Monday 25th May 2009

Added on 25 May 2009

 A Dementor At My Table

The phone rang this week. It’s one of the things that phones do, but I wish they wouldn’t. When the phone rings in the house I usually sit back, make a cup of tea, open the paper at the sports pages and let someone else get it. And if the person on the other end of the line is unlucky enough to get a monosyllabic child taking their call, then it serves them right for phoning in the first place. There are so many other ways to communicate these days. Why lift a phone when you can text, e-mail or send an owl? 


It would make sense that I ought to just keep my mobile on silent, or not answer it when it rings. But during the school day, you just never know who or what it might be. If someone from the school is calling to let you know that your kid has just broken his/her leg or has stolen the school bus or has just hacked into the Pentagon’s computer system and the school is currently surrounded by three thousand FBI agents, you’d be a hard-hearted parent not to take the call. 


So the phone sits there, only ever one second away from starting to ring. 


(I’m not going to justify the fact that I hate answering the phone. Some people like phones, and some people think they’re the invention of Satan. It’s just the way it is. Phones aren’t a natural way to communicate. I entered tentative negotiations with a literary agent a while back, which stalled at the point where I said that I’d fly to London to meet him (rather than phone), and he said, no, no, just give me a call, and rather than just get on a plane, or in fact, just call, I e-mailed to say that I think phones are the work of the Devil and that I’m not psychologically wired to make phone calls. We haven’t progressed a great deal further.) 


The phone rang. I was on my bike at the time, riding round the streets of Poland, getting shouted at by old women, because that’s what old women in Poland do. Here comes someone I don’t know, I’m going to shout at them. Here you! Bugger off! Unable to multi-task - ride bike, fend off old women, answer phone - I stopped and took the phone out my pocket. The number wasn’t recognised, and I was thrown into the usual quandary. Ignore the call and risk the possibility that my kids were holed up in a Butch and Sundance style shootout with the Mexican police, or take the call and leave myself open to having to talk to a complete stranger. 


I took the call. It was the acting agent from two weeks agoHello, I said, although I was actually thinking, crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap. Suddenly I was faced with the dread fear that no matter how awful I had been at the screen test the week before, I was going to be asked to appear in a Polish TV drama. 


I needn’t have worried. She wasn’t after me, she was after The Parent Currently Known As Mum (TPCKAM). This was a more natural turn of events. While my screen test had been a disastrous affair, reminiscent of Keanu Reeves playing Hamlet, TPCKAM had had a bit more of the Meryl Streep about her. She was invited to make her acting debut on the TVP1 show The Londoners, and could she do so that Friday.


She consulted her schedule, ditched Oprah, cancelled her flight to Cannes, blew off lunch with Danny Boyle and okayed the Polish TV drama deal. The script came in a couple of evenings in advance, and she settled down to get into character for her part as Third Receptionist On The Left, St Thomas’ Hospital, London. Given that before the screen test she had red-penned the script, a Russell Crowe in the making if ever there was one, if I’d been the director I’d have been nervous, but these people didn’t know what they were getting.


Friday morning dawned bright and sunny. Or maybe it was raining. Can’t remember. We met up with the agent in the coolest place in town, Cafe 6/12 on Zurawia, where all us artistic people go to eat goats cheese and figs. TPCKAM signed her life over to this woman she had only just met, and she now has an agent. (Since Friday she has passed all requests, including would you like a cup of tea? and Mum, can you read Harry Potter? and Do you know what time it is? through her new representative.) The agent also told me to my face that my screen test had been fine - liar, liar, pants on fire - and she was waiting for them to find a part for me. I finally broke down in tears, for all the world like I was Kate Winslet, and officially informed her that I didn’t want to do it, and that I’d rather walk barefoot naked across an erupting volcano. She smiled and said she’d try to get me a barefoot naked on an erupting volcano gig.


We returned home for TPCKAM to get into character. She was being picked up by the TV studio limo, so spent the following couple of hours embracing the Al Pacino method school of acting, sitting at the kitchen table saying things like, How may I help you, sir? and If you could just sit in the waiting area, you will be seen by a doctor some time in the next five years. Please take the time to fill out our Customer Satisfaction Survey and you could win a weekend for two in Morcambe Bay.

Ten minutes before the car was due to arrive a look of unrestrained panic crossed her chops and she said, Do you think I should shave my legs? We entered into a discussion, whereby I pointed out that she was playing a hospital receptionist, and would spend the entire scene sitting behind a counter. This carried little weight, and her legs were subjected to a close encounter with a razor. 


The limo came and whisked her away, and off she went to TV celebrity stardom. Not being present for the following seven hours, I can only speculate on what happened. The exact details of TPCKAM’s first day on the set of a Polish TV drama will have to wait for her upcoming autobiography, My Name’s The Parent Currently Known As Mum, And I’m A Polish TV Star. Suffice to say, that by the time she came back at nine in the evening, clarted in make-up and smelling of success and glamour, the calls were already coming in from Hollywood, and was touting her for the part of Ophelia opposite Keanu Reeves in the Farrelly Brothers Hamlet re-make.


It’s going to be tough having two international celebrities in the same house for the next few years, but maybe we can take some tips from our good friends Brad and Angelina. 


News From The Apricot Tree Front Line 

The apricot tree stands like a behemoth in our back garden, towering over the oleander and the fir, sullen and bare in winter, vibrant, blossoming pink in spring, and every summer gorged with fruit; thousands and thousands of plump apricots, waiting to be spewed down over the lawn, a carpet bombing deluge of fruit on the cusp of decay, which hits the ground and quickly transforms into a putrid, festering, ant-infested quagmire. I hate all those stupid apricots. Three years ago the tree produced 8,312 individual pieces of fruit. I counted them all out, and I counted them all back again.


But not this year. This year the sucker is dying. The blossom stalled and failed miserably, the leaves are already rotting on the branch. There’s probably a quote from Shakespeare I could dredge up about a dying tree, but not having one to hand, I’ll make one up: The leaves wither and die, and the blighted tree doth stand on the edge of calumny. Behold the death of life and the fool apricot be struck forever from this place. Fuck you and your dog, you dumb ass tree.


Not being a tree pathologist, I have no idea why the tree is on its way to an inglorious and putrescent end, but I suspect it might be something to do with the fact that I have been looking at it in a funny way for the past four years. All those negative and hateful vibes that I’ve been sending its way are finally paying off. I mean, it would be a Star Wars Force type of concept, but that kind of thing happens, doesn’t it? 


Starting in August I’m going to apply my powers to getting Chelsea and Manchester United relegated.  


Barney Thomson Report

This week’s update (changes in red):


Proof read Book number 2: complete

Re-write Book number 3: not done. (Not even started)

Proof read numbers 4,5 & 6: not even started

Start final draft of number 7: Progressing in a satisfactory manner. Usually at this stage of the book writing process - i.e. three and a half months before publication - I’m in a state of unbridled panic, consumed by artistic doubt and still in search of story arc, jokes, a plot and an end. The Final Cut, however - while lacking story arc, jokes, or a plot - does at least end and so I’m feeling quite sanguine about the whole thing and looking to wrap it up in the next few weeks.

Speak to bank about massive corporate financing package to relaunch the series: not done. I think I’m coming to the conclusion that I’m just not going to do this, so probably ought to drop it from the weekly report.

Launch Barney Series as ebooks: No further progress, but it’s coming soon.


Strange Case Update 

There are now two Strange Case videos on YouTube, although we have yet to travel to the Indian Ocean to film the video for Affected on a yacht. We'll probably wait for the Jay-Z remix to do that. 


Going Back to Galileo


You Said


Send the link for Going Back To Galileo to your friends and help bring down the Gordon Brown government. (Not that he actually needs any help, given that he’s making such a solid job of it all on his own.) 


Sandy Lyle Watch

(The continuing saga of the best golfer never to win three majors.)


There are only a couple of tournaments on the US Old Man’s Tour which have a cut. Usually they play three rounds, with no cut. This weekend it was the US Old Man’s Open, a four round Old Man’s major. Sandy arrived at the sixteenth hole of his second round, exactly on the borderline of the cut, needing three pars to play at the weekend.


In a similar situation in the 2nd round of the Masters this year, Sandy had shot five birdies in a row, from thirteen to seventeen, so that when he dropped a shot at the last, it made no difference. No such magic at the weekend. He bogeyed sixteen and seventeen and packed his bags for the Principal Charity Classic in Des Moines this week. No cut in that tournament, so he can book his weekend hotel with confidence. 


Sandy’s world ranking this morning is: 604. That's up 11 places on last week, despite missing the cut in a non-ranking tournament...



20 Reasons Why The Last Fish Supper is A Better Book Than The Da Vinci Code 

(Back by popular demand


# 4 While there can be little doubt that the Holy Grail was brought to Scotland on Thursday 12th October, 1307, Dan Brown, like so many before him, was sucked in by the trappings of Rosslyn Chapel, fooled by the gauche Masonic caricature of the internal decor. And so, deluded and deceived by this ancient duplicity, he missed the facts pointing to the Grail’s true location. The Last Fish Supper is alone among Grail novels in identifying the Cathedral of the Isles in Millport as the Grail’s final resting place. 


Follow this link to buy the most entertaining Holy Grail novel this millennium.


Next week, Reason # 5...