People who live outside London - and many Londoners, for that matter - must get sick of reading about Soho House, the trendy watering hole frequented by movers and shakers in the British film industry (an industry that neither moves nor shakes these days, but never mind). So it's with some guilt that I admit to going there last Thursday afternoon for a screening. As always, I was impressed by the groups of earnest young folk huddled together in the bars, thrashing out treatments for what I fondly supposed to be the British equivalents of Battleship Potemkin or La Regle du Jeu, although to be honest they were more likely to be the latest Shake'n'Vac advert. I was there to see a film called Christie Malry's Own Double Entry, adapted from the novel by B S Johnson. The film tells the story of a humble accounts clerk (played by Nick Moran) who turns terrorist, and is the first of Johnson's novels to be adapted for the screen - about 28 years after he killed himself, back in 1973. I was invited along because I'm writing a biography of Johnson - have been, on and off, for about six years - and I'm proud to be part of a genuine revival of interest in this once-famous (not to say notorious) "experimental" novelist whose reputation has been in abeyance for a couple of decades.
I have this problem whenever I go to the cinema these days, though: I fall asleep. It doesn't matter how good the film is. Last year I fell asleep during Being John Malkovich and Memento, both of which I thought were fabulous. It's something to do with having two small children and being chronically sleep-deprived. I settle into my plush cinema seat, realise that I'm somewhere dark, warm, comfortable and there are no children screaming near by, and - presto! - I'm away. I reckon I did pretty well in Christie, all the same. I nodded off for ten minutes at the most. What I saw of it seemed bold and imaginative, but it is in some ways a difficult, uncompromising film (appropriately enough, given the source material) and I gather it hasn't got a distributor yet because the producers made the stupid mistake of not getting Richard Curtis to write the screenplay. Ho-hum. The British film industry really is fucked at the moment, Bridget Jones and Captain Corelli notwithstanding. Though this could be sour grapes. Last week in these pages, Alain de Botton wrote amusingly about how his cameo appearance in Bridget Jones's Diary was excised at the last minute. Two years ago, someone made a film from one of my novels, and not only was my cameo appearance omitted from the final version, but the film never got released anyway. Now that's what I call ending up on the cutting-room floor.
Sunday morning finds my wife sleeping off the effects of another disrupted night, while I take our eldest, Matilda, to feed the squirrels in the local cemetery. Matilda lives for the most part in a bizarre parallel universe, where her constant companion is an empty video box - once containing a tape of Thomas the Tank Engine - which she has christened "Henry". I assume, rather desperately, that this sort of thing is normal at her age, and listen as attentively as I can to a long and elaborate story about a friendly bat who came into her bedroom last night and helped her to frighten off a ghost. She is not very interested in the squirrels, although she perks up a little when I tell her that grey squirrels like this are American. How can you tell, she wants to know. I say you can tell from the way they wear their baseball caps back to front and have no sense of irony. She gives me a grave, faintly withering look and clutches Henry even more tightly to her chest. My fault for trying out smart-arse humour on a three-and-a-half-year-old.
It has become a favourite vice of mine to start the working day by going to my local Starbucks and reading right-wing news-papers while I sip on my skinny iced Ameri-can double decaf latte grande, or whatever. On Monday there are numerous reports of the Nelson Mandela tribute concert in Trafalgar Square. Apparently, it was decided that the best way of marking the seventh anniversary of the end of apartheid was to have Scary Spice singing for Mandela in a corset so skimpy that her breasts fell out halfway through the performance. (Sometimes, Matilda's parallel universe doesn't look so bizarre after all.)
There were lots of scare stories about the May Day demonstrations. That nice Tony Blair made a speech insisting that there can be no justification for violence and criminal damage in the name of a "spurious cause". What a revealing choice of words. As Noreena Hertz cogently argued in the London Evening Standard, the May Day movement is emerging out of a growing and justified sense that there are simply no mainstream political parties that will even talk about the social and environmental damage wreaked daily by global capitalism and corporate greed. (An interesting thought to have in Starbucks, I agree.) New Labour seems to be a prime example of this, still locked into the Thatcherite fantasy that wealth will somehow trickle down to the poorer members of society, when it is patently clear that nothing of the sort is happening. But what can you expect of a Labour Party that won't even contemplate a nationalised railway service? I hope that what violence there was doesn't do too much damage to the protesters' image. I firmly believe that the majority are acting out of principle, and their cause, far from being "spurious", is one of the few worth fighting for.