ARIANE: It’s a novel about two comedy writers on a sitcom. One’s extremely successful and an arsehole. The other one is extremely unsuccessful but very nice… And they swap bodies.
JOHN: So it’s a cosy little comic romp…
ARIANE: No. It’s got racism, misogyny, homophobia, extreme swearing, graphic descriptions of violence and a short rape scene. The villain calls his mother a jizz-lapping old whore and calls his step-father a fisting spaffmonkey. He is obsessed with his penis because it’s only 2 inches long.
JOHN: You wrote it in 2004, when you were…
ARIANE: …a sitcom writer for BBC TV.
JOHN: So it’s all semi-autobiographical?
ARIANE: It’s ‘loosely based’ on my experiences. But all the characters are fictional.
JOHN: The plot is a body/identity swap story.
ARIANE: There IS a body swap and Neil – the nice guy – inhabits Andrew’s body and is able to get his sitcom idea commissioned, but he then realises fame and success are not all they’re cracked up to be.
Andrew is trapped in Neil’s body and there’s a hilarious/outrageous and disturbing turn of events which sees him end up homeless and having to have sex with a guy for money so that he can buy a gun.
JOHN: Why are fame and success not what they’re cracked up to be?
ARIANE: Because nobody treats you normally. It’s a very hyper-real/surreal type of existence. Most of the famous people I’ve met have been very nice, professional and reliable. They treat people really well. But I would not personally want to be famous. I don’t think it makes you any happier and you never know if people like you for you or just because you’re successful.
Ariane created and ran the Atheist Bus Campaign, seen here at its launch with Richard Dawkins (Photograph by Zoe Margolis)
ARIANE: I experienced the slightest distant glimmer of fame in 2009/2010 and it was quite disorientating. You don’t feel like yourself because people have this impression of you which doesn’t tally with your own impression of yourself. It’s confusing and I personally wouldn’t really want to be wildly famous.
JOHN: You wouldn’t want to be successful?
ARIANE: I think there’s a difference between having recognition for what you do and being a megastar where it’s so out-of-proportion that it’s ridiculous.
You really wouldn’t want Fred Bloggs accosting you when you’re trying to take the bins out – thrusting a camera in your face, demanding a selfie or an autograph.
JOHN: Alas poor Chris Whitty. You don’t want to be famous at all?
Ariane keeps her fingers in many pies, including podcasts
ARIANE: I wouldn’t mind a bit of recognition, but not being followed around by paparazzi wherever I go.
JOHN: Why did you not publish the novel in 2004 when you wrote it?
ARIANE: I had always wanted to write novels and I was putting the finishing touches to it in 2005 when I was violently assaulted by my then-boyfriend when I was pregnant with his baby. I had to have an abortion which I didn’t want to have. I cried every day for a year and I shelved the novel because I thought: I don’t want to focus on comedy! I’ve just been through hell! I don’t want to be focusing on jokes when my baby is dead.
JOHN: Wouldn’t focusing on comedy be cathartic in that situation?
ARIANE: I just didn’t feel I could write it successfully and, instead, I wrote a memoir of what had happened. That didn’t get published and I’m very glad it didn’t get published because it was so raw. It had a lot of scenes from my childhood and my dad was still alive and I think it would have got me into a massive mess.
So I sort-of lost interest in Shitcom. I shelved it and then a little later I started writing for the Guardian (until 2018) and I think I made some tweaks to Shitcom in 2008, but, as a Guardian columnist, I didn’t want to put out a book with an incredibly racist, sexist, homophobic male character and a ton of racial slurs in it. That felt like it might be a bit of a faux pas.
JOHN: And the Covid lockdown happened last year… That had an effect?
ARIANE: Yes. I was going to do a 100-date book tour for my last book How To Live To 100 but then the Covid lockdown came in, so the tour got shelved.
Shitcom was published after servicing Patreon subscribers
Subscribers to that tier get a sample of my writing every week.
I came across Shitcom again and I thought I would send them that chapter by chapter. As I was reading it again, I realised it was hilarious and I loved it. So I thought Why don’t I just put it out rather have it languish on my hard drive?
I didn’t even try to get it traditionally published. Nobody in the publishing industry has seen it and, in this age of ‘cancellation culture’ I don’t think any publisher is going to be too keen on it.
JOHN: Have you thought about also publishing your ‘too raw’ memoir which you could now look back on objectively?
ARIANE: If I ever did write a memoir, it would probably be at the end of my career. I have so much left to do; and also my mum and brother are still alive and I wouldn’t want to hurt them with what’s in it. It might be something I do in 40 or 50 years.
I am aiming to write 100 books in my lifetime and I see Shitcom as the first book.
My next book – traditionally published by my publisher Hachette – is called Happier and will be my fourth traditionally-published book.
Ariane also wants to write 100 books…
JOHN: You’ve said you consider Shitcom your first book but you have published three books already.
ARIANE: Well, they are all either co-writes or they contain a ton of contributions from other people. I think they are very enjoyable and I love my publishers, but I also want to put novels out – and, by self-publishing them, people can read them for just £1.99 each.
JOHN: So what’s your next solo book?
ARIANE: I’m Not In Love, another novel.
ARIANE: Partly. It’s about a girl who’s not in love with her boyfriend. He smells of banana. He does not eat or like bananas, but he has a strange banana smell.
JOHN: This bit is autobiographical?
ARIANE: Yes. It’s based on a boyfriend I had who is a comedian and writer and actually quite successful now. I don’t know if he still smells of banana, but I do feel sorry for his wife if he does. Also (in the book) he wears these terrible slogan T-shirts like While You Are Reading This, I Am Staring at Your Tits… And she falls in love with another man, but he’s engaged to be married and one of her unscrupulous, amoral friends says to her: Why don’t you just keep this guy that you’re engaged to around as insurance and date other guys behind his back?
So that’s what she does. But she is in her 30s and is aware that time is not on her side if she wants to have kids. So it’s a rom-com.
It’s already written, the main character is really acerbic and funny and it will be out before the end of the year.
My chum Ariane Sherine’s 9-year-old daughter is astonishingly creative. It is perhaps not surprising that she is very literate as her mother has been a columnist for multiple broadsheet newspapers and has written books while her father also writes for a prominent broadsheet newspaper.
But she is also very musically and visually talented – again, something in the genes.
Last week, she got a new painting set as an early 10th birthday present and did this:
Admittedly it is based on an image she saw online. But the original has different colour tones, the blossoms on the tree are different and there are no blossoms coming off the tree. The original is a daytime image. Hers is, she says, “around six o’clock in the evening”.
She recently asked people she knows to write honest essays about her for her 10th birthday next week. So she can know what people think of her.
Last night, her mother showed me some of the essay she has written about her daughter. It included the sentence: “I’m so pleased you’re following in the footsteps of your father and I and expressing yourself creatively.”
The following text exchange then followed:
I am always a bit vague on this but should it be “your father and me”?
‘You’ is subject; ‘following’ is verb; ‘footsteps’ = object?
But fuck knows how your father and I/me fits in. Clearly I need remedial education.
I have no idea but I asked a friend who didn’t know either – and he is a linguist! 😂
ARIANE: Hi – need grammar help! I want to say that I’m pleased she’s following in my and her dad’s footsteps, but how do I word it?
“I’m so pleased that you’re following in the footsteps of myself and your father”?
or “of your father and I”?
or “of your father and me”?
FRIEND: I’m struggling too. Whichever way you say it, it sounds stiff and unidiomatic, which indicates to me that it needs rephrasing. Is it possible to mention her father and you in the previous sentence and then say: “I’m so pleased that you’re following in our footsteps”? Sorry I can’t be more helpful.
JOHN (to ARIANE)
The only person who’s going to know is your daughter and we can’t ask her!
Maybe “I’m so pleased that you’re expressing yourself creatively” – to disguise the fact that you, your friend and I are utterly illiterate!
Ha ha! Yes maybe 😂🤣
It’s a sobering fact that you are a multi-titled broadsheet columnist with multiple books out… I was paid by Random House (the world’s biggest publisher) to edit a bestselling book… and your friend was a university lecturer possibly with academic publications to his name…
…and none of us knows how to write a basic English sentence!
Ha ha! To be fair, it’s a VERY difficult sentence! xxx
Hah! Says you!
I don’t think my friend had stuff published in journals. His wife did, and she had a PhD. But he’s no slouch either!
My excuse is that I was mostly educated in Essex.
What’s your excuse?
I bet your daughter knows. She’s already got better vocabulary than we do.
She is amazing. 🥰
I’m off to bed now.
…talk about sleepless nights!
I was dozing off and “you’re following in the footsteps of your father and I” started swirling in my head!
The problem is it’s about the possession of the footsteps, not about subject-verb-object. So maybe both “I” AND “me” are wrong.
The actual thing being communicated is “you’re following in your father’s footsteps and in my footsteps”.
So I guess it should be “you’re following in the footsteps of your father and of mine”
But that and “you’re following in the footsteps of your father and mine” both sound ridiculous, so can’t sensibly be used.
I think it’s a balance between being grammatically correct and sounding right.
So it’s a case, as your friend said, of rephrasing … or of just tossing a coin about I and me.
Ha ha! Thanks for email, just read it. I think I‘ll stick with father and I… it’ll do.
Yeah. Like I say. To hell with correct grammar. This is English. What’s right is what feels right.
My last blog ended with the mention of comedian and author Janey Godley’s meal of mince on toast being the subject of a prominent news article in Scotland’s Daily Record newspaper.
The next day, England’s/the UK’s Daily Star newspaper picked up the Daily Record story and it also turned out that, according to Google, ‘Janey Godley’ was the most-searched name for and by Scots in 2020.
Forget toast; she is on a roll.
Fame though, like the hairy-nosed wombat, can be a fickle thing.
Hairy-nosed wombat (Photo by Eva Hejda, via Wikipedia)
Creative hyphenate Ariane Sherine’s 9-year old daughter decided that, for her upcoming birthday in April, she wanted to adopt (online) a hairy-nosed wombat. They are an endangered species and she reckons they look sweet.
I am not altogether sure I agree and I felt obliged to point out to her that there are only reckoned to be either 206 or 147 of the even-more-endangered kākāpō left in the world.
These are quirky, large, flightless, nocturnal parrots.
Ralph (Photo: New Zealand Department of Conservation)
As a result, for her still upcoming birthday, she has now persuaded her long-suffering mother to fork out an extra £55 for the adoption of a near-extinct non-Monty Python kākāpō parrot called Ralph.
I suggested that, as the Rule of Three is immutable (she is an expert Scrabble player) Ariane’s daughter should also adopt the two squirrels who live in my back garden and, as I cannot tell them apart, we should call both of them Cyril.
So she has now informally and additionally adopted Cyrils the Squirrels.
We will skate over the fact that four creatures are now involved.
“The World Egg Throwing Championships, hosted by Swaton Show, was looking forward to its return this year following last year’s lock down but the Committee fears our June 27th date may be unachievable due to the global pandemic. Movement to another date this year is impractical for wholly understandable reasons.”
I suggested that, when tennis becomes allowed, surely egg throwing must be allowed and that, if Scotch Eggs could be classified as a full meal to get round pub restrictions, maybe they are the future of egg-throwing too – though a bit dangerous for Russian Egg Roulette, which involves smashing an egg into your own forehead.
Andy Dunlop’s disappointing reply was: “Probably not.”
The moment the World Gravy Wrestling Champion failed in his World Russian Egg Roulette title bid in 2012
He added: “Our family continue to be fine as are now both vaccinated and it’s pretty much OK to be locked down when I can work from my conservatory, over-looking a couple of acres of garden and field disturbed only by bird song and the occasional baa from the sheep looking through my fence.
“The ten girls in there since yesterday, placed by farmer Steven (son of Steve, father of Steven John) arrived after a scan revealed they are not in lamb and, unbeknown to them, are being fattened before their final trip. They will be replaced shortly by a clutch of successful mothers and their new joyous off spring.”
It took me a moment to realise all this referred to sheep.
Shortly after that message arrived from the barren outlands north of Watford, I received this photo from comedy uber-fan Sandra Smith on England’s south coast:
I had always assumed the locals in Brighton were fairly sophisticated men and women of the world (other genders are available). But I am prepared to reconsider this opinion…
It goes on general release today at Everyman cinemas in the UK and, on 11th December, at Showcase’s UK cinemas.
It is also streaming online at www.pantoonline.co.uk until 10th January 2021. Profits from the Panto Online streaming will be supporting six charities.
Peter Duncan introduces last night’s screening
With the UK in COVID Lockdown and most live stage shows cancelled, Peter Duncan – who produces stage pantos and whose parents were also panto producers – rounded up 35 showbiz chums/creatives and filmed a traditional jokey, musical, dancing, colourful version of Jack and the Beanstalk in two large back gardens in SW London. He built the sets, sourced the costumes, wrote the script, created the singalong songs and produced/co-directed the whole shenanigans.
The movie is being screened in 55 cinemas across the UK, billed as “a planet-saving pantomime packed with topical references, songs, laughter and great special effects for all the family.”
I saw it last night with author/journalist/musical performer Ariane Sherine’s 9-year-old daughter who had seen three stage pantomimes before, some of which, she felt, diverged too much from the original storylines.
Below is her totally uncensored review of the movie. Throughout the screening, she wore a woolly pink hat with a pom-pom on the top.
John asked me if it was better to see the film wearing a woolly bobble hat or not wearing a woolly bobble hat. I think it IS better to have a woolly hat or a hood on or something because then you have something around you. It doesn’t need to be a woolly hat. It can be a long hat with bits at the side It can even just be hair or a scarf. It makes you feel engaged; it makes you feel like you’re in it, like you’re part of it (the film). You think about it more and I think it’s really good.
I really liked the bits in the film about Climate Change and the Lockdown and I especially liked the bit about Donald Trump – when the chair said: “The orange man won’t leave the White House.”
It was really fun but I would like the end credits to have had different music because I feel like that music is not very cheery. I would prefer it not to be so spooky and to be more cheery. It didn’t really match the film. At the end it felt a bit creepy; it didn’t feel so jolly.
The music was good generally, though. I liked it. It was jolly. And I liked most of the lyrics. I liked the lyrics at the start about Lockdown and Climate Change and the bits with the signs – the placards. That made it feel a lot like a live pantomime.
They included a lot of bits where the (cinema) audience could join in – Oh no he didn’t! Behind you! – that kind of stuff.
The acting was good and it seemed like the non-main characters did more of the… (stagey pantomime acting) like it wasn’t real. I liked the Dame. I didn’t realise (until afterwards) that she was played by Peter Duncan.
Considering that it was shot in a real back garden, they made it seem quite a bit like a big film with the tree as the beanstalk. Before the screening, I had been wondering how they would do the beanstalk. I had thought they might paint the tree green.
From some angles, looking at it a certain way, with the vines around it, they did make it quite a bit like you would imagine it.
I had been wondering how similar it would be to the original Jack and The Beanstalk story. Some of the pantos I’ve seen changed the plots a bit. I don’t mind that but this one was quite a lot like the actual Jack and the Beanstalk you think of.
There was a bit where they didn’t bring the cow over the wall (when they were escaping from the Giant). They left the cow behind. I didn’t understand that. There was that kind of wolf-dog-thing chasing them and he was right there with the cow. But they left the cow behind. I didn’t understand that bit at all.
But it’s fun to watch, fun joining in and all that stuff. It would be suitable for children maybe 5 to 10 years old. It’s fun to watch. I would watch it again. Not a lot of times, but I would watch it again a few times and with my younger sister,
I do feel some of the characters in the film were quite selfish. The girl was given a wish and she wanted to drive cars. Why couldn’t they wish for World Peace or the end of Climate Change? They were so annoyed about it before (at the start of the film) but now they just want to drive cars. They did a big campaign about Climate Change at the start (with all the placards) but, after that, now it’s “I want to drive!”
And, just after she’d told her dad: “Oh no, we can’t dump plastic in the sea… That’s bad for pollution!” she says she wants to be a driver! And even for the other ones, I felt they were quite selfish. Why couldn’t they wish for World Peace or even for them to bring a good thing to the world or something like that. Even to end Lockdown, to end hunger, to end poverty. At least to end Lockdown. Why didn’t they choose one of those?
But I guess they couldn’t have wished for that, because it would have meant their wish didn’t come true, because nothing’s happened.
My own wish would be for the Earth to be big enough to sustain humans – to always have enough food and water and for the climate to be OK. For the Earth to hold an infinite amount of humans and for humans to live forever.
In this COVID-19 era, the protocol on non-rush hour London trains seems to be that everyone sits on alternate seats, leaving a gap between each person.
MONDAY 5th OCTOBER
Meanwhile, Thameslink trains are dependable for their undependability. When I arrived at Elstree station at 1358 today for the 1401 train, the indicator board proclaimed that the next train was the 0931 tomorrow morning, expected to arrive at 0939.
After travelling by Thameslink, President Trump’s overdramatic exit from hospital in Washington and overdramatic arrival back at the White House after his COVID infection seemed less surreal.
One online reaction to President Trump catching the coronavirus…
TUESDAY 6th OCTOBER
I was talking with someone who used to work in the London Docks who told me that the nickname for the police there used to be “the cabbage”. Neither he nor I could think of any explanation for this.
Apparently Barrie Keefe wrote a (so-far un-made) sequel to The Long Good Friday, centred on the tiny but essential character played by Pierce Brosnan in the original movie.
Keefe once told someone that Brosnan had no lines in the original film: he never spoke. The other person disagreed. Keefe (who, remember, wrote the movie) watched the film again and, sure enough, Pierce Brosnan (in the swimming pool scene) does say “Hi!”
“That’s actors for you,” Barrie Keefe responded.
I was working at ATV (who commissioned the movie for the ITV Network via their ITC/Black Lion companies) when ATV/ITC boss Lew Grade refused to screen it because he was outraged by the ending. It had been commissioned by Charles Denton, who was both Programme Controller at ATV and Managing Director of Black Lion, presumably without Grade ever reading the script.
I think the scene in which someone is crucified on a wooden floor in London must have been inspired by Arthur Thompson‘s penchant for doing that in Glasgow. My ex-London docker told me that the scene in which a widow steps out of a car to spit at a criminal was based on a real incident though, in reality, the man apparently just legged it sharpish.
If you have seen the movie, there is a clip on YouTube of Pierce Brosnan talking about The Long Good Friday but – BEWARE – there are major, major plot spoilers in it.
WEDNESDAY 7th OCTOBER
I was talking to someone who plays the online game Words With Friends with strangers.
Playing with scammers who have only a loose grasp of English
Apparently this has attracted scammers who bombard her with messages of a romantic nature – usually in broken English – Many of them, for some totally unknown and incomprehensible reason, claim to be estate agents (that’s a realtor or real estate agent if you live in the US).
I can only assume there is a school for scammers which provides a template suggesting would-be scammers masquerade as estate agents.
THURSDAY 8th OCTOBER
Is this the shape of bomb disposal technicians to come in the near future?
The UK Chancellor of the Exchequer has suggested that, because of the COVID-19 crisis and its effects on jobs, people should think of switching careers.
My diminutive writer/composer/comedy chum Ariane Sherine (her physical stature is relevant) took the government’s online Careers Advice Test on a whim and it suggested she should become an army officer, a bodyguard or a bomb disposal technician.
Her reaction: “This is clearly not the perfect career for someone with clinical anxiety and paranoia who gets freaked out by sudden loud noises!”
Inspired by this, I tried the Careers Advice Test myself. It suggested I could or should become a boxer, a jockey, a hairdressing salon manager, a Member of Parliament or a TV/film producer…
The government site, which also handles Track & Trace for the COVID-19 outbreak, may need some urgent attention.
FRIDAY 9th OCTOBER
An odd day.
I went into the Tesco store in Borehamwood where, among the free books, were copies of Rolf Harris‘ True Animal Tales and the violent Mafia memoir I Heard You Paint Houses (filmed by Martin Scorsese as The Irishman). I am not sure what this says about the reading or social habits of Tesco’s customers in Borehamwood.
“I am not sure what this says about the social habits of Tesco’s customers in Borehamwood.”
Later, I went into the Tesco store in Leytonstone and found the stand-up urinals in the Gents toilets each had an orange plastic insert bearing the word P-WAVE. I would like to have been at the branding meeting where they brainstormed ideas for the name and colour of this product.
SATURDAY 10th OCTOBER
Anthony Irvine, the ever-inventive act formerly known as The Iceman emailed me, without explanation, an image of his latest painting.
I have no explanation. He had no explanation. I am open to offers…
But the sky today hinted that God takes cocaine. This could explain a lot about the last week and the current year.
Until my illness in May, I never really remembered my dreams. Maybe once every six or nine months, I might wake up and remember what I was dreaming.
But now, because I wake up maybe six to twelve times during the night, dehydrated, I remember – or, at least, I am aware of – some dreams and I am amazed by the detail, though reality can be more surreal.
Today, Kunt AKA Kunt and The Gang said he was about to release two new limited edition Bumface Poohands books: Bumface Poohands – A Day At The Park and Bumface Poohands and the Coronavirus Pandemic Lockdown.
With reality like this, who needs dreams?
MONDAY 28th SEPTEMBER
I have a low heart rate. Adults normally have a resting heart rate of 60-100. Mine is usually around the low 50s, sometimes the high 40s.
As I write this, it is 53. But my cousin Muriel also has a low heart-rate, so it must be a hereditary thing.
My medical problems in May (still continuing) were caused by a still-unexplained high calcium level resulting in a sudden drop in kidney function from 62 to 19.
My cousin Muriel says that, years ago, she was told she would get kidney problems as she got older because of very poor circulation in the base of her spine, bottom and back thighs. This has not happened.
My sticking-up big toes are not at all sock-friendly
And, fortunately, the circulation of my nether regions is, as far as I know, fine.
But, if memory serves me correctly (which it seldom does), Muriel and I both have a funny quick in our middle fingers, where it goes higher in the middle making it less easy/more sensitive to cut the nails.
We can both be easily and literally cut to the quick.
And we both have big toes that stick up.
Yes, I think it’s a bit odd too.
She tells me: “Finding comfy walking boots has been a problem through all my walking years.”
TUESDAY 29th SEPTEMBER
Ariane Sherine‘s latest serious-but-with-a-lot-of-humour-added-in book How to Live to 100 is published on Thursday and she has found that she is already selling well in unexpected quarters. The book is already, two days before publication, at No 174 in the Cheese & Dairy section of Amazon UK.
Mind you, for several years, Amazon UK listed comedian Malcolm Hardee’s autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake as an academic textbook and could not be persuaded otherwise. Amazon UK is currently listing it as being published on 1st January 1638 and as being available at the bargain price of £45.60 (used) or ‘new’ at £995.36.
In other shocking news, my eternally-un-named friend lost her silver ring in the street in Borehamwood tonight. A search by iPhone torch and proper torch failed to find it.
WEDNESDAY 30th SEPTEMBER
Always be wary of what you say to plumbers. A good one is hard to find.
This afternoon, a plumber told me he had been doing the job for over 20 years. I told him:
“Wow! You know your shit, then.”
He heard it as: “You know you’re shit, then.”
Who knew the power of a single apostrophe?
I also got a handwritten postcard shoved through my letterbox today from the Jehovah’s Witnesses. It is a bit worrying when they do not put their trust in the Lord enough to knock on doors and try their sales pitch face-to-face.
This follows the incident earlier in the year when the healing waters of Lourdes were closed because of the risk of visitors catching coronavirus.
It is all somewhat counterproductive for the sales pitch.
THURSDAY 1st OCTOBER
I’m honoured to be mentioned disparagingly…
I got a copy of Ariane Sherine’s much-anticipated book How to Live to 100.
It turns out I am mentioned in it halfway through, somewhat disparagingly – I had been asked before publication if the reference was OK and had, of course, forgotten.
Fortunately, I am not in the index, so you will have to buy it and read it to find where my image is wantonly crushed. Which you should do anyway.
I mean you should read it, not wantonly crush me.
Charlie Brooker says: “This book will probably save your life… Unfortunately“ and it includes interviews with Clive Anderson, Derren Brown, Bec Hill, Konnie Huq, Robin Ince, Stewart Lee, Josie Long, Richard Osman, Lou Sanders, Arthur Smith, Jeremy Vine sans Uncle Tom Cobley et al.
FRIDAY 2nd OCTOBER
I slept from 7.15pm last night to 7.30am this morning and woke to the unsurprising news that Donald Trump has developed coronavirus: but he should be OK as he has long said it either doesn’t exist – it’s a hoax – or it is simply like a mild flu.
More interestingly, I got an email from Anna Smith, this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent, who lives in Vancouver. She had seen a Facebook post of mine: showing the Academic Song and Dance Ensemble of the National Guard of the Russian Federation singing “Sex Bomb”.
I REALLY enjoyed the Russian military police choir video (If only all the military could concentrate on music).
I have been having a somewhat difficult time here with the combo of COVID measures and inhaling wildfire smoke from the California forest fires (it was really bad here in Vancouver – worst air quality in the world for a bit – for ten days mid-September), then an enormous local pier caught fire… They couldn’t put that out for ten days. I was inhaling burning creosote… lovely…
Burnt California tastes way worse, though possibly we are also inhaling dead bodies too… it tastes metallic… maybe its all their cars and appliances.
The smoke has returned but it’s not as bad as it was…
SATURDAY 3rd OCTOBER
This afternoon, in a near miracle, my eternally-un-named friend was walking along the pavement in Borehamwood and saw, lying on the ground, the silver ring she had lost on Tuesday. It was about 15 or 20 feet away from the spot where she thinks she must have dropped it.
Spot the ring…
Let’s hope the luck of the British continues…
Tonight, a fascinating documentary about musical comic Robert White is being screened (and is up for an Audience Award) at the Awareness Film Festival in Los Angeles – It’s an online virtual event this year because of COVID-19.
I think I am pretty safe in saying that Robert is the only Aspergic, dyslexic, web-toed, cross-lateral, gay, quarter-Welsh, gluten-intolerant professional musical comedian in the world who made it to the final of Britain’s Got Talent and came runner-up AND won the highly-prestigious Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality at the Edinburgh Fringe.
The Autistic Comedian gives an extraordinary insight – warts and all – into what it’s like for a hyper-sensitive performer to grow up, undiagnosed, in the 1980s and 1990s, then feel his life spiralling out of control but then learn to deal with the challenges totally on his own.
It gains from the fact that director Joe Bor is also a comedy performer and Robert’s friend – so there is a unique access and insight. It reminded me of the 1997 Elton John documentary Tantrums and Tiaras, directed by David Furnish.
Both films manage to be an emotional rollercoaster with unique psychological insights.
June 1897, and as part of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, her expanding Empire lays claim to another new territory: The Moon!
Space Captain Gordon Periwinkle; the much vaunted Gentleman Adventurer (and amateur taxidermist), becomes the first man to set foot on Earth’s only natural satellite; bravely sacrificing his life on a one way trip into the history books.
The world is changed in an instant; the balance of power shifting in Victoria’s favour. War breaks out between Germany and America: the two world powers that had previously been the closest to achieving such a feat…
This is the story of the good captain’s attempt to get home, dodging an array of government assassins and foreign agents along the way; keen to use him for the own nefarious propaganda purposes.
MONDAY 21st SEPTEMBER
Writer/performer Ariane Sherine who has her latest book How To Live To 100 out next week is, like me, is trying to lose weight. She suggested we should have a competition and the person who loses least weight has to buy both of us a slap-up Christmas dinner. I have been losing weight in the last week or so, but I have a sense of impending doom.
Eternal contrarian Chris Dangerfield got in touch from Cambodia to tell me he has a novel coming out “at Christmas”, which turns out to be 15th November. He tells me no more. I feel it may be controversial. Perhaps something along the lines of an autobiographical novel about his time quitting heroin while living in a brothel in Thailand.
Never one to make things easy for himself, a brothel in Thailand is possibly the least likely place I can think of to get rid of his addictions… He now seems to be addicted to posting two-hour interactive YouTube videos from his home in South East Asia.
After reading Chris Dangerfield’s email, I checked my Gmail InBox.
The number of messages it said I had was 666.
This did not fill me with untramelled optimism.
TUESDAY 22nd SEPTEMBER
In my last diary blog, I mentioned a local man – local to where I live – who wears bright clothes, has an over-enthusiastic moustache and, according to the Evening Standard, was once convicted of killing his brother.
(Photograph by Fusion Medical Animation, via UnSplash)
Today, he was in the local Sainsbury’s with two acquaintances, none of them wearing masks (as the government’s COVID regulations decree). They were discussing with theatrical bravado how ridiculous it was to wear masks when (the three of them knew for certain) the virus doesn’t come out and become active until after 8.00pm in the evening and how other, lesser mortals than they – the ones who mindlessly followed the government’s mask-wearing rules – were just ‘sheeple’.
After reaching enlightenment at Sainsbury’s, I went to Elstree station where similar surrealism is standard. The time was 8.39pm. One of the train indicator boards said the next train would arrive in 1,082 minutes, at 1440 tomorrow afternoon, with the second train due at 1446, in 1,087 minutes. True to their eternal incompetence – even if these due times were true – Thameslink’s minutes didn’t add up.
WEDNESDAY 23rd SEPTEMBER
First World problems only seem heavy…
Losing weight is not easy.
My scales told me I had added 8lbs overnight.
But it turned out one corner of the scales was resting on a piece of lino resulting in the scales over the course of the last week telling me I was 8lbs lighter than I actually was.
First world problems.
THURSDAY 24th SEPTEMBER
My cousin Muriel told me she doesn’t enjoy the months of November and December.
I rather like November/December because the weather gets worse. I don’t like hot weather and rather like dreich days – a result I suspect of impressionable childhood days living in a council estate on a hill in Aberdeen. If there ain’t a wind in yer face and rain coming down, it ain’t proper weather.
The best days in Edinburgh, my favourite city, are late winter days just after dusk with a sea mist drifting in and the air feeling wet.
I fear California is not for me.
FRIDAY 25th SEPTEMBER
At lunchtime, I passed the local McDonald’s – local to where I live.
Their cheap ice creams may have influenced my feet.
Crying McTear (Photo by Aliyah Jamous via UnSplash)
Sitting next to each other, outside on a wooden bench, were a young couple – male and female – maybe aged in their early twenties. Both were crying silently.
They sat next to each other, not opposite each other. They both looked ahead, not at each other, their heads tilted slightly downwards.
I will never know why they were crying.
Glimpses of other people’s lives.
SATURDAY 26th SEPTEMBER
I posted a new blog: a chat I had with promoter/constantly inventive ideas man Adam Wilder. As always, I had to cut out chunks to make it a readable length. This bit got chopped and dropped:
“Death of the world if we become humourless.”
ADAM: Comedy is something that unites the audience together, it can help people to relax.
We tend to take ourselves so seriously and it can be really hard to live when we do that.
We are not living in the most easy-going of times and I think it’s important to have a bit of playfulness. It’s the death of the world if we become humourless. And there are some movements to become humourless now.
I think comedians are like modern shamens, weaving a spell with the audience, taking us in with a ritual experience.
Another weekly diary blog that’s maybe more than a bit self-absorbed. Apologies.
(Photo by 21 swan via Unsplash)
SUNDAY 30th AUGUST
For the last 3 or 4 weeks, my legs have ached when climbing long flights of stairs eg at stations. Really tiring and aching.
I had a lot of trouble getting out of the bath this morning.
But things could be worse.
My eternally un-named friend commented: “It’s a good day when you don’t have a hand grenade thrown through your window.” Something with which I cannot disagree. We think it’s a reference to the 1942 movie Went The Day Well?
As if to prove the point, both in general and a propos hand grenades, later in the day, my friend Lynn told me that (alleged) Angry Brigade anarchist Stuart Christie,whom I blogged about in October last year, died, aged 74, on 15th August. I had not noticed any obituaries at the time.
MONDAY 31st AUGUST
A couple of weeks ago, at Euston station, I heard an announcement for Inspector Sands (a coded message which means that there is a major emergency in the building).
I arrived at St Pancras station tonight and there was another Inspector Sands announcement – this time in English AND in French.
Everyone ignored it. I am still alive to tell the tale. If this happens a third time, I will be forced to conclude that the railway companies have actually been foolhardy enough to employ someone genuinely called Inspector Sands.
My yellow chum bobs in turbulent waters…
TUESDAY 1st SEPTEMBER
I had a bath this morning.
Despite my age, I try to keep mostly clean.
Also, I enjoy farting in the bath and watching my yellow plastic duck bob around in the turbulent waters.
Anyway, I had trouble getting out of the bath again, but it was not as bad as on Sunday.
I slept just over 10 hours last night and woke up 12 times needing to drink water.
Today is my mother’s 100th birthday. She is dead, of course.
Ariane Sherine’s 9 yo wished my dead mother a happy 100th
Ariane Sherine’s daughter sent me well-wishes and a design she had created to celebrate my mother’s birthday.
For some reason, she had my mother’s maiden name down as McHamilton instead of McLellan, but my mother is dead, so no harm there.
Not that there would have been any problem; she would have been very happy. Very honoured.
Perhaps Ariane’s daughter is writing a musical. I would not put it beyond her.
THURSDAY 3rd SEPTEMBER
I slept from 2200 last night to 2000 tonight with a couple of short periods awake to eat and a very large number of wakings-up to drink water.
When I woke up, l had a bath and still had some trouble getting out of it. The muscles in my legs or somesuch.
“It seems to have been a Thursday for at least eight days now.”
It seems to have been a Thursday for at least eight days now.
A friend commented on my ongoing sleeping problems: “It seems quite uncope-able with, no? Not much of a life? You seem to just have an existence of being asleep, merely waking to eat or gasping for a drink.”
But maybe that description covers a very large percentage of people’s lives.
FRIDAY 4th SEPTEMBER
July… August… September… It all merges into one…
Ah! The (in)efficiency of the NHS bureaucracy!
This morning (September 4th) I received a letter from the Kidney Man posted yesterday and written on July 29th about a July 6th chat referring to a future early August appointment. It was sent to my GP with a CC to me so I presume he also received it this morning.
In the afternoon, I had a shingles vaccination at my GP’s. Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, none of the GPs are there any more. They all work from home.
The nurse giving the injection CLAIMED it was OK for me to have, despite my recent problems – cause still unknown.
Apparently, the Shingles vaccination is not annual – it’s one in a lifetime. Of course, if it kills me next week, that would still be true.