The David Ruffley issue - and why the feminists are wrong

July 29, 2014

For the first time, I'm going to branch out a little bit from self-centredly writing about my own life. Sometimes I do get the urge to write about something I feel strongly about - and believe me, there are a lot of those - but I've never really got round to it and after all, it's just easier to write about what I know. Anyway, whilst I've been in Thailand I have been unable to avoid the 'David Ruffley' issue. It pops up continuously on my Twitter feed and even from 6000 miles away has managed to annoy me to the point that I'm going to put pen to paper and vent. So here we go.

For anyone that doesn't know - and I don't blame you if you don't - the MP for my constituency, David Ruffley, has been given a caution for assault of his then girlfriend. This was three months ago. It's only really just slipped out and a lot of people are up in arms, to put it mildly.

Firstly, let's get this straight -  I do not approve of domestic violence. I know people that have been affected, as many do, and it should absolutely not be condoned. Equally, I don't particularly like David Ruffley. He's been our MP for a staggeringly long time, given his previous personal issues, and it's about time we had a fresh face representing us.

However, I do believe those campaigning for him to step down for being violent towards his girlfriend are wrong to do so, and here's why. 
There is no evidence he was physically violent. The statement released said he had 'accepted a caution for assault'; here here is where the problem seem to stem from. People seem to be getting confused and conflating assault with another offence, battery. Assault means 'causing someone to apprehend immediate violence' - this could be shouting, arguing or any form of verbal abuse. However, the minute violence is inflicted, even in any minor form, it becomes battery. 
As David Ruffley was cautioned for assault, it is very unlikely he ever touched his girlfriend. As I said, I don't condone any form of domestic violence - men shouting at women is a verbal attack. However, right or wrong, it is a known fact that many couples argue frequently - some even thrive off it. Break-ups are painful and they can get nasty. The police were called to the scene by a neighbour, not his girlfriend - in my opinion, there could be every chance they were just having a 'domestic'. And that's all. And technically, yes - that is assault - hence accepting a caution. But he will not be alone in admitting to having a heated argument with a partner. I have friends whose parents have been married for 20+ years and are still very much in love; but even they will admit to a shouting match every now and then. 

If at any point his girlfriend felt threatened, she had every right to call the police and press charges. I reiterate; even verbal assault can be domestic violence. My point, however, is that there is no hard evidence David Ruffley hit or in any way harmed his girlfriend. Jeremy Vine, in an interview on national radio, asked whether is was acceptable for him to have "beat up his girlfriend". I find it amazing that this accusation was made on the BBC,  when the papers and reports have been very careful never to say he has done this. He was cautioned for assault, which as a crime, means he did not physically touch her. 

For me, until either David Ruffley or the police release a further statement clarifying the events of that night, he cannot be asked to step down for 'domestic violence', 'beating up his girlfriend', or 'hitting a woman'. Unfortunately, due to the pressure of social media from those that, in my opinion, have misunderstood the original offence, he has had to. And that seems a shame. I fully understand that, at first glance, it is unacceptable to have an MP who is associated with domestic violence representing women. My point is that no one seems to know what really happened that night - given the very little evidence, it seems impossible to either defend him, as some have done - or vilify him, as many have. I personally find it difficult to do either of those without all the facts before me - I certainly cannot call him a wife beater and call for his resignation. 

If it emerges there is hard evidence that he was violent on the night in question, as it absolutely might, he will not represent me as my MP and I will whole-heartedly support his resignation. As it stands at the moment, feminists - I'm afraid I can't get behind a campaign that will ruin the career of a man who could be innocent for the crime you say he has committed. 

Thai Adventures - Part Three

July 26, 2014

I've never really thought of myself as a person prone to exaggeration, but the last couple of weeks have proved how wrong I am. I seem to have exclaimed that "this is the best day ever!" at least once a day, which has become something of a running joke; last night, it was for something as simple as treating myself to my first glass of wine in three weeks. For anyone who knows me, going three weeks without my favourite drink is pretty impressive. Admittedly, we are in Thailand and the wine list was not extensive; I had a choice between a nice generic "Mont Clair White Wine" and, a small step up from that, Jacob's Creek Chardonnay. I can't remember what I went for but after drinking nothing but Chang beer and bucket cocktails it tasted like heaven.

Anyway, my point is that in the grand scheme of the holiday, the glass of wine probably not "the best day ever". The best day was, hands down, the day we spent on Monday at the elephant camp. Whilst I was looking forward to it, I was nowhere near as excited as Karis, who seemed to have only tagged along for the rest of the trip for this one day with the elephants. 

To begin with, they're pretty fucking terrifying and I was beginning to wonder what the fuss was about. For those who haven't seen an elephant up close, to say they're not exactly pretty is an understatement; they're huge, lumpy, have very hard skin and their trunks are very capable of crushing a human being. Just some initial thoughts. 

What was immediately noticeable is how nice the camp was. Many of the tourist elephants camps in Thailand chain up the elephants, and use heavy saddles and hooks and sticks to control them; a group of people we met refused to ride the elephants where they went as the conditions were so bad. Here they were  roaming around the countryside, and we rode them bareback...

Getting on was a source of hilarity, especially after we all had to try climbing up their trunks - mainly, I think, to give all the men helping us a good laugh. They also taught us Thai words in order to make the elephants move forward, left, right and so on... And then laughed at us saying it with such an English accent that the elephants did the exact opposite. 

Once we got on, the 'easy trek' proceeded to go up a sheer, mountainous, muddy hill, which only got muddier and more slippery in the monsoon rain shower. Covered in mud, we began to be very grateful for the delightful baggy trousers and rug-like top they gave us to wear.

After we were all suitably dirty, we rose the elephants into a pond and bathed them, quickly jumping off when they decided to roll over or, in our case, give us a shower from their trunks. It was quite possibly the cutest. thing. ever. No exaggeration this time.

After deciding not to to Cambodia because of a lack of time (ahem, money...) we instead went further north to Pai. Which we just loved. 

The waterfalls were incredible, and for some reason we felt it an appropriate place to copy our friend and get arty with the photos. This ones for you Amy! 

The mini Grand Canyon was pretty cool too...

... And we provided some Chinese tourists with some more risqué pictures than they perhaps would have liked... 

We also found a waterfall with a natural slide. After some involuntary slipping, we decided to give it a go anyway... 

Pai is a really cute place with so many lovely bars for the evening. We already loved this Western themed restaurant when, in an odd turn of events, we were suddenly given cowboy hats and made to do a barn dance, in the middle of the restaurant, with the staff. Much hilarity. 

Can't believe we only have one week of our adventure left! Much cry. Very sad. 

Thai Adventures: Part Two

July 19, 2014

I love a good quote. Whilst I've never gone as far as putting a heartfelt one liner as a caption to a Facebook photo, even in my angsty pre-teen years, I have been known to google some wise words when I'm feeling down. So you can imagine how thrilled I was to find this gem in the excitement leading up to my travels:

"It's not about the destination, it's the getting there that's the good part"

Well, I can only imagine that the person who said this has not attempted to take three planes, three buses, four ferries and countless taxi journeys in the space of two weeks. Because good isn't the word I'd use. It's boring, stressful and exhausting - although that may have been down to the suspicious looking Thai travel sickness tablets I bought over the counter which make me feel far weirder than some of the less legal drugs I've encountered...

However, it's a pretty small price to pay for some of the places we've seen since we arrived. As I mentioned before, I was somewhat underwhelmed by the island experience so far - even the Full Moon party, whilst a fun night out, is overrated. So when we left Koh Phangnan I had no particular expectations - until we arrived at what is now one of my favourite places in the world, Koh Phi Phi...

Even from the ferry, it's immediately  much more picturesque than the other islands we visited. As Chloe mentioned several times, it's pretty much the only reason she came to Thailand as it's where The Beach was filmed - cue us all being completely overexcited at 'stepping where Leo stepped', 'swimming where Leo swam' and 'eating where Leo ate'. In fact, we mentioned his name so often and so casually that the Canadians on our boat trip just thought Leo was a very adventurous and well travelled friend of ours. If only. 

Fortunately, it turned out that Karis knew a guy from back home who now works out here, so the next day we got on a cheap boat trip. 

This started off promisingly, apart from the minor cuts and bruises sustained from climbing up a cliff face with just the aid of some old rubber shoes and a piece of rope. The trouble really started at the top of the cliff, however, when Karis realised that being both scared of heights and deep water was not a winning combination for cliff jumping. Unfortunately, it soon occurred to her there was no other way down, and she had to bite the bullet and just jump...

She was rewarded with a free Chang, so it was all worth it. 

The boat then went to Maya bay, where the famous Beach scene was filmed. It is the most beautiful place in the world, and only apparently only reachable by swimming over sharp rocks in jellyfish infested water, being thrown against said rocks by the tide, and climbing up another rope. (Health and Safety doesn't appear to exist here.)

We immediately had to go straight into our Beach Jump photo... 

If you haven't seen The Beach, please watch it. If nothing else, it's 2.5 hours of young Leonardo Di Caprio. You can't really go wrong. 

We had also been told to, even if we did nothing else, visit the Phi Phi viewpoint. So, after a long day of sunbathing the next day, we attempted just that. The expectation of a short walk up some stairs quickly evaporated when, 30 minutes into a steep hillside trek, we still weren't there. Smug Thai men on mopeds passed us frequently, no doubt highly amused by the sight of three girls in swimwear, burnt and sweating, flip flopping up a mountain path. After being chased by a mountain goat, we eventually arrived and, thank god, it was worth it... 

Koh Phi Phi is one of the most stunning places I have ever been, and it completely made the island hopping worth it for me.

We're now in Chiang Mai, which I was looking forward to so that we could actually soak up some culture. Today, we cracked and ate dinner at McDonalds, so I guess that's something we have still yet to accomplish. However, we also skipped excitedly round the night bazaar and picked up some amazing handmade goodies for my new house... 

(The pictures don't do that bag justice. It's far less hideous in real life, honest.) 

I spent so much that I came home and quite literally cried into my few remaining bank notes. I'm not sure how I plan on surviving the next two weeks...

Thai Adventures Part 1 - Much Travel and an Unpopular Opinion

July 12, 2014

It's very hard to believe I've only been in Asia for a week. I'm getting pretty used to sharing a room with seven others, wearing the same clothes more times than I'd like to count and DYING for a proper mug of tea. The flight I was dreading turned out to be quite delightful - thank you Emirates - what's not to love about thousands of movies, unlimited G&Ts and above-par airline food? Admittedly the nine hour layover in Dubai was a low point so far - even when you're sleep deprived it's surprisingly difficult to sleep on a stone cold marble floor. However, 30 hours after we left Suffolk, we made it to Bangkok. 

Which I loved. I've always been a bit of a city girl and much prefer a city break to anything else, and Bangkok was no exception. It's hot, stuffy and so hectic it took us about half an hour to cross the road every time we needed to, but also very exciting. After debating whether to spend £10 (a fortune in Thailand!) on visiting the Grand Palace, we were SO glad we did - much glitter, much gold, much Buddha, very gorgeous. Many photo opportunity...

That afternoon we booked the night bus down to the islands for that evening - after hearing many stories about the dubious safety of these buses, Karis (quickly nicknamed Cautious Callum) threatened not to join us on this particular journey. However, after an hour of coaxing and harassing the booking man with questions about its safety, she finally agreed to join us... 

The next morning after an awful ferry journey that led to my first ever bout of seasickness (the memory is still too painful to talk about), we arrived at our first island - Koh Tao. And it was raining.

As Karis quite unnecessarily stated, the beaches did not look like the pictures. In fact, it looked like we had travelled about 6000 miles and ended up on Bournemouth beach. Not a great start.

It continued to rain for most of our two day visit to what is most people's favourite island. During the breaks in the cloud, I can say that the beaches were beautiful in the sunlight - and the nightlife was great. There's nowhere at home that I can limbo under a limbo stick that's been set on fire...

A few days later we arrived at Koh Phangan, where we are now, for the famous full moon party. The sun was finally shining and it was very hot - so hot, in fact, that during Karis and Chloe's first day of sunbathing they obtained what I can only describe as third degree burns. The alcohol is even cheaper and it's much busier than Koh Tao - under the influence of two Thai buckets of vodka the pool party we went to on Friday night was definitely the best night so far! 
(Although I then spent the next day in bed, hideously sick from Thai vodka poisoning, my mum and Cautious Callum's warnings echoing in my ears - not so great) 

So, this is where the unpopular opinion comes in. I don't think the islands are that great. Yes, they're fun for drinking and sunbathing, but so is Malia, Magaluf and Kavos and I needn't have saved since December to go there. I came to Asia for an adventure and drinking vodka, eating burgers and spending a lot of my morning sleeping doesn't quite qualify for that. So whilst I'm very excited about Full Moon tonight, which is going to be amazing, our next stop after another island is Chaing Mai in the North, and I'm itching to get to now!  

P.S forgot to mention the Ladyboy show. Very odd experience that had to be documented. Also not great for the self esteem as most of them were hotter than me.... 

Just a few holiday essentials...

July 02, 2014

It's that time of year again. Wimbledon fortnight; synonymous with Pimms, strawberries and cream, a variety of hot blonde women making a lot of noise and true British spirit. So much classier and more elegant than the World Cup - although, after England's dismal performance, I admit that's not difficult - and with much better looking players. I can't be the only one who carries out all the daily tasks I can from the sofa with BBC on in the background, alternating between tea and Pimms depending on the hour, and proclaiming to be an avid sporting fan. At the start of the tournament, this routine is interspersed with thoughts as to whether its too late for me to become a tennis prodigy - the new Laura Robson, if you will - which tend to disappear fairly quickly after one trip to the local tennis courts and being thrashed by my dad.

Anyway, for the first time in recent history, I won't be watching the Wimbledon final. Instead, I will be approximately 5 hours into a flight from Dubai to Bangkok and MY EXCITEMENT CAN'T BE CONTAINED ANY LONGER.

So I thought I'd do a standard 'Holiday Essentials' post, just to make those who are going on holiday just as excited as I am, and those that aren't insanely jealous. (Sorry about that.)

In true backpacking style, I am taking just a rucksack for my month away - not something I am used to doing, believe me. The last time I carried one of these little shits was for my Bronze Duke of Edinburgh where is pissed it down for the entire 48 hours of hiking, so fond backpack carrying memories are in short supply. However, considering this time we'll be in 40 degree heat on white sandy beaches instead of -20 degrees in muddy Norfolk, I'm prepared to give it another chance...

So, a few essentials: 

Before I left working at Jack Wills I picked up a few things I thought would come in handy (just to make the most of my staff discount!) Without trying to sound like an advert for JW, the Fullford tees are really soft and perfect to throw on with anything, beach or city. I grabbed this lightweight jumper too, for chilly nights (which hopefully will be few and far between...) Much to my dismay, none of my denim shorts from last year fit me anymore so I had to pick up a new pair - I love these white ones because they don't show half my arse to the world. 

T-Shirt, £19, Jack Wills / Jumper, £34, Jack Wills / Denim shorts, £19.99, Zara 

I rarely just buy on impulse, but whilst I was in Topshop picking up a pair of Mom Jeans (my new favourite cut - I'm never going back!) I saw this vest and thought it was the perfect treat for the hol. Equally, these jersey shorts will be a life saver when I'm trekking up a mountain...

Crop top, £12, Topshop / Shorts, H&M, £7.99 

No suitcase is complete without bikinis, and last year I went a little mad. When going to pack I realised I had a ridiculous nine bikinis to choose from, so I had to narrow it down to my favourite four... H&M, Primark, Urban Outfitters and Primark in that order. 

This year, and for travelling especially, I love printed cotton trousers. These ones were an absolute steal from Matalan!

T-Shirt, £19, Jack Wills / Trousers, £12, Matalan 

Just a few miscellaneous items I had to include. This Avon spray is really Mum's choice - she went on and on about how it repels mosquitoes just as well as that "nasty DEET stuff". If it works, then its great - its a dry oil moisturiser that smells much nicer than normal mosquito spray. (Although I did buy that too, just in case...) 
Boring but necessary, this suncream is a GODSEND. Its expensive at between £15 and £25 a bottle, but I've had my old one since my Year 9 sailing holiday and it still hasn't run out, so worth the money. Its completely waterproof, up to 10 hours - just put it on once a day. It's also an oil, meaning you tan really well through it. 
I never go on holiday without my iPad - even the most boring games start to seem appealing after 5 hours on a plane. Lastly, Chloe's lovely grandma had the great idea of buying her a travel diary to remember the trip. Whilst it's a little cheesy, the idea has caught on and I picked up this scrapbook for £5.00 in Paperchase to fill with, well, I'm not quite sure yet.

I'm normally the type of person that leaves packing to last minute, without fail - however I was far too excited for that this time... As Chloe reminded me over snapchat this morning, 3 SLEEPS TO GO!