A few weeks back I was a judge at Literary Death Match. You can read about the build up to it here. Yes, I was anxious about it, but I needn’t have been. Everyone was lovely, all the performers were top notch, and I did my best to be be whatever I was meant to be.

Ok, yes, well, there was one moment of trauma. I think that is why I haven’t been able to write about it until now. I’d hidden it away. But, today, thanks to the guardian, it has come back. Reading the Review section I came across this.

Anyways, you’ve read that now. Go on, read it. No, do.

So back to my trauma. When it came to voting, we (the judges), maybe we didn’t pick the crowd favourite. In fact, when we announced Lee Rourke, author of The Canal, as a semi-final winner over Nikesh Shukla, author of Coconut Unlimited, there was  silence. Did we hear right? Can that be? Simon, repeat what you have just said. Yes, he did say Lee. Well… ok… if that’s who you’re picking… idiot… pant-swinging fool…

Made worse by one of the judges saying “Simon had the deciding vote”. I did not! I just voted. The same way as you! Two to one. I decided nothing! Nothing! I’m no Cowell! Please, let me leave. (No, not the event; that was weeks ago. Just let me leave leave).

I never wanted to judge anyone.  I’m sorry ok? You were both great. If I could, Like Cher, turn back time, I’d make it a draw… or just not judge. I’d abstain, tear up my ballot paper, go to the toilets and throw up, not arrive, stay at home, go back to Salford, regress, back further, to Hope Hospital. I’d ask them, plead… don’t let me be born. Not today.

It’s too late for that. Good luck with the books. Well done Clare Pollard, Milly McMahon, Lee and Nikesh. You are all winners. And losers. And thank you LDM’s very own Tyler Durden, Todd Zuniga, and Nicki Le Masurier and Suzanne Azzopardi for inviting me along.

Here we all are, having fun.


Magician’s Knee

July 27, 2010

I’m catsitting in Richmond. I’ve done it before, I’ll do it again. I’ve also got to read over the second draft of our film (I write with Trev Neal). I’ve been told to prepare myself for the cuts ahead (no dopey, not the removal of the UK Film Council, the cuts in our screenplay to get the running time down). I also know, from all the e-mails flying around, that Trev is happy (ish). So, looking forward to a good read and, hopefully, a screenplay that might possibly someday somewhere get made, I went out to buy two things; a cigar and a beer. Then, a sit in the garden and a read.

Out on my cigar and beer hunt I overheard a woman on a mobile phone. She kept saying “magicians knee, magicians knee.”*

I like it. I wish I had it. I wonder what it is.

It’s got to be one of two things. Maybe three. Or four.

Most likely it’s a fake knee, a little like a hidden pocket. A prosthetic knee “cap” that flips open and in which you can store a pigeon.

That’s the most likely thing it is.

It could also be a medical condition. One of those medical conditions, like Tennis Elbow, where, until you get it, you have no idea what it is.

Possibly it is just the knee of a magician. It’s not all smoke and mirrors.

Or, and this is, sorry to say, the most likely explanation; she wasn’t saying Magicians Knee. She was saying something else, in a foreign language. Something I don’t understand.

Now to read and have a cigar, like the man in Misery.

* Magicians knee, magician’s knee, magicians’ knee- you decide.

Aalborg- the Movie(s)

July 19, 2010

Just under a month ago me and Zoe enjoyed a weekend in Aalborg, Denmark, courtesy of http://www.visitaalborg.com. I’d entered a competition to be a guinea pig. And I won! All I had to do in return was record our trip. I said I’d blog, and I did. If you want to read my Aalborg stuff and see the pics, just click on the Aalborg category down in the category cloud at the bottom of this page. (I know, category cloud, don’t blame me, that’s the future for you.) If you can’t be bothered scrolling down, just click here. And if that’s beyond you, just enjoy the films with their pleasing music.

Yes! I told them I’d make a film. At that point I didn’t even have a camera. I had my camera camera, a lovely gift from a very kind reader of my blog, and I know I could have filmed with that, but I’m old fashioned and don’t get these multi-purpose things. I’ve still not got used to music centres. And so Zoe very kindly bought me a Flip camera. What would I do without free holidays and kind friends?

Now the Flip thing is easy. Shoot, upload, click something and then it’s on YouTube. It’s easy. If you have a new(ish) computer. My computer is over 10 years old now. It has a 55GB memory. It is so slow it has taken me a month to upload a 30 second film.

They’re here now. They’re not much to look at. I’m maybe better at still stuff. I didn’t think it all through. I’ll never be given a free holiday again.

But at least they are accompanied by cheesy music. The music comes free with Flip. I used it because I was scared I’d get into trouble with the law if I used proper music. I was desperate to use Strange Animal by Sparks to accompany the zoo film, but I just didn’t dare. What if Ron Mael came after me, with his long arms and his ambiguous stare?

Here’s the films. First up, the Zoo film with a Woody Allen-esque jazzy vibe. Oh, and despite what you may have heard Whatever Works is funny.

Next, off to the art gallery with some low-rent Snow Patrol/Take That crap.

And Karolinelund, with a Flip piece called, oh I can’t remember, a Steel Band Calypso thing that just about drowns out the music of the arm wrestling machine man, but not, unfortuantely for you, my inane ramblings.

That’s it. Apart from the other films you’ll find under the cloud thing.

Oh, and I thought up a slogan: Aalborg- go there, it’s nice.

I hope I get sent somewhere else soon (other than prison or a loony bin… although either of those would be ok-ish, as long as I didn’t have to do any rude stuff or any fighting- it’d put a roof over my head).

Time to stop. I have to head to choir. I’m supposed to have learnt the words to The Time Warp by tonight. I haven’t. Bring on prison. Choir prison.

It’s astounding, time is fleeting, madness takes its toll…

Yesterday I went to meet my sister and family in London. They live in California, so when they get the chance to come to London they like to do a bit of sight-seeing. For the kids, you know. I met them outside St. Paul’s, planning to cross the wobbly bridge and head into Tate Modern.

Just before we crossed the bridge my niece and nephew pleaded with their Dad for an ice cream. I took them up to the van (it was a complicated order- two 99’s, one with the flake on the side). We ordered. And that’s when the police pounced. Two of them. Community Police Officers.

They stopped us buying the ice cream and told the van to move away. Who knows what the rules are? No parking? No licence to sell lollies? I don’t know.

This couldn’t stand! I asked the Community Police Officers (are they even real police?) why they wouldn’t let my sweet little niece and nephew have their ice creams. They asked if we had paid. I said no, but we had ordered. That wasn’t good enough. Like Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi they simply shouted “No ice cream for you… two!” Ok, not quite, but they wouldn’t relent.

As we walked away, my niece and nephew in tears (ok,ok, not in tears, just a little disappointed), I shouted back at them “Thank you Community Police Officers”. This is true. I wanted them to arrest me. I wanted to become the Ice Cream One. But they just ignored me.

We spotted another ice cream van 50 yards away. we ran to it before the Ice Cream Nazis got there.

Literary Death Match

July 14, 2010

I’m off tonight to be a judge at Literary Death Match. How did this happen? Well, I was asked by Suzanne on Twitter. But I don’t mean that. I mean how did this happen!? Or maybe I don’t even mean that. Maybe I mean why did this happen?

I scrape by doing bits of writing, here and there. But judging others? That’s not for me. I was always taught, by someone or other, judge not others lest ye be not judged by thee thyself but by those. Something like that. Just don’t judge, ok? Leave that to judges. In wigs.

Now I see what’s happened. I’ve been mistaken for a judge because I’ve been known to have a thing for wigs. Ok, I’ve worn a few in my time. But still. How? Why? When? Tonight. Where? Concrete, below Pizza East, Shoreditch.

I hope I get a pizza.

What do I know about writing?

I’m nervous now. But I might enjoy it. I may enjoy it. I don’t even know the difference between the two. I can’t judge!

And I’ve got to dress in an 80’s style. That’s because we’re celebrating the launch of Bret Easton Ellis’s new book and even though it’s new it’s 80’s set because that’s what he does best.

Books of his I’ve read: Less Than Zero, American Pyscho, Lunar Park. Oh, and I’ve seen the film versions of The Rules of Attraction and The Informers. I wrote about that here.

I hope they don’t quiz me. All I can remember is the rat in the tube and Phil Collins.

I’m naked at the moment becuase I have no 80’s clothes. I have to leave soon. I once had a “Frankie Says… Nay, nay and thrice nay” T-shirt. This was Frankie Howerd’s jokey version of the Frankie Goes to Hollywood T-shirts. I wish I had it. I’d wear it. I do have it. It’s in storage. I don’t have the time, or the stomach, to face my belongings.

I’ll have to go in a suit. That’ll do. I don’t have an 80’s suit for fancy dress times, I just haven’t bought a suit in a while. If I turn up the sleeves I’ll look like Crocket and Tubbs (is that right? I’m getting confused. I’m panicking. I’m messing up Miami Vice with The League of Gentlemen.)

I’ve got to get dressed. I’ve got to go. Hell, I am a judge but I’m starting to feel like the accused.

It’ll be fine. I’ve just been picked as a judge for my novelty value. All I have to do is say “swing your pants” every now and then.

Swing your pants. I wrote that (along with Trev). Two people writing three words.

At least back then I knew how to edit something. Can’t say the same of this post.

The Feet of God

July 11, 2010

Last weekend I was up in Manchester. That’s where my mum lives and it’s also where my sister, niece and nephew were on their annual trip ‘home’ from California. And this weekend also coincided with St. James’ Church annual parade around the parish. The Whit Walk. Something peculiar, it seems, to the North of England.

My family have been connected to this church for, well, possibly, over 75 years. My dad was the church organist until his death in 1983. My mum is still in the choir. My sister and the kids join in with everything when they are over. Me? Well, I was in the choir. Then I went to university, then moved to London, and, perhaps, the twin evils of education and swanky London living have left me a little less keen. I wouldn’t say Godless or evil, just not so sure about parading around the streets of Salford dressed like a blue nylon monk.

Zoe won’t step inside a church. It’s all for the safety of others. As soon as she’s through the door the font tends to bubble over. I told her it’d be ok. We’d just walk alongside, take a few pics, enjoy the spectacle.

This was before I was press-ganged into wearing a high visibility vest and ordered by the police to assist in crowd control and traffic diversion. There are some things you cannot say no to.

And so Zoe walked around with my nephew William, who, at the last minute, ducked out of the more formal procession. And he made a film. He possibl;y forgot to look through the viewfinder. I’m not sure. Maybe he is just avant garde.

William’s creative when it comes to this church stuff; read his take on communion from a year and a half ago when he was 6. When we watched the film back I asked him what he wanted to call it. Possibly mindful of World Cup events he went for the inspired title of The Feet of God. Here it is:

This yearly walk involves two churches; St. James’ and, from across the road, St. Thomas’.  St. James’ is Church of England, St. Thomas’ is Roman Catholic. They walk together.

Glastonbury toilets

July 1, 2010

Ok, if you don’t want to hear about Glastonbury toilets, stop reading now. Soon I will write about pop, but for now it’s a quick toilet break. It won’t be nice. Stop reading if you are squeamish. What follows isn’t even toilet humour. It’s just toilet stuff. Are you still reading? Why? Stop now.

You may have been drawn into this post by the pretty picture above. Don’t be fooled. Even that is toilet related. I took the pic when my friend Ben needed to stop for a toilet break. Ben Norris, this man. He weed, I snapped.

Toilets at Glastonbury fall into two categories; those you wouldn’t dream of using and those you have to use. Within these two categories there are two types; portaloos with hand-pumped flushes and then large metal boxes raised high off the ground that let everything fall into a cesspit below. It’s the second type I’m going to concentrate on. If you are still reading I advise you to stop now.

Inside the metal cubicle is a wooden toilet seat. If you look into the toilet, and you shouldn’t, about ten feet below you will see a pool of all human life and colours. Well, not all colours. A mass of brown, yellow, green and red liquids and solids slushing away amongst debris such as toilet paper, wet wipes, beer cans, oh you name it. You’ll even see half-eaten snacks bobbing along.

Are you still reading? Here comes the shocker. As you stand there, waiting to wee, and if the muck pool is relatively unchurned, you will see a face reflected back up at you. Not your own. Nor some poor child who slipped in there. The face will be of the person in the cubicle opposite yours waiting to start their own wee.

It’s the worst mirror I’ve ever stared into. Far worse than the one in Snow White and not a patch on Candyman.