Wednesday, 27 July 2011

I made a promise

I made a promise inside a tube which banged loudly and was horrifically claustrophobic. I made it last year. I made it because I thought briefly I was skating on the edge of bad diagnoses of bad things, bad things with bad futures and bad pain and bad everything.

I promised I would do what made me happy.

That might sound selfish. It might sound self indulgent. It might sound plain impossible.

I thought I was going to die. The dye ran around my brain and in the end what they thought they'd seen was not. I was lucky. There might be a next time. I might not be quite so lucky next time. I do not want to get to 80 and regret anything. I do not want to waste a second. This week we have been on holiday and people ask when we're going to stop.

The answer is, when I'm 80. That's when I'll stop. When I can't ride or climb or dance or run or hike or scramble or slide or swim or wriggle or marvel or aspire or inspire or dream, anymore.

Everyone says life's too short. Some know it is, to some they're just words to be thrown away, lip service. People laugh at me for this attitude, laugh at the determination to experience absolutely everything, absolutely right now. They think nothing bad will ever happen. That the 1 in 4 will always be someone else. That running the Race for Life will always be for someone else.

I made a promise. Don't waste it, don't get blasé, don't assume, don't turn your back, don't ignore, don't laugh. Both hands, fingernails, fingertips. Hold on as tight as you can, for as long as you can, see everything, fear nothing, breath deeply and laugh.

So I'm asking a pretty big question this week. I've been asking it for a long long time. Am I good enough? Am I any good at all? Should I just give up and go home?

Because there's got to be a question, and the answer has to be yes. Yes, I am happy.

Saturday, 23 July 2011


Death is always pointless, isn't it. No one gains, except if the person dying was in pain before and then, perhaps. 

I hate that I feel that it would somehow have been better, that I could somehow understand, that I could reconcile, if it had been caused by the usual suspects, if there had been some kind of terrorist group behind it. I could understand the co-ordination, the planning, the brutal efficiency in dispatching as many people as possible.

Instead I'm left back at a question I have been asking for most of my life, which is if someone has mental health problems so severe that their personality is changed beyond all recognition, that religion or whatever other conduit is focused on and as a result of the mental illness becomes warped and broken, who are you forgiving for their actions? The person they were or the person they are? Who do you mourn the loss of\? Who do you grieve for?

Is it wrong to even mention grieving for the man who orchestrated all this? Is it okay to feel sympathy for his family and a deep sense of loss in humanity that we didn't spot someone so broken yet again, that yet again, yet another country can be added to the list of ones who fail the mentally ill.

We are there. The US is there. And now Norway. There may be others, I can't think. This is not reporting and these are not facts, these are questions I might be alone in asking, but I don't think so. I think there will be others who can't read the details because it breaks their hearts.

Death on this scale is normal in war. War is brutal and expected. Those caught within it are often times trained to cope to be within it. They feel fear, of course they do, but they are prepared for it, it is acknowledged, it is defended against as much as the mind can be taught to defend against such things.

So when I read the BBC front page headline 'MP tells of escape from island', I can't read it. It's the stuff of my nightmares and I don't want to. I don't want to know and I'm sorry if that makes me somehow less of a person in your eyes, I'm sorry if this is some kind of perjury that we are expected to make in exchange for not being in his position but I can't.

I have finally found the thing I cannot be dispassionate about because it is written down. These were the things I didn't write after London, because I had no where to put them but I would have. I felt the same feelings of confusion and anger and despair. Now another country will go through the same process. 

I am sorry, so very very sorry. We are failing and we must do better.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Voyeurism, commentating & real time reporting

Voyeurism: An obsessive observation of sordid or sensational subjects

Oslo just exploded. Or, rather, a building within Oslo has just exploded. And as the national TV station opens its doors to the world and allows us all in, so does Twitter allow us into the hearts and minds of those directly affected by such events.

It's like watching real time moral erosion. Everyone scrambling to 'play their part'. Everyone scrambling to be the authoritative commentator/collator. And it's not just the news agencies, any more, because the news agencies can't react as quickly as citizen journalists on the ground and so suddenly, we have people reporting in real time with no training and almost, I believe, such an obsessive focus on documenting that any decision which once would have been made that something was somehow 'too much' to show on TV, is suspended.

Social media has almost made it impossible to pause for long enough to consider content, and instead has become entirely focused on 'absolutely everything and right now'.

Of course, that implies the fault lies with the citizen journalists. Which it does not, because, quite simply, no one would bother if no one was watching. And where once upon a time news was consumed locally and nationally and then internationally as Reuters did its job, now we have no filter, we have no unbiased news agency, the role of Reuters has almost become unnecessary. So essentially, the drivers for this constant feed of news, from social media and from 24 hour news channels, is us.

All of us.

We are the consumers. We are the voyeurs. The people who demand to know and right now and who cares if there are body parts and blood dripping and mothers utterly distraught. Who cares if there are pictures of dismemberment and destruction. It's not for the sake of worried families we are shown this, that we view this - words could assuage fears just as easily.


They are for us.

And can we please, please, please all have a bit of a think about that and decide whether we are entirely comfortable with that? Because I am not. And if I am alone in that, then fine, I concede and promise to keep quiet. If I am not, then can we self moderate just a little?


Sunday, 17 July 2011

The interwebz is about sharing

So, attached is an afternoons research on the line up of Camp Bestival. Every performer currently listed under the Performer line up on the official Camp Bestival website is on there. The comments and views are mine, but I figured the framework might be useful to someone else.

If nothing else, delete my comments, add yours, and make your own decisions about whether you want to see people or not. I hate reggae (sorry, there aren't many genres I can say that about) so anything that sits firmly there is off my list.

Camp Bestival 2011 Performers Cribs List

Monday, 4 July 2011

News of the world != news for the world

Going to be a difficult one, this. A long time ago, an old friend (working class) became most offended because she was accused by another friend (middle class) of reading utter trash. The trash in question was not a red top, which I am much afraid I do believe belongs in the trash bin, but the Daily Express.

Bet you didn't see that one coming.

It all depends on your perspective. She's bought the Express most of her life because it's what her parents bought and still do and she knows where to find the different sections, everything is where she expects it to be and apparently the Su Doku is rather good. Well, fine. As far as I am concerned, what you read is your own business, as long as no one dies. Pretty much my attitude to absolutely everything in life, really, which the obvious caveats (in other words don't be an idiot and deliberately take that out of context, or I shall be intensely cross with you).

Except now I find a problem with this attitude, and it is when I discover, thanks to another newspaper, that the News of the World has managed to descend to such appalling level that they have interfered with a criminal investigation.

There are, now, I would imagine, a large number of families in this country who have been deprived of loved ones in the last few years, sitting and wondering. Has it happened to us? Is there a Private Investigator out there somewhere who knows more about our son or daughters death than we do but who has never come forward with the information because to do so would mean a loss of repeat business and probably at the very least a warning which would show on a criminal record check.

All this aside, there is another issue. 

You see, as my rather middle class friend identified - your paper does define you rather a lot. Some are quite proud of this, most I'd say, others oblivious. But identify it does, our political leanings and our stance on such things as homosexuality, IVF for the over 40's, on art collections hidden away or revealed, whether the Marbles should go back, whether you know which Marbles I'm talking about etc.

So my problem is this. No one who reads the News of the World will ever know the behaviour of the management of the paper if it is left down to only newspapers to broadcast the extent of the issue. No paper is going to tell their readers they've behaved so atrociously. So unless this information somehow finds it way onto the 6 o clock or 10 o clock TV news, the only people who will ever know what a complete bunch of prats the NOTW lot are will be the people who intentionally do not and would not ever line the pockets of its owners.

And here lies the problem with the media. Its scrutiny process has a fundamental flaw. It monitors itself and in the process of doing so it does nothing but inform the people who already know that there is a problem, that there is definitely a confirmed problem.

So I come to my final question. The Press Complaints Commission is there to investigate complaints. But who is watching over the newspapers if no one knows there is a complaint there to be made in the first place? Who is watching the watchers?