Go Sober- Day One

October 1, 2013

It’s Day One of Go Sober. Go Sober, not Stoptober or any other pretenders: Go Sober! For Macmillan Cancer Support.

I haven’t had a drink since last night, 11.55pm, when I swiftly knocked back a Stone’s Ginger Wine. And ice. Classy like. As an aperitif I had five pints of Amstel. At choir. Normally I only have three, but drastic times call for drastic measures. And you need to have at least three pints before tackling tenor for All That Jazz.

Now look! If I’m nowty it’s because I haven’t had a drink today. Ok? Break me some slack (whatever the hell that means).

I’m livid with Fiona Sturges. She’s written a piece in The Independent today. You can read it here. She’s got a bloody nerve! She says “I want more effort than a moustache before I pay up”.

I did Movember last year. (Shouting, but not doing the upper case thing, just going for polite italics )“Do you know, Fiona, just how hard it is to grow a moustache?”

Let me tell you! It’s quite hard.

It’s easy if you have the follicles; like, say, Magnum. My moustache looked like piss-coloured candy floss.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

can you see it?

Anyway, let’s leave Movember and concentrate on Go Sober. And Fiona.

She wants more effort. She thinks those giving up smoking (in my case, drinking) aren’t doing enough to deserve sponsorship, that they may even be doing it for their own (health) benefit.

“Fiona (I want to shout again)! Not drinking will, possibly, KILL me!”

Here’s some more from Fiona:

In recent years, however, charitable fundraising has become a curiously self-centred affair, in which the focus is frequently more on the fundraiser than those for whom they are raising the funds. The rise of online platforms such as JustGiving have made it easy – too easy, perhaps – for us to work loudly through our  mid-life crises.

You don’t need to go door to door rattling a tin and making a case for a donation. Now you just need a Facebook profile, some willing follicles and, hey presto, you are officially a Good Person.

Easy? Self-centred?… (Oh, ok, you can have that one: of course I’m self-centred, I’ve got a blog.)

Mid-life crisis? Jesus, I’ve had a WHOLE life crisis!

Officially a Good Person? I am officially a Sober Person and that has the power to break me bad!

Anyone can run a Marathon. Anyone can swim the Thames. I’d like to see Walliams lay off the booze for a month! I’d like to see Izzard grow a moustache… no, forget that, he has hasn’t he. I’d like to see Izzard grow a rubbishy moustache like mine!

And Fiona says:

I’m all for a good cause, but if it’s sponsorship you’re after, you’ll have to put some effort in first.

Now I’m furious. I’m upper case and bold: I HAVE BEEN SOBER FOR 16 HOURS FIONA! GIVE ME YOUR FUCKING MONEY!

The polite part:

You can sponsor me, or my wife, or both of us here, here, or here. Thank you.

(Oh, and if The Independent wants to sponsor me £10,000 I will happily wear an orange wig and lederhosen for the month.)

Advertisements

It’s Day 2 of my Comic Relief Challenge, wherein I try to raise £1986 for the charity. I’m proud to be part of Tracey Thorn’s #twittermillion team. We’re going to raise a million pounds! At least! And I’m going to do my part by listening to some EBTG tracks and learning from them.

Today’s choice was between two great ‘littles’; Ugly Little Dreams and Little Hitler. @Execcer chose Little Hitler. Hitler beats Frances, which, given the subject matter, is perhaps appropriately phrased.

Little Hitler is the closing track on Baby, The Stars Shine Bright. Like a lot of my favourite songs, from artists such as The Beautiful South or Jacques Brel, Elvis Costello or (at a push) The Jam, it’s a fierce song wrapped up in the most gorgeous of melodies. (Why ‘at a push for The Jam?’ Well, I guess it’s because sometimes they twist it around into a gorgeous song wrapped up in a fierce melody).

When Baby, The Stars Shine Bright came out in 1986, the 24 year old me would almost faint when, just over three minutes into Little Hitler, the big orchestral sound would be snatched away into a vacuum to be replaced by the gentler piano and bass. Have a listen and see if you too are overwhelmed by Stendhal Syndrome.

I’m hopeless at remembering lyrics or even understanding them. Some of my favourite Elvis Costello songs have been listened to for over 30 years and I still will have no idea what he means. But that’s ok. Music. Songs. To paraphrase Michael Haneke (who was, at the time, paraphrasing Truffaut) “if I wanted to send a message I’d have gone to the post office”.

So when I try to understand Little Hitler I think of it as being about the tyranny of men.

Not all men. Just men who have to be men.

In today’s guardian’s g2 Jane Martinson has written a piece about politician’s encouraging other politician’s to ‘man up’. Harriet Harman, whilst acknowledging the term as being sexist, urged David Cameron to ‘man up’ on a recent Andrew Marr show. She couldn’t think of an alternative. Jane Martinson thinks of an alternative; “Doing the right thing… is the most gender-neutral thing you can do.”

Little Hitler‘s men ‘man up’, yet do the wrong things.

Behind every big man there’s a small boy/ Drink to Stalin and Hitler and Jimmy Boyle

It’s an interesting move, linking Jimmy Boyle to Hitler and Stalin, and one I’m still trying to understand.*

Jimmy Boyle, the Glasgow hard man, the killer, the man who was sent to jail for murder. He spent time in H.M. Prison Barlinnie special unit (now no longer in operation); a centre putting rehabilitation, over punishment, at it’s heart. He was given a pair of scissors by a warden who then turned away from him. And Jimmy Boyle didn’t stab him. This was a move in the right direction.

The first verse of Little Hitler could be about Jimmy Boyle:

Little Hitler, don’t come round here again/ With your renegade politics, redder-than-thou-disdain/ Thought we were on the same side/ But with a fistful of nails and your knives from the Clyde

The song came out in 1986. At that time Jimmy Boyle was out of prison and a reformed character. He ran an art gallery called The Gateway Exchange in Edinburgh, aimed at helping drug addicts and, I would hope, anyone finding themselves troubled enough to want to change their life for the better.

I know this because in 1985 I met Jimmy Boyle. We were doing a show at the Edinburgh Festival, and our venue was The Gateway Exchange. Here we are:

DSCN0557

Who do we think we are? The Kray Twins?

We were young and we were foolish. I’m still one of those things. I’d read Jimmy Boyle’s books,  A sense of Freedom and The Pain of Confinement: Prison Diaries. I was surprised when The Gateway Exchange gave us permission to perform at the venue and I was terrified about meeting Jimmy Boyle.

All was fine though. He was polite and charming. Every evening, when we trooped up to the venue for our performance, Jimmy would be standing outside. He said he liked being outside.

I can’t remember much of our time there. We did a show with Simon Bligh and Fred n’ Ginger (Anne Rabbit and Doon Mackichan).

Jimmy Boyle was very much the ‘man’ there, but he also had a team of helpers, one of whom went on to achieve some notoriety by getting crucified, without painkillers, in the Philippines. Perhaps this act relates a little to the ‘fistful of nails’. That man was the self-proclaimed dandy Sebastien Horsley who died from a cocaine and heroin overdose in 2010. We also met Sebastien’s then wife, Evelynn Smith. She was lovely, and I was saddened today to learn that she died from an aneurysm in 2003.

Here we all are, Jimmy Boyle on the left, then Sebastien, Anne, Simon, Evelynn… and I’m sorry to say I cannot remember the names of the next two… then me and then Trev.

20130306_130257

And I must apologise to the woman who’s hair I am holding up. You are clearly uncomfortable with my foolishness. All I can remember is that I liked you, and, for someone incapable of expressing that at the time, I chose, instead, to lift up your hair. Sorry.

And if you’re heartless and hard/ Well this has made you what you are

At the age of 14 Jimmy Boyle stole a cash box at a fun fair and was sent to a school run by the De La Salle brothers ( a Catholic order of monks). in 2001 Jimmy said; “Today, I’m still haunted by the sound of breaking bones as a monk deliberately smashed a child’s leg to smithereens or the footsteps in the night that heralded yet another horrific rape of a terrified, crying child.”

Monks.

Little Hitlers.

Do I understand it? No.

Does it matter? I’m not sure.

Do I like it? I love it.

Here it is.

if you would like, or are able, to give to Comic Relief you can find my sponsor page here.

* Tracey let me know, through Twitter, that the song is not about Jimmy Boyle but about a bully she met who idealised him.

The Comedians part 3

December 17, 2012

Way back in 2010, Christmas time, I mocked the comedians and their ill-conceived covers (DVD covers, not covers in the pop sense, or like when Stewart Lee took Pasquale to task for ‘covering’ a Michael Redmond joke).

No! I mean the often poor artwork used to sell us their funny antics. There were so many I had to do a part one and a part two. Part one is here. Part two is here.And the poll to decide the best and the worst is here.

Let’s see if things have improved over the past two years. Here’s part three.

Oh, and please do remember, I am only judging/mocking/ridiculing the artwork. Not the comedian. Not the jokes. Most of the time.

I’m off to the Zavvi website for my material as it seems to be the only place where I can (easily) find a Top Ten of comedy titles. So… let’s start with Zavvi’s no. 10.

Dara O Briain

No.10 Dara O Briain

it’s a clean-cut look for Dara. Both for himself and his cover. Hands in pockets, shifty look upwards to something out of our sight; a winning gambit that goes some way to proving comedians are at their funniest when they stop smiling.

It’s the first (but it won’t be the last) of our comedy DVD’s to go for a pun-based title. Dara is our ‘craic dealer’; it’s a fun pun, it makes sense and it works.

Its subtitle, ‘Live 2012’, explains itself.

Then a quote from a newspaper; “One of the most dependably entertaining stand-up comics in the land”. That doesn’t tell us too much. One of? How many dependably entertaining stand-up comics are there? And dependably entertaining makes Dara sound as exciting as a sipping bird (not necessarily a bad thing). If quotes could shrug at the end, I think this one would.

Dara’s shadow is slight for such a hefty man. Perhaps his presence on this cover has been faked. Like the moon landings.

The DVD is certificate 15. But, as with other DVD’s coming up, the 15 has been printed twice; suggesting this DVD would be perfect for a 30 year old.

Interestingly, the cover makes no mention of the Mocking show Dara is closely associated with.

All in all, a good start.

Mrs Brown

No. 9 Mrs Brown’s Boys

Here’s a busy cover. It’s old school, with smoking and a pearl necklace. Death is here, and, again, no smiling. It’s Mrs. Brown’s Boys Live Tour. Too rude for TV. Suitable for 36 year olds.

And here’s another pun; morning/mourning.

Last Christmas, at the in-laws (though back then they lacked that title) we watched Frost in that thing where he plays the Queen’s bodyguard. It was a little like dying.

Straight after it came Mrs. Brown’s Boys. The relief was so strong we literally rolled on the floor laughing. Literally.

Roy Brown

No.8 Roy Brown

Roy Brown, aka Chubby, is not one of Mrs. Brown’s Boys. It is rumoured that Mrs Brown (from Mrs. Brown’s Boys) is a man. Going off Roy brown’s DVD cover, he may possibly be a woman.

This much we do know: he has tits (known, I am told, as moobs), and he wears a bikini.

He may also be a pilot.

Whereas Dara O Briain took his newspaper quote from a broadsheet in existence for over 200 years, Roy Brown has chosen to reference a defunct and disgraced tabloid. The, presumably, fake front page headline, “Chubby probed my inbox”, references both the lewd nature of his act and his, presumably, satirical take on the tabloid hackers of phones and emails.

The DVD is called Roy Chubby Brown’s Front Page Boobs. It’s difficult to know what this means. It’s possibly a pun; boobs for ‘news’?

it has a subheading: Read All About Tit. This is, more clearly, without meaning. It isn’t a pun. And, to make sense, it would need to be either ‘read all about tits’ or ‘read all about a tit’. The chances are it’s just a spelling mistake.

Or perhaps a bit of fun. Why not take other examples of common phrases or titles with the word ‘it’, and turn that into ‘tit’? See if you can make yourself laugh. Here’s some to get you started: Five Children and Tit; Stephen King’s Tit; Tit Happened One Night; Tit’s a Wonderful Life.

Have fun.

To be continued tomorrow…

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.


Stewart Lee

January 24, 2010

I went to see Stewart Lee perform his latest show, If You Prefer a Milder Comedian, Please Ask For One. This was a few nights ago. Last Wednesday. I’ve wanted to write about it. Not a review as such; I’m incapable, I’d get word-tied. I’ll leave the reviews to journalists like Nigel Pauley writing in the Daily Star. Here’s his take on one routine executed by the “posh comic”.

I’ve wanted to write about it but I’ve been unable to. I’ve put it off. And off. And off. And the reason is, I’m scared.

Not scared like as if Stewart Lee was a ghost or something; or a madman who might track me down and hurt me. I’m scared because he is so good. I almost have to stop thinking, because I know no matter how much I think, I will never be able to think like him. If I was a stand-up comedian I would see Stewart Lee and I would give up. There and then. I wouldn’t just give up stand-up comedy. I’d give up standing up. I’d give up moving. I’d devote myself to inertia. Nothing I could do would ever be as good and ………………………………………………. ………………………. …………….. …………………………………………………………………. ……………………………………………………………….. ……………………. …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. ………………………………………………………………. See? I just can’t……………………………

…………write now.

I laughed out loud throughout the show.

That’s it. That’s my review.

I’ll continue waffling on though because I can and I have license to. My licence was granted to me by one of Lee and Herring. I can’t remember who now, because this was many years ago and I am old and………………………… …………………………………………………… ………………………………….. …………………………………………………………….. …………………………………………………………. ……………………………………………………………………………………… ……………………………………. ………………………………………hell

………………………………………………………………………………………… ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………. ………………………………………………………….

……………………….did the following even happen?

They gave me the licence to write this because I have nothing to live up to. I can’t fail because I am starting from the standpoint of being an idiot.

I met them at a radio station. They had copies of their Fist Of Fun book with them. They kindly gave me a copy………………………………………

…………or did they? Did I steal it? Was it given to me by the radio host who may or may not have been Danny Baker? I can’t remember.

Somehow, I had the book. And I asked them to sign it. They did. They wrote, To Simon, You are an idiot, best wishes, Lee and Herring.

Maybe.

The To Simon, You are an idiot bit they definitely wrote. I’m not sure how they signed off. They may have put Stewart and Richard, or some variation. They may have written all the best or lots of love, or swing um pant or something. I don’t know. I can’t remember. I’d check, but the book’s in storage and going there brings me out in a sweat and reminds me of all the mistakes I’ve made in my life and drags me down and

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. …………………………………………………………………I wish my storage unit would disappear………………………………….. …………………………………………I’m paying money I don’t have for things I don’t need….. ……………………………

No! I need my Fist of Fun book.…………………………………………………………

It makes me laugh, still- Simon, You are an idiot – but I don’t know why. What did they mean? Am I an idiot? Is that good or bad? It’s got to be bad really, hasn’t it? But maybe it was a joke. Just a joke. But we’re all products of that weird thing from the past that was Alternative Comedy, and the one thing we all know is there’s no such thing as just a joke.

Stewart Lee. He tells a great joke about Richard Hammond. See the review above. It’s merciless and cruel and funny and true and hurtful and sometimes not true but still true. If I was Richard Hammond I would see it and be rendered inert.

I’ve searched the internet. I want to know what Richard Hammond thinks. There’s nothing. He’s inertiad by Lee. In the same way that Pasquale has been inertiad (I know there’s no such word. What do you take me for? An idiot? But I know what I mean. I think. I……………………………………………………. ………………………………. ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… …………………………………….it keeps happening

Pasquale. Watch Stewart Lee’s Pasquale routine. It’s there; on You Tube. I’m not putting up a link. Fear eats away. I’m not sure what Stewart would think. And that matters to me. But it’s there. Take a look. If you don’t laugh and laugh and laugh then maybe he’s not for you. I laugh and then I have no choice but to remain still and useless for at least an afternoon.

Pasquale must be inert. He’s never said How dare you, Lee! He’s kept quiet. There is no comeback to such a perfectly formed routine. Stewart Lee is a ninja………………………………………………………. …………………………………………………………………….. ……………………………………… …………………….. ……………….. ……………..now I’ve written that and it’s, it’s meaningless. Of course he’s not a ninja. He’s not even like a ninja, though he does tend to wear black. He’s more Mick McManus to Pasquale’s Jackie Pallo. Except Stewart and Joe’d never wrestle and……………………….. ……………………………………………… ……………………………………………though Bob Mortimer did once box Les Dennis

I really don’t know how to go on

Not much comedy makes me laugh. I like to laugh, it’s just that

………………….I’m not one of those comedians (I could just stop that there). I’m not one of those comedians who stroke their chins and nod and say that’s funny. If something’s funny, I laugh.

Frankie Boyle can make me laugh. I’ll laugh out loud at his rudery on Mock the Week, though I have rarely laughed at the show. He’s gone now. Stewart Lee does a routine about Mock the Week, without naming the show, that again is so perfect, so formed, that all comedians on Mock

………………………………………..just stop

Comedy makes me laugh when, well, it’s funny but also when I feel that the comedian has no choice but to do and say what he or she is saying. They are compelled. It drives them. It is them. And we know it’s them, it’s all them, it’s not an act, it’s

……………………………….Stewart Lee, Johnny Vegas, Richard Herring, Frank Randle, Andy Kaufman

not Bill Hicks.

Have I gone too far? Have I proved  my idiocy? He’s never made me laugh. All comedians love him. He’s the comedian’s comedian. I’ve never got past 7 minutes. I feel I’m being lectured. He says funny things but he seems smug. He also famously said 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. That’s just some big mouth, clever enough to earn money doing what he loves, getting all self righteous. I did a commercial in 1995. I earned enough to buy a car, a Ford Fiesta. I’m still driving the same car. Bill Hicks can fuck off.

Stewart Lee is my Bill Hicks (even if he’d say the same about commercials, spit in my face and damn me to

…………………………………… ………………………………………………………….. …………………………………….. ……………………………It was only the one.

…………….It wasn’t even a commercial. It was an advert. I wasn’t and still am not clever enough to get by without them.  I’d do another if I was offered. I’ve got a 15 year old car and no home

………………………………………………………………………………………….I wouldn’t do one for guns or anything like that

……………………………or poison

……………………………………………………..or fascism

……….just sweets, or beer, or cheese, milk

………………………………..flowers

pets

……………………ciggies

Where was I?

Stewart Lee opened with a routine about Cafe Nero loyalty cards. Before getting into it he asked an audience member to name their favourite coffee franchise. The audience member said Starbucks.

I’d’ve said Muffin Break. I went there today. They have a loyalty card they hole punch instead of marking with ink. And you get a free coffee every five goes. Also, all their muffins are baked on the premises and the staff in the Lewisham branch are unglamorous and say hello and smile

…………………..maybe I can be the face of Muffin Break

….I’ve lost this post completely.

It’s arrived. The film you’ve all been waiting for. Well, one or two of you who may have read my initial post about our film’s anti-hero, Clint Frecklestone.

This is a film thought up by my niece and nephew, Kate and William, aged 11 and 7. You can find out more about its origins by clicking on the Clint Frecklestone link above. William also thought up the name Clint Frecklestone (pronounced Freckelstun).

We filmed it today, between 12pm and 3pm. We couldn’t fit the cast onto the video, so cast fans, here they are. All the actors are toy figures.

Clint Frecklestone- A cowboy figure

David Beckham- Captain Kirk

The Secret V lady- Lieutenant Uhura

The Detective- Dr. Who

And many soldiers and animal erasers and mini ninjas.

My input was minimal. Honest. It’s all their work. Here’s the film. We hope you enjoy it.

24 is real

December 8, 2009

I’m sorry blog. I’ve neglected you. Sure, I had an excuse for a few weeks. I was ill. But I’m back in the land of the breathing now. Sorry Mummified Fox. You deserve better and I will try harder.

But for now, to try and get going again, three random things.

Random thing one. When you go to Muffin Break– and don’t pretend you don’t, because you do- when you go to Muffin Break do you ever wonder where all the soup signs go when they aren’t needed? I know I do. And this last weekend, down in Muffin Break in Lewisham, I spied the answer.

Where the soup signs hide

I was sat on the near side of this central well when I saw the soup signs, hiding, cowering together in a corner. Or maybe they had broken free from the barber pole style danger tape. Who knows? I wasn’t trying to surreptitiously photograph an arse, or an old lady. Honest. I just felt a bit of humanity might help the picture.

Random thing two. We have a new road. Look! Here’s what a road looks like without cars on it.

The Road

Course, the cars are back now, waiting at the edges. Cats crawl under them and foxes duck and dive around them. occasionally, a car might move, and there’ll be another on standby, waiting to pounce and take its place.

Random thing three. I forget that Jack Bauer once visited Hither Green. It’s true. Everyday I go to my local newsagents and buy the guardian and The Mirror. (I say everyday, but today I betrayed The Mirror and bought The Sun, just because they had a Tiger Woods porn star story on the cover- I then had so little interest in the story I forgot to read it. Porn, it’s so ephemeral isn’t it).

Anyways, so, yes, Jack Bauer. A few years back he was in the area and he has some connection with the people who own the newsagents, and he called in, and he signed some photos for them, and they are on display in the shop. They’re signed Kiefer Sutherland, but I know it’s Jack Bauer.

I’ve seen enough of 24 to convince myself it, and Jack, are real. And if you dare claim otherwise I will set Tony Almeida (the only terrorist to be named after a poncey theatre) on to you.

W Hate Smith and Bob Dylan

October 25, 2009

This is a blog post of hate. Maybe. Most of the following is true. The odd line, here or there, may be made up. Not quite a lie. when is a lie not a lie? When it’s a joke? How would we know.

I am starting to hate W.H. Smith. When I bought Watership Down off them sometime in the early 70’s with my Christmas book token, I loved them. But it couldn’t last.

It may be a plan they have. Sometimes, when love breaks down, when we know our days are numbered, we will create hate just to give ourselves an escape plan. Woolworth’s fought for our love til the end, and as a result I think they will come to be missed. But clearly W.H. Smith have a death wish. I’m no expert, no forecaster, but they will go. One year, two years at the most. And they won’t be missed. When the last W.H. Smith closes we will all breathe a sigh of relief, and, at last, will be given back our shopping free will.

Am I being harsh? I hope they go, but I do not wish to see their staff out of jobs. If I worked for W.H. Smith, simply put, I would work for them no longer. I would be sacked. I would refuse what they demand of me to do. And this is the crux, this is the damnable act; the way they make their staff ask us unneccessary and unwanted questions.

Their crime against the customer is heightened when it’s a W.H. Smith at a train station. Few of us travel to train stations to hang around. We’re usually coming or going and W.H. Smith is a good (well, the only) place to pick up a newspaper. And even that’s not so easy.

I knew what I wanted. A bottle of Lucozade and The Guardian. That’ll be £2.69. But wait! If I buy The Sun at 20p I can get the Lucozade for £1. But I don’t want The Sun. I can get one paper and a drink for £2.69 or two papers and a drink for £2.2o. But I don’t want that little bundle.

Still, beggars can’t be choosers (and despite my supposed P-list status I am a beggar) and so I go for the two papers and a drink cheaper option. Damn that Murdoch and his conniving ways (though it’s Sunday now and the paper remains unread).

I queue to pay. A longish queue. No surprise, for each person upon reaching the cashier is subjected to the same attempts to make the customer buy things they, until that point, didn’t want.

It starts with a “How are you today?” I reply “very well. And you?” But my question gets no response. Instead she asks me if I would like some chocolate for £1. No. Then I’m offered chewing gum. No. If I’d wanted these things would I not have picked them up? Am I too arsey? Yes, a little bit. But she takes the biscuit when she offers me a rabbit. Then a toaster. Then a mail order bride. All for £1.

Her final attempt is to offer me a  free Evening Standard. I tell her two papers is enough, and I think she starts to get the idea that I’m not falling for the devil’s sales pitch.

Later, on my way back to the station, I pass St. Martin in the Fields. A church no longer in any field, but right on the edge of Trafalgar Square. As I walk along the left hand side of the church, heading away from the Square and towards Charing Cross I walk along a display of photgraphs from around the world, and underneath each a lyrical line.

I don’t know much about Bob Dylan and so I fail to realise I am reading the lyrics to “A Hard Rain’s a Gonna Fall” in reverse order. When I get to my end, which is the beginning, I understand the story.

Mark Edwards was stuck in the Sahara in 1969. Around the same time that a man stepped out on to the moon. In the desert he was greeted by a nomad who made him a cup of tea. They sat, drank, and the nomad brought out an old cassette player and played what may well have been his only cassette. And it was the Dylan song. Mark decided to illustrate the song with images from his own and his friends travels. If you’re passing the church, maybe on your way to or from the station, and you have the time, it’s worth a look.

Dylan

The Time Traveler’s Wife

August 22, 2009

thetimetravelerswifepic2“You have to swallow it whole, or not at all” said The London Paper (leaving me to no longer wonder why it’s going out of business). They were talking about The Time traveler’s Wife, the film that’s getting some people worked up because an “l” has gone missing in another time zone. Others are worrying about the rules of time travel and hence the swallow it whole or not at all line. Me? I swallowed some of it, but there were also large chunks I wanted to just spit out.

I spent the first half hour worrying about Eric Bana. His whispered lines, his gruff voice, his constant troubled look. Even when he’s happy (like in this  picture) he looks as if death is banging away inside his skull. Chopper, Hulk, Munich– all obsessed, troubled nutters. in Troy he played Hector; the name I’m giving to all of his demons. He also kept reminding me of someone else, and then it hit me. He’s Liam Neeson. He’s Darkman.

But who is Rachel McAdams? I saw her and liked her in Red Eye, but in this she’s just any old attractive Hollywood actress. In these kind of daft time travel romances it’s essential for us to fall in love with the performers. Otherwise why will we cry? We fall in love with them, we care, we realise that the sadness of their doomed romance is also the sadness of our own failed lives, and we cry and cry and cry. Then go home.

I didn’t want to be Bana and I didn’t fall in love with McAdams. It’s not their fault. They’re good looking, they’re good actors. But someone forgot to give them character. McAdams is Clare Abshire, an artist. And that’s it. Bana is Henry DeTamble, a librarian and troubled time traveler. And that’s that.

Sure, there’s other things to know. Henry’s dad is a violinist and a mess, because his wife, and Henry’s mum, died years ago. And that’s the explaining about it. Oh, and Clare’s dad is a hunter and a Republican. And this is how the film works. Republican, hunter = bad. Artist = good and sensitive. Librarian = troubled and lonely.

And just in case you haven’t got it yet- that these are lovely people, troubled people, finding troubled love- just wait and see what they pick for their first dance at the wedding. Only “Love will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division, played by a band who make Joy Division look like the Jonas Brothers.

Though the film is called The Time Traveler’s Wife it spends far more time being about the time traveler. He’s the one leaping around from time to time. He’s the one who forms the life of his wife. He meets her first when she is a young child. He’s in his thirties I guess. He turns up naked in a field where she is playing. And from then on he keeps visiting her, in this field; a grown man and a child. Interestingly, this isn’t as creepy as it sounds. Just fairly creepy.

And everything is set in place for a romance devoid of free will.

But it’s fun. It’s ok. it made me cry just a little bit. But, and I guess this is a fairly big but, not as much as that other daft time travelling romance The Lake House. That’s an anomaly. Let’s call it the Bullock Factor.

Two films that deal with time and love that I will see again and again and again are Synecdoche New York, a feelbad time-jumping film about love and death and free will (and the terror it brings) and a lovely feelgood time travelling romance, Time After Time.

Please see this one. It’s in the Top Ten list of films you need to see if you haven’t seen them. Malcolm McDowell plays H.G. Wells. David Warner plays Jack the Ripper. When Jack the Ripper is on the run in Victorian England he jumps into Wells’ time machine and transports himself to 1979 San Francisco. And so H.G. Wells goes after him. With me so far? And there Wells meets and falls in love with Amy Robbins (Mary Steenburgen… and if you’ve never fallen in love with her then get out of here now). But she’s doubtful about this weirdly dressed gentleman… oh, and she’s a feminist (which leads to a nice time-travelling trick later in the movie). So to prove that he is who he says he is, he takes her to an H.G. Wells museum and they clamber into the Time machine. He takes her forward a day or two and shows her a newspaper to prove it. And the headline? Well, that would be telling. Here’s a clue; they’ve not managed to catch Jack yet. See it now.

window-moon-eclipse

Here’s the window I’ve been repairing. If it looks a little spooky that’s because I photographed it during an eclipse of the Moon. Do you remember that? The 3rd March, 2007. It was quite something. For about half an hour the Moon turned red. People on the streets of Hither Green panicked. I remember one old man running down the street, shouting at people to stay indoors, saying there were Vampire Nazis parading the streets of Lewisham and they were heading our way. One young child cried, and an image of Jesus appeared in her left eye. Another old lady who lives next door looked up at the Moon and said “isn’t it lovely.”

At least, this is how I like to remember it.

Repairing windows is one of those things you can take the time to do when you have no work. It’s a shame really, because if I had work I wouldn’t have the time. And if I didn’t have the time I’d be able to pay a window man. Me being out of work is putting a glazier out of work. Aren’t times hard.

Here’s how to repair a window.

  • Remove some bits of wood so you can get the window out. Carry it into the garden and then look at it for a while wondering what to do next.
  • Have a cup of tea and do the Guardian crossword (the quick one that takes all day).
  • Look at the window. Laugh, because once placed flat on the ground it has ceased to be useful as a window; unless you like looking at grass. Decide you do like looking at grass. Then hack at it with a variety of tools from a box, all of which have proper and fancy names, none of which you know.
  • Smash, smash, smash glass.
  • Pick bits of glass out of your hand.
  • Hack away at old putty. See bits of rotten wood fall away too and wonder what to do next.
  • Splash wood hardener about as if it was going out of fashion. Sniff it too.
  • Take a break. Do The Mirror crossword.
  • More wood hardener. More splashing. Realise that wood hardener is a sort of glue, and wonder how to get it off your clothes and your fingers.
  • Put all the smashed glass in newspaper and then in a black bin bag. Pick bits of glass out of your hands.
  • Pick up the black bin bag, letting the loose shards cut through the thin plastic, falling to the floor.
  • You’re familiar with the next part… pick up, deal with blood etc.
  • Measure the window, taking off 3mm so the glass will fit in nicely.
  • Go to the glaziers. Buy a piece of glass. Say “Yes. I used to be on Saturday morning TV” and when asked what are you up to these days say “repairing windows”.
  • Try and get the glass back home without breaking it.
  • See if the glass fits.
  • Weep with joy when it does.
  • Take a break. Go on Twitter. Make cheap comments about wood hardening. See the people Twitter back, asking if you are stressed.
  • Tap in some nails to hold the glass in place.
  • Then the fun part. Truly. Putting the putty in. Did you know that putty is like putty in your hands? The putty parts great. Enjoy it.
  • Put the window back.
  • Tidy up. In bare feet.
  • Pick tiny shards of glass out of your bleeding feet.
  • In about six weeks time take the window out again and paint the putty.
  • Forget to do this.

I hope this helps anyone thinking of trying to repair a window. Oh, and I know it’s windmills but when it first went through my head as I tried to think of a title for this post, I heard windows.

And the world is like an apple
Whirling silently in space