Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Superman - Birdman

When I was a little boy I had one hero – one hero, that is, before Roger Bannister ran the sub 4 minute mile – and that hero was Superman.
As soon as I set eyes on the serial my little boy's life changed.
I got all the comics and remember him going back and meeting Helen of Troy and not believing her when she said she came from the fifth century before Christ by asking how she would know about Christ if she died before Christ was born; loads of other stuff I learned which I have forgotten about now, but I was such a young little lad that I didn't realise that Lois and Clark's names were based on - Lewis and Clark, the pioneers that discovered America by land and claimed the North West for the United States – or something like that. 
In fact, who knows, Lois and Clark might not have been based on the great 19th Century explorers at all, but I didn't care; I became Superman and I told my brothers.
They didn't believe me till one of them asked where my cloak was and I told them; under the bed, of course.
I showed it to them; there was a dark thing under there and they might have believed me. Our bedroom window was over a bay window so I could get out quite easily, walk along the ledge and shimmy down before they made it to the window to see where I'd gone.
I never actually tried to run along the garden and fly; that surprises me now thinking back on it but maybe in my heart of hearts I knew I wasn't really Superman at all and didn't want to face up to reality.
When he was old enough I took my son to see Superman at the movies and when I took him up to bed each night after that I would hold him out so he could fly up the stairs with his fist clenched like Christopher Reeve; his son likes Superman too and flies to bed each night in the same way, I should think.
But I dreamed of flying; I dreamt loads of times about it and I still do; I don't fly like Superman I lift up from the ground and I can travel but . . . I always have a problem landing.
When I saw Birdman – the film – the other day, it all came back to me.
He lifted up and flew at one point. 
And I wondered how he was going to land!! 
Now this is strange because the film appeared to be shot in one long continuous take – it wasn't, I know, but it appeared to be; at the beginning of the film he is sitting in his dressing room (Michael Keaton brilliantly plays an actor in a play) levitating.
It is a film about the production of a play – when he leaves the dressing room to rehearse a scene, he says to his assistant (played by the brilliant Zach Galifianakis) 'try and stop so and so acting' which is one thing the Americans always try to do as they don't like overacting.
There was also a lot of script improvising in their play – why say three lines when you've already said it in one – theories about art: what it is and isn't etc.
A terrible woman, wonderfully played by Lindsay Duncan is the critic of the New York Times who can, and threatens, to close the play.
"I'll kill your play" she says.
A lot of it's fantasy mixed with reality but I would recommend it to everybody especially actors so when I got home and went to bed and slept I . .

. . .  didn't dream about flying at all; not yet in any case.
Someone once told me that if you fly in your dreams you have illusions of grandeur – well maybe I do; I mean why else am I an actor? Sometimes I do wonder.
If I am doing my one man show – either of them – I just go on and do it, but when I'm not doing it, like now, I wonder where I get the audacity from; I have been doing solo performances for fifteen years and each time I get involved I still wonder if it will come off; maybe it has something to do with my flying dreams where I fly like Birdman. Not like Superman who goes head forward; maybe I'll fly like Superman in my dreams one day.
Sometimes when I can't get to sleep I think about a tall building in North Acton; I worked there plenty of times for the BBC years ago, and the canteen was on the top floor.
If it was sunny people would sit outside to eat and looking over the wall we could see, through the mist, Greater London.
I lie in bed sometimes and think of that building; walking over to the door of the veranda, getting on to the wall and floating across London. 
I can feel the wind in my face as I fly like Superman; I can see the tube train below, the A40 road before it became a motorway and I head west over green grass and winding traffic.
But I don't go very far as Superman; I doze off and go into another world; another world where I no longer fly like Superman but like Michal Keaton in Birdman.
 Up right and proper wearing an overcoat.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A day in the life . . .

There I am – above – that was in the BBC Shakespeare series As You Like It with Helen Mirren – no I'm not fighting Helen Mirren!!
That thing in my right hand is my sword – it seems to be angled right at the camera so you can't see it properly.
It's not my hair, of course, and that thing at the top of my legs is a small cod piece.
The other fella, by the way, seems to be tied up in knots and believe me if he'd known the photo was being taken he would have bent his head around. The photo was taken by one of the ace guys who take the tennis photos at Wimbledon each summer.
The photo below is going back even farther – or further - I am on the right and the play we were in was called The Alchemist by Ben Johnson – not the runner, the 17th century playwright.

On the left, looking very elegant and proud is Julian Fellowes (now Lord Fellowes) of Gosford Park and Downton Abbey fame, and in that photo you can see something similar at the top of my legs – yes a cod piece. 
The other fella, nearer Julian, is the (now) famous wine expert Oz Clarke but the fella with his hand out is now a mystery to me. 
Rather a large one – I got these two photos from the Internet but I'm sure I have originals somewhere.
I did The Alchemist at The Royal Theatre, Northampton and we stayed on in Northampton to live for some years. That's where we brought the children up in a small village about six or seven miles east and it would take over an hour to get in to London on a good day.
A year or two after that photo was taken I was walking through the market square in Northampton when I stocky young fella with long hair and a beard came up to me. He seemed to be dressed in many colours and he said – 'hello boy; you that fella with the cord pace; ent that right?'
Yes, I said.
'I remember that cord pace in that play.'
I asked him if he went to the theatre much and he said no that he only came that once.
He was with a girl and I could see he had a few drinks on him. Tom, his name was, and it turned out that he was quite famous as a singer of folk songs and led a folk band. We talked for a while and went for a drink in, I think, Shipman's bar just off the market square.
I bumped in to him lots of times after that and sometimes we would have a drink and maybe end up at his place. I can't remember where it was but he had loads of musical instruments around the place and I was never sure if it was his place. Those were hazy days and one time I bumped into him London near Ward's Irish House in Piccadilly and whilst we were there an old friend of mine walked in with his dog.
I can't remember what kind of a dog it was but Tom looked at the dog very carefully and said to my pal 'I think his trousers are too short.'
What Tom was doing in Piccadilly that day I don't know but my pal wanted to know if I could do a West Indian accent 'course he can' said Tom 'he can do any accent you like. I saw him doing Walsh and carckney – you name it.'
'I thought you didn't go to the theatre?' I said.
'Oh I snuck in once or twice' he said.
So my pal said his friend wanted someone who could do a West Indian accent to go to his flat to read his play.
'You go and do that' said Tom.
'He's a white West Indian' said my pal ' says he Irish.'
'He'll be from Barbados' said Tom 'you heard the saying “Hell or Barbados?”'
So Tom wandered off and I went up to Muswell Hill to my pal's friend's flat.
When we got there he sure was a white West Indian and he'd written a play 'I need to hear this' the guy said and he poured a large whiskey for me.
We sat down and read it and my pal read the other English part.
My accent wasn't that good – more Jamaican – but the whiskey flowed and we had a few laughs reading the play.
When we finished the play we played darts – with an air pistol.
We were shooting tiny coloured darts at an ordinary dart board and there was a lot of cheering and shouting if we hit the bull and the playwright's wife went out to fetch more whiskey. When it came back it flowed again till it was time to go.
I got to Euston Station just in time to catch the last train to Northampton which was ten minutes past midnight.
As I walked along the platform a loud voice shouted and there was Tom carrying a small bottle of whiskey.
We walked up through the carriages and there sitting on one of the seats I met someone else I knew. An actor called Raynor Burton and he was with his pal who was strumming on a guitar.
Tom passed the whiskey around and we sipped from the bottle as we travelled up to Northampton. Raynor and his pal were going all the way to Birmingham and as we travelled, sipped and laughed, Raynor's pal went into one of my favourite Bob Dylan songs Lay Lady Lay; it was beautiful.
You would think we were a nuisance, singing and drinking and laughing, but no. 
I could see people were smiling and we sang a couple of folk songs with Tom to the fore and then the guitarist starting singing 'Where do you go to my lovely?/When you're alone in your bed' and the whole carriage joined in.
Not too many people as it was the middle of the night and when we finished we had reached Northampton.
Tom left the whiskey with the boys as they continued the other half of their journey to Birmingham and we wandered off in to the night.
I never saw any of them again but when I looked Tom up on the Internet just now I saw that his name was Tom Hall and he played with a band called The Barback Riders and he died twelve years ago.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Chowder of Cats, a Murder of Crows and a Tent.

I noticed the other day – or I realised the other day – that I lived in Los Angeles longer than I had lived anywhere. I moved there in January 1995 and came away in July 2011.
I lived in other places, of course, and the other long residence was in Northamptonshire where we were for another fifteen years. We had three addresses there (three in LA too) and ended up in a village about six miles or so from the town of Northampton itself.
It might have been like the TV series I wrote about last time Father Brown with a drunken vicar, the headmaster of the school having a ding dong with one of the teachers, a few village idiots (one having a dubious relationship with sheep), gentlemen farmers and a certain amount of small mindedness.
We had a very warm kitchen where we would sit around the table for meals each day and I seem to remember having to buy quite a few water jugs, which were placed in the middle of the table at meals, as they were always being broken.
I would brew my own beer and wine and make bread and pizza and I seemed to be very productive writing bad poetry, mediocre songs and a fairly good play.
I also made comic tapes for the children, which made them laugh when they came in from school, and there are still copies of the 'daft daddy' tapes knocking about.
We had three dogs (not altogether) and loads of cats; a lot of them died which broke all our hearts.
We had a female cat called Alex and one called Tibbles. They both had kittens and were killed not long after on the main road. Tibbles' kitten was called Flossie and was pure white.
One day she was shot somewhere near the thigh; she came home, climbed on top of my stereo music centre and slept for 24 hours. When she woke up she was fine – she was shot because she was white and must have stood out luminously at night when the village boys with their shot-guns were prowling.
She was killed too on the main road and then one day a young cat came into the house; she was tortoiseshell, we called her Biddie and she decided to stay.
Sometimes we would call her Auntie Biddie.
She had loads of kittens, which we gave away, but kept four of them and they lasted till they died of natural causes – so there we were with five cats (a chowder of cats) and when I went to live in Los Angeles I left 3 of them behind and the dog – Whiskey.
It sounds like an idyllic life, doesn't it, and in fact it was; when I got to Los Angeles I was there by myself for 18 months (or as the Americans say 'a year and a half') and we went back to the start of our marriage when my wife came.
Our children were grown up, property owning and independent; it was as if mummy and daddy had died and gone to heaven but they could still contact us. In fact our biggest expense when we lived there was the telephone bill.
That and the trips back to London and the children came to us too – so United Airlines were the winners. We thought the children might have wanted to join us but it wasn't to be so that's the reason we came back – children and grandchildren.
We had 2 cats in Los Angeles; 2 American cats who liked to bite and didn't like human food, fresh chicken, fish or milk. It had to be cat food from the Supermarket.
One was called the Big 'ne the other the Little one – they had other names for the vet - and we kept them till they died naturally.
The Big One came back to London with us but because of the British Law had to go into Quarantine for a while – not for that long as he'd had a rabies jab and a passport – and when he moved in to our house here, he lasted nearly 4 months and died.
So I buried him in the garden and it was very sad – here he is smiling.

The other night I had a dream – I was back in the house where he died and I came down the stairs and when I looked through the window, in the moonlight I saw his tent. I didn't see him but knew somehow that it was his; the tent was the size of a small dogs' kennel and at the head of it were two or three large very black crows; on each side of the tent three or four more and at the other end, another two or three others.
A Murder of Crows.
They seemed to be sniffing out the Big One; El Grande.
My one fear, when he died, was that I might not bury him deep enough as I was nervous about the foxes and crows eating him.
So maybe that was somewhere in my subconscious as I looked through the window; I carefully went out into the garden and who would be at the far end of the tent?
Biddie; the tortoiseshell cat and the mother of them all!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Father Brown.

I've been confined to barracks of late; old sweats – old soldiers - will know what I'm talking about as I've been laid up. I can still go into my office as it's just off the hall, in our flat, between the bathroom and the kitchen. 
So I am very comfortable in the relative luxury of our apartment and the cold weather outside. I suppose the heating bill will be high next time but it's always high.
So after I have been in here working out ideas, doing my taxes and looking after the running of our lives, I break for coffee at around 2:00 pm and sometimes switch on the television.
Not a lot on in the afternoon really, but I could always watch 'On Demand' which is most of the stuff that's been on TV over the past week. I rarely watch any of the commercial channels that way as I can't skip the commercials - you have to sit there and let them run. 
When watching one of the commercial channels live I usually pause the programme for about ten or fifteen minutes so I can skip through when watching.
One of the programmes, apart from all the quiz shows, is a kind of detective series but the PI is a catholic priest, and it's on BBC, Father Brown
He's a very famous detective in fiction created by GK Chesterton; he wrote many Father Brown stories and at the end of it he converted to Catholicism.
The acting is quite good and the relationships between the leading characters is amusing. It takes place in a village in the countryside and, even though it's supposed to be a small village, there is a murder every week.
I accept that it's a bit like Agatha Christie but it's a bit funny - and safe.
I have seen about 10 or so episodes but I have yet to see a black or non-white face – until today. 
Today there was a Hindu playing a wise man who was an assistant to the victim.
In fact there may be an episode somewhere with a non-white face – I don't know - but in 10 episodes I haven't seen one.
People argue that there were very few blacks in Britain in the fifties and I have to say that where I went to school I didn't see a black man, or non-white, till a Pakistani came to our school. His name was Shamshad Khan and he was from Lahore; but so what?
Here's is the school choir and you will see what I mean:
 There we are aged about 14 - I am the little fella with the greasy hair 3rd from the right at the back. Shamshad who was my friend, and told me all about the fair in Lahore, is at the front on the right.
But there were plenty of black people living here in conurbations and there are plenty today. 
There are loads of complaints about not enough variety in casting and if I was black I would be very angry and if the answer is that there are not many blacks living in small villages in Britain and even fewer in the fifties set it somewhere else.
It's shot near Birmingham which is very cosmopolitan and even though it (Father Brown) is well done it has no edge. 
Rather like the British films in last week's BAFTA presentations.
I don't expect it to be full of bad language as it's on in the afternoons but let's let it reflect the population here – now!

For your amusement here are two Father Browns of the past; Kenneth More and Alec Guinness:

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Eccentric Mr Turner

I have not been been here for a while as life has a funny way of getting in the way of writing, but I did find to time to go to Stratford on Avon over the weekend to see a late night screening of a film – The Eccentric Mr Turner.
Yes a film about England's greatest landscape painter; if not the world's greatest.
The film is a short one and deals with the last part of the great man's life and features a virtuoso performance in the title role by Gary Taylor. With a few flourishes and flicks of the wrist, a nod and a wink here and there and a look in the eye that makes you think, look and wonder, Taylor introduces us to an aspect in the life on JMW Turner that the recent big budget bio-pic missed.
Why the eccentric and why the mister?
When he first started to stay with his eventual last lover, Mrs Booth, he was known, in her guest house, as Mr Booth - and the eccentricity?
The first thing we see in the film is a painting and we hear Turner admonishing someone; the someone in question has made some kind of mistake and made a mess of something – another fine mess you got me into – and we find out that that someone being lectured to, is a horse; his horse!
And the horse's name?
We learn from Mrs Booth, ably played by Tina Parry, that Turner had fallen asleep and Hercules had to find his own way home.
And then he turns his attention to his two cats – Wellington and Napoleon, would you believe – and they are still out and will be disciplined upon their return.
As he wanders around his studio giving instructions to Mrs Booth, he is starting another painting - the painting turns out to be his most famous and notorious Slave Ship which he had completed many years before.
It soon becomes clear that his life is flashing before his eyes as Turner paints and goes through his experiences meeting again his father, to whom he was very close and misses so much: Charles Dickens, The Prince of Wales and George Stephenson.
There he is (above) with the inventor of Stephenson's Rocket looking at the train roaring and snorting away from them.
He also meets two of the crew of the Slave Ship; he learns that the human cargo are treated wretchedly and if any are sick they are thrown overboard.
Just like that – no nursing needed just a chuck over one of the sides.
One of the crew, he meets again, struck up a relationship with one of the women who had been thrown into the ocean and the moving scene thrusts Turner on to the Slave Ship painting, and as we have been watching the film the famous painting slowly but suddenly appears before our eyes.
This has and is a one man stage show and Gary Taylor would paint The Slave Ship at each venue – he must have painted it many times but in this film he had but one chance as the film was shot in one long take.
No edits or cuts just one long take, in pristine black and white shot beautifully by Michael Booth who also directs.
I would like to think that this lovely little film would go on from here – it's low budget but doesn't look it – here is a link to the trailer: 
The Slave Ship is below and here is an excerpt from Turner's "Fallacies of Hope" (1812):
"Aloft all hands, strike the top-masts and belay;
Yon angry setting sun and fierce-edged clouds
Declare the Typhon's coming.
Before it sweeps your decks, throw overboard
The dead and dying - ne'er heed their chains
Hope, Hope, fallacious Hope!
Where is thy market now?" 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Writer.

Do you know it's not really a good week to write about anything. 
People often ask (they don't ask me; why would they?) what a writer is. 
Well a writer is someone who writes – not someone who gets paid for it, or 'sells' it or gets published – a writer is someone who writes; and says something.
A lot of writers write and they get paid for it and what they write doesn't amount to a hill of beans.
Here is the last part of the only poem I ever wrote; it's all I have to say:

But the writer was always the little fella;  
The little fella who had to meet the big bad bullies
When he was at school; the big bad bullies
That made him take part
In their big bad bumpy games,
Which would frighten the poor little fella,
At that very early and tender age
When all the boys had to learn to head the greasy orb
Which they called a football;
Had to go into that big bad world
Which they called a school;
Had to find out that most of the bullies
Were the teachers: teachers who took great pleasure
And unnatural delight
In striking many a young child across the backside
With their canes and slippers;
But the little writer would get his own back
On the big bad bullies for he would write about them.
Sometimes, but not often, the big bad bully
Would read what the little writer had written
And knock the be Jesus out of him;
Break his glasses,
Knock the pen out of the little fella’s hand
And burn his books:
At four hundred and fifty one degrees Fahrenheit.

But there was always somebody
To pick up that pen and look up,
Up towards the stars in the heaven
Where they would seek the same stimulation;
And the man with the pen would look down and give it.

Interpret it as you wish and if you wish to hear the full text with picture it's here:

Wednesday, December 31, 2014


Happy Hogmanay to you.
I have many happy memories of it at new year's eve parties and watching it on TV – letting the new year in. I had black hair so I did a lot of 'first footing' – that is going out with a lump of coal and knocking the door as soon as I heard the midnight bells. My brudder did it too as his hair was blacker than mine.
It means that the first one over the threshold has to be a stranger (I think) with black hair bringing fuel – that was all for luck even though I wasn't a stranger. I did it for others too and I was always welcomed with a kiss and a whiskey! My brudder too with his blacker hair and deeper thirst for the whiskey and the kisses.
Let me digress here, I'll come back to hogmanay later but I mention this as most of the New Year parties I went to over the years had the TV on so we would know when Big Ben struck twelve so we could sing Auld Lang Syne but:
do you place your television (if you have one) in the corner of the room?
Don't you find you get a crick in the neck after a while?
We used to have ours in the corner, with the back towards the window.
I suppose this was very handy when something boring came on and we could avert our eyes up a little and see what was going on outside. Most of the time this would be something like a lamp post or a parked car. Later in the day a curtain as it was usually dark out there and in any case as it was a sin to watch TV in the day time.
I suppose the problem being that many rooms have a fireplace in the middle so think of this:
what if there wasn't a fireplace there and you could sit back and watch the TV sitting on your sofa straight ahead.
I would often do this and think 'wouldn't it be great if the TV was there? Or maybe a little higher and a little bigger just like the movies?'
I really did think those things but I didn't think it for very long.
Eventually I moved the television to a point in front of the sofa so I could view it straight on – it's at eye level and about eight feet away so I can see the detail of the picture. It's not in anybody's way with its back to the wall between two sets of book cases.
Here we are:
Our sitting room is about twenty five feet long – nearly the whole nine yards!! - and I cannot imagine trying to be involved in anything on television from that distance.
I have heard people saying that they don't want the television to dominate the room; why not? They watch it all the time – I don't; I sit in here and type crazy posts for the blog – but that's another story.
But when I do watch it I watch it.
Whilst I am at it - we didn't have a telephone when I was a child in fact we didn't get one till we were married and when we got one we put it in the sitting room – everybody else put the bloody thing in the hall, usually in the cold, but in any case people I knew with small babies couldn't have a conversation in the hall as their voices would carry up the stairs and wake up the babies.
You'd ring them and they'd tell you off for waking the kids – well MOVE it then!!
Move it move it move it!
These days, of course, people use their cell phones more and in any case their land lines (ha ha, land lines!! As if that is what they are) are usually cordless.
But what happened?
Why were they put out there in the first place and why was the TV in the corner?
Who started these crazy rules?
Now that Christmas is out of the way for another year this week we expect Hogmanay, which is celebrated in Scotland. This year a lot of people were expecting it to be the first Hogmanay of an Independent Scotland but not to be (for a while, anyway) – so that is a current meaning of the phrase to be or not to be!
Hogmanay is held by a lot of Scots to be the most important holiday in Scotland – and for the Scottish diaspora – so if you are Scottish and are reading this let me wish a very sincere and happy Hogmanay.
One of the reasons it holds so much importance in Scotland is that Christmas was considered too papist by the Church (Presbyterian) of Scotland so they banned it.
It wasn't even a public holiday till 1958.
In Scotland it is customary to serve a steak pie with mashed tatties, mashed neeps and carrots on Hogmanay which is actually December 31st.
For the uninitiated tatties are potatoes (pronounced bedadaters in Ireland!!) and neeps are – well what are they? I like to think they are parsnips but fear they are probably turnips.
I heard last week about a woman living down here with her Scottish husband and that she could not match his mother's cooking of the steak pie so she called her husband's mother to ask what the secret ingredient was and was told it was sausages!!!
We would always watch TV at Hogmanay and if I never get to spend it in Scotland I will go my grave disappointed – just as my dad did because he never went to the Grand National.
I took him the The Derby though even though we had a fight on the way back.
What about?
He said Peter Shilton was England's best goalkeeper and I said it was Ray Clemence – or was it the other way around?
Who cares we soon got over it.
We would watch Andy Stewart on TV; he would say words of welcome, something like 'nice to see you' then finish the show with:
Haste ye back, we loue you dearly,
Call again you're welcome here.
May your days be free from sorrow,
And your friends be ever near.

May the paths o'er which you wander,
Be to you a joy each day.
Haste ye back we loue you dearly

Haste ye back on friendship's way

To be pedantic – that word loue is an obsolete typography of the word love – but I used it in any case.
During the show Duncan MacRae would recite the poem A Wee Cock Sparrow
Many years ago when I first met my wife, I was invited to meet the parents on New Year's eve – Hogmanay – and I went around there with my brudder.
We sat on the sofa and recited this poem. They looked at us as if we were drunk – we were!– here it is:
A wee cock sparra sat on a tree,
A wee cock sparra sat on a tree,
A wee cock sparra sat on a tree
Chirpin awa as blithe as could be.

Alang came a boy wi'a bow and an arra,
Alang came a boy wi'a bow and an arra,
Alang came a boy wi'a bow and an arra
And he said: 'I'll get ye, ye wee cock sparra.'

The boy wi' the arra let fly at the sparra,
The boy wi' the arra let fly at the sparra,
The boy wi' the arra let fly at the sparra,
And he hit a man that was hurlin' a barra.

The man wi' the barra cam owre wi' the arra,
The man wi' the barra cam owre wi' the arra,
The man wi' the barra cam owre wi' the arra,
And said: 'Ye take me for a wee cock sparra?'

The man hit the boy, tho he wasne his farra,
The man hit the boy, tho he wasne his farra,
The man hit the boy, tho he wasne his farra
And the boy stood and glowered; he was hurt tae the marra.

And a' this time the wee cock sparra,
And a' this time the wee cock sparra,
And a' this time the wee cock sparra
Was chirpin awa on the shank o' the barra.
meaning of unusual words: (but you knew them didn't you?)
That makes sense now doesn't it??

Well this should and you should know the translation:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne! 

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne.
We'll take a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.
Slรกinte (health)

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Happy Christmas my - - - - !!

You've heard the lines in a Hollywood movie, or even seen a live court room case in America where somebody takes the fifth. And we all know that it means you don't have to answer the question on the grounds that it might incriminate you - but why is it called the fifth?
The fifth of what?
It's part of the fifth amendment to the American Constitution – the fifth amendment is actually Due Process; the bit about incriminating yourself is included in that, or something like that – I'm not about to look it up, if there are any scholars out there.
I heard the other day, that Britain had written forty or so constitutions for other countries since about the mid fifties and yet doesn't have one itself; I knew it didn't have one itself but nothing written down in any case. The reason why they wrote those constitutions is that they were for former members of the Commonwealth or part of the British Empire (the colonies) and were granted independence. New countries starting out so they needed a constitution.
Just like America.
Why doesn't Britain have a written constitution? Or England?
Because it makes it up as it goes along; it is formed by common law, statutes and practices and has something to do with Magna Carta.
It came to me the other day that I missed the word constitution; it is in constant use in America; every time they try and do something different some clever clogs pipes up and says that whatever they are trying to do is against the constitution. 
You hear words like constitutionality banded about in arguments and . . well I thought I'd just mention that as we wait for the impending strike of the clock tomorrow at midnight to let us know that it's Christmas and as soon as we hear that bong, we know that we have to behave differently, be kind to each other and have a jolly time.
But going back to that good old constitution: America separates church (religion) and state. You are not allowed to say prayers at a state school (they call them public schools over there), not allowed to have a copy of the ten commandments in the foyer of your government buildings, can't say prayers at sporting fixtures and the like, yes total separation of church and state.
They are not allowed to teach religion in state schools or say Goddamn on television and this, of course, makes the population seek out religion for themselves and they all go to church – or to the temple or mosque.
Well not all but about 80% where as here, they ram religion down your throats, have prayers each day in parliament and schools, and the figures are the other way around with empty churches. 
I heard the other day that it costs millions to run Lincoln Cathedral and they even charge £8 to get in – of course it's free if you pray or come to a service; but how do they know?
So back to America and the constitution and to Christmas and the separation of church and state.
Why do they have Christmas Day as a holiday? I understand Thanksgiving being a holiday to celebrate the breaking of bread with the Indians but why Christmas? Church and State?
By the way - the title of this post: it's 'Happy Christmas my arse' from The Pogues Fairytale of New York but I'm not allowed to use that as a title so - 
Happy Christmas.
 Thomas Jefferson
The third President of the United States, whose letter to the Danbury Baptists Association is often quoted in debates regarding the separation of church and state.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


Still from sOUNDz 2014

This is a link to my short movie (20 minutes) I have been writing about of late. I hope you like it and if you do - or don't - let me know.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Smoking and fighting in the movies with the perverts.

When I was a young man and never been kissed I got to thinking it over . . . well I started a post like that before didn't I, it was called My Teenage Love Story and for some reason it still gets loads of hits. I wrote it in February 2012 and to date it has received over 1500 hits – here it is:
But I was thinking of the first time I kissed a girl – well the first time it was a necking session when I was a teenager – and it was when I was in the Ladywood Picture House; I'm almost sure of that. We would spot girls and go and sit behind them – or even on front. A few comments would go back and forth and then one of us would offer a cigarette and then the pick up line “Do you want to come and sit around here?”
If one of them agreed one of us would go around there and sit with the other; this would lead to a necking session and walking the girl home and maybe another date; maybe one of us not turning up and not always me.
One of the girls, one of the days, said to me “Why didn't you kiss me in the pictures?” and the reply was, of course, “I was watching the film.”
That was either Circus of Horrors or Horrors of the Black Museum – yes I have both on DVD and the wonderful song Look for a Star by Garry Mills was used in Circus of Horrors. It was such a magic moment in the film with the girl on the trapeze doing tricks to that music – the fact that she fell off the trapeze later only added to the . . . and not worth missing to kiss a girl, I tell you; but I did later.
One little phrase above – one of us would offer a cigarette – should be highlighted. Yes we could smoke in the movies. The place was full of smoke and when you looked at the beam from the projector box to the screen it was full of smoke.
We went to the movies a lot. We would walk in any time and it didn't matter if the film had started or not – you knew where you came in and you left at that stage when the film was repeated. I can't believe we did that. It wasn't till Psycho came along that we weren't allowed in after the film had started.
I did notice in those days that the cinema would cut some of the films and they usually cut out the favourite bit that I liked that I had waited for.
Sometimes we, as kids, would walk up to the Imperial Picture House, this is when we were quite young, and my mom and dad would come later. We would be down the front and my parents would sit at the back and we would know when they came as we could hear our dad's distinctive cough. Looking around to see if we could spot where they were we would see that load of smoke. I can only imagine what the ceiling of the place looked like when they turned the lights on.
So when someone talks to you about the good old days just remember that and the pictures houses were full of perverts. The Moseley Picture House – the bug hutch – didn't have backs on the seats that went to the bottom which meant some dirty old perv could have a feel of your arse. Some fella was feeling my arse one day and I grabbed his fingers and twisted them then I turned round a looked at him and the expression on his face of any movement was not effected by my twisting.
Perverts were everywhere; do you know I've forgotten about most of them, most of the encounters with perverts and their weird propositions.
There were also fights in some of the movie houses – the manager in The Imperial was ready for it most Fridays and you could see that he always went for the ring leader as these were big fights – mobs - and I remember one night he had his arms around the ring leader pulling him one way whilst the fella was being pulled the other way by his mates and when the manager managed to get him up to the door and threw him through it, the gang drew back and the audience clapped and cheered.
And then, I suppose, marijuana came along and peace man peace.
So there we are.
Back to Fibonacci it's all here, isn't it. The numbers for your lotteries etc here is the sequence 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377, 610, 987 – made up simply of starting at one, then going to after the next number and then adding the last two numbers together. It is defined like this:
For example - 1 + 1 = 2, 1 + 2 = 3, 2 + 3 = 5, 3 + 5 = 8
Any the wiser?
Nor me!!
Still from Circus of Horrors
Michael Gough
Horrors of the Black Museum

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Fibonacci Sequence

This is going to be a strange old post but I was thinking of something so let's see how it goes.
Everywhere you look these days you will see the name of Alan Turing; this is for a number of reasons. One may be because there is a movie on release starring Benedict Cumberbatch – yes of course that's his real name and we will all remember it just as we remembered Schwarzenegger.
In the film Breaking the Code, Derek Jacobi played Alan Turing and he is seen staring at a fir cone; here:

If you look at it you will see that there is a distinct pattern. What we see when we look at it is the same pattern but when a mathematician looks at it he sees a pattern of numbers. 
That pattern is called the Fibonacci Sequence and was spotted nearly a thousand years ago by someone called, would you believe Fibonacci. 

He didn't invent it as it was used by Indian mathematicians in the 6th century.
What do the numbers mean?
Well the Fibonacci numbers are the sum of the two previous numbers and so on so 1, 2, is followed by 3. 
So far.
Then 3 is followed by 5 and 5 is followed by 8. What does this all mean; how can it be useful.
It's supposed to be  a way of predicting how many rabbits two rabbits will begat in a year.
Somehow it is the meaning of life when it comes to a computer.
There is line in Breaking the Code when Turing, quite well in to middle age by now, says 'look at this cone; a Fibonacci sequence.'
Great piece of writing aye? Engels, meet Marx, Rolls meet Royce!! (you know what I mean).
Well look at this:

That is the pattern created by a Japanese Puffer Fish; the fish is about two inches long and in order to attract a mate he makes this pattern in the sand at the bottom of the ocean. When the female arrives he flattens the middle. It was on TV the other day in the David Attenborough series.
Isn't nature wonderful?
Here are some more patterns from nature all with Fibonacci numbers.

Amazing aren't they?
So how does the Fibonacci sequence lead to a genius inventing the computer?
That's why the genius who invented the computer invented it and not me – nor you.
Unfortunately Alan Turing was born in the wrong age: as with Leonardo da Vinci, Alexander the Great, Michaelangelo and many more he was homosexual; gay.
But in the time he was active the practice was against the law; it was never against the law for one man to love another man but the actual practice was.
In Britain that is; in some countries it still is.
Gay marriage is legal in lots of states in America and lots of other countries but in Uganda and really backward countries homosexuality is still against the law.
So instead of praising Alan Turing the authorities persecuted him; they chemically castrated him and he eventually committed suicide.
At a time when people knew very little about genetics or DNA, Turing used the early computer to try to crack how a soup of cells and chemicals could transform itself and grow into complex natural shapes - a subject known as morphogenesis. In an incredible article published in 1952, Turing suggested that everything from the spots and stripes on animals to the arrangement of pine cones and flowers could be explained by the interactions between two chemicals. Turing’s work in this area is intimately connected with the timing of his trial and conviction for homosexuality, and his subsequent ‘treatment’ with a course of chemical injections.
Hope you like the patterns:

 And work this one out:

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

JMW Turner and the Hog's Head.

When the movie, Mr Turner, opens you are left in no doubt that a very important artist is about to make an entrance. Turner's father goes around the market to buy fruit, vegetables and other things that makes you ask the question if they are to eat or to be used as colours – after all this is the one and only JMW Turner, Britain's greatest ever artist; Billy, to his father, Mr Billy to his housekeeper - a housekeeper, who is a strange looking woman, with a stoop and a skin condition which progresses with the movie; he uses her for fleeting sex in passing; she uses him the same with a bit more; he greets her when he comes in with a squeeze of her breasts and a touch of her pubic area through her dress in both cases. He does this when she stands by him sitting in his chair and he gives her the greeting without even looking at her – she doesn't look at him.
I loved this film; I loved everything about it. Some clever clogs might come along and criticise it for leaving some things out and putting some things in which didn't happen but . . .this is a movie and a great one.
I don't know much about Turner at all apart from the fact that his father was a barber and one of the things the father buys at a street market is a pig's head; a whole head. The father – the barber – shaves the pig's head, with a cut throat razer, and when they greet each other they hug and kiss and settle down to eat the pig's head. They cut slices off and munch it down and it is as if Turner has eaten so much pig that he sounds like one. He grunts all the way through the film in fact Timothy Spall plays Turner as a pig; a sympathetic lovable hog.
Laurence Olivier said he based his famous portrayal of Richard III on the Big Bad Wolf; well I think Spall has chosen a pig. His perpetual grunt proves that.

Timothy Spall in Hog Mode.

The film doesn't go into Turner's private life too much; well his really private life; we know there was a wife, two daughters and a very strange looking granddaughter – is it a doll or a reject from Call the Midwife? - but they make two entrances whilst we are treated to his artistic raison d'etre.
It is not a typical Hollywood bio-pic even though Constable is in it and other famous figures like Ruskin but there are no lines like “Mr Rolls meet Mr Royce” or “Engels? Meet Marx.”
It should win some Oscars, and deserves, to – acting, directing, photography – well, I hope so, but I don't think so; certainly some BAFTAs but I would like to see Mike Leigh get it for directing and Timothy Spall for acting from BAFTA and OSCAR.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

In Dreams I Walk With You.

My brother contacted me and said he missed my blog – well he said he missed the BS so here we go.
I have to say I don't need to bullshit as life is full of it – last night a dog came on to our bed and lay on me. 
It was a Staffordshire Bull Terrier and when I tried to turn over it moved on to my chest. The only thing I could do was push my legs out and . . . I fell out of bed.
Now that was a bit of a shock. I know why the dog came to me in my dreams; two days ago there was a programme on the radio presented by a Radio One Deejay whose name escapes me. He was talking  to an ex copper who had a stroke and was forced in to retirement: 'I love my Staffy' the cop was saying 'he's great company.'
The deejay also had a Staffy and he was fed up taking the dog to a park and seeing mums pick up their kids and running away from it. 
Now the Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a strange looking dog –  but who can resist this:

But it grows in to this:
Look at the look in its eyes ' hey doggy doggy doggy' - I don't think so.

Look at this:
He looks friendly but look at the power in its jaws - those teeth.

Did you ever see The Omen?? One of my favourite films.

I don't think it's a Staffy but some of those photos are a bit scary and why should mothers with their children be subject to anything frightening?
Can you imagine being smaller than a Labrador and seeing the bloody thing come up to you for a fuss – that's what a child sees.
A bit like standing at a bus stop and a dog as big as a horse comes over to you for a fuss; you would run like hell; wouldn't you?
On Tuesday evening, after I heard the programme on the radio, I went around to a supermarket and there, outside, tied up, was a Staffordshire Bull Terrier; he looked nice and friendly and wanted a fuss so I leaned down gently towards him, put my hand out to greet him and he bit me!!
I'm kidding – I never went near him but he did look very friendly.
So 24 hours later I dream about him – not exactly beautiful are they? I mean the puppy is very attractive but if you had one at home, and you had all the doors open in your house, would you let your arm hang down the side of the bed? I mean would you?
I don't do that in any case having had a cat for so many years.
Sometimes I dream about our cat; El Grande – the big 'un. I dream about my parents too and often wonder if that's what happens when people die; they come and see you in your dreams!
A nice thought isn't it but . . . I don't know. What's the alternative? We all go to heaven? All 50 million of us each year, or whatever the number is.
Well maybe heaven is in our dreams, maybe that's where we go.
Nobody dies in Ireland – nobody at all. When you die there they talk about you forever as if you are still around. 
They laugh at the things you have experienced with your late love ones – 'do you remember the time he . . .' and so on. 
That's the way things are there. 
In a way it's a shame Saint Patrick brought Christianity to the place; they believed in much stronger things before that old ballix came along.
They buried their dead on great hills so that they could look down on the living whilst the living could look up to their ancestors and maybe – maybe – dream about them.
So there we are, Paddy me boy; a few words of BS for you; sweet dreams.