I would quite like to die on another planet.
As a way to go, it beats dying in the gloomy upstairs bedroom of a nursing home in Clacton-on-Sea, which is where I sat and watched my father die.
So, two days ago, I lightheartedly tried to enter a London Evening Standard contest to win a trip into space. Well, OK, ‘trip’ might be a bit of an exaggeration. It seems the return flight takes 30 minutes overall but the time spent actually outside the earth’s atmosphere is only 4 minutes.
Still, if I want to die on another planet, it’s a start. One small step for a man…
The first problem I had was that the link to the Evening Standard’s competition’s page didn’t exist. Clicking the link just brought you back to the page you were already viewing. It took about a day to rectify this. Obviously creating a working weblink was a step too far in rocket science for the Evening Standard.
When the page was up and firing on all cylinders, I ploughed through the application form only to be told at the very very end of the process that I had to agree the Evening Standard could access my entire Facebook Friends list. Why? The only possible reason I could think of was that they wanted to spam the (at the time of writing) 4,854 people on my Friends list. And I would be responsible for that.
When I queried this, the Evening Standard Reader Offers department replied:
“Hi! The message you refer to is actually letting you know that the system we use to run the promotion will be able to access your friends list, which will allow you to share the promotion should you wish to. However we will not access or use that information for anything, so none of your friends will be effected (sic) because you have entered.”
Apart from my nagging worry that the Evening Standard people can’t spell ‘affected’, why would they need to have access to my Friends list in order to allow me to send a link for the Evening Standard’s offers page to any or all of my Facebook Friends? If I copied and pasted the web address into a message and posted it on my Facebook page, would that link somehow mysteriously not work unless the Evening Standard had on its computers each and every person on my list?
It is enough to make you paranoid.
I mean, it is surreal enough that the London Evening Standard (like the Independent newspaper) is now owned by an ex-KGB officer. Is this a case of old habits dying hard?
Shortly afterwards, I went out to Holborn in central London and there I saw (I presume it was) a woman dressed in full burka standing next to a Post Office pillar box. It was like something out of a Magritte painting or an imagining of Frank Herbert’s Dune novels.
A medium-sized red-painted pillar with a horizontal slit towards the top through which I could post letters beside which stood a medium-sized pillar of black cotton with a horizontal slit towards the top through which I could see a pair of eyes staring out at me.
This oddness was not topped until a few hours later when I saw Red Bastard perform in the East End of London, strangely just round the corner from Vallance Road, where gangsters the Kray Twins used to live – and from the Repton Boxing Club where they… well… boxed as and with young men.
The Red Bastard event was staged by showman Adam Taffler aka Adam Oliver who had managed to successfully promote this off-West-End show at short notice so effectively that the original single show and single workshop by Red Bastard had been upped to two shows and three workshops. (The second show is tonight.)
The show last night seemed to have attracted whatever the collective noun is for a wide collection of some of the most cutting edge, potentially not-far-from-breakthrough acts in London including Holly Burn, Adam Larter, Lizzy Mace, Real McGuffin Dan March, Darren Maskell and Lindsay Sharman not to mention half of Nelly Scott/Zuma Puma’s new clown workshop.
One unexpected yet somehow not unexpected sight of the evening was comedian/promoter Bob Slayer acting as barman – obviously, occasionally without his trousers so he could display the underpants supplied by his Edinburgh Fringe sponsors Bawbags, purveyors of fine Scottish undergarments.
Bob’s presence was partly explained by the fact that, on 20th October, he and Adam are jointly promoting Malcolm Hardee Award winning Adrienne Truscott’s one-off show at the nearby Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club.
I saw Red Bastard at the Edinburgh Fringe – he was a nominee for the Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality – and several people have asked me what he does.
I have never been able to find words with which to tell them.
Much like The Short Man With Long Socks, the act is uncategorisable.
That is, after all, a sign of true originality.
If you could include it in a single existing category – comedy, mime, therapy, actor training, psychology, performance art, voyeurism, drama, audience involvement – it would not be truly original. Perhaps the Red Bastard show is best described with that unfathomable 1960s word – an Event.
You cannot describe it; you have to experience it.