​‘Laughter is the closest distance between two people.’   Victor Borge

It is good to make someone laugh but to enjoy being laughed at – as opposed to with – takes years of training.  Growing up with my father and brother, I’ve been there, done that and got the t-shirt – and, for that, I am very grateful.  Many are not so lucky: incapable of being teased, they also lack the ability to deliver thus rendering cruel comments devoid of subtlety.  Know someone like that?  Don’t we all.

I made someone laugh yesterday – at me, really – and it made me realise, once again, how easy it is to become insular; forgetting to look at one’s life from the outside …  I had an appointment with a new accountant, recommended by a friend, in a bid to glean advice and have someone steer me in the right direction with regard to my obviously, soon to be burgeoning business venture – pause for laughter.  Exactly what he did as he suggested I open a business bank account with free software.  Yes, and …  what do I do with that?  Please don’t tell me to download it!  My vacant expression led him to point out the great irony – nay, hilarity – in me embarking on any venture involving my own website and that was before I told him that I spend much of my time writing about my blanket contempt for technology.  I think he was reassured, slightly, when I told him that my domain name is Trish-Trash.  Perfect!

Yesterday, I came across the most poignant photograph in the Spring edition of the Wildlife Times: the official magazine of the Born Free Foundation.  It was of two orangutans in Dudley Zoo, huddled together and holding a blanket over their heads.  Heads down, eyes closed, they are united in their misery, despair etched all over their faces.  When asked about the blanket, the keepers had varying answers one such being , ‘it’s to do with stress’.  The nonchalance is palpable – and unforgivable.  The image is etched on my mind …  A huge subject and one very close to my heart – the captivity and suffering of wild animals for human entertainment – the despondency in that photograph, moreover, seems to mirror the all-encompassing gloom enshrouding the world today.  A blanket of darkness overhead, there are few streams of light offering relief and reassurance.  Anger and bitterness abound with social media inciting furore whilst enabling anonymity for the cowardly.  We live in a world at war in which the keyboard is one of the most powerful weapons and all priorities have been lost.  Self-styled vigilantes with seemingly nothing better to do are poised to attack, welcoming any opportunity to vent their resentment and hostility on some unsuspecting victim.  ‘Second star to the right and straight on ‘til morning …’ (Peter Pan, J M Barrie).  Sadly, Neverland is just a fantasy.

I am so fed up with the racism debate!  It is everywhere in the media with constant attack on those who dare to use the ‘wrong’ word or whose statements are misinterpreted.  The concept of freedom of speech is a joke thanks to those who have taken it upon themselves to police the English language.  Who are these people?!  Listening to Jeremy Vine on Radio 2 this lunchtime, the first topic for debate was the frenzy surrounding Amber Rudd’s comment on said show, yesterday, regarding the abuse suffered by politicians.  Citing that of Diane Abbott as being particularly nasty, she referred to her as being ‘coloured’ – like a spark to a flame!  Ms Abbott (hate the use of ‘Ms’ but somehow seems appropriate here) immediately reacted calling the use of the word ‘outdated’, ‘offensive’ and ‘revealing’.  Of course she did … and it all starts again.  Be thankful, Liam Neeson, the heat is off!

Similarly, Labour MP, David Lammy’s spontaneous self-combustion last week in the wake of the photograph in the media of Stacey Dooley in Uganda for Comic Relief.  ‘The world does not need any more white saviours’, he wrote on Twitter.  Enough!  What is he seeing that we’re not?  Here is a lovely photograph of a young girl holding a cute baby in Uganda when she was visiting the local community.  Yes, she is white and the baby is black – so what?!  Representing Comic Relief, Stacey was in Africa filming in a bid to highlight the ongoing poverty and encourage us to donate.  She was there to help; to use her profile in a positive way.  Certainly not deserving of the aggressive criticism fired at her by David Lammy – and all those who jumped on the proverbial bandwagon, of course!

Rich Western society trying to raise money to help combat poverty in poor African communities.  It is not about colour!  Only when those such as David Lammy and Diane Abbott let go of their anger and bitterness will this hatred start to heal.  It is their focus on black and white which, to my mind, now constitutes racism.  In 2019, Britain is multi-cultural, the world a much smaller place and the sole reason for its perpetuity is their insistence on defining themselves as black.  To define oneself according to one’s colour is crippling.  To lose all vision and become so inward-looking and bitter is destructive.  Words are not the problem. A lack of self worth is.  As I wrote about Serena Williams following one of her infamous tantrums last year, talented, successful, one of the greatest tennis players ever, only she defines herself as black …

It’s really too huge a subject to tackle – or is it?  Sometimes I think we, as people, make things more complicated than they are.  Most problems, really, boil down to greed and a lack of self respect which, in turn, are actually intertwined.  Those who are happy in themselves have nothing to prove and feel no need to inflict harm on others, verbal or otherwise.

Leaving Neverland.  It seems that everyone has or plans to watch it; everyone is talking about it.  Not since the days of three channels do I remember a television programme bringing everyone together, as it were, albeit in horror!  At once, chilling, it was a gripping watch and superbly done.  With the entire focus on the testimonies of Wade Robson and James Safechuck, – save input from their families and old footage – one was privy to their backgrounds and individual stories as each was sucked into the sordid world of Michael Jackson.  Michael Jackson, the world superstar, musical genius who, deprived of a childhood and any normality in his life was irrevocably damaged.  Filled with self-loathing, he desperately sought to change everything from his face to his colour … his life.  Surrounding himself with children, he was convincing in his performance leading the world to believe that he, too, was childlike and had never grown up but it seems his remote ranch, Neverland, was nothing more than a snare in the guise of a child’s paradise.

I commend Dan Reed, the producer and director, in his presentation and handling of such an explosive subject.  Completely raw, it was driven by the two protagonists at their own pace and the pain was etched in their eyes as they relived every horrendous moment.  One could not fail to be convinced.

‘He’s the biggest entertainer.  He’s a creative genius and that creative genius thinks that you’re special.  What’s not to like, right?’   (James Safechuck)

Leaving Neverland: Michael Jackson and Me.  (Dan Reed)  Channel 4.

The lure of fame.  Age 7, Wade Robson idolized Michael Jackson and his mother was a willing puppet in the star’s game.  James Safechuck’s mother, too, was putty in his hands.  Wooed by a lifestyle and luxury they could only dream of, all caution was thrown to the wind as they sacrificed their sons for their own gain.  Michael Jackson may have been guilty of paedophilia but the real criminals are those two mothers who facilitated his crimes. Failing a lobotomy, one would never leave one’s 7 year-old son with a grown man – a complete stranger – let alone allow him to sleep in his room.  Obviously, luxury suites, First Class travel and even a house were worth more than their children …

I think Dan Reed shares my conclusion – who wouldn’t?  The second part builds to the truth and the inevitable aftermath and irreversible damage.   Michael Jackson seems to fade into the background – now dead – as the two mothers confront their guilt.

‘I didn’t protect my son.  That will always, always haunt me.’

Stephanie Safechuck, Leaving Neverland: Michael Jackson and Me.  Channel 4.

Am I the only one who surmises that both mothers, given the chance, would do nothing differently?  There is irony, however, in Stephanie Safechuck’s last statement:

‘He took my son’s childhood away.  He took the man he could have been.’

One of the saddest songs ever is ‘Childhood’ written by Michael Jackson.  Hearing it many years ago, it stayed with me and encouraged a sympathy for the troubled star – google it if you don’t know it.  Truly heartfelt, it is hard to believe that the little boy who, for the rest of his life, mourned the childhood he never had would ever be capable of such cruelty; could steal those precious years …

The final words of the documentary belong to James Safechuck with a lasting sting in the tail.  Referring to his parents:

‘So, do I blame them?  I’m still working on it.’

Leaving Neverland: Michael Jackson and Me, Channel 4.

Lost here, however, is the long pause before he answers the question – and the sadness in his eyes.

This is Trish, signing off.