Category Archives: film


>The time trialling season begins for me tomorrow with a 10 mile event. I will report (eventually).

Next weekend I have a weekend off the bike to go and see my artworcs friends. I am also attending the 20:20 conference in Birmingham where my short play A Page Turner is receiving its first performances alongside 19 other short plays by writers who attended the MA / MPhil(B) in Playwriting Studies at Birmingham University.

In other news: 

My sister, Marie, won two Silver medals at New Zealand’s National Masters Championships. She was second in the 500 metre TT and the Individual Pursuit. Well done (again), Marie.

We took last weekend off to celebrate Pat’s birthday. Two films at the BFI: Letter for an Unknown Woman on the Saturday and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner on Sunday. The former harks back to the well-made play of the late nineteenth century (the heroine – a good woman who does a bad thing – handily gets a disease that kills her as a kind of moral retribution. The sort of plot that only survives in opera nowadays). The latter has a tight cause and effect, three act structure that felt much more modern. I didn’t cry watching Spencer Tracy‘s last performance… I didn’t. I don’t cry. It was a good weekend.

Today I was at Hillingdon cycle circuit helping Ray and the rest of the club run a British Cycling Go Ride event for school children new to the sport. It was great fun with some really committed performances by the kids. It was very cold though.

>Dinner, a missed opportunity and a film show

>The Willesden CC dinner was good fun with some disgraceful behaviour from our elders, some bad dancing and a fascinating speech from Club President Jim Love about his experience as a competitor at the 1948 ‘ Austerity’ Olympics.

I didn’t make it to the Harp Hilly Hundred reliability trial. There were many reasons for this, but the main one was laziness. No doubt the bold fifty who did turn up in the rain will be wupping my @rse for the rest of the season – Karma. There are five more of these Chiltern Classics to come and I’m pencilled in to ride four of them. I expect the weather will be great from now on.

Instead of training I headed to the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith for the annual cycling film afternoon. There were some great track films – Herne Hill in the 50s, London 6 days and the American six days – and some footage of Vin Denson winning the Tour of Luxembourg. Vin was there being interviewed by David Harmon. I bought a copy of his new book and he autographed it! There were also interviews with Steve Heffernan and Mo Burton who used to ride for the Archer RC before becoming successful pros.

>A good weekend

>Sunday was a great day – warm and relatively still. I rode the Hillingdon CC 25m TT on the Marlow course and recorded a time of 1:3:42. This is 3 minutes faster than my previous time this season and my fastest since 1981. It’s a fast course with a 2 mile ‘ski-jump start’ (a fast downhill that you don’t have to climb to finish) and I used the disc wheel for the first time. Together these might explain a 3 minute improvement, but I don’t care. It’s a good time (for me) and it’s on the books. That said, I was only 53rd of the 66 finishers.

Monday, by contrast, was a miserable day – rain, rain and more rain. The roads were awash and I used a grippier, heavier front wheel to try and reduce the risk of falling. The weather, tiredness from the day before and the lack of a decent warm up (it was raining!) meant a disappointing time of 26:56 for the VTTA 10m TT, but it’s a minute better than my season’s best (tho’ yesterday’s ride is the equivalent of two and a half 25:19 ‘tens’). It’s my fastest ‘ten’ since 1984.

I think the Sunday ride benefited from my reduced training load – my heart rate was faster and my recovery over climbs was good. On Monday my HR was depressed by 8-10 beats. I need to be more conscientious about building recovery into my plans.

No more fast rides for a while I think. I only have a 25m TT on the slower Amersham Road course next week.

In other news, we saw the Martin McDonagh written and directed film In Bruges last night and this afternoon we went for a walk on Hampstead Heath. The weather, in contrast to the morning, was dry and hot.

>Where was I?

>Feeling a bit nnfff lately, hence the lack of blogaction. A bit narked by some of the vituperation and weaseliness in the Attempts On Her Life debate (oh Nicholas!), but some positive contributions on both sides of the argument. Encore is probably a good place to start if you’re interested.

I led a session on the play with students in Birmingham yesterday – good fun and seriously engaging.

Interval Drinks – welcome to the blog roll.

Been watching: and enjoying High Hopes and Before Sunrise on DVD.

Booking for: The Miniaturists at The Arcola (including a play by blogonaut Ben Yeoh) and the Herne Hill Good Friday Meeting.

Listening to: Dogtanian and The Muskehounds theme tune. Classic.

Current ring tone: Roobard and Custard theme tune. Cheers me up.

Some words that may cheer you up:

  1. Hogwilbert
  2. Nurb
  3. Terracotta
  4. Panna cotta

(note: detach the signifier from the signified before use. Important: remember where you’ve put the link for afterwards, particularly with 3 and 4 – confusion can lead to restaurant-based embarrassment and disappointing flowerpottage).

>Credulous baboon eats own foot

>It was P’s official birthday yesterday1. We left it too late to book a theatre ‘show’ so instead we went to see Michel Gondry‘s The Science of Sleep at the pictures. There are two contrasting reviews (different expectations and different frames of reference) and some interesting interviews here. It’s very different to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which he also directed. I liked Eternal Sunshine… but I feel warmer towards The Science…, though it’s a slighter affair.

Reading: The chapter in Tim Hilton’s book where he explains how Samuel Beckett took the name of Godot from the French racing cyclist Roger Godeau.

Listening to: rain on a plastic roof (Dansette bost).

1 Happy Birthday to you / Happy Birthday to you / Happy Birthday, dear P / Happy Birthday to you

>The Ruffian on the Stair

We watched The Bicycle Thieves for the first time the other night. It really hit home. At the most joyful moment of the film there’s the line “there’s a cure for everything except death”. And, at some level, you know what’s coming. And it won’t be sweet. It’s a proper February film.

Last night we trekked through the snowdrifts of the Victoria Line to The Almeida to see Frank McGuinness‘s new play There Came A Gypsy Riding. Here too the ruffian wouldn’t lie down and go away – there are no resolutions, no resurrections. A strange play that changes gear in its second half, perhaps because it won’t deliver an easy answer. There is no communing with the dead for the characters who have moved away / moved on up – it’s no longer an option.

Perhaps this is too personal a take on the play. I’ve made it sound dark and worthy, but it’s uproariously funny in places and the performances are a joy. David Eldridge writes about it in a much more measured way here.

On a lighter note (and god knows this post needs a lighter note) Eileen Atkins plays the role of Bridget. Bridget is a madwoman, a seer, a liar, a devil and a manipulator – it’s a great role and played to the hilt by Atkins. Anyway, Bridget seems like a far-fetched character, but P assures me that she’s the spit of a relative of hers.

PS Frank McGuiness wrote one of my 137 Desert Island Plays: Observe The Sons Of Ulster Marching Towards The Somme.

PPS Off to the New Writing Forum at The Royal Court tomorrow, ‘Arctic conditions’ permitting.

>Excursion to Shacklewell

>On Sunday we headed to Shacklewell and The Arcola Theatre for The Miniaturists‘ latest show (our first) curated by Stephen Sharkey (who has links to the Guardian blog’s discussion on short plays on his blog). It was a cracking evening out after a harum scarum journey, mostly spent looking for re-routed busses. There were five very different short plays. I liked the range of approaches – a real theatrical refuelling stop (?). The next show is in March and we’ll be there (if the bus runs).

We watched Abril Despedaçado (Behind The Sun) the other night on BBC4 – it’s a Walter Salles (The Motorcycle Diaries) film. The cinematography is incredible and the story is very tight. It’s set in Brazil concerns a blood feud, the sugar cane harvest, a travelling circus and a mermaid. Worth a look.


>P is teaching late so I watched Fitzcarraldo, Werner Herzog‘s take on the Raymond Gubbay story. On reflection, I may have over-emphasised the difficulties encountered in putting up the shed.

Worked on the Birmingham play. Completely uninspired so far, but there were numbers to hit so I kept ploughing on. By the end of the day (i.e. 4.30pm) I was pleased to have solved a couple of technical problems and I know how to start tomorrow’s writing.

I get down on my writing very quickly nowadays. Part of me knows that early drafts will be weak and I kind of pre-judge the work (“it feels okay now, but I know that in a couple of days it will read like sh*te, therefore it must be sh*te.”). I used to rely on those days of delusion to fuel forward momentum. But they’re not available any more, so the schedule must rule. Why can’t I start with the third draft?

Builders back tomorrow.

>Tapenade Screws

>We bought a new DVD player for £30. The old one (the ‘Tesco clockwork DVD chewer’) was fine, except that it took exception to several of our discs. This was nothing to do with region 1 or region 2 – just petulance. The new machine is much more accommodating – in the last couple of days we have watched Napoleon Dynamite and The Squid and The Whale. Both films were good nights in – I can’t see what the old player had against them. We checked our shelves and we reckon we have about 20 films to catch up on. These include Bicycle Thieves, The Seventh Seal, Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, The Werner Herzog boxed set, High Hopes and many more. I bet we haven’t watched them all by next Christmas.

“You need some of those outdoor screws. You know the ones. Tapenade screws – that’s it. Not tapenade. No. It definitely begins with a ‘T’ though… Tee, Tee, Tee, Tee… Japanned Screws!” This from the same wonderful person who once confused the words rutabega and winnebago, as in “Why don’t we hire a rutabega and drive around America in it?”. It’s just a pity they’re not a Hollywood agent – “Good news, Mr Cruise, I’ve negotiated the biggest rutabega on the lot for you…”

Two out of three plumbers have been. Still waiting for the quotes to come in. Neither of those who turned up wanted to do the full job – “you need someone special for that bit”…