Friday, 2 October 2009

I love 'going to the National Theatre' in Glasgow

I'm just back from seeing All's Well That Ends Well ,which was broadcast live from the National Theatre around the world tonight.

I didn't have to go far, as it was on at the Glasgow Film Theatre. It's the 2nd live broadcast, following on from Phedre and was equally impressive and enjoyable. You still get the sense of live theatre, but somehow it's extra special as the cameras can get in close and the sound quality is superb.

Mind you, it was touch and go at the beginning tonight. It was okay when Alex Jennings was interviewing Nicholas Hytner (both contributors to We Could Possibly Comment - Ian Richardson Remembered) but when they did some backstage interviews, the sound suddenly developed a pronounced echo. And when the play started there were a couple of minor glitches and then it settled down.

After that, it was pure enjoyment - apart from just before the start of the second half, when Alex Jennings was interviewing the costume director live on stage. Two women behind me decided that they would talk louder than him. I gave them a minute and then turned round and told them that I'd like to hear what was being said. I got a grudging 'sorry', but it did the trick and they shut up.

Must book up for the next broadcast - Nation - in January

Thursday, 24 September 2009

A New Blogsite

I've decided to set up a separate blog site, entitled Ian Richardson Remembered, which will focus on Ian, the book, and his career and have published the first blog on the new site.

Storm in a G Cup will still be used for other Blogs (such as information on writers' Teddy Bear picnics and other aspects of life in all its rich tapestry.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Launch No 2 for We Could Possibly Comment - Ian Richardson Remembered

This morning I had my second book launch, at a charity coffee morning within the Jewish community in Glasgow. There was a really good attendance and I had to speak as loud as I could without deafening the people listening right in front of me whilst trying to reach the overflow audience outside the room in which I was giving my talk. Not surprisingly, I was rather hoarse for the rest of the day. Methinks a hot toddy is called for!

As part of my talk, I did a reading from the book, in which I described spending time on the set of Murder Rooms: The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes , which was largely filmed in Glasgow. It was somewhat serendipitous, as I noticed the day before, when reading next weeks' Radio Times, that the drama is being shown on BBC4 this coming Saturday at 9.05pm.

With a cast that included Robin Laing as Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles Dance and Dolly Wells, I thoroughly recommend seeing it.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Waterstone's Launch - Ian Richardson Remembered

That was the Launch, that was. Last night in Waterstone's, Argyle Street, Glasgow, more than 60 people turned up to the first launch of We Could Possibly Comment, Ian Richardson Remembered.

After some initial hiccups - like Waterstone's central hub not sending the books in time to the branch who had to borrow some of mine, and the branch being understaffed and things running a bit late (fortunately, the bottles of wine I had brought had screw tops, which was just as well, because there was a major corkscrew failure), things seemed to go swimmingly. And a fair number of books were purchased too.

So, many thanks to Will, the Events Manager, who worked like a Trojan, Leonard Esakowitz, who took lots of great photos, Margaret Thomson Davis for the lovely introduction, Mary Brown and Morag McPherson for their assistance, and every single person who took the time to come along - with special mention to Denise Chambers and Jane Murray who came through from Edinburgh.

Oh, and I rather enjoyed giving the talk too.

All photos by Leonard Esakowitz 2009

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Ian Richardson Remembered - the Launch Approacheth

The first book launch for We Could Possibly Comment - Ian Richardson Remembered is being held this Thursday, 17th September, in Waterstone's, 174 - 176 Argyle Street, Glasgow, at 6.30pm.

I suppose it's quite a momentous step in the career of a fledgling author - the first launch for a first book. I'm hoping that I don't get too many of the junior/senior moments I've been having lately and forget where I am, what I'm meant to be saying, or who everybody I should know is. Memory loss isn't really an embarassment when the people in question are having the same difficulties. Just hope that younger people who haven't got to that stage yet will understand.

The books still haven't arrived at Waterstone's - though they have been promised - so I will need to take a couple of boxes along in the car in case of emergency. A book launch without books would be a bit of a disaster! There should just about be enough room in the boot for them, along with the wine. Since I'll be driving, I will steer clear of the wine (shame) but might just have a sip of medicinal brandy beforehand.

I'm kind of looking forward to the event - especially to see a number of people I haven't bumped into for quite a while.

Will try to do Ian proud.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Slowly but surely

It's just over 3 weeks since I received my copies of the book and I've sold about a sixth of my quota to date. There's a charity coffee morning launch on the 23rd September and I'm just waiting for confirmation of a launch at Waterstones in Argyle Street, Glasgow on Thursday the 17th September. All being well, my local library will be holding an author event too.
So, things seem to be moving slowly in the right direction. The book seems to be in and out of the Amazon charts like a yo yo and the bookshops still haven't got copies in yet, but hopefully it won't be long.
As for feedback, amongst the comments I've had, are:
"It's great - much better than any biography. No dull details, no cheap gossip. Captures beautifully the times, the atmosphere and most of all - Ian's personality. A book not only for those who loved and admired Ian, but for any theatre lovers. Wonderful. " - Israela Shatsky-Greenbaum
"I enjoyed it very much - he certainly was a fascinating character, and so well regarded by his fellow actors. Celia Imrie talks about the naughty glint in his eye, so I looked again at the front cover - and she's right!" - Dr Ann MacLaren
And it has prompted Doug from York, who described it as 'excellent', to buy the House of Cards Series on DVD - which delighted me, as part of the reason for writing the book, was to remind people that there' s a wealth of superb performances available to be viewed.
Now all I need is some positive national press coverage.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Released at Last

The book was released today - a couple of weeks or so ahead of schedule.

It would be nice to think that, 2 years and 4 months on, my task has been accomplished. Indeed, you might very well think that my work is now done. There is at last a first book available on Ian and my goal to do something tangible to honour his memory and give people a sense of how highly he was regarded both as an actor and as a person and what he meant to so many, has been achieved.

However, there is still a lot to be done to promote the book and make people aware that it is out there. I'll certainly try my best to succeed.

As Ian said to me in our first exchange of letters in January 1994, 'Onwards and Upwards!'

Sunday, 16 August 2009

A Teddy Bear Tale

When I travelled down to Derbyshire just over a week ago to attend The Writers' Summer School , I took one teddy bear, Cuddles, with me. I only took him because there were two bears in attendance last year and they both assisted with courses. Also, I'd also promised Cuddles that he'd meet up with Buttons (below on right)

and Maple, who proved to be a great course assistant to his owner, Zana Lamont.

As I mentioned in my last Blog, an inaugural Teddy Bears' Picnic was organised and on Wednesday, Cuddles joined 11 other bears for a party. Indeed, he and Buttons were chosen as team captains whilst bear owners took part in a relay race.

Before our picnic, the Bears lined up for a photoshoot

And then let their owners join them.

After a lovely picnic of ginger beer, little jam sandwiches, baby biscuits and (naturally) honey, all the owners had a lucky dip and each received a parcel containing a brand new bear.

I got a lovely yellow teddy, I've called Mellow and she and Cuddles instantly hit it off. In fact, they hit it off so well, that by the next day, I got a third teddy bear - a lovely little fellow I've named Nick Swan. And I thought that rabbits were quick breeders!

True, some of my friends presented Nick to me on Thursday evening as a 'thank you' for the course I'd run. But in truth, I think that was a cover-up to try and save Mellow's reputation. And it appears that Nick is a very special bear, because within a couple of hours of entering my life, I won the raffle for a free place at next year's summer school (the second time I've had lucky tickets in 4 years). I reckon Nick must have brought me the good luck.

So, having set off with Cuddles, just under a week later, I returned home with a readymade teddy bear family.

And they're all looking forward to next year's Writers' Summer School Teddy Bears' Picnic.

You don't have to be on the 'mad' side to be a writer - but it helps.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Cuddles makes a friend

In my last Blog, I mentioned that Cuddles, my extremely huggable Teddy Bear, is with me here at The Swanwick Writers' Summer School for the first time, having being adopted by me en route home from last year's school.

Well, I had a little gathering of friends in my huge three-bedded room before dinner yesterday to herald the arrival of We Could Possibly Comment - Ian Richardson Remembered

and as well as having the pleasure of signing a copy for friend and author of 41 books, Margaret Thomson Davis,

Cuddles (below, left) made a friend -Buttons the Bear, who had been brought along by his 'Mum', writer and dramatist, Joyce Ward. Whilst the mostly female gathering was knocking back the wine, the two bears were having a great time together and even agreed to have their photo taken with me (anything for a bit of publicity).

Apparently, there are several bears in attendance at Swanwick this year and a Teddy Bear Picnic will hopefully be arranged later in the week.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

The Book has Landed

After much angst and a plethora of phone calls and Emails, the books finally arrived yesterday and I've already dispatched a few orders abroad.
What was my feeling when I saw the huge truck trying to find the building I live in? Initially, huge excitement, as I ran down the stairs to greet the driver. Then sheer exhaustion, as I mopped up the perspiration after bringing books up to my top-floor flat. Then panic, as I scrambled to get the few books I really needed to get sent to arrive by today ready. Then puzzlement, as I sat down to sign my first book - what the heck will I write and where. Now, the feeling is one of relief tinged with the sadness of knowing that my first book is this particular book because Ian is no longer with us.

In the end, I had to cart most of the order - some having been sent direct to the Hayes Conference Centre in Swanwick and two boxes going straight into the car - up the stairs.

I'm heading down the motorway to Derbyshire in a couple of hours with my regular Swanwick passenger, prolific author, Margaret Thomson Davis. Hopefully there will just about be enough room in the car for the two of us and all our luggage, including two large suitcases, my books, Margaret's books for sale, flyers, lots of material for the non-fiction course I'm running at the Writers' Summer School, and some refreshments for a pre-dinner little launch party.

With a bit of luck, there might just be room for Cuddles

We Could Possibly Comment - Ian Richardson Remembered - should be in the shops by the 7th September.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Almost There

Hopefully this time next week I'll be happily settled in at Swanwick and might even have sold one or two books in the Summer School bookshop.

Barring disaster, my copies should reach me towards the end of the coming week, in advance of the official publication date, 7th September, when We Could Possibly Comment - Ian Richardson Remembered becomes available in bookshops. I've already received direct orders from abroad - thanks to PayPal - and hope to dispatch them as soon as possible after my consignment arrives in Glasgow.

Flyers and bookmarks have been ordered -

In the next month and beyond, the next phase will begin - contacting newspapers and revisiting bookshops and there's already a booking with a charity organisation for a coffee morning launch in September.

It's rather fortuitous that the Yesterday Channel have been showing the House of Cards series on Saturdays.

Wouldn't it be nice if some of the other great series Ian was in Ian Richardson - IMDB could be shown again too.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Tempus is Fugiting like mad

I've just signed the first two copies of We Could Possibly Comment for writer friends. At least, I've just signed them in a dream. With, hopefully, just a week or so to go before I receive my allocation of the print run, I expect to be having more similar dreams - and nightmares.
One benefit of the dream, is that it has reminded me that I'll need to slow down when signing. I find it extremely difficult to write slowly which, admittedly, is quite handy for a journalist who only did shorthand for a year at university... a very long time ago. It's a distinct disadvantage, though, when writing greetings cards, letters and envelopes and I frequently mess them up. Methinks a few practice sessions are called for.
That's something else to add to a list that doesn't seem to have got smaller in recent weeks. It's now only about ten days until I head off to The Writers' Summer School at Swanwick, Derbyshire

I've still to finalise work on the Non-fiction course I've been asked to run - I've set myself a deadline of this Friday to have it nailed, apart from some Marketing information.

On the book front, I sent text and some JPegs to a local printer on Monday for flyers and that's still to be finalised. The latest delivery date for the books to the publisher in Leicester (nice to see that my book is highlighted on their bookshop page New and Notable is next Thursday, the 8th, but as that's probably too late to get my copies up to Glasgow in time for Swanwick, hopefully that can be brought forward a couple of days.

There are several other tasks that have to be completed before I disappear off to the peerless Peak District, which means I'll have to devote less time to Facebook (the main culprit behind my lack of blogging in the past couple of weeks) and be very focused.

The clock continues its relentless ticking down.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

The Final Countdown

Everything was signed off last week, including the cover and hopefully the printers have started work on transforming all the proofs into books. I need to have copies ready three weeks from now to take to The Writers' Summer School at Swanwick - (places still available) and am thinking of sending a few elves down to help.
Three weeks to see the actual books - it doesn't seem that long now, given the fact that I started work on the book more than two years ago. I'll have to use some of the time to get flyers made and somehow create space in my flat for the 300 copies I'm taking. My advice to anyone thinking of being an author, is to consider moving if, like me, you live in a 2nd floor flat with no lift!
I think I'd better increase my visits to the swimming pool each week and use the weights I bought a while back.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

I've been tagged

Thanks to my dear friend, Brian Sibley (that's him above on the right) I've been tagged with a meme based on the Alphabet. It's my first go at something like this, but here goes:-

A - Age 55 - but not for much longer.

B - Bed Size Double. I currently share it with Cuddles the Teddy Bear, Herschel the Jewish Care Bare and Elliot the Elephant

C - Chore you Hate Paying the bills.

D - Dog's Name Candy - a lovely boxer with an unwrinkled face and long nose who was our pet when I was a child. She used to wash my brothers ears and revived my grandmother, who had diabetes, when she fainted. Candy was stolen when she was around 10 months old and we never got another dog.

E - Essential Start to Your Day Turning on the PC.

F - Favourite Colour Jade.

G - Gold or Silver I tend to wear silver more.

H - Height 5' 4 1/2" - and I'm unable to wear heels higher than an inch and a half.

I - Instruments you play Qwerty keyboard - and my own vocal instrument.

J - Job Title Freelance writer and author - currently underemployed.

K - Kids Daughter Suzanne, aged 29, who lives with me.

L - Living Arrangements A chaotic spacious 2nd floor flat - one bedroom for me, one for Suzanne and one our Chinchilla Kylie lets us rent out for the PC and 2nd television.

M - Mum's Name Sadie, nee Jacobs - she's a real trooper (I'm sure my Dad agrees).

N - Nicknames Occasionally called Shazza or Sharonski and when I call my father Pops, he calls me Dops.

O - Overnight hospital stays other than birth 6 orthopaedic ops, and about half a dozen other ops.

P - Pet Peeve People without any manners - my philosophy is 'p0liteness maketh the person'.

Q - Quote from a movie I have to share with Brian, the love of 'If you can't say nuffin nice, don't say nuffin at all' (Thumper)

"Keep close to ze candles" - Frau Blucher in Young Frankenstein (the candles were never lit)

Either "Savvie?" or "Oh Bugger!" - Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean (it's the way he says it)

I know it's not from a film, but of course I have to include 'You might very well think that... I couldn't possibly comment', and 'Dismal egalitarianism running rampant with the royal seal of approval' from House of Cards - delicious lines created by Andrew Davies and superbly delivered by Ian Richardson.

R - Right or left-handed Predominantly right-handed, but I'm fairly ambidextrous.

S - Sports Swimming and watching most sports - I used to play hockey and netball when I was at school and represented Strathclyde University at the Scottish Universities Championships in 1971/2 - there are four ladies in a team and there were four ladies at the club, so I was an automatic choice.

T - Time you wake up Your guess is as good as mine and certainly several times during the night.

U - Underwear More Bridget Jones than Grace Jones.

V - Vegetable you Dislike Does garlic count as a vegetable?

W - Ways you run late When I was in my last few years of school, at Hutchesons' Grammar, they were very strict generally, but certainly about punctuality and I always prefer to be early rather than late. Unfortunately, I don't always manage it these days - usually because I think I've got more time than I have.

X-rays you've had - Various.

Y - Yummy food you make Chicken soup and lockshen, plum sponge pudding.

Z - Zoo favourite - Animals that are cute, interesting and not too smelly.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Royal Mail - definitely no relation!

The proof corrections for We Could Possibly Comment - Ian Richardson Remembered arrived this morning - three days after Matador sent them out to me, First Class Mail. I've had post from America as quick at that! Not only that, but I posted the proof sheets needing changed to Matador, Special Delivery last Tuesday and they didn't receive them until Thursday. This service is meant to be guaranteed next day delivery - and you're certainly paying a lot more for it.

So, it looks like the Royal Mail has cost me a few days in what seems to be a tight schedule to have the book ready for when I want it. Perhaps I should change my name by Deed Poll so that no one confuses me with the shoddy service.

As for the amended proofs, there were very few things missed and I posted a maximum of ten sheets back early this afternoon - and I'd better get my fiver's worth for special delivery this time or I really will consider adopting a new surname.

Hopefully I should have sight of the cover proofs by Saturday and after I'm happy with them, be just about on the home strait.

Meanwhile, in what seems to be a very positive development, Matador today announced that it is employing a Sales Representative Company to sell its self-published books.

Let's hope this is another step in the right direction for self-publishing companies and authors like myself who decided to go for this option.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Wimbledon - It's a Scream

I'm not surprised that Belarus tennis player Viktoria Azarenka is doing so well at Wimbledon. If I were her opponents I'd find it extremely difficult to concentrate, given the racket she makes. In fact, like my daughter and I were at home yesterday, I'd find it difficult not to be in hysterics. There are a lot of noisy players, particularly in the Ladies section but I find the wuhooooooooooo sounds emanating from her 'north and south' quite hypnotic in that kind of voyeuristic way we feel compelled to watch or listen to something unnatural (and which shouldn't be allowed.)

Meanwhile, having got back to watching more tennis this past year than I've seen for decades thanks to Andy Murray, I was suffering the angst in last night's epic match from fretting about whether or not he'd get through after being pegged back to 3-3 from having a 3-0 lead in the final set. Wawrinka was playing excellent tennis and had the first set well and truly sewn up when I had to head out to cover an event.

When I got home I was fearful that Andy might have been knocked out and was pleasantly surprised to find that the match was still going on - albeit arriving just in time to see Wawrinka clinch the fourth set. But, I should have had more faith and the Murray Magic saw him through. Let's hope he is able to win his quarter final match and more comfortably - not least for the sake of my nerves.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Phedre - A Knockout Experiment!

Tonight I was part of an experiment - and I can't wait to be a 'guinea pig' again.

I went to the Glasgow Film Theatre where, along with people across the UK and as far away as Australia, I watched a live broadcast of Phedre from the National Theatre. Apparently it's the first time that such a venture has been attempted, and boy did it work for me!

They certainly chose a terrific opener for what is going to be an extended trial run, with performances of All's Well That Ends Well, Nation and Alan Bennett's The Habit of Art due to be beamed around the world between now and early next year.

The Phedre cast of Helen Mirren, Dominic Cooper, Margaret Tyzack, John Shrapnel, Wendy Morgan, Ruth Negga, Chipo Chung, Stanley Townsend and Elliot Horne were superb, the set design was outstanding and Ted Hughes version a linguistic joy.

And for £10 we got a tremendous view of the play via the five cameras used, plus an opening introduction from Jeremy Irons and Director Nicholas Hytner.

Thank you, NT - let's be having some more!

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

A Never Ending Process

I finally got the proof-checking finished yesterday and all the pages needing corrections sent back to Troubador .

It's quite incredible how a manuscript can be checked umpteen times by four different people - all with proofreading experience to varying degrees, and yet I was still spotting slight errors yesterday afternoon when I was on the point of popping the sheets back in the envelope.

I'm sure there's a good chance that there might be a couple of little things noticed when the corrected sheets come back, but at least I know that as much care as possible has been taken to eliminate them.

The photo proofs arrived last Friday and a good job has been done fitting them in to the two black & white and one colour sections. The most glaring mistake was in one of the photos, taken from The Master of Ballantrae. In the picture, Finola Hughes, Richard Thomas and the young actor who played their son, Alexander, in the drama are all smiling at the camera, but poor Ian has been totally decapitated (he's not even nearly-headless) - you can only see him from the lace ruff down.

I'm sure that the photo will look like this once the proof has been corrected
I look forward to receiving the corrected proofs - and having very little to do except check through them, sign them off, and be one step nearer to having the finished product in my hand.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

A Very Suitable Resting Place

After 18 months at the Birmingham Repertory Company, Ian Richardson spent 15 glorious years from 1960 to 1975 (with the odd break for 'good behaviour') gracing the stage with the Royal Shakespeare Company, for whom he was a true star and an inspiration to fellow actors.

It was in Stratford-upon-Avon, in 1960, that he met his beloved wife Maroussia, a fellow member of the Company. In Stratford, fans used to wander past his house in the hope of glimpsing their idol.

His roles for the RSC included Oberon in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Antipholus of Epheseus in The Comedy of Errors, The Herald and Marat in Marat/Sade, Frank Ford in The Merry Wives of Windsor, Chorus in Henry V, Bertram in All's Well That Ends Well, Vendice in The Revenger's Tragedy, Cassius in Julius Caesar, Pericles, Angelo in Measure for Measure, Proteus in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Prospero in The Tempest, Berowne in Love's Labour's Lost, Richard II and Bolingbroke (alternating with Richard Pasco), Iachimo in Cymbeline and both Buckingham and then the king in Richard III.

National Theatre director Nicholas Hytner begins his recollections of Ian in We Could Possibly Comment by saying, "My earliest memories as a serious theatre-goer are dominated by Ian Richardson’s incandescent performances for the RSC in the late 60’s and early 70’s."

John Sessions recalled, "He was my childhood hero and I’d grown up with all those wonderful performances at the RSC. "

Juliet Stevenson, remembers her first visit to see a professional performance of a Shakespearian play. It was in Stratford, with Ian playing Richard II. She said, "I walked into the theatre that evening one person and came out as another person. That was very largely due to Ian."

Many of his colleagues at the RSC have commented on the profound effect working with Ian had on them - how much they learnt from him, his absolute mastery of Shakespearian verse and technical brilliance and what a wonderful role model he was for fellow Company actors.

It is therefore so touching and appropriate, that Ian's final resting place is Stratford-upon-Avon.

Last November, Maroussia and younger son Miles, who has also acted with the RSC, placed Ian's ashes, with assistance from the construction workers, in the foundations of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, currently under reconstruction, Transformation Work, beneath what will be the front of the stalls.

I'm sure I won't be the only person keen to visit the new theatre when it opens next year, both to remember a dear friend, but also in the hope that there will be many glorious productions in the new theatre, worthy of the Company's great name and of a singular actor who gave so many wonderful performances at Stratford.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Choice of photo for the Cover

I've just received a Facebook message from fellow writer Gillian Philip (who won a staggering 4 first prizes for the different book categories plus a short story in her first appearance at the Scottish Association of Writers Annual Conference the year before last) saying how much she likes the cover photo for the book, We Could Possibly Comment .

Photo copyright Sam Farr for the Bath Chronicle

I suppose the temptation might have been to have used one of Ian as Francis Urquhart

or even one of the many lovely ones his wife Maroussia took of him as Dr Joseph Bell

But for me, Sam Farr's photo captures the essence of Ian as I knew him - as a very warm, caring person and a real gentleman, with a great sense of fun.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

The Proof is in the Pudding

The proofs for the book We Could Possibly Comment - Ian Richardson Remembered were waiting for me on the doormat this morning when I got back from my swim.

I suppose the emotions I felt when I was opening the envelope were a mixture of relief that they were reaching me soon enough, hopefully, for me to get them back to Troubador in time for copies to be ready for the Writers' Summer School in early August, and trepidation as to how I would feel upon reading it again. I'm sure there will be the odd thing I look at and think I could have written/edited better - or perhaps not said at all, and other things I wish I'd put in, but that will always be the case with something you create.

The photo proofs - there will be two black & white and one colour section - and the cover proof should be with me shortly.

I know I'll have mixed feelings when the finished product arrives and I see 'the book' for the first time. Of course, there should be a sense of elation when your first book is published and you get to hold it in your hand for the first time. In this case it will be more a sense of relief that what I set out to do - to honour Ian's memory by getting a book on him out there - has at last been achieved. And there will be sadness too - the reason it has been completed is because Ian is no longer with us.

However, I hope it will awaken in those who read it, many memories of a wonderful actor and very special human being. And for those who read it but never got to meet him or see his performances on stage, film or television, a sense of the man - and perhaps the urge to obtain many of his visual or audio works that are still available.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Ian as Dr Joseph Bell

Every occasion in which I was in Ian Richardson's company was memorable, but there were some standouts.

One of them was when he came to Glasgow (where he had studied drama at what is now the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama) for a couple of months to film his first appearance as Dr Joseph Bell in Murder Rooms - The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes in the autumn of 1999.

I made my own arrangements with the production company to watch some exterior filming one afternoon and Ian wasn't in the scene I observed being shot. After I'd finishing watching the actors, crew,extras and director Paul Seed (who also directed House of Cards and To Play the King and has provided some highly interesting input for We Could Possibly Comment) at work, I heard Ian's unmistakable tones.

Ian and Maroussia were just heading in for a night shoot and he had just finished doing an interview for the Radio Times. I trailed poor Maroussia round the Glasgow book shops for a book Ian was looking for and when we got back to where the car was waiting to take her back to Ian's trailer and I expected to say 'goodbye', the driver told me that Ian was expecting me to join him there.

Whilst enjoying a meal with Ian and Maroussia in the trailer, Ian decided that I should watch a scene being filmed that would be far more beneficial to me with my interest in scriptwriting, than the one I'd just seen. He left us and went to ask Paul Seed, assistant director Harry Boyd and co-star Robin Laing (who at that stage was playing Arthur Conan Doyle) for permission for me to come back and observe one of the main scenes being filmed.

A week or two later, I reported to the 3rd assistant director inside Glasgow's beautiful Pollok Park and he showed me to Ian's trailer. With Maroussia looking after me, we went down into the basement of Pollok House.

I was given a headset and a ringside seat in front of a monitor and watched first as the scene was being rehearsed and then filmed. It was a scene which mirrors the one in The Sign of Four in which Holmes examines Watson's pocket watch and makes deductions from it. Ian had himself starred in the film and so had a sense of deja vu, the difference being that he was making the deductions as Joseph Bell, from Doyle's watch.

It was so interesting observing Ian at work - he was totally focused and mindful of every minute detail - checking with the continuity girl to know exactly where he was coming in and moving Robin Laing so that the younger actor was in the best light.

He was also full of fun and had everyone laughing when he told the Director of Photography, John Kenway, 'I'm lining the watch up with your knob, John', to which he recieved the reply, 'I'm surprised you can see it from there, Ian.' Later on, the DP return the compliment by saying 'I'm lining the camera up with the first of your chins, Ian'.

The atmosphere on the set was extremely relaxing and I think a lot of that was due Ian's sense of fun and lack of self-importance or pomposity.

I spent nine hours watching that scene, which took several hours to rehearse and film from various angles, plus a further scene being rehearsed. I called it quits after eleven, whilst Ian and everyone else was there working into the 'wee small hours' of the next morning.

A couple of days later, Ian posted me out the Call Sheet from that day, which had my name on it as a visitor to the set. It was an act of thoughtfulness that was so typical of him.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

What is it about Watford?

I'm down in Watford at the moment, having driven down with my parents to visit my brother, David, who is in hospital in London.

We're staying at the Watford Hilton - it's about the third or fourth time we've stayed here, but not for many years. What has been notable about our last few stays in hotels in Watford, is that there seems to be a prerequisite for the fire alarm to go off when we're in town.

When the claxons sounded at 7.20 this morning, it just didn't come as a surprise. Between my parents and me, it's the 4th time it has happened and I suppose we'd have been a tad disappointed if the tradition hadn't been upheld. Fortunately, the leisure club in the hotel doesn't open until eight at the weekend, otherwise my Dad and I would have been in the swimming pool and my mother would have had to have fended for herself. And what set the alarms shrieking? Burnt toast!

The hotel is very comfortable, but they certainly know how to charge. £2.50 or £3.95 if you elect to consume the bottles of water they thoughtfully leave in the room for you, £13 for a Margherita pizza and, if like me you need to get wireless access for your laptop, £6 for 45 minutes or £10 for access for 24 hours. Why did I assume that it would be provided without charge, as it is in many hotels here and abroad?

Monday, 25 May 2009

The Man with the Golden Voice

Almost everyone who has provided input for We Could Possibly Comment has commented about Ian's voice.

He was a master at conveying menace.

Let's face it, he was a master of conveying anything with that wonderful instrument.

The comment about Ian's voice from the contributors to the book that left the biggest impression upon me came during an interview I conducted with Alex Jennings, in his dressing room at the National Theatre in August 2007. Alex was telling me about Ian taking part in a charity Carol Concert in St Paul's Cathedral the December before he died.

Alex recalled, 'He read the lesson and opened the proceedings. My partner said that it was like there was suddenly a Rolls Royce driving down the centre aisles of St Paul’s Cathedral and it was the voice of God. '

It was always such a delight to listen to Ian speaking. It didn't really matter what he was saying - his eloquent enunciation of even the most mundane of phrases was a treat to hear. And his voice was so utterly distinctive that you often knew he was in the vicinity long before he strode into a room.

And he wasn't averse to correcting my pronounciation. I recall going to Malvern with my parents where Ian was appearing in the stage play The Creeper. Ian and Maroussia had just celebrated their 45th Wedding Anniversary there and we'd popped down to visit them. Since there was every likelihood that we'd be having a drink or two afterwards, we'd taken a taxi to the theatre from our hotel, which was a few miles outside the town.

We'd sat in the hotel foyer for a while, having a couple of drinks and catching up, and it was time for us to head back to our hotel - and let Ian and Maroussia get back to where they were staying so that he wasn't getting to bed too late, with two performances to get through the next day.

Ian went over to the bar to ask them to order a taxi for us, and asked me where we were staying. 'We're staying at the Malvern Hills Hotel', I said - with my best Glaswegian diction pronouncing the 'a' in 'Malvern' as in 'apple'. The barman seemed a little puzzled. Ian looked somewhat disdainfully at me and turned to the barman and said, 'Can you please order a taxi to go to the 'Malvern Hills Hotel' - of course he pronounced the 'a' beautifully and correctly as in 'all'.

Here is another example of that top of the range Rolls Royce of voices - with grateful thanks to Toddyfins for making these clips from Six Centuries of Verse available on YouTube.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

The nearest I got to seeing Ian Richardson play King Lear

In his 15 highly distinguished years with the Royal Shakespeare Company, Ian Richardson played a variety of roles, including Coriolanus, Richard II (alternating as Bolingbroke with Richard Pasco), Richard III, Prospero in The Tempest, Cassius in Julius Caesar, Iachimo in Cymbeline, Angelo in Measure for Measure, Proteus in Two Gentlemen of Verona, Berowne in Love's Labour's Lost and what is considered to be the funniest ever Frank Ford in The Merry Wives of Windsor.

In the celebrated King Lear production that starred Paul Scofield, he played Edmund when the Company took the play on tour in 1964. But, he never actually got to play Lear and we can only imagine the power, depth of feeling and physical presence he would have brought to the role.

In 1999, I was privileged to see Ian perform the one-man show, The Seven Ages of Man, which ran for just under a week at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford.

I'd missed his glorious years at the RSC and seeing him performing Shakespeare on stage, including a couple of Lear's speeches, was a joyful experience. For me, as well as gorging on the fabulous feast of Shakespeare he provided, the evening was memorable for another reason. When we popped in (I was there with Shirley Jacobs who, for many years, has had a webpage on Ian) to see him before the performance, he invited us out to the pub afterwards. Till that point I'd enjoyed visits to dressing rooms and this was the first of very many occasions on which I subsequently had the pleasure of spending time in Ian and his wife Maroussia's company outwith a theatre.

Sadly, Seven Ages was the nearest he got to playing the epic role. In later years he said that he no longer had the physical capacity to perform it.

But, and it was actually around the time he performed in Guildford, he did play a role - Lord Groan in the BBC production of Gormenghast - in which there was a scene in which he gave a very Lear-like and moving depiction of the Earl's descent into madness.

Monday, 18 May 2009

My Cup Runneth Over

Tomorrow afternoon I've got a special outing to look forward to. Yes, it's three years since I had my last mammogram and my call-up papers arrived a couple of weeks ago.
How to train for a mammogram
Well actually, it's probably a bit under three years, because I was one of the lucky ones who had to go back and get it done again because of some technical flaw.
To get me in 'fun' mode, I received a 'call up' for my smear test at the same time and enjoyed that alternative medieval pleasure last week (and the nurse very sweetly told me that my cervix had started to bleed - I don't blame it in the least - so not to be surprised if I had to go back and get it done again because there might not have been a sufficient scraping of cells).
I wonder who I'll see when I arrive in the waiting room (the screening centre is on a floor of a building in Nelson Mandela Place in Glasgow's city centre) tomorrow. Like many friends, relatives and acquaintances, I go to a largish medical practice on the southside of Glasgow and we all seem to get our call-up round about the same time. So, I really should look upon it as a potential social outing.
A friend of mine refers to the process as 'tits in the mangle', but I think the following pretty much describes the experience.
Get Your Mammies Grammed!
For years and years they told me,
Be careful of your breasts.
Don't ever squeeze or bruise them.
And give them monthly tests.
So I heeded all their warnings,
And protected them by law.
Guarded them very carefully,
And I always wore my bra.
After 30 years of astute care,
My gyno, Dr Pruitt,
Said I should get a Mammogram
"OK," I said, "let's do it."
"Stand up here real close" she said,
(She got my breast in line),
"And tell me when it hurts," she said,
"Ah yes! Right there, that's fine."
She stepped upon a pedal,
I could not believe my eyes!
A plastic plate came slamming down,
My hooter's in a vise!
My skin was stretched and mangled,
From underneath my chin.
My poor breast was being squashed,
To Swedish Pancake thin.
Excruciating pain I felt,
Within its vise-like grip.
A prisoner in this vicious thing,
My poor defenseless tit!
"Take a deep breath" she said to me,
Who does she think she's kidding?!?
My chest is mashed in her machine,
And woozy I am getting
"There, that's good," I heard her say,
(The room was slowly swaying.)
"Now, let's have a go at the other one."
Have mercy, I was praying.
It squeezed me from both up and down,
It squeezed me from both sides.
I'll bet SHE'S never had this done,
To HER tender hide.
Next time that they make me do this,
I will request a blindfold.
I have no wish to see again,
My knockers getting steam rolled.
If I had no problem when I came in,
I surely have one now.
If there had been a cyst in there,
It would have gone "ker-pow!"
This machine was created by a man,
Of this, I have no doubt.
I'd like to stick his balls in there,
And see how THEY come out!
I'm afraid I don't know the name of the person who penned it - if anyone does, please let me know and I'll add in the well-deserved credit.
Mammograms, smear tests and giving birth are all part of the joy of womanhood - something that us women folk just have to go through - and it's very important that we don't miss these check-ups - even if the instruments of torture have quite obviously been designed by sadistic mysoginists.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Where would we be without friends

It's tremendous when you find a friend who happens to be a very talented writer, broadcaster and produces wonderful Blogs Brian Sibley that have become addictive to many readers, myself included. Indeed, his readership are living in dread of the day, in the not too distant future, when Brian reaches a remarkable 1,000 Blogs, as he is threatening to stop or drastically reduce his output. I don't think we could cope without our daily fix.
I'm particularly indebted to Brian for today's blog, You Might Very Well Think... in which he has provided some marvellous publicity for the book We Could Possibly Comment .
Brian has been a tower of strength in providing me with editorial assistance and advice and has been an absolute rock, particularly over the past few months during which the book has really taken shape.
His choice of video clips for today's blog include one from House of Cards, which is described thus by one of the contributors to the book, Susannah Harkerwho superbly played Mattie Storin:-
'I was just astonished watching him in the studio in particular, when we did all his office stuff.
I recall watching a scene where Urquhart was taking a pee and he had to address the camera whilst obviously appearing to be having a pee and doing several other things and it was just amazing.'
Another clip Brian chose, is from the 1972 film Man of La Mancha , which starred Peter O'Toole, Sophia Loren, James Coco,Harry Andrews and Brian Blessed.
Brian Blessed who worked with Ian several times, and provided the most memorable of interviews I conducted, said of his performance in the film:
'I only had to look at Ian and he went into hysterics. I was always very naughty with him and it would have him in fits of laughter. Basically, he was a Peter Pan character and he had a wonderful sense of humour.
Ian played the priest wonderfully and with great sensitivity – and he had a lovely singing voice, which I think should have been used much more in musicals. His priest is so moving and it was a gem of a performance.'

Monday, 11 May 2009

Happy Birthday, Big Brother!

David Mail
Today, it's my brother David's 59th Birthday.

I'm sure it's a birthday David won't forget, though not necessarily for the right reasons. A few days ago he was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer and he will be spending most of his birthday in hospital in London. Hopefully this evening he'll be able to get out for a couple of hours to have a meal with the family.
Unfortunately, since speaking to David earlier, he was told that he needs an emergency op. this afternoon and so his 'birthday meal' ended up being breakfast, and he probably won't be able to eat again for a few days.

Jonathan, Lesley, David and Simon

I couldn't ask for a kinder, more generous or supportive brother and consider myself very lucky. As brother and sister, we did have a few 'moments' as youngsters when there'd be the odd dispute, but generally, we've always got along very well. As kids we often played together. We both had brown bear glove puppets, Binge and Twinge and we spent many hours together playing Subbuteo. Once into our teens, we attended the same youth movement and had lots of friends in common. It was particularly beneficial for me having a brother three years older, as some of his friends ended up as boyfriends.

After graduating from Strathclyde University in 1971 with a BA Hons in Economics & Marketing, David moved down south to his first job, working for United Biscuits (our Russian grandmother couldn't understand why he spent all those years studying just to go and make biscuits) in Liverpool. He's been an ardent Liverpool supporter ever since. After a brief spell back in Glasgow, David moved down to London, working in IT and then in project management. He married Lesley in 1978 and they now live in Watford and have sons Jonathan, 28 and Simon, 25.

David took early retirement from his job as a management consultant partner a few years ago. A lot of his time nowadays is taken up with bridge and he currently plays in three leagues, Southgate & District, Hertfordshire and Middlesex and is building up a collection of trophies. He also plays guitar, does voluntary work and with Lesley, likes to travel.

Hopefully I'll get down to Watford soon, but in the meantime I wish my big brother

Many Happy and Healthier returns and a Speedy Recovery!

Friday, 8 May 2009

Time to cap footballers' earnings and get them to behave better?

I enjoy watching most sports, but one thing which I find increasingly irksome, is the behaviour of some footballers.
In Scotland not that long ago, two footballers on International duty, Barry Ferguson and Allan McGregor, were first barred from the team and then demoted to the bench for the next Scotland match, following a drinking session that lasted until lunchtime after a late night return from a game. To compound the felony they both sat, like a couple of silly schoolkids, making 'v' signs at the cameramen from their places on the bench. As a result, they were told they'd never play for Scotland, nor their club team Rangers again. Now that the outcry has died down, the suggestion is that they were harshly treated.
Personally I believe that Ferguson especially, as both captain of Scotland and Rangers, received what he deserved for setting such a bad example. And before anyone asks, yes, I am a Celtic (armchair) supporter but my view is that Celtic should equally have taken action long ago against their own player, keeper Artur Boruc, who is another very poor role model.
In the past week, we've had Joey Barton reverting to his thuggish behaviour and Didier Drogba losing the plot - not for the first time.
Should it all be excused and put down to the 'pressure of work'? I don't think so. After all, these men are earning five or six-figure wages every week. Surely it's not too much to ask for a little self-restraint and responsibility in return?
Perhaps it's time that some kind of financial restraints were placed upon clubs and players - after all, to be paying vast transfer fees and several million pounds a year to players doesn't somehow seem right in these times of economic hardship for so many people. And it wouldn't go amiss to introduce much stricter codes of conduct for players either.
But then what do I know - I'm only a woman, after all.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Chicken Soup and Junior/Senior Moments

What should you do when your mother has been taken into hospital? Well, that's obvious - make some chicken soup for her! At least that was my plan, on the expectation that she would only be in for one night, possibly two. However, she's going to be in (in a much more convivial ward, thank goodness than was reported in my previous Blog) until Tuesday at least.

Which means that there's an excess of chicken soup in the neighbourhood as I decided to make one large potful for my parents and one for my own home. I don't know if the 'Jewish penicillin' idea holds much water (or soup), but it certainly doesn't do any harm and in fact last time Mum wasn't feeling well, it was about the only thing she was able to consume for a couple of days. Fortunately, there's a container-full in the freezer with her name on it for when she is released.

The ward she is in now is very bright, fresh and clean - which wasn't always the case for a while in what is a Victorian hospital, due to close next decade. Even more condusive to recovery, is the fact that the staff are very kind and helpful and the patients seem to be good company for each other. Having been in hospital on many occasions myself, I know what a difference that can make.

On the way out from visiting her one evening, I passed a former colleague with whom I'd worked a few years ago in Abbey National's IT division. He'd just been visiting a relative and I stopped to have a quick chat. Once I caught up with my father and daughter, Suzanne, she asked me who I'd been speaking to and I told her it was someone I'd worked with. 'What was his name?' she asked.

'I'll tell you, hopefully before we get back home.' She couldn't quite grasp the concept of knowing who someone was and yet not knowing. I knew exactly who I'd been talking to - just not his name, but I was very confident that it would soon come back to me.

It's just one of those junior/senior moments that mark the passing into middle age (though at 55, by today's standards I'm still a kid). It's incredibly frustrating - and embarrassing at times, but hopefully many of the people whose names temporarily escape me, are having similar moments themselves.

It seems like the filing cabinet drawers are getting a bit stuck and information retrieval (was that the department Sam Lowry worked in in Brazil?) is taking a bit longer than it used to. I don't mind these little lapses as much as I do when it's a case of seeing someone I definitely know, but can't for the life of me work out where from.

The first name of my former colleague did pop out about ten minutes later, by the way, followed by his surname a couple of minutes after that.

Thursday, 30 April 2009

Just another quiet, uneventful day

I knew that today was going to be hectic, but it was hectic in a different way from what I'd expected.

I was due to give a talk on Ian just after lunch out at Cumbernauld, which is maybe 45 minutes drive away from where I live. It was also deadline day for the paper I write freelance for and I'd covered a couple of events last night and taken lots of photos. Fortunately, I decided to get all the copy and photos sent first thing this morning to leave me free to do a couple of last minute bits and pieces before heading out.

Which was just as well, because my mother ended up being carted off in an ambulance to hospital late morning and I never made it to Cumbernauld.

Mum has been kept in at least overnight, to be monitored. The receiving ward she is in has more men than women in it and the man on one side of her has machines that are beeping away all the time and the woman on her other side is constantly asking what the time is and if anyone is going her way and can give her a lift. Knowing Mum, it will make her very determined to be discharged as soon as possible. Let's hope so.

In between times, I managed to exchange a couple of Emails with the publishers and the front cover of the book has been finalised and is now up on their website We Could Possibly Comment

I think they've done a pretty good job!

Monday, 27 April 2009

Rodent confusion

In my last Blog, Steady as She Goes I made a mistake in my response to one of the comments.

I mentioned the terrific scenes in To Play the King in which Francis Urquhart talks to the viewers whilst striding through the Corridors of Power. I quoted FU as saying "'Is the Prime Minister aware' - very frightening - like being mugged by a hamster."

At the back of my mind, I had a feeling it might have actually been 'a guinea pig' rather than a hamster and on checking the DVD just now, right enough it was the slightly larger species of rodent mentioned in the phrase. Actually, there were also some other cracking phrases included in FU's scornful description of the opposition leader egged on by the monarch - 'Yes, it's all very well tormenting the intellectually challenged' and 'dismal egalitarianism running rampant with the Royal seal of approval' being just a couple of examples.

Anyway, although my memory was faulty, it wasn't a case of not knowing my hamsters from my guinea pigs, as the latter is one of the few types of rodent we haven't had as pets in our home. We started off with hamsters and had a series of them - one cuter than the other. Here's the last one, Rocky (think we'd just seen the Rocky Horror Show at the time and particularly enjoyed it just before we got him).

He was a very sweet little fellow and very friendly and even-tempered.

We ( I say 'we', because my daughter Suzanne is the person whom they've belonged to ) also had some gerbils who used to love taking chunks out of plant leaves.

After we lost Rocky, Suzanne decided to get a rodent with a longer life span and she got a chinchilla (often confused with a chiuaua), Freddie, who was the most darling pet imagineable.

He was incredibly cuddly and friendly and I could sit with him on my knee, and let him run around the flat - and he was very amenable to having his photo taken wearing hats. Sadly, he became sick and we lost him before he was three.

We've now got Kylie, who's a bit mad and unfortunately we can't let her have the run of the place. Any time she has got loose she has dived straight behind the wall unit in the den and it has taken a great deal of sweat and tears (for all concerned) to retrieve her. Kylie eats like crazy, only seems to beg for treats from me, and whenever she hears one of the alarm clocks go off, she darts for the top of her 4-tier cage with a quizzical look on her face.