Allow me to be ‘political’ to start with today, please.
Over the last few weeks with campaigns such as Stephen’s Story, we’ve seen the power of the hashtag as it was used throughout social media to raise over £3 million for Teenage Cancer. It was heartwarming to see just how involved people became, moved by the story of Stephen Sutton, and how social media was used for the power of good. During the last few days another campaign has started up – #bringbackourgirls, which refers to the kidnap in Nigeria of more than 200 schoolgirls by the Islamic fundamentalist group Boko Haram (I thought the newsreader said Procol Harum the first time I heard it). But if people think this will have any effect, I think they are sadly mistaken. Abubakar Shakau will hardly be shaking in his boots because a few famous women around the world hold up a hashtag sign, will he? He holds women in contempt for heaven’s sake! I’m sure that if you asked him why he kidnapped them, he would answer Bill-Clinton-style “Because I could!”
And, oh the irony of the second hashtag photo campaign – #realmendon’tbuygirls! Many of them are rappers – you know – the REAL MEN who sing about slapping your bitch and fucking your whore in every song. Most of the men who are plastering their photo on Facebook and Twitter have women following them because they have money. How many male ‘celebrities’ would be virgins or regularly using prostitutes (real men don’t buy girls???) as their only means of sexual contact if they weren’t rich or in the public eye?
What is Michelle Obama doing holding up a sign and taking a selfie? Her husband is the President of the United States. Wouldn’t she be better talking to him? The rest of the world – and that includes Islamic countries – should tell Nigeria they will face a trade and aid embargo unless they start to do something because up to now, the Nigerian government and Goodluck Jonathan have been happy to do nothing. And why should they? After all, they’re only girls. And girls are put on Earth to look after, obey and serve men, aren’t they? And because they haven’t been prepared to act against internal terrorism, Boko Haram has grown stronger.
And where are all these ‘peace-loving’ muslims we’re always being told about every time there’s an atrocity? Why aren’t they denouncing it Why aren’t they in the streets shouting ‘Not in my name!’ The answer, dear reader, is because Islam is a religion based on misogyny; it is led by men who still live in the stone age and nobody is prepared to stand up to them. And in Africa, even among non-Muslims, women and girls are second-class citizens. There are many things I dislike about France and Belgium, but the one thing I really admire them for is the fact that religion plays no part whatsoever in public life. Public life is SECULAR. That means that you’re free to practise what you like in your own home but in public you don’t and I completely agree with that. There is talk now of letting muslim students take their exams in the morning as they will be disadvantaged in the afternoons as they will be weak from fasting as it’s Ramadan. Give me a break! How much further can we bend over backwards for a people who take intolerance to another level while demanding the whole world is tolerant of them? And who are happy to let people such as Michael Adebolajo, Michael Adebolawe and Abubakar Shakau commit atrocities in the name of Islam? To speak out against this isn’t to be islamophobic. Too many people play the racist and islamophobic card. We live in 21st Century and women are more than half the world’s population yet still aren’t treated with respect and as equals. Meanwhile the celebrity-selfie with hashtag continues and the girls are still missing.
On a personal level, I’ve had a really hectic time. Last weekend Sweet Lady was free on kindle and the uptake was great. I’m glad I took the advice given by Nicola May and Kim Nash because I reached no 31 in Contemporary Writers on the Amazon list which has, hopefully, raised my author profile and will lead to more sales! And I’ve now got a readership in Australia and US.
I’ve been working on Single All the Way, too. It’s funny that I’m only about a quarter of the way in yet already the story lines I had are changing and morphing into something else. I love the way a novel grows. It takes on a life of its own and almost writes itself.
I was very pleasantly surprised by a certain Mr Gary Barlow! I watched the programme on him – When Corden Met Barlow – and he has to be the nicest man in the World, doesn’t he? If not, at least the nicest man in show-business. So very talented and living proof that revenge is a dish best served cold. He took all the knocks and insults from people who have less talent in their whole bodies than he has in his little finger yet look at him now! The only thing that spoilt the programme was Corden’s inability to let the spotlight fall on Gary; he had to keep on trying to be funny. But Gary Barlow? Love him!
And on Tuesday afternoon I saw another celeb. As I left Stages Studios I saw a big group of people and in the middle a familiar blonde mop – Boris Johnson. He was on a tour of Romford backing the local Conservative candidates for the forthcoming elections. He was full of his usual bonhomie and happily posed for pictures. Shame a man in his position can’t afford a comb.
Thursday brought a casting. It’s one I really would like to get. The money’s not great but it would be a lot of exposure as it’s an ad for a supermarket that’s going out during the World Cup. And Friday brought a day’s work. It was stills for a medical company. Now I’ve never done stills before and it was a real experience – a very pleasant one. I arrived early – because I am very professional! – and so the make-up artist gave me a manicure before making me look actually very nice. What a pampering! And then drinking coffee in a big comfy armchair in a luxury Winnebago while I was waiting to be called. We were shooting in the street in Kew – lovely place! – and it was quite nerve-wracking. The photographer barked orders at me, such as ‘Slower!’, ‘Stop smiling!’, ‘Turn your face away from the sun!”, and I’m not used to and do not take kindly to being barked at, but he was actually quite nice in spite of that. Just a different way of working to film or stage direction. I enjoyed myself and that’s what it’s all about.