Flash Fiction is not a format I’ve tried before, but on holiday in Spain last week, I was inspired to have a go. Here’s the result…
Cold, damp and windy; strange weather for a holiday in the sun. At the Alcazabar – the hill Fort overlooking the pretty town of Antequera – the wind blew cold through the shivering cypresses. We climbed the bell tower, and then left just in time to avoid hearing the giant metal cone ring the hour. But we couldn’t stop the cold wind ringing through our heads.
Back at the entrance, ancient Moorish guitar music played through plastic outdoor speakers on an endless loop. Coffee was called for, and came, rich and complex, at a cafe at the bottom of the hill, accompanied by indulgent, flavoursome cakes. Outside, the plaza was alive with an eruption of excited school children frolicking beneath the magnolia trees. We retreated to our hotel for a siesta. Visit Spain, live Spain.
Later, we woke to an orange glow. Outside our window the sandstone church, with its ancient brick tower, the plaza that it overlooks, the shops and the balconied apartments, all had been transported to Mars; we were vacationing on the red planet. And then it rained. It was still raining when we went out to eat. The streets ran red with dissolved red dust, and I couldn’t help but think of the streets of Ukraine running red with the blood of innocents, slain to feed the greed, the ambition, the twisted hubris of a crazed dictator, the red rain in this medieval city mirroring the medieval bloodshed; the war being waged by Russian oligarchs.
We sheltered from the red rain, first in a bar, and then in a restaurant, where we ate among religious iconography, and drunk the blood of Christ till our heads spun. We retreated to our hotel room. Our clothes, shoes, bags; everything was spattered – contaminated – with the red dust. Would the sun ever shine again?
Note: I’m going to come clean and admit that unfortunately I didn’t think to take a photo from the hotel window when I saw the sky had turned red. The one I’ve used is from the Alcazabar, earlier in the day – I coloured the sky orange in Photoshop.
It’s hard to comprehend the ability of supposedly well-educated, intelligent people to shut out the blatantly obvious. Britain holds the Presidency for COP26, and at the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow at the end of last year, our leaders asked the world to turn its back on coal. And yet, just three months on, the UK government is busy issuing new licences to dig for coal and drill for oil.
Change will be forced upon us…
The people making these decisions know we need to move to sustainable forms of energy, and quickly, or face catastrophe. Most of them have children, and will have grandchildren too, if they haven’t already. And yet, just a few months after being immersed in the grim reality of anthropomorphic climate change, they’ve allowed themselves to be tempted back to the path of destruction by the potential wealth-giving powers of the fossil fuel lobby (who, presumably, also have children). The question is, how long will our politicians and industry leaders have to enjoy the riches they are amassing, before the entire ecosystem collapses in on itself and the human race is wiped out, along with most other life forms on the planet?
It would be very convenient to blame ‘The Establishment’ for our impending demise, but are us lower mortals any better? When so many people still choose to jump into their car to make a two-hundred metre journey? When the number of over-sized, over-powered vehicles on the roads continues to rise? When the road-sides are strewn with litter? When so many people can’t even be bothered to put packaging into the recycling, rather than the rubbish bin? I could go on (some people might say that I do!)
Dogs are a case in point. There was a long running campaign (possibly by the RSPCA) intended to make people consider the responsibility involved, rather than just thinking, ‘ooh, that looks cute; lets get one’. Today, dogs are trendy; a fashion accessory. And company while working at home during the pandemic. But what happens when you have to go back to work? There are now around twelve million dogs in the UK alone, and a study has indicated that the sheer quantity of faeces and urine from dogs is actually changing the ecosystems of our natural spaces. We know that meat production has a disproportionate effect on the environment, and that we should be eating less of it. Dogs, on the other hand, eat almost nothing but meat.
Having a conversation about the contribution to climate change of population is difficult. It touches nerves, runs contrary to people’s animal instincts. You only have to suggest that maybe people should show some constraint with their family planning, rather than having just as many children as they choose, to find yourself being compared to the Nazis. But if we can’t even have that conversation about populations of species other than our own, then what chance do we stand?
What is it with us humans? How is it that an animal with such a large brain and an impressive intellect can possess such an innate ability to ignore the obvious, even at the expense of its own survival? As a species, we’re running towards a metaphorical cliff edge, and apparently enjoying it so much we just can’t bring ourselves to change direction. We know that if we don’t stop we’ll go over the edge and fall to our deaths, but somehow, we just can’t imagine it happening. Surely we’ll just launch ourselves into the void and fly away?
So what can writers do about climate change? We can write, of course. Journalists and article writers can write factual pieces to make sure the public is informed about the damage human activity is doing to the world we live in, and what can be done to reduce the damage. Novelists can be more creative, in helping people to understand what the future could look like if we don’t act.
People trust the written word – more than they ought to. It’s why fake news gathers traction, and why British newspapers get away with dis-ingenuity and lies to further the interests of their wealthy owners. It’s up to us to balance things out; to make sure the truth is out there. Who knows; maybe we can make a difference?
My first forays into writing, around four decades ago (a frightening amount of time) were as a lyricist, and I’m still writing songs, now and then; when I can spare a little time. So I thought, why not share with you the ideas that have worked for me. Not everyone will agree with what follows, but these are my tips for budding song-writers:-
Subject Listening to contemporary music, it may not be immediately evident that not every song you write has to be about your love life. When every track on your planned latest album is about your marriage break up, that’s not art, it’s therapy – better keep it to yourself.
Be creative. There’s a whole world of subjects out there, from the personal to the universal – politics, culture, nature, the cosmos. Lately I’ve been dealing with big subjects, including climate change, anthropomorphic mass extinction, and even the nature of existence (I must be getting old):
‘On through the void, avoiding all question Of emptiness and, any suggestion, Existence profoundly is lacking direction.’
Lyrics don’t have to be literal; they can be allegorical or fantastical, comedic or satirical.
Responsibility Remember that your lyrics may influence others. Glorifying crime, normalising the carrying of knives or guns, promoting homophobia and misogyny may well have a detrimental effect on other people’s well-being, and certainly won’t do anything to create the free, fair and safe society we should all be striving for.
Lyrics as Poetry If you want to write great lyrics, simply fitting words to a tune isn’t enough. The very best lyrics are poetry, rather than prose. If your lyrics aren’t at least close to being good enough to work, without music, at a poetry reading, I would say you’re letting down your craft. Great music deserves great lyrics.
Get help… Musician and lyricist are different disciplines; the skill sets overlap, but are not identical. You might be brilliant at the musical side of things, but if you’re not a writer, why not collaborate with someone who is? Look for aspiring writers who may be open to forming a mutually beneficial relationship, where they produce the words to your music. Money need not necessarily change hands. You could come to an arrangement where they are credited with the lyrics, and will receive a percentage of any earnings. If you make it big, you both win. If your musical career doesn’t take off, it will have cost you nothing, and you’ll have carefully crafted words to sing. But if you really want to write the words yourself, then read on…
Repetition You might not want to over-burden the singer (especially if that’s you!) with too many lines to learn, but the mind-numbing repetition employed by some artists is enough to drive listeners mad. Avoiding excessive repetition means writing more words. But you’re a wordsmith, aren’t you? Don’t waste the opportunity to practise your craft; to show your skill, and to make your songs special.
Repetition You might not want to… oh, hang on; we’ve done that one!
Rhyme Like poetry, lyrics don’t have to rhyme, but it can add to the rhythm and flow of the music. Just make sure your rhymes work. For me, if you’re struggling to find a rhyme, making up a word, or using slang (e.g. rhyming ‘kinda’ with ‘find her’, or ‘wanna’ with ‘Prima Donna) in most instances really doesn’t work.
Rhyming can be at the end of every line, alternate lines, or a more complex pattern. Although there’s no need to stick to a rigid pattern. Throwing a rhyming word into the middle of a line can work well – the poetic equivalent of ‘off-beat’.
It’s easy to get carried away with rhyming. Recently I’ve taken to using rhyming triplets, finished with a line without a rhyme. This is from a slightly tongue-in-cheek song about the despair felt after returning to the cold, dark UK winter after a long holiday in the sun…
‘In spite of intense emotional pain, Stifle your disdain, Embrace the icy rain As the rain embraces you.’
Too many rhymes can be become distracting and irritating. I think I feel some more non-rhyming lyrics coming on…
Complication I’ve discovered over the years that it’s possible not just to fit surprisingly complex words to music, but to make them work beautifully…
‘There’s magic in the way that life evolves, No depth of thought, no profound contemplation, Has yet been found to resolve The complexities that life involves.’
Don’t be afraid to use complex language, long words, or words that you didn’t know the meaning of. I love finding new words (though I have a dreadful memory, so it’s a struggle for me to hold on to them). One word I’ve discovered recently is ‘melismatic’ – where you sing more than one note to a syllable. It’s something I’ve had the courage to do more of recently (my voice being less than great). Be careful though, because as many pop artists are currently proving, too much melisma sounds ridiculous.
Grammar So many contemporary lyrics are written in ‘street speak’; the more they mash up the English language, the cooler the artist – or at least, that’s how it’s presented. But why follow the herd? We all have grammatic flaws in the way we speak (well, apart from the Queen and Jacob Rees-Mogg) but why accentuate them? In every-day speech the errors may slip by unnoticed. When we write, I believe it’s good to polish our language, rather than to shred it. In any case, if you don’t speak like a gangster rapper, why sing like one? Which brings me to…
Finding your own voice Beware of using language you don’t own. For instance, do you actually refer to your significant other as ‘Baby’, or ‘Girl’? If you do, perhaps you might like to consider whether these terms are somewhat patronising; misogynistic, even. If you don’t, why use them in lyrics? Isn’t it time you made your own voice heard, rather than just copying what you hear elsewhere. Don’t be a sheep.
What comes first – music or words? Either, of course, but there are advantages and disadvantages to each approach. Writing the lyrics first gives you more freedom, but it can be difficult to get started, and there’s the concern over how easily the words can be set to music. It can be helpful to have some idea of the rhythmic effect you want from a tune. Writing words to a tune is certainly much more restrictive. You have to be more disciplined (though that can be a good thing.)
I’ve worked both ways in the past, but these days I tend to work on the music and the words at the same time. Developing both together is a more flexible approach, and for me, it can give a better result than trying to shoe-horn words into a tune, or stretch a tune around words.
So there you are; my tips for song lyrics. Happy writing…
So, it’s over. COP 26 – possibly the largest gathering of world leaders, advisors, scientists, lobbyists and general hangers on the world has ever seen. Indicative of what was to come, some of the first reporting was of Joe Biden’s obscene motorcade; surely one of the most blatant examples of piss-taking on the world stage we’ve been unfortunate enough to have seen. Or is the president really that stupid?
Faced with the job of agreeing the drastic changes needed to mitigate the worst effects of anthropomorphic climate catastrophe, our leaders and representatives chose to commit to a few, gradual changes. Possibly. And not yet. Let’s leave it for a few years, shall we?
The guests of honour at the extravagant party were around 500 fossil fuel lobbyists, metaphorically swirling around like seagulls following a trawler, while those whose voices really needed to be heard were largely left out in the cold.
A new buzzword was ubiquitous at COP – ‘transitioning’: ‘How can your country claim to be tackling the climate crisis when you’re building new coal-fired power stations?’ ‘It’s okay, because we’re ‘transitioning”
Reduction of fossil fuel use was discussed, and some moderate targets agreed on, although none of them are compulsory. Most sinister was the farming lobby – so influential, so powerful, so successful that the impact of their sector, such a destroyer of environment, such a massive contributor to climate change, wasn’t dealt with at all.
This was a conference where the president of the United States of America reportedly trumped (pun intended) loudly in front of a royal personage; the irony of the president’s personal methane emissions mirroring those of his country was difficult to ignore.
News channels pointed to the hypocrisy of the limo engines idling, while the chauffeurs waited for their dignitaries. Easy to sneer, but it’s not just the rich. Walk across a motorway services car park and you’ll see no end of cars with their engines running, pumping out toxic fumes, while the people inside drink and eat from single-use plastic containers. I mean, really – what chance do we stand?
Every year, in the UK, water companies pump vast amounts of raw sewage into rivers and the sea. Last week, while news coverage concentrated on COP 26, our government was busy voting down an amendment to the environment bill which would have held water companies accountable to reduce the amount of sewage they pump out to sea. As the host of COP26 you would expect the UK government to have set a good example. Instead, they are happily signing up to yet more fossil fuel projects.
There were things to admire. Greta Thunberg was, as ever, an inspiration. So diminutive, so young, and yet such a clarity of mind. Humbling. And she wasn’t alone.
But the people inside weren’t listening. One of the commentators said that climate change denial had all but disappeared… to be replaced by greenwash! There was, as far as I heard, no mention of population. There’s a simple formula:
Total emissions = Average emissions per person x the number of people
If we’re serious about getting emissions down to a safe level, we need to work on both sides of the equation. I live in a country (England) which is so over-populated we no longer have any wilderness left, and our forest cover is tiny. Oh, and by the way, pets – particularly dogs – contribute to global warming too, not least by consuming food, which means more of that damaging intensive agriculture. In the UK we’re in the midst of massive increase in dog ownership, which is incompatible with tackling the climate crisis.
As if all that wasn’t enough, there was just one more thing my country did to embarrass itself last week, right in the middle of the climate crisis conference. Across the country we lit huge bonfires, and set light to vast amounts of explosives in the form of fireworks. Just for the fun of it, of course. Climate crisis? What climate crisis…
I used to think the old folk were making something out of nothing when they complained about forgetting what they went upstairs for. I used to think I’d always done that, even when I was young. Let’s face it, we’ve all done it now and then, haven’t we – gone upstairs, downstairs, into another room, out to the shed, or the garage, got distracted, and come back without the thing we’d gone for?
But recently I’ve taken it to a whole new level. I no longer need the distraction. I’ll open the fridge door and find myself standing there urgently scanning the contents for a clue to what it was I wanted, scanning my memory – ‘come on, concentrate; you’re wasting energy’. So far, it’s always come back to me before the fridge starts bleeping at me – ‘bleep, bleep, bleep; take what you want and shut the door, fool’. Correction – ‘old fool’.
Some people would say I’ve always been a bit… distracted. But in the last few weeks I’ve come down with a really bad case of ‘what was it I came upstairs for?’ And I’m wondering how this will play out in other areas of my life. As a horticulturalist, all those Latin names are rattling around in my head. I’ve got a photographic memory. The photographs are all there, but the indexing system doesn’t work. I can suffer three days of frustration before suddenly, in the bread isle of Sainsburys, I’ll blurt out ‘ Phalaris arundinacea ‘Feesey’! [1.] with a sense of relief matched only by a sufferer of constipation finally managing to squeeze one out after a three-day hiatus (hopefully not in the bread isle at Sainsburys).
I’ve got around three hours of musical repertoire committed to memory, including a fair amount of lyrics (in four different languages – three of which I don’t speak!) And I can’t read music. What could possibly go wrong?
And then there’s the writing. Memory is important when writing a novel. The further in you get, the more information you need to hold in your head – who said what to whom and when, the order of events, what each of the characters know and don’t know, and so on. Get it wrong, and you risk continuity errors, or even making a nonsense of the plot. If you can’t hold these details in your head, things become difficult. You have no choice but to hunt through the text to find them. Actually, it’s a good idea to check you’re getting it right now and again anyway, as memory can sometimes be unreliable.
So far, my ‘What was it I came upstairs for’ syndrome doesn’t appear to be affecting my writing. Perhaps it’s just a phase I’m going through, rather than a permanent mental deterioration.
[1.] A tall, variegated grass, commonly known as ‘Gardener’s Garters’ – the name of which it actually only took me four hours to recall today (I call that a victory!) Actually, it came to me while I was writing this post, so I see it as a fitting example.
Could it be that the Taliban’s greatest strength is not ruthlessness, lack of compassion, or their powerful external backers, but instead, their subservience to what they consider to be an unquestionable ideology? And surely then, the Western allies’ biggest mistake was their failure to challenge that ideology. Just when will our society wake up to the fact that questioning the voracity of religion is not just a basic human right; it’s a duty?
Even after Afghanistan was supposedly liberated by the West, Afghans (and especially Afghan women) continued to suffer the repression that is inherent in all societies that are largely based on religion. We should understand that, because our own history is one of repression and cruelty at the hands of the church.
Following a religion is fine, so long as you enter into it freely, and don’t try to impose it, or any associated moral decrees, on others. The assertion that the Taliban’s interpretation of Islam is wrong was weak, and always doomed to failure. Afghan’s were always going to question the authority of Christian American and European leaders to tell them the correct version of Islam.
We wanted to give Afghans access to the same freedoms we enjoy; particularly with regard to a balanced education that allows people to think for themselves. But we failed to understand the limits of our own freedoms. We asked Afghans to consider that what god really wants from them is different from what they’ve been told. But we didn’t offer them the true freedom of thought to question whether this god character actually exists. Because after all, why should they have something we don’t?
The Taliban use religion in the same way it has been used by repressive regimes across the globe and throughout history, back to the Caesars and beyond – questioning what the regime tells you god wants from you is the same as questioning god him/her/itself, which is in turn unthinkable and subject to extreme (human) punishment. Questioning the idea that god (or gods) are real, is something we in the so-called developed world still don’t have full freedom to do. When did you last hear this kind of challenge on TV or radio, in a newspaper or magazine, or on a mainstream web site? Yet we’re subjected to a constant drip feed commentary, on all of these media, which starts from the assumption that the truth of religion has long been established (it hasn’t).
The blasphemy law in the UK may have gone (though watch out – if religious groups have their way it could soon be back) but questioning the validity of religions is still not accepted behaviour. The continuing spread and imposition of government financed religious schools across the country continues unabated. Many get away with teaching that evolution is a lie. This shows how little we really value freedom of thought, and the right to a balanced education.
For Western governments to stop the Taliban would have required them to question the religious doctrine that is its beating heart. But to do so would also have struck at the repressive power of the religious groups that hold our own countries in their iron grip. And as our own leaders are hand-in-glove with the church, they were never going to allow that to happen.
And so Afghanistan has once again fallen into the hands of bigoted despots intent on depriving its people of their humanity. And, after a respectful period of mourning, we will turn away, smug in the security of our own comparatively open, free and fair society. But beware. Sharia law is here in the UK as well – barely visible, but flourishing in closed communities across the country, and supported by a government that consistently, and inexplicable, fails to challenge it. In growing communities across the UK and Europe large numbers of people suffer similar restriction of their freedoms to the poor Afghans – the misogyny, the homophobia, and all the other irrational nonsense that makes up Sharia.
Increasingly, threats and aggression by fundamentalist Muslims are shutting down freedom of expression in wider society – witness the Batley Grammar school debacle, the murder of Samuel Paty and the Charlie Hebdo staff, as well as the de-platforming that is taking place in universities in the UK – establishments that are supposed to promote free-thinking and open debate. Other religious groups – Christian, Jewish, Hindu, etc. gain encouragement from this, and are becoming bolder in their demands to impose their own perverse morality on the rest of us.
It’s often stated that we live in a global society. Our failure in Afghanistan, and the terrible events we are seeing there now, will send reverberations out across the globe. To many individuals, religion may be a joy. But to society as a whole, it remains a dangerous threat that we will never entirely banish unless we accept the right, and the need, to question, criticise, and even ridicule it.
At the risk of repeating myself, writing a novel involves a lot of work. Like setting up in business as a funeral director; it’s a big undertaking. Progress on my latest novel has been slow, and frequently been put on hold due to the pressures of life, but I think I might be getting there. The word count recently passed seventy thousand, which is almost a books worth.
I’ve read advice from publishers and agents saying new writers should aim for no more than eighty thousand words (patronising bastards!) Books by established authors often exceed this hugely. The last novel I read, ‘Paying Guests’ by Sarah Waters, was thick enough to be used as a doorstop. Mind you, it was overlong in my opinion, with a lot of repetition. My last novel was a little over one hundred thousand words, and I suspect this one will be a similar length. I’ve gone somewhat closer to the mainstream this time, in the hope of appealing to the somewhat limited imaginations of agents and publishers. The book is about a major terrorist attack. It’s got a ‘strong female lead’, which is, as far as I understand, ‘de rigueur’ at the moment (unless things have moved on without me noticing). There’s action and intrigue, but mostly it’s about the people involved, and how the attack affects them.
There’s quite a bit to pull together yet, hence me thinking the final word count might end up at around one hundred thousand, even if the editing stages involve a certain amount of rationalisation. As I said, I hope I can get a publisher interested this time, but even if that doesn’t happen, I’ve enjoyed writing it. By this time, the characters have really come alive for me. I’ve started thinking of them as real people (and even found myself adopting their way of speaking now and then), and I keep having to remind myself they’re just characters in a book, and one not yet completed, yet alone published. I suppose it would be all I might ever desire for it to be the same for anyone who gets to read my little (or not so little) masterpiece when it’s finally finished.
Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right, and particularly important to us writers. But the government in Britain, as elsewhere in the world, is increasingly legislating to restrict this freedom.
It began with the idea of making offending someone a criminal offence. When the repressive and largely unenforced blasphemy law was finally abolished in 2008, after 140 years of campaigning by the National Secular Society, religious groups began looking for other laws to protect their organisations and ideologies from criticism. There are a number of ill-thought-out bills from modern times, such as Section 5 of the Public Order Act, which criminalise doing or saying anything that might offend someone. The rise of the use of ‘offence’ laws has seen a corresponding increase in the capacity of people to be offended by anything that doesn’t suit them (usually expressed in language that exactly matches that of the legislation – just in case the courts are in any doubt).
The Scottish government have just pushed through a law criminalising hate speech. They were warned by a number of prominent campaigning groups (including some religious organisations) that it will have a severe detrimental effect on freedom of expression. Under great pressure, they accepted some amendments. The new law does abolish the blasphemy law in Scotland, so that’s good. But despite the amendments, it still has the potential to restrict freedom of expression, and thereby exempt organisations and ideas from criticism.
And now, taking this assault on our freedoms still further, comes the planned law against misogyny. Defined in my OED as ‘hatred of women’ (and by feminist campaigners as ‘hatred of women by men’), I would hope we can all agree it isn’t conducive to the free and fair society most of us crave. But hatred is not an action, but a state of mind, and to criminalise a state of mind is both a very foolish, and at the same time, very dangerous thing to do. It’s an unnecessary law, because gender is already a protected characteristic under existing equality legislation, along with race and sexual orientation (with many other characteristics currently being considered for inclusion). The existing legislation protects us against harmful actions, rather than trying to criminalise the animosity of those who might wish to harm us.
Of course the proposed new law is by definition discriminatory – how can you legislate to protect people of a particular gender, but not other genders, without being so? But it also has frightening implications for freedom of expression. The old quote about hating someone’s opinion, but defending their right to express it, is highly relevant here. An obnoxious opinion expressed openly can be challenged openly. Criminalise that opinion and you push it underground where, hidden away like the roots of bindweed covered with plastic membrane, it will develop and multiply, ready to burst out into growth at some point in the future.
What will it mean for us writers; this proposed new law? If I write a misogynistic character into one of my stories, even though I might be portraying them as the bad guy, will I be breaking the law? And what about existing books that contain misogynistic ideas or characters? Will they run contrary to the law? In which case, we’ll have no choice but to burn them. I can’t help thinking that wasn’t what the millions of men who suffered and died in the last great war were fighting for…
I moved to the country because I wanted peace, I wanted quiet; I had specific needs. The trouble with the country is there’s not enough trees. Not enough leaves to rustle in the breeze, And mask the sounds of the farm; The roar of machinery, the reversing alarms.
The wind blows cold out here; Gathers speed over expansive fields chemically freed of weeds, Jumps the butchered hedgerows like a thorough-bred steed, Nothing to slow it because there’s not enough trees; Stay outside too long and I’ll freeze, So I hide away inside; Watch through the window as it lacerates my nascent garden. Is this global warming or just that there’s not enough trees?
I used to hear owls when I lived in the town, Those lovely, ethereal sounds Came down from the crowns of ashes and oaks, Invoked wonder and joy, but out here, there’s nothing; Have they all been destroyed? Or have they deserted the land of too few trees? All the old barns converted to expensive real estate Leave them nowhere to live, Because for the custodians of the countryside It’s all take and no give; The land wouldn’t be as productive If there were more trees.
The forests have fallen, The wildwoods are gone, Slash and burn, baby; slash and burn; No room for woodland when it doesn’t earn Enough to keep the hedge fund managers sweet, You’ll never turn a profit if your capital’s asleep, Buried deep in ancient woodland, Or marinating in peat. There’s a killing to be made in shooting grouse, So it’s slash and burn; then buy more land and repeat. No surprise; there’s not enough trees.
Not enough trees to keep the air clean, Red diesel doesn’t burn green, We’re choking on carcinogens and the environment’s screwed, Yet internal combustion still reigns supreme, The time to choose has all but been and gone. Between country and town there’s little distinction; No escape from the coming extinction. If only we’d realised there’s not enough trees.
A famous person has died (to quote Spitting Image). The Establishment is in mourning (to mis-quote Spitting Image). And we’re all expected to mourn too; expected to bow our heads in honour of our beloved leaders. So much for living in a democracy. We’re told the monarchy has no power; that we shouldn’t consider its existence to imply we are subservient and inferior – it’s nothing more than a bit of fun. But a member of the royal family dies, and the BBC decides to cancel all of its scheduled programmes, and devote its entire output, on both channels, to sycophantic programmes about the said royal. The media is doing its duty in putting the monarchy above all else, and we are being coerced into doing the same. Anyone switching on TV or radio to catch their favourite programmes will, since the death of you-know-who, have been disappointed.
On an average day, the lives of around two-thousand people end in the UK. The Duke lived a highly privileged life at our expense. He lived as long as he did because, unlike most of those others who died yesterday, he had access to the very best health care money can buy (at our expense). I’m sure he had his good points (as well as the bad ones). But I’m willing to bet that among the two-thousand there are people who lived better, more selfless, less privileged lives, and who are far more deserving of our grief. So forgive me if I complain about being made to miss ‘Gardeners’ World’, ‘Have I Got News For You’, and the music on Radio Three (I know; I’m giving away a lot about myself here!) simply because someone who was born (not elected) into a position of power has died.
I see the royal family as a parasitic organism, feeding on the body politic; the idea that they have no power over us a lie; their continuing roles a celebration of privilege, elitism, and the with-holding of opportunity, equality, and consideration from the ordinary people. Isn’t it high time we purged our society of these vampires?