In a recent, rather self-indulgent blog, I lamented the fact that I don’t have surreal dreams. Mine are relentlessly and disappointingly realistic.
For almost all my life up until I went into hospital in 2020, I only very very rarely was aware of any dreams. I think this was because I went very quickly into deep sleep, then woke up very slowly in the morning.
I only remembered dreams – and only very rarely – if I was suddenly woken up from a very deep sleep and happened to be in mid-dream.
For the last couple of years, I have been waking up throughout the night. I go to sleep, wake up after two hours dehydrated in my mouth, drink some water, go back to sleep… then wake up dehydrated in my mouth every hour throughout the night. So I think I never really go into a deep sleep.
Last night, I was in a lot of searing pain – at the base of the spine, in my left hip and down the outside of my left leg. But I did manage to get fairly long patches of sleep which meant that, when I woke up, for the first time in a couple of months or so I actually remembered my dreams.
Last night, there were two narrative dreams coming and going throughout the night.
In one, I drove to a small, isolated English village in the middle of nowhere up a narrow back lane, where they were celebrating some sort of pagan festival. Not in any Hammer Horror way… just because it was a tradition in their village.
They were generally very amiable people though a shopkeeper ignored me when I was trying to pay six pence for a giant Aero chocolate bar. He kept interacting instead with sundry people connected with the set-up of the pagan festival.
I had arrived at the small village in a bright red Toyota Corolla car I used to own. It was a very vivid red in my dream whereas all the other colours – of the people, the village, the vegetation, the sky – everything – were muted, dull browns and greens and greys etc. It looked as if it was dusk the whole time in the village; but the Toyota was bright red.
In the other dream, I was finishing up at work in some large hall and a group of four men dressed in blue came in and started performing their variety act which involved leaping about, singing, dancing and generally trying to be visual and entertaining.
They just arrived unannounced and were auditioning for me on their own whim. I had never seen them before. They were auditioning for some TV show. They didn’t announce themselves when they arrived and, when they finished, they just left without talking to me.
Later, they came back and there were more of them – about seven or eight – men and women – and I was suggesting to them that the act possibly wouldn’t work on television because sometimes acts which work well live (and are therefore viewed in 3D) don’t work in 2D on a TV screen.
They took it all very well, it seemed.
Both the village dream and the variety act dream progressed in chronological narrative chunks throughout the night.
I would be having the dream, wake up, go back to sleep and the dream would carry on narratively progressing.
So at least I am again having dreams which I remember, which must mean I am getting into deeper sleep which is welcome, though I could do without the pain.
Sadly, I am still not getting any truly surreal dreams; they are all relentlessly realistic – very physically and visually detailed.
Like many dreams, this blog has no satisfactory ending.
ROBERT: So, when I moved to Scotland, I thought: I’m taking that name! It’s sort of similar to mine and the thing about that book is it’s about doppelgängers. So I thought: My persona is going to be my evil twin. He’s going to do the stuff that I don’t do in real life.
Now read on…
JOHN: I am not in any way a performer. No talent; no interest in doing it. There is a different mindset between performers and writers, isn’t there? I’m not remotely a performer. I can’t ad-lib fluently in spoken speech, whereas I can write I think fluently quite quickly.
ROBERT: I don’t want to be truly me performing on stage; I want to be a character. I think I can just about hold my own in terms of fast thoughts, but what I can’t do is play the character at the same time. However, in Stern Plastic Owl and my other books, I think I CAN do that.
JOHN: So, when you were a stand-up, it was character comedy…
ROBERT: Not like Alan Partridge. It’s like what I said about ‘Robert Wringham’ and the doppelgänger. I want this clear line between the real me and what I’m showing, otherwise it’s not actually a creative act. I don’t want to go out there and just talk. I want to have a character and that was why I was not very good as a performer. I couldn’t really do that.
The way I’ve found round that problem is to do these books.
JOHN: By and large, I don’t like character comedy because, in television, I got typed as a finder of bizarre and/or eccentric ‘real people’. So I know there are loads of eccentric or even just slightly unusual people out there – well, most people are slightly unusual – and they are really interesting. So why should I watch someone pretending to be eccentric or unusual when they are not? – They are just analysing someone who isn’t themselves and fabricating a character to hide behind.
Charlie Chuck is not a subtle character study of a real type…
The closer a character act is to being real, the less I’m interested. The more ‘cartoony’ they are, the more I’m interested. Charlie Chuck springs to mind. Charlie Chuck (real name Dave Kear) is not a subtle character study of a real type of person.
ROBERT: One of my favourite comics is Harry Hill (real name Matthew Hall) and a lot of people don’t really think of him as a character comic although he is. You could not be like that in real life. I assume Matthew Hall at home is going to be nothing like Harry Hill.
JOHN: Yes, he’s a cartoon character – in a good way. I think really good straight stand-up comedians on stage are themselves, but slightly heightened versions of themselves. And then there are the OTT cartoony-type ones. But stand-up ‘character comedy’ tends to be just wannabe actors showing off their abilities, not performers who inherently have that odd ‘comedian’ gene.
I also don’t particularly like slow-speaking comedians. If I pay to see Jerry Sadowitz, I’m getting value for money in the words-per-minute, but slow comedians, by-and-large, I think: Just get on with it! I never liked Jack Benny. Too slow. Although, oddly, I liked George Burns.
ROBERT: To me, ‘slow’ is the ultimate cool because it’s the opposite of… When you’re nervous on stage, you go fast. A slow-speaking comedian instills a certain confidence in the room. You think: Oh! This guy knows what he’s doing! He’s going to slowly reveal the routine. It’s also very funny: almost as if they don’t care what the audience thinks.
JOHN: I guess maybe George Burns felt more Jewish to me, which I like. Jack Benny was maybe less ‘American Jewish’ humour.
ROBERT: My partner is Jewish and Jewish is a big part of our shared life. In my secret mind, ‘Robert Wringham’ is Jewish, though I don’t tend to talk about it on the page. My favourite humorists are all Jewish.
JOHN: So what’s next for you after Stern Plastic Owl?
ROBERT: I’m working on my novel. It’s almost done.
JOHN: Tell me it really IS about sitting in a bathtub and it’s called Rub-a-Dub-Dub…
ROBERT: Yes! It is!
JOHN: A lucky guess on my part. What’s the plot?
ROBERT: I think ‘plot’ is old hat. So, instead of going wide with a plot, go deep. It’s about the conscious state you have when you’re in the bath. You’re nostalgic. You’re thinking back. There’s this time machine effect. You’re thinking back to you childhood. So that’s what my guy in the book does. He’s remembering things, thinking of his worries, thinking on his body. There’s a lot of stuff about the body in it.
There is something called phenomenological writing, which is just the real nitty-gritty of what surrounds you. You’d be surprised how you can make that interesting.
JOHN: As I speak to you, I am looking at a squeezy pink double decker bus standing in front of a painting of a nun sitting in front of a station/cathedral. What is phenomenological writing?
“I am looking at a squeezy pink double decker bus standing in front of a painting of a nun…”
ROBERT: It’s really old. It’s a French thing. For example, Georges Perec did one where it was all in one building, but it was into the nitty-gritties. So he’d be talking about the design on the carpet for ages and going into the shagpile of this single room or the individual books in the bookcase and what they were. And it would all be in the service of something: like This is the character of the person who lives there. But it would be really deep into the nitty-gritty.
You would think: That can’t possibly be fun to read. But, actually, it’s really entertaining and interesting. What I’m doing and what Georges Perec did is playing it for laughs.
JOHN: I remember reading George Eliot’s Middlemarch and wondering why she went into such detailed descriptions of people’s houses… until I realised the descriptions were actually also descriptions of each householder’s personality. The houses personified their occupants.
This blog bit is just pure self-indulgence…
You were talking about dreams earlier on. I’m interested because I have an unidentified medical problem. I used to sleep soundly and deeply and never remembered my dreams. But now I haven’t had a full night’s sleep since June 2020 – I wake up literally every hour and, of course, sometimes I wake up in the middle of a dream. I always wanted to remember my dreams because I assumed they would be surreal but they’re not. The dreams I have are very realistic not surrealistic. They have narrative storylines running through them. I am disappointed. You sound like you have better dreams.
ROBERT: Mine aren’t stories at all. If I do something very repetitive during the day – like doing the washing-up – that’ll end up in my dream. Repetitive things go in. Embarrassingly dull.
JOHN: I don’t seem to have nightmares. Do you?
ROBERT: No. And, if I do write things down in my notebook, it’s always things like Stern Plastic Owl. I DID once write down Stoat: Hospital with a colon between the two words. I can’t even begin to imagine what that means.
JOHN: I can only dream of having dreams which are that weird.
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.
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.
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.
I try to go to sleep at night but it takes a bit of time. Then I wake up after two hours, go back to sleep and then wake up again every hour all the way through the night.
My normal abnormal.
Fortunately, I have not had serious vertigo (which I first had in January) since 1st June…
…until a couple of days ago.
In the afternoon I was feeling a bit unsteady. It was as if my brain were padded with suffocating cotton wool but I was also lightly swirly inside my head. So I went upstairs to my bedroom to lie down.
When I did lie down on the bed, it was as if the soft brain tissue inside my head started whizzing round-and-round in a circle, faster and faster, parallel with the pillows… like a bicycle wheel or a fairground ride whizzing round and round, faster and faster, parallel with the ground but with centrifugal force trying to spin it off out of control and out of my head.
I was able to stop this by lying on my left side not my right side, with my left ear on the pillow instead of my right ear; and by sitting up.
Around teatime, I was standing vertically again, so OK and went out thinking fresh air might help, but was a little wobbly inside my head, as if my brain were telling me it was not altogether in total control of how my feet worked nor safe controlling my overall balance.
I went to bed around 8.30pm and got to sleep around 12.50am, then woke up around 2.50am with my tongue, the roof of my mouth, the insides of my cheeks and my throat all parched totally dry – no lubrication, no liquid of any type anywhere. And I woke up once every hour through the night with the same thing, having to drink water to stop the parched mouth.
So, as I say, back to my normal abnormal.
Going to the toilet, I was a little unsteady on my feet. Going from my bedroom door to the toilet door, I pass the top of the stairs and, for safety, made sure the ends of my fingers touched both the edge of my bedroom’s door frame and my toilet’s doorframe, just in case I toppled into the gap between and fell down the stairs.
Swings and roundabouts, though.
There are the dreams.
For most of my life I went to sleep very fast at night and slept soundly, waking very slowly in the morning. What this seemed to mean in practice was that I was never aware of having dreams. Perhaps once every six or nine months if I was awoken in mid-dream by something like a noise or whatever.
So I think back then, because I went into deep sleep quickly at the start of the night and took a long non-deep-sleep time to wake in the morning, I never remembered dreams.
I always wished I could remember my dreams, because I like surreality.
Now, waking up virtually every hour throughout the night, I sometimes do remember the dreams. But they are not surreal. They are realistic, narrative and linear.
Swings and roundabouts.
Perhaps now, when I’m awake, it feels surreal. And, when I’m dreaming, it seems real.
The kidney doctor is phoning me tomorrow.
Their latest guess is it might be renal sarcoidosis but, as this has been going on for around fourteen months – since at least June last year – that’s just another guesstimate to explore.
I have not had a single full night’s sleep since June last year.
That’s over a year ago.
The calcium and the kidneys are to blame.
Last night, I woke up from a three-hour sleep on the floor. It was 11.43pm. I went to bed to sleep ‘properly’ after that.
I slept for two hours. Woke up. Then went back to sleep and woke up every hour – extremely dehydrated – until 7.40am this morning. That’s my new normal.
I’m still slightly woozy-headed. Brain meandering.
Until last June, I never really remembered any dreams. Only rarely. Now, because I wake up every hour throughout the night, I sometimes do.
Just before I woke up for the final time this morning, I was dreaming that I was skateboarding with Paul McCartney round the corridors of some university student accommodation building.
Paul McCartney had slowed down to talk to someone who had picked up his business card amid the detritus of a street market.
I only ever fleetingly encountered Paul McCartney twice – once when, for some forgotten reason, I was giving comedian Charlie Chuck a lift down to the Brighton Pavilion where he was booked to perform at a birthday birthday or Christmas show thrown by McCartney for staff of his London-based company MPL (McCartney Paul & Linda).
Neither Chuck nor I knew exactly where the Pavilion was in Brighton (this was before the time of GPS smartphones and Google Maps).
We decided to ask the first random person in the street walking past our car. It turned out to be Paul McCartney, ambling along, alone, on his way to the venue. This was well after the shooting of John Lennon in New York, but McCartney was clearly very relaxed walking alone in the street.
The other time was when he performed on the TV show The Last Resort With Jonathan Ross, on which I was a researcher. The shows were transmitted live from Wandsworth in studios owned by Keith Ewart, a former Swinging Sixties photographer who tended to wander round the place with a pet bird – I think it was usually a parrot – on his shoulder.
Since I started remembering my dreams, reality often seems more surreal than dreams.
It turned out that Paul McCartney’s manager, who was there in Wandsworth that night, was Richard Ogden who, as a younger man, had interviewed me for a job when he was head of some division of United Artists in London. I remember he wore no shoes and had his feet up on his desk. It was a different era. I was just about to leave college.
I did not get the job.
Later I heard that, a few months AFTER the interview, Richard Ogden heard from acquaintances what I was like and said he would have given me the job if he’d known.
I have always done bad job interviews because I make a bad first impression. Most jobs I got through word-of-mouth or, a couple of times, because I had failed an interview about six months previously and they couldn’t be bothered advertising/interviewing when that or a similar job became vacant again.
I never re-introduced myself to Richard Ogden that night in Wandsworth.
Years ago – it must have been 1995 – I was also interviewed by newspaper legend David Montgomery for a job on the not-yet launched Live TV channel, a tabloid-style British TV station owned by Mirror Group newspapers which ran from 1995-1998. They were looking not just for people but for programme ideas which would ‘hold’ viewers.
I don’t think he was particularly interested in me but he briefly perked-up when I suggested they could run live coverage of a sex-change operation over a whole week with reports before, during and after the op.
This never made it to the screen and I never got the job, but it was clear I was at least thinking in the right area as the programmes they did transmit included Topless Darts, the weather forecast read in Norwegian by a girl dressed in a bikini, Tiffany’s Big City Tips in which presenter Tiffany Banister discussed the financial news while stripping to her underwear… and Britain’s Bounciest Weather in which a dwarf bounced on a trampoline while giving the forecast. If he was forecasting about Northern Scotland, he bounced higher on the map.
There was a lot of weather on the channel.
Live TV failed, but David Montgomery did not. In 2012, he formed a newspaper group called Local World which was sold in 2015 for £167 million.
Now (among other things) he owns the former Johnson Press Group of around 200 UK newspapers. This was valued in pre-internet days (the 1990s) at over £2 billion.
He bought it in 2018 for £10.2 million.
In 2005, The Scotsman alone had been bought by Johnston Press for £160 million.
Whereas most newspaper groups have been trying to fight the online world by centralising newsrooms and resources, Montgomery claims he wants to make his papers more specifically local and less filled with generic material. He is also chairman of Local TV, the second largest local TV company with nine UK licences.
It will be interesting to see what happens because, basically, no-one knows what is happening in any business at the moment – not just as a result of the internet but as a result of the still as-yet not-really-finally finished Covid pandemic.
Who knows what the future holds? Life seems to get increasingly like an OTT movie script.
I’m still slightly woozy-headed. Brain meandering.
I have not had a single full night’s sleep since June last year.
In my last diary blog I mentioned that, as I am not seeing my NHS Kidney Man again until next February – and as the Ear, Nose & Throat and Calcium blokes he suggested are but mere possibilities in a bureaucratic future mist – I was thinking of seeing my Chinese herbal doctor. Pricey but value for money.
I asked my friend Lynn what she thought. She suggested I should pursue the two misty-futured NHS blokes to gee-up the bureaucracy and not go to Chinese doctor – or, at least, do both. Try the Chinese path AND certainly try to gee-up the NHS. But I can’t be bothered, NHS bureaucracy takes its own sweet time, even if it kills you.
MONDAY 26th OCTOBER
“Wrongly mistaken for anxiety or nervousness”
In my last blog, I also mentioned that my tendency to witter is sometimes – wrongly – mistaken for anxiety or nervousness whereas it is simply mindless wittering.
After reading this, comedy uber-fan Sandra Smith emailed me:
Re your blog and anxiety. I can see how you could present as anxious, having seen a couple of videos of you being interviewed. Your speech speeds up without pause and you constantly fiddle with your ears. If the the interviewer is female, a slight self consciousness creeps in.You appear much more comfortable as the interviewer.
Mmmm… Interestingly, I’m not nervous being interviewed. In fact, I always did badly in job interviews; I think because I never got nervous so came across as being over-casual and therefore potentially unreliable! I have never noticed the ear thing. Must stop that.
In fact, what I thought was: “If the the interviewer is female, a slight self consciousness creeps in”… Oo-err. What’s that about? and Is that a good or a bad thing?
TUESDAY 27th OCTOBER
All this came after sticking out my tongue…
I saw my Chinese doctor at lunchtime. As always, he took my pulse and asked me to stick my tongue out at him. That’s Traditional Chinese Medicine for you.
I think the theory is that the tongue is the only internal organ which you can see externally and so its state – cracks in it etc – reflect the state of your body.
He thought my sleeping and dehydration problems are connected with my kidneys – in fact, in the 1990s, he said I would have kidney problems in the future.
I got a month’s worth of tablets and made an appointment to see him again on 24th November.
WEDNESDAY 28th OCTOBER
In yet another reference back to my previous blog, the NHS Track & Trace mobile phone app again sent me two too-fast-to-read notifications – A COVID alert followed by a message saying it signified nothing.
I also got a message from my eternally-un-named friend.
She told me she had been crossing a pedestrian bridge at Canary Wharf, looked down and saw a group of skimpily-clad people in a hot tub sailing by.
“The weather was dry but chilly,” she told me. “There was a little fire in a front funnel, so I guess that must have been heating the water inside the tub.”
I was left fairly speechless. So was she.
Not a normal sight in the waters of Canary Wharf, London, in the chilly late weeks of October…
THURSDAY 29th OCTOBER
I never used to remember any of my dreams until this recent calcium/kidney problem which has resulted in me waking up 8-12 times every night. So the world of dreams is new to me.
“…gushing water, tumbling down towards the platform…”
Last night, I dreamt that I was rushing to get on a plane at an airport and the escalator down to the departure platform – Yes, platform… It was a narrow platform like a railway platform with tracks on both sides – the escalator down to the departure platform was covered in gushing water, tumbling down towards the platform.
What on earth was that all about?
FRIDAY 30th OCTOBER
This probably won’t be happening until 2022.
I had another disturbed night of waking up pretty much every hour with a totally dry mouth, my tongue almost sticking to the inside of my mouth… made more entertaining at one point by simultaneous hiccups and heartburn… That’s potentially an hour-long Edinburgh Fringe show there. I have seen worse.
Online, there was the news that the Edinburgh Fringe will probably not be back properly until 2022 (its 75th anniversary) as the COVID pandemic effects will still be screwing-up things next year.
SATURDAY 31st OCTOBER
Chris Dangerfield: “How much of what he said is printable?”
For a forthcoming blog, I had a Skype video chat with sometime comic, always controversial raconteur Chris Dangerfield, who now lives in Cambodia. How much of what he said is printable is something I will have to grapple with.
He told me I looked well.
Clearly he is not a reader of my blog.
Boris Johnson precipitated a surge of toilet roll buying…
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that, to try to slow the recent surge in coronavirus cases, England will go on a second total lockdown from next Thursday for a month (November 5th to December 2nd).
I thought it was probably bad PR for him to announce this on Hallowe’en, the precursor to the Day of The Dead… and to start the lockdown on Guy Fawkes’ Night, which is about blowing up Parliament.
When I went out to a supermarket later, it was obvious that, as in the previous lockdown, a sudden panic-buying of toilet rolls has started, which makes no sense – the coronavirus, as far as I am aware does not result in diarrhoea and there was/is not a shortage of toilet rolls. Come to that, there is a wide variety of alternatives to toilet rolls – kitchen rolls, newspapers and small furry woodland creatures.
The COVID-19 effect: devastation in the toilet roll section of Lidl supermarket, Borehamwood.
A bit of glamour, showbiz and crime… always popular in blogs
This blog is usually described as a “comedy blog” but perhaps oddly – perhaps not, given the eclectic bunches of readers and followers I have – the blogs which consistently get big hits are ones about crime and subjects other than comedy.
In fact, the two which have consistently, steadily got hits are:
Clearly, I must have been doing something right in 2015. Which is possibly confirmed by the fact that, in the last two or three months, the above two have been joined as consistently hit blogs by another May 2015 one:
Someone suggested to me that renewed interest in this one might have been stoked by the spate of pulling down statues linked to the Black Lives Matter movement. But it seems to have lasted beyond that.
THURSDAY 10th SEPTEMBER
My sleeping pattern seems to have returned to weirdness…
My sleeping pattern seems to have returned to my New Normal.
Waking up 10 or 12 times a night with my mouth and tongue parched totally dry.
Today, I managed to get on two wrong trains because my mind was not paying attention.
Intending to get on a train to Greenwich at Blackfriars, I managed to get on what I feared might be an express train to Brighton. Fortunately, it stopped at East Croydon and I was able to get back to Blackfriars.
All these names mean nothing if you don’t live in the UK so, suffice to say, later in the day, I got on another wrong train. Very confusing.
In the evening, I saw the movie TENET, which continued the confusion. I wrote about it HERE.
The UK law (or is it only the English law? Everything is confusing) now requires cinemagoers to wear COVID masks throughout all movie screenings even when social distancing is adhered to.
The reality was that, once inside the cinema and seeing that everyone was socially distanced, Most people lowered their masks.
This made no scheduling, audience or any sense (Photo by Levi Stute via UnSplash)
FRIDAY 11th SEPTEMBER
I had a dream in which I was attending the rehearsals for a live 2-hour peaktime TV variety show.
The rehearsals for the show were being screened live at 8.00pm on broadcast television and later, the actual show itself would be transmitted live.
This made no scheduling, audience or any sense of any kind. And the live broadcast rehearsals were going badly.
I have no idea what this was about but, then, for the last few weeks, every day feels like it is a Thursday.
And I don’t even know what specific feelings define a Thursday.
SATURDAY 12th SEPTEMBER
I was walking along a street in North West London with the 9-year-old daughter of a friend of mine when an old lady who looked a bit the worse for wear approached us.
“I don’t want anything from you,” she said. And then started telling us what she had been doing that day.
She got as far as a couple of sentences and “My daughter was supposed to transfer money into my bank account today, but…” when I felt it was better to move on. The whole incident took maybe 45 seconds.
The 9-year-old seemed slightly unsettled and I thought she was going to say I should have given the old lady some money (though she hadn’t actually got to the point of asking)…
But, in fact, the 9-year-old had been very unsettled by the incident.
“That is the third time I have seen that lady,” she explained. “The first time was near here (in North West London) about three weeks ago… Then I saw her a couple of days later in East London… and now I have seen her again here… She looks like a witch.”
I tried to reassure her but a new weirdness has become the New Norm.
Anything is possible.
“I tried to reassure her but a new weirdness has become the New Norm. Anything is possible.”
HIM: In an extraordinary – sorry ‘unprecedented’ – turn of events I have become busy! How you coping? I’ve been quite glum….
ME: Sorry to hear you have been Glum, presumably in the Jimmy Edwards pater familias role. I am a nihilist, so the world this year seems just ticketyboo and SNAFU, surely those last three words deserving of a lovable Noel Gay type London knees-up song.
HIM: Your nihilism has cheered me up and my excessive laziness reduced such that I have sent 3 emails today.
We are, truly, living in the time of coronavirus.
MONDAY 24th AUGUST
I am back to waking up 10 or 12 times every night with a bone dry mouth and have to drink water. Sometimes, this means I wake up in mid-dream.
Political problems in Belarus… I woke up too soon to help
Last night, I woke up and, for some reason, I had been talking in my dream to an Egyptian general who was working for a female Russian President who was having a television programme made about her. Lurking in the background watching all this was a rather aged Melina Mercouri – the Greek actress of the 1950s and 1960s – with staring eyes. I was talking to the Egyptian general about the escalating political problems in Belarus…
…and then I woke up.
Belarus will, unfortunately, have to do without my input.
Jo Burke – now a wiser woman after interviewing me
TUESDAY 25th AUGUST
Last Thursday, I was interviewed in the back garden of a Blackheath pub by performer Jo Burke for her upcoming series of online podcasts. She kindly said there had been ‘a technical problem’ last Thursday, rather than a case of interviewee incoherence.
So we had a second attempt this evening, via Zoom. It should be more physically editable but was no less incoherent. I should perhaps have warned her I am a terrible interviewee and should definitely have researched my own life before we started… I could not really remember the order in which things happened in my life nor how they came to happen.
Comedian Malcolm Hardee had the same problem when he wrote his autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake. Perhaps his problem was even worse. He could not remember in which DECADE things had happened let alone in which year.
Immediately before his book went to press, he remembered he had once been arrested by the Special Branch when he was found on a high window ledge outside prominent Cabinet Minister Michael Heseltine’s hotel room. He (Malcolm) was naked apart from a raincoat with nothing in its pockets but a pack of pornographic playing cards. He had mistaken Heseltine’s room for a chum’s.
Until then, Malcolm had forgotten all about this incident. It was just another normal day in his life. We managed to squeeze it into his autobiography at the last moment.
Someone else who was in the hotel at the same time (Yes, it really DID happen) told me the eyes of the Special Branch men who interviewed Malcolm looked stunned and mystified.
WEDNESDAY 26th AUGUST
I must have woken up six or eight times last night. Bone dry
I must have woken up six or eight times last night, my mouth bone dry and needing to drink water.
Also, about halfway through the night, I woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep with hiccups and heartburn, which sounds like the title of an Oasis song from the 1990s.
It was “painful and distracting” – a phrase which sounds like an extract from a review of an Oasis song from the 1990s.
I ended up sucking on a Gaviscon, which sounds like a mumbled lyric from some Bob Dylan song in the 1960s.
The above paragraphs are what I thought when I was having the hiccups, heartburn and Gaviscon. I wrote them down.
For some reason, the heartburn made me overdose on musical similes.
THURSDAY 27th AUGUST
We are living through the end of a historic period. Facebook Friend Matthew Wilkes spotted a newspaper item which said linguist Dr Lauren Fonteyn had Tweeted that teenagers and those in their 20s, who grew up using short messages to communicate, can see the full stop (that’s a ‘period’ to any American reading this) “as a symbol of curt passive-aggression”.
I re-posted this on Facebook and comments included one from Georgina Dick:
It’s not that we’re offended and need to grow up, it’s more of an understanding of the tone you’re trying to put across. There’s a big difference between saying “OK” “OK.” and “OK .”
Promoter Alex Petty of Laughing Horse Comedy suggested:
We need to put a full stop to this!
Period punctuation unsourced.
…and the quoted Dr Lauren Fonteyn aka Lauren Bliksem Tweeted:
Apparently this is based on a Tweet I never sent or something I said to the Telegraph which I haven’t spoken to.
We are now well and truly fully into the 21st Century.
FRIDAY 28th AUGUST
Argh! Got to sleep around 8.00pm last night. Woke multiple times during the night including once with hiccups and heartburn (again). Gaviscon was chewed. Just woke up again – 10.30am – and still want to go to sleep but have to get train at 12.31 for lunch with performer Lynn Ruth Miller so about to get up, sleepy. Argh! Why did Einstein not work a bit harder and invent time travel?
That was written after 14½ hours of sleep.
I went to catch the aforementioned train. There was no barrier to go through as the main area at Elstree station was closed after rain brought down part of the roof. So it was not until I arrived at St Pancras station that I realised I had left my travel pass behind at home. I had to pay £13.50 for a one-day travel card.
Lynn Ruth – an innocent in English plumbing
Lynn Ruth Miller – an American and therefore a novice in the English language – told me she had only just discovered that a ‘tap’ in Britain is a ‘faucet’ in the US.
Coming back from our lunch, it was not until I arrived at Seven Sisters station that I realised had left my thin case and iPad in the ticket hall at Stoke Newington station.
Fortunately, alert Overground staff at Stoke Newington had spotted the case and kept it for me. Including the iPad.
SATURDAY 29th AUGUST
I was standing in the front room of my house with a female friend. We were half-watching a feature film from the 1950s on my television, which was sitting on the floor atop a low wooden frame base.
A man dressed as a spiv (Photograph via Wikipedia, Chafford Hundred, England)
Through my front window, I saw a man who was dressed like a 1940s/1950s ‘spiv’ coming to my front door. I said to my friend: “There’s a spiv coming to the door”.
She looked surprised by my use of the word. She looked out the window but couldn’t see him because he was already at the door.
I went into my front porch and he had just shoved some leaflet through the letter box.
My friend and I went back to watching the movie. She was holding a doll about eight inches high with pink hair. Not an unusual hair colour in dolls. My friend decided she wanted me to hold the top of the doll’s hair down while she coiffured it.
She moved a blue pouffe over to near the wall. This entailed turning the television round so she could still see it, But she was sitting so close to the wall by the front window that I could not get in and hold the doll’s hair.
So I got a red pouffe and put it in the middle of the room, away from the window and wall where it was more accessible – and I had to turn the TV set round again, so we could both see it. I had to lift it up and put it down because it was on its low wooden frame base.
I was about to start holding the doll’s hair down when some more people arrived at the front door. There were three of them and they tried to tell me the turf in my front garden was in a mess and I needed to buy some turf care liquid. They were obviously some sort of con artists.
Turf love – Could be better but I’ve seen worse
I said: “Oh, no no no, I like the more natural, rough look, not a highly-manicured lawn.”
One of the guys started lifting up the turf with his right foot.
Another of them was standing in the middle of my front lawn with six large – maybe six feet high – green pole-shaped things – maybe rolled turf – the girth of a small tree.
I thought I will confuse them by being surreal (something I occasionally try with cold-callers on the telephone).
“I might use some of those,” I said, “but I’m thinking of painting them. Three could be red, white and blue for Britain. Three could be red, white and blue for France. And there might be some way of working the German flag in there somehow… If I paint one black, it would be very effective. It would look very good.”
This succeeded in confusing the man who was holding the earthen post-like things.
Just before this, my friend has come out from the front room and was looking at the three men with a hint of bemusement on her face. By now it was dusk, getting quite dark, so the garden con-men went away, quite confused.
My friend and I went back into the living room.
I looked out the window and there was a man at the bottom of the garden – a supervisor who was obviously allowing salesman to come in and profer their services to people living in our square.
“…I looked at my bedside alarm clock… It was 6.49am…”
I thought this was very strange.
Then I sort-of vaguely woke up and looked at my bedside alarm clock. It was 6.49am.
I turned over and went back to sleep.
I woke up a few more times after that. On the second occasion, half awake, I drawled the details of the dream into my iPhone before I forgot it altogether which, obviously, I would have.
Possibly even more surreal was the video my friend Lynn (not to be confused with Lynn Ruth Miller) and husband Frank sent me this evening.
This afternoon, they went to watch the Brighton & Hove Albion vs Chelsea football match. It was the first UK match since the COVID-19 outbreak started that had been played with supporters present rather than being played ‘behind closed doors’. Only home supporters in Brighton.
It is certainly a weird video, ending with what sounds to me like traditional gypsy or Turkish music and then the teams ‘take the knee’ to honour the increasing number of unarmed black men being shot by the police in Donald Trump’s USA. The last one was shot in the back seven times at close range, while bending over to get in a car door.