Hacking Holiday

I’m beginning to crave going back to work. Early mornings aside, I think working suits me. Term ended only a few days ago, but I already miss the structure and the lack of interruptions of the working day. At home, I’ve quickly come to realise just how disruptive the doorbell, telephone, computer, radio and housework are. I can’t get anything done – that is to say – I never manage to finish anything I’ve started. I’d preempted a slackening of pace by writing-off doing anything creative this week. The most I’ve managed is to create a Tumblr account and join Freecycle; the former has been fascinating, but the latter has been extremely time consuming and must be placed in the category of necessary evil. My rejoining Freecycle has occurred as I slowly clear out the house, again. This time I’m focussed on the children: their bits and pieces are everywhere. They have chosen to donate their baby books, all 600-ish, to other children. We have a number of people coming with fork-lift trucks in the morning.

All the same I shouldn’t grumble, this has been the most extraordinary of media weeks: will I ever see the like again? I’ve been glued to Twitter and all the news channels I can devour as Murdoch, Murdoch & Brookes have been scrutinised, castigated and scorned. Milliband leading the stand-off against News International, and Cameron and Clegg agreeing? What the hell is going on? In the USA questions are already being asked about phone conversations by relatives of the 911 attacks being hacked/listened to/recorded. In the UK I and many others failed to see how the health details of Gordon and Sarah Brown’s son, regarless of who his parents are, qualify as newsworthy or being in the public interest, and thus warrant a place on the front page of The Sun. Nor did we see what could be gained by hacking into Milly Dowler’s phone messages – and deleting them.

News Corporation (USA) and News Limited (Australia) are being tarnished with the brush of UK-based underhand practices – both are fighting back. Murdoch has backed down on the BSkyB deal, saving the face of the government he’d backed and supported. What it would be to turn the clocks back a year or so and to know what had passed between Cameron and Murdoch in 10 Downing Street on the night the former took office, and then compare that now to the hushed conversations and latter promises which must have been made to bring the UK government, Andy Coulson it’s former media advisor, and the UK’s biggest news provider to this? News International and Murdoch the king-maker will rally in due course; this is not defeat, merely a tactical stand-down whilst regrouping ensues. Blood-letting and recrimination will follow, then things will move forward and much will be forgotten. Perhaps there may be some forgiveness too; I detect a hint of humble-pie from the Murdoch camp. Public opinion cannot always be swayed by the screams of a front page, but change is a constant and Print media is at a pivotal moment in its evolution. Ditto, the Cameron-Clegg alliance. These events have also propelled Milliband into the ascendence and have arrived fortuitously at his doorstep, completely altering his hitherto withering fortunes.

Meanwhile, I can see the BBC4 drama-documentary already. I even know who will produce, direct, write and star in it. As unpredictable the news of the News of the World has been (excuse me, I just had to write that), the response in dramatic/creative terms by the BBC’s executives currently rubbing their hands together with glee will be fairly predictable. It’s a great story, but there will be no visual flair in the telling of this sordid tale. I’d give it to Film Four instead – they’ll make a great Move-Over-Murdoch movie! Broadcast media and E-media will be the great winners from this tumult.

In the meantime, the telephone(s) keeps ringing. I never answer, out of habit, rather than for fear that someone might consider my conversations worth listening in on; the biggest problem with the telephone is that you have to talk to the person at the other end. Why do that when there is email, Twitter or text messages. Write it down, don’t say it out loud unless you know exactly what you want to utter and to whom. There’s clarity with the written word, economy of effort and a definite end. Plus, we have strangers who ring the doorbell. When is someone going to invent a doorbell that doesn’t ring, but sends you a nice little message instead detailing exactly what it is the person wants? Then you can choose to answer or ignore, as you please.

It’s almost as if the world has been turned on its head, just in time for our summer break. And all I wanted to do was potter around and read some books… Quiet life, eh? Not a chance. I’ve promised myself a clear out and de-clutter ready for for clarity of thought and a lot of writing, all of which is harder than I imagined and this has only just started. Oh, hang-on, there goes the telephone again…

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Last of the Media Studies Exams

The A2 Media Studies exam should be over by now. So, why am I still tense? Today I saw my YR13 students, some looking grim, others confident, going down the corridor towards the exam hall. I smiled and waved encouragement, but I bet that my butterflies were as numerous as their own. Our AS students who took their Media exam a month ago are back already and looking forward to next year and brainstorming ideas which they hope to research. Not everyone will be coming back to Media in YR13. It’s a sad truth, but the academic rigour required is considerable and not everyone will be willing, desirous or able to step up a gear or two. That said, I’ve been privileged to witness transformations during this year and that’s really heartening. I won’t dwell on GCSE as I haven’t taught the current crop of YR11s, whose exam took place on Monday. In the meantime I’ve got a lot of reports to complete and grades to input, so I ought to be getting on with that. Teaching is like parenting on a grand scale, but as with all young ones – one day they have to go out and get on with things all by themselves – and you can’t be there.

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Blogging from the beach: day 6

I’m awake in the early hours again. I thought that I had conquered jet-lag, but clearly I have not. Fortunately, the sun is just beginning to illuminate the sky and it looks as though it will be another balmy day at FDR. Tomorrow we are heading off to Kingston, taking the coast road past Ocho Rios and then forking down towards Castleton: a good couple of hours in the car following a very pretty route. Kingston is incredibly fast-paced in comparison to the rest of Jamaica. It’s what you would expect from the capital city, with areas of extreme wealth co-existing alongside extreme poverty. It’s also very hot and very humid. It has been ten years since I last saw Kingston and if the changes here on the north coast are anything to go by, then I probably won’t recognise whole swathes of it. Better keep a tight hold of my map.

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Pictures speak louder than words

I sat down at the bar with the computer today – that was a mistake! Two fruit punches with rum later and it was obvious that anything I wrote wasn’t going to make much sense. Between sips, I did notice that there is a boat on the beach which bears my husband’s name and my youngest daughter has made friends with the ice-cream lady at the hotel. Oh – and I have a hat. It was made specially for me by a gentleman who once featured in an episode of Wish You Were Here with Judith Chalmers, some time in the 1980s! Why am I telling you this? I have a very big head (as those of you who know me will attest) so I couldn’t find one to fit before I left.

One of the (many) exciting things that occurred today was coming face-to-face with a barracuda. In the bay there are a couple of floating trampolines that you can swim out to and then jump off to your heart’s content. My eldest daughter and her friend were trying to do this when they saw the barracuda, just hanging about underneath one of the trampolines. Being sensible, they swam back and told us what they had seen. So, of course, I had to go and look. It wasn’t a big one (less than metre long), but there was something eerie about being near to a creature with the potential for ferocity that appears to be ignoring you. We dived down to see it a couple of times, but on the third attempt it disappeared. I’m afraid that I don’t have a picture for you.

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Soon Come: Day 1

I have crossed an ocean,
I have lost my tongue,
From the roots of the old one,
A new one has sprung.

– Grace Nichols

On all but one of my previous visits to Jamaica I have arrived via Kingston, which is, as my cousin puts it, “functional”, and very much the disembarkation point for “locals.” Yesterday we touched down at Montego Bay and I experienced the sort of welcome to the land of my parents that is reserved for wealthy visitors. As we strolled through to the Immigration desks we walked past a photographic montage, which charted the journey of the now defunct national railway by following its overgrown tracks through the heart of the country followed by a lovely presentation of artwork by local school children. Immigration was a breeze; the officers slipping between the beautifully pronounced tourist accent when speaking with us, and the patois with which they exchanged the odd piece of gossip, once we had gone. The porters were courteous, the driver of our mini bus was a mine of information and the staff at our resort were fabulous. A nine hour flight, followed by a ninety minute transfer and we got here.

I was last here a decade ago, this is my 6th visit and yet again the evolution of Jamaica lurches in an unexpected direction. The new highway from the airport to Runaway Bay on the north of the island is now littered with the half finished shells of so many new resorts: including a number of mega-hotels with rooms numbered in the thousands. Just past Discovery Bay, where Columbus came ashore and claimed to have ‘discovered’ Jamaica (later to be given a non-European reality-check by the 14,000 Arawak Indians already inhabiting the island) is a half mile stretch of land which has been purchased with the sole intention of building the biggest mega-hotel in the world. If planning and governmental backing is achieved this vast carbuncle will have 8,000 rooms; your stay will cost you US$10,000 per night; there will be mooring for your yacht within the lobby area of this superstructure; you will be able to gamble at the custom-built casino; no less than three 18-hole golf courses will await your swing. Money has flowed into Jamaica from Spain, China, America and tourism is the biggest industry here. But how much wealth actually remains with Jamaicans?

So, here I am, the slightly guilty prodigal daughter, bringing my own daughters across an ocean, like my mother did with me. My girls will come away with an extremely different view of Jamaica to my own, which they already consider to be a tropical playground. I have seen first hand the discrepancy between the haves and the have-nots in Jamaican society. So, in a few days’ time I hope to take them to a small village called Palm, just outside of Linstead. Down a small track stands a house where my grandparents raised 17 children – it is where my mother grew up and where my brother was born. I want them to understand just how far a journey within one generation brought my parents – across the ocean – in the opposite direction to England. My daughters will never really understand how many sacrifices my parents endured to ensure that my life better than theirs. The beautiful sunrise we witnessed this morning and the glorious sunset which approaches are gifts from their grandparents who never had the time to sit back and appreciate it as we do.

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Packing

I have these fantasies of one day writing from the balcony of my tropical apartment, which will overlook the sea, or at least the pool. And while the delighted shrieks of children splashing below waft up to be intermingled with the cries of Kling-klings and the lazy wash of the waves on the beach, I shall beat out my magnum opus on my uber-powerful, featherlight, 2.75mm thin, touch screen, solid state, quad core, 656GB PadiMac, with ergonomic plastic cover. With this tantalising vision in mind, I spent £250 today, though sadly not in the Apple store, but just on bits and bobs to stick in a suitcase. Because, in a fortnight, just around this time (2050hr GMT), I should just be landing in Montego Bay, with said bits and bobs, assorted gadgets and most importantly my family.

I am incapable of leaving London entirely behind: I haven’t yet decided which camera to take with me and this is already causing some heated debate. Should I stow the compact camera for the happy-quickie-bore-your-friends-to death-on-one’s-return images or the paparazzi-lensed SLR monster, for those ultra-aesthetic-proto-Photoshop shots (try saying that after a Talisker!).

I do not have complete justification in taking my laptop; Facebook can always wait, but without Skype and Twitter I may contract a mental malaise. I fully intend to sleep for several days (and nights), and maybe some more. But once I stir from my bed, I’ll attempt the odd blog from the beach. I will probably then write and upload the 100 page script I’m beating out at the moment to the Script Frenzy website.

Maybe then I’ll have a swim, or I’ll just chill with the kids and my long-suffering spouse. Then again, if he manages to get his hands on an iPad2 before the holiday, I’ll bet that I won’t be seeing much of my family at all. I might just hear them whining at each other to “have a go” as they dangle from a hammock or sun lounger.


By the way, that’s what it looks like – just ignore the posing couple in the picture (Bob and Sheila from Arkansas). I’m sure they don’t look like that any more – nor are they still standing there. And I bet they are probably divorced by now. Actually I have no idea who they are – and I’m only joking about the divorce.

Anyway, this will be the first time I’ve been to Franklyn D Resort with my own kids. I’m filled with trepidation already – even to the point of having anxiety dreams about not getting to the airport! I should really be worrying about spending nine hours strapped in seats next to my offspring, who generally cannot sit still for more than five minutes. I’m honoured to announce that I will become godmother to my cousin’s baby son – which is the principal reason for journeying to Jamaica. It has absolutely nothing to do with having a rest, in a beautiful part of the word with the people I love. Honest.

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Doris50

I received this lovely message from Doris50 and I just had to share it with you. It’s definitely one for the 419 Eaters. I find that the following sounds lovely when read out in a West Country accent. Enjoy!

Hello Dear,
my name is doris i saw your profile today AT http://www.kinoforum.org.br and i
found
pleasure
to write you as my my friend so that we can communicate to each
othere,please mail me through my email address
(doris50_apia@yahoo.com)
that i will send you my pic for you to know who i am for the love and
pleasure i have develpoed in your lovely profile i awaits your lovely
reply
as soon as you get this mail.
doris
please please please contact this email directly

doris50_apia@yahoo.com

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Under starter’s orders

It’s Oscar night and I’m going to bed. I LOVE films, but awards ceremonies are a chore. Although I’d love to stay up and sit through the staging, the routines, the costumes, the air kissing, the grimacing, and the general OTT excitement you can only get from the USA at 0400hr – punctuated by the drivel of some UK celeb who has to talk through the TX gaps caused by US networks going to commercials (count how many times) – I have to go to work in the morning.

All the media outlets are in overdrive on Twitter, speculating about stuff like: what will be the biggest upset of the night (Total Film); the BESTEST EVER Oscar coverage (Empire Magazine); Cynthia is already in position on the Red Carpet (Variety); a reminder of the nominees (LOVEFiLM).

I’ve sat through many televised awards ceremonies over the years, but I’ve only recently spared the odd thought for the also-rans; most of the nervous racehorses (to borrow a phrase director Alice Troughton uses to describe actors) in the room are going to be losers. There they are all dressed up and anxiously anticipating, modestly hoping, benignly smiling and secretly panicking. I can’t remember where I read it, but the biggest winners at the Oscars tonight will be the television networks. My commiserations to eighty percent of the room.

Oh no, Film 4 are now in on the act too, asking about Oscar parties. Go and get some shut-eye; you can hear about it all on tomorrow morning’s Today programme. Just wait for John Humphreys’s alliterative and sanguine summation of the whole thing.

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Into 2011 at last

I can’t believe that it has been SO many months since I last wrote about what I’ve done. Every day from September right up until the Christmas break seemed to throw new situations and challenges my way; I feel as though I’ve journeyed through the Galaxy Quest “chomper”, and survived. Thank goodness for adrenaline, experience and chutzpah (and a capacity for puzzles and sequences)!

Somewhere in the midst of all of this I’ve managed to start writing the feature-length version of “BOOTS”, as if I didn’t have enough to do. It has taken a lot of research, reading and delving into places beyond my comfort zone to really get going. I’ve missed the ineffable joy of making, well specifically, directing, a film, so I’ve contented myself with a plethora of movies to watch and theories with which to reconnect. The books I purchased during my degree years (20-odd years ago, ahem!), which were gathering dust in the loft have had a rediscovery; I’ve retraced my scribbles, underlinings and general tome abuse that would make a professor of semiotics or a cultural anthropologist throw his hands up in despair.

Last night I watched Daniel Day-Lewis, as Daniel Plainview, out act everyone through There Will Be Blood, even his spittle out dangled the rest. Was this merely a performance, I wonder, or was there something more which raise the hackles of Mr Day-Lewis each time his nemesis, Eli, played by Paul Dano dared to steal a scene? It looked like he REALLY didn’t like the young upstart!

I just watched Let The Right One In – the original version. What a lovely way to end my birthday.

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Weekending

I’m spending the weekend marking homework (YR10 & YR13) and writing a film treatment, whilst caring for a sick child and entertaining a lively one. Having recently discovered, or should I say, admitted, that I am not very good at multi-tasking, I am expecting something to slip. So far, the only thing that has “got away” is my interest in doing any housework.

Earlier I read an article by Peter Aspden in the Financial Times (online version) about British Films and his antipathy towards the UK releases headlining at the upcoming London Film Festival. In a commentary which challenges Francois Truffaut’s old assertion that “British Cinema” is an oxymoron, he goes on to bemoan British Cinematic output in recent years. He states, “Culture is organically related to the society in which it is produced,” therefore it follows that a society obsessed with “dumbed-down” cultural output (Big Brother et al) is going to make dreadful cinema. It’s an persuasive piece with obvious examples of the genius of yesteryear, which he stingingly compares to the tedious manufacture of films concerning the upper or lower extremes of the UK class system – the hallmark of modern film production in the UK. Such films, of course, play well abroad and are returned to these shores with many glorious accolades – us Brits (Toffs and Shockers alike) are still seen as exotic. As British Cinematic content veers from the twee to the desperate it is concerning that intelligence and innovation have, with a few notable exceptions, disappeared from narratives. Peter Aspden wants to blame celebrity-obsessed British society for this. Perhaps he should look more closely at the agenda of the people who fund movies in the UK before he makes that charge.

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