Tai Chi on the Beach
News of your passing first quivers and beeps
in my pocket with initial innocuousness early
in 07. I read the generic notice of your death with disbelieve, punched
in to me by Sarah, in the short, sharp words of text speak.
Later I would learn the disease you harboured claimed
your last breath far quicker than you or your kin
would ever expect, even though the prognosis
on diagnosis just a few weeks before was never good.
I pour a few too many Jack Ds and cokes, toast
your memory. The drink all too quickly becoming the muse
for our fleeting moments of acquaintance evolving
into the nostalgic recollection of a drunken best friend.
My first memory of you was you tossing
an orange around a circle of bewildered students
-an icebreaker to learn each other’s names.
(Your IQ was high but your memory for names was never good.)
Once I sat tensely in your office, amidst
the hotchpotch clatter of precariously stacked books
and boxes – no wonder you lost one of my essays-
while you critiqued one of my first pieces, with the dab hand
of a poetic ambassador, never actually saying the words this is crap.
Your eyes would light up at the sound of a great poem, with correct
stanza and iambic pentameter that scanned in all the right places.
and I knew then that you taught for the love of the art and not just
to fund your own habit, although you would remain a poetry junkie to
your final day. And once I even seen your eyes gleam a little
when I read a few lines, and I knew then that I had made an impression
and from then you remembered my name.
Then there was the moment I stumble on you stood
on a Welsh beach somewhere
with far too many consonants for me to remember. I raise my camera
zoom in till you fill the viewfinder, ready to take a shot
catch you for posterity, the poignancy now not lost to me.
The wind was tossing your kelp-like hair, billowing
your wax cotton jacket like the cape of one of the ancients
you studied and revered, spray dappled horn-rimmed spectacles,
giving you a Monet vision of where clouds merge with brackish sea.
You’re twisting your arms into graceful poses, lifting your legs
wax on wax off, facing the waves like King Canute, trying in vain
to stop the waves from advancing. I lower my camera
the moment fades and I walk away, but here now
in the cold light of day, I wish I had snapped you
and maybe then, in the picture at least, I would see
that you had stopped the tide coming your way.
Keener readers may have noticed that I have changed the title of my blog. I’ve done this for a couple of reasons. The first is I have two sites and I couldn’t always tell which one I could edit my blog on. This is because when I set up my blog it kept asking me to create several different profiles and being new I called them all the same thing, which now leads to a bit of confusion when I am editing my blogs. Even now I click on one site that says I have no blog posts even though I have written about 8 or 9. The second is probably more in line with the last few paragraphs- Oneandhisblogblog.com was quirkily title, but hardly original as I had throw the extra blog in. While Between the Lines isn’t a phrase I can claim original use of, at least it is more accurate as to what this blog represents. At heart I am plugging away at my writing, both my novels and my screenplays, and this is literally between those lines.
I could tell you that this solely to make connections with other writers, and while that is true, it isn’t the entire truth. I have a stable job, I work from home, have flexi-time, good holidays, the pay covers the bills, I am relatively good at my job, but I don’t feel this is the job that I was born to do. So really, in a rather cynical move, but hey I’m being upfront about it, it’s to look more professional to any would-be employers. To show them my wares so to speak.
I am a writer. That is a fact. Okay, I haven’t been able to make a living out of it as yet. Nor, if I look at my stats on here, have I made a huge impact in the blogging stratosphere. Nevertheless, I write and I am, by that rudimentary definition, a writer.
Us writers are a strange breed of people. It takes a certain degree of arrogance to think anyone is going to be remotely interested in what we have to say. And yet, constantly
fighting (heck, let’s throw a hefty word in as I’ve always wanted to use the strike-through button) in juxtaposition to this is the self-awareness of that arrogance. This inevitably leads us to huge swathes of self doubt and inadequacy. We swing wildly between thinking we are working on the greatest masterpiece ever written, to deleting it all in a flurry of frustration (Even now I am looking back on that last passage and wondering if the juxtaposition was way too much!)
I have a friend from university who edits a fansite for a premiership football team. He has had articles published on the daily mail online. Football is an emotive subject and stirs up a lot of passion and opposing views depending on which team you follow. However, he once told me that it doesn’t bother him if someone tells him his analysis of the game is completely up the creek, as soon as they start to question his grammar, his heart sinks. This is the mark of a writer. He isn’t really concerned on how his readers view his take on the beautiful game as he knows that is subjective, but to question his writing ability, that’s a different matter entirely.
I have been meaning to write about this subject pretty much since I started blogging, but the fact I have held off has given me some more thought for pause.
Since the day SIr Tim-Berners Lee invented or, more accurately, discovered the internet and launched it into the ether like a tiny sparkling firefly, it has set the world ablaze with the exchange of ideas and knowledge. It is no cliche to argue that it has become one of the greatest revolutions mankind has ever seen, certainly the greatest I have seen and will probably see in my lifetime. His subsequent plaudits and knighthood would be no surprise to us sitting smack bang within this digital revolution, but could he have ever envisaged the huge impact this free gift would have on mankind and ,moreover, just what the world would do with it?
Kranzberg’s First Law of Technology states: “Technology is neither good nor bad, but nor is it neutral.” Therefore, the internet, being no exception to this is merely a conduit of whatever the user wants it to be. Since mankind can fall within a wide range of spectrums from magnanimous saints to dangerous psychopaths, inevitable then that with all the cute pictures of cats and babies and reams and reams of helpful information littering the net, a deeply more sinister side has evolved within its digital walls.
I first heard of the darknet while reading about the phenomenon known as bitcoins. This untraceable crypto currency was first created for some long outmoded game. a news article had reported that someone had cashed in on a small holding they had bought years ago and had become a multi millionaire through their sale on the darknet and the fact that their value had inflated at an incomparable rate. It then went on to say that due to their untraceable nature, it was the favoured currency on the darknet for criminals, terrorists and paedophiles.
This was news to me, as while I knew there were dark corners of the net where illegal or taboo subjects were discussed or even encouraged, up to then I did not there was a specific area with its very own currency. The darknet though is a very guarded area of the net, with invite by invitation only websites of people who are aware their activity is at best immoral and more often than not completely criminal. It is by its very nature secretive, but you don’t need to delve into the dark reaches of the darknet to stumble upon the darker aspects of the net.
A lot of times the tone of the written word can be misinterpreted. Social media is certainly no exception this. The trouble is human beings don’t just communicate with words; body language and tone of speech are also key factors in reading what someone actually means behind what they are actually saying. Sometimes that misinterpretation is just that- no offence intended, which goes back to the point that not everyone ticks the same way. But there are times when it is quite clear that offence is the sole intention intended- Trolling.
Simply put, trolling is the act of eliciting a negative emotion by searching the net or social media and saying or posting something so outrageous that it raises a negative response in the vast majority of reasonable people which the troll can then capitalise on for their own and other troll’s amusement. The troll will very often state that they are a bastion for free speech, but the troll will shift stances on any issue to the one that will cause the most outrage. Most of you will have come across a troll somewhere on line. Trolling can amount to anything from stalking online, visiting grieving family websites and posting distasteful or offensive comments, or even setting up sites themselves. Queen of the trolls in the UK is Katie Hopkins, a woman who has forged a career in being a celebrity troll, but she deserves a whole blog post of her own and I wont delve too much on here.
Recently the phrase “It’s only banter!” has come into popular phraseology. This seems to be a blanket term for any comment or post designed to cause offence, but not enough offence to elicit some form of legal action again the source of the comment. But those that bandy it around very often are not the best judge of what banter actually is. As I write, there was news yesterday that 6 members of HSBC bank were sacked due to re-enacting an ISIS inspired execution on a team building course. Banter? Harmless fun? They clearly thought so at the time, even posting it online before getting cold feet and removing it, but not before someone who did not find it in the least bit funny, saw and it ended up on the front page of a national paper.
These guys were probably not terrorists and were probably not have even been terrorist sympathisers, but their banter was a very cliquey one that not a lot of people would find funny. It’s like when you watch the apprentice around about week four and some of the business brains suddenly think they can make a comedy video or advertising reel that will rival the Farley brothers in terms of humour and originality. Swept along by each other, and their growing bond, they seem unable to take a step backwards to see that what they are making is usually drivel. Very often the first they know is when they show it to the prospective clients who sit stony faced while the team sniggers.Even then sometimes its only in the boardroom when Sir Alan fires the wanabee filmmaker that they realise they’ve made a huge error in judgement.
Simply put, in the anniversary of 7/7 and a few weeks after a massacre in Tunisia it was never going to end well for these HSBC staff. Their biggest mistake was in thinking that something like that online would not cause a backlash at the best of times let alone when emotions are running high and 30 british holidaymakers are coming home in coffins instead of return flights. Sometimes, we all need to take a step back, look at the bigger picture and lay our banter down for the sake of not causing offence. Then maybe the internet, at least the non dark part, would be a nicer place for all.