Thursday, 11 February 2021

RIP Hal Holbrook and Christopher Plummer

 


It's been a sad beginning to the year with the loss of two acting greats. 

First, my favourite actor 

Hal Holbook (1925-2021), a Tony winner, five-time Emmy winner and Oscar nominee (1925-2021).Hal performed his original one-man show 'Mark Twain Tonight' all around America for more than 60 years - each night producing a different show based on his encyclopedic knowledge of Twain's entire works! He also played film and TV Presidents, Senators, lawyers, priests and villains, including starring as President Lincoln himself in the original mini-series. A wonderfully wise and intelligent man as well as a mesmerising actor. I previously wrote a piece about Hal here For more info, here is his wiki entry

Only a couple of weeks later

Christopher Plummer (1929-2021). Many women swooned over him as Baron Von Trapp in The Sound of Music, but I thought he was sexiest as Sir Charles Lytton, the jewel thief in Return of The Pink Panther. However this Canadian star did so much more as well with an illustrious international stage and screen career spanning seven decades. Here is Christopher's wiki entry.  



I have the autobiographies of both men and they are superbly honest and well written. Hal in particular seemed determined to tell the truth at all costs. Interestingly both grew up without fathers yet ended up often playing patriarchal or authoritarian figures.  Moreover both made it to their 90s with stage and screen careers spanning seven decades. Extraordinarly though it seemed they never actually worked together. though their paths must have almost crossed multiple times.

Each was an inspiration in his own right, but particularly Hal.

Wednesday, 23 December 2020

RIP - Dorian van Braam

 
 

It's been a year of so many shocks but it was a particular shock to find out our dear friend Dorian van Braam died suddenly at the weekend only the day after we had spent a jovial evening with him in his flat. Luckily my partner Ollie had the presence of mind to take what turned out to be the last photographs of Dorian as he held forth in characteristic fashion and posed in authorial mode.

I met Dorian around three years ago when he started coming to the monthly writers group I ran in Hove Library and joined us in a nearby cafe with others to socialise over tea and cake afterwards. Although originally from Sussex he was new to Hove and didn't know many people. He also had books he wanted to sell in due course so it was useful to network. 

From the start he impressed me as a charismatic and cultured chap. A genuine eccentric Englishman possessed of an extraordinary blend of arrogance, spirituality, humour and earthiness. I determined to adopt him as a second father. He came to my very first stand up comedy gig and brought the house down when the compere picked on him and asked him what he did. 'I'm a writer of 50 million unpublished words in longhand' came the answer. There was no comeback to that. The compere then moved onto another lady from my writers group (Sharon) who'd come to support me asking what Sharon did. 'I talk to angels' she replied. There was hardly any need for us comedians! Later on Dorian came to a new comedy night to support me when I tried some new material, He was asked if he wanted a try out. Without hesitation he took to the stage and did a routine about Wagon Wheel biscuits shrinking and his frustrations with consumerism. While not being uproariously funny material, the audience loved him and found him naturally hilarious. Sadly he didn't take things further, despite my suggestion of a retired Biggles scene involving him entering in leather flying jacket and goggles (both of which he apparently owned), strutting round the stage looking in various directions before finally asking the audience. 'Has anyone seen my plane?'

It turned out he had owned a plane. Before crashing it into a helicopter and livng to tell the tale. He rode motorbikes, broke in horses, married a minor Spanish aristocrat, played the grand piano, owned a manor house in Ireland, acted, wrote prose, was an early performance poet, married a second lady, the mother of his three grown up children, of whom he was inordinately proud. He practiced woodwork and would turn his hand to anything practical be it fixing roofs, motorbikes or boilers and even baking bread. Careerwise, he'd farmed, been an estate agent in Spain an NUJ photojournalist and founded a successful water bottling company in Ireland. He had also once stood for Parliament and was descended from Dutch nobility. I thought he must be a Walter Mitty character until the first time I visited his flat and saw photographs of him with his horses, photographs of him with his plane, pictures of his Irish manor house, old business cards from his water bottling company and beheld an unexpected baby grand piano in his 1-bed flat living room! Then there were his 50 million unpublished words neatly stacked in A4 leather bound notebooks about 10 feet high in the corner, awaiting painstaking transcription to his Apple Mac. It was all true!

As if all this weren't extraordinary enough, Dorian had taught himself astrology and hypnotism and believed he was a reincarnated Spitfire pilot whose plane had been shot down in WWII and that he had almost immediately been re-born into a Sussex farming family with Dutch ancestery. Looking at him I could well believe it. He also said that when he took flying lessons, he already knew how to fly. A prior life was spent in a monastery he told me, and he would try and stay at a retreat at least once a year. Moreover he held no truck with conventionalism and didn't buy into the Covid or Brexit nonsense from day one, though he and I had differing theories about what was really going on.

In the time I knew Dorian, he fell off the roof of his manor in Ireland while repairing it, crashed his car into a motorway barrier, got knocked off his bicycle by an AA rescue vehicle, had one of his two motorbikes stolen and was involved in at least two long-running legal battles (in his spare time he fancied himself as a bit of a Clarence Darrow though he clearly stressed himself out over his battles with the world as well). One thing that stood out however was his utter fearlessness. He would try anything at least once and even if it were inadvisable.

Then there was Dorian's undimmed love for the ladies. He still had a twinkle in his eye and liked nothing more than female attention. He was therefore delighted to be invited to afternoon tea by my friend Ariana and her lady friends to entertain them and play the piano. Braams, of course! He also had some hilarious stories, like the time he went up to London to attend an opera singer's house party with plans to work his charm on the glamorous diva, only to accidentally fall asleep on her sofa instead!

Despite saying he'd had a botched heart operation a few years ago, Dorian seemed indestructible and came along to a recent Freedom protest and a Mod weekender. He also had a soft side, an ability to laugh at himself and a lifelong interest in the spiritual.

He had more plans and dreams than any nearly 80 year old I've ever met including an additional university degree and could have easily done with an extra twenty years to achieve them all, even if he did have eccentricities that often got in the way, like the restless spirit, which couldn't decide where he wanted to live for the rest of his life. And while he adored his children and grandchildren, he didn't seem in a hurry to put down roots or streamline his life, even at his age, much as I offered to help him find his dream property locally with the garden and shed that he wanted, and large enough to accommodate a grand piano.

Despite his business acumen and other talents, Dorian identified with writing the most and yearned to be a celebrated writer and poet. It was his life's dream. He self published a couple of books to this end and very sweetly insisted on giving us copies.

I saw flashes of genius within the pages, but sadly undercut by the lack of a strict editorial scalpel coupled with a pointblank refusal to admit that he needed such. If Dorian asked you to look at something he had written, you quickly learned he expected nothing but flattery. He didn't want any other type of feedback. I felt this was a great shame as he certainly had no shortage of ideas. He also had an excellent command of the English language and the ability to really graft at his computer for up to eight hours a day. A level of commitment many writers would give their eye teeth for, including me!

RIP Dorian. A man who lived life to the full and on his own terms. A man who did it his way (to the extent of rebranding his motorbike to a de Braam!). We shall miss you enormously. You may have been nearly 80 when a suspected heart attack claimed you, but somehow you still left us long before your time. 

*Photograph at top taken about six weeks ago when we spotted Dorian walking past from an outdoor cafe in Brighton. We invited him to join us for a cuppa but he was in a hurry so just posed outside the card shop opposite, aptly named Scribbler!

Sunday, 25 October 2020

The New Civil Rights Movement

 









Above are some photographs from yesterday's Freedom march in London. It is estimated that over 100,000 of us attended. The atmosphere was wonderful despite repeated attempts by the Police to kettle us and break us up towards the end of the march. The Daily Mail lied that they had succeeded, but the truth was that the march had processed peacefully and successfully for nearly three hours before coming to a natural finish in Trafalgar Square where a wall of Police waited for no discernable reason.

An entire cross section of the British public had convened from all corners of the country including a group of about 30 twentysomethings in black jeans and red sweatshirts emblazoned with 'Don't Let Live Music Die', a cohort protesting against the death of the hospitality industry, families, grandmothers, doctors, nurses - you name it, we were all there defending our inalienable human rights, our dwindling jobs and our rapidly disappearing democracy.

We started at Hyde Park Speaker's Corner with multiple speeches concerning multiple issues going on in various areas (I was particularly impressed by an impassioned Manchester grandmother sharing her experience of three generations of her family and what v.accines had done to them, leading to her decision to spare her children and grandchildren, who were completely healthy by comparison with her generation). A couple of protestors wafted burning white sage sticks around to bless us all with positive energy.

We then processed down Oxford Street and spontaneously all around central London bringing traffic to a halt and attracting lots of supportive honking from quarter full buses and empty taxis.  And I, for one, was wearing a face covering a cardboard B.ill G.ates mask.  A group of dancers danced along to a beatbox, drums and tamborines were beat, whistles were whistled. 'We ARE the 99%!' and 'Freedom!' were chanted at regular intervals. We were noisy but peaceful.

I met Piers Corbyn as we processed through Trafalgar Square. So much nicer than his brother Jeremy. 

I am now officially a Corbynista!

There were many sad stories of how the C.ovid situation has divided families between those who want their lives back and those who live in fear and attempt to follow the narrative rigidly, only to still lose their jobs and freedoms. Those for whom it is easier to lash out at the 'cons piracy theorist' in the family rather than a government deserving of their wrath.

At one point a policewoman sidled up to me and told me I need to go home as I was breaking the law. 'What law is that?' I asked. She looked surprised. 'The Covid law' she  replied and carried on. I wondered if the same conversations went on in BLM marches. Certainly they don't appear to be kettled, broken up or threatened by riot police. 

We marched past Downing Street and called Boris's name, but to no avail. He hadn't put the kettle on for us, it seemed.

All in all it was a wonderful and uplifting experience to know that there were so many people who felt exactly the same as me and my lovely companions, and that we are just a fraction of the millions across the country who have had enough of the lies, damned lies, lockdowns and other abuses.

Roll on the international Crimes Against Humanity trials where our leaders will be held to account for what they've done to us and our country. Wouldn't it be ironic, if having swept away our human rights, they found themselves condemned to face a firing squad or lethal injection?

Saturday, 15 August 2020

Re-thinking the Re-set

I can't switch on the TV or radio lately without hearing about the great 're-think' or 're-set'.

The chattering classes particularly wax lyrically on Radio 4 about the elongated dawn chorus with such opening lines as 'During lockdown I've really had time to start appreciating the butterflies in my garden' as if that's all that matters. As if the whole Covid thing has been a gain. Some sort of gift. No thought about all the industries and businesses going to the wall, the domestic abuse, the animal abuse, the people denied carers and medical care during lockdown or dying because Covid sufferers had been released back to nursing homes from hospitals to infect other residents going on behind the scenes. A multitude of sins and horrors brushed over. But that's ok, because a few privileged individuals have had time to appreciate the butterflies in their garden or enjoy a slightly nicer bike ride because there was less traffic around.

Well here's the thing. Not one of us chose to be plunged into the situation we are now in. It has been foisted upon us without our consultation or consent, whether natural or otherwise.

Now we are told we are about to enter the age of the New Normal, but WHOSE new normal?

And if it's all our fault that the world was in such a state (regularly inferred) then surely it is up to we 99% to decide what new normal or 'back to better' we want.

First let's ask ourselves:

Who are the some of the winners?
Amazon
Netflix
Sky
Microsoft
Teams
Zoom
Skype
Bill Gates
PPE producers
Sanitiser producers
Supermarkets
Bicycle shops
Pharmaceutical companies
Surveillance companies

Who are some of the Losers?
All of us - our human rights have been either taken away or substantially reduced with no end in sight
The elderly and vulnerable, many of whom have been denied all human contact for months.
Blue collar workers in particular as more and more of life is driven online
Independent businesses (unless bicycle or food shops)
Anyone who wants to keep cash
NHS - while we were clapping, our government were selling large chunks of it off!
The character and quality of all of our towns, cities and villages if planning regulations are being swept away.
The disabled as all towns and cities race to the bottom to replace roads (including disabled parking bays) with cycle lanes to become vehicle free.

As with any crisis, the rich have become richer while the poor have become poorer (and in this case, the squeezed middle as well) Funny that.

Notwithstanding, it should not be up to the 1% - the cabal of billionaires who appear to run the world and hoover all the wealth - to tell us what world we are going to have, let alone impose it. Or to tell us we can't use cash anymore or have our human rights back until we all submit to a v.accine to make them even richer with no guarantee of success and no indemnity insurance against injury either.

The great re-set troubles me because on so many levels (including the local council using Covid as an excuse for all manner of highway robbery), it is starting to feel like the motive for what is happening. More and more it smacks of something long planned.

I do not consent and was never asked.

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

The Battle for Madeira Drive!

Scarcely six months since the 40th anniversary celebrations of the cult film Quadrophenia in September 2019, Brighton's iconic Madeira Drive, possibly one of the most famous stretches of road in England, found itself unceremoniously closed, no warning or public notice, ostensibly to 'provide more space to exercise' under lockdown.

Come June and travel restrictions were lifted but Stewards continued to guard the entrances and exits to all traffic and the traders grew restless, demanding a meeting with the council. Meantime my partner Ollie (mod, biker, cyclist, walker and occasional driver) often cycled down there for a cup of tea and a chat with the cafe owners. He was astonished to be told by one that a council official had come to visit and advised him that the council were planning to make Madeira Drive closure permanent!

We were both shocked. How could the council even dream of doing this and when the city had just been economically crashed for three months?

No more veteren car rallies? No more Mod weekends? No more Brightona and other events?
And what about visitors? What about the disabled? What about the restoration of Madeira Terraces? We are supposed to be a resort town!

We immediately set up a petition here to re-open Madeira Drive and Ollie started a blog here, which he updates daily, detailing every twist and turn in the saga.

Amazing people started approaching us and offering to help spread the word, but it soon became apparent we were up against some dark and determined forces who were not above underhand tactics.

Various articles and letters appeared in the Brighton Argus, Ollie was interviewed for Brighton Argus, BBC Sussex Radio and Latest TV. I made a list of pros and cons below and found there were virtually no pros to keeping Madeira Drive shut!

If you would like to see Madeira Drive open again, please sign our petition here and also fill in the council's newly created consultation here. The matter will go to full council on 23rd July 2020.
Thank you. Let's keep Madeira Drive alive!

Madeira Drive Closure
Pros
Cons
Makes Momentum/The Greens happy
Will cause businesses to close down (souvenir shop already gone)
Provides more pedestrian and cycling space (though in reality, few are using the middle of the road for these purposes)
Restoring Madeira Arches would provide more pedestrian space as would re-open covered walkway, upper footpaths, slopes, staircases and cliff lift.

Losing money through:
·        Lost revenue from 393 parking spaces
·        Trader’s rent strike
·        Hiring a minimum of 4 x staff for 7 days a week to stop traffic using it.
·        No events and minimal visitors
·        Possibility of being sued by both traders and event hosts.

Discriminates against disabled, carers, visitors, bikers, scooterists and anyone who is not fit or local enough to drive or walk everywhere. Disabled have been told they have to park in Black Rock car park, a mile away!

May be used as an excuse NOT to restore Madeira Terraces or preserve unique Green Wall.

Traffic parking in Kemp Town or Hove instead, affecting residents who cannot park there.

No coach parking, particularly overnight and supporting local hotels or to take bands/equipment/audience to Concorde II

No taxi access

No through traffic, though was never much used for through traffic, but as a destination

Chicanes already in place to prevent boy racers

Not most polluting road in Brighton and no emissions studies to evidence pollution.

Permanent closure mooted without public consultation under the auspices of the (temporary) Coronavirus Act 2020 and without requisite public notice or applying for A TTRO under Road Traffic Act 1984 (currently being legally challenged by two events organisers, we understand).

Bad cycling accidents by speeding cyclists

It is naïve to assume that Madeira Drive would be allowed to lie fallow indefinitely. Once businesses are gone, it could easily be sold off to developers and lost to the citizens of Brighton and Hove as an iconic promenade and events destination forever!







Sunday, 7 June 2020

The World I Was Promised...

This is the world I was promised as a child...



















And I want it back! Who do I sue...?

Sunday, 10 May 2020

Parental Alienation



In support of a loved one in this situation, whose children have not only been alienated from him by an ex who clearly hates him more than she loves their children, but from his entire family, including uncles, aunts and cousins as the ex cannot afford for her programming to be undermined.

Coercive control is now recognised as abuse and has duly been made illegal in romantic relationships, but not as yet in family relationships, no matter that CAFCASS has termed it 'child abuse'.

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Environmentally Responsible, not Green


I love dolphins, birds and rainforests as much as the next person and used to regard myself as Green, an environmentalist. In fact I wrote the first environmental policy for the Oxford college where I worked in the early noughties.

However now I find that being 'Green' seems to entail ditching all my old school tech and investing in a load of smart technology with built-in obsolescence and believing in scary sounding concepts like 'global compliance' and 'depopulation', I am having to revise my position and thus Green identity.

My idea of being environmentally responsible is somewhat different;
  • Rescuing heritage buildings and retro-greening them in preference to demolition and erection of glass and concrete blocks with a 50 year life span.
  • Walking, cycling or busing most places but occasionally driving a 16-year old car containing no unnecessary electrics or air conditioning but which has outlived its carbon footprint, passess its yearly emissions test, runs on unleaded and is easy to repair.
  • Expecting clothes to last at least 5 years.
  • Seldom flying
  • Recycling
  • Remaining child free
  • Not wasting food or anything else (if I can help it)
  • Being an almost-vegan (aside from the odd bit of cheese)
  • Ignoring most fashion and fippery (ok unless it's a REALLY cute piece of jewellery)
  • Eschewing so-called 'smart' technology including the Internet of Things, which are all just a waste of electricity and batteries to perform simple tasks I am more than capable of performing myself.
  • If I could buy a computer that lasted a decade and a mobile phone ditto, I'd be delighted, but computers tend to have a 5-year lifespan tops, even with upgrading works and you are lucky to get 2 years out of a mobile phone before the manufacturers cease support for it and it becomes increasingly unusable. You cannot even remove the battery from new phones any more.
  • Being strongly opposed to scrapping pefectly good cars, utility meters, boilers and street lights in favour of over-engineered, ugly and inflexible new ones, which claim to be green, but will take years to prove it and meanwhile could have detrimental affects on our health.

In a nutshell my own personal environmentalism translates into 'being sensible' and not buying stuff for the sake of it.

'Extinction Rebellion' and Greta Thunberg have to all intents and purposes, been put out of a job by the current CV crisis.
Enter various wealthy public figures, stage left, to opine that the world is 'over-populated' and that de-population measures will need to be adopted.

Whoah! Let's stop right there shall we?
1. Who are these (mostly unelected) public figures to make these decisions and without public consultation or consent?
2. How is there an ethical means of shrinking the world population within the next ten years beyond making free contraception universally available to all and tax breaks and other financial incentives to encourage people to have fewer kids? (and yes, I do want my enormous tax break for having none!).
According to 'Freakonomics' human beings respond best to financial incentives for behavioural changes.

If there is no ethical, consensual and transparent means of bringing this about, how is the architect of de-population any better than Mr H.itler? How is de-population any different to g.enocide?

If you adulterate a human being's food, environment, air, water or medicine to compromise their natural health and life span, this is murder. As for wars, whether military or germ, these are not ethically acceptable population thinners either.

I do not consent to this world and nor should you. You can bet your bottom dollar that the super-rich are not going to be affected by it, same as they are exempted most other human issues.

If you think I am being melodramatic, do your own research.  It doesn't take many clicks to find verifiable evidence on independent news sites. And it's a head frack to say the least.

Only don't forget to speak out and share the knowledge when you do. Bad things happen when good people do nothing. Moreover...

Thursday, 23 April 2020

Cons Piracy





If there were no conspiracy theorists, would there still be conspiracies?
If there were no conspiracies, would there still be conspiracy theorists?
(What a genius word conspiracy is; first part 'cons', second part 'piracy')

If a thing or person is discredited, does that also make that thing or person disproved?

Here's some stuff allegedly crazy people have achieved in the past, having no doubt had to battle through the three stages of truth to get there.




To return to Mark Twain's quote (top) what does censorship and secrecy do other than BREED a deal more conspiracy theorists? Surely transparency and telling the truth about everything would put a stop to them.

I wonder in the 1930s if anyone raised doubts about whether Mr Hitler was a nice bloke or not, only to be silenced with 'Oh shut up with your conspiracy theories! I don't want to hear it! Look at all these lovely autobahns he's building. And look how he's smartened up the local youth club with all those new brown uniforms. You're crazy, you are!'

The fact that the term 'conspiracy theorist' has become a term of abuse is certainly an effective means of censorship and thus shutting down all further question and debate on a subject, so that the established or groupthink view is the accepted one truth.
Social media has become a case in point. An echo chamber where approval is gained by fitting in, not standing out (unless virtue signalling counts) and friends are quickly lost through any deviation from accepted views or cute animal pictures. Where there are debates trolls can be paid to debate either or both sides, almost cutting out the need for the account holder, to form a sock puppet show.

Then again, bad things only happen in Bond Films. Or in other countries without the benefit of our fine western values. Surely.