Sunday, 13 March 2011

A love letter

Dear London,

It feels slightly formal to be writing to you like this, but I had to put this on the record somewhere. I wanted to tell you that I appreciate everything you've done for me over the past 26 1/2 years and I wanted to thank you for helping shape me. You've made me love humanity, in all its varying forms. You've made me fight for the things I consider to be important and I've defended you whenever people have made disparaging comments. I've walked your streets, the ones by the river and the ones in E3, and I've known that I've been part of something. Something much bigger than myself and my life, and you gave me a better understanding of the world. More importantly you gave me the aspiration to improve it.

You taught me perseverence and the patience to cope when things don't go your way. Don't get me wrong, this particular lesson is familiar to anyone who has tried to use the Tube on the weekend recently, but you learn to accept what you can't control and find solutions to problems. I like to think I approach life in this way, or at least I try to.

You confused me when you elected this buffoon as Mayor, I think you took your foot off the brakes on that one. That was the job I wanted one day. I told people I wanted to be at the heart of you, improving the lives of real people in a city that I love. That's not going to happen now because I'm leaving you. It feels wrong to tell you like this but I've found a new place that I'm going to give a go for a while.

It doesn't mean I don't still love you, and I'll visit whenever I can, but my heart belongs to someone else now. I know there will be days when I'll be longing for the grime of Aldgate or the tranquility of Hyde Park. I'm sure I'll long for your greasy spoons and your old man pubs. And when that happens, it will remind me that wherever I lay my hat, in my heart I'll always belong to you.

Keep safe,

Love H xxx

Friday, 4 March 2011

Birth control, language and honesty

Some of you may know that I'm about to embark on adventures new in the great state of California. In light of this, I've been looking at various medical insurance companies and one of the things that struck me is the difference in terminology used.

Specifically what I'm talking about is how contraception is referred to as birth control. And it got me thinking. Does calling the pill, 'the pill' actually diminish our understanding of it, making it sound innocuous? We don't refer to paracetamol as 'the tablet', or Lemsip as 'the sachet'. British society shies away from using the word contraception in public or in schools, preferring instead to cloak what we're talking about in a description that masks the meaning of what the medication does. If we used the expression 'birth control', would we feel the need to explain that it doesn't protect from STIs? I get the feeling that we wouldn't. It controls whether or not you give birth (after a few long months obviously!). Simple.

In the same way that condoms have a million different contemporary slang terms, the etymology of the word is just as wide and unconfirmed. According to Wiki, Casanova in the 18th century was one of the first reported using "assurance caps" to prevent impregnating his mistresses. There may also have been a Duke of Condom but this has never been confirmed.

The language used around sex fascinates me. Why in fact do we use the word contraception? No-one uses the word conception to indicate pregnancy. You might say that someone was conceived in a particular place, or a couple had trouble conceiving, but aside from 'miraculous conception' the vernacular is now widely considered outdated. So the phrase against (contra) ception means very little to young people.

If you've read my blog before, you may have gleaned the fact that I'm pretty passionate about talking to young people about important issues with openness, honesty and as little bullshit as possible. The less confusion the better.

There may not be much to praise the US medical system about, but this is one thing I think is a good idea. Birth control explains what it does without any of the additional confusion. It doesn't make any false promises or unrealistic expectations about what it does or doesn't do. And the more we have of that the better.