Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Lord Snooty and chums

This is a subject that had my good blogging friend Political Umpire not sadly decided to retire from the blogosphere (we hope not forever), is one I'm sure he'd have tackled.

Earlier this year, Spouse and I got into watching Headcases - if you haven't seen it's a Spitting Image de nos jours. Celebrities and politicians alike are lampooned in a grotesque (and as befits satire) often cruel, but mostly very funny way.

So we have Angelina Jolie employing a basement full of orphans to make golden hair extensions to rival Jennifer Aniston (unbeknown to a dumb Brad Pitt who sits in his lounge watching TV), the geriatric heroes, Brad Pitt, Harrison Ford and Sylvester Stallone who face their nemesis Snakehead oldman hating Heather Mills, Dames Judi Dench and Helen Mirren who turn into chavs when off camera, and so on.

The politicians (quite rightly) get in the neck - with Gordon Brown being depicted as a grey soulless character who lives in some kind of Dickensian version of Number 10 with Alistair Darling skipping around him saying, We're Doomed, We're Doomed.

The Tories haven't got off lightly either. David Cameron is portrayed in a caring sharing kind of way, until he gets behind the scenes and turns into a twisted version of Lord Snooty who bullies poor little fag George Osborne mercilessly.

If you haven't seen it, there's more here to give you a flavour.

I only mention this in the light of the recent "Yachtgate" affair.

I have been pleased this year to see a resurgent Tory party and watch Gordon Brown flounder. Not particularly because I'm a Tory voter (actually hand on heart I'd be Lib Dem again in a flash if only they'd vote Vince Cable in as leader) - although I do vote for our local MP who happens to be a Tory, I do so on the basis that he actually gives a damn about the community I live in. The reason I've been pleased to see the Tories rise again, though, is because I don't think it is at all good for democracy when the party in power has little or no opposition. The Tory party of the 80s became out of touch, arrogant and thought power was their right. The current Labour party are in my view in the same position. So come the next election, whoever wins I want it to be much closer run, so that our next government might actually be grateful to be there and make a better fist of running the country to benefit the people who put them in power. (Ok, ok, I know that's a pipe dream, but one can but hope.)

One thing that has troubled me from the off though with the Dave and George team is they just seem like a Tory version of Blair and Brown - all smoke and no trousers. And George Osborne whom I had difficulty taking seriously anyway thanks to the fact that he shares his name with Amelia's weak husband in Vanity Fair, just seemed like a baby to me. There's nothing wrong with being young and talented in politics (didn't do Pitt the Younger any harm), but it is quite hard to take as serious contender for running the economy someone with such a babyfaced look about him.

But dear oh dear. It's much harder to take him seriously now. What on earth was he thinking when he went on that yacht? Were they at the passing the port stage when he threw caution to the winds and decided it would be a really good idea to discuss party donations with a Russian mafioso? Or worse still, was he sober when he said it? Whichever way you cut, it showed a woeful lack of judgement, which he compounded by then making bitchy comments about Peter Mandelson. Had he not done so, no one might have found out about his idiocy. And this is a man who wants to run the economy?

Arguably, it could be said he won't make a worse fist of it then the previous and present incumbents (I can't see my bank going for it if I went along, and said ok, I know I owe you billions but don't you understand, I need to spend my way out of my overdraft) - but it doesn't actually fill me with that much confidence to think that come the next election our financial future is in the hands of someone who seriously didn't twig that it was wrong to talk about being funded by a foreigner (and a distinctly dodgy one at that) till he got found out. Makes you wonder what else he's got up his sleeve doesn't it?

Vince Cable is about the only Chancellor I could feel any confidence in. Maybe I will be voting Lib Dem after all...

Monday, October 27, 2008


I do believe if you look in the centre of this particular paper today, you might find me masquerading as a dancer. I'd like to find the online version, but sadly I can't so am off to buy up our local newsagents' supplies so I can send them to all the aged rellies I possess...

Friday, October 24, 2008

It gets better...

Not only have I been a radio star this week, I've also become a top model.

Well not quite.

But if you want to know what I was doing with him.

a dress like this

And shoes like this...

Dance on over to the other blog and ALL will be revealed...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Radio Gaga

As I didn't realise that Southern Counties only keep their programmes up for 24 hours, and Pierre L kindly asked if I'd report how it went, here I am, reporting how it went.

I don't know if anyone out there has ever done a radio interview, but the few times I've done it, I've always found it weirdly surreal. One of the themes of Strictly Love is that you should dance like no one is looking. Well, when I'm doing radio I always talk like no one is listening, because actually it feels as if no one is.

SCR is based in Brighton which is a bit of a schlep for me, but luckily they have a studio at Guildford University. I've been there once before talking about the marathon book a couple of years ago, so I knew where to go, which is always a bonus when you're feeling a tad nervous (as I was).

I was supposed to be doing some work before I went, but couldn't settle to it. Spouse then rang me to ask me to bring in his digital radio as the one in his surgery was broken. Thinking I had plenty of time, I said, yes of course, then somehow it was five to eleven and I had to be in Guildford at eleven twenty. So I did a mad dash to the surgery, dropped off the radio and drove like a lunatic to Guildford, managing to arrive about ten minutes before I was due on. Nothing like cutting it fine...

Now here's where it got seriously wierd. I rang the doorbell and someone came out, and I suddenly realised that of course the production person who'd set it up was also in Brighton so no one here probably knew I was coming. After establishing which show I was on, I was shown into a little box, where there was a desk with two mics set up and a telephone. Damn I was in one of these ghastly self operating studios. Like I said in my previous post, my last experience of such a studio involved me being cut off in mid flow and missing the end of the programme.

I was told to put on the headphones and wait for further instructions. Feeling a little like I was about to face the firing squad, I did so, extremely grateful that I had been so late. It would have been horrendous to sit there for twenty minutes...

Eventually the friendly production lady said hello to me through my earphones and told me to wait till the end of the next song when Gordon Astley would speak to me.

What? That was it? I still had no idea what questions I was going to be asked, and I was panicking about how far I should sit from the mic - it said your mouth should be four to six inches away, but spatial awareness have I none, so I just hazarded a guess.

The next song was Love of the Common People by Paul Young. Have you any idea how long that song is? Nope, me neither. It went on, and on, an on....

When it finally finished, they played the theme tune for Strictly Come Dancing (big thumbs up from me in Guildford. Great great pr, linking my book indelibly with SCD in the minds of the viewers. Thank you Gordon Astley!)

I was expecting some questions about SCD, but instead Gordon asked me about what inspired the book - going to salsa classes initially, but thanks to my canny editor I changed it to ballroom dancing. I realised later I never got round to telling him the other inspiration which was Spouse's miserable experience with the nutty patient who complained about him (probably just as well, really with Spouse listening).

I got a fair amount of ribbing about my suggestion that if you're a single bloke going dancing is a great way to meet women as Gordon felt this suggested a predatory kind of behaviour, which I don't think it necessarily is. He clearly wanted me to say that Rob who starts off as a bit of a lothario gets his comeuppance, but as Rob is my favourite character I wasn't going to do that to him. In fact I'd say he goes on a bit of a journey - well I hope so anyway.

We talked about the research I'd done (missed a trick there because I forgot to say I've blogged all that on the strictly blog), and Gordon was curious as to whether anyone could learn to dance from reading the book (which was a GREAT opportunity to say if you're in Tesco's you can pick up a copy with a free learn to dance book). I don't think I could possibly claim that, but I hope the enthusiasm and love I have of dance has worked its way into the story, and that if you like dancing it will encourage you to go out there and dance like no one's looking yourself (though I can't guarantee it will bring you success in the romantic field, I do write fiction after all...)

After that Gordon wrapped it up with another mention of SCD and Strictly Love (oh how we love Gordon), and that was er - it. Friendly production lady said thank you, I said thank you, I put my coat on and in half an hour I was home.

I do know at least three people who did in fact listen, but for all I know they were the only three...

Still all grist to the mill, and it can't do any harm.

But rather a funny way to spend a morning nonetheless.

With many thanks to Gordon Astley and the team at SCR

Monday, October 20, 2008

Video Killed The Radio Star

I like doing radio interviews. No one can see me and I always imagine that there's no one out there listening...

If perchance you want to hear me prattling on about Strictly Come Dancing and booky type of things, you can by tuning into Southern Counties Radio at 11.40. (104.0–104.8 & 95.0–95.3 FM and 1161, 1368 & 1485 AM, if you're interested) I hope I will have something to say and don't say um too much. In fact I'd better not say um too much otherwise Spouse will never let me forget it. Very tempted not to take the digital radio he's requested so he can hear it, round to the surgery when I do go out...

Still charging towards the finish line, but slightly disrupted this week by the radio interview today and another very exciting development on Thursday which I will be blogging about over at the other place. Hoping I will be typing the End on Friday. Otherwise I will be in big trouble...

One of my characters is morphing into John Sergeant because I love him so much on Strictly and I love this character too. No 2 and I cheered when he got through last night.

My hero is still stalwartly remaining Richard Armitagish, though David Tennant has popped up distractingly at times, so it's probably just as well I'll have finished this BEFORE I see Hamlet. Much as I'd like to, I can't have ALL my heroes being David Tennantlike.

I was pretty braindead at the end of last week thanks to the effort of flinging so many words on the page. I was figuring they must be all rubbish, but then I got a brochure through the post from The Globe and there's an article about the way Elizabethan playwrights did that, so I felt much better. I am unfortunately a Leave It To the Last Minute kind of writer. But that doesn't matter. Because as it turns out, so was Shakespeare, and it hasn't done him any harm...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

An interview with me...

For anyone interested, the lovely people at Trashionista asked me a few questions...

You can find it here

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Galloping to the finish

Am a little bit time poor to say the least at the moment as a combination of pr opportunities (expect to find me all over the internet opining about Strictly Come Dancing shortly), and a fast approaching deadline means blogging is falling by the wayside.

If anyone is remotely interested I shall also be waffling on about same on BBC Southern Counties Radio on Monday at 11.40. You can tune in at: 104.0–104.8 & 95.0–95.3 FM and 1161, 1368 & 1485 AM, and their website is here. I'll be in their Guildford Studio on the other end of the line, and hoping not to have a repeat of my very first radio experience when I was in a self operating studio at BBC's Portland Place studios, trying to defend why I was promoting horror novels to teenagers to a bunch of Christian Fundamentalists. Someone pulled the plug when I was in full flow, and by the time we got reconnected it was the end of the programme. Most disconcerting. Generally speaking though, apart from a slight concern that I might ramble onto much (chatty, qui moi?)I really enjoy doing radio as it is nearly impossible to imagine that anyone is actually listening to you, which makes the whole thing quite liberating.

As a result of all this I haven't got round to mentioning the financial crisis, but I'm finding it's worming its way into the wip instead, which means my book will be dated before it's even come out. Hmm. Some heavy pruning needed there at some stage, I'd say.

All I would say though vis a vis Icelandic banks (and due sympathy to those who invested in good faith), is that it seems to be the common consensus among my friends in the Know (and I would hastily say here I know nowt whatsoever about how the city works) is that the interest rates they were offering were Too Good To Be True. Since I learnt that all I can think of is The Real Hustle, a programme much beloved by self, Spouse and the sprogs. If you don't watch it, they end every episode with this salutary warning, If it seems to good to be true, it probably is. Quite. Wish someone had mentioned that to the powers that be at Surrey County Council...

Anyway to keep you cheerful amidst all the gloom and doom, I thought I'd post here something which according to a friend in Singapore is doing the rounds on Wall Street.

If anyone has difficulty understanding the current world financial situation, the following should help....

Once upon a time in a village in India , a man announced to the villagers that he would buy monkeys for $10.The villagers seeing there were many monkeys around, went out to the forest and started catching them.The man bought thousands at $10, but, as the supply started to diminish, the villagers stopped their efforts.

The man further announced that he would now buy at $20. This renewed the efforts of the villagers and they started catching monkeys again.Soon the supply diminished even further and people started going back to their farms.

The offer rate increased to $25 and the supply of monkeys became so little that it was an effort to even see a monkey, let alone catch it! The man now announced that he would buy monkeys at $50! However, since he had to go to the city on some business, his assistant would now act as buyer, on his behalf.

In the absence of the man, the assistant told the villagers: 'Look at all these monkeys in the big cage that the man has collected. I will sell them to you at $35 and when he returns from the city, you can sell them back to him for $50.'

The villagers squeezed together their savings and bought all the monkeys.Then they never saw the man or his assistant again, only monkeys everywhere!

Welcome to WALL STREET.

Friday, October 10, 2008

For Persephone (mainly)

And anyone else who wanted a glimpse of David Tennant in doublet and hose...

Reviews that I've read of LLL have been (rightly) positive. Came across one which described DT as "mercurial" - yup, that's a word I'd use. I also wanted to compare him to quicksilver but couldn't find the right sentence - and noticed a reviewer of Hamlet saying the same. Definitely definitely more then just a Time Lord (if indeed that was all he ever was...)

And then I found this...

I have to say DT sitting in that tree was one of the highlights of the play. Be still my beating heart...

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Competiton winners...

I've been that over excited about seeing DT in the flesh I shamefully neglected to mention that over at Rob's blog the competition winners have been announced. My thanks to everyone who entered, and especially to Rob for hosting. If you haven't gone trundling to his blog before and are interested in all things tv, I can thoroughly recommend it as a diverting way of passing the time and (in my case) a big big reason to procrastinate on a daily basis.

Talking of which, had better stop doing the same. My characters need me!


Monday, October 06, 2008

Love's Labour's Lost

We've just had an incredible weekend. Thanks to the offices of a very good friend Spouse and I went away without the children (a treat enough in itself) to Stratford to see Love's Labour's Lost. LLL isn't a play I'm familiar with, and it could easily feel like not going to the main event, namely to see the wonderful Mr Tennant in Hamlet (which fortuitously we're also going to do in December). But it wasn't at all. If anything, I think on Saturday I had one of the best theatre experiences of my life.

It's a long long time since I've been to live theatre (apart from taking the sprogs to musicals the last couple of years, which is an entirely different experience.) This is mainly because theatre going and small children aren't very conducive, but also because living just outside London as we do, your lovely theatre experience can often end up utterly miserable thanks to the stress of getting home late at night. (I can remember one miserable trip to the Barbican with my parents many years ago, which involved us arriving at the theatre by the skin of our teeth and having a mad dash across London to get the last train home. Any enjoyment of the play had completely dissipated by the time we got home.)

However, having visited the Globe twice in the last year my latent interest in seeing Shakespeare live has been revived, and now the sprogs are old enough to see plays like A Midsummer's Night Dream, I was determined I was going to get us all there this summer. For a variety of reasons (ok, one, I didn't realise how quickly it would sell out) I failed dismally, but the two big ones are coming to Hamlet, and next year I am going to get to the Globe if it kills me. Particularly after having my appetite for the Bard whetted in such a wonderful way.

The RSC are currently treading the boards at The Courtyard Theatre, as their main theatres are under redevelopment. As this is a temporary venue, from the outside it looks like one of those corrugated iron warehouse where they store lockups with dead bodies in them. Anything less like a venue for seeing great theatre couldn't be imagined. But once inside all such worries are put to rest, because it is a wonderful fabulous, intimate space for theatre. It's also in the round, so you have people appearing from your left shoulder (DT did exit stage left of us at one point, sigh.), which I always enjoy. There's something about Shakespeare who frequently teases the audience about the artifice of it all, which lends itself well to be being shown in a small intimate setting like this. You feel almost as though they're doing a private show just for you.

And what a show it was.

I didn't know this play at all and toyed with reading it before I went, but a) I ran out of time and b) I thought it would be more interesting to go and see something where I didn't know the end, which it was.

Love's Labour's Lost isn't performed very often, and I can see why, because in a way it feels like a work in progress, as if our Will was in a hurry and said, Here, haven't quite finished it, but put it on tonight boys and I'll tidy it up for tomorrow. Without giving away the ending, it almost feels as if there's an act missing, though Berowne does make a joke about a year (which is the deadline the men get given) being too long to fit in a play. And the subplot though very funny feels as if it's tacked on, and could quite easily not be there.

The joy of this play though, to me was in the language, which is dazzling and brilliant and you wonder how on earth the actors all manage to say the lines without tripping over the words. The great thing about this performance as well was that it was incredibly accessible. It is very easy to watch Shakespeare and glaze over from the effort of trying to understand what is going on. I don't usually have that problem with plays I know, but I certainly have done with ones I'm less familiar with, and Spouse was sure he'd miss half of the references. We needn't have worried though, because without exception the cast delivered the lines so clearly and concisely it was impossible to miss the meaning.

I did find it rather distracting to watch lovely Mr Tennant at first, not just because he is just as lovely in the flesh as he is on Dr Who, but mainly because it is quite disconcerting to see someone you know so well in one role doing something so completely different. However, he is such a consummate actor, after a bit I stopped thinking I was watching Dr Who acting with a Scottish voice, but seeing Berowne. I was actually a little worried that he might not pull it off, but I needn't have been, because he was brilliant, funny, sexy, quixotic, and for the rare serious speeches he had to give he held the audience in the palm of his hand. Without a doubt he is one of the finest actors of his generation and it was an absolute joy and privilege to watch him in this.

Having said that, Love's Labour's Lost is not the David Tennant show. It really feels like a group effort. Nina Sosanya who played Rosaline really lit up the stage every time she was on it. You genuinely felt she and Berowne were meant for each other and the rather odd ending left me deeply frustrated for them. Kathryn Drysdale better known (by me anyway) as Louise in Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps and a hilarious turn as a chav in St Trinians, was a huge revelation as she was funny (expected) but showed a depth I wasn't expecting. Definitely a talent to watch that one. The funniest character was undoubtedly Joe Dixon as the Spanish count, Armado, who preened and pranced his way across the stage and brought the house down when he came on playing a guitar, but Oliver Ford Davies was also hilarious as the pompous schoolmaster, Holofernes, and Ricky Champ was a memorable Costard.

The cast all seemed to be really enjoying themselves and the whole thing felt like a glorious joyous romp (well it did till you get to the odd ending, but that's Shakespeare's fault not theirs.) Time was when you went to the theatre, you used to only clap at the interval and at the end, but this felt like an audience participation event, in that the funniest moments were applauded wildly, without the thing becoming a riot.

LLL is a gloriously rude play and the sight of the milkmaid churning the butter, to Armado saying, "But I loooo-ooof her" will stay with me for a very long time. I also really enjoyed the masque where the men pitch up disguised as Russians (no I don't quite know why either!) and the women all pretended to be one another to test their love - David Tennant in a red beard doing a cossack dance was one of the highlights of the show, particularly when he put on a Borat accent.

We sat outside in the interval even though it was raining - but as I said to Spouse it was such fine rain, it felt like theatre rain, so wasn't real. It just felt magical and wonderful to be there.

Afterwards we tottered round the corner to an Indian (surreally called Thespians) and ten minutes later the whole cast walked past, though Spouse neglected to tell me he'd seen David Tennant till he'd gone by, so I only glimpsed the back of his head. You wouldn't really see that in London. Nor would you be able as we were, to totter back to our hotel and be home in ten minutes. As a theatre going experience, whatever you go to see, I'd recommend seeing it in Stratford, and am just trying to work out how I can wangle another trip...

And as an experience of seeing Shakespeare, I'd have to say that Love's Labour's Lost has to rate as one of the funniest plays I've ever seen, and my most magical theatre experience. Ever.

With grateful thanks to lovely friend who bought us tickets and looked after the children. No greater love doth a friend have etc etc. You've restored my faith in human nature.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Strictly Love Competition

Just a reminder that the Strictly Love Competition ends tomorrow!!

You've got to be in it, to win it!

Details are here