When I was young… I was a pop star.

Cover Art FynnjanIt’s true. Early morning calls from TV – “Can we come round and film you?” Radio stations. Promotional CDs. Music video. Posters. The lot.

My song was even played at half time Wycombe Wanderers v Cheltenham FC. And that’s the epitome of pop stardom.

OK, OK – I admit it. I’m not talking about myself. I’m looking into the future at the memories that my friend Fynnjan will have. He’s 11 years old, he has Aspergers – and he’s in the midst of an audacious bid to get to Christmas number one with a song he wrote himself. It’s called The Spirit of Christmas.

He spent Wednesday doing that very difficult thing – smiling on cue, again and again, for hours on end – with film cameras glaring surrounded by the main crew and then the “making of” film crew – all braced themselves for “Just one more run through.” That was for the music video – it’s still being worked on.

So what’s this really all about?  Fynnjan tells it better than me:

Sometimes I just get tunes in my head. In October 2012, when I was 10 and had nothing to do at my Granny’s whilst my parents were on their honeymoon, I decided to write one down. I thought it would be nice to show my music teacher, Mrs Smith. She said it was so good that she wanted me to perform it at the school Christmas Concert, if I wrote some words to it. At the concert, I sang the opening verse and my Dad, Wink filmed it.

Fynnjan centre with mates in studioAn awful lot of fuss was made and Mum was really happy as she had not ever heard me sing before! Mum sent Wink’s video to her sister in Australia. Auntie Sarah also made a fuss and suggested Mum get it recorded professionally. Luckily, Mum had spent the last year recording an album for my Dad’s band Buzz, so she had an idea about how to do this. She asked me if I wanted to record it. I said this would be OK as long a I could use it to raise some money for Asperger’s.

I wanted to raise money for Asperger’s to help other people like me and also to help my school to help other children who have special needs. I needed a lot of help from my school and if it weren’t for them, I would still be crawling about under tables refusing to come out. Now I have the confidence to sing in front of my Mum and the whole school.

nas-logo.ashxI went on the internet to see what the biggest charity for Asperger’s is and it is The National Autistic Society, NAS for short. I sent them an email and they thought it was great idea and would support it.

I asked Buzz if they would play the backing on my song and together we sorted out an arrangement which would be right for a single, about 3 minutes long. We recorded the music and I sang a guide vocal so Mrs Smith could teach my Y6 class the new arrangement ready for the recording. I recorded my actual vocals on 13 July and on 16 July my whole class came to Runway Studios to record their parts.

Three girls in the studioIt was the hottest day of the year and funny to think we were singing about Christmas trees and sleighs! During the day the word got out and Mix 96, an Aylesbury Radio Station wanted to interview me. So we did that on the way home.

We all had an epic day out and it was a great way to spend time with my friends on one of the last days we would all be together. Five days later, we broke up and are now at different Secondary schools. Since the big recording day, I got busy designing the look of the website, drawing the buttons, etc, which I hope you like!

My aims are:
To raise lots of money to help people with Asperger’s and Autism.
To raise awareness of Asperger’s to show that with quite a lot of help, people like me can understand how most of you see the world so we can live more happily in it with you.

Nordoff Robbins Logo Landscape Colour JPEGSince then, another charity, Nordoff Robbins music therapy has come on board as well as the National Autistic Society. And 10% will go to help special educational needs provision at Fynnjan’s former primary school in Seer Green in Buckinghamshire.

Lots more has happened too. Fynnjan and his mum Su were featured on BBC Radio 4 (you can listen here – fast forward 1 hour 15 minutes in). Su said on air that trying to learn about the music business in such a short time was like studying for a law degree – but crammed into just a couple of weeks. Among the people who heard this mum taking on the music industry’s corporate giants were some other spectacular women – respected professionals in music management, plugging, social media and film making. Like the rest of us, they were already busy. But somehow they’ve pushed everything else (including their livelihoods) to one side, to help Su and Fynnjan in what, all of a sudden, is no longer quite such an impossible dream.

The director Cathy Jones (right) arranges the children for The Spirit of Christmas music video shoot.

The director Cathy Jones (right) arranges the children for The Spirit of Christmas music video.

I’ll celebrate them another time – perhaps in a post on the subject of female solidarity. Because along with Su, it’s women taking the lead. Not considering it. Not assessing it. Not talking about it. Doing it.

I can’t share the video yet. But it was huge fun to make. (The director wouldn’t let me be filmed. Apparently I looked so fabulous I would have distracted attention from the children who sing the song. Or something like that.)

ITV News interviews Fynnjan

ITV News interviews Fynnjan

But you can see Fynnjan on ITV News – here. Now other outlets are taking an interest. Generous businesses lend a hand. Volunteers muck in. It’s a daunting, crazy, wonderful thing.

Not long ago Fynnjan‘s mum had never heard him sing. Now he’s aiming for the top of the charts. If ever there was an example of what a child could achieve – he’s it. The boy with an aversion to the limelight is enduring it to give his classmates an experience they’ll never forget. The kid who had communciation problems is holding his own in live broadcast interviews with complete strangers. (He even had a reporter from Italy to cope with.) The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.

So it’s all lovely. But what’s the catch? Yes – there is a catch.

This all depends on people pre-ordering the song via Fynnjan‘s website – www.fynnjan.com or you can search for him by name on iTunes. All the pre-orders will kick in on the official December 9th release date and – hopefully – rocket his song The Spirit of Christmas up the charts.

Fynnjan and his mum Su

Fynnjan and his mum Su

You can also “like” his page on facebook or follow @fynnjan on Twitter.

This is a post for the Loose Bloggers Consortium. (Sorry I missed last week folks, but you have an abundance of words this week.) The LBC members sharing stories of their youth include  Ramana, Delirious, gaelikaa, Grannymar, MaxiPadmumShackman and The Old Fossil.

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Can you meet this dark challenge? (Prize for the one who does.)

Ooky spooky Halloween time competition. Can you guess what this creepy film is?

Can you guess what it is?

Can you guess what it is?

There’s a prize for the one who best gets it. (Probably a book. I’ve got loads of them. I’ll give you a selection to choose from. It’ll be a good one. Not written by me.) So whether you’re in Zambia, Tajikistan, Bhutan or Greenland – get closest and there’ll be something lovely in the post to you.

And to treat you further Continue reading

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Retribution

No good deed goes unpunished…

good deed…but carry on anyway.

That sums up my thoughts on the topic of retribution today. But who said it and was it worth saying?

Two candidates for the first part. The late great Oscar Wilde – whose shoulder I pat whenever I pass his statue on Adelaide Street in London. (Other passersby keep him in fresh cigarettes.) And various Americans, including Clare Boothe Luce.

The second part is me.

But was it worth saying? Yes, back then, for the truth of it.

And now? Less so. But repeating it may let me escape retribution from Ramana, Delirious, gaelikaa, Grannymar, MaxiPadmumShackman and The Old Fossil  – the other members of the Loose Bloggers Consortium, for failing to post on this week’s set topic. But if you’re disappointed with this meagre offering, I have something exciting coming soon.

In the meantime – girls, music and books.

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You don’t need a cellphone to talk through your arse, but it helps…

More like this here: http://www.bizarro.com/

More like this here: http://www.bizarro.com/

The old days: Thought in head. Speech through mouth.

The old days: Cell phone off. Someone might call me. With work. Wouldn’t want that. “How come you never answer your mobile?” Switch it on to call other people. Quickly switch if off again. Occasionally lend it to soldiers on duty at “incidents” or outbreaks of “bother” to let them call back home to Britain – in exchange for them giving access or information. Otherwise peace. Quiet. Meeting someone? Make an arrangement and stick to it.

These days: Cell phone on. Someone might call me. With work.  Freelance. Keen. And on duty to respond to emergencies like forgotten PE kit, after school activities with the bus long gone. Emails. Audio recording. Writing. Maps. Twitter. Facebook. Etc. Etc. If only it came with a pillow I could sleep on it.

These days: No need for any thought in head. Adjust sitting position. Then, using either buttock, accidentally trigger cell phone and dial a random person in phone’s address book. Nothing to it. You’re talking through your arse.  That’s progress for ya. Just pray your backside hasn’t dialled Australia.

Or the police. Really Continue reading

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Curing me of my biggest fear

Just one small step and... wheeee....

Just one small step and… wheeee….

They say the best way to conquer your fear is to face it. So if you’re an arachnaphobe, you should let a big hairy tarantula scurry over your hand. If snakes give you the willies, you should let a small non-poisonous serpent drape itself round your shoulders.

Easy for them to say, whoever “they” are.

What if your fear is this? Imagine you’re really high up – at the edge of a cliff or the parapet of a very tall building. The fear is not being scared of heights. Or about having vertigo. It’s something different.

Call it… curiosity. What if… What if I stepped up and jumped? Like Icarus. The rush. What transcendent insight would reveal itself? What revelation? What if… Continue reading

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Islam and Freedom of Belief

Let there be no compulsion in religion

Let there be no compulsion in religion

We hear a lot of intolerance and Islam. When there’s a complaint in Europe or north America about Islamaphobia or suggested restrictions on the wearing of the full-face veil, you can be guaranteed that someone will remind us that when it comes to intolerance, Islamic states can be hard to beat. “Try walking through Mecca in a mini-skirt,” they’ll say. “Or proselytizing for Christianity. You’ll soon know what real intolerance is like.

But that’s not the full picture – as you’ll know if you follow the Unity blog of Usama Hasan. (A good guy you may remember from a previous bust-up.)

He’s written an interesting paper called No Compulsion in Religion: Islam and the Freedom of Belief. I reproduce some of it here. I’ve cut a lot for brevity and scrapped the footnotes. So I recommend you read the original. But in the meantime, please read this. It enlightened me.

Following the international furore in 2012 over the amateurish, inflammatory and offensive film, Innocence of Muslims, there were calls around the world to introduce or strengthen rules that would become akin to global blasphemy laws.  Dozens of people were killed during violent protests in Muslim-majority countries, including US Ambassador Stevens in Libya by a terrorist attack under cover of anti-film protests, and a Pakistani minister placed a $100,000 bounty on the head of the film-director.

For many of us, this felt like a case of “Here we go again.”  From books and films to cartoons, teddy bears and desecration of copies of the Qur’an by a handful of American fundamentalists and soldiers, the story is the same: instead of ignoring material insulting and offensive to Islam, or forgiving their authors as the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) would have done, some immature Muslims resort to violence that ends up killing people who had done more than most to actually help Muslims or Muslim-majority countries.  Furthermore, the poor-quality “offending” material receives far more publicity than it deserved, and the image of Islam is dragged through the mud yet again, to the exasperation of the vast majority of ordinary, decent Muslims.

In the 1980’s, Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, an expletive-laden, largely-unreadable book was catapulted, along with its author, into international fame by an Islamist campaign of “raising awareness” by publicising its satirical insults towards holy figures of Islam, culminating in Ayatollah Khomeini’s notorious fatwa ordering Rushdie’s murder.  The same story was repeated, two decades later, with the Danish cartoons satirising the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him): these were largely unknown when first published, until a Denmark-based Egyptian cleric began a campaign publicising them.  Surely, to love the Prophet and his disciples means not to publicise gross insults directed at him.  If people insult our loved ones, such as parents, children or siblings, would we broadcast those offensive comments or depictions to the whole world?

In all these cases, dozens of ordinary people died in riots and protests around the world: this is extremely ironic, when the Prophet himself is said to have taught that the destruction of the Ka’bah, the holiest site of Islam, is lighter in the sight of God than the taking of a single life Continue reading

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Who’s on the cover of this week’s Enormous Ego?

You gotta have a bit of an ego to get ahead, right? To convince yourself that your art is important to others… So what better example to follow than the composers Chopin and Liszt.

chopinlisztsmChopin and Liszt come courtesy of the Hark, a vagrant blog. I bought the book the other day. It’s great. The topic, ego, was set by the Loose Bloggers Consortium. It’s all them, them, them with Ramana, Delirious, gaelikaa, Grannymar, Maxi, Maria SF, Padmum, Rohit,Shackman, The Old Fossil and Will – when it should be me, me, me, whoah ha ha ha.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: You may notice a new image under my horse’s head in the top right hand corner. It’s a big F. Please click on it and follow the link. I’ll tell you more about it soon.

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