Friday, November 9, 2018

The Wipers Times.

I was coming out of the tube station the other day – you know something? - I might have been going in; in either case I saw a theatrical notice on the wall, as they paper the tube entrances with them, especially on the escalators, The Wipers Times.
Well I knew what that was about straight away; there was a TV film on the BBC a couple of years ago, I think Michael Palin was in it, and it was about some soldiers in the First World War who were sent to Ypres. Yes, that's right, that's how they pronounced Ypres – Wipers. And they formed a tiny newspaper called The Wipers Times.
Now that might sound strange to English people who don't pronounce the 'T' at the end of restaurant and Americans who seem to pronounce all foreign words as they are pronounced in the country of origin. 
I remember Ed Sullivan (yes a distant relation) when he introduced the Bee Gees actually pronounced Maurice Gibb as Morris Gibb, as the rest of the English speaking world do, and then said it as Maureece – the way the French do; oh and the Americans. 
Nothing wrong with that, in fact nothing wrong with anything. Anybody my age pronounces Nestles Milky Bar the way it is spelt – yes spelt, why not?
The Milky Bar Ad spelt it the way it looks – but if you look at some of the reruns on YouTube (not that one) the Swiss Company that now own the Milky Bar from Rowntree dubbed all those old commercials with Nestlay. I remember the big publicity campaign when some saw the accent ' - at the end of the word. The campaign sold a lot of chocolate bars but ruined the jingle.
So you know where we are – we are pointing out the difference between the UK and the USA – again? I hear you say but . . .
When I first moved to America I often wondered why they did the exact opposite from us. Over here we switch the room light on by pushing the switch down and over there it is pressed up. So it's not only which side of the road we all drive on there are other things too. If you are ever stuck when there for how you do something in America all you have to do is do it the opposite way from the UK.
But what about music? We say 'middle 8' and they say 'bridge' but bridge is not the middle 8. the bridge is for joining 2 parts of the composition together.
Songs are written, verse, chorus; verse chorus – two verses, and middle 8 and then another verse or even the middle 8 again but what about the bridge?
Here's an example:
In the UK's national anthem the bridge is here – God save our gracious queen, long live our noble queen, god save out queen THEN the bridge – da da da da da da – that's the bridge/the join - on to send her victorious etc.
The middle 8 in All I have to do is Dream is I can make you mine, taste your lips of wine etc – that's the middle 8, usually with an F chord, then a G then an F and then, maybe Am or Em – in fact that's the way to write a song.
But what drives all ex pats mad is the Democratic Party in the USA is BLUE and the Republicans are RED!!!!
Why is that?
 and . . . . hey it was Michael Palin!
Next Time!!!
hummus - how to say it and who said it first.

Friday, October 12, 2018


                                       RUSSELL KANE

I'm an expert on sleep; it's something I do every day. Most of the people I know sleep too: some are deep sleepers and some light – some only sleep for a couple of hours a night. But the people who don't sleep at all hate people telling them what to do to sleep. This is because we all need different conditions in order to actually fall in to the land of nod.
Lots of times, if I have an important appointment the next day, I will be awake all night. I have known a target time of getting up at 5.00 am and at 10 passed 5 I am still awake. And do you know what? That's when I drop off; for 15 minutes!
It's a strange thing and the number of times it has happened to me I can't say as it's too many times but I have always lasted through the day and been quite perky and lively and . . and . . . oh I nearly dropped off then.
I have heard about a lot of insomniacs lately and in fact there has been a convention this week by people in the sleep business, and there is a word for a condition that people suffer from when so called experts are pontificating about how great they are at going to sleep.
I am okay but when away with someone – my wife, for example, and we are in a strange place, I look at her and she has gone. Laying there in bed asleep. When away filming, for instance, I have heard snoring from the next room within minutes of the person going in there to sleep.
Once I got in a train in Marseilles intending to travel the full length of France right up to Calais and paid extra to get a sleeping compartment (yes I know a compartment that is asleep) – all I had with me was a large baguette and some water which I had planned to make last for the whole journey. I sat in my seat and watched Provence through the window, started thinking and thinking deeply and then started to think about Walter Mitty and his secret life and the sound he always heard when he started to sleep – 'ta pocket ta pocket ta pocket ta pocket' and you know I could feel the sleep coming over me, I didn't need a pee, I was very comfortable, I was going to sleep and then . . .bang on the door.
The man had come to turn the bed down. It was a normal train seat which turned into bunk beds in a flash. I couldn't even sit properly, I had to keep my back bent.
I asked him of he could leave it and he said someone else might be getting on the train and they would like to get in to bed.
That did it! I eventually got into bed and every time the train stopped I looked for the old lady with a surgical stocking and sensible shoes who I was sure was going to share the room with me – or my bed!!! Arghhhh!
So that was it; I was awake.
Then I wanted a pee.
There was a hole in the floor where I was supposed to pee – what about if I wanted a number 2? - perhaps not!
Eventually we stopped at a big city; is this Paris? No it was Lyon, a huge industrial city through the window is all I could see. Steam rising from somewhere, steam going somewhere and then – sleep.
Missed the bit where we pulled out of the station, missed Paris and the train arrived in Calais after that huge journey through the night smack on time.
The sleep convention, I mentioned before, said that you must be comfortable in bed, you must relax – no alcohol because that sleep is no good for you – and you must read a comfortable, safe book, maybe one you've read before, no computer screens nothing.
What I used to do, sometimes, was count backwards from 7000; full words six thousand, nine hundred and ninety nine etc or think that I am on the stage and I have to recite The Sick Note, which I used tom do in my Irish show 'Dear sir I write this note to you to tell you of my plight/and at the time of writing I am not a pretty sight – and by the time I got half way through it I would be asleep. The secret is – and the counting backwards – it makes your mind wander and trying to concentrate sends you to sleep.
Here is one of my favourite comedians – Russell Kane.
I remember him from Edinburgh when he scolded a theatre critic for giving someone a bad review just because she had a strange voice and was fat. This critic gave me a rave review – a great one – but only 3 stars.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

National Poetry Day

It's National Poetry Day today in the UK - not that you'd notice so here's my contribution.

Written about 10 years ago, which I used as a prologue to my first novel - yes it's a pastiche of the opening to Portrait of the Artist. Let's see how many more will follow with their poetry:
The Man with the Pen
Once upon a time, and a long time ago
It was, in the city of Dublin,
In the land of Ireland, there was a man
With a pen; and this man with the pen gave it
To a little fella who wrote many
A poem, limerick and story;
And the poems, limericks and stories
Spread to the four corners of the world, it was a square world;
And the poems, limericks and stories
That spread to the four corners of the world
Made the earth round - into a great ball -
‘Surrounded by clouds’ as the great man once said!
Near the ball there was a moon, which added
Romance and imagination to the poems,
Limericks and stories; and around all this
Were stars and planets and they formed a system
Called the solar system;
And it was solar and alone;
And writers came along and looked to the moon,
And beyond, to the stars and planets
In the solar system for inspiration:
And when they got the inspiration they needed
They used the pen to write; for that is what a pen is for.
And the man with the pen looked down at the writers,
Whenever they were in their blocks,
And gave them the start that they needed
And this is how the writers of Ireland
Told the people of the world the absolute truth –
Which they had found on the wall
Of Bewley’s Coffee shop in Grafton Street Dublin;
For there were many in Bewley’s would put the world to right
In an afternoon’s confabulation.
But the writer was always the little fella;
The little fella who had to meet the big bad bullies
When he was at school; the big bad bullies
That made him take part
In their big bad bumpy games,
Which would frighten the poor little fella,
At that very early and tender age
When all the boys had to learn to head the greasy orb
Which they called a football;
Had to go into that big bad world
Which they called a school;
Had to find out that most of the bullies
Were the teachers: teachers who took great pleasure
And unnatural delight
In striking many a young child across the backside
With their canes and slippers;
But the little writer would get his own back
On the big bad bullies for he would write about them.
Sometimes, but not often, the big bad bully
Would read what the little writer had written
And knock the be Jesus out of him;
Break his glasses,
Knock the pen out of the little fella’s hand
And burn his books:
At four hundred and fifty one degrees Fahrenheit.
But there was always somebody
To pick up that pen and look up,
Up towards the stars in the heaven
Where they would seek the same stimulation;
And the man with the pen would look down and give it.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Monarchy.

There is a minority in this country (Britain) who are republicans. That's not like being a Republican in Ireland, in the 26 or even the 6 counties. And they are a small minority.
When I think of the royal family – the monarchy in general, which a lot of other countries would actually like to have - I think of the movie The Truman Show. A really good film and strongly recommended. A child is put into a type of reality show at birth and moves around in a village of professional actors who, unbeknown to him, are hired; they interact with him as if it's a normal life and, every now and then, mention commercial products as the show has been product placed.
In other words, as opposed to advertising, commercial products are all over the set.
I am told, when I first started and worked on (in) Z Cars, that a certain actor, every time he sat at his desk, would take from his pocket a packet of pipe tobacco and place it clearly in shot. For this he received money from the tobacco company whom he had contacted beforehand.
This was not allowed, of course, so he was doing it unofficially.
In those days (doze daze), as an actor, we had to fill out forms to say which commercials we were featured in, and those commercials would be prevented from being shown within a certain time from the broadcast going out; I think they were blocked throughout the whole evening.
It was also against the law, the rules, or whatever for any company to sponsor a show. We would listen to Radio Luxembourg and hear phrases like this show is brought to you by whoever the sponsor was, so it was not unheard of by us and we knew it happened in America all the time, with TV hosts actually turning to the camera to tell you what delicious stuffing to buy.
On Coronation Street (A British soap) a fictional brewery company was invented just for the show and is still used on it to this day.
Apart from the small minority, I mentioned before, who would prefer Britain to be a republic I suspect a really smaller minority would agree with the so called republicans; a certain family who are born in to it.
That small minority are, of course, the Royal Family; they are captured at birth, brainwashed and forced into a life of servitude. They have known no other life, they are surrounded by security men, minders, Ladys in Waiting (I presume that's how it's spelt as opposed to the plural ladies as they are Lady this and Lady that) and there is no escape.
I hear you saying, well they can always pack it in but if you think that you must look at the word back there brainwashed. They would never think of it. They have a reason to be there, after their life training and that is to stop the commoner running the place and, apart from a few administrations, the commoner has made a balls up of it; hasn't he; or more to the point she?
One government starts the National Health Service, the next adjusts it. The next thinks of a better way to run it, the next adjusts that. One government decided that it would be better to bring agency cleaners to save the NHS the cost of their National Insurance and Benefits and that's it – it's in the state it's in now.
So I am all for the royal family here in the UK as I look at America and see who is supposed to be in charge at the moment.
And a lot of people think he is doing a good job.
Well they say that as they think he is improving the economy well he isn't. This is the same kind of economic upwards swing that Barack Obama started so thank your lucky stars that he doesn't really have the nuclear codes either; I think he carries around a football (or the British PM does) which starts a process to launch a nuclear weapon.
Because of this, and mainly because there is a salesman, sleaze bag, tax dodger in The White House, there are budding businesses selling survival gear in places like the wilds of Colorado where people (above) are stocking up in their Nissen Huts and tunnels with loads of tinned food, plenty of ammunition and packs of wolves which they throw raw meat to every day.
Having a monarchy means that people like Theresa May, the current Prime Minister of the UK, cannot go to America on a state visit because she isn't head of state; she is head of the government; the Queen is the head of state. When she dies, certain people will have a go at Charles as soon as he is declared king, before the coronation. It will start the same as anything else is started: rumours, innuendo; religious leaders saying he shouldn't be head of the church as he is a heathen – they may have a point there so why not eliminate that job from the monarch. It is a country of heathens in any case.
If it was a Republic, President Blair would still be president now; following Presidents Major and Thatcher.
Depending on which way you swing that can be good or bad.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Ramblings of the actor . .

I haven't written many posts recently as I've been trying to finish my play; I wrote it about fifteen years ago and sent it to The Abbey Theatre in Dublin. They kept it for a couple of months and then one morning at about 7.30 the phone rang. My wife answered it and told me that The Abbey Theatre were on the phone; they wanted to speak to me – wow!!.
Sounds promising, don't you think, and it was; they told me they liked the play and asked if they could hold on to it for the time being as a new artistic director was due to take over soon.
Well I said of course didn't I – but that wasn't the end of it. Two weeks later it was returned to me, in the post, with a 'no thank you' note and nothing else.
So it wasn't to be. I had imagined they would do it and in my imagination I would be interviewed on the Late Late Show with Gay Byrne - I would sing them my song The Coombe - I'd get the audience to join in with the chorus and I'd have a hit in Ireland but . . .it wasn't to be; more like not to be
Recently I saw a couple of Irish plays in the West End, here, and they put me in mind of my own play. So I have been polishing it, changing the names of some of the characters, introducing a bit of friction, putting in all the bits of life I have picked up since writing it years ago.
The reason they called me at 7.30 am, by the way, was that I was in Los Angeles at 7.30 am and they were in Dublin at 3.30 pm.
I pick up bits of life as I walk along the street, maybe thinking of the past and wondering about the future and sometimes I might even get an idea or a thought and think about one of the blogs I wrote. So I will look at the figures which I see all the time which tells me how many people are reading my little, masterpieces and I think, jasus, are people still reading that? and so instead of writing a new post for you I carried on with my play and you had another chance to read something you read years ago – if you are a regular reader – or subscriber.
So this is life.
When I walk along a street and people are coming the other way, I try to look at all of them; I do.
Of course if there is a commotion or an altercation, of some kind, I try not to get involved – why would I? I look the other way.
But I am fascinated by people who don't look at anybody, or forget you after a day or so. They probably forget because they never looked in the first place.
I remember I was in a TV series for one episode. I had a nice role but it was only one scene. There was quite a bit to learn so it took a few hours - from this angle and that one - and what about this one - and can we do another few takes on that so . . . I was with the other fella from about 10.30 am till lunch.
Then we went to the bus, where lunch is usually eaten on location, and we sat together, shooting the shit and talking about this and that and what have you been up to - and oh I know someone in that give him my best when you see him again and that's it; lunch over, back in the car and the long drive home from the location which was many miles back to London.
In the not too distant future from that day, there was a screening – maybe at BAFTA on Piccadilly – and after I watched the episode I made my way out.
As I got in to the lift my co actor, co star, work mate, or whatever you want to call him – my buddy in the scene - the other part of my conversation at lunch – got out of the lift.
I looked at him – in the eye – he heard me say hello, looked at me and thought to himself: “I wonder who else is here that I might network with in case they can give me a job.” And swanned away to where he thought the in crowd were standing.
What a pisser, aye? The life on an actor!
The hello from him was a oh who is this? - time to network, not a how are you or even a kiss my arse, he's gone.
He is the kind of person I am fascinated with; so much into their self so much up their selves in fact the kind of guy that people really would describe as up himself – you know what I mean.
How can you ever learn anything about life – especially if you are an actor – if you don't look at people. Maybe even walk around with your hat on and big ear phones on your head making you look like a Disney mouseketeer.
One day I went for a role in some thing or other and sitting there, of course, was an actor who looked like me.
But it's always like that when you go for a casting session, the room is full of people just like you. For commercials it's worse – you get to see yourself; 'oh no I'm not that old am I?'
Puts me in mind of the great line from the original movie The Producerswill the singing Hitlers come here and the dancing Hitlers line up over there.” Or words to that effect.
Now this actor, after five minutes, I swear, after five minutes wanted to know how long they would be keeping him waiting as he had other things to do! In my arse he did!
I don't know who he was trying to kid – this has nothing to do with the other fella, the fella I worked with but I thought I'd let you know that it's not all milk and honey.
I look at people in the street because I'm interested in them; whenever I have studied acting I was inevitably told by the teacher, the drama coach (or even the drama couch) for movement to study the animals at the zoo and I have to say that sometimes it helped – but there's no use getting down on all fours and crawling over the stage!

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Making a film on the cheap - again.

This is going to look familiar to my very very very faithful readers - and I know you're there! I found the newspaper clipping, above, which is from November 1st 1988 - my wife's birthday, would you believe. It's a clip from the Business Section of the Northampton Chronicle & Echo and when I found it - well my wife found it and didn't recognize it was published on one of her birthdays. It was also the birthday of Mary Sullivan my grandmother - so how's that for a coincidence? By the way, my brother's wife has the same birthday as my mother and - even more coincidental - Mary Sullivan's parents have the same first names as my wife and myself. So how about that?

This always made me laugh as every word in it is true. A friend read it when I published it in February 2011 and said 'how will that guy feel if he reads that' - well he probably won't and in any case I didn't say anything derogatory.

I had a good response to this post from would be film makers who were very grateful as they said the learned a great deal.

I made a film once in which I was involved from writing the script, acting and directing in it to putting the china graph marks onto the cutting copy to denote where I wanted cuts, fades, wipes or whatever on the negative.
Then I had to sit and grade it in the studio to make sure the colours were consistent and then take it to Cannes to try and sell it as a pilot for a TV series.
The story was about two antique dealers from the bottom end of the market who find a valuable item at Portobello Antiques market in London, sell it after a lot of negotiations and then lose it before getting paid.
Just a bit of fun, really, but people liked the two lead characters and thought they would look good if the short film was made into a TV series; so I was asked, by a film distribution company, to write some outlines for future scripts before setting off to Cannes - in between helping the sound editor by plying him and accompanying him with many a glass of Guinness; it's a wonder our livers survived.
This might sound a bit like a one man show but there were a lot of others involved and I sorted out a way to pay for it - eventually.
When I was working at the theatre in Northampton, I bumped into a business man on the train coming up from London, who was a big fan of the theatre. He took his wife to every play and invited us to his big house in Northampton one of the nights after the show for dinner.
I stayed on living in Northampton after finishing the season there and lots of times, when I travelled on the train to and from London, I would meet the same businessman.
We would talk of plans for the future and one time I told him of my wish to make a film of my own. He said he would fund it and he said he could easily do it as a tax write off.
So I set about writing the script based on a true incident from the antiques trade which we dabbled in – and still do.
I had directed before when someone asked me to take over on a film so I contacted the director of photography from that film, the DP, and showed him the script.
He wanted to do drama, as he had been specialising in documentaries up to then so away we went; I would get the actors and he would get the crew.
To get everybody to work for nothing we gave the crew a rise in rank; somebody new would be the clapper/loader, a clapper/loader would go to camera assistant (focus puller) a camera assistant took the job of a camera operator and the DP became the DP on a drama as opposed to a DP on a documentary.
The sound was a different story; I had to use about three of four sound people on the film.
When a documentary is planned they hire their DP and he or she would choose where they would hire the camera, lenses and camera equipment from; so we went to a camera house in London and on the promise that he would use them for his next paying project they let us have camera and equipment for nothing.
I told him about the businessman and the fact that he had a very photogenic house which he might let us use for the film.
I had to buy the stock; this is film for the camera, tape for the sound and mag-stock which is what you transfer the sound to edit in an editing machine which is the same size as the film and we planned to shoot on sixteen millimetre.
Shooting on film was and is very expensive as opposed to shooting today on Digital which is relatively cheap.
The two music videos I shot over the past few years were shot on Digital and cost virtually nothing.
The other thing about digital is that you can play it back as soon as you shoot it but the only time you can do that with film is with a video assist – invented by Jerry Lewis – and we didn't have that kind of money; in fact we had no money at all.
I opened an account with the Rank Organisation – J. Arthur Rank of the famous rhyming slang activity – to process the film we shot and the rest of the stuff was begged or borrowed as with the camera and the actors worked for food; even though the crew ate it all – I'm joking I'm sorry.
I remember one of the days I took everybody out for a meal in Northampton and, when they ordered everything, I went to the lavatory to count the money in my pocket to see if I could pay for it.
I hadn't counted on going to a restaurant as I had laid food on for them back at my house – where we shot some of the film – but off to the restaurant they all trotted.
When I counted what was in my pocket I found I didn't have enough so I went back to the table and watched everybody eating and asking for more and maybe more wine and what about a pudding? – ha ha ha ha, they were laughing and having a lovely time and there we were; me and the crew, the actors had gone back go London, and I kind of sat there and looked at them having a good time wondering how I was going to pay for it.
Excuse me” I said and I went out; I stood there in the street and wondered if I should just go home – but I'm not like that.
I tried my ATM card at the bank over the street but it was declined so I found a phone box and called a friend who didn't live very far away; luckily he was in and met me in the street with a hundred pounds which was enough to pay the bill.
Yes you're right; what happened to that businessman. That's what we were thinking!
The last time I met him on the train I told him I was going ahead and he was very excited but when we were about to start I found him hard to get hold of; his secretary took a few messages but he didn't return any of my calls so I went around to his house and knocked the door.
He had a huge glass door and when I rang the bell I could hear his children playing in the hall; then I could see them as they were looking at us through the curtains; but nobody answered; I got the message.
I had shot the whole film, I owed the Rank Organisation money and when I took some lights back I was told that money was outstanding on them so I paid that.
My daughter's boy friend's father had let me use his big van for the shoot for nothing, so I didn't owe any money there but I did owe everybody in the movie to get it finished.
A few years earlier I did an award winning student film so I contacted the editor to see if he would be interested in editing my film and he said he would do it at the cutting rooms at the film school in Bournemouth but I would have to pay him; so I did; six weeks wages as he could only do it part time.
It was then finished at the cutting rooms at the Royal College of Art in South Kensington – but they didn't know about it; sorry RA. We would climb over the gate and creep in to the editing suites after the pub closed at night and do it then and it was eventually finished up to a rough cut. The editing and paying the editor cost more than the rest of the film, apart from the stock, even though I didn't have to pay for the use of the equipment.
My solution to funding the film was the same as any, and probably every other, businessman in the UK; an overdraft! So I booked an appointment with the bank manager.
This I did and he gave me an overdraft; with this I paid Rank and anybody else who needed paying and went to see the distributors; they let me use their cutting room for free for the sound editing and that's when I called my pal Giles and we gave our livers the Guinness test.
So I was bound for Cannes to try and sell the thing as a series. The distributors were involved in trying to get funding and set up loads of meetings in Cannes – and what a time that was.
I was asked if I would change the casting of the other character in it for an actor called Iain Cutherberson who was well known; the distributors had a connection with a Scottish TV company and as he was Scottish they wanted him in it.
But it wouldn't have worked; I promised my friend that he would be in it if we actually made the series but in any case I am about 5'9” and Iain Cutherberson was 6'4” - the dynamic would have changed. It wouldn't be about two fellas trying to make money out of antiques – it would have been about the long and the short of it.
At the end of the day we didn't get the series made; a series called Perfect Scoundrels was taken up by Southern TV, one of the people we were talking to, which was about two other guys on the make and which was very good I have to say.
My film sold to Finland and other Scandinavian countries but I didn't see a penny – that's show business.
The bank wrote off the overdraft and I came to Hollywood.
One night I went to the International House of Pancakes (IHOP) on Sunset Boulevard for a short stack of pancakes and coffee. As I sat there I noticed someone looking over at me; he was sitting with his friend and eventually came over.
Are you Chris Sullivan?” he said.
Yes” I said “and I know who you are.”
It was the rich businessman from Northampton.
I didn't hold a grudge so I joined them at their table.
I'm sorry to let you down” he said “I was going through a bad patch.”
That's okay” I said “but you could have answered your door!”

I re-cut the film - The Scroll - a couple of years ago so it's shorter than the original version and here it is

Friday, August 10, 2018

The Big Light.

This is another one, written in December 2016, which is being read again by quite a few people. I don't know why but I thought my regulars might like another look - and some news ones too, I hope.
I remember many years ago – many many years ago – when I was about 20 and still living at home; in fact I was 20. We threw a party and when we threw a party we really did; plenty of ice cream, jelly, custard, cake and lashings of ginger beer!
Well no it wasn't exactly like that; it might have been the year when I had my picture – in full colour – on the front of one of the local newspapers in fact it was, I just looked it up.

There it is, above, and the others in it are my brother (left), a pal called Dave, and the one on the side of the pool was a workmate of my brudder. You've probably seen it before.
I am the one with my mouth open – I had just got in to the pool and the water was cold, hence the grimace which the photographer caught at the right moment which is why it was promoted to the front page. Scene stealing even at that age!
The girl that I ended up with, for a short while anyway, was the one on the left, of the 3 but unfortunately I have forgotten her name. We only went out together for a very short time in any case.
The photo was taken in Wales and we didn't know the girls till this photo was taken but found out that they lived in the same city as we did – Birmingham so dated them there.
Now that was a big digression as it's nothing to do with the party I opened with but I would like to say no I haven't saved the newspaper for all these years, Dave (from the photo) gave me a copy when he came with a few friends to see one of my shows when I came over from Los Angeles to London about 10 years, or so, ago.
So back to the party: as we were living at home we had the party when les parents went out for the night.
Booze was bought, plenty of finger food, the lights were low and various guests sat around in the salubrious surroundings of our sitting room. Music played, not loud rock, but mood music and maybe that was even by Glenn Miller and maybe it was Moonlight Serenade as I had seen all Jack Lemmon's movies in which he was invariably in a bachelor pad in New York, bringing girls back to seduce to the sweet strains of Moonlight Serenade or similar music.
It was in the days when smoking was fashionable and the room was full of smoke and a great ambiance was created.
Saxophones played, trombones augmented and there was a great trumpet solo but out of the corner of my eye I noticed the door opening and a hand moving to the light switch – YES!!!!
The ambiance disappeared as quickly as Sunderland supporters exiting from the football stadium whenever their team was losing.
Mam and Dad stood in the door frame; their evening out had been cancelled and my dad would always have to have the big light on – I don't know why he put it on at that moment but he probably thought that teenagers and their parents were supposed to annoy each other and THE BIG LIGHT would do the trick.
It certainly did.
The party broke up and everybody went home; they started to troop off as soon as the television went on and I think we went to the pub.
Now at this lofty age I empathize a bit more as the older you get the harder it is to see in the dark; salubrious lighting is good to watch TV but not to read.
Many years have gone by since then but at that precise moment, the moment when my dad touched the light switch, he was in charge; he was the main man and the man of the house and all that the 1960s stood for; he wanted to come home and be comfortable and get everybody out. He liked a party, a drink and a sing song but not our kind of party.
Since then he saw the big light in the sky and drifted towards it and so did my mother when they both shuffled off their mortal coils.
I often wonder what they would have made of the Internet and the Intranet and the iPads and tablets and all the other paraphernalia that has made nearly all GPs in this country prescribe Vitamin 'D' tablets to most of their patients due to the lack of sunshine and fresh air.
What'll be next? Rickets?
2016 has been a year of the BIG LIGHT for a lot of famous people. A lot of pop singers, actors and other notorious personalities but have you ever asked yourself why?
Well in the 50s right up to the mid 70s in the UK there were only a few channels on television. And up until 1967 there were no network pop music stations. Pirate radio existed, of course, but you needed to live near the coast to hear them, as most of the stations were on ships surrounding the British Isles.
The other source of music came from squeaky Radio Luxembourg.
Popular at the time was music by artists born around the 1930s; that was 86 years ago. Those artists became more famous than any of the artists before or since. These days there are so many outlets on TV and radio that you can become really famous in Wales, or Yorkshire or even Scotland and Ireland and nobody outside those areas will have heard of you. I mean who is the most popular deejay in any of those places?
Before the 50s and people like James Dean, teenagers were insignificant, in fact it was said that James Dean was the first teenager – even though he was in his 20s.
There was a sudden change when teenagers had more disposable income than in the past. In the UK their parents had no disposable income – get up, go to work, come home, cook and sleep. Then the same the next day – I repeat NO disposable income. The average Joe Bloggs would put everything on the never never; hire purchase, terms – you name it. It is all described in the excellent novel Live Now Pay Later by Jack Trevor Story. I got to know Jack very well in the 70s and later played his father in a TV series calledJack on the Box – he was a chancer and a bankrupt and just the kind of person I like.
Jack Trevor Story.
So for the next so many years we are going to say goodbye to all our heroes if they were born in the 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s – sad but true. One or two will last longer and one or two will die younger than average.
I mean Jerry Lee Lewis is around 85 and so is Little Richard!
The first baby boomers were born around 1945 and even though we are living longer and crashing into prostate cancer and/or dementia we will all be gone by the time Halley's Comet comes around again.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Dublin 1922 - again.

This is something I wrote in 2015 and I have noticed that it's been getting a few hits recently. So I had a look and re-read it myself - and as I found it interesting I thought it needed another outing; so I hope you enjoy it and think it worth it.

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 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.