Thursday, 26 December 2013

Five Things I'd Like To See The Back Of In 2014...

Well, that's Christmas over and done with for another year.  In less than a week, we'll be saying goodbye to 2013 and ushering 2014 in its place.  And that's good.  Change is good; it keeps us on our toes.  With that in mind, I've had a think about a few changes I'd like to see in 2014.  Being me, these changes aren't personal ones.  In fact, my little list of changes came in the form of an internal rant whilst I was checking Facebook this morning.  So, sit back and ponder the top five things I'd like to see the back of in 2014...

1. Couples who take selfies in bed and then post them online.


How did this even become a "thing?"  I mean, seriously.  At what point did someone, all cosied up under the covers with his or her loved one, decide: "Oh my God, you know what this situation calls for?  Photographic evidence, which we can share on social networking sites!"  Newsflash:  WE DON'T WANT TO SEE IT.

If you've never seen a bed-selfie, consider yourself lucky.  In the last fortnight, I've seen at least three on my Facebook feed.  Maybe I just befriend perverts...  Who knows.  All I do know is that if I never see a snap of a topless guy lying under the covers whilst his girlfriend (who is either also topless, or - ooh, how cute - wearing his shirt) snuggles up beside him, it will be TOO SOON.

Bed-selfies, or, to give them a suitably nauseating name, "belfies," generally fall into two camps, both of which are almost certainly liable to induce a fit of violent dry-heaving in anyone unlucky enough to witness them.  First, there's the cute belfie.  In these pictures, the couple are either snuggled up, smiling smugly at the camera with expressions that shriek "look at our love!  Feast your eyes upon our adoration for one another!  WE ARE SO HAPPY THAT WE FEEL THE WHOLE INTERNET NEEDS TO SEE OUR PRIVATE CUDDLING TIME!"  OR the couple will be engaged in some sort of "cute" activity.  This can range from a pillow fight all the way through to breakfast in bed.  No matter what the situation, here's the thing:  The "cuteness" is totally destroyed by the fact that a) you've had to stop what you're doing in order to photograph it, thus rendering the moment utterly lost and b) that glorious moment means something to the two of you and nobody else.  By snapping it and posting it on Facebook or Twitter, you don't look all lovely and adorable; you look like you can't simply enjoy some quiet time together, without feeling a desperate need to include everyone on your friend list, when not one of those people has requested to be involved (and if they have, you probably need to take out a restraining order).  Either that or you look smug, as though you want to forcibly rub your love in the face of every single person you know.  Neither is a nice option, guys...

Of course, the other kind of belfie that couples force upon us, is the quasi-sexual snap.  In these photos, the couple will be topless (hopefully with the duvet covering their baubles) and engaged in a kiss, or a passionate embrace.  Again, there's no actual passion evident in these photos, seeing as at some point during the encounter, the couple have shrieked: "HEY, LET'S TAKE A PHOTO FOR FACEBOOK!" and subsequently posed, therefore totally killing the moment.  Still, the message these photos give out is "WE HAVE EITHER JUST HAD SEX, OR WE INTEND TO DO SO VERY SOON."  If that's a message you want to send to your Facebook friend list, then I suggest you reassess your life choices.

To summarise:  By all means, do whatever you like in your own bedroom.  Just please, for the love of God, keep it to yourselves.

2. And whilst we're on the subject of Facebook...


Anyone who regularly uses social networking sites will probably have encountered these vile, emotionally manipulative pictures.  You know the type:  "One like = one sympathetic hug.  Share if you care.  Keep scrolling if you secretly torture small animals in your spare time."

Here's the deal, people of Facebook and indeed the world:  If I click "like" on a photo, do you know what happens?  The person who put the photo on there gets a notification.  AND THAT'S IT.

My "liking" a picture won't cure cancer.  It won't tell a small child that she's loved.  It won't rebuild homes lost to floods or other natural disasters.  Pretending that it might is just ridiculous.  Are we really supposed to believe that there are people out there in the world, who click "like" or "share" on these photographs and then rush to tell their families: "Fear not everyone; I've just eliminated AIDS!  It was so simple; I wonder why nobody had done it before, to be honest!"  If there are people like that in the world, I will lay money that they take belfies.

If you care about small dogs with only three legs, or homeless children, or whatever today's "share this or prove you have no soul" picture depicts, then do something about it, if you can - donate to charity, or volunteer at a shelter.  Sharing that photo achieves literally nothing; not even awareness-raising.  After all, we've all heard of cancer.  We all know that illnesses are very sad and that animals should be treated properly.  Not wanting to spread pictures designed to make people feel guilty for things that are entirely out of their control doesn't make a person heartless.  It just means they're not going to fall for such blatant emotional manipulation.

And whilst we're on the subject, you know those "share this and something amazing will happen to you in five minutes" posts?  They're bullshit as well.  Happy new year!

3. Ppl who talk liek dis.

You know those posts that do the rounds on social networking sites, suggesting that you can read anything no matter how jumbled up, as long as the first and last letters of each word are in the right place?  Well I don't think we need those.  I think if we can decipher what the Hell people are saying when they use text speak or the equivalent thereof, then we can consider ourselves to be doing okay.

Cos, leik, dis makes no sens.  It makes mah eyes bleed.  Wot u talkin leik dis 4?!  

When text speak first came about, it seemed to be because old mobile phones could only send a certain number of characters in a text message.  To compensate, "you" became "u" and "to" became "2."  It was ugly to look at, but necessary.  A bit like the talented member of most modern boybands (oooh, burn!).  Since then, however, phones have come a long way.  You can send almost limitless words and characters all in one message.  And yet, this horrible trend continues.

I realise that I'm a writer and therefore probably a little over-precious when it comes to words.  But I pop onto Twitter most days and quickly have to disappear again, before I feel compelled to correct the spelling and grammar of total strangers.  I get that some people have trouble with spelling and grammar.  It's not always easy.  But here, let me help you:  

"Your" means that something belongs to you.  "I like your jumper," for example.
"You're" is short for "you are."  So you might say "you're looking great in that jumper."


I genuinely mean it when I say that this ridiculous trend of shortening words or deliberately mis-spelling them ("liek" being a case in point, along with "teh" instead of "the") is probably at least in part responsible for declining standards of writing in general.  Nobody is correcting people when they write "there" instead of "their" online and as a result, they carry on doing it.  You may not think that bad writing is a problem.  But bad writing made EL James famous.  For that reason alone, we need to stamp it out.

Which leads me neatly onto...

4. Fifty Shades of Grey

I won't go into too much detail on this, seeing as I've already written multiple blogs on the subject (*air-hostess voice* You can find them herehere and here), but Fifty Shades of Grey romanticises an abusive relationship, in which a naive woman is emotionally manipulated, psychologically abused, coerced into sex after saying "no," stalked, put in danger and physically assaulted (what happens in book 2, where Ana is dragged off a beach and has deep, red welts and bruises inflicted on her as punishment for sunbathing topless is NOT BDSM - ask anyone who practises the lifestyle).  

As someone who survived an abusive relationship, I take enormous offence at the idea that Christian Grey - a man who embodies many of the negative qualities my ex had - is supposed to be the perfect man.  He isn't.  He's a tosser.

Also, I take issue with EL James' atrocious writing.  She has her lead character speaking, then writes "I muttered, wordlessly."  Yo, EL?  When you mutter, you tend to use words.  You know, like the ones Ana just spoke.  There's nothing sexy about a heroine referring to her lady-bits as "down there," either.  If you're getting off on this kind of "naughtiness," the Internet is going to BLOW YOUR MIND WITH FILTH.

Oh and EL?  Your subconscious is, you know... sub conscious.  In as much as we can't interact with it.  If Ana is seeing her subconscious reading a book or whatever, then she probably needs to see a psychiatrist.  

People, I beg of you:  Read something else.  Anything else.  An official guide to arse-wiping would be better than Fifty Shades of Grey.  In fact, arse-wiping is pretty much all those books are good for.

5. People who are famous for no reason whatsoever.

I'm sorry to my friends who love TOWIE/MIC, but yes.  I AM going there...

Ask yourself a question:  What are most of these people famous for?  On the whole, these people became famous because someone shoved a camera in their face and put their ridiculously staged social lives on TV.  That's it.  And those people - cleverly, I must grudgingly admit - milked their five minutes of fame for all that it was worth, becoming glamour models or TV presenters.

But where is the actual talent?  What did these people really do to deserve fame and fortune?  Because I'll be honest with you and say that as far as I can see, it was very, very little.  To me, the uninitiated boycotter of all faux-reality crap like TOWIE/MIC/Georgie Shore etc, their paths to fame went like this:

"So, I was like, going out with James and then he shagged my best mate, so I shagged her brother and then he was like, I'm still in love with my ex and I was like, well I still love James innit, so then I had like, a well emotional reunion with my best mate and it was, like, totes sad cos she cried and her false eyelashes fell off, but then...  Sorry, you want me to host a daytime TV show on ITV2?  And get my tits out in a magazine?  TOTES AMAZE!"

Even President Obama has spoken out about "reality shows" teaching children false values, after several studies revealed that most youngsters dream of simply becoming "famous," with little consideration of what they actually want to be famous for.

And I'm sorry, but these people who are famous for being famous are so utterly dull, I'm struggling to keep my eyes open whilst writing about them.  For a start, they all look worryingly familiar: Hair extensions, orange skin and fake nails.  And that's just the men...  Their love lives are splashed across the press, as though we should be remotely bothered about who's shagging who; it doesn't impact on our lives whatsoever, yet we lap it up like dogs with bones.  Hehe, I made a "bone" reference in a sentence about sex...

Anyway, my point is:  I would rather look up to or be interested in someone who had achieved fame by being amazing at something and working hard at it.  My idol is Audrey Hepburn: She wanted to be a dancer, so she trained and joined chorus lines and eventually, although she was too tall to be a ballerina like she'd dreamt of being, she became an actress.  She starred in small shows until she was spotted and catapulted to fame in Roman Holiday.  She went on to become a huge Hollywood star.  Her style made her a fashion icon, too.  She then spent her later years as an ambassador for Unicef; using her fame to help those less fortunate than herself.  Audrey is still a household name and her face can be seen adorning handbags, notebooks and items of clothing all over the world.  She's still known and loved.

You won't be buying a purse with Joey Essex's face on, twenty years after he's dead.  That's all I'm saying.

I think I might actually be in love with her...

And so, I have reached the end of my rant.  If 2014 could do me a favour and be the year in which we stop fawning over z-list "celebrities," learn to write properly, throw 50 Shades in the rubbish where it belongs, quit taking belfies and realise that sharing a photo on Facebook won't cure cancer, I'll be a very happy girl.

Or I'll settle for it being the year in which I meet and seduce Matt Smith.  You know.  Either or.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

My 2013

It's that time of year, everyone!  People are looking back over the last twelve months and remembering what went on; sporting triumphs, political battles and televisual highlights will be remarked upon by wistful writers, as they comment on what a year 2013 has been.  That's all well and good.  But I've decided that my own review of 2013 will be more of a personal affair.  After all, I can't write with any great knowledge on a law that might have been passed in May, but I sure as Hell can tell you that I ate a bloody good sandwich in June...

In fact, to be fair, I basically judge each year on the food I consumed...

So, sit back and enjoy a trip down a lane which probably contains no memories for you whatsoever, for no reason other than the fact that doing so will fill an empty ten minutes or so in your day.  Hooray!


I kind of feel sorry for January.  It has so much to live up to; we've just had Christmas and New Year, everyone has made resolutions and exciting plans and then boom.  January arrives like a rock band's difficult second album and it inevitably struggles to live up to the hype.  If January was a person, it'd be that friend of a friend who's described as being "like, totally crazy," whom you secretly dislike before even meeting.  

Anyway, mid-January saw a compliment that stuck with me.  A little girl told me that reading one of my children's books made her feel less alone when she was being picked on at school.  It made me realise that writing is more than just a hobby of mine.  It's a passion and when you get it right, it's capable of achieving more than you ever dare to hope.  I also met a successful author and told her my very rough idea about writing a semi-autobiographical novel about an emotionally abusive relationship.  She gave me such encouragement, that by the end of the month, the first three chapters were finished.  Go me!


In February, I had a big rant about 50 Shades and the romanticism of abusive behaviour printed in a national newspaper.  I mean, okay, it was The Daily Mail, BUT IT STILL COUNTS.

That picture was posed by a model.  I'm not just camera-shy, honest.

I began to co-run the @50shadesabuse account on Twitter and it's something I'm still very proud to be involved with.  There's nothing romantic or sexy about stalking, emotional manipulation, physical abuse disguised as BDSM, psychological abuse, coercive consent or excessive, unwanted control within a relationship.  Oh and the writing is appalling as well.  

I also went to see Les Mis at the cinema again in February.  Well, it saves money on make-up remover, doesn't it?


All the way back in March, my fabulous friend Lydia and I booked tickets to go and see The Big Reunion on tour.  Lyds was excited about seeing 5ive.  I was all in a tizz over 911.  The gig wasn't until May, but somehow, we managed to make our squee over the event last throughout March.  We're good like that.

March was also the month in which I lost and found my hairdresser.  HEY, I NEVER PROMISED YOU THIS BLOG WOULD BE INTERESTING.  Yes, the fabulous Emma (what a great name...) left her former salon and went to a new one, which caused a near breakdown on my part, what with my not trusting anyone else with my unruly tresses.  Thanks to some online detective work, my friend Rachel discovered Emma's new place of work and my hair was tamed once more.  Hooray!

In March, I also went on quite the rant about how loved-up people need to quit telling single people to hurry up and find someone.  But to be fair, I do that most months...


In April, my dog took up pipe smoking.  Well, he didn't, but it sort of looks like he did.  If you squint.

Apologies for being a bit serious here, but in April, I realised I was getting into the last few sessions of counselling with the women's abuse charity who'd been helping me put myself back together again, after leaving my abusive ex.  As a result, many of the statements I made in April were about self-belief, personal discovery and triumph over adversity.  I was - and am - proud of how far I had come.  But then again, this was also the month that I went to a zoo whilst wearing a leopard print dress and subsequently panicked that something would either try to eat or mate with me, so let's not get too carried away with the self-praise...

I got a new bed in April, too (I know; I'm treating you guys to the BEST gossip of 2013), which involved having to smash up the old one, in order to take it to the dump.  When opening up a drawer in the divan, I stumbled upon my collection of 911 posters/magazine interviews etc, which had remained pretty much untouched for the last 14 years...

How DARE you suggest I may have been a little obsessed?!


In May, Lydia and I were finally Cardiff-bound for The Big Reunion show.  Basically, for those not in the know, The Big Reunion encouraged several pop bands - 5ive, 911, Liberty X, The Honeyz, B*Witched, Atomic Kitten and Blue - to reform and go on tour again.   To say we were looking forward to it is something of an understatement.  Lydia's words to me as the lights went down and the show started were: "I'M SO EXCITED, I MIGHT BE SICK."

And yet I didn't run, screaming from her, because I am a GOOD FRIEND.

The show was amazing and afterwards, we hung around by the stage door, like the well-seasoned lurkers we are.  And that, friends, was where I met the man whose picture I used to sleep with when I was 14 (shut up and don't judge me).  Yes, I met Lee Brennan from 911.  

He held my hand and I momentarily forgot to breathe...

Because Lydia is an awesome friend - and also a geek like me - we went to the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff the following day and I had a photo taken with another great love...

He didn't say much.  I think he might have been shy.

And then on May 16th, I had my last ever counselling session with the abuse charity that had spent 10 months helping me rediscover the version of Emma that my ex tried so hard to destroy.  The last time I saw my support worker was emotional, but we ate chocolates and cake, so it was also pretty awesome (like I said, I judge my years on food).  I'd been writing lists of things my ex put me through and together, my support worker- the amazing Chloe - and I shredded that list, as a final act of freedom.

In your face, abusive ex.


In June, the sun came out and so did my floppy straw hat.  I hit the beach with my friends, ate ice cream and generally allowed myself to feel totally and utterly free.  I took a trip to Dartmoor Zoo with the girls and announced to everyone present that I wanted a bear for my birthday.  I JUST LOVE BEARS, OKAY?!

Here are some of the creatures I saw at the zoo... Sorry girls. :-P


You know when you've not seen someone for years and then you finally meet up and it's as though no time has elapsed at all since you were last together?  Well that's exactly what happened when my friend Rachel came over from Canada.  Rach is a Whovian like me and we spent most of our time together putting a David Tennant doll into ridiculous poses and laughing like a couple of hyenas.  Emailing one another pretty much every day has helped keep our friendship strong, but I think Rachel and I would've been fine even without that; we're just on a very similar wavelength.  And that wavelength involves a whole lot of silliness.

We went out for dinner with our lovely mutual friend Lynn and I had pork.  Told you I judge my years on the food I've eaten.

And the company was just as fabulous as the food.

A little later that month, I went back to one of my spiritual homes - Alton Towers - in order to indulge in my passion for rollercoasters.  It may sound crazy, but strap me into a seat and chuck me off a very high drop and I'm pretty much at my happiest.  Annoyingly, I was suffering with sinusitis when I went, but it didn't stop me having an amazing time.  I need to go back...

I'm so close to Lydia, Michelle and Kim; we even bath together.


In August, I listed ten actors I'd like to have seen take over from Matt Smith as the Doctor in Doctor Who.  I was wrong on every count.  So, on the off chance that Stephen Moffat is reading this and pondering who to cast when Peter Capaldi hangs up his sonic screwdriver (and yes, I know, he hasn't even started yet):  JOE GILGUN.  That's all I'm saying...

This was also the month in which I went on an unexpected holiday.  My gorgeous friend Lizzie wanted to go and see Stephen Mulhern perform a magic show at Butlin's in Minehead.  In order to see the show, we had to actually stay there and lo - a love affair was born.  Mock all you like, but Butlin's is a magical place.  I drive through those gates and I'm a kid again.  I mean, they have a big deckchair!  What's not to love?!

A big deckchair with a massive tent behind it.  COME ON!

It was a weekend on which I discovered that I am apparently at my merriest when dancing to the YMCA and trying to guess the ages of the incredibly youthful redcoats.  It was also a weekend on which we ended up going clubbing with Stephen Mulhern.  SUCH IS THE MAGIC OF BUTLIN'S.

Mid-month, I was also asked whether I'd been to Falmouth Art Gallery to see Julien Christophers' exhibition.  When I said no, I was told that one of his works is a collage of caricatures of local and national celebrities.  One of the caricatures on the collage?  WAS OF ME.  That's how you know you've made it, folks. ;-)

At the end of the month, I went on another holiday; jetting off to Prague with my friend Kate.  It was your average trip abroad - sight-seeing, fun, foreign food etc - right up until our last night, when we ended up in a theatre, watching a show that went from "confusing" to "um... Why are their boobs out? WHY ARE THEY TOUCHING EACH OTHER LIKE THAT?!" in a worryingly short space of time.  In case you're wondering, yes, it is hard to hold in a massive case of the giggles in a packed theatre, especially when angry Czech people are telling you to "ssshh."

Oh and whilst in Prague, I ate a doughnut the size of my head.

I'm not even kidding.


You can tell something has been enjoyable - possibly much more so than expected - by how quickly you want to do it again.  And sure enough, in September, Lizzie and I went straight back to Butlin's, for more of that sweet, sweet big deckchair action.  If there's anything more ridiculously fun than getting all dressed up for a night out, only to end up doing the dance to Agadoo and shrieking at a redcoat to down a coke float in one, I have yet to experience it...

I turned 31 in September.  Shall we gloss over that?  Yeah...  Ooh, actually no!  My incredible best friend Lydia got me the bear(s) I wanted for my birthday!  Or rather, she adopted the ones at Dartmoor Zoo for me, which was amazing.

I indulged in one of my greatest loves in September, by heading to Bristol with my fabulous friend Kirstie, to see the Manic Street Preachers live.  I'm at the point where I've sort of lost count of how many times I've seen the band, now.  I think it's eleven.  But they never disappoint and as always, Kirstie and I had a brilliant time together, too.

We laughed, we sang, we danced... And we posed in a toilet.


Okay guys, guess where Lizzie and I went in October?!

You don't have to be drunk to go to Butlin's, but...

Yes, we were Butlin's bound again.  This time, we went up in the world - literally - by staying in a top floor apartment, rather than in a room.  It meant we had a lounge and a kitchen and we did what any normal people would; we cooked way too much macaroni cheese, pigged out and decorated the place with Halloween tinsel and fairy lights.  Oh and blew up dozens of balloons, which we tried - and failed - to play keepy-uppy with.

At the end of the month, I went to see Sarah Millican for the first time since she has been super duper famous (I first saw her as a virtual unknown at a comedy club in Bristol, many moons ago).  She was awesome and lovely - we met her after the show and she didn't balk when I asked if I could sniff her marker pen.  I have a problem, I know.

That night, I also walked past my abusive ex for the first time in over two years and I didn't freak out; I held my head a bit higher, walked a bit taller and laughed a little louder with my friends.  Go me!


November saw the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, which is, if you don't know much about me, pretty much my favourite TV show and a major obsession of mine.  To prepare for the anniversary, I'd been rewatching all the episodes from 2005 onwards - and something unexpected happened.  For years, I'd remained firmly in Camp David (see what I did there?!), referring to Tennant's incarnation as my favourite version of the Doctor.  But rewatching all of his episodes made me see Matt Smith in a whole new light.  By the time I was back up to date with the series, I was a fully fledged Team Smith member.  He is my Doctor and I don't want him to leave at Christmas.  Nobody makes a speech as passionately, nobody can switch between light and shade so perfectly and frankly, nobody will ever look as good in a fez.  Oh and I totally fancy him as well, but that's besides the point.

Oh but you are, Matthew.  You so are.

Lizzie came down for the weekend of the show's anniversary and, in spite of not being a fan, she put up with my obsession valiantly.  We even ended up making our own spoof Doctor Who episodes, using Action Men and a Barbie.  Seriously, type "Don't blink, doctor who spoof" into YouTube and witness the inner workings of my crazed mind.

I also went to see 5ive with Lydia in November and they rocked Plymouth Pavilions.  I was lucky enough to meet most of the band afterwards and I can safely say they are lovely guys.  Oh and yes.  Abz really does talk like that.


So here we are at the end of another year.  It has been a good one, all things considered.  

The book I started writing is now only a few chapters away from being finished and the friendships I treasured most at the start of the year are still the ones that bring me the greatest joy as 2013 ends.  My family and friends are always the most precious things in my life and this year has been no different.

I wish them - and everyone reading this - health and happiness for 2014.  May it be the year your wishes come true.  Unless you're harbouring a secret wish to track me down and kill me.  In which case, may you be THWARTED.

I will be spending New Year's Eve at Butlin's (come on, you could at least act surprised) and then I'm off to London right at the start of January, to see Matt Smith in American Psycho.  Expect a review in early 2014.  And expect it to reference his pants.  

To everyone who has read and supported this blog in 2013, many, many thanks.  May your Christmas be fantastic and your new year even better. Stick with me in 2014.  Who knows where we'll end up... xx

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Ian Watkins: Why Fandom Must Come With a Side Order of Reality...

I'm going to level with you all, dear readers.  This blog is going to reference some fairly horrible things and I won't lie; I will almost certainly get ranty.  So, I guess this is my equivalent of a trigger warning.  Okay.  Let's do this...

Today, Ian Watkins, former lead singer of the band Lostprophets, was sentenced to 29 years in prison, with an additional 6 years of "extended license," bringing the total sentence to 35 years.  His crime?  Child sex offences, including the attempted rape of a baby.  Watkins entered a guilty plea for his crimes.  He laughably also stated that "nobody was hurt."

He sexually assaulted children.  But nobody was hurt.

I'm not going to lie.  I can't even begin to get my head around that.  I can't remotely understand what makes a person so utterly sick that they feel compelled to commit sexual offences against anyone, let alone a child and certainly not a baby.  My reaction is one of disgust and in fairness, most people I've come across share that reaction.

Most, but not all.

Lostprophets have been a pretty popular band over the years.  They still have plenty of fans.  Plenty of very vocal fans.  Here are some of the tweets I've read today (obviously with the names of the accounts removed):

"I believe you're innocent, Ian.  Stay strong - your true fans will never desert you."

"I don't give a fuck what he did.  I love him.  What he does in his own time is HIS business."

"Ian Watkins pleaded guilty to get a shorter sentence, that's what a plea bargain is.  Of course he's innocent!!"

"It will ruin my childhood if Ian Watkins is found guilty."

Soooo...  Let's take these ludicrous statements one at a time, shall we?

1. "I believe you're innocent."

This is about as intelligent as saying "hey, I know you're wearing a blue jumper, but I BELIEVE IT'S RED."  Ian Watkins pleaded guilty on all but one count.  He went as far as to refer to his depraved acts as "mega lolz" and said he didn't know what people were getting "so freaked out about."  His computer contained images of child pornography.  He admitted to conspiring to rape a baby, conspiring to rape a child, sexually assaulting a child and taking/possessing explicit images of children.  He stood in a court of law and pleaded guilty to those charges.  "I believe you're innocent" has no place, here.

2. "What he does in his own time is HIS business."

Well, no.  That's not how the law works, I'm afraid.  I can't just turn up to work and announce to my boss "ooh, I had a nightmare journey; had to mow down a couple of old ladies, whilst doing 90mph in the 30mph zone, but hey, what I do in my own time is MY business..."  Celebrities are of course allowed some privacy and there's much to say about the culture we live in, in which we invade every aspect of a famous person's life.  But there is a massive difference between allowing a celebrity the privacy to use their free time as they wish and turning a blind eye to paedophilia.  I mean, really.  Is this person actually suggesting that we're invading Watkins' privacy by imprisoning him for sexually assaulting children?  What about the children themselves?  Are we so blinded by fandom these days that we see nothing other than the object of our obsession?  

3. "He pleaded guilty to get a shorter sentence..."

Well, that backfired, didn't it?  I also take issue with the "he couldn't be arsed with a court case" argument, too.  Here's the thing:  If I was arrested for something I didn't do, particularly something as utterly disgusting as child sex offences, I would want my day in court.  I'd be grabbing the chance to defend myself with both hands.  Nobody in their right mind would willingly go to prison for over three decades for a crime they didn't commit, purely because they couldn't be bothered with the hassle of a trial.  I can smell something...  Aah yes.  It's bullshit.

4. "It will ruin my childhood if he's found guilty."

No it won't.  You're an adult.  Or at least, you're old enough to operate a Twitter account.  Your childhood has been and gone and - hopefully - it didn't involve being sexually assaulted.  There are children involved in this case.  Kids who are still growing up and who will one day have to face the shattering knowledge that their own mothers allowed a man to abuse them in the vilest of ways.  You think your childhood is ruined because you feel a bit uncomfortable listening to certain songs now?  Say that to those kids' faces.  I bloody dare you.

Sorry, I just couldn't face another picture of Watkins and this seemed appropriate.

Don't get me wrong.  I understand fandom.  You say a word against Doctor Who or Matt Smith in front of me and I will give you my best death stare, whilst secretly judging you.  That's how it works when you love something to a near-obsessive degree.  I love the Manic Street Preachers just as much (probably more) and refer to the band as "my boys."  I will defend them and overlook stupid things they've said or done until I'm a doddery old lady, but here's the difference:  If James Dean Bradfield stood up in a court of law and said "yes, I'm guilty; I attempted to rape a baby," I'd be horrified.  I'd feel physically sick.  There is no way on this Earth that I would be taking to social media to defend him.  

I would, however, be wracking my brains, trying to think what had turned him from a polite, friendly (seriously; I've met a few celebs and he's amongst the nicest), fiendishly talented bloke, into a man capable of behaving like a monster.  I would, now matter how disgusted I was, be hoping that there'd be someone who could perhaps give him some kind of psychological help whilst he was in prison.  I would believe him to be sick, quite literally.  But I would not, ever defend his actions.  I wouldn't be physically able to.  I work with children; I know how innocent they are and how vital it is that they are protected.  To attempt to justify the actions of a sexual predator would go against every fibre of my being.

So why do we have Lostprophet fans who are so utterly blinded to reality that they have flocked to Twitter to protest their hero's innocence, even in the face of a guilty plea?  Is it that when we place someone on a pedestal of our own making, we cannot then force ourselves to bring them down and admit we were wrong?  Or is it pure, unadulterated obsession, causing us to see someone as inhumanly perfect, even when shown to be otherwise?

For what it's worth, I think there is a valuable lesson about fandom to learn from this case.  We need to look beyond our obsessions.  Beyond the music, beyond the acting, beyond whatever our idol is known for.  Yes, it's fine to have a crush, or to hero-worship someone for being amazing at what they do.  But that person is human.  That person is, like all of us, fallible.  Nobody is perfect and when we set someone up to be, they can only ever let us down.  Liking someone - whether as a friend or a fan - means accepting them, warts and all and being open to the fact that they can and will make mistakes along the way.  We all do.

But more importantly, when a person makes a choice to abuse (and I've said on this blog many times that abuse is always a choice; you don't just accidentally assault someone), it's important that we step outside of our obsession with that person and view what has happened objectively.  Abuse is never the fault of the victim, meaning the blame falls on the shoulders of the person who committed the act.  The blame, in this case, lands firmly on Ian Watkins and the two women who went along with his atrocious behaviour.  We cannot ever allow hero worship to blind us to reality.  Ian Watkins is a child sex offender.  It doesn't matter whether you like his music, or looked up to him at some point in your life, he has been found guilty and sent to prison for child sex offences.  There is no point in wailing that it can't be true, because you don't want it to be.  

Saying you believe that Ian Watkins is innocent doesn't make you a great fan.  It simply means that you have developed such an obsession with a celebrity that you are unable to separate the "perfect" version of him in your head from reality.  And the reality is that Ian Watkins is not the victim in all of this.  The victims are the children and it is them who deserve our sympathy.

Nobody is going to take away your Lostprophets CDs.  Nobody is going to erase any memories you may have of enjoying their live shows.  All we're asking is that you look beyond the hype and see that your hero's actions are, to all intents and purposes, utterly indefensible.  To refuse to do so isn't the act of a fan.  It's nothing but delusion and that's where fandom becomes unhealthy.

We all have heroes and that's great.  But when fandom involves no grip on reality whatsoever - no ability to look beyond a celebrity's public persona in order to see the real person, even when that person has committed an horrendous crime - it's time for a wake-up call.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Dear John J Jones

Recently, Tom Daley announced that he is in a very happy relationship with someone he loves.  That person, he told us, just so happens to be a man.

Now, in an ideal world, this information wouldn't have made the news headlines.  Why?  Because someone's sexuality simply wouldn't be a big deal.  However, Tom's announcement did make headlines and I'm incredibly pleased to say that most people showed the young Olympic medallist nothing but support.  The same can't be said for a Mr John J Jones.  It's fair to say that Mr Jones wasn't supportive of Tom's new relationship and he decided to voice his displeasure in a letter to Tom's local paper, The Plymouth Herald.  The paper had run a story in which they praised Tom's honesty and wished he and his partner well.  

Here's John J Jones' response:

The newspaper edited out the "lots of love and hugs" bit at the end, obviously.

I read that letter and I blinked a few times and then I read it again.  And again.  And even after the third time, I am still sitting here, frowning and shaking my head in disbelief.

The trouble is, John J Jones is not alone.  There are plenty of homophobes out there.  Plenty of nasty, twisted folk who believe that only their idea of "normal" can ever be right.  Still, to me, Mr Jones has - for now at least - become the face (albeit a face I've never seen) of homophobia and for that reason, I've decided to make this blog entry an open letter.  John J Jones may never read it and even if he does, I'm certain I won't change his mind.  But hey, it's nearly Christmas, so it's worth a shot...

Dear Mr Jones,

I read your letter in The Plymouth Herald with interest.  Such interest, in fact, that I felt compelled to reply.  

You refer to Tom Daley's statement that he's in a relationship with a man as an "appalling confession."  Here's the thing, Mr Jones.  I am appalled at the idea of living in a world in which anyone views a person saying they're in love with a member of the same sex as a "confession," as though they're admitting to a crime.  Homosexuality hasn't been illegal since 1967 and frankly, it shames us as a society that it was considered an offence before then.  Far more "appalling" than Tom's sexuality, is the idea that he shouldn't speak out about it.  That he should perhaps stay silent.  Why is that?  To protect the oh-so-fragile feelings of homophobes?  Those same people who care so little for the feelings of others that they write letters to newspapers, suggesting that gay people make them feel physically sick?  You can't have it both ways, Mr Jones.  If you're allowed to be so horribly offensive - and thanks to freedom of speech, you are - then you must accept that you are also open to being offended by those who hold opposite views.  Your feelings cannot be protected when you have no consideration for the feelings of those whose love you refer to as "perverted" and "absolutely abhorrent."

Interestingly, you refer to being gay as a "lifestyle."  To me, that implies that you believe there's some sort of choice involved.  This is a common misconception, eagerly snatched upon by homophobes seeking to justify their views.  Wouldn't it be easier for you to pour scorn on gay people if we could suggest that they choose to be attracted to those of the same gender as themselves?  The fact is, being gay is not a choice.  It's simply the way a person is.  

I suspect that you're not a person open to reason and whose views are so stubbornly held that nothing I say will sway you from them, but please allow me to break it down into simple terms for you...

I am right-handed.  I didn't consciously choose to be right-handed.  In fact, if I had had a choice in the matter, I'd want to be left-handed, because who doesn't love the term "southpaw?"

I hate mushrooms.  I didn't make a conscious choice to hate mushrooms.  At no point in my youth did I think: "Aha, all of my family love this particular vegetable; I must endeavour to hate them in order to make mealtimes that little bit trickier for everyone else."

Pictured: Something that makes ME feel physically sick.

I am also straight.  I am a woman who is attracted to men.  You know what, though?  I never made that choice.  I never woke up, one sunny morning and thought: "Hmm, the day has arrived for me to pick a sexuality.  BOYS!  I choose boys."  

Did you?  Are you really telling me that you consciously decided one day: "I must be straight, because being gay is disgusting?"  Because I would argue that if you ever did make that decision, it's not borne from your real feelings, but from a duty you feel obligated to fulfil.  The truth is, not one of us is able to freely choose which sex we are attracted to any more than we're able to choose whether we're born with blue eyes or brown.  It's just a part of us.  We're born that way.

I suppose your counter argument would be that if you realise you're gay, you should make a choice not to act on it.  So here's a question?  Do you have any idea how soul-destroying it would be to feel forced to live a life in which you have to hide your true self?  Let's have a think about how that would go...  

Imagine a young man, realising that he has feelings for other men.  Imagine that - as you would probably like think he should - he decides he can tell nobody about these feelings and he must never act on them.  Think, just for a second, how incredibly isolating that would be.  How ashamed and afraid that young man would feel, knowing he was keeping what he viewed as a terrible secret.  Who wins in that situation?  Not the young man in question.  Maybe you would consider it a "victory," but at what cost?  Think of how depressed that young man would undoubtedly feel; trapped, living a lie that he believes there is no way out of.  Perhaps he would fall in love with another man and he'd tell himself that he could never act on it.  Even if the object of his affections made it obvious that he reciprocated those feelings.  So now, that's not just one, but two young men who are miserable.  To be willing to inflict such pain and loneliness on a person purely because allowing them to live a life  true to themselves offends your sensibilities is more disgusting than any homosexual act ever could be.

Although (thankfully) we are now living in a much more tolerant society, gay people are still subjected to terrible abuse and marginalisation.  And why?  Because people like yourself cannot accept someone living - or loving - in a way that is different to you.  Are you married, Mr Jones?  Then I'd like you to stretch that imagination of yours as far as it'll go.  Imagine that your relationship with your wife is scorned by all who meet you.  Think how you'd feel if, upon doing something as simple as speaking about your love for her, people responded by saying they were appalled by your perversion.  That your relationship made them feel physically sick.  Imagine how it would feel to have people deny you the same rights that they take for granted, simply because they feel that your relationship is somehow abnormal.  

I'm asking you, John J Jones, to stand outside of yourself.  To step, for the briefest of moments, into another person's shoes.  To consider for a second, how it would feel to be endlessly persecuted for something about yourself that you did not choose.

Let's consider Tom Daley.  Now, Mr Jones, you didn't provide an age with your letter, but I'm going to assume that you're older than he is.  Tom is 19 years old.  He has fallen in love and he knows that the fact that his partner is male will ruffle the feathers of homophobes and that he might encounter abuse.  And yet he has decided "no."  He won't allow the small-minded vindictiveness of a petty minority to prevent him from being true to the man he is.  In speaking out with such touching honesty, Tom has shown that it's okay to be yourself.  That being gay is nothing to be ashamed of.  He has given hope to young men and women, struggling with their feelings.  He has done that in the face of abuse from the likes of you, Mr Jones - a grown man, attacking a nineteen year old boy, because you think being gay is, well, a bit "icky."  Can you not see how utterly ludicrous that is?!  What does it make you?  A homophobe.  A bully.  What right do you have to condemn an entire group of people based on nothing but their sexuality?  None.  What justification do you have?  Religion?  Well, in that case you're talking about beliefs.  And I believe that it is you who is wrong in this instance, Mr Jones.  Not Tom Daley and not The Plymouth Herald.

It's wrong to abuse, mock and shame an entire community because they differ from you.

It's wrong to actively express anger that a newspaper hasn't joined in with your condemnation of a nineteen year old boy, who was probably already nervous about speaking out and who would have been grateful for the support of the media in his home town.

It's wrong to gleefully wish failure on that publication for no reason other than the fact that they wouldn't print abuse about someone who is barely into adulthood.  

Take a long, hard look at yourself, Mr Jones.  Ask yourself:  Who is truly sickening?  A person who realises they are sexually attracted to others of their own gender, or a person who expresses genuine rage that the media hasn't attacked a nineteen year old boy who has committed no crime?

You don't have to like gay people.  If your belief is that being gay is unpleasant or wrong, then we live in a world that allows you to hold that opinion.  But to vocalise it in a manner that is tantamount to bullying is fairly disgusting really, isn't it?  You might wish to paint Tom Daley and other homosexuals in a negative light, but what sort of light do you think your vitriol paints you in?

You are not judge and jury, Mr Jones.  Try looking beyond yourself and thinking of what you're actually wishing on people:  Mockery and abuse.  A life in which they can never express themselves without fear of ridicule or hatred.  A life in which their romantic or sexual feelings cause them shame and depression.  Is that truly what you wish for?  If so, there really is something abhorrent, here.  And it's not Tom Daley's sexuality.

Friday, 6 December 2013

#TeamNigella - Update.

A few people have asked me how I feel about Nigella Lawson, now that she has admitted to taking cocaine.  It seems to me to be a rather strange question to ask.  The worry I have is that there is another, more loaded question hiding behind it:  "Do you think she brought it all on herself?"

Ah, the big "NO."  I will never tire of the big "NO."

Let me break it down for you in simple terms:

If Nigella snorted cocaine, it does not mean Charles Saatchi had the right to physically or emotionally abuse her.

If Nigella snorted cocaine off the buttocks of two, much more attractive men than her husband, it does not mean Charles Saatchi had the right to physically or emotionally abuse her.

If Nigella snorted cocaine off the buttocks of two, much more attractive men than her husband, whilst also smoking a joint and posting an online blog entitled "CHARLES SAATCHI HAS NO PENIS," it does not mean Charles Saatchi had the right to physically or emotionally abuse her.


Nigella took drugs.  Whatever your stance on drug-use, that doesn't mean that Saatchi was in any way justified to subject her to a life lived in fear, as she put it herself.   In the same way that a woman does not ever "invite rape" by walking alone at night in a short skirt, nothing a victim of abuse does should ever be thought of as a justification for the way they are treated.  The responsibility lies in the hands of the person who chooses to behave abusively and always in their hands.

Why is it that we - in particular, the media - are so obsessed with making an excuse for abusive people?  Is it because to think of a person as simply being abusive for the sake of it - for the enjoyment of it - is so utterly hard to comprehend?

The way the press has behaved since Nigella's admission has utterly appalled me.  Here is a woman, standing in a court of law as a witness, yet she's being treated as though she is on trial.  Indeed, she told the court: "If you want to put me on trial, put me on trial.  I don't feel it is right to have me here as a witness for the crown and treat me like this."  

Nigella went on to tell the court about the abuse in her marriage to Saatchi, explaining that the cause of the infamous photo, in which Saatchi was pictured grabbing her throat, was an innocent comment about how much Nigella wanted grandchildren some day.  Saatchi grabbed her by the neck and told her that he was the only person she should be concerned about.  Nigella explained that she had been left with "emotional scars" as a result of his behaviour towards her.  She described Saatchi as "brutal" and she referred to the abuse she suffered as "intimate terrorism."

Here is a woman, known to millions around the world, standing up and saying she has been abused by her husband.  And yet the story the papers choose to run with?  

Yes, you read that sub-heading right.  "TV chef's cocaine shame."  Nigella's shame.  Not Saatchi's.  Not the man who throttled his wife in public, who is now waging what can only be viewed as a witch-hunt against her.  No shame for him.  Instead, we mock and chastise a woman who has had the bravery to stand in front of the world's media and say that she once loved a man who chose to treat her appallingly.

One in four women will experience abuse at some point in her lifetime.  And those women who experience abuse are up to NINE times more likely to resort to substance abuse.  These women could be our mothers, our sisters, our best friends.  And we allow our media to twist the story to make them to blame?!  How can we sleep at night?!

I suspect there'll be people reading this, feeling terribly clever because they're about to stick their hand up like the snotty kid in class and yell "ooh, but she first took cocaine when she was married to John Diamond and he wasn't abusing her!"

Well, no.  He wasn't.  He was dying.  He was experiencing physical and emotional pain and he took cocaine to relieve some of that.  Nigella, who at a young age, was about to become not only a widow, but a single mother to their young children, joined in.  I don't use drugs - never been so much as been tempted - but I cannot and will not judge someone who has admitted that she simply felt as though she needed an escape from her situation.  And knowing that Nigella used cocaine again in order to provide her with a brief escape from an abusive marriage, I can fully empathise.

Let's get personal, shall we?  Regular readers of this blog will know that I experienced a 20-month abusive relationship.  I've had counselling and support from a women's abuse charity and I've put myself back together, after my ex took such great pleasure in breaking me apart.  But in those first, miserable weeks and months after I found the strength to walk away, I could barely function.  I couldn't stop thinking about what had happened and I didn't know how to handle it.  All I wanted was to make the pain go away.


I was not an alcoholic, but I began to rely on having a large glass of wine every night, to "take the edge off."  Without it, my experience was too sharply focused.  After a glass of wine, the focus was softened and I could deal with it.  It wasn't healthy.  But it was the only way I could cope, before I was finally assigned a support-worker from a women's abuse charity and I began walking the road to recovery.  So am I going to judge Nigella for needing something - anything - to distract her from the nightmare she found herself in?  No.

In spite of her fame and fortune, Nigella is just like any person who has experienced abuse.  What she needs now is our support and to be given the time and space to piece herself back together again.  It's not a quick fix and it sure as Hell isn't easy.  And you know what?  It's made a whole lot harder by having the press act as though her drug-use is an excuse for Saatchi's actions.  She has been a victim at the hands of someone she loved and trusted.  Let's not allow the press to persecute her and make her feel like a victim all over again.

I hope that Nigella is given the privacy and support she needs at this horribly difficult time.  There's no excuse for abuse.  Ever.