Tag Archives: loose bloggers consortium

All life’s important questions answered

Black Santa of Belfast

Black Santa of Belfast

You’re asking: What is THE DARK SECRET? Where does Santa Claus live? Is world peace possible? And who won that tricky competition?

Read on and be enlightened…

1. Where does Santa Claus live? It’s not the North Pole. It’s not Greenland. Or Lapland. Or anywhere Scandinavian. Father Christmas – Santa – lives in Ireland. In Belfast Continue reading

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You South African beauty

Nelson MandelaWho could resist that winning smile? Well… 28+ years in prison proves there’s no accounting for taste.

What a beautiful man.

He may have been a bit of a rubbish MK leader of the armed struggle, but Rolihlahla the troublemaker went on to be the world’s most effective ambassador for peace and reconciliation in prison and afterwards. (Though here’s a less rosy view of Mandela’s legacy.) He changed tack on HIV/Aids too. If only more of us were able accept enlightenment.

I was fascinated with South Africa when I was young – one of the causes. So in 1984, when “Mary Manning of Kilmainham, a 21-year-old cashier” (as the song goes) and IDATU member was suspended for refusing to sell South African (apartheid) produce in Dunnes Stores on Henry Street in Dublin, Irish Anti Apartheid Movement members like myself got up to mischief at other Dunnes branches in support.

The strike never really grabbed the popular imagination in Ireland, but it also led to a law change on the import of apartheid produce to the country, and the strikers eventually had a street named after them in post-apartheid Johannesburg. Back then the strike made me proud to be Irish. (Here’s the song – I can’t find the Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger version.)

Nelson Mandela mural, Falls Road, Belfast 1988

Nelson Mandela mural, Falls Road, Belfast 1988

Nelson Mandela has long been (appropriated as) an icon in some parts of Belfast. However, to be fair to the appropriators, the same man seemed pleased and sympathetic.

I guess it was at least partly because of Madiba that I travelled to work and wander in South Africa. Lots of good times.

Among the highlights – taking a street paper seller to Cape Point (he was the only black visitor), operating an informal taxi service for the day round Khayelitsha Continue reading

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Daydreams

Brenda FassieI never daydream. I don’t have time. Maybe sad. But true.

But since you* asked, I had a go today. A driving daydream that transformed my twisting route through the dark wet leaf-strewn lanes of England into a roar across the big bright dry spaces between Bethlehem** and the Free State border. The soft relentless rhythm of Vuli Ndlela by Brenda Fassie (right) helped transport me. My smile grew to fill the imagined landscape.

But why dwell on daydreams when I can see a crazy impossible becoming reality every day this month – and hopefully the next. I’ve told you before about my wee friend Fynnjan, who has Aspergers and is trying to get the song he wrote to Christmas number one, to raise funds for autism support. Well, he now has a proper music video. (Please share it.)

From being written off as a no-hoper, bookies are now offering odds on Fynnjan succeeding of 16 to 1. We’ll have to wait and see. Though if you want to nudge him forward, you can pre-order the song (in two versions – so you can do it twice) from iTunes here https://itunes.apple.com/gb/artist/fynnjan/id728507389

And his redesigned website with more information is here www.fynnjan.com

The issue of Fynnjan’s unusual name has been raised – or more specifically, its spelling. It’s unique (I think) and distinctive – which is great. It means the best url was available. But people tend to spell Fynnjan incorrectly when searching for him online – finjan, finyan, finnian, etc – which means they don’t find him.

What should be done? Change his name to Continue reading

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My favourite book

Sam "Remember the Alamo!" Houston - who used to be an American Indian, according to the Childcraft Encyclopedia.

Sam “Remember the Alamo!” Houston – who used to be an American Indian, according to the Childcraft Encyclopedia.

I think the sequence of my favourite books may have gone something like this…

The Biography volume of the Childcraft Encyclopedia (or was it Cyclopedia?) – the obscure pasts of famous Americans.

Followed by Ulster, A Sunday Times Insight Investigation – oh look, they’re writing about us.

For a while it was… The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. I found it in an odd place. “It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard‘.”

Then it was… Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis – happy endings, but don’t read while hung over: “He lay sprawled, too wicked to move, spewed up like a broken spider-crab on the tarry shingle of morning. The light did him harm, but not as much as looking at things did; he resolved, having done it once, never to move his eyeballs again. A dusty thudding in his head made the scene before him beat like a pulse. His mouth had been used as a latrine by some small creature of the night, and then as its mausoleum. During the night, too, he’d somehow been on a cross-country run and then been expertly beaten up by secret police.”

It is (and has been for a while)… A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor – robust and exquisite. (And I want part 3 for Christmas.)

But the best books I’ve read lately are The Little Friend by Donna Tartt and We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. I was late getting to both of them. Both arrestingly good. (Never mind the reviews to which I’ve linked.)

But if I really really have to choose one, from the very very many I value and return to, it would be Continue reading

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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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