Thursday, 15 December 2011

In defence of the young

In 1899 they were accused of blocking the pavement forcing decent people into the road in Derby St, swearing and playing cards on the Pickwood Rec
In 1954 they were accused of intimidating passengers on the Cheddleton Bus, vandalising municipal flowerbeds and engaging in a mass punch up in Haywood St over the Easter weekend.

In 2011 they are accused of laziness, lacking a work ethic, according to local businessman, drunkenness, illiteracy and being ignorant.

In the three instances the accused are young people as portrayed by older people.

Its time for a defence to be launched.

I work with young people; I know of them and in the course of an ordinary day will come in contact with young people. Most I know in these settings are perfectly fine, courteous, hard working, amusing and to use the jargon of the time" customer focused". I am sure that some young people behave badly as I know that there are some old people act outrageously. The old man last summer who swore vilely at a bus driver and thumped the side of the bus in Longsdon is one side of the equation as is the skinhead who helped me with a buggy in which lay my sleeping baby daughter in Lime St the other.

Could it be that young people today, as they were yesterday, are being deliberately misunderstood by politicians and journalists who wish to use them to suit their own ends? Do the young serve a useful function as a scapegoat for the inadequacies of their elders?

I am sure that if we consider the question of the alleged uselessness of the British teenager we can all think of individual acts of kindness carried out by them. I don’t envy the young today in a country which has burdened them with debt and in which over a million find themselves unemployed. And they are being written off. Yet they had nothing to do with this crisis and the young will picking up the bill for a long time.

 This crisis is caused by the uselessness of the old.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

The cult of celebrity


The Levenson Inquiry into the British press is daily producing outrageous examples of the brutal intrusiveness of some journalists. The most forceful and excoriating of the celebrities called to give evidence is probably Hugh Grant who gave a grim catalogue of incidents where his family’s privacy had been violated. Grant has been part of the celebrity scene for some time. In fact a friend of mine saw him and the recently deceased director Ken Russell in the Izaac Walton Hotel in Ilam when they were making the film " Lair of the White Worm" in 1988. It’s not Russell’s greatest work it has to be said. Of course Russell himself later achieved a dubious distinction by being in the 2007 Celebrity Big Brother.
I have only occasionally been in the presence of a celebrity. I sat opposite Francis Rossi in a Manchester hotel and saw Joe McGann in "Coffee Beans" in Leek. On both times I gave them a wide berth. I suspect my stance is untypical. The usual response it seems is like that I witnessed on a train on the Wirral when Dean Sullivan aka Jimmy Corkhill of Brookside sat next to me- his after shave smelled nice it has to be said. The attitude of the other travellers on an overcrowded train was if a God from Olympus had descended. I was staggered by how awe-struck people seemed to be.
My apathy towards celebrity is even more amplified when it comes to royalty. In this I wear a plain republican coat. I did not come out in the street when Princess Diana visited Wigan when I worked there. Several years later I saw many paparazzi besiege a restaurant in Soho where she was dining. I cannot help but think that if everyone took my attitude to her then she would have had a happier and longer life. My indifference to the whole cult of celebrity is so marked that I cannot think of anything more hellish than Hello magazine. And I believe that the popular obsession with stars and stardom is corrosive to public life as the Levenson Inquiry is revealing.