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New Podcast update

I am endeavouring to keep my personal Mr Bert Pods weekly 20 minute podcast going. Added to this I have joined forces with a friend and we have started – but not yet published – a new Podcast which is to be entitled Nothing To See Hear. We have sat and chatted in a Zoom room with a vague topic to hang our rambling conversations on, and I have then edited the audio file into a podcast. The Pilot episode was like giving birth to the universe and only just finally complete because he is very difficult to work with, as will become clear when you hear the podcast. We have recorded Episode 1 and I am in the process of editing. Realistically with are thinking of publishing as a 30 -40 minute episode every two weeks, though I still need to look into a publishing platform which is another major task. We may get a few recorded and edited before we put them out. I just want to keep the embers glowing for you all as I know a lot of you are having difficulty containing your excitement.


24th July 198..

(at top of page in pencil I have written “sent letter” – probably sent one home on my first day in Austria…)

For context, Gunter had already stayed with us in Harrogate. We were like chalk and cheese. He was very confident and self-assured. I wasn’t. The family were very cultured, economically very comfortably off and middle class.

I realise now that the Austrian city of Graz is astonishingly beautiful. I cannot believe how much we did in one day…you can see all the sights on Wikipedia’s Graz page.

Ich I am here at last! the irony of that bit being I didn’t speak a word of German the whole time I was there. Woke up at 7am and got up at 9am after reading my book. Note the complete lack of description of house or people. Mrs Reinitzer who is very kind drove us in to Graz. Gunter needed his licence for his motorbike and we went to the huge police headquarters but there was a queue. Then we went to the Schlossberg and saw the whole of Graz. There were many paths all over the Berg and I took many photographs. Then we collected his driving licence which delighted him! We walked through City Park. Then we saw some weird pictures in an Art Gallery by Hundertwasser which were certainly different. “certainly different” is the sort of phrase my mother used of something she didn’t like but was too polite to say so. Then we got a tram and a bus home. The we went for a ride (!!) and then to the Cathedral which was very beautiful with loads of statues. Then to the Mausoleum of Kaiser Friedrich II which was very austere and cold and very big. We saw a house covered with paintings all over the front and Gunter bought a lamp for his fish tank!! He was going for a game of football with his friends and I did not want to go but relented at last and sat and read. His friends also had motorbikes and they all haired around heavens knows where with me terrified on the back. Then we went to one of his friends house on Viktor Gerambweg to see his new stereo but Gunter’s mother came and was very angry because he was late. I met his father without realising who he was!! Then we went to a Church high on ‘mountain’. It was Gothic and Baroque and they tried to get me to play the organ to my horror! Then we went to see his Grandmother who lives without water or electricity so I could not see her as there was no light. I also met his aunt and a Siamese cat called Ghengis Khan there! There was a terrific thunderstorm, the lightning like day light. when I was in the bathroom the light went off with a crash of thunder but soon came on again thank goodness!


20th October 2018

Last day. this morning went to a writing session at the National Theatre taken by the playwright who’s written a truly wide ranging amount of stuff including a big community-centred version of Pericles for the National. She divided the time into three sections. First was Conflict, integral to pretty much all stories. She got us to retell something which had annoyed us and then to re-tell it with protagonist, explanation of the problem and what was stopping the protagonist getting what they wanted.

My response: At home one person had been standing smiling, whilst I had been dashing around trying to get out the door but having to clear up cat wee under a plastic sheet by the cupboard door, and chop up lettuce for my lunch which I thought had been done the previous day. I asked said person what they were doing, and I got the reply that they were enjoying standing in different places in the newly tidied up/rearranged/new floored room, as it was a beautiful morning and the sun was streaming through the windows. My reaction at the time was extreme annoyance but in re-telling the incident to the woman I was paired up with, I realised the real (subtext) conflict was inside me that I love the fact that someone can stand and be so happy in the moment – it’s just that, that was the wrong moment.

The woman then told me her frustration had been with the District Line, which is never good, but particularly the previous day when the train had stopped at every stop for longer than normal, which she said then made her annoyed by everything going on around her, including a man who had sneezed much further down the carriage, which would probably mean she had now got a cold. This made me laugh and we agreed that what we found here was humour underneath the negative feelings. So that what as simple but useful exercise.

Then she went through a basic pictorial image of Structure, showing it doesn’t have to be linear. If it’s a play/story without a linear narrative, the structure can be created through themes, which is how my Dream Play version works. She said a simple way of thinking about a linear structure is where the songs come in a musical, which made sense to me. What I am beginning to see in myself is bringing my musicality into the writing. Strindberg describes A Dream Play as being like music with themes, variations etc. This is what I love about it and it’s those elements taht are coming to the fore in my writing of it. I’ve written scenes where I’ve used meter and repetition in a musical way. She talked of using internal rhyme in some of her own writing – she seems to have done such a wide range of styles.

Lastly she had written a short scene badly and she encouraged us to analyse the faults in it, focusing on how to write exposition well. I liked the fact that she took something which needed improving as a way of demonstrating through discussion how it could be better – what is the best way of doing it.

I thanked her at the end and will definitely follow what she does next.

So back to work – one door closing and another opening and fortunately although one person is continuing there will be a new DSM thank goodness. I went to Foyles to see if I could get a copy of Switzerland but it seems out of print over here. I noticed the playwright has also written a play called Honour which is the next show at the Park with Henry Goodman. It’s been done twice before with Eileen Atkins and Corin Redgrave at the National in 2003, and in the West End in 2006 with Diana Rigg and Martin Jarvis. So that bodes well.

I ended up bonding with half the cast – typical as it’s the last day – who’ve I barely spoken to during the run. There’s FOH drinks in the bar after the show I should go to though I’d rather go home.


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When that I was and a little tiny boy, in my home town of Harrogate, I lived in a cu-de-sac whose fifteen houses mostly had children. So I gre up playing with them all in a quiet street. When I was a bit older a new family moved into the road; an older and his sister. I was that bit older so I don’t think we played together as much, but I remember his family settled into the road and his parents became friends with mine. My main memory of him, was when for some reason (and I have no memory of why), he jumped out of the first floor window, intending to land on the porch roof below, but for some reason must have jumped to far and missed the roof, ending up on ground floor level. He must have broken something but I can’t remember.

I left the road for university, and later so did the brother and sister. When Mum and Dad were in decline, their Mum kept in touch. Her husband had died some years back, and she was alone in the house. I hadn’t seen her for years but went up one time to say hello, and let her know about Mum and Dad. I mentioned my memory of the famous jump and her face froze. Of course it had never crossed my mind the impact on the parents of their child having an accident. I think he had been all right but she said she had never forgotten it.

Her daughter is a solicitor and her son is a top NHS consultant. My brother contacted me to say that she had phoned him and told him her son had Covid-19. I rang her. He is a top specialist but had been working “front-line” in A&E. She said he had been at home, but had been ill, and possibly had picked up another virus on top of coronavirus. She sounded cheerful but I knew she must be frantic. He had been in isolation at home of course, and his colleagues had been leaving him food on the doorstep.

She said what I had been thinking: this virus is striking down the professionals who care for the rest of us. There is no one to replace them. I have no imagination as to what it must be like in hospitals right now. It is all very well the Government saying the NHS has coped, but this is no where near over. How do these people keep going? There is no one to give them respite when things calm down. They will have to keep working.

I asked a friend of mine today how she is as she hadn’t posted much on Instagram. She said: I just don’t know what to post on it at the moment. Everything seems so trivial and all I’m doing is living.

We may be in this all together, but we are living through it in such deeply different ways.

Austria here I come!

23rd July 198..

Today’s the day. Austria here I come. Up bright and early to travel to Leeds in the car to catch the train which was dead on time!! I sat next to a girl whi didn’t speak, and opposite an Austrian and her friend and they didn’t speak. In London we went by tube (just managing to get past the ticket collector) to a hotel done like one in the Wild West where we met more people and had horrible breaded fish and chips a Northerner in the South and ice cream. Then we got a train to Gatwick (we left our luggage in London) that’s a bit worrying. I talked to a boy a knew by sight from the Grammar School who had a horn with him car horn? French horn? bull’s horn? I sat next to the Austrian girl on the plane presumably in further silence and the flight didn’t bother me at all and was a bit boring. A bus took us from plane to airport, I found my suitcase after a long wait, then on a coach to Graz with a very pleasant girl chatty presumably and a funny Austrian student to talk to. I met Gunter my exchange partner who had already stayed with me, and whom I didn’t like very much as we had nothing in common and only his mother in Graz at 9pm-ish. Their house is marvellous it was.


18th October 2018

All official for Switzerland. Opens next month so I’ve about two and a half weeks of no work. Guess who is definitely on it. I’ve just passed them outside and got a a false cheery hello which I ignored so no doubt that’s another black mark against me. Just had a coffee with K and a good chat, saying I wouldn’t put my parents in a home. I had completely forgotten that’s what he did but the situation was difference and he didn’t take offence. I also later managed to ask L if her husband, who is a trained experienced electrician, had any experience with electrics. I managed to cover myself by focusing on the fact that the front room’s light stand lamp socket in question has been glued. That’s not electrical. I think we’ve knocked it so many times it’s loosened something in the wiring.

I’m a bit writing-ed out today after this morning’s weekly letter to Mum and Dad. If I have no work for a couple of weeks then I’d like to focus on the writing which I am loving at the moment. Not sure if my lack of enthusiasm to start writing (rather than the doing it) is due to tiredness or the fact that I am enjoying reading A Treachery Of Spies so much I can’t wait to get back to it.

I’ve never seen B backstage to ask him about his music, and if he has any piano sheet music of his songs. He keeps himself to himself which is fair enough. I’ve gone back to playing the keyboard since I cleared the front room. Still playing Max Richter piano pieces and the La La Land songbook. I should practise more as I don’t feel I am getting better. I wish in a way I could live like we are – if I could really focus on my writing and working in the evening. But then I’d like to do more in the theatre. I’m becoming more and more serious and enthusiastic about my play. It really feels like it is becoming mine. I’m enjoying writing based on a structure, and wondering about adapting a novel next – a difficult/unusual text would have a fresh interest taken in it. I need to think more about this.

19th October 2018

Unexpectedly in the theatre as D rang to say she is sick and asked me to cover. I’d got a planned evening which I’ve pulled out of without problem. Slept badly last night because of disturbances. I got some piano done and had a good swim, as my crawl technique is becoming much more relaxed and therefore stronger. Still can’t multitask enough to coordinate legs and arms properly and end up not moving my legs at all as I concentrate on my arms. Had tea with M locally and we were talking about swimming and yoga. I said I had hurt my back probably straining to keep up with the more advanced lot in yoga class (“keeping up” absolutely not being the point of yoga). M to my surprise said that she has to overcome her ego to stop being competitive in yoga and swimming. She said she once saw a woman swimming really slowly and thought she’d just overtake her quickly to get out of the other woman’s way, and found she couldn’t catch up with her. She’s as bad as me. I never honestly thought she’d be like that and she really made me laugh.

Got home and failed to fix the standard lamp. Not even sure why I am trying. I’m no electrician despite my theatre job title. I’ve been having unsettling dreams, the details of which I quickly forget except one where I was in the theatre, being really awful to everyone about guess who, and then found out they were really good friends with everyone I’d been talking to. Nothing to see here. Move along.

Brief Explanations

I need to open up the last blog post from my Teenage Diary. Jeremy was my best friend throughout my Secondary School. He was one of the funniest people I have ever met, and constantly reduced me to tears of laughter. We would sit at the back of the classroom and mess around, though we both worked. I remember one time (April Fool’s Day?) when we were in different classes – we had to choose between Physics and Biology, and Jeremy did the former and myself the latter – I went into the Physic’s lesson without my school blazer or tie, and Jeremy introduced me to Mr Linton the teacher, as being his German exchange student Fritz. We sat at the back of the class with me saying Ja ja ja a lot (we were both studying German needless to say) and Jeremy chanting: Who won the War? We won the War! At the end of the lesson, one of the class members overheard the teacher saying “that poor kid was crucified”.

Jeremy had quite liberal, academic and in hindsight rather eccentric parents. Utterly different to mine own. His father was a teacher and the four children all had names beginning with J. I think Jeremy is now a teacher. The irony. I remember he went off to see one of the Emmanuelle series (soft porn cinema film rated X) and later told his Mum who laughed.

So ringing up a photography business and trying to arrange a photograph session with a dog and two gerbils, or a dog grooming business asking if they could do something fancy for his Afghan was the height of hilarity for us teenagers.

As for the beauty pamphlets, well…this was our English Teacher. Looking back as an adult now, I still can’t quite figure her out, other than she was probably a lonely woman. And writing this now, out of respect to her I am not going to say any more. Children can be so cruel.

Torments and jokes

22nd July 198..

Decided to meet Jeremy this afternoon, so of course I had a morning of torment as usual, Mum was washing. That sentence leaves me quite speechless bringing back many a memory of the torments of Washing Day. The highlight of the morning was going to get a newspaper for Pop and an Aero for Mum! After lunch, went in to town and got a bit of shopping for mother before going around to Jeremy’s. Started by reading`The Courrier’ no idea what this was and ended up by ringing people. He rang up Voltans Photography and said he wanted a dog and two gerbils photographed together but burst out laughing. Then he rang a [dog] grooming place and asked if they could do something fancy for an Afghan I am struggling to type now as I am laughing so much remembering this – we were best friends. Then it was a Foreign Language school but the number was wrong and he chatted to a lady (a housewife I suppose) for ten minutes. Last he rang a beauty parlour and some leaflets are being sent to Mrs D Smith, 18 W**** T****! He’ll regret it! This needs explaining in full in another post.

Theatre musings

13th October 2018

Feeling unnaturally calm about everything. Getting the flat back in order has been great and I’ve sat in the living room and it’s lovely. Found out there will be a new show in the theatre in a couple of weeks and Board Op is now contracted for us both as theatre staff for all shows, so we will have work which made me feel a lot better. The Power of Attorney wheels are rolling. There’s the possibility of private tuition with a local five year old with speech delay. And I have been told not to worry about the money situation in spite of the money spent on windows and floors. So all in all I am feeling a lot better. After today’s matinee I’ve got Wise Children at the Old Vic to look forward to – my “surprise” birthday present, and I’m meeting a couple of friends between shows.

Guess who announced they were going to watch the show last night. I decided not to talk on cans as I could not risk making any mistakes with them out front. Then some way through first half I saw them sitting in the Circle wearing headsets. I told the Carp in the interval, who’d also thought about talking but had decided not to, and was relieved he’d made right decision by luck. He told me how everyone wants to see the back them now. Interestingly when the tree hit the gobo on Tuesday really badly, it went straight in the show report. When on the same day it was found that the wireless cans were not working and had not been checked at the half, that was not put in the show report. Aside from that problem, the company haven’t really gelled. They all seem to come in, do their job as separate entities, and then go home again. But they are all very nice. I won’t be that sad when this finishes.

16th October 2018

Good news. New show. Called Switzerland, directed by Lucy Bailey who set up Notting Hill’s Print Room, and whose production of Comus I really enjoyed at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. It’s a two-hander about the end of Patricia Highsmith’s life when she lived in Switzerland. It’s coming from Bath and had good reviews. I think it could do OK, though I imagine no one is expecting it to make much money at this short notice, which is fair enough. It is written by a woman too. The theatre has been strong for female creatives since I’ve been here. The bad news is the person we all wanted to see the back of is not going anywhere. At least it’s an already settled production, and I have told my boss I am not going to continue to be muzzled on this. There will be a fresh team of people coming in. Better news is that it runs at 90mins with no interval. There’s an actor from Downton in it apparently. I’ll have a couple of weeks of no work/no pay between productions. Dad may be able to help me financially. But it does mean I can now go to 42nd Street at Drury Lane, and celebrate a couple of birthdays. I have a bit of work with the outdoor play company too.

Just realised Switzerland is written by same woman who wrote Songs For Nobodies which will be the following production in the theatre. I’ve heard there’s a man from Bristol Old Vic who has a connection with War Horse, and who is going to talk about puppetry in relation to Winnicott’s work at the Freud Museum. Looks interesting. And this Saturday I am going to one of the monthly writer’s day courses at the National. The playwright taking it had adapted a production I need to look into, and I thought an adapter would be a good person to listen to. I had a good and quiet day today – swim, Twitter, Bargain Hunt lunch, emails and a productive three hours of writing. I’ve suddenly gone into a regular metre of speech with a lot of lines in the Bedsit Scene between the Lawyer and the Daughter. Some lines I’ve given five beats. Some lines start with the last word of the previous line. Some lines are 12 by 4 beats. I don’t know how this came about. Why this scene? I can’t answer that. I can’t imagine doing the whole play like this but I’ll be interested to see if it crops up again. I’m on the second draft, so it’s coming out of lines I’ve already written. Overall I am feeling a lot happier and more settled now the flat’s work is almost complete. The cat still weeing in the hall so I won’t rest till the new flooring is down there, and that’s due first week of November.

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