Below the belt


A small item caught my eye in the Guardian today: it suggests that the excuse that used to be given for fatter people – that it’s the fault of their metabolism, might indeed be the case. It makes some sense to me. Obviously people are eating more and doing less and the population in general is getting bigger, but everyone knows someone who eats like a horse and is 8 stone wringing wet, and the converse, someone for whom a bag of crisps instantly materialises on their already chunky thighs.

Equally you don’t have to been a keen observer to note that not everyone is fat, normal or thin in the same way: some are voluptuous and short, some are stocky and muscular, and some lucky people are tall, willowy and thin. If we can happily accept that all this external variation, it’s not such a leap to consider that people might metabolise differently too. Or so you would think.

This article had its usual below the line (BTL) comments: if I were you I’d stay away from them, I’ve rarely seen more bile and hatred gathered together in one place. The gist of many of the comments was this: fat people are greedy and lazy, they should simply eat less and do more. End of. One helpful poster suggested that we knew that diets work because photos of concentration camps rarely include a fat person.

As it happens bodies aren’t like petrol tanks – with a simple fuel in, miles out equation. You will rarely be able to lose weight by an exercise only regime (you may get hungrier though) and your body often resists weight loss diets by conserving your fat as if you were facing famine. The first couple of weeks of your diet will work, but many subsequent days may go by without you shifting so much as a spare gramme. In any case making claims about someone’s personality based on their girth is hateful. You could be chubby because of your childhood eating patterns, comfort eating due to depression, overeating due to thyroid issues, a lack of knowledge about healthy eating, a change in your lifestyle (e.g. post-pregnancy, pregnancy, sports injury….) – or indeed you could be overeating because your are already fat and have given up hope of change. None of these things make you a bad person, just a chubby one eating a bit too much sometimes.

I know fat people who are hardworking and busy, thin people who rarely do anything more energetic that rising from a sofa, but if the BTL people tell themselves a story about how the fat deserve their life due to inactivity and greed, it makes them feel better about their hate. It’s the same with the poor: BTL commenters will have you believe that a banker is simply harder working than the minimum wage cleaner who does his office, or cleverer, or more motivated or more aspirational. Some of that may be true, but it’s more likely that the banker was luckier, more male, with richer parents who provided a private education and in due course, the down payment on their mortgage. Wealth is handed on by rich people to their kids, luck sometimes intervenes too. Most rich and powerful people have benefited from one or both of these. But BTL trolls would rather believe that their story is true. It makes blaming people for their misfortune all the easier.

But why hate? Why not think about the article and arrive at slightly less judgemental conclusions, why not read the article rather than simply reading the headline and making up your own story? Because hate is becoming common currency in our society, encouraged by a divide and rule culture that prefers to see the masses at each others throats rather than arguing for a fairer division of the spoils. We are told to see winners and losers everywhere and encouraged to find fault in the losers. The internet provides a safe invisibility cloak where you can express state sanctioned hate. You can share your stories about blame with other believers.

This is not the sign of an advanced society though, it’s a symptom of a sick one.



Living in Dubai where politics is either irrelevant (it’s not your country to comment on after all) or distant (absence might make you miss the seasons but you don’t miss yapping politicians. At. All) it’s easy to lose touch. Thank goodness for the internet versions of the Guardian and the BBC: it gives me the chance to get pissed off with British and world politics via the WWW. 

Two things this week: the Oscar Pistorius trial – according to the BBC and most everywhere else he’s on trial for the murder of his girlfriend e.g.. from the Beeb “Mr Pistorius denies intentionally shooting his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year, saying he mistook her for an intruder.” So to be clear, if he didn’t mean to shoot his girlfriend dead, it’s somehow ok that he did mean to shoot an intruder dead even if that intruder was maybe unarmed, young and just looking for a few dollars in a very rich mans house? He had more guns than was legal, ammunition designed to chop people into mincemeat and he has a record of shooting guns for fun, but the main thing here is whether he meant to kill his girlfriend or not. Otherwise he’s nominally innocent. To my mind anyone who picks up a gun and shoots without warning and without knowing there was a threat to him or Reeva is guilty of manslaughter. Knowing as he did the likely consequences of using that gun and those bullets on a human – well that makes him guilty of murder. Using reasonable force to defend yourself from violence? I don’t think so. This was cold-blooded killing of a person.

And what sort of person wakes in the middle of the night and assumes that sounds from an en-suite bathroom are those of an intruder with murderous intent that demands lethal force? I’d assume that it’s my husband taking a pee, and I’m pretty sure that’s the common sense reaction. Wouldn’t you at least put your hand on your partners side of the bed to see if he/she was there before you picked up your gun and macerated the bathroom wall – and your innocent girlfriend. Dear god.

The press seem to be incapable of framing this as anything other than did he or did he not mean to kill his girlfriend (and how ‘hot’ she was) – it’s clear to me that he’s a man who kills without hesitation, and if he killed his girlfriend thinking it was someone else, that doesn’t make him innocent – it just makes him fucking stupid …and still a murderer. 


The other thing that irked me this week was the make-up free selfie meme. If you’re on Facebook you’ll know what I’m talking about: lots of your ‘friends’ suddenly appearing in bad photos looking glum but otherwise not too different.

Naturally this ended up being hijacked for a charity (cancer on this occasion) and it made a shed-load of money for cancer research which is probably a good thing (although beware: some of these charities are immensely well funded and pay their CEO’s enormous sums: cancer’s not cured yet because it’s a mean little sonovabitch and sneaky, not because there’s a shortage of funds). Anyway.

Selfies are vile of course – just bad photos that show only the head and shoulders of the solipsistic one, but the notion that a woman without make-up is somehow rare or extraordinary or brave (e.g.. like a cancer sufferer) is patronising in the extreme. Both to women and cancer victims. I wear the odd smear of lip-gloss and a bit of eye pencil once in a blue moon, I’m not against makeup, but it’s not a defining aspect of a woman’s life and it’s not tragic or sad to go without. 

‘Tragedy’Image is the thought that a man like Oscar Pistorius might walk out of a courtroom if its deemed that as long as his murderous instinct was not deliberately targeted at his girlfriend, he’s an innocent man. That would diminish us all.

Good and bad.

I’ve already been back in Dubai for a month. In some ways it feels like I’ve never been away: Spinneys looks the same and the One is still fabulous, The Lime Tree Cafe is still my favourite lunch time venue and I am still unable to resist the siren song of Eggs Benedict More-style. 


However there’s no getting away from the fact that in the decade I was away, Dubai has grown: it’s matured, gotten a whole lot bigger and a whole lot noisier. If it was a child on the world stage when I was here back in the mid-90’s, it’s a big bad adolescent now.


It does have its sophistications and charm: Friday brunches don’t always seem to be about a race to awkward drunkenness and fisticuffs in the bar by nightfall. I went to the Westin’s Bubbalicious for their (slightly over the top) offering and was impressed by the civilised feel and the laid-back attitude of the diners and drinkers. Ok, so some folks seemed a little bit over-excited about the cocktail shots served in syringes (they looked like bladder syringes to me, an ex-nurse, which was slightly off-putting…) but in general good behaviour and a good time being had by all.


Living on the Marina however I also see, and most notably hear, the bad side of the country. Boy racers in their silly cars (do you think they’re compensating for something?) and on their even sillier motorbikes tear up and down the local roads apparently delighting in the making the MOST NOISE POSSIBLE. I note that the cyclists now wear helmets, to which I am tempted to say ‘shame’ as their contribution to the gene pool is largely unwelcome.


And then there are the people who think that driving ..v.. e.. r ..y.. s l ..o ..w l.. y down the JBR Walk is a fun thing to do any night. It’s called the Walk and I think there is a clue there. The charms of the area are easiest to discover on foot, not from behind the darkened windows of your manhood extension. Sigh.


And wouldn’t it be nice if they just stopped building for a bit… have you ever wondered what it would be like to live without the fear that some massive skyscraper or extensive mall, housing development or ‘lifestyle option’ would be breaking ground next to your villa or flats? Or what the area would look like if they put the roads back and stopped fecking around  with the street plans (yes, I do mean you, trams in Dubai Marina). 


To end on a brighter note, I walked around the Marina itself last night amid the throngs of happy pedestrians, families and kids, holidaymakers, grannies and grandpa’s, all backed by softly lapping water, futuristic sky-scraping towers and a gorgeous sunset and I acknowledged my good fortune to be calling Dubai home for now.Image