Posts Tagged 'Society'

The Anachronistic-Office-Drone

It’s not often that I feel out-of-place in life, but I did tonight. My Friday Night commute was disrupted when my usual train was cancelled (“Shortage of Train Crew”), and I had to get the posh London-Virgin Train home from Liverpool to Runcorn. This is a 10 minute journey (and train) that has been part of my life for Saturday shopping trips, and evenings at the Theatre since I was 11, and is now my journey to work every morning, and home every evening. Tonight, with the combination of it being Friday Night, and the previous train being cancelled, the train was absolutely packed full, but I did get a seat. It was mainly full of trendy hipsters travelling back to London; with their cutting-edge clothes, and bottles of water, working at laptops, and talking on the phone with their alien southern accents. To be frank, they were cool, and they wore patterned trousers. I suddenly became very aware of myself, and my Office-Drone Uniform.

I’ve been an Office Drone since I was 17 years-old, and for all of those 16 years I’ve been a firm subscriber to the Office Drone Uniform. Interchangeable for men and women, the Uniform consists strictly of: mac / tench coat, pencil dress / skirt and blouse / suit, and a very particular type of sensible handbag. Either heels, or ballet flats / loafers, depending on (a) how far you have to walk, and (b) how strong your insteps are. The Office Drone can also be identified by their extremely well-developed calf muscles. I am comfortable with being part of this breed.

Over years of working in Manchester, Chester, and Liverpool, I have grown to love the daily routine of bumping shoulders with the same people every morning, and every evening, although never acknowledging them, and then walking as part of a mass through the City Centre in the morning. The early morning in the City belongs to the Suits, before the normal people are awake, and take over the City with their shopping, and everyday lives, the Suits walk through the quiet, clean streets, when everywhere smells of coffee, and fresh bread, and bacon, and newspaper. They stop at Starbucks, or wherever they get their morning coffee, and croissant. They carry umbrellas, and newspapers, and blue paper bags from Cafe Nero. They walk the same route, same streets, same corners, same shortcuts every morning, and they arrive at the same Office to start their day. They repeat the routine at lunchtime, and in the evening. I am very happy being one of these people, and part of the morning drudge, carrying my coffee, stepping over the same puddles. I love that we are all dressed the same, and can identify each other. It has always made me feel like a character from a John le Carre Novel. I feel like George Smiley every morning, and I love it.

Roald Dahl wrote a number of short stories about commuters, and how we stand in the same spot on the platform every day, and get into the same carriage, and sit usually around the same few seats. He wrote about how we never speak to each other, but notice instantly if somebody is missing one morning. He understood everything I love about commuting, and what makes our working lives and daily drudgery a little more meaningful.

But, on the train tonight, the other thing that I felt was provincial. I became acutely aware of something that has always been at the back of mind; that London is another Country, separate to the rest of us. These hipsters with their patterned trousers were totally different from the hipsters in Manchester. It’s hard to define, but it’s something about the way they speak, and the way their hair falls; they’re sharper, harder, more aware of the world, but a different world. It reminded me how narrow, and un-urban my life is, and how anybody who lives outside London is comparably an uncultured hillbilly. We’re basically the Waltons.

All of this lead me to think that perhaps this breed is being left behind by the modern world. As the new generation takes over, with their beards, and grime, and social media, all of the old stereotypes of old-school English castes are being fazed out, and slowly disappearing with the last generation, which makes me very sad. Two generations ago, there were very distinct social pidgeon-holes, and people fitted very neatly into one of a few moulds, but they are being overtaken by new and trendy social identities. It makes me very happy that I am a living part of one of the last castes to die out, and I hope we can keep our Le Carre trench coats, and umbrellas firmly in place, and let our meek flags fly. See you at Starbucks in the morning, I’ll be the one behind The Times.

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Dear Moya Greene: A Royal Mail Frustration.

A full two days since any post was delivered and I’m forced, by the very principle of it, to pace in front of the window like a Ringling Brothers Lion, waiting for the post to appear.  While there are items I’m keen to get my hands on, there isn’t actually anything of an exceptionally urgent nature waiting to arrive, but it’s the principle.  I want my post, basically.  It’s been going on for so long that I’ve decided to take action, even if only to ease my frustration.  After half an hour of trying to e-mail Royal Mail through the complaints form on their own website, and being told that my postcode was incorrect (having entered it in every format/permeation possible), I turned to Google and found an e-mail address for someone at the head of the company, Moya Greene, and this is what I’ve just e-mailed.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________
Dear Ms Greene
I would like to express my dissatisfaction with the postal service.  Our mail arrives extremely sporadically, we are lucky to receive it by 4pm, often 5pm, and often, such as yesterday, not at all.  As I write, 22nd July, 12.15pm, it is currently more than 48 hours since we received any post.  I know that certain items are due to arrive, which are very important to me, and I have watched from the window all of yesterday and this-morning, in case I’ve missed the postman going past. I can confirm unequivocally that yesterday, he did not pass my house, or deliver post to anyone in Cheltenham Crescent.
It is my strong belief that the postal services is one of the cornerstones of British Society, and has always been something solid to be relied upon, used for carrying out business and personal correspondence in a trustworthy way.  It appears that over the last few years the level of service that we are receiving, I can only speak for Runcorn, is being eroded.  It has steadily and continually gotten worse and worse, a little bit each week.  The postal service in this country used to be something beautiful and utilitarian.  It is clear that those values have been chipped away by the modern management, and replaced with values only concerned in making profit. 
An intrinsic component of the postal service is the idea that post arrives first thing in the morning, 7am, 8am, before people leave the house to go to work, so that any correspondence received can be read before leaving for work, and dealt with over the course of the day.  This is the very nature of post.  The lackadaisical attitude now in place is producing detrimental repercussions throughout society and the business world.  If correspondence of an urgent nature is not received first thing in the morning, and only dealt with after 5pm when people arrive home from work, when the business day is closed and no business is able to be carried out, this means that any correspondence must wait for the following day to be dealt with, meaning that urgent matters are being delayed by days and days.
How is this acceptable?  It doesn’t seem unrealistic to expect a service which is appropriate and timely.  The very essence of correspondence is being eroded, and it is no longer a expeditious and effective means of communicating.  Your website states that you aim to deliver post by 4pm, but I find this baffling.  Surely post is designed, in its very nature, to arrive at the start of any day, so that it can be dealt with during that business day?  However, in Cheltenham Crescent at least, if post arrives by 4pm we consider ourselves lucky, it is usually after this, or not at all, as stated.
I wish you to know, on a personal level, that the British public no longer feel able to rely upon their own postal service as a realistic means of exchanging information.  You will be put out of business, as a company, as the public is forced, against their will, to rely upon e-mail and more effective methods of communication, in the absence of a service they can depend on.
This is just another one of the foundations of the great British society which has been spat on and trodden into the ground by unfeeling and disinterested men (and women) in suits.
I am still waiting for my post, and it has been more than two days since any was delivered.  How is this service?
Thank you very much for your time,
Vikki Littlemore 
________________________________________________________________________________________________________
If you want to contact Moya Greene, the e-mail address I used is; moya.greene@royalmail.com
I’m not really expecting a reply, but will keep you updated.
In the meantime, what do you think?

The Stigma of Saying ‘I’m Lonely.’

One of the few things, and there aren’t many, that I’m too scared to say on Facebook or Twitter is that I feel lonely, and that’s because I’m worried people will think I’m weird. In truth, they probably would. Saying you’re lonely implies that you don’t have enough people in your life. The word ‘lonely’ paints a picture of a person with no actual friends, and someone who isn’t close to their family. At least, this is how I feel I would be portraying myself if I were to confess publicly to feeling alone, but it isn’t necessarily the case.

In the modern world we tend to be surrounded by hundreds of people, but most of them are acquaintances, rather than real friends. It’s especially the case with students. We add hundreds of people to our list of ‘friends’ on Facebook, but how many of these people could we actually ring up (if we even have their phone number), and ask for help with a problem, or ask for a shoulder to cry on, even ask to come out for a drink? Last Christmas, the one just gone, I sent out a message over Facebook to about forty of my friends, asking for their address. It occurred to me, as someone who is reluctant to yield to modernity, that I see these people every day, sit next to them in lectures, go out with them for evenings of drinking and laughing, share stories and jokes with them, have real friendships, and yet I don’t know where they live. I had phone numbers for a few of them, but no postal addresses. So I sent out this message, and received a fair few answers, and so I compiled an old-fashioned address book (I bought a Filofax. I’m very happy with it), and when December came I sent out Christmas cards to all of them, just like grown-ups did in the olden days.

Our friendships, and most of our day-to-day lives, are conducted entirely over the internet, through social networking sites like Facebook. I for one feel that we’re losing the traditional relationships and friendships that we used to have. I miss the days when you had one phone number, and you would say things like ‘find me in the book’, and would have to make sure you took ten pence with you when you went out so you could ring home. In those days, friends were friends. These days, we get along with people, we see their holiday pictures and know what they had for tea, we offer advice or support when they need it, we share their ups and downs, and all the details of their life, but if I’m being honest, of the people on my Facebook list, there are only a few that I feel able to ring up and ask to come out for a drink. That’s not to say that there aren’t lots of people on that list that I’d love to ask for a drink; there are, but I feel that if I did, they’d think I was weird. It’s a new social boundary. These new friendships aren’t based on solid foundations, like the old ones. Being someone’s Facebook friend often means you met them once when out in the pub, or you know them to say ‘hello’ to from some extra-curricular club. These people aren’t prepared for you to suddenly invite them round for pizza… are they? Perhaps I’m wrong. Maybe they’d be delighted and flattered, and would love to build a more personal friendship. Maybe it’s me who’s too cautious. Maybe I’m the problem.

I have less than ten really good friends. By ‘really good friends’, I mean friends that have been in my life since I was thirteen, eleven, even four in some cases. These are friends I trust, and who really know me. I have 176 friends on Facebook, some of whom I haven’t spoken to in years. They are Facebook friends, but are they actually friends? There are so many of them who I’d love to meet up with, have a drink and a laugh with, who I’d love to know better. There are girls I’d love to go shopping with, but I always feel that if I invite them, they’d wonder why the hell I was asking them to go out, when they barely know me. Maybe that’s the point. The friends I’ve know since I was eleven already know whether or not I’m funny, weird or normal, how I feel about certain things, whether I’m being serious if I take the piss out of them, they know my sense of humour. It’s a frightening thing to suddenly talk to people who don’t know those things. Often, I post a comment on someone’s facebook then panic in case they don’t realise I’m joking. What about those people who have 700, 800, 900 friends on Facebook? How many of those hundreds of people would really classify as friends?

So, where did this all start? This blog wasn’t supposed to be about Facebook, but why it isn’t acceptable in today’s society to admit to feeling lonely. It stands to reason that most of us are. If we’re single, especially if we’ve been single for a long time, and we don’t get out as often as we should, and if our friends live at other ends of the country, as most of them often do, why is it so shameful to utter the word ‘lonely’? Is it because it implies weakness? It is because we think other people will automatically assume that we’re lonely for good reason, that we’re boring, horrendous people, who deserve to be lonely because no-one could bear to be friends with us? I don’t know, actually. I wish I did. What I do know, is that it should be easier to reach out to each other. There shouldn’t be a barrier between us, like there is. We should be able to hold out a hand to anybody, anywhere, and say ‘Hi, do you fancy a drink?’. Maybe that would make us even weirder, and even lonelier, I don’t know.

BNP, Racism and Acceptance

“Right Winston, you’re about to get cooked. Anything to say? Says he ain’t a drug dealer. He thinks he’s not black. He’s charged with being black. Now get on there”. The words spoken by a twelve year old girl as she threw a golly doll onto a fire at the BNP’s so called family fun day.

The fact that a child of twelve is being brought up with these views and toxic beliefs is the complete contradiction of an autonomous, intelligent society. The decisions of parents are mandatorily inflicted on children in a way that gives them no other choice but to adopt the same attitude. Who teaches children that being black is somehow a crime or that homosexuality is indecent? They are never allowed the opportunity to make the choice for themselves because any individual thought is inhibited.

I find it impossible to grasp the concept that a human brain can manage to believe that the colour of someone’s skin can make them inferior and that being white automatically makes a person supreme. I believe in superiority but a superiority determined by morality and the choices we make and things we do, rather than by factors we have no control over, such as skin colour. One person can be superior to another by wilful decisions. A man who hits his wife, for example, is in my opinion inferior to a man who doesn’t. The man who believes women are inferior to men is by that means, inferior himself. Arguably, the bigot automatically becomes inferior as a result of deciding to hold hateful opinions of other humans. How can a person truly believe that another human being is sub-human, inferior simply because they have a different skin colour or a different sexuality?

If a social group is justifiably guilty of being culpable of a reprehensible act then it is fair to make judgement. As a hypothetical example, if 90% of people from Scotland were found to be guilty of throwing eggs at Edinburgh castle then one could rightfully presume that Scottish people are more than likely to be egg throwers. However, if an egg had never been thrown then how could one assume that they are likely to throw eggs without any substantial evidence? Worse, how can one assume that a group of people are guilty of something which cannot even be defined? There is no tangible crime or physical act for which blame can be apportioned or even presumed, simply that a social group is somehow beneath another in some indefinable way, as a result of something completely beyond their control.

The attitude embodied by the BNP is one which transgresses logic. The rational belief, for example, that Britain is being detrimentally flooded with illegal immigrants and asylum seekers is one which many reasonable people share. Though we share it however, our agreement stops at a certain point. As much as I feel resentment that so many asylum seekers are entering Britain and that it should be prevented, I do not in any way see myself as superior to one of the individual people. As a human being, the only things which distinguish me from another human being are the things I choose. Therefore, I feel resentment towards the asylum seekers but if I were face-to-face with one I wouldn’t feel that they were inferior to me as a member of humanity and flesh and blood. Both he and I are human beings, differentiated only by social factors.

Similarly, I find it difficult to understand the attitude of people against same sex marriage and the people who baulk and wince at the first gay kiss on Coronation Street. The fact that two human beings are being married or kissing should not be altered by the sex of the individuals. Two consenting adults are no different whether they are men or women. If asked to define precisely why two men kissing is different from a man kissing a woman, would they be able to justify their disapproval? What exactly makes it different?

Society would benefit immensely from a greater acceptance that human is human. Beneath our skin, what is different? There should be no disparity between two people, other than the conscious path we take morally. How can the BNP logically define the difference between black and white? If a black doctor saved a person’s life, are they less a hero than a white doctor? If a black man is homeless and penniless, are they less deserving of help than a white man? What exactly is it that they believe makes us so different?

Twenty-First Century Religion

 

Twenty-First Century Religion

Vikki Littlemore

 

Fresh in the knowledge (revealed this week) that the cost of maintaining the homes of the Church of England’s Bishops last year totalled £3.7 million and another £14.5 million for bishops’ staff and offices, one can’t help but ask what part religion actually plays in modern society.

Undeniable is the hope provided to the devoutly religious, who console themselves that death is not something to be feared because their souls will rise to heaven to sit with God on a cloud, assuming of-course that they comply with the almost fascist strictures of the Bible and do not break any of the commandments.  What does religion offer then to the people who can’t help but contradict the attitude of ‘the Good Book’?  The aggressively religious devotees offer no other elucidation to the homosexual man than that he will spend eternity in hell.  Is this truly what any god (if in existence) would say to one of their children?  Religious dogma declares with one breath that we are ‘all God’s children’ and that ‘God (and/or Jesus) loves us all’, apparently equally, and then in the next breath rejects and rebukes the factors in society which they are unable to comprehend.  If God ‘loves us all’ then why does he not love us all?  Why can he love you but not your gay next-door neighbour? 

  My family recently placed an insurance claim for a slate that had been blown off the roof and onto a car parked in the drive.  The insurance company wriggled out of the claim, insisting that the wind which had blown the tile from the roof had been ‘an act of God’.  Is this really acceptable for the twenty-first century?  Insurance policies based on religious figures that rely on belief and no concrete evidence are surely an archaic antiquity.  It’s like basing an insurance claim on a chimney broken by Father Christmas.  My insistence that Father Christmas does indeed, most definitely exist and did quite unequivocally knock a tile from my chimney is no less substantial and credulous than their claim that God blew a title from my roof.  What next, a return to ducking stools and witch hunts for the disgraced MP’s?  If they don’t drown then they’re fraudulent!

I feel insulted and disrespected on behalf of every hero; every fireman who pulled a child from a burning building and placed the child safely in their mother’s arms only to witness the mother raise her eyes to heaven and thank God for saving her child.  Was it not the bravery, courage and hard work of that one human man who saved that child?  I suppose they would claim that God had given that man the courage to do what he did, but why should the glory and honour be taken away so coldly from the heroic human being?  Every day the human race faces and conquers unimaginable pain and difficulty.  People in their own lives struggle through hard times and come out the other side because of their own resilience and strength, not a man in the sky.  I understand the comfort some people derive from believing in a higher power, but I think we should give humanity the credit (and often disapproval) that it earns for and by itself.    

It was only very recently that a specific change in church ‘law’ and attitude occurred, meaning that children who are not christened do not go to hell.  Before this change, what was said to all the mothers who miscarried children?  If they chose to believe the Church, that their unborn, dead child was in hell because they hadn’t been christened?  What place does a Church like this have in modern society?  That ‘law’ has been changed now but how many others like it still exist?  In a society endeavouring to encourage understanding and acceptance, why do these pockets of poisonous, religious hatred still breed?  What kind of God would tell one of their followers to drive a plane into a building full of people or get onto a bus and detonate a bomb?  Obviously religious fanaticism and terrorism are very different from actual religious piety and the two must be distinguished, but those people claimed they were taking lives in the name of God, a ‘holy war’.  How many people have died because their family denied them a blood transfusion in the name of God?  How many wars and violent deaths have happened across the world and on our streets in the name of God? 

Denying people the right to believe in whatever they feel they want to believe is not constructive or acceptable, but when religion affects our lives against our will, when it invades our lives, which it does, do we have the right to protest?  I feel I should have had the right to protest when my insurance company refused to process my claim.  How can they write a policy based on ‘acts of God’ without having evidence that God exists?  How can we form laws, rules and wars based on something which is no more than mythology?  I appreciate that religion gives hope and that it provides structure and guidance in many people’s lives, that young men in gangs on the streets of New York may equally put down their gun in the name of God as take it up, but should hate be allowed to exist in that name too?  Do we live in a time when it’s still acceptable for people in society to be told that they aren’t loved by God because they are different?  When wars are started, bombs detonated, lives lost, all in the name of religion, is that really a valuable contribution to society?  Like all things that exist in the world, there is some good and some bad.  In one person’s life religion is something positive, beneficial, harmless and benign, but in the hands and mind of another person, the wrong person, religion becomes aggressive, hateful and detrimental to society.  Hatred in any form has no place in our world.  Anything which actively encourages its followers to hate their fellow human beings is injurious and poisonous to humanity.

Religion can admittedly do much good and give many people a better life, but it can just as equally be virulent, hostile and destructive.  Like all things, religion can only have a part in society if it evolves and progresses.  If religion is unable to keep up with the twenty-first century and lose its anachronistic attitudes based on ancient scriptures, then there is no place for it in a society which is trying hard to adapt to a modern way of life.  Religion and all of its followers and practitioners, preachers and pontificators must leave behind a time when it could reject people from society on flimsy caprice and watch its flock starve and fade from gilded windows, dining on fine food and wine bought with the donations of the people starving.  Religion must grow up and bring itself into the twenty-first century or it will continue to be a destructive and toxic tumour, detrimental to our progression.

Comedy: The Death of Heroes

 

Comedy: The Death of Heroes
Vikki Littlemore

In the infancy of the BBC and Television’s wholesome and repressed roots, comedians dared not offend the British public with profanities and sexually explicit vulgarities and were instead confined to traditional and trusted bigotry and Mother-in-Law jokes which form the culturally safe backbone of our nation. In the familiar paradigm best exhibited by thoroughly British comedian Jim Davidson, comedians voiced the thoughts and feelings of the nation when it came to recently introduced cultural phenomenon such as ‘black people’ and ‘the gays’. The average bloke on the street took the Rising Damp stance of ‘don’t bring your voodoo over here’ and ‘eh-up lads, backs to the wall!’ and this is precisely the voice heard through the mouthpiece of Britain’s comedians. Racism was safe, familiar and acceptable, it’s what the public trusted. It is unfortunate that Television’s puritanical attitude towards the mention of sex or anything deemed unsuitable for family, pre-watershed viewing did not extend to the policies on bigotry.

Since those days comedy has subverted, inverted and transcended all those well-established boundaries and has formed as many new identities and levels of acceptability as Madonna . Riding the new national atmosphere of cosmopolitan tolerance and understanding, comedians fought against the rules on swearing and sexual openness and simultaneously challenged the boundaries of racism and homophobia. As open displays of insularity were rebuked in favour of open-mindedness, the stuffy, tightly-buttoned shirt collar of the proletariat underbelly was loosened and swearing and sexuality became more acceptable. A more open-minded, liberated generation of comedy emerged which embraced all of society’s diverse components and allowed itself the freedom to behave on stage/television as one would in ‘real life’. The new-age attitude allowed comedians to speak to their audience as they would their mates in the pub, with swearing and honesty. Over time the old generation of comedians became fodder for satire and risible artefacts of a by-gone, intolerant age. The new, fresh comedians washed away the ‘gay’ jokes and the sub-sudo-sub-textual innuendoes which became sinister and dangerous in their forced repression, and brought in a new age of ‘f words’ and ‘knob gags’. A little further down the line and both the ‘gay jokes’ and the ‘knob jokes’ had both given way to a more enlightened comedy which was both free of prejudice and repression and also free of the adolescence of rebellion and its innate prosaic crudity and caustic spit. Now came a spiritual, new comedy, comedy which inspired its audience and talked people down off ledges. Then new comedy was able to reflect on the repression of the early television generation and its closeted, buttoned-up stuffiness, and also the teenage rebellion which followed, comedy had now evolved into an adult. It could swear but not aggressively, talk about sex maturely and be understanding of all sexes, races and sexualities. The comedy of the new millennium is intelligent, satirically sophisticated and understanding of every part of society, comedy which steps up to the challenge of our social diversity but resists the ‘PC’ madness which has replaced the old repression.

Britain is a naturally obsequious nation. We don’t like controversy and this is no bad thing, except when it prohibits freedom of speech. We are a nation which stands back while people push in front of us at the supermarket checkout, we don’t like a fuss. By nature Britain is an unconfrontational sycophant and when it comes to anybody but hard-working British people our current burden is not upsetting anybody who isn’t white, middle/working class and employed. Television has gone beyond PC to a ridiculous extent but comedians have resisted, somehow maintaining the balance between understanding and freedom. It appears to be because comedians are able to handle subjects with more intelligence, charm and understanding than any television producer is able to. Rather than worrying whether something will offend or upset, comedians face a subject head-on, challenging pre-conceptions and delicately balancing the subject so that neither side of the fence are offended. This does not mean ‘sitting on the fence’ but means that they are able to discuss a subject with understanding and compassion which satisfies both the party which is subject and also the party which is audience. Where Television steps back from controversy, comedians smash it up and piss on it. They don’t offend people because they have the intelligence to show empathy and actually understand the subject, rather than being frightened of it. Comedians get their hands dirty and are rewarded for it.

Sadly the new generation of comedy is under threat. The older generation are still attached to the old days of no swearing and ‘black’ jokes. Yes older people are equally entitled to enjoyable entertainment, but sadly they feel the need to eradicate anything they don’t understand and so instead of changing the channel or making an effort to comprehend a new way of thinking, they complain, meaning that the new comedians are soon going to be forced down the repression route of old.

A recent (and frankly exhausted) example is Sachsgate. We’re all aware of the who’s, where’s and what’s but are we aware of the cost of the incident to our cultural freedom? A rapacious listener of The Russell Brand Show, I willingly surrendered my Saturday nights to my radio and was educated, enlightened, entertained and simultaneously had my eyes opened to new experiences and knowledge and also brought to tears with laughter. The programme was intelligent, hilarious and in my opinion extremely valuable. The programme offered listeners a unique experience which combined internationally top-draw comedy (improvised live, unscripted), truly intelligent and remarkable discussions on diverse subjects from Darwinism and David Icke to the dispute between China and Tibet. Listeners were also integral to the show and contributed by phone, text, e-mail and also largely featured in the conception of the regular items. It was a fantastically unique experience enjoyed by a vast and loyal following. While no defence for what was said to Andrew Sachs is offered because it was categorically wrong, the point should be made that much of this event was orchestrated by the media. One key fact often missed is that Andrew Sachs was booked to appear on the radio show that night to be interviewed. It was not a random prank call, it was arranged. I am not suggesting that Brand and Ross were right to say what they did, they weren’t, but it should be clearly understood that on the night of the radio show (broadcast between 9.00 pm and 11.00 pm, well after the watershed) only four people phoned to complain (out of a listening audience of two million). It was two weeks later, following a feature by the Daily Mail, that the thousands of complaints were received, most of them by people who hadn’t even heard it. In fact there was one final broadcast of the show the following week, before the event even hit the news, when the Daily Mail were present, compiling their case.

What happened to Andrea Sachs was wrong and reprehensible but my point is that a radio show which was enjoyed by many people ceased to enlighten their lives because the BBC was frightened of controversy. A metaphorical slap on the wrists would have sufficed, purely for the offence caused to an individual grandfather. In fact an apology was made and fully accepted. I understand why it would cause offence to people listening but is it really fair to curtail a cultural cornerstone and immensely enjoyed weekly event simply because some people object to the use of a certain word?

If comedy and free speech are restricted, confined and suppressed then so too is the freedom of thought and speech which enable us to function as intelligent human beings. I understand why my own grandmother dislikes hearing swear words on television (despite using them herself in private), but my argument is that if television does not reflect a true representation of real life then our thoughts and opinions are being forcibly squeezed out of us. If comedians are prohibited from speaking to us in the same way they would if they met us in the street then they are not being themselves and are suppressing their own thoughts and views, which are precisely what I enjoy about comedians. They are human beings and should be allowed to behave as such. I do not advocate anything which intentionally hurts or offends people, by which I mean something aimed directly at another human being with the intention of causing offence (for example gay or black jokes), but I do feel passionately that freedom of speech is what makes human beings better. It educates and improves us and through it we grow. If all of that is repressed and we go back to bigotry and the ridicule of people who have no control over the colour of their skin or their own sexuality or physical disability (the stand-up material of Ricky Jervais for example), then how are we better people?

Oscar Wilde, Fading Memory

auctionOne of the saddest things I have ever seen occurred in a recent presentation on Oscar Wilde by a fellow student. One of the visual aids was a copy of the auction sheet following Oscar´s trial. Amongst the list of various goods and chattels; ´Valuable Books´ etc, with no prominent position or status were the words; ´Old Blue and White China´.

They sent a ghostly shiver down my spine. The collection so adored and treasured was reduced to five words with no trace of the love, pride and adulation felt by its owner, who famously said ´I find it harder and harder every day to live up to my blue china´. Those cruel five words erase years of affection and emotional attachment. I think that what makes me feel so much tragedy about it is that it is merely one item on a long list, no importance or value, just a small part of a miscellany. One just happens across it as they meander down the list of unimportant and various objects, and this was his most prized and beloved possession, something which symbolized and reflected him, who he was. This entry on a commonplace list of household items represents one of the greatest literary and human influences in history. Like or loathe him, he made a difference, he was important. To many he created things of beauty, works of art. He was a man. A man who in the best days of his life was tried and convicted and thus ruined. A valuable and artistic life was cut short because he could not conform to the restrictions society imposed. He was tried for gross indecency. His life was curtailed because he was homosexual. All of this is reduced to five words; ´Old Blue and White China´.

Saying that his life was curtailed is not unjust. He was tried and imprisoned because he was homosexual. The strain both emotional and physical left him broken and the auction left him bankrupt. His manuscripts and everything he owned and loved were gone. When he was released he lived only three years. He was forty-six.

Any life is beautiful and the loss of a short-lived and valuable life is tragic. Wilde created beauty and truth, he changed how we think, what we think and what we are allowed to think. He was born too early, in a time that could not and did not want to understand him. He was not allowed to be the person he was and was ultimately condemned for it. Those five words appear so unremarkable and insignificant but they represent the man and everything that happened to him, everything he created.

A life and a life´s work is boiled down to so little, remembered as such triviality. In his lifetime that collection of china, and indeed all the objects on the list, were part of his home and his everyday life, they were part of him. He cherished and cared for them. He identified himself with them and signified that he and they were part of the same entity. They sat on his shelf or perhaps in a cabinet, in his living room or maybe his study. They were dusted, protected and admired. They were home.

Those five pathetic words have spoken more to me, moved me more and represented more to me than anything I´ve ever read about Wilde. Though they seem trivial they are in fact a symbol of Oscar himself; lost in the midst of a miscellaneous list, unnoticed. Shining like a beacon out of the murky list, they represent a remarkable and beautiful human being whose memory is tainted by and obscured by the searing brand left on his name when he was convicted. His work is overshadowed by the criminality and purported depravity. Words and metaphors and beautiful sentences, ingenious characters and hilarious lines are all faded beneath the imprint of his homosexuality and imprisonment. Poetry and humour are lost. We do not remember the writer, the man, we remember Oscar Wilde the incarcerated poof and pervert. All that is left of the real man is ´Old Blue and White China´ and a few scattered words.

‘And alien tears will fill for him
Pity’s long-broken urn,
For his mourners will be outcast men,
And outcasts always mourn.’

From ´The Ballad of Reading Gaol´.


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Sylvia Plath said; "Let me live, love and say it well in good sentences". My aim in life is to find things and people to love, so that I can write about them. Putting words together is the only thing I can see myself doing. This blog is an outlet, and I hope you enjoy reading it. Please feel free to comment on posts, or contact me by the special e-mail I've set up (vikki.littlemore@live.co.uk) with your thoughts.


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The New Remorse, Oscar Wilde.

The sin was mine; I did not understand.
So now is music prisoned in her cave,
Save where some ebbing desultory wave
Frets with its restless whirls this meagre strand.
And in the withered hollow of this land
Hath Summer dug herself so deep a grave,
That hardly can the leaden willow crave
One silver blossom from keen Winter's hand.

But who is this who cometh by the shore?
(Nay, love, look up and wonder!) Who is this
Who cometh in dyed garments from the South?
It is thy new-found Lord, and he shall kiss
The yet unravished roses of thy mouth,
And I shall weep and worship, as before.

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Music I Love (In no particular order, except that The Smiths are first)

The Smiths,
The Libertines,
The Courteeners,
Nina Simone,
Oasis,
Pete Doherty,
Gossip,
The Kills,
Amy Winehouse,
Arctic Monkeys,
Rod Stewart,
The Doors,
The Rolling Stones,
Etta James,
Babyshambles,
T. Rex,
The Jam,
Morrissey,
Guillemots,
The Kinks,
Jack White,
The Deadweather,
David Bowie,
The Winchesters,
The Cure,
Kaiser Chiefs,
The Kooks,
The Twang,
Kings Of Leon,
Pulp,
Blur,
The Housemartins,
The Ramones,
James,
Robots in Disguise,
The Klaxons,
Kate Nash,
The Raconteurs,
Regina Spektor,
Aretha Franklin,
Stereophonics,
The Contours,
Dirty Pretty Things,
The White Stripes,
New York Dolls,
Yeah Yeah Yeahs,
The Clash,
Style Council,
Velvet Underground,
The Horrors,
The Cribs,
Reverend and The Makers,
The Subways,
The Wombats,
Foals,
Elle S'appelle,
The Troggs,
The Beatles,
Echo and the Bunnymen,
Florence and the Machine.

Olive Cotton, Tea Cup Ballet, 1935

Olive Cotton, Tea Cup Ballet, 1935

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Will it ever be alright for Blighty to have a Queen Camilla?

One less tree from our window each day


Vikki's bookshelf: read

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
1984
Twilight
Of Mice and Men
Pride and Prejudice
The Hobbit
The Da Vinci Code
Lolita
Tipping the Velvet
Wuthering Heights
The Picture of Dorian Grey and Other Works by Oscar Wilde
Bridget Jones's Diary and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
Irish Peacock & Scarlet Marquess: The Real Trial of Oscar Wilde
The Peculiar Memories of Thomas Penman
Moab Is My Washpot
The Bell Jar
The Other Boleyn Girl
On the Road
Brideshead Revisited
Revolutionary Road



Vikki Littlemore's favorite books »

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