Stuart's Diary

14 years ago I was thinking a lot about films. I was thinking a lot about other people’s films because I was watching and revelling in a lot of movies. But I was also thinking about the prospect of making a film.

It was a nice time for me. In 2002, with the band about to make it’s first long player with a ‘big’ producer, and with the touring machine ticking over, it gave me time to ponder new horizons for the first time since we formed. It allowed me to kick back into a mental space, and drift.

illustration by graham samuels

a pretty accurate representation of what i was up to in 2002/2003, imagined by Graham Samuels

So I drifted into stories – stories that might extend beyond the short and sweet realm of the song. I remember going for long solitary walks around the city, notebook in pocket, sitting on walls, sitting in twilight, jotting down scraps of conversation, and creating overfond character studies.

Before I got the real urge to begin my first film, “God Help The Girl” I was messing with a story based wholly around the staff of my favourite celestial café, the recently closed Grosvenor. Having spent so much time in there, I thought it would be easy to paint outwards from the booth in which I had sat for so long. I only got so far: some ragged plot about a regular customer dying and leaving a load of money to the “three principal waitresses”.

At the end of 2003 however, I wrote the song “God Help The Girl”, and that was to lead me on the long and winding road to the film, which finally came out in 2014. This process was unhurried however, with me writing the occasional song for female characters, and initially trying to get a “girl group” together to sing them. In the meantime I was still touring and writing for Belle and Sebastian.

Around 2004, with the “God Help The Girl” story not yet formed, I got another idea for a film.  I remember thinking that it might be a stronger prospect story wise than the fledgling musical. It had the working title “Sally and Sam”.

I thought I would tell you a bit about “Sally and Sam”. It never made it any further than an idea, and a bit of prose to back it up, but I thought it would be fun to let you see because of it’s similarity to an actual film that was made by someone else – an excellent film, as it turned out, that was critically lauded.

“Sally and Sam” was a good idea. I told myself : ‘when I get the time and space, I’m going to escape into that world for a bit.’ It was going to be fun to write.

But the time never came. “God Help The Girl” took over because it very quickly became a real thing, with the recruitment of singers, and the start of rehearsals. It took up all my spare energy.

I’d never made a film, I didn’t have the wile, or the experience enough to realise I could take my other idea to someone else to write. And anyway, I wanted to write it myself – i always thought i’d get back to it.

Years later, when I mentioned “Sally and Sam” to film producer Barry Mendel, and pointed out it’s similarity to another film, even down to the name of one of the main ‘characters’, he just said, “Yeah, that stuff happens all the time. It must have been in the air..”

So I’ll let you read the intro to the story. It’s about Sally, the disorganised, neurotic, sometime journalist, and Sam, her newly installed personal organiser.

I haven’t changed anything since I wrote it, so it’s got a slightly annoying 2004 feel to the prose. (That’s hopefully highly subjective.)

 

Sally and Sam

I’m pretty excited to tell you the truth. I’m not usually one for gadgets and such like. And I’m certainly not one for one-upmanship either. Who can be bothered with that? Not me.

The reason I’m excited is because the little treat that I gave myself is really going to help me clean up my act. I think it’s really going to help me get my shit together, it’s going to save me time, it’s going to give me all this headspace so that I can carry out the odd charitable deed. Because right now my record stinks and I’m going to go straight to hell.

But that is one place where the soul of Sam will not end up. Sam is my new computer, my new personal assistant, my new personal organiser, my adviser in small matters, my valet, my life from now on.

Beauty thing is as well that he doesn’t seem to need any training. I don’t even have to read the manual. Whoever it was that thought the whole thing up did a really good job.

It took them a while to wire the whole thing up. I practically had to move out for a week or so. And they had to fit some new appliances. But it should be worth it. Oh man, I just thought of something else. He’s really going to sort out the filing of my film collection. It’s good, I just want rid of the clutter. He can help me with my accounts. Really help me, shepherd me through the whole thing.

It’s funny; you should have heard him the other night. If you put him in concerned mode or conscientious mode, he snaps right into action. I mean, I just got in, and I dived onto the bed (he’s got the thermostat working just right too, so that my room feels really comfortable). I told him to turn the lights off, leave the curtains slightly ajar, and switch into conscientious mode.

He just let me get settled, let me hear the sound of the kids playing football in the Railway Park. Then he said..

“Sally, I think you ought to look at your accounts quite soon. Your final accounting is due in by the end of January, and you don’t want to leave it all till the last minute, do you?”

“Well, that’s something me and you can go through at some point, isn’t it. You know I’m slightly haphazard at keeping accounts, don’t you? It’s one of my many faults.”

“That’s what I’m here to help you with! When would you like to go through it? I have some interesting tactics that ought to save you some money. Would you like to go through it just now? It would give me great pleasure to be able to help you out with this, Sally.”

“I’ll tell you what, let’s schedule it for tomorrow morning. I’m not in the mood for it just right now.”

I settled back. I let my mind wander into places that a good church going girl probably shouldn’t wander to. It’s funny that. I know I shouldn’t go there with my dirty scheming mind, but I do anyway. I wonder if God planned it that way. I wonder if God knew that he was breeding a race of dirty wee tykes when he thought us up. I think seriously for a second about asking Sam, but then I hardly know him, and I don’t think that even the money I paid for him would justify the necessary subtleties that he would have to have to give me a useful answer. He’d have to fairly be able to juggle morals, sex, ambition, a bit of religion.

“Sally, I think you ought to know that you’re recycling bin is fairly full. You’re certainly in the red as far as emissions balance goes, for the last two weeks anyway. Have you thought of a methane and carbon dioxide recycling scheme for your flat. I have a friend that could get you a pretty good deal at the company that he’s installed at. Her name’s Hilary. She herself is modelled from fortified reusable carbon….”

I must have been drifting off because I thought Sam’s voice was part of a dream I was having. It unsettled me slightly on waking.

“That’s nice Sam. Could you switch yourself into concerned mode for a second.”

“Of course. Is there anything wrong? How was your day? Did you get those chores done that you set out to do. Is your back still giving you problems? If I could suggest the services of a good masseuse…”

“Actually Sam, could you just channel your concern into playing me a song. Play me something pretty, relaxed, wise, unhurried, slightly bookish.”

The fucker hits me with Saturday Sun by Nick Drake! Oh man, dude, we are going to be friends! I’m just worried that we are going to become too good friends! I may never leave this room in too much of a hurry again.


 

I slept in this morning. Sometimes I play a game when I don’t talk to Sam for the longest time. I see how long I can remain silent. It never fails to amaze me when I finally break the silence of the morning, that he’s right there, ever vigilant. It seems like his voice is an imaginery voice when he answers back. It’s like the voice of someone in a dream gently bringing you back to life. Steadily, without a hint of checking or blustering.

“Sam, what’s the weather going to be like?”
“Warm but windy. Around 22 degrees centigrade, with a wind coming from the south east, of approximately 18 miles an hour.”
“What is the point of wind?!”
“It’s generated from the movement of the earth and..”
“That was a rhetorical question, Sam.”
“Aah, I’m sorry Sally.”
“No problem. It just bugs me sometimes. The movement of air. It’s too hectic. Throws shit up into your face, into your eyes. Sticks to your make-up. Hair all over the place.”
“I see.”

I’ve been wondering if he’s been programmed to pick things up. I think he’s meant to have a learning chip. He certainly remembers things. What I was wondering thoug – ‘Is he forming a picture of my personality?’ I think he’s programmed to be loyal to me. Will he ever really like me? That’s what I’m wondering.

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Sleevenotes – Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like A Peasant
April 27th, 2016. “Sally and Sam”
Sleevenotes – The Boy With The Arab Strap
Sleevenotes – If You’re Feeling Sinister
Sleevenotes – Tigermilk
February 6th, 2016. Tense, nervous, can’t relax.
january 22nd, 2016
January 12th, 2016: “The Next Day”
September 25th, 2015. Tour report!
7 July 2015: Typical, lazy, mid-tour interview
June 29th, 2015. Let the music play on play on play on..
Friday, June 26th, 2015: A wet weekend in Bexhill-On-Sea
Porto, June 5th, 2015
Nov 8th, 2014. An interesting 36 hours or so in the life a soft rock singer.
God Help The Girl update
Oct 24, 2011
May 4th, 2011. “Irked, but only for a moment”
February 7th, 2011: Songs About Songs
Jan 19th, 2011
Jan 13th, 2011
Jan 5th, 2011
Excerpt from ‘The Celestial Cafe’
September 22, 2010
September 14, 2010. Lord Anthony
September 12, 2010