BBC Radio has a programme called The Nation in Conversation or The Listening Project. They bring together people with shared experiences, radically opposing views of things, substantially different ways of life or who simply like the idea of talking to someone else on the radio. Actually, I am not sure about the last of these as the participants have to have something at least a little bit interesting to say. It “offers a snapshot of contemporary Britain” and most of the unedited conversations are being archived by the British Library and used to “build up a collection of voices capturing a unique portrait of the UK in this decade of the millennium”. Fascinating stuff … well, sometimes. No doubt it will be extra fascinating to future generations looking back, just as nowadays we like to hear recordings from long ago.
Yesterday two of the participants were a mermaid and a merman. Yes! I was surprised too. The mermaid revealed she had been working on a PhD - at least I think that’s what she said - and was finding it hard. Doing distraction activities on the computer, as you do when the task in hand is hard and you’re possibly losing interest in it, she found a course on how to become a mermaid. And off she went and has never looked back. She is now a professional mermaid, appearing at children’s parties and the like, presumably swimming parties. Who knew that it was possible to be a professional mermaid? As for the merman, I seem to have missed his explanation of how he got involved in the mer-community.
At one point their conversation turned to the film of “The Little Mermaid”. Now, I know all about Ariel, the red-headed mermaid, through my small granddaughter. But apparently the proposed live remake of the Disney animated cartoon (a very modern thing in entertainment which always strikes me as a bit unnecessary!) has caused some controversy in the casting department because they was plan to cast the singer Halle Bailey as Ariel. I’ve never heard of Halle Bailey but it seems some people object to her being cast as Ariel because (1) she’s not white and (2) she doesn’t have flowing red curls. The mermaid and the merman both found that ridiculous. Other arguments go that as the original story was by Hans Anderson, Ariel should be Scandinavian. However, one of the conversationists, possibly the merman, pointed out that in the original story she is described as having greenish skin. That’ll be hard to cast!
As for me, I listened in amazement to two young adults discussing the problems of making what is essentially a children’s film. Yes, I know that Hans Anderson’s stories were not written originally with children in mind but in modern times they have been prettified, homogenised, Disney-fied to make them acceptable to today’s children. But what are two young adults doing watching children’s cartoons, without apparently the excuse of having children of their own? Surely they should have progressed by now to more grown-up films.
I was reminded of a friend of a friend on Facebook, someone well into her thirties by now, whose favourite reading matter still consists of Enid Blyton’s “Malory Towers” stories about a girls’ boarding school. Surely she should at least have moved on to “Lord of the Flies”!
Hmmm! How many of these people stuck in childhood film and tv and book habits would declare that their favourite song was “Twinkle, twinkle, little star” or “Mary, Mary, quite contrary”?
Another conundrum that is occupying my occasional thoughts is the Labour Party. We’ve got a the ongoing NHS problems, a fuel crisis, a shortage of lorry drivers, empty shelves in supermarkets (although less so in the small ones I visit), and the threat of Christmas being cancelled for lack of turkeys - all good reasons to start criticising the Tories. So what are they doing at the Labour Party Conference? Discussing ways to stop some people from voting in a leadership election, still going on about anti-semitism and expelling Jewish members for anti-semitism and wondering if they can ever get back into government. The deputy leader has called the tories “scum”, not to their faces or even in an interview with the press, but in a meeting of a subgroup of the conference, and the leader says she should apologise! Meanwhile Jeremy Corbyn has spoken at a meeting organised by the Millennium people and been interrupted by his own brother who says climate change is a myth!
Quite what is all of this going to lead to?
Meanwhile on the other side of the ocean, I read that almost half a million households in the USA do not have indoor plumbing. As a percentage of the total number of households in the USA that’s probably quite small but we are in the 21st century. There are families living in apartments in hundred year old buildings where there is one bathroom per floor, shared by several households. I am reminded of scenes in the film “Once Upon a Time in America” where such conditions existed in the 1920s. Why has it not improved? Of course it’s the poor who suffer from these conditions. And then I’m reminded of scenes in “The Wire”, where the ex-cop turned school teacher, Pres, lets a pupil shower at school, even takes the boy’s clothes home to put them in his own washing machine, all this because the boy is bullied for being dirty and smelly as his home lacks facilities.
It’s especially odd as for a long time it seemed that the Americans had everything before we did - fridges, air conditioning and so on. And when you watch documentaries about pop singers, even those who claimed to have grown up in poverty seem to come from families with cine cameras and can show footage of their childhood on screen.
So how are these anomalies going on? It’s a mystery to me.
Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!