Typical, Nothing But Repeats
Today I’m in and out of hospital so I wasn’t going to post, but nosing through the staggeringly long sidebar of past entries I’ve collected on this site I thought it would be fun to post a paragraph from the first few that I opened in a kind of bran tub of snippets. If you enjoy them I’ll post a few more odd juxtapositions. Dipping my hand into the sawdust, this is what I pull out (and inevitable tamper with the wording of because, you know, writer):
31st December 2009
It’s panto season again, and for some peculiar reason washed-up Hollywood stars seem to be joining the casts of shows. We had Pamela Anderson in Aladdin at Wimbledon, and now Mickey Rooney, soon to be 90, is back for a second season as Baron Hardup in Cinderella, singing and telling jokes that must mystify him. “Hello England,” he calls out. “I’m so happy to be here. At my age I’m happy to be anywhere.”
Rooney looks a little bewildered, as well he might, given the references to everything from Katie Price (a model) to the MK Dons (Milton Keynes’ local team) to feet that it’s claimed wouldn’t get into the Crystal Palace, let alone a crystal slipper. But his bafflement suits the plot as much as his lack of inches. The two Ugly Sisters, Whitney and Britney, have no trouble dominating him. And Rooney’s Hardup sings upbeat songs and joins in the repartee as slickly as anyone: “May I take your daughter’s hand in marriage?” “Why don’t you take the whole thing?” Bless.
27th February 2010
At the station I was recently I was given a bottle of water labelled ‘Portable Hydration’, which brings me to another meaningless word – ‘luxury’. My bathroom soap is, in fact, a ‘luxury bar’, which is gibberish. Does it taste like foie gras? No. Has it got champagne in it? No. It just washes dirt off. ‘Experience’ once described something you did. Now it’s routinely tacked onto everything from restaurants – ‘a dining experience’ – to tribute bands – ‘The Abba Experience’, and it gives us ‘experiential’.
The worst culprit, though, is ‘system’. Shaving foam is no longer content to merely stop your insanely overpriced razor blades from cutting your face. It’s your ‘personal moisturizer grooming system’.
A book that traces words and phrases with real meanings is the wonderful and idiosyncratic Brewer’s Dictionary Of London Phrase & Fable, which gathers together the people, places, events, culture, anecdotes, slang and catchphrases of the city. My mother used to say our neighbour was ‘as dim as a Toc H lamp’. My father would complain that the trains were a ‘right Fred Karno’s Army’. What they meant can easily be found in this latest updated volume.
31st December 2011
My unusual New York pal Michele gives me an unusual Christmas present, adoption papers for one Thorny Devil (Moloch Horridus, I kid you not) and one Squat Lobster. Details of the Thorny Devil’s life make surreal reading, from its habit of eating only one species of ant, and consuming up to 3,000 for dinner, one at a time, to its inflatable skin and unique rain-channeling back that funnels water to its mouth.
The lobster, on the other hand, is just a short, fat lobster. Oh, and they’re pickled in jars.
The Grant Museum of Zoology is one of the University College of London’s four slightly peculiar museums housed in the central London campus, and makes an ideal adoption gift for the person who has everything (but not a Squat Lobster).
29th May 2011
Edgar Wright says about “Hellboy 2” ‘I really liked it. I’ve never read the comics, so I watch “Hellboy” as a Guillermo del Toro fan. He really creates his own universe, and it’s just beautiful. On a production design level it’s just absolutely staggering.’
Until I saw it again recently, I’d forgotten that it contained monsters from my book ‘Spanky’. What happened was this.
Guillermo del Toro bought the rights to ‘Spanky’ and because he was a storyboard artist, sketched out some brilliant creature designs for my demonic character. The designs were entirely original and created separately by him for the film version of the novel. We met a few times in London and he showed me the stunning drawings in his notebook. We discussed them and we were ready to go.
The film version was to be set in Pittsburg, the first half in winter, the second half in summer – Heaven (snow) and Hell (furnace heat) would balance the story. It was a wonderful idea, and would have worked beautifully. But.
As we were heading for pre-production, Guillermo was offered a fortune to direct ‘Hellboy 2’. He phoned me apologetically and said he was doing the sequel in place of my film. He explained he wanted to use his creature designs for ‘Spanky’, and as he had created them I agreed. It was odd seeing them in the movie, but it was decent of Guillermo to ask me, and I was glad they were used. He remains a hero and a lost opportunity.
The photograph shows a sign in the Piccadilly underground most commuters overlook.