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My First Blog Post

Me.

War is what happens when language fails.

— Margaret Atwood.

This is my first foray into blogging, and the first post on my new blog will ensue. I’m just getting this new blog going, so stay tuned for more of my spiel! Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates.

H&M vs HM

Having been so hyped by every subsection of the media, you could be forgiven for believing that the it had already happened. Clips were being shared to no end, and tabloids already speculating about what would be said, as if it already had been. I am, of course, referring to that interview.

When comparable high-profile interviews draw so much speculation and frenzy of media attention, that very publicity often makes them underwhelming, with the same soundbites that have already made headlines, making them again. Not in this case. An interview that had already shocked a huge section of society, had the affect of re-shocking (if you will) those very same people.

I have no particularly strong views about the ‘issue’ of Harry and Meghan deciding to leave their roles within the Royal Family, nor to I purport to be a monarchist or, even, an antimonarchist. But I do have strong views about mental health. I sympathise with anyone who has ever had any form of mental health affliction, and empathise fully with anyone who has had to endure the horror of losing someone to suicide. Mental health as a whole is, arguably, one of the most pertinent issues of our times. An epidemic in its own right and it should be treated with as much impetus as an epidemic of any other kind. But it’s not a physical health issue, and therefore is still not treated with the same fervour. You will have heard that sentiment expressed, in various ways, for years, but it’s still painfully as true.

Meghan Markle lives within the upper echelons of society. A Duchess, she lives a life of wealth and privilege. This is all true, and you cannot negate her fortune in that respect, but let’s not kid ourselves that the aforementioned become a barrier, a deterrent, to any sort of mental health issues. Wealth and privilege will not stop you from suffering any form of illness. If you are having feelings that compel you to do physical harm to yourself, having a butler or eighteen bathrooms isn’t going to help. Why then, do we as a society seem intolerable to the idea that someone who has more than us, has the same issues we do?

A few years ago, I read an article in one of the broadsheets (which one, I don’t know, and it seems unjust to speculate) about Scarlett Curtis, daughter of Richard Curtis and Emma Freud. The article (by a female writer, whom I can’t recall the name of) contained the writers musing that she was sceptical of Scarlett’s well-vocalised mental health issues, as she lived such a privileged life. I remember being shocked by that sentiment, and I still am. Unfortunately, this is a view that seems to be becoming commonplace; even more so in the case of Harry and Meghan (due, almost entirely, in my view, to the fact that they live in, really, the most privilege it’s possible to obtain. This should, though, be inconsequential). Why? I think the answer is complex and more deeply-rooted within our society than we even care to explore. We have, and always have had, a tricky relationship with mental health issues. In the not-so-distant past, you would have been called “deranged and dumb”, and been treated as ‘different’ to the general population. Today, you will, evidently, be hounded, disbelieved and be treated as ‘different’ by the general population. I admit, this could be a view symptomatic of my already pessimistic, sceptical view of Earth’s populous, but I am certain that people do feel that way. We are, compared to physical injury, intolerable of mental injury. More need to be done. NHS and CAMHS waiting lists are simply too long, symptomatic of both consistent government underfunding and, crucially, government inaction. Not enough is being done.

The interview has already had damaging affects–especially in the States but here, too–to perceptions of the monarchy and of England as a whole. But I hope that that isn’t its legacy. I hope that people will be encouraged to speak out if they have, at any time, felt anything like Meghan has, and I hope that hearing from someone from the uppermost societal perch will make some understand that this can, and does, happen to everybody, irrespective of their background or who they are or their standing in the world. A Duchess can feel the exact way that you may be feeling right now.

So before you head to Twitter to exclaim, among the echo-chamber of your followers–spurred on by the echo-chamber of the people you follow–that Meghan and Harry are whiny non-royals who need to check how many bathrooms and shut up, maybe take a minute. Remember the post that’s doing the rounds on social media at the minute: “Meghan won’t see the post you’ve shared about how she’s lying about being suicidal, but your friend who’s feeling the same way, might” (or words to those affect).

Carry on Cummings

I write this – having escaped from the heat of the Cornish sun – whilst watching Dominic Cummings’ statement on BBC News. It occurs to me that I have never heard his voice, let alone see him providing a statement. The adage of “advisors advise, governors govern”, used to reinforce the divide between the two, can also be applied to aides; odd then, that he should personally defend his actions, and that Boris Johnson would let him.

Such an issue has elicited fury from across every divide. Understandable. Boris’ philippic handling of the situation last night was laconic; provided such little information (attested by the fact Cummings’ statement, plus questions, lasted over an hour).

The speech is emotive. Of course. One must appeal to the better nature of the general public to create the most impact — in a way appealing to the Confucianism belief that humans are fundamentally good and, in this case, forgiving. Constant references are made to the nature and exact details of his young child’s illness, as well as his wife’s.

His justification is propped up with report that his house was being targeted prior to his leaving. Was it believed that the illness part didn’t hold up without another facet to his leaving? Or am I too cynical? He didn’t break the lockdown rules. Is that true? Sure, its important that you weigh up the counter-arguments, but the fact is that the government advice at the time of Cummings’ trip was that people should stay in their primary residence and self-isolate for 14 days if any member of your household has symptoms. Therefore, his circuitous journey of five hours to Durham, plus an extra journey to ‘check he was okay to drive back to London’ (why his wife, who at the point of their leaving was recovered by his own admission, would not drive, I don’t know) broke both of those. Certainly I — a person that does pride himself on taking the time to understand and read extensively on political issues (I’ll contest anyone who says Covid-19 isn’t, at its heart, a political issue. Everything, when it’s reduced down, is a political issue) — did not fully understand that there were so many exceptions to the lockdown rules. However, the wide majority of the public took the government’s word as gospel, so, for them seeing the PM’s advisor worming his way out of it, reinforces the idea of divide. The so-called “Westminster Bubble” coming to the forefront of people’s mind. I can understand the fury of people, who themselves have had similar symptoms to Cummings, and may have a similar family dynamic, have not had either the luxury of heading to a spare cottage on their parent’s farm, nor sought any extra childcare. I’m sure that they would have dreamt of doing the same as Cummings, but didn’t out of principle, or simply out of not having the option.

When arguing against something like this, you need many justifications, hard proof, and rebuttals of reported facts that you know to be false (and more, of course). Cummings has all. But does the fact he can argue the perverse option mean that his actions were right and, crucially, lawful. Anyone can argue a position, but, in most cases, both can’t be right. The weak and juvenile response would be to try and appeal to human nature, arguing the idea that people will understand. Does the argument of personal judgement stand up? If so, that serves to not only weaken central government, but the entire rules, regulations and laws of lockdown.

I empathise partially with his argument and sentiment. No one wants to be ill, especially with a virus that has proved fatal in so many cases. I want to believe that, in his situation, I would not have acted in such a way, but I certainly would have thought about it. Though, like many, I do not have such an option. I question, still, how anyone can dispute how it was anything but an undeniable breaking of the rules in the first instance; though, frankly, it goes beyond the realms of simply lawful and unlawful. It boils down to principles, ideals, and circumstance (both, of a pandemic, and of family). The lack of contrition and apology oddly offends — it was never going to be a resignation – you wouldn’t have accepted journalists questions for that eventuality – but it should’ve been. Out of principle, if not belief. Other ministers that have been caught in similar positions have publicly shamed and then resigned in quick succession. I have little doubt that he acted with good intentions. But I do not think that he was correct in doing so.

Whichever way you look at it, the government has been weakened. The real question is: how much so, and what wider affect will it have? Personally, I truly believe that the government, and Cummings, have hugely misjudged the public mood. I also don’t believe that the kind of quod est necessarium est licitum line of defence was as strong or convincing as Number 10 and Cummings (though they’re one in the same) would’ve wanted. Nor do I believe that this broadcast has stamped out the problem as they likely wished it would. This will rumble on for weeks, overshadowing our current circumstances and deflecting from the government’s handling of the pandemic. The question is whether that distraction will be welcome, helpful, or bad. Details will be poured over. Who knows what conclusions will be drawn. It’s over now; the broadcast that is, not the problem. Do I think that he has appealed to the general public’s good nature and convinced them that he acted lawfully? No.

The Poppy: What is it Good for?

In this short, off-piste, rather colloquial “article” (for want of a better word), I shall endeavour to discuss none other than the humble poppy.

Earlier this morning whilst, *sigh*, scrolling through Facebook, I saw a post that had been created by clearly a bored and standoffish soul, that was subsequently shared by a guy I went to school with. The post in question (as shown below), shows this person’s outrage at the poppy, a symbol that, as they rather one-dimensionally see it, is solely symbolic of war, has been altered to show “pride colours”.

Clearly, the poppy has been ‘bedazzled’, emblazoned with the colours that so many now associate with pride and LGBTQI+. But the big issue for me does not lie with the colour alterations; they don’t even lie with the misuse of the word “you’re”; they lie with the poppy — or, more precisely, this persons misguided belief that the poppy, in its entirety, is solely symbolic of WW1 and in remembrance of those who died.

For a start, the poppy flowers in a variety of colours anyway. For just this reason, why shouldn’t the poppy be adorned with copious colours as it does, indeed, flower in copious colours. Therefore, the basis for objecting this “special” poppy, is the fact that it is reflective of the LGBTQI+ spectrum; need I say any more?

Secondly, the poppy is not purely a symbol of war. In fact, the Royal British Legion itself has chimed in. According to them, the red poppy that they sell annually to the public is done so in order to portray respect for all of those who died and as a sign of mourning for all those who choose to adorn the poppy. The poppy, as a flower (which is what it is, not some sort of iconography of war), it is actually emblematic of the Earth Goddess, Demeter. According to legend, the Goddess taught humankind the art of grain cultivation (mainly wheat and barely that poppies themselves intermingle with). The flowers are also considered as a representative of fertility due to their many seeds. There is no God/Goddess of war that manifested itself as a giant poppy.

Now I have many other arguments but I said this would be short and I think I’ve satisfactorily made my point! In case it seems as such, I’d like to quell any concerns that I am disrespecting those who died in WW1 — of course I am not. Whilst I fundamentally and strongly oppose any form of war, I appreciate that many people died for the freedom of our country and concur that we should remember their forced sacrifice. Really, what I’m trying to say is that the poppy is a beautiful flower that is taken as a symbol of war, which is fine when it comes to this time of year when we remember all the troops who died, but is destructive and divisive when those attachments are carried into another time of year. Simply; poppies and war are not mutually inclusive, nor mutually exclusive. War and poppies do not always go hand-in-hand. Anyone should be able to do whatever they want to a poppy without fear of causing feelings of righteous disrespect among a minority.

Point laboured. Tick.

Il Gardellino (Movement 1): A Musical Appreciation of (part of) this Famous Piece

This piece was formulated whilst in the second term of my music A-Level, but I recently stumbled upon it and liked it. I know that makes is sounds like I’m 60 and appreciating a piece I wrote at 16 (and yes I was 16, not 17; I’m a July birthday, “the babies of the year” as we were collectively known. Whether that was a compliment, insult or simple observation remains to be seen), but there we go — it’s probably further advocation of the notion that I’m an 80-year-old trapped in an 18-year-old’s body! I hope you enjoy it.

Il Gardellino begins in the key of D Major, although, on page 4 the melody and accompanying parts begin to suggest that a key change is imminent and by bar 40, the music is firmly in the key of B Minor. In bar 77, the piece turns into D Major for a single bar, before resorting back into the B Minor key; this surprise bar is then repeated again in bar 88, where the piece makes a sudden turn into the key of E Minor for only one bar, Vivaldi uses this as a subtle hint – using triads from the circle of fifths that cry out to the listener that a key change is needed – that the piece will soon move to the tonic key. The tonic key then returns in bar 85 but it is short-lived, as the music turns then, into the key of D Minor – where the music goes from the tonic to dominant, a notion very characteristic to Baroque music and Vivaldi’s music.

Movement 1 begins in common time and is structured using ritornellos and reoccurring motifs. Motif A and Motif B are shown in the violin 1 and 2 parts, with the ritornello often falling to the flute part. Motifs A and B begin strongly and continue unchanged until bar 9 when we begin to see varied forms of Motif A, bearing a trill-like pattern in the flute part. On the second beat of bar 13, every instrument apart from the flute drops out completely to give the flute a virtuoso passage, which is the first episode. Other instrumentation is reintroduced in bar 21, where Motif A and B are repeated exactly; this then ends in beat two of bar 24 where new descending patterns are played, bringing us into another short one bar flute solo which ends on the second beat of bar 28 where the flute and violins 1 and 2 are reintroduced. By bar 47 (the 3rd ritornello), another variation of Motif A and B is replenished and ends in bar 52 – the motifs again return in bar 57 and 59 as semi-quaver rhythms. Bar 69 sports a pedalled bass note in the violoncello part. Various parts are then dropped out and brought in before bar 96 when all parts come in, reiterating the rittornello as it returns for the final time.

The ritornellos and two motifs are the prominent melodic themes in the piece, with the instrumentation boasting a wide dynamic and pitch register. The piece begins with the main ritornello in all instruments, using a dotted rhythm helping to add emphasis to certain notes which is a typical feature throughout this piece, and then when the rhythmically variated form of Motif A is played, a trill-like pattern is played by the flute, the semi-quaver and quaver rhythm in the first ritornello add a strong pulse and energetic feel to the music. In bar 13, a performance direction is given, ‘a piacimento’, meaning freely, at own will; this allows the flautist to improvise and add notes and ornaments as they wish, as well as letting them dictate the tempo of the piece. In this virtuosic passage in the flute part, the flautist plays oscillating semi-quavers in the 4th interval. Bar 29 also sees the two violin parts playing parallel 3rd’s, with the flute part also playing a D Major ascending scale on the 4th beat of the same bar which is instantly followed by a high tessitura in bar 30 adding intrigue into the piece and interesting dynamics and melodic change which also lightens the texture of the piece. Vivaldi also includes a courtship ritual in the two violin parts, created by having the flute or violin parts interact with each other in a call and response type style; this is played in order to imitate two birds talking to each other – in keeping with the translated name of the piece ‘the goldfinch’. In bar 33 triadic arpeggios are played in the flute part in which hints of Motif A are reintroduced, also showing rhythmic diminution and is allowing Vivaldi to make subtle suggestions that the ritornello and the motifs may return soon. Falling 6th’s are used in bar 39 which is also another splash of Motif A – finally, by the time the piece gets to bar 47, after all the hints, the ritornello finally return and then end in bar 52. The end of the ritornello is immediately followed by staccartissimo in the flute part marked as ‘simile’; this is Vivaldi using the abbreviation of staccartissimo. In the following bars, the violin 1 and 2 swap parts so they are now a 3rd apart. Bar 65 sees a descending, falling sequence which is in answer to his previous rising, ascending sequences; the G# on the first beat of bar 68 hints at the dominant key of A, where the piece may be heading. Then, another courtship ritual is heard from bar 69-74 with the use of trills, and the flute and violin 1 parts imitating birds conversing with one another. D Major is finally present in bar 85, where the melody teases the listener with arpeggios and oscillating semi-quavers with the notes and rhythm of Motif A, imitating Motif A. On the last page, in bar 92-95, the same four semi-quavers from the ritornello at the start of the piece, hinting that the ritornello will return which, in bar 96, does return, and the piece ends on a breve on D in the key of D Major.

In Il Gardellino, a virtuoso flute is used and a lot of the virtuosic passages are left up to the flautist. Two violins are used, with these two parts usually filling the gaps of the flute and also accompanying the flute and they are also used in the courtship rituals that are featured in the piece, the instrumentation often play melody and accompaniment and polyphonic textures. The viola and violoncello are also featured in the piece and are primarily used to add accompaniment to the other parts. The baroque flute was made of three or four sections or joints with a conical bone from the head and joint down, these would’ve all been made out of wood, meaning that all dynamics would have had to of been made by the flautist, who would of had to change their mouth shape and airflow and force of breath in order to create any sort of dynamic range and ability – it was commonly used in chamber music, but was later introduced into orchestral music. The range of instruments used leads to exiting and sometimes complex harmonies in the music, which is partially due to the addition of the viola and the violoncello which help to add a different range to combat the treble clef (which is used in the flute and both violin parts). The addition of the viola, which uses the alto clef is especially interesting as it adds something different to the piece and a different range and tone that cannot be achieved on the other clefs or instruments in the piece.

The rhythm in Il Gardellino is steady, and the time signature reflects that as it is in common time, keeping the piece at a steady four beats per bar. The music keeps a consistent pulse and flow throughout the piece, keeping the music rather upbeat and lively, but also allowing the flautist to have a steady and not too fast beat, allowing the player to breathe at will as it would have been more taxing on their lungs. The texture of the piece is varied and instruments give the piece a wide range of pitch in the piece, therefore also helping the textural range of the piece. Throughout this piece the texture is rather dense, due partly, to the range of instrumental pitches playing simultaneously; however in places, the texture suddenly lightens. For instance in bar 30, where we see the two lower instruments (the viola and violoncello) suddenly drop out, leaving the other instruments to play alone – this adds to the variety of the piece and helps to add interest and intrigue to the music, making it more interesting and exciting for the listener.

Antonio Vivaldi was born in Venice in 1678, and is one of the most significant, and prolific, composers of the late Baroque period. His father was a violinist, and Antonio learned the instrument to a very high standard from an early age. He was ordained a priest at the age of 25, the same year that he was appointed master of violins at Pio Ospedale della Pieta in Venice. This orphanage, one of four in Venice, was funded by the city to provide tuition for local orphans – the boys learning a trade and the girls learning music – and during Vivaldi’s time there it gained an international reputation for the high standard of the girls’ singing in the choir and playing in the orchestra. Vivaldi’s priestly duties did not last long (he was nicknamed The Red Priest because of the colour of his hair), and he later became the Musical Director at the orphanage, responsible for composing the music, training the girls in theory as well as their practical music making. It was not a permanent job – he had to be reappointed on an annual basis. He wrote a number of operas and much religious choral music but, given the success of the Four Seasons and other popular works such as the Gloria, it is perhaps surprising to learn that Vivaldi died in poverty, his style of music having fallen out of fashion during the Classical period, and his music was not played at all until a revival in the early twentieth century. J S Bach, his contemporary in Germany, held Vivaldi’s music in high regard and transcribed six of his concerti for organ and harpsichord. In all, Vivaldi wrote about five hundred concerti, and he is the composer who most systematically developed the three-movement form, exploiting the potential for dramatic tension between the soloist and tutti, and exploring opportunities for colourful sonorities within a largely homophonic texture. Pictorial effects, such as those most obviously manifest in The Four Seasons, abound in his music. Il Gardellino movement 1 is one of three movements of three concertos. The work of this Vivaldi piece was published by Michel-Charles Le Cene in 1728, Vivaldi’s concerto for flute was not only the first collection of flute concertos published in Italy, it was nearly the first set of flute concertos ever published. Most are transcriptions of earlier works or new compositions modelled on earlier works, usually chamber concertos from much earlier in Vivaldi’s career. Called in both cases “Il Gardellino”, the work, with its gentle themes for the flute soloist and bucolic harmonies for the string ripieno, lives up to its name. The opening Allegro is as light and evanescent as the opening of “Spring” from the Four Seasons. The central Cantabile is as warm and lovely as a soprano aria from a pastorale. The closing Allegro is as vigorous and dance-like as the finale from a divertimento.

Some contextual information sourced from:

https://www.allmusic.com/composition/flute-concerto-for-flute-strings-continuo-in-d-major-il-gardellino-op-10-3-rv-428-mc0002395521

Click to access AQA-7271-TG-AOS1.PDF

Tesco Ad: Demonisation of Meat or Necessary Coverage of Diversification of Diet?

You will have likely seen the recent Tesco advert and/or heard of the mounting backlash of it. The ad shows a young girl who tells her father she no longer wishes to eat “animals”, the father (slightly reluctantly) complies, reasoning that whilst he loves his meat, he loves his daughter more. As the product of an extensive family of farmers, I am, frankly, baffled by the backlash; I just don’t get the big deal.

The backlash has originated from the view that Tesco is demonising meat by advocating a vegetarian/vegan diet; to some extent, I agree. My only reason for partially agreeing is the wording of the dialogue that is used by the daughter. There was a clear decision made to use the word “animals” as opposed to “meat”. Obviously the word “meat” is the most widely used term to describe the flesh of an animal, and it would be true to say that its a throwaway term in many ways; to think of “meat” most think of a food, there for consumption, coming from a butcher or, most probably, a supermarket. Meanwhile “animal” has considerably more emotive connotations. When most think of the word “animal”, thoughts may turn to a pet, a cute creature of some kind that loves and is loved. Therefore, when a person hears “I don’t want to eat animals” that has clear emotive connotations and many would ipso facto think of the ‘cute little lamb in the field that has been killed for human consumption’ rather than the ‘piece of food that is bought and subsequently consumed’ — a thought that would’ve been more widely prevalent should the word “meat” have been used.

The counter argument is a shorter, yet more powerful one: what’s the fuss? I tend to concur. Whilst its hard to ignore that excessive meat consumption has damaging environmental impacts, eating meat can provide, usually, a more diverse and healthy diet, proving the body with the necessary protein, vitamins and amino acids. But (and this is the crucial point), as with all food, its a choice. However, if an individual does choose a vegetarian or vegan diet, like Tesco is portraying (note the word “portraying”, not “promoting”), why can’t they? It is their own choice to forgo any benefits eating meat may have; there are ways and means to obtain the same levels of protein, vitamins and amino acids, therefore maintaining the same level of healthy diet as a meat-eater. There is also, of course, a religious argument as well. Some religions impose a certain diet, which may include eating no meat, or only certain meats; again, a choice.

In a world of choice and diversification, why shouldn’t airtime be given to alternative diets? You don’t see prevalent news coverage and backlash from vegetarians or vegans from all of the copious adverts advocating meat that are aired, so what’s gives us meat eaters a right to attack? I recently saw a damning article from The Grocer that concluded: “It’s a parent’s job to safeguard their children’s long-term welfare, not cave in to modish, ill-informed, potentially dangerous demands from young minds bombarded with propaganda“. I shall do this unfair damnation the favour of a rewrite, as they, in their article, rewrote the advert to very one-sided, indoctrinatory, pro-meat standpoint. Here goes:

“It is a parent’s job, yes, to safeguard their children and, of course, provide them with love, care and protection. However, in order to provide a child with such love and care, a parent must respect and adhere, where possible and sensible, to their child’s wishes. It is entirely sensible for a child to wish to go meat-free for whatever reason they may have (all are valid). It is not “modish” to not wish to eat meat; whilst a vegan diet has obtained a sharp increase in media attention, it isn’t an entirely new concept, with the term first being coined in 1944. It is not “ill-informed” to not wish to eat meat; a parent is well within their right to inform the child, impartially, of the positives and negatives of eating meat, if they feel their child is uneducated on the matter. And finally, it is not “dangerous” to not wish to eat meat; most benefits of eating meat can be countenanced by supplements or by simply eating other, meat-free, foods that can provide the same level of benefit — simply, going vegetarian or vegan won’t kill you. It is not an unfair bombarding or propaganda to portray an alternative diet; why would anyone suggest that that is unfair? Especially giving the fact that the ratio of meat to non-meat adverts is incredibly in favour of the former.”

Great applause ensues.

“Thank you”.

Born Famous: Exploiting the Poor to Entertain the Rich?

One of the most controversial programmes to hit our televisions in recents weeks has been the premiere of Channel 4’s new reality show ‘Born Famous’. The plot seems rather simple: take four celebrities, take their children, and dump them in the places in which their progenitor matured.

The four-part series follows the hardships of Gordon Ramsay and his son, Jack; Spice Girl Mel B and her daughter, Phoenix; Michelle Mone and her daughter, Beth; and football manager Paul Ince with his daughter, Ria. Whilst the (and I will use this word sparingly) ‘celebrities’ speak candidly to the camera about their hardships growing up, seemingly all following a theme of poverty, their protégés are driven in their Chauffer-driven blacked out vans to the, often unidyllic settings, they formerly called home. The often contrived set-up seemed to me to bring more contradictions and odd nuances than anything, and I couldn’t help but wonder what the point of the show actually was. Was it to show these immensely privileged young adults the ‘real world’ as it were? To show them that their life is hardly a mere reflection of the conglomerate? Was it to just prove the point that their parents seemed to repeat about how hard it was for them? Or was it simply another masked way of having the rich sneer at the poor? Whatever it was, it started with Gordon and Jack Ramsay, and I was hooked.

I’m sure that for most people watching the show, their motivations were to see inside the life of some of their, perhaps, favourite public figures, and see how they made it to the pedestal that society has now mounted them upon. As a society, we tend to glamorise every part of a celebrities life; we want to know where they are, what they’re doing, if they’re near us, if they’re having a good day and what expensive holiday they’re on now, to name a few. That is, ultimately, this shows USP; allowing ordinary people an insight into the lives of celebrities and their offspring. However, despite the apparent ‘openness’ of the celebrities, allowing cameras into their ‘real’ lives, such shows are inherently flawed in their aesthetic and general representation of celebrity life. The fact is, is that these shows portray a unrealistic view of life in general. It is unattainable for anyone to have such a ‘perfect’ life, as these celebrities, righty or wrongly, portray. Such observations were a slight annoyance whilst watching, as it was clear that whilst the parents were confiding in the camera (as ever), common sense would allow one to construct the surroundings in their minds eye: the make up people etc, ensuring they looked perfect for the camera; the plethora of cameras and camera, lighting and sound assistants; and the mass of various other professionals that are vital to make the celebrities and the whole production look perfect.

The reason I was hooked however, was not because of the short look into the lavish life of these people, it was the insight that I got into the psyche of these celebrity offspring; individuals who would likely soon become celebrities in their on right, directly off the back of their parent’s fame; individuals that a new generation would worship, as people worship the celebrities that partook in the show. I was interested to see how they would react to the juxtaposition of their own lives, and how they reacted to and behaved, in amongst the lives of the people they would be staying with.

Jack Ramsay seemed immediately likeable; he was polite on-camera, and seemed to form a good relationship with his ‘partner’ – wether this was genuine and would continue off-camera, I wasn’t sure. Despite the oxymoron of his seemingly genuine, un-genuine relationship, I found his willingness to ‘get down and dirty’, if you will, and to try and get something from the experience, endearing. Without a doubt Gordon Ramsay brought the most comedy to the screen, with his proud announcement over FaceTime with Jack “See that bedroom next door? That’s where I lost my virginity” (or at least words to that affect); a line that no teenage son or daughter wants to hear.

The next episode showed Mel B’s daughter, Phoenix. I found this one more peculiar. The first inkling that something seemed odd was her insistence that she wouldn’t sleep in her mums old room: saying something along the lines of “I don’t wanna stay here. This is my mums room and I want to be my own person, not her”. I found such reasoning incoherent with the themes of the show, and, ultimately, found it a bit of a turn-off. Phoenix spent the remainder of the show experience living in her grandmother’s house – a place far from the meagre lifestyle she was set to experience. This meant that despite her visiting her grandfathers old workplace and working in Pizza Hut, as well as meeting people her age and finding out about their struggles, she failed to commit herself to the challenge, which to me, is yet another way of showing her entitlement.

Thirdly, we saw Michelle Mone’s daughter, Bethany. I was immediately intrigued by the strange dynamic which seemed apparent between the two; an argument emerged fairly early on in the programme, before the challenge had begun, which hinted on some sort of hidden theme of seeming neglect, for want of a better word. Beth said “You should understand the struggles I have to go through” to which her mother replies “Really?!” (words to that affect, anyway!). I wasn’t entirely sure wether this debate made me feel sorry for Beth, who had undeniably had to suffer whilst her mother and father went through a horrific and hugely public divorce, or wether it somehow made me feel as if she was spoilt, with, perhaps, the underlying subtext being about how she didn’t want to give up her life for the week. As the programme unfolded, I decided on the former. Beth seemed to try and immerse herself in the experience, much like Jack and much unlike Phoenix. She seemed to create a bond, not only with the teen that she was coupled with, but with the family as a whole, listening to the health struggles of the family matriarch, and taking a seemingly genuine interest into their lives. She came across as warm and genuine, which was similarly endearing to the Ramsay episode. Whilst watching, I couldn’t help but feel that she may be the one who would take more out of the experience that anyone else so far.

Finally, it was the turn of Paul Ince’s daughter, Ria. One of the younger people to partake in the programme, she was in the midst of highly challenging A-Levels, taking an unenviable cocktail of Maths and three languages. Taking time out of her summer holiday, she was paired with another similarly-aged teen from Dagenham. Ria, much like Beth and Jack, seemed to gel well with her ‘adopted family’. With Ria, I almost felt as if I saw the most difference between her and the family she was placed with. Her quiet rural life, with little human contact and “no strong characters”, was hugely juxtaposed by the bustling lifestyle that was now her own. Soon the sweet, quiet, innocent girl was tossed into a world so far removed from her own that it left me wondering how she would cope; somehow, she did. Despite the difference, she appeared to thrive in such an environment; it was almost as though some sort of survival instinct arose within that was almost innate due to the connection she had with the place through her dad.

Overall, the show surprised me (in a good way), and challenged my perceptions of celebrity offspring and how grounded they actually could be, despite their high-flying lifestyles. I enjoyed the shows insight into the psyche of the four individuals, as I thought I would, and, much like the rest of the country, was a bit of a sucker for the whole ‘looking into celebrities lives’ part.

Bohemian Rhapsody vs Rocketman

This is an article I wrote for the school magazine last month, comparing the hit films ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and ‘Rocketman’.

Any sort of musical biopic is instantly appealing to me; hence, seeing Bohemian Rhapsody last year, and Rocketman this year was a no-brainier. Both films were immensely coveted by audiences the world over, and had critical acclaim; with Bohemian Rhapsody receiving copious awards for both acting (particularly the stunning portrayal of Freddie Mercury by Rami Malek), as well as all of the incredible work behind camera. 

Music, of course, was the main allure for audiences: neither film disappointed. Bohemian Rhapsody used the original Queen recordings (with additional voice recordings from Canadian musician, Marc Martel), whilst Rocketman took the approach of having the original songs sung by the actor. Having this decision in Rocketman undoubtedly caused it to be favoured among critics, although the reason for Bohemian Rhapsody to use the original recordings was justified by the fact that it would be extremely hard for most singers/actors to replicate Mercury’s 4 octave vocal range. 

Both films followed the similar premise of following the early life of their respective focal characters. Bohemian Rhapsody took a more lighthearted approach, focusing more on the comical aspects of the band and skipping over the darker aspects of Mercury’s life. The choice of director Bryan Singer to not include the hard-hitting, gritty reality of the focal character was also criticised by audiences, yet was somewhere that Rocketman shined. Rocketman director Dexter Fletcher chose to “show the true story; warts and all”. In my opinion, this gives Rocketman the edge on Bohemian Rhapsody; the internal conflict and deep struggle with mental health that Elton John had were scripted and directed amazingly and are an integral part of John’s story and showing him overcoming these issues is hugely inspiring and hopefully a comfort to others that may be experiencing similar troubles.

The final ‘Live Aid’ performance at the denouement of Bohemian Rhapsody is widely regarded as a “cinematic masterpiece”. Every detail was meticulously replicated from the 

A little about me…

Hello. One can only assume that you have decided to read this as you have nothing better to do; thank you!

I am an 18 year old guy from Cornwall. Probably not your typical 18 year old male, but who is? I enjoy things that aren’t typically described as “cool”, nor “manly”. To put it urbanely, I wore my heart on my sleeve. Whilst on the bus to school, aged 11 ish, I was baffled by the seemingly raucous nature of secondary school, safely nestled at the very front of the bus, headphones in, with my green iPod Shuffle playing my playlist of opera — performed by myself with the backing of the local concert orchestra a few months prior. The following year, I played the titular role in “Oliver!” in the school play. I also write like I’m an 80 year old; using archaic words that I enjoy dropping into my writing to ‘spice things up’. So apologies if you have to read this with a dictionary in hand (or phone). I think that tells you all you need to know at this point.

I have maintained my love of music and the arts in general; continuing to sing and achieving a Grade 8, currently working towards an extended diploma in music performance.

School was always a word that filled me with mixed emotions. Throughout the formative years of it, I mostly hated it — with a few interspersed moments of slight likability. I was mainly just anxious and awkward; not really feeling that I fitted in, but also not that I stuck out as much as some — I just seemed to float around in the social abyss. However, with the benefit of hindsight of course, I needn’t have worried. Towards the latter part of school life, I, typically, began to increasingly enjoy it, despite the mounting stress and ever-increasing pressure that seemed synonymous with exams. Teachers seemed on a mission to scare, with the often repeated mantra, that exams, whilst they weren’t the be all and end all, kind of were.

Such oxymoronic statements as the aforementioned, accompanied by another, similarly well-scripted teacher mantra of “You need to get into Uni. Uni’s all that matters. Uni, Uni, Uni, UNI!” irritated me extremely. My Sixth Form experience, whilst ultimately great, was filled with the enduring feeling that – whilst I had no personal aspirations, nor intentions to actually go to university – it was, fundamentally, the only viable option post A-Levels. Yet, despite the fact that it was never my ambition, I still found myself looking at universities, with the thought circling around the back of my mind that that must really be the only option. No focus was ever put on apprenticeships (or any other avenues) bar a few forwarded emails that flew around from local businesses — no doubt trying to entice a new cohort of cheap employees. Whilst seemingly fortnightly visits from Exeter Uni were arranged, no apprenticeship schemes were ever discussed, with the focus being on student housing and trying to convince your parents to pay your phone contract rather than, dare I say it, work. Whilst half-consciously listening to the same uni-centred spiel where the reoccurring visitor mentioned, continually, the importance of obtaining a degree, I found myself wondering what sort of a degree she had obtained to get the job of travelling to Cornish schools, preaching to them about the absolute importance of a degree; likely in order to say “well I have a degree” whenever the opportunity arose. That may be too cynical and an opinion only voiced by people that, like me, didn’t want to or couldn’t attend university, but I truly believe that there should be equal weighting on the importance of both university, and other avenues — to help allay the fears of those who can find no solace in the idea of uni, and those who generally feel lost; as if they have no definite idea of what their future will hold. Admittedly, I spent less time in such assemblies than I should’ve.

And I guess that’s a very brief summary of my (mainly school) life up to now. I’ll maybe write more personal sentiments, should the opportunity arise (or I’m short for material).

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