Friday, March 19, 2010

Things to Do in Didsbury When You're Blind

I'm still recuperating from my eye operation, and everything's going reasonably well, and as expected - it's just that in the hurly burly world we now live in, it seems absurd to be out of the swim of things for a whole month - but that's what they'd said before the operation, and it's looking likely to be that. It's partly because I've still got blurry vision, partly as I'm still going in for regular check ups, and partly because I need to take drops in my eyes every two-three hours. None of which are compatible with your normal life. The internet has been a bit of a lifesaver, particularly as I'm still finding it hard to concentrate for any length of time, and I've not been able to read books.

The improving weather has made a lot of difference as I feel comfortable going out the house without being blown this way and that, or risking a rainstorm. So, I've been watching the world from afar, via Twitter etc. and listening to the radio. The whole media seems designed to get people angry these days. I caught a bit of last night's Question Time in Wythenshawe, and it was noticeable that the audience were sane, considered, and very angry at the political classes, whilst the panel, with the honourable exception of Charles Kennedy, were either insane (David Starkey) or inept (Margaret Beckett). When Starkey referred to 25% of children being "feral" you felt like sectioning him. It was a woman in the audience who very clearly let him know how offensive this comment was. You got the feeling, as we still have this "phoney war" before an election has even been called, that none of the big guns fancied meeting the electorate in Wythenshawe - after all, where's the votes? A Labour stronghold, not a marginal. If there's increasing contempt from the political classes for the electorate (only matched by the bonus culture of banks and chief executives), the anger against Westminster from the audience is palpable. I don't think they've yet realised how raw the wound remains following the expensives scandal and the bank bailout.

If it seems in such circumstances that art is less valid, I'd probably disagree. That, in fact, art adds value at times like these. A visit to an art gallery, watching a film, reading a book - these are inexpensive pleasures - moreover they seem far more "real" than the pantomimes that our 24-hour media spews out. A few years ago, there was a trend to satirise the 24-hour media. This can be in films such as "Natural Born Killers" or"15 Minutes" (well recommended if you haven't seen it) TV shows like "Nathan Barley" or "Brass Eye." It's hard to know where you'd now start. The "plantfood" drug Meow Meow sounds less ridiculous than Chris Morris's infamous "Cake"; and the kidnapping and release of Sahil Saheed from Oldham would seem too far-fetched a script for a soap opera, yet it's real.

For all the hangwringing over BBC's decision to recommend axeing Radio 6, it's more than ever thrown the spotlight on the paucity of good UK-developed drama and comedy on television these days. We excel at lifestyle shows such as Masterchef, yet it seems more by chance than judgement that the licence fee gets paid on something more substantial. Sitting at home watching "Homes Under the Hammer" or whatever it is, you kind of care a bit more than when you're catching a few things on the iPlayer.

The importance of nurturing an independent cultural sector becomes ever more clear. The universities are following the arts council in being subject to cutbacks and one does fear that the smaller, more worthwhile and cerebral cultural projects are likely to be first in line - though the problem of developing an audience for a diverse cultural offering remains critical. Tonight, though I doubt I'll manage to attend, is a farewell celebration to Manchester's Central Library that is closing for refurbishment. The regular literary programme that the library has put on has been a continual small triumph, which has developed a loyal and regular audience for a wide range of local and visiting writers. Tonight's Celebration is likely to be a fantastic evening, and I'd be there if I could.


Jim Murdoch said...

So if 25% of our kids are feral, 35% obese and 81% playing computer games to all hours of the night that surely all that means is there’s just a bunch of fat kids sitting in their back gardens playing with their Game Boys because their parents won’t let them go any further in case they get attacked by the strangers lurking on every corner.

Adrian said...

Statistics, Jim, they never tell the whole story!