Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Post Office and Alan Johnson.

Alan Johnson; MP.
I suppose in a kind of a way this is a bit political; but what is politics – or what are politics? They are our every day relationships and meetings with people. 
I mean if you never read anything more than the 'red top' newspapers or listened only to snatches of news on a pop music radio station you will believe all the BS that the barrack room politician, the loud mouth in the pub – you know the one with the loudest voice who's only argument to your point of view is a very loud Wrong!! - you will believe all that: that immigrants are taking your jobs, that we - the royal we – are paying for all that.
Well, you know that kind of stuff is not true – but that's not all I want to say. 
There he is above – Alan Johnson, MP – the Right Honourable Alan Johnson, I might add; Right Honourable meaning that he held high office in the British Government and he is a member of the privy council which means he is or was, privy to all the top top secret top secrets of this country. 
If that isn't all correct look it up and write in.
He has a similar profile to mine except that he passed the 11+ and I sat through it. I had to get my 'O' levels (and an A/O level) years later and then only because I was interested in the subjects – Sociology, English Literature and Film Studies (that was the A/O and the hardest).
He went to work at the post office when he was 18; I started to wind down my career at the post office at that age as it was mandatory for us to leave the telegram motor bike delivery service then and become a postman, I did not want to be a postman but I stayed for 3 years and still can't believe it.
But my point here is that in those days everything was done by hand at the post office apart from the automatic machine for date stamping the letters. And that automatic date stamper – or whatever it was called – had to have the date changed by a very trusted supervisor; a postman higher grade or a PHG – or even an Inspector - and why?
Let me tell you.
On the walls of the sorting offices were big signs warning us that we were not allowed by law to do the fixed odds football pools. And I can hear people from other countries saying 'call that a free country' etc or what are the pools?
The Fixed Odds were what they say – fixed odds. Every football match on the coming Saturday fixture list had odds for the outcome – betting odds. All legit. All Kosher. If you wanted to take part you would get the fixed odds coupon from a newsagents or the like, look at the fixtures for the coming week and then predict what the results would be, say Manchester City to beat Manchester Utd having odds of 2-1 or Utd to beat City having odds of 3-1.
Then you would put a stamp on the envelope and mail it but . . . . if you worked at the post office what you could do was get the envelope on the Friday, put it through the date stamping machine and then put it in your pocket. Then on Saturday you see the football results, fill your fixed odd pools coupon with the correct results, put your postal order in the envelope and then put it in the mail when you go back to work on Monday. 
The pools company would see that you've won, check that the stamp on the envelope is date stamped prior to the date of the matches and hey presto!
To be honest I can't remember anybody doing it or even heard of it but the opportunity was there.
In those days letters would be delivered to every part of Britain by the next day. That's if they were fully paid (or first class) and the second class would get delivered the day after.
That's all it took. That's when the post office was run by the government before it was made into a corporation by the Conservative Government in 1970. The first thing they did was to sack the chairman and then later in 1970 there was a short post office strike. In 1971 there was another strike which lasted about 6 weeks which coincided with the introduction of decimalisation – you know no longer 240 pennies to the pound but 100 new pence or eventually pence and if they'd have left it at that or maybe left the post office as a governmental organisation with all the workers being civil servants my auntie may have had testicles and been my uncle; who knows?
That's why you will never see the first decimalisation stamps with the first day date stamp on them - unless, well I've explained it above.
I mention Alan Johnson as he is an inspiration; he was orphaned as a child and he and his sister fought to stay together (she was 16) in their house and that's what they did. He got a job as a postman and eventually joined the UPW (which I did) then he became a Labour MP and eventually Home Secretary after other cabinet jobs; Home Secretary being one of the big four jobs in the government.
I kind of listened to his accent – which is a well spoken North London one – when I was doing my cockney accent for the play I did last week; I kind of took something from him but eventually did all the bits of the London accent except for the glockel-stop.
Bit ironic really as I had promised myself that when I came back from America I wouldn't do any accents in my work; you never hear them in America (apart from being done very badly) unless it's Meryl Streep, and because you are not putting an accent on, it makes the naturalism in your performance easier. 
There is always a little bit of an impersonation, a caricature in a performance if you have to do an accent which I hope I overcame on Saturday when I did my secret play. 
20 pages of a monologue all learned - that's why I didn't write anything here lately.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Official Hostage.

King Charles I before he lost his head.

I'm still rehearsing the play, learning many many lines but I'm getting there and . . well I forgot to write a post here didn't I?
So I'm starting this with no idea of where it's going to go so we'll see; this morning on the radio, I heard a little radio quiz and the answer was Kate Bush – just a few sound clips and the clue for Bush was our man himself; the fella we all laughed at up to 2008, George W. Bush.
His little quote was typical of the man; he said something like 'a single mother has a very hard job to do; she has to work all day to put food on her family' – I mean I know it was a slip of the tongue but if he wasn't so dangerous he would be funny. I am now waiting and fearing the day he comes into fashion the way Reagan did a few years ago and Thatcher did recently.
There are loads of people both here and in America who worship both of them; we might find it a bit of a stretch thinking of Reagan but no – a lot of Americans worship him. He was an interesting man but head of state??
At least Thatcher wasn't the head of state. She was the head of the government – the Queen is the head of state. That gave me a bit of comfort to know that she had to answer to someone besides the once in a while message from the electorate.
The other night I was cutting some chips – okay you guys, French Fries – and the potatoes weren't very big so my chips were only about three inches long. I mean they all taste the same, don't they, whether they're short or long, as long as they're not overdone or crispy.
When I got them ready (I put them in the oven, by the way, on a baking tray with a pudding spoon of oil) and looked at them, they reminded me of a TV programme I once watched about the Queen's chef.
He had to cut her chips that size whenever he served fish and chips. He would also serve it to her on a tray and she would sit in an arm chair and eat – more or less – from a tray on her lap.
Makes her kind of human doesn't it?
And I thought I wonder if she knows what she missing? Good old fish and chips from a seaside fish and chip shop; anywhere in the British Isles but not in America.
Everywhere she goes she smells paint, sees people in their Sunday best and everyone on their best behaviour – wouldn't it, once in a while, be nice for her to see people as they really are.
I know she's done that after a fashion but I don't think there is anywhere on earth where she wouldn't be recognised – well maybe places in Africa like Gabon or Somalia and you wouldn't want her travelling there incognito.
One little story about the royal family bemused me or should I say amused me or . . . well a cross between the two: there was an MP (Member of Parliament – hi America!) who, when she was first elected, had the job of going to Buckingham Palace on one of the days the Queen opened a session Parliament.
This is a tradition going back a few hundred years; the MP has to stay there till the Queen gets back; take a guess why.
When they Duke of Edinburgh and the Queen were due to leave, the Duke went to the MP and said 'they'll probably shoot you if we don't come back!!'
Of course that is the tradition because one of the monarchs didn't come back; they chopped his head off so the MP was a hostage – now I always thought that the tradition wasn't literal that it was only a tradition but . . .
Recently there was another MP in a documentary on the radio and he said that when he had to do it it was a great day for him. He had the free run of the palace, he could do anything he liked but he couldn't go out.
The officer in charged was asked what he would do if the Queen was, in fact, kidnapped or killed and he replied without giving it much thought 'Oh we'd kill him; immediately!'
Have a nice day!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Good Night Vietnam!

By now everybody will know of the tragic death of Robin Williams; it has been a shock but I think a lot of people were not that surprised. Something had to fuel that amount of manic energy; there was only one way to go and that was down.
There have been experts crawling out of every piece of woodwork, skirting board and from under every counterpane imaginable since the announcement; I'm not going to add to that but felt I should say something.
I have always thought that there are a group of performers – genius comedians – who are beyond talent. In the old old days before TV, movies and the rest of it, they would have taken off in to a funny routine at the drop of a hat. There would be no writer, agent, director – nothing.
These people seem to suffer depression these days and some of them go all the other way to the other pole – the manic one. 
I am not even going to pretend that I am in the same league as that bloke standing next to you in the pub when it comes to expertise on the subject but being in this business I have known a few and a few of those have committed suicide.
I worked with a fella on a big movie about 20 years ago and he hung himself too in his Hampstead flat; tragic. He wasn't a comedian but a good actor nonetheless.
The group of comedians these days who are beyond everything and touched by genius include Jim Carrey; he, apparently suffers from depression and also delivers in a manic kind of way, sometimes. Charlie Chaplin was another one – he was a depressive, according to recent newspaper articles so it must have something to do with the comic mind.
To entertain a crowd of people and having them laugh at your every move and utterance is the most wonderful feeling in the world. I know what it feels like to play to hundreds of people but what it must be like to play to millions all over the world is still a mystery.
But put yourself in their place; a tragedy happens in their family and at the hospital they still have to be Robin Williams or Jim Carrey; they may wish to make a serious point in an argument but they still have to be Robin Williams or Jim Carrey.
I heard that people had written Robin Williams off a few years ago – the same old shtick the same old manic humour.
But you know the trouble with some movies of Robin Williams or Jim Carrey? The writers could never keep up.
Jim Carrey was in one of my favourite films of all time – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – which he had to play straight. His type of comedy wasn't required at all and he was good but it was as if he had to prove himself to some of the suits in Hollywood. But he didn't have to prove anything did he? There will always be comedians/comedy actors and people like Robin Williams, Jim Carrey. Eddie Murphy, Jack Black, Steve Martin and Steve Carell who will always be accused of doing the same old shtick by talentless couch potatoes.
There was something about Robin Williams' eyes which I noticed when he did comedy on a talk show; a certain sadness maybe an unconscious lack of confidence. I think he felt a need to deliver a very quick funny response and sometimes his very quick mind/wit was slightly ahead of his delivery and he would have to edit a phrase or an idea half way through a sentence.
I went to a screening of a film he was in (One Hour Photo) at the Egyptian Theatre on Hollywood Blvd and at the end of the film I saw him waiting to come out and meet us for a Q&A and he looked like a regular middle aged gentleman seriously and nervously standing there behind the ushers' curtain.
It was one of his serious roles and, I suppose, he was ready to answer some serious questions about the disturbed character he played.
But as soon as he was announced a huge cheer went up - even though the Egyptian Theatre isn't very big - and he must have felt a pressure to be funny and was; in fact he was hilarious. His first line 'fucking hell' brought the house down and he improvised for the next twenty minutes.
I always noticed his sad eyes from then on, every time I saw him perform; even in retrospect. At the end they couldn't find what he was searching for apart from a disastrous way out; RIP.
Good Night Vietnam!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Crickets, The Beatles, The Hownds!!!!

Buddy Holly.

 A long long time ago, I can still remember how the music used to make me . . . you know the lines but I have to say that the music did more than make me smile. In fact I suppose all my life I have judged people as to whether they are rock and rollers or not. 
A friend of mine said that once and the phrase kind of made the penny drop.
There are two rail stations in West Hampstead – one overground and the other the tube. All part of London Transport – or Transport for London as it is now called. Between those two stations, on the same side as the tube station, is an alley way and that's called Billy Fury Way. Here it is:
and here is a photo of the man himself.
Billy Fury; great British Rock singer of the 50s/60s.
I was walking passed there last year some time and as I approached it I said to the woman I was walking with 'hey look; Billy Fury Way.'
I don't know what she said but it was something like 'who was that' 'who cares' or something like that and I must have said to myself, or even thought out loud, writing as I spoke, 'what the . . . ay?? ' - I don't know which department of my mind that women went in to.
How can someone of my age – and she was around my age - not know who Billy Fury was, not be impressed by all the music that came when we were young?
I said to a good friend of mine once, 'I saw The Beatles live, you know' and he said 'I saw Nina Simone!!!
Didn't seem to impress did it? – he was my age too but obviously lived in an alternative world the same as the woman I was with that day.
With? I hear you say; no it wasn't my wife. I couldn't be married to someone for this long if she was a non-rock'n'roller – it just wouldn't have worked. Marriage is built more on tastes in music and senses of humour and without those the husband should get some ferrets.
But rock'n'roll music has been very important to me and in a way it changed society here – that and the end of conscription.
I said it did more to me than make me smile – it made me very happy. I always wanted to be a rock and roll singer but I lived in a world miles from any influence even though my parents loved rock'n'roll and pop music in general. 
I went on to appreciate a lot of classical music, the blues, Irish music, Cajun and loads of styles but never background or elevator music - and certainly not music they play over the phone when you are on the interminable wait for your party to answer.
When I was a child I got my dad's mandolin - which have 8 strings (four notes doubled) probably like the tuning of a tenor banjo or fiddle - put guitar strings on it and, instead of a plectrum, I used a penny. 
Yes you know what it sounded like and you would be right. Clang! Clang! Clang! Clang!#$%
Also we made a bass out of a tea chest; here's one:

I can't remember what we used as a bass string but the American jug bands used similar things and probably made as much noise as we did.
When I was about 10, I went to a party and one of the party organisers asked if any of us could sing. My brothers shouted 'yes! Chris.'
I went up and stood there. 'Go on sing!' they said.
I stood there.
Eventually I sang the Christmas Carol Away in a Manger on one note.
And that was my pop music career till I joined the army cadets at 14.
After one of the Christmas parties there – and I was a sergeant by that time so must have been about 16 – a singing contest was organised; everybody got up and I won.
I sang the old Emile Ford song What do you want to make those eyes at me for and as I sang I waved my hands around. I won because I had the biggest applause and maybe because I was the sergeant.
Later we were going to form a band – a group really as a band plays at a band stand – and we were going to call it The Hownds. Great name aye? 
Although there was a better one staring us in the face.
I figured the greatest groups were The Crickets and The Beatles - both insects so we would be dogs. The Beatles got everything from the Crickets – well Buddy Holly - in fact Buddy Holly influenced more song writers, guitarists and singers than even they know.
When I was 20 I went with my brother to Butlins Holiday Camp in Pwllheli, in Wales. 
Also along were the other two members of The Hownds.
We told all the girls – and why would we go to Butlins if not for the girls – we were a group and some of them were very impressed.
Don't forget we hadn't sung or played together, hadn't even had a meeting, but my brother's mate, Rod, I was told, was a great guitarist and Dave said he would play the bass.
At Butlins I had a girl friend for a while in a girl group called The Crisdolins, or something like that – a Chris a Doreen and a Lynn, I suppose, and I was out with the Do. 
Do was very attractive but her friend looked like Jean Shrimpton!! 
They may have been a kind of fantasy group like The Hownds, who knows, but I did read some time later that a group who were doing well were once called The Crisdolins!!! You never know.
But it didn't happen did it.
I hardly sung again till I went in to the theatre as an actor and only recently recorded songs; although I wrote loads in the 70s when I learned how to do some guitar chord sequences but I don't know where half of them are.
Now what would be a better name than The Hownds? Well it was staring us in the face. My brother's mate, Rod, the one who played the guitar, was called Rod Gilbert.
We should have been called Gilbert and The Sullivans.

Monday, July 28, 2014

A nice little story of Beckett and Havel.

Here's a nice little story for you.
At least I think it's a nice little story - but I haven't written it yet so what do I know?
First of all not everybody knows everything about everything – believe it or not they don't.
Some people have never heard of Donald Duck or even Bugs Bunny.
In this multi-cultural society it might seem strange to us that they don't.
In fact when I first went to America people there were amazed that I hadn't heard of Mister Ed.
When I saw the movie The Man With Two Brains with Steve Martin, I didn't get the joke when it turned out that Merv Griffin was the Elevator Killer; I'd never heard of him and neither had anybody in the rest of the world.
So let me explain; that man above, Samuel Beckett is probably, and by all accounts, the greatest playwright of the twentieth Century – that doesn't mean to say it's true, by the way, it's just a fact.
Personally I like Brian Friel and Harold Pinter.
Beckett wrote the classic play Waiting for Godot – which is a play that most people don't understand and because nobody understands it that makes it a great play.
It's also a great play because it was produced all over the world (and many other places) by people who didn't understand it, played by people who didn't understand it and watched by people who didn't understand it at all.
But the greatest thing about the play is, if you read it, read about it, then go and see it - you might understand it because it is a play about hope.
Of course the word Godot does not exist – or did not exist; it is, or was, a 'none word' that came to being when the play was written.
It's very close to the word God so maybe they're waiting for God.
Two of the characters in it have strange names – one is like Estrogen and the other like Vulva; they are, in fact (and I'll have to look up the spelling) Estragon and Vladimir. 
Oh well - close. 
The Americans say this made up word – Godot - that came out of the head of Becket, differently from the way the British do; the Americans say G'do and the British say Godo with emphasis on the first syllable GOD which is more to the meaning(less) of the play.
Neither pronounce the last 'T' inferring the word is French.
I suppose this was because Becket, an Irishman, lived in Paris.
Ah ha, I hear you say, but he wrote in French.
And indeed he did. And he lived in Paris because he was an acolyte of James Joyce when he lived there and moved there after the war.
So it is a play about hope and very entertaining it is too, with Irishmen making the best of the dialogue over the years as they did with every other Becket play.
The trouble with Becket's plays is that they, like the James Joyce works, have fallen into the wrong hands and sometimes are more trouble than they are worth to put on when you have to deal with awkward estates.
Thankfully, Joyce's estate is now free of this restriction.
Beckett was part of the Theatre of the Absurd movement of the fifties which included playwrights such as Ionesco, Max Fisch, Pinter and many more including some Americans like Edward Albee.
Their philosophy, if they had one, was to show life as meaningless with meaningless things happening but sometimes there was a subtext - as in Becket's plays.
If ever you get the chance to read, for example, The Caretaker by Harold Pinter, and ask a few 'whys' – why doesn't Mick do this, why doesn't Aston do that, it might all turn out because Davies (The Caretaker) doesn't do something else but if he does do that 'something else' Aston and Mick will have to do something they said they could do but can't.
Of course not.
Beckett witnessed political upheaval on a grand scale; he saw the invasion of Hungary in the fifties and Czechoslovakia in the seventies. He wrote about it in his play Catastrophe.
The play is being presented at the Enniskillen Festival. This is the only play Beckett every wrote that he dedicated to anyone and that anyone is this man - 

and as you can see it's Václav Havel. 
He was a playwright too; a playwright, essayist, poet, philosopher, dissident and statesman and at the time Beckett dedicated the play to him, he was in prison in Czechoslovakia. The play was presented in Avignon in a festival dedicated to Havel. He heard of the festival and was moved
He was in prison because he was a dissident. You get plenty of dissidents over here and in America but they don't go to gaol. Sometimes they may get bumped off but they don't go to gaol.
Václav Havel used the absurdest technique in his plays and the authorities locked him up for doing it.
Simple as that, really.
They saw things in his plays which they thought were leading the populace to a place where they, the authorities, didn't want them to go.
He spent four years in prison at one point but used his plays to criticise communism and was a major influence in the successful Velvet Revolution.
Havel later wrote how moved he was to have a play dedicated to him and how inspired he felt.
He never got to meet Beckett but rose to be the first elected president of the then Czechoslovakia.
On the evening of his inauguration he couldn't sleep so stepped out for a walk around the streets of Prague; when he turned a corner he saw, spray painted on a wall the words, Godot Has Come.
He took it as a sign that all was well and that Beckett endorsed him. 

Godot Has Come 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Where have all the Bob Dylans gone?

Bob Dylan.
I have read that a lot of people describe themselves as bloggers and activists; I write this blog but that's not how I would describe myself. I write it to keep up to date with my typing and stringing a few words together and after this amount of time – 5 years – it's become a kind of habit.
What surprises me is the number of people who read it. Not who officially follow it, but those that actually hit it and, presumably go on to read it. 
Last week's post – My Secret Play – really surprised me; it's not like Matt Drudge's blog that must attract millions of hits but I'm satisfied with the people who read it. I have 16 faithful followers but lots more who dip in.
I wrote a post called My Teenage Love Story on February 12th 2012 and within the last month 88 people read it; or one person read it 88 times – here it is if you want to see it http://storytelleronamazon.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/my-teenage-love-story.html and here are my top five posts since I started:
Sep 14, 2011
Dec 7, 2010, 6 comments
Dec 22, 2010
Jan 29, 2011, 2 comments
Nov 11, 2010, 3 comments
Those posts won't be controversial as this is not a political blog because I leave that to the experts but do you know what's missing these days – a singer like Bob Dylan. And maybe Springsteen! Where are they? Where is the voice of youth these days? The voice of a generation?
Just where are the protest singers? Are there any? There's more turmoil these days than in those.
In those days (or doze daze) there was the Vietnam War and the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago; the Kent State shooting of demonstrating students by the state police and other things to complain about. The answer, of course, is blowing in the wind but the wind isn't coming my way.
We have image conscious politicians on the UK, they are so image conscious it's hard to imagine any of the UK political leaders in jeans. They're not exactly cool like Obama who apparently does it without effort.
I've never been much of a fan of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, but give their song Ohio, written by Neil Young, a spin; it's been known to make listeners angry and when you consider the subject which was the mowing down of protesting students by Ohio National Guard, it's not surprising:
Kent State.
The guardsmen fired 67 rounds over a period of 13 seconds, killing four students and wounding nine others, one of whom suffered permanent paralysis; enough to make anybody angry especially the parents of the victims when they heard President Nixon call them 'campus bums;' he actually said 'You see these bums, you know, blowing up campuses storming around about the issue.'
None of those shot were bums - all were students in good standing at the university They were only protesting about the Vietnam War and the invasion of Cambodia and it caused a national reaction – they made the ultimate sacrifice as their generation were killing and being killed thousands of miles from America - but did it stop the war? Not for 5 years and the USA lost.
So all those young men with an average age of 19 died for nothing: it is said the people who look at the wall, and see all those names, usually shed a tear.

But what did the Vietnam War teach industry and governments? It taught them that war is money; President Eisenhower (a Republican President, no less) warned of the Miltary-Industrial-Complex; and what is the Miltary-Industrial-Complex?
This is the official answer from Wikipedia:
 The military–industrial complex, or military–industrial–congressional complex,[1] comprises the policy and monetary relationships which exist between legislators, national armed forces, and the arms industry that supports them. These relationships include political contributions, political approval for military spending, lobbying to support bureaucracies, and oversight of the industry. It is a type of iron triangle. The term is most often used in reference to the system behind the military of the United States, where it gained popularity after its use in the farewell address of President Dwight D. Eisenhower on January 17, 1961, though the term is applicable to any country with a similarly developed infrastructure.
Would anybody do that these days? Would they have the time to look up from their smart phones and Facebook and their 'it is what it is' attitudes and see.
100 years ago, this coming Christmas, German soldiers and British soldiers, on their own bat, decided upon a Christmas truce and played a football match against each other on Christmas Day; this was before America entered the great war – 2 or 3 years – and when the football match was over they went back over their lines – from their so called no man's land – and resumed the killing.
Pathetic isn't it – just following orders.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

My secret play.

Marlene - why not?? It's a great picture.

I'm doing a little job at the moment to keep my instrument tuned; my instrument? My body.
All the things I have to use as an actor: my physique, voice, technique and – learning lines. How much am I getting for it? Not much, it has to be said, and I'm only doing it once which seems a tall order when there are so many lines.
The reason for this is that I like to do a bit of theatre every year which means I have to rehearse, learn lines and figure the play out – that is the most important thing – and as I was out of the picture waiting for my eye surgery I wasn't available for any casting. I didn't have many lines to learn for my short film but I do for this.
Now why am I being so coy about telling you what the play is? Because we are doing it without permission.
Because it is being done in a small private theatre and only for one performance I don't think we would have got it. But you know the most important part of mounting a production is the rehearsal period.
When an actor embarks upon a play in the theatre they know more about the play, just before the curtain goes up on opening night, than anybody and that, I'm afraid, usually includes the writer. The actor cannot do without the writer – unless he's written the play himself – but can without the director; just about.
It's a collaborative process; I remember I was doing a play with a director friend of mine (who reads this, I think) saying to a writer 'you didn't know you'd written that, did you?'
And the writer said, no.
The writer makes the skeleton, the director puts on the skin and the actors bring the thing to life.
Writers will get on to me but they really should be flattered. If they write from the 'heart' they will be doing things unconsciously from their inner self and a good director/actor will find that and bring it all to life.
If a writer just writes in beats and wants things done the way they wrote it, things may not be at their best – if only they rehearsed more in movies. That's why the best films are by directors who rehearse properly – Sydney Lumet, Elia Kazan, Martin Scorsese etc.
I was listening to an interview recently with a renowned writer – Sally Wainwright – who wrote the two series for BBC, Happy Valley and Last Tango in Halifax, and she was asked by the interviewer if she worked liked the Americans splitting her scripts into 'beats.'
'I've never heard of that' she said.
She has written at least 10 series for TV and quite a few TV Plays and films, and don't forget they don't have writing 'teams' over here with show runners etc – she's probably never heard of those either.
The point is she writes from the heart!
There are three people in the play I am doing. We never meet each other on the stage so I am being directed by one of the other actors and I am directing him. The other one was being directed by that actor, but he is away for July, so I am directing the other one too and it is a pleasure.
The place we are doing it and what it is?
It is a play and we are due to do it in a private theatre in – everybody invited which will mount to about 60 – 70 in the audience. I have 19 straight pages to learn – one speech and I have learned 5; but at least I've made a start.
And I can't tell you the title -

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Last word on sOUNDz and thanks.

Thanks for coming along today, folks - I really appreciated it. Not exactly a full house but it was good of you to make the journey - some of you travelled miles.

As you will see I am selecting a few stills from the movie which makes it look more like having a title called 'Selfie' as opposed to sOUNDz.

Do you remember I mentioned when I first came back from America that someone said to me there that if you put two English actors together they would be talking about accents within minutes.

Well today I was waiting to go into the screening when I saw someone walking over D'Arblay Street and I called them (her). I asked her if she remembered working with me and she said 'Of course I remember you. I remember your soft accent. I know you don't think you have an accent but you do and I like it.'

So there we are - my pal in Los Angeles was right; but my accent is neither here nor there. I speak - the way I speak.

Hope you like the photos. I'm using a different accent in each one.

That's my last word on sOUNDz till it gets released next year from Amazon.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

sOUNDz with Chris Sullivan

Hi folks: this week there is a screening of my short movie in Soho – details above.
It's only a short 20 minute piece but I would like to see and hear what the audience reaction is so I hope to see you there – then the two of us can go for a beer.
Get the tube to Tottenham Court Road Station on the Northern Line then when you come out of the station go west on Oxford Street till you get to Wardour Street, which is about 3rd or 4th on the left; go down there and the 2nd on the right is D'Arblay Street.
'The Soho Screening Rooms' is up on the right.
Come along with a smile on your face and a song in your heart.

In case you can't read the blurb at the bottom it says:
Free Screening Thursday July 10th 2014, 1:00 pm
The Soho Screening Rooms, 14, D'Arblay Street, London, W1F 8DY

Sunday, June 29, 2014

America - first impressions.

Here's a little tale for you, I hope, which suddenly came to me today. I was thinking I've been through a few scrapes in my life - I think I told you I dived in to the back of a taxi close to the Sahara Desert; yes they have taxis there.
When I think back on that, I have no idea what I'd have done if the car had gone without me – I might have ended up as a shriveled raisin in the sun as I would have fallen asleep eventually.
But I remember when I first went to live in Los Angeles and my first impressions; I had been to a few hot countries such as India, Israel, Tunisia etc and they seemed to be what they were – a third world country. Hot weather, big advertising signs, beggars, hot weather, driving on the wrong side of the road, hot weather – things like that. So when I got to Los Angeles I saw that lawyers, attorneys and the like had big advertising boards.
In Britain the biggest thing a lawyer could use for publicity was a name plate on the door. It just 'wasn't done' to advertise – bit like the Queen doing a commercial.
In fact comparing the Queen to the Head of State in America – the one thing you know about the Queen is that she would never drink coca cola; and there was Clinton, who was the President when I arrived there, drinking from a paper cup.
Just 'not done' in Britain.
Yes some of the population drink sodas here but you know something – at the moment I don't know anybody who does; either diet or regular.
So arriving in Los Angeles was a bit like going to a third world country.
I hear someone at the back asking what a third world country is?
Well the world as we know it or knew it as it was, was Europe. That was about as far as it got. Then America was discovered and that was the 'new' world – likewise Australia.
And the developing countries – what are they? Well we had two types so the next one would be the third one – the third world. (But you know this).
The third world seems to be hot, with no laws about advertising and stopping at zebra crossings, so that is why I had that impression when I stepped off the plane.
It also had funny electricity plugs and sockets and, as I later got to know, they were better than the ones in Britain as you could put your fork into the electric toasters in America because they had a lower voltage system – safer and more efficient.
I remember some months later meeting an Englishman who said he'd been 'back' (to the UK) and it was like a third world country!!
Now this third world that I arrived in was very cheap – I could get a good breakfast at Denny's for 99 cents and that's not to be sniffed at – 2 eggs, 2 slices of bacon, 2 sausages, and 2 pancakes; of course you had to buy coffee on top of that.
I was also offered a nose full of cocaine on the first night and that wasn't to be sniffed at either – which I refused of course.
Oh I would have been in the soft and smelly, wouldn't I, if I'd taken that sniff and gone on to a career of taking Charlie then on to some harder stuff and eventually being a raisin on the Santa Monica beach – thousands of miles from Sahara but the same sandy raisin feeling.
So I told that postman what to do with his stuff and earned $10 that first week – how? I got a job at The Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra's telemarketing office and that was all the cheque (or check as we're in USA) came to. I was booked in to an hotel for a week and I had paid for my rental car for a few weeks.
So it was Denny's every day for my main meal @ 99 cents plus tax and coffee and when the next pay day came I celebrated and went to Maccy D's for a Big Mac.
A few years later a friend of mine was doing market research for a company and one of the research campaigns was at . . . you guessed it Denny's!!
Apparently Denny's had a reputation in the Southern States for racism; I don't know the details but what we had to do was to go to various Denny's restaurants in Los Angeles and test them out. We did this by going into each establishment with a black couple plus one – me and my wife and my market researcher pal and the black couple plus one older male.
The plan was they went in first, we would follow after five minutes and we had to see who would get served first and things like that, but the problem was my pal wanted to do about three restaurants a night.
I tried the grand slam (2 eggs, 2 bacon – you know), then the southern chicken with white sauce and going into the third restaurant each night I swore I would never go into a Denny's again. My pal would say ask for a box but . . ..
By the way they ask at restaurants every time – they never call it a doggy bag as they do in Britain; they're more honest.
They hardly use cheques here at all now but the last time I went to LA they were still using them in the supermarkets.
I came back to the UK most years for Christmas and various family happenings – births and my daughter's wedding – but one time I didn't come back for two or three years, maybe more. During that time there had been a campaign in Los Angeles to ban smoking in restaurants.
This progressed to bars and eventually public places and when I went back to London that time the first thing I noticed was that everybody smoked; the place stank of stale tobacco – it was just like a third world country.
So there we are!
Next week – July 10th – I am having a public screening of my short movie in London.
So I will take advantage of this (kind of) bully pulpit and put all the details on here. I hope my mailing list – which goes in to the hundreds – won't mind, unless, of course you'll be in London on the 10th.
If so I'll see you there.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Ying Tong Song.

There's a song that I recall my mother sang to me.
She sang it as she tucked me in when I was ninety-three.
Fans of The Goons, or The Goon Show, should recognise those inimitable lyrics from 
The Ying Tong Song. 
They are sung, on the recording of the hit record, by a tenor and the rest of the recording 
is chaos and very funny.
The Goons influenced all rebellious, alternative, dangerous and silly comedy that came 
after them. From Monty Python to The Young Ones. It's hard to think of anything that 
came before them with the possible exception of Spike Jones – not the film director 
who, I believe, spells his name with a Z. 
It is a silly kind of dangerous clever of comedy. 
And what is that? It's when all the clever bastards start laughing and the thicks remain 
looking bewildered - then the thicks suddenly see the funny side just as the clever 
bastards have moved on.
Someone once told me, when I was at drama school, that I didn't understand 
Monty Python – well I did and you know why? It made me laugh and wasn't that the idea?
My parents hated The Goons and The Strange World of Gurney Slade which was a 
good enough reason for me to love them; so I was bad as the clever bastards, wasn't I? 
I have to admit, though, they loved Peter Cooke and Dudley Moore and never 
missed their TV Series Not Only But Also and I loved that show too.
There have been many funny men and some of them are geniuses - or even genii  - 
but the two most mentioned pioneers are Peter Cook and Spike Milligan – 
Spike from The Goons, which is where we started.
Hey! What's Prince Charles doing at the top of the page?
Strange that Peter Cook's partner, Dudley Moore and Spike Milligan's partner 
(or one of them), Peter Sellars, both became Hollywood movie stars.
So back to The Goons:
One day in the 1950s – shall we say 1955 or 1956; it would be about then. 
A tenor singer from St Paul's Cathedral Choir, who also freelanced as a session 
singer, was told to report to a recording studio for a job. 
I have every reason to think that this was the famous Abbey Road Studios in 
St John's Wood, London as that's where George Martin worked and he was 
famous for recording comedy records before being The Beatles producer.
When he arrived (the singer not George Martin; he was already there) 
he was given the above lyrics which he sang in his beautiful tenor voice.
The other people in the studio were The Goons: Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe, 
Spike Milligan and others. 
The singer sang the four lines and here we are 58 or so years later and that 
tenor singer is still alive and recently celebrated his 93rd birthday.
His daughter wrote to The Goons number one fan – Prince Charles – 
and told him who her father was and that he was still alive and, more to the point, 
was coming up to his 93rd birthday; the age he had sung about all those years ago.
Apparently the Prince sent a bouquet of flowers and a letter – now isn't that nice!!
Here is a link to the Ying Tong Songs for you to click on.
This will test you sense of humour:

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Come on Scotland – be Scottish!

Here we are in June and in three months time Scotland goes to the polls; and what are they voting for? For Independence, that's what. 

Not to split the United Kingdom but to go it alone and I wish them well.

But I have to ask a few questions: if Scotland succeeds in gaining Independence – and I mean the word gaining – it will mean that a group of Scottish Labour MPs will no longer be MPs in Westminster.

I know that won't happen straight away, of course, as I think there will be some kind of transitional period, but when it does it will mean that the Conservatives will not need the Liberals to give them a parliamentary majority in the next General Election.

So why are they against Independence for Scotland? Maybe there's something in Scotland, something in its future that Britain want: fracking? An influx of immigrants? A completely independent government who can look towards Norway and learn how to build an economy with their oil wealth?

All of the above are pluses – yes immigration is a plus and many immigrants will arrive and Scots from all over the world will return to pay taxes and pay them to their own government for a change.

There are some stupid figures being banded about; the 'yes' people are saying that Independence will make everybody in Scotland £1,000 a year richer; the 'no' people came back and said that a 'no' vote will make them richer by £1,400.

That's something to think about isn't it? Yeh!

In less than seven weeks there is a little matter of the Commonwealth Games – for people who don't know what the Commonwealth is it is The British Commonwealth – all the countries that used to belong to the British Empire but retained Commonwealth status.

When Pakistan were suspended from the Commonwealth a few years ago (because of some skulduggery there) – unbelievable, Pakistan aye? - the ABC Newsreader in Los Angeles said 'Pakistan have been suspended from 'something' called the Commonwealth.' Something called the Commonwealth.

Anyway – my point is they are being held in Glasgow – Scotland's biggest city – and you know what the Olympics did for Britain?

Put your money on a YES vote and all you disseminated Scots!! Pack your bags!
 But don't expect to see Sean Connery when you get there; he's probably in Spain practising his golf swing, but there again he is coming up to 84; he has campaigned for Scottish Independence for most if not all of his life. 

I have spent, I suppose, 3 months in Edinburgh and I remember a lot of places, shops, coffee shops and the like, with photographs of him on the wall. Not signed autographed head shots like in Los Angeles but beautifully framed portraits with information. 

The Scots know he doesn't live there any more but they're not like some of the English who fall out with some stars because they have emigrated to sunnier climes.

By the way – 5 years or so ago, someone came up to me and said they saw my photograph on the wall of a dry-cleaners on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles.

It had been there since 1995; I know that because I used to live close by then and they asked me for the photo but . . . I wonder if it's still there?

Go take a look – on the south side of the street just east of Maltman in the mini mall – lemme know!!
The Scottish flag.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Sexism and Racism.

First World War Soldiers
(Guardian photo)

There is a lot of talk about the first world war as it is the centenary of the start of it this year – August I think – and what a lot of people don't realise is that most of the men who fought and died in that war didn't even have a vote – here are a few facts/dates:

1884 Representation of the People Act. Any male occupying land or property with an annual rateable value of £10 could vote. 24 adults out of every 100 could vote.

1918 (End of the war) Representation of the People Act. All males over the age of 21 were given the vote. Women over 30 got the vote. Women could sit in the House of Commons as MPs. 75 adults out of every 100 could vote.

This discrepancy was intended to ensure that men did not become minority voters as a consequence of the huge number of deaths suffered during the war.

1928 Representation of the People Act. Uniform voting rights were extended to all men and women over the age of 21. 99 adults out of every 100 could vote.

99 adults out of every 100? I wonder who the 1% were – convicts?

There is also a lot of talk about female suffrage, when we can clearly see that men got a bad lot too so it was more a class things than a sexual preference.

This arrest is of a suffragette arrested in the street by two police officers in London in 1914 doesn't say anything about the male vote or lack of it.

 Neither does this poster and it was from 1911:

But I love the photos.

However, women have fought for their rights and in my lifetime I have seen a huge difference both in attitudes and law. 

When I worked for the post office, after I left the motor bikes and before going to college, I worked in a postmans office in Birmingham with about 60 or 70 other postmen who delivered the 60 or 70 'walks;' there were supervisors (PHGs) and a couple of Inspectors and drivers etc.

Out of all those people there was one middle aged male Sikh, one male West Indian and about two women. 
When it came to allocating overtime there was an attitude that the women didn't need the over time as they were only working for 'pin money' and they didn't like the Sikh working overtime either as the general feeling was 'those blokes work till they drop where they come from.'

Men would also complain that women never loaded or unloaded the vans – well neither did I if I could get away with it!! They would also wonder who was cooking the dinner!

I wrote a post about 18 months ago here about the publicity my mother attracted when she was made a company director – the same questions about house work were asked; have a look: http://storytelleronamazon.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/my-mother.html

Now those are terrible attitudes both sexist and racist; I find it hard to believe that they even existed and I know that some people still think that way – that the woman's place is in the kitchen and other antediluvian attitudes. 
I expect everything – pay, opportunity, workload, - to be equal. I don't know whether women should be in the front line but there again, I'm not sure if men should be there either! (100 years ago my granddad was newly married, my 18 year old grandmother was expecting my mother and as they were hard up in Dublin my granddad joined the British Army and was gassed in The Somme for his troubles and although he survived, it did prevent some of his sons coming over and joining up for the second world war.)

So it's really crazy isn't it that in some countries it appears to be the 'norm' to gang rape young girls, stone women to death because they have married someone of another faith, lost their faith or even been gang raped by enemy soldiers; yes stoned to death and mostly by their own families.

The other thing that kind of gets to me is that at a time when over 200 girls have been kidnapped in Nigeria, The Guardian newspaper, my favourite newspaper, a paper that prints everything from the 'F' word to the 'C' word, the 'N' word (but won't print the word actress) published an article about the use of the word 'girl' in a BBC programme which attracted 1298 comments before the comments were suspended. Yes that's right GIRL; isn't this word fascism?

The last one comment, by the way was this:
'An old work colleague - female and I'm male and we're both long retired - has stayed in touch with a number of other female colleagues. When I asked her a few years after retiring "How are the girls?" and then said "Oh I suppose women's lib means I shouldn't call you 'girls'", she nearly became apoplectic.
"We are 'the girls'; we were always 'the girls'; everyone knew who 'the girls' were. I'm not having other women saying they've liberated me and then telling me what I can call myself!" '

It's all barmy though, isn't it – racism, sexism, prejudice. It isn't against the law anywhere for you to not like a group of people – women, Jews, Irish, Latinos – but it is against the law for you to make professional decisions based on that prejudice, either positive or negative. You can hate them if you wish, although that would be paranoiac and delusional and – come on such a waste of time.

Because of the recent UKIP earthquake in Britain a survey was carried out to see how many people here consider themselves racist (although they'd probably call it racialist!); it turns out at an alarming 30%. 
By the way it turns out that the broken hearted man whose wife was stoned to death in Pakistan by her relatives strangled his first wife to death to marry the 2nd one.