“Buried Alive by the National Coal Board”

aberfan_1_lg

 

Fifty years ago today, disaster stuck a small town in the Welsh valleys. It was one of the first disasters to be widely reported on television and the shocking footage was seen around the world. Aberfan was a mining town, but this disaster did not strike the pit and its miners, but instead the vast majority of the victims were schoolchildren.

Coal-mining is a dangerous business but it is a dirty one too. It produces vast amounts of waste products. At the Merthyr Vale colliery, this waste rock, or spoil, had been piled into tips on the mountainside for decades. By the middle of the sixties, seven of these tips rose above Aberfan. Several of them had been built on porous sandstone, on top of underground springs. Concerns had been raised by the locals, especially given the proximity of the tips to Pantglas Schools, but the National Coal Board or NCB (who ran the pit) and local politicians (who knew the importance of the pit and the jobs it provided) didn’t pay much heed.

October 21st, 1966 was a Friday, the last day of school before the mid-term break.

It had been raining heavily for several days beforehand, and the tips were sodden. At 9:15am, just as the pupils were settling down in their classrooms, part of Tip No. 7 gave way. Thousands of tonnes of debris, mud and stone liquified and rushed down the mountainside. There was no time to warn the village below. The deadly slide destroyed farm cottages, terraced houses and part of the senior school but the epicentre of the horror was the junior school. The northern side of the school were completely engulfed. Classrooms filled up with black sludge as walls collapsed. In seconds, a generation was nearly wiped out.

The villagers instantly rallied with the rescue, trying to dig the children out with bare, bloodied hands. Only a handful of people were rescued from the mud.

In all, 144 people were killed on that damp October morning – 28 adults, 116 children.

The NCB tried to shift blame but the tribunal found them responsible for the tragedy. No one faced persecution. No one lost their jobs over the decision to place the tip in such a perilous place.

At one of the coroner’s inquests, one father loudly objected to the cause of his daughter’s death being recorded as asphyxia and multiple injuries.

“No sir, buried alive by the National Coal Board.” He insisted.

Nearly every family in the village was touched by the tragedy. Surviving children often didn’t play in the streets, because it reminded their neighbours of the children they had lost. Prescription rates of tranquillisers and sleeping tablets rose drastically in the area. Many of the survivors, bereaved relatives and rescuers suffered, and are still suffering from what we now know as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The remaining tips still overshadowed Aberfan, and it took much campaigning to finally force the NCB to remove them. In a disgusting insult to the victims, money was taken from an memorial fund (made up of donations) to help pay for their removal. It took over thirty years for the money to be finally be returned to the fund.

Merthyr Vale colliery closed in 1989, and there is no longer a coal industry in the Welsh valleys. Many of the victims were buried on the hillside, the white arches marking their graves can be seen in the village below. There is now a memorial garden where Pantglas School once stood, with flowerbeds bordering the footprints of the classrooms where so many died.

Further Reading

Aberfan – A Story of Survival, Love & Community in One of Britain’s Worst Disasters Gaynor Madgwick

Gaynor Madgwick (née Minett) was 8 years old and a pupil at Pantglas Junior School in October 1966. She survived the disaster but sustained a badly broken leg. Her older sister Marylyn and younger brother Carl both died. This is an excellent, heartbreaking and very personal book that I would highly recommend.

More Information:

BBC News – Aberfan

BBC iPlayer – Surviving Aberfan (UK only)

BBC iPlayer – Aberfan: The Fight For Justice (UK only)

ITV Player – The Aberfan Young Wives Club

 

The Indecent Minority

First of all…

I have finally made the move – I’m now officially a Londoner!

My geeky little hobbit-hole in East London is now nice and cozy and my flatmate and I are settling in nicely. I start my new job next week, and I will take to keep you updated on my new adventures in the capital.

Now to the main crux of this post.

The United Kingdom, in its collective ‘wisdom’, has voted to leave the European Union. Actually, let me clarify that. The Leave vote was 52% of those polled. Scotland, Northern Ireland and Gilbatar all voted to remain, as did most of London.

I have spent several hours watching the coverage with horror – from the initial spew of profanity at the numbers at 5:30am to the inevitable confirmation, Farage’s smug victory speeches, the Pound starting to tank as the markets opened and David Cameron announcing that he wasn’t going to hang around and help to clean up this mess.

The uncertainty is stomach-churning. The possibility of Prime Minister Boris Johnson is sickening enough. The Scottish National Party are already talking about another independence referendum because Scotland is being dragged out of the EU against their will. And there is Northern Ireland.

My homeland will be the one part of the United Kingdom with a hard land border with the EU. A border that I grew up within ten miles of. How this decision will affect the relationship between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland remains to be seen.

But it’s the Peace Process that I’m more worried about.

The vote in Northern Ireland split along the same-old political lines and the sectarian divide. Although the majority of the vote was Remain, the Democratic Unionist Party (the largest Unionist party) was one of the biggest supporters for Leave and the Northern Irish Leave vote was concentrated in areas where the DUP have most support. In contrast, the Nationalist community overwhelmingly supported Remain.

Like I said, same-old Northern Irish politics. But Sinn Féin (the largest Nationalist party) have taken the result as an opportunity to suggest a referendum on reunification between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

This is inflammatory language on the eve of the Marching Season – traditionally the most volatile time of the year. The Peace Process is fragile enough as it is – I’m worried that The Troubles could return with vengeance in a post-EU climate, and I still have family back there.

I do have one advantage – I’m an Irish passport holder, therefore post-Brexit, I’ll still have an EU passport. Silver linings and all that.

One last thing, to my friends from EU countries, who used EU freedom of movement to come to the UK to live and work and study. Amazing people from Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland and everywhere else. I love and adore you, and I’m so glad that the EU made it possible for you to come here and that I know you.

Please ignore the rhetoric – as far as I’m concerned, you are always welcome!

And finally, fuck off, Farage! I’m proud to be part of the Indecent Minority.

Review: Sherlock – The Abominable Bride

IMG_0682

WARNING: Spoilers for The Abominable Bride and The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes

First and foremost, ever since I heard about that the team behind Sherlock were producing a Victorian Special, I was some what disappointed (a Special, in my mind, would do nothing to advance the story arc). I then very quickly came to the conclusion that this decision could be played to the advantage of the show.

One of my main criticisms of Series 3 (especially His Last Vow) was I felt that the writers had forgotten that they had only 90 minutes of screen time per episode to play with. They had so many crazy ideas and they wanted to do them ALL! (I’m going to blame Steven Moffat for this – Doctor Who is another prime example of this).

The format of Series 3 did not help. Because they had done Reichenbach/The Final Problem as the finale of Series 2, the first episode of Series 3 had to be the resolution of that – they had little choice, and that limited the writing somewhat. Especially as the decision was made at this point to introduce Mary. The Sign of Three (in my opinion) is a lovely episode in its structure but again limited the opportunity for cases/adventures.

This meant everything (and I mean everything) was piled onto His Last Vow, and as a result with all the twists and turns (again, the direction of Mary as a character) were too fast-paced with none of the time needed to let the emotional impact settle.

It was all too much, too soon.

So I, very early on, came to a conclusion – this Victorian special was a chance for Gatiss and Moffat to get their crazier ideas well and truly out of their systems.

Because our beloved Powers That Be are nothing but a pair of BBC-sponsored fanboys.

So, on January 1st 2016, I headed down to London to watch Sherlock: The Abominable Bride at the cinema with a group of fandom friends.

And I think my theory might be right.

The Abominable Bride was funny, fast-paced, positively brimming with hat-tips and very self-indulgent. There were moments of heartbreak but most of all, it was what I expected.

A witty, funny script, beautiful costumes, gothic setting, all the actors at their absolute best.

A massive shout-out to Louise Brealey – Molly was a character I disliked in Series 1, grew to like in Series 2 & 3 and now I alright adore her. Hooper in the mortuary scene was one of the outstanding moments of the episode (as well as Moustache of the episode!).

Now I will state that I saw Wilder’s ’The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes’ the night before watching this episode so I was very attuned to spotting the hat-tips to that movie.

So much so the ‘Army of Wives’ with their robes had me automatically think of the Trappist monks in that film (in which Holmes’ relationship with women is very much explored, and he is bettered by a female spy). Despite the very obvious reference to the Ku Klux Klan earlier in the episode with the Five Orange Pips, I didn’t made the visual connection of the robes with the KKK until discussing it later on Twitter – which is very much my mistake.

One of the ways ‘Army of Wives’ is problematic to say the least. I am not going to pretend that the Suffragette movement did not have a militant history, but using the death of one of their number as the cloak behind which vengeance could be taken against the men who had wronged them, whilst wearing KKK-esque robes – a wee bit much? I know Sherlock needs a visual tool to make the Moriarty connection but merciful Lord, really?

However the flip-side of this scene was the opportunity to give a voice to the women that Sherlock has taken advantage of in his time. Molly has been building up to that moment since ‘A Scandal In Belgravia’, made even more prominent as 1895!Hooper had to pass as a man to do her job and be respected as she deserved. But I was even more delighted by Janine, as it felt that Sherlock was finally acknowledging that his treatment of her was simply disgusting.

As it became more and more obvious that this whole 1895 world was Sherlock’s imagination, the more interesting and relevant the episode became. One of my absolute favourite films is Inception – so I did appreciate the levels within levels in Sherlock’s fantasies with one exception. I thought the graveyard scene was clumsy and unnecessary, and in my opinion, served only to shove a reference to Lady Frances Carfax in there and maybe show that John will not stand by whilst Sherlock is being a idiot (yet Lestrade and Mycroft will).

I loved the whole Mycroft/Sherlock relationship-building. Holmes swotting up before he can even meet with his brother, in a desperate attempt not to be outshone by him. (On a side note – the British Sign Language with ‘Wilder’ – brilliant moment). The fact that Mycroft is grossly obese and there is literally a wager on his early grave lead to some of the most outright comedy moments but, to me, also shows that in Sherlock’s mind, he feels that his athletic ability is the only advantage he has over his more intelligent, more settled older brother – so much so that he blows Mycroft’s problems with his weight completely out of proportion.

The whole concept of ’The List’ is a beautiful addition to the brotherly relationship already established – confirming what many fans already believed as regards to Mycroft and Sherlock’s drug problem. A drug problem that the show is finally starting to acknowledge properly. Although the List is likely what drugs Sherlock has taken, I think that it is why Sherlock has taken drugs – his triggers. Mycroft is trying desperately to keep Sherlock safe whatever way he can.

The use of Moriarty as the very personification of Sherlock’s fear and self-doubt was one aspect from His Last Vow I adored and The Abominable Bride brought that to the next level. Andrew Scott’s performance was exemplary (as usual) and the fact that this Moriarty is literally a figment of Sherlock’s imagination allows him to take that performance to a certain extreme, a caricature of the real Jim Moriarty. Thank you so much to Moffat and Gatiss for choosing this method to continuing using Scott’s Moriarty, rather that the unimaginative ‘Moriarty survived too.’

And that scene at the waterfall with Sherlock finally realising that the only way he can actually defeat his own demons, the Moriarty in his head, is with John’s help – oh, it was beautiful!

So my verdict – all and all, The Abominable Bride was a romp, a good laugh yet hopefully set up Sherlock’s frame of mind for Series 4.

I hope that now Moffat and Gatiss have gotten their more crazy ideas out of their system, and started to set up Series 4, they calm down a little and will go back to the excellent storytelling that defined the earlier seasons and using the Sherlock/John relationship as the absolute core of the show – the reason many of us fell for Sherlock in the first place.

‘The Imitation Game’, Alan Turing & Me

The epicentre of Manchester’s gay scene is Canal Street. Here, and in the surrounding side streets, are brightly lit bars, pubs and clubs of the queer night scene.

Every year, the entire gay village is closed off for Manchester Pride – a massive party over the August bank holiday weekend.

I lived in Manchester whilst I did my clinical training and my best friend and I would always go to Pride – it was the highlight of our summer placement.

Usually though, I would get tired and overwhelmed by the party atmosphere. There was, however, my oasis to retreat to. Just off Canal Street, and bordered by a University of Manchester building, there is Sackville Park – a tiny piece of green in the middle of the city centre. It is one of my favourite places in the world.

By the canal, there is the Beacon of Hope, a lovely memorial to those who have lost their lives to HIV/AIDS. And on a park bench in the middle, is a beautiful statue of Alan Turing.

He is holding an apple, and the plaque at his feet declares “Father of computer science, mathematician, logician, wartime codebreaker, victim of prejudice” along his name and dates.

I fell in love with this memorial the moment I saw it, tears rolling down my cheeks. I found it by accident – I didn’t know it was there. I just came across this tribute to a man who was a hero of mine, and it touched me deeply.

I first read about Alan Turing when I was about ten, in an annual. It had a small piece on the Turing Test. I was fascinated – my family didn’t even have a computer at this point, but I was intrigued by the whole idea of ‘Can Machines Think?’

So much so that Christmas, I was given a Vtech PowerPad – the type which had quizzes and word games, but you could do simple BASIC programming on it as well. I loved it. It was the start of a lifelong information technology addiction.

I learnt more about Turing as I became a teenager, in bits and pieces – never the whole story at once. I was about sixteen, seventeen and struggling with my own sexuality when I finally read it. Of how the man who contributed so much to the whole idea of the ‘computer’, the code-breaking war hero, was also gay. Of how he was persecuted, and how he died – probably by his own hand and far, far too soon.

Sometimes someone’s story can touch you, and continue to touch you time and time again.

The century of Alan Turing’s birth in 2012, and the active campaign for an apology and pardon from the UK government, started to bring my hero’s name to greater public attention. The amazing documentary ‘Codebreaker: The Alan Turing Story’ was aired on Channel 4 and completely broke my heart.

Then the casting news for ‘The Imitation Game’ was announced. My reaction was… intense (the screaming and dancing sort). Finally, finally there was going to be a major film about Turing – and they had cast my favourite actor to play him.

I have been looking forward to this movie ever since. When I got a chance to meet Benedict Cumberbatch, I just about managed to tell him how much I was looking forward to seeing his performance because I admired Turing so much.

Now, my twitter feed is full of the buzz from Telluride and Toronto. People are talking Oscars. The press junkets have started and amongst the usual silly questions, there have been a few gems of answers and comments.

Particularly this one from Mr Cumberbatch:

“And even in that he turned that moment of his life into work … by studying morphogenesis, the mutation of cells to adapt to environmental stimuli and try to conquer their conditions by mutating into other organisms or different versions of themselves in order to survive. As the oestrogen was ripping his body and mind apart.”

(source)

Turing’s story has always got to me – and I think it has got to Benedict Cumberbatch and the other film-makers too. And I think that is going to show in his performance.

I have never anticipated a film in the way I do ‘The Imitation Game’.

I guess I might be too emotionally invested in it.

But this is a film I have needed for a long time, and if everyone is talking come awards season, that means Alan Turing might finally get some of the recognition he deserves.

And I will be at a screening the first opportunity I can feasibly get. Tissues packed.

Because something tells me I am going to need them.

Work And Mental Illness

Sometimes it’s really hard to get people to treat depression as a actual illness.

I have fallen foul of my workplace’s sickness policy. Basically I have had too many episodes (episodes not days) and haven’t shown improvement.

The reason for this is depression – I have been trying to keep working as best I can but some days I have had to ring in sick. Those days when lifting my head from the pillow was too much. When I couldn’t crawl out of my own head long enough to form a coherent thought. I work in healthcare – stressful situations, vulnerable patients. I cannot cope, I cannot do my job if I am in the middle of a Bad Day.

Most of the time, I try and work despite of depression but some days, this just isn’t possible. I have always been honest with my management and colleagues – most of them are very supportive.

The problem is the paperwork. The policy allows for no allowance for absences that are caused by a disability or medical condition.

So Tuesday morning, I am off to a Formal Review with management and HR. One outcome of this meeting, as the forms and paperwork helpfully remind me, could be termination of contract.

Yep, I could lose my job.

So I am now going through a very stressful process. I have had to take time away from patients to prepare my defence. My union rep has had to do the same. The stress has making me worse.

This long weekend coming up, I should be taking a most needed opportunity to de-stress. I should be celebrating the striking of Twelve and reign of Capaldi as the Doctor.

Instead I am going to be stressing over this meeting. I am worried for my bloody job!

My colleagues are trying to support me, trying to reassure me. Trying to convince me that I’m good at my job and they’re not going to fire me.

The problem is, I’m depressed. No amount of reassurance or compliments is going to convince that part of my brain that is says that I am a vile human being and a useless piece of crap.

That part of my brain is pretty loud right now.

And having to go through a novel-size document basically saying how useless I am is only giving it ammunition.

So I laugh and joke and say “They can’t fire me! We’re too short-staffed!” because deep down I am trying not to crumble.

Because the last thing I need, is another absence on my record.

Review: Sherlock – The Empty Hearse

Below is an extensive review of the first episode of Sherlock Series 3, it is very, very spoiler-heavy for that episode.

First and foremost, I want to thank the fabulous people who came to my wee Sherlock party to watch The Empty Hearse – it was brilliant and the best night’s craic I’ve had in a long, long time. I bloody love you all!

2014-01-01 18.11.55

The theories:

Theory 1:

Just watch the video of our reaction. Can’t add anything to that.

Theory 2:

I was in absolute stitches at this. It was very funny and completely ridiculous. One point I do want to make here though. The Empty Hearse group was interesting, because it showed Anderson telling a woman her theory was rubbish because it had a bit of guys kissing – and she bloody stood up to him. Female Sherlockian being told her opinions don’t count because she happens to enjoy a little bit of slash – sounds a little familiar? YMMV.

Theory 3:

Here Mark Gatiss hit the nail on the head – no matter what the explanation, someone was always going to be disappointed. It could never be clever enough, showy enough but the how was never the point. It’s the why, it’s the fact that Sherlock was in control the whole time and that he was back. I think that mentally, many of us were throwing our own theories out just as Anderson was pulling his own off the walls because they don’t matter anymore – Sherlock was home.
A note on Anderson – I always interpreted Anderson as a character as a bit of a knowing joke, a dig at your CSI-type dramas where the forensics teams are all knowing Gods. Anderson can catalogue the forensic evidence but he has no idea what it is actually telling him. He just ticks off procedures on his checklist.
And Sherlock Holmes walks in and can tell instantly what is relevant and what isn’t and what it all means – observing, cataloguing and theorising all at the same time. And when he does need the help of forensic chemistry, he not only has the skills to do it himself but he isn’t going to waste time on unnecessary tests and procedures.
Anderson is jealous of Sherlock, always has been. Tries to impress him – without much luck (“She’s German. Rache…”). Tries to belittle his deductions (“So we can read her e-mails. So what?”). And finally refuses to believe him at all – Donovan thought that Sherlock was involved in the kidnapping. It was Anderson who presents the theory that all of Sherlock’s solved cases were faked (and well and truly throws Lestrade under the bus in front of the DCI).
But it is Anderson who ends up losing his job, as Sherlock’s name was cleared, and he desperately believes that Sherlock is still alive because he can’t deal with the thought that he drove him to suicide. And even sets up a little scene for Sherlock, still trying to impress him.

The reunions:

Mycroft:

Sherlock’s only link to his former life, come to fetch his little brother home. And God forbid, by doing fieldwork. The sniping and sarcastic remarks between the Holmes brothers was brilliant.

Lestrade:

That hug, with the affectionate ‘You Bastard!’, was just beautiful and everything I could have wanted.

Mrs Hudson:

The scream was brilliant! (But I was urging her to brain him with frying pan.) I also loved that John doesn’t visit and gets a load of grief off her but Sherlock comes back from the dead, everything is forgiven and she’s gushing at him being back. That woman spoils Sherlock rotten and everyone knows it.

John:

The initial reunion was hysterical. I could barely watch the French waiter routine for the giggles and the moustache was distracting me so I loved that Sherlock kept commenting on it. It was the stages that I thought was brilliant. Sherlock puts his foot in it, John goes for the throat, they get kicked out of the restaurant. Sherlock puts his foot in it again, John splits his lip, they get kicked out of the cafe. Sherlock, yet again, puts his foot in it, John nuts him, they get kicked out of the chippy. And all the while, Mary is watching with a big smile on her face. (On that note, the use of cut scenes though out the episode was genius!)
The whole episode was dedicated to Sherlock and John trying to get back to the closeness they once shared. And it wasn’t easy, and it’s not the same as it once was, but I think that they will both be stronger for it.

Introducing Mary Morstan:

Mary Morstan is pitch perfect. I love her character. I love how much she values John and Sherlock’s friendship. I love that she is sassy and intelligent and takes it all in her stride. I love that Sherlock instantly sees that and respects her (that moment outside the chippy is pure gold.) And I love that there is a hell of a lot more to her than meets the eye.
Basically I’m so, so happy they have got her right.

Hearing voices:

These were moments that seriously got to me. When John entered 221 Baker Street and could hear the violin, the ghosts of conversations past, my heart broke just a little bit. It just showed how much Sherlock and 221B were intertwined in John’s mind and how he just couldn’t bare to live there anymore.
When Sherlock hears John’s voice as he deduces, hears John insulting him, I think that this is a sign of how much the hiatus affected him, how broken he actually is. I thought that Sherlock has lost a lot of the confidence he had in his own abilities. He seemed to express self-doubt a lot more, and I hope that they continue to develop this as the series goes on.

Remember, remember:

The entire bonfire scene, my heart was in my throat. Seeing Mary and Sherlock racing through the streets to save John, the horror as the flames were lit, and John unable to do anything to help himself. Sherlock was stripped back emotionally, like he always is when John is in danger, and the fact that he quite literally dove into flames to drag him out. This was pure drama and suspense and I loved it. And I am so looking forward to the ‘Big Bad’ of the series.

Gunpowder, treason & plot:

The actual mechanics of the Bomb Plot meant a little suspension of belief on my part, but I loved that the Tube finally got a starring role in the series. The Underground is London in my mind and London is such a big character in the series. The idea of Sherlock having his ‘Rats’ that desert a sinking ship appealed greatly to the way I think but I also appreciated that the case this episode had to be fairly simplistic because of the heavy focus on John and Sherlock coming together again.

The scene in the bomb carriage, aka Sherlock being a dick again. Firstly I interpreted that it was classically Gatiss in the way he writes for Sherlock. It is in exactly the same vein as the lab scene in Hounds of Baskerville, or the arguments about Sherlock not caring in The Great Game. Gatiss tends to write a more prickly edge to John and Sherlock’s relationship and often uses arguments to get them to actually talk to each other. What was said in that train carriage needed to be said, even if it needed a bit of encouragement and John needed to realise that Sherlock can’t solve everything (back to Sherlock showing more doubt.) Of course, when he realises Sherlock is playing him, he calls him a cock, they laugh it off and they will never speak of it again. But it was needed so they could go back to the best of friends – the air had been cleared.

The one who counted the most:

The relationship between Molly and Sherlock was the one that had to have developed since the last series, and I was so happy with that development. Sherlock asking her to be his assistant – not as John but as Molly. And she holds her own, yet realises that it is a role she cannot fill. Sherlock was so gentle in these series and it was as if he was trying to make up for all the times he treated her like dirt in the past. There’s your emotional development right there.
I’m intrigued by Tom. I’m not going to form any opinion yet but I want to see more.

The Family Holmes:

Mycroft and Sherlock’s little tiff over Operation was fabulous and I was actually cheering during the whole ‘How would you know?’ conversation – it was lovely.
Mrs and Mr Holmes – as well as being a brilliant cameo by Wanda Ventham and Timothy Carlton, I really should have seen that coming. Because at Crimefest, Moffat and Gatiss talked about how they saw Mycroft and Sherlock’s parents as being quite ordinary and almost perplexed by their own children – and I didn’t think for a second that they would show it on screen.
And Mycroft begging for a reprieve from the parental trip to Les Mis – I laughed my head off.

And on a final note…

It was a brilliant opening episode that I thought hit the right note for the series return. It wasn’t too dark, it was fast-paced and full of drama and left me begging for more.
Yes, it was a love letter to the fans, but the whole show has always had hat-tips to the associated fan lore with Sherlock Holmes, as well as the canon and other adaptions (always 1895), so I like that the newer fandom jokes were given a nod. But really, we see all those fandom things because we are in the fandom. At work, a lot of my non-fandom, casual viewer colleagues saw it too and they thought it was brilliant. They didn’t think that it was confusing, or that they didn’t get half of it. They just saw a fantastic ninety minutes of telly. (and then asked the resident Sherlockian what they had seen Amanda Abbington in before!)

Sherlock’s back. Bring it on.

An Open Letter To Caitlin Moran

Dear Caitlin

When it was announced that you would be moderating the Q&A for the hottest ticket in the country, the BFI premiere of Sherlock Series 3 Episode 1 ‘The Empty Hearse’, I actually thought “Good move, she’s a big fan of the show.”

You see, I follow you on Twitter. I adored the article you did on Benedict Cumberbatch around the time of the Star Trek: Into Darkness premiere. I read your book. I laughed at your book. I loved your descriptions of Wolverhampton (I’m now living there, but I grew up in a shit hole so bad I think Wolverhampton’s alright – I quite like it.)

Now I will fully disclose here and now. I wasn’t at the BFI on Sunday (I was in Dublin) but I do know several people who were there. These are people who are just as passionate about Sherlock as I am, but they are not prone to being oversensitive, taking things too seriously or making mountains out of molehills. But they are happy to make their opinions known, and I tend to respect their opinions. Especially since we have spent many hours, online and in real life, putting the world to rights (as well as giggling over Sherlock, the show that introduced us to each other).

They, like so many of the fans who were there, were severely unimpressed with your moderation style during the Q&A. I would even go on to say downright angry. And after hearing their reports, so am I.

I will get to the main issue. Your use of a fanfic in the Q&A as a ‘joke’, getting Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch to read it aloud. Worth a few laughs?

The author involved has already made her feelings quite clear about the use of her work, written for herself and the enjoyment of our little fandom community, being used to humiliate two actors who she greatly admires in such a public setting. I think most of us who write, read and enjoy fan fiction are feeling for her. You used a very precious thing to us as a cheap joke, at the expense of not only that particular author, but all of the fanfic writers and the Sherlock creative team, a team that many of us feel an immense amount of gratitude to.

Personally, I have been involved in fan fiction for as long as I have had an internet connection. I was a miserable teenager and I used to imagine stories about my favourite TV shows or book characters lying in bed, struggling to sleep. When I had finally persuaded my parents to get the internet, I discovered fan fiction within a week. Suddenly I wasn’t the only one who imagined these things. There were others, and they were writing it, sharing it and enjoying it. I was 15.

Soon I started writing too, and that first review was amazing – someone enjoyed something I wrote! In real life, I was struggling with everything. Online, I was writing, reading and enjoying the whole atmosphere. I even created my own website. Fan fiction even helped me as it was my first introduction to queer characters and relationships (because it isn’t fun being queer and going to a convent school in the back-arse of Northern Ireland – copies of ‘Oranges Aren’t The Only Fruit’ are hard to bloody come by.)

From over a decade, fan fiction and online fandoms have been a trusted refuge for me, a comfort in the dark times. Now it’s even more precious to me. I’m a lot older now, with a proper job, and proper responsibilities but I still have my problems and the Sherlock fandom has been here and is a source of absolute joy for me. And so many of my friends within the fandom create fan works, be it art, or fiction or whatever they can imagine. For our shared joy within our little community with our in-jokes, and running gags, and amazing support for each other.

That is what you were taking the mick out of on Sunday. That is just one fanfic author’s feelings towards her art. You will find that there are as many stories as there are authors. We are not ashamed of it. We’re proud of it and are fiercely protective of it. Especially when it is being used against us and those who inspire us.

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to New Year’s Day, and the Sherlock viewing party I’m having with some fandom friends, and the burst of creativity that the new series will ignite.

Such a pity that you, as a self-confessed fan of the show, have dampened the excitement, even just a little bit, for some of Sherlock‘s biggest and most creative fans.

So if you could excuse me, I have a fic to finish.

Cat

The Feminist Parody: A Proud History

I have always believed that the one of the best ways to show inequalities is to reverse the situation.

Malorie Blackman did it amazingly with race in her Noughts And Crosses series.

And feminists have been doing it with gender for a long time…

1915

2013

I adore this parody.

Sadly, don’t read the comments, please.

Because some of the commenters have missed the point.

Reversing the situation is not man-hating.

Reversing the situation does not make the video just as bad as the original.

Reversing the situation shows up the blatant inequalities and objectification in the original for what they are.

As the girls sing…

‘I apologise if you think my lines are crass,
Tell me how it feels to get verbally harassed.’