VE Day commemorations have us all telling stories

Now feels like a good time to highlight a new venture that trades off the idea that everybody has a tale to tell

Simmy Richman@simmyrichman
Saturday 09 May 2015 23:14
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Churchill waves to the crowds in Whitehall (Getty)
Churchill waves to the crowds in Whitehall (Getty)

Once upon a time …

With the Imperial War Museum, the Royal British Legion and other organisations encouraging people to share their VE Day stories last week, it feels like a good time to highlight a new venture that trades off the idea that everybody has a tale to tell.

Love Your Stories (loveyourstories.com) is the brainchild of Rowan Wilkinson, a former PR who, while listening in on interviews with famous people, suddenly realised that he knew more about many celebrities than he did his own family. “We just conducted some research that shows that nearly half of us don’t even know how our parents met each other,” he tells me.

Love Your Stories provides an online documentation service featuring spoken-word sound clips, photographs, quotes, transcriptions and an interactive timeline, all of which can only be accessed by those you want to be able to see it. If the online “examples” are anything to go by, the results are often amusing as well as informative. Take the following from a man called Martin Levey, who was born in east London in 1937: “I’ve only experienced racism once in my life, thank goodness,” he told the interviewer. “It was in my early days of primary school. A boy came up to me and said, ‘You killed Jesus Christ.’ I said, ‘Why didn’t you stop me?’’ and he replied, ‘I wasn’t there’. I told him that I wasn’t either.”

Greet stuff

When the LA-based designer and illustrator Emily McDowell was diagnosed with Stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the age of 24, she found that “the most difficult part wasn’t losing my hair or being called ‘sir’ by Starbucks baristas, it was the loneliness and isolation I felt when many of my close friends and family members disappeared because they didn’t know what to say, or said the absolute wrong thing without realising it.” To combat that awkwardness, last week McDowell launched a new line to her eponymous greetings-card business, Empathy Cards.

Designer Emily McDowell was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphona

Here are some examples (available at emilymcdowell.com for about £7, including shipping to the UK): “I’m really sorry I haven’t been in touch. I didn’t know what to say”; “When life gives you lemons, I won’t tell you a story about my cousin’s friend who died of lemons”; “I promise never to refer to your illness as a ‘journey’ (unless someone takes you on a cruise)”.

“I think that Empathy Cards are the most important things I’ve designed so far,” McDowell says. “It’s not often that you look at a greeting card and think, ‘The world needs this’, but in this case, I really believe that that’s true.”

No guts, no glory

In the words of the ancient Chinese proverb, “If you wait by the river long enough, the bodies of your enemies will float by”. If I might offer a modern-day alternative: “If you wait by the river long enough in the same pair of jeans, they will, eventually, be in fashion.” And so it is that I have just discovered that I am the holder of the hot new must-have: the “dad bod”.

It started with the youth of America posting photographic evidence on a site called Total Frat Move, and then caught on like wildfire last month, when a 19-year-old student called Mackenzie Pearson published an essay entitled “Why Girls Love the Dad Bod”. It is characterised, by Pearson, as “a nice balance between beer gut and working out”.

But while I’m delighted to be appreciated, in the words of Columbo, just one thing bothers me: isn’t it a little bit strange that men are being given the licence to guzzle beer and wolf down pizza at precisely the same time that women are being ordered to get “beach body ready”?

Prophet at a loss

According to a report in Fortune magazine last week, the new way that employers covertly discriminate against people of a certain age is to advertise jobs using the term “digital native” (according to the person who coined it, Marc Prensky, someone who grew up speaking the language of computers and the internet).

David Shining speaking at an AOL event

Seriously, have these people never heard of Shingy? Shingy (David Shing to his mum) lives in New York City, is paid a six-figure salary by AOL and goes from conference to conference handing out a microchipped business card reading “Digital Prophet”.

When he’s not foreseeing the digital future, Shingy is quite the writer, and his latest work, Forward Doing, is an examination of, well, I’m not quite sure what. So, over to Shingy’s own blurb: “The purpose of these pages is to inspire you to think broadly about digital; to take risks; be compelling and ambitious; to make the most out of what is truly a historic opportunity. Think of this as rocket fuel for forward doing.” The archetypal digital native? Shingy is 44 years old.

No rhyme or reason

Another in a regular series of limericks based on recent events:

For all of the televised spats,

All the polls and the pundits and stats,

At the end of the day,

Now we’ve all had our say,

There’s a lot of folk eating their hats.

Twitter: @simmyrichman

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