There will be a big extract from my memoir in the Sunday Times Magazine this Sunday the 22nd. Apart from extracts from the book there are also family photos of me as a child which even I find perplexing as to how that sweet looking infant grew up into me .
In the run-up to the launch of the memoir I don’t have that much to do and I was thinking of getting back into doing a bit of volunteering. (By the way this is my advertising tagline for the memoir “If You buy one book this Christmas then please buy mine as well.”) years ago I used to garden once a week at an eco-park near my home, then later at another place in Greenwich. However the last time I tried it didn’t go so well. About four or five years ago I began gardening with a group from a homeless charity I had worked with. These hostel dwellers were being eased back into society by fulfilling contracts for councils and urban parks, mostly filling flower baskets and preparing bulbs for planting on roundabouts and roadsides. On my first day I put a great deal of thought into what I was going to wear and when I arrived all the homeless men congratulated me on getting my street sleeper look just right, bomber jacket, big boots, baseball cap. Then a little later on in the day, by accident I was left for a while in a polytunnel that had just been coated with some highly noxious chemicals. Once the the guy in charge had found me and let me out I imagine that a passersby seeing me reeling about, shouting and falling down in the park must have thought to themselves: “Poor Alexei Sayle, a few years ago he was on the telly and now look at him homeless and drunk at 11.30 in the morning.”
Russell I’m glad you’ve found out the difference between a Mac 10 and an Uzi. The Mac 10 of course is connected with my greatest triumph. I’m sure I’ve written about it before but in 1993 I was in a Showtime movie called “Deadly Currents” Starring Bill Patterson and I think the last film of George C Scott. I recorded it a while ago when it was on in the middle of the night on the TV and I’m actually not that bad in it. In the end I get to fire a mac 10. As there was no armourer on the film, one of the producers was doing the guns and when we came to do the scene he didn’t know how to cock the Mac 10 so I had to show him! Which made me feel really good.
It’s interesting to hear about “Selling HItler” being released in the states. For it I had to learn to forge Hitler’s signature as in one shot the director wanted me to do it on camera, in a scene when I was forging the diaries. For a long time it was my party piece to produce Hilter’s signature with a flourish.
Well I must say the Udderbelly gig was really terrific. They were a really great audience and the place was more or less full, about 400 people which is pretty good going for a book-reading for a book that isn’t out for two months.
The day after my reading I was back on the South Bank when I was made a Fellow of the University of the Arts. The Unversity of the Arts is all the London art schools, Chelsea, St Martins, Camberwell and so on. I wore a proper gown and hat and everything. I didn’t want to say anything too encouraging in my speech so I told the audience of graduating students and their families about how Chelsea were going to throw me out after my first term until I made a short film cruelly mocking the teaching staff then they let me stay.
In this South Bank themed blog I am pleased to see the return of The South Bank Show to Sky Arts after it as cancelled by ITV. I always longed to be on this pretentious arts show, it would have played to my intellectual vanity but I was never featured even though they had Ben Elton about seven times and Lenny Henry at least twice and now it's back maybe I’ll still have a chance. I plan to begin my interview with a long diatribe against Melvin Bragg for not having me on sooner.
There was a very good preview, connected with the Udderbelly reading, of “Stalin...” in the Guardian” Guide on Saturday, it said “Surpisingly sensitive but also very funny...” Which is exactly the quote you’d want if you were writing it yourself. Incidentallly I did check with them about the £17.50 ticket price but they said that’s the price they charge for everything so there was nothing I could do. I can only promise, if you’re coming, that I’ll try not to be crap.
More importantly we’ve got a new cat! Our beloved Tiger died three years ago and I’ve been grieving ever since but we heard through a friend a few weeks ago that a, lovely but clearly lost cat had turned up in the front garden of a friend of theirs and was refusing to leave. They put up posters and checked with cat charities but nobody reported a cat matching his description missing so we brought him home on Saturday. They’d actually called him Tiger but we’ve named him Wilf M’Banga after a Zimbabwean freedom fighter and journalist. The guy whose garden he was living in, had been a journalist in what was then Rhodesia and had known the original Wilf M’Banga well.
Wilf seems to be a Main Coon cat, he is certainly huge with gigantic paws. I have always dreamed of running through the streets of London late at night with a pack of giant cats who would do my bidding or possibly riding a war chariot pulled by giant cats through the middle of the Hay Festival so this is stage one.
It was funny refereeing that writers v scientists football match on the South Bank on my bicycle. The organisers had said “Oh its all a laugh and nobody’s taking it at all seriously” but as soon as I tried to make a stupid joke during the game one of the players gave me such a look that after a couple of minutes I just left them to get on with it. My only contribution was that since I wasn’t wearing a watch one half of the game was 11 minutes long and the other half 17.
I watched the semi-finals of the World Cup at my house in Spain, every time Spain scored the villagers would run out into the streets and fire rockets in the air then run inside again to carry on watching the game, so I can only imagine the noise last night, like a sort of fun invasion of Gaza.
I have spent the last two days in John Lennon’s house in Liverpool making a programme for Radio 4. After a while I got to thinking that it was my house and was getting annoyed with these four tours a day coming through my front door. It was really weird yesterday, we let the tours go through then interviewed them when they had some free time at the end so in between times I would just lie in the sun in Aunt Mimi’s garden under the apple trees she planted. Some people get very moved when they’re in the house and I think I probably spoilt the most important moment in their lives by asking them stupid questions. But they were all very nice about it, a couple of Americans sang Please Please Me for us in the porch where John and Paul used to play.
Another weird thing is that quite rightly the National Trust limits access to the house to these four tours every day but there is a constant stream of tourists in taxis or on foot who come to the gate and stare at the house unable to enter, like Gazans staring through the border wire. Its a little disconcerting.
Hi Elak, yes it would be good to have Panic on Mp3. Can you just send it or do I have to get in touch with you?
Hi Shane. Yes it as me on the 82. Thank you for posting and confirming my "man of the people" image.
I do really like the formality of the passengers on Liverpool buses though, a lot of people still say "Thank you driver" as they get off as if he's driven them on a three day stagecoach ride from Derby.
I watched the game at Matthew Norman's house. He is a sports writer and restaurant critic. If you look at his last column for the Guardian it was me who was with him when we reviewed Stevie Gerrard's restaurant in Southport and though we gave his place 11 out of 10 so as not to affect his performance it clearly didn't work.
The details of my Autumn reading tour are now in the Appearances section.
This Sunday I'm in the Independent on Sunday, a big piece on cycling.