Thursday, 26 November 2009

Acting Debut

Yesterday I spent the day on the set of LA Productions' new drama series for the BBC – 'Moving On'. It stars Corin Redgrave and Hannah Gordon and is about a trumpeter in a Big Band (hence my involvement). The Merseyside Big Band were approached just over a week ago and asked if

we could do the job after the original band had pulled out.

What a terrific day. I've always rolled my eyes when people talk about how hard film actors work. Never again. Filming started at 10:30, but for many of the actors the day began at 6:00am when they were collected from their homes. We didn't finish until 8:00pm and it was all

pretty intense (for the crew and actors – for me it was just a fun day.) It was a real insight into how a film/TV programme is made.

My big moment came with a walk-on part. I had to walk across the set while the three actors had a conversation around a table. "Just walk across", the assistant director said. "Count to eight then walk back." How hard could that be? Well, it is amazing how easy it is to forget about walking naturally. When you have to think about it – one leg in front of the other – it's quite a complex process. Too complex. I managed to walk like Godzilla. A kind of lumbering galumphing gait that felt entirely wrong. But nobody noticed

. When I'm seen on screen I will be a dark shadow that passes across the lense in about quarter of a second. But I will know it's me.

I also had a bit of an Alto solo to do in one of the band sequences. I hope they keep it in. I might even buy a DVD recorder ready for the big event.

The new series of 'Moving On' should hit our screens in the UK in April or May 2010. I will be glued to the telly.

The photo's are not very good – I only had my camera phone. If anyone is thrilled by the prospect of an "as featured on TV" band, and wants to see us live, we're at Maghull Town Hall, in Merseyside on the last Thursday of each month. Come and say hi.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Now We're Cooking

It was good to be on the radio again, last Monday. Got through the rush hour traffic without incident and arrived at reception at the Birkenhead YMCA in plenty of time. The receptionist called through to say that I'd arrived and moments later a younger guy appeared (younger than I expected - this is Vintage radio - for old people) and said, "Hi, I'm Simon, you must be Mike. Follow me."
I followed. Not up the lift, to where the studio had been last time, but though to the back of the building, out into the court yard, then in through the cafeteria, where lines of homeless people were waiting to eat. I was led down another corridor, through a door, and there I was, in the kitchens. There were a small group of kitchen workers who looked at me with relieved expressions. And Simon handed me an apron.
"Okay, you can start straight away," he said.
Wrong Mike.

Anyway, I found my way back. Headed up the lift and did the show without incident. It's strange doing radio. You just sit in a room and talk into a microphone. You have no idea if you are talking to two or two-million, (the former is probably the more likely) and you don't know whether what you did was a success or not. You talk, you finish, you go home. Job done.

So this week I'm trying something more visual. I've got the day off work on Wednesday to be a film extra. The BBC are making a drama about a trumpet player in a Big Band. My Big Band has stepped in at short notice to be the musicians. We've got a full day of filming and (we believe) our part will occupy just 30 seconds of screen time. At least this one isn't live, so I'll get to see myself in action for once. I don't know much about it except it's called 'Moving On'.
Maybe I'll be in the end credits, just below Best Boy and Grip. I'll be there as a conglomerate entity - Merseyside Big Band.
Hollywood seems such a long time ago now.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Back on the Air

I'm back on Vintage Radio this Friday (13th) with a cosy little non-genre story called 'Grimaldi Lights Up' that should be a bit of a season-opener for Christmas.
Last time I did this we found the reception started to disintegrate about three miles out from the transmitter, so I don't expect to have too many people listening in.
But it's on the internet so if you have a spare minute on Friday the show can be found on and my spot will crop up somewhere between 5:00 and 6:00 on the Marion Pygott show.
That's if the traffic allows - because I'll be leaving work at four and battling the rush hour via public transport (three buses), right across Liverpool and through the Mersey Tunnel. The show goes out live. Nothing is pre-recorded. No safety net. It should add some spice to the occasion.

Listen out for other Wirral Writers' appearances in the same time slot on Mondays and Fridays for the next couple of weeks. In all there are five or six of us having a go.

Saturday, 7 November 2009


This stack of paper is what a 94000 word novel looks like in raw unadulterated manuscript form. There’s three more like this in my drawers, three different drafts. I can’t stand to part with them. I’m just a hoarder. But I’ll have to let this one go.

Because it’s done.


Right now the sample chapters and synopsis are sitting in an envelope ready to wing their way across the Atlantic to spend their winter holidays sitting in slush. There’s nothing more I can do. For me it’s over (for now).

So I’m free. Free to dip into the notebook and look at all those short story ideas that I’ve been salting away. Where to start? I feel like a kid on Christmas morning not knowing which present to unwrap first. I’ve got opening sentences, endings, settings, characters. There’s a thousand words of opening lines for one story, even a full three-thousand worder that I brought back from America that just needs some re-working and polishing. And then there’s that idea for the next novel that’s rattling the drawers of my desk, trying to get out. Hmm...

I love this moment. I’m going to savour it – take my time.

There again, here’s Randall Moss sitting in that elegant Japanese restaurant in Chertsey with his muddy boots on. And my protagonist is about to step through the door and confront him.


Monday, 2 November 2009

Laughing Pain

There is definitely a kind of pain that makes you laugh. Cracked ribs cause laughing pain. This is the sort that hurts like hell, especially and perversely when you laugh. So what's so funny about it? One sneeze and I'm doubled up in pain and laughing like a horse. It's very weird.

I did the damage running for a bus. I've been told that I shouldn't be running for buses at my age. My age? I'm not that old. I can still say I fell over, rather than the more ageist comment – I had a fall. (I've been pondering this – what's the difference? It's just semantics, right?)

Anyway I was running for this bus on Wednesday morning and my upper body started to make more headway than my legs. The angles were all wrong, my head definitely winning the race. Then gravity kicked in and down I went. None of that smooth gliding and rolling that you can pull-off as a kid, but also nothing like the bag of dried sticks technique the characterises the aged 'having a fall.'

So, yeah, it hurt. It still hurts. I missed the bus, but then it turned out to be the wrong bus anyway. Trying to sleep is the worst. I have to sit up. It's getting better, I can get by on a gentle incline now, but no way can I move around in bed. Then the allergy kicks in and I start to sneeze – and the laughing starts.