Saturday, February 25, 2017

The National Debt: if only . .

Denis Healey: the best Prime Minister Britain never had.

Think about this: if you had a load of money in the bank and a mortgage, would you pay the mortgage off?
Tax advisors say no, don't pay it off as you get tax relief on the mortgage interest – personally I would pay it off, tax relief or no tax relief.
Many years ago we had an interest only mortgage; to have one of these we had to take out an endowment life insurance plan to secure the balance. What they didn't mention was the insurance plan might not mature to more than the balance of the mortgage as there is no guarantee that it will.
And in fact a lot of them didn't.
One time a long time ago I put an advertisement in the newspaper as I had a violin to sell. 
A man came to the house to look and eventually bought it. 
However, this man only bought the thing to get in to the house. He was an insurance salesman. And he sold me an endowment mortgage. He paid me £100 or so for the violin just to make a sale. He would be paid commission on every payment I made to the insurance company for 25 years. All for giving me £100.
After a few months I found I couldn't really afford the premiums so I cancelled it.
Isn't the national debt a bit like that. Aren't we borrowing money from ourselves and trying to balance the books as if we have a load of cash in the bank but we are borrowing money to pay the mortgage, the utility bills and everything else and at the end of the year we say we have a deficit when all the time our capital stays in the bank.
Without giving precise numbers it has recently been announced that the National Health Service has lost two point something Billion pounds in the past year. That is despite the one Billion the government gave them. The word gave by the way is wrong but that's what I heard.
Two Billion in the scheme of things is a drop in the ocean when you consider that the government gave forty three Billion to the Royal Bank of Scotland to bail them out.
Yes gave. Because they ain't getting it back!!
And then there's the rest of the banking world.
Now - where did the government get it from?
Was it in a big hole somewhere, stashed there for a rainy day or was it borrowed?
If it was borrowed who did we – yes the royal one – borrow it from?
Why from ourselves, of course. I think the national debt is around three Trillion or thereabouts and that three Trillion is owed to The Bank of England – our bank.
It is also owed to the people who buy government bonds.
Maybe the Rothschild who lent money for the Napoleonic wars in the first place?
We don't borrow from The World Bank or the International Monetary Fund because our national debt is not an INTernational Debt.
We invest in the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, I shouldn't wonder.
The crisis in the National Health Service gets discussed and debated as if the solution is monetary, as if it's some kind of business and is likened to private companies whose aim is to make a profit.
The National Health Service is not here to make a profit or even pay for itself.
It's here to serve and for those who complain about management salaries etc I would ask the question: who do you want to manage it if not managers?
The doctors?
Some countries don't have national debts: Norway for a start.
When they discovered the oil they paid it off.
Could we do that or are we only renting the island from the Rothschilds?
Maybe the deficit is, like the national debt bullshit.



Saturday, February 18, 2017

One Hundred and Eighty!

Have you ever looked at darts on TV? And have you ever wondered how the players throw a dart from that distance – about eight feet – and it lands in the treble twenty; the sixty. Then they throw two more into the sixty and the announcer says one hundred and EIGHTY!!! And the crowd goes wild? Sometimes if the first one doesn't go in neither do the other two. They might get one more in there but the other will be in the twenty or even the one or five.
The confidence of that first dart spurs them on to the other two or vice-versa.
That's why they will go to the bottom of the board and go for the nineteen to try and get a couple of trebles in there – or they may go down there because the flight of one of the darts is blocking their view of the treble twenty.
Now I am a good shot with a rifle – well I was, I got my marksman's badge when I was in the army cadets (hey!!! the ACF not the CCF!!) - but I was using sights. They weren't telescopic sights, which are easy to use as long as you can keep the rifle still, but a kind of V sight.
There again, though, you have to keep the weapon still. A good way of doing this is to pull it into your shoulder and twist at the same time, then squeezing that trigger so softly that you don't even feel it. Rather like tickling a trout as they swim beneath you and suddenly it's in your arms – but don't ask me as I don't fish even though my son is an expert carp angler.
But going back to the darts with their shooting/firing without sights. I have never really fired many pistols – a sten, yes and a bren gun – but I have been told that if you hold a pistol in your hand and point it at the target as if it's your finger you get a sure shot. So it might be the same principle for dart players.
David Beckham, when he was a boy, would practice hitting the cross bar from way out till he got good. How good? Well you know.
I have always thought that good photographers would be good rifle marksmen as they have the discipline to be still and to touch that shutter at the right time and with the gentleness in the finger of an eye surgeon.
I remember I went out on a smallish boat to see the whales migrating north in the Pacific Ocean. Unfortunately I didn't have a zoom lens on my camera and it wasn't automatic focus or anything so as soon as the shout went to – WHALE ON THE STARBOARD SIDE AT TWO-O-CLOCK – or whatever, you had to point, focus and squeeze. I took a few but they were so tiny in the the frame that they didn't look great when I cropped them; not bad, but not great.
It was an Olympus with all the bells and whistles of what was available to me (at my price) at that time so I bought a Canon not long after that. That was great but it eventually wore out; I was having to take gaffa tape with me everywhere to keep the thing closed and I left it on the Queen Mary 2 on our way back to Blighty when the time came – unfortunately I left the lens by mistake.
So recently I looked on eBay for a 35mm camera and bought one. Not remembering that I was looking for a Canon with automatic focus I bought the same kind of Olympus again – mistake!!!
Maybe I should have practiced trying to hit the cross bar or the treble twenty?




Monday, February 13, 2017

I'm back - where've I been?

Dear oh dear, I'm sorry I haven't written to you for some time; gawd knows why, I suppose I've just been busy.
Look:

those are the books next to my bed which I haven't had time to finish. Some of them I have finished but I keep them there as they are the ones I really liked, for example, Marty Feldman's autobiography. I loved it so it stays there in case I want to dip in to it again. Sometimes I get bored with novels so a few there are half finished or half started, depending on which way you look at it, and one, John Osborne's autobiography, I have been reading for years. It's a must for all writers and actors as it's well written and interesting and he was probably one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. 
The first play that startled everybody was Look Back in Anger and a lot of people these days think that his character Jimmy Porter is still relevant – it was in the 50s but not now I don't think.
He wasn't exactly (John Osborne) the nicest of people; I got to know one of his wives, Jill Bennett, when she worked in Nottingham and she was lovely. She was a big star and people in the company (I was working with at Leicester Haymarket Theatre) would pull my leg and say she's out front or she's coming tonight because I'd had a few drinks with her.
I met her after a play she was in and made her laugh solidly for an hour or so whilst we were in the pub before driving back to Leicester.
When she committed suicide it is reputed that her ex husband, John Osborne, spit on her grave. Whether that is true or not I don't know but I have seen it in print before the phrase post-truth was even imagined. But why did he do that (if he did)?

Maybe because of the suicide and not for anything else. Maybe he didn't like the fact that she had abandoned him after he had abandoned her in life. So why would I want to read his book? Just an interesting read that's all. I don't know if he even mentioned her in his writing; yet!
I saw in the west end a follow up to Look Back in Anger but Jimmy Porter wasn't played very well. Jimmy was originated by Kenneth Haigh at The Royal Court and played by Richard Burton in the movie. 


The thing about Jimmy is that he was/is a wife abuser. He spends all the play trying to play the trumpet (off stage) and then comes on shouting and roaring. He calls his mother in law names and describes her as rough as a night in a Bombay Brothel at one point. And he kicks out at anything and is a true bully which is what the author probably was; this was in the fifties when the old guard were going out and classes were changing and it was in the last days of rationing, national service (the draft) when a new day was dawning and creativity which was always stifled by the royal shilling (the draft). John Lennon and Ringo Starr just missed the draft and we got The Beatles.
I didn't play Jimmy Porter but I played his Welsh lodger, Cliff, when I went to night school – night drama school to be precise. They couldn't afford sound FX and the guy playing Jimmy couldn't play the trumpet so I played it. Now what made me think I could play a trumpet? Well I used to be in the army cadets and knew how to get a sound out of it so it worked.
But all this, as I ramble on, doesn't give you much of an excuse as to why I haven't been writing.
Well I have a new agent after the unfortunate demise of my last one who sadly died just before my play opened so there we are.





Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Big Light!

This was written in London at 1.48 am January 1st 2017 – in Los Angeles it is still in the afternoon – 5.48pm.
Happy New Year - Feliz año nuevo.
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 BIG LIGHT!!
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 called Jack 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 Chuck Berry is 90, Jerry Lee Lewis 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.
and the guitar solo at 40 seconds is great.



Tuesday, December 20, 2016

An Urge to Utter - 2016

I was listening to the radio the other day and the programme was about Harriet Martineau who, from a non-conformist background in Norwich, became one of the best known writers from the nineteenth century.
It doesn't say much about me when I say I hadn't heard of her. But that would be the same to the person in Liverpool who, having heard I was an actor, made it quite clear, and told me so, that she had never heard of me.
Harriet Martineau followed, what is called, neccessitarianism* and had an urge to utter.
Yes – an urge to utter.
I probably have that urge, which is why I write on here now and again. Lots of us have urges to utter and I heard a famous poet on the radio who said that she has been planning a novel for years. You've heard plenty of people say that so what stops them? They have the urge to utter but don't want to be judged too harshly so, even though they write columns and poetry they don't want to be judged for anything of length just in case it's no good.
Harriet Martineau was very controversial and was an early feminist although it seems rather a late date to be an early feminist when the earth has been here for many millions of years. The older you think it is the less religion means to you.
But it's both easy and hard to realise just what a necessitarian actually is; maybe it is someone who looks out to the universe and accepts all the messages they get from it and acts accordingly doing what is necessary - or gets locked up for being a danger to themselves and other people.
Maybe that's why Trump was elected and not Clinton and Brexit was voted for when it seemed that sensible people were voting to remain in the European Community.
In both cases people went in to the polling booth with a pin and stuck it into the space where their hand was guided as if from Mars (what is necessary) – that's the only excuse I can think.
Someone said on the BBC World Service the other night, that in a few months time people will say they saw what was happening and they knew Trump would win. Well . . . .
I know that when I have looked at elections – and I lived in America for five presidential elections – I have noticed that as soon as one of the candidates finds a catch phrase they win. It doesn't happen all the time as with John Kerry when he said help is on the way – it just wasn't good enough to beat Bush who was the sitting president.
Al Gore wouldn't seek the help of President Bill Clinton as he was a bit puritanical and didn't want to be associated with a president who had been impeached even though he was found not guilty, but that catch phrase was there; this time it was fuzzy math when Bush retaliated to Gore's maths.
So as soon as I heard that the catch phrase “inherited from the Labour Government” I knew the Conservatives were going to win each time they have used it. You see each time a catch phrase is used the party or person it is used against doesn't question it; and they should.
In the referendum – a plebiscite which was never ever used here before 1974 – as soon as the leave campaign started saying take back control I knew it was all over. Nobody answered it.
At the moment the government here is trying to take back all the rights we had before the referendum – we already had those rights so why vote to leave? Oh yes!! The same disease America has – immigration. In a country where everybody is an immigrant they were swayed by Trump's rhetoric, the leave campaigners here were swayed by a really evil person called Nigel Farage who warned that millions and millions of immigrants would want to come and live in Britain. Farage is one of those opportunist people that history throws up now and again; the gang of four (here) who left the Labour Party in 1983 to form an alliance with the Liberal Party. (Liberal here, by the way, is not the same as in America but is middle of the road). They were opportunists but as soon as they actually took the opportunity in 2010 and joined with the conservatives it was their death knell as they lost nearly all their seats in the commons last year in the General Election.
As to Trump, he used the same popularist speeches that some people may have had at the back of their minds; people whom you might scratch and they'd be racist. The 'Donald' wasn't in a straight jacket and dictated to by PR men and women or the men in grey suits he was himself. Hillary Clinton wasn't. I noticed two leaders of the Labour Party giving great speeches recently – Ed Milliand and Gordon Brown – but when they were leaders they were puppets.
I am totally against Trump I don't think he has any of the qualifications for the job but he is good on television and that's why he won.
But the good people in America will vote for anything: I remember three years after I moved there, there was an election for the Sheriff of Los Angeles County. The man in office was a certain Sheriff Sherman Block and he was challenged by Lee Baca. The first time the election took place there was no majority so they had to have a 'run off.'
A few days before the second election was to happen the 74 year old Sheriff Block, fell in his bathroom and died.
The run off election took place in November 1998 even though Sheriff Block had died on October 1998. Instead of cancelling the election the authorities allowed it to go ahead and seven hundred and three thousand, one hundred and seventy eight people voted for a dead man. Seven hundred and three thousand, one hundred and seventy eight people.
This year – 2016 – over seventeen million people in Great Britian – seventeen million turkeys, or Santa Clauses voted to cancel Christmas. In other words voted to leave The Common Market or, as it is now called, The European Community. Since then it has been mentioned on the news and in news and current affairs programmes every day – every single day.
And that's the way we end the year – not knowing what we want and we leave 2016 knowing that we lost some great people and the greatest of them all.
Mohamed Ali.



* Necessitarianism is a metaphysical principle that denies all mere possibility; there is exactly one way for the world to be.
It is the strongest member of a family of principles, including hard determinism, each of which deny libertarian free will, reasoning that human actions are predetermined by external or internal antecedents. Necessitarianism is stronger than hard determinism, because even the hard determinist would grant that the causal chain constituting the world might have been different as a whole, even though each member of that series could not have been different, given its antecedent causes.
Anthony Collins was the foremost defender of Necessitarianism. His brief Inquiry Concerning Human Liberty (1715) was a key statement of the determinist standpoint.
The Century Dictionary defined it in 1889–91 as belief that the will is not free, but instead subject to external antecedent causes or natural laws of cause and effect.



Friday, November 11, 2016

from the beauty of Kennedy to the Trump waxworks.

I looked in the garden today as the whole country fell silent for the two minute tribute to those lost in wars and conflicts. In the distance there was a pigeon, which appeared to be standing up right in respect as not a word was (or a squeak) spoken. Not even the sound of a child in the distance was heard and the birds gathered around a kind of toadstool out there, eating the bits of scraps we sometimes leave there. Yesterday about twenty gulls must have flown in from the coast with the biggest actually on top of the toadstool; you can just about see it, above, near the base of one of the trees. Sorry the photo isn't that clear.
When the two minutes of silence were up, a shot was fired and all the birds flew away.
From a couple of places they flew in flocks and there was a lot of tiny bird activity too.
This year is also the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme; on the day it started, in July,1916, 20,000 men were killed.
Stop and think about that number.
A few seconds before the first shot was fired, at the Somme, there must have been a lot of bird activity but as soon as it was fired and heard by those birds the Somme must have fallen as silent as our garden did today at 11.02 am and the dawn chorus wasn't heard again till November; four months and over one million killed and wounded. One of those was my granddad, who survived, and no matter how we remember them, and old soldiers remember the battle, it was all for nothing.
Or maybe it brought Europe together eventually, after another war twenty years later, when the Common Market was formed and instead of fighting we all started working and living in each other's countries where we lived and played together in harmony – but you don't believe that do you?
The preachers of hate wanted us out.
When I was listening to the silence, and not John Cage's (4'33”), I thought of the presidential election; the presidential election of 1960 when John Kennedy won and moved his beautiful family in to the White House (Casablanca?) in January 1961; where it would continue the curse that befell them and continued right up to the time when we lived there when John Jr was killed.
But I remember Kennedy's inauguration and the tears in my mother's eyes as Kennedy was an Irish man – Roman Catholic and handsome. I even remember some of his campaigning as he had a profile on his publicity photos on the posters showing the parting in his hair; or the part, as they call it in America.
I knew nothing of his opponent, Nixon, or the arrangement made by Kennedy's crook of a father with Sam Giancana of the Mafia to 'buy Chicago' for his son I just knew that Camelot was moving in to the White House.
But I also remember the tears of pain in my mother's eyes as they laid him to rest after Oswald shot him – and that gave rise to a whole lot of paranoiac conspiracy theories which has made millions for the promoters of such bullshit.

But now, instead of the Camelot of the Kennedys and the beauty and intellegence of the Obamas we have the waxworks of the Trumps – Gawd 'elp us!!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Bye Bye Bobby Vee, Strictly and Bake Off.


Look at my desk – up there! - just look at it. I've been so busy I haven't – or hadn't – the time to even clear it. I finished my play and went in to something straight away so just didn't get around to it.
Actually it doesn't look too bad in the photo but between the scanner and the printer there is every draft of my script, various cables, little junctions (or adapters or whatever), blank CDs, blank DVDs and a feather.
So that's why I haven't written a post lately.
What intrigued me, though, was even though I hadn't published a post since September 3, I still get about 30 – 35 views per day; yesterday it was 118 page views, so who are those people who keep faithfully following – or following faithfully? Here look:

and you can see here where a lot of them are going to:


Quite a few things have happened since the last post. Nissan have decided to build two models of their vehicles, in Sunderland, which will make the workforce happy who were devastated by a person called Thatcher some years ago. 
Of course it's not some kind of philanthropic act, the pound is down so they will build the cars from their sterling account and sell them for dollars.
The other thing - Bobby Vee died.
That was a blow, those were my teenage years.
I have liked a lot of music over the years from straight pop right through The Beatles to grand opera and classics such as La bohème and Philip Glass, and jazz like Dave Brubeck and Miles Davis, but there is nothing to compare with a great guitar by Jimmy Reed or Ike Turner. Nothing; but none of it was as much fun as Bobby Vee who was heavily influenced by Buddy Holly. 
Bobby Vee, Billy Fury and all that fun. All gone.
That pop music of the late 50s and early 60s is totally unbeatable.
I remember a girl once – actually she was a dental nurse - who picked a fine time to chat me up, when I was about sixteen. 
She asked me if I liked Frank Sinatra as she had a couple of tickets to see him live, and what did I say? 'I like Bobby Vee.'
I could see her attitude change in a moment – 'who is the bozo who prefers Bobby Vee to Frank Sinatra?' 
Well I did but, since those days, I like Frank Sinatra too.
Amongst other things going on over here is a pop singer had a hissy fit when one of the judges on Strictly Come Dancing gave him a bad review and he walked off never to be seen or heard from again.
Maybe he wanted more money – but from the BBC I couldn't see that happening. I know the dancers don't get very much on that show as they complain, when you meet them, but I should imagine the stars get quite a bit. Not as much as some of the other reality shows that go out on ITV where, in Celebrity Big Brother and I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here go up to about half a million – each – depending on your agent. 
When you consider it though they are long jobs and the real reason professionals do it is to promote themselves.
Half a million is above average but Ann Widdecombe was offered three times that to do I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here.
Who?
A politician called Ann Widdecombe, or words to that effect, was on Strictly Come Dancing a number of years ago and at the moment she is working on a cruise giving two lectures, one on politics and one on Strictly Come Dancing and they are both standing room only. Actors and actresses who have appeared on these shows have done quite well for work afterwards but it's really like selling your soul to the devil and in Ann Widdecombe's place her sole!!
Two of the judges on Strictly Come Dancing do the show live on a Saturday evening here, record the show that goes out on Sunday evening straight after it, then fly out to Los Angeles on Sundays to work on the American version Dancing with the Stars which goes out on Monday evenings (live) and then again they record the results show as soon as the votes are in.
The other show here is The Great British Bake Off, again on the BBC so not much money there again. The series has been bought from the producers by Channel 4 so the BBC have lost out. The chief host is going with it to Ch 4 for many wheel barrows of money leaving the BBC to work on a new show, a rival.
The only thing they (Ch4) haven't taken in to consideration is you can't copyright a format – only the title – so we'll see.
I don't like food shows, but from the bits I've seen it's quite a happy little show and so is Dancing with the Stars Strictly they call it here!!
I know I should protest against all the reality shows, antiques, cooking, dancing, knitting, skating, as they are taking the place of drama, which is supposed to be employing me, but they are cheap shows even though the money is good on the International Commercial ones but the commercials on Channel 4 will be at around £100,000 per commercial slot which – and Channel 4 is a minority channel – is hard to figure.
Talking of the single word identification Strictly: some time ago I was doing a Shakespeare play in the theatre, As You Like It, and when I told a casting director where I was working she asked 'Are you in As You?'
Just couldn't be bothered to say the full title – Strictly off the record.







Saturday, September 3, 2016

George Best; don't die like me!


There he is – up there; George Best – or Georgie. He was an Irishman from Belfast, capital of the so called Northern Ireland. 
He played for Manchester United in the great years with Dennis Law, Bobby Charlton, Brian Kidd etc – and I saw them play.
He was called the fifth Beatle – el Beatle; there was a song 'Georgie the Belfast Boy' and he was the first modern celebrity footballer.
Georgie was one of the best players ever to pull on a pair of football boots; he was ahead of his time and played like a lot like players do these days where we see players being trapped in a corner with three others surrounding them then whoosh!!! they beat the three players and glide passed them with the ball.
They get a lot of this from Best and from Johan Cryuff – he of the Cryuff turn.
You can see kids practising this in the parks – the Cryuff Turn and the Best Dribble. Both very exciting things to watch.
But Georgie was shy; in fact he was chronically shy.
One time he appeared in a talk show on the BBC hosted by fellow Irishman Terry Wogan.
Georgie turned up drunk; but what did they expect from someone so shy so chronically shy – maybe even cynically shy?
If he was walking down the street and saw a bus queue on his side of the road he would cross over – a lot of footballers are shy: Bobby Charlton for one – but not as bad as Georgie.
A lot of research has gone in to the chronically shy theory a typical sufferer will retreat to their room – like the pop singer Morrissey. He painted his windows black to keep any light out and have the blinds fully drawn. He didn't really communicate with anybody; he was shy.


I saw him once in the car park of The Farmers' Market/The Grove in Los Angeles; he was with a woman and walked with his head down, very tall and the woman was quite short. Don't ask me how I know but the woman would be working for him or related by blood.
Another typical sufferer was one of the boys who massacred his school pals at Columbine School. I don't really know what his name was – something Dickensian like Claybole or Claybold or something like that.
These days the cynically shy have companions in their little rooms and it is the world wide web where they can get information from as to how they can rule or even destroy the world.
Dickensian wanted to kill his teacher and he found a fellow traveller with another obscure name and they were one of first of the many American school massacres.
Kids never change; they can be seen in their rooms, by themselves.
Since the eighties we have known about Aspergers Syndrome and all the other discoveries that our parents never knew: Tourettes, Dyslexia you name it but the Jesuits always claimed that we never change after the age of seven – and we don't.
I met a friend from school when I was in Edinburgh in 2010 (Hi Les) and he hadn't changed. He was still the same fella from school; he had a lot of different experiences since that age, of course, and grown up, but we got on the same as we did all those years ago.
If you are a selfish child you will be a selfish grown up, if you were a bully you are probably being bullied; scared of the dark? You'll be scared of the dark. Not necessarily the dark but some kind of unknown darkness.
A lot of us have seen the 7 UP series – do you remember the kid who didn't like his greens? I always thought he would end up as a mass murderer and when you see him as a 55 year old he is in Australia happily married but . . . there is still something about him that's kind of dangerous; something in the eyes.
But that child, that little Georgie Best didn't have a room to go to so he played with a ball, practiced and practised* which got rid of his shyness for a while till be had to meet people and that's why he had an early death.
He took to the drink, had a liver transplant, had an infection from the drugs he had to take after the transplant – couldn't give up the booze; died early.
The message he left for his fans and friends was Don't Die Like Me
I believe there is to be a documentary film about him which is being premiered pretty soon; maybe then we'll learn more about shyness.

*which do you like better? the British or the American spelling?

Georgie The Belfast Boy
Lyric
When I saw you, you looked like a diamond
As you played in the dust and the grime
Just a boy from the country of Ireland
And I knew I could make you shine
Coz you move like a downtown dancer
With your hair hung down like a mane
And your feet play tricks like a juggler
As you weave to the sound of your name
Georgie, Georgie, they call you the Belfast Boy
Georgie, Georgie, they call you the Belfast Boy Georgie, Georgie, keep your feet on the ground
Georgie, Georgie, when you listen to the sound
Georgie, Georgie, put a light on your name
Yeah, yeah, yeah, play the game
Play the game, boy, play the game
Just play the way the ball bounces
And bounce the way the ball plays
Coz you won't have long in the limelight
No you won't have many days
When you live and you play for United
With your life and your blood and your soul
You run and you kick and you fight it
And you learn every way to the goal
Georgie, Georgie, they call you the Belfast Boy
Georgie, Georgie, they call you the Belfast Joy
And they say Georgie, Georgie, keep your feet on the ground
Georgie, Georgie, when you listen to the sound
Georgie, Georgie, put a light on your name
Yeah, yeah, yeah, play the game
Play the game, boy, play the game
Play the game, yeah, play the game
Whoa play the game, man, play the game
Yeah play the game, now, play the game
Play the game, yeah, play the game

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Day the Music Died. By Tony Garnett; A Review

The Day the Music Died. A Life Lived Behind the Lens. 
By Tony Garnett

This is an absolutely wonderful book by one of the best producers of films shown on BBC Television; it is a must for actors, producers, writers, directors – in fact anyone who has anything to do with the process of film making.
It is not a 'kiss and tell' piece and is wonderfully written with passion and feeling and in some places it is very moving. There is no name dropping, with one exception, nor gossip.
The one exception: I got the feeling that a chapter might have been suggested by the publisher, where Paul Newman is mentioned; as I said wonderfully written, but not that chapter and I don't think he (Tony) liked that period in his life, judging by the writing.
This is a memoir of Tony Garnett; the man, when he worked at the BBC – BBC Television, that is – who turned the drama department in to the National Theatre of Television.
Did the BBC deserve it, or really want it or even earn that phrase or praise?
Tony Garnett certainly deserved the praise for what he achieved there and, in fact, BBC Television Drama is still eating out on the work he did.
He was the producer of The Wednesday Play, so described by the infamous Internet Movie Date Base (IMDb) as a television series.
They were, in fact, ten single dramas (films) starting with Cathy Come Home in 1966 and ending with The Big Flame in 1969. Not forgetting the other IMDb described series called Play for Today, starting with Hard Labour in 1973 and ending with Spongers in 1979.
None of these were, in fact, 'plays' or parts of a series, they were full length single movies. They may have been politically motivated but who would not be politically motivated in the sixties and seventies when people in the UK were living in slums?
Between 1966 (Cathy) to 1979 he produced about 35 full length extraordinary films. Films that would win any award these days and films which never even see the desk of drama commissioning editors any more – and that is a pity.
I'm not saying the BBC doesn't produce good work these days, with the occasional series of Line of Duty and Secret Witness but the single film, the single great modern drama has gone.
In the book you will get to know what happened to the actress Topsy Jane; I remember seeing Topsy Jane in The Loneliness of a Long Distance Runner when the film was first released; I didn't notice her in particular, or really understand the film, but later, when I saw it again and appreciated it better, I noticed and wondered what had happened to such an exciting young talent. The IMDb didn't exist and no matter where I looked I couldn't find anything apart from the fact that she had left the movie Billy Liar and was replaced by Julie Christie. There are some distance shots of Topsy still in Billy Liar, so they say, but that was it.
There is a little more information on the IMDb now but this book tells all as Tony Garnett was married to her and, like the rest of the book, it is a very sad tale.
In fact you will wonder, when you read it, just how Tony Garnett even survived and went on to do the great work he did.
His parents both died when he was very young; up to that time his mother would play the piano and the little Tony would dance and sing with her then suddenly, in a very moving and disturbing chapter, he loses them and he didn't sing and dance again; the music had died.
His family was split up, he went to live with an aunt and uncle, whilst his brother lived elsewhere and Tony disappeared in to a world of books. Not Biggles, or the Famous Five, but Freud and on to Marx's Capital (which defeated him) and on the way to books by RD Laing and other psychological and educational writers he devoured the Jacobeans, Shakespeare, the romantic poets and on to English French and Russian novels which must have formed his political ideas and subjects used so usefully later in his producing career.
I have often thought I had a great deal in common with him; I was brought up in Birmingham, albeit it on the other side of the city, and in the book he mentions Oswald Bailey's Army & Navy Store, where I worked in my first job from school; I supported Aston Villa, as he does – he because he lived on that side of the city (I presume) and me because we were Irish and lived in Balsall Heath and Sparkhill. He mentions David Turner (the writer) - I was in his last TV play for BBC.
We are at the other end of the spectrum on lots of other things, maybe because of that slight difference in our ages – seven years.
He mentions The Beatles and says 'I Want to Hold Your Hand was written for twelve year olds' when people of my age, watching them live for the first time, watched them with a male dominated audience (the same age as The Beatles) – at The Ritz, in King's Heath, Birmingham.
However the next time I saw them, at the same venue, they did play to young teenagers and we couldn't hear them, so maybe he has a point.
I believe The Beatles had a great hand in changing society from what it was in the fifties to what it became in the seventies, via the swinging sixties. President Regan always thought he brought down the Berlin Wall but he didn't; it was The Beatles and Levi Jeans.
Just as politicians thought they worked wonders and miracles, when it came to the housing crisis, with the forming of Shelter (the housing and homeless charity) but they didn't; it was people like Ken Loach and Tony Garnett who did more than any politician, in fact Shelter was formed as a direct result of Cathy Come Home.
In this memoir, (and what is the difference between a memoir and an autobiography), there is a chapter on Dennis Potter, another favourite television writer of mine, but Tony Garnett knew him and worked with him and the information therein is very interesting.
I met Tony Garnett once; it was when he was meeting people for a mini series called Law and Order – mini series is the wrong way to describe the classic series that it turned out to be; I wrote a review about it on the infamous IMDb.
Tony was in a BBC office somewhere with the director Les Blair and there was something about them, something I also noticed when I met Mike Leigh. They looked at me and as they did I got the feeling that they were looking in to my soul, examining every part of me to see what they could do with me, where they could fit me in to their scheme of things with their series.
I didn't get in to it and when I saw it, and I still do see it, I could see why; there was nothing in it for me but there was plenty in this book for me. Thank you Tony; thank you for writing it.