Sunday, 25 May 2008

Euro-Schmeuro: Time To Go

Today the sun for sorrow dares not show its head; rain is thrown down in skyfulls upon the grateful green and ungrateful populace of this grassy isle, and I am through with Eurovision.

Even Terry Wogan is wondering if he's through with it, and that's got to be a sign.

It is time to say something about Eastern Europe, and here it is; we have had nothing in common with them for the last millennium, and now it is time to Cut Them Loose. There are people in the UK from abroad with whom we have much in common - in particular a history of colonisation -and to these people our loyalties are due. But Eastern Europe - land of snow, pogroms and heavy embroidery - has very little common history with the UK. As its Eurovision voting shows.

I found the whole fiasco this year almost creepily all-white and largely all-shite. Apart from Bjorn giving the votes from Sweden - barely legal, nervous as a Herbert Lom in a Fritz Lang classic and blatantly liquored up, giggling "yes it's true" after delivering himself of the "dix points" score - I didn't enjoy much of it, although the French entry fascinated me. We come in for a lot of stick on the continent (apparently) for Not Taking It Seriously. Well, if having four female backing singers in false beards and taches and a singer arriving in a tiny car sucking helium out of a globe beach ball is taking it seriously we certainly have some way to go. AND YET the French got a good deal more than 14 points.

We came - for anybody who doesn't know - joint bottom with Poland and Germany, each with 14 points out of a possible 2494. We should have a Little Chat with Germany. When there are about 50 countries in a competition and we (Germany, France, Spain and the UK) pay 40% of the cost, we should be looking into whether we can get better value for money out of withdrawing and spending the money elsewhere, because paying through the nose for the Barefoot Russian narcissist is not a good return on any investment. (He's cross-eyed for crying out loud. What is it with cross-eyed men that in the first place they consider themselves sexy and in the second anybody agrees? Nobody thought Bjorn Borg was sexy. The world was a lot more sensible in the seventies.)

So - time to turn the whole thing over to Simon Cowell. Let us put Eurovision off onto some oblique rubbishy channel and invite our mates whom we fight with (ie our Euro-neighbours) to put forth their best for Westeuro Idol or The EU's Got Talent. The important thing is A Local Squabble for Local People. The French, Germans, Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese all have hideously embarrassing colonial histories and a corresponding tolerance of different coloured skin and cultural diversity as part of their emergent new-world identities. Eastern Europe have the bitching of the Balkans and the Coalition of CUBR (Countries that Used to Be Russia); we should have our own CUBE (Countries that Used to Be Empires) because damn we are different.

Sod it, we should have A Song for the Western Europe and its Ex-Colonies (Russia does - and we pay for it) - think how funky that would be - it is time to line up with who we actually have something in common with.

Monday, 12 May 2008

No Tea one, Karma nil

Well, it's been a month - moreorless - and I have not been visited by the migraine goblins, so perhaps the no tea has something to be said for it. More shockingly, I have not missed it at all, partly because I have discovered liquorice tea, which I think is better than anything else anyway. It is made by UK Yogis in response to the horror of teaching Yoga in the West. Drink the tea, skip the lotus position. It has cute little "thoughts for the day" on the tags. And I think that's cute.

Meanwhile, the Karma email has been a complete sell. I have not got a job, or a boyfriend, or a social life, and I have failed my standardisation for SATs marking; to say nothing of a massive humanitarian disaster in Myanmar, which is not something I hoped for. There may be spiritual forces at work in the world, but I am not convinced they are at the beck and call of humans. If they were life would be a damn sight easier, and I would have achieved world domination/peace/justice from my seedy old armchair while watching Nancyvision.


This week's endangered were Niamh and Ashley, and the red headed Scot got the chop - not very surprisingly, as ALW has never liked her. I like Jessie less and less as the weeks pass and I have to watch her galumphing about in nasty emerald-hued satin nighties. She no longer seems coltish to me now, she seems more like a slightly small heifer. When she dashes off stage right after being told "YOU could still be Nancy" you can feel the boards shake under the hefty hammering of her hobnailed booties. God knows what it's like having her in a small space. Will nobody rid us of this curly turbulence? quoth Kerensa the Good. And the answer is, probably not, for Andrew is desperate for her to win. I am desperate for Jodie or Rachel to win, which is of course the kiss of death.


Kill! Kill! This series is quite perfect because so many of them are so horrid, that it's just a statistical likelihood that somebody you loathe will get the boot on any given show. On the other hand, the number of nice candidates (Lucinda and Sara) is so limited, that two weeks could put paid to the need to watch at all. Win win really.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

An A to Z of the Sad State of Us

I saw Boy A last night and now I can't get the damn thing out of my head. (Readers of a sensitive disposition stop now.)

It concerns the release after detention of a young man who was imprisoned as a child for the killing - with another boy - of another child; in this case it's a girl of about their own age, but otherwise the situation clearly parallells the killing of Jamie Bulger.

The point about Boy A is that he has grown up a decent hardworking well-intentioned lad, burdened with guilt and fear about his past, but apparently exemplary in his present. This, too, mirrors the Jamie Bulger case.

Where the film is different from most of the press on the case, is that it takes up Boy A's story - we are invited to identify with him, to see his childhood, to sympathise with his rehabilitation and attempts to make a normal life after his release. The press and the legal system notably did not take this line about the perpetrators in reality; in 2001 when the boys came up for parole, there were still numerous calls for them to be "punished" longer, for them never to be released, endless appeals about the feelings of the dead child's mother, endless demands that they should suffer, that revenge should be somehow exacted.

The film is amazing - not because of its perfect script, which actually seemed to me beautiful in scene and dialogue, but flawed in structure, but because of the compelling conviction of both the lead and the director; the viewer is lead to care about Boy A a lot more than s/he does about the vast majority of "good" characters on tv. We see him as a victim as a child and a trier as an adult, and we hope for the best for him. We hope for his salvation; I did, anyway.

The trouble with the film is that it skates over the horror of the original crime, but at the end of it that is still where one's mind returns; to the murder of a two year old which was a bloody, panicky, horrible killing, which nobody stopped, and which afterwards was too awful to accept. What breaks your heart about it is the feeling that it could so easily not have happened. It would have been so easy for somebody to say something, to stop them; it would have been so easy for his mother not to be distracted for that single moment; it would have been so easy, for so long, for them to go back, to leave him at a police station or on somebody's doorstep, and for it to have had another, better ending.

But it happened, and so did the curious response of the UK press and legal system. I call it curious because it is almost unique in the annals of the press that neither the parents of any of the parties nor the social workers were blamed. On this occasion, the two children stood alone. They were tried as adults, though clearly unable to understand much of what was going on - something I believe would be forbidden by European law now - and their identities were made known to the press, although only ten years old at the time. Both boys had a catalogue of victim survival that would make an angel weep, and a probation officer feel no surprise at all. Between them they racked up bullying, school failure, neglect, violence and sexual abuse. The Home Secretary wanted to imprison them for thirty years, in defiance of all legal precedent and guidelines of the time. And 17 years later, people still bay for blood.

And it is because we cannot be free of it. What I remember, what I always remember, is the idea of the last part of Jamie Bulger's life. Not the two years before, when he must have been an ordinary and often happy child, but the awful last afternoon, which replays and which I empathise with so strongly that I imagine his pain and confusion as my own, amplified by my adult, external sympathy, the hope that - like the car keys you just locked in the car, like the dreadful truth you just articulated, like the mistake you knew you were making - the tape will rewind and time will allow this one correction, this one time. And that little boy is gone now; there is no likelihood, in any religion in the world, nor outside of one either, that he can be suffering any longer. It is the living who are trapped in that last corridor of horrible time; it is we who re-live it; strange that we cannot forgive the people who perpetrated it, because surely they are right there as well, only worse, with memory instead of imagination. I suppose we cannot forgive them, because they did it to us; and perhaps we haven't the last quarter inch of generosity to realise truly, in our hearts, that they what they have done to us, they have done to themselves as well.