Thursday, 19 January 2012

Could just be the Weather.

Every now and again, I sit myself down and give myself a good talking to, or burden the dog with it. He’s a good listener, though he does have a tendency of wandering off in the middle of the conversation leaving me to, well, talk to myself.

Todays’ sitting down to talk to myself topic was ‘work’ and how I got to where I am now, which sometimes doesn’t feel all that far from when I started.  Over the years I’ve done various jobs, window cleaner, though I’m not very good at heights, Postman, I’m not very good at getting up early, especially in winter. I’ve been a Civil Servant, I was good at being Civil, it was the Servant bit I didn’t get. Good job, lovely people to work with, but my heart wasn’t in it. Sheet metal worker, bloody dangerous job that. Well it was when I did it. Barman. I liked that, have to say.

Finally, after putting it off and not thinking I was good enough, let’s face it, I wasn’t good at any of the jobs I did, apart from Barman, really did enjoy it, I bit the bullet and became an actor. A professional actor at that. One that gets paid.

It wasn’t easy at first, and financially it was bloody stupid. But I did it.

I say, ‘I did it’. With a lot of help and support from family and friends I was lucky enough to be allowed to do it.

So, at the age of 35, I went to spend 10 months training at DSL, Drama Studio London.

Actually, before we get to that bit, how about I go back a few years to explain why I wanted to be an actor.

In 1969, (or was it 1970? Let’s go with ’69. Sounds a bit more retro.), I was taken to see ‘The Wizard of Oz’ at the Preston Playhouse, home of Preston Drama Club.

My Dad was playing the part of the Wizard, and for the weeks leading up to it we’d hear him go through his lines and songs, but best of all we got to see him use the Wizards magic wand. A simple device, a roll of thin metal that at the touch of a button expanded into a wand, then took ages to fold it back up again. I found this out one day when I was playing with it, wasn’t supposed to be, but who can resist a magic wand. I couldn’t.

And so, for the first time in my life I saw a real live stage show. A real land, were people not only spoke but sang, with music. They lived in a beautiful bright yellow and green land. They sparkled and shone, they danced and sang and no one told them to be quiet. Who were these wonderful people and how could I go and live with them in this wonderful land?

After the show we went back to see my Dad who took us all back stage. The land was gone. Folded up and put away. How could that be? My dad tried to explain, but I didn’t listen. Obviously they’d all been kidnapped, or moved. Yeah, that’s it, they moved. All these real people from Oz moved. I can sleep better now knowing that.

Anywho, back to my story. From that moment on I knew what I wanted to be. An Actor, in capital letters. My first appearance was in 1972 for the Preston Guild. I played a goose boy. Didn’t have any geese though, so I guess I was just ‘Boy’.

I’ll be writing more about that nearer the time of this years’ Preston Guild. Every 20 years you know. All I’ll say is, I loved every minute of it, which spurred me on. I was going to be an actor. Now, all I had to do was wait until someone discovered me.

Only one draw back. Painfully shy when it came to standing up in front of people. This was going to take me longer than I thought.

When I was 19 I went to audition for the mighty RADA. I learnt two speeches, borrowed my best mate Rolfs’ Late Uncles suit, got my ticket for the train, and off I went to be discovered.

I came home that day with the words of one of the Tutors ringing in my ear. ‘Why don’t you try Amateur Dramatics Dear, you might have a good career there.’

And so I did, six years after being rejected by RADA that is. I’d given up any thought of acting, I was going to be a window cleaner, or Postman, or both, for the rest of my life. But I still talked about acting, and secretly carried that torch for it.

A friend of mine had joined Preston Drama Club, for easier purposes we’ll call it P.D.C. from now on, and asked if I’d meet him after his audition, and could I wait in the theatre. So I did. I didn’t know at the time that my friends had actually conned me into going to try and get me to join.

The play was ‘The Matchmaker’, the director was Stella Judson. I sat in the auditorium smugly watching these amateurs who obviously didn’t know the first thing about acting, bless them, but who was I to criticise them. Thinking back, I was a big headed, pig ignorant bugger at times. Nothing changes.

Stella then looked out into the auditorium and asked if I’d like to read. Laughingly I said no, I wasn’t into that kind of thing. Stella’s quite a persuasive Lady, and before I knew it I was on stage reading for the part of Barnaby Tucker. Which, I’m glad to say I got. My mate dropped out of the play a week later.

Jump forward nine years, I’ve been in over 90 plays, co-written a couple of Pantos, set up a theatre group, Navigation Theatre, with my friends Kate and Dave, and was now running workshops on a Monday night in teaching people all my techniques. As I say, big headed bugger. And it was because of the workshops that I applied to DSL. Basically, I’d run out of ideas, who the hell was I to think I could teach people to act, I needed help and quick. I’d read an adverstisement in The Stage for DSL and how they held a one day audition and workshop. Perfect, I thought, I’ll apply, I obviously wont get in, but I can nick their ideas, come back to Preston and the next few workshops are sorted.

 I got in. Still nicked their ideas for my next workshops though.

And so it began, my life as An Actor, in capitals.

I won’t bore you with my C.V., but I’ve been lucky, a lot luckier than some of the very talented people I trained with, and I’ve had the pleasure of working with some incredible people and doing some quite diverse work, suprising myself sometimes. I’ve even written a play, a good one too.

I can’t say I’ve worked solidly, I haven’t, and that’s when the Pub calls out to me and off I go to work behind a bar until the next acting job comes along. Thankfully I’ve not had to do that for over four years now, but something tells me I may have to brush up my beer pulling skills soon.

Being an Actor is the best job in the world, for me anyway, but it’s not the most secure profession, though you could probably say that about a lot of professions these days. And there are times when the work dries up, and I sit down and have a good talk to myself. Do I continue trying to make it, going through those auditions, learning a script or song in an afternoon, having to put yourself through the feeling of rejection again and again, having to do what is required for the job. There comes a point when you’ve had to walk around a casting room in nothing but a thong listening to people say ‘Is he fat enough?’ or worse still ‘Can you turn around and really bend over in front of us as if you’re picking something up?’ (honestly, this did happen to me), that you think, ‘Can I do this anymore?

Then there’s the writing. I do enjoy it, not made any money from it, probably never will, and I can go through periods of not being able to write anything. I still write though.

I was in the Civil Service for ten years before I decided to leave. I’ve been acting for eleven years now.

Could be time to rethink the career, try and push myself a little harder, take some classes, branch out a little more, take a risk.

Could be time to have a complete change, do something new, or old, I’ve said I like being a Barman.

Could be time to move, get out of London, live somewhere else, do something else.

Could just be the weather.

Monday, 9 January 2012

A Dog Lamp is a Boys Best Friend.

It’s a long one this, you’d better put the kettle on and make a cup of tea.

A funny thing happened on Saturday. I don’t know what it was, maybe watching repeats on BBC2 of my favourite comedies from when I was a child, or the compilations of Top of the Pops we followed that with, or maybe the Desperados beer with tequila chasers, but something in my memory was triggered, and suddenly thoughts, songs, images from being a kid came flooding back like a cold water tap that’s been turned on full in the sink, the water splashing and hitting you so quickly that you can’t turn it off without getting thoroughly soaked. I picked up a pen and writing pad, always good to have them close to hand on nights like this, and I started writing, furiously, words, half sentences, names, rewriting again if I couldn’t read what I’d just put, arrows and lines, ‘put this here, move this bit, remember this bit, it’s important.’

I finished writing, tore the pages out of the pad, folded them up, put them in my wallet, and set the alarm on my ‘phone to remind me to read them. Always good to leave yourself an aid memoir, I usually do this kind of writing either late at night or on the hoof, and if I don’t remind myself then I can have reams and reams of jottings that just gather dust on the shelf and don’t make sense..

9 years old, 1973. Princess Anne’s getting married in the afternoon, the same day as Prince Charles’ Birthday. And mine. A day off school, on my Birthday. How cool is that? Very. But not as cool as the transistor radio my Mum and Dad had got me. My own radio. With an earpiece. Finally, I can listen to Radio Luxemburg at night without anyone knowing. Apart from my brother that is. We shared a room, and he’d had a radio for a good few years. In fact all four of us Canavan kids now had radios, all the same make, Murphy, different colours but all tuned to the same stations. And all with the same earpieces, tinny, mono, badly fitting so they fell out when you walked, moved, or breathed a bit too heavy.

Where was I? Ah yes.

I can’t begin to tell you the freedom I thought I would have now. My radio, goes wherever I go. My stations. Radio One during the day until Newsbeat. Then Luxemburg in bed at night, loving the music, first time I ever heard Earth, Wind and Fire’s ‘Shining Star’ was on the Dave Lee Travis show, fading in and out. But I never understood the adverts. What was a tampon anyway? I’m nine, I don’t need them. (Actually, I knew what they were, but not quite what they were for. My brother Sean and I had found my sister Aron’s supply on top of her wardrobe. A quick explanation from Sean as to what they were for, still didn’t understand, then, time to fill up the sink in the bathroom, unwrap them and throw them in the water. One of our many Science experiments. Blimey they grow to a big size. You wouldn’t want to use them if you had a nose bleed.)

That was a long time to be in brackets.

As with all big working class families there is a tradition of passing things down, whether it’s clothes, me and our Sean had to wear pink corduroy jeans for years thanks to this rule and my sisters growing out of them, but also the passing down of obligations. After 5 minutes of unwrapping my present and trying it out, my brother took his radio down from on top of the fridge, where my sister Grainnes’ radio had sat before it, and before that my sister Arons’, and replaced it with mine. And there it stayed, until I’d grown the added height to reach up and take the bloody thing down at night.

Jump forward a year. 1974, my birthday, a Thursday in November.

The radio is still the only source of music in the kitchen, or front room if the heating’s on and we can sit in there without losing the feeling in your hands. I’ve had a summer of playing out side and it being my companion, all day long. Or until the batteries ran out. And now it’s Autumn and my Birthday.

Down at the Shops at Sharoe Green there was a Chemist and his wife. He dispensed the medicine, his wife sold the perfumes, toys and Dr.Whites, which according to my Mother was a big box of cotton wool and no I couldn’t have any to play with and could I stop asking her what the cotton wool was for, go and listen to your radio. There’s a theme here, but I don’t know what.

In the window of the shop, for sale, le’ts say 50p, which was a lot, was a lamp. A battery operated bedside lamp in the shape of a dogs’ head, Bloodhound, who was wearing a night cap. The dog was pink and brown, the nightcap green. I had no idea what it would look like when lit up, but it must be lovely. It looks lovely. Well, I didn’t need to wait long to find out. My sister Grainne bought it me for my Birthday.

Now, you’re probably thinking, 10 years old and he gets a night light. Strange boy. Or you’re thinking, ‘how long have I been reading this and when is he getting to the point?’ Nearly there, Dear reader.

That night, I got in bed and we put on the Doggy light, as it was now affectionately called, and then put out the big light.

I can’t remember seeing anything so beautiful, this lovely warm, orangey and green glow came from it, the dogs face lit up, not enough to light the whole room, but enough to light the side of my bed. And there it sat, next to my radio that I could now reach, next to my bed, on top of the Tea Chest that I had as a bed side table (it had sharp metal edges, and I was forever catching my head on it when I rolled over at night.).

Every time I hear the song ‘Killer Queen’, the clicking fingers, the ‘She keeps the Moet Chandon in a pretty cabinet,’ the vamping piano, I always think of that doggy lamp. November 1974 and that song was in the charts and you could guarantee that it would be played at some stage of the evening on the radio. And I’d lie in bed, look at the lamp, listen to Freddie singing. Bliss.

I’ve never liked the dark, complete darkness that is. I don’t know if it’s my claustrophobia, or the solitude of it, or the fact that when I was little the curtains at night used to talk to me. Long story for another time. But with this light, this glowing doggy, there was none of that. I felt safe and loved. And for any child at any age, feeling safe and loved is the best thing in the world.

And for some reason on Saturday night, suddenly, and only for a short while, that’s how I felt. Ten years old. Safe. And loved.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Beer and all it's evils.(Which includes having to get a late night Taxi.)

For the first time in a while I went out last night. Met my mate Lee in my favourite pub 'The Kings Arms' in Poland St, and a couple or three Stellas later we moved on to The Quebec for 'just a couple more.'

I don't know how many Coronas I had, they're like a bottle of pop to me gone in a couple of swigs, the obligatory slice of lime in the top thrown aside until the table looked like a fruit display. Time went quicker than the Coronas did, and before I knew it I was out on the pavement and calling a cab.

It's a long way from Marble Arch to Denham, helps if you fall asleep for most of the journey, for two reasons; one, the journey goes a bit quicker whilst my snoring assures me that the driver stays awake as well. And two, I don't have to answer any questions about what I do, am I married and how many kids I have. I've lost count of the amount of times I have been called 'disgusting', unnatural', 'against Allah' (that should give you a clue to the religous beliefs of most of the taxi drivers at that time of night) because when asked these sort of questions I give an honest answer.
One memorable conversation went like this:
Driver: You live in Denham?
Me: Yes.
Driver: You live with your mother?
Me: No?
Driver: Your wife?
Me: No, I live with my partner.
Driver: Do you have a girlfriend and children?
Me: No.
Driver: But you said you live with your partner.
Me: I do. My partners a man.

Silence. Then.

Driver: That is disgusting. You should not do that. it is wrong.
Me: Beg your pardon.
Driver: Living with a man is dirty and against Allah.
Me: I'm not a Muslim.
Driver: Even so, it is wrong. Very dirty what you people do. We do not have people like you in my country.
Me: Well we're not in your country, and over here it's legal for men to live together. And if you don't like it then tough.


Driver: Very dirty.
Me: Shut the fuck up and drive.

This happened sometimes when I lived in Ealing, which wasn't too bad, I knew that at any part of the journey if they started talking like that I could just say pull over and get out without paying, knowing that another cab would be along in a minute. Living in Denham you can't do that. Majority of the journey is dual carriage way, the rest is countryside, and I don't want to be stranded at some early hour of the morning.

 I'm not going to lie about my life to make someone feel stronger in their beliefs, but I do know that one day it may cause me trouble.

So I sleep instead.


Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Late Night at Downton Abbey

So, finally got to sit down and watch the second series of Downton Abbey. Just thought we'd watch one episode, and before you know it, we've been up all night, dawn was breaking (lovely girl), and I'd worked my way through a box of Kleenex. Silly old puff.

Now I've just got to wait until next year to find out what happens to Mr. Bates. Oh the agony. Until then, I've got two seasons of Dexter and a box set of Heroes to get through. Plus my comics. Oh, and find a job. Yeah, that's the important one.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

First post done, better have a sit down.


Happy New Year...yep, that's original.

Okay, here goes.

I thought I'd start a Blog, daily jottings of my thoughts, ideas, dreams, failures, work, moods, life in general, things you'd find on a Blog really is what I'm trying to say, and what it's like to be a 'Bear' (Gay Hairy Man who likes his food) who just so happens to live near some rather awesome Woodland. I'm no Roger Deakin, but I'll try my best.