Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Pig in the City

Or, rather me in the City. I have decided that, despite early starts/late finishes, I've decided I quite like it there. Its the architecture - where else in the city are so many big, tall, glass/metal structures next to ancient churches? Today, I was especially impressed by the inside-out LLoyds building. Unbelievably awesome. The fact that everyone is rushing around is fine, as I don't like slow-walking people. Begone, meandering fools!

So - no real thoughts. What with the beginning of the New Job and the commencement of the Mega-Daily-Commute, I haven't had much room for thinking. A lame excuse.

One thing I have noticed is the way Nintendo are trying to takeover the world via the Nintendo DS. Not content with testing the intellect, they released the tell-you-what-to-cook game (what? I totally don't get what the point of that is) and now - the "health coach". A computer program to tell you what to eat, when and - as far as I can tell from the TV advert - make women feel bad for disappointing an imaginary health coach. Yeah, great.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Pregnant Pause

I've just watched Juno and although I found it irritating at first, by the end I really liked it. I just wish that they could have treated abortion as a more serious option, rather than a reflexive non-thought. Also, maybe that pregnancy actually tends to involve some sort of hormonal attachment to the would-be-child (although this may not happen to everyone, I assume it happens in the majority of cases) that could make the choice to give up the child for adoption less clear-cut. However, this would make it a completely different film. And I don't think it was handled completely insensitively - Juno's desire to make sure that the home the child went to was perfect seems to embody some of the latter sentiment. As with all these things, it's hard to distinguish between what is an objective reaction and what are my own personal feelings about the subject matter.

Would my parents have reacted so well? Somehow, I doubt it - then again, I could never have gone through the whole adoption process, so my presentation to them might have been different...

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Big Guns

Now for my favourite places to eat outside of Oxford (but close to it...). These are all a bit more expensive but very much worth it.

1) The Goose at Britwell Salome. Recently got its first michelin star (yay!) but happily, the price doesn't seem to have caught up yet. Tastefully decorated gastropub with spectacular food. Sunday is the cheapest day - a good roast, but not much you can do wrong with a roast really. Go on an evening to really get the best out of it. If you have the chance to try the lemon tart for dessert, do not pass it up - it is an almost orgasmic experience. Staff are really friendly and efficient, so no complaints at all.

2) The Old Butchers at Stow-on-the-Wold. Has been a favourite for a few years now and we first went when they were running the Kings Arms pub. Now they have a restaurant but the old regulars still pop in for a drink and a chat. Tasty, varied menu (it changes every day) with a good combination of fish and meat. Laid-back atmosphere - they really enjoy their food and they want you to too. Good on an evening but my favourite time to visit is on a Saturday lunch time for a long, unhurried lunch.

3) The Swan at Tetsworth. The chef used to run the Goose at Britwell Salome before it changed hands (and had a michelin star there himself). Now he runs the restaurant in the back of what is a rather large antiques centre. Eccentrically decorated but in a good way (for example, our table had been an old sewing machine table at one point) with very skillfully cooked food. Portions seem a little small initially, but you do come away full. The only fault would be that the menus don't seem to change that often so you can end up having the same meal twice. Afterwards, you can waddle around the antiques centre until you're ready to drive home...

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Hunger Pangs

I thought it might be a good idea to put together a list of my favourite places to eat, in an around Oxford. Given it's quite a touristy city, it's quite likely that a visitor might miss out and end up eating somewhere mediocre (and a lot of Oxford eateries fall into this category...). So here it goes:

1. Best Place to eat Indian: Aziz Pandesia on the Abingdon Road (just past the Head of the River pub). It's the sister restaurant to Aziz on the Cowley Road and set on a great riverfront location. In the summer, you can even eat outside on the floating deck if you're brave enough. The food is great - I'd recommend the restaurant's own special dishes (for example the chicken makeni) which are beautifully flavoured without being overly hot. There are all the traditional dishes as well, for those who like to order the same thing at every restaurant. The only negative would be the service, which can sometimes be a little iffy. However, all that considered, still definitely the best place in Oxford.

2. Best Place to eat Chinese: Shanghai 30's on St. Aldates Street (just down from Christ Church). Fantastic Shanghainese food - especially things like the salt and pepper squid, although they do have a good range of dim sum in both cantonese and shanghainese styles. The service is great and the building is very old (check out the great plaster work on the ceilings), with language tapes playing in the toilets... You might want to book if you're planning to go on a Friday/weekend as it's very popular.

3. Best Place to eat Thai: Bangkok House on Hythe Bridge Street (towards the station - believe me, you can't miss it). Good Thai food, lavishly decorated restaurant. You'll need to book as it's always packed. Otherwise, try Chiang Mai just off High Street. Food is also great (and they do some good lunch time deals) and it's in a tastefully decorated Tudor building. A little more expensive though.

4. Best Place to eat on the go: The Mission, just off Carfax. Take-away Burritos, based on the wonderful Chipotle (yes, I'm sure there are more authentic burrito places in the US, but here in the UK we are very much deprived). It only opened this year and so far, seems to have been surprised by its own success. The food is tasty, service quick and the price is very reasonable. Go fairly early in term time, as it's usually full of students.

5. Best Place to go for a pint: The White Horse, Broad Street. A tiny pub squeezed underneath Blackwells bookshop. Good selection of ales and generally less full of pretentious students/tourists than the usual favourite, the Turf.

6. Best Place to go for a nice meal: The White Hart at Wytham. Just out of town in a tiny, picturesque village. A gastro-pub serving well thought-out food for fairly reasonable prices. More expensive than some places in Oxford, but so much nicer than its equivalents (e.g. Quod or the Lemon Tree). Nicely decorated and a good atmosphere - best to phone and book rather than turn up and be disappointed, especially if you have a large party (i.e. more than two of you!).

There are more, but that will do for now...

Serious Stuff

There are quite a few articles on the BBC website at the moment calling for specialised police squads to deal with rape cases (and one on how damaging it can be when these cases are mishandled).

I don't have much to say about this - obviously, I think anything that means the police treat rape seriously is a good idea - but on the otherhand, I'm just too cynical now. Even if the police do everything right, unless the judge and jury also take rape cases seriously, things are not going to improve. Wider societal change is needed to ensure that the latter parties take things seriously and narrow organisational changes can never be more than a quick fix. This is not to say that we should therefore not carry out those changes, but that this should be acknowledged alongside it.

I think the way I feel about this reflects the ambivalence I feel in relation to reporting rape to the police. If my daughter was raped, would I encourage her to report it? Yes - I would encourage her to do so, mainly because it's de facto the right thing to do (despite not having done this myself) and because rape conviction rates aren't going to get better if people don't report rape. However, I think I would have reservations that it would be the right thing to do in terms of helping her - a mistrial or a not-guilty verdict would arguably create more damage. I recognise that this is not an helpful attitude to take, but it's hard not to react to how things are rather than how things ought to be.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

One step forward

for women in the Church of England. It'll be interesting to see what happens next.

The Travelling Circus

I am currently celebrating the brief interlude of nothingness before I start The New Job next week by spending a week with various different family members. All very nice. Apart from the rain, but I can't really complain about that - so far it's allowed me to crochet a shawl and two hats (I'm onto winter clothing now - it might be July but you just never know when the cold might hit...). I'm quite tempted to start a third hat, but feel I probably ought to learn some different stitches first - there are only so many tea-cosyesque hats a woman and her SO need. I quite fancy doing some crazy shell-like lacy stitching but it might be too mentally taxing to work out how to do that in the round (I'm supposed to be on holiday, after all - plenty of time for thinking next week).

Other than that, I've been enjoying the culinary delight that is thai curry with deep fried haddock - perhaps the finest dish ever invented, although I grant you it does sound weird. I've also been living the cafe lifestyle with a delicious brunch last weekend. Later this week, we're off here, which is a fantastic gastro-pub and well worth the visit if you're in the area.

So, besides crocheting a multitude of hats and growing to the size of a weather balloon, not much going on. We're hoping the rain might ease long enough for us to get out and walk some of it off this afternoon...

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Denial, denial, denial

Article in the Guardian today by Julie Bindel - quite good (don't always agree word-for-word with Julie but I think she has a point) and worth reading.

I think it is true that more men than one would automatically think are perpetuating violence against women. I don't mean that they are waking up each morning with this aim in the forefront of their minds, but they are certainly doing it. I don't think the man who raped me considered himself as a man who would commit violence against women, but the fact is that he *did*. He didn't think of himself as a rapist but he did commit rape.

Whenever these articles get written, there is a backlash from indignant men who resent the assertion that more men than admit to it commit violence against women. I think one commenter on this article stated that he didn't like that fact that *all* men had to feel guilty about it - he pointed out that there aren't articles which expect all women to feel guilty about being gold-digging "whores" (nice choice of phrase there). Except that there are, almost weekly, in most mainstream newspapers - often written by women by the way, which makes them true. Of course.

What is it that they can't stomach? That human beings can behave badly? That we should all check our behaviour for things that sanction (either directly or indirectly) this kind of behaviour? Because, you know, if we actually focus on the fact that violence against women is a bad thing (rather than whether X in particular would do it) then we really lose sight of the point...

I think they're scared. I think they're scared to look back and think - well, that was a situation I could have handled differently. Or to look at a court case and think - my God, the fact I think she is to blame for her own rape is irrational. Because if they do that, then that makes them part of that "very small" group of people who perpetuate violence against women. And then they might have to change something about the way they think, behave or respond.

We can all behave badly - women, men - but what we need to do is get beyond the "but I don't do that so I don't need to hear it" mentality and actually think about ways to solve it. Refusing to engage in the process harms everybody - something which the overly defensive ought to think about.