Friday, 29 June 2007

Garden Haiku

Unpleasant harvest;
parcels of dog shit like runes,
their meaning obscure

Dog Shit Harvest

Despite living in a small house in Brixton, somehow we have allocated grandiose names to various parts of the house and garden over the years. Thus we have the music room (where the piano is kept, tuned twice a year and never played) the woodland area (where next door's cats like to shit) the landscaped area (where the foxes shit) and the dog shit area where... yes, you guessed it.

When it rains all the time like this, it is not much fun to go outside and collect dog shit. OK, it's never going to be fun but it's a task that's much easier when the weather is dry and the stools are firm and easy to grasp. If you leave it for a couple of days, they soon add up. I mean, we take her for walks every day but even so, you'd be surprised.

When there is a lot of it and the task of harvesting it is especially grim, we lighten the mood by pretending to believe that Jessie has been writing messages for us in the garden, spelling it out in parcels of shit because she has no other material to hand. Imagine that - imagine the larks and jokes in our house. Don't you wish you could be here with us, sitting around all day talking about dog shit?

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Dictionary Additions

Haikorrelation: The relationship between the number of haiku appearing on a person's blog and the number of working hours wasted in a day.

See also Tickorrelation: The relationship between time spent tickling others on Facebook and loss of productivity in the workplace.



Shabby, old; like an
apricot-coloured rug seen
in a skip. But loved.

Dictionary Misappropriations

Glastonbury (verb): To suppress your feelings of revulsion about crowds, camping and the countryside in the hope of striking up a friendship with Kate Moss. As in 'I'm going to glastonbury cos I've got a backstage pass.'

See also Effluent (adj): Rich and covered in shit. As in 'a combination of high ticket prices and poor sanitary conditions at the Glastonbury Festival has seen a rise in attendance of the effluent classes in recent years.'

Monday, 25 June 2007

The Royal Court, The Six Million Dollar Girl, Unicorns

I had the most extraordinary day at The Royal Court on Saturday; I went along to three workshops with Royal Court directors Sacha Wares, Dominic Cooke (who is also the Artistic Director there) and Maria Aberg. They talked about and demonstrated techniques they use in the rehearsal room.

When I was a small child, I thought that I was good at running. I used to watch the Six Million Dollar Man, in which scientists marvelled at his bravery and skills and helped to rebuild him so he could run really fast and see really well and then they marvelled at that, too. I wanted to be the Six Million Dollar Girl and I wanted scientists to marvel at how fast I could run.

My dream has changed but not the essential quality of it. Now, I would like people to admire my writing. I don't know many other writers but I read their blogs - the more successful ones complain of script editors who rewrite and ruin things, of producers and editors who don't really understand them. I had always thought that people who deal with writers for a living and who actually like what they read were mythical creatures - a nice idea, like unicorns, but not to be found alive on the face of the earth.

And then I saw these three directors talking about spending weeks and weeks in rehearsal with the actors trying to uncover the meaning in the text and find the best possible way of playing it. Sure, they weren't talking about my work - they were talking about plays they had recently directed; My Child by Mike Bartlett, The Pain and the Itch by Bruce Norris and Alaska by D C Moore - nevertheless, the effect was like walking in a forest one morning and hearing that tumbling sound of hooves and then getting closer and seeing the little point of a horn poking out from behind a tree and thinking No, it can't be...

Blogging - Further Proof that God Exists

When I had my daughter all those years ago, I was little more than a child myself, and blessed with all the sophistication of a medieval peasant. So while I was giving birth, I must admit that I prayed to God.

It is (and was then) my opinion that God doesn’t exist. I believe, unquestionably, that God made the world – look at a humming bird and tell me that you disagree. Or watch someone who has a talent for it playing the piano. I simply can’t accept that all the beautiful things in the world crawled out of a swamp. But it is also my opinion that God has since quit the world or perhaps even died, leaving us to get on with things by ourselves.

Nevertheless, sitting on my hospital bed, in pain, I prayed to God that my daughter would live and would be alright. I didn’t know whether she was a boy or a girl but I said If this baby is OK, I promise I will believe in You. (I do remember that I actually formulated a capital letter for ‘You’ as I thought it.) So, she lived, she’s lovely. Now I am stuck with a capricious God of my own invention – the sort of God who would enter into a meaningless pact with a silly girl in pain in a hospital in Whitechapel. This is a God who doesn’t actually exist but who I am obliged to serve, according to ancient rules and logic that we’re all quite familiar with from fairytales, so I’m not going to go into it here.

Which brings me at last to to the point of this. Yes, we all know that blogging is horribly vain. It is, to put it in terms that God would understand, an act of hubris. And so God (who doesn’t even fucking exist, mind you) has recently punished me for it. I won’t go into details for fear of provoking You Know Who any further but as you can imagine, the punishment fits the crime.

If this was a musical, I’d stand up and sing a song of defiance and others would join me, forming a chorus of defiance. What sort of song would be suitable? Well, I do think that Jennifer Holliday’s And I am Telling You I’m Not Going is one that suits every occasion (see earlier posts, below). I’m even going to have it at my funeral. And no, God, that is NOT an invitation to strike me down.

Saturday, 23 June 2007

Hackney Empire Fundraiser Monday 25 June

Hackney Empire 'Daughters of Soul' fundraiser in aid of the Hackney Empire and the Hackney Harlem Project (an artistic and social exchange between young people in East London and Harlem).
Indira Khan and Simone (daughters of Chaka Khan and Nina Simone) are joined by Nona Hendryx, Sandra St. Victor and special guest Deniece Williams.
Doors open at 6.00 pm, show starts at 7.00 pm Monday 25th June.
Tickets 17.50 or Gala Tickets for 32.50, to include champagne reception, show and after party. Gala Tickets must be booked in advance - call the box office on 020 8985 2425 and quote Circle Gala Ticket.

Friday, 22 June 2007

A Strange Way of Carrying On

I'm just starting a new novel after a couple of years' hiatus in which I have written various scripts for both TV and theatre. In a script, of course, you don't need to use words to paint a picture of everything that's going on, as you would in a novel, because the audiences are going to be able to see it for themselves. If you did try and put it all in to the script, the effect would be a bit like having the audio subtitles turned on when you're watching something on TV - irritating and unnecessary. But to anyone who was any good at writing stories when they were a kid i.e. anyone who fancies themselves as a writer, it feels like a strange way of carrying on at first - like one of those parlour games where you have to describe a car without saying the words 'car' or 'wheels' or 'drive'. But it's also quite a thrilling way of working because it's collaborative - other people are just as interested as you in making the show as good as possible. The performances, direction, design, music etc will take your little two dimensional pile of paper and make it come alive - exactly the way you thought magic would work when you were a kid.

Anyway, that's enough of that. Here's a a photo of Jessie in a wig.

By the way I've had this blog for two months now. I haven't had much to drink in that time because I've been too busy writing. I suppose that my first drunken post will be the next milestone. However, this is not it.

Royal Court Ticket Offers

Best seats available for £10 for The Pain and the Itch for this Saturday 23rd June, for both matinee (3.30pm) and evening (7.30pm) performances.

Half Price (£7.50) for Alaska for tonight’s performance at 7.45pm and Saturday 23rd June's matinee at 4pm.

Call the Box Office on 0207 565 500 and quote 'Facebook Offer'.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Nudity and Vomiting, Matthew Macfadyen

Just to clarify, I'm a fan of nudity on stage and vomiting on screen - not the other way around. Vomiting on stage, no matter how much effort the actor puts in, is only so much groaning and spitting. I take my hat off (although nothing more) to anyone who is audacious enough to go naked on stage. With onscreen nudity, you just think 'oh put it away' - unless it's Simon Callow in Midsomer Murders, of course, which elicited a spontaneous round of applause in our house.

Also, as my stats have spiked* since I mentioned Matthew Macfadyen , I thought I'd say a little more about him. I like him because he's a good actor but also because he reminds me of an old boyfriend of mine. His mouth has that slight tremble to it, as if he's on the verge of confessing some huge emotion that will change both your lives forever unless you lean forward to kiss him and stop him from saying it. To anyone who is considering going to see the show purely because Matthew Macfadyen is in it, I would say this: the seats are comfortable, he's on stage the whole time, he's very good in it, he does not get naked. It's only £25 and if you sit in the middle near the front, I reckon you could stand up and get through a good few bars of Jennifer Holliday's And I am telling you I'm not going before they manage to haul you away, although I don't recommend that you do it.

*No, it's not painful, it doesn't need antibiotics and it will eventually go away by itself


I went to see Alaska by D C Moore at the Royal Court this evening. It's only on until Saturday - if you haven't seen it, it's worth going along.*

Even before the show began, a member of the audience was sick on the floor, although this did help to build a certain 'esprit de corps' among the audience, most of whom were well-dressed Americans of retirement age who had rather gamely climbed four flights of stairs for an evening's entertainment in which the word 'cunt' was to feature heavily.

Fortunately, the play was excellent and more than matched the dramatic intensity of the pre-show vomit and subsequent 'bio-hazard' clear-up in the row behind me. The cast was outstanding. Rafe Spall** was in the lead role and he was extraordinary - but everyone who was in it was very good.

* This is not a review (I gave up reviewing earlier on today, after three hours in the game). This is a recommendation.

* *He was so good that I feel I ought to write a poem about him although unfortunately, like Matthew Macfadyen, he has a name that lends itself better to the limerick than to any other form, so I'm not going to do it. Are there any leading men out there whose names don't suggest the limerick as the preferred form of tribute? You could probably do something with Simon Russell Beale - although it might turn out a bit Betjemanish. However I do recommend that tributes to Steven Berkoff only be attempted by exceptionally gifted and skillful poets.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

The Pain and the Itch, Floating, Charade

I went to see The Pain and the Itch at The Royal Court last night because Matthew Macfadyen* is in it - I also saw him in Henry IV part 1 & 2 at the National - and because it came from Steppenwolf in Chicago.

The performances were excellent. The play itself was one of those drawing room comedies with a serious underlying message. It was well-written but not really to my taste**. Most of the audience seemed to enjoy it - one woman in particular was honking away at every joke like a goose trying to save Rome from attack by the Gauls.

I'd like to go and see Floating at the Barbican (1 April 1982 the Isle of Anglesey broke free from the Welsh mainland and drifted into the North Atlantic. Trapped on board, and desperate to escape, was Hugh Hughes - says the blurb) but it took so long trying to buy a ticket on their website yesterday, without success, that I might just give up and go and see it in Edinburgh instead.

Charade in Trafalgar Square on Sunday 2.30 - 6.00 sounds interesting (Television's over. Networks are down. The radio is silent. All files erased. Imagine every book, film, play or song is about to be destroyed. What would you save? Choose a book, film, play, song, advert, poem; learn some lines and come be the network in Trafalgar Square.)

* I would write a poem about my admiration for Matthew Macfadyen but his name is very well-suited to a limerick, which would be inappropriate.

** God that sounds pompous. I just mean that I like mad stuff and Shakespeare. I go to the theatre a lot and I never really like anything that you might call 'a play'. Anyway, I feel so mortified in case Bruce Norris, the writer, should have trawled the internet for any mention of his play (as we all do) and come across this post suggesting that his latest oeuvre is not to my taste that I've decided, after this false start, to give up reviewing altogether.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

The Pain and the Itch

I am going to see The Pain and the Itch tonight at the Royal Court.

My horoscope in the Sunday Times Style magazine had this to say: "On Tuesday, Venus, the planet of romance, superbly aspects your ruler, Jupiter, which means that developments on the romantic front could turn this from a remarkable month to one that transforms every element of your life."

I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, 18 June 2007

Vomiting and Nudity

I love actors. Don't you wish that you could act? I do. I’m particularly impressed by vomiting on screen and by nudity on stage. My favourite all time screen vomit is in the Sopranos (was it series 3?) when Christopher’s girlfriend is pulled in by the FBI for the first time and is so frightened that she spews all over them. It is a magnificent arc of vomit, all the better for being totally unexpected but justified by the story.

After seeing a naked man in a play at the Barbican a few years ago, I was advised by an actor in the bar afterwards that the best way to greet the person concerned, if you should meet them socially, is to stride up to them and say ‘what a magnificent penis.’ By chance, at a party recently, I met a man I had seen naked on stage about five years before. As realisation dawned, however, all I could manage was ‘Oh, I’ve seen your, er…your Rites of Spring’. My all time favourite on-stage nudity was during a solo dance by Mark Morris, enfant terrible* (he’s 50 years old) of the New York ballet scene. He’s a beefy man but his deportment is beautiful. He danced to a spoken soundtrack about (as I recall) a pig and a hot air balloon. He wore a white nightshirt and he was naked underneath it. As he leaped around the stage, his nightshirt would billow up and you’d get one of those ‘oh, hello there’ glimpses of his penis. The performance was both elegant and witty. But that’s the avant-garde for you.

* not to be confused with Michael Clark, the enfant terrible of British dance, who is only 45

Sunday, 17 June 2007

Firing Squad

I spent Friday and Saturday making some final revisions to the script for The Psychic Detective before it goes into rehearsal on Monday.

It doesn't do you any good to look at the computer for hours on end and my head still hurt so much when I woke up this morning that it felt like I had just come back from a rave and eaten ice cream straight from the freezer. I spent most of this morning lying in bed with a scarf tied 'firing squad' style round my eyes. I didn't carry on like this when I finished my novels.

Is there, I wonder, any sort of internationally recognised standard of behaviour for playwrights that I should try to conform to? I have watched Shakespeare In Love but it doesn't provide any information about this, beyond suggesting that cross-dressing for the purposes of making love to aristocrats is perfectly in order.

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Pick of the Fringe

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival Programme was published last week and tickets for shows have now gone on sale. The Psychic Detective has already shown up in a couple of 'first trawl' previews - in The Scotsman and View From the Stalls. Very exciting.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Monday, 11 June 2007

My Day

Inspired by the posts from Danny Stack, Dom Carver and English Dave, I thought I'd write about my working day. Yes, it's a Sunday. Writers don't have weekends as such. Every day is a holiday, that's why we become writers.
  • Early Morning - When I get up, I feel that the house might have a strange smell about it. Regular readers will know this is a recent preoccupation of mine. Quite a few people find this blog by searching with the words 'strange smell'. Hello to you if you are one of them. My latest theory is that a fox has been scent marking in the garden and the smell is floating in to the house through the floorboards. I've been putting wedges of citrus fruit among the pebbles in the garden outside my office. This is supposed to deter the foxes.
  • Mid Morning - When I go to hose down the pebbles, I find fox shit on them and on the citrus fruit. I transfer the shit to the bin, which wasn't emptied by the bin men as usual on Friday. The reason for this becomes clear when...
  • Late Morning - The police are searching through the bins for discarded weapons following a double murder in the neighbourhood. Our bin is full of dog shit as well as fox shit. The police decline the cup of tea offered them as acknowledgement that theirs is a rough job. It is, perhaps, not quite compensation enough.
  • Early Afternoon - I sit in the garden and enjoy the sunshine. Every now and again I get up and hose down the pebbles again, this time using bleach.
  • Late Afternoon and Evening - The kids have visitors. This is quite unusual (probably no-one comes to the house because of the smell) and I don't know how to react except to sit in my office and look busy by starting to write my new play. I write 1089 words, which is great. Except that it's not a play, it's a novel.
  • Evening - I remember the story about Ridley Scott telling Peter Mayle - his neighbour in Provence - to write a book about his life in France and then Ridley Scott would buy the rights and turn it into a film. Marvellous - I will emulate both men. I will write the novel and then turn it into a play.
  • Evening - And tomorrow I will go to Body Attack at the gym. I expect.

Sunday, 10 June 2007

Garden Haiku

Strawberry battlefield;
bitter green fruit strewn about
by careless squirrels

I never actually intended to harvest the slug-kissed fruit in my garden , although I'd have preferred the birds to have it than the squirrels as I know from Springwatch that the birds have young to feed . I would leave a note to that effect somewhere near the strawberry pots if there was any evidence that squirrels could a) read or b) were capable of feeling remorse.

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Dictionary Misappropriations

Pontificate = to attempt to build a bridge, esp. a metaphorical one e.g. over troubled waters. See also Garfunkel = to sing about same.

Garden Haiku

Summer, a bird sings;
a wren, commonplace and yet

Friday, 1 June 2007

Dictionary Misappropriations

[hello Esther]

- the sound made by one who attempts to suppress a chortle when reading something clandestinely on the internet at work.

See also stench - the clenching of body parts in an attempt to staunch a snorkel, usually in vain.