Sunday, August 31, 2008

Heavy black storm clouds over the mountains, the first in months, a few droplets of rain and a lot of thunder though I haven’t noticed any lightning. Have brought in the garden furniture though just in case because, as sure as God made little apples as my sainted mother used to say, if I don’t it will pour down. Hope Douglas on the high seas is enjoying his journey. He has another four hours to go. That is if the boat is on time. The anti travel sickness chewing gum has probably been brought in to full effect! Whether it’s the stormy weather or not the sky is suddenly full of swifts and there are long lines of them settled on all the electric wires around the house. It’s like Hitchcock’s Birds. I think they’re swifts, could be house martins, could just be swallows, black with white breasts. I’m no ornithologist so I wouldn’t know one from t’other. Whatever they are I only hope they’re feasting on the mosquitoes while they’re here and before they continue their journey south which I presume is what they’re doing.

Mention of Hitchcock made me think of film and watching Arsenic And Old lace the other night before Douglas left for Athens. Both of us felt on renewed viewing it wasn’t quite up to the high marks we originally gave it and our leading man certainly gave a consistently one note performance – high and hysterical. However, we also felt how good it was to have a dialogue scene sans music and, when music was used, how it was background music and discreet, not the thumping great noise we now get in movies. Every budding film director should watch Arsenic And Old Lace and learn how to use music in film to advantage without going over the top. I come back to my constant complaint of not being able to hear dialogue because of the way music and sound effects are used these days; also of course the fact that so many modern actors don’t know how to use their mouths – not to talk with anyway.

Having problems with my server (always at weekends) so this will have to wait until the computer genius sorts it out or greciannet comes back into service.

Sunday – back on line. The storm passed us by but evidently the chewing gum was used!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

At dinner the other evening Jenny Urwin asked me what I was reading at the moment. The conversation at some point will inevitably turn to books as she is an avid reader. I usually have three books on the go: one beside my bed, one for the loo, and one in the conservatory cum dining room. That one right now of which I am halfway through is Peter Ustinov’s delightful autobiography Dear Me first published 1977. We have the Penguin edition and I have no idea how long it has been on the bookshelf or even where it came from and the only reason I started on it was because one of our cats, Betty by name, has a habit of finding the strangest, usually high up, places in which to hide herself to sleep and a short while sago, and only for a while until she found somewhere else, it was a bookshelf above a door. In jumping up there she knocked down half a dozen paperbacks, one of which was the Ustinov biography. I picked it up and thought, well, let’s have a go at this and am thoroughly enjoying it, so thank you Betty.

Apart from the wit and the beautiful writing (one can imagine Ustinov speaking) it is full of little nuggets, especially as far as the theatre is concerned. For example I didn’t know that the South African, Leonard Sachs who I worked with on television actually started the Players Theatre in London, a place we visited so many times when we lived there; that is until they had to move to new premises which had none of the atmosphere of that tatty old barn of a place underneath the arches. I seem to remember one visit, maybe two, and then for us the Players and so many wonderful evenings was no more.

Something else which struck me was, if I am allowed to quote, “It must be understood that the British theatre of the period was beset with distinguished elderly actors and actresses who were determined to be liked by the public even if they were playing totally unsympathetic characters …. The audience was beset by little signals from such performers, signifying that although they had just killed their wives or husbands on the stage owing to the exigencies of a particularly silly script which only the difficulties of the times had made them accept, they were not really like that in life at all.” Why this observation struck a chord with me was because, when I first arrived n England in 1953, there were two shows I wanted to see; one was Porgy And Bess and the other was The Innocents starring Flora Robson. Both came off a day or so before my ship docked. I thought Miss Robson a wonderful actress (the opinion changed when I saw her on film playing Elizabeth l) and I sent her my very first play The Rive Of Sand. It came back with the cryptic note “what would my fans think if I played a woman like that”! I still, even after all these years, cannot understand what she objected to in the character of a strong, sympathetic religious Boer woman. Perhaps Ustinov has given me the clue. He also has some wise observations to make about critics with which I wholeheartedly agree.

This book would make a marvellous present to any drama student about to step out into the big wide unjust world.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Spent last evening going through hundreds of programmes: theatre, opera, dance, music, UK, Continental, American, (I even have one South African one – Henry lV Part l, University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg) all the shows we have been to or been part of, almost fifty years worth, in order to separate mine from the rest. This is because there are actors in photographs which will go into my biography whose names I simply do not remember. Not only that but there are plays I don’t remember. For example, there is a photograph of me sitting on a couch with two ladies, one young and beautiful, one middle aged and, yes, to be gallant, still beautiful. Who were they? Over the years one has worked with so many many people it is impossible to remember them all. I did know the photograph was from when I was at The Theatre Royal, Northampton, but the play? Well I knew I would be reminded of it if I could see the programme and, yes, the play (though I still have no memory of it whatsoever) was “The Bride Comes Back” by Ronald Millar and the actresses on the couch with me were … yes … well now … One character was just called A Young Woman so that would have been Caroline Maud. I played the part of someone called Jason Kilpatrick but there are two female Kilpatricks in the cast so would the older actress be Janice Edgard or Judy Child? I honestly don’t know. Aha! Turning the page I discover a photo and yes, it was Judy Child playing Isabel so that sorts that out.

I see the next production advertised was “Cinderella” in which I played Baron Hardup, a good ten (David Lyn) and twenty (Lionel Hamilton) years younger than my two stepdaughters and really hardly old enough to have sired Cinderella but that was life in rep.

It was really interesting going through them all, stopping every now and again when curiosity took over; a whole lifetime of theatre working and theatre going and so many thespians who have since departed to join the heavenly hosts acting in the sky. I wonder if God gets house seats. Most of the critics of course will have gone to the other place and serve them right.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

B stands for Big. B stands for beautiful. Big is not necessarily beautiful. It might be impressive but it can also be very Boring. Started to watch the final ceremony of the Olympic Games and what can I say about it that I didn’t say about the opening ceremony only this time with knobs on and, after 28 minutes to be exact, we were both of the opinion that this was Boring – note the capital B and we switched off. Maybe it improved after that, who knows? Who cares? Maybe it wasn't boring for those in the stadium but it certainly was watching it on TV

Another week gone. This time last Sunday we were thinking about going to Fanis and Eleni’s wedding at the rather posh Perle Hotel on the Akrotiri. Like the Olympics it must have cost a small fortune. There is a tiny chapel in the hotel grounds that holds nobody so everyone was gathered in front and the priest did drone on for ever and ever amen. Orthodox church services: sometimes I wonder if the pappas is paid by the minute and the longer he drones on the more he makes before he closes his holy book, discards his vestments and heads off into the heavenly sunset. It was a heavenly sunset as well. This was the second wedding we attended at the Perle. The first was a Born Again, happy clappy one and did not take place anywhere near the chapel but in a lengthy side room in side the main building and was just as boring in a different kind of way with the parson, minister, or whatever they call him, a regular young jockey jock such as seen on American TV. In both cases though the brides looked beautiful and the food was simply marvelous. There must have been twenty or more main hot dishes, a dozen salads and a dozen or more desserts plus trimmings like crisps and the honeyed pastries the Greeks are so fond of, and the wine kept a coming. Naturally the meal had to end with tsigouthia (raki) in traditional Cretan fashion after which a lot of people got up to dance, beginning with rock, ending with Greek, or supply themselves with exotic cocktails. Like I said, cost a small fortune, not in the Wayne/her class of course but I should imagine that, like the Olympic ceremonies, their’s might have been a wee bit on the boring side. Big is not necessarily better. I wonder what London might be planning to top both the Greeks and now the Chinese? London will be bankrupt for the rest of the twenty-first century I reckon.

So what with Jannis’ memorial service in the morning and the wedding in the evening, all Douglas needed was a Baptism in the afternoon and he could have had a completely Orthodox day.

Friday, August 22, 2008

George Leybourne, aka Champagne Charlie had a song titled There’s Nothing New Under The Sun, or The Same Old Thing, the chorus of which went

It’s the same thing over again,

The same thing over again,

As the world goes round it will surely be found,

The same thing over again.

What brought it to mind was something I read in a book A World To Build by David Kynaston about the rebuilding of Great Britain after World War ll surtitled Austerity Britain 1945-48. So what George was singing about in the nineteenth century, is applicable to the twentieth and to the twenty-first as far as the Labour Party or New Labour, which is exactly the same as old Labour, is concerned. Witness: (If Mr Kynaston will allow me to quote. If I am breaking copyright here Mr Kynastan I apologise.) ‘Nor was a society seemingly pervaded by pernickety, pettifogging bureaucracy any more attractive for a veteran Fabian.’ And ‘The whole world is full of permits and control of people.’ Fast forward to the 21st century and what have we got? More of the same only much more so. It would seem that socialism is a mindset that believes unless the state can control every aspect of your life, it is not doing what it is meant to do, that and voting more loot for themselves.

Should the Conservatives win the next election as it seems likely they will (surely the electorate won’t be insane enough to vote Labour in again) instead of worrying too much about reducing all the taxes Labour has burdened the country with, (starting with elf and safety, yooman rights and the compensation culture and making judges, like Solomon, use their common sense) they should set about getting rid of all the pervasive pernickety pettifogging laws Labour has brought in in the last ten years. Taxes then will sort themselves out and all those little piggies can get their snouts out of the trough.

How is it that on an island like Crete where the equivalent of council tax depends upon how much electricity you use and is a fraction of what people have to pay in the UK, rubbish bins are empted twice a week, Monday night and Friday night (it used to be Wednesday as well but there has had to be some economising) and these is no nonsense about how or what you put in the bin or where you bin should be or any of the other pettifogging restrictions that seem to have come in since we left the UK ten years ago, accompanied by fines of course if you don’t obey them. And you pay through the nose for it.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

What does one say about the Baxters because they are going to read this and, as sure as God made little apples, if they were to be aware of what we truly think of them their heads would grow to twice their normal size and I for one would hate to be the instigator of such deformity. An evening at the Baxters for barbecue, conversation, laughter, and fun has so far (superstition creeping in here) been a blazing 10. May it continue to be so. (superstition mollified).

There was an extra face yesterday evening, Inez’s friend, Columba (hope I’ve spelt it right: my spell-check gives me unbia, ombia, ombo, umbic and umbus – the last two definitely wide of the mark) and the food preparation was evidently a shared experience – Columba doing the pork souvlaki, Lucy did the beef and Nina did the chicken, Inez cooked the potato dish and delicious it was. I only had a taster supposedly still being on diet. James as usual did the barbecuing.

Late in the evening a tiny head appeared above the terrace steps and the body of a rather fine looking cat followed. There was some souvlaki left over so Ursula, being the generous and sentimental soul that she is, threw a chunk a fair distance. The cat grabbed it and fled back to the steps. A moment later the head reappeared. This happened a number of times, each time the cat gathering its courage to move a little closer until finally it sat happily, tail wrapped around its legs, only about two feet from the table and only tended to shy away if a hand went too close to it. It really was a beautiful animal and Lucy named it Jeremy. Douglas finally got close enough to confirm it was a Jeremy and not a Jenny and, as some of the conversation had been about the works of Steven Sondheim, starting of course with Sweeney Todd, of which Nina seems to remember an awful lot despite none of us being enthusiastic about the movie, the cat ended up as Jeremy Sondheim, a moniker he should be proud of.

There, 350 words and not a single one about how we feel re the Baxters. Aren’t I a geniarse?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Spent an hour or more this morning sitting in the doctor’s waiting room in Xania. Finally decided to do what Chris has been wanting me to do for a long time and that is to have a thorough check-up. Well that was certainly started as we left her office with no fewer than six pieces of paper and headed for the IKA building in Souda. I was very glad to have Douglas do all the enquiries as his Greek is certainly better than mine and when I am spoken to in Greek I can tend to get a wee bit confused. Directed to that part of the building where all the medical bibs and bobs happens, a charming lady who spoke perfect English said we could see the cardiologist immediately and the rest of the tests – X-ray, kidneys, liver, thyroid, prostrate and goodness knows what else could be on Sept 2nd. So up to the second floor we went and to room 22 where, on Douglas knocking and opening the door, we were faced with Dr Billy Goat Gruff seated behind his desk and with, until our entry, nothing to do.. Very naughty for a cardiologist to be at least three stone overweight which maybe is why he is a Billy Goat Gruff. At least there was no hanging around for an hour here although there were a number of people in the corridor but obviously not for him. It took him a while studying my IKA book and the doctor’s note for him to agree that okay he would do as she requested and yelled “Eleni!” at which I was ushered into the next room and the administrations of the charming Eleni, after the doc himself had listened to my heart for quite a long while through his stethoscope. Eleni plastered my chest, arms and ankles with all those multiple electrode things. “Breathe normally,” Eleni said, ‘and don’t move.’ We were then ushered back to Billy goat gruff to read the resulting tape. Would you believe that, apart from a couple of hiccups at the start, my heart was, as Gary would say, as sound as a bloody pound! It couldn’t have been beating at a steadier rhythm. There’s nothing wrong with your heart said Billy Goat Gruff and ushered us out. He is the second cardiologist to come to this conclusion, the first being at the Xania hospital when I had that dose of pneumonia. I think what they mean is there is nothing needing drastic treatment so it’s just a case of continuing with the Tildiem – twice a day according to my good but naughty lady doctor. Just as BGG is three stone overweight, she smokes. This is a country of smokers, that’s for sure. Didn’t notice whether BGG does. We popped straight across the road to get the stuff with the prescription but did not buy the blood pressure thingy the doctor recommended – not at over 90 euro! And then home, starving hungry. It’s been a day for medical treatment. Douglas has just gone back into Xania with Betty the cat with her wretched skin infection. Hopefully she won’t need any more treatment after today.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Douglas has gone to church. It is the 40 days memorial service for Jannis. Chris is still in Athens and I was not feeling too well and didn’t think I wanted to sit through three hours of Greek Orthodox service in what will be I am sure a crowded church (if the funeral is anything to go by). I did get up early and got ready with every intention of going but the way to hell etc., etc., so Douglas carries our obligations on his sturdy shoulders.

I have absolutely no idea where the Orthodox Church got the idea that it takes 40 days for the soul to reach heaven but it is no more an outrageous belief than seventy virgins waiting in paradise for a martyr to turn up and if it gives some comfort to the bereft why worry about it? As far as the departed are concerned it is my belief they won’t know anything anyway but, should the church be correct in its assumptions, presumably Jannis’ soul is now at the pearly gates waiting for St. Peter to let him in. I still think of him quite fondly although our verbal exchanges, due to my appalling Greek, hardly ever went further than health and the weather. It was always such a cheery “Glee-en!” shouted across from their house to ours whenever he saw me on the terrace watering plant pots. That is the sixth death of an ancient in our close vicinity. Well, they all lived to a truly ripe old age and Jannis’ widow has beautiful grandchildren to comfort her and keep her well occupied. Family and home still mean a great deal in Greece.

Douglas is back and, as I thought, the church was packed. Jannis would have been well pleased I’m sure.

Friday, August 15, 2008

To Litsarda last night for the panagerie. Mary must have been well satisfied with the celebrations as there were probably more than a couple of thousand there and more arriving even as we were leaving around 12.20am. Cars, parked on either side a fairly narrow road, stretched in either direction. I ordered a pork chop and pilaffi and was glad for the pilaffi because the chop had the constituency of boot leather and after a couple of nibbles I gave it to Hillary for her dogs. Could have taken it home myself for our dogs but Hillary is well prepared and has a handbag in which to stow any leftovers. Douglas’s chop didn’t seem too bad. At least he finished it. The band, larger than usual, was terrific and of course once they started up conversation became a matter of shouting. We also had a Cretan male voice choir singing dirgelike songs (religious? More than likely) a capella, something we’ve not had before and they danced before others joined in so by about eleven thirty the dancing got really frantic. Rock and roll’s got nothing on this. So now just paid a visit to neighbour Maria to wish her many years and have been bitten to pieces by bloody mosquitoes. The problem of sitting outside under a grapevine as it starts to get dark.

Douglas all day busy typesetting the autobiography No Official Umbrella and has suggested – suggested? Nay, made three fairly substantial cuts. Two of which I agree with, one I am uncertain about. Still., he is my editor and suppose I have to go along with it. He suggests I use them in my blog instead. I might do that.

A final word on changing street names: if the money were used to combat poverty and crime instead of this infantile gesture it would help lay the foundation for future prosperity but closed minds won’t consider that.

On Star news last night a feature on British yoof on holiday in Greece. Don’t know which island it was as I didn’t catch the beginning, Mykonos? Rhodes? Wherever, it was jaw-dropping in its ugliness, so ugly it was practically obscene. Where do these moronic creatures come from that obviously between the whole crowd of them there was less brain than in a cockroach? From Great Britain of course. Yobbishness wasn’t in it, both from the boys and the girls; it was beyond yobbishness though maybe it was the inebriation that made them so tongue-tied. Ya …well … ya… you know… ya … now waggle your arse and do a bit of mooning for the cameraman. If this is the new generation of Brits god help that poor muddy little island as one of my nephews once called it. Ugly ugly ugly and shame making, which brings me back to crime. The yoof of Britain from what I can gather, not only from the newspapers but from friends who live in high crime areas (are there any that aren’t these days?) seem hell-bent on stabbing and shooting each other and, by accident sometimes, killing innocent bystanders while the older generation howl about knife culture and what can be done about it. Looking at the pictures on Star last night I would venture not much. Now Crete is a knife and gun culture. There is a whole street in Xania dedicated to the manufacture and sale of knives of every description from tiny blades to practically machete size There are probably more guns on Crete than in the whole of Greece and, it is true, they are sometimes used on a human target but, surprisingly, not that much and wounding or death by stabbing grabs headlines. Now how come the difference I wonder. Is it drugs? Drugs are a problem everywhere. Maybe on Crete the lack of violent crime (except for drug induced or sheep-stealing!) is because gang culture isn’t a part of society, not that I am aware of anyway. The Cretans on the whole are a very honest lot. When we first moved here nearly eleven years ago the only time the Cretans were said to lock their doors was during the olive season when the Albanians were here. I remember once in Xania going into a chemist for something and finding the shop empty. I called and called and no one came. I could have taken drugs, I could have robbed the till (she was next door having coffee with a friend) but instead I just walked out and went elsewhere. There are no shortages of chemists in Crete. Since those days, with the huge influx of foreigners, not just British, crime has increased tenfold including break-ins which is a great shame, and now doors are locked at night though, even with that increase, it is still a relatively peaceful and low-crime place in which to live.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

When my friend John Lewis told me the municipal authorities in Durban were going to change all the street names I couldn’t believe it but apparently, despite an Afrikaner trying to legally stop them, they have gone, or are going, ahead with it. Now the whole world is aware of what the non-white population of South Africa had to go through during the dark days of apartheid but do we really need a street named Hero Of The Struggle? Or one named after some Marxist? Che Guevara, Castro? The whole idea is totally idiotic simply from a cost point of view in changing street signs, let alone the amount of mail still addressed to the old names, or even addressed to the new names, that’s going to go astray, let alone taxi drivers who won’t know one street from another, the cost of printing new town maps, changing telephone directories, the cost of new business stationery, chaos reigns and for what? Durban is less than two hundred years old if we take its beginning with the 1820 settlers and it is now iTekweni in the province of QuaZulu-Natal. It boasts of being a wonderful holiday resort (it certainly did used to be) but from everything I hear from South Africans it is now one of the most dangerous cities in the world. If any member of the municipal bigwigs cares to contradict me let him do so. Don’t they realise that unless law and order is restored all hopes of a truly thriving tourist/holiday industry is so much wishful thinking. So what do they waste their money on? Changing street names simply so they can crow I’m the king of the castle, you’re a dirty rascal, look who’s the baas now. Change town names by all means, change provinces even, but even with cities that have their names changed it can be a bit of a waste of time. Think of St Petersburg, changed to Leningrad, now back to St Petersburg. Volgograd was once Stalingrad was once Tsaritsyn. Countries have their names changed and in watching the Olympic parade I couldn’t help but marvel that there were at least a dozen countries we had not only never heard of but didn’t have a clue as to exactly where on this globe they could be. Greece has been having its running name squabble with Fyrom claiming Macedonia and the Greeks virtually saying over our dead bodies. Though one doesn’t immediately come to mind I suppose there must have been wars started over a bit of name calling. “What’s in a name,” Shakespeare said, “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Obviously not to the bigshots in Durban. I wonder what Rapson and Fleming Johnson Roads, once our homes in Durban, are called now.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Yet again homosexuality raises its controversial head as it appears the dear Archbishop of Canterbury has got his knickers in a twist, that is he has got half the Church of England’s knickers in a twist over his views. It seems that some eight years ago he wrote two letters in which he stated he thought a faithful same-sex relationship could be equated with a heterosexual one. Note: it has to be faithful as though all hetero ones by definition are. Well, of course, adultery is a sin be it homo or hetero. Homosexuality has always been with us and always will be, as much a part of nature as anything else. It might not be considered normal, whatever that means, but it is not unnatural and every generation will produce its quota so why not just accept the fact? (Goethe – How can you call anything in nature unnatural?) but I suppose homophobia goes along with it and it’s not just the religious (God hates fags!) who get their knickers in a twist. The Emperor Justinian banned homosexuality because it causes earthquakes. A group of Greek lawyers screamed blue murder at the very hint that Alexander the Great was gay. The Medieval church abjured a certain king to give up sodomy and evil practices lest he bring the wrath of God down on the kingdom. The king in question, once every schoolboy’s hero, was Richard The Lionheart whose statue stands outside the Houses of Parliament and whose lover was the Dauphin of France. It wasn’t that though that worried the clerics so much as the fact that Richard was into matelots in a big way. (No being faithful there.) A monster by the name of Mugabe thinks homosexuals are worse than dogs (dogs are wonderful creatures even if they do have some rather disgusting natural habits) and in Iran a gay can still be sentenced to death for being what he is.

In his commentary Lord Tebbit agrees there is nothing new about homosexuality or homosexual priests and that most people these days would say ‘so what?’ He then goes on “over the thousands of years since the books of Deuteronomy and Leviticus set out the code of ethics on which Christianity was founded, our western society has been built on the basic, but vital, institution of family.” Why is it that when Christians start sprouting morality and ethics it’s always always about sex and why do they always revert to the Old Testament and never mention the New. The Old Testament can be made to say exactly what you want it to say and if there are matters in it to which you object you can just ignore them. Under Sharia law stoning is still a punishment for adultery but good Christians wouldn’t dream of using it. It’s there in the Bible though, so why not? Because these books were written by ancient Jewish scribes, warts and all, and have very little relevance to today’s world. Neither does all this fuss and palaver over the Archbishop’s personal views even if they may be too liberal for some conservative tastes.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Watched the opening of the Olympic Games in Beijing last night: amazing technology, amazing performances, amazing spectacle and all in a way rather frightening. Take note Mr Cock-up Bush, America is not the super power she used to be. There is a giant on your horizon and the giant may not always lie sleeping. You think Iran is a problem? North Korea? Afghanistan? Iraq? Jihad? Hopefully soon Mister Obama may take the place of the present incumbent and this planet will have a few more years to go before we’re all blasted out of the water or die in a miasma of shit. Irreverent and irrelevant thoughts watching this amazing spectacle: One – how many degrees of global warming were added in those three hours, let alone the hours of preparation and rehearsal? How much carbon footprint? No doubt statistics are already being drawn up as to the financial cost that spreads not just from the games themselves but out to thousands of travellers and athletes flying in by plane from all over the world, so how much fuel would have been used? What amount of electricity had to be generated? One might even query the number of silk cocoons that went into making the material for the literally thousands of costumes. Actually those thoughts are not irreverent and irrelevant but these are – Firstly, how on earth is London going to beat this and pay for it? The United Kingdom will disintegrate and fall apart, bankrupt, that is if it’s not already heading that way. Secondly, there are just too too many people. Despite the 30000000 killed by Stalin and the 2000000 odd killed by Hitler, despite the victims of the Japanese in World War ll, despite those killed by Pol Pot and massacred in Rwanda and various other hot spots, there are still far too many people. Thirdly – this was just a thought, if someone had dropped a bomb into that stadium last night, they could have got most of the world leaders in one go, Bush, Putin, Sarkosy and the others. Notice Brown wasn’t there but he is hardly in the same class as far as influence is concerned and I read he is to attend the closing ceremony. Come to think of it I didn’t notice Blair and Cherie either. What a wasted opportunity for some really terrific publicity and I am sure they could have got someone to stump up for their air tickets, no?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Last night with Douglas and the Baxter family to the park cinema to see Sweeney Todd, or the dog’s breakfast Mr Burton made of it. What, in my opinion, was wrong with the film? Practically everything. Let’s start with the pace. The screaming factory whistle and opening chorus, attend the tale of Sweeny Todd, was cut. This is a truly “let’s get on with it” number that sets the whole menacing pace of the demon barber of Fleet Street. If you can explore the streets of Victorian London you can explore its inhabitants and they would make up the chorus. Oh, what Mayhew characters the camera could seek out. Instead though we have a sailing ship moving sedately along. Sailing ships aren’t exactly known for speed, except maybe the clippers, and we have Anthony singing a slow ballad, I have sailed the world, beheld its wonders so that was the pace that was set and, at times it ground down even slower, so slow it was only a few seconds above boring and almost walkout time. But the opening chorus wasn’t the only song cut. Anthony and Joanna’s delightful duet went but that was possibly just as well because when, whoever the girl was playing Joanna, did attempt a song, the result was embarrassing. If ever there was a total no-talent, this definitely was it. Other songs were truncated, for instance when Mrs Lovett tries to tell Sweeney her idea for getting rid of Pirelli, such a nice plump frame, she gets to the tag, oh good, you got it before he’s even has time to digest what she’s on about. Just a shade above Joanna’s attempt was the performance of Miss Bonham Carter. We are talking about dull, boring, expressionless, dead behind the eyes acting here. Was this directorial or did Miss Bonham Carter really not have it in her? Where oh where was the humour Mrs Lovett obviously had. Only a woman with a sense of humour could have fun, macabre though it may be, singing a song that combined murder and cannibalism, naming the various bodies that will go into her meat pies. And why oh why did we have to see them as they were named, starting with the priest and then continuing with the rest. What we should have been looking at were the pies – this one contains priest, (hold it up) this one contains shepherd, (point to it) this one contains, lawyer, this one contains marine, this one contains fop, etcetera. I presume Mr Burton just didn’t trust his audience to know what was going on. No, I’m afraid Miss Bonham Carter for me was just too awful for words though I have to admit the Baxter girls said they thought she was jolly good! Maybe it was the panda black eyes that swayed them. As for the rest of the cast they all seemed somewhat subdued, even Mr Rickman (wasn’t he brilliant in Robin Hood?) and Timothy Spall as the beadle. I’m not too sure about the boy who played Anthony. I want to give him the benefit of the doubt but somehow he just seemed to miss. I did like the boy Toby except in the end his hair should have been snow white from shock. Pirelli wasn’t nearly funny enough considering who was playing it. And so we come to Sweeney himself. I am a terrific fan of Johnny Depp, a truly talented and imaginative actor. I’ve loved every performance of his I have seen but this time I’m afraid not. Too young and too light and no amount of mood lighting was going to create the menace that should have been his. Even the wild slashing of Judge Turpin when Sweeney finally gets his revenge was counter-productive.

I also grew a little bored with Mr Burton’s repetitions, for instance the pulling back from windows and the reflections in the razor. How many times did we see that, four? Five?

No, all in all a musical of brilliance by Mr Sondheim gone for a Burton. Such a shame.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

A few days ago a glowing Douglas full of the highest praise handed me a book saying I simply had to read it; he just couldn’t put it down. Well I keep picking it up and putting it down; have got to page 75 and truly wonder if I’m going to make it to the end. I hate starting a book and not finishing it but I guess there are some that fall into the unable to finish category and this might just be one of them. It comes with obviously universal critical acclaim, e.g., The Guardian –A novel of breath-taking scope, masterfully told.

Daily Express – A weighty novel worthy of universal acclaim. Woman & Home – Quirky, engaging, and beautifully written. Well I will agree with that first word “quirky.” Quirky it most definitely is. If I read another truly weird adjective pinned to a noun I think I’ll … How come I can’t go along with Douglas and the critics? Is my wavelength so totally off beam that I simply can’t tune in to this guy? I’m all for style, I’m all for imagery, but this in my humble opinion is bordering on the ridiculous. Once upon a not so long ago stream of consciousness was all the rage, theatre of the absurd was all the rage, at least with the critics, maybe this is a new type of writing. You write quirky little paragraphs (can’t really call them chapters) with funny little headings, you write funny little sayings and put in funny little drawings and put truly quirky adjectives in front of your nouns and all the critics will say, “Wow! This boy is a fiendish genius!” Well, as it is my current loo book and I only need to look at it for minutes at a time (unless it truly grabs me) I shall persevere and if, when I come to the end, (presuming I do reach the end) I have changed my mind I will write and say so but so far the omens are not good. The book in question just in case anyone’s curiosity has been aroused is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Is this boy for real? He must be, there is so much work involved, but I can’t help feeling I’m experiencing a passing vision of the emperor’s new clothes.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Just finished reading John Grisham’s first book. A Time To Kill and was fascinated to see in his introductory note that it was rejected by sixteen agents and twelve publishers and it wasn’t until later success that it was taken up. How on earth could it have had so many rejections when it is obviously a page turner? Well it’s certainly been a page turner for me. I suppose you could put it in the same category as the Hollywood magnate (who was it, Sam Goldwyn?) who, when offered Gone With The Wind said, “Who’s interested in the civil war?” Does any book get a go-ahead first time round? Considering 120000 books are published in English every year I wonder just how many hundreds of thousands are submitted.

CD of The Double Deckers songs as reissued by Cherry Records landed on the doorstep last week. Now on this recording four songs have lyrics by Glyn Jones with music by Ivor Slaney but is my work earning me any royalties? Is it hell! As far as I can gather the only money being made is being made by Cherry Records. It was purely by chance I learnt of this and the big question I have to ask is where is the protection supposedly supplied by the laws of copyright because without a word from me they have gone ahead and published my copyright work and I will get nothing for it and needless to say I resent it. Whatever deal Cherry Records made with whoever, it obviously completely excludes everyone who supplied the original material. This is simply not on but as the Greeks say, ti na kanoume, what can we do? Well, we will have to see what can be done, if anything.

On a different tack I really should have taken early advice and changed my name. I was young, egotistical, I felt my name was me and I saw no reason to change it. I never realised at the time Glyn Joneses would come crawling out of the woodwork at the rate of knots, quote a few of them I get muddled up with, my work credited to someone else, someone else’s work credited to me. I see a Glyn Jones has written blogs about creationism and fundamentalism. I plead not guilty to that one. Twas not me, your lordship, though I guess my thoughts on the subject may be similar. Guess the mix-ups will all come out right in the end – allegedly And, if there are so many and the name is so common, how come mine is misspelt so often? On the original Double Deckers album I’m listed on the credits as Glyn Johns! At least Cherry Records has got my name right if nothing else.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Continuing the Noah’s Ark saga …. What, for instance, If it were one of the giant anacondas that ate the possums on the way and stopped for a snooze so both possums and anacondas missed the boat? Thirdly there was the problem of feeding once on board, particularly the carnivores of which there were a great many both large and small. How did old Noah manage it? Prepacked meat? And tons and tons of fodder for the vegetarians and loads of nuts and bananas for the apes? A modern container ship couldn’t hold the amount required for forty days and forty nights, let alone keep it from going off if not refrigerated. What stopped them from eating each other? That’s what nature is all about, eat or be eaten. And just think what came out the other end, the amount of waste all those creatures would have produced! By the time the boat was beached on Mount Ararat, if beached could be the right expression for parking on a mountaintop, it must by then have been a veritable ex-floating cesspit. There simply would not have been enough hands or time to get rid of it all, and one solitary pair of dung beetles, or even a few different species of dung beetles and a pair of bluebottle flies, supposing they had made it, would have been totally inadequate. Yet there are people who still believe that all that lives in this day and age are descended from that little old ark; the animals, the reptiles, both venomous and otherwise, and the insects and the birds and, of course, Noah and his family, all making their way back to their original habitat to start all over again!

There are still people who honestly and fearlessly and despite all evidence to the contrary, believe the earth is flat. Say no more.