Monday, 26 February 2018

Emma Chambers

It is with the greatest sadness that I write this.

Emma Chambers, film and television actress, has died at the age of 53.

I was at The Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art from 1983 to 1986. Emma was there at the same time, though we were in different classes.

I remember her as one of the good people: kind, warm-hearted, never nasty, and so, so funny, both on and off stage.

Webber was a hard, nasty, bitchy school. Such attributes were in short supply. So Emma stood out, not only because of this, but also because, even then, it was clear she was possessed of a truly stellar talent.

As my own career popped and banged before fizzling out like some defective firework, it gave me true joy to see her doing so well, first, as Charity Pecksniff in the TV adaptation of 'Martin Chuzzlewit', then later, running rings around both Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts in 'Notting Hill'.

She will be best remembered for her superb comedy timing and wonderful characterisation in the role of Alice Tinker in 'The Vicar of Dibley'. I remember watching the episode of Alice's wedding. My mum had tears of laughter rolling down her cheeks as Alice made her way down the aisle accompanied by Telly-tubby 'bridesmaids'.

Although I knew her, I can make no claim to having been a friend of Emma's, either at college, or afterwards.

But I feel truly stricken that she has died so young, and at the height of her powers.

She was one of the best of us, and definitely one of the nicest.

God bless you, sweet one, and may you rest in peace.


Thursday, 14 December 2017

In which Victor and I give up entirely and go to the pub.............

This morning, I received an unsolicited text message from EE inviting me to 'Gift Like a Boss' this Christmas.

Does anybody out there have any idea what this means?

There was a day when I could 'Punch like a South Bound Freight Train'.....

It's been a long while, but this makes me feel like getting back into training......

'Gift Like a Boss' indeed..........

Good Grief, children! 

This is the language of Shakespeare, Milton, Donne, Coleridge, Maugham, Eliot, Dickens, Fforde, insert the name of your favourite author and wordsmith here that you are traducing with your spine-wrenchingly awful misconstructions.

So what to say to the bunch of hopelessly misguided suits who came up with this?

I am starting an on-line campaign:

It's called "No. Stop it. Stop it Now. No, Really, Before I Lose My Temper ......."

We then add what we wish to say to the authors of this abomination, and sign.

I will open the batting thus:

.... "you lame brained excuses for a bunch of numpty cretins." John Witts.

(Come on, I'm just warming up. I'm sure you can do much better.........)

Please send your submissions to this blog on the usual electronic postcard.

Meanwhile, Victor and I will be muttering into our Milk Stout in the Saloon Bar........

Merry Christmas everyone........

Thursday, 30 November 2017

In which I have a Victor Meldrew moment......

"I don't believe it.


Yes, dear old Victor's catchphrase could not be more apt than it is today.

It actually wearies me to hear the news that the current incumbent of The White House has re-tweeted vile racist nonsense from a bunch of pathetic non-entities based in the United Kingdom.

Also, that Garrison Keillor, American  radio broadcaster and author of 'Lake Woebegone Days' has just been fired from his job as a result of an accusation of improper behaviour.

Good Grief.

I love his work: if you haven't read his book, then get a copy quick before they are all burned.

I don't know.

Look, if he did something or said something or suggested something that would not have made his mother proud at some point in his seventy five years, then he should say sorry and make amends.

But don't let the accusation (at time of writing not substantiated) prevent you from reading his work.

It's a great primer for the sublime prose of Kent Haruf, an author who is a fairly recent addition to Pippin's library.

Start with 'Plainsong'.

For many years, academia has been in search of The Great American Novel.

For my money, this is it.

'Benediction' is also brilliant.

I haven't read 'Our Souls at Night' yet, though.

I am given to understand it is not about the late shift at the local hospital's colonoscopy clinic, no matter what the British English pronunciation of the title may lead you to believe.......

It is a shame Mr Haruf is no longer with us.

He could have continued his superb ouvre with a book entitled "Our Souls at The White House"........

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

"I was glad......

.....when they said unto me, let us go to the house of the Lord this day"

That's the introit commonly used in the Anglican mass and also a traditional anthem at the Coronation of a new King or Queen.

The most famous setting is by Sir Hubert Parry for King Edward VII's Coronation in 1902.

I think it's rather lovely........

 And today, I am glad.

Yes, the North Koreans have just launched another ballistic missile....

Yes, Messrs Barnier and Juncker are currently working out how to most royally stuff the U.K. as it slides, rudderless, toward a Brexit negotiated by poltroons on behalf of non-entities.

Yes the White House is, well, ...............fill it in for yourself.......

And yet "I am Glad".

Not, of course, because of any of that bollocks................

Goes without saying, really.


"I Am Glad" because a little boy I met once in 1991 (when he came round the Museum of the Moving Image with his older brother, and I had, as one of the actor guides, in Odeon Commissionaire character, to show them out of the 'quick' exit door from The Odeon exhibit to the shop because they were late for tea with their Mum), has just got engaged.

I am very glad about this.

I am also very glad his fiancee is an American.

(I fell in love with one myself back in the early eighties.... it was not to be...)

I am also very glad she is of mixed race.

And I am very glad and that she has been married once before, and that she and he will be allowed to marry in church.

His family has been, in the past, rather hide-bound by tradition, you see......

His Great great Uncle was prohibited by the family from marrying an American divorcee.

His Great Aunt was not allowed to marry a divorcee, even though he was a decorated war hero, and was very close to his Great Aunt's father.......

And they weren't terribly nice to his Mum when she and his Dad got divorced.

And he was devastated when she got killed in a car crash..........

What with that and military service in Afghanistan, the lad has been through the wringer.

But his girl seems very nice indeed, and I wish them both good luck, long life and much happiness.

Their good news has made me glad.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Ten Years on................

Today marks ten years since the day that Jackie and I closed the deal on Pippin and became boaters.

Ten years.......


Well, we're okay.....

The eponymous widebeam has been blacked three times, had a new gearbox, ten engine services, and been treated to more solar panels, a wind turbine and lately, a new energy efficient washing machine that means we can do a load of laundry entirely off the solar bank without using the mahoosive generator in the bows (silent since March..... I wonder if it still works....)

We've made some wonderful friends and had some great times.

We've seen people come and go on the river, and waved farewell with sadness to most and given the extended middle digit to only one or two.

In short, it has been a blast.

And it's far from over yet!

If you've stayed with this nonsense throughout, especially the long silences which meant only that I was rather busy or just didn't feel I had much of interest to say, then thank you.

Here's to the next ten years!


Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Ash Wednesday

I went into Soho today to attend the Ash Wednesday service at St Anne's church.

As I get older, I feel more inclined to mark Lent and try to keep it.

Jackie and I did Dry January successfully (okay, one minor slip on the 27th when drink may have been taken after we did Under Milk Wood...), so I'm packing in the booze again for Lent.

I think, though, it is equally important to take something on for Lent, too.

I am going to try to have at least one Quiet Day a week.

By this, I mean a whole day without talking.

Even to myself.

"Yeah, right", I hear you say.....

Well it's got to be worth a try..........

Also, after the service one of my friends there told me I had been name-checked on Radio Four by no less a personage than Rev. Clare Herbert, who was at one time Rector of St Anne's. If you want to have a listen, click the link to Radio 4's website.

Click on Tuesday 28th February then scroll down to 09:30 "One to One" 'Lucy Mangan on Responsibility'.

Clare comes across really well. Not a surprise: she's a great person.

After the service, I popped over to The French House to meet my chum Martin Cort for a catch-up. Dottie Phillips was also in attendance, so we chatted around a few ideas for what The French House Players might do next while enjoying a spot of lunch.

It was lovely to see old friends and colleagues from my days of working in the pub too: Annabel, Lesley and Annie were all in evidence, as was May, who I never worked with but remember keeping an eye on one lunchtime when her actor Dad came into town for a casting and needed a 'sitter' (She was probably about eight at the time...... now in her twenties......... :-)

Annabel too has decided to give up the drink for Lent. Though she hadn't realised Lent lasted until mid-April when she said she'd do it, she's gamely going to carry on!

The journey home was tricky: all trains were stopping at Cambridge and going no further. Thankfully, our neighbour Rhoda very kindly came out through some very heavy traffic to pick me up and bring me home.

Apparently, a poor benighted soul had ended their life in front of a train at Waterbeach station earlier in the day.

At time of writing no further details are available.

My heart goes out to the person, to their family, and to all the poor people who witnessed it.

Such a sadness.

And such a waste.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Trump and trumpery: the antidote.........

I have been watching aghast as events have unfolded over the last week: the inauguration, that speech, the reaction to it, the massive protest marches in the U.S.A, and the reaction to that: the internet trolling , the ignorance, the vacuity, the vituperation and the spite........

It has left me feeling profoundly depressed.

If, like me, you are sickened to your heart with the whole shambolic circus, and the sheer viciousness displayed by all sides in it, then please click on the link below.

It may not be quite the antidote you had in  mind, but roll with it........

It works for me..........

Those Quakers are definitely on to something..........