Saturday, 13 December 2014

In cyberspace everyone can hear you scream

photo credit

On 22nd December 2014 the final episode of “Derek” will be broadcast on C4. So far the show has received an Emmy Nomination and this week a Golden Globe nomination for Ricky Gervais’s performance.

There is what can best be described as a range of views applied to the show. In the UK Gervais is viewed a lot less kindly by the critics than he is in the US. In many respects this is cultural.

Here we praise the underdog, who fights and strives but remains “in his place”. Becoming successful in the UK means you no longer stay one of us and become one of them, and the density of criticism seems to exist in tandem with the credit noughts on your bank statement.

In the US success is everything, especially when the story concerns people who come from nothing and rise to the top.

Ricky Gervais is the epitome of the American Dream. Here he is a critic’s nightmare. He by-passed both critical regard and censure with The Office which he co wrote and directed with Stephen Merchant.

The show grew through word of mouth from quiet beginnings to cult status on BBC Two. It was replicated all over the world because it resonated with audiences in describing real life, in all its uncomfortable glory.
So much so that it became an instant classic.

photo credit

Now Gervais has risen to the point of success, which means his shows don’t rely on professional opinion. Which if you’re a professional TV critic, well used to framing viewing tastes, must be intensely annoying.

Also with so much of our media now dominated by tabloid gossip Ricky Gervais is a pointless pursuit. In the UK we lead the world in our prurient fascination with the personal habits of our celebrities. Their addictions, predilections, foibles, tastes and tantrums.

Ricky Gervais fails us here too, because he isn’t “battling” anything, and doesn’t really do much except work prolifically and post photo’s of his cat on Twitter.

As a wealthy man in his early fifties, Ricky Gervais bucks yet another trend of celebrity life. He has lived with and loved the same woman for over 30 years, the award winning producer and best selling writer, Jane Fallon.

Online the criticism of all celebrities can be found in plentiful supply. In discussion forums, blogs and Tweets, in online versions of newspapers in the comment sections of articles.
Having a polar opinion, whether informed or not, rules the day.

The film critic Mark Kermode discusses at length the phenomenon of the rise of online reviewers and the fact that a negative and waspish review is very much in vogue. Our collective Internet tastes it seems, run to the harshly cynical much more quickly than to the positive.

When it comes to Derek it was the fan base, which led the field in securing its success once again. The online ground was so febrile towards Gervais, the narrative so set, that when I posted my interview with him before the pilot launched, it was me who was picked apart and my motives questioned. Sections of it were lifted and quoted, uncredited in negative pieces.

This basic fail in journalistic courtesy occurred, I can only assume, because I liked the pilot.

“Derek” is a show like any show. Its polarising effect is brought and wrought by its creator. “He championed cynicism and now expects us to believe he cares? He mocks, and presents us with fake compassion?” is the refrain.

Well, yes because the theme of compassion has always imbued his writing for TV, and as a filmmaker.

The confusion I feel arises from the duality of his work on The 11 O’clock show and from the challenges of his stand up.

photo credit

In The 11 O’clock show, Gervais appearing under his own name played a bigoted man pricking holes in the PC tidal wave of the 90’s. This has informed our view and an interesting dichotomy for many people, in these highly literal days of ours.

Irony is seeing its own backlash now as we wrestle and struggle with the notion of whether irony is actually bigotry, dressed as irony promoting actual views.

In his stand-up Gervais again assumes a character, which assumes a position of ignorance, satirises perceived wisdom and deconstructs established truths.

If you remove any stand-up material from it’s context, one where a thought is taken for a walk with an audience comprised of those who know the terrain, then you rely upon examination through the prism of uniformed analysis.

Subsequently, the refrain of “He said what?” spreads exponentially in the nuance vacuum which is life online, where we render ourselves judge, jury and executioner. 

But why pick Derek? Why this story now? Is it to ameliorate his use of a word, online that he shouldn’t have done?

Well no. In fact Ricky Gervais promised C4 over a decade ago that should he decide to turn the character of Derek into a series, that he would broadcast it with them.

It’s “unlikely” that in making that promise, he had the ability to see into the future. Which is good really, as our present, is one that brings death threats to anyone typing 140 characters, which the mob deem to be offensive.

We can challenge and we should challenge. I did and still do.

However when we arrive as a slavering mob, we diminish valid discussion around language, to incoherent screams of rage.

Because in cyberspace everyone can hear you scream.

I feel the reason for Derek now, is one of reflective maturity from the writer. 

If you reach the peak of your career and choose to look only to repeating your success then isn't this playing to the formulaic blueprint, which bastardises art, completely?
This notion of repetition ad nauseam, is a financial pursuit not an artistic one. 

There is a risk even for a writer who knows a commission is more than likely.

To me the choice to keep taking risks creatively is to be applauded, especially when the story concerns a family of people who society with its “flesh and perfection” obsession would rather forget. The risk in ditching irony and cynicism especially when it has repaid you well is also something quite extraordinary.

photo credit

Derek has meant a great deal to a great many people.

People who are ‘othered’, who have been rejected, who have been hated and who are ignored.

The show resonates with paid carers, who many people either look down on, or believe to be an abuser.
It resonates with family carers, who fight every day for their elderly relatives, or their vulnerable children, or in my case both.

Diagnosed or undiagnosed, disabled or different, Derek with his inherent vulnerability, speaks eloquently about our lives. This opinion is as valid as any number of TV critics, because we have lived experience.

We recognise our truth in Derek by a writer who knows that if he phones, all broadcasters will take his call.

In reviews, in blogs and on line we can speak truth to power now but when power speaks the truth about us, the forgotten, neglected and abused us, I’m very happy to listen without prejudice.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Asperger's and me.


I wrote this blog in December 2014. 

On the 27th October 2015 I received my official medical diagnosis of Autism. 

*The term Asperger's Syndrome is no longer applied (As per the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)

Today’s post is very personal and I’ve gone back and forth about writing it but feel it may prove useful so I’m embarking on trying to explain it here.

I learnt recently, that I probably have *Asperger’s syndrome.

This apparently is something that comes as no surprise to my family and something which really makes no difference, except in helping me to understand things about myself, that have always been confusing.

This isn’t a self-diagnosis, this is a provisional diagnosis in lieu of a medical diagnosis, from a highly qualified NHS mental health professional, who has known me for a long time and who is counselling me through a difficult time. 

It has only become necessary for her to give this a name now,because I’m struggling so hard to deal with something very difficult. 

That is the essence and relevance and importance of any diagnosis. It is there to help.

I’ve suspected it for a while. A couple of years ago I took the University of Cambridge online Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ) questionnaire.

It’s a well-respected indicator test and as a high proportion of my immediate family are on the autistic spectrum, I thought it would be interesting for me to take it.

I scored 97%.

I’m not given to self-diagnosis, and although the online test was useful for me, I haven’t sought a formal diagnosis previously. As a carer it fell to the bottom of the long list of other things I needed to do.

This diagnosis was brought to me in the course of discussing something else entirely. I think it was the very best way for it to have happened.

Whether you follow me on Twitter, have read any of my pieces about disability or heard or seen the interviews I’ve done about my campaigning; you’ll know me to believe wholeheartedly in the value of diagnosis.

My experiences with my two children, who are both on the autistic spectrum, have taught me that diagnosis, whenever it arrives is an individual issue, and one which affects the person and their friends and family in different ways.

Some find the notion of difference too challenging to bear, some believe disability must present along with a tangible indicator such as a wheelchair or a cane in order to be credible.

Some further believe that there is a pandemic of over diagnosis globally, which is anathema to them ; “a drain on crucial resources” and evidence of “a nanny state gone mad”.

These people are what I like to call lucky.

I can highlight here the difficulties I’ve faced at length.

Primarily, but not exclusively, my ongoing struggles with high levels of anxiety, sensory defensiveness, and fixations to the exclusion of everything else.

All of my life, I’ve found human relationships to be the most wonderful, terrifying and mysteriously complex things that I’ve encountered. It can be argued that everyone does. My problem is that I find it more difficult than most.

Put simply the more you can do, the more the world expects from you.

I’m truly fortunate to have been born to a mother who was all patience, kindness and truth.

Her wisdom and unravelling of the complexities of human relationships, minimising of my fears and straight forward non judgemental explanations of life went a long way to giving me the tools I needed to face lots of challenges.

I’m fairly gullible and easily hurt and fixate on fairness and slights. I’m also capable of verbal pugilism, insensitivity and forensic deconstruction of others motives and attitudes which is exhausting to be in receipt of. I’m also quite adept at protecting myself, by presenting a much colder front than I feel.

My mum gave me the greatest gift though because she taught me to be empathic. To see others needs as equal to our own and to understand that everyone is struggling equally with the human condition.

So when I see bullying for example or cruelty, or cynicism on line or in life. I find it hurtful and can reduce me to tears mainly because I know harsh assessments of others, are a choice.

Empathy is a skill you can learn if you keep at it.

Sometimes I fail but we all do.

When you have a truth about a condition relating to yourself proffered and then confirmed by those you trust and love the most, it prompts a great deal of introspection and reflection, over your life lived thus far and your choices.

Any immediate liberation from pain of unfairness targeting me, I’ve ruthlessly tempered with recognition of when I‘ve been fixated and detail obsessed to the exclusion of others feelings.

That’s an empathy fail on my part.  There is a great deal of checks and balances occurring in my mind currently.

I feel my detail obsession has made me a good campaigner and I revel in the minutiae of detail in terms of the human condition, which led me to want to be a performer. Drama school was a delight because I was able to immerse myself in the lives of others and utilise the tools I’d honed over the 19 years I’d been a confused human, learning and mostly failing, to fit in, until that point.

It’s a myth to assume those with ASD are incapable of creativity.  From the famous artists, writers, performers and filmmakers through history- to those we know and love personally at art school, drama school and beyond.
Creativity and ASD are entwined permanently.

I’m very lucky to have great friends and beyond lucky to have a beautiful family. I can’t begin to explain my feelings for my husband, except to say that I love him very much.

“But why” is a question I’ve asked of people I trust all my life and been so fortunate to have encountered, mostly patient explanations.

To explain myself in more detailed aspects would be too painful at this point.
The internet hasn’t proved to be a kind friend to me always and I have been somewhat adversarial in my approach too.

I must admit to feeling trepidation in terms of how this blog will be received. However it may also serve to help someone in a similar situation to my own, so for that reason I offer it now.

In either respect I feel it prudent to limit myself to highlighting just one aspect of the traits I have, in order to inform this blog.

It stems, as ever, from my usual approach to ASD, which is to offer a view of a widely misunderstood condition, particularly under recognised in women and girls.

It’s also, as always cathartic.  I’m sending love to anyone who is experiencing diagnosis, to their family, their carers and their friends. 

My hope is that people are able to listen without prejudice when someone offers news such as mine.

There is no shame either in diagnosis or disclosure.

All that anyone really needs to live a full and happy life, is supportive friendship and love. 

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

You are what you tweet.

This week (and it’s only Tuesday) has been another round of “the hunger games of opinion” on Twitter.

A hashtag which Labour supporters decided was necessary, to bring down a PM, maybe now or maybe later, was deemed the most important thing that needed to happen.

It was possibly in order to deflect the flack inherent in the whole Emily Thornberry thing, who knows but it was organised, and orchestrated.

People like me have been wanging on about it, either as to it’s efficacy or it’s pointlessness ever since.

I was opposed to it.

Bullying mobs are to my mind the down and dirty, dark side of Twitter.

Whether peopled by individuals committing criminal acts of threats of violence, or organised groups directed to target “undesirables” by a leader, (as is what happened to me last year, and the year before and the year before that and etc.....) these are the methods, tools and weapons designed to frightened people into silence.

Either way it’s de facto bulling because it’s a group attacking an individual.

Jack Monroe fell foul of a mob.

In participating in the mobbing of the PM’s timeline, which I’m sure is run by David Cameron’s interns and not the man himself, she chose to reference his dead, disabled, 6 year old son.

Sarah Vine then fell foul of the mob by choosing to tackle Jack Monroe through her column at The Daily Mail.

She chose to reference Monroe’s circumstances and sexuality.

Both women felt justified, because they were enraged.  Both women were then subject to intense verbal attacks in the form of tweets. The mobs came for them and both mobs felt equally justified too.

I’m not expressing an opinion as to whether either of them was justified, that isn’t the point I’m making.

My point is this, being bullied by mobs has no justification at all.

There is a worrying and common theme emerging across social media and one, which isn’t addressed nearly enough.

The notion is foul but popular and now being adopted by political parties and their acolytes.

The acceptable rule now is that disagreement, with any point of view means that intense, en masse verbal attacks are appropriate.

The same people who no doubt participated in last weeks anti-bullying activities, are more than prepared to utilise the tactics and behaviours of bullies who target and often destroy, the peace of mind of any individual whom they decide is undesirable.

Simply having a different viewpoint on social media these days seems to be enough.

There is no middle ground, no nuance, and no “two sides”.  It’s agreement with the committee, or the committee silences you through sheer numbers of abusive tweets.

Jack Monroe is a person, so is Sarah Vine. Political affiliations don’t owe either woman the “reason to be attacked”, or “the right not to be attacked”.

No one deserves to be bullied, discredited, have their reputation trashed or silenced. Just because a few people believe so and a few thousand more are happy to do their bidding.

My tweet making this point and clearly taking neither side, meant that I was subject to multiple tweets from those determined to berate me for it.

That’s where we are now online, and for our own sake we need to realise that it’s wrong.

Weak people don’t get bullied, weak people are the friends of bullies.

If you want to address the reason why people feel justified in sending death and rape threats online, maybe it’s time to ask yourself if the bullying culture you find so abhorrent is one which actually, you have helped to create.

This needs to change.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Give the pledge

As we slide inexorably towards a general election, there is a lot of talk about our processes and systems, representation and choice.

What we will also see in abundance is the ubiquitous PR enhancing photo-op and no one is more in demand for a political photo-op, than people with a disability.

It yells compassion, understanding, inclusion and democracy at it’s finest, yet where are disabled people when it comes to policy? Well HG Wells said it best. He was writing not about our heart of democracy and those who purport to do it’s bidding.
He was talking about Martians who swooped and then fed on us unsuspecting humans, but it will fit here “ slowly and surely they drew their plans against us”

You only have to pick up a tabloid these days, or any or the previous hundreds of days since the welfare reform bill was mooted then framed, proposed and legislated (resulting in disabled people getting booted) to know that disabled people and carers are the scapegoats de jour.

Welfare reform sounds so sensible, so necessary and so plausible, yet a quick scan of any number of disability rights campaigning blogs or numerous pieces in Society Guardian and others, will tell you the real, staggering and “inconvenient” truth.

Disabled people and carers are being stripped of crucial benefits. Many are committing suicide, more die as they wait for their assessments telling them that they are fit and able to return to work. 

Many more are left in abject poverty as they fail the tests for the benefits which their conditions (and a decent society) make theirs by right and makes our collective responsibility. 

These benefits are often in work benefits, enabling disabled people to do just what we all want to do- work and live.

Not even Margaret Thatcher in her tub-thumping, union clumping and fat cat plumping zenith, would have dreamed of this.

So there we have it, canon fodder for these days of austerity presents itself as the most vulnerable people in society. As determined by those paid to protect their rights..

I have a proposal for any disabled people and carers out there who see the cracks in the ground appear and find a shiny faced and slavering, earnestly emoting candidate, darkening their door.

Tell them this, either you won’t oblige or if you feel less hard hearted tell them you might, if they first autograph a small pledge which you feel may be important to your future and the futures of approximately 11,000,000 of your fellow citizens:

“I the undersigned pledge to endeavour not just to forget disabled people and carers once the election is over but instead, agree to add my name to a list of MPs who are in agreement that no policy which directly affects disabled people and carers should henceforth be drawn up, without disabled people and carers being involved.

I call for a committee of independent disability rights campaigners and groups (with no financial input from government) to be a working group who will oversee all policy decisions directly addressing disabled people and carers, in the future.

I also agree to be held accountable if the aforementioned group is not assembled within 3 months of my election.

Because I actually do care and this is just the sort of thing that made me want to be an MP in the first place”

So there it is a small pledge in exchange for free PR seems like a good bargain to me.

If they have forgotten or intend to forget, then I feel there is no harm in reminding all candidates that really they work for us, all of us, every single day. Nor does it  hurt to remind them all that their minds, so full of ameliorating promises, are not immeasurably superior to anyone.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Will you

Will you know the truth of being held by one who loves you
Do you know the beauty that you have,
Can you see the joy you bring to us, who truly know you
Have you all you need to make you free.

If you feel in pain do others see and understand you,
Do you feel a trust for those who do,
When I let you down do you know first that I am sorry,
Can you feel your strength that we all see.

Do you know your laughter bathes my heart in complex healing,
Can you feel release from all regret,
When your eyes find mine, do they bring comfort from confusion,
Does my promise live in constancy.

Did I do enough to give all that you have needed,
When you turn away do you still see,
Will the world evolve to see you only as I see you,
Can the fight be won eventually

When I take your hand and say the name that we both gave you,
Do you feel the truth that we believe,
If you ever need to know what love is, know this always,
Love is you, and you are all to me.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

What's next.

The song above is one of Emily's favourites. It details sadness but also optimism and it's been on my mind for several weeks now. Mostly it makes me think of the day Emily left and how that time, one of the most difficult and painful we ever lived through, has turned around now so positively and in ways I couldn't possibly have envisaged. She's thriving, she's achieving and she's embracing her life so completely that I smile every time I think about it.

It gives me hope that singing a new song can be positive.

Both of my children have enormous courage a trait that they inherited directly from my Mum along with her stoicism.

This month I’m going to be 48. It’s not an age traditionally deemed to be a landmark birthday like others I could name, but won’t because they are so far away it makes me depressed, but for me this birthday carries it’s own significance because of the age my mum was when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

She was 68, twenty years older than I am about to be and it makes you think. Well it’s made me think anyway.

The last twenty years of my life I’ve spent I hope, both well and productively. 

Not in terms of building a CV and a glittering career, no 'I’ll give you that son', but in caring for and loving the people who through no fault of their own needed caring for and who it was an absolute delight to love.

It hasn’t always been easy and it hasn’t always been difficult. It’s just been my life and the planet is mostly populated by people like me who are neither remarkable nor high achievers, just people pottering around occasionally bumping into challenges and getting on with them.

Anyway….My point is what to do with the next two decades.

My girls are now getting on with their lives and this is so delightful to me in a way that all parents will recognise but only parents of children with disabilities will understand.

In 2012 I was lucky enough to interview Warwick Davis and Baroness Tanni Grey Thompson for the Guardian and they both had the same gift in life. Brilliant parents, who raised their children to know, not just to believe, that their lives were theirs for the taking.

This is an ideal for all parents of disabled children to aspire to.  I’m not suggesting that all disabled people can be a gold medal winning paralympian, or a famous actor,  a notion which is deluded at best and frankly dangerous at worst; as it offers a notion of equality of ability which we know isn’t always the case.

I’m just saying that letting your disabled children go, after you’ve equipped them with a belief in themselves as individuals is crucial, irrespective of ability. We all need to nurture and promote our children’s self-esteem.

For me the fear of Alzheimer’s is one which walks beside me but one which I can’t look in the face all of the time.

There’s just no point. This, as yet, incurable and devastating disease will make its arrival known, if it chooses, or it may pass me by entirely; either way it’s not my decision.

It would be a kind world indeed if worrying about potential events stopped them in their tracks.

As I move into the next two decades, if of course I’m lucky enough to realise them, I’m going to try and do so with hope and with optimism, because I choose to. 

Cynicism is an easy blanket to cover ourselves with and we do live in cynical days.  I’m not exactly sure why, but possibly because we have in the main achieved and evolved so much with the staples of life so readily at our disposal that we have the time to question everything and to be guarded about being fooled.

This is healthy in respect of those who govern and inform us, but it can seep through into our dealings with one another and this lack of compassion and empathy, this fear of kindness and this austerity fuelled disinterest in vulnerability, is not healthy at all; to us as a collective, or to us as individuals.

I still hope and I still dream and I’ll still fume and I’ll still believe. I may be an old bird who is about to become older,  but I think I’ve been lucky because my life has been shaped by love.

Not a CV plus in terms of career I grant you but I don’t have a single regret and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

To be or not to be....

To be, or not to be, that is the question—

Whether 'tis Nobler in the mind to suffer

The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Tabloids,

Or to take Arms against a Sea of Wrinkles,

And by using Botox end them?
To die, to sleep—

No more; and by a sleep, to say we end

The back-ache, and the thousand
Natural shocks

That Flesh is heir to? '
Tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wished.
To die, to sleep,

To sleep, perchance with night cream;
Aye, there's the rub,

For in that sleep of death, what snores may come,

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,

Must give us pre-nuptual clause.
There's the Respect
That makes Calamity of so long life:

For who would bear the UKIP and yawns of time,

The Oppressor's wrong, the proud man's
Great British Bake Off,

The pangs of despised Gove,
the Law’s delay,

The excellence of The Office, and Cardinal Burns

That patient ferret of the unworthy takes,

When he himself might his home brew make

With a bare Bodkin?
Who would these Farage fans bear,

To grunt and sweat under a weary life,

But that the dread of something after death,

The undiscovered suitcase carousel, from where Jason Bourne,

No Traveler, returns,
Puzzles the uncontested Bear Grylls,

And makes us rather bear,
Those ills we have,

Than fly to others that we know not of?

Thus Conscience does make Noel Cowards of us all,

And thus the Native hue of Resolution

Is googled o'er,
with the pale cast of Thought for the day,

And enterprises of comment is free pitch
and moment,

With this regard their Comments turn awry,

And shout the name of fracking.
Soft you now,
The fair Ophelia.
Nymph, in all thy lads mags,

Be thou all my sins remembered.[4]

Saturday, 3 May 2014


Feminism online is a pretty interesting thing. At its best it champions female oppression such as FGM, forced marriage and the subjugation, torture and murder of women with learning disabilities.

But unfortunately there also seems to be what I call feminisn’t on line.

Feminisn’t is the public ridiculing of women, groups of women, career choices of women or women who don’t meet the “standard”.

Blogs or actions or life choices or words of women, deemed to be not feminist, not feminist enough or  self-loathing women are RT’d, dissected and mocked.

This has happened to me 3 times online now and I’m not going to detail the women who have done it. Online rows are a waste of time.
The original point is always lost in the follower wars and nobody “wins”.

Crucially the unedifying spectacle is of no value to anyone except those who enjoy watching people tear lumps out of one another.

In the online rows I’ve had with women I’ve stuck to the point and then moved on. Not immediately sometimes, very stupidly, I’ve been sucked into the vortex of perma-pointlessness detailed above and branded in the same category as those who make rape threats.

It’s not the same but no matter, I strongly advise against this.

I’m definitely my own worst enemy because I challenge what I feel is wrong and I make jokes.

I’ve been rude about other women in jokes. I’m not pretending I haven’t, and I’m not defending it. Just stating it as a fact.

I need to make the enemy of my enemy, (who is apparently me) my friend.

Maybe one day but I’m 47 now so it looks unlikely.

I haven’t spent the last two decades in academia. If I had I might know and understand the big words about feminism. I haven’t so I don’t.

To me it means equality. I don’t see a great deal of that in feminisn’t.

Do please pick this apart and laugh loudly. As well as being a carer I’ve also been a hairdresser. My children had autism and were afraid of having their haircut. My mum had Alzheimers and once immobile became very distressed using a wheelchair.
So I trained. All the women I've worked with are hard working and funny. They don't earn enough and they take shit from some very rude clients who are mostly women. Other clients are lovely.

There seems to be a pattern emerging.

But again online I’ve noticed that’s usually a rich vein to be mined. 
Laugh all you want just make sure you tip.
We don’t ask you where 'you’re going on holiday' because we care.

I was an online campaigner and writer on disability rights until the rows I’ve spoken of, meant that it was too hard to be commissioned. So I stopped doing that. 

Suffrage for the 21st centuary seems to be less self-damaging to activists, via activism like hunger striking and more outward in the form of attacks on women by women.

The pen is mightier than the sword and the keyboard it seems is like napalm, because it travels and sticks and burns and scars and no one really recovers. It’s decimating of women’s reputations, "by stranger"; who think they can discern an entire character in 140 characters. 
But don't listen to me.

I'm just "that #criplist woman who hates disabled people" I was "jealous of Caroline Criado Perez" and I was described as "a cunt". All comments by women and self identified online feminists.

I didn't blog about #criplist because I'll never denigrate disabled people even by defending myself. There is too much of that. I let it go and this left the field wide open to theory.

Caroline Criado Perez and I may not agree on one very specific thing and I was furious with her, but she remains a stoic fighter and has my respect.

I was called a cunt because I disputed an attack on Laurie Penny for "not being feminist enough". This is nonsense. As I'm a housewife I was deemed to be a legitimate target by those who disagree.

This seems to be a theme.

I've seen famous women writers, journalists, musicians and broadcasters trashed by committee. 

In a single day online or a single evening a poorly crafted response or a ill thought through argument or a misunderstood joke is screen grabbed and storified and compiled as 'evidence'. 

Then the many against the few pass it around and the original intent is lost permanently as the transgression grows, with added nonsense, like a snowball rolling down a mountainside.

Yeah that’s equality.

I know nothing of the history or the academic theories of feminism.

Mainly I just believe in equality and I’m not seeing much of that online because it’s been replaced with mob rule.

The patriarchy must be laughing its arse off.

So maybe stop or not whatever, it’s up to you but perhaps consider how feminisn’t online would tackle history.because the sisterhood has never looked more twisted to me. 

I feel that if applied to history some of the tweets I see would look like this

“Emily Davison such an attention seeker, stepping in front of that horse was a typical aggressive media career step.” #mediawhore

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

In the garden

Recently I've been having a "bit of trouble" as Frank Spencer used to say.

The trouble itself isn't the subject of this blog, it's the catalyst. I'm hoping that by writing it down the ameliorating warmth of catharsis will kick in and I'll feel a bit brighter.

There's only one person I want to see at times like these and that is impossible. Death has that way of rendering infinite unavailability to those we love.

Even now, three years after I said goodbye for the last time, she's still the person I think of first in good and bad times.

I was walking and crying on Sunday and more than anything I wanted to be sitting in her company.
In the garden of the little house that she'd been able to buy for us after her divorce.

It was just a rotovated plot then, which she planted with new plants and with a small number of cuttings that she tended carefully from the garden of our old house.

These plants were a connection she had to my brother who had tried to take over the tasks left by our father when he'd left.

Michael's heart condition was gathering pace by then.

It was taking his breath, which should have been being used casually, to chat up girls, but instead was being fought for furiously and secretly just to keep going. His failing heart was weakening by the day but as it was made of integrity he kept going. No one knew for a while, how ill he was.

So these cuttings were more than precious.

I understand gardens as memorials.

They capture both the stillness of loss and the renewal of life through the plants and the seasons which dictate them. Domestic gardens are full of the effort and interest of their owners and it's almost as though they absorb and reflect those attributes with serenity. It's a reciprocal arrangement and research shows the beneficial effects of gardening on mental health.

So that's where I'd like to be.

Yet the sight of a tearful stranger; a woman who you don't recognise, turning up on your doorstep and asking to let her sit in your garden can be overwhelming, so I didn't think I'd try that.

I just walked on.

I suppose it doesn't really matter where I am. The memories of mum still live in my mind that's  the sanctuary I crave really because love isn't a space, a place, a building, or a grave.

Those are just the structures which take you to memory.

As long as I have those she'll be beside me.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Derek 2

photo  @rickygervais

As I’m reviewing a new show by Ricky Gervais permit me to get the following paragraphs out of the way, then those who seek negative appraisals may be satiated and move on and those who don’t will understand the peril inherent in a review of his work that is positive.

“Ricky Gervais the aggressively atheist, controversial, shock comic, who attacks at will, leaves no hateful stone unturned, no minority group in peace and no celebrity un-shamed has done it again. But this time he’s come for “the disableds”. We know he's answered that question here but we're determined.


“This man is no ordinary man, he gave us The Office then sought to destroy our confidence and his reputation by not giving us The Office again. If he had continued to give us The Office again for the subsequent decade of his career we would have complained bitterly that he was unable to be original but he didn’t so we can’t.”


“Let us closely examine his mind because we want to and his choices because we must and let us find both the man and anyone who enjoys his work pathologically lacking in compassion, emotional intelligence and discernment.
Whilst there is a Ricky Gervais we can’t be Ricky Gervais and the level within entertainment to which he has risen, serves as a reminder of our own position and life choices; we’re not happy with that fact at all.
Publicly sharing our negative opinions is an activity that keeps us bathed in a warm glow of comfort. LoL”

Hope that helps.

Derek 2 begins as series 1 ended, with the focus on the relationships of the residents and workers at Broadhill Retirement Home.

Derek’s father, Anthony, underplayed very nicely by Tony Rohr, has moved in and the addition of the  excellent Colin Hoult, as a truculent new care worker, prompts one character to move on.

I can’t give plot spoilers by revealing who it is because this is the internet and I’d have to leave, but it’s not Tim or Dawn, they’re in a show called The Office.

Young care worker Vicky, is fulltime now and her character, once again beautifully realised by Hollie Dempsey, has the naturalness and lightness in performance which is the hallmark of all Gervais’s projects in terms of casting. We see that worse people than Kev do exist in the brief but highly memorable appearance of the shapeless, shambling form of his brother Cliff.

There is more light shone on Hannah’s relationship with Tom and Kerry Godliman is excellent again. Brett Goldstein comfortably demonstrates his ability as a comic and serious actor, as the couple traverse a fraught path emotionally. 

photo @rickygervais

Due to more transitions, the burgeoning bromance, between Derek and Kev, gives some wonderful moments of physical comedy. There is more range and scope for this to be explored in Series 2. We know them and trust them now.

David Earl reinforces the view that no one "plays disgusting" quite like him and continues to move skillfully between comedy and pathos without diminishing our engagement with his performance in either respect. 

The central themes established in Series 1 remain intact and elaborated on in Derek 2.

This is a show of self contained fables, of modern naturalistic fairytales weaved into every episode.  The women are lionesses kind, caring and fearlessly protective and this is a notable and familiar facet of Gervais’s writing.

All his women characters are stand-alone characters, human, truthful and real who never serve simply as a conduit to the storyline of the male leads.

Gervais as ever disappears into the character of Derek and again it’s an extraordinary, lovely performance.

A man regarded as acerbic, cynical and knowing; an A lister who is friends with most household names and possessed of more swagger than a Gallagher brother on Red Bull, disappears so completely into character, not caricature, in a gentle way which details the love he has for Derek.

Most importantly Gervais has a definite appreciation of the value in crafting stories from the truth and a very welcome and sadly uncommon, understanding of the value of vulnerable people’s lives.

I watched the whole series from start to finish in a single night. 

I love this time between watching it and others watching it, because as much as I know it will be loved and hugely enjoyed, I also know that some, whose job it is to give their opinions for money, will rip and tear at the show in the way they always do.

But I feel a great sadness too.  There is almost an OCD-esque need from some to denigrate anything he does which some critics who formed an entrenched opinion about Ricky Gervais’s work a decade ago, would do well to move on from. 

It imbues their writing and is nakedly dull.

Derek is a show, which requires you to suspend cynicism in order to enjoy it.
It doesn’t insult your sensibilities, it unashamedly invites you to view genuine compassion and lasting love as greater achievements than material wealth and knowing sophistication.

It is, I feel a tribute to Gervais and by Gervais to those who he cares for.  To his parents, his brothers and sisters, to his family who’ve worked in the care service for years and to bestselling novelist Jane Fallon, his partner of more than thirty years and the perfect muse for his depiction of Hannah, in my opinion. 

photo @rickygervais

In essence the show is funny and kind and intelligent and warm hearted, the characters unaffected by the cynical world outside, open to challenge, clear about what’s important and asking for nothing more than an open mind. 

Just like Ricky Gervais.

Derek returns to C4 on 10pm on  23rd April and to Netflix on 30th May