Enough is enough, Cheryl

I’ve always thought Cheryl Cole was cool.  As a fat 16 year old with bad hair and bad dress sense back in 2002, I remember tuning in to ‘Popstars: The Rivals’ every Saturday night and excitedly anticipating that all-important question of who would make it into the group, and who wouldn’t.  Cheryl was one of the contestants, and she was my favourite out of all the girl contestants (my favourite male being the chisel-jawed Mikey Green, who was sadly evicted on one quite heartbreaking weekend).

16 is quite an impressionable age.  You’re aware that very soon, you’re going to be initiated into the culture of dressing up and partying that will stay a part of your adult life for at least the next ten years, if not longer.  The bridge can seem long, and the other side can seem daunting.  It is a period where people often frequent the higher levels of self-consciousness and constantly ask themselves if they’re on the right track, “Is this outfit a good look? Have I got too much make-up on? Should I use a different foundation?”.  I was no different, and found a lot of guidance through looking at these young, female celebrities on the television and seeing what they were wearing.  I remember admiring not only Cheryl’s style, but also her attitude (clearly, this was long before the pantaloon pants and the military jackets).

With this in mind, I can understand why older generations will often refer to an emotional attachment of “having grown up with” older celebrities.  Its perhaps too early to say, but being only two years my senior, Cheryl Cole is one of those celebrities who in sixty years or so, when they’re reading out her obituary on the news, might make me turn around to my grand-children and say, “Ah, Cheryl Cole… she was of my era.  I grew up with her.”  This sentiment can lead to a greater interest in the life of the particular celebrity, and a greater empathy with the milestones they reach in life.

I believe Cheryl Cole is essentially a very sweet, kind person, who has done well to alleviate herself from her troubled background and become a role-model to many young girls across the country.  However, if the news is to be believed and she is to be taking a break from showbiz, I would wholeheartedly agree that the time is right for her to disappear from our television screens and newspapers for a little while, if not longer, and focus on herself.  The strain that comes from being under the spotlight for so long has finally got to her, and I fear that if she’s kept there, like a Bengali-tiger in the media circus, it will become too much.

As celebrity lives go, Cheryl’s has seen it all, and there have been more lows than highs.  Let’s be brief.   In the beginning, it all seemed so perfect.  Girls Aloud were frequently topping the charts, and in 2006 she got married, in the most lavish of ceremonies, to the footballer Ashley Cole.  Everything was perfect until 2008, when Ashley’s affair with various women came to media attention.  The romance was shattered, though against all odds the couple reconciled, only for a repeat occurrence in 2010.  This time Cheryl, who had been gaining mass popularity as a judge on the UK X-Factor, filed for divorce.  A few months later, she caught malaria whilst on holiday in Africa and was within a whisker of death.  She survived and by Winter was back in her role as a judge on the X Factor.  In 2011, after much uncertainty, she was confirmed as a panelist in the U.S series of the show, many citing her friendship with show-owner Simon Cowell as the sole reason for this success.  This was considered a massive boon to Cheryl, and a new opportunity to finally overcome the pain caused by the failure of her marriage and make it in the United States, where she was unknown up to this point. She had only been in the States for a few weeks before it became apparent to X-Factor producers that she wasn’t going to be popular with the American public.  A new-look which consisted of purple flared trousers and an orange top was much maligned in the Atlantic press, and a perceived lack of chemistry between herself and fellow-judge Paula Abdul was considered as the writing on the wall.  Cheryl needed to be axed from the U.S X-Factor before she had even started, or the show would fail.

She returned to the UK with her tail between her legs, but support from the UK public had disintegrated.  She still had a legion of dedicated supporters, but she had also lost a significant amount.  Cheryl had made a fundamental mistake in her quest for bigger things.  Her acceptance as the role of judge on the US X-Factor had culminated in the automatic ejection from the role of judge on the UK version of the show.  This move upset, and ultimately lost her, thousands of her fans.  Don’t forget that it is these same fans who bombarded her with supportive letters after she was cheated on, twice, and who sent her get-well cards when she almost died.  This decision would have gone down better had it seemed to make more sense, but from the very first whisper that she might be offered a role in the U.S, there was always a cloud of doubt.  She was unknown in the U.S, and ran the risk of not being understood by the masses.  A businessman will propose that in accepting the American role, Cheryl was just trying to further her career and maximise her potential.  However, she did so at the risk of losing what she already had, and she did lose.

She’s not a judge on anything anymore, and her self-esteem had descended so much that she is now considering getting back with the ex-husband who broke her heart, twice.

The end result is a far cry from the young Cheryl who I used to think was a bit of a style icon.

The story is reminiscent of something Aesop would have written about.  In life, we are provided with opportunities.  We are constantly seeking to improve and grow.  Its good for us that we take these opportunities, and it is good for us that we are always seeking to improve.  However, this can only work if twinned with the ability of a bit of caution and foresight.  In Cheryl Cole’s instance, she took one step forward and five back.  She took an opportunity which she knew would be a risk, and it almost worked until it backfired horribly for her.  The bottom line is that she took on more than she could achieve and ended up losing more than she had.  I strongly hope she turns it around.  Who knows, she may use the series of misfortune as a catalyst for much bigger things, but the early signs would not suggest so, and I think it is imperative that her life should have a bit of a respite from the nation’s glare.  I hope that she recuperates, strengthens and succeeds again, and I hope that next time she knows she must keep hold of a good thing, rather than throw it away to free her hands for something better that she fails to catch, leaving her empty handed.  Good luck, Cheryl.

Meanwhile, there’s nothing more annoying than:  The television remote suddenly dying just as Kylie Minogue’s ‘Can’t Get You Out of My Head’ comes onto the t.v.  3 hours later, and I’m still very much la-la-la-la-la-la-laaaaaaaaa.

Finally:  Thank you to those of you who have so far read this Blog, and provided me with your feedback.  I haven’t given the link out to many people yet and am still very much in the early stages, but support is so welcome, particularly now, so thank  you, you’re all brilliant x

Song of the Day:  Bright Eyes – Touch

Bright Eyes are one of the most successful American indie-rock bands of recent times.  Frontman Conor Oberst, 31, has the sort of vocals that you can swallow down into your insides, and the following song is one that I feel illustrates this concept well.  Its about heartbreak, losing something you once had that used to bring so much joy, a bit like Cheryl Cole did.  This is the kind of song you listen to if you’re feeling down and just want to indulge in your tears for a few minutes, only to resume life at full speed once it finishes.

“…wishing this could last, knowing that it can’t…”

The Best Cup of Coffee

Date:  Thursday 9th June 2011
Time:  11:30am
Location:  The old Canterbury Buttermarket

I’m sat outside Starbucks with a freshly made caramel macchiato and a notepad at my table.  Its a typical weekday morning in a square which, with its timber-framed buildings and lively  street performers, typifies the historical and cultural aspects of this city of Canterbury.
A rather effeminate American tourist on the table next to me discusses the passers by with somebody who I presume is his boyfriend.  They are laughing.  The tourist came to my aid earlier when he pointed out the chair I was about to sit on was covered in tea, and brought over a new one for me.  “Oh! Don’t sit there! That chair looks a little mankyyyyy, that’s why I didn’t sit on it.  Here, let me getcha noo one”  My heart melted like the froth on my coffee at the voluntary kindliness.
Meanwhile, a man in a trilby hat and a blue t-shirt sits beside the war memorial warbling out his remake of a Neil Diamond song on a guitar which he self-gratifyingly thumps around like a wench.
The song finishes, and the American tourist creates the sole applause and cheers before laughing and remarking to me that, “It’s almost WORSE when only one person claps”
In the background I hear the sound of a plush toy frog with inbuilt giggling sound effects emanating from Hawkins Bazaar gift shop as an excited child looks on and tries to establish where the sound is coming from.
Then there is the ice-cream seller who sits in the middle of the square, leaning against his cart, who is looking pained at the prospect of a rabble of about 20-odd French schoolchildren, shouting above one another in alien tones as they approach him.
Yet, this city is so quintessentially British.
The queue to get into the Cathedral is constant and comprises of faces from all over the globe, all of whom have come here for the same reason – to see the world heritage site up close, feel it’s warmth, and revel in it’s magic.
What I love the most is the variety of languages and voices.  Two young ladies who look like they’re into equestrian sports bustle out of Starbucks with their takeway skinny lattes, talking in upper-class tones about something or other.  Immaculately dressed, the comparison with the overweight, balding man in the tracksuit who sits nearby looking despondently at his ice-cream as his wife whispers something into his ear, is broad.
Why why whyyyyy Delilah – I am pleased the busking musician is playing something upbeat but am less satisfied by the arrival of a third delivery lorry, obscuring my view of the Square.  Do they not know that I’m trying to write an observational piece here?!  Yet this is the hustle and bustle of this city’s life, and I love it.
A Starbucks employee is now at the table next to me, on a break, with a blood-red coloured juice drink in front of him as he taps away at his phone.  I wonder who he is messaging, or what he’s saying.  I wonder if he knows that the thing I’m scribbling about on my piece of paper right now, is him.
The musician breaks into a rendition of Let It Be next.
There will be an answer, let it be
I listen to him warble away to his guitar and feel a moment of awe which is swiftly spoilt by the lady next to me, coughing a loud, rasping cough.
Regardless, I’m still really warming to this musician.  Who knows his circumstances – his name, age or birthplace.  Who knows what brings him to this Square and who knows why he needs to make the cash from busking.  Yet, there is something inspiring about his passion and drive to just keep on singing amidst the cacophony of frog noises, school children, coughing and derogatory remarks from U.S tourists.
In fact, there is passion all around Canterbury.  The huge Cathedral behind me is symbolic of many things, mostly historical and religious, but to me, it is a testament to somebody’s dream, and the faith of many, 1100 years ago, to build something so beautiful without the aid of modern day construction methods and machinery.  Every brick, every panel, every detail of the stained glass windows… so immaculate, so perfect.  Chaucer’s pilgrims, though fictional, symbolise the millions of people who have been driven to Canterbury not by horses, planes and trains alone, but by faith and intrigue.
I begin to feel the continental breeze against my feet, sweeping in from the South-Eastern shoreline.
Two locksmiths return to their van upon completing a job.  In cockney tones, they discuss how to manoeuvre their lorry out of the square, “Should be toight, but I’ll be alroight”.
And so, slide away, but don’t look back in anger, I heard you say, the musician’s repertoire is one that knows the songs that people like – the anthemic and the timeless, and knows how to juxtapose them against the ongoing movement surrounding him.
A German teenager on a school trip has decided to stand right in front of me and munch loudly on an apple.  I sometimes wonder what these foreign children make of Canterbury.  Are they interested in the religion or culture, or, like most of us when we were teenagers, are they plotting the best way to escape teacher’s attention and sneak off somewhere for a game of pool and can of coke?
If I lay here, if I just lay here, will you lie with me and just forget the world
A group of pensioners walk together laughing, holding shopping bags containing recent purchases from local craft shops.  I wonder what the city is like through their elderly eyes, how its changed over the years and how pleased they are that it has still managed to retain some degree of it’s charismatic vintage soul throughout the decades.
But by now, my cup is nearly empty and my macchiato nearly finished.  The sun spills out from behind the clouds.  The coughing lady’s Nokia ringtone takes off and I establish that she is German, “So… ja…. und… toll…. ja”.  I love the cosmopolitan atmosphere of this place and feel happy to live here.
I begin to feel like I’m taking up a table someone else might need, so I put away my work, pack up my bags and root around in my purse to find some cash to give the musician.  For the past hour I have been surrounded by people and things who do the things they love, and love the things they do.  This is not the place to find people headlessly pursuing the things they feel they should be doing, but doing the things they want to be doing, and being damn good at it.  It was an inspiration.  It made my heart smile.  It was one of the best cups of coffee ever.


Song of the Day: The Avett Brothers – Kick Drum Heart

Another gem discovered from Last.Fm.  An upbeat piece of contemporary pop/folk/bluegrass fresh from North Carolina.   The kind of awesome song that will put you in a great mood within minutes and re-affirm the notion that music is powerful.