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Reblog: The War Within – A World of Pain.

image Intro by dalecooper57.

Sometimes there is no way to articulate how we feel about something until the enormity of what has happened is allowed to sink in sufficiently for us to mentally process it.

I suppose, as a species, this sort of internal emotional analysis is what prevents us from reacting to the red mist that inevitably descends when we hear about the kind of appalling atrocity that was perpetrated on the people of Paris on Friday.

Otherwise “we” would have gone to all-out war with “those Muslims” a long time ago, right?

Because “we” are clearly in agreement (if you believe social media is a fair barometer of public opinion) and “we” just aren’t going to take it anymore.

It’s time that “we” stood up to these **insert racial stereotype here**, coming over here with their foreign ways, deserting their own crappy, war-torn countries, forcing their children to walk hundreds of miles across inhospitable and dangerous territory, just so they can infiltrate the society they made such an effort to travel the aforementioned hundreds of miles to get to in the first place, then commit heinous acts of terrorism in an effort to force their new home to conform to the strict theological regime imposed on them in the country they have spent so much time, money, blood, sweat and tears escaping.

“We” can be bloody stupid sometimes, there’s no doubt about it.

The horror of the Paris attacks was piped into our collective consciousness, via TV news and social media, at such an immediate and constant rate for the last two days, it was only today that I truly managed to take in the full scale of events that unfolded in one of the most open and friendly cities I have visited.

Parisians live their lives on the city streets, its parks and boulevards providing an alternative to the English habit of closing ourselves off in our little patches of garden and this sense of urban community was what the terrorists exploited.
Who would anticipate that a man in black with an AK47 is going to walk up to a busy pavement café and start killing people?

After all, this isn’t Lebanon is it?

However, just to show that terror, inhumanity and murder have no borders or logic, 43 people were killed and hundreds more injured in what appears to be a coordinated attack in Lebanon’s largely-Muslim capital, Beirut, on Friday too.

Strangely, what “we” think of this appears to have gone almost entirely unrecorded on social networks, whilst a growing element of what I’m beginning to think of as “Facebook fundamentalists” seem less interested in grieving the loss of yet more victims of religious intolerance, ignorance and hatred and more focused on how these tragedies can be perverted to their own agendas, including the promotion of bewigged goon, Fuckface von Clownstick and his continued campaign to become king of his own walled-in world of gun-crazy misanthropes.

Meanwhile, the usual small tales of huge heroism and stoic resistance began to emerge from the carnage of Paris.
Here is a clip of Jon Snow’s interview with Parisian doctor, Louise Hefez, telling how she tended to victims of the café shooting that she and her friends miraculously survived.

All we can hope is that there are a lot more people out there who can see past the jingoistic polemic of right-wing hate groups and self-interested politicians than the “we” who apparently represent us on the feeds of our Facebook and Twitter accounts.

One man who can be relied on to hit exactly the right tone at moments like this is Adam Pain, who posted the most beautiful piece this morning and it is with his permission that I am reposting it here.
Please read his post at the link below, it has more heart and thoughtfulness than any coldly factual news report could ever hope to achieve and will hopefully make you hug your loved ones that little bit closer tonight.

http://aworldofpain.co.uk/the-war-within/

#standwithparis

 

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Surrey with a cringe on top…

Part one – Meeting the Man.

It was back in 1983 when I made my one and only other trip to Guildford.
The last time I travelled up by train from Sussex as an excited teenager, on my way to an audition for the stage management course at the drama school there.
As it happens, I passed the audition and was offered a place, only to have my hopes dashed by the County Council bean counters refusing me a grant, otherwise I may have by now been part of the apparently thriving arts scene in this bustling, historic and leafy Surrey town.

Fast forward 30 years and this time I was making the journey with Elaine in my trusty Nissan Micra, all the way from rural North Devon.
But let me tell you, I was no less excited.

Possibly even more so.

Because this was it.
The event for which I’d been waiting with no small degree of anticipation for several months had finally arrived.

After a pleasantly uneventful journey “up country”, along spectacularly colourful, tree lined roads that cut through the undulating autumnal landscapes of Wiltshire and Hampshire countryside, we arrived at the pub guesthouse on Saturday afternoon (functional but disappointing) and went to stretch our legs in a nearby park.
And it was just as we returned to our accommodation that the man I was most looking forward to meeting arrived.

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Adam Pain, the man behind the  excellent A World Of Pain blog and co-creator of the Golden Face Palms, to nobody’s surprise turned out to be a thoroughly decent bloke.
Instantly likable, hospitable to a fault and possessing a talent to infect you with the same passionate enthusiasm he has for this mad idea – to spotlight the cringingly awful behaviour of those paragons of ineptitude and insensitivity in public life who clog up our newspapers and TV screens with their endless drivel by giving them awards, to be collected on their behalf by those who nominated them – he talked animatedly over a pint about how the project had first evolved and how blown away he was at the way support had grown in the lead up to the event.

(It is worth pointing out that Adam already has form for this type of spur-of-the-moment altruism, having used connections made via his job as music lecturer at the Academy of Contemporary Music to put together a charity single to raise money for Sophie, a little girl with cancer.
The video below was made after asking people on Facebook to send in thumbs-up photos, the idea being to get as many “likes” as possible.
The campaign eventually raised over £300,000, enabling Sophie to have life saving treatment)

Having agreed to meet up later on for a longer chat over a few drinks Elaine and I went in search of sustenance, finally settling on one of Adam’s recommendations, The Old Wheatsheaf, on the grounds it had the same name as our old local back in Sussex.
By coincidence they had just won Pub of the Year, and if the food and fine selection of draught ciders were anything to go by it was well deserved.

Suitably fortified we strolled back to meet Adam and his brother Matt at a more drink-centric establishment in the village, where we were soon chattering away like old friends. (I mentioned to Adam at the time how reading each others’ blogs had been a sort of virtual introduction, and that I’d known we’d get on before we even met) 
Adam walked with us back to our digs on his way home, where we bid him goodnight and promised to meet up after we checked out on Sunday morning to finalise plans for the evening’s ceremony.

Once we’d taken our post-breakfast walk with Adam and his two dogs it was time to get nearer the action.
Ho and Trevor, old friends from Sussex, were coming up for the festivities and we were moving to meet them at a Premier Inn nearer town in order to have less of a journey home that night.
So having decamped to our new quarters and caught up with each other, eaten dinner and had a few pre-awards drinks, it was time (“at last!” I hear you cry) for the main event.

Part two – Beyond the velvet rope.

A quick trip up to our room to change into our glad rags and we were ready to go.

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              Me and my girl.

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Look out Guildford! With Ho and Trev.

Arriving at The Star Inn we were met by our genial and frenetic host Adam, seemingly calm and eager to get things underway, who welcomed us with his normal affable charm and commented on how impressed he was with Ho’s cartoons on the blog before vanishing on some last minute errand.

And so to the ceremony itself.

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The function room was already buzzing with excitement and laughter when we walked in, the neon signs of the bar giving a cozy glow to the back of the room, contrasting with the brightly lit stage in front of us.

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Adam took the stage to wild applause and introduced The Spud Smith Band, the house band for the evening, who played superb off the wall funked-up jazz fusion numbers throughout the show.

Then the award ceremony began in earnest with the presentation of Golden Face Palm awards in categories including;
Film – won by Life of Pi for managing to win the Oscar for best cinematography, despite being mostly CGI-created animation;
Sports Personality – Oscar Pistorius for many obvious reasons;
and Music – Robbie Williams for Candy because, well, have you heard it?
All picked up – to the accompaniment of rapturous applause and wild cheering – by ordinary folk who had voted online for their own personal favourite celebrity cretin-fest or moment of teeth-grinding political stupidity.

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“And the winner is…” Adam presents the first award.

There were many others, which I shan’t list here because the event was filmed for YouTube release next month sometime and I’ll let Adam do the honours on his own blog.

However I can say that one of the awards was for;
Documentary – won, despite tough competition from a film about London’s ceremonial bumbler-in-chief and novelty politician Boris Johnson, by a Channel 4 News report about Nigel Farage in Bulgaria.

And who’d have believed it, but that’s one of the many nominations I’d sent in, along with one for the deeply unpleasant Katie Hopkins (who I was secretly hoping was going to be the one I’d receive an award for) but never mind, she also won something. Much to my relief.

So I made my way to the stage amid much cheering – Farage had proved a popular choice – and to my delight was presented with my commemorative plaque by one of Adam’s former students, now BBC Radio 2 A-listed rising star, the beautiful, charming and extremely talented Emma Stevens.
(Sadly the only photo of this moment of glory was captured by Ho, on actual film, but I will post it as soon as I get it)

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During the evening we were entertained by other former alumni of the ACM where Adam works.

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    Liv Dawson wows the crowd.

Apart from the wonderful Spud Smith and his band, we had music from Liv Dawson who had the crowd enchanted with her haunting voice and also a set by comedian Matt Blair, topped off with a short but fantastic set from Emma Stevens herself.

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Here are some clips to give you an idea, including Matt’s brilliant text-speak karaoke song and one of the tracks from Emma’ debut album that she performed live.

I’m honoured to say that Adam singled me out more than once during proceedings, at one point getting the entire crowd to stand and raise a glass in salute to the dedication shown by me (and my “entourage” as he called it) by travelling from Devon to attend.
Although I think he may have used the word “lunatic” once or twice, I still choose to take it as a huge compliment from a man who not only brought together a whole load of amazing people in the name a really good cause, but showed them all a bloody good time and helped raise money for charity into the bargain.

I’m also happy to report that the parents of Sophie, the little girl for whom Adam raised the money, were there to present an award and to tell everyone that she was doing fine and that they’d celebrated her birthday only the day before.

And as if that wasn’t enough, before we all went our separate ways the next morning Adam insisted on meeting up so he could buy us breakfast.

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The breakfast after the night before, Adam – second right.

A complete and utter triumph all round then.
We met some great people including top bloke Matt Pain, the lovely Simon Venn and the even lovelier Debbie, Adam’s wife.
And what’s more, I’m reliably informed that there are already plans in the offing for next year’s event, so watch this space.

Now, where can I position my award for maximum impact…?

 

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Saying F.U. to the big C…

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Movember is almost upon us again, raising money for men’s health in general and prostate cancer in particular. 
We shall once again be participating at work and I would encourage those of you with the ability to grow the requisite facial adornment to take part too.
So expect all manner of fabulous face fungus to start appearing on a top lip near you soon.
You can donate here.

Which brings me rather neatly to the topic of this Diary entry.

Once again I am writing in response to a post by the ever-reliable Adam Pain who has bestowed a great accolade on me. More about that later…

First I’d like to share an expanded version of the comment I left on Adam’s blog this morning, the subject of which is losing loved ones to cancer;

I clearly remember my brother in law turning up on the doorstep at our new home in Devon at 4.30am, having driven the 300 miles from the London hospital where Dad had been taken after collapsing at a business function due to the unseen and spreading tumours in his lungs, brain and spine.
We raced back there, thinking we might be too late, getting there just as he regained consciousness.
As it turned out, he lasted long enough to be given the news that my sister was pregnant with his grandson and for us all to have a last chance to say goodbye.

Seeing the rapid and merciless way the cancer had devoured his usually imposing frame, it was hard to believe this was the same upbeat and positive man who had told me “Oh, don’t you worry, we’re going to beat this” only a few weeks previously.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t my first taste of dealing with the most indiscriminate of killers.

I was just nine when Mum was struck down by a brain tumour, forever leaving me with the image of her dropping to the floor in convulsions, incoherently repeating a bizarre litany made up entirely of numbers.

A frightening experience for a little boy, as you can imagine.
But not as frightening as the look on Dad’s face a few short months later (which with hindsight I now know to have been helpless grief) as he came into my room and, kneeling next to my bed as I roused myself from sleep, told me that he was sorry, but mummy had “just got weaker and weaker, until she couldn’t hold on any more and she died.”

He was sorry.
As if he could have done anything to save this wonderful, gentle woman from the treacherous mutation of her own cells.
Even now the irrational, impotent anger I feel towards the nebulous and malign enemy who took my mother from my sister and I can return unbidden, when I see her in old photos or hear a song she liked on the radio.

She didn’t smoke, she had an active, healthy lifestyle, and yet she was just as helpless to defend herself against this attack from within as any twenty-a-day tobacco fiend.

We were all lucky enough to have a final, carefree French camping holiday with her in the months following her initial illness and operation, when it all seemed like some sort of terrifying bad dream, only to lose her to subsequent complications when the tumour returned.

So many people’s lives are touched by cancer, hardly anybody is unaffected in some way.

Elaine and I spent many days caring for Elaine’s father (with the help of the extremely dedicated Macmillan nurses) as he became increasingly ill, his eventual passing being all the more painful for Elaine as we were so far away at the time.
And we lost a very dear friend only a few years ago who was, shockingly, younger than me and had always instantly been the absolute life and soul of every party she walked into.

Cancer doesn’t give a toss who it takes, it doesn’t care about your feelings. We’re all potential victims and should therefore take whatever opportunities are offered to join the fight to defeat the silent killer.

Well I’ve done a fair bit in the past to raise money for charity (although like all those saintly celebrities, “I don’t like to talk about it”) and I’m about to get involved in something just as worthy, but a lot more fun than lumbering around the moors in the middle of the night or dressing up like a gay Native American at work.

I am incredibly honoured to reveal that I am to be attending the Golden Face Palms, Adam Pain’s award ceremony for the über-numpties that spoilt everyone’s year by stubbornly continuing to exist.
The deal is that I go to the event, (ticket details to follow – you too can attend this prestigious occasion) accept the award for the particular dullard I nominated for inclusion, and mumble a few short words of acceptance through the haze of alcohol, jostling paparazzi and groupies. (at least I’m reasonably sure that’s how these things go) and try not to fall over on the way back to my table.

Adam has written a very poignant and touching article to accompany the announcement of the ceremony and I would take it as a personal favour if, having taken the time read my post, you also go to A World Of Pain via THIS REALLY BIG, OBVIOUS LINK and see what he has to say.
That is where you can find details of the Golden Face Palms themselves.

(You can also donate to the Macmillan Cancer Care Trust via the Macmillan link above)

 
12 Comments

Posted by on October 27, 2013 in Awards, Blogging, Personal anecdote

 

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