Monday, 30 April 2007


And the other reason I didn't want to start weblogging was the worry that I'd become obsessive about it and strive pointlessly to maintain an average of say two posts a week even when I didn't really have anything to say. They didn't even have the coffee shop sketch in Ruddy Hell! It's Harry and Paul this week, you know.


Or something less sinister...?

Hanging on the Telephone

One of the things that held me back from weblogging before now is that I am by nature a moody swine, and I worried that not only would this become apparent as I weblogged but worse still a pattern to my moodiness might become clear -"Oh look, ridiculously chirpy, then two weeks after utter despond as per usual!"

It would be bad enough that becoming clear to others, of course, but it becoming clear to me, that would be even worse.
It's not even information you can do much with- "You're hitting one of your grumpy spells, Ian," "Really? Am I? Well I never! How useful to know. What am I supposed to do with that information? Will the knowledge cheer me up do you think, or possibly make me grumpier still?"

Avoid talking to people who're that grumpy (particularly if they're yourself and you're in public).
The point is knowing you're not in control of your situation, doesn't help you if you're... not in control of your situation.

Anyhow, I decided to share my drivel, anyhow, and here I am being grumpy, and as far as I can tell there is no discernible pattern to be unpicked from my ramblings here that can help you spot when that mood's going to come or go.

Pleasingly, I think I'm grumpy with good reason, not just because it's grumpiness turn just now. I'm grumpy because I'm in limbo on some of my projects at the moment, which means I'm having to simultaneously imagine the worst, hope for the best and not get too fixated on either eventuality. This means I can't plan with any certainty what I'm doing, like I say it's when you're not in control of your situation it gets tricky.

I've three projects on the go right now, one I've just had a draft contract through I need to parse with a fine-toothed comb, one I'm expecting a contract for (which has been coming this Friday every Thursday for a month now) today or tomorrow, and the other's at the stage where thumbs are provisionally up but could wobble to down any minute. On two of them I'm awaiting emails that'll give me a clue if things are going as I might hope or not. If all runs smoothly these jobs will be keeping me busy and solvent through into the Autumn and Winter, if all doesn't, I'm a lot less comfortable.

So I'm waiting, ready to react, trying not to pre-empt, getting grumpy, hanging on for 'phone calls and emails when I could be out having my hair cut.

Thursday, 26 April 2007

One More Cup of Coffee (Valley Below)

Oh and that 1980s Hamlet poster from the Crucible in The History Boys as mentioned here? It's only now on the notice board in those long coffee shop sketches that will spend a whole series sneaking towards a pay-off, in the smash hit BBC tv comedy sketch show Ruddy Hell! It's Harry and Paul, isn't it?

You can't miss it, it's pink and white and and shows a bloke and some pillars and is usually absolutely (see what I did?) behind Morwenna Banks' head.

It's almost like Tiger Aspect bought up a load of random arty set dressing isn't it...?

It's either that or another inept BBC viral...

Vote Indigo Saxon Wolf!

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Memorabilia (Extended)

My past! What a funny place. If you didn't editorialise your life it'd just look like random bouncing about from one thing to another, wouldn't it?

Just me, then.

Anyhow, years ago (probably about 13) I quite fancied that I'd like to interview an actor who I felt deserved to be a cult, partly because back then there weren't the wealth of internet sites gathering trivia about recent TV there are now and pride in my job simply demanded I glean as much as possible about an old TV show he'd done, and partly because I thought I might stand a chance of writing for the TV show he was then working on.

So it was I went down to interview Nigel Plaskitt about Pipkins on the Spitting Image set, and amongst other things heard Nigel's account of how Tom Baker's lip got split by an angry dog in a pub during a break from the recording of Doctor Who - The Ribos Operation (that's right, Mark, the one with Binro the Chekhovian in it).

The story has been reprinted now all these years later in the rather lovely magazine Doctor Who - In Their Own Words, to my surprise and delight. It's the definitive telling, I tell you (and even better, my favourite bit, Nigel's words "Tom, being Tom" which implied this drunken incident was just the tip of the iceberg, hasn't been edited out this time)!

The day after the Spitting Image visit (during which I also saw Parsons and Naylor at a table, looking stressed and knackered with not much written in front of them), I went to meet Ken Campbell at his North London house. That was a great trip, meeting your heroes and finding them fun.

I did write for Spitting Image too, sort of, sending loads of quickies and sketches for the final season that got encouraging "thanks, but no thanks" messages from the script editor, Will Ing (I never met him, I take it on trust that really was his name), until one afternoon I got a call from him telling me my sketch was on that coming Sunday.
It wasn't much cop, an hilarious 'It could be you' sketch in which a shepherd is blown up by a crashing satellite (I was combining the National Lottery finger and the descent of a Soviet satellite we were assured would almost certainly crash into the sea, to satirise our trust in and abuse of statistics, I imagine. Either that or I was desperate for money, and even more desperate for ideas).

Then there was an IRA bomb attack and my sketch was dropped. I suspect random death by explosion had suddenly just got a little less funny.

You forget just what's changed, sometimes. Hey listen, what did you want? Profundity costs. You only get glib for free, here.

Friday, 20 April 2007

Pull Shapes

Initial feedback on the film script is positive, nearly good enough to dance about the house like my main character. More detailed feedback to come later, which, as it gets specific, will no doubt be more critical. All to the good.
It feels we're singing from the same edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern, anyhow, and will be able to pull the whole thing together, between us.

Fingers crossed, but looking hopeful.

I've thought of a new title too which I think is both good and apt (it's a well known phrase that's also been used as a title on a Doctor Who audio spin-off coincidentally, though not one I've never heard, I must confess).
You'll never guess it. Well, actually you might. There's no prize, but if you work it out you can be justly proud of your self.
I expect.

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Pungent Effulgent

Sun is shining, attic is sweltering, tomato plants growing downstairs, 'No Tomatoes' demos coming together upstairs, everything's bright, everything's a bit smelly.

This morning I wrote the raw first draft of a short film script. The various elements of had been churning a while and then- splodge it all sort of glooped together this morning, if not into life, certainly into primordial soup. I quite like it, I hope the director who invited me to come up with ideas does too, because I've enjoyed the two short films of his I've seen and I'd quite like to see him make this one too.

The only thing I really don't like about the script at all at the moment is its title 'Scene and Herd' which is a rubbish pun and a daft name for anything.
If we develop this any further, it'll have to go. I only mention it here because, for all its rubbishness, this silly title was the grit the oyster spit grew around this morning, giving a focus to all the ideas I wanted in the thing.

Always put your first thought down on paper, no matter how bad it is, it may help with your second and third thoughts and you can always chuck it away later.

I am pun gent, here- me, raw.

If you think that's bad, imagine how awful the first thought must have been...

Thursday, 12 April 2007

Kurt Vonnegut Jnr has become Tralfamadorian in time


So it goes.

Read some of the shorter books if you haven't, they're full of things. I'd go for Cat's Cradle, and Slapstick, or Lonesome No More!

Hi ho.

I was thinking about why I like him in the bath this morning, while reading some Basil Boothroyd (a writer who I think is now largely forgotten, who specialised in a kind of elegant Wodehousian description of domestic mishap).
It's the rhythm of the prose and the gaps for you to fill, I think- a mastery of editing, suggestion and construction, as American as Basil Boothroyd was English, he created a voice and you trusted it.

You shouldn't really read in the bath, you know. I only do it because it's nice.

Thursday, 5 April 2007

Still not dead still, just dead still

Ah, I can sit on proper filled-in seats again, phew. Didn't know you could lose 5lbs in weight in a day, not without chopping a hand off with a guillotine or lathe anyhow.
Suspect it's not sustainable, you'd probably find it hard using the lathe after.

Interesting few days- a weekend in London with good friends Simon and Polly and their perky little son Arlo, scarily bright and almost certainly about to get mobile, talky and probably entertainingly wilful. Fun times ahead!

Polly has known Sylvester McCoy since her childhood (she's known him so long she calls him Kent, from the shortened version of his real name his friends were using back then) and loves David Tennant (though probably not as much as she loves Simon and Arlo) which makes her simultaneously an old Who hand and new fan, so we sat to watch the new series start on Saturday accompanied by a lot gurgles and yelps, and a few noises from Arlo too.

It was an awful lot better than last year's opener and featured great kid hooks (the cataloguing marker pen and blood drinking straw will no doubt enter the playground games repertoire, sharpish) and I really enjoyed it even if I felt the coda did drag a touch.
We also passed the John Baird pub in Muswell Hill (it's on the way to Ally Pally of course), which rather pleasingly trumpets the availability of "live sport" on its "big screen" to passers-by. Baird would be chuffed, I'm sure- looks like it worked.

Monday saw me in Manchester for a quick meet up with the radio drama producer, which I'll need to follow up with some thoughts medium soonish, and a nostalgic delve through a second-hand book sale in the University Student's Union, Beckett, Bennett and Tinniswood bargains were bagged (along with Andrew Collins' Where Did Everything Go Right?).

I like Collins best of all the nostalgists we seem to have in the media these days, he seems genuinely affable, so he's either a consummate writer and broadcaster or actually nice, and he knows his stuff, unlike the very worst writers in the genre who seem to be over-inflated pub bores, joking about our shared past without any real understanding of it, in a way that reveals more about the poverty of their present life than the wealth of our past ones.

No names, no pack-drill but if you've ever tried to be funny about old kids TV, hilariously suggesting the creators were all on drugs and the shows are all just Trojan Horses for adult innuendo, shame on you, If you've ever done it for money take care when crossing the road near me, won't you?

Tuesday, my belly went funny and we went to see the not entirely satisfying The Alchemist (Coelho not Jonson) at the Sheffield Lyceum. It had moments of pure theatre, alongside moments of pure school play- very frustrating, and slightly confused (for me) by a production that coupled live actor-produced sound effects and visuals with lighting effects and recorded music. I wanted all or nothing really. If you're going to make a furnace out of some actors hissing and rumbling and another one miming I feel you shouldn't be shining a red light on the stage too. This is probably just me, but it seems like cheating.

Wednesday was the day of great not muchness bar visits to the bathroom, and today I've actually got a bit of work done.


Oh and as a consequence I think I now might just be writing a book on TV history- thirteen years of my life not wasted shocker!

Wednesday, 4 April 2007

A Touch of Brimstone

If you're reading this, you probably know me well enough to know I'm vegetarian which means my food very rarely disagrees with me (ho ho), yesterday however, I seem to have eaten something diametrically opposed to all I believe that is prepared to fight me to the death over it.

I am unwell today in a way I haven't been for years, appearing to have become one of the lower circles of Hell in roughly human form- my mouth tastes of sulphur, much of the rest of me seems to smell like it, or be producing it in some kind of solution form with the kind of regularity a geyser would be named Old Irritatingly and Beginning to Get Painfully Often for, and I can't say I'm enjoying it much (not even after sharing). This is the point at which no sane person should ever reach for a family medical encyclopaedia or go to Google with symptoms.

Everything in the world you experience is either fatal, some form of fetish, or all three (including this).
I'm going to stick with the "maybe, it was that funny gritty crunch in those pumpkin seeds I was nibbling (or just the pumpkin seeds maybe, they're big on sulphur)" theory for the mo, rather than accept I have developed some horrendous physiological condition and will now have to learn to like it in a bad way.

This state is making working on a sample chapter of something a little tiresome at the moment, as I don't seem to be able to spend more than a quarter of an hour in a room with a keyboard at the mo.

Anyhow, must dash.

Maybe, more later. Possibly on a less vile topic, like how Lew Grade's UK business empire was in large part made by the Communist Party of America for example.
That's ironic, Alanis, the word you were looking for was probably 'unfortunate', 'annoying' or 'unlucky'.