Thursday, 29 March 2007

I'll Put You On My Blog

Kenneth Williams, that most memorable of comic actors and raconteurs, apparently used to threaten anyone who was a tad recalcitrant towards him that he would 'put them in his diary'. I must be one of the few people who have actually slogged through all 800-plus pages of The Kenneth Williams Diaries, and I can attest that they are monumentally dull - only my compulsive need to finish books ever saw me through to the end. (How can so flamboyant a personality have kept such supremely boring diaries?) But I have at least picked up one thing from Kennie. Now, whenever anyone is acting out of line, I go into my best sock-in-mouth Godfather mumble and issue the terrifying threat: 'If you're not very careful, I'll put you on my blog'. It's perhaps not quite the equivalent of a firm promise of kneecapping, but I find it keeps the rowdier elements in line.

On the subject of Kenneth Williams, it's interesting that after his demise he was hailed as a unique talent superior to such cheap camp imitations as John Inman and Larry Grayson. Yet now with John Inman's death, we find that he too is hailed as the stand-out talent in the unlikely cult hit Are You Being Served? It seems that there's nothing like death to get a person a bit of overdue appreciation. Personally, I can't get enough of the great British tradition of camped-up double entendre and have a good mind to form my very own Charles Hawtrey Appreciation Society (Membership: One). But then again I'm also probably the only person on the planet who thinks that George Lazenby was the best James Bond - but that's a long story I had better leave for another time.

Hey, campers, don't be worried by my little blog. As Yellow Pages say, we're not just here for the nasty things like a blocked drain, but for the good things as well. And to prove it, I hereby wish to confer some awards. We have the Oscars, the Baftas, the Emmies, the Tonys. We have gongs dished out by governments and international writing awards, but really the only awards that matter are the ones that are dished out by this website (though there's no prize money, sorry - though I might run to a pint if you catch me in a beneficent mood).

A few years ago I actually tried to get an honour from the British government for my friend David Jack. David founded some thirty years ago the magazine Kansai Time Out, which has been such an essential bridge between the foreign community and the Japanese not only in Kansai but throughout Japan. He has been the driving force behind countless community and charitable projects across the world in places as diverse as Scotland, Canada, Bangladesh and Hong Kong. He's a person I admire, someone who manages to combine a shrewd business mind with an inspirational social vision. He's also provided the platform for countless writers to explore their passions and actually get their scribblings into print.

Some of the most pleasant experiences I've had in Japan are when I've visited David at his thatched farmhouse in the countryside, ate simple fare with him and rambled around his fields, being told about the latest incursion of wild boar into his lands and finding out how his farming and pottery projects are getting on. The rest of the time I get emails suddenly telling me he is up to some film project in East Timor or off to visit some deprived villages in Bolivia.

A few years ago I wrote to the British Consul in Osaka suggesting the British government confer a long-overdue honour. But I was told that I would have to do all the paperwork myself, getting others to support my recommendations. In the end it was all too much bother. For one thing I feel ambivalent about the whole honour system anyway. Be assured that this site is dedicated to the conversion of Britain to a fully democratic republic (I would say the overthrow of the monarchy, but you never know what MI5 are reading) so receiving a badge from Elizabeth Windsor is not exactly part of our programme. Plus, I have a sneaking sympathy with Michael Winner who dismissed his proposed award of an MBE as the type of thing given to toilet cleaners. And I got the feeling that David probably couldn't be bothered with an honour anyway...

So let's cut out the middle woman and just say that this blog site, which is an independent republic seceded from the union, hereby confers upon David Jack a, I mean a lifetime consulship.

And my second consulship goes to Mr. Tago Kichiro. Kichiro was a producer for NHK in London, but gave up this prestigious position a few years ago to pursue his ambition of being an author. As well as penning numerous illuminating articles in the local Japanese press, he has written three wonderful books to date, the first two about Soseki's experiences in Britain and the latest about the Hungarian pianist Lili Kraus and the extraordinary saga of her internment by the Japanese on Java during the Second World War. The book (『リリー、モーツァルトを弾いて下さい』 ) is part of my current bedtime reading.

Kichiro is not only a terrific writer, but is also a charming, kind and fascinating man. I greatly hope his books achieve the success (a film perhaps?) they so richly deserve.

OK, so that's our first officers of the republic. I'll keep you posted on any more appointments.

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