4 infiltration - catherine o’flynn
6 presentation - jake elliott
7 desperate dandy - alistair johnston
8 the love boat - peter fletcher
10 out of date reviews - transformers
12 festivals tried and tested
14 james wallis
16 my first 60 minute gig - matthew parker
18 maus of elliott
21 win stuff
22 life is a performance - chelsea hilton
24 performance envy - tania ahsan
All The Rage 26 giving the piss - rhodri marsden
27 dust to dust - catherine o’flynn
cover design by sandy noble
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o’flynn james wallis
24: 7: 16: 22:
tania ahsan al johnston matt parker chelsea hilton
Nuns have recently discovered the arts centre lack of stature was
where I work... now we can’t keep them somehow linked to “Was it some-
away. We were showing a film called ‘Into their vocation – and thing about being
Great Silence (Die Grosse Stille)’ a 3 hour if so what came tiny that allowed them
silent documentary about Carthusian monks. first? Was it some-
How I laughed when I read the description. thing about being to hear the voice? Or,
Silent? Three hours? Monks? Who’s going to tiny that allowed more sinisterly, did
pay to see that? All showings sold out within them to hear the marrying Jesus stunt
hours. I felt I’d entered some alternative uni- voice? Or, more sinis-
verse where tickets for quiet, contemplative terly, did marrying their growth?”
arts performances were fought over on e-Bay Jesus stunt their growth? I
and Take That concerts had to be subsidised should add that this isn’t just
by the Arts Council. true of my aunties – most nuns are minute.
Never trust a tall one.
Anyway the vast majority of the audience
turned out to be nuns from different convents Anyway, sadly my dad’s sisters are no longer
across the city. I was concerned that there alive and so I’ve lost touch a bit with the
could be a rumble between the different fac- whole scene in latter years. It was interesting
tions – but I guess they’d brokered some kind to see how things have changed. The average
of gang truce before coming. In the event no age still seems to be about 79 and average
knives were confiscated. height 5’1’’, but some things are different.
Since then the nun ball has been kept bounc- I noticed that a lot of them now have mobile
ing with regular, well-spaced sister-pleasers phones. I found this fascinating. I wondered if
like ‘Miss Potter’ and ‘The Queen’. I’m quite you could download hymn ringtones. I won-
enjoying this new audience. I’ve always been dered if they also have their own myspace
on the side that finds nuns very funny rather pages. They could list Jesus as a friend.
than terrifying. Three of my dad’s sisters were
nuns – they rocked with the Marist massive – Catherine O’Flynn’s debut novel “What was
sporting French navy. All three of them were lost” has been long-listed for the Booker prize.
tiny – much shorter than my dad and the rest This piece is taken from her blog at
of his siblings. I could never work out if their www.qanik.net.
alistair (right) and wayne
paint the town paisley
I went on presentation training last year. I Eddie Murphy approaches a henchman in the
went into it the same way I approach most guise of an ambassdor from the Rap Coalition
training opportunities: the chance for getting of America. ("You like rap music? Then how
out of the office for a jolly. Two whole days of come you ain't smiling?! Smile real big!").
mid-week work avoidance with a fistful of Should I mention I listen to hip-hop? Watch
luncheon vouchers for my trouble. How bad Eddie Murphy films? No. Probably not.
can it be?
For some reason I choose to spend the last
After the usual round of introductions and the minute of preparation time messing up my rea-
distribution of handouts, the trainer drops us in sonably legible bullet points by scoring
it. "Right, guys", she claps her hands together through excess sentences and covering up use-
with genuine glee. “In five minutes time I want ful points with massive swirling arrows to help
you all to give a thirty second presentation on me re-order and tailor the material.
yourselves, and the rest of the group will give
you feedback". I'm okay in the end, but the exercise as a
whole is the real success. Adversity and a
Talking about myself in front of a group of col- Stockholm syndrome-like desire to placate the
leagues eager to observe and critique my per- trainer has created a bond between the
formance isn't my worst nightmare, but it is trainees. Suddenly, everyone is pitching in,
exactly the kind of situation I'd spend a good asking questions or swapping hints and tips for
deal of time and effort trying to avoid. presenting with a flip-chart rather than Power-
Point. Criticism of peers is offered, but only alistair johnston
'Don't panic' I thought, 'that's just what she's when it is sandwiched between two bits of pos-
expecting you to do'. I start to scribble down itive feedback. I am back at school, only now Last month a work party forced me into 1940s there was a generous happy hour in full swing.
possible content. But what to say? Should I try the whole classroom is full of eager spods fancy dress. I chose smoking jacket, cravat,
for damage limitation and stick mainly to job- without the restraining influence of sneers from and a moustache, painted on with eye-liner. Nearing 30, getting dressed is becoming a
related stuff, or take a risk and add a little the jocks to hold us back. My colleagues met each other with delight – problem again. Low-slung jeans and an ironic
colour? I decide to keep things pretty bland everyone hates dressing up before the fact, t-shirt must be avoided, and a fashion space
and just drop one or two asides about non- By the afternoon break the air is heavy with and everyone is delighted by the results – but away from the Dad-ish, the Russell Brand-ish,
work stuff to boost morale. A few minutes in esprit de corps. Everyone seems to want to when they looked at me, mouths primed for and the Petrides-esque found.
and I've got an outline CV planned, with just a raise their game and pull together to see if we mirth, they paused: “actually, that’s not a bad
gentle hint of self deprecating wit. I hope this can't be just the best darned cohort this train- look”. I seem to be drifting towards the dandyish
is sufficient to suggest I'm wonderfully droll ing company has ever seen. touch. The pointier, shinier shoe than I’m used
over a pint but a poker-faced professional at Two weeks later and a visiting friend and I re- to; the shirt with the tiny flower print; the scarf
the meeting table. I keep delivering steady mid-order perform- peated the experiment in public, donning cos- wrapped and tucked around my neck, worn
ances in each exercise. I am playing the long tume and going to a nightclub. Men shook our with a t-shirt like a raffish urban Bedouin.
Pleasingly, my mind doesn't go blank. Rather, game and keeping my powder dry for day hands; women made flushed approaches. For You can take things too far, but while grown
it fills with all sorts of irrelevant bullshit. I've two. this night at least, we had slipped the horns of men wear trousers half way down the arse I
sketched a smiley face and the word "SLOW" affected urbanity and wackiness; we were live in hope that together we might bring back
in massive letters at the top of my notes to re- playful, and dressed up. Pretending at mascu- the cravat.
mind me to pace my delivery and not to look line through feminine patterned silk and obvi-
too sour-faced. For some reason this makes me ously drawn-on facial hair, we were drag It’s surprisingly nice against the neck, but I
think of that bit in Belverly Hills Cop II where kings, like the onnabe hosts of Tokyo women’s can’t do it on my own. I can’t do it on
clubs. Or chicks really dig moustaches, and my own.
the love boat
writes lots of cool
things like this on
“Some of them
also have an email
address so you can
write to her first and intro-
The other day though I received a message lucky to get that one I think because you only money. There’s a divorced man who is tired of At the top
from somebody and it attracted my attention. have to watch television to see what busy peo- American emancipated women. He wants a of the duce yourself to get a bit
It started off like this: ple chefs are, and that they can have quite a normal family. He wants his wife to take good email of a head start over
temper if you annoy them, and this one looks care of him. He hopes this cruise will make him about this the other 29
If you do not want to loose your money like he might be getting a bit impatient when happy. cruise it says
and to talk to girls who does not even exist the photo was taken. He probably wanted to “Thunderbird men.”
there is new wonderful opportunity get off to shell some prawns and make a Then when you click on the link to “Girls” you thinks this message
Marie Rose sauce. Maybe he had something get to a page with fifty small photos, one of might be an email scam.” I don’t know if the
and it went on to talk about a cruise ship with on the boil. each Russian beauty. When you click on the email is trying to steal my money or not. The
fifty “Russian beauties who want to meet a for- photo you get to see a bigger version of the pictures of the ship and the fifty beauties look
eigner in order to make a family”. Perhaps the There’s a beauty pageant judging beauty and photo. Even though the link calls the page quite real. Maybe they just want me to give
Chernobyl disaster has had an adverse effect intelligence: “Girls”, I don’t think any of them are actually them a lot of money to go on the cruise and
on former-Soviet men’s fertility organs. I girls - I don’t think that would be allowed, meet the women and enjoy the heavenly
wouldn’t be surprised. In any case, I Girls write essays about different for- even on a special boat in the Black Sea. cuisine and efficient service. The only thing
continued reading. eign countries. They pick the coun- that is a bit unusual is that none of the fifty
“The chef try themselves. The photos are laid out very neatly on the women have the same name. There is one
All their pictures are placed
on the website. On the ship
looks like he was There is information about the
page and each one has the first name of the
woman underneath so you can understand
Alena and one Alexandra and one Alina and
one Alisa and so on in alphabetical order
will be created such an at- getting a bit impatient on-board entertainments: who you are looking at and make a note for right the way to Yulia and Yuliya. What are
mosphere that will help to when the photo was when you meet her on the cruise. Some of the chances of that?
start romantic relations. We have only qualified them also have an email address, so you can
There will be invited only 30 taken. Maybe he had stuff. There is a nice surprise maybe write to her first and introduce yourself Maybe they have lots of cruises through the
foreign men on that cruise. something on the for our guests. The point is that to get a bit of a head start over the other year, and at the end of the cruise the ones
And you can be one of them! all stuff except safeguards and twenty-nine men. that haven’t been chosen can try again next
the captain consists of pretty girls time, unless they get fed up talking to the sort
So fifty homemake-hungry ladies and who are ready for everything to make But the interesting thing is that there are so of men who would pay to go on this sort of
thirty lady-hungry men. That’s one and two your cruise fun and comfortable. many different types of photo. They are all cruise, and decide to take their chances back
thirds lady to every one man. On the website different sizes and some of them are holiday on dry land. But this would mean that up to
there are pictures of the ship and cross-section And there’s a guestbook with messages from snaps with the woman sunbathing, and others thirty vacancies would open up for more Russ-
diagrams so you can see how many rooms it potential passengers. are a little more hair-tossed-back you-know- ian beauties to take the plunge. There would
has and how they are laid out, and there are why-you’re-here, and there’s at least one probably be a waiting list to make it onto the
photos of the rooms, and it says: There’s one from a man who likes what he glossy studio portrait which probably cost a ship, and so the organisers could pick only
sees. There’s one from the captain’s cousin lot of money. those applicants with names that are different
Then you get into the restaurant. Our chef who’s going for a second time. There are men There’s even a photo booth one with a from the ones they’ve already got. All of the
will offer you heavenly cuisine and the wait- who have fallen in love with Russian women pleated brown curtain behind and she’s not women would be queuing up in lines, with one
resses will serve you quickly. over the Internet in the past and lost their looking at the camera, as if she couldn’t use it line for each name, and when the one at the
money. There’s a divorced man who is tired of for her passport so she thought “that’s OK, front is taken they all shuffle forward, like an
There’s even a photo of the chef. They were American emancipated women. He wants a it’ll do for that website”. enormous wife vending machine.
for you? Well don't worry, the robots who's played by a woman who appears
out-of-date reviews #2: shapeshift a lot too – not to mention the on the front cover of Maxim in real life –
camera jumping around like a coked-up might be interested in him. (Though I did
Rob Jones studio executive. Then there's just find myself thinking that she might
time for a close-up shot of a find the special forces guy more
twenty-year-old model pre- “ I was to her liking. He's played by
tending to be lonely and in concerned for the Josh Duhamel from Vegas
high-school before some- robots. The Autobots I who manages to look
thing else explodes.
mean; I certainly wasn't thoughtful without resorting
to Joey Tribbiani fart-act-
Of course we've all fretting over the fate of ing).
learned by now that 'hyper- those traitorous De-
kinetic' is not always a good cepticon scum” Granted, no one in the movie
word. Or rather it's a good has an IQ over 105. Not the
word that gets used to describe math geniuses and not the alien
some very bad movies. Anyone remember robots – some of whom seem like they
the second Mummy film (The Mummy Re- might have been auditioning for an Auto-
turns) from 2001? Frantic nonsense. But bot remake of Police Academy. But while
somehow Transformers largely avoids that the characters are not terribly bright, the
fate. For a start, the movie isn't all action. movie itself is just clever enough to stay out
There are some quite long scenes of Sam, of trouble.
the teen lead, arguing with his parents as
he tries at various points to conceal a girl Michael Bay knows that blockbusters have
and several hundred tons of mechanical to be emotionally satisfying or the explo-
alien shapeshifter from them. But then sions just become annoying – even the
again I don't think you could say that part really, really cool ones – and he gets just
of the script is what contributes the 'heart'. enough mileage out of his cast's acting
Wait, is this film for children? I can't quite elite hacker and special forces commando. It seemed more like someone had aban- talents to keep the afore-mentioned hyper-
work it out. The old Transformers cartoon Everyone else is in high school. doned their attempt to write a sequel to kinetic numbness from setting in. And while
was pitched at pre-teens, but they stopped The Goonies and used the dialogue here a big part of the film's appeal is watching
making that twenty years ago so the origi- Initially, I really couldn't believe that some- instead. No, I'm forced to admit that what visual effects teams burn through waist-high
nal audience is in middle-management by one had dusted off a Saturday-morning made me care was probably concern for stacks of dollars, you still find yourself
now. My best guess is that it's for those cartoon from the Eighties as the basis for a the robots themselves. The Autobots I absorbed when you see the next level of
fans of the original who have only aged mega-budget Summer blockbuster... until I mean; I certainly wasn't fretting over the CGI for the first time. From time to time,
about four years while two decades have saw the trailer. And then I realised the fate of those traitorous Decepticon scum. even the cinematography shows some
passed for us on Earth. I worked this out genius of having massive robots opening sophistication – unlike most of the script.
from the fact that pretty much every shot up industrial-sized cans of whoop-ass on Which is not to say that the sub-plot involv- But then I'm not sure the characters' sim-
that doesn't have a robot in it features a each other while careening through ing Sam and the girl of his dreams is awful. plicity is a bad thing. It's not every day you
hot-looking girl somewhere in the frame packed city streets. I know what you're You're desperate for him to stop stuttering can see that much carnage, destruction
(and at least once in slow-motion close-up) thinking – you and director Michael Bay and flubbing in her presence, mainly so and sacrifice and call the end product 'in-
so the Transformers' target audience has both – you're thinking it's not enough of a you don't have to watch him do it any nocent'. If the choices are crass Hollywood
definitely hit puberty. But I doubt they're visual spectacle. Which is why the special more, and soon enough he does pull it to- populism or the innocent kind, I think I
grown up yet because no one in the movie forces guys are firing rocket launchers into gether, so that by the end he's definitely could get to quite like the second one.
has a job – unless you count the only two the melee as battle-tanks pound the sur- become hero material. Enough so that you
occupations that teenagers approve of: vivors with artillery shells. Still not enough could almost believe that his love interest – Amongst other things, Rob writes thrillers.
tried & tested: festivals
1. The Dour Festival, Belgium
We went in the summer of 2003. It was very hot and we had to walk down several miles of dirt
track in the baking sun to find the place. It was worth it though. I saw Clawfinger, the UK Subs,
Henry Rollins, Andy Fletcher from Depeche Mode doing DM remixes in a giant tent... ah,
there’s nothing more boring than hearing other people’s festival stories is there? Point is, this
was very much a festival of the past. Just as we were drifting off to sleep one night there was a
terrible wail from a nearby tent. A European accent; “Hey man! Get out of my fucking sleeping
bag!” The legend has evolved over time, and now when we quote it, we always add in a camp
German accent “Das ist VERBOTEN!” Plus I picked up an orange vinyl Wreckless Eric record in
the festival market. A highly recommended 9/10.
2. The Edinburgh Fringe Festival
Theatre, comedy, dance, film - oh yes, the fringe is certainly fun. But it’s so... BIG Surely it’s
reaching capacity now? Don’t get any bigger, The Fringe. 7/10.
3. The Festival of Gas
A bit different, this one. History only knows about The Fest of Gas because of a photo found
and subsequently used, in a song, by the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players. 10/10.
4. The Glastonbury Festival
Scary, big, overwhelming, argh I think I’ve got aspergers, get me out of here get me out get me
out get me OUUUUUUUUTTTTTTTTTTTTTT 5/10.
5 The Festival of Britain
Now I haven’t actually been to this one, seeing as it happened in 1951 and all. But boy do I
wish I had been. What kind of soulless shite isn’t interested in the Festival of Britain? All that’s
left of those endless days of glorious post-war optimism is, er, the Royal Festival Hall on the
Southbank. I want a Skylon. 10/10.
what the well-dressed young man is wearing
"Give us an
In the ongoing debate about the changing 'time shaf ting'. It happens item of clothing If this countr y ever star ts teac hing basic pointed out to them, repeatedly, using shor t
probability on the national curriculum then words, and there are a lot of them. (How
nature of performance, and as ar t and more than half t he time with beginning with P. No, an entire sector of industr y will wither away many? I don’t have to tell you how many idiots
creative enterprise are shaken to their roots by
the continuing tremors of t he digital ear th-
BBC shows, or at least t he
BBC shows I watch, and it is
sorr y, we were look- overnight. there are with mobile phones; to a large extent
quake and t he af tershocks of deconstruction- not a good way to get people ing for polka-dot the mobile market is driven by them, but last
Phone-in quizzes work in one of two ways: year IT V Play was making £150,000 ever y
ism and other new-millennium schools of to fall in love wit h your new, un- codpiece." either the question is so ludicrously devious or day. That ’s a lot of idiots.)
criticism, one impor tant fact shines out above missable, much-trailed program-
twisted that nobody will get it ("Give us an
all others: the BBC couldn't hit a timeslot if the ming. In fact it makes me want to
item of clothing beginning with P. No, sorr y, We do not need to cosset, coddle, reassure or
timeslot was lying in stic ky post-coital slumber throw things at t he BBC person responsible,
we were looking for polka-dot codpiece.") or refund these fools: we need to be creating our
next to the BBC's life-par tner. or at least sleep wit h their life-partner.
so absurdly simple that ever ybody gets it. own companies to soon par t them and their
money. It just so happens I have a killer idea
Time and again I've settled down to watch a Yes, I've chec ked the clock on my box. Yes, it's
All this is so flattering to the kind of viewer for doing exactly that, and I’m looking for
new, unmissable show that I've recorded, only right. I'm surprised that this isn't a bigger scan-
who believes Deal or No Deal is a game of business par tners. If you’re interested then text
to find that someone has felt the need to run dal than the whole rigged phone-in competiton
skill that t hey feel compelled to ring in for the me on 0909 8790879, repeatedly.
two or three trailers for ot her new, unmissable fiasco. That nonsense is like the National Lot-
af firmation of hearing they got the right
shows, the programme starr ts five minutes ter y: if you're stupid enough to even think
answer. James Wallis lives in London with too many t-
late, and therefore the recording has cut of f about taking par t then then you deser ve to
shir ts and no cats.
the last five minutes. Watching recorded T V is have your money taken away and Ric hard
Clearly these people are idiots, and they don’t
known in the biz as 'time shif ting'. What the and Judy, far from looking contrite, should
appear to care t hat other people are taking
BBC does is known in t he Wallis household as laugh in your face.
their money and giving nothing back until it is
my first 60 minute show
It was a mix of arrogance and idiocy that instead writing a list of jokes I had written and their friends to get me to tell them jokes, and think people lose too much money at Edin-
made me think I could do a solo 60 minute then telling them in a fairly random order. even tried to get me to perform for them burgh, and I think that the lack of comedy in
show and find it easy. At this point in time I “They loved at a dinner party one of them was London in August is very sad.
having in January. They loved the
had only ever performed open spot length What was worse that I hadn’t properly
the bits about bits about people thinking I’d I have not been put off performing and can’t
slots and I had performed very few of them memorised the jokes and so told most
(definitely less than 10), but this didn’t stop me of them quite badly, this meant that a people thinking I’d raped a cat (Apparently zoophilia wait to get back on the stage to do open spots
from sending off my participation fee and con- lot of the jokes fizzled out or failed to raped a cat. Appar- is funnier than I thought). (which so far have gone a lot better than my
hour show), and even though my confidence
tract to the organisers of the Camden Fringe. get laughs. To be fair to myself some
ently zoophilia is Even though they were the kind of has definitely been knocked a bit, I have
bits did go quite well, especially a
The Camden Fringe was set up as an alterna- running joke about people thinking that funnier than I people I generally don’t wish to ap- learnt a lot and am glad that I did do the hour
tive to the Edinburgh Fringe, where joining in I’d raped a cat (It was not intended to be thought“ peal to (i.e. drunken idiots (They may show. I may do it again some time in the
cost less and so gave a chance for performers a running joke, but bizarre things happen not have been idiots when sober, I only future, once I have learnt a bit more about
to do a show without losing as much money. I when you ad-lib), and I think that for live stand talked to them when they were drunk)) I was how to put on a good solo show.
don’t know how many people lost money, but up comedy to be properly appreciated, more encouraged by their laughter, especially after
there was at least one. Me. than 8 people are required. being a bit discouraged by the poor reception Matt Parker is a college student and an
in the first show, and I am glad that the better amateur comedian. Why not message him
I did two shows, and eight people turned up to TWO people turned up to the second show, show came second.
via his myspace page or friend him up?
the first one (At least 4, possibly 5 had been they were friends with each other, about my
admitted for free) and the show did not go age and both a bit drunk. Bizarrely though, Even though I lost money and generally made
well. I made several mistakes, the worst of this show went down very well indeed. The a bit of a dick out of myself, I still think that
which was not actually writing a show, but two people laughed a lot at my jokes, phoned the Camden Fringe is a very good idea, as I
maus of elliott
Seeing as I’ve never appeared in a show, plays had, they always ended up with Alistair At 9, my friends Christina and Melanie and I
came in and irony. It is
trained as an actor, sung, danced or told jokes and I in tissue-paper tutus, standing in front of went through a phase of reinacting myths and bought a bottle of probably
in front of anyone, it would probably be an a room full of pissed-up elderly relatives, lead- legends from the big book we found in the Tango. Not a Diet available
exaggeration to describe me as a professional ing an audience sing-song of the incongruously dining room. The best story by far was about a from a large
performer. adult rugby anthem, Father Abraham. chap called Jerry Guia Guia Tugo whose
Tango, she wasn’t wire bin at
buttocks were eaten by a hawk as punishment all skinny back your local One
But there were forays, back in the day. It For some reason, these pantomimes stopped for something. Not one to be easily defeated, then” Stop for £1. I
started when I was 4. I’m still not sure how I before puberty. It’s a shame in a way. I like he did what any of us would do if we had the was a named extra,
got the part of Angel Gabriel in the playgroup imagining what kind of show Alistair and I presence of mind, and fashioned himself a was in two scenes, and had no lines. I still
nativity. Possibly it was my blonde locks that would put on now. And no one would think it new pair out of mashed potato. True, I haven’t haven’t managed to bring myself to watch it,
clinched it. More likely, I was just the most was weird, because it would just be one of come across the story in my subsequent studies although the pain lessens with time. Appar-
masculine looking child in the nursery. I had those family traditions. Step aside little ones, of classical literature, and I’m not completely ently my acting is very bad indeed. But then I
one line. One fucking line. I still re- while the Johnston siblings, now both convinced by “Jerry” as a genuine ancient do have to cosy up to John Lynch all day, and
member it. I remembered it at the knocking 30, insist on doing their an- Greek name, but that hasn’t stopped me from I’m only 19. So if you do ever see it, think of
time, too, although apparently “I never nual panto in the living room. There wanting to believe the story is at least based that Austrian girl who lived in Uri Gellar’s cel-
not quickly enough for Louise worked out why could be pyrotechnics, audio-visu- on fact. And always opting for chips instead. lar for eight years and go easy on me.
Wyatt, sitting next to me. A als and post-modern asides. And
non-equity angel with an King Agamemnon why stop at panto? We could act These days, nine year olds like ringtones and It was a fun day though. I was completely kit-
attitude problem who lived had to be wearing out scenes from serious plays and The Sims. When I think about the kind of stuff ted out in authentic 60s wear - right down to
two doors down on the sunglasses and talk- films. Performances could be 4 we used to do it makes us seem like Beatrix the nylons. I struggled with the false eyelashes
estate, the bitch took my hours long, or just 5 minutes. fucking Potter or something. I bet Miss Potter and lost a contact lens in the young George
dramatic pause as her cue to ing in a Scottish Shows could end with one of us didn’t have fight off teenage mutant ninja kids Best’s pretend bedroom. It rained all day. The
stand up and deliver my only accent” jumping backwards through the patio on the monkey bars when they were trying to sports car kept breaking down. Someone ran
line. Anyway, Louise Wyatt, (I hope doors and the other one mouthing out-wit Cerberus and rescue Persephone. around after me with an umbrella and a pow-
you’re googling yourself, bitch), you might “NOOOooooooooo!” in slow motion. Are der brush. Truly, I felt like a hundred dollars.
have put paid to my acting career forever, but you listening, Alistair? We should definitely do The trail went cold for a while in secondary
for the fact that I had another trick up my this. It could go on until we’re too old to school but picked up again later. I’d just The day before filming, the astonishingly neu-
sleeve. A frustrated playwright for a mother. prance about, and even then we could still do turned 19, and was living on the Isle of Man rotic director (who shall remain nameless, use
shadow puppets or something. when its ‘movie industry’ was just starting to your Google) had come into the Spar where
The first ‘pantomime’ happened when I was take off. A lot of films were being made there I’d been working and bought a box of tam-
about eight, I think, and there were three or Then there was school, where everyone’s a because the land was incredibly cheap to rent. pons, paying with a cheque. I was back work-
four of them in total, one every year, as a kind fucking actor. Although admittedly not always Nothing major, at that point. Recently the ex- ing in the shop the next day when Sophie Dahl
of family tradition. My brother Alistair (see to the extent that I thought I was. Sometimes I cellent Stormbreaker used the IoM as its main came in and bought a bottle of Tango. Not
page 7) and I played all the parts. In ‘Jock think ‘Jock’ and all those psychadelic early location, but in those days it was all Waking Diet Tango, oh no. She wasn’t all skinny back
and the Beanstalk’, for example, Alistair pantos might have had quite a profound Ned and The Land Girls. Anyway, I signed up then. We talked about the film. The late de-
played Jock and I played Nessie, the giant, a influence over my chosen means of expression. to the only Manx extras agency. signer Isabella Blow, who is reputed to have
fairy and (possibly) Jock’s mother. In Aladdin, “I enjoyed re-enacting the Bible stories in R.E,” first spotted Dahl's modelling potential once
I played Aladdin, Alistair played the Genie, my school friend Sophie told me years later, Within weeks I had a call to be in a film observed, "No one can keep their hands off
Widow Twanky, the wicked uncle, etc. I often “but I never did work out why King Agamem- about George Best. The film is actually called Sophie." And to my surprise, it turned out she
wonder whether mum wished she’d had more non had to be wearing sunglasses and talking “Best” although I always like to put an was right. No, no, she wasn’t. I didn’t. We
children. Whatever shroom-trip plots these in a Scottish accent”. exclamation mark at the end to add to the weren’t. It’s not what it looks like. Jesus, what
win men’s grooming products!
I told the PRs we were doing an issue themed on
performance and this is what they came up with.
Men’s grooming products. Genius really.
Well I say ‘grooming’ but let’s not be coy. What
we’re talking about here is finding a way to
make you smell less bad. And it’s not exclusively
do you take me for? She was lovely though. fame in the £1 bins of One Stops across the for men, either. Oh no. In these enlightened times
The next day, I bumped into Stephen Fry in land! In our own slightly seedy suburban way, girls can use male sprays and shower gels
Ottakers. “I’m Leila,” I said. “I’m Stephen,” he we were taking over the world! What would without fear of being burnt as witches. Even
replied, unnecessarily. “I know”. And again our next project be? I couldn’t wait to find out!
straight girls use them sometimes. It’s fine.
we talked about the film. There was a tense We got our money out of the cash machines,
moment where he looked as though he was exchanged small embarrassed nods of recog-
trying to remember who I was. Finally he said, nition, and went our separate ways. And they’re all made by Head, you know, the
“Weren’t you in the swimming pool scene?” guys who make the tennis racquets. If you don’t
I loved him for pretending to believe that I Last week Tom and were house-sitting for his believe me, for some demented reason, then
could be in a swimming pool scene, and did parents. They have an enormous flat-screen have a looksie here, why don’t you:
not correct him. telly. Well I say ‘enormous’, but by the time
you read this, massive 3D screens will no
The Isle of Man being the size it is, you bump doubt be everywhere and you’ll be sarcasti- g=toiletries.
into pretty much everyone sooner or later. cally holding up a magnifying glass to my
One afternoon, outside the bank, I noticed the ‘giant’ telly and squinting. You’re probably What’s your flava? The new Head body
extra who’d played my ‘boyfriend’ in the reading this on one of your super-screens now, spray/deodorant/shower gel sets come in three
scene before I ran off with El Beatle. flicking your wrist about for some reason, like varieties: “Ice Cool”; “Match Point” and “No
Tom Cruise in Minority Report. I bet you even
Limits”. One for Woody Allen fans, one for
This lad had spent an afternoon on a sofa with keep a small bald woman in the bath, don’t
his arm around me. True, I was a callow you? Admit it, you animal. Vanilla Ice worshippers, and one for admirers of
youth, and in normal circumstances that sort of 2 Unlimited. I think that covers all bases.
thing wouldn’t have guaranteed him so much Anyway, where was I future-boy? Oh yes. We
as an acknowledgement down the youth club channel-hopped until something very familiar So tell me what you’ve done to deserve a
the following week. But this was different - just came on the screen. Panic turned immediately not-yet-in-the-shops. brand new ‘grooming set’
like the Land Girls, we had been united by a to relief when I realised my scene had passed.
from Head, and I’ll post you the gear. As you
common experience. Like the lottery winner in Seems I’m still not sure how I feel about seeing
Waking Ned, one lucky phonecall had given my vastly magnified face doing “acting”. Even probably know by now, the email address is
us our big break! We had been propelled to the 1960s-style, fresh-faced teenaged version. email@example.com. Smell you later.
“How the hell
am I going to show
up to the first book club
life is a performance and i’m a shitty actor
meeting and totally reject
the book? Are they
chelsea hilton going to throw eggs at
me? Can I wear a
Within the past two years, my life has taken a lar voodoo self-help book claiming that there is I begrudgingly forked over the money for the because I don’t mask?”
dramatic turn. I have willingly traded in my a scientific law called “the law of attraction” book and dug in. It was, of course, ridiculous know how to do it. My
urban hipster status for the bliss that comes wherein humans can think hard about what nonsense. It did, however, spark up some inter- next idea was to get very drunk which would
with settling down and having a family. I they want in life and the universe will deliver. esting conversation with my friends and my basically prevent me from being held account-
moved to the ‘burbs, I drive a mini-van, and I Want a new car? Just think hard on it and husband. I found all kinds of hilarious websites able for anything I might say. But, I’m preg-
joined a book club (the latter being the most soon it will come to you. It’s probably in your disputing The Secret and it turned into a bit of nant, so that’s out.
grievous of sins among my still-raging-hipster garage right now. But, be careful – don’t use good, clean, suburban-living fun.
friends in the city). But hell, I like to read. I like negatives – the universe doesn’t understand The only thing that seemed reasonable (albeit
getting out of the house. I like wine and negatives. If you think, “I don’t want to get The problem I began to face was this: how the not easy and not all that winning) was to act
cheese. Does joining a book club really mean cancer, “ you’re asking for cancer. And since HELL do I show up for my first real “we’re- like I saw a lot of positives in this book and to-
I’m one step away from wearing mom jeans? it’s apparently a proven scientific law, it works here-to-discuss-a-book” book club meeting and tally and whole-heartedly focus on those, and
every time (think gravity) so you just bought totally reject the book and the people there then quickly change the subject. It wouldn’t be
My first book club meeting was a “member- yourself some abnormal cells, my friend. who believe in it? Are they going to throw a total lie. I do feel I can get behind about
ship drive” – a friend of mine belonged to this Watch out!! eggs at me? Can I wear a mask? No chance .06% of the ideas in the book.
book club and its numbers were dwindling. I’ll have the guts to say, “This book is com-
Accordingly, there wasn’t a book for that As getting older and moving to the ‘burbs has plete and utter crap. Pass the duck liver pate, Unfortunately, small talk doesn’t come all that
month; it was just a meeting for fun to lure in shown me, sometimes an open mind is a good darling.” I’m screwed. Not only because I easily to me, either, so I’ll have to act like I
some new members. There were a number of thing to have, or so that parachute/open-mind know I’ll be a dissenter, but because I know can do that, too. But acting? Ugh, not a
women there – all perfectly nice and surpris- bumper sticker claims. There are a lot of the woman who chose this book lost her strength. What am I going to say? “Yeah, grat-
ingly interesting (most of the 50-somethings bumper stickers in Kansas. That and vanity husband a few months ago and clearly finds itude, that’s the good stuff. Do I taste sun-
were all over my friend Tobi about taking her license plates (SOCRMOM2, BLT or PHD some kind of hope in this book. Misguided, dried tomatoes in this dip?” “Positive thinking
pole-dancing class – good sign). All was well DOOD). Horrible. But that’s another story. dangerous hope of the “will-come-back-to-bite- – sure! So, you’re a nurse, huh?” “I do think
until the woman hosting the next meeting de- you-in-the-ass” variety, but still. And who can focusing on someone’s good characteristics
clared that the next book would be “The Se- I tried to get myself thinking along the lines of, bear to disagree about ANYTHING with some- will do wonders…speaking of wonders, did
cret” by Rhonda Byrne. My heart sank. My “I cannot dispute the malarkey that is The Se- one who just lost a loved one? Hell, if she you hear that Fred Savage from “The Wonder
inner hipster clawed at me. The Secret, are cret without knowing the damn thing inside asked me to swear off sex for the next ten Years” just had a baby? God, that’ll make you
you kidding me? In my head, the book club and out.” Just like the hard-core atheists MUST years, I’d probably agree to it. feel old.”
quickly turned from book club to “lets get to- read the bible or they don’t have a leg to
gether and show each other our hemorrhoids” stand on in a debate with a religious person. Aside from magic, I couldn’t really come up Clearly needs work. Head spinning. Book club
club. I cannot join this club. Just discarding The Secret won’t do me any with any ideas as to how I was going to pull is in a few weeks. Please email acting spells
good. I have to study it to be able to tell the this off. After more thought, magic didn’t and recipes for potions to:
Unfamiliar with The Secret? It’s a wildly popu- book club that it’s all just a bunch of horseshit. actually seem all that brilliant either. Mostly firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I glared at the
perfect ballerina with
open envy, and said ‘So
beautiful ballet dancer. Her hair was up in a smoky bar at 3am, everyone’s voice like
have your periods tight chignon and everything about her was gravel, a plaintive sax in the background and
stopped yet?’ She burst just… perfect. I glared at her, with open envy, the beginnings of a whisky headache.
Tania Ahsan wants to hurt dancers. sort, then the best into tears. It was a and said ‘So, have your periods stopped yet?’ That’s jazz, man. Tap? Yeah, right, tap this
She burst into tears. It was a beautiful moment. [flips the finger]. I do have time for a lot of the
Just a little bit, not enough to beautiful moment.”
place to get that is in
dance studios. South American dances but not when they’re
hobble them or anything… Most dance studios have got I think my animosity toward dancers began being done by white elderly folk from Shrop-
wise to the idea of having a when I was forced to cover performance arts shire who wear too many sequins.
‘Bastard dancers,’ I thought, uncharitably as I massage or complementary health specialist for a magazine I worked on several years
wheezed my way up the stairs, holding up a on site to deal with dancers’ aches and pains. ago. I once took my fiancé to a performance The only dance performances I rate are the
line of extras from Fame behind me. ‘Just stew Since I’ve never let skinny people hog any- of some experimental modern Indian dance. acrobatic ones, perhaps because I always
in your poxy legwarmers and wait.’ As soon thing good (except maybe those size 6 hot- What felt like 60 years later, we emerged from wanted to join the circus. A lot of African
as I made it, huffing and puffing to the mid- pants on sale), I often make my way to a the theatre and my fiancé broke off our en- dances become very acrobatic and have the
way bit of the stairs, a (what’s the collective dance studio or two in London for a bit of a gagement. energy to make it worth watching. Also,
noun for dancers? A ‘pox’? A ‘sharp-elbowed pounding (funnily enough, my gay best mate they’re so pumping that you can’t help but at
bitch-pool’?) conga line of dancers zipped also says that but I think he means something Okay, so maybe it didn’t happen quite like the very least tap your feet.
past me, as though shot prematurely from a a bit different…). that but I’m sure the performance was one of
teenage dick. the main reasons he broke up with me. The And I suppose that’s my biggest problem with
While there I usually take the opportunity to only redeeming factor in that evening was see- dance performances – dance is not a specta-
‘I hope you get performance anxiety,’ I yelled look into a studio or two to see the dancers go ing Angela Rippon at the bar and going ‘oh, tor sport, you should be doing it yourself.
after them, in order to extend my dick through their paces. It is like beautifully chore- look, there’s Angela Rippon’ and then flashing As I’m too lazy to do any form of exercise,
metaphor further. So why was I there, torment- ographed torture. If anyone out there is into a our tits at her when she looked across at us. except perhaps lifting weighty pints to my lips,
ing dancers? Well, here’s a little secret. If bit of sadism, pop down to your local dance I don’t think dancers and me are ever going to
you’re into really good remedial massage, not studio and check out the advanced classes; Most dance I don’t get. I don’t get ballet be- be friends. However, I promise to try very
the ‘pay me £50 to half-heartedly rub a little plenty of ideas in there to bring back home for cause I can stand on my toes but nobody hard to stop making them cry.
nice-smelling oil onto your back, while thinking a bit of DIY with your slave. I think I’m about makes a fuss of me, do they? I don’t get jazz
about supper’ variety, but the proper deep to be banned though, as last time I went, I because, well, what the fuck is that? Jazz For more disturbing opinions and too much
tissue, make-you-want-to-yell-for-your-mama stood next to an impossibly thin, impossibly hands? Jazz feet? That’s not jazz. Jazz is a information, visit www.taniaahsan.com
dust to dust
The burning of effigies is one of those things expose their perilously low stock of the one
giving the piss
that I’m only aware of through news stories. man they thought was a safe bet. That’s how it
I’ve never done it myself, or seen it done, but should be, and that’s how lazy BBC journalism
it seems to go on somewhere out there. I don’t tries to fool me into thinking it might be, but I
really dislike anyone enough to want to burn a bet it’s not.
3D representation of them. To be honest the
people that seem to inspire my fiercest hatred, I bet the effigy was just some crudely con-
are the people that I tend to have the most torted pillow – with not even the gender, let
Have you ever chucked something at a band? however, soldiered on amid the torrent of fleeting contact with – drivers who don’t give alone the distinctive Derek Hattonesque ratty
God knows we’ve all wanted to, but have you human waste. the courtesy thank-you wave, or people who features of Mr Gere - clearly defined. I bet it
actually done it? Gig-going folk these days Maybe today's performers are mollycoddled, walk in front of me and then stop – and I was so bad that the men burning it had to
seem generally a lot better behaved than the terrified children, willing to walk offstage if so rarely get a very good look these people. So keep saying things like ‘Down with Richard
preceding generation, who stamped their much as a paper aeroplane hurtles towards even if I knew where to get effigies from, there Gere.’ Maybe even resorting to scrawling
mark on the 1980s by chucking items such as them. But then again, My Chemical would be the worry that the effigy wasn’t a ‘Richard Gere’ on the malformed head of the
pints, bottles, coins and, memorably, a dead Romance, would you believe, good likeness of the person that I hated so doll. Another beautiful dream bites the dust.
bat onstage in order to liven up the
“There's only thanked the crowd at last much. I mean I’m not sure how much burning
evening. year's Reading festival for
one thing more po- "all the bottles, all the a very accurate effigy would really assuage Catherine O’Flynn’s debut novel “What was
my feelings of anger and contempt, but I’d lost” has been long-listed for the Booker prize.
Of course, there's a great Victorian tent than big, warm, piss, all the golf balls, imagine burning a bad one – basically a big This piece is taken from her blog at
tradition for this kind of thing – the
yellow bottles, and all the apples and all anonymous doll - could possibly make me feel www.qanik.net.
end of a night of music hall entertain- the sticky shit." Golf
ment in the East End of London bore a that's big, warm, balls! Fantastic.
even angrier at the hopelessness of the world
and my place in it.
striking similarity to the aftermath brown plastic
of a Saturday vegetable market – but the
bags.” In my days of standing at Anyway I see it’s been happening in India this
motivation that drives most people to lob a the front of a stage and week, with demonstrators in Mumbai setting
pie at a bass player isn’t “staying true to singing a load of crap to disinter- light to effigies of Richard Gere. But I wonder
British tradition”. They do it because the band ested punters, I used to have dreams at night about the accuracy of the BBC news report.
are shit, and the smack of pastry on a fret- of someone lobbing a bottle at me, but thanks Were they really effigies of Richard Gere? The
board sounds far better than slap bass. to my superb reflexes I would grab said drink realities of the effigy vending business make
with an outstretched arm, take a long, satisfy- me sceptical. I could just about imagine a 24
When I started pondering this, the first person ing swig before saying "thanks for the drink, hour turnaround on your key range product
I thought of was Bonnie Tyler, of “Total Eclipse mate" and putting the bottle down by the mic (I’m thinking back to my days as a buyer at
Of The Heart” fame. Bonnie had bottles of piss stand. HMV here) – Bush, Blair, Uncle Sam etc – but
thrown at her at the 1986 Reading Festival. surely Richard Gere – outspoken though he
Big, warm, yellow bottles. There's only one Of course, Bonnie Tyler was sensible enough can be about Tibet – would not be in your
statement more potent and meaningful than not to attempt this feat at the 1986 Reading core range. I like the idea of a vast warehouse
big, warm, yellow bottles, and that's big, Festival. Thank god. That would have just somewhere in the middle of a desert with
warm, brown plastic bags. But a quick web added injury to insult. miles and miles of shelving and every single
search for current tales of gig-lobbing turned person in the public eye represented in effigy
up pathetic stories such as the Arctic Monkeys Rhodri Marsden is a blogger and columnist for form. The staff constantly fearing that Michael
frontman being hit by a SOCK thrown onstage The Independent and The Radio Times. He Palin will insult the followers of Islam and thus
– and he actually stopped the song. Bonnie, plays keyboards in Scritti Politti.
Published by Snowbooks. Written (mostly) by the editor of All The
Rage and founder of Worryfriends.com.
Published October 2007.
Check out uk.youtube.com/lovemaus for repetitive,
self-indulgent promotional clips featuring my big face.
Pre-order on Amazon.