Sarah Smout

Sarah Smout

I have a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing from UEA. When I'm not writing articles or poetry, I'm writing songs or cello-ing it up in my band. I tend to have the odd glass of rose when I write for creative purposes only. I bake good cakes, too.

In a world where people are getting shot every day in acts of barbaric violence, it is chilling to suggest we are not surprised by the shooting of 14-year-old Malala. She was shot in the head and neck on her way home from school, and will need her skull restructuring. We might all say how outraged we are at this attack, but when we first saw the news, did we not think ‘oh, another shooting in Pakistan’? But we cannot become immune to it. She was shot after publicly criticising the Taliban for their violent action against girls’ education in 2009. This shooting has gripped the nation in horror as Malala, dared to do what others wouldn’t. Now, others are encouraged to speak out too.

It is very easy nowadays to switch on that ipod, open that screen and enter into a virtual reality in order to ignore what is actually happening in the world. The young generation appear to only shout out against fees, or tax, and maybe war, but what happened to that period in the 60s and 70s, when we were always standing up for those who couldn’t stand up for themselves. Brian May is doing just that, leading the petition against a drastic badger cull in Somerset and Gloucestershire. Put down your subway and read about something that matters.

The air of expectation and excitement in the lecture theatre is not one of intellectual discussion, but night-before gossip. It was the last night of fresher’s week, nobody hasn’t slept with each other and all are settling down into nice little groups vaguely resembling the first day at school. There is also that sense of academia lingering, and the first visit to the library realises the amount of books one needs for the first semester. So you go home and read...or not. But why not? When going to University is an almost conveyor belt process in life, with a pre-written set of rules not including your sense of integrity to significantly drop, what do students actually get out of “being a student”?

And now a great sigh of relief echoes across Britain after the Paralympic Closing Ceremony succeeded in all aspects of tear-jerking stories, extraordinary talented people swinging about on wires, uplifting music, celebs, a bit of a boring speech and lots of empathy. The music brought everyone together to realise what had been achieved; it even blurred out of focus the lingering government DLA cuts. So, what now? Are we actually any better at talking about disabled people?

Five minutes after the Olympics end and everyone’s feeling inspired, here returns The X-Factor.  It’s just what we need in a time of relatively high spirits; a talent(less) show to remind us how desperate we are to live a celeb life getting stalked by the press, and how our dreams hang on the opinions of a few twits. In fact, these so called “judges” are chosen on a personality basis so that they argue with each other to rank up those Saturday night ratings.

British people undoubtedly have a good resilience to bad weather, as Glastonbury has proved. Not only do people still go, but many would consider asking for a refund if they did not feel sufficiently “muddied”. It all seems to add to the charm of a music festival, in the sense that we’re unaffected by being soaked to the bone in a field of mud because of the atmosphere created by live music.

The Olympics are following us around, everywhere. British flags are attached to all vehicles including those fast powered chair mobiles that people use to run over your ankles in Tesco’s. Non-sporty people are watching sports they never knew existed, sporty people are torn between what to watch. This is great, there’s nothing wrong with supportive behaviour when it’s genuine, but the pundits are getting increasingly predictable. If words like “proud” “tradition” and “best efforts” were used any more, we’re likely to forget what they mean. It also seems as if the lack of gold medals is developing a tick in the camp, and we need to reassure ourselves that we are doing our best. There will be medals, because we are the host country. Here comes that British anxiety... why, every time the fact that we are the hosts comes up in conversation, does somebody quip that this is extra pressure for the athletes? Now, as an easily pessimistic nation with lack of belief in our sporting teams nowadays, it doesn't take an expert in sporting psychology to tell us this is shooting oneself in ones foot before you’ve even started.

Finding yourself wandering round any town or city nowadays, you are likely to stumble into a bar where there is a small room at the back with quiet adoring listeners gazing at a female in possession of a guitar. You know these nights, you’ve been to them before, but did you ever think how it all started? Boys with guitars have been around for light years, but the girls have always been somewhat trailing behind, until now. Powerful yet delicate stars like Joni Mitchell and Joan Armatrading seem to have melded into the ice queen that is Björk or other foreign fems with crazy headwear on who dominate the popular music scene by stamping all over it. And it is true, we seem to owe much of the folk revolution that is proving so popular to our bearded friends from overseas like Fleet Foxes.

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