Brexit: A Farce in Two Acts

Here’s a summary of my latest creative endeavour, a fifteen-minute radio play entitled ‘Brexit: a Farce in Two Acts’.

Act 1

Scene 1: The f*** up.

Dodgy Dave wants to screw Britannia, whom he fancies.  Urged on by his mate Nigel, manager of thrash metal band ‘The Kippers’, he asks her out and decides to sleep with her.  What’s the worst that could happen?

Scene 2: the consequences

Dave has had his fun and goes whistling back to No 10 for a good night’s sleep.  He’s so sure nothing can go wrong, he refuses even to consider advising Brit to take a morning-after pill.

Scene 3

Unfortunately, 52% of Dave’s sperm were fertile and Brit has a positive result to her test.  In one year she will give birth to a child who will be called Brexit.

Dave refuses to do the decent thing and support Brit: appalled at the news, he scarpers and is never seen again.

Act 2: Brexit

Brexit is born, but it is clear that she has multiple handicaps.  Misshapen, misbegotten and malformed, her mere presence divides the country in two: those who think she should be strangled and those who think she’ll be absolutely fine in spite of everything.

Brex is an unhappy child, forced at a very early age to go to Brussels and negotiate with the EU even though she doesn’t know what she wants apart from three words written on a piece of paper: strong, stable and hard.

Seeing the state her child is in, Brit is devastated.  She is diagnosed with acute schizophrenia and sent to lie down in a darkened room.  Brexit comes back from Brussels with another piece of paper, though what is written on it is not yet clear.

I’ve written this into a fifteen-minute play and will look for a suitable slot on which to perform it.

Kirk out

Lay Your Head on the Writer’s Block

I’m never quite sure what writer’s block is.  I know it refers to an inability to write, but what actually counts as writer’s block?  If you sit staring at a screen for hours without writing a word, does that count?  Or is that too short a time?  Does it have to last at least a few days or weeks before you can call it writer’s block?  And when I wasn’t writing at all between the ages of eight and twenty-four, was that writer’s block?  Or was it a crisis of identity?

Aside from the question of how long it lasts, what kind of thing is writer’s block?  Is it the complete inability to write a single word?  Or does it mean you don’t write anything you’re remotely satisfied with?  If it’s the latter, I’m in trouble – because ‘not remotely satisfied’ describes nearly every day’s work for me.  But if it’s the former I’m OK because most days I manage to write something, even if it’s only a blog post.  Which is why I’m so glad I have this blog, because on really bad days where I can’t string two morphemes together, I can at least manacle a blog post into position, run it up the flag and see if anyone salutes it.  A blog post is usually less than 500 words; it’s achievable and, with the click of a button, it’s published and ready to read.

OH has an interesting view on overcoming writer’s block.  In the same way that Michelangelo saw the sculpture as being hidden within the stone

you could regard writing as ‘taking away’ everything which is not the story.  I’m not sure how cutting things away works when faced with a blank page rather than a lump of rock, but it’s worth thinking about. *

In ‘His Dark Materials’, Phillip Pullman wrote of the subtle knife which cuts windows between different worlds, ‘you may have intentions but the knife has its own intentions.’

This is an idea I try to bear in mind when writing a poem; that when writing I may have intentions, but the poem has its own intentions too.  Nevertheless, the blank page can be a very intimidating thing to overcome, so when I have a bad day and think all my thoughts are worthless, I try just to write, believing that anything is better than nothing and reminding myself without a first draft there can be no second draft, no finished version.

I guess the process of writing is hard to fathom, else there would be no such thing as writer’s block.  But it’s clear that writing begins with thought.  Thoughts occur in the mind, and the writer selects which of them to commit to paper: so maybe writer’s block begins here, at the level of thought.  When the mind is a blank, the page will be a blank.  However, in my experience what is more likely going on is that the mind is not producing anything your critical self deems worthy of using; hence a good exercise when blocked is to write whatever comes into your mind, no matter how nonsensical or seemingly worthless.  James Joyce did this, and look what he managed to produce just listening to the babbling of his mind!

Interesting things happen when we let go of controlling our thoughts.  And out of this arises poetry.

And I know it’s not the day for linking to it, but I’m going to link here to the Insecure Writers Support Group because this post is relevant.

Kirk out

*Sounds like some bizarre version of scissors, paper, stone…

Here are the Main Points Again

From time to time I like to welcome new readers to this blog and thank those who have stayed with me, even if it’s only to post the odd ‘like’ or comment.  If you’re shy about commenting, please go ahead and do it anyway; I’m not combative and I won’t jump on you if you dare to express an opinion, even if I don’t agree with it.  That said, I don’t tolerate rudeness or trolling – not that any of you would be so ill-mannered as to attempt it.  So please feel free.

I’m very bad at mentioning my blog to people: often they come across it quite independently and are surprised.  Basically I’m a terrible self-promoter: as regular readers will know, I’m a member of the Insecure Writers Support Group and in an age where we’re all supposed to be self-sufficient, self-promoting little market forces all selling ourselves to each other, I’m a bit of a disaster.  You’re supposed to get out there and yell ‘hey, look at this!  This is brilliant!  You want this!  Come and get some!’  Whereas I just stand in a corner and mumble something like ‘well, there’s this thing over here.  It’s quite good.  I mean, I think so.  You might want to take a look – but only if you have time.’

Like I say, bloody disaster.

In other news, Tony Blair has been found!  Yes, he wasn’t in a bunker after all, but had scarpered to the Middle East where he is now taking part in the peace process – presumably to make up for  the part he previously played in the war process.  And possibly also trying to find some weapons of mass distraction.

Sorry, destruction.

And finally, a group of us gathered yesterday to watch ‘Pride’, the true story of how gays and lesbians (in the days before unwieldy acronyms were invented) collected money for the Welsh miners during the fatal strike.  I remember the strike vividly: it was remarkable for its viciousness and although there were faults on both sides (I was never a fan of Scargill) the police behaved appallingly.

But this was not that story but an altogether more heart-warming tale of two cultures; London, not exactly gay-friendly then but at least getting there, and rural South Wales where no-one has ever met a gay or lesbian (at least, not knowingly).  This is not, thankfully, an issue-laden film but one where two cultures unite against a common enemy: Thatcher and her cohorts, and where the attempts of a local homophobe with ‘a stick up her bottom’ fail to derail the connection that is made between them.  If I were going to be hyper-critical I’d say the film was a bit Richard Curtis, but I don’t care.  It’s great – and when the lights went up nearly everyone was dabbing their eyes.#

So if you haven’t seen it yet, go watch.

And let me know if you spot Tony Blair anywhere.  The hunt is on!

Kirk out

What Manner of Folk be These, with Aran Sweater and Finger in Ye Ear?

English folk music is not nearly as well-respected as its Irish or Scots counterparts.  Maybe this is because we’re the dominant country, so we don’t have as much oppression to sing about – though I’d question this, in the light of historical events such as the Industrial Revolution.  But folk doesn’t have to be about oppression: much of it is about love – a love of place or a love of person (usually a woman since, let’s face it, most of these things were written by men) – and there’s a simplicity about the songs.  They arise out of working-class traditions and may not be erudite or complex but nevertheless have an authenticity.  Consider the simple pun on thyme/time in ‘A Bunch of Thyme’:

This also illustrates the primacy of the oral tradition, as the pun suffers from being written down.

English folk music has long been the object of ridicule: the sneers I’ve been subjected to for liking folk clubs are second only to those I suffered for being a Leonard Cohen fan.  The finger-in-the-ear-whilst-singing-nasally is a cliche too easily trotted out by cynics; but folk clubs are by and large open and inclusive spaces where a variety of styles can be aired and where people can come together to share songs.  You may think it’s ridiculous for a bunch of middle-class, middle-aged English folk to sing about being ‘lonely round the fields of Athenry’ but to join in with an impromptu rendering of a song you love is a moving experience.  It ain’t clubbing on acid, but it’s humming on real ale – and I like it.

Not that any of this sums up my experience last night.  I’d been meaning to go to Loughborough Acoustics for months and finally made it last night.  The club which hosts it boasted all the atmosphere of a wet bus shelter in Skelmersdale: I opened the folk room door with an ominous creak to find two-and-a-half men (one half hidden behind a PA) one of whom was on stage and tuning up.  I was greeted with all the enthusiasm of a horizontal wind blowing into the aforementioned bus shelter and approached the bar to see a complete absence of any Proper Beer.  Oh dear.  In the end I had some water and sat down to listen.

To be fair, I must have picked the worst night of the year to go to the club since everyone was apparently at some festival or other (not Glasto, I’m assuming).  It got better; people did eventually talk to me and by half-time I had thawed out somewhat, emotionally speaking.

I’ll give it another try.  Mind you, when I told my daughter I was going to a folk club she said ‘oh, what sort of folk are they?’  I think she considers me ripe for some sort of pensioners’ jamboree.  *Sigh*.  I guess this is what it’s like to hit sixty…

Kirk out

Beyond Our Ken

I hope like me you’ve been watching the excellent ‘Handmaid’s Tale’: it’s totally up there with quality adaptations such as ‘The Night Manager’ and ‘Wolf Hall’.  Tales of oppression and liberation are always compelling; however, since it has still six weeks to run I shall hold off on a review.

But before last night’s episode (and after The Archers, of course) I caught up with one of Michael Sheen’s biopics.  Sheen is an actor best known for playing real people and has, in a process that is half-impersonation, half-representation, portrayed Tony Blair in The Queen, Brian Clough in The Damned United and David Frost in Frost/Nixon.  But last night he was Kenneth Williams in Fantabulosa!

In order to understand Kenneth Williams we must remember the age in which he lived.  He was gay at a time when homosexuality was still a criminal offence: being outed would not only have ended his career but perhaps also his life though ironically, it was being in the closet that probably drove him to suicide.  It is hard now to understand the degree of denial that existed about homosexuality; my mother was a huge fan of Kenneth Williams and would have been shocked to the core to discover that he was gay.  To one of my generation it was fairly obvious, but it wasn’t until his diaries were published posthumously that we knew for sure.  His diaries are a sad read; a tortured account of an inner life whose only sexual release was ‘the Barclays’.

Sheen is extraordinary as Williams: he’s a difficult man to play without resorting to caricature but Sheen manages to capture not only the mannerisms but Williams’ unique voice.  It was the voice above all which made Kenneth successful; it was nasal but resonant and he had the range of an opera singer, varying his tempo and register for comic effect.  Like Barbara Windsor he almost certainly threw away his talent on too many awful Carry On films: unlike her he was unable to form relationships.  Had he been born today he’d be able to marry and live openly: then again perhaps his loneliness was caused by other factors.

In spite of Sheen’s performance I found the film somewhat episodic, lacking a centre and consisting of vignettes: a scene with Jo Orton where Williams rejects a man’s advances; another glimpse of him eating with Orton’s lover Kenneth Halliwell; slices of Carry-On action (the other actors portrayed to the life) and slices of life with his mother who lived downstairs and remained his most intimate companion until his death.

With a story like his, you look back and think how did people not know?  True, a lot of people did know, and many more suspected, but nobody talked about it.  Gays and lesbians hid in plain sight.

Nothing Will Come of Nothing…

… speak again.’   So says Lear to Cordelia – and pretty soon the government are going to have to say it to the electorate, ‘speak again – because we didn’t quite hear you the first time.  You weren’t enunciating properly.   You were trying to say too many things at once and we couldn’t make out what you wanted.’

Still, muddled as the result is, some things are pretty clear: first, that most commentators vastly underestimated Corbyn and his supporters.  I had felt for a long time that the press were overplaying their hand and that by getting out and talking directly to the public, JC could get past them.

And I’ve largely been proved right: the press threw everything they had at Corbyn and he still increased Labour’s share of the vote by 10% and the number of seats to 262, even winning ‘unwinnable’ seats like Canterbury and – what the hell? – Kensington.  Kensington!!

His critics are queuing up now to apologise and say they misjudged him: Owen Smith, Alistair Campbell, Yvette Cooper and so many others are falling over themselves to apologise and offer to serve in the shadow cabinet.  Likewise media commentators: Jon Snow yesterday and said ‘I know nothing about elections,’ and even the BBC has admitted its error, Laura Kuenssberg once again causing me to shout at the screen when she said that Corbyn had been subjected to unfair criticism.  ‘Yes, by you!’ I yelled.

We still need to win an election; but that is looking increasingly achievable now.  May’s hold on power is so tenuous and her coalition so weak and misguided that it is not a matter of whether she goes, but when.  Under any other circumstances than these, a Prime Minister who had called an election to increase their mandate and had instead lost seats would have to resign, not carry on as though nothing had happened.  Whether it be days, weeks or months; whether it be a leadership election or a vote of no confidence, she will be out.  And when there is an election Labour, with its membership now at 800,000 and rising (more than 150,000 new members since the election), are poised to win – and win decisively.  I watched JC on television yesterday: he looked poised, relaxed, assured and confident.  It was a pleasure to see.

Now is not the time for recriminations.  Now is the time to form a government.  JC4PM!

Kirk out

Please Stand By. Calculating the Results of Your Election. Please Stand By…

Please stand by: conservative spokespersons are trying to find something positive to say about the election.  Meanwhile here is some light music:

The story so far:

We had an election.  Nobody won a majority.  Lots of people wanted the Maybot to resign but instead she went to see the Queen and had tea.  Here is a reconstruction of their conversation:

Maybot:  Your Majesty.

Queen:  Mrs Maybot.  One understands you have called an election to increase your majority and have in fact decreased it, causing one some concern as to your sanity.

Maybot:  Yes, your Majesty.

Queen:  Well, what have you got to say for yourself?

Maybot:  I know I’ve been naughty but please can I form a government with my friends from Northern Ireland?

Queen:  Won’t that threaten the peace process?

Maybot:  No.  Absolutely not.  Strong and stable, strong and stable.

Queen:  Oh all right then.

Meanwhile in another corner of London Tony Blair emerges from the cupboard where he has been held hostage.  He emerges blinking into the daylight to learn the news that parliament is hung and that his bete noir (or rouge) the Corbynista, has smashed his way to an increased share of the vote.  Just as he is swallowing this indigestible news, a reporter approaches.

‘Mr Blair?  What’s your reaction to the news?  Do you regret being so critical of Mr Corbyn?  Would you like publicly to apologise like Owen Smith and Yvette Cooper?  Mr Blair?  Mr Blair?’

But Blair has slunk off and is nowhere to be seen.  Latest reports indicate he is holed up in a bunker plotting his return to power.

More on this as it emerges.  Meanwhile back to the studio.

Kirk out