Saturday, 30 August 2008

Boast of the Day

I don’t have a pussycat asleep on my bed these days (soon, maybe), but today I have the next best thing: a pile of books with my name on the cover (under the title).

The book I spent so many months translating last year is coming out in France, on 11 September Рas part of the Rentr̩e litt̩raire.

Guess how I’m feeling today!

Wednesday, 27 August 2008


Busy today so just time to slap people who think BUYER TO COLLECT means SELLER TO DELIVER.

*Read The Bl**dy Description!

Update: Actually, as I was writing the above, the guy I was slapping turned up, and turned out to be a really charming person. Just needed to be told ‘no’. Very unusual man, that one.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Phew !

Some people practise extreme sports to add thrills to their boring lives. Me, I don’t have to: I have cancer scares.

At the end of June, I discovered a brownish spot on my back that I didn’t remember ever seeing before. I went to my GP straight away (years ago, I would have worried for weeks before consulting a doctor, but not these days) and got the usual mixed message: ‘It’s a mole; it’s nothing, but you could have it removed. Shall I arrange it for you?’ Which begged the question: if it’s nothing, why the rush? Still, I came out of the surgery half reassured that I could leave it alone if I wanted to.

I soon realized I didn’t want to, though, so I tried to arrange to have the nasty-looking thing cut out at the Cromwell Hospital (home from home, as it were). It wasn’t easy: because of the holidays and because most of the dermatologists there are women with kiddies, the earliest appointment I could get – with someone I had already seen for something else last year – was for last Wednesday, i.e. over six weeks later. As it happens, I had to visit my GP again in the meantime and, although she said that of course it could wait until then, she intimated that removing the mole was not an option but a necessity. That’s when I got really scared and considered rushing to the Hammersmith Hospital’s walk-in skin clinic, but someone I know had a mole removed there and she said they made her feel ‘like a piece of meat’. I decided to wait and use the time to accustom myself to the idea of hearing the dreaded words – ‘You have cancer’ – for the third time.

Anyway, I have a small – healing – wound in my back, but earlier today I was told that what I had wasn’t even a mole, it was a benign lesion (seborrheic keratosis). Those things never turn cancerous, but are apparently very difficult to distinguish from melanomas. No kidding!

Now, once more, I have to learn to live again and do all the things I promised myself I would do if I was all right.

Slapping stupid skin!

Friday, 8 August 2008

Drat, I could have made a killing!

A few months ago, I bought two pairs of tickets for Leonard Cohen at the O2 on 17 July (see why here). A couple of weeks before the show, I managed to sell the extra pair on eBay for a few pounds (no, really, only a few pounds) more than its face value. Before the man announced he was coming back on 13 November, and now also the following night (if that concert is sold out too, he will have filled 60,000 seats in London – not bad for an old guy of 74, is it?), my tickets were something very precious and some people did buy seats for hundreds of pounds on eBay. But I’m not a ticket tout, I wasn’t trying to make a profit, I just wanted to get my money back. The few extra pounds certainly didn’t cover the hassle and time spent trying to get those precious tickets. Still, someone bought them and I was very happy.

Forget Leonard, though, it’s tickets for the new RSC Hamlet with David Tennant and Patrick Stewart I should have bought seats for! I’m on the priority mailing list, I could have got tickets (for the Stratford and London runs) very early on for £40 and sold them on eBay for around £300 (that's their current price).

Problem is, I don’t watch Dr Who or Star Trek and I had no idea a whole lot of mad fans would suddenly want to sit in the theatre and watch the longest play in the Shakespearean canon. I think some of them are in for a shock and a disappointment: when it comes to supernatural beings, there is a ghost in Hamlet, but that’s about it – and there are no intergalactic creatures at all.

The RSC has ‘asked people to desist from bidding for the tickets. As part of our terms and conditions, they are not to be sold for commercial gain. The tickets are for their own use.’ However, unless eBay closes the auctions down, I can’t see how the RSC can stop people from buying and using those tickets.

People’s names are printed on the tickets, but in order for them not to be used the ushers would have to check IDs at the door; or the RSC would have to scour the auctions, draw lists of performance dates and seat numbers, and the ushers would have to check tickets against those lists every evening. I don’t see it somehow.

Forgot to say: it’s not just that I’m not a fan of those TV programmes, it’s that I don’t really like David Tennant and Patrick Stewart. The former was a terrible Antipholus of Syracuse in a dreadful production of Comedy of Errors a few years ago. He was good in a wonderfully frightening play entitled The Pillowman at the National, but, basically, I think he lacks charm – and he makes faces. As for the latter, I’ve known him – as an actor – for nearly 40 years. I’ve seen him in dozens of RSC productions: he is what you might call a ‘solid performer’, i.e. someone who’s never very bad, but rarely very good. He was pretty good as Antony in the latest RSC Antony and Cleo, and I remember him as Launce with a hilarious, gloomy dog in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, in 1970, but I can’t think of any production where one came out saying, ‘Wow, wasn’t Patrick Stewart amazing!’ Oh, and he nearly killed me once, but that’s another story...

Also, I feel a little bit Shakespeared out: I have seen all of the guy’s 37 plays ten, nay, twenty times over. Even the obscure ones (Timon of Athens, Titus Andronicus...) I’ve seen at least three times. I need a Shakespeare moratorium. The thought of seeing another production of Hamlet gave me a migraine, so I didn’t book. My loss, obviously.

Slapping the silly – and ignorant – fans who wouldn’t touch Hamlet with a barge pole if it didn’t have TV stars in it!

And the RSC for pretending to be surprised by what’s happening. Yeah, right!

Addendum (31/08/08):
The day I was nearly killed by Patrick Stewart:

I was watching a poorly attended matinee of a very bad production of Titus Andronicus, with PT in the title role, at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford. I was sitting in the front row; there were several empty seats on either side of me. In the course of a furious fight, at some point in the first half of the play, PT let go of his heavy sword (the RST craftsmen pride themselves in creating ‘authentic’ weapons), which did several somersaults in the air – watched in disbelief by me and a few hundred people – before landing vertically at the foot of the nearest seat on my left, i.e. a few centimetres from me. There was an audible gasp from the audience, as the sword remained there, swaying gently. The look of horror in the eyes of all the actors on the stage was something to behold, but they never missed a beat. I don’t think I heard much of the play after that. In the interval, PT and several of the actors rushed towards me to ask whether I was all right. They were pretty shaken up too. The sword was unstuck from the floor and everything went back to normal. The second half proceeded without any other drama – either in the auditorium, or on stage (unfortunately).