Year End. RM2016

And so, once again, it’s here:

The sun has set on December the 31st –  not only the day but the year.

New beginnings; dawning sunrise; fresh prospects

And another 365 days spread out before us.

 

A blank canvas upon which to print our marks, we are told, but

Coupled with embracing the new, is dismissing the old.

 

Waving goodbye to a year which has shared sadness for many of us,

With strange and bewildering world events and unexpected losses

 

But it is easy to forget that time and dates and years are but social constructs, and as we go to bed tonight, and wake up tomorrow in a new year, nothing has changed but our perceptions, and no year is fortuitous or otherwise.

 

2016 has not worn a robe of death and doom,

And the path of the future is untrodden until we tread it.

 

 

But there is nothing wrong with pausing and taking a breath and starting anew;

And telling ourselves that this year will be better, stronger, ours. Me and you.
 

 

The seasons will change, and the coming months coming after.

Will offer us all challenges, surprises, sadness, joy and laughter.

We cannot necessarily control what lies ahead, but we can control the way we face it.

 

So, the last twelve months have contained

Birdsong and dew; sunshine and rain;

Huge moons, bright stars, births, deaths and pain,

 

Laughter and joy watching lovers get wed,

Wiping away tears for what they have said,

 

New friends and chances, lifetime goals,

People embedding into other souls,
 

 

Walks in the sunshine, family and travel.

Feeling numb and impotent, watching fear unravel

 

 

Circumstances dictating no choice

Realisation of possession of a new voice

 

Moons rising, suns setting,

(surely both ways round)

Blissful ears taking in new sound

 

Always feeling that there’s something more

Finding that something worth searching for

Reconnections and losses, inexplicable news

Respect and challenge; opposing views

 

And through it all, the wiping of tears and putting plasters on grazes.

 

And finding joy in something small.

Pleasure in the knowledge that loved ones have happiness

And sharing sad times when grief consumes all.

 

 

I don’t really get involved in the dawning of a new year,

When I know that challenges and chances are always around,

Despite our best attempts to compartmentalise, ration and define.

 

 

Tomorrow is the first of the first, and as I do every year, I will acknowledge it in some small way

Then I’ll just keep living, like it’s another day.

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My Reaction to the Paris Attacks

I feel like I need to write a reaction to some comments I have been reading following the devastating terrorist attack in Paris at the weekend.

Not the attack itself; my reaction to that is fairly straightforward.

I just seem to have read so much vitriol, hate, self-righteousness and misplaced judgement, that I want to add my opinion, for whatever reason.

The “close the borders” anti-Islam brigade is one thing. I can ignore them. They’re the same Britain First-sharing pricks I avoid as a matter of routine.

My response is really to people, who seem to have either a sense of real indignation, or just a sense of something more righteous and judgmental, who have criticised people like me, for having a response to the Paris attacks, by calling us out for NOT having a response to similar attacks in Beirut and the Lebanon and Syria and Baghdad. Those who call the rest of us “sheeple” rather than “people” because we are allegedly “following the crowd” in our responses. Those who say “Don’t pray for Paris, pray for the world” and, more particularly, those who are angry with us and ask “why do you care about Paris and not the other places”?

It annoys me, because the answer is fairly obvious. It annoys me, because it feels like the accusations are being levied when it is unimportant to do so. It annoys me, because it feels like it’s pushing an agenda, or – even worse – the “accuser” has a sense of superiority over the rest of us. As though their “grief” or response is somehow better than ours, somehow more thought-out and more important, because they’re not just focusing on the West and are truly a citizen of the world. And those of us who changed our Facebook profile pictures to the colours of the Tricolore, are just imbeciles who can’t think for ourselves.

it has made me think a lot, primarily because I agree with the sentiment behind their thoughts, and I questioned myself on whether or not I was being a hypocrite. But I’m not, and I want to defend myself and others who think the way I think about this.

There have been atrocities in Beirut and the Lebanon and Syria and Baghdad for time immemorial. I remember my Dad talking to me about Beirut when I was a child, in the late 70s. I’ve grown up watching images on TV of a war-torn Iraq and a bombed Syria.

Just because this is historical and continuous DOES NOT MAKE IT OK. I am not implying that. That’s an entirely separate issue.

My point is that, tragically, news of atrocities in war-torn areas does not make us surprised. It makes us angry and it makes us fear and it makes us despair, but it is not an unusual enough event for us to be surprised and reactionary about each event. And BECAUSE of this (and I am not supporting nor condoning this) these events are not widely reported on in the media.

Paris is different. Paris is in France: our neighbour across the Channel. Paris is a tourist destination and one of the most visited cities in the world. it is a holiday hotspot. It houses landmarks that people want to visit, and is host to one of the world’s most major theme parks. People in Paris are not armed; they are not walking the streets at night watching out for attacks; there is no militia on the streets; children do not routinely carry weapons. Aside from the Charlie Hebdoe attacks earlier on this year, Paris does not have a history of violent conflict. So, of course, this tragic, dreadful event makes us react the way we reacted.

On a personal note, I have been to Paris many times, and plan to go more times. I have not been to Iraq or Syria or any of the other countries cited in these levied accusations. I was in Paris just 6 months ago with my 6 year old son, wandering around the landmarks, going up the Eiffel Tower, eating in Cafes and restaurants – we walked past the Bataclan nightclub.

My husband proposed to me in Paris 18 years ago. It is a city I know and love, and it is close enough to home to feel as though it could have been me or someone I love.

None of this makes the murders and atrocities in Baghdad and Syria and Beirut OK. Of course it doesn’t. Life is not simple, and humans can process more than one piece of information. But this is why I changed my profile picture to the Tricolore for the day. This is why it filled me with shock and despair. This is why the school I work in held a two minute silence today for the victims of the attacks. Not because Parisian life is more important than Iraqi life, but because reactions to these things are personal and borne from individual knowledge.

I read the news, and I have an awareness of what goes on around the world. I have had personal reactions to atrocities all over the place, but if you ask me why I cared about Paris, then the answer is above. This doesn’t make me a sheep or an ignoramus. It makes me a human.

The Youth Of Today

In everyday life, there seem to be a lot of accusations levied at the “younger generation.”

I don’t know about you, but I hear it all the time: “The youth of today have no conversation. The youth of today are so rude. Kids these days are only interested in themselves. Teenagers are always on their phones. They’re confrontational, opinionated, only care about what’s on telly and have no interest in politics.”

 Essentially, most of the problems in today’s society, according to some popular opinion, are the responsibility of our teens and tweens.

I say this:

“Really?”

When I was a teenager, the same accusations were thrown our way. I played “knock a door run” and “chicken” – innocuous and innocent sounding as those games now seem to the 40+ generation, at the time it must have been inconvenient at best for those residents and car drivers, and dangerous and frightening at worst.

The “youth” has always been a foil to blame society’s ills on, and in this 2000’s era with all of its technology, the ability to share an ill-thought-out comment with hundreds, or even thousands of people in an instant, is easy and, in my opinion, ultimately forgivable. Because, you know what? Kids aren’t quite there yet, in terms of having the filter on what’s appropriate for wider consumption – just look at what happened to our first Youth Crime Commissioner, Paris Brown. Vilified by some and forced to resign from post because of silly comments made when she was just 14 years old. The only difference between these young people, and those of my era in the 80s, is that our throwaway comments were thrown away. Not recorded forever on an international media feed.

I’ll end with this. I have just had the pleasure of spending the morning – in the Easter Holidays – with two committed classes of Drama students in Year 12 and Year 13. They have given up one of their “days off” to come into school and rehearse for their examination performances. They have been respectful, entertaining, clever, witty, hard-working, diligent and a pleasure to be around. Working in a school, I get to see the good and the bad of our “youth”  and quite honestly, these students – like most of them – are a credit to themselves, and to us.

Because it’s our job to make sure they learn from the same mistakes that we made

The Reality Is Really Very Poor

Reality TV. The most inappropriately named genre in broadcasting. What kind of reality spawns such demons?

Look, I have watched reality TV; I watched the first series of Big Brother, I watched X Factor and Dancing on Ice for a couple of years, and I have a guilty pleasure in I’m A Celebrity.

But I am seriously at a loss to understand how this visual weirdness is still so popular.

Reality TV recently hit an all-time low, for me, with that bizarre diving show “Splash”. It was not something I ever intended to watch, but was reluctantly subjected to it for about half an hour on one of its airings. My initial reaction was one of open-mouthed fascination. For those who haven’t watched it, the premise seemed to consist of the following: each week a handful of minor celebrities (some of whom are only famous for being on OTHER shows of this ilk, but that’s a conversation for another day) who can’t swim/dive well/at all are,over a period of weeks, trained to do some Olympic-style high-diving. Tom Daley is involved (although, I suspect not as regularly as it is implied) and so is Vernon Kaye, which is a reason in itself not to watch the show.

Anyway, on the night, we are subject to a plethora of these celebrities dressed in sparkly/garish bathers, skimpy to differing degrees based on hotness of body or humour of spectacle, who take it in turns to have a dive. But it’s not that simple. We have to have some montages of Tom Daley explaining something or other, repeated throughout the show. We have to have an introduction to a panel of “experts”, only one of whom is really an expert, and we have to have several minutes detailing each celebrity’s individual story. Then, we get a dive. Not always a good one. Then we get the panel rabbiting on about nothing, and then they show some numbers. The numbers are, by and large, irrelevant because although they are classed as scores, the real scores are determined by nothing more than a phone vote of popularity. Then we get an ad break. Then it all rolls out again, and lasts from anywhere between 90 minutes and 2 hours.

What. The. Heck?

This is prime time Saturday night TV. The concept is probably sound, and hot on the heels of the 2012 Olympics, could have been executed with a real nod to sport, and some dignity, but clearly that’s not what people want (judging by the odd popularity of the show.) And my question is, why? Why do people need the glitz and the glossiness and the banality of hearing some random not-quite-famous-person’s opinion on a sport they know nothing about, referring to another not-quite-famous-person’s attempt at said sport? Why do we need the endless repeated shots of what we’ve JUST SEEN? Why do we need 10 minutes of build up to a 20 second shot of action, followed by 10 minutes breakdown of it? Why can’t we just have shows with content, and not fluff and filler?

Obviously advertising and revenue is the ultimate reason. But the popularity of this style must have been brought about by years of the networks trying to improve the brand, to such a level now where the hour-long fillers surrounding the content of these shows, is generic and absolute.

And because they started it, they have to keep adding to it. If you’re not moving forwards, you’re moving backwards.

Take Dancing on Ice. In the first year, I thoroughly enjoyed it; the incredible Torvill and Dean fronting and performing in the show, Robin Cousins, Karen Barber and Nicky Slater all offering their opinions on celebrities I had (mainly) heard of, and veteran professional Philip Schofield presenting. The celebrities took weeks of training to learn how to ice skate and then dance. It was marked out of 6, like the Winter Olympic scores, and the errors and flaws and technical hardships were evident for all to see. They worked their butts off, basically, and ended up with a real skill. And it’s nice to watch a bit of ice skating anyway.

It was really successful and really well watched. And then they gradually, over the years, started messing about with the format. And what we now get is this:

Too many celebrities to fit into one week,
People on the judging panel who are “experts” on performance skills (because they were on a west end stage in the chorus a couple of times, or sang backing in a girl band),
Limited conversation with Torvill and Dean,
Endless repeat showings of the routines that we have already seen,
Montages before each routine showing some dire accident during the week leading up to the show, with some “will-they/won’t-they” music playing while it is debated whether or not they will be physically able to even compete (they always are) or a move which has caused them to vomit/cry/be unable to sleep/all of the above (which they always execute perfectly),
Unimaginative and generally unfounded criticism from the panel to create controversy, usually with a disagreement thrown in,
Individual judge’s scores which are so at odds with one another it is impossible to tell if a) they are marking the same thing or b) if it was good or poor,
Irrelevant judge’s scores, because the phone vote is merely a popularity vote and alters the leaderboard on a weekly basis,
Celebrities telling you they are enjoying themselves and did their best while Christine Bleakley either smiles in empathy or frowns in sympathy,
and then several repeats of the whole thing until the end of the show.

Which we then have to suffer all over again half an hour later when the phone votes are counted.

But it’s not just the result we get in the result show. Oh no.

We get some MORE repeats of the routines.
A vox-pop with each skating couple telling us exactly what they told us in the first show, but backstage.
We get a performance from some completely unrelated pop band, occasionally with a skate routine.
We get Christine Bleakley asking the judges the same questions that she asked them in the first show. Then we get the adverts.
Then we get a long drawn-out “Schofield-Pause” list of who has got through and is “safe” for another week, and who is in the dreaded bottom two.

Then the bottom two – the ones no one voted for – sodding well skate again.

Then the judges decide who they are saving.

Blow me, I’m bored just thinking about it. And for what? The honour of winning a show that everyone forgets about when The Voice is back in town.

I’ve found a solution, though. Thanks to the technology of my sky+ box, I record the spectacle (despite my negativity, I really do like the shiny suits and the dancing) and then I fast forward all of the crap. I fast forward Schofe and Bleakers, anything to do with the judges, anything that is clearly pre-recorded or repeated, and all the adverts. And then I watch the skating. As I’m fast-forwarding, I note the scores and the leaderboard, so I have an idea of how they are doing, and then I skip to the end of the result show. Sometimes I watch the “skate-off”, sometimes I don’t. Either way, I can watch 2 and a half hours of Dancing on Ice in less than 24 minutes.

And I can spend the saved time writing about it. Everybody wins.

So, until Big Brother actually starts referring to Orwell’s dystopia, and incorporates totalitarian ideology associated within modern society and politics, and until the X Factor really does project a je ne sais quoi that sets it apart from everything else with an indefinable quality that defies description, and until Strictly Come Dancing drops the ridiculous word “Strictly” from its title and acknowledges that it doesn’t friggin’ mean anything I will continue to enjoy my DVD collection on a weekend night.

And I will still watch I’m a Celebrity, because I really like Ant and Dec.