Wednesday, 23 July 2014


I don't altogether understand why it felt so natural to be waking up at 6.30am this morning, having gone to bed just a few hours before. Perhaps I'd completed one of my sleep cycles. Who knows?

What became immediately apparent, however, as I boarded the 7.54am to Coventry, was that my computer had no battery left, and that the rust wagon I was sitting in had no power sockets. This was particularly bad news, as the only reason I'd opted not to drive to Coventry was so that I could orchestrate on the train!

I eventually stumbled into the empty First Class compartment, found a socket, plugged my lap top in and left it charging on a seat for a while to salvage an hour's work. That all seems rather a long time ago, now...

At the party last night, the conversation swung round to the subject of psychopathic and sociopathic behaviour. I'm now predicting that this will become the new catch-all buzzword to describe behavioural patterns which don't quite fit in to most people's concept of normality. These days everyone is either OCD or ADHD or somewhere on the autistic spectrum... I reckon I'm all three... But now we can add sociopath to our potential list.

Anyway, Cindy's been reading a book about psychopaths which comes with a convenient check list so we can all self-diagnose, or, perhaps more specifically, accuse those who behave badly of being psychopaths!

Cindy read the check list out to a large group of us. It was full of a lot of the things you might expect to find on a list of this nature. Lack of empathy, a tendency to lie, superficiality, an unnaturally inflated sense of worth, a lack of realism when contemplating future plans, promiscuity, narcissism, childhood behavioural difficulties... All the traits you'd expect from someone in the entertainment industry.

Of course, when it came to people fessing up at the end, most of decided that only 2 or maybe 3 of the 20 points on the list applied to them... Until it got to my side of the table (where the gay men were sitting) and the numbers went up to 7, 8, 9. I felt this was a great deal more honest, really. And it suddenly struck me how it would have been far more interesting to make my friends answer the questions under the quiz heading "are you a creative genius...?" Obviously people will tend to answer negatively when they know a positive answer would raise eyebrows and it strikes me that, violent tendencies apart, there's actually very little which separates an obsessive genius from a psychopath, and where none of us want to be psychopaths, we all want to be geniuses!

But of course we none of us need to panic. Even if we score 100% on the psych-ometer, the only worrying thing would be if the information didn't bother us. The key to being a psychopath is genuinely not caring that you are one!

The purpose of my trip to Coventry was to talk on the local BBC radio station with Alex, the young lad playing Wilfred in Brass, and I think we both had a wonderful time.

The radio interview was all about the Coventry accent. The character of Wilfred (named after my Great Grandfather) is a lone Midlander in a sea of Yorkshire men. He's meant to be a Coventrian, but Alex himself is from Solihull and speaks with a light Birmingham accent. So, we went on the radio to ask people with Coventry accents to call in, so that we could try to establish what separates Cov residents from their Brummie neighbours.

It was great fun. A bloke called in who sounded just like my Great Uncle Charlie. He said he was pretty sure he didn't have an accent, but that he was Coventry born and bred so if there WERE such a thing as a Coventry accent, he ought to have it!
He did!

Eventually we hit upon the three aspects which make the accent unique; 1) A far forward general placement of words in the mask of the face. The traditional Coventry accent tends to be a little nasal, where as Brummies are throatier.  2) There's a very flat "u" sound which turns the word "Mum" into "Merm" 3) The "i" sound (as is "slide") is particularly eccentric. It isn't quite as quirky as the Brummie version, but there's a more than a wiff of "sloide" about it! We also established that younger Cov kids talk with a flatter, more monotone accent.

It was a fun interview. The presenter kept everything peppy and light. We also established that the younger person accent is different again.

After the interview, Alex and I went to the indoor market; home of my film "Coventry Market," where we met some of the people who'd been in said film. Dave the locksmith was there, examining a pair of his customer's yellow stilettos and Lindsay, who runs the carpet stall was keen to tell us how the experience of being in my film was so positive, he immediately signed up for dance lessons. It was so much fun to see the the place again, and Linsday, with his very strong Cov accent read a few lines from Brass for Alex to record and copy.

We had tea in the cafe and looked around the stalls, making sure the children's roundabout in the centre of the market was still operational. At the moment it's rather eccentrically surrounded by astro turf and deck chairs. I'm not quite sure what that was about.

We went from the market - on a local tip-off - to a second hand bookshop on Gosford Road on the outskirts of the city centre. Alex was really keen to buy something personal and special from the city which his character could hold and treasure throughout the performances. Because he is deliberately only communicating to the rest of the cast via actual letter (in the spirt of the First World War) I shan't tell you what he bought (as it will spoil the surprise if he wants to tell other cast member first) but suffice to say it felt absolutely perfect.

This evening we went to see the new production of Miss Saigon, which is a wondrous and deeply sensual experience. Nathan was particularly excited to see it because he'd done a year in the show during its first West End run when he was in his early 20s, so long ago now yeah children who weren't even born back then are now able to drive! It is an exquisite show; an absolute riot of colour and sound, and deeply emotional in places. The West End has missed it, and I suspect it will run and run this time round.

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