Emergency Questions Twenty-One to Thirty.

Life Where next, Richard?

(21) How sensitive are your nipples?

Not at all, at least when I'm caressing them myself. Tough as bullets.

(22) Would you rather date a man who has a six foot tall penis or a man who instead of having a penis has a tiny man there?

Richard goes into some detail as to the nature of this tiny man, that he's wearing a suit and has his own personality which seems like an unnecessary distraction when you're trying to feel the love tonight. So I'd have to say the large penis. At the very least it would be a conversation piece.

(23) Have you ever come up with an idea for conceptual or performance art that you think is better than any of the guff that gets nominated for the Turner Prize?

This seems to exist as a feed line for some of Herring's material. There is a lot of tosh at the Turner Prize, but also every year something extraordinary, which was the case when it turned up in Liverpool twelve years ago. Although that Nathan Coley installation piece, in which he put wooden blocks on the floor across the doorways in his section which meant that people in wheelchairs had to phone ahead so the gallery staff could put in ramps was awful. But in general I'm too much of a fan of the arts to engage in such frivolity. Suckers.

(24) Are you ever mistaken for a celebrity? Which one?

Not specifically. Back before the great weight loss of 2013, a work colleague did suggest I look like a fat David Tennant. Which when I lost the weight you think would mean ... but no.

(25) Do you have any good ideas for terrorist atrocities?

My Marvel Cinematic Universe BDs are displayed in chronological rather than release order, with Captain Marvel between Agent Carter and Iron Man.

(26) What's the best advice you've ever received and ignored?

Eating fish is good for you. Can't stand the smell or taste (unless batter is involved).

(27) Have you ever had the opportunity to assassinate a public figure?

I actively try not to be in the same room as them in case something happens.

(28) Does sex with a robot count as cheating on your partner?

Yes. Absolutely.

(29) Why can't everyone be babies?

Considering the behaviour of some people during the lockdown, there's strong evidence that a large cross section of the population still are.

(30) Kettle crisps are not as nice as they once were. Have I changed, or have they? DON'T LET THEM ANSWER THAT! IT's RHETORICAL. If you could travel back in time and compare any food of today with an equivalent of the past: What time would you choose? Which food?

The 1990s and Fruitopia, a drink from the Coca-Cola Company so ahead of its time, it had Kate Bush compose the music for the adverts.

Snapple was no match for it. I've read that the name has continued use on other concoctions but it's the original and best which I ache for.

Watching Hitchcock's Downhill.

Film Just over ten years ago I set myself the task of watching all of Alfred Hitchcock's films in order and writing about them on the blog. A couple evaded me for reasons to do with no longer existing (The Mountain Eagle) or not being able to find a copy, which was the case with Downhill, his 1927 film riches to rags tale starring Ivor Novello.  Lately, I've been trying to catch up with films I hadn't gotten around to by selecting a random year (via Alexa) each night and finding something at home or on a streaming service and wouldn't you know 1927 popped up and I was reminded that Downhill is available on the BFI Player.  Time to fill in the gap.

As with most of his films from the silent era, Downhill doesn't really have much in common with his later work in narrative terms.  The BFI's synopsis suggests its "an early variation on his fabled ‘wrong man’ plot" but in all of the later examples, it's the spark for a propulsive suspense narrative whereas this is more of a morality or cautionary tale - it's Novello's choice not to reveal the truth.  But it is an excellent example of episodic storytelling in which a character finds themselves in a series of increasingly difficult situations, in this case through pride and fear, betraying its stage origins.  It was originally a west end play written by Novello himself and the actress Constance Collier.

Nevertheless Hitchcock's visual storytelling agility shines through.  One famous scene begins with Novello in a tux but as the camera pulls backwards he's revealed to be a waiter in a cafe, no, no, he's a thief, no no, he's actually standing on a stage set and he's part of the chorus.  The director has taken the audience's expectations of what they're seeing and turns it on his head, breaking our suspension of disbelief before putting is back together again.  He also repeats the symbolic motif of having Novello's character descend, down steps in school, an underground escalator (see above) and a lift after each emotional setback, literally going "down hill" only going up when he emerges into the light from the cargo hold of a ship.

Emergency Questions One to Twenty.

Life After much thought, I'm taking a break of Twitter for a week which means my hands are idle and though there are jigsaws to do and episodes of television to watch, it does offer some motivation to update this here blog.

 Looking for a lockdown project, I've decided to try and answer all of the questions in Richard Herring's book, Emergency Questions: 1001 Conversation Savers For Every Occasion.

If I cover twenty questions at a time, that should offer at least a fifty blog posts of premium personal content.

Important hat tip to Tim Worthington who's been doing these at random on his @outonbluesix Twitter account for a while which is why I ended up buying the book in the first place.

(1)  Would you prefer to have a hand made out of ham or an armpit that dispensed sun cream?

Sun cream.  Apart from the practicalities of being able to type with a ham hand (as Rich says in the book it'll also leave a greasy residue everywhere), at least the sun cream will have the bonus of a fragrance other than BO.  Plus my armpits can get pretty dry sometimes so at least one of them would be moist.

(2)  If you had to have sex with an animal - if you had to - what animal would you have sex with and why?

Does a mermaid count?

(3)  Have you ever seen a ghost?

Yes.  No.  Maybe.  When I was very young, under ten, there was a night when I screamed after seeing something at the end of my bed, but it looked like my Dad in pain so it was probably a nightmare rather than a spectre.

(4)  Have you ever seen a Bigfoot?

One of my university friends was nearly seven feet tall and must have had at least size twelve feet in order to support all of that.  His nickname was Bambi.  I think you can imagine why.

(5)  If an Emergency Question is asked in a forest, but the person who asks it is immediately crushed to death by a falling tree, do you still have to answer?  What if you didn't quite hear it over the sound of the falling tree?

Yes, you would have to answer even if you didn't hear it completely.  After you'd called for the emergency services.  You could probably weave it into the statement you give to the police.  "Well, they'd just asked me ...."

(6)  Isn't silver actually better than gold?

Ask Michael Johnson and Roger Black.  In the run up to the Commonwealth Games in 2002, which was in Manchester and at which I volunteered, there was a mass gathering in the arena at Victoria Station and Roger Black was asked to give a motivational speech.  He said, that he was always content with silver because he knew he could never beat Johnson so he always raced the medal he knew he could win.  Part of me believes this.  But there must have been occasions when he saw his competitor on a flyer when he wondered why he wasn't strong enough.

(7)  What is your favourite cheese?

Cheddar.  It's just so versatile.

(8)  Has your sibling ever seen a ghost?

I don't have one.

(9)  Who is you favourite historical character?

Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral began construction in 1904 and was finished, finally, in 1978, which as you can see included the periods of both world wars.  Although these national efforts impinged on the construction of the building, it didn't stop, even in world war two, even after it was damaged in a bombing raid, it's said during the cathedral tour that there was always at least one man working on the building, perhaps even only putting one stone in place per day.  He's my favourite historical character, someone who continues under those odds when it seems like the work you're doing is impossible and may not even be completed in their lifetime.

(10)  What do you think happens when we die?

I can't tell you what I know, only what I fear.  That when we die, our mind continues functioning right up until we decompose, trapped in, either in a dream like state (which would account for the near death experiences) or worse just locked into a non-functioning body and we feel ourselves ebb away.  That it's not the spark of life which keeps us alive, we're just the chemicals.

(11)  If you could choose on thing for you armpit to dispense, what would that thing be?


(12)  Would you rather be a cow or a badger?

You're fucked either way.  As Rich says you're either being milked or gassed by farmers.  Probably a badger and hope to god Brian May gets to me in time.

(13)  What age were you breastfed until?

I was bottle-fed.

(14)  If you had marry a Muppet - if you had to - which Muppet would you marry?

Janice from Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem.  Who thinking back was probably one of my first crushes, you know from just before "the changes" when you're too young to really know what it's all about.

(15)  Have you ever had a near death experience?

If this means, oh fuck I'm going to die, that would be when a fairground was parked up in Sefton Park about ten years ago.  There was one of those spinning rocket things which did a 360 degree circle and the safety bar wasn't attached properly.  As we spun upside down, I could feel it loosening and I had to hold it in place.  I'm still convinced that if I'd let go I would have plunged to the floor, bashing my head on the structure as I dropped down.

(16)  Would you rather have a tit that dispenses talcum powder or a finger than can travel through time?  What would you do with such a power?

A theme to these questions is developing.  Talc.  I need my finger.  See question one.

(17)  What's the worst experience you've ever had in a hotel?

Having to endure this all night at the Premiere Inn on Lime Street having gone there to get some peace and quiet:

(18) Which celebrity would you like to stroke your hair as you die?

Kristen Bell. She's very kind to sloths.

(19)  Do you have a favourite towel?  What is your best story about it?

At the moment, a beach towel in the shape of a lolly-ice which was given to me as a freebie.  It reminds me of the holidays I've never had and now won't be able to.

(20)  What is you most mundane encounter with a celebrity?

Held the toilet door open for Mark Kermode at the BFI Southbank.