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Tribes, camps and collectivism #JSWEC #JusticeforLB

July 24, 2014 4 comments

Short post from me today because it’s Day 2 of #JSWEC, the morning after Social Care Curry and I’ve a workshop to run later today and I’m selling VivaCards, so lots and lots of reasons why this can’t be a long or detailed post. I offer that context to also point out that this is not a well considered or reflective post, it’s just me sharing where I’m at with the world.

Last week (following Bubbgate) I wrote a post about social cares love of a false dichotomy, this week I am seeing it invested on a micro level. Last night there was a panel debate at JSWEC on A Question of Social Work. Take a look at the hashtag on twitter to get a flavour, suffice to say I was completely underwhelmed. Lots of talk about social work or academia, ‘dead’ or inspirational practice, adults or children….we’re obsessed with these bloody dichotomies, and it helps no-one.

This morning I was greeted by a tweet clearly stating that ‘Only parents see the real crisis’ this was in relation to the #JusticeforLB campaign. Maybe it was just a slip of the finger, maybe it was actually meaning what the author went on to clarify, about her own fear for her child and so on. This is real, and valid, and needs to be acknowledged. The first statement though, that’s just exclusionary. The making an issue about parents, or about LD, or about ‘insert a.n.other group’, is no different to the level of dichotomy in our debate last night.

Debs flagged this in relation to the JusticeforLB campaign ten days ago, in her post Divided we fall:

However, the one thing that continues to amaze me is the fact that so much of our strife and stress comes not from practitioners and poor systems, but from other fellow-parents or from those who are supposedly there to support us – those who should know better – not working together or judging us.

Recently, there was an amazing social media campaign: 107 days – Justice for LB. The one thing I loved most about this campaign was the absolute solidarity it created.  Everyone stood with LB’s family and supported them.  Everyone was working together towards the same goal. I felt proud to be part of that amazing Community. We all left egos at the door, politics and personalities didn’t matter; everyone just wanted to get on board and work together.

Then the campaign finished, making some great achievements in the process, but with it went that feeling of togetherness and a true team. We have quickly reverted back to making it about ourselves and how these thing affect us rather than thinking “wow, we managed to achieve some great things together, what next?”

The minute you start identifying as a group or tribe by any characteristic, you immediately exclude some. The minute you reduce human rights issues to a particular group issue, you immediately exclude some. The minute you make discussions about social work or research, you immediately exclude some. Maybe I’m naive (I’m fairly confident I am) but why can’t we focus on a collective whole, what we all have in common, what we want to achieve. Why can’t we talk about our work or our passions and the difference it makes, rather than our professional/personal labels?

The only future I can see is one of collective response and responsibility. As someone tweeted in the debate last night we’ve been having these conversations for about 40 years, and I dread to think how many more people need to die before something is actually changed with provision to prevent that. Final thought on this for now is from Seth Godin:

‘“Life’s too short” is repeated often enough to be a cliche, but this time it’s true. You don’t have enough time to be both unhappy and mediocre. It’s not just pointless, it’s painful’.

Taken from his book on tribes ‘Tribes: we need you to lead us’, well worth a read. Oh, and this is the only sort of camp I’d want to be on these days:

9188531223_29a02e9ae5_oSo whose up for some glamping and power planning – you’re all very welcome!

 

A fascination of false dichotomies in social care

July 18, 2014 2 comments

Short post from me highlighting something that I think is growing more popular in our conversations online, and is to be blunt wildly unhelpful: the rise of a fascination of false dichotomies (I made up the collective noun). What is a dichotomy I hear (some of) you ask?

Screenshot 2014-07-18 08.09.25A dichotomy is a contrast or split, so what’s a false dichotomy? I’m sure you’re all familiar with it’s use, essentially its the suggestion that any situation must be a dichotomy e.g. black or white. This line of argument completely ignores the grey in between, or the full colour option of course. Painting something as one thing or another, explicitly or implicitly, completely misses the fact that in most situations there are more than two choices.

Rarely in life are there only two, completely contrasting options. When a task or situation feels overwhelming, it makes sense to try and simplify or reduce things down to manageable options, however, as tempting as they are to believe I think we need to be wary of false dichotomies. Very rarely is it simply a case that our choices are A or Z; that one political party is bad, a.n.other political party is good; that care is either exceptional or dire; that you only critique if you don’t care. Let’s turn to my friends on wikipedia to explain this further:

When two options are presented, they are often, though not always, two extreme points on some spectrum of possibilities; this can lend credence to the larger argument by giving the impression that the options are mutually exclusive, even though they need not be. Furthermore, the options in false dichotomies are typically presented as being collectively exhaustive, in which case the fallacy can be overcome, or at least weakened, by considering other possibilities, or perhaps by considering a whole spectrum of possibilities.

So why are false dichotomies on the rise? (This assertion is based on my twitter observations, complete anecdote, no fact involved). I think life is complex and simplifying helps people to become involved with your issue and understand complexity. I think sensational headlines sell media stories. I think we’re growing lazy in our inability to truly debate or consider multiple options, which leaves us in a race to the bottom.

There have been a couple of blogs this week focusing on the JusticeforLB campaign Divided we fall and Justice at the margins. These posts reflect on how the #107days campaign worked, why it managed to engage people and bring together a momentum around a loosely defined common cause, and the broader learning. It has been great to see other people’s interpretations and what struck me was the power of the diversity of actions in #107days. It was an antidote to dichotomy, there were 107 very different days, responding in a myriad of ways to the very open call for involvement. Everyone was welcome and everyone was accepted and there really wasn’t too much ego or sales or agenda pushing.

So why is JusticeforLB relevant to this, and why does any of this matter? Well, maybe it doesn’t, or maybe it does, or maybe it does sometimes for some people in some places. It really isn’t a black or white issue (see what I did there).

In a week when the learning disability world is yet again wondering whether they are taking part in some big endurance experiment in shite communication and appalling 1950s decision making, at the hands of Stephen Bubb via NHS England this time, I think it is important to remember that false dichotomies help no-one. The next time you read a blog post or a press release or a tweet from one of the ‘key players’ in this world, ask yourself what’s behind the words coming out of their mouth, and why they choose to construct messages as they do. In a nutshell I see a lot of people and ’causes’ using false dichotomies to try and, to be blunt, scare people into action or stupefy them into inertia.

People with a disability, their family and friends are expected to be grateful, to sit quiet, to not act, to accept that the options are: Fairly Rubbish Option One or Even More Rubbish Option Two. Occasionally an Even More Rubbish Option Three is offered. Of course people feel like they are backed into a corner, and of course the implicit alternative option is always nothing. You are left accepting rubbish in the belief that if you don’t, then you will get no support, no involvement or help. Crumbs from the table sort of thing.

There was a corker of a false dichotomy last night in a Mencap statement about their CEO’s involvement in Bubb’s breakfast:

I and Mencap have a choice about whether we want to influence and shape what happens or sit on the outside and critique activity….Currently, this is the only opportunity I see to transform the lives of people. As such I will be involved and do everything I can to make any group working towards this end a success.

Fairly Rubbish Option One: Whether we want to influence and shape what happens

Even More Rubbish Option Two: Sit on the outside and critique activity

Implication: Everyone should be grateful that Mencap (as stitched into the problem of learning disability provision as the next large charity that claims to represent people with learning disability, but is also a provider of services so has a MASSIVE vested interest) are involved.

There is also of course an appallingly passive aggressive inference at play in this wording too, that you join Bubb’s brekkie, become a Bubb’s babe (let’s not forget the indomitable Su Sayer from United Response), or you are an outsider (like it’s your own choice) and that critiquing activity is bad. Maybe if Mencap would care to look in at itself and critique it’s own activity they may not be so quick to dismiss alternative options.

Perhaps more importantly why, oh why, does the CEO of ‘the voice of learning disability’ see this as ‘the only opportunity to transform the lives of people’. Bloody hell, how uninspiring. Get out your office, ditch the breakfast meetings, work with your local groups, meet the people you’re the voice of, listen to what they have to say, listen again, and listen some more – then get on and do it. It is indefensible to me that an organisation that claims to be ‘the voice of learning disability’ claims its only option was to join that group, in that way (and of course waltz Bubb off to look at one of their own homes after breakfast to ensure he understands the complexity, and great work that they do).

Where are the values that should be threaded through the core. Where was the person saying no, I don’t think this is appropriate. Why wasn’t the voice of learning disability saying we should start by holding breakfast for 100 people with a learning disability, we will serve them breakfast and listen to what they have to say (yes feel free to take that idea and run with it, we can all look away while it’s hastily scribbled into The Plan). Why are we living in a world of false dichotomies?

I am of course aware that some may argue that my painting large charities as incapable of providing services and advocating for their ‘client’ group is a false dichotomy in itself. I’m not sure, I have no doubt that it should be possible to advocate and provide a good service, I just don’t see anyone doing it very well. What I did see in #107days was over a hundred different ways of addressing a situation, as personalised as you could make it, people with disabilities involved and at the heart of everything (can’t really comprehend why they wouldn’t be), no CEO on a large salary, no communications department issuing scary false dichotomy statements, no breakfasts provided, just a huge collective group of brilliance.

Please stop insisting on black or white, the answer is in the grey.

The moment of truth #hairhack

July 2, 2014 5 comments

Wow, what a day. I pride myself on being quite good with words, they’re my preferred tool, and usually I can sit down, think for a moment and the fingers just start typing and the words come.

Not today.

Today I can’t find the right words, or rather I can find the words, but not the syntax to give them the impact I’d hope for. The words merrily skipping around the edges of my brain include terrified, excited, intrigued, emotional, angst, joy, pride, nerves, laughter, cackle, waver, manic, loss, grief, proud, LB, Bobby J, death, life, hope, belief, conviction.

Luckily for me, and for you reading, and for my crowd-funders who have pledged their cash and financial support to #hairhack, the truly awesome Paul Clarke had volunteered his services to capture the day. What follows is just a selection of his shots, because when words fail, pictures speak – at least these ones do.

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Lucy has been my hairdresser for about eight years. I’m the worst possible client, I have no idea what I’d like but I know what I don’t like, I get *very* easily bored but have zero commitment to maintaining any style, I’ve probably been close to the wire or late for about 70% of my appointments in that time, and I’m always hoping she can somehow work magic. In that eight years Lucy has had two babies and Selena and Laura have had to put up with me, but I can honestly say I’ve never met hairdressers that put me more at ease. When we arrived today Lucy and Selena had it all planned, they knew exactly what they were going to do. After a few tears, Lucy’s not mine, for once I didn’t cry, and a final selfie, we were off…

Hairhack_2July_014_s 2Hairhack_2July_016_sHairhack_2July_018_sHairhack_2July_020_sHairhack_2July_024_sHairhack_2July_025_sHairhack_2July_026_sHairhack_2July_033_s 2Hairhack_2July_034_sHairhack_2July_036_sHairhack_2July_038_sHairhack_2July_041_sHairhack_2July_044_sHairhack_2July_046_sHairhack_2July_047_sHairhack_2July_055_sHairhack_2July_057_s
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Once the deed was done, rinsed and tidied up, any mixed emotion or tension was definitely replaced with relief and joyHairhack_2July_068_sHairhack_2July_069_sHairhack_2July_070_sHairhack_2July_074_sHairhack_2July_077_sHairhack_2July_081_sHairhack_2July_083_sHairhack_2July_088_sHairhack_2July_087_sHairhack_2July_089_sSo there you have it, my contribution to Day 105 of #107days. In honour and memory of Bobby J and Connor, in gratitude to Rowcroft Hospice, and in awe of Sara and Rich and their fight for answers and improvement.

I’m not sure I would have got as far as today if it wasn’t for all of you who pledged your support, if you’d been meaning to donate, you still can and really every penny does count. The current total is £5,440 but I’m hopeful we’ll find another £60 to make it a nice round number, unless of course anyone wants to pledge for a half day workshop on social media campaigning.

I’m very grateful to Abi and my gorgeous nieces, Libbie and Phoebe and to Em and Jo who all came along to provide moral support. I’ll be forever indebted to Paul for these amazing photos (there are more but you’re not having them all at once) and to Lucy and Serena at Stylz who jumped at the chance to support me in my headshave, despite a guarateed loss of business. So if you need any photos taking, or if you need a haircut (I promise they wont scalp you unless you ask them to), you know what to do.

I’d better finish before this turns into an Oscar style speech, but thank you, really, to all of you….now here’s me trying, and failing, to look mean! So if you’re reading this and you’ve yet to dig deep, please do so. Thank you.

Hairhack_2July_078_s

Liberation promised #hairhack

July 2, 2014 1 comment

Today is the day, at 2pm my hair will come off.

All of it.

I’m completely delighted to share that the running total of funds raised for Rowcroft Hospice and JusticeforLB is £5,380, a huge amount of money that will support the great work of both causes. There’s still time if you want to give us a quid or two, you can donate here.

I promised I’d blog honestly about how I felt throughout this campaign and this morning it’s a now familiar feeling of excitement, intrigue and mild panic. The one thing that everyone keeps promising is that it will be liberating. In the words of Yul Brynner:

In a funny way the shaving of my head has been a liberation from a lot of stupid vanities really, it has simplified everything for me and has opened a lot of doors.

So I’m optimistic, I’m not sure what exactly I’m being liberated from, but I do like the idea of not worrying at all about what my hair looks like. Can see that it will make for a simpler life, as long as I don’t get sucked into caring more about my appearance, just keep channeling Dad’s voice on that ‘for goodness sake, it’s [insert activity] not a fashion parade’.

Womens-march

Pic taken from this article on Women’s Liberation Origins and Development of the Movement. I can’t say I’ve ever really related very well to the women’s lib movement (which never goes well when you say it out loud).

It could be that I’m one of the lucky few born late enough to have reaped the benefits of this early action, or I just don’t notice my oppression, or single sex secondary education supported a self-belief and confidence in me. I feel sure that choosing to use two male names has opened doors I wouldn’t have known were shut to me, and I suspect that I’ve subtly chosen different values to pivot my choices around. I’m really not sure, but I am intrigued by the notion of being liberated. I also completely sign up to judging ourselves as people, and in the notion that accepting yourself is an act of civil disobedience, I’ll have me a bit of that.

I care about equality, and human rights for all. I care about everyone having access to a good life, and a good death, and #hairhack is just my small action to support that. I look forward to my liberation!

I’ll leave you with the Stephen Malkmus track that samples Yul Brynner (as shared with me yesterday by The Hatt).

Three hairy days left #hairhack

June 29, 2014 1 comment

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, been off grid for most of June. Not before the #hairhack fundraising target was smashed though, thank you all so much. We’re past £5k now, beyond my wildest dreams, and it’s such an amazing feeling to know I can donate a decent pot of cash to Rowcroft Hospice and JusticeforLB. That said some of you missed the original campaign and have been asking about donating, so I’ve set up a GoFundMe page here. Please feel free to donate and share widely.

Anyhow thought I’d better confess that while I’ve raised a shed load of cash, I’ve not managed to achieve the other goals I set myself:

  • to keep my hair in tip top condition it currently looks like it’s made of purple straw
  • to lose a few pounds or more to minimise chance of my head being mistaken for a bowling ball
  • to follow some sort of mystical beauty regime to ensure my skin and scalp was in great condition instead it has all the hallmarks of an all inclusive buffet for mossies

What can I say, going purple was brave and straw is a useful material, I’m too lazy and lacking in discipline to bother with weight loss, and as for the beauty regime it was too mystical and the mosquitos have to feed somewhere!! In all seriousness I think I had a mental image of what I’d look like with no hair that I can categorically tell you I’m never going to meet.

I’m not a very vain person (see points above) and I obviously don’t care enough about what I look like to exercise, eat well or keep my hair. That said, even I am starting to get a few olympic sized butterflies about what it will be like to have no hair. As a very self conscious teenager and young adult I wore all the usual, baggy jeans, rugby shirts, shapeless hoodies, avoided make up with a passion, I didn’t really want to be noticed. Well I was a huge contradiction, I didn’t want to be noticed for my looks, but I craved debate and discussion and nothing pleased me more than my opinions being heard and considered. Through it all I had very long hair, it was like my superpower confidence generator of sorts!

Not for long though. A few people have said I’m brave, more that I’m foolish and when I’ve had the occasional wobble I have wondered what the hell I’m doing.

Then this week I had the absolute pleasure of attending TEDxHoP, an independent TED event organised by the public engagement team from the Houses of Parliament. All of the talks will be available to view on their website in due course (there isn’t a single one I wouldn’t recommend watching, honestly) and you can see Paul Clarke’s awesome photos of the day here.

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If you look at Paul’s photos (and you really should) you’ll see the number of people, women especially, with awesome hair. I’m not sure if this is above normal, or whether I’m genuinely noticing hair differently as I know #hairhack is imminent. In fact, scrub that, I know I am I’ve started comparing women’s hair to mane’s, there was a woman with a great mane on the tube the night before! Anyhow after being spellbound by Brooke’s voice and hair, it was Francesca’s barnet that caught by eye straight up after lunch. This one is cropped and sleek and chic and way more attainable for me (I hope) in the not too distant future.

TEDxHOP_27June_047

What followed though was a balm to my soul. Any doubts or wavering about #hairhack were neatly packaged as indulgent vanity and brushed aside in one foul swoop by a brilliant talk by Francesca, the wobbly comedian. Francesca’s talk covered her childhood and adolescence and the moment when she first realised that she could choose to accept herself:

I hadn’t realised that I could choose how to view myself. I hadn’t even realised that, somewhere along the way, I had given that vital power away – the only power I possessed, and I had given it away without even knowing it. I never looked back.

You can read more here. Francesca’s appraisal of modern media had the audience in stitches, my favourite one liner ‘no wonder we can’t be worried about changing the world when we’re so worried about cellulite‘. Francesca’s talk culminated in the assertion that accepting yourself as you are is an act of civil disobedience. Just what I needed to hear.

So now, in three days time I’m shaving my head. Like properly all off. I cut my hair short a few years ago and have spent years growing it long again and it currently sits about a third, to half way down my back. Last time I got it cut (about eight weeks ago) I had a fringe cut in and to be honest it’s a small miracle I’ve not cut that off myself, it’s so irritating. So I’m concentrating on looking forward to having no hair, no maintenance, wearing my new sunhat and having the conversations that I hope it will generate, about death, dying, hospice care, my Dad, JusticeforLB, Connor, learning disability and so on.

Whatever the reality of my bald noggin, I am proud of my actions and delighted to be generating discussion and funds, and the next time I have a wobble I’ll refer back to Francesca and her wobbly revolution, because it’s who I am, not what I look like that matters, hair or no hair.

A good death, a bad death. It matters.

June 19, 2014 6 comments

It’s 581 days since my Dad died and I can honestly say there is rarely a day that passes where I don’t have a fleeting thought of gratitude for Rowcroft Hospice, our local hospice who supported our family in Dad’s last year of life, especially in the weeks up to his death. I often think about how I’d feel if we’d made different choices, what if I’d not quit my job and had been trying to balance work and Dad’s death (I had a three month notice period and Dad died in my last week of work), what if I’d had to go straight back to my ‘normal’ life, juggling work, grief, travel and the like, what if there had been no hospice support and Dad had died in hospital where there’d have been a constant residual pressure of ‘was the parking going to run out’.

Me and Dad cuddle

Another thing is that time lessens the blows a little. Edana tweeted this yesterday ‘Just saw this & first thought: must tell mum :-/‘ As soon as I read it I remembered how viscerally winded I felt the first time I realised I could never tell Dad something again! The first time it happened it was like a punch in the stomach, then with time a more aching sense of loss, and now while I still miss Dad, often and fully, interestingly I don’t think the pain or ache of missing him is as great as the gratitude and thankfulness for the good life and death he had. It’s like our loss, or my loss (I really can’t speak for anyone else) is tempered with the joy and awareness that his good death not only allowed him a dignified and fitting end to his life, but also provided me with the best possible springboard to really (re- or kick-) starting living mine.

Contrast my experience with that of Sara Ryan. It’s 350 days since her son, Connor Sparrowhawk (known as LB, short for Laughing Boy online), drowned in the bath of an NHS hospital. Sara writes unbelievably eloquently about her experience on her blog, and I’ve written several posts offering my thoughts, highlights below:

Taking responsibility (Jan 2014)

Sara has managed to find words to share an immeasurable pain, to educate us who take that journey alongside her and I’ve physically felt that leaden ball in the pit of my stomach several times when I’ve read it of late. I feel sick, shamed and shameful that we live in a society where this happens, and no one is brave enough, or human enough to say sorry, to take accountability, to apologise unreservedly. Connor lost his life, it’s the least that could be done.

My 50 thousandth tweet #JusticeforLB #LBBus (Feb 2014)

For those of you who still insist on ignoring death, that’s your call, but I don’t feel that I can, or would want to. In the words of John Donne ‘Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee‘. Kate Granger and Philip Gould taught me a lot about preparing for death and facing fears that we so often choose not to voice. Sara Ryan has taught me so much about living with the unimaginable. Her resilience, tenacity and dogged determination to get answers for her son, and so many other people at risk of being lost in a system, is beyond inspiring.

A trajectory of pain and grief (Feb 2014)

The trajectory for Sara and her family and friends must be beyond painful. Someone has to step in and make this stop, surely. They need to be able to grieve and let go of the pain, not be constantly poked and prodded and let down. Someone please make it stop.

Now.

Mama lions, pain, privilege and justice (Mar 2014)

At the latest count 722 people have joined the JusticeforLB campaign on twitter, all voluntarily, no salaries or union reps or workforce development opportunities here. We have no specialist media training, we have no public funds to get answers, we have no real privilege, but we have a whole heap of pain, determination and a set of values that mean we won’t give up.

Empathy, pain and action (Mar 2014)

Four or six weeks ago I got chatting with Sara, LB’s mother, about the then impending publication of the independent review. I can’t begin to imagine what Sara must have gone through, but I can easily relate to her grief, and anger. I guess metaphorically speaking I climbed down into her cave and we chatted, we chatted LB, we chatted hopes, aspirations, grief, loss, value, labels, disability, ability, meaning. Most of these conversations happened in public using social media, although there was the odd email exchange too. I felt quite strongly that the world needed to hear about LB, about his life and death and the void he left (not dissimilar to how I felt about my Dad really). Sara has been blogging for years, and a month ago we launched #JusticeforLB together. What was only ever meant to be a twitter account and a hashtag, rapidly evolved into a movement for change.

As we approach the end of the #107days campaign (it’s Day 92 today) and approach the first anniversary of LB’s death, Sara’s latest blog post shows how appallingly Southern Health NHS Trust continue to behave. Almost an entire year since a young man died a preventable death while in their ‘care’, still not an ounce of candour or a shred of dignity afforded to his family.

LB_dude

Every day I wake up thankful for Dad’s good death, and angry at Connor’s bad one. I reflect on the brilliance of Rowcroft Hospice and the negligence (allegedly) of Southern Health. I’m not sure at what point I made the personal decision that I was going to join forces with Sara and Connor’s family and friends in their campaign for Justice, but I am thankful that I did. Considering the horrendous circumstances surrounding Connor’s death, and the ongoing emotional manipulation by those responsible (unsure whether it’s malicious or just pure incompetence at this stage), you’d think #107days witnessing the last 107 days of Connor’s life would be a hard space to be.

I think I’ve cried more tears of frustration and empathy for Connor’s family, as I did for the grief and loss of my own Dad. So at times, yes, it’s been hard. But, and this is a bloody big but, the #JusticeforLB campaign has shone a light on the brilliance of people, the generosity and selflessness, the power of the collective, and the outpouring of love for LB, for his life and what it was, and also for his loss and what his life could, and should have been.

You can help, I have one favour to ask you all. I now have less than 24 hours to collect pledges towards #hairhack. On 2nd July I am shaving my head, the lovely Paul Clarke has offered to take photos and the lovely gang at Stylz are doing the deed. I am so close to raising £5000 it’s tantalising. 130 people have now pledged, raising £3700 online and £1k offline. All I need is 30 more people to pledge a tenner and I’ve made it. There are 91 people following this blog, and I know some of you have pledged already, but if just a few more of you would you’d be helping Rowcroft continue to provide amazing care to people, you’d be financially supporting JusticeforLB and Connor’s family as they have to fundraise to cover legal costs and ensure they have representation at his inquest, and you’ll also be supporting me, and for that I’ll be forever grateful. Please dig deep in the final 22 hours. Thank you xx

Life after Bobby: Father’s Day

I can’t remember Father’s Day last year, I suspect I dismissed it as a hallmark holiday, a little grumble and moved on. This is my second Father’s Day since Dad died and I’ve been raging all week when I open my inbox!!

Lots of really drossy, ill considered, spammy emails…earn extra [insert generic loyalty brand] points when you buy for father’s day; show your father you care with flowers this father’s day (really? Definitely not my old man anyhow), get an extra 10% off for father’s day with promocode ‘superdad14′ ‘Dad2014′ blah blah blah. My absolute favourite on the weirdness stakes is this one, received in an email from Finisterre:

Screenshot 2014-06-15 07.48.33

Now let’s be clear, I like this brand. I like their social media, especially their instagram account, and I like the sentiments in half of this campaign, giving a shout out to the Dads amongst them. So lots of love for Finisterre. Scroll down one more screen and….

Screenshot 2014-06-15 07.48.14

Yes, I can admire the fathers, yes I like what they did there. Then no, just no, no, no. You could have left it as a celebration of them, you could have included a promocode if you had to, you could have featured each item you stock that they like the most, but no Finisterre crossed an invisible line of social media desperation at worse, ill consideration at best – a 2 pairs for £40 boxer bundle? Really? Illustrated with a tight bum and the fine physique of a man (and yes I’m objectifying him, that’s intentional). I can’t think of a more inappropriate father’s day offer, with the possible exception of a 2-4-1 on condoms perhaps! Boxers, would you really want to buy your Dad boxers?

Before all your brand agency types get in touch to point out that the market segment being targeted is the wives/partners/husbands of young fathers who you’re hoping will be tempted into a double Zephyr offer for the father of the children in their lives – I get that, but it’s crass to the point of laughable. I’m also aware that by blogging this I’m giving yet more exposure to the Finisterre brand, I don’t mind I like their products and their philosophy and their Cornish’ness.

It’s all good, but all week I’ve been tempted to reply to these emails with a one line ‘My Dad’s dead, I don’t want your code/offer/spam thanks. However if you’d like to donate some of your hefty profits to a great cause you can support my #hairhack raising funds for two causes, one of which is the hospice who cared for my Dad as he was dying’. I’ve not sent any of those emails of course, figured they’d be just as spammy, but if you have a spare fiver….

I’m not having a go at Finisterre in particular either. They’ve broken no rules, I signed up for their email newsletter, I just didn’t expect it to include father’s day delights. I’ve not sent any of those raging emails yet and don’t think I will, not this year. I suspect I’m raging partly because it just feels like it’s cheapening father’s. My Dad wasn’t big on Father’s Day (complete hallmark holiday in his view) or indeed presents or belongings or stuff. All he ever wanted for his birthday or any occasion was ‘three well behaved children’. We did alright really in that regard, I think. Although I never bought him boxers!

bobby lane

If my Dad was alive today I’d take the time to get in touch, I’d tell him that I loved him, I’d tell him why he was awesome, and what a huge difference he made to my life. Actually no, if life had been different I probably would have never got towards the end of that sentence. I have cancer to thank for providing the opportunity to have those conversations with my Dad, and I’ll be eternally grateful for that. I’ll also similarly be eternally grateful to Rowcroft Hospice who provided the support for us to care for Dad at home as he died. There were many conversations had at the end of Dad’s life that allowed an honesty, frankness and candour that wasn’t a hallmark of our relationship. I know that Dad died knowing he was loved, and knowing he’d ‘done a good job’, as a man, as a husband and as a Dad. He wasn’t perfect but he did his best, all anyone can ever ask for really.

I’m not really sure where I’m going with this post. I wanted to rant with the world about the ridiculous commercialisation, ever leaking into our consciousnesses via social media. I guess I also wanted to take the time to reflect on what it’s like to be subjected to that barrage when your father has died, or I imagine worse still as a father when your son or daughter has died. Advertising is just that, I’ve no real complaints about it per se, but if you’re reading this on Father’s Day, spare a thought for those who have no father in their lives, some never have (that they knew of), some have died recently, some years ago, it’s a mixed bag that’s all I’m saying, that and if you work in advertising please try a little harder next year!!

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