Archive for January 2012

Samaritans; teenagers; wolves   Leave a comment

A friend of mine from a couple of years ago, I’ll call him A, used to work for the Samaritans.  When I say work, I mean volunteer, man the phones as it were.  I used to think then that it was a very hard thing to do, to try and talk someone out of ending their life – emotional and very draining, the same as working with people with special needs.  I greatly admire people who work in that area.

Now called just ‘Samaritans’, they are having a special awareness drive at the moment.  They are one of the few ‘unspoken’ charities.  We don’t like to admit that they even exist it seems, although they have since 1953.  There are various ways in which you can support them, including buying merchandise.

It was a running joke with my kids that they knew the number for Childline; anytime they didn’t like a decision that we made they were advised to either call Childline or find new parents and get adopted.  One phrase I’m sure every parent has heard – so and so’s parents have let them!  It’s so unfair.  Obviously the remarks were flippant and meant jokingly, which would annoy them even more when they saw you weren’t going to bit and get angry yourself – reverse psychology, works almost every time.  The security though of having someone to talk to is so important, especially children in danger, so both charities, Samaritans and Childline, deserve our support.

When I think of the lids growing up, I can’t help but think of the classic Harry Enfield sketch when ‘Kevin’ becomes a teenager.

My brain totally wasn’t in gear this morning, thought it was February 1 today!  Wishing the year away.

Recording with Tim today.  Heavy skies, trying to snow here but don’t think I’ll be needing the huskies any day soon.  Huskies remind me of wolves, I love wolves.

A few years ago I happened to be talking to a friend of mine Jeremy.  The last three nights on television there had been films that featured wolves, including of course Dancing With Wolves.  I mentioned this to Jeremy and my love of them and he told me to go and see him the next Thursday.

Jeremy is a vet, very passionate about animals and their welfare.

So I turned up at his surgery on the Tuesday as agreed and was told he would be back soon.  Sure he enough he came in a few minutes later and asked me to go out to his car with him to help him, which of course I did.

Laying in the back of his estate was – a wolf!  Jeremy was the vet for Wildwood, an animal park in Kent.  As he and I carried the sedated (thank God) wolf into his surgery he told me that she had broken her leg and he had put in a splint and it now had to come out.  We carried her down to the operating room, and he allowed me to shave her leg so he could put in a drip.  Sad to say I still have her fur in a bag on the wall of my studio.  He was of course baling assisted by the people who worked for him.

What I remember is the sheer power in her legs.  Mishca was two years old.  Her teeth?  Well as I typing this I am smiling as it reminds me every time of Little Red Riding Hood.  After the small operation, I helped carry her back upstairs and weigh her.  I was in so much awe of the sheer beauty of her.

This is an actual picture of her, she is the face for Wildwood.

I helped carry her back out to the car, and said goodbye to her, and Jeremy, and thanked him so much.

He left, I sat in the car, and I cried!  I drove back to the theatre, clutching Mishca’s fur in my hand and when I got back I couldn’t talk about it.  Without any doubt, one of the most special milestone memories in my life, one I will never ever forget, to be that close to such a majestic wild animal, amazing.

Here’s a small clip from one of the best films ever made, Costner’s Dances with Wolves, with music from the late, great John Barry, my favourite composer.








Posted January 31, 2012 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized

Jack in the Box; Mondays; dreams   Leave a comment

A certain Irish man who lives just down the road from us had a lot of success with a song I Don’t Like Mondays – some other project seemed to hijack his career?!?!?  (actually my favourite of his is the wannabe Springsteen track Rat Trap).  He got the phrase for Mondays from a San Diego school girl who had gone into class years ago and shot fellow classmates – when asked why she simply replied “I Don’t Like Mondays.”

Mondays are possibly the hardest day of the week, especially after a lazy weekend.  Bailey was unable to get up this morning and was running late for school, whilst CJ and I were out of bed and dressed, or at least I was!!! by seven, ready to take the dogs for a walk, but it was hard doing.  Your body soon gets into a routine though and I’m sure by the end of the week seven won’t seem so bad!!!

It’s harder to get up when it’s so cold.  That’s one thing I miss about living in LA, the warmth.  There’s a survey out today that ex-pats, who now live abroad, say what they miss most about the UK.  The BBC apparently was one? Not sure why, you can get it online, albeit with adverts!!

Things I miss when I’m living there are our bread, our chocolate, our cheese, all things I’m not currently eating so that’s good!  Marmite, although they get vegamite, the Australian marmite.  Nashville doesn’t have the choices though of LA.  Cream is hard to find, single/double cream, as is nice cheese.  I love their bacon, (another no at the moment) but love ours too, just totally different as are their sausage links.

The world is definitely more accessible now though; ingredients are much more readily available.  Mountain Dew was always something I missed whilst living in the UK but its in most stores now.  I miss Jack in the Box, my favourite fast food burger chain, although with milk shakes at over 1,000 calories it’s probably a good thing too.

Not that I’m going to die but if I ever do my kids know to go to Jack in the Box on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, opposite the pier, and have a burger and shake and then walk over to the pier and throw me over!!! or at least scatter me in the Californian sunset, just like a scene from a TV show.

TV is almost the same now on both sides of the Atlantic, some shows run later in the UK.  I’ve mentioned One Tree Hill before.  Now in its last season, season 10, creator Mark Schwann has consistently kept the standard high.  I caught an episode yesterday morning from a few years back and was again totally blown away by the writing, directing, the whole production and the use of songs, wow!  All very inspirational.

This week my own writing will include the new story Sleeping with your eyes open, tag is Dreams Come True, even when you don’t want them to …….

plus recording.

Can’t believe it is the end of January already!  Where has this month gone?

Is it only Monday though?!?


Posted January 30, 2012 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized

Lee Child; writing; Holly Hunter; It’s A Wonderful Life;   Leave a comment

In a recent interview, writer Lee Child explained how he writes his hugely successful crime thrillers.  He starts with a line, or a phrase, sometimes even a word, and then lets the story unfold naturally, and write itself.

Child’s books feature an ex-military cop Jack Reacher and are all based in the states, although Child himself is British.

Yesterday I wrote the first draft of a new story, Counting Mississippi.  6,000 words in 4 hours, the story just came, the twist out of nowhere, all from someone’s status update on Facebook last week.

I’ve just been accused this morning of being too observational but I don’t think you can be.  People watching is a great pastime and a huge learning experience I think; how people react differently to same situations, or unfamiliar situations (fish out of water).  It also teaches you how to deal with people or accept them and not be judgemental perhaps.

One key element that is always thrown around is “write about what you know” which I think is possibly true. In Nancy Miller’s case it certainly was and proved highly successful.

Nancy comes from Oklahoma City and is the creator of an outstanding and original TV cop show, Saving Grace, which stars Oscar winning Holly Hunter in the title role, a role she obviously relished.

Grace Hanadarko is a quirky, likeable police detective in Oklahoma City who is promiscuous and a drunk, mainly due to her being raped aged ten by the family priest.  Jessica Walters (Play Misty For Me) plays her mother.  Grace is supported by her own guardian angel, Earl, who chews tobacco and looks as if he lives on the streets.  Strange premise I know for a show, I said it was original, but it actually works.

There are many references to Oklahoma, particularly the 1995 bombing.

The show aired in the states until 2010 but the second series had just started in the UK on More 4 on Thursdays, following Julianna Margulies’ excellent The Good Wife.

The idea of angels in shows is of course not original – Highway to Heaven and even the recent ITV drama about angels who are barristers?  and of course you have It’s A Wonderful Life.

Here’s the final scenes of It’s A Wonderful Life

and finally I believe snow is forecast at last for next week!

Now to the second draft of Counting Mississippi.

Posted January 27, 2012 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized

Rain   Leave a comment

This morning was the first morning we’ve had rain whilst walking the dogs.  This is in three weeks, very unusual for this time of year.  It does seem to rain less often now, climate change?  As a kid walking to school used to get soaked, and then have to sit in cold classrooms all day wet.  Okay, slight exaggeration.

Rain is one of a writer’s favourite ‘tools’ – always atmospheric, sometimes cleansing.  Thunder and lightning and a great storm, perfect.

Writing today, Counting Mississippi, and then working on harmonies.

Here’s a link to my favourite song about rain.  The band were out of Florida, and this song is great for driving – just watch out for the speed traps and cameras!

Nuclear Valdez, Summer

Whilst getting the link for this there was an ad for iTunes – Vaccines, Foster the People and a couple others, CDs for under four pounds!   Taking bets on HMV not being around next Christmas!

Posted January 26, 2012 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized

Banshees; Enid Blyton   Leave a comment

Did you hear the sound of a banshee yesterday?  In legend, a banshee is a fairy woman who begins to wail if someone is about to die.  The word Banshee always reminds of an Enid Blyton book i had as a kid, that featured the Five Find-outers, and a dog, there was always a dog in her books, called Buster!  The leader of the ‘gang’ was Fatty! Can you imagine her being allowed to call a character that today?!!

Anyway the banshee was me, singing, (my friend Mike Estes when he records vocals calls it strangling the cat!).  Good day though recording yesterday with Tim, laying down scratch vocals, seven songs, now working on harmonies, more banshees!

Blyton was a major influence for me.  By the time I was ten I had over 200 hundred of her books, she was hugely prolific, apparently not the nicest of people though, awful to her own kids.

Best known probably for Noddy or the Famous Five, my favourite series of hers was the Enchanted Wood.  Her imagination in these three books is remarkable, and whilst her actually writing was not brilliant, she was writing for young children, which is why so many millions identify with her books.

As for my writing, finishing To Kill The Dead today, final draft, and then starting Counting Mississippi, a thriller, and then the third story in the new trilogy has just named itself, Sleeping with your Eyes Open.

Posted January 25, 2012 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized

Dreams; benefits   Leave a comment

I like dreams; I like dreamers, I’m one.  Each night you get your own private movie show, free, right there in your head on your pillow.  I try to control some of my dreams, story outlines, see where they will go.

Dreams can be very creative – McCartney woke up and had ‘written’ Yesterday in his sleep, the melody at least, he originally called it Scrambled Eggs – it went on to earn him $30 million, over 5,000 versions of it.

But what about personal dreams, goals and ambitions?  Here’s a question, or two –  are you today where you hoped you’d be ten years ago?  Where do you want to be in ten years time?

I do take each day as it comes but I also have life ‘road maps’, in my head, ambitions I’ve yet to achieve.  It’s never too late.  I still have the energy and drive I had when I was fifteen, but now I have, allegedly, the experience of life, of people to refer to.  I still feel the same as I did when I was fifteen, perhaps that’s my problem?!?  But I’m still very excited by the future, what this year brings, next year……

It is said that a week in politics is a long time, let alone ten years.  The number of people going into politics must be getting smaller all the time – the scrutiny of the media, the people.  When a mistake is made, it’s magnified significantly.

The current row of benefits rages on.  I personally can not see how someone like the woman on BBC news last night can attack the plans to cap benefit at £26,000; that’s over two thousand a month!

There’s a fine line – people need to be encouraged to follow their dreams, start up their own businesses, from scratch.  Some go on to be hugely successful, so why should they support the lazy few who play the system; that have a load of kids they can’t support, thinking that the state can?  How can they afford name brands, sit in the pub drinking every day and so on – because of the benefit system in this country.  Without a doubt there should be one to support genuine people but it is abused and it is the abusers who are complaining but being supported by a few do-gooders.

The woman on the news last night stated she was a single mum with two children and asked why she had to move and change her life style?!?!? How can’t believe she actually asked that on camera! I know of people who have used their homes as collateral for a loan for a dream, a business venture.  Dennis Waterman did, so did Shane Ritchie.  Luckily they didn’t lose their homes but some do.  People who lose their jobs downsize all the time so why does this lady think she shouldn’t?

This is not political.  Just reward success, punish laziness and greed. Let people follow their dreams.

Posted January 24, 2012 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized

Jack Daniels; PJs and Mexican Food   Leave a comment

My shelf above where I type has four Jack Daniels’ bottles, although in my defence one is empty and the other one nearly is.  Birthday presents I hasten to add, all eagerly accepted though.

I’m not a heavy drinker, far from it, a bit of a lush – a couple of drinks and I’m yours!  Well, not quite but I also know my limit.  Having run a nightclub and a theatre with two bars I’ve had access to alcohol and I think in those situation you can either go one way, teetotaller, or the other!!!! I know a couple of publicans who went the other!

When I bought our land in Tennessee it was purely coincidental that it is on the same highway that leads to Lynchburg where of course Jack Daniels is produced.  Lynchburg, (an awful name for a town; (how it got its name one can only imagine), is actually a dry county, you can’t buy alcohol – Mr Jack obviously had problems with workers who like to sample their produce!

In the part of Tennessee where I live you can’t buy wine or spirits, only beer.  For wine and spirits you have to drive about fifteen minutes over the county line into Davidson where you can buy anything; crazy isn’t it?  Its a religious thing I believe, but Jesus drank wine, in fact turned water into wine!

Just passed the county line is a fine Mexican restaurant, Los Tres Amigos, I’ve mentioned them before.  On Friday here in the UK we enjoyed a meal at a nice Mexican Restaurant, but it was so expensive, which, given that Mexico is one of the poorest countries, it shouldn’t be.  As CJ said, it is peasant food, wonderful ingredients, but cheap ingredients, so why is Mexican food so much more expensive here than say Indian, when it really shouldn’t be?  At Los Tres Amigos it usually works out at around $12 a head, less than £8, that includes drinks and desert, (deep fried ice cream! I know, said it before, heart attack on a plate, but what a way to go!).  Their main, usual Chile Colorado for me, (tender pieces of steak), includes tortillas, refried beans and cilantro/coriander rice and you usually have to end up taking a doggy bag home the portions are so big.  You get free salsa and chips and bottomless soft drinks, or a large pitcher of lager will cost you $5.  No wonder I’m on my diet!

Had a bit of a lazy day yesterday, a PJ day we call it.  Did do some work on a new story.  After the blog the other day about Courtney counting Mississippi during a storm (good luck Courtney for today at B.M.I.!) an outline of a story came to me, a thriller, crazy boyfriend chasing ex, driving towards her, in a storm.  The ex is with her daughter who is counting Mississippi to see how close the storm is, and its coming closer and closer, as is the boyfriend who has murder on his mind.  Love this picture of lightning over the Mississippi, will make a great cover.


Posted January 23, 2012 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized