Glastonbury Or The Expensive, Muddy Catwalk

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After last year’s break, the mother of all festivals is upon us again. Glastonbury is currently in full swing and it appears that The Rolling Stones made quite the impact last night.

Festival organiser’ Michael Eavis’ long standing dream finally materialised when he got The Stones to appear on the Pyramid stage. He has been quoted as saying that their Glastonbury debut was ‘the high spot of the festival in 43 years’.

Fees for the most expensive band on earth have not been disclosed, but who cares, it is after all about the music –  or is it?

Well, it’s not totally clear anymore what Glastonbury is all about these days. Sure, we know that music is still the main reason for the 135.000 revellers to suffer through the mud and madness of the event and flock to Somerset to see the hundreds of bands appear on the many stages dotted across the farmland.

The atmosphere has been described as incredible and unique in its genre. In all these years, nobody has ever said anything but that

Having said that, there is no denying that in the past decades, Glastonbury, has turned into an elite festival where music for the masses has been replaced with music for the certain classes.

At £205 per ticket for a four days’ event (+ £5 booking fee per ticket + £6 P&P), and factoring in the cost of trains and coaches to and from, car parking, food and drinks on the grounds, it’s not exactly like people living on the breadline will be able to partake in the annual musical feast. The cost for a couple going to Glastonbury would be around £600 to £700 – minimum. Needless to say that for this amount, you could spend a week abroad in the sun and still have money left for the duty free shop upon returning home. Then again, you won’t get to see the best music around (minus Rita Ora and the Mumford lot) whilst slapping on coconut oil on a Spanish costa.

For the rich, richer and very rich, there is also the option to stay clear from the hoi polloi. They can for instance hire a tipi (a more luxurious tent but one where any comfort must be brought in from home) at £950 for the duration of the festival. Also for hire are the opulent yurts, which are all dressed up with Egyptian bed linen, side boards and candles and can be yours for around £3000. Mick Jagger slept in a yurt. But even though Mr Jagger’s bank account rises up to the moon, he still didn’t stretch himself all the way like the Rooneys did by hiring a £6000 Winnebago. Wayne and Coleen Rooney, who arrived by helicopter to the festival (well it’s only natural) also treated their friends to £3500 podules: boutique style hotel rooms on the grounds.

That just shows you, even festivals allow people to demonstrate wealth and prestige.

But it’s not only the cost and expenses that have changed when it comes to festivals as these days, you can find cash points, mobile charging docks, weird and wonderful shops, food stalls offering world cuisine and delicacies, and you can drink complex cocktails and expensive champagnes. I remember the time where a shower on the festival ground was the epitome of luxury and if a food stall sold falafels, you were shouting out to everyone how wordily festivals had become.

Then of course, beside the implementation of great amenities, you also have the transformation of the festival goer.

Where once people wore their old rags, ransacked boots and didn’t shy away from wrapping bin liners around their bodies, the festival fashion du jour has taken a life of its own. People go to great lengths to make themselves look ‘festival worthy’. A lot of them, spending a lot of money and effort on their outfits. As, if it’s not you, someone else will be taking thousands of pictures, so better arrange great looking memories by dressing appropriately for the event. Celebrities in particular consider Glastonbury to be a muddy catwalk where one can parade their carefully selected outfits on whilst blowing some cool wind into their never-stopping P.R. machine.

Like with the ‘Oscars’, the media happily indulges in the festival phenomena too by releasing worst and best fashion lists. From the Towies to the Credible Celebs, every single piece of garment they wear will be scrutinised and rated.

Most people however, look more or less the same in their originality. There are thousands of cut-off jeans, stringy cardigans, floppy hats, military jackets, flower arrangements in the hair and of course, a festival cannot be attended without a pair of ‘Hunter’ wellies. In fact, looking at all the pictures of this weekend, it’s almost like Glastonbury has become one extended advertisement for these Wellington boot creators.

But yes, no attention-craving celebrity will miss out on the chance to doll themselves up in festival wear with the eye on feeding their pictures straight into their Twitter account, showing their fans and followers how cool they really are – even when in reality, they wear prom dresses to work. Like Katherine Jenkins for instance. I am sure the girl likes her music, but observing the way she portrays herself on Glastonbury this year, (the obligatory cut offs and flowers in the hair) it is clear to me that she studied the festival fashion guide to pick out the right garments to shine. She went for navy blue Hunter boots by the way. It matched the rest of her blue outfit.

When I saw Coleen Rooney pictured online, a little red Chanel bag strapped over her shoulder, I knew that festivals as we once knew them, were a thing of the unsanitary past. I didn’t even consider the helicopter or £6000 Winnebago, that red bag nevertheless made me see clear on the subject. The rebellious, ‘whatever’ mentality that prevailed back in the days, have once and for all been replaced by something a little bit too orchestrated for me. That bag just said it all.

Glastonbury, I believe it’s still about the music, of course, how can it not be? But – observing cost, flaunting of wares and blatant extravaganza, we have to accept that this festival, along side with the type of holidays we take, the class we fly or brand of car we drive, has become yet another symbol of status.

It’s not all bad though, Glastonbury remains the best there is out there when it comes to festivals and line-ups. And, even if the hippie-ethics which were the original foundations for the festival, are no longer in place, to this day Glastonbury  donates most of its profits to charities – which I think is admirable.

For me, it will always be about the music and I don’t care so much for plastic flowers in my hair but one final thought I have is that despite the recession, people are still willing to fork out so much money for music. Even if for some of them, parting with their cash will result in sitting in front of their tent whilst pouting into the camera of their mobile phones – for the whole four days. At least, the world will know they were there and you can’t beat Glastonbury when it comes to location supremo. Cooler than that, you probably won’t get and it will always remain an item to tick off on the bucket list.

But for those who prefer a mud-free environment and a short walk to refreshments, snacks and shower, do like me: press the red button on your tv, stretch your legs on the coffee table and indulge in the best spectacle on earth – from the comfort of your sofa that is.

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Iggy and The New Older Generation

L1010106You may have watched The Apprentice last week, the episode where the candidates were asked to create a profitable online dating service. One of the teams chose the 50-plus market.

A great idea, if it had not been for that team being so ignorant about the age group they intended to target. The commercial and barely finished website they created for the task, made it look like the 50-plus generation were one big geriatric yawn. The cringing promo filmed in dull decors, featured an older couple whose crotch appeared to have been ‘Barbified’ for the event – all smooth surfaces, and lobotomised of any carnal desire.

The young, vibrant and mostly stupid gave us an impression of what they believed the older generation were all about: boring people with an inane grin cemented onto their faces, lacking any fashionable style – extinct genitalia thrown into the sombre mix. Their vision of a love affair for over 50’s was a sterilised one. Even Lord Sugar seemed offended by the patronising portrayal of their online dating venture. And so were his sidekicks; ‘Lizard King’ Nick Hewer and ‘Silent Hatchet’ Karren Brady. Watching this sad spectacle, I was also vexed – and I am 40.

As, what I see around me these days when it comes to the ‘older’ generation is an image vastly different to the one of my childhood. In fact, when I was a child in Ghent, people over 60 were considered old. I am sure that this vision was clouded with the harsh innocence of youth – nevertheless most will agree that people in those days appeared to look older than they actually were, whether in Belgium or here in the UK. Compared to now at least.

It was partially due to the way they dressed: older women wore apron-style dresses with a wall-coloured coat on top and these ladies would never venture outside without a scarf wrapped around their pastels-rinsed bouffants. Older men were often seen in colours matching soil and sand, their hairstyle kept short, usually covered by a flat cap. It was extremely rare to see a fashionable, young-looking older person back then when this is practically the norm these days.

But to me, it’s not that long ago that older people, looked like, well old people. It was just so much easier then to say such and such is old. The image gave it away but so did their stilted behaviour. Theirs was a world of clear set boundaries and very few would step outside of this confined space. If they did, they would be referred to as being ‘eccentric’.

In my younger days, I cannot recall the 50-60-70-plus and older undertaking adventurous travelling, getting tattoos and rocking it up so much at a gig, it makes the younger ones look like they are at a tea dance. Obviously, this won’t be everyone’s idea of fun, but the option is there without having to think: can I still?

Thankfully this is how it is now, but only a few decades ago, once you moved up to an older age box, it was as if life as you had always known it got archived whilst a new manual was provided stipulating the code of conduct befitting a senior status more.

But maybe things were different indoors or amongst themselves, it’s just that we never really got to see this. Perhaps it was a case of nobody noticing the older generation that much as even so the middle-aged and elderly were in the majority in Belgium, most of the time, theirs was an invisible group.

Now, we’ve got an ‘older’ generation, the baby boomers, a great number of them looking absolutely amazing. This generation will sport eclectic hairstyles, wear Converse shoes or highly sexed stilettos and at times live through more exciting days than the generations below them.

Of course, you need to factor in the fact that the baby boomers have more disposable cash than their parents ever had, and for sure they will have led exciting and interesting lives before turning a certain age – so why stop now?

Such is the appeal of the electrifying baby boom generation that retailers are finally starting to realise the potential of marketing their brands to them as much as they once did to the treasured 18 to 34-year old demographic. As a matter of fact, the 18 to 34-year olds are pretty much broke these days, and unemployment in this age group is high. It would therefore not surprise me if in the near future, we will get to see a lot more advertisements starring mature men and women, flocking products far removed from denture adhesives and incontinence pads. In the last years we’ve had Paul McCartney, Helen Mirren and Samuel L. Jackson, both well over 60-years old, promoting iPods, iPads and iPhones respectively.

With all this bon-vivant spirit going on in this age group, it is understandable how some resort to potions and plastic surgery. The exterior may just be ever so slightly corroded but the need to correct this in order to match the blazing energy inside, is something I find only normal.

Naturally, some go too far in their quest of keeping up with the young and end up looking overstretched, a creature nor lamb or mutton. That said, if it makes a person feel better, why not?

Last Thursday, I went to see Iggy & The Stooges again and was amazed at the spectacle 66-year old Iggy delivered on stage. He struck me as being even more energetic than when I saw him in Hammersmith in 2010. The songs were delivered in his great punk-rocker style and as always, he crawled on all fours over the stage whilst singing ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’, accentuating every muscle embroidered on his naked torso in the process. I don’t think there was a single person in the audience who thought: you old man, just put it away.

It’s the same for my parents. Well, it’s not that they climb on stage singing Cock In My Pocket but like Iggy Pop, they don’t consider age. I even think at times, they forget how old they are and continue with life as they’ve always known it. My mum is 61, listens mainly to Leonard Cohen, Queen and Daft Punk (the old Daft Punk, she hates the new album ‘far too commercial’), she wears long boots over her skinny jeans and is a social media fanatic. I wouldn’t expect anything else, she has always loved music, fashion and a life of discovery.

My 68-year old dad is like a man on rocket fuel, skipping through life, always dressed in an almost ‘cool student’ style and through gritted teeth appears to call everyone who annoys him: an old fart. Sometimes the object of his ageist sneering is much younger than him. As such, my mum has to often remind him that the person he is calling an old fart. is most likely 10 years younger than he is. My dad never seems to care, he doesn’t see himself as an older man anyway.

The guys and she-devils of the Apprentice didn’t grasp the fact that the middle-aged and over were in fact just like them, only a lot wiser and hopefully with more money at their disposal. One of the girls, Luisa (mean and clueless = dangerous combination) proclaimed that she could totally not relate to this age group – at all. She made it sound like the 50-plus group were not made out of the same cloth as her and had been bred somewhere in outer space. Nick Hewer who is 69,  described their work as ‘mumsy’ and ‘cosy’.

“This is my age group,’ he commented. “I would run a mile.”

I guess it is something which gives hope, the reassuring feeling that all will be okay later in life. There is no mandatory manual to follow any longer, and I am sure the fun I am having now, will still be happening in 10-20 years time and hopefully much longer. I realise that like my parents, I may forget my age at some point, though I also know for fact that the youth, despite seeing the outfits, the style and such zest for life of the older generation, probably never will. But when I think about it, it has always been a little bit like that. It’s one of these things that comes with time, the realisation that the older you get, the more you accept that age is nothing but that cliché of a saying.

North West Even More Ridiculous Than The Rest – But What’s In A Name?

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Following tradition of celebrities naming their children after a place of conception or any other random thing, being the people they are, it just had to be ludicrous. And they didn’t disappoint. 

As, today we found out that Über-ego, self-proclaimed god and copycat meister Kanye West, along with his limelight hogging girlfriend, have named their child North West. 
 
Myself, I don’t listen to Kanye’s horrifying repertoire nor have I ever watched Kim K’s sordid tv show or whatever it is she doing on the back of that conveniently leaked sex tape – but of course, living in today’s society, there is no escaping the lives of the imbecilic duo. 
 
What a name. North West. You can’t but feel sorry for that child. 

The parents may believe they’ve invented the Internet all over again by giving the tot such ridiculous name (he probably had a Eureka moment, high-fived himself and considered this to be another great deed of his own divine holiness – I am Yeezus! No you are a bloody idiot, now go away) but the reality is, for the rest of its life, that child will be referred to as what is an intercardinal point on a compass. 
 
You wonder what the deal is with a lot of celebrities. Why the need for a name which demonstrates the parent’s self-importance and brings up future visions about the child, of playground bullying and a speedy journey to the nearest administrative building to claim a name change, upon reaching 18 years of age – really why?
 
I mean, when I was a child, a name like Saskia or Marko was as wild as you could get. 
 
Laura Wattenberg, a name expert and author of the name guide “The Baby Name Wizard” believes that unusual baby names are likely to emerge among populations of creative people.
 
She quotes: “They didn’t get where they are today by being conventional thinkers.”
 
Of course, such creativity of the non-civilian bunch can only result in the most unusual names, like Gwyneth Paltrow’s child Apple or the actor Jason Lee who named his son Pilot Inspektor. Furthermore, currently walking around in mini-celeb land are also a Moxie Crimefighter, an Audio Science and a Tu (her surname is Morrow – you get it? ha!) 
 
It’s a strange trend to call your child something that us simple mortals would not even consider to call our dog. Still, for famous people, this appears to be a must-do, like selling your soul to the devil and changing your face to make it look like an ironed-out handbag.
 
I am not saying that we, the audience, won’t be tempted to name our babies something stupid, there is after all a child named Hashtag in the UK. That said, it strikes me that celebrities, just can’t help themselves to come up with these names which scream: look at me, look at me, aren’t we cool, wacky and fun OR WHAT? 
 
That child will get the looks for sure, in fact it will become a visual/audio spectacle for them throughout their life. It’s not hard to imagine the jibes and insults they may have to endure and they will certainly observe more raised eyebrows that any one of us will ever get to see. 
 
But there will always be children with silly names who later in life, will change it to something more mundane, like Bowie’s son, Zowie, who decided that the name Duncan was the way forward. That really says it all.
 
I can imagine little North West playing with Blue Ivy Carter, Beyoncé’s and Jay Z’s daughter. And maybe, after having put down the Swarovski encrusted Barbies, they will plot together to change their names upon entering adulthood – to Mary Smith and Ann Jones. Plain and simple, not a raised eyebrow in sight.
 

So Where Are You REALLY From?

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I did not want to be rude in Starbucks a while ago, but I guess it came out in an abrupt fashion, even when I had tried to soften the blow by throwing in a cackle of giggles at the end of my sentence.

Of course, it was not because of this new thing at Starbucks, where your name is asked upon ordering your cup of choice.

Though, I must say that I am not a fan of this Starbucks name request thing. I could perhaps understand it more if we’re talking about a huge branch where lots of people are waiting for their coffee but my local branch is as big as a phone box and aside from the moody baristas, it’s usually empty. And – it’s just odd to walk around with a name tag in your hands.

So I don’t see the point of sharing my credentials with them. As such, I tend to give a fake name. Thanks to Starbucks I have been a Lucy, a Marilyn, and a Marie-Antoinette, the last one causing a little headache as they demanded me to spell it. I told them to call me Coco instead.

Drifting off as always – what happened in there which caused my mood to burst, was that I got irritated with the barista’s attempt to scratch through my surface.

As , when he handed me my cup of Espresso Macchiato over, his eyes darted over my face. Inspecting and ready to process.

‘Where are you from?’, he asked.

‘Belgium,’ I answered.

‘No, I mean, where are you REALLY from?’

‘Ghent,’ I answered, knowing very well where this was leading to.

‘Seriously, I mean what is your origin? You don’t look Belgian,’ His voice sounded a little irritated.

I answered Mars, did that giggle thing, grabbed my coffee and walked out of the coffee shop.

He seemed dumbstruck but I couldn’t care less.

You see, I never understood this scrutinising of genetics. I don’t see why someone needs to know the exact origin of a person, as does it really matter? It just feels that sometimes, people get annoyed with you when you tell them one thing when they expect the other. As if they want to assert your value this way. Trust me, people usually do not ask the ‘true origins’ out of simple curiosity. Though most of the times it’s just plain ignorance.

Of course, I am not ashamed of my origins, on the contrary. It’s just that i don’t see the point in explaining my medium-sized Maghreb looks. Particularly as I am not that very familiar with the Arab culture myself. Their way of living is at times as foreign to me as it is for the one enquiring about it.

My father is Algerian, my mother a mixture of Belgian, French, German, Spanish – and Jewish. I probably have the moonlike face, dark brown eyes and hair of a Berber whilst I have the European features of my mum.

My childhood felt cosmopolitan, living in the city centre, with two young, liberal parents who loved travelling, art and books. There was no religion as both are atheists and we spoke French when it was the three of us and when I was alone with my mum, I spoke Dutch.

I never learned to speak Arab, my dad didn’t think it was necessary. The only thing that reminded me of Algeria was the great Arab food my dad would make from time to time but there was never pork, as that was banned. My mum would nevertheless have it, my dad didn’t care if she did and I would eat salami and ham with her whenever he wasn’t around – my dad just didn’t want to know about it.

I feel a little bit Arab, a lot more Belgian but I see myself as a Londoner by now.

But it is very rare to get asked what your ‘real’ roots are in London. Most people are from somewhere else and if you tell them what your nationality is, they will just accept and not probe deeper. I would even say it is considered rude to do so.

I do nonetheless accept that there will always be people asking you the ‘really really from’ question because they simply want to know -without afterthoughts.

They might themselves be from there or know someone and are just trying to match your features to the ones they recognise.

You develop a radar to separate these people from the ignorant, enquiring ones. Perhaps, my experiences back home in Belgium, have made me more touchy about this, who knows – but more on this later.

That said, as soon as I arrived in London, I straight away got confirmation that this is not the best question to ask someone.

On my third day here, I found a temping job in a soul destroying place, a printing company in Elephant & Castle.

The  place and work itself was dreadful but the people were fun. We had to walk around a huge table with piles of pages on top of it. Our job was to collect page after page, to finally bundle it into a book. There were six of us, a few South Africans, an Australian, a French girl and me.

We were all chatting away, lots of ‘Why are you here?’, whilst doing the merry-go-round and picking up the pages off the table, when one of the South African guys asked the French girl THE question.

‘France,’ she answered.

He seemed puzzled by her answer.

‘You must be from somewhere else, you’re black!’

I looked at her and saw her face crumpling up in discontentment.

‘Born and raised in France – because I am French, yeah?’

Still not satisfied with her answer, he asked her whether she was ashamed about her true origins.

The girl positioned herself in front of him and said: ‘look, I am French, my parents are from Guadeloupe but I was born in Paris and have always lived there. Guadeloupe, as your ignorant little brain may not realise it, is part of France so really, that makes me double French.’

He laughed and said: ‘I don’t think so no, you just got lucky I guess.’

And she exploded, grabbed a pile of papers from the table and threw it at him. Then she grabbed some more and tried to hit his face this time but missed again.

Her reaction was completely over the top but at the same time, it confirmed that I had been right all along to feel weird about people delving deeper to find my hidden roots.

As years ago, when Belgium was a lot more ignorant than it is now, I would go into, say, a shop, to see the cashier ask me in slow-motion, lips stretched to the limit to enable the exaggerated pronunciation to follow:

‘Do – you – speak – Dutch?’

‘Of course I do,’ I would say in my best TV-Dutch. Usually adding I spoke fluent French, English and German as well. I lied about the Geman but it wasn’t like I was going to become friends with them anyway.

‘So where are you from then?’

I would tell them I was Belgian, which was true but their response would most likely be: ‘c’mon, you don’t look like you’re Belgian, what’s your REAL nationality?’

Naturally, I always felt offended, their tone did not suggest simple curiosity. It was a mixture of disdain and perhaps yes, a little curiosity but one of the inquisitive type. There was always a hint of third degree about it.

Being born in Belgium and having lived a similar life to them, I didn’t like being pigeonholed as something that I didn’t really feel myself.

And I am sure there are millions of people like me, not ashamed of our origins but feeling more like the nationality we’ve got stamped on our passport than the one that is supposed to flow through our veins.

In the case of the French girl in Elephant & Castle, her blood was French, mine is partially Belgian, the South African guy however, if you think about it, had zero South African blood. It’s something the French girl missed to ask him. A white man born and bred in South Africa, surely his ancestors must be from somewhere else? It’s one of these situations where you think: how I wish I could have reciprocated. If only I could turn back the clock with 15 years so I could ask him where he was ‘really really’ from.

Oh Germany? I love black forrest gateau! How do you find life in South Africa? Spitze?’

From one featherbrain to another, oh the laughs we would have had.

Fifteen years on, I can happily say that I’ve barely been asked THE question in London, so the Starbucks situation came a bit as a shock.

Oh I’ve had people asking me: are you Morroccon, Turkish, Greek, Italian, French, Spanish, Iranian maybe? But I don’t mind that, it’s just curiosity. Like people wondering about my accent.

The ‘really really from’ question, there is no need for it. If someone provided you a nationality, just go with it and don’t start interrogating them further.

Can you imagine asking every Australian or American for instance? And what about Asians in the UK who’ve lived here for generations too?

But Londoners, I think, are cool about that and not in the slightest bothered. Belgium, thankfully, has changed so much since I’ve left and I haven’t had anyone asking me the question again.

The Starbucks barista, I don’t know where he is from. He had an accent, that I know. I’ve been back since and he’s called me the woman from Mars, though he hasn’t tried to shake the family tree again.

Maybe he is going to think twice before asking someone why their skin is darker than the stipulated colour on the Nationality Colour Chart.

And if it hasn’t clicked yet, one can only assume that he’ll get more disgruntled people giving him the eye and the huff.

Oh and last time I went into that Starbucks, I gave my name as Zhang Wei. They didn’t flinch.

Why Did Nobody Help Nigella?

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Yesterday, I was shocked to see the pictures of TV chef Nigella Lawson in the news. The ones where Charles Saatchi, her husband of ten years, put his hands around her throat and pinched her nose – and which showed the utter terror on Nigella’s face.

The way she looked at him was like an abused child would look at its violent parents, never giving up on their quest for unconditional love. I found it frankly haunting.

The audacity of that man is stupefying. The fact he’s done this in public, in such nonchalant fashion, seems to strike me that this is nothing out of the ordinary for him.

I was also shocked to find out what else happened in there. Or to be more precise, what did not happen.

As reading up on the incident at Scott’s, a high-end restaurant in Mayfair, I found that no one, including the staff, tried to help that poor woman.

Neither did the paparazzi who took and then sold the pictures on to a tabloid – but that was to be expected from a celebrity stalker sans scruples.

The spokesperson of the restaurant stated: ‘we do not comment on the private affairs of clients.’

And the diners, they just gawped or continued with their meal, as if nothing happened. Then of course, there were the ones who felt the need to capture the scene on camera.

That, I found revolting and inhumane. Sure, sitting there was a famous person having lunch with her husband but at the same time there was also a scared woman being physically abused by that same man. Still whether the diners were amazed at seeing a celebrity eat or whether they were transfixed by the torment she had to endure, they should not have taken this up as a valid reason to point and shoot at her.

What happened yesterday proves yet again how the masses have turned into voyeurs, prepared to banish any empathy if it allows them to raise their Twitter profile or enables them to trend.

These days, gaining followers or getting that scoop, could be as big an ambition for some as it is for others to get that house on the lake.

It’s hard for me to grasp how these people can observe cruelty yet don’t believe it’s necessary to help the person in distress.

Instead they’ll whip out the phone, ready for camera-light-action.

It’s something I see more and more and I have written about it a few times already. One thing is, I will never get used to the imagery of seeing someone in clear need for help, to then see some idiots film or photograph the whole thing.

I realise that most of us have this burning desire to report big news to others, hoping to be the first one to do so. I am like that too and when I catch something important and tell others who in turn tell me they already know about it, I can’t but feel disappointed.

And, sometimes, being able to capture a drama developing in front of our eyes, can be a good thing too. Like last year, when that racist woman went berserk on the train and spat her xenophobic bile onto a fellow traveller. Luckily she got arrested in the end and that was thanks to someone filming the incident.

I also think that in some ways, the paparazzi, may have helped Nigella by exposing the potential domestic abuse she has been suffering behind closed doors.

Though, it makes you wonder, why did the filming person on the train not put his/her phone away to assist the victim who was being verbally abused? And what about the paparazzi, he could have helped too, no? I guess for him, his working day was finished once he filled up his digital card with more than he had bargained for.

Isn’t it though that if you see someone in clear need for help, you help? And if you can’t manage yourself, you get help? I thought this was always the rule.

Recently however, the abundance of technology has allowed abscesses to grow on today’s society, their poison twisting perceptions and re-defining some of the rules we got accustomed to. It may have changed our character too.

Our altruistic nature, slowly replaced by an attention-seeking, soulless and scoop-snagging freak. Not everyone will turn into such media monster of course, but the ones who do, will ruin it for the rest.

So how much more apathy towards our surroundings will we develop in years to come and what will be the result? Will we at some point, choose an image over a life?

It is possible. I just have to think about the accident on the New York subway last year, to realise we’re practically there.

The harrowing image of a man trying to drag himself back onto the platform after he had been pushed on the tracks, was beamed around the world.

The picture was taken by a reporter from the New York Post who happened to be on the subway platform.  Moments later, the train rolled in.

His excuse for photographing someone seconds away from death was: ‘I wanted to warn the approaching train by using my flash’.

For me, his excuse was pathetic. I’d like to believe that every normal thinking person would run to the edge of the platform to try and pull the man up to safety. He didn’t and chose to become the news instead.

It cost a man’s life but what is this compared to crawling out of obscurity and being known by millions of people? Even if that claim to fame is the result of showing death in the face.

Obviously most who heard about the subway tragedy, reacted with disgust but I am sure that should the opportunity presents itself again one day, several amongst us wouldn’t hesitate to do what the reporter did.

There is however no denying that there are people who genuinely freeze up when confronted with a perplexing situation. It’s something beyond their control.

It seems that these days, whoever claims they don’t know why there were watching, they just froze in place, still managed to point their camera in the right direction.

Today, Mr Saatchi has announced that the photos showed a couple having a playful tiff.

As such, we can all assume this is why Nigella ran out of the restaurant crying then. Their fun and games ultimately resulting in a playful finale – with racking sobs for effect. Oh how wonderful it is to joke around.

The thing is, if it had been a ‘playful tiff’, no one around them would have been aware of their penchant for sinister role playing and as such, they should have intervened no matter what. Not just sit there, watching, snapping away, uploading the pictures on a social site with caption: ‘Nigella Lawson is getting strangled here at Scott’s! :- ( ‘

I hope they’re ashamed now, the diners, the restaurant staff, though I have no hope for the paparazzi. Some I am sure, will feel remorseful for not reaching out when they should have.

Though, there will be others who will browse through their cherished pictures and feel privileged they were in the right place at the right moment, full battery and all.

They’ll be dining out on this for years to come. And –  they’ve got the pictures, the retweets and the obvious absence of a philanthropic gene to show for.

When it comes to Nigella, I hope she is okay and that she hasn’t become disillusioned, not only with her husband and her relationship but also with the ones who believe that life is nothing but a zoo.

When Humans Became Vanity Smurf

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Now haven’t we all become super busy photographers in recent years?

Not only that, we also all seem to have a real knack for it, taking state of the art pictures of everything and anything, from our food on our plate to the car we just polished outside on a sunny day, taking photos of the sun and blue sky in the process.
 
Since the invention of digital photography and good smartphones, most of us appear to have a desire to document our life without pause.  For some, doing this proves to their friends and family that they are living-it-right-now. Even if that means, popping down the shop to get a pint of milk. 
Without pictures there is simply no evidence it ever happened.
 
I know, as I do it too. I can’t imagine myself going somewhere interesting without taking loads of pictures. There are just so many beautiful things to capture, perhaps I never saw it so much before.
 
Most of the pictures I take though, are of my cat.  I must add though, that she does not appear to take a keen interest in my newfound hobby as she usually turns around, sulking, whenever I point my iPhone at her.
 
But of course, like almost everyone else, I upload them as soon as I have sharpened or blurred them (depending on age and skin quality), added a few effects to them and cut out anything displeasing to the eye. The process taking no more than a minute per photo.
 
At the moment, I am seeing a lot of pictures of food crawling up my newsfeed, some pretty dishes, others looking like a landslide. There are also the obligatory cats and dogs and of course, you can always find a glamorous self-portrait where lips are pouting, boobs and biceps are getting a prime position and eyes are of the come-hither type.
 
A lot of these pictures are amazing but there are many more that smack of self-adoring. And what is it with that unflattering flabby arm thing that crops up in a lot of these photos? Even the skinny ones appear to get sausage-arm-syndrome when the picture is taken at a wrong angle. But credit where credit is due, a lot of people appear to be so much better looking these days. Sometimes I am genuinely surprised.
 
The ‘selfie’ as it’s now commonly known, is something we have learned to accept. As it was not so long ago, that we would snigger at people for profiling themselves as the sons and daughters of the original self-lover Narcissius. Yet now, most of us have embraced the power of the self-portrait.
 
We know not to trust anyone in taking a picture of ourselves. After all, we know our face and body best, we know what works. And, you wouldn’t ask a friend to take 50 pictures of you until you’ve got a good one. It would just be, well weird.
 
Of course, you don’t mind doing this yourself. Then if it’s still not quite there, you open up one of the many photo apps stored on your phone with the eye on transforming an okay picture into a fabulous model shot. At times, that picture may no longer give an accurate reflection of the real you but that is okay, as it got you 45 likes.
 
Last year I took a selfie on my 40th birthday. Obviously, I’ve taken many more but this one was without a doubt one of these: ‘look at me’ shout outs.
 
I had just come back from the hairdresser and thought I had to show the world I still looked okay for my newly acquired middle-aged status. It’s the thing we all do at some point and there is no harm in it.
 
We know it is going to make us feel better and we realise that some of our friends may know why we do it, but still they will like what they see. And that’s what matters.
 
Sometimes though, the self-imagery goes way too far and particularly so with the younger generation.
 
Not so long ago, my husband and I were eating in a restaurant when a young couple sitting at the table next to us, were constantly playing with their phones. Then when he left the table for a few minutes, the girl picked up her phone and started taking, what must have been a hundred pictures of herself.
 
She puckered her lips, turned her face to the left, then the right, became doe-eyed for one second, then a vixen with lips slightly parted and her tongue touching the corner of her mouth (that made her look deranged, but hey). Then she fluffed up her hair, fixed her bra and looked into the camera, all sullen looks and exaggerated desire. When the guy came back, she continued for a while and then showed him the many, many pictures she had taken. He seemed interested and then showed her his phone. It looked like he had been doing the same in the bathroom. A match made in heaven.
 
Then there was the girl we saw in Beijing, waiting in line to buy a train ticket. To be fair, we had to wait a fair bit. The girl nevertheless thought of this as the perfect opportunity to organise her own model shoot and started snapping away on her phone. But first she carefully applied her make up on top of the considerable amount that was already in place on her face. In between the tons of pictures, she plastered another layer and at some point, she tried to take a picture of herself, applying lipstick. She failed.
 
I then saw her bringing up some sort of social site on her phone and started uploading the trillion of pictures she had taken. I wondered what the caption was going to be.
‘Waiting to buy a ticket, still glam as always! Yay’
 
It just seems odd.
 
You do see it everywhere though kids who should be having fun but spend time taking self-portraits instead. Preferably with background to prove they have been there.
 
‘Selfie-ism’, is only going to get even more pronounced over the years I think. We’ve lost our embarrassment about this already and readily admit that we are not shying away from a little photoshopping here and there.
I nevertheless wonder whether such amour-propre will turn some generations into Vanity Smurf; the one walking around with a mirror in his little blue hands, proclaiming all the time how beautiful he is.
 
I believe it will only get a lot worse and there may come a time where the hours of staring at our own reflection may start tormenting us. We’ve all got imperfections and they are usually not visible to the other person’s eyes. That said, looking at it for hours and hours on end, may turn the prettiest face into Quasimodo.
 
And let’s not forget, there is a risk attached to having all this technology in your pocket. As we know, the selfie appears to be disrobing more and more. Adults can strip off all they want for all I care. If they want to message each other pictures of their expanding torsos and nether regions exposed and decorated, it’s their responsibility after all. Let them have fun.
People needs laughs and bodies can be comedy.
 
Kids however, do not have the full perception of what is good and right yet and if someone asks them to expose themselves, they may just do it without considering the consequences. Who knows where these pictures will end.
 
But the thing is, we may also get totally fed up with the art of capturing one at its best. As if you think about it, a lot of the selfies are remarkably similar to one another. Different shape and face but the pose, is usually the same.
The angle and contorted arm, the give-away.
 
It would be interesting to see people going back to basics, where the best picture you have of yourself, is one with one eye closed and your hair blown into your mouth.  And like with anything else from the past that was buried and then ressurected, it may become another vintage trend to post pictures, taken by another, without the need for manipulation.
It’s probably not going to be glamorous but it’s not exactly like you and I are really glamorous, is it?
 
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The Pub In The Car Park

Whenever I walk to my local supermarket, I am always being confronted with a scene that could be a module out of the ‘When Human Fall From Grace’ handbook.

The image I see, is not a pleasant one. Yet it is somehow fascinating too as it is like looking at a galaxy, far far away but one thatis only five hundred yards away from my doorstep.
I am referring to the local drunks. A collective of people, men, women, varying from young to old, from the shabby to the average but never the chic, hanging out together on an outdoor car park – which interestingly enough is situated next to a pub. Though, they never enter these premises, preferring much more the outdoor life.
As it is, they also prefer to bring their own drinks, bought from the supermarket next door which they stuff into their bulky backpacks. The big bag and legless stance making them look like drunken astronauts. Their choice of poison is in almost all instances, cans of Special Brew. I know, because I can see them fishing out the cans from the lukewarm minibars they are carrying on their backs. And the street around is always littered with flat-pack style cans of that Horrible Brew.
Seasons have no effect on them and they can be found on this depressing car park, 365 days per year. Their outfits never change, they don’t shiver when it freezes, though they always sweat. The only difference you notice when walking past in a changing season, is the increasing redness on their faces when it gets cold and a more obvious smell they dispense, in summer.
Every day, from morning to night, you see them throwing beer down their throats whilst trying to stand upright against the wall and when they collapse, they will usually not bother to stand up again.
Nor will their drinking partners consider to pick up the human mess lying at their feet but instead they will focus their attention on stealing the comatose friend’s drinks. Other times, they fight each other in a rage, with fists and profanities flying but as quickly as the argument started, as soon it will end with a bear hug and the dulcet tones of the intoxicated: I-love-you-man’s.
Once I saw two guys fighting each other and it was a brutal spectacle. The bigger guy had blood pouring from his forehead, the smaller one’s knuckles were fast and red. I wanted to call the police, when a guy walking past me, on the way to his front door, said: ‘don’t worry about them, they are just drunks’. And sure enough, barely a minute later, they were slapping arms around each other, walking off to the sunnier side of the car park to toast to the good life.
This daily, tragic soap where the ‘stars’ are deplorable characters who at some point, fell of society’s radar, can’t make you but wonder what it is that happened to them. Why choose a life of drinking cheap booze on a car park and hang out with the rejects of civilization? How can a person lose all its self-worth to the point where one never bothers to walk into the supermarket’s public toilets’ next door to release themselves and prefer to do so on the street, even the women?
The reasons could be wild and various I assume. Some may have lost their jobs, their partners and consequently tumbled into a series of unfortunate events, causing them to drink more and more. Others may have been alcoholics for so long, they wouldn’t even remember how many years they’ve been battering their livers to a pulp. But then, what makes them decide to come together in a place which lacks any charm and is littered with empty cans and tanked carcasses? Is drinking in solitude for some, just too much to bear?
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I wonder whether they all met each other in the pub first and then decided that drinking on the street would be cheaper, so hey, let’s form a club!
Why did they by-pass going to someones house to drink there instead? It just seems so more comfortable and private then playing this tragedy out on the street.
It is a strange phenomenon and I see it everywhere. On random corners, in little alleys or for instance in the park outside of my parents’ apartment building. The obligatory backpack on the melting pot of people, sometimes they love each other, other times they are seconds away from manslaughter. Each time I visit my parents, I see them – there are always a few new ones and some of the old ‘members, I never see again. You’d hope they got some help but you know that most likely their non-existence ceased to exist.
You will rarely see one of the drunks outside of their set perimeters as if the outside world, our galaxy far far away, is just not safe enough for them. I also never see them arrive or leave, it feels at times as they steam up from the ground to coagulate into a lamentable mess, ready for another day at their office of choice.
Though, only last week, one guy from the regular clique, crawled through the fence of a beer garden we were sitting in and approached us. I stared at his bloated, sweaty face, a network of angry red thread veins and eyes darting around in bloodshot yellow pools.
‘Sorry to disturb you, may I kindly ask you if have you some money so I can buy a beer – please?’, he asked.
We were impressed with his honesty and maybe it was stupid but we handed him a few coins. He thanked us profusely, his body shaking with tremors and then walked off, back to his drunken, safe nest on the car park around the corner.
Of course and being totally patronising; people with drinking problems can be polite too but hearing this man talk in such eloquent style made me wonder if he was one of those who once had it all together – until something snapped and he got catapulted all the way to the dark side of the street. It is sad to think that it can happen to anyone. Who knows, he may have been laughing at some point in his life, at the drunks fighting each other in the street and would never have thought that one day, he’d be one of them.
I am like that. I think this could never happen to me. But it’s clear that you never know for sure what could happen next and whether one day, this will prompt you to be the one collapsing next to them after a many-course meal of Special Brew.
It’s a sad show and it is not about to get cancelled any time soon. Nobody is there to help them and they themselves are not screaming for any help either.
The scene is there to remind me to never over indulge or seek toxic remedies to get over an issue. I will stick to the few glasses of wine with a meal or that beer on a terrace. In a way, I am sure, this is what the drunks would really prefer to do as well.
For now, they prefer the outdoor life and camaraderie, which may perhaps not be so bad when you are the bottom of the pit.