Life In China, Part The Second

The Chinese have much the same approach to queuing as the French, they line up obediently until the bus arrives, or the door opens, or whatever it is they are waiting in line for, and then it is suddenly survival of the fittest, and the whole point of queuing becomes lost in a struggle to the death.

Well, everyday I had to catch a bus to get to the place where the school’s bus picked me up and the daily experience of this “queuing” was a deeply depressing experience for me as a Good Englishman. It led to my actually punching a couple of guys on one memorable occasion, not something I am prone to do by any means, but on this day I hauled off and really clobbered a couple of guys.

The situation was that the bus had arrived, and as normal, all hell broke out and everyone did their darnedest to get onto the bus, but this time there was a mother and her small kid also trying to get onto the bus, and the kid was forced off the bus whilst his mother managed to get on the bus, and I saw that the kid had no chance of getting onto the bus, nor his mum a chance to get off the bus to join him. So I tried to help the kid get back onto the bus, but a couple of young men wouldn’t make way for this to happen and simply trampled the kid into the ground, literally! So I tried to make them aware of what was happening to the kid, but they didn’t give a damn and carried on trying to clamber over the kid to get in the bus. So I felt that this was not tolerable, and simply hauled off and gave them both a good punch in the face, and made it obvious that I was prepared to go even further. They were both really surprised at my actions, and I simply grabbed both of them by their collars and yanked them off the bus, and then stood in the entrance of the bus making it obvious that I would clobber anyone who tried to get into the bus until the kid had managed to get on the bus and joined his mum. Which he did, whereupon I simply went to my seat and let anyone on who wanted to get on…….. Curiously enough, there was no reaction to my hitting those two guys, every one simply got onto the bus and that was that.

On another occasion in the bus to work, there had been a horrible earthquake in the south of the country, and the government announced that there would be a 2 minute silence for the victims of the earthquake, and to my amazement all traffic suddenly stopped, including my bus, everyone went silent and the two minute silence was observed. An amazing experience.

Another odd thing about public buses in Beijing, and probably in all cites, was the fact that all the busses had colour TVs in them, several of the things hanging from the ceiling, all tuned to the main news channel, so one could see the news on one’s way to work. Quite fun really.

Ah, memories, memories….. I had a really good time (generally) whilst living in Beijing. I suspect I shall write more about the oddities of living in Beijing soon…

Cartoons From A Refugee On Manus Island

The saddening cartoons below are the work of a refugee who is a prisoner of the Australian government on Manus Island.   He apparently attempted to reach Australia shortly after the Australian government introduced compulsory off-shore detention for refugees attempting to reach Australia by boat.

The only thing I know about this man is that his Pen Name is Eaten Fish, and that is it…   No other information is available, apparently in order to protect him from possible trouble if his real identity should come to be known to the Australian government.

For the rest, there is nothing more I can add to this collection of extremely powerful cartoons, except to say that I found them on a website called New Matilda (


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Be very glad that you are not having to undergo this sort of torment, can wake up each morning knowing that your life is “normal” and that you are free to go and come as you wish, and no one is keeping you under lock and key and dictating your every movement.

Roundhouse Time. – I discover the joys of the 130 hour working week

Working at the Roundhouse Theatre was both exciting and exhausting

About 1998, an old friend of mine, Robbie Simpson, asked me if I would care to be the next Production-manager at the Roundhouse Theatre where he was working at the time in some technical capacity or other. I thought this might be fun, so I applied for the job and to my considerable surprise got it, in spite of having really no real experience in that particular work. But then, the man who gave me that job – the Director of the Roundhouse Trust – had been in charge of the Egg Marketing Board before taking up his post at the Roundhouse….

Thus began what was probably the most amazing three years of my life.

Being Production Manager there meant being in charge of everything apart from Front of House and office type administration, so I was in charge of a staff of about 30 or so totally weird hippy-like stage hands, electricians, carpenters, cleaners and others, and was totally responsible to ensure that everything technical worked for incoming companies and the public.

It also meant working for anything up to 130 hours every few weeks as a new show came in (The Roundhouse was a sort of short run pre-west end theatre), as most shows came for about a month and then headed to the west end theatres if they were successful with us.

Being literally an old engine roundhouse – the first in the world built by Stevenson in 1836, it wasn’t actually a good structure for theatre, so we more or less completely rebuilt the auditorium and stage for each production…..

We had the most amazing variety of shows there, ranging from classical music concerts, musicals, film shows, huge rock shows every Sunday, drama and so on.. Anything you can think of could and probably did happen there at one time or another.

People who we worked with included, and this list is far from complete:-

Doctor John

Pink Floyd,


Stone Ground,

And outside the Roundhouse I had the pleasure of working with Frank Zappa as well… A man whose work I admired enormously…. And I am happy to say that he was every bit as pleasant and sharp in person as he seemed to be when one saw him being interviewed. An intriguing man and an incredible guitarist too.

Well to make the list shorter, we had almost every rock musician and band apart from The Beatles, the Doors, Hendrix and Joplin. For the rest more or less everyone who was busy with Rock in the years between 1969 and 1974 appeared there in one way or another…. One highlight was the first of the Stone’s Last concerts… That was circus to say the least, which I shall write about more fully later.


Pierre Boulez,

London Philharmonic Orchestra,

BBC Symphony Orchestra,

Le Grande Magique Circus,

Arian Menushkin’s Théâtre du Soleil,

Jean-Louis Barrault,


Peter Brooke,

Sir Lawrence Olivier,

Johnathan Miller

Jeremy Irons,

David Essex,

Bernard Breslaw (he was such a gentle person in spite of his impressive size)

Continue reading “Roundhouse Time. – I discover the joys of the 130 hour working week”

Michael Flanders, Daniel Barenboim,Stravinsky

Many years ago, just after my period as a remarkably unsuccessful “antique” seller in the Camden Passage market, I joined the Little Angel Puppet Theatre and started out on what would be one of my main careers, that of a theatre technician.

My chief area of work there was as a lighting guy and scenery maker, and John Wright, the wonderful South African Puppeteer who ran the theatre with his wife, Lindy taught me all I needed to know to do that work.

John wright
John Wright

One of the true highlights of my time with them was the version of Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale, which we performed at the Purcell Rooms (part of the Royal Festival Hall complex on the south bank of the Thames).

This was a seriously big undertaking for the Little Angel Theatre crew, who were more used to working on the small and intimate scale of their own theatre in Islington in a setting that was totally set up for puppetry – not a description that you could apply to the Purcell Rooms, which was simply a flat stage at the end of a long and relatively narrow auditorium, and which was, reasonably enough, set up and designed for small scale classical concerts to be performed in.

But, I am happy to say, we pulled it off magnificently.

The basic idea was that we used a whole series of rod puppets (controlled from below and behind by means of rigid rods connected to their moving parts), and the puppeteers were dressed from head to foot in soft, non-reflective – black fabric, and worked on a stage that had a series of steps going across the stage from left to right, so the further upstage you went (away from the audience) the higher you were.

The stage itself was also painted matt black, and the sides and back of the stage were covered with soft black fabric.

The lighting was by means of a series of spot lights on either side of the stage, aimed across the stage horizontally, with very narrow beams.  And the idea was that the puppets would be held in one or more of these beams of light, and thus be visible to the audience, and when not held in the light, would be invisible.

The created the effect of the puppets floating in the air, but as often is the case with puppets, one quickly stopped “seeing” them as floating, but sort of invented a ground for them to be walking on.. odd how our minds do that sort of thing.

Most of the puppets were about a meter (3 foot) tall, but as there were no reference points regarding size, the audience quickly saw the puppets as normal human size.  So when at the very end of the story, the soldier crosses the frontier to be reunited with his lover, and the Devil comes to claim his soul, we used a Devil puppet which was about 8 feet tall, so it looked enormous when it loomed over the soldier puppet we used in that scene (the soldier puppet we used there was a very small one, about 30 cms tall to make the difference in size even more marked and dramatic).

John Wright with Devil puppets (thanks to Ronnie le Drew for this photo)
John Wright with Devil puppets (thanks to Ronnie le Drew for this photo)

Continue reading “Michael Flanders, Daniel Barenboim,Stravinsky”

The Chickening – The Silliest Film Ever

There is nothing useful I can say about this film, except that it is wonderful, silly, superb and thoroughly worth watching – all 5 minutes of it.

As will be obvious from the first moment,it is a spoof on The Shining, which is a very different order of film.

This one is crude, rude, but very funny, and superbly inventive, and I simply had to share it with you.

If you want to find out more about the guys who made this film, why they felt the need to make it, the thought processes they went through and similar interesting points, then you can do no better than to head on to HERE to find out all of the above.

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Do let us know what you thought of this strange little film please……