Monday, February 8, 2016

Circumventing the Circumflex.

I think, and I am probably the only one does, that the worst thing America did to itself, like some leviathan masochist, was to release Webster's Dictionary on the populace.
I mean what was the matter with the original spelling? Why couldn't they get used to spelling diarrhoea as diarrhoea instead of diarrhea; why couldn't they get used to that extra 'o'? No wonder nobody in America writes about diarrhoea as there is no challenge when writing it down. It's easier to let Donald Trump talk diarrhoea than to let someone write about it.
Webster didn't bother changing the name of Albuquerque because he knew how to spell it. That doesn't mean that he was a brilliant man because he could spell it, as William Shakespeare wouldn't have been able to spell it if he'd been alive today and why would he bother when the world would be at the feet of a 400 year old living writer?
But to the point: what has become a big pain in the arse for me since returning from America, where I lived for 17 years, is that I got used to the American spellings and now since my return I can't remember which is which.
I remember a Canadian writer (not you Jim), whom I knew in Los Angeles in 1995, would only submit his scripts with American spelling as he believed they wouldn't employ non-Americans – or wouldn't hire non-Americans, to use the American vernacular.
One guy said to me once that the English put the 'u' into words like colour to be fancy; to be fancy?? 
No the Americans took it out – Webster took it out and in so doing cut off the access to the history of some words.
You can see where some words come from by their spelling. The way to pronounce Ye olde Shoppe, by the way, is the old shop. 
Plain and simple. 
In the olden days (daze) F and S were the same and I've told you about the 27th letter of the alphabet! Yes I did it was the ampersand = &.
Recently the French have done a Webster; they have cancelled the circumflex – this is a circumflex ^ - it goes over lots of words such as those with certain vowels but accent (known as a fada in Ireland and the tilde in Spanish) will remain on the 'e' and the 'a' (????) and they are going to remove the hyphen in compound nouns such as porte-monnaie and week-end.
Incidentally the circumflex is a good thing to use for a password; for example your password could be ^forexample12F – everything in it.
Right – back to France before I get interrupted with any more thoughts – actually I get interrupted by thoughts all the time, when I write, and sometimes, even though I have not written any masterpieces yet – Yet I say – some brilliant thoughts have come to me whilst writing a fiction!
You have your password so onward: 26 years ago France decided on these changes and they were suggested by Académie Française (you see I put them in including that funny little thing on the bottom of the C ç) and in 2008 the education ministry suggested the new spelling rules were 'the reference' to be used but few people noticed.
Then in November the changes were mentioned in another government document – but nobody noticed again.
Then when it was reported on TV there was an uproar – all over the Internet, social media, Twitter, the lot – you must have noticed?
Oh well.
The only thing is that people in Britain will not take any notice; ever since England was invaded by William the Conquerer in 1066 – William of Normandy – the English refuse to pronounce French words with the accents. 
The 'T' is sounded in fillet here, the 'H' in herb and all the other naughty to the English things the Americans do.
I think Starbucks tried to confuse the Americans with the size of the drinks – English (tall) for small, Spanish (grandé) for large and Italian (venti) twenty ounces.
Of course 20 ounces here is a pint as opposed to the 16 ounce pint in America; that's why you never get a true pint of ale there.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Fame and Terry Wogan.

Terry Wogan with Princess Diana.

Celebrity is a strange thing isn't it? It's a bit like profit, or getting paid, who wins the Oscar, which picture has grossed the most last week.
Never which picture is the grossest?
Last week the nation's heart was broken with the death of Terry Wogan.
It was on the front of every newspaper here – and there are lots of national newspaper dailies here – and the two shittiest newspapers (I refer you to the thought above), The Daily Mirror and The Sun, published the same headline on the front page – Thank you for Being Our Friend. And a photo of Terry Wogan with it.
The Daily Mail, surely the worst kind of right wing newspaper (they even supported Hitler, so they say) had some kind of Wogan v Bowie feature which, I'm sure you will agree is an example of very bad taste.
I don't think I've ever heard anyone say a bad or a negative word about Terry Wogan – I'm sure they will come out of the woodwork – as everybody here loved him.
He was a wonderful human being, had a wonderful voice, great Limerick Irish accent, was quick witted, kind a cuddly.
He was ostensibly a radio deejay and commentator. When JFK visited Ireland in the 60s his was the voice that described the visit but after he came to England and became a deejay it was quite obvious that this was no airhead spin jockey. His quick wit and love of words and the fact that he never let politics mar either his shows or judgement, endeared him to the listeners and eventually viewers of Britain that by the time he died last Sunday the nation was in shock.
Yet he was largely unknown in America.
His position on the pro list of the IMDb – the Internet Movie Data Base – was about the same as mine; this is because the IMDb is mainly American even though it is a British company which is centred in Bristol. (guess who bought it? Yes – Amazon).
David Bowie on the other hand was known the world over. His star was not as large as Terry Wogan's here in fact it could be said that only a minority of the population knew many Bowie songs. I knew loads because I still have a lot of his albums – on vinyl of course.
So that's all I have to say about our two late friends – they joined, in January, quite a few fellow artists, stars and even garters who we lost, including Ed (stewpot) Stewart, Alan Rickman, Brian Bedford, Glenn Frey and Frank Finlay (whom I worked with) and more.
Terry's fame was national and he lived in Windsor near The Queen but what is fame?
Many years ago I did some radio commercials for Chiltern Radio; they were, or maybe still are, in Bedfordshire and I was a regular listener as I liked the music they played. When I went in the front door of the building, just behind the receptionist, there was a reel to reel tape recorder on the wall which was recording the entire output of the station which I could hear.
As I walked along the hall to the little studio where I was to record, I could see through a glass door a man sitting behind a desk with a microphone in front of him. He was the only person in the room and he was speaking to a few hundred thousand listeners in the county of Bedfordshire.
What I found crazy was the fact that he was the only person in the room – I couldn't see any producers because of the angle of my view, so he looked like some kid in his bedroom playing records and pretending to be a deejay - maybe that's the secret?
When I had finished my recording, he was coming out of his little cave – a man cave they call them these days (deez daze) – and in the street I saw him driving out in his new car.
On the side of the car was his name - let's say it was Harry Smith and underneath his name was nearly famous sponsored by . . . . whatever the make of the car was.
Incidentally, and I may have mentioned this before, on one of the days the producer asked me to say 'Chiltern Classified Pools Check at Five Forty' and nothing else; I did this and every Saturday after that at five forty pm that ident would introduce the football scores.
Many years later I was driving up the M1 in the Bedfordshire area, at about that time on a Saturday, and I tuned in and there was my voice still churning out the same message.
Strange thing isn't it, fame – bye bye Tel' - thanks.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Stand By Me.

There we are – the lads! Someone told me that a certain section of middle class people don't like using the word 'lad' any more. I mean I think it's one of the oldest words to join the English language and now they're . . .
Anyway there we are above; me and my brudder; his birthday was on Sunday and from that day (not long before that photo was taken) to this there is something I won't forgive him for – happy birthday and all that but, you know!! We have to draw lines in the sand sometimes.
Let me tell you.
I have always been very keen on sound recording. I did the mix on my film sOUNDz that I learned from my old pal Giles who did it on my film The Scroll about 25 years ago (hope you still read this Giles?) - although he had to do it with actual magstock which means physically cutting and splicing - and I've mixed my CDs, songs etc. 
On my recent song Prima Donna I used eleven tracks and to get a certain sound I wanted I used two tracks for the banjo solo in the middle. A reviewer said that they thought 'the steel guitar solo was amazing' when it was a banjo.
Many years ago I kind of manufactured my own echo chamber with my Grundig double track reel to reel tape recorder.
The one with the 'green light' as Paul McCartney says.
I worked on the motor bikes at the time and I would get my pals to record various songs - I remember the line of post office motor bikes outside the house - I did this (the echo chamber) by playing a famous record and getting them to sing along with it but recording them quite low so as to cut the sound out of the original record in the background.
Then I would get them to do it again and I'd line the tape up to start nearly in the same place - a nano second behind (literally) and it would produce an echo effect; this was for timing, by the way.
Some of the guys were quite good and some not so good but the reverb (yes I got to find out it was reverb or a slight delay) made it all sound better.
But when my brudder, whose birthday it was on Sunday, sang . . ..
Well it wasn't that he couldn't sing, as I'm sure he can but . . .
Let me just say that one of my favourite songs over the years has been Stand By Me, by Ben E. King – or Ben E Fred, as we used to call him.
Ben E. King wrote the song – the tune and the lyric – and took it along to two great song writers Leiber and Stoller – the greatest - they wrote some of Elvis's early songs and songs for The Drifters and groups like that in fact I think they worked in the famous Brill Building in New York.
When Ben E. King took the song to the two guys they really liked it and put the bass line on to it – you know: derm derm, dum-dum, derm derm, dum-dum. derm derm. dum-dum, derm derm . .
You know it – yes you do!!!!
And they took equal shares of the writing royalties so Ben lost two thirds of the royalties and they won the other two thirds for a bass line. But Ben E. King lived on that, sent his kids to college, paid his hospitals bills etc for the rest of his life.
All on that one song.
The thing is he could have taken it to some of the crooks that were about then so maybe he did the right thing and maybe they did good for him. And I know that sounds very American but sometimes their phraseology sounds better – you ain't hear nothin' yet!
See what I mean.
So let's get back to my brud!
I would sing maybe the Buddy Holly, Bobby Vee type songs as I sang in the same key as those giants. In fact I remember going through the motions of learning a song and recording it in about an hour – like the big boys did and boy wasn't I in a fantasy world!
I learned and recorded Please Don't Ask About Barbara and what a terrible song it turned out to be – but I never really went in to pop music after all.
My pal sang a Billy Fury song quite well and I sang More Than I Can Say and someone heard it – one of the lads who had a proper echo chamber – invited me over to his gaff and I sang More Than I Can Say onto his tape recorder. 
He could still have that recording, as far as I know, and be selling it on the pirate market but . .. who the bloody hell would want to buy my stuff . .. . . . hang on we've missed the point, the culmination of this little tale.
One day my brother sang Stand By Me and when I played it back I couldn't hear the tune that poor old Ben had written.
It's a wonderful song and every time I hear it now, or think about it I hear my brother's version, my brud's tune. My brud whose birthday was on Sunday.
Let's hope that if he had a party and if they had a sing along or a karaoke machine that he didn't sing Stand By Me because poor old B.E.K. would be spinning in his grave.
Yes Ben died a few years ago and I hope he rests in peace . . . unless?????

as we are today 
- I had to obliterate a photo bomber from the back ground

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Buddy Holly, Norman Petty and PAYOLA in The King of Clovis.

I recently finished a book about Buddy Holly and his one time manager Norman Petty called The King of Clovis by Frank Blanas.
I suppose most people, who like pop music, have heard of Buddy Holly but I'm not sure if they realise just how good he was at singing, playing the guitar and what a brilliant songwriter he was. 
If you listen to early Beatles stuff you will know just how influential he was and still is.
I have almost every track he ever recorded and then some; I don't have access to them all the time as some of the stuff is on vinyl but I find new sessions all the time as he filled in some of the time in Norman Petty's studio in Clovis, NM.
It is said that he was a session guitarist there but no – he was world famous when he played on a few sessions as a favour.
I have always known about Norman Petty and what he did with Buddy Holly – he was his producer and a great producer he was; maybe the best.
Among the titles I have are recordings of That'll Be The Day and Maybe Baby, both recorded before Buddy Holly met Norman Petty. 
The songs were written by Buddy; he used a few names to credit his writing – Charles Hardin Holly was his full name and he used variations of those names but one name he never used as a songwriter was Norman Petty.
But when he re-recorded the two songs mentioned above at Norman's recording studio in Clovis, NM, there was another writer added to Buddy's name and that was Norman Petty.
Like every other Buddy Holly fan I thought Petty ripped Buddy Holly off by putting his name on the record as one of the songwriters and in a way that's what he did.
But in another way he gave Buddy and The Crickets free studio time – also to lots of other acts, groups of bands.
Acts usually have to pay for studio time for their recordings; there is no fairy godmother who pays for it and what usually happens (or should I say happened back then) is that the act is given studio credit, then an advance and then maybe salary which usually meant that they were so confused that they didn't know who owned what, how much they were worth or even where they were in the world – or where they were on the planet, as people say now.
I have always known about producers adding their name to get song writing royalties as I remember someone being interviewed on the radio taking a song to the band leader Billy Cotton and when it was published the sheet music had Billy Cotton's name on it too.
When the songwriter asked about this Cotton replied 'that's show business, son.'
One time Elvis Presley let the cat out of the bag when his name was added as a songwriter to the great song Don't Be Cruel. He was asked, when being interviewed, how he'd written the song and he revealed that he didn't write it at all. So his name was never put on a song he didn't write again.
Another thing Buddy Holly fans knew he was almost broke when he died in the plane crash and only toured to pay the rent. 
We were told, and it was confirmed by his Widowed Bride** that Petty wouldn't let them have any money even though Buddy had begged him and was in tears well . . . you have to be careful who you believe.
I have heard Buddy's widow say that but it wasn't in the book.
There were other reasons Petty didn't pay Buddy and that was that he, Petty, hadn't been paid by the record company in the first place.
In the fifties there was such a thing called PAYOLA; this was a bribe to a deejay by record companies, managers and the rest of them. It was a huge business and trailblazers and pioneers of rock'n'roll, such as Alan Freed, went to gaol for it.
Norman Petty wouldn't pay PAYOLA and that is why Buddy didn't have any real big hits in that last year of his life – nobody was playing his records.
PAYLOLA didn't really catch on in the UK to the same extent but the mob didn't operate here as they did in America.
Another thing happened in Buddy's life when he went to New York – staying in the Edison Hotel, which I stayed on one day – he asked a girl at the record company for a date; by the time the date was over Buddy had proposed and been accepted.
This woman was the first member of the Yoko Ono, Linda (I bagged a Beatle) Eastman trio who broke up great groups; she was the one who came between Buddy and Norman Petty and Buddy and The Crickets. And that is the full story.
A lot of this is my speculation of course but it's all there in this book. All 534 pages, 9 inches by 12 inches and weighing in at about 8 pound and almost impossible to read in bed.

A must for a real Buddy Holly and The Crickets fan but also to anybody who is a fan of pop music.

** I can't remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died.
Don McLean - American Pie.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Prima Donna

Just a happy new year with this post and to introduce you to my new song. Here it is Prima Donna – maybe you would like to comment on YouTube or give it a 'like' as one of your first deeds of 2016.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

French Pronunciation and the 27th letter of the alphabet.

William the Conqueror. 

Further to a post about France I'm exploring something about the pronunciation here in the UK and how it seems to be changing with the American influence and may be just another Americanism.
You see there's a very strange thing that happens here in the UK; it used to happen when we lived in America, but here there's a generation of people who take words that we have used all our lives, and used them correctly in the most part, and tell us that we are saying them wrongly.
In America we were always told to pronounce taco as tarko – as with everything else American it had to be the long 'A' – the Mexicans, of course pronounced it the same as us and how it is spelt – taco. The T A C rhyming with back.
Why would the Americans purposely mispronounce a word they hear the Spanish speaking inhabitants say every day? 
To annoy them?
In America, for example, they are, after only 250 years of existence, still progressing with their language. They have their own dictionary with American spelling which is okay for them but a bit of a pain in the arse for us with most of our computers having American spell checks and we have to ask ourselves, a lot of the time, why we have a red line under some of the words. 
If I look at my page now I can see them – but you won't. Back there arse has a red line underneath.
So best of luck to them but stop making computers with American default as the spell check.
I love spell checks – they are a boost to anyone who has to write. At school I would use the words I could spell instead of the better words I couldn't because marks would be docked for each spelling mistake. What would Shakespeare have done if he had to spell correctly as his spelling was reputed to be erratic?
The American language is taken from English and being turned slowly but surely into American. The difference between their kind of English and the English spoken in the UK is that English here is established. It is made up of words from other languages and English is a terrible whore; it will get in to bed with any language and Anglicises the new words.
The American language doesn't – in the UK Maurice, e.g. is pronounced Morris, in America it's MaurEEEse. 
Because the name came from France. 
But you look it up on the verbal pronunciation, even in a slight America accent, is pronounced as Maurise – same as the UK.
If you can find The Bee Gees on YouTube making an appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, Maurice Gibb introduces himself to 'Big Ed' with the UK pronunciation and Big Ed says it both ways in confusion - as if the old fascist was translating for the good people of America.
The one thing the Americans have Americanised is the pronunciation of Boulevard – they say Bullavard and not the French way.
An example of the American confusion is seen in Starbucks – they just couldn't think of which language to use so for the sizes you have small in English, medium in Spanish and large in Italian: it's tall, grandé and venti. They can't use the word 'small' as it is an American company and nothing is small to the Americans so they use 'tall;' then to Spanish for the medium 'grandé' which actually means big or large; and then venti for the large size and what does venti mean? Twenty as it's a twenty ounce drink. They could have used 'pint' but a pint in America is only 16 ounces.
But why do the English refuse to pronounce French words?
Maybe the same reason the Spanish refuse to pronounce Portuguese Spanish words the Portuguese way. The Portuguese use the 'J' in José for example, and the Spanish don't; why? Because it is a Spanish name.
England was invaded once (unless you count William of Orange who sneaked in by marrying the King's daughter) by France.
1066 the Battle of Hastings by William the Conquerer who brought the French language with him – well a kind of Normandy language.
The language of kings, French, prevailed in England right up to Henry V – he was the first king to write in English, his father was the first King to actually speak English. By the end of the 15th century French became a second language or a language of the elite and slowly but surely from the bottom up English took over and any French pronunciation went out the door.
But what's happening now? The American influence in language has spread to Britain. Instead of going in to a shop and saying 'could I have' or 'may I have ' the American phrase is used 'can I get' – I mean the obvious answer is 'yes; get out.' - but I jest.
But what does that have to do with the price of fish?
The British are being influenced by American phrases and pronunciation and that goes for the way they (the Americans) pronounce all their foreign words too.
In America they do not pronounce the 'T' in fillet or valet but they do in billet. Neither of us pronounce it in ballet but the Americans say ballay and the English say bally; just not to use that tiny bit of a French accent.
But the Americans are progressing – Boulevard and Billet look promising!
So we will have to be told off by the young for not attempting to sound as if we are about to cough when we say 'humus' and have our fingers wrapped when we ask for duck confit and pronounce the final 't' – but you know something we don't pronounce it if we ask for confit de canard because that is French and we don't want to offend the pedants.
And by the way – the 27th letter of the alphabet used to be & - yes the ampersand; it was abandoned maybe before America was even writing.
This from Wikipedia
It was also common practice to add the "&" sign at the end of the alphabet as if it were the 27th letter, pronounced as the Latin et or later in English as and. As a result, the recitation of the alphabet would end in "X, Y, Z, and per se and"
and this from 
1837, contraction of and per se and, meaning "(the character) '&' by itself is 'and' " (a hybrid phrase, partly in Latin, partly in English). The symbol is based on the Latin word et "and," and comes from an old Roman system of shorthand signs ( ligatures), attested in Pompeiian graffiti, but not (as sometimes stated) from the Tironian Notes, which was a different form of shorthand, probably invented by Cicero's companion Marcus Tullius Tiro, which used a different symbol, something like a reversed capital gamma, to indicate et.

This Tironian symbol was maintained by some medieval scribes, includingAnglo-Saxon chroniclers, who sprinkled their works with a symbol like anumeral to indicate the word and. In old schoolbooks the ampersand wasprinted at the end of the alphabet and thus by 1880s had acquired a slangsense of "posterior, rear end, hindquarters."

I hope that is quite clear!!!

Me in my French jacket
At Trinity College, Dublin.

Because the comment doesn't hyper text I'll leave my comment here; because I can.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

God Save Our . . .

There's Barry . . 
Isn't it a bit unfair to expect an atheist to sing the British National Anthem; the piece starts off with God Save Our Gracious Queen.
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party and brother of another nut job, Piers, was accused recently of not singing the words to the anthem at a do, or even mouthing to them; well let me tell you I have been in so many gatherings, including football matches, where nobody has sung the words – or even mouthed them.
But what a national anthem aye? Where does it come from, I wondered so I looked? 
For a start off it's not the English National Anthem at all; in the Commonwealth Games, Ireland play Danny Boy, Wales have Land of my Fathers and Scotland used to have Scotland the Brave – I say used to have as they changed the Scots to Flower of Scotland in the 1990s.
So where does that leave England? They can't have God Save the Queen as that is the anthem for The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland – the UK.
The automatic one became Land of Hope and Glory which is Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March no. 1, but that was changed to Jerusalem which is a tune written by William Parry to William Blake's poem  – I suppose the former, Land of Hope and Glory, was a bit jingoistic and on a par with the French anthem which I wrote about a couple of posts ago.
One of the greatest nights, for me, was when Barry McGuigan, the former World Featherweight Boxing Champion, defended his European Title in Belfast and something went wrong with the sound system so Barry's dad, a professional singer, got up and sang Danny Boy – not a dry eye in the house including ours.
When his dad died, Barry didn't want to box again as he said he had to no reason to return to the ring as he only ever boxed for his father. He did, eventually, make a comeback winning a few more fights before retiring right after a technical knockout in Round Two of a fight when his eye was gashed open making it impossible for the fight to continue.
There's another little thing about God Save Our Whatever – as it depends on whether there's a king or queen – during the bridge before the line 'send her victorious' a line, NO SURRENDER, is inserted at English football matches especially in the so called Northern Ireland where it is a Loyalist chant; it's also associated with the white supremacist movement Combat 18 of which that is all I will say apart from where the '18' came from: the first letter of the alphabet is A and the eighth is H making the initials AH – and you know who that was.
By the way, the Bridge is usually used in music to let you know when something is coming like a return to the verse; the bridge in this piece is da da da da da da Send her etc and I fail to see how they can sing 4 syllables when 6 are needed - but there we are.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Sweet Relief: A Brief History of my Bladder.

Penis substitute.
I was listening to Radio 4's Front Row; a good nightly magazine programme about the arts with reviews of theatre, film, literature, TV etc. There were a couple of poets reciting some of their work, which seemed to be a put down of men, and how they find it embarrassing greeting each other in the gym and other masculine places; how they find it hard not to show their masculinity off and things like that. Believe me I've seen it and it spills over into pubs when the hard man can drink the most and is the biggest glutton in the cafe. A great driver and absolutely marvelous in bed.
No man will admit to being a bad driver or being terrible in bed – what do you want here an admission from me?
No chance; I don't drive any more in any case; you don't need to in London.
The poetry wasn't that bad, and I didn't expect it to rhyme, but I like it to have a certain kind of rhythm – a bit like mine (The Man With the Pen) – but I would say that wouldn't I?
Their conversation moved on to pornographic poetry and then back to the macho thing again and how wonderful it is to stand in the open and take a pee; standing with your back arched and just letting everything just piss out.
It kind of reminded me of my life which appears to be full of various pisses I needed to do over the years which were emergencies.
As a young child my mother would take me to the market in the centre of Birmingham, the rag alley, and I hated it; it was always cold and I invariably wanted to go to the loo.
'Mammy I want a wee' I would say.
'Ah come on' she'd say 'tie a knot in it.' 
And as I'd been telling her about my girl friend at school, she would say 'I wish she was here now; I'd tell her to come and take this piss tank home.'
My mother had a wonderful turn of phrase; I was only about 5 years old.
One time at school my teacher was giving me a reading lesson and my desk was right at the front; she was sitting at the other side of it.
The archetype school mistress with hair tied tight in a bun and a name which suited her, Miss Prime.
I really wanted a wee but she wouldn't let me go: 'you should have gone at play time' she said.
'I did go'
'No you didn't; now read.'
I could feel little drops falling down my leg and the more I read the wetter my underwear became.
'You can go' she said 'but you'll stay in at lunch time till you've read the page.'
We were due to go to lunch at midday and it was 11:45; oh how could I hold it that long but I didn't want to stay inl I wanted to go home to my mother.
So I carried on reading. I would read a bit, pee a bit. I'd look at the teacher and the old sadist would enjoy seeing me sweat and strain - did she think I was pretending?
Eventually the bell went and we broke for lunch; I ran to the loo and emptied my bladder standing there like a locomotive getting rid of steam.
When I got home my mother noticed my wet underpants so I told her what had happened.
After I got changed she accompanied me back to school, went up to the teacher and showed her my wet pants: 'that's no way to send a child home' she said.
I can still see my little pair of pants in her hand as she showed them to the teacher who looked at them as if she was being presented with a cold wet fish. 
I was worried that my mother was going to swing them at her and rub her nose in them but - she really wasn't confrontational.
Many years later I was in a TV show – a soap called Crossroads; it was on TV 5 nights a week at 6.35pm and was watched by about 15 million people, maybe more, as there were only 2 channels in those days. Everybody seemed to watch and seemed to know me wherever I went.
Except for some people who made it their business to tell me they'd never heard of me which has always been the case - 'I know you're an actor but I've never heard of you, mate' it would be - which has always amused me; who are these people?
Anyway my mother was at the Alexandra Theatre, in the centre of Birmingham, and who should she see but Miss Prime, the teacher from the school, with a load of kids. She went up to my mother and said 'we see Christopher on television all the time and we're very proud' and my mother said 'do you remember his pissy pants?' 
Nice one, mom!
It is said that men find it harder to hold on to their pee the older they get but in my case it seems to be the other way round. It must have been psychological as I can keep it for hours now. 
When I was doing a show at the Edinburgh Festival I remember there was only one loo at the venue and we had to walk through the audience to gain access to it, so as soon as the audience came in you had to hold it. Many a night I was absolutely bursting to go but for some strange magic reason it didn't bother me when I was in front of the audience. As soon as I made my entrance the sensation of needing a pee went; I never felt it throughout the show but as soon as the curtain came down I was back to square one – hopping up and down till I could empty out.
So you see I have quite a history of memorable pees. 
When I worked at the theatre in Reading I was staying with friends in Barnes and after the show we would drive along the motorway back in to London and nine times out of ten we had to stop whilst I peed on the hard shoulder.
By the way this gets read in the USA by quite a few people and I have to explain that the hard shoulder on the motorway is the part where you pull in to if you break down; so a very dangerous place to pee – especially if you are standing down wind of it!!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Marylebone to Harrow - 12 minutes,

I was sitting on the train the other day – Monday, in fact – it was six pm in London and the clocks were striking thirteen!!!!
Sorry about that I lapsed into the novel 1984.
I was at Marylebone Station (London) at six-o-clock waiting for the six twelve to move as soon as that time arrived and I was in the Quiet Coach. The Quiet Coach being the place where you are not allowed to use your cell phone or any other electronic device unless switched to 'silent.'
On that train it is fairly small and limited to about twenty seats and, as there was still twelve minutes to go to departure time, I was the only passenger.
Bit by bit the coach filled mostly with men – in fact mainly with men with one exception. All of them, when they arrived, pulled out an electronic device, made sure it was in silent mode and started to play with it– for what else is it but play?
Most were phones but there was a tablet, opposite me, and maybe a pad; actually there could have been more pads but I didn't see them mainly because I don't know what a pad looks like; unless we are going back in time when seeing a pad would have been looking at some female private apparel.
It seemed that I was looking at the others as they were turned to face me. I did not envy any of them and as they looked at me, dressed in jackets and ties and wearing mostly white shirts, I could see that none of the inhabitants envied me either.
Just before the train was due to go a man with a folding bike came in to the compartment and plonked the thing in to the middle of the aisle. Then he took out a cell phone and started playing with it. With a puzzled look on his face he gingerly and very daintily poked his forefinger on to the keys to type out some sort of tom tom of a message. He wasn't typing digits as there must have been half a second or so between each pick of the finger as if it was taking him to other places.
The man was quite tall and wore, over his jacket and tie, a mackintosh, which was open, and I remember wondering if the tail of the mac would drape over his saddle and catch his rear wheel.
As he picked his way through cyberspace his little finger was poised in the air pointing at the roof of the train and yes, you are right: as he dabbed away on his tiny keyboard the pinky went up his nose for a quick pick. A quick pick and back to the business of showing me his belly from the open mac with his striped shirt tucked into his trousers which were held up by a cardboard belt.
I'm sorry I couldn't help that description – a regular belt.
As I looked around I tried to imagine that I was making this journey as a regular commuter as they were; doing this journey every day.
It wouldn't be so bad for me as I was only going one stop, as far as Harrow-on-the-hill, which is about twelve minutes.
I was only on it at this time – the rush hour - as I'd been to the dentist.
Then I sat back and had a think.
Have you ever done that?
Just sat back and thought? 
As I looked at the commuters, with their electronic devices, I wondered why did it ever come to this? This was the overground national rail service as opposed to the regular London Transport and every piece of electronic devices they were holding would have driven my mother to distraction if she suddenly rose from the grave – and she's only been dead for about twenty years.
And then I thought even more – what was it about the last twenty odd years that gave us all this means of massive communication that we could use from the seat of a commuter train? Or, as in the case of 'Bike Man' standing in the aisle doing his act for us all to see, from a standing position, whilst trying to stop a mobile bike from falling over as he picked and plucked.
Elsewhere in this capital of Great Britain four million people were on the tube – four million: that's more than the population of any other town or city in Britain. And this train wasn't even the tube.
One day, last month a record 4.7 million people used the tube and, even though most would have no reception down there, most of them had electronic devices which would be communicating with the rest of the world.
As I thought this I asked myself why, or how come, it had taken the world, since its inception to discover such things. Electricity has always been with us; electronic storms have always been described by writers of the past, gas has always been there and nobody really invented radio waves, photography or even cyberspace. So why did it take so long?
Was it because the way to do things in the old days was to fight? The biggest is best and the fastest is there first?
I remember going to youth clubs as a teenager and the little fella would turn up with his record player and records. Then he would play them for the big kids who would laugh at him and bully him in to playing what records they liked. No thanks, to Cliff Richard, play Jerry Lee – play Chuck.
But the little fella played his own collection as he didn't have Jerry Lee or Chuck, and the big fellas had to make do with that as they had no records of their own. They spent all their money on pink socks but later on the little fella with his record collection became the deejay and the star – not the big kids or the clever kids.
I mean look at the British Chris Evans. - in any other age????
The clever kids invented the bomb. 
Before cyberspace, the cell phone and the pad and tablet they discovered how to blow us all to smithereens.
I was thinking all this as the train careered its way to Harrow-on-the-hill and when I made a slight move to get off and planned how I should scale the folding bike in the aisle, Bike Man spotted my slight movement and in one fowl swoop, pushed his folding bike along the aisle, alongside my seat and my arse had hardly left the comfort of the cushion when his fat one was feeling the warmth I'd left behind.

Twelve minutes, aye, from Marylebone to Harrow.
 a phone - how exciting