- 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.
Wednesday, 31 July 2013
I have no idea why I am scared of heights, but I am. The very thought of being in a high-rise building seems an unnatural state of being to me. I get a knot in my stomach just thinking about it.
It freezes my blood, my legs turn to jelly and if you could see inside my head, it would no doubt resemble Edward Munch's painting The Scream.
It is that bad.
I kid you not, last year when I was in New York, we were staying, my daughter and I, in a hotel on the twenty-fourth floor. I couldn't even comprehend the effect that this would have one me, and on the last night, as I lay in bed, I felt as though I was falling. The room literally felt as if it was moving.
During the course of the same trip, we ventured out one day to the Empire State Building. Standing in the plush lobby, I turned to my daughter and informed her that I didn't think that I would be able to leave terraferma, and take the lift to the eighty something floor to visit the famous viewing platform. I actually cried as I felt I was letting her down. But the fear of something unnatural, is a fear that cannot be reasoned with.
She was pretty good about it and said not to worry, but that she wanted to go, so off she did, on her own.
So I waited in the lobby.
I then experienced a dreadful pang of guilt as I had sent my first-born child off on her own without her life long protector, to stand on a viewing platform located far too high above street level for my liking.
Major panic and stress engulfed me for the entire time that she was away from me, until she returned.
When she did, I asked what it was like. A bit high, came her response.
I have come to conclude that there must be two types of people; those that have no response to heights, and those, just like me, that do.
The funny thing is, I have no issue with travelling on a plane. The only issue I have with flying, is the time that it takes, the noise, and other people.
If I had my way, and money was no option, I would quite happily charter my own personal jet, with no other passengers on board, who insist on chattering on their mobiles moments prior to take off, or having to put up with their unruly screaming children.
So, plane height flights don't worry me. Odd, but true.
Apart from New York, I can think of several other occasions when I froze or felt sick, due to the height of my location.
Once in Paris, many, many years ago, I stood looking up at the Montparnasse Tower. I was on a short trip to the city with my mother. She wanted us to visit the bar in the tower which was situated somewhere near the top.
I looked up at the tower, mentally placed my hands on my hips, took a sharp intake of breath, exhaled, and confessed to her that I doubted I would be able to make the trip with her.
My mother's response, was to match my anxiety, by telling me that I could either stay where I was, or go with her.
It was a Mexican stand-off. She had me, so I gave it and agreed to go.
I can remember standing in the lift, with my back up against the wall, and my legs shaking. I think she thought I was being a mare, but I wasn't, I was simply trying to ready myself to face my fear.
As comic book beads of sweat formed on my forehead, the lift doors opened on to the floor of the bar. On jelly legs I walked out. Shall we sit by the window, my mother enquired. You're just talking the piss now I thought. From what I can recall, we sat near to the window. Oh well, I surmised, at least I hadn't been abandoned on the streets of Paris.
But this was by no means my worst ever experience with a tall building.
I shall have to fast forward several years to tell you about that.
My good friend Chris (who ironically now lives in New York, but not in a high-rise building), was living in a flat just off Baker Street in central London.
I can't recall as to why we were paying him a visit, there must have been an occasion, but it escapes me now. His flat was located quite high up I remember, and as my little daughter and I arrived at his front door, he greeted us, and introduced us to another mother and her child. Chris made the introductions, and we all exchange a friendly hello.
Now, Chris' flat had a balcony. It had an enclosed waist-high barrier, but, there was also a handrail, that ran along the length of the balcony.
My daughter and I stole a glance, and that was enough. I told my daughter to come in, where I could keep an eye on her.
The other visitor's child, a boy, however, was strangely drawn to the balcony. And while the adults were chatting away inside, I noticed that he was still out there.
My daughter curiously drawn to him, as children invariably are to one another, went to see what he was doing. When I looked to see what she was looking at, I nearly threw-up.
He had positioned himself with his feet against the enclosed wall, with his hands on the rail, and was rolling himself in an upward motion, not unlike a circus performer, who is about to perform an acrobatic feat.
My mind made the very quick calculation, that if he repeated this motion, he was risking propelling himself over the rail, and heading for the pavement far far below.
I remember making a noise not that dissimilar to the one that Emma Thompson makes when Hugh Grant explains the misunderstanding of their situation in the final moments of Sense and Sensibility, which in turn, drew Chris' attention to what I was witnessing. He very quickly called to the child, and made him come in, and the drama was averted.
I can still feel the fear in the pit of my stomach as I recall this incident. For many weeks after that day, I had waking nightmares about that child going over the edge of that balcony and crashing out of this mortal coil forever.
That fear was no doubt instilled in every parent, in retrospect of the horrific accident involving Eric Clapton's son.
It was pretty damn scary, and I doubt that the boy has any recollection of this event at all, but I know Chris does, and so do I.
Tall buildings, you can keep them for people who like a view.
Me, I'll always kiss the ground, and thank feck that I have my two feet firmly planted on its surface any day of the week.
Thursday, 18 July 2013
In 1975 I was the same age as my son is now.
During that year, a film was released which would probably affect me, more than any other I had ever seen before, or since.
And that film was Jaws.
It is hard to imagine that this was nearly forty years ago. I find that a shocking thought.
But what I find even more shocking is the quality of some of the films that have been produced and released in those intervening years.
Now, hold on a minute, don't all start waving pieces of paper, like the politicians do during a heated debate at the PM's question time. Just listen to what I have to say.
During those years there have been some incredible films written produced, and directed, that have pushed the boundaries of cinema. Some that introduced revolutionary and ground breaking subject matters, and some that have changed or challenged our opinion and heighten our views regarding major social issues. In turn, they have created a positive social vibe.
But a majority of them have been guilty of that old adage that more is less, and have insulted audiences with their unremitting deliverance of their cinematic fast food.
Now, if I ever encounter this type of film, it always reminds me of Frank Lloyd Wright's chewing gum for the mind television quote. This seems like a very apt quote for describing these mass-produced, and less than thought-provoking costly minutes of utter tosh.
Recently, I took my son to the pictures to see Man of Steel. There we both sat in the dark, while the movie played. At the end of the film, my son turned to me and said "Well that was rubbish."
I agreed, and started to ask myself why it was such a dreadful film.
I thought about what we had just seen, and why it was so unacceptable, and the conclusion I came to was this.
A great film has a heart. The writer's work represents that heart. They have conceived an idea, and have spent a substantial amount of time, mixing the characters and the plot together, to produce a narrative, that will ultimately have the potential to deliver a great movie.
However, not all writer's are lucky enough to ever see their stories on the big screen, because major studios don't always pick them up.
On the contrary, there seems to be an obsession with remarking films that were perfectly good on their first outing. I was informed the other day that they are remaking Carrie. Well, if you recall the last scene of that film, Carrie White, is still with us, and I doubt she'll like this one little bit.
To some of these remakes it would appear, there is an almost unhealthy amount of special effects added, to pep it up a bit, but that just blind us all with science.
And if you want to know what I think, I reckon that this technology is the Ebenezer Scrooge of modern cinema. Which is odd, as it has given us so much, whilst managing to perform the mother and father of all autopsy on these already perfectly good films, and in doing so, has managed to remove the heart of ingenuity from them.
Just stop and have a think for a moment. Think of all of those movies you have enjoyed over the last four decades. I bet all the ones that you loved, still have all their internal organs.
I bet they do.
And I bet that there are countless others that you can only recall because you wished you had spent that 90 or so minutes, doing something a lot more interesting.
So, where was I?
Ahhh, yes, Jaws.
On an evening in 1975 I went to the cinema to see Jaws. I can remember it as if it were yesterday. I sat on the left, about four rows from the front. The film began, as it does, with the under water shot that opens it, accompanied by the first few bars of the now unmistakable John Williams theme.
I was knicker-gripped from that point on.
I had never seen a film like it.
I sat transfixed, and terrified in that darken cinema, feasting on this sumptuous cinematic three course meal from its beginning until its end. All the best quality ingredients were of equal proportion. The plot, the protagonists, and the monster, a mechanical shark, affectionately known as Bruce, by the cast and crew.
"You'll never go in the water again!" Claimed one of the pre-publicity campaigns.
And guess what? I never did. I even found it hard to take a dip in a swimming pool after seeing Jaws.
I watched it again recently with my son, and he loved it as much as I still do.
People often ask me what my favourite films is. I can't answer that question. But Jaws is absolutely one hundred percent, without a doubt, one of them.
And why? Well because it managed to produce a narrative, with a its cause and effect on track from the start until its finish. The characters are wonderfully well recognised and stunningly fleshed out by the actors who portrayed them. It is thrilling, charming and timeless, and most of all, now more than ever, I have great affection for it because of Bruce.
He was about as special effected as it got in 1975.
And he was perfect, because he represents the ingenuity of the team behind that movie.
After I had seen Man of Steel, I thought about why I had hated it so much. After very little thought, I came to conclude that it was due to the saturation of the special effects and for what purpose they had been used within the context of the narrative.
It was all very wham bam thank you Mam, and used to display the needless destruction of humanity, buildings, oh and highly expensive satellites that were tracking Superman's whereabouts.
How very dare it.
It was dull and boring, and went on for far too long. In a word, there was no ingenuity and no heart to that movie. It simply had no soul.
Often films unwittingly reflect the society which has produced them.
I thought about that too.
Jaws was made in a post Nixon age, when the enemy was domestic and literary lurking in the water.
Man of Steel is loud and brash. An American cock-sure and cock blocking warning and masturbatory visual display to all aliens that threaten it's security, that they will not win, if decide to mount an attack.
That's all well and good and all, but with regards to watching a good movie, it is just utter nonsense.
But alas, I predict that we will see many more of these films in our cinemas very soon.
More is less, more is less, more is less.
And me and mine?
Well, we prefer the whimsy and ever lasting charm of a robotic shark called Bruce, and always will.
Dim the light, cue that John Williams music, and enjoy.