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Dear Facebook (4th September 2015)

Dear Facebook,

As I read through my newsfeed today, I notice several of my friends (some who are more acquaintances, really) are perturbed by all the pictures of Aylan Kurdi that were flying all over the Internet. As someone who shared no fewer than 4 pictures of Aylan yesterday, allow me to address those of you who find this distasteful.

1) I’ve no idea if anyone shared pictures of Aylan in, for example, meme form. Certainly I did not; and I could see how such a use of his picture could be construed as distasteful. I didn’t personally see anything of that nature.

2) Each picture I shared was either the header for an article, a petition, or a link to email your MP, each addressing the refugee crisis. Most, if not all, contained links whereby readers could donate money or learn about donating goods, if they wanted to tackle the problem in a practical way.

3) The reason I shared so many different (4–is 4 “so many”?) posts on the subject, was so that everyone who wanted to, could chip in. As a member of one particular organization whose petition I shared, I could sign, but non-members cannot. I shared that petition for other members who might see it; then I shared the other petition for everyone else. I shared the link to email one’s MP because everyone can do that; but since some people believe that’s about as much use as talking to the actual buildings of Parliament, well, those people can sign the petitions, OR just follow the links and donate some money. The first article I shared, was about how to address the refugee crisis (as in, where do we put them) and I shared it first because it was the first article I read that addressed that issue, and I wanted to get started with, “Yes we *can* fit them in the UK, here’s how,” and while it wasn’t the most reasoned article I’ve ever read, it made the points well enough.

In other words, I shared every “practical solution” link I could find (I found most of them in my own inbox, rather than searching for them) plus a single article on how we could house a massive influx of refugees.

4) Some of you have made statements about how “you wouldn’t want pictures of your child used like that”. Well, I will tell you, as the mother of 2 children (aged 7 and 9) if they ever die under similar, preventable circumstances, I imagine I will post the pictures myself alongside a shot of me weeping over their caskets, if I think it will make one single person sit up and take notice of whatever tragedy robbed them of their lives.

There’s actually a long history of that; as Piers Morgan informs us today (in the Mail Online… I know, I know):

“The civil rights movement changed irrevocably in the ‘50s when a young black boy named Emmet Till was brutally mutilated and murdered by the Ku Klux Klan and his mother insisted on a public funeral with an open casket, allowing the world to see exactly what these evil bastards had done to her son.” –Piers Morgan, 4th September 2015

5) I’d like to say that the above is why I chose to show the pictures as well as the links (because I could have just shared the links minus the pictures) but the truth is, I didn’t think of it. From the first picture of Aylan I saw, I was near tears; by the time I’d read the articles and shared a couple, I was actively crying and feeling sick. In that state, I didn’t think to share the links minus the pictures… and so I’d shared 3 of the 4 links by the time someone pointed out to me that I could share the one without the other.

And when I thought about it, I did wind up (may all the gods that ever were, forgive me) agreeing with Piers… I think the pictures do the horrific task of reminding us *why* we ought to care, better than anyone’s words alone could. That’s genuinely what I believe, and until I believe something different, I have to act in a manner that aligns with that belief.

I don’t know about anyone else, but for me, I am rarely sure of the right thing to do. But if I never did anything, then I would *definitely* not be doing the right thing. People *did* sign both petitions (I get email notifications for one petition; on the other, at least one person told me they’d signed) and I think someone emailed their MP, as well. Maybe that’s not the overwhelming response I let myself hope for, in a moment of unbridled optism… but it’s not nothing, either.

And it’s kinda worked–my Prime Minister has, apparently, gone on record saying that we *will* offer sanctuary to more refugees, in the coming months. Even that wishy-washy promise is better than nothing.

Sometimes, nothing is the only thing I just can’t do.

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Robin Williams, 1 Year On

I wrote this nearly a year ago, for the then-only-just-deceased Robin Williams… I wanted to fix it, to make it better for the anniversary of his death, but it’s been a busy year and this is what I’ve got. I’d rather post it than not, though.

This is *not* “O Captain, My Captain,” nor even a decent parody (the rhyme scheme ran away with itself, and I was powerless to stop it; there are too many syllables at many points, and at least one extra stanza) but it most certainly *is* an homage to that poem, to Walt Whitman, to the movie “Dead Poets Society” and, most of all, to Robin Williams, the… oh, fuck it. He was a legend, and I don’t have the words, but here’s my best attempt.

If you’re somewhere reading it, Robin, I hope you’re touched by my efforts. You were such a generous human being, I know you won’t judge me for the many stylistic errors.

O Captain, my Captain–
You jumped the fucking ship?
You’re overboard, we’re over-bored
Without your perfect quips.

Don’t get me wrong, the voyage long was more than you could bear
I get the why, it’s just that I
can’t stop my useless tears.

And oh fuck! Wank! Shit!
Oh the movies never made!
Oh the vast routines where genius gleams
now stuck in endless shade!

O Captain, my Captain, how have we lost your spark,
When all the world your jokes unfurl
to chase away their dark?

Oh Captain, our brother,
We’d share with you our pills
Our memories bright of how your light
has lessened all our ills.

Although he does not answer,
Although his family weeps,
I think I’m right, this is just night
And he’s merely fast asleep.

His lamp unrubbed, his lines un-flubbed
To Orson he does not fly;
In a jungle great he merely waits for an 8, perhaps a 5.

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When the World Was So New and All

The above is a quote from one of Rudyard Kipling’s stories, written, I believe, for his young son. In political outlook and the like, Kipling was actually pretty diametrically opposed to most of the things I most believe in; but the man had some turn-of-phrase. Poems, short stories, nearly everything I’ve ever read by him, I either liked or loved, if not for the sentiments expressed, for the way they were expressed. But more often than not, I love the actual story, as well, because the emotional impact is so high (even when the morality you’re being spoonfed is very much not to ones taste) …but you can’t tell me there’s not a lot to admire, in a lot of the man’s works. Example: I will not be judged for my love of the story Rikki Tikki Tavi, because that mongoose is a BOSS.

The reason I’m quoting the above, however, has to do with the phrase itself, rather than one of Kipling’s stories. In “Just So Stories for Little Children,” the phrase is used to denote a time when everything was unfolding, the laws of nature hadn’t been fully worked out yet, the animals exist but are still finding their feet (paws, tails, the wrinkles in their skin) and thus, things go a bit off-course from time to time, but they work out okay in the end. I always liked the idea of the earth being new, and fresh, and bright; of there being an air of expectation about the world, and a receptiveness to the idea that things might change, eve suddenly, and that’s fine too. I didn’t deal very well with unexpected change, as a child–but I hoped for a time when maybe I would.

That time is upon me now, it seems. At the age of 31, I have finally learned, at least occasionally, that activities can change, or be added, or be taken away, without ruining the construction of the whole (the whole being my life). I have begun several new projects lately, and while they have all been hit and miss, I have both the feeling that there are more hits than misses, AND that the misses are not catastrophic events. When a thing happens that I did not expect, apparently, I can sometimes roll with it, take it as it comes, and carry on, more or less unscathed.

Is this what being an adult is like? Is this feeling that one wrong move will not destroy me… maturity?

I don’t know, but whatever this liberating notion is, I shall cultivate it. For maybe the first time in my existence, I really feel like all of the following is true: I’m not a victim of circumstance, my choices are my own, I have various options to choose from, and whatever happens, no one needs to worry for me, because I’ll be alright in the end. This, chickadees… this is real freedom. Not the freedom that’s just another word for, nothin’ left to lose (thank you, Kris Kristofferson and Janis Joplin) but… freedom that literally means, “I can move around with relative confidence in myself and the world around me.”

In the privacy of my first-ever own home, I started singing the song below over a decade ago, when I left the safety of my mother’s house to make a new life half a world away… and, like a self-fulfilling prophecy you can only mention to yourself, it’s finally started to come true. It *is* like a brave new world (that has such creatures in it–and they are my friends, for the most part!) and I wish to live forever, in this world that is so brave and new and all.

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Dancing with Myself

So. I’ve been trying for a few weeks now, to start a sort of collaborative group with some friends of mine. We want to write parodies, and then maybe comic songs that are not parodies, and then, maybe, one day, actual songs. Which is, I think, the least likely of the aforementioned events–but who knows? There are services that will notate your rubbish, half-baked melody and semi-unique, half-decent lyrics, if you cannot write music yourself. We’ve maybe got a chance.

The trouble is, every time I sit down to write a thing with someone, it never seems to pan out. So far, the following has happened several times: someone else gives me a line, I either take it as is or reword it slightly, I go away, and I come back an hour later with a really cute, fully-formed parody (one of which made it onto Facebook, and everyone loved it and praised me accordingly). All of which is great; none of which is collaboration, in the truest sense of the word.

When the Monty Python guys were writing, there was always one left out (I don’t recall which one). But basically, there were 2 pairings who wrote together a lot, and the 5th one was forever banging the, “Why will no one write with me?” drum, all the while churning out comparable stuff to the rest of the guys… but alone. I remember hearing that when I was a teenager, and thinking how sad, how lonely, that seemed. (At that point, I had a parody buddy–and we were shit-hot. 2-3 parodies a week, every week, about half written separately, and about half together. That was the life.)

But now… somehow I can’t seem to find another parody buddy. I’ve gone from being the girl *everyone* could write with (truly, I could work with anyone) to being someone who can write with maybe one of the others in our little group. Don’t get me wrong, my work is still solid–you set me a task, you can bank on something so good you’ll wish you’d written it yourself–and I’m fairly prolific, but… what’s happened to the collaborative aspect of all this? Am I out of practice? Am I just too old, now? Has my brain lost enough plasticity that I can no longer mould myself to the cadences and quirks of another?

Is it simply that I grew up in the States, and all my friends now are British, and we lack the shared history for in-jokes that are universally relatable, and the context to frame them in?

Whatever the reason, it’s a sorry state of affairs when being in a group only makes me feel more alone.

Oh, wait. That’s just life as I know it.

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Talking to Myself

It occurs to me, that for all people love to tell me how much they adore my writing, very few people say the words publicly. In a medium like this, there’s plenty of scope for personal comments on a particular entry (especially if you know or suspect it’s about yourself) but… even my real-life friends don’t really comment, here.

It’s okay. I’m not talking about the majority of them anyway… most of my friends, they give me as much as I give them, and I couldn’t in good conscience ask them to obsess over my life the way I do. I mean, this is the whole proof of why I’m a good writer: like the song says, I could write it better than you ever felt it. But reading the story and being amused or interested is not the same as having enough emotional investment to comment on it–it didn’t happen to them, it happened to me, and only I *should* care enough to write about it.

This always happens to me, eventually. I talk and talk in an empty room, and wonder why it’s only my own voice I hear, echoing back at me. This is largely the reason for my recent spurt of doing things: karaoke, ballroom dancing, song parodies, trying to get into a brick university, trying to set up a YouTube channel with mates… I know I have to do these things in front of people, for them to comment; and this blog is more or less a dirty secret, I certainly don’t post it on my Facebook Wall or anything, I don’t *try* to get everyone to look at it.

I can’t escape the fact that some things, I have been trying to get people to look at, though. In some areas of my life, I’m giving a good impression of being downright extroverted–and still, no one’s paying attention.

What if I did *this* more openly, and no one noticed it, either? Then what would I have to offer the world?

Nothing. Out of all the things I think I can maybe do, this is the one I’m best at. If people don’t care about my writing….? I got nothin’.

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“I Heard There Was A Secret Chord…”

You all know the song, right? Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”? And how it starts with there being a secret chord, which David plays, and it pleases the Lord, maybe; but it’s not so much pleasing the other person in the equation (in the song, this is presumably the singer’s ex-lover). But in the original reference the playing *does* please the other person, so much that they actually can’t function without out. Which raises an interesting question.

First, though, the reference itself: I trust you know, it’s based on the Bible (what most Christians call the Bible, anyway) and I really, really hope you know the story of David, Jonathan, and Saul, because it’s beautiful, in a heartbreaking kinda way. I’ll probably cover it at some point–King David was the main reason I wanted to name a boy David, if I ever had one, and although I changed my mind later, the inspiration still stands–King David is my all-time favourite Bible character.

For the purposes of this entry, though, I need to focus more on King Saul, David’s predecessor.

Essentially, Saul was an intentional mistake, put in charge of the nation of Israel to show them up, and reveal how much better God was at ruling them than a human would be. Basically, God lets the Israelites choose a king, and they pick a big dude who’s shit-hot on the battlefield (maybe, like, a little unhinged? a berserker, prone to unquenchable bloodlust?) and he turns out to be a great warrior, but not such a great king. Then middle age comes upon him, he gets depressed (or gets an actual evil spirit tormenting him, if you believe that sort of thing–either way, the end result is a load of misery, I mean, there’s a reason we liken mental illness to “battling our demons”, and it’s not because the situations are dissimilar) and he has to send for someone to come and play music to quiet his inner torment (or to make the demon go away, whichever you prefer).

Enter, Not-Yet-King David. A youngest son and a shepherd by trade, he’s actually a pretty cool kid: morally upright and sensible and reliable, also athletic and already something of a bad-ass (he’s forever killing wild animals with a slingshot, and keeping all his sheep safe, and doing a bunch of properly grown-up shit) but eternally overlooked, because he has like a hundred older brothers (6, I think–I haven’t read the story in years) and so no one gives little David the time of day. Then, he gets singled out (different part of the story) and sent to the palace, and what do you know, on top of being an all-round bad-ass, little David plays a mean lyre, as well.

But *not* a mean one; a lovely, soothing, melodic lyre, played so beautifully and skilfully that it chases all King Saul’s demons away. They get into a groove: Saul has a shrieking panic attack, he sends for David, David pulls out the B.C.E. equivalent of an acoustic guitar, and he singer/songwriters Saul and his evil spirits into blissful relaxation. And just like that, Saul–a man teetering right on the edge of suicidal, homicidal depression–manages to carry on ruling for years to come.

My question is this: what would have happened to Saul, if, when he called for David, David never showed?

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