Wednesday, 24 February 2016

BBC, YOU HAVE GONE TOO FAR THIS TIME

I have known Tony Blackburn forever. I count him as a friend, and I am appalled by the BBC's sacking of him. If Lord Tony Hall and the Corporation think that they can destroy his fine fifty-year career for the most threadbare of reasons - that he couldn't remember attending a meeting - they have lost the plot.
What on earth are they doing? Shooting themselves in the foot, for one thing: Pick of the Pops has a greater audience than anything else on the BBC. The Daily Mail's story about this yet-another-historic-'sex abuse'-scandal does read, to me, as though the poor girl who took her own life all those years ago had self-esteem and mental health issues, and had created a fantasy life which, at such a vulnerable young age, she came to regret - then punished herself in the most tragic way. Awful for her and her family, of course - how do those left behind ever recover from that? - but devastating for Tony that all this should now resurface, tainting his name and robbing him of his job. He is a decent guy, a devoted husband to Debbie, and the proudest of fathers to beautiful, talented Victoria.
Time to do a Gambo and begin keeping a diary,TB. Do it today. Paul said that it was the one thing that gave him a focus, kept him sane, and sustained him through the gruelling months of fear, when at one point he believed that he would end his days in a prison cell. Finally, when charges were dropped and he emerged triumphant, he was able to assemble the whole experience into manuscript form. His acclaimed memoir 'Love, Paul Gambaccini' was published without a hitch last year. It set the public record straight ... and he had the last laugh.

No one is laughing here. Not by any count. But I believe that the BBC has gone too far this time.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

GARY KEMP'S HOMECOMING

I made it under the wire to this play at Trafalgar Studios last night - it concludes this weekend - and I'm thrilled that I did. Gary Kemp was the point, and I am so proud of him. It seems an age, it is, since we worked with Spandau Ballet at Chrysalis in the mad old days.
 Patience. Everything comes to us in the right moment. David Bowie said that 'ageing is an extraordinary process whereby you become the person that you always should have been.' While no one would wish to wipe the Spandau years from collective memory, nor Gary's enduring songs, he's through the barricade now. What a present, plausible, committed actor he is. He must be mindful of his years at Anna Scher's children's theatre in Islington, where this sophisticated talent was kindled, moons ago.
It's a difficult piece. Oft lauded as Pinter's finest, it bears revisitation in this its fiftieth year, and is none the lamer nor the tamer for it. Set in a working class north London home, all too familiar territory to Gary, its focus is a cracked marriage re-examined against the backdrop of a vicious family who refuse to escape their awful past. The text is cryptic and cruel. Themes of sex and power deafen and haunt. Let it go, this clan of misfits and bitter woebegones will not do.
The spaces between the strokes. The dark beyond the light. Pinter magnifies every splinter, figurative and actual, to the point of exquisite pain. Raw irony that son Teddy, Gary's clipped and stunted character (even his swallowed accent, mannerisms and body language are an escape from himself) is an academic, a Doctor of Philosophy at a college in America, who lacks comprehension of family values and the meaning of love. The symbolism of an invisible mirror on the wall into which the actors peer, looking out into the audience, stuns us with recognition that we are Alice: through the play and out the other side, actually looking at ourselves.
The oppressed woman - Teddy's wife Ruth - has been forced to live a fake life all these years. She finds herself - the true homecoming - and the play is her triumph.

Gemma Chan, Keith Allen, Ron Cook and John Simm enchanted. Bravos. But it was Gary's night, all right.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

A MATTER OF LIFE & DEATH

In common with every year preceding it, 2015 was one of gain and loss. Some precious pals left us. Their absence cuts deep. Jim Diamond; Jazz Summers; John 'Brad' Bradbury, a very Special drummer. I miss them all. 2016 hasn't been much better, so far, has it: Ed Stewart; David Bowie; Glenn Frey; Terry Wogan; Maurice White, of Earth Wind & Fire, who was supposed to be immortal. 
Isn't death always untimely. Doesn't it cloud and unbalance whatever we are doing at the time. Everything stops, yet nothing does. Not even the departed cease to be. We comfort ourselves that love is undiminished by death; that energy, once created, cannot be destroyed. The spirit lives on. We won't forget them. Thus, they will always be here.
'It doesn't matter how many times you go down,' Jazz said once. 'It's the getting up that counts. How did I keep going through all the failure? I believed. I believed. These days, when the sorrows get me, I don't drown them in drink the way I once did. I meditate instead. I think about nature. I breathe. I stay in the moment. There are no accidents in life. If George Michael hadn't sacked me, I would never have gone on to do all the things that I have done.'
Every ending is a beginning. Every mean goodbye a sweet and hopeful hello.
We'd better live, then. By the F-it List, not the Bucket List. Take a chance every day, but a step at a time. Worry less about what others think. Who cares what they think? Ignore the way 'they' live and what 'they' are achieving, and live our own best lives. Walk it. Talk it. If we want it, we have to prove it. We've got to remind ourselves all the time that love is a verb.
There are no shortcuts, we know that much. No quick fixes. Nobody else is to blame for our failings and shortcomings. We also know that there may be no tomorrow - there wasn't for Jim, Jazz, Brad, Ed, David, Glenn, Terry, Maurice and the rest - so we've got to do it today. Make mistakes, and never regret the past, nor the failures, because those are what give us strength. We must fail forwards. We must let go of yesterday, accept what is, and have faith in all that could be, when we learn to play our cards right.
We can quit feeling sorry for ourselves. Fight for what we believe in. Be patient, and anticipate the moment when the time will be exactly right. We can remember that happiness is in our hearts and minds, this minute - not 'out there', not some other time. We can smile, today, and smile first. Scowl, and the person coming towards you will scowl back. We can spend more time with the right people, who won't be here forever. We can stop wasting time on relationships that bring us down. Even a sister or a best friend must be dumped if you've given them a second chance - and everyone deserves a second, probably not a third - and still they betray you. Blood IS thicker than water, sure. But only in the lab.
But. Forgiving those who have wronged us is a good way to move on. Forgiveness is not weak, nor an acceptance of betrayal. It's what sets us free.
We should forget about 'the journey' - how I hate that phrase - and be present, here, now. We can stop looking for something new and better, and cherish what we have. It might be all there is. We can give up trying to be perfect. We can instead aim to be fearless and resilient, and ourselves.
Peace, truth, love and light, for the time we have left.