"Art is not a mirror with which to reflect the world; it is a hammer with which to shape it"

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Paranoid Android

Well, the SWF looms ever larger on the horizon…

…and how are things going? Well, at this precise moment the nerves are really starting to hit home- I have to go out in daylight; so I’ll probably turn into dust; I can’t recall a single person on the delegate list not even The Arnopp* (eep!); can’t recall who’s actually speaking or what they’ve done; just in case I’ve tried to sort out my pitches for the couple of specs I’ve written and they’re rubbish- they always are- I’m terrible at pitches and pitching- always have been; do I bother to do anything for the rough projects that are starting to look promising- they might be lovely- actually their dark and miserable… but in a lovely way.

And what of the Festival itself? Worries course through me. What if nobody talks to me? What if I forget what people look like after I’ve already spoken to them at length? What if I embarrass myself and everybody beats me about the face and neck with fresh haddock? What if they’re all undercover cannibals and think I look mouth-watering? What if I take a can of pilchards instead of a notebook and start inexplicably hurling them at Mike Leigh? What if I don’t deodorize? What if… what if… what if… ?

...excitement is mutating into mild fear…

…and yet having just watched the documentary on the WWII comando raid on St. Nazaire dockyard I wonder what right I actually have to feel scared about what is essentially walking into a room. Albeit a large room full of people I don’t know who might, at some point, hold my fate and the course of the rest of my life in their hands. Still a bit daft really.

*Isn’t this a paradox?

Forever Delayed

Tomorrow, I am officially one year older and one year closer to the grave… that sounds right miserable! It’s true though. If you haven’t worked it out- that would make it my birthday. Unfortunately, I’ve tended to have to go to funerals in this week in previous years and it’s possibly for this reason that tend to find myself looking back as much as forward…

It’s been a strange year, this last one, there’s no doubting that. I have a few more lines around the eyes, white hairs have started to streak the beard and, seemingly overnight, long white hairs have appeared down the full length of my hair. There’s been the SWF 2007 followed, nipping at its heels, by torrential rain, terrible flooding, being marooned and a complete loss of water for several weeks; the Red Planet Prize (or rather lack thereof for me!) at one point done by candlelight due to the flooding; Digital Shorts, for which I was upbraided for not giving my characters back-story… there was Jason and Dan’s premiere (which was fun) and annoying painful dislocations (which was less fun) then there was pestilential near-death experiences (which was about as far from fun as anybody’s currently found). And the writing has suffered badly. All the stoppages have disrupted the thought-flow, the worries have overwhelmed and there’s been a general loss of momentum. But, I’m reckoning that I’ve now pretty much covered the whole gamut: disease, death, flood, pestilence… let’s be done with it- bring on the rain of frogs and swarms of ravenous locusts! I’m ready and I’m waiting!!!

It’s after years like this that a sane person might begin to wonder whether making plans is actually a sensible thing at all… but I’ve tried sanity and, in the main, it’s over-rated.

I’m thinking this year to try and keep things a little more simple: maybe give competitions and prizes a bit of a miss (I just end up hurrying and getting slapdash). Of course, it will depend on the competition and the prize! I’m figuring that now’s the time to just get on and write. I’m looking towards the UKFC scheme (if, by the time I’m ready, it still exists); I’m looking to get a third spec written- then I can start stalking agents; and I’m churning around three stories at the moment which seem half-way reasonable and can’t think of any reason to stop now.

Yet, at the back of my mind, I find myself taunted by the thought- ‘am I any good?’ Not with putting words down, anybody can do that; not with structure, that can be taught; not with formatting, that can be taught or Lucy can tell you why writing in crayon isn’t the best way forward. No, I’m thinking about that unteachable intangible- the ideas themselves- do I have any? Are they any good? Am I just wasting time? In part this comes from noticing that so many people I was at University with were dealing with fantasy and the snippets of ideas I’ve heard on the Scribosphere all tend to be fantastical- there seems so much about new worlds that need saving, standing-stone gateways, flying death-fish, mythical creatures, time travel, horror, space battles- and I find myself continually wondering am I being too prosaic, too boring, too hung up on the real world. By not doing the fantasy thing it almost makes me wonder if I wasn’t listening in on the right conversation…

But as the painter Hopper said, “maybe I am not very human- what I wanted to do was to paint sunlight on the side of a house.” There aren’t the fantasy elements in anything I write now- they’re just about people who are trying to cope with the modern world as best as they can… maybe that’s my painting the sunlight on the side of a house… oh well, all got a little more introspective than I intended!

Anyway, this next week there is a Screenwriters Festival- no wait- the Screenwriters Festival, where hopefully this year I won’t be hamstrung by the desire to hide under a table when anybody turns to talk to me. And as I’m knowing that a bunch of Scribonauts are away to it, I presume and hope I’ll be seeing some of you lovely people in the flesh… so to speak!*

*Please, for the love of God, please keep your clothes on!!!

The Missing

A few years ago there was a story about a recording of the two string quartets by the major 19th Century French composer Saint-Saëns. Had this been a recording of the Beethoven, Shostakovich or Mozart quartets there would have been barely a flicker of interest in anything other than the quality of the performance and recording themselves. However, what made these recordings noteworthy was not only that the compositions were of very high quality but that these were the world premiere recordings. In the classical music industry these days an eye is kept open (especially by labels like Naxos and Chandos) for rare and unusual recordings to give a disc a unique USP. Lost and/ or previously unknown works do appear, not least because many of the major music archives still haven’t been catalogued thoroughly and have centuries of manuscripts residing in them. After centuries of European wars, private sales, clearances, thefts or simply mislabelling things have inevitably been displaced but what made the episode of the Saint-Saëns quartets more peculiar was that these were not lost works they resided in the archives, people knew they existed, but for over a century nobody had even played them let alone recorded them. As a musicologist noted on the radio at the time, this was terribly sad… they were simply neglected.

We all know about the missing episodes scandal that has left many of the Hartnell and most of the Troughton episodes of Doctor Who lost for all time; the same goes for the four missing first series Dad’s Army episodes, virtually all of The Likely Lads and the missing episodes of Quatermass. Many aficionados know that a vast amount of early cinema has gone forever (about 80% of all silent film), not least of all because it was filmed onto highly unstable, highly inflammable nitrate stock, films such as Murnau’s illegal 1920 Dr. Jekyll adaptation Der Januskopf or Chaney’s turn in 1927’s London After Midnight. And how tantalizing is a 1920 Roumanian film entitled ‘Drakula’? But these are gone. Probably forever. Maybe one day someone will look in a can and find cause for their heartbeat to quicken as they open a mislabelled can and find… who knows? And so we should be thankful for anything that survives from the era when films were considered throwaway. Of course, sometimes films do come back, a mini-masterwork The Most Dangerous Game (made back to back with King Kong), Boris Karloff in The Ghoul and perhaps the best example being a pristine, full length print of Carl Dreyer’s masterpiece The Passion Of Joan Of Arc from 1928; long thought lost, it was discovered in a Norwegian mental asylum!

However, as with the Saint-Saëns quartets, there seems to be another category: the neglected film, works that are known to exist and yet seem to be languishing in limbo, unreleased on disc or tape, unbroadcast on television. The EU did have a scheme to make sure that certain classics of European cinema remained on catalogue (EVE) but this seems to have long since gone and it seems more likely that a film (or television programme) will be released if it comes through a smaller company. Even the classic, Witchfinder General was apparently not going to be released on DVD because the rights had ended up with Sony Pictures who had decided on a policy of not releasing films over a decade old because their profit margins would be too small- and I do realise that profit margins are a large part of the problem- which is peculiar when you consider how they kept telling us we were coming into an era of greater choice. We must be grateful to companies such as Network, Eureka, Artificial Eye, Tartan and Redemption-Salvation for throwing light through some nigh on forgotten classics but there are so many more…

Among the films and television programmes that seem to have fallen through the cracks and I would like to see appear on DVD in the UK include…

• The Student Of Prague (1913 and 1926 remake) (Essential early horror works.)
• Genuine (1920) (Footage from Robert Wiene’s film was placed on the end of the NTSC and some Pal tapes of the same director’s The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari- known to exist in its entirety.)
• City Girl (1930) (Murnau’s third American film- of four- and the only one unreleased.)
• The Naked Spur (1953) (the only one of the Anthony Mann-directed James Stewart Westerns not available on DVD- bizarre!)
• Fear And Desire (1953)(Kubrick’s first feature, withdrawn by the director)
• The Colossus Of Rhodes (1961) (Sergio Leone’s credited directorial debut- it may well be terrible but without a release- how would anybody know?)
• The Big Gundown (1966) (Sergio Sollima’s first Western)
• Privilege (1967) (Peter Watkins’ first feature film. Rights owned by Warners- I think- who have no interest in a release)
• Poor Cow (1967) (Ken Loach feature film briefly released since disappeared)
• Up The Junction (1968) (the film version of the BBC play)
• Run Man Run (1968) (Sergio Sollima’s third Western)
• Gladiators (1969) (Peter Watkins’ second proper feature film)
• Leo The Last (1970) (The film John Boorman directed between Hell In The Pacific and Deliverance; won him Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival.)
• Deep End (1970) (Apparently a classic from the end of the sixties from Jerzy Skolimowski and said to be Jane Asher’s greatest role.)
• Face To Face (1976) (Ingmar Bergman’s Oscar- and Bafta-nominated, Golden Globe-winning classic. Unavailable.)
• Bloodbath Of Doctor Jekyll (1981)(Euro-auteur Walerian Borowczyk’s grimmest film. Rights issues)
• Chinese Boxes (1984) (Chris Petit’s fourth feature with Will Patton and Robbie Coltrane)
• Drowning By Numbers (1988) (Peter Greenaway)
• The Cook, The Thief, His Wife And Her Lover (1989) (Peter Greenaway)
• Prospero’s Books (1991) (Peter Greenaway)
• The Baby Of Mâcon (1993) (Peter Greenaway)
• The Pillow Book (1996) (Peter Greenaway)
• Dracula Rising (1993) (Not the most widely known Corman production but effectively the companion to his Frankenstein Unbound)
• Se7en (1995) (Seriously! This modern classic is currently unavailable at HMV online!)

(I have not included any films that remain unreleased for actual censorship reasons. That’s a different subject entirely…!)

And from television wouldn’t it be nice to be able to have releases of amongst others…
• 1984 (1954) (controversial Orwell favourite saved for posterity by the Queen- I kid you not- but even Royal Appointment isn’t enough to command a DVD release!)
• Up The Junction (1965) (the acclaimed BBC Wednesday Play)
• Ghost Stories For Christmas: The Stalls Of Barchester (1971); Lost Hearts (1973); Treasure Of Abbot Thomas (1974); The Ash Tree (1975) (The BFI released two- Whistle And I’ll Come To You and A Warning To The Curious and then… stopped.)
• No Man’s Land (1978) (classic filmed version of Pinter’s play with John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson sits languishing in the BBC’s vaults)
• The Muscle Market (1981) (pre-Blackstuff Play For Today)
• A Very Peculiar Practice (1986, 1988, 1992) (early Andrew Davies: first series released briefly; second series and one-off special… nowhere to be found)
• The Woman In Black (1989) (much sought after chilling Nigel Kneale adaptation of Susan Hill’s novel- apparently the rights are now owned by Universal and they refuse to release it- because they think they may do a big-screen version at some point in the next century.)
• Mother Love (1989) (chilling Bafta award-winning Diana Rigg starring 4-parter)
• Chimera (1991) (scary as hell, proto-genetics story)
• Blackeyes (1989) (controversial Dennis Potter classic)
• Lipstick On Your Collar (1993) (the final Dennis Potter shown during his lifetime- starring Ewan McGregor)
• Karaoke (1996) (the first part of Dennis Potter’s posthumous flourish- filming arranged so quickly that rights were not properly sorted out)
• Cold Lazarus (1996) (the second part… same reason for lack of release)

Then there are some that were available briefly and have long since returned into rights limbo: The War Game, Culloden, The Stone Tape…

I can’t help thinking I have merely scratched the surface and that there are plenty more classics (and curios) which have been lost under the welter of Star Wars re-issues, Ed Wood and Jess Franco releases.

Perhaps the thing that first made me interested in the rights and releases issue was the intriguing case of Johnny Got His Gun, screenwriter Dalton Trumbo’s sole directorial outing and pacifist film from 1971. The rights were bought by Metallica solely so they could use extensive footage in their promo for the track One They had no interest in making the film widely available and so the film languished in obscurity. A couple of years ago the film got its DVD release. Until then this was all you could see of the film…

…I haven’t yet bought a copy!

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Know Your Enemy

This week it was revealed that documentary film-maker Sean Langan had been released by Taliban kidnappers after a three month captivity. This can only be welcomed- I wouldn’t wish this experience (kidnapping, constant threat of death and mock executions) on my worst enemy.

Sean Langan first came to my attention with his series Langan Behind The Lines featuring episodes with titles like Taking Tea With The Taliban: the series was filmed and shown in early 2001, pre-9/11. These programmes, which seemed to give Langan unusually free access to, amongst others, the camera-shy Taliban, continually portrayed the militants, warlords and fundamentalists he met across Iran, Iraq, the Gaza Strip and Afghanistan as lovable, friendly chaps who were only too willing to break bread with him and invite him into their homes. I couldn’t help feeling very uncomfortable watching their portrayal in these and his subsequent programmes: could these lovable people have been the self-same who hold mass-executions in their football stadium, bulldoze walls onto homosexuals and stone to death adulterous women?

I was not the only one to feel uncomfortable; reporter Saira Shah was so angered by these programmes that she went undercover in Afghanistan and filmed the more disturbing distaff side to Langan’s all-too-cosy portrayals- ‘Beneath The Veil’, I think it was called and it was broadcast a few months after Langan’s, just before 9/11. It completely undermined the vision of Langan’s films and stripped them of any illusion and made them seem deeply disingenuous.

I can’t help admiring Langan’s bravery- I have no deep yearning to go into active warzones- but I do find his apparently deliberately contrary version of the scary types he meets to be somewhat disturbing… this is the equivalent of his meeting Hitler and admitting that, while he may have been a bit mean to the Jews, on the other hand he did like his dog and threw an excellent dinner party. When I heard of his release, and therefore his kidnapping, I tried hard to suppress a grim smile and thoughts of ‘chickens roosting’. I can’t help thinking its best not to put your head in the tiger’s mouth too many times because at some point the tiger may grow tired of playing along with the game.

The Man Who Gave Away The World

The good news is that there is a free 12 track David Bowie CD available on Sunday (29/06) in the UK. The bad news is it comes with the Mail On Sunday. The good news is it could be worse- it could have been The Scum.

The CD has 12 tracks; favourites personally chosen by the man himself including a new mix of Time Will Crawl. Bowie’s own comments on each will be in the paper.

The tracklist includes, Life On Mars, The Bewlay Brothers, Loving The Alien, Time Will Crawl (New Remix), Lady Grinning Soul, Sweet Thing/ Candidate, Win, Some Are, Repetition, Fantastic Voyage, Teenage Wildlife, Hang On To Yourself (Live at Santa Monica, ’72).

Presumably this is all a sweetener for the first official release of ‘Live in Santa Monica ’72’ (recorded during the Ziggy Stardust tour) which is to be released on CD/LP on Monday (30/06/08). But the big question is will there ever be a new LP?

Thursday, 26 June 2008

God Save The Meme!

Having had a bit of scout around some of the posts I’d not seen while I was AWOL I noticed there’d been a meme thing what I’d missed… and I rather like memes… they give me a chance to make lists… I wasn’t tagged but I’ll be guessing that this here counts.

The brief would appear to be…
"List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now, shaping your spring. Post these instructions in your blog along with your 7 songs. Then tag 7 other people to see what they’re listening to."

I don’t have an iPod put on shuffle (or actually an iPod) and I don’t have anything on the laptop. I just pick a CD every now and again. Then leave them lurking by the side of the stereo, on the speakers, on the turntable, in great stacks on the floor... So, here’s a track each from the discs I’ve been spinning more than others recently… To what extent the music I’m listening to influences the new writing project or if the writing influences the musical choice, I’d be reckoning must be six of one, half dozen of the other, so I’ll reckon. I was going to put some fascinating and erudite blurb but maybe the music doesn’t really need it.

Portishead: Silence (previously entitled Wicca)
from the CD imaginatively named ‘Third’ (2008).

Coruscating, exhilarating, on a ragged nerved.

(Clip from All Tomorrow’s Parties premiere- there’s an excellent soundboard quality download available in various places round the web.)

Lisa Gerrard: The Host Of Seraphim
from the CD ‘The Serpent’s Egg’ (1988).

Ethereal. Always makes me think of deserts…

Portishead: Half Day Closing
from the equally imaginatively entitled CD ‘Portishead’ (1997).

Clip and version from ‘PNYC Live’.

Massive Attack: Mezzanine
from the CD ‘Mezzanine’ (1998).

DJ Shadow Vs. Unkle: Lonely Soul-Guns Blazing Mash-up
from the CD/DVD set ‘In Tune And On Time Live!’ (2004).

Contains language some may find objectionable

Sisters Of Mercy: On The Wire-Teachers-One The Wire
from the unofficial CD ‘Event Horizon’ (Live at the Forum, London) (1998).

The CD has near soundboard quality audio; unfortunately the only clip available doesn’t- it’s from a different gig- recorded on a mobile. On The Wire is a B-side from 1984, of which I still don’t like the studio version but live… it shines. Teachers, a live standard for them since their very first gigs in ’81, is the Leonard Cohen song. I can’t believe it’s nearly 21 years since I bought my first Sisters’ disc. Scary.

Bowie: Heart’s Filthy Lesson
from the CD ‘Outside: The Nathan Adler Diaries’ (1995).

Contains imagery some may find objectionable

PJ Harvey: White Chalk
from the CD ‘White Chalk’ (2007).

Sugababes: Stronger
from the CD ‘Overloaded The Singles Collection’ (2006) and ‘Angels With Dirty Faces’ (2002)

Aren’t the strings reminiscent of Unfinished Sympathy? Heartbreaking yet tinged with hope…

Massive Attack feat. Terry Callier: Live With Me
from the CD ‘Collected’ (2006)

(The string led version of the track used on the other video is the better but the Jonathan Glazer directed promo is so appalling I refuse to give it house-room. But if you’re desperate, watch it here- then pluck out thine eyes!).

Public Image Limited: The Order Of Death
from the CD ‘This Is What You Want… This Is What You Get’ (1984)

Contains imagery some may find objectionable
May contain spoilers for the film Hardware (1990)

The clip is a pretty well-concocted assemblage from Richard Stanley’s excellent (and unfairly over-looked) first feature, Hardware. The track, Lydon intoning the same phrase over and over, is like a mantra for the wasteland…

Radiohead: Street Spirit (Fade Out.)
from the CD ‘The Best Of Radiohead’ (2008) and ‘The Bends’ (1995).

Moby: When It’s Cold I’d Like To Die
from the CD ‘Everything Is Wrong’ (1995)

So, that’s where my head’s at this moment I’m thinking. I hope it enlightened if not exactly uplifted…


Here’s some general random thoughts I’ve had which I haven’t had a chance to share… if they get too long I’ll do second post, if and when… and then it’ll look as if I’m actually posting more than I actually am… Cunning, heh?

As it has been made abundantly clear antanddec did not know anything about the massive dodginess (which some have suggested could be referred to as fraud- though not I as it hasn’t been to court, nobody has been charged and I don’t want to be sued for libel!) perpetrated on various shows that they presented and executive produced through their own production company and through which millions of pounds were erroneously expropriated of people for competitions they had no chance of winning (because they rang too late and weren’t entered; weren’t pretty enough to appear on television or just weren’t living near enough to London). Antanddec knew nothing about any of it. This, they have made ‘clear as an unmuddied lake’. We have no reason to disbelieve them.

So, the questions I found ran through my head and find hard to answer are…
• Are they fit to run a company?
• Should they have been paying a little more attention?
• Should they actually have executive producer credits? What do they do to earn such?
• Should they hire new company accountants?
• Are they really androids created by some evil genius to make the television audience stupider?

The Ruby In The Smoke
The other night I managed to catch the repeat of the television adaptation of Philip Pullman’s Victorian England set The Ruby In The Smoke (which I haven’t read and probably won’t) because they cancelled the football (and there was much rejoicing across the land- well- from me at any rate) and I was reminded of several things that I thought strange the first time around. I must make clear that it is a likable enough romp though for whom I’m not entirely sure: skewed too young for adults yet too dark, violent and mired in opium for children. However, to the peculiarities…

Firstly Peculiarity I had to scratch my head when on two separate occasions characters were twice described so as to be pointed out… firstly, when the villainous Mrs Holland warns her underling “Didn’t you know there was a stabbing in Kent this morning; only eye-witness is in shock, poor soul; ain’t breathed a word but one nod from me and she’ll swear it was a sharp young feller in a check suit and a bowler hat she saw standing over the body with a knife in his hand.” Peculiarly, Mrs Holland apparently didn’t notice the more salient point in this Victorian setting might have been that the chap was black. Alright, fine, thinks I, this must surely have been an oversight. But lo, not 10 minutes later, Miss Sally Lockhart describes the self-same miscreant (who has just stolen her note-book) as not being Mrs Holland but rather “No, it was a man, a Spiv*.” Again, she neglects to mention that he’s black. This second omission seemed more than mere coincidence. I’m perfectly happy with and supportive of colour-blind casting but there are some problems when this is applied to various period settings. In the UK, presently, the non-white population numbers between 5 and 10% depending on to whom you listen, what definitions they’re using and what point they’re trying to prove. In The Bill they still give the IC code to aid identification. Only recently I heard a historian say that Victorian England only had about 10-20,000 non-white people which in a population of around 20 million (0.05-0.10%)- works out as about 1 in 1-2,000- I realise the percentages were higher in places like London, Liverpool and Bristol but still hardly high enough to become negligible. You’d have thought that some Victorians (even in fictional TV programmes) would have thought that being non-white would have been worth mentioning. It is the unusual that people recall and mention when describing individuals, events, places or items: if I was mugged by a three-armed, cycloptic unidexter my description to police would probably not focus on his blue jeans and tidy hair. It just seems odd, given the number of throat-slashings and the later propounding of the benefits of opium, that there should be such apparent squeamishness about this particular element. Left me intrigued but is only a minor thing- and I sincerely hope doesn't come across as being racist.

Second Peculiarity. Something that actually strikes me as of far greater importance is the treatment of class. Ruby In The Smoke was a story about a trio of arty, attractive, well-scrubbed, well-educated, upper-middle-class dilettantes (Sally, a roving something-or-other of military background; an Oxbridge-educated photographic dabbler and his actress sister**) who struggle against evil, ignorant, ugly***, dirty working class types possessed of nothing more than animal cunning- with the only good working class types portrayed being the sort of typical forelock-tugging ‘noble savages’ so beloved of Victorian melodrama who tend to die nobly so the beautiful people may live. Assuming this is accurate to Pullman’s novel- isn’t it curious that while he thinks religion is evil and divisive he actively promotes an upper-middle-class, (bourgeois) view of class that is no further advanced than that of the world of Brief Encounter?

Third Peculiarity. At the end of the piece the main villain explained their part of the plot and recounted a back-story that would presumably make them seem moderately sympathetic (too little, too late) and then a further previously unseen, only mentioned a couple of times, villain popped up to describe his bit of plot which seemed almost unrelated to the rest of the story. This particular villain was Sino-Dutch… and presumably in the running for the Fu Manchu award for most culturally stereotyped villain!

Fourth (Minor) Peculiarity. The explanatory voice-over, though sparingly used, was just annoying… as people insist on telling me… ‘show, don’t tell’.

However, I’m not sure where the fault for any of this lies. I checked the writer (Adrian Hodges) on imdb and found he has a nigh on impeccable CV (including Heaven On Earth which I thought most excellent and which is criminally unavailable on DVD). Maybe there was some dabbling from others or maybe the novel’s ‘problematic’ to start with but something went slightly skew-whiff at some point. Answers on a postcard. But it enjoyably passed 90 minutes… and that’s what counts…

Now from the deep and meaningful to the shallow and pointless…

The Cherry & Whites
Isn’t it time to rid ourselves of the farrago of the Rugby play-offs? Ridiculous, stupid and patently unfair. Rugby now works like this: after a season of playing the Premiership, the Cherry & Whites come top of the Guinness Premiership and, instead of getting a trophy, they get to do an end-of-season play-off mini-championship tournament in which they loose. This hasn’t happened every year- but it has happened three times in the eight years since its implementation… and it’s getting silly. I’d like to make abundantly clear that I do not actually understand the rules of the game, if indeed there are any, but if it’s on TV I’ll try and catch it. And I’d rather like my team to win- especially when they’ve won.

…and that is the end of today’s miscellaneous ramblings. Take care you groovy-funkers!

*Did Spivs exist at this time- according to the BBC’s own Balderdash & Piffle… no! Didn’t arrive until at least the first decade of the Twentieth Century.
**It was ignored that at this time ‘jobbing actress’ was near-synonymous for ‘prostitute’.
***Don’t you just love the classic conflation of ugly and villainous?

Sunday, 22 June 2008


Well, it’s been a fair while, so it has. Longer than it should have been but needs must when the Devil vomits in your kettle*. Firstly, I’d like to thank all those who left comments and were generally concerned. I probably ought to give you a quick rundown as to what happened…

Those of you who have been successfully cloned with elephants will recall that I dislocated my thumb a (long) while back, put it back in and thought that would be that… but as you may also recall there’s a phrase about best laid plans… I actually managed to yank the tendons into the middle of who-knows-where until they started to feel like they were burning and all swelled up. So, I was basically told that if I wanted it work properly quickly (or again) I’d have to stop using it. Have you ever tried not using the thumb on your right hand- and hence your right hand? Almost impossible. It also becomes very frustrating very quickly… bizarrely when it felt alright to start doing stuff again I discovered I couldn’t actually remember how to handwrite. Seriously. Took several days.

The whole episode was, in hindsight, a minor inconvenience…

Just as I was starting to think what my next post should be my sister’s youngest (my 3 year old nephew) was rushed to hospital having contracted Meningoccal Septicaemia" (or Bacterial Meningitis for short). In the first few hours after diagnosis it was a close race with death. He then spent a couple of weeks in Cardiff ICU before being moved to their High Dependency Unit and ultimately transferred to Swansea for skin grafts, dialysis, etc. So, the whole family switched onto a war footing. The good news is that he has made a remarkably speedy recovery- suprising even the medical types- although there’s still a long road to go. Initially he wasn’t expected to make it through the night; then he was expected to survive but lose his feet, fingers, kidneys and need extensive skin grafting to knees, legs and elbows… now, he’s getting to keep his feet, even his toes; his kidneys started working again; the skin grafts are taking well and he’s only lost three fingers on his right hand. Now, he’s even been released back home and is learning how to walk again and sending everybody insane with a non-stop diet of Fireman Sam, Ballamory and The Midnight Garden- proof that psychedelics are rife in the TV industry???- if they made these programmes in drink form they’d dissolve teeth on contact and be banned across Europe and all fifty states of the Union! So, things were bad; now they’re not so bad and looking better daily... and make my minor thumb problem seem entirely trivial.

…and now I’m (maybe) back… what next? Well, I’ll tell you I’ll probably be increasingly misanthropic, snarly and ranty and eventually convince you all to hate me. There’s a lot to snarl about: the world’s turning to shit on a daily basis, nobody seems to have an iota of sense, people become more stupid; democracy evaporates on a global scale; television has abandoned all pretence to being interested in the audience and now treats them with a mix of paternalistic pity and thinly veiled contempt and finally unfettered free-market capitalism is increasingly appearing to be to the human race what myxomatosis is to rabbits…

So, one last thought to conjure with…

A while back young Master Oli spoke about the downgrading of language (such as ‘excruciating’); as did Matthew Parris many years ago in The Times (the way politicians have devalued ‘pledge’, ‘promise’, etc. to the point where they have become meaningless). What about ‘nightmare’ and ‘hell’- as in ‘my diet hell’ or ‘my cellulite nightmare’- so, given that having to diet or a little cellulite are considered a nightmare or a hell what word is left to be used to describe counting the seconds, watching over a son fighting for breath while a resuscitation team hover in the background, and while blood blisters form all over the child’s limbs, body and face until he’s unrecognizable and turning black, as people do with frostbite? Is the epithet ‘nightmare’ or ‘hell’ suitable for that- or is it just not up there with diets and cellulite? Tricky isn’t? But let's get serious we don’t get to have ‘living hells’ or ‘nightmares’- we’re just little people. After all celebrities, well, they have it tough don’t they?

Not that I'm angry...

*I thank you Messrs. Curtis and Elton…