Thursday, 30 December 2010

Getting On

Another year and we're all getting on, as it were.

I don't do new year resolutions because I never stick to them, but instead I vow to continue doing what I enjoyed in the year just gone, and for me that's writing.

I really enjoyed this year - everything seemed to pan out just nicely - and this is fortunate because 2009 was full of tragedy for my family. Excuse my trepidation as a new year begins then. I don't always know what it is we're supposed to be celebrating. A new year can go as badly as it can go well, but hopefully 2011 will be fine.

Anyway, as the dying days of 2010 draw to a sluggish end, I can't resist an excuse to write a quick (and somewhat hungover) summary of the highs of the tv year and so, here we go:

Getting On

I'll start with the best. I've been a bit disappointed that this hasn't been watched by more people. Tucked away on BBC4 this sitcom has been treated with trepidation. Not surprisingly, as it's daring tv but even so I hope it'll be snapped up by BBC2 next year. It's bleak, contains Jo Brand (which strangely puts people off but she's brilliant in it) and Vicki Pepperdine. Pepperdine is genius as the priggish consultant.

There are plentiful parodies of glitzier American shows like Mad Men and House, but it's done in such a British, understated way I just want to punch the air with pride. Stars Peter Capaldi but really it's the women - including The Thick of It's Terry, that makes this show the best comedy of the year - and how often do you hear that?

The Trip

A close second (a very close second) is Winterbottom's The Trip. I'm sure you've all seen it so I won't blather at length, but it was great to see Coogan back on TV again. I wonder if him and Brydon are still friends after that? The only off episode is the one where they entertain a couple of women. Possibly to show America they can include women too? Anyway, it didn't really work.

Grandma's House

Readers of this blog and my Twitter maunderings will know what a huge Amstell fan I am. A Buddhist beaver, as a recent appearance on Breakfast TV reveals, but bloody hell, he's as bright as a button. I always loved him on Never Mind the Buzzcocks and he was the only reason I watched that. If most comedians had an inch of his talent, tv would be a much better place.

The Apprentice

I bloody love The Apprentice and look forward to it all year. Sugar's not doing another hire an apprentice series, instead he's going to give the winner of the next show £250,000 to start their own business. Will this make for less desperate, weird people entering the show? I hope not, but we shall see. In any case, the Junior Apprentice was just as watchable, if not more so.

And a Happy New Year to you all. What can we look forward to next year on the box?

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

But You Must Try...

I'm a carnival sceptic. I go to the Notting Hill carnival only about every ten years. The avoidance is not only because of the prohibitive crowds and transport headaches, but for another reason.

What irks me about carnivals and urban festivals in general, is the fact they're forced upon you. There's a feeling that if you don't already live there (God help you if you're a Notting HIll resident who works shifts, and no, they're not all rich - there's a huge glut of social housing around there too), you're nonetheless expected to attend if you're a London resident. I'm not comfortable with an assumption that I *should* celebrate diversity. I do this in small private ways every day anyway, as I'm sure we all do.

On a more emotional level, I don't have much connection with Notting Hill, other than having gone to some unforgettable record industry type parties in my early twenties. I'm not a resident and nor am I Caribbean, or have this heritage. Why would I go to carnival then? What meaning could I apportion to going to carnival?

Yesterday I did go. Before the drinking started in The Porchester, I wandered around by myself with my camera in semi-earnest, wanting to
document the Caribbean element of the festival (see above picture). What interests me, artistically, is the meaning people bring to celebrations. A carnival is a great unifier, isn't it? Except it isn't. It's a random collation of disparate individuals approaching the situation with different motives.

These motives range from a desire to get drunk, blow whistles and take drugs, to an extreme spectrum of elevating gang warfare. Some want to celebrate achievements in music, dance and food, or some want to show their friends and themselves how cool they are - being in the centre of a cultural whirlwind etc. In short, a sense of unity and belonging is the gloss, but it's never achieved.

Nonetheless, I got into it and I left after dark feeling a bit silly - although not ashamed, for not allowing myself to enjoy something as exciting on my relative doorstep more often.

If you realise everyone feels as fraudulent as you or at least as confused about their role in carnival as you, then you can enjoy yourself - and we certainly did that.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Does Rigsby Have One...?

Technically - strictly speaking - I have a hallway in my palatial domicile.

It's large enough for a coat rack, a shoe rack and even a bookcase, but my lady's chambers does not boast a hallway. I don't keep our telephone sat pertly on a table there, and we don't have what I can only consider purchasing if we did have an entrance displaying a bannister-supported stairway, and that's an umbrella stand.

If I've bought umbrellas in the past, they've been the short, forearm length variety - normally black, and blown-to-buggery in the slightest bluster, and abandoned in a litter bin somewhere. An umbrella stand though would require the golfing-sized model to justify its existence, and let's face it this Gothic Summertime is giving me plenty of time to consider making such a purchase.

The prize umbrella stand is of course the elephant's foot one, but where could one buy one? A cursory glance on the net reveals the main types of affordable stand are the Portland variety (wooden slats) or a wide-topped bamboo one. Perhaps even a modern, silver, cylindrical examole. There are also varieties that are over-the-top in their ornateness. There's too many of them to mention.

While I think of it, there's a parlour game called 'I went to the shop and I bought an elephant's foot umbrella stand' (the idea being - if you don't know - the next person to you has to add another random shopping item to make a list; then the next person contributes something and so on - making sure that each person in the ring remembers all the items on the list). I vaguely remember playing this in school.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Snooker Tournaments.

Snooker without cigarette advertising: well, it's not the same is it?

Do you remember Alex Higgins chain smoking his way from the sidelines in the early 80s - the golden era of snooker? I was hooked on snooker back in the day. I had an older brother who used to host tournaments for the local boys in our garage.

Even for sport-neutral me, it was an exciting time. Ghoulish Ray Reardon - the Welsh hope, Terry Griffiths, Steve 'boring' Davies, and little, squeaky Alex Higgins. My brother and his pals took their tournaments seriously - they used to club together to buy a trophy from the engravers in town. All properly executed, I remember Jason Thomas winning one year. Jason - the year he won, wore a waistcoat and dicky bow for posterity. One polaroid picture shows his chest puffed out, waving the trophy proudly.

The next year a tall boy won. I can't remember his name now, but I recall he died in his teens in a car accident in Ireland.

Ah, of course, these tournaments didn't last forever, and neither did the golden age of snooker. The enthusiasm ripping through the grey, pebble-dashed ex-council houses was directly linked to the fanfare around the players of the time, and when they gradually faded away, then then so did the tournaments - and it was back to the wickets and bats...

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

It's Steak Dear...

How often do you stay in a hotel and there's only one option on the menu? I have to say, in my adult life, I don't think I've come across this. But then, I haven't eaten out in rural Ireland before.

Yup, that's what happened to Mr Norman and I in a country house by Connemara lake recently. On arrival we were asked if we had any dietary needs, but basically, it was salmon, followed by steak, followed by choccy pud. I'm not complaining, but I wouldn't dare serve that up. It's not very imaginative is it? I know that's hypocritical, because I'll happily eat it.

It was a spectacular house - a mansion with dark oak panels and tiger skins adorning the walls of the main staircase. There was a tremendously handsome and friendly 'laird' (for want of a better term!) called Henry who greeted us with the clear blue eyes and black hair of some Irish lush like, I dunno, Cillian Murphy. There were also two very old ladies who stooped over double serving us our dinner. We were a little bit in time-gone-by heaven.

But what if you don't like steak, salmon or chocolate? In England, we pander too much to people now, perhaps?

We ate it all anyway, and then had a benedictine in the lounge. And that's another thing, we love ordering that. The barman always raises a confused eyebrow and gets a step ladder to reach a bottle down, while dusting it off...

Sunday, 18 July 2010

From Me To You.

It's been so long since I last blogged that it just took me a while to get my correct login.

In the interim I've been doing old things (I write for and new things (I'm painting and drawing a lot more. I've recently had some work exhibited).

But here is a little something from me to you for the summer.


Tuesday, 23 March 2010

I Was At Violet's Funeral.

From an artist's perspective, living in London reaps rich rewards in terms of observing unrelenting urban renewal. Things change and businesses turn over quicker than blancmange running through a fork.

Those of you who saw Paul Kelly's short film aired on C4 on dying workmen's cafes in Clerkenwell, and his and Kieran Evans' film, Finisterre will know what I'm getting at.

I've seen some changes in the pocket of East London where I've lived for the past 8 years, but having seen these changes, I marvel at what isolated buildings and businesses do manage to keep the wheels turning - and they appear to have been there for time immemorial. Take the picture above that I took recently:

This is my local printers. Note the writing above the door which looks like it was done in the 20s. This place is a museum in action. It's a joy to see places like this still tucked away and ticking over in the East End.

But I've seen similar businesses fade. Take 'Les's House Clearance': The old man over the way, Les, had a shop front where he just used to pile old clothes and all kinds of junk (it was a bric-a-brac shop essentially) on tressle tables. The shop was a disgrace but it was funny. Long, lean Les used to puff away on a fag in his flat cap. There'd be boxes of cassettes without covers in a shoe box and shoes without their partners. You'd let out an exasperated simper as soon as you walked in the door.

My brother-in-law used to pop in every day to chat to him. When we first moved here random places like this was what often set the East End apart. I don't know what happened to Les.

Next door was The Old Friends pub. We'd have a pint in there when we couldn't be arsed with the trendier places that were springing up around here, and to hear genuine cockney accents. We would sip our pints under brewery mass-ordered signed pics of Joanna Lumley and Jim Bowen.

The East End, like many pockets of London, is changing, but I hope the final changes are a long time coming.

My photo and accompanying blurb has been chosen to be exhibited at the Royal Academy, in the next few weeks.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

The Two Ronnies at the Epicentre.

I'm looking for a new pair of glasses and drawing a blank.

The reason I'm looking is, although I have contact lenses, I can't always be arsed to fiddle around with them before going out. I'm a big fan of the black rimmed NHS specs - nothing fancy - just big clunky trustworthies. I thought I'd got it right last year when I opted for Specsavers specs but although they're black rimmed, they're not quite right. There's something about the slightly south-leaning corners that are inauthentic.

I tried Optical Express and they were too flash (I hate Chanel and Dior symbols and what is it with arm designs in general? They're dreadful). I then hit upon the idea of trying Urban Outfitters for frames but they were pretentious, Shoreditch-style oversized monsters. And friends of mine on Twitter have visual evidence of me not even trying to pull these off.

Anyway, this made me pontificate on how glasses have changed over the years, and I've compiled a potted history of our favourite four-eyed figures over the decades:

Arthur Askey started off in the 1930s, where he appeared on an early form of BBC television. Askey had to be heavily made up for his face to be recognisable at such low resolution. When television cranked up a bit, Askey was a regular performer in variety shows. He went on to appear in some Gainsborough films and he finished off as a Paul Whitehouse incantation.

Glasses were a bit pointy in the late 50s and early 60s for many women. Dandy Nichols who started her career in 1947's Hue and Cry was more famous for playing Alf Garnett's eye-rolling wife.

BBC Parliament followers (especially a few Fridays ago when they screened the Feb 1974 elections) will have been swooning over David Butler's bins. This screengrab is actually taken from 1979 though, where he wore a better quality frame.

Mark Curry was gracing our screens pretty much at the same time NHS prescription glasses were going down the shitter (:-(). He represented a new wave of glamour and possibilities in the realm of primary coloured frames in outsizes.

Meanwhile, if anybody knows how I can get hold of a pair of NHS specs anywhere other than Ebay (I just can't get along with that place) then please do let me know.

I'm looking for something like this:

Friday, 19 March 2010

Not as good at the The Charlatans.

Graham Leslie Coxon and the children yapping at his heels would do well to check out another blogger's view of you all.

Meanwhile, Graham, this is for you:

Globe Cabinets

Do you have a drinks cabinet at home? If you live in a modest home in London like our good selves, it's unlikely but would you like one?

Mr Norman has long fancied a globe drinks cabinet. For the uninitiated, these cabinets are replicas of originals from the 17th century, when rich gentlemen liked to discuss the world - and perhaps their next voyage of discovery, over a glass or two of something special.

The maps, with their illustrations of sea monsters, landmarks and foreign peoples reveal a window into the thinking of the time.

Still, the main attraction would be to fill it with drinks that remind you of Christmas when you were little. Ours, depending on size (they come in various sizes and can cost over a grand) shall contain vermouth, very dry sherry, advocaat and brandy, martini glasses and Waterford crystal brandy bloomers. There'd also be pink flamingo and Stuart Crystal stirrers (the latter being the crystal of the region where I grew up).

Of course it'd look ridiculous in our modern flat, but therein lies the appeal.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Box Tops

We take a break from baiting nitwits on the net, to bring you something much more interesting and lovely.

He was only sweet 16 when he fronted Box Tops.

RIP Alex.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Song 2.

It would appear my Coxon jostling has created a shit-storm among children in forum land.

Do everyone a favour and slope back to masticating your retarded sheep-like opinions somewhere over there, and leave the grown-ups to it.

I would have thought Blur fans were a bit more sensitive. Don't let Graham Leslie Coxon see how moronic you are. He'd blush.

Comments will be re-enabled when all forums are under nuclear attack, or at least until I've finished baking this cherry bakewell.

Friday, 5 March 2010


This is the face of a child who murdered another child.

And this is also the face of a child.

I don't understand the hysteria around a man being awarded, (correctly awarded) an adult life, and who chooses to do the things that other adults enjoy. This should include going out in the areas he knows, and supporting the football team he follows,

Why is he a demon when Ronnie Kray - an adult - a premeditative, gratuitous, violent senior is hero-worshipped in the part of London where I live?

Look again.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Doctor Down Under!

Isn't it marvelous what you can find when hunting for Northern Soul nuggets on YouTube (Frank Wilson's 'could I love you' if you were wondering)? Such a path took me down the delightful road of Frank Wilson and Geoffrey Davies starring in 'doctor down under'. Incidentally, the name Geoffrey Davies caught my eye because it's the very same name as my groovy Uncle Geoff in Ebbw Vale. (Now you all wish you had one of those, don't you?)

If you've encountered this Oz version of our 'doctor in the house' show before then please feel free to comment below, but I haven't and neither, I was surprised to hear had Let's Look Sideways.

Just take a look at the screen grab above. It makes you want to know more doesn't it? (Maybe just me then?) Well, this is a late 70s sitcom (1979 to be precise) which ran to 13 episodes. The action takes place in a Sydney doctor's surgery where two English docs set up a practice.

Geoffrey's a cheating, lying, womanising gambler. The other doctor plays a strange hybrid of a responsible, caring doctor, and an over-the-top party-boy. Frank Wilson is Professor Norman Beaumont, a take-off of Professor Sir Geoffrey Loftus from the original Doctor series.

This footage shows the docs trying to skive off work to go to a party (a bit like House trying to dodge clinic, but also very different). A fancy dress party provides ample opportunity for double entendre:

When ordering a witch doctor costume the telephone conversation runs thus: 'I beg your pardon? No, he doesn't want anything to shake, he's got one of his own...'

There's plenty more...

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Betcher! ('71)

Betcher? Betcher!

The title of this very short Children's Film Foundation film, also from 1971, feels old-fashioned (surely 'betcher' is spelt 'betcha' these days?)

Ah, those cycling proficiency days. I'm still bitter about being thrown off mine for being rumbled by a member of teaching staff freewheeling down a Buckinghamshire street on my BMX, and failing to indicate a left turn with my gangly arm. Soz, I was too busy being much too cool for that, and in any case, whoever heard of throwing a kid off a safety course because she was spotted not playing safe? The mind boggles.

Anyway, an iccle Keith Chegwin stars in this film which is basically a propaganda piece for safety on the road. Don't do as a suspiciously wimpy Butch does; in fact, do the exact opposite because he doesn't stop at junctions or indicate. in other words, he's just a normal kid but still, nonetheless, headmasters across the land were trying to turn us all into weird conformist cyclists.

The film is based on a bet between two kids about who knows most about life on the road, but this is just a smokescreen for a light lecture hell-bent on modelling good road behaviour.

You can see for yourself here:

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Mr Horatio Nibbles (1971)

Cute, loveable things come in small packages which is probably why Mr Horatio Nibbles is a towering, 6ft effigy of paganistic terror.

His face is like a day-old rotting corpse which kind of belies his fob-watch-adorned 3 piece suit and posh, reassuring voice.

If you like daft policemen being foiled by rolling barrels, if you relate to brothers sneering from the sidelines about your girly flights of fancy, then this is the, er, minor Children's Film Foundation film for you.

If like me, you used to have reoccurring nightmares about large, imposing bears, talking to you out of sight of your parents, approach with trepidation.

Just type 'mr horatio nibbles' in to YouTube and unleash a film that's probably somewhere in your subconscious must be...

Sunday, 7 February 2010

I've just been watching an episode of Thriller starring Hayley Mills...

...when was the last time you sang 'why are we waiting' when stamping your feet impatiently for somebody to be ready?

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Bickering with Metal Mickey

It's 2010.

It's a whole 26 years on from 1984 when we were supposed to be flying around in space and eating pills for food (although we did have Sinclair C5s. They were a bit shit though, more like a wooden cart that had managed to somehow power itself without the horse. Not quite 2000 A Space Odyssey).

Still, to my mind, I'm pretty sure there's the technology out there to invent lots of new-fangled things but the brakes are pulled first. Take flying cars: What's the point in even getting to the prototype stage? Scientists are clever people (they have big foreheads to prove it). They know that humans are daft as arseholes. Why invent something where people are going to just bash into each other in the sky for fun? There aren't roads, cat's eyes or speed bumps up there. It'd be a lawless bloodbath. Scientists know that humans are great big kids waiting to happen. Some things just should never be invented in 1984, 2010 or 2069.

The same applies to household robots. Would you really want a Metal Mickey about the place? He'd just be bickering all day with Irene Handl.

I don't really want a wisecracking robot lording it over me, hands sarcastically on hips. Scientists know this too. They also know he'd be kicked to kingdom come by adolescents and slighted ex-army uncles.

I like my hob-top whistling kettle and I like to put the kettle on myself so please don't invent tea taps.