Endings.

I’m writing a new show that will be biographical and feature tales about mental health. Last time I felt the black dog tugging on his leash was after the death of my dad. In truth though that wasn’t depression it was me grieving, which is perfectly natural. I feel it’s important we recognise that and don’t define ourselves via a condition…some of these jokes are in bad taste…good.  

I hold everything the NHS does in the highest regard. Being Scottish I’m quite reliant on them. I hate these twits that say, “Ah but you can’t expect free care forever.” It’s not free. We pay for it. And being an ex smoker of 20 years, with the amount of tax I’ve paid, when my time is up I want a gold plated bed and disgraced Tories washing my feet while I whack their arses with a rolled up copy of the Morning Star.

I’m not claiming NHS care is perfect. I used to have an uncle who had an NHS pacemaker and every time he farted the garage door would open.

My dad went out in an NHS bed. Not so much to do with a Scots lifestyle and more to do with he was chock a full of white asbestos from his job. The funeral was lovely and very well attended but his cremation went on forever.

That was the last time I felt depressed. But the point is it wasn’t depression I was just grieving. We should recognise that, I feel it’s very important we don’t define ourselves via conditions. Being sad is sometimes the right way to be. I really don’t like how we romanticise bad mental health. Poor old Van Gough get’s that, “Ah well, the reason he was so great was because he was so tortured.”
Bullshit. They claim his last words were  “la tristesse durera” meaning  “The pain is eternal” Well that was conveniently poetic of him wasn’t it?…and just not true. You know what my dads last words were? “You maybe better get a doctor. I think there’s something really wrong with me.” Which makes perfect sense. He wasn’t rattling out little bon mots on the nature of being. “Ah the universe is a hurricane and we are nought but farts.” What? What’s he saying? I’m not sure, something about farting like a hurricane. Ah…it’s probably the mixture of hospital cabbage and morphine.

I reckon Van Gough’s last words probably were more along the lines of, “Speak up you fool, I’m missing a lug. What? No I don’t feel like getting it down in a painting! I’m really fucking depressed! Send out for some prostitutes and Absinth, that tends to work”

And if those really were his last words then he was wrong. Pain isn’t eternal…Well unless you’re watching Scotland in a world cup qualifier. In which case it can feel like it. The point is you get better. Of course I can still feel a swelling of emotion when I think of my dad, but it’s a nice feeling. I was just thinking today how he could be full of constant surprises. I remember watching indie band The Smiths on telly one day and he looked up from his paper and said, “What a lovely singer that man is. Perfect diction, you can make out every word.” I was stunned. As far as music went he wasn’t into anything post Sinatra. Now he’s gone from Sinatra to The Smiths and cut out pretty much everything in between. That’s some gap. Or maybe he just liked the idea of “hanging DJs” Then there was the time gay icon Boy George first appeared on Top of the Pops. Again he looks up from his paper, “What’s that.” He enquired? Not who, what. I said, “It’s Boy George. He’s gay.” To which he replied, “Well if gay means happy then that man’s ecstatic.” A joke I feel good enough to go in this show.

Although the death of my dad from cancer was anything but pleasant I didn’t find it horrific either. Life kind of prepares you for such stuff. And even in among all the pain nice things would happen. The day before he went he decided to rally round and find the strength to watch Scotland play England at Rugby. We hadn’t defeated England in an age…that day we won. Nice one God. I always reckoned if he did exist he’s probably Scottish and invented England to punish us for our sins.

Even on the day of his passing quirky stuff was happening. My family is like The Broons. There’s as many of us as them and like The Broons if one heads out to solve a problem then another nine follow behind them. On the day my dad was at the end he had been put into twilight to ease his pain. It was decided a word with the nurse was required and in typical Broons/Scott family tradition nine of them set off down the corridor and I was charged with watching my dad as I had a “nursing background”. I’d worked for nine months in a psychiatric hospital about ten years prior. They hadn’t been out the room more than two minutes and my dad decided, from whatever level of consciousness he was on, It seems to have gone a bit quite I’ll just sneak away now. And he stopped breathing. I got a fright. I then said, “Shit dad they’re all out the room. Could you please just hang on.” And he promptly started breathing again.

So then I lean out his room and call on the family. As I was doing this I did the most ridiculous thing of keeping one hand on his bed, like you do with a shopping trolley in the supermarket…in case someone is looking for exactly the same groceries as you and makes off with your stuff. I’ve no idea where I thought he might be going. I think the chances of him leaping up and announcing there’s maybe some time left for a final bet at the bookies were slim.

PS My dad’s the one on the left in this photo.

 

 

 

Youth #WorldPoetryDay

I remember a boy who always loved rivers
As he screamed and he skipped and he ran
So when the last light is naught but a sliver
I’ll take pride in his complete lack of plan

An infectious laugh brimming in joy
Just another face in the Oi polloi
And we danced
Castles float
Keith transmits
Ice expands
Plastic spins
Charlie fights
Acid lights
Raymond disappears
Nobody here

I remember a boy with no thoughts of the mortal
How he drank and he swore and he sang
And when I see that I let out a chortle
Yet some are long gone from the gang
And we danced
Twirling your stuff
Strutting a bluff
Where is she going
Enough is enough
What have you done with your hair
You burn and you dim like a flare
I can’t remember
It’s fading like embers
Play turns to working
Your bones are for hurting
Warm summer sun
Is this the last one
Sea was for swimming
Nettles for stinging
Is there money for one more ride
I don’t need anything with you by my side
Life is a bitch
Forgive us our sins
Life is a beach
An the tide’s coming in.

I/Mmature Student 3. More Macbeth. More fellow writers.

Did you know that Shakespeare wrote Macbeth as his response to the Gunpowder plot? I did actually know this myself but it had gone to the recess of my mind until I started reading it  again the other day. The version I’m reading is the Arden publication that comes with helpful notes for those, like me, not well verses in The Bard.  Shakespeare was obviously loyal to the Royal Court and with good reason if James 1st had detected any obvious sedition in his work he would have chopped his head off. Which you have to admit is probably a bit worse than a one star review. For a more modern example of a similar situation see Mel and Sue’s loyalty to the Court of the BBC when choosing not to flee to  Channel 4 with The Bake Off. Trust me I’ve met some BBC producers and if they thought they could get away with the odd beheading the gates to their studios would now currently be decorated with the heads of the former hosts of Top Gear. On a personal note I could not give but one fuck as to what Channel people want to watch people bake on. I’m of the school of thought that reality TV is just another nail in the coffin of  quality TV Drama. Although I have often thought we could improve The Jeremy Kyle show by getting rid of the lie detector test and just make the opposing factions fight some crocodiles.

So last week I got to meet the rest of Northumbria’s second and third year writers. Some of them knew me already due to trips to the local comedy club. The seem a lovely bunch. I was asked in a group bonding session what I looked forward to most in the coming years and replied collaborating with others. Stand up is a lonely job and having worked in a sketch show and produced my own panel show I’m fully aware of the good results you can get in a gang. The more experienced students offered good advice about joining the writing and drama society as this way we can get time to know the actors better and form some bonds. Apparently at times the actors can worry the writers think ourselves a wee bit above them. How silly, we don’t think ourselves better than them at times. We know we’re better than them all the time. This reminded me of the opening credits of the meta superhero movie Dead Pool. When the credits got to the point “Written By.” It quite knowingly said, “The real heroes of this story.” (I’ll add a knowing wink here as I am partially joking. 😉 Actually I’m fully joking. I’ve admired “The Shit” actors can do for decades. They have abilities way beyond my own. Just look at how long Tom Cruise has managed to convince us he’s straight.

I’m off to see two plays next week. This is more plays than I’ve seen this year and I’m quite excited to be immersing myself in a strand of the arts I’m not familiar with. I’ll report more on that once having seen them.

So I think that’s me for the day. It’s sunny so I’m off out for a walk. On return I’ve a list of stuff needs doing, so we’ll get onto that. Have a nice Sunday all.

 

 

Working class Pt. 2 The Arts.

There’s been much written in recent times about it being harder for working class artists to break through in their field. From problems with a lack of much needed money to gain access to education, to a general feeling that many of the fields are now being dominated by the privileged. I.e. those with money (or their parents money) to spare.

It’s not new the prejudices against the working classes in the arts. Over centuries it has been debated that Shakespeare didn’t write his own work because he was of too lowly a standing. To me the idea it was written by someone of nobility is ridiculous. Why would a noble in all their comforts have to strive to produce the best they could? They can just fall back on being…err…noble.

I think it’s certainly worth noting that just recently we lost two working class giants of their craft in David Bowie and Alan Rickman. Bowie himself left school with little qualification but did attend one of the many now eradicated 60s art schools. Rickman received sponsorship and a scholarship to get him started. All great supportive avenues for us ordinary folks to gain access to arts, now all gone.

On a personal level as a comedian I’ve certainly seen a hell of a lot of class bias in my own industry. Sometimes it’s prominent critics who hear a northern or working class voice and immediately dismiss whatever is being said as “club comedy” A now derisory term invented by a London based, self anointed comedy policeman. It’s a weird term as much comedy comes from and is created in clubs. Sure I understand that comedy designed to please those on a night out isn’t perhaps best suited to a festival going punter. But if that comedy does turn out to actually rock a festival crowd with laughter then surely it’s of some merit somewhere along the line? According to many critics absolutely not. And who is it we find most adept at this type of comedy? That’s right, working class comics. Because it was a working class crowd the comedy was created in front of. Yeah…but what are the working classes doing at an arts festival? This seems to be the notion behind such thinking.

In an attempt to not be judged as just a “club comic” I personally now write social and political comedy or satire as it can be known. How many working class voices have you heard over decades on telly or radio tackling that stuff? No, it would seem some forms of comedy are only to be uttered by those folks in the middle. What would a working class person know about the real issues? I was actually told once by the head of BBC comedy North, and I quote, “Look there’s a lot of good stuff here but you’ve got a wall of Oxbridge school tie to get over before anybody will look at it.” Do we hear a lot of working class voices on BBC Radio 4? Well I suppose sometimes we do, but usually they’re not being spoken by working class artists.  All this does beg the question what would someone from Oxbridge know about the vulnerability of life at the bottom. Or as we would call it, “the real issues.”

It used to be different.  The working classes were celebrated on TV and radio in the 70s and 80s. But for every Boys From the Black Stuff there’s now a Shameless. For every Alf Garnet there’s now Mrs Brown. We’ve been moved sideways in our portrayals from pathos to panto and nobody seems to have noticed it happening.

But it’s not all a negative picture we have here. My dad and many others were always ready to offer the advice for anybody wanting to study the arts, “You need a trade to fall back on.” Bizarrely as I head off to do a degree in Drama and Script this year I do have a trade to fall back on…the performing arts.

The problem with such thinking is those with something to fall back on will invariably fall back on it. If those coming from a more comfortable background can always opt out and go home, then home is where they will go. Working class kids can’t just up tools and go home. That’s actually their greatest asset. Once they enter the arts with nothing to fall back on…they are home.

Once you do find that home I would pay little attention to those outside performance or writing or music or busking who try to justify their existence by intellectualising the game. Art doesn’t come from the brain, it’s from the heart. That’s exactly what your audience will pay for. It’s an expression of joy and awe. Speak up, stand up…shout at the teacher.