-The Dude (Jeff Bridges), The Big Lebowski
This is a line I would accept from any individual and take it as truth at the moment, as I recently realised I have been involved in numerous ridiculous and memorable events over the course of this year, but failed to put some of them into the appropriate previous summaries- blogs detailing the highlights of my year, three months at a time. Hence I will slam them in here- the third 2009 summary. They even get their own ‘special’ section…
1) Meeting Danny Dyer
Danny Dyer drops the heavy end of the sledgehammer on the mat. ‘Fackin’ ‘ell,’ he breathes, and sweat sprays from his lips.
‘Come on Danny,’ screams the instructor. ‘Keep it going! Dig deep!’
Dyer, star of Human Traffic, The Football Factory and The Business, is put through his paces at Quannum Fitness, Saddleworth. But he isn’t just here to work out. He’s presenting Britain’s Deadliest Men, a daring TV series for Bravo. Tonight’s subject: The Butlin brothers, my Mixed Martial Arts instructors.
Dyer picks up the sledgehammer again, wincing through exhaustion, and slams it onto the lip of the tyre. And again. The thuds reverberate around the brick walls of the gym as the camera crew capture the graft.
Around him, gym members are working through an intense circuit. On one station a man steps up and down from the floor to a bench, working the legs and cardio. Next to him a fighter does press-ups. Another does sit-ups. When the buzzer goes for the last time, we are all drained. Some of us have fights coming up and conditioning of this intensity is essential for them. For the rest of us, it can only do us good.
After training we are all properly introduced to Mr. Dyer and Ian Butlin mentions my blog. I hand Dyer my blog card and he says he’ll check it out. (I’d also given one to the director at the start of the class; Ian pulled up ‘Most Embarrassing Moment’ on screen and had the guy reading it in the reception area.)
I had a cameo in the show when it aired on Bravo, apparently.
2) Image Risk
Here’s the deal. I was 26, intelligent, articulate, and reasonably popular. Most people who knew me knew this. They also knew that I had a memory disability. I’ve always found it better to disclose this information to people, rather than pretend the memory issue doesn’t exist. That way when I make a mistake, which could happen at any time and could have any number of unforeseen consequences, people can at least relate to some degree.
Hence, when The Oldham Chronicle wanted to interview me regarding my role in the council as a disabled employee, I accepted. It was a risk that I do not regret; however I am aware that people could typecast me. It might sound a bit arrogant but my eloquence masks my disability and people frequently assume the problem is smaller than it is- and sometimes they assume I’m making it up altogether. (It doesn’t help that I can remember massively long film quotes and the odd song lyric, but forget pretty much everything else.) But I got my picture alongside the article in the Chronicle, circulation 18,062.
3) The World’s Fastest Man
May in Manchester. It is freezing and has started to rain. Despite the typically crap weather, people cram the pavements of Deansgate on either side, some climbing into the alcoves of second-floor windows. The road itself is mostly cordoned off and the ground has been covered with a special running-track material. Athletes from around the world, wearing next to nothing, are limbering up for the Bupa Great
CityGames 150-metre sprint.
It was warm when I set off so I didn’t bring a coat. I buy a bright blue plastic poncho from a man but it’s too late and I recognise the sharp pain in my throat as the oncoming of tonsillitis. I put the thought to one side, not thinking about the prescription pills I’ll be popping and the time I’ll need off work. Other, more engaging things have my attention.
The high pitched crack of the starting pistol ricochets off the walls of the Deansgate shops and is channelled past all of the people on the street. The athletes burst out of the blocks, but a second crack is heard and they saunter to a halt. This is one of many false starts. The women, mostly black, are ripped- all have defined six-packs, wiry arms and solid, powerful thighs. They constantly shake themselves off to keep the lactic acid flowing as they return to the starting blocks.
Amidst all the umbrellas- the street looking like a product-endorsed version of the scene from Foreign Correspondent - very little can be seen of the track or the athletes, especially if you’re a short-arse like me. But somebody- perhaps the BBC who may be or may not have been televising the event- has provided an immense LCD screen high above the street, stretching from one side to the other.
It is through this screen that I see British runner Marlon Devonish represent his country (he got his arse kicked) and more memorably watch the World’s Fastest Man, Usain Bolt, as he ‘clocked 14.35 seconds - smashing the previous world's best by 0.40secs’ in the men’s 150m sprint. (manchestereveningnews.co.uk)
After this, I do the most obvious thing: go home, neck painkillers and go to bed.
THE THIRD QUARTER
I’ve done a lot of first drafts and not much polishing off (so to speak) recently, however new publication Gemini (Gemini-magazine.net) published my Sci-Fi flash The Machines, a story I’m quite proud of.
Some weeks later, I wrote a letter to the Oldham Chronicle. It regarded an investigation into Oldham’s nightlife made by the BBC’s Panorama programme. Panorama’s aim seemed to be to demonise Oldham and paint it to be a town full of alcoholic psychopaths and rapists. There is a lot of truth in the claim, but what really pissed me off was that the programme laid all the blame on the bars. Nobody seemed to be using any basic logic or common sense when making the documentary. There was a perspective I needed to put across. I wrote in to say that PEOPLE, not alcohol, cause the problems, and if people’s attitudes improved, so would the town. What I didn’t include was that I expect it will be another thirty years before Oldham enters the twenty-first century and people start acting like adults and show respect for each other. And even that’s if the problems are addressed and people are educated as of NOW.
Phew. Did I mention that I consider Oldham to be a shit town?
2) My High-Profile Reader
Hello, Hywel Teague, editor of Fighters Only magazine (UK).
Following up an advert in the Northern Film Network Email circular, I managed to get a place on an open day at the Manchester offices of the British Broadcasting Corporation. The event was for people interested in the position of Trainee Broadcast Journalist. Putting aside the nagging feeling that I was biting off a chunk eight times bigger than my own mouth, I booked a day off work and went down to the BBC reception on Oxford Rd, signed in and slapped on the name badge.
Two of last year’s successful applicants delivered an overview of the traineeship, details of their experience and their advice. The general message? You have as much chance getting a job with the BBC as you have winning the national lottery and meeting the unicorn from the advert. But if you can get in, it’s ‘very rewarding’.
That kind of foresight and knowledge and balls seems to be the requirement of employees in media- something that university, I can say from experience, fails to instil.
But that’s another blog altogether.
While on this paper Mr. Burns saw a job advertised at the BBC in the sports department. He requested the application and when it arrived, as he described, he went out and got drunk. On returning he slammed it straight into the typewriter and hammered it out. He then stuck it in an envelope, went out and posted it, then went to bed.
On waking, he realised what he’d done and assumed he’d flushed a prime opportunity down the toilet. He forgot about it.
A month later, he got a phone call inviting him to an interview. He claims this was just because the heads wanted to see ‘what he looked like’.
The interview was going badly, with only two of the three panel members speaking. The third kept his head down until the subject of football arose, at which time Mr. Burns and the third panel member started having their own massive conversation. It turned out that the guy was familiar with an amateur-made football newspaper- that Mr. Burns himself had made and sold. Hence, the guy was aware of his skill, and Mr. Gordon Burns has had a successful career at the BBC ever since.
I will need slightly more luck than that, as my BBC application is currently inaccessible- I got half way through, my computer crashed and now it won’t open again. I can’t even start afresh because of the details that I’ve already submitted. I asked the BBC, but they haven’t got back to me. I’m now wondering, if I found the application form alone mind-bendingly problematic, would I even float for a second in the turbulent waters of BBC journalism?
4) To conclude
Hmm. How to round this off. How to end on a positive note…
There are a thousand things I could say to sum up my current situation, but they all warrant blogs themselves. I’ve got a good set of mates, a secure job (albeit financially insufficient) and a loving family. The plan? Find a job I love that I could actually live off, sort out this ridiculous memory of mine, move out of this Goddamn house, find a decent woman and make a name for myself through my writing.
I gotta go. Shit to do.