is currently delivering his daily briefings flanked by his chief medical officer and chief scientific advisor.

Then there is the phenomenon of panic buying. There is probably a deep-seated evolutionary drive that causes us to hoard food in times of potential shortage. Just as the onset of autumn drives squirrels to bury hazelnuts, so the mention of self-isolation drives humans to buy pasta and tinned tomatoes (or potatoes in the case of one of my elderly relatives). My grandmother, who was her family’s main breadwinner through the Second World War, kept a stash of sugar under her bed until the day she went into a care home. And I guess Freud might have had something to say about the fact that the items we are hoarding most fervently are toilet rolls!

Evolutionary drives are, however, not the whole story and social influences play a part too. We panic buy because everyone else is panic buying. In his research on conformity, Asch (1956) identified two main reasons why people went along with the crowd: some just wanted to fit in and be socially accepted (compliance); others doubted their own judgment and believed that everyone else must be correct (conversion). The latter process is helping to drive the current retail crisis – people think “everyone else is panic buying, so there must be a good reason to do so, so I need to do it too!”

Asch was investigating the influence of majorities but minorities can be influential too, often for similar reasons (Moscovici, 1976). As if we didn’t have enough disease to worry about, I have just passed a screen warning students about outbreaks of mumps in British universities. The reason why mumps is on the rise among students is that 20 years ago, when the current generation of students were babies, a small minority of scientific opinion suggested a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. Backed by authoritative sounding research and confident and charismatic individuals, it led parents to doubt mainstream opinion and reject vaccination for their children.

Another topic which has puzzled social psychologists for many years is that of altruism. Are we ever truly, selflessly altruistic? Or are we good to others because it has rewards for us? Looking at the Facebook group for the village where I live, there are some heart-breaking accounts of selfishness over the last few days. The grandmother desperately appealing for Calpol for a 5-month-old baby with chicken pox, because every shop she has tried has been cleared out by panic buyers. And the farm that sells eggs by the side of the road with an honesty box that is now asking customers to phone with orders because someone has stolen all the eggs and all the cash. But there are some lovely examples of altruism too. People offering to shop or collect prescriptions for the elderly and vulnerable. People offering to cook meals for health professionals. People setting up Facebook and WhatsApp groups in order to maintain social contact. And the wonderful woman who offered free mango chutney to anyone in the village, just because she was making a batch and wanted to share the love!

We live in interesting times! Stay safe, keep calm and use this opportunity to read and reflect.

References

Asch, S.E. (1956) Studies of independence and submission to group pressure: 1 A minority of one against a unanimous majority. In Psychological Monographs, 70, (9) (Whole No. 416).

Milgram, S. (1974) Obedience to Authority. New York: Harper and Row.

Moscovici, S. (1976). Social influence and social change. London: Academic Press.

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