Who am I?

I’m Jean Valjean!

Yes. Really. That’s what comes into my mind when I see the question “Who am I?”

Here I am, remembering a song from a musical before thinking about myself. How weird is that?

But then music often triggers memories and those memories trigger emotions.

A tinkling piano in the next apartment
Those stumbling words that told you what my heart meant
A fairground’s painted swings
These foolish things remind me of you.

And I think of Noël Coward’s words in Private Lives, that it’s “extraordinary how potent cheap music is.”

It’s true, isn’t it? Music, cheap or not, can summon memories, colour them, even make us look at them in a different way. Just like poetry. Remember Wordsworth: poetry is “strong emotion recollected in tranquillity.”

… Oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Here we go again. Same old same old.

Oh, you again.

Oh yes, me again.

Come on then. What do you mean, “same old same old”?

That you’re doing what you always do. Avoiding.

Oo! And what am I avoiding, Mr Enigmatic?

Avoiding facing up to reality, Mr A-Quote-for-Every-Occasion. Just when you’re on the verge, when you’re oh so close to looking clearly at yourself, you veer off with a line from a poem or a song or a play. Or you go all intellectual.

You haven’t the faintest idea what you’re talking about.

Of course I have. I’m you, aren’t I? We’re the same person. I’m just the part that tells the truth while you hide behind all that learning and literature and stuff.

Rubbish!

Rubbish, is it? Right. I’ll prove it. You wrote a piece in that blog thing about how people project an image of themselves on Facebook. Right?

And?

And that made you start to think about the image you project. Right?

Yes, but…

And this… what you’re working on now, was going to be about who you are, who the real person behind the image is.  Wasn’t it?

Well…

Wasn’t it?

Alright. Yes.

But that’s not how it ended up, is it? Because, as always, you started quoting songs and poems and plays and even literary criticism for fuck’s sake, and there’s nowt, nowt at all, about you in there. Is there? So what’s the matter? Are you scared?

Scared? What do you mean, scared? What could I possibly be scared of?

Having to abandon your intellectual smokescreen…

Oh, don’t be silly!

… and realising there’s actually nothing behind it, perhaps?

This is rubbish.

Is it now?

Of course it is. I just got a bit carried away, that’s all. An idea occurred that I found interesting and I just wanted to follow it, to see where it led. It’s like when you’re writing a play and you have to do a bit of research and that takes over because it goes off in an unexpected direction and…

I see. So you’re an undisciplined thinker, is that it?

No! That’s not… I mean, I can see why you might… But no…

Or is it that you’re scared of taking a good, hard, honest look at yourself because you might just realise something that you don’t like?

I honestly don’t understand why you should think that. I’m perfectly happy with myself. As for the poetry and the music, they’ve been such a part of my life for so long…

That you think they’re you when really they’re just stuff you know.

Rubbish!

Then prove it. Do what you set out to do: write about you.

Well…

Or are you too scared?

Of course I’m not scared.

Then do it. And I shall look forward to it.

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I Won. Didn’t I?

A few days ago there was a conversation on a friend’s Facebook page which mentioned John Keats. With my typical penchant for bad jokes I contributed this rather flip comment: “By the time he was my age, Keats had been dead fifty years. I win, I think.”

(Actually it’s 49 years but that doesn’t sound quite as good, does it? It’s not as rounded. It suggests that perhaps I should have waited another year before saying it. Anniversaries are always that bit more compelling.)

On reflection, though, I’m not so sure that I did win. I mean, which is best, 74 years of being pretty ordinary or 25 years of brilliance?

Keats’ first extant poem was written when he was 19 and he wrote the great odes, at least one of which is among the greatest poems in the English Language, in 1819 when he was 23. By the time he died, aged 25 years and four months, he had produced so many poems – sonnets, lyrics, odes, narratives and (less successfully, it has to be said, although at least one was performed) plays – of such quality that, almost 200 years after his death, they have firmly set him among the all-time greats of English Literature.

For me – a personal belief for which I make no apology – he is, after Shakespeare, the greatest poet in the English language, for many reasons, not least his imagery, but, in particular, his use of words – their sound, rhythm, associations, emotional resonances. It’s poetry which demands to be read aloud, to be experienced in the mouth.

But his life certainly wasn’t wonderful. Dogged by shortage of money and poor health, with the threat of the tuberculosis which ran in the family and finally killed him hanging over him; unable, because of his financial situation, to enter into a formal engagement with the love of his life, Fanny Brawne; his work damned by the critics – Endymion was described as “imperturbable drivelling idiocy” and he, Leigh Hunt and William Hazlitt were lumped together contemptuously as “The Cockney Poets” because they didn’t go to Eton, Harrow or Oxbridge, and finally dying, coughing up blood, in a rented room in Rome with only his friend Joseph Severn with him, with the epitaph (which he chose himself) carved on his headstone being “Here lies One whose Name was writ in Water.”

A brilliant legacy of poetry and a guaranteed place among the immortals of literature but a life which was unhappy, short and, at the end, painful.

Yes. Perhaps I did win, not just because of those extra 49 years (and, I hope, counting) but because I can enjoy all that wonderful poetry that Keats left behind.

Yes.

But then…

To have actually created that legacy… I wonder…

People Watching on Facebook

I’m a playwright so I need to people watch. After all, people are what my plays are about, so if I’m people watching, I’m doing research.

Right?

Of course I am.

Therefore people watching online is research too, obviously. Which is how I justify the amount of time I spend on Facebook. I am researching, not time-wasting, for on Facebook we see some people in the raw and others in the way they want us to see them. Reality and fantasy, the writer’s stock-in-trade.

Research again.

Obviously.

Some people treat that keyboard like a confessional, pouring out their souls, and they seem not to realise that they have revealed their deepest thoughts and feelings to so many people, even those they barely know, for how many of their Facebook “friends” are really genuine friends? Or even acquaintances?

But then, perhaps they do realise and this meets some need in them.

Some spew vitriol at friends, partners, family or just humanity at large…

(Often at the government, although whether one can really include them in the ‘Humanity’ category is open to discussion.)

(Sorry! Hobbyhorse time.)

…whilst others chronicle their entire emotional lives, the ups and downs, begging, even if just implicitly, for understanding and support. They all want us to reply with love, support and sympathy.

Then there are those who drop hints – “I never thought that would happen to me”, “How can people treat others like that?”, “I can never trust you again!” (whilst not saying who “you” is). Is this to create some kind of mystique around themselves or to garner some attention which they can’t get in any other way? Who knows? But it’s an interesting trait for a writer to ponder.

And of course there are those whose online lives are almost entirely fictitious, but that, too, is all grist to the writer’s mill, to coin a cliché.

And saying “to coin a cliché” is itself a cliché. Is any originality possible nowadays?

Let’s not wander down that route, eh?

Then there’s me (and others like me). I always post a link when I upload a news story or a review to the British Theatre Guide. I do it, obviously, to get page views but there’s no denying that warm feeling when people “like” the post.

In the same area, there’s one type of Facebook post which really interests me for what it says about the poster; it’s the one which says “such and such a film / play / book / TV show / piece of music is total rubbish (usually the term used is “shit”, which is itself, I think, significant) and therefore should not be shown / performed / published / aired / played.”

It’s the “I don’t like it so it’s bad and no one should be allowed to experience it” syndrome and its corollary is “I like it so it is brilliant and anyone who doesn’t agree is a brain-dead moron.”

The ancient Greek philosopher Protagoras said that “man is the measure of all things” (Ah, the tattered scraps of a classical education!) but for these people “I am the measure of all things” or, more simply, “The world was made for me.” (With, of course, the unspoken “Not you, so you can fuck off.”)

Behind these two sides of the same coin lies a total lack of self-worth. To accept the validity of an opposing point of view would be to destroy the individual’s already fragile self-image.

This can manifest itself in so many ways. In a post in a group devoted to the past and present of a particular Geordie town recently someone remarked that a famous sporting son of that town who now appears on the BBC occasionally has lost his local accent so, the poster said, he obviously thinks he’s “too good for us”. That led to a flood of variations on “I’ve lived in London for the last 35 years and I haven’t lost my accent.” Hmmm…

So many complexities of motivation and emotion!

What fertile ground Facebook is for a writer!

I Get It (Don’t I?)

Alright. I get it.

And?

It’s an avoidance strategy, isn’t it?

Is it?

Everybody does it, don’t they? People talk about the past, when they were kids. Or even about their parent’s time. And they all say the same thing, don’t they? “Happy days!” Rose-tinted spectacles and that. They like the music from their childhood and youth, films that they saw, just because it was their youth. It’s nostalgia, isn’t it?

No.

What do you mean, no?

No means no.

Don’t start getting all enigmatic on me. What does that mean, that no? No what?

Right, I’ll make it easier for you. It’s got nothing whatsoever to do with nostalgia.

Then what?

Think! Am I the only one who can use the brain we live in?

But if it’s not nostalgia, then what is it, eh?

It’s the same thing that stops you being able to answer the question you’ve just asked.

You what? I don’t understand what the fuck you’re talking about.

Of course you do. If I do, you do. You just can’t face it.

OK! I’m thick! I’m stupid! You’re obviously using all the brain and there’s none left for me. I give up!

That’s the trouble. You have, haven’t you?

What?

Given up.

I’ve just said so, haven’t I? I give up. Can’t answer your little riddle. You’ll have to explain because I’m a bear of very little brain.

And that’s not what I meant. You. Have. Given. Up. Not just given up on answering my little riddles, as you call it, but on anything challenging. You watch TV series you’ve watched before. Even the comedy series you watch you’ve seen God knows how many times. I bet you’re laughing before you ever get to the punchline.

There’s no punchline. It’s not jokes. The comedy comes from the characters, the situations…

But you know how it’s going to turn out. Here’s nothing new. There’s no challenge.

It’s relaxing.

Yes, it’s relaxing. And that’s what you want, isn’t it? Relaxing. Comfortable. Nothing to challenge you. Nothing to disturb you. Nothing to make you think.

‘Get rid of the writer’s block’ – isn’t that what you said you were trying to do?

Bollocks! If you come within half a mile of it you run away, switch on the tele and watch Gold or Dave, Alibi or Drama. Or read a ‘classic’ – i.e. undemanding – whodunit. Have a wander around Facebook and so some silly quizzes: “Only someone with an IQ of five million can spell these ten hard words correctly.” Or look at someone’s pics of the food they’re eating or the cocktails they’re drinking. Or even look at photos of fucking cats.

You’re pathetic! You’ll do anything to avoid having to think or get your brain working. So stop calling yourself a playwright because you’re not one. You’ve given up.

I haven’t given up!

You had two projects on the go. One’s nearly finished and you’d just made a start on the other. Isn’t that right?

Yes, that is right. I’ve got two projects on the go at once. I don’t see how you can say that I’m not a playwright.

So when did you last do any work on either of them?

Well…

Come on. When?

Well, it would be… Well, early June… Or thereabouts.

And now it’s September. Three months. Quarter of a year. It’s a good job you’ve got your pension because if we relied on the income from your writing, we’d fucking starve.

Well…

Right?

Well…

Right?

Well… Yes. I suppose so.

Right! Think on.

Didn’t work, did it?

I started this blog back in July hoping it would demolish the sort of writer’s block thing I was experiencing. I would get my creative juices flowing again by updating twice a week, exploring new ideas and generally making my brain work properly. It was to be a kind of gym for the brain.

Failed!

Few updates, no new ideas getting beyond the “That might be interesting. Possibly” stage, and as for the brain working properly…

Then get off your fat arse and do something about it, you lazy git. You just sit there saying “Oo, I must do this. Oo, I must do that. Oo, I must do the other.” You’re all talk.

Oh man Radgie, shut up! All you ever do is criticise. You have no idea how hard it can be to write.

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. This is where he gets all sorry for himself. Poor little lamb, trying so hard. Aw, diddums hasn’t got the energy, you know. The little pet’s getting on, you know. He’s just a poor old man. Ahhh! There, there petal. Let daddy give you a little pat on your little head.

It’s not funny! I’m not getting anywhere. I just can’t concentrate. Not on anything.

Why not?

Why not? I don’t know, do I? How could I know?

Because it’s you, isn’t it? You should know what’s going on in your own fucking mind.

It just shows how much you know. Look. I start working on something, get thinking about it, and my mind just starts to wander.

Wander? No, it doesn’t bloody wander; you take it for a walk.

“I’ll just a quick glance at Facebook” or “I’ll just see what’s happening on Twitter” or “Time to check my email. Oh look! A press release. Must write that up, get it online.”

“Right. Now. I’ll get on with that play. But I’ll just make a cup of tea first.”

Look, if you’ve got nothing helpful to say, shut up.

You mean that’s not helpful? Telling you where you’re going wrong?

No it’s not. It’s not helpful at all.

You want helpful? Right. What do you watch on the tele?

What’s that got to do with anything?

Just answer the bloody question. What do you watch on the tele?

You know what I watch on the tele.

So say it. Go on. Say it.

Well, recently…

Aye, go on. Recently…

…I’ve been watching Buffy. They’ve been rerunning it on Syfy. It’s a sort of nostalgia trip, I suppose.

Carry on.

I still enjoy Last of the Summer Wine, no matter how many times I see it. I think I know all the episodes by heart. And Open All Hours as well. I still find that funny.

Aye. Carry on.

Well, I’ve got to admit, I like Midsomer Murders. I know it’s undemanding and a bit twee, but it’s entertaining.

And?

Well, the Drama channel is rerunning The Bill from the beginning. I really used to enjoy it when it first started. I didn’t like the way it developed into a soap but the original is great. It’s enjoyable revisiting that.

So, not watching anything new then?

Yes I am. I’ve been watching Neil Oliver’s series on the Ness of Brodgar. Fascinating stuff.

Oh right. Orkney in 3,500 BC. How new and forward looking can you get? Wow, wow and thrice wow!

What about Game of Thrones then? I watch Game of Thrones. I love Game of Thrones. That’s new.

Yeah, it is. And how long is it since you read the books?

Well, a year or so, I suppose.

Bollocks. A lot more than that, sunshine. A helluva lot more than that. And while we’re on that subject, what have you been reading recently, eh?

Look, why are you going on about this? What’s what I’m reading got to do with anything?

Marjorie Allingham. Gladys Mitchell. Ngaio Marsh. Dorothy L Sayers.  20s and 30s detective novels, that’s what you’ve been reading. Bloody ancient stuff.

So?

Oh man! Are you thick or what? Work it out, Mr Moron. Get that brain you’re supposed to have into gear. I’ve assembled all the evidence for you. Now you interpret it. Right?

Right?

Singing Hymns in Welsh

In the 70s we spent a number of Augusts working at the St David’s Arts Festival. It was a long journey; it would take about nine hours to drive from Sunderland to this westernmost part of Wales. The motorway driving wasn’t bad but once we got to Ross-on-Wye, oh dear! The A40 through Abergavenny, Brecon and Carmarthen to Haverfordwest was only dual-carriageway for very short stretches, and the rest of the time…

Well, let’s say that if Dai wasn’t out in the tractor, Blodwyn was off in the car to do the shopping, both travelling at 20 miles an hour (max!) in the middle of the road. That stretch took almost as long as the journey from Sunderland to Ross.

Once we arrived in St David’s, we would head straight for the digs. We always stayed with Mrs Beer – and it was always “Mrs Beer”, never “Elizabeth.” Oh no! She might have called us Irene and Peter, but for us it had to be “Mrs Beer”.

The ritual was always the same. She’d greet us at the door – “Lovely to see you. I’ve put you in your usual room” – and we’d go up and unpack. A little while later we’d go downstairs and she’d be there, waiting.

“Kettle’s boiling. Cup of tea?”

“Thank you. Yes,” was the only acceptable answer, so, tea and biscuits served, she’d enquire about our health and hope we’d have lovely weather for Festival. Then she’d tell us about her son, John, and about how much more of St David’s her brother David has bought up since last year, and finally the – inevitable – climax of the conversation: “Cymanfa ganu on Saturday night. You will be coming, won’t you?”

Cymanfa ganu – that’s “Kuh-man-va ga-ny” – means “singing festival” and, specifically for Mrs Beer, it meant community hymn-singing at Tabernacl (that’s the right spelling; it’s Welsh), the chapel in Goat Street. And even more specifically it meant community hymn-singing in Welsh.

In St David’s in the seventies you were either chapel or pub. They were the places you found your entertainment and never the twain would meet – at least, not as far as the chapel folk were concerned, for alcohol was evil, a veritable tool of the devil.

By this time the pubs were open on Sunday in Pembrokeshire and there was a bit of an influx of “arty types” (Hippies!) but otherwise St David’s was very old fashioned Welsh. For a significant proportion of the population Welsh was still their first language and Mr Morgan the milkman was still, even by English speakers, referred to as “Morgan the milk.”

Anyway, as we were staying in a chapel household, we were “invited” to go to the Cymanfa Ganu on our first Saturday, an invitation that was hard to refuse for Festival hadn’t yet started and we didn’t rehearse on Saturday nights.

So that’s what we did, every first Saturday night of Festival, Irene and I; we went to Tabernacl to sing Welsh hymns! When we first went the only Welsh words I knew were bore da (good day), nos da (good night) and Croeso i Gymru (welcome to Wales) – oh, and the words of the Sospan Fach chorus, which I’d learned from Irene’s involvement in a production of Emlyn Williams’ How Green Was My Valley.

Isn’t theatre educational?

They allowed for our ignorance – they announced the hymn numbers in English as well as Welsh – and so we sang, among many more, Calon Lân, Marchog Iesu, Diolch i’r Iôr and, of course, Cwm RhonddaArglwydd, arwain trwy’r anialwch.

At the end, after a long extempore Welsh prayer, the congregation would spill out onto Goat Street and everyone seemed to want to greet us. “Nice to see you!” “Hope you have a good Festival.” After about ten minutes or so of good wishes, they were all gone, off to their homes and, when the last figures vanished from sight, we walked down the street to the Farmer’s Arms for yet more singing – of a different kind generally, although Calon Lân often made its appearance, as it does when any Welsh singers get together – and “Welsh singers” tends to mean anyone from Wales!

I remember singing it with a Welsh actor in a restaurant in Islington (we were a little the worse for wear but the waiters applauded us at the end!) and with a teacher in a school dining-room in South Shields. And Michael Bogdanov used it (in four-part harmony) in his excellent – well it would be; it was Bodger after all – Wales Theatre Company production of Under Milk Wood which toured all over the UK.

And of course everyone sang Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau, the Welsh national anthem, as fervently as any chapel congregation singing their hymns!

So, the Cymanfa Ganu made a big impression on me and to this day I still enjoy hearing – and joining in! – Welsh hymns. I’m not religious – far from it! – but I was brought up a Methodist and Methodism, the hymn book tells us, “was born in song.” So we, as the Calon Lân chorus says, “Canu’r dydd a canu’r nos” – sing by day and sing by night!

Theatre really does give you a wide – and sometimes quite odd – range of experiences!

Nevermore

You leave Threlkeld and head up to Gategill (where the Blencathra foxhounds used to be kennelled – and might still be, for all I know; it’s been a long time). You keep going till you reach the last drystone wall, with a sheepfold on the left. At this point you bear right up the fairly steep slope of Halls Fell. Suddenly the path veers to the left and heads towards a narrow rocky ridge with a steep drop down to Gate Gill on the left and Doddick Gill on the right. Now it’s an exhilarating walk – at times a bit of a scramble, but nothing taxing and certainly not scary – straight towards Blencathra summit, with impressive close up views of the gills and enclosing ridges to right and left and a wide vista of Lakeland behind.

Once we walked that route through thick cloud – when you’ve only got a week you cram in as much as you can, regardless of the weather – and picked our way very carefully along the wet and slippery rocky ridge.

Suddenly we were out of the cloud and in bright sunshine, the sky a brilliant blue from horizon to horizon. We turned, looked back the way we’d come and below us lay a white carpet of cloud, totally unlike the grey, clinging, soaking fog we’d been walking through.

We sat down to take it all in. There to the south east across all of this whiteness was Helvellyn, and as we scanned westwards we could see Bowfell and Scafell Pike, then Gable, all just emerging from the cloud. We walked the remaining few hundred yards to the cairn on Blencathra top and, as far as we could see, we were the only people on the hill that morning. We certainly didn’t see a soul as we dropped down to the Glenderaterra valley via Roughten Gill and walked back to Threlkeld, then drove along to The White Horse in Scales. There were, however, quite a few people in the pub shaking their heads and saying, “Oh no. Not going on the hill in this.”

A wonderful memory, the most outstanding among many from the Lakes, the Highlands, the Isle of Arran, Preseli in West Wales, Northumberland, the Yorkshire Dales and the North Yorks Moors. Memories, because COPD (the legacy of 55 years of smoking), knackered legs and – quite simply – age mean that I will never be able to walk the hills again and my battered and stained by frequent dampness, annotated copies of Wainwright’s invaluable Guides to the Lake District’s mountains – bought in the sixties, so now more than fifty years old – are just armchair reading.

Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

Aye, all very romantic and sweet and sad and Wordsworthy, but why don’t you tell them about the time you decided to break in a new pair of boots by traversing Blencathra up Blease Fell and down Scales Fell and ended up walking back to Threlkeld in your stocking feet with blisters on your blisters? Whimpering, you were, like a bairn.

Radgie! Shut up!

Or the time you froze up when you were climbing that crack on an exposed slab at Crag Lough and it was only when your second started hoying rocks at you that you got moving again?

Radgie! Watch it!

Or…

Radgie! Foxtrot Oscar!

Meet My Alter Ego

When 12 year old Billy Batson saw a crime being committed and knew his alter ego would be needed, he merely had to say the magic word “Shazam” and lightning would flash, thunder would crash and he would turn into Captain Marvel.

In Metropolis when mild-mannered reporter Clarke Kent saw Superman was needed he would make for the nearest phone box or similar location where he would rip off his clothes, revealing the Superman outfit beneath.

Actually, there are a few things about that I’ve always found puzzling, like how could he wear his cape under his everyday clothes? The rest I can see, but the cape? Wouldn’t it give him a bit of a Richard III look? And what happened to his clothes when he ripped them off? Did he just leave them and have to go back for them once the emergency was over? Wouldn’t someone nick them occasionally? Did he intend to abandon them? But that would mean he’d have to have a huge number of identical outfits. Massive wardrobe needed! Or perhaps he had some way of carrying them with him, some sort of concealed pocket? But for suit, shirt, tie, socks, shoes, trilby hat, glasses? Or perhaps he had an additional superpower, the power to make clothes invisible. If so, it’s a good job he was highly moral or poor old Lois Lane might have had a few nasty moments!

And in Gotham City, when the batphone rang or the batsignal lit up the sky, Bruce Wayne had to run down into the batcave beneath his mansion, change into his Batman outfit, start the batmobile and drive off to where he was needed. And if he was somewhere other than his mansion, well… Hardly what you’d call rapid response!

So now let me tell you about my alter ego.

“And who is that?” you may ask.

Radgie Gadgie, that’s who that is. And he doesn’t need any magic words or ripping off of clothes or running into underground caverns; he just appears instantaneously when… well, when he feels like it, I suppose. I might be driving, watching TV (especially the News or whenever politicians are speaking), shopping, reading Facebook statuses – at almost any time at all Radgie Gadgie can appear out of the blue, in full flow with, as Noël Coward sang in Señorita Nina from Argentina, “language profane and obscene”!

For those who don’t know, “radgie” is derived from the word “rage” and a “gadgie” is an old man, so it roughly translates as “extremely bad tempered old git.”

He could quite easily take over a blog entry at any time without notice, so – be prepared! But he will, he says, try not to be too offensive.

I didn’t say that! Does he think he’s a journalist, making up quotes like that? Twat! I’ll be as offensive as I like.
RG

Why blog?

I was fed up.

No, that’s not really accurate. Pissed off is a much better description. Even well pissed off – an even better description and even more accurate.

And why?

In June 2014 I directed the biggest play I’d ever written, Cold in the Clay, a community production with a cast of 22, a choir of 11 and a brass band. Then I devised and directed By the Pricking of My Thumbs…, a compilation of Shakespeare’s nastiest bits, with a brilliant professional cast. Both were for the Customs House in South Shields. Later that year I revived Drac and the Rat to be performed by staff and clients of NECA (North East Council on Addictions) Darlington.

Nothing much happened in early 2015 but in September I had my one-woman monologue Curtains performed at Alphabetti Theatre’s Write Back, directed by an excellent young director and performed by an equally excellent but even younger actress, and then I was cast in Beckett’s Words and Music (a piece for two actors and a chamber orchestra) for Durham University’s Musicon and immediately after that I went into Arctic Convoy (in which I wrote part of the script, played a small part and directed) in North Shields. During September and October I also ran a playwriting course for South Tyneside Library Service at the Central Library.

Finally I directed an amateur panto, Puss in Boots, for the Westovians in South Shields, which was performed in January 2016.

Since then, nothing. Rien. Niente. Nada. Nichts.

Early in 2016 I was diagnosed with COPD and it knocked me sideways. I’m beginning to suspect that the knocking sideways was psychological rather than physical because I lost all my energy and enthusiasm and, as the old saying goes, “My get-up-and-go got up and went.”

I even gave up directing. I told people, “I don’t have the energy any more” and I believed it.

So here we are, more than halfway through 2017, and I am pissed off with myself and need to get going again. Oh yes, I’ve been doing news stories and reviews for the British Theatre Guide but that’s not exactly creative and I need to get that creativity going before I stagnate into the pipe and slippers routine. Well, e-cig and slippers to be precise, but you know what I mean.

Hence this new blog. I’m setting myself the task of updating at least twice a week to get the creativity flowing, so please, do keep coming back to read my meanderings.

What will they be? Memories. Rants and raves. First explorations of new ideas. And I’ll introduce you to my alter ego, the very unlovable Radgie Gadgie. Now who’d want to miss that?

And, of course, you’ll be helping rehabilitate a sad sorry-for-himself old man. Your good deed for the day.