He has a simultaneous one-year run in London’s West End AND on Broadway

Katsura Sunshine after two days in quarantine

Back in September 2017, I blogged about Katsura Sunshinethe unique Canadian purveyor of the traditional Japanese storytelling genre Rakugo.

He flew into London from New York last Thursday, sat out his two-day Covid isolation in a hotel, performed his show at the Leicester Square Theatre on Sunday, then flew out to Tokyo yesterday (Tuesday). I chatted to him before he left.


JOHN: When are you coming back again?

KATSURA: I’m going to be performing my show Katsura Sunshine’s Rakugo at the Leicester Square Theatre every month for the next year. Dates are on their website.

It’s going to be my one-year run in the West End. It’s only once-a-month on a Sunday, but it’s a one-year-run… And, starting next month, I also have my weekly run in New York for a year, every Thursday.

JOHN: On Broadway?

KATSURA: The theatre’s on-Broadway; the size is off-Broadway.

JOHN: So you will be performing a one-year run of your show in London’s West End AND simultaneously be performing a one-year run of your show on Broadway in New York…

Reuters christened him the King of Kimono Comedy…

KATSURA: Yes. So once a month on a Friday I will fly to London to perform at Leicester Square on the Sunday.

It doesn’t make any economic sense.

However, the thought was – pending Covid etc – I can be here once a month for a week with a base at the Leicester Square Theatre and do other shows in the UK and Paris and around Europe. That would make more economic sense.

I could play New York on the Thursday; fly to London on Friday; play Paris on Saturday; London on Sunday; and New York the following Thursday.

JOHN: And, the rest of each month, when you are performing weekly in New York…

KATSURA: I would be living in New York.

JOHN: With visits to Tokyo?

KATSURA: The current (Covid) quarantine restrictions in Tokyo are tight. A two-week quarantine.

JOHN: Will you be doing roughly the same show in New York and London?

KATSURA: Yeah. When I was performing before – twice-a-week for six months in New York – Thursdays and Saturdays – it was a different show every month. Meaning different stories in the show every month… and I started to get a lot of ‘repeaters’. Quite a few people would come back monthly. Which is kind of the way it’s performed in Japan too.

JOHN: So, over the next year, you could hopefully build up repeat London audiences in the same way…

KATSURA: Hopefully.

JOHN: What’s your New York venue?

The New World Stages 5-venue theater in New York City

KATSURA: It’s called New World Stages and it’s built like a movie theater in that, when you come in, there’s five different theaters. Two 500-seaters, two 350-seaters and a smaller one. I’m in one of the 350-seaters. The way I am able to do it is there’s a children’s show that has been in there for maybe three or four days a week for 13 years; on a Saturday, they do 3 or 4 shows. When you get to Christmas, they’re doing 10, maybe 12 shows a week.

JOHN: For 13 years! Jesus!

KATSURA: It’s called The Gazillion Bubble Show – they blow bubbles. It’s for small children and they don’t use the theater in the evening, so I was able to piggy-back off it. That’s the way I can do one-day-a-week in a Broadway theater, which is kind-of unheard-of.

JOHN: You should do the Edinburgh Fringe next August. (LAUGHS) Fit it into your busy international schedule. Do your weekly show in New York, your monthly show in London and fly up to do a one-off Edinburgh show the same weekend as London.

KATSURA: That’s a great idea!

JOHN: I was joking… But think of the publicity! New York on Thursday; Edinburgh on Saturday; London on Sunday…

KATSURA: (LAUGHS) It’s a great idea!

JOHN: So how is your career of taking original traditional Japanese storytelling around the world going?

KATSURA: Step by step. Being interrupted by Covid was not so good; but six months on Broadway was not bad before that; and the theater’s waiting for me there. I’m really lucky I can start again. I started the show in September 2019 and the theaters got closed down in March 2020.

JOHN: So, like all performers, Covid stopped your career for 18 months.

Katsura Sunshine in his shiny denim lamé kimono

KATSURA: I started a denim kimono fashion line.

JOHN: You seem to be wearing some sort of super-denim kimono.

KATSURA: Yeah, it’s kind-of lamé fabric, got a silver coating to it. But I also sell normal denim. And haori.

JOHN: Haori?

KATSURA: You wear them over the kimono and they come down to your knees. I’m spinning the kimonos off into a separate business: Katsura Sunshine Kimono.

JOHN: You’re a money-spinner. You sell kimonos to non-Japanese people?

KATSURA: Half-and-half. Right now, people email me for their size and it’s made-to-order.

JOHN: When you leave London now, you’re flying to Tokyo?

KATSURA: I hope… I have a lot of important performances over New Year.

JOHN: Important?

KATSURA: It’s a New Year family festival at a hotel. They’ve been doing it for like 50 years. The other performers are all extremely famous.

JOHN: New Year is big in Japan?

KATSURA: The 23rd/24th December is for dates and 31st December is for family.

JOHN: Dates?

KATSURA: Girls who don’t have a boyfriend try their best to get a boyfriend by Christmas. Everyone goes on dates then goes to a hotel.

JOHN: I’m shocked! 

KATSURA: (LAUGHS) I was shocked the first time. I thought they were making fun of me when they first told me that 20 years ago!

JOHN: That everyone goes to hotels?

KATSURA: Yes. You go to a restaurant and then you go to a ‘love hotel’. That’s at Christmas… Last Christmas I spent in (Covid) quarantine because I had just come back from New York to Tokyo… and this Christmas I will be in quarantine too.

JOHN: Eating turkey…

KATSURA: In the West we eat turkey at Christmas but, in Japan, the thing is to eat chicken.

JOHN: Not just chicken, it seems.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy, Japan, Theatre

Halloween’s Michael Myers’ origin plus the superstars of “George and Mildred” 

(… CONTINUED FROM HERE …)

Prolific writer Ross Smith

In my last blog, prolific writer Ross Smith was plugging his new book See You at the Premiere: Life at the Arse End of Showbiz, a very much warts-and-all look at the realities of working in or trying to get to work in showbiz. 

But, as he said, it is far more than a How To… book because – as Ross has done it all (under several pen names) – he has more than a few anecdotes he shares and some realistic views on fame:


ROSS: Brad Pitt is a movie star. But Brad Pitt knows – as does every movie star – that really, basically, he’s just an actor who got lucky.

Being talented ain’t no big deal.

Being lucky IS.

JOHN: Everything is random… You told me you wrote four film scripts with director Jim Groom and his business partner Tim Tennison but only one got made – Revenge of Billy The Kid (under the pen name Richard Mathews). That’s actually a pretty good average.

ROSS: Jim and Tim ran a successful film business. They used to get visits from one of their clients, Michael, who ran a film distribution company with his dad Martin.

Michael once said to his dad Martin: “I’ve seen this film at the London Film Festival called Assault on Precinct 13. It’s done nothing in America. No-one went to see it there. But it’s really well-made; I think we should release it. So Michael and Martin’s company released it in the UK and the public and the critics started wetting their pants over it and its director John Carpenter.

Back in Hollywood, the powers-that-be said to John Carpenter: “We know your last film Assault on Precinct 13 did nothing, but what else have you got?” 

He told them: “I’ve got this horror film idea about this killer who stalks babysitters, set on Halloween.”

“OK,” they said, “so what’s the name of the killer?”

Not a well-known British film distributor

In the script, he was just called ‘The Shape’.

And John Carpenter said: “Well, there’s an English guy who has made me a big success over there, which is why we’re having this meeting now. His name’s Michael Myers. We could call the killer Michael Myers.”

And Michael Myers – the original – used to come down to see Jim and Tim when we were making Revenge of Billy The Kid.

JOHN: You can never tell what leads on to what…

ROSS: Jim Groom and I were trying to resurrect Room 36, a movie we’d made which hadn’t quite worked and it was only two-thirds finished. It sat on the shelf for years. 

So we thought: Why don’t we – Roger Corman style – find a part for someone famous who can come in for a couple of days? We can get them to do interviews when the film is released.

We didn’t have the kind of money to hire Michael Caine (LAUGHS), so we got Brian Murphy in – he’s a real gentleman. He played George in the ITV sitcom George and Mildred.

Mildred & George: superstars Yootha Joyce & Brian Murphy

We had to find a hotel to shoot in for a weekend. We looked around Bayswater and went into this hotel and an Arab guy ran it. That’s really important. An Arab guy ran it. 

We said: “Could we film here and we’ll give you so-much a day? We haven’t got much money.”

He said: “No, my friend, this is hotel. This is not Hollywood. Please go.”

Jim was really keen. The hotel was perfect. 

So I’m doing everything to try and convince this Arab guy to let us film in the lobby.

“We won’t disturb people,” I said. “We’ll stop whenever you want us to stop. We’ll do certain hours every day and it’s for just two or three days.”

“No, my friend.,” the guy said. “Please, you must go.”

So we get to the door and Jim turns and says: “But it has George out of George and Mildred in it!”

I think to myself: For fuck sake!

Room 36 stars Brian Murphy: YES! THE Brian Murphy!!!

There’s a pause, then the guy goes: “George and Mildred? GEORGE AND MILDRED is coming to my hotel? You are filming with GEORGE AND MILDRED?”

Jim says: “Back off! Mildred’s not coming. She’s been dead for 20 years. But, yeah, Brian Murphy, the guy who played George, he will be coming, yeah… For a couple of days.”

And this guy shouts something in Arabic and this other guy pops his head out from the office and says: “George and Mildred? GEORGE AND MILDRED?”

Next thing we know, we’re sitting there and he’s got all these sweet teas and jelly cakes out and we closed the deal.

As we walked out, I said to Jim: “Did that just happen?” And he says: “I think it did!”

I told Brian about this when we were filming and two things happened.

One, he said: “Oh, I had my mate once phone me up from Havana in Cuba saying: I’m in a bar and guess what – they’re all watching George & Mildred on TV.

Also, when we were actually filming, this Chinese girl – a backpacker – recognised Brian and comes up to me and says: “Can I get autograph?” So, between breaks, he signed the autograph and he is such a gentleman he said to her: “I’m on my tea break now, do you want to join me?” and they’re sitting having tea together and you can see she’s thinking: “It’s George – GEORGE out of George and Mildred!!!”

Rev Rowan Atkinson in Four Weddings

JOHN: Fame is a strange thing. I saw Four Weddings and a Funeral in Prague when it was released. There’s a short sequence in which Rowan Atkinson appears as a vicar and, as soon as he came on screen, there was this massive Whhoooaaah! from the Czech audience. It’s a Czech audience. But Rowan Atkinson, as Mr Bean – he’s a massive, massive worldwide star.

Today a 24-year-old might or might not know who Benny Hill is. But he was – worldwide – the biggest British star since Charlie Chaplin. Maybe bigger.

ROSS: I’m always interested that Thames Television got very pious and said: Benny Hill’s shows? They’re sexist. We don’t agree with this any more. But it didn’t stop them fucking selling the rights – and the DVDs – all round the world. They were making tens of millions off the back of Benny Hill.

JOHN: I read that Chinese state television interrupted their transmission with a newsflash to announce Benny Hill had died.

ROSS: I never met Benny Hill, but I’ve met Stephen Spielberg, Michael Jackson, Michael Myers and George out of George & Mildred

JOHN: You’ve met all the biggies! You coulda been a film star!

ROSS: Well, in Room 36, I’m actually George out of George and Mildred’s body-double. Room 36 took years and years to finish – we had to do a lot of pick-ups.

I write about this in the book. It’s always a good idea to have lots of cutaways.

A pigeon (Photo: Sneha Cecil, UnSplash)

JOHN: I was always keen on shots of pigeons looking down from ledges on nearby buildings.

ROSS: We did lots of cutaways to help with the editing and shot lots of parts of Brian’s body. You can see my legs in his dressing gown.

And there was one bit with the leading actor where we had to work out a way to fire a gun and blow off his willy.

JOHN: Did he have clothes on?

ROSS: Yeah. 

JOHN: That helps.

ROSS: Anyway, the heroine pulls a gun and shoots him in the bollocks… In the book, I go into detail about how we did it, but the bottom line is the bollocks that get blown off are actually mine. 

We did it with compressed air, a fire extinguisher and mashed-up food.

The hand that fires the gun – which was filmed about six months later – was also mine.

So I actually blow my own bollocks off.

JOHN: Do you have a picture of the bollocks?

1 Comment

Filed under Fame, Movies

Ross Smith on his book about the reality of working in the creative industries…

Amazon.co.uk divides its books into various categories. At the weekend, I got an email from writer Ross Smith telling me that, just four days after publication, his new book See You at the Premiere: Life at the Arse End of Showbiz was in the Number 1 position in the ‘Hot New Releases’ of two of those categories – Playwriting and Screenwriting. It is now on sale on every Amazon site in 190 countries worldwide. I obviously chatted to Ross in – not-so-obviously – St James’s Park in London. We chatted in early November. I have only just pulled my finger out. Look, I’ve had plumbing problems…


“The first interview I’ve done in 25 years”

ROSS: This is the first interview I’ve done in 25 years. The last one was with Time Out. I used to write a BBC Radio 2 show called Steve Wright at the Movies. My producer Barry Littlechild was very forceful; you didn’t argue with Barry and he forced me into doing that interview.

JOHN: Why the 25-year gap?

ROSS: I stopped doing interviews after the movie Revenge of BillyThe Kid because I had a couple of bad experiences.

JOHN: But you have interviewed people yourself.

ROSS: I did nearly 300 interviews back in the day.

JOHN: At college, I studied radio, TV, journalism and advertising. The one that was most satisfying was radio, because you have total control over the result. But I went into television  because there’s no money in radio.

ROSS: Radio is notoriously badly-paid. I used to write for Radio 4’s Week Ending; for a while as a staff writer.

JOHN: You’ve done it all.

ROSS: (LAUGHS) Everyone’s written for Week Ending. This is what the book is about. I could make myself sound like Steven Spielberg but to do that I’d have to cut out all the heartache and all the projects that didn’t happen and all the debt I got into. All the awful experiences I had just to get to the next one.

There were gazillions of things that didn’t happen and I had to pay my bills at the end of the month. A couple of times I failed and I had to get kicked out of my home.

An exposé of life in the Arts end of showbiz

JOHN: The book originally had a different sub-title.

ROSS: Yes. The original sub-title was Memoirs From the Fag End of Showbiz…

We know what ‘Fag End’ means in Britain, but our American friends have got a different meaning. So I thought: OK, how about Life at the Arse End of Showbiz? And now I prefer Life at the Arse End of Showbiz. It sounds more funny, more resigned, whereas Memoirs From the Fag End sounds more like I’m really bitter, which I’m not.

I didn’t want to write a book about me per se, because I’m a nobody, although I’ve got a few credits. 

JOHN: More than a few!

ROSS: Yeah, but I’ve never been able to monetise my career… Indeed, that’s one of the key things about the book. I am in the area where 95-99% freelance creative people are.

You can be creative and go work for the BBC and have a job for life, going from project to project. But 95-99% of us are in this area where we’re not necessarily hugely successful and earning loads of money but we’re not complete arseholes. We’re stuck in the middle and that voice never gets heard. 

The only people who get interviewed by the broadsheets and the Graham Nortons of this world are people who are ‘successful’. And that gives a one-dimensional view of the Arts – acting, writing, whatever. As a result, the punters – the public – think Oh! Everyone in showbiz is earning a fortune! And it’s just not true.

My book is about the sort of guy who plays the waiter in one scene in a film. Looking at his career. 

That is the career, frankly, that most young creative people are going to have. They are not going to be the next Benedict Cumberbatch. They are going to be that waiter and try to make a living.

It is not a How To book per se; it’s more. It’s basically about all the shite that young people who have aspirations to be creative do not want to hear but need to hear if they want to monetise their talent and – far more important than that – maintain the monetisation of their talent.

It is all about the importance of agents, the importance of hustling, the importance of just keeping the fuck going.

This is a spade (Photograph via Pixabay)

There’s no bullshit in my book. I call a spade a spade. If you really wanna know how difficult it is – and all the pitfalls – read this book, because that’s what it’s about. It’s about how difficult it is to establish and maintain a freelance career. It goes a long way to explaining why so many freelance creative people haven’t got a pot to piss in.

JOHN: You wrote the movie Revenge of Billy The Kid under the pen name Richard Mathews. It has built a big cult following over the years.

ROSS: It’s un-fucking-blievable that film. We had never made a film before and no-one in the British film industry would give us a break and, in those days…

JOHN: When?

ROSS: 1988. It’s all in the book. The only wannabe movies that got made then would be like Privileged which was produced by students, but it was executive produced by John Schlesinger – an icon of British cinema – he godfathered the project and made sure ‘the kids’ did a good job. We had nothing like that.

Director Jim Groom, his business partner Tim Tennison and I wrote four scripts together. One was turned into a movie; the rest just didn’t happen. In the book, I talk about the ones that did NOT happen as much as the one that did. The one that did was Revenge of BillyThe Kid.

“Old MacDonald had a farm… and on that farm he HAD a goat…” – Ooh, missus!

Jim had lots of experience in editing commercials and trailers. Tim had been a First Assistant Director on many films – Little Shop of Horrors, Wetherby, Dance With a Stranger. I had written comedy sketches for TV and stuff like that. But no-one would give us a break.

It was a very anarchic production every step of the way. About 20 of us worked on the film and our average age was about 24. We went away for four weeks to Wales and Cornwall to shoot.

It’s something people love or hate. If you go to IMDB and scroll down the headlines of the reviews, it will go from ‘The Greatest Film I’ve Ever Seen’ to ‘Utter Dogshit’. There is nothing in the middle. Which is what we wanted.

The News of the World gave it its first ever No Stars review.

I suppose I turned my back on the film industry in the mid-Noughties. I gave up because of all the shit, although I had a very good production rate. I wrote 30 scripts and got 4 movies made out of it. My fourth film came out – The Adventures of Greyfriars Bobby – in 2006. It took sixteen years to get made. (Ross again used the pen name Richard Mathews.)

Invasion of the Cathode Rays, in which Ross played a robot

JOHN: Talent has to meet luck…

ROSS: Yes. In 1995, my friends and I took a midnight show to the Edinburgh Fringe Invasion of the Cathode Rays. It was set in the 1950s and was a parody of public health warnings, TV commercials. We were getting about 20 people a night in the audience. It was great fun, a great show, but we didn’t find our audiences. Fair enough. Classic Fringe story.

My second Fringe show – a two-person sort-of family show called One Small Step (written under the pen name David Hastings) – was the story of two people in an attic who discover all this ephemera from the 1960s and they start telling the story of the space race.

They hold a beach ball up and say: “Sputnik!” It’s that sort of play. The on-stage budget – costumes, sets, props – was £136.

One Small Step – 2 actors, 60 characters and 35,000 people.

The two actors played about 60 characters, including Laika the dog.

We were on at the Assembly Rooms at 5.00pm in the afternoon and got about 20-40 people daily for the first week. We had websites and fanzines writing wonderful things, but the mainstream press didn’t give a shit about us. Unless a show has ‘someone off the telly’, they’re not interested. That’s not a reflection on journalists; it’s a reflection on their readers.

But one day a guy called Malcolm Jack, a critic for The Scotsman, came to see it. There were 8 people in the audience that day. He wrote a 5-star review. The review was published on a Saturday morning. By 3.00pm in the afternoon, even the actors’ friends couldn’t get tickets. On the Sunday, it sold out again.

His review ended with the line: ”It’s hard to imagine a play fuelled by a more profound and spellbinding sense of sheer wonder”… Remember this is a play with two guys walking around on a stage with buckets on their head pretending they’re spacemen! It’s just two actors sitting around with junk on a stage; they play Also Spruce Zarathustra, the 2001 theme, on a stylophone!

Next thing we know…

The Sunday Times – 5-star review. 

Daily Telegraph: “One of the greatest things I’ve ever seen.”

The whole run sells out.

It gets a 10-week UK tour the next year. 

At the next year’s Fringe, the Assembly Rooms puts it in a bigger venue. The whole run sells out.

The British Council come on board: “We want to take you on a world tour starting in Sydney, Australia, for three weeks. It’ll take 11 months and end up in China.”

It was the world’s most-toured British play of 2010 – 22 countries in 11 months.

And all that started from that one review.

JOHN: Talent has to meet luck…

ROSS: Yup. It has been seen now by around 35,000 people worldwide – it toured America in 2019.

JOHN: So you made pots of money…

ROSS: Over-all, over the whole journey of all those shows over about two-and-a-half years, I only made £5,500. But the point is – as William Goldman famously wrote -“Nobody knows anything”.

Nobody KNOWS what is going to work and what isn’t.

You might think: Oh, come on, Ross! It’s been seen by 35,000 people! You’re getting your royalties and being flown all over the world!

No. This is the REAL reality. I went to see it in Washington, but I had to pay £600 for my flight and my own accommodation.

This is the world where most of us are. And that’s what this book is about. Readers who want to get into the Arts may not want to hear this, but it’s going to be the world they may (if they are lucky) enter.

They are NOT going to be the next Michael Caine. They might be the next Ross Smith. (LAUGHS) And, if so, good luck to you!

(CONTINUED HERE…)

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Fame, Movies, Talent, Writing

A sixth book and multiple film(s) from the indefatigable Jason Cook’s mind…

You need grit and determination – and nowadays, ideally, the potential for sequels – to get movies made.

The indefatigable Jason Cook turns up occasionally in this blog.

His new novel Euphoria – Pirates of the South – was published yesterday.

Jason Cook and his four gangster books…

So, obviously, we had a chat.

Jason, who is dyslexic, has previously written four linked semi-autobiographical gangster novels:

– There’s No Room for Jugglers in my Circus
– The Gangster’s Runner
– A Nice Little Earner
– Cocaine: The Devil’s Dandruff

…plus a children’s book Rats in Space.

His latest book is not for children…


The 1980s and 1990s – the Rave scene

JASON: Euphoria – Pirates of the South is a book I wrote during the Covid lockdown last year.

JOHN: There’s semi-autobiographical stuff in it?

JASON: Well, there’s bits of autobiographical things I experienced in Borehamwood and South London…

JOHN: South London?

JASON: …thus the title Pirates of the South.

It’s about a young Indonesian girl who gets involved in an abusive relationship within a family environment but finds solace in the male-dominated music industry of the time. It’s set in the 1980s and 1990s – the Rave scene, the pirate radio scene – people finding a platform in their bedroom to catapault them within the music industry. Urban music wasn’t played on mainstream radio at the time. So people took risks to put the pirate stations together to create a platform for the music.

JOHN: It was originally conceived as a film?

JASON: Yes. Pirates of the South. It was planned about ten years ago with Mark Straker who has since, sadly, passed away. I continued to work on it as a book. The script had already been written by Lisa Strobl.

JOHN: You still plan to make it as a film?

JASON: Yes. Next year. Made by Djonny Chen’s Silent D Pictures. The idea is to have a well-known Indonesian actress in the central role.

JOHN: So the Pirates of the South film would get a release in Indonesia?

“People took risks… to create a platform for the music…”

JASON: Yes, under the title Waiting For Sunrise.

JOHN: Why change the title over there?

JASON: If you call it Pirates of the South in Indonesia, people might expect some Johnny Depp type pirates to be in it.

JOHN: And you also have another film waiting on the blocks…

JASON: Yes. Silent D Pictures are interested in making Pirates of the South AND a film called Cookster, which is going to be the back story of my four gangster books.

"The Cookster is based on myself when I was young"

“It is based on myself when I was young…”

JOHN: So the Cookster back story chronologically happens before the first of the four gangster books?

JASON: Yes. We got everyone together to talk about doing a film of the first book, directed by Peter Field. But he said there was something missing from the books – the story of how the Cookster became who he is in the first book. The Cookster film explains the back story.

JOHN: And The Cookster is…?

JASON: The Cookster is based on myself when I was young – a dyslexic teen misunderstood by his family, abandoned by the system and desperate for respect. Then he becomes a drug dealer and struggles to balance his addiction and his debt to local gangsters, driving him apart from the woman he loves and the boyhood he’s never known.

JOHN: And, of course, you’ve left that world now.

JASON: Yes. Yeah. I’ve left it all behind and moved on to better things now.

JOHN: So The Cookster movie would be a prequel to the four semi-autobiographical gangster novels…

JASON: Yes, with two unknown actors playing earlier versions of me. It starts with me aged about six, moves up to me at 17 and then There’s No Room For Jugglers in my Circus takes it from there.

JOHN: You’re going to do the film Cookster and simultaneously write the book of the movie?

JASON: Yes.

JOHN: Who is going to play you in your prime in the movie?

JASON: An actor who’s just come off The Batman Craige Middleburg. He’s very good.

Craige Middleburg and Jason Cook

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Crime, Movies

I nearly fell down an escalator…

I nearly fell down an escalator in London yesterday.

Why do they have to have down escalators? Why can’t they all go up?

If M.C.Escher can do it, why not the London tube?

Then the Victoria Line tube kept making announcements that Tottenham Hale was a step-free station and that it had no lift service.

And then my Thameslink line trains ran to schedule.

Whoever heard of such a thing?

The world has gone mad.

Leave a comment

Filed under Surreal

Dream ballet children and a politician

(Photograph by Brad Pouncey, via UnSplash)

Yesterday, I posted a blog about a dream I had.

I had muttered onto my iPhone what was in the dream when I woke up, dehydrated.

I vaguely remembered this recording-a-dream thing happening before and have just looked through my iPhone recordings.

I had indeed recorded a muttered description about a previous dream on 5th October. 

This is it below.

I have no idea what any of it means.

Look – I was half asleep when I recorded it.

These are the exact words…


In my dream, I had just arrived in Edinburgh and I went to see a guy I knew who ran hotels and he told me where I was staying.

He took me round to the place where I was staying, which was actually two buildings separated by a street and I said: “Oh, you’re doing very well. They’re both show-ers.” 

He said something about getting money from somewhere and, as we went down the street between the two buildings, there were lots of little girl ballet dancers going into a lesson in one of the big rooms, which was a dancing school.

Just outside, as we passed by, in the street between the two buildings, an Australian girl in her twenties was talking to a man. They were talking about some sort of act. She was saying the audience would not see the stilts they were on when they were on the surfboards. So that would come as a big surprise to the audience: that they were on stilts under the surfboards.

Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer

Meanwhile, going in to the dancing school with the little girls was Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer,. He was wearing a small pink tutu dress.

I think this was in my dream because, earlier in the day, I had found out he is surprisingly small – around 5ft 6in.

The hotel owner guy was saying to me: “Where’s your stuff at the moment?”

I told him: “Oh, it’s at the BBC Hotel.”

I think that was in my dream because, earlier in the day, comedians Njambi McGrath and Sara Mason had been saying that, at the weekend, they had gone to White City House, part of the Soho House group of clubs. White City House, is a 2-storey club inside what used to be BBC Television Centre in Wood Lane…


The iPhone recording ends there.

Well, I did tell you I have no idea what any of it means.

Leave a comment

Filed under Dreams, Surreal

Horses racing around in my dreams…

What follows is all true.

So it goes: “To die, to sleep – To sleep – perchance to dream.”

Throughout my life, I never remembered my dreams unless I was suddenly woken up while having one – which, in the past,  maybe happened once every couple of years. I always thought this was a sad loss. I like surrealism and thought dreams must be wonderfully and literally fantastic.

This has changed.

Because I have some current calcium and kidney problems, I have not had a full night’s sleep since June 2020. 

I wake up every hour throughout the night, totally dehydrated inside my mouth. I have to drink water to rehydrate.

Quite often this waking-up happens while I am in mid-dream. So I temporarily remember my dream. 

By morning though, while I know that I woke up when dreaming, I have forgotten the actual details of the dream.

Very disappointing.

Most of my dreams are about organising events or performances.

Regent Street (Photograph by Luke Stackpoole, via UnSplash)

Last night, when I woke up in mid-dream, I muttered the details onto my iPhone – to remember.

According to that muttered memory:

The new owners of Penguin Books messed it up and were not making the right money, so they thought they would get more publicity by arranging daily horse races on Regent Street in London. Some of the races would be open to amateurs.

I watched some of the rehearsals for the races, with horses chasing each other round the curve of Regent Street.

And I dreamt about Penguin Books’ boardroom discussions on the practicality of staging the horse races…

Then I woke up in mid-discussion and so I don’t know the outcome.

Life is a bitch.

That actually IS what my dream was about, though I now feel obliged – oh yes I certainly do – to suggest that the winner of the main race could have been a night mare.

Let us all hope I don’t record another dream soon and won’t feel so obliged in future.

1 Comment

Filed under Dreams

Living the dream: my body is rusting

This morning I got a message from a friend.

It read:


This is how you feel isn’t it?!


I replied:

Nah. 

It’s just weird having an old body.

In my erstwhile teens I had a dream and wrote a short story about someone who had an artificial metal body and what he felt when his body eventually, inevitably started rusting.

Now I’m living the dream.

2 Comments

Filed under Age, Dreams, Psychology

Now the UK National Health Service wants me to attend a nuclear facility…

My last blog was about the reliability of the NHS – You can always rely on their organisational arrangements to be in total chaos.

Basically, I was told that a Renal hospital appointment I never had was being moved to a date which doesn’t exist. I was told that the new appointment was on Tuesday 20th November – but 20th November is actually a Saturday. 

The same message also said I should attend the “Kidney & Urology Dept on Wednesday”… with no time nor date mentioned.

Neither the previous non-existent appointment nor the previous non-existent new date were on a Wednesday.

None of the above has been sorted out yet.

So imagine my lack of surprise when I got home around 8.00pm last night to find I had received a letter about a totally different new hospital appointment unrelated to the other two (or it might be three) previously confused appointments.

I have ongoing calcium level and kidney function problems which put me in hospital last May and this July. 

The previous confused communication had been about the hospital Renal (ie Kidney) Dept and the Kidney & Urology Dept.

This new missive was about a forthcoming appointment with the Nuclear Medicine Dept at the same hospital with which, on Monday 29th November, I now have an appointment to have a Spine and Hip Bone Density scan or, as the letter says, “Bone densitometry DXA”.

This scan has never been mentioned before at any of my chats with my Kidney Man and my Calcium Man – and neither have my spine nor hip been a source of interest – but I’m prepared to believe it’s a legitimate part of the search for what’s wrong with me. I had a PETscan at the same Nuclear Medicine Dept in August this year. A PETscan is the one where they inject radioactive material into you and then (as I understand it) look at it circulating in the body.

I have been told by two separate consultants that I am a “man of mystery” because no-one has any idea what on earth the cause or causes of my calcium/kidney problem is/are.

This means, among other things, of course, that I cannot be treated because they have no idea what they should be treating. They know the result of my problem but they have no idea of its cause.

The actual doctors seem efficient and thorough.

But the NHS bureaucracy – like all large bureaucracies – is a catastrophe of incompetence.

4 Comments

Filed under Bureaucracy, Medical

More UK National Health Service chaos: my life is in their incompetent hands…

In hospital in, erm… who knows when?

As long-suffering readers of this blog will know, I was in hospital for seven days in May last year and again for seven days in July this year with a very high calcium level and (as a result) dangerously low kidney function.

No-one has been able to find out the cause. So I keep seeing consultants, mostly kidney and calcium men.

My kidney/calcium levels are pretty-much but not-quite back to normal now. But, still, no-one has any idea why they twice went dangerously haywire.

I wrote a blog in August this year when I simultaneously got three completely self-contradictory and chaotic letters about NHS hospital appointments.

Doctors, of course, like to use posh names, so ‘kidney’ staff are usually called Nephrology or Renal staff… and ‘calcium’ staff are usually called Endocrinology staff. In what follows, I have anonymised the hospital names as Hospital A and Hospital B.

In September, I was told my next appointment with the Nephrology team (my Kidney Man) would be on Monday 13th December at Hospital A.

Then, this afternoon, I got a text from Hospital B, which is part of the same group as Hospital A: 

Renal means Kidney.

The message concluded:

“Please attend Hospital B, Kidney & Urology Dept on Wednesday. TO RESPOND please follow this link…”

I did and responded:


I’m confused. Can you clarify?

I have an appointment to see Nephrology at Hospital A on 13th December at 10.30. (See attached letter.)

I had no appointment to see the Renal Dept at Hospital B on 16th November. 

And the ‘new’ date you give – Tuesday 20th November – does not exist (20th November is a Saturday).

You also seem to ‘confirm’ I should attend a Kidney & Urology appointment at Hospital B “on Wednesday” (no time given but presumably either Wednesday 10th November this week or an unknown Wednesday in December).

Could you tell me if the ‘new’ Renal appointment on Tuesday 20th November (a date which doesn’t exist) is the same as the Kidney & Urology appointment I have never previously heard about at an unknown time this Wednesday 10th November?

If I do have to attend Hospital B this Wednesday, could you give me a time for the appointment?

John Fleming


I await a reply with open-mouthed interest but little hope of efficiency or factual accuracy… It is always a tad worrying when your life and death is in the hands of large impersonal bureaucracies… All large bureaucracies are inherently incompetent…

2 Comments

Filed under Bureaucracy, Medical