About Me

My photo

Plenty on Wikipedia and on IMDd.  Those two websites are great for the date and place of birth, as well as listing the TV, films, stage and radio I've worked on.  What they don't do is describe what it was like working on those productions, alongside the wonderful and sometimes not-so-wonderful personalities involved. They also don't divulge the highs and lows of over 50 years of marriage, bringing up three kids as well as emerging grandchildren. If you're interested, Learning My Lines (my autobiography), Echoes (my first novel) are for sale through my website, as is an archive of my blogs from 2009-2013.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Mr Sandman


During the 3 months after my tumble I was finding it difficult sleep. Laying there like a plank, unable to turn tight or left, I spent most of my nights ironing, making mugs of tea staring out of the window chain smoking, when I ran out of stuff to iron I even contemplated taking the sheets off the bed and ironing them. 

It was bloody awful. Now time has passed and things are different. No nocturnal ironing, no night time mugs of tea and copious numbers of fags while staring out of the window. It seems as if I’ve turned the corner at last. 

But still tiredness lingers on the outskirts of my conciseness. Every time I sit down I drift off. I must have lost so much sleep during those ninety days. My eyes are happier closed then open. I now sleep in the afternoons, not just a nap but full blown out of the game. I reckon that I’m fully awake about forty minutes a day.

But there is one advantage to all this. Over he last year or so, every time the phone rings I hope it’s my agent with an offer offer of a job but it never it is. Gutting, it really is. But now, I realise I couldn’t do a job because I couldn’t stay awake long enough. So I content myself, and earn a bit, going around to events for Dr Who conventions or Cathy Come Home do’s signing photos and selling a few books.

The punters don’t seem to mind a yawning ex Dalek slayer confronting them.  

Comments


  • Ann Wilson(Friday, December 20 13 12:17 pm GMT)
    Glad you're feeling a bit better Ray, awful when you can't sleep. I was the same after knee replacements, just couldn't get comfortable despite painkillers, which made me nauseous anyway. I hope you and family have a Merry Christmas and I hope you have a peaceful and hopefully fruitful New Year!
  • แทงบอล(Saturday, December 21 13 03:37 pm GMT)
    After checking out a handful of the blog posts on your website, I honestly appreciate your way of writing a blog.
    I added it to my bookmark webpage list and will be checking back in the near future.

    Please check out my website too and tell me how you feel.
  • Simon Drew(Tuesday, December 24 13 01:42 pm GMT)
    Happy Christmas Ray
    Love
    Simon


Friday, 29 November 2013

Ups & Downs

My shoulder’s getting better. But with all the exercise I’m doing, I’m convinced that within a couple of months my arm’s going to resemble Arnold Schwarzenegger’s which is hardly going to match up with my Mickey Mouse other one.

Then wake up with cramp in my foot. Usually this takes a few minutes to clear. But it doesn’t. Could it be gout? It’s not as if I drink 36 pints a day followed by a bottle of brandy (well, not quite). The bit in brackets is a joke, doctor. But whatever it is, it bloody hurts.

Four limping days later it clears up. And then, a front tooth falls out. Shit. The following weekend I’ve promised to a Collecterama for Dr Who, where fans will want to have pictures taken with ’celebrities‘ and, in my current state, it’ll be like having your arm round Ben Gunn’s grandmother.

In desperation, I phone Barry Gatoff, my dentist, who’ll see me at 11.00. Good old Barry. With a couple of valium on board, I go in.

‘You’re going to need a Crown.‘ he tells me. ‘It’ll a take about a week for it to be ready.‘ I tell him about the upcoming Dr Who do. ‘I’ll stick something temporary in, they won’t be able to tell the difference.‘ I leave, the foot’s better and I’m grinning all over the place.

I catch a train on Saturday night, they want us for an early start on Sunday morning.

Milton Keynes is lit by 40wt light bulbs. The taxi to the hotel drives like the wind, either trying to escape MK or the driver’s got a death wish. I arrive in one piece.

Jury’s Inn loomed gloomily out of the murk. I’ve stayed in one before. Hard beds, plastic pillows and pictures of trees and bushes line the walls and no ‘room service.‘ I’m starving, so I have to go to the bar. I order a Panini with ham and  cheese (why don’t they sell sandwiches anymore?)

I really don’t like these do’s. Sitting at a long table, in a space the size of four aircraft hangers with photos in front of us, supplied by the management, charging £10 with signature and the money all goes to the bosses. I do get a few bob for turning up, but my main purpose to try and sell a few of my books.

Fifteen minutes later I’m still waiting for my bloody Panini getting myself into a right frazzle about the following day when there’s a tap on my shoulder. It was if all the 40wt bulbs had turned into 150wt’s. The tapper was none other than Michael Jayston, an old pal. With him on board, tomorrow was taking on a new allure.

At 8.40 in the morning the coach arrived. Michael and I were the last to board. It was hard to find a seat. Who are all these people?

We arrived at the M.K.Dons football ground. It was a bleak scene. A few yawning punters hanging around waiting for the ‘big event.’

We were led to the dreaded table. Forty of sitting there, pens poised waiting for the signings. All of us, who thirty years ago had killed Daleks, Cybermen, now looking like for all the world like old aged pensioners waiting to have chilblains treated. But the punters didn’t seem to notice.

Michael and I kept popping out for fag breaks, catching up on old times, laughing at cock ups, yes, having a great time.

Surprisingly I managed to sell two books in the morning and then, miracle of miracles, I sold four more in the afternoon. Eventually, it was time to leave.

On our way out, the organizer of the event came up to me. ‘I’ll let you know when the next one is, Ray.’

‘Thanks. But make sure that Michael is there as well.’

Six books sold and rekindled an old friendship.

The two old granddads wandered through the gathering gloom to the railway station. They’d both had a lovely day in Milton Keynes.       


Comments


  • Ann Wilson(Tuesday, December 03 13 11:15 am GMT)
    Glad you had a good day and pleased your shoulder is improving Ray x
  • Mark(Tuesday, December 03 13 03:48 pm GMT)
    Sounds like a surprisingly lovely day Ray. I well remember you and Michael in Series 2 of Big Deal, nice to hear you caught up on old times and your shoulder is on the mend.
  • Maurine(Wednesday, December 04 13 07:17 pm GMT)
    What's up, this weekend is fastidious in favor of me, because this time i am reading this wonderful educational article here at my home.
  • viagra online(Sunday, December 08 13 06:14 pm GMT)
    Actually when someone doesn't know afterward its
    up to other people that they will assist, so here it takes place.
  • smudge(Sunday, December 15 13 10:51 am GMT)
    Nice to read this - Michael Jayston is always great value at these events. A genuine bloke who likes to have a chat with folks. Glad you enjoyed it in the end Ray...

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Fate

5.45 Saturday the 31st of August 2013. They order some more drinks. The chat is dominated by the game. ‘Stupid last minute goal.‘ They were gutted. Then someone says ‘Checked the train times. Sorry, it’s not 6.00 o’clock. It’s five to. Better drink up.’

At about the same time a taxi is arriving at Newcastle Station. A man, we don’t know, climbs out with his wheelie bag. He searches for his wallet. ‘Sorry, mate.‘ he says to the driver. who’s giving him a beady look.

Our pals are trotting down the hill to the station. The wallet is found and the driver is paid. The pals reach the platform with minutes to spare. ‘Coach H.‘ 

The man is is dragging his case along the platform. ‘Coach G, coach G.‘ he mutters. He finds it, the door is open and he climbs into the train pulling his bag behind him.

The pals are hurrying along the platform searching for their carriage.

One of the wheels of the man’s bag has become wedged under the carriage step.

‘Here’s coach G, next one along.’

The man pulls at the bag trying to dislodge it.

The pals can see coach H. One of them his lagging behind. ‘Are we nearly there?‘ he gasps.

The man has got one foot against the door frame, tugging at his bag still trying to release it.

The pals are at coach H. The straggler is bringing up the rear. ‘Hurry up!‘ they shout at him.

With a final mighty heave, the man pulls at the handle of the bag, this bag is a cheap copy of an up market brand certainly not made to a high standard, the material is of sub standard cloth and the stitching is hap hazard therefore the handle, not used to this rigorous treatment, gives up the ghost and separates itself from the bag, which tumbles back on to the platform.

The straggler, unaware of anything but the need to get to coach H, hits the wayward bag and falls on the platform like a ton of bricks.

‘Dad?’

I open my eyes. ‘Where are we?’

‘On the train.’

I’m aware of blood dripping down my face and my left shoulder is giving me terrible pain.

‘This Jordan, dad, the physio with the Arsenal under 18 team, they’ve been playing in Sunderland, he’s going to help you.’

Jordan cleaned me up and put a plaster on my forehead. Then made up a sling for my painful shoulder.

‘Now, Ray.‘ he said. ‘Keep you head still and follow my finger. No, don’t move your head, just use your eyes. Good. Good.‘ he looked at me intently. ‘What were you doing in Newcastle?’

‘Watching Fulham playing Newcastle.’

‘What was the score?’

‘We lost one nil.’
Newcastle 1-0 Fulham (not the lowest point of the day)

‘Who did you play last week?’

‘Arsenal at home.’

‘Score?’

‘We lost three one.’

Jordan looked at my son. ‘He’s alright. Not concussed.’

I don’t remember the journey but when we arrive at King’s Cross there are two Special Constables waiting for me. ‘The train phoned ahead, there’s an ambulance waiting for you.’

My boys came with me to the local hospital. After an X-ray and a tetanus injection and good news that I didn’t need stitches or an operation on my shoulder, I went home. Ten weeks later I’m writing this.

The last three blogs about Brownlee Home for Demented Actors I was just marking time. Saving you the tedium of me going on and on about the shit I was going through, bloody exercises and not being able to sleep.

What a good boy I am!      

Write a comment
Comments

simon drew(Wednesday, November 13 13 11:40 am GMT)
Ray, sorry to hear about your fall, hope your shoulder gets back to normal soon
Mark(Wednesday, November 13 13 05:58 pm GMT)
Oh my Ray. Really sorry to hear that. Get well soon
revia buy in australia(Saturday, November 16 13 01:10 am GMT)
It's amazing for me to have a web page, which is useful for my know-how.
thanks admin
Ann Wilson(Friday, November 22 13 08:25 am GMT)
Sorry to hear about your fall Ray, glad you're on the mend and persevered with the exercises, they really are the key to recovery.
Steve Kavanagh(Saturday, November 23 13 02:23 am GMT)
All the best Ray !!
Smudge(Sunday, December 15 13 10:54 am GMT)
Sorry to hear about your misfortune - glad it's getting better!

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Going Going....gone

I had to get some money to get out Calais and back home. Busking was the only way to escape. I had to come up with a bright idea to replace Roger’s almost irreplaceable rhythm on the washboard. I needed some sort of backing. I hammered six tacks into the soles of my shoes, laid the washboard on the ground and while strumming my guitar, did my impression of the Wilson, Kepple and Betty shuffle over the ribbed steel on the board. It went down a storm. The Euros tumbled in. I could have ended my days there but I had to get home.

The English Channel was flat as a snooker table and the sun was shining (!) I sat on the deck and dozed off. After a few minutes it seemed as if a cloud had covered up the last rays of the sun. When I opened my eyes, the sun was still shining but the ‘cloud’  turned out to be a crowd of people standing in front of me staring out to sea. It was a bloody nuisance, I decided to move to another chair. I stood up. ‘Excuse me.’ I said and pushed through them to get to my guitar and the washboard that I’d left leaning on the ship’s rails.

As I went to pick them up, a voice behind said. ‘Excuse me, sir, is that yours?’ 
 ‘Yes, it is.’ I said tersely to the owner of the ‘voice’, who looked like a double portion of cheese cake covered in custard.
‘Please let introduce myself, sir, I’m Herman Winston Grasshopper the 7th. And this is my good wife Martha.’ Martha stepped out and curtsied. ‘Wonderful to meet you, sir.’ She was just one portion (‘easy on the custard’) with whitest teeth I’ve ever seen, so blazing white they would have blinded a pride of marauding lions looking for a quick lunch. ‘Such a talented guy, ain’t he Herm?’

She turned swiftly to he husband and hissed into his ear, searing and pointedly, like a nurse trying to clear a blockage of wax. ‘Buy it, Herm, I want it, I want it, I want it, I want it.!’

Herm turned to me. ‘My wife and friends here have been on a year long tour of great buildings, castles, cathedral, museums and art galleries. We’ve had a wonderful time.’ There was a mumble of agreement from the assembled cheese cakes. ‘Now occasionally theres’s bolt of lightening that can knock you off your feet. And my wife has been struck.’

His wife jabbed him in the ribs. ‘Shut up, Herm, get on with it. It’s time for drinks!’

“Okay, Chammy, keep your knickers on. $750 for your art work, sir?’ he was pointing to the guitar and washboard.

Gob smacked? Yep, I sure was. Anyway to cut my negotiations short (thrilling as they were) ending up with me getting £1500 and an invitation to New York to display my other ‘art‘ in a gallery Herm owned, I disembarked ( to cheers from the assembled cheesecakes) and made my way home.

The great cover up is now over, so back to reality in more ways than one. The disastrous Newcastle Station and wheelie bag adventure. So much to look forward to!     

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Alone

So much has happened in the last few weeks. Roger Walker has been a dynamo, he cobbled up a guitar for me using a couple of hub caps soldered together and a flattened exhaust pipe for the neck, using wire from a tatty old soiled mattress for the strings and a washboard for him and then he managed, after getting a wax impression, to make a key for the basement door into Brownlee’s grounds, then we went into the local town busking.  We enjoyed ourselves. Did well. Made a few bob. Then out of the blue he announced ‘We’re off tonight.’ A mate of his, who drove a bread van, dropped us off at Dover and within no time we were on the ferry.

The sea was rough, we were like a cork in a washing machine, sick bowls were filled and emptied by pale faced stewards, a group of wild eyed nuns prayed desperately for a change in the weather or an early death, me, my head permanently in my bowl, the ferry creaking and groaning threatening to fall apart any second, while Roger sat calmly eating a bacon sandwich. I nicked his spare ginger wig, he’d told me while puking, and while he was busy searching for it, I nipped into his office and took our passports, he told me.  

I sipped my Calvados, lifted my fork and pushed in a piece of ham and pineapple into my mouth, chomped away all the time salivating at the thought of a Full English breakfast. God, what am doing in this foreign land? I hate it. Can’t speak the language but Roger can, of course  “I used to be a teacher.” People were scuttling past the cafe. It looked like rain. Lucky old Roger out of these soon to be teeming streets and gone to Paris to see an old friend who ran a British fish and chip bar. ‘Making a fortune’. 

‘Complete, Monsieur Brooks?‘ Gaston, the cafe owner, who had let Roger and me have a room at the back of the cafe for a couple of our ‘musical evenings‘ at weekends, plus a few bob in our pockets and free ‘breakfasts’. Our musical repertoire includes mash ups of Rock Island Line, Does Your Chewing Gum Lose it’s Flavour on The Bedpost Overnight, Maggie May, Dancing Queen, the Engelbert Humperdinck songbook followed by Edith Piaf numbers (a bit of a strain on the vocal chords these), and of course a couple of my songs but naturally the punters don’t take any notice, too busy stuffing their faces with frog’s bits followed by Gaston’s speciality, ‘the world famous Horse Fritters’ and jabbering away nineteen to the dozen. I downed my coffee.‘Very nice, Gaston.’
‘When will Monsieur Walker be returning? You have to play tomorrow night.‘
I lifted my empty glass. ‘I’m sure he will. And can I have a refill?’ 
Gaston shuffled back into the cafe with my empty glass. He didn’t like minions like me having ‘seconds’. But he had leant me his lap top, hence this blog.

‘Monsieur Brooks, Monsieur Brooks!’ Gaston was running back out of the cafe. ‘Monsieur Walker is on the phone!’

‘Ray, I’m flying back to London tonight. Got a job.’ He’s got a job! ‘Remember Gordon Glow?’ Yeah, that little shit who was directing his musical version of ‘The Mousetrap’. ‘Well, he’s got a new musical of ‘Waiting for Godot’ it’s coming into the West End. He wants me to play Estragon. The lead! Big songs and dancing.’

‘Gordon Glow! How the hell did he get one of his crap musicals in the West End?’

He started to speak softly. ‘I have a confession to make, you know that I took the passports out of Ginger’s office. Well I got mine and I took Gordon Glows by mistake.’

So, that was it. What with Gordon Glows connection to the theatrical hierarchy, once he’d gone missing, excepting that he hadn’t just Roger’s mix up with the passports, they’d have had police all over Europe searching for him. So with all the publicity that engendered, some bastard West End producer snapped up Gordon Glows latest lash-up. A musical of Waiting for Godot! Hell’s bells! 


Pass the sick bag.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Frygate

The train journey down to Kent was arduous. I was going to see Ray in The Brownlee Care Home for Demented Actors. He’d been there for a month and I was full of trepidation. There were no taxis at the station so I had to catch a bus. I was dropped outside the Home. Imposing gates and high walls surrounded the place. I rang the bell. Vicious dogs barking as I approached the front door.

‘Yes?’

‘I’m here to see Ray Brooks.’

‘Who?’

My heart sank, they don’t even know who he is or was. What way to end a career.
The Brownlee Care Home had only been operational for about ten years. It caters for actors who have suffered from severe depression after they’d been given the push from ‘soaps’. It contained ex EE, Coronation Street and Emmerdale thesps etc but their star attraction currently is Nigel from The Archers. (For those of you who never listen to that particular show, he’s famous for his unique scream when falling to his death from a roof. It created a sensation. But of course nothing lasts.)

I was shown into the principal’s office, who looked like an extra from Adam Adamant, wearing a ginger wig which had slipped over over his left ear.

‘You’re here to see Mr Brooks, I understand.?’ 

I nodded. 

‘I think it’s best to warn you. He’s changed.’

‘That’s good.’

‘But not for the better, I’m afraid. He’s becoming very friendly with the most disruptive inmate that we’ve ever had. Roger Walker. Have you ever heard of him?'
I had to admit that I hadn’t.

‘He worked with Mr Brooks on Big Deal.’

I almost rushed from the room to be sick. The principal continued.

‘I’m afraid that it’s becoming a most unnatural relationship.’

I recoiled. ‘Mr Brooks does not bat for the other side!’

‘I’m not suggesting that. For instance, Roger Walker’s room here is festooned with pictures of Stephen Fry. I ask you, is that natural?’

‘Good God.’

‘He seems obsessed with him. Now Fry, as you might remember, absconded after the opening night, of the Simon Gray play called Cell Mates. Distressed by the reviews he disappeared. It was thought that he might have killed himself. The Sun newspaper even suggested a Fryday and encouraged it’s readers to wear black armbands out of respect for the great man. There was a world wide search for the lost actor. Then there were rumours of sighting in Australia, the North Pole, darkest areas of the Amazon even Belgium. But everyone, of a morbid disposition, thought he was dead.  And then he returned from the grave, the sweet man was contrite, weeping, the public greeted him as a hero.
Call me silly but I have an inkling that Mr Walker and Mr Brooks might want to emulate Frygate. Disappear and return in triumph.’ 
After my meeting with ginger, I went to ‘the Day Room’ for the inmates, still in a daze, and what a depressing place it was. Old actors sitting in chairs, faces encrusted in makeup, watching UK Gold on TV hoping for ‘repeats’. Ray was sitting on the other side of the room, staring out of the window. He must have eyes in the back of  his head because as I approached, he said.....

Get out!’

Nice to see you, too.’ I said. I noticed a bunch of ‘actors’ on the lawn. ‘What are they doing?’

‘That bloke waving his arms about is Gordon Glow. who is apparently an extremely distant relation of Andrew Lloyd Webber, anyway he’s cobbled together a musical version of The Mousetrap.  They’re rehearing. And the great Nigel of Archers fame is playing the Detective. I auditioned for the Detective and Gordon Glow offered me the old bird who’s knocked off in the First Act. There wasn’t even a song!  He said I was too wooden to play the Detective! Me! I’m the most adroit and flexible actor in the world! I’ve played Detectives all over the globe, even on Radio Four!......

I let him ramble on for what seemed like a couple of hours about how nobody appreciated  his soaring ‘talent’ and finally he stopped. 
I eventually asked the question that was burning a hole in my head. ‘So, tell me about Roger Walker.’ 

‘I worked with him when I did Big.....’

‘I know, I know.’ I said hurriedly.

‘Then he went into Eldorado, the BBC spent zillions on it, building a township in Spain. They thought it was going be bigger than EastEnders,’ Bile rose in my throat but I managed to keep it down. ‘Within a year the BBC pulled the plug on it. Actors thrown on  the slag heap. The cruelty of it.  A dedicated motorcyclist Roger and he was falsely accused of trying to run down Alan Yentob, the one who had pushed the reject button. But it turned out to be a bloke who’d played a Munchkin in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on his way to audition for a CBBC version of  Old Mother Hubbard to play a Singing Clothes Peg. But mud sticks and poor Roger was Black listed. He spends his days now down in a small engineering workshop here in the basement.’

 So the ‘ginger’ principal was right. There was a friendship with Roger Walker. Finally I wished him goodbye and left but my thinking was not happy. ‘Disappear and return in triumph.’ The principal had said. That phrase whirled around and around in my brain all tied up in that lurid headline ‘Frygate.’  Escape? Roger and Ray? They’d never get out of this place.

The bus was full of pimpled kids going into town to get off of their faces. I had to stand all the way to the station, not one of those little shits would give up their seat for an old man, who was bouncing this way and that like a drunken skittle.

I managed to get off the bus first and when I was a safe distance from the detritus exiting the clapped out vehicle, I shouted. ‘ You’ll get old one day, you spoilt little bastards.’ 

I can’t repeat here the abuse they hurled back. I resolved never to return to this god forsaken place but of course I had to. The sacrifices you make for a ‘friend’.

But would my ‘friend’ still be there when I returned?

Frygate. Dum, dum, dum. 


Write a comment
Comments

Ann Wilson(Saturday, September 21 13 03:08 pm BST)
Cynically amusing write Ray!
Mark(Wednesday, September 25 13 03:48 pm BST)
Roger Walker seemed determined to corner the market in amusing animal related named characters at the beeb for a time. Kipper in Big Deal, Bunny in Eldorado

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Me again

Walking down a London street. An empty street. Except for one young man sitting on a wall staring at his mobile phone. My shoes, bought for £10 in an antique supermarket in Brighton not dissimilar in their effect as the 50’s Brothel Creepers, made no sound as I whispered towards the statue like youth. As I became parallel with him he looked up and at me. He must have had a radar app for his mobile so sharp was he.

‘Are you on telly?’

‘Yes.’ I replied. 

“Why bother doing this? You’re not on telly. You haven’t been since 2006.” 

Who said that?  

“Me, stupid.” 

Who are you? 

“You. The sensible you, before you had delusions of grandeur.”

‘What have you been in?’ the young man said.

“Oh God, here we go again. Give him that tired old list.”

‘Fools and Horses.’

“What? You weren’t in that!”

Of course I wasn’t but he won’t know

‘Oh, yeah.’ he said, happily. ‘You were smashing, I loved you. You was Rodders, weren’t you.’

‘That’s right.’

“That’s a lie and you know it. Stop pissing about. You’ve been writing on your blog for the thick end of three years and hardly anyone reads it. Most posts are trying to sell you Viagra. You’ve got to pack it in. It’s bad for you.”

Is it?

“Yes, because nobody, nobody reads it! Now, let’s get you home, have some hot milk and bed.”

I want a coffee and a cigarette.

“No more smoking. It’s turning your brain inside out. Before you know it you’ll be talking to yourself.”

Oh dear.

P.S. Ray has now been incarcerated at The Brownlee Care Home for Demented Actors in Kent.

Comments
simon drew(Wednesday, August 14 13 11:37 am BST)
why not transfer your blog to Facebook?
please .....don't stop writing
I look forward so much to your anecdotal therapy!
Ann Wilson(Wednesday, August 14 13 04:09 pm BST)
Ray, you are so funny and I love your blog, so please keep it going. I don't think anyone reads mine either, well maybe friends and family, but they don't leave comments, probably too polite! You must have lots of juicy snippets you could put on here, that maybe you missed in your autobio.
mark(Saturday, August 17 13 01:09 pm BST)
Keep writing Ray, ignore the spam
'Smudge'(Monday, August 26 13 10:13 pm BST)
I vote with the other folks here - do please keep writing Ray. Your blogs never fail to entertain and amuse.
Mick Kedian(Wednesday, September 04 13 08:29 am BST)
Ray, there are plenty of readers out there who enjoy and look forward to your blogs... you certainly deserve a larger audience
Bogman(Tuesday, September 10 13 06:43 pm BST)
I thought you the coolest winkle picker ever. I suppose if I was to see Some People now it would not be the same but it made a big impact in my little town in the west of Ireland. I think it was 1963 and I was 14.
Lee Crichlow(Saturday, September 28 13 12:20 pm BST)
Keep writing the Blog Ray. It is a marvelous read and maybe one day you can publish the collected musings?
Top of Form

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Reviews

I read a lot of books and reviews. I’m not saying that I read books constantly but I seem to get through a good few each year.

One of my mistakes recently has been buying hard back books from the Guardian Review magazine. This I suppose is the high end of the market, the so call posh books. My recent acquisitions have been Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life (477 pages) and Michelle de Kretser’s Questions Of Travel (515 pages). These are very large books. The sort of books, I always read at night and if I fall asleep these tomes inevitably close up and because of the bewildering complication of the so called plots, it’s almost impossible to find my place. So I have to start again. Large books. Bruised knees.

Other books reviewed in that paper are Kafka: The Years of Insight and Kafka: The Decisive Years, Isaiah Berlin-Building: Letters 1960-75, Isaac and Isaiah, The Men Who Lost America, All The Birds, Singing, The Crumb Road, Ocean At The End of The Lane, The Times of Fading Light. All I’m sure (the titles might give you a hint) as unintelligible as Kate’s or Michelle’s. But the reviewer’s pick these incomprehensible books because it makes them look clever and write about the ‘structure.’, the ‘delicate creation of character.‘ etc, so us poor saps buy the books struggle through them, not understanding a word, end up with headaches and bruised knees.

They never review books written by Peter James. A good marketing ploy by him is always have the word Dead in the title. Why no reviews you might wonder? They are long, the last being 407 pages. Not quite as many as Atkinson’s or Kretser’s but quite close. So why don’t they review it?


The answer maybe that they’re are not obscure or obtuse, in fact they are very straightforward. But there is one inclusion that is irritating. The copper hero named Grace, has a wife who left him about ten years before. He’s looked for her, doesn’t know wether she’s dead or alive. But she’s popped up in all the books, lingering in the background but why?  His books sell, according to the blurb on the cover 11,0000,000 copies. So what do I know? 

In an independent  bookshop, a lady said to me ‘You should read this book, if it’s made into a TV series the main character would be perfect for you.’ It was the first Dead book by James. Within a few pages I discover the hero is thirty seven years old, goes jogging, ex rugby player, tough and has the occasional fag. Me, book lady?  Don’t be silly. Good way to shift a book or two. So, I kept buying them just in case the hero got older and if he did, then a great TV mogul might want to film them and I might have a chance. But like Peter Pan he never seems to grow up.

Why have I been writing about the Guardian? Well, there is one review in it that caught my eye (another lumpy title, I’m afraid) called Sleepless in Hollywood: Tales from the New Abnormal in the Movie Business and by Lynda Obst. She’s 63 and her career in films seems to be over. In the past she helped to produce Taxi Driver and then among others she produced Sleepless in Seattle. In 1996, down in the dumps, she wrote a book called Hello, He Lied. The tenure of this book is ‘you never trust anyone about anything’.

That hits the spot. Trust....what a word. I’ve trusted publishers, P.R companies, plumbers, gardeners, accountants, actuaries, lawyers. Yes, I’ve been a fool. I never learn.

In about 1987 I got a chance to do a sit-com. The producer was called Marcus Plantin. After the recording of the first episode, we repair to the bar. Plantin come up to me, puts his hands on my shoulders, he was wearing Buddy Holly glasses with tape wrapped around one of the arms, then he says. ‘Ray, you’re a star. Every time we cut to you it’s money in the bank.’  That man, a few years later, wouldn’t even pick up the phone when I called him. 

But however I try to avoid it, the G. R. draws me to it like a magnet. And there are some glorious nuggets to be found there. For instance one is The Trip to Echo Spring: Why Writers Drink. As I’m sure you’re aware that your dear blogger has a penchant for the occasional small glass of sweet sherry, so he was delighted with a quote by Dorothy Parker who said “ I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.”

Ah, I’ll drink to that.

Comments
Chris Sullivan(Wednesday, August 07 13 08:50 pm BST)
Hi Ray,
Remember me? Back in London now so if you're around let's meet up for a Starbucks one of the days.
Here's my blog by the way http://storytelleronamazon.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/baseball-and-cricket-difference.html
Chris

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Giants

I loathe that phrase ‘Standing on the Shoulders of Giants’. It has been used in that pop world, I believe even in the well respected and revered corridors of the BBC, the much lauded Melvyn Bragg even called one of his Thursday morning forty five minute yawn shows, by the same name.

I’ve never stood on anyone’s shoulders. I’ve stood in dole queues, at bars, at football matches, bus stops, school gates, yes, I’m sure we’ve all done a lot of standing. 

But being in this ‘glitzy’ world of show biz, all wonderful and frothy, I’ve stood in rooms and ‘breathed the same air‘ as a lot of legends (not stood on them).

In the ’60’s the streets of London seemed to be teeming with potential ‘legends’. Everyone was as thin as a pencil and girls wore skirts so short that imagination went up in smoke. Once Biba and the like opened, childhood went down the drain. And it’s continued at a pace ever since. In 1962, travelling by tube to rehearsals of a telly series called Taxi, starring Sid James and Bill Owen, I was accosted by a strange looking young man called Andrew Loog Oldham, who gave me his card, and said if I wanted to make a record to contact him. 

I went to see see him, his office was crowded, I waited got bored and left. It reminded me of when Toni Meehan, the Shadow’s drummer, took me into the the Savile Row headquarters of the Beatles. It was teeming with people, all using the phones, smoking and generally pretending that they were a part of the great groups emporium. No doubt that these days they are very likely to be shuffling around on Zimmer frames or are six feet under.

But. I often think, if I’d put pen to paper on a contract in Oldham’s office and if I’d have known that a few months later that he’d been sharing a cab with John Lennon and asking him if he and Paul had got a song for a group that he wanted to promote. The song was I Wanne be Your Man which turned out to be the hit song that got the Stones Rolling. Missed out there.

If  I had signed a contract with Oldham I could have been a pop star, had to have grown my hair very long and snarled my way through songs. In the Oldham style I would have to become a Mick Jagger clone. Would this moody me have ever been allowed to do Jackanory? Would Liam Gallagher have wanted my autograph if I hadn’t done Mr Benn?

The Stones got rid of Andrew Loog Oldham very early, I didn’t sign with him, they haven’t done too badly and nor have I. 

But Mick’s still got his hair and I haven’t. Yes, I’d certainly swop my barren patch with his voluminous thatch. 
Comments

Ann Wilson(Saturday, July 27 13 05:41 pm BST)
One consolation Ray is that you don't look as wrinkled as Mick!