Category Archives: Third World

Why comic Trevor Lock thinks some Third World aid is a holocaust of lies

Trevor Lock is Not Joking... again

Honest… Trevor Lock is Not Joking… again

The Proud Archivist venue in London’s Haggerston is suddenly, definitely trendy. I went to see Trevor Lock’s Not Joking show there last month. And he is performing it there again this Friday.

So I thought we should have a blog chat about it.

We did not.

“What else are you doing?” I asked him.

“Next Wednesday,” he told me, “I’m doing Paul B Edwards’ Crock of Mould at the Backyard Comedy Club in Bethnal Green. It used to be regular, with Al Murray, Harry Hill and…”

Trevor is compering a Crock of Mould soon

Trevor is compering a Crock of Mould soon

“Was this last century?” I asked.

“Yes. And now he’s revamping it with me as host, Miles Lloyd, Joz Norris and various people.”

“A regular team?” I asked

“I guess so. We’re doing it up at the Edinburgh Fringe next year.”

“And,” I asked, “after Crock of Mould?”

“I’m flying to the South Americas at the beginning of December.”

“Ah,” I said, “I suspect there are many stories to be told about the South Americas and you have never told me any of them.”

“And I never shall,” said Trevor.

“Why are you flying to the South Americas?” I asked.

“Ah… erm… I don’t know my purpose, but… erm…”

“But you know your destination?”

“Exactly.”

“Colombia?”

“I may go to Colombia.”

“Bolivia?”

“I may go to Bolivia. I’m definitely going to end up in Rio.”

“Rio?” I asked. “It’s full of people with knives who want to rob you.”

“My ex-wife has landed up there.”

“Ah,” I said. “How long are you going for?”

“I don’t know. I will be back in the UK in the summer.”

“You lived in South America, didn’t you?” I asked.

“Yes. Not for very long. I told you the last time you blogged about me.”

“I only write it,” I said. “I don’t read it.”

Trevor Lock aka Mr Terrier in 2009 - now released

Trevor Lock was Mr Terrier in this 2009 film

“If you did read your own blog, “ said Trevor, “you would know that I made a movie. It was finally released in Peru in August. It was very well received and may come to the London Film Festival next year.”

“Lima was a tad unsafe when I was there in the 1983,” I said. “though not as dangerous as Bogota.”

“I feel safer in Lima than I do at Loughborough Junction in London,” said Trevor.

“But,” I said, “Lima’s a pisshole.”

“I love Lima,” said Trevor.

Children living in mud homes outside Puno in 1983

Children living alone in their mud homes outside Puno, 1983

“Puno was almost as bad,” I said. “Terribly poor. But I was there in 1983. It could now be the richest, most wonderful place on earth. I am feeling very old. When my grandfather was young, he went to Canada and he used to tell me as a kid what Canada was like with its raised wooden sidewalks instead of stone pavements. It wasn’t for ages that I realised what he was describing was not modern cities in the 1960s but 19th century Wild West style towns in the 1910s or whenever he went there. Because he was that old. So I tell people knowledgeably about what Peru and South America are like, but I am actually talking about what they were like when I saw them a third of a century ago in 1983.”

“Yeah,” said Trevor, “and that was before things got really bad. That was just before (the excesses of the Maoist guerrilla group) Sendero Luminoso. Peru was clearly suffering in the 1980s.”

Comrade Artemio and Shining Path guerrillas

Comrade Artemio and Sendero Luminoso Maorist guerrillas

“If ever anywhere deserved Sendero Luminoso,” I said, “it was Peru. There was no middle class. The poor were never ever going to get out of the shit. There was nothing to aspire to. Miraflores in Lima was all private tennis courts and Mercedes Benz cars and everywhere else was a shambolic nightmare of abject poverty.”

“Yes,” said Trevor, “that was basically my experience when I went there for the first time. I saw the poorest people I had ever seen and I met the richest people I had ever met. It was just absurd. Utterly absurd.”

“In the countryside,” I said, “you could see the way the Incas used to successfully farm the hills in terraces and yet, when I was there, people were starving at the bottom of the hills with cows with ribs which stuck out. Lima was absolute shit. It deserved to be nuked. But you like it.”

“I love it,” said Trevor. “What I like is the overlap of different classes and cultures.”

“But there is no overlap is there?” I asked.

“Well, there is,” said Trevor.

These are the rich. Those are the poor,” I said. “Ne’er the twain shall meet.”

An ordinary street in Lima in 1983

Street in 1983 Lima – either earthquake-hit or just run down

“They are completely intertwined,” argued Trevor. “You can’t have rich without poor. You can’t have poor without rich. And, being an alien, being a gringo, I can pass between these worlds. In a sense, you are right that they can’t mix. But the most obscenely richest people in Peru are all nursed and brought up by the poor. You go into the parks of the rich neighbourhoods and you see all these little white babies being pushed around by their much darker mothers. But, of course, they’re not their mothers – they are indiginous employees – wet-nurses, maids, household staff. The parents have played a very little role in the upbringing of their children.”

“Much like the English upper classes,” I said.

“It’s incredible,” said Trevor. “Amazing. It is really, really fascinating to see even quite old children who are not with their parents. My friend is from Spain – he’s got a little kid. He drops his kid off at school every morning and he is the only parent – the only blood relative – dropping a child off at school in the morning. Everyone else is being dropped off by their nannies.”

“It would have been like that when I was there,” I said.

Trevor Lock may go to a variety of counties in South America

Trevor Lock surely knows more about modern Peru than I do

“It’s changed since the 1980s, though,” said Trevor. “For a while, it was the fastest-growing economy in the world, though it’s slowed-down considerably now. They called it the Abu Dhabi of South America.”

“And you like it,” I said.

“You see the industrial, Western civilisation stripped naked,” said Trevor. “Like most of South America and much of Africa, compulsory schooling has destroyed the culture. The poor in the countryside have been sold the bullshit that, if you have a better education, you can have a better life in the cities. The subsistence farming that worked for centuries has been destroyed.”

“So,” I said, “good news and bad news for Peru.”

“Well,” said Trevor, “up in the remote places there are still communities that do live from the land, but most of the places are mono-cultural agriculture growing one crop for some money and then they have to buy shitty food from a shop. Their children now have to go to school and they have to be sent off at the beginning of term and travel three days to the nearest school and come home at the end. It’s horrific. But that’s progress. And some pricks over here go over there and facilitate it.

“I’m regularly asked to perform at benefit gigs to raise money to build schools in Third World countries.”

“And what,” I asked, “do you say?”

“Well,” said Trevor, “if it feels like they might have an open mind, I will explain and, if not, I will just politely decline.”

“Because?” I asked.

“Because it’s a holocaust. It’s holocaust of lies. You’ve seen the slums of the major towns. You’ve seen it.”

“What’s the way round it?” I asked.

TrevorLock_Soho_Flowers

Trevor Lock: “I think a  lot of people have a religious instinct”

“There is no way round it,” said Trevor. “I don’t know what the answer is… I dunno… I think a lot of people have a religious instinct and, when you don’t have a church to go to – as many people now don’t – you have to get into something else. So you get into ‘helping’ developing countries and ‘saving’ the poor. You can’t export your religion any more, because you don’t have one. But you can export your values and your politics. You can export your world view.

“So you tell them: Stop growing all these different kind of vegetables, just grow this one kind of vegetable and I will give you all this money and then you can send your children to school and, in 20 years time, they can be lawyers and estate agents in the city. Brilliant.”

“When,” I said, “Japan managed to have a nuclear disaster AND a tidal wave, I was amazed people were donating money to them. Japan is one of the richest countries in the world.”

“It’s a religion,” said Trevor.

… CONTINUED HERE

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Filed under Charity, Peru, Poverty, Third World, Travel

“I need at least a good six inches to satisfy me,” reveals critic Kate Copstick

Last night, Funny People at Soho Theatre

Since coming home from the Edinburgh Fringe exactly one week ago, I keep waking up at 7.22am.

Last night, I got to bed around 3.30am. I set my alarm for 8.30am. I woke up again at 7.22am for no reason. Someone must make a noise in the square outside my house at around 7.22am, but I hear nothing when I wake up.

Getting back to sleep was confused by the fact that, at 3.30am, I had taken a Vicks Medinite cold cure to help me sleep; but, last night, doyenne of comedy critics Kate Copstick had bought me a Red Bull energy drink.

We had been at the Soho Theatre to see the Abnormally Funny People comedy show.

And they were.

It is rare to see a comedy show where there is not one duff act. But, last night, every act on the show was excellent. Don Biswas, Liz Carr, Tanyalee Davis, Steve Day and Stella Young, compered by Mat Fraser. All excellent.

Because of what comes later in this blog, it is worth pointing out that all these comics have worked exceptionally hard under exceptionally challenging circumstances to become exceptionally good comedy performers. Each one is wonderfully creative. Remember that phrase.

At Soho Theatre last night, Copstick talks to Bronston Jones and Will Franken. In background, in green, Tanyalee Davis.

After the show, Copstick and I had a meal at Soho Theatre with the lovely Tanyalee Davis and American comics Will Franken and Bronston Jones. All three are wonderfully creative. Remember that phrase.

Both the guys had played their first Edinburgh Fringe this year and both, to varying extents, said they were thinking of moving to the UK. Will Franken, in particular, seemed especially Anglophile as he had been to William Blake’s grave earlier that day, recited an entire Blake Poem (NOT Jerusalem or Tiger, Tiger) and sang Roxy Music songs with Copstick without the urging of excessive amounts of alcohol.

He is returning to San Francisco in three days time. Copstick is returning to the slums of Nairobi in two days time. She will be there for 18 days. She spends four months of every year in Kenya, working for her Mama Biashara charity. I have blogged about it before. If you want to know more, use the Search facility.

“You were telling me,” I said to Copstick when Will Franken and Bronston Jones had gone outside to smoke, “that, when you go to Kenya, within one day, it’s like none of this glittery Soho comedy stuff exists at all.”

“Especially,” said Copstick, “when you go out to a night like this, see the show and then you hang out with creative people and you have all these amazing ideas. It’s exciting that Will Franken is hanging around in London and half of me wants to go Oh! Before you go, we could meet up again and discuss ideas! and Tanyalee’s going to Liverpool but then she’s coming back and you think…”

“There must be a TV series in tonight’s show,” I interrupted.

“Well,” said Copstick, “the Abnormally Funny People had an idea for a sitcom involving the whole cast touring round the country. They had been pitching it for about two years, gradually crawling up the echelons of the BBC and, just as it got to the top, the BBC commissioned Life’s Too Short and, of course, television thinks it can only have one disabled-centric sitcom or programme of any sort at any one time. So the BBC didn’t commission the idea.”

“But, when you go to Kenya…” I said.

“As soon as I’m in Kenya,” said Copstick. “it’s like life in London doesn’t exist. Not Soho, not the Soho Theatre, none of this. Then, once I’ve been in Kenya for a few weeks, up to my nipples – my lovely nipples, as indeed remarked upon by a lovely man in Shepherd’s Bush only the other week – up to my nipples in sewage and poverty and despair and death – I come back and it takes much longer to adjust to life here in London. It takes me weeks not to be irritated by almost everything that I see and everyone I meet.”

“Because?” I asked.

“Because we have so much and we don’t care and it would be so easy for us to help and do more and because my two totally different alternative universes are the Mama Biashara work in Kenya and comedy and performing here and most performers are, by their very nature, shallow, meaningless, pointless, self-obsessed people.

“It’s very difficult to get back to this from people who are absolutely up against death by starvation and malaria every day. People in Kenya say things to me like I had a touch of typhoid, but it’s fine and Let’s do the workshop; I only have a touch of malaria.

“Whereas, over here, you have people weeping into their cups because the audience didn’t like them as much as they thought they ought to. That culture clash is hard.”

“You’ll have to soften that They’re all shallow bastards implication,” I suggested. “Some comedy performers are wonderfully creative people.”

“Some of them are creative and wonderful, like the ones tonight,” Copstick agreed. “But some of them are just shallow ego-centric bastards. I’m not going to name names, but I may do in one of your future blogs!”

“That’s softer?” I asked. “So where do you live when you’re in Kenya? Last time I mentioned you in Nairobi, you were eating goats’ innards and jelly babies. The jelly babies sounded a bit luxurious.”

“Well, you can get jelly babies there,” said Copstick. “They’re not Bassett’s jelly babies. But you can get Maynards’ over there. That last time was the night I had this fantastic sausage made by a lovely, lovely man who stokes up a barbecue in the middle of the slum and he grills a sausage called mutura, made from goat intestines. It’s a cousin of the haggis but there’s no oatmeal. They just mash up the intestines and the blood and coil it up and roast it on the barbie and chop it up and you can buy yourself a good six inches for a couple of pence.”

“And that’s something you like,” I prompted.

“I need at least a good six inches to satisfy me,” Copstick agreed. “So that night I think I spent about 10 pence on a good six inches, which I took home and set about with my usual enthusiasm and, afterwards, I had half a dozen jelly babies.”

“You live in the slums of Nairobi,” I said.

“I live in a slum,” said Copstick, “among the people we work with.”

“I’ve never lived in the slums and seen real poverty and death like you,” I said, “but when I’ve come back from seeing abject poverty in places like Nepal, I walk around the streets of London and total nihilism sets in for a couple of weeks. Doesn’t it make you terribly nihilistic?”

“I get…” said Copstick. “I get angry because we waste so much and it’s all so easy and nobody thinks about anything and we’re all so obsessed about tiny, pointless things. We have no idea how hard life can be. With performers, the ego-centricity is a necessary part and parcel of the whole thing, but we get obsessed with tiny, pathetic things.”

“Maybe that’s the difference between us,” I said. “I get nihilistic; you get angry.”

“One of the things that spending all that time in Kenya has done for me,” said Copstick,  “is that… you certainly don’t sweat the small stuff when you spend four months there every year… Things that used to drive me crazy in London, I just now think Yeah, whatever… I don’t get so upset about things. I really don’t and it’s entirely Kenya which has done that to me. I have absolutely – apart from the fact that bin seems to be on fire in the street outside – I have absolutely nothing to complain about.”

“The bin appears to be smoking along with Will Franken,” I said.

“Indeed,” said Copstick.”

“It’s like a New York street scene with smoke coming up through the road,” I said.

“Will Franken – the brilliant Will Franken,” said Copstick, “has set a bin on fire.”

“I feel I should photograph it for my blog,” I said, “not that I want you to think the blog controls my life. Perish the thought that I should be so shallow.”

“That is quite a serious amount of smoke,” Copstick said. “You should go out and get a picture. This could be the second Great Fire of London.”

“I can’t shoot a picture through the window,” I said, “because of the reflections. I will have to go out.”

The not-now-smoking bin outside the Soho Theatre last night

And I did go out but, before I got to the bin, a security man from Soho Theatre had got there with two glass jugs of water and had poured them into the bin.

“It happens quite a lot,” he said to me. “There were flames last time.”

“Bastard thing!” I said to Copstick, more in nihilism than in anger, when I came back inside. “He doused the smoke before I could get a decent picture for my blog.”

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Filed under Charity, Comedy, Kenya, Poverty, Third World