Saturday, October 30, 2010

The wood stove in the breakfast room lit for the first time as winter approaches and it really has turned chilly, plus the fact that there have been more thunderous tropical downpours. Fortunately with Chris and Douglas back from their week in London it wasn’t up to me this time to dash about with mop, towels, and bowls. Also fortunately they were back to take care of a mini-disaster which, if it had happened when I was on my tod would probably have sunk me in doo-doo up to my neck. There I was in my bathroom late at night happily cleaning my teeth prior to bed when there was a loud bang just above my head followed immediately by a shower of water and seconds later total blackout as everything electrical fused. The others were already in bed but I groped my way to my bedroom door and yelled for Douglas to switch off the water at the mains then, with torches, he and Chris came to inspect the damage. To supply my bathroom with hot water I have (or rather had) this little electrical device, I don’t think it can be called a geyser, high up on the wall that switched itself on whenever the hot water tap was opened and it was this that for some reason suddenly exploded with that loud bang and turned my bathroom into a lake. Except for a couple of sodden books no harm done of course because the water merely hit tiles and porcelain. Douglas managed to get the lights on again and turn off the tap leading to this device. (I really don’t know what to call it) then it was a matter of mopping up and since then I’ve been more or less camping out as everything from the bathroom; towel rail, bamboo table with toiletries, bathmat, etc., has been moved to the bedroom and won’t be put back until a new water heater (that’s what I’ll call it, simple really when you come to think of it, a water heater) is repaired or replaced. The latter I hope because I will now always be nervous of the wretched thing giving a repeat performance and at the most inconvenient time, that is at night when the result is blackout.
Their week in London seems to have been successful. They caught up with a number of old friends and Chris did what he went for which was to have a meeting with Moet and Chandon trying to persuade them to sponsor the launch of his book next year. Evidently it was a congenial meeting and there is a possibility they will come up with the goods – a hundred and twenty bottles of champagne which is nothing when you think of the publicity they could get as the launch is to take place at Wilton’s Music Hall, the last remaining music hall in London and fast becoming a much desired venue. Currently closed for a month or so as it is being used as a film location.
Douglas too had very important meetings and what a dramatic saga that is turning out to be! It really is a case of David and Goliath when you think he is threatening to sue one of the biggest film corporations in the world worth billions. Can you credit that? Not I have to say something to lightly embark on, but more of that at a future date. In the meantime everyone please cross fingers as he has only fired his first slingshot which has caused the opposition to stagger somewhat but there is more to come.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I write a novel in which the main character is a boy named Angelo so I give the book the title ‘Angel’ and guess what happens. Yup, you’ve guessed it a sort of sci-fi number’s just been published with the same title. There seems to be a dearth of good titles. I guess it had to happen and it isn’t the first time. There are four or five books titled ‘Dead On Time’ and at least two ‘Just in Case.’ I guess there is more than likely a ‘Dead On Target’ as well. There is no copyright in titles and so far as I know I still have two or three books with original titles, possibly four with the one I’m halfway through. Many years ago I wrote a screenplay called ‘Speed’ as it was to do with motor racing and drugs. It wasn’t made but shortly after a film of that name did appear. I am trying at the moment to rewrite it as a book, not very successfully as yet and have moved on to Thornton King #5. #4 hasn’t been published yet although I finished it well over a year ago, neither has my horror story ‘The Museum Mysteries’ so there is a backlog building up.
Big headline in The Sunday Telegraph – AT WAR – THE MEN WHO MADE LES MISERABLES A HIT.
Evidently the theatrical knights Sir Trevor Nunn and Sir Cameron Macintosh have had a bit of a falling out and are not speaking to each other? Why? Allegedly Sir Trev is in a tizzy fit because he has not been invited to take part in the celebrations for the twenty-fifth year anniversary of Les Miz , the longest running musical in theatrical history! It has played in 42 countries and been seen by more than 57 million people. I’m not one of them. I saw an extract of the show on television back in who knows when which put me right off. I remember some years ago the same thing happened with ‘On The Twentieth Century’ but when I was eventually dragged to see that I absolutely loved it. Maybe the same would have happened with Les Miz, who knows? When I was teaching in Denmark back in ‘89 one of my students was singing a lovely song,’ Empty Tables, Empty Chairs,’ and recently Susan Boyle’s rendering of ‘I had a dream’ has renewed interest in it so it should run a few more year yet.
Anyway back to multi millionaire Sir Trev, ‘There is no point in beating about the bush. We are profoundly unhappy and we feel profoundly betrayed, and we don’t understand,’ he said. (Note the royal we)
Sir Cameron who has also, by the way, had a long running tiff with that other giant of the theatre, Android Lord Webster, but with whom he now says he is once more on friendly terms, has written to Sir Trev saying ‘ your memory is as bad as your manners.’ Wow! Them’s hard words, Clem.
Sir Cameron, now 63, through the successful musicals he has produced is reckoned to be worth £635million. And to think when he was a nineteen year old unknown he came around to our house in Hackney one Sunday afternoon to listen to the songs in ‘Cupid’ and went away unimpressed. Composer Kenny Clayton and I could have been a part of that £635million. Ah, well, let us not dwell on what might have been. It was not to be and one has to accept that.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

For the first time this autumn a real chill in the evening air. The endless ads on television for motor cars have given way to endless ads on kids’ stuff, toys, dolls, games. Guess what, Christmas must be near. What, already? The ads come at such a rate of knots and at such a pitch it’s impossible to remember the games anyway, only ones you already know like Cluedo and Monopoly.
I was just thinking, if Wayne is so busy making waves, training on the pitch, actually playing in games, what time does he have left to write four (or even two) more books? The answer of course is he doesn’t. What the publishers have lashed out their millions on, like his various sponsors, is his name, an image. And talking literature, name, and image, Jane Austen whose writing has always been praised as virtually perfection itself has been downgraded with the revelation by an Oxford professor, Kathryn Sutherland, who has been studying her originals manuscripts, that her writing was actually rather awful, bad grammar and bad spelling, and her books were edited and polished up by a male editor, evidently a man named William Gifford. Oh, dear! Feminists are not going to like that.
I’m often taken by surprise by the books we have that I know nothing about or don’t remember having and can’t even imagine where they came from. Some of them of course are chic-lit, romance, and best-selling misery memoirs left by holiday makers and they’re beginning to take up quite a bit of shelf room. Question – do we get rid of them or leave them for other holiday makers to read? One of the unknown books brought recently to light, this one from the bookshelf in my bedroom, is the autobiography of the Russian actor Nikolai Cherkasov (Notes Of A Soviet Actor) a fascinating document. Cherkasov’s most famous role was without doubt that of Prince Alexander Nevsky in the film by Eisenstein. “I want to tell my reader about the creative work of the Soviet actor and acquaint him with all the aspects of our art. I want to tell him how complicated the path and show him how much of an actor’s art depends on his knowledge of life.”
Then Ray, our last guest, came down one morning all chuckles to say he had found on the guest bedroom shelves a copy of “Lord Cucumber” and “The Boy Hairdresser” by Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell, and this was certainly a book I had no recollection of ever having bought. So I immediately set about reading it. “Lord Cucumber” written in 1954, is a delightful and funny Ronald Firbank come Mills & Boon pastiche full of camp humour and is certainly chuckle making.
‘Oh, Richard,’ she said, ‘it seems that I have waited all my life for this moment. Now that I’m in your arms I feel I’ve really come home.’
Half swooning with the force of his emotions, he suddenly grasped at her hand…’
Come to think of it, if she’s in his arms, how come he can suddenly grasp her hand? Oh, never mind. That is simply nitpicking.
‘Above them the sun spread a glittering crown of light, woven into intertwisted strands of glistening gold which cast prismatic reflections upon them. A circle of mystery, widening into rings of glory.’
Jane Austen never wrote lines like that
“The Boy Hairdresser” written two years later is a very different kettle of fish, a much more straightforward and darker work.
Neither book was published in their lifetime.
Interestingly I see the copyright reads “by the estate of John Kingsley Orton (deceased) professionally known as Joe Orton.”
What happened to Halliwell?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

I just knew I should have been a career criminal. I would most likely have made a total hash of it but I could always appeal and appeal and appeal. After posting my last Blog I came across the article about the Somali so, if you will forgive me, and I will get off crime next time around, here are the wondrous details.
We do not know his name. He is referred to only by initials. He arrived in the UK in 1994 aged 15 claiming asylum. In 1996 he was cautioned for shoplifting and jailed for robbery. In 1998 he received jail terms for possession of a knife, shoplifting, dangerous driving, burglary and theft, and for burglary and theft again in 2001. In November of that year he was informed the Home Office was considering deportation. Now the fun really starts. Keeping him in prison has already cost £300000 but in January 2004 he is jailed again for burglary and in April served with the deportation order. In October he was moved to an immigration centre pending deportation and to strop him from fleeing. In 2007 he was released and he is still in the UK because here is the tag to this hilarious joke – He has had legal aid the whole time and being kept at the immigration centre cost £40000 a year. So far he has cost the country half a million pounds. But now Judges have decided he was kept in the centre illegally for two months and is in line for compensation. Not only that but to send him back to Somalia would be to breach his human rights. Forgive me if I die laughing.
But home grown criminals get younger and younger. Most unusually an E-fit has been issued, not of a murderer or robber, but of a young boy. Alden Measure, aged ten, was knocked off his scooter and kicked in the head whilst on the ground because he wouldn’t let go of his toy the other boy wanted. Fortunately a passer-by intervened and the attacker fled empty-handed. The E-fit has been issued because there are no CCTV cameras in Portsmouth Park where the assault took place. But here is the second joke of the day. If the attacker is caught and found to be above the age of ten he is liable to face criminal charges, but if he is nine he will be below the age of criminality.
Poor Wayne Rooney, the footballer who has a five book publishing deal (last heard of it it was three but we’ll let that pass) is in hot water again. It’s not his prick that’s got him there this time but his dissatisfaction with Manchester United and urgent desire for a transfer plus a raise in weekly salary of course, like £200000? Sir Alex Ferguson wants to keep him at Old Trafford. Why? He hasn’t been exactly scoring goals of late, he is at odds with the management, and he has offended his team mates by making out they are not worthy of him. Do me a favour please! No one is indispensable no matter how big their head is (or their boots) and if he stays at United I can hardly see the atmosphere being conducive to camaraderie and good football. So far evidently three clubs are in the running to take on this maverick and, if I were Ferguson, I would say welcome to him; they are Chelsea, Manchester City, and Real Madrid. The last one is out because evidently his mother in law is not going to have her Colleen go live in Spain and, if he went on his own, how long would it be before his prick got him into trouble again? His sulky antics have already been dubbed Rooneygate. Well, I suppose it makes a change from footballers’ flavour of the month which seems to be getting pissed out of your mind in nightclubs, being charged for assault and touching up the girls who do not want to be touched up, no matter how rich and famous you are, using your best line by saying ‘Do you know who I am?’ and expecting them to swoon.
All it needs now is for some joker to post on the internet the rumour that Rooney is actually gay and the shit will really hit the fan!

Latest News: Rooney apologises to team mates, says Sir Alex is the greatest person who ever lived, and signs a new five year contract with United. Phew, what a relief!

Friday, October 22, 2010

It never rains but it pours. Pours? I think a drenching would be more apt. We have had rain. Boy oh boy oh boy, have we had rain? It didn’t rain cats and dogs; it rained elephants and rhinos with a couple of hippopotami thrown in for good measure. Neither did it rain chair legs. It rained a whole bloody bedroom suite. Being on my own, Chris and Douglas away in London, I was to be found dashing all over the place (at my age?) with basins and towels as the rain thundered down alarmingly and water came in here, there, and everywhere. Thank you, farmers, but I reckon your olives now are swollen near to bursting point so don’t pray for any more rain please. Fat chance! Not that I haven’t seen torrential rain in Crete before but this time I think in a few hours we had more rain than a lot of places get in a whole year. At least it didn’t go on to be another China or Pakistan.
The lady who has received abuse and death threats after having been photographed dumping a cat in a wheelie bin and her details posted on Facebook has been fined for the offence and forbidden to have animals for five years. I think it was five. She’s still saying how sorry she is and to this day does not know why she did it except that she was depressed! Well, is that an excuse or isn’t it? The fine was quite paltry, three figures, the costs more than double.
If you will forgive me, Mister Dostoevsky I would like to continue with my dissertation on crime and punishment the word ‘costs’ triggering it off.
Kenneth Noye is not a name known to many people but he is a murdering thug. He was part of the gang responsible for the Brink’s-Mat bullion robbery in 1983 and was later charged with the murder of Scotland Yard officer, John Fordham who was keeping a watch on his house. Despite stabbing the police officer no fewer than ten times he managed to persuade the jury that he was acting in self-defence and escaped a murder charge! The following year he was jailed for fourteen years for his part in the robbery.
In 2000 he was jailed for life for killing 21 year old Steven Cameron during a ‘road rage’ incident on the M25! He fled the country starting an international hunt for him and was extradited from Spain in 1998.
He repeatedly stabbed Mister Cameron with a nine inch knife he kept in his car while the victim’s fiancĂ©e looked on in horror. At his trial he admitted the stabbing but once more pleaded self-defence. This time he didn’t get away with it. The jury convicted him of murder after the pathologist said the injuries suffered by Mister Cameron were ‘considerable and consistent with murderous intent.’
End of story? This dangerous specimen locked away for life so he won’t hurt anyone else? You have got to be joking. He could walk free in a matter of months, his case having been referred to the Court of Appeal, the evidence of the pathologist (now disgraced evidently) being considered not entirely reliable. This is ridiculous. Stab wounds are stab wounds and when they cause death the only conclusion is that it has to be murder.
A jailed Somali criminal is appealing against his deportation order at the end of his sentence. Why? Because if he is sent back home he would more than likely be executed so, no doubt, he will stay in England to continue his criminal career.
Put these appeals together with all the others made by guilty criminals appealing against their sentences and how much do you think it costs the country, ultimately the taxpayer?
A Saudi prince has just been convicted and jailed for the murder of his manservant, a relationship which evidently had sexual undertones. He was photographed on a camera in a hotel lift viciously beating the poor man who of course had no recourse in defending himself. The prince evidently thought he would have diplomatic immunity but discovered otherwise. Now, when he has served his sentence, however long or short it may be, will he return to Saudi Arabia or again will the appeals process be brought into being because, if he were to return home, he would most likely be executed. Homosexuality in Saudi Arabia is against the law. Steal chocolate and lose your hand. Love your friend and lose your life.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

When I lived in England I should have been a career criminal. I’d most probably have made a great deal more money than I have done legitimately. Mind you, this is only in the UK. Being a criminal in Iran or any other country living under Shia law can have disastrous consequences. A man who stole chocolate from a shop has been sentenced to a year in prison and to have his hand chopped off.
It has to be genuinely frustrating for the police to actually nick a criminal (as opposed to the poor motorist) only to find the judge saying naughty naughty, slap on the wrist and don’t do it again. The problem of what to do with criminals in society has never been solved. Even when prison was something to be dreaded, or worse, it didn’t stop crime. Today it would seem that prison is a holiday camp. I don’t speak from experience of course. The only time I have been in an actual prison cell was in Wandsworth during the filming of the TV “The Lost Boys”, but someone we know was sent to prison (this was before the days of the ASBO) for possession of marijuana and, after six months, came out a hundred percent fitter than when he went in the food and the amenities were so good. Now there are those who say that is the way it should be, it shows how civilised we are and how we respect yuman rights. But what about the yuman rights of those who are the victims of crime? Is that purely coincidental? Not everyone is compensated and criminals these days, thanks to the directives of the EU and yuman rights, literally get away with murder. So he was sent to prison for being in possession, a minor offence and one that is committed every day by hundreds and thousands of people. It wasn’t as though he was dealing and surely in this case a community service order would have been a more logical way to deal with it rather than have the taxpayers shelling out thousands of pounds to keep him in comfort for six months.
Evidently almost 2,700 criminals have been sentenced to community service after having been found guilty of 50 offences or more. An MP has said “These statistics show what a joke the criminal justice system has become. You have to work very hard to get to prison these days.”
Whatever happened to life sentences for murder? That’s even more of a joke. A killer is given fifteen years and on appeal it is drastically reduced so he is once more at large. Shawn Higgins, a criminal from the age of eleven was spared jail after amassing over 60 convictions in nine years. In November 2008 a judge jailed him for two years, four months, for car crime. Higgins unfortunately was released on licence after serving only half his sentence. Four weeks later he spotted a yellow MG in a driveway with its motor running. A Mrs Sankey whose car it was tried to stop Higgins, who had jumped into the driver’s seat, from stealing it but he drove straight at her, catapulting her in the air like a rag doll. She died later in hospital. Higgins pleaded guilty to various charges including manslaughter. The judge jailed him indefinitely, ordering him to serve at least six years.
Since when did indefinitely become six years? – not much for taking a life is it?

PS: And I haven’t spelt Human rights wrongly. I think yuman rights sounds better.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Blog 192

Watched the first episode of the TV series “The Island”, the dramatisation of Victoria Hislop’s book of the same name. It is in twenty six episodes. Chris and Douglas were both going to work on it, they even had the contracts, when Douglas was diagnosed and that was the end of that, but hopefully not the end of a possible career in Greek television. The opening episode was very good. Just a couple of slight quibbles. I thought Theo used the out of focus shot too much, you know, person in foreground , person in background, and whoever is talking is in focus the other one not. It alternates with each speech. I also felt he tended to drag the ending out just a little bit much. It was very moving until that old ‘get on with it’ feeling set in. The series stars our friend Stelios Mainos in the lead and he truly is an actor to be reckoned with. Chris and Douglas went to work for him in a play in Athens and I went to see it. Even with my extremely limited Greek the evening flashed by with not a moment’s boredom or not understanding what was going on. Have I contradicted myself here?
Isn’t it strange that in earlier centuries the saying would have been going to ‘hear’ a play, now it’s going to ‘see’ a play? We have became (is it because one of the reasons lies with film? orally impaired. That sounds terribly p.c. but I don’t mean deaf. As far as listening is concerned attention span for many seems to get less and less with the passage of time.
In a letter to my friend Gray Lee of Covesville, Virginia, in 1984 he was a student at James Madison and with whom I am still in touch, I was complaining that actors don’t know how to speak anymore. I know when one grows older one gets hard of hearing but I have an extremely expensive state of the art hearing aid and, even with that in me lughole, I still too often can’t understand a single word. ‘Brokeback Mountain’ is a good example of what I am talking about. Not only could I not hear a word of dialogue but the others in the household couldn’t either and they are younger than I and not yet hearing impaired (!) I’ve heard from others that they felt the same way over this movie. There is a paucity of voice classes in America which might explain some of it, otherwise it’s just sheer laziness or bad sound recording, like having the background music in the foreground and the dialogue vice versa. One of my students in ’84 asked to take voice lessons and I duly gave them. Sometime later he called to thank me. He was doing a summer outdoor pageant type of show and by the end of the second week he was the only one still with a voice. Unfortunately some English actors have succumbed to the disease and joined the mumble stumble school of acting. I can only make out one word in five from Bonham Carter.
Chris accuses me of wanting everyone to enunciate in the most exaggerated fashion to which my answer is; the film stars of the forties and fifties etcetera were totally audible without the necessity of over enunciation. Could you not hear every single word Bette Davis or any of her contempories said? I still have no trouble in hearing every word watching those earlier movies.
In answer to my complaint Gray said ‘They’re moving pictures, the dialogue isn’t that important’ in which case why do writers even bother with it?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

I don’t know what brought it to mind but the other night in bed I started to think about my really disastrous career in Yorkshire as a director of musicals for amateur companies and why I fell out with each one.
CHARLIE GIRL – Chris was directing this one but asked me to take over the dialogue scenes which I did. During a break in a rehearsal I happened to mildly remark one of the girls didn’t know her lines and she really ought to have known them by now. Back on the floor she was missing and I was told she had gone home in floods of tears and if looks could kill the tea harridans would have done for me then and there. “You can criticise but you can’t take criticism” I was told. I till don’t know how they arrived at this conclusion but the rehearsal went ahead, frigid atmosphere though it was, and with no more than about fifteen minutes or so to the finish I was ordered in no uncertain terms to stop right there, everyone was tired! Every one was tired? I couldn’t believe it. I walked out and never went near them again.
I then went on to direct a number of musicals for Ripon, ORPHEUS IN THE UNDERWORLD, CAROUSEL, MY FAIR LADY, all very successful but then I fell out with Ripon. Why? Because they wanted me to direct SHOWBOAT and I said no. The thought of all those ladies blacking up was too much. They never forgave me.
Amateur companies seem to have a habit of misjudging things. Because flavour of the month was 42nd STREET, I had a telephone call from St Ives a long way away in Cornwall saying they were going to do it and would I direct? Well I wasn’t going to go all that way if I knew nothing about them so I asked a couple of questions. Firstly how big was their stage? It turned out to be absolutely miniscule. There was no way they could do a musical as big as this. Secondly could they supply enough dancers both boys and girls who can tap? No, they couldn’t, so the project (Thank you for your information) was dropped and I didn’t go down to Cornwall for three lovely months.
WHITE HORSE INN – That hoary ridiculous old number that should have been put in mothballs fifty years previously or even more. I turned up to rehearsal one evening to find them all having their photographs taken for the programme. This was much more important than rehearsing and I sat around twiddling my thumbs. Nobody thought to tell me the photographer would be in that night and there was no point in calling anybody at any time. They were hanging around the photographer in case they might miss out and invariably if someone was called there was no one to do his or her scenes with them, and there are no monologues in a musical. They were in such bad shape that I asked them if they would do an extra rehearsal. Result? Silence, except for one dancer and the butcher who said as it was so close to Christmas he needed to dress his turkeys. That was the end of me and that particular company. I went to see the show when they eventually got it on, it was pretty bad and I hope the butcher’s turkeys were better dressed.
But now we come to my last and what a humdinger! It had to be 42nd STREET of course – flavour of the month remember, and was being produced by the Halifax Catholics. Again the big question was could they provide enough dancers? Of course they could. They could borrow some from other companies. I ended up with five girls, not the slimmest in the world, and a boy of twelve who incidentally was very good but a number like WE’RE IN THE MONEY for example requires a lot more than five girls and a boy of twelve.
The committee wanted references and I put them on to Ripon who gave a glowing account of my prowess which is how I got hired. Now before rehearsals start I do a complete breakdown of what and when is being rehearsed so that people who are not wanted can come in if they feel like it (as long as they didn’t natter and I had to keep shouting to keep the noise down) but they didn’t have to come. I’m not one of those who believes that a cast should be there all the time. The schedule is based on people’s availability. Everyone in the company gives me dates when they can come and when they can’t. Would I say it was bit of a waste of time? For example one rehearsal was specifically centred around our young leading lady involving all her scenes. She informed me at the previous rehearsal that she couldn’t make it. Why? Because a boy band was playing Halifax that night and she simply just had to be there. The cast invariably arrived late to rehearsals called for seven o’clock (“I was kept late at work.” “I had to do something or other with the baby” “We’ve been moving house and I had to supervise it”) and talk about lack of discipline! In the end ten to fifteen minutes or more lost every night amounts to a good deal of rehearsal time and there seemed nothing I could do about it. Then rehearsal one evening fell on a public holiday and I said there was simply no excuse to be late so please for once be on time. And they were; every single one of them, but guess what… the rehearsal room was locked and an hour or so later while we had been left standing around in the street the committee finally turned up with the key and they wondered why I blew my top. At the auditions there was one wonderfully cookie girl with such a personality and I wanted to cast her in a part but she insisted she only worked chorus and there was nothing I could do to persuade her. She would have been terrific but she was terrified of working solo. One good thing that saved my sanity was that I had a fabulous choreographer to work with who in the end was mainly responsible for putting on the show because, quite frankly, by now I had little if any enthusiasm left.
Dress rehearsal in the theatre came, dress rehearsal went. Amateur companies rarely rehearse more than once in a venue. Once again they hadn’t done their homework; this time it was the backstage boys who discovered when the sets arrived they couldn’t get one of them on stage. We sat in the stalls and waited while they tried to sort something out and we waited and we waited. Finally come midnight I said I was going home and I advised everyone else to do the same so we had only half a dress rehearsal. I can’t remember how it was resolved. I didn’t attend the opening night, pleaded I was suffering a cold. The local paper gave the show an excellent review, but local papers always treat amateur productions kindly. I did attend a performance in the middle of the run and had to give a few notes and a reprimand or two to those who knew better than me and had taken things into their own hands to change at times everything I had done I did not go to the last night either. Wild horses wouldn’t have dragged me there.
Before rehearsals even started we drove all the way up to Glasgow to see an amateur production of 42nd STREET in the Kings Theatre, a stage by the way on which I had many years before performed in a musical, and I was quite simply knocked out by it. It was fabulous, so much so the production and the performers could have put a lot of professionals to shame. The band was terrific; I take it they were professional musicians. And what did the committee think of it? “Ours will be better.” No, it just couldn’t be… and it wasn’t.
Sometimes amateur companies like Glasgow can really pull it off. We went to see a production of THE RINK, a show I don’t like, but boy, did they put it over, a wonderful production and again bursting with talent.
The Halifax Players were the last lot I directed. I really couldn’t take anymore. Maybe I was just unlucky with the material presented to me or maybe I was just not a very good director. (Though Ripon would gainsays that). Whatever, here in Crete I was approached to direct an amateur production of a straight play for a newly formed company but, knowing what I know about amateurs, I declined. Is it any wonder?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The farmers were saying if we didn’t get rain soon the olive crop would be ruined. I said if we don’t get rain soon the garden will be bone dry. So we got rain. My God, did we get rain! The English say it’s raining cats and dogs (what a peculiar expression), the Greeks say it’s raining chair legs (equally odd). I’ve probably said that before. I seem to have a memory of saying it anyway. We didn’t just get chair legs; we got the chairs as well. What a downpour thundering on the breakfast room roof. Fortunately it didn’t settle down for days on end as it sometimes does. It lasted only a few hours but a few hours were enough. I reckon in the first half hour we already had a good three inches of rain or even more.
And the house leaked, boy did it leak, in places it has never leaked before. There were buckets, bowels and towels everywhere. This winter it will leak every time it rains and it’s all down to Mister Ratty. I don’t know how big the family is but we have rats in the various roofs and they have either displaced the waterproofing or destroyed some of it. They have known to keep guests awake at night as they play football up there: scamper, scamper, scamper. Throwing slippers at the ceiling keeps them quiet for a while but not for long. Well, I’m afraid if they’re going to cause any more damage they must be got rid of. They’re not like horrid grey town rats (I remember once in Edinburgh late at night seeing this enormous hunchback rat running across the road to disappear down a drain and it gave me the cold shivers it looked so evil) no, these are country rats obviously and really very pretty. Ray informs us that in Australia they’re kept as pets but these are not pets, they’re pests. The lower roofs can be got at but what does one do about a double story? How do you get under that roof it is so high up? But that is above the guest room and we simply have to find a way of getting rid of the little buggers. Now that the cold weather is settling in they’re there for the duration.
When we bought Hollings Farm the then owner, Stanley Kitchen whose Yorkshire accent was so broad he sometimes had to get his son to translate for him, told us the ceiling in the kitchen (no longer there) was made of canvas which, once painted and dried out became taut and they could always tell by the sound of the scampering whether it was a rat or a mouse.
Chris read somewhere that if you put cat’s piss down that frightens them off. We can do that by using the spoilt litter in the cat box but again you have to get to the right place to put it.
I know I have been going on about cruelty but we have reached the stage unfortunately when we have to do something cruel and we all hate the idea – that is to use glue pads. A rat goes for the titbit in the middle, peanut butter, bacon, chocolate, whatever and gets his paws stuck in the glue. His cries then frighten the other ones away and he dies a slow death. The whole idea is abhorrent. No animal deserves to die in this fashion, not even a rat but what can one do?
So if anyone has a better idea before we put down the pads I would be only too glad to hear it.
I have had an e-mail from Action Alert re what in America are called crush videos. Evidently there are certain monsters in the world that make videos of animals being deliberately maimed tortured mutilated and killed for kicks. Jesus Christ it’s something unbelievable that people can behave in this sick manner. The senate has evidently voted to ban them. Action Alert had 100000 signatures on their petition. If I had known about it they certainly would have had one more but innocents like myself simply don’t know about these things until brought to our attention because we never imagine it. Evidently they were banned once before and a man was charged with this cruelty but got away with it because some stupid judge muttered something about freedom of speech. What the fuck has that got to do with it?
I am thinking of starting my own petition regarding the dolphins in Denmark.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A dog called Faith – My sister has sent me an e-mail all about this amazing animal that was born on Christmas Eve 2002 without front legs. Evidently even his mother didn’t want him and his first owner was thinking of having him put to sleep but then, along came a woman by the name of Jude Stringfellow who took to him and I’m not really surprised. In a photograph of him as a pup the look on his face is just too tear making for words. Anyway Jude took it upon herself to train Faith to walk upright and accomplished it in six months, so much so that the dog now walks on his hind legs like a human and has become a true celebrity. No matter where he goes he attracts people to him and has been written about in newspapers and appeared on television. Now a book titled ‘With A Little Faith’ is being published about him. Jude has given up her teaching post and plans to take him around the world to preach (as she puts it) that even without a perfect body you can have a perfect soul.
I admire her and her aspirations but I’m not sure the strain of a world tour will do much for Faith. The message can still come across through the media while he stays happily at home.
I don’t normally have a very practical mind but there are questions I would like to ask like, how does he eat? Dogs stand on all four legs to dip their snouts into a bowl. Secondly how does he shit and piss (talking about the other end.) Presumably he squats like a bitch, he certainly can’t cock his leg, but how does he maintain his balance with only his two legs? Well whatever the answer he is truly the most remarkable dog.
But now to a less fortunate dog. I don’t know what his Cretan name was or even if he had a name at all but I called him Buster. He was a fully grown animal quite large and nothing but skin, bone and vermin and he was chained in a room without light for twenty-four hours of every day. I don’t remember why our friend Menuis took us around to see this particular house just a short distance away from where we live but it would certainly make the most wonderful home. Unfortunately it was owned by one of the most surly, sour, vindictive, xenophobic peasant you could ever come across. He wanted to sell the property but only to a Greek. Thirteen years later it is even more derelict and still, I presume, for sale.
We entered the first room of the house and Menuis said, in Greek of course, ‘Watch out for the dog.’ Dog? What dog? There in the far corner lay this pathetic creature that slowly lumbered to its feet and wagged its tail. God alone knows when last it had seen a human being or even been fed. Heedless of Menuis’ warning I made a fuss of it and the only response I got was to have my hand licked in thanks. That dog was so cowed, so emaciated, so weak it couldn’t bite anybody or anything. Anyway, the upshot of this story is that for days following I walked around to this house with a bowl of food and a bottle of water to fill his empty bowl and stayed with him as long as I could, but then – the owner, having somehow become aware of my ministrations, locked the door and I could never get to Buster again. I can only hope the rest of his pathetic life was short and his master (sometimes I wish I did believe in it) rots in hell for the suffering he caused.
Animals in all their diversity are such wonderful creatures this kind of ignorant cruelty is simply beyond comprehension. One theory of why Greeks and possibly particularly Cretans treat their dogs so badly is because it is a hangover from the Turkish occupation, the Turks believing all dogs to be filth. Hopefully it is gradually changing and dogs like Buster will not suffer in the same way.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

An e-mail from Western Union has informed me that I have made 1,350,000 GBP which I presume stands for Great British Pounds. Gosh! Golly! Wow! The mind simply boggles. I wonder what I did to make all that money. I should be so lucky. I have never even won anything in a raffle no matter how small the prizes.
Two guests we have staying at the moment. Michael Jenn who has a two week break from performing in the play Danton’s Death at The National Theatre so decided to spend a week of it with us. Well, we see him at breakfast and in the evenings because he is a motor bike fan and beach bunny and is gone most of the day. Who would believe it is four years since he was last here? We have known Michael ever since we lived in Richmond Road, Hackney so that is going back to about 1973 and he gets a mention or two in the autobiography but funnily enough (bad bad bad) is not in the index. The other guest is Ray Bluett from Tasmania. He visited us once before and I went to visit him a number of years back. We met when he was a student of mine back in London more years ago than I care to remember. To get here takes one of those nightmare journeys; Hobart to Melbourne, Melbourne to Singapore, Singapore to Athens, Athens to Xania that leaves a person ragged. In Tasmania he lives way way out in the wilds in a shack and a trailer almost on the beach and surrounded by dense forest. I must say I thoroughly enjoyed being there but whether that enjoyment would last continuously I somehow doubt. He has no electricity which takes one back to the old days when you took your candle to bed as soon as or shortly after it got dark. A certain amount of electricity is generated through solar panels but used sparingly, enough only to listen to the radio for a while or look at an hour or so television. Cooking is done on a gas stove using bottled gas. He lives there with his two dogs and although he has cousins and other members of family nearby they don’t exactly get on so as the dogs age and Ray ages, he is now 72, the time will come when he is forced for reasons of safety to move to more civilised accommodation. Whether he will get over his habit of getting up at five o’clock every morning is another matter. It is still dark at that hour so he lights his candles and his wood stove and takes the dogs out before making breakfast. He is still getting up at that ungodly hour while he is here and is so used to going to bed early he finds it difficult to keep his eyes open after ten at the latest. I suppose our Ray is the nearest thing to a hermit we will ever know.
Ron Southcott from Melbourne, due to arrive shortly, will I think be our last visitor in what has been a busy year for guests.

Friday, October 8, 2010

After pondering how ladies in the nineteenth century could possibly have fallen for the con tricks perpetrated by Madam Rachel Leverson with her various miracle products guaranteed to make one “beautiful for ever”, it would seem there will always be those willing for some reason or other to be duped and fleeced. Snake oil salesmen still exist and their claims are even more outrageous than those of Rachel Leverson.
In 1984 when I first went to America to work at James Madison University, I spent the whole of my first Sunday morning ensconced in the rec room watching on television one evangelist preacher after another in their various magnificent temples and the experience was truly jaw dropping. I had to hand it to them. They certainly knew how to hold an audience. I won’t say congregation because the whole thing was so theatrical I think audience a more fitting word. A couple of them later fell by the wayside, Jimmy Swaggart for example, when their sins (usually sexual) found them out and there were penitential tears which sometimes led to forgiveness by their brainwashed followers, but what does one make of this man? His name is Peter Popoff and he has to be the greatest fraudster that ever was. In true evangelical fashion he tends to rant and rave and keep things moving with wild gestures, in fact he appears to be unstoppable. ‘God told me! God told me! Smite that cancer with your fist!’ ‘Words of prophecy given to me by God.’ ‘The power of God within me.’ Etcetera.
Evidently he first appeared with those others I watched in the eighties and it seemed he had psychic powers. He not only knew the names of his victims but he knew why they had come to him. Many of the cases were of course cancer but for example one old woman wanted to get rid of her walker and so he went to her, did his shove on the forehead bit ‘in Jesus’ name!’ (so theatrical) and told her to get rid of it after which she took a few faltering steps being held up by our preacher and a couple of others – Hallelujah, the Lord be praised. But the trick was discovered when his wife gave the game away. From notes written beforehand she fed him the information through his ear piece. Having been discredited, like Madam Rachel, he declared bankruptcy and disappeared for a while only to be resurrected in 2007 with even bigger plans this time involving all those little wonderful products like miracle spring water (Rachel’s miracle spring water she maintained came from the river Jordan so presumably Popoff’s does as well), bracelets, crucifixes, Dead Sea salt, miracle manna bread, (the recipe given to him personally by God), making money incense, (I love that one, could do with some of it myself) divine transfer sets, books and more. Evidently he will send you his miracle spring water in a clear plastic tube about the size of a large tube of toothpaste and clearly marked ‘Miracle Spring Water’ totally free of charge, but once you’re on his books as it were there come the follow-ups. In one of these he asks for $27, not $7, not $270, but $27 because this is supposedly a divine number, the seven will protect you and your donation will be returned to you many times over. This man, with ‘ The power of God’, can cure any illness, solve any problem, make you rich beyond your widest dreams and, make no bones about it, he is a leech a bloodsucker praying on the desperate, the poor, the gullible, the feebleminded, of which there are unfortunately too too many and it is totally sick. His ministry brings in over $23000000 a year and I presume as it is a registered charity that is tax free but, as the man is so obviously a charlatan and a thief, why is it nothing can be done about him and his like? Are they beyond any law?
In the US you can turn on the television any day any time and on five cable channels there is Peter Popoff offering you both earth and heaven. Heaven on earth?
If you want to know more you can look him up on Youtube. It’s really quite fascinating.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

If you’re not bored silly by my anti-religious rants, or mockery as the case might be, here is another one for you. Boy, I’m sure destined for hell according to American fundamentalists. Anyway, here we go, some secular Jews in Jerusalem are up in arms as rabbis from an ultra-orthodox area are demanding men and women should walk down different streets. Right, work that one out if you can. I am a woman with five kids and I need to get to a particular shop but I can’t because men are on that street. Or, I am a man and I need to see my doctor but I can’t because his surgery is in the street where women are walking. And what if that particular street doesn’t lead to my destination? Isn’t it amazing how sex scares these people half to death?
In India there has been a row over an ‘untouchable’ dog! A woman by the name of Subita Jatav fed a dog, Sheru some leftover bread and police are investigating claims that she has been ordered to pay compensation to the high-caste owner of the dog because she is Dalit - untouchable. Subita says the village council wants her to pay a fine of 15,000 rupees ($330) for feeding the dog, which the owners have now kicked out as they now consider the dog to be untouchable but deny being motivated by caste considerations. Although widespread, discrimination against Dalits, who make up 20% of the population, is an offence in India but they say little has changed despite the government enacting various laws banning caste-based discrimination.
The woman said ‘I made some roti [Indian bread] and took it to my husband who works on a farm. After I had fed him, we had some leftovers which I gave to the dog.’ The owner of the dog, Amrutlal Kirari, saw this. “He got very angry and said 'You've fed my dog, it has become an untouchable now'." Mrs Jatav said Mr Kirari left Sheru, a black mongrel tied to a pole outside her house. On Monday, the village council met and decided that Sheru had been defiled and hence Mr Kirari should be paid 15,000 rupees as compensation.
On Tuesday, she approached the district collector of Morena who ordered an inquiry into the incident. Senior police officer in the area, Baldev Singh, told the BBC that he was investigating the matter. He said Mr Kirari had alleged that after eating the bread, Sheru fell ill so he abandoned the dog at Mrs Jatav's house so she could look after it and nurse it back to health(!)
Dalits - formerly untouchables - are considered at the bottom of the Hindu caste system.
Any discrimination against them is an offence and punishable by law.
A court in India says a disputed holy site in the city of Ayodhya should be split between Hindus and Muslims, but both sides plan to appeal.
And so it goes on and on.

Monday, October 4, 2010

I wonder why it is that some married couples will insist on talking at the same time so that it is difficult to pay attention to what either of them are saying and it is so annoying when the husband or wife on one side is saying something not of too much interest and the wife or husband on the other is saying something in which you would be interested if only you could get more than snatches of the conversation. I’m sure they don’t realise they are doing it, I’m sure it is not deliberate; perhaps it is habit, thoughtless nevertheless. Sometimes I have been tempted to put up a hand and say, ‘Whoa there, would you mind letting your partner speak please so I can listen to him/her?’ Perhaps a speaking stick would be a good idea.
Tesco, the supermarket, says it is to sell Viagra over the counter at the 'cheapest price'. From next Monday, men with erectile dysfunction (ED) who don't have a GP prescription will be able to request the drug at 300 of its UK stores. As the first supermarket to offer such a service, Tesco will charge £52 for eight pills. Boots pharmacy currently charges £55 for four. Tesco stressed a pharmacist would make the sale and customers will be vetted. The service is only available to men aged between 40 and 65 years. They will have to complete a questionnaire and have their blood pressure and cholesterol measured, as well as undergo a test for diabetes.
Shona Scott, commercial manager for Tesco pharmacy services, said: "Provided that the men are suitable we will discuss their options and sell them an effective treatment." Suitable?
"Men can be very embarrassed about going to their GP for help with things like this," a doctor said (they won’t be embarrassed going to Tesco?) and added some men resorted to buying the drug over the internet, which could be risky because they might be sold fake Viagra. Dr Tomlinson said it was essential that men seeking drugs for ED had thorough medical checks for underlying health problems. "It's now realised that for a great many men, ED is a warning sign of cardiovascular problems that need checking out. Something like a third of men with ED goes on to develop some sort of cardiovascular problem within five years."
He said men who see and get a prescription from their GP could purchase the drugs for even less - around £48 for eight tablets from some dispensaries. Still pretty expensive I would say but that is the cost of drugs today.
Half the Viagra prescribed to men is not working, says an expert in sexual medicine. Dr Geoffrey Hackett, a consultant urologist, says men with erectile dysfunction could be "wasting hundreds of pounds on tablets" when their real problem is low testosterone. The most common sexual problem men see their GP about is erectile dysfunction. It affects 40% of men over 40 years old, and more than one in five men with erectile dysfunction have a testosterone deficiency.
Testosterone levels in men peak in their mid-20s then slowly decline throughout life, but a fall can also be a sign of underlying health problems. Both patients and doctors shy away from discussing sexual symptoms.”
"Men for whom Viagra isn't working adequately need to have their cases reviewed. If low testosterone is the problem then Viagra won't be the answer on its own."
When testosterone replacement therapy is prescribed, "it can change the lives of patients", he says.
Having worked in this area for more than 20 years, Dr Hackett describes how the partners of the patients he has helped often thank him "for giving me back the man that I married."

Saturday, October 2, 2010

After quite a few trials trying to track down a copy of Helen Rappaport’s ‘Beautiful For Ever’, the story of Madame Rachel Leverson, nineteenth century fraud, con artist and blackmailer, it finally arrived. We first put in our order with the publisher who said twice she had sent the book but it never arrived so eventually we got a refund. Strange that both her attempts failed. Nothing else as far as we know has ever gone astray. Amazon didn’t have a copy; neither did a few other book specialists. We finally tracked one down at The Book Depository. I do feel for Helen as she must be losing sales left, right and centre and when you consider the number of books published every year a writer simply can’t afford that to happen. Every year? Every month. Every week.
I have read it with great pleasure. Have I got her wrong or in her preface does Miss Rappaport hint that she is the first person to produce a major work on Madame Rachel? If so this is not strictly true. Many many years ago I wrote a play on the same subject, same title, and published by Samuel French. She knew about it because she got in touch with me, telling me there is a copy in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. But my play was not the first; there had been others before me. The Victorians couldn’t help but have a gleeful go with so salacious a subject. Anyway that’s beside the point; her research seems to have been amazing and in reading her book I certainly learnt many more facts about that incredible woman and her family than I knew when I wrote the play. Not that I could have used all these facts. A book is one thing, a play is another and the latter is limited to your two hours traffic upon the stage so facts have to be carefully selected in telling the story and I was only interested in the fleecing of Mary Tucker Borrodaile. I couldn’t for example tell the story of her daughter Leonte who changed her name, because a fairly well known opera singer and eventually blew her brains out in a London cab. Evidently there is a suicide site on the internet that uses such euphuisms for suicide as ‘catching the bus.’ I suppose the Victorian equivalent could have been ‘taking a cab.’ Sorry, that’s a bit sick but I couldn’t resist it.
Another daughter previously had also committed suicide. Some of the children were living in Paris where Madam Rachel had opened a branch of her business and the girl had been ordered back to London by Mama but she didn’t want to go because she had fallen in love. But Mama’s orders did not get disobeyed and instead of taking the train she disappeared. Three days later her body was fished out of the Seine.
Madame Rachel suffering ill health for some time died in prison aged about 65. It is the most remarkable story and the most remarkable aspect of it is that she got away with it for so long and to such a degree.