Load of rubbish

Uri Geller wonders about the damage that hackers can do to diplomatic relations in the deadlocked Middle East.

We had to sign disclaimers before we could even view the work: if we fell off a ladder, got stuck in a fridge or simply tore our trousers, it would be our own silly fault.


Christoph explained to me that traditional sculptors, such as Rodin and Henry Moore, created pieces that have to be looked at from the outside. His work is different — you enter it, like stepping inside the artist’s head. One of his installations took the aftermath of a rock star’s backstage party, and froze it. Guests walked though the debris, like detectives investigating the scene of a crime.

Hanna worries when I go to art shows. She’s never forgotten the time I bought a beautiful carving of the Madonna with Child: it was half a ton of stone, and I thought it would look fabulous in our entrance hall, until Hanna pointed out that she’d have to throw a sheet over it whenever the rabbi called.

But she wasn’t concerned when I showed her the catalogue for Christoph’s show. “We’ve already got a fridge that doesn’t work properly,” she said.

Live life in the present. It’s the best advice I can give. We’re here, right now — and it’s the only thing anyone can be sure of. So enjoy it!

I met a crowd of happy children at the weekend who are living proof of that. All of them are seriously ill, but they were having non-stop fun. I joined them at Planet Hollywood, the London restaurant backed by megastars like Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Demi Moore and Justin Timberlake.


The outing was organised by the Joshua Foundation, a charity which aims to give children with cancer a series of unforgettable experiences, from celebrity encounters to holidays around the world. The doctors classify all these kids as ‘terminally ill’, but I believe that positive thinking and hope are too precious to be ignored. It’s better to pray for a miracle than accept defeat.

What I love about the Joshua Foundation is the very high value it places on these children’s lives. The charity believes they deserve the best of everything. That’s a fantastic attitude, and one we should all extend to all children with special needs.

That’s why my blood boils when I see journalists sneering about mental illnesses. I want to pick up the phone and yell at an editor every time I see sentences like these:

• Gordon Brown is so obsessive, he’s borderline autistic

• Jade has lost so much weight, she’s positively anorexic

• The Liberal Democrats are not just indecisive, they’re practically schizophrenic

I know where bigotry can lead. For many families, including mine, it can be a matter of life and death. If my Jewish parents hadn’t fled from Europe, they would have died in the Nazi concentration camps: many of their family were less fortunate. But bigotry against people with mental problems, even children, has barely changed since the Thirties.

So I was fuming at the ‘controversy’ over the BBC’s show Something Special, which is aimed at children who can’t talk or who have trouble communicating. The presenter, Justin Fletcher, uses Makaton sign language to help viewers understand what he’s saying, and Makaton is different from sign language for the deaf.

One Makaton phrase that Justin uses means, “I’m happy to see you!” In deaf sign language, it means something else, something vulgar. Cue much sniggering in the press.

Something Special is the only programme on British television that tries to communicate with children who can’t talk. Flick through the channels and you’ll find thousands of hours of drivel for kids — badly animated cartoons that promote tacky merchandise, lame sitcoms set in Californian schools, endless teen soap operas, dreary pop magazines. It’s brain-rot.

But what do the headlines focus on? They’re kicking up a fuss about double meanings in the sign language on Something Special.

You’d need a cynical, dirty mind to find anything to titter about in a show for mentally disabled youngsters. Luckily, when I meet children like these, I am always struck by their total innocence. They’re often immune to the nastier aspects of the world around them.

One of my favourite novelists, the crime writer Ian Rankin, has a son with severe learning difficulties. I was delighted to hear Ian digress during a Radio Five interview about his latest Inspector Rebus book, to praise Something Special. “My family love that show,” he said. “Justin Fletcher is just great!”

Ian’s a parent. He has to take special needs seriously. It’s time everyone did.

Hanna, Shipi and I were amazed by the quality of British television when we first came to Britain, in the early Seventies. It was fantastic to watch a whole movie without suffering adverts every ten minutes, as we had to in the US.

Most Brits had a big gripe, though — the schedules were stuffed with repeats. Every other show had been broadcast at least once before.

These days, repeats aren’t an issue. With satellite, freeview and cable, we need never see the same show twice. The problem is, as Bruce Springsteen said, “We got 57 channels and nothing on.”

So I was amused to spot all our old BBC favourites on the DVD stands in Borders on Charing Cross Road this morning — Poldark, Porridge, Hi De Hi, Only Fools And Horses, The Onedin Line, Allo Allo… all the shows we watched in the Seventies and early Eighties, whenever we visited England.

They’re no longer ‘repeats’, of course. They’re premium nostalgia, at £14.99 a disc


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