Saved by a Stranger, BBC 2, BBC iPlayer, Presenter Anita Rani and Director Toby Trackman.

Brixton born Marc

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000vlpr/saved-by-a-stranger-series-1-1-karl-and-emina

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000vszb/saved-by-a-stranger-series-1-2-marc-and-peter

 The format for this serious is simple, and it’s in the title. People who have been caught up in some traumatic, life-changing event, and some stranger has stepped in to help them. I’m sure I watched the last series, but can’t remember if I did. It’s a feel-good programme.  

The cynical part of me suspects if  an American documentary maker made this programme there would be supernatural elements, but the only angels here are real people. Anita Rani meets with Karl and Emina in the first episode and Marc and Peter in the second episode and does a bit of acting: Will we find these strangers, she asks? That’s like asking will Kylie and Jason Donovan marry in the final episode of Neighbours—of course they will—and live happily ever after?

Karl was in the train carriage where 26 people died on London’s Piccadilly underground line on the 7/7/2005 (another 26 died when a bomb went off on a bus). He was a student dancer, training to be a professional. After the explosion, he prayed to God to let him out, ‘I won’t be gay any more’, was his bargaining chip. God knew he was lying, because He was God, but He also had foreknowledge of the 7/7 bombings and that Karl would push past the stranger that held his hand and told him it would be alright, in his rush to escape from the carriage.

God would also know about the atrocities in Sarajevo during the Bosnia and Herzegovina war in 1992. He would know that a doctor would arrange for Emina and her sister, Edina, who required surgery and had Down’s syndrome to escape on a bus, taking young mothers and kids out of the sieged state to live in Birmingham. God would know that some of the older boys would be taken off buses and shot, and buried in mass graves. Buses would be blown up crossing bridges. But Emina and Edina and their mother would make it to safety. He would know that their dad made the right choice not getting on the bus, despite their mother begging him. And he too would join them in Britain. God would know Britain hates refugees—and poor people, in particular, even their own citizens that have the wrong colour of skin— but since this is a feel-good story, we’ll kid on we don’t. He’ll know that Anita Rani will go through the charade of not being able to find the paediatric doctor who now lives and worked in Holland.

God, despite hating gay people, killing them with AIDs, and in the words of former police chief of Greater Manchester, Sir James Anderton, ‘swirling around in a cesspit of their own making’ will know he’ll get the backing of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and Brixton born black boy Marc will be diagnosed with HIV at the age of seventeen. Marc will find a saviour in a counsellor called John (Wilks) and a place of safety in the Landmark Centre. God will know that the Tories will unleash savage policies in the name of fiscal prudence which took money from the poor to give to the rich and shut off local authority programmes like Surestart and close places like the Landmark Centre.

God will know about the Troubles in Northern Ireland. He’ll know about the Brexit border and every lie that Boris Johnson has told. Yet, God will know that the English voters found the little Trump to be good. He’ll know about Peter being shot in the legs by Ulster Protestant paramilitaries in 1979, and how his wife suffered post-traumatic stress disorder hit the booze and died young. God knows Peter will make it and have a pile of grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Peter will never forget the angel, a nurse called Betsy that pulled him through his darkest days in hospital. God knows Anita Rami will go through the usual hee-haw of being unable to find her, but then, suddenly, a chink of light. Ahhhhhhhhh…that’s nice.    

Prejudice and Pride: The People’s History of LGBTQ Britain, BBC 4, BBC iPlayer, director James Giles.

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https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p0578x02/prejudice-and-pride-the-peoples-history-of-lgbtq-britain-series-1-episode-1

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b08zn99q/prejudice-and-pride-the-peoples-history-of-lgbtq-britain-series-1-episode-2

Presenters Susan Calaman and Stephen K Amos take us viewers through 50 years of LGBTQ history from before and after the (partial) decriminalisation of homosexuality in the 1967 Sexual Offences Act. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer people (quite a mouthful) could no longer be prosecuted for being LGBTQ.  But as we see here it was a bit like the Hays Code in Motion Pictures. Gay men had to have sex behind closed doors with other consenting men, and they had to be 21, or look older than your dad. They couldn’t put one foot on the floor or being seen to be enjoying themselves. They couldn’t join the armed forces or they’d soon by forcibly ejected.

I know you’re not meant to find that funny, but I thought of my old man, Dessy and his mate Jimmy Mac. They were boys, young men, that saw their army  pals die during the Second World War in the Gothic Line. They were mirror images of each other’s prejudices. But Jimmy confided to my da, one drunken night, that his son was a poof.

Dessy shook his head and told Jimmy, ‘we cannae have that. You’ll need to have a word wae ‘im’.

Homosexuals are marginalised in our society. As we become less tolerant, in other societies, more conservative, homosexuals can be stoned to death.  LGBTQ  ask all of those rich, white men, who make the rules a simple –existential- question: who are we? And more importantly, why do we need to pretend?

One of the characters in the novel I’m writing, Bruno, mirrors those ideas. He name-checks Peter Tatchell in an argument about adoption (which reminds me I’ve probably spelt his name wrong).

With nowhere else to go, even after the 1967 Act, one homosexual man admitted, cottaging, was easier and even fun. He pulled out a map of London and showed viewers the route he drove in his Ford Cortina. Those were largely happy memories for him.  George Michael was also caught having sex in a public toilet in the United States, which for a multimillionaire seems a rather queer thing to do, or maybe not.

The AIDS epidemic that hit America and was imported into Britain had a devastating effect. ‘God’s wrath,’  ‘Gay plague,’ and I think it was Tebbit that described it as a ‘cesspool of their own making.’ Thatcher, or course, tried to ban gays from being gay, local authorities and schools in particular from promoting homosexuality. Just the same as Prime Minister David Cameron held up a list of people, living off the state, and having the wrong kind of children, poor children, to demonise and publicly excoriate, we have here the controversial schoolbook that kicked it all off, Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin.  Whisper it, Eric and Martin are men, homosexuals! They probably went to Heaven nightclub in London, which was meant to be rocking and the place to be. Kenny Everett went there, which was probably a good reason for going somewhere else. Each to their own.

Thatcher’s wrath was worse than God’s wrath. At least God doesn’t drone on about leaving a better society. Emmm maybe He does. This documentaries not Calvinistic doom and gloom, and I told you so.

The legacy of LGBTQ was played out in Brookside, East Enders and Queer as Folk. Even Catholic Ireland voted to allow civil marriages of persons of the same gender. God bless us all, equally, apart from the Tory’s.  That’s nothing to do with gender. It’s to do with a lack of class. I’m sure God doesn’t give a flying fuck what we do with our squiggly bits, and neither do I. But if you’re a Tory, you’re scum to me. And you can go and fuck yourself. We’ve all got our prejudices. There’s mine out there. Why should we pretend?

Damian Barr (2013) Maggie & Me

 

 

 

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

henrietta lacks

In Nick Hornby’s book About a Boy made into a 2002 film, also about a boy, but with the big buck’s bonus of Hugh Grant as the lead, Will Freeman, bonds with a young boy and kids on he’s a single parent to get into the pants of Rachel Weisz, who’s definitely all woman, and not an LA hooker, the fiction is that Freeman can only live the life of Reilly because he inherited the rights to the song ‘Happy Birthday’. Every time it was sung in the world it began to rain dollar bills on him.

Imagine a world in which the family of Bill Gates couldn’t afford a computer were living on welfare or locked in a cycle of dead-end jobs or prison. Imagine a world in which ways of editing the germ-line of genes, Crispr, and changing the face and bodies of humanity and other species, curing cancer and AIDs, worth billions of dollars is the frontline of research by the growing biotech industries and go back to 1951.

Maverick scientist George Gey’s assistant took cell samples of tissue from Henrietta Lack’s cervix, which proved to be cancerous. 15 000 women a year were dying from cervical cancer. Herietta Lacks was no exception. She died in agony in the public wards of John Hopkins hospital segregated from white people ‘the blackness be spreadin all inside’ her. They were sure Henrietta Lack’s tissue would die too, as so many tissue cultures had died before it, but it did something extraordinary, it lived on to circle the earth and be taken into orbit by astronauts. HeLa cells were the Adam and Eve of tissue culture. It was traded and sold and still exists, but in modified form, much as the original Windows operating system lives on.

Rebecca Skloot (2010) The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks wasn’t the first to investigate what happened to the husband and three small children, two still in diapers, she left behind, but she was the most comprehensive, gaining the families trust, and in particular that of Henrietta’s daughter Deborah. All of the family have health problems. Deborah for example quotes what the Social Security people said about her.

I’m paranoid, I’m schizophrenia, I’m nervous. I got anxiety, depression, degenerating kneecaps, bursitis, bulged discs in my back, diabetes, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, cholesterol…’

Deborah doesn’t wish to be immortal.

Truth be told, I can’t be mad at science, because it help people live, and I’d be a mess without it… but I won’t lie, I would like some health insurance so I don’t got to pay all that health insurance every month for drugs my mother cells probably helped make.’

Henrietta’s youngest son is mad, constantly beaten as child, nicknamed Crazy Joe as an adult, he found Islam in prison, where he served time for murder after stabbing another black men straight through the heart with a knife, and he changed his name to Zakarihya. New start. Same old Crazy Joe when he came out. The truth teller.

Them doctors say her cells is so important and did all this and that to help people. But it didn’t do no good for her, and it didn’t do no good for us. If me and my sister need something, we can’t even see a doctor because we can’t afford it. Only people that got any good from my mother’s cells is the people that got money, and whoever sellin those cells—they get rich off mother and we got nothing.’

Crazy Joe recognises there is a law for the rich and a law for the poor. But Rebecca Skloot gets inside the nuclear family, even though she’s white, by being honest, hardworking, sympathetic and poor. We need more Rebecca Skloots clones in this world. Ask yourself this question would a biotech company exploit a nice middle-class boy like Hugh Grant in the same way? Crazy Joe is the sanest man this side of the moon.

http://unbound.co.uk/books/lily-poole