Tuesday, 28 July 2020

HEARD AND DEPP AND THE REAL BROKEN CHARACTER HERE - THE SUN

Ive been reading about Thinking for the past year.   I've read so many books on how to think, why to think, when to think, why we don't think, long term, short term, big and small thinking, my brain hurts. But much of what I've read has sunk in and I've observed people from a distance, not judged, just observed.

Amongst the really important seminal stuff like the meaning of life, the fact many of us will die over the next 12 months plus, and at the moment 45,000 of us in the UK already have (my computer has an unnerving habit of adding 0000s everywhere and its particularly concerning when I'm talking virus deaths as if it knows something I don't...). , comes stuff that is of no importance and relevance to anyone other than tabloid editors.

Harry and Megan.  Irrelevant but I liked Harry and I liked his mother, and I felt she should have married someone who loved her. I think Charles probably thought that too.   I don't know either of them, don't believe what the media says, and even if I did, still wouldn't care.  Have never watched Suits, but the Argentinian girl I teach yoga to, looks like her.

The Depp/Heard/Sun case is another don't care.  The media has made much of it being Depp vs Heard. Its not. Its Depp vs the Sun - or rather one editor who used to giggle with Lorraine on weekday mornings about gossip in a cheeky chappy sort of way, but happened to call Depp a wife beater or batterer or something to that effect.   Can't remember his name, as would have put it in.

Depp and Heard both come across as very broken dysfunctional characters, but Depp arguably has a lot more talent, and possibly better PR - although Heard has Elon Musk, a living embodiment of how money cannot buy you looks, taste, integrity or hair - which isn't good PR but I suppose there's the money.  And we are dealing with two actors here, who perhaps haven't been or known themselves for a very long time.

I've also been watching the series about the Murdoch Empire and was particularly struck by the interviews of Moseley who feels his son died as a direct result of something Murdoch printed.  I felt for him, his anger and inconsolable grief palpable and substantial, resonating way above everything else in what was sometimes an insubstantial documentary.  Murdoch must have had his lawyers reading and re reading every single line and semi-quaver of back music to edit it into oblivion.   Murdoch lives literally up the road from me, so it's close to home.

The Sun as a construct is a paper which manipulates and is malevolent in its gestures - strategically malevolent and strategically benevolent.  Like a politician if it can't convince, it confuses with its cheeky chappy short sentences and genuinely funny headlines.   Its values are silver (money money money) although it feigns to have gold (care for its readers - its customers are not its readers) and steel values (have integrity, quality journalism).   And being the Sun, called the Sun, it is powerful, life giving, and illuminates all that is good and bad in the world.  Its name taps into the subconscious and tell us we can't survive without it and literally and historically worship it.  Good marketing and branding, just it hides something much darker, which is what the documentary series reveals.
Murdoch has hid behind it, as have his cronies, his editors, his journalists.  And his silver values have seeped into their veins.

The real broken dysfunctional character is that of The Sun.   Directing the two actors on the stage.  Pretending to be what it is not. Relevant.


Monday, 27 July 2020

COME DIE WITH ME - OF MASKS BUBBLES AND BOXES



I feel for the utter cuddle bunny teddy bear loveable professor that is travel guru/editor/expert (whatever the byline typist decides he is that day) Simon Calder.  He has been the Doctor Hilary Jones of the travel industry during this pandemic, with his oversized glasses, like a classier version of snooker player Dennis Taylor 

He got roasted on ITV This Morning, a programme that is of note more by the presenters rather than the subjects they cover, (today chef James Martin couldn't get a link in, so Eammon and Ruth had to have his cake and eat it, although the government of course says we shouldn't do that - politicians are not the only ones giving mixed messages......). 

People/wannabee holiday makers/tourists/travellers are annoyed at the 14 day quarantine that took less than 24 hours to put into effect making a Spanish holiday into a potential hell  (why can't government instigate the good stuff as quickly hey?). Tourists there are left with the option of one week becoming three, although the likelihood is many of them will be made redundant in October anyway when the furloughing runs out. But that's not the point, people were ringing in to This Morning with questions about holidays and what to do, if to go, if not to go, and if to come back and how to come back.

Simon identified a loop hole (anyone could have done it but he voiced it) suggesting travelling to France where there wasn't the fourteen day quarantine rule on route back home.  Up roar ensued (allegedly) when 100s/10s/1000s  angry viewers called in and said they were 'disgusted' at the advice.  'Disgusted'? Really?   Disgusted at Epstein, Weinstein, but Calder? 

Simon as all travel journalists and editors and broadcasters and bloggers and vloggers should be doing is telling it as it is.  Don't go on holiday. Don't fly. You are not wanted. They want your money but don't want you in human form. It has always been that way, as Richard Gere said in Pretty Woman, 'people are nice to money, not to people'.   

This is what this surreal world has revealed. Life has got real for the first time in a very long time.  It has burst bubbles, ripped off masks and brought to the surface everyone's priorities, prejudices, bigotry and inequalities.  All have been well hidden.  They have always been there, just the likes of Trump and the Virus (that could make a good name for an indie rock band), have brought it centre stage. 

By bringing it all to the surface we've taken off the pretensions and social constructs that make up the day to day - making even the necessity of a weekend redundant. So why do we need the social construct of a  holiday huh?

My advice is do not fly.  It is not safe.  It will literally, could be literally the last journey you ever take, literally leaving you breathless.   If you absolutely must, take the train or the car. Know that they don't want you wherever you go, but they do want your money.   Spend and then disappear into your rented cottage or hotel room or caravan or where ever or however you have decided to stay. But identify why you want to holiday in the first place.  You will be exchanging a box for another box, as we are all put into boxes.   Change of view, of energy, of direction.  Change of people, more space, more sun?   People go on holiday for a number of reasons - to have a break - but we have all or most of us have had a break.  So what do you want a break from - the break?  Think about why you are choosing to holiday.   Your life depends on it.


Friday, 17 April 2020

ARE TRAVEL JOURNALISTS REDUNDANT? SARAH TUCKER ARGUES NOT QUITE...BUT THAT WE HAVE LOST OUR WAY



Are the layers unpeeling yet?  
Those of you who thought yourself sorted and settled, have you started to realise that very little is important.  And that as weeks turn to months, the simplicity of life, is to have health, and to have led a good life. Not good as dictated by religions or government or healers, but good as in kind.  It’s a word that is used a lot, especially at the moment by those who are unkind (on TV mostly).  With such huge philosophical conversations going on in the head, I find myself bemused how travel professionals are talking about the future of travel journalism and travel per se. 
The fact no one is travelling (well, they are just they are not getting caught), makes one realise travel for holidays and for anything really is a practical need, and for leisure (holidays and high days) an emotional imperative. The idea behind travel was for it to make us feel better physically and emotionally but over the decades it has tended to make a lot of us stressed, depressed  poor, lonely, anxious, angry and jealous.  So much for wellbeing holidays.   
Like everything else in life, travel trends have been cyclical. Travel has become an aspirational experience, which was initially for good health (spas and to the seaside), to overseas and packaged (guaranteed sun, for families, for singles, for 18 - 30), then aspirational (ski, safari, luxury and four, then five star, then boutique), and achievement (learn to sail, etc) and then back to wellbeing again (spas,…). 
But travel is not necessary as people over the forthcoming months will find out.  Travel is an emotional imperative that lost its way in commercialisation, bringing homogeneity to places which were of interest because they were different.  The soft invasion by the British, meant that restaurants and hotels offered increasingly service and food which catered to mass market appetite, thereby photo shopping out the elements that made the destination worth visiting in the first place. 
The longer the travel ban and isolation continues, the more harm will be done to the industry and although I feel for those who work within it (myself included), it needs to be a fraction, a tiny fraction of the size. Tourism in its present system is not sustainable, it never has been, until climate change is dealt with. Sustainable tourism was an illusion in which the punter was complicit in.  Airlines continue to fly wasteful routes and dump fuel, many destinations have been swarmed with tourists who have done more damage than red ants at a tea party.  And the cruise industry is particularly damaging to the environment.  Corruption and cruelty in continents such as India, South Africa, and the Far East are photo shopped out of shot, as the smiling faces, golden beaches and authentic dream destinations (an oxymoron if ever there was one, are sold to you as though if you don't go there, do that, you will die.   The irony now is if you did, you probably would.  It was ironic that in the Year of the Rat (which 2020 is), that none of the passengers on the cruise liners could leave the metaphorically sinking ships. And it is travel and tourism which has facilitated the spread of the virus.  Travel journalism may not be the ultimate weapon of mass destruction but it's certainly one of them. 
But forget the fact lives are being lost, those in the industry are worried about their jobs. As ever money rules over lives.    
Some in the industry believe the tourism will bounce back after a cure has been found, although I believe humans are the real virus and the earth is trying to get rid of us, as we have been trying to destroy it.  Ironic that the Amazonian rain forest, the lungs of the earth, have been decimated and it is the lungs which is first impacted with this virus. 
Others believe it will be slower to revive as people, or most people will have less money, and travel will become more expensive – so the wealthy who are never touched by recession anyway, will be able to continue to travel although there may not be as many luxury hotels and experiences to enjoy.  
That other misnome, staycations, has also been touted.  And yes, there is so much beauty in our own country, and it won’t just be the British who will be visiting Britain more and Italians Italy, but I remember why people wanted to travel overseas in the first place, and  it was to do with the fact we weren't good value for money and weren’t particularly good at service. As the late Sir Peter Ustinov told me when I interviewed him decades ago, ‘the British think of service as servile. Other cultures, service is innate to their way of life.’
Perhaps absence will make the heart grow fonder, but the raison d’etre behind travel was always to explore the new. 
As a travel journalist and writer, I have always been aware, this was the best way to travel.  To visit places, get paid for it, and meet interesting people, do interesting things, in the shortest possible time, and then share that information on a postcard of TV, radio or print. 
And I quickly realised when producing and presenting the Jazz Fm Travel Guide, the best travel journalists were never travel journalists. They were the likes of political correspondent, the late, Alan Wicker, who travelled to interview politicians and dictators, (are they the same thing?), and Sir David Attenborough who went for the animals and got increasingly huffy about human beings screwing up the planetTheir programmes were never about them, always about the angle. But now ego gets in the way of every travel report on screen and in print, and I learn more about the writer than I do about the place.  Travelling to a new destination does not make you more interesting.  It makes you more curious. 
Travel was never necessary, it was always something we were made to want.  As I have said, it can make you ill as well as make you well.  We increasingly take more emotional baggage with us than actual baggage, and bring more back with us, especially if we are travelling with families who may have differing and heightened expectations (what no internet connection?). 
Travel jouralism was always the ultimate fake news, the perfume counter of journalism where everything was made to look sweet even when it wasn't. Travel pages fed on FOMO, and the grass is greener idea that what you have isn't good enough. It's better in five star, turning left than right on the plane, with the elite bespoke tour operators.   Travel pages hid the dark sides of the destinations.  The Maldives didn’t mention the piles of plastic pollution (don’t for one minute think its not still going on) and the brutality of Indian life, far away from the colour and smiles of the brochures selling a spiritual experience.  Spiritual my butt.  You may go on yoga retreats to India, but we probably do it now more in the UK than they do in India. Their needs are more basic.  Like survival. But now, for a brief time, or however long it is, so is ours.  How does it feel huh? 
The tourism and travel industry has created a Westworld of the globe, where everyone fawns to our needs and it is sanitised for our viewing.   The virus is a wake up call, like the Yul Bryner gun totting robot who refuses to die.  
Tourism was always about the journey, until it wasn’t. It was always about the experience, until it became more about the price and then the cost and then the competition, and then it wasn’t about the journey or even the destination. It was just all about you.  Being seen. Being in the picture. Being the star of your own show. The destination was just the backdrop to the ego.  Travel and tourism lost its way. So did travel journalism.  Now is the time to reboot and stay put until we learn again what it is travel. 
 
Sarah Tucker’s next novella The Redundant Travel Journalist is published in June, just in time for the holidays. 

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

THE HANDMAID'S EMMA

I sat and watched the latest version of Emma tonight.  It had a paper thin cutting edge to it which previous adaptations lacked.  Margaret Atwood was walking across each scene in hobnailed boots.  The image of girls wearing red, aka handmaidens, ready to be at the bidding of the men, was ever present as they walked across the screen, against the backdrop of the most exquisite countryside.  Every image was exquisitely framed, like a huge expensive expansive one dimensional work of art. And the trees, magnificent, the most romantic thing about it.   And then the relationship itself, and plot which seemed to show the shallow spiteful snobbery and class system and elitism of identifying who would be suited to whom.  This was a more honest version and closer to what Austen was describing when she wrote her 'romantic' novels. They were not romantic.  They were not romanced. They were calculated swipes at the ugly gentrified sneering society.  The societies of Bath she abhorred in much the same way Virginia Woolf abhorred the affected society of Richmond.  How women were at the beck and call of men, just as they are in the Handmaid's Tale.   Margaret Atwood famously took a swipe at Austen for allowing women to put themselves in situations, allowing them to believe and seek out arrogant men who they could somehow 'fix'. But actually I feel Austen was all to aware her heroes were nothing of the sort, she just chose to illustrate the status quo within the confines of what she was permitted at the time.

There is oddly or perhaps not so oddly a connection between this adaptation of Emma and the film Parasite.  The same acceptance of class system applies. And the working classes are used as spare parts for the upper classes. The parasitic nature of those who have money to those who have less.  Everyone accepts their place, and is put in their place.  Teachers tell me how the education system is designed and structure to keep everyone in their place. How despite the huge slogans writ large about kindness and honesty in schools, even public ones, it is cunning and connection, not talent nor intellect, which allows those to get to the top. It annoys me that those in the public eye at the moment spouting out about being kind should realise that those at the top of their profession, in every profession have not got where they are because they are 'kind'.  Even the eleven year olds I teach realise that. They are telling the populace to be kind, when actually they already are.  They should look at themselves before spouting off about kindness to those who've spent too much time people pleasing.  Only those at the top have used their time pleasing themselves.  If someone tries to step out of their place, we call it revolution, chaos, disruption, anarchy.  Actually its not.  Its just not playing the game.  Just stepping out of the frame.

Thursday, 13 February 2020

THE SURREAL AND SERIOUS WORLD OF TRAVEL


I find myself in an interesting time at the moment as a travel journalist. In the same week I was asked to write about romantic breaks and read through the latest travel reports, I also focused on the climate change issues and the ever-growing lethal impact of the virus on the travel industry.  Not to mention the future of man and womankind as we know it. In times like this the perfume counter that is travel journalism seems at its most puerile. For nearly thirty years I have been writing about destinations, and journeys, adventure travel, trekking in the Yukon and bungy jumping in New Zealand, when I was yfs (young, free, single), ten tip spotting when I was with child (Tom), identifying why kids clubs were passé even when they were allegedly on trend, and why the English don’t like children.  Now son is at university, and I teach yoga, I’m focused on everything wellness, and as everyone from Royal to pop star, to politician to earnest CEO claims they are weighed down with mental illness, having made the rest of us sick with their celebration of neurosis, wellness holidays seem to be a growth trend in travel on a viral scale as most are coming out as being mentally ill in some way. Boom time for therapists, life coaches and psycho experts of every shape and size. 
But most travel ‘trends’ as such are flawed.  There’s food travel – travel on your stomach, and eat what the locals do, although obviously not in China.  The alternative is to eat what you know – and the coastal resorts of Spain are full of the full English eating the full English.   Then the fastest growing trend in travel, wellness and fitness travel, although with the virus again, this seems a nonsense.  With the baby boomers now free to travel in style, many are cruising although - as the cruise shored off Japan and Hong Kong will testify, they are unable to leave the 'sinking ship' in a Year of the Rat, an animal best known for being able to leave a sinking ship. 
Coronavirus has taught us we are a global community of travellers whatever Brexit or the political machinations of our politicians, or those in Davos decree. We are all in this together.  This situation has given us more reason to go vegan, and stay hygienic. The coronavirus started in November in China (it was first reported in December but started in November my sources say).  This should have effectively cut off travel to and from the country immediately to contain the virus but because of the nature of the economics of doing this and the economic repercussions, this didn’t happen. Our greed will literally kill us.  As I write, there are still flights to and from China and in my opinion, there shouldn’t be.  We know too little about this virus at the moment and what everyone is being told, people – including the British – do not believe.   
As for climate change, there are numerous doctorates investigating sustainable tourism (I was told about one at Surrey University last year) but this is irrelevant.  Intellectual property would be better used for climate change initiatives. Culling the fashion and textile industry and limiting the internet hours will have more impact than cutting the number of flying hours or stopping cows from farting.  Ironically I did a report on Brazil for the Sunday Times over fifteen years ago, which has a thriving textile industry, and this is also the country which is currently cutting down the Amazonian rainforest, an initiative which forty years ago, the Paris Climate Convention decided would cause the ice caps to melt, the coral reefs to disappear and large areas to be flooded.  Forty years ago.   Twenty years ago the same Climate Convention deduced the greatest enemy of the earth was not in fact climate change – but politicians.  We never learn do we.  
So I read the recent feather weight reports on future trends in wellness and romantic travel with intrigue.  Eco travel and romantic travel has been re termed to be ‘ ‘guilt free’ travel,  encompassing the fact you don’t harm the culture you are visiting and you don’t harm yourself either.  The report which I ploughed through this week (fifty two pages of it by Mr and Mrs Smith), also claimed that the fluid nature of gender and relationships, would become situationships (quick flings/no commitment), fluid relationships (serially knowingly unfaithful) open mindedness would mean hotels would be offering triple beds as opposed to double beds.  Guilt free travel indeed for a baby boomer generation who enjoy cruising in all its guises.  I thought there were many which catered for this market already, but perhaps it is just my imagination.  
With all that is happening in the world, talking about where to go to for a romantic break, and how to immerse yourself in the culture, seems fatuous when there are more important and pertinent issues to address, like will there be a planet to travel round and animals and beauty to admire when we’ve allowed the lungs of the world to be destroyed? 
The best journalists out there are the children I've met and work with in schools.   I have become aware of how teachers are doing their best to give children calm, simple, answers to their increasingly perceptive questions (Ten year old ‘Are the Chinese honest about the numbers? ‘  Fourteen year old, ‘What are they doing with the dead bodies?) These kids should be in charge of the national media.   And certainly the travel pages.  I do think curriculum classes on civil and civic classes rights, how to identify narcissists, thinking classes (learning how to think rather than what to think)( and languages would be more useful than many of the other things we learn.   Also travel classes.   Not tourism, but travel. How to travel well.  It starts in childhood. The children teach the adult not the other way round. I realised that as soon as I had my son. 
The quickening speed of the virus proves there is no escape. Travel is geography, it has never been an escape, you still are the same person you started with unless you are open, and we still largely goldfish bowl our adventure travels despite what the brochures claim. Using the internet a few hours a day, not buying clothes has more impact on climate change than stop flying to far flung destinations.   I’ve stopped eating all meat and fish not because its good for me, but because it is good for the world. Not for the economy but for the natural world.   And if we stop demanding it, they will stop producing it and will have to find alternative ways to live. I have always felt the earth will get rid of us before we get rid of it.  Donald Trump, the comic book baddie, is ironically, the one person who can change the way things are happening. I know he’s not all bad. He has the same birth date as me.