Murderous charity.

Today I accidentally rang a murderer.

Yes I had a similar reaction.  His wife was lovely. She spoke softly and with a countenance that was completely at odds with the news she delivered. Its not every day that you ring the supporter of a conservation charity to hear  something that chills you.

‘He isn’t available…may I ask who is calling?’

‘Oh yes he loves your magazines. I take them to him when I visit, he says it is almost like being outside again. You see he’s in prison, so there’s that.  It was a Chinese girl you see, they had an argument and he hit her with the car.’

‘The pictures make him smile’.

As much as I hate to admit it, I very nearly hung up. Have you ever had the feeling that cement has been poured into your bloodstream? That is the only way I can think to describe it. Everything stopped working. My fingers would not click. My lips would not form syllables. Breathing shuddered. Then I informed her it was lovely to hear and we will make a note on the record. I hung up and opted out of further contact. I logged my phone and walked to the toilet. I threw up into that white bowl and tried to work out just why this freaked me out so badly.

My job is generally safe and sanitised. The most you will hear is abuse about your audacity, or the fact that the charity is not doing what the supporter wishes. Occasionally you get incidents of blistering stupidity or stunningly racist remarks, but these are often from people who just don’t realise that ‘darkie kid’ is perhaps not the best term for an African child, or that ‘those slopes in Fucky-whatsit’ is a less than honourable way to refer to people still recovering from nuclear abandonment. Actual evil, malicious people are rarities. And this wasn’t even aimed at me.  Consolidating the two sides of this person, the man who I looked up at home and discovered to have run a girl over twice because of a spat and a mild mannered charity giver who at one point must have cared about the world he was in…that is just such a strain. I wanted to revoke his right to sponsor us.

After all, call me prejudiced, but why the hell should he be given even the simulation of freedom? Blue skies and whispering glades are not there to be used as an escape from a grey box you put yourself in. Do not paper the insides of your mind with pleasantries you get from people who don’t know what you are.  I sicken  at the thought that his wife will on her next visit, mention the fact a nice young girl rang up and thanked him for his support, that she is glad to hear he enjoys the magazine, that the charity is thankful for his support.

I feel  grubby.

Later I was sat in the pub with friends. I considered telling them and asking their opinion, to judge whether their reactions were as visceral as mine were.  I refrained however – my gut reaction seems too big too overblown and the fear of them judging me for my own reading of the situation stopped me. So I will keep it here and try to forget the day I judged a man I didn’t know by his crime and actions, and found him on balance, wanting.

Who killed Amy Winehouse?

In the last few days, my generation has finally joined the great and the good decades before us. We have finally constructed our own entry to the 27 club. Forever 27. It has a lovely ring to it, does it not? Suitably romantic and yet tragically desperate, one would think it is a marketing gimmick that exists for no other reason than to appeal to the dissolute youth of today. You know the ones. The ‘emotional’ ones who not only correctly use the word ennui to describe their day to day feelings but actually mean it.

 Amy Winehouse and her death seems to me to be much more than the tragic decline of a talented singer. The fact that the time and date of her death played right into the hands of that well known statistical spike just places the cherry neatly on the cake. She was a young girl that was contorted and moulded by the press and industry to represent something more than the sum of her parts. The intense searing fame she had to endure no doubt was a major contributing factor to her eventual dramatic denouement – but, I put the question to you, how much of a part did you play in her death?

 Before you bluster and bite back, with ‘nothing, I never even met her!’ , consider this. How many times did you read a newspaper column that devoted inch upon sordid inch to her decline and fall? Did you ever read a magazine that delivered to its readers the glossy double page spread  that paid homage to her desperation? Watch the coverage of her final tumultuous shows? Comment on any of the numerous articles about her lifestyle, loves, finances, holidays, bikinis, tattoos, pub crawls, death ? Think about it. I imagine you did.

 The liberties taken with her privacy and life are painful to think about now. Looking back there are things and incidents that could so easily have been avoided. How much would it have pained a journalist to take the decision not to give in to the voyeuristic tendencies of their editors just once? Any of the magazines and columnists could have decided against exploiting this girl to sell their products. Every word and picture printed, every time she opened her door to find flash bulbs in her eyes or tried to get away from the pressures of her life in remote destinations only to find the paparazzi already in residence….another moment that served no reason other than to hurt her.

 Addiction and the downward spiral of the celebrity has become something of a spectator sport these days. It is no longer taboo – indeed track marks and bloody insoles are almost badges of honour. They become inspirational to a certain type of person who craves the validation of their lifestyle that this seems to give. In turn this pushed Amy Winehouse to greater and greater heights. Addiction is not romantic. In fairy-tale parlance, it is a curse. Addiction is not inspirational. It is a ruiner. Addiction is a disease – not a game show that people choose to participate in. Addiction is not a way to sell papers or make money. Yet that is what it is rapidly becoming.

 We all killed Amy Winehouse. We may not have realised it at the time, but we did. Hopefully the lessons learnt from this tragic and unnecessary loss of life are huge and game changing. Perhaps now photographers will think twice about chasing a celebrity addict into the Priory to get that last money shot, or encouraging them to leap to higher levels of depravity all for the sake of good copy.

 However I really doubt this is the case.

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