The Jaded Jedi

Journal and General Musings

Day 19 in the Corona house: I’ve got a little list

27/03/2020

I’ve got a little list – Opera Australia (The Mikado)

I wouldn’t class myself as a dedicated Gilbert and Sullivan fan. As is often the case with those of us who like words, it’s the lyrics that grab my attention and often admiration. However, I’m far from an officionado of their cannon of work. That said, both yesterday and today, I’ve been unable to better their numbers for summing up the general feel of the blog post.

Day 19 in the Covfefe house

It sounds very strange to say nineteen isn’t a very high profile number. I suppose what I mean is it’s one of those numbers that don’t feature in promotions such as 3 for 2 or multi-buy purchases. It isn’t quantitative such as 12 or 144 (dozen and score) and it didn’t pull the whole goth unlucky stunt like 13 did. You don’t see it marking milestone birthdays or forming natural numerical divisions. Indeed, if it hadn’t been for Paul Hardcastle in the 1980’s it could have been almost as low profile as 37. That is until a little virus with a nominal number 19 attached boosted it into our collective consciousness.

The nineteenth day in the Corona house has been one dominated by lists. Vaughan finds them a mechanism to give the day a little structure, gain a sense of having completed something constructive and even finds it eases any background anxiety somewhat. I don’t, however, that didn’t stop him from making me one anyway which I’m pleased to report has been completed, or will be once this post has been completed.

I often raise a wry smile from those who know me well as I do have something of a capability to plan ahead. Vaughan famously quotes a planning spreadsheet for our wedding which had over 350 lines each representing a task. That was a bit of an exception, but you get the idea. I should warn the Royal Mail that I’m going to be calling on their Santa list a little early this year as I’ve been developing a corporate naughty or nice list.

It may be of some use to others to read through mine or even keep there own for those people or organisations we will remember for all the right or wrong reasons after this crisis has passed.

If as a reader of this blog you come across examples of companies or organisations to go on either my list for outstanding contribution or outstanding cockwomblery please feel free to add them with a little detail as comments to this post. If we have sufficient for an update or any amazing examples I’d certainly welcome everyone knowing about it.

Could do better

So a quick run down of what caused some of those listed to land where they have. Let’s start with a few people and organisations from whom I would have expected more.

We all know the hospitality sector is being hit pretty hard. We also know it’s been given a fair bit of support in the last ten days. It’s one thing for the local chippie to shut temporarily, even though most haven’t, but what of millionaire celebrity chefs.
Gordon Ramsey has reportedly laid off around five hundred of his staff from across his Michelin star and fine dining establishments. Multiple press reports indicate this was done with a meeting and confirmation by text reading:

Gordon Ramsey, celebrity chef

I am writing to confirm that you have been given notice that your contract of employment will be terminated and you will be paid four weeks notice.

You will be placed on garden leave for the duration of your notice. Your P45, final holiday pay and any other monies owing will be forwarded to you in due course.

The staff have not had their posts held for them if/when the venues reopen and social media has been replete with staff spilling the proverbial if not literal beans claiming to have been ‘treated like sh*t’ by the celebrity chef. In a climate where businesses are straining to retain jobs these sweeping lay offs are not what I would expect from such a culinary luminary. I don’t think I’ll be going to Petrus any time soon even if I could afford the £300 per head (approx) for 3 courses and some vino.

Also in the ‘could do better corner’ are Rick Stein who has informed the staff in his chain of restaurants that they won’t be paid for the time the restaurant is closed although he has pulled up short of terminating their contracts. I must remember this the next time either of them praise their staff and say how endebted they are to them on their websites for example.

A similar criticism is levelled at Weatherspoons who won’t be paying their staff anything while they are closed and a particular mention in despatches for Mike Ashley of Sport Direct. He tried to stay open and keep the money rolling in – claimed his trading was vital to the welfare of the nation. Nice try Mike but no cigar this time.

Better examples

So much for the wander down crass and clumsy crescent, what about a tour along quality street. Whatever you think of his vaccums or their big wagons, special mention should go to JCB and Dyson Plc for rising to the governments challenge and re-tooling some of their engineering lines to produce ventilators.

In a move which is either superb marketing or schere bravado – or possibly both, the Government asked Dyson to manufacture a few thousand ventilators to their specification. Dyson (in terms) said well we could, but why would we?

The Dyson factory in Wiltshire looked at the spec and the response was – well they’re just not very good are they. We can do better than that, which it appears they then set about doing.

Some criticise Dyson for moving some of their production offshore and I don’t seek to defend that. However, the first 10,000 ventilators redesigned, patented and in production in Wiltshire should be arriving with the NHS in mid to late April. I for one was impressed with not only the willingness to take on the task at all, but to do so in the same timescale whilst improving the end product. Dyson Plc is on this years nice list.

As time is pressing this evening, (I must shortly be a combination of barmand and cameraman – a combination not known for … well anything really). Vaughan is about to tackle chicken cacchiatori on Grub with V-Dub so I must get him wired for sound. For that reason only glowing mentions in passing for both Brewdolph Brewery in Oxforshire who have turned their brewing process into one producing hand sanitisers and their first 10,000 gallons will be ready later this week. Once the current madness is over I trust they have a nice side line in the making for their pubs – can’t think of a better way of cleaning those pipes out.

In contrast to Weatherspoon and those celebrity chefs, it’s worth singing the praises of a local brewery and pub chain. East Anglian Greene King brewers have told their tennants to stay in their pubs, keep their homes (most live on the premises) no need to pay rent consider it a fee for providing security to the premises – oh and by the way we’ll still pay your wages for as long as we can. – Odd how the multi million pound chains can’t manage it but a medium sized local business can. – Discuss.

Those of you who know me well will know I can have an inappropriate sense of humour at times, earlier this afternoon was one such time.

Masks by Ralph Lauren

It may be wrong of me but I was both impressed and secretly amused to hear that the design and fashion chain Ralph Lauren have also joined the list of unexpected suppliers to the NHS. In what is a natural if unexpected fit, they will provide hospitals with surgical and protective masks. I have nothing but praise and thanks for them but couldn’t help but think – I bet they’ll leave the label on.

I could imagine disucssions between nursing staff. Dior? – No sweetie Ralph Lauren. I’m just waiting to hear that L’oreal are joinng the production efforts churning out masks emblasoned with ‘because I’m worth it’ Highly inappropriate possibly, but I’ve been isolating for nineteen days, you get your laughs where you can.

I hope we remember the relative actions and approaches of these organisations in our buying and patronage once we emerge from this rather bleak period. I will certainly try to.

Hoping to redeem myself however latterly, here are this evening’s Grub with V-Dub productions. Easy to follow and I can vouch for how tasty it is .. The chicken cacciatori isn’t bad either.

Now to look at some IT for watch parties. I don’t know how people manage this self- isolation …. there just isn’t enough time in the day.

Day 13 in the Corona house: One day more.

22/03/2020

Day 14 in the Corona house

Day thirteen at Gumnut and we’re reaching the end of self-isolation following our return from Milan. However, I suspect that’s a moot point as both for reasons of medical history and the increasingly severe drive to stay at home, it’s not likely to be much different for me for a few weeks at least. Vaughan suffers a bit more than me from cabin fever but Southwark is a hotspot within the hotspot of London so we’re both likely to be home birds for a while yet.

I should start by asking where did those 14 days go? That should be followed quickly by a warning. There’s been a fair bit happening over the past 24 hours, so I’m perhaps a little heavier in the word count than usual. I’m still learning the bits to edit, reduce and precise without losing the interest, relevance or reason for including the content in the first place. Bear with me during that process while I tread the fine line between natural flow and rambling, hopefully staying on the right side.

Time flies – wise words indeed

I would have to say the past 24 hours has been defined by the certain knowledge of tempus fugiting.

A few things contributed to this. The first was the news that someone I knew in passing had become ill and died after contracting the Coronavirus. I don’t claim to have known Nick Matthews well, certainly not well enough to call him a friend, though our paths had crossed professionally a number of times. Nonetheless, it was a sobering moment when those you know (even slightly) fall victim to the virus. I was aware that he had recently suffered a heart attack and I suspect his BP may well have been on the high side, but knowing all that, it was still a shock. Let’s keep it just one person if we could please.

The second component was bizarrely the news of the death of Kenny Rogers. I wasn’t a particular fan, but like most people who can remember the late 70’s and early 80’s his voice formed part of the soundtrack. A school friend Les picked up on my saying Kenny Rogers reminded me of kinder times. Quite spookily, he was able to reference the same memory, a radio show hosted by the late Terry Wogan that boosted Kenny Rogers into the public consciousness, even apparently if you were just a teenager.

My mate and collie lover Carole

The third factor was one of those acts of random chance, a meeting (if you can meet whilst being ten feet apart) of pure serendipity. I was walking Taz this morning and noticed a lady trying to pack artwork into a large plastic crate on one of the park benches. We wouldn’t have spoken but Taz went and dropped his tennis ball into her container which may not have helped the situation. She introduced herself as Carole and spoke to Taz and even threw the ball for him. I gathered from distance that she had just been collecting fabric samples from the Camberwell college of Art before it closed.
Over the next three minutes, she told me she was about to retire after working for thirty years as a west end costume designer.

Her plastic box was topped with programmes from Phantom. Les Miserable, Wicked and Miss Saigon, all of which she had worked on. There was also a picture which seemed out of place. She must have seen me looking at the picture as she smiled and said ‘It seems like a lifetime ago.’

In that moment, I was reminded of a documentary in which Shirley Black (formerly Shirley Temple) asked ‘what’s left to do when you’ve reached your peak at age 10?’ Thankfully, in both Shirley and Carole’s case the answer is quite a lot, a life in the diplomatic service beckoned for Shirley Temple and an award winning costume designer lay ahead of Carole.
Many of you of a certain vintage will be familiar with Carole, in fact she holds the Guinness world record for the the longest appearance on TV. She’s clocked up over 70,000 hours putting any film star of the modern era into the shade. I’ll let you into the secret a little later but it made me think how some people remain ever young in our minds regardless of the passage of time.

I returned to Gumnut Towers anticipating that Vaughan would still be semi-comatose for another couple of hours. However, I was to be surprised. Vaughan who enjoys cooking and is a pretty good cook had decided to go global. He was up (well nearly) and planning his first pilot episode of Grub with V-Dub.

Lights, camera, dress…

I’ve still a lovie at heart and immediately thought production values, nice opening credits, check lighting in the kitchen and had something along the lines of Great Peckham Menu. Vaughan told me he was thinking of something more like fun with flags but with more peppers (or capsicums as he calls them).

Those of you who have trodden the boards in any capacity will understand my sense of impending doom when I realised Vaughan had started his project while I was upstairs trying to find the best camera to use. With the sounds of live streaming eminating from the kitchen I hurtle down the stairs thinking ‘What? Is he insane? No dress rehearsal!”

Today’s pilot episode featured a chicken curry which I must say was (as we say in the west country) gurt peachy lush. There were a few technical issues and a couple of prop malfunctions but despite me sitting on the stairs breathing into a paper bag and tutting about working with amateurs all went as well as it could – without a dress rehearsal. Vaughan had a great time and we have some vlog equipment on the way so there were lessons learned from the pilot – watch out for Chilli and Spaghetti Vaughnalaise following in due course.

Among all this self-isolated excitement, I have been chastised for not updating on a few outstanding matters. Let’s start with our cider stock. It’s been slightly depleted. I am able to report on Taunton Cider’s First Pressing medium cider (4%). As the name suggests it’s medium, quite fruity and drinks as Vaughan would say like apple juice. (Score 4 out of 5)

Secondly, on Torres cider farm’s Along came a cider (5.5%) which is a medium cloudy cider from a farm specialising in scrumpy. Need I say more?

Scoring split the judges. I gave it a 4, Vaughan gave it a 3.5 saying it had a cloudy taste which I have not decided on yet. – That said it disappeared pdq. The next cab off the rank will be Hecks Girdle-slackner. Watch this space.

Billy the bog-roll, like Elton is still standing.

I’m instructionised to inform Brent who may be a reader of this blog to prize open thy wallet and extract a tenner.

I make no comment on to how he has done this, but Billy the bog roll is still standing and I have not been aware of any particularly Scrooge-like behaviour in the dunny department. Vaughan is claiming a fair and square victory in the loo-roll challenge. I’m informed his winnings should preferably be sent by bank transfer to avoid contact with filthy money. Don’t shoot the messenger I only deal in the reportage.

A few people have very kindly said they have enjoyed the last couple of weeks blog reports and asked if I’m thinking of continuing them. They weren’t started with any grand scheme of world domination in the blogging world, more as a means of passing the time. However, to know a few people have enjoyed them is very rewarding. As I’m likely to be in purdah at either Gumnut or the Acreage for a while yet, I’ll keep them going for the routine it brings as well as no small amount of enjoyment. Thirteen days down, one to go.

BBC Test card F

Oh and as promised earlier, this was the image I saw screenprinted onto a t-shirt while walking Taz.

This is Carole as I remember her in her (and my) younger days. Tempus Fugit indeed.

It’s day eight in the Corona house and both Vaughan and I remain well, or at least asymptomatic. With the vast majority of the time being spent inside it’s odd where you find mental stimulation. I found some in the naming of these Corona updates and theming each update. I have to give special mention …

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The vital Importance of Being Earnest (Vaudeville Theatre, London)

11/09/2015

TIOBE1An unusual but not unique blog today with a set of thoughts based around (among other productions) a review of The Importance of being Ernest. This classic comedy is arguably Oscar Wilde’s true masterpiece and is currently playing for a relatively short run at the Vaudeville Theatre, London.

As a fan of this Wildian romp through Victorian social climbing I was desperately looking forward to seeing this production. With David Suchet and Michele Dotrice there was a promise which was almost always carried the risk of under delivering.  However, in this case that was an unnecessary fear.

From the very first entrance on stage by Algernon Moncriefe, it was clear we were dealing with actors comfortable with large parts. The sets had been prepared with a conservative but effective attention to detail and simplicity but allowed a modern and witty directing style to keep the actors in a near permanent state  of animation.

Whilst this was well received by the audience (and ultimately it’s bums on seats that count) I thought the amount of ‘business’ on stage might be slightly more than was called for by the original, rather more leisurely script. However, it made for both a bright and pacey first act which took us rushing to the first of the two intervals.

globe2Only a few weeks earlier, I had been lucky enough to see As you Like It at the Globe theatre, a production I enjoyed and am similarly pleased to have seen.

However, for a production which spent so much time focusing on detail and accuracy there were a few ‘liberties’ taken with the production apparently to make the play more palatable to modern audiences. Perhaps the most notable being the entrance of Audrey (a comedy foil) on stage riding a 1970’s style shopper cycle which  although effective was certainly anachronistic. For anyone other than the purist (and perhaps not even all of them) this worked well and brought humour to an otherwise ‘hard going’ part of the play. However, for me it jarred, it was almost lazy, the easy way out.

Please don’t misunderstand me, the actors concerned were both excellent and unless Audrey snuck in the cycle as some elaborate ad-lib, were operating as directed. Presumably the addition was felt necessary to lighten the mood and make the scene more accessible to a modern audience? It’s simply that with so much attention to detail elsewhere this was almost patronising to the audience. Would a wooden wheel-barrow or a donkey or anything less out of time been an impossibility? Alternatively, why not in line skates or a moped?

My concerns, such as they existed were similar for the Importance of being Earnest. The text is certainly of it’s time and even dated in parts, but directors please note – 90 percent of the audience know this before they buy the tickets.

clownFor my taste, the production fell just on the wrong side (at times) of pratfalls and farce. Again, it was clear why, to ma language more accessible, text less dense and to give multi-dimensional characterisation to characters who stretch the suspension of disbelief at times.

However, the amount of physical comedy from a cast who clearly could have achieved the same level of comedy from the beauty of the text was at times overdone for my liking – although many in the audience clearly loved it and didn’t share my concerns.

It is impossible (or perhaps more accTIOBE2urate to say) that it would be inappropriate to single out any particular cast member as they were a true ensemble acting as a traditional troupe.

David Suchet’s Lady Bracknell was an amazingly subtle almost filmic tour de force of facial expressions and comedy timing. Having seen many others including Dame Maggie Smith and Edith Evans (albeit on film) he certainly found new space for this amazing character to live.

However, even here, (whether following direction or the actors wish not to ‘parrot’ Dame Edith), there was a singular choice which left me robbed of an old friend.

The best known line in the production is undoubtedly ‘A handbag?’ asked (usually incredulously) by Lady Bracknell on learning of the birthplace (or at least finding) or Jack Worthing.

Undoubtedly for the best of theatrical reasons, this was delivered not as a statement of shock or disbelief, but rather as a swallowed laugh. The only point in a spotless performance that I felt didn’t quite ring true.

DirectorSo was I glad to have seen the performances? Absolutely.  Did I enjoy them? Undoubtedly. My only appeal would be to Directors to trust their audiences to know the work they are about to watch or to be capable enough to endure the rough patches with the high emotional and performance peaks.

So much has been ‘dummed down’ in recent years that some of us seek out challenging, thought provoking and demanding theatre. Sometimes that also includes being reintroduced to an old friend who doesn’t need to have been subject to a ‘makeover’ or turned into pantomime. Be brave, be imaginative but remain true to the text and the spirit of the production.

Regrettably you are too late to see As you Like It, but if you get a chance to see The Importance of Being Earnest and tell me I know not of what I speak, I would thoroughly recommend you to do so. Two amazing shows.

Now before anyone screams at me, this isn’t an entirely serious posting (hard to believe I know). However, it did follow on from some thinking about the law of unintended consequences. Yesterday’s post about renewable energy raised a few eyebrows among readers, particularly a couple of questions over the real time display of UK energy …

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A comparison of honesty

28/12/2014

60% of the brain is water

60% of the brain is water

It is widely accepted by the majority of reputable medical sources, that for an average healthy male, the brain is sixty percent water (by weight). Similarly, the rest of the body is around 75% water.

For the brain, the rest is taken up with structures of the brain, blood, cerebral fluids and the like. This does make you ask how something as complex and varied as consciousness can exist in what is, in effect a wobbly bucket of blancmange?

Questions of consciousness aside, it does emphasise the importance of remaining hydrated to healthy brain and body functions. Failing to do so could therefore have consequences to both and may account, at least in part, to an increase in my tendency to put things down and forget them over recent days. Although I must admit this isn’t entirely new, as one of my last actions before leaving the UK was to stop my Oyster card ( a travel card for public transport in London).

My blog posting are somewhat Australian centric at present. Obviously they won’t be forever, but it isn’t entirely unexpected as I explore this place for the first time.

Put those two facts together and it doesn’t take much of a leap of reasoning to understand why I might be considering honesty as experienced in the UK and Australia.

18th/19th century 'transported' prisoners

18th/19th century ‘transported’ prisoners

So, what do we ‘know’ as a starting point? Well (with apologies in advance to my Australian friends) it’s widely believed in some circles in the UK that everyone in Australia is descended from rampant sheep rustlers (at best) – so dishonesty is far more likely. This has a number of flaws, not least historical inaccuracy – but never let the facts get in the way of a good stereotype.

It also misses the point that even if this had been the case, these ‘offenders’ were English and French (providing the majority of transported prisoners), so it would be reasonable to apply the same national stigma to the originating countries. Finally. transportation ended over 150 years ago. To suggest this has any residual bearing on national characteristics assumes the nature versus nurture debate has been won, which to best of my knowledge is not yet the case.

Bow Street Runners

Bow Street Runners

In contrast of course, the British Isles virtually single-handedly created the model for the modern police service, designed an effective Courts system and is the home of Parliamentary democracy – so surely honesty must be in the very DNA of its nationals.

Very few people ask why quite so many judicial functions were necessary in such a law abiding idyll. The vast majority of the population at this time lived in degrees of poverty. Whilst I count myself as a decent and responsible person, were I subject to those levels of social inequality and injustice, I may well have found myself travelling south courtesy of HMG.

Three modern day examples of honest behaviours spring to mind in this effort to compare and contrast the differences in thought processes and behaviours between the UK and Australia. These are the case of the mislaid camera, the mystery of the stolen wallet and the misplacing of the travel ticket.

Tahbilk wineries

Tahbilk wineries

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to visit Tahbilk wineries in Victoria (purely for tourist purposes you understand) and spent a very pleasant afternoon sampling their various products.

Not unlike many venues of this type, they were very popular with a reasonable number of visitors. Lunch was available in their bistro and my newish camera (Cannon D70) was placed on the chair next to me while we ate.

For reasons I can’t quite fathom it remained there after we left and it was only when we had left the winery that I realised it was missing. Making a quick turn around I went back to the bistro more in hope than expectation of finding the camera. However, it had been handed in and was behind the bar. The owner seemed quite alarmed that some people wouldn’t have considered returning it asking ‘but why wouldn’t they? The pictures won’t mean anything to them and you’d have to go in to Melbourne to get one of them’.

The thought that a thief may still be driven by emotional considerations rather than merely the profit motive was refreshing and striking. The similar situation in the UK would have been fruitless (in my view). It did make me wonder whether the sheer scale of this country/continent has an impact. The issue of replacing a stolen item and the disruption that would cause was factored into the consideration. It simply wouldn’t be an issue at home.

The second incident related to the theft of a wallet. It was explained to me (and independently corroborated by others) that it is fairly common for a pick-pocket to lift a wallet and after removing the available folding money to post the wallet in the nearest post box at which point the Australian postal service will attempt to return it to the owning bank or owner. All rather civilised  and different to the occasion I had my wallet stolen in London and was able to trace the pickpockets route by the trail of discarded content along his/her route. So if we did export our criminals it appears to have been the gentleman burglar school of larcenist.

TFL Oyster Card

TFL Oyster Card

The final comparison relates to the loss of travelcards. I mentioned that I had misplaced an oyster card in London. A quick check online showed that whilst in Canberra on 19th December I was simultaneously on the number 36 bus in Kennington.

In the world of e-travel it’s easy to see where your lost/stolen card has been used – not something my ‘finder’ thought about. So again, if we did export our criminal classes we must have sent the brighter end of the spectrum.

I mentioned that I had stopped the card some days earlier, however this hasn’t been processed in time so I lost my twenty pounds – after all it’s just an oyster card. Unfortunately a fairly typical reaction today.

Revolving restaurant

Revolving restaurant

Contrast that with the efforts of the staff at Sydney’s revolving restaurant where a similarly inconsequential travel card was left on the table. On reporting this the waiting staff made checks with their colleagues and offered apologies as to its loss. More effort than I had expected and more than experienced at home with Transport for London.

However, this was insufficient for the manager who at his insistence searched the ‘rubbish’ from the cleared tables and recovered the travel card. Something which I just cannot imagine happening in many places in the UK.

Although I don’t believe that Australia is free from its fair share of nefarious characters, there does seem to be something in the national psyche that is fundamentally honest. Of course both countries have their own shared similarities – the flexible approach to ticket purchases on some forms of public transport being good examples.

However, based on my personal experiences over the last 2 weeks I would say in terms of the UK ‘God save us from ungracious thieves’ and here ‘Advance Australia fair’

Firstly, I must declare an interest. I’m with Dr Sheldon Cooper in being no great fan of the festival of Saturnalia. The over-commercialisation of the season has made it lose it’s appeal and meaning to many. I can see it’s potential, but the traditional family Christmas hasn’t been big on my radar for some years. …

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Oh you are awful …. but I like you !

07/10/2014


Dick Emery

Dick Emery

Any comic or sit-com actor will tell you that catch phrases can’t really be planned – they just take off and work their way into the psyche of the audience.

The other characteristic of a catch-phrase is their longevity. A case in point happened today when I was walking through an office reception and heard a rather plummy female voice utter the phrase ‘Oh you are awful !’

Cut to 1979 and the now virtually forgotten comedian Dick Emery who had a vast array of characters in his then iconic Saturday evening comedy show. One of those characters a young lady called Mandy found herself subject to frequent end of the pier double entendre and always responded ‘Oh you are awful … but I like you!’ – Followed by a swift left hand shove.

Instantly I heard the comment in the reception area I mentally finished the punch line, even though I hadn’t heard it for at least 30 years and was a young child at the time.

Then I began to wonder why Dick Emery had been erased from British Comedy? Others such as Tommy Cooper, Frankie Howerd and the like are held up as major comic influences on others. Considering some of his material it certainly wouldn’t be considered PC but its certainly harmless.

The clips above show a range of the characters Emery created. Now although not rip-roaringly funny in this compilation, some of his work was ground-breaking. He was one of the only commedians in the 1970’s and 80’s to feature an openly gay (and yes camp) man – but one who was clearly enjoying all aspects of gay life. Something we rarely see even today.

So today I found myself saying thank you Dick Emery for making me laugh as a child and for raising a smile some 30+ years later. That has to be some record I’m sure.

 

Nanoo Nanoo

12/08/2014

Mork and MindyThere are some personalities who seem to have been ever present. For me, Robin Williams is one of them.

Cast in the spin off from Happy Days, Williams was unknown in 1978 so given the delay in airing the series in the UK, I can’t really have been aware of him much before 1980, but to me he was a quirky, whitty ever present feature in my childhood.

With Pam Dawber in Mork and Mindy, his off the wall mischievous ability to add-lib was clearly given fairly extensive latitude. So unlike any other performers of this time, the producers of the programme said he was the only actual alien to turn up for the audition.

It’s probably a mark of an entertainer or a performer that they pass the ‘ I remember where I was when I heard’ test. Elvis Presley, Whitney Houston, Jack Lemmon all pass that for me and now Robin Williams is added to the list of those who’s death seems to rob me of something very personal.

For me the stripy jumpered Mork will always be associated with Sunday afternoons when it was first aired in the UK. For some time Williams was just the clown, the zany, ever performing live wire who had thousands of one liners and more energy than your average power station. Then as I grew older I saw him struggle and admit to issues with alcohol and substance dependence.

Along side that were some deeply touching and genuinely powerful acting roles that dispelled the image of the jobbing clown. Good Will Hunting, Dead Poets Society and Mrs Doubtfire had touches of deep pathos and real emotional insight. Less popular choices where I think I saw a momentary glimpse of the real man were Hamlet, The Birdcage and Insomnia. Even One Hour Photos (although a troubling and dislikeable film in my view) showed his bravery and real talent.

His star had certainly faded in recent years. The comic who could do no wrong and who’s mind travelled at warp speed had faded to a parody of a jaded comic on Family guy – something unimaginable and somehow hurtful for those of us who remember him at his zenith.

Even now the questions have started to be asked and reasons put forward for his apparent suicide. An alleged struggle with Parkinson’s disease, the suggestion of the risk of bankruptcy and the re-emergence of the well known battle against depression have been raised as contributing factors.

For me – none of those matter or diminish his gift and his curse which was to be an incredibly private and gifted performer. Unable to switch off in public, perhaps unable to be himself – we, the audiences who lapped up the madness share part of the responsibility.

So today, despite the news of unrest in the middle east, Ebola spreading in west Africa and many other more ‘serious’ news stories it is the death of Robin Williams that dominated the day and my thinking. An incredible talent and undoubtedly a vulnerable personality. It’s too easy to say we won’t see someone else like him (and often obviously untrue) … but in this case, it may just be accurate.

Nanoo Nanoo !

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