GIRL, INTERRUPTED. (1999) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

GIRL, INTERRUPTED. (1999) BASED ON THE 1993 MEMOIR BY SUSANNA KAYSEN. DIRECTED BY JAMES MANGOLD.

STARRING WINONA RYDER, ANGELINA JOLIE, WHOOPI GOLDBERG, VANESSA REDGRAVE, JARED LETO, CLEA DUVALL, BRITTANY MURPHY AND JILLIAN ARMENANTE.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Do not drop anchor here.’

‘Susanna, you’re hurting everyone around you!’

‘No-one cares if you die, Lisa. You’re already dead!’

‘Because I don’t want to kill myself, that’s not cool to you…?’

‘I’m curious as to why I should have to be in a mental institution, Melvin.’

‘Here’s a piece of advice, lady. Don’t wag your finger at fucking crazy people!’

I don’t really know what blokes would think of this girlie movie, but it’s been on my list of favourite films ever since I actually saw it on the big screen early on in the year 2000. It was my first time ever clapping eyes on Angelina Jolie and I was completely mesmerised by her stunning ‘LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT ME!’ performance.

I’ve never cared much for Winona Ryder, thinking her too moo-cow-eyed, drippy, wishy-washy and mopey-faced, and in this film she’s surely at her mopiest ever playing Susanna Kaysen, the writer of the memoir on which the film is based, but Angelina Jolie, mon Dieu! She steals every scene she’s in as the beautiful, charismatic, dangerous, damaged and unpredictable sociopath Lisa Rowe. Susanna is drawn to her like a moth to a flame, and truly, so was I, lol.   

I should explain. It’s the late ‘Sixties in America. Susanna Kaysen has ‘the distinction of being the only girl in her year at school not going on to college.’ That’s because, although she knows she wants to write, she has no idea of what she wants to ‘do,’ because of course writing is not a proper job or course of action for a young woman on the cusp of life, according to the adults in her life. Grrr.

After having a disastrous affair with a college professor, constantly self-harming and attempting suicide, Susanna is packed off, more or less against her will, to a mental institution called Claymoore for a so-called ‘rest’ of two weeks, which turns into a stay of one whole year.

She has a diagnosis of ‘Borderline Personality Disorder’ slapped on her, something of a nothing diagnosis if you ask me. Far be it from me to say that this mental disorder or that one doesn’t really exist, but it just seems like a mish-mash of all the feelings young women tend to normally have in late adolescence anyway, feelings like insecurity, fear of abandonment, fear of never finding the perfect relationship or partner, stuff like that.

Susanna quickly becomes as badly-behaved and self-indulgent as the other brats in her ward. Whoopi Goldberg as the sensible Nurse Valerie- ‘two kids and one bathroom’- doesn’t tolerate her nonsense for a second.

She tells Susanna that she has so much going for her that it would be criminal for her to just get comfortable with the ‘crazy’ label and lie down under it. It takes a while for Susanna to work out that Nurse Valerie is spot on when she advises Susanna: ‘Do not drop anchor here.’

Brittany Murphy, who died tragically young a mere decade after making this film, is superb as the poor Daisy Randone, a sexually abused young woman with an eating disorder and a fast pass to self-destruction. Angelina Jolie’s Lisa is horrible to her and selfishly, almost for fun, gives her that extra push she needs to step off the edge of the world completely. It’s a really sad storyline.

Jared Leto plays the handsome Toby, who’s terrified of being sent to Vietnam (well, I don’t really blame him for that, do you?) so he asks Susanna to run away with him just as company for himself, the little gurrier.

Vanessa Redgrave is suitably superior and ivory-tower-ish as the Great and Powerful Dr. Wick, head shrink at Claymoore. I’m not sure how in touch with the real world and the patients she is, though, up there in her lovely office with her dictionaries and her fancy Latin words.  

Again, though, Angelina Jolie, who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Lisa, just steals every scene she’s in and is so infinitely watchable as the too-cool-for-school ‘lifer’ who, under her tough, prickly smart-mouth exterior is just crying out to be loved.

And not just the love of a man for a damaged, broken but still sexually desirable little girl, either. She’s had plenty of that, it would seem, but she’s probably never known the genuine affection of one human being for another, and that’s really sad too.

A pretty cool ‘Sixties soundtrack accompanies the scenes of Susanna and her pals at Claymoore running amok in their nice safe sanitarium for- mostly- the daughters of rich folks who can afford to pay to have their problems kept neatly out of sight for a while.

This is mine and my daughter’s favourite girlie film, along with White Oleander, Sleeping with the Enemy, Tina Turner: What’s Love got to do with it?, Erin Brokovich and Gorillas in the Mist.

As I said earlier, I’m not sure what guys will think of the film but, as a woman who was probably just as angsty and as prone to navel-gazing and endless introspection as Susanna Kaysen when I was seventeen (in all fairness, isn’t that what your late teens are supposed to be for, anyway?), I bloody love it. That’s about it, really.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

IT’S A NO FROM ME… LOSING MY X FACTOR BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

IT’S A NO FROM ME…

LOSING MY X FACTOR.

BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

There’s something a bit off about this year, a bit odd. Haha, very good, I heard it too. No, I don’t mean the dreaded ‘rona, the coronavirus, COVID-19, the plague that’s a bit like the ‘flu only much worse that can kill you if you’re over a certain age and have an underlying health condition.

Thanks to COVID, 2020 might just have been the worst year in the history of mankind, and it’s still got two-and-a-half months left to go. God alone knows what torments are still in store for us.

But no, I was actually referring to something else, the lack of which this year only adds to the ever-growing misery. Normally, by this stage of the year, by mid-October, myself and my kids would be a good six or even seven weeks into watching a little televisual feast known to its millions of fans as The X Factor.

Our Saturday nights since the show’s inception in the early 2000s had all been blissful and without a shadow of a doubt the best night of every week, bar none. None, I tells ya. What wasn’t to love?

A takeaway in front of probably the most popular reality television show of all time, and all the good, bad and downright terrible singing you could ever ask for. Dermot O’Leary, for a long time the show’s polished presenter, even said it himself every time he came out on stage: ‘Your Saturday night starts here…!’ Dermot, it did indeed.

How would I describe the show to a space alien who’d never seen it? Well, thousands upon thousands of contestants queued up to audition for a place in Britain’s most high profile singing competition and reality television show, ‘reality’ meaning that it featured regular folks off the street, and not celebrities.

They’d come in their droves, the good, the bad, the bizarre, the weird, the wonderful, the sexy, the glamorous and the downright insane. Some of them could even sing. Some would come from halfway across the world, just for a chance at their five minutes (or more, but usually much less) of fame.

They’d gradually be whittled down to a few hundred who would then appear on the show as they went through auditions in front of the celebrity judges, then boot camp, which separated the men from the boys (we’re not allowed to say that any more as it’s politically incorrect, and quite rightly so. I mean, where are the women referenced?), and then Judges’ Houses and the live shows themselves, in front of a huge theatre audience.

I had such a huge crush on Simon Cowell, the show’s billionaire creator and head judge, back in the day. I loved everything about him, from his unnaturally white teeth, visibly hairy chest and perma-tanned skin to his high-waisted trousers and black, blocky, squared-off-at-the-top hairstyle.

What I probably loved most about him was the confidence and the sexy aura of power he exuded. I mean, he could decide to give a pretty girl a second chance even if she wasn’t a great singer and kept forgetting her words, or he could just put up his hand in the middle of someone’s audition and shake his head and say that the song was all wrong and could the person kindly sing something else?

In time, we grew to recognise the show’s ‘tropes,’ just like we’ve grown familiar with them in horror movies. When Simon did this, the contestant’s second song would be a big sad slow ballad and the audience would go wild for it. Then Simon would sit, looking smug, while the accolades poured in from all sides. It was magical.

A good sob story as your back-story served you just as well on the show, if not better than, your singing voice. If anyone belonging to you had recently passed away (grampy, your goldfish, bezzie mate), your chances of success sky-rocketed.

Sad music would accompany your relating of the back story, and the female judges might even be seen to carefully wipe away a smidgeon of a tear, which an unseen make-up artist would have placed there artistically with a plant spray a second earlier. It was top-notch fun, watching the show deliberately yanking on the viewers’ heartstrings like that.

Irish music mogul Louis Walsh was Simon’s sidekick for a long time. He became legendary for saying inane, generic things to the contestants like: ‘You look like a pop star, you sound like a pop star, you danced like a pop star, that was just great!’ and never giving any decent criticism that the acts could actually use.

Louis normally got to mentor ‘the groups,’ and if you got Louis as your mentor, you knew you were only going to ‘Oireland’ for your Judges’ Houses experience, and not to Simon’s beach house in the Bahamas or wherever. Getting Louis was a bit like drawing the short straw.

Simon often got ‘the girls,’ and didn’t he revel in it, lol. I loved when Cheryl Cole and Sharon Osbourne were judges. Sharon famously would have a little tipple before going on- or sometimes during!- the show, and she was gas craic.

Cheryl, who rose to fame with Girls Aloud on a reality television show called Popstars: The Rivals, was just so beautiful to look at. Her dresses and hairstyles gave us plenty to talk about week after week.

Of course, we always preferred watching the bad singers over the talented ones, especially the cocky ones who thought they were the new Elvis or David Bowie but in reality their croaking made the judges’ ears bleed.

We especially loved the ones who gave cheek or backtalk to the judges’ and queried the judges’ decisions. Sometimes their effrontery paid off, but more often than not, they’d be packed offstage with their tails between their legs.

We loved cringing at Jedward, cheering on Little Mix and One Direction and laughing at the hysterical antics of one Rylan Clark, when he was told by Nicole Sherzinger that he was going to be a ‘Sherzy Boy.’ Nicole was great to look at but a total fruit loop. Naturally, we put it down to her being American and larger-than-life, no offence to our transatlantic cousins, lol.

But then, of course, plummeting viewing figures caused Simon and the show’s bosses to mess with the X Factor’s golden format, with disastrous results. It was a terrible mistake to encourage contestants to sing their own material, for one thing.

We, the viewers, didn’t want to hear contestants’ own material, that we weren’t familiar with. We wanted to hear them murdering old favourites like Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing and anything from ABBA. The quality of the content kept dipping and dipping. The quality of the content kept dipping and dipping. It bears repeating because it’s so true.

2019’s X Factor was a travesty, with so-called ‘celebrities’ who had already, for the most part, carved out showbiz niches for themselves competing against each other. X Factor had always, up to then, been about the common man. Or woman. (Boy, did they have some common women on the show!) It bombed, big-time. Sunk like the Titanic, without a trace.

And now the show’s been scrapped and all we have are our memories. Unless the show makes a comeback, never again will we see Simon Cowell’s hairy hand go up majestically in the middle of a contestant’s bad first song choice, only for the nervous auditionee to hit the spot with a deliberately chosen better second song choice. Oh well. At least there’s still Strictly Come Dancing. Anton du Beke, prepare to be fantasised about…!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books.

LOOKING BACK ON MY PERSONAL LOCKDOWN: PART THREE OF A MINI-MEMOIR BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Okay, peeps, so let’s get on with the list we were working on of all the things that characterised my own personal lockdown of 2020; I believe we were up to number twelve?

12. Sport: sport was bloody everywhere in the lockdown. Now, I hate all sports, except for the one that has Cristiano Ronaldo in it, and I would have loved a sports-free three or four months, but no such luck. Irish people are obsessed with bloody sports. A mere lockdown wasn’t going to stop them getting their daily fix. Give us this day our daily sports…

First, the sports news on the news bulletins we watched daily told us of all the sporting events that were being cancelled one by one as the lockdown (and the coronavirus) took hold. Then, they told us how all the sporting organisations, teams and individual personalities were coping with the cancellation of their various sporting events. Well, negatively, one would assume…!

Then a series of whimsical sports news items began to permeate, not only the sports news, but the main news as well. A load of mad sports people were running marathons in their gardens, completing triathlons in their gardens, building swimming pools in their gardens and raising money for charity by doing mad sporty things, you guessed it, in their gardens.

And it looked like RTÉ and TV3 were all filming the same garden every time, as well. Oh look, it’s the studio garden, we’d say sarcastically when it came on the news, yet again, as part of an ‘inspiring’ or ‘heart-warming’ little end piece to finish on. I was really starting to hate these cheese-fest pieces with all my heart, I can tell you that for nothing. They were so sweetly optimistic and hopeful that they made me grind my teeth in reaction. Bah humbug, much?

Then the sports news people engaged in endless speculation as to when the various sporting fixtures might be allowed to resume/continue/pick up where they left off, etc. Would the various sports be able to socially distance their participants and any spectators?

Would spectators be banned, at least for a while? How much money had been lost on horse-racing so far this year, and should all players of every sport be tested for the virus before being permitted to take part in their sport of choice? How long would it be before I threw myself off a cliff out of sheer desperation? It was just endless, the speculation. But worse was to come.

Then, the sports fixtures/tournaments, etc. started to come back. Oh God. A different one back every day, with Irish television focusing on the GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) as usual. One cannot underestimate the importance of our national sports body to the Irish public.

Our entire government could collectively mince down the street, each TD dressed as a wealthy dowager twirling a parasol and peering over the top of a lorgnette, and the headlines would still be about whether or not the GAA would be able to go ahead with a certain fixture. I’d ban all sports if it were up to me, except for the one with the men in the little shorts chasing the ball. That one can stay.

13. And now let’s talk about Le Sexe. Due to the two kilometre travel restrictions in operation, a lot of single people didn’t- couldn’t- have any sex during the lockdown, and a new phrase was born… quarantine-horny.

Were you quarantine-horny during the lockdown, because your sex buddy lived further away from you than the two kilometres? And then, when the two kilometres was increased to five kilometres, were you quarantine-horny because your sex buddy lived further away from you than the five kilometres? Did you live in hope of having the travel restrictions reduced so you could get your leg over?

The travel restrictions have indeed since been relaxed to twenty kilometres. If your sex-buddy lives further away from you than these twenty kilometres, then you, my friend, if you’ll excuse my French, are truly fucked, lol. Or not, as Le Case may be.

I wonder about those couples, though, who were self-isolating together or just stuck at home together for the ten or twelve weeks. I have some questions. Did they pass the time by copulating like rabbits non-stop? Will there be a baby boom in nine months time?

Did they wear masks when they did it, or did they do it from behind to minimise the risk of any infection spreading from mouth-to-mouth? Did people forget about STDs while worrying about coronavirus, or did they still remember to wear condoms?

I saw couples holding hands together and kissing on the streets during the lockdown. If this is what they do in public, I doubt very much whether they practise abstinence behind closed doors. Is the time right for the people of Ireland to rediscover sex and their sex buddies, or do we still need to stay at least two metres apart for the foreseeable future? I don’t know any man who could manage it from two metres away, heh-heh-heh. I truly wish I did, but I don’t. I think we might need some governmental input on this one. Guidelines, please…!

14. Getting in touch with old friends, because hearing about all the deaths on the news made you wonder if they were safe.

15. Seeing the Guards in their hi-viz jackets everywhere we went during the pandemic was hugely comforting. I liked that they had the power to tell gobshites who didn’t think the travel restrictions applied to them to turn the car right around and go the feck home. I forget some of the details of this particular story, but remember the guy who drove from one county to the other at the height of the pandemic to pick up a trampoline? Behold, I give you your Number One Gobshite…

16. Online shopping, because what other kind was there…? It’s my poor card that’s on a bleedin’ ventilator now.

17. It’s probably the first time in the history of the Universe that the whole world is experiencing the same thing at the same time. This aspect of the pandemic is so weird. We all went into lockdown more or less together, we endured the fear and the difficulties and the isolation of it all together, and now we’re all coming out of it together, give or take a few weeks. It’s a shame that it took a global pandemic to bring us together in the first place, but everything happens for a reason. Now that we’ve all connected with each other, I really do hope we stay that way.

18. Streets as quiet as Christmas Eve night every night, because, with the pubs and clubs and restaurants all shut, no-one had any reason to come into town after dinner.

19. Newsreaders saying ‘A Saint Patrick’s Day like no other;’ ‘A Mother’s Day like no other;’ ‘An Easter Sunday like no other;’ ‘A May Bank Holiday like no other,’ followed by depressing shots of an empty Grafton Street, Dublin’s main shopping street. All right, we get it! We’re living in strange times. No need to hammer it home…

20. Seeing more of your neighbours than ever before (not necessarily a good thing), because everyone’s either furloughed or working from home.

21. We became really attached to the Angelus during the lockdown. This is a religious thing; the Catholic religion, to be precise. It’s basically just one minute of church bells ringing out on RTÉ ONE television at 6 o’clock every evening, just before the Six-One News, the main news bulletin of the day for most people.

You’re meant to use the time for private reflection as you watch the images provided, often of older people working at various crafts that are dying out in these modern times. It always comforts me to know that probably half the country is watching these self-same images right alongside me at the exact same time.

At the weekend during the crisis, RTÉ ONE would put on a little programme called ‘IRELAND REMEMBERS’ as well. To the accompaniment of a very sad, dirge-like music and a background of images of people laying wreaths in our Garden of Remembrance, photos of people who had died of COVID-19 would appear on the screen.

Mostly these people would be elderly, but some were quite young, and it was not at all unusual to find me in floods of tears at the terrible waste/loss of all of these vibrant lives, young or old, by the end of the piece.

22. Finally, there’s my book. My debut novel, THIRTEEN STOPS, published by Poolbeg Books, was supposed to hit the shops in physical form this July. That’s not now happening, thanks to the fact that some of the shops here are still shut, and a load of other books that were meant to come out during the pandemic are now coming out ahead of mine, so mine will have to wait a bit.

The e-book is out for now, though (the link is below), to keep us all going, and the book is available for Print-On-Demand from Amazon if you’d like an actual print copy. Thanks to anyone who’s bought it so far (that’s a huge help, lol), and thanks for following the progress of this mini-memoir too. We’ve reached the end of our memoir, but not, I hope, of our association. May that be long and happy. https://www.amazon.com/Thirteen-Stops-Sandra-Harris-ebook/dp/B089DJMH64

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

LOOKING BACK ON MY PERSONAL LOCKDOWN: PART TWO OF A MINI-MEMOIR BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

So, yesterday, I had a bit of a moan about the shops and services that shut down during the lockdown, leaving us all bereft of boozers, bistros and, most importantly, haircuts, lol. Today, let’s talk about… the News!

8. The News, with a capital ‘N,’ became a lifeline for my family and me during the pandemic. No matter what else we’d be doing during the day, the three of us would come together at half-five every day for The News. First on TV3, then the hour-long News on RTÉ One, a good-value-for-money bulletin that nicely bridged the gap between afternoon and evening for us as well.

We hung on the newsreader’s every word. How many deaths today? How many new cases of the virus? How are we doing for deliveries of PPE (personal protective equipment)? How many kilometres can we travel from home, and how long do the elderly have to stay home for?

What are the government doing about everything? How long are we likely to be in ‘severe’ lockdown, and when will we be able to ease up on restrictions? We lapped it all up. The News was- and still is- our main link to the outside world (topped up daily by online news reports). Sometimes, when one bulletin ended, we’d switch over to Sky News and watch that until we felt we’d had our fill.

The world news was even worse. Ireland actually seemed to be doing better than some other poor countries, who were hit extremely hard by the insidious coronavirus. China, of course, then Spain, Italy, the UK, our nearest neighbours, and now Brazil, all experienced (some are still experiencing) literally thousands of deaths. We saw pictures of eerily silent, empty European capitals that mirrored our own people-free streets, all as quiet as your average Christmas Eve night. The whole thing was chillingly apocalyptic.

We came to regard the newsreaders almost as friends. We commented daily on the womens’ attire and hairstyles, deciding together almost gleefully whether an outfit was flattering or not to a certain person’s height or figure, and we could tell when a male reporter had had his hair cut, or his ears lowered, as we say here in Ireland. A lot of the out-of-studio reports were delivered from streets near where we live, so we had great fun identifying the locations and saying things like: ‘I was only down there the other day,’ lol.

9. The personalities who have become the collective ‘face’ of the fight against coronavirus for the country as a whole are definitely worth a mention : our lovely kindly Chief Medical Officer, Tony Holohan, and the man who looks a bit like him who stands behind him and signs the news for the deaf; our super-concerned, super-posh Minister for Health, Simon Harris (no relation… I think!); and our esteemed Taoiseach (pronounced Tee-shock), Leo Varadkar, a trendy, young-ish guy whose speech-writers get him to quote from movies and popular culture in his lockdown speeches so that he’ll seem ‘down with the kids.’ Hmmmmm.

Never mind that we more or less voted his party out of power four months ago; he’s been clinging on to the virus for dear life for the duration of the lockdown (like a drowning man to a lifeline), garnering as much attention for himself as he can before he eventually has to make way for the even less charismatic Míchael Martin, who by all reports will become our first ‘rotating’ Taoiseach at the end of the month. Oh joy unconfined. La plus ca change around here, la plus c’est la bleedin’ meme chose. Capiche?

10. The familiar faces from other countries this lockdown include the UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who proved he was human by catching the virus himself and nearly dying of it, and who staunchly stood by his adviser, the surly and rather ungracious Dominic Cummings, when the latter shamelessly flouted his own travel restrictions during the pandemic and got off pretty much scot-free, to the outrage of the UK’s more law-abiding citizens.

The ordinary people of Britain were busy enduring all the hardships and privations of the lockdown at its height, but seemingly the rules and regulations didn’t apply to the toffs and aristos, only to the plebs. Well, they could at least have told people…!

America’s President Donald Trump has become an object of fascination for us during the pandemic. We tune in to the News to watch his exploits the way that our eyes would be unerringly drawn to a terrible car crash on the side of the road as we drive by. What enormous gaffe has he committed today, we’d wonder; which country has he insulted now?

He’s had it in for China all lockdown, of course, accusing the Chinese of starting and spreading COVID-19, and even withdrawing America’s funding from the WHO (the World Health Organisation, not the dinosaur rock band) because he believes them to be too ‘China-centric’ in their dealings. Wow. He really doesn’t like China.

Then there was the time he appeared to be advocating the ingestion of household bleach to combat the coronavirus (the bleach companies were quick to disassociate themselves!), and the time- well, this was only yesterday- when he allowed thousands of Americans (though not as many as he’d have liked, apparently) to gather in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for one of his massive re-election rallies.

This, despite the fact that; A, the virus is still killing people in large numbers over there and the attendees weren’t even required to wear masks, and B, the place he’d chosen to hold his rally was once the site of a White Supremacist massacre. Not exactly great timing, right in the midst of the George Floyd-inspired ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaign…

I’ve been thinking a lot about Trump’s wife Melania too, this lockdown. Yes, she’s beautiful, but is she happy? What’s it like being married to Trump? Is he kind to her? Do they have proper conversations, other than just, we’ve got that function tonight so be ready at five-thirty, or pass the jam, dear?

Does he cheat on her? Do they have sex, and is he a selfish lover? What’s he like to have sex with? Does he favour the traditional man-on-top missionary position, or does he like to be dominated? Can he give a woman an orgasm? Does he have a big or small willy, and is it at least functional? Does she have boyfriends? These are things we’ll probably never know the answers to for sure, but it’s fascinating to speculate, and there’s no point saying it’s not…!

11. We’ve had to get used to a whole new vocabulary connected to living side-by-side with this virus. We’ve learned phrases like social distancing, no bloody harm if you ask me, because Irish people for far too long have all crowded together to eat, drink, dance, socialise, shop, bury our dead, marry our couples and protest against various injustices, and all one on top of the other like a horrible conjoined blob-monster from a science fiction movie. It’d be no bloody harm, as I said, if we learned to put a little bit of distance between ourselves and our fellow man for a while.

Other phrases/words we’ve picked up include self-isolation, PPE, the containment phase, ‘the new normal’ and ‘cocooning,’ a word invented by the government to try and keep the elderly safe at home while the worst of the virus rampaged through the country. I’m not sure how successful they were at this, unfortunately.

I asked one elderly lady from my community how she’d gotten on while cocooning. She looked at me blankly and said: ‘Cocooning? What’s that, lovey?’ Another elderly person of our acquaintance, an old man, replied: ‘Was I cocooning? I was, in me hole!’ when asked about his lockdown experience. That means no, he wasn’t cocooning in the slightest, by the way.

So, um, there you have it, anyway. This just confirms my own personal long-held views that old people (like cyclists!) don’t think that the laws of the land apply to them, and they can just do whatever they feel like doing, whenever they feel like it. When I get to that age, I am so going to do the same…! And the numbers of people I’m going to shove out of my way just because I’m an old person going somewhere will be too many to count.

More new vocabulary for these strange and unusual times included ‘flattening the curve,’ ‘furlough,’ ‘easing out of lockdown,’ ‘a step-wise plan for easing out of lockdown,’ ‘full lockdown,’ ‘partial lockdown,’ a ‘spike in the statistics’ and, finally, the infamous ‘second wave.’ This is the wave you give someone when they failed to see your first effort, lol.

That’s it for now; I’ll finish up the few remaining bits and pieces of my list of lockdown oddities during the week to come (including the no-sex-during-quarantine thing!), and I’ll see you guys then!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

LOOKING BACK ON MY PERSONAL LOCKDOWN: PART ONE OF A MINI-MEMOIR BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

LOOKING BACK ON MY PERSONAL LOCKDOWN: PART ONE OF A MINI-MEMOIR BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

What characterised the 2020 coronavirus Lockdown for me and my family? I think we’ll make a list this time. I love lists!

1. Well, first of all there was the shock and outrage we felt on March 12th when we were told by the government that the schools would shut that day and remain shut until March 29th. March 29th? How dared they? We couldn’t all mind our own kids by ourselves for two whole weeks without any input from the state! God Almighty, if only we’d known then what a long haul we were actually in for, and how ludicrous the idea of anyone or anything re-opening for business on March 29th really was…!

2. Then the shops shut. Not the essential food or medicine-y ones like Tesco or Boots, but the ones that made life worth living, like the bookshops (how are books not an essential service, essential for the good mental health of their readers?), the DVD and record stores, the stationery shops and netcafés, the good shops.

I was distraught. I personally probably own more books than one could ever possibly read in a lifetime, but that’s not the point, goddammit! I like to know I can buy another one when I feel like it.

I loathe and detest clothes shopping, so the fact that I couldn’t buy a million pairs of pyjamas in Penneys like everyone else apparently does routinely didn’t bother me one whit, but walking down a street and seeing ‘CLOSED DUE TO COVID-19’ on every shop door was hard to take. It felt a bit like in the classic horror movie Nosferatu when a whole town shuts down on itself because of… you guessed it… the plague…!

3. Even the charity shops shut. Now that hit me hard, as those are the places from where I’ve sourced most of my books and a goodly number of my DVDs. Learning that I couldn’t go for a grand old browse whenever the mood took me really hurt me in the place where I feel it the most: my bookshelf…!

4. I wasn’t too bothered about the pubs closing, as I hadn’t really used them in a long time. And, besides, as a writer, I tend to favour drinking at home anyway. A glass of wine as a reward for a few hours of slaving away over a hot keyboard had already been my modus operandi for some time. Heh-heh-heh.

However, as an Irish person, I knew full well what a big deal it was for the nations’ pubs to collectively close, their windows displays eerily ‘paused’ on shamrocks and shillelaghs for the next several months to come. How the big pub drinkers coped with the lockdown, I honestly don’t know.

Takeaway ‘pints’ and ordering ‘pints’ online became a thing towards the end of the lockdown (well, the pubs need to re-coup some of the money they lost this year and there will always be people desperate enough, or thirsty enough, to order ‘pints’ this way), but I’d be much too worried about spillages (and waste!) to even contemplate using such a mad service.

5. The closure of the restaurants and cafés hit me like a ton of bricks. I live surrounded by so many brilliant eateries that I’d barely fried an egg in years, and was only really aware of the kitchen as the place in my house where I store the wine and chocolate.

The lockdown forced me and my kids back into this tiny unloved space to cook, actually cook, foods like eggs, meat and even v…v…v… what’s the word I’m looking for?… v… is it vegetables? I’m surprised our systems didn’t violently rebel against them, lol.

I’m thrilled to see the restaurants and cafés starting to re-open once again, but we grudgingly admit that the lockdown has taught us a few much-needed culinary skills, and my adult daughter now no longer believes that going into the kitchen might actually kill you, which apparently is the message she’d picked up from me over the years…!

6. The hairdressers’ shops have been shut since March. I’ve been waiting four months, and might have to wait several weeks more due to queues, to have the natural blonde colour put back into my crowning glory. I’m counting down the hours. Enough said.

7. The churches all shut down too. Now, although I’m a Catholic, I don’t go to Mass (I know; shame on me!), but I’ve been absolutely gobsmacked by the way churches immediately started live-streaming their Sunday and other services online directly into parishioners’ homes, as casually and easily as if they’d been doing it for years.

Who knew that the Catholic Church could respond so quickly and efficiently to the modern Mass-attending needs of their flock? Of course, if you didn’t have Internet access, you were screwed, but online Mass was apparently a big hit, drawing more people that way than ever came into the actual buildings to park their butts on the pews, and remember the priests who did the Irish dancing up on the altar that time? ‘Twas gas crack altogether, like something out of Father Ted.

Now that the churches are opening their doors once more, I’ll be able to go back to (hopefully) buying my way into heaven, one candle at a time. (It’s thirty cent a candle. It all adds up.) I’m hoping that, when I meet my Maker, I’ll be able to tell Him that I’m fully paid up, and, with any luck, He’ll be so busy with the queues he’ll just wave me through and on to Reception…!

We’ll go on with our list of Lockdown complaints (I mean, my memoir!) tomorrow, hopefully, so see you then, with masks on, lol.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

ANGELA’S ASHES. (1999) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

angela the 3 franks

ANGELA’S ASHES. (1999) BASED ON THE PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING MEMOIR BY FRANK MCCOURT. DIRECTED BY ALAN PARKER.

STARRING EMILY WATSON, ROBERT CARLYLE, RONNIE MASTERSON, JOE BREEN, CIARAN OWENS, MICHAEL LEGGE, GERALD (FATHER TODD UNCTUOUS) MCSORLEY AND PAULINE (MRS. DOYLE) MCLYNN.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘A man who would drink the money for the new baby was beyond the beyonds.’

Fancying a good miserable time for myself on Easter Sunday night, after the chickens had been cooked and eaten and the crème eggs devoured, I put on ANGELA’S ASHES. This is one of the few Irish films I can stomach, as some of the rest of them are just too annoying or, quite frankly, not as good as their English or American counterparts. As I’m Irish myself, I’m allowed to say that, lol.

ANGELA’S ASHES is quite simply one of the best films ever made about the Miserable Irish Catholic Childhood, and fair play to author and school-teacher Frank McCourt (1930-2009) for turning his grim beginnings into a multi-million selling book and movie. Talk about making lemonade when life hands you lemons. That’s how you do it, Frankie lad, and more power to your elbow.

Anyway, if Frank McCourt is the hero of his own story, then the heroine must surely be his mother Angela, who put up with so much misery and poverty in her lifetime. Married to a feckless drinking man from the North of Ireland called Malachy McCourt (played by Robert Carlyle), her lot is to have and lose baby after baby (because of the high infant mortality rate for the poor of Limerick’s slums in the 1930s and 1940s) and to be barely able to feed the living ones because they have no money.

We first meet the family in America. They’ve emigrated there presumably to make a better life for themselves, but have to return to Angela’s family in Limerick when the Big Apple turns rotten and worm-infested for them. ‘We must have been the only family in living memory to be sailing AWAY from the Statue of Liberty,’ observes Frank the narrator ironically.

Limerick’s slums are already chock-full of desperately poor families. Frank and his brothers get mocked and taunted in school for wearing broken boots patched with the rubber from a bicycle tire. The family’s furniture comes from the St. Vincent De Paul Society, on the condition, seemingly, that they consent to being insulted and publicly demeaned by the members of the committee while queuing up to beg for it.

Dad is permanently out of work and, on the rare occasions when he’s in work, he drinks the wages and then loses the job for turning up late or not at all. Angela refers to him repeatedly as a ‘useless feck,’ and she’s not wrong there. Robert Carlyle’s character makes me so angry.

His sole contribution to the family seems to be getting Angela pregnant repeatedly, filling his sons’ heads with fairy stories he remembers from his childhood and drinking away every penny he ever gets his hands on, coming home pissed and incontinent offering his children ‘a penny to die for Ireland.’ When he conks out one night with his stupid selfish head practically in the piss-bucket on the landing, you can’t help feeling that he’s found his natural milieu.

Oh yes, he’s big on songs about the bould brave Fenian men and he boasts about having fought for Ireland during the War of Independence but, wouldn’t you know it, there’s no record of his ever having done military service so he’s not entitled to any pension.

He just makes me so mad. He has ‘loser’ and ‘sponger’ written all over him. He castigates Angela for going begging to the St. Vincent De Paul people or picking up coal off the street where it’s dropped off the coal-man’s cart (‘Have you no pride, Angela?’), but I don’t see him bringing in a wage for food and clothes for the kids he’s actively helped to create.

It’s almost a relief when he buggers off for good, off down the wet, waterlogged lanes where the McCourts have their tenement-style dwelling, to take the boat to England and never be heard from again, as far as I know. Frankie, played by three different actors in the three stages of his development, is the man of the house now.

We see Frankie in school, on the one hand being subjected to savage physical discipline and, on the other, being introduced to the joys of reading, a love he never loses. We see him going to the Lyric cinema- when he has the price of admission, and sometimes when he hasn’t!- to watch Westerns and old UNIVERSAL horror movies such as THE MUMMY, starring Boris Karloff. ‘He’s sticking his knife into that nice lady’s belly…!’

Frankie makes his First Holy Communion, for which he has to have his badly-behaved, sticky-up Protestant hair flattened down by his Granny’s spit, and his Confirmation. He develops typhoid and spends two months in hospital. He gets his first ever job as a coal-man’s apprentice, but has to jack it in because his eyes become super-irritated by the coal dust.

He works for the Post Office as a telegram boy and enjoys as a result his first ever sexual experience with a girl. He’s long since learned the forbidden art of ‘self-abuse,’ even though he knows full well that it makes the Virgin Mary cry.

He works for the local moneylender as a writer of threatening letters- one of the highlights being when he throws her ledger in the ocean- and every penny he makes, he puts into a Post Office Savings Account, otherwise known as his Going To America fund. Yes, that’s right. All wee Frankie McCourt wants to do is get back to the land of promise and plenty some day, where everyone has perfect teeth and a lavatory of their own. Oh joy unconfined, lol.

How can he bear to part with the rain, the misery, the hunger, the grinding poverty and the awful knowledge that his mother has to sexually satisfy her horrible cousin Laman Griffin if she wants to keep a roof over her childrens’ heads? Ah well. It’s a free country. Or maybe not…

There’s a brilliant jaunty soundtrack of ‘Thirties and ‘Forties music, lots of stunning rural scenes to ogle, and the cast is dotted with familiar faces from other Irish films and Irish soap operas, namely the now defunct rural soap GLENROE and on-going urban soap FAIR CITY. 

It’s like playing ‘Spot the minor Irish celeb…!’ Oh look, it’s your man from… And wasn’t your one in…? And there’s what’s-her-name from that thing, oh, you know the thing I mean, it was on last August Bank Holiday…!

The main person you’ll recognise should be Pauline McGlynn, aka Mrs. Doyle from clerical sitcom FATHER TED, as Frankie’s Aunty Aggie, Angela’s childless older sister. You can tell she has a heart of gold underneath the cranky, crabby exterior. Although she doesn’t once try to give anyone tea…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

FRAGMENTS OF ISABELLA: A MEMOIR OF AUSCHWITZ. (1978) A BOOK REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

isabella book

FRAGMENTS OF ISABELLA: A MEMOIR OF AUSCHWITZ BY ISABELLA LEITNER. (1978) THIS NEW EDITION PUBLISHED BY OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.

BOOK REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a gorgeous little book. I thoroughly enjoyed it, if anyone can ever be said to have ‘enjoyed’ a book about the Holocaust and the tragic events contained therein. I read it in one sitting on the day I purchased it. The book itself had a lovely velvety feel to it, a texture I can never quite resist in a book. I buy some books just because I love the shape, the feel or the smell of them. I’m totally a book nut, lol.

It’s quite short, this FRAGMENTS OF ISABELLA, just a manageable one-hundred-and-twenty-seven pages in total and, in fact, it was named on publication as an AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION BEST BOOK FOR YOUNG ADULTS.

I didn’t realise as I was reading it that it might be a book for Young Adults. I read it for what it is, a very moving, simply written but devastatingly telling account of Isabella Leitner’s- and her family’s- experience of the Holocaust.

Isabella (Leitner was her married name) was a beautiful young Jewish-Hungarian woman who was deported from the ghetto to Auschwitz on the morning of her twenty-third birthday. A cruelty indeed on the part of Fate- and the Nazis- but then, Isabella herself would probably say that every day is someone’s birthday and that all deportations were cruel. And of course she’d be right on both counts.

It’s so sad when she talks about how the non-Jewish population of Kisvarda, the small town in Hungary where she lived with her family, more or less stood by and let these deportations happen. They didn’t just let them happen, they actually stood there and watched them happen, some of them with smiles on their faces that seemed to a shell-shocked Isabella to mean:

‘Well, goodbye, dirty Jews, we’re glad to have our country back to ourselves again.’ In the end, Isabella said that she wanted to leave these small-minded, petty cowardly people behind her, whatever horrors the future held in store for her and her family.

This future was terrible indeed. Isabella and her mother, Teresa, and her four sisters Chicha, Cipi, Rachel and little Potyo, along with her brother Philip, were crammed together into one of the notorious cattle wagons for the journey to Auschwitz, the dead centre of the Nazis’ concentration camp killing machine.

Their father had gone abroad to seek safe passage and immigration papers for his family to come and join him in America or Israel, wherever he was, but I’m not sure if Isabella ever heard from him again after that. Their mother, Teresa, died in the jam-packed, almost airless cattle wagons, as did many others.

The old, the sick, babies, nursing mothers and the very young were, of course, particularly vulnerable to the appalling conditions. People were piled in on top of one another with nothing to eat or drink except what they’d managed to bring along themselves as per the Nazis’ instructions. There was only one bucket for sanitation purposes and the stench of urine and excrement would quickly become unbearable, as you can imagine.

The death of their cultured, kind-hearted book-loving mother was a terrible blow to Isabella and her sisters. Ditto, the death of their little sister Potyo not long after. Life was hard enough to bear without these two deaths to cope with as well.

Their arrival at the camp was the same nightmare experienced by all the others who passed through the dreaded gates of Auschwitz, over which were inscribed the words: ‘ARBEIT MACHT FREI,’ or WORK SETS YOU FREE. Not always the case at Auschwitz.

The sisters endured together the horrible shock of having their heads shaved immediately on arrival, as well as the shaving off of their pubic and armpit hair to prevent the spread of lice, a constant worry in the camp. Isabella describes herself and her sisters at this moment in time as ‘four naked-headed monsters,’ but they were not the monsters. They weren’t even close.

Isabella and her sisters made a pact to each stay alive. No matter what the awful camp threw at them, they would stick together and STAY ALIVE. Thus, whenever one of them felt like giving up and throwing in the towel, the sisters would all rally round and practically will that person to keep going, keep going, keep going, no matter what, to stay alive.

Isabella’s brother Philip, who would have been in the mens’ section of the camp, urged his sisters to stay alive also so that the Nazis could be ‘paid back’ for their crimes against humanity. Also, Philip said, it was so that they could tell the whole world what had happened there at Auschwitz, and that was obviously something that really resonated with Isabella.

And the awful camp had plenty in its horrible arsenal to throw at them. For example, the infamous ‘selections,’ at which Dr. Josef Mengele himself indicated with his right thumb or his left thumb who was to live and who was to die in the gas chambers.

Infectious diseases like typhus and TB. Irma Grese, the notorious SS woman, blonde and beautiful but with a heart of stone. Poor, rotten food. Limited washing and toileting facilities. The endless roll-call or ‘Appell’ at which you could be standing in line for four or more hours while the guards called out everyones’ names.

If there was a mistake or a miscount in the Appell, the guards would start again while the starving prisoners either froze in the snow or wilted under the sun. And always, always, always, the constant shouts of ‘Raus! Raus! Raus!’ meaning ‘Get out!’ or ‘Schnell! Schnell! Schnell!,’ meaning to hurry up. The Nazis always did everything on the run.

Isabella’s book was written in 1978, thirty-three years after Liberation. It’s a sad book, but it’s a book that ultimately contains a dazzling message of hope. PUBLISHERS’ WEEKLY says of it that: ‘Her (Isabella’s) slim volume is a celebration of the strength of the human spirit as it passes through fire.’

The things that Isabella and her sisters go through will strike a chord with any Holocaust survivors who read the book. She’s got her own way of putting things though, a unique voice that tells her dreadful story simply, in a way that’s easy to read and digest. It’s not like one of those massive Holocaust tomes that you could use as a door-stop if you needed to, but then it doesn’t have to be. Sometimes less really is more.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS. 

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor