Thursday, October 31, 2013


The famous nineteenth century American classical actor, Edwin Booth, noted particularly for his Hamlet said to be the greatest ever; brother to the probably better known John Wilkes Booth, also an actor but more notorious for his assassination of Abraham Lincoln during a performance of Our American Cousin  at Ford’s Theatre, would have no truck with noisy audiences. He played the major theatres both in America and Europe and earned for himself the accolade “The prince of players.”
One story has it that Booth was playing in Boston on a winter’s night that must have been cold and wet and the audience were coughing; the coughing seemingly getting worse as the evening went on until finally Booth had enough and walked offstage leaving the audience slightly bewildered as to what was going on.
He was away for some time during which they coughed and whispered among themselves wondering what was happening. Eventually he returned and stood downstage centre with one arm behind his back, making no move until you could hear the proverbial pin drop at which point he withdrew his arm and threw a large fish into the audience with the remark – “Get on with that you bloody barking sea lions and we’ll get on with the play.”
In more recent times, John Wood in ‘King Lear’ stopped the performance to politely say, “Will you please stop coughing?”
What’s prompted this Blog is a recent newspaper article – Noisy drummers, mobiles ringing, people chatting and late-comers are among the reasons performers have been compelled to take action.
The drummers were evidently busking and Dame Helen Mirren left the theatre to remonstrate with them. Modern audiences are expected to be quiet but this has not always been the case. It may have started off with the Victorians who never said they were going to “see a play,” but “going to hear a play.” With the advent of film and particularly television we are more inclined to watch than to listen which is why maybe modern actors don’t know how to speak but mumble their way through performances. Sitting at home watching television one can usually chatter to one’s heart’s content or at least pass remarks loudly and unfortunately it would seem this behaviour has been carried over into the theatre by many and any amount of shushing around them only makes matters worse. Also with modern cutting in film audiences are not expected to sit through long dialogue scenes and in consequence with many their attention span is decidedly limited and with time seems to get shorter and shorter.
Except for comedy when laughter is encouraged (an actor cannot hear a smile) an audience is expected to maintain a certain decorum. Acting requires intense concentration that can be broken say by the sudden ringing of a mobile phone. On one occasion evidently the actor Richard Griffiths was so incensed he told the unfortunate culprit to leave the theatre and never come back. Kevin Spacey was more stylish snapping out “Tell them we’re busy.” Unfortunately it is not just the ringing that is a curse in the theatre. People are so addicted to their phones they are simply unable to leave them alone: tweeting, texting, Googling, emailing or photographing. Put the phone away for a minute and they start suffering withdrawal symptoms.
Variety shows and that strange hybrid Christmas entertainment the modern pantomime are different of course. With pantomime the audience is encouraged   to make as much noise as they like joining in the jollifications. It is probably the first experience a British child has of the theatre and, as Arthur Askey so famously said, leaving it with the smell of oranges and pee-pee.
Before the curse of the mobile phone actors  had other reasons to wish an audience better behaved though possibly they were so used to mayhem in the theatre it didn’t phase them one little bit. Elizabethan audiences, Restoration, Georgian used the playhouse as a meeting place, to see and be seen, to gossip, to pick up prostitutes. A favourite few were granted the freedom of the green room backstage and the privilege of being seated on stage and becoming almost a part of the performance. Duels were not unknown and claques were paid to disrupt with as much noise as they could manage, and occasionally there were riots. When in the theatre of today did we ever have a riot?
I can join the distinguished few who have stopped a show in order to remonstrate with an audience. In my case I was playing George in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” in Hamburg, a school matinee and the auditorium packed. At the top of Act Two George has a very long speech that requires the utmost concentration and the noise was getting worse and worse until halfway through I stopped, turned to face them, and came up with a little impromptu speech of my own which went something like, “Is it too much to request that you make a little less noise please?  This is not a television show, neither are you in a movie house. We are flesh and blood up here. If you can hear us, we can hear you. Now, if we can have a little less noise, I will start all over again.” Which I did to a deathly silence which continued until the moment George gets knocked down in a fight. This raised a universal spontaneous cheer which I have to admit made me smile. They liked that and showed it with a round of applause so we were friends again.
I believe the noise problem in this case was more understandable because the kids were listening to a play in a second language and if there was something they didn’t understand they might very well have been asking their neighbour to explain. I think they can be forgiven for that. At least none if them used their mobile phones – that is, I don’t think so.

Monday, October 28, 2013

In the Stars

Man proposes, God disposes or, in my case as I don’t believe in God, fate disposes or, the best laid plans of mice and men gang aft aglae – Robbie Burns, the common man’s philosopher. Did he also say ‘If at first you don’t succeed try try again? Nobody seems to know who was the first to say that or something similar but if you took it to heart you could end up either exhausted or bankrupt in more senses than one. Then in the words of a popular song, “Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.” It’s comforting I suppose when ruminating on one’s failures in life rather than blaming oneself, to be able to place blame fairly and squarely elsewhere. Born in the wrong place at the wrong time, being of the wrong colour, the wrong religion, the wrong sex, having the wrong appearance, the wrong physical make-up, genes, an unhappy childhood, bad parenting, no parenting, the people one has loved in vain, the people who have loved you, the people who haven’t loved you, disliked you, maybe even hated you, lack of opportunity, opportunities missed, it’s all in the stars and, of course, ultimately God, the lap of the Gods if you’re religious, or fate. if you are not.
There are a number of reasons why a play fails, should it ever get as far as to be produced in the first place, and nobody has ever discovered the magic formula for achieving this miracle. It could of course be a not very good play in the first place but otherwise it’s the fault of the producer who didn’t foresee a sea of troubles that could have been avoided, it’s the wrong director (too often he believes he is a better playwright than the playwright, his ego won’t permit otherwise, this also applies to certain actors.) It’s the wrong time, the wrong cast, the wrong venue; it’s the weather, and the critics. Take Joe Orton’s “Loot” for example. Directed by Peter Wood it opened in Cambridge in 1964 with Geraldine McEwan. Kenneth Williams, Duncan Macrae and Ian McShane and the play was a complete flop due to problems with repeated script rewrites, uneven direction, wrong set design, miscasting and bad reviews. It was successfully revived the following year at the Jeanette Cochrane Theatre with a different cast and directed by Charles Marowitz. It then transferred to the Criterion, opened on Broadway, A huge award-wining hit it has since played theatres all over the world and filmed in 1970. As well as delighting audiences the actors love it as I know from personal experience having been cast as Inspector Truscott in a production at Derby.
I can personally come up with three examples of bad timing: before its time ‘The River of Sand,’ set in South Africa, sent to Granada TV. The reply? ‘Who’s interested in South Africa?’ Later came Sharpeville and suddenly the whole world was interested in South Africa. Of course it couldn’t be produced in South Africa because of apartheid and its mixed cast. ‘The 88’ produced at The Old Vic opening just a few days after the murder of Louis Mountbatten and the critics had a ball, admitting they were incensed that the play, being an Irish subject, should have gone on though the play had absolutely nothing to do with the IRA. The first play I had produced at Ipswich ‘Oh Brother’ has a black man as its lead. It got favourable reviews but a well-known London impresario came up to me after a performance , said what a jolly good play it was, but who was interested in seeing a black actor playing the lead in a West End theatre? Some years later the RSC even had a black actor playing an English king. Actually there was a fourth piece of mistiming, ‘Between two Sighs,’ but I have already written about that one.
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves? So what about the stars?  Many years ago when I was much younger I religiously bought “Prediction” magazine every month in the hope that my stars would tell me of some immediate or close by good fortune just waiting for the right alignment. Was it Gypsy Petrolengo who was the resident astrologer? I forget. Like I say it was a long time ago. Every Friday now we get The Daily Mail as it contains film, theatre, and book reviews and every Friday I turn simply from habit to Jonathan Cainer to read his prediction for the week ahead. Is he any better than Gypsy Petrolengo or Mystic Meg? Well he is certainly more literate, fanciful and more interesting in a chatty sort of way with none of the Uranus is retrograde, Venus in the ascendant stuff but actually he doesn’t tell you much. Yes great things are going to happen but each week follows each week with little if any change. The change is usually announced in a footnote, a footnote I might say that is exactly the same for every star sign. “I looked into your future and recorded a very special forecast. It will touch your heart and lift your spirits.” Needless to say it will cost you a phone call to find out what it is.
So having long since stopped believing in the efficacy of prayer or in a supreme divinity it worries me not what the stars might foretell. There might be more things in heaven and earth, Horatio than are dreamt of in your philosophy but che sera sera, I am happy just to be who I am. It has on the whole been a good life for which I am extremely grateful and who knows? The stars might produce the goods yet.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Thriller writers

Do you know or have you heard of M.C.Beaton? It would seem the good lady has written, under her own name or using nom de plumes, enough books to stock a library, well furnish a shelf anyway. Firstly there is her Scottish policeman cum detective Hamish Macbeth series, each one titled “Death of a…” and I see listed 28 volumes. Then there is the “Agatha Raisin” series, 21 volumes, “The Travelling Matchmaker Series,” 6 volumes, and “The Edwardian Murder Mysteries,” 4 volumes, and more. Now what makes one author, Agatha Christie, a world famous name instantly recognisable and another like M.C.Beaton not so well known despite her books having been sold by the millions and evidently being the third most favourite borrower from libraries. Until friends gave us two of her books last week I had never heard of M.C.Beaton. But then I had never heard of Dick Francis, a steeplechase jockey who died in 2010 at the age of 98 and who has more than forty crime thrillers to his credit. The fact is there are thousands and thousands of authors and you couldn’t possibly keep up with more than a few. I believe in Iceland they reckon one in ten of the population will write a book. So there are millions and millions of books in circulation and new ones being added every week but very few of them are going to hit the bestseller list. However back to our two ladies. What makes one name universally known and not the other? I have just read one of Beaton’s Hamish Macbeth stories and a short murder mystery by Christie and for my money Beaton pips Christie at the post if not by a head. It is invidious I suppose to make comparisons after only one example and maybe one ought to take into account the publication date of the Christie which is 1937, this probably being the reason why dialogue sounds stilted and phrases a little archaic. I doubt either lady would claim their work to be high art or of great literary value. They are both story tellers and good ones at that. There’s no putting the book down and picking it up again with reluctance. Just a jolly good read or, in earlier parlance, “a ripping yarn.” And the same applies to my Thornton King series. Read them in an aeroplane, on a train journey or take them to the beach.

A couple in Paraguay have recently got married having been together for eighty years. Evidently they had a civil ceremony back in 1933 but now they decided it was time for a religious one. The groom is 103 and the blushing bride a mere stripling at 99. Thy have 50 grandchildren, 35 great grand children and 20 great-great grand children and that is how the world population explodes. But… it could only happen in America! A new fad for baby showers, vagina cakes! The cakes are in various designs all representing the vagina and each has a baby’s head emerging. As I said, only in America.  Yuk!

Monday, October 21, 2013


I’m not sure I want to be a human animal anymore and as I approach my 83rd birthday I guess I won’t be for that much longer. The fashionable age to snuff it at the moment seems to be 84. I have lost count of the petitions I have signed mostly regarding the treatment of animals but each day brings yet another horror story. The treatment of gays in Iraq doesn’t bear thinking about and to a slightly lesser extent Russia; the treatment of women and girl children in some countries and cultures ditto.
If I believed in the efficacy of prayer, which I don’t, I would pray that all those billions of religious people who expend so much energy worrying about heaven and hell, neither of which in my opinion actually exist, and spent more time endeavoring to make the world a better place we might at last start to achieve a better sense of both practical and moral priorities. In my naivety I thought that the macabre belief in that mythical place of everlasting hellfire had gone out with the Dark Ages, indulgences, pieces of the true cross, Jesus’ foreskin and the rest of the crap, but obviously not and there are those who absolutely delight in the idea that millions of the godless will suffer an eternity of having the flesh burnt off their bones. What flesh? What bones? You’ve either rotted away in a nice damp coffin or been incinerated in the crematorium and your ashes preserved in a vase or scattered to the four winds. Dust to dust as the old saying has it. Candide might have been told that this is the best of all possible words but if you stop to think about it for only a moment the Great Designer didn’t know his elbow from his drawing board.
Cruelty apart one never realizes or stops to think of the criminal damage caused by the trade in wildlife, a trade that is reported to be worth millions and in some instances even threatens the stability of certain governments.
Soaring prices for ivory and rhino horn have prompted a "gold rush" in poaching across much of Africa. The belief that rhino horn has medicinal qualities is as macabre as is the belief in hellfire. You might just as well use finger nail clippings’ to achieve the same effect – i.e. nada. But the rhino is being poached and will go on being slaughtered no doubt to extinction unless something drastic can be done. Well it does seem steps are being taken. In South Africa I believe rhinos are being sedated and their horns poisoned and in Kenya there is an ambitious plan to microchip every rhino in the country in an endeavor to curb the poaching. The chip will be implanted in the horn of more than a thousand animals. It will be possible to trace stolen horns and perhaps create a better chance of prosecuting the poachers. The project is being supported by the World Wildlife Fund which has donated the chips and five scanners at a cost of nearly ten thousand pounds. It is estimated that this is only a fraction of what will be needed to track and dart each rhino and fit the chip.
Despite a 23-year ban on international trade in ivory, elephants continue to be shot for their prized tusks, with much of the material ending up on sale in China.
The very future of the African elephant could be at risk. Last year saw the highest number of large seizures of illegal ivory for more than two decades. From Kenya to Zambia, and particularly in the Democratic Republic of Congo, law-enforcement and conservation authorities are facing a continuing battle with the poacher, with thousands of elephants killed each year. In Kinshasa, the capital of DRC, poached ivory is openly on sale at large, unregulated markets. The Chinese undercover reporter for the BBC was offered whole raw ivory tusks in one market, including one giant piece about 1.5m long for $10,000 (£6,000).
The destinations of all contraband ivory are always neighboring countries around China. Until the middle of last year Malaysia had not made a single large ivory seizure in nearly a decade. But there have been several large seizures since then, amounting to six tonnes of ivory that would have come from approximately 700 dead elephants.
Securing the future of Africa's elephants will mean not just beating the poachers but also tackling black-market sales on the other side of the world in China. Perhaps one day there will be no need for orphanages for baby elephants whose mothers have been killed by poachers but with the amount of money involved don’t hold your breath.

One last horror story and I’m done. “MASSACRE OF THE DOLPHINS” the large headline reads. Is massacre too strong a word? Evidently not because 10000 dolphins a year are being slaughtered by Peruvian fisherman just for bait to catch endangered sharks! Evidently the sharks are attracted by the smell of blood.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Quakes and killers

My first experience of an earthquake. I was sitting in the breakfast room having my tea at about four o’clock when suddenly out of nowhere the table went bananas as did the chair I was sitting on, as did the floor beneath my feet, the fan above me and the hanging light. It didn’t last long, no more than a minute or so, but it is quite a scary experience and in fact makes one, well made me, feel slightly nauseous. Not having experienced it before it took a couple of seconds for the penny to drop. The guys were out doing some filming and arrived home five minutes later. Whilst driving they had felt nothing. Douglas immediately went to the computer to check the situation and discovered the quake took place 82 kilometres west of Xania and was 6.4 on the Richter scale. We haven’t discovered any damage though the quake was felt as far north as Athens and as far south as Egypt. It wasn’t the first earthquake occurring since we came to live on Crete but with the previous three or four I was fast asleep and felt nothing. There were no after shocks, not that I know of anyway and I don’t know of any damage to buildings elsewhere but there must have been closer to the epicentre. That, being at sea and evidently quite deep, was the cause of a small tsunami. The fact that we suffered no damage is theoretically down to the house being built on bedrock and able to withstand a certain amount of movement. Looking up at the swinging light above me I had images of the earthquake scene in the movie ‘San Francisco’ I saw as a kid and, at the time, almost had nightmares over, especially the swaying chandelier before it comes crashing down.
I see on the news there has been an earthquake of 7.2 in the Philippines that has caused some damage and killed twenty people. Is there that much difference between 6.4 and 7.2?
A photograph has been pasted on Facebook of three men each holding up in front of himself a fully grown dead leopard. Trophies to boast to the world how manly they are. Why did these beautiful creatures have their lives cut short by the idiotic machismo of three… I would call them by a four letter word but they are in my opinion so low to do so would demean the object mentioned. The caring world is worried about its diminishing fauna: elephants for their tusks, rhinos for their horns, sharks for their fins, whales for their blubber, gorillas for bush-mean, orang-utans by losing their habitat, the big cats to these idiots, various species for useless traditional medicine, dolphins slaughtered by the Japanese and crazed Danish peasants as ignorant and as stupid, as uncaring as these three shameful individuals. I know in the wild it is a case of eat or be eaten but that is nature and this deliberate senseless killing for so-called sport is inexcusable and should have died out with the big white hunters of colonial times; and shame on Zambia for allowing it to continue. It’s not worth the money.

Fantasy time. ‘Oh look at me, world! I am an intrepid big-game hunter.’ Unfortunately you are also a total wanker and there are far too many of you. It would be poetic justice and Africa’s revenge if a little thing like a malaria mosquito put an end to you.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Gulf states

The Gulf States, Saudi-Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, UA Emirates have decided they are going to clinically test for homosexuality everyone entering the country so there will be signs reading ‘Gay Free Zone.’ If it weren’t so pathetic one would be inclined to laugh one’s head off.
The tests were announced by the director of public health at the Kuwaiti health ministry, who said that the routine clinical screening of expatriates coming into the Gulf Cooperation Countries (GCC) will include measures to identify LGBT people who will then be banned from entering. The mind simply boggles at the thought of what these tests are going to be.
"Health centres conduct the routine medical check to assess the health of the expatriates when they come into the GCC countries," he told local daily Al Rai. "However, we will take stricter measures that will help us detect gays who will be then barred from entering Kuwait or any of the GCC member states."
Homosexual acts are banned in all the GCC member countries, which include Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
"There is no known medical test to detect homosexuality," said gay rights activist Peter Tatchell. "I wonder what quackery the Kuwaiti authorities plan to invent in their vain attempt to identify gay men. It simply won't work. Banning gay people from entering the country will deter foreign investors and companies. They won't want to subject their employees to such barbaric, medieval humiliations," he said. And what will it do to the tourist and holiday-maker industry?
In Kuwait, people involved in homosexual acts can receive up to 10 years in jail if they are under 21.
International football is about to take place in Qatar. FIFA spokesperson told IBTimes UK that the football organization "is not aware about the specific matter" of the proposed legislation.
"FIFA through the work carried out by its various Standing Committees is actively engaged in fighting against all kinds of discrimination within football and within society as a whole," it said. "FIFA's zero tolerance policy towards any acts of racism and discrimination affecting the freedom of private persons - including their sexual and political freedom - applies to the FIFA World Cup and to all other FIFA events and activities."
Tatchell responded saying that FIFA "has its head in the sand - of Qatar".
"It is pretending that this new repressive, homophobic threat doesn't exist," the LGBT campaigner said. "FIFA is all fine words but no serious action against homophobia. Is FIFA saying that the plan to test all visitors for homosexuality and exclude those who can be identified is untrue? Has it bothered to contact the Kuwaiti and Qatari authorities? It seems not." You can bet your bottom dollar that FIFA, like the Olympic committee and Russia will blinker themselves and true to form act like the self-seeking cowards they are.
I am led to believe that this proposed Arab legislation together with the Russian clamp-down and the recent upsurge in homophobia in Uganda and Cameroon can be laid at the dirty feet of wealthy American fundamentalist evangelists, the new Christian missionaries preaching not a gospel of love but the gospel of hate.  
These vile misguided individuals are no closer to Christ than I can jet to the moon on a fart. When oh when will they come to accept that human sexuality is a whole lot more than the eye to eye missionary position in marriage, wham, bam, thank you, mam, or simply for the sole purpose of breeding. Their god made it an urgent instinct and a pleasurable experience and could it be that pleasure they are so afraid of? There have been American states where oral sex, even between husband and wife, was illegal.
When will these ignorant bigots come to realize that like King Canute attempting to control the sea the battle is lost before it is even begun? Gore Vidal said “there are no homosexuals, there is only homosexuality” and if you stop and think about it he was absolutely right. Throughout the ages those found guilty of homosexual practices have been tormented, imprisoned, tortured, and put to death in the most horrific ways imaginable ( sometimes by other homosexuals hiding their own inclinations) yet it has had no effect. It has always been with us. It will always be with us. Leviticus not withstanding learn to live with it. If, as a so-called Christian (and take note evidently Jesus never mentioned the subject, New Testament, nor is it one of the Ten Commandments, Old Testament) you believe it to be a sin worthy of death, all the cruel and hateful methods including the threat of everlasting hellfire having failed, you could try eradicating it by one of the following methods: feed them Prayer Jelly Beans or have a mass day of ‘dial a prayer’ or sprinkle them with holy water to cleanse them, read them books by Ray Comfort, and the best of luck. These holy methods will be as efficacious as any other. There are problems to tackle in the world far more important, far more urgent and worthy of Christian interference than worrying yourselves sick about other people’s sexual orientation, something you obviously can do nothing about except cause pain and misery.
There are wars being fought, innocents being massacred, there is famine, hunger and homelessness, there is unbelievable greed, self-interest and corruption, there are diseases still to contend with, there is cruelty to animals in many forms, destruction of their habitat, destruction of the rainforest, destruction of the environment,  pollution of the oceans, climate control, child abuse even by parents sometimes resulting in murder, boy soldiers, amputations, floggings beheadings, circumcision of women and other barbaric traditional tribal practices and beliefs that should have been abandoned many years ago.  Rather than vent your spite battering away at a lost cause, do your Christian bit, no matter how small, to help alleviate suffering in all its forms and yours is a sure pathway to heaven. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013


I have recently been going through old scripts, the first one of course being The River Of Sand, a play I must have written around 1954/5 and I remember it did take me a long time to finish it, almost two years. A much later play, Rosemary took just five days. Having left South Africa in ‘53 that first play, influenced by my favourite American writers, Clifford Odets, Tennessee Williams, Eugene O’Neill and novelists like John Steinbeck  was of course about that country, set in 1904 just after the Boer War. Reading it again I feel justly proud of a beautiful piece of work even though I have to say so myself. It was once performed with the greatest success, as the Victorians used to say, as a play reading in the studio of the actress Janet Barrow but that is the only light of day it has seen despite numerous submissions including a couple quite recently. Apart from two I can’t remember in those early days to whom it was sent but the two remembered are Flora Robson and Granada TV. I thought Miss Robson was perfect casting for the lead but the play came back with a little note which read in part. ‘I couldn’t possibly play a part like that. What would my fans say?’ To this day I do not understand what she meant by ‘a part like that.’ Maybe she felt having played Elizabeth 1 anything less grand was beneath her. I would have thought any actress worth her salt would leap at a lead so powerful and sympathetic but then you never can tell with actresses. They continually moan that there are no parts written for women above a certain age but when presented with them they turn them down. Not all actresses are like the wonderful Joanna Lumley who is prepared to make the most fabulous fool of herself and is totally brilliant with it. Dulcie Grey was perfect casting for Mrs Borrodaile in Beautiful For Ever and when I was in a play with her at The Haymarket I gave her the script but when she read the description of Mrs Borrodaile she nearly had conniptions. Flora Robson, had she sill been alive, would have made an ideal Madam Rachel though more than likely she would have turned the part down in case her fans disapproved.
As for Granada TV and River of Sand the answer that came back was ‘Who’s interested in South Africa?’  Then came Sharpeville and suddenly everyone was interested in South Africa. Timing is everything and I am usually arse about face when it comes to timing, either to late or too soon. I have a play called Between Two Sighs which basically deals with two babies, one “divinely formed and fair” and the other deformed. The producer at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry at the time wanted to do it but the committee hummed and ha’d saying what if there were people in the audience in just such a position and how would they feel? And while they were fandangling along came A Day In The Death Of Joe Egg. End of Coventry and Between Two Sighs.
My second play, The Narrow Lane is autobiographical which I suppose is par for the course with a young budding playwright and it is toe-curling embarrassing, not because of content but because of the writing. In places some of the dialogue is appalling though in others there are signs of progress and the development of a certain sense of humour. However it is not a good play and will never see daylight but stay in the archives. The script is prefaced with a quotation by John Wolcot, ‘Truth is a narrow lane all full of quags, leading to broken heads, abuse and rags.’
Cameron Mackintosh maintains that it was the musical Salad Days that inspired him and I can quite believe it. I thoroughly enjoyed it when seated in the audience of a West End theatre. I didn’t enjoy it quite so much when playing in it and realised what a rather trite piece of whimsy it is. It is though, whichever way you look at it, a popular success and, like Cameron, having been inspired by Salad Days and with two plays under my belt I decided the next thing I would write would be a musical. The fact that I didn’t have a clue as to what to write, had never written a lyric in my life, and didn’t even have a title didn’t seem insurmountable problems. Eventually for lack of any other idea it was called Opus One; how pretentious can you get? Somewhere along the way the first act has got lost, no great loss to literature or musical theatre. The second act is still among my scripts and I really wouldn’t mind if that was lost as well but I am forbidden to touch it. It’s archive material after all. Since those far off days I have written over fifty plays including film and television. I have absolutely no idea what Opus One was all about and since then I have written the book and lyrics for Prancing Ahmadou from the book Prancing Nigger  by Ronald Firbank (no composer), Pickwick (no composer), Cupid (composer Kenny Clayton), Black Maria (composer Kenny Clayton)  La Belle Otero (composer Chris Littlewood), Alice in Winterland  (no composer), Peter Pan (composer Andy Davidson), Fugue In Two Flats (composer Paul Knight) and songs for The Double Deckers (composer Ivor Slaney), 78 lyrics in all. A long way from my first tentative attempt.

P.S. Rosemary and Peter Pan are both available on Amazon.

Monday, October 7, 2013


This one is all about children and childhood. I suppose the general treatment meted out to kids does change with various societies and at various times, the Victorian ethic, spare the rod and spoil the child – for example. And this principle held good until fairly recently when it became not only out of fashion but illegal. Some years ago in Edinburgh a French tourist was seen to give his errant son an admonishing slap, was reported by someone, arrested and charged with assault.
Yet, even in the wild, if a cub tends to get a bit too boisterous it’s likely to receive a nip or a cuff around the ear to maintain a bit of discipline.
Inevitably things have changed dramatically since I was a child; since I was a youth. In those days one was allowed to be a child. Life was much simpler then. How truly primitive but how enjoyable and even with what excitement were the games we played both indoors and out. I don’t remember ever being bored. We made our entertainment. We weren’t closeted by fearful parents but had freedom to roam and I remember only one case of paedophilia and that was by a British soldier passing through during the war. One never heard of any incident involving an attack by a pupil on a teacher, a phenomenon that seems to be endemic these days. The cane of course was still in use but rarely used, if it was it was usually on the open hands. However its very presence ensured a certain amount of discipline, something that seems to be entirely lacking now, as does any sense of respect for anything by so many of the young. I remember some years back waiting to cross a road at a pedestrian crossing and a boy of about twelve stepped out in front of a speeding car that obviously was not going to stop. I warned him of it, "Look out!" and his response? ‘Fuck off!’ His face contorted with rage. My thoughts after that could hardly be called magnanimous. ‘Die you little shit,’ I thought, ‘and make the world a cleaner place.’
As kids we were social animals. We had friends we could actually talk to, sped time with,  we went to parties, to dances, we went camping, we had sport, we listened to the radio, we read books. We did not sit glued to a computer, a mobile phone, an I-pad or anything like. Nowadays children as young as five or six are given a mobile phone. With that in hand social graces and intercourse tend to fly out the window.
So what is it like to be a kid today? We know all about single mothers and absent fathers. We know all about abuse in the home. We know all about gangs, gangs with knives they’re only too ready to use. There has always been bullying of course but now cyber bullying is added, evidently so distressing that in some cases it leads to suicide.
On Fridays we usually buy the Daily Mail. I might have said this before, it is to replace the Sunday Times we used to get and gave up when the culture section disappeared. The Mail on Friday has book reviews, cinema and theatre reviews but doesn’t get published in Greece in the winter. No British holiday makers to make it worthwhile. But let’s see what stories involving children are in last week’s paper
We all know about the spoilt Cruise brat the worth of whose fabulous wardrobe would feed Somalia for a year but what about ordinary everyday families?
An alcoholic cannabis smoking mum is guilty of starving her son age four to death. Five other children between five and thirteen years of age were found in soiled nappies crawling through piles of filth knee high in every room in the house. There was even cat faces in the bath tub.
Internet fears over the child iPad boom. The number of children using tablet computers triples in a year, 42 percent including children as young as three. The worry is that parents have not been able to keep up with their children’s technology skills and are unable to protect them from danger.
Catholic school bans bearded Muslim boys. Not really surprising. What is surprising is the boys are thirteen and have beards? Maybe kids are just maturing earlier these days.
America has witnessed a number of shootings in schools; here is a story from England. A schoolboy plotting to carry out a new Columbine school massacre asked his teacher which gun he would be prefer to be shot with… He plotted to bomb schools, Mosques and council buildings and police found bombs, knives and guns in his home.
Again, again, and again, will they never learn? A boy advertised his birthday party on Facebook, result? Hundreds of teenagers turned up to trash the parental home and turn the whole street into a mess with empty beer bottles, vomit and piss. In the house a skylight was broken, ornaments and other property stolen, carpets and furnishing spattered with drink and vomit. I wonder what the parents of these sons and daughters think of their offspring, that is if they even know or care. Once upon a time they were known as hooligans or vandals. That obviously no longer applies either. How often we find a parent protecting and making excuses for its little vandal when it should be chastising it. No, the lout’s bad behaviour is always the other person’s fault.
Finally pushy mums and dads including A-list celebs who put their kids through hell in reality shows. According to those present at a recording one little girl cried throughout most of the show, wanted to stay backstage, hated being in the limelight and suffered terribly from stage fright. There’s a difference between performing from behind the couch for guests in the drawing room to appearing in front of the cameras to an audience of millions. Of course there are kids who revel being in the limelight as is witnessed by the universal talent shows but these are children of sometimes truly amazing talent: instrumentalists, singers, dancers, not your ordinary sons and daughters of celebs. And when these ultra-talented kids are universally praised to the skies, what does it do to an ego that later in life could so easily be bruised?
Whichever way you look at it, childhood has always been a period of pitfalls one way or another, but today it's a period of too many..

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Islam and America

Is Obama a Muslim or, at least, is Islam where all his sympathies lie as some now firmly believe? This is a question that really has to be answered. He is one of the most powerful men in the world and, if he believes the world should be Islamic, as so many Islamic fundamentalists do, the world is in very deep trouble. I have been watching a selection of videos that show Islam in all its gory awfulness and it is truly difficult, almost impossible except that it is true, to believe that in this day and age the enlightened advanced countries of the world should be menaced by this ambitious mob of hate-filled ignorant religious fanatical  savages stirred on by their religious leaders, many of whom have a mind-set more appropriate to the dark ages than the modern world.. I am beginning to believe there can be no such thing as a moderate Muslim. If he faithfully follows the dictates of the Koran, a book as vicious and as bloody as the Bible, he has no alternative but to have murder on his mind and in his heart and by murder one means massacre.
Very interesting photographs on Face book of Baghdad and Tehran some thirty years or more ago (as I remember) showing groups of women then and now. In the first photo they could be women in any part of the civilised world and in the second they are a collection of unrecognisable sinister black ghosts. Is this the future for France, for the UK, for America, Demark, Norway, Holland, Germany, Italy, and Greece? Can you imagine the same photograph taken in a New York street of hundreds of women wearing the burqa? Be afraid. Be very afraid. This is what they want. But more frightening still is their ambition to have the whole world subject to Sharia law with its hangings, its beheadings, its stoning, floggings, amputations, honour killings, child brides, opposition to education for girls
What would happen to gays in America if Sharia was established, and what abut the Jewish community? Less important but still part of us, theatres would be closed, orchestras disbanded, alcohol prohibited which means closing all the bars, clubs etcetera.

When Obama was elected for his first term I, like many, was delighted that a black man had become president of the United States, not only that but the republican candidates seemed a very sorry lot following on from the disastrous Bush dynasty and Obama appeared to be exactly what we woolly-minded liberals hoped for. But now the doubts creep in. Is it too late to alter the course of history or will we really see all the advances made in the democratic world trampled beneath this religious fascism? Already in some major cities, Paris for example, there are whole areas given over to the Muslim community where the police, firemen, doctors, ambulances, refuse to go and the indigenous population feel like foreigners in their own land; and the boast of British Muslims is that by 2050 England will be a Muslim country. Be afraid. Be very afraid.