A Pointless Experience

From St Pancras, I took the Thames Link to Elstree. A 10 minute walk through the town centre – or was it Borehamwood’s centre? – led me to the famous Elstree TV and film studios where a small queue had already formed. After a short while the gate was opened and we were led into a function room (think wedding discos) and allocated sequence numbers for studio entry.

Pointless priority ticket

We waited about 45 mins before we went into the studio itself, grouped by our priority numbers and managed by the floor manager (I suppose he was). Once leaving the back of the function room, a short corridor with life size models of R2D2 and C3PO led us to the semi-outdoors, with many portacabins and other buildings housing recording equipment, in between bigger studio buildings. I had a big excited smile in anticipation, having been really enjoying the show for the past few months.

And then we were inside quite a small studio. It’s less flashy than on TV, almost looking lacklustre and even a bit grubby. I noticed many contrasts with how it looks on the telly, especially the big pixels of the countdown stack thing, the black floor vinyl that looks so much liquid, and the lingering dry ice for the backdrop lighting. Also everyone looked less glamorous than on camera; the lighting and the angles set up for the cameras not the audience.

Pointless studio lighting

I was seated in the front row, about 6 meters from Richard’s desk and a couple more from Alexander’s podium thing. We were told explicitly No Photography or recording but I couldn’t resist a few surreptitious shots taken from my lap before filming began. Views from the front row:

Pointless studio contestant podiums

Pointless studio

A warm up guy got us laughing and livened up, and led us through different levels of applause: 30% polite applause, 70% more enthusiastic, 100% full on clapping, whooping and yeahs. Also fun was the audience sounds for the countdown ticking down towards pointless. The front rows had to be in a lower key than the back rows: oooooOOOOOOOOOOOOh! – into applause when it stopped. You can hear this oooh on TV but low in the mix.

The warm up guy then introduced Alexander Armstrong who came on to big applause, then same too for Richard. This wasn’t the start of the show, more like acknowledging their arrival in the studio, but they both said some words of welcome to us, including that it was their 800-and-something episode. Then they prepared their things – mic adjustments, while other technicians made final adjustments. I saw an oversized Pointless trophy and wondered what that was, along with a Blankety Blank chequebook & pen and a Countdown clock. It was announced that it would be a Pointless Celebrity filming and the contestants were named: Nina Myskow & Giles Brandreth; Matthew Kelly & Henry Kelly; Des O’Connor & Jenny Powell; and Nick Hancock and Ulrika Johnson. The guest theme was game shows.

There was some more, quite dry, jokey warmups and quite soon after the celebs were in the studio, the show began. The theme tune played and A & R tapped along on their podium and desk. I was surprised to hear it, but I guess it was just for us in the studio, to provide more atmosphere and familiarity. I could feel the nerves in the room, but it faded as the hosts and contestants got into their stride. Well, except for the 200-club entry in the first round.

Recording proceeded much like on TV but took a couple of hours in total – there’s much more celebrity chat than you actually see, more time to think about answers, and a delay before the countdown begins and sometimes a delay before a wrong answer indication. There were also pauses in between the rounds, while the warm up guy a bit half heartedly kept people amused and those on set had their make up touched up and quiet conversations and catch-ups took place. A & R talked to the producer, I guess. Also sometimes A had to do little continuity pickups to be edited in.

Near the end, we did to audience shots to be patched in as needed. So when you see the audience on TV, that’s not actually in response to what’s just happened, it’s filmed separately. But all the audio is actual, probably faded down or up accordingly.

It was much harder to get into the actual consequences of the game while there live, like the actual quiz didn’t really matter and everyone was just having a bit of a laugh making the show. Richard mainly took the piss, but cleverly and with warmth. Alexander was more nervous than he comes across on TV but he has a smooth assuredness about him. They have to cut so much out! More I suspect with the celebrity shows as there’s a lot of mickey taking, as is the British way. Richard enjoyed giving out a prize to the winners of each round, mascots from other quiz shows that I’d seen earlier. During each round he hid them behind his laptop. The laptop is not on, by the way, it’s just a prop.

Then at around 19:45 it was all over and we were ushered out. Alexander said thank you to us all. I asked a studio manager if that was it for the day for them, any more episodes? All done, he said. They are currently filming a sequence of Celebrity versions for 2015, apparently. Readying the set for the next episode:

Pointless BBC studio

Sorry about the blurry photos, I had to be quick and sneaky. I was spotted at one point but they let it go.

A fun and interesting experience, probably pointless. And free!

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11 Aug 2013

Dreams: Crippled. A snivelling wreck in a damp corner, spine arched, alone, neglected, no one near. But I’ve seen him, me, caught a glimpse at least. First contact. Then… Van not starting. Others I’m with go on, leaving me, again, alone and also taking the girl I like, who just felt caring pity towards me. No one wants caring pity. On my own, trying, trying, trying to make the van start. Even pretending it does to those who ask when passing by.

Meditating after a deep dream allows the meditation to go deeper, as long as you are not too spooked and are willing to explore it in a relaxed, attentive way. The dreaming has already uncovered a lot for you.

An injured day. Neck much worse on waking and I’m unable to sit upright for meditation and breakfast and therefore work. So I spent the day propped up on pillows, finishing the yoga book, answering some work emails, watching a few things and browsing about. Saw some pictures of Marilyn Monroe doing yoga. I hadn’t realised.

Probably thinking of my neck, but it’s not good to turn to smile at the camera with one’s neck in these positions.

After some athletics this evening – Bolt does it again at the World Championships – wacthed Kirsty the property lady’s show about making furniture from free stuff. I remember something similar in the early Channel 4 days, when I first saw car seats being used in the home. The table from scaffold planks was ruggedly appealing. 

Here’s hoping the neck is freed up and painless tomorrow…

10 Aug 2013

Woke at seven after going to sleep just after eleven.

Deep dreams these nights. Scenarios that last and last. I can’t leave them, even if I want to, and last nights was a continual getting ready to leave a hotel-like place, or maybe a hall of residence. But I was too drunk. Or disorganised. Long time periods would pass and I’d done nothing at all to prepare.

Sitting this morning was uneventful. Some unsettledness was close by, so I moved towards it, yet most of the time all was lost in little thought stories. However, a sense of deepening stillness behind the thinking bubbles. Sat in half lotus some of the time but soon got pins and needles so back to both feet on the ground, one leg slightly in front of the other, so that neither leg weighs on the other.

A simple yoga sequence today after the long review of poses yesterday. Shoulder stand, plough, forward bend. Repeat. Sit quietly. And that’s it. Some nervy sensations back of the neck. The flaw in today’s routine – straight into the shoulder stand with no warm ups. I should know that this isn’t a good idea, especially with my prone to be stiff neck, so suffering all day from very stiff trapezius both sides. 

Then an open day with absolutely no plans. Put together the walk video from yesterday:

A nap before lunch. A shortish walk with C in the afternoon, laughing together at many things. Otherwise, listening to music, and looking at suggestions from this Reddit post: What’s the one song you’d recommend for someone to listen to to get into your music genre? Most interesting for me was the chill wave, underground jazz hip hop and the chillstep. Watched some elephants on the telly. Incredible creatures! To bed early to continue reading the 60s yoga book.

9 Aug 2013

Woke at seven, after sleeping at eleven.

A good, satisfying meditation. Soon came the feelings of bliss, and a sense of light. Before long, there was that nagging feeling of looking in the wrong place or of neglecting something, so then I looked in that direction instead of the usual fritting about in thought, and there it was, the raw emotion of fear. So now that got bathed in the light of the mind emptied. What is the point of an empty mind and bliss when there is something left out? No, meditation has to include it all. It’s a total thing, or as total as it can be at any sitting, given that there are blind spots and deeper neglects waiting to be felt, addressed, acknowledged, listened to, unfolded, bathed. And then they are no longer what they were, what I thought they were, once met fully. So, to follow the nagging . It’s there waiting to be followed and soon, on the following of the gritty areas, even more ecstasy arises as the conflict dissolves. There’s the feeling, then the unfolding, bathing, and then passing beyond to newness and change.

Once I felt no more fear, I moved down into the body, as that has to be included too. I got as far as the stiff neck before the hour was up. What’s the good of a clear mind and heart if the body is still riddled? Again, include it all. No short cuts or fooling oneself.

I’m left with a curious longing in my heart. I’m following its lead as I begin today’s yoga.

Stopping in between postures is so important. This is when the energy of the posture can go to work on the system. I stop still for a minute and let everything settle down again , and for whatever has arisen to go where it wants to go. A strange pulsing at the base of the spine, rhythmical and pleasurable. Eyes fluttering. A little daydream. Pause. Then on to the next pose, steady and attentive.

I’m more and more interested in doing what is real and not what other people are concerning themselves a with. Not that what they are doing isn’t real, but my concern with their actions or opinions is immaterial and fading. Not to be self obsessed but our own selves are the important thing, how we are spending our on time an what’s going on within us. It’s easy to spend a lot of time concerned about others. No one needs your concern, even if they crave your attention.

At 11, out for a walk on the South Downs, continuing along the Allan King’s Way, the second to last stage. I parked up on Gander Down, where I got to last time, and hiked over the rolling countryside and down to Tichborne. From there it was a short hop over the A31 and further downhill to Ovington. Old cottages on the lane down to the river and the Bush Inn, in high contrast to lorry drivers shitting in the woods just above. A quick lunch in the shady garden then along the valley a bit on Lovington Lane, and left the King’s Way to head back to the Downs. The normally peaceful countryside now with bass on the breeze. The Boomtown Fair at Mattersley Bowl. After some shade on winding paths through woods, and back over the A31, my route took me into the car park. I had no idea it would. So there I was, hiking into the festival grounds. I explained to the security why I had no wrist band and where I wanted to go. It was like walking alongside some sort of prison. A trench had been dug outside of a high, green fence. A woman sat on guard high on a corner watch tower. Ska music early afternoon. The party one day in. Later, along the South Downs Way again, I met a few walking to the site. They had a ladder for the fence. Join us, they said. I forgot to tell them about the guard tower so I don’t expect they got in. Their van was parked near my car, scribbled graffiti and twitter accounts all over it.

A sleep back at home, then good to lounge about after the walking. Snippets of TV. Tyre walls on Grand Designs. An elephant mourning the loss of its friend. The brother in Little Miss Sunshine not speaking ‘because of Nietzsche’.  Uploaded this from our Swedish holiday last month:

Came back from a night in London with a foot detoxification bath thing. I’ve no idea what it’s about but I stuck my feet in for half an hour. The water stunk! It felt nice around my toes, like bicarb of soda. Even if nothing else happened, my feet felt really clean and light afterwards.

8 Aug 2013

Woke naturally just after 6.

I’ve been sitting consistently each morning, just haven’t been writing about it. It’s not easy to do, this waking up, feeling however you’re feeling, and instead of getting busy doing the day, just… ceasing. On the cushion. You and your stuff and your relation to it. The relation is the key. Or maybe the ‘you’. And the return of ‘yesterday’. There’s yesterday to remind you of things that perhaps you don’t want to be reminded of. Residues. Fifteen thousand yesterdays, maybe. There it is. And yesterday isn’t only in the mind, but riddled throughout the body. The past, held. And here you are, with the day ahead, the past inside, the breath happening right now yet affected by ‘later’ and ‘earlier’, the breath a link between mind and body. There’s still some shaking taking place, particularly the right arm, the over-busy right arm. And the neck. And sometimes the shaking overtakes everything until the whole upper body is a wobble. This is when the slight nausea comes and when all control ceases.

I’ve been redoing the Hittleman 28 day course to reboot my yoga practice. Straight after sitting, I’m focused and calmer, able to dive into the various stretches, pleasant to move after the stillness. It’s a very good, progressive course, varied in its asanas, without the obsession with standing poses of Iyengar, and absolutely no trace of yoga flow or vinyasasa styles. This is 1960s yoga. It ties in well with the book I’m reading: Yoga, Youth and Reincarnation, again from the 60s, before yoga became a big thing. The same results are mentioned and experienced from so many unrelated sources of so many eras. Unrelated practitioners and teachers, but common health-giving properties. I’m feeling fit and well and strong on it.

Much later on the local news: “Tomorrow, we’ll be looking at how yoga is helping former servicemen.”

When walking to the school, skirting around the podgy pigeons so they don’t have to fly away. Two meters is the limit. No sudden moves. Two young ones, looking slim like doves.

A young bunny having a good scratch behind the ears. My last day of looking after the chickens. Yesterday a hen died. Old age. Only three left now after the original 20. The cocky cock tried to sneak up on me from under the coop. But I had my stick and I saw his tactic. I held the stick out in front of me and he’s so charged that he’ll jump at it, trying to attack with his sharp spurs. When that failed, he started making some strange clucky sounds and then he took it out a bit on the mother duck. She shouted at him and then he went off looking for the other cockerel, the punky one, to pick on at the other end of the orchard. Any time a chicken feeds, the ducklings scurry over to pick up any pellets spilled from the chickens pecking at the feeder. It’s the mother’s second brood this year.

On a break, feeding the fish in the courtyard pond. The orange fish’s colour is fading on the head and underside. It happened while I was away a week and the weather got very hot. I read that changes in water quality can do it, or just old age. They feed more tamely now but still do the sudden darting away to avoid being eaten, I guess, swirling the food flakes behind them. No sign of the newts. How do newts get in a pond surrounded on all sides by a building?

Read online: “For every one human killed by a shark, there are approximately 25 million sharks killed by humans.”

An hour’s walk late afternoon,  over to Bramdean and back – along the ridge then dropping down to The Fox, armed with my bramble beating spear of a walking stick. Sunny, low 20s.

Steve Tyler on Top Gear. Hard to take my eyes of his face. What is it with this rock & roll long hair, shaman, things-in-hair look? Much of a cliche. Clarkson generally looking old and ill especially when pulling his daft faces. Last feature, James & Jeremy ‘reviewing’ caravan cars, those jacked up versions of regular cars. May called one “The Nisan Kumquat”. They joke that they are all the same. Clarkson: “James is in the wrong car.” He was. James: “Cock!” The Mazda perfectly happy to crash into a VW but not a hedge or legs, apparently a selective crash detector. Caravan racing: The Stig towing a suddenly one-wheeled caravan, sparks flying. Then some off road caravanning. May: “I’ve run over your left wall and your portable lavatory.” Then: “I was laughing so much I crashed into myself.”