Newsletter Autumn 2010

My new recording of The Boy Who Kicked Pigs


med_592010171124Some of you may know my little book, The Boy Who Kicked Pigs. I have recently recorded a new version and this is available as a download from Silksoundbooks here:

It’s a short, gruesome, but funny story about the fate of a boy with a habit of kicking pigs who causes havoc in the community around him.

Boy_who_kicked_pigs_caligari_kickingThe download is enhanced by fifteen of David Roberts’ pen and ink drawings from the book itself. I hope you enjoy my new reading – I have done it in a different style from the first one I did about 10 years ago on CD, and also included is an “extra” in which I talk about what inspired me to write the book.

Memories of The Passionate Pilgrim

One of the pleasures of having a home on the web is that friends from the past come by, and a few months ago I heard from Charles Wallace, producer, director and writer of The Passionate Pilgrim, a short movie for cinema made in 1984.

Here I am greeting a maid. © Charles Wallace

Here I am greeting a maid.
© Charles Wallace

Charles kindly sent me some pictures from his film which brought back happy memories and I’m grateful to Charles. Sometimes I remember details of plays or tellies I have done but more often, like many actors, I recall the fun we had.

Eric Morecambe and Tom on the drawbridge of Hever Castle. Picture © Charles Wallace.

Eric Morecambe and me
© Charles Wallace

I can’t remember the plot of Pilgrim but I recall vividly the antics of Eric Morecambe and Madeline Smith. I used to talk to Eric about the possibility of silent movies coming back. His eyes lit up and we fantasised about how wonderful it must have been in those early days of filming.

I used to go to whole seasons of all the Buster Keaton films at The Academy Cinema in Oxford Street: gone now, long gone, like my youth. And I have to confess that in spite of my efforts the telephone remained silent and silent movies did not come back.

Me as a postman © Daily Express & Barry Gomer

Me as a postman
© Daily Express & Barry Gomer

The picture of me as a postman and being tied up by Eric just bemuses me. But we had a good time, a happy time, which has always been my ambition; and which I have now achieved.

I remember the location, Hever Castle, Kent, a lovely private castle with the prettiest moat imaginable. We had such fun reacting to Eric’s clowning. At that time, Eric was a huge star of TV and films, and he was simply adored by the public. So to be seen in his company and to be on first name terms gave one a terrific status with the public.

Eric tying me up © Daily Express & Barry Gomer

Eric tying me up
© Daily Express & Barry Gomer

He and I stayed in a lovely hotel in Tunbridge Wells and spent the evenings after dinner chatting and laughing. He loved talking about work and he loved his fans. He had a wonderful way of cocking his head as he said encouraging things. “You’re going to do alright, Tom”, he said, “because you have the smile.” Several people heard this and agreed warmly with Eric.

Eric & me clowning around © Daily Express & Barry Gomer

Eric & me clowning around
© Daily Express & Barry Gomer

Later, in my room I glanced in the mirror and tried the smile! I nearly screamed, it was so ghastly. Later I bought a book at an Oxfam shop called: “Teach Yourself to Smile”. I can’t remember the author’s name: Gordon Brown perhaps, but I’m not sure. It didn’t help much and laid a lot of stress on sitting cross legged on the floor without trousers or cushion and stretching the smiling muscles. At that time I was living in a very draughty flat and I was soon cold and discouraged.

Me and Madelaine Smith © Daily Express & Barry Gomer

Me and Madeline Smith
© Daily Express & Barry Gomer

The morning after Eric’s comment on smiling we shared a big chauffeur-driven car from Tunbridge Wells to Hever. At some traffic lights a lady in the next lane to us glanced into our limo. She did a fabulous double take as she caught Eric’s eye. And then he cocked and wiggled his spectacles and SMILED as we were driven off. At the next lights, the same lady drew alongside us and again glanced into our car; again Eric shot the smile and did the glasses bit and mouthed, “I LOVE YOU” at the lady. She was staggered and delighted and went quite pink and as the lights turned green she stalled her engine. We never saw her again.

After dropping the priceless sword through the drawbridge © Charles Wallace

After dropping the priceless sword through the drawbridge © Charles Wallace

Later that day as we were discussing a scene on the immaculate drawbridge of Hever Castle with Charles Wallace, our director, I got to tell him of the delicious incident of the lady at the traffic lights. I remember I was holding an antique sword which dated back to the crusade in 1113 and as we laughed, I let slip the priceless sword! The planks on which we stood were separated one from another by a gap of perhaps one and a half inches wide. And guess what? You are absolutely right! The sword fell through that tiny gap and down it dropped among the carp and disappeared. Eric pretended to marvel at my expertise as I tried without success to SMILE. 

Entertaining the Women’s Institute

Down in Rye a few months ago I stood beside a lady at the re-cycling bins for plastic bottles. The bin was green: naturally. And as happens whenever I’m standing next to someone at bins, checkouts or at bus stops a conversation started. This lady, Elizabeth by name, turned out to be a senior member of the WI (Women’s Institute for those of you who are not British) in my local area. She invited me to come and give a little talk a few months later. I said yes: I nearly always do. Entered it in the diary and suddenly, three months had passed and the Friday of the talk was upon me.

There are 205,000 WI members in the UK. About 50 ladies were waiting for me! The other 204,950 were obviously tied up elsewhere, so to speak, which was fortunate because the hall was small. I waffled on about my pious childhood and my early preoccupation with Hell and with Sin and funerals. The ladies seemed very amused. I suspect they are all too wise and tolerant to be bothered by what bothered me. Anyway the more they laughed the more lurid became my tales from the hotbeds of old Liverpool. After an hour I stopped and the girls gave me a rousing round of applause and three pots of jam and a jar of chutney (spicy tomato). And I came home and had a jam butty and a pot of tea.

My country blog

There are so many unopened sweet chestnut husks on the drive that I have been pushing them to one side so that I can crush them under my car wheels and so release the nuts for the badgers. I don’t expect them to be grateful but I did hope they might eat the newly opened nuts. Not a bit of it! There is a beautiful carpet of shiny nuts and crushed husks and no sign of badgers. However the edges of the lawns are a different kettle of fish, and show lots of signs of badgers digging for earthworms which are their favourite snack.

There are many badger lovers in this part of the world and therefore many badgers. They know which side their bread is buttered, according to my neighbour, Mrs Udimore, who has loved badgers all her life. She has never married: “Never met a man who could match a bonny badger” she told me. She feeds her “boys” as she calls them on peanut butter sandwiches with the crusts off. Her “boys” also like radishes with celery salt. Spinach, leeks and apples are also received with glee and with grunts too which is a badger’s way of saying “Ta, I don’t mind if I do.” On special feast days (Mrs. U is very pious) the “boys” get wagon wheels and, wait for it, Penguins! If there are no Penguins left in the local store then Jaffa cakes are substituted.

Down in the woods the stag is grunting hard as he cruises for mates. Sometimes he bellows impatiently as if to shout: “Well? what’s keeping you? Come and get it.” And then he’ll lower his voice and get all hoarse. Lust is often expressed hoarsely. I read that once in a racy novel. I did not finish the novel. It was called Jessica Finds Out, by Millie Girvin, published by Cock and Bull Press at Liddle Asburnham, Sussex. Anyway our stag is hoarse as he sends out his call: “Come along, my deers, come along.” At least I think that’s what he’s saying.

And on that hoarse note, I end my autumn blog….

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