Sunday, December 28, 2008
Sunday, December 21, 2008
While in official circles and on printed information the period was always referred to in Grenada as 'the revolution', on the streets and in conversation it was colloquially referred to as 'the Revo'. For me, this implied affection and ownership: there had been other revolutions in other places, but what was happening in Grenada was unique. It belonged to them. It was their Revo.
For this reason I chose to use the abbreviation in these posts. I would be appalled to think that anyone who didn't know the context, might think that my decision to refer in that way to what happened between 13 March 1979 and 19 October 1983 implied I was trivialising or belittling the Grenadian revolution.
I hope that it is clear to anyone and everyone reading this series of posts that my respect, admiration and genuine awe for what the Grenadian people achieved in that time against all the odds know no bounds.
I was - and still am - humbled by what I witnessed.
Previous posts in this series
The time has come - how I came to the decision to blog the Revo
The Revo Blog. Part 1 - background to Grenada
The Revo Blog. Part 2 - background to me
The Revo Blog. Part 3 - Feb-March 1982 (1 of 2)
The Grenada Revolution Online
Friday, December 19, 2008
H and I spend a week in Trinidad for Carnival. We stay with the aunt of a friend. I say 'stay with' but in truth we're not there much between dropping off our bags and then picking them up again several days later. In between, we eat little, sleep less and party non-stop.
I had been at every Notting Hill Carnival for years, but this is a whole different league. By the end of our stay, we're giddy and punch-drunk. Literally.
I can't pretend we saw much of the island. Enough to get an impression of somewhere large, bustling and - in the city at least - industrialised. Apart from the tropical setting and the sheer scale of Carnival, it doesn't seem that unfamiliar in many ways.
At Port of Spain International Airport, that all changes as we board the tiny island hopping plane that is the only way to reach Grenada by air in those days. Soon after, we touch down on the airstrip of miniature Pearls Airport. The relaxed and smiling greeting we receive from the people checking our passports gives us the feeling their interest is more curiosity than anything else, a far cry from the usual suspicion of airport officials elsewhere in the world.
The impression is reinforced as we get into a cab to the capital, St Georges, on the other side of the island and pass by a massive hand-painted billboard - Welcome to Free Grenada. Our hearts soar as we realise that we are privileged to be in for an experience unlike anything we've ever had before.
The cab climbs into the hills, bumping along the pot-holed road - the only connection between the two coasts. Within minutes, we're swallowed by the rain forest. Dense, lush and seemingly impenetrable, shades of dark green studded with occasional splashes of vibrant colour, it exudes a sense of hot steamy mystery.
We pass few people on the road, but those we do, all stop and stare. Some smile at us and wave. Every so often, we see more of the billboards, each hand-painted, no two the same. We don't know the exact significance of them all - only later, for example, do we understand that CPE is a Freedom School refers to the Centre for Popular Education, which aims to wipe out illiteracy on the island.
But if we don't always know the precise meanings, the intention is always clear. These are messages to uplift and inspire. The contrast between a unique billboard, portraying a smiling woman driving a tractor, and the ubiquitous ads we're bombarded with back in London, selling lingerie, cars, beer etc, is overwhelming.
The road drops as we crest the island's mountainous spine. We emerge from the rain forest to see St Georges laid out below us. Though sprawling, it's little larger than a rural English village. As we drive through the outskirts, the wooden shacks and corrugated iron roofs give way to colonial style white and pastel concrete houses and shops.
We stay the first couple of nights in a guesthouse in town, but we're on a tight budget and can't afford to spend the whole month there. On our first day, we go to visit Y, whose name was given to us by a Grenadian friend in London. Y is the head of Grencraft, the co-operative set up to produce, market and export the crafts that Grenadian people have been making for years, using the resources available: coral jewellery, spice baskets, shell artifacts, bowls and hats woven from palm fronds, wooden carvings, guava jelly ...
Y explains that Grencraft is a powerful symbol of the Revo, both in terms of its success and because membership of the co-operative is voluntary. The people have said they want a mixed economy so that's what they've got. The will of the people is paramount. Is Freedom We Making.
Y introduces us to a woman who rents us a little board house just up from Grand Anse beach which, at two palm-fringed miles of silky sun-drenched sand, is the largest and best-known beach on the island. It isn't long before it's clear that the house may be 'little' to us, but it's palatial compared with the homes of most of the people we meet and having running water, electricity and an indoor toilet are luxuries denied to many. Another thing that soon becomes obvious though is that the people who have the least are the most generous. In that at least, Grenada is not unique.
Everyone we meet is hospitable and friendly, almost without exception. In no time at all, we've learned how to cook on a coal pot using local ingredients and we're washing our clothes at the outdoor concrete sink.
There's this amazing spirit of energy and empowerment in the air. It's palpable. You can feel it, taste it. People are proud, you see. Proud of their Revo and what they have achieved. They want to share it. They know full well that what they are doing is unique. The people of Grenada have created a different way of living and being. And as such, they are a beacon of hope to the rest of the world that another way can and does exist.
Gradually, we begin to overstand, as people there call the state beyond understanding. The Revo on 13th March, 1979, had replaced a corrupt dictator, Eric Gairy, whose increasingly repressive (and bizarre) demands had been enforced by his gang of hated and feared Mongoose Men. At the time of the coup, Gairy was out of the country (something to do with preparing to table a motion at the UN on his pet subject of UFOs) and the Revo was almost bloodless.
Ordinary people had been oppressed and living in fear for so long, the coup - initiated by a group of young Grenadian radicals educated in the US and UK - had been joyously received, with the support of the vast majority of the population.
What ensued was government as we know it in reverse, with the ordinary people at the top making the decisions and the government at the bottom, carrying them out. In a series of meetings at local, parish and national level, people spoke out about the issues that mattered to them: poverty, unemployment, exploitation, education, agriculture, imports and exports, health, illiteracy and together they discussed possible solutions.
This was a pure form of democracy, where every single issue of importance affecting people's lives was debated on and decided by the people themselves, making a mockery of the idea that putting a cross on a piece of paper every four years, to choose between frying pans and fires to supposedly represent your interests, can be called 'democracy'.
The energy and enthusiasm, the passion and clarity, the sheer 'rightness' of it all sweep us up and carry us along in its wake. We go to the International Women's Day celebrations and hear the iconic Angela Davis speak. The following week is the 3rd anniversary of the Revo and this is when we first see Maurice Bishop, PM and head of the People's Revolutionary Government.
Warm and inclusive, articulate and charismatic, and underlying it all, his obvious love for his people and pride in their achievements, his words bathe us in a glow, uplifting us as no other individual has before. Imagine the oratory and presence of Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and now Barack Obama, and you'll come close to understanding how I feel on this day - that I am honoured and privileged to be in the presence of a man who appears maybe once in a generation and who exudes hopes of peace and justice and a better way.
To be continued.
The Grenada Revolution Online
Previous posts in this series
The time has come - how I came to the decision to blog the Revo
The Revo Blog. Part 1 - background to Grenada
The Revo Blog. Part 2 - background to me
Thursday, December 18, 2008
FB was knocked off his bike on his way into school yesterday.
Cue one badly broken arm, one operation to reset the bones, 11 grueling hours in hospital and 6 weeks in plaster.
Friday, December 12, 2008
So - who am I? That was a question I asked myself throughout my youth. It wasn't until I emerged from my turbulent teens, that I knew I wouldn't be fulfilling my parents' expectations. I was never going to marry young, to a nice Jewish boy, and bring up kids in a semi-detached within walking distance of where I'd grown up.
Once I'd managed to work out that didn't mean I had some fundamental design fault, I set about finding myself. And found 'me' in politics.
The 70s were my decade. While working in straight jobs, all my energy and enthusiasm went into changing the world. They were exciting times, when that felt like a genuine possibility. The revolution was always just around the corner. These were the pre-Thatcher days, before greed triumphed over altruism. I was active in all the radical movements of the time: the women's movement, anti-racism, Northern Ireland, anti-nuke, community politics ...
Though many of the people I knew were members of the Socialist Workers' Party, or one of the myriad other left wing parties that abounded back then, I was never a 'joiner'. If anything, I was more radical, leaning to anarchy.
People associate anarchy with chaos and disorder, but when you think about it, a belief in anarchy as a workable alternative implies a fundamental belief in human nature: that, left to our own devices, human beings will choose to work together for the greater good. That we'll choose to access the capacity to do good that's within us all, rather than the potential for evil, greed and exploitation. It's not about every person for themselves, but about every person for every other.
Starry-eyed? Naive? Without a doubt, but it's still the way I feel deep inside. It's called hope.
So this was the young woman who decided in her mid-twenties that she needed to broaden her experiences and the best way to do that was to travel. To see other ways of living. To learn about other cultures, systems and attitudes. In 1980, I spent several months travelling across the US. The following year, I moved around, criss-crossing Europe. This last journey was undertaken with H, and it was at an open farm in Italy that we met J.
Travelling together by train when we left the farm, the three of us talked about possible destinations for a next trip. Grenada was mentioned in the list. I'd only vaguely heard of the island, and knew little other than that it was in the Caribbean and shouldn't be confused with Granada, in Spain.
Oh, and they'd had a revolution. Obvious choice.
The three of us worked and saved, planning on a week in Trinidad at Carnival, followed by a month in Grenada. At the last minute, J's father fell seriously ill and she had to drop out.
And so, in February 1982, H and I boarded the plane heading for the Caribbean with little idea what to expect, but filled with the desire to learn.
Previous posts in this series
The time has come
The Revo Blog. Part 1
Monday, December 08, 2008
But the consensus is clear:
Just start writing.
So this is it.
Part 1 of The Revo Blog.
And it feels weighty with significance.
I've realised I need to give some background before I begin to tell what happened in that time when my own personal story became entwined with that of the island of Grenada.
This is not a diversion tactic, not is it control freakery.
I just don't want to keep interrupting the flow with distracting explanations once I begin.
So this post will operate as a kind of appendix. Scene setting, if you will.
Grenada - statistics
Area: 344 sq km (approx same size as London)
Population: approx 90,000 (less than the smallest London borough)
The people: 80% African, 3% East Indian, 10% mixed
Capital: St Georges
Principal exports: cocoa, bananas, spices
Grenada - a short history 1951-1983
1951 - Eric Gairy wins election
1962 - government dismissed for corruption
1972 - Gairy wins another election. JEWEL and MAP (see below) are formed
1973 - repression and unrest. JEWEL and MAP join to form NJM.
1974 - 3 month general strike. Rupert Bishop (father of Maurice) assassinated. Grenada achieves independence from Britain. NJM leadership arrested.
13 March 1979 - Revo! Gairy ousted in near bloodless coup
June 1980 - 3 women killed by bomb at rally
1982 - IMF congratulates PRG (see below) for economic performance. US becoming increasingly threatening and paranoid
Feb-March 1982 - my first visit to Grenada
1983 - Reagan refuses to meet delegation aimed at improving relations with US. Rifts appearing in NJM. Rumours and unrest.
19th October 1983 - coup
20th-23rd October 1983 - curfew
25th October 1983 - US invasion
June 1983-February 1984 - my 2nd stay in Grenada
September 1985-March 1986 - my 3rd stay in Grenada
Map - Movement for Assemblies of the People
JEWEL - Joint Endeavour for the Welfare, Education and Liberation of the People
NJM - New Jewel Movement
PRG - People's Revolutionary Government
PRA - People's Revolutionary Army
RFG - Radio Free Grenada
The people in Grenada's story
Eric Gairy - corrupt dictator ousted by revo
Maurice Bishop - charismatic Prime Minister and personification of the revo
Hudson Austin - head of the PRA and 'voice' of the coup
Jacky Creft - Minister of Education. Maurice's partner. 5 months pregnant with his child at time of execution
The people in my story
Me - nice(ish) Jewish girl from London
H - the English woman I traveled with during my first 2 stays in Grenada
C - the English woman and close friend (still) who I met during my 2nd stay
J - the English woman and close friend (still) who was in Grenada June/July 2003. Mother of Gorgeous Goddaughter, born October 1986.
L - my Grenadian partner
B - H's Grenadian partner
W - C's Grenadian partner
M - J's Grenadian partner. Father of Gorgeous Goddaughter
PC - local wheeler and dealer who acted as our mentor
In the next post, I will be starting at the beginning, explaining how I came to be in Grenada in the first place and sharing my experiences of the revo at a time when it was still filled with hope and potential. Over the following posts, I will be relating events as they occurred , using my diaries to ensure accuracy.
Writing this as fiction is impossible. For me, the whole point is that the truth should be known. The truth, unvarnished and unpalatable though it may be to some, as I saw it at the time.
I said in the comments on my previous post that I only cried once during my 4 hours with Faye, the film maker. That response crystallised everything for me. I remembered all over again the exact moment when the Grenadian revo, and with it my own world, fell apart. And I remembered also how crucial it had seemed to me at the time to ensure people understood. I felt this huge weight of responsibility and it's never been discharged.
As the years passed, it was clear that the defining event that most people associated with Grenada was the invasion. Not the revo. And not the coup. I too succumbed in the end. US Imperialism was an easy enemy to focus on. War is something people think they're able to wrap their minds around. And traumatic though the invasion had been, it became less painful for me to reflect on than the events that preceded it.
Over time, my experiences coalesced into a series of well-worn, neatly-packaged anecdotes. Gone were the days when I had first returned to London in 1984, when people would go to great lengths to avoid my Ancient Mariner-esque intensity, determined to force them to see what I had seen and learn what I had learned.
Well, those days are back. The posts that follow will comprise a true and full record at last. Being a blog, people can choose whether to read or ignore, without me having to deal with the angst.
But the words will be out there. Accessible to all. At last.
Friday, November 28, 2008
And yet ... I can't help wondering if it hasn't been inevitable all along ...
As though everything that has come before has been building up to this moment.
Bear with me. Please. This is hard.
Some of you will know that I lived part of my story in Grenada. I've mentioned it before, here, here and here, but only ever in passing.
The time has come to put some flesh on those old bones.
I first went to Grenada in 1982, 3 years after the revolution.
I attended the anniversary celebrations.
My photo albums contain pictures of a smiling Maurice Bishop, PM of Grenada, embracing Samora Machel of Mozambique.
They're both dead now. History. I was there.
I was there too for the International Women's Day celebrations and heard Angela Davis speak.
Her photo's in my album too.
That first month that I spent on this beautiful island in the company of its strong, proud, resilient people convinced me. Somehow ... in some way ... I knew that my own destiny was meshed with this beacon of hope in the Caribbean.
My return there was delayed by an unfortunate accident, but eventually I found myself back in Grenada the following year, with the intention of helping to set up a mobile library. But it didn't feel quite 'right' in the way it had before. Beset by enemies, isolated and threatened by a paranoid US under Reagan, with murmurs of internal divisions and rumours of injustices - it felt as though the shine had gone off the revo.
I had been there about 5 months when on 19th October 1983, after weeks of growing tension and unrest, a crowd led by schoolchildren triumphantly released Maurice from where he'd been held under house arrest. The details of the casualties from the resulting attack on the people by the army have never been fully revealed. You can see some of them listed here. The revo had been ripped apart from within.
The coup was followed by 4 days of curfew. On 25th October, the US invaded. (Of necessity this is the most potted of accounts. You can see full details on this site if you're interested.) I stayed for as long as I could after the invasion, in spite of intense pressure to evacuate, but a few months later, penniless and heartbroken, I no longer had a choice. I returned to the UK to my frantic parents.
With hindsight, I suppose I must have been suffering from post traumatic shock, but no one had heard of that condition back then. I just think I was grieving. Even now, 25 years later, it's hard to describe the depth and intensity of the loss.
I returned the following year, but post-revo Grenada was a very different place and I couldn't see how to fit in or become a part of it. When I finally left in 1986, that should theoretically have been the end of my relationship with the island.
It wasn't though. The experience - seeing the hope and infinite possibility of the revo and then witnessing its destruction - had changed me forever.
Fast forward a couple of decades.
I'm an author with 5 books to my name. Friends often ask me why I don't ever write about what happened in Grenada.
'I sort of do,' I reply. 'Those experiences are part of me. They're part of my identity and so they inform everything I do and everything I write. It's just not explicit.'
Deep down though, I think I knew that this was only part of the truth and that one day I would have to bring the whole experience out of the shadows of my past and into my present.
I just couldn't see how.
A few months ago, I received an email from a guy in the US who had come across this photo on my website and wanted to know if I had any others.
I asked who he was and he told me he'd been part of the first wave of US soldiers in the invasion and wanted to see if he could recognise any of his old buddies in my photos. I politely informed him the images were not available.
The contact made me twitchy and a bit paranoid. I checked round the web and was shocked to see there's a big nostalgia trip in the US about the invasion. Grenada was a nice, short, simple war. And they won. Not like these nasty, messy, complicated wars they have nowadays in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, with their hideous resonances of the ultimate unwinnable war - Vietnam. I stumbled on a propaganda 'comic' telling the story of the brave US soldiers coming to the rescue of the grateful islanders, saving them from the red peril. The invasion took place a quarter of a century ago, yet I found forums where ex and current marines swapped stories and photos of the 'good old days in Grenada' when America could fight a war and win.
History. They were there and so was I. But my memories were very different from theirs.
More time passed. Then recently I 'met' Liane Spicer via the blogosphere. Liane lives in Trinidad and blogs at Wordtryst. We exchanged emails. I told her in about 4 lines about my involvement with Grenada. She said what other friends had already pointed out:
'What a fascinating story - your memoir will really be something! It's got all the elements: tropical island, politics, coup, invasion, romance, adventure, altruism... Are you writing it? Or maybe feeding it all into a novel?'
This was my reply:
'You know, I never have. When you put it like that, I suppose it does seem like it has literary potential. But … I don’t know. I’ve never figured out a way of doing it that I feel comfortable with. One day, maybe. As for feeding it in – well I suppose like everything else in life it has made me into what I am, so informs everything I do, but no direct feeding yet. Or maybe ever …'
(You want more spookiness? Having just gone back to this email exchange, I notice Liane's was sent on 25th October - 25 years to the day after the invasion.)
Grenada was back on my shoulder again. It wasn't going to go away.
Then I read a couple of reviews of Pynter Bender. The book is by a Grenadian author, Jacob Ross, and is set on the island. I bought the book and as I read I was overwhelmed by his evocation of the familiar sights and sounds. Memories came flooding back.
Grenada was whispering urgently in my ear.
So it was almost no surprise when I received an email from this woman, who is making a documentary on the revo.
History. I was there. And now I'm here, though I have no idea what will happen next. This post is the beginning of the next part of my journey.
If you've made it this far, thanks for listening.
Monday, November 24, 2008
What are you doing on Friday evening?
Whatever it is, cancel it and come instead to Joanna Czechowska's book launch.
(See here for my connection to Jo, her book and this event and here for my review of The Black Madonna of Derby.)
Hope to see you there!
Joanna Czechowska will be launching her new novel
The BLACK MADONNA OF DERBY
at Kingsdale Foundation School, Alleyn Park, Dulwich, SE21 8QS.
Friday November 28 2008. Doors open at 7 pm. Admission free.
The talk will include discussion of her writing and her experience in balancing two cultures. Both The Black Madonna of Derby and its Polish edition, the bestselling Goodbye Polsko, will be on sale and Joanna will be signing copies.
Please join us for an interesting discussion followed by refreshments.
I've been a-blogging for many a long year now and I've only recently discovered what I believe to be a new and worrying phenomenon.
I've been leaving comments all over the blogosphere asking if anyone else has noticed that the word verifications have undergone a spooky transformation lately.
Whereas they used to be random letters like blgsqrt or hgrptie, they've become remarkably prescient, coming up with slightly- garbled, lateral-thinking, almost-words reflecting something within the text.
Finally, others have noticed as you'll see from the comments box here at Minx Towers.
(But I saw it first ... naa diddy naa naa)
Anyway, what's it all about?
How does 'it' know?
And should we be afraid???
Sunday, November 23, 2008
But I can't help it.
I'm hooked on this trash.
Now I know the reasons I should boycott this compulsive trivia are legion, and I'm not going to attempt to justify my worrying addiction.
And yet, even as I watch appalled, I can't help thinking ...
... How would I handle it?
We'll never know of course.
Though it's true we're talking some seriously Z-list slebs here (with some notable exceptions) I'm never likely to ever attain such dizzying heights.
Maybe once they run out of everyone on the Z-list, and then worked their way through the Hebrew, Arabic and Cyrillic alphabets and started on the Greek, I might just slip in on Omega.
Whaddya reckon? Think I could handle it?
I know I'd have to deal with some really gross stuff, but surely this will have been adequate preparation ...
Especially since it's just happened again!
The only conclusion I can come to is that my kids are even more full of shit than this current lot of sleb junglistas.
A stay in the jungle could be a welcome relief.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
One of the points that have been raised is that comedians need to be edgy, push the boundaries and take risks.
Some argue that if, as a result of R 'n' B's antics, laughter merchants feel they have to be more careful from now on, the result will be bland, sterilised 'safe' comedy.
(Others argue that being careful is no bad thing, but there you go ...)
Bill Bailey has the answer in this Times article, entitled I don't mock the weak.
In it he says, “You have to pick your targets. And I've realised that, consciously or unconsciously, I tend to target multinational companies! The world's richest banks, the world's richest retailers, people who aren't vulnerable. Because I think, of anyone, you can take this, me, some beardy bloke, shaking a fist at you. That was the thing about the whole Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross affair. It was just the wrong targets ... They mocked the weak. You have got to aim a bit higher than that.”
You've got my vote, Bill.
You're funny, compassionate, clever, politically astute - and very, very silly.
My kinda guy.
Thanks to Babs for the link.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Friday, November 14, 2008
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Hello. Is that the official Helpline for assistance with filing your tax return online? On page xxx of the section yyy the figure auto-generated when I complete zzz is ...
Hang on. Hang on. I'm afraid I only have the paper version here. I don't have access to the online version of the return and the pages don't quite correspond ...
Taxing my income?
Taxing my patience more like!
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
... blogger, Nay Phone Latt has been sentenced to 20 years in jail for 'creating public alarm'.
And poet, Saw Wai has been sentenced to 2 years for concealing an anti-government slogan in a poem.
For background and campaigns see Avaaz.
We're lucky here that we need have no such fears about speaking out about injustice.
So I'm exercising that right by saying how disgusted I am that our government has seen fit to shut down the Metropolitan Police's Human Trafficking Team by cutting its funding.
(I've blogged many times about the sex trade, which was the setting for my 2nd book, Trading Tatiana.)
The team was set up in March 2007 to target global sex traffickers.
Only last week, 6 offenders were jailed for trafficking.
The closure means the loss of the only specialist operational team this country has ever had.
For the real life horror stories behind the trade, as well as campaigns, check out ECPAT and Stop the Traffik.
And on a different human story, have you heard about 13 year old, Hannah Jones?
Hannah was diagnosed with leukaemia when she was 5 and has been in and out of hospital ever since.
The drugs she was given caused a hole to develop in her heart.
Though the leukaemia has not returned, Hannah now needs a further combination of drugs and a pacemaker to deal with her heart condition.
She can move very little without becoming breathless and was told the only solution is for her to have a heart transplant.
This would be no cure.
For starters, she might not survive the op.
Even if she did, the leukaemia could return.
The new heart would last a maximum of ten years.
She would need constant drug treatment.
Hannah declined, saying she would prefer to spend what remains of her life with family and friends and in the care of her mother, a specialist intensive care nurse.
Desperately sad, eh?
But what happened next is enough to make your head spin.
The family received a phone call from the child protection officer at Hereford Hospital.
They were told the hospital were applying for a High Court order to forcibly remove Hannah from her parents' custody as they were 'preventing her treatment'.
The implication was that Hannah could be forced to have the operation against her will and also be removed from her parents' care.
The following day the officer interviewed Hannah in her bedroom at home.
As a result of Hannah's eloquence, the case was thankfully abandoned.
Though not before she'd been forced to go through this terrifying additional ordeal.
Now who was it who sat in an office, looked at Hannah's case and thought that this could possibly have been in her best interests?
Monday, November 10, 2008
I mean, it might have I suppose, but I'm hardly going to point that out myself ...
So anyone know what happens now?
Will I be sent to Virtual Coventry?
Will the blog police come knocking at my door any time now?
Can I plead for mercy?
It's a fair cop but society is to blame ... *whimper*
But I certainly didn't feel proud when I fell over in the street last week.
Especially as I splatted straight onto my knee.
The same knee that I had a series of operations on a couple of decades ago.
The one that has no cushioning in the joint.
The one that had me hobbling to grueling physio sessions 5 times a week for a year.
The one that took all that time to heal when I was in my 20s with supposedly fast powers of recovery.
The same one that is still swollen with technicolour bruising 6 days after I fell ...
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
So much potential ...
So much hope ...
So much responsibility ...
So much that could go wrong ... or right ...
Those clever people at Avaaz have put together a message for Obama from the blogosphere.
This will be displayed at a special Obama Global Message Wall in Washington.
So far there are 22,587 names signed up.
This is the message being sent:
As citizens across the world, we congratulate you on your election, and celebrate your campaign commitments to sign a strong new global treaty on climate change, close Guantanamo prison and end torture, withdraw carefully from Iraq, and double aid to fight poverty. No one country or leader can meet the world's most pressing challenges alone, but working together as one world in a spirit of dialogue and cooperation, yes we can bring real and lasting change.
Click here if you'd like to add your name to the wall.
Friday, October 31, 2008
Headlines in all the papers for days at a time ...
Across the board, tabloids and heavyweights are united in condemnation.
Gordon Brown pitches in (how delighted he must be for the distraction from the economy) and David Cameron is in full agreement.
All are in accord - it's a scandal of the highest order.
Who's to blame? they all ask with righteous indignation.
Is it the over-sexed, over paid likely lads themselves?
Or is the real issue about governance and responsibility at the Beeb?
I've read article after think piece after editorial and I've come to one screaming conclusion:
They're all missing the point!
Let's look back at what was actually said in the beginning to unleash this storm of controversy.
R 'n' B left messages on the answerphone of Andrew Sachs claiming B had slept with his granddaughter and that Sachs might kill himself as a result.
Tasteless? Of course it is.
Puerile? Without a shadow of doubt.
Offensive? Well, yes.
Does it make any difference that the granddaughter is 23 year old Georgina Baillie, a dancer known as Voluptua with a band called the Satanic Sluts and that she's admitted to having had a relationship with Brand? In theory, it shouldn't but ...
Excuse me, but while I agree with the tasteless/puerile/offensive definitions of the so-called prank, as far as I can see R 'n' B have done nothing more than act within the current cultural limits of acceptable behaviour on tv and radio.
In fact, compared to many other examples I could cite, this particular offense seems relatively mild.
Check out these shows (which I confess are among my favourites): Have I Got News for You, Never Mind the Buzzcocks, Mock the Week, Graham Norton and many more.
What do they all in common with the R 'n' B approach?
True, Graham Norton does camp bitchy as opposed to macho laddish, but many of the jokes are the same. The targets certainly are.
- They're all genuinely funny much of the time.
- All these shows are male-dominated.
- They all have people considered fair game for a cheap laugh.
So who's in this particular hit list of acceptable laughing stocks?
Amy Winehouse, Kerry Katona, Britney Spears, Jade Goody, Jodie Marsh ...
And what is it that these regular victims have in common that makes it acceptable to belittle, insult and bully them and still be considered funny?
For crying out loud, it's obvious, isn't it?
They're all women.
And they're all working class.
They're all also, to a greater or lesser extent, damaged and on the edge.
And if Amy or Kerry or any of the others die a miserable and tortured early death, will they still be considered appropriate targets?
Will any of these bright but arrogant men, convinced of their own superiority, feel a twinge of shame for the part they have played in the character assassination that will have contributed to the misery of these young women?
If you need convincing that misogyny and classism are firmly on the cultural media agenda, have you heard any of these men spitting incoherent hatred at Loose Women?
Their fury takes a very different form to the smirking superiority Amy and co are subjected to.
The only conclusion I can come to is that Loose Women are witty, warm and articulate (and middle class incidentally).
Oh and they're on air together, making it far harder to isolate and bully them as individuals. How threatening is that???
Ironically, I can think of only one working class woman who's subverted the genre and taken ownership of her trashy image. Her response to any insult is to laugh, yell 'Bring it on' and add to her burgeoning empire.
And so it is that I find myself in the unlikely position of admitting to a sneaking respect for a pneumatic Barbie Doll - Jordan aka Katie Price.
To return to the Ross/Brand debacle.
Bearing in mind all of the above, it's clear they were acting well within the dictates of their genre. Their main crime was chortling their empty-headed jibe at an aged male national treasure instead of directly at a vulnerable young woman.
So Brand may resign, Ross may be suspended and directorial heads at the BBC may roll, but unless someone looks at the wider culture within which these men operate, nothing will change.
Male comedians, many of whom are capable of being genuinely funny and clever, will continue to demean themselves, their victims - and all those of us in their audiences who accept bullying and insulting vulnerable women as entertainment.
Now that's what I call a real scandal.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
The line between Virtuality and Reality is becoming ever more blurred.
(You will note the number of '.....' used in this post.)
In Japan, a woman has been arrested this week for virtually 'murdering' her virtual 'ex-husband'.
Are you following this?
The woman had 'married' a man (who lives 600 real miles away) in an online game, MapleStory.
The game originated in South Korea and now has approx 50 million subscribers worldwide.
When the 'husband' announced to his 'wife' that he wanted a 'divorce', she was enraged.
Using his password and ID (which he'd shared with her while they'd been happily 'married') she hacked into his computer and erased his digital character, making him virtually 'dead' - or worse - as if he'd 'never existed' (virtually speaking, since the character had never 'really' existed in the first place).
Confusing, isn't it?
Was this a computer crime?
Or a virtual 'murder'?
What's not so confusing is the Real Life sentence she faces if found guilty ...
Up to 5 years in prison or £3,200 fine.
Meanwhile, recently in Holland, 2 teenagers were sentenced to 360 hours community service for virtually beating up another boy and stealing his digital goods.
The court described the crime as theft, which I find weird.
I can understand if the offense was cyberbullying, a very real and destructive phenomenon, but theft???
It's bad enough when material possessions are valued above people in the Real World ...
So what do you think?
Where should the line be drawn?
Should it be a case of, 'If you can't do the Real Time, don't do the Cyber Crime'?
Dunno about you, but I think the real crime here is that some people's real lives are so empty and sad that they spend them buried deep in a facile fantasy world.
I'll leave you to ponder that one for the next few days, while I'm playing on the sand dunes here.
Friday, October 24, 2008
Time was when an abandoned blog would be quickly spotted and squatted, with wild raves taking place in the comments box.
The blog owner would come back from holiday to sprawled bodies, empty bottles, overflowing ashtrays and dried up chocolate fountains.
Not for a while though.
This is a new idea and it's just as exciting (though hopefully a bit more tasteful than some of those Bacchanalian comments box romps where anything goes).
An official virtual event.
Tania Hershman, who blogs at Titania Writes, is embarking on a virtual book tour to talk about her recently published book of short stories, The White Road and Other Stories.
The tour kicks off on 28th October and this 'ere blog is going to be a stopping post next January.
You can follow the tour here.
I've bought a copy of the book and I'm really looking forward to reading it.
(I blogged about it here.)
It was an unexpected internet success with over 100 writers from all over the world taking part regularly, and the launch of the anthology of Your Messages was a great party, with one participant flying over from Texas specially to attend. In addition, nearly £500 was raised for the charity, The Kids Co.
Now, they’re getting ready to do it all over again.
Every day during November they will post a writing prompt of exactly 30 words and you’re invited to respond, via the comments box, with your own original piece of writing which may be either exactly 30 words or 300 words long.
At the end of the month they’ll choose one overall prize-winner (although they say they may well comment on one or two others as well) and the writer of that piece will receive signed copies of their books: Leading the Dance, Learning How to Fall, Something Beginning With and The Oven House.
And how will they make their decision from so much fine writing?
1.There should be some kind of link to the prompt, e.g. theme, image, word or phrase
2.It should be a stand-alone piece of writing.
3.It has to be brilliant!
(The original version of this post appeared on Bookarazzi.)
Thursday, October 23, 2008
I'm delighted to announce that Joanna Czechowska's book, The Black Madonna of Derby, is going to be launched at my fave indie bookshop at an event on Thursday 30th October.
And just to show to what extent this all represents different strands of my life weaving together, there will be another launch event on 28th November as part of the Reading Connects strategy in FB's school.
Joanna's book is perfect for this purpose as it's available in both English and Polish versions and deals with the ramifications of balancing two cultures.
So to sum up: that's a woman in my writers' group, holding one event at a shop I love and where my own book launches were held, and another at the school my son attends, as part of a strategy I'm active in supporting, for a book I helped edit.
Doncha just love it when a plan comes together?
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
You know ...
The one where you're utterly knackered and what you really want is a long lie in snuggled under the duvet or at least a quick kip on the settee but you've got far too much on so you can't afford 30 winks let alone 40 and that's nothing to do with credit munch and you've tried putting matchsticks in your eyes but that really hurts and anyway your lids are so heavy that the sticks snapped and that could have given you a very nasty eye injury so it was a stupid idea in the first place and who thinks of these things cos it's very irresponsible and they shouldn't be allowed to get away with it so instead you tank up on turbo-charged caffeine which does at least keep you awake so you can be acutely aware of your heart pounding but only when it's not fluttering like butterfly wings behind the cage of your ribs and your eyes feel gritty and it's funny cos you have really sharp focus but only on what's directly in front of you but the periphery of your vision is blurred and that means you trip over a lot and wonder if you're nearing the age when people will call it having a fall rather than just falling over and you also feel a teensy bit sick but not like you're actually going to throw up but more like background nausea as though the butterflies in your heart have reproduced and got into your digestive system and maybe they're to blame for your laptop being so sluggish too so you're tempted to dribble coffee onto the keyboard so that you and your machine might operate at the same speed cos it's so frustrating waiting ten minutes or more for a bloody email to download so you attempt to multi task and do other things at the same time but those other things can't be dependent on using the damn laptop cos it's old though nowhere near as old as you and it needs a thorough clean out which is the same as you but you can't do it cos you haven't got the hours to spare that you know it'll take and meanwhile your hands are also a bit trembly cos the caffeine has reached your extremities now and you're awake all right but it's not that easy to function effectively now that the butterflies have failed to flutter by but have taken up residence in your appropriately named nervous system and did you know that it's being argued that Seasonal Affective Disorder would be more appropriately labeled Seasonal Depressive Disorder but you reckon it makes sod all difference what you call it cos it'll still feel like you're being oppressed and you're floundering under the weight of the need to hibernate or hernibertate as FB used to call it and blimey if it's like this now what'll it be like after the clocks go back this weekend?
Do you know this feeling?
Good job it's half term hols next week and we'll be THERE again.
Except I can't give you the link cos the butterflies have persuaded Blogger to join forces to grind me down.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Capitalism isn’t working!
Aw naw – this cannot be …
You mean this wonderful system based on greed and exploitation might not be ideal?
It might even *gasp* have to be replaced by one based instead on altruism and co-operation ...?
Surely shome mishtake …
It would mean an end to global markets …
A shift to small communities working together for the good of all …
There would be less air travel, less shipping of products available round the corner, less squandering of precious resources, less damage to the environment …
And less money available to finance wars, which are just terrorism on a bigger budget after all.
We would have to completely re-evaluate the way we live and adapt our expectations accordingly.
No longer would obscene amounts of money be paid to men in suits who produce nothing.
Those with lavish lifestyles justified by vast incomes will be shaken to the very core as the foundations they have built their lives on are fatally undermined by the crisis.
They will become the nouveau pauvre.
In the affluent West, those of us who don’t own property, who have no debts and little or no savings, who are accustomed to living frugally and within our limited means, will find ourselves better equipped to weather the storm.
And those in the developing world, the poorest of the poor, will no longer be forced into using their precious resources to further enrich the already rich by growing mono-crops for export and paying off so-called ‘loans’.
Instead they will use their land and their energy to grow suitable crops that can feed their own communities.
Not for me.
It might just save the world from greater disaster …
It’s going to be painful - more so for some than others …
Call me a naïve, utopian, starry-eyed, idealistic fantasist and a hopeless optimist ...
I know it could all go horribly wrong and that the poorer have always been the ones to suffer most ...
I know the reality is that it’s incredibly rare for those at the very top of the pile to end up with nothing ...
but I’m a glass-half-full kinda gal and it’s good to see them sweat.
I thought there would be plenty of posts articulating how dire the situation is in so many parts of the world and talking about the hideous injustices that exist in that yawning gap between rich and poor, so I’ve come up with one that feels (to me, anyway!) more positive.
Friday, October 10, 2008
a) think rifling through other people's rubbish is disgusting?
b) have a grudging respect, but still think they're just opportunistic scroungers?
c) feel the real crime is the amount of perfectly good stuff people chuck out to end up in landfill and see this as commendable recycling/reusing?
d) Oi! Hands off! I saw that first!
I confess here, without a twinge of shame, I'm a well-seasoned collector of other people's 'junk'. It seems to me that people often throw away superior items and substitute new poor quality tat that won't last 5 minutes.
Let me take you on a tour of our home.
In the kitchen we have a lovely solid wood shelf unit dumped on the street - perfect for clearing bits and pieces from the work surface.
Moving through to the living room, in the corner there is the beautiful fully-functioning floor lamp I picked up from next to the bins (with plug still attached).
See that stainless steel unit with the videos on?
That was an old display rack abandoned outside a refitted shop.
And that wrought iron circular table with the matching candelabra - both of those were left by the side of the road.
Different roads, different days.
Out in the hall, you'll no doubt admire the 4' long wavy mirror left out by the bins, still in its original wrapping.
You probably won't even notice that the end has snapped off as it's a clean break and looks as though it's meant to be like that.
Ah, the boys' room.
Regular treasure trove here.
I pushed that large office spinny-chair through the streets late at night after a writers' group.
Someone had left it out next to their bin. Not a mark on it.
Over there are the 2 badminton racquets abandoned, complete with protective covers, by our bin shed.
And that fabulous chest of drawers - solid wood, none of your flatpack shite - was left in our basement with a sign saying it was up for grabs.
In our bedroom, I know that huge mirror is cracked, but just look at the gorgeous Gothic frame it's in.
And what shall I put in that heavy wooden frame I found earlier this week?
Once in Brighton, J told me there had been a short power cut and the local supermarket had dumped the entire contents of their chiller cabinets.
We filled every bag we could find and distributed enough cheese to all our friends to last a month.
And, no, none of us got sick.
I don't go looking for this stuff.
I just walk a lot and have my eyes open.
And in case you're worried, the boys aren't in the slightest embarrassed.
In fact they're proud.
'Hey! Look what mum's found today!'
So ... what do you think? Am I disgusting ...?
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
So what are you doing next Wednesday?
And is it so important and time-consuming that you won't be able to find a few minutes to take part?
At this point, 5,897 sites have registered, with an audience in excess of 10,257,686 readers.
Go here to register your blog and become part of the debate.
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
My WIP is spilling out faster than my stiff little fingers can keep up.
Meanwhile, I thought you might enjoy this:
Botox and nose drops and needles for knitting,
Walkers and handrails and new dental fittings,
Bundles of magazines tied up in string,
These are a few of my favorite things.
Cadillacs and cataracts, hearing aids and glasses,
Polident and Fixodent and false teeth in glasses,
Pacemakers, golf carts and porches with swings,
These are a few of my favorite things.
When the pipes leak, When the bones creak,
When the knees go bad,
I simply remember my favorite things,
And then I don't feel so bad.
Hot tea and crumpets and corn pads for bunions,
No spicy hot food or food cooked with onions,
Bathrobes and heating pads and hot meals they bring,
These are a few of my favorite things.
Back pain, confused brains and no need for sinnin',
Thin bones and fractures and hair that is thinnin',
And we won't mention our short shrunken frames,
When we remember our favorite things.
When the joints ache, When the hips break,
When the eyes grow dim,
Then I remember the great life I've had,
And then I don't feel so bad.
Friday, October 03, 2008
And very funny it was too.
I should know - I posted about it back in June 2006. Except the link in my post is no longer operative - and I'm sure it was much better than the new one!
I mean, that's hardly news.
(More recently than they have. Remember this?)
And not my personality.
Getting a bit late for that now.
No, I'm referring to the way I write.
Y'see, I'd noticed that I was doing more on my WIP while sitting on the tube going to see dad or in the park when the kids were playing footie than when I supposedly had a whole day to concentrate on it.
It's all your fault.
Don't deny it.
You're distracting me with your bleedin' bloggin'.
You're writing posts that make me think. Or laugh. You force me to comment.
I know you're not going to stop, so if you won't change, I will.
New year ... new plan.
I'll check my emails and post on my own blog and do anything else urgent that requires me to stare at a screen and then I'm going to close the laptop down and write in longhand as I did when I first started writing Nirvana Bites.
The adrenalin is really flowing with this latest book and it's coming faster than I can get the words on the page.
I'm loving that energy and the insistence that I make this a priority.
It's not just my WIP urging me to make this shift.
My body is telling me too.
My back's knackered from too many hours hunched over a steaming keyboard (from which most of the letters have been rubbed off resulting in some interesting typos).
It's taken a while but at last my brain has caught up with my spine.
I know I can't expect people to keep coming here if I don't return the favour and I'll really miss being involved with what's going on with all of you.
I'll try to visit as often as I can, but meantime ... hush ... can you hear that? My WIP is calling.
Click here to see Lit Bits October, which will be updated regularly as new items come in.
If you know of any news, innovations, articles etc that you think would fit and would be of interest, please email me at info at debialper dot co dot uk
Monday, September 29, 2008
It's traditional at this time to look back, take stock and prepare to move forward.
So what has this old year brought for me personally?
- I finally finished The Gene Pool, the 5th book in the Nirvana series
- and started a new stand-alone novel
- The freelance editing has taken off and now comprises the bulk of my income
- Both children had measles
- and FB had his unforgettable barmitzvah
- As part of the National Year of Reading, I joined the Reading Connects Parents' Steering Group at FB's school
- and I'm also teaching at the Sunday classes at the synagogue
- Bookarazzi has gone from strength to strength and now includes nearly 100 blogging authors
- there were several births in our extended family
- and the sad loss of a friend
- the email list for my writers' group now has over 70 names
- one car died and we adopted another
- I read at an inaugural outdoor literary festival
- We are stress-free about where LG will go to secondary school as he'll be going to the same wonderful place where FB is doing so well
- Old friendships have become more deeply rooted and new ones are flowering
- Life is sweet
Wishing you all a happy, healthy and peaceful new year.