About Me

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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.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Dear Diary By Holly Searle





I have kept a diary since I was fifteen.

That seems like ages ago now. Which of course it is.

I have no idea why I started to keep one, it may well have been instilled in me by the Monday morning ritual at primary school.

Each Monday we were required to write down what we had done over the weekend and embellish this with an illustration.

I used too stress about these entries as I always worried that my weekends were not as exciting as my classmates.

I can quite clearly recall adopting a modicum of artistic licence even back then, when having exhausted all possibilities of providing anything of merit, I just made something up.

I let out a deep mental sigh as I realised, there and then, that I could actually do that. I could make something up, and no one (apart from me), would be any the wiser.

Except me.

My teacher remarked after reading it "Oh how lovely."

Result.

Later on, when I was fifteen, I bought my first diary and away I went.

It was a tiny little jobbie. There wasn't really that much space to write anything of any great interest. It mostly just allowed me to make notations about meetings and alluded to friends, and a bit of telly and music and the like.

I then moved on to an equally smallish one, but at least it afforded me a day per page as opposed to five per two pages.

That's diary spec speak.

I became quite adamant about filling it in with everything and anything I could.

And from then on, I was hooked.

With each new diary came a new year and vice versa, all recorded, by me on their virgin pages.

The only time I ever stopped, was during my twenties when a boyfriend I was living with read my diary and started questioning me about my entries.

How very dare he.

I was so affronted, that I left him and stopped keeping one for a number of years.

I regret this deeply now as I have Lost Years that I can only access via my memory bank and not in a written format.

It is terribly frustrating.

And here is why.

What a diary allows you to do, is to revisit the person that you once were, and all of the people and places that you knew.

It is amazing.

They are like little tardises that can transport you back to a moment in your history that you had long since forgotten.

There is that saying that people use. The one that goes "If I knew then what I know now."

That is what these tiny formations of your own personal history allow you to see, who you once were, but also more importantly, who you have become.

They are fascinating little scribes and insights into a past that I create as I write the page for the day that I have just participated in each and every night.

My early diaries are bizarre to read. I think to myself "Who the hell is this person?"

And more often than not, I think about the people I knew and wonder about them. And sometimes, I cannot place who the person is that I have dedicated an entry too.

I rack my brain and shake my head, until I finally mentally smile and think to myself "Oh it was them!"

Some contain ticket receipts for films or bands that I saw. Or more personal artefacts like a pressed flower or a card that someone gave me.

Some nights, after I have written about my day, I think "I wonder what I was doing on this very day last year?" And hey presto, I can actually read about it, as I have recorded it all in a previous diary.

Sometimes the concertina effect of time and space plays tricks on me, as I discover an entry for an event, that I could have sworn was fairly recent, but was in fact ages ago.

I think "Blinking heck, was that really that long ago?"

The other night I looked back further and was delighted to find that I am happier now than I was back then.

They are fantastic tools and I love keeping mine.

As you can imagine, I have amassed quite a collection now. Unlike Kenneth Williams', mine aren't all the same style. They all vary and mirror quite nicely each year in which they were written.

I do wonder sometimes if it is just me that keeps a diary as people often comment, on discovering that I do, that they wouldn't have the discipline to do so.

But it isn't really discipline that keeps me recording it all.

It is just like that sequence in The Time Machine when Rod Taylor keeps moving the lever on the time machine a little further and further, thus propelling himself forward in time and enabling him to see how time changes everything.

It is a bit like that keeping a diary, but only in reverse.

And just as Rod discovered, it is all quite illuminating, and that is why I keep it up and will continue to do so.


Tuesday, 19 February 2013

If You Tolerate This By Holly Searle





Last week I went off to see my son take part in a drama showcase at his school.

The evening was made up of performances by the kids from the various year groups that attend the school.

Since arriving at the school, he was encouraged along with all of the other year sevens to partake in some after school activity.

My son decided that he fancied the drama group, so he joined.

And I am very pleased that he did as he is really enjoying it.

There were two halves to the evening's action, that were each divided up into vignettes of either a themed mime or minor performance by these young actors.

I attended both nights.

I enjoyed it more on the second night than the first, probably because I had already seen it once and was able to compare it to the previous night.

Like most productions of any show that you see, there were some really gifted and notable aspiring actors in the making.

I hope that they keep it up, I really do.

But, there was an overriding thematic that I found a little unsettling and it got me thinking about why it appeared to be the resolution to most of the pieces that were performed.

And that was the use of violence.

In each improvised piece, there it was, as clear a day being used by these talented mites as the solution/resolution to the narratives they had made up.

And it made me so sad.

A few days later I thought about the culture that these kids have grown up in and what they have been exposed to.

And when I thought about all of that, it didn't really surprise me one little bit as to why they had littered their stories with so much violence.

We have a nine o'clock watershed on the telly don't we?

But, at six o'clock each evening, the news is transmitted.

The news has been subjecting us all to an array of the most horrific stories for the longest time now.

I cannot think when the desensitisation of this indecent descent began. But, I can honesty say, that anything that I have seen on the news in recent weeks, months and years, has been far worse that anything a made up drama with the odd swear word in has produced, after the nine o'clock watershed.

Yes, I know. Horrible things happen in the world.

But, how much of that do they really need to be exposed to?

And it isn't just all of the retrospective paedophiles, sex trafficking gangs and missing children stories, but all of the other negativity being disseminated about the country that they all live in.

And then there are those heads of industries and politicians a like, that we have all put our trust in, only to discover, that they were all laughing maniacally behind our backs like the Joker.

They are all being progressively outed as bare faced criminals and liars and have all be sent to Arkham Asylum, where they will spend the rest of they days typing all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy on the keyboards of their laptops.

And then what about all of those sporting heroes falling off all of the pedestal we placed them all on like an unexpected flash flood in the Death Valley.

Shocking stories that will make God himself weep as he shakes his head in dismay whilst waiting to leave with the dolphins.

Thanks for all the shit his note will read.

Recession mania is an epidemic all on its own, the symptoms of which are frustration, degradation and humiliation.

What sort of messages are these news reports sending out to our children?

Hopeless ones, obviously.

My point is this.

Was it any wonder that these precious children of ours were using violence as the solution in their carefully crafted tales after they have been raised on such a diet.

Well funnily enough, no.

And then there is the angry villagers with the torches and pitchforks heading for castle Frankenstein mentality that trends like a virtual cancer on social media sites.

If anyone ever captured your image and you are still considered an undesirable, you are basically fucked.

They will find you not unlike Daniel-Day Lewis in The Last of the Mohicans.

They will provide photographic proof. I'd contact John Woo if I were you and get your face/off.

One day, that will be the only solution.

So here is what I think, I think you should all stop worrying about fizzy drinks and concentrate more on what your children are being mentally exposed too.

For that is far worse and much more detrimental to their health, than a few grams of sugar.

Now, I want you all to go and listen to If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next and pray that there is still time.



Monday, 18 February 2013

In A Previous Life By Holly Searle






I have to be honest with you, the clues have always been there.

As a child I would visually consumed an almost unhealthy amount of Hollywood musicals.

"Gotta dance!"

I was, and will forever remain, in love with Gene Kelly.

I have a fair to middling record collection that features Doris Day, Judy Garland, Dusty Springfield and Pasty Cline.

I had crushes on Montgomery Clift, Farley Granger and Sal Mineo. And actually was lost for words the first time I ever saw Marlon Brando rip his t-shirt off and yell "Stella!" in A Streetcar Named Desire.

I adore Tennessee Williams.

And, there was that influential introduction to Cher via a Music and Movement class at the age of seven, when we all had to danced around in an uninhibited fashion to Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves.

And, I must have seen every Bette Davis film ever made.

Oh, Jerry, don’t let’s ask for the moon. We have the stars.”

Imitation of Life, Terms of Endearment and Beaches have all bench marked moments in my life as well as succeeding in reducing me to tears.

I love John Waters.

And I always wanted Alexis Carrington to have the last laugh in Dynasty.

Miaow.

I would dearly love to known Quentin Crisp.

I am fascinated by The Wizard of Oz.

And Truman Capote gave me my name.

Yes, I have known it for the longest time.

In another life, I was without doubt, a gay man.

Now, I do not wish to offend anyone by drawing these conclusions or by making these comparisons.

On the contrary, I am delighted that I was.

And besides, anyone who knows me, knows that I would never do anything like that, it just isn't my style.

But, the facts speak for themselves. They are irrefutable.

Of course these facts do not account for all of the aspects of my personality. But they certainly played a prevalent role throughout my formative years.

I have no idea why I was so drawn to these particular thing, or them to me. I just was.

It could well be just because I have always been an open minded and accepting soul. One blessed with a mind like a Heath Robinson drawing, that can hosts and welcomes all and sundry just because it has the ability to do so, pure and simple and nothing more.

I have never liked something just because it was in vogue.

I like things because I like them.

That is who I truly am.

Of course, what I should also explain, is that I have never felt particularly girly. I never really did girly things and I certainly didn't know what being girly was.

Unlike Maria in West Side Story, I wasn't prone to dancing around my bedroom and singing I feel Pretty while my friends chorused in response " Have you met my good friend Maria the craziest girl on the block?"

It just wasn't me. Although, it may well have been them.

And then there are the days when I feel like a man dressed as a woman.

I mentioned this to my Mother one day and she said "I get that too."

It is the surrealist of feelings, to feel like that.

But maybe it is all part of the process, just another string to the bow of previous incarnation. Who knows?

And now I have noticed my curious liking for rather beautiful young men.

And no, it isn't a serious pastime. It is more like window shopping for something I actually don't really want or need, or come to think of, have the energy or patience for.

It's a bit like seeing a puppy and thinking "Oh how adorable" but in reality knowing full well, that I don't really want one.

But how could I fail not to notice such wonders. They are everywhere those fit young men. Shame on them and their preposterous good looks. Their leader is of course Ryan Gosling in all his Crazy, Stupid, Love photoshoped hilarity.

Sighs.

As I grow older, I rarely watch musicals any more. Which is a shame. I find them a little passé and out of sync with modernity.

But yes, I did see Les Misérables, but it hardly possessed the same Hollywood glamour that Georges Guétary displayed whilst climbing a staircase and singing I'll build a stairway to paradise in An American In Paris.

But you can't fault a Fosse.

Sweet Charity is simply sublime and they broke the mould when they made that one.

"The minute you walked in the joint,I could see you were a man of distinction,a real big spender."

Bette Davies is long gone, but her movies still remain.

And I haven't been that moved by a film of late.

I still like the odd blast of Spooky by Dusty from time to time, but my Sweet Dreams and Walking After Midnight days appear to be a thing of the past.

It is obvious to me that I am just heading in a different direction now.

Hopefully though, I won't ever prefer a cup of tea to a cuddle

Sing out Louise!”



Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Valentine's Day By Holly Searle





Hand on heart, I really don't like Valentine's Day.

There, I've said it.

It isn't that I am not a romantic, I am.

I truly, honestly am.

But, and here's the thing, my relationship with all things contrived and insanely marketed in order to make me want to rush out to the shops and spend money on heart shaped paraphernalia, just leaves me a bit cold.

If it's your thing, then please work away and ignore me while I rant on.

The actual Saint Valentine died on the very day that was posthumously named in his honour.

Already a shaky start, I am sure you'll agree, for a day that the Victorian's shamelessly appropriated for one that is meant to signify all things loving.

It is one of those made up days, that makes singletons stress about being single, and sees couples greeting the day with far too high an expectations of what it might deliver, only to be disappointed with what it actually does.

On top of all of that, I can clearly remember my Mum taking it upon herself to send me a Valentine's card in my formative years, just so I wouldn't feel like a social misfit.

Yes, I know that she was just being kind and that it very thoughtful, but when I found out that she had sent it, I felt even worse than I would have done, had I not of received one at all.

I also recall, with horror, the Valentine revelations of a fellow that I went to college with.

Every year he would opened a telephone directory and pinpoint a random recipient of an anonymous Valentine's card that he would be sending to them.

A stranger sending another stranger a card.

The very thought of it sends a chill down my spine.

Can you imagine the repercussions of his selfless (he proclaimed in his defence) heartfelt annual action?

I had visions of marriages braking up or lonely old dears becoming agoraphobic shut ins because they thought that they might have been targeted by a stalker.

Or maybe , the card he sent, would be received by the widower of the intended recipient. Who was all at once, reminded of his lost love on seeing her name on the envelope, but then in a cat's whisker of a moments thought, after opening it, began to doubt his beloved was as true to him as he had always thought.

The mind boggles.

But maybe his actions helped save a few rocky relationships. Helped to pep them up a bit and reignited a few sparks, that in turn made way for a new fiery passion.

Or maybe they just made someone feel good about themselves (I think that was his overall intention to be honest).

We shall never know.

All the same, not unlike the actions of the Milk Tray Man, I found it a all bit creepy.

Apart from the one that my Mum had sent to me, I have had my own fair share of genuine cards, all sent from real admirers that I knew well.

When I think about them now, I realise, that they were just like the men that had sent them.

One I shall always remember, as the person who sent it, was sweet, kind, and funny and I should never have let him go.

One was sent in the form of a riddle, that I must admit, I was never able to solve and even to this day infuriates me.

And just like the sender who had sent it, was an enigma parading as a mystery, who even from this distance, I was glad to see the back of.

I cannot remember the last time I ever received one.

And that is fine.

Who knows, maybe this year I'll get an anonymous one from a random stranger.

Now wouldn't that be funny.

My point is this.

You shouldn't really need one day to remind you to tell the person (or persons) that you love, that you, well, that you love them really.

Just tell them every day.

You don't need a card or a fancy novelty balloon, or even a long gone saint as an excuse.


And that is why, my very dear friends, I don't like Valentine's Day.



Monday, 4 February 2013

Smoking and Me By Holly Searle




When I was a child, I absolutely hated people smoking around me.

Both of my parents smoked as did their parents, and as a result, my siblings and I, were raised in a cloudy toxic London environmentally unfriendly smog.

But of course, back then, no one really gave it a second thought. They all just smoked and smoked and smoked, and then smoked a bit more.

It was just part of every day life in the same way that say having a pint of milk delivered to your front door was by the milkman.

People just did it.

They smoked on the top decks of buses, in train carriages, on planes, in hospital wards, in the cinema, in libraries, at work, and of course in their own homes.

People just smoked anywhere and everywhere because they could.

Both indoors and out, it was always open season as far as smoking was concerned.

None of them gave this two minute exercise of puffing away in ignorance a second thought, as it was of no great concern to them as to why they shouldn't.

It was fine to smoke, wasn't it?

Wasn't it?

All those adverts said so didn't they?

You were never alone if you had a fag dangling out of the corner of your gob, whilst meandering around London after dark in a raincoat and a trilby.

Or you could you be all macho like one of those handsome cowboys who lived a healthy rural life on a cattle ranch somewhere in America.

Or maybe the sophisticated lifestyles of those that smoked could be bought for the price of a twenty pack encased in a gold box, or one that was named after the host city of not one, but two Winter Olympics.

You could be just like them and aspire to be associated with those lifestyles if you smoked this brand or that. The choices were almost limitless. One little white stick enabled you to imagine that you were part of an alternative reality, one that was very different from the one you were actually living.

Plus it was all cool and the gang to smoke wasn't it?.

All of those icons of the silver screen always had a fag wedge firmly between their lips. Fit and glamorous young men and women who demanded emulation from their audiences.

Didn't everyone want to be just like them?

Those ad men, those mad ad men. All of them spin doctors driven by wealth, who in their creative process would determine the future bad health of their targeted demographic, just so long as it made money.

Then in the late eighties, the general consensus towards smoking began to change.

And it didn't just happen over night.

Just like an addict being slowly weaned off of their choice of evil substance, changes began to take place slowly. Where once it had been okay to smoke on every part of a train, now there was only one carriage in which a smoker could puff away to their hearts detriment.

The international travelling smoker could now only smoke to the rear of a plane just like his terra firma counter part bus traveller.

All smokers were suddenly becoming a highlighted minority, targeted by spacial segregation.

Then smoking areas became a choice, rather than an accepted given, in restaurants and bars across the land.

Pretty soon, smokers became easier to spot than Wally. There they all were, outed and sneaking a quick fag break on the pavement, whilst leaning against the building they worked in.

For all the health risks associated with cigarettes, they were a pretty hardy bunch, braving all weathers for their few grams of nicotine.

And I was one of them.

I hated my parents smoking and yet when I first left home, the first thing I made a conscious effort to do, was to smoke.

It was, I thought, my own isolated independent rebellion.

But on reflection, nicotine was part of my genetic DNA. It was already there at my moment of conception and before I even came into the world. It fused its coding into mine without even giving me a choice.

And yet here was the first time in my life that I wasn't passively absorbing all of the toxins and poisons against my will. And what did I do, I filled the void with my own choice of brand and never gave it a second thought.

I was never affected by the ad man's subliminal marketing messages. I was part of the a third generation of smokers who systematically smoked, because their DNA demanded that they do so.

And yet, through it all, I hated it.

I attempted to beat off its unhealthy attachment to me several times, but I was always seduced into giving up, giving up, and gave in, and started again.

It has at times ruled my life.

Addiction is not unlike those cartoon versions of good and evil, that sit on each shoulder. A devil on the right and an angel on the left, my addiction often begged and pleaded with me.

"Go on, have one, just one, what harm can it do?"

"Say no, you are stronger than it is, don't give in, don't do it!"

But I did. I gave in, time and time again and always due to the mental deals I made with myself about smoking and not smoking.

And then it all starts to catch up with you, the actual consequence of the effects that it starts to have on your health. Those that as an addict you constantly make excuses for and blame on something else.

And then there are those that you cannot hide.

The lines it has left on your face. The teeth it has stained forever.

And that isn't cool, or a good look, or a lifestyle that you want to be living.

And then one day you realise that you left home thirty years ago and it is time to stop.

And so I did, and have.

There is too much at risk now, and besides I like not smoking.

It is easy to stop, it is the continuation of the stopping that is the hard bit.

But I made myself a promise this year, and I am sticking to it.

I promised myself I would be nicer to myself this year, and I am.

On the positive side, I have stopped getting migraines, I don't cough any more, my nose isn't continually stuffed up, and I smell nicer.

Thirty years of addiction isn't easy to wave farewell to.

It really isn't.

But ever time a smoker sits down beside me on public transport stinking fags, or I hear the familiarity of that hacking cough. It reminds me of all the reasons why I have stopped.

And I am both proud of myself and very, very, very glad.