Thursday, 31 December 2009

Yay! 2009 is nearly over!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Let me offer my apologies for being so crap at blogging. I find twitter much quicker for putting my thoughts down on and being frank 2009 has been such a terrible year for me that I couldn’t be bothered to chart all the miserable things that have happened to me.

Anyhoo, on a lighter note, what has been good this year? Well, in June I finally got to see the live version of War of the Worlds. I know I’m a complete geek but it was awesome and also slightly worrying that I knew every single word to every single song. The O2 is an awesome venue and even though we were about 300 floors up, we could see everything really clearly. In August, I went to see Oliver at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane and discovered that it was designed for people who were 5 foot tall. I left with me legs numb and my mum feeling remorseful after thinking she was treating me. The show was great, but it’s hard to appreciate anything when you’re in pain. Finally last month I went to see La Cage aux Folles with John Barrowman. I know he is a major cheese, but he was excellent in the show and I really enjoyed it. Shame that two days later I was involved in a car crash and my beloved Reggie was written off ;-(

I’ve also published two novels – Two Become One and Winner Takes it All. I also wrote three, The True Tale of Jezebel Cole, Glittering Prize and My Funny Valentine, my latest one which I think will be called something different when I publish. As normal, sales of my books are pretty dismal, but I have a band of loyal readers and it’s a hobby I really enjoy and who knows, maybe one day someone famous will pick up my book in a second hand shop and rush to their agent, demanding this fabulous writer is contacted immediately.

I am looking back at the predictions I made at the end of 2008 and am going to see what was right and what was wrong (let’s face it, probably all of it).

Music – I see a return to disco. People’s lives are going to be miserable enough. I think uplifting music is going to be required – Umm, not entirely misguided. Electronic stuff like Lady Gaga, Little Boots, La Roux etc have become huge this year, all pretty poppy, all pretty disco-y!

Television – the death knell of reality TV. There have been too many scandals and allegations of fixing for it to survive much longer – well Big Brother died the death, people were bored with I’m a Celebrity and Strictly Come Dancing look pretty much on their last legs.

Late entry - Sean Pertwee to be named new Doctor Who – er no. It was Matt Smith (who? You ask)

Books – the rise of self published authors. I’m not just saying that because I am one but publishers are just taking on rubbish celebrities to ‘write’ novels and aren’t investing money in anyone with actual talent. The world is now the oyster for writers to create their own work and I think it’s going to flourish. – Yeah dream on, same old shit, same old Katie Price!

There is no point in making predictions for next year but I can guarantee that there is no way it can be anyway as shocking, celebrity death ridden, and controversial as this one.

Finally, my End of Year Awards* (using the same categories as last year)

TV SHOW OF THE YEAR – Miranda – yes it’s cheesy, it’s too 70’s, it’s all about Miranda but I loved this programme so much. It took me back to my childhood and made me laugh and there’s something about an overly tall, clumsy, largely built, unlucky in love, thirty something woman that resonates with me and I don’t know why!

Runner up : Ashes to Ashes and Torchwood – Children of Men.

HERO OF THE YEAR – Dannii Minogue – has picked herself up from being Kylie’s Sister and Cheryl Cole’s co-star and emerged in her own right. And most of all, proving that us ladies pushing 40 can take on whipper snappers in their 20’s and come out looking fabber!

Runner up : Miranda Hart.

FILM OF THE YEAR – Fish Tank. It’s the only film I saw this year that I clearly remember. That’s how shitty 2009 has been for movies.

Runner up : 2012 for sheer ridiculousnessD

DISAPPOINTMENT OF THE YEAR – Victoria Wood’s Midlife Christmas. I love Victoria Wood, but this just wasn’t funny. Too many people, just like every other sketch show that just rehashes BBC programmes. Made me reach for youtube and all the clips of Acorn Antiques.

Runner up : Liverpool’s performance in the premiership this season. Robbie William's comeback.

HYPOCRITE OF THE YEAR – MPs. They lecture us on tightening our belts and making do with the worst economic crisis in modern times and then get away with spending tax payers money on dirty films and second homes.

Runner up : Michael Parkinson.

MOST RIDICULOUS SOAP OPERA STORY OF THE YEAR – Yep, it’s Eastenders again and Darren Miller being exposed as the father of Heather’s baby. Ugh, wrong on so many levels.

Runner up : Anything that happens in Emmerdale – again!

MOST ANNOYING TV SHOW – The Alan Titchmarsh Show. This is the Daily Mail in televisual form.

Runner up : Big Brother MOST UNDERTATED SHOWBIZ PERSON IN THE WORLD – Matt Bellamy. I know Muse are huge and greatly loved, but come on, he’s a musical genius and should be president of the whole world.

Runner up : Graham in Coronation Street – he is a comic genius.

YES I’M BORED WITH YOU NOW – Katie and Peter. They’ve had their 15 minutes, please go away now. I’m sick of seeing you on the cover of every magazine and reading the ins and outs of every bit of their sordid marriage.

Runner up : David Tennant (although after tomorrow, I’m guessing we won’t see as much of him).

I’m off the crack open the champers now. Stick two fingers up to this horrid horrid year and hope the new decade brings happiness for us all.


*If Piers Morgan can do it, why can’t I?

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Fish Tank - Movie review

When I was doing my A’level Communication Studies, we did a module on Ken Loach and one of the films we watched was Family Life starring Sandy Ratcliff (who went on to play Sue in Eastenders – she must be a glutton for punishment) about a young woman who is forced into an abortion by her parents and then descends into mental breakdown. It was at the time labelled as the most depressing film ever made. I’m not sure if it is still considered that, but I have to say Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank comes a close second if it is. My recollections of Andrea Arnold is of the bubbly haired children’s TV presenter on No.73 so it comes as a bit of shock to find her behind the lens of this misery-fest.

Fish Tank tells the story of fifteen year old Mia (Katie Jarvis), who has been kicked out of school and is living in a skanky council flat with an equally skanky mother and a little sister with a mouth so foul, she could give Bobb’e J Thompson in Role Models a run for his money. Mia is a loner whose only outlet in life is to do hip hop dancing in an abandoned flat on her estate. Into her life comes Connor (Michael Fassbender), her mother’s latest squeeze. A sexy, charming Irishman who is seducer, father figure and predatory ephebophiliac rolled into one. The sexual chemistry between him and Mia crackles along and you can never quite tell if he’s grooming her or it’s a genuine attraction he can’t fight. At the same time Mia becomes friends with Kyle (Harry Treadaway) a young Gypsy boy who saves her from being raped.

With these men in her life, Mia slowly transforms from sulky child-woman to a young girl having to deal with the pressures and heartaches that adult life brings and all without the support of a mother or friends. Katie Jarvis (an unknown plucked off the streets by Arnold) is a revelation, acting the socks off actresses twice her age with a lifetime of experience and a degree in dramatic arts. I predict great things for her.

The downside is that you get the feeling Arnold is just trying too hard. There are several shots of landscapes that last for what feels like thirty seconds, with nothing at all happening. There is very little humour in this film, in comparison to say Shane Meadows’ This is England, that while dealing with a depressing subject matter, still contains moments of hilarity, mainly coming from Thomas Turgoose playing the little big man. I get the feeling Arnold is trying to be taken seriously and so has gone over the top in piling on the misery. The film contains everything; underage sex, profanity, ten year olds smoking, underage drinking. Name a shock factor and Fish Tank has it in abundance.

The upside is that it is realistic; low budget but doesn’t show it; the improvised dialogue lends an air of authenticity and I would put money on the supporting artists being local, Barking residents which makes it seem real. Added to this, the use of Bobby Womack in the soundtrack has made me revisit his back catalogue – and you know what. It’s really good!

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Muse - The Resistance

Muse are back after a three year hiatus with this album, influenced by George Orwell’s 1984. Their last album Black Holes and Revelations was a loud, bombastic affair that climaxed with the rather insane but brilliant Knights of Cydonia (in my opinion the greatest record ever made). Interestingly, the closing riff to KoC has similarities to the Doctor Who theme and the opening track of The Resistance, Uprising more than borrows from the Doctor Who theme. In fact it is Gary Glitter re-writing the Doctor Who theme (before he was exposed as a pervert of course). Vocally, Matt Bellamy sounds so different in the opening verse that I thought it was the wrong album I was listening to!

Track two, Resistance is an eighties tinged affair that reminds me of the soundtrack to something like Rocky or the Karate Kid, where the hero has to face a challenge of some sort and this would provide the soundtrack to slow motion shots of them training and gradually improving. Lyrically this track pertains the most to 1984 and the forbidden love between Winston and Julia.

Track Three, Undisclosed Desires is my least favourite of the album. The opening chords sounds more like Justin Timberlake ft Timbaland than Muse. The R&B beat remains throughout the entire song and to me is too commercial. Back in the old days, it would have been a B-Side.

Now for the United States of Eurasia. I thought Knights of Cydonia was the craziest record ever, but USoE makes KoC look like a Leona Lewis offering! This is the closest Muse have come to Queen, almost to the point of parody. I get the feeling it is being sung with Bellamy’s tongue placed firmly in his cheek. I could almost imagine him coming onto the stage dressed as Mozart and singing it at a piano with a candelabra placed on top. Without doubt the highlight of the album.

Track five, Guiding Light is a come down from United States of Eurasia. More eighties drum beats, stirring vocals and is closely related to Invincible from Black Holes. This is the one I would put money on being used as the backing track for trailers on BBC.

Unnatural Selection is a rollercoaster ride that starts on with a church organ reminiscent of Meglomania from Origin of Symmetry. It rocks up to sound like the soundtrack of a computer game that involves stealing cars. We then have a Radiohead-like come down section before it builds to a final Judas Priest style closing riff.

Track seven, MK Ultra (sounds like a brand of cigarettes), classical guitar riffs, doom ridden lyrics make this the track that sounds as though it belongs on BHAR. Great driving music.

Track eight You Belong To Me, is the most surprising track on the album. The opening piano riff reminds me of Maroon 5 (trust me that doesn’t last long) but there is a rather jaunty ‘whooh’ from Mr Bellamy. Probably the most radio friendly track on the album, well, that is until we descend into the rather mad French vocals before ending with a Queen style pomp stomp.

The album closes with a three part symphony – Exogenesis. Part 1, Overture sounds like a rather old fashioned film soundtrack. Part 2, Cross-Pollination begins as a soft ballad but builds to a crescendo of apocalyptic lyrics and eighties drum beats. Part 3, Redemption begins sounding a lot like Moonlight Sonata but once the vocals kick in, sounds like the closing credits of a Bruce Willis move, except in this one he hasn’t managed to save the planet from that approaching asteroid; the human race is doomed and we may as well accept it and just stand outside and watch as Armageddon arrives.

Whatever you pay for The Resistance you are going to get your money’s worth. The album has everything – strings, guitars, special effects, different genres of music. But I do feel this is Muse’s marmite album. People are either going to love it or hate it. The high drama and changes of tempo are not going to appeal to everyone but if you’re a fan or Radiohead or Queen, this album will sit happily alongside the very best both of them had to offer.

Friday, 26 June 2009

R.I.P Little Michael Jackson

My admiration for Michael Jackson stopped at Thriller. By the time he released BAD, I started to get bored of him and I never bought another album by him, so I am not going to write some gushing obituary about him because I wasn’t a fan so I’m not going to hypocritical. Adult Michael Jackson was so far removed from anything I actually admire in so many ways that I had very little time for him and couldn’t understand the gushing displays of affection he solicited from people.

However, up to Thriller, I thought he was wonderful. I must have sat and watched The Making of Thriller about ten times round my friend’s house (I didn’t have a video). With childish awe, I would gasp with shock at that moment at the end when he turns to the camera with those yellow, devilish eyes.

What makes me sad is watching the news footage of him as a small boy, so cute and talented and I can imagine the impact seeing such a gorgeous child had upon the world. It is heartbreaking then to discover that that adorable, dancing boy was practically forced into performing by a domineering father who thought nothing of using his fists or a belt to get what he wanted. Joseph Jackson took the concept of ‘Showbiz Parent’ to the max. Yes, Michael was a musical genius, there is no doubt about that and any decent parent wants their kid to fulfil their true potential, but to what cost?

By the time he made ‘Off the Wall’ in the late 70s, Michael was blossoming into a beautiful young man and it is still impossible to comprehend why he wanted to disfigure himself in such a horrific way when he was so good looking. It’s my personal opinion that like an anorexic girl who starves herself to retain a childlike, androgynous figure; Michael couldn’t cope with his burgeoning sexuality and so began to make himself look as asexual and almost unhuman as possible so he didn’t have to cope with the reality of adult relationships.

He was the boy without a childhood who grew up and tried to recapture what he’d missed by buying the friendships of young boys in whom he could see himself. It is not my place to say whether or not abuse took place and it has to be asked what parent allows their young son to sleepover at a thirtysomething man’s house anyway. I’d like to think it was because they bought into the Peter Pan image and saw him as nothing more than a ten year old in a grown man’s body. The more cynical part of me thinks they saw nothing but dollar signs and the fate of their child was secondary to their greed.

Whatever happened, Michael Jackson continued to be a victim of abuse until the day he died. When Joseph saw his little boy was too shy to go on stage without the threat of a beating, he should have called a halt to it. Let Michael grow up and decide for himself if he wanted to make the most of that genius or be like a lot of people who are gifted children but grow into ordinary adults.

So, I am not mourning the adult Michael Jackson; I of course feel sorry for his family and his children but like Elvis, John Lennon, Marc Bolan, Jimi Hendrix and all the other stars that died young, his music will live on so they almost become immortal anyway. I am mourning that beautiful little boy who was forced to live a life he did not choose that ultimately turned him into the adult who never really engaged with reality, opening himself up to all sorts of allegations. Michael may have made millions happy with his music and his dancing; but the question is, did he ever find true happiness himself?

Monday, 1 June 2009

Dreams don’t come true

If had a teenage daughter (and sadly I am old enough to have one), and she took after me and was tall and..ahem..strapping, but had a pretty face (unlike me!) and after people telling her how attractive she was, decided she wanted to enter Miss England, as much as she would hate me for it, I would do all I could to stop her from doing it. Why? Well I know what a cruel world it is out there and even though my daughter might be stunningly pretty and maybe no more than a size 16, which the average UK dress size. She would be entering a world where anything over a size 10 is considered as fat and rather than risk my (imaginary) child at best being laughed at and at worst ending up on a mortuary slab after starving herself to death to keep up with her skinny peers, I’d rather she hated me for a few months.

But that would be acceptable. We live in a world where it’s still OK to call people fat, to laugh at their shortcomings and stop them doing things because they don’t look quite right.

I’m going to be shot down about this, and have the PC police on my back but I have to get this off my chest. Just like my imaginary chubby daughter with the pretty face but the wrong figure to be a beauty queen; Susan Boyle never was going to be able to cope with the fame that was thrown at her. Cards on the table - the woman has learning difficulties. Just because she doesn’t come across as a drooling simpleton or someone with a sweet, childlike demeanour like Benny from Crossroads, it is a fact that she has been crippled by her limitations all of her life and now it transpires that - like a child - her frustrations manifest themselves in terrible rages. When I wrote my previous blog, praising us all for giving her the chance to shine, I, like everyone else just thought she was a simple soul who’d never been given a break.

The moment she started raging and throwing her weight about, all those people back home in Blackburn started saying they knew she had rages like it and had even nicknamed her ‘Ramboyle’. Her brother whinged to the papers that she had been treated badly by the producers of Britain’s Got Talent and it’s their fault she cracked up. No, it’s all those people around her who have encouraged her to pursue her dream of singing who are at fault. Yes she has a lovely voice, but it’s not that exceptional that it would have been some terrible disaster if we’d never got to hear it. What is more important is this poor woman’s mental health. Her overtly but somehow innocent sexual displays are like a young teenager whose hormones are raging but their body doesn’t know how to cope with them; her tantrums when Piers Morgan praised Shaheen Jafagholi is like a child who wants to be their parent’s special little soldier. She may be 48 years old but mentally she is much younger and those around her should have put the brakes on her showbiz aspirations years ago. OK they live in a small village, but do they not have TV, books, magazines, internet? Day in Day out we’re exposed to the ravages of fame, how people are built up and then knocked down. They should have known this would have happened to Susan and drawn a line under this farce a long time ago.

Equal opportunities are fine but just like companies who use positive discrimination to recruit people to fill quotas are wrong and impractical because it should be about the right person for the job rather than who they represent, so should the same go with things like talent contests and reality TV. Susan Boyle is no Jade Goody – a simpleton academically but with a business brain as sharp as a barrow boy. Susan has genuine problems that will always hold her back.

I watched a programme about Tourette’s syndrome the other day. It was contrasting two young men with the condition. The first one, John is the same age as me, the other was a young lad of 15, and just the twenty years between them had made all the difference. John had grown up in a world where Tourettes was treated like a major embarrassment, his own mother even told him to pull himself together and ended up moving across the border to England. Greg, the younger lad is surrounded by a loving family and friends who think his condition is cool. Well, Susan Boyle is another ten years older than John and no doubt when she was growing up, someone with her condition would not have been given any encouragement to develop and integrate with society so her frustration would turn to anger and violent rages. This behaviour is now ingrained in her and it will be how she always reacts when she doesn’t get her own way.

Maybe she will be better off in the US. Americans don’t seem to have the same culture as us where people are built up then knocked down. Maybe her tantrums will just be seen as diva strops and she’ll have a team of psychiatrists to take care of her. Whatever happens, I can’t see this fairy tale ending with a happily ever after.

On a lighter note, I’ve just finished my six hour State of Play marathon. I chose to avoid the Russell Crowe remake as to me Cal McCaffrey will always be John Simm. This is a fantastic thriller and in parts reminds me of The Wire, where the police, press and politics all intertwine. What is also fun to watch is Philip Glenister playing a DCI. He may speak with his London accent and the mannerisms are more controlled, but if you watch closely enough you can still touches of Gene Hunt coming through.

I might watch the film of SoP when it comes out on DVD but I doubt if it will be able to compete. How can that anodyne Ken doll that is Ben Affleck compete with the gorgeous gorgeous David Morrissey? Can Helen Mirren live up to Bill Nighy? No!

Now I’ve got to get thinking about writing my own thriller…I have ideas!

Ciao for now

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Don’t judge a book by its cover

Britain’s Got Talent is back and I have to say I’m already hooked. This show to me, is a tribute to the human spirit. How it seems everyone thinks they had some sort of talent and it’s probably true. From my own point of view, my number one talent is obviously writing. But – and without blowing my own trumpet – I can also hold a tune, act and in my younger days, dance. So I think when I was younger and bolder, I would probably have auditioned for either BGT or the X-Factor.

People slag off these shows for stopping proper talent getting a chance of being spotted. But I disagree with that, as a writer, it annoys me that people like Katie Price and Kerry Katona get multi-million pound publishing deals to front a ghostwritten book, while people like me and thousands of other talented writers go un-discovered. Showbiz has always been like this, how many actors out there are the sons and daughters of famous performers? Fearne Cotton (she’s been famous for about 5 years and I’m still not sure why) is a distant relation of Billy Cotton, former head of the BBC. So how can it be deemed unfair that someone is made a star of, voted by the very public they will serve to entertain?

But the main focus of my blog today is Susan Boyle. For anyone who didn’t watch BGT, Susan is a plain, rather eccentric 48-year-old spinster who lives alone with her cat. Unemployed, she has been trying for years to make it as a singer, but has no doubt been ignored because of her looks. She is also the sort of person who becomes invisible in society. I bet half her neighbours don’t even know her name. But last night, she finally had her moment in the sun. When she took the stage to sing, everyone cringed, thinking her another nutty wannabe who thought she was Celine Dion. When she said she wanted to be as big as a Elaine Paige (clever as Elaine Paige is about 4’10!) the judges groaned. But when she opened her mouth, the most beautiful voice rang out and within moments, the theatre had come alive. People were rooting for this woman, realising that just because someone doesn’t look like Kylie Minogue or Madonna, it doesn’t mean they don’t have something to offer the world.

I’m not sure Susan can win the show. Last night’s episode was the first of many and I’m sure as week’s go by, other contestants will come along and wow us and by the time the semi finals start, Susan will just be another singer. But for now she’s got the nation talking. She’s exactly the sort of person we Brits like to follow - the underdog who’s been knocked all her life and finally has her chance to shine. What we need to remember is that the world is full of Susan Boyles. People we ignore or scorn because they don’t ‘fit in’. Perhaps we need to take time to get to know our neighbours and realise that within us all is a little light that shines and makes us special.

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

An experiment in madness

I have decided to do something not many authors are willing to do and am to publish my new novel, online, as when it is written - typos, grammatical errors, the lot.

Liverpool is a bit of a departure for me. All my novels so far have been set post WW2 and have been written in the 3rd person. Liverpool is written in the first person so is told from just one view point. It starts in 1912 and tells the story of Sarah Levy, a young woman who moves with her family to Liverpool. Her father is a professor at the university and her mother is a social climber. Sarah is expected to find a wealthy husband but instead falls in love with a young lecturer who is heavily involved in the Labour movement. She also becomes enchanted with a young poor girl called Nellie who is a talented singer and goes on to become famous. The three people's lives will intertwine and of course the first world war will feature, which means lots and lots of research. But I know if people are reading it, I will feel more inclined to keep on with it.
Following in the footsteps of writers such as Dickens, Bronte and Hardy, I am publishing it in weekly instalments (online of course, this is the 21st century!) with each chapter being removed each Friday. I'm hoping to garner lots of comments and suggestions from people as this is the book I am going to try and find an agent with.

Chapter 1 of Liverpool can be found at It will be removed at 9pm Friday 3rd April and replaced by Chapter 2.

Thank you to everyone who has bought a copy of Two Become One. I will be forwarding the profits to the Teenage Cancer Trust shortly. To anyone else who is interested in buying Two Become One, it will be available via all major online booksellers from next month. In the meantime, if you wish to buy a copy, email me at
ciao for now