Tag:

tv

I’m a parrot with a splash of eagle, hint of dove. What about you?

Since being in business, I’ve come to realise that understanding yourself can be key to success.

There are lots of things I know about myself but when I became self-employed, there was one thing I didn’t know – could I actually do it? Could I generate any money at all through my own efforts?

You see, I didn’t want to be self-employed. I was doing a job I loved and I wanted to carry on doing that job – sadly though that job no longer wanted me. It wasn’t a personal thing, it was a business decision and about 1,000 people lost their jobs at the same time.

Now I am almost at the five year anniversary of being self-employed and I’m still here. I’m not rich by any means but I’m earning my own money, through my own efforts and endeavours and that’s got to be something to celebrate.

However, I’m also wanting to be better in what I do. So I’m taking a course! I’ve been searching for ages for something which will make me better but which will engage me. During this course, which I’ll blog about many times I’m sure, I’ve been reading text books.

I don’t know about you but reading business books has been without fail, a hideous experience. They are mostly badly written, rushing off into different directions and lacking in real life examples. Frankly, many are simply tripe.

But I’ve just read one in a single day. That’s a record. It was called Taking Flight…do look it up. It tells a very simplistic story about birds in a forest who have to act when trees start falling down…no literary masterpiece but it does the job required…it shows how certain personality types can work.

It’s all about personality types – using the DISC model – which until recently I knew nothing about. Now it’s all around me. I’ve had two personality profiles done and they do capture lots of things about me.

The truth is, I do know these things but knowing and grasping the reality are two different things. Applying that truth is also tricky.

I’ve found out – in bird analogy – that I’m a parrot, with a large element of eagle and a quite large portion of dove. I’ve got very little owl though.

If you know this book, the previous sentence will make sense.

The biggest immediate impact is that I’ve started to recognise others around me, mainly in my friendship group and realised that the dynamic is visible. For example, one of my children is very, very caring and very detailed orientated – which drives me absolutely potty. But it’s not her fault, that’s her response to things and that’s okay. Now I know it’s okay, I find I’m not so irritated by the constant questioning and asking the same thing over and over again.

I also spent some time with two old friends and hardly got a word into the conversation – very unusual for me. I ended up feeling that I was of little value as no one seemed that interested in me or anything I had to say. As I started the self-pity dance, I realised that these were two eagles vying for position without realising it. As a personality with both eagle and dove, confronted by this, I simply gave up and shut up rather than expend energy trying to be heard. I don’t feel angry at all, I’ve just realised that it’s better to see them individually if I personally want to feel listened to – otherwise I’ll continually be a spare part.

Now I’m hoping to become better at business through this learning….here goes!

No, I'm not a peacock..I'm a parrot....

No, I’m not a peacock..I’m a parrot….

 

 

 

Three poor excuses for not taking part in difficult interviews.

Today I want to talk about some of the things journalists are asked to when they approach organisations for an interview – particularly when that interview might be difficult.

This might be a business which is facing some kind of legal action, industrial tribunal or a local authority involved in an investigation, a school involved in a court case. It could involve a news interview, a sit-down interview for a longer programme or a fly-on-the-wall or ‘reality’ type programme.

Most businesses will feel uplifted by such a request and would tend to look at reasons ‘to do’ it, sometimes without asking the correct questions about the project.

Many organisations, or public service bodies, would often look for the reasons ‘not to do’ something, considering in much detail the possible risks or pitfalls.

Excuses to avoid being interviewed are often not pretty

Excuses to avoid being interviewed are often not pretty

Both approaches need modifying – a business could do damage to itself by not considering the messaging, however a public body could miss out on a valuable opportunity by not engaging.

So what are the top three excuses might a journalist be given for not giving an interview?

The first and most common when there is some kind of legal action is ‘it’s subjudice’ ie. it could prejudice a court case to do it. This can be a very good reason but journalists are also subject to the same laws around contempt of court so they do know what this means. Don’t use this as an excuse – journalists see through it. Be clear about the law for a journalist – subjudice in a criminal case starts technically when a person is arrested though in practice it’s when a person is charged. When that point is reached, the Magistrates Courts Act comes into effect to which all are subject. In a civil case, however,  proceedings are active (subjudice comes into play) when a date for a hearing is set. This might be very late in the day, many months after the issue has arisen. Don’t try to baffle a journalist using this excuse.

The second request is ‘we’re interested but we want editorial control’. I’ve heard that many, many times. Understand this – YOU WILL NEVER GET IT. We have a free press in this country, that’s what makes PR so powerful. You cannot have editorial control over what a journalist does when they are writing for a third party publication as a contributor. Editorial control means I write, record or film an interview, let you see it, allow you to change anything you don’t like, and then it goes out. Not only is that time consuming – is that really what you want? Do you want to see a programme about, for example, MPs expenses where the MPs have ‘editorial control’?

If you’ve ever employed a PR consultant or company – they should clearly state that coverage isn’t guaranteed – and that’s because it is independent and therefore more credible.

A third and final one is – ‘it isn’t our fault, it’s their’s’ – this is often used when partnerships between organisations falls down. For example, a local authority and a building company hoping to build homes on a new site, it fails and the work is not done as originally intended. The local authority blames the housebuilder. The housebuilder blames the recession. Remember this, if your organisation is associated with a project – even if it’s not your fault that it failed – the perception will be that you are involved. Blaming another organisation won’t work. You will have to contribute to demonstrate what’s gone wrong – or people will assume you’ve done something wrong/don’t care/have something to hide.

When you have done something wrong – admit it, say sorry and outline what you’ve done to sort it out.

Review of my year – what was 2011 like for you?

Today seems the right day to review my year in all aspects of my life – it’s a cathartic experience and helps get things in perspective.

Reflecting on life during 2011.....

Professionally it’s been a good year. For Fiona the journalist – I’ve made several films covering subjects as diverse as dementia care, OCD, rising energy prices and the Welsh Assembly elections (now known as the Welsh Government). Many thanks to ITV Wales, the BBC and Available Light for all of those projects. Alongside this, I’ve written articles on numerous occasions, so I thank the Swindon Link, Wiltshire Life and the Swindon Advertiser.

From a Mellow Media point of view it’s been a year of promise with several one-off projects, others requiring discretion and others which can be shouted about. Many thanks to Footdown, Business Scene, Sarah Arrow of Birds on the Blog, the Symondsbury Estate, Tailored For You and some new names which will also emerge in 2012. All of these companies and their people have provided work, new friends, new experiences and personal development, so many, many thanks. For all the colleagues out there in the world of business, let’s hope 2012 is full of hope as well as hard work. Let’s hope that gloomy predictions are not as bad as we’re hearing from various voices.

On a personal front, I’ve seen a child go to secondary school, another child start school and another child become one of the bigger fish in her small primary school pond. I’ve discovered both of my daughters are very good singers and my son sings along too. Both my girls took part in a community radio programme and they achieved many, many things throughout the year. My step-daughter passed her driving test and turned 18. She also presented an eight-minute film for regional BBC programme about tuition fees. There have been many occasions when I’ve been a very proud mum. And I should mention here a husband who has been supportive and loving for another year – we celebrated 11 years married. He’s put up with me for 15 though!

As a family we had a fantastic holiday in Orlando spending two weeks doing the whole Disney and Universal Studio thing. To say the least, it was fantastic. It was all we expected and more. But my biggest tip for anyone considering such a holiday – hire a large villa for a fraction of the cost of onsite accommodation, you get more comfort, better food (you can buy it yourself and actually have a salad) and often get your own pool. Hire a car and pay the $15 parking fee per day to park at any of the attractions. Also if a ride says you’ll get wet – it means you’ll get absolutely soaked so take a change of clothes. And pay the extra for Fast Passes or Express routes (it’s well worth it).

On another personal note, 2011 has been a year of terrible sadness for our family. In December we lost our neighbour and friend Roger to cancer at the age of 53, very suddenly. To look at his widow and see her pain every day is awful. But it was something sadly familiar to us. A big shadow this year was the death of our brother-in-law Peter in April at the age of 49 from heart failure. Pete died very suddenly after collapsing at the gym. He left my sister and three children, the youngest just five months old. To see my lovely baby sister trying to put her best foot forward every day, week, month since his death – has been a humbling lesson in life. And his parents and sister in Australia grieving at a distance is something we feel but can do nothing about…

So it’s with a mix of emotions that I face 2012 – I’m excited and challenged but as my daughter said to me a few days ago ‘Mum I just hope we don’t lose anyone else we love’ and that’s the main thing for me. Whatever bad things happen, put that event into perspective – there is always always someone worse off than you!

On that note – HAPPY NEW YEAR!

 

Could you be a stand-up comedian? Are you the next Billy Connelly?

Christmas is a really good time to review television programmes for a blogger like me as part of my celebrations involves seeking out interesting and offbeat programmes.

Last night I watched Imagine…the Art of Stand-Up (Part One) and I really enjoyed it. It was a montage of thoughts and feelings about what makes good stand-up involving a range of comedians. I even clicked the red button and watched more. It was one of those programmes that you didn’t want to end – and I’m so glad I’ll get to see the rest this evening.

I’m not always a fan of this series as sometimes it’s really self-indulgent and catering for those who immerse themselves daily in art and is not aimed at ordinary mortals. This programme was an exception as it embraced some great stand-up comedians alongside those who are at the dawn of their careers. I’m thinking particularly of  Billy Connelly, Frank Skinner, Jack Dee or Omid Djalili – all comedians I’d pay good money to see live.

It also involved comedians who just aren’t my cup of tea like Jim Davidson – who I have seen live and, for me, is very dated. There was also some younger, newer talent including Simon Amstell, who frankly, would drive me crazy within about ten seconds, as he came across as so intense and introverted. For goodness sake, lighten up Sir!

This morning I’ve read a review in a daily newspaper which said the programme was frustrating, that it tried to cover too much and the suggestion is that it failed to do so. Reviewer, you’ve missed the point and have been led into a long, and boring, justification of your views.

This was not a programme designed to give all of the answers in a structured analytical exercise – it’s an interesting flavour of what comedians think of their art. How it makes them feel when on stage, what they think of hecklers, how their own lives and observations feed into their performances etc etc. For me, that’s enough. I find people interesting and I don’t always need to have a finite beginning, middle and end. So to this particular reviewer (she knows who she is) ‘baa humbug!’

There were also some other elements which, as a programme-maker, I loved. Although I’ve never produced a programme with this kind of budget, it’s not rocket science, you can easily see how it was shot and enjoy the dynamic of that process.

For example, there were many shots showing the cameras and the set-up of interviews, sprinkled with random shots of the interviewer, Alan Yentob prior to interview, Alan Yentob attending a couple of events (and a few necessary cutaways during the interviews). I love that style of involving a presenter, where they play a more subliminal but important role. No need for endless pieces-to-camera or voice over. I also loved the simple way that different subjects were introduced with a few simple words at the bottom right of screen. This suggests to me that there was no rigid structure to the interviews, that they flowed and ebbed quite naturally (even though I know that the BBC style is often very structured).

The locations were also interesting to me. A lot of the interviews were done, I think, in the same location as much of the film The King’s Speech was shot, especially with the less well known comedians. I surmise, though clearly I don’t know, that the most famous comedians were visited personally by the crew (wherever they live) and the less well known were asked to attend a shoot at a single location. That way the budget was carefully used to include the best stand-up comedians and those seen as rising stars. But there was also an element of young comedians ‘trying out’ new material – which I found really interesting. Simon Amstell testing his new material on a small audience, writing notes, ticking off lines that worked and did not. He may not be the kind of comedian I like yet – but I admire his tenacity and his commitment to his art.

Could you do stand-up comedy! I know I wouldn't have the bottle.....

Needless to say I’m looking forward to the second instalment tonight on BBC2 – somehow I was not expecting Imagine to be near the top of my Christmas tv list this year…..

Ever made a mistake? Review it!

Make sure that mistake doesn't bite!

What’s the worst mistake you’ve ever made? I’d love to know — and what did you do about it?

I recently read in my local newspaper a letter from a new restaurant owner in Swindon about a review written by a journalist. She’s attended his/her restaurant and had a meal.

The letter said that while there were many positive comments, the reviewer was unreasonable in her criticisms. One was that she’d asked for a vodka mixer and no vodka was available – however the journalist should have been satisfied with the 32 types of wine on offer on the extensive wine list.

What? A journalist doing a review is no different to any other customer – and customers can be hard to please. If I want a gin and tonic or a beer – sod the 32 choices of wine – that’s what I want.

The clue is in the world ‘review’ – it’s an experience, it’s about fulfilling expectations. Some may be fulfilled, others may not.

If this happens to you, bleating about it in the letters page and slagging off the journalist is hardly maintaining a strong relationship with your local press – something you need if you are a local restaurant. Also what do you think as a reader? A reader like me? Well, do I want to go to a restaurant where my choice of  beverage is ridiculed? I don’t think so…

So, what should that restauranteur have done?

Taken the positives, learned, maybe invited her back again in six months time…keep the lines of communication open. Turn something negative into something positive – a cliche but true.

 

A review is very powerful and, unless there’s a bug in your food or the chicken is raw, will almost always put bums on seats. Don’t diss it.

 

This is not a journalist’s mistake, it’s an opinion based on experience.

 

So what is a mistake?

 

Consider the following:

Any journalist who claims never to have made a mistake is from another planet.

All human beings make mistakes and if you are banging out 3,000 words a day for a publication – it will happen.

 

However if a journalist makes a mistake the consequences can be huge – the power of the written or spoken word cannot be underestimated.

So if you are talking to a journalist and a mistake is subsequently made what do you do?

 

It’s easy – talk to the journalist about it.

 

Be sure before you do, that the mistake came from them. (Remember that a mistake in a headline or sub-heading might be done by an editor – and the journalist may have not seen it yet. Equally a mistake in a picture caption can also be done by a third party) But the journalist can help put things right.

There’s nothing more embarrassing than having a difficult conversation with a journalist and then finding out that your press release was inaccurate – or your press office/pr consultant was the source of the mistake.

Also remember that journalists are taught that ‘inaccuracy kills’ – there’s no defence if an inaccuracy leads to defamation. So journalists should be open to those kinds of conversations.

Discuss what the mistake was and how you wish it to be rectified.

For example, a simple mistake like a name spelled incorrectly may be embarrassing but it’s not going to be the end of the world. A small correction or repeat of the story (if it’s short) may be sufficient.

A good friend of mine who’s first name is Spencer was captioned in a photograph as Stella – he’s never forgotten it and neither have I – it’s hilarious.

But if a teacher say, at a school, is charged with abusing a pupil and a journalist names the school or the wrong teacher then that’s a serious mistake and much harder to put right. That gets into the realm of defamation and possibly contempt of court.

For something serious such as the latter, seek advice before talking to the journalist so that you know where you can go with it.

However it’s always advisable to give a newspaper, tv, radio or online publication the opportunity to put things right before getting heavy with lawyers’ letters.

Apologies will be given quite prominently in a serious matter, it’s actually quite rare that a media outlet does nothing when a genuine mistake has been made.

 

Tip: always talk to the journalist if she/he has made a mistake. Keep the relationship going by avoiding getting heavy. Expect a rational response in putting right that wrong.

(next week, I’ll tell you about a mistake I made and the consequences)

Appropriate adult – appropriate story? Fred met Janet.

The serial killings of Fred and Rose West was a case that dominated the early part of my career in newspapers.
I didn’t cover the story on a day-to-day basis but I knew several journalists who did – and working down the road in Swindon, it was close enough to be both macabre and fascinating.

Knowing some journalists who covered the case day in and day out, I do know that many details of Fred & Rose West’s perversions were never made public. Many journalists formed a pact not to reveal some of the more awful details. 

I was therefore very interested in the ITV drama Appropriate Adult. I found it quite difficult to watch and difficult to understand the odd relationship between West and Janet Leach. However, having looked a murderer in the eye myself, it can be hard to relate that person to their actions.
Today I’ve listened to the main police officer being critical of the programme and its makers.

 

Janet’s role in the case was grossly exaggerated, they didn’t stick to the facts.

Such a reaction was predictable – but let’s not forget that this was a drama. It was not a documentary or a drama documentary – nor was it billed as such.

 

It was also very specific in that it looked at one very particular aspect of this gruesome and awful case. It was a relationship based in fact – Janet Leach is a real person, she did sit with Fred West during police interviews and she did lie about her involvement with a national newspaper.

 
But should history be harsh on her for that? During the Fred & Rose West trial, many, many people made money out of this case. There were even rumours at the time that T-shirts were even being sold in the street where it happened.

 

Also many journalists paid money to nearby properties in order to erect scaffoldings etc from which to film activity around the home occupied by the murderers.

 
Detectives who worked on the case are, understandingly are very passionate about the role they played.

 

But it remains true that this couple practised their perversions almost in plain sight for many, many years. Was there joined up information around this couple? Who knows? It seems unbelievable that no one at any time raised any concerns about them, about children who were there and then were not…

 
The drama did two things for me which were powerful – it showed the delusion that the murderer Fred West could have hidden behind.

 

I’ve experienced it once myself when I visited a convicted killer in prison. Even after ten years inside he still talked about the offence as if the victim was somehow to blame – her behaviour was such that it brought about a fatal chain of events.

 

The fact that his response to her behaviour was to shoot her dead – he just couldn’t see that that wasn’t a normal response. I felt, sadly, that this man would never be able to see the horror of what he’d done, the pain he’d caused.

 

The dramatisation of Fred West demonstrated that self-delusion – talking about dead victims with love and compassion while ignoring the elephant in the room – the fact that he or his awful wife had killed that victim.

The other powerful thing for me was the representation of Rose West. As the trial progressed with Rose West in real life, I began to see her as a mastermind rather tha

The web spun by Fred & Rose West - prepare for more dramas around this story

n a deluded follower of her husband’s perversions.
There’s another thing that rings true from the drama. People like the two Wests don’t just stop such awful acts – paedophiles don’t suddenly stop and start. I believe, as perhaps Janet Leach does, that there are more victims out there. We will never know the full extent of their actions.
My thoughts go out to the relatives of those individuals – a stain on that family that could leak down through the generations.

9/11 Ten years on – terror attack or not?

Question Time has returned and they are talking about 9/11 – not surprising given this weekend’s tenth anniversary.

But just before that on BBC3 was a programme involving a group of young people being taken around America who were all convinced that the attacks on the Twin Towers, The Pentagon and the other attack were all caused by the American Government or some other secret society.

 

Most believed that there was some undercover reason for the attack which was carried out covertly by people within the American Government (or somewhere else) for some greater gain.

 

Greater it seems than the lives of thousands of people. Greater than any amount of lives – as no one could have known how many people could have been killed. Ten thousand could have lost their lives, 20,000, 30,000….

 

A comedian, who I did not recognise, was given the task of trying to challenge their conspiracy theories by taking them to meet those who had knowledge of events and to see if their minds could be changed. Two of the group experienced a real change in their views.

 

I found the programme interesting but rather shallow. There were childish squabbles, tantrums, gnashing of teeth, that inability to listen to anybody else who doesn’t share your view.

 

Liking much of what is put out on BBC3 and BBC4, I was up for watching this programme but I did feel it was a project which was out of step with all of the other programmes about 9/11 at the moment.

 

Watching the contributors throwing eggs onto the ground, or throwing stones into piles of flour to show what could happen when a plane hits the ground at speed and is then swallowed up by the impact, somehow felt all wrong. This is just a personal feeling, it seemed without heart.

The only moment when I saw what 9/11 means to me was when they met a woman who’s son had called her from the plane where passengers overpowered the hi-jackers and through their bravery, saved lives on the ground. A son who was just recognising that he was about to die.

 

Stand in front of a mother who’s received such a call and tell her about your nebulous conspiracy theories. In the face of such dignity, yet so much pain, this group of people appeared pathetic.

What did their theories matter to this woman? Her son is still dead. She is still without him for the rest of her life.

I can’t criticise the way the programme was made in any way. But it seemed to belittle what 9/11 meant.

 

It was a human tragedy and crime carried out in front of our eyes where thousands of people were killed and the effect of those deaths sent out ripples of misery which are still being felt today. It’s not something that’s over and done with – dusted. Just as I can still feel the pain of the Holocaust, so I feel the pain of this awful event. And I was not directly involved.

9/11 – whatever caused it – was a visible example of human misery and terror being carried out across the media. There have been many since – that were less visible.

 

For me, it was something that showed how powerful the media can be – we’ve seen that since with the uprisings in Egypt etc.

It also shows how helpless we are in the face of such terrorist attacks (yes, I do believe it was a terrorist attack)

Ten years after 9/11 - Question Time

The way terrorists behave during an attack make them virtually impossible to stop, so early prevention has to be the key. Otherwise it’s too late, there’s no control.

9/11 the firemen’s story – what it meant to me

I have this need to watch programmes about 9/11 – it was event which left an indelible mark on my psyche and last night was no exception.

On watching the programme, The Firemen’s Story (Channel 4 or 5) and those remarkable pictures I remember where I was when it happened so clearly. Do you? What’s your story? 

 

What were you doing when those pictures went across the world and we knew without doubt that we were watching thousands perish before our eyes?

 

I was filming a light entertainment show in a beautiful house in Somerset owned by a couple who’d decorated it with stuff they’d rescued and recycled.

 

I was heavily pregnant and wearing a long, huge, black dress. It was very hot and I was having a drink downstairs and the tv was on. Just a few months earlier I’d been in the twin towers having a meal with my husband – a lovely weekend away in New York.

 

I called him on the telephone telling him there’d been an accident and to turn on the tv. As we were talking I watched the second plane go into the south tower and I knew then it was no accident.

 

I knew I was looking on helplessly as people died needlessly. It was among the most humbling experiences of my life.

I’ve asked my children to watch some of the programmes as I want them to know what fanaticism can lead to – great pain, great horror, great devastation, and for what? What good came of that act? There were heroes created, but no one wants to be hero because of that act. And there’ve been so many since.

 

What moved me last night was an interview with a widow, ten years on, who described telling her daughter that her daddy wouldn’t be coming home – ever. Her daughter crumpled on to the floor, ‘she looked like I slapped her’ the mum said. She said she’d never forget it.

 

All parents can imagine such a dreadful moment – but recently I had to live through it, even if it was as a close bystander. Believe me, I pray it’s never me in that position.

 

I sat with my beautiful sister as she told her six year old daughter that her daddy, who’d gone to the gym as usual the night before, would never be coming home again. He’d felt ill and had to go to hospital but he was so ill that he’d had to go to heaven. He didn’t want to go but he had no choice.

 

In adult language – he’d collapsed and died at the age of 49. Gone from our lives, just like that.

It’s like hitting a brick wall that’s so big

What would you tell your child?

and so tall that you just have to hit it. It cannot be avoided.

My sister dealt with it with so much love and dignity that I could hardly bear it – she told my lovely niece that we would feel sad for a while but we would all be happy and have lovely times because that’s what Daddy would want.

 

All of this when I knew the dark chasm that life had put before this mum of three. A widow at 40 with three small children.

 

Though the circumstances were vastly different, the effect was the same. A family in total devastation but trying to survive even in the following hours. Trying to ensure that bereaved children still felt there was hope and magic in the world.

To all who lost in 9/11, 7/7 or in any other personal tragedy – I salute you.

Gadgets, Stephen Fry and me!

I can’t help but watch this Channel 4 programme about Stephen Fry’s 100 gadgets.

I’m falling for this latest in a long line of ‘Top 100 this or that’ and I can’t help it.

Does someone as intelligent as Stephen Fry like the same gadgets as me, does that make me intelligent too? I don’t think so!

 

Our ages are only a little different – less than a decade – so I can be nostalgic with his permission.

What is it about Mr Fry that makes him so full of gravitas – if he says it, it must be true.

 

What gadget stands out for you?

Yes, I do follow him on Twitter in the vain hope that one day he might be bothered to tweet back. Perhaps then I can be smug in the knowledge that I must have said something vaguely interesting. Then I might write that book I’ve been promising myself.

 

Don’t cringe, I recognise that it’s mad to measure myself against someone I don’t know other than by their public persona. Yes, even journalists have their icons, even with a strong pinch of cynicism.

So far in this programme, I’ve agreed with so many gadgets – scissors, the garlic press, the iPad, the smartphone, the transistor radio, the lawn mower, the tin opener. I’m amazed how many great gadgets are in fact so old, but oh so brilliant.

There are also a few that I hate, one in particular –  the soda stream. When I was a kid, my friend’s family had one.

It always made something still,  taste fizzy and odd at the same time. It never tasted quite right to me. I can’t imagine what would possess anyone to buy one now. In fact watching Heston the scientific chef pretending that his ‘soda streamed’ wine actually tasted okay – well, let’s just say I think my instinct is right.

The one thing I don’t like about the programme is the comments by the celebs who’ve lined up to comment.

 

Once again it’s subjective, I love some, bring on Suzie Perry, Jason Bradbury, Krishnan, Gok Wan but please go away Rufus Hound, some woman who looks like an over-the-hill model and a woman with stripy hair. I don’t know these people but why should I care what they think any more than Joe Bloggs on the street. In fact….

 

Wouldn’t it be refreshing to have comments from John Smith from Swindon, or Fred Bloggs from Basildon. Ordinary people who’s views are just as interesting, or not, as celebrities. John Bishop does it on BBC1 and it works. Probably cost less too.

But here we are at 10.45pm and I’m waiting for the top five – do I agree with the choices?

Five – Typewriter – I agree, I passed my typewriting exam in the 1980s and it’s the one exam that I’ve done that I’ve used almost every day of my life ever since. The exam I did was secretarial course (and I was never going to be a secretary) but how strange that my somewhat random choice to do a course that none of my peers were doing, has worked out so well. It was a morning a week at a local tech college with me like a fish out of water. A lonely experience but extremely worthwhile.

Four – Television – how could I not agree. I watch, love and work around tv land. It’s the ultimate in entertainment, education and is full of information. The choice now is amazing compared to the three main channels when I was a child – black & white, and the test card. Now it’s unthinkable that there’s nothing on the tv. But of course, that doesn’t mean that everything is good – but at least there’s always choice. You can always turn off or turn over.

Three – iPod – not sure. It’s great but would I put it above tv and the typewriter. Not for me. I love music, I love its capacity, its size but for me personally, it’s not as great. Also I use my smartphone for music so my iPod is rarely used. I feel its days are numbered.

Two – wristwatch – of course, don’t you feel undressed without it. Doesn’t it control our day, our thinking, our schedule (yuk!). People love wristwatches and there’s a huge snobbery around watches – Breitling or Rolex?

One – cigarette lighter – brilliant to have fire at your fingertips but if it’s truly a way of harnessing the power of the gods, I don’t have it.

I’ve never smoked so I’ve never carried one. If I knew I needed a light a fire I suppose I would.  So his number one is a lighter – I understand it, I get it, I can see it’s value, it might even save a life. It’s the intelligent choice but for me,  I don’t feel it.

 

WHAT ABOUT THE RIOTS?

Watching the news tonight and I listened to the mum of 13-year-old boy justifying why her son went to the riots with a hammer strapped to his leg.

He wasn’t rioting, but he was there. The hammer was for his own protection. She was lamenting the injustice of it all.

Police worry about some children who are out of control

 

Would you let your son out with a hammer strapped to his leg? Would you even let him out with friends where he felt the need to carry a weapon?

I just don’t get that at all.

I don’t have the answers when it comes to preventing riots. More intelligent minds than mine will look for reasons for the unrest.

 

I do feel very uncomfortable when politicians talk about our society being broken, families being without responsibility, gang culture is rife and we have to stop it. All of these reasons may be true – but let’s see in time just who was rioting. It just feels too easy to blame those on low income, from poor backgrounds, social housing, living on benefits, no jobs.
Lots of people in our country have poor starts, bad parenting, terrible experiences – and they’ve used that positively for the greater good.
What I can say, as a mum, that my teenage children would not be out with a hammer strapped to his/her leg. At age 13, they would not be out roaming around with friends, especially if I knew that there was trouble.
While peer pressure is a powerful thing – it is not more powerful than having good parents. If I had to sit down with my child all day to prevent them doing wrong, then I would do it.
I’m no perfect mum but there are some basic things that I can control. I can control whether or not my child has a mobile phone, access to the internet, access to money.
These are all privileges which are removed in my home if rules are broken. These are punishments that older children really get – oh, the horror of having no access to a computer, or even worse, a mobile phone.

And I’m unmoved by protests – I grew up without any of those things and I survived!
Of course, I know as a journalist that’s it’s easy to pick those alleged rioters who are very young – when many more may have gone through the courts who are over 18, might be in work, or, in one case, received looted items but were not part of the actual riots.

Equally I know that police officers often show concern about the behaviour of certain children. It takes just a few individuals in a town who come from extremely troubled backgrounds to cause huge amounts of anti-social behaviour.

Here in Swindon, I’ve been told of so-called ‘feral’ children whose parents aren’t concerned about their whereabouts, their safety, their criminality. They often sleep rough, and move around the town. Their movements can often be tracked by the amount of low level crime that is being carried out.

If that’s true, and I’ve no reason to doubt it, how can you connect or engage with young people who have been abandoned so badly by their parents. Their boundaries are simply not the same as ours. What a sad,sad situation.

 

Have you ever looked into the eyes of a child with no hope? I have – and it will stop you in your tracks. There’s no answer to it, there are no platitudes that they will hear or respond to.

For parents of those children, they should be brought to book, they should face up to their dereliction. I’m not saying the children who commit crimes should not be punished – but they should also know that those who let them down, must also face justice.

Next Page

Recent Comments