Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Facebook: The Hotel California of the Internet



That’s right – you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave. We are all just prisoners here of our own device!

Ha! But I have left. I found a loophole beneath the newsfeed and slithered though it while a barrage of ‘likes’ encouraged me, ‘pokes’ impaled me and ‘shares’ sang ‘Do you believe in life after love?’ I kept on going until FB was a dot behind me with only the faint hint of a meow in the air and the aroma of gravy, from all the cats and dinners whose pictures I would never see again.

And how does this feel? Well, I’m not going to tell you because I am now capable of having thoughts that I don’t need to share with every past co-worker, school friend, family member, party acquaintance, lover, boss and mate I have ever had. I am capable of keeping thoughts in my head and asking myself if I like them rather than pinning them to the internet and waiting for the ghosts of Hayley-past to validate me. I also don’t need to know what you’re thinking/doing/eating/wearing/reading/panicking about/aspiring to/laughing at/dreaming/philosophising/drinking/driving/playing/fancying/holding/planting/cooking or painting all the time anymore. Let’s face it, most of us wouldn’t stop for a chat in the street if we saw each other in real life and I’m calling you a friend? Facebook has taken the word ‘friend’ and shaken it free of any meaning. I’m determined to reclaim it for the people in my life that I love.

You see, I have spoken to more of my friends on the phone since I left Facebook than I have in the past year. I know that I have been lax, but there’s an illusion at work: when I'm on Facebook I see you every day; you write that you’ve had a terrible day at work and I sympathise; I write a status about a publishing deal and you’re pleased for me; we are abreast of each other’s lives without ever needing to hear each other’s voices. I miss your voice. When you tell me things now I don’t say, ‘Yeah, I know, I saw it on Facebook.’ I’m genuinely excited. I can’t wait to tell you all of the exciting things that are happening in my life and see the look on your face.

But it’s not only the illusion of friendship that has spurred my voluntary exile. I have never wasted so much time on anything in my life ever as I have on Facebook. I work at home as an editor. When I work, I have two tabs open: the book I’m working on and Facebook. It takes a few minutes to edit a paragraph and it’s at this juncture that I check Facebook. That’s after every single paragraph! Every single one! I don’t know whether it’s a reward for the paragraph milestone or a complete compulsion, but at this rate my work rate is split 50/50 between the stuff that pays and the stuff that … what? It’s not as if there’s any danger of the cast of Eastenders hijacking my newsfeed with a naked Flash Mob, ‘Sound of Music’ medley. What exactly did I think was going to happen if I didn’t check it for five minutes?

And then there’s the colour of your grass…

For example, as I cruise my timeline, I see a picture of your beautiful family in perfect formation. Everyone is smiling, smartly dressed and well-behaved. The sun is shining and it looks as if you’re at a zoo or a park. Not a hair is out of place. You are a family clearly taking a day out between a shoot for Hello magazine and auditions for a commercial advertising the kind of shampoo that’s tough on adults but gentle on kids. What you neglect to show are the hundreds of pictures you had to take to get this one good shot because little Timmy’s got behavioural problems and won’t sit still for a minute and little Jesse likes to give the finger and five minutes before had been chewing mud and George would rather have been in the pub and ‘For the love of God, can we just get one good picture for Facebook please, you little fuckers! … And now look – the bastard sun’s gone in again…’

No one is actually putting the real colour of their grass on Facebook, but it’s difficult to remember this all the time. I don’t think I’m the type of person to compare lives because I’m actually quite content, but I’m aware that my subconscious isn’t nearly as chilled out as I am and is using all of this shit to make a compilation CD to play in the background over and over again called ‘How do you measure up, you useless tit? Greatest Hits’. That’s just the way the subconscious rolls.

So, that’s it. I’m out! I’m done!
But of course, as the song says, ‘You can check out any time, but you can never leave.’ I still have to keep my account so I can run my Facebook business page. Apparently you can’t be a freelance anything without one and you certainly can’t be a novelist. However, I have cut my 'friends' down to a tiny number of people that I genuinely want in my life and wouldn't want to lose contact with, so it serves as a kind of dormant address book - the account deactivated but available. You may have followed a link from Facebook to this blog, which is an irony I’m quite pleased with as I start to leach the marrow from my former captors. The irony of the existence of this blog vs. everything I have just written is one that I hope we can overlook…  





   
 
Diazepam for Sale, the debut novel by Hayley Sherman is now available on Amazon
 
Time travel as a cure for depression, the Mods and Rockers on the West Pier, a vengeful Sat Nav lady, a seagull-stalked Frank Sinatra and Diazepam for sale... 
A fairytale for a prozac nation...
Fiction for a world that doesn't behave the way it should....

www.hayley-sherman.co.uk  



Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Jennifer Saunders at the Southbank Centre and Why it's Never Cool to be a Superfan


Anyone who follows my blog (as much as it’s possible to follow something that doesn’t actually move for months on end – sorry!) will know that it’s not a Jennifer Saunders fan site. Jennifer Saunders is my holey old jumper that I put on when I’m feeling a little unwell or upset and need to hear jokes that I know the punch-lines to or just be in trusting, uncomplicated, familiar company. You can read my first post for more thoughts on this subject, but the overall point is that we all have these holey old jumpers (authors, bands, comedians, actors, etc.); we just can’t wear them all the time. There are new authors, bands, comedians, actors, etc. to be discovered, work to be done, relationships to be had and life to be lived. In fact, I now use Jennifer Saunders as a marker of how well things are going in my life. If the DVDs are cold then life is probably quite sweet.  

That said…Oh my God!...She was at the Southbank Centre being interviewed and I went and I’ve never seen her live before and…oh my God!...I’m such an unbelievable sap that I almost cried when she came on the stage. What’s wrong with me? I’m a 36-year-old woman attending a literary event not a 12-year-old Justin Bieber fan hoping to get close enough to the stage to have his spit rain down me. How embarrassing! What’s more, I immediately felt possessive. What were all those other people doing there pretending like they knew what Jennifer’s all about, laughing at obscure Comic Strip references as if they understood them? Pah! She’s my Jennifer Saunders! Bugger off! But then it became quite obvious that she’s not just mine; the woman next to me looked as if she was going to kill me when I opened my bag of sweets noisily and she potentially missed a few sacred words from her hero; one weirdo had come all the way from Canada to see her and when given the opportunity to ask her a question couldn’t gather her thoughts to say anything but a garbled mumble about a diamond ring; other people came forward to ask questions, all prefixed by the words, ‘I love you, Jennifer.’ And do you know what? At no point during the whole interview did Jennifer Saunders look in my direction to seek me out, say hey, find out how I am. After all these years and the hours we’ve spent in each other’s company, this was the least I had expected.

I realise that all of this makes me sound a little crazy, but I think that it’s that pretend closeness that makes people crazy. Some part of us really thinks that we know celebrities and so they must know us back. This became apparent to me years ago when I was in a pub in Brighton and saw a familiar bloke sitting on a nearby table. ‘I’m sure I went to school with that guy,’ I told my mate. ‘I should pop over and say hi.’ Turns out it was Will Young, but I was convinced that we knew each other. Thankfully my friend stopped me from making an absolute tit of myself.

With this in mind, I guess meeting our heroes will always be an anti-climax and this is why I didn’t stay for Jennifer Saunders’ book signing after the interview. I knew that I would say something embarrassing and sycophantic or drop a nonsense on the table in front of her and she would probably roll her eyes at me or glaze over because I was the fiftieth or sixtieth mentalist to approach her thinking that there was some sort of closeness between us. So I kept my cool, went home, put the day behind me and put on an episode of Absolutely Fabulous instead.

Before I wrote this blog I thought I would do a quick Google search about superfans (understatedly defined by Wikipedia as ‘[people] who show a great deal of excitement for something’) and very quickly realised that compared to other nutjobs all I have is a mild case of admiration for Jennifer Saunders. There are people who have had plastic surgery to look like their idols, sent them letters in menstrual blood and covered their bodies in tattoos and that’s not to mention devotion shown in phenomenal volumes of calls, tweets and cash spent. One woman changed her name to Mrs Kanye West and another broke her own leg to be like Jessie J when she was injured in 2011. Perhaps most extreme, one One Direction fan killed her own dog to get their attention on Twitter. 

Yeah, by comparison I think I’m fine!  
(FYI, the JS tattoo pictured above is not on my leg. Also pictured, chest tattoo of Radiohead's Thom York with nipple for eye. Hmmm!)


   
 
Diazepam for Sale, the debut novel by Hayley Sherman is now available on Amazon
 
Time travel as a cure for depression, the Mods and Rockers on the West Pier, a vengeful Sat Nav lady, a seagull-stalked Frank Sinatra and Diazepam for sale... 
A fairytale for a prozac nation...
Fiction for a world that doesn't behave the way it should....

www.hayley-sherman.co.uk  





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Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Should British Comedy Thank Margaret Thatcher?



When I was a child, the alternative comedians of the eighties taught me how to hate Margaret Thatcher. She was everywhere, this pointy-faced, vile witch of a pantomime villain, and as a young kid sucking on alternative comedy like a bag of glue, it was my responsibility to boo her on sight. Did I understand the politics? No, not really. It wasn’t until later that I discovered the wide and varied shades of shit that she rained down on Britain from her indiscriminately spraying arsehole. So, learning to hate her in advance was quite lucky for an under-ten like me.



For the rest of the country, the wave of alternative comedy that hit Britain in the 1980s gave voice to the very real frustration that this woman’s reign invoked. Whether it was Ben Elton or Alexei Sayle ranting into the mic, Rik in The Young Ones blaming her for his own shortfalls or the grotesque rubber rendering of Her Ironness in Spitting Image, she was everywhere and it could be argued that rebelling against her resulted in some of the most sublime, energetic and important comedy ever performed in this country. Comedically, this launched the careers of a generation of talent that still endures. Politically, this was a way of reducing Thatcher’s perceived power and potentially rallying opposition.   

Of course, this is not the first time that comedy has been used as a weapon; Google ‘Hitler cartoons’ and you will see how ridiculing the f├╝hrer was an invaluable tool in WWII (No, I am not comparing Thatcher to Hitler!). However, it does seem to me that the eighties brought satire into the mainstream because Margaret Thatcher provoked such a strong reaction in the comedic thinkers of the day. These were the alternative comedians; they were moving away from the mother-in-law jokes of the working-man’s set and the absurdity of the Oxbridge contingency. They were young, pumped and wanted to stamp their size-9 Dr Martins down on what they saw going on around them. They had microphones and it would have been irresponsible not to use them to fight back. You could argue that Margaret Thatcher was just gravy and these revolutionaries would have steered British comedy in a new direction anyway, but I find this hard to believe. She was the catalyst to revolution in the comedy world.

People are now talking about Margaret Thatcher’s legacy. I’m a working-class lefty, so my view is fairly predictable, especially as the Tories are now in power again and David Cameron seems to be only a dress and a pair of high heels away from literally following in her footsteps. Others will claim that she’s the best thing since nostril-hair clippers and the country would be drowned in custard (or something equally implausible) if she hadn’t made it to number ten. With all this talk of her political legacy, it seems trivial to bring this back to comedy, but British comedy (and music for that matter) has never had a muse quite like her, and for someone who is really struggling to find something to praise a dead woman for, this is all I can come up with.

Her comedic legacy is that satire is now a mainstream feature of our lives, whether on stage, TV or radio. We expect our leaders to be pulled up and made accountable by our comedians; we laugh at it, but we also know that something important is happening underneath. Many a truth is told in jest, and for a large section of society who would not consider themselves politically-minded, comedy is an accessible route to information and awareness. Some comedians are still just in it for the laughs and this is great, but many are devoted to giving voice to political injustice and social frustration, and as long as this continues to happen there will always be the possibility of change.
Thank you, Mrs Thatcher (sort of)




   
 
Diazepam for Sale, the debut novel by Hayley Sherman is now available on Amazon
 
Time travel as a cure for depression, the Mods and Rockers on the West Pier, a vengeful Sat Nav lady, a seagull-stalked Frank Sinatra and Diazepam for sale... 
A fairytale for a prozac nation...
Fiction for a world that doesn't behave the way it should....

www.hayley-sherman.co.uk  





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Monday, 4 February 2013

Does Brutally Killing Children in My Novels Make Me a Murderer?



This is a question that all writers will ask themselves at some point in their careers if they’ve ever had to get their hands bloody in the name of plot development. It will be especially pertinent if, like me, you have too much time on your hands, hate January and spent the month asking yourself stupid questions that make little sense and have no connection to real life.

You see, I’m working on a psychological thriller at the moment, which is a bit of a departure for me. I committed murder in my last book, but this new project takes it to a whole new level; the death rate is high and the victims are little children. The murder in my first book was also of a child, but it was different because he deserved it*; the murders I’m writing at the moment are killing pure innocence and it’s my job to make them as realistic, stomach-churning, sickening and shocking as possible, so that by the time you’ve reached the end of the chapter you really will want to call the police and report the atrocity. So, does this make me a murderer? I confess that the inspiration for this book was partly a real-life event that I felt sad about for a while before a familiar twisted thought snuck in – ‘That would make a really cool novel.’ Normal people don’t think this way. They read the newspaper, feel sad and then make a sandwich; thoughts don’t wear them down until they're being held hostage by their biros and forced to kill. I’m a terrible, terrible person.

I literally can’t not write this book at the moment; it’s consuming my thoughts. However, in truth, my commitment to the project exists despite the murder chapters not because of them. To be completely honest, I hate writing them and I’m writing them as delicately as possible, which makes me a reluctant murderer. I don’t want to commit them; I want these little children to blossom, grow up and live positive and meaningful lives, but wicked hands in the book have other ideas. However, I’m the one steering these hands, so I can never be completed absolved. I’m extremely relaxed and groovy as a person and every drop of blood I drain from these children rubs against my conscience; I know that no one is really getting hurt, but it’s troubling that I could possibly have these disturbing things in my head. I’m a terrible, terrible person.

You may be wondering why (as someone who is also quite squeamish) I’m choosing to write this book. The answer is the effect of these killings. I may not be adept at murder, but I know all about the wide and varied ways that the brain gets messed up by life, and this is another exploration into the frailty of the human mind and how life as we know it can be completely blown apart in a moment. My main character is as screwy as you like, and the litter of dead children put in her path drives her completely over the edge. This, I feel no guilt about. All of my favourite books take the reader on journeys of the mind and this is the kind of fiction that I will always write. If you liked the journey and the unpredictable twists and revelations of Diazepam for Sale, you’re going to love this. Watch this space for more info.






*He deserved it? Really? Read the book and you’ll understand.
Diazepam for Sale is available on Amazon











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