Disturbing news

The last unpublished post of Caroline Flack makes for disturbing news but it raises an important point. Ms Flack’s career was defined by what she said on tv and that platform was taken away dramatically and suddenly. The loss of her voice, on top of everything else, therefore, must have been dreadful for her. She was already demonstrably vulnerable, had taken significant steps to sort things out and her boyfriend had said he did not want to press charges. An emotional breakdown has played out in public and we need to look at the way our society has allowed this to happen.

She writes with great clarity:

I am suddenly on a different kind of stage and everyone is watching it happen.

I have always taken responsibility for what happened that night. Even on the night. But the truth is …. It was an accident.

I’ve been having some sort of emotional breakdown for a very long time.

But I am NOT a domestic abuser. We had an argument and an accident happened. An accident.

The blood that someone SOLD to a newspaper was MY blood and that was something very sad and very personal.

The reason I am talking today is because my family can’t take anymore.

I’ve lost my job. My home. My ability to speak. And the truth has been taken out of my hands and used as entertainment.

I can’t spend every day hidden away being told not to say or speak to anyone.

I’m so sorry to my family for what I have brought upon them and for what my friends have had to go through.

I’m not thinking about ‘how I’m going to get my career back’. I’m thinking about how I’m going to get mine and my family’s life back.

I can’t say anymore than that.

There is now talk of “Caroline’s law” and, certainly, the death of Caroline Flack has been treated with great delicacy by the media. For the most part. One of the hosts of “This morning” may have made a slip of the tongue but it was an unfortunate one when she said on air, “The press are getting a lot of flack”.

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While the media may indeed need to do some self-searching, and while this may be  yet another reality tv tragedy, it is also another instance of the sort of mindless bureaucracy that we are allowing from public services set up to protect us, this time, from the CPS. We need to look better at people and ask what they are capable of, rather than follow a catalogue of events in -what should we call it? um- a “points’-based system”? (the punctuation alone to properly write that term should encourage us to avoid it in future).

We have the capacity to do better but we seem to be doing worse.

In terms of reality tv casualties, I can now think of 4 deaths directly linked to “Love Island”, a show that I managed to watch briefly- it is a very strange spectacle, more like a 1960’s beauty pageant. I can only speculate about the pressures the contestants must be put under every day! However, to that list – specifically, Sophie Gradon and her boyfriend Aaron Armstrong, Mike Thalassitis and now Caroline Flack, I should add Steve Dymond who was on Jeremy Kyle’s former show, but also instance the pressures that led to suicide attempts by Steve Wright, a former Big Brother winner in 2013. Aaron Allard Morgan has gone on record on “the Wright stuff” saying that 4 contestants he knew had attempted suicide following the show in 2011. This is what he said then,

They give you very little preparation for what’s likely to happen. From my year, with the 15 of us, I know that four of them have tried committing suicide after the show just because of the ramifications and impact that it has on your life.

You’re not prepared and you don’t get the aftercare that perhaps you should be getting afterwards. The people that are going in tomorrow, they’re not gonna hear this.

I just hope that if they need help afterwards, if they wanna speak to me, if they need any advice, I’m more than happy to give that.

There are, I understand, many other instances.

Despite having been on a Reality show myself, it is an area of TV that I know little about and the more I look into it, the more I realise there is an important story to be told. Reality TV has changed the dynamic of the medium and I think it will define the way tv moves forward. It has already dictated a number of checks and balances that I have seen in place, but we may need to be even more vigilant if these procedures are to have teeth and not be mere window-dressing, lipservice or a fashionable veneer over what has become a serious money-making machine.

Some years’ ago, I posted something about Robin Williams – It is a great sadness when those who are entertaining us are crushed by the very system that should be there to support them.

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Also in the news today is the statement that Prince Harry and Megan cannot use the term “Sussex Royal”. This is absurd- it is churlish, childish and cheap. It is a response, frankly, that is beneath the Royal family and those who offer them advice. At a time when senior members of that family have brought genuine shame on the Queen and are still held close, this kneejerk (do I need all that word?) reaction to the Queen’s grandson and his wife is astonishing and really should be reversed. Let’s wait for a gracious apology. If anyone can do that well, it is the Queen! She will lead the way out of this mess.

 

Pictures inspired by MARY POPPINS RETURNS

maxresdefault-e1537202370488Here are some sketches from watching the trailer of Mary Poppins returns along with two youtube links-

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Julie Walters plays Ellen

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Mary Poppins provides some specific parenting advice- that a smooth house is based on order, that mavericks need a system which can be broken with some care- Mary Poppins is essentially two people- the disciplinarian and the mischievous fairy- when there is a clash she simply refuses to explain or denies that anything odd has ever happened. “Or I’ll call a policeman”. It is harder to pull off as an average mortal, but all children need both the boundaries and the experience of breaking those boundaries. I think it also helps if children have a wider circle of trustworthy adults they can consult, especially when things go wrong. The family sadly does not have all the answers all the time.

There is a similar wealth of good advice in Mrs Doubtfire.

 

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I love the “Step in Time” tribute in the trailers and also the 2d animation sequence.

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here is a picture of Mary Poppins’ arrival:

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Robin Williams RIP

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When I began teaching, people called me Robin and began to say “Nanu nannu” in class. I had no idea what they were on about until I saw “Dead Poet’s society” which was quite shocking. It was like looking in a mirror. Both the actor and the story were horribly familiar. Already, I had asked students to stand on their desk to see things from a different perspective, so I knew in an instant, as I watched that film, that my teaching career would be brief and that I was somehow linked to this bewitching man called Robin Williams.

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As an animator, spending hours at my desk, there are times when I feel I am walking off the set of “Awakenings”. Also, on animation- the Genie in Aladdin. While this character and the film owe so much to Richard Williams earlier work on “the Thief and the Cobbler”, the Robin Williams voice allowed for a huge range of activity on screen. Often an animator tries to mimic the actions and moves of the actor providing the voice, but in this case Eric Goldberg notes that Williams tended to be fairly static when recording, so what we see on film is a representation of the zany spirit that must have been in Williams’ head. The face is a loose caricature of  Williams nevertheless.

Now, back to my story. In 2004, some twenty years after my adopted mother died, I finally located my “birth-mother”, a woman with the improbably Dickensian name of “Cobbledick”. She had been to a supermarket in Derby around Christmas-time and had bought some flour there that in her words “was riddled with mites”. She had put the flour in her kitchen cupboard and later, opening the cupboard, she found the insects had spread. “I could not go into the kitchen without weeping. The flour decimated Christmas.”

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Once we read this story on the internet, we knew that we had found my birth-mother- a lady of remarkable theatricality. We learnt perhaps too late that she was also someone who was sadly malicious, deceptive and divisive. She seemed to take pleasure in dumping each of her many children often in a particularly cruel way and those I made contact with remain quite bruised by the experience. I was lucky, I think, to have been adopted. She visited us on a few occasions, intending to stay for a couple of days but lingering for a week or more each time. On one occasion she turned up unannounced having had a tiff with her 5th or 6th husband who she claimed on and off to have divorced or lost. She claimed that he was beating her, but he was the one with the bruises. And he was there till the end.

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At some point in the 1960s, I discovered that she had been prosecuted for bigamy. I simply did not think that sort of thing happened, but it is all over the bits of my family tree I could piece together. My grandfather fought in the Somme, survived and returned to a wife in Ireland, and another one in Manchester, never letting on that there was a third thriving somewhere in Paris. With a family like this, is it little wonder I still think there may be a direct link to Robin Williams? In the end, while I was recovering from a botched appendectomy arising from haemophilia complications, one of the few things my mother must have given to me- she went away and we never saw her again. She died a few years ago. Ironically she died on a day while I was filming the Edward Lear film in Albania and discussing my bizarre family with some Albanians. They could not get round the idea that she had given birth to 9 children and abandoned them all. She might have been an appalling mother but she was a great yarn!

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I was one of three children born during a relationship she had with a man called Erik Williams- there is the Robin connection (I know it took a few paragraphs to get there)! I think my parents had eloped from Ireland or something. Although my mother claimed to know the addresses of my two siblings, she never let on and took the information to her grave. All I know is that Ronald joined the Navy, served in Malta and married a Maltese girl. I know next to nothing about my sister except that she spent time in Nottingham.

Anyway, that is the peculiarity. After being identified as a Robin Williams’ lookalike in school, I found that my real family was also called Williams. How strange is that!It is odd that two of the men I have come most admire over the years, Robin Williams and the animator Richard Williams should both share the name of my birth parents! We look for connections in life but frankly they do not need to be biological. Whether there is any real link between me and Robin, therefore, I cannot tell. But today, learning that Robin Williams had died and apparently had killed himself, I feel quite bereft. It is like loosing a member of the family!

There are many sweet stories appearing about Robin. Some of the nicest are linked to the help he gave to Christopher Reeve after he fell off his horse. Williams turned up in hospital pretending to be Russian (he had perfected a Russian accent for “Moscow on the Hudson”) and offering  an anal probe. It made Reeve laugh at a time when he thought there was really no point in going on. More than that, Williams covered his medical expenses. Here is some of that story from a news report and interview with Chris Reeve:

 

It is awful to read stories of his fears of bankruptcy and of the details of his death. More awful perhaps are the tales of bile and prejudice that have come out from people who should know better or who should shut up – suicide is an illness and often a terminal one. It is something that calls out for greater care from friends, medical professionals and the wider public, particularly of those who survive a suicide bid and those who are left behind when the attempt is, as here, evidently successul. Poor Robin.

Here is a picture in his memory. Such a gifted man and a kind man too.