October 12, 2012

My crutches have gone. I’ve handed them back. Though, living close to Catford, perhaps I should have kept one.

I don’t know what it is about Catford, but most of its people have a crutch. This isn’t the lazy observation of a Catford call-througher, passing from Forest Hill to Lewisham, depositing his crutches back at the hospital, now he has, at last, been discharged: been declared officially fixed after fracturing his pelvis some yonks ago.

This observation; that most people in Catford have one crutch; is 100% true. And it’s no exaggeration. At least 76% of Catfordians have a crutch. Or, put another way, about 1 in every 54.

Why this is the case nobody knows. Do they – Catfordians – regularly fall over? Breaking bones willy-nilly? Do they get the standard two crutches and then, when better, think “I’ll keep one, just in case?” Do they pass one on to a friend? For emergencies?

It’s an odd thing. Only see in Catford. And only seen by lazy wannabe McIntyre’s.

But it is true!

And here’s another thing. You never- NEVER- see anyone with crutches in Dulwich Village.

I guess it’s just the way things are. Here’s my fractured pelvis.

When the Olympics opened and Danny Boyle made us all feel happy to be alive- in those heady, crazy, joyous days; before Savile, before Armstrong- I danced around the lounge. A newly-wed full of non-jingoistic, patriotic pleasure. I trooped up and down, on the rug, mimicking nations never heard of before, entertaining my wife with my tomfoolery, terrifying Archie, the dog.

Then, two days later, still full of hope and awe, I jumped up at Charing Cross station to rescue a caught balloon. I never reached the balloon. But I did fall hard onto the stone station floor. And I did, thanks to a drink or two, shrug it off, putting on a brave face for my new in-laws.

But when me and Zoe came to change trains at London Bridge it became clear all was not well. Something to do with my colour I believe. And the fact that I wanted to just lie down on the floor.

I enjoyed the Olympics. The Paralympics too. All from my bed. All on Tramadol.

Now, I’m better. And I’ve written this. A blog post. My first in… I can’t use yonks again… It’s been a while though. I’ll try harder. One a week. At least.

Now the crutches have gone it is time to slowly build up those blog muscles once more.

The title’s misleading. There’s no beer in this post. Years back me and Trev came up with a programme idea called Beer and Clothing in… . It was to be a Hunter S. Thompson-esque road trip thing with the two of us drinking beer, dressing up and messing about. You don’t need to know any more details. There aren’t any.

Yes? So? Ok, it’s just a play on Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Ok, it’s only one step up, or down, from Monkey Tennis. But what do you expect from the guys who brought you this?

A long-winded introduction to my day out in Lewisham. It’s easy to spend a day in Lewisham. We’ve just finished a first draft of our film, we have a meeting next Thursday to discuss it, get notes… so, for now, I’m just a waster, passing time. If anyone has a job for me, let me know. In the meantime I wander Lewisham.

I started off at the Post Office depot. I had to pick up Coma by Alex Garland, the picked book for next week’s Book Club. It should have been popped through the letter box, but I had to sign for it and the postman called at some ungodly hour. 6am. Or 9am. Or 10.24am. Something crazy when decent people are asleep.

Back to the depot it went. Or not. It hadn’t turned up by the time I got there so I had to wait til 12.45. I used the time to think about Douglas Copeland, Alex Copeland, Douglas Garland and Michael Crichton; the variety of names I had gone through before I found the right book.

Having got the book I headed to the shops to spend, spend, spend. I bought a laptop stand, a load of A4 paper, five pens, candles, shampoo, conditioner, all sorts of stuff. By this point I’d spent £9. I had to draw the line somewhere and so I resisted my desire to buy the £6 Mohammad Ali T-shirt in Primark. Nor did I buy a bundle of the £2 T-shirts. But, if you like your T-shirts go to Primark. I’m fussy about necks and the necks on the Primark ones are lovely; nice and thin, with none of that visible stitching thing going on.

Then, a read of the papers and a coffee. I used to go to Ponti’s, inside the Lewisham Shopping Centre, but they’ve introduced some new system of looking at menu’s, remembering your table number, going up and ordering; all too much for me and, I guess, for others since the place was unusually empty. Off to their neighbour, Muffin break. Old school. Go up, tell them what you want, get it.

It’s now the next day and I never got around to finishing this rambling post.

I’ll come back to Lewisham. There are good things going on that I’ve never noticed before.

In the Lewisham Shopping centre I did something I’d never done before. I went for a wee. And, in passing, I saw the Lewisham mural- a celebration of 200o years of Lewisham history. For once I had gone out without my camera. But I’ll be back. Bringing you details of Lewisham. Telling you how Max Wall, Boris Karloff and Spike Milligan fit into the picture.

For now, here’s the trailer to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. And for now, for me, more rambling, wandering, passing time. Bad Lieutenant (the new one) calls.

Rothko in Lewisham

November 19, 2009

Years ago, when I was young and gloomy, I travelled down to London to see Mark Rothko’s murals at the Tate. There was only one Tate in those days; the London one. And travelling down to London from Manchester was a big deal; this was a pilgrimage. This day had the same power as a Crystal Day in Liverpool or a Blackpool Day at the Pleasure Beach.

These huge and oppressive paintings appealed to me in the way that Joy Division and Echo and the Bunnymen and the Big Dipper appealed to me. A way that I am still unable to put into words and unwilling and unwanting to try. Instead, I will put them into paintings, music and rollercoasters. That’s the best I can do.

The murals can now be found in Tate Modern. John Banville writes perfectly about them and Rothko here.

They were commissioned for the swanky Four Seasons Restaurant in New York in the late 1950’s. and here’s what Rothko said at the time;

“I accepted this assignment as a challenge, with strictly malicious intentions. I hope to paint something that will ruin the appetite of every son of a bitch who ever eats in that room. If the restaurant would refuse to put up my murals, that would be the ultimate compliment. But they won’t. People can stand anything these days.”

The restaurant didn’t refuse, but Rothko did withdraw from the commission.

Shortly after giving the paintings to the Tate instead, Rothko cut deep into his arms and died “in a wine-dark sea of his own blood”.

So I was surprised, as I sat in the Radiology Department of Lewisham Hospital, waiting for a chest X-Ray, to find myself close to a Rothko.  Not one of his restaurant ones, but, I think, a miniature of Light Red Over Black, 1957.

I like it. The big one. And I think I have the constitution to contemplate it whilst also contemplating the response of my doctor, yesterday, to my question as to whether the hospital would tell me anything or not; If it’s gross, they’ll keep you in.

Thankfully it wasn’t gross. They didn’t keep me in. Just my asthma having fun. I’m not wheezy; just not really breathing. I’m on steroids now. I was hoping to become Hulk-like, but it seems a real possible side effect* is Moon Face. I’ll settle for that. Sounds like a new Batman villain.

Walking home… ha! At what speed does a walk begin? And what comes before that? It wasn’t a dawdle;  I kept a straight line and an even pace. But noticing me move would be like watching the London Eye spin …I fancied stopping off for a quick nap at Lewisham’s snazzzziest titled bed shop.

* Oh, and insomnia. Hence the late post.

Actually, Lewisham People’s Day, but you wouldn’t have thought it. And yes, I know, I should have put Lewisham Police Officer’s Day, but that doesn’t have the same ring to it, and so I didn’t.

This year it was Lewisham People’s Day’s 25th Anniversary. Hurray! It takes place at Mountsfield Park, just across the road from me (when I’m not housesitting in Finchley, as I am as I type) and I love it. So do the police apparently. Every year more and more of them come. And it can get a little confusing as every year more and more sellers turn up selling plastic novelty police helmets. And then there’s the private security firm hired to frisk us all as we go in. And they frisk everyone. The police liaised with the “young people of Lewisham” to see what could be done to make the day more harmonious. The kids understandably said “don’t just pick on us”. So, we all get picked on- sorry, searched, frisked. I briefly panicked as, just like at the airports, my asthma inhalers come under perplexed scrutiny. Lad-di-da. Today, Mountsfield Park has to be the safest place on Earth.

Queue Gardens

Queue Gardens

Here we all are, queueing to get in. My bag was searched, I was frisked. A security guard explained to a young mum ahead of me, “It’s to stop the gangs.” When I was young my second-ever 7″ single was I’m the Leader of the Gang (I am) by Gary Glitter. To this day I’m not sure how I feel about my lack of any kind of gang membership. Maybe a Lewisham posse’ll sign me up.

once inside we all had a fine old time. Including the police. Look! Here they are enjoying MC Grippah and Bizzman down at the Dance for Life stage.


Ok, so why so many police? Well, it seems most years the Day ends with a good old runaround. The kids runaround, the police chase them. Everyone just likes running around. It can be scary if you’re not part of the chasing game, but I don’t think it’s quite as bad as the Lewisham portrayed in my latest read, In the Dark by Mark Billingham. It’s a great and thrilling read, and I recommend it, though I’m not so sure he’s describing the Lewisham I live in; “The place felt like somewhere people would visit only if they had to; only if the life they endured behind their own four walls was close to intolerable”. Then again Mark, spot on!

But it’s not all frisking and pretend plastic police helmets. There’s real ale tents, food from all over the world, theatre, jazz, world music, performance, dancing, stalls… great stalls, like Lewisham Youth Theatre’s, which this year was excitingly placed opposite the Ageing Well Funclub.

And then there’s Sucker! Featuring my comedy partner, Trev Neal. They’ve played every Lewisham People’s Day since it all started 25 years ago. Maybe. Trev, Josh, David and Gianfranco played there unique South London punk underneath the Mountsfield Park bandstand. You’ll never have heard anything like Sucker. Imagine a band made up of Paul Weller, Joe Strummer, David Bowie and Silvio Berlusconi (how about that for a bit of casual racism… though Trev’s the Berlusconi one- oops, that was meant as a joke, though he is off to Sardinia for his hols).

Here they are in action. Not bad for a bunch of oldies.

Trev, Josh, Gianfranco and David aka Sucker

Trev, Josh, Gianfranco and David aka Sucker



the joys of cycling

April 25, 2009

Well, there aren’t many. I used to cycle a lot. I even had two bikes; a touring bike and a racing bike. I loved my bikes, and then, in what must have been a true moment of madness, I sold them both, or rather traded them in, for a soulless mountain bike. if I was still using my battered old touring bike I’d have put a picture of it up for you to see, so pleased was I with it. No picture of the mountain bike, for I hate it.

My touring bike had been to France with me. In the early 1990’s I cycled around France on my own, covering something like 800 miles in two weeks. I was sad, lonely and sunburnt but I look back affectionately at that trip. Now the bike’s gone.

My racing bike was rarely used; a Giant; a perk from my TV days, where, thanks to meeting a man called Tim who worked for Giant, we managed to get these great bikes half price. Trev still has his.

I sold my Giant bike, and my touring bike that had cried with me through France, for £80. For both of them. And I got an ugly mountain bike. What was I thinking? As for regrets, and mistakes; in my list of Top Ten regrets and mistakes this most probably figures about… well, about 13th. it doesn’t quite make it in to the Top Ten. After all, they’re just bikes.

My mountain bike has been out of use for a couple of years. Why did I ever buy a mountain bike? If I go over a pebble I get jittery. At no point will I ever cycle up, or dow, a mountain. Well, I’ve got it out, oiled it, pumped it up… Blimey, I sound like a review of an 80’s Schwarzenegger movie… and today I went for a little bike ride. All with the aim of lowering my blood pressure (currently 2574/3). And if I hadn’t gone for a bike ride I wouldn’t have seen this:


Morris dancing by a Lewisham bin.

Right. That’s the bike back in the shed.

Tragic Life Stories- 3 for 2

November 14, 2008

A friend’s mobile phone breaks and so I search out an old one of mine for their use. And in it there is a memory card. Only a little one. Well, a gigabyte. But only a little one because it has to fit into the phone. And the card is full of forgotten memories, pictures taken, usually out and about, just walking. Here’s a couple of photos from my trips down to the Lewisham Shopping Centre.

tragic-life-stories art-showcase1

Quantum of Shoelace

November 9, 2008

bootThe sun shone and the trees were red and gold and so it seemed wrong to not venture out of the house. But I needed a purpose. And then the thought struck me; I can go and buy some shoelaces. Well, a pair. And the measure of a shoelace? The quantum? Goodness knows how to use that word. I went for 70cm. For my very old boots that you can see here.

Down in Lewisham, at the point where MacDonalds meets Specsavers, a woman had set our her “stall”. She shouted desperately to “the people of Lewisham”. She needed £60,000 to buy her son some new legs. And her son sat in a pram; he was maybe three or four years old; and he had Meccano-like legs. He had lost them through meningitis.

I read the papers, had a coffee and a piece of carrot cake at Muffin Break, and then walked home in the rain.

Tomorrow I might give my new shoelaces a try. I can wear my very old boots to go to the Magnolia in East Dulwich. It used to be called the Magdala, but it seems many things change their names without me noticing. There, I go upstairs and sing in Note-orious. And then I drink Doom Bar.

It’s possible I may have gone on this trek in search of shoelaces just so I could use Quantum of Shoelace for a post title. That’s Sundays for you.