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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, 31 December 2016

CATHY CHAOS

After the debacle of Cathy at BAFTA, I was standing waiting for a train at Brighton Station. When it arrives it looks like something out of The Ark. With me and a few of others, it chugs along coughing and sputtering, stopping at every station, where nobody gets on or off. then there’s an announcement over the the tannoy. ‘We will be delayed because of trouble with signals. We’re sorry for any inconvenience.‘ Inconvenience! I’m starving, there’s no  buffet car and the seats are rock hard.

Eventually the train arrives at Southampton. I’d missed my connection to Bournemouth. I was starving so I went and got a sandwich from a dubious station cafe. Egg and cress which tasted like it  had been made in around 1847. After about half and hour the Bournemouth train arrived. When I got there I took taxi to the hotel.

‘The room’s been cancelled.’

‘What !’

‘Yesterday.’

I phoned my contact. Not answering. Left a message. Got a taxi back to the bloody station. Got back to Brighton. Dark and miserable (me) and exhausted. You can stuff Cathy.

Now someone has has invited me to a showing of Cathy in Brighton, I turned it down

After the disaster of Bournemouth good news arrives ! I’ve been invited to the Bewdley Book Festival in Worcestershire plus ( and this is extraordinary) to go to The Dr Who Convention in Wichita in Kansas. And I’ve only done a Dr Who film with Peter Cushing! Very exciting. Valium Airlines here I come! If I’m brave enough.

But my concentration is focused on Ilfracombe. I go there on the 13th of January to do my show. The hotel is booked, the posters have arrived and so have my books.
 I’m following my rep towns which I did for three years. The second one was Clacton but there were no suitable theatres ( two but both too big ), I certainly couldn’t get 750 people in. My first was Nottingham which I have fond memories of.

So next year is exciting if Valium Airlines stays in the air!

Sunday, 11 December 2016

BAFTA

Wednesday 16th is the fiftieth anniversary of the first showing of Cathy Come Home. A lot of you may have not heard of it.

It’s about about people who hit hard times and fall through the net and end up having nowhere to live. When it was aired it caused a stir there questions about it in Parliament and it was repeated the following week. Also it was voted the 2nd best TV programme of all time. Oh, and I was in it playing Carol White’s husband.

There was a radio breakfast time interview arranged on the morning of the 16th on some obscure station I’d never heard of. I had to ring up and talk to them. I phoned but nothing happened. Finally I got through. The bloke didn’t know who the hell I was. Then I was passed down to someone else, who said. ‘Can we record it between 1.00 and 5.00.’ No I said. ‘Ok.we’ll talk live at 12.55. A Bright Good Morning DJ voice eventually spoke to me. ‘Good morning, Ray Brooks! You were in Cathy Come Home?’, ‘Yes, I was.’, ‘How exciting.’, ‘Yes it was.’, ‘I’m sure it was. Oh, we’ve run out of time the clocks against us. Goodbye. Lovely to have spoken yo you.’  What a load of crap!

The point is I was invited to BAFTA on that evening and my son Tom came as well. Clare who arranged it met us and bought us a drink. Then she shot off to see some other people. I was very excited. A Q&A with Ken Loach and Tony the producer. It was my chance to go on the stage and prove to the people that I wasn’t dead.

Tom was exited too. ‘It’ll be great, there might be someone out there who’ll give you a job.”
We had another drink. 

About ten minutes later Clare came back. I asked her about timings.

“The programme finishes at 7.55 then the are Q&A for about half and hour. and then back here for a couple of drinks. What time do you want the car to take you back?”

“9.15 would be fine. And where we will sit so I can get on the stage for the Q&A session?”

“Oh, it’s just Ken Loach and Toni Garnett going onto the stage.”

“Oh.”

So that was it. I was only there to watch Cathy which I seen four or five times before. What a pisser! What a f**K up! Tom and I sat and the back of the cinema. It’s a very depressing show. In the group scenes It’s impossible to hear the dialogue (maybe it was the sound system) but even Tom, who’s got hearing like a bat, couldn’t hear it.

Eventually, with about five minutes to go, Tom said can we go,

“Right. There’s an exit just there.”

“Ken and Toni are there.”

I told him to go and get the coats and I’d wait to the end when Ken and Toni went down to the stage then I’d get out.

We went to a pub, had a couple of beers and got a taxi. The evening was a bloody wash out.

Three days later I get an email from Clare. THANK YOU FROM BAFTA. “Sorry about the mixup on Wednesday. Ken and Tony were both keen to see you and made a point of mentioning you from the stage! We did an audio of it. Would you like me to email you it.”

Now I thought she was organizing the whole evening. So what’s this all about ‘the mix up’? Do I care? Not now. Because I’m off to Bournemouth to talk about Cathy. No Ken or Tony this time. But...I’ll be sharing the stage with a Labour MP.


Once you switch on a politician they rabbit forever. I won’t get a word in edge ways. If that happens, and it will,  I’ll say I have to go to the toilet and I’ll piss off never to return. 

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

DREAMS

I decided to visit my rep days to do my shows. I had so much to talk about those old days.

First was Nottingham. A small venue. It went very well. Not a massive audience but they were very appreciative and I had a good time.

Second was Clacton. How the place had changed. Now only two theatres and both enormous (650 seats plus) which I could never fill. But one of them seemed very welcoming. It should be fine, they said, we have a large fan base and if you could send us some posters. I did, quite a lot as requested.  As a back up I thought I find a local PR firm to help in the promotion. There were two. One I couldn’t get hold of and the other told me that they only dealt with supermarkets. So that was a no-no.

The theatre who wanted me, well their confidence was misplaced. I don’t mind playing in front of small audiences, I’ve done plenty of those in my time, but a tiny group surrounded by hundreds of empty seats wouldn’t feel comfortable for them.

So my second job in Clacton was out of the window. Third job Ilfracombe. On enquiring I found out that there was only one theatre in the town. I phoned them, crossing my fingers that it was suitable for me, But no, it was enormous, a newly built construction consisting of two massive  bumps on the horizon. Apparently the local residents hated it because it didn’t fit in with atmosphere and the houses that surrounded it. In fact they called it Madonna's Bra.

With the paucity of theatres in my old stamping grounds, I dreamt of buying a second hand old double decker bus taking out half of the top deck, put a projector at the side and have a screen behind the driver’s cabin. If they haven’t got suitable theatres I could take my own with me! But, but, but, before I did any alterations, a double decker bus would cost £35,000! So my dreams of being a mobile theatre owner had turned to dust.

Bugger, bugger, but then I had a call from a theatre called The Space, which is in the crypt of an old defunct chapel on Ilfracombe seafront. It held about forty to fifty people and they said that be thrilled if I agreed to play there. A date was fixed and I was excited.

They phoned a week later and said that there was a leak in he roof and they’d have to put me in when it was fixed. I thought of suggesting that I get them all macs and umbrellas but I didn’t. What do they do in the Regent’s Park theatre or the Globe when it’s raining cats and dogs? Not they’ll ever get me to me to do my one man show at he Globe! Ha ha.

So no hopes of small theatres in other places where I performed as a kid.

I’m just a dreamer.  


Tuesday, 31 May 2016

BYE, BYE.

People are tapping, browsing, clicking, scrolling and swiping on their Smart phones or tablets, I’m not. I text and send emails also I Blog and there’s the rub.

I’ve been Blogging for a few years and it’s massively distracting. And apart from getting little response, it takes a lot of time and keeps me away fro more important things. For instance my novella. It’s a mere 30,000 words but I’m only half way through it because these bloody Blogs.

Other things as well including my penciled appearance in Clacton on the 16th of September. I’ve got to concentrate on trying to get bums on seats and will my books arrive at the right destination etc.

So Blogging is out of the window for the for the time being,


Bye, bye.  

Saturday, 14 May 2016

AN ADVENTURE IN FOLKESTONE

Walking back from town along the Leas to my hotel, there were an elderly couple ahead of me.

The wife said. ‘Oh, I fancy a coffee, Jack.‘ He replied. ‘I wouldn’t , darlin’, you’ll be weeing all night.’

I’d arrived in Folkestone at about 4.30 and I was desperate for a pint. There were no boozers near the hotel (too posh). ‘Ten minutes that way.‘ a kind lady told me.

Ten minutes! It was hot and airless and I reached the edges of the town half an hour later. Now I was desperate for the cooling pint of ale. I found a pub and fell in. I became aware that the place was full of drunken Scotsmen wearing flak jackets. I went outside for a fag and the red bearded warriors were lurching around there as well.

I sat as far away from them as I could, listening to the abuse that hurled at passersby. I sneaked in to get another pint and resumed my distant seat. Then they spotted me.

‘You’re an actor, son.‘ a great hulking brute called out. The herd turned towards me. I thought of of trying my Scottish accent on them but decided against it. They might have thought that I was taking the piss. So I said, weakly. ‘Yes, I was.’ .....’Oh, he’s Mr Benn.’

They all piled over. They almost blocked out the sun. Never judge a book by it’s cover. They behaved like pussycats, talking about their childhoods watching the bowler hatted little man and how their children who also loved it. Awash with praise and feeling hungry, I decided to go. ‘There’s a good place to eat at the end of the street and turn left.‘ a bearded child in a flak jacket said sweetly. I went with many good wishes. I was a happy man.

When I got back to the hotel my books still hadn’t been delivered. I hadn’t got a phone number for Mail Box. Stupid man. Thank the Lord that I’d brought my photos with me
After a worrying night (books) a cup of tea in my room. I wait outside for a lift to the venue. The sun was shinning. I sat on my suitcase waiting to be transported to the venue. oh Lord, I wanted to go home the day ahead would be endlessly boring. I imagined a taxi coming down the road, me hailing it and getting the train. No taxi. 

Miriam Margolese appeared. ‘Hello, Ray.’ she chirruped. I remembered, during the VO days in Cranks she had told me ‘The trouble with you, Ray, is that you’re ill educated and you don’t like yourself.’ . Bloody rude. if true. I had to stop myself telling her that ‘You think you know everything and you like yourself too much.’ Anyway, here she is, larger than life, throwing out information like the OED and no memory of whet she said to me that cut me to the quick.

The venue was packed, most of them thronging around two ex-Doctor Who’s who were grinning broadly signing their glorious coloured photos. My bag lady Hollie was looking extremely bored at my empty table, wishing, I assume, that she was a Dr ‘s assistant. 

A few table away from me was a bloke who had done two days on Star Wars. He was up to his neck in punters. Similarly another fella had done a few days on Harry Potter was overwhelmed. My pathetic, dated black and white pictures comparing pathetically to their bright coloured images.

The actor Julian Glover came up to my table.

‘I’ve got a bone to pick with you.’ he said, stabbing at picture of the film The Knack. ‘You took my part and he..’ pointing to Crawford. ‘Took James Bolam’s part.’

‘You told me this last year.’

‘Did I? Oh.’ and he walked away. He didn’t even buy the picture to stick pins in.

I sold a few picture. But how I wish that my Scottish pals from the pub had turned up.


But there wasn’t a whiff Haggis.

Monday, 4 April 2016

BYE BYE

As all my readers ( ! ) seem to have gone off to their tax havens I think it’s time for me to disappear for a while.

So all my stories of the NEC experience (The breast busting bikini birds and other freaks) will have to sit on the back burner.


Goodnight.       

Monday, 28 March 2016

TO NOTTINGHAM

When I arrived on Friday I was very nervous about the show, the first time for ages. I didn’t know why. Maybe it was that Gill at the Lace Theatre had told me that only a few tickets had been sold. but I don’t think so. 

In 1957 I was also nervous, it was my first job in this city. My Christmas Day here was the worst I’ve ever had, I only had enough money to buy half a tin of baked beans, 10 Park Drive and two shillings for the gas fire. Remembering that on the Friday as I drank beer I tried to be positive about the show.

So in a haze of beer (£2-50 q pint! ) I had a meal in a place called Filthy. The board outside said ‘Hot Dogs like you’ve never tasted before.’

The place was a dark as night. I felt my way to the bar and ordered a beer and their special ‘Hot Dog.’. When it turned up it certainly was ‘ a hot dog like I’d never tasted before.‘ It was enormous and covered with a glutinous white concoction. I finished it and burped all the way to the hotel and slept like a log.

The day of the show arrived. I had a full English breakfast (freshly cooked). Then went out for coffee.  Time soon came to the journey to the theatre with my memory stick for the projector man. He told me that it would take about an hour for him to transfer it and get the lighting sorted.

So, of course, I went for a pint. When I eventually went to the Lace Theatre for the show everything was ready. Gill told me that well over twenty people were coming.

They’d laid a platform in front of the audience, my books were out on a table by the side, the screen was was directly behind the platform and the place behind this screen was where I was going to wait. I looked over my words that I was going  to deliver, pacing up and down, the cartoon of Mr Benn was playing and I was getting increasingly nervous.

Mr Benn was coming to the end. I stood by the door to the auditorium. The time was getting closer and closer. 

I remembered taking Sadie backstage when I was doing a West End play with Maggie Smith. I wanted to show her how tense it was waiting to go on. ‘Now‘ I whispered and went on stage. Later she said. ‘I don’t know what you were worried about. You’ve done it plenty of times before.’

My Nottingham cue came and I was on.

It went well. I made a cock up but pulled myself back on track. After they bought books and drinks for me. I was happy.

Maybe Sadie was right. ‘You’ve done it plenty times before.‘ Women are always right.


NEXT WEEK. My trip to the NEC in Birmingham for signing photos and my attempts to fix a venue in Clacton for the show.      

Saturday, 30 January 2016

NOSTALGIA.

My first professional job was in Nottingham. I thought why not go back to my roots? So I’m going to appear at the Lace Theatre in Nottingham on March the 12th.

It’s a long way to go and driving is out of the question so I have the perennial problem of getting my books up there. And as I am going to give copies of my novel Echoes to any one who comes along (as long as stocks last) the logistics are giving me a headache.

I suppose the solution is to have them sent but even that is tricky. Never having attempted this route before it could be a worry. Say they don’t turn up! In this instance I’m definitely a half glass dude. Also the problem of tracking down the radio presenter who interviewed me when I did my interview about Cathy Come Home.

But I will pursue this course and keep my fingers crossed. And I hope also that evening goes well.


Wish me luck.