27 March 2006


Go look at the series on Flickr. Found the link at my pal Danny O'Brien's site, Oblomovka. Danny's an ubertechnogeek living in San Francisco, and most of his site is work-related so delightfully impenetrable to us oldworlders. But there's also good activistic stuff, and the fact that it's an ongoing homage to Oblomov is also fab.

25 March 2006

Very low day. Third day inside, and three nights of broken sleep. No fault of Buzz, bless him, he's quiet as a churchmouse. It's just the symptoms have been bothersome enough to wake me when not in rem sleep. Dad-in-law the retired GP reckons me and B haven't caught Slapcheek after all (see previous) - just a nasty and coincidental bout of flu.

Plus the bloody football - Everton losing 3-1 to Liverpool. Same score as last time. I know it's childish but this really depresses me.

Good things to look forward to this week, then.

Meeting up with Sinead and Camille to work on Night Light.
More light in the evenings.
Booking to see some plays. (Was meant to see The Odyssey tonight at the Lyric with a gang. Damn. Anyone seen it?)
Reading MoonDust.
Catching up with friends.
Showing Buzz off to them if they haven't seen him already.
Kicking off the next Miniaturists show by meeting up with a producer who wants to help out.
Getting my appetite back and cooking some nice food to sate it.
Kicking around the park with Spike, taking him to the caff for a lolly.

23 March 2006


Sounds like it ought to be a Ben Jonson character, who chews tobacco and holds forth on the parlous state of the London taverns, but it is in fact a virus that's come to visit us. Spike's cheeks went bright red and puffy early in the week, and the GP took a look and said, Ah that'll be Slapcheek then. Technical name is parvovirus B19, if you're interested. So then B got it (without the amusing red cheek business), and I was felled yesterday, on my way back from a day trip to Liverpool. I was up for a not uninteresting meeting with the artistic team at the Everyman and Playhouse, whose surnames all start with B - Bodinetz Bell and Bilis. I don't know why that tickles me but it does. Anyway it was a chat about The May Queen and they were very smart and nice about it, and all round charming, and if I do get to work with them on the play then I shall be very lucky. But it's all a bit up in the air, funding-dependent. Fingers crossed. It was a busy afternoon, with lots of talking, as I also managed to squeeze in lunch with Lizzie N and a cuppa with little sister Jane (she's 30 this year - yikes). But then I got the achey legs and tingly eyes on the train home, and now I'm a very unshaven bear with a sore head and throat, though thankfully my temperature seems to be okay now. And I don't look like I've been slapped.
I was meant to have started work on a project today, a show called Night Light, which is very near completion and will go on tour from early May, but the company want me to revamp the text they've written for it, so it's all quite urgent and so a double damned nuisance about this bug. The piece is a departure for me as it's a devised, movement-oriented thing about sleep and nightmares, fear and security, and the visual ideas and textual themes are fascinating, so I'm looking forward to getting going. It makes an interesting change to be given this specific brief, where the aim is to write text to support and complement the visual and the choreographic.

In bed, by the way, I've been reading Andrew Smith's wonderful book MoonDust: In Search Of The Men Who Fell To Earth, about the Apollo astronauts. It's an account of his travels around America to meet the remaining lunar explorers, along the way chewing on the meaning of space travel, the profound changes wrought on the men who left the planet, and the history of that extraordinary time, the truncated Space Age.

19 March 2006

So the launch of 'The 50'at the Royal Court was very enjoyable, on the whole. And I was fairly clubbable! Managed to make good conversation with a few of the writers, notably Lizzie Nunnery (Liverpool Theatres), Francis Turnly (Lyric, Belfast), Tom Morton-Smith (Hampstead), Rachel Barnett (Chichester), James Graham (Finborough) and Declan Feenan (Tinderbox, Belfast). Inevitably, connections were made in a random fashion, all reminiscent of a freshers' week do, or the first day of term at Hogwarts. Things kicked off with Professor McGonagall, I mean Kate Rowland, creative director of new writing for various BBC departments, interviewing Hanif Kureishi on the quite gorgeous set of The Winterling, Jez Butterworth's play. HK gave illuminating and engaging if rather self-conscious answers to her questions about his career, his 'process', his inspirations, methods etc. Self-consciousness is unavoidable in these sorts of things, I suppose. I enjoyed listening to him, though I don't know his work terribly well. Two or three of the writers did though, and quizzed him about it with enthusiasm. After HK left, and a tea break, KR talked about one of the commissions that BBC Radio has ring-fenced for us, a slot on The Wire, the experimental strand that she herself commissions for Radio 4. 'One' being the operative word, and given that 49 of us won't be writing for it, a disproportionate amount of time was given over, it could be said, to KR's outlining just exactly what she's looking for. After that we all had our piccies taken on that set, and when that was done, we repaired to the Court's cafe-bar for the good bit - drinks and eats and chats. Alan Yentob gave a little speech, introed by the Court's associate director for the all the 50th anniversary projects, Emily McLaughlin. Tom Wilson, Southwark supremo and my pal, showed up, as did others from many of the nominating theatres, plus various of the mentors assigned to us (though not mine). Thus the evening got very convivial, there was a very supportive and fraternal atmosphere to the whole thing. Bumped into Peter Kavanagh (radio producer), and gave him my free ticket for The Winterling (I was cream crackered by that point).

In the morning, back to the Court for a workshop. I was quite apprehensive as I'd never knowingly attended a writing workshop in my puff, but it was led by Emily McLaughlin and Ola Animashawun with such practised and confident ease that I was able to relax into it and contribute here and there. The session was on the theme of anger. It was very interesting listening to Emily, and later Ian Rickson after he joined us, on the history of the Court and how it was marked, branded almost, by that Anger play, and the explosive reaction to it after it was first staged in 1956. IR talked about how the English Stage Company was founded to evangelise the continental modernists, Ionescu and Sartre and the like, and John Osborne's play put a bomb under all that, and the company's had an ambivalent relationship with the play ever since. I half-knew all that, but it was fascinating to hear it articulated by this Court generation. We've been invited, the fifty of us!, to submit five minute pieces on the anger theme, and some of them will get staged during the week's celebration of the Look Back phenomenon in May (though, pointedly, there's no actual revival of the play).

Then after that, lunch on the King's Road and back to the theatre to see a matinee of The Winterling - which I really liked.

Must just give you this extract B found in the Faber Book of Diaries.

With Val to see play Look Back In Anger by John Osborne, whom I once interviewed on television without being able to get anything out of him. Play quite execrable - woman ironing, man yelling and snivelling, highbrow smut, 'daring' remarks (reading from Sunday paper; Bishop of __ asks all to rally round and make hydrogen bomb). Endured play up to point where hero and heroine pretended to be squirrels. - Malcolm Muggeridge, 14th March 1957.

17 March 2006

Via Diamond Geezer (see right, under Blogging) I found Crockatt and Powell, the blogging booksellers of Lower Marsh, which is just behind Waterloo Station if you don't know. Ashamed to say I've not been in - will remedy this soon. They report with excitement the arrival of an edition of JM Synge's travels in rural Ireland, which in turn led me to this quote, in the e-text:

In the middle classes the gifted son of a family is always the poorest--usually a writer or artist with no sense for speculation--and in a family of peasants, where the average comfort is just over penury, the gifted son sinks also, and is soon a tramp on the roadside.

Uncomfortable reading for the son of a working man, especially one with barely moderate gifts...

14 March 2006

Decidedly post-viral, I've felt some anxiety today, though this evening it's back to the fuzzy glow of new dad-dom. The hiccups are probably due to the oddity of having the new play read tonight, somewhere in Soho, without me being there (too knackered, and needed here). On the other hand, I should probably have been more anxious if I'd been set to go and hear it. There was to have been instant feedback as part of the process, and as I'd only finished the thing yesterday I'm not sure I'm yet ready to hear about its weaknesses. Then there's the launch of The 50 tomorrow at the Royal Court (it's all coming out now). I sincerely do not wish to inspect the gums of any gift horses, but I'm not at my best in groups, and there's a two and a half hour 'group session' tomorrow afternoon led by Hanif Kureishi and Kate Rowlands of the BBC. I was once at a BBC Radio Drama seminar led by KR and with all properly due respect to her and the department, I found the thing so uncomfortable I began, unbelievably, to misbehave, looking at the ceiling and shifting in my seat and muttering things in a most teenagerly way. I quite shocked myself, though I'm sure KR didn't even notice. And if she did it's certain she's far too professional to rise to such nonsense from a no-mark like me.

Any road, the past is another country and all that, and what with my curating the Miniaturists in the past half year I've been decidedly more clubbable and outward-looking, so perhaps tomorrow will be Damascene in nature and I'll be a good person to have in the group. I'm certainly looking forward to meeting some clever and interesting writers, clubbable or otherwise.
Piece got done. Was touch and go there for a while as I was flattened by a bug for most of the weekend. I'm reasonably pleased with it, though it's a play unpleasant. And it's nearer twenty minutes than thirty. A miniature, in fact. B thinks it's alright, which is always a good sign, she's a tough crowd. Quite cathartic - there's afterbirth, as well as unloving sex, and the riddle from Oedipus Tyrannus. I suppose now I look at it I can see that what I've done is something akin to conjuring the evil eye, like people do to ward off any complacency or hubris. A sort of spell to preserve the familial calm around here at the moment. And there are clouds of such. I mean, just look.

buzz first few days + 007

10 March 2006

Crikey Noah

The short play is meant to be inspired or provoked by the events of 31st January 1953, when the worst storm since 1703 (which was the subject of Daniel Defoe's The Storm) struck Britain, causing catastrophic damage and killing hundreds of people. It was a bigger blow than the hurricane of 1987, but unlike that event - Michael Fish and all that - has been omitted from what you might call the historical consciousness.
I've chosen to write a piece with the storm as a kind of moral force, an avenging wave, as in Genesis (but not the kind Spindleshanks was on about recently). It has four characters, and features a murder, a sexual assault, and a woman in labour. (Though I hasten, the labour and the murder and the assault happen to separate people. I'm not that messed up.)
It's called A Sphinx On Clacton Sands.

08 March 2006

Perhaps foolishly agreed a few weeks ago to write a thirty minute play for an actors' company, for no money. I reckoned - and still do - it might be a useful exercise. The deadline for the first draft is next Tuesday. I had an idea, but began wondering if the content will be suitable for their audience - I'm hazy on whether it's meant to be a community type play or for the London fringe. If the latter, I'll go ahead. Waiting for them to get back to me.
Meanwhile there are still irons in proper job fires, but nothing I can comfortably blog, annoyingly.
Double meanwhile, Buzz is on top of his game - feeding like a dustbuster, sleeping like his brother or either of his parents, and only making noise politely to enquire where his next meal's coming from. The answer is usually forthcoming, and he's content.

04 March 2006

No offence, Buzz

Googling to find out if the chicken gravy (incorporating mustard and brandy) I made last night is the cause of baby's eggy emissions, I mistyped, so it came out: "beastfeeding, foods to avoid".

03 March 2006


102:45:40 Aldrin: Contact Light.

102:45:43 Armstrong (on-board): Shutdown

102:45:44 Aldrin: Okay. Engine Stop.

102:45:45 Aldrin: ACA out of Detent.

102:45:46 Armstrong: Out of Detent. Auto.

102:45:47 Aldrin: Mode Control, both Auto. Descent Engine Command Override, Off. Engine Arm, Off. 413 is in.

102:45:57 Duke: We copy you down, Eagle.

102:45:58 Armstrong: Engine arm is off. (Pause) Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.

102:46:06 Duke: (Momentarily tongue-tied) Roger, Twan...(correcting himself) Tranquility. We copy you on the ground. You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We're breathing again. Thanks a lot.

102:46:16 Aldrin: Thank you.


Our Buzz has arrived. Bernard Sharkey, at 11.46pm last night, Homerton Hospital, weighing 8 pounds 9. Nice and chubby, and sleepy. B v well.

02 March 2006

You are GO to continue powered descent You are GO to continue powered descent beeeep

We're now in the approach phase, everything looking good beeeep

... Forward... good.... 40 feet, down 2 and a half, pickin' up some dust....
4 forward, 4 forward, drifting to the right a little...