I’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.
The 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?
Liam hyperventilated at the prospect of watching Eurovision’s Greatest Hits, an extravaganza beamed across Europe by the BBC to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of the travelling camp fest. I slipped a little something in his Rioja to calm him down. Compered by Graham Norton in his newly acquired hipster whiskers and the posh-frocked Swede, Petra Mede, the show featured some of the contest’s most iconic/dire/fabulous/dreadful (delete according to taste) songs from times past – Brotherhood of Man, Johnny Logan, Lordi, Nicole, Bobby Socks (who?) to name but a few. Sadly, ABBA didn’t reform for the celebration but the BBC did chuck in Riverdance to get the feet tapping (an interval act that was one of the best things to ever emerge from the competition).
Eurovision has come a long way since Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson represented Le Royaume-Uni in 1959 with Sing, Little Birdie. Now we have the transgender Dana International (winner for Israel in 1998) and Conchita Wurst, the bearded lady (winner for Austria 2014) singing a duet holding hands. Way to go, sisters – changing the world one sequin at a time and really pissing off the bigots.
Beverages are big business these days and popping out for a cuppa has become something of a ritual in the Brennan-Scott household. We like to support local traders over the big chains and we’ve sampled most of the venues dotted about the city. Our favourite indie café is Stranger’s Coffee House on Pottergate but it’s a small shop and getting a table is almost impossible during the weekend rush. So we decided to give the shabby chic ambience of Biddy’s Tea Room on Lower Goat Lane a go. Cluttered vintage is Biddy’s thing. The place is packed wall-to-wall with curios and bric-a-brac from times past. A nightmare to dust, I should imagine. Even though the place was also packed wall-to-wall with punters, we found ourselves in pole position for a vacant Chesterfield. Liam hovered while I enquired after the dishes of the day. The young biddy with the long face behind the counter was not exactly forthcoming. ‘They’re all labelled,’ she barked. They weren’t.
Give Us a Quiche
While I ordered the veggie quiche and Liam paid, a couple sneaked in behind us and nabbed the sofa. Out-flanked, we ended up balancing our lunch precariously on our knees as we sat upright on a lumpy old chaise longue that looked like it had been dragged out of a skip. No easy task for a couple of old biddies like us. The quiche was nice enough but rather spoiled by the side salad swimming in Balsamic vinegar. Liam doesn’t like Balsamic vinegar.
And who were the couple who beat us to the Chesterfield? None other than Chloe Smith, Conservative Member of Parliament for Norwich North, and her beau. Ms Smith is one of the new breed of socially liberal Tories. She supported the same-sex marriage bill. Thank you, Chloe, but what about the bedroom tax and food banks? So far, Ms Smith’s greatest claim to fame is being mauled by veteran broadcaster, Jeremy Paxman, on Newsnight, the BBC’s flagship current affairs programme. The moral of this story? Grab your seat before you order at Biddy’s Tea Room and make sure you do your homework to avoid a right royal stuffing by Paxo (now there’s a disturbing thought).
Nothing slaps you about the face better than God’s wrath in 3-D. I’m a sucker for a Hollywood style Biblical epic, particularly as the fairy tales of the Old Testament lend themselves to stunning special effects. So when Ridley Scott’s ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’ was released, I was front of the queue. For the most part, the movie delivers on spectacle, making up in drama what it lacks in depth. The plagues sequence is particularly delicious as the God of Moses teaches Rameses a thing or two about divine power. The film has dumped the preachy gravitas of the Cecil B Mille’s 1956 ‘The Ten Commandments’. Christian Bale’s doubting Moses is much grittier than Charlton Heston’s pulpit-style rendition and is better suited to today’s more secular age. Depicting God as a ten year old boy is either inspired or daft (I’m still not sure which). Having the child resemble Damien from ‘The Omen’ is masterly.
According to the BBC, the film has been banned in Eqypt because of ‘historical inaccuracies’ (sorry?) – partly because the movie depicts the Hebrews slaving over a pair of pyramids (the construction of which ceased centuries before the alleged great escape). I’m glad to see that the religious censors are on the ball and standing up for the truth.
I’ve always had a soft spot for Boy George, despite (or perhaps because of) his well-documented dependencies on booze and drugs, and his well-deserved real imprisonment for the false imprisonment of a rent boy in 2008. George is clean now and has been for years. From androgynous painted pop star to hard-boiled drug addict, DJ of considerable note to grubby punter, the rise, fall and rise again of George O’Dowd has been remarkable. He’s a survivor with insight, a rare commodity among the brattish celebrity class. I was never much of a Culture Club devotee but I do like a lot of George’s post-Culture Club solo work, particularly the haunting, lyrically waspish ballads that show off his voice to greatest effect. Recently, I tuned in to watch George sing with the BBC Philharmonic and I was surprised (shocked even) to hear that his voice has hit the floor (along with his balls, George recently said with typical candour). His deeper sound is growing on me. George’s latest challenge is a vocal polyp that may require surgery and it has forced him to cancel a Culture Club reunion tour. Get well soon, George.
That was then…
This is now…
A foul afternoon of driving rain pushed us through the doors of Cinema City to catch ‘My Old Lady’, starring Kevin Kline, Kristen Scott Thomas and the incomparable Maggie Smith. We sat in the back row and watched the film above the nodding heads in fifty shades of grey. Kevin Kline plays a penniless, ex-alcoholic, never-to-be-published New York author who inherits a rambling run down Parisian apartment from his philandering father. He thinks he’s in the money but finds out that he’s also inherited a sitting tenant in an equity release arrangement, French-style; she can’t be evicted and he must pay rent to her. Step forward Dame Maggie as the feisty old madame with her foot in the door and Kirsten Scott Thomas as her brittle spinster daughter. It’s a salutary tale of how your parents fuck you up (along the lines of the Philip Larkin poem) and how not to let the truth get in the way of a fine romance. Set in the trendy Marais district of Paris, the BBC production oozes cool Gallic va va voom laced with arty pretensions. The film has had mixed reviews but we found it well worth stepping out of the rain for.