I am not sure I am made for capital cities, especially capital cities that splutter and gasp, and so I am not made for London. (actually, I have just remembered that I am made for New York, Paris and Edinburgh, so that first sentence isn’t true, sorry) (oops, New York isn’t a capital city)
I feel the pins and needles in my left hand as soon as I return from a few days in other towns. With little sleep to woo my mood, I find myself faced with ticket machines that don’t dispense the tickets you require, toilet queues like the DSS in 1982, and people who have been stunned into immobility who seemingly swell to ensure no pathway is possible. It is the siege against getting anywhere or anything done.
The ticket queues, a tapeworm of aggression and stupidity, lengthen with each nincompoopish question at “position number 8”. There should be two lines – “I know what i want and I know how to ask for it” and “this is all new to me, do you mind if I enquire who built the line to Clacton and whether I get half price tickets if I have a cold”.
(I pause at Stratford to try to hoist my luggage on a rack as the carriage fills, succeeding on spilling coffee on myself as I attempt manouevres like a witless mime with cramped elbows. No one sits next to me, they would rather stand than sit next to this drink stained, crumbling artifice of human evolution).
I do not despise all of London, it is only if I have to use it and expect it to function that the little veins pop. I enjoyed it on Friday when I took my dad to see a Dennis Potter double bill at the BFI.
(damn, I have now spilt flapjack all over the keyboard. I type flapjack, really it just seems to be a loose collection of oats, I fear someone on the flapjack line forgot to pour the syrup in)
The two plays were Potter’s view of English cold war traitors. Traitor, with a superlative central performance by John LeMesurier, and Blade on the Feather, a feature length flick of pudding and custard obsessions, lawn tennis and assassination. Before the screening, Potter’s longtime producer, Kenith Trodd, talked of his work and read an excerpt from Potter on Potter. Potter considered the English upper classes the least English of all people, the England they lusted for was the England they owned, once others started to get their mitts on the land, he believed they would happily embrace fascists or communists due to a mixture of spite and avarice. Archive screenings are a fine place to feel younger, as the audience has an average age of 72. The BFI cafe by the box office is far too hopefully cool for its audience. The chairs at just the right height to make use of older, or newly installed, knee joints hard to operate, and the lighting at that ghostly dimness that creates the worry that it is not the wattage but your own ocular degeneration that is making that biography of Denholm Elliott tricky to read. In his introduction, Kenith Trodd told us that he had approached the head of BBC1 about screening some Potter for the 20th anniversary of his death, but he was informed that BBC1 don’t do nostalgia. Obviously they make new nostalgia such as Call the Midwife or Cash in the Attic, but they don’t want musty old nostalgia.
A pity, as so much of Dennis Potter’s work demonstrates the dramatic and artistic possibilities of television. Perhaps that’s why it should remain off air, for fear that it will embarrass us all by reminding us of what sort of thing was allowable in the mainstream a few decades ago. I suppose that means no Shakespeare, Austen, Brontes or Wodehouse either, all a bit too nostalgic that old writing.
I am off to Southend, Salford, a few London gigs and then a run of a new Edinburgh show I am currently panicking about. all that and Autumn tour dates are HERE