Answers on a Postcard

Answers on a Postcard

Would you Adam and Eve it? Our washing machine and dishwasher conked out within a few weeks of each other. It wasn’t entirely unexpected. They were both installed when the building was converted into flats about eight years ago and had been worked to death ever since. Still, to lose two appliances at once looks like carelessness, to misquote the marvellous Oscar Wilde. The equally marvellous Co-op came to our rescue with instant, no drama service. Quite fitting as we live in an old Co-op warehouse.

Beko

The replacement washing machine is from Beko, a Turkish brand. We’re doing our bit to keep the Turkish economy afloat. We chose cheap to keep our own economy afloat. The dishwasher is British made but you’d hardly know it from the manual. I’m not bad at English. I’ve got an O Level in it. But even I can’t fathom the meaning of:

The rapid light flicker fleetly.

Answers on a postcard.

Ten years ago, come Saturday night, you’d find me shaking my booty to the Freemasons surrounded by topless hairy marys. Ten years on, I’m on the sofa thumbing through a dishwasher manual watching sequinned men shake their booties on Strictly Come Dancing. Sad but true. And strangely satisfying.

Anne Reid, I Love to Sing

Anne Reid, I Love to Sing

A couple of weeks back, Liam treated us both to a slice of cabaret at Norwich’s trendy Playhouse Theatre. We were front and centre for a night of song and gossip from veteran actress and national treasure, Anne Reid.

Ms Reid first electrified  the nation when she was fried by a dodgy hair dryer in Coronation Street, Britain’s longest running soap. It was 1971 and the untimely death of her character, Valerie Barlow, had 18 million viewers on the edge of their lurid orange velour sofas – about 30% of the entire UK population at the time. After taking time out to do the family thing, Ms Reid returned to the boards and popped up all over the place in film and television. Later, as a 66-year-old jobbing actress, she bedded the future 007 Daniel Craig in the 2003 film, ‘The Mother’. She received a BAFTA nomination for her performance. I would too, if I had the chance to bonk James Bond.

Anne Reid hasn’t looked back since. These days, she’s better known as Celia, the Daily Mail reading bigot with a lesbian daughter in the romantic drama ‘Last Tango in Halifax’, playing opposite old-school socialist Alan (Derek Jacobi). It’s an engrossing tale of family dysfunction with tight, fast dialogue. The show’s been an unexpected worldwide hit for the BBC.

Last Tango in Halifax

Back to the Norwich Playhouse. Thanks to Ms Reid’s touching renditions and recollections, we left the theatre on a nippy night feeling nothing but warm inside.

The Lady in the Van

The Lady in the Van

The Lady in the Van PosterI’ve always admired Alan Bennett’s writing – witty, insightful, dead pan and very British. He has a remarkable knack of making magic from the ordinary and finding humour in the humdrum. If only I had a fraction of his talent. So when the adaptation of his play ‘The Lady in the Van’ was released, we bought our tickets and nudged politely past the grey herd at Cinema City, fruity red in hand. ‘The Lady in the Van’ is the far from ordinary tale of a crabby old woman living in a battered Bedford van squatting in the driveway of Alan Bennett’s North London home. He offered a parking space for three months. She stayed for fifteen years. Alex Jennings’ portrayal of the unsentimental and stoic author is uncanny and Maggie Smith as the aromatic old eccentric with a van-load of dark secrets is splendid. Top notch film acting is all in the eyes and the delivery. Maggie Smith lit up the screen with both. I feel a BAFTA coming on.

The clever script, littered with crisp one-liners, gradually unveils the old girl’s back story and, in doing so, reveals quite a lot about the author himself. To write any more would only spoil the plot. The supporting cast playing the hand-wringing Camden Town socialistas, desperate to see the back of the old bag, is rock-solid. There are some nice cameos from a few of the former pupils from Alan Bennett’s ‘History Boys’ too.

Here’s the trailer…

Tattoo!

Tattoo!

TattooAccording to a recent article in the Independent newspaper, Norwich is the second most tattooed city in the land, with 41% of people saying they sport more than six images. Coincidentally there are six tattoo parlours in the city centre, all doing a roaring trade. There was a time when tattoos were the preserve of randy roughs and frisky seamen. These days, the streets are teeming with cocks of the county wearing their body art with pride. Everybody’s at it. Some are so well adorned, they could be skinned and hung in the Tate. And yes, the image above is a tattoo of Norwich’s ancient cathedral. Is nothing sacred? Norwich tattoos even get a brief mention in Turkey Street.

‘F-f-fwend,’ said Sean, holding out his hand to an ageing skinhead with a trio of studs in one ear and a spider tattoo crawling up the side of his neck.

Turkey Street,  Chapter Thirteen, Blesséd are the Meek

I’m not against tattoos per se. In fact, I’ve got one myself. It’s a sad little thing resting on my shoulder, long faded with age and disfigured by a mole. I had it done many moons ago and have never repeated the experience. It was like having glass dragged across my skin. No, a little body engraving is fine by me, it’s just, like most things, less is more. When the lovely Iwan Thomas was the first to be ejected from this year’s Strictly Come Dancing on the Beeb, maybe it had more to do with the sudden exposure of his breast plate embellishment than his stompy cha-cha-cha. And I do wonder, when the ravages of time take their inevitable toll and taut young bodies are distorted by bingo wings, double-barrelled bellies and thunder thighs, how many men (and women, of course) will regret the artful decisions of their youth.

Iwan Thomas

Image courtesy of BBC/Guy Levy

Blind Date

Radio_NorwichTurkey StreetYesterday was my date with Stephen Bumfrey on BBC Radio Norfolk. I was a tad nervous. I needn’t have worried. Stephen has a natural charm which immediately put me at my ease and the conversation turned effortlessly. We talked about my memories of a tropical childhood, the curse of the whinging emigrey, my hopeless language skills, the challenges of a Mediterranean winter and, of course, my book, Turkey Street. It was like catching up with an old friend over a sherry or three. What fun I had. Thank you, Stephen for letting me shamelessly plug my book.

If you didn’t listen live, you can catch the podcast here. It’s available for the next 29 days only. My gig starts at 2:37 into the show.

I’m Nearly Famous

I’m Nearly Famous

BBC Radio Norfolk

Turkey StreetI’ve been invited onto the Stephen Bumfrey Entertainment Show on BBC Radio Norfolk to have a natter about my book, Turkey Street.  According to the BBC radio website, the marvellous Stephen ‘mingles with the stars of stage and screen on his afternoon show.’ The only time I’ve ever treaded the boards was as Snug the Joiner cum Lion in a school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I roared a lot and fluffed my lines. And as for my screen career, well, we’d best draw a veil over the sex tape. So I feel a bit of a fraud. Help!

Listen to me fluff my lines all over again this Tuesday (21st) at 2:30 on 95.1 FM, 104.4 FM, DAB and over the web.

Eurovision 2015

Eurovision 2015

Eurovision 2015aThe grand final of the Eurovision travelling circus hits town tonight. This time, the old imperial seat of the Hapsburgs, Vienna, is the venue for the annual glitterfest of frightful frocks and terrible tunes. The BBC has chosen posh celebrity cook and reformed coke head, Nigella Lawson to announce the verdict of the UK jury. I hope she doesn’t get too sniffy about it.

This year’s no-hope entry for Royaume Uni is Still in Love with You by Electro Velvet. God alone knows why Auntie Beeb thinks a daft Charleston pastiche with no discernible chorus stands the slightest chance of making it to the left hand side of the leader board. Still, I hear torch song dirges are big this year (along with the hair) so who knows? Electro Velvet might just rise above the slash-your-wrist ditties.

PS. The man who coined the phrase ‘Eurovision’ died in 2010 at the grand old age of 94. His name was George Campey. I’m saying nothing.

PPS. The UK entry flopped yet again. Has the BBC given up trying?