Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The 2 Sides of Eddie Ramone

A long time ago, before The Beatles were invented and skiffle was all the rage, with Lonnie Donegan leading the skiffling pack, I bought a tea chest. I know you won't know or don't know what a tea chest is but in case you do want to know and would enjoy partaking of the knowledge - here is one:

It was used for keeping loose tea leaves in, and could be obtained from tea distributors. People actually did 'obtain' them and use them when they moved house, to pack with books and other things, which weighed heavier than bricks and broke many a furniture remover's back.
This was before the tea bag – the scourge of tea drinkers – became popular and as you can see from the above there was no top; they were only used once. The reason I got the tea chest was to turn it into a bass for my little skiffle group.
I always wanted to play the guitar but at that early age I couldn't afford one but my dad had a mandolin; so I got hold of the that, took all the strings off and put four guitar strings on to it and tried to tune it as a guitar.
Not that it made any difference to me how it was tuned I tried to get a tune out of it the best way I could. I would belt out the songs and strum along to the skiffle and rock'n'roll records we didn't have – yes I would shout and scream “I'm a gambling man, man, man. I'm a gambling man, man, man. I'm a gambling man, man, man. I'm a gambling man.”
The neighbours didn't call the noise abatement society once or the police. I think my parents would have called for help if we'd had a phone but back in those dark days only the really posh people had phones.
In fact as a child I only knew one family who had one.
Because I didn't have a plectrum (what the Americans call a pick) I would suffer from blisters on my thumb; it became so bad I had to use a coin which sounded terrible.
Well terrible out of tune as opposed to the sound of the thumb which made it as a few strings being played out of tune but “I'm a gambling man, man, man. I'm a gambling man, man, man” was belted out whenever my parents were out.
The tea chest was supposed to be played by my brudder as a bass.

That's not him but you get the idea.
One day I was going nowhere in particular, and a woman came and asked me how I was and what I was doing and things like that.
That woman, I believe, was a teacher; at least I was told that she was, and I was also told that she was the aunt of Donald Maclean, whom we made our first holy communion with, before he became famous as a comedian. He is a papal count now so he must be very holy but when my mother told him later on when he was famous, who she was and that she knew his aunt, he denied it; denied he knew my mother and denied the woman was his aunt.
Anyway the woman asked me what I was doing and I told her I had formed a skiffle group.
    How wonderful” she said “here.”
    And she gave me some money.
    That's toward the group and I wish you every success.”
    I was taken aback so I said “oh no, I couldn't.”
    I said this as a matter of manners, thinking she would say something like “no; you take it” and I would have.
    But she put it back in to her purse.
    The money she offered was quite a lot by the standards of those days but it would have been put into a box or bank or something waiting for the day when someone else would offer me some money towards the venture.
    Needless to say the group didn't get any further and the tea chest was used in the move to our next house - breaking the back of the poor removal man.
    But these days there is a way of raising money for ventures; films, plays, groups or whatever and that is crowd funding which I will be doing with my play The 2 Sides of Eddie Ramone.
Here's how it works: I will make a budget for the play which will give me a target that I have to reach. I have to give a set date – shall we say one million dollars – (it won't be but . . . . ) and we will have to raise that amount by that date.
If $999,999 is raised the whole deal is off – sounds ridiculous, I know; we can't just take what has been pledged or drop out when it reaches a figure we fancy, in point of fact if that was a real target I'd get someone I know to put the $1 in.
How do people get involved?
They state how much they want to give - $20, $40 up to whatever amount is tops. There will be little gifts for each amount like a copy of the script signed by the stars, if it's a movie and things like that.
I have donated to a few crowd funding ventures and they weren't all successful.
When you donate you give your credit/debit card number and that is only accessed if the full amount is realised.
When I did it last year nothing happened to the one which wasn't successful as the producer cancelled the campaign. I don't know if he was ever told who donayted; the others just took the amount I had pledged from my card and sent me the gift – well one didn't send the gift even after I asked for it – it was only a post card and wouldn't have killed them to send it - and I know what I'll say if they ask for more this year.
So wish me luck with my play – it won't be till next year and I dare say some of you who know me will receive news and will be asked to pledge but I will be doing most of it through social network sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Here is a little teaser trailer - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K32XDFrs6i4

A word about my movie by the way; I asked Amazon why it isn't available over here and they said it was to do with licensing so . .. what can I say?

Friday, July 31, 2015

White Rabbits.

One of the first things I said this morning was “White Rabbits;” I hardly know why I said it but I have been saying it for most of my life. My mother told me to say it and like a good little boy that's what I've been doing.
My wife always gets up at an ungodly hour on Saturday and Sunday mornings to go out to the markets to buy antiques – even though we no longer have an antique business - so I invariably wake up for a while then go back to sleep. If I lay awake for hours listening to the radio I go back to sleep till about 10.
But when I hear those magic words, 'This is the shipping forecast for today August 1st 2015' I say 'White Rabbits.'
There are a few things I missed about living in Britain and one was the shipping forecast; it goes out on the radio a few times a day. I hear the last one – and I usually do – at 12:48 am, and it goes:
And now, here is the shipping forecast. There are warnings of gales in Viking, North Utsire, South Utsire, Forties, Cromarty, German Bight and Humber.
The general synopsis:

Low, Rockall, 9 7 3 moving northwards, losing its identity by same time. New low expected Malin by that time.
Low, Hebrides 9 9 4, moving rapidly South-East, and losing its identity by midday tomorrow.
The area forecasts for the next 24 hours:

Viking, North Utsire, South Utsire — Gale warning issued Oh, nine four two.
South-Easterly gale force 8 increasing severe gale force 9 later; wind South-Easterly 6 to 8, occasionally severe gale 9; sea state rough or very rough, becoming very rough or high; rain later; visibility moderate or good.
Forties, Cromarty —
Gale warning issued Oh, nine four two.”
And on it goes; it has to have a script of the same length each time and it is preceded by the music Sailing By – which is another thing I missed when not living here.
Those strange names, which sound strange to none sea going people – landlubbers – are taken from sandbanks, islands, north European shorelines, towns and islets.
In October 1859, the steam clipper Royal Charter wrecked in a strong storm off Anglesey; 450 people lost their lives. Due to this loss, Vice-Admiral Robert FitzRoy, introduced a warning service for shipping in February 1861, using telegraph communications. This remained the United Kingdom's Met Office primary responsibility for some time afterwards. In 1911, the Met Office had begun issuing marine weather forecasts which included gale and storm warnings via radio transmission for areas around Great Britain. This service was discontinued during and following Word War I, between 1914 and June 1921, and again during World War II between 1939 and 1945.
Today, although most ships have onboard technology to provide the Forecast's information, they still use it to check their data.
ice can be dangerous
On Friday 30 May 2014, for the first time in more than 90 years, the BBC failed to broadcast the Shipping Forecast at 5:20 am. Staff at Broadcasting House were reading out the report but it was not transmitted. Listeners instead heard BBC World Service.
That's a but of information you didn't know you were going to get today did you and it came from Wikipedia!
The music Sailing By may annoy some people because it's played every day but that's their bad luck. It is a warning that the shipping forecast is about to be read and it fills the gap neatly between two progammes so it very rarely gets played in full mainly because The Shipping forecast has to go out at exactly 12:48 am.
So there, you are learning a few things about me – The Shipping Forecast, Sailing By and the theme tune to The Archers are three of the things I missed and the other was The Guardian – although I read it on line when in Los Angeles. - oh yes and the time pips from Greenwich.
The Archers annoys me, even though I like the theme tune as some of those actor voices sound just like that; actor voices. And The Guardian annoys me, even though I read it, with it's banning of certain words - idiots.
So back to White Rabbits; my mother told me to say it on the first day of the month and up to a few minutes ago I didn't know the reason.
Well it's supposed to mean that by the end of the month you will receive a present; some people say 'a flick and a kick for being so quick' on the first day of the month, but that has something to do with a pinch of salt.
But White Rabbits is what I say and that's what the bomber crews would say each time they risked their lives going up in those little tin crates, during The Battle of Britain, where most of them never came back.
White Rabbits!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

But is it racist . . . . ?

Let me kick things off here by reminding you that I'm not an expert on nearly everything – notice I said nearly!!
But there are some things happening which are out of proportion and I wanted to comment.
One of the things which dismayed me recently was when someone who was awarded the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discoveries of protein molecules that control the division of cells, gets fired from a University for saying – in a matter of words – that working with women is different from working with men.
I'm glad he was fired after he did his important work and that in the days of Alexander Fleming nobody fired him before he found Penicillin growing in a little pot.
I have been an actor for 45 years and in all those years I can't remember a male actor crying at work in a rehearsal – I remember actresses crying on a few occasions, one because she couldn't get the steps right in a dance routine so of course it is different when you work with women.
There he is up there – Tim Hunt.
Maybe he should have trimmed his nose hairs before that photo was taken but he's a professor – an absented minded professor who said a bad joke about women – he said It's strange that such a chauvinist monster like me has been asked to speak to women scientists. Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. Three things happen when they are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them they cry. . And then he went on to say, 'but seriously though'; I think you'll agree that it was a bad joke.
Another thing:
When the Rosetta Spacecraft landed on a comet – I'll say that again 'landed' on a comet, something going through space at such a speed that's unimaginable and this team land a spacecraft on to it.
What a fantastic piece of engineering – when it was shown on TV the team responsible were going ballistic with delight but instead of getting praise from some quarters one of the guys was criticised – this guy:
Yes Doctor Matt Taylor wore a shirt with scantily clad women on it.
These days it's either sexism, racism, size ism, ageism and loads of other isms that cause people to hesitate, stutter and stammer in the fear that they might offend some politically correct pedant.
Let's take racism: if you don't like the Germans or East Europeans does that make you a racist?
You can dislike who you like – strange turn of words, there – it is up to you who you dislike, hate or whatever.
It's when you let your prejudices affect your judgment when employing or dealing people that it becomes just that – prejudicial; if they are the same 'race' as you it cannot be termed racist.
Here, in England, people use the word Chav to stereotype people they feel are inferior to them – that's not racism it's prejudicial which is just as bad.
BTW Chav here is like 'trailer trash' in the USA but with shell suits and trainers; not all trainers (sneakers) just certain brands.
Racism and any kind of prejudice is usually used by the lowest of the low who look for a group of people who they think are lower than they are, so they can blame the problems of the world on them, make fun of them and in essence bully them and use them as a target for all the ills and political problems such as 'they've taken all our jobs.'
I can easily understand why people would hate the Germans or Japanese because of the way those two countries treated their prisoners of war during World War II – it doesn't mean that all Germans or Japanese are like that but close relations of those prisoners are sometimes loath to say kind words about their former captors.
Japan recently – yes the whole country – said they were sorry to the USA for treating the American prisoners of war in the 2nd world war as slave labour – what about that then?
But what about the British, Chinese, Koreans and other nationalities who suffered?
I have never been to Japan but I know people who have been there and I've read a few bits about the place and it seems the Japanese people – their psyche, their philosophy if you like – is that they are a superior nation of people. I can't say race as the Japanese would be the same as others from the Orient.
Wow!!! There I go again – Orient: bad word, not used any more considered racist.
Truly – the politically correct do not like Oriental but would prefer 'south east Asian' in Britain and 'Asian' in America.
Isn't it enough to drive you up the wall?
In yesterday's Guardian there is an article about what words you cannot use in crossword clues or answers' here are some examples: cripple, loony, maniac, nutter, psycho and schizo.
Also never use the word schizophrenic to mean 'in two minds.'
Is it any wonder people get confused and falter when speaking?
It was enlightening when a character in the American TV Series, NYPD Blue, said 'Sit down Fatso!'
Whilst the politically correct and pedants create and complain, the real danger lurks. 
Real racists and right wing demagogues really do exist under our noses when misinformed people spread words like fascist and racist around like confetti.
Right wing groups and small political parties like UKIP can only grow into powerful movements and the next thing you know there will be no BBC, no NHS and no foreign aid programme.
I heard something today – there is enough food on earth to feed everybody on it so please, UKIP, stop moaning about foreign aid.
The generation before mine are the only generation who stood up and fought fascism and died for it; now the survivors are in their nineties, or thereabouts, and they get confused. They might use words that people don't use any more, they probably still use Mongol when they mean Downs Syndrome, they're old, they're nervous and scared, they haven't read The Guardian or watched Panorama or News Night so maybe they should be appreciated and left alone – 75 years ago they were huddled in air raid shelters when bombs fell out of the sky. Heard the bombers flying over and the bombs screeching toward the earth – so forgive them if they refer to the Germans as Gerrys.
Don't forget the final words in Bertolt Brecht's powerful, wonderful play The Resistable Rise of Arturo Ui, which is a parable about the rise of Nazism in Germany -

'Do not rejoice in his defeat, you men. For though the world has stood up and stopped the bastard, the bitch that bore him is in heat again.'

                                           click here  http://tinyurl.com/ptywbs3

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Aubrey Morris; RIP.

Above you will see my dear friend, Aubrey Morris, who died last Wednesday.
I knew Aubrey since around 1984 when we made a film together. Ten years later, when I was moving to Los Angeles his brother, Woolf, also an actor, told me to look him up and gave me his phone number in LA.
He was 89 on June 1st – he was born the exact day as Marilyn Monroe – and I tried to call him but his voice mail was all I was greeted with.
So I left a message wishing him happy birthday and tried a few times since then with the same response.
I took loads of photographs of him over the years, as I did for a few actors, but I had to download the above from the Internet – whoever put that up didn't have a very good scanner but I like it.
We would meet each Thursday for breakfast in Hugo's on Santa Monica Boulevard and did so for some time till they changed the décor and from then on it wasn't the same.
So I would visit him from time to time in his apartment in West Hollywood where I would be treated to little speeches from Shakespeare that he'd remembered from his vast repertoire that he'd appeared in over the years.
Here he is in one of his most famous roles in Stanley Kubrick's Clockwork Orange.
I always remember one of his scenes in the film where he visits Malcolm McDowell in hospital; he reaches over to the next bed for a glass of water, not seeing it has false teeth in the bottom, and doesn't notice till most of the water has been swallowed.
I have been away for a few days so this is the first chance I have had to write this; on Wednesday evening I dreamt I had returned to LA and went around to see Aubrey but he wasn't in; on Thursday evening another dream about trying to get in to his apartment and then on Friday I received an email telling me he had died.
I don't believe in any of that stuff but it makes you think doesn't it?
Oh well, Aubrey, Rest In Peace; hope you got my birthday wishes.
Here he is with Ian McShane in a TV series called Disraeli.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

1922 - Dublin.

The Siege of the 'Four Courts' Dublin 1922
It's been 24 years since my dad died and on the day he died I had to drive up to my parents' bungalow in Northampton.
Now for my American friends who have a different meaning for the word bungalow, I have to explain over here it means something different from over there.
The word comes from India, as do so many of our words: shampoopundit etc, in fact bungalow is a Hindi word which, I reckon is the most popular language in India; Roman Hindi, I would say, as far as I remember, and the Indian meaning has it as a single storey house, surrounded by a veranda – that sounds Indian too doesn't it.
Over here it's just a single storey house - just like the 'Craftsmen's Houses' in Los Angeles.  
My mother suffered from Parkinson's and very bad arthritis, in fact she needed constant looking after and up to that time had been cared for by my dad and as is usually the case, the carer died first – and he did.
Dropped dead one day, as we say brown bread.
My dad died in March, one day before his birthday, and the time between that and the date she moved in with us was under seven months – but it seemed like a year and a half.
I would stay with her a couple of days a week and our daughter would look after her when I wasn't there – but she couldn't be left alone as she would try things like getting up out of her chair and falling.
So I would sleep in the bed next to her – they had a couple of twin beds.
They were the same twin beds that my brother and I slept in as teenagers but instead of looking over and seeing the brud – I saw the mater!!
Most nights she would talk in her sleep. 
Even though she had Parkinson's she had very clear speech and a very attractive Dublin accent with a huge vocal range.
Some of the nights she went back to 1922 Dublin when she was Esther Tuite – or Essie, as she called herself.
She would call out in the middle of the night things like 'I'm only looking – I live here; no I'm only looking. I live here – Parnell Street!'
'Okay, okay – I'll get back in.'
I knew she was back in 1922 and I knew she was troubled.
After she came to live with us I went in to her room one day and she was in a coma; I couldn't wake her.
I called my wife, who was a nurse at the time, and we called the doctor who called the hospital and an ambulance came and took her away.
I went with her, of course, and eventually left her in their care.
The next day I got an early call from the hospital telling me to come in as the position had turned worse.
On the way there the radio played Louis Armstrong singing What a Wonderful World' and the weather was beautiful and even though I had already liked the song it has meant a lot more to me ever since and every time I hear it I think of that day.
When we got there she had 'come around' and for some reason she was walking.
She had a twinkle in her eye as she came and sat with us and I asked her who she was and she said 'I'm Essie Tuite of Parnell Street.'
She said that as if she was wondering why I had asked it; and why shouldn't she; she seemed very cheeky and flirty and I kind of got to know that side of my mother a bit; I was looking forward to meeting her again but she went back into a coma a couple of times, introducing me to other aspects of her inner personality and history and when she was discharged she was, more or less, the same as she had been before she went in - only this time she couldn't walk at all.
I told her all about the Essie Tuite history bits and she told me the following. 
Because I am the way I am and I doodle I aye, I wrote a lot of it down and even used some of it in my first novel Alfredo Hunter: the Man With the Pen.
I often felt a bit of a cheat but as it seemed to catch the Dublin dialect and accent together with an eye witnessed account of the facts of the time, one of the most important times in Irish history, I don't feel guilty at all.
If you have any kind of artist in the family – writer, actor, painter and the like, you are bound to be used and you'll know what I mean.
Some of the names have been changed to protect the innocent but – they were all innocent, let's face it.
She started off by telling me how she met my dad.
We met at McCann's pub. I was outside with Maura Short sheltering from the rain and he came out and told us to move on. He was working in there as a barman. There wasn't a pick on him. He was just like number one.”
She held one finger up.
He was an awful looking yoke. It was just after I left home. My father was a bastard. Here was I at twenty five and he wanting me in by ten-o-clock. I moved in with Maura Short. They were looking after me.
My father was in the British Army and knew nothing about the Easter uprising - he was away getting gassed. (In the Somme) I remember everything about it; the lot. 

People don't believe me, you know, but I do. I remember the Fourcourts.

I think it was the IRA that was in the Fourcourts...think it was...... They came and knocked the door – the British army - and told us not to be frightened of the bomb. Anyway ...my mother said – ‘Oh Jesus, Mary and Joseph: you're not going to kill the poor men that's in there?’
They said ‘Well if they don't come out - and it's war missus - we'll have to.’
They never came out; they were blown up - and what was left of them put their mate on a stretcher - the door it was a door it was - and they walked down Parnell Street to the Castle. They were singing:
                      We fight for Ireland,
                     Dear Old Ireland
                    Ireland Boys away.”
And the British soldiers were all on edge but they never touched them. They carried their oul' comrade - wouldn't let one of them touch them, like you know? I couldn't have lived anywhere else worse than Parnell Street when the nineteen hundred and....when the troubles were on.”
She sat there thinking and I could actually see a thought enter her head by the expression on her face; then she laughed.
We had - in Parnell Street - it was the one yard for the two houses and it was a door that went through to the yard and over the wall you went and you were at a hill and you were away.
This bloke was standing at the door - Parnell Street, you know - and another bloke was with him and ran away shouting ‘British Bastard’ and with that the what-you-call-him? - The Black and Tan followed and, of course, he disappeared over the back. But the Black and Tan came straight up through the houses - never knocked on the door - just opened it. Could be standing there in your nod for all they cared. They said ‘Hello Pop’ - of course my grandfather being old with the beard.
My father was a British soldier at the time and they thought we were all British. And my father's father had a red white and blue flag hanging through the window; they all stuck flags out. The old bastard was in the British army my father; but he used to come home on leave and go across to the pub with my Uncle Stephen and my Grandfather.
Uncle Tom was posh; he only used to drink wine; port wine. And he used to wear spats on his shoes; he was the posh one of the family. And if they had have done right with him he would have been a millionaire today - if he'd have lived.”
If he’d have lived he would have been a hundred and forty.” I said.
She laughed again and started to cough; I gave her a drink of water. She took a drink and carried on:
He started a factory. Done a lot of pinching out of the other factory - my Grandfather owned a part share in it - Lymon's - and they were starting their own place: Lymon's sweet factory in O'Connell Street. My Uncle Tom was to go out and look for orders. Sure my Uncle Stephen drank it all; he couldn't be kept out of the pub. He was in the IRA and went to prison. Uncle Tom went too but they were in different places.
I have such a good memory - people think I'm mad when I tell them things. Grandfather Shea was in the IRA. He was a proper rebel my Grandfather was. But my father and his father were no bleedin' good. They were oul' feckin' British soldiers.
Grandfather Shea was lovely; he used to keep his revolver on the ledge in his room – the room at our house. It was a bit of luck nobody ever found it.
My father used to whip me and Grandfather Shea found out - 'I'll take his bleedin' life...’ not bleedin' - they never used bleedin' ‘Take his bloody life if you touch her again.’
To my father he said that.”
She paused again and looked into the cardboard fire. Strange the way things were - she had brought with her an electric fire with a cardboard fire effect.
We went to live in Marino when I was ten. Our Kathleen was born - she was born in March Kathleen was and she was a new baby when we went to live in Marino. I remember I had one frock on me all day and Kathleen was a baby in my arms. And my whole frock was stained from where she shit - it wasn't shit - it was just the mark.
The one thing my father did for me – the only thing he ever got me during his life - was to buy me a bike – the only thing he ever did - says he 'I'll buy you a bicycle.'
He brought me into a shop on the quay and says he ‘Get up and ride it.’
I couldn't ride the bloody thing – I’d told him I could ride a bike. And my father went up and down the alley for to show me how to ride.
Kings End Street was another street where we used to go to learn how to ride the bike. One day we were coming down from Capel Street right down to Parnell Street to Henry Street. There was a private car stood there and didn't I run into the bloody side of the car. All I could hear my father say was ‘Get up quick. Come on get up.’
I burst the whole side of the bloody car.” She laughed:
I was the first one in our street to have a bike. But I was never let out to play. The nuns wouldn't let you. You weren't allowed to play in the street.
When my grandfather was the age I am now he lived with us in Marino – one day he had a row with my father. He never liked my father cos my da got my mother into trouble. My Mother was married in August and I was born in the October.
When they had the row my Grandfather got up - he had one of his turns - dying you know - he said ‘I'm not going to live here any more’ and he got a pair of sticks and he walked up to the entrance, you know, and I kept saying and crying ‘Come on home, Granda, come on home;’ The poor fella was dying. They could at least have made him feel wanted.
But he wouldn't come home; he wanted Locky - that was the cabman that he latched on to no matter where he was going. No matter where he was going he sent for Locky; he took us to the boat at the North Wall one day when we were going to the Isle of Mann for a holiday; me and my grandfather. And he got us on the boat and my grandfather told Locky to come and fetch us and pick us up Friday at a certain time.
Poor oul' grandfather didn't know about having to book lodgings. He couldn't get any; we had to come back.”
Such is life.
Sometimes things can be forgotten; little things but once in a while I write things down and when I find them again, years later, they are like pieces of treasure. Try it sometime.

                     Countess Constance Markievicz in Dublin 1922
Countess Markievicz (nee Gore Booth) was a very important figure in Irish History; for a start off she was the first female MP voted in to the British House of Commons - although as with Sinn Féin she never took her seat in the commons.

Constance Georgine Markievicz, Countess Markievicz was an Irish Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil politician, revolutionary nationalist, suffragette and socialist. Wikipedia

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Pull Corder.

Some time ago I stayed in a flat in west London. It wasn't exactly a tower block but I was on the 10th floor which was high enough for me.
Next door to our block was another block which was a kind of twin building; Siamese twinned, actually, or is it politically correct to call it conjoined. (I put this in just in case I offend other conjoined buildings).
I suppose it really was a single building with two different front entrances.
In from the front door of my flat was a hall with a door immediately to the right in to the kitchen – or should I say a doorway as there was no actual door.
Opposite the kitchen was a door to the sitting room, the door next to that was to the bedroom and oblique to that was a door to the bathroom.
Let me digress slightly to say that when I first went to live in America one of the first things I noticed was that bathrooms had light switches – over here they don't. Over here the bathrooms have pieces of string or rope with a slight weight on the end which is pulled to operate the lights; I believe it's commonly known as a pullcord. They make a fairly loud click when used which can usually be heard all over the house; in my case the flat.
Also when I say oblique I really mean at a right angle to the bedroom door.
On the adjoining wall to the bathroom was another bathroom of the flat in the next building – the same building, really, but as I've explained there are two main entrances so a different address; a different building.
It would take me some time to get to that flat; in to the lift, down 10 floors, into the other building and up 10 floors in their lift – the ground floor being the ground floor, the next one up the first floor and so on.
The walls and floors were quite deep so no sound would ever be heard from another flat; except for the pullcord; and that went with a loud pop.
I noticed it the first evening I stayed there; I was watching television and I heard the familiar sounding pop from the bathroom. Not my bathroom, I thought, I'm the only one here, and sure enough that was the case.
Over the next week or so I heard the clicks at all hours of the day and night.
Something happens here when a big occasion is on television, like a football match or variety show or even the day JR was shot on Dallas; there is a boost in electricity supply when everybody, it seems, puts the kettle on – and/or flushes the loo.
Then I noticed that sometimes when I was watching the football I would go to the loo at half time and just before pulling the pullcord I heard it being pulled next door; was that person a football fan? Was that person male or female?
Sometimes I would get in late, or get up in the night for a pee and . . .. click!!! The bathroom switch from next door.
Man or woman?
Old or young?
Attractive or . . . . ?
Who knows, who knew? I certainly didn't.
I started monitoring the pullcord clicks to see what kind of television programmes were on when the pullcord was popped and what time of day or night was the most popular.
It didn't necessarily have to be a guy for the football – women like football these days too – even in doze daze (those days).
The clicks would come on at the time of television commercial breaks in classic drama serials. As most of the classic drama serials were on the BBC, where they don't have commercials, I knocked any theory I got from that on the head.
Then I got to notice that the first clicks would start on a regular basis at around 6.00 am; now was that when he or she was getting out of bed or when they were finished in the bathroom and were going out for the day at that time?
What kind of person would have to get up at 6.00 am? Maybe a different kind of person who had to leave home at that time?
You never know.
Lew Grade, Lord Grade, would give an interview to anybody – journos, actors, anybody, but it had to be at 7.00 am – it might even have been at six?
So it could have been . . . . . Lord Grade?
No, don't be silly.
The main question I asked myself and what I really wanted to know is was it male or female? Young or old? Or more to the point fancy-able or not fancy-able?
Apart from standing outside their flat door how was I to find out?
One evening I was watching a late movie; The Searchers, directed by John Ford and starring John Wayne and when it had finished I went to the bathroom and when I clicked the cord the same sound came from next door.
Male or female?
Maybe a John Wayne fan, 4 out of 10, a fan of westerns, 6 out of 10 or a John Ford fan – 10 out of 10 – no! 9 out of 10.
Maybe just a fan of The Searchers as it's one of my favourite films of all time.
The next time the TV schedules arrived I checked the films to see if any westerns were due to be shown; not one.
A few nights later, I was watching Double Indemnity and the same click click of the cord happened just after it had finished.
Not only a John Ford fan but a fan of film noir – could this person be the love of my life, one who likes the same things that I do.
After a few months I got to know – worked it out to a certain extent – that my neighbour liked westerns, film noir, was a football fan and supported either Chelsea or Fulham and was . . I couldn't figure out the sex.
I had looked out of my window a few times in the mornings to spy on people going out between six and eight in the morning and couldn't get a pattern.
Then I realised they may go by car and the car park to our building was underneath.
I didn't have a car so never had a need to go down there but there was a lavatory. I could go in there and peep with the door slightly open. It was only a small car park so I could see all of it quite easily.
The first day nobody either came in or went out between those two times but as a few people would try and use the facility I decided to call it off before I was arrested. I don't know what I would have been arrested for but to be taken away, even on suspicion, with the word lavatory in any potential charge, is not a good idea or tag to have next to your name.
Maybe my mystery neighbour went to work on a bike.
I have to say I did look for someone with a bike coming out of next door but it wasn't to be.
Not long after my snooping in the car park, I went to one or two screenings at the National Film Theatre; they were doing a retrospective of Billy Wilder and when I went to a screening of Some Like It Hot there was a Q&A afterwards with someone who had worked on the movie.
They discussed the famous hotel in San Diego, the Coronado, and the Coronado Beach, where some of the movie was filmed and The Lot, in Los Angeles where they did the interiors. The Lot used to be Warner Brothers and later I worked there and I'd also been to the famous hotel in California.
One of the questions, to our guest, came from a fairly attractive woman; aged maybe around 35; what intrigued me was that she had taken her coat off and was wearing a Chelsea tee shirt.
That isn't much to go by, I know, but a little later on, when I got on the tube, I noticed she was on it too.
I had to change at Notting Hill so wondered if she would be changing there.
Seemed a little far fetched so I put it out of my mind.
Football fan, maybe Chelsea, movie fan, liked Billy Wilder mmmmmm.
When we pulled in to Notting Hill she got off the train with me and walked towards the Central Line.
On the Central Line she sat almost opposite and when the time came for me to get off, she got off the train too.
I caught up with her on the platform and said 'I saw you at the Billy Wilder.'
'Yes' she said 'wasn't it wild.'
'Certainly wild.' I said 'it couldn't get any wilder.'
She looked at me and then the penny dropped.
'Sorry' I said.
'Billy Wilder!' she said and laughed.
By this time we were outside and walking together.
'Do you live around here?' I said.
'No. I live in Beaconsfield; I just park here.'
'Oh' I said.
We rounded the street to where I lived and she had parked right at my front door.
'Good night' I said as she got in to her car.
'See you sometime.' she said.
She closed the car door and drove off; as she did a man, whom I knew waived to her and came in to my front door.
'Hi' I said.
'Do you know her?' I said.
'Not really. She used to live next door.'
I never heard the pullcord sound again.
Not till just now – and I don't live there any more.

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Digital Age

Like most people I have been watching television for years. I watch it every day and enjoy it and I know a lot of people say they don't watch it much and do.
I remember there was a link, many years ago, when the BBC managed to get a live picture from New York.
I looked at it and looked at it and there they were; people actually walking along the street in New York; or it might have been Washington DC?
The programme was being introduced by Richard Dimbleby the most famous British Broadcaster of all time; he whom The Dimbleby Lecture is named after, the Dimbleby this and the Dimlebey that and these days also famous for being the father of the Dim Bum Bums – David and Jonathan.
Seems strange that a man of such immense imagination and experience should name his sons after two biblical characters. I mean what's the matter with Cane and Abel??
I can't remember too much about the broadcast apart from the people walking and living all those many miles away from where I was sitting, but I have seen these things grow over the years to where they could actually speak to people and have a conversation with them in Africa and places as far and even farther and with even stranger sounding names.
When they spoke their lips would match the sound - just like on a film.
Sometimes they would speak to people all of ten miles away from London and again – their lips matched.
These days, because everything has gone digital and automatic (I mean I can't even misspell because, because it corrects itself automatically) the picture is so clear on my digital TV; it's even clearer on the HD (High Definition – or Hi-Def) but you know what? They can't even get the lips to match when speaking to someone in the same town.
The wonderful HD channel breaks up all the time so I hardly bother to have it on and the digital music on MP3 only has one third of the quality of a vinyl record.
Even the cassette tape with its hissing is better than MP3.
And do you know why? Because (it corrected it again) MP3 only has one third of the quality of real life – and vinyl.
If you have two voices singing or playing an instrument and they are playing the same note you will only hear one. You may be kidding yourself as you walk around with ear phones shoved into your ears and loving the effect of hearing in both ears – the stereo effect – but it won't be like sitting in front of an orchestra or a group or band; even though you think it is, and even if you have the big head set, which I fear is coming back into fashion, just to really signal that you are listening to something else in case someone asks you a question, makes some kind of communication with you, asks you directions or is shouting “get out of the way of the lion” at you.
I see some people on the tube wearing a hat, reading the paper, wearing glasses and listening to music as they travel – there is no means of communication whatsoever and no wonder they have to look on the Internet or join a dating site to even get a date – which they have to answer questions about afterwards.
They have no delight any more in merely typing the word afterwards and appreciating that it is the longest word I know which you can type with one hand – the left one, by the way.
The clearest sound these days is Waveform - but it's a big file.
The clearest picture is not digital; it's on film.
If you watch the movie Lawrence of Arabia you will see the clearest picture of all.
There he is; a dot, a tiny dot and that dot on the film will become Omar Sharif.
It will grow and grow until it becomes one of the biggest movie stars of the 70s – a man that would gamble his last thousand dollars on a horse – in fact he and Peter O'Toole lost all their fees from Lawrence in a casino!
Wouldn't you sooner be one of those type of men or be married to one than an accountant?
My whole point is, aren't we sacrificing quality for speed and convenience?
The shot I mentioned of Omar Sharif's entrance was sacrificed itself because David Lean said he wanted to use the whole shot of the mirage image to Omar getting off the camel but had to cut away because he didn't think the audience would stick with it; but when I saw a re-cut of the film he didn't do it.
Have a look here and enjoy it – the only thing is, you will be watching that through a digital device so you will lose some quality because film is always better – it has light shining through it.