Thursday, 18 November 2010

Dirk Benedict

Milton Keynes Theatre flyer for 'Dick Whittington'

Dirk Benedict is appearing in the Milton Keynes Theatre panto production of Dick Whittington this year, alongside Joanna Page (from Gavin & Stacey). Originally it was going to be Jason Priestley from Beverly Hills 90210, but he pulled out and therefore the aforementioned Benedict heroically took on the part.

I'm not going, mainly because the very thought of pantomimes fill me with the sort of abject dread that I used to feel whenever Christopher Biggins appeared on TV, or when my mum announced she'd bought tickets for the local amateur dramatic society's annual production at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. There is also a secondary reason, which is that Amy Winehouse may be in the audience; the irrepressible chanteuse was gracelessly thrown out of the Milton Keynes panto last year after hurling cursewords and abuse both at the stage and the theatre manager. Then again, she's probably still banned. I'll therefore leave it to Mrs S and Daughter#1 to go this year and I'll find another decent excuse this time next year.

Benedict last appeared on our screens in one of the many long-winded series of Celebrity Big Brother, rarely without a cigar in his mouth. With the addition of the passing of time, this made him look more like Hannibal than Face, his character in the A-Team.

Face was always my favourite character in the A-Team, for two reasons. First, he had a really cool car. It was a white Corvette with a red stripe and it was way cooler than BA's chunky black van. I don't know much about cars, but when you're ten years old and you have a choice between a sports car and a van, which one are you going to choose? Exactly. The sports car wins every time.

Face and his 1984 Chevrolet Corvette

The second reason is because Face was rarely without some stunning pneumatic blonde model in the passenger seat of the aforementioned Corvette; whereas Murdock was known for being mad as a box of spanners and BA renowned for raw meat-headed aggression and a fear of flying, Face was the guy who always – always – got the girl. And I liked that – I had my first crush on a girl the when I was ten, and Face's antics thus made it seem perfectly normal; remember that up to that sort of age girls were odd, alien creatures, best avoided in the playground for fear of contracting a love of dolls or My Little Pony.

My classmates, who had over the years given me plenty of stick, mostly for my head of ginger hair, thought otherwise. I thought having a crush on a girl would somehow mark me out as mature and they'd somehow respect me more for my reasons for liking Face the best in the A-Team (surprisingly deep thoughts for a ten year old come to think of it). Alas, boys can be unpredictable and cruel, and instead they branded me as 'gay' for fancying girls. That's right, as a boy, I was branded gay, for fancying girls. What's that all about?

Anyway, I'm not, Face is still my favourite character in the A-Team, and I still occasionally think wistfully about that girl I first had a crush on (for the record, it wasn't reciprocated and I won't be tracking her down on Facebook). So perhaps that's the deep underlying psychological reason for not wanting to go to this year's panto.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Euston Platforms & Big Issue Salesman


I have never become sick of commuting by train from my home to London. I complain about the cost whenever it comes to renewing my season ticket, but I don't really feel that I should gripe too much as it's effectively my choice to spend almost three hours just travelling to and from work. That season ticket has literally been my passport to London's wonders for the best part of a decade and, though expensive, it feels like money well spent. It's really only when power lines fail or someone tops themselves on the line (always at Harrow and Wealdstone) that I moan about commuting.

But there is one aspect which is starting to grate, and that's the terrible layout of platforms 8 to 11 at Euston, specifically platforms 10 and 11 for a period of two minutes after my train pulls in.

The 06.34 train from Milton Keynes Central generally arrives, nice and prompt, into platform 11 at 07.20. I'll then join my fellow passengers in racing to the ticket barriers as quick as possible, because, at around 07.21 a London Overground train will arrive at platform 10, decanting its cargo of passengers onto the already-full platform. Most days the gap between the trains is sufficient enough for me to already be at the barriers when the squeal of the Overground train's brakes gets louder and I'll be well up the incline to the main concourse as the doors are opening. However, just lately my train and the Overground train have arrived at precisely the same time, the effect being several hundred extra commuters hitting the platform together, thus ensuring complete gridlock, pushing, crushing and an unnecessarily unpleasant start to the day as the throng of people tries to squeeze through a tiny bottleneck into the barriers.

Still, it's an annoyance that will be alleviated by the redevelopment work being undertaking to widen the exit, and mercifully it usually only lasts two minutes, after which I'm forced out of the crowd and through the exit barrier like a cork from a champagne bottle. And it's an irritation quickly forgotten when I head past Eduardo Paolozzi's lumpen Piscator sculpture and down the path leading to Euston Road. For somewhere between that sculpture and Euston Square Underground station, rain or shine, wind or frost, will be a person who cheers me up without fail each and every morning.

He sells the Big Issue and is probably the single most upbeat individual you're ever likely to see that early in the morning; animated and unfeasibly effervescent, engaging enthusiastically with the hordes of focussed commuters trudging past him, encouraging them to part with the £1.75 that a copy of the Issue costs these days.

He's rarely without a smile, never tetchy when people blank him and gushingly grateful when you buy a copy from him.

His welcome infiltration of my morning introspection is another reason why I'll never tire of commuting to London.