Almost every Saturday Review section of The Times has a feature called ‘My Culture Fix’ in which someone related to the arts answers questions about their, er, culture fix. Depending on which branch of the arts we’re talking about the answers can be illuminating, tedious or, much worse, very farty. You can usually tell if the interviewee is in the theatre business or a poet before you even open the paper simply because it weighs more. Even then it is always worth a read, and since we’re about to enter a month of staying in at weekends I thought I’d pretend to be semi famous and offer you my culture fix based on the questions from yesterdays interview with John Cooper Clarke, a poet who is not nearly as far up his own arse as most poets. Which is refreshing.
The book I’m reading. I’m busy re-reading King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild, because I didn’t finish it years ago after I dropped my paper copy in the bath. It is a fine book and will tell you about every rotten thing that those cosy little Belgians did to the people of the Congo many years ago. Does not contain Um-Bongo.
The book I wish I had written. Fantastic Mr Fox. It is almost without rival and very charming indeed. Why it isn’t in the premier league of Dahl’s books is beyond me; it’s a lot better than The BFG.
The book I couldn’t finish. If there was a prize for not finishing books I’d be in with a shout. Give me Viz magazine any day. I once rather ambitiously sat down as a student and tried to read the unedited Don Quixote; if you know what happens on page 4 then you have read more of it than me.
The book I’m ashamed I haven’t read. There are too many to count and so there is no real point feeling any shame. I have never read any Austen or Bronte. I am also quite pleased that I haven’t frittered away too much time on Shakespeare.
The box set that I’m hooked on. We have just finished Schitt’s Creek and I suppose that counts as a box set. I lie in wait, licking my lips, for the next series of Ozark, Better Call Saul and Succession, though I understand I may be waiting quite some time.
My favourite TV series. As a kid The A Team, because it was just so much fun. Anything with Alan Partridge in.
My favourite film. Jaws. It has everything you could want from a film, including Robert Shaw as Quint – probably the best film character ever.
My favourite playwright. Not Shakespeare. If I venture to a theatre I’d be just as happy watching Stewart Lee, if not happier.
The play I walked out of. I have never walked out of a play but I did walk out half way through an Eddie Izzard gig. He seemed to have forgotten to write any new jokes, which can be a handicap as a comedian.
My favourite piece of music. This changes all the time but I rarely go to the gym at the moment without playing Lady Of The North by Gene Clark. Very soon I’ll just rarely go to the gym.
The lyric I wish I’d written. The first two verses of Cabinessence by The Beach Boys, written by Van Dyke Parks. Coupled with the music it is beautiful up to and beyond words.
The song that saved me. I don’t think songs can save you but I’d like to thank Gimme Shelter by The Rolling Stones for opening a door into a very nice room where I have stayed ever since.
The instrument I play. I leave the playing of instruments to those people who can make them sound pleasant. I quite often play drums with my thumbs in the gym and would like to apologise to any onlookers who assume I have a nervous twitch or am demented.
The instrument I wish I’d learnt. I did learn some instruments but I never learned them well enough to make them sound like I had learnt them at all. In another life I would be a guitar slinger (with hair) or a virtuoso with a glass harmonica.
The music that cheers me up. I doubt you’re allowed to listen to them now, but pre PC favourites such as My Boomerang Won’t Come Back and The Banana Boat Song (Day-O) always brought a smile to my cheeky little face.
If I could own one painting, it would be.….I would pass on a painting and opt for ‘Fucking Hell’ by The Chapman Brothers instead. I’m not sure it would fit in our living room but it would be a good, if potentially divisive, talking point.
The last TV programme that made me laugh. Schitt’s Creek; a gentle, reassuring kind of laughter that made me feel comforted, warm and envious.
My guiltiest cultural pleasure. You shouldn’t have to feel guilty about any aspect of culture that gives you pleasure. You should feel guilty for having bad taste though.
The place I feel happiest. Anywhere at home suits me fine. Anywhere with laughter or wine, preferably both.
I’m having a fantasy dinner party, I’ll invite these artists and authors. It baffles me that people would want to have dinner with Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela or Mother Teresa. I would get bored quite quickly so would prefer a very smoky, clinking table with Keith Richards, Peter Cook, Richard Burton and Dorothy Parker. That would be fun for a while, but I expect it may eventually get out of hand so I’d keep Mandela in the wardrobe to act as a peace keeper.
And I’ll put on this music. Exile On Main Street, always. No Other by Gene Clark. The soundtrack to Interstellar. And so on. I would hope that if the music stopped no one would really care anyway.
G B Hewitt. 02.11.2020
PS, forgive all the stuff below, I’ve clicked on something and I can’t be bothered to seek a solution. Or you could just read it.
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