Saturday, December 30, 2006

Considering 2006

Well, my dear readers, at this time of year one's thoughts turn to the past. It is always a rewarding experience to cast one's eyes back over the past year and remember fondly some of the events and people that have coloured one's life and brought joy to one's world. Many things have happened to me this year, some pleasant, some unpleasant, but they all share one thing in common - I can remember none of them.

Looking through the entries in my electronic diary for this year, I see many nonsensical events being recounted which I know could never have happened to me, and which I am certain I did not write. It is my belief that someone, most probably a hacker, has hacked into my diary and edited my entries to confuse me and make a farce of my project to document my daily life.

No matter. This is also the time of year to look forward (to the future). I do not know what 2007 will hold for me. The world is in turmoil: War rages in Ikea, where brave British and American troops do their best to sort out the trouble caused by the British and American governments. And as I understand it, Arran continues to develop nuclear capabilities, which will surely put Scotland's west coast at grave risk. Everywhere one looks, madness can be found. I have just seen on the news that the former captain of the English cricket team, Nasser Hussain, has been hung for crimes against humanity - whatever is the world coming to? Cricket is undoubtedly the most tedious sport devised by man, but no one deserves to be executed for their involvement in the game. Certainly, for boring the nation and causing repeats of Mork and Mindy to be rescheduled in favour of cricket matches on Channel 4, some punishment is reasonable - a light birching perhaps. If execution must take place, death by firing squad would be more than adequate - there is no call to humiliate the man's memory by killing him in such a low way as this.

In order to impose some level of control in my life in this world of derangement and chaos, I have made some New Year's resolutions which I will do my best to achieve in 2007:

1) I will become famous.
2) I will make one million dollars.
3) I will invent a hover board like the ones on Back to the Future 2.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The time between Christmas and New Year.

This is the strange time between Christmas and New Year, when one celebration is over and another lurks in wait. The tree is limp and dwindling, its ignominious fate now more apparent, undisguised as it is by the flashing green lights, the tawdry artificiality of which serves only to highlight the sad pine's dying verdancy. And I'm sick of bloody mince pies.

What is more, the festive telly is of a very poor standard this year. Admittedly they have made some effort to add excitement to Deal or No Deal? by adding a £500, 000 box in honour of the birth of our Saviour, but this can only entertain for so long. And comedy sketch show Little Britain managed to spectacularly inject some new life into its now tired format by repeating the usual sketches but setting them in different countries. It was called Little Britain Abroad and was hilarious - they have lots of catchphrases that are hugely funny like 'I am a homosexual and I live in a village', 'Yes but no but yes but no but yes', 'This computer is saying no', 'Am I bothered?', 'How very dare you', '...which was nice', 'You ain't seen me, roight?', 'I don't believe you wanted to do that!', and 'They don't like it up 'em!' Great stuff!

But on the whole, I have been unimpressed by the lack of decent films. They have only showed 14 different versions of A Christmas Carol, and only 32 films concerning the figure of Santa Claus/Father Christmas - for shame! Where is your Christmas spirit, TV bosses? And they only showed the first Jaws film - no sign of Jaws 2, Jaws 3-D, or Jaws: The Revenge!

Because of the lack of appropriate viewing material, I am unsure what to do with myself. The little scottie dog from Monopoly, which I yesterday gouged out of my thigh, is bothering me. Its tiny metallic eyes seem to follow me around the room from my mantelpiece. I fear it may be sentient in some way. If I continue to feel uncomfortable, I will simply commit it to the flames - I do not want to get involved in some sort of half-baked adventure with this damn thing, which I imagine is likely if I don't keep it in check.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Disappointing Winterval

I am sorry to report that my Christmas was uninspiring and somewhat drab. Nobody visited me, I received no cards, my Christmas dinner consisted of Bernard Matthew's reconstituted turkey cold cuts and a packet of Fisherman's Friends for dessert, and I developed an ulcerous sore on my thigh sometime during the lacklustre Dr Who: Runaway Bride.

The sore was raw and sent twinges of pain racking through my body with each prod. Biting down upon a wooden spoon to help me bear the agony, I dug around in the weeping pus-filled gash with a teaspoon and eventually discovered a tiny metal effigy of a scottie dog. It was a player piece from the board game Monopoly, though how it came to become embedded in my thigh I have no idea.

I sanitized the wound with a liberal squirt of Fairy Liquid then sealed it with glue to the best of my ability. I have placed the pewter dog upon my mantel. It will make a curious conversation piece.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas Day!

Today is the most exciting day of the year. I arose at 3:30am and crept downstairs to see if Father Christmas had visited my home. I heard a rummaging and shuffling from the Living Room and gingerly I opened the door. Beside the Christmas tree was a fat little man dressed in a red, fur-lined suit. He had a broad face and a little round belly that shook when he laughed like a bowl full of pork fat. Turning around from his night's work of plucking presents from his sack, the jolly old elf grinned at me, a pipe tightly clenched in his teeth. Winking, he then offered me a frosty glass bottle of Coca Cola.

"Are you Santa Claus?" I asked. The merry fellow laughed jollily and gave a quick nod of his head in reply.

"Then you must leave my Dundee home. Brits are traditionally visited by Father Christmas, a being with roots in Pagan tradition. You are derived from the Christian figure Saint Nicholas and visit the homes of Americans and others. You are quite different from Father Christmas. I think you must have taken a wrong turn in Albuquerque."

The fat figure chuckled and replied, "Nah mate, we've become conflated, like. I have to cover the UK too now - the kids talk about Santa these days and only a few oldies mention Father Christmas, so I've had to step in. It's a bugger."

"Well, do help yourself to some salt Santa, and kindly forgive my impertinence," I said.

"That I cannot do - you are now on my naughty list," said Santa. "No presents for you little boy."

With that, he gave a quick nod and up the chimney he rose. Pah! This sort of thing wouldn't have happened under Father Christmas!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Eve

Readers, I will continue regaling you with tales of my experience as a theatre critic later, but for now I will leave off that story because this is Christmas Eve, the night where dreams come true. Children everywhere will be singing hymns and throwing tinsel in anticipation of tomorrow's splendiferous wonderment. Even now, old Father Christmas will be readying his sleigh at the North Pole and loading his sacks with presents, ensuring that a candy cane, a toy soldier, and a teddy bear protudes from the top.

Today I ventured out of doors to complete my Christmas shopping. I have already bought a selection of presents from Ebay, but still need to get a few bits and bobs and some people to give them to. I've bought a 8x10 photograph of Dame Dudi Dench which has been signed by herself and Daniel Radcliffe, who plays the new James Baldwin. This will make a good gift for a film buff. I have also bought the following: a bag of chocolate limes, rock salt, Hong Kong Fooey socks, driving gloves, and a golf ball. The limes are for old Mrs Cribbage across the road who has been housebound for the last few months. The golf ball is for Dr Anthony Gland - all doctors plays golf, you must understand. For Professor Jessica Flitey, I have earmarked the driving gloves for I know she owns a car. I have an old friend in mind who would greatly enjoy the Hong Kong Fooey novelty socks - he now works as a lecturer in Applied Computing so has little sense of how to dress tastefully.

I think I will leave out the rock salt for Father Christmas - he will doubtless be sick of the mince pies and brandy left out by well-meaning fools and begin to crave salt as a counterbalance to the cloying sweetness of such treats. For my thoughtfulness, I will surely be left an extra gift.

I have asked old Father Christmas for a candy-cane, a shiny penny, a polished red apple, a satsuma, a selection of nuts, and some golden chocolate coins. And a Nintendo Wii. I hope that I have behaved sufficiently well to warrant all my requests.

And now, to bed!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The 2nd Half at Dundee Rep Theatre

I took my seat for the 2nd half of the play after buying an overpriced faux-Cornetto from a surly usher. Excitement prickled my loins as the lights dimmed and the curtain went up. I prepared to be transported once more into the world of Sweet Burd o' Bairns, a Scots translation by Matthew Fitt of Tennessee Williamm'ss Sweet Bird of Youth. As the players took to the stage, I could sense the magic of the theatre working its spell. I immediately slipped into a deep slumber.

The sound of applause at the end of the play woke me. I apologised to the fat gentlemen next to me whose girth I had utilized as a comforting pillow in my drowsiness. I gauged by the strength of the clapping and a certain level of American-style whooping that the show had been enjoyed by many, so decided that my review should be positive.

After leaving the auditorium, I met once again with my fellow critics who were discussing the play and drinking alcohol.

"A triumph!" wept Robert Dawson Scott.
"Fandabedozee!!" squealed Thom Dibdin.
"Gadzooks, but that was confounded rot, what what?" barked Neil Cooper.
"They should have shown the castration scene in full," said Joy Watters.
"And what did you think of it all, dear?" asked Joyce McMillan, directing her question to me.

Because I had not watched any of the play, I was caught a little off-guard by this question, so decided to bluff my way through by reviewing my faux-Cornetto instead.

"While not as complex and multilayered as the original, it nevertheless resonated with a certain home-grown chilliness and the kitch gaudiness of design added to, rather than detracted from, the overall appeal. Though the balance of elements never quite works, there is much here to enjoy," I said.

"I quite agree!" declared Joyce McMillan to the crowd, before whispering to me, "Though these ones didn't have the little blob of chocolate at the foot of the cone." Here she winked.

"After confabulation, we have charitably decided that the play is to be judged decent but flawed overall," said Joyce, "If only the director had sought out our advice first, we could have happily helped to iron out some of the more glaring errors of judgement. But it was originally by a ****ing yank, so what the **** do you expect?"

Here, Neil Cooper of The Herald produced his blunderbuss once more and fired it at a member of the Front of House staff who managed to deflect the shot with a tray of fruit pastilles. A trio of dancers from the resident Scottish Dance Theatre were the only ones to be injured, but they are ten-a-penny.

As Thom Dibdin attempted to subdue Neil Cooper and Joyce McMillan yet again, I made my escape from the building. And that, dear readers, was my first experience of the world of criticism.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Joyce McMillan

[Readers, I must apologise for my lengthy absence - there is a very mundane explanation for it, which is that my electricity was cut off by the electric people because I was unable to pay their exorbitant fees and I was thus unable to make use of my computer to update my diary. I do not see why I should have to pay for electricity when it jumps out of the sky for free and when you can create it freely by rubbing a balloon against your jumper, so I refused to pay those fat-cat, money-grubbing electric men. For 6 weeks I was able to live without electricity, but yesterday I capitulated and paid them when I learned that there is a new series of Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares on, which I could not bear to miss. More on the events of the last 6 weeks will follow later: for now, I will continue my story of the critics from where I left off last month]

Joyce McMillan of The Scotsman shuffled slowly over to me and gently took my hand, cradling it gently in her own wizened palms. No taller than 3 foot 4, with the vulnerability of damp Edinburgh rock, she nevertheless exuded an aura of powerful majesty and beneficence which ensured that I at once adopted a deferential tone.

"Now do tell me, Clive, why you wish to become a playwright," she said, beaming magnificently. Her breath smelled of honeyed almonds and nutmeg.

"I...I wish to become a...a critic," I said, unaccountably feeling guilty for correcting this wonderous lady, "Not a playwright, if you please."

"But of course," said she, letting loose my hand. "You must forgive me, dearie, for not making myself clear. All critics of the theatre are, at heart, playwrights themselves."

She took a crumpled tissue from her sleeve and spat into it, then dabbed it around my cheeks and mouth. Her saliva tasted of rhubarb-and-custard flavoured sweets I bought from sweetshops as a child, and the caramel apple pies that my plump grandmother used to make.

"There now child," she said, smiling benignly, "Your face is as clean as a Christmas whistle. Now then, why do wish do become a critic? Tell old Joyce your thoughts."

I told her of my new-found pleasure in picking faults in people's work and causing anguish.

"Oh my dear little man," she said, patting my forehead tenderly, "That is not what criticism is about. You must change your views if you wish to be a good critic. Let me cradle your head in my old bosom while I tell you my philosophy of criticism.

"Now then lovey, you mustn't listen to the other critics who've spoken to you this evening. They are cynical and petty-minded. The true critic is as much a playwright as the playwright himself. The true critic adores theatre and has as important a part to play in the overall success of the play as the playwright. You see, the playwright wrights the play (just my little joke there, dear), then the critic reviews it and tells the public to enjoy or dislike it. Theatre patrons would not know if the play was good or not if they did not have critics to tell them.

"Furthermore, the critic reads the play: he interprets it, he decides what the play is about and what it is saying. The critic does this so that the public knows what is going on. So you see, dearie, the critic is as much an author of the text as the playwright. A more important author even, for the critic is the one who decides whether the play will actually be viewed by the public or not - with a negative review, the public will not come to see the play. We truly make or break the piece.

"And yes dear, we do have to write negative reviews, but again this stems from a love of theatre. If we view a play egregious to our tastes, it offends us. Because we love good theatre, we cannot bear to allow such things to appear in public. Through necessity, we must badmouth the piece and use our powers of criticism to prevent the play from being seen by the general public who might erroneously enjoy it.

"I personally hate anything written by or starring Japs. Can't abide those yellow, rice-munching nips. And as for the ****ing Welsh..."

At hearing this racist outburst, Thom Dibdin abandoned his task of tending to Neil Cooper of The Herald, and scampered over.

"Oh Joyce, are you having one of your episodes again? Come, let's top up that sherry for you," he said.

"The ****ing French are the worst though - smelly, cowardly ****s the lot of them..." shouted Joyce.

Dibdin managed to calm her down with a little more sherry and a generous portion of wristwatch skittles. He had had a tough night tending to the whimsies of the other critics, but he did not look flushed or wearied. Leaving Joyce at the bar, crying into a sherry, he came back over to me.

"I think I've settled her!" he said with a wink and a tap of the nose. "You musn't pay too much attention to her - she was dropped on her head as a child. Half a mo! That's the two minute warning - we must get back to our seats for the second half! I hope you enjoy it!"