Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Miss Jean Louis: Queen, Advisor, Orca Jockey Extraordinaire

It is once again the time of year when the world gets measurably weirder, courtesy of Gishwhes. Many will be aware of the Hunt's grand master, Misha Collins, but what of the elusive Queen of Gishwhes, Miss Jean Louis?

Born 28th July 1887, in a hut in Khor Angar, she was brought into the world kicking and screaming and claims, "and that is how I shall leave." At an early age found her dreams haunted by images of large, black and white creatures, gliding through a distant ocean, their large teeth glinting in the sunlight. She realised that the only way to rid herself of these visions would be to find the creatures, and become one with them and so, at the tender age of just 3½, she boarded a cargo plane at the town's airstrip and flew off to seek the creatures of her dreams.

Several weeks and multiple modes of transport later, Miss Jean Louis found herself on Vancouver Island, standing on the shore of the Robson Bight Ecologial Reserve. Before her in the water frolicked the creatures of which she dreamed and which she now knew the name of: orca.

Over the coming months and years, Miss Jean Louis lived alongside the orca, who, unusually for such a large and carnivorous species, accepted her as one of her own - as testament indeed to her good character. She would spend hours in the water with the pod, who allowed her to ride on their backs as they went about their business, playing, bickering and chowing down on the epic amounts of salmon surrounding them. She quickly realised that the constant presence of water in the orca's preferred habitat made clothes an impracticality and many locals still fondly recall seeing her, naked, riding on an orca's back.

Sadly, her duties as Misha's advisor (baby-sitter) have forced Miss Jean Louis to leave her cetacean chums and occasionally wear clothing, but she still returns to Vancouver Island every holiday to once more ride nude on the orca.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Some General Advice

As I will shortly be heading off on an adventure, I've been looking back through the journal I kept while interrailing with two friends almost five years ago. I found this list on one of the front pages.

  • Always take gaffa tape. Not matter how your friends scoff, they’ll end up using it.
  • Don’t worry about getting a penknife through security. As long as your friend has cutlery, they won’t notice you.
  • Never conduct German lessons on the metro.
  • Always read the instructions for cooking pasta.
  • Gits are far superior to gîtes.
  • Always look at the ceilings in art galleries.
  • If you meet a Mexican on the train, just say no.
  • ALWAYS check the location of your hostel first.
  • Always climb things. You might be amazed.
  • Always take a lighter to the opera.
  • If someone asks to take pictures of your toes, SAY NO.
  • Don’t draw pictures of hedgehogs next to information that you might need to show people.
  • Don’t validate your ticket the first time you get on a tram; wait until you have to.
  • Don’t drop your backpack on a nun.
  • Just because it’s pretty, don’t expect it to have running water.
  • Make friends with the hostel cat for an attentive conversation partner.
  • Don’t cheat at rummy unless you want to be penalised.
  • Always take a journal.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Dear Robin

Dear Robin,

Well, here we are. I'm sat in an Edinburgh cafe and you're ... well.

Front pages and well-meaning features scream about the tragedy. Your gentle face smiles out from behind the headlines and heavy heads nod and say it's such a shame.

Besides the fact itself, it's this that I find most upsetting. I don't want to remember you like this, as this week's poster boy for mental health problems and those who lose their fight against them. It doesn't see, right to see the word 'suicide' emblazoned across your face, because although you had problems, problems which you discussed with openness and generosity, to me that could never define you.

It was that smile that defined you. The smile that signalled mischief and joy and a little spark of madness. The smile which made those who now mourn you, love you in the first place.

I want to remember you as the clown, the genie, the man who loved his kids so much that he dressed up as an elderly Scottish woman. I want to remember you as the therapist and the radio host, the doctor and the boy who never wanted to grow up. I want to remember you as the maverick who has inspired generations to mount their chairs and follow you, oh captain, my captain!

But I know that these people were never really you and so above all, I will remember the man who breathed life into them all. A man who I can never claimed to have known, but who made me laugh and cry and inspired me and so many others to try and do the same.

I will remember your extraordinary ability to make people and stories come alive, to tickle ribs and tug heart strings.

And I will remember the smile that shone through every  show and role and interview. I will make that your true legacy, above the fact that you chose to go.

That's all I really wanted to say Robin. I hope you've found peace. I hope that somewhere, you continue to smile.

All my love,


Monday, November 25, 2013


I'm currently on the way to visit my grandfather. I was woken at about half past five this morning by my housemate being violently ill, so I decided to escape to London a few hours earlier than I had planned. Here are three Haiku charting the journey...


Blue sky tousled grey
Where planes leave forgotten streams
Red across the sky

One breakfast tea please
Unaware of how asleep
Until speech comes slurred

Silent solitude
Stare as long as we can bear
At the rising sun

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Poem from Jamie's Turret

I had a slightly surreal day today. Having skulked about for most of it, I escaped my housemates and headed for my old university halls of residence. Three of my friends, still studying, currently reside there, and late evening found me in one of their rooms, scribbling poetry for The Underground Clown Club's upcoming show. In amongst those, I found half a page to scribble this little ode to my surroundings.


Whitewashed walls and an odd, protruding pipe
A scratching pencil and occasional sip
Through the pushed-to door is where the real world lives.

But I know where I am here.
Familiar, though not my own.
A sign on the door reads 'Katie's Nest'
Well, not quite
But a pair of pillows
And the humbuzzing silence
And the knowledge of nearby friends
Will do nicely instead.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

How They Do It

Hello folks! I'm just back from Greenbelt Festival, having spent a week there volunteering and enjoying myself! I was part of the Site Vibing team, which helps to make Cheltenham Racecourse, where the festival is held) look less like a racecourse and more like a festival! The festival itself runs from Friday to Monday, and I helped set up from the Monday before the festival, and also helped with the take down on the Tuesday after. This is just a little thing I scribbled by torchlight in my tent on Thursday night.

*  *  *

My friend Andy does magic.

We sit at my kitchen table, with a deck of cards and two steaming mugs of tea, and he shows me magic tricks. And after every one I ask the same thing.

How do you do it?

So he shows me. All the sleights of hand, the clever shuffles, the misdirection. So next time he shows me the trick I can see how it's done and it isn't really magic after that.

When I was 16 I went to Greenbelt.

All the way in the car my friends told me stories of how amazing it would be, all the people I would meet, the incredible things I would see.

And they were right. I walked through the festival as though I was in some sort of magnificent dream. It felt a bit like a magic trick. As if by magic on a Friday morning the racecourse had been transformed into a colourful, joyful, bunting-festooned place.

I loved everything about it. The music, the crazy stalls, the huge sense of community that reached its peak at the Sunday Eucharist. I even loved sleeping on the cold hard ground of the Helicopter Field. I knew this place was special.

Five years later, I am at Cheltenham Racecourse again. Because eventually I had to ask:

How do they do it?

You see, I had hesitated before, because I was scared that if I knew it might spoil it.

But I needn't have worried really. I should have known better. I should have realised that it is a bit like Andy's card tricks, at my kitchen table.

Because even though I know how they are done, it doesn't make them any less special. I know that they are not magic, but rather something even more breathtaking; someone with an incredible talen doing what they love.

And that is exactly what Greenbelt is. It's not magic, the bunting doesn't just spring into being of its own accord. Instead it is a collection of dedicated human beings, each with unique abilities and talents, working together to create something amazing.

So as my time as a volunteer draws to a close (at least until Tuesday!) I shall settle in to enjoy the festival. And this year will be different. Because this year I know how everything is done. But that doesn't make it any less beautiful.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Underground Clown Club

Evening all.

I'm back at uni, and by golly have things been moving fast!

I'll start at the very beginning.

In late 2010, myself and a friend of mine, Andy, went to see a play called Lorca Is Dead, by the rather excellent Belt Up Theatre. It was inspiring.

In early 2011, we went to see another play by Belt Up, The Boy James. This time, we started writing.

By the summer of 2011 we had a (near enough) finished play, The Ball or How to Dance. We also had a name for ourselves.

The Underground Clown Club

The name came from a doodle I did in a seminar, just after we'd started uni. However, it was also pretty apt, in that we kept the company, and the play, pretty secret until September 2011. Because by then we'd decided to put the play on.

Thanks to various wonderful people, we went away for Christmas quietly confident that, after several false starts, we would have a space to perform in in early 2012. By the time we returned to uni we still hadn't heard anything. Then on the Friday of the first week back, we had a meeting with the technical manager of the Drama department.

We walked in, and he asked us what dates we'd like.

We were expecting to have to fight our case, to prove that we would be able to pull off the performance, so when we didn't have to that threw us a little.

We walked out of that meeting, and straight to the pub.

It was as we sat, sipping cups of tea with quaking hands, that it hit us. We were doing a show in 4 weeks time. Beyond the script we had nothing prepared.

What followed was possibly the most productive weekend of my life. By Monday morning we had a cast and crew, but it couldn't stop there. We plunged into rehearsals, found music, props and set and started on publicity work.

Now the performance is a week away! Like I said, things have been moving fast.

For now though, we'll have to keep our heads down rehearse as though our lives depended on it.

See you on the other side!

For more information on The Underground Clown Club and The Ball or How to Dance, please visit our blog or Facebook page!