Elizabeth Coates

The life and times of a viewer

Being in a Family is like the Eyjafjallajökull Eruption Grounding Flights

Dear Salmons,

Do you remember the volcano in Iceland burping ash into the atmosphere back in April 2009, grounding flights across Northern Europe? People were stranded, unable to return home in or out of the U.K., Scandinavia or the northern reaches of France, Germany, the Netherlands and Poland.

The skies overhead were completely silent for two weeks. Yet amongst these stranded people, who included harassed business people, holiday makers, emigrants and immigrants alike, there were families.

In the news as of late, there has been much talk about juggling family life and a career, as if one can only have one or the other.


This is last time I’m taking an Iceland budget family holiday…

Initiatives are in place so our children are looked after so we can work longer hours, make more money and thus spend that money on those expensive little spawn.

But, we are still salmons. We travel up to 10,000 miles in order to have the hope of mating. We don’t throw away the most fleeting and important moments of family life in favour of impressing people you hate.

What would you prefer? Watching your child, awkward but determined, confident enough to try take their first steps, read their first book, (attempt at) playing an instrument, or sitting in a board room, trying to navigate narcissistic predators to allow your point to come across?

Oh, honestly. You who try to have it all are fools. Not just women, but men also. Somewhere, something has to give, and how much money you make should be right down beside joining the BNP as least pressing things to think about.

Unfortunately for those who will have us work to death, love is what drives us. No one loves, apart from a predator, to be at the top of the career ladder. If you are no carnivore, you should not be top carnivore on the food chain.

Do you see a plucky, bright flamingo beat their herbivore background and grind gazelle bones with the lions? No. You see a plucky, bright flamingo finding themselves parched, away from where they are meant to be.

I’m not saying you should not have ambition. I’m saying that you shouldn’t aspire to do what others say is worthy of ambition, you should aspire to what your heart says, and use your head to make it come true.

The volcano stopped flights for two weeks. Families didn’t go on Easter holidays, they didn’t come home. They entered a crisis together; the parents being away from work, their children from school, they could reconnect, and realise that when the chips are down, they are all that we have.

No money, fast cars, houses or great job can give you a family.

Keep swimming, Salmons.


How To Deal With Awkward Co-workers Like Richard Dawkins Deals With Extreme Christians

Dear Salmons,

This topic could go disastrously wrong. Already I can hear the hate mail dirtying my hard-drive, insults more suitable for someone punching baby Jesus in the face than noting Richard Dawkins finds extreme Christians awkward.

An awkward co-worker and an extreme Christian is the same thing to an atheist; how the hell do you deal with them without causing offence?

I shall be straight here; I am quasi-Christian (I follow Quaker practices), and even I find Westboro Baptist Church to be a little strong for me. I use my beliefs to cope with weird co-worker behaviour (such as turning up the heater with the door open – logical), to make me patient.

But sometimes, the equivalent of picketing a soldier’s funeral comes up, and the beliefs fly out of the open window.

A recent case is thus; I arrived at work Yesterday and found the shop in shambles. My co-worker had been in the two previous days, and did not seem to have been doing much. The shelves were near empty, the accounts were all jumbled and there was spoilt milk a little close to the fudge ingredients for my liking.

I fixed these problems, no problem, just a little rattled. Then the stinker came, to the funeral, and farted on the flowers; a dead mouse in the window.


Oh good, you can spell. Now sweep the floor! It’s filthy from your crap.

Not just dead, but massacred.

The ushers also dropped the coffin, as I found his drugs in a hidey hole outside the shop. He smoked some of them, but I think this was where the selling happens, due to some money being amongst them. A drug den? In the shop? 

Way to keep your ‘beliefs’ private, eh?

So, instead of Jesus, I turn to Mr Dawkins for an answer. In respone to the Westboro Baptist Church’s comment –

“There is nothing special, unique, or creative about Richard Dawkins. He’s old and stale. He needs to stop his brand of perversion, fear God, and obey God”

– the wily fox just shows the world the comment, and knows that the world is on his side; these misguided salmon who have forgotten where religion’s water current is supposed to lead them, they need help.

It’s the same with my foolish co-worker. He needs exposure to the real world, and a good slap in the face. Which I think my manager is in line to implement.

How very Christian of me.

Keep swimming, Salmons


Salmons Swim Together; I See No Pay Gap


Dear Salmons,

A serious piece today, for I feel that we, as male and female salmons, have to swim the same currents, taking the same amount of effort. As long as you attempt it, other salmons will always help.

According to a report published in the Telegraph yesterday, the female chief executives at FTSE 350 companies are paid on average £1.8m, compared to £1.3m for men, findings from a survey carried out by University of Southampton.

Current statistics show that of the FTSE 350 CEOs, 5.6% are female, which has risen from 3% in 1999 (statistics), as there are more women with the relevant portfolio entering the top levels of business, and they appear to be richly rewarded.

Is this an indicator that women are better, benefit from a gender premium or (more likely) victims of statistics?

The small percentage of women that reach this level in a company are often the very best. They considered it worthwhile to forgo a family life and pursue a career, for they considered themselves to be good enough to make it worth it.

And the smaller the population used in statistical analysis, the less trustworthy the result.

Often, statistics on the gender pay gap consider all women and men within a country. This means that housewives (who earn less, due to being at home attending to the children and house instead of working) and their husbands are being compared. There should be no comparison.

Indeed, recent research from the AAUW, a feminist organisation in the U.S.A, has debunked the myth with its report, publicised in the Huffington Post;

If it were really true that an employer could get away with paying Jill less than Jack for the same work, clever entrepreneurs would fire all their male employees, replace them with females, and enjoy a huge market advantage. (Christina Hoff-Summers)

The study also shows the pay gap to be only seven cents in the U.S.A. Not much room for discrimination there.

It would seem strange that there are feminists squabbling about how much women get paid in relation to men, when there should be ore discussions about giving more choice to both men and women, without criticising them for it.

Keep swimming, Salmons.

Oh you want to be different? How original!

Dear Salmons,

I admit it, I’m a killjoy. When I see posts about “being yourself” or “dare to be different” my blood pressure rises. Why? Because the irony here has shot itself, despite being an iron bullet, and is meant to be friendly fire.

How can you tell people what to do? If this had an advisory tone to it, then I would understand. You can advise people to be themselves, but you can’t order it. For them to be themselves, they have to come to their own conclusions about who they want to be.

And if it is to ‘follow the crowd’, don’t be hypocritical and mock them for being in the ‘dare to be different’ cool crowd.

I have always tried to be myself, to never short change myself, for in my view I will fail in what I truly want to do, and must do, thus making myself and others unhappy. To not judge others is much harder than people make out to be.

I mean, I am being judgmental myself, attacking those who preach ‘dare to be different’.

We all judge. We can’t tell each other to not judge, not allow ourselves to be judged and be ourselves all the time – it’s impossible, for we judge them to be failing in those areas. How judgmental.

Instead, how about we just accept that we all judge and we are judged, and use the judging skill for better? Can we all make the sane judgment that it’s not for people to decide whether two men or two women can marry, and it’s far more important for us to ask why we squabble about things that simply do not matter.

It’s like trying to swim through a weir, salmons!

Why do we not judge that we should concern ourselves with the close to home problems, instead of trying to throw money at internationally known conflicts like Syria? What about the elderly woman down the road who doesn’t see anyone all day? Can you visit her? Heck, even those who appear fine may need your help.

We could all benefit with a little less judgment and a lot more love in the world.

Peace. Keep swimming, Salmons.

What If Stalin Meant, “I love you. You love me. We’re a happy family”…?

Dear Salmons,

“I believe in one thing only, the power of human will.”

“Oh boy! Just look at all the good things to eat. I think it would take a dinosaur to eat all of that.”

Granted, they have their differences. Barney is more likely to hug you, as opposed to killing you softly, throwing your body to the piles of millions, dismissing the piles as “statistics”.

But, ultimately, the two characters are just so; they are largely pieces of folk fiction. Whilst Barney is intentional fiction, being a character carefully produced to appeal to children and their grateful parents, Stalin is unintentional fiction, being a character carefully produced to appeal to adults and their dumbstruck children.

Put the two together in your head. Stalin was considered to be the Father of the Soviet Union, treated with as much benevolence as Kim-Jong Un is in North Korea today. Barney the Dinosaur was considered to be a father figure of sorts, treated with similar levels of benevolence by his child minions.

The fact is, they both impressed fantasy versions of themselves upon their audiences, and are seen as safe figures for children.




Show me the difference, salmons. When he sent people to the Gulags, he was screeching the Barney the Dinosaur lyrics at the children of the Soviet Union through schools, sports clubs, anywhere he could possibly reach. After all, he has said;

“Education is a weapon whose effects depend on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed.”

Compared to Barney’s singing of Yankee Doodle, inserting instead “Barney is a dinosaur” and we can see there are at least two characters here who like some self-insertion…

Keep swimming, Salmons.


Stop Telling Me About Those Six Wives – I see enough of it in Heat!

“People don’t like to think, if one thinks, one must reach conclusions. Conclusions are not always pleasant.” (Helen Keller)


Credit: Horrible Histories © Terry Deary

Dear Salmons,

My apologies for the long hiatus. My exams arrived like whirlpools and I was sucked into the flow. I missed writing something more expressive quite terribly. But, all is over and I can now get to important things.

Like how are the six wives of Henry VIII related to Ms. Keller’s rather wry (but cynical) comment on people’s consciousness?

Roger that.

I am a fiend for the documentary, particularly ones that have facts shooting like intellectual bullets; bang bang bang and I’m shot down by the charismatic aim of the presenter and passion for their topic.

Sir David Attenborough was knighted for such pin-point accuracy.

But I have to draw the line somewhere, and it’s when the bullets are aimed at the heart, but completely miss, and simply shoot my pint out my hand.

In some parts of the country, that would cause a fight. But I’m a young lady, and so I can only look contemptuous.

A documentary that misses so badly, and not only that, but it also hits where several shots have hit before (many people have spilled my pint…), is only funny the first few times.

I want a documentary that infuriates me. I want a documentary that forces me to come to conclusions. I want to learn something from it.

But this documentary, “Henry VIII; Patron or Plunderer?” on BBC Two; the only thing I learnt is that I occasionally need reminding that people (and particularly high-brow TV presenters) think they are the top fly on a gorged carcass of ENDLESS HENRY THE EIGHTH DOCUMENTARIES.

I didn’t need to think to come to a Keller Conclusion, a conclusion I didn’t like. Even showing lovely images of monasteries didn’t bring me back. Even doing some twee sketches did bring me back…to the conclusion that I would throw the rest of my pint in his silly, sketchy face.

More seriously, a documentary should not be made for its own sake; it has to have a point. It’s not a person; people can turn up randomly, that’s fine, but a documentary should be driven by need.

Those who sneak into North Korea and try and film ordinary and frightened citizens, evading the official tour guides are making a real documentary.

Those who visit a Berber village in Morocco and join in on a wedding are making a real documentary.

Those who revisit a tired old subject of a king, who was basically as changeable as Michael Jackson (King of Pop) was in his opinions, sanity and health, and spew it out again on the “Channel of the Year” with some pretentious sketches may as well print it in Heat and rename Henry VIII as;

“Hen-Lo betrays Pope Diddly and ties the knot with Anne B-Lyn! Exclusive! Full story page 6!”

I like these conclusions better.

Keep swimming, Salmons.

The World is about as Globalised as a Coffee Bean is Mocha


I can feel the chocolatey goodness already…

Dear Salmons, 

As a Geography student, I feel the urge to put my outraged, hippy face in front of anyone who claims the world is globalised, and tell them why it isn’t. And the main reason is, that’s not what you think it means.

You pick up your Costa Coffee; size massimo, you’re drained, and you watch the frothy milk billow around the surface. Your companion has a mocha; she’s a trendy one. Primo, of course; a mocha is what you should drink if you want to stay trim and prima.

Now think of that mocha she has, and now think of globalisation. Everything a conventional geographer thinks about globalisation is found entirely within that little cup.

Here’s why; for a geographer, globalisation is the increased international interconnected-ness of different groups that have a vested interest in each other.

In Plain English, that means that an individual in one part of the world, can trade with someone from another part of the world, instead of having to rely on the local shady dealer who fleeces you of money because he’s the only one who will buy your product from you. 


Yeah, kind of like him (Sorry, Mr Rafani)

So now, you can go abroad for the best deals. But herein lies the problem; if you’re selling coffee beans, and they’re going to become mocha as well as delicious ground coffee, how on earth is the whole world involved in this?

Globalisation implies that the product is produced internationally. Not so; only a specific region can grow coffee – and it’s the same area that produces cacao beans for chocolate!

If a place has monopoly for coffee and cacao beans, surely this would be no different from the market dealer who you’re trying to avoid?

The companies who will purchase your beans, cacao or coffee, they don’t produce; they sell your beans on for an extortionate amount, leaving you missing out.

What WOULD be globalisation is if the farmers sold the beans direct to Costa Coffee, your workplace, the twee café (called Lily’s or something) on the corner, etc. They would be directly dealing with the consumer, and spraying their beans everywhere!

But whilst the chain is tightly controlled by people who only see the beans as money, it’s not worldwide; it’s world-scoped. The coffee beans go to where it is profitable for that chain (and Starbucks in the U.K. is certainly struggling there…), not for the farmer.

I will not agree that the world is globalised until everyone is able to sell things on the global market, and not have to deal with the shady trader.

Keep swimming, Salmons.