Monday, October 26, 2009

The sensitive, the considerate and the plucky

There's a famous quote, an excerpt from a longer piece by E M Forster, that goes:

I believe in an aristocracy of the sensitive, the considerate and the plucky. Its members are to be found in all nations and classes, and all through the ages, and there is a secret understanding when they meet.

I thought about this when I was watching Nick Griffin on Question Time, because I know I'd sooner have a member of that over-arching aristocracy - someone sensitive, considerate and plucky - living next door to me, whether their skin's black or white, whether they're old, young, gay, straight, disabled or non-disabled, than I would a home-grown thug.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Is there a newspaper that just tells it as it is?

I've always been willing to admit (with a sizeable dollop of embarrassment) to being a Daily Mail reader. Daily Mail during the week: Guardian on Saturdays - we like to be even-handed. And while the Mail irks me with its over-the-top, right wing paranoia, the Guardian irks me with - well, it just irks me. Everything about it shrieks going-to-hell-in-a-handcart champagne socialism. It's a pity that both papers have readable bits that I quite enjoy. And they're familiar, y'know? I can easily find the bits I like.

But now, maybe the Mail has crossed the line. I coped with them printing a story on 'Down syndrome' rather than Down's because, apparently, 'the writer's Australian and insisted' (writers don't insist on things - they say: 'Gosh, do you mean it? You'll really publish it? Thanks!'); I've coped with very many articles on how women's bodies have changed over the last three decades; with articles on this or that woman who gave up her high-flying job to look after her children and how much happier she is as a result; on sisters who are different from each other in some way(without ever working out why I should care); on Kerry Katona, who the Mail thinks should stay out of the limelight but whom they photograph every time she changes her cardigan; and I've coped over and over with features on people who have rejected their disabled child at birth only to discover an upswell of devotion to said child three, six or twelve months later...I've coped with all that, and even with the pieces recently on a new kind of iron and the Lakeland catalogue, for pity's sake. I've read enough serialisation announcements with the words 'searingly honest', 'coruscating', 'hilarious' and 'brilliant' in them to last me a lifetime. But, in and amongst all this drivel, I quite like some bits, even some that I suspect are near-fiction. And I like Liz Jones, mainly because she's such a weirdo and, I feel, a kindred spirit.

But, y'know, while I can deal with all that other DM rubbish, there really wasn't any need for that nasty piece on Stephen Gateley. I wasn't a Boyzone fan and I don't feel all holier than thou about it, but what sort of paper publishes something that nasty about someone just after they've died? It wasn't necessary. It wasn't kind.

So, I'm looking for a new read. But what is there? The Independent? - looks a bit big. It'd be like navigating the streets of Bristol when I'm used to finding my way round Dewsbury. The Times? - I don't think so. Is there anything out there that just offers a non-biased, non-sallacious, non-judgmental view of what's happening?

No, I didn't think so.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Exit, pursued by a ...

This was going to be a jolly post (yes, it was, really!). I was going to describe our pathetic attempts at jiving (probaby best I don't tho') and how we arrived home on Tuesday to find Sweetie Pie had all but broken her foot when a scary spider chased her out of the living room. In her terror, she ran straight into the open door. Ouch. After a mere two hours in A & E, she was told it was 'just' a sprain and strapped up, and she hobbled off to school as usual in the morning. Well actually, I don't suppose that is that jolly, is it? Sweetie didn't think it a laughing matter - well, not until after she'd had a couple of painkillers anyway.

I was going to tell you about that, but then I spotted the info on the Brit Writing Awards in Writers' News and wanted to check if I'm the only person in the UK who can't understand the need for a 'Diverse unpublished writer of the year award' or, if we must have something which is so badly worded, why it should only be diverse enough to include black and ethnic minority writers but not white ones. That's right: the 'diverse' category is strictly limited in its diversity - if you're diversely white, forget it.
Seems like they don't understand the meaning of diverse. You can't have a diverse writer. It's like having a diverse bus or a diverse cooker. You need more than one thing to be diverse. Or, that's my understanding. I could be wrong.

But even apart from that, why do we have to separate ourselves into categories all the time? Why should a person's sexuality, race, religion, etc, matter in writing? I'm dead impressed by those people who can paint with their feet, and I can see that it's significant in their case that they're a separate category from other painters. I can also see that the writings of children or people with learning disabilities might be judged differently from those of non-disabled adults.

But are we really suggesting that the only way for black writers to get a break or a fair chance is by creating a separate category for them? What does that indicate about the underlying prejudices of the people who think that's necessary? To my mind, it says that they think white writers are superior and would run off with all the prizes. How patronising and plain wrong is that?