Monday, 15 March 2021

Famously Lost - My new book on Smashwords

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Friday, 26 February 2021

It's a Sin - Television Series Review

It’s a Sin is a television master class from Russell T Davies.

Telling the story of a group of five friends who decide to share a flat in London in the early ’80s, and tracking their path as HIV and AIDS ravage their social group, we get to see the joy and exuberance of youth, with all their potential reaching out ahead of them, only to then see those lives crash into the horror of a pandemic that spares no one it touches.

Given a new perspective with the COVID-19 pandemic, it is hard not to empathise with these young lives as half are dashed and lost to the pandemic, leaving the survivors racked with guilt and pain about moving on without their friends.

There are so many pitfalls that could have tempted Davies to run off course, as his narrative is fraught with all the negatives that ran alongside the HIV/AIDS pandemic that would still risk alienating mainstream viewers. These negatives are born out of homophobia and ignorance, and general disdain from the mainstream public to people who are different.

It's a Sin bubbles with joy and the celebration of life. It touches on almost every relevant aspect during those tumultuous times, but Davies shows his immeasurable talent to avoid getting on a soapbox and preaching. He allows these aspects to run alongside the story without ever intruding on his narrative.

Beautifully cast with Olly Alexander as Richie Tozer, the character, who along with Jill played by, Lydia West, forms the heart of the group who all come together to live in the pink palace. This London apartment houses an eclectic group of five: Ritchie, Jill, Ash (Nathaniel Curtis), Roscoe (Omari Douglas) and Colin (Callum Scott Howells).

Colin’s story delivers one of the emotional high points of the show. His innocence, shy and slightly naïve character, with only one sexual partner behind him and designs on a very humble life, is one of the first to succumb to a disease that didn’t discriminate based on sexual promiscuity. 

It is hard not to break down in tears when he delivers some of the most emotional lines of the entire series, as he tries to make sense of what is happening to him. It is Davies way of saying this disease was unfair, that it didn’t seek out those who were sexually promiscuous, that it could touch everyone no matter what their situation or sexual history. Davies also deftly makes the point that sexual exploration and enjoyment is a natural part of young lives and shouldn’t be stigmatised or avoided, despite what the ‘just say no’ and ‘stay celibate’ brigade tend to promote.

There are dozens of moments where Davies manages to get these sorts of messages across in anything but a heavy-handed way, and never with any other effect than to strengthen his visual storytelling. He briefly highlights issues that could themselves be a central story narrative for a movie or miniseries, and often the impact of these moments are immense while their screen time is fleeting. The mother of a young boy who we only see a glimpse of early in the series, comes angrily into the hospital to confront those in charge of the HIV ward to find out how and why they would think her rugged, manly son could be mixed in with those struck down by this gay disease? There is no other comment made by Davies than to allow this moment to resonate and make its point clearly without it ever being laboured. This entire story of a devasted mother and her son's unwilling outing is visually told and ended in a twenty-second sequence that smacks you right between your eyes.

He does the same with the terror and confusion in the early years of the disease, regarding the information available on how the disease is caught and transmitted. Showering and scrubbing the skin after Jill tends for the first of her immediate friends to fall ill, and that friend’s desperation to keep his news secret from his other friends. Clothes are burnt, and possessions thrown into bonfires rather than touched by those who love the victims struck down by the disease.

At one point, with Jill caring for Greg, an older member of their group and played perfectly by David Carlyle, she’s surprised when her friends show up with him at their apartment, and Greg announces he’s feeling better. Jill watches him drink from one of the apartments coffee mugs. We then see Jill scrub the mug twice; then, she decides to put the mug at the very back of the cup cupboard. As she tries to sleep, the paranoia over that cup keeps her awake, and she gets up to throw it in the bin rather than let any of her friends drink from it. Still unable to sleep, she gets up a second time, takes that cup from the bin and smashes it into pieces. It’s a beautiful visual representation of just how paranoid and terrified everyone was about the disease in those early years when the uncertainty and confusion reigned around how it was caught.

There’s a great deal made in the press about the use of gay actors to play gay roles. I find this counter-productive but until openly gay actors start getting cast in straight roles on the strength of their ability and not overlooked because of their sexuality and a belief an audience won’t accept them in a straight role, I’m willing to overlook them this redress.

Amari Douglas has the most fun camping it up, but it’s in the scenes with his African family, with traditional customs and superstitions that he comes into his own. It’s an extraordinary storyline that sees his father go from a homophobic evangelist to a man who recognises his son’s safety and happiness must be his primary concern. It’s a story of a second-generation immigrant and only enriches the front and centre drama, as Roscoe moves into the Pink Palace.

Equally noteworthy are Stephen Fry and Neil Patrick Harris, Fry as the politician with his ‘boy’, and a fantastic lunch scene with several other conservative politicians, all with their boys silent but sneering at each other across a lunch table at a cloistered club.

Harris warms up in his role as a stuffy English retail assistant in a Saville Row bespoke tailoring shop. His initial appearance comes across more a caricature of the older style English gentleman than a three-dimensional character addicted to manners and protocol. As he lets down his guard and mentors young Colin into gay life in London, we understand his mask is one he’s worn for a lifetime while living his real-life behind closed doors and safe-space venues with his partner of thirty years. When the first wave of the disease hits this couple’s closeted lives, we get yet another immense moment hidden by its brevity. The long-time companions are separated to die apart as families with more rights to their relative than a legally unrecognised partnership of thirty years, move to care for their loved one. These two men in their fifties die alone, separated, with neither understanding what has befallen them, mistakenly blaming domestic decisions with detergents or mold, and marvelling at the tragedy of both being hit with terminal diseases that seem random and unrelated. This story of separation due to a lack of legal standing has played out untold times across the ages of gay history, although it became particularly cruel during the AIDS pandemic.

Activists are trying to warn young gay revellers who dismiss their warnings of a gay disease as ludicrous and some sort of grand conspiratorial rumour started by the gay-hating conservative elements. As news of disease, largely cancer or other serious illness, seeks out and targets gay men, Ritchie Tozer loudly decries, “I don’t believe it because I’m not stupid.” It did sound stupid in those early years, these random, terminal illnesses befalling mostly gay men. Rumours swirled about poppers (Amyl Nitrate), being a cause, about a link to gay saunas, you could catch it off surfaces, it was born in a lab to target the gay population and on and on it went in an eerily similar rumour file to today’s pandemic.

The bravest member of the cast is possibly Nathaniel Hall, who has done much to dispel the stigma of those living with HIV through his one-man show, “First Time”. His show details how he caught HIV from his first sexual experience at sixteen and will hopefully be streaming sometime soon. 

Cast as Ritchie’s boyfriend, Donald Bassett, one of the many young men who silently disappeared to their parents, never to be seen again, his inclusion in the cast is more than a nice touch; it’s an important statement. HIV is now managed by 29 million people worldwide, and almost fifty per cent of these are heterosexual. Most manage their condition so well they have an undetectable viral load with no chance of transmission. Hall holds his own alongside the extraordinarily multi-talented Olly Alexander. 

There is so much to love and to cry about in watching It’s a Sin. Every cast and crew member can be rightly proud for playing their part in bringing such a series to life. It is a story that needs telling. Russel T Davies has taken forty years to gain enough composure to make sense of his experiences and find a story that entertains above all else. He has managed to include all aspects of a horrific world event that didn’t spare any demographic but tended to concentrate on some more than others. 

Be brave enough to watch, but don’t do it lightly. You will need time to think and gather yourself for this one, possibly with a pause or two between episodes. You cannot help but be deeply affected, but if, like myself, you were alive and out during those times, you may be affected more than others. It’s a Sin is so well rendered; I found scenes I lived and words I heard spoken that I put to rest many years ago, only for them to jump out and grab me like I was reliving those moments again. 

It’s a Sin is the best of premier television and will likely be a favourite tear-jerker to be streamed and discovered for years to come. 

5 pink stars for this one.     

Russel T Davies gives a fantastic interview in the Guardian about his experiences during the eighties and nineties, coming out and living beside HIV/AIDS. 

There is so much in this interview that I recognise in my own story. It makes sense that I would relate so strongly to It’s a Sin. I'm aware this relationship to the material may have made the series feel more impactful to me than it will prove for others.

Tuesday, 2 February 2021

The Alternative Facts that Led to Insurrection

Most of us know someone who occasionally slips in a talking point from Rupert Murdoch’s editorial pages. It’s not fair to cast them immediately into Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables.” We’re all to blame for those opinions being pushed and so often believed; every one of us who has ever tolerated alternative facts shares in the guilt and responsibility for their current gross manipulations. 

Today we have big oil shouting their concerns for the environment and the world's sustainable future. We have banks desperate for us to know how much they want to help us make the most of our money. We are ruled by the promise of trickle-down economics, now thirty years old and yet to start trickling. We have overtly sexualised underage models promoting everything except the age of consent. We have public utilities privatised and ruled by investors, and we have allowed science to take a back seat and be overlooked unless its outcome makes a profit. 

Capitalism is the most efficient model for harnessing human greed and ingenuity. The downside is that it rewards the carnival barker and their exaggerations and half-truths.  P.T Barnum is immortalised for his ability to double talk his way into profit, and his success reveals complicity in allowing all those variations of the truth to go unchallenged.

At first, it was treated as a joke. How cheeky we said when the Superbowl seat we paid for arrived in the mail – a small two-inch seat with the words Superbowl printed on the backrest.

Then we never asked for the Ponds Institute’s address or questioned why tobacco being toasted seemed more significant than smoking causing cancer. When the fossil fuel industry set our planet on fire for profit, and the Ponzi scheme of economic growth required a global economy to keep the wealth growing, we just nodded and accepted the situation, pacified by larger televisions and technological wizardry. We no longer pause to think about containers with false bottoms or packaging of mostly air. We overlook discounts that drop the price while reducing quality or size. We’re so used to looking the other way that there was no mechanism in place to stop America’s election being declared invalid for two whole months. Everyone who could have done something was looking the other way out of habit.

Russia, China, Poland, Brazil, the Philippines and others have created pseudo-democratic states that have long lost the battle to alternative facts. Their governments declare everything being done is for their people. They care so much they are willing to kill those people to ensure their beneficial system remains in place.

We have allowed our truth to be skewed incrementally over many generations. A considerable percentage of our populations believe nothing can be done to redress the inequality of wealth and power; that the system is both too big and too broken to change.

Simultaneously, the patriarchal, white, wealthy, Christian, cis-gendered, abled, skinny privileged members of society are screaming they are being attacked. They’re not. They’re just being asked to share – to enjoy the same benefits as others. Suggest women should have equal rights, and those who currently hold power will shout about being attacked and victimised. Suggest systemic racism, and they defend, deflect and undermine. To someone standing at the top of the pile, being asked to be equal feels like an attack.

Suddenly the truth is being massaged to sell a product or hide an inconvenient truth to maintain the current system’s foundations. We didn’t arrive here overnight. It took decades and began with the smallest and seemingly most trivial incursions on the truth; “It’s advertising. We expect them to stretch the truth.” “They’re politicians; they’re not expected to keep their promises.” We allowed ourselves to end up here by allowing the truth to be continually tested and pushed further away from fact. 

We have all fallen victim to the seemingly inconsequential effect of micro-aggressions against facts.

Microaggressions are trivial misdemeanours against anything. They can exist in all forms: speech, action, attitudes, stories, emotions, bureaucracy, etc. Complaining about any single issue comes across as trivial and paints those complaining as being overly sensitive or out of touch with the real world – a snowflake. When there are tens of thousands of these subtle, nuanced, inbuilt negative comments, actions or attitudes, adopted and accepted by a community as acceptable, whatever target of these negative micro-aggressions loses standing. This can certainly happen to a minority: women, people of colour, LGBTQI+, those with disabilities, the overweight, elderly and on and on. It has also happened to the truth and a lack of factual information being reported when that information paints the rich and powerful negatively.

Micro-aggressions against the truth come in many forms.

‘What-about-ism’ is used by those being called out to highlight any hypocrisy by those arguing against them. “He says he wants tighter gun controls, but he has a gun licence.” The two issues have no direct correlation, but pointing out the person wanting to limit access to firearms also owns a gun sets up a false narrative that their argument is disingenuous.

Appealing to the extremes is also popular in replacing facts. “If we allow gay marriage, we’ll end up with people marrying animals.” This plays to the fear of an issue being a gateway for far worse things.

A straw-man argument is where an entirely new proposition is raised, and an alternative proposition is refuted rather than the original. “We should promote riding bicycles in cities to reduce emissions and slow global warming.” “When you give cyclists priority on city streets they run red lights and endanger pedestrians.” The straw-man argument often has merit and needs to be addressed, and a good straw-man argument will seem to be related, but both issues existing don’t cancel each other out.

False equivalency is an argument that draws two things together because of shared characteristics. “Why are you suddenly so alarmed by Donald Trump telling thirty thousand lies when Hillary Clinton has at least that many missing emails?” Once again, two issues don’t need to be mutually exclusive and can each be addressed. The advice given to four-year-olds of two wrongs not making a right never grows old.

Arguing from false ignorance is also used incredibly effectively by those with large platforms who intend to manipulate, incite, and fear-monger to gain and maintain an audience rather than have a genuine debate on an issue. This is how most shock jocks work. “How do our energy prices keep going up? Every year we pay more. Is this a result of the ‘do-gooders’ radicalising and demonising fossil fuels? It may well be.”

There is no argument here. It’s a series of statements designed to guide thought without ever citing factual information. Fox News uses this question led journalism all the time as their question mark chyron guides viewers from behind the network’s cloak of false ignorance – “Hillary Clinton – Guilty?” “Climate Change – A hoax to harm fossil fuel production?” Could be, we don’t know, we’re only raising the question.

Fox News has quietly transitioned out of their slogan, “Fair and Balanced,” to “The Most Watched, The Most Trusted,” and now, “Standing up for what’s right.” They’ve also transitioned their news to run early with prime-time now ‘Opinion’ although the personalities presenting opinion seem, in every way to be traditional news presenters.

This is how so many people have been courted and seduced into a world of the grand conspiracy theory.

It’s easy to dismiss the believers of alien lasers, JFK Jnr coming to save us, of a paedophile Kabul of lefties operating out of a pizza shop or any derivation of the more traditional conspiracies that involve minorities, religions, immigrants and foreigners organising coordinated attacks against a lifestyle that is felt to be disappearing. That lifestyle never actually existed, except in the romanticised memories of youth that seem simpler, more comfortable and happier.

It’s much harder to dismiss those we respect and love who only occasionally throw out a ‘Fox-bomb’ of misinformation into a family gathering, bringing a conversation to a dead-halt. It is hard to be the dissenting voice and draw the ire of ruining the family gathering. It is hard to raise an opposing opinion to those who are often more experienced and sometimes better educated. It is arrogant to assume your opinion is more valid than theirs and a cardinal sin to lump all opinions that differ to yours into a ‘basket of deplorables’ or any other condescending phrase.

We have travelled a long road to get to where we are today, and it is not all Donald Trump's doing, or Fox News, or big oil, or big pharma, or any of the other major ‘players’ that have taken advantage of political and social winds to build a market. We are all complicit. Every slide in ethics and quality, every excuse to forgo service and value, every unchallenged assumption or opinion in the face of facts that we’ve allowed to go unchecked has brought us to this place.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with someone wholeheartedly buying into the politics of the left, even though I have seen with my own eyes a generation of people raised under socialism and accustomed to a living wage, bereft of motivation and drive to better their lives.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with someone wholeheartedly buying into the politics of the right, even though many free-market policies tend to help those already making ends meet while reducing the standard of living for those who are not.

Perhaps you fall somewhere in the middle, taking a few of the better policies from both sides to satisfy the capitalist and socialist at war within. Both sides have advantages and bring benefit to many – but not all.

I’m not sure it’s possible to satisfy everyone. This is why governing a large, modern population is so complicated and often is reduced to the politics of compromise. The human race survives off personal greed and diversity. These strengths make universal policy if not impossible, then highly improbable.

I think it’s wrong to argue against any idea or cause because of partisan politics. I think it’s wrong to disallow an opinion on any grounds without clear thought and a thorough investigation into merit and weakness. It’s inexcusable to go forward with any idea, big or small, without exploring, studying and considering the facts. Truth matters. Things that can be proven should be accepted in the face of that proof. Arguments based on expert analysis deserve to be considered. People’s measures and tactics to argue a cause need to be understood, identified, exposed, and disclosed. Opinions and news need to be labelled and separated. We need to be reminded and educated to think for ourselves. Everyone needs to be encouraged to form their own opinion and reminded of how to find and use facts to inform those opinions. 

Don’t tell Pop he’s racist. That’s rude and shows a lack of diplomacy and respect. Give Granddad the facts without spin or argumentative trickery; just the facts. If he still thinks we should only allow immigration until the point where we have all ‘their’ recipes, then let him know you disagree and diplomatically let him know his ideas aren't welcome because he's ignoring quantifiable facts.

People are allowed to have different opinions, but make sure they also have the facts; unbiased, unspun, un-manipulated facts – because facts matter, science matters, experts matter. Opinions without the facts included belong on the other side of the shop with the rest of the fiction. 

Tuesday, 27 October 2020

Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow.

Now is a shadow.
A tightrope suspended over darkness.
Perhaps you stand six inches above a cushioned floor,
Perhaps you waiver up beyond the clouds,
With harsh and jagged rocks waiting down below.
The risk is why your past seems so inviting,
Beckoning you home with a sure and warm embrace,
Where waits a list you know so well.

Tomorrow is a lion poised to strike.
A surging wave crashing on the shore.
A race that’s still to run.
The triumph or tragedy is still yours to claim,
Your fate lies unresolved ahead.

Home is yesterday,
Settled and owned.
The present waits at your front door,
Tomorrow is every possibility beyond.

Will you stay home and ask what could have been?
Will you hide away, assured and safe?

No hurt or failure lurks on such familiar ground,
All thoughts distracted by a stream of shows you’ve seen before.
Or could you be so brave to head out and meet that storm?
Searching out to breach the unknown day? 

Regrets attack whatever you decide.
Though failures pale behind the choices never made.

Saturday, 26 September 2020

Which Way Do You Swing? - Politics

Most conservative policies seem to help big business and entrepreneurs by extending tax breaks, incentives and reducing red-tape. These policies assist those already managing.  Sometimes by a little, sometimes a lot. It is the politics and policies of capitalism that fuel the age of the billionaires, and the promise that everyone can achieve those heights. 

These same policies tend to leave those not managing untouched, or, on occasion, worse off, usually in real terms across time, making it harder to quantify any direct disadvantage from an individual policy.

These are policies promoted as celebrating success and allowing the 'job-makers' to take advantage of the system, up to and including, rorting that system. Success and financial power seem to make all these indiscretions tolerable.  

The left finds these greedy, grifting, profiteering examples intolerable and they shout about them as if these are the only examples that exist. They are not. These policies help and support some truly deserving business models, across the economic spectrum, to survive and thrive.

The progressive left puts forward policies that reduce the ability of the successful to make higher profits and placing more restrictions and oversight on businesses. This makes the difficult early years of small business and small sole traders even more precarious. The left also seeks a basic minimum standard of living for all, universal health care, they look to environmental issues at the expense of corporate profits and ensure those on the lowest rungs of society can maintain an equitable standard of living.

These policies are designed to raise the greatest number possible out of poverty and ensure that working full time is rewarded with a liveable wage that covers life's basics and provides for a family. This also allows some to choose not to work and live solely off welfare. 

The right finds these greedy, grifting, freeloading examples intolerable and they shout about them as if these are the only examples that exist. They are not. These policies help and support some truly deserving individuals being let down by a system purported to be looking out for everyone.

I've always felt things work best when liberals and conservatives exchange power at around a 2 to 3 ratio. The right builds up the wealth with a strong economy and the left reforms social policies to help those who slip through the net of the conservative economic lift.

The ratio has slipped across the world because the right has outplayed the left at politics. This has happened because the left regard morality in politics as a badge of honour, and the right has long ago recognised that badges are worthless. 

Once morals counted for something in life and in politics, but then came the age of spin where both side's spokespeople focused only on the faults of the other side, and never with themselves. Where no mistake is owned or corrected and doing the right thing, a standard that was once the default, or at least the desired position, is now the exception.

How did we get here? 

It began when those charged with holding leaders responsible, the fourth estate, the news journalists, became confused with being personalities and entertainers. 

When equal representation of both points of view became more important than facts as determined and checked by multiple sources by professionally trained, skilled and schooled journalists whose reputations depended on their accuracy, facts became irrelevant.

When the politically correct ideal of regarding every view as relevant and worth scrutiny on official news broadcasts became a benchmark, this worthy notion was exploited by those looking to hide issues, spin alternative facts and obfuscate truths. You can shoot a man on Fifth Avenue and get away with it provided you do something provocative enough to misdirect people from your crime. Throw in some 'what-about-ism', cloud the facts with suggestions the victim had a gun or a record, and alert the press that many other people shot people on the same day, and your crime will hardly rate a mention. 

When the opinion/editorial/op-ed piece began to be presented alongside news with little or no delineation, news reporting stopped being news and became political propaganda. The ultimate extension of this is the dedicated partisan network that says whatever is needed by the government to convince people it's news. It is believed for no other reason than it looks like a news channel.

The multiplatform social media landscape has allowed every opinion to be a truth as the presenter presents it. All too often the term 'do your own research', a term intended to mitigate legal issues over commentary of stocks and investments has permeated into every opinion put forward as a phrase to legitimise that opinion by alerting you to the existence of any number of 'opinions' online that back up the opinion being put forward. 'Do your own research' now means, go and read equally dubious opinion pieces posted online by others who share my views.

If you see spokes-people introduced from two sides of politics or from two sides of a contentious issue, what is the point of staying to watch? Professional press agents now spruik their well-rehearsed talking points without ever listening to the other side, and those talking points are always extreme examples. For their team, they put forward positive outliers, for the other side, the negative outliers, and each example gets promoted as examples of the norm - which they are definitely not.  

Politics has stopped being an avenue of service to do the greater good and is now an avenue to get what lobbyists want and stop the will of the people from participating. Journalists began this slide into the darkness of opinions based on wants instead of facts, and the internet has sped it up and made us all contribute to the demise of facts.

How many false stories have been reposted on scientific, medical, political and even current events?


What happened to common sense and genuinely doing your own research? Question opinions by seeking out multiple sources of facts as published by respected and accredited institutions and experts with current accredited standing. I want to hear other people's opinions, but I want to know they've taken some time and given some effort towards forming them. Reading a headline and reposting something without scrutiny becomes a waste of everyone's time, or worse, another nail in the coffin of our entire democratic system.

Hasan Minhaj in his address at the correspondent's dinner said: "I don't have a solution of how to win back trust, but I know in the age of Trump, you guys (the media) have to be more perfect than ever because you are how the President gets his news - not from advisors, not from experts, not from intelligent agencies - you guys. So that's why you've got to be twice as good, you've got to be on your A-game, you can't make any mistakes, because when one of you messes up - he blames your entire group; and now you know what it feels like to be a minority." 

In the dawning age of conspiracy, where friends and family regularly state alternative facts as truth, and when challenged, remain defiant and tell you to do your own research, clear thinking, factual journalism and finding alternative sources to double-check alternative facts seems to have become the individual's job. The news media has become entertainment. Politicians have become infallible. Special interest groups have become public relations spokes-people, and facts have become subjective, to be massaged, manipulated, and misrepresented as the truth. 

George Orwell saw this future in a misdirected democracy that delivered authoritarianism. His chilling dystopian tale is starting to feel all too real - the only thing George got wrong was the date.

“War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”

“The best books... are those that tell you what you know already.”

“Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”

“It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.”

"How can I help but see what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four."

"Sometimes, two and two are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once."

― George Orwell, 1984

Friday, 18 September 2020

The Plague That Dare Not Speak its Name.

 The Plague That Dare Not Speak its Name.

by Scott Norton Taylor

Four decades of tomorrows past, a fearful breeze blew in a plague, a pandemic, an intimate kiss that outed those it touched through death.

You saw the numbers frail.

You saw the body count as brothers, cousins, sons; of fathers, uncles, friends and foe alike, all coming out in failing health, with diagnosis reluctantly revealed, exposing private lives.

The stereotypes long ridiculed and held as ‘them’, not us, swiftly dropped as every kind; every colour, creed and embodiment of manly type. Teachers, lawyers, doctors, the mechanic and the cook, lined up with athletes, artists and celebrities, not one exception, not one variety unseen. Artists known and yet to make their mark: of fashion and of film, from ballet or with brush, young and old, the powerful and poor, lining up to queue towards an uninviting end.

All were seen for who they were, as whole, their entire lives revealed, chased by shame and reputations stained, as tightly sealed glass panes to lives were finally pried ajar, though friends and family quickly came to claim, their loved one’s inclusion a mistake, that window led to somewhere else afar.

Remember the boy, not yet a man, in gown and metal bed, who, at twenty-one, mistakes his nurse for mother, “I knew you’d come,” he said. But she would never come for shame and pain, and disapproval ruled her world and outshone even son.

To the young man watching friends ahead all leave; his future seen. He closed his door, with scared and lonely click to lock his tragedy away, but it escaped through quality of cuts and blade. Those who came to save a life, the holder never wanted saved, and fought against his screams that left him free to bleed, his work unfinished and undone. Convicted, tried and sent away for smearing, splattering, spraying his poison life on uniforms with lack of empathy for interruption done. Fuelled by media and lynch mob-like obsession – that lonely, desperate man spent his last days wasting in a prison.

At someone’s side, in near confusion, called to dance, marked by transfusion, a girlfriend, a wife or even newborn child, would all be vilified and shunned through ignorance towards such random chance.

The friends, who drifted quietly away, thought of infrequently, their fate and lives imagined, unrolling alongside. The unknown years, sometimes in decades glide, then shocked into reflection, a name in quilted letters found, their final autograph; few words, a date; the sum of one whole life. A flood of mournful thoughts of moments left untold, the nights of love and laughter and particular inflexions, yet, none of this is mentioned in that small, neat epitaph.

Those who flamed so bright within that overwhelming storm, their passing told of numbers unimagined, from every walk of life, from every nation born, and under every type of opaque veil. Their stories remain important, to speak, to remember, to mourn.

The green-eyed boy, with jet black hair, who fell unwell and came to tell at twenty-two of his return to boyhood home, to rest and mend; I never saw again.

My naïveté and nervous kiss of one so bright and full of life who took such care not to spread his despair, but never told of what he held within, for fear he’d never hold or love again.

At twenty-four, the call received from one so briefly known to warn I should atone and seek a clearing sheet; the fear and prayers, and frantic calls to find out what to do. My childhood doctor beaming welcome to see me fully grown who showed me quickly out his door once request for such a test was known.

Of two who rang to say farewell, their antiviral joy no friend, the stigma and fear of drugs too dear, a system geared so lowest-ranked lose their will and quickly disappear. They were supposed to go and never cause a scene, behind the privacy of their closed door, a repeated drama, a million times before – but they refused to fade, and still remain, with help, to live and love again.

Did it really happen, with all those lives now gone?

A life that ends, to relatives and friends, it leaves a monumental cost.

When numbers grow beyond account of names, all humanity is lost.

Today’s same crowd unmarked, as large as that before, sent back to hide by subtle held decree; a duality of roles; of dual lives with wives, captive to declare they’re free.

More easily disguised, as privilege lives bark nuanced calls for all to fall in line with lifestyles based on prayer, sanctified in clever nuanced words that make it clear, their good-will’s not to share.

How did so much recent suffering, revealing so many lives that lived and loved in such a colourful array, not move us forward?

I am so tired of coming out, a thousand times already with no end in sight; on form with pen, at bank with application new, on phones with confusion first, then overly effusive apologetic nurse, administrator, manager or worse.

Those addresses matter; the he/him, she/her, the they/them of lines blurred. I’m glad you don’t get it, that’s easier for you, that your life is not so many times denied or multiplied in explanations new, but please, stop for a moment and consider how it feels to be an ‘other’, a misrepresented disrespected brother or sister, as someone misidentified.

Four decades of tomorrows past that fearful breeze, with its numbers of diversity, the regular and most unlikely, the many broken hearts torn prematurely apart, who showed so clear the numbers from homes and families, and yes, even in your sacred pews as they sought guidance despite your whispered views.

Have any yet heard the voice of faith proclaiming clear, the virtue of those who live and love with nothing to repent? They preach their words beside each fence, for in their eyes; the eyes of those of greatest faith, the fluid, non-conforming crowd are still not innocent.

How did the legacy of a missing rainbow crowd, robbed of choice to hide, have us slide back towards the shame and guilt that makes it brave to show one’s pride?

Why is bravery still needed to wake and go to work, or bravery to be yourself, or just to claim your place of those who did survive?

Today’s fresh deadly plague, a novel kiss at setting sun, has stopped the world, but that other breeze still blows, now hardly ever named.  

Does anyone believe that lost fateful generation, numbering in their millions, was some mere aberration from the norm? That this ‘next’ generation or the one ahead again will any less confront convention and embrace the fluid storm?

Do you want your children safe?

Can you not recall that recent chilling page?

Where is the bravery to call a plague a plague?

Where is that last vaccine, or better yet, a cure, brought on at pace?

Where is the research for the chronic medical embrace?

The managed threat ignored and tamed, the silent, hiding voice of leaders meek, bowing to power, without the lack of will or bravery to speak, perchance to dream of those now managed as an endless income stream.

Some have survived, with pointed, heavy nod to every soul that went before and led; equality remains ahead, a distant clear horizon at the tail of one almighty fearful storm.