Monday, 31 December 2007

And Finally

I think on balance I’ve had rather a good year (Sturgeon’s Law notwithstanding), certainly writing about it here has helped, this little sounding off forum substituting for some of the social aspects of office life I found myself missing about a year back.

Professionally, I’m much nearer my goals now (actually one of my longest held professional ambitions was fulfilled in 2007- see most posts passim), the mortgage (a word that must seem even more depressing if you're French) is dwindling and I’ve been so much happier than I was in 2006, so that's all got to be good.
I hope you’ve had a good year too and we’ll carry on having fun next year.

Don’t be a stranger.


New Year’s Resolution

1152 x 864 pixels.

Sophistry and Fractions- a review of the year

I first heard Sturgeon’s Law about 15 years ago. It goes like this “Ninety percent of everything is crap.” I think that’s as true of 2007 as is was of 1992 or whenever it was.

It’s a useful rule of thumb for creative people (the law was originally only applied to works of art before it was realised it works for Real Life too), as they cast their envious eyes over the work of others and it helps them sleep. However, and here I’d probably need a freaky maths bore to help out a bit on the stats, I can’t help wondering if Sturgeon’s Law itself is ninety percent crap as well.
If so, well either everything’s completely crap or (I think) only 9 percent crap, which would be nice, as long as we trust Sturgeon’s Law.
The only problem of course is that we don’t, and are thus likely to get into one of those tiresome recursions I’m so fond of that allow tortoises to beat Achilles in running races without them even waiting for him to have a nap like they do with hares.

So there you are, a review of the year- I’m not sure what it was like, I have a suspicion, but if I explore any deeper I’ll only get more confused.
Points out this is the human condition in microcosm, types out stage directions, smiles wanly like an Alan Bennett vicar and waits for fade out.

Tune Marr, Pun Morrissey

I got new shoes on Saturday, proper serious outdoor ones that can clamber over mountains and everything, it’s like driving a 4x4 through the suburbs having a pair of these for cities, but we’re reaching the time of year it’s good to have waterproof stuff on your feet with a tread and I feel the lure of healthy trudging through mud with my cheeks turning red with wind-burn.

I’ve also got a CamelBak (tm) for running, which is a thrilling mini-rucksack thing with a small pocket for your keys and soundtrack emulation device and a two litre bag of water swilling around inside it that you can swig from through a tube. It’s like a pregnancy sympathy belly you wear backwards essentially.

Theoretically, this will allow me to run longer than I’d normally feel comfortable doing with the bonus of hands-free hydration, tinny motivational tunes and a dead weight on my back to match that around my front. I can’t help worrying I’ll start urinating on the move like Paula Radcliffe only much slower and fatter if I overuse it though. I’m sure there’s a happy medium to be struck somewhere.
I suspect I’m just the man to oscillate wildly between extremes before finally finding it.

Procrastination is the thie

Today is an "email writing" day as I try to make contact with around about 40 people I’d like to meet up with during January and February, thus the rest of the week will be a "confused answering emails attempting to make diaries work" week.
It is therefore vital I update my weblog first, and not instead of.

Next year is going to involve a lot of travelling and at least a bit of writing for money, both of which will make updates on this a bit trickier for a while.
I’m going to let myself get away with 4 posts a month I think and see how it goes.

If nothing else it will save you having to read a cluster of nothing much like this at the back end of each month as I strive to find nine things a month to believe.

Friday, 28 December 2007

The Mahogany Hogmanay Show

Oh, and as I haven't posted about it, last week I had an entertaining 'phone interview with Jane Featherstone of Kudos (I was at uni with her sister who is now running Scottish theatre in a way I've somehow failed to) and a trip to Glasgow to see Colin Gilbert at The Comedy Unit, who was exceptionally generous with his time and highly amusing in discussing just how much folk singing and country dancing there was in Scottish Light Entertainment in his early days there.
Once upon time folks, backe when we had as many rain forests as uses for the wood it was all Andy Stewart not Only An Excuse at the year end North of the Border (hence the feeble anagrammatical title- though be fair it's a great anagram and one I feel should be used more widely).
Colin's dad is the great Jimmy Gilbert incidentally, which I hadn't known until about an hour before we met. He was the BBC Head of Light Entertainment who offered John Cleese his own sitcom, enough said. Even if he'd done nothing else we should all thank him for that one.

Lots of fun had, and I really liked the feel of the city. Glasgow felt like Manchester did to me in the '80s, a city of just the right size somehow (possibly because I didn't see enough of it). It also has much better architecture than a lot of Northern English cities, I think.
Particularly in West and North Yorkshire I get a real sense of everything having been knocked up in a rush by Victorian mill owners with a bit of a puritan streak and then only having been mucked about with briefly afterwards, once during 1968 with some flaky concrete to make an FE College and a fly-over and again in 1991 to cobble together some red brick single story shopping arcades with health centres attached. This is probably Just Me (TM).

Coming back to size rather than aesthetics though, Sheffield's a tidge small I think, London's a bit big, I've never quite got to grips with Leeds, even when it was wall to wall eye-liner and patchouli (last week/1987) and Manchester seems to have grown a touch too big for my grumpy old bones now. I think they should probably pickle Glasgow and keep it as it is from now on- they may already have done so.

By contrast, I sampled Warrington's stations and city centre on the journey back. Deary me. Somewhere to pass through or come from (insert own male genitalia gag) rather than live in, I fear. I should have taken an alternative route back but I wanted to catch Low Gill again, which had been just beautiful coming up. Funnily enough on the way back in pitch darkness it didn't have quite the same magic.

Odd that.

What Christmas is for...

Some of you may have already have worked this out, but I think I've been a bit slow on the uptake and only just got it.
Christmas is not for the kids, not for Jesus and not just for a dog (reverse that). Christmas is for getting you through the grimmest part of a Northern European winter. It may be for something else in other parts of the world, but I think right here it's a series of treats to make midwinter bearable.
I want proper daylight and I want it now.

Monday, 17 December 2007

Express Yourself

Quick rattle through last week time- three TV producers, an inflatable bed, a fairy tale in Marseilles and one long, long National Express journey marked by a drunken Italian man with about eight sweary words of English which he used pretty much exclusively while drinking a whole bottle of vodka until he got a ‘phone call revealing his nationality. One of those big bottles of vodka, I hesitate to call it family size but it was the spirit bottle size below the ones full of coins in pubs. As a bonus, he did use the word "comment" to mean "come on" a lot which almost made the constant swearing alrightish.
The journey back was less remarkable apart from the curse of the people who read out every sign they see between London and Chesterfield and what I'm fairly confident was someone being sick into a plastic bag as I got off. No cause and effect there, I think.

Chesterfield’s a funny place- all I know about it is that it’s where the famously bent church spire and Mark Michalowski are from. I’ve lived within metaphorical spitting distance of the place for twenty years on and off, and have only ever seen it from a train, coach or car window (and that due to terrible diversions after a major accident). Because, I mainly see it at odd times of day and night and mainly see the coach station I can’t help thinking it’s entirely populated by ghosts and predominantly grey.
This may well be the case.

London gave me Tim and Mim, who I first met roughly contemporaneously around 1989. I’ve got very fat since then, they don’t appear to have changed, just quietly and mysteriously become parents and therefore adults. They gave me too much wine which was good and off I went to ask obscure questions of telly people, hoping this week none of them had been to a funeral liable to cause mild-mannered Jonathan Creek actor Alan Davies to get rattily drunk.
I can report I visited a toilet and walked along a corridor featured in Charlie Brooker’s TV Go Home book at Endemol’s HQ in Shepherd’s Bush (anything more in depth you'll probably need to pay for). I felt quite the Nathan Barley.

I also got to catch up with Ken Campbell for the first time in an absolute age and have a bit of a chat. Hopefully we'll meet up again soon in the New Year.

Manchester on Friday brought me the news that actually my BBC drama producer doesn’t hate me and all words I produce at all, having apparently heard and enjoyed No Tomatoes (I hadn’t known that), and that, oh I don’t know there maybe half a chance still in that world. I've been invited to pitch Afternoon Plays this offers round, which is slightly better than last offers round when I pitched because I knew it was on but I hadn't been invited to, so, you know, progress. I also found out we’ll know about series 2 of No Tomatoes in early January ('find out' is used here in the sense of 'discover if there’s going to be one').

After that I popped over to the University Drama department and had an entertaining chunner with David Butler there, who shares too much of my cultural DNA. Very rarely in life do you feel relaxed enough to sing Roger Limb music to people in conversation, which, you know, is good generally, but it does mean it feels great when you know you can...

Perhaps the most exciting thing to come out of week, other than a glimpse of Peter Bazalgette’s socks and the discovery of how Paul Smith of Celador got started on Zokko (one for the older readers there) was an email this morning asking if I might be interested in doing a proposed Classic Serial for Radio 4. Obviously, the serial may not happen, but if it does, it’ll be damned exciting. It’s a well known book I’d be adapting and one I’d love to explore in sound. More later on this, if there is any.

Monday, 10 December 2007

Going Underground

I was in London last week, feeling rather bad for intruding on TV producers I admire just after they’d been to Verity Lambert’s funeral.
On the Wednesday morning I was feeling particularly bad having been forced to drink lots of beer in a pub by a Celtic fan and a surprisingly supportive Rangers following mate of his, while we watched two football games simultaneously the night before.

It was thus in a slightly befuddled state I got on the tube at the dog end of rush hour on Wednesday morning, which as you may know always turns into a particularly uncomfortable, sweaty summer’s day however cold it might be outside. Rammed up against the yellow line of death by a wall of bodies behind I waited for a pair of tube train doors to open near enough me that I could mince myself up sufficiently to fit in the remaining gaps inside.

It took four goes, all under the baleful eye of a St Trinian’s poster which made the whole place seem uncomfortably sexualised for such close contact with strangers (I thought the Tube had rules about sexual imagery in advertising- maybe grown women in pinafores with their stocking tops too low doesn’t count as sexual imagery? Probably not. There always seems to be posters of someone from Chicago covered only in thin mesh, black lingerie and lots of old chewing gum on the tube when I get on, which is fairly perverse even without the face full of Wrigleys).

Anyhow, on the third go a man started shouting “I’ve got to get on! I’ve got to get on!” and forcing his way through the crowds, committing the cardinal sin of not waiting for the passengers to alight before attempting to fill their air space. An older chap by him said “We all have,” quite politely.
The first man replied “Yeah, you’ve got to get to work- my mother’s dying! I’ve got to get to hospital!” and rammed himself in the gap by the door where you have to bend backwards like Rigsby to avoid being caught when the train moves off.
As the doors shut a glowering minute or so after, he called out to the man on the platform “I hope you get the sack!” in a rather pathetic, and, I thought, petty way, but maybe just kind of forgivable in the state he was in.
I hope he got to his mum in time because otherwise that venom is probably lingering in him still. The whole experience was pretty troubling.

Some people must live with that much every day.
I got off at Tottenham Court Road, and slowly got back to a kind of safe feeling body temperature and social distance walking into Soho where I met up with a producer who restored some of my faith in the capital and nearly forget about that man’s rage underground.
Back down there again tomorrow, fingers crossed for more of the fun bits..