Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Ever decreasing circles

I started this blog in a temper yesterday. My plan was to list several historical comments made about me on Twitter and on a  forum to show what I've been dealing with for the last year.

I explained it all to Phil when he got in from work and he listened to me, handed me a tissue, whilst I cried and blew my nose because of this stupid cold and he waited for me to finish raging about the unfairness of all the lies. Then when I explained to him exactly what I proposed to do he just said,
"What's the point?"

So i explained again and raged again and cried again and ended with "And they're lying, I've haven't done the things they're accusing me of"

"Yes" he said "That's what bullies do, but if you keep it reacting to it, that's what they'll keep doing and then it never ends"

The fact is that he's right. I can't stop what they're doing. I can just stop reacting to it.

Engaging with people who don't like me on Twitter, is just engaging with people who don't like me on Twitter.

Nothing that they're saying about me, is true. Its just their perception of events and if I put down my perception of events, in  screenshots of the comments they've made over the last year, I'm just continuing it.

The whole thing will spiral on until I call time.

So I am.

Twitter is such a powder keg at times and I'm so sorry that yesterday I struck a match, when I saw something infuriating.  After 5 years I'm still absolutely crap at doing "fakeface" Twitter. I tend to do  "exactly what I'm thinking which isn't always helpful-face" Twitter.

I started the fire yesterday when I should have just ignored it, smiled at it, known the truth and kept it to myself. I will in future because furthering this nonsense does no one, any good at all.

I'm sorry about yesterday. I won't be engaging with those people anymore. They have a point of view on me which comforts them and suits them well, so I won't attempt to rob them of that, anymore.

As they already know exactly what they've done, it's pointless telling them. I just hope they return to discussing comedians, not carers. It's stressful enough without that.

If they see this as a victory then fine. If they see this as me climbing down and accepting defeat then also fine. It's true, that's exactly what I'm doing but I hope they don't shout too loudly in delight, because bullying people into silence is quite a sad victory really.

It's not worth a minute more of my time. Ultimately the best description for a Twitter row, on crucial subjects like bullying is that it's just a matter of interpretation.

I'm fighting an orchestra of noise and need to stop. I was playing all the right notes but not necessarily in the right order.

Thursday, 17 January 2013


Photo credit:Andy Hollingsworth
Yesterday I  watched the entire new series of ‘Derek’ by Ricky Gervais from start to finish in anticipation of it’s launch on C4.

This is a suggestion.

Whether you’re a Ricky Gervais fan or hater, you should watch this show

If you watch expecting to dislike him and by extension ‘Derek’ then of course you will, but if you go in watching with an open mind, then I guarantee you will be embraced, by the characters, by the subject matter and by the sheer optimism of hope, in spite of circumstances.

There is and will always be a lingering doubt in the minds of some as to Gervais’s intentions in his portrayal of Derek.

Irrespective of how many times Gervais answers the disability question there will be a tiny but vocal minority who refuse to believe him when he says not.

I just see him as a naive, kind, gentle and vulnerable man, in a harsh, hostile and cynical world.  Ricky Gervais clearly loves Derek; there is no mocking of him, no derision, only truth.

This is a show about kindness, told with kindness for the most part.

The show examines Derek and his world but with a vicious bite in respect of those who Gervais believes, deserve it. Some of the relatives of the residents  do not fare well and for me it was hard to watch these scenes. Because even if you’re not a monster, when you place a loved one in a residential setting, you believe you are. So do many other people.

Intellectualising it doesn’t change your mind and time doesn’t dim the pain.

But I had to face the truth in the writing. 
The fact is there are many, many relatives who are exactly like the ones portrayed in the show and ultimately they also serve as a conduit for the view of many in the outside world, who pass by care homes everyday, on their way to getting on with their own lives.

Photo credit : Ray Burmiston
Derek is different to the majority of us, but I wish we were all more like him, because he’s unerringly compassionate and irrepressibly optimistic and there is never enough of that to be found especially now.

I’m sick to death of cynicism if the truth be told; It’s the age ‘for’ innocence now if ever there was one.

 It’s also time for writers to tell the truth of our lives, of all our lives and Gervais has chosen not to document his celebrity status but to shine the light on millions of those who have no status at all.

Having seen some harsh, cynical and untrue accounts of ‘Derek’ since it aired last year, I can only suppose Gervais didn’t read them or I suspect he wouldn’t have had the energy or will to write a full series.

I think many people will be so glad he did.

He’s spoken of his own enjoyment of the creative process for this series on his blog and how reminiscent it is of ‘The Office’ for him in terms of his enthusiasm as writer director and lead actor. 

There is a magic to it definitely.  Like, ‘The Office’ the key lies in the performances, which unfold naturally and gradually as they layer the stories of the lives lived, usually unobserved. As with ‘The Office’ these stories are wrought from a potentially stifling atmosphere, and laced with the humour that exists in the place where seemingly all hope is gone.

All the characters are so forgotten, so lost, that they have only each other to rely on and their community draws you in gently, and rewards you admirably.

Hannah, performed brilliantly by Kerry Godliman, is like so many care workers that I’ve met and loved in my 19 years as a carer. 
Hannah’s down to earth and full of compassion, quiet but with a sharp and dark sense of humour, crucial in a job, which can be as difficult emotionally as physically, whilst navigating the precarious balance between what those in power want and what her clients need. 

Photo credit :Ray Burmiston
Karl Pilkington talking in the C4 behind the scenes documentary is typically forthright about the upheaval to his day, by becoming involved in the show but touching when he talks about how angry one scene makes him even after the camera stops rolling.

He needn’t have any concerns. He is a gifted and affecting actor.

David Earl is David Earl and nobody can ‘play disgusting’ with so much pathos and skill. He is also not to be underestimated when it comes to drama. 

There is a scene to camera in the last episode which will shore up perceptions of Earl’s abilities as a dramatic actor.

In terms of a breakthrough performance Holli Dempsey stands out as Vicky. Her arrival at Broadhill,  details initially a weary, suspicious, cynicism of those working there and for the work she's expected to do; through to becoming an integral part of the home's family. 

Dempsey offers a subtle, nuanced portrayal, excelling both as a comedic and dramatic actor deftly engaging us through Vicky's experiences, her acceptance and appreciation of her character strengths, for the first time.

But it is Ricky Gervais as Derek who is the revelation here.

It could be argued that if you don’t like him, you will never like him, so don’t watch him, especially in this.

For anyone however who has an open mind and who liked the pilot, his performance in the series is stellar. He just becomes 'Derek".

There is nothing of the 'A list' star persona, as he disappears into this character, nothing of the stand up, the director, or the businessman.

There is nothing except quietness and a sweetness of delivery, so all encompassing that even when he wrestles people to the ground, because that is what he does, it’s utterly unthreatening and endearing.

It’s an incredibly moving, and centred performance. His ability to disappear in scenes, to be forgotten, as people who are vulnerable in real life, are so often forgotten whilst those around them direct their lives, demonstrates that his acting ability is the most under appreciated of his talents.

He’s simply extraordinary as Derek.

In any event with whatever agenda you take with you when you watch “Derek” you’ll find great performances, honest stories, believable characters and heartbreaking truth.

This as ever is the stock in trade of someone who after more than a decade at the height of his profession  has earned the right to be evaluated on his talent, not his Twitter feed.

A man who can, in turn be perceived as  hilarious, irritating, frustrating, self-deprecating provocative and verbose, repeatedly and determinedly, prefers to let his work speak on its own behalf and with Derek he's giving a voice to those who really need to be heard.

photo credit: @rickygervais

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

If you don't believe in censorship stop telling writers to shut up

Image- Oliver Standard visible Writer is owned by Virginia Hammer  licensed for reuse here

Privilege checking is big news.

As a concept it's absolutely sound. As an exercise in censorship it's spectacularly effective.

I don't like seeing people told to shut up. I accept that to some the notion of rudeness is an anathema, just another in a long line of "rules" to be jettisoned but when it comes to being up close and personally abusive, rudeness dressed up as fact will get you there fastest.

These are people who believe absolutely that their confidence and assurance of correctness precludes any need to humanise their target. They strike the pose and they verbally vogue themselves into a frenzy of accusation, which leaves no one in any doubt of their position. It's just not anything approaching truth.

They do it on Twitter and facebook, on forums, in stortify's and on and on it goes in a bitter and acrimonious war of attrition. Although they cry privilege checking as the root of their accusations of quasi-"oppression", they may as well just cut to the chase. The message is simple and easily decanted into two words. Shut up.

As the message permeates through cyberspace, collecting "opinions as facts" as it travels, it sucks all the oxygen out of crucial debates. Topics which need addressing like racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, abortion, disablism and feminism are rapidly traduced into a simple determining of who may or may not speak. Decided all too often by those who have seemingly supplanted rage for reason, gossip for evidence and lies for lives.

There has never been a greater need for collective voices than now. There has never been a more important time for respected writers, who already have a platform, to bring neglected issues to the fore, yet increasingly I'm seeing these writers, many of them women, being pointed at and accused by those benefiting from the trail blazed before them.

No one is asking for gratitude simple politeness would do, yet even this most basic courtesy is seemingly too much.

Cruelty levelled at anyone makes me cry, bullying breaks my heart, gossip makes me tired but demands for silencing of writers makes me really angry.

The perceived bank balance of our best writers is it seems another justification for silencing. This is a joke. The number of blogs which call for the silencing of writers then go on to mention how much money they have, immediately lose the argument through transparency. Whilst it is seemingly, clearly, underpinning most of the aggression, it's also boring.

It cheapens all debate into a yawning, whining, competition of "I don't have that, so why should they?"

It also carefully neglects the fact that many writers have put decades of their lives into their work. If they have now achieved recognition and financial reward for themselves they are also breaking through for those who follow in their wake.

Writers change lives, shape society, give voice to the voiceless and take us out of our own difficult lives and into a realm of imagination which has never been more vital. If this is being recouped financially good.

I usually earn nothing for the writing I do, so I feel able to exhibit my lack of privilege on this topic.

Call it privilege checking if it comforts you but remember to also check your online reflection. I've been on the receiving end of  a great deal of this crap and I can tell you the aggression I routinely encounter feels very Daily Mail reader to me.

It sticks in my throat as "fab" "new"concept because it feels in it's mass application like, censorship peddled as always by those who champion free speech over all. As long as it's their speech which is free and everyone else listens politely.

It's a new approach with new terminology but if Political Correctness was the mother of all silencing of compassion and empathy in the last decade then misappropriated privilege checking is it's angry, equally vocal new millennium offspring.