Treading the boards

I’m off to the theatre tonight to see The Ladykillers at Hull New Theatre. It has been adapted by Graham Linehan – writer of Father Ted & The IT Crowd, known also as @Glinner on twitter. Going to the theatre is something I have only ever done extremely rarely and I’m looking forward to it.

The most recent theatre experiences I’ve had have been the last 2 pantomimes at the New Theatre with my son. I can say now & forever more that I have seen The Chuckle Brothers live, in the flesh, on stage. To give them their due though, I am not a fan of panto at all, but I thought they were good at what they do. The kids loved it and I even smiled a couple of times too.

Before that would have been about a dozen years ago when I went to see the London West End institution, Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap. I don’t remember a lot about it. It remains notable because it has been running in the West End since 1952, in fact the only thing I remember being impressed by was that Richard Attenborough had once been in it – in 1952! It wasn’t electrifying.

I remember going to see a production of Death Of A Salesman with school. I enjoyed reading that play & I enjoyed reading that book but the two things I remember about that day were that there was some cheap wine at the back of the bus, maybe in the theatre too, although I honestly can’t remember if I had any – most likely I didn’t. The second thing I remember was the lead actor, Timothy West, berated the audience from the stage afterwards for coughing & sneezing so much. An audience made up predominantly of school children. In the middle of a flu epidemic. I do remember it feeling quite odd that a man off the telly was so cross with us all, odd as well absolutely hilarious. And so a lifelong love of the stage was born. Hence this is my second play in 20 years.

The only other stage production I remember going to, other than a couple of other forgettable pantos, was a live performance of the sitcom, Allo Allo. Yes, I can add Allo Allo to the pantheon of greats I have seen live alongside The Chuckle Brothers. I liked Allo Allo when I was a kid. It goes without saying I’m not such a fan now and I remember nothing about the stage show now but I’d hazard a guess the catchphrases were all bludgeoned to death and it was probably awful. However I still remember that night fondly because I went with my Granda Steele, we never did much like that, he bought me a cheeseburger from Wimpy afterwards. I also remember him & uncle James taking me to see Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan at the cinema. It’s funny what events stay in your memory. They also told me there was a street in Glasgow made entirely of chocolate but I digress….

Anyway, off to The Ladykillers tonight. I’ve never watched the original film. I got through 15 minutes of the Coen Brothers’ remake before being so irritated by everything about it that I turned it off. I’d like to think I’ll stay until the end tonight. I might write something about it tomorrow, might not, probably won’t.

Area 413 Row J Seat 3

Tonight Celtic take on Juventus in the Champions League. Sadly, I won’t be there. Even worse, my train doesn’t get back from London until 8 so I’m likely to miss most of the 1st half – I am praying for a good signal to watch on my phone until I get home.

Not being at Celtic Park is something I’ve gotten used to. After a dozen years as a season ticket holder I moved to Hull in 2006 & gave up my seat (the one named in the mildly cryptic title of this blog). The truth is it hasn’t been hard to get used to. I certainly don’t miss freezing my arse off on a Wednesday night in December watching a mediocre match against Dunfermline or whoever. In fact I had gotten tired of sitting through so many humdrum games. I have a theory that like so many of the older generation of fans who had been spoiled by Jock Stein & the Lisbon Lions (forever cursed to utter “aye, it’s good but it’s not as good as…..”), I was spoiled by the Martin O’Neill & Henrik Larsson era. For me, after Henrik everything got a little grey.

There are a few things I do miss. I miss nights like tonight, the European nights. Fittingly my favourite European match that I went to was also against Juventus, that amazing 4-3 victory, Lubo Moravcik was magnificent. I saw a few famous victories in Europe, wins against Barcelona & Lyon stick out but thinking back, perversely given Celtic’s record, a lot of the best results were away from home – Ajax, Liverpool, Blackburn, Boavista – in fact all of the best moments of the Uefa Cup run took place on the road & on my TV. I’ve watched us beat Man Utd, Milan & Barcelona (again) on TV. So perhaps it is a good omen that I’ll be at home tonight.

The other thing I’ll miss is friends. I certainly miss the people of area 413. I bought my season ticket alone in 1994. Just for me. I remember being nervous as an 18 year old walking up the stairs (those thousands of bloody depressing concrete stairs – I don’t miss them!) for the first time to look for my seat. As I spied where my seat was I noticed 3 guys – all at least a good 20 years older than me – stood around it. The milliseconds of nerves dissolved as I got there & they welcomed me like a long lost friend. The three of them had all bought their tickets separately & had just met a few minutes before. I sat beside, occasionally stood beside & jumped up & down hugging with John, Paul & Frank for the next 12 years. They, and the others around us, made the humdrum matches worthwhile. It means the world to me that John, a Lisbon veteran, still sends a birthday card for my son’s birthday & a Xmas card every year. I’ve just sent him a text now wishing him the best for the match tonight – he’s promised to give me a wave on the telly.

So I’m looking forward to the match tonight. I always feel the same way about these games – win, lose or draw I just want my beloved Celts to give a good account of themselves. It’s the occasional dreadful performance that kills me – I remember slumping over the bar in Mcchuills distraught when we got humped by Shakhtar in Donestk. We are on live TV across the UK tonight, I want to be proud of my team. Please not tonight.

I’m too old to wear football tops any more but with the proverbial four leaf clover on my breast & the green & white upon my chest there is only one thing left to say – Come On You Bhoys In Green.

17 years later

When I was at school, my ambition was to become a music journalist. I bought NME & Melody Maker religiously plus just about every monthly music magazine going at the time. I loved writing. I had numerous notebooks, most likely knocked off school books if memory serves. Those notebooks are long gone but I think it is safe to assume they were bursting at the seams with teen angst and as a Smiths fan then, and a Smiths fan now, I know there was ill-advised poetry in there (bloody awful poetry). I never did realise my ambition.

I got as far as writing some singles reviews & a couple of articles for the Glasgow University student newspaper before dropping out of university into a life of retailing. I could have kept writing but I fell out of love with it for a few reasons.

Firstly, I think I had a moment of clarity & self-awareness. I realised almost all of what I was writing was appalling rubbish. Last night I had a search through the digital archives of the Glasgow University Guardian and tracked down the bits & pieces I had written in 1996 which confirms that fact. I cringed through all of it. One piece I wrote about Eric Cantona was reasonably passable though – just. Around that time I also came to be of the opinion that the writers I found most interesting were writers that were older, that had lived life a bit & had some tangible life experience to draw on. I felt I had nothing to say that was worth writing & neither did anyone else my age. I suppose I still feel a bit like that. In the same way that I am not a great fan of career politicians who go straight from university into standing to be an MP – I think the job of effectively representing people in parliament requires real life experience like a proper paid job for a start, how can you fully understand something you have never experienced. The best writing requires an understanding of life which comes from experience although I would qualify that by saying everyone has a voice that deserves to be heard – I just might not personally be listening.

Secondly, I came to despise almost all writing on music. I still enjoy biographies of interesting musicians such as Shakey by Jimmy McDonough on Neil Young, Bob Dylan’s Chronicles & Morrissey & Marr: The Severed Alliance by Johnny Rogan. I also enjoy reading interviews with those same interesting musicians but only those interviews that are genuinely about the subject and not the interviewer. I hate music reviews – “this sounds like this”, “that sounds like that”, “this sounds like that……on drugs”, blah, blah, blah. I came to hate music journalism around the same time I came to hate music snobbery. I’ve worked in a record shop for over 16 years – I am an expert on music snobbery. I state this unarguable fact – all music is subjective, there is no good music, there is no bad music. There is only like & dislike. Ultimately music is to be listened to, it is not for writing about.

I’m not sure I wrote anything for about 10 years. In the back of my head I have always been thinking about it. I think of myself as someone who wants to write. I enjoy the function of writing. I like putting words together to form sentences. Around 6 years ago I wrote a few blog-type things on the lost social networking colony of MySpace – I have yet to track these down to re-read them & self-flagellate myself. After that, nothing much. I set up a blog page and wrote a few short film reviews a couple of years ago. I have started writing some sort of blog at least a dozen times since then and never got past the first paragraph before beating myself around the head with a blunt object for being so arrogant as to think I have something of any interest to say.

However, someone wise has recently said to me that I shouldn’t think about writing for anyone else. I should write for myself. So I am. I’m 36 years old now. I think I’ve lived a bit. I’ve worked in a full time job for 17 years. I’ve lived through births, deaths & marriages (not my own). I’m equal parts optimistic, cynical, idealistic & jaded. I think I’ve lived enough to earn the right to pay attention to my own point of view.
I’ve thought about picking a theme to write about but can’t settle on one so I’m just going to write about whatever interests me enough on any given day. Perhaps a theme will emerge at some point, perhaps not. At this point in time it feels nice to have gotten to the end of this. I have written something.