About Me

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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.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

PROCEDURES!

In the supermarket I was bashed into by two trollies. This panic Christmas buying is frying people’s brains
I eventually reached the check out carrying my ‘Bag for Life’.
‘Would you a like a bag, sir?‘ the assistant said sweetly.
I pointed to my bag. ‘I’ve got one thanks. Didn’t you see it?’
‘Yes. But we have to ask. Sorry.’
So bruised (I think) and confused by the inane rules that the checkout people have to follow, I went home..

I had three ‘down the line’ interviews to do at the BBC (thanks, Sam). Catching a tube at 8.00 in the morning is a nightmarish experience. Brunel was a genius but even he couldn’t imagined what his precious underground system has turned into. The Elm Tree Police would have a field day, packed in so tight, each carriage should have a vicar conducting marriage ceremonies. By the look on the majority of the faces in my carriage had definitely consummated their marriage rights before the vicar had even opened the good book.

At the BBC I had to deliver a copy of Lies to Robert Elms at BBC Radio London before the interview with him on the 30th of December. I went to the desk with the envelope.
‘No, you’ll have to take them to the Delivery area just down the road.‘ I go there but I couldn’t see how I could get in. Fortunately a bloke was there who told me which button I had to press.
Inside, it was a bleak place with an unattended cubby hole. There was a man waiting with a multitude of parcels. The attendant arrived, mumbled something and the parcel man moved off.
‘For Robert Elms.‘ I said, offering him my envelope. He pointed somewhere vague where there were parcels piled high. ‘Put it there?‘ I said.
‘No.‘ he said irritably. ‘On the rollers.’
I see the rollers and put it there. Nothing happens. I take it back to the morose man. ‘Okay?’
‘No. On the other rollers.‘ I thought he was going punch me in the face.
The other rollers started moving through a covered tunnel and then emerged on the other side. I took it back. He stamped it and took my envelope away.
Outside, I thought what was that all about? Alright bombs but it was my book for Robert Elms, who on earth would want to blow him sky high?

Two books to be delivered for Steve Wright show for my interview on the 9th of January. BBC Radio 2, much easier. I speak to the receptionist, she makes a phone call and down comes John Dutton and takes them. So much simpler.
The three interviews done I get on the tube. No, I can’t do anything about the BBC’s procedures but what about supermarkets?
How about traffic lights at the end of each aisle. Mini roundabouts? I’m sure there have been accidents in these places, not fatal but certainly not good for the reputation of these establishments.


Anyway, Happy Christmas to all you ‘bruised’ shoppers.         

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

P.S. SEASIDE

A small addendum to my previous post, which apparently no one is interested in.

The only actors that I wouldn’t call on to be Station Announcers would be certain EastEnders.

When I was in that show I had to learn how to ‘lip read’, so inaudible were they.


So the bosses of Railway Lines should be careful that none of them slip through.         

Saturday, 22 November 2014

BESIDE THE SEASIDE

I was down in Brighton last Wednesday, the 19th, to do a live interview with Sarah Garrell on BBC radio for Sussex and Surrey plus an interview down the line with Andy Potter for radio Derby to publicize my new novel Lies.  Very pleasant except the journey down to Brighton was chaotic.

There’d been a ‘Security Alert’ at Victoria Station, so police cleared the station for an hour. The trains were jumbled up and all over the shop, hence massive delays. But I eventually got to my destination.

A few drinks after the interviews with my mate Jon who designs the covers. I slept well that night.

Next day at Brighton Station, I stumble onto the 10.19 train to Victoria. Dribs and drabs of last minute passengers rush on and search for seats. Then there’s an announcement from the train driver. ‘This train is out of commission, So if all passengers would leave the train and await further instructions.’

Everyone piled out, about four hundred of us looking bewildered. Then the Tannoy started. His words spewed like gushing water, none of them comprehensible, just one phrase seemed to be clear ‘Platform 5’. The four hundred rushed off. But there was no train on that platform. And the board sign said ‘Bedford’. Then the train arrived. A few climbed aboard, obviously not concerned about wether it was the right train or not but just to get a seat.

The rest of us stood around waiting for another announcement but none came. It was obviously a tea break. Then another train arrived on Platform 6. A load of them went on it. I asked a sensible looking man, who was climbing aboard. ‘Does this go to Victoria?‘ ‘No, but Clapham Junction, if that’s any good.‘ That’ll do me, I thought, so I joined the confused travelers. Eventually the train moved off.

No Clapham Junction appeared through the train window. and we ended up at Three Bridges. I was furious and stormed about looking for someone to complain to.

Then, the notice board on the platform changed. It read Charring Cross. Thank the Lord, all thoughts of being lost and abandoned evaporated, here was my escape route!

Now a couple of days later and reflecting on that chaotic mess of getting back and forth from the South Coast I came up with an answer to one of the problems that railway passengers face.

Station announcers are simply just gabblers. They should be trained in microphone techniques and clarity. I find most of them totally incomprehensible. So why don’t they use actors?

There are thousands of actors all over the country, all out of work. They would leap at the chance to earn a few bob.


I just wish that whoever owns all the lines would wake up and bring in the professionals.        

Friday, 7 November 2014

GOOD YOUNG SAM

On Monday the 10th my new novel LIES is published to coincide with the Tracks of My Years that I’ll be doing every day on the Ken Bruce Show that week.

As I recorded the interviews three or four weeks ago I have no idea what I said. I assume I mentioned books, the music and my career but couched in what way I have no idea. I do know that I didn’t swear. I have to bite my tongue when talking about certain things.

I’m sure that you know that Ken Bruce is a very welcoming, charming and generally a good egg. And bloody good at his job as well. 

I can’t finish without thanking young Sam Westerby, who I wouldn’t have done it without his application.


Thank, Sam. 

Saturday, 1 November 2014

PETER JAMES

I first came across the name Peter James when I was in City Books, an independent bookshop in Brighton. The book had a picture of The Palace Pier on the cover. I bought it. It was by Peter James. (there’s a follow up to this incident but that’s for another time.)

I realised that he’d written a series of books about a detective in Brighton and all of them had Dead in the title. A clever marketing ploy. Whatever, I was hooked.

I discovered that Mr James was vocal about crime writers not being taken ‘seriously’. I suppose he meant that they were never considered as contenders for the Booker Prize etc. It seems that all the ‘serious‘ books, that he wants to be a part of are mainly reviewed the Guardian Review.

I have bought as few from that esteemed publication and without exception they have been obscure and mainly incomprehensible. They are bought mainly, I assume, by so called intellectuals, who like to be in the swim and prove that they read the ‘posh’ papers. Some books do escape those dusty confines and become best sellers.

It reminds me of the 60’s and 70’s when everybody seemed to be carrying copies of ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.‘ The author of this tome was Peter M. Pirsig who sold 5,000,000 copies of it world wide. But I never found anyone who had actually read it.

Getting a taxi to Brighton station the other day, the driver said how much he loved London.
‘I’m going up tonight.‘ he said. ‘I’m going to pick up a writer who’s signing books in Waterstones in Piccadilly. His name is Peter James.’

I rushed to my Guardian Review of that week, which lists authors who signing at various venues, looking for Mr James. But he wasn’t listed.

Thank your lucky stars, Mr James, that paper is the kiss of death.


Incidentally, not a bad title if you switch around. Kiss Of The Dead.   

Thursday, 23 October 2014

PRYING EYES

This my last post about my ailments. My baby triffid has been removed from my ear (ouch), skin taken from my neck. Not allowed to touch the dressing in my ear, shower or wash around it. Hence the area is very bloody.

Now I was very keen to see the Fulham game against Norwich. The District Line wasn’t functioning, so I had to go by bus. This journey took about an hour and with lunchtime shoppers there was a constant change of passengers.

You should be very pleased that my inability to post pictures on my posts because if I showed an image of my ear anyone who happened to see it would immediately pass out. I suppose I could have stayed in a darkened room until they checked the dressings and cleaned me up but I was determined to go to the game.

On the bus everyone seemed to be staring at me, not because of any work I’d done but aghast at the sight of bloodied ear. Which I have to say looks as if Luis Suarez had got his teeth into it.


I realised too late, that I should have had a card hanging round my neck, in fifteen languages of course, saying ‘I’ve had an operation on my ear and skin taken from my neck. It Hurts. Thank you for your interest.’ 

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

The Grand Canyon

A phrase that I constantly think about is this. I paraphrase but here’s the gist.

‘Publishing a book of poetry is like dropping a rose leaf down into the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo.’

That’s how I always felt about my work, my books, another limping out soon, and my posts.


I’m still waiting for an echo.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

PLASTIC EAR

It’s been a peculiar year. Up and downs. I’ve done a few talks, some more successful than others. Sold a few books. The N.E.C. in Birmingham was a minor triumph also my talk at the Seattle Hotel in Brighton Marina. Tuesday is my Skype to an audience in Edinburgh, who would have just watched Cathy Come Home, for a Q\A session then on Saturday off to Barnet to sell a few books, photos and CD’s.

But apart from the above, it seems the rest of my time has been going to hospitals. Firstly it’s been my left eye which was diagnosed  as having a condition called Macular Degeneration. The treatment sounds horrific, they have inject a needle into my eye. That hasn’t, and it’s not over yet, been great fun.

Secondly. in my left ear there appears to be a small Triffid that seems to have taken up residence.

Off I go to the Dermatology Clinic.

‘Yes.‘ they say examining my ear. ‘It’s a Keratoacanthoma, a Scaphoid Fossa in your Pina.’ 
‘What??’
‘You’ll need a skin graft.’
‘Oh.‘sounds nasty.
‘We’ll take the replacement skin from you neck.’
‘Why? Why don’t you take off my bum, there’s more fat down there? The needle won’t hurt as much.’
‘No, the neck skin will match the colour tone in your ear.’


Match the colour tone in my ear! Who cares? I certainly don’t care if the tone is red or pink. Just get rid of that bloody Triffid!         

Monday, 15 September 2014

MADNESS

My wife, Sadie, watched 10 Rillington Place on TV the other night. I saw it when it first came out. I didn’t like the subject matter. Loathed it. I remember thinking why the hell did they make it.?

The next day I asked her why on earth did Richard Attenborough play the murderer Christie?

 ‘Because‘ she said. ‘He didn’t believe in Capital Punishment.’

‘Well, did he play Christie sympathetically, then?’

‘No, he didn’t.’

I was confused. ‘So, why did he do the film, then?’

‘Because of Timothy Evans (John Hurt) who was hung when he didn’t kill his wife and Christie was the main witness.’

A lot of our conversations are very like a Pinter play.

I remembered that I’d been asked by William Friedkin to play Ian Brady in a film adaption of the book Beyond Belief about the Moors Murderers.

Now, unlike Attenborough, I turned it down. I thought it was exploitation. It wouldn’t have changed anything. Also I would have hated it.

But it was never made because it was discovered that in some States of America Brady and Hindley could have sued for Deformation of Character! Defamation of Character?

If they hadn’t hung Christie and left him to rot in prison, he could have sued and they would never would have made 10 Rillington Place.


It’s a crazy world.       

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

PEOPLE

On a weekly basis people talk to me about Mr Benn, I order a coffee or a beer and they’re off. Crazy when you think about it. I started recording thirteen in 1968 and finished them eighteen months later. But ’68 to 2014? My voice must have changed but it doesn’t seem to stop them.

Now another old favourite (of mine) has crawled out of the woodwork. Big Deal. That has emerged on the recognition stakes.

Last week, wheeling my youngest granddaughter Grace around a fairground, both dizzy from a few turns on the Carrousel. a bloke runs over to me.

‘It’s you!‘ he screams. Grace goes loopy. ‘Robbie Box!. My favourite TV programme.’

I had to peel him off me before he went through all the plots quoting all the dialogue.

The other day having a coffee outside (no Grace), a bloke sits down next to me. ‘Hi, Ray.‘ he says.

I don’t know him from Adam but I smile politely.

‘Big Deal.‘ he says. ‘That set me off. I’m a professional gambler now.’

He told me that he plays at poker tables three times a week. ‘Won 90,000 dollars  on on-line gambling. He went on and on about his achievements. ‘I studied to be a croupier. Two of my pals on that course have done well for themselves. One has a casino in Sun City and three in this country. The other is a professional card counter. Blackjack. Made a fortune.’

Then a pal of his turned up and I slipped off. I think I prefer Mr Benn people to certain Big Deal freaks.

Now a strange request arrived. In an Edinburgh cinema, on the 30th of this month, they are showing Cathy Come Home to sponsors of a homeless charity. They want to Skype me for a Q&A session with the audience. If anyone’s reading this, I wonder if you’ve ever used this way of communication? I have and it’s like talking to men on the Moon.

The other stumbling block might be that the Scottish people are voting on independence before this Skype business. If the ‘Yes‘ voters get their way, what new rules will they bring in?

They might block Skyping from over the border.


I’ll have to wait and see.      

Friday, 29 August 2014

FALLING TO PIECES.

I’ve noticed, walking through a shopping precinct or high street, that six out ten people are staring down at their smart phones. Occasionally flicking a glance in shop windows to check they’re as fantastic as the Selfie they took of themselves five minutes before. Narcissistic? You bet.

Some people think that this is the ruination of social life. But it suits me fine. Being noticed is very low on my list. Why? Because my various ailments are virtually invisible. Apart from my ear, which looks like Luis Suarez has a good chomp at. The damage is concealed behind a plaster. For those interested in medical terminology it is ‘Keratoacanthoma, left pinne. Whatever that is? But for conversation with it I simply call it Luis.

Add to that my occasional limp brought on from my experience on the helter skelter and my Macular Degeneration of my left eye. Yes, it’s nice to be invisible.

My Luis ear was due to be attended to today but a phone call cancelled it. Tom, my youngest son, had asked to kept informed with progress.

I texted him. ‘Ear appointment cancelled. I have to see a plastic surgeon first. What a pisser.’

He replied. ‘Oh, rubbish. On the plus side you could get a face lift too!’


How sweet.  

Monday, 18 August 2014

PANIC OVER

I went to the Seattle Hotel nervous. I swopped my talk around and around in my head but finally settled on my original idea.

I arrived at the bar at the hotel. Greeted by Gareth, my agent, and Judy Cornwall, with her husband John and Jenny Hanley, both ladies I knew. This didn’t lower my tension.

With a glass of red wine, I decided not to have lunch with them but arranged to get back in the hotel by 2 o’clock. I walked around the Marina. Eventually ended at a pub that didn’t serve beer, so I had a half of Guinness and smoked a couple of fags.

I arrived at the hotel and went into the room where there were about forty or fifty people who had finished their lunch. Gareth introduced me. Applause. And I started talking. There was a certain amount of laughter (I did have a couple of funnies in my locker) and possibly more importantly they listened. They a lady fainted, nothing to do with me I assure you, and had to be taken out on the terrace. I picked up my thread and continued.

The fifteen minutes allotted time was out of the window. I remember Max Miller, who was a very famous British comedian in the forties and fifties. I saw him many times at the Brighton Hippodrome. The story of him running over time when doing a Royal Command Performance is worth telling bearing in my caviler disregard to the clock.

Max is on second to last in R.C.P. The manager of Moss Empires, the biggest chain of Variety theaters in the land, tells Max. ‘Look, you’ve got twelve minutes, I don’t want Jack Benny, who’s following you, hanging around. And anyway, he’s a bigger star than you.’

Max took exception to last remark. He goes on stage. The act is going well. He sees the manager waving to him from the wings. Max takes no notice. He’s going well. Finally he comes off stage.

The manager is fuming. ‘You’ve done it now, Max, you’re never, never work in our theaters again.‘ Max smiled at him, and said. ‘You’re £100,000 too late, son.’

Well I’m not Max. Anyway, I finished. More applause. I sell ten books. Thrilled. One more drink then home. I’d taken twenty books with me (always the optimist). I emptied the bag but there only nine left. Sold ten. Ah.


Someone had nicked one. What a cheek!  

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

PANIC

On the 14th of August I’m going to the Seattle Hotel at the Marina in Brighton. There are going to be sixty odd people having lunch there. The are known as The Media Group. I’ve been asked to speak to them about my career.

Unfortunately they have only allocated me fifteen minutes to deliver it. Fifty years in the business in fifteen minutes! I know brevity is soul of wit but. hell’s bells, I’ll either have to rattle through it like a rocket or leave chunks out. What chunks, though?

My trouble has always been that I go off in tangents. Mention one thing and I shoot off talking about something different. I met up with Barry Cryer the other day for a chat. We sat down with a beer at four o’clock and I was still there at seven thirty. I say something and that triggers him off on another story. Crazy.

He’s doing a week at the Edinburgh Festival. His act has got to last forty minutes because someone else is booked at the same space straight after him. Barry just tells joke after joke, he’s not aware of time but he’s got an arrangement with his pianist, who plays a chord, to alert Barry, and he launches into his Zimmer Frame song which hits the button dead on the forty minutes.

I haven’t got a pianist and I don’t know the Zimmer song, so I’m up the creek. I’m scratching my head like a lunatic trying to work something out, which is not good for my ever increasingly depleting locks. The floor around me is littered with wispy hair.

There’s no doubt, I’ll be completely bald by the time I face The Media Group. Oh, gawd.


Later P.S. I think I’ve cracked it!   

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

HELP

I'm so sorry I haven't posted for a long time. In truth I've been nervous with this new site without son Tom holding my hand.

Another reason I've held back is that I've busy try to finish my novel LIES. The cover is done, all I've got to do is tidge the book and get it printed. All? Ha, ha, ha.

Also my out-of-the blue extraordinary Emailer Sam Westerby has fixed me up with interviews with Ken Bruce, Steve Wright, both Radio 2 and Robert Elms of  Radio London. Amazing.

Whoops! Now thew phone's ringing and someone's knocking on the door. Oh, lord. I've got to go. Will I ever finish the bloody book!

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Security

Text: ‘Unsure if you qualify for a refund of PPI paid on a loan or credit card? Reply PPI and we will run a no obligation check or reply STOP to opt out. TPPCO.’
STOP, STOP, STOP! Who are these people? I get so many of these queries. Very spooky. I’ve heard so many stories of people being ripped off. Push the wrong button on your phone and they’ve got your bank details, they’ll have the shirt off your back in a trice. In 2014 there seems to be these sort of con men everywhere. 
Now I get gobbledegook texts from apparently Barclays Bank: ‘We want to verify recent activity on your debit card. We will text further details in a SMS, We require your response.’ 
Days pass. No SMS (?) is delivered.
Then another text ‘Your credit card is cancelled.’

Followed, minutes later, from wonderful Barclays. ‘Your debit card is now active and ready to use.’
Great. I rush rush round to the cash machine. Put in my number, the amount of money I want and wait. Nothing. Then the card pops out. I go into the bank (Barclays) and tell them what happened.

‘I’ll phone Security. What’s your password? Are you paying rent? What is your post code?’ I stared at this 35 year old man, a couple days growth adorning his face and a signet ring that resembled a knuckle-duster. Instinctively, I didn’t like him. He represented all those twits that keep sending me texts about my card.
‘I’ve been with Barclays for over fifty years and you still keep asking questions.’ He shook his head and went back to the phone. He was speaking quietly. I waited and waited, wanting to have a wee or a fag, anything to get out of this place. He pushed the phone under the grill. ‘They want to speak to you.’
‘Hello?’
The voice was incomprehensible, like a demented wasp in my ear.
‘Can you slow down, please.’
No, he put his foot on the gas, now there half a dozen wasps on the rampage. I handed the phone back to the unshaven man. The miming continued. He put the phone down. ‘Right, you have to go to another branch with an ID and they can print you a new one.’
‘Can’t you just send it through the post?’
He looked at me as I was mad. ‘No, of course not. We have to think of Security.’
That bloody word again.
Outside, I light up, ‘ping’, a text.
‘Thanks for contacting Barclays. We’ve cancelled you Debit Card you need to come to a branch with an ID.......’
Alright, twit face just told me. 
Then a letter from Barclays. ‘Urgent-Please open immediately.’
I open it quickly as instructed and there it is..the cause of this chaos that released Barclay’s dogs of war to send texts galore. It’s a simple transaction, I gave Tom, my son, my card number to pay Internet charges that had been sent to him in error.

My conclusion is simple: why, why send all these texts when a simple letter, as I’ve just received, explaining what the problem is, it would have sorted the matter out in seconds.

No, texting is the main way of connecting, hundreds of staff at Barclays are poised to text in the name of Security and probably just a couple of people with pens who can write letters.

Yes, the world has gone crazy. For instance, I read about this in a newspaper (a reliable  one by all accounts), a man pressed a button and ordered a penis enlarger. When the package arrived he opened it eagerly. It was a magnifying glass. 

I quote: ‘Security functions as a kind of soothing, brain-deadening Unspeak to bamboozle us into supposing that whatever is done under the rubric must be for the best.’

FOR THE BEST!? Rubbish.

I rest my case.


  

Thursday, 19 June 2014

SILENCE IS GOLDEN?


I’m standing in an enormous queue in the Post Office. There seem to be dozens and dozens of people in front of me. We’re all hemmed by barriers to keep us in order, not unlike the penned sheep in One Man and His Dog.  

There is very old man coughing incessantly behind me. ‘Are you alright?.‘ I say to him.

‘I’m only waiting for my pension. Look at all these people queuing, with closing post offices all over the place, it’s a Government plot hoping us old folk’ll die before we pick up our money.’

I often go shopping early and dotted around at that time in the morning are old granddads or grandmothers wheeling prams with screaming babies on board. They’ve probably got a single parent daughter working. ‘Can you look after Pricilla for me?‘ So, dad or mum walks the little granddaughter round and round, changes nappies, trying to pacify her when she cries and feed her five days a week. They won’t last long at their age with that routine.

In London last week and I noticed another ‘old folk‘ hazard. We all know Pedestrian Crossings: the Red man is showing, wait, then the Green man pops up and off you go. But now things are different, there is a small screen below the Green man. The minute he shows up, the screen displays the number 10 then 9 followed by 8, counting down the seconds for you to cross the road. Shit, imagine an old soul using a Zimmer frame trying to cross Regents Street in 10 seconds! ‘The Quick and the Dead’?

Two possible explanations for the 10 second time scale: (1) Maybe it’s assumed the ‘Old Folk‘ don’t come into central London or (2) The the ‘coughing man‘ in the post office was right. There is a government plot. 

With the terrible weather we’ve been having the media is full of Global Warming. One thing that car manufacturers are contributing to the problem is trying to achieve is a cheaper version of the Electric Car.

Rack forward twenty years. There are Electric Cars everywhere. Global Warming Emissions are now at an acceptable level. All Seasons are in the right place. Enough rain for the farmers. Enough sun for seaside holidays. The Economy is stable. Everyone is happy. In one fell swoop the government has solved all of our problems. Everything is stable. Everyone is happy. And electric cars are cheaper and most people have one.

But grown up Pricilla isn’t happy. As her mother before her, she’s been put up the duff by a man who’s disappeared and she has no one to look after her baby.

Why? Because all the ‘deaf as posts’ old folks are dead. Killed on crossings, worn out by grandchildren, dyeing in queues or mown down by the silent electric cars all for the greater good of Global Warming.

The coughing man was right.....There was a Government Plot 

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Soul Music


We left Sloane Square tube station and made our way to The Antelope pub where we’d booked a meal before going to the concert at The Cadogan Hall. The pub was packed with office workers having a few scoops before wending their way home. There seemed no way to get to the bar. Somebody told us that the ‘restaurant ‘ area was ‘over that way’.

It turned out to be three tables in a corner and the only way to order food was at the bar. It was hopeless. So we pissed off.

Tummies rumbling, we finally moved to the concert hall.

It was like the annex of an Old People’s Home. Zimmer frames and sticks everywhere. These old souls seemed to have been brought to the concert by grandchildren, who being the offsprings of well heeled punters presumably had left their horses outside tended by grooms.

Cloakrooms: this title is the posh way of indicating Toilets. Remembering sticks and Zimmer frames, all the ‘conveniences’ were downstairs. Seeing all the infirm struggling to get to the toilets was scarey. Once they’d reached their destinations, then there was the difficulty of dealing with their bodily functions. The old gents standing at the urinals waiting for a dribble was like looking at the waxworks in Madame Tussauds. Once dribbled out they make their way to wash their hands. Another hurdle. No soap, water boiling but they persevere. Then they go to the hand dryers and struggle to find a button to activate the machine. Finally, hot air gushes out almost blowing the old gents over.

Upstairs, drinks are flowing and crates of champagne are ordered for the interval. More toilet activity guaranteed.

The Concert Hall. The stage is littered with chairs waiting for the talented bums of The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. When they arrive they’re all dressed in black, suitably garbed in case, or more than likely, one of the old souls might pass away during the concert.

The conductor is Freddy Kempf who is fascinating to watch. I suspect that he’d washed his hair about eighteen times before the concert because it seemed to have a life of it’s own. Swishing this way and that no matter which was Freddy was moving. Boy, was I jealous of his thatch! The leading violinist was a tall blonde, whose hair didn’t move despite her head swaying emotionally with each dramatic moment.

The first violinists are seated on the right side, the seconds on the left. The seconds seemed to watching the firsts intently in case one of the ‘firsts’ snagged his or her finger and had to be replaced.

The one worrying part of being the audience at a concert is when to applaud. The orchestra tend to stop, put down their instruments but don’t clap it might not be the right time. It’s best to wait until the knowledgeable start`applauding then you can join in otherwise you might get kicked out.

Once they start playing it is beautiful. All fears and doubts are put on the back burner. Everyone is caught up in the glorious music of Beethoven. The strings soar and the audience is in raptures.

Leaving, everyone was smiling like they’d just had a slice of my mother’s chocolate cake.

At the tube station was an old busker playing a violin. I put £5.00 in his hat. Beethoven is good for the soul. And buskers.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Fifty two years

me and Jane Birkin

‘You stole my part.’

‘Pardon. What part?’

‘I was Tolen in the Knack at the Royal Court. You stole my part in the film.’

‘Sorry.’

Slough last weekend. And that ‘conversation‘ with an actor called Julian Glover. Dozens of ‘actors‘ were assembled dotted all over the place in a hotel off theM 4 signing autographs for jolly punters. Most of them I don’t know and they didn’t know me.

‘Hi, Ray.‘ An oldish man was sitting another table smoking an an e-cigarette, something that I wish I’d been able to get on with, save me having to nip out for a roll up come wind or rain. ‘Tom.‘ he said. ‘We worked together at the Royal Court.’

The bloody Royal Court again. The last time that theatre was mentioned was five years ago in a Public Library where I was giving a reading. A woman said, during a Q and A session. ‘Have you worked at the Royal Court?’ ....‘Yes.’....’My friend and I used to go the regularly in the 60’s and every time we came out of theatre we always say to each other what was that play about. My question is, when you did a play there, did you know what it was about?’

I settled myself in my seat behind the table, next to me was Angela Douglas. I haven’t seen her for 52 years when we were doing a film called Some People in Bristol. It was good to talk to her. Mind you, there was a hell of lot of stuff to catch up on. She’d married Kenneth More, who she’d met on the the film we’d done together. Kenny died over twenty years ago and she’s been living with a Scottish director ever since.

After we’d been to the room set out for lunch. ‘Smells like an elephants farted.‘ Angela said. She went back to the autograph table and went off to the bar for a glass of wine. 

The day was dragging on. Eventually it was time to go. ‘Oh.‘ says Angela, who’d spent most of the day grabbing my arse. Sexual assault? Could I sue? ‘I forgot to mention that my partner directed you in a play at the Royal Court.’

Here we go again. Three times in one day! Driving home I thought about the R.C. The play that I did there was called Backbone by Michael Rosen. It was a long time ago but I have fond memories. They didn’t pay a lot of money, about £10 per week, but it had elements in it that all struggling actors, in those days, dreamt about.

Food! Two hot meals during each performance! Bliss.  

Sunday, 5 January 2014

2013-2014

Basil Rathbone never got shorter
This is a stressful time of the year. All the resolutions of last year have turned to dust, now I have to find some for 2014.  Newspapers, at this time of the year, change out of all recognition. Journalists seem to take the easy option filling the pages with ‘Top Events of the Year.’ ‘Predictions for 2014.’ ‘Years best Bio-Pics’. But best of all, and this must be desperation, New Year Resolutions for All. Bloody hell. Sub clauses include; Resolutions Anyone Can Keep Including You. For Social Media Losers Who Want To Be Winners. For Youngsters Who’ve Just Left Home. Ten Resolutions For Dogs. If You Want To Stop Being Annoying To Other People. Ten For Journalists. That’s perfect.......stop writing these fatuous articles. Including you, Catlin Moran, who can’t stop writing about anything and everything. Her contribution is My New Year’s Resolution. Give me strength, who cares?

Every year my main resolution that is to Keep Trying to Improve My Writing. But what to write and how to improve it? My burden, my weakness is reading the Guardian Review. For instance if a book is recommended in glowing terms. I buy it. Recently I bought Questions of Travel by Michelle de Kretser. The blurb on the front says ‘She writes quickly and lightly of wonderful and terrible things.‘ A.S. Byatt, Financial Times. The word that sticks in my craw is Byatt’s ‘writes lightly.‘ Lightly? The book is almost impenetrable. It may be ‘light‘ for Byatt but for the likes of me it’s like a ton weight. As a book it’s up there with Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I remember dozens of people in the 60’s carrying it around but I never found anyone who’d read it.

Kretser’s book and TV’s Sherlock are very similar. Simple stories but wrapped tightly with meaningless distractions. Like Sherlock’s technology. Text writing smothers the screen at regular intervals, scenes follow scenes that don’t seem to have any connection with what’s gone before. Another mystery is that Sherlock appears to be shrinking. If it went on for a few more episodes Sherlock could well be sleeping in a matchbox.

I could summarize Michelle’s book and Sherlock on two A4 pages. But the shrinking Sherlock is popular, maybe TV watchers like to be confused. Michelle’s book was not big seller.

Conclusion: TV is chewing gum for the eyes. Throw the kitchen sink in, it doesn’t matter. But books are a different animal. You could fall asleep in front of the telly but fall asleep with a 1000 page hardback on you lap, you could do yourself some serious damage.

I quote the much vaunted Guardian summarizing ‘great books and writing’. ‘The final coup de grace comes with the throwing of a random spanner into the works: a moment when all is reduced to chaos, as Frayn writes, by “a completely unconnected and irrelevant event.....a velleity that comes out of nowhere and has no imaginable significance or place in any self-respecting causal chain.”  What?!

I’ve tried writing for TV but never quite made it. I try to write books, try to improve but how? Should I try and follow Fran’s line? Could I even do that? Do I want to? To be reviewed in Guardian I’d have to have ‘velleity that comes out of nowhere.‘ No chance.

Plod on, Ray, leave the highbrow seekers alone. And stick to reading paperbacks, I had enough injuries last year. Night, night.  

Comments

  • Lee Rolf
    Hello to you Ray

    Belated Happy New Year

    From East Brighton
  • Ann Wilson(Saturday, January 25 14 07:14 pm GMT)
    I know how you feel. As you may or may not know I have written poetry and a few short stories that actually makes sense and mostly rhyming poetry too, neither of which is fashionable nowadays! I can't write any other way, so will never make any money! We can only be who we are Ray and be true to ourselves. I enjoyed your bio and novel by the way so don't give up!