Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Eastenders- another East London Whitewash

Whitney Dean has a new job. This may not mean much to you, but for me and 8 million others in the UK it’s great news. Whitney has suffered a lot- sexual abuse as a child, life in care, imposed prostitution, poverty, responsibility for her adoptive brothers and sister, dealing with the incarceration of her adoptive mother. Now she’s going to be able to earn the money she needs for a flat and a fairy-tale marriage with her partner Tyler Moon, and develop the career she wants in childcare. Unless something goes wrong, because we’re talking about Eastenders here, and happy-ever-after endings only really happen when someone wants to leave the show. (And then rarely- there’s been at least 16 murders in 30-odd years).

So why do these screen grabs of Whitney settling in to her after-school assistant post seem so wrong? Where is this school, anyway? It could be Essex (93% White British), or Gloucestershire (95%), or Swansea (92%) at a pinch. What it doesn’t look like is 21st century East London. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Jolene- Love, Power and Country Music

Everybody knows Jolene, with her ‘flaming locks of auburn hair, with ivory skin and eyes of emerald green’. This timeless ballad, the story of a woman begging another woman ‘Please don’t take my man’, has, like the songs of Johnny Cash, transcended its humble country origins to strike a jaunty steel guitar chord within the hearts of despairing lovers everywhere. Its message is one of desperation- Jolene has a quality the singer lacks, and could ‘take’ him with ease. The singer is appealing to some kind of sisterhood in her rival, some compassion or solidarity which will lead Jolene to break her magical, sexy, siren hold. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

When I walk down the road in Cairo

Egyptians walking. The traffic is worse nowadays.
In the grandiose marble lobby of my apartment building I say hello to the doorman and his wife, who are cleaning the high windows. They always greet me in English, and I them in Arabic. Any business more complicated involves a dictionary. Outside, their children, 5, 7 and 9, are playing ball in the small space between the front steps and the chaotic parking lot and shout ‘Hi!’ to me. The plants are green and carefully tended, though covered with the yellow dust that invades everything in this polluted desert city. The paving stones are cracked and misplaced: while my flat is in a luxury complex of 40 apartment buildings unaffordable to all but a few residents of Nasr City, Cairo’s shoddy building standards know no difference of class. The doormen carry out repairs: a patch of cement here, a new, mismatched set of steps there. But after thirty years, the parking lot and its small gardens and narrow paths are showing signs of wear. 

The sky was blue earlier in the day. Now the sun shines through a yellow haze, reflected in the sand-coloured buildings and the dusty cars. At the gate I say hello to the soldiers guarding the gates.