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.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Dusty and Me

Walking with my wife in Brighton, saw a poster advertising a Dusty Springfield concert coming to the Dome Theatre. Slashed across it was a CANCELLED sign.

I was a big fan of hers so I went in and enquired why it was cancelled. I was told that she’d only sold 12 tickets so the show was scrubbed. She’d cancelled it.

Five or so years later I was having a drink in the Colonnade bar next to Brighton’s Theatre Royal. It was full and there were crowds of people outside. I went outside to see what show was on. THE DUSTY SPRINGFIELD SHOW. God lord, now Dusty is dead there are people clamoring to see a double in her frocks, a wig and singing her songs . Where were all these people five years ago? Very, very sad.

I’m not dead and I’m not as famous as Dusty but we’re in the same boat. Nobody wants to come and see me. I’ve cancelled Liverpool and Lewes because of the dribble of ticket sales. She cancelled her show at The Dome. 

So I’m in good company, aren’t I? 


She didn’t want to play to bus queue of people and nor do I.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

FIRE

Looking in the mirror, I have a tan and black hair. I looked 25 years younger than I did last night.

The secret? Right, first light a fire in the bedroom then go into the shower room for your ablutions. Soon the lights will go out then you’ll notice it’s very dark. You’re not wearing glasses, that would be silly when your washing yourself also you’re not wearing any clothes.

Next open the door. Even without your glasses it’s black as night. You notice a blazing fire where you’d put on halogen fire to warm the place up. 

Then you grab your dressing gown and cover the flames with it to dowse the said flames. Next you open the window to let the smoke out. On turning your dressing gown is on fire. More things are piled on. Then you hear a fire engine. Next clumping firemen running up the stairs.

See me naked. ‘Put some clothes on, sir, you must vacate the building.’

Now I’m on the fire engine with an oxygen mask on. Everything was a blur after this. I remember being in an ambulance on the way to hospital.. ‘Just to check you out, sir. You do Mr Benn, don’t you?’

Next, in the hospital, stretched out with with with wires pinioned all over my chest, a strap round my arm, checking my blood pressure, which switches on every ten minutes, blood taken out of my arm  leaving two  contraptions ‘In case you need a booster.‘ and a clip on my finger to check my heart.

Nurse. ‘Keep breathing deeply, sir, your rates down to 94.‘ I breathe deeply. ‘That’s better up to 100 now.‘

They bring me a coffee, I daren't move in case I pull one of the wires out. Three and half hours the doctor let’s me go. Outside the first thing I do is light a cigarette. I was stressed out.

Now, I’m at home in front of the mirror. Alright look much younger but was it worth it? No. I wouldn’t recommend it.

Who wants to look younger?    


Wednesday, 25 November 2015

THE INTERVIEW.

I’m being interviewed on Seaford radio for my show at The Lewes Little Theatre. My young PR guru didn’t spot there was a local radio in Seaford. If he had maybe I would have got a few more people in the audience for my show there.

I’m being interviewed by ex-politician Norman Baker. Now when he was a politician he must have been interviewed by all sorts of heavy weights including ‘tough guy’ Jeremy Paxman.

I met Paxman in Hamleys toy show one Christmas. We were both waiting at the Magic Counter. ‘Do you know anything about this stuff?’ he said to me. ‘Not really.’ I said. ‘But I’m sure it’ll keep the kids busy at Christmas.’  He grunted.

I don’t know if he used his Magic Set but I’ve still got ours.


I think I’ll take the magic wand when I go for my interview and if Mr Baker gets ‘tough’ I’ll just wave it and make him DISAPPEAR. ‘As if by Magic.’

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

BLACKPOOL

Going to Blackpool on the 24th of October with my mate Michael Jayston. Charity signings and selling a few books.

I’ve always liked Blackpool. Years ago ago I narrated a series called Cine Memo, showing old personal films from before the 19th century up until the the 30’s. Extraordinary   
footage was found. Mostly in those days it was rich people had cine cameras. Loads of families on picnics posing in front of their gleaming cars.

Wakes Week was when Blackpool was full. Factories were closed for a fortnight and they all flooded in. The film that showed them was taken from the Big Boss’s camera.

The film that touched my heart, was a film shot in 1938 of young men and girls, in the sunshine, dancing along the promenade. Glorious, happy young faces and in a couple of years, those young men would be fighting a war. How many came back?

Memories include being driven up there by Sid James, his wife, my wife and me. We were filming Taxi along the seafront. Another time was taking Tom when he was about eight up to Blackpool to see Fulham playing a match. We stayed in a dodgy B&B, had an iffy Italian  meal. Next day Tom was sick but insisted that we go and get tickets for the match. He began to feel worse and we abandoned the game and came straight home. Fulham lost 1-0.

I’m sure when I go up there on the 24th, a lot of memories will come flooding back but none so more than that flickering image of those happy, optimistic young people danciing arm in arm along the promenade in the sunshine. 

     

Monday, 21 September 2015

Luck

After an exhausting day in a V.O studio in London, I arrived in Brighton at 5.30. I made my way down to Western Road to find something to eat for dinner.

Walking ahead of me were three thirty year olds, beautifully dressed, laughing and talking excitedly in a language I couldn’t place.

I saw on my left a man in a suit and tie scrabbling around in a bin. He was about seventy, wearing a hat, he seemed like a man who had a good position in earlier years. But feeling around in this this bin for half an sandwich or a fag end, and seeing these booted and suited gigging youngsters was very disturbing. Even more so was that at distance this man looked like Barry Cryer. But, of course, Barry would be looking for class fag ends outside the Dorchester. The old tart.

Next night I go to see Barry in the The Space in London Road in Brighton. The person selling he tickets for Barry’s show hadn’t arrived yet so I shot off to the pub opposite to the theatre. Bloody hell. It was a noisy place, televisions blasting out competing with musac for the top volume slot. The beer though was excellent. The door opened and a young man came over to me.
‘Heard you were here. I’m Wayne, I interviewed you on the radio Reverb four years ago. I’ve put you on the Guest list.’

I bought him a drink.

Barry arrived at 7.30 to be told that he wasn’t on ’til 9.00. He was a bit pissed off. But when he got on he was sensational. They loved him. And the woman interviewing him was well boned up on his past achievements so it was easier for him to roar on.

After, we walked dow the road to a recommended pub followed by a few of his ‘fans’. We had a jolly time. I must say that he always seems pleased to see me.  A few rounds later we get a taxi. It’s 12.00. Drop him off at his hotel and I go on back to the flat. Scrambled eggs on toast.

But I can’t get the man and bin out of head. Me feeling aggrieved about a hard day in the studio. I suddenly realised that without these VO’s and my amazing agent Wendy Noel I would have been on my uppers now. My acting career would never have kept me afloat. So that man and me would have been both at the same bin searching for dog ends.

Yes, I’ve lucky and that poor man hasn’t been Count your blessings Ray. 


Tuesday, 1 September 2015

SEAFORD

Grand opening at the Seaford Little theatre on Friday the 4th of September. New seating. maybe a dob of paint and a DVD projector.

I’ll be there to shake a few hands of the members hoping, if they like me, they may even come along for my show on the 11th. I’m a bit of tart, I know, but it’s all in the a cause. Mine!
Speaking to Barry Cryer the other day. He tells me that Sorry I Haven’t a Clue has been on tour. They get audiences of 2,000. Bloody hell.

If I get fifteen I’ll be happy.


Heres hoping. 

Friday, 21 August 2015

IS IT JUST ME?

I get a lot of people wanting signed photos and others wanting to hear about Mr Benn. I send them. I don’t mind.

Now, is it just me, but I never get a ‘thank you‘ response from any of these people. Is it asking too much?


I was always taught to say thank you. What’s gone wrong?       

Monday, 3 August 2015

MOJO

After my interview with Andrew Mate at Mojo magazine my CD has gone mad.

Then son Tom told me that Amazon Music Streaming service has released an Album part 4 which contains a song of mine called Pictures. Which incidentally is on my CD.


It’s all very interesting. (to me)      

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

THE SEAGULL

I’m not going to give a deep analysis of Anton Checkov’s The Seagull or the 70’s Jonathan Livingstone Seagull nor Roald Dahl’s James and The Giant Peach or mad Eric Cantona’s statement that ‘When the seagulls follow the trawler it’s because they throw sardines into the sea.’ Pick the bones out of that.

Yes, Seagulls have had a good press. Until now. They killed a little dog. I’ve seen them snatch Pasties from people, ice creams, cod and chips, all during a stroll along the seafront in St Ives.

They grab pigeons drown them then gobble them up. Flip tortoises over and eat them. And yet, these buggers are protected. It’s all crazy. Okay, they are pretty, swooping around in the sky. But those gimlet black eyes tell a different story.

The roof in Brighton became a nesting place for these gulls. Always there. I wanted to get rid of them because they scared the grandchildren. I spoke to some roofers in a pub.

‘You get some bread,’ they said. ‘Squash some Alcaselzer in it. That’ll shift them.’

Get the stuff, mix it all up and prepare to throw it among the seething mass of birds but there were two baby gulls waddling around. I couldn’t harm them, could I? So I called up John the Bird man.

He fixed up a sound system that emitted Falcon sounds and various other bird calls that would scare the gulls off. It worked for a while. But then a man from the Council came round.

‘Those noises are keeping people awake in the afternoons.‘ So I had to turn it off.

There have been reports in the paper about the Brighton Council banning smoking on the beach. Maybe that’s the answer.

Get some whizz kid with all the know-how on YouTube to fake gulls flying around with fags in their beaks. That should get the Council out with their popguns blasting the flying smokers out of the sky.

Even their precious seagulls aren’t immune from the self centered rights of the do-gooders.

Then...Ha, ha, job done. Hopefully.      


Wednesday, 8 July 2015

A DAY OUT

It’s difficult writing a new show when the only person to judge it’s quality is you. No director, no producer. Of course, under normal circumstances, I’d always thought they could be a bloody nuisance. But at he moment it would be wonderful for someone to tell me what was good and what didn’t work.

So in order to get out, get some air, I joined Sadie for a coach trip to Anglesey Abbey. A two and half hour journey.

Looking round the coach at all these people I tried to imagine what they were like when they were young. The men were well preserved. Their wives, sitting next to them, I could see they were once very attractive. Some almost beautiful. Now just sitting on a coach to some obscure Abbey. Not talking to each other. 

The guide gives a message from the from of the coach, when we finally arrive, in a voice so soft that it sounded like a mouse with a sore throat. No one can hear him.

Bewildered geriatrics struggle to exit. Half an hour later we are on terra firma. The rumour was that he’s said that a guided tour would start at 12.00.

‘Are you going to come?‘ Sadie said.

‘No, I don’t think so. I’ll just have a wander.’

It was very hot. Yes, I did wander but stopped frequently under the shade of a tree. Time passed very pleasantly. I kept thinking about the guided tour, those poor people hobbling along and being told when a tree was planted or where Lord Fairhaven bought a particular statue. I came across a glade of beautiful trees. Looking in the National Trust Guide I saw hat they were Himalayan silver birches. Stunning. Well, his Lordship certainly got about. On the same page it said that he had bought this vast estate at the age of 30 at an auction sight unseen! Sight unseen! Where had 30 year old got all that money and be so cavalier when spending it? I saw one of the officials and asked him.

‘His dad was a bit of a lad.’he said. ‘He married an heiress who within a few years she inherited a giant oil company in America. And Fairhaven got the lot. He bred horses and raced them, loved gardening.‘ now he lowered his voice. ‘There’s a statue here, we’re not allowed to point it out to anyone, that’s worth a couple of million.’

The average age of the visitors here were well above eighty, I couldn’t imagine one of them putting this statue in a supermarket trolly and trundling it back to the coach and having it away. Not allowed to tell anybody!

The day ended and we assembled in the car park. The oldies looked exhausted.

‘The guided tour was over two hours. A lot of them fell by the wayside.‘ Sadie explained.

The coach was stopped on the M 11. There had been an accident. Fire engines roaring towards the scene. The oldies were very animated now. Scuttling up the aisle trying to get a good view of the chaos ahead. After about an hour we were on the move. The waterworks of the passengers were at bursting point. There was a queue waiting to climb down to the onboard toilet, one or two tumbling over as the driver raced back to London.

Four and half hours later we got back. There was the statuary half an hour wait as the grumbling oldsters disembarked. Were they ever young, I thought, watching them. Of course they were. Beautiful, rich and vibrant.


I was glad Sadie didn’t have a makeup mirror in her bag because I might have been tempted to look at myself just to check whether I’d ever been young.       

Thursday, 11 June 2015

CANCELLATION 2.

I tweeted ‘Sad. I’ve cancelled Liverpool on the 12th. Technical reasons.‘ I know it’s not as momentous as Dusty’s cancellation. There was a small flutter in the world of twitter, someone hoping that ‘I’d get well soon’. Maybe thought that technical was a heart condition..

So, what now? The ‘technical reasons‘ are diverse and certainly bumpy. I’ve had no feed back from the two shows that I’ve done. They listen but am I going on too long and beginning to bore them? It’s hard to tell. As I say, no feed back.

So, I’m in the process of re-writing the whole thing. Using my autobiography as a template,   
applying the talk like on a trampoline, spinning this way and that, no shape. I’d be happy like that. Improvising. And if the audience get confused all they’ve got to do is interrupted and ask me ‘what the hell are you talking about?’ That could be fun as well.


All I know is that I’ve got to do something to shake things up.    

Monday, 1 June 2015

CANCELLATIONS

In Brighton a good few years ago, my wife and I were walking passed The Dome Box office. In the window was a poster advertising a Dusty Springfield concert. Slashed across it was a Cancelled sticker. I’m a big Dusty fan. I couldn’t believe it had been cancelled. Was she ill or something? I went in.

“Only twelve people bought tickets, so we cancelled it.”

I was stunned. Brighton being the ‘gay‘ capitol and she being a ;gay‘ icon I’d have thought they would have flooded in to see her. But no. ‘Cancelled’.

A few years later Dusty was dead. In Brighton some months later, I’m passing the Theatre Royal. ‘The Dusty Springfield Show‘ the posters outside blaze the good news. There are crowds queuing to get in.

I could have cried. A few years ago, twelve tickets sold to see the real thing and now hundreds of people going to see a ‘look-a-like’ in a wig singing Dusty songs! It beggar's belief.

Poor Dusty, fame slipped through her fingers. She couldn’t take the rejection, the twelve tickets sold in Brighton, how many other places did she suffer this humiliation?


Fame is a ephemeral, like a cancer it can destroy you. And when it went away, she tried to ease the pain and eventually she died. 

Sunday, 17 May 2015

MADE UP

Using ‘street language’ now, I think! Joined in the melee of the Twitter world thanks to my son Tom. I use it to promote my new novel the mini tour I’m doing.

I keep logging into it and most of the posts seem to be opinions about current issues or in some famous celebrity’s case ‘I’ve just washed my hair.’. Bloody hell. I certainly don’t want to get into that. Not that I’ve got much hair to wash.

I used to tweet a bit but it’s a strange old world. Anyway, I logged in yesterday and there to my suprise and delight was a complimentary post about me!

I looked today but it’s disappeared. I must be doing something wrong. But the gist of it was really about the show that I did at the Riverside Barn Theatre last Sunday.

And for the first time, this sweet tweeter, said that it was Great! Wow, I was thrilled. The first time that someone had shown such enthusiasm.


So, I was Made Up.  

Sunday, 10 May 2015

OVERHEARD

The sun was shining. I was sitting outside a pub (suprise, suprise). A couple of old gentlemen were sitting across from me.

‘You look a bit down, Jack.’ one said to the other.
‘So many things going wrong at the moment.’
‘For instance?’
‘My sister in-law’s broken her ankle. Skiing.’
‘Your wife’s sister? How old is she?’
‘Eighty two.’
‘What the hell’s she doing skiing at her age?’
‘She goes every year. I had to arrange her flight back. There were complications. She had to see her specialist. And....’
‘And?’
‘Son Steven’s business has gone bust. He’s desperate. He wants me to lend him £50,000.’
‘£50,000 ! Your not going to give it him surely?’
‘He’s ill with worry.’
‘Jack Jack, Jack. You’re going to make yourself ill.’
‘What can I do?’
‘I’ll tell you my theory, Jack. Any problems you can’t sort out. Forget them. Like your feckless son and the Mrs Jean Claude Killy 81 year old twit. Let them stew in their own juice. Mend what you can and forget all the other stuff. It’s a waste of time.’
Jack nodded.


I looked at Jack’s ‘philosopher’ friend as he sipped his wine contentedly. My nearly finished pint was in front of me. I should go home. I’m late already. ‘Mend what you can’ Well my glass needed ‘mending’. I ordered a refill. That old man was a genius. 

Sunday, 19 April 2015

APRIL 12TH

I arrived at The Little Theatre in Brighton at 5.00 on the 12th dragging a bag of books with me. It was exhausting. Twenty autobiographies, twenty copies of Lies, five Echoes, photos of Mr Benn and my lap top. Like pulling half a tree. Bloody heavy. 

It was a relief to dump the bag in the bar. My right arm was longer by an inch or two.

It’d been a few tricky days. On Wednesday I was off to The Moorfield Hospital for injections in both eyes. I  always remember what the doctor had said to me before the treatment ‘There is a 3% chance you might have a stroke or a heart attack.’ I haven’t had one yet but it’s always in my mind when I have to face the needles.

Anyway back to the Sunday. My Apple lap top had to be connected to the DVD projector. Bev the expert on these aspects was on hand. ‘I’m used to Windows. This could be tricky.‘ she said. But she  persevered and finally, after an hour of much huffing and puffing, it all clicked into place.

Sam and I slipped off for a pint wrapped in our thoughts about the outcome of the evening. There were some people drifting down towards the theatre. At least there would be some people there when we begin, I thought.

The set was ready when we got back. The plan was that Sam would nip on stage and put Mr Benn ten minutes before we were due to start. He’s then he come on and switch the machine off and introduce me. I wait in the dressing room for his call. I wait and wait. Then there is a frantic knocking on the  door. “You’re on!”

I have to enter, late, through the auditorium, It’s dark and with my iffy eyes, I struggle down the steps to the stage saying ‘Sorry‘ as I go. Is there a last step? I feel around with my foot, not wanting to fall and seem like a complete prat. I find myself on the stage. How I got there I’m not sure. I begin.

It goes quite well, a few laughs (intentional), I cock up a bit with the machine, going backwards instead of forwards. I seem to say ‘sorry‘ a lot but they didn’t seem to mind. Eventually I get to the end of the first half.

Sam didn’t move, nor did his mum and brother in the front seats.

‘I only asked four questions, Ray.‘ he said mournfully.

‘Yes, that’s right.’ son and mum said.

‘Did you?‘ I was confused. ‘I got on a run. I didn’t notice.’

‘You kept improvising.’

‘Did I? What did I say then?’

‘I don’t remember.’

This chat went on for a while. I won’t go into detail. The 2nd half went okay. Sam managed more than four questions this time!

After, my niece, Jane, her husband, Rob, Kate and her husband plus the other twittering Mr Benn appeared as if by magic. I didn’t know they were coming and I’m glad that they didn’t tell me.

Off to the pub, lots of laughs. They’re good company. Then home.

Next day I had to collect the books from the Little Theatre. As it’s run by volunteers I couldn’t get them ‘til 7.00. I dragged them up the hill. I’d only sold three of them and that doesn’t reduce the weight by hardly anything from their outward journey. On the flat, I pull them about two miles. I have to keep stopping. I pretend that I’ve got a call on my mobile, I don’t want people to think that I’m a wimp. How conceited is that to think anybody is interested in what I’m doing? 

Eventually I turn left. It’s a steep hill down to the flat. It’s the reverse of dragging the bloody bag now it’s the bag dragging me! No more mobile phone business, I’m fighting the blessed thing which is pushing me at a rate of knots. At last I arrive at the front door.

Now I’ve got to get the bag up 57 stairs. Edward do Bono’s theory comes to my rescue. Of course, lateral thinking.

I take some of the books out of the bag and carry them up the stairs until eventually the bag is light enough to get it up.

When the task is completed, I make myself an omelette and collapse into bed.

At least I got through it, a few hiccups but on the whole a bit of an adventure.


Now, The Riverhouse Barn Theatre in Walton on Thames. Whoops.  

Sunday, 5 April 2015

BLOODY FOOL.

I read in the papers a week or so ago that Fulham game against Brentford kicked off at 8.00.

I arrived at the Chancellors in Hammersmith, my favorite pub, in good time to get to the game. Got my pint and went outside.

A Fulham supporter comes out. Recognizes me. “ What a game.’ he says.
‘Yeah.’
‘Four one,’
‘Could be.’
‘What are you talking about?’
‘We could win.’
‘We lost four one.’
‘Lost? It hasn’t started yet! Starts at 8,00.’
‘It’s finished! Kicked off at 3.00. You prat.’ and he stomped back into the pub. 

Yes, I did feel like one. How could I have got it so wrong? I felt like crying, we lost and I didn’t see it! I like to be there whatever happens. The door to the garden door opens and another Fulham fan comes out. I don’t want another conversation like the previous one. I start to dig into my pint.
‘Hello.’ he says cheerfully.
‘Hi.’ I say with my glass at my mouth.
‘That was a penalty, wasn’t it?’ he says showing me his ‘smart’ phone.
I watch it. ‘Yes.’ I say.’
‘My name’s Andy Onions.’ he says extending his hand. ‘I do comedy in the evenings. Run a comedy night in my local. For a a few amateurs and semi professionals.’ he stops suddenly and stares at me. ‘Oh, it’s you! You do the voice of Mr Benn. You did a VO of Mr Benn for one our company’s commercials.’ he fiddles with his phone. ‘Remember?’ he says showing me.
I didn’t remember. ‘Oh, yes.’ I say convincingly. He gives me his card.

So here I am, having missed the game but still Mr Benn pops up. How extraordinary.


This a true story.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

CHANNEL 4

Some 20 years ago John Willis, head of Channel 4, told me that he wanted to do a week of shows about the homeless on 4. He was determined to do it but worried that commercials makers wouldn’t want to be associated with a channel doing a week of depressing programmes.

John’s father was the legendary Ted Willis, a writer of extraordinary screenplays and plays, who was also a dedicated socialist. Hence I suppose this was one of the reasons that his son wanted to do this week about homelessness. 

The week would include Cathy Come Home, Edna the Inebriate Woman, interviews with people in terrible circumstances and including a group of people building their own homes.
A few months later I bumped into John and asked him about the success or failure of his experiment. He told me that he was thrilled about it. Far from a disaster, Channel 4’s income for that week had exceeded the income from any week from the previous six months.

This connects to my previous post about Jack Rosenthal. If Channel 4 can do such a radical transformation of their normal weekly output what about Jack and others?

There must be treasures hidden somewhere waiting to be aired. There must be plays from Pinter, Stoppard, Charlie Wood, Rosenthal and many, many more just crying out to be seen and audiences that want to see them.

Come on Channel 4, root around, dust them off and show them again. John Willis has moved on but there must be someone at 4 with the wit to take a chance.


Think about it. Please. Just press the button marked GO.         

Friday, 27 March 2015

WHY, WHY, WHY/

When I did two series of TAXI with Sid James and Bill Owen in 62 and 63. Jack Rosenthal and Harry Driver wrote the 2nd series.

Jack and Harry were script writers on Coronation Street. Harry was severely crippled. He had been an under manager in a supermarket and did a comedy act in the evenings. He had accident at work and was completely paralyzed. He wrote using a knitting needle in his mouth and tapping out the letters on a typewriter. In Manchester I visited his house and watched him doing it. Extraordinary.

Jack and Harry came to London for the read throughs. Harry driven down by his secretary stretched out in the back of an estate car.

I’m writing this because of the dedication of Harry and the incredible efforts that he put himself through. Also because of Jack Rosenthal, such a sweet and talented man. Both of them much missed. Part of my passed and my memories.

The WHY is the title of this piece is because Jack wrote some many superb TV plays, Including Sunday and Sweet F.A, Ready When You Are, Mr McGill, Spend, Spend, Spend and close to his heart Bar Mitzvah Boy.

So, why, don’t these ‘up their own backsides‘ TV executives do something about showing these plays again by one of the country’s greatest TV writers?


I know it’s a hopeless bleat from me but fingers crossed.    

Sunday, 22 March 2015

THE 12th Of APRIL

Doomy, gloomy clouds gather over The Little Theatre in Brighton. Why? Because in a 73 seater theatre, 3 seats held back because bad ‘sight lines’, only 37 seats sold for my show.  

Carol ‘Tiger’, my contact at the theatre, says sales are selling ‘slow but sure’. Slow? I have to assume that they thought that they’d fly out of the door. After all, Sam’s arranging interviews with Juice radio, Brighton radio, the local paper The Argus and also a local TV station, surely all these outlets would get people flooding in. But no, not a sausage.

Allowing for all Sam’s pushing not achieving anything in Brighton, everything looks bleak for my bookings  at The Barn Theatre and the Liverpool Lantern Theatre.

As Michael Winner, my early mentor in my career, said ‘Calm down, dear.’, yes, don’t panic Brighton.

In the past, four times on the trot, performing in pub function rooms, I sunk without a trace.

Let me give you the numbers attending these ‘events’. First: 6 people. Second: 8. Third: 4 (two ‘fans’ of mine had driven up on the M.2. to attend (bless them). Fourth: nobody came along.

So, how do I feel about 37 people attending The Little Theatre? At the beginning I’d hoped for more hoping the allure of Mr Benn would pull people in but as time has rolled on my happiness increased.  37 is not a failure, it’s a minor triumph for me.

Maybe I’m the only person happy about it but let’s hope those 37 leave with with a smile on their faces..


I’ll work my socks off to give them a jolly time.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

CHEERFUL SNIPPITS

!: An Oliver outlet has closed in Brighton!

2: Tessa, a friend of ours, has read Lies. She is a distant relative of the the owners of the publishers Jonathan Cape. She loved Lies.

3: I’ve sold some tickets for my show at The Little theatre on Sunday 12th of April. So if any of you fancy an evening in red plush seats, a downstairs Victorian Bar if you need to wet your whistle, watch clips of my films and TV shows, my chatting about the people and my career and also talking about Mr Benn, plus a few tricks, why don’t you come along? I’d love to see you.


Little Theatre for tickets brightonlittletheatre.com. 

Sunday, 1 March 2015

FOOTFALL.

I did a series for Channel 4 many moons ago about the importance of local shops and the community. Ken Richardson had a hardware shop. An old people’s home was just around the corner. Mr Richardson, who’d been trading for over thirty years knew everybody. One day an old lady from the home, saw Mr Richardson putting his wares outside his shop.

‘Morning, Mr Richardson.’ she said.
‘Morning, Mrs Jones, how are you?’
‘Not sleeping well at the moment. I’m on my was to see the doctor.’
‘Do you fancy a cup of tea, Mrs Jones?’

Mrs Jones sat down with her cup of tea, told Mr Richardson about her woes, he sympathized and by the time she’d finished her tea she’d forgotten about going to see the doctor and went back home. She needed someone to talk to. That’s what local shops offer. People that you know, who are helpful and, most importantly of all... listen.

I can go through many examples of the importance of local shops. But they are closing faster than pubs. Why?

Here’s a clear example. A Jamie Oliver restaurant has just opened in our area. Not the best of nosh but he’s popular. Fifty yards away from Oliver’s there was a beautiful children’s book shop. It had been operating for over twenty five years. Now it has closed.

The reason is simple. In comes Oliver’s, the landlords of shops in the same street put the rents up. Their logic is that because Oliver’s in the area, more people will be around, therefore the renters of their shops will make more money, so why not the greedy landlords.

It’s horrible, it’s crazy, the ex-children’s book shop is empty, no one has taken it up. I suppose in time it’ll be a short let for an antique shop, a coffee outlet or, as most empty premises. are taken over by Charity shops.

I don’t know what can be done about it, no point in appealing to the landlords soft side! They’re like armadillos.


And Armadillos are ruthless and devour anything in their path.  

Monday, 2 February 2015

HEADACHES

Sam Westerby has got me over twenty five local Radio interviews. Of those only Judi Spiers (radio Devon) show has sold any copies of my novel Lies. Although she has invited me to the Appledore Book Festival in Devon in September and also asked to read on a programme she hosts but not Lies as it might offend some listeners ( ! ) so I’ll read selections of my autobiography.

Sam has also got me the Ken Bruce show, also the Steve Wright show on Radio 2. These both were amazing in helping to sell books.

All of the D.J’s seemed to talk endlessly about Mr Benn.

We went to see John Challis’ Fools and Horses and Boycie show in Croydon. Coming out of the station it reminded me of Milton Keynes and Swansea, not in an architectural way, but the fact that it’s street lighting seems to be lit by 40 watt bulbs.

Saw John and his wife Sue before the show. It was good to catch up with him. Thirty plus years ago we were at The National Theatre together in Tom Stoppard’s On the Razzel. Good times for both of us. I’m so pleased that he’s done so well.

There were over 100 in the audience. They laughed and listened. At the interval, Sam and I had a drink. Going back in I saw Sue sitting by a table with John’s books and photo’s on display. ‘We hope to sell over fifty books at these shows.’ she said..

The 2nd half started. I realised that I had to leave to catch the train. Left a message with Sue to pass onto John and blindly wandered to the station.

As the train rattled homeward, seemingly stopping at every tree not unlike a dog with trouble with his waterworks, but it all gave me thinking time. “Fifty books.”, “!00 people in the audience”

Fools and Horses is a big draw but Mr Benn?

The first show I’ll do is on April 12th at Brighton’s Little Theatre. It’s a 72 seater.

Will I manage to get anybody in? Will I sell any books?

Two months to go and I’m already panicking.

No wonder I’ve got a headache.


Sunday, 11 January 2015

LONDON

On Friday I recorded my interview with Steve Wright which is to aired on Monday the 12th.

I do like going to the BBC, it’s history and the friendly staff. Except for the individual in the Delivery Department. That department is a few steps away from the entrance to Radio London.

‘A book for Robert Elms.’
‘Take it to the Delivery Department.‘ I do.

Three weeks later in to do the Elms interview. ‘Got the book?‘ I ask him. ‘No.‘ he says.

That man in the Delivery Department is letting the BBC down!

The British Broadcasting Corporation is the most respected broadcasting organisation in the world.

Sam Westerby, is with me on Friday, he likes to drink Strongbow cider but I couldn’t find any pub around the BBC that sold it.

In 1827, the German poet Heinrich Heine said of London “I’ve seen the greatest wonder which the world can show to the astonished spirit.” 

But Claude Monet said. ‘Without fog London wouldn’t be a beautiful city.” Which sounds like a backhanded compliment to me.

I agree with the German poet that it is an astonishing and magical city, with it’s art galleries, theaters, museums, architecture, it’s amazing underground system, it’s churches and it’s amazing history.

It’s a great place apart from it’s Delivery Department at the BBC and without it’s seemingly scant outlets for Strongbow.


Still you can’t have everything

Sunday, 4 January 2015

MR BENN

I’ve done a good few radio interviews in the last month or so. Thanks to Sam Westerby. On the 9th I’m recording n interview with Steve Wright.

In the majority of these interviews they always talk about Mr Benn.

The plan now, with Sam’s help, to do a tour (with a few tricks) talking about the bowler hatted man.The title will be ‘Suddenly as if by Magic. The genius of Mr Benn.’

The first date penciled in is at the Unity Theatre in Liverpool.


With Steve Gerrard leaving Liverpool F.C. in the summer, Mr Benn is the obvious replacement.