Another Place

My boots were stuck in the sand. Actually they were deeper than the sand. I was in the mud. My boots were stuck in the mud. I tried to pull myself out, but I feel my socks coming loose and the shoe being left behind. I tryed to step forward but I couldn't. I look ahead into the distance and see my Dad running madly forward.

"That's the sandles lost then." He said. He's only in his socks.

We went to Crosby beach today to see "Another Place" or Anthony Gormley's statues. I'd watched the news reports beforehand of teenagers going out to far and getting stuck in the tide, holding onto the figures for dear life. How we'd laughed at the stupidity. So we'd said we wouldn't go out too far. And we hadn't. But that sand looked so stable and I'd stepped forward and plop.

I didn't panic. I wasn't actually sinking. But I wasn't going anywhere else. I eventually managed to pull my left foot out, boot and all. But there was nowhere for it to go but backward, back into a squelch as it went back into the soft sand. My plan was to keep doing this until I hit a hard surface. That lasted about thirty seconds when I realised it would require the right foot to move and it wasn't going anywhere.

My now my Dad had retrieved his sandles and had trotted back over. I put out my hand and he took it and tried to pull. But he was falling towards me so he stepped back again. I'm glad my Dad's here. I imagined the phone call home if I'd been out on my own "I'm on Crosby beach and I'm stuck in the mud." I'm not very practical -- whenever something happens in the real world, usually with nature, I have no idea what to do. I'll struggle through, but my Dad somehow just knows. I've no common sense whatsoever.

"I'm going to have to come out of the boots." I said.

I pulled my left foot out, with boot still stuck in the mud. My foot found some more sand to get lost in, but this seemed safer somehow. I turned and tried to pull the orphaned boot out. I eventually have to dig my hands in and pull the thing up from underneath. It's misshapen and caked in dirt, which scattered off as I flung it backwards towards the steady sand behind. Time to do the same with my right foot. I pulled my right foot out, but this time I started sinking. I panicked and dragged myself backwards as quickly as I could, each step slightly easier. I dragged my way up the stand. I turned back. My boot had been left behind.

By now I'd decided it was a lost cause. I'd walk all the way back to the station and get the train back into Liverpool in my bare feet if I had to. But before I could say anything, my Dad had jumped forward and was throwing himself into a battle with the sand to the pull the boot up. Now he was knee deep and I'm telling him to leave it or then that I'd go back myself, but he'd got both hands in each of the holes I'd left behind trying to find the thing. I tried to direct him to the hole I thought it was in, but I was confused.

Dad found the boot. It was sunk a little bit, and by hand he dug a space around it, throwing the mud from side to side until he could pull it free. Dad turned and handed it to me -- it was full of mud and clay which I tried to shake out as best I could. Dad turned and with much more agility than I had, stepped back up to the steady sand.

We spent the next half hour using the salt water which had been left behind by the tide in some parts of the beach trying to wash ourselves off as best we could. Somehow, while Dad was getting cleaner and cleaner, I was getting even dirtier. I kept joking about how in some places you'd pay thousands for a treatment like that. I had mud everywhere. It was caked up my jeans, up my legs, up my arms. There was even a spot on my face. He suggested I use my sock as a cloth and this worked. But I wasn't clean, just making space in my skin so that I could move my fingers to blow my nose and throw the hair out my eyes.

Eventually we were together enough to walk back up the beach and enjoy the statues. They're an incredible sight, lonely figures looking hopelessy out to sea, unable to move. For those few minutes when I couldn't get my legs to move I know exactly what that was like.

Troubled Diva I

Elsewhere I'm part of a round robin guest blog thing at Troubled Diva. For some reason I always end up being more introspective and frank on other people's weblogs.

Updated 30/01/2016! Here's the contents of the above link for posterity:

Consequences: Post 7

There's no motivation as strong as love. When I was fifteen I used to leave the house at the same time every morning to make sure that I was on the same bus to school so that I could see a girl I was in love with. I would only every see her for about ten minutes, and she had no idea (unless she noticed me trying not look to look like I was looking at her). I ended up speaking to her twice and I knew it wasn't to be - her ambition was to be a solicitor, mine was to even get into a university. Those measures of success were being drilled into me, and seemed to matter, at least at that age.

I suppose you're expecting me to say that her ambition inspired my own and that motivated me to better things. Disappointingly it didn't. Even now, I don't measure my own success or lack of against anyone else. I have ambitions and dreams, a career I'm working towards but it's on my own terms its not because of a road map drawn up by anyone else or because I see someone else's life and want to emulate them. It's too easy in this life to have a role model to aspire to be then to fail, wasting a life and potential you might have in other areas.

That said, I'm thirty now and I still don't have a clear direction. I'm still waiting, what plan I do have in flux because of my own little long game. I'm not quite were I expected to be now, perhaps a touch behind, but no one gets perfection, there's always a niggle. Is my niggle that I'm not in love at the moment? I used to get it all the time, the stomach cramps, the inability to form actual words when someone is around, the not knowing were to put my hands. Perhaps I grew tired of it not going anywhere; I hope my subconscious hasn't decided that it's had enough with all that and in the words of the song I'll never fall in love again. I'd hate that.


Film I don't know why I feel so disappointed because really, making a film about the Edinburgh Festival is an impossible task, for the simple reason that every one of us who's been there has had a different experience, and any script which tries to capture everything is going to fail. Just can't be done. Writer/director Annie Griffin has said that she pitched Festival as something akin to Altman's Nashville, and you can absolutely see the influence as the narrative takes in an epic sweep of characters at all levels of the fringe, from the household names to the one woman shows at nine in the morning. Which is problem one - Altman had three hours, Griffin gives us 107 minutes.

When the film works, it's excellent. I loved the story of the three Canadian performance artists, one of which becomes infatuated with the wife of the family whose flat they're renting out for the duration. I loved the girl running the one woman show about William Wordsworth's sister Dorothy. I loved the quiet battle against despair of the famous comic's agent, played with great poignancy by Raquel Cassidy. I loved the documentary style moments that took in the flavour and sounds of the festival creating a good sense of place It's these were the most evocative stories, the ones which I could identify with. A concentration on anyone of these characters, a filter of the story through their experience would have worked really well. By seperating out of the screen time amongst fifteen odd characters it feels weaker, unfocused.

What derailed the film and my enjoyment was the slow concentration of the story around the erzats Perrier award and the politics of the people and the voting. Somewhere in there someone makes an impassioned speech about how the festival used to be about Scandinavian dancing in the streets, but has slow become about an unfunny comedian winning an award. Which is ironic because that's exactly what happens in the film. Just when something glorious happens to the Canadians, we cut away to one comic chasing a bimbo around a hotel room or another having a post coital argument with a journalist and frankly it's just unpleasant. To take the Altman comparison further it's like taking Gosford Park and editing in large chunks of Pret A Porter.



Life During the two minutes silence I bowed my head, close my eyes and listened. There was still sound. The broken fan in the office clattering away. The sea gull on the buildings nearby. The cars and vans still driving past. The rustle as wind throws papers from someone's desk to the floor. The creaks of chairs. The wood settling on desks. The ping of an email arriving. My own breathing. It was more of a wordless two minutes, our country rendered voluntarily speechless because there's nothing else the majority of us could do.

Expletive deleted

Words When I was at primary school, everyone was gifted a small blue pocket Collins dictionary as part of our English education. In an idle moment tonight I wondered how complete the Wikipedia might be. Reference the entry on profanity, which includes links to entries on many of the more useful swear words, some of which somehow didn't turn up on Live 8 the other week. Also with added fictional curse words, you cake taker.

Morse coded

TV The Morse spin-off Lewis is going ahead. Much of the original team are there, so it might still have the quality. Will the same theme music be used?


Life I was in WH Smiths at lunchtime buying a card and noticed that their Get Well Soon cards are stored in the same rack as the Sympathy cards. It made a very uncomfortable connection for me, linking illness to death in that way; I imagined some circumstances when it could be quite upsetting for some customers.

Athens of Liverpool

The Weather Remember I mentioned yesterday how warm it was around here? According to the local paper, it was as hot as Athens:
"TOXTETH was hotter than Tenerife as blazing sunshine sent temperatures soaring in the city.

Merseysiders basked in a heat-wave that saw the region as hot as Athens yesterday - with the glorious weather set to remain for the rest of the week.

Some forecasters expect the sun to keep shining for St Swithin's Day on Friday, with temperatures staying at around 70F."
I'm just a street away from the hot spot. It's a bit cooler tonight, but not much. What happened?

Like Water For Chocolate

Film I've always said that watching Like Water For Chocolate on the night it was released in the UK, was the moment when I knew that my life long romance would be with the cinema. It was at the Hyde Park Picture House in Leeds in a sold out performance (which is the sort of thing which happened in 1993). I was so wrapped up in the film and its love story that I began shouting at the characters on screen so loudly, the person sitting next to me got angry and told me to sush (which of course they were right to). This is something which hasn't happened before or since. It taught me that cinema has the power to transport, and a hundred moments of laughter and tears have confirmed it. Waiting for the dvd release of Star Wars was one thing, this was another. Now here it is coming to Region Two in a month's time. I hope it's as good as I remember.


Games Jeff Minter of Llamasoft writing software for X-Box 360. No mention of mutant camels.

Kareem and I


Kareem and I II
Originally uploaded by Shavar.

Shavar Ross, actor, is posting photos from his past to flickr. For this extraordinary shot he says: "Circa 1982. Universal Studios' Lot. Hollywood, California. Second photo of me with basketball great Lew Alcindor (aka: Kareem Abdul Jabbar) on the set of "Diff'rent Strokes". Shavar was a guest star on the show for many years.


Firefox Edit the menus. Something else for me to fiddle about with when I should be blogging. Which is what I would be doing if the heat wasn't sapping every ounce of productivity out of me.


Film The FACT centre in Liverpool has just sent out its latest e-mailing for film times. One the films which opens this weekend, Bombon-El Perro (15), has the following description which sounds like the work of some twisted genius. I mean this is a film?
"COCO is an amiable, slightly vacant middle-aged man who has spent his entire life working in a Patagonian service station. When it closes, he finds himself out of work, unemployable and in a desperate fix. He drives around the countryside, trying to sell ornate knives, doing odd jobs, struggling, until someone gives him a mastiff, a beautiful brute of a dog, informing him that Bombon has the potential to be a successful show dog. The clueless Coco joins forces with a trainer, Walter, and the unlikely trio hit the dog show circuit. This odd, whimsical, delightful film is the sort that creates swathes of emotional resonance with the gentlest flick of the wrist. Director Carlos Sorin has to do little more than point his camera at his actors to elicit humour, absurdity or insight into the plight of a man who has never had a direction in life and now is forced to find one."
Well look you say that but speaking as a veteran of 'odd, whimsical, delightful films' I think I'll be going to see the one about the Edinburgh Festival instead.

Live 8

Live 8 Ian Jones at Off The Telly maybe offers the final word.
"Those bands which did play longer than their allotted time couldn't help but come over on TV as being more than a little selfish. Indeed there seemed to be a hell of a lot less professional stagecraft on display than 20 years ago. A few basic rules appeared to have been forgotten. On these sorts of occasions we don't want to hear "a new song" (The Scissor Sisters) or see an undignified display of shirt-ripping (Razorlight again) or "a very special guest" who turns out to be crap (Elton John with Pete Docherty) or nameless acoustic noodlings (The Stereophonics). Just give us the hits, don't over-run, and leave the polemics to those who seem to know what they're talking about, like, yes, Bob Geldof, or Kofi Annan."
Can you believe this was only a week and a bit ago? It feels like two decades.

London Stands

London Stands

Dungeon, master?

TV Excellent potted history of the Knightmare:
"Dungeon Doom was recorded in early 1986. Hugo Myatt introduced the show and the guinea-pig team consisted of Tim Child?s nephew, the two daughters of an Anglia colleague, and one of their school chums.

The finished results were edited together but ?something? was missing. Tim decided to change the show's name and improve on the crude opening titles. The name Knightmare seemed to say it all about a scary dungeon game, which used a knight?s helmet as a blindfold.

The game had borrowed shamelessly from the computerised adventures marketed for the Sinclair Spectrum, Commodore 64 and BBC B computers, yet lacked some of the authentic technology they boasted. Attic attack had an on-screen life-force clock which indicated the health status of the player by representing the carcase of a chicken. If you got down to bare bones you died!"
Part of a full on all purpose fan site. Your life force is running low. [via]


Images There is no green dot in this image at all.

Without a paddle

Commerce Gracious, Amazon used to have a representation of THE Amazon in its logo and what an old fashioned logo it is. I started pottering around the web at Uni in 1995 and I just about remember just how functional it used to be. [via]

Doctor Who and the Valeyard of the Daleks

Books In his commentary for The Dying Days at the BBC website, author Lance Parkin mentions a scene deleted from the end of the novel, which featured the final conflict with the Daleks in the future and that it was available online somewhere. I've managed to find a copy and it's just bonkers. If you ever wondered what Ian Richardson might have been like playing The Doctor, here it is ... [editor's note: link no longer works so removed here]

05 Michael Redgrave

Hamlet played by Michael Redgrave
Directed by Sir Michael Redgrave

I've always imagined how Hamlet might sound if it was performed by the cast of the film Brief Encounter, all clipped English accents. Well I can wonder no longer because here it is. I don't know if Trevor Howard ever played the part, but Michael Redgrave is cut from the same jib, all freakish understatement. You're waiting for the sound and fury but it never comes. You can't tell if he's mad or disappointed. Perhaps if he'd had more time.

This production was created for something called the Living Shakespeare and published by for something called the Living Library on LP in the early sixties (which would account for the bright yellow cover) The whole canon seems have been released in this format and the idea is that listener would receive on a month in the same way as those dvd series which have turned up in WH Smith lately. They were cheap, US$3 each plus postage and packaging. Within a couple of years a household would have a whole set of performance to enjoy, which was quite innovative for the time. All very exciting. Except they're condensed. Each play, no matter the original source is but an hour long.

How short can the play be without becoming incomprehensible? This production probably takes us to the limits of the threshold. The text is reproduced in an accompanying booklet and fit on about ten pages. Act Two doesn't even fill a side. Act Five takes up a page and a half. But the font size is pretty big so it seems longer. It's actually quicker to list the scenes which do appear:

Hamlet tells Claudius what he thinks of him while his mother backs up her husband.
Horatio tells Hamlet about the ghost of his father.
Hamlet meets the ghost of his father who tells him about the murder.
Laertes leaves and Polonius gives him the 'Give thy thoughts no tongue:'
Polonius tells Claudius and Gertrude about Hamlet and his daughter. And the letters.
'To be or not to be...'
Ophelia and Hamlet's argument.
The Mousetrap.
Hamlet confronts his mother and kills Polonius.
Ophelia goes mad.
Leartes returns looking for revenge.
Getrude tells Laertes than Ophelia's dead.
The tussle at the funeral.
The duel.
Everyone dies.

The gaps are bridged by minimal narration. It's a very unusual thing because it keeps the clarity of the story, rather than just keeping in the big speeches which is the usual approach with these things. Which isn't to suggest that if you'd never met the play before you'd have any idea what was going on. None of the characters have the psychological through line of a fuller production. Speaking of characters, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern aren't just dead, they don't even exist in this world. Neither does Fortinbras (although he's usually missing in action anyway) or the gravedigger. It's more interesting as an intellectual exercise than a performance to enjoy. All the jokes have been taken out. My favourite moment? Hearing Valentine Dyall (who played the supercomputer Deep Thought in The HitchHiker's Guide To The Galaxy and the Black Guardian in Doctor Who) giving his gravitas to The Ghost. Scary.

I listened to the lp of this recording on the 10th July 2005.