- Holly Searle
- London, United Kingdom
- Holly Searle is a writer who was born in Westminster in the middle of London. She shares her birthday with Jarvis Cocker and David Seaman and like Jarvis Cocker she wears glasses but has nothing whatsoever in common with David Seaman. She is fascinated by words, people and their stories, and regularly spends hours fantasising about being offered a weekly column. She has a degree in Film and Television which she gained from Brunel University in 1997. She has been blessed with two quite remarkable children whom she adores. She enjoys the company of her friends and the circus that is life. Long Walk to Forever by Kurt Vonnegut is her favourite short story. She is the author of the published children's tale The Story of Balan Singh, and is currently working on her first book.
Monday, 29 October 2012
When I was growing up, my Mum would recount stories of her adventures in Soho. She had always wanted to be apart of something more exciting than that of the life she had in Surrey on the outskirts of London. So she headed into the city to see what she might find.
One of her jobs was working at Ronnie Scott's Jazz club in Soho. Not the new one, but the old one. She'd make bacon sandwiches for the musicians in the morning and tend the bar during the evening when the club was open.
By then, she had had my brother and was carrying me. One of the tales we were told over the years, was of how Ella Fitzgerald had once sat my brother on her knee. How incredible is that?
During this period in their lives, my parents lived in the heart of Soho. My Dad was an editor at ITN who wanted to be an artist and who regularly courted the company of other artists of his generation.
When I voiced my amazement at how fantastic this must have been, my Mum just says it wasn't really, as it was just like any other place that you would live in with its shops and a community full of local characters.
In the late sixties, my Mum landed a job running a character model agency. In the post war years, there were no agencies like this one for the new wave of photographers like Terence Donovan and David Bailey to book models through. The world was still gazing at Dior type models that wore nice clothes that were being shot by the likes of John French. But times were changing and her agency found a niche in the market and plugged the gap with great success.
Through her job, Mum met and worked with lots of different well known people. As kids, we were not in the least bit interested. We were just children in a normal family trying to make ends meet like everyone else. We weren't ever wealthy, but we were privy too experiences that the other children we knew were not. As we grew we became involved in some aspects of her work, most notably as background artists on films and commercials and the like. We never thought about or sought out the realm of celebrity culture as it wasn't for us and all went on to lead relatively normal everyday lives and were better for it.
I am not telling you these stories because I want to impress you. I am telling you them as I have come to conclude that the value of celebrity in recent years (and in view of the Jimmy Savile Case) has become somewhat tainted by the lacklustre culture that surrounds it.
I recently saw a debate regarding the Savile incidents where someone drew the same conclusion and also upheld an opinion that my Mum had often voiced to us over the years which was this.
All of these people that we invite into our living rooms everyday and watch at the pictures in films are just doing a job like you and I. They are not super humans or deities to be worshipped, they are no different from your postman or that kind lady who gives up her spare time to work in the local charity shop that you often visit.
They are just playing a role in society like everyone else and nothing more.
I was glad my Mum told us this as I think that it coloured our perceptions in a positive way, rather than a deluded one. And probably because of this little bit of simple wisdom, I am not glamoured by fame at all.
But I will tell you what I am impressed by. I am impressed by the production of something tangible that has obviously been produced by an individual with real talent. It might be a book or a painting, or a fine performance in a role or the lyrics of a song, or a piece of music that just blows me away.
It is that that I am impressed by and it is that that makes me want to approach the person who produced it and shake their hand and say to them “ Fine job, well done.”
But, for the majority it doesn't work like that.
It made me think about Kenneth Angers series of Hollywood Babylon books, which concentrated their efforts on exposing the darker side of celebrity in the early years of Hollywood. They are quite nasty really, recounting the vices associated with various stars that were once pin ups and viable movers and shakers within the industry that they made money from (and in turn had made money out of them) who had fallen from grace due to one indiscretion or another.
They were just people, who were probably unable to cope with it all. Maybe it just wasn't a life fit for them or maybe it was one in which they were able to use and abuse the situations in which they found themselves in, until such a time that they were found out. Sound familiar?
Well, in light of this, I thought about the appalling over saturation on our TV's of these search for talent shows that are regularly churned out year in and year out that deliver more celebrities devoid of any real talent that choose to pursue this life (for reasons beyond those I can ever understand) in the limelight and the price they pay for their fifteen minutes of fame.
I couldn't imagine ever being prepared to give away my privacy just so I could be seen as someone in this culture, not even for those fifteen minutes as the price is just too high.
I do think that people need to rethink their own perceptions of fame and of the role it actually plays within their lives. I cannot abide those magazine or reality TV shows that perpetuate this culture as I find it at the best of times shallow and lacking in any form of nutritional brain value. It saddens me immensely more so because a percentage of society aspires to be just like those that they are tuning in to see, or being are entertained by. Definitely a stick of chewing gum for the mind that losses its favour very quickly.
But let me share with you the three times that I have been affected by fame in one sense or another.
Once was when my Mum sent me off to work on a commercial that featured Tony Curtis. Being a child that had grown up on a diet of films of the 1950's, I was literally star stuck to be several feet from away from him. Someone whom I was working with made their approach and asked him to sign something for them. He was gracious and amiable and smiled throughout and was happy to fulfil their request.
I just thought I shouldn't bother the man and I felt it was rude. I regret that as Some Like It Hot is one of my favourite films and I would like to have told him so.
Then there was the time that I attended an exhibition of Lucian Freud's paintings at The Tate with my Dad. It was very quiet in the room as my Dad beckoned me over to him. He pointed to a painting of a group of children all sitting together on a seat and said to me “You see those children in this picture?” “Yes” I replied unsure of where this was leading. “Well” My Dad said “You used to play with them when you were small.”
And then there was that Parmesan cheese that appeared in our fridge at home when I was growing up. I asked my Mum what this alien thing was and she told me. But, it was only years later that she told me that during his visits to London Federico Fellini used to bring her this as a gift from Italy.
I am personally more impressed with these three episodes in my life, than with any reality TV show or celebrity that could ever grace our screens. They were all part of my own personal cultural history and making as I grew up, rather than those that I was spoon fed by the media that held no real value for me.
I am lucky, not only because of all the things I have been privy too, but because in doing so, I have be able to understand that quality is what really matters rather than quantity.
And maybe, that then explains why I never felt the need to write a letter to Jimmy Savile when I was younger asking him to fix something for me and for that I will be eternally grateful.
Sunday, 21 October 2012
When my son was born, I thought to myself "He's been here before."
From the very off he was like a wise little old man and not like a child at all. He was always interested in everything and anything and needed a constant diet of new information and added distractions to keep him occupied.
As he grew, he developed a keen sense of what was right and what was wrong. He cannot abide any form of injustice (I can't think where he gets that from) and if he is able too, he will try to amend the reason for it, too benefit those affected.
I remember once when he was in primary school being retold a story by one of the classroom assistance about his attitude towards one such incident.
During break, he had become aware of an incident against another child and in his effort to make this right, the playground assistant had misinterpreted his actions and had told him off and had sent him indoors.
When the classroom assistant went to check on him, she found him sitting crossed legged, with his hands palms up, with his middle finger and thumb touching. The assistant (who knew him very well) asked him what he was doing. To which he responded “I'm meditating.”
He was seven.
When I first heard that story, I started to wonder, if, he was in fact, the 15th Dalai Lama. It still makes me chuckle when I think about him sitting there like that, as I have absolutely no idea were he had ever come across any one in the lotus position or how on earth he knew what meditating was?
It was beyond me.
He has just started secondary school, which he was ready for. Being a September baby (like me), he was always the eldest in his class and often felt the weight of it. After a minor struggle to get him accepted into the school of his choice, he was excited about his new beginning. I was concerned about his two bus journey to and from the school, so over the Summer I prepared him and when the start date arrived on his twelfth birthday in early September, he was was so ready, that he hardly slept the night before and appeared in full uniform at the foot of my bed an hour before we were due to get up. It was priceless.
I mentally closed my eyes and held my breath and sent him off to school and his new beginning. I am very proud to say, he made it and has taken it all in his stride like a duck takes to water.
With his new school came new rules and regulations to be adhered too. One was the signing of his homework book. He is required to obtain my signature on a weekly basis as a sign of my parental responsibility that he has completed his homework. If he fails to obtain this, he will be given a detention as a punishment.
A few weeks ago he returned home from school and announced to me that he was cross with me because I had forgotten to sign his homework book and he had subsequently been given a detention. I pointed out to him that he did need to remind me that I had to sign his book. He agreed and the matter wasn't discussed any further.
A few days later he returned home from school and told me that he had taken the science lesson that day. He was beaming and so was I and here is why.
On the day of the detention, he is required to sit in a classroom with other children who had also fallen foul to its imprisonment for one reason or another.
He tells me that they were all situated in a one of the science classrooms. The other children are all mucking about, which he is so affronted by and that he ignores them and instead spends the half an hour reading a poster on the wall of the classroom that lists The Five Kingdoms of life on earth. No I didn't know either. Apparently this is a classification system that lists the five forms of life on the planet. Here they all are: Monera, Protists, Fungi, Plants and Animals.
The detention ends.
The following day he has a science lesson and the question put to the class by their teacher is, can anyone name the Five Kingdoms. The only respondent to this question is my son. He duly raises his hand and then reels off the five he has stored in his memory and during the course of which, his teacher asks him to come to the front of the class and explain it all to his fellow classmates, which he does.
I am so proud and all the guilt I had felt by not signing his homework book vanishes as I realise that if I had done so, he would never had used his time wisely to acquire this knowledge.
I also realise, as I have always suspected, that my son is an ingenious little genius that will go far.
Friday, 12 October 2012
Many years ago when I couldn't have been more than ten, I set off from my home on my own to attend a birthday party I had been invited to by one of the girls in my class.
I was relatively new at the school and was keen to be assimilated into the social network of my peers. I was late. Being a novice navigator, I proceeded in the right direction and to the address not too far from my own, with the knowledge that this was where the party was being held. So you can imagine my panic when I reached the address I had thought that the party was being held at, only to discover that it wasn't there at all and was in fact being held in another location that I had no installed GPS awareness of.
After being informed by the door answerer to my knock, that the party was elsewhere, I crossed the road and stood alone in a state of distress, wondering where on earth the place I was now on the way to actually was.
At that moment a car pulled up and the lady driving learnt over the passenger seat of her car and asked me if I knew the location of a place she was trying to find.
As I was quite new to the area (and as I was having my own onward journey issues myself) I informed her that I had no knowledge of the place that she was asking about.
She asked me where I was going and being a trusting soul, I told her of my plight. At once she asked me if I wanted a lift as she knew where the place I was trying to find was. Call it intuition if you will, but a klaxon sounded in my mind and I declined her offer straight away. She was quite insistent and asked me if I was sure as she repeated her offer once again. I stuck to my guns and refused. Eventually she drove off and I asked in a local shop for directions and made my own way there. I arrived safe and sound, but a little shaken due to my haste and initial confusion, but more so because of this offer.
Fast forward twelve years and I am sitting at a bus stop in Battersea. I am all polished and dressed up having spent the morning acting as a bod in a photo shoot for a friends brother. I am well versed in the art of both as my mother is a well known model agent and my siblings and I have been the subject of photo shoots and random faces in crowds on film sets for years.
I am dressed smartly, not my usual attire, but as I said, it was a requirement of the favour. I am growing tired of waiting for the bus to arrive as a red convertible sports car approaches with a fit Chelsea type at the wheel. He pulls over and asks me if I would like a lift. I decline. He asks me if I am sure? I affirm my first response and he drives away.
I often wonder if I had accepted either one of those offers how they might have affected my life.
Women, I have concluded, rarely harm children in that way (abet Hindley and West of course). So in all probability, she was just being kind and offering a helping hand to a deluded and somewhat stressed ten year old. I could have accepted her offer and arrived at the party earlier and in a less frantic state of being. But, I chose otherwise.
He, Mr. Sloane, may well have been my knight in shining (sports car) armour.
He may have asked me out on a date and changed my life completely in the process. But then again, Ted Bundy wasn't an unattractive man, but nevertheless one that lured women into a false sense of security and ended their lives in the process.
Both of these incidents have nagged away at me over the years and appear to have resurfaced in my brain in view of the events concerning the unequivocal abuse of power by a celebrity in clear view of a patriarchal institution and society.
Sometimes those that aren't strangers are the ones we should all be aware of.
Most personalable crimes are committed by a person known to the victim. Think of all the horrendous crimes that have been the feature of many a news report during the course of this year alone. Some of most horrific ones were against children, a majority of which had been carried out by an assailant known to the victim of the crime. However, a minority was carried out by strangers.
Strangers are people we do not know until we know them and we should never forget that.
Even if they appear on your television screen every week and do good deeds, this is no guarantee that as an individual they are trustworthy. I do not doubt for one moment, hand on heart, that both as a child and as an adult I made the right decisions in turning down both of those offers. For if I had accepted either, I may be telling you a very different set of stories or I may have not been here to tell you any at all.
Thursday, 4 October 2012
I must say I was quite impressed with Ed Milliband's speech this week. I was probably more impressed by the fact that he delivered it without referring to his notes or hiding behind a lecture like some stuffy salesman at a conference delivering his annual address, oh hang on a minute.
Just like a business man desperate for investment in his company, Mr. Milliband's speech was constructed to carefully hit upon and deal with all the hot topics that are affecting a high percentage of most of us in the UK.
I sat and watched it all, live from beginning to the end and even though I wanted to believe in everything he had to say (as he pretty much read my mind on all of my concerns), there was something niggling away in the back of my mind that was preventing me from jumping up and down on the sofa and whooping with joy like a pint-sized Scientologist.
And this is what it was.
Trust. It is as simple as that.
All business men with a new idea want you to invest in them. Why? Because they need your support to enable them to doff the cap of power and more importantly, they need your money in order to do so. But, as one nation, it would appear that we have learnt to be self-sufficient in view of the mistrust we now have of those the divided majority decided to invest their trust in.
A litany of the most contemptible lies have been exposed of those who had made similar promises and who have since been seen to reel in their fishing lines from which a tasty worm once wriggled.
Sometimes the word sorry just doesn't cut it I am afraid.
All business men, not unlike a professional Gigolo, will tell you exactly what you want to hear so that you'll be so overwhelmed and charmed that you'll believe them and therefore invest in what they have on offer, provided of course that they deliver the goods.
Imagine if you will that you are one of the dragons off of Dragon's Den and some investment hungry person is standing before you. They need you to assist them further to enable their product or scheme to become a reality. They are confident and the product appears investment worthy. You rub your chin whilst thinking about what is on offer, but as you are being asked to invest your time and money in them, you have to ask yourself this question. What are the possibilities of this actually working and will I see a healthy return if I do invest?
Well that was how I should imagine the majority of us felt. We are all suspicious and skeptical about investing further in yet another ideology as the one laid out in Mr. Milliband's speech. We are all interested, but as yet not quite convinced.
And here's why.
I have never voted Tory, well a part from Boris. Yes, okay, but I would defend that action in view of his persona more than anything else. He is a court jester, the perfect host for the city of my birth and personality counts for a lot.
Mr. Milliband should take note as he is a tad hard to warm towards. Although having said that, there is only so much high jinx we can all stomach from the entertainment before yearning for an intelligent discussion of the serious issues facing our nation without being faced with someone who will not answer the questions that are put to them, without trying to derail you with yet another yawn-worthy verbal sight of hand.
It's boring Boris.
There is a void within the social structure of this country and yes, I know that he touched upon that, but touching the void has been so remiss for so long, that the people of this country have lost faith that bridging the gap will ever be possible.
The reality of what actually happens in society and what is actually done about it, is huge and it is getting worse because some Etonian posh boy and his pals have been unashamedly delusional in their interpretation of how to solve it. Something is now so wrong in the state of Denmark, that we need someone who will actually listen to those that need to be heard.
The most inspiration aspect of those that inhabit our country despite it all, has been their capacity be seen to be doing what they do best in times of adversity by standing up and being counted and taking part.
This has been the most incredible year for the UK and regardless of all the trouble and woes we all have. Like children from a broken home, we all got up, took part, volunteered, helped out and cheered and waved our little flags because we still have faith in ourselves if no one else. It was and continues to be a display social solidarity not seen in the UK during or in the aftermath of the Second World War that makes us all worthy individuals.
You can call it Blitz spirit if you like, but I like to think of it as a communal anti-apathy ingrained in all of us entwined with a desire to be seen at our best.
By doing so, we did a very important thing, we highlighted the diabolical actions of those that govern us.
And Mr. Milliband has realised that or has he? I have seen The Thick Of It and find it hard to place my faith and trust in any politician.
In Peter Pan, in order to save Tink, Peter asks that everyone who believes in faeries to clap their hands. Many clapped and some didn't and beasts hissed, Barrie writes. and that is how I feel. I want to believe in faeries and I want to clap, but until I have retreated to the back of the den to discuss my investment further with the rest of the dragons, the jury, I am afraid, is still out.
Wednesday, 3 October 2012
I was a lost child at school, an invisible girl who was overlooked largely due to an oversight of the educational system I was in.
Unlike today, I obviously had a form of dyslexia that meant that I was unable to keep up. I shall never forget sitting in my bedroom on a weekly basis learning my ten spellings and then being made to stand up in English the following day and being subjected to ridicule by my teacher Miss Jones.
Today this wouldn't be allowed and I would have been offered some form of assistance instead of being made to feel bad by an adult that should really have known better. The memory of those events scarred me for life. I still hesitate now even when attempting to pronounce a word I am unfamiliar with, let alone trying to spell it.
I also had issues with numbers. I just couldn't see words or numbers in my mind. Even now I have to remember what a word looks like and I have to ask someone to slow down when they give me a telephone number or a set figure.
As a result of this, I was deemed unworthy of sitting O Levels and placed in the classes heading towards taking CSE's.
I wasn't of interest to anyone at school, but do recall quite clearly being questioned by an English teacher as to who the author of a poem I produced was. I explained that it was me, but he still questioned me.
I can honestly say that if it had not of been for Camilla Birkett, my last English teacher at secondary school, I would quite possibly have remained redundant on the reading and writing front for the rest of my life.
She was the first person whom instilled in me the love of reading and writing and for that I shall be forever grateful.
I was such a late educational bloomer, that I had no idea near to leaving school what this place called university was.
All of my friends were off there and I just looked at the ground and kicked a stone and felt ashamed.
Fast forward ten years. I am a single parent to Child One and we are at last settled in a home of our own after two years of being homeless.
I ask myself the question “So, what are you going to do now?” My response to this is to return to education where I will spend the most enjoyable following five years of my life gaining A Levels and a Degree.
I am the first member of my family to achieve this honour and for that, I am very proud of myself. I worked several part time jobs whilst studying and juggled single parenthood. Times were hard and if the purse hadn't of been so empty, I would have continued for as long as I could have done along that magical path of further enlightenment.
But let me tell you this, even though I was immensely proud to have gained this honour, I was even prouder to have been in receipt of the recognition that was bestowed upon me by Child One for the following.
During my first year at university I arrived one afternoon to a film lesson to sit an exam. The lecture room was packed with my fellow students and they were all chatting about their worries and concerns regarding the visual exam we were all about to take. I am a rather stoic person and tend to deal with exams as they unfold. I never saw the point in getting too stressed about it and more than anything, I looked upon them as a challenge.
I had also been lucky enough to have had a previous tutor who give me the following piece of advice. “Whatever you do, don't stop writing during an exam. If you keep writing, ideas with turn up, so don't stop.”
The exam began. We watched the opening sequence of Don't Look Now and were then given a set amount of time to write down everything that came to mind about the piece of film we had just viewed.
Head down, pen poised, off I went. I kept writing until the time was up.
When we had all finished I thought as I always did, that I had done as well as I could. I didn't think that I had done particular well, but I was pleased with the attempt that I had made.
The following week when we all returned, our tutor Leon dealt with the results of the exam first. We all waited. He said that overall he was very pleased and informed us that a majority had gained a C for their effort with some being awarded B's, but that one person had received an A. My friend Simon sitting next to me said “I wonder who that is?” I said “Me too!”.
I sat there waiting and waiting. I kept thinking he has forgotten me. Then after he had handed out everyone else's, he finally focussed his attention on me. He said that I had been awarded the A. I remember blushing quite profusely as everyone looked at me while my friend Simon elbowed me. I didn't know what to do, or where to look. I felt like I had just won an Oscar.
When I got home I retold this story to Child One. She laughed with delight.
A few weeks later I attended Parent's Evening at her school. As I waited for my allotted slot to see her teacher, I looked through her work. I was overwhelmed with pride as I always was at the amount of dedication and effort that she had applied to each piece. There was a story we had talked about, a picture she had drawn and pages about topics she had been working on. Then I turned the page and saw a balloon diagram. Each balloon had a title attributed to it like My Pets Name Is in which she had written her answer. I read each one with a huge smile on my face until I reached one that was entitled I Was Proud When in which she had written “ My Mum got an A.”
My throat suddenly became constricted and tears filled my eyes. I was an emotional wreck.
Although I have those A Levels and a Degree, those five words will always be worth more to me than any award I have or shall ever receive because they were given to me by my little girl.
Education gave up on me, but I didn't give up on it. Never give up if you believe in something and if someone believes in you, as it is worth its weight in gold in the end and more balloons than those that lifted that little house in UP.