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I’ve seen this used as an explanation by the right wing media for the anger that is currently  being expressed, both inside and outside parliament. Wealthy people know in their hearts that the poor want everything the rich have got, and they will never be satisfied until the rich have been stripped of all their assets and beggars get to ride upon horses. To paraphrase  Alan Duncan, a Tory backbencher, anyone who isn’t a millionaire has only themselves to blame. We could all be rich, if we really tried.

I’m writing this to try and explain to the wealthy people currently running our country  why their beliefs are wrong, why their actions have aroused such anger, and why our anger is light years removed from envy.

I was born in 1947, along with the NHS. My early life was peppered nights of pain from ear abcesses, horrendous earaches,  frequent visits to our GP, Doctor Shanahan, and visits from district nurses who gave me penicillin injections. I was four when I had my first experience of hospital, to have my tonsils and adenoids removed. [ I don’t know if that hospital still exists as I can’t remember the name of it. Searching for it, I found this website. Look at what we have lost -and this is only in London. Lost hospitals in London. Somehow, we could afford to run all these, at a time of post-war hardship. The reason, I hazard, is because those in charge of our finances were able to think in terms of fairness, and of values other than money]. The children’s ward was full, so I was alone in an empty adult ward. In those days, parents could only come at visiting hours, and when my mother arrived with books for me to read [from the library], I could not tell her what an ordeal I was going through. Enemas. Examinations. Baths – one day I was given three, because I was too frightened to tell the nurses I’d already had one. The NHS was primitive then, but all the medicines and treatment I had, until I got big and healthy, would have been an impossible expense for our family. We lived in a rented basement flat off the Portobello Road, in a crumbling Victorian house with holes in the floors and mice and mould everywhere. That house is worth millions today.   I showed promise at school. I passed the 11+ with the 90% marks required for me to have an interview for Godolphin and Latymer, in those days a state maintained girls’ grammar school for high achievers. It is now a private school. Many of the girls went to university and went on to careers. I was lucky; there were full student grants in those days. I was the first child in my family to get a degree.

During this time I was forging out my own values. What would be my guiding principles through life? How would I see success? What would make me happy? The fact that I chose to work in the arts is an indicator that wealth was never a factor. I never, ever expected to be rich, and I didn’t see that as a goal. I am not good with figures – like George Osborne, I only managed ‘O’ level maths – and buying and selling did not appeal to me as a way of life. Acquiring money was of no interest to me – and I was ambitious, and I have succeeded in making a living in the arts – writing plays for children, working on community drama projects, travelling the North East to bring theatre to people who had never seen it –  all my working life. If I failed to achieve my childhood ambition of fame, my more mature self is heartily relieved to have escaped the merciless spotlight that is our media.

So what  would I like to pass on to my children?

A love of the countryside. Nature has always been inspirational to me. To be able to walk all day along footpaths, across hills and mountains, unspoilt since the Romans were here, to enjoy the public national parks and lands that were all that remained after the illegal Enclosures took much of our common land away. To know that this would be here for ever, for my children and their children, gave me that all-important thing, the thing Cameron is at pains to stress he wishes to give all of us – security. Now the Land registry has been privatised, our public lands are up for grabs. For the sake of profit, our ancient rights to walk and be inspired by the rare beauties of our country will be taken away from us. It’s perfectly legal – it’s an Act of Parliament. But is it fair?

Fairness is something that all parents try to teach their children. Sharing with siblings if you have more than they do. Not ganging up on others, not bullying, or lying to help yourself do better. A sense of what George Orwell called decency. To behave in such a way that your conscience does not torment you at night. I can’t answer for the current cabinet, but I wonder if their expensive schools taught them rigorously enough about fairness and decency?  If not, here is a fact for them: the present capitalist system is a triangle. At the top, a tiny number of the very rich, in the larger middle section, the middle classes, and the poor, the most numerous, at the bottom. Unfairness is built into the system, because it is only by keeping most people down below them that the rich can thrive. So to attack people for being part of that necessary structure is deeply unfair. It is bullying.

No one wants to be ill or disabled. I happen to be both, and I bless the NHS and its doctors and nurses every day of my life. They saved my life on a Saturday, by the way, when I had bilateral pulmonary embolisms and didn’t realise until I turned blue and passed out. That’s how close I was. So when Jeremy Hunt says that we don’t have a seven day service, he is not being honest. Honesty would be another quality I cherish. I have brought my children up to be considerate and kind, but also honest.  I passionately wish that our rich policiticans, who clearly were raised with so many material advantages, had been taught the importance of these three qualities. Because in the policies they have chosen to carry out, there has been an absence of these vital things.

I would like to bequeath to my kids and to all children everywhere,  hope in the future. A world that is cleaner and more peaceful. And to be able to say to them before I die that I did everything in my power to stop the powerful elites fracking, burning, despoiling, selling to the highest bidder, and by degrees killing the planet, is little consolation. To the rich I say, you cannot make money from a dead planet. Your children and grandchildren will not suffer the results of your policies as soon as we will. Their inherited wealth will keep them cushioned from reality until the very last tree has been felled. But this sick planet is what you are colluding in handing down to your children?

I’m not a Christian, or a believer in any religion. The way I conduct my life is by principles that, if I were to abandon them, would make me feel deeply uncomfortable. So it makes me angry when the only value that is considered worth discussing in Parliament, composed of nominal Christians, is monetary. Staying in the EU – it’s better for business. Fracking – great business opportunity. Selling our hospitals to the highest bidder – nothing wrong with profiting from illness. Refusing sanctuary to refugees desperately fleeing war? Never mind Christian compassion, brotherly love or even a remembrance of how Syria took in refugees and was known as a safe haven, until civil war, and war by proxy, turned the country into a dangerous, chaotic waste land – we can’t afford to have any of them here. Nuclear power stations – wait a minute. The new and long delayed station at Hinkley Point is uneconomic. It will cost us, the powerless, more and more as we pay the price for Osborne’s wrong decisions. A dose of honesty would be welcome here.

What has been lost, utterly lost, by today’s neoliberals, is any sense of sharing. Equality. Social justice. Those with the most helping those with the least – yes, even the undeserving, because, like Orwell, I don’t believe that people are automatically workshy. I hate to be dependent on others. I still work; I still write, even though my official retirement age was nine years ago. I don’t make money; I write because I love doing it. I have the most basic state pension, paid for by my own NI contributions. It isn’t much, because self-employed people don’t make much. But I don’t care, as long as I can live by my core values.

So David Cameron, George Osborne, Alan Duncan, Boris Johnson, and all who follow you-can you open your eyes to values other than than money? I don’t meant collecting art, or having a box at the opera, or taking holidays in Cornwall to enjoy the surfing. The values you seem to lack are the values that built the finest welfare state in the world. Visionary, revolutionary plans, inspired by ideals of fairness, bitterly opposed, of course, by the Tories then – and you have profited from it all. You’ve made billions for the exchequer by  selling off things that belonged to all of us. Not just this government, but the past four, have forgotten that what matters most is not money. You know the price of everything, and the value of nothing. How can we get you to understand?

 

Frances Kay is the author of ‘Micka’, published by Picador, 2010 and ‘Dollywagglers’ published by Tenebris books, 2014. Her play ‘Feast of Bones’ will be performed at the ASSITEJ conference in Birmingham this July.


We live in poor times. There is poverty of vision and imagination from our rulers, poverty of spirit in responding to those who have been traumatised and terrified by war, and the numbing despair of financial poverty that makes every day an effort.

When I was asked to choose one of my plays for a rehearsed reading at the Everyman Theatre, Cork, the one called BURNING DREAMS struck me as uneasily apposite.

Dublin, 1941. Tenements. Hunger. Sickness. An idealistic young doctor wants to help everyone. Who is the ‘most deserving’ – a refugee girl, a tenement dweller, or an angry Trades Unionist. But how can he possibly choose, when there is not enough to go round?

What is most tragic is that the pitiful crumbs they were fighting over in 1941 are still all that is on offer to the poorest and most deprived in our society right now, seventy years later.

 

 

The play will be staged on 22nd March in the snug bar at the Everyman Palace Theatre, Cork. It starts at 8pm. Tickets €9.

It would be wonderful to see you there.

 


I am writing this in a hazy blur of delight. Right now, my short story  STRANGE CREATION is on the Amazon best sellers’ horror page, right under a book by the master of his genre, Stephen King.

The first books I read by this writer, IT and THE STAND were borrowed from my public library [in the days when the UK still had a comprehensive library system]. I soon realised that I would need my own copies, because a single reading was not enough.

Stephen King has an instinctive, visceral grasp of story structure, although I believe he said once that he never planned the plots of his novels. His stories go fearlessly into those parts of our human psyches we would like to pretend we do not own; they show us fallible humans , often making choices that reveal their fatal flaw, as in CUJO, and they show us three dimensional people like ourselves, faced with terrible dilemmas.The possibilities he implants in our heads, before the reveal, shows what dark thoughts we are capable of. He is the voice of our nightmares – but they are ours, as well as his.

The germ of my recent novel DOLLYWAGGLERS was inspired, years ago, by reading THE STAND, his dystopian fable of America after a flu pandemic. I was itching to write my own dystopia, having read Orwell’s ‘1984’ and Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’ as a teenager, but the idea of a disease [and this could be a metaphor for all kinds of sicknesses our society manifests – or it could be an act of God – or it could be chance], gripped my imagination.

I never thought of myself as being a horror writer, but my short story that now stands, rightly so, underneath King’s, is, I realise, horror with a human face.

I wonder why it is that Stephen King has for so long remained uncrowned as the King of American fiction. Why his fellow writers have not honoured him with a prize. Why the world has not found a way of giving him the laurels he deserves.

I’m not talking about the books that keep you reading far, far into the night, the stories you have to reach the end of, like MISERY, or THINNER, or the short stories that make up ‘Skeleton Crew’, but the ones that reveal King as an author of depth and evocation. Take THE BODY, a story I have read at least ten times, and that made itself naturally into the fine film STAND BY ME. A better drawn picture of fifties’ childhood I have never read. And even though I grew up in England, his references to Schwann bikes, dog tags and hamburger meat brought that moment in time , that little crew of misfits, perfectly to my mind’s eye. The loyalties and rivalries of his group of kids, their language, their fears and hopes, travelling along the rail tracks so they can see an actual dead body, reminds me of the gangs I used to be in, back in London in the early fifties, though we never did anything as adventurous.

Or take a more recent work, BAG OF BONES. A fine study of bereavement, mixed in with the haunting of cursed land, but at the heart, is a man who misses his wife and whose involvement with the supernatural is his way of finding closure. It rings true to me.

King understands the niceties of human nature, and if he chooses to take us down dark tunnels, it is not because he cannot stand the sunshine and daylight up above. On the contrary, his understanding of our whole selves, light and shadow, makes us appreciate life all the more.


This was a title I played around with for a book of short stories I am putting together. It’s not my phrase, of course, it’s Shakespeare’s, and in coining it, he was referring to LIFE. Maybe it’s because my life is none of the above that I enjoy writing, and reading, the darkest of shadowy fiction I can find. If you do too, then you might wonder if that says something about yourself as a person? Do you have to be sick, or mad, or just weird, to enjoy  inspecting the darkest underbelly of humanity? And how about writers who choose to write that stuff? Can they sleep peacefully at night? What makes them go for the jugular?

I’d like to introduce my newest piece of fiction to you. I have no idea whence it came. Imagination is a wild animal, and I would never try to tame mine.

Last April, thanks to this blog, and a group of friends I emailed, my novel DOLLYWAGGLERS had amazing numbers of sales in its early weeks.
 
I’ve just released a new, very dark, unnatural short story.
Published by Tenebris Books, it is called STRANGE CREATION. 
 
It’s about a down to earth scientist, Dr. Dorothy Broadhurst, working calmly and logically on a project in Central Africa, studying a sub species of ape.
But suddenly, everything starts to go horribly wrong….
 
This comes to you in the form of an ebook for a risible 99p. 
You can buy it on Smashwords:
 
or on Amazon:
 
I hope you will. And I hope you will enjoy it. If you do, and you would like to be added to my mailing list, please leave your email here as a comment. I won’t forget you.
Love
Frances.


 

I forgot to mention this, with all the other more important stuff going on, but my latest book, DOLLYWAGGLERS is FREE to download RIGHT NOW.
If you don’t have a Kindle (as I don’t), you can get a totally free Kindle app. from Amazon, put it on any device or computer, and read away.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dollywagglers-Frances-Kay-ebook/dp/B00JYGG58W/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=1-1&qid=1418067643

That is not a proper link, you have to cut and paste. Sorry. For some inexplicable [to me] reason, I can’t insert a link into this edit.

However, if you have the patience to copy and paste, it will work. And the book is still free!

Paperback versions cost £8.99
Happy Christmas!
If you think this book is not about happy anything, you could be wrong… my characters find hope and a light….eventually.
Oh, and there is a sequel in the pipeline, so it can’t be all doom.
Though ‘Dollywagglers’ is definitely a dystopia.


Please share.
Please be there if you can.
Thank you.


‘Do you hear the people sing?
Singing the song of angry men?
It is the music of the people
Who will not be slaves again!’

To all of you with a drop of creative blood in their veins, writers, performers, community artists, actors, dancers, directors, singers, film-makers, visual artists – all of you who will be alive on December 10th to witness the dawn of a new democracy and to seize the day in a bloodless, peaceful revolution – I speak to you.
For years we have kept calm and carried on. We have paid our bills and their taxes, not to help us and our children, but to prop up a rotten system and keep our oppressors in the lavish lifestyles they think they are entitled to, as our elected representatives.
That gallant man who founded the Irish Labour Party, James Connolly, if he were alive today, where would he be now? At self-congratulatory banquets in Leinster House? Accepting another bonus, another pension? Driving past our placards in his official car (paid for with our money, of course), with panicky Gardai protecting him against the sight of us and our children being shoved aside as we ask only to be heard, to be treated with respect?
I don’t think so. I believe he would be with us, out on the streets, calling for justice – not in the narrow legal sense which our political masters decree is the only sense, but for the social, natural and humane justice we desperately seek, in a world that has lost its values. In an Ireland where law-abiding citizens have been forced to break a law that should never have been passed in the first place, (and passed with no proper debate), to charge us for our water, which their law now says is a marketable commodity, but which we know to be a right, without which we cannot live, is a crime.
James Connolly, the man who asked the question ‘Who owns the land?’ will be marching in solidarity and in spirit on December 10th, beside the Irish people for whose rights he fought and died.
What a shameful mockery of his vision today’s Labour Party has become, (a party I have always voted for, until now). A party many can no longer recognise as of the people or in any way for the people; a party who has in its shameful ranks a Senator, Lorraine Higgins, who describes this revolt by long-suffering, peaceful citizens as a ‘lawless utopia’. Her illiteracy, political and etymological, and the wilful ignorance she displays by that statement would be enough to make me despair, if people with her lack of vision and compassion were all we had to rely on.
I wish with a heart and a half that I could be in Dublin on 10th December. I am seriously ill, and physically unable to be there to sing our song of angry women and men, who will not be slaves again, together with the hundreds of thousands who are saying ‘Enough is enough’.
As a worker in the arts who has dedicated her life to giving a voice to those who are not listened to, may I urge all my professional colleagues, anyone who feels themself to be an artist of all and any kind to be there, to be part of the best theatre you will ever see in your lifetime?
Wear costume. Wear nothing!
Dance, sing and act your hearts out – make this revolution an artistic act of terrible beauty; make it yours. Don’t be audience, be actors.
Be there to witness the old betrayers of our trust faced with the inescapable truth; that they no longer represent anyone except themselves; that they serve only the interests of bankers, business and corporate greed.
Please be there, for me.

Frances Kay is a playwright and novelist who lived and worked in Ireland from 1990-2012. A serious health condition has resulted in her having to leave a country she dearly loves, but her pen and her passion are always at the disposal of the people, especially the children, of Ireland.
Her great-grandfather, Henry Kingston Kay, was Irish, and she is proud to know that Irish blood flows in her veins.

© Frances Kay 2014.

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