Monday, 28 December 2009

A Song that sums up 2009...

This track came out in 2009 from the duo Show Of Hands (Steve Knightley & Phil Beer). For me, and for many of the people I know, it sums up everything about this past year: Arrogance Ignorance And Greed (AIG).

Just buy the album, it's brilliant:

Friday, 11 December 2009

How to take on Lloyds/TSB Bank - and Win!!

I thought I’d best hold back releasing this blog until the money had cleared into my account, which it did this weekend.

People in the UK are very well aware about how we, the public, have bailed out our Banks in recent months, of how the Government instructed the banks to get the cash flowing again by more lending, and how this never happened (did we ever expect it to?).

Here’s a story that proves just how stubborn and idiotic the people in charge of our banks really are, and I wonder if our economy ever IS going to recover ever again.

About this time last year, I was planning to rent-out my parents’ house (which I now owned). It just needed a bit of work to bring it up to rentable condition. I was quoted by the agents “about £2000”. I could sort this out myself but it would be very tight for a few weeks.

So I went to my bank (Lloyds TSB - yes, the one that we, the public, now own over 44% of) and thought I’d ask for either a short-term loan or an overdraft facility for about £1,500 for just six weeks. It was a guaranteed rent with (according to the agent) clients ready to move in.

I spoke to Simon, my bank manager (a chap I’d known for over fifteen years since he started as counter staff). Simon and I have always got on well, but he said there was a problem.

“If it were up to me, Ray, and knowing what I know of you, I would have no hesitation in lending you anything up to twenty five thousand, straight away. The trouble is: we long ceased to be traditional bank managers. These days we are salesmen: do you want an insurance policy…how about house coverage….or a different type of account?…that sort of thing.

“This concept of us making informed discretionary decisions based on our local knowledge and on the conduct of the customers’ accounts was long abandoned. These days our decisions are dictated to us by computer-generated fiscal models and credit-reference agency reports which, in a good number of cases, are simply wrong! So, sorry, Ray, no-can-do.”

I even offered to put the house up as collateral but he said that way could not be justified as the cost of setting up the arrangement would probably be greater than the amount wanted in the first place. Simon was supportive, but there was nothing he was allowed to do.

I decided to write to Sir Victor Blank’s office (he was - then - Chairman of Lloyds/TSB: photo above) to outline the ludicrousness of the whole situation, bearing in mind the growing pressure the banks were under from Government to facilitate liquidity again. I will say, to his credit (albeit after seven weeks of regular pressure from me) Blank’s office came up with a way round this problem: to treat the deal as a business loan, which would mean there are different criteria for judgements, and the deal might be done.

So I was then thrown over to the Bank’s Head of Business Loans - one Mr. Tony Hopson (I did warn you, Mr. Hopson, that I would mention your name in despatches!) at the Barking branch - a branch about ten miles away [even my own bank manager had never heard of him!].

He was passed Sir Victor Blank’s letter and it was not difficult to read between the lines of how to make this arrangement happen, and Tony Hopson gave me the firm impression that this is how it would happen…after all, he opened up a new Business Account for me (even if he did want to charge me £100 for the privilege).

The account opened, the cheque book printed, the statement sent charging me £100, he then calmly announced that he could not let me have the overdraft facilities…”because you don‘t fit the standard model for loans”…..!

For some reason Mr. Hopson seemed genuinely baffled when I asked him “well why did we open this new account in the first place?” He just didn’t get it…. and I told him to take me to court if he wanted his £100. [He subsequently did nothing].

Meanwhile, I had already sorted out my finances and the house was, by now, being refurbished. But for me, this had become a matter of principle.

I went back to my friendly bank manager to recount this bizarre episode and we got chatting. In the daily Press stories were starting to appear about how Lloyds/TSB was now the most complained-about bank in the UK and that many of these complaints centred around the selling of (unwanted) Insurance Protection Cover for loans issued.

I mentioned that in 2002 I had a loan out with the bank over a few years, and that I distinctly remember being told by the (then) manager - let’s call him Sean - “if you don’t take out the policy, you won’t get the loan”. Inevitably, I capitulated, even though I never needed the policy. I felt I was miss-sold this Insurance cover, I still had the paperwork (including my handwritten notes which clearly read - and underlined - “no policy = no loan”). I also remember that soon after my taking out this loan, Sean left the bank for another career. “Well, Sean always did sail a bit close to the wind”, was my bank manager’s opinion.

And so I put in my complaint to:
Customer Care,
Lloyds TSB Insurance,
Tredegar Park,
South Wales
NP10 8SB
(Tel: 0845 300 5599 / Fax: 01633 468835)

Filling in the (very easy) forms, I worked out that over the years of the loan I had paid a total of £883.20 for the insurance cover - and that’s how much (minimum) I was claiming for. I was also encouraged by subsequent statistics which showed that, of all the complaints against Lloyds/TSB’s “miss-selling” of Insurance Cover, 83% were found in favour of the customer.

Surprisingly quickly, within eight weeks (this was now November 2009) they got back to me and upheld my complaint, without question. They would refund me my £883.20 plus 8% interest for something this and 8% under that model. I still had no idea how much I would get.

In early December I phoned them up to enquire about my money, they told me “we are still working on October’s refunds, we are very behind in this” - but at least they assured me I would get the money “before Christmas”, but I still had no idea about how much.

Last week they sent me a letter to tell me how much I would get, and the money is in my account now……well….. let’s just say it is nicely above £1,200. And tax-free.

I believe they call this Reeee-Zult!

I went back to my original bank manager (Simon), told him the story (I felt he was always supportive of me from the start) and said to him: “Isn’t it ironic that we’ve moved from a position where your bank Could have made money out of me in the form of short-term interest rates to a position where I want money from your bank, and now I’ve got it”.

So there we are:
£1,500 - the amount of overdraft I wanted for just six weeks
£883.20 - the amount I was claiming for a ‘miss-sold’ insurance policy
£1,200+ - the amount they finally gave me back.

And That, dear reader, tells you everything you need to know about the state of the British economy today and the people in charge of our so-called economic recovery. What a pathetic farce the once-respected British banking system has become (and I am speaking as a former banker)

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Bratislava Hot Serenaders - Broken Record

Time to cheer me up again. The Bratislava Hot Serenaders in concert.

Appreciate just how tight and professional this band are. Enjoy.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Broken Britain - 11: Another BT Rant

If you read my last blog about EDF Energy and thought it was a one-off, let me recount something that happened on Monday with BT (British Telecom - yes, them again; see my entries November 26th, 2008 and October 4th, 2009 ).

Overseas readers my not be aware but we in the UK have been hit by a series of all-out Postal Strikes, lasting about 2-3 days each time and severely disrupting our e-bay deliveries and especially our bills.

So, on the afternoon of Monday 2nd November I received a batch of mail which included two from BT: one, dated 25th October was a bill for £51.61 for line rental; the other was a, somewhat threatening, chaser letter “Your payment is late”, dated 29th October). This was a little odd considering both letters contained the words “please pay by Wednesday 4th November” - this being, after all, Monday 2nd.

I also noted that BT had failed to credit me £3 from my last bill, which they’d promised to do. So I phoned up the ‘Customer Services’ (sic) number and, after countless “if you wish to sell your Mother, Press One; if you wish to smash your head against a brick wall, Press Two….” options, I got through to someone…in a Call Centre…in Delhi (this is standard for BT).

He claimed he was aware of the postal strike but still said the bill remained outstanding.

Anyway, I decided to just bite the bullet, walk across the road to my bank, and pay the bill (in cash).

Much later that evening (the 2nd, remember) I noticed my telephone line could not dial out. There was a pre-recorded message to phone an 0800 number to discuss this Restricted Access. However, it said I could phone them “anytime between and”….. it was now

Next morning (Tuesday 3rd) I was phoned on my mobile, by BT, a pleasant-sounding American woman (I don’t know her location). I kept my cool and simply asked what the hell they were doing restricting my line. I mentioned my previous (successful) run-ins with BT, I mentioned OffCom, I mentioned Otelo and the ‘Alternative Disputes Resolution’ (that term always sends shivers down their spine). And then I added:

“May I draw your attention to three simple facts?:
1 - There is a postal strike in the UK, 2 - I didn’t even receive a bill until yesterday afternoon, and….er…., 3 - That bill was paid yesterday”.

There was a long, long embarrassed silence at the other end, and I enjoyed drawing out this theatrical pause.

Then I said, very calmly: “Would you like to take this opportunity to make a profound and grovelling apology to me?” She sounded sheepish and said she would restore the line.

You would think that was the end of the story. But that’s not the way BT do things here.

A few hours later (Tuesday afternoon, remember), the line was still not restored, I got a call from BT, from their Delhi Call Centre again, asking why I hadn’t paid my bill yet.

I just let rip and said “just wait for my next blog”. Their (barely comprehendible) Customer Assistant told me “it would take up to 24 hours to restore things”. How preposterous. I finally said to him: “Look, don’t bother apologising. We live in an apologist society - the more you apologise, the less meaning it has. Just fix the line, OK? - Now”.

Finally, by late Tuesday night, the line was miraculously working again.

….and it never occurred to me to query why they were treating me like this when the bill’s payment deadline was…er…Wednesday 4th.

As you can tell, dear Reader, BT are always eager to cut you off(even on such a meagre sum as £51) yet not so keen to actually deliver a decent service. [And what of all those corporate clients who have outstanding bills running into thousands of pounds? BT are not so enthusiastic to bully and throw their weight around with them, are they?

Again I say: you tell me this country isn’t broken?

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Broken Britain - 10: EDF - a Rant.

This story starts about four months ago when my energy supplier, the French company EDF (or as some call it: Every Day a F***-up) told me I was due for a new electricity meter. So I made arrangement to stay indoors for half a day and they duly installed it.

Then a few weeks ago I received a rather panicky, heavy-handed irate letter (some might regard it as a threatening letter) tell me: “four months ago we installed a new meter. Our records show there has been no use on this meter since” and in not so many words telling me (in effect) ‘if you are using electricity from EDF and Not paying for it you are defrauding us and in breach of rule so-and-so…..’.

I phoned them up and said: “ well I’ve been using the electricity since installation and that meter’s been ticking over and charging me as normal”. Anyway, they insisted I was wrong and that the meter should be changed - again - so we made arrangements for Thursday afternoon, which meant I had to stay in again from 12 noon to 6pm. At least I gave them my mobile phone number for reference.

So Thursday came around…I‘ve cleared all the junk our from under the stairs so the guy from EDF can have clear access. And at 12.56pm I went briefly upstairs to the bathroom and came back down to find a message on my cellphone.

It was a man’s voice, sounding barely Neanderthal: “Diss is EDF Energy here. I’ve just tried to gain access to your place and there’s a gate and a yale lock and I ain’t gotta key. So you’ll have to rebook diss appointment”. (I couldn’t return the call as the chap left no number).

I was baffled, especially since there is clear access to my flat, just up twenty steps (yes, those steps just by the big white-painted sign on the wall in ten-inches high letters, my door number - mong!)

Then Pam, my neighbour from two doors along knocked on my door and handed me a card she’d just had pushed through her mailbox - from EDF. [She’s the one with the gate and the yale lock, even though that is a side entrance and not actually the slip road where you gain access to my place…]

So I phoned EDF to explain their engineer’s gaff. Did they care? Of course not. As far as they were concerned nothing could be done, I’d have to re-book another appointment - and that’s what they insisted I do (thereby wasting another day of my time). [For the record, this person’s job title was Customer Services Assistant - a misnomer on all three words if ever there was one].

I refused and told them to fix it today, or I was an ex-customer.

For twenty minutes this arguing went on. “Look,” I said, “I’m sitting here in front of my computer, already on the site. I’ve changed suppliers before, it’s not difficult, and I shall be switching at this evening if no new meter is installed by then….even if it means one of your highly-paid managers getting up off their arse and into their own car and come and install it themselves.”

I then reminded them: “If it wasn’t for your company’s incompetent installing of the original new meter, we wouldn’t be needing to go through all this. So don’t try and blame me for this one……You messed it up - You fix it”.

Thirty minutes later a manager phoned me back to tell me to stay indoors.

So a couple of hours later ( I heard two LOUD bangs on my front door knocker….strong enough to break the door down.

…And there he was…… white, long-haired, scruffy, mid-40s. He opened his mouth and it was that same mongoloid voice from the phone message.

I decided the best thing was to just zip my lip up, say nothing, and just let him get on with changing the meter.

I did explain to him how this saga started. He replied: “well, the person who installed this original new meter probably just lost the paperwork”.

So that’s alright then - Thank You EDF Energy.

And then he left….but I was left wondering: does it Have to come to all this kicking and screaming in order to get something done anymore? This is not just a one-off anymore in this country - it’s just typical.

- And you tell me that this country isn’t broken?

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Sartorial Questions - 1 (suspenders + evening dress etiquette)

Maybe it’s as a result of the Eccentric Club award (This Blog: 6th April 2009) or possibly from the interview/profile I did for the site (ditto: 7th August 2009 ), but recently I’ve started to receive questions about fashion and style. I reprint two of them here (with their permission):-

: I was watching a western movie today, probably set in the 1870s, 1880s, they are just trying to plan for the railroad lines.

The men were wearing suspenders [uk = braces], but they had the metal slides on their suspenders like we have today to adjust the fit. Would they have had those in that time period? [Pape G, USA]

A: I contacted my friend Chris at the Historical Emporium who suggested:
“Adjusting buckles were common, even back to the civil war period.
Here's a picture with a variety of suspenders styles from the civil war period.

“As to the specific metal buckle styles, I can't answer your question whether the specific style that we carry was common or uncommon.” [ ].

May I also suggest, Pape, this would make an ideal discussion topic for the website - there is a wealth of Western re-enactors here who might have a definitive answer for you. Try my profile [ ], go into my Friends list and search out a chap called Staggers - he seems to know his stuff.

“I’m writing this letter to explain you what is just happened to me, to be advised and to be elucidated by a Dandy as you.

“A couple of days ago I received an invitation for a Gala Dinner, for Dandies only, in which there was specified that wearing a tuxedo would be requested. I immediately wrote back about the coarseness of wearing that kind of suit compared to a Frac [ie. tailcoat] and the answer was: ‘We all love masquerades, but this is a modern event and smoking is binding‘.

“I can’t explain the sense of astonishment I felt and doubts arose in me after reading something that seemed so bourgeois And written by a presumed Dandy.

“What do you think about it? Am i guilty of inappropriateness?” [Gianfilippo, Italy]

A:Well, Gianfilippo, I do feel rather honoured advising on style to an ever-stylish Italian, but I accept the compliment.

Their response does seem rather odd. I would have thought, if the event was “for Dandies only” the mode of dress expected would demand flamboyance and extravagance. Personally, I would wear white tie and tails or possibly a frock coat.

Perhaps you might consider a compromise: perhaps a black tuxedo suit (normally worn with a black bow tie) but with an extravagant Regency-type bow tie or a cravat / ascot with stickpin.

I’ve also found in my archive a few other variations you might consider [click on the pics for the full version]:

(I am not sure how the smoking reference comes into it - unless you mean Smoking Jacket? - but I would recommend a good cigar or pipe).

Finally…I have a couple more questions ready to run with (including a fascinating one about Spats), but if anyone out there has a question they wish to ask me about clothes and style please just send it to me (e-mail: ). I can’t promise a definitive answer, but I will Always have an opinion, and might be able to point you in the right direction.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Broken Britain - 9: Transport for London Bully.

I feared the Broken Britain strand in this blog might become redundant. How wrong could I be?

You think everything is fine in London? this. you may not be able to hear him but the TfL employeee tells the elderly passenger he "should be slung under a train".

This is typical of the culture of Transport for London - throwing their weight around, bullying their “customers“… This is what we Londoners have to put up with these days.

The TfL chap – Ian – referred to the grey-haired passenger as a "jumped up little git" and a "little girl", in a torrent of abuse filmed by another commuter.

Here’s the extract from the blog by Jonathan MacDonald, the man who filmed it all:-

“Today [Friday 16th October], just after 2.30pm, I saw an elderly man with his arm trapped in the closing door of a faulty train at Holborn Station.

“We all thought the train was heading further east but actually, for reasons we shall never know, the train was terminating at Holborn and we were ushered out onto the platform by two (shouting) staff in Underground uniforms.

“The elderly man was slow to get off in the mad rush, hence the entrapment.
A few people around called to staff to open the door again so he could be released.
About 30 seconds later the doors opened again and he removed his arm.

“I watched as he calmly relayed his experience to the staff member (who was called Ian by the way). Ian didn’t think it was a problem – in fact, he was furious that the guy had mentioned it at all, especially as the guy was standing close to the track.
After a while, Ian started shouting at the guy to “stand back there is a fucking train approaching“.

“The elderly guy quietly questioned why Ian had to swear (as did several other passengers). Ian literally screamed in this guys face (and I quote): “because there is a fucking train approaching and I need to make sure nobody is over the fucking yellow line“.

“The elderly guy stood his ground – admittedly the wrong side of the yellow line (which was hard to see as there were hundreds of stranded people on the platform).
Ian then told the guy that he wasn’t allowed to get on the next train and had to “come upstairs to speak to the police“.

“That was when I pulled out my video camera. The below clip is taken immediately after Ian’s initial outburst and you can hear him repeat the police part too.
All seems fine until the incoming train arrives and the elderly guy tries to get on it – although watch how twitchy Ian is during the train arrival..

“You will hear Ian telling him not to get on and then threatening a halted service until he gets off again. Listen to what Ian says. Watch the reaction of the other passengers.
But then – right at the end of the clip (at exactly 50 seconds), you will hear Ian exclaim (again, I quote): “sling him under a train“.”

Initially, MacDonald was filming a little before this clip started but decided to stop filming. Then the woman employee came over to him and ordered him (!) to “stop filming”. MacDonald said “you know he could lose his job because of this?” and she just shrugged her shoulders and said “Huh!”.

At which point the brave Mr. MacDonald started filming again, and this is what we see.

Believe me, this is NOT an isolated case.

I hope my friends abroad take note of this, because sadly This is the kind of welcome you can expect from London these days.

Postscript: Within hours of this film appearing on YouTube the employee was suspended, pending investigation.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Bratislava Hot Serenaders: Time On My Hands + Rhapsody In Blue

Time to cheer myself up - and it’s been a while since I featured my favourites.

So here they are, filmed at the Whitley Bay Jazz Festival in 1998, with a lovely little vocal by Milos Stancik, of the Ray Noble / Al Bowlly song “Time On My Hands”.

[You will have to Copy / Paste these two links to You Tube (as the direct links have been disabled]

And for those who want longer, more “serious” fare, try this: George Gershwin‘s Rhapsody In Blue (well, ten splendid minutes of it anyway).

I hope your spirits are a little uplifted.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

How to take on BT - and WIN!

Back after a holiday break… I was in a coffee shop recently, advising a friend who was having serious problems with BT (British Telecom), his online suppliers. I explained the whole process I went through over a year ago - and I won [see end of this blog]… and a lady sitting at a nearby table started asking questions…she was also taking notes! I realised this was advice others might benefit from too, so here we go.

Unfortunately, you Have to go through these Steps, one by one, you cannot leap to the final step (and get it resolved).

Keep a DIARY
(of dates, letters, telephone calls, conversations, promises and broken promises, threats, etc). This applies to any complaint you may have against a company. ALWAYS keep a contemporaneous Diary.

Step 1: Write a letter to Ofcom [Riverside House, 2a Southwark Bridge Road, London
SE1 9HA. Telephone: 020 7981 3040 or 0300 123 3333 - I would advise you call them, they are very helpful).

In your letter, outline your complaint fully. They will then issue you with a Complaints Number (This is Important). [Note: On All future correspondence, quote this Complaints Number]. They will also send you a letter outlining what you do next. Which is:

Step 2: You write to BT (to their general address in Durham is OK, they won’t bother to reply). In your letter you outline your complaint, also write down what you feel is a reasonable compensation and give them a deadline to respond (eg. 10-14 days). Like I said, BT won’t respond anyway.

Step 3: Then you contact OTELO (the Telecommunications Ombudsman). PO Box 730, Warrington, WA4 6WU. Phone: 0330 440 1614 or 01925 430 049

[Note: These telephone numbers may be cheaper to use if you use a mobile phone or phone provider other than BT, and will be “free” if you pay a monthly charge for calls to numbers starting 01 or 02]]. You can also call them on: 0845 050 1614

Again, in your letter you tell them you wish to pursue BT through the ADR process (Alternative Disputes Resolution). [These words strike fear in the heart of BT!].

Otelo will give you the direct line and address info for BT’s complaints Department and tell you to send the outline letter also stating what you regard as reasonable compensation, and (finally) BT should get back to you - and things will actually start happening.

[Trouble is, you can’t jump straight to this point, you have to jump through all these above hoops first].

Step 4: FINALLY, you get to the BT Complaints Number, which is...
Switchboard: 013244 52933

One of their officers is Tony Crawley. His direct line number is 013244 57956 (although he might have moved on, or been made redundant - BT tend to make redundant their best staff].

Don’t expect to get through immediately - they are very overworked!

And send your complaints letter off to them, with what you regard as adequate compensation. They Will get back to you.

…and do get back to me if you have any success with this method.

In my own case, I spent almost eighteen months being buggered-about by BT. Once I started the OfCom process it was resolved in about eight weeks. Indeed, once I’d finally reached the right person at BT Complaints, he phoned me up with the words: “It’s taken me about four days going through your case to find out what it’s all about, and I have to say: we really have F***ed this one up, haven’t we?”.

Eventually I got:
- a wiping the slate clean of any claimed outstanding monies
- free line reconnection
- free line rental for one year and
- free BT Broadband for one year.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Niko Lindgren photo-shot: The Results!

I’ve been sitting on these photos for a few months (wanted to stagger things) - these are the results of the photo shoot I did with photography student Niko Lindgren in the studio at the University College for the Creative Arts in Rochester, Kent in April.

As usual, to see them in their full glory, just left-click on the photo and it will open-out to its full size.

(Above is an experimental shot with a piece if modern technology - the cellphone)

For the full background go to 12th April, 2009 of this blog (Eccentric of the Year: Latest Developments - First Photo session). [That's when they were taken].

I have to say when I saw the individual negatives, they were huge: 4” x 3”.

For you camera buffs out there, the main pictures (above) were taken with a Wista Field Camera with a normal (150mm) lens.

The stereo cards (below) were taken with a Yashica Twin-lens Reflex. The camera was fixed to a horizontal rod and a pic taken then moved about 5-6 cms. sideways along the rod and another photo taken, thus creating a Stereo-view...

...the idea is to print these photos out, stick them onto some cardboard together and then view them through a handy Vintage / Antique stereo-viewer. Simple as that.

Niko is back at the University in September to complete his final year. He's a bit of a Dandy himself and here’s a couple of his facebook photos.

That's it for now. Enjoy. Gotta go, just starting. xo xo

Friday, 7 August 2009

Interview / Profile of me on Fine And Dandy Shop. com (blog) in New York have just put up a profile / interview with me on their blog. Just go to:

I hope you enjoy.

Thank you Matt Fox, Enrique and Charles Henry at Fine And Dandy Shop and all who shop with her.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

…and now I am become an Art Installation…

A few days ago I was phoned up by a Video Artist (please don’t stop reading, this Is actually rather interesting) in the middle of his latest project called "The People”.

His name is Ian Flitman. So I checked out his website ( ) and the work he’s best known for, Hackney Girl - it’s been exhibited round the world - and started to watch it.

To say that he is a video artist who “creates self-editing, randomly-generated narratives that are different each time you watch it” sounds a bit poncey and pretentious, but you really have to watch Hackney Girl a few times to see how he goes about it - and, because there is an over-arching 3-Act construct, it all does make sense.

Indeed, twenty years ago, when I was Chair of the London Screenwriter’s Workshop, I tried to get our writers to address these ideas of non-linear narratives where, for example, the audience could choose and decide the course of the stories they were watching. And it’s only in recent years, with the advent of digital technology, that linear film-makers like Mike Figgis (with his piece Timecode) have begun to explore the possibilities of non--linear / multi-linear narrative.

So what Ian is doing is actually quite clever and taking the concept of randomness yet still working within a 3-Act construct.

So what happened? To summarise: yesterday we filmed near the Royal Exchange (on top of Bank station in the City). A tight head-and-shoulders close up of me listening to an MP3 playing a reading of the W.B.Yeats poem The Wild Swans At Coole, 1919. Then, when it was over, I’d take the headphones out, look straight at the lens for a minute or so, then make a ‘Cut’ sign to camera.

It will be curious to see the end result when it starts to get shown in 2010 (I am Number 50 out of the fifty people Ian has filmed). I’ll no doubt keep you in touch of the exploits of this piece.

[I could let you into a little secret. I could say that the tear slowly forming in my left eye during the piece was my emotional response to the power of the poetry. It was actually the result of a slight breeze constantly blowing into my eye throughout the shoot. But if I said that, it would be giving the game away, wouldn’t it?]. And I got paid for it.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Ray is currently Annoyed with... (another fun Rant!)

I was recently interviewed by a New York website ( / ), who are doing a Profile piece about little ol’ me - I’ll let you know when they post it up.

And there in the list of questions was: “Currently Annoyed with?”

Well I just sat down and let it flow. Whether they publish all of it, I don’t know, but here are a few morsels for thought:

“ Where do we start? [Take your pick] -

A - Starbucks: Have you noticed that in every Starbucks, in every city and every town of every state and every country in the world, however large the Starbucks shop is, they Still have only ONE bathroom? [OK, there is one store - in NYC - that has two bathrooms…one of them is usually bust].

B - Facebook. For continually telling me to “download this” and “download that”. For changing the layouts and formats of their pages when nothing was wrong with them in the first place (change for the sake of change signifies desperation); and for not allowing me to go Invisible when I want to - I keep getting approached or hit on to start engaging in a chat when all I wanna do is clear out my emails. (For all its faults, I still prefer myspace). Still, the moment facebook is no longer ‘Kewl’ everyone will migrate elsewhere…. From the completely pointless twitter to some other networking site.

Moreover, Facebook has recently agreed to let third party advertisers use your posted pictures without your permission. Click on SETTINGS up at the top where you see the log out link. Select PRIVACY. Then select NEWS FEEDS AND WALL. Next select the tab that reads FACE BOOK ADS (top left). There is a drop down box, select NO ONE. Then SAVE your changes.

C - J Crew for restricting their online purchases to the US, Canada or Japan only. Everywhere else in the world? - we don’t wanna know. Wake up, J Crew, it’s supposed to be a WORLD-wide web…and a Global economy. A matter of principle here.

D - Tucker Carlson for caving-in to MSNBC network pressure and ditching the bow tie! (yes, I’m still annoyed at that, after all this time).

E - Increasingly sophisticated cellphones. I don’t want them with internet access, bells and whistles and thermometers. I just want a simple, basic mobile phone that sends and receives calls and texts and wakes me up in the morning. That’s all. Nothing more. Surely, I am not alone in this?

F - Ageism - everywhere and in everything, especially the creative media. How many times have you heard the phrase “we’re always on the look-out for new talent”? - when what they actually mean is “we’re on the look-out for Young talent“. It permeates the media and creative arts and is the un-admitted shame of our industry.

There is a such a wealth of untapped / un-encouraged creativity out there in all fields; we shouldn’t write people off after, say, forty just because they maybe never had the breaks. Perhaps the Chinese have got it right: the older the person, the more respected they are within their community.

G - Everything to do with the UK, especially the inept, paralysed, useless government (see my “Broken Britain” series of postings on my blog). At least in the States now there is a sense of a “coming-togetherness” to fight this recession and pull yourselves out of it (and, believe me, I do respond to that American ‘can-do‘ spirit). We in the UK have a dithering leader, like a rabbit caught in the headlights, who does not have the guts to do the honourable thing and have an election now. We have an angry and bitter electorate who are ready to rise up and vote for the far-Right (and the longer it goes on the stronger those passions become). Sadly, we also realise that Nothing will happen in the UK until our next scheduled General Election (June 2010), and the hope that with a new government there might be a new perspective in things. Currently, we are a country in limbo with a government holding onto power by its fingernails and determined to stay on at all cost. Besides, I have been planning to relocate for some years. It’s time to draw a line and move on.

Am I coming across as a grumpy old grouch? (I guess when I hit 50 I thought: “this is fantastic: I can officially become a miserable old git AND get away with it!”)

- Well that was it, off the top of my head.

No doubt You can think of a few more…

Friday, 24 July 2009

Bratislava Hot Serenaders + Henry de Winter: Livin' In The Sunshine, Lovin' In The Moonlight

Another in my occasional postings from my Favourite musical discovery of 2009: the Bratislava Hot Serenaders and Henry de Winter.

I cannot say anything at present but my dear friends at the Eccentric Club have made contact with the excellent Herr de Winter in Berlin (he is now a member of this esteemed club) - and moves are afoot to bring him to the UK.

If anyone can help regarding the UK regulations for bringing dogs into the UK, please get in touch (you must have guessed by now that Bobby, his dog, travels Everywhere with the splendid Henry).

That is all I can say at present. ENJOY!

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Teach Yourself Screenwriting - THE MOVIE! ...

...well, not quite.

One of my facebook chums sent me these links to five short films on a site called ; they are five mini-epics based on my book Teach Yourself Screenwriting. I have no idea when they were made or when they were put up (even my Commissioning Editor at my publishers Hodder & Stoughton - who MUST have cut some sort of deal at some point - isn't aware of these miniature masterpieces.

The URLs are:-

Do please visit, add your comments, and enjoy.

P.S.: My facebook link is

P.P.S.: In a few weeks time I may be able to tell you of some exciting developments planned for Teach Yourself Screenwriting in 2010 but at the moment I am sworn to secrecy.......

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

My Tailor on Portuguese Television

Last Friday (10th July), my tailor - Ayres - was on Portuguese television: a programme called “Magazine Europe - Contacto“.

Click on the following link and see it in all its glory:

Ayres (that’s how you spell it, not Aires as in the TV caption - and it’s pronounced Eye-Rez) is in the first part of the programme: from 2 minutes in to 8 minutes. He’s also interviewed at his workplace (Gieves & Hawkes in Savile Row). It’s all in Portuguese, naturally, but at least you get the idea.

And he came back from Portugal with a few suit commissions (including two from members of the Portuguese Parliament).

Indeed, if you go back to my blog on the Naked Bike Ride in London [June 14th], you’ll find his back (and backside) in jeans and white short

And here he is with his Grandfather - Ayres is the third generation of tailors in his family.

Congratulations, Ayres….. [we have some spectacular creations to unveil in the future]..... I always like to think I can spot the rising stars!

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

...and now I'm featured in a Cartoon Strip too...!

My dear acquaintance and talented (award-winning, I should add) artist / comix creator / blogger etc. etc. Lawrence Gullo suddenly sent me the latest installment of his elegant strip:
[Click on the strip and it will open out to its full glory].

At the bottom he wrote: "Jack the Ripper's good looks are based on Ray Frensham...".

Look! See: he made me look younger! How splendid. (And he got my favourite walking cane just right).

I don't care what Jack's next exploits are, I'm just thrilled at being immortalised in such a fashion. Thank you, Lawrence.

The URL for this strip (and his website) is:

I hope the link works.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

A Victorian Stroll around Belgravia

Perhaps as a counterbalance to last week's Naked Bike Ride, this weekend (somewhat more soberly, but no less fun) saw a Living History Weekend in London.

I and a number of chums were asked by Grosvenor Estates to do a bit of Victorian Strolling around Belgravia.

There were oodles of pictures taken, including those taken of us by the tourists, but let's start with a couple of pics uploaded from my mobile phone: of Me...

and of my regular strolling companion for the day, Oliver Carson...

Yes, girls, he really is that handsome, 26, and married (sorry).

So here's the story:

It seems that weekend of 20th/21st of June was Living History Weekend in London (organised mostly, I believe, by the Museum of London). Anyway, Grosvenor Estates - who seemingly own most of Belgravia - got in touch with an Events Company with a view to sprinkling a few Victorian characters around the place occasionally bumping into some of the various Walking Tours of the area that were going on that day.

So there I was amidst a number of young actors (who had previously raided the National Theatre's Costume Store!) ready to stroll the day. Here's a group shot:

[L-R: Ray Frensham, Oliver Carson, Joel (?), Polly Maberly, Edward Hayes-Neary, Luke Owen and Daniel Pinto]. Well, that's most of us, anyway.

So we were split up into groups - myself and Oliver; Joel, Polly and Edward; Luke and Daniel - some were given character back-stories and we were given general areas to stroll. The idea being during our pleasant strolls we would occasionally cross paths with the other players and also with tourists and the walking tours that peppered the area at weekends.

I have to say for the time we were out and about strolling (approx. 11am - 4pm...with a few breaks for refreshments) Oliver and I had splendid time: exploring the area as if we owned the place (amidst the beautiful architecture and the Mewses, you don't know how easily I slipped into the role), chatting, greeting every passer-by on the street we encountered [they must've thought "those crazy Brits"].

The logic of splitting us up and spreading us out seemed so appropriate for the event (and much more "right" than the practise of many re-enactment events where everyone meets up at Point A and strolls through the town en-masse to Point B).

At the end of the day, my feet rather sore, we all agreed we had had a thoroughly splendid time (and the money, of course, came in handy!). And considering that, on that day, so many of the Re-enactment traditionalists were either at the Broadstairs Dickens Festival or at the final day of Ascot or abroad at a huge Battle if Waterloo reenactment event, I think our little troupe gelled wonderfully.

Indeed, so pleased were the Events company with the say, Sean the organiser is considering putting together a little team to hire us out on a regular basis. Watch this space. (To that end I've just started a Facebook Group, London Victorian Strollers - private for the moment).

All Photos taken by Sean Canning (except Nos. 2 & 3 downloaded from my mobile phone.