Tuesday, 30 May 2006

The Eagle Bar Diner is Perhaps My Favourite Place in London…

Yesterday Marie and I had a deserved 'together day' and after spending some time in bed we popped off into central London to browse at shoes and then go for food.

The eatery in question was the sublime Eagle Bar Diner, a venue we've visited on numerous occasions and as I tucked into a marvelous "Double or Nothing Burger" (two 6oz Aberdeen Angus patties with an extra helping of Mozzarella) and Skinny Fries; while Marie experimented with a Bison Burger and Skinny Fries (some Bison facts: they are even-toed, only two species are left in the world and calling them buffalo is technically incorrect...oh and they are very homosexual), we concluded that this was one of our very favourite places in London.

This was confirmed as we held hands, supped our chocolate milkshakes and people-watched the rest of the restaurant.

It doesn't take much to make things right again.

Monday, 29 May 2006

The Collapse and Fall of Democratic Liberalism

"I just want to tell you this, we're in favour of a lot of things and we're against mighty few."

Lyndon B. Johnson, Providence, RI, 1964

President Johnson's reign was the high water mark of big government, European style liberalism in the United States. Johnson wanted to bring the nation closer together and to use government to banish poverty, discrimination and to forge unity; whilst destroying Communism wherever it was to be found. Civil rights were further improved (and thus resentment was bred amongst white, working class communities), Head Start was founded, as were two national educational endowment schemes and the bane of many a President: Medicare and Medicaid. An admirable welfare state was being constructed but far too quickly and without the economic safe guards in place.

On the legal front, the Warren Supreme Court gave increased and deserved civil rights to African-Americans, women, homosexuals, disabled persons and prisoners. Prayer was banned in public schools, contraception legalised, the death penalty banned and in 1973 came the legendary Roe v Wade decision.

This was a deadly and costly liberal overreach, that condemned the Democratic Party to the margins right until the Clinton years and condemned America to economic difficulties and soaring crime figures. More importantly, it planted a seed with the American people that Democrats and big government could not be trusted and further fuelled the growing conservative movement, a movement that President Richard Nixon managed to unite into a coherent force so he could eventually come to power.

Unfortunately for the conservatives, Nixon didn't follow through with the right-wing bluster that got many of them to back him in 1969 and once in power he ran an incredibly liberal administration (an admirable obsession with African-American rights, social spending outstripping military for the first time, the Clean Air Act, increased Federal regulation) that, via Watergate, also destroyed any advantage the GOP had over the Democrats as the party that could be trusted. Nixon's successor was the centrist Republican Gerald Ford ("Eisenhower without the medals") and then came the hamstrung and compromised Carter Presidency.

Thankfully, for the right that is, an ex-Hollywood actor nicknamed The Gipper and a movement called the neoconservatives were fast bearing down on power...

Friday, 26 May 2006

Fuck Poetry

I'd written a long poem for today's blog entry, it was all about the heartache I'm going through at the moment and all the pain I'm feeling.

And then I met a young man who was in real crisis: threat of homelessness, serious illness getting worse and no family to support him; you could see the panic as his whole life was threatening to collapse around him, taking him with it.

We spent 30 minutes together, as I did the best I could to help him and also lend an ear as he off-loaded some of his worries. I could see in his eyes that he trusted me and needed me to be there for him and to help avert his crisis and I knew I was going to do every in my power to make sure he was OK.

And that's what made me think, fuck poetry, fuck self-indulgence and fuck my small problems.

Wednesday, 24 May 2006

The Big Adventure on the BBC

As a break to the politics, it will be continued however, the BBC have put up a permanent link to the feature they ran on us and it is here. That means you can download the video of me and Mark in action for your personal use on your hard drive.


Tuesday, 23 May 2006

Barry Goldwater Blues

The rise of the right, or more accurately, the rise of a political voice of the right started with Mr Goldwater and his run for the Presidency in 1964.

That may seem unlikely when he was on the receiving end of the worse Presidential drubbing before or since but his influence on the Republican party, in terms of it re-directing itself to echo the voice of the majority of American people, cannot be underestimated. It was he that marked the shift to anti-government and a party shaped by the West rather than East coast of America. Goldwater also won what many Republican Presidential candidates now take for the granted, the votes of the disenfranchised Southern whites, once a Democrat gimmie, it was Goldwater who began to take this naturally conservative territory off of the Democrats (as well as votes in the Mid-West) and lay the building blocks for Republican domination of America.

Let’s not forget though that Goldwater held some rather extreme beliefs, his stump speech in 64 featured the classic: “Extremism in the defence of liberty is no vice” (no doubt inspiring words to a young Pat Buchanan), he voted against the Civil Rights Act (one of only 8 senators to do so), believed nuclear attack upon Vietnam was a legitimate option, aroused massive concern in the GOP that he was dragging the party away from the middle ground and his list of international backers included apartheid ridden South Africa, Spanish monarchists and German neo-fascists.

If Barry Goldwater put the wheels in motion, then George W.Bush took the conservative movement to its current apex, which, when looking at his privileged family background, seems unlikely. Bush comes from a family entrenched in East coast, patriarchal, progressive Republicanism. Grandfather Prescott Bush was a key player in the United States’s leading pro-contraception group, he believed in higher taxes for better services and looked down upon base partisanship. His son, George H.W. had many of the traits of his father but importantly made roots in Texas (the spiritual home of brave new conservatism) and made great efforts to lose his preppy edge and build a power base in the West. The lineage was completed by George W. who took all the down home, folksy mannerisms and re-invented himself as a born-again Texan and with it the everyman persona that was needed to guide the Republicans back into power and consign the Democrats to the political scrapheap…

Monday, 22 May 2006

Why is America so Conservative?

I've been blogging for a while now and along the way I've met more Americans than any other nationality of people, I've clashed with a few of them and built excellent relationships with many of them and as times gone on I've become more and more fascinated by the political landscape of that great nation.

For me, it has always come down to how a man with the policies and beliefs of George W. Bush can win two elections with the backing of his people and why is it that the political make up of America is so much further to the right than Europe?

This line of enquiry owes much to John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge and their book "The Right Nation. Why America is Different" and the sources they have put me in touch with via their excellent tome. So go buy it!

First, for those of you that doubt that America is conservative (ie: is right of centre on most policy issues) at all, some thoughts: Americans tolerate lower levels of government spending than any other advanced country; Americans tolerate high levels of social inequality: 1 in 6 US households earns less than 35% of the median income with the nearest rival being the UK with 1 in 20; America is the only developed nation to not have a full government supported health-care system and the only Western democracy that does not provide child support to all its families; America does not provide paid maternity leave; America upholds the right to bear arms and still uses the death penalty; the US is far more willing to use force and is suspicious of International treaties; American citizens are far more religious than their European counterparts and more traditional in their moral values; the United States is one of the few developed countries where abortion is still a galvanising issue and where the majority of people say grace before their meals.

Importantly, these positions are not Republican but American and run through the very heart of American society. What's interesting is that a coherent conservative political force that reflects this agenda was lacking throughout most of America's political history, those on the right of American politics positioned themselves as 'true liberals' in the European sense of conservative governing (Nixon and Kennedy ran on virtually identical platforms) and the hard right was on the wane in the US. The peak of liberalism was of ocurse the 60s, when America got the closest it ever got to the European model of governance, reflected in 43% approval rating for the death penalty; Republicans using the middle ground of mixed economy and centrist politik; President Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society and politicians wearing their European education and influences like a badge of honour.

And then came Barry Goldwater...

Friday, 19 May 2006


It's all kicked off now...

Let me tell you a story: on the 6th of May during The Big Adventure we entered England after being treated very well indeed in the beautiful, sheep ridden nation that is Wales. It was with our arrival in England and more specifically Shropshire, that things went a bit wrong.

In Ellesmere (home to many hunchbacks but a lovely man called John who helped us) there was hardly any audience, mainly because no one had bothered to tell people we were coming even though the person that booked us understood our plight. Still, we pressed on to Whitchurch where things got even worse, not only did we have no audience but the person who booked the show refused to give us a floor to sleep on, hence we walked 9.5 miles in the dead of night, risking life and limb and being stopped by the police to the next venue that kindly put us up and showed us much love.

Mark and I forgot about it, erased it from our memories and got on with the show, however, we did mention what happened to us to the legendary David Smith (he of the foreskin organisation whose correct link is here and who put us up and found us an audience in less than 24 hours) and he decided to write a letter to the mayor of Whitchurch and the local paper of Shropshire; the catchely titled Shropshire Star.

And they've ran a story on it that reads as follows (with my thoughts in brackets):


Two intrepid walkers claim they had a less than warm reception when they reached Shropshire on a 200 mile adventure.

The actors set out from Bangor and are dependent on the generosity of people who come to their plays along the way for accommodation. When they reached Whitchurch, no-one turned up for the show. The pair claim (CLAIM!?! We speak only facts!) they were forced to walk along the busy road to Market Drayton in darkness - where they were stopped by the police. But the organisers of last week's event at Whitchurch Leisure Centre today said the actors had not made it clear they needed accommodation (It's written on the flyer, of which they had 2000).

Dan Hoffman-Gill (Spelt wrong!) and Mark Whiteley, based in Nottingham are filming their trek to Lincoln (We are not going to Lincoln but Lincolnshire...) so the visit to Shropshire could be screened on TV. Dan said "As it got nearer to 7.30pm we realised that not a single person was going to turn up...We either had to sleep rough or carry on to our next venue at FordHall Farm near Market Drayton. We were pulled over by the police because we were walking at night and risking our life and limb, and they gave us luminous sticks to wear. We felt deflated but we had an unbelievable welcome in Market Drayton."

The leisure centre is part of Sir John Talbots Technical College and today bursar Roy Hatton said; "We offered to fix them up with bed and breakfast but they chose to walk to Market Drayton." (That is a blatant, bare faced lie)

Thursday, 18 May 2006

The Big Come Down

Back in London and feeling quite empty.

Now The Big Adventure is over I feel a bit lost, I miss the walking, I miss the challenge and I miss Mark. I miss meeting people and not quite knowing what was going to happen to me. I miss having no responsibility but to walk to our next venue. I miss the show itself.

I emailed my agent to say I was back and that I was ready to go for jobs, hope they put me up for some stuff even if it's just to take my mind off of how much I miss the adventure.

Found another two reviews here and here, off to my old drama school tomorrow to give a talk to the latest batch of graduating students; I hope I can do something to make their journey a little easier.

Wednesday, 17 May 2006

I've Walked Across Britain!

Yesterday, Mark and I, weary and fatigued, walked into Boston on the east coast of the UK and completed The Big Adventure. Well not quite, as we had to perform the final show that evening before getting on a train back to Nottingham and the end of our wonderful journey.

I can't quite believe I've walked across the country...

The show in Nottingham went very well indeed, fellow blogger Barnze (thanks for coming mate) has some lovely thoughts on it here and we got an excellent review from the local paper here, the highlight being:

"Mark Whiteley and Daniel Hoffmann-Gill had just trudged 15 miles from Derby, part of a trek from Bangor to Boston, when they strode on to the stage for this highly-original two-hander. But, given the quality of the show, you'd never have known it - they were excellent."

After the triumphant night in Notts (and a few stolen kisses with Marie) we headed off to an even better night in Upton, where we were also followed by a BBC film crew (the footage of which can be seen here, click on latest bulletin and make sure you fast foward to 13m30s please) but it was the next day that pushed us harder than at any time in our walk.

From Upton we walked 26 miles to Sleaford, which took us 8 hours and if you ever want an out of body experience I urge you to walk that far in that amount of time; in fact I urge you all to find a town near to your home that is 26 miles away and then think about trying to walk it. And it didn't help that the day after we had a 17.5 mile walk to the afore mentioned Boston.

And now it's all over, I can tell my children (when I have them) that their dad walked across the UK relying on the kindness of strangers and performed a play every night to boot! I hope to blog each day we travelled in more detail, as much for me as a record of the journey but I hope moments of it will provide some entertainment to you all.

Thanks to Mark (I'm going to miss you), Marie, all the beautiful people we met along the way that helped us, our audiences and finally you, dear reader, for caring.

I'm off for a lay down and some beer.

Saturday, 13 May 2006

Back in my Endz

For those of you not down with the street lingo I is displaying, I am back in my hometown of Nottingham and as Mark and I entered its city walls we were greeted by this bevy of golden ladies...or maybe my blood sugar was getting very low...

I have never been happier to see it's young mothers, youths in caps and awful architecture and tonight promises to be a truly cracking show of The Big Adventure at the Nottingham Arts Theatre. Marie and my mother-in-law will be there as will many of our friends, I hope we're good.

Since departing Fordhall Farm on the morning of the 9th, we walked too many miles to Stone where we performed our show thanks to a lovely man called David Smith who runs a charity that helps men get in touch with their foreskins...I kid you not. From Stone we walked to Uttoxeter and from there on to the outskirts of Derby. Last night we performed at the home of Ian and Alison in the aforementioned Derby and had a wonderful evening, so thanks to them for being such great hosts and providing us with such a supportive audience.

Today we featured in Nottingham's local paper, here is the story, tomorrow we are being followed by the BBC and the only bad news is, Mark's groin is severely inflamed due to chaffing.

Monday, 8 May 2006

Down on the Farm

The walking isn't getting any easier to be truthful and since arriving in England we have faced only apathy and ignorance from the communities of Ellesmere and Whitchurch, which has put a great deal of pressure on Mark and I as we need our audiences to provide us with a bed, food and money. It is at this point I'd like to make it very clear that Ellesmere and Whitchurch has the highest proportion of three fingered inbreds I've ever seen and even a smattering of hunchbacks.

Last night was particularly bad as we were supposed to be performing in Whitchurch but due to poor promotion of the event no one turned up, the person who organised the show refused to put us up and we were left having to walk the 9 miles to our next venue (more on them later) who kindly agreed to put us up for two nights, rather than one. It only went to show Mark and I just how vunerable we are and how much we need the kindness of others to survive.

And of course, walking on busy roads with no pavements and heavy lorries passing within inches of you meant that we were putting our lives at risk, eventually, we made it but once again we'd pushed ourselves too hard.

So our lovely home with broadband connection that is housing our show is the Fordhall Community Farm and I'd like to thank them for putting us up and looking after us so well, we would have been doomed without you!

The farm is a big story in itself and actually needs your help, so if you want to save a pig or save a farm of the future that produces organic and ethical food, I'd urge you all to visit the farm's website and learn about their wonderful story and perhaps even buy some shares in the company or donate money to their cause, their kindness deserves some kindness in return.

After tonight's show Mark and will embark on what we've called 'The Wilderness Period', 3 nights and 4 days where we've no bed, no show and 47.5 miles to cover.

Keep us in your thoughts...

Friday, 5 May 2006

Mental Disintegration

A quick update from Chirk, thanks to a lovely broadband internet connection.

As you can see, I have posted an image of the Transformer, Breakdown, as that is what Mark and I are having; both physically and mentally.

The Big Adventure is frankly amazing, we have already walked some 70 miles in 5 days, with the biggest challenge being 22 miles in 6 hours; to be honest, it pushed us to our very limits but we made it.

The kindness and generosity being shown by people to two hapless traveling minstrels is both moving and breathtaking; ignore what the papers say, people are kind and will always offer all they have if you are in need. So thank you to all those that have put a roof over our heads, food in our bellies and spare change to buy plasters with.

That's all for now, I'll update again when I can and hope to see some of you along the way!