Dynargh dhe'n Blogofrob

Tuesday 5th April 2005

It appears that hauling myself out of bed and trudging across to my office for 8.45 on Sunday morning was worth it. Despite spending the whole of Saturday at a stylishly fun wedding and despite loathing the sight of my place of work on weekdays, I was sat at my desk, 6 internet windows open on my monitor, and clicking away on the refresh button by the time the more devout were adjusting their hats and tottering to church.

It took about an hour and a half, but I managed to secure a couple of Glastonbury tickets and so will be heading to Somerset once again in late June - unless some dreadful work-related turn of events turns me into even more of a hate filled automaton. No, this particular professional life isn't going well. I'm thinking of becoming a babysitter or bramblepicker.

Delightfully, the BBC included my half-baked comments (amongst others) about Glastonbury "ticket pain" in their hastily written article of yesterday.

Meanwhile, the quiet corner of Clerkenwell in to which I escape after a day's drudgery appears to have been hit by a crime wave. Drive-by shootings, riots, arson and loitering crack-dealers have turned my street into a no-go area akin to the suburbs of Baghdad.

That's not exactly true. My block of flats nestles in between new media companies, galleries and a couple of painfully self-obsessed drinking establishments. As a result the street it's on tends to be a rather quiet back road. But the other evening, while I was sitting at the table writing thank you letters for Christmas presents (a tad late), I heard a loud crashing. Looking out of the window I watched a shadowy figure scamper through the hole he had just made in a production company's glass front door. Being a trendy media company, the whole office was glass fronted, and while I called the police, I watched him trot upstairs and go for a flat screen TV and DVD player mounted on the wall. However, a few other people in the flats had heard the commotion, and the burglar's accomplice, perching on a moped in the street, looked around to see windows of morally outraged residents, phones clamped to their ears. The pair puttered off on their moped empty-handed.

It was fairly exciting but soon calm returned to the neighbourhood. Or so I thought - my flatmate reports being woken regularly by young scoundrels attempting to steal mopeds parked on the street outside. To be honest, since the daring attempted heist over the road, I haven't noticed anything amiss, but it seems that soon I'll have to dodge the flying bullets and bricks as gangs of media types crack their thick-rimmed glasses and tear their low-slung jeans in disputes over video-streaming and fully outsourced IT consulting.

71 - posted at 08:46:42
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Tuesday 8th February 2005

No, look, I know I've been shit, but I've been very busy you see, what with work and Christmas and going and doing things. Lots of things, which I should have blogged, but didn't. These include:

Xfm's Winter Wonderland;

Xfm's First Friday club night at the Islington Academy;

The Producers;

The Tsunami benefit gig in the Millennium Stadium;

Ian McEwan in conversation and reading from his new novel on the South Bank;

Sunday night improvisation at the Comedy Store; and

Skiing in Champoluc, Italy.

But in between flitting to and from these dazzling events, I've been mostly crouched behind a desk, fingers tapping a yellowing keyboard, back arching into permanent quasimodoism, skin sweating in fear of doing something wrong and brain spasming with horror at the fact I chose this profession: but that's earning a living for you. I only mention it as an excuse for not posting more regularly - that and the fact that I don't own a computer so anything I do post has to be stealthily written and posted during working hours.

Of course, the rolling list of films to the right might suggest that I have had some leisure time: why waste two hours of my life watching 'How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days' when I could be describing Ian McEwan's calm intellect in the face of nonsense questions from an audience desperate to impress, or delineating the beauty of gently carving a path down a piste sprinkled with powder snow? A good question, and one I intend to avoid answering, save to say that if I ever run into Kate Hudson, Matthew McConaughey or Donald Petrie I'd like to sit them down for 120 minutes and stab them repeatedly in the cerebral cortex with a rusty fork and see how they like it.

In an attempt to stop this becoming a blog just for the sake of it, I did do something noteworthy on Sunday night - Claire and I went to 'Funny Money', a comedy night held in support of Unicef.

Some of the better-known names were Sean Lock, Jeremy Hardy, Adam Buxton, Mackenzie Crook, Jimmy Carr (all brilliantly accomplished) and Arthur Smith (utter dross). These and others motored through 10 minute acts which were interspersed by the compares, Justin Lee Collins and Fearne Cotton. Such a shame. Without these two witless chancers each comedian could have got a few minutes more and I could have avoided squirming with embarrassment at this modern day Mick Fleetwood and Sam Fox. They failed to engage with each other or the audience at any level. Justin Lee Collins could have got away with it if he were on his own, despite his limited repertoire of gay 'jokes' and saying 'fuck' a lot. As it was, Fearne Cotton stood at his elbow looking awkward and making redundant comments, her eyes shimmering with the fear of doing something uncool: exactly the same shabby performance she turned in at the tsunami gig - where she actually came off looking semi-professional, next to the full-time cretin Edith Bowman. So it was a bit of luck that the comedy was first class, and made for a fun evening.

70 - posted at 19:16:52
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Monday 29th November 2004

Days roll on, and pass without me noticing. I can imagine myself waking with a start early one morning, shuffling to the bathroom and standing in front of the mirror, examining my withered blotched face in horror. I'm in old age, and the years have quietly passed, politely adding up without complaint. What's provoked this is that it's been over 6 weeks since I got back from East Asia - longer than I was away, but I wouldn't notice this unless I had a calendar in front of me, because days in London just drift past, mainly as a rainy parade of computer screens and concrete, scowls and abuse.

Don't get me wrong - it's hardly the worst place in the world to live - I've seen Pyongyang and the slums of Nairobi. And what would the citizens of Falluja or Baghdad give to be anywhere but there? But I can't help but persist in my view of London - a claustrophobic and oppressive sewer of exhaust fumes, delays and selfishness. For me, the stickers on the tube train windows supporting the farcical bid for the 2012 Olympics sum up the city's shambolic indifference to efficiency, standards of living and social values. It's just a little thing, but the stickers can't be viewed for the most part on the tube. They are see-through, the text on them is in black - so when you're in the darkness of a tunnel (and on the London Underground you normally are, often motionless) they serve no purpose at all. Someone's been paid lots of money to come up with them, the job has been half-heartedly done, no-one's thought it through, and no-one really cares.

But away with the self-indulgent wankery - surely I've been doing some worthwhile things? As seen below, I've spent an evening with Sir Roger Moore - I've also been to see him read Kipling at the British Library. I've enjoyed Bill Bailey's fantastic Part Troll, been pleasantly surprised by The Thrills' set at Brixton Academy and vaguely disappointed by the Gwen and Augustus John exhibition at Tate Britain. And along with its beautiful districts (all too expensive to live in) and its acres of parkland, the diversity and accessibility of art and culture is a seriously redeeming feature of London.

And so it was that I turned up at the Queen Elizabeth Hall the other day to hear some authors reading their work. Laila had a spare ticket, so I said I'd go along, without knowing who I was going to see. Noticing 'Faber & Faber's 75th Anniversary' imprinted on the ticket was intriguing, but I still didn't expect the startlingly impressive line-up. The whole thing was MCed by Andrew O'Hagen, who fumbled through his opening speech before welcoming PD James onto the stage. In a 1930's continuity announcer's voice she read a forgettable scene from a forgettable murder novel, and soon O'Hagen was back, introducing the next reader.

An Asian man, in black jeans and black t-shirt, with floppy centre-parted hair lolloped to the podium and read from his most famous work. Despite appearances, he wasn't a physics student reading from a dissertation, but Kazuo Ishiguro reading from The Remains of the Day. His reading was slightly stilted, but it didn't detract from the excellent material - although the audience seemed a little underwhelmed. Conversely, they opened up to Alan Bennett who was on next, snorting with laughter and love at his cuddly English ways. Amongst other things, Bennett read a compelling passage from The History Boys, which turned from an analysis of Hardy's Drummer Hodge into an easy-going muse on the nature of reading.

After the interval, literature's most famous transsexual took to the stage (assuming Nadia Almada's autobiography, Chop and Change, has yet to be published). Jan Morris was charming and self-deprecating. She read from her poetic and thoughtful books on Trieste and Venice, all the time with her hand against her face, apart from when making witty asides. Next Hanif Kureishi read from the Buddha of Suburbia, before the Nobel prize winner himself, Seamus Heaney, was wheeled out to gruffly mutter through his poems (including the obligatory Digging), which he did excellently. What struck me about all the readers was their lack of arrogance and pride. They are all hugely successful (whether commercially or critically) authors, but they all seemed down-to-earth and personable. I wondered if it would be the same if the evening had presented a handful of famous actors or artists.

Fighting through the scrum for signed books after the event, I realised that evenings like this make London worthwhile, even for a 'miserable, moody old shit' like me (to quote one of my 'friends'). At least the streets can be escaped, and the exhausted city-dweller can find refuge in a cinema or theatre, at a gig venue or in a gallery. Given the buses that arrive with the regularity of a solar eclipse, the elusive 'for hire' taxis and the feckless underground system, the only problem is getting there.

69 - posted at 17:13:16
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Friday 29th October 2004

Fucking hell! I've actually won something

Look!

68 - posted at 17:33:34
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Friday 22nd October 2004

An Evening with Sir Roger Moore

Last Sunday I was absent-mindedly flicking through the pages of the Barbican's cinema program for October - I don't live far from the concrete fortress, and have a made a resolution to make more use of it. I was slightly disappointed that I had missed 'Travels in Greeneland', a season of films based on novels or screenplays by Graham Greene, and turned over the page to find out what seasons were currently running. A Roger Moore season.

My excited fingers fumbled over the keys, but I eventually managed to phone the box office. Unsurprisingly, all tickets for 'An Evening with Roger Moore', in which a film was to be shown followed by an interview with the man himself, were sold out. I despondently booked a couple of tickets for a showing of The Spy Who Loved Me and consoled myself with the thought that there was no way I could have acted earlier to get tickets. When they were freely available, I was probably still cooped up in North Korea, where I imagine they haven't even heard of Lord Rogerson of Mooreshire - although my guide there was aware of the North Korea element in Die Another Day, despite not having seen the film.

I didn't give up. Over the next few days I pestered the box office for returns, and e-mailed the marketing department at work to see if they could get any tickets. Eventually, Leo and I decided to simply head down to Cinema 1 on Thursday evening and hope that there would be some no-shows. But then, yesterday afternoon my phone rang. It was the woman from marketing. She'd come up with the goods - plus they were press tickets, so I didn't even have to pay.

The evening started with a showing of The Man Who Haunted Himself, a psychological thriller from 1970. Roger Moore plays an uptight City gent, who is involved in a car accident, and briefly dies on the operating table before being resuscitated. Once he's up and about again strange things start to happen - he is reminded of events and conversations he's sure he hasn't experienced, he is charged with business deals and negotiations he doesn't recall and a beautiful photographer swears blind that he is having an affair with her - sadly for Roger he can't even remember any details of this. Either he's going mad or there's a doppelganger on the loose. It's an engaging film, shot through with some fascinating footage of London in the early '70s. Roger and a debonair moustache turn in an impressive performance, which should silence those detractors who say he can't act.

A recent article contains his rather touching account of that performance:

When asked about the film nowadays, I always reflect that it was one of the few times I was allowed to act. It's a terrible admission from someone who has made a living from walking in front of cameras. Though, in my defence, I'd previously been cast in roles that required a relatively straightforward approach, either as a romantic lead, heroic lead - or just holding a spear, as I did in my first movie. I'd never been dramatically stretched, as they say.

The credits rolled, the lights came up and Roger entered the auditorium. He walked past my seat, down the stairs and on to the stage where he chatted to his biographer, Gareth Owen, for an hour or so, before the audience were invited to ask questions. Sadly I wasn't given the opportunity to ask any of the array of questions I had for him (What was it like working with the Richards Burton and Harris? Are you still interested in animation and cartooning? What do you think of John Sessions's depiction of you in Stella Street And, (after reciting some specific lines from Octopussy) what do you think of my impression of you?) I also couldn't thank him for escorting me around the Forbidden City last month. Some of the questions that were asked were well presented and interesting. Others, including one asked by the obligatory stalker (not me), were a complete waste of time and were along the lines of 'You once turned on the illuminations in Morecambe in 1974, do you remember a small boy who looked at you a bit funny?' Morons.

So he chatted amiably for another hour or so, about his work for UNICEF, Bond, his on-stage collapse and told and re-told countless anecdotes about his mostly dead actor friends. He came across as a warm and genial man, genuinely self-deprecating and surprisingly down-to-earth. For a 77 year old he has plenty of energy and enthusiasm and took every question, moronic or otherwise, with good humour and charm. It was an excellent evening and I was very lucky to get tickets. All being well I'm off to see him read Kipling at the British Library next week as well.

67 - posted at 12:49:34
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