Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Radio Daze

Well, it's been a strange and wonderful week. Yes, I know, it's been more like 11 days. Which is, of course, what makes it such a strange week. As for the wonderful part; that was the five days I spent with four other people writing a radio play. One of the most enjoyable and rewarding weeks of my life so far. In fact, it's been pretty difficult coming back down to earth and getting back into the usual routine. Especially as I hadn't really got into that yet anyway; I don't tend to be very good with routines, as a rule. One day at a time, that's the way I work. Or not, as the case may often be. Still, I probably better backtrack a little and explain this whole radio thing.

We were working with a radio producer/writer/director called Paul Dodgson. He gave us a rough plot, we discussed it, came up with possible events and all went away to write monologues. These were then intercut into a final script. Actors came in, read through once or twice, before recording commenced. The final day was spent editing the recordings, with a genius sound engineer called John something (must find his surname - John Wills, apparently); followed by a playback of our play and the other group's play (there were two groups of five). I was amazed how well it all worked. The actor reading my character wasn't so great - had no comic timing; emphasis on all the wrong words; speech drawn out, rather than snappy - but all in all it was remarkably coherent. And we were all very proud of the end result.

Should anyone have made it through that somewhat dull paragraph, or was skipping ahead (in which case, "Hi, again") in the hope of avoiding its transparent blandness, you may want to know the basic plot we were given: a block of flats, mix of council and private tenants; no-one talks to eachother; then DJs move in on the top floor playing loud music constantly; everyone groups together to confront them; they reach the room, and the DJs have gone. That was the skeleton we had to flesh out. My silly Christmas-y pun for the name of the building, "Silent Heights", became the title (for our group's play, anyway) - the thinking being that it would lend an urgency to the piece if Christmas was imminent and everyone was desperate to stop the noise by Christmas Day.

The five characters we came up with were: an old widowed guy called Bernie whose obsession was a patch of garden outside the flats; Janice, a woman who had had a few bad relationships, was living with someone new and trying but struggling to get into New-Age-y things; Betsy, an old, slightly deaf lady with a yappy dog; Gordon, a misanthropic young professional who was happier not getting involved with the other residents and hated Christmas (my character - yes, you're right, not too much of a stretch for me. Well, apart from the young and professional parts... and, ok, I only hate the build up to Christmas... and the wind-down, come to think of it... well, anyway I like the bits involving food, alcohol and presents); and Camilla, a dreamy eighteen year old who grows to like the music as it provides a distraction from her family life (her family had been well off, but had had to move to the flats when the father's business failed).

Anyway, everyone came up with excellent monologues that fitted together really well. Or at least they did fit after some stressful hours, during which group members with far more logical and organised brains than me, frankly, did most of the work. Big thanks to them. Both plays should be available on the Bloc site sometime, but I thought I'd just post my original monologue here for the time being. Not all of the lines made it into the end script, of course, but it kind of stands up ok on it's own. It's down there, somewhere¬ (I like that punctuation mark - no idea what it really means; but anyway, to me, at least, it kind of suggests "down there").

So, what was so wonderful about writing and recording a radio play? Well, aside from the games involving Maltesers - and the people buying, throwing, catching eating them - the main thing was that it was doing writing with some kind of tangible result (is a sound file really tangible? Probably not, but who cares), writing that turned into something other than a Word document littering up my hard drive. Something that was pretty decent, as it goes. That was a real buzz. As was my writing getting compliments and laughs from an actor (even if he did screw up the part) and a proper radio guy and my fellow students. I could get accustomed to that kind of thing. Or I could if I wrote better and more often. Which I suppose is an incentive. Anyway, that monologue thingy. Well, not so much a monologue, just a bunch of lines really, but here they are¬ (see - great punctuation mark (Dammit, now it looks all lost and irrelevant, so I'll have to put in another after these brackets... actually, what am I complaining about, they're woefully underused; the more of the things the better - maybe they'll catch on))¬

The estate agent said it was the up-and-coming suburb. Best get in while it's still cheap. I'm not stupid, though. So I asked some of my employees for a second opinion. Oh sure, Gordon, it can only improve, they said. So that was how I came to live here. In Silent Heights. On the third floor. It seemed like a good investment.

If I look out of my window I can sort of see the local park. Or at least the bit where a bunch of CCTV dodgers gather to smoke crack. The rest of it's obscured by another block of flats. A couple of naturists own the one opposite mine. Naturists who never draw the curtains. I don't know, perhaps we should all be as God intended, but if those two are anything to go by, I suspect he intended for us all to wear clothes. XXXL clothes. And maybe bags over our heads as well.

At ground level, there's a little scrap of land with flowers. I suppose it's nice that someone's tried to brighten up the place, but planting a tiny garden like that around here, I don't know, it's like trying to put a little strappy dress on a six-foot, fat bloke.

It's a pretty quiet place to be, though, once you've become oblivious to all the sirens, But there was that one time, last Christmas. It wasn't so quiet then.

It started on the 19th of December.



I was watching the History Channel, seeing what management tips could be gleaned from a documentary on Hitler. I know he was evil and all that, but you have to admire his leadership skills. He'd probably have made an excellent motivational guru if he'd been born a few decades later.

I just assumed it was the girl upstairs. Seventeen, eighteen, parents on holiday. Thought about complaining. But… it would have meant effort. And talking to people. I try to avoid those things outside of work hours. Besides, it was probably just going to be the one night.

It wasn't just the one night. And it wasn't just the music. Every time it started so did the mutt downstairs. One of those horrible yappy things. Typical old lady dog. Sort of a cross between a broom with no handle and a malignant Ewok. Even now, I sometimes contemplate kidnapping it and taking it to the vets to be "done" again, except this time having the vocal cords snipped. And when the mutt started, so did the old lady, banging her stick on the ceiling. I could have quite cheerfully murdered the pair of them.

You know, the crazy old lady downstairs accused me of making all the noise. I mean, I'm a respectable young professional, not some pilled-up DJ. We just happened to meet on the stairs. Although, I wouldn't be surprised if she'd been waiting. "George, that's the nasty man who's been upsetting you," she said waving her stick at me. Next thing I knew the overgrown rat was sharpening its teeth on my ankle. Naturally, I threatened to sue. I may also have called her a deranged old bat. She called me an animal hater and threatened to report me to the RSPCA. Well, I was dangling the mutt over the stairwell and threatening to let go, so that was probably fair enough. I had to relent, though, when she started clutching her chest. Just in case she wasn't faking.

The next night more banging on the ceiling. More yelping. It was time to sort this nonsense out. That or go as insane as the old bat downstairs. She took a little persuading that I wasn't coming for George. But eventually agreed to accompany me to the fourth floor. After unsuccessfully playing the heart attack card again. But the girl up there wasn't to blame either. Apparently some lentil-muncher from the first floor, had already accused her days ago. No, what we had was DJs on the top floor. I left them a note threatening to call the environmental health people and went to bed.

Kill the DJ. Or was it Hang the DJ? Anyway, some songwriter had the right idea. Not that I'm advocating murder, you understand. Just killing DJs. Killing DJs doesn't count. No-one would miss them. Not now we have the iPod Shuffle. Sadly, Corporal Coffin Dodger wasn't advocating murder either, just a good talking to. He'd already recruited crazy Betsy and the human mung bean, so I thought I may as well join them. I mean, I don't do Christmas, so it wasn't like I was stuffing the brussel sprouts, or anything.

I was pretty relieved when it was empty. At last, no more mixing with those loonies. Mind you, that young girl seems very well spoken. Maybe this area really is on the up.


Taiga the Fox said...

Hei Mr Hummus, I just thought to say I read that I Just Hope You Know What You're Getting Yourself Into again and it just gets better and better. Okay, my daily amount of praise words is pretty emptied now, so moi.

Anonymous said...

She should probably apologise for calling you that, but she won't until you'll write another blog post.

Occasional Poster of Comments said...

Kiitos, Taiga. And no apologies necessary. I do eat an awful lot of hummus. And mention it quite a bit. Hmm, I bet if I did a wordcloud thingy on this blog it would come up.

Occasional Poster of Comments said...

Ok, so hummus didn't come up. Although, 'wet wonderful words' did. And 'least life like'. Hmm, 'brain broke', probably best sums up my ramblings, though.

And what have I learned from the above? I should talk about hummus more often. Obviously.

Occasional Poster of Comments said...

Bugger. Wrong wordcloud. That was the Not 4'33" one. Anyway, hummus definitely didn't show up. As you can see. If you fancy wasting a few precious seconds of your life. After all, it's not really worth looking. I mean, I've already listed the vaguely serendipitous phrases in it. Still, it's your life.

Sorry. Ignore me. Work's still not going so well.

Occasional Poster of Comments said...

Oh. It's come up with something different now. Still no hummus, though.

The Internet: a billion and one ways to waste time.

Taiga the Fox said...

Well, I ate hummus too yesterday. That home made one, which was excellent as always.
Hmm. I can't see the Not 4'33" words? The wordcloud thingy gave me words like "slightly smelly stargazer stuff", which probably is what my blog is all about.

Have you found the memory stick already? I'd like to spend my precious time with it's content, please.