Sunday, 28 March 2010

No Light Please, We're British

Having suffered from depression on and off all my life, I decided to visit my GP, who is not so much mad as a box of frogs as a few frogs short of the full box. He prescribed anti-depressants - but not before he suggested that my melancholia might be due to Seasonal Affective Disorder and suggested a Light Box would do the trick.

Okay, I thought. This is one of his more sensible suggestions. (As opposed to telling me when I complained of bloating once that it was because the roof of my mouth was too high and I was swallowing too much air. 'You could go into hospital,' he told me, 'and have your hard palate smashed and rebuilt...' I rest my case).

However, I have to admit that, nuisance though it can sometimes be, I am, admittedly, quite attached to my bouts of melancholia. They are, alas, part of my identity as an artist. When I explained this ambivalence to my GP he replied, 'but it's just lack of serotonin. Now,' he continued,shuffling through mountains of paperwork, 'you can pretend you're on a beach.'

'Oh no!' I replied. 'It's not going to give me a suntan is it?' (I have always prided myself upon being pale and interesting. It goes with the melancholy disposition...)
'No,' he said. 'It won't. But it will take the misery away.'

This got me thinking: has all the angst of the poets in generations past simply been a result of chemical imbalance? And that's not even the ones who took drugs....

Keats' 'When the melancholy fit shall fall, sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud'? Was that the lack of serotonin talking? Hamlet's famous 'antic disposition: 'to be or not to be'. Would the Serotonin version be: 'to be. No question. I'm loving it...'

Then there's the wonderfully rich tradition of English folk music, with its minor chords and melancholy lyrics, generations of it. The Smiths, who I have always considered to be quite folky sounding in their more pensive moments - were, according to Morrissey - only formed one dark and rainy night and because it rained too much.

Imagine if he had been treated by the Light Box when he wrote 'Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now'. ' I was happy in the haze of a drunken hour and heaven knows I'm...happy now.' It's just not right.
Inevitably, I never did pursue the light box. Misery suits me. I am British, after all, a product of this dark and rainy climate, maybe - but that's the way I like it. Without lack of serotonin, the world would be a poorer place, without the dark musings of the Romantics and the listless but beautiful musical meanderings of artists such as the Smiths...It really is a case of, 'no light please, I'm British...'

Saturday, 27 March 2010

I suppose I'd better introduce myself. I'm Julia Wood, AKA Edwardian Spice, the nickname given to me by the glorious Leicester Market traders, who have a superb sense of humour.
I'm a philosophy postgraduate from Warwick University, who has retained an interest in The Big Questions - such as, why do women love shoes so much? has Victoria Beckham auctioned her buttocks on eBay to help make sofas for the developing world? Does God exist, or has the age of materialism finally given way to a culture in which Hermes, the God of Handbags, rules supreme?

Then, along came the marvellous Internet and I thought, hey, I'm too old to be thrashing out the Big Questions into the early hours at parties -which is the only use possible for a philosophy degree, apart from teaching other people how to pontificate in the kitchen after a bottle of Julio Gallo. So I thought, hey, why not get a blog instead? So here I am.
Throughout this blog I will be talking about any subject that catches my eye that is topical/controversial. I read lots of papers and magazines, and like to talk about the things I read. Here goes...

Reveal Magazine last week published an article about the inhabitants of Huntingdon in West Virginia and their eating habits. Apparently they have been treated to a visit from Jamie Oliver - brave man - who went accompanied by a camera crew for a new six part television series and bearing news from afar : that eating the Big Bad Double Wide Meatburger with 30 slices of cheese and a pound of pickles on a daily basis is seriously bad for your cholesterol. The burger - which would be like eating thirty Big Macs, 'contains enough calories to keep the average man going for a fortnight,' the article claims. If cholesterol were brain cells these people would be in Mensa.

Huntington has been dubbed the fattest place in the USA, with 34 percent of it's population clinically obese and the local funeral service frequently having to order coffins that are the width of a double bed.

Unsurprisingly Huntington is one of the poorest places in the country and where people once used to work in the steel and coal industries, since their closure people have continued with their poor dietary habits, leading to generations of clinically obese people.

Obesity is a serious health issue and is a problem in the UK as well. You only have to walk down the street of any English town and every other person you see is bordering on clinically obese. Jamie Oliver has a tough fight on his hands to change people's eating habits because it is not just a simple matter of re-educating people, but of redefining their culture and identity.

Fast food and fizzy drinks is as much a part of working class - or, dare I say, underclass - identity as health food such as asparagus and herbal tea is to middle class identity.

Because of this, the poorer classes regard the health boom with suspicion, seeing in it the Bourgeoisification - and thus potential erosion - of their culture. So telling overweight people to eat their five a day and to swap fizzy drinks for a cup of herbal tea is like saying you're going to send in the developers to bulldoze their council houses, or ban the wearing of hooped earrings and ponytails.

Perhaps what we need is to sneak healthy options into the fast food industry without declaring them as such. After all, this works in reverse in five star restaurants. I've lost count of the number of times I've seen fish and chips described as pommes de terres et poisson, or some such euphemism.

Cheeseburger anyone? (By the way, that's a cheese-free, wheat-free, meat-free burger on a rush matting, aka, wholemeal bun...)