Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Mexican diary #10: Miguel and Carlos

You can see pictures of my mosaics on my website: www.martincheekmosaics.com
The Barbados work is shown on page:
www.martincheekmosaics.com/html/barbados_floor.html

Mexican diary #10: Miguel and Carlos

Miguel (Michael) & Carlos (Charlie) are my new friends from Spanish school. Miguel is 35 and looks exactly like Alfredo Moreno who played Diego Rivera in that remarkable film about Freda Carlo called simply: ‘Freda’. It was said that Rivera looked like a bullfrog and n liked to describe himself thus, making caricatures of himself as a ‘rana’. Miguel looks similarly froglike, which doesn’t sound very appealing at all but in fact he is very handsome. He is certainly striking, and so not surprisingly was the first person I remember seeing as I entered the school. He looked very stern and macho and being daunted by his appearance was rather hoping that I wouldn’t be teamed up with him. I was though, along with an elderly lady called (?) who looked like the living dead – complete with sunken eyes only further extenuated by heavy eye shadow – pushing them visually back even further into the depths of her eye sockets. She told me that she had been coming to the classes for years and enjoyed the company. This reminded me of my mother in law Kitty, who after about 17 years of night classes in Spanish was still on lesson 1. The fourth person in our team was a lady called (?) who was very nice and was in fact taught English at a local primary school.

The was that the lessons work is that the two hours are divided in half: the first hour being devoted to Spanish and the second half to English. We were given some Bingo cards with pictures on them: toothbrush, house, shop etc. which I had to turn over and read out whilst the other 3 played Bingo. It was at this point that I began to understand Miguel’s true metal. I really couldn’t believe how patient he was with me as he repeated, over and over again those words that I simply couldn’t pronounce properly. I’ve never been able to roll my ‘r’s – you could even call it a mild speech impediment. My mother was forever trying to get me to say “aRRRound the wRRRagged RRRocks the RRRagged RRRascal RRRan” as opposed to “awound the wagged wicks the wagged was cal wan”. I was never quite up to Jonathon Wes’s standards, my mother never felt it so bad to feel that I needed elocution lessons but it’s there nonetheless. It can actually be quite sweet. My friend’s John & Chris have a daughter Lucy, who when called to dinner, replied, “I’m Weeding Wupert!” Anyway, Mexicans are BRILLIANT at rolling there ‘r’s and Spanish seems to rely quite heavily on this skill. My only solution is to put my hand up to my epiglottis and wiggle it up and down as I speak – it doesn’t work in the slightest but it shows the Mexicans that I trying and at least understand what it is SUPPOSED to sound like.

Miguel is an engineer, who work sin Cuernavaca reason for wanting to learn English is the same as everyone else’s that I’ve asked at the class – he needs it for his job and command of English warrants better pay.

I met Carlos on my second visit the following night and warmed to him immediately. He is twenty years old and makes jewelry – in fact he had his wares sprawled out all over the table like a market trader and it took him some time to clear the decks. I guess I’m trying to say that he’s immature – and indeed he is – but there’s nothing wrong with that. Carlos SO reminds me of a friend from my animation days James Keating. This has inspired me to write a separate piece just about James – which I attach with this one – in case you are interested.

James Keating

I first met James Keating when he turned up at our house in Fulham. He was a ‘runner’, and had been sent by Pete Bishop, the director of ‘The Film Garage’ and the latest ad that I was working on, with some designs which I was to convert into animateable objects – or puppets, if you prefer. James was a hippy, to all intents and purposes he resembled Neil out of ‘The Young Ones’ – unfortunately he SMELLED like him too. “Christ James, why do you smell so bad?” I asked rather tactfully, I thought, under the circumstances. It turned out that James had SO wanted a job that he had begged Pete to take him on, for a pittance, which Pete had readily agreed to do. Unfortunately James had nowhere to stay in London, so he waited until everyone had gone home for the night and then he crept back into 143 Wardour Street where he kipped for the night. It was a good plan, but after a few weeks produced predictable results as far as his body odour was concerned.
I was having my breakfast bowl of muesli when I noticed that he was staring at it with what most people would agree, was more than normal concentration. “Err...Have you eaten?” I asked. “No, not yet” he replied rather mournfully. I reached for another bowl and handed it to him.
Well I’m sure that you’ve eaten muesli in your time. Personally I usually find it a bit too much like hard work - first thing in the morning – too much mastication is bad for a boy – but it’s supposed to be good for you, so when I feel up to it, I face it. Not so James. He filled the bowl so full that it resembled Mount Vesuvius – he even had to make a WELL in the top – like you do when mixing concrete – in order to slowly add the milk. I remembered that when ‘Alpen’ was first introduced to Great Britain in the early 1970’s the ads were at pains to point out that six tablespoons was the correct helping – so needless to say the WHOLE of Britain carefully measured out EXACTLY six tablespoons of Alpen each morning – for fear of what might incur should one exceed the stated dosage. So to see James literally PLOUGHING into his museli was more than I could bear. That, together with the appalling smell infiltrating the kitchen told me what to do next. I went upstairs and ran a bath. When he had finished Mount Vesuvius James came upstairs. “Get in the bath” I said. I didn’t exactly treat him like a baby, but it felt like that. My son Tom was about three years old at the time (he’s fifteen now) so I guess I was in ‘Dad’ mode. I fetched him a towel – which I’m sure you don’t need to be told, went straight into the washing machine as soon as James had left. Do I have to describe the grey ring that circumscribed the bath and took me twenty minutes and three ‘J’ Cloths to clean off? No I thought not.
“Thanks” said James as he ran off - he was always impeccably polite – and ran he did. I never saw him doing anything at half speed in those days – never had the job title ‘runner’ been more accurately used. James might have smelt like a tramp – but there was something incredibly appealing and attractive about him. He had a charming naivety which I am a sucker for – in all the years I knew him, he only ever thought positively. I never heard him say a bad word against anybody – which in the film industry is quite an achievement.
So what became of James after that? Well I’m proud to say that I persuaded him to go to film school. I was fortunate enough to be teaching animation at Bournemouth at that time and he easily got in, this would have been around about 1994. After the first term though, the head of department decided that James was a disruptive influence on the rest of the class. James’ problem was that he thought he knew more about film and was more talented than his tutors, which of course included me. My problem was that I KNEW he knew more and was more talented than the rest so put together. I fought his corner and it was agreed that he wouldn’t be asked to leave – instead he was given his own portacabin away from the other students, in which to carry on with his work. Can you imagine that happening now? We all agreed that he was talented – I had actually convinced myself that he was a genius, but that was partly due to the fact that he could draw like it was going out of fashion, which indeed it was!
I loved James. I don’t mean in any sexual way but I loved him. In fact it was impossible not to love him – he was a very loveable person. When his Mon got too frustrated with him, she used to ring me up. His father had died years before. James’s parents were both scientists, boffins, who had met in a wind tunnel. I used to joke with James that he had been CONCEIVED in a wind tunnel – with Mr & Mrs Keating standing at either end – a neat trick if you can pull it off – which they obviously had. Mrs Keating saw me as a calming influence on James – but ultimately nothing or no-one was going to control him. He set up ‘The House of Bong’ in Bournemouth of all places, using a grant from the Prince of Wales Trust, no less. Somehow he had managed to persuade me to fill in all of those wretched forms with him, vouch for him with his bank manager and give him a reference. No one was more surprised than I was when he was awarded that grant – not even Prince Charles. ‘The House of Bong’ sold everything to do with dope except the demon weed itself. Before long he was raided by the police – probably due to complaints from the neighbours – well would YOU want ‘The House of Bong’ next door to YOU?! But they could find nothing illegal. In fact the police even admired the fine craftsmanship of his cannabis candles. Yes, I’m afraid to say that he was casting up candles in the shape of cannabis leaves – a big seller for some reason. I couldn’t believe the amount of consummate skill, time and effort – in my opinion completely misplaced – that it took to make those stupid candles.
Eventually the inevitable happened. Cannabis is not supposed to be addictive, but within the space of two years, I witnessed the human dynamo that was James Keating change into a sloth that couldn’t and wouldn’t get out of bed until he’d had his morning joint. We all waste energy – put time into projects that in retrospect are lost leaders, but I never saw such a waste of talent as in the case of James. There is a funny side to all of this – as a teenager James was not developing as a boy should so Mrs Keating sent him to the Doctor who gave him male hormone pills. Within weeks James shot up to a staggering six foot four inches and almost overnight became hung like a donkey. His success with women was limited though to say the least – I don’t think that any woman could handle ‘the hippy’ as he called himself. But EVENTUALLY when he DID lose his virginity he became father -scoring one out of one – a batting odds that would be justifiably admired and wished for by millions of wannabe parents all around the world. Unfortunately His partner was a hippy too and soon after the baby was born, disappeared with another man to travel around the Himalayas leaving James literally holding the baby. The baby was called ‘Joren’, James had wanted to call him ‘Ren’ after the cartoon Chiachowa in ‘The Ren & Stimpy Show’ but his partner had the sense to put the Kybwash on that at least. A year later he came to see me, with Joren. He was struggling at being a single parent. I remember having to change Joren’s nappy and clean up his puke. Having my own children to look after at that time made me think that I really didn’t need an extra one – or two even. That was the last time I ever saw James Keating – but I’m thinking that it’s about time I looked him up again…

You can see pictures of my mosaics on my website: www.martincheekmosaics.com
The Barbados work is shown on page:
www.martincheekmosaics.com/html/barbados_floor.html

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