Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Aliens Are Not The Only Fruit

I am fast coming to the conclusion that my youngest son has a special relationship with food. A special relationship akin to the one the UK has with the US, whereby the US says jump, bend over, take it any which way but loose and we say dash it all old bean, you’re rather rough but we like it.

Tom has always had a good appetite. He eats well and he’s a solid, sturdy little boy. Not a bruiser, not a Fatty Arbuckle. Just solid.

But this isn’t where the special relationship lies.

It lies somewhere in the part of his brain that deals with vocabulary. In particular with the naming of things.

Let me explain by way of an example.

Whilst recently playing on Lego Batman Tom very excitedly jumped up and down and said he was fighting the melons. This caused puzzled looks and consternation all round. Melons? There are no melons in the game (even if you include Catwoman). What on earth was he on about?

Eventually we worked out that what he meant was ‘villains’. He was fighting the villains.

Melons = villains.

Since then we have clocked up other nouns that he has transposed with food items.

Onions = aliens.
Garlic = Darlek.
Ginger = Ninja.

I’m sure any child psychologist reading this will deduce that my boy is obsessed with food, sci-fi, Lego Ninjago and fighting crime. And not necessarily in that order.

Is this normal? Is it?

Or am I just waffling on about nothing? Exaggerating a mere trifle? Being both a bit of a pudding and a silly sausage?

Answers on the back of a menu to the normal address please.


Friday, August 26, 2011

The Prefect Ritual

I remember the day they performed the prefect naming ceremony one morning at school assembly, reading out the long list of those lucky souls selected from the 5th year who would have the honour of being glorified Bow Street Runners. Those who would wear the navy blue tie of mock authority.

I was quite frankly shitting myself. The thought of having to walk up onto the stage in front of the entire school and accept one of those blue ties made me feel physically sick. I was a geek. Possibly one of the uncoolest kids in the school. My clothes were unfashionable. My hair was unfashionable. I wore NHS glasses. I was small and ugly. I would get catcalls at worst or, at best, barely concealed sniggers.

I can remember praying, “not me, not me” as they began to go through the names of the chosen ones alphabetically.

They got through the B’s pretty quickly and were well onto the C’s and D’s before it hit me that I had not been selected. I had not been chosen.

There was no relief. Only crushing disappointment. I had just assumed, you see, that I would automatically be one of those chosen. I was one of the good boys. Never in trouble. A constant achiever – even if my grades were mostly average. Always did my homework, was rarely off sick. Never made trouble. An ideal student in every respect.

How could they not choose me? Why would they not?

One by one my mates – all much cooler and more popular than me – were called up onto the stage and were given the tie that would thenceforth differentiate them from me. That’s what it felt like. They were being set apart. I was being left behind. The prefects were automatically a little club unto themselves. They would have responsibilities and experiences that I would never share. I would forever be an outsider to yet another school clique.

Suddenly my relief had turned into searing jealousy and, yes, grief – even if with only a small g.

I was down about it for a week or two afterwards. My prefect mates didn’t see what I was so upset about and didn’t take my moroseness at all seriously. But it bugged me. Why was I not chosen? I mean, they’d deliberately chosen some of the other weaker, less intelligent, more socially deprived boys. Even in those days certain tick boxes had to be ticked for the sake of appearances. So why not me?

Looking back on it now the answer is plain. Academically I had it. In terms of my everyday conduct I had it.

In terms of confidence and self esteem... I didn’t stick a chance. I would never have been able to wield any kind of authority. I did not garner enough respect from my peers.

I was not prefect material.

Would I be prefect material now?

Yes. Without boasting about it, I think yes. But I would turn it down.

I know my place a little better now and am more comfortable with it. Given the choice today, I would always choose to run with the hare rather than hunt with the hound... the hare, you see, is the only one who is free.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Love, Luck And Money They Go To My Head Like Wildfire

My name is Stephen Herrick-Blake and I am a shopping addict.

I’ve always known it but the naked truth is something I’ve always deflected my eyes away from. I mean, nobody really wants to see the truth with all its bits hanging out do they?

It began in my twenties. A life of ease and privilege. I’m not talking about possessing the east wing of the family estate or running pheasant shoots on the family land here. I’m talking about living at home with no pressure to move out, a monotonous full time job and no social life.

Money just built up. Ridiculously. Effortlessly. I stockpiled it.

It was then that I developed that intense love affair with spending. With purchasing product. That self-esteem-boosting thrill you get when you go into a shop, point at something and say, “I’ll take that please, don’t bother with gift wrap”. A mate and I used to go to Birmingham every Saturday and hit the record shops – back in the days when CDs were new and suspicious. I’d choose whatever artist I was into at the time and buy their entire back catalogue. Albums, EPs, singles – both 7” and 12”. Once I spent so much money at a record shop that the cashier actually declined to ring up the amount on the till to save me any embarrassment. Like I cared about the street urchins holding their hands out to me on the way out, begging me for a morsel of my Burger King chicken burger bap – I’d finally got hold of that rare Kate Bush gatefold sleeve that I’d been after for months.

Summer holidays too were an orgy of retail therapy. Oh the joy of being able to mooch around shop after shop and think to myself, “I could buy something in here if I really wanted to.” And so I frequently did. Just for the hell of it. Just for the pleasure and the thrill.

It feels obscene now to look back on it. But I can’t deny that I also do so a little wistfully too.

I have to be tighter with my money now. Carefree spending is a thing of the past. There are monthly bills, there are debts that grow like weeds even when you don’t water them. But that urge – that addiction – is still there. If we go somewhere as a family, for a day out say, I can’t deny I feel a little depressed if I come back without a small purchase. It’s stupid. It’s like the day is not complete or cannot be enjoyed in itself without my spending power being exercised at some point. I don’t feel a valid member of the human race if I don’t acquire a totally frivolous item.

But I’m fighting it. I’m trying.

We did the summer hols this year on the cheap and I am financially at the same level now as I was at the beginning of them. No better off but no worse off either. For me that is a victory.

I blame my addiction on that period in my twenties when I had no responsibilities. It set a trend, see? Gave me a taste for a lifestyle that just wasn’t real and just cannot be maintained.

For all it was a lovely, carefree period I can’t help wishing my parents had kicked me out, forced me to face up the real world sooner before the pattern became too imbedded.

But that is passing the buck isn’t it? Not facing up to my responsibilities yet again.

I should have done something better and longer lasting with my money. Something wiser. Me. I should have done it.

If I had the money now the only thing I’d buy would be hindsight.

Monday, August 22, 2011


Back in the old days when men wore bowler hats and I were a nipper no more than knee-high to a Curly-Wurly TV channels had proper names. Names that gave one the mental image of a bristling moustache and nipple high trouser waistbands staunchly supported by bright red braces.

The BBC: The British Broadcasting Corporation.

ITV: Trotter Independent Trading. No, hang on - Inspeccion Tecnica de Vehicles? No. How about: Independent TeleVision? Yes. That’s it.

Proper names. Acronyms that jolly well stood for something proper and upright. And British.

But standards have slipped. The former moral rectitude of this country has descended into street speak and gutter utterances.

It has come to my recent attention (possibly a couple of years behind the times) that we have a TV channel called Really. Or possibly Really?


Yes. Really. I mean, as if Dave wasn’t bad enough we now have a TV channel whose name indicates sheer disbelief.

This is the thin end of the wedge, people. It is the start of the slippery slope down into titular depravity.

What are we going to have next? TV channels called WTF? Are You Serious? and I Can’t Believe You’re Actually Paying For This?

Why not go the whole hog and just call them Sicko-Pervert, Nutter and You Deserve Everything You Get You Dumbass?

If a broadcasting corporation has a stupid name then it will inevitably broadcast stupidity. Naming things is very important. A name has magical properties that directly affects the person or thing named. I mean, would anybody have taken Hitler seriously if he’d been named Betty Swollocks? Just think... a slight slip of the pen at the registry office could have saved the world years of bloodshed.

And on the other side of the fence would we have followed Churchill if he’d been named something ridiculously silly like Winnie? As in The Pooh?

Erm. OK. So that doesn’t work. But you get my drift.

People, we need to make a stand. We need to stop standards slipping any further. Which is why I would like you all to sign up and join my new online campaign: Bloggers Against Stupid Titles And Ridiculous Designatory Standards.

Or BASTARDS for short.

Just leave a comment to say whether you’re in or not and I shall forward all names of my fellow BASTARDS to our beloved Prime Minister, David Cameron. I have no doubt that we shall thenceforth occupy a very special place in his heart.

My friends, I thank you.


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Sorting The Wheat From The Chaff

If ever proof were needed that Time is not constant you only have to take a holiday.

Two weeks the wife and I have had off from work.

Two weeks.

Now if Time were passing as it usually does when I am not on holiday then by rights we'd only be up to Tuesday of the first week. But no. Here we are at the Saturday of the last weekend. How the hell did that happen?

I guess the old maxim is true - the one about having fun and all that. Though I'd be hard pressed to tell you just exactly what it is we did do to fill the last two weeks. A shortage of coin meant that a proper holiday was out so we did lots of home days and lots of away days. Little villages in the Cotswolds, visiting friends in Gloucestershire, meals out, pootles around the park, or even just lazing in our own garden, etc. We've both filled the time and luxuriated in it.

And as a consequence Time has speeded up and whizzed by like it can't wait to get away from us.

Next week sees the end of the holiday. Next week sees the return of the alternative.

Note to self: edit self expression and emotional content here.

But one thing this holiday has taught me is that, no matter what speed setting Time seems to be running on, a happy and fulfilling life is inevitably based around spending time with the people who matter to you and not the people who don't; listening to opinions and advice from those whose opinion matters and not listening to the same from those whose opinions should be binned and, most most important of all, daring to stop dreaming and daring to start planning.

Because no matter how fast Time is running, it's running in my favour now.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Raiders Of The Lost Doggy Hat

It's not often I post requests for help on this blog. It's not often I post an all-points bulletin in such a global fashion. But the snooty people at BBC news have refused my request to borrow their satellite link-up and Claire Marshall for a few hours to advertize my campaign.

So I'm desperate.

I'm having to utilize this space on this here blog of mine to send out a request for help.

Shit. I don't even know if it'll work. I don't even know if you guys will be able to help. There's so much stuff going on in your lives right now - personal shit, work shit, financial shit, looting shit and (for those of you that did the former) prison shit - this request of mine might be the straw that breaks the camel's back. It might be a bridge too far. Or even just a metaphor too far.

It's my boy, you see. My youngest son, Tom. He used to have this doggy hat. You can see it in the photo above. We're not sure where it came from. It was given to us and, well, Tom and the hat just kinda bonded. They went everywhere together. They were inseparable.

Well. Inseparable apart from the occasions when Tom would hoof doggy hat out of the pushchair at passing traffic but I'm pretty sure doggy hat was complicit in these al fresco outings.

One day the inevitable happened. Doggy hat made like a Frisbee while mummy wasn't looking and he got left somewhere. Abandoned. Lost.

Now, whenever the wife and I find lost but plainly cherished items in the street we tend to leave them where they are. Our reasoning being that whoever lost said item will retrace their footsteps in the hope of finding it again.

We therefore retraced our footsteps but doggy hat was gone.

Someone - some opportunistic little thief - had said "finder keepers, losers weepers" and doghat-napped doggy hat for themselves.

Doggy hat was never seen again.

Tom was distraught. We were upset.

We figured he'd get over it, forget it, move on. But here we are, nearly 8 months later, and Tom still talks wistfully about his doggy hat. He wonders where it is. We've told him some kindly people are looking after it for him. He wonders if doggy hat will ever come home again. We shrug, swap furtive looks, and say that we hope so.

We're living a lie, goddamnit.

Today, things progressed further. Tom woke with tails of Mr Tree Branch tapping his window in the night to tell him that he'd "taken doggy hat up into the sky".

I can't take it anymore. I can't let my son go on thinking that doggy hat is... is... dead. It's too much.

So this is a request - a cry for help - does anybody know where we can buy another one of these blessed doggy hats? Does anyone have one that they'd be willing to sell?


We just can't take it no more.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Steve Pilgrim vs The World

So, lagging behind the cool people by a year or two, I only got round to seeing Scott Pilgrim vs The World last Saturday on account of missing it at the cinema on it's initial release and my wife kindly buying it for me on DVD for my birthday (which was last Saturday).

This isn't going to be a film review - other than to say this was one of the best and funniest films I've seen for a long time and if you dig geek cool and computer games and kung fu then this is the film for you. Oh and chicks with pink hair. If you're into chicks with pink hair you're going to love this film.

No, what this post is going to be is a revelatory experience along the lines of: oh my God, my life has curious parallels with Scott Pilgrim, the eponymous hero of the film reviewed in thumbnail above.

I'd like to undercut the shock of this statement a little by doffing my cap at verisimilitude and pointing out that no, I don't have a catholic Japanese High School aged girlfriend (who goes to a school that insists on its students wearing school uniform) and I am not two-timing her with a cool chick with pink hair who has seven deadly ex's whom I must battle for the right to continue dating her.

Because, let's face it, that's taking this whole geek-cool thing a step too far. Real life just isn't like that.

But I do feel like I have to battle seven deadly hexes to get to where I want to be. Hence the poor excuse for a comparison that probably won't stand up to too close a scrutiny, so please don't even try.

Hex 1) lack of motivation. This is my biggest failing. I need a power-up already just to put this baby to bed. It's not like I don't want to do stuff. It's just that sometimes I don't want to do it now. There's always tomorrow, right? Wrong. Tomorrow just got here and I still haven't done the stuff that I want to do. Don't even get me started on the stuff that I have to do.

Hex 2) lack of focus. I'd never make a good Sith Lord. I don't have enough anger or focus or mind power to visualize what it is I want to do with my life other than write. Now writing is fine if it pays. Until then I need to be doing something that at the very least fulfils me just a little bit and doesn't bend my sanity out of shape in the process of paying for the food on my table. But can I visualize something that I want to do? Can I heck. It's all furry, smudgy and out of focus. It feels like Darth Maul has sneezed all over my glasses.

Hex 3) Lottery dependence. This is probably a direct result of Hexes 1 and 2 above. It's like looking for life's cheat code. The short cut to the top. The secret level where you can just do what the hell you want and you can laugh at the bosses rather than having to fight them. Trouble is when you depend on the cheat codes you don't play the game properly and hone your skills and do stuff for yourself. Cheat codes are bad, people. They cheat nobody but yourself. And that's about as meaningful as this post is going to get.

Hex 4) lack of admin skills. Doesn't sound such a big thing, does it? But it's something that trips me up everytime. Organization. Order. Due process. I can write the novels. I can write the poetry. But following the steps needed to get my superlative material out to agents or onto Kindle has my feet tangling themselves up worse than Chris Penn's plates of meat in the original version of Footloose, (you know, the one with Kevin Bacon and Julie from Fame in it).

Hex 5) penchant to daydream. My CV address has my mail sent to cloud cuckoo land, I swear. Sometimes I'd just rather reinvent the world around me inside my own head than face up to the trolls, demons and baddies of reality. Trouble is, while I am blissing out, the trolls, demons and baddies are kicking my butt.

Hex 6) lack of nerve. Sometimes I just bottle it. Sometimes I have it all there - the comeback, the punchline, the plan of action - but I fail to engage. Is it worth the hassle I ask myself? Is it worth the short-term trauma? The answer in the big school hall of life is yes, it is worth it, you dumb-ass but in the moment I say "no, it isn't worth it; I just want a peaceful life, man." Wrong choice. A peaceful life isn't always synonymous with inner peace. Shit. I just got all meaningful again.

Hex 7) me. Or to be exact: Nega-me. I am my own worst enemy. I am the end of level boss I need to face and just like Scott Pilgrim maybe I need to take him out. Not as in punching his brain through the back of his head but as in taking him out for a drink. Taking him out on a team building exercise somewhere. Maybe paintballing in the Forest of Arden. I'm a pretty good shot. Maybe we need more quality time together. Male bonding. That kind of thing. A new rebel alliance needs to be forged.

There. Mission accomplished. Game completed. Job done.

Now excuse me whilst I chase after that chick with pink hair...

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Des Schtroumpf


Yes we took the kids to see The Smurfs movie.

Yes I have a Smurf collection.

Coupled with my Lego obsession it possibly makes me the saddest person on the planet but given that it is my birthday today (42, thank you for asking) I believe I have immunity from derision for today at least.

I would like to point out that I am not jumping on the Smurf bandwagon here. I didn't think to myself, oooh, there's a Smurf movie coming out, let's invest in some merchandise which might be worth a bob or two on Antique's Roadshow in a year or two. My collection predates the Smurf movie by a number of years. In fact, when taking my first ever Smurf into consideration (given to me by a boyhood friend whose name forever escapes me - ungrateful, I know, but it was just a frigging Smurf for Heaven's sake; it wasn't like he asked me to marry him. Hmm. Note to self: I wonder if you can actually buy a 'Frigging Smurf'?) my collection is actually a good 30 odd years old.

I'm not sure where my fascination with Smurfs truly lies. I have vague recollections of seeing some of the cartoons as a kid. But even then I knew they were never really cool. But that was me all over. Not cool. Not ever. When other geeks my age were into 2000AD I was into The Smurfs and Peanuts (and, indeed, boast a decent collection of Charles M. Schultz's works).

I guess there is something soft, warm and comforting about the works of both Peyo (creator of The Smurfs) and Charles M. Schulz that appealed to me as a kid. I was always a wimp. More Walter The Softie than Dennis The Menace.

So did the Smurf movie rekindle warm feelings of childhood?

Not quite. It was sweet and schmaltzy but I've suffered far worst. The animation was cool. The kids loved it and found it funny. And Hank Azaria - he of the incredible cartoon voice - plays an absolute blinder as Gargamel... even if he does frequently slip into Moe from The Simpsons from time to time.

Whoa. Just re-read that last sentence and it plainly came out very wrong.

Will it rejuvenate the Smurf craze for the modern generation? I think not. I think The Smurfs have a limited appeal. They leave a lot of people cold. They leave a lot of people sneering, let's be honest. But they obviously tick a box of some kind for me so I will continue to collect.

I suspect there is a part of me desperately trying to hold onto to some sliver of childhood innocence that I never really possessed in the first place.

But so what?

It's my birthday today and we're taking the kids to see Cars 2 3D this afternoon. I'm regressing. I'm revisiting / reliving my childhood. There is something liberating about it. The time to be a grown-up will resinstate itself again all too soon, I suspect.

And before you ask, yes, I did get a Lego set for my birthday. I'm a happy boy.

My thanks to all of you who have sent birthday wishes on Facebook et al. You've made me feel Smurfing special.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Power is a funny thing.

It’s not something we would all automatically put at the top of our wish-lists(unless we were megalomaniacs) – I’m sure freedom, good health and more money would all be first choices for most of us and we’d fling those down without too much thought.

But don’t they all in a way represent power?

Power to do what we want, when we want and with whom we want?

Maybe power is the wrong word? Maybe what I am really talking about here is self-determination? The power to choose every aspect of our lives for ourselves. To not compromise. To not negotiate. To not have to settle for that which we know, for us, is less than perfect.

I’ve been thinking about self determination a lot over the last few days and have decided I want it at the top of my wish-list. Or at least in close second place - maybe keep good health in pole position because it seems damn silly not to but, yeah, self determination... it’s up there with the big boys.

More money would certainly be nice. More money would be great. To not have to work for the man (or the woman) ever again would be fantastic. Freedom too is a fantasy ideal of utopia. To do whatever I like without recourse to anybody else. I’m going to do A, B, and C with no questions asked.

But let’s face it; more money and true freedom don’t really exist. No-one is truly absolutely free. And loads of money just creates as much of a prison as no money at all.

No, self determination is the key. And for that you don’t need money or the shackles of society being cast off.

You just need the right mind-set and the will to take it for yourself.

You need to know what you want and what you don’t want. And I have been thinking about that a lot over the last few days recently too. There are certain environments, certain people and behaviours that I just cannot make peace with anymore.

I know what I don’t want. I know what I can no longer stomach. I know what makes my soul sick.

Now it’s time to discover what I do want. It’s time to acquire good health for my soul.

And self-determination seems a bloody good place to start.


Tuesday, August 09, 2011


This weekend saw the launch of one of the UK's hottest and most realistic apps. Grand Theft Footpad hit the shops so hard it obliterated the windows and most of the upper stories. Hoodies all over the country became immediately addicted to this fully immersive 3D real-time game, so much so that even after just a couple of hours of play time many of them could no longer differentiate between the real world and the virtual world.

The game - freely available to download - comes in a neat little package initally consisting of a just cause, righteous anger and a jutisified need to protest. Many of the gamers, however, seem to have ripped the packaging off the product without a second thought and are now playing the game for their own ends without actually working their way through the appropriate levels.

For many of the game's low profile users, the original game story of peaceful and justified protest is being seen as laughable when the open style nature of the game clearly allows the gamer to go on the rampage and set and achieve their own not-so-hidden agenda.

For many behoodied gamers the agenda seems to simply be: acquire an iPad / iPhone / iPrisonsentence, cause as much damage to their own community as humanly possible and cause the game's "end of level" boss, the Prime Minister, to cut short his annual break to Butlins and come back to Downing Street to best discuss how to ship these avaricious little thugs out to Afghanistan where they can play war games for real.

A report that a version of this game is soon to be available for the Wii is as yet unconfirmed but a curled fist waved up and down in a yo-yo motion is already being seen as a possible iconic game move.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Selection Not Rejection

So another rejection letter this week. Whilst my second novel nears completion (ETA Christmas time) I am still touting the first one round various literary agents.

I’ll put my hands up and say I am being very slapdash and slack about it. I finished the bloody thing two years ago but it’s only been this year that I’ve made a real effort to get it “out there”... and so far I’ve only sent it to 5 agencies. That’s not exactly a full-on production line, is it?

So. Four rejections so far and one coal still in the fire. Of the four I’ve heard back from three were standard and one was very complimentary. I’m not particularly pinning any hopes on the fifth; I think success at this relatively early stage would be too easy. It’s going to be a hard slog and I know it.

What amazes me is I don’t feel particularly down-heartened by the rejections. I mean, I don’t feel great. My self esteem takes a knock. But it’s a small knock. It bothers me for all of two minutes and then it’s forgotten about.

Maybe I’m just hard-headed? Arrogant? Deluded? All of the above?

I suspect though my time writing and submitting poetry all through my late teens and my twenties hardened me up to the “thank you but no thank you” missive. I used to bundle thirty or forty of my poems out at a time and launch then relentlessly (and vaingloriously) at various magazine editors and anthology publishers. Most came back besmirched with the weight of a “no thank you”. About ninety percent in fact. Some did get published, I have to say. About forty – but that was over a period of a ten years. I hardly set the world alight.

But it did vaccinate me against the disease of ‘the rejection blues’.

My poetry rejections were like cow pox. They have protected me against the dreaded small pox of the novel rejection. It doesn’t touch me like it should and I have milkmaid’s hands to boot.

I also try and bear in mind a wonderful piece of advice that one of my rejectees once gave me: “an editor / publisher does not reject; they merely select”.

Reflecting on that has assisted me through many a blue hour.

Now I just shrug my shoulders and go back to my writer’s year book...

...because at the end of the day I’m only up to the D’s and there’s plenty more fish in the sea.

Onwards and upwards.


Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Like Two Peas In A Pod

OK, I’m coming clean.

I can’t keep it up anymore. The lies. The deceit. Living a double life.

I look in the mirror sometimes and I don’t know who it is that’s looking back out at me. I feel like a double-agent in my own life. Two names. Two identities. Two wildly differing lifestyles.

In one I’m just a humdrum office bod. I go out 9 to 5 and work for the man.

In the other I am the man. I have people looking after me. My people. I have an agent and a manager and a PA. I go off to crazy locations and shoot incredible movies that people love and adore. Everyone adores me. Women drool and men sigh. Women want me and men want to be me.


It is time to come clean.

I am Johnny Depp.

Captain Jack Sparrow, Edward Scissorhands, Ichabod Crane and John Dillinger... they were all me too. Me as Johnny Depp playing them, I mean. It all gets so confusing. I’ve snogged Christina Ricci, Penelope Cruz and Keira Knightly to name but a few.

And they were all shit. No-one beats my wife.

And my wife, who you all know as “Karen”, is really Vanessa Paradis. I may as well out her too while I’m in the mood to be honest.

I’ve tried hiding who I am for years. In every film I try and disguise my look, change my face so that the real me is not recognizable. But years ago I got lazy. I made a film called The Ninth Gate and I couldn’t be bothered to wear coloured contact lenses or shave my head. I told my agent the days when I blacked up and played the banjo are long behind me. It’s PC or nothing now. So I appeared as myself. As me.

I thought I’d got away with it but someone at work recently saw the film... made the connection and they’ve outed me.

So now my workmates know that for all these years they’ve been working alongside Johnny Depp and they never realized it.

I’m sure, as with you, there will be a sense of chagrin. A sense of opportunities wasted. Well, look. I’ll sign your autograph books now if you want. I’ll pose for photos. I’ll kiss your wives, girlfriends, babies, even you.

I’ll take you to Cannes next time I have a movie out. That’s a promise.

Because, finally, here’s the proof. See below.

I rest my case.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Touching Wood


(But hey - aren't they all?)

So. Onto pastures new.

Torchwood has moved to the US of A. It has eschewed the bright lights and broad vowels of Cardiff and gone for the clipped and curled accents of, er, somewhere in America.

And this is the problem. They may have said exactly where in America the action is taking place but if they did I didn't take it in. And neither can I figure it out for myself by trying to eyeball any landmarks in the establishing shots. It appears to be somewhere in "TV America". That mythical place that seemed to come into being sometime over the 50's and 60's and then solidified into a place in the hearts and minds of kids the world over in the 70's and 80's.

TV America is how the rest of the world believes America to be. Michael Knight lives next door to B.A Baracus. Charlie's Angels sell Avon products to Jody from The Fall Guy.

It isn't real.

And this is why I am having a hard time getting my head around the current series of Torchwood. The plot is interesting. The ideas are good. The action is glossy, slick and movie quality. Clearly a lot of moolah has been spent on the show. £10,000,000 from what I've read. Though possibly that's in dollars rather than pounds. There's been some heavy-ish investment from an American TV channel / producer. A cash injection that would make even Captain Jack's eyes water.

And this, I suspect, explains everything.

The show is angling itself toward the American market. It has transformed itself into an American-ready chicken. Notice I didn't say turkey. Because it isn't that bad.

It's just the American thing... Don't get me wrong, I like America. I loved all those American action shows as a kid; they fed my young imagination. But it doesn't work with Torchwood. It doesn't work for me.

It feels too glossy. Too generic. Too Eighties pastiche. Rather than emulating modern American action shows it feels like they're emulating American action shows from 20 years ago. It clashes and it grinds. And not in a good way.

The American actors give it their all. They're reliable; they're competent. It's damning them with faint praise but it's true. Eve Myles as Gwen Cooper acts them all off the screen. Maybe it's the quirky Welsh thing? Maybe she seems more believable simply through familiarity? But I don't think so. Her acting and her emotional responses are streets ahead of everybody else. A couple of weeks ago she did a scene at the bedside of her on-screen father. He was ill in hospital. Her performance was brilliant. Real, gritty, restrained and yet emotionally full at the same time.

Everybody else behaves like a cartoon character in comparison. It's like the American contingent are just going through the motions. Possibly seeing their outing on Torchwood as merely a way to be noticed by one of the bigger TV channels, who knows?

John Barrowman too is pretty good but his character feels like it has been emotionally dumbed down. There's no range or even much scope for range at the moment. Maybe that will change as the series progresses? I hope so.

In the meantime I will stick with it. The plot has enough hooks in it that I want to see what happens next. This isn't a bad piece of TV.

It's just that after the previous Torchwood outing it feels like they've lost something. A little heart. A little soul.

I suspect there is a little demon running around somewhere thinking that's it's got itself a good deal.

And that's fine, believe me - as long as we, the viewers, are not ultimately short-changed.