Category Archives: Taos

A Message To Your Heart – The Tao of Ronnie Mitchell

EastEnders characters aren’t generally allowed to enjoy happiness for very long. But even by those standards Ronnie Mitchell’s time on the soap was alarmingly glum and unlucky. You can count the moments of true, untainted happiness she had in Albert Square on the fingers of one hand, assuming you’ve had all the fingers on that hand amputated.

Ronnie’s staggered through her time in ‘Enders like Tess of the d’Urbervilles, blighted by rape, betrayal and the loss of a child (or three). She’s been at the mercy of heartless men, she’s made terrible decisions and she’s been the victim of cruel, cruel fate. Always with the cruel, cruel fate. Even Thomas Hardy would have sucked his teeth in and thought twice before subjecting her to some of the tragic ironies she endured. As Samantha Womack said in an interview recently, she’s had to cry and scream every day for years. Well it’s been a great performance and some unforgettably miserable times, and I’m going to miss her.

In 1991 Samantha Janus (as she was called back then) represented the UK at the Eurovision Song Contest. Let’s let her uplifting message play as we consider how different Ronnie’s life might have been if she’d followed the advice in the song…

Half the world is hungry, just through being born.

And every day is a compromise, for a grain of corn

Despite the world’s booming overpopulation problem, Ronnie’s been characterised more than anything by her obsession with getting fertilised and having a child. Having given away her baby as a teenager, and later tricked into believing her daughter had died, she was desperate to get pregnant again. And she’d do anything from piercing her boyfriend’s condoms to seducing a man convicted of trying to kill his own daughter to get there. Generally it was Jack she turned to for sperm, and fair enough, as he had already fathered children with Ronnie’s sister AND her cousin. It seemed like a good biological match.

And half the world have too much, their only hunger is their greed

Through politics and ignorance, half the world’s in need

It was Ronnie’s dad Archie’s greed for power that did in for her. Whether he was raping her, tricking her, or causing her miscarriage by pushing her into the bar of the Queen Vic, it was always a laugh-a-min when they got together.

A message to your heart – it’s alright

Say a little prayer And sleep tonight, oh…

Tomorrow you’ll still be in paradise

Poor Danielle. The BBC spun the storyline out for the best part of a year — that Danielle was Ronnie’s long-lost, presumed-dead daughter but wasn’t sure enough of her mother’s affections to tell her so — and then concluded the plot with the most affectingly evil masterstroke imaginable, as the truth came out and the two were reconciled JUST as Danielle got knocked over and killed. I didn’t go as far as all the fans who petitioned the Beeb to bring Danielle back (er, how, exactly?) but I did have a little sniffle.

A message to your heart, walk on by

Till you hear the voice of conscience cry, oh…

There but for the grace of God, go on

If only Ronnie HAD walked on by on New Year’s Eve. The baby-swap plot, as Ronnie put her dead son in Kat’s crib and sneaked off with her friend’s healthy baby, was quite possibly the grimmest thing the BBC have ever shown on a festive occasion. It certainly attracted more complaints than any other storyline has ever done. I’m glad everything got resolved so elegantly tonight for Ronnie’s last episode. And I bloody hope she comes back.

They don’t see the children with hunger in their eyes

And the time has come for changes, though for some it’s much too late

A message to your heart indeed. Terry Wogan didn’t see that coming.

Which Seat Can I Take? The Tao of Rebecca Black

7am, waking up in the morning
Gotta be fresh, gotta go downstairs
Gotta have my bowl, gotta have cereal
Seein’ everything, the time is goin’
Tickin’ on and on, everybody’s rushin’

Rebecca Black is 13 years old. She’s got her whole life ahead of her. There’s no need for her to rush.  But she senses it, dimly, the way time crashes in, leaving loss and regret in its wake. We see her family rushing by, senselessly, while Rebecca clings to a moment. We’ve all clung to childish things like a favourite bowl. I had a favourite yellow mug for years that I used to drink from every morning. It smashed. There was talk of it being replaced, but that never came to anything.

Gotta get down to the bus stop
Gotta catch my bus, I see my friends
Kickin’ in the front seat
Sittin’ in the back seat
Gotta make my mind up
Which seat can I take?

As childhood ends and we enter the adult world, we face complexities we couldn’t have imagined before. Rebecca is rapidly becoming a young woman. The front seat or the back seat? Here she is referencing Arcade Fire’s In The Backseat and its use of locations in a car as metaphors for passivity and growth; it’s peaceful in the back seat, but sometimes we realise we’ve actually been learning to drive while watching the world go by. And which seat can Rebecca take? Will her life be driven by others, or will she learn to make her own choices?

It’s Friday, Friday
Gotta get down on Friday
Everybody’s lookin’ forward to the weekend

Partyin’, partyin’ (Yeah)
Partyin’, partyin’ (Yeah)
Fun, fun, fun, fun
Lookin’ forward to the weekend

7:45, we’re drivin’ on the highway
Cruisin’ so fast, I want time to fly
Fun, fun, think about fun

Fun, fun, think about fun’ – it’s a mantra, and a desperate one. Rebecca wants time to fly so the weekend can arrive, but we see the tightness in her eyes, and we feel she knows that every golden weekend of youth is just a stepping stone to future sadness. Does she discern that these carefree Fridays can’t last? At 13 does she picture herself, at 26, spending her Fridays desperately downing drink after drink in a bar, hoping someone will notice her before it’s too late? Can she imagine being 39, grateful just to get to the end of the working week without sobbing in the toilets, and dragging herself home, red-eyed and exhausted?

Yesterday was Thursday (Thursday)
Today is Friday (Friday)
We-we-we so excited
We so excited
We gonna have a ball today
Tomorrow is Saturday
And Sunday comes afterwaaaaaards
I don’t want this weekend to end

We never want it to end. But it must. All things must. It’s happened subtly, but at some point Friday has shifted from being a lament for the death of childhood, and become a statement about the pointlessness of all existence itself. All we have left are the days of the week, as the pages of the calendar turn and detach like brown leaves from a wet branch. And then, as the heat death of the universe approaches, even those certainties must pass.

Passin’ by is a school bus in front of me
Makes tick tock, tick tock, wanna scream

The anonymous rapper senses it too, time’s arrow embodied in a yellow bus. All those potential futures in one vehicle, ticking away to nothing.

Is it any wonder that the Friday video surfaced now, in the last week of winter? In many cultural traditions we are about to celebrate the dawn of a new year as the vernal equinox approaches. It is a good time to reflect on the cruel, impersonal patterns of the universe. The cycle of life and death, of destruction and rebirth, continues, for now. Rebecca Black is 13 years old. It is Friday.

The Tao of Mister Udagawa

We all know a Mr Udagawa. Even if you’re too young or too old to have been into late 80s Neighbours, you’ll have met the sort. He’s the Daleks. He’s the God of the Old Testament. He’s Sir from Terry and June. He’s every bad boss or client you’ve ever had, and he’s you after your next promotion, if you’re not careful.

But just as each of those terrifying figures has a more palatable opposite and equal who completes them — a Doctor, a Lucifer, or a Miss Nora Fennell — so, in those long-ago Erinsborough summers that never seemed to end, did we have Bouncer.

"A fish can't whistle, and neither can I"

There are too many Mr Udagawas in the world, and not enough Bouncers, I said on Twitter a while ago. Actually I might have said Mr Udigawa or even Udugawa, but spellings seem to vary across the internet and who can really be sure. On a completely unrelated note, a big hello to anyone who’s found this article through a search engine, whichever variant spelling you used.

So while Mr Udagawa stands for the sort of stern disapproval and control freakery that leads to people accidentally getting married to their managers just to clear up a hilarious dinner party misunderstanding, it’s Bouncer who runs around on the beach with a ball in his mouth.

And while the cold, tight fear of displeasing the generally unseen Mr Udigawa led to many a late night “going over the figures” in the Lassiters office, no-one ever felt anything harsher than affectionate surprise at the idea that Bouncer might be watching over them.

I’m not suggesting that a labrador would make a good international business associate — far from it. But I can’t say that Mr Udagawa made a particularly good job of it either, not with the human cost considered. Most powerful people would benefit from a little less steely fist and a little more joyful instinct. Mr. Udagawa might get things done, and Bouncer might get nothing done (well except for occasionally saving people from chip pan fires and the like), but there’s got to be a middle way – hasn’t there?