Teatime in Soho – or is it?

THE LONDON BLUEBIRD...

As regular readers know, my heart beats for Soho.  There’s blood lines and personal history running through that neighbourhood which is curtailed at one end by the Piccadilly Theatre and at the other end by the mess of pavement and road diversions that is the Crossrail extension.  Of course, you do also have to be careful; there aren’t only blood lines but fault lines, slips and falls that mean you can suddenly get dumped into bits of history that, frankly, you’d rather leave lying in peace a la the sleeping dog.  But mostly, Soho always refreshes, as each evening is just pasting another layer on top of the memory of evenings out you had before.

Not at 6pm though.  Soho’s only just had it’s breakfast at 6pm.  It’s only just finished wheezing and coughing up last night’s B&H at 6pm.  I’m not talking about the Soho that is working, of…

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The Ghost of Henry Fitzroy

THE LONDON BLUEBIRD...

My grandmother died on the morning of November 22nd 1990, her last victory being that her reign managed to outlive that of Mrs Thatcher by about two hours.   Before she managed the bitter success of outliving Mrs Thatcher, she did several things, including marrying my grandfather (somebody had to), birthing my father and spending thirty years of her life pleasantly residing in what my father termed “a notorious north London slum”.  The same week that she died, this slum was granted conservation status by Westminster City Council, in order to devise local policies to protect the unique character and architectural heritage of the area.

Conservation areas suspend time whilst causing some frustration amongst the local population, and in conserving themselves, render significant change unimaginable.  Whilst our duty to protect Georgian and Victorian sites is vital, occasionally conservation zones can end up fattening their zones up like a tourist cows ready to be…

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Death by Theatre

THE LONDON BLUEBIRD...

I still have to remind myself that this story is true.  I sometimes tell people this story, and with every passing year and with each re-telling it becomes more and more surreal.  Every word of this is true. I suppose I could call this piece Death by Bathroom Towel, or Death by Radio Four. But no, it was theatre really. Theatre did it. An industry long suspected to be toxic was in fact once proved to be utterly fatal.

I was nineteen and home for the summer holidays, earning paltry amounts of fags and beer money selling programmes for my mother’s theatrical production company. Every year, actors would gather in the house and rehearse avidly for two weeks before a small local tour. This was unsettling. If I wanted to pop into the television room to catch up on the Wimbledon highlights, I’d be confronted with a red-faced elderly thespian…

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Rent a vid

THE LONDON BLUEBIRD...

When I was growing up, getting a video out of the local video shop was a Saturday afternoon outing that involved going into a small 17th century building where a woman was permanently installed behind a plastic desk chainsmoking Rothmans, and creating a fug in which it would have been suitable to smoke a kipper.  You’d go up to the counter with your £2 charge (£1.50 fine for keeping it at home for the extra day, which you invariably did) and say “Can I have this please?”  Then, she would look at you with canine-like teeth, and sneer, as if she wanted to poke your eyes out, murder you and then eat your kidneys.  

Once she turned up for work with an eye patch on.  I do not know why this was, only a lent a deeply sinister slant to what was already an alarming shopping experience.

During the refreshing commercial…

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1997 called : It wants its actors back

THE LONDON BLUEBIRD...

I ended up in a timewarp yesterday – or, as the authorities call it – White City.  It’s a gothic, Gotham-like monolith of a shit-tip, Television Centre.  It has all the flavour and allure of a municipal swimming pool, but one with cardboard cut-outs of Strictly Come Dancing presenters and participants in every corner.  Have you ever had to share a lift with a cardboard, life-size Bruce Forsyth?  I did yesterday and it was deeply sinister.  An avuncular hand tapped me on the aged shoulder yesterday and offered me a day and a half’s salary for turning up to the BBC for an hour and a half and doing some undemanding acting which involved dirty hair.  Well,  I’m not going to say No, am I?  Tapping away on here every week imparting bits of nonsense has precisely netted me £0.00 since February 2010 and the clip joint business isn’t what…

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The Bus Nutter

THE LONDON BLUEBIRD...

He gets on around the bit of the Finchley Road that connects to Hendon Way, our Bus Nutter.  And it isn’t really Frognal and it isn’t really Cricklewood and it isn’t really West Hampstead, it’s the fuzzy weird bit in the middle where people get petrol and where they realise they are in the wrong lane for the A41.  He looks entirely ordinary (AHA!  Most of them do) and he gets on the bus very casually and normally.  He is of average height and build and just sits on the upper deck.  Then there is the catalyst.

The catalyst can be anything, really.  It could, for example, be Wednesday.  And then he will go downstairs and in his very very normal voice demand the driver to explain why it is Wednesday.  He sounds ordinary, mundane and has an authoritative voice that lurks somewhere between Phil Mitchell and that bald bloke who does

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I don’t believe what I’m hearing

THE LONDON BLUEBIRD...

Gather round, kids.  What’s not to like in the following ensemble of wonderful-ness? :  Gene Kelly plays a movie star in a fab white trilby and hardly has his tap shoes off in the film’s 103 minutes,  Donald O’Connor is his fizzball-of-energy cohort composer, Debbie Reynolds is the charming ingenue and Jean Hagen is the woman whose voice is so harsh it could strip paint.  It’s a comic depiction of Hollywood by Hollywood, but its knowingness never turns to cynicism; it parodies film-making whilst still holding it in affection.   Singin’ In the Rain is a musical liked by people who don’t like musicals.

The infectious exuberance of its superb score, direction and tap dancing – marked by Kelly’s athletic slant as choreographer –  is the best reason for watching it.  Many nights in Bluebird Towers have been spent reclined on the sofa with a glass of red joining in by harmonising on You were Meant for…

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