An Open Letter to Britain

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When I was last at rock bottom- hungry, depressed and aimless- I had what seemed to be an endless amount of time to watch the media and news of each passing headline. Each story passed without me raising my small voice in any way. I rarely shared or posted stories in social media, more than likely because I was withdrawn from life. Armed now with information from that period (not that long ago) that reveals patterns and tides of armed conflict, corporate corruption and overreaching surveillance, I have come to raise my voice a little in a rather peculiar way.
The main story I have watched unfold… Well actually it hasn’t unfolded. For those who it affects, such as myself, it’s been a roller-coaster ride. To what am I referring? The Scottish referendum.
I first mentioned this several posts ago, addressing those outwith the U.K. as a by-the-way-this-is-happening-in-case-you-hadn’t-noticed. My comments described why the Scots were looking for political change (the coalition) and that even though that was the case, we might not want to let the politics affect friendships in England.
Voting day is today. A Thursday no less (it’s a traditionally English phenomenon to hold elections on Thursdays).
Unluckily for me I am still trumpeting a similar message even at this late hour. But along this journey there were moments, fleeting days, within which I was a definite ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ voter. On nearly every occasion a discussion or piece of information had swayed me from the fence and planted me into one or tothers field, only to later be uprooted by counter-arguement, more detail or the dreams of possibility.
The most recent derision in my household has been the £17 billion loss in investors money. Looking into it, you find out that the headlines that suggested the reason for these companies jumping ship being the increase in ‘yes’ polling was nothing but wording. The withdrawals were actually caused by the rises and ebbs of the value of money to bonds- the country was recovering and was on a high so the only place for it to go was down. With this knowledge these companies were pulling out so as not to make any loses. Again! The Bloom imperative; money is good faith. In the case of The Royal Bank of Scotland the belief of officials that the upheaval of people fleeing in either direction will cause loss for their business may have been a major factor. The thing I hate about it is that it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. These investors pull out and then in turn smaller businesses panic and pull out their money too. The big companies know better than us and can see things we can’t see- they must be right in saying it will cause problems! Moronic. Unfortunately still likely to worsen if the vote is ‘yes’, however.
What makes the Independent in me is the idea that the governement we have now does not represent us. Extending the detention of suspected terrorists, privatizing health care (in the sneakiest way possible), under-representing the benefits of the Alternative vote, putting English students even further in debt than they already were, utilizing this referendum to distract the English people from the political struggles they should be grappling with, pulling Britain away from the E.U. piece by piece… It all just makes me viciously angry.
I live in England now and I work in hospitality, so am constantly asked ‘what do you think?’, ‘can you vote?’, ‘what would you vote?’. Every time I want to scream! Not just because it’s constant, therefore close to overwhelming with the hugeness of it all, but mostly because the real question is ‘what do they think!?’. Most would answer something about the Scots as people. That, is to miss the point of what I would ask. What do you think of your government, England? Why is it a question of us leaving you when we should be united to change the whole bloody country!? That’s what’s going on here. The Scottish people are motivated to envision a whole new government. No governing body is ever perfect, but the ‘yes’ voters have the audacity to dream a country that they could live in where it was closer to representing them. They could do it with you, but they will do it without you.
An ocean is made of a thousand drops (~ 1.6036 x 10^25 drops actually) and this post is just one of them. To those that do get to the end of it, in particular my Scottish friends and family, going into independence is to reach for a world of uncertainty. But that shouldn’t make you afraid of it. In fact that’s the part that’s great about it- if it happens, a slew of possibilities and innovations await. Yet, for the nationalists amoung you please spare a moment to think about those who are scared, those who are sure of and therefore will cause the country’s demise. Think about the English, Welsh and Northern Irish. It’s not fair if what you do affects them and they can’t do anything about it. They won’t get mad at Westminster- they’ll get mad at you. Rather than fight their anger with anger remember to be compassionate and altruistic.
Either way, spare a thought for Ireland- the two sides left after their independence killed each other in the street. Don’t let Scotland come to that.

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Barely Awake


There was a time a while ago where words failed me- the poverty I attempted to write about had consumed my vitality. I attempted to describe it then, but what Sampsel has done with this poem conveys it so much more accurately. Simple yet chilling, wordsmith-ed precision.

Originally posted on kevin sampsel:

Wake up feeling groggy—
Hypnotized, nearly catatonic.
Bleary, beaded eyes
Seeing blurry.
Barely awake.
Rise sensing icy trance—
Boredom—blood pumping slowly.
Sluggish, apathetic soul
Stirring calmly:
Oddly so.
Barely living.

View original

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The time you take

Let those of wealth never be reason
For argument of plenty
Between those impoverished-

The battle against it
Is lost,
Before it has even begun.

The pursuit of happiness
Reaps rewards en route
Ever more worthy of,
The time taken to attain.

The asinine attrition
By the elite
To bear weight on the bourgeois,
And indispose the povre-

Although immoral,
Is not
Worthy of Dwelling thought
For those brought,
Low already.

The pursuit of happiness
Reaps rewards en route
Ever more worthy of,
The time you take to try.

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The easiest job

*lifts chair, sighs*
“Oh, it’s a tough life!”
Sarcasm notes detected, “Well… it would be if you had to do it full time,”
“You’ll be alright then. Part time?”
“No, I’m full time.”

Do you know, I have finally figured out why retail, hospitality and laborer staff are paid so little money. It’s not because the work is easier by any means- what difficulties you have in office work are swapped out for physical exertion. It’s that people think your job is easy.

I should have known it would come back to that Bloom imperative; money is good faith. It’s the emotion you pour into it when you earn it, give it away or hoard it. There’s work that needs doing, so the managerial staff in bars and shops stay and do it thereby pushing hours worked well over the lawful 50 max a week. Even with the profits margins built for building up-keep, other staffs wages and development of the venue there is still not enough to pay these hard working members their due. They all do it for different reasons, but it’s in cities and towns all across the country. The love of the job, the ambition to progress, the duty to the company or the support of the team, whatever it is that keeps them going just for them to do it all again the following week. It’s good enough that they believe in what their doing and so continue, whether it is only a belief or not.

It’s the customers that haven’t the faintest clue that really make me laugh. There’s a bartender looking at you, who has just gone past her 60th hour that week, who has a combined caffeine and nicotine craving, who is still smiling despite the fact she should have lost patience for you 5 minutes ago, and your response is to patronizingly repeat your entire order for a family of four exactly the same way you said it the first time because she asked if it was to be a large or small glass of pinot grigio for your wife. Had it been me I would have cut him off by rudely repeating the order louder than him, but no… She allowed him to finish and asked politely again with an added explanation as to why the volume is an important thing to mention. Would your wife like to get drunk quicker or slower? Do you know what, I think she’ll want it to be quicker- the sooner to her not registering your obnoxious BS.

My apologies that this post is so negative. I should warn you, it continues on the same vein. I’m in a bad mood.

Stag nights. I can’t say much for the hen parties; I’ve never been cajoled by the ladies. If what I describe applies to the treatment of male bartenders hosting for hen do’s then at least we can say that there isn’t a gender disparity. The Gents love to tease their engaged mate something rotten, and the theme tends to follow the notion of reminding them that they are going to be with the same woman for the rest of their married life (however long that ends up being) and that there are a wealth of beautiful women they will never be allowed to go anywhere near, but may well want to. A lot of the time, as we know, this is why strippers are hired as if the enforced lap dance is going to make them long instead for loveless sex that never satisfies them. If one has not been arranged it tends to devolve instead into a pretty bartender being singled out and cajoled for the rest of the evening.

Do you know what, the Grooms-to-be tend to be alright guys, hence why they have managed to build a successful enough relationship that they will soon be declaring to their God, family and the law. They know what their mates are trying to do and have varying degrees of appreciation of how irritating it is for the bartender. Where they can they will get you to play along or conceal so as to keep the rabble manageable.
The degrading objectification is hard to deal with, however. What no one seems to get is that this is not the first party of people you have served that day, and isn’t even the first party to try and distract you like that. It will be the most objectifying thing that’s happened to you that week, but rest assured someone else is getting married next week and will also visit with a group of womanizers. Your wedding, your stag do does indeed only happen once (or at least that’s the intention) and congratulations; have a great time. But the bartender is neither your party organizer or a stripper, so leave them the fuck alone.

Things like a shot of coke for their jager, a fake name and number do no harm. But tips for bartenders in that situation: blowing kisses instead of a peck on the cheek is no better, just don’t play along for that; don’t lean over and touch them; don’t let them lie on the bar; and if you just can’t someone else can serve them, that’s perfectly alright. A lot of the time if you start to play along with no reservations it will only escalate and won’t be long before they are asking you to do things that are totally inappropriate.
People say that it’s just good fun- and that’s cool. If you’re comfortable playing along, go for it. You’ll be well loved, get plenty of tips and trip adviser kudos. Just don’t forget why they started singling you out in the first place. It’s not because they knew you’d be cool with it or that you’re fun and entertaining. They had no idea if you’d be okay and didn’t care to find out. It’s because you’re pretty, and that’s all.

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Lifetime Dirtbags

What happens to teenage Dirtbags? And why were they teenage Dirtbags to begin with?
I met my best friend in math class. My skills had been underestimated and my ability stood forth enough that I was moved into the top class. It was strange to think that I might be rubbing shoulders with those destined to be doctors and professors. It had never occurred to me that as a researcher math would actually be a very important aspect of my career, therefore it was by luck that I was proficient without applying myself. I was lead along the corridor, apprehensive of the social duress that might be awaiting my arrival two doors down. Mrs Hendrick welcomed me in and offered that I might choose my own seat, which proved that I was now in respectable company- trusting an eleven-year-old to sit where they will work best without distraction displays a lot of faith in the student. And there she was.
Bright red hair, big brown eyes, spindly fingers weighed down to table height with large rings of skulls and the grim-reaper. At this age we wore our style as an identity badge and this girl was screaming without saying a word. She is quiet, my best friend- she’s gentle and excitable at her best. But she is also bi-polar. She has an inborn chemical imbalance to her system that results in giggling highs and strife filled lows. My attention was drawn to the idea that we wear ourselves and our personalities in our taste and style. I was ordinary looking, pliable. I always had been. If you spent enough time with me you might have thought from the notion of taste and style that I was the bi-polar one. Or perhaps that I was never sure what I liked or who I was. A colour a week keeps my vitality at its peek- I wore clothes based on what colour I liked that morning. Sometimes I wore grey eyeshadow, sometimes pink lipstick. There might be a blue butterfly around my neck, or there might be a guitar pick on a black chain. Teenage me was a Dirtbag in disguise. The music was my badge. That did result in being referred to as a ‘mus-o’ and some cliquey/hipster behaviour (because no one had heard of my bands and I liked them before they were cool). Although my Mama often accused our music of being ‘slit-your-wrist’ worthy there were lyrics within a lot of it that talked of being full of life and feeling truly alive. We loved the songs that felt like you were screaming your emotions from the rooftops, and admittedly the only thing that fit how she felt whenever she was down was music that discussed depression and suicide. Our taste was not dictated by the friends we’d made or our rebellion from our parents. It was all about the songs that already seemed to be speaking about and for us.
One of the best lectures I have ever attended was one on the Psychology of music taught by a man named Adrian C. North. I was majoring in applied marine biology at the time so attending a different life science lecture was a welcome break from the intense ecology, microbiology and chemistry courses. He spoke about a few relevant studies he and his PhD students had done- but the jist of it was what left an impression. He compared work by Raymond MacDonald, David Hargreaves and Dorothy Miell with his own to try and ascertain the best angle of approach to study the importance of music in our lives. It’s a bit deep for a personal blog [Developing identities in music education, David J. Hargreaves, et al. Volume 5, Issue 3, 2003. Music and Adolescent Identity, Adrian C. North & David J. Hargreaves, volume 1, Issue 1, 2006- pg 75- 92.] but in essence one of them believes that music develops us and the other that we look for music as we develop- both agree that as adolescents we then use this music to show others who we are. In his lecture he hypothesized that we choose music for the aspects that we identify with and that once we have done so, it creates a shield or hiding place that we might use while we figure out the parts of our character not yet defined.
My best friend dressed the part of course. Most of the time it was to avoid too much interaction with kids who were not of the same taste. It cut out a lot of the leg work and requirement to make connections and it worked very well. Although, a lot of her time was spent hiding at home when she couldn’t find the courage and energy to come to school. As expected, she was chastised by our classmates and other close friends. They would call her out and tell her she wouldn’t do as well in exams, but she always did. Eventually they changed tact and said it wasn’t fair that she got to stay home. As the spoken poet Shane Koyczan wrote so well, “as if depression is something that can be remedied by any of the contents found in a first aid kit”. We were very much a clique in the sense that we only tended to blend with those who professed to like similar music whether they dressed in black or not.
I have not yet had the opportunity to visit another high school to see how they as a chain have changed. Have the types of cliques that you will find be different? Have they merely absorbed current culture? If they have, then I can imagine that the schools play host to NEDs, Hipsters and Anti-Hipsters as current archetypes of what were NEDs, Preps and Dirtbags. As a concept, how old are cliques? Preferences have probably always separated the alligators from the crocodiles but it’s more than likely that before the 60’s you just kept your interests quiet if you were too different from your peers. Is being NEDish, preppy or gothic a phase? My mother told me that my trench-coat wearing friends would stop wearing them when they tried to find work.
We are not so much older that Mama has been entirely proved wrong. All of us are looking for work or have it though. Therein lies the story. What happens to teenage dirtbags? All the ones I knew still are Dirtbags. It’s because liking music, whether it’s hardcore or not, has very little to do with ‘what is cool’ or ‘what is popular’. Many of our parents would think this crazy, but it’s true. Did our long black coats, funky hair and tattoos stop us from following our dreams? Well… my best friend is a gaming programmer. Some of the others have gone into psychiatry, physiotherapy, photography, physics (ph-ph, ph-ph-ph). It’s just me that’s hanging onto my ambition by the tip of my fingers. So on the hole, us lifetime Dirtbags do alright.

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I’m not Hemingway.

A while ago I re-posted a quote from a blogger who spoke of the importance in not worrying about your level or lack of wordsmithary. The truth in the matter is that that is wholly right. The style of publication we have here doesn’t require you to pause over every word, and it gives it all this very real and truthful texture. That’s all logical, and I like that.
Yet I have not being writing because of the opposite emotional pull. Part of me strives to express thoughts I know I have shared with others- or ones I think will be- but there’s this store of pride that’s holding me back. It’s not for lack of things to say and in a way I do know how, but I scramble to achieve those beautiful moments when what is often thought is expressed in the best way that it ever could be. But why for Pope’s sake am I trying so hard? I’m not Hemingway.
When I hit the publicize button I am never truly happy. I am truly finished trying, but it’s never as poetic as I hoped. I fight to craft line by line, word by word and try to round off the entire post where in truth I have made references and irrelevant tangents all over the place. They’re irrelevant and I still refuse to remove them, just as vehemently as I refuse to take any post down. When anything is edited it’s for spelling or grammar even where any normal person would scrap the whole thing. Now I have the unpleasant option of looking back at videos, lyrics and journal entries that drip with youthful ignorance, and my skin crawls with the embarrassment. Still, I won’t burn them. …Sometimes I hide them from particular prying eyes. As I have mentioned before, I don’t like people I know in real life knowing about this blog never mind reading it.
WordPress has had a good few words of encouragement for me via my email box. There are several interviews with “successful bloggers” that I have been linked to. I get about half way through reading before realising most have similar advice only worded in each individuals own way. Things like creating a schedule, knowing your audience, knowing your style, writing what you know, not worrying but reassessing after not before publication, blah, blah. I get it.
When I wrote my new blog outline I set a schedule and said I would explore subject lines x, y and z. Just as when I first started this thing I have not followed it. My outline should probably not exist, but how then to let people understand what I’m about without traipsing through my previous posts to find out how indecisive I am. What am I? A university drop-out, a half-blood with matching experiences, and someone who writes posts like they’re a mind map. The best way to describe it is like each post is a game of tetris; it always starts off without a hitch but a few misplaced building blocks later and the whole thing is screwed up and off-looking. How’s that for style awareness.
So… I work in a pub (I have a point, I promise) and we use boards to let people know about availability and seasonal dishes as is customary. The issue we have been having is that the boards must be updated twice a day and in nice handwriting. After much debate the team consensus is that only 3 of the 18 members of staff have nice handwriting, myself being one of them and the other two being on holiday. The reason my hand is desirable is because all of my letters are joined and have definite form. Graphology makes little sense to me because I write the way I do on purpose. I chose when I was learning to write to craft how it would look. I know that there are certain hand contortions that come naturally thus having an affect on the look of your letters, but nurture can defy some of this. Learning to read and write was difficult for me and I still can’t identify typos (thank you spell check, your Infallible Red-squigglyness). One of my various work arounds was to follow writing form. Certain words had a certain correct shape in my head and to imitate this I defined them not as separate symbols that made words. Instead each word was a picture of definite flow. This made reading in different font difficult, but that didn’t matter because I already blubbered reading aloud anyway- when I didn’t blubber I mono-toned and misspoke. It was to my higher English class’s great amusement when I said “the devil is a willy one” when reading Arthur Miller’s Crucible. So much thought has gone into my writing single words as I have grown up that now I can’t stop myself. Each word has had to be worthy of the time it took to paint it. In what I type, the words must now be worthy of saying to strangers. It irks me that they so rarely manage to be worthy.
That’s pride talking of course. It shouldn’t irk me. It shouldn’t be that you ask more of yourself than your capable of. Or of anyone for that matter. Much of my first social experiences were filled with embarrassment of behaviours I couldn’t help, so the only way I could beat my peers was in striving for the best. I was only not embarrassed if I beat them at things and even then they still managed to make me ashamed of achieving every so often. Shame of achievement is easy to lose but the fear of embarrassment stays with us. Fears always do. The skin crawling feeling I have gotten looking back has meant that the things I planned to write about have gone unexpressed. The conclusion in all this is that sometimes it is better to do a half-assed job, than not at all. Also that perhaps it is best not to look back. You can’t achieve those beautiful moments of expression when you don’t try. You also can’t achieve them when you have nothing to say at all. So a timetable means little for me. I have decided that the advice these bloggers give about schedules is silly. If you have nothing to say then you end up talking about fuck all, and if you rush something you have to say you might miss opportunities where your mind is working at it’s best.
Do you know… I haven’t ever read Hemingway’s work. Society has enshrined his name and although considered a great American novelist his work hasn’t come up during my education. Only his name. Oddly enough, the synopsises don’t entice my curiousity either. I guess as far as audience is concerned, Hemingway and I have at least one thing in common- there are a lot of folk who just won’t be interested in the the things we have to say.

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To be colour blind

Here I reblog an outstandingly insightful piece that really made me consider how fortunate it is not just to be colour blind but to live in a country where that is the norm.
Having spent most of my youth in Scotland and only summers in the U.S., I am more accustomed to people being outspokenly appalled in the face of immortality like racism than I am to the kind of separation S.K describes.

I Am Not a Black Woman: One White Woman’s Perspective on the Progress We Have Made Regarding Racism and Seeing Color.

But I did see it. I have seen both norms.

I recall a train ride I once took to Edinburgh when I was a young teenager. I used to travel through to the capital every December- my friends and I made it a Christmas ritual to go to the German market held there in winter. What I witnessed was an incident that made me consider that violence isn’t always physical and neither is it always wrong. One of the Scottish imperatives that we are famous for is aggression, which actually can be useful in the right time and place. Our answer to a man trying to bomb our main airport gate was for an ordinary (slightly dim witted) civilian to grab him, head butt him and restrain him. We don’t consider the civilian an extraordinary hero, only a banal one. What he did was considered the right thing to do and also perfectly predictable. The Scottish answer to immorality is swift aggression, decisive violence, and concluding indifference; no pride for having done something within the grey-area and no shame at having hurt another human being either. We consider it as if they brought it upon themselves by being immoral and so they suffer the social consequences. In Canada similar situations have led to lawsuits and by any moral standard the person in the right still ends up getting sued for resorting to less than polite means. A while back I remember a story that hit the media from Canada about a man who had defended a young boy from a beating by his father, and in so doing hit the father. After police arrived the defender was arrested, the boy was left with his abusive father and later the defender was sued. Brits aren’t fond of suing others or of child beaters, so a story like that is far more unusual to us.

What I saw was an African man speaking on the phone and then be cajoled by a young jumped up NED (non-educated delinquent, aka Chav) as if he were speaking too loudly. When I say he was African I don’t mean descendant; he actually had a thick accent and was speaking in a different language. Understandably talking loudly on the phone in public can be irritating, and had this fellow been loud I think it less likely that he would have been defended. It stood in his favor that actually he was barely audible, the NED had a certain distasteful swagger about they way he got onto the train and put his feet on the seats, and he actually associated calling someone black with a curse word. I don’t think saying that someone is black is inherently wrong, it’s just when you know it’s been used with other terms that imply inferiority in some way. So this twat leans forward across the aisle to the African guy and says, “shut-up ye black bastard; no one wants to listen to that gobbledygook racket!” The swagger in his voice, the ownership of cursing race and not just the man, the implication that somehow the gentleman’s language was nonsense and inferior instilled absolute silence in the carriage. The African’s voice hadn’t reached all of them, but the trumped up NED’s did. So, the gentleman said something to his friend on the phone to close the conversation, but when he hung up it was clear from his expression he didn’t know what to say or do. He was the only black man in that carriage- could he be sure to be protected if an altercation broke out? If I hadn’t been 13 and timid I would hope that I would have been the one to get up and say something. Thankfully there was another banal hero on the train. This big burly white guy- very Scottish with red hair, and blue eyes- gets up from a few seats down and comes right up close to the NED. In a thick Scottish accent he tells him that he’s wrong, “naw wee man. It’s you that should keep yer mouth shut if that’s the kind of racist crap ye want te come out wi’.” Being full of swagger, the young guy did push back. He shoved the burly guy away from him and got up. But Big Burly guy had friends. When the conductor got to the carriage the ‘wee man’ was already restrained and the conductor okayed putting him off the train at the next station. I remember seeing the African gentleman’s face afterward. He was in total shock and Big Burly on his way back to his seat said something to the effect that he was sorry he had had to go through that and promised that that had not been acceptable. He wished the remainder of his stay in Scotland to be more pleasant.
So small audience- was that freedom of speech? Unacceptable violence? Does the acceptance of violence have the potential to go wrong? When there are no clear sides of right and wrong what should we do? Leave it to the law; the forever black and white law that isn’t entirely capable of dealing with grey matters? And the situation I’ve described would have been a clear win for the African man even in the eyes of law, but would it be as effective? The aftermath of the comment if no one had done anything would have meant that either the gentleman would have had to sit there uncomfortable and still an open target, move to the next carriage and then the person in the wrong would have won, or he may have ended up saying something to defend himself that would have ended in direct altercation and physical damage to himself. What I ask you is, do we not use our own freedom of speech to stand up for others as a consequence to others socially unacceptable use of it? In America, that NED would have had every right to say whatever he liked and so would be free of any persecution by the law. But should that also mean that he is free from social persecution? “If people carry on like that, they’ll get their comeuppance in the end,” only if we act. Only if we actually use our freedom of speech to enact that comeuppance. Should you not wish to put yourself in danger to protect someone else then I’m not sure you know what it is that’s worth getting hurt for. Of all the things where I would put my own safety last it would be in the face of racism or classism.

I leave you with one more anecdote, and this is to disillude those that might think that I can’t understand what it would be like to live in America. There have been racist individuals on youtube who have called me out and said that I can’t possibly know why separation is better for everyone’s safety, because I live in a country that’s mostly white. BS.
On a flight to America (why this always happens en route to somewhere I don’t know) when I was about 7-years-old I distinctly remember an incident between my Mum and an older white woman who was appalled that I had a black baby doll. The woman wanted to know why my mother would have given me such a thing. I wish I could remember Mama’s comment verbatim but I don’t. It was something like, “why shouldn’t she have a black doll if it’s just as possible that she might have a black baby when she’s older?” The responding comment was racially charged and spoke of not mixing race and also, not adopting another race. Mama must have decided it wasn’t worth the argument and just ignored her after that. What I distinctly remember though, is that this was the first thing I’d ever heard that didn’t immediately make sense. I must have believed that it perfectly possible for black couples to give birth to white children, and white couples to give birth to black children. Clearly I had no grasp of genetics whatsoever. I chose that baby doll myself in the shop- to me at the time the white ones looked kind of ugly.

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