It has been a crazy week. A crazy few weeks actually hence the relative scarcity of blog entries on jamesgillingham.wordpress.com (which really should have a snappier name). I have become like the BBC’s summer schedule in the 1980s when all your favourite programmes had ended for the season and been replaced by endless repeats or “specials” comprised of highlight clips which were hastily banged together and shoved on to the airways by the one remaining employee still working at TV Centre during August. The one blessing of these sparse weeks of programming was that no one had yet invented the format in which clips are interspersed with largely dreadful comedians and horrid, vacuous television “faces” reminiscing about cherry coke and pop tarts and Sterling’s ignominious exit from the ERM in 1992.
Cue Lee Mack:
“Oh right yeah, I just loved that Norman Lamont and his crazy eyebrows. What were they about? Yeah he was wicked. And when it went tits up with the ERM I was so mashed on vodka I barely considered the medium and long term fiscal implications for Sterling’s place within a single European marketplace. It was mad. And then Lamont joined Right Said Fred didn’t he? Deeply Dippy and all that. Fucking brilliant tune”
(swearing is permissible because these programmes are edgy, clearly)
Where was I with that analogy? Oh yes, having no time for writing blog entries. Last time I did an 80s BBC and scraped around the edges of my hard-disk and managed to prise off a few poems for your perusal. And this time I was seriously considering a finding a few photos and shoving them online for your mild perplexion (which apparently isn’t a word but I’ve just gone and used it anyway because I can) and inevitable disinterest. The standard would have been low. Look – here’s a picture of me drinking a cup of tea in my parent’s garden in Devon sitting next to Auntie Georgie. I am sparing you more of these.
But I need to do better. So here I am, a little hot and a lot sweaty and ready to produce some more of the usual twaddle to occupy you for the brief time it will take you to read it.
So what has been happening? Well, the sun has finally got its act together and begun really shining its arse off on the UK. It is hot. Really hot and it looks as though it is going to continue for the next week or so. Cue the much-observed British madness of naked pasty flesh flopped and reddening in parks and gardens up and down the country; cue an air thick with exhaust fumes and charring sausages; cue the collective necking of gallons of Pimms Number 1 Cup as a nation pretends that is not proper alcohol and drinks three cups too many and then feels a bit sick and falls asleep with sprigs of mint stuck between its teeth (I did this only last night). So far, so achingly predictable and rather good fun.
But then Andy Murray goes and wins Wimbledon.
The grass of Wimbledon is scorched indelibly into my memory and every year it evokes a pang of nostalgia as strong as a favourite song or stumbling across a photograph in which you looked young and thin and fearless. For as long as I remember I’ve spent the last week of June and the first week of July really caring about tennis. And when I say really caring, I mean standing on the sofa and shouting at the television-level caring. I used to sit watching with my Grandmother as she called “out” loudly whilst reading the telegraph and balancing a Silk Cut cigarette between her lips. She used to say “well done” to anyone who’d produced a half-decent shot with a tone like that of a slightly stern school mistress from a Victorian novel. Often she’d fall asleep and then be woken by the sound of cheering from the crowd and immediately she’d say “well done”, even though she’d missed the entire game up to that point. I would also sit with my Mum as she did the ironing and we’d get almost over-wraught with excitement if Jeremy Bates won his first round match. And we loved Becker and Edberg and thought that Sampras was just a little too brash and arrogant to ever be a truly great champion. Even though he clearly was.
And then of course came the Henman era and for a few years Britain had a tennis player who wasn’t utterly shite and our annual two week shout at the television became more sustained and frenzied. Henman (who even now still manages to look as though he hasn’t yet started shaving) came close to making the Wimbledon final but never really looked like a viable champion. And then, several years and many sore throats later, this happened:
And it is brilliant. And not just because he is the first British winner since Chaucer beat William Langland in a tense four-set encounter in 1389 but because he epitomises all that the smug, BMW-driving, champagne-glugging, striped-blazer-wearing upper middle class tossers who run British tennis are not. He’s just a bloke who’s really, really good at tennis and for all David Cameron’s puffy red faced near-orgasmic shouting on Centre Court this afternoon, Andy Murray will never represent the Tory-endorsed view of a Britain which pampers its rich whilst simultaneously shitting on its poor and weak. Andy Murray belongs to us David, every hard-working, inspired, brilliant, grumpy Scottish inch of him.
And I wish my Grandmother had been alive to see him win. She’d have been genuinely chuffed. And would have told him “well done”.
I think I can be credited with introducing tennis to my filmmaking partner and sometime lover Jimmy Hay. When we were a lot younger I’d take him down to the courts in our village and due largely to the fact that I was older and stronger I would draw immense pleasure from regularly beating him. And then in that way of his, the charm and grace and aptitude that allows him to schmooze a room like a Westcountry Clinton (President not Cards) he became really good at tennis. For a match or two I had to work very hard to beat him and then came the point when he began to beat me. Whilst smiling broadly. And then offering me advice on where my game was so shabby.
So I did the only mature thing and left for University and resolved NEVER to play him again. The bastard.
Talking of Jimmy, we are very close to the start of principle photography (a needlessly grand term but one I use with considerable pleasure) on our film High Tide, a fact that has contributed in no small part to the madness of recent weeks and the reason why I considered posting a few random photos of trees on the blog rather than actually writing something.
For the moment, there’s not a lot more I can say as we’re still closing deals, making arrangements and spending a lot of time on the phone. Jimmy is a genius in these moments; he is very much the Long Arm “go-to” guy for all of the STUFF that has to be sifted as we approach the day when we finally start making this thing. You can rest assured (or rest alarmed, depending on your point of view) that the blog updates will come thick and fast during the run-up to the shoot and we also have some videos planned to report on the filming itself. So that will be good. Or at worst mildly irritating.
So well done Andy Murray. You gave good tennis. Well done Jimmy. You remain an indefatigable and inspiring fifty percent of Long Arm Films. And well done James, er, um, oh yes, your chicken with lemon and mint this evening tasted pretty good.
And so here’s a song. This has been on repeat in my ears for the past couple of weeks. Even though it was released just a couple of weeks ago it sounds as if it could have been made in 1993. And you’ll be shocked into stupefied wonder to discover that this is exactly why I like it.