Saturday, October 28, 2006

I do like to be beside the seaside - latest Happiness Experiment entry

Seeing Tommy Boy (our cool cat) again after so long

Seeing the sea again - from up by Brighton race course

Hunting in Asda to the tunes of 24 Hour Party People (esp Happy Mondays)

N + D forming a SWAT squad to keep me out of record and book shops (Brighton) - fabulous fraternal sense of humour

Watching 'From Russia with Love: with D snuggled up in bed

Walking along the multicoloured beach huts in Hove

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Black Book

Went to a screening of 'Zwartboek' (Black Book) attended by the director Paul Verhoeven (Robocop, Totall Recall, Basic Instinct). It is his first film made in Holland for two decades, since he took up residence in LA.

So it is an engaging blend of European film and American movie. It combines the strong narrative drive of the former, complete with car chases and tense thriller moments, with the complex characterisation of the latter and precise sense of historical moment.

Verhoeven has that easy Dutch charm and (to my ears) irresistable accent (I think of my old friend Mirjam saying "lecker") and speaks interestingly about gradually losing the passion in his projects, hence this return to Europe for a passion project, seemingly some 20 years in the gestation. He has applied the storytelling backbone and action forms of Hollywood to a complex political and historical subject with many shades of grey.

The lead actress, Carice van Houten, a theatre performer well known in the Netherlands, is very charismatic and accomplished. Verhoeven said he knew she had the lead role, Ellis, which demands being on screen for most scenes of a long movie, within 20 minutes of the casting session, the kind of casting he could never have done with a Hollywood name (they deem any such thing an insupportable insult). He carried on casting for a couple of days but knew he had his woman.

The emotional core of the film is subtly contained in the bedroom scenes, indeed in the bed, of Ellis, the undercover Jewish resistance member, and Muntze, the Nazi commander. A strange love develops between them which is entirely convincing. It is here that the emotional experience is focused - more than the slaughter of betrayed Jews and even the unwarranted humiliation of an innocent 'collaborator'.

It would be good to see more European fiilms with the high entertainment values of this thoroughly enjoyable and thought-provoking work.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Portraits - Today's Happiness Experiment entry

Tarting up my My Space and connecting to a few select folk like Rockabilly Camilla

Listening to Adie Dunbar and the Jonahs' Two Brothers, especially When Will I Love You (And the child inside keeps on yearning, yearning, yearning)

Haircut afternoons with a son or two - picnic on steps of Grand Lodge, Covent Garden; buying comics and stuff in Forbidden Planet; coffee for me, crisps for them; a plectrum for D (in Denmark Street), a book for me (from Fopp, although the loving look was in the window of Foyles); performers around Covent Garden, wandering around Soho; autumn sunlight down Shaftesbury Avenue...

Laughing at the table with N+D

David Hockney's portraits, esp the one of his mum and dad

JRT's QC do at the National Portrait Gallery - catching up with blasts from the past - memories of Saturday morning routines: Space Invaders, Foyles, Forbidden Planet, NPG

Being suited and booted

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Ship Shape and Bristol Fashion

Reading, writing and wandering in Highgate Woods

A long Sunday lunch (with Seth, Annie and Family)

Playing vinyl

Celebrating with my second oldest friend - Paul Epstein QC - in the Seaman's Hall, Somerset House

Looking cool in my John Pearse jacket

Handing out certificates to the deserving young winners of the Lost Generation schools competition from Chadwell Heath school, Romford - a far cry from the Romford skins who introduced me to the delights of AC/DC (Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap) on board the SS Uganda (Mungo Park dorm) en route to the Baltic

Visiting Aardman Animation with N in Bristol, the crafted models on display in glass cases

Having tea with Phillip Hodson at Louis' in Hampstead

Walking home in the evening with N from Hampstead via my birthplace at Whitestone Pond

Sunday, October 15, 2006

What's music for?

In today's Observer music mag Jarvis Cocker of Pulp poses the question: What is music for? Before I read his answer, here's mine:
Community and connection
Getting in touch with Nature
Energising ouselves
Communicating a vision of the world
Linking to the past
Passing on the human musical spark (which circles the world)
Capturing a feeling
Capturing an idea
Binding two people through dancing
Raising us to our higher nature
Smashing the mundane
Bringing tranquility

Jarvis adds:
His list is of what music can be for. Mine is what it is for.

So it looks like we basically agree on:

Two Brothers - yesterday's Happiness Experiment entry

Hanging out with N post-karate - the great reports from his sensei, book-browsing, etc.

Hooking up with Adie Dunbar after his performance in Exiles and hearing hiw new LP Two Brothers in the car home

Playing boomerang with D in Cherry Tree Woods


Went to see James Joyce's one and only play 'Exiles' last night at the National Theatre (Cottosloe). Although I was not in the mood for theatre and feeling quite resistant at the outset, it proved to be very engaging. It's also very illuminating if you're interested in 'Ulysses'. Now, I'm a 'Ulysses' lover rather than a Joyce fan, it's my favourite book in the world. The themes of betrayal in marriage, freedom in love, writer's complex relationships with their lovers, even Ireland's future in Europe, are all common to both works. And the closing lines from the mouth of the key female protagonist reflecting on the blooming of love in youth link the two works.

The role of Robert Hand, the journalist counter-part to the literary writer, was played really well by our old friend Adie Dunbar. We hooked up with him after the performance in the green room. Crossed an actor from Theatre de Complicite going in. Had a chat with Peter MacDonald who played Richard Rowan and a brief brush with Dervla Kirwan (of Ballykissangel) who was Bertha, the Molly Bloom-related character.

Adie was shagged from two performances in the day so drove him home, listening to his first LP 'Two Brothers' - he's also a fine singer, having performed, for example, with Brian Kennedy, and memorably at Sherry and John Keegan's wedding (Wild Mountain Thyme). The soft, swirling celtic country vibe provided a fine soundtrack to nocturnal London on a lively Saturday.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Yummy - recent Happiness Experiment entries

Lunch with Kate Vogel, Mistress of 3 Minute Wonders

A top-deck bus ride from Lords to Finchley Central in the sunshine

Reading Tintin with D - Red Rackham's Treasure

Spending the sunny autumn afternoon with D - walking back from school, hanging out in the park, eating a Thai out back at Nahling, walking home via Cherry Tree Woods

Having lunch with my sister-in-law Jenny in Kentish Town after visiting her at October Films

A productive visit to Wall to Wall - working with Alex Graham and Collette Flight on Empire's Children and Lucy Ferguson on Not Forgotten - Shot at Dawn - rounded the day off watching Lucy's Who Do You Think You Are featuring the yummy Nigella Lawson


Was at Wall to Wall Productions in Kentish Town earlier today to meet Lucy Carter (producer of Who Do You Think You Are?), Colleen Flight (producer of the forthcoming Empire's Children) and Alex Graham (MD/Exec Producer).

Just watched Who Do You Think You Are featuring Nigella Lawson (Lucy gave me the DVD), a thoroughly entertaining programme with a core of real emotion. I found myself with tears in my eyes during a sequence about the liberation of Belsen. Nigella's grand-father had signed up within about two weeks of the invasion of Poland as a catering manager in the army due to his background running the Lyons tea shop empire. It looks like he may well have been at Belsen, the first camp liberated by the British, to advise of bringing in food to the starving survivors.

Back on the light side, I've never really watched Nigella on tv before (not really one for cookery shows) - she's got a very attractive screen personality, detached yet warm and intellectually engaged, and very much typifies the kind of woman that pumps my nads and which said nads are genetically programmed to respond to. Lucky for Charles Saachi I've a beautiful wife of my own.

Her trip to Amsterdam reminds me of my family's own connection with the city. My grandfather Ian's family came to England from Amsterdam (likewise it was the last stop before England for Nigella) and I'm delighted and proud to have that fabulous city as part of my history.

Friday, October 13, 2006


D (age 6) asked me today:

How did God get born, cos nobody was there?

He was the first one, but who was the second?

N grappled with much the same thoughts when he was 4, plus issues of evil and original sin: Why did God make learning disabilities? And mosquitoes?

It's amazing how early they pull out the key theological and existential questions.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Black as yer boots - Today's Happiness Experiment entry

Hearing 'Baby Please Don't Go' over breakfast in Them's hometown, Belfast

Phone chat with Paul Epstein QC about broken arms

Watching David Lachapelle's 'Clowns in the Hood' especially the krumping scenes - part of a special Black History Month Channel 4 archive screening curated by Inge Blackman of black music on tv

Belfast shennanigans - latest Happiness Experiment entries

Breakfast chat with James Estill

Lunch chat with Axel Chaldecott, fellow URM8 trustee

Kalooki Nights

Watching MC Kat of Cookstown,
Northern Ireland live at an IDEASFACTORY Northern Ireland showcasing event at the Black Box, Belfast

Meeting Kev Largey, designer/graffitist at the Black Box and having having a chat over Guinness at the Spaniard

Having a wander along the Lagan (taking pix for the Big Art Mob)

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Exotic East - this weekend's Happiness Experiment entries

Visiting my grandfather Nat's old JimCo factory on Commercial Street, E1 - now Allsaints fashion house - bought a London Calling belt by way of souvenir

Collecting my art deco mechanical digital watch from Frosts of Clerkenwell, now relocated to Blackstock Road, Highbury

Hanging out in Buddabags - the boyz bouncing on the squishy seats, U chatting to the Dubliner co-owner and me picking up JoJo the illuminated pink ape (to go with the pink velvet Jesus)

A serene canal trip with D and Danny from Stoke Bruerne in the low autumn sun

Hanging out with D and Danny by the lock watching the world drift by - including a canal pirate complete with jolly roger, grog (four X) and dangling crucifix earring

Listening to music with D on the drive home including Max Romeo, The Cranberries, The Clash, Cornershop - D compiled the most sophisticated Desert Island Discs ever for a 6 year old earlier in the day

Desert Island Discs Revisited

Can't wait a week...

1* Miles Davis - Flamenco Sketches
2 John Coltrane - A Love Supreme part 1
3 Marvin Gaye - Mercy Mercy Me
4 Satie - Gymnopedie
5 Bruce Springsteen - Into the Fire
6 Siouxsie + the Banshees - Icon
7 Sinead O'Connor - On Raglan Road
8 Frank Sinatra - One for my Baby

Desert Island Discs

Who can you resist the game? The best radio format ever. And something you can revisit as you go through life as a yardstick of your tastes and pleasures.

Just listening to actress Jane Horrocks (as featured in Jim Cartwright's wonderful Road at the Royal Court) being interviewed by new presenter Kirsty Young (so good to see the back of unsympathetic Sue Lawley) with a good eclectic choice including Joy Division's Transmission and Bjork's I Miss You.

1* Miles Davis - Flamenco Sketches
2 John Coltrane - A Love Supreme part 1
3 Marvin Gaye - Mercy Mercy Me (?)
4 Curtis Mayfield - Move On Up
5 The Clash - White Man in Hammersmith Palais
6 Bill Evans - Love theme from Spartacus
7 Bjork - Hyperballad
8 The Doors - The End
Book: Ulysses - James Joyce
Luxury: Mouth organ (with teach-yourself disc and book)

But what about Frank Sinatra? and Satie's Gymnopedie? I'll just have to do it all over again next week...

And here's young D's first stab at it (age 6):
1 Madness - Embarrassment
2 Bruce Spingsteen - Atlantic City
3 The Cranberries - Ode to my Family
4 Cornershop - Brimful of asha
5 Max Romeo - I Chase the Devil
6 Trumpton - Windy Miller song
7 The Jam - Batman theme
8 AC/DC - It's a long way to the top
Book: Claris Bean/My Uncle is a Hunkle
Luxury: My house

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Death of a President

Went to a screening a couple of days ago of 'Death of a President', the new FilmFour/More4 production which has caused so much fuss in the good ol' US of A. Peter Dale, head of More 4 attended along with the commissioner.

It's an original and imaginative way to explore current affairs and the political landscape in the US and beyond. Set just into the future, President Bush gets assasinated on 17th October 2006, it charts the build up a la JFK with a pretty sympathetic portrait of George W highlighting his affability and charm. Then in the wake of a grassy knoll-type shooting outside a hotel in Chicago, it shows the US domestic fall-out of the assasination, drama-doc style with excellent performances by US theatrical actors as forensic scientists, suspects, presidential aids, etc.

It has the genuine emotion in it essential to engaging drama - you don't feel good watching Bush's wife going in to the hospital or seeing him on the operating table, and you believe the welling eyes of his speech-writer. Less believable is the botched FBI investigation where a prime suspect is overlooked in the hysterical pressure of having to tie-up the case quickly. The interweaving of news footage, security footage, familiar TV documentary forms and recreations of all of the above is masterful, from the team who brought The Day Britain Stood Still (?) to BBC TV.

The film highlights the dangers of the Patriot Act route and the seething resentment growing around Iraq. What's best about it is that it represents a bold new way of exploring politics, history and current affairs using imagination, speculation and entertainment. I said to Peter at the end that we should be proud that the questions have been asked from this side of the water by a daring, creative Public Service broadcaster. It would never come out of the good ol' US of A.

Friday, October 06, 2006

It was 20 years ago today - Today's Happiness Experiment entry

Standing at the end of the pier by the OXO tower with fabulous dusk views along the Thames

Being taken on a surprise outting by U for our 20th anniversary (of our first meeting at Jonathan Rutherford Best's birthday party in Portobello) - first a cocktail on the 8th floor of the OXO (where U gave me my ring in the top O in 1982) then dinner in the Tate overlooking the river

Lunch with Sarah McVittie of 82ASK

Touching - Latest Happiness Experiment entries

Huge hugs from the enfants terribles on arriving home by chance at the same time as them in the dark of the drawing in evenings

A (treadmill) jog in the afternoon

Getting Germ 2 up+running

Receiving the Bernard touch

Lunchtime caff chat with Oli Barrett linking things up

Reading Kalooki Nights

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Raw Cuts

This evening did a speech at the Electric Cinema, Portobello, at the launch of Raw Cuts, a series of short films on the theme of Vulnerability, a collaboration between Channel 4's IDEASFACTORY and the NSPCC.

Followed the advice of my friend who worked on Gordon Brown's speech last week at the Labour Party conference in Manchester - used personal stories to get across my points. In this case I recalled my encounter with the Hardest Man in the World at the exit of Camden Town tube on the way to see The Clash at the Electric Ballroom - I used it to reflect on the combination of fear and exhiliration one feels as a 15 year old.

Had a chat with Nick Holt, star of About a Boy and The Weather Man, as well as lead in the forthcoming, brilliant Skins - an E4 drama series set among the young hip folk of Bristol. Made a bit of a faux pas, guessing he was playing the hapless Sid whereas he was actually the ubercool Tony. Nick is a generous supporter of NSPCC.

Hooked up with my old friend John Grounds, Director of Communications for NSPCC and fellow lover of reggae 45s. When he came off the stage after his speech another fella seemlessly took to it to speak about the dangers of drugs, his long history of smack and coke abuse, and hid time inside. Only thing was no-one knew who he was. It took a while for the general realisation to kick in that he was not in fact on the programme for the screenings. Still, nothing like a bit of spontaneity and openess to spice things up.

Meeting some of the parents of the Raw Cuts winners on my way out, they were really delighted by the opportunity and outcomes, it really makes all the work around IDEASFACTORY worthwhile. As the Big Man said, freedom is to be found in service.

Electric moments - Today's Happiness Experiment entry

The low autumn sun on the early morning station platform at East Finchley

Lunch at the Canteen, Arnold Circus E2 with Paul Bennun, Somethin' Else - set in the courtyard of an old school in Old Nichol aka the Jago, once the site of Dickensian slums

Doing a speech at the Electric Cinema, Portobello, at the launch of Raw Cuts, a series of short films on the theme of Vulnerability, a collaboration between Channel 4's IDEASFACTORY and the NSPCC, led by my old friend John Grounds (who also spoke) - mentioned the Hardest Man in the World encountered outside Camden Town tube on the way to see The Clash at the Electric Ballroom

Les Sanglots Longues des Violins - Happiness Experiment entries

Seeing the round window in place - our renewed home emerging

Hearing about N holding his own against black belts

A quiet moment in Cyprus Avenue - memories of Pop with the next generation waiting patiently in the car

A late afternoon autumn walk through Highgate and around Waterlow Park - looking for conkers, that perfect burnished brown

Seeing Tommy Boy again after weeks - a very special cat with a mysterious past

Watching Walking the Line - esp the scene when Johnny Cash plays Folson Prison Blues to Sam Phillips in the Sun studios - then singing along in the car (I shot a man in Reno)

Taking N + D to experience Fritz Lang's Metropolis accompanied by a full cinema orchestra (Babelsburg Film Orcestra of Brandenburg, the last such orchestra in Western Europe) - envisaging from 1926 a future including video phones (just got my first one exactly 80 years later) and city fly-overs, all within an elegant Art Deco framework

An early evening supper with N + D in Highgate village

Running an extra 3 minutes at 11 mph - extra energy through exercise

Monday, October 02, 2006


I really love this (second) picture in todays’ Sun from this week’s Ryder Cup in Ireland - it’s not that often in celebrity life that you see genuine emotion and warmth. Darren Clarke and Tiger Woods are golf circuit friends and this is the moment Clarke wins the Ryder Cup - the top picture is the moment they first meet following the death from breast cancer of Clarke’s wife, Heather.

I made a 4-minute documentary recently on Channel 4’s FourDocs exploring the notion of human warmth, community and connection called Spark.