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.’


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


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.  


  • 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!