Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Cycling To Shoreham 1901


Whenever Tommy was excited or stressed, which to be honest was most days, he’d put the word ‘chuffing’ in front of everything. For instance, today was going to be a blooming chuffing day with loads of chuffing hills to cycle up and when we got to the ballyhoo top well we’d chuffing have a pick nick.

You see what I mean?

Tommy was a good egg, a decent sort who would lift a finger to help anyone, a talented tennis player, cyclist and a very good footballer. On the other side, he was a frightful drunk, which thank goodness had only been that once, he was extremely competitive – he would bet you a farthing on who would blink first and he was useless with money. Apart from that he was the kind of gent you would be proud to call a friend.

So come Saturday morning, Tommy and I would be on our chuffing bicycles, out of the chuffing city and heading for the chuffing countryside (I promise to limit the use of chuffing in future) and this Saturday was no exception.

Tommy knocked at my door at 5.30 (in the morning may I say – I didn’t even know there was a 5.30 in the morning, if truth be told) “Get up, you chuffing wastrel” was the morning cry of the Tommesara Smitheratist bird and it tended to waken everyone else up as well.

“Will you please tell that very stupid friend of yours that it is far too early in the morning for his buffoonery” said my rather grumpy father without opening his eyes (apparently it helped him get back to sleep quicker). Like Tommy, my father tended to hook in a word and then beat it to death with its overuse. ‘Buffoon’ and ‘buffoonery’ were both in the process of getting six shades of purple knocked out of them. Luckily he hadn’t heard Tommy’s current obsession or that would have resulted in me having to leave home and declaring myself an orphan.

“Apologies Holmes but we have the whole of the south-east to explore and time is chuffing moving on.”
Every since he’d read The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, I had received that name. It was better just to smile and accept my fate because he might come up with something far, far worse. On our cycling trips Tommy wanted to be known as Moriarty because he said the name felt good on his tongue. I know what you’re thinking, Tommy wasn’t the most intelligent of my friends.

By six o’clock in the morning we were happily cycling over the Thames and heading down the Old Kent road where the world was waiting to entertain Holmes and Moriarty.

“First stop, chuffing breakers” said my pal.

For those that don’t speak Tommyese, that meant breakfast must be had with all haste.
Toast, crumpets and coffee were the order of the day at Mrs O’Reilly’s tea room in Lewisham, a bargain at one shilling. Mrs O’Reilly had long since departed this life and gone to the big tea room in the sky. The place was actually run by a man with the name of Derek.

“’Mrs O’Reilly’s’ sounds that bit more romantic” said a very tattooed Derek. “People knows what to expect, with that name, but Derek’s Cafe, well it just don’t sound right, do it?”


Both I and Tommy left the premises agreeing that Derek was correct in what he had said but that we should avoid the place in future as Derek seemed to be two seagulls short of an aviary.
Although it had been five months, Tommy still insisted that he wear a black band on his right arm as a mark of respect for the old Queen. I told him that this was a new and exciting time, that this was a new century , this was 1901, after all, and goodness knows what the next hundred years would bring.
Tommy felt that the new century could chuffing well wait until his mourning was chuffing done. I know I promised to keep the use of ‘chuffing’ to a minimum but it seems impossible when in the company of Tommy Smithers, I will try harder – I promise.

Just as we left Bromley, Tommy declared that the countryside had properly started and although I tried very hard to see it, I was at a loss to notice the difference. Still Tommy knows what he’s talking about or so he tells me.

After a mile or so I hinted that perhaps an ale might be the order of the day. Tommy stopped so fast that I almost ran into the back of him.
“I have a plan” he said (actually he said ‘a chuffing plan’ but I thought I would spare you that nonsense).
“And your plan is what, Tommy?” that was my contribution to the discussion.
“I know of a little village in the Darenth Valley where the ale is like nectar.” Tommy was tasting the ale in his mind’s eye.
“Why haven’t you told me of this place before?” I ask.
“Because my dear friend, it is not a place for the unwary.”
“Why is that Tommy?” I ask.
“Because my fine fellow, it is a hot bed of liberalism and creativity. People have really let things slide in this village. There are some women who are so close to looking like men, that one might wish them ‘a good morning sir’ without realising.”
“Well I never.” I declared.
“Worse still..” Tommy looks around before whispering “..there are men in this village who do not like the company of women. There I’ve said the chuffing thing. It’s too late but it’s out in the big world for all to know.”
“Don’t like the company of women?” I think I may have look perplexed.
“Really, you know what I mean, stop being a chuffing idiot. They don’t like women.”

So I had to have my say and I mentioned “I don’t know any men who don’t like women apart from Father who hasn’t spoken to Mother since she tried to fry the porridge. That must be eleven years ago, now.”
“Your mother tried to fry porridge?” says Tommy.
“She did, and Father said that any woman who was stupid enough to try to fry porridge shouldn’t expect any conversation to be thrown her way in future and that was that. He never said a bally word to her again. He said she was an imbecile, a harsh word I grant you, but I think that was his word of the week at that particular time.”

I expected Tommy to be impressed with this story but instead he said that I should stop talking chuffing rot and stop acting like an imbecile.
That is why, by the time we got to the little village, Tommy had dropped the word ‘chuffing’ in favour of the word ‘imbecile’. Why hadn’t I said that my father had called my mother ‘lovable’ or had given her money to shut her up? Maybe then Tommy would have done the same.
“Hey, ho, oft we go” shouted Tommy, adding “you imbecile.”
I do rather make things difficult for myself when I don’t bally mean to.

The village clock was striking one o’clock as we freewheeled our way down the hill into the centre of this dastardly liberal little village. I had to be honest with Tommy and tell him that I thought the people looked jolly normal.
“Nonsense, you imbecile” was his reply.

We parked up outside a delightful little public house called The Crown. The door was at an angle to the building and led into a small bar for gentlemen.
“Just in case this pub is over run by liberals let me do the talking” said reliable Tommy, “just to be on the safe side.”
Now to me, the person serving behind the bar was clearly a man but Tommy insisted on calling him ‘Mam’ then winking to me in a very obvious manner followed by him touching the side of his nose with his finger.
“I didn’t want to drink in the place anyway” said a rather surprised Tommy, “the establishment looked totally unsavoury. We are well shot of it.”At least the barman only asked me to leave whereas he caught Tommy by the collar and threw him out of the door.

Tommy said that he was right about the place all along, it was a den of liberal-minded imbeciles and he would be writing to his Member of Parliament just as soon as he returned from the country.

We tried to gain access at the next pub, the Two Brewers but apparently Tommy had been there before and was no longer welcome. I didn’t realise that you could use so many cursing words in one sentence but the manager of The Two Brewers must have broken a record.
“Another den of imbeciles?” I asked.
“Just so.”

That is why we came to be sitting outside the Kings Arms drinking two of the most wonderful glasses of ale. Apparently this was not a den of imbeciles and the prices were exceedingly fair.
Having slaked our thirst we mounted our trusted bicycles and headed towards the large town which sat at the top of the hill, above the village.

About one-third of the way up the hill, Tommy suggested that we dismount and push our bicycles up the rest of the way. Apparently it didn’t do the bicycles much good to be treated to a hill in the manner we were riding them. To be honest I thought maybe Tommy found the hill a little too steep but in fear of being called an imbecile, I refrained.

The climb was worth the effort and the view over the North Downs was spell binding.
Why people steal bicycles is beyond me, and two of them at the same time. You have to ask yourself – was the thief a member of some circus troupe? However the dastardly deed was done and it meant that cycling back to London was now out of the question. A train was called for and a train it would be.

Tommy suggested that we travel back by First Class and that I should foot the bill seeing as I was the last one to see the bally bicycles. I actually think the last time I saw them, I said “Tommy, do you think the bicycles are safe by that public house? ” Whereupon Tommy called me an imbecile and told me in no uncertain terms that if I was worried about people stealing our property, well that sort of thing just didn’t happen in the countryside. Then he said “Grow up man.” The next time I looked the bicycles were gone.

In the railway carriage, on the way back to the city, a rather plump man and his rather plump wife were playing cards. The husband seemed to have won a round as he let out the most frightening cry of ‘Ballyhoo’.

I could see the glimmer in Tommy’s eyes as he tried the word ‘Ballyhoo’ out on his tongue.
The word was not found wanting.
Unfortunately.


bobby stevenson 1901 and 2016

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Closing Doors (Tony Hancock,genius)



STRONG LANGUAGE: THIS IS A SHORT EXCERPT FROM A SCREENPLAY

“ONE BY ONE HE SHUT THE DOOR ON ALL THE PEOPLE HE KNEW, THEN
HE SHUT THE DOOR ON HIMSELF.”
SPIKE MILLIGAN ON TONY HANCOCK

This is just the first few pages of an early script about the last days of Tony Hancock  (British Comedian)
Tony went to Australia to attempt to revive his Television career but without the support of his writers and pals (all of whom he dumped), the revival failed and he took his own life at the age of 44 in the basement of his producer’s house.

This is an excerpt from Wikipedia:
Hancock died by suicide, by overdose, in Sydney, on 24 June 1968. He was found dead in his Bellevue Hill apartment with an empty vodka bottle by his right hand and amphetamines by his left.
In one of his suicide notes he wrote: “Things just seemed to go too wrong too many times”.

BLACK SCREEN

TITLES:
“ONE BY ONE HE SHUT THE DOOR ON ALL THE PEOPLE HE KNEW, THEN
HE SHUT THE DOOR ON HIMSELF.”
SPIKE MILLIGAN ON TONY HANCOCK

BLACK SCREEN
DIRECTOR (V.O.)
Okay Tony, can we take that line
again?

HANCOCK (V.O.)
“Oh no, I’ve got the giraffe again,
I’ve got three of these, why can’t
I get the packet with the
hippopotamus?”

Silence.

HANCOCK (V.O.) (CONT’D)
Does that sound funny to you? It
doesn’t sound funny to me.

BELL RINGS.

DIRECTOR (V.O.)
Take twenty everyone, there is some
noise on the tape.

TITLES: “June 1968, ATN-7 Studios, Sydney, Australia.”
FADE IN:

INT. TV STUDIO – DAY
TONY HANCOCK, forty four going on sixty.
Tony is walking towards his trailer. His PA hands him a cup
and his PRODUCER walks beside him.

HANCOCK
Well?

PRODUCER
What Tony?

HANCOCK
Does it sound funny? These are no
Galton and Simpson.

PRODUCER
Give them a chance.

HANCOCK
Give them a chance? Give them a
chance? Listen matey, I’m out of
chances. Me.

The producer places his hand on Hancock’s shoulder. Hancock
stops and kills the moment with a look.
The producer’s hand retreats.
Hancock continues walking but the producer stays where he is;
he knows better.
Hancock enters his trailer.
SLAM….a closing door.

INT. TRAILER – DAY
Hancock, life-tired, sits staring into an unforgiving mirror.
He opens a Qantas Airline Bag or should that be
pharmaceutical central?
Some tablets are placed on the table, a bottle of vodka is
retrieved from under the table – it’s been taped there – and
is poured into Hancock’s cup.
He swallows the lot.

KNOCK.

HANCOCK
What?

PA (O.S.)
It’s me.

HANCOCK
Wait.

The airline bag is closed and the bottle taped back under the
table.

HANCOCK (CONT’D)
Enter.

PA
It’s the sound men; it was a bird
they picked up on the tape.

HANCOCK
So?

PA
Well they’re trying to shoot it out
of its hiding place using a
catapult and some moth balls.

HANCOCK
You couldn’t make this stuff up and
unfortunately neither can my
writers.

PA
It’s just….

HANCOCK
…it’s just what?

The PA turns towards the door and there are some fans waiting
to talk to Hancock.

Hancock gets up and goes over to the door.

HANCOCK (CONT’D)
Fuck off.

He slams the door shut and then approaches the PA. Their
faces are an inch apart.

HANCOCK (CONT’D)
What do you think I am? A tin of
beans.

The PA slides away and out the door.

INT. HOTEL ROOM – NIGHT
A TELEVISION is on.
The room is empty and someone is showering in the bathroom.
We will find out that this is Hancock.
On the television is an interview with Hancock and John
Freeman.

TELEVISION HANCOCK
“It’s partly true that I’m a lonely
person. There are times when you’re
desperately lonely, standing in the
wings, at say, the Palladium….”

Going around the room we see the items that reflect his life
at the moment.

TELEVISION HANCOCK (CONT’D)
“….You’re out there alone. To be
shot at, shouted at, booed, have
rivets thrown at you (which I’ve
had) and seven pence ha’penny
thrown at me at Bristol – which I
picked up carefully off the stage
and bought myself a half of
bitter…”

A script lying open on the bed.

TELEVISION HANCOCK (CONT’D)
“How do you make comedy? You don’t
make it with measured ingredients -
it’s not cake. You make comedy with
feeling…..”

The Qantas bag on the bedside table.

TELEVISION HANCOCK (CONT’D)
“What I play on television is an
extension of myself and the
idiosyncrasies of other people
combined…”

Two bottles of brandy and a bottle of vodka.

TELEVISION HANCOCK
“You are, after all involved in
life, and you do certain stupid
things yourself. So if you are
going to stand there and throw
stones, at what point of perfection
do you stand? If one is going to be
critical without any chance of
comeback, it’s like hitting a
child”.

A HAND turns off the television. It’s Hancock’s. He slumps on
the bed in a towel , pours a vodka into a glass and smiles to
himself.
He picks up the ‘phone.

HANCOCK
Get me Mrs Sennett in Bournemouth,
England. (Pause) That’s right, my
Mum.

While he waits, he picks up a couple of tablets from the
bedside table.
He washes them down with vodka.

HANCOCK (CONT’D)
Mum. Guess who?

INT. TV STUDIO – DAY
PEOPLE doing things. Carrying cables, scenery. People
painting.
The PA exits from Hancock’s trailer.

PRODUCER
How is he?

The PA crosses his fingers and moves on.

PRODUCER (CONT’D)
Come on now people. We have a show
to put on.

The producer spots some of the team, watching.

PRODUCER (CONT’D)
I thought it was your day off?

STAGE HAND
Tony Hancock is in town.

PRODUCER
Hope he’s worth it.

The producer claps his hands.

PRODUCER (CONT’D)
Move. Someone get Tony. You.

A YOUNG GIRL is selected.
She nervously goes over to the trailer and knocks the door.
There is no response. She knocks again.

PRODUCER (CONT’D)
Just leave it. I’ll get him.

The girl runs off.
The producer loudly knocks the trailer door.

PRODUCER (CONT’D)
(shouting)
Coming in.

INT. TRAILER – DAY
The producer enters.
Tony is somewhere between Sydney and the moon.

PRODUCER
For fuck sake, what did you take?

HANCOCK
(slurred)
You know….what Sid said about me?
He said….what was I talking
about? Oh yes, Sid. He said….that
I have the best timing in the
business. The best.

Hancock is not in charge of moving his head; it has its own
life.

INT. TV STUDIO – DAY
There are many EXPECTANT FACES as Hancock and the producer
emerge. However this turns to disappointment as the producer
supports Hancock from the trailer. He carries him to the set.

PRODUCER
Come on people. We have episode six
to put in the can.

The enthusiasm has eroded in the studio, everyone is going
through the motions.

STUDIO LATER
Hancock stands ready, however his face shows that although
the light may be on, nobody is home.

DIRECTOR
All you have to do is pick up the
‘phone.

Hancock nods like a drunk.

DIRECTOR (CONT’D)
And action.

Hancock lifts the receiver, dials very badly then ‘speaks in
tongues’ into the phone.

DIRECTOR (CONT’D)
Cut. That’s the sixteenth take and
that bastard is incapable of saying
a line.

Hancock stands lost and sweating from head to foot.

DIRECTOR (CONT’D)
Hancock, you c*nt. Get out there
and act.

Hancock is in turmoil. He is practising ‘Chinese burns’ on
his wrists.

DIRECTOR (CONT’D)
(to producer)
Are you going to fucking call
someone?

The producer nods. A PA hands him a phone.

PRODUCER
(into phone)
Get me the Managing Director.

INT. HOTEL ROOM – DAY
This is another time and another place. Hancock is shaved,
dressed and sober.
He sits reading the paper and drinking coffee.
A KNOCK at the door.

HANCOCK
(with gusto)
Enter.

The producer enters.

HANCOCK (CONT’D)
Coffee?

PRODUCER
Please.

The producer sits as he pours him a cup.

HANCOCK
So, did you see yesterday’s rushes?

PRODUCER
Ehm…no, not yet.

HANCOCK
Well, we can look at them today.
I thought yesterday went well.

These two guys are remembering different days.

PRODUCER
If you say so.

HANCOCK
Of course, I say so.

Hancock gets up.

HANCOCK (CONT’D)
Well, come on. Let’s get a move on.
Hancock is already out the door.

HANCOCK (O.S.) (CONT’D)
Come on.

INT. CAR – DAY
The producer looks at Hancock, not sure who is riding in his
car.
Hancock is happy and smoking.

HANCOCK
I’ve got to get me Mum something.

Silence.

HANCOCK (CONT’D)
I hear the contract is for 26
shows. I was thinking I might do it
in three batches and head home. See
Mum and Joan. What do you think?
Silence.

HANCOCK (CONT’D)
Have I upset you?

PRODUCER
No. The Managing Director wants to
speak to you when we get in.

HANCOCK
Any idea, about what?

The producer looks at Hancock. Then shakes his head.

HANCOCK (CONT’D)
Can’t be too serious then.

There is a look on Hancock’s face as if he may know what the
talk is about.

HANCOCK (CONT’D)
We could always take the whole
thing back to England.

PRODUCER
If you don’t do it here, it’s all
over. If you fuck up in Australia,
there’s no where else to go.

The car pulls into the studio gate.

INT. PRODUCER’S HOTEL ROOM – NIGHT
The producer sits going through some paper work.

The phone RINGS.

PRODUCER
Hello.

HANCOCK (V.O.)
Evening.

PRODUCER
Tony.

HANCOCK (V.O.)
I’ve decided. I’m going to take the
cure.

PRODUCER
Where are you?

INT. HOSPITAL ROOM – NIGHT
Hancock sits in a hospital gown.

HANCOCK
Cavell House Private Hospital at
Rose Bay. That bastard said it was
this or the first bloody ‘plane
back to Blighty

...........to be continued

bobby stevenson 2016




Tuesday, 12 January 2016

The Music of the Spheres



for David Bowie - the man who let me hear the Universe - thank you.
It had always troubled the boy why he liked some music and not others. Why, songs which hit him around the face, making him want to scream out in happiness, didn’t even cause a flicker in some eyes. That was a mystery all right, and it had bothered him all of his short life.

So one glorious summer when he was sent to study at the Oracle, on the far side of the river-bank, he had brought the question up with his tutor – she had only smiled and said that like all things in the world, the answer will come to you when you are ready to understand.

He felt that was a poor response to his question but he didn’t want to argue, not with anyone at the school, and so he put his head down and got on with his life.

As he grew, he noticed the same thing with the books and the plays he had read and seen. Being enthusiastic about a piece of work was no guarantee that his friends and family would like the same. 
What was so different about his heart? Was it that he was stupid and therefore easily led? Or was it, that others in his life were aware of something he wasn’t?    

When he had lived on the planet for twenty-one summers, he was asked to name a gift that would be in keeping with his growing stature in the world. He pretended to think about the matter but he had already made his mind up about it when he was five years of age. He knew what he wanted. He wanted to know why some things lit his soul and some things didn’t. He wanted to know why his mind was blown away by notes played in a particular order but some others couldn’t hear what he could hear.

So his father, said that being twenty-one was the age of understanding and that he could go to the Oracle and ask his question.

He spent two days walking to the high building that overlooked the wild seas. When he got there, he grew nervous but nothing was going to stop him in his quest for the truth. 

He was shown into a large room which was empty except for a fire which burned bright in the middle. From out of the ether came a voice:
“Ask your question, my son.”

He had assumed he would see the Oracle face-to-face but this wasn’t to be. “Please, ask,” said the voice again. So he asked his question about why some music danced on his heart but not in others. Why music that lit other folks’ eyes, left him cool – and then asked why it was also true for books and plays and all writings.

The Oracle chuckled a little.
“My son, my earthly son. That is an easy question.  It is because of what and who you are. When the Universe was created, the heavier elements in you were made in the centre of large hot stars. Some of your right arm could come from one part of the Universe, and some of your other arm could have come a different part of the skies. Each of us is made up from different stars and so when they talk to us we hear some things and not others.”

The boy wanted to know about the Universe talking.
“Oh my cherished boy, all of it, all the music, books, plays, writings, songs, art is the Universe talking to us all. Some people can hear the Universe and this translates into songs. Some people are deaf to the Universe and hear it all through other souls like themselves, who translate it for them in words and music. Some souls can hear everything the Universe has to say and some may only hear a little. And the fact that you are made up of different parts of the sky means that you resonate to different notes, whereas your brother may be made of parts of other stars and he hears their tunes. It is that simple. You are a child of the universe, my son, and it is only letting you know it exists.” 

And with that, the boy understood. Music was the Universe’s way of letting him know it was there and his heart danced to those parts of the Universe from which he had been made.


bobby stevenson 2016
Photo: https://www.facebook.com/bill.sienkiewicz.18