Category Archives: media

Happy Easter (especially to all gay 14 year olds)

Paris tray rotated

My fascination with Paris dates back to the map on the tray my Granny used to carry the tea pot and cups. The tray is in my kitchen now. (Manover brand. Made in France.)

Happy Easter to you. Though it might not seem that way, I’ll admit. What with attacks on people and churches and whatever I’ve missed on the news just now. Thank goodness there are positives amidst the gloom.

Some of those appalled at seeing Notre Dame go up in flames were energised to raise funds to help rebuild three less famous historically black churches, damaged in suspected arson attacks in Louisiana, USA. Here’s Ruth Jack’s fundraising page.

There was very sad news from Derry where a young investigative journalist, author and LGBT activist Lyra McKee was shot dead, seemingly by dissident Irish Republicans. She was covering a riot in the city when shots were fired towards police officers where she was standing. As Susan McKay wrote in Lyra’s memory: “Let no one dare say that she died in the cause of Irish freedom. Lyra was Irish freedom.”

Lyra McKeeLyra – you pronounce it LEE-ra by the way – was great in various ways. She left us this Letter to my 14-year-old self that she wrote in 2014, on the subject of being a gay teenager. I’ve lifted the text from the Pensive Quill blog. Here it is:

Yesterday, I tweeted a response to the hateful homophobic comments made by a Northern Irish pastor, James McConnell. Mr McConnell said: “Two lesbians living together are not a family. They are sexual perverts playing let’s pretend.”

I said: “People like Pastor McConnell made 14 year old me feel like I was better off dead, rather than deal with the shame of being gay.”

I rarely use this blog for anything other than professional work/journalism-related matters but a number of people asked me to write a blog post summarising what I said. Someone remarked that maybe some 14 year old would read it and take hope. So I decided to write a letter to my 14 year old self, 10 years later, as a 24 year old looking back. 


“Kid,

It’s going to be okay.

I know you’re not feeling that way right now. You’re sitting in school. The other kids are making fun of you. You told the wrong person you had a crush and soon, they all knew your secret. It’s horrible. They make your life hell. They laugh at you, whisper about you and call you names. It’s not nice. And you can’t ask an adult for help because if you did that, you’d have to tell them the truth and you can’t do that. They can’t ever know your secret.

Life is so hard right now. Every day, you wake up wondering who else will find out your secret and hate you.

It won’t always be like this. It’s going to get better.

In a year’s time, you’re going to join a scheme that trains people your age to be journalists. I know the careers teacher suggested that as an option and you said no, because it sounded boring and all you wanted to do was write, but go with it. For the first time in your life, you will feel like you’re good at something useful. You’ll have found your calling. You’ll meet amazing people. And when the bad times come again – FYI, your first girlfriend is not “the one” and you will screw up that History exam – it will be journalism that helps you soldier on.

In two years time, you will leave school and go to a local technical college. Don’t worry – you’re going to make friends. These will be your first real friends in semi-adulthood, the people who will answer your calls at 4 O’Clock in the morning. In the years to come, you’ll only keep in touch with Gavyn and Jonny but you’ll remember the others fondly. When you’re 17, you’ll tell them your secret and they won’t mind. It will take courage but you will do it. Gavyn will become Christian and you will fear that he will hate you but one afternoon, you’ll receive a text message saying: “This changes nothing. You’ll always be my friend.” Accept him for what he is as he has accepted you.

You’ll go to university, like you always planned to, but you’ll drop out because it reminds you of school where people were cold and you had few friends. The campus is just too big and scary. But this experience will be the making of you. You’ll be making your way in the world for the first time. Through this, you will meet the people who become your best friends. They’ll help you replace all the bad memories with good ones. For the first time in your life, you will like yourself.

Three months before your 21st birthday, you will tell Mum the secret. You will be sobbing and shaking and she will be frightened because she doesn’t know what’s wrong. Christmas will be just a couple of weeks away. You have to tell her because you’ve met someone you like and you can’t live with the guilt anymore. You can’t get the words out so she says it: “Are you gay?” And you will say, “Yes Mummy, I’m so sorry.” And instead of getting mad, she will reply “Thank God you’re not pregnant”.

You will crawl into her lap, sobbing, as she holds you and tells you that you are her little girl and how could you ever think that anything would make her love you any less? You will feel like a prisoner who has been given their freedom. You will remember all the times you pleaded with God to help you because you were so afraid and you will feel so foolish because you had nothing to worry about.

You will tell your siblings. No one will mind. Mary will hug you in the food court in Castlecourt as you eat KFC together and tell you she’s so proud of you. The others will joke about how they always knew. They will all say some variation of “I love you,” “I’m so proud of you”, “This doesn’t change a thing.”

You will feel so lucky. You watched James get thrown out of his house after coming out to his parents. You were in Michael’s house the night his Mum said she would “beat the gay out of him”. You will feel guilty for being the lucky one and getting it easy in the end, even though you went through hell to get there.

You will fall in love for the first time. You will have your heart broken for the first time and you will feel like you might die of the pain. You won’t. You will get over it.
Right now, you’re wondering if you’ll ever be “normal”. You are normal. There is nothing wrong with you. You are not going to hell. You did nothing to deserve their hate.

Life will not only get easier, it will get so much better. You will walk down the street without fear. Teenage boys you’ve never met will not throw things at you and shout names. Your friends will be the best anyone could ask for. You will be invited to parties. You will have a social life. You will be loved. People will use words like “awesome” and “cool” and “witty” to describe you and you’ll forget the times the other kids said you were “weird” and “odd” and a “lesbo”.

You will do “normal” things. You will spend time with your Mum. You will go to work and pay your bills. You will go to the cinema with your best friend every week because that’s your ritual – dinner then an action movie where things explode. You will fall in love again. You will smile every day, knowing that someone loves you as much as you love them.

Keep hanging on, kid. It’s worth it. I love you.”

 

 

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A good telling off

Kirsty Allison – photo by Stephanie Correll http://tinyurl.com/d3zqjp5

I’ve been caught out and given a good telling off by Ramana in India of the Loose Bloggers Consortium for not talking properly about epitaphs. Which was a bit silly of me given that I’ve written a book called The Obituarist.

I also used to make an obituary programme for radio called Brief Lives. It wasn’t musty and dusty. Dead people need not be boring. I had happy days whizzing around London trying to find the late Idi Amin’s widow or a couple who had conceived their child to the music of the late Barry White. It was enormous fun.

The problem with writing my own epitaph is that, like Robert Emmet, I’m not yet ready to dictate it. I hope that this will get me off the hook and appease Ramana instead –

It’s a link to a radio programme called Art Saves Lives that I took part in at the weekend. (I’ve mentioned Art Saves Live before – visual art and unexpected drama off stage.) This show was broadcast on London art radio station Resonance FM 104.4 – but you can also find it here. I recommend listening to it all – though I pop up near the end at 48’30-ish in.

But there are loads of other interesting people first – including playwright Mark Ravenhill, post-pop artist  Duggie Fields, Gemma Peppe from the Hepatitis C Trust, singer songwriter Aletia Upstairs (video below) from Cape Town and Nepalese poet Yuyutsu Sharma (who also translates Donegal Gaelic poet Cathal Ó Searcaigh into Nepali).

The presenters were the irrepressible impressario and playwright Dean Stalham, and poet and film producer Kirsty Allison who “combines the cerebral with the carnival” according to the Sunday Times.

You can even see photos of it all by Stephanie Tesse/Correll here.

Am I forgiven Ramana?

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Scamming the bankers – payback time

Ever been ripped off by a bank? Then you’ll like this. (And if you’re an Irish, British or American tax payer, you definitely have been ripped off somewhere along the line.) So click play – and enjoy…

The clip is from The Revolution Will Be Televised, a clever TV show.

As for the bankers – They don’t like it up ’em! – as the just departed Clive Dunn used to say as Corporal Jones in Dad’s Army. Who do you think you are kidding? Of course I still watch Dad’s Army.

Clive Dunn – Lance Corporal Jones – Dad’s Army

I should declare an interest. I was once a banker myself. Just a cashier. One customer sticks in my mind – Irish comedian Frank Carson.

He Continue reading

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Scary and shocking times with Buzz Aldrin

Steve Dodds (THE Steve Dodds) and an astronaut called Buzz Aldrin. You might have heard of him.

Quick! Give me something to calm me down! I can’t cope with the excitement – the surprise – and the fear! (Not to mention the exclamation marks!)

First it was Buzz Aldrin – I encountered him through work today.

Buzz Aldrin. THE Buzz Aldrin. Buzz Aldrin!

Buzz Aldrin in his work clothes. Yup. He’s on the moon.

He was charming, chatty, understated and interesting – as you’d expect. He was supporting the Aerobility charity effort to raise funds for a flight simulator for people with disabilities.

So he talked about that a bit. But I have to admit I was thinking the whole time – but what about space, the rocket, THE MOON!!!    We did get on to that Continue reading

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Don’t panic

Lance Corporal Jones in Dad’s Army was always urging us (and himself) – “Don’t panic! Don’t panic!”

Calm during times of stress. Stoicism.

Kipling celebrated both in his poem If “If you can keep your head when all about you / Are losing theirs…”

I tend not to panic. But maybe I should.

I sometimes wonder if there is a delicious sense of liberation to be discovered through panicking. Loosening up. Primal screaming. Abandoning yourself to YAH! Being drunk on unreason. Dancing crazily. Running and running without having to bother with direction. Bungee jumping away from your worries Continue reading

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No smoke without fire

Not dead. (At time of writing.)

Here’s a little insight into how easy it is difficult it is to subvert international news organisations.

Somebody created a twitter account that looked very much like an official Sky News account. It had the Sky News logo as a picture. (I’m not linking to it.) Then they tweeted that Margaret Thatcher had died.

Oh dear.

Cue big excitement behind the scenes of news organisations.

It’s a prime example of how much more important it is to be right than to be first. (Sky News has had ascribed to it the motto “Never wrong for long” i.e. might not be dead now, but will be sometime. Or wrong news now, but we can correct it and then it’ll be fine. To be clear though, Sky wasn’t the culprit in this case. The twitter account was fake.)

Was the incorrect news of Margaret Thatcher’s death broadcast on the BBC Continue reading

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Editing

Editing live TV or radio is about knowing when and how to shut people up.

Here’s an extreme example from the Olympics basketball.

BBC commentator Mike Carlson gets cross after being clobbered Continue reading

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