If Found, Please Resuscitate

I just wanted to write a quick piece about the proposal to close Huddersfield Royal Infirmary’s A&E Department. In a word: don’t.

There doesn’t have to be just one way. 

I don’t often get on my high horse about things – let’s be honest, I barely blog at all – but this feels like a political horse worth mounting.

It’s OK, as long as we still have our dignity.

I don’t want to get into the politics of this decision, namely because I’m not really clever enough to comprehend them. But also because here isn’t the place to remind people that the poor management of the NHS, by the government, means that a national service we should be both proud of and thankful for, has been decimated and left to fester.

Nevertheless, the fact this decision is down to the financial mishandling of other hospitals, is frankly ridiculous.

So no, I’m not getting into the politics of it. I just want to mention that this issue – above everything – is about saving lives.

We’re obliviously fortunate to live in a country where everyone has access to free healthcare. That right is gradually being eroded away, and when all is said and done, this issue is not about tax money wasted or even, I’m sad to say, doctors, nurses and staff losing jobs, but it’s about endangering the lives of anyone who cannot afford to pay for healthcare. Which in these austeratorial (not actual word) times, counts for a great many of us

If Huddersfield A&E closes, it will put thousands of lives at risk. To go without access to emergency treatment on your door step, is not a shame, it’s a social injustice. No one – rich or poor – should be without that basic human right.

Santa’s more rebellious phase.

Of course, the idea is to move the emergency department to Calderdale Hospital but that’s no solution at all. It simply puts greater strain on already vulnerable people, at moments in their lives when time may be of the essence. If you think that sounds overly dramatic, this eye-opening article from the brilliant Standard Issue should show how, literally, minutes can count.

It’s a dangerous game to treat A&E departments like pieces on a Monopoly board, moving them round until the payments feel more manageable. For a start, Monopoly is dull as shit, but at least it doesn’t end with a string of dead bodies – overlooked elderly people in need of care, young vulnerable infants more susceptible to illnesses, and yes, even us averagely healthy people who can’t be trusted not to fall down stairs or bite the insides of our cheek. We all need protecting.

Who knew teething had a down side?

None of this is to mention the considerable strain that this decision would put onto Calderdale Hospital.

Now, in the interest of transparency, I live in Halifax. However, my reason for caring is not because I might have to wait a little bit longer when I go for my bi-annual stomach pumping, but because hundreds of thousands of people – in Huddersfield and Halifax – are at substantial risk. That’s in excess of 250,000* people who could find themselves needing assistance in one facility.

I urge you to do what you can to support this fight – at the very least, please sign the petition to stop this decision. (That rhymed, it wasn’t meant to.)

You may not see the point if you’re cosy and safe in Gateshead, or sitting in your ivory tower in Surrey, or even on a weekend away in Nantwich. The fact is, there’s also a proposal to close the Trafford General Hospital Emergency Care Unit – and no doubt others – so what’s to stop them closing more?

You can be sure that the vulnerable staff members at Huddersfield probably won’t find work in Halifax, and that any money saved during the closure will not then be ploughed into improving the level of care available to patients. The inevitable truth is, hospitals will become even more overcrowded, while remaining chronically underfunded and woefully under-staffed.

My heart goes out to all nurses, doctors, junior doctors and NHS staff in general. They’re at the front line of a job most of us wouldn’t, and couldn’t, do. Yet, if these proposals are the sign of what’s to come, pretty soon they won’t have jobs to worry about. Then the country really will be a dangerous place to live.

I pray for our inner cheeks.

 

Please sign the petition to stop the closure of Huddersfield A&E department.

 

*I Googled these figures so don’t quote me, it also claims that Leslie Nielsen has died again.

The First Post of the Rest of My Life

Starting off in style. Again.

So, I return to this neglected wasteland of self-promotion.

Sorry for the wait.

At the moment, I don’t really have much to report – other than this marks a point in time, where I feel I should start documenting my journey as I attempt to re-double my efforts and make a damn good go of this creative stuff. Hence the new-look site.

It’s not that I haven’t been trying this last couple of years, I have. And yet, for numerous reasons whenever I get a sniff of success or start to feel like things are heading in the ‘right’ direction (wherever that is), my nerves tend to kick in and my self-doubt really makes itself at home. So it is that, I start to doubt my abilities and convictions which, for someone wanting to sustain a creative career, is a bit of a shitter.

Anyway, I don’t intend this post to be too long – or indeed overly in-depth about my struggles with motivation and confidence, but suffice to say, I really feel like I’m starting to knuckle down now and making a determined effort to achieve the things I want to achieve. So here goes…

Of course, none of this is to suggest I’ll get any better at updating this bloody thing, but if I do, well then – huzzah!

.

The Roles of Gender in Peep Show

Mark and Jeremy, played by David Mitchell and Robert Webb.
Mark and Jeremy, played by David Mitchell and Robert Webb.

Hello.

Long time no blog. Apologies for that, but without a higher level of authority demanding I churn out posts; it’s really never going to happen. If you’d like to see how well I manage on a tighter rein; please see my weekly Giggle Beats column.

With that, on to the reason for this post.

Following a brief Twitter exchange, I happened to mention that, during my university years, I wrote an essay on the representations of masculinity in the sitcom Peep Show. I won’t lie; I’d been to the pub, I’d had a few and just wanted to sound clever. The fact I was boasting about my film-theorising skills probably tells you everything you need to know about the sort of drunk I become.

Anyway, a couple of people were interested in reading it – more so than at the time of writing it – so I’ve reproduced the essay below, including terrible grammar and severe predilection for the word ‘fundamentally’. I warn you; it’s a tad pretentious; but I was young, naive and excited to be taking a course titled ‘ Cultural Identities and British Television’, so what do you expect?

I got a First for it, which I’m still incredibly proud of. It may seem like bragging, but I failed the next module I took because I spent the entire word count of my essay referring to a noted female film theorist as ‘he’. This was very much the peak of my achievements.

Without further ado, here it is. Apologies for any and all ham-fisted descriptions of feminism.

‘Discuss masculinity and the roles of gender in Peep Show’

‘Peep Show’ is a modern single camera sitcom from Channel 4; it started in 2003 and is currently still being commissioned. It is a modern take on the ‘buddy’ sitcoms such as ‘The Odd Couple’ (1970), ‘The Likely Lads’ (1964) and ‘Men Behaving Badly’ (1992). Its key defining feature is that it is shot entirely from the point of view’s (POV’s) of the characters and that the audience is privy to the inner thoughts of the two main protagonists; Mark and Jeremy. The programme manages to play with the juxtaposition of what people think and what they say. It is an essential text to look at in regards to masculine representations as it offers new insight into not only how men act and behave but a more brutally honest reflection of the thought processes they make. As Mills (2008) states; ‘…It allows the audience access to Mark and Jeremy’s interior monologues only, thus focusing attention on the difficulties of particular kinds of masculinity’ The programme tackles, albeit comically, subjects such as racism, sexuality and disability from the perspective of somebody in the modern cultural climate. It toys with the difficulty that comes from trying to handle these taboo subjects in an acceptable way in public, and in particular attempts to paint a realistic picture of what it means to be masculine in today’s society.

The role of masculinity has changed dramatically over the past forty years, with men finding it increasingly harder to position themselves in society. This was an after effect of the rise of feminism, as women’s roles found a more dominant place and voice in the world it led to a complete turn around on the archaic idea of men as the providers and the world as a patriarchal society. While this was certainly a step in the right direction for women it left men unsure of their new place in the vastly changing world. If women were now confident and independent enough to be their own person and equal men in all manner of fields, from the work arena and socially to at home where did this leave the men? Even today this is a question that still remains fundamentally unanswered.

Social theorists believe that ‘Masculinity is the sum of men’s characteristic ‘practices’ at work, with their families, in their communities, and in the groups and institutions to which they belong.’ Edley and Wetherell, (1995, p.71) and these are precisely the areas that we view the characters of Peep Show through. We are present to every aspect of their world and the numerous personas that they need to adopt in order to survive in each. ‘Peep Show’ offers an up to date representation of masculinity, which is at once unsure of itself and constantly contradictory. Mark and Jeremy would at first glance seem to embody the binary opposites of masculine depictions. Jeremy the lay about ‘creative’ that begs and borrows his way through life foolishly convincing himself it’s in the name of art – deriving from the growth of 90’s Lad culture, and Mark the sophisticated, intelligent achiever that has his eye on the latest trends – a result of hegemonic masculinity and the more modern concept of the feminine male  – a reaction itself from 80’s ‘body culture’. They are as Mills states the ‘puritan and the playboy’, but as the series unfolds we begin to realise that it is never as clear cut as this. The two constantly flounder between these bench marks of masculinity never quite sure where they fit in, and this fundamentally is what lies at the heart of the modern male’s dilemma. It is not so much a case of what is masculine? but what is the acceptable version of masculinity to purport? So Mark constantly tries to be the ultimate modern man, aware of the needs to be emotionally aware and openly sensitive while being dependable and physically protecting but in fact the audience see how crippled he is by the embarrassment he suffers when it these types of subjects rear their head. One major factor resulting in this dilemma is the fact that Mark and Jeremy don’t really like or trust each other. ‘Friends give us a sense of belonging and provide emotional support. People without such relationships are more vulnerable to a variety of problems’ Spangler (1992, p .95). Spangler goes on to say that ‘most men expressed a fear of appearing homosexual.’ (1992, p.96) This shows that a lack of true friendship results in a vulnerability in individuals which in this case reflects Mark and Jeremy’s failure to possess a comfortable and honest masculinity, however this reluctance to attempt companionship is a by product of the hegemonic masculinity they have been subjected to from previous sources. Afraid to show any form of compassion for one another as previous incarnations of masculinity (the majority of which will have been through television) have deemed this to be unacceptable or at least showing weakness in character. This shows that the masculine roles that have gone before are just as much a cause of the masculine crisis as feminism.

As it stands ‘Peep Show’ represents every aspect of masculine identity without ever fully conforming or adhering to any one specific form. The characters undergo a vast number of attempts to be viewed in different ways. This plays in to the theory of masculinity as performance; ‘masculinity becomes seen as an act rather than an essence. It exists as a set of lines and stage directions which all males have to learn in order to perform.’ Edley and Wetherell, (1995, p.71). As the intellectual, the sensitive, the sophisticated or the butch and body conscious each attempt is undermined by the characters inability to fully agree with the accepted role. Mark attempts to appear more health conscious and fit by taking up jogging, this clearly harks back to the narcissistic urge of the body culture, but finds that he is all too aware of being ‘found out’ as not actually being that way. Mills discusses in his essay on Peep Show and the Surveillance Society the principal factor in humour arising from the characters is there inherent awareness of how others perceive them. This while siding with the idea of a society that is constantly being monitored also supports the idea of masculinity crisis. Mark and Jeremy can never fully fit into what a male ‘should be’ because they are too worry about how that looks. They are unsure of it themselves and this only makes it harder because they don’t want to be seen as being unsure. This is one factor that is amplified by the modern style of the sitcom that was previously missing in shows past. Gary and Tony in ‘Men Behaving Badly’ were happy to be the beer swilling louts they were because like most traditional comedy characters they possessed a blissful ignorance. In ‘Peep Show’ Mark and Jeremy purchase too much self awareness to the point of crippling themselves with it. With each new attempt to been seen in a different way they chip away at what true identity they have left leaving them completely unsure of the person they are let alone the person they are trying to be. As Davies and Harre (1990, p.46) suggest ‘An individual emerges through the process of social interaction, not as a relatively fixed end product but as one who is constituted and reconstituted through the various discursive practices in which they participate.’

In many ways the characters of Johnson and Superhans present the ultimate in terms of masculinity for Mark and Jeremy. Both are comfortable and in control of their own perceptions of what masculinity is. Johnson is the sophisticated and successful alpha male, while Superhans is an opinionated and vulgar ‘free spirit’ who constantly seems to have success with women and some minor success in the music business compared to Jeremy. Both Mark and Jeremy are left looking up to these idols of the male form, somehow blinkered to their imperfections, Johnson is a misogynist and dictator at work and Superhans is an avid drug user and pervert. Yet it could be said that these two clear examples of types of masculinity are shown to be wrong or at least not fully formed and that modern masculinity needs to be more than just one element. Johnson and Superhans show weakness in character as a result of their dogmatic ways, Johnson is discovered to be an alcoholic and Superhans is a constant drug abuser driven to pits of depression and paranoia. So maybe with the characters of Mark and Jeremy being unsure of what it means to be masculine they are somehow saving themselves from worse dilemmas of following one believed route.

One major criticism of masculinity in television is that the form is dominated by male opinion that most if not all programming is subject to the ‘male gaze’ this is where programmes view characters and situations from a male orientated perspective. This was true even of programmes with a much higher female demographic; audiences were viewing everything from that of a dominant male so that women were objectified and dominant hedonistic men were viewed either as aspirational figures or as competition. Meehan (1983) concluded that the ‘presentation of women always in relation to men, cheerleaders to the male players, is a male vision, the product of a medium in which male creators have predominated.’ One thing ‘Peep Show’ does is challenge this idea. While it is instantly easy to say that the text only serves to perpetuate this concept, after all we view everything from the male character’s point of views it also allows us to view them from others perspectives. So while we only hear Mark and Jeremy’s thoughts on subjects, when they provide social faux pas we also get a look at the situation from other characters around. So in the case of Toni in series one and two while we know Jeremy views her very much as an object of lust, when we view him from her POV we can instantly identify with her feeling of power and control over this love sick ‘puppet’ which her overt sexuality allows her.

There are a range of female characters on offer in Peep Show from mainstays to one offs and transient characters and they, it could be fair to say, offer more of an impact on the lives of Mark and Jeremy than any of the other male characters. One major narrative of the show is Mark and Jeremy’s attempts to find love, romance and sexual conquests. Mark is constantly jumping to the conclusion that he has found ‘the one’ within minutes of meeting any woman that shows a hint of interest while Jeremy is completely controlled by the suggestion of sexual intercourse even in some cases if he doesn’t reciprocate the attraction as in the case of Sophie’s mother in series four. Sophie too finds herself promoted above Mark in series two, which immediately opens up debate on the link between sex and status. This would seem to place the women in the driving seat which, apart from certain female led sitcoms (‘Absolutely Fabulous’, ‘Pulling’), is very rare in the genre. This could be seen as a refreshing element to the show and is also a clear indicator to the difference in gender roles. The males have yet to find an image and place in society but the females seem to have worked out their roles, successfully juggling their achievements and status’ with their need to still be regarded as attractive and feminine.

So Peep Show does seem to offer an honest and frank representation of masculinity and the different roles of gender in the Naughties. While its principal aim is to subtract humour from the situations encountered by its protagonists, a lot of the humour and the situations themselves arise as a result of the crisis of masculinity and clashing with those, primarily female, who have a firmer grasp on their role. Unlike shows such as ‘The Professionals’ (1977) or ‘Men Behaving Badly’ it does not subscribe to a singular ideal of the male, instead it provides an amalgam of personas and roles, encompassing all manner of perceived masculinity. The crisis of masculinity is not so much an era that males are going through but, in fact, the modern depiction of masculinity itself. All modern men are in crisis; it’s only Mark and Jeremy that let the world in on theirs.

References

Davies, B. and Harre, R. (1990) ‘Positioning: The discursive production of selves.’ Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 20(1): 43-64

Mills, B. (2008) ‘Paranoia, Paranoia, everybody’s coming to get me:’ Peep Show, sitcom and the surveillance society.’ Screen 49 (1), pp. 51-64

Edley, N. and Wetherell, M. (1995) ‘Men in Perspective: Practice, Power and Identity.’ Cornwall: Prentice Hall/Harvester Wheatsheaf

Meehan, D. (1983). Ladies of the Evening: Women characters of prime-time television. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow

Spengler, L. (1992) ‘Buddies and Pals: A History of Male Friendship of Prime Time Television’, in Craig, S. (ed) Men, Masculinity and the Media. California: Sage Publications, pp 95-96

Bibliography:

MacKinnon, K. (2003) Representing Men: Maleness and Masculinity in the Media. London: Arnold, pp 65-86

Armstrong, J and Bain, S. (2008). Peep Show: The Scripts and More. London: Channel 4 books.

Whannel, G., ‘The Lads and the Gladiators: Traditional Masculinities in a Postmodern Televisual Landscape’, in E. Buscombe (ed) British Television: A Reader (Oxford: Clarendon, 2000), pp. 290-302.

Hunt, L. ‘Drop everything… including your pants’: The Professionals and hard action TV’ in Osgerby, B. and Gough-Yates, A (eds), Action TV: Tough Guys, Smooth Operators and Foxy Chicks (London: Routledge, 2001), pp.127-142.

Hollows, J.  (2003). Oliver’s Twist: Leisure, Labour and Domestic Masculinity in the Naked Chef. International Journal of Cultural Studies. 6 (2) pp.229-248

Jolly Mixtures Forever

Hello,

Welcome to the third invite to the third night of the third instalment of the sketch night – Jolly Mixtures. (For the keen-eyed amongst you will have noticed I’ve been titling these invites with the Batman-numerical system.)

First off; a big thank you to everyone who came along to the first two, the second in particular was a brilliant turnout and way beyond what we expected. We hope everyone enjoyed it and will be back for this month’s instalment, which is on Wednesday 29th May.

We promise the same mixture of sketches, characters, songs and general idiocy with the wonderful Jolly Birds – Rob Gilroy, Graham Oakes, Nicola Redman and Amy Gledhill.

So come on down to the Caroline Street Social Club, Caroline Street, Saltaire, on Wednesday 29th May, doors: 7:30, show: 8:30 – for £3 worth of fun, frolics and sketch-erly goodness. Part of your One-a-Month.

See you all there.

Jolly Mixtures Returns

Jolly Mixtures logo

Jolly Mixtures logo

We’re back!

After huge popular demand (a couple of people couldn’t make the first one) Jolly Mixtures returns for a second night of sketch-based hi-jinx and mirth.

All the regulars return – Amy Gledhill, Graham Oakes, Nicola Redman and Rob Gilroy – with a new batch of sketches, songs and characters. Please come and support this new night as it promises to keep getting better.

Featuring writers who have contributed to BBC Two, E4, BBC Radio One, Radio Two, Radio Four and Radio Four Extra and performers who have been named ones to watch by a variety of people including the local constabulary.

Same time – 8:00pm (doors 7:30)

Same place – Caroline Street Social Club, Saltaire

Different date (obviously) 18th April, 2013.

If you couldn’t make the first night or simply thought “What the hell have I been invited to now? Bloody social media.” then please reconsider as Jolly Mixtures is shaping up to be a great new monthly sketch comedy night of fun and frolics.

Don’t forget to share this with your friends, even if you can’t make it share it with people who may like it. Alternatively share it with people who will hate it, just to wind them up.

Jolly Mixtures

Jolly Mixtures

Jolly Mixtures

Here’s a quick announcement for a new Bradford-based sketch night I am running. I’d be ever so delighted if you would read it, pass it on and attend. Wouldn’t that be nice? Thank you.

Jolly Mixtures is a night of brand new sketch, character and musical comedy.

Starring: Rob Gilroy, Amy Gledhill, Graham Oakes and Nicola Redman.

Do you like laughing? No? What’s wrong with you, you big misery guts. Sort yourself out. All those that do like a giggle, though – step this way. Jolly Mixtures is a brand new night of the best sketch, character and musical comedy that Bradford (and the surrounding areas) has to offer.

Featuring a cast of writers who have written for the likes of Tom Deacon’s Road Trip (Radio One), Dave Gorman’s Pub Olympics (Radio 2), The Now Show (Radio 4), The News Quiz (Radio 4) and Newsjack (Radio 4 Extra).

As well as performers that have gone on to be crowned; Funny Women Finalist, Laughing Horse New Act of the Year Competition Semi Finalist , contributor to BBC’s Jesting About and ‘Best Male Comedian’ – Whitley Bay sixth form prom.

So what’s not to like? Unless you happen to hate sketch comedy in which case this might not be for you. But it probably will be because, let’s face it, who doesn’t like sketch comedy?

So please come on down to the Caroline Street Social Club, Saltaire on the 14th of March and support the new night – only £3 in!

March 14th, 2013
8:00pm till 10:30pm
Doors: 7:30pm
Caroline Street Social Club, Saltaire, BD18 3JZ
Entry: £3

Jolly Mixtures – ‘Mixtures’ because you won’t know what you’re going to see next and ‘Jolly’ ‘cos it’ll be funny and that.

Is There Anything There?

Is there anything more frustrating than a faulty wi-fi connection? Surely not. Even the prisoners in solitary confinement stare at three little bars less than I do when I’m trying to get mine working. It’s hardly an advancement in society; it’s the technological equivalent of taking two steps forward and fifty steps backwards. Like inventing the wheel and deciding it would look much better if you squared-off the edges. Nothing is as dull as waiting for it to right itself – it’s the most impressive form of torture there is. If you were extracting information from the enemy; you’d better forcing them to try and keep a secure broadband connection to Virgin Media, than you would be using water boarding. No other activity brings about the same desire to self-harm as much as this.

And why is it that when you urgently need to ‘log on’ – to send an important email or find the name of that actor with the moustache in Midsummer Murders – that it then decides to be even more temperamental than usual? Having a wireless connection is like have a petulant child; only, it’s a child that somehow has access to all the information you could ever want in the world, ever. And won’t give it to you until you work out why it’s sulking.

One of the most annoying things is that, when you’re working; there is no greater distraction than the internet. You can while away whole days looking at YouTube videos of cats performing the Macarena, or spying on distant relatives through Facebook and passing judgement on a wedding you weren’t invited to. Before you know it; more than a week has gone by and you have nothing to show for it except a couple of Amazon purchases and a few dubious Wikipedia facts about Louis XIV. It’s a wonder Julian Assange leaked anything at all, I’d have spent too much time watching auctions on eBay; never plucking up the courage to bid on them, myself. All these distractions, all this information that, moments before you’d switched on your computer; you had no desire to know, suddenly become more important than sorting your online banking or finishing that piece of work before the deadline. And yet; when your wi-fi signal breaks, nothing takes up more of your time than trying to fix it. Now, that may only amount to pressing ‘repair’ every few minutes, but suddenly you are unable to think of anything else. Any capacity for thought becomes impossible until you can sort it out, even if the one thing you’ll do once it’s sorted, is force yourself to avoid the internet.

So that’s what I’ve been doing whilst writing this piece – opening ‘My Network Connections’ and staring at the blank screen. I have re-clicked, re-wired and re-shaken everything and I still can’t get a response. It’s like watching the two leads from Kramer vs. Kramer try and make amends. It isn’t going to happen. Much like a scab, if you leave it alone; it will eventually sort itself out. And so, devoid of distraction, I have no choice but to do some work. Curse you Richard Branson!

From 17th October, 2012