Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Saturday, 19 December 2015

2015 Awards

From the books I have read, films I have seen and songs I have heard for the first time this year, here are my number 1s!

Book of the year:
I have read twelve books for the first time this year, plus I finally finished Les Miserables, hooray! There has been something of a dour theme too, with other books about war and death, and my choice of the best book I have read is in some ways no less positive. The novel is a discussion of people, their choices and misunderstandings, and particularly what happens when they get it wrong, but the detail and care with which the story is written sets it far above any other book I have read this year. It is East of Eden by John Steinbeck.

Film of the year:
I have only been to the cinema three times this year, despite there being several films I would have liked to see, however I have discovered many other films that I have enjoyed (if that is the right word), including Twelve Years a Slave and Tracks. However, my top film this year is a small budget movie, released in 2013, and featuring a superb performance by Brie Larson (who is currently being tipped for an Oscar nomination for her new movie Room, which will be released in the new year). In this movie Brie's character, Grace, works with a tough group of young people, and brings out inspiring, amusing and heart warming moments. It is called Short Term 12.


Song of the year:
This year I have gained a greater interest in songs (pop and not) than ever before, I think, including new tunes and old. My top track comes from yet another Swedish artist and was released in August 2014. I find the song inspiring and particularly the lyrics: "Every day people do everyday things but I can't be one of them... we can do anything". I think I connected with it given my perhaps unusual job with PGL and I also liked the idea of being, as the song says, a hero, if in an unconventional, small but personal way. This is Heroes (We could be) Alesso -feat. Tove Lo


Thursday, 10 December 2015

Story of Grace

She looked at me, but I could not hold her gaze. “It’s alright,” she said, “you don’t have to be afraid.”
   “Am I afraid?” I replied. She just smiled.
   She reached out a hand, I hesitated, then took it and she helped me up. She was small, I suppose, but somehow I didn’t seem to be any taller.
   “What’s your name?” I asked.
   “I’m called Grace,” she answered.

At school no-one liked her. They made fun of her. Whispered comments came her way, or sniggered suggestions. She sat quietly and smiled, her small, quiet smile. No-one knew why.
   When she was eleven she became ill, of what, the doctors could not say at first. At school they said she faked it, that she was scared of them. She smiled.
   One day she arrived in a wheel chair. Some just laughed, others tried to push her the wrong way. In PE she took shots at the netball hoop, at one point scoring five in a row. Everyone pretended not to notice.

She looked at me, her eyes shining brightly.
   “Why are you so kind?” I said aloud, by mistake.
   “It brings me life.”
   “Don’t you mean joy?”
   “That too.”
   “But why are you so nice to all the others, at school I mean?”
   “I’m called Grace,” she reminded me.

Story of Grace was inspired by the picture above, sketched by Naomi Saunders. There might be more to tell.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

For we are Living

“Does anybody know what we are living for?” Says Queen. “Does anybody know what we are looking for… Another hero, another mindless crime. Inside my heart is breaking, my make-up may be flaking, but my smile still stays on.”  [From The Show Must Go On]

It has struck me recently that we have no idea what other people are thinking or feeling, what is really going on behind their smile. I believe this may be particularly true of people in the UK, though I imagine it is applicable for many other places too, and it is probably due to two things: we are bad at sharing our thoughts and our feelings, and possibly even worse at noticing, or caring, about those of others, at least until it is too late. Instead we seek an outlet for our thoughts, desires and emotions in often unhelpful places, which can lead to disastrous consequences.
Recently I saw a performance of We Will Rock You, the musical based on songs by Queen, updated slightly since its first release, and with a youthful twist (it was a school production). The musical is written as a comedy, and yet I couldn’t help being provoked by the themes of media frenzy and fitting in with the crowd, of immersing yourself in the internet and not looking at anyone beside you. These themes have been discussed in many mediums, and often in more serious ways than this play, but still this had an effect on me, reminding me what we all do too much, removing ourselves from the real world for the virtual.
Sometimes we realise that people do still live and breathe but mostly only when they stop living.
Having been reminded recently by news stories of how short life can be, the poignancy of the song No One But You, also known as Only The Good Die Young, was clearly felt by everyone in the theatre. (It may not technically be true, but who can say who is good and who is bad? That is a discussion best left for another time). Equally the song Who Wants To Live Forever struck me. We try to extend our lives, but why? Why do we want to live forever? Is it because we are afraid of what comes next, or that nothing comes next?
Under Pressure, a Queen classic, does remind me that there are things worth living for. The people on the street, families split in two, lifting the pressure that is on all of us. Pressure to perform, to conform, to survive, to do things because we should rather than because we need to, or because they’re good things to do. There is love, that ‘old-fashioned word’ which dares you to care for the people on the edge of the night (everyone), to stop being so consumed with your life that you notice someone else, that you listen to someone else and realise that they’re missing something and perhaps lead them to safety.

That may take courage, but as Ernest Hemingway said, "Courage is grace under pressure." It is a test of our ability to put others first, a good pressure to be under.
So, while the show must go on (and yes it must; we must not stop living and bringing life to others) it should go on for a good reason. It should go on because we want it to go on in others, because we don’t want them to stop going on. It must go on because there are great things to do and to believe in. We are all looking for another hero, a personal hero. May we find them, or they us, before it is too late.