It’s Saturday – the day of Saturn. This has always been my favourite day of the week. The name relates to saturnalia, an occasion of wild revelry & general merrymaking & in fact was the Roman predecessor of Christmas. As a teen I used to kick off my Saturdays with the Iggy Pop song Some Weird Sin: Things get too straight / I can’t bear it / I feel stuck / Stuck on a pin. But now that I listen to it again, it has a duelling guitar riff which I find a bit … uncomfortable. Bowie’s fault I expect. Excellent cowbell action though.
As anyone sensible knows, Saturday night is party night! What’s on the agenda here at Wooda? A shank of spit-roast Quorn drizzled with Gary’s zingy Cointreau marmalade, followed by line-dancing with tonight’s special guests, Cal the Cob, Morgan the mule & Wewak the sheep. Then compulsory tears before drunken Irishman time.
(Max told me an amazing story yesterday of how Wewak survived a fall from the 40 foot high cliff that the farmhouse backs onto. The plucky lassie was found wedged between the cliff face & the building, immobile, flat on her back, legs in the air, though apparently unscathed).
I was talking of Irish, of dancing, of drunks, so I was. I’ve promised Deirdre Nelson that I’ll learn to tap dance while I’m down here. You see my mum Ruth gave me a Teach Yourself Tap DVD, with taps included. Plus I am learning how to play the piano in a less free-form way, by following Micheal Aaron’s Adult Piano Course (thanks Lucy B). We’ll have to see if there’s any time left to edit the feature.
I set about this post with a view to highlighting the importance of chance connections in my life / work & here’s a case in point. I was just deviating into how my next favourite day is Thursday, thanks entirely to a happy fluke of TV scheduling back in the ’70’s that placed Top of the Pops & The Bionic Man in quick succession (albeit on different channels).
As I typed the word Bionic, a sound effect from that very same show pops up on a mix CD that I received from Nick this morning. It was a strange moment, but I guess that’s what marks Nick out as a truly great, reassuringly predictable friend. The CD’s are brilliant (thanks Nick & Kes) & they bring much welcome relief. For some reason I had only packed whimsical, folksy stuff & when all’s said & done, loud guitars keep you awake.
Pete Townsend is an alarm clock: discuss.
Connections, yes. I received an email from my aunt Gill, who has been involved in the development of Follow The Master from the outset, generously providing me with bits & bobs of memorabilia relating to Grandpa Eric (including the bowler hat & other garments) & more importantly, encouraging me to go ahead & make the film. Now here’s an interesting thing she wrote:
‘It’s really strange that you should be in Crackington Haven because we went there with Eric & sat on a bench above the beach where he told us about holidays he had there. I think he went there with his parents & then later on with a girlfriend (pre Grandma Joan). I will check the tapes to see if he refers to it! ‘ (Gill recorded several audio tapes with Eric before his death).
‘One thing that you might like to include (perhaps as a voiceover?) is something about his enjoyment of list making. I have lists of: all the dogs he ever had (names & dates); plane journeys made (airline names & dates); all the cars he owned (makes & dates).’
‘The info about Crackington Haven is lovely … in fact I went for a walk with Nick up to the cliff that towers over the bay & I did notice a bench … it’s in the perfect place for when your legs are just starting to build up lactic acid. It is not an exaggeration to say that I felt Eric’s presence in that moment & place, without knowing of his connection to Crackington Haven. So it all fits perfectly, which is just so.’
‘It seems as if Eric will appear in the film in oblique ways, perhaps as voice overs for various animals (Johnny Morris style), as ‘visions’ in Tippy’s dreamtime, possibly through letters he sent to me, or through some of the items you kindly sent. This doesn’t mean he’s ‘sidelined’. In fact what I realised looking back at the footage is that basically I sort of ‘am’ him in many ways, living proof, up there on the screen.’
‘Your idea / notion about the lists is genius. It sums him up, quite literally. I was trying to find a way of giving the audience a sense of his (let’s face it, tedious) attention to detail without actually having to put them through a real-time 90 minute car journey from Hassocks to Maidstone – which I have on video tape if you’re interested.’ (That’ll be the art-house version – Ed.)
‘When I was looking through that particular footage with Nick I eventually had to leave the studio because it became too claustrophobic. Eric never would let me open the rear windows of the dog-filled car to let air in – not even on a birthday trip to The Bluebell Railway.’
Further connections are unearthed as I write. It turns out Johnny Morris was Vice President of The Bluebell Railway – for 30 years. He was also instrumental in establishing children’s storytelling on television through the show Playbox, which was a forerunner of Jackanory, episodes of which Gill was later commissioned to create illustrations for.
Late one night many many years ago a pal of mine Simon Ounsworth & I decided to write fan letters to minor British celebrities called John. I can’t remember why . ‘Finely honed situationist instincts’ sounds good but I suspect we were probably just bored. I wrote to John Noakes from Blue Peter & Simon wrote to Johnny Morris. I never heard a peep, but Simon got sent information about a fund raising campaign for Bristol Zoo.Another time we wrote a spoof letter ‘from a baker’ to Simon Groom (also Blue Peter) whilst he was guesting as a DJ on early morning BBC Radio 2. To our glee the letter was later featured on Blue Peter, highlighted on screen: ‘Dear Simon. I am a baker. I listen to your show as the sun, & the bread, rise …’
To our amazement we were sent a signed photo of Simon along with his dog Goldie. I would like to add that I no longer write to Blue Peter presenters or minor British celebrities called John.
Although that’s not strictly accurate. I did later send a postcard to a band from Leeds called The Three Johns when it looked like I might be heading that way for university: ‘Dear Johns. I have applied to study art at Leeds. I shall hide under your bed & grab your ankles when you get up in the morning. Watch out. Matt.’
I rather like the idea that The Three Johns might all share a single bed. And the little one said … rock ‘n’ roll ‘n’ over ‘n’ out.