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Paparazzi

Less than two weeks ago a woman was feeling so desperate with the situation in which she found herself that she took an item, tied it around her neck and suspended herself so that she was hanged from her neck until she was dead.  She was discovered by her sister.  She was just forty years old.  And unless you have been on a news blackout because you simply cannot stand it anymore, you will know her name.

I have not followed the life and career of Caroline Flack – I think I first learned who she was when she quick-stepped across the floor on ‘Strictly’.  However, I do know that she hosted a programme called ‘Love Island’. Apparently “a group of men and women participate in a series of tasks with a partner until they meet the love of their life” (not my words – on IMDb).  It is reported that ITV made £77 million from advertising revenue alone from the 2019 series.  This is the programme that shot Miss Flack to fame. 

I understand that in the months and weeks leading up to her death, like many other successful women before her, Miss Flack had been much pilloried on social media and by the msm, particularly with regard to a matter that was being dealt with by the criminal justice system.  When news of her suicide broke, there was and continues to be an outpouring of grief – from those who knew and loved her, from fans and from those who one might suggest, wrote the stories that contributed to her state of mind that led her to end her life. A petition has been doing the rounds to propose ‘Caroline’s Law’ – ‘a law that would make it a criminal offence for the British Media to knowingly and relentlessly bully a person….up to the point that they take their own life.’

Laws are a good barometer of what is acceptable in a country and anyone in their right mind would support a law that might rein in the bile that is spouted by the msm if it has some proper teeth.  I am hopeful that this proposal is a turn in the tide for how we all treat eachother. However, we have a government that last week appointed an adviser who supported ‘universal contraception’ to prevent a ‘permanent underclass’.  Girls, I don’t think he was referring to contraception for men.  And I strongly suspect that the ‘permanent underclass’ is all of us.  So forgive me, but I venture to suggest that this is not going to be a legislative priority for this government.  A government elected less than six months ago with a large majority. 

Also, we must all remember that in Caroline’s case, much as we would wish to, we can’t save her now.  Nor any of the people who have gone before her; they’re dead and no amount of hand-wringing can change that.  They sat, alone, distressed and considered that their only option, out of all of the options that they had no doubt tried or considered, was to die. Whilst the law can send a very clear message about how our society views the factors that can contribute to someone’s mental state and apply a sanction, it cannot ultimately stop someone taking their own life. And that’s what I believe we all would like to help to stop.

Celebrity culture seems to be a big problem in all of this.  And by that I mean a group of people who want to be famous for its own sake and that being promoted as something to aspire to.  Not for having an actual job that contributes to society – a carer, or a teacher, a secretary – but being part of a modern day freak show which also involves being quite unpleasant to eachother because of “telling it how it is”. In reality it is only slightly more sophisticated than the Victorians pointing and laughing at what we now know to be very ill people in lunatic asylums.  Taking ‘Love Island’ as an example; from the photographs of the programme, it would seem that people have to be in their twenties and have perfect bodies and perfect faces to be on the programme.  That’s a lot of pressure isn’t it?  You haven’t even been on camera and you’re probably already preparing yourself for the social media onslaught because the distinction between giving an opinion respectfully on a point of legitimate discussion and being personal has been lost.

With all of the focus on the swimwear and yachts, it also permits a mentality to permeate which forgets that each of these people, are actually people.  With thoughts and feelings.  A gameshow, part of a bizarre culture designed to fuck about with people’s heads and hearts in order to win.  Winning being the ‘perfect relationship’ and the yacht to Instagram and interviews to sell for the consumption of complete strangers.  Infinite wealth and resources on a finite planet.  I bet the psychiatrists, psycholgists and environmentalists could have a field day.

Thankfully I have a plan for something we can all do whether the law changes or not.  Whether we have washboard abs or not.  A yacht or not.  Or simply don’t have a lot of time because we have a proper job to get to.  My plan is a cunning one.  One so cunning that we could stick two ears and a fluffy tail on it and call it a fox.  And we know it works.  How do we know it works?  Because of the City of Liverpool.  Many of us will remember the indescribable horror that was the Hillsborough Disaster.  Taking the Wikipedia page this time, Hillsborough was: “…a fatal human crush during an association football match at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, England on 15 April 1989.”  Ninety six people died that day.  The Sun ran a story headlined ‘The Truth’ with three subheadings about the Liverpool fans: ‘Some fans picked pockets of victims’, ‘Some fans urinated on brave cops’ and ‘Some fans beat up PCs giving the kiss of life.’  I hope it doesn’t really need stating, but it was complete and utter bollocks.  Four years later, Kelvin MacKenzie, who took that decision to publish said “I regret Hillsborough…It was a fundamental mistake.” To this day, no one buys The Sun in Liverpool.  And so to this day, thirty years on, it is not sold there.

So there it is fellow permanent underclasses.  Vote with your feet.  Cut off the revenue stream. Stop buying it, stop reading it, stop watching it, stop clicking on it and for the love of God, stop sharing it.  Stop.  All of us.  Right now.  Cut off the oxygen supply.   There is a time and a place for cold, hard honesty and debate – why people use food banks, the chronic underfunding of the NHS and why Cadbury’s Crème Eggs seem to shrink every single year – but someone’s struggle with their weight or relationship is not.  So at this very moment, we should all agree that in addition to not participating in other people’s pointless prattle, that if we cannot say anything nice to someone’s face, then we either whinge about them privately to one other trusted person in our own front room or we keep our mouths firmly shut. 

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White Out

It has been the most exciting week so far.  I am frantically washing and packing for the most middle class of holidays, a ski holiday.  Before you all reach for the smallest violins in the world to play at me for bemoaning having to pack for a holiday – it’s not for me.  It’s not my Winter break. I won’t be testing the fondue and quaffing a cocktail.  It’s for the Eldest Childerbeast.  On Saturday he is embarking on his first ski trip and his first holiday with secondary school.  This has raised a number of issues for me.

First, none of us have ever been skiing.  Partly because Middle Childerbeast is not a fan of moving about at all. Partly because Youngest Childerbeast is a fan of moving about too much and often in different directions at the same time. Mainly because we have a big enough mortgage as it is and if this is the cost of a holiday for one, then one for five is going to be eye-watering. In spite of never having skied before and following a rousing speech from his Headteacher, the Eldest Childerbeast came home from school and announced that he would like to go out on the piste. After a sharp intake of breath at the cost, Man of the House and I agreed.

Secondly – my child?  Abroad?  Brexit? Skiing?  What could possibly go wrong?

Finally, I was rather worried about the mental health of the teachers at his school.  The health and workload of teachers is an increasing concern with school budgets being what they are – you’d have to be a lifelong Tory to have not drawn the correlation between the cause and effect.  However, when I heard that eighty children are going, on a twenty seven hour coach trip, each way, to Italy, to spend a week crashing into eachother and (I think that this is what we call ‘the clincher’) some of the teachers go every single year, I was deeply concerned. Being a teacher is one thing, but giving up a week off to spend more time with a load of sweaty, mouthy adolescents that are not even your own children is quite another.

Due to his novice ski status, about six weeks ago I took Eldest Childerbeast for a Sunday afternoon of skiing at The Snow Dome. It was highly entertaining to watch a group of people slip, slide and clutch the arm of the person next to them to avoid falling over when I was not one of them myself. I met a large number of parents from all over the country who appear to have had almost precisely the same conversation with their children at almost precisely the same time that I had with mine. We tittered politely when one person careered down the slope and cannoned into the crash pads at the bottom, causing people to scatter to try and get out of the way before disappearing in a volley of snow. It occurred to me that on an annual basis,at February half term our European friends are invaded by our teenagers. And on an annual basis, like the teachers, they seem to welcome it.

The afternoon was a productive one. Whereas everyone on the slope started off wobbly and poised to get out of the way at the moment’s notice, by the end of it Eldest Childerbeast was whizzing downhill, slicing through the queue of people waiting to get the lift to the top of the slope, whilst simultaneously braking and turning, deftly managing to wangle it so he got near the front of the queue but without causing an outbreak of tutting. Only one child insisted on repeatedly descending on their back and head first. There is, perhaps, just no helping some people.

Eldest Childerbeast hasn’t really given any thought to his holiday since. That is to say, he is very excited, but has not given any consideration to how many pairs of pants he will require. That may well be because he has no intention of changing out of the pair he puts on before he goes. Neither has he scoured the shelves looking for hand cream that won’t set his eczema off, and it will probably come back unopened, but I have found some anyway. Nor has he written a list of foods that he is allergic to in English and Italian so there is no room for misunderstanding. It will probably stay in his rucksack, but I have written it out anyway. The fluffiness of his socks will not have crossed his mind. The warmness of his pyjamas will not have even featured. As I sit here typing this I am pondering on life’s important questions – how many packets of chocolate biscuits in his suitcase is too many? How long would it take me to get to him if he had an accident? And I know that I said that I wanted my children to have every opportunity that they would like to take, but surely I only meant that when they were babes in arms and them being grown up enough to take them felt like a lifetime away?

He has not even gone yet and I am already missing not shouting at his to stop swearing at his computer and to pick his wet towel off the floor. And as the coaches pull away on Saturday I know I will feel bereft. As the sound of eighty teenagers shouting “roasted” at eachother fades into the distance my only comfort will be that it could be worse. I could be a teacher. And for the next twenty seven hours, I could be on that coach.

Photograph by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay