I’m keeping quiet

February 27, 2009

no-accidents

I enjoyed seeing this in town the other day. But it’s one of those things where I’m keeping quiet. No jokes, no attempts to interpret this cleverly worded message. You can do that yourselves. This photo was taken in the West End; if I end up in the theatre I want it to be on the stage, not in the foundations.

Oh, talking of messages… not that I was, but here goes anyway. The other night I watched Funny Games, Michael Haneke’s remake of Michael Haneke’s Funny Games. Yes, he made it twice. Once in German in 1997 and then in English in 2007. After watching it I listened to (or rather read as it was all subtitled) an interview with the director. He said some great things, but for now I am going to paraphrase one moment in particular. When the interviewer asked Haneke about the film’s message, Michael’s reply was perfect; he told of a friend who once said that if he wanted to send a message he would go to the post office.

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Ok, this post’s title makes no sense. But I like it, and it’s staying. You may even think, when you see the photos, “did you really see the Cure?” I measured Robert Smith between my thumb and my forefinger and he was minute.

Yesterday I got so old,
I felt like I could die,
Yesterday I got so old,
It made me want to cry

And I thought In Between Days was an upbeat song. That’s the trouble with lyrics. They evade me for year after year after year and then somewhere along the line they sneak up on me and I find out that what I thought I was listening to I am no longer listening to. I don’t mean misheard lyrics; none of that Island of Seals for Our Lips are Sealed type of thing. No, I go for decades without any understanding of any of the words, not even titles. I just hear songs.

Even Friday I’m in Love (which I once bought for a girl, thinking it was a romantic thing to do) has these grim lines;

I don’t care if monday’s black
tuesday wednesday heart attack
thursday never looking back
it’s friday I’m in love

For fun, compare and contrast with Morrissey’s lyric from I have Forgiven Jesus;

Monday – humiliation
Tuesday – suffocation
Wednesday – condescension
Thursday – is pathetic
By Friday life has killed me
By Friday life has killed me

Cripes! At least Paul Weller has a sunnier outlook from his old Jam days;

Here comes the weekend – I get to see the girls
Long live the weekend, the weekend is here
(the weekend starts here)

Or perhaps not;

Here comes the weekend – I’m gonna do my head
Long live the weekend, the weekend is dead

Anyways, back to the beginning. Last night I saw the Cure at the 02 arena, thanks to my good friend Bruce who very kindly invited me along. Thank you Bruce. I’m no expert on the Cure, having only ever owned Seventeen Seconds and Faith on vinyl (now locked away in storage), but I’m happy to see any band who can start a song off with a line like “It doesn’t matter if we all die” (100 years). They were supported by Franz Ferdinand, who did their thing. And two bands before that. But we were too busy drinking beer to hear them.

I’d never been to the 02 arena before. It’s huge! And it’s in a tent! And it holds 20,000 people! And we were on the back row!

That might not sound too good. But it was great. Right right right at the back. Looking over 20,000 NME youngsters- and that surprised me. I’m used to going to see bands from my era (Echo and the Bunnymen, Sparks)  where all around you are balding men in their forties. But thank the Cure for keeping existential angst alive and kicking and screaming in the youth of today. I looked ahead and saw teenage girls with swan arms and candy floss seagull nest hair swirl and sway to a man singing a song inspired by Albert Camus’ L’Etranger.

I’m alive
I’m dead
I’m the stranger
Killing an arab

And on the back row we stood like gods. Gods being entertained by a 2mm tall man.

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Sheep and Dog

February 26, 2009

I’m off out today, to meet up with Trev and trek off to a meeting somewhere or other. And so, rather than waffle on about horror films, or put up polls, or moan, here’s two pictures of a sheep and a dog living in perfect harmony.

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That’s a quote from Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) in Jurassic Park: The Lost World. I’m shamelessly pinching it and applying it to the Trocadero in Piccadilly Circus. Read these reviews and you’ll get the idea. It’s an indoor arcade/shopping centre/food hall but it seems to have been crunched, with half the stalls covered in sheets. You can bungee jump here, get a sepia photograph taken, dressed like Wyatt Earp; you can buy a cup of corn for a £1. But nobody is doing any of these things. The favourite pastime at the Trocadero is hanging around.

The escalators are a fun ride. Get on the wrong one and you end up missing a floor. Get on this one… well.

trocadero-1There used to be a bowling alley in the Trocadero. I never went but I’m guessing it might have been up there. Now, this escalator is blocked off with a gaming machine. I think there might be some people up there; Trogladytes. Or, rather, Trocladytes. C.H.U.D.’s. Or, rather, C.H.O.D.’s. I may be wrong. But would you go up there?

There is a film by Tobe Hooper called The Funhouse. Pay to get in, pray to get out. I saw this in 1981 and my abiding memory is of a character in a Frankenstein mask who assists at the Funhouse (more like a ghost train). Late on in the film his mask is ripped off, and underneath the easy horror of a Frankenstein mask he is hideously deformed. I think he lives up here now.

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ladbroke-grove

“Do a commercial, you’re off the artistic roll call, every word you say is suspect, you’re a corporate whore and eh, end of story.” Bill Hicks.

This morning I had a casting for a commercial. I had to go to a fancy pants agency over in Ladbroke Grove. You know you’re in a fancy pants agency when the people who work there take their dogs to work. This one, a sweet and lovely dog, I have met before- on one of my other failed trips out to Ladbroke Grove. And this was a failed trip.

I don’t like castings. I never have. When I was younger, and I didn’t have to go to them, I wouldn’t. I didn’t like the way they made me feel nervous, the way they made me sweat, the way they made me feel just a little bit useless and stupid. I’d have been like Bill Hicks. But, I’m still here. So I’ve given up and given in. Though some amongst you may be aware that I did one advert in 1995 for some sweets called Fruitang. We did the advert as the World of the Strange characters. So, I guess I’m off the artistic roll anyways. That advert enabled me to afford driving lessons, at the age of 33, and also to afford a car; my little Ford Fiesta that I’m still driving now; yes, my car’s a teenager.

So, back to today. I had to be a tic tac man (the racecourse hand lingo, not the mints) for a tabloid newspaper ad. Everyone around me looked like a bookie from the racecourses. I wasn’t going to get this ad and so I resigned myself to stroking and playing with the dog. While all around me waved their arms like they were playing a demented game of Simon Says, I sat on the floor and communicated with the dog.

In the casting room, you face about ten people all there to watch you wave your arms around. They gave me a piece of paper with my name on it. You hold this up while they film you for an “ident”. I forgot to take mine in. I tried to make light of it but I felt hidden scowls. Once, at a casting years ago, I got so nervous that when I went up to shake the hand of the director, a man called Rock, I stood on his foot. Anyway, I waved my arms around a bit and then left. The odds on me getting this job?- for the tic tacs reading, crossed arms. For the none tic tacs- 33/1. It would be higher but that’s as high as tic tac goes.

I left and decided to kill some time in London time. Sometimes I pass the time, sometimes I waste it; but today was definitely a killing day.

In Winkworth’s, just by Ladbroke Grove station, the estate agents sit eating crisps.

Outside the Ivy photographers wait, ready to shoot. I stand for a moment to see who will come out. But then I realise that I could be in for a big disappointment; what if it was, say, Sid Owen? And so I walk away, knowing for sure that I hadn’t seen, say, Raquel Welch or Uri Geller.

I do the same thing outside Cafe Nero. A police van turns up and spills out its officers, straight into the cafe. That’s exciting. I wonder what’s going on? Well, I’m still wondering. I walked away. I think they were maybe all going in for coffees.

I go to Fopp and allow myself £10 worth of goodies. I buy two dvd’s; Funny Games (the Michael Haneke remake of his own film), The Assassination of Richard Nixon (Sean Penn); and a book, The Comedy Writer by Peter Farrelly (as in the Farrelly brothers). Not bad for £10. Oh, but then it goes hopelessly wrong. I get to the till and am tempted by their “sweets” display- I buy two more things; the special edition Deathproof soundtrack (why special? because it comes in a padded packet, like a car seat), and Sunday at Devil Dirt by Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan. Doh! Now I’d spent another £6. Still, at least I’m going to make a bit of money playing a tic tac- Doh again! Me and my bad memory.

That’s how I killed time. Now I’m off to pass time, playing pool for JFK Rejects. It’s cup night tonight and we are in the semi-final, facing JFK’s (the non-reject ‘A’ team). Come on the underdogs!

p.s. If this post seems a little moany, sorry. Yes, I don’t like castings, but when things work, it’s not a bad way to earn a living. There are worse things I could do.

That’s how people grow up

February 23, 2009

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I don’t live near a prison. As I walk back from the cafe, I pass through Hither Green’s hinterland; the road that runs along the railway line that’s full of businesses that mind their own business. And they make sure you don’t stick your nose in by using prison-like preventative measures. it’s Prison Break in reverse.

One of the more open and accessible businesses is Joy Skip Hire. I like this place. I like it because, in a way that I don’t fully understand, I take their business name as a command.

As I passed it today though, I was saddened. Is this how it ends for us all? Is this what becomes of a dad? I’m afraid that the answer is likely to be yes.

joy-skip-hireAs I write this Morrissey sings:

I’m doing very well
I can block out the present and the past now
I know by now you think I should have straightened
myself out
thank you, drop dead

That’s from Something is squeezing my skull from his new LP Years of Refusal. The title of this post is the title of another track.

If I’ve dragged you down, I’m sorry. Let me end on two bright notes. On Saturday, Broadstairs looked like this:

broadstairs-beachAnd a quote from Dan Leno:

“Birth is something which comes to all of us sooner or later…”

Broadstairs

February 20, 2009

I’m off to Broadstairs for the weekend to see Trev and his family (if you look carefully you can see them in one of these photos).  And so, I might not get much onto my blog until Monday. Now, for those of you who ploughed through yesterday’s story, that might come as a relief. If you persevere with some of my nonsense, all I can say is well done and thank you.

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Deal or No Deal on the Dole

February 19, 2009

lrt-cardThis gormless idiot is not me. He just looks that way. And his name is not S.M. Hickson, he just pinched that name for the sake of this picture. At the moment he doesn’t have a name. But he will now. let’s call him Ted Dancin. Not to be confused with Cheers heartthrob Ted Danson (“are you Ted Danson? Are you askin’? I’m askin’. Then I’m Ted Danson”). No, this Ted Dancin could only ever dream of being a fake barman. The closest this Ted ever got to Hollywood was when some kid asked him if he was the Laurel out of Laurel and Hardy.

Anyway, this is all by the by, as this story is the second in a series of feelbad stories based around the downfalls of various contestants from popular TV games shows, and all possibly inspired by the success of Slumdog Millionaire.

Deal or No Deal on the Dole

Ted was lucky enough to get onto Deal or No Deal; Noel Edmonds’ chance-fancying what’s-in-the-box extravaganza. He turned up on the day of his destiny, looking forward to the time he would spend with the other twenty one contestants. He’d heard they all lived together in a hotel. And they did. But unfortunately Ted’s room had been besieged by a plague of weevils. He was offered alternative accommodation a mile away from the three star hostelry, in an underground bunker below a pig farm. It wasn’t too bad. The bunker had been converted. But no one knew into what.

Ted fell asleep to the sounds of pigs mating and the far off disco-partying of the other Deal or No Dealers. He slept well though, for he knew that tomorrow night he would be in the warmth of the hotel, and that within 22 days time he would be a quarter millionaire. He knew this. And he knew this because he had cosmic ordered it.

Yes! Ted had spent too many years on the dole and he was fed up. So he cosmic ordered change. It was Noel Edmonds who had brought cosmic ordering to Ted’s attention. As a boy Ted appeared on Noel Edmond’s Multicoloured Swap Shop (as a swap) and had since become a keen follower of Noel Edmonds. Sometimes literally. And when he heard of Deal or No Deal and of Cosmic Ordering, Ted ordered himself the biggest Deal he could.

He’d written it down, because that’s what you have to do. You have to write down what you want and then submit it to the cosmos. The first part was easy. Ted wrote a list:

  1. Meet Noel Edmonds
  2. Meet a nice lady contestant
  3. Win £250,000
  4. Marry nice lady contestant, with Noel Edmonds hosting the event
  5. Get off the dole

He was only asking the cosmos for five things. He didn’t want to be greedy. He fancied a dog, but he thought he could get one of those if part 3 of his list… woooaaahh! Not if! When! When part 3 of his list comes true. It’s like ordering from the Woolworths Big W catalogue; you order, and it is sent (Ted didn’t keep up much with the news).

He had a few problems submitting his list to the cosmos. He didn’t know how to go about it. He didn’t know what the cosmos was. He didn’t even confuse the cosmos with the same-named tour operators, having never heard of them and having never been on holiday. A little research at the local library revealed to him that the cosmos was the universe as an ordered system. But he still didn’t know what that meant and he didn’t know what to do with his list. He considered many options; burning it, eating it, posting it to Santa, posting it to God. In the end he cut it into as many pieces as he could. He cut it into 250 pieces, each piece representing a thousand pounds he would win. And then he took the pieces, and put a piece each in 250 envelopes. And then he posted them all to the third member of his holy trinity. He bypassed Santa, he bypassed God, and went straight to the top. He posted 250 envelopes to Noel Edmonds. It was the best thing, he thought. It made sense. Noel Edmonds is the King of Cosmic Ordering and Noel Edmonds would appreciate the effort. Ted wanted to do 250,000 pieces but both the size of paper needed and the cost in postage stamps made that idea a non-starter. As it was it cost Ted £90. But he knew it was worth it.

******

Noel Edmonds sits in silence, contemplating the cosmos before breakfast. His doorbell rings, a weak and sarcastic ding-dong as his batteries fail. The postman apologises for such a sack. He hasn’t delivered this much fan mail since the days of Crinkley Bottom. Noel Edmonds forces a smile. He isn’t angry with the postman; he’s proud of his House Party past. His anger comes from his ordering; last night he had specifically ordered no post. He had ordered a day of silence and aloneness, and now he had what looked like hundreds of fan letters to open.

A grumpy Noel Edmonds sits at his desk. He slits open the first letter with a miniature scimitar he picked up on e-bay,  and then stabs the dainty dagger into his table top. There is nothing in the envelope. He looks in, searches around, and then a sliver of paper, maybe three or four millimeters square, flutters to the floor. Noel Edmonds stoops, licks his finger and picks up the piece. There is nothing on it. But look! A bit of ink. It is, if anything, like part of a ripped up shopping list found outside a supermarket when its job has been done.

Noel Edmonds plucks his paper knife out of the table and takes it to a second envelope.

An hour, to you or me, may not seem much. Many people waste days away, weeks, treating those measures of time as they would treat an hour, or even a minute. An hour to Noel Edmonds is like a day to these people. Noel Edmonds has handmade diaries that break hours down the way other diaries break down months. And no space is empty. And nothing goes unordered. And every now and then Noel Edmonds orders himself time, peace, aloneness and silence.

An hour later, after the 250th and final envelope has been opened, Noel Edmonds sits amongst a confetti of envelopes and squares,  like a newlywed without a wife; his day of silence and aloneness ruined.

******

The day of filming arrives. Ted wakes early to the sound of pigs crowing. He heads to the hotel and has some toast. He speaks to an old man wearing a cap who keeps saying “eh?” and a young woman named Sue who owns a nail salon. She laughs when Ted asks, “like B & Q?”

Herded onto a small coach, and then into the warehouse that now homes Deal or No Deal, the contestants wait in silence. They choose their boxes and the game begins. Sue is picked. Box number 13. Sue going first suits Ted. He wants his night in the hotel. He wants to meet people, and talk, and drink, and laugh and feel;  feel like a man who stays in hotels; a man who can win, will win, £250,000.

Sue tells Noel Edmonds she runs a nail salon. She tells Noel Edmonds she wants to win enough money to open another. Sue tells Noel Edmonds that Box Number 1 thinks a nail salon is B & Q. Everyone laughs and Ted feels queasy.

Sue goes away with £24,000. Enough to dream about her dream. Ted’s box had the penny in it and she gave him a peck on the cheek.

Ted assumes that’s that. Just as he’s looking forward to a night at the hotel; drinks, food, chats with Sue, a bed away from pigs; someone tells them to get ready for show two. They don’t do a show a day, they do three. But they only show one a day on television. And next up, it’s Ted.

Ted has box 11. He’s happy with that. He knows it’s preordained. He has the £250,000.

Noel Edmonds gently teases him in the run up to recording, suggesting that Ted might think a manicure is a male only medicine. Ted smiles, unconcerned as to what a manicure is.

The game goes well for Ted. In the first round he opens four blue boxes and only one red. Even then it was a lowly £3000. The banker makes a decent offer, but Ted turns it down. Two more boxes, both blue, and then it’s time for a recording break; the moment on TV when the show goes to the adverts and Noel Edmonds gets the contestant to give a reason as to why the viewers should come back. Ted’s reason is simple; “I’m going all the way and I am going to win £250,000.”

In the break Noel Edmonds praises Ted’s determination. He asks him how he can be so sure. And this is the moment when Ted’s life falls apart.

He tells Noel Edmonds and Noel Edmonds realises. This is the man who spoilt his day of silence and aloneness. This is the man who filled his home with almost empty envelopes. And this is the man that Noel Edmonds will now destroy.

Noel Edmonds has practised cosmic ordering for far longer than Ted. Since Ted placed his cosmic order he hasn’t bothered putting in any more. Noel Edmonds cosmic orders daily. And not just in the morning. Noel Edmonds cosmic orders whenever he needs to. And Noel Edmonds is the King of Cosmic Ordering.

The second half begins and Noel Edmonds is subdued. He even closes his eyes as he speaks. He says “welcome back” but there is a calm and silent ghost in the studio and no one feels welcome. Ted opens another box; a red, £35,000. A big hit. Noel Edmonds smiles, at no one; his smile heading inward towards his own mind. But Noel Edmonds has worked in TV through two centuries. He composes himself and offers sympathies.

The trip to the banker. Another big offer, higher than the first. Normally Noel Edmonds would encourage a contestant to think carefully, these are life changing sums of money. But in this case, he seems eager for Ted to go on. Ted is ruffled, yes, by the loss of the £35,000, but… it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.

At the finish, Ted is left with two boxes. One of them has one penny in it. The other has £250,000. He has one box, Sue the other. This is exactly as Ted planned it. He has no fear of the penny. He knows which box the £250,000 will be. He is offered the bankers swap; he can swap box number 2, Sue’s box, for box number 11, his box. Normally Noel Edmonds is wary of the swap; he frets over the possibility that it is he who will carry away a large amount of money from a deserving contestant; someone with self belief, someone with courage, someone with the determination to go all the way. But today, now, he seems to be willing Ted to take the swap. He closes his eyes and lifts his head as Ted says “No swap!”

The audience cheer, but Noel Edmonds, he shouts. He shouts, “No! That’s wrong! That’s not whay you say! It’s not what you say! I have to ask you Bankers Swap, deal or no deal, and then you say-”

“Sorry Noel Edmonds. I’m ready for the question.”

It is asked and Ted says no deal. Noel Edmonds closes his eyes again, but this time he lowers his head. Quietly, only to heard by Ted, Noel Edmonds says, “you’re making a big mistake. and I am going to destroy you.”

Noel Edmonds doesn’t do what he’s supposed to do. He doesn’t build things up to the big opening of the box. He stands still, arms stretching out, pulling the fabric of the universe in towards the fabric of his paisley shirt. A floor manager comes on and has a word with him. But Noel Edmonds just stands and stares through closed eyes. After moments, Noel Edmonds says, “I’m not opening that box. Never. This game is terminated.”

Without Noel Edmonds they cannot film the end of the show. And Noel Edmonds has shut down. They will film the completion in the morning.

Ted can’t bear to leave his box. He knows he has she £250,000. He knows. But he has to see. As a production assistant holds his arm to lead him away, Ted turns to the box. He rips off the tag, and the audience, all standing to leave, stop and gasp. The contestants cheer, and as the competitors take over the warehouse Ted raises the roof of his box.

He has the penny.

Noel Edmonds, hearing groans, awakes and arises. “He didn’t want the swap! He’s only won a penny! Yes! Sometimes dreams do come true in my dream factory.”

An assistant explains that they had stopped recording. This game will have to be played all over again. The crowd cheer and Noel Edmonds punches Ted Dancin.

Noel Edmonds is dragged away screaming. But the screams fade, and as Ted Dancin is treated for a suspected broken nose, the ghost of Noel Edmonds voice echoes around the walls of the Dream Factory; “I’m the King of Cosmic Ordering… not Ted, not Ted.”

******

Ted played his game the next day, with a stand-in host, Mike Read from Saturday Superstore. Ted went away with £5,400. He wrote a letter to Sue the nail salon woman but never sent it, deciding instead to rip it into little pieces.

******

The Noel Edmonds of this story is not related to the real life Noel Edmonds. No harm is intended towards the programme or its makers. I like it. No animals were harmed in the making of this story. This story was filmed entirely on location in my brain.

Coming next… Maybe. The Countdown ****.

Capitola beach

February 18, 2009

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Confusion

February 17, 2009

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Sometimes I wish I was this man. In a way, I was. But only for a day or two and only for pretend. But sometimes it would be nice to be a cobbler, breeding pigs and slaughtering them to make comfy pig shoes for Robert de Niro (for that is what this man did). That’d be after Bobby de Niro had been upstairs to visit my son, the chiropodist, to have his corns and bunions seen to. And the sketch was called, quite naturally, Cobblers to the Stars. And some may wonder why we are not on TV anymore.

But if I was this man (and his name sadly escapes me) my days would be simple; cuddling a pig, killing a pig, making a pair of shoes out of it for, let’s say, Clooney. No! I feel great shame. There was no plan in this, I’m just writing as I podcast, making it up as I go along. And it’s struck me; George had a pig, a big fat pot-bellied Vietnamese pig called Max. Now no longer with us. He used to sleep with Max. I’m sorry. It’s all pretend. I wouldn’t really harm a pig. let me change that last bit… making a pair of shoes for, let’s say, Mickey Rourke. or Vince Cable.

Anyway, I’m not this man. This man doesn’t have to deal with Twitters and people writing on his walls. Someone’s just written on my wall! I don’t even have a house! How can I have a wall in a computer? What is Facebook? What is Twitter? What more things will I have to join? It’s call ed social networking. When I was a kid we called it going out to play. Or visiting. I made this “joke” last night at choir, and it fell, like my singing, flat. That’s because they thought I was referring to a social networking website called “Visiting”.

Oh, I moan. And no doubt, in thirty seconds time, I’ll be as addicted as the next twitterer.

Twitter – vb – to talk rapidly and nervously in a high-pitched voice.

When is someone going to start up Shut-up.com? You go on it, tell your 5678 followers what you are up to and you get back 5678 replies telling you to “Shut up.” And then when we all get fed up with that we start up Shut the **** up.com and so on.

I’m not really moaning. I like it all really. Sort of. I just wish I had a job to stop me from doing it all. Some proper work. With pigs.

You can hear the various Confusions here:

New Order Confusion

ELO Confusion

The Zutons Confusion