The film I wrote Christmas in the Highlands had its first airing this week in Europe. It is being repeated on Christmas Day on the Christmas 24 Channel which is the seasonal channel launched on September 24 which you can find it on Sky (185), Virgin (424) and FreeView (62).
A New York sales manager is sent to the remote Scottish Highlands at Christmas to acquire a limited edition perfume from a dashing Earl preparing for his annual ball and falls in love. Check out the trailer here
Stars Dan Jeannotte, Brooke Burfitt, Geraldine Somerville, Caprice and Nicholas Farrell. Includes filming at the iconic Glamis Castle childhood home of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.
In France it is called Un Parfum Du Noel and here is the link
Also showing in, Greece, New Zealand, Belgium. In the US on the Spanish stations:
Christmas in the Highlands (2019) Dan Jeannotte, Brooke Burfitt. Un gerente de ventas de Nueva York es enviado a las remotas Tierras Altas de Escocia en Navidad para adquirir un perfume de edición limitada. (Los Angeles Times) (NR) UNIMAS Tues. 9 a.m. KFTRTues. Noon.
Hope you can catch it over Christmas!
Update 2020. Christmas in the Highlands has been acquired by the American Lifetime Channel so look out for it on your screens!
Moderating Feminism first off covers the history of the movement from the Contagious Diseases Act to the implications of today’s sharia courts. Have we moved forward? The subject has always been fraught with contradictions. The Great War caused infighting over whether the conflict was good or bad for women’s liberation. Feminist writing in the nineteen sixties helped uncover domestic violence but also began the hideous male blame culture. The birth control pill brought big change. But while women could sleep around in the seventies, it was they couldn’t display themselves as sex objects. Touch but don’t look. The Superwoman era—the 1980s which should have been a triumph began the Backlash period. High heels were back.
What became of stoicism? Are we stronger or are women today helpless, unhappy and in need of special privilege. Modernising Feminism asks if radical feminists (not that they would see themselves as such) want women to worry more about themselves or others? How have we switched over the past fifty years? Trials of enforced unisex job sharing in Scandinavia and Israel found it produced the opposite. A more gendered, male-dominated community. But advances for women have also been significant.
Victorian soul savers viewed women not as men’s equals but as their superiors. In Moderating Feminism I suggest some feminists believe it is women’s duty to control and retrain men, which is similar. Equality should be the aim. Until recently if you were anti-porn you’d be labeled prudish. Campaigners such as Mary Whitehouse weren’t s women’s rights campaigners. So I guess it is ok to bare all, but not for men to look.
Moderating Feminism draws on 1980s research focused on bullying amongst teenage girls by their female peers. Queen Bee Syndrome was at the heart of girl group culture. Sisterhood should be more egalitarian. The Feminist Consumer continues to confound. As women achieve more parity with men they appear to value their physical looks even more than the politics which put them there.
Today there is too much talk about what is wrong rather than what’s right. Little is written on innate female wisdom, common sense and maternal judgement. In Moderating Feminism I give my view. But it is only one. I’m opening up the debate just a tad. I hope I’ve been a good moderator.
Zinah knew the tack to take and used it. She welcomed the teen with smiling eyes.
‘Hello, Amirah.’ The adopted name.
‘The name means princess or leader.’ Zinah had read it right. The girl flushed pink. She was more excited by her new persona than Islam.
Amirah was now in with the ‘in crowd’.
‘A person’s name says something special about them and their character,’ Zinah enthused. ‘It’s how people interact with you.’
‘And when I call myself Amirah they see straight away I’m a Muslim.’
While Zinah could call up a show of empathy in an instant, it took time to develop real influence over these girls. You can’t hurry things. So when Amirah fiddled endlessly with her hijab, Zinah stopped herself saying, ‘Leave it alone.’
Amirah was the same as the others she’d converted in this respect. Her first rush of passion for the Caliphate was more to do with the ‘look at me’ factor than anything else.
The above is an excerpt from my book “The Missing Activist”. Zinah Al-Rashid is a major character, a bi-polar personality. When she’s not cruising Harrods for her fix of consumerism, Zinah is recruiting vulnerable teenagers to join the Islamic State. And she does so by manipulating their need for attention.
When I grew up in the middle east, it was inconceivable any teenage girl would swop a Bardot hairdo for the burqa. But that’s no longer the case. And not just for younger women either.
The former rock star and singer Sinead O’Connor (Nothing Compares 2U) announced she had converted. She now calls herself Shuhada’ Davitt which means martyrs. In late October, the 51-year-old mother-of-four who was ordained as a Catholic priest in the 1990s, wrote: ‘This is to announce that I am proud to have become a Muslim.’ She then posted images of herself wearing a hijab and a video of her reciting the call to prayer.
Humans are naturally wired for attention. From our earliest childhood experiences to our ongoing well-being, we depend on being noticed by others to fulfil needs central to our survival and our mental health. In fact, many of our everyday actions are subconsciously driven by the desire to stand out. It’s the opposite of being overlooked or invisible.
A study published last year, for example, reported that being ignored at work was even more damaging than being actively harassed.
Other research has found that societal exclusion “increases anger, depression, jealousy, and sadness,” while also compromising sleep quality and immune function.
As highly adaptable social creatures, we guard against isolation and neglect by seeking out attention from those around us. It’s a primal need.
But there’s also a syndrome now defined by the American Psychiatric Association known as histrionic personality disorder. It’s diagnosed four times as frequently in women as men, which will not please the feminist lobby.
As cited on Wikipedia, associated features of HPD include “egocentrism, self-indulgence, continuous longing for appreciation, and persistent manipulative behavior to achieve their own needs.” It’s likely that the rise of online activity is fuelling this type of behaviour.
It’s a theme covered in The Missing Activist.
Conspiracy thrillers are books which centre on the conflict between the lead character and the source of the conspiracy. The story starts off with either a meaningless crime. The person investigating notices something out of kilter and digs deeper. There’s difficulty ascertaining the truth because of the rumours, lies and group intimidation built up around the incident. Fast paced and gripping these page-turners are full of twists and turns.
There’s a healthy dose of conspiracy in spy and political fiction. All reasons they make for good TV programmes like the Bodyguard, House of Cards, Homeland, Scandal. Against the backdrop of a glamorous environment, the dirty tricks and bullying traits of the powerful is usually in sharp contrast to their simpler personal personas.
It’s the human side, the motivation behind their behaviour and complexity of character we’re gripped by, as much as the secretive worlds they take us into. The more it resembles normal life, the closer we’re drawn in.
In my book The Missing Activist, a loyal if somewhat naïve young man is being bullied by a member of his own political party and fears it will damage his reputation and career. When he suddenly disappears it seems a bit storm in a teacup until an investigator finds there’s been a coverup and is determined to learn why. If there’s one thing the secretive world of politics can’t stand, it’s people threatening the party with negative exposure. Which is a cover-up for other misdemeanours. Here are some others:
The book that inspired the British TV show that inspired the huge Netflix’ hit. The story is of Francis Urquhart, Chief Whip, a cynical, manipulative politician determined to become Prime Minister. He’s willing to use every secret he knows, every pressure point he can find, and every dirty trick in the book to secure his own rise to power—and in the process confirms just about every dark and terrible thing you thought you knew about politics. Written by someone who knew behind-the-scenes.
The Constant Gardener, by John le Carré
In The Constant Gardener, an unremarkable man with a remarkable wife is jolted out of a mediocre political career when his spouse is killed, and he determines to find out why she was murdered, and by whom. For the first time in his life he’s willing to take chances—and if there’s one thing the secretive world of politics can’t stand, it’s people who have nothing to lose. The end result is a pitch-perfect thriller.
The Ghost Writer, by Robert Harris
Former British Prime Minister Adam Lang is very late in turning his memoir in to his publisher—in part because his long-time collaborator and assistant has died in a terrible accident. To get the book back on schedule, they hire a professional ghostwriter to complete the manuscript. The ghostwriter struggles to figure out what’s true and what’s not so true in Lang’s notes, and then stumbles on evidence that implies the dead collaborator was murdered. Lang is charged with war crimes, and the ghostwriter is himself ensnared in the dirty world of power and politics.
Condon’s 1959 novel is about soldiers captured during the Korean War, tortured and brainwashed. One character, Shaw, is programmed to fall into a hypnotic state when he sees his trigger—the Queen of Diamonds during a game of solitaire. He’s programmed to forget his orders once he regains consciousness. This makes him the perfect hidden assassin, who can pass any interrogation or test. His own ruthless, power-hungry mother is his KGB handler, who relays orders to assassinate the president in order to secure the office for the vice president.
He’s grassed. Now he’s missing. Is there a connection?
The news that a culture of bullying pervades the NHS and stories of surgeons throwing scalpels and bawling out interns is quite alarming. Patients are also in the firing line. The sentencing of Ian Paterson, jailed for 15 years after carrying out unnecessary cancer operations, highlighted the safety risks on the public when junior medical staff are too intimidated to report poor practice.
So why’s it happening? In traditional societies and equivalent organisations, there’s the belief that the boss is God. The aviation industry got on to the downside of this attitude years ago following fatal air crashes deemed avoidable had the crew been able to “talk back” to their captain to warn him of a poor decision in-flight. Safety records improved immediately. But in 2013, after the Korean Asiana Airlines crash in San Francisco, speculation was made that the prang, which cost lives and hundreds of injuries, was down to a same-same command issue. The Korean mindset.
In an article of the time by Heesun Wee for CBBC, he quoted Thomas Kochan, a professor at the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as saying, ‘The Korean culture has two features—respect for seniority and age, and quite an authoritarian style. You put those two together, and you may get more one-way communication—and not a lot of it upward.’
Understood. But it’s a fine line between ditching the hierarchical structure to avoid bullying and save lives and preserving it to maintain discipline and save lives. Yesterday the BBC One Show ran the story of surgeons taking to their bikes to raise awareness amongst trainees on how to cope with an operating theatre prima donna’s rant for the #LetsCycleIt and #LetsRemoveIt. The same day we also heard from an emergency worker how staff now “expected” to be assaulted by the ungrateful, drugged-up or drunk public, while going about their highly honourable business of trying to save lives.
There are no easy fixes to this predicament. These campaigns are great. Talking about it helps, as does writing about it. In The Missing Activist, a young Tory campaigner disappears in London after lodging a complaint: he’s been bullied by a senior member of the party. He fears for his long-term dream of a career in politics. But when our heroine Karen Andersen tries to investigate, she’s obstructed at every turn as senior echelons close ranks to protect Party interests. Sound familiar? The moral question is, should he ever challenged the authority in the first place?
As someone who’s been speaking on this subject for early twenty years since I set up Act Against Bullying, it’s a question nearly everyone grapples with in one form or another every single day. They live in fear of the Kurdaitcha. Whether to stay schtum or sing out? Is a grass sneak or saviour? I’ll leave it to you to judge.
The Missing Activist by Louise Burfitt-Dons confronts a threat that exposes not just the Tories and Westminster but all of the UK
“It’s easy in the era of Facebook groups and Twitter to live in a bubble.”
Reader appetite for girl crime books is greater than ever. While demand has continued for titles like “The Girl on the Train” (February 2015), a new market for behind the scenes political behavior and intrigue such as “The President Is Missing” has been largely unfilled by female authors. “The Missing Activist” with its many plot twists and red herrings promises to lead a new subgenre in the development of the female-driven thriller market.
“When I stood for Parliament, I saw for myself how party headquarters cynically used mind games and dirty tricks to manipulate candidate competition and rein in activists,” says Burftt-Dons.
These are at the heart of a chilling scenario. The Missing Activist is the story of a 21-year-old who goes missing in London after reporting he’s been bullied by members of the party and the challenge of a Private Investigator Karen Andersen to find out what’s happened to him.
“I also wanted to show how groups can be so inward looking that they’re often out of touch with what’s happening on the outside.”
The head of a leading anti-bullying charity has issued a warning on their website about the dangers of trendy tribalism. It’s ultra cool to be part of a group. So much so the Fear Of Being Dropped is now pervasive and fueling bullying.
‘The slogan “Don’t be a bystander” is a great soundbite, but doesn’t work,’ says charity Head Louise Burfitt-Dons. ‘Not if your social status, future career or job is at stake.’
The anti-bullying activist who founded the charity in 2000 stood for Nottingham North for the Conservatives in 2015. She resigned from the party over the treatment of candidates and activists, one who took his life in September 2015.
As published in Brit News.
Nala is a thirty something Somalian who is murdered in London while over at a conference raising awareness of acid attacks on women. Her compelling backstory is what brought her to the City. How her attacker had scarred her as a teenager because she’d backed out of an arranged marriage. ‘I always look over my shoulder. My life is in constant danger.’
‘Even as the innocent victim I was shunned. Not one person spoke to me or took my side. Not my friends, not my relatives. Not one.’
‘Because nobody wanted to know me anymore, I didn’t want to live. I stayed indoors for eight years. My attacker could leave his house. But not me. No, no. I was the prisoner.’
Her attacker returned to normal day-to-day life after just six weeks, married someone else and had a family.
“At this, a Somalian stepped up to the platform. Horrific acid scars had left her skin looking like parchment. She began before the applause had faded, drowning out her words.”
― Louise Burfitt-Dons, The Missing Activist
In fact Nala is a fictitious character from my political thriller The Missing Activist. But there are many like her in real life.
Up until a few years ago the UK public assumed this type of crime was confined to parts of the world such as Bangladesh, Pakistan and India and mostly only acted out against women who said “No”.
But not any more. The sentencing yesterday of 19 year old Zeneral Webster for the death of Joanne Rand has served to highlight the spike in cases here. An innocent bystander, it was likely the 47 year old care worker was caught in the way of a mugging attack while sitting on a park bench reflecting on the visit she’d just made to her daughter’s grave.
According to the Acid Survivors Trust International (ASTI), the UK now has one of the highest rates of acid attacks per capita in the world. The number of recorded incidents has increased nearly three-fold from 228 in 2012 to 601 in 2016. Last year 400 were reported in the six months to April 2017 alone. The difference here is intended targets. In the UK most victims are men, whereas elsewhere it is 80 per cent against women.
According to Jaf Shah of ACTI, the organsation campaigning for tighter control on acid sales and a review of sentencing, it can be stopped. ‘The UK does not have legislation specific to acid attacks.’
Are we missing action?
It is sad to see our once green and pleasant land scarred in this way.
Act Against Bullying is a set of monologues I researched in 2000 and first published in 2002. It was the reason for me setting up Act Against Bullying as a charity. They’ve been used in schools as a means of discussing the awkward situations which can lead on to serious bullying. Recently I’ve updated them to include cyberbullying, sexting and parental abuse. I’ve researched, written broadcast on bullying for a range of media as listed on my site.
During school years, bullying is one of the most common expressions of violence in the peer context. The common definition is ‘aggressive, intentional acts carried out by a group or an individual repeatedly and over time against a victim who cannot easily defend him- or herself’. The relevant criteria are (1) repetition (2) intentionality and (3) an imbalance of power. Or systematic abuse of power by peers. Imbalance of power can be derived from physical strength, social status in the group, or from group size (e.g. a group targeting a single person). Or knowing and exploiting a person’s vulnerabilities (e.g. appearance, learning problem, family situation) to harm him or her. It is recognised globally as a complex and serious problem which is why I wrote the Act Against Bullying monologues.
Friendships are either unilateral (one-sided )or reciprocal or somewhere in between the two categories. Recent studies show loneliness increases as friendship quality decreases. (i.e the adolescent received a friendship nomination but did not reciprocate that nomination) and/or a lower quality of best friendship. These findings (a) indicate that loneliness is negatively related to the number of friends adolescents have, as perceived by themselves and their peers and (b) suggest that, once a friendship is established, lonely adolescents may interpret the friendship quality less positively compared to their friends. In Act Against Bullying, many of the monologues centre on that feeling of loneliness and this is often related to peer-based group bullying.
Before I wrote Act Against Bullying, I did my own research. I mostly spoke with children aged between 7 and 13. Bullying peaks during middle school years (i.e. 12–15 years), and tends to decrease by the end of high school. Boys and girls bully in different ways. Between boys, it is more likely to be physical. Bullying among girls is more relational, such as manipulating friendships and extending feuds.
Bullying research started more than forty years ago when it was recognised as a major problem. The focus on anti-bullying interventions is significant and shows programmes are often effective, reaching an average decrease of 20–23% for bullying others and of 17–20% for being bullied. It seems peer witnesses’ responses are crucial to either inhibit or fuel bullying. So some of the highly effective programmes are focused on enhancing bystanders’ awareness, empathy and self-efficacy to support victimised peers, instead of reinforcing the bullies’ behaviour. This is where programmes using the Act Against Bullying monologues are so useful.
Having worked in the casino business, the cause of his stress could be a betting thing. James served on a cross-party committee. The gambling lobby in Gibraltar wasn’t too thrilled about the Referendum result as it would mean the country would leave the EU. Most of their staff travelled in daily from Spain. So this crowd were giving James plenty of stick for his vote in favour of Brexit. But they’d talked about that often enough between them. Couldn’t be the gaming bunch.’
The above is from my book. James Harrington MP is a character in The Missing Activist and his wife Bea is trying to find the reason for his sudden moodiness and withdrawal from her. The gambling lobby is a powerful set. It’s fiction. But in real life something similar is going on. The current row over Fixed Odds Betting.
Sports minister Tracey Crouch has just resigned over what she sees as a deliberate delay to bring forward a crackdown on maximum stakes for fixed-odds betting machines.
Gambling — whether it be the lottery, scratch cards, casino games, bingo, slot machines, Internet poker, or sports betting — is more acceptable and accessible than ever before. Dubbed the ‘crack cocaine’ of gambling.
An FOBT is a touch-screen machine that allows players to bet on the outcome of various games such as roulette. They are said to be dangerously addictive and currently allow punters to stake up to £100 every 20 seconds – and theoretically gamble away £18,000 an hour. Campaigners and several MPs have been calling for ages for this limit to be reduced to £2. The Gambling Commission wanted it set to £30 (which allows punters to gamble £5,400 an hour). Their side of it is that it’s entertainment and terminals generate more than £1.8bn in tax revenue (which goes towards public services required to treat the fallout of the addictions which are in the minority.)
But what is the cross over between entering a competition on the back of a cereal box to win a free plastic beaker and a FOBT? Everything. Start with involvement, anticipation, expectation. A little gambling is a satisfying recreational activity. It feels good to win. Anything! Getting something in the department store you expect to pay full price for at an unexpected discount gives a thrill. It’s the same sensation as finding something you’ve lost for years, like a pair of leather gloves buried deep in an old coat pocket. This is because it involves the ventral striatum, located deep inside the brain, which has been termed the brain’s reward centre.
Ditto having a play on a slot machine and having it pay out. But the problem begins with repetition. There are only so many pairs of gloves or house keys to lose, but there are endless bets you can place. And so quickly. FOBTs don’t produce an evening’s entertainment (like winning in a pub quiz over several hours). They strip you in seconds. (Where did that go?) Or the opposite. In minutes you can be loaded. Then the more times you win £10, the less buzz you get from it. Only £20 feels great. So you increase the stakes. And then there’s the loss factor. If you start to lose, that “high” won’t come back until you’ve got every bit of it back. And more some! And on and on, so it goes. Soon you are numbing the reward processing centre that made you feel so good only minutes ago and now you feel nothing at all. Speed is the problem. It’s not surprising that for somewhat starts out as a five minute play can result in a serious psychiatric disorder. And even suicide.
Nothing tests a politician like their views on issues like this and it is unsurprising conservative minister Tracy Crouch has earned an outpouring of public respect for her principled decision to step down from office. For more on what happens to James Harrington MP, read The Missing Activist.
The Missing Activist published by New Century is available at bookshops and online. Price £9.99. Ebook £2.99.