Where have all the bad girls gone?

I was discussing vampires on Twitter the other day (as you do) and it occurred to me that there are no proper awesome hardcore female vampires. A couple of people pitched some names my way, but they all failed to live up to expectation in some way. None of them were the bloodthirsty creatures of the night, the fearsome legend that used to keep us awake at night for fear that they might drain our blood. These days they’re more likely to keep us awake at night so they can drain us of less vital fluids…

The main failing of the female vampire, seems to me, to be their relationships. Each one appears to be defined by their partnership, whether with another vampire, a human or a werewolf. They’re portrayed as soft, compliant, standing in the shadows of love, or overpowered by their lust, only coming into their own when their loved one is threatened. Or worse, they’re a mere supporting character, to be killed off at the whim of the writer before they can prove me wrong.

One of the worst offenders is Buffy The Vampire Slayer, a show which empowered women, gave a young woman the ability to slay demons, made her friend the most powerful witch in the world, and left the male characters as bystanders when danger appeared. The most prominent female vamps were Harmony who wanted nothing more than to please Spike and go shopping, a subservient and fickle creature of the ‘Clueless’ generation, and Drusilla who is again defined by her relationship with Spike. Her “madness” leaves her mostly dependant on her paramour, and she is used as an emotional weapon to feed the conflict between Angelus and Spike when the former is evil. When she leaves the series it’s due to her being overpowered by her lover and forcibly removed, also removing the potential she had as an evil character.

Anne Rice has a highly successful history of creating vampires that you can believe in, ones that you might watch out for as you walk alone down a dark street at night, but she too fails to bring forth a powerful female vamp that can survive without being eclipsed by her male counterparts.
Claudia the eternal child who develops the mind of a full grown woman and her character is built upon the fury and frustration that brings. All she wants is to grow up and experience what it is to be a woman.
Akasha, the queen of the damned gave me more hope. She was a fearsome goddess queen, mother of vampires with an insatiable blood lust, but she succumbs to the male Lestat’s charms despite her plans to slaughter the men of the world.

Twilight. I fear I must talk about these books as they’re possibly the most popular vampire stories of all time. What can I say about these novels that hasn’t already been said? They’re a masterclass in controlling relationships and female abuse, and their main vamps are vegetarian (they eat animal blood instead of draining humans). They can all fuck off as far as I’m concerned.

By no means am I a vampire expert. There are probably a hundred people out there more qualified to talk about this sort of thing than I am, but I do like to have an opinion and I’m not shy to shout it out! Got an opinion yourself or think I’ve missed someone/something? Let me know!

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My first memories

Yesterday a Twitter friend asked what people’s first memories were and my answer was simple, but too complex to explain in 140 characters. My first memories are of my dad; Of being scared by my dad.

My parents divorced when I was about 3 years old so I don’t really remember living with my dad. I can’t tell you if it was a happy time, if he played with me and my older brother, if we went for walks, or went to the park. I simply don’t recall that part of my life. All I have are two small fragments of that time. Two tiny moments of my past. Neither of them happy.

My first memory is of walking with my dad and my brother to his preschool/nursery and being given an old five pence piece to put into one of those toy dispensers that look like giant gumball machines. I can remember turning the handle and the plastic ball that held the toy dropping to the ground and rolling away. I chased it and retrieved the ball from the gutter it had settled in, opening it to find a hopping frog inside. Pleased with my new toy, I turned to show it to my father only to see an empty pavement behind me. I remember running round the corner with tears filling my eyes and seeing another empty street. I ran towards the next corner hoping they’d be there, only to have them leap out at me shouting “boo!”. I can remember them both laughing at their joke, but I can’t remember their reactions to me bawling my eyes out thinking I’d been abandoned.

My other early memory is of sitting alone in the front room of the house we lived in before my parents split. I was playing with my army men, standing them on the table in front of me, preparing them to battle, when all of a sudden the lights went out. This is a scary enough occurrence for a small child, the sudden darkness, being alone, but what happened next left me terrified. I heard a wailing and moaning coming from the doorway and looking up I saw an evil grin and fiery eyes moving toward me. I screamed and heard the laughter of my father and my brother, and as they turned the lights back on I saw the jack o’lantern in my father’s hands.

So there you have it. My two earliest memories. Not good ones, not nice ones, but the only ones I have of life with my father as part of the family.

I suppose that these memories stand out because they evoked such strong emotions at the time. I just wonder how much they’ve influenced my relationship with my dad. We’re not estranged by any means, but we’re not particularly close. It occurs to me whilst writing this that it’s been months since I talked to him. Is it because of the memories I have? Maybe we were close when I was little, when we lived together, but I can’t remember missing him after we moved away. All I remember is being scared by him.

Daddy’s in charge

Today I’m in sole charge of the kids. Nothing unusual there, but my wife worries about being away from the children for so long.

It’s not a reflection on my child rearing abilities, she doesn’t think that I’m going to lose them or that I’ll burn the house down. She knows I’m a good dad and that I can be trusted to cope with the kids on my own for the day. She just worries that one of the kids will get lost or that the house will burn down while she’s not here! There’s a big difference between the two.

Kids wander off. It’s a fact of life. I did it when I was young! It didn’t mean that my mum was a bad parent or that she neglected me, I just wandered off and got lost.

Sometimes fires just happen. It doesn’t have to be anyone’s fault, they can be the result of faulty wiring, power surges, too many plugs in an extension cord.

My wife fears that these things will happen if she’s not here. Not because of me, but because she’s not here. It’s part of her depression. It’s something she struggles with even though she knows that her presence doesn’t guarantee our children’s safety any more than mine does. We could have a crack team of professional babysitters and a fire crew on standby and she’d still only be at ease if she was here.

I think that some dads would find this upsetting, but I understand it’s not borne from a lack of trust, but a need to be in control. Not in charge, but in control. She needs to be on hand because she’d feel awful if something did happen. She’d blame herself just because she wasn’t there.

So, am I wrapping the kids up in cotton wool and monitoring them more closely than ever? Am I moving every potentially dangerous object out of reach and padding all the table corners?

Fuck no!

This morning the kids have been wearing my hats which are huge on them and droop over their eyes. They’ve been chucking the sofa cushions on the floor and jumping off the sofa onto them. They’ve been ducking under the table and chasing each other around the chairs. The floor is covered in plastic play food, one of the slipperiest substances known to man!

This is normal. This is what would happen if my wife was at home, and it’s what my children expect. I wouldn’t change anything, and if they bump their heads or fall over I’ll deal with it. We may have tears, we may have tantrums, but we’ll have fun and my kids won’t grow up in fear of hurting themselves. They’ll take risks, they’ll enjoy themselves, and they won’t need mummy to kiss them better every time they scrape a knee.

My wife will never stop worrying about leaving them, but then again, neither will I.

I remembered to forget you

Hello blog.

I’m sorry I’ve not spent much time on you recently, but I’ve had my reasons….

You see, I’ve had a lot on my mind of late. I’ve been taking stock of my life, who I am, and deciding to make some changes.

I’ve been thinking about my depression, my lack of fitness, my weight, my beard. So many things on my mind, and I’ve pushed you to the back of the queue. I’m sorry.

I’ve also been seeing another blog. It’s quite serious. It’s all about my preparations for running the Brighton Marathon next spring and we’re going to be spending a lot of time together over the next year. I thought it best to tell you, I didn’t want you to find out from someone else.

I just wanted to tell you that I still want you in my life, and that I want to keep sharing my life with you. I hope we can move forward together and get past this.

The greatest toy on earth!

Our children are constantly bombarded with images of shiny new bits of plastic in colourful wrappings. Adverts on tv, in comics, online, in the laminated book of dreams known as the Argos catalog. Even kids’ tv shows seem to be nothing more than vehicles to sell us associated toys. A walk around Tesco can be dangerous and expensive if you happen to wander too close to the screaming neons of the toy aisle.

Our kids are being programmed to desire these cheaply made, expensively priced plastic playthings, and once they want them, they won’t be persuaded otherwise.

My sitting room and my daughter’s room are covered in boxes containing toys. The kids have a crate of cars, three crates of teddies and other soft toys, a large box of Sylvainian families, an equally large box of octonauts, shelves of craft toys, a kitchen and several kilos of play food, Lego by the bucketful, and a massive collection of wooden railway tracks. That’s not everything…

Despite this considerable selection of playtime goodies, there are other items which rank among the favourite toys. In the bath are a jug and an empty bubblebath bottle. In my daughter’s room is a box full of toilet roll middles, egg cartons, cheesy football tubs and miniature cereal boxes. The lounge is home to wrapping paper tubes, empty water bottles and cast offs from my wife’s wool supplies.

These “toys” have to be stored alongside the shop bought variety, and are treated with as much care as the most expensive items that belong to the kids. The reason why? These items don’t have a single purpose.

The multi level garage from the early learning centre is a multi level garage from the early learning centre. The long cardboard tube has already been a telescope, a sword, a broom, a microphone, a megaphone, and a medical instrument this morning.

The child size plastic kitchen is always a child size plastic kitchen. The empty lemonade bottle is now a spaceship, a car, a baby bopper (big sisters are lovely, aren’t they?), wheels for a car, a robot…

So what exactly is the greatest toy on earth? A child’s imagination.

If you tell a child what a toy is, that is what the toy will always be. But if you let a child decide, the possibilities are endless.

Stop the noise

I’m having a low day today. I don’t really want to talk to anyone or do anything. Conversation is a struggle. The kids are annoying and loud. They want me to interact with them, to draw cats, to be Peso the Octonaut, to get up and play. They want me to act like a human being today, but it’s too noisy for me to function like one.

The kids are noisy, the tv is noisy, outside is noisy! Why is everything so bloody noisy today?!? Can’t we all just be quiet for a while?

But that doesn’t stop the noise in my head. My brain is still talking to me, neurons firing electrical impulses around creating thoughts, telling me things I should be doing, making lists, replaying conversations I had a week ago, forcing song lyrics through my skull, pondering the future, exploring my past. My head hurts.

All I want is some quiet. Just for a while. All I need is for the noise to stop. Maybe then I could feel human.

Nice and easy

I love visiting my family, everything’s so nice and easy when we’re here. We get looked after really well; had a full turkey roast yesterday with all the trimmings, there’s plenty of quality booze, a full sky subscription with sports and movies! Awesome.

Also, my family are chilled out. There’s never an awkward silence, never a stream of continuous noise because someone feels they have to speak, no one gets offended, and we all sit around and have a laugh. My sister’s home from uni and my brother is on easter holiday from school so I get to spend some rare time with them, catching up, checking if they’re taller than me yet, and enjoying their company. My mum doesn’t work (apart from wrangling my brother) so I’ll be able to spend some quality time with her, and she gets to play with her grandchildren, something she’s not been able to do since Christmas due to commitments that have kept her from visiting. My stepdad has to work this week, but he made sure he played with the kids yesterday and he sees them in the morning before he heads off.

Tomorrow I’ll get to see one of my oldest and dearest friends who I went to school with and who is fairy godmother to my son. She’s lovely and gets very excited to see the kids, and they both adore her.

The rest of the week is currently a blank page and this pleases me. No stress. No commitments. No need to paste on a smile because it’s already there.

Now if only I could convince the boy to stop trying to destroy the sitting room…