Saturday, 7 June 2014

Extreme busking

I'm not altogether sure what is happening to the weather at the moment. Having shivered through most of yesterday, I now find myself sweating like some kind of addict. It is boiling hot today, and I'm wearing a thick cotton shirt and a linen suit, which I'm sure classes as an epic fail! How could I have judged things so badly? Oh that's right: it was disastrously cold yesterday!!!

I made myself a leek, pasta and broccoli bake for lunch, which has made me feel a little weird. I blame the roux I made, which I didn't necessarily expect to turn a shade of grey! I think the flour caught on the pan or something. It was definitely grey, however, rather than the more usual wrong-roux shade of beige!

Speaking of grey, I shaved an enormous grey and orange beard off on Tuesday. It was so large and so bushy that I was forced to use clippers first and then a Hoover to get rid of the huge amounts of hair which I'd removed. Since taking it off I've noticed quite how many beards there are about. 2014 is definitely the year of facial hair. Almost every chap, and indeed some women are sporting everything from the full pervy Captain Birdseye beards right down to ornately coiffed Dali moustaches.

I'm currently battling my way through hordes of commuters at Waterloo station. A busker is hammering out something desperately annoying and high-octane on a mouth organ. I think blues played on a mouth organ is possibly one the most hideous sounds ever conceived. It's right up there with religious songs played by choirs of recorders, bass solos in jazz music and anything played on a flute.

I've just spent the late afternoon with a dear old friend, Jo Emery, who, come July, I'll have known for 20 years. Twenty years! It's a fact I find rather difficult to get used to. When did I become the man that says "twenty years in the business" whenever I can't get my way?! It seems like only yesterday that I was doing student drama at the Edinburgh festival with Jo. We were members of the National Student Theatre Company, and our great rivals at the festival were the NYMT, who, twenty years ago were staging The Threepenny Opera. We found them amusing because they were chaperoned, which meant they were young and not to be taken as seriously as us wannabe thesps. Who'dve thought, exactly 20 years on, I'd be spending my summer working for them?

It was so nice to see Jo. We hung out in the sun on the Southbank, and sat on one of those natural beaches by the Thames eating ice lollies and remembering the good old days. I must see more of Jo.

Back at Highgate I was rather astonished to see an eight-year-old lad who seemed to be learning to ride his bike on The Archway Road. For those who don't understand the significance of this statement, The Archway Road is better known as the A1: the trunk road between London and Edinburgh. It's single carriageway in my neck of the woods, and the speed limit is 30 mph, but it's always full of articulated lorries and buses and lunatic angry drivers who are fed up with London. The lad's Daddy did seem to be on the bike behind, and the lad himself was wearing a Ninga Turtle-shaped helmet, but he was tottering all over the place. Cars were beeping their horns, people were unwinding their windows and shouting at him to get onto the pavement. Actually, the Dad was cycling on the pavement at one point, but the lad resolutely continued to ride along the busy road. It was absolute mayhem, it really was. I'm all for taking calculated risks with children: allowing them to eat worms and that sort of thing, but even I would draw the line at this!

I read today that George Osbourne is warning people of the danger of Muslim extremists "infiltrating" our schools. On the face of it, what he's saying seems a little, well, right wing. Obviously, I'd never go as far as to say I actually agree with a Tory, but I do share some concerns of my own in this respect. When working on casting the film Brick Lane, I visited a number of schools in the East End looking for young Bengali people who might be interested in playing roles in the film. I was fairly horrified even then to discover that Muslim Elders (particularly in single sex schools) held the majority vote on certain boards of governors, and that any permission to go into schools to offer children these sorts of opportunities needed to go through them. Needless to say, in at least two cases, they refused. Brick Lane was a book they disapproved of, as, in fact, was the concept of acting. As a direct result, none of the kids at these schools (regardless of faith) were offered the chance to be in a feature film. I do worry that, in an attempt not to offend, or seem un-PC, we have created innumerable problems for ourselves. And what's the way out?

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