Friday, July 28, 2006

I'm Just Waiting For The Restraining Order

I'm just Waiting For The Restraining Order

[Let's set the scene; it's early evening, we're sat on blankets at Harewood House working our way through a picnic. I'm on my third glass of wine. The wine is probably the most important factor. The conversation has come round to a particular scene in the film of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire . Given my known obsessions I'm sure you can guess which one]

C: "We need that screen capped - Alan Rickman and David Tennant peering into each others faces!"

V: "We do!"

S: "But if you had to choose - Alan Rickman or David Tennant?"

[There's a pause. This is important stuff after all]

C: "At the moment - David Tennant"
"But they're not mutually exclusive"

[I've said this quite loudly as I've lost my volume control. S and V are laughing hysterically. And yet I don't stop].

"Seriously - I don't think there's a rule that says if you do one you can't do the other".

It's a good job I don't let reality impinge on my life.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006



D and I are playing 'The Crystal Maze' with an assortment of mental poles that need to come out of a box, but which will only come out if you pull them out in the correct order. The grass of the Cloisters at Kirkstall Abbey is covered in accumulated tat of a touring theatre company - swords, fire extinguishers, plastic glasses, cargo nets. I can hear Bottom speaking. Pierce Brosnan's son is carrying a metal crate behind the seating whilst Wayne Sleep half dances his way through the debris.

Theatre. You've got to love it.

Monday, July 24, 2006

There May Have Been Whooping

There May Have Been Whooping

There are a couple of ways to make sure that I'll buy something. Things like putting the words 'Byron', 'Ginny Woolf' or 'Shakespeare' into it. But Dorothy Perkins have discovered the magic words that had me rushing to the till with my debit card faster than my bank manager could say 'hey, I thought that was a savings account'. Those magic words?

"Designed by Sienna Miller":

Sienna t-shirt

And I'm donating to charity lest I get worried that it's all about my Sienna Boho Princess obsession. I think this is what's called a win-win situation.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

There's Always One

There's Always One

Our workshop leader has done his intro spiel, dispensed with some jokes and is now in the midst of imparting his wisdom to the group of thirty odd wannabe screenwriters, a good proportion of whom have receding hairlines. We've reached the rule of 'conflict' when -

"Just to play devil's advocate -"

I twist my head from its forward facing position so it can see which twit has decided to take that line this time. If my ever increasing knowledge of workshops has taught me anything - other than that I get the giggles when Almost Alan Rickman puts his hand in my face - it's that there's always someone, inevitably male, who spends the entire workshop trying to trip up the person leading it. Now I have ego (you may have noticed) and, yes, I know there are certain things I am good at, of which I like to think writing might be one. But this does not mean I have nothing to learn, on the contrary, I have a burning desire to learn, to be better, to reach out and one day win that Olivier/Tony/Oscar/Booker/Nobel Prize [and, yes, those days when I've been surgically attached to the photocopier I have thought about my acceptance speeches*]. I don't know everything, I know a little bit more about dramatic writing than the average person does. And one can assume that there is a reason why the person is leading the workshop as opposed to taking part in it. The fact that he makes his living as a Screenwriter and none of the other people in the room do might have been a clue.

"Not all films have conflict - just to name two, Straight Story doesn't and neither does Forrest Gump"

I can't comment on Straight Story, but Forrest Gump I do know. It's one of the films that has me losing half my body weight in tears. And yes, the word 'conflict' would be alien to Gump but that doesn't mean it isn't there. The film's riddled with it.

"Because the guy in Straight Story - he's pretty easy going, he's not angry -"

I think I might want to maim this guy. Not only is he wanting to show off, he's patently not listening enough to realise that conflict doesn't have to mean people shouting at each other.

The workshop leader's clearly not impressed either.

"I'd say the fact that the guy's dying and wants to live is a pretty big conflict".

Ha-ha, surely Advocate Guy can't come back from that.

"I think he's pretty ok with everything"

The workshop leader looks directly at him and Advocate Guy looks back. I notice that the over-powerful lighting in the lecture theatre at York St John College** is bouncing off what is clearly the beginnings of a bald patch. I have an almost overwhelming urge to throw my water bottle at it.

"I want to tell you all a story -"

This practically comes with neon flashing lights telling us to STOP. Everyone takes their eyes off of Advocate Guy. Even I stop trying to work out the power I'd need to hit the bald spot.

"My brother - he makes furniture. And when he was 17 he went to furniture making college -"

Wow, is there really such a thing as furniture making college? I wonder if it still exists given that pretty much everyone now gets their furniture in flatpacks from Ikea.

"And during his first week there he had to attend a lecture - rather like this but the lecturer was obviously much older and less attractive than me -"

Really? Ok, I'll just let it pass. I'm starting to like this guy.

"It was all about Chippendale furniture and my brother couldn't see why he had to attend when he just wanted to get on and make, well - a chair. So he told the lecturer this"

Oh, bad move I'm guessing.

"The lecturer's response was 'here we clearly have a maverick' and he pulled out some bits of wood and gave them to my brother, telling him to come back next week with a chair. Which my brother thought was great -"

Me, I'd have just looked puzzled at the bits of wood and wondered where the instructions were.

"So he came to the lecture the week after with the chair and presented it to the Lecturer. And the lecturer commended him and told him to sit on it for three hours, which of course my brother did"

"He was, naturally, in traction for the next week and couldn't sit properly for weeks after that. And from then on he went to the lectures without complaining".

Dude, this screenwriter's great. And his brother, I'm sure he's proud that this story is being re-used.

I crane my neck to see if Advocate Guy at least has the sense to blush. He's looking vaguely sheepish, but by this stage sheepish isn't good enough for me. I'm wanting him to lie prostrate at the workshop leader's feet and promise that he will never again use the phrase "devil's advocate".

"So, by all means write a screenplay without conflict in it, but don't expect it to get made"

Game, set and match to the screenwriter I think.
*You may think I'm joking. Sadly I'm not.
**Alma mata of some of my favourite people, including whoever directed the wonderful Adam and Eve Mystery Play which I saw on Sunday.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Where I Look Normal and Balanced

Where I Look Normal and Balanced

For the person who is morally free enough to google "where does david tennant live now" and ended up over at Nik's blog I've a few things to tell you:

1. Do you really think google gives out that kind of information? Because if it did do you think I'd be sitting here now?

2. Don't go looking at Flash Frequency for answers like that. It'll just end up with you seeing disturbing pictures of Colin Murray.

3. From all recent-ish evidence, you're looking for somewhere in North London. Or a flat near a Tesco in Cardiff. I would like to point out that this does not make me a stalker, just very observant when it comes to reading interviews. Some might say it amounts to the same thing, I'd argue otherwise. And, trust me, you don't want to see me argue. It never stops.

4. If you find out that kind of information then you're going to need to tell me. Because - as DT's next TARDIS companion - I'm going to need to know these things.

5. You're a bit of a wannabe non-stalker aren't you?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

On Drawing Lines

On Drawing Lines

Once upon a time I read a lot of blogs. I joked I read so many that they were the reason I was in grave danger of getting a third. Of course they weren't - it was more the non-stalking of various musicians that was seeing to that* - but, over the course of time, or more accurately over the course of me having much less internet time than I used to, I've had to cut down my list of must reads. Plus - not that I'm suggesting that DA started a trend but, in the privacy of a pub after one Baileys too many, I might well claim so - the number of friends of mine who have blogs has risen almost threefold. And there's quite a lot to say for being able to peer into the blogs of people you know in actual, real, non-virtual life. At the very least it gives you ammunition to embarrass them with.

But there are those bloggers whose stories - or more rather writing - I've found so compelling that I've made the time to read them even though I've never so much as shared a hello with them. Usually I read them in some marathon session on a weekend, which for me is something rather like delving into a favourite book. What have these people I have never met been up to? What do they want to say? Are they going to make me laugh? Are they going to make me cry? Will I want to steal their ideas for DA and claim them as my own? Amongst this merry bunch of men and women has been a certain Petite. I've read her blog almost as long as I've been writing my own and I suspect I will continue to do so for some time into the future.

So I approached this news both as a reader (and dare I say in context of DA, a fan - though I know that means that should Petite ever get wind of this I'll probably be barred from going back to Paris) and as a fellow blogger. And I think anyone who blogs has got an interest in the outcome of Petite's tribunal. I've never considered Petite to be someone who blogs about work, I certainly didn't have a clue who her employers were. Where then are lines to be drawn? When it seems that every other person you meet has a blog do we have to have them represent everything we are to the world at large? Does every word have to be weighed for what might be inferred or judged?

It's a scary thought. Needless to say, I'm rooting for Petite in this.

*Ok, it wasn't responsible for a third. A 2:1 then. And I mainly blame Paddy Marber for that.

"Let's waste time chasing cars around our heads".

"Let's Waste Time Chasing Cars Around Our Heads"
"It looks like we're in Rome - but it's Leeds!"

I wonder at first if Lead Singer Snow Patrol is being paid by the Leeds tourist board, but as I twist my head and look round at the Civic Hall, lit up and surrounded by the encroaching mid July darkness I know what he means. If we put aside the fact that there's more Northern accents than you'd expect to find - and probably more pairs of checked deck shoes too - then, yes, we might be in Rome.

The first support band - The Pigeon Detectives - they weren't Roman. No, they were most definitely from Rothwell in Leeds [I'd try and write Rothwell phonetically for you just to get this across, but I can't. If you know what either Danny from Embrace or Chris Moyles's friend Longman sounds like then that's the voice you should be using.] And they were all big hair, badly washed t-shirts and tight jeans. But the lead singer had a nice line in rockstar behaviour and they were wanting people to bounce so - with the exception of a slightly drunk middle aged man near me who repeatedly yelled 'get your hair cut' - they went down quite well. The second support act didn't fare quite as well. For starters he wasn't from Rothwell. And though he had a good song about a dead dog visiting him [I kid you not] he wasn't really about the bounce. And this audience - they wanted the bounce. But I could see why he was Snow Patrol's support act - because - as anyone who has listened to Songs For Polarbears will know - Snow Patrol have their dead dog tendencies. Over the course of the albums it's mellowed and hidden itself in arm waving, anthemic songs but it's still there, ready to do whatever it is that a dead dog does.

But we're all quietly pleased when it's time for the main act and to the strains of 'Spitting Games' Snow Patrol emerge. And Lead Singer Snow Patrol has had his hair cut since May when I didn't recognise him in the VIP section at One Big Weekend. He's cute and his accent is adorable. I mentally add him to my fantasy football team. And with those do-doos that herald the start of a very good evening, I'm bouncing. And so, it would seem is all of Millennium Square. Even the guy with ear plugs in a few rows in front of me seems to be tapping his foot. If he carrys on in this manner, he'll be nodding his head by the encore.
"The first time we played in Leeds 3 people turned up. One of those was Bob - Bob from Franz Ferdinand. I'm not claiming that we started something that night - but I think we did"

But we press on - 'Wow', 'Hands Open', 'Chocolate'; Lead Singer Snow Patrol informs us he pays the English crew one blue M&M a week whether they want it or not. They get a guy called Ben ("Do you know the song 'Ben'? This is him!"*) out to play the trumpet. 'Chasing Cars' and everyone sings. Well, almost everyone since there's a fight a few rows in front of me over that perenial gig favourite of someone sitting on someone else's shoulders. But it's beautiful - not the aborted fight, that's rather messy - but hearing those disparate voices singing a song I find incredibly beautiful. And the band feel it too "you're the first audience to sing along with that - you should be proud".

Most bands, if they get lucky, end up with one anthemic song which defines their gigs. The song that everyone holds their breath to hear, whose words reverberate around all those venues up and down the country, whose performance is as much a statement on the part of the audience as it is on that of the band. Those songs where the singers can confidently hold the mic out to the crowd and hear the words come soaring back at them. And it struck me that some how Snow Patrol with 'Chocolate', 'Run' and 'You're All I Have' have managed to get hold of three of these songs [and 'Chasing Cars' seems to be heading that way too]. Which might seem a tad greedy on their part when there are all those bands out there that don't even have one. But it does make for a well balanced gig.
"I like to dedicate this song to everyone, but that's a bit general. So this is for every single fucking one of you. Is that better?"

When we hit 'Run' we knew our time was almost up - and as we sung the words out, arms raised in the air in some moment of glorious abandonment, I couldn't help but feel that this - this magical crowd going, music hearing, hardly definable thing - doesn't get better than this. Everywhere I looked those faces, those voices, those eyes. To borrow a term from my Romantic boys, this is probably as close to the sublime as you can get in the middle of Leeds on a Saturday night. That's the sublime bit I'm borrowing, I don't think they ever had a night out in Leeds after all. And when the words faded out and we were left with the remaining chords I thought I might just cry.

"I want you to shake your ass to this one. C'mon you've all got an ass"

If a boy with a guitar makes such a demand there is only one thing to do. You're going to scream those words and shake your ass. Especially when you hear the opening bars of 'You're All I Have'. And everywhere's a mass of arms, of friends, of strangers, grabbing each other and jumping. And I don't even get too many strange looks when I forcibly scream 'you're cinematic razor sharp' - even from the person who unwittingly ended up with a burst eardrum - just because that line must be shouted even though no one other than Nik and I ever shout it**.

Thankfully preventing me from having to blow into a paper bag (something that would have been difficult given that I only had the little plastic bag that my badges had come in) there's a significant pause before the encore. Significant enough that some people start to leave. But then the boys are back and they end on the rather leftfield 'Tiny Little Fractures'. And there's the command to shake our asses one last time.

Thirty minutes later I take my seat on the last bus home, and switch on 'shuffle'. Through my earpieces I hear the opening bars of 'Run'. My voice is croaky, I'm covered in my own sweat and some one else's beer but this - this is magic.
*When of course everyone knows it was about a rodent.
**The reason why? It was a blog title on DA once. Ten points and a restraining order to anyone who got that.

Monday, July 17, 2006

And that's not even counting being covered in someone's beer

And that's not even counting being covered in someone's beer.

Ticket to see Snow Patrol + booking fee + ridiculous recorded delivery so the delivery man could claim there was no one in the house: Twenty Nine Pounds.

First Day Bus Ticket: Two pounds and thirty pence.

Snow Patrol Badges: Three pounds.

Being at the biggest gig that Snow Patrol have headlined, standing with your arms in the air and singing 'Run' with thousands of others: Priceless.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Even Will Shakespeare Had A Problem With People Coughing

Even Will Shakespeare Had A Problem With People Coughing*

Oh, I've always wanted to be like Random Acts of Reality and get to write this and, finally, it comes: the views expressed in this blog are my own and they do not necessarily reflect those of the WYP or its staff.

For a few weeks now there's been an ongoing debate in The Stage's letter page regarding theatre access, a debate which was sparked by Mark Shenton's blog. In a nutshell, Shenton attended a performance of Into the Woods at Derby Playhouse, a performance which was also attended by a group of seriously disabled people. And the problem? Shenton's theatre-watching experience was so damaged by the noises echoing from the group he complained to the Duty Manager during the interval. And then wrote his hugely controversial blog on the subject, a blog which at the time I read with some interest. Because how do I square my own pro-access stance with my equally developed strain of theatre snobbishness? What would I think in those circumstances? And, possibly more importantly, what responsibilities do I think a theatre has to all of its patrons?

Maybe this has been pushed to the forefront of my mind because in recent months - in the name of justifying the extra pay the addition of the word 'Senior' to my job title has given me - I've had to deal hands on with some of the WYP's access strategies. And as stressful as some of those times have been - let's not get into the story of my (almost) holding up a performance of Bad Girls last month - I've enjoyed the experience. Because it's an area of theatre I've never experienced before. It was rather enlightening to listen to the audio description of West Side Story, something I would never have thought of doing. But if I've seen where access is working with the audio description, the captioned performances, those community network nights, then I've also had to deal with carers/support workers taking people out of the theatre because they felt they were causing a disruption. It's something I consider to be a very difficult, thorny subject - and one which I suspect has many wrong answers but few unequivocally right ones.

Topically, yesterday I attended a training workshop with Mind The Gap, a theatre company for people with learning difficulties. It was all aimed at getting front of house people in all their guises (as well as three of us FoH-ers, there were duty managers, box office staff, receptionists, restaurant staff and even two sound men) to look at the experience of coming to the theatre from the point of view of someone with learning difficulties. The session started with a performance from Mind The Gap of 'Never Ever' - a short play about Anne-Marie, a girl with downs syndrome, attending the theatre for the first time. And whilst I giggled at the more outrageous moments of the portrayal of life in a theatre and I genuinely enjoyed the play we had to walk the line between what I could condemn (patronising, unhelpful attitudes which no one should be greeted with inside a theatre) and what is more difficult to deal with (the ever thorny issue of disruptions during a performance). It also pushed me to question how far is a theatre responsible for the attitudes of its audience. All staff can - and should - be trained to deal with the differing needs of audience members, we should be doing everything we possibly can to widen access to this brilliant and affecting medium and if that means paying attendants to specifically deal with such groups (as is starting to happen at the WYP) then we should. But can we train an audience? In 'Never Ever' we saw the tutting queue members, the annoyance at having to stand up to let people in to their seats, the desire to not be disturbed. And I've worked that. I've seen it. I've had to deal with it.

I think the notion of the "unwritten rules of theatre going" are probably very pertinent. And because these rules are unwritten there are whole swathes of people who don't know them, or who interpret them in different ways, people who see them loosely, people who live by them strictly. Me? I think those theatres in London which sell popcorn need a good talking to, I'm still generally a bit dubious by in-theatre whooping [though I have started to relax on this a bit, just a bit mind you] and don't get me started with the propensity of regional audiences to give musicals standing ovations. Hopefully new policies of inclusion are pulling more and more people into the theatre, people who may not have a history of theatre-going so does this mean that we - and I mean people like me - need to look at those unwritten rules? Do they need to be re-written? Heck, do they need to be written? Should theatres have mission statements that go on their websites, that along with highlighting that they are theatres of social inclusion, who welcome groups with a full range of difficulties and, yes, we encourage schools to bring lots of children, also put forward the "theatre going rules" of that particular venue. Rules sounds like such a horrible, perscriptive word, when really the most amazing thing that can happen in the theatre is the enjoyment of the audience, those times when it sparks something, some connection that is far away from rules as is possible. For there is nothing worse than a silent, unmoving audience. Well, nothing other than a mobile phone going off during the emotional climax, but we'll put that to one side and hope someday people will remember to turn the bloody things off. Rules, suggestions, codes of behaviour, whatever we take to call them - because it's pointless pretending they don't exist when we know they do - maybe there needs to be something about respecting all theatre-goers and their right to attend (and enjoy) the theatre at the top of them.

*If you believe the film.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

"I'm Still Dubious About This Buzzer"

"I'm Still Dubious About This Buzzer"

"What came after the Tudors but before -"

That's it, my hand's hit the buzzer; I'm not missing out on this question. All that time of being surgically attached to a large red hardback book about the Kings and Queens of England won't let me miss out on this one. Given my preferred reading material as a child (kings and queens, Enid Blyton, The Chronicles of Narnia) I'm always vaguely surprised that I turned out the way I did. Maybe all children are innately conservative (with a small 'c').

"The Stuarts"

"I'll finish the question: what came after the Tudors but before the Reformation?"

Val and I exchange looks. Surely he meant the 'Restoration' considering that the Reformation took place during the reign of Henry VIII who was, last time I checked, a flag waving, badge carrying, paid up member of the Tudor dynasty.

"If you agree with 'The Stuarts' press your buzzers now"

We get the ten seconds while people press their buzzers. And yes I know this is weird, I'm doing a pub quiz that has a buzzer, but in the quest of finding the Perfect Pub Quiz (translating as one which we can win) no stone is being left unturned. Even stones where there is a buzzer playing Queen.

"Right, everyone agrees with you which means we might have a little problem. I might be wrong"

I think we can agree here that our host being wrong is a much better solution for all concerned than me being wrong.

"What answer have you got?" And please note, despite the fact I have alcohol in my veins, I manage to say this without sounding like I'm accusing him of war crimes.

"The Renaissance".

I'm a little aghast at this stage because it's pointing to a bundle of things. One, our host doesn't know what the Renaissance was. Two, he doesn't know who either the Tudors or the Stuarts were. Three, he doesn't know the difference between the Reformation and the Restoration. Four, he's got no concept of a historical period spanning two hundred years. And five - he's saying that I'm wrong.

"I got it out of a book"

Books - the greatest weapons in the world providing you know how to use them.

The guy on the next table, a member of The Ducks of Hazzard, tries to explain what the Renaissance was to our host. It's not working.

Val takes a different tack and tries to explain why the question was wrong.

"Your mum thinks I'm right"

There's that kind of earth shattering silence that I've heard before. I feel a glimmer of pity for him. Only a glimmer though because he's just said I'm wrong.

"I'm not her mum"

The reaction is immediate. Lightning flashes through the air, the host is burnt to cinders, the room full of pub quizzers laugh.

"You should give us the points now".

And if the moral and intellectual highground hadn't sealed it I know I've got it covered now. Ten points in the bag.

Monday, July 10, 2006

"Quite Right Too"

"Quite Right Too"

Whilst trying to walk that very fine line that means that DA isn't turned into a Dr Who Convention I can't let Saturday night's finale pass. Because you - you, Russell T Davis, you Billie Piper and especially you, David Tennant - oh, you broke me alright. Yes, I gasped at the daleks and yes, I'm pleased to have had my childhood suspicions that the daleks would thrash the cybermen confirmed. And that bit where the daleks came streaming out of the Prison Ship? Cool, cool, cool.

But, in the end, it all turned into 'were there daleks and cybermen in this episode?'. Because I didn't care. I didn't care about the monsters. You'd made me care so deeply about the characters that it was their story I wanted to see. I wanted to see how you were going to break up this couple and how - sob - you were going to leave the Doctor on his own again. And you did it with style and humour and the only way it could be done. It broke my heart.

Everyone who wants to act should be made to watch David Tennant lying his head against the wall that is the physical manifestation of of his seperation from Rose. Because what was that on paper? 'The Doctor places his head on the wall'? In the hands of Tennant we saw the entire series in his face and yet it was so quiet and unobtrusive. It was the kind of acting that makes me very excited. Or at least it would have done if I'd have been capable of doing anything but blowing into a paper bag

I can see why there might be militant whovians out there who don't like this episode. This is unchartered territory for Who. Because it had turned into a love story and we were left in no doubt as to the fact that this was the most important bit. But I loved it. Just as I loved the series. It's not always been perfect and when I note a particular episode was a bit sappy you know you're well beyond Richard Curtis territory. Plus the loneliness thing? God, you writers hammered it home. You didn't need to. We could see it in Tennant's eyes. And sometimes you've got so many balls in the air that you inevitably drop some. There are moments when I want to say - stop. I want to hear more of this story. I want to see where this is going. But I don't think there's any programme on television at the moment that has such unbriddled joy at its heart. This is not hastily spat out, brain switched off Saturday night tv, it's intelligent, giddy, thoughtful stuff. There's a real commitment at its centre - to those wonderful actors, to everything Dr Who has ever meant to five year olds hiding behind their sofa, to the writers behind it. On a weekly basis it's made me laugh, it's made me think and it's made me cry. And it's made me feel things I normally consider to be the preserve of theatre. So I applaud you all.

Finally, thank you Russell, for knowing just as I knew, that killing Rose was never an option. And for being brave enough - however much I might have wanted it to happen - to acknowledge that the Doctor could never tell her he loved her. Those words would have fractured the show. He has to be able to move on. And he will. But it's another chip isn't it?

So, if you don't mind, I'm going to put Damien Rice* on and wallow. It's really been a pleasure. And I'm sure it will be again.

*Can you do anything else when listening to Rice but wallow? Answers on a postcard...

Saturday, July 08, 2006

And So It Is

And So It Is

Some twenty minutes into the first shift that I ever worked at the WYP I was confronted by a woman who'd fainted. We're talking ballet in full swing, lights down, woman on the floor stuff. And suddenly I realised how freakingly lucky I'd been all those nights I'd been the designated driver for plays I'd never had to deal with more than slightly tipsy students trying to sneak in. Don't worry, everyone said. This hardly ever happens. And it's kind of true. Unless of course the production is Richard III and then they're falling down in droves. I believe we were averaging one fainter a night at one point. But twenty minutes into your first performance? Bad luck. Maybe because of the karma I was spared even so much as a four year old tanked up on haribo vomitting at Christmas. And I thought I'd gotten through it. Because it has to go up from that point on.

So cue in Wednesday's training on the WYP reception. I'd already arrived slightly late as I'd had to trek back home after having gotten to the bus stop and realised I'd forgotten my phone [I'm blaming the DT photos in the Mirror that morning for distracting me]. And after twenty minutes? No fainting this time - but what's that rumble in the distance? Oh yes, that would be the sound of the police station over the road being evacuated. And that other noise? Oh yes, the road being closed. And thus this time - in one of those 'this is the procedure but don't worry we very rarely have to do it' moments - it emerged that there was the distinct possibility that we would have to evacuate the building. Brilliant. In years to come when I get my hands on a theatre somewhere you might all want to stay at home on my first night.

'Do you have bomb scares in Leeds often?' someone asked me.

I shook my head. Certainly the last one I was involved in was at York station almost a year ago.

'Right, you don't have bombs in Leeds, just bombers'.

There was that moment, that fleeting second, when I didn't compute exactly what had been said. And then all I could do was stare blankly back out. Because the face that stared back of me, it meant the words. And that pained me. It pained me that in this building which is teeming with the inhabitants of Leeds I would hear something so casually, unthinkingly, spat out. The over sixties on their weekly heydays event - a group of whom in some of the more comical offerings of the wardrobe - were swarming the building. In the courtyard theatre there's 45 young people from Chapletown and Harehills performing the energetic - and I think rather important - Fairytales From The Streets. And two days later as all of the employees of the theatre stood outside at 12:00 and we thought of the events of one year earlier - it struck me that this is Leeds. This is inner city life in England. It's not always easy, or pleasant or comfortable [I use the buses, I should know] but then point me in the direction of somewhere that is.

What there is, however, is some absolutely wonderful people; people who are trying, who are getting off of their arses, putting aside empty soundbites, and doing something. All of us - however distanced we might be - who stood and remembered, who thought about walking those steps, taking part in the daily procession of life that is so familiar and comfortable that it strikes you with its very sense of the ordinary, who thought of those for whom the stain of the 7th of July will never be removed and for those whose names echoed without answer in Regents Park - this is where our city lies.

So yes, my nameless ash blonde, we had bombers living in our midst. England had bombers in its midst. The question now is - what are you doing about it? Because I can see right in front of me what the people of Leeds are doing. And, god, I'm proud of them.

Monday, July 03, 2006

You remember Griffin, right? The bloke who's not David Tennant.

You remember Griffin, right? The bloke who's not David Tennant.

As some aspects of DA are a little bit of a Griffin archive it seems a bit remiss of me (or maybe it's (sings) "just another sign of the times"*) not to have mentioned going to see what was my most expensive Griffin gig in ticket price terms EVER. If I remember rightly I think I paid the same price to go see him play tennis and sing a couple of songs at the wonder which was Cliff Richard's Tennis Tournament in 2004 but I understood the price there. It was televised on Sky Sports on Christmas Day. Sky Sports . You're bound to have to pay for that. But for the Black Sheep Festival? With not another minor celebrity in sight, or even the possibility that someone in the bar might tell Gayle and I that we should have been on X Factor? Eeek. But I softened the blow with the reasoning that I'd paid the same to see Whistle Down the Wind a few weeks earlier and that didn't have the potential for Griffin being cute in it. Equally it didn't have the potential for Griffin being a git in it but we'll side step that one because, tangled experience as it is, I've made the choice to ignore that possibility.And there's been much more cute than git in the last 12 months, so it's there in the statistics.

And was it worth the money? Oh diddly dum, yes. As I always secretly knew it would be. Because I still find hearing Griffin sing, hearing those new songs of his, a rather magical experience. And if he won't be making it on to DA's Best Dressed Awards (The DABDA's if you will) any time soon - courtesy not just of the deck shoes but a white towelling hoodie that made him look either pregnant or gay depending on which angle he chose to stand at - there's still a lot of love for the boy in the DA room. And even though he was singing in what amounted to a bistro, and even though Val, Gayle and I arrived too late to go to the giftshop (did they not realise that they could have doubled their takings?), I loved it. Because I wasn't expecting greatness, I wasn't demanding rock and bounce and no-frigging tables, so the peripheral stuff - as much as it makes me choke slightly - didn't bother me too much.

Undoubtedly the day started well when Gayle and I got lost in Masham, which - if you've ever been - you'll know is quite an achievement. But we did eventually find Val and the pub and Sunday afternoon in a pub is always one of my favourite things so the day was getting big ticks already, marred only by the fact that it was raining and in my head the Sunday was supposed to be glorious. Summer dress, sunglasses, slightly baking glorious. Not run-quickly-because-you-didn't-bring-an-umbrella weather. Once we'd eaten, gained our goodiebags ("Forget Griffin, I've got a keyring that's also a bottle opener") and avoided the Morris Dancers it was on to the venue itself where I had to go straight to the bar simply because I'd developed hiccoughs on the way there. And whilst I'm sure the tradditional thinking is to give people a fright, I think giving people alcohol is an acceptable alternative.

We'd made the - patently wrong - assumption that the bar area would be in a seperate section to the gig itself and that we'd be able to sit, not get trollied and then go and hear Griffin so it was a little bit of a dilema when it emerged they were all in the same room. Plus the women on the door had taken mine and Gayle's tickets off of us (clearly we looked the types to cause some kind of ticket mayhem) so we really had to stay put. This suddenly became a lot more amusing when it became clear that the band first up had a very good looking guitarist. And you know how we like boys with guitars. Thus Gayle and I attempted to enlist Val to take a picture of said Guitar Boy whilst we provided a foil for our covert operation by pretending she was taking a picture of us. Obviously this all sounds simple enough but throw in us finding it hilarious, Val worrying about getting Gayle and I in focus and Griffin standing directly behind Val then you have a recipe for disaster. Flattering, I think not. I'm mentally kicking myself though that we didn't snatch the comedy moment of getting Griffin to take a photo of all three of us (with Guitar Boy in the background). In days of Yore he might even have gotten into the photo himself.

Once Boss Caine had finished it was on to Griffin. Well, 'The Band'. But, I'm sorry, they're not yet a band in my head because, let's be honest, I've been non-stalking Griffin for almost three years. As fond as I may become of any of the other members of said band** - look what happened with the Riccardi boys - it's going to take something of a shift in attitude to change my perception from the 'I'm going to see Griffin' standpoint. In fact, it's so ingrained that I don't think I ever will. It's more than my saying that Robbie was my favourite member of Take That, or H my favourite member of STEPS****. Griffin is the only reason I go see this particular band. I suspect he may always be.

And because of this I mark the gig in Griffin terms. Yes, I thought they sounded more 'together' as a unit. But that wasn't what made me excited. Griffin's voice. Seeing him play the electric guitar during 'Sex and Love' (though, I confess, I initially thought he was holding it for someone else). Hearing a new song. Feeling that wonderful, incredible moment when he sang 'I Have Lived' and I thought 'fuck, he means this. He means every word'. And I had to love Fiesty Griffin: (on the tables) 'Do they do table service?'; (introducing the song) 'Why? - Good question'. I believe we might have cheered him at the point. Even he noted 'I'm just being rude today'. I don't know about anyone else but I kind of a liked it. And there wasn't a dancing bear joke in sight.

Afterwards was when the timing had begun to feel odd. We'd had ten songs, a mini gig, I'd had three riccardi and cokes and yet it wasn't even five o'clock. It was still daylight, when in my head it should be nearing last orders. Odd.

Equally odd was the conversation as we bumped into Griffin as we were leaving. Job done, he was wearing what resembled a tin hat from the first world war, only it was made of plastic and had the flag of St George on it. If the alarms bells are ringing then you're probably right to be worried. Even if only for the fact that he'd parted with money for this piece of hat tat. What happened next is probably best consigned to folklaw because whilst I thought it funny and cute at the time, in the retelling it hasn't positioned itself as one of my all time great griffining stories. Needless to say, such behaviour can get you arrested in Germany. But in the rain in Masham? Ok, I'm soft.

*Sorry, Blood Brothers reference. And, obviously, it's not true. I just wanted to use it.

**Walt, the drummer, made a valiant stab at redeeming himself from the comedy hell he afflicted upon himself via ours and Griffin's gossip*** last time we saw him by saying that Gayle and I could be in the band. Because I honestly think we could be.

***It was our gossip first even though Griffin tried to claim it as his.

****Just how cool a teenager was I?