Saturday, May 20, 2017

An American Tragedy.

Here we have, above, the greatest ever (American) footballer; OJ Simpson – commonly known as the Juice – OJ = Orange Juice; geddit??
He is the real live Great American Tragedy – there was a novel called An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser but OJ was a real life one.
Look at him up there – a smiling handsome man with the world at his feet. If ever you watch snippets of American football and it keeps stopping then starting again and then look at OJ – he never stopped. He seemed to glide through the field as if he was slicing melted butter with a hot knife; he dodged and swayed, stopped and seemed to stumble and carried the ball for many a yard which is all written down somewhere and documented.
When I first went to live in Los Angeles in August 1994, OJ was up on a murder charge; he was charged with killing his wife, Nicole Brown-Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman – he was a waiter in a nearby restaurant and may not have been her friend at all but a waiter who had discovered that Nicole had left something at the restaurant and was merely returning it at the wrong time.
When he walked up the path to OJ and Nicole's house in Brentford, Los Angeles, all those years ago, she was in the process of being murdered with a large knife and he walked in to the situation and suffered the same fate.
The thing that I found hard to process was why there was no blood on OJ who was charged with the crime, the massacre, the orgy of a stabbing – but that was a fact. 
To this day no bundle of bloody clothes have been found.
There is a documentary series on BBC4 at the moment – 5 x 80 minute episodes and they are riveting.
OJ went on trial at the beginning of 1995 and right through to September it dominated the airwaves.
People I knew would go to the trial, there were bits on late night comedy on TV; there was a Marcia Clarke (chief prosecutor) lookalike, on The Jay Leno Show, they even had a Judge Ito and the singing Itos – it was fun for everyone, apart from the victims, and people would try to get home to listen to various aspects of the trial which was live on TV – one day a pal said I have get back to watch F. Lee Bailey, who was some kind of real life Perry Mason.
But at the end of the trial The Juice was found Not Guilty.
I was down by Grauman's Chinese Theatre, the day of the verdict, and people, mainly black people, were selling, The Juice is loose! souvenir T-Shirts. 
A year after the trial, the family of Ron Goldman took OJ to court in a Civil Case and he was found guilty of being responsible for his wife's murder – which is different.
The judge awarded the Goldman family $33 million which OJ would have to pay to them for the rest of his life; every time he got a job he would have to pay the fee to them but I don't think they received a penny.
Before the sheriffs arrives OJ had sent his belongings to various parts of the state.
To cut the story short, a few years later, OJ, who had been living the life of Riley, was informed that a lot of his memorabilia was in the room of a dealer in a Las Vegas hotel and he, and a few others, broke in to the room, one of them wielding a gun, told the inhabitant that they couldn't leave the room till they gave, what OJ reckoned, was his property.
They were put on trial and one of them made a deal for immunity and turned stool pigeon or snitch or whatever you want to call it and spilled the beans about the whole escapade.
OJ was sentenced to – now take note of the figure – a 33 year sentence; no coincidence as 33 million was the amount of dollars the Goldmans won.
Jury members, who found OJ not guilty, have since admitted that it was pay back for the way the black African Americans had been treated in America for all the years from slavery to Jim Crow to plain racial prejudice with lynchings and beatings and bullying.
A group of LA cops beat a small time crook, Rodney King, with sticks and kicks; they were filmed doing it and even though the footage is as clear as day, the cops were found not guilty. This verdict, and the death by shooting dead of a 15 year old African American started the LA riots of 1992.

So there he is above – a man who got away with murder – for it is 99% certain that he did it but he wouldn't be satisfied with that; he had to chance his arm again. Good looking, best at everything to do with sport, golf, weight lifting, godfather to the famous Kim Kardashian has ended up being the pathetic figure serving all that time in a Las Vegas gaol – and now look at him: 


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Brexit.

There he is! Old Banksie! Chipping away at the flag of The European Union; no longer a union between Britain and the rest of Europe. There is his latest mural - in Dover. How does he get them there?

Oh well back to being a country of servitude.


I have a lot of friends in America, a lot of them who read this, and I am constantly being asked about Brexit so without showing too many of my colours or opinions I will try to explain.

First of all the word: a new word, certainly not a beautiful word; there are beautiful words and one of my favourite beautiful words doesn't exist – it's capiliary. I love it and if you split it up and say capil I ary you should see and feel the rhythm of it as the real word is capillary. Baldy old capillary – if it was Spanish it might stand a chance in the aesthetics of language as they would do something with the double L – or even Welsh as they do things with the double L too but you have to almost speak with a lisp to pronounce a lot of the Welsh words like Llandudno – a sideways lisp as opposed to the tongue on the hard palette one which is the less rarer of the two.
But Brexit: two words really Britain and Exit. Good job it wasn't Ireland leaving as it would sound like an eating disorder. - think about it!
Briefly the EU started off as a pact between a few of the European countries who were at war and victims of war so France, Luxembourg, Italy, Belgium, The Netherlands and West Germany formed a union. 
It had various titles, over the years, and in 1973 Great Britain joined through the then Conservative Government.
The Labour Party (Her Majesty's Opposition) were against it and when they were elected in to office, in 1974, they called for a referendum (a plebiscite) to see if the electorate wanted to stay in or not; the result was in favour of remaining and at that time the Brits called it The Common Market and to lots of people, including me, that is what it is still called.
But there were always moaners, people complaining about silly rules and which was what probably brought Britain's membership to an end.
That and immigration.
One of the things about living in Britain now, which I like, is that there is a variety of people living here from other countries. As well as people from the British Commonwealth there are people from the rest of the EU which numbers 28 countries.
So when we go out now, in the cities, we can meet a host of nationalities which, to me, is wonderful. There are beautiful women from all over the world, which I have noticed, and a lot of attractive men - which I haven't noticed that much. These inhabitants have introduced new food to the country. No longer do we have nothing to look forward to but a lamb chop with boiled potatoes and peas in the evenings, or some other kind of meat and two veg. Now we can, sample the delights of some of the most wonderful food in the world: Italian, Indian, Chinese, Spanish, Mexican . .oh you name it.
Today we will be eating Lebanese Food for dinner. Fifty years ago it was egg and chips.
So to Brexit: the right wing, since that first referendum, didn't like the EU. There were Euro Skeptics in the Conservative Party – the right wing – and they broke away and formed an extreme Right Wing Party called UKIP – the United Kingdom Independence Party – which called for Britain to withdraw from Europe.
Whilst they didn't win any seats in Parliament they nearly did; almost did - but they didn't. People usually complain about the British system of government with the first passed the post system but you know: sometimes it's useful if it stops certain people from being elected.
 But even though UKIP didn't win any seats in The House of Commons (apart from one they inherited) they were chipping away at Conservative Membership so after the election in 2015 the Coalition Government (Conservative and Lib-Dem) gave in and promised a referendum to see if the electorate wanted to remain or leave. 
This was to save The Conservative Party so last year we had the referendum and the vote – even though it should never have been for anything less that a 60/40 majority – resulted in a vote to leave.
It might seem strange to Americans that the Liberals would join up with the Conservatives but Liberals here are in between Conservative and Labour (middle of the road - no man's land) unlike in America where Liberals are almost communists and socialists – heaven forbid!!
But we were subjected to some of the nastiest people you can think of; one of them murdered a young woman politician who was singled out for attack as a "passionate defender" of the European Union and immigration. The murderer viewed his victim, a Labour MP, as one of the collaborators; a traitor to white people.
This was very hard to believe in this day and age in Britain.
So that's it – we, the royal we, are leaving. We will no longer have financial passporting, freedom of movement and some of us might not even be able to receive our pensions from abroad – we don't know.
In fact there's a lot we don't know - or didn't know - for instance leaving something that you have committed financially to might mean having to honour that commitment – like one hundred billion pounds (or even Euros) which is one of the things what we/they didn't know about before the referendum.
The number of British citizens registering to be citizens of other countries is at an all time high here – Ireland, Italy and Germany I have heard tale of, so that's the explanation.
I hope the people who voted to leave enjoy their lamb chops, new potatoes and peas.





Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Guinness Poster


I was asked about that picture, above, the other day – who did it? When was it? How did it come about?
Well:
I did a Guinness commercial about two blokes who go in to a bar and ask for two bottles of Guinness – here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MzzPtypCrUE – I'm the one with the black hair.
When I did this I was less than two years out of drama school; I'd been in a soap opera, Crossroads, worked on one episode of The Newcomers and at Birmingham Repertory Theatre, so I was a little green, to say the least.
The other guy, Jeremy Bulloch, was a regular in The Newcomers even though I hadn't met him when I did my episode.
Originally the advertising agency, J. Walter Thompson, wanted some name actor with dark hair to be with Jeremy in the commercial – whoever it was they couldn't get him so I got the role after auditioning with a load of other actors. Just once, no call back, or anything else.
I remember thinking that the director was really good; he wanted us to be Laurel and Hardy and on most of the shots you see we did about 20 takes; easy as they had loads of money and it was like a big budget movie.
We shot the outside scene in Windsor, around the corner from the castle, and shot the interior in the afternoon at Goldhawk Film Studios in Shepherd's Bush.
We had a few goes at the exit from the shop before shooting it and the director wanted me to do something funny on the way out so I suggested hitting my head on the bird cage. I tried it and everybody laughed.
They were rather concerned that it was hurting me but I actually headed the cage, like heading a football, catching it on my hairline so there was no bother.
What I hadn't realised, and look what I say above - I was a little green – they wanted loads and loads of takes of me hitting my head.
Maybe about ten or so from each angle – close up, shot from the back, shot from the front, up my nose, the back of the head, you name it.
I kept hearing 'does it hurt?' well it didn't as I got used to it – but where there's no sense there's no feeling!
A month or so after that, I was contacted, through my agent, by the advertising agency who wanted me to do a photo session for the poster (above).
The Production Designer or Art Director, or whatever he was, on the commercial, liked the work I did and wanted me for the poster; I was to be paid, maybe two weeks of the working man's average salary at the time, per hour, so I accepted the job.
At the time we were living in Shropshire – we bought our first house a month before starting drama school with the plan we would sell when I graduated – so I had to go to Richmond in Surrey to do the shoot and unfortunately there was a rail strike on the day. They did suggest cancelling and doing something else with me in the future but I guaranteed I would be there and stayed with friends.
The studio was full of reflectors, for the photographer to use to reflect light at me, and in the corner was a full barrel of draft Guinness. The aforementioned commercial was for bottled Guinness but this was for draft and the only way you could pour draft Guinness in those days was from the barrel; the award winning widget came in the eighties.
All I had to do was drink about one third of the pint in one go, then they would give me another pint and I would drink another third.
The photographer used a Polaroid instant camera initially, to see roughly what the final shot would look like – no digital in those days.
I found these Polaroids the other day and you can see I'm drinking the Guinness even before we started shooting seriously. They'd already sorted out a shirt for me and I've just noticed I am wearing a ring. That was my dad's and it disappeared years ago – so nice to see it.
When they were satisfied with the angle they liked they started to shoot. One third of the glass each time.
This involved someone perfectly pouring a pint for me, which is no mean feat, and they would stop shooting when I had consumed the right amount.
Then we would pause whilst a few more pints were poured and on to the next batch.
At one point, nearing the end of the session, the photographer looked at me and I can remember him nudging the art director and pointing at me; obviously I had been drinking Guinness for four hours and doing little else so I must have been having trouble getting any more down.
'That's enough!' the art director said and we wrapped.
On the tube on the way home I asked him where he had found me and that's when he told me he had worked on the commercial. 'I thought you were flailing towards the end' he said.
What he didn't know was I hadn't drunk much Guinness before that day - but I've drunk plenty since!
That was it till about a year or so later; we were still living in Shropshire, miles away from a city or any kind of conurbation, when my family called and said I was on Guinness Posters all over Birmingham; others called me from London with the same story and my aunt in Manchester reported the same.
I called my agent and she sent J. Walter Thompson an invoice who paid me the poster fee.
When I next went to Birmingham I couldn't go too far without seeing the poster. They were everywhere you can imagine and I remember late one night I was on the number eight bus going to my parents house and the bus stopped on the corner of Stoney Lane and Highgate Road, in Sparkbrook and there, for all to see, was a huge poster near the bus stop.
It was a stop where the driver had to get out and turn a key in a time lock so I had time to go to the loo nearby.
When I came out there was a drunk standing looking up at the poster. 'Look at him' he said to me 'with his bleedin' long hair; sucking that pint.'





Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Tottenham Hotspur Mascot.

Big weekend, this, for football. Soccer that is for my American friends – Sarcre, as they pronounce it, trippingly on their tongues.

And what was the highlight for me?

Well the semi final at Wembley was good between Chelsea and Spurs and the latest news is that Aston Villa are beating Birmingham City 1-0 – in fact I've just heard they won.
Today Arsenal are meeting Manchester City in the other semi final – again at Wembley Stadium – but that is not the highlight either.
But . . when the players lined up to go on to the pitch, they each had a child with them, maybe aged about ten or so, possibly younger, of both sexes. They waited in the tunnel and I'm sure there was a lot of banter, some of the players of the opposing team hugged the ones they knew and liked (presumably).
And when the time came they all marched on to the pitch.
In these times when football gets a bad name because of some of the fouling and gentle kicks in the ankles and some drunken behaviour from some of them and sexual crimes against others, it's nice to see the guest mascot policy, where kids write in to get drawn from some hat, or whatever, for the pleasure of walking out with some of their heroes.
The Sunderland manager, David Moyes, was criticised recently when he half told someone off for asking a stupid question on air – you could hear the banter in his voice; the trouble was the stupid question was asked by a woman so suddenly it became a sexist remark. One person saying he wouldn't have said it if it was to a man; maybe not; maybe he would have given him a thick ear.
His team, Sunderland, have a mascot with a terminal illness. A little five year old boy who has cancer and has just recently had a set back by a new growth at the bottom of his back – the manager was obviously involved in getting Bradley Lowery to meet his hero, Jermain Defoe and here we have a picture of them. See how he holds on to Jermain for security:
But back to yesterday's game – the highlight for me was when the players stood in the tunnel, bantering, hugging and then marching on to the field of play. We noticed one of the mascots, a Spurs mascot, was marching rather smartly and proudly and then we noticed; he didn't have any legs. But out he strode with his heroes.
Here he is: Chelsea are in blue and Spurs are in white and the little lad has false legs:



Hardly noticed – but we noticed him and so did his family.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

the birds and the bees!

Well I woke up this morning – dat da da da da – actually a few mornings ago; this wasn't any where near dawn, I might say, and a bird was singing a familiar refrain. Singing a song for me at his own expense (to quote Bob Dylan); when I went to the window I could see him at the top of a tree in the garden about 100 feet high. The song he sang was that of a robin and I've only ever known them to be on the ground or near to it in bushes.

I looked through the binoculars and sure enough – there it was, the red breast.
He was singing and calling out for a mate – it's a strange thing when you see them chirp as the sound they make they make without lips. We have to use our lips to whistle but the birdie does it without a bother.
The robin is supposed to be a nasty bird, or so they say, but when I have seen them being aggressive it is to protect themselves or shoo away a cat or an intruder.
I used to wake in California to sun shine and palm trees and the birds we saw there were humming birds which is the only bird, they say, who can fly backwards. I spent a lot of time, when I first moved to LA, on the balcony, or near, trying to get a photograph of one.
These days it would be easy as I would just film them, if I could get close enough, and freeze the film when editing.
That's the way I do my head shots these days.
But getting back to the birds and the trees – the tree I saw the robin in is at the top of this page. On that branch at the very top. Bit of a change from the palm trees but it's a pleasant outlook.
Here is what it is like from the front through the window of my little office:

I don't know the name of those trees. Not the green one but the one with the blossom which disappears after a short time each year. 
We have two at the front which shields us from the bad air of vehicles passing which are about twenty yards from us. If you know the name let me know.
Here is the question: the bird at the top of the tree is only there calling for a mate – any mate.
How do we do that and will we, the male of the species, always be the pursuer?
When I was young I would meet girls at or on the dance floor. It was easy as I would only ask for a dance and then it was always up to me to ask the girl out or make a date or even ask if I could walk her home. That would be a yes or no – nothing more. I might push that if I got a no but that would be the male in me pursuing.
But I could have taken a tip from the bird. I could have walked to the front of the dance floor to the stage and called out – like the robin – or I could have sung – ditto and . . .but we actually do that sometimes. Isn't that why the rock singer gets up and sings?
The other place I would meet girls would be at the cinema; I would (with a pal) sit behind two girls – and I know they would see us coming because they would tell me – and ask them to come and sit next to us; or we would sit next to them.
Then after a while I would sneak my arm around her and sit like that for a while. Then the kiss.
When the film ended I would usually walk out with the girl and maybe go for a walk.
One time, when we got outside, both girls were a good 6 inches taller than we were so we kind of went to the public loo and disappeared out the other exit. That took us to the other side of the street and when we walked back we looked over and could see that the girls had disappeared too.
Another time at the picture house in Ladywood, I sat around with a girl and didn't kiss her. I just sat with my arm around her till the end of the film.
We walked to a disused cricket field and she said 'why didn't you kiss me in the pictures?' and I said 'because I was watching the film.'

It was Horrors of the Black Museum – well??

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The SAT NAV and how to use it!

First of all I suppose a sat nav is a satellite navigation tool and I don't know how to work it at all - so I got you here under false pretences.
Neither does my wife – in fact I don't even know if she has ever noticed them on the dashboard of the mini cabs we use. She can, however, do three crosswords a day, reads The Guardian, The Standard and The Metro from cover to cover, watches all the political programmes on television and knows more about antiques than the average Antiques Road Shows' experts both here and in America. - (notice I never say the States as I think it's one of the worst tags I know and only slightly bettered by SAT NAV ) and strangely enough she seems to win all the little games like Trivial Pursuits and the like we get to play every ten years or so – we don't play games.
There is the dreaded sat nav above and here are all bits you need to work it:

I don't know what all those things are for but I would bet that one of them is a battery or something you connect to a battery somewhere.
This is a fact: when you use a sat nav you are not using your brain at all. Also, a well known fact, is that drivers' of black cabs in London have bigger or larger, whichever adjective you want to use and is proper, hippocampuses than the average yogi.
The hippocampus is the organ in the brain that does all the work – how do I know this? Because my favourite programmes on TV are University Challenge and Mastermind – so why wouldn't I know.
You think I know bugger nothing don't you – I tell you I know bugger all!!
Anyway:
It does all the work because it is, in essence, the memory, the organ in charge of spatial matters and emotion. So when the mini cab driver asks you where you are going and then asks for your postcode you know they won't be using their hippocampus. 
He or she will have turned it off and they'll be relying on the sat nav and singing to themselves One Day, Two Day, Soon it will be Pay Day!
And other sensible rhymes and couplets.
When I was sixteen I was in the army cadets – as I've mentioned before the ACF not the CCF as that is for schools – and I rose to the dizzy height of sergeant and I used to teach map reading.
So I never used a sat nav as they hadn't been invented. I used a map, a prismatic compass and a protractor.
Here they are:
All you have to do is open the map; open the compass and place the map facing magnetic north, which you will see on the compass. Then look for two familiar or distinctive things – maybe two hills, if you are in town maybe a church and a bus station (but those would be easy so let's stick to the outback) – yes you wouldn't be able to use the sat nav miles from anywhere as your battery will run out.
So you see a hill – not very big, which means the contour lines on your map will be wide apart. Take a reading on that hill with the compass.
Then to the other way you see a steep hill and you find this on your map with the contour lines close together; take another reading.
So now you put your protractor on to the first reading and draw a line down the map at the reading on the protractor.
Then go to the second reading and do the same thing and where the two lines cross will be where you are standing. If you're in the Sahara Desert wait for the stars.
So when everything runs out, batteries, computers and people who know how to read maps all die, the world will be left with a load of robots.
And where does the word robot come from? How would I know – but it means slave and I think it comes from and yes I'm right:
Origin of robot
< Czech, coined by Karel Čapek in the play R.U.R. (1920) from the base robot-, as in robota compulsory labor, robotník peasant owing such labor.

I knew that as it was on a radio show recently.

I think you will know my point – every labour saving device can do nothing except help you to suffer from some kind of dementia.






Monday, March 6, 2017

killer instinct.

Two Boxers

'Hit him – hit him' said my dad 'hit him again.'
We were boxing – in our living room.
'Not so hard' he said as my brother caught me with a sharp one, under the ribs.
The chairs were around the side, with the tables and other pieces of furniture, etc shoved right in to the wall.
When it was over we both said 'who won?'
'It was a draw.' my dad said.
It was always a draw.
Sometimes I would have to stop when my shorts started to fall down.
Ah nobody's looking' said my mother 'you haven't got anything I haven't seen before.'
My dad would shout for us to break and pull my pants up. 
It wasn't long since I had grown pubic hair and I didn't want my mother seeing that.
'He can't box with his shorts round his ankles' he said.
'Jasus, it's not been that long since I was cleaning the bits of shite from his nappy.'
Trust my mam; making a holy show of me.
We had boxing in the gym at school in those days, during the PE lesson and also, in those days, I think we still called it PT. But there we go when has there ever been a time when things don't get called something else for the sake of it.
I must have been the shortest kid in the class so who would they put me in the ring with?
Johnny, one of the big kids. He was a pal of mine; we used to go to each other's homes and listen to our parents' records.
Out he lumbered, Big John – just like in the song.
I liked the way he sparred but he must have been posing as he danced around. We threw a few jabs, ducked a few times and then, coming out of a clinch, he stuck his chin out; I didn't hit it. This happened quite a few times and when we finished the teacher patted me on the head; I'd won. Well I reckoned I had.
When we were in the playground, later, I was asked how I got on and I said I'd won. 'no you didn't' said Johnny.
'I did' I said 'the teacher patted me on the head.'
'He patted me too,' said Johnny, but I knew hadn't.
'No he didn't' I said.
'Do you want to make something of it?'
I looked around. My pal – Johnny – looked at me with a certain amount of hate; there were others looking at me too to see what I was going to do.
'What do you mean?' I said. I knew what he meant then the kids started to chant: 'chicken! Chicken! CHICKEN!'
'I don't mind' I said.
'Unless you're chicken' said Johnny, who was fast becoming plain John in my mind.
'Okay' I said 'where shall we go?'
The kids started to form a circle outside the boys' lavatories in the corner of the playground and in no time we were dancing around. We threw a few punches, got in to a clinch and as we came out of the clinch he stuck his chin out and bang! I hit him a wallop and down he went.
I didn't, to this day, think the punch was very hard and that he was acting, the same way as he was posing when we got inside the ropes in class. But there he was on the ground.
Up he got – there was no counting as there was no referee.
We started dancing again and once again he stuck his chin out and down he went.
He wasn't badly hurt but playtime was over and we'd finished playing.
The little boxing lessons from my dad taught me how to throw a punch and defend myself even though my brother would never go down but I was never worried about getting hurt at home, it was when I feared getting hurt that the survival and killer instinct kicked in.
The reason I got in to a few fights at school was that being so short I looked easy for a bully who wanted to beat somebody up and I didn't always win but school was and is still rough.
It's no good telling tales to your parents or the teacher. To do that you have to be beaten up first and I didn't want that.
One kid in class, when we were at the senior school, was picking on me, poking me and being nasty, saying he was going to wait for me outside and beat me up and that all his mates were going to come and see me get a blathering.
I told him a few times that we didn't have to but he mistook that for me being scared and, to be honest, I wasn't that sure if I could handle him.
But the time came for us to go home and I was ready to go; I went down to the playground at the same time as the bully, but ahead of his mates and when we got to the corner of the playground he said 'come on' and started squaring up so I gave him a huge punch to the eye.
'Oh!' he said, grabbing his eye, then I put my arm around his neck and we both fell to the ground with him in a clinch.
'had enough?' I said.
He nodded his head.
'Are you sure?' I was used to kids playing possum.
'Yes I've had enough' he said 'let go.'
So we got up.
'How's my eye?' he said.
I looked; it was bloodshot.
'Sorry' he said.
Then his mates came to watch the scrap.
'What happened' they said.
'It's all over' and I sat on the floor next to me new pal.
I used to like boxing but didn't bother again with it much as I had high cheek bones which would bruise easily and my nose would bleed even easier.
But I was never scared of anybody after that even though I never looked for trouble but I have heard of people wanting to fight all the time and look for fights in pubs or whatever.
When I lived in a village in Northamptonshire I heard that the vicar's son went in to the pub, one day, and sucker punched someone as the fella was drinking his beer. He saw the jaw and hit it. The poor fella suffered a broken jaw and the bully got away with it.

I'm not sure if I would ever dive in if it was nothing to do with me but – you know we never know what we would do in a crisis.

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.