Total Pageviews

Monday, 30 November 2015


From today's BBC News website
"A tax on sugary drinks should be introduced as part of a "bold and urgent" set of measures to tackle child obesity in England, MPs say.
The Commons' Health Committee said there was now "compelling evidence" a tax would reduce consumption.
Its report, which puts pressure on ministers who have so far been resisting a tax, also proposes a crackdown on marketing and advertising.
Food industry representatives say a new tax would be unfair on consumers.
The government will be setting out its plans early next year when it publishes a child obesity strategy, but has said a tax is not something it favours."

Here's my thinking.
1. God forbid even the notion that hypocrisy has any place in politics but before I even consider the recommendations of the MPs involved in this idea, I would like to see their individual body mass index results and those of their children to see if they are leading by example and are all perfectly fit as butcher's dogs.
2. If a tax is put on sugary products, why is it necessary to penalise adults and children who look after themselves, are at acceptable weight levels and who enjoy the occasional Coca-Cola? It is not fair to use the "we're all in this together" card. I'm not saying there is not a problem but a proportionate response is required.
3. Why isn't there a programme of weight registration where, say, every two years it would be a legal requirement for everyone regardless of age to be weighed? Anyone within acceptable limits, no further action. Anyone with unacceptable results would be assessed for assistance to get in shape. Three unacceptable weigh-ins and bring on the penalties. I'm only half-joking.
4. MPs, committees, lobby groups, TV cooks, weirdo celebrities should think very carefully about overusing words like crisis, epidemic, catastrophe and all other worry-stirring hoo-haa words to underline whatever they are shovelling our way.
5. If this really is a world of choices - offer me war, plastic bags and fizzy lemonade and I'll take my chances with the plastic and the pop.
Now, to the fridge for a drink.

Friday, 27 November 2015


I am really looking forward to attending the official launch of actor James Ellis's book on a pivotal moment in Northern Irish theatre history - Troubles Over The Bridge. A publishing story that is a story in itself.

I'll be home in Belfast from 2 - 4 December. The book launch, by Lagan Press, is on 3 November at Queen's University.

I met Jimmy in 2010. We were contributing to a BBC Northern Ireland, Clean Slate TV film on film star Stephen Boyd.  He was very supportive, generous and gracious to me in my project to write a book on Boyd. Of course, I had been aware of his acting CV for years.

Here are some photos of Jimmy.

Me, Jimmy, Mark Garrett, Conor Kilpatrick (Clean Slate TV) at King's Cross Station, 4 July 2010

Me, Jimmy, Davy Kilpatrick, Conor Kilpatrick (Clean Slate TV) at King's Cross Station, 4 July 2010

Jimmy, Davy Kilpatrick (Clean Slate TV) outside the Odeon Cinema, Leicester Square, London, 3 July 2010 - where in the mid-1950s Stephen Boyd was a doorman.

God bless you Jimmy and rest in peace knowing that your story is finally out there.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015


I am looking forward to a trip home to Belfast to attend the launch of Troubles Over The Bridge by James Ellis.

Robina Ellis, me, Jimmy Ellis on the occasion of his 82nd birthday, March 2013 at a 'thank you' lunch for Jimmy's foreword to my book on Stephen Boyd.

Here's a cut and paste from publisher Lagan Press's website, plus a link
I'll buy my copy in Belfast and, in due course, I will post a review right here.

 In: News
Announcing our latest release, James Ellis's first-hand account of the banning and subsequent efforts to stage Sam Thompson's controversial and acclaimed play 'Over The Bridge'.
Picture for blog story New release: James Ellis - 'Troubles Over The Bridge'
Belfast, 1959: the young Group Theatre director James Ellisis approached by playwright Sam Thompson, who announces “I got a play you wouldn’t touch with a bargepole!”
The play was Over the Bridge, Thompson’s powerful portrayal of a sectarian dispute in the city’s shipyards, a cutting commentary on contemporary life in mid-20th century Northern Ireland. After its effective banning by the Group Theatre’s board of directors following representations from the Unionist establishment, Ellis resigned from his position as a matter of principle in order to direct the production of the play.
In this book, Ellis provides a first-hand account of the strong and well-orchestrated attempts to censor Over the Bridge, and how these were overcome, allowing for the eventual staging of a dramatic work that would become a defining landmark in the cultural history of Northern Ireland.

James Ellis (1931-2014) was a Northern Irish writer, actor and stage director with a career stretching over sixty years. Best known for his work in television and film -mediums in which he maintained a high profile in for nearly forty years - he also starred in West End stage productions. As a stage actor he did seasons at the Barbican with the Royal Shakespeare Company, with the National Theatre and Sir Peter Hall's company at the Old Vic. Ellis is best remembered for his role as Bert Lynch in the long-running BBC TV detective/police series Z-Cars (1962-78).
'Troubles Over The Bridge' is available to pre-order now for £9.99, released on 23rd November.
ISBN : 9781908188557

Tuesday, 24 November 2015


I have been interviewed on the radio a few times and the style of the broadcaster is so essential to calm a nervous wreck. I can think of BBC Radio Ulster's John Toal and Gerry Kelly, two gifted broadcasters but with that natural ability to be both great questioners AND listeners.

John interviewed me about my fun verse alter ego Hamish Sheaney.

Gerry interviewed me about my book Stephen Boyd: From Belfast to Hollywood.

This week, I experienced my second live interview with BBC Radio Sheffield's Rony Robinson. Yet another example of how to converse, listen and make the interviewee feel at ease.

We talked about my father's 22 missing years - he vanished between 1960 and 1982 - leaving a wife and 7 children and dying a lonely death in Clapham, London.

We talked about my biography effort on film star Stephen Boyd and about my only sporting triumph as British Home Stores, Belfast, 1974 Dominoes Champion.

A lovely 20 minutes.

Thank you BBC Radio Sheffield team for a warm welcome and a great experience.

Sunday, 22 November 2015


I had an after school job at the Mace supermarket on the Glen Road.
I can answer that question “Where were you when JFK was assassinated?” 
I was on one of my delivery jaunts, on a “Granville” bike. I remember
Overhearing a passer-by telling a man across the street what had happened.

“Kennedy? Shot? Where?”
“In the head.”
“No, where was he?”
“Seen that in cowboy pictures. Lot of gunslingers there, you know.”

I knew it was fairly important news but I was preoccupied with my own fate  
At the jaws of a yapping dog behind the railings of a house in Fruithill Park. 
I was scared stiff and could not pluck up the courage to open the squeaky gate. 
Luckily, after tense minutes the owner joked:  “His bite’s worse than his bark.”

She called off the dog and beckoned me up the driveway.  I delivered her box
Of groceries, she put a half crown tip in my sweaty hand – big money back then -
And I scarpered before the dog was let loose again to bite lumps out of my arse,
Legging it, knowing that oil-free hinges would squeal the mutt back into action.


I had escaped with my life.  Unlike the poor President.


I am working on a themed collection of new poems. "The McCullin Bridge" is....... well, if it develops, I'll let you know!

This is the first draft of the first poem.

At First

We are born into a specific part of society, born a colour, born
a class, born to parents who want us or don’t want us, who care
or couldn’t care less, who can cope or are hopeless. At first a stamp

appears on our baby-bald heads and from a moment just after conception,
we are what we are and for the formative years of our existence
there is not a damned thing we can do about our helplessness.

We are there to be shaped either as pure examples of the human spirit,
unblemished by ignorance or bigotry, blessed by good health and fortune
or poisoned by the seductive sweet elixir of cretinous malevolence.

Friday, 20 November 2015


Based on a true comment from my OU mentor.....

Years ago my weary Open University tutor,
when asked to elaborate on the class struggle,
pondered a while, looked profound
raised his head, closed his book,
gave us his professorial look,
stood up, took a deep breath and sighed:
"All I can say on the class-crass debate,
in all my teaching years I've found,
no matter how we argue the toss,
what the fuck, the world still goes round."


Here's a link to my other blog - a recent review of a business book The Three Value Conversations

The Three Value Conversations: How to Create, Elevate, and Capture Customer Value at Every Stage of the Long-Lead Sale (Hardback)

How to Create, Elevate, Capture
Customer Value at Every Stage of the Long-Lead Sale
Erik Peterson, Tim Riesterer, Conrad Smith & Cheryl Geoffrion

McGraw Hill Education 2015
Cover Price: $32.00

“Salespeople need to understand that, at their core, they are storytellers. Salespeople who think of themselves as salespeople will fail.”

Tuesday, 17 November 2015


He photographed each eye which I saw later resembled red planets
and tested my peripheral vision with appearing and disappearing green dots,
before puffing air into the sockets, writing notes as he went, reassuring me
that all looked well, “no problems so far”, “nothing to worry about here”.

Then it was contraptions and chunky frames with differing lens strengths,
letters, numbers, colours, clusters of black dots projected onto a wall,
left eye covered over, right eye covered over, clear, blurred, in focus, out of focus,
bright lights, look up, look down, look left, look right, sit back, blink, relax.

He brought the red planets up on the screen and explained the light areas,
the shade, the veins that looked like rivers, the landscape of my eyes
looking stark, these instruments of vision as old as me red hot and staring
at the world as it passes by but sometimes unable to see beyond my nose.

Monday, 16 November 2015


On a walk today, I noticed a half-full bottle of Listerine by the side of a footpath
and off went my imagination like an unleashed, up-for-it bloodhound, sniffing
for clues, the who, the why - what lead to this discarded container of blue mouthwash?

On one end of a scale, a quick rinse for kisses and a quickie up against the hedge
or someone who had given up treating bad breath or had lost interest in fresh breath
or had decided that all breath, fragrant or fetid, all breathing, was a pointless routine

or someone who had nicked it from Superdrug thinking it was a kick-start energy drink
only to realise the mistake after a hefty glug. I thought of a poor soul falling off the wagon
after a pledge to Listerine Anonymous, a couple of swigs, no harm done and evidence discarded.

On a walk today, I'm glad I noticed a half-full bottle of Listerine by the side of a footpath
for it took my mind off atrocities, deaths, destruction, terror, anytime without notice,
fear that is not as easy to discard as casual litter on a path, a peaceful path, at least for now.

Friday, 13 November 2015


Image result for jack elam photos

Jack Elam was born today in 1920. He died in 2003.

He was, in my opinion, the greatest villain in western movies and, in later years, proved himself adept at comedy. Here's my take on him.

Jack Elam was born William Scott Elam on 13 November somewhere between 1916 and 1920 (the exact year is disputed because Elam is said to have lied about his age to get work as a young man. But 1920 seems to be the favoured date.) in Miami, Gila County, Arizona, a former copper mining town.  His father, Millard Elam, was an accountant.  His mother, Amelia Kirby, died when Jack was around four years old.  Young Jack lived with relatives after his mother’s death but returned, aged about nine, to live with his father in California.

In a freak incident at a boy scout event, he lost the sight of an eye when another boy accidentally stabbed him with a pencil.  Initially, the loss of half his sight was a tragedy but as history would show, bizarrely, the remaining good eye and the bad one would become something of a beneficial trademark later in life.
Image result for jack elam photos
Following in his father’s footsteps, Jack studied accountancy and other business-related subjects and gained useful practice by helping his increasingly ailing Dad with form-filling and other administrative chores.  But as a partially-sighted young man, the strain of studying journals of figures and statistics became a burden and Jack began to think of other ways to earn a living. 

In his early working life, he spent time in the US Navy and managed a hotel but always found steady work back in business finances.  While looking for an alternative career that was not dependent on two good eyes, luck played a part because some of his clients were Hollywood movie people and, occasionally, Elam traded his auditing and financial skills for small parts in pictures.  One thing led to another and acting work began to emerge. 

This was in the mid-1940s, the beginning of a golden age of western films, at first on the big screen and then, increasingly, on television.  Most western features were simplistic good-versus-bad yarns, and Jack Elam, tall, skinny and not handsome by any stretch was ideal casting in villainous roles.  He was to find out very quickly that losing the sight of an eye was going be advantageous rather than a drawback.  
Image result for jack elam photos 
He was soon in demand for gangster films, thrillers and, of course, cowboy pictures.  He was willing to take both credited and uncredited work as his new career progressed.  A study of his movie CV tells us what we already know.  His working life as an actor was dominated by westerns.  For nearly thirty years, he was a bad guy mostly, until 1969 when he demonstrated a gift for comedy that no one had really noticed.  His turn as Jake, alongside James Garner, in Support Your Local Sheriff is a joy to behold.  His follow-up film with Garner, Support Your Local Gunfighter, with Elam as Jug, was equally superb.

In all, Jack Elam appeared in about 350 cinema features and television episodes.  In 1983, he was awarded the Golden Boot in recognition of his contribution to westerns.  In 1994, he was inducted into the Cowboy Hall of Fame.
Image result for jack elam photos

He was married twice and was the father of two daughters and a son.  He died on 20 October 2003.  Western fans all over the world tipped their hats at the passing of this much-loved stalwart and oh-so familiar face. 

The Guardian obituary said:

“With his bony, stubbled face, beetle-brows looming over a dead left eye, and gravelly voice, he was the very embodiment of a skulking, no-account, two-bit varmint, and the relish with which he played his parts made every appearance, however fleeting, a pleasure.”
The New York Times said:

“His leer, bulging eye and precise acting skills transformed him from an accountant into one of the movies' most identifiable villains.”

The Daily Telegraph said:

“He was always better-known as a face than as a name. Tall, weatherbeaten and effortlessly sinister, his grinning, wild appearance was enhanced by a wandering left eye. In Hollywood circles he was known as the good, the bad and the ugly.” 

The Radio Times said:

“His hangdog features, coupled with a dead left eye and wicked charisma, made him an unforgettable figure in westerns.”

Clint Walker said:

“Well, I’ll tell you, there was nobody like Jack but Jack.  When you got to know him, he was a sweetheart.”

Ty Hardin said:

“He could take a joke.  He could go with the best and, believe me, the industry misses a man like this.”

Jack Elam was, indeed, one of a kind. 

Image result for jack elam photos 


“I never presumed to be pretty.”

“The toughest part of all, after you’ve worked out being an actor, is getting a job.”

“In Rawhide, I was bad. I shot at a baby to make it dance, and I killed everybody in the picture except Tyrone Power and Susan Hayward. That’s bad.”

“It (his eye) does whatever the hell it wants.”

“I was playing rotten, worthless guys in 95% of my pictures until that movie (Support Your Local Sheriff) came along.  Since then (1969) I’ve played 95% comedy relief and plain, dull nice guys.”

"The heavy today (late 1970s) is usually not my kind of guy. In the old days, Rory Calhoun was the hero because he was the hero and I was the heavy because I was the heavy, and nobody cared what my problem was. And I didn't either. I robbed the bank because I wanted the money. I've played all kinds of weirdos, but I've never done the quiet, sick type. I never had a problem, other than the fact I was just bad."
Image result for jack elam photos James Garner