Brexit and The Beast From The East

If I was a Brexiteer this is what I’d be saying today:

“Brexit is a bit like a sudden widespread heavy snowfall across most of the country.

The doom-mongers speculate that there’ll be wholesale disruption to industry, to the movement of goods, to personal road, air and rail travel, to power supplies and to schools. They fear no one will be able to go anywhere without major delays and that efficient trading will be all but impossible.

In fact, in the longer term, the opposite will be true. When the snow does arrive, whilst there is often some disruption, the steadfast British spirit soon conquers all. We smile stoically, eat hearty soups, wrap up well, look after the older folk, whether they like it or not and come out the other side happier, closer to our neighbours, grateful for the opportunities to go sledging with our children, to work from home for a day or two and with the prospect of a bright and sunny spring ever nearer. Furthermore, we will have met lots of new and interesting people, as we sought alternative ways of getting to work, and as we thumped our gloved hands together, remarking to complete strangers, “a bit parky today isn’t it?” Many of these erstwhile strangers will have become lifelong friends.

That’s Brexit in a nutshell. Don’t be fooled by those pessimistic Remoaners into thinking it’s going to be a disaster. It won’t, because we’re British, and whilst change is a bit scary, it’ll be like we’re colonising the world again when that Brexit spring arrives.”

If I was anti-Brexit, this is what I’d be saying today:

“Brexit is a bit like a sudden widespread heavy snowfall across much of the country.

Owing to an almost total lack of preparedness, there’s a sudden and inexplicable lack of salt and all the roads are impassable, even in Islington, almost as if they’d put a hard border between it and Haringey.

Network Rail bosses, who used to take their winter breaks in the Canaries now go to the Caribbean and can’t be contacted. As a result, no trains run, because there’s nobody to authorise the overtime required to clear the snow. All the schools are closed since UK Health and Safety rules now say the playgrounds aren’t safe. Thousands of children spend their days shoplifting in Westfield Centres, and retail sector profits tumble accordingly.

There’s complete chaos at the airports, because most flights are grounded as soon as they get word of a snow flurry 20 miles away. The queues of disgruntled passengers stretch for miles, and none of them thought to bring a flask, which are banned anyway under anti-terrorism laws, unless they’re the size of thimbles.

Old people, who sit under a blanket watching Countdown while waiting to die, smile mischievously at the chaos outside. Not having sledged since sliding down the street on a tray in 1958, they gain no benefit whatsoever from the snow, but they’re not bothered, as until it started snowing no one paid them any attention and now they’re practically running things.

That’s Britain after Brexit. You think the beast from the east is bad? Try eating a £5 croissant with gloves on.”

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It’s All Kicking off in Bow

On opening the curtains this morning, barely awake, I casually looked out at the endless traffic passing below and noticed down at the bottom of my outside window sill, a wasp struggling in a spider’s web. I watched it almost disinterestedly for a minute or so, wondering if it would break free, and feeling pretty sure it wouldn’t. But not really caring either way. Such is how I view life and death struggles at the crack of half past nine.

Still feeling drowsy and with no tea to help me wake up yet (and since I live alone, no tea was going to appear until I made it do so), I wasn’t in a fit state to take any decisions about what, if anything, to do about this sudden unexpected instance of nature red in tooth and claw that was taking place in front of me; so if the wasp had spotted me and had any hopes that I might show some pity and set it free, it was sadly mistaken. I was stung by a wasp on a golf course in 1997 and I still bear a grudge.

Then the spider arrived (cue the Jaws music). It was no bigger than the wasp, but seemed to be unworried about that. It watched its prey struggle for a short while, presumably thinking, “crikey! I’ve hit the jackpot here, this’ll please the wife” (or the hubby, let’s not be sexist), then circled around it, contemplating which bit to tackle first I suppose.

The wasp was still showing no sign of being able to escape. If anything it was more trapped than ever, its wings and legs now well and truly wrapped in the silk thread that I could barely see through the dirty glass. I’ve been meaning to clean that window for months. I dread to think what’s getting into my lungs from the endless traffic heading for the A12 past my flat, given the amount of dirt that accumulates on my outside glass.

Having completed a tour of its hapless victim, the spider reached a decision and went in for the kill. At least I presumed it was for the kill: I didn’t really know. My entomology knowledge has all been gleaned from David Attenborough on the TV, and I can’t remember him ever doing a series about the kind of creatures that live on the window ledges of east London. Do house spiders kill their prey or wait for them to die of wriggling?

Whatever he was intending to do, the spider was very determined. He, or she, charged in with admirable energy, most of his eight legs hitting out pretty randomly really at the poor wasp, who had almost no defence at all. I think I saw his sting protrude at one point, but the spider avoided it neatly and simply moved along to attack another bit.

I stood there yawning and scratching and wishing I’d made the tea before this life or death battle had started. There’s no pause button in nature though, so I either had to leave them to it and head for the kitchen or stick around and cheer them on.

The blows from the spider’s legs continued to rain down on the wasp, which was by now barely moving. A leg, or a sting, or whatever, occasionally struck out to no avail. The spider stepped back, either to take a rest or to admire its handiwork, and then returned to the task, like a painter returning to his easel.

After a few minutes the wasp stopped moving. Amazingly, the spider then picked it up, or at least that’s how it looked to me, seeming able to easily free the dead creature from the tangled thread and carry it off out of my sight.

I opened the balcony door to the side of the window and looked along the ledge. The spider and its deceased victim were in the corner of the window frame. The victorious spider looked up at me with an air of nonchalant triumph, as if to say, in a voice too small for me to hear, “Nothing to see here mate, go on about your business. That tea won’t make itself you know.”

 

 

 

 

It’s All Kicking Off Now

On opening the curtains this morning, barely awake, I casually looked out at the endless traffic passing below and noticed down at the bottom of my outside window sill, a wasp struggling in a spider’s web. I watched it almost disinterestedly for a minute or so, wondering if it would break free, and feeling pretty sure it wouldn’t. But not really caring either way. Such is how I view life and death struggles at the crack of half past nine.

Still feeling drowsy and with no tea to help me wake up yet (and since I live alone, no tea was going to appear until I made it do so), I wasn’t in a fit state to take any decisions about what, if anything, to do about this sudden unexpected instance of nature red in tooth and claw that was taking place in front of me; so if the wasp had spotted me and had any hopes that I might show some pity and set it free, it was sadly mistaken. I was stung by a wasp on a golf course in 1997 and I still bear a grudge.

Then the spider arrived (cue the Jaws music). It was no bigger than the wasp, but seemed to be unworried about that. It watched its prey struggle for a short while, presumably thinking, “crikey! I’ve hit the jackpot here, this’ll please the wife” (or the hubby, let’s not be sexist), then circled around it, deciding which bit to tackle first I suppose.

The wasp was still showing no signs of being able to escape. If anything it was more trapped than ever, its wings and legs now well and truly wrapped in the silk thread that I could barely see through the dirty glass. I meant to clean that window months ago. I dread to think what’s getting into my lungs from the endless traffic that heads for the A12 past my flat, given the amount of dirt that accumulates on my outside glass.

Having completed a tour of its hapless victim, the spider made a decision and went in for the kill. At least I presumed it was for the kill, I didn’t really know. My entomology knowledge has all been gleaned from David Attenborough on the TV, and I can’t remember him ever doing a series about the kind of creatures that live on the window ledges of east London. Do House spiders kill their prey or wait for them to die of wriggling?

Whatever he was intending to do, the spider was very determined. He, or she, charged in with admirable energy, most of his eight legs hitting out pretty randomly really at the poor wasp, who had almost no defence at all. I think I saw its sting protrude at one point, but the spider avoided it neatly and just moved along to attack another bit.

I stood there yawning and scratching and wishing I’d made the tea first while this life or death battle took place. There’s no pause button in nature so I either had to leave them to it and head for the kitchen or stick around and cheer them on.

The blows from the spider’s legs continued to rain down on the wasp, which was barely moving. A leg, or a sting, or whatever, occasionally struck out to no avail. The spider stood back occasionally, either to take a rest or to admire its handiwork, and then returned to the task, like a painter returning to his easel. After a few minutes the wasp stopped moving. Amazingly, the spider then picked it up, or at least that’s how it looked to me, seeming to be able to easily free the dead creature from the tangled thread and carried it off out of my sight.

I opened the balcony door to the side of the window, and looked along the ledge. The spider and its deceased victim were in the corner of the window frame. The spider looked up at me with an air of nonchalant triumph, as if to say, in a voice too small for me to hear, “nothing to see hear mate, move along now. That tea won’t make itself you know.”

 

 

 

Thoughts on The Handmaid’s Tale

Having got a bit behind, I’ve just watched the last episode of what thankfully is only the first series of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’. Jesus, it was a tough watch, but it’s been a seriously good story, rivalling ‘Breaking Bad’ as one of the best things I’ve seen in years. It’s rare that a film retains the essence of a great book, but this never disappointed. Gilead, seemingly in perpetual winter, was presented just as I imagined it from the words on Margaret Attwood’s pages. She must have had a big influence on the director and cinematographers, who did an amazing job. And the choice of music tracks was inspired too.

Elizabeth Moss’s performance was staggeringly good throughout. She gave us despair, defiance and dignity, and all of them with brilliant simplicity. They say less is more when it comes to great acting, and that’s what we got from her.

I was delighted to see that in the final scene the story returned to the original tale and very neatly had Offred (June) stepping into the unknown just as she did in the final chapter of the book.

I was disappointed at first when the series departed from the book so comprehensively, adding in back stories, new incidents in the present and information about what was happening in neighbouring countries such as Canada and Mexico. But now I see that if it was going to have any longevity it had to do that. The book is fabulous, but not lengthy. I’m already looking forward to the second series, or season 2, as I think we’re supposed to call these things.

Seeing the fictional horrors being inflicted on women in Gilead I couldn’t help wonder why those neighbouring countries, why the rest world of the world in fact, wasn’t doing something about it. But then what are we doing about North Korea, where I suspect equally despicable things are happening every day, and what did we do about Nazi Germany before it was too late?

If you’ve not seen The Handmaid’s Tale, do yourself a favour and catch up with it.

Dear Philip

Dear Philip,
This is a difficult email to write, mainly because someone else usually does my typing, but I thought I owed you the respect of doing this one myself. I’m sorry it has to be an email in fact, I know you’d rather hear what I have to say from Amber in person, but she wasn’t free to speak for me, some silly funeral or something, so this will have to do.
The thing is darling, I’ve decided that we need to spend a period of time apart, possibly a very long period. I need some space. And the space I need is Philip shaped. As I’m sure you’re aware, you and I have been growing apart for some time now. I used to think that our relationship was based on strength and stability, things that used to really turn you on, if the bolts and shackles on the cellar walls are any guide, but now I’m not so sure. Maybe those qualities are not the aphrodisiacs they once were.
An acquaintance of mine is getting a lot of joy out of offering himself unconditionally to many people at once, rather than to an elite few, and I’m wondering if that’s the direction I need to think about going in.
It’s not me of course, it’s you. That moment on the sofa on the One Show when you looked at that Welsh slut with undisguised lust didn’t help. And then, when we got home, you didn’t put the bins out as you promised, you merely locked yourself in the study with a box of tissues. It really hurt, and not in a good way. Thank goodness I had the hidden cameras installed. I know exactly what you do in the study Philip. That carpet will probably have to be thrown out you know, and it’s not even ours.
You’ll probably see me on TV spending quite a lot of time with my new best friend Arlene. I don’t want you to read anything untoward in that. She and I simply have a lot in common politically. There is absolutely nothing else between us. I’m very clear about that. If it seems that we’re close, it’s just politics, nothing more. In any case, even if there was a future for us, and there definitely isn’t, I do want to be clear about that, there could never be one. Neither of us would be willing to compromise our beliefs by acting on any inappropriate desires. Not that there are any, I’m absolutely clear about that.
So, Philip, that’s it. There won’t be any U turns on this. Probably. Look after yourself. Remember to apply that cream every morning; and stay away from the BBC; and the downstairs maid. She tells me everything.
Theresa.

Dear Philip

Dear Philip,
This is a difficult email to write, mainly because someone else usually does my typing, but I thought I owed you the respect of doing this one myself. I’m sorry it has to be an email in fact, I know you’d rather hear what I have to say from Amber in person, but she wasn’t free to speak for me, some silly funeral or something, so this will have to do.
The thing is darling, I’ve decided that we need to spend a period of time apart, possibly a very long period. I need some space. And the space I need is Philip shaped. As I’m sure you’re aware, you and I have been growing apart for some time now. I used to think that our relationship was based on strength and stability, things that used to really turn you on, if the bolts and shackles on the cellar walls are any guide, but now I’m not so sure. Maybe those qualities are not the aphrodisiacs they once were.
An acquaintance of mine is getting a lot of joy out of offering himself unconditionally to many people at once, rather than to an elite few, and I’m wondering if that’s the direction I need to think about going in.
It’s not me of course, it’s you. That moment on the sofa on the One Show when you looked at that Welsh slut with undisguised lust didn’t help. And then, when we got home, you didn’t put the bins out as you promised, you merely locked yourself in the study with a box of tissues. It really hurt, and not in a good way. Thank goodness I had the hidden cameras installed. I know exactly what you do in the study Philip. That carpet will probably have to be thrown out you know, and it’s not even ours.
You’ll probably see me on TV spending quite a lot of time with my new best friend Arlene. I don’t want you to read anything untoward in that. She and I simply have a lot in common politically. There is absolutely nothing else between us. I’m very clear about that. If it seems that we’re close, it’s just politics, nothing more. In any case, even if there was a future for us, and there definitely isn’t, I do want to be clear about that, there could never be one. Neither of us would be willing to compromise our beliefs by acting on any inappropriate desires. Not that there are any, I’m absolutely clear about that.
So, Philip, that’s it. There won’t be any U turns on this. Probably. Look after yourself. Remember to apply that cream every morning; and stay away from the BBC; and the downstairs maid. She tells me everything.
Theresa.

An Actor’s Dilemma

A particularly demanding audition today, but I think I nailed it. I was up for the role of a postman in a music video for someone so famous he only has one name. Like Sooty. But not Sooty.

I had to walk up to a door, ring the bell (there was quite a debate about whether ringing or knocking would be right for the character – a conundrum that’s been explored many times in the film world – we went for ringing. Only the reviews will tell if we made the right choice). When the door was answered I had to hand over a parcel and get a signature.

So, here’s the thing, my acting dilemma. As a method actor of “some distinction” (Skegness Courier, 1979) does a postman hand over the parcel and then get the signature or is it the other way round? I agonised for hours in rehearsal before deciding the only solution was to spend a month with the Royal Mail and deliver some parcels myself.

3 weeks in and I was still undecided. Both methods seemed to work. I then took advice from my great mentor, Howardly Bunstaple, whom you’ll all surely remember from his ground-breaking take on Much Ado About Nothing, in which the actors sat on stage for two hours discussing in improvised iambic pentameter the best way to open a bag of cheese and onion crisps. Howard was so insightful, suggesting myriad ways of doing the scene, including a novel idea involving chocolate and a small dog.

In the end, I decided to go with what felt right on the day, a decision I probably could have made at the start. But, hey, there’s no such thing as wasted preparation. It’s all in there (I’m tapping the side of my head and closing one eye wisely now). That combination of preparation and being in the moment is the essence of acting of course.

So, after an hour of my trusted breathing exercises, another hour of voice work, it’s into the postman’s costume, mwahs with the make-up girls and suddenly I’m there. I couldn’t be more ready. I’m as ready as a prize bull in a cowshed. A few deep breaths, remembering all the years of training – the laughter, the tears, the cocaine, I focus and then I hear those magic words from the director, “camera rolling….and….Action!”

Into shot I saunter, like a young Dustin Hoffman. “Knock knock” I go, on an imaginary door. “Cut!” yells the director, “we’re going with the bell aren’t we”? “Sorry darling” I say, “there was a runner picking her nose in my eyeline and it threw me” (there wasn’t but it’s always best to blame someone insignificant when you mess up). “Ok, let’s go again”, says the director impatiently.

This time I’m perfect. Into shot, ring bell, hand over parcel, “sign here mate” (a touch of quiet genius, I thought, ad libbing the “mate”, that kind of improvisation takes a combination of years of experience and supreme guts). And away I go out of shot. Hugs all round and that’s a wrap. Another triumph.

We’re so lucky, those of us in this business we like to call show. And gifted. Lucky and gifted.