Saturday, 14 May 2011

Wallies, fluffheads and Cheryl Cole

Some blonde fluffhead of a showbiz “reporter” on Sky News the other night told the viewers (all 30 of them!) that the latest Pirates of the Caribbean film was the “fourth in the trilogy” . Doh!

I’ve never really understood why female telly “journalists” think it appropriate to act all gooey and thick when they meet film actors. Though maybe the Sky bird last night wasn’t merely pretending...

All those red carpet premiere events really ought to be treated by journalists with sneering disdain for what they are – cynical marketing ploys which the actors find a bore to do.

That never seems to happen though. The media pack genuflect in the presence of actors. Why? An actor is just grown-ups without a proper job. They make money by dressing up and pretending – that’s hardly worthy of admiration.

Johnny Depp was struggling to stay awake the other night as he glad-handed the fans at the London premiere, though it was kind of him to make a fuss of a certain south London schoolgirl.

In my working life as a journalist (mainly spent in the senior and most effective branch of the profession – newspapers, of course!) I don’t recall ever covering a film premiere.

However, when I worked for ORACLE from 1987 to 1992 I had to attend many media launches of TV programme schedules.

At these bland events, journalists were expected to conduct reverential little interviews with various wallies from the world of light entertainment and TV dramas. Frankly, half the time I couldn’t be arsed, they bored the s**t out of me.

I was once harried by some press office harpy to interview Mike Smith about his new show. I forget what it was called. I remember her telling me for the third time that “Mike Smith is ready to be interviewed by you now.”

But I was far too busy fat-necking the free booze and buffet to interview him. I told the PR bird: “I have no intention of interviewing Mike Smith. I would rather stick needles in my eyes, frankly. Now would you kindly PISS OFF?!”

At those launches I did not care much for the sort of soft journalists from TV listings mags and women's periodicals sent to cover showbiz and light entertainment – the hagiography brigade. When each reel of trailers for the new season’s shows had finished playing, that lot used to clap and cheer – pathetic!

I preferred to yawn and sneer at the new shows, and write them up in my ORACLE pages for what they were – garbage, TV for thick people.

I was what the late Pope might call “a sign of contradiction” to all the yes-men and women and showbiz bumsuckers that surrounded me.

And I had some very high up admirers in the TV industry – not least Greg Dyke (a big cheese at ITV at the time) and the beautiful, intelligent and genuine presenter Lorraine Kelly.

P.S.Cheryl Cole’s got herself big hair like a 1970s US Prom Queen. All she’s done is prove what I’ve always suspected - that she’s a fluffhead.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Something profound in the age of digital dizziness

I’m thoroughly jaded by all the dizzy, ditzy digital communication flashing around the world – then along comes an event that's unchanging, dignified and profound …

Yes, voting in elections in this country is so VERY LOW TECH – and all the better for it. Just you, a booth, a bit of paper and a pen. Seemples! I indicated with an X who I want elected to the Death Star that is the Wirral Council (well, everything it touches crumbles and dies).

And then I put an X on the other question, some nonsense about changing the voting system which I, like most people, chose to interpret as this question: Do you approve / not approve of the irritating berk Nick Clegg? Now that’s what I call a no-brainer!

But I really ought to get with the beat, digitally speaking, because I need to set up my own personal website. Why? Well read on …

You see, I’m on this programme with the Brit Writers Awards to publish one of my novels. It’s called ‘The Wearons’ and it’s about extraterrestrials living in Liverpool. When a human being falls in love with one of the shape-shifting aliens all hell breaks out – and the history of the world takes an extraordinary turn. Along the way, lots of laughs and some out-of-the-world philosophy.

I’ve also got a novel nearly completed about office politics, sex, love and magic – called ‘Bad News for Butterflies’.

Then there are the drama scripts I’m working on, one for the Everyman in Liverpool. Well, a man’s got to have a creative outlet; otherwise one might spend all one’s spare time drinking red wine in Hell’s Waiting Room and other saloon bars in New Brighton.

In fact, I am deadly serious about the books and the plays (though I’m concentrating on the books just now).

And of course these days writers MUST have their own website, to promote themselves and their publications. A blog alone won't do.

So that’s what I’m trying to do. I’ve taken the first step, I’ve bought a domain. Now I need to set up my website, but I’m not sure I’m bright enough to do that by myself. I need to blag some help from tech-head friends. So far this help has not exactly landed on my doorstep and I feel confused and daunted by it all.

The fact is, I feel there is WAY too much information flashing around the world digitally – 99 per cent of it rubbish with very little editorial control.

Nonetheless (a very website unfriendly word) I do need to get myself a website.

And no, I won’t be calling it

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Forget TV and Royal Weddings, here's a slice of real life

I was asked to choose a public place or space, observe it and write about it – find the drama in it.

A Wetherspoon’s pub, I thought – refuge of the common man and woman.

I chose the one in Liscard, Wallasey – a place that’s literally at the end of a road to nowhere, on the northern tip of the Wirral Peninsula.

In theory, Spoons pubs should be good everywhere, selling decent ale and wine cheap and with food available from morning to 10pm-ish. In theory …

There is no juke box or piped or live music. Good. No darts board. Good. (Look this is only my opinion …)

And the Wallasey Spoons has attractive ochre and brown carpeting and lots of cosy booths and wood panelling.

But there's something unpleasantly industrialised about this chain of pubs. They’re too big – cavernous barns. The bar staff are usually young, and lacking in character.

And splattered across the walls and all the tables are big, garish menus and drinks posters. This promotional garbage ruins the atmosphere.

Then there are the customers ... I shamelessly listened in to people’s conversations and observed their movements and behaviour (because I’d been asked to, see * at the end) when I called in for a late lunch recently.

I ordered food and a glass wine of and gave the charmless barkeep my table number, as demanded, resisting the impulse to tell her: “I’m a free man not a number!”

I sat down. To my left four men in their fifties and sixties are being lairy. Roars of laughter, coarse cackles – quite cheering at first but it soon starts to grate.

Immediately in front of me, in a beige windcheater and wearing trainers, is an elderly guy sat on his own reading the Liverpool Echo. Reading it like an old person; methodically, page by page, not just flicking through.

In front of me, a couple in their early thirties, out with their baby. An air of sadness hangs over them. They seem to have had an argument. Their baby is placed right on the top of their table in its carrier thingie, surrounded by pint pots and empty crisp packets. Doesn’t seem quite right somehow,

To my right, a trio of local girls (judging by their Scouse-ish accents) yammering away non-stop. “She wouldn’t shurrup about it,” one of them says. “Why didn’t yer come to our party? Why, she kept sayin’. Was it because Jamie was there? F**king hell, I don’t even know who Jamie is. She’s mad, her.”

Behind them three youngish local people, two women and a bloke. With them is an older guy with a southern English estuary accent. He’s loud too. It’s an unattractive accent, in my view, jarring on me, winding me up. Suddenly he’s bellowing into his mobile: “Where are yer, babes? ‘Old up, I’ll cam ovah and see yer. Give us a capple of minutes, I’ll be there. Don’t move.” He makes his excuses and leaves.

My meal arrives – a very industrial curry. The nan bread is floppy, like it’s been microwaved, and the poppadoms, instead of being fried, have been grilled – nasty. The meal comes without the promised mango chutney. “Oh yeah," says the hurried and disinterested waitress. "I’ll get you some. I’ll be back in a minute."

Now a man, possibly mentally ill, has sat down on the table right next to me. He is staring at me and smiling, maybe leering. I don’t like this. I feel uncomfortable.

Then he starts sneezing. Really loud. He’s having a total sneezing jag. Now, I HATE sneezing! Sneezes are right at the top of my list of things that can't be tolerated, alongside wire coathangers and Phillip Schofield.

It’s getting ridiculous. I’m counting his sneezes. Twenty-four so far … twenty-five. Some of his snot must surely have gone onto my curry and into my drink. He’s sitting very close to me.

I can’t bear this any longer. I get up to go, leaving half of my meal and quite a bit of wine. Twenty-nine, thirty, thirty-one! Is he ever gonna stop?

The young women across from me are also leaving the pub, seemingly for the same reason. One of the girls says, “F**king hell, that guy’s sneezing for England.”

* I was asked to go to a public place, observe, and write it up – part of a play writing course I’m on at the Everyman in Liverpool.