Monday, 17 October 2011

Rihanna put some clothes on

Rihanna; the gorgeous R and B star with a voice like a fog horn on the pull, is in trouble for gifting an audience member with a lap dance as part of her life London show. This comes after her X Factor performance only just squeaked by Press Complains Commission and a Northern Irish farmer chased her off his land for wandering around his acres half dressed and presumably scaring the cattle.

I know, as a feminist I should be defending her right to dress like a trafficked street walker, but, I just don’t buy it. Why does empowerment for young women so often involve being half naked in public? I can’t image her male equals having to wander about in a thong to keep themselves relevant. Kanye West, P Diddy, Jay Z present themselves as media moguls, head of corporations while their female equivalent seem to have to act like the sort of women they’d hire for a dodgy staff party.

When evidence of the horrific domestic violence she experienced at the hands of Chris Brown emerged, within months her record company responded with a sexier look and a record “S&M” that played up the frisson of sex and violence. The last pop singer who had her personal demons exploited for public success was Britney Spears, and we all saw how happily that ended. In the words of Destiny’s Child, a band that would never have been caught dead rambling round any field in the nud- “Child, put some clothes on”

Sunday, 24 July 2011

R.I.P. Amy Whinehouse

Sometimes when life is not going well, when you know at the pit of your stomach that things just aren’t going to sort themselves out, that everything is not going to be ok, the only thing that gets you through it all is music.

The best music, like all art, comes from honesty and while there are plenty of songs about heartbreak, loss and disappointment, very few have the bravery and rawness of Amy Winehouse. In “Back to Black” she wrote about her mind unravelling, she sang in the midst of her life collapsing with the urgency and bewilderment of someone who doesn’t know if they’re going to make it out the other end. Through the patronising drivel of most pop, all the empty clichés and bland rhymes that never solved or made anyone feel anything; her records had the spine tingling honesty of the real thing.

Her early death now means that she’ll be lazily labelled as doomed and weak, the opposite of everything her swaggering vocals celebrated. Amy the Cat was alive; she was messed up but was hanging on as best she could. In a world of overproduced, airbrushed perfection, she was as truthful and ugly as the tattoos on her scraggly body, as messy and earnest as her raggedy beehive. She knew that she was destroying herself but couldn’t seem to stop and refused to hide or apologise for it. The stomping sexy brass of “Rehab” announced a woman that dared you to patronise or feel sorry for her. Yes, her life was a mess but she took full responsibility for it and would rather tear herself apart than play the victim. She didn’t blame anyone, especially any man or relationship. What was the point when she was, in all likelihood, as messed up and culpable as anyone?

Unlike most albums about romantic loss, there was very little about the actual person she was mourning. It was about her; her confusion with what she has doing to her life, her desperate struggle to gain back control and make sense of it all. With a knowing sneer, she let you into her world of rejection, despair, crying on the kitchen floor and in doing so gave dignity and the exhilarating relief of recognition to anyone who experienced anything similar. Worried you were cracking up? Tell her about it. Felt unwanted? Who didn’t? Worried you were mentally incapable of happiness for any length of time? Pass the voddy, she knew all about it. She was the unexpectedly sympathetic voice in the pub toilets, who saw you in all your raw eyed swollen face mess and nodded in understanding. Who was she to pass judgment on whatever mess you were in? All she expected was the same in return.

I really wanted her to make it, to prove the jaded journalists without a whisper of her talent wrong. I wanted more records, for her to sing more songs about other things in life, to have the time to grow up and define herself as more than the messed up girl. Most of us go through that self destructive phase, where we confuse masochism with love and pain with being alive, but there are so many other songs to sing, happier ones; more interesting ones. The aching sadness of it all is that Amy will never get the chance to know that.

Was all the pain she experienced worth the albums she turned it into? Would it have been better if she hadn’t felt so deeply, had been able to move on that bit quicker from whatever demons she couldn’t quite shake off, whatever emptiness she couldn’t fill? Was her talent a result of her troubles or a casualty of them? Isn’t it patronising and insulting to suggest that she needed the damage to make such amazing music; that all you need is a broken heart and a drug problem to produce era defining music?

Before the madness of fame, in her early interviews she came across as someone who just truly loved music. She described hearing soul records for the first time with the innocence and excitement most of us describe out first love. Her tragedy was that anything was ever allowed to come between it. Hopefully now, instead of the drugs, the messy relationships, the bloody ballet slippers dragged through grubby Camden Town, Amy will in death finally be known again for her soaring talent. Nobody who sang with such passion; wrote lyrics as wise and simple as “Love is a Losing Game” could ever be accused of having had a wasted life. Her devastated family can now finally have their beloved daughter back, reclaiming her from the tabloids caricatures and insanity of addiction. As for the public, those of us who never knew her, I doubt she'd want us to feel sorry for her. How could we? She left behind such music, such beauty and for a heartbreakingly short amount of time, she was after all, Amy fucking Winehouse.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Defending Bridesmaids

As feminist, I managed to enjoy “Bridemaids” still feeling I could look Emily Pankhurst in the eye afterwards. It was refreshing to see women on screen I could recognize. Instead of the usual shrill relationship fixated twiglets, these hot messes mismanaged their finances, fell out with their friends, got drunk and slept in bath tubs. These were ladies I could work with.

Do all films about female friends have to be po- faced documents of female struggle? Do they have to end with the message that ultimately we all die alone? Hasn’t Samuel Beckett already beaten her to that premise? Why begrudge Annie, our heroine a nice boyfriend at the end? Rather than being desperate to get wed, she has to overcome her cynicism and grow up before she can get together with the nice Irish cop. Rather than being her goal, he and the rewarding relationship he represents is the prize she earns at the end.

As for Kate Moss, I don’t think anybody considers getting married the supermodels greatest achievement. I think most were pleasantly surprised at how relaxed and incandescently happy she looked in her wedding pictures. The self made millionaire has married a man that obviously adores her, in a killer dress, surrounded by her family at a dream wedding, she probably paid for. Remember, this is that same woman who got her heart broken by Pete Doherty- give the girl a break. In the same week her ex stumbled out of yet another prison sentence for drugs, couldn’t anybody, of any gender, wronged in love not feel a shiver of vicarious glee at her happiness?

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

The Queen's Visit

When Obama visited Ireland last week and spoke movingly about the impact the Irish immigrant community had made in America, he knew how to get the crowd onside. Irish people get emotional about their diaspora in a way the British don’t. Historically, whenever the British moved abroad they were either inspired by the spirit of opportunity and adventure or off to expand the Empire. When The Irish left their homeland it was usually because something depressing was happening.

Even now, Irish people still feel a twinge of guilt and responsibility for those forced to make their home aboard. That’s nothing compared to the guilt felt by the people who actually emigrated. If Ireland could somehow channel this guilt into a form of fuel, George Bush would have invaded us years ago.

I had an auntie and uncle that moved to America during the last big recession in the 80s. The heartbreak of their leaving was matched only by the awkwardness and stress of their visits home. Every two years or so, they’d return with suitcases full of strange sweets, accents warped like old records and speech studded with strange Americanisms like “soda” that we’d all sneer at behind their back. For the length of the visit they tried to slip back into the family roles they abandoned years ago, with siblings they didn’t really know anymore, before returning exhausted back to their real life.

My family never asked questions about their new home; it was as if for those two weeks everyone wanted to forget they were ever away. America was the other woman they wouldn’t speak of. The day they flew back was always the worst. Like a wake the family reunited to say goodbye, bottles of whiskey were gruffly given, neighbours called and hands were shaken. We were ordered to kiss our departing uncle and aunt goodbye, a strange intimacy we treated with giddy embarrassment. Nanny always cried and there was always confusion over she whether going to the airport would be too much for her. Years later, when it was my turn to move abroad, out of choice rather than necessity and only as far away as London, she sobbed as keenly as if I were off to deepest darkest Alaska. Don’t forget me she’d whisper as I hugged her goodbye and guilt sagged like a wet leaden raincoat.

It’s not helped by the fact most of the Londoners I met had gaps in their knowledge of Ireland whole conversations could fall into. I didn’t want to be the clichéd Irish person trotting out Famine statistics and sobbing to Christy Moore, so I didn’t know whether to explain that “southern Ireland” wasn’t a country that Britain isn’t “the mainland” and the Irish language isn’t just pronouncing film as “filum”. Britain seemed clueless about Ireland; it was like discovering your best friend has no idea how old you were and the countries seemed separated by much more than the Irish Sea.

Even now, every trip home, I dread the car journey with my dad back from the airport, where I always get paranoid I’m getting an English accent. As I talk I can feel the strange London vowels in my mouth and my voice sounds awkward and clumsy like listening to a message I left on an answering machine. Now I’m the one bringing home sweets for my nephews and flinching when I accidently say “cupboard” instead of “press”.

Even something as innocuous as watching the Royal Wedding in Trafalgar Square brought a rush of guilt no other European Royal event would bring. Had my head been turned by London with its fancy Palladium architecture and transport system. The Queen wasn’t just the head of a crazy family; she was the head of the British State. What was I doing waving her flag?

So watching the Queens visit to Ireland I wasn’t expecting much. I certainly wasn’t expecting, all the way in Archway London, to feel a lump in my throat and a flush of relief, when she bowed her head before the memorial to the men who had died for Irish independence. The Queen of England, the head of the British army wasn’t just publically acknowledging my past, my history, my version of events she was honouring everything that mattered to my family, my Dad, my Nanny. Britain and Ireland were finally on the same page: London and home feel slightly nearer and I felt slightly less far away.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Oi! You SLAG!

In London next month women will be march to reclaim the word “slut”. I’m shocked by this; I thought we lost that word to the gays years ago. I assumed that like a battered wife determined on a new start, it had moved to Brighton, got a makeover and was now happily describing the shenanigans of gay sexual culture with a jauntiness straight women never quite managed.

But apparently not, a Canadian cop was censured for suggesting women could prevent sexual attacks if they stopped dressing like one. Who knew rapists were so picky? I‘ve never heard of a woman on the brink of being assaulted before her assailant realised skinny jeans were doing nothing for her.

Sluts like the poor have always been with us. Ever since there was property to be passed down the family line, patriarchal society needed to ensure that their male heirs were all Wills and not Harrys. Whenever women have enjoyed any level of sexual freedom, and only the rich of course, it was usually followed by a period of balancing repression. The relative independence of 18th century women was in hindsight blamed as a progressive imbalance that led to the French revolution and resulted in an even stricter Victorian attitude. Ideas such as the medical theory that STDs were spread by the female orgasm made female sexual innocence more important than ever. Since the idea of female sexual independence is barely fifty years old, it’s not surprising a cultural myth as potent as the wanton woman has survived into the modern age.

I’ve only ever heard the word used by a male friend once, a vinegary wash of anger, frustration and spitefulness spreading across his face like lights going up at the end of a night club. It always reveals much more about the man than the woman he’s describing. They are usually describing a woman they’re sure is having lots of sex just not with them. Or if they have slept with them, this proves in their wonderland of self hatred, that they’re soiled nasty goods.

For women, the word “slut” has nothing to do with clothes. Yes we don’t, in general, really appreciate it when other women dress excessively provocatively but that’s more to do with the sober reality that, no matter how sharp your banter is, a flash of flesh will distract the most thoughtful of men. It’s irritating at worst; easy, obvious and equivalent to undercutting in business or crossing a picket line, but it’s not a hate crime.

Slut is a word not really used against women who sleep around a lot either. Most women feel a mixture of concern and rueful recognition for any sister going through that period of her life. Just as the scary witches were often lonely herbalists, the tear stained reality of the woman who will gladly have sex with strangers is usually less glamorous than men’s magazines suggest. They are, by and large, vulnerable, insecure and clumsily working through dormant issues with sole aid of their genitals and vodka. The rule of thumb being, if you don’t really like, respect, or even know the majority of the people you’re sleeping with, then maybe you’re not as happy as you think are. It’s a sentiment equally true for men too.

Women only bring out the S bomb to describe someone who has messed around with someone they care about. The women that steal boyfriends, cheat on their mates or sleep with someone to get an opportunity they didn’t deserve. These women never lose control, self respect and never ever sleep around.

So if, in reality, these larky sex mad “sluts” of the popular imagination don’t really exist how on earth did that Canadian cop feel confident that he could not only recognise one but practically knew where she shopped?

It’s because she is everywhere. You only have to log onto the internet, turn on a music channel or walk into a news agents to see this mystical slag, this chimera of fear and loathing, She Who Must be Laid, staring downing at you, watching your every move, like a humourless sexually available Big Brother. She has no personality, no sense of humour and no clothes on. Her sexiness taken rather than shared, her own pleasure irrelevant, completely defined by her yearning, panting, unquenchable desire for casual sex, especially with the fifteen year old boys the magazines advertisers are targeting. The bitter irony that most women are at their flirtiest, filthiest and most experimental with men they trust, like and respect tragically lost on them for the next twenty years at least.

Call me crazy, call me naïve but wouldn’t it be lovely if the term “slut” gradually fell out of use? If it could quietly slip unnoticed out of modern parlance and join “spinster” “crone” and “witch” as an outdated silly cartoon from the past. Maybe then, if we are very lucky, and fight really hard, many years from now, women would feel free to dress up as one every year for Hallowe’en. I know, I can’t imagine it either…

Friday, 6 May 2011

I'm sorry if this is horribly sentimental but we all know how I feel about the subject

With the death of the last surviving WWI soldier, memory of the first military conflict of modern times fades from the horror of personal experience to the safe sepia of historical fact. For those who fought in it, it was an experience so harrowing that, out of respect for those that died and to protect those spared the experience, they simply refused to speak about it. Now as that generation leaves us, their silence finally becomes complete, a permanent memorial their lost friends.

Although it seems a long time ago, to have experienced the Great War, you only need to have been born about one hundred and ten years ago, which is barely three generations ago. It's only the soldiers todays great grandparents. They’re the same people that bobbed their hair, drove the first cars and wore the clothes still hanging in forgotten wardrobes. They went to cinemas, cheered the present Queen, they were around for The Beatles, it’s not ancient history; their scent still lingers in the air. And yet, psychologically, their generation’s world view had more in common with the ancient past than our own.

Politics was then still the preserve of the aristocracy, women didn’t have the vote and Europe was a family firm run by Queen Victoria’s grand children. In the early days of recruitment before the horrors of the trenches became widely reported the war was sold as an invigorating noble crusade and death at worst an awfully big adventure. If they were to die, it would be as Wendy had insisted in J.M. Barrie’s popular play of the time – as brave Englishmen. Training still involved bayonets and horseback riding. Men were recruited from villages that barely had electricity and fought in battles against automatic weaponry, armoured tanks, gas attacks and mortar attacks. Instead of heroically riding into battle most soldiers waited for nerve shredding weeks in trenches slowly losing their mind. The condition of “shell shock” was coined for the first times and sufferers treated with suspicion bordering on out right aggression. The most common symptoms were either severe stuttering or selective mutism, the English language unable to catch up with what they had experienced.

In the Crimean war, the last major military conflict before The Great War, the most controversial battle of the conflict at Balaclava resulted in the death of 110 men. 19,240 died on the first day of the Somme on the British side alone. There were only sixty years between those two events, less than between now and the dropping of the nuclear bombs in Japan. It’s comparable to our children finding it quant and old fashioned that we find the idea of millions killed in single second strange hard to understand.

At home there was a hysterical craze for mysticism, bereaved families flocked to mediums, scientists attempted to use the newly mastered electricity to try to proof the existence of the soul, serious newspapers reported angels on the battle fields and the latest in photographic equipment captured fairies at the bottom of gardens. Communities that had lost their sons to the industrial weaponry of the 20th century were trying to use dying ancient myths to reclaim them.

Literature imploded; either into the escapism of Tolkien’s “Lord of The Rings” fantasises where homesick confused hobbits battled against faceless industrial death or fragmented into the emptiness of Elliot’s “Wasteland” and Joyce’s streams of consciousness. The safety of Victorian plots abandoned, that A would follow B, the reassurance that everything could be resolved no longer seemed possible. It wasn’t just the demise of literary happy endings; it was the death in the belief of proper endings at all.

The soldiers fighting today have one hundred years worth of vocabulary to make sense of their experiences. Phrases like Pre emptive strikes, collateral damage and Post traumatic stress help to numb the horror, normalise the bloodshed and legitimise the casualties. They have the language but they don’t have the narrative anymore. The reassurance that there is point to it, that order will be restored ,that it will all eventually be worth it. Humans haven’t evolved beyond needing and yearning for those stories but they’re now as ancient and archaic as Edwardian uniforms. With the passing of the last First World War veteran we’ve lost the last person who remembered a world that looked like that.

Now with the old battalions finally reunited, the regiments at last complete, I wonder what the lost boys of the trenches will make of the final aged Tommy returned. If they ask him how the rest of the century worked out, what their war solved and what we learnt from and did with their sacrifice; I hope he’ s able to keep his silence.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

What I learnt at school

The only thought that got me through school assemblies as our head mistress droned about the importance of representing St. Michaels Loreto Convent Navan in a respectable lady like manner was the certainty, curled like an angry fist in my teenage dirt bag heart, that as soon as school was finally out, I would escape this stuffy white bread sandwich town, move to the big city and hang out exclusively with gays, freaks and drag queens.

This week I was a bridesmaid at a Pirate themed civil partnership where my dates were a gay comic and a lesbian cabaret singer. I felt about this the way, I assume, some people feel about finally owning their first house.

I didn’t have the best start at Secondary school. First years were assigned final year “buddies” whose job it was help new girls settle into the new school. In my first week I managed to lose my school bag; along with all my books for the year, twice. The second time it happened I was so worried about telling my Mam, I ran away on my bike and tried to persuade my granny to let me move in with her instead. When I sheepishly returned to school I found out my “buddy” had asked to be swapped to a less high maintenance student.

The other girls in my class didn’t seem to have a problem keeping hold of basic belongings. They were popular, had rugby boyfriends, played hockey and could see the teachers point. They smelled of Body Shop vanilla musk, had sensible career plans and lives as organised as their red pen and ruler lined exercise books. I hated them almost as much as I wanted to be them. I actually took pleasure in annoying and irritating them. I pretended to be hungover in class, bragged about how messed up my real friends outside school were and had eating disorders that lasted until lunchtime or until I forgot, like a creepy teenage Geri Halliwell.

On the day before our Junior Cert exams, and our last before the class was split up into new groups for our final years, a well intentioned teacher decided to pass pages around with each student’s name at the top and asked everyone to write their favourite memories of that person anonymously underneath. I was the only one to have a page of pretty much unanimous negative sarcastic comments. In front of everyone I coolly read them, smirked, crumbled up the page and sashayed out giving everyone what I hoped was my best “Later losers, you’ve just made me feel even more like Madonna” expression. I then went home and memorised every single line.

Surprisingly, fame didn’t beckon, my drama teacher hadn’t contacted Steven Spielberg about me, as in my secret heart I genuinely thought he would. I didn’t get to take year off to work in Hollywood and become friends with Danny Devito, so come September I was back in my maroon school uniform. But to my unexpected delight, something magical called streaming had twinkled its magic wand over the summer holidays, skimmed the smug girls away and poured me into as fresh new class.

I was still with the clever ones, but just not the ones that necessarily did their home work every day.
These were a different group entirely. One’s that understood the importance of throwing school bags out a second floor window, that you should interrupt the geography teacher every time she described any large landmass, be it iceberg, volcano or ox bow lake to earnestly ask if it was as big as the ship Titanic. That instead of doing carols it was just funnier in our final year to do a nativity play so I could finally play Mary. Yes we were all seventeen, yes it quickly descended into “Carry on Bethlehem” and yes we got into massive trouble, but no one ever questioned our choice. That rather than maturely seeing her side, the only way of responding to your homophobic religion teacher as she lectured a roomful of teenage girls on the inherent evilness of abortions was by making a frog noise throughout her class, even if it meant having to write out “ I will not say ribbit in class” one hundred times. That we were probably never ever going to use a quote from “To Kill a Mockingbird” in our adult life.

I’m friends with some of those perfect, popular, punch myself in the face out of boredom girls on Facebook now, but they don’t annoy me anymore; I find them fascinating. I press my nose up against their lives, and skip through the pictures; the sensible nights out, the houses bought, husbands wed and it’s like speeding in a train through a place that looks OK but you know you never have to worry about living there anymore.

Like the astronauts that flew to the moon thinking that they were making important scientific breakthroughs when what turned out to be most important were those images of playing golf and skipping on the lunar surface I don’t really remember anything that I learnt academically at school. French verbs, periodic tables or features of coastal erosion haven’t really come up in my life since. It’s the other stuff that’s important and beautiful. In an adult world of deadening days, bored tired people going through the motions and life trying to get you old, what is really useful to know? That jokes matter; they last longer than facts, erupt in your memory like a firework, singing egos and soldering true friendships.There's more honesty, integrity and compassion in one shared office in joke that a lifetime of following the rules. They won’t get you mortgages but they will get you through the day and invites to Pirate weddings.

As we swung back on our chairs, ignoring the teacher and drawing moustaches on each other’s faces, I thought I would finally get grown but maybe there wasn't much else left for me to learn, except possibly algebra.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

“Darrin Stephens; Bewitched Nights”.

With “Mad Men” off air till 2012, broadcasters have announced they may fill the gap left by the smash hit sixties series by showing the little seen “Bewitched” spin off series “Darrin Stephens; Bewitched Nights”.

While the popular 1960s sitcom focussed on the adventures of a beautiful young witch living in an upstate New York suburb with her handsome young Madison Avenue advertising executive husband, the spin off series had a darker tone.

Instead of magical high jinks, it focused on Darrin’s life at a Manhattan advertising firm. He is presented as a conflicted troubled man, torn between life at a cut throat Madison Avenue ad agency and his idyllic existance in the suburbs married to a witch. Viewers were however surprised and turned off by chain smoking Darrin’s affairs with secretaries, use of prostitutes and battles with booze.

Attempts to retain some of the parent shows lighter whimsical feel were unsuccessful. Episodes included a hilarious trip to a New York strip club where Darrin, unaware his mother in law has accidently turned him into a unicorn, fails to impress clients, the controversial mermaid forced abortion story arch and the clients dinner almost ruined by Darrin’s secret brother from his past life reappearing.

Audiences also rejected the new focus put on wife Samantha’s soulless existence in suburban America, her inability to reconcile inner demons with the barrenness of the American dream; all while being a witch. Memorably, her famous twitch was used to suggest substance abuse. The couple’s daughter Tabitha also became a more rebellious character, memorably rebelling against her mother’s coldness by masturbating on a couch during a during a goblin sleepover. There were also complaints that Darrin’s long suffering best friend Larry’s descent into heroin addiction in Greenwich village was sensationalistic. The series was axed after one season, with actor Dick York resigning in protest

Movie Pitch: Morrissey and Me.

hey guys! I don't really know a lot about the film industry but I have an amazing pitch for a romantic comedy. Is there anybody who can get it seen by the relevant people?! Grrrr!! LOL!!

Movie Pitch: Morrissey and Me.

Gráinne (Gráinne Maguire/Ann Hathaway?), a cocksure young comic decides that in order to write her musical “Girlfriend in Coma” A retelling of the African American feminist movement using songs of The Smiths she must go to extraordinary efforts to insure that notoriously recalcitrant musician grants permission to use his back catalogue. Determined to see her dream come true, she disguises herself as a young gay man and faints in front of his abandoned reclusive manor.

Next scene we see her awakening in a gargantuan living room to find Morrissey (Morrissey/Gordon Brown/Colin Firth?), awkwardly soothing her brow with a damp towel. She claims to have no memory of anything at all apart from being a gay man and a vegetarian. Morrissey, who lives alone with only a loyal retinue of browbeaten servants, agrees to look after his new guest until his (her!) health returns and the two begin a tentative friendship.

MONTAGE: (music-Someone Like You- Van Morrison/Leona Lewis cover?) Gráinne discovers his library- sees different side to him? Eating at long formal table; changing to informal snacks in kitchen; changing to food fights? Gráinne stands up to him/ argues back? Gráinne shows Morrissey how to feed birds? The two play fighting? Wide shot of the two sitting by open fire. Close up of Morrissey looking tentatively happy/ Gráinne looking guilty.

Eventually, haven fallen in love in a paternal way with his house guest, he arranges a surprise slumber party where he plans to officially sign over his fortune, including back catalogue to his young ward. Unfortunately as he excitedly prepares the guestroom with popcorn and a Clueless DVD, his accidentally knocks open her diary and discovers Gráinne’s secret plot in numbered bullet points. He also comes across earlier diary entries where she’s written that she actually thinks Oscar Wilde is over rated. Heartbroken, angry and distraught, in an emotional scene outside in the rain Morrissey reveals he knows her secret. Gráinne tries to explain that her earlier mendacity has blossomed into real friendship but, with a tear stained face; the former Smiths front man banishes her from his life. Shot of Gráinne falling in mud. (Coldplay/ Keane music?)

Gráinne stumbles through abandoned streets. More Rain/ Possible wind machine? There she bumps into Sebastian (Owen Wilson/Jack Whitehall?) her identical twin brother whom she always thought was dead.

INTR: cafe: Gráinne is amazed to discover that Sebastian has also been working on his own Smiths based musical “You’re the One for Me Fatty” A retelling Margaret Thatcher’s dealing with IRA hunger strikers also using the songs of the Smiths. He had disguised himself as an amnesiac young woman and had been staying at Johnny Marr’s (Ian Hart/Hugh Grant?) house. He had also been rumbled, but thanks to an unlogged out gmail account rather than diary. Both shake their heads, ruefully wishing that their mother was alive to see her twins finally reunited. Shot of waitress clearing table- hint that she is actually ghost of their mother?

INTR: West End Theatre. Following the advice of an eccentric old lady, who had both a degree in performers law and also, sadly, terminal cancer, the twins have discovered a loophole allowing them to perform their Smiths musical re-titled “Everyday is like a Sunday” about a young man’s struggle with long term memory loss. At the end of the final number as the smoke clears and the canons slowly roll off stage, we reveal Morrissey and Johnny sitting at opposite ends of the packed auditorium. They both spontaneously give a standing ovation, in doing so become aware of each other’s presence for the first time. A hush falls over the packed theatre and after a heart breaking pause, they embrace weeping. Gráinne and Sebastian (matching outfits?) look at each other, roll eyes and laugh (Lily Allen track?)

Final scene: Morrissey; Johnny, Gráinne and Sebastian all in Morrissey’s living room. His house is no longer cold and menacing; his loyal butler (Antony Hopkins/Miranda Hart?) looks on approvingly as they all happily watch a DVD of Clueless. Johnny suggests that they go out somewhere afterwards; Morrissey says he’d love to but he hasn’t got a stitch to wear. Johnny, Gráinne and Sebastian start to laugh and throw popcorn at the former Smiths front man, who frowns and then begins to laugh himself. Cut to bird flying out of window into the night sky (symbolic?)


Possible Sequel Opportunities: The gang discover a baby abandoned on their door step? Morrissey opens a Private detective Agency?

Monday, 28 March 2011

wooh! It's behind you.....

Do you think ghosts find Hallowe’en patronising? Do they roll their eyes and complain that actually there’s a lot more to their culture than that, it’s just patronising.

They must also get very fed up with how their community is portrayed in the media. They’re either predatory, aggressive ghouls moving into a home and dragging down the property value or bland, sexless Uncle Toms, Casper the sell out ghost, happy to be the living person’s token dead best friend. Whatever their personality or ability, always steroptypically defined by their lack of mortality. How they must yearn for the day that a TV series or mainstream movie is brave enough to cast a ghost in lead role or indeed any part where being dead isn’t their entire storyline and personality point; where they just happen to be not living but also have other stuff going on in their lives as well.

Ghosts don’t do themselves any favours though. Whenever you bump into them they prattle on and on about the same things, repeating the same actions, retracing the same steps. “I was a Victorian ladies maid, oohhh!” Yes, but you’ve been dead for over one hundred and fifty years, what have you been doing in the mean time? Why are you defining yourself by the ten or so years that you happened to be alive when by now that must be a diminishing fraction of your time on this planet? They are the ultimate child stars who have never moved on from their first burst of fame, touring the highways and byways of Britain with their one and only hit. They should say, yes, I was married to Henry the VIII for a few years but to be honest, that was a long time ago, now I’d much rather be known for my oil painting.

In their defence, it must be disappointing to discover that once dead, the only human beings interested in contacting you are drunk students, clingy relatives and Living TV. Imagine; you’re the ghost of a Norman soldier, think of all action, the excitement, the sex you could have had in your day and now the only one showing any interest in you is Yvette Fielding, and you’re supposed to be grateful for the attention? That has got to hurt.

I feel I can comment on this because I once nearly accidentally had sex with a ghost. I was furious. I have always made it very clear that the only dead person I would consider doing the deed with is a WWI soldier and only if I bore a striking resemblance to his long dead sweetheart, whose tragically unconsummated relationship helped him through his final weeks in the trenches and only if having sex with me helped him finally pass over to that great no man’s land in the sky and only if he looked like Jonny Lee Miller in “Regeneration”. Yet there I was, having a nap and minding my own business and there was the universe was setting me up on some sort of cosmic blind date with a spectral chancer. Luckily I woke up before things got out of control otherwise I could have literally had a phantom pregnancy on my hands. How could I have explained that to my parents? I could just see my mother rolling her eyes and sighing “Oh Gráinne, you have to be different don’t you?” I mean having a ghost baby would make me stand out from all the other young mums but what about schools?

My friends weren’t sympathetic either, when I groggily told them on the phone about nearly getting bumped in the night, there was just a nervous laugh, followed by a long pause and a swift change in the conversation. Later three of them independently emailed me links to Guardian Soul Mates; no pun, I hope intended.

I’m non-plussed my the supernatural, even as a child ghosts, banshees, the devil himself were as familiar to me as second cousins my parents got Christmas cards from every year. Satan and his constant attempts to steal my soul were just another problem to be faced and I developed the habit of saying out loud , whenever I saw something I really liked “I wouldn’t give my soul for it” just in case I accidently, subconsciously, made a barter I would later regret. It was like a form on insurance policy should I unwittingly promise my entire afterlife in hell in exchange for a chemistry set. I could just see myself, in my sweaty subterranean cell, stuck for all eternity with Hitler, the shark from Jaws and all the English soldiers my granny told me about, explaining that I was doing time for getting carried away before Christmas in Toys R Us.

At Secondary school, out of sheer boredom, my friends and I did the Ouija board at lunchtime for an entire week and I became convinced that I was communicating with the ghosts of three dead former students who had all died mysteriously in a locked storage room at the back of the lunch hall. The story unravelled itself in my mind’s eye, three girls killed one after the other after dabbling in the occult, a haunted room covered in crucifixes by the nuns in a vain attempt to exorcise the evil history that dripped from its walls, trapped souls only I could release.
It took our religion teacher arranging a special class to formerly deny that any students had ever died from falling downstairs, been run over by a driverless car or been found dead staring into a mirror, for my visions to end. The doomed cupboard of death was later found to contain old geography books.

Ghosts are everywhere after all, even if it’s just our hopes and expectations that though long dead, still stumble about with us, tapping us on our shoulder when we least expect it and rattling our graves. The ancient mistakes that send shivers down our spine, the bad choices that chatter our teeth and the lingering habits that lead up down the same dead ends like will o the wisps.
The missed opportunites that return in the dark of the night with a spectral grin and the new person or fresh opportunity that grotesquely decays to reveal the same old stupidities we thought we’d staked years ago.

With that in mind, I’d like to create my own scary ghost tour. It would involve drama students popping out from behind cobbled archways dressed as your teenage dreams, your weird depressed aunt popping up and whispering “You always reminded me of myself at your age” and at the end you meet your eight your old self who, blinking in horror, touches your face and whispers “Who are you sad old lady?” Then when you turn to your boyfriend for reassurance, he pulls off his face and he’s revealed to be every man you’ve ever gone out with ever. And it’s all done in Victorian outfits; terrifying.

I know how I’m going to die anyway. I’m going to either accidentally strangle myself with a curtain cord, electrocute myself with a toaster or mistake a French window for a sliding door and fall out a sixtieth floor window. My last thought will most definitly be – I cannot believe I just did that. I will meet my maker in one of those accidents electrical goods instructions warn you sarcastically about and people with too much time post on Darwin Award websites. My death will be so ridiculous and bizarre that my family will be too embarrassed to go into specific details at the funeral; my friends will have to avoid eye contact in case they laugh and strangers will assume I must have died in an erotic self asphyxiation act that went wrong. I shall die as I lived; absolutely bloody ridiculous.

Friday, 25 March 2011

My Top Ten life tips

When it comes to important scary emails; go by the Schrödinger’s cat rule. Remember, until you actually open it, it still contains both good and bad news; the script treatment is both accepted and rejected, the man is both interested and gently letting me down, the test results are both positive in a figurative and a literal way. Try to put off opening all icky emails for as long as possible. Wait until it either becomes irrelevant or until one of your friends agrees to read it while you hide, with your fingers in your ears, crouched in another room. Then get them to shout out the gist of it under your locked door. I imagine this is how Schrödinger ended his famous experiment, but then in his defence he did probably have an angry radioactive cat to worry about.

When starting a new job, always be in the process of breaking up with someone. This works for both men and women. It immediately endears you to the people you’re working with and will give you plenty to talk about during those awkward first few weeks. Remember to keep it light and breezy, so no tedious trauma just the inevitable end of something that was never really going anywhere anyway. Do throw in a few anecdotes about how rubbish they were to speed up bonding but remember; judge the room, you don’t want to come across as bitter or shrill. Something about a forgotten birthday should be enough to get everybody on side; you’re aiming for feisty and brave, not doomed and broken. If you are actually going out with someone, make sure you change the name of your imaginary ex partner in case they bump into your real one at a later works do and everyone is mad at you for getting back with them.

If you want to seen busy at your job always look worried about something, squint into the middle distance and sigh a lot. Every now and then rub your eyes, complain how badly run the place is and ruefully laugh how you’re amazed it hasn’t closed down years ago. Then return to facebook. Try to carry a lot of files around with you at all times.

If you find yourself in a situation that you know is going to be awkward always bring an attention grabbing prop. It should provide a distraction from whatever is happening and deflate some of the tension. A small child is good, an attention grabbing hat adequate or even, if you know it’s really going to be a right old cringer, a bandaged limb that may be broken. Once, when I knew I was going to bump into someone for the first time after drunkenly making a misjudged move on them, I decided to wear a Christmas wreath on my head for *the laugh*. There was nothing whimsical about my headgear; I knew exactly what I was doing. While everyone thought I was being my usual eccentric self , I was actually being icily cunning. I knew when I bumped into my erstwhile beau; all attention and conversation would be inevitably drawn to the table arrangement precariously balanced on my head and not the events from the night before. Unfortunately, he didn’t call around to the pub that night so I was left with a crown of fir branches on my head, but to be honest, by then, I was really working the look.

When flying home for the first time after moving to London for your triumphant- look at me living my life in the city, proving your parents wrong by how successful and independent you are - make sure you have the details of the airline and airport you are flying from correct. Do not arrive half an hour late, at the wrong airport and try to board the wrong airline. Gatwick and Stanstead are not as you may think “more or less the same” they are, in fact, very far apart. If this does happen, make sure you have enough money in your account to pay for a replacement flight. If this is not possible, make sure you have enough credit on your phone or change in your pocket to ring your dad for his credit card details. If again, this is not possible, try to be nice to the woman behind the desk when she lets you use their phone and apologetic when you have to enlighten your parents of the evening’s events. When you do finally arrive in your home airport long past midnight, after your flight has been delayed for two hours and your Dad is waiting in arrivals, try to drop the defensive I live in London girl swagger and give him a hug. He will have experienced his own share of disappointments that night too.

If you are already half way to the tube before you realise you have a massive stain down the front of top; instead of going home to change, just act surprised when anyone points it out to you, as if it has only happened moments before. Practice looking down and appearing surprised. This should convince everyone you are just a messy eater; ergo: probably good in bed, instead of being a lazy slob; ergo: probably not.

If something happens that you’re desperate to talk about but are scared of word spreading, find your most self obsessed friend and spill the beans to them. You will get all the release of getting it off your chest with the peace of mind of knowing they will probably never even remember the conversation. It’s the human equivalent of talking to the river. Be careful not to include their name in your story as that might trigger certain synapses in their brain to start working. Bookend it all with questions about them as insurance.

If people are talking about a book or film you know nothing about but you are keen to join the conversation pretend that you have seen it and say that it reminds you a lot of another book/ film that you have read. Then start talking about that instead.For example: “Yeah “My Own Private Idaho”, I loved that film. Spellbinding; just so…atmospheric. Keanu Reeves was almost as good as he was in “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” They’re making a third film!! Alex Winter returns, now who do you think they should do about the part of Rufus? Recast or would that be sacrilege? Long Live the Wild Stallions!"

When somebody introduces you to a baby for the first time always assume they’re a girl. If they’re a boy, it will be taken as a compliment. The same applies to meeting people with North American accents; always guess Canadian first. Even if you are wrong, they will assume you are obliquely suggesting they had had the benefit of a good health care system.

Whatever happens always ,always remember that if you throw enough shit at a wall, eventually, eventually you will get a hand that smells of shit and a stench that will follow you around for the rest of your life, tainting everything you do, touch and taste with a constant reminder of the time you tried

Thursday, 24 March 2011

These things actually happen to me. Part 2

So today, I dragged myself out of my lovely warm bed to be at the gym for 7.15 for my first induction. I managed to be there for 7.30 which considering I had been up till midnight the night before watching “The Only Way is Essex” was a real achievement. I don’t like gyms, the instructors irritate me; I mean to say… jumping up and down for a living? What gasping chasms of low self esteem does that reveal? To want to do professionally what toddlers do on their lunch break? What sort of work stories you would have- “Oh, I did a really interesting exercise today…oh you should have been there, my knees bent and everything”.

Why are they so smug about being so fit, shouldn’t they be embarrassed about having obviously so little else to do with their time? I don’t wander into libraries, lean over someone reading a book I’ve already finished and smugly ask if they need help understanding the author’s subtext. I understand that getting excited about the finer points of Douglas Adams is probably something better kept to myself, yet in a gym we’re supposed to crumble in respectful awe at somebody who has probably spent a similar amount of time moving contracting and retracting stomach muscles. Why all the aggression; the stomach crunches, the blitzing of buts, the feeling the burn? We’re just doing a bit of exercise not trying to over throw Gadaffi.

I just can’t help thinking that dedicating their lives to such a monotonous and time draining pursuit is poor exchange for just being slightly firmer. Yes, you could spend an hour every day at the gym to fit into your clothes better or you could just wear something slightly baggier. No one notices or cares. But I wasn’t thinking about that yesterday when I joined up. Drugged by intoxicating aroma of chlorine and dazzled by the protein bars on sale in reception, I was too distracted thinking about the glamorous, organised, taut grown up I was suddenly going to become.

Anyway, to save time, I came up with the cunning plan of sleeping in my oldest tracksuit bottoms and taking a change of clothes for work. It was only later when I went to get changed. I realised that my sleep fuddled brain had managed to pack tights, change of shoes and even some body moisturiser; which just shows how ambitious about my new life my semi conscious brain was being, but no actual work clothes. I am now at my desk hoping no one notices I am basically wearing my pyjama bottoms. The elastic in the waist has gone and I’ve had to secure it with some staples and a paper clip. On my lunch break they kept slipping down and I looked like a really really really low rent prostitute. So I have seen what my new grown up self looks like and to be honest, she looks exactly like the mad homeless person I always suspected she would be.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Me and my office best friend

Photocopiers are the most melodramatic of modern office equipment; permanently collapsed in a corner, coughing and spluttering, it’s innards clutching onto a piece of chewed up paper like a delicately scrunched lace handkerchief.
I know this because I am very good at fixing them. My calm methodical approach to gently easing the jams from the over excited drums, and with gentle authority turning the puzzled machine on and off again, has, over the years, earned me the name the photocopier whisperer.

I don’t judge it; I understand that with a creative genius like that, neuroticism, hypochondria, even downright diva behaviour is inevitable. The photocopier was once the star, you see, that dropped into office life in the sixties, like displaced piece of futuristic debris fallen from the future and changed everything. With one downward release on pressure on a button, a flash of light and muffled thud, oceans of typing pools with tight sweatered secretaries in old fashioned glasses disappeared in puff of cigarette smoke.

Even in your own life time, remember how excited we used to be about the photocopier, the thrill of learning to copy double sided, the shiver of printing a booklet for the first time, the giddy rush of discovering the stapler worked? The heady smell of fresh ink in the primary school secretary’s office as, the clock ticking closer to home time, you proudly collected hot water bottle warm lice letters and rushed to proudly hand them over to your panicking teacher.

Now, the photocopier, large, squat and taken for granted malingers in the office corner, like a bitter first wife replaced in our affections by the new printer with its slim line scanner. We don’t even get drunk and sit on it at Christmas anymore. What else can it do but cough, whine and complain about paper jams? Yes, it has adapted, we can send scans to them now, most print in colour, some are even connected to the internet but we both know the excitement is over. Compared with the sophisticated swishes and zooms of computer graphics, its simple promise to enlarge or contract by a certain percent embarrasses us both. Its futile attempt to morph into its own replacement unravelling into an undignified and desperate gesture, sullying all the old good memories.

Every year the paper files get smaller, the letters fewer and the guilty recycling bin more prominent, like a sickly bastard child reluctantly included in the family photo. The promises of paperless office, the emails bitchily suggesting it doesn’t need to be printed, each a slow drawing down of blinds. We’ve moved on. It’s seen off the fax machine, but this feels different. That’s why I’m patient with it, turn it off when it’s too warm and try not to slam the doors to roughly when, it blinks desperately about another phantom unknown blockage in drawer two that I know isn’t there. It wants to know that I’m still there, that I still care and that I’ll be there when it gets switched on again. And like Atticus Finch. I always will be.