Tag Archives: Adrian Chiles

Pigeons Everywhere!

28 May

I can’t believe the week I’m having; the good news just keeps on coming: I have a job interview next Thursday.  Better than that – it’s with my beloved Open University.

A little background history for my newer conscripts: I did a part-time degree with the Open University, from 2003 to 2008.  It was part-time only in the sense that I worked for it at home.  I attended tutorials and day schools and two glorious summer schools – the first one in Manchester, where I made some great friends who have stayed in touch to this day; and one in London, where I got to visit – I still get all wobbly when I think about it – Shakespeare’s Globe. 

One thing in particular that I learned at summer school is that it is not actually required to venerate the Bard: he had duff moments, and it’s okay to say so.  Mind you, I think I am one of the Few: one retired man in my summer school tutor group happened to mention that he thought Shakespeare was very much a commercial playwright but not necessarily an intellectual genius.  A roomful of students rose as one in outrage and there was almost a lynching in a third floor classroom of Queen Mary University.  While someone went in search of a rope, I had to admit that, though I didn’t completely agree with him, I thought he had a point.  Luckily for me, the heretic was at one side of the class and I was at the other, so the body of Outrageds between us didn’t hear me and string me up as an accomplice.  Our tutor that day acknowledged the ‘commercial playwright’ point (Shakespeare retired a rich man); but on the ‘not an intellectual genius’ point she looked as if she’d found a slug in her cereal.  Mr Foolhardy of Takinyurlifeinyurhands, brave man, was completely unabashed and even had the temerity to keep attending the lectures.

On the day of our visit I woke up feeling queasy, so I had cereal and fruit instead of my usual cooked breakfast (it’s not that easy to get a figure like mine, you know; I have to work at every sausage, bacon, beans, egg, toast, hash brown and pineapple breakfast to maintain it) because I was determined that nothing was keeping me from going to the Globe that day.  We had tutorials in the morning but finished early for lunch.  We were provided with a packed dinner of cardboard sandwich tasting of the plastic it came in (I hate those things, they are vile), a large packet of crisps (ready salted, so everyone could eat them – unless you suffer hypertension, of course), a Granny Smith apple (euggcchh), and a bottle of water.

We then had a lecture on Shakespeare and the London Stage, which was interesting, before dashing for the coaches.  To be fair, I was the only one dashing; I could have given Linford Christie a run for his money (I was going to make a joke about lunchboxes there but it came out too rude): I was so desperate not to be left behind that I abandoned all the friends I had made that week, and dived head-first into an empty bus seat, strapping myself in before the rest of my tutor group had even left the classroom.  I hope I never take part in a flood here in Stockport because my poor family will clearly be on their own as far as I’m concerned.

The journey cut through London and took about twenty minutes.  We passed half of the Monopoly board, and the Tower of London.  There was a pub across the road from it called The Hung, Drawn, and Quartered.  What a great name!  When we arrived, I was amazed to see that not only was the Globe not round or anything like all of the pictures I have seen, but it was also right on the Thames (well, not right on, obviously, because it would sink; but on the riverside).  The river was brown and yukky and it was horrible to think that I once swam in it as a child.  The Globe looked like an ordinary city building and I can’t tell you how crushed I felt, but I was puzzled by the pictures and models of a twenty-sided ‘O’ that were everywhere on display.  However, I was soon distracted by being herded into a lecture theatre with everyone else.  We were privileged to be given a hilarious lecture on the Globe by Patrick Spottiswoode, the Director of Education at the Globe.  When Sam Wanamaker (the American actor and father of Zoe Wanamaker, who plays Susan in My Family) envisioned its rebuilding, he insisted that it be a place of education as well as entertainment, and it had to be accessible to all, which is why there are 700 tickets at £5 each available for every performance.  If you ever find yourself in London, you should go.

After the lecture, Patrick conducted an interview with the American director of Othello (the play we saw), Wilson Milam.  He once directed an episode of the old Dr Who series.  He was as tall and lanky as they come, and, coupled with his laconic speech and in contrast to the energy of Patrick Spottiswoode, my abiding memory is of a large paper man draped over an uncomfortable chair.  Finally, we were split into three groups and carted off to different rooms, and an actor led us in a very physical session exploring Shakespeare’s language.  Our actor was Yolanda Vasquez (who has appeared in Holby City, for those of you who watch it) and she was excellent.

Once that session was up, we had a break until the evening performance.  Unfortunately, no-one had actually said so to us, and consequently there were 150 supposedly intelligent mature students milling around in rising panic and lowing, ‘What do we do?  Where do we go?  Is it a break?  Can we leave the theatre?’  I’m convinced it was the result of the sheep mindset that sets in when you are given a timetable that tells you when to study, when to eat, when to drink tea, and when to listen.  As nobody came to tell us what to do, we eventually figured out for ourselves that we were free for ninety minutes, and many of us made our way to the gift shop.  I had intended to buy souvenirs for everyone but it was so expensive that I came away with only two 50pence bookmarks for the boys and a pencil topper of Shakespeare’s head for me.  DVDs that I had bought in the pound shop in Stockport were going for £19.99 each at the Globe.  After the bookmarks and pencil toppers, the next lowest price of anything was a fiver, and there wasn’t much stuff available even at that price.  I understand that the Globe gets no government funding and has to be self-supporting, but they really could have done with a few lower-priced items for hard-up visitors like me; they’d sell way more stuff.

However, coming out of the gift shop, which is upstairs, my disappointment disappeared, because there in front of me through large windows was the wooden O.  Idiot that I am, it never occurred to me that the theatre would stand separately from the box office and educational and shop and everyday business part of the Globe.   And once we went back out through the front entrance and round the side, it was clearly visible from the street.  In fact, I and those of my friends who had caught up with me, had our packed dinner sitting on the steps next to the Thames and gazing up in adoration at the Globe (actually, I think that last part might just have been me).  To be honest, I was so excited I could barely eat (yes, you did read that last sentence correctly), so it didn’t matter that my sandwich was inedible. 

While sitting there not eating, two smartly-dressed women and a ditto man gave us some money and asked us to give it back to them.  They were on a treasure hunt of sorts, and had to be videoed doing all manner of strange things around London, including singing on the street to passersby and being given money for it.  They hadn’t had much luck, so decided to cheat, which is where I came in.

After not eating and pretend-paying total strangers to sing, we went through the wrought iron gate entrance to the courtyard, where we were able to rent a seat back and two cushions for £4.  The seating is all benches and not very comfortable, apparently.  I can’t say I noticed. 

On the way to the loo round the back, I stopped to chat to a fellow student.  I say ‘chat,’ but it was more of a high-pitched gabble on my part, because I was in a frenzy of anticipation by now.  Fellow Student was standing with some people who turned out to be BBC crew, filming for The One Show.  The presenter, Adrian Chiles, is from Birmingham, and the following Friday was something like ‘Be Nice to People With Brummie Accents Day,’ so they were asking visitors to the Globe to quote Shakespeare in Birmingham accents (Shakespeare was from that general area, so he’d have had that sort of accent).  I tried to decline but they wouldn’t believe that I am rubbish at accents, so they filmed me in a state of total giddiness, not speaking Brummie.  I kept telling them they were wasting their film, but they asked me to say ‘My name is Adrian Chiles from The One Show on BBC1,’ or something like that, so I gave it a go.  I couldn’t get past ‘My name is…’  It was like my mouth wouldn’t work, but I eventually burst out in a cockney accent, ‘My name is Michael Caine!’  Don’t ask me where that came from.  I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be appearing on telly that Friday night after that performance, and I was right; but I obviously gave the BBC crew a good time, because they were shaking with laughter by the time I was done.

And then it was time to take my seat.  The OU must have bought whatever seats were available, because we were spread all over the theatre.  I was in a £26 seat on the middle tier; some students were in £19 seats up at the top at the back.  Some people were in the most expensive seats on the bottom tier.  I’m not complaining, because I had a fantastic view.  My seat number was A1, so I was at the front of the box looking down onto the stage.  I believe the view is excellent wherever you are, though.  The play was wonderful.  Othello is a tragedy (no offence intended to those of you who knew that) but the way it was played there were lots of laughs in it.  Tim McInnerny (Lord Percy and Captain Darling in Blackadder) played Iago, and he was good.

Apologies in advance for the scary woman in this next photo:

The £5 tickets are for a place with the groundlings, who stand throughout the performance.  There are no allocated places; it’s a free for all, and it was interesting to see them milling about throughout the performance.  The cast often made their entrance through the audience, and addressed us directly during soliloquies, so that the audience is part of the whole experience.  In the interval I went down to the ground floor to take photos, and there were lots of empty spaces because people were taking comfort breaks, so I watched the second half as a groundling, leaning on the stage and looking up at the actors.  It was fabulous.  There were some disgruntled teenagers next to me, who had to squash up to fit in the friend whose space I had pinched (I assume), but I didn’t feel guilty because they talked and texted all the way through the performance, and didn’t seem too keen to be there.  Tim McInnerny gave them a dirty look at one point, but a look from Lord Percy wouldn’t bother this generation of teenagers, would it?

The Globe is an open-air theatre, and we were incredibly fortunate because it had rained or been cloudy all week, but on that Wednesday afternoon the sun came out and stayed out, so we were able not only to eat on the pavement but to enjoy the play without discomfort.  All in all, it is in my top five life experiences.  And I speak as a woman who knows the value of a Malteser.

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Today is Big Tent poetry prompt day; the prompt is ‘aphrodisiac’.  I post my senryu with an apology to the Hub, who it is NOT about.  My inspiration came from my moaning friends (who won’t be my friends much longer if they find out what I have just called them):

The Housewife’s Aphrodisiac

You want me trembling
with desire for you? Offer
to wash the dishes.

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Reminiscing about summer school reminded me of this senryu I wrote way back; it is almost verbatim the instructions found in the student information booklet:

From the University Book of the Bleedin’ Obvious

Action in case of
fire: on discovering a
fire: please shout FIRE

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