Please enjoy this video I made with the team at That Lot…
— That Lot (@thatlot) November 10, 2016
As a child, I was utterly terrified by Michael Jackson’s Thriller. So terrified that even putting that picture above these words now, at the age of 45, causes a slight shiver of anxiety. I was also confused: surely a ‘thriller’ was an exciting, dramatic film? I didn’t understand why Michael Jackson was singing about movies like that while dancing with zombies. Surely he should have been calling it Video Nasty?
But I did appreciate the musical delights of Thriller – and also the tiger cub he was stroking when you opened the gatefold sleeve (my sister, older than I and therefore with more sophisticated tastes, bought the album. In 1982, I was all about Bucks Fizz and The Kids From Fame. My sophistication would not come until 1986, when a month’s pocket money would pay for Janet Jackson’s Control).
A tiger cub! In soft focus! It made Jackson palatable to this 12-year-old – not least because it was reminiscent of a cute Athena poster I had on my bedroom wall, of two kittens playing with a goldfish in a wine glass. Actually, they were looking at it. Toying with it. Terrifying it, probably… In fact, now I come to think about it, it wasn’t very cute at all, as that poor fish was no doubt utterly traumatised by that photo shoot.
But I digress. Because the reason for this post is simply to share a Halloween party playlist I made a few years ago. And it’s my favourite kind of playlist: one which hopefully doesn’t just introduce new songs to others, but also introduced me to new songs in the researching of it. I discovered, for example, Trick Or Treat by Otis Redding, Black Cat Blues by Burt Jansch and Season Of The Witch by Lou Rawls (which turns out to be a cover of a Donovan song. Who knew?!).
The playlist does, of course, kick off with Thriller – although I’m afraid it doesn’t it feature (Video) Nasty by Janet Jackson. Still, I hope you enjoy it – and below, a bonus track in the form of a YouTube video. Because sadly, Gangnam Busters – the quite, quite brilliant mash-up of Ghostbusters and Gangnam Style – is yet to make it to Spotify…
Life is what happens while we’re busy making other plans, as Allen Saunders (and later John Lennon) said – and that’s my excuse for not having posted a blog post for a while.
Coming into 2016, I didn’t realise this would be the year I’d get engaged, let alone married. And here I am in October, with a ring on my finger and a spring in my step and a feeling of true contentment – at the age of 45 – that I’m still getting used to.
I’ve just written about this for Standard Issue – tying it in with my joy at watching the former Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls on this year’s Strictly Come Dancing.
There is a connection, trust me. Because whether it’s a ballroom dancer or a bride, I hope that both my and Ed’s stories can show that it’s never too late to be what you might have been. And that we all have it in us to write wonderful new chapters in our life.
I never met Jo Cox. But like most people now, I wish I had.
Learning now, as so many of us, about all her work both before becoming an MP and while she was in Parliament, it’s clear that Jo was an extraordinary person whose compassionate world view ran through everything she did, and how she did it. She was loved and respected by her constituents and on both sides of the House; and she used her power and position to help those in need, whether that was in her humanitarian work for Oxfam or as an MP, helping refugees, chairing the all-party parliamentary group on Syria, and championing measures to help immigrants, women and children.
As Conor Costello of Oxfam said: “She had an amazing capacity to inspire and lead, and a soul-deep commitment to equality and justice that she acted on, every single day.”
And in her death, Jo continues to inspire.
During the May elections, I was proud to wear my very first Labour Party rosette. I wore it all day on May 5th, as I walked into work and around central London, hoping that if the bright ‘VOTE LABOUR’ in the centre of it caught even one person’s eye and made them subliminally take on board that message, like some kind of Derren Brown mind trick, then my job was done.
On the evening of June 16, I went to Parliament Square and wrote a message on the board that had been put out for people to pay their tributes to Jo. And I laid my Labour rosette alongside the flowers and candles that people had left, with a note telling Jo that she inspires me to be a better person.
Because she does.
How Jo Cox chose to live her life, what she decided to do with her precious years on the planet, inspires me to follow her lead. She inspires me to serve my community and help others. She inspires me to speak out loud about my passions and beliefs. She inspires me to reach out to people I may not agree with – because, as she said in her maiden speech to the House of Commons, “we have far more in common than that which divides us”. And she inspires me to just get on and do it – with humour, grace and compassion.
RIP Jo. As I wrote on the board that sad, sad night: you were, are, and always will be an inspiration, to so many people. Thank you for all you gave to the world. It was a much, much better place with you in it – and is immeasurably poorer without you.
Jo’s friends and family have set up a fund in her memory, supporting three charities that were close to her heart. You can donate to it here.
The RH Experience are a delightful bunch of comedy eejits (you can use that on your next Edinburgh poster, lads) who I was lucky enough to share a radio studio with recently.
Specifically: I was the guest on their weekly radio show/podcast Played Up – in which they improvise the contents of ‘cassettes’ that their guests bring in for everyone to listen to. And suffice it to say, the results are delightfully silly and funny.
From the game show ‘Whose Dog Are You?’ to the classic jazz standard ‘You Can’t Scat This’, you can listen to the full show below or the iTunes podcast cut-down version here.