Thursday, 31 December 2009

qualifying last night's post

Honestly, things are all fine enough, I just think Tom had it up to here with a mountain of squawking rellies, and the trip boosted his confidence and communication skills, we were a flat organisational structure, with no real hierarchy, and suddenly he's back struggling with a hoard of so called normal people who aren't necessarily putting communicating with him first, that unseemly self-organising hierarchy that is a typically dysfunctional family. It's probably just a bloody pain and he can't be arsed with it. Know the feeling.

I'm just going to take him up a cup of tea - still loafing in his bed at midday - and see if we aren't getting on better today. Him and Will had a grand time planning Tom's big business idea, The Club, which he wants to build in the woods behind Bystock. So I really do think its about giving him time and concentrating on that, not always easy at these mass festive clan gatherings.

More about The Club later. (It's a quiet nightclub, for blokes, and for favoured unannoying females. Metallica's head of security, Tom, is to be headhunted for the door, and for coming in for whiskeys and banter later. There's going to be a huge open fire.)

So Tom just came down and he's gone off to get the papers and we're getting on fine, so it's cool beans. He says he wants to go back to Bystock today. Mum would like him to stay for NYE, but I know that Tom is missing his best mate, Geoff, and if Geoff is back at Bystock too then that's where Tom should be.

Here are some more of Tom's pictures. This one is of the sound dude, Ben, map-reading, a near permanent job (along with holding the dodgy sat nav into a plug socket while running the generator while driving), in one of the RVs.

The rest are in transit, from the RV window.

Happy New Year, think 2010 going to be an arsehole, but that's just the shit in my head it's not an astrological prediction.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Tom is being dead reclusive and doesn't seem very happy. He didn't enjoy a lot of the America trip and he's not afraid to tell people that it was boring. I went upstairs to try and ask him what was wrong with him today and feed him more sandwiches as he's not that interested in coming down for meals, but he just turned away from me and refused to speak, other than to nod his head when I asked if he wanted me to leave the room.

Any nice warm feeling of doing something nice for our brother is seeping away and I am wondering if I actually have made things worse for him. His frustration levels seem to be high, having all communicated pretty well in the US we now barely communicate at all. Not sure where my heads at with this?

Anyway, here are some more of Tom's disposable camera shots.

I think you'll agree they have a certain Martin Parr-esque banality

this computer shot out of a cupboard on a bad corner not long after this. my insurance didn't cover it. buggery!

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Tom's photo's from the shoot

Tom took a lot of pictures on his big bundle of disposable cameras, and here are just a few of them.
1, Will working in Mamaly's flat, when we first arrived in LA. 2, Will, James and Tom in the lobby of the last hotel we stayed in before we picked up the RV. 3&4, Driving from Bear Mountain to Anaheim, view from the RV window.

We're all at Mum's at the moment, trying to rest up after a big, mad, family Christmas. Tom's escaping squeaky kids n just as squeaky grown ups by sitting in his room all day listening to heavy metal.

He's not the first to do that, and he sure won't be the last.

We just wrote a thank you letter to Lars, Tom kept wanting to ask to see him again, and ask him whether he wants to come to Mum's for cottage pie. We thought maybe we'd wait on that front. He probably isn't ready for an invite to Ashburton for a kitchen supper just yet, I mean he's hard and heavy and knows a lot about art n all that, but cottage pie in Devon. Fooph, that's mental.

Happy New Year, yessirree.

headbanging in the office at bystock

Tom's letter to Lars

Bystock Court

29 January 2009

Dear Lars 

I am writing to thank you for all you did for me my brother and sister - when I met you backstage at Anaheim. It was great talking with you and to have played on your drums and gone into the concert with you was amazing - and very loud.

The trip was crazy. Following your tour from Vegas to Sacramento and then Anaheim was exhausting - for you to do this all year must mean you are very strong. There were times on the trip when I was afraid but you helped me be brave.

Since I came back everyone was shocked at some of things I had done - I know they are very proud of me.

How's Connie? I hope you all had a good Christmas. We'll be sure to send you some early cuts of the film as we would love you to be involved.

I'll see you soon, all my love


Wednesday, 23 December 2009

A word of warmy from my cold ass

I've never in my life got involved in something other than a human or a pet that had a life of its own until the Mission to Lars project started screwing my nice steady existence up. Largely its been fairly unpleasant, getting rejected by big time teevee; raising the money, not having enough money, doing a massive party to get more money. The shitola has come in every form, from the venue not having enough wine glasses for a four course money raising dinner to my confidence being razed on a regular basis. Going to see the dismissive big gun at Studio Lambert was a particularly low point, ending with him emailing my ex boyfriend to say this thing, "Would never work." Calling my lovely brother Will an extraspecially rude 4 letter word last week was pretty diabolical too. Eating crisps for two weeks in America in bus was not good for my digestion, impending middle age spread or skin either.
However, I have also had some phenomenal support from some incredibly cool, capable people, and to list them here would take for ages and ever, from people who've invested, to Virgin for blessing us with flights and Tom's most happy day upgraded to Upper Class, to the RV people for overlooking a couple of lorry coloured smears on the bed bus. Just yesterday I sat with a bunch of fearsomely brilliant male journalists and photographers who all cheered me on and offered to help, to all the people who came to party and pitched in with the fundraising, to my Mum, Dad and Stepmum and siblings, Amy, Georgie and Ben who have given everything from, love, support and Sam Taylor Wood prints to auction off to hours of time helping the party go with a bang (Amy, 4 months pregnant, moved two gigantic pink horses in to Westbourne Studios to name just one of her acts of perfect kindness). My sister in law Tiff who has let her husband run off on this passion project which is unlikely to pay bills for some time, and may, potentially, never at all. A scary prospect when you have a little family to raise. James, Ben and Leigh, the second unit are all working for de nada but shares. Just knowing that people read this blog and enjoy it is humbling frankly. I won't bang on. This has been a life affirming and evidence of the deep good in people. And then there's Tom, who I have watched step up to the plate in a way I couldn't ever imagine he was capable of really. Tom, interviewing a hairy scary roadie? Incredible. Will and I are bloody lucky to be on this ride with our brother. And this good in this far outweighs any shittiness.
I'm going to eat my bodyweight in cheese in a place with no wifi access at all for a few days. Once I'm back in the real world, I'll get back in the room with this bloggy blog thing.

Happy Christmas 
from the Mission to Lars

Metallica and U2

Will and James reckon I shouldn't reveal too much of what actually occurred between Lars and Tom and the rest of the band, because it'll make people more curious about coming to see our film. The concept of people 'coming to see our film' is quite a remote one, and I'm going to think about whether I should tell the whole story, including Tom fascinating interaction with some of the other, less friendly, people among the band.

I'm going to think about this over Christmas, and debate it with William and Tom in Cornwall when I finally get to see them tomorrow. It'll be interesting seeing what frame of mind Tom is in and whether he feels extra close and bonded to me and/or Will, or whether he'll look down his nose at me/him/us for being such berks on the road.

Actually, the family 'mare seems to be dissipating now. The main concern is how to recreate the best bits of family drama that were not caught on camera. (such as previous post, Fight! Fight! Fight!'s, Do you want to go to Bristol? Do you want to go to Devon? Do you want to see the back of me and Will?)

The extremely genius Michael Holden came up with an idea yesterday over lunch, which would tip the film into the comedy documentary concept; I'm not sure how I feel about this. Laughing is a thing very dear to my heart, an addiction some would say if it was not so good for you. So to write a comedy documentary that was not actually funny would probably be my idea of a complete and utter shame disaster.

My whole family love laughing, but the Spicer's two most juniors - Georgie and Ben - are the two I have had the biggest with in recent years. One Christmas the three of us were driving home to Brizzle and we were laughing so hard the tears were squirting from eyes and I could barely see the road. I had to pull over to the slow lane and take it steady til the good times had become a little less hysterical.

Tom loves a laugh, and he has a strong sense of humour, which is actually pretty evolved and crucially very much his. I don't want to sound patronising but he is definitely a more naturally funny guy than my ex-boyfriend. Will said to me when we were on the road, "I'm worried that this trip isn't containing any laughs." I could only agree. Poor Tom, a roadtrip with no laughs. What's the point of it? What is the point of a roadtrip with no laughs?

I suppose laughing at us rather than with us will have to be our hindsight giggles.

I've got to go and buy some really expensive cheese now, and take my extremely jaded, tired ass to a family christmas which I hope will prove rejuvenative and not combative. Word on the family street is that Tom seems confident, his speech is good, and he's on the toppest of top forms. Looking forward to seeing him very much, in the knowledge we just shared a nutso adventure

My film rec for seasonal joy is Metallica's Some Kind of Monster, in which the ultimate line, "What would U2 do". Heavy metal's called that because of the high levels of iron(y) it contains

Friday, 18 December 2009


Seeing Tom off to Bystock

I had put a bottle of wine in Tom's suitcase, which duly broke, pissing Will off when he got home with Tom after we landed. The next morning I was ten minutes late coming down to the car that they were waiting in, I'm not going to make excuses because then this'll look really bad, and actually, it's slowly becoming what it is, funny.

But everything was sort of OK, and I said sorry for being ten minutes late, and I said sorry about the wine, but I don't think in a sorry enough way.  On the M3 Will and Tom were upfront listening to The Crooked Vultures, which are a pretty loud bunch of music makers. Will turned it up loud, and I thought, this is weird, Tom's just spent a year telling us he hates things that are too loud. It wasn't too pleasant but I could tell I was in the shit for basically being a fucking annoying sister for two weeks, and not just for being ten minutes late this morning. There was what they call 'atmosphere' in the car. Rather too much for my liking. I'd have rather sold some of the excess atmosphere off to raise some more money for our overbudget film (still waiting on a five figure sum from investors who have yet to deliver the cold hard cash, it keeps me awake at night. Christmas is a bad time to chase people.).

Anyway, I swallowed it. Will's a more solid, likeable, reasonable guy than I am and I tend to defer to him on matters Who's the Idiot.

However, the discord that built over the weeks we were away seemed to be a two way street, we grew to have a very angsty relationship at times. James (Will's business partner who was co-directing with him) said more than once, "God, I'd hate to have to film my sister, fucking nightmare." Which made me feel great about myself. I in turn, was not being terribly helpful at times, and felt ridiculously insecure and had a thin grasp of the technical side of what they were doing yet chose to offer my opinions at any time urgently pressing them to film something that happened ten minutes ago. I can see that I was hard work. 

Ah there were layers and layers to this thing, and it was bloody hard work getting our heads round it, and I judge none of us. It was a pretty nutty environment, there was a lot to do, but as Tom's big sister, I did want to keep things kind of mellow. Yet roughly every three or four days I would lose my temper and make things momentarily not very mellow. I never go out with guys long enough to develop my freedom to holler around them. But I have been going out with my family long enough to do it, and I could not fail to notice that under stress I have a tendency to start yelling. Bad look.

The second unit seemed fine, we were all tired and were developing scurvy through poor diet. I think we all slept in our clothes several times. But they were fundamentally sane. We were in a family vortex. Families aren't really designed to spend two weeks together working their collective nuts off in close confinements while driving down bad courdoroy cement interstate highways in a bloody great bus with beds and glassware in. 

Tom, at this time, was my only friend. James and Will and I got on fine, but I could smell their frustration with me at times. And I don't know that Tom even liked me that much either by the end of it.

Anyway, I digress. There we were, barely slept, very tired, all in a car driving down to Devon to take Tom home. There's atmosphere. Then my phone rings. It's Monday morning, I haven't done any paid work for weeks, I am keen to use the journey to answer my phone to potential business. Will pointedly doesn't turn the music down. 

It was only the repairs people from my managing agents, but, you know, it could have been the New Yorker (admittedly not likely, but it could have been). Phone down, I immediately assailed Will for not turning the music down, knowing that it was an angry substitute for not confronting me. Then he let rip and accused me of something that cut me to the quick, and may or may not have been true, I don't really know what to thing really. Then I called him a few words in a loud voice, including the C word. Tom was about two inches away from punching me and gave me one of his extremely scary, clenched fist, "Shut up, I'll get you"s

I don't know that Will and I have ever had a fight like that. Tom and I had masses of fights when we were kids, but Will was always sufficiently younger than me not to warrant that thing.

Anyway, the rest of the journey passed in chatty haze of jolly loving family banter. NOT. 

As we drove up the drive to Bystock Will asked Tom some filming questions and Tom was stoney silent. What's wrong Tom, said Will, as if it needed to be addressed that your sister screaming like a fishwife might be a bit stressful and loud combined with Them Crooked Vultures at stadium volume. Would you like me to take you to Bristol, will said, referring to my Dad's place, or Ashburton, referring to my Mums. Stoney silence. Zero eye contact. And not because he's F-X, because F-X have problems making eye contact, but by the end of the trip Tom and I were holding eye contact for huge amounts of time. 

Then I said, "Do you just want to see the back of me and Will" and he nodded vigorously.

He shot out of the car at lightening speed, gathered up all his stuff, refused any help, didn't offer any cups of tea, and then he was gone.

"Well we really fucked that one up," said Will.

"Yes," I said, it was the first time we had agreed in some time.

We drove back to London in complete silence. I sat in the back of the car.

I have to say I was slightly concerned about this, when I told Mum the situation in a very lite and brief fashion, with lots of, "Hey, it's fine" provisos, she, as given to taking the most exuberantly negative take on things as I am, at times, said, "There isn't going to be a family schism is there?"

I had suspected my brother found me laughable for a while, especially since he had kids and grew up, while I was Peter Pam, but fundamentally we have a great deal of love for each other and I don't really mind if he finds my life risible; it is a bit silly.

If I lived in a small town my activities would look incredibly sad, but the thing about London is there's loads of juvenile adults around behaving like me so within that context, I'm fine.

Anyway, I digress from the story in hand, yet again.

I'm not sure I could have told this tale so soon after our return and while it is still reasonably fresh and stinging in my mind. But having told the story, both pragmatically and flamboyantly, a few times, the general opinion has been, sounds good. My mate H, who doesn't hold back with her opinions, said, "I had worried your film was going to be a bit "Make A Wish Foundation, we're lovely people doing a lovely thing for our brother"."

My laughter was so hollow you could have put it under the Thames and driven rush hour traffic through it...

Of course I love this film, and I believe in it. But I equally understand that it comes more from punk than primetime spirit. The BBC had turned us down because, partly, apparently, they didn't think I was emotional and warm enough. Admittedly the three or four times I felt like crying I didn't, because that's what normal people do and I am not on X-Factor or Miss World. But there was definitely plenty of emotion. 

Oh yes.

Looking forward to Christmas with Will and his family, and our family, and several others. Safety in numbers eh?!?

Love and peace to all men and women, especially brothers and sisters x

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Coming up: filling the gaps number 2 and 3. James Hetfield and following Lars on stage

Plus, quite how badly me and Will got on; in car arguments; accidents; Tom's best questions and conversations; our last burger; and a major moment in Falconhead cowboy boot store; and Tom's spectacular joy at being upgraded (he appreciates a bit of luxury our Tom); and Tom's last words on leaving the Mission and walking into Bystock.

Filling the gaps, number 1. The doctors

The doctors

Randi (pronounced Rawndy) Hagerman is a paediatric neurologist and heads up the MIND Institute at the University of California. MIND is America's best and one of the few clinics for evaluation, diagnosis and treatment of a wide spectrum of neurodevelopment disorders including Autism, Asperger's and Fragile X, which all share some common traits (you can tell I cut and paste a bit of that last sentence can't you, but it is true).

Now finding treatments, even cures of a sort, for Autism, Asperger's and Fragile X are never going to lead us to a cure for baldness or to inadvertently turn into a really efficient way of 'curing' women's wrinkles, it's unlikely to unlock the secrets of impotency, or become a cure for the common cold or cure cancer, so finding research funds for clinical and lab based research is always going to be hard in a market that is fiercely competitive for things that affect a lot of people. Any Fragile X treatments will be what are known as orphan drugs. Drugs that do not have a big enough potential market to attract the big pharma boys to develop it and must therefore fight for private funding, government funding or money from the more altruistic research funds out there like the Wellcome Trusts. Randi, Dr. Hagerman, has testified to the U.S. Congress on several occasions that "Fragile X is a 'research portal' for other brain disorders. It is the leading-edge candidate for a breakthrough in understanding many other diseases, especially unlocking autism". But still, the quest for a cure for small breasts or heartburn will probably receive more a thousand times more money.

But I digress.

We went to see Randi, and her husband Paul, a molecular biochemist whom she corralled into helping her with the lab based research into finding treatments and causes of Fragile X.

Both of them are truly excellent, lovely, funny and engaging people. We took Tom to see Randi, it had been a typically madcap day careening about in the RVs and me generally being shouted at for slowing everyone down and not setting up shots properly -  as was typical - but once we were inside her office, with Tom holding the boom mike, because by now we worked out the guy wanted to feel part of the team, and he needed to be working with us. This realisation marked a critical shift in the whole Mission, and saw Tom's far deeper immersion in what we were doing.

I sat talking to Randi who explained many things about Fragile X I never knew, including the fact that Tom's sensory perception is totally different to our own, he experiences sounds, touch, smells, tastes and sight in a way which is amplified and disordered. This would explain why he was being so challenged by the prospect of actually getting into a venue to see Metallica. She explained many things and throughout Tom nodded and concurred with what she was saying, until he got bored. 

Randi took a long time to explain things to us, and I can't wait to go through the rushes and redigest everything she said. She talked a lot of how carriers of the mutated gene can experience a lot of depression and other symptoms. She reckons many more people are affected by Fragile X than is currently known. At the end of it I went and got tested; I think it's about time I found out if I am a carrier or not. If I am, it might explain why I get so bloody miserable sometimes. It might explain why certain among my family can be a bit reclusive in old age, another F-X trait. 

Anyway, am sure I have written on this before.

Next day we went to see Paul, who was such a San Francisco type of Professor, I just loved him, shaggy grey hair, handsome face, wearing track pants and bouncy trainers. Insisted we call him Paul. Paul explained a lot of sciencey things about F-X on a molecular level, and explained how F-X is really only prevalent in apes and humans and that it was in our development to the higher species that the F-X mutation happened, which means, in style magazine terms, that it has greater brand heritage than even Louis Vuitton and goes back an awfully long way. It does not change in frequency among ethnicities, and there are probably millions of F-X cases that go undiagnosed in all its different forms. Indeed, relatives of ours, here in the west, have only just been diagnosed with F-X related disorders. This is an old and mysterious thing we're looking at here.

He was passionate and able to speak to me like the idiot I am, once we'd wrapped up he came down to the van where Tom was spending some time on his tod, eating some leftover pasta heated up in the RV's microwave while we were still on the move. (I got quite good at making food on the move but occasionally had visions of stabbing myself in the eye with a buttery knife or impaling myself on a broken jar of sandwich pickle) while Will and I filmed Paul. Tom, as ever, was utterly charming and smiley to meet him. 

We were late for the meeting because our poo pipes as the RV's waste system were now known, were behaving in a menacingly smelly way and we had to dump them on a bit of wasteland nearby.

Later on that night as we headed towards Anaheim, we had more menacing smells, and stopped just off the freeway to release the pipes once again. Poor Tom had had another chaotic day, another day quite unlike the one we'd promised he's have to Tom's major care givers. In an effort to bring a little levity to the chaos, I stood at the side of the road with Tom while Will did a very fast three point turn while the poo pipes discharged themselves across the road. Look, the RV is having a wee I said to Tom, and we looked at the flailing pipe dangling beneath the monster truck you sleep on. Both of us cracked up, and continued to chuckle as a harried Will pulled up beside us. At last, some laughs. They had been thin on the ground on the trip, frankly.

I wish we'd filmed that bit. 

After that we had a zero solids rule on the bus lav and things, aside from our sphincters, relaxed a bit. 

Sunday, 13 December 2009


Tom has gone back to Will's for the night, and then we all drive back to his home, at Bystock, to deliver him back into some of his beloved quiet.

Virgin upgraded us to Upper, and Tom's delight was clear as he snuggled back into his little booth with a massive grin going, "Ah, this is nice." I don't actually know which way is up or down, so once I've slept and delivered on a bit of paid work,  I'll get back to this blog with the pleasure of issuing some more intricate detail.

Someone criticised the way I don't let Tom speak enough through the blog, which is probably fair enough, I've got a bit of sleeping to do before I can factor criticism and some of the hundreds of photos we took into my posts.

Love and happiness. x

Saturday, 12 December 2009

midnight, orangetown rv park

i've barely touched on what has happened in the last 24 hours or so, and I have a heap of pictures to post too. As soon as I am out of this RV, cured of my scurvy, and back in the world of freetime, I will try to adequately explain way way more, and more besides.

Listening to Tom and Will saying goodnight to each other next door in our motorised home, with many mentions of Lars, as ever, I feel so blessed to have had some QT with them both. So Will and I fought a lot, true, but we've created a world of understanding between each other that we never had before, and if this film never makes any money, well, at least we have that.

Everyone on this film, and everyone who works on it as we enter the post production phase, has worked for shares, which could conceivably be nothing. Yet their passion and dedication has been as if they were working for real live high quantity, smell me, money.


Really, very very, lovely.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Mission Accomplished

It's over a year since we went to the special Metallica show at the 02 in September 08. The day, well, night, the seeds of the Mission to Lars project were sewn. Tom was there, we went through murders coaxing him there, and it took him hours to be brave enough to even enter the box high up miles away from the stage. But the deep deep joy he got once he was watching the show will be etched on my memory forever.

At that show, Will, Amy and her husband Rich, Tom, Georgie, Me, and Will's business partner, and co-director on this project, James Moore. Also Frank, an American guy who owns a box at the 02, who generously hosted our entire family (minus Ben) plus friends to create a safe safe place for Tom to gingerly approach seeing his favourite band live. If Frank hadn't done that, there's no way Tom would have stepped down into the main arena.

Crowds and noise and the unknown are three things Tom really hates; the nature of Fragile X syndrome's effect on his sensory perceptions means that he is hypersensitive to these things. One doctor explained it to us as what we see, but ten times more intense, and with no real ability to process and order what you are experiencing. I haven't explained this too well, but suffice to say, going to a Metallica gig is very challenging for our brother, Tom.

Which makes what happened last night all the more intense.

Tom was really quiet as we drove from Bear Mountain to Anaheim, he kept saying he didn't feel good, asking me to touch his forehead, when we finally got to the Orangeland RV Park, 'The Best RV Park in America' apparently, we were all pretty nervous. Tonight, at the Honda Arena, we were going to meet Lars Ulrich, drummer and founder of Metallica, hopefully, nothing ever seems to set in stone with big stars does it. And this was going to be the croix of the film. But there was Tom, saying he was tired, he was ill, that he wouldn't go...his face was pinched and tight, a sure expression that he was really really stressed. I felt bad. We'd talked to Mum on Skype that morning and she'd said that it was sad our trip had been so manic because Tom had been expecting a holiday in America. Mission to Lars was no holiday.

Anyway, we all went for a decent meal before we set off, decent meals have been few and far between since we hit the road in the UK, hitting the road in the US was really only going to see that situation get even more fucked up. All the crew were there, me, Will, James, Ben and Leigh...and Tom.

We talked up that we were a team, and that we were working. That we had a project to do, and this was the last hard day. Tom had been using a Zoom, which is like a handheld recording device, at the Sacramento show. This meant a) he felt useful and not like a specimen in the lab and b) he could wear headphones that would order the auditory chaos somewhat and give him a sense of calm in a storm.

Despite his pinched grey face, he sort of seemed ready to go, reluctantly.

We got in a cab and headed off to the venue, the two crews splitting up. As soon as we were there Tom was very alive, very curious. We entered the venue through the loading bay, surrounded by the beautiful red Peterbilt trucks Metallica use. we farted about trying to sort out our passes and then were in. Immediately we were herded to a catering room and told to wait the hour or so til we were scheduled to meet the Man.

There was a notional sense of 'fob off' at this point, but I think that was because we really didn't know what was happening and what to expect. We immediately left the catering room and started bumbling about backstage talking to people, some of whom were very cold and dismissive, others were friendly. I felt pretty embarassed, Tom was on fire though. He was sticking his zoom in everyone's faces and asking questions about everything. I've never seen Tom so animated, confident and curious. How much does this weight what does it do how many of them are there what goes in there where do you live. Incredible. At one point we were talking to Lars' drum tech, and Tom asked something I couldn't understand, I was frustrated because I haven't not understood what Tom is saying for ages. With hindsight, I realise it was because Tom was asking really complex questions, for him. This happened more than once. Most of Metallica's crew were really very cool with us; there was a fair bit of attitude, their head of security Tom, who our Tom was absolutely entranced and fascinated by, had no interest in meeting us at all and we kept being told he was busy or wotnot, but I know for a fact he just didn't want to talk to us. That's fine. Whatever. They're a metal band not a the Citizen's Advice Bureau.

Warren, their radio plugger, was in charge of us. He seemed to quite hate us a lot of the time, then at others he chilled. You probably don't want a 6 strong film crew blundering round your backstage area at one of your hometown gigs, particularly when you don't really understand what it is they are up to.

But someone had told everyone backstage to expect us to be there, and every now and again someone would say to us, 'I've read about you'. I guess because we were in their show itinerarys. You forget how moumentally organised a big operation like Metallica has to be. Like, those hundreds of black Metallica balls that drop at the end of the show, someone has to blow them up. Right?

Eventually we were herded into a closed off bit of dingy corridor and we sat there for nearly an hour. We were laughing in the end, thinking, this might not happen. Tom was joining in, saying the odd, "Where is he? I'm going to go in a minute", which was funny.

I've got journalist friends who have waited three days for interviews with musicians and actors, so, you know. A wait is to be expected.

Then, boom, he walks in the door. five foot seven, bundle of friendly energy, skinny jeans, little white hipster jacket.

You gotta see the film to hear some of the banter, but he was a very cool dude. Very relaxed and giving with Tom, funny, interacting with the whole crew, who Tom introduced them all to. Tom and I had been cribbing a few questions to ask him, and Tom buckled a bit under the pressure of that. What's your first question Tom, I said, he froze a bit then said, "Are you married?" Well, Tom has known that Lars' girlfriend is called Connie for some time, and our first question was, "How's Connie", this was the one question he was adamant he wanted to ask.

Oh well.

Metallica had a bass player in their early days called Cliff Burton who was killed in a bus crash while they were on the road in 86. Tom often talks about Cliff, saying, 'he died', but I wasn't expecting him to bring it up with Lars. That moment was a little awkward. He also talked about James Hetfield a bit, which I felt was a bit inappropriate as the night went on because I realised that the rest of the band weren't terribly interested in Tom. I dunno, why should they be.

Tom's face was a rictus of joy through the time we spent with Lars in the corridor. And Lars was good with him. Then he offered Tom a chance to play the drums and we went to the mythical Metallica Tuning Room. The Tuning and Attitude Room as the sign outside said, is where the band go to jam for an hour before their shows, they don't do soundchecks, just this T&A room. We went in and I think Lars didn't want us all in there, but Tom insisted all five of us traipse in and be with him, so traipse in we did.

Lars played Tom the opening bars of Enter the Sandman, Tom's favourite Metallica tune, then offered the sticks to him. Tom shook his head, too much, too scary, too challenging, too much opportunity to be shown up and look stupid, I knew where he was coming from.

Go on Tom, several of us said, including Lars.

And he did, he got up there, and very softly hit a few drums.

Leigh, the cameraman, said he choked up at this point, having been on the road with Tom in UK and US, he knew how poignant this was on many levels.

There is more to this story, but I have to go now. I've been keeping the boys from our celebratory dinner, and they're forcing me into a cab

...more to come...

It was an odd feeling. But interesting.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Bear Mountain RV Park, Bakersfield. Eugoogoly worthy efforts

So we arrived in dark, going, where the bleep the mountain, all flat roads and the stink of cow crap from what we can divine.

But actually, woke up this morning with a mountain in the fuzzy distance so this RV park, just off freeway, as usual, deserves its name.

Tom, Will and I had a Lars YouTube binge last night and got ourselves hyped for tonight. Tom wants to give Lars a present, so we are making a stop en route to buy 'posh wine' because we read on the Metallica website that he likes dry white wine to drink, as well as tea.

We have a short list of questions to ask him. Will he grip, grin and fuck us off. Or will we get some primo heavy metal drummer access for us to take home and talk about for the next, ooooh, 40 years.

I expect this trip to be mentiond in every one of our eugoogolies.

Slight tension, Tom keeps saying, "Don't feel so good", which could indicate a bottle out at the final hurdle.

But I'm staying positive.

The bruise in the middle of my head is throbbing, and I look like a little elephant. I won't be taking any cute roadies back to my RV tonight, not that I would anyway, being with my brothers n all, and being a nice girl.

There was a full blown slagging off match yesterday. I haven't shouted this much since the Grand National.

Happy Days.

Tom was implying he hadn't had a great time this morning, had to say, there are some things that hang better in the memory than in the present.


really long, really heartfelt, really soon til we meet Lars. No emoticon mega enough to express how amped the RV is...

It doesn’t seem right, driving around in a house, seems even less right driving around in a house with loads of washing up clattering in the sink and flying down through the kitchen, diner, sitting room, bedroom area to rain on driver and passenger when we stop hard at traffic lights.

RV life is starting to pall. Things break a lot, and those things’ll come out of the four figure deposit we left behind at RV HQ in Hawthorne. From the melted fish slice to the dyed in the wash towel, from the wing mirror busted by an angry artic yesterday to the TV that never worked, I never expected our budget would have to cover all this…shit.

This, apparently, is RV life for you.

Left Three Rivers at 6am yesterday and drove 5 hours to get to an inteview with Professor Randi Hagerman, an internationally respected expert on Fragile-X.

We spent a lot of time with her in the end, Tom held the boom mike, while I sat down to talk to her. At first I felt weird talking about FX and Tom with Tom in the room; but Randi said she didn’t think Tom minded, and she was right. Tom engaged with everything she was explaining to us about the condition, he was nodding vigorously in agreement as she described the sensory overload that is part of Tom’s daily experience. He looked proud when she described the sense of humour everyone in our family knows and loves.

Randi is a great believer in treatment, her husband Paul is molecular scientist currently devoting 100% of his time to seeking treatments for Fragile X Syndrome and the disorders associated with carriers of the F-X disorder.

As we told her about our Mission to Lars, and how Tom’s desire to see Lars and Metallica is thwarted by the challenges of his syndrome, she said that maybe a dose of Xanax might help Tom cope with the anxiety causing sensory onslaught of a Metallica gig (or should I say ‘show’, gigs don’t really have pyrotechnics and lasers, do they?). I asked Tom if he’d like some but he said, No.

Our family don’t do prescription drugs terribly happily. Randi, and her husband Paul, both commented on the marked difference in prescribing habits between the European and American continents. Amazingly, my Dad, who is a doctor as well, said to me just before we left that he would be very interested to know what drugs were being prescribed for F-X, and that he would not be averse to Tom taking them were they to show genuine benefits to Tom and no contraindications. As kids we were never even allowed plasters (band aids) so to hear him say this was a revelation to me.

Anyway, I digress from the Mission in hand.

I just got up to sort out some crockery which was flying from the cupboards and shattering on the van floor as Will hurtles around the university neighbourhood of Sacramento. After picking up the broken glass I then walked into a bit of bus we hadn’t put away this morning after sleeping and now I have a huge bruise waiting to bloom and swell across the bridge of my nose.

My nail varnish is chipped, beyond the type of punk glam chipped that Courtney Love might’ve sported in Hole days, it just looks rubbish. My hair is just hair, hanging off my head. California is experiencing a cold snap, which has even taken the locals by surprise. Needless to say no one is wearing the flip flops or pretty little frocks they packed. It’s the same smelly pair of jeans day in day out, and if its really cold, I sleep in them too.

Another five hour drive tonight, from Sacramento to Bakersfield, en route to the Anaheim gig Thursday night. This is such a pile of shit from moment to moment, James and Will find me annoying, Will and I are meant to be exploring our feelings about the trip on camera but instead there’s some weird vibe between us, it’s cold, the money’s low, the food’s periodic or junk, the RV is a big rattling headache (quite literally at the moment), the toilet just exploded, and my Mac just crashed permanently after it was thrown from a cupboard in the RV. My skin is really dry. We all have lips like sandpaper.

The bigger picture looks excessively brighter. We are having real time with Tom, we both love him, and always have. But as personalities we are more three dimensional to each other. I don’t really know what to say about Will and I, we’ll get over this I expect, it’s not really about us anyway. But in terms of our relationship with Tom, things are good. His speech is getting clearer and we talk about all sorts of things.

This morning Tom came outside the RV (in the RV park next to the freeway in the industrial zone of Sacramento) where I was drinking some coffee, and he saw some leaflets about FX on the table that I had picked up in Randi’s office. He swept them off the table, saying, “That’s rubbish.” No its not I said, its interesting. There were details of early onset menopause, the degenerative shaking and various other things related to FX, not just stuff about the full mutatetd form of the syndrome, which Tom has, but also things that carriers of the permutated gene get.

“Rubbish,” he said again, “throw it in the fire, burn it.”

I did throw the stuff away, and I’m sorry that he took it personally, but I am glad we had that little exchange.

Later that morning we had a conversation a two way discussion, not just a yes, no, with me firing easy questions, or him firing equally simple, if not easy to answer, questions like, Lars, he’s strong isn’t he? These were more observations. I wish I could remember what it was, this is the effing problem with making the film, its all a bit of a frantic blur getting everything done, its even more of a panicky blur for Will and James, setting up cameras and downloading data all the time.

No, I’m not going to pretend this is fun very often, if at all. But Tom’s going to meet Lars tomorrow, and he’s going to get a drum lesson.

And Tom is having some majorly mad experiences. Last night at the Sacramento gig he came along, with the promise of steak for dinner and an awareness that we are all working together on the film and that he is a big, the most important, part of making that film. He took a sound recording zoom and headphones and recorded everything that happened. The headphones and hearing the sound fed back through the machine, I think, removed some of the alarming aspects to the sound. And Tom came alive, he chose who we interviewed, he asked questions, when we stopped and had a beer in the backstage bar, it was him chivvying us to drink up and go and collar a guy standing at the bar. Well, the guy only turns out to be Kirk Hammett’s builder, and he tells us where all the band live in and around San Francisco.

He was a cool guy. Tom has a knack of picking cool people to talk to, including a scary looking muscle with shaved head and tattoos, called, appropriately, Tom. Tom Spicer had been talking about wanting to meet Metallica’s bodyguards, and here we had one. He said he knew exactly who we were but that he wouldn’t talk to us unless the band said it was OK, so I said, well, we’ll be at the next gig, at Anaheim, and he says, OK, well I’m sure we’ll talk then. 

As the night progressed Tom would occasionally look through he curtains to the stage, loud and thrashy support acts would grip him momentarily and then he’d return to our backstage trawl.

When Metallica went on stage he stood, some distance from the curtain, looking through a crack of a few inches. He’d move a step or two closer and stop again, holding his recording device ahead of him and constantly unknotting his headphone cable.

He moved almost to beyond the curtain and then said it was time to go and have that steak. I tried to push him a little, verbally, I might add, and before long was rewarded with The Polite Bird, the one fingered salute that Tom delivers with his index finger.

There was a lot of faffing about as we waited for the other unit who had been filming the gig to show up, when they did someone played back the recordings Tom had made that night, including a bit where James Hetfield is talking to the crowd. When it hit that bit Tom was ecstatic, his voice rose an octave and he said to me, clear as anything and with rich, joyful delight, “James Hetfield’s voice is in there, it’s in there, James Hetfield’s voice is in there.”

Just writing this makes me want to cry. To see my brother’s deep deep delight and his sweetness and childlike joy, touches me on so many levels I don’t even know where to start.

We drove around for hours trying to find somewhere to get that steak so late, I was worried the masses would vote for going home and flopping into bed, but eventually, fantastically, we found BJs, a big ol joint, still serving food, including one steak dish. Tom got his steak and he really really deserved it.

Earlier that day, after Randi’s office, I decided to finally get tested and see if I am a carrier of the FX gene. They took about a ¼ pint of blood and I chose a Tasmanian Devil plaster to cover the puncture.

I didn’t really think that much more about it because we lurched into another crisis and appointment to be missed if we didn’t fire up the RV and get the hell out of there.

But that night, after watching Tom backstage and watching him slowly and systematically cope with the fears thrown up by his syndrome in order to navigate them to meet his hero, Lars, it came back to haunt me in my dreams.

I dreamt I was in Nazi Germany and that I was with two children, only one could be protected and shielded from soldiers coming to rout them out and take them away to their death, one of the children, it wasn’t mine, was more precious to me than the other, but the other was deemed more valuable. Knowing that the soldiers were coming, I felt the grip of imminent horror about my chest and burst into tears, which woke me up. I’ve only cried in my sleep a couple of times, crying is not something I do too frequently. I woke up and shook the dream from my mind, but I couldn’t stop crying. I wrote some things down in that sketchy, note like form you do at night.

Looking at them this morning they added up to something about the horrors of conceivably aborting a Tom should I know I were carrying a FXS child; they added up to perhaps preferring never to know if I am even a carrier than to think about Tom in terms of being an unwanted thing.

Then I cried as I thought about all the times I shouted and screamed at Tom as a kid, and knowing now a little more about how his mind works, I thought about how traumatic that must have been for him.

There are still millions of kids and families around the world living with FXS in some way or another. Randi reckons around 1/500 males are affected by FXS in some way, and as many as 1/130 females are affected by it in some way. Admittedly she needs to find funding for her research into FX and is keen to present it as a widespread problem to help find treatment for, but still… This could be merely some anxiety or depression, or it could be a full mutation, low functioning boy severely affected by fragile x syndrome. Regardless, these statitstics are incredible. I have learned more about FX from Randi and Paul Hagerman in the last 24 hours than I have learned in an entire lifetime of living with it. There are millions around the world who have FX running through their families who have no explanation for their father’s shakes and memory loss or their sister’s high anxiety of their son’s profound disability.

Fragile X isn’t even known much about about by some  neurologists.

Mad, isn’t it.

OK, I’ve been typing on the RV for ages now and I think, on top of all the other significant discomforts, I might be sick if I don’t stop.

Time to ‘Leave it’ as Tom would say.

You know, there are 100,000 words and more I could write tonight, but RVsickness stops me, plus, I have to give the computer back to the crew to do important things with.

Safe to say, Tom is AMPED, PSYCHED and exceedingly excited about tonight. We meet Lars at 6.45.  What happens then, who knows. When Tom Spicer met Lars Ulrich. Now that is something that I would really really love to see…
Watch this space




Monday, 7 December 2009

getting tom closer

Tomorrow we drive 5 hours to Sacramento, to see the world's most preminent expert on Fragile X, and, then to see Metallica in the evening. Still Tom refuses to go to the shows, but talks excitedly about Lars. We watched some Metallica stuff on YouTube tonight, and he disappeared off into his happy Metallica place. We've worked out the best thing to do is to not talk about the whole deal too much, just let him talk about it when he's chilled. If we go on about it he gets weird and defensive and steadfastly refuses to do anything at all.

This morning we skyped my Dad and Stepmum, they talked to Tom and he came out of it a bit bigger and braver and bolder about continuing with the Mission; I showed him the photos I took at the Metallica show I went to in Vegas and he was really excited, insisting I send photos of Kirk and Lars to all our friends and family. We gasped at all the pyrotechnics and I showed him a setlist one of Metallica's people had given me at Vegas. This all caused great glee, but still, "No, leave it, too loud" when I suggested that we go to the show in Sacramento.

How about we just meet Lars then, I said, if we can make that happen would you come and then you don't have to come to the show if you don't want to? Yes, yes, he said nodding. This is progress, two days ago he wouldn't even discuss it.

Tom is so frustrating. He's asked me ten thousand times if he can meet Lars, asked if he can see Metallica, and when it comes, suddenly, the anxiety and fear inherent in his syndrome, sure, but also in all of life, kicks in and the shutters come down on his dream.

Coming to Three Rivers was a smart move, we've had 24 hours of proper chill time, sitting in the RV in the pouring rain drinking tea and eating normal food like pasta and cheese with peas, instead of anxiety causing fatty snax. Tom's mellower and more at home, he's more in charge, bossing the crew around and even being director a couple of times today, filming Will for a change, instead of Will filming him.

Will had to take some time out from filming Tom, he said his brother's pinched victimised face every time the camera was stuffed up his nose again was breaking his heart. The little bit of time out has restored some unity to the RV and things are gentle and settled again.

We need to be an anxiety free zone, Will and I need to be soft, kind, smiley, normal and mellow, and then we will make Tom calm and confident enough to confront his big dream.

I keep looking at Tom, the big fella, and I want to squeeze him and give him lots of love and support. He's the sweetest man you could ever hope to meet, in fact he has just made my bed, which I am going to get in to as tomorrow is a big busy day full of driving, preeminent professors of neuroscience and heavy metal legends, and the usual arsery pokery with the bloody fucking recreational vehicle.

love to you all, thanks for listening, watching, whatever, will get some pix up as soon as I get to a laptop which'll behave itself around jpegs x

what's occured since three days ago?

So, we arrived, finally, at the RV hire place, where Jennifer introduced us to our enormous RVs. Tom has named the buses Heavy Noise; we have a big one, a really big one, it has a bathroom you can swing a cat in, a big double room out back and a dining table that turns into a bed.

We were shown round the buses by a German lady very briskly, there was a lot of complex detail about how to get our 'dirty water' out of the bus. I didn't compute and ordered the boys not to do any number twos on the bus. we hit the road, and before we'd even made our first stop, both my brothers had done big jobs in the bus. I was livid.

We drove miles that day, about 300, from LA to LV. We got very lost and the satnav ran out and driving down Las Vegas Blvd aka The Strip, with the lights of Vegas bouncing off our bus windows, we were an extremely stressed family unit.

We finally arrived at Sams Town RV park in a place called Boulder Highway in the 'burbs of Vegas, it was opposite, across 8 lanes of highway, a huge Walmart. We had barely eaten for days, were constantly hungry, bolting down cokes and potato chips (crisps, yes I do speak fluent American) at occasional gas (see, I told you, fluent!) stops. Finally, we had access to real live food.

Tom and I went shopping, attaching a camera to our trolley, I let him do all the choosing, only butting in three times (once, when I swapped wholewheat bread for double fibre bread - everyone was v constipated; twice, when I swapped an aussie merlot for a californian pinot noir, and third time was when I just would not allow a case of vanilla flavoured coke to enter any basket of goods I might be associated with. Other than that, bossy sister held off and Tom worked his way round the vastness of Walmart picking up pumpkin cookies, fresh coffee, teabags, agave syrup (my mate mamaly turned him on to this when we were staying with him in belair, its like healthy sugar), some juicy weiners, alcohol free beers (which came in very useful when Will was arrested for shooting a stop sign, and the cop said, "Sir, Is that a beer bottle I see." Will said, "Sir, yes Sir, it is a beer bottle, but it is a non-alcoholic beer." The police officer was very interested in this and said, Oh, I didn't know that stuff existed. In the end he waved us on with instructions for how to get to our next RV park, the delightful, if very very wet, Three Rivers Hideaway at the gateway to Sequoia National Park.

Anyway, I overstep myself.

Will and Tom stayed in the night after we arrived in Vegas, watching Allan Carr and Harry Hill dvds on the laptop (our RV telly never works) and eating wieners. Will's partner and co-director, James, and I went to see Metallica. We got pissed up and had a laugh, ending up drinking strong booze in a bar at Ceasar's Palace with the appropriately random cluster of folk around us. I got in at 3am, really really drunk (it hits you like that when you haven't eaten much more than wotsits for 4 days), and fell into my dining room table/bed, out cold. I felt a lot, lot better in the morning, a lot of the stress had shifted. Even though Tom is still in a, 'the show's too loud for me' mode.

Tom has been in a very anti going to any shows state in the last few days. He's just spoken to my stepmum and dad, and things are looking slightly more upwards. he is now agreeing to go and meet lars, but he is still refusing to go to a gig, because he doesn't want to deal with the volume. We've talked ear plugs and headphones over the top, still, no no no no. leave it!

Off to buy cowboy boots for Tom now. And maybe a hat. Or maybe he'll just say, Leave it! Again!

So much to say, hope this comes across in a not too disorientating fashion.

PS. One of the boys, I won't say which one, just did the smelliest fart ever, I have to get out of here

Metallica, Vegas, 5/12/09

By the way, went to see Metallica last night at the pretty new Mandalay Convention Centre at the end of the strip, on the site of the hotel I stayed in the last time I came here which was blown up 3 weeks after I left - hence I got the presidential suite for about $75 a night.

Tom didn't come.

Will and James were going to go and see them, but when we asked Tom who he wanted to stay home at the RV with he said Will.

They are such a tight, professional unit. That's what 25 years of touring does for you.

They don't have the egoes of a rolling stone or a u2, not on stage anyway. there's this attitude and yet this deference to their fans which I find completely respect-worthy - it's late, my vocab left me some time ago. still the set is sharp and focussed and they sound great live. I'm not really that into Metallica, I'm a Chicago House Bob Dylan Smiths plus cheese type person, but they are an incredible band to see live. I kept thinking about the time I saw Babyshambles live. And laughing to myself. Pete Doherty v James Hetfield in Celebrity Death Match.

Knowing how much Lars has 'reached out' to us, as the yanks say, I watched him at work with his pots and pans with a renewed interest. He's given this Mission his blessing, I know that because I have spoken with his staff and they clearly don't really get why the fuck they are having to help us, but help us they are. To the point where I asked today if we could park our RV with the crew backstage in the car park at the Sacramento gig, thinking this would get Tom that little bit closer to the place he needs to be (he ain't playing ball right now, biggy big time), and they said, quite possibly.

We are getting extraordinary access and priviledge and Tom's just no no no no no all the way.

Dude. We're fucked. Tom's Mission to Lars has become Tom's Mission to Avoid Having to Meet Lars.

I know why this is. He's unsettled, unsure and a lost. Will and I asked all Tom's major care givers to give us lists of dos and don'ts.

So far we've done all the donts and none of the dos. we're totally fucking useless.

The thing is, if Tom doesn't come and meet Lars soon we're going to look like those star fucking munchausens by proxy type parents, who use their sicky kids to get to meet famous people. As seen on Little Britain, and described by Steev Toth when we went to see him. he talked about parents getting hook ups with bands because their kiddy was dying or suchlike, even though the kid didn't give a damn about meeting megadeth or the orb.

got to go to bed.

devil horn salute and all that.


ps, never looked so shit in my wholelife. RV living is rough. nice when you're at a festival. nasty when you actually have to drive

Sequoia National Park, CA

Just pulled in to the Three Rivers Hideaway campsite, a six hour drive (with a few stops for fatty foods and gas, and a 90 minute wrong turn) from Vegas. So much has happened since I last hit the blog, and I'm too tired to arrange my brain into a sequential orderly shape right now. Will keeps hitting the buttons that pull the extension bits of the RV in and out, so I'm sitting at the table that turns into my bed juddering back and forth like an old lady on a stannah stair lift.

I'll spill the beans about the last couple of days tomorrow morning. For now let me leave you with some serious concerns I have that are not related to the Mission (about which I have some major and multiple concerns but more about that later). And those concerns are: American foodstuffs.

America has an obesity epidemic because it does not do meals. America turns everything, even its meals, into a delete as applicable fat/sugar/salt/starch centred snack. Wandering round Walmart buying our supplies, everything looked like a snack, everything was a snack. Everything contained corn starch or fructose syrup or similar ingredient, even the yoghurt. Surely a fermented milk product doesn't need xanthan gum or modified corn starch. It's a sad thing when corn starch has to be modified, which then makes corn starch something like a 'natural' product when it is in its unmodified state.

Oh God, I'm tired.

Anyway, if everything is packaged, presented and generally put together like a snack, then how do you know what a meal is. If your life consists of snacking and no real meals then you just eat continually.

Yes, I am very tired.

I think maybe best I start this again in the morning when I can be significantly more erudite. And hopefully I will have stopped snacking by then because the modified cheese flavored corn starch coating on my indiana popcorn is making my fingers stick to the keyboard.

Right well, time to turn my table into my bed.


Friday, 4 December 2009

Heroes (Ed: by The Georgie Spice, Tom's youngest sister)

My brother Tom has the best morals of anyone I know. He knows right from wrong alright. He is also innately tidy and organised and makes it very clear how unimpressed he is by my general messiness. Tom jolly well likes a good cleaning session and, well, it’s not that he enjoys it particularly but that he has such a deep sense of morality, respect and self motivation. Mess is unacceptable to Tom. When he comes to stay at Dad’s his packing and unpacking of his suitcase is military. It’s always been that way. I remember my first visit to Tom’s home Bystock and being blown away by what a decadent building he lived in – with all its giant antlers on the walls and the grand sweeping wooden staircase. Tom I’d love to meet your friends I said “don’t like ‘em – Nutters” he says. That’s not to say Tom is unpopular himself, quite the opposite. I remember how Tom confidently showed me around the grounds of Bystock farm and he regaled me with a story about a Christmas time where there was some “wringing of turkey’s necks” on the farm; with which he would make the wringing gesture with his hands and the cracking sound with his vocal chords in ever such a perfunctory way. Another memory I have is of attending a Bystock Christmas party - I couldn’t believe my eyes as I saw my brother rocking out to Metallica on the disco floor and having an air guitar showdown/dance-off with a buddy.
It was clear to see how music released him, as it does all of us, and it was brilliant to see him so free. Tom’s wing of Bystock was always immaculate and he would proudly show off his prized collection of Heavy Metal and Rock music; Metallica and Lars being at the forefront of his passion. Also held in high regard was Tom’s Blade DVD’s. Wesley Snipes was a bit of a hero to him - A tough, stand alone vigilante. Tom has always had a rapport with strong male role models – from our uncle Pete with his band in Devizes ‘Rough Justice’, to my ex-boyfriend of 6 years, Antony, a security guard. The excitement in Tom’s eyes as Antony would tell him about catching “bad boys”. He would get Antony to tell him stories over and over again! Antony was very respectful of Tom and was never patronising towards him. They would spend hours ‘touching fists’ and sharing stories over a beer. Tom just wants to be treated as an equal and have a laugh with his family and friends. The night he DJ’d at a family Christmas a few years ago was genius. His eyes shone, he danced and engaged and we were one.

I attended Alex Proud’s Rock the Boat at Proud Camden this summer. It was a night for those with learning disability to get their “rock on”. I was down right impressed by DJ Tim Westwood’s punctilios attention to the crowd. The night was awesome, the energy in the room was vibrant – a meeting of minds all there for one purpose – to let go, have fun, dance their hearts out.

Tom doesn’t enjoy crowds very much and at our sister Kate’s surprise birthday party in July we were surrounded by close friends and family at our brother in-laws restaurant in east London. Tom was the perfect host, mingling and generally enjoying the evening, as is often the case when Tom is around those he knows. After pudding and speeches Tom and I looked at each other and agreed we were going to call it a night. The 15 minute walk from the restaurant to home was an eye opening one for me. I avoid Old Street on a weekend night, as like Tom I’m not keen on crowds and feel uncomfortable around swarms of people. To my quiet surprise, Tom’s demeanour and body language was resolute – confidence radiated from him.

He was being my older protective brother.

I was stressing out trying to get a cab and Tom, head high, walking purposefully, by my side – seemingly forgoing his idiosyncratic tendency to stride ahead or lag behind.

Everyone needs a hero. Tom’s going to meet his and no one deserves it more than my brother.

Start of day one filming in USA; day after the subway adventure

We have cameras finally, and once they have been rigged inside the RV we can hit the road and crack on with the Mission. Film hire in Burbank, where all the big studios are, is the friendliest you could imagine, I guess the film hire people here must be some of the richest, fattest and happiest in the world. The video equipment hire people weren't so friendly, I guess you can go figure on that one, to coin a local phrase.

Anyway, I wasn't there for the film hire. Through a sequence of confused logistics and sheer bloody mindedness and a steady refusal for British banks to play ball with our access to our money causing a general lack of what budget we have flowing into our needy paws, Tom and I took the LA County transit system, at $1.25 a ride, from Universal City to Hawthorne, where we hoped to meet the film crew at the RV hire place.

I doubt many of you are familiar with the LA County transit system, but its mighty impressive in its distance and reach. People always speak ill of public transport in LA, but actually, as a way of getting round one of the most sprawling cities in the world, it's pretty good. Only problem, you need a taxi at each end to get you on to where you have to go; and taxis are like hens teeth in LA. You have to call them, like a dentist, and make an appointment.

Anyway, we thought we'd give it a pop. At one point Tom needed a pee, and a few stops off of Compton, a very familiar location to all those who enjoy their original gangsta rap, we got out and went to find a convenient convenience. This was a very Mexican neighbourhood, and we didn't hear a word of English spoken as we scuttled, bladder full stylee, about the darkening streets looking for a loo.

We found one in car wash eventually. And headed back to the subway station; where we could walk straight back on the train with our old tickets. The LA subway system is, fundamentally, free. The cab ride woulda cost $100; and had we taken a cab I never would've had a photo of Tom on the platform of Rosa Parks station, official name Imperial/Wilmington, named after the black rights activist. I thought it apt that Tom be there, living his new crazy adventurers life. And then I remembered how close we were to Compton, and thought, actually, there is no symbolism here, you're just a really irresponsible sister.

The screeching tyres on this journey are not yet over, but those were just some of the tracks we left yesterday.

Every day I learn something new, mostly about my depths of assholness, the extent of Tom's ability, and yesterday specifically, the efficiency of the LA transit system.

Off to get the monster trucks now. I'll leave you with our journey's mission statement, as spoken by the Lars man himself, and dug out by my lovely cousin, Dickon and delivered by the postal service of f'book. We may well bump into his sister, Maya, tonight, in Vegas. You can't get away from this bloody family...

"What's the message in Metallica? There is no message, but if there was a message, it really should be look within yourself, don't listen to me, don't listen to James, don't listen to anybody, look within yourself for the answers. "
Lars Ulrich
Rock on. Etc x

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Sunpower Natural Cafe

So we left Mamaly's this morning and went to collect the second unit from their motel in Burbank. The guys left me and Tom to wait until we were to get a cab to the RV hire place in Hawthorne where our reactions to our monster trucks would be ready to be recorded as we have finally hired all our cameras.
We waited and waited, spending a bit of time at the pharmacy loading up with stuff, including some nuts so that any anxious hunger spikes can be sorted without resort to the endless array of fast food joints. Then we went to Donut Prince for coffee and a crap donut. After bumbling around some more - which is slow mo, aimless, purposeless buzzing I had to explain to Mamaly's LA born soon to be wife, Mae, this morning - we dawdled back to the second unit's motel to sort ourselves out a taxi.
A taxi to Hawthorne is $100.
I have $20 in my pocket and no money in my bank account and no means to change pounds because every bank I go into wants me to have an account there in order to change currency.
Don't make a low budget movie if you are already on a low budget generally. Because your low budget will go to fund the low budget movie, leaving you with no budget. If this film doesn't work out, I have a sneaking suspicion I'm in the FUCKADOODLE DOO DOO.
So, we make a few enquiries and decide to take the bus.
I've never taken public transport in LA.
The bus driver was surprised that us foreigners were taking the bus. Tom really enjoyed it, buses are a great way of seeing the world.
When we got to our change, on to the Metro at Universal City, Tom had a hot dog, and we sat in a windy space beside the 101 freeway.
Too windy for me. And Tom wanted a coffee, Bubbie's hot dog stall didn't have any so we sloped off again for a while until we found somewhere healthy to eat.
Where I am going to eat a house salad with a raw food curry dressing, and Tom is having another coffee.
Tom is an extremely mellow travelling companion. He just takes it all in his stride, and enjoys looking around. He doesn't complain, occasionally when things get stressy he says, "wa'a go now", but he doesn't make a scene.
He is currently drinking coffee with almond milk in this vegan restaurant.
He doesn't like it.
Tom says, "america is rubbish" but i suspect he may change his mind. also, "You should see the big cars here" and, that's it. x

Have you seen the size of the RV

The RVs we're going to be travelling in for budgetary reasons, as well as making a solid base (metaphorically, so literally) for Tom to know we will return to every day so he doesn't get too confused and disorientated, are big. Too big. I've seen smaller articulated trucks.

We got a discount from the Australian company that own the Apollo Campers; but still they've worked out three times what we thought they'd cost.

We are now skating on the very edge of our tiny budget.

I know low budget documentary movies are totally hip right now. But this is little compensation for the fact that we barely have enough money to eat.

I'm going to have to cook, for real, in the RV because short of living on MacDonalds, its the only way we're going to get anything healthy to eat.

Oh God, what have we started here?!?

Tom and Will are still asleep. I could hear Will tossing and turning and stressing in his blow up bed last night, Tom's confronting his first case of jetlag in his 38 years. I repeat, Oh God, what have we started here?!?

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Running round all day going nowhere much in LA

the I405 in LA is so called because you go at 4 or 5 miles an hour. Flogging up and down variouus highways getting kit, trying to sort out phone and money, picking up the second unit crew, upgrading to a bigger car, flog flog flog, a bigger car without satnav. LA with no Satnav? I don't think so. Today was meant to be a readjusting day off, but it was just a day of LA flog. We went to take the crew to their hotel in Burbank, but got the wrong Olive Street, in Downtown LA. Bad. Pain in the ass, cracky crack town bad.

Tom must've been so hungry, I bought him cereals in bed this morning - me, Tom and Will are sleeping in my mate Mamaly's spare room, with me and Will on two Aero beds on the floor. Will and Mamaly described it as a refugee camp tonight, and I bet Tom was hoping for some food parcels earlier on. When we realised we'd gone to the wrong Olive Street, I started wigging out. It was going to be at least 45 mins to an hour before we found the right Olive; so I ordered Will to stop at Burger King and get a whopper and fries down Tom.

Before we left we got all the people who know Tom best to write us lists of dos and donts with Tom, things we should definitely avoid if we want him to feel comfortable and happy. We might as well have eaten them on the drive to Mamaly's last night, instead of the big bag of cheesy puffs and turkey sandwich we bought from the Mexican supermarket on the airport road.

Will just doesn't think about Tom's wellbeing in the same way that I do. In a way its good, he just expects and knows Tom can just rub along with us; I meanwhile, am in a frenzied state of trying, and the trying aspect of this sentence is key, to make things nice and easy for him.

Still, I am realising that Tom can handle a lot. Today I had a real major bastard bank issue; two calls to UK to switch of the fraud alert, about 20 false starts at the cashpoint; not able to get car out of car park without cash. Grrrrrrrrr! I ended up losing my rag on the phone to the bank (I pay nearly £20 a month for that account, Royal Bank of Scotland run by a bunch of fleecing criminals if you ask me) and could sense that Tom was getting really anxious. But even though it went outside his natural F-X instincts to stay super calm and sort of happy, he did. I said I was really sorry, he picks up other people's stress so easily, for being stressy and he said, 'It's alright'.

Still, it's been an odd day for Tom. A dinner with my friend and his girlfriend, he say quietly, kind of shy, and certainly feeling a bit outside, but also self-possessed enough to ask for coffee at the end of dinner. I was determined to make him a proper meal tonight, rice, pork, some vegetables. I will feed my brother properly, and I he will have a nice time.

After the hairy downtown interlude we took the second unit to their motel and they sat inside talking about cameras and I fucked off with Tom and we went and sat in a neighbourhood sushi bar, Tom had a fresh lemonade, even though he wanted a proper British cup of tea, and I had green tea. Tom's face was a bit tense and alarmed, but after a few minutes he relaxed and we talked about Metallica for, oooh, around 45 minutes.

The great news is that the Metallica machine seems very open to us. And as we try and sort access to venues and wotnot, they couldn't be more decent and friendly to us.

The truth is, the more they appear to warm to the project the more I fear that when the time comes Tom simply won't have the right stuff to grab it. Is it really important that he does? Is talking about it simply enough?

No, I don't think that's true, he has not stopped talking about Lars for, umm, like forever. He gets so excited when he talks about him, genuine excitement. We are already rehearsing what we are going to say to him when we meet. Tom's latest thing is to get a drum lesson from Lars, I can just imagine how much he will enjoy that.

This isn't particularly fun, I have to say. And Will and I are certainly going to scrap on and off a lot of the time, but it is worth it.

Hell yeah. Tom deserves this.


Tuesday, 1 December 2009

At Mamaly's apartment in Bel Air

So, christ, what can I say. Tom went to bed rinsed, confused, lost looking and incredibly brave after nearly 24 hours awake. He sat quietly through the flight, not watching vids or looking out the window or anything. You could tell he was just way way out of his comfort zone. After endless travelling shenanigans, we arrived at my old friend Mamaly's place, and I helped Tom have a bath and washed his hair and he took himself off to bed. I hope, and I think, he'll be feeling bigger and stronger tomorrow. There were moments on the journey when his total fear and lack of comfort, were lost to his general excitement at, taking off, landing, looking out the window at clouds, or when the really lovely flight attendant, Penny, on our flight from Heathrow, came and crouched by his side, touched his knee and welcomed him on the flight. As we got off the flight she rushed through her important upper class customers to hold his arm and say have a great adventure Tom, and Tom turned round and said thank you in the sweetest and most touching way. This is an extraordinary journey. And it is only getting more extraordinary. I need to sleep now.