Nige' Ollis

Photographer and Writer

The World Is An Impenetrably Twisted Fuck!

 

From my occasional series The World Is An Impenetrably Twisted Fuck! This week: When the sanctity of life and its dying becomes a blur …

I wonder if there can be anyone who might read this – even with only a lighter grasp of world events – who could not know the name Charlie Gard.

In case you haven’t, Charlie’s is a desperately sad story of a young life born to incurable mitochondrial disease, which effectively means he cannot breathe, swallow, hear or see and is being kept alive by machines. And, at some point, presumably due to communication breaking down between Charlie’s understandably heartbroken parents and the doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital [GOSH], a subsequent combination of news and social media firestorm and an unwillingness to give up on their child has catapulted Charlie Gard onto international headlines.

Charlie’s parents took GOSH to court to fight for his life. The court – which I will never personally feel will ever be the right place to settle such issues – found in favour of GOSH, effectively giving the go ahead to switch from active treatment to palliative care. So, the parents then turned to the Supreme Court, then to the International Court of Human Rights; both essentially backed the initial judgement.

But what I’m writing here isn’t really about Charlie Gard. It’s about what happened next. And, indeed, has yet to fully resolve. Just when you feel that Charlie’s parents might finally get the peace and privacy they surely need to say Goodbye to their son, The Pope gets involved. Donald Trump gets involved. What is that? Are they both hoping for a high profile miracle to support their own popularity? Have they both been entered into a crass Look Whose Heart Is The Biggest contest? Okay, maybe that’s a little churlish of me, but here’s the rub …

I’ve just been reading about Backpage, an American multimillion dollar online money-spinner which essentially lined the pockets of its owners by selling escort and dating ads [and a couple of fridges and second-hand bikes, presumably for appearances sake!]. Far more disturbing is that it became a cornerstone for sex trafficking; including wholly breathing, hearing, seeing, feeling … children. It’s a desperately sad indictment on modern America; on the modern world. [It’s also the subject of a new film by award-winning documentary film-maker Mary Mazzio: I am Jane Doe on Netflix.] In America today some campaigners believe up to 100,000 children are being exploited every year. Meanwhile, the child abuse revelations associated with the Catholic Church refuses to fade and appear to stumble on from one horrifying revelation after the next. Throughout the world unimaginable numbers of children are being exploited and abused. And yet, two people with the profile of the President of the United States and The Pope, choose to fixate on the tangible tragedy surrounding Charlie Gard.

For me – and while my heart goes out to Charlie Gard and his parents – this simply highlights the myopia of leadership in our world. When actions like these feel more about personal popularity and politics than about really getting a handle on the greater good.

 

BREAKING NEWS … 

BREAKING NEWS [from the Fox News network, so it must be reliable] …

The truth is slowly emerging following Ivanka Trump’s rapid elevation into the White House as America’s ‘First Daughter’. She is pregnant … with Donald Trump’s baby.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, but it’s not as bad as you might first think because, let’s be honest, while he almost certainly would, she wouldn’t go there. Ivanka’s pregnancy has been confirmed through in vitro fertilisation. The procedure apparently carried out by the respected Smith & Jones laboratory in England. [Archive footage from Smith & Jones Laboratory]

It’s understood the seed was [more than metaphorically] sown in a conversation during the recent meeting with British prime minister, Theresa May. In a casual chat she’d talked about Britain’s steeped political history and our youngest ever prime minister, William Pitt the Younger, who was just 14-years-old when he became prime minister in 1783. [This might sound young, but the average age of the population following the Bubonic Plague was just 19 – and, in a similar historical misunderstanding, an average age also later adopted by America for conscription to the war in Vietnam.] It’s believed Ivan Vladimir Trump will then be groomed to be the 46th POTUS in 8 years time, with Ivanka likely to remain as his official assistant, but with a subtle switch of name plaque on the office door to read: First Mother.

It’s also rumoured that Donald Trump’s brain – assuming it hasn’t been already – will be cryogenically frozen by the same laboratory. And, as evolving technology allows, he will then run for a future presidency. Although it will no longer be POTUS but simply President of the 71st State of the Anglo-Russian-Chinese Empire.

Don’t Turn Your Back

A modern dilemma…

Since the end of summer, with increasing frequency – a tucked away rock overhang where I drop down into the woods to walk along the river with Willow – piles of litter. Not just any litter, of course, but a curious mix of hard drug remnants [blackened foil], wet wipes, empty crisp packets, sweet wrappers and lollipop sticks. Just how young are these users?

The rock overhang is only just out of view of a public footpath, before a steep tumble down into the valley, but would otherwise only be sparsely frequented by the intrepid dog-walker, or possibly kids looking for a den in the holidays. Suffice to say, without the occasional black sack intervention by myself and another regular dog-walker, it would otherwise be an indescribable shite heap by now.

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Don’t Turn Your Back

As I say, the frequency had been exponential – in line with a growing addiction? – and the inevitable happened: I bumped into them. The penny dropped with an incredulous clang. A guy in his mid-20s preparing his next fix; a woman, of similar age; and four kids chomping on crisps and sweets, aged maybe 8, 5, 3 and a baby in a buggy. Had I not seen it with my own eyes, I doubt I would’ve believed it.

The guy quickly scampered from view, leaving me to say to her, ‘Unusual place for a picnic?’ [It was close to freezing and light rain fell from impending twilight.] We had a brief conversation about ‘rubbish in the woods/kids’ laced with metaphor. I’m not sure she grasped the desired references. Then he returned, shielding his face with high collar and hat and they hurriedly left.

I wondered what might happen? If I should do something?

Throughout the following week, the ‘littering’ continued for a handful of almost consecutive days. The inevitable happened again. The eldest child’s rushed voice, ‘Someone’s coming!’ The man runs around the overhang from view. The mother is scrunching up tin foil into balls and the kids are ‘playing’ Who can throw the rubbish down into the valley the furthest! There’s another fractured conversation – she glibly suggests the wind will deal with any of the litter.

It’s another cruel winter’s day. She breaks away from the awkwardness of our conversation and prepares to leave. I fix the eldest child with the softest expression I can muster and ask him what he thinks about coming into the woods to play such games. He shrugs his shoulders, but there’s far more than a child in those sad eyes.

The man returns again in a flustered rush, she says, ‘Let’s go kids, we’ve got to pick up Mary from school.’ Shoulders are nudged, a hand is grasped, and a flurry of muddied feet and the mud clogged wheels of buggy melt into the narrow path. The smallest boy turns in my direction, “I’m not your friend,” he says . The man briefly meets my eye from beneath his wintry disguise; a connection. I know him. He knows me.

We don’t know each other by name. But he’s grown up around here. I recall the teenage, slow-witted demeanour from years gone by; he’s cuts a desperately sad cliché.

So… What would you do?

A direct report to the police/authorities now, and the source is probably clear. He/they know where I live, and walk – often in isolated darkness. Ramifications are a distinct possibility – they’re certainly from the rougher side of the tracks. But I can’t ignore this completely, can I?

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UPDATE:

It’s now one week down the line since my intervention – and a number of days since this blog post. It’s been invaluable to gain other people’s thoughts [notable thanks to my Instagram followers], and it might have been considerably more helpful to have put it out there earlier[!], therefore saving a lot of personal soul searching and wandering of thoughts.

I discussed the scenario with a couple of colleagues in school [I work in a high school environment, in case any reader isn’t aware]. And it’s an important distinction to draw, simply for the reason that in my position as a teacher I have a responsibility for safeguarding and child protection. Effectively this means, had, say, a child come into our room and made reference to potentially going down into the woods with dad/a man while he does drugs, then it would be professionally incumbent on me to report this to the head of safeguarding. So, as you can see, there was always thinly-veiled semantics, as far as my experience and professional obligations were concerned.

In school, I spoke to both a support tutor/counsellor, the latter – known for quite strong opinions – suggested How would I feel if something happened to one/some of those children? [Something alluded to during the discussion on Instagram, too.] A slightly brutal analysis of the situation; at the end of the day, it’s not me who should be responsible for the welfare of those children; and my discovery was purely accidental. But it did make me feel less comfortable about doing nothing, or delaying any further.

In the end …

I came up with my own compromise solution. A compromise in the sense that I had, at least, done something, while also hopefully protecting myself against any potential repercussion.

I researched and located Bristol Drugs Project and Frank . “There is no easy way to pick up that phone or knock on that door but take that step and you’ll find knowledgeable, free and confidential help…”  I photocopied their main website pages and inserted them into a couple of weatherproof sleeves. I then wrote a personal, handwritten message headed with a loud THINK! [Slightly annoyingly, I didn’t keep a copy of it, as it was simply a stream of conciousness – but it referred to BDP and Frank and assured the reader, if they were open and ready for help with their addiction, that they were great people; I also posed a question, referring to my own connection with safeguarding/child protection: If you were me, what would you do? I closed out with further encouragement to seek help, but at the very least, to take this habit away from the children and think what they might be doing to them.] I added the note to top of one of the clear sleeves, went down into the woods and cleared every scrap of ‘litter’ [again!], before placing them on the ledge, held in place by two large stones.

The following day [last Saturday], I returned to the spot. There was a single discarded cigarette paper on the floor and the remains of one of the man’s distinctive roll-ups on the ledge … the sleeves were gone. I had a good look around, they had seemingly been taken, rather than discarded in the immediate surroundings, at least.

The addiction-driven habit, since just before and across the Christmas period, had become almost daily – certainly every other day.

It’s now one week down the line … and absolutely no sign of any return. I can only hope there was an impact, on his/her conscience and awareness of the children, at the very least.

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2017 Calendar & Print Offers!

Inertia Creeps …

People who know me well will be aware that I’ve suffered with a chronic health issue for more than a couple of decades. [I don’t propose to bore you with the details here, but you can read a related blog should you wish to enlighten yourself further here.] Essentially, this has resulted in me working part-time and finances have always been … tight.

In 2012 my friends and family generously contributed to a surprise Oklahoma Tour Fund [for my 50th birthday], which enabled me to fly to Tulsa for the opening of the Where The Land Meets The Sea exhibition with artist Michelle Firment Reid.

Time has drifted on and my ability to create images has slowly been suffocated, mainly due to having a steam-driven computer! But after another year of stuttering [and spluttering], I have been driven to action. By the time spring rolls around I hope to have a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign up and running. Unlike the time I relied purely on the generosity of my friends and family with nothing in return except my immense, humbled gratitude, this time I will be offering prints, books and other assorted planned ideas in return for contributions.

So, I’m beginning the process by following on from last year’s wonderfully successful single 2016 Calendar Auction by offering two new 2017 A3 Wall Calendars, alongside a choice of 10×8 inch fine art print.

The Calendars:

Street Photography

To The Dogs [A Tribute To Elliott Erwitt]

I’ve carefully selected a set of personal favourite Street Photography images, as well as a To The Dogs set as a personal tribute to Elliott Erwitt, whose images proved to be the gateway drug to my true love of photography.

There are THREE options for each calendar, as well as different prices to suit either UK or International shipping:

Option 1 : Street Photography OR To The Dogs A3 Calendar ONLY:

UK: £29.99

International : £32.99

Option 2 : Street Photography OR To The Dogs A3 Calendar PLUS 10×8 inch fine art print of your choice. [You can choose any of the images included in the calendar to have as an individual print.]:

UK: £49.99

International: £52.99

Option 3 : Street Photography AND To The Dogs A3 Calendars PLUS 2 10×8 inch fine art prints of your choice. [Choose one image from each calendar to have as two individual prints.]:

UK: £79.99

International: £84.99

IMPORTANT: All above prices include postage, packing and shipping. Preferred method of transaction via UK-based BACS system or PayPal. Please use the Contact details at the foot of the Enquiries page to order these items, or if you have any queries. Thank you!

Completion of orders to hopefully ensure delivery before 1st January 2017:

UK: 21st December 2016

South America / Asia / Eastern Europe: 7th December 2016

Australia / New Zealand: 10th December 2016

Western Europe / USA / Canada: 15th December 2016

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The Reality

It’s morning. And Donald packs up his briefcase, affectionately grabs his wife’s pussy, pats his lovely daughter’s ass … ‘If only,’ he thought … yells at Juan, the gardener, to stand on the other side of the ornamental wall he’s asked him to build, and sets off for his new work experience placement at The White House.

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Curtains?

At 70-years-old it’s relatively old to consider starting a new career for which you have absolutely no experience but Donald has ambitions to one day become an intern.

Unfortunately, when Donald later bursts into the Oval Office without knocking he’s immediately shot in head, many many times with an assault weapon, due to the country’s lax gun laws. “I thought he was an intruder,” Mr Obama later explained. “This orange face suddenly burst into the room and my first instinct was to protect my family … all Americans.”

Ahhhh, wait a minute. Is that an alarm? And all America then woke up to find themselves in the shower with Bobby Ewing.

Or did they? …