The Casting Couch – An Unpalatable Truth

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The Casting Couch – An Unpalatable Truth

 So here we are again. Another monster disguising as a human being. Decades after this heinous character used his position of power in Hollywood, the obligatory can of worms has been opened and a maelstrom of unpleasant anecdotes are bombarding news bulletins with a momentum we should not at all be surprised by after the horror story that is Jimmy Saville.

Weinstein is probably an artistic genius, the list of his awards proof enough of his obvious talent for making great movies. That his sexual depravity and unrelenting appetite for aspiring actresses ran alongside his undeniably brilliant career is nothing if not tragic. How did a man of such brilliance jeopardise everything he clearly worked so hard for in order to gain brief, perverse satisfaction? More importantly – how on earth did he manage to get away with it? 

I heard of the “casting couch” more years ago than I care to remember. It was standard Hollywood practice and I’ve lost count of the number of movies I have seen that make reference to it. Like the Jimmy Saville story, the claims about powerful men in the entertainment industry preying on young, vulnerable women were generally accepted. Indeed it was considered par for the course and such behaviour ingrained in our culture as almost, I would go so far as to say, “normal”. How grotesque.

When will things change? The only progress we have made here is to recognise that this behaviour is not “normal”. It is intolerable.

The problem I have coming to terms with is how the established, successful artists who knew Weinstein systematically abused (in every sense of the word) his powerful position as a movie mogul and yet continued to work with him. No Oscar, movie role or million dollar deal would motivate me to sign up to anything he was involved in if I knew what he was up to – and we now know some people were aware of his misdemeanours. I can understand how reporting Weinstein may have not been an option for the young and gullible women who were subject to his unwanted advances and veiled attempts to lure them with the promise of stardom – who would have taken them seriously? I cannot comprehend however, those who rose to prestigious ranks in Hollywood and chose to remain silent about what appears to be an open secret, continued to work with him and were happy to be seen at various award ceremonies posing with Weinstein for photo oportunities. How could they?

Maybe we have to look at the whole picture, the misogony that is prevalent thoughout the entertainment industry and the reinforcement that certain kinds of behaviour is “just how it is”. I believe women need to at least try to change this, along with their male counterparts  – shaking your surgically enhanced butt at the camera to the strains of your new release instead of letting your talent do the talking is not the reason a predatory, lecherous parasite believes he has the right to objectify women but it serves no purpose either. We have witnessed over the last couple of decades a smudging of the lines between mainstream and adult only entertainment. They have become one and the same and I worry deeply about young, impressionable little girls who follow pop stars with an adoring loyalty who try to emulate their dance routines that are nothing if not pornographic. It all has a connection whether we like it or not, as if we deem it okay to subject our youngsters to material not really intended for pre-pubescents,  we are also growing more tolerant of the sexualisation of children. It is really that bad. 

When a young women still sees offering ‘favours’ to a powerful man as a career move, how far have we come? When a man such as this can climb the ladder of success whilst behaving so despicably, how have women progressed in their pursuit of equality? Depressingly little it seems.

The unshaven, unkempt and now disgraced Weinstein will soon be yesterdays news. The elephant in the room at so many Hollywood parties is no more, as he skulks off for some ridiculously expensive sex addiction therapy. No doubt there is another, if not several more executives waiting in the wings to take up where he left off.

We can only hope the empowerment of women reaches such an extent that men like Weinstein and their unwanted advances are met with zero tolerance and their swift fall from grace, so that artists can forge their careers based on talent and talent alone. 

Posted in Mental Health Awareness, observations in life, The world in general, Vintage/culture/seaside, War veterans/Remembrance | 1 Comment

Voting With My Feet

One of the most unexpected things I have done this year (and possibly in my life) was to campaign for the Labour Party and my local MP,  when a General Election was announced in the Spring. Many questioned the wisdom of Theresa May in calling it (oh I bet she is wishing she had the benefit of political hindsight now) and I’m no exception to that but her mis-guided belief she would saunter back into Number Ten in her kitten heels actually led to one of the best experiences I’ve possibly ever had. So thanks Ms May – although I can’t quite comprehend I could ever have felt gratitude towards any politician in the government we have at present, it is a fact that her slightly maverick behaviour motivated me to become an activist in every sense of the word.

My motivation more than likely also derived from the absolute slaughter of Jeremy Corbyn by the media and, I’m sad to say, members of his own party. It wasn’t enough that he won the leadership fair and square, he was subjected to a second challenge and emerged even more victorious. It set the precedent for one of the most extraordinary political battles we have seen in modern times. Make no mistake, Jeremy Corbyn’s rise can be hugely attributed to social media, to engaging young people in politics like never before (who can forget that pivotal moment of his campaign at Prenton Park when the crowd chanted his name to a White Stripes anthem?) and to the imagination and vision of a man who will refuse to jeopardise his principles in order to offer himself as a safe, palatable dish to serve to the nation. Instead, his recipe of integrity, straight talk and very opinionated philosophy had more people than ever wanting a slice of the humble pie he was promising to serve in order to redress the growing unfairness in our country and worldwide. His ill fitting suits and geography teacher-like persona was a breath of fresh air amongst the stale sound bytes of politicians from all parties and the idiosyncracies the press liked to ridicule became the reasons for his meteoric rise to a very viable, alternative Prime Minister. After too many years of a capitalist culture that has surely started to slowly implode, he offered a socialist solution to global greed and people started to ‘get him’. 

That certainly helped and inspired me to literally walk the streets, knocking on doors and rallying potential Labour voters, rather like some wide eyed youth with a head full of idealism and naive optimism. The fact that I’m none of those things hardly mattered. The smell of change is in the wind and I desperately want to help herald the change in direction we need to lay the foundations that builds a fairer society. 

My initial foray into election campaigning began on a chilly but gloriously blue skied Sunday on Crosby beach. My local MP was making a promotional video for social media and he needed a crowd scene to conclude it. That day was the beginning of my Labour-fuelled incentive to literally vote with my feet and I went  home ruddy cheeked and full of inspiration for the street pounding weeks that lay ahead.

I turned up for my first campaign session on a sunny Tuesday afternoon and was made more than welcome by people who I had never met before or had any idea who I was and why I was there. I began with not a little trepidation but soon fell into my stride and so began several weeks of door knocking, envelope stuffing and general camaraderie. All ages, backgrounds and personalities coming together for the common good. I bloody well loved every calorie burning, foot blistering minute.

Most of it was certainly out of my own comfort zone and I most certainly faced several fears and anxieties I have. Being told to “Sod off I’m having my tea and would never vote for that communist anyway” wasn’t half as daunting as negotiating stubborn gate locks on a pathway that led to a hostile bark and my general, irrational anxiety would increase every time I joined in with political discussions (me being who I am and wondering why anyone would want to listen to me – but blathering on anyway). There were plenty of debates and lots of interesting, more learned activists than myself but not once did I feel patronized. We were, literally, all in it together. The hours spent trekking around suburbia often concluded with a drink in a nearby ‘watering hole’. Changing the world is thirsty work! 

In conclusion I can honestly state I loved being a part of Labour’s General Election campaign in 2017 and eagerly await a re-run soon – only with a new Government in charge this time. Victory is just around the corner, I can feel it in my socialist bones.

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Help Others And You Help Yourself

There are so many benefits to doing voluntary work, both personally, ethically and professionally.

My own experience of volunteering began modestly, helping out with fund-raising events at my children’s primary school. The pleasure of organising school discos and preparing the pupils for their Christmas production was priceless and I’m sure my three felt happy I was there experiencing the excitement with them.

It wasn’t until after my father died that I really embraced the whole aspect of becoming a volunteer. With a little more free time available I was unsure what steps to take to fill my days. Dad was no longer around to visit and keep company so I filled that huge void by becoming an assistant at the newly opened charity shop that raised much needed funds for the local hospice that, co-incidentally, cared for him in his final days.

It was a dark, uninviting place that begged for a fresh coat of paint to cover the sickly green wood chip paper that covered the walls. It was almost unbearably cold in there during the winter and smelt of damp, it’s mustiness evident the minute you came through the door. However, the other volunteers were lovely to work with and I decided to do my best to make the shop look more cheerful and less shabby. No easy feat!

The best way to do this was by colour co-ordinating the clothes and adding corresponding displays on shelves above each section. The window was a challenge, given the sparse nature of it’s appeal and I would angst about customers regularly removing strategically placed items, oblivious to their destruction of my carefully considered aesthetic attempt……yes, I know that’s completely irrational on my part – us arty types are so temperamental.

Joking aside what I’m saying is, my volunteering experience enabled me to indulge my passion for merchandising and all things artistic. I had dabbled over the years in window dressing and retail display but never got the qualifications to prove this. Here I was able to use my skills without question and I must say, with positive results. Customers often commented how they enjoyed coming in to see the displays which gave me great satisfaction in two ways – my (fragile) ego was rubbed and there was more chance they would buy something, raising extra cash for St. Joseph’s hospice. Win win really!

We have since moved location to a shiny, brand new shop. The fittings and fixtures lend themselves to an exclusive boutique and it’s been an absolute joy to dress the place and witness it’s opening. I hope it’s success continues and brings in even more revenue for such a wonderful cause.

Volunteering comes in all forms – from building schools in third world countries to the more modest but no less important helping out at a local primary school or hospital. The benefits are two-fold. You will undoubtedly find it an enriching experience and the service you offer will benefit whatever charity or organisation you have decided to offer your services to.

Some people love volunteering so much they replace their salaried positions for the opportunity to help out. If you are in a position where being paid for your employment isn’t necessary (not possible with the majority of voluntary workers obviously), I would say go for it.  The satisfaction and contentment will be more than adequate payment for what you do.

Some actually leave their paid positions (after carefully financial planning beforehand I presume) to undertake a volunteering opportunity. To be inspired to help others and generally endeavour to make the world a better place is an honourable task. One such individual is a perfect example  – visit

You don’t have to leave your job to volunteer – even one evening a week, a couple of hours at the weekend, it all helps. It will help you personally in obtaining a unique satisfaction and contentment. It will help whoever or whatever it is you decide to volunteer with. There are no losers, only winners in the ‘helping others’ game.

“Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more.”
H.Jackson Brown Jr.



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Should I Stay Or Should I Go Now?

The title of this blog is actually also the song title of one of my favourite songs by The Clash and I think very apt for how some people may be feeling this week as the EU referendum looms on the political horizon. Whatever your opinion (if you have one and let’s face it, most of us do) it’s safe to say suddenly there appears to be a lot of financial, economical and immigration experts in our midst. The truth of the matter is most of us have very little knowledge on the whys and wherefores for going or leaving and feel as if we are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

As the campaign gathered momentum I realized I’m an ‘INNY’. Is it because most of the ‘OUTY’ brigade cite immigration as their reason for leaving? I’m not denying the tone of their argument has appalled me but also the fact that their fears appear to be on the whole unfounded. There are far more pressing issues than the movement of people throughout Europe and anyway, statistics have proven that Immigration is a good thing for our country.

Patriotism has evolved into something rather unappealing for me; it often smacks of defence of an archaic system that no longer serves this great country, an ugly outpouring of narrow minded nostalgia. We are no longer an Empire and all the better for that. Our ability to tolerate, embrace and welcome different faiths and cultures is diminishing fast amongst a large percentage of the population and it pains me to witness this. We now live in a global village, the world is indeed a much smaller place than it was before and we need to accept this fact and work towards making the world a better, fairer place for all. We can’t do that alone, on our tiny island that has become so dependent on the support of Europe. I’m not wanting to turn this blog into a political rant but you will have to forgive me, it’s difficult to avoid when writing about such an important issue concerning the future of this country!

I’m angry too. Angry that we have been given this huge responsibility when our capacity for understanding the whole system is limited. It feels a little like a surgeon asking the patient how to perform his operation!

I’m sad about this pivotal moment in our history. About the huge divisions it has exposed between us. Friends are being made and lost on this I’m sure. The campaigns taking place have become little more than mud-slinging. The fiasco on the River Thames being a particular low point as a millionaire ex-pop star had a nautical stand off with a bigoted, privileged politician about fishermen and their plight. Did either of them have a clue about what they were arguing about? I’ll hold judgement on that…..just about.

The horrific murder of a young aspiring MP made the nation gasp in horror. Not on our shores? I’m afraid so. From our very smug standpoint of tut tutting at the ridiculous gun laws in the US after the appalling attack on the LGBT community in Florida,  we were suddenly in a position to know how they felt. We are incredulous that something like this could happen here but happen it did and there is no way back from this. It has exposed the underbelly of vile racism, reared its ugly head and threatens our society; a distasteful, subliminal message that has been drip fed in the media. We are better than this. We can’t let this define us. We have to remember that we are supposed to be a tolerant, welcoming nation.

If you do happen to be an expert on all things EU, I’m pretty sure you would be voting to stay on Thursday,  given the information I have been able to glean from the many articles I have pored over recently. If you are voting to leave, I sincerely hope you have very firm reasons for that and have come to your (somewhat questionable) conclusion with a clear, unbiased head that has no room for racism, bigotry or misguided patriotism.

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Staycation? Don’t Mind If I Do

There seems to be a newfound love in Britain of the ‘staycation’ (those who like to globe trot look away now and continue reading your Rough Guide book collection, all is well).

For some, a holiday on home shores tallies perfectly alongside a foreign jaunt, discovering new places in Britain being just as challenging and exciting as the annual getaway to distant lands….well, maybe just a fortnight in Fuengirola but you get my drift. For others, the decision to ditch the short motorway dash to an airport of choice and subsequent flight to a chosen destination has derived from the numerous documentaries showing our island/s in all their glory; from narrow boat holidays on waterways to camping, forest villas (I know, more ‘Scandinavian breezeblock dwelling’ but they’re fab all the same) to yurts, the diversity is there and there is definitely something for everyone. If hotels are more your style –  bespoke boutique B&Bs, five star luxury or country pubs cater for every kind of traveller. We really have got it all.

Apart from the weather. That as the saying goes, is in the lap of the Gods. I think we must have several weather gods given the unpredictability of something everyone talks about.  The one topic of conversation in every bus stop, bar, department store and high street newsagents up and down the land is The Weather. If I have never set eyes on you before our chance encounter at a random location and may never again, you can guarantee there’s good odds on us discussing the current rain/sun/snow during our brief spell spent together waiting at the bus stop/checkout queue/waiting room. It’s not unfair to say we are a little obsessed with The Weather.

That intensifies during a Staycation. Investing a good portion of our holiday fund (perhaps even all of it) on our chosen accommodation, we feel justified in expecting our summer holiday to be spent basking in warm (hot, if you’re particularly optimistic) sunlight. I’ve enjoyed many sun soaked vacations in Britain and there is nothing more glorious. It’s like hitting the jackpot. You know it’s possible but can’t hide the europhoria when you realize the high pressure is there to stay. For a week, at least!

I’ve had a couple of rain lashed weeks away too. Weeks spent convincing myself I really could muster the courage to engage in overseas travel (anxiety creates feelings of dread akin to major surgery in my irrational brain when I think about being so far away from home shores…..but that’s another subject)  in order to partake in a little guaranteed Mediterranean sun.  Plodding through rain puddles in flip flops you are determined to wear ‘because you’re on your summer holiday’ and expertly diving between shop awnings, mingling with the hardy Bermuda shorts tribe and annoyingly well prepared Berghaus brigade (and fitting rather too snugly somewhere between the two) as you all snake along an impossibly narrow sidewalk to window shop is a character building exercise, make no mistake.

When the clouds disperse, there is nothing quite like the sight of a sunlit valley in Wales, or a glistening lake in Cumbria; the world looks squeaky clean, washed by rain and maintaining the lushness of our green and pleasant land. It’s at those times you kind of forgive Britain for its unpredictability, weather wise. Without those narrow isobars and Atlantic fronts we most certainly wouldn’t have the beautiful scenery so admired and envied across the world.

Global travel is definitely here to stay and humans in general will always have an inbuilt desire to explore foreign shores. For those privileged enough to be able to indulge in travel, it’s important that as countries are ticked off the ‘to do’ list, time is also spent enjoying all that our own beautiful country has to offer. Recent devastating floods have left some of the most beautiful locations that rely heavily on tourism, struggling to keep their businesses open as the unrelenting rain swelled the rivers, bursting the banks and destroying idyllic villages and picture postcard town centres. So if you are one of the ‘jetset’, try to set a little bit of cash aside too for even just a weekend in Britain.

I’ve just had my passport photos done and as soul destroying as it was (do I really look like THAT?) my renewal application will be getting completed soon. Will I use it? Who knows. I have a few more destinations at home to see first…………Northumbria, anyone?

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My Dog Skip

Twelve years ago yesterday, 21st April 2004, a tiny little Lhasa Apso came into the world in Rochdale, Lancashire. He was just one of a litter of puppies brought into the world in order to sell – dog breeding can be a lucrative venture as I’m sure you are aware.

That very same day, I hugged my (then) three young children as they sobbed uncontrollably after my daughter found her beloved pet rabbit had died in his hutch. Despite the driving rain and howling wind outside, my husband performed a very swift burial for said rabbit in the garden – not an easy task in complete darkness! Although it was obviously a traumatic experience for my kids, I didn’t regret it and was sure they would survive the upset – I guess I considered it character building. If you don’t count a goldfish called Gretel that curiously changed it’s appearance several times during it’s very short life, Pippin the rabbit was their first real pet. My eldest child was barely school age when she won Gretel the goldfish and death wasn’t a concept I particularly wanted to discuss at that time and yes, I flushed the first two dead Gretel’s down the toilet with the furtiveness of a serial killer – don’t worry, I have since confessed my sins to my disgusted children.

Pippin belonged to my middle child/daughter – she actually insisted we bought it a lead as she was convinced she would be able to take it for walkies. That resulted in a chaotic hour in the garden with the poor rabbit doing a very convincing Buckaroo impersonation as it tried to free itself from the harness. Admitting defeat, my daughter contented herself with keeping Pippin within the confines of a hutch and a regular, frenetic run around the garden….we averted a near disaster when, in a moment of temporary insanity I thought it a great idea to house train Pippin. One chewed telephone wire later, the house was designated a no-go area and it languished in it’s ridiculously expensive hutch in the garden. I’m not completely heartless, we brought it into the garage in the winter months….

Anyway, Pippin died on the day Skip was born. We like to think he is the rabbit re-incarnated…..Buddhism at it’s best. From lowly rabbit to Tibetan Terrier – maybe the elevation to it’s new life a kind of reward for putting up with a mundane existence stuck in a suburban garden as a rabbit in the previous life, who knows? We didn’t get Skip until he was four months old. He was the last of his litter, the dog nobody seemed to want……..*unashamedly plucking at heartstrings…..

I’d never had a dog so the acquisition of a tiny bundle of black and white fur that emitted both liquid and solids anywhere and everywhere was a complete shock to my system. Several weeks of 6am starts, with me blurry-eyed and wondering what had possessed me to succumb to my husband’s reassurances that bringing a puppy into the household was a fantastic idea ensued; this was worse than the exhaustion I had experienced with a new baby, at least most of their bodily secretions ended up in a nappy!

Then there was the chewing of, well – anything and everything. Long gone were the days of leaving newspapers unattended, shoes discarded in the hallway…..nothing could be left within reach of Skip’s tiny gnashers. The early morning starts were well organised – luckily it was the school summer holidays so we all took turns. It was a great exercise in shared responsibility for the kids and they soon learnt that those cute bundles of joy were demanding, their doggy needs had to be met and therefore that would take precedence over playtime, tv shows or lie-ins. It really did them no harm and I think was an essential life skill that hopefully built their characters.

Getting a dog made me more aware of other dogs; one day I found myself oohing and aahing at a puppy outside the supermarket – I did it before I could stop myself and spent the entire shopping trip in a state of shock. I suppose it’s a little like having a baby – once the maternal instinct kicks in there’s no going back!

Skip comes with us on holiday. He’s not that fussed to be honest; usually he gets into a mild state of confusion. On one particular trip, we hired a converted barn that had the bedrooms on the ground floor, rising to the lounge and kitchen above – in order to appreciate the views. Great, you say. Not for Skip – he’s barred from the bedrooms at home and we spent the week trying to persuade him to join us upstairs, as he grew grumpier by the day. I think he just wants an easy life but then again, who doesn’t?

His twelve years with us have gone so fast and so much has happened in that time; the signs of ageing grow more apparent with him……although he’s not the only one, none of us are getting any younger! The cataracts on his eyes grow more visible, the blue casts across his pupils ever more apparent. His short legs are more bowed, and he sleeps. A lot. He’s quite deaf too, poor thing. Where once he would come bounding into the hall as soon as the car pulled up on the driveway or a key turned in the lock of the front door, now he barely moves. He simply can’t hear us. We have to be careful not to frighten him so I gently tap his head as I approach him while he, yet again, lies sleeping. He jumps up temporarily startled but then, realizing there’s no immediate threat, goes back to sleep.

His energetic moments invariably involve food – usually someone else’s. Dog food just doesn’t do it for him – give him some chicken and you’re a friend for life. He’s a great character – loving, funny and completely loyal…….apart from when there’s chicken involved, obviously.

Bringing Skip into our family is one of the best decisions we ever made. I think it made us all a little less selfish and experiencing a dog’s complete loyalty to those who look after it is priceless. We’ve spent a ridiculous amount of money on dog beds, dog toys, dog grooming (he definitely has his hair done more than me, no question), vet bills and surcharges on holiday accommodation; every last penny is well spent and I envisage many more years to come…….and I’m sorry Skip  but you’ll just have to get used to the holidays!


jane and skip

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