Writer’s blog: Tuesday

Day Two

Seemed to hit a stampede of Olympics people on my Tube journey up to King’s Cross this morning, but I think there may be some kind of road race on in Central London, so it’s to be expected. Frankly, if you commute in London, inhuman mobile squalor is the norm.

Soundtrack to my commute:
THE ORB Toxygene (7″ Edit)
ARCADE FIRE The Suburbs
JESUS & MARY CHAIN Upside Down
KASABIAN Where Did All The Love Go?
ASIAN DUB FOUNDATION Naxalite
TOM WAITS Swordfishtrombones
UNION OF KNIVES Operated On
BATTLE Tendency
COCTEAU TWINS Persephone
ADELE Hometown Glory
FOALS Spanish Sahara
KAREN O & THE KIDS Igloo [partial, as I arrived at the British Library here]

Because the Library’s opening hours have changed during the Games, I accidentally arrived half an hour early this morning and was forced – forced, I tell you – to have a coffee. I knew the Costa in St Pancras Station would be rammed, and the Starbucks (my least favourite of the chains) over the road from the Library has recently been cleverly redesigned so that there’s almost nowhere to sit (good work, everyone), and in any case, the queue was literally out of the door. My only hope without a long walk was the Costa that’s nestled beneath the Premier Inn. I used to frequent this one before I had a Costa loyalty swipe-card and didn’t care that, as a franchise, it didn’t have the technology to top up or take points as payment. So I stopped using it. Funnily enough, they now accept the cards, so I’m 10p closer to a free coffee which I will probably never achieve as Costa don’t have wi-fi, and for a professional writer without an office, this is no good to me. Bet you’re glad I decided to write a daily diary this week.

Here’s news: I watched the whole of the 400m final on the Olympics last night, including the preamble/build-up, and a bit of the debrief, during which John Inverdale almost generalised about black people being better at running, and Michael Johnson took serious-faced issue. (He’s always got a serious face, though, hasn’t he?) It’s a minefield. Ironically, the runners in the 400m final included two very white Belgians, so it was not the time or the place for that dangerous argument. In a Season One episode of Friday Night Lights, the assistant coach made a flippant remark to the press about his black players being natural running backs, implying that they are really good at running fast, like “junkyard dogs”, I think he said. The black players walked out. He was almost sacked. As I say, minefield. Especially when Team GB is so thrillingly mixed up, ethnically: whatever anthropological/geographical point you wish to make, the modern world makes it futile to generalise. It’s like saying men are better at reading maps. It simply can’t be true.

A bit of scandal erupted just before I went to bed (well, it probably erupted way earlier than that, but I was nowhere near a computer): Morrissey had posted an on-tour blog entry on the True To You website, the offending passage of which can – and should – be read in full here. (When I say “should”, you could just ignore him. He is, after all, an attention-seeker with an innate ability to push the right buttons in order be noticed; I am merely adding to his desired chatter by furthering the story’s lifespan.) This time, he’s reacted negatively to British Olympic fervour, wilfully misinterpreted “patriotism” as “jingoism”, and likened the flag-waving quasi-nationalist mood to that of “the spirit of 1939 Germany”. He does not use the N-word, by the way, although it is implied by the year.

I Tweeted before bed that people should read the statement in full before they start calling Morrissey names, rather than pick up soundbites through inevitably skewed news media coverage. Some aimed flack at me as if I were defending him. I wasn’t. I agree with some of what he says, disagree with the way he said some of it, but defend to the death his right to be a dick in public. Events in 1939 in Germany did happen, and we should not be afraid of mentioning that, or the name of the party that Hitler led. But it’s always risky business to compare anything less ethno-genocidal to that infamous period. I doubt that the current “jingoism” going on at Olympic Park and in living rooms up and down the land will result in David Cameron annexing any countries or rounding up any ethnic groups (as much as, in his dreams, he might like to – well, round up the poor, the disabled and the dispossessed, at the very least). Mind you, nor does Moz think that.

I caught up with the reaction this morning, and much of it was antagonistic. It seemed important to some detractors to object not only to what he said, but to how good or not he is at singing. (Typical of this: “Morrissey remains a pillock who hasn’t been musically relevant since The Smiths split.”) It’s a pity he feels the need to dress up what might be taken as valid points – such as the one about the way a population is controlled by promotion of brands, including the Royals and the Beckhams – with bald shock tactics, but hey, who’d notice otherwise? (Having, in the past, written things that have enraged, I know how bruising it is to mess with a consensus, but I operate on a very modest scale to Morrissey and his thousands of devoted disciples, and I seriously do not set out to shock.)

Incidentally, I don’t think the news media is that bothered about the story. It was on Sky News, and their website (note: helpful use of word “Nazi” – in quote marks – in the headline), but it’s nowhere to be seen on the BBC News site, nor in my morning paper. Maybe it will stay that way.

Had a massive rethink about the script that I wrote yesterday, and I’m about to tear it up and start again. Wish me luck.

So, many hours have passed since the last paragraph. I really did it. I really did tear up much of what I wrote yesterday. This is partly because I’d written 15 pages and hadn’t got anywhere near the halfway point in the story. So major surgery was required. I hacked it back to the first scene, and went off in a different direction. It really helped to clear my block. Again, I have no idea if it’s “any good”, what I’ve been writing since about 11am (four hours with a couple of screen-breaks to read the new Sight & Sound), but I’m certainly getting on top of the story beats this time. I realise all of this would be a lot more interesting if you knew what I was writing, and for which channel, but you know the rules. I think I wrote a good joke about a font, and it’s not every day you can do that.

Packed lunch: same chilli as yesterday. No complaints from me. I brought two of the homemade almond/dried fruit/espresso biscotti I made on Sunday, which have come out rather well, but they are exclusively for dunking in a coffee, and I am denying money to the Peyton & Byrne cafe in the Library at this particular junction by drinking their free tapwater. The biscotti can, in this instance, come home with me and be dunked in a non-machine-made coffee in front of the telly. I made 28 individual biscuits, and intend to eat no more than two a day. I’m disciplined like that. I would have made a good monk.

Talking of which, I realised today that I am too much of an idealist. I’m afraid I found myself genuinely shocked by reports that the Church of England is selling its £1.9m stake in News Corp, as a protest against its lack of contrition over phone-hacking. The Church? Shares? In News Corp? A helpful man on Twitter called Paul Harrison furnished me with the info that the Church of England costs £1bn per annum to run, of which three quarters is covered by fundraising and donations, with the shortfall plugged by the stock market. This still shocks me a bit. I must have really thought that churches were funded via the collection plate. What a quaint, unspoiled, John Major-like picture of England I must cling to!

That’s a little picture to remind me of Edinburgh. I always miss the Edinburgh Fringe when I’m not there, and I’m not there, while a large percentage of the people I follow on Twitter are. I’m happy to say that I shall be working at the Media Guardian Edinburgh International Television Festival – or MGEITF as all the cool delegates are calling it – which happens between August 23-25. This coincides with the Fringe, so even though I will be hosting screenings and Q&As during the day (with the stellar likes of Charlie Brooker, Steven Moffat, Victoria Wood, Frank Spotnitz, Simon Bird and Robert Popper), I should be able to see at least a handful of shows in the evenings. I expect these will be shows by my friends, as I won’t have time to experiment. I am sad that I’ll be working when Richard Herring’s Edinburgh Podcast show is on, as I’m sure he’d be enthusiastic about having me on as a special guest!

Oh, I was quoted on Channel 4 News about the Morrissey sedition. Not the programme, the website, but it was an honour anyway, as they are the best news programme. You can read the report here. (Thanks to Anna for asking and catching me at a good moment.) Incidentally, I was asked to be on the Today programme this morning, but I had to say no, as my head’s mashed enough as it is with this script without having to get up early and think hard enough about war films to sound erudite and informed on a programme as important as Today. (I turn down a lot of chances to be on things, you know. I’m not quite the egomaniac you think I am.)

I packed up at 5.30 at the Library, happy with my progress, in that I’m at about the same point in word-length as I was yesterday, but much closer to where I need to be with the story.

My Olympics displacement this evening came courtesy of a very early screening for Beasts Of The Southern Wild, a lowish-budget American directorial debut set on the coast of Louisiana that’s best described as a lyrical subsistence fable from the edge of urban living, starring two non-actors, one of them six, the other a baker from New Orleans. My interest was piqued by David Denby’s rave review in the New Yorker. You can read it in full, if you wish, but personally I’m going to hold back. Why would you want to read a review of a film that’s not out until October? I will say this though: it’s utterly unique, magical, surprising and captivating. I’m saying this now, too: it’s surely an Oscar contender for 2013.

More golds won while I was looking the other way (although Twitter is like a constant commentary, so I don’t feel too out of the loop). If we’re not careful, we’re going to get used to all this winning. We may have to buy back some of our playing fields in order to let future Team GB Olympians play sport on them. You know, the ones both Tory and Labour governments sold off. Bloody disgrace.

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14 thoughts on “Writer’s blog: Tuesday

  1. Really enjoyed reading the first two diary blogs – although I have no idea why! Maybe it’s a shared sense of the frustration of the self-employed person who keeps finding life getting in the way of making a living.

    One tiny little point – in Friday Night Lights the Assistant Coach causes a stir by seemingly making a distinction between quarterbacks ( generally seen as the the brains of the team) who he suggests would tend to be white and the running backs (like Smash) and tackles who tend to be black.

    In my very limited experience of watching American Football this does seem to be the case so maybe the writer of the episode was making a subtle point about inherent/institutionalised racism in college and professional football in the US.

    Good luck with the script(s) and thanks again for the diary.

    • Thanks. I’ve amended quarterbacks to running backs, as I’m sure you’re right. I’ve only watched 24 episodes of Friday Night Lights and still struggle with some of the intricacies of the sport – a sport that I never expected to know even this much about!

  2. Hey Andrew, if you’re ever forced to have a coffee again then you should check out Albertini’s in Chalton Street. Just round the corner from the BL and very friendly staff and atmosphere. Spent many an early morning there waiting for the library to open when I was writing up my thesis. Thanks for the blog.

  3. there might be a reason that Michael Johnson was making a “Uhh?” serious face. He might reasonably expect his blazer wearing colleague Mr Inverdale to have watched the Channel 4 documentary he fronted about, as it says in the blurb: “Why is it that all the athletes that lined up for the men’s 100m final at the Beijing Olympics could trace their ancestry back to the trans-Atlantic slave trade?
    “In this landmark documentary, Olympian Michael Johnson embarks on a personal genealogical and scientific journey in a bid to understand if he and other world-class African American and Caribbean athletes are successful as a result of slavery.”

    http://www.channel4.com/programmes/michael-johnson-survival-of-the-fastest/episode-guide/series-1/episode-1

    So Michael could probably have talked about it for hours and it’s not exactly a “don’t-go-there” subject. It’s a “let’s-go-to-Africa-and-talk-about-it-for-at-least-an-hour” subject. More interestingly might be how does Tyson Gay manage to run almost as fast as Usain Bolt when his legs are so much shorter? I wonder how the Christian News reacted to Tyson’s fourth place, did Tyson “Homosexual” merit a mention?
    http://voices.washingtonpost.com/sleuth/2008/07/christian_sites_ban_on_g_word.html

    • Be aware that the “Tyson Homosexual” story is from 2008. Not that it didn’t happen, but it’s literally old news.

  4. “I always miss the Edinburgh Fringe when I’m not there”

    Your one man show was really entertaining a couple of years back. We miss you too.

    I’m sure he’d be enthusiastic about having me on as a special guest!

    Do I detect just the barest hint of sarcasm in that sentence?

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