Wednesday, 29 September 2010

What I have learnt in India...

Here are the things I have learnt whilst in India...

1. On Indian billboards, all products are advertised by a chubby middle aged man with a moustache who gestures favourably at pictures of the product. It is tempting to think that it is the same man but I don't think it is.
2. Eating curry at least twice a day is actually better for my bowels than than my current diet in England.
3. When people ask me where I'm from I say 'London' rather than England or Britain. Deal with it.
4. When talking to 'locals', no matter how hard I try, I'm pretty sure I come across as a dick.
5. Compared to residents of other poor countries I've been to, Indians seem less keen to scam you out of money. Egypt was the worst for that. I remember a shopkeeper, as a passed his gaff, literally saying the sentence - 'How can I take your money?'.
6. Indians love football just as much as cricket. Unlike cricket though, they are shit at it.
7. The young man on the reception desk at my last hotel was gay but I don't think he knew it yet. He is genuinely about to study in San Francisco though. I believe he will 'find himself'.
8. When overtaking (or indeed, doing anything) in a car, an Indian will ALWAYS sound his horn.

I hope I learnt more than that. Probably not. Tomorrow I have to return a week early because I got some (bloody) work. A man has not been so in demand since Sean Maguire left Eastenders. This means I've left my girlfriend to fend for herself in Kerela and am spending the night in a business hotel in Mumbai. I am now going to sit at the bar like a businessman and wait for prostitutes to propasition me. Good bye!

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Holidays and Gazza

Tomorrow I go to India on a two week holiday which means my blogs are inevitably going to get really wanky. Here is an example of the sort of tosh you are likely to read over the coming fortnight;

"I'm writing this from an internet cafe in the middle of paradise. The people here are so friendly. I feel that unburdened by the pressures of money they are able to truly become human. A moment ago I looked into a little Indian boy's eyes and saw a message of hope that could warm anyone's heart. When I get back I think I'm going to really re-evaluate my life. Stand up is futile. I'm going to work with disadvantaged children."

It could be said that what I just wrote confirms me as the ultimate cynic. I am already mocking my future self for taking anything other than a sun tan from my holiday. Truth be told I am looking forward to this trip rather a lot. Weirdly, I always really look forward to the flight. Flights are an opportunity to sit down and watch telly for a long time without feeling guilty. What?! You mean these movies are FREE?!! On planes I get so excited about watching movies I would never otherwise watch that I never ever sleep. "I could get a couple of hours kip before we land OR I could watch 'Music and Lyrics'".

The reality is that often, no matter how incredible the actual destination I spend much of my holidays kind of wishing I was somewhere else. This is the problem with old Fergapop. Not very good at enjoying the moment.

What I am enjoying (LINK!) is Gazza's autobiography. You should know that I just read a ridiculously intellectual and difficult to read book about finance* so I felt I had carte blanche to read whatever I liked this time. It won't surprise you to know that Paul Gascoigne is properly mental and, it seems, very dangerous to be around. Just imagine spending an extended period of time with the man in the picture. Gazza could possibly be the worst person to ever go on holiday with (LINK!). Here are some choice passages. These are all, honestly, straight from the book...

"Gary Linekar and his wife, Michelle, were there. She was standing sipping her champagne when I decided to leap on her as a friendly gesture. I landed on her back and we both went overboard."

"He'd left his motor home in the car park, and someone had put one of those traffic comes** we use in training on the roof. I asked my friend if he'd climb up on the roof and get it down. As soon as he was up there, I got in the motor home and started driving it down the A1, going faster and faster. He was screaming and shouting, 'Please, please, Gazza, stop! I'm a married man, I've got a family! You're going to kill me!' He was clearly terrified, so I stopped. I was only having a laugh."

"Another time I drove my car at Jimmy, going about 30 miles an hour, just to scare him. Which it did, especially when I hit him. I thought I'd killed him, but he recovered. Yeah, it was a bad thing to do, but I was bored. That was the reason."

And this is what happened after England went out of Euro '96 to Germany on penalties...

"Back at the hotel at Burnham Beeches, I drank down my sorrows, along with Robbie Fowler. We started squirting tomato ketchup at each other. We'd found a couple of tubes on a table and soon finished them off. I went into the kitchens and found a monster carton of ketchup, which I emptied all over Robbie. Then I ran to my room and had a good cry."

I hope you enjoyed that low brow entertainment while was able to give it to you. I appreciate that the bulk of this blog is me essentially me stealing stories from someone else's autobiography. Soon, after a few days in India, I will be an altogether more enlightened man. Thanks you and good byes.

* It's called 'The Big Short' and it's by Michael Lewis. If you have any interest in the insanity that brought about the recession that I recommend you read it. It is also very entertaining. I promise.

** It genuinely says 'comes' instead of 'cones'. Perhaps they allowed him to write the odd paragraph himself.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Mr. T hates trees!

I made the mistake of giving my girlfriend control of the television remote for a brief period on Sunday. Within seconds it was on the 'Painting and Drying Channel' which is clearly beyond parody. Then we were watching an infomercial on a channel somewhere in the late 600s. They were advertising some kind of see-through oven and had hired the services of Mr.T to help explain it to us. Mr.T is on about 20% of adverts at the moment. He is either a fan of a great number of different products or simply happy to whore himself to the hundreds of advertising execs who earn their money by saying -

"Guys, guys, what if...? Now bare with me on this... what if...? Jesus, I'm good... What if... we got Mr. T to advertise it?"

"Woah, woah, woah! Mr. T from the A Team?"

"Yeah. We could, like, get him to say, like, 'You'd be a FOOL not to buy Gaviscon!"

"Danny, you're amaaaazing! Consider your salary justified!"

It is important that I let you know, as I have proven on a handful of occasions, I am perfectly willing to 'whore' myself in adverts. The fact is that adverts pay big chunks of money for very little work and therefore only a dickhead (or someone with integrity) would turn them down.

This blog was going to be about the fact that Mr. T is still known as Mr. T although that was just the name of a character he played in a TV show 25 years ago. I was going to make jokes around the premise that Ian McShane still called himself Lovejoy. Then I did some research and discovered/remembered that Mr. T is in fact the name of the actor and the character was called B.A Baracus. Now I am lumbered with a blog with no discernible direction. The parallels with my career are striking.

Someone told me on Sunday night that Mr. T owned a huge estate outside of Chicago with hundreds of oak trees on it's grounds. He then decided that he hated trees and got rid of them all, upsetting the local residents. I have since googled this and the story can safely be upgraded from pub anecdotal evidence to 'true' - he did do it. I now have an image of Mr. T roaming the grounds of his property ripping trees from the ground with his bare hands and shouting 'Mr. T hates trees!'. He would only stop from time to time to yell advertising slogans at passing camera crews.

One point worth making (is it?) is that I don't think I've seen Mr. T do anything but advertise things for over 20 years. That means that there is a whole generation that only know him as the 'black guy on telly who shouts about Snickers/World of Warcraft/that oven thingy'. To them he is just an American Barry Scott. To his credit, what Mr. T has done is created an instantly recognisable image. I will be working on my own over the coming months. How about policeman's hat, wet suit, Dr Martins?

The smarter amongst you will have noticed, to prove what a sick world this is, I have included an image of Nancy Reagan sat on Mr. T's lap. As I understand it, she sat on his lap to distract him from the tree behind him. Any sexual activities that may or may not have happened after this photo was taken are between them. And as for the video below - she's right, he could have used the door knob...

Friday, 10 September 2010

My time in the RSC.

My friend, Alex has asked me to write about my time in the RSC and as it seems I now take requests like a wedding DJ that is what I'm going to do. Yes, that's right! For seven months of my life in 2002 I was in the Royal Shakespeare Company. When my mother told my Grandma that I had got a job with the RSC she thought I was now working for the RAC and, bless her orthopedic socks, was very impressed.

I played a fairy in Midsummer Night's Dream (because I'm cool) and also had the role of Philostrate who gives a supposedly funny speech near the end. Every night I stood on stage in a ridiculously unflattering toga bashing out that unfunny speech and every night the audience laughed knowing full well that it wasn't funny but wanting to look smart. At first I took the job quite seriously. I was 21, fresh out of drama school and keen to impress. Then I fell into the clutches of the eldest member of the cast.

He was a Northern chap in his 50s who'd been consistently employed in the theatre for 25 years. Let's call him Barry. The problem was that Barry absolutely hated fucking acting. Truly hated it. He was properly hilarious but, weirdly, hated it when the audience laughed. Whenever it was time for him to go to the stage his shoulders would slump and he would mope towards the wings (theatrical term) in agony. Barry's way of countering this detestation was to piss about. Because I am what's known in the business as 'game for a laugh' he focused a lot of his attentions on me.

One night I was stood at the back of the stage in my stupid toga concentrating on the scene in front of me. Being the fresh faced wannabe that I was I reacted to the action with what's known in the trade as 'facial expressions'. This was despite the fact that none of the 1000 people in the audience would have been looking at me. Barry, the theatrical veteran, who was stood close by in an equally stupid toga, leaned over and said, under his breath... "Stop acting, you cunt.". The man was a hoot. Another night, in the same scene, he whispered (but not especially quietly)... "We're doing the wrong play! We're supposed to be doing "Importance of Being Earnest!".

Gradually, this tomfoolery spread to the younger cast members. 100 performances in and things just got silly. One night I was stood close to a stage exit waiting to give my tedious speech. Another actor, let's call him Jerry (why not?), was stood just offstage by the same exit armed with a dictaphone. Over the course of a minute he played the same fart noise into my ear 40 times. Farts are always amusing but in this instance it brought about uncontrollable laughter on my part. This wasn't stifled laughter that only eagle eyed viewers might spot. This was proper mouth wide open, tears rolling down face, laughter. Unable to concentrate on the action on stage I began to panic. Terrified of missing my cue, I started my dialogue, interrupting another actor's speech. In the pompous theatre world that is a crime tantamount to baby buggery. The serious actor whom I'd interrupted was livid and as soon as the show was over let me know about it. In retrospect he was right to do so. I probably made him feel quite vulnerable and ruined his evening. In my defence his speech was so ball achingly dull I don't think that anyone noticed.

I like a lot of Shakespeare and love theatre (OMG! I just LOVE it!) but when you don't have a particularly interesting part, doing the same play 130 something times is BORING. A fault of mine is that I'm not all that good at hiding boredom and it was most likely spotted by the decision makers in the R to the S to the C. That may be why they never asked me back and I spent 2 and a half years working in a call centre.

In my last blog I touched on the bellends who go to trendy bars in East London. This video says everything I tried to but is far funnier. I should mention that I posted this on twitter and failed to credit my friend and zeitgeist beacon Imran Ahmed for sending it to me. Twitter etiquette is a minefield.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010


My favourite pub is conveniently and dangerously close to my flat. It's an Irish boozer (I never use that word) called The Auld Shillelagh and can be found on Stoke Newington Church Street. My drink of choice is Guinness and as such I haven't had a normal shit since Kula Shaker last released a successful album. The Auld Shillelagh (pronounced 'old shill-lay-lee') serves superb Guinness and that initially was my primary reason for frequenting it. Now I go for the aura of the place.

Right. I'm going to have to stop for a moment. I just used the word 'aura' when describing my favourite Irish 'boozer'. It is clear that a few years mixing with the North London liberal media elite has led me to disappear so far up my own wanky arsehole that I sound like an advertising 'creative'. Apologies. Please bear with me as I try to explain why I love this pub without sounding like a social tourist tit.

It's a long narrow pub and all the alcoholics sit at the bar by the entrance. This meant that for years I rarely went in. I didn't have the balls to get past the gauntlet of middle aged masculine misery. Then one night a friend and I dared each other to sit at the bar all night and try to fit in. Within an hour and a half all our preconceptions were well and truly battered. It turned out that two of the previously most frightening men were in a civil partnership together. Now, I'm not saying that gay men can't be frightening (Christopher Biggins?) but it definitely altered our perspective.

Now, I see The Auld Shillelagh as a rare example of what in my opinion a good pub should be. It's a place where all different types of people come together to get pissed and talk. 'Isn't that a description of any pub?' I hear you say. Yes... but... it's the AURA!

I'll tell you what kind of pub I hate. One where the music is so loud that you can't talk but is also a) too shit to dance to, or b) there's nowhere to dance. Does ANYONE like these pubs? I'm sure it's not my age that makes me hate them, I remember moaning about them when I was 17. Now either I was a really boring 17 year old (impossible, just impossible) or hundreds of pub landlords are making very bad business decisions. Thinking about it though, these pubs are always full. Who are these people who enjoy standing with expensive drinks as someone yells incomprehensible noises into their ear? Perhaps they're aimed at groups of workmates who hate each other. The pubs provide a cocoon of noise so that they can wind down after work but not actually listen to the inane bullshit of their colleagues.

Another type of bar I hate is the uber trendy indie place. Shoreditch is riddled with them and if you live in a city I'm sure you've been to a couple. Peer into one of these places and all you will see is a gaggle of twats simply wearing clothes. They are not smiling or dancing. They are hardly talking. Their primary purpose seems to be simply to wear trendy clothes. It is also worth noting that despite the strive for individualism that their demeanors suggest they all look the same. A few years ago they were all wearing trucker hats. I'm most likely behind the times but last time I checked they were all wearing lumberjack shirts with the top button done up and horn rimmed glasses. I should admit that for a long time I kind of wanted to be part of this gang. I always failed in my outfits miserably though* and count myself lucky that I saw the light and gave up.

One last thing (remember Columbo?) I'd like to mention is the beers in these bars. To me, all lagers pretty much taste the same. The fashions however, change year on year. Once Carlsberg was considered cool. I think even Stella was for a while. Then we had the Czech beer years. Now some bars wouldn't dream of selling Carlsberg. Instead they'll give you a warm bottle of Zatec for four quid. Ladies and gentlemen of Britain - all these beers taste the same! Thank you and goodbye.

* I went through a phase of wearing vintage 80's jumpers with 'kooky' pictures on them until someone pointed out that I looked like a child with special needs. They said it looked like I was picking clothes that were 'easy to put on'.

Monday, 6 September 2010

My Ankle Rankles

My friend Imran (British Pakistani, 5' 9") has requested that I write a blog about my ankle. This is not a fetish of his. The fact is that Imran (jogger, cocky) seems to find it hilarious that I have a bad ankle and wants to read about it 'for a laugh'. Fine...

Take yourself back to March 2000. Brit pop was on it's last legs. Noel Edmunds was still safely in hiding. Jack Whitehall was nine. Let me say that again. JACK WHITEHALL WAS NINE!* Contrary to what it says on my Wikipedia page I was at Manchester Metropolitan University 'studying' acting. I spent one Saturday evening drinking John Smith's (1.25 a pint) in the Student Union and then me and my mates left for a house party because we were cool. Pissed and brimming with post-pubescent energy I ran down the stairs of the Union. I think I may have been trying to recreate a scene in 'Heat' (which loads of people hate when it is in fact brilliant) in which Al Pacino runs down lots of steps very quickly and yet maintains his lovable intensity. I fell, like a twat, and in the process turned my right ankle, severely spraining it. It says something for the largely charmed life I have lead that that moment is easily the biggest regret of my life. One has to wonder, despite the fact I was already 20, studying acting and shit at football - if not for that fall could I have played for England?

So, for the last 10 years I have had a bad ankle. Some months I hardly notice it. Some months I hobble round like Paul Robinson**. I've been to a series of physios who have all told me that I will have a bad ankle for the rest of my life. It's hardly a disability but it is a genuine source of annoyance and the bane*** of my bloody life.

In the early noughties, as was my want, I spent a lot of time in nightclubs wondering how to make girls like me. My strength in the arena of courtship has always been my rakish wit and capacity for japes. Basically I'm a fucking hoot. It's difficult to let this ability shine through in a noisy nightclub. That didn't stop me trying - acting out the words to songs like the desperate tit I was. What made my evenings even worse (and they were, on reflection, caked in misery) was this pissy bad ankle of mine. Like many of my fellow revellers I could often be seen munching on pills except that mine were Nurofen. Dancing for hours at a time is tricky with a Grandma sized swollen ankle so I chomped on ibuprofen like they were jelly babies. Incidentally in googling the spelling of 'ibuprofen' just now I learnt that it is not in fact 'ibroprofen'. I have been saying the name of my drug of choice wrong for the last decade.

Since you ask, I'm having a good month ankle-wise. I even had a bit of a kick about yesterday and was reminded that I really can't do more than about 7 or 8 kick ups. Keeping a ball under control (wink) in the air is mighty difficult. Whatever your opinion of Tony Blair is he should always get credit for that head tennis session he had with Kevin Keegan in about 1996. Look up the footage if you've not seen it. It's really quite impressive and if he had just done that at the Iraq War inquiry I think his 'legacy' would still be very much in tact.

One final point on ankles in general. I fear for the current crop of young men who wear deck shoes and the like with no socks. Not only must their feet stink but their ankles have no support. Forever a slave to the whims of fashion, Imran (30, angry) is one of these poor souls headed for disaster. It must be boom time for the physiotherapy industry with thousands of Vampire Weekend fans limping in to their clinics with fresh sprains. I now, on the other hand almost exclusively wear high tops which not only give me the support I need but also help me to fit in when I visit the ghetto. Thank and and goodbye and if you like this blog then spread the word for I have an ego that needs feeding.

* Jack Whitehall was in fact eleven in March 2000 but I thought it would be funnier to say that he was nine. The soon to be equally as famous, Daniel Sloss was nine in March 2000. The fact is that there is a strong chance that when I sprained my ankle neither of those young men, who are both more successful at comedy than me, had pubes. Depressing. Oh and I realise that I have pondered on the likelihood of other other men having pubes two blogs in a row now. This is a dodgy habit I will keep an eye on.

** That was a reference especially for those of you who still watch Neighbours. Paul Robinson now has an artificial leg and in turn, a limp.

*** Following on from the footnotes of my last blog, 'bane' is another one of those words. I only ever hear it in the context - 'bane of my life'.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Sport and stuff.

Yesterday my brother turned 26 which is for me rather odd. I find it difficult to even believe that he has pubes. I have however been told by a number of reliable sources that he does. Question - is it appropriate to start a blog discussing my brother's pubes? It's too late now. I've done it because I am a RENEGADE. We celebrated by having a game of tennis in which he, of course, beat me. He has been doing this since he was about 5 and being four years older than him it's a source of genuine hurt and frustration that will no doubt bring about my eventual demise.

This brings me neatly onto my love of sport. It doesn't actually but I thought I could just slip that past you. I love sport a lot. Far more than someone of my astonishing IQ (over 100!) and qualifications should. I once said that for my retirement I'd like to get Sky Sports and just spend my days watching 'all the sport'. My brother recently pointed out that that is what I have ended up doing well before actually starting any kind of pension. Writing that down is, thinking about it, quite depressing. Not only did I fantasize for myself one of the dullest possible retirements but I chose to take that retirement 40 years early. Hang on tv producers, just to clarify I am still available for work and only have enough money in the bank to cover the next couple of months.

It is impossible to explain to someone who doesn't 'get it' just why I love watching and playing* sport so much. Both my parents hate it. I grew up in Newcastle and instead of taking me to watch my beloved Newcastle United every Saturday my dad would take me to craft fares and stately homes. Perhaps it was a kind of rebellion on my part. Most teenagers (I am told) blare* loud music their parents hate from their bedrooms in angst. My parents were both quite embracing of my music tastes. For the record my mother's favourite Wu Tang song is 'What The Blood Clot'. My dad showed his appreciation by saying that EVERY single thing me or my brothers played sounded like the 60s psychedelic group 'Gong'. Instead, I expressed my adolescence by demanding that we watched Match Of The Day and faking sick days so that I could watch Wimbledon and the World Snooker Championships. I did that every year by the way and always got away with it. In... your... face... system!

Now that I have the disposable income of a forty year old gay man I go to watch an awful lot of football. I know no one who loves it quite as much as me so I end up going to most of the games on my own which weirdly doesn't bother me. My adopted London team has become Leyton Orient and I go to see them most weekends. At Orient the stands are filled with pale, podgy freakish looking men who are no doubt divorcees and live on microwave shepherd's pie. In essence they are me in 10-15 years time. One constant at football games is the abuse of players, officials and surprisingly often stewards. I went to one game last year in which the chap behind me was moaning loudly about how shit we were playing within 20 seconds of the game kicking off. It was far too early to make an assessment of how well the team were playing but he had obviously had a bad week at work. The football match provided him with a setting in which it was socially acceptable to shout 'you fucking lazy cunts!' and he took it with open arms. He probably didn't even like football.

I on the other hand do. I really really do. My love for it is so abstract that I can't properly describe it. It's something to do with the fact that it is fairly unpredictable and means a lot to a lot of people. I think what happens is that a large group people decide to care about one effectively meaningless thing (a match) and therefore our collective investment makes it really important and therefore more enjoyable. R U wiv me?

Tomorrow I'm going to see Orient play away at the mighty Dagenham and Redbridge. I will be joined by the recently crippled Holly Walsh and her (stunning) boyfriend Jon. My hope is that they develop a love for the Orient that will result in us attending all Orient games together until the end of time. What will actually happen is that they will say they had an amazing time and would really like to come regularly but when I give them the opportunity they will be mysteriously unavailable. I've been stung before. Time and time again.

* I realise I do not have the body of a man who plays a lot of sport. Pool is a sport.

* Is the word 'blare' ever used in any other context? Similarly the word 'beck' is only used in the phrase 'beck and call' and the word 'incredible' is only used in the phrase 'Fergus Craig is an incredible man'.