Friday, 31 May 2013


Chocolate hazelnut cheesecake @ Barolo Grill

Me: I read raving reviews on their chocolate hazelnut cheesecake. We should try it.

The Scottish: What? You want pudding?

Me: Not pudding. Cheesecake!

The Scottish: Same thing.


The cheesecake at Barolo Grill was simply out of this world. We were so stuff from the pizza that we decided to share a cheesecake. 

At first I was imagining the cheesecake to be a triangular shaped size, but it was round. It looked really small when served and was not fit for two people to share ;p

The Scottish: Are you sure you want to share?

We did share because the pizza was quite filling. The chocolate hazelnut cheesecake had a texture like praline and mousse. Imagine taking Nutella from the bottle but a bit softer! It tasted like nutella I guess because of the hazelnut but it was not as sweet as Nutella. One spoon into the mouth and it melts to perfection. It was not cheesy and the base was made of biscuit like other cheesecakes.

The cheesecake was topped with orange peel which went really well with the cake. I'd say its better than eating pizza and steak!

On another note, it was an enjoyable evening because company and banter with the Scottish makes me very happy.
Never a dull moment :)

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Barolo Grill, Mitchell Street

Currently prepping my tummy at Barolo Grill for some good, authentic Italian pizza!

"Our pizza are hand stretched by our 'Pizziolo' and baked in a traditional Woodstone pizza oven. We use San Marzano tomatoes and Fior di Latte Mozzarella on all our pizzas"

Other specialities are their steaks according to reviews from Trip Advisor

Sunday, 26 May 2013

M back in Glasgow

A hiatus on blogging the past week because I was busy exploring the beauty of Scotland. Thankfully, there were more sunny days than rain.

This week is all about packing up and moving out. I will miss the stunning view from my bedroom window.

Updates on my travels soon :)

Thursday, 23 May 2013


There was a brutal attack in Woolwich less than 24 hours ago.  Within hours of its occurring the British media was full of footage of a body lying in the street and a man with a cleaver in his bloodied hands.  As for as I can see, every major news outlet (television, internet and papers) in this country carried these, specifically before the 9pm watershed.  You would have had to be far away from things, or have taken a conscious decision and effort to have avoided them.  You don't need to buy a paper to see the front page of someone reading it opposite you on the train, bus or tube.

The media did not have to do this.  Their editors took a conscious decision to do so.  I've scanned European newspaper outlets.  Most copied our press.  Two definitely did not: the quality publications  Libération and Süddeutsche Zeitung.  It's not because they don't think the story is important: the latter (which the Guardian teams up with on European reporting) carried a full video report.  Click on the link.  Even if you don't understand it, you won't see images of the body, the alleged attacker, bloodied hands or a meat cleaver.  You'll see images such as the one above of flowers left near the scene.

This isn't accidental: La Libération expressly says it chose not to broadcast the video:

If you want an example of an English language report that gets the facts of the story over in a way our press failed to, the UAE's leading paper (The National) manages it quite well here.  It really, really is not that tricky: in fact the press used to do this for decades rather well.

[Postscript: I'm told Sky News deliberately did not broadcast the video.  Credit to them for that.  They are still carrying plenty of images of the man with the bloodied hands, however.]

[Further postscript 8pm on 23 May: Libération is now carrying the video having previously made the decision not to.  How depressing this race to the bottom is.  It was not last night, or this morning at the time of writing.] 

What Was Wrong with the Reporting

Lacking Respect

The first very obvious fact is the complete lack of respect for the victim, his family, his friends and his colleagues.  That was a real body lying in the street.  Someone got up yesterday morning, whose life was unexpectedly ended in the most hideous way imaginable.  It is entirely possible, and in fact extremely likely that people who knew him saw these images before receiving the personal news.

If someone you loved had been murdered in this way, would you repeatedly want to see the alleged perpetrator standing there, on every news channel, and in every paper, with blood on his hands and the weapon in his hands?  We cannot for one moment imagine what that must feel like.  It is basic human decency not to project these images.

Creating Terror

There was a heated discussion about whether the attack constitutes terrorism.  Looking at the broad legal definition set out in the Terrorism Act 2000, it would seem to.  My natural understanding of terrorism, however, is a bit different to that one.  To me, it's a politically motivated act, the effect of which is to make ordinary people in a society feel threatened, frightened and upset: to feel scared or terrorised going about their ordinary lives, if you like.  That's very subjective and hard to measure, but it's something I felt for example riding on the tube just after 7/7.  I was personally scared and upset because of what had happened.

If reports are accurate, the alleged attackers waited round and encouraged people to film them on their smartphones.  Everyone has one nowadays.  The man with the cleaver stated his political reasons for the murder, as he brandished the weapon and a man's body lay behind him on the street.  This was uploaded onto the ITV News website, picked up by media everywhere, and broadcast into homes across the country.  His aim was to get his message across and to terrorise ordinary people had been achieved.  The isolated, horrific killing of one man, had just become an act of terrorism for me personally, thanks to our media.

The terror extends specifically to children.  These images were broadcast well before 9pm.  Any child going into a newspaper to buy sweets today will be confronted by shelves full of an image of a man holding a meat cleaver in his bloodied hands. 

Prejudicing Justice

The chances of finding members of a jury who did not see the video footage are very slight.  You may belong to the mob justice group who feel that such people should be gunned down without trial.  I don't, and think that maintaining the checks and balances that the criminal justice system in a civilised society provides is more important than ever in the face of such attacks.  Further, if you feel that "hanging isn't good enough" for such people, how would you feel if people who do these things are actually acquitted because the execution of justice has been so badly prejudiced by reporting?  I'd be pretty darn sick and am sure you would too.

Applying a Filter

Where is news reporting heading?  The closest I've come to terrorism is my best friend at school's father, Colonel Coe, who was murdered by the IRA outside their house in Germany.  He was shot repeatedly in his car.  We had been there 30 minutes before dropping another friend off.  I didn't need to see images of the inside of his car to understand what had happened.  I didn't want to see the images.  I'm sure his family didn't want them to be broadcast across the country.  I didn't need to see the insides of dead horses across the road at the time of the Hyde Park bombing.  I didn't need to see the interiors of the 7/7 tube to understand the story.  Even as short a time ago as 7/7, little of this happened, fortunately.

Once we have crossed this bridge and established this precedent, it's hard to see it going back.  Will it be just terrorist attacks that are reported in this way, or will it extend to all news stories?  "Teenager killed in a car accident" - yes, let's show her decapitated body - never mind her grieving family, people just need to see this because we can show it.  There's been condemnation of the reporting in this instance, but each time we inevitably become a little more immune to the images of violence and tragedy.

Of course in the "internet age" people do take videos and upload them.  They can be accessed for people keen on seeking them out.   This is different to before and it is inevitable.  It's not inevitable that news sites with massive reach choose to promote them, however.  I don't know that there isn't a much more graphic video of the attackers actually hacking into the body that isn't out there somewhere, via a smartphone.  There very likely are several of them.  In this case, ITV News might have chosen not to put it on its website and make sure it was seen everywhere.  Next time they might.

There's an interesting point about "well the image is out there, so why don't we show it too, if everyone else is?".  Le Monde and Le Figaro are the rivals of Libération.  They carried the images.  Libération did not.  I know whose editorial team I now respect more. 

A Final Thought

Last night I was walking my dog through our historic Suffolk village.  The most exciting thing that happens here is a leaf walking off a tree, a bit like in that crap Hofmeister beer advert, if you remember it.  My mind was full of the horror of what I'd read and seen.  Terrible things have happened for centuries: awful brutality and occurrences.  People here would have been immune to them: protected and completely oblivious for better or worse in their quiet lives.

Now we have 24 hour rolling commentary, news blogs, and comment on Twitter.  I tweeted (yes, the irony), something to the effect of asking whether these developments were bringing us any benefit.  I'm really not sure they are.  Yes, I can switch off.  Perhaps I should.  

My thoughts should be with the family, friends and colleagues of the victim.  They now will be.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Criticism: Telling People Off on Twitter

Last Sunday I was having a fabulous time at a party: it was the Bat Mitzvah party of the daughter of friends I hadn't seen properly in years.  The place was decked out in pink, with real palm trees with fairy lights, huge ice sculptures on the tables, and the daughter was carried on a litter by male models. It was AMAZING: the best party I've ever been to.  It was as if you'd photographed your dreams - particularly if you're a teenage girl... or a gay bloke who can laugh at himself and appreciates the odd ten-tonne serving of kitsch.

Rather ironic then, that a notification flashed up during the meal regarding a tweet I'd posted 4 hours before.  Here is my tweet, reproduced in all its offensive, vile, outrageously nasty glory:

A natural reading of that would probably suggest I'm gently mocking myself for my musical tastes.  I like the same music that teenage girls do.  The tear rolling down my sad face at the end (the emoticon) quite possibly indicates this is not a statement that is meant to be taken entirely seriously and that it's quite light-hearted.  Also the fact I'm tweeting this in all likelihood indicates that actually I don't regard liking Lawson or Boyzone to be a crime.  It's the light-hearted fluff I'm wont to tweet and clearly not the most profound tweet that I've ever produced.  However, it led to this response from a follower, who was someone I'd never spoken to, which said "it's amazing the contempt in which teenage girls are held. That you deride yourself by saying you're like one.  Sad huh?"

No, I kind of disagree.

1) Are teenage girls really a persecuted minority? 2) Does the fact I've just driven 200 miles to attend an event for one prima facie suggest I share this supposed contempt on a personal level? 3) Why should I have to justify myself / what in general gives you the god-given right to criticise me in this way, and what response do you expect?  A block was all that resulted, but it was enough to put me in a bad mood for a good 15 minutes.  Thanks: you're so much a better person than I am for tweeting me this and upsetting a perfectly lovely evening.

Telling People Off: Everyone's Favourite New Twitter Pastime

Point 3 is what this blog post is about and the above is just one recent, silly, but irritating example of it.  Criticising others has, in my experience, become endemic on Twitter.  You hear time and again "Twitter has changed".  This is the biggest change I can identify: people attacking others for their views or more specifically the manner in which they express themselves.  Word censorship, if you like.

I'm not referring to pointless political arguments which go on hours: they have been on Twitter ever since Noah landed on Mount Ararat and sent his first tweet.  I'm still to be convinced in 140 characters that immigration is a bad idea, or that austerity is a good one.  Similarly I doubt anyone has ever been convinced by my tweets.  Links to news articles, or blogs: perhaps.  Tweets, rarely.  It is a feature of the medium that people exchange views, argue, and leave more convinced of their own opinions than before.  Fine, it's not for me, but I've no issue with it.

I'm talking instead about people criticising and sometimes attacking others for their use of language and daring to express themselves in the natural terms that people do every day across the country.  I've seen it time and time again: people leaping on others and chastising them as if they were small children who had been naughty for the words they have used. 

Some Examples

There seems to be a whole set of words on Twitter that are entirely VERBOTEN*:

"Hysterical" is now not permitted, because when it entered the English language around 1610, it had its etymological origins in the word hystericus (Latin, of the womb).  It has clearly been unwittingly used since before WW2 to mean "very funny" by millions of closet misogynists, women amongst them - but now it must be expunged from the vocabulary of Twitter because a self-appointed language policing panel has declared it unacceptable.

I was attacked for my use of "nannying" by a well known member of the TWITTER TALIBAN** (who doesn't follow me) when I retweeted a blog that had this word in it.  Apparently I was /sexist/ for repeating it.  Never mind that there are male nannies and it has a very natural, widely accepted meaning that is neither sexist nor offensive to 99% of the population.  I was able to escape and was very fortunate not to have a Twatwah issued against me in all the circumstances.

Twitter has been superbly informative for me in helping me understand, and share on a daily basis, the experiences of people with mental health issues.  I've seen blogs that have moved me and made me realise how little understanding there is more widely in society regarding this subject.  People, particularly with depression, for some reason seem to find the medium a "safe place" to break down the silence and challenge the stigma.  Wonderful.

But my god... do not ever use a word on Twitter as people do in completely natural everyday speech without the slightest intent to disparage those with MH issues.  I give you the examples of using "manic" to describe your day at work, or call something "madness".  You will instantly be cast into the fiery pit of ableist hell if the wrong person sees your use of them on Twitter.  I saw one person lecturing another recently about the other's use of "delusional" and "idiot"***.  Both words are apparently now Verboten because they are abelist vocabulary.


"Cretin" started as a medical term.  It was originally well-meant: it is from the French word for "Christian" and implied that someone with severe intellectual impairment still deserved to be treated with human dignity.  It was dropped from medical usage when it began to become an insult.  The same has happened to moron and any other number of terms including of course retard and retardation (which simply means to be held back, and is actually still a World Health Organization actual medical term).  It is the so-called euphemism treadmill: whatever term is chosen by the medical profession for intellectual impairment, it eventually becomes perceived as an insult and has to be replaced.

What word are we now to use, Twitter, to describe someone who has done something stupid, and how soon will it become abelist to do so?  Interestingly I've a real life friend who has been sectioned twice, who has blogged brilliantly on her experiences, in the process no doubt helping and educating many, and who light-heartedly refers to herself as a "loony" on Twitter.  I'd love one of the Twaliban to stumble on her by accident one day, and watch her response if they attacked her for her own very deliberate choice of language.  

(Thanks @thesaharadesert for the image)
My suggestion also for the punishment of the unnamed senior Tory who recently called Conservative Association members as "mad swivel-eyed loons" is to give him a Twitter account and make him read the responses of the pack who would lay into him.  These wouldn't be the actual people he'd insulted (the Tories), it would be those who object to his use of English in doing so (the "well-meaning, caring" brigade on Twitter).

A lovely, liberal, lefty friend of mine was laid into for hours for describing a woman on TV as having arms like hams.  I'm still not entirely sure what her crime was.  Swineism?  I could go on and on... the mob does after all.

What's Happening?

What is happening is that people for some reason have decided to take upon themselves the task of policing the language of others.  Those others may be friends, they may be (and frequently are) complete strangers.  I have serious doubts that these Twitter Police behave like this in "normal" life, by seeking to enforce their personal linguistic preferences on people such as work colleagues or strangers in the street.  It is worth emphasising that is all they are: personal linguistic preferences that they have created. 

Twitter provides a uniquely suitable medium for this, because they can safely and bravely fire off tweets from their keyboards.  They have already formed a like-minded group of people in their followers.  One passive aggressive ".@" mention is all it takes to assemble their troops and rapidly form a mob to dictate what another individual may and may not say.  If you are encouraging your followers to get involved in this way over someone's use of language, you are to me a bully.  Nothing more, and nothing less.

It is in essence all about making yourself right and someone else wrong.  There may be personal reasons for this: latent passive-aggression, low self-esteem, wanting attention, feeling you gather followers if you are the centre of a Twitter storm by doing this to a high-profile tweeter, personal dislike of the target, proving how "right on" you are to your followers - or whatever.  But what you are doing is essentially saying "See, I'm better than you.  I get to determine what language you use.  I'm right, you're wrong."  Many are permanently, and almost professionally, outraged.

[I am of course aware that there is a certain irony in my writing this blog, the whole purpose of which is making me right and them wrong, but there we go.  None of us is perfect ;-) ]

This is a key thing to remember too: the Twaliban member is frequently taking offence on behalf of unnamed people in a group who might theoretically be hurt if they read the guilty party's tweet, which contains language that they don't approve of.  But by sending them an @ message on Twitter to make them wrong, they are definitely going to upset an actual someone to a lesser or greater degree.  

What's Missing?

There's a whole load of stuff missing in this behaviour.  One is respecting that other people have a right to express themselves in any way they choose, provided it doesn't infringe the law.  That would fall under the basic heading of "tolerance".  If you don't like what someone has tweeted, you can of course :
  • ignore it (if it's someone you like)
  • unfollow them (if it's someone who has done this a few times)
  • block them (if you never want to see this again)
You don't have to pick a fight, regard that it's your duty to police language, and assert that you have an inherent right to tell them off about their self-expression.   If you choose to do so (of course, it's your right to), and they tell you to get lost in no uncertain terms, please don't go crying about it (I've seen this too, so many times) - you're the one who started it.  It might also be helpful to remind yourself that you are not actually their parent, or their teacher, and this is another adult you are talking to.

The next thing missing is agreement on what is offensive.  My friend who has been sectioned does not find "loony" offensive.  You might.  My 72 year old mother might use the word "twat" interchangeably with "twit".  People in the South of England generally do.  The Prime Minister did so and it was confirmed that this is not a swear word under Radio Guidelines.  You might be from the USA or from the North of England, where "twat" is synonymous with "cunt" and is just as strong.  You might actually like the word "cunt" and use it regularly in your tweets because you consider it a good feminist term.  Others might not and would find it a lot more offensively sexist than my use of "nannying".  You might object to people calling Mrs Thatcher a witch (I don't like it personally and wouldn't use it): others would disagree and say it's harmless.  So it goes on. 

One thing is sure: language is a diverse, powerful, creative thing and if you try to set precise parameters of what it acceptable and what is not, you will be the only person who agrees with them.  People will disagree with you and they are entitled to do so.  We all have different standards regarding what we think is okay or not.  Yours are inherently no better than mine. 

Then we come to appreciation of the medium.  By "calling someone out" on Twitter, if you stop for a moment to think about it, you are presumably aware that other people will see this (e.g. mutual followers or all your followers if you opt for the passive aggressive "shout out" method).  Do you enjoy being criticised in public, often in front of your friends?  I don't - but hey, perhaps I'm just weird.  There are two ways round this: you might direct message the person.  Chances are a quietly put, polite private word will have much more actual effect on getting the person to consider what they've said, rather than chastising someone in public, which almost always will raise heckles.  If you aren't on good enough terms to be mutually following, how about putting your point generally, rather than attacking a specific individual by naming them?  It's just a suggestion, and of course you're free to ignore it.

The last thing missing is intent and context (which often includes humour).  Before you leap on someone and accuse them of all manner of things because of something they tweeted, you might well keep in mind that these things are key components of how language works.  If my boyfriend calls me a "stupid poof" in a tweet, that is very different to a homophobic threatening lout screaming it across the road at me.  Ofcom even rejected a complaint about the use of "retard" on TV  because they said "it was not used in an offensive context [...] and had been used light-heartedly".  Having seen the particular context, I'm not sure I'd personally agree with them, but the point is that intent is highly relevant, even with a word that most people would agree is inherently offensive.

Effect on Free Speech

If you've never experienced being told off on Twitter for your language, good for you.  I know it's a complaint that many share though.  I'm mainly friends with other left-leaning people that I would consider caring and not at all reckless about upsetting others.  They, like I, would certainly not go out of their way to do so deliberately - yet they feel censored, told off, and limited in their free speech.  This is both in respect of voicing an opinion, and their specific use of language.

The following tweet, which expressed my frustration at being labelled a hater of teenage girls for my perfectly well-intentioned and innocuous tweet above, certainly seemed to strike a chord with plenty from the number of retweets:

You might just say: well you choose to put things out on the Internet, suck it up.  You'd have a point, but I choose to come on Twitter for fun, to talk to my friends, express myself, read what others are up to etc.  I do genuinely think I have the right not to be told off repeatedly for my language, mainly by strangers, when I am hardly tweeting the most offensive content.  I left Twitter for 2 months earlier this year in part because of this.  I honestly think that's pretty shite.

I'm aware of a growing body of people who have been on Twitter for years who have a second, locked account, just for their friends.  I've heard it called the "second wave" of Twitter: they made wonderful friends on "big" Twitter, but there are so many people on there who love taking offence that some no longer consider it safe to be themselves and speak freely, unless they're feeling 100% robust and up for a fight.  Jesus, that's really quite disturbing in my view.  People are scared to speak on a medium that's all about the free flow of thought and speech.   Thanks, Twaliban, what a service you're providing.


* I'm sure using the word "Verboten" lays me open to charges of anti-German racism.  Again I say to you, please keep your judgements to yourself.  I'm actually really not that interested in hearing your opinion.  I'm half-German, love the place, and despite having spent half of my life there, amazingly managed to keep a sense of humour.  Develop one yourself?

** I'm sure using the word "Twitter Taliban" lays me open to charges of belittling the suffering of victims of the actual Taliban in Afghanistan.  I will self-flagellate for hours, fear not - you don't need to tweet me to point out what a terrible person I am, and how oblivious I am to the suffering of others.

*** The two people involved in the public conversation I've referenced have tried to leave comments on this blog telling me to "fuck off" and "mind my own fucking business".  I deliberately did not name or identify them in the post: they simply illustrate to me an idiotic stance regarding language that I don't agree with. One asked me to remove this part of the post, or to make clear she was happy to be lectured to.  Fine: she was happy to be told off in public.  Plenty of people aren't.  The two are rather neatly proving my point by sending me the type of personal abuse that people are entirely fed up of. 

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Aberdeen (Part 1): Double Tree by Hilton

I just checked in to the Platinum suite at Double Tree Hotel in Aberdeen. Walking on red carpet everywhere! Even the pillows and sofa is red... Lol

Teaser by Maltesers

I am at the Queen Street Station waiting to board the train to Aberdeen.

I went into Boots to buy something to munch using my Boots points. Ended up with Teaser, a new chocolate from the same creator of Maltesers. It was good but I prefer Malteser balls because the malt inside melts on the tongue and taste good.

Friday, 17 May 2013


A longtime fan of Iceland Eyes mentioned to me that readers out there in the world might think that something had happened to me because I haven't posted anything new since last autumn, so I'm going to clear that up. All is good here in Reykjavik, we're blooming and thriving just like this crazy beautiful flower that emerged a few summers ago in the in the unlikeliest of places.

For now, though, this pet project of mine is on a possibly-permanent hiatus - after eight years of posting it just felt right somehow to let it stand as a completed work. If I decide to start a new project I've promised some faithful readers to mention it here, so be sure to pop in every once in a while for any updates, or just to cruise through the 650-plus photos for a sweet reminder of our pretty little city : )

Monday, 13 May 2013

The Voice USA 2013 - Shake it out!

After The Voice auditions, battle rounds and knockouts, its finally time for the final stage of the competition where the public votes matters. This years judges are Usher, Shakira, Blake Shelton and Adam Levine. I must say that I am pretty impressed by them not only because they are already famous in their own rights, but also because their judging and comments brings a good vibe to the show. I have been following The Voice USA 2013 from the start and it is way better than the previous seasons. The contestants were amazing too and the judges have good sense of humour.

At this stage of the competition, they have something called Shake It Out where each team performs a song on stage.

 Click on links to watch each team's performances. Great voices.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Richard Branson, the Air Asia stewardess for a day

I read in Daily Mail that Richard Branson finally had time to play a role as an Air Asia airstewardess after losing a bet with Tony Fernandes. Read more here :

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Make-up wonders

Now with so many apps available, it makes it easier to connect with people, even strangers. Artistic talents of random people are being showed off on those apps and fame was garnered because they are really good at what they do. One example is the art of putting make-up. On instagram, there are tons of people who show off their skills to put on eye shadows. It looks easy to do, but not really when I tried doing it myself lol.

Then, there are people who experiment with lipsticks. This post actually started after I saw someone make strawberry looking lip using lipstick. 

So with the existence of all these apps, talents from make- up to cooking are not hidden anymore. Its an easier route to fame. 

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Twitter Reacts to Barbara Hewson

Barbara Hewson, a barrister, published an article in Spiked Magazine yesterday.  Here it is: if you haven't read it, I suggest you do, rather than relying on media reports about it or what people are saying about it.


My views on the article is that it raises a couple of valid points, that are put badly.  One line that suggests abuse victims are to blame for putting themselves in compromising positions is particularly objectionable - another is the belittling of Stuart Hall's offences towards a 9 year old.  The piece is offensive to all sorts of people who battle against rape culture and I understand their outrage.  This is about the best article I've read explaining (in Zoe Stavri's typically passionate terms) why it's so objectionable.  Do please read it, and if you have time this good piece by Peter Tatchell with his very measured, sensible reaction.

[Addendum: Just to make it crystal clear this blog post is not a critique of Hewson's piece.  It's about the reaction the piece received on Twitter.  How shit it was or wasn't, as opposed to the quantity and type of abuse she received as a result of it, are two completely separate issues.  I thought that blindingly obvious, but clearly not from comments I've received.]

Age of Consent

Many people on Twitter have reacted most strongly, however, not to the apparent victim blaming (the aspect of the article that deserves the most attention) but to the final suggestion in the piece that the age of consent be reduced to 13.  This element, that was somewhat bizarrely just thrown in at the very end, is what all of the main stream media focused on in their headlines and formed the basis for almost all of the personal attacks I go on to detail.

Hewson's article raises the suggestion of lowering the age of consent without bothering to explain the (actually quite obvious) implicit missing link: she is talking about consensual sexual acts.  That's why it's called the age of consent.  Currently, as Tatchell explains, two 15 year olds who have sex together are criminalised under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 if they have consensual sex. They can be put on the Sex Offenders Register, alongside rapists.  That is to me, quite simply wrong.

I'm assuming Hewson is suggesting that by removing currently criminalised consensual acts from the equation, the police and courts will have more resources to follow up on cases of non-consensual acts: sexual abuse, assault, and rape of children.  These are inherently far more serious and deserving of attention than consensual acts.  That is true, but it's a shame the article does not spell that out.  Instead it clumsily at least appears to suggest there will be fewer cases of child abuse if the age of consent is shoved down to 13.  That cannot be what any right-minded person thinks. 

Here's a map of Europe showing ages of consent.  The blue colours reflect countries where it's 13, 14 or 15.  You're welcome to disagree and say the age should be 16, and below that age children should not be having sex.  But do not suggest the proposition that the age be lowered below 16 is some outrageous, unthinkable suggestion or a "paedophile's charter".  It's not.  These "blue" countries include the more socially conservative, Catholic nations of Poland, Spain, Portugal, and Italy.  Those countries have not set about legalising sex with pre-pubescent children.  It's about deciding where an appropriate age is, and views differ on that even with our closest neighbours.

Don't also think that criminalising teenagers prevents them having sex.  The National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles has found that 14 is now the average age of first sexual experience for both gay and straight young people in the UK.  Children are becoming physically mature earlier and are having sex earlier.  You might not like the idea of 14 year olds having sex (I don't think it's great and was 20 when I first slept with someone), but many are - and criminalising them seems to have remarkably little effect on their activities if that's the average age.

Teenage Pregnancy

Nor does criminalising kids having sex together prevent teenage pregnancies.  The factors which cause high teenage pregnancy rates are a lot more complex than the age of consent.  I've set out some figures taken from here:

(Births per 1000 teenage women aged 15-19)

Netherlands 7.7 (age of consent 12/16)
Spain 7.5 (age of consent 13)
Italy 6.6 (age of consent 14)
Denmark 8.8 (age of consent 15)
UK 29.6 (age of consent 16)
USA 55.6 (age of consent 16-18)

The USA teenage birth rate, the country with the highest age of consent in this group, is more than seven times that of Spain where the age of consent is 13.  It also seven times greater than that of Netherlands where the general age of consent is 16, but they will not prosecute two adolescents with a (maximum) 4 year age difference.  That means for example a 17 year old can legally have sex with a 13 year old, but a 25 year old cannot with a 15 year old.  Make that a 3 year age gap and I think it a perfectly sensible policy.  Dutch law categorically does not say adults can have sex with children, which is how I'm sure the likes of the Daily Mail would wish to categorise it, yet in practice it has an age of consent in certain circumstances of 12.  Call them as a bunch of paedos if you will... but you're a fool in my book.

Incidentally, just because the law allows it, does not mean that all Dutch kids are all having sex at 12.  Thanks to their sensible, liberal education policies, they have proper, detailed sex education and are taught to make the choice to have sex when they feel full ready and want to.  The average age of a Dutch girl having sex is apparently 17.5, and it is higher for a boy.  That is the true meaning of consent to me, not some arbitrary rule in law that says a couple of 15 years and 11 months are criminals for having sex together, but an immature adolescent can be pressurised into having sex on her 16th birthday without realising fully what she is doing and that's "okay".  Note that the UK teenage birth rate is four times higher than the Netherlands' one.

So - Hewson's article, which put forward her (poorly unexplained) view that the age of consent should be 13 is not exactly as insane as the baying mob is suggesting and is concentrating almost exclusively on. You might disagree with her, strongly perhaps; but let's be clear, she wasn't suggesting the law should be changed to allow babies to be raped, which anyone might think from the reaction below.

Twitter Shows its Worse Side

So, that little explanation of my personal views on this out of the way, let's turn to how Twitter reacted to Hewson's article.  There were some high profile people like Stavvers and Fleetstreetfox who set out sensible counter-arguments in blogs and articles, and plenty of people who registered their disagreement in strong, but reasonable terms in tweets.

And then there were the others.  They didn't engage as a criticism of her views so much as form a pack-like abuse attack on her. The most relatively benign were the calls for her to be "sacked by her employers" (a bit pointless as barristers are self-employed).  It then went through repeated calling her a paedophile herself, demands for her to be lynched, through to being cut up and having her organs removed.  Sure the latter is almost certainly not a credible threat, but how can anyone think that, let alone type it and then send it someone else?  This is for expressing an opinion.  Disagree with her, strongly, but how does this make you a better person than you think she is?

Apart from the non-gender specific abuse, the special misogyny that is reserved for women who voice their opinion was of course in evidence.  When Hewson tweeted that she had received a rape threat, plenty of people said they did not believe her.  When victims of sexual abuse come forward, many people say that should be believed, but that they are discouraged from speaking up because the system is set up to disbelieve them.  Yet in this case, a woman is not to be believed, because being a "paedo defender" she is somehow bound to be a liar.  If a rape threat didn't come up in a tweet search, ever consider that it may have been deleted or the threat was received via another medium such as email?  I believe she received this threat, particularly given the other abuse she received.

I was also attacked for pointing out that tweets at her were misogynistic.  I'd like to know how calling her an "old hag", a "witch", a "whore", a "sick, crazy bitch", a "paedo loving slag" and a "cunt" and the apparent threat to rape her do not fall into that category, but hey.

If you've got a stomach for it, here we go then - I think this lot should be recorded just as reminder of how grotesque people on this medium can be:

[always good when someone misuses "your" when calling someone else a cretin]

[Hung up from a lamp post AND shot? Isn't that tricky to do?]

Charming stuff, eh?  A little reminder here.  Victims of abuse may have been rightly upset by reading Hewson's piece.  They no doubt feel it contributes to the deeply ingrained culture that encourages rape and abuse, and does not take their experiences seriously.  I would hope Hewson did not write it to target anyone individually and have no reason to think she did.  She was voicing an opinion, not matter how misconceived you might think it is.

Each one of these abusive tweets is, by contrast, deliberately addressed to her, with the knowledge that she will read them.  That isn't recklessly nasty: it's deliberately and utterly vile.