If You Were Here

If You Were Here   Canna 2  2012

If you were here

We’d spend my lottery win

We’d drive out to Westfield

Buy specialist £4 bread

And skip the light fandango.

We’d eat hammy paninis on stone boulders

outside the show of ‘Getty Images’.

I’d buy you a velvet cushion.

You’d say “Your dad wouldn’t like this”.

I’d question, “Do you, mum?”


We’d slide to the indoor market E15

And try on real leather moccasins.                                                                           auntie Joan

No synthetic for you, shoe-laces, velcro

Just something of class to last.

You’d throw away your old blue mack.

Sit royal: Assistants can pull from the rack

Something befitting your dignity

If you were here.


There’d be money to spare

You could demolish a giant Mars Bar

And buy dvds of John Wayne.

A gas-fire would overheat you, no slot-meters again.

You’d call a cab to take you to Tesco

Or across to the London Crem’

To lay down tears and flowers

In memory of dad. Amen.

They say money isn’t everything.

You say “That was lovely. Let’s do it again!”

If you were here to share my win.

Bronco Bullfrog

Was at The National Gallery after walking with The Stuart Low Trust through the China Town balloon-festooned streets in the freezing cold. We were aiming for the Sainsbury Wing for a free one hour tour.Our group leaders carried in their bright yellow Sainsbury carrier bags our free picnics: Beacons of light and joy! The tour guide was most informative, jolly and a gifted story-teller. We learnt tons about Christian symbolism through Crivelli’s work , ” Madonna of the Swallow”. The Turner exposition was illuminating (!). I felt though that I were in a church. Even the reduced Christmas cards from a fiver to a quid were too religious for me to send despite there being  the prestigious National Gallery logo on them. The other guys on the trip went home after the tour but I needed to soak up some secular stuff and finally, feet aching, found Church’s small exhibition of awesome sunsets over icebergs called “Through American Eyes”.

Culture done and over to Stratford for the film “Bronco Bullfrog”. Terrible acting, nasty wordless pauses, brilliant photography and filming, interesting landscapes and a gripping story-line. I had to pull myself into myself because it was that cold in the Stratford PictureHouse auditorium and then remember it wasn’t the theatre so it was traditional for the other members of the senior audience to rustle their sweet bags. Imagine! The music was good too. I did feel I was watching Ray Davies of The Kinks back in his day but he is and was in fact well-spoken having come from the borders of East Finchley and Muswell Hill, north London. The characters in “Bronco Buffalo” hardly moved their lips to talk their sloppy talk, their east London working class uneducated speke understood by everyone and unloved by many, Interestingly that same language survived and the tongue is still heard today amongst the ethnic minority of West Ham,  Stratford and east Leyton. Innit?

Someone clapped at the end of the film. I didn’t.

The film was a gift from ‘London On Screen’. I was ashamed of the settings, the poverty, the way people lived in Stratford 1969. I saw squalor which made the kitchens of 1960 kitchen -sink plays seem smart. They weren’t but were the common person’s habitat. I had been part of the common and hard-up mass; been there, cleaned the ash-tray, jiggled the black and white television aerial. I was allowed to feel the shame and anything else all because the London On Screen films are there to provoke memories about London and to preserve feelings of place. The films aren’t specifically for seniors. Birkbeck students, young and mature,  are invited in for free because the films provide a cultural background for all Londoners and a chance to identify with wherever one lives in London, I think. The screenings are cheap and good too and Stratford PictureHouse is so Stratford E15. i.e welcoming, homely and belonging to the local community.

Glad I made it. Wished I’d had a hot dog.

From BFI site   “Barney Platts-Mills‘ debut feature stars an entirely non-professional cast of  local teenagers from Stratford, East London.

The film grew out of a documentary, Everybody’s An Actor Shakespeare Said  (1968) made by Platts-Mills about the ‘Playbarn’ project run by veteran British  theatre figure Joan Littlewood at the Theatre Royal in Stratford. The project  aimed to divert local youths from loitering and petty crime and into creatively  channelling their energy and imagination through acting and improvisation.  Inspired by Littlewood, Platts-Mills encouraged the youths to come up with a  story based on events taken from their own lives. These were used as the basis  for Bronco Bullfrog. The young cast give the film an air of authenticity and  their sometimes awkward, hesitant performances reflect adolescence in a  non-contrived way.

The film treats its characters warmly and emphasises that their chosen  courses of action – petty crime, delinquency, and in Del’s case, elopement with  Irene (which, since Irene was 15, would make Del guilty of abduction) – are  determined by the limited choices they have.

The look of the film is reminiscent of the cinema verité/Free Cinema style  which had ushered in the 1960s, but any sense of optimism suggested by such  films is dashed. The mood of Bronco Bullfrog, shot in black and white against a  backdrop of East End bombsites and the new brutalism of urban high-rise flats,  closes the decade on a pessimistic note of limited horizons for its  working-class protagonists.

As evidence that not all of London had been swinging in the 1960s, Bronco  Bullfrog foreshadowed the ‘no future’ ethos which characterised the Punk  movement of the mid-to-late-1970s. The film also anticipated the treatment of  disaffected youth which became prevalent in British television drama”.

Littlewood suggested at Stratford Royal Theatre in those days  of yore that the aimless Stratford working class youth  be inspired by acting. “Bronco Bullfrog” reared its awkward, self-conscious head and became the chore of lazy, paid amateur kids. The project was obviously Littlewood’s baby  but just a laugh and a time-filler for opportunist thieves and petty criminals allegedly.

What is interesting is that the Theatre Royal Stratford east is still doing what their founder- director Littlewood did, that is encourage local youth to divert their energy to drama. They succeed. What is weird is that the film critic Alexander Walker, now deceased, praised the potential impact of “Bronco Bullfrog” on the film accolades’ industry and outside of the auditorium on my evening was the artist Alexander Walker’s art. Coincidence. Oooh.

There’s a striking art exhibition from Alexander Walker on the foyer walls upstairs at Stratford PictureHouse, eye-catching because of its colours noted well after a black and white film. One painting brings home Walthamstow Central. What I don’t get is why the Leytonstone-ites aren’t makng a fuss of the Hitchcock murals in their station now that Hopkins and the pink-haired lady of film are doing the rounds with their blockbuster. (I am so not interested).

Alexander Walker and The National Gallery in one blog!

Claremont Project in Islington continues to put on fabulous classical recitals. Last week the Korean pianist dazzled and excited our old limbs, mainly old white thighs.

Personal Best at the Paralympics.

Is anyone monitoring the conditions under which the Olympic Park volunteers  aka Gamesmakers work? The concerned grapevine has it that breaks are rare, that they stand in all sorts of weather, and that they get only £1.50 daily food allowance, not even enough for a  Big Mac and fries.  What is true?  I did meet a volunteer  driver who uses the ORN of course who told me quite blatantly that London black -cab drivers spit at her. I’d dump the uniform and go home.

The Paralympic Games look like the poor sister to the biggies. It would help if people could say the word “Paralympic”. I was on a Personal Best programme in 2009 which was designed to motivate people back to unpaid work in the Games Park. Everyone was naive then.  I joined because I was desperate to get into The Olympics and Paralympics Games to watch or sniff. I was in love with the whole excitement about the Games coming to Stratford E15.

Ours was a poorly attended 6 days over 6 weeks local course. Women had been cajoled and enrolled from a large housing estate and their minds were filled with shivery memories of school, urgent child-care arrangements and what to get for dinner. The only regular attender was the tutor. I remember  lots of hole- punching as we collected and filed hand-outs all about the history of The Olympics and other character- exposing questionnaires to see if we would slot into the essential criteria bit on a application form. Oh dire it all was. It finished. Thousands received their certificates and all was forgotten.

I went to my Gamesmaker interview, and did a lot of Cadbury chocolate-tasting as I pretended to be in awe of the Sainsbury’s guy who’d been on an American style howdidoody presentation workshop. I ate more chocolate aware that I was being tracked on CCtv cameras. My interviewer was a slip of an Eastern European accented girl who had no idea of my involvement with or my enthusiasm for the coming Games on my doorstep. But smile I did as the camera was rolling. My mumma raised no fool.

I was taken on as Gamesmaker for The Paralympics and even then knew I was second-rate. The Paralympics is not The Olympics. And to those classmates on Personal Best, the word “Paralympics” is as foreign to them as the word “Ramadan”. Those so-called students who could never be suitable to represent British people to tourists because those stereotyped desirables only exist in “Chariots Of Fire” are nowhere to be seen through the Westfield E20 and John Lewis windows. They certainly never got free tickets to smell the flowers or the canals. There was all the time a wink wink nod suggestion that Personal Best students would get a freebie to the Games. Naive we all were, including the organisers and the tutors.

The person who gained from that course is the Eritrean tutor who learnt something about the failures of a British education system.

So, Paralympics and Personal Best: The London 2012 team is still recruiting Gamesmakers for the Channel 4’s Games. Forget interviews, security checks and just mention Personal Best like it’s a passport visa. Say that there was definitely a promise of a job on completion of the course. No-one will check that. Get your free fitted uniform  with shoes too and transport arranged to take you to your job. (As if the csa’s in Canary Wharf or wherever they flout their mauve shirts even know what Personal Best is. My interviewer dismissed my Personal Best mention because she had enough trouble writing down  my past volunteering activities.)

Now that non-selection process makes a mockery of my already degraded position.

But I am so over it. Good luck to those latecomer Gamesmakers who are joining forces with the Forces. I have been into the Park many times now and will go again yet. It was funny that I entered names into the Waltham Forest ballot to have a look about the Park. Every person got a place and a wonderful time looking at the flowers and the majesty that is Olympia. It was a ballot remember so Lady Luck was surely out there. I never got a ticket. How weird. But I’m over it. Over the Games altogether if the truth be told but hanging in there ready for the Legacy lies to morph into whatever McDonalds wants.

Sublimer spoiler. Argos  displays the Gamesmakers’ colours at the beginning of its current stoooopid advert.