Thursday, 22 December 2016

Secrets, lies and misapprehensions.

Yesterday Facebook told me it was the first day of winter. Various other sources also suggested that yesterday was the first day of winter. I am confused. Yesterday was the Winter Solstice. I was always told that this was also midwinter. Of course, it's not actually the midpoint of winter. That would mean that Spring would have to start sometime in February, which does not usually happen. All it really means is that the 21st of December is the shortest day of the year. I'm all in favour of that. From now on the days will get longer. Hurray!

Winter is definitely around. There was frost everywhere here this morning. Very pretty! And the sky was blue. I keep being rather surprised by this as the weathermen keep telling me that Storm Barbara is in her way, ready to make Christmas day wet, windy and dull. No Christmas day walks then!

It's going to be grim for the people sleeping on the streets as well. Even more so! I read the other day that Manchester has the fourth highest rate of street homelessness (a curious term) in the country. Someone called Adam Williams, who works for a homelessness charity in Manchester says the number of people requesting their services has never been higher than this year. “People are visibly affected when they visit Manchester at the moment, especially if they haven’t been here for a few years. However, my fear is that people will become desensitised to the situation [so many people sleeping rough] and that within a year it will just become a normal state of affairs in most people’s eyes,” he says.

You don't even need to have been away for a while to notice the difference. There are many more rough sleepers these day. Despite the advice of a number of people I know, I tend to walk around the city centre with a pocket full of change so that I can help at least a little. They aren't all drug addicts. We don't know what has driven them onto the streets.

I have just been listening to a radio programme about family secrets. An amazing number of people of my generation appear to have discovered that they were misled about the people they thought were their parents, or more frequently just the person they thought was their mother. Back in the 1940s and 1950s, even into the 1960s, convoluted ways were found to protect the family honour. How strange to discover in your grown-up years that your mother is your grandmother and your sister is actually your mother. Thank heavens for more open times.

Not all modern developments are necessarily for the better however. I have often wondered about people wanting to "be a celebrity". Now I read that psychologists/sociologists are noting a shift in values in recent years. Between 1997 and 2007 they spotted a change in the US. In television shows watched by nine- to eleven-year-olds in the US back in 1997 the dominant values (as judged by an adult audience) were deemed to be community feeling and benevolence. Fame came 15th out of 16 values tested. By 2007 fame came first and community feeling and benevolence had dropped to 11th and 12th places. The studies blame it on shows like Hannah Montana and other similar programmes involving stories about young performers. Fame was closely followed by achievement, image, popularity and financial success.

Just in case we think this is just an American thing, a survey of sixteen-year-olds revealed that 54% of them intend to become celebrities. The article I read described this as a mass delusion!

Ah, the joy of being famous for being famous!

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