Coales' Notes: The glare of the lights: Gordon Coales finds that his television debut doesn't go quite as he'd planned

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The Independent Culture
MONDAY. A frustrating day. At the weekend I put up notices advising the public that TV cameras would be present in the Centre this week, and not to let this alter their behaviour at all. I also acquired a rather fine waistcoat which, without being at all flashy, has a likeness of Beethoven printed on it.

Disappointed then to have a phone call from Wall Eye this morning, saying their crew had got stranded in Wales, and they wouldn't be here till tomorrow. But they didn't want to lose Monday, so could I make a note of any highlights from today which could be re-enacted later, 'for a real life feel'.

Yet another call from the accountant, quite insistent that I make the redundancy now, or the Council would be obliged to close us forthwith. I said it wouldn't be easy with cameras here. Everyone seems to know anyway and the atmosphere is now thoroughly unpleasant. Bob has taken to drawing his finger across his throat every time we pass.

Later I was disgusted to come across two members of the Leisure Committee hanging around in the foyer - all smiles, not a word about our problems, and sporting name tags on their lapels. I told them if they wanted to be on telly, they should come back later in the week.

It's definitely going to be Juliet. Anybody could run the art gallery. I just need to find the right moment.

TUESDAY. A day of great tension. No sign of the TV all morning. Then they rang at lunchtime with 'definite confirmation' that their crew were now missing without trace, and proposed re- scheduling the filming by one week. All in all this is probably for the best. I decided to do the deed then and there. First I had a word with Fiona. She took it pretty badly. She said that Juliet was the one person in the Centre whom she could really work with. I said that was the point - at a pinch, with a little re-organisation, she could easily look after the gallery herself. She became tearful. Most awkwardly at this moment Juliet walked in. We all froze. I told Juliet this was a personal discussion, and she went out again. Fiona requested to break the news to Juliet herself, but I said it was my decision and my responsibility.

I spoke to Juliet near the end of the day. I told her it was a painful matter, but she probably knew what I was going to say anyway. We all had to be prepared for changes in our lives, and I hoped she would feel able to look on this one as a challenge. She said, 'Of course, this doesn't come as a complete surprise, Gordon - my worry is about Fiona.' I said Fiona was naturally upset, and there could be a difficult period of transition, but I hoped they would be able to work things out. She said, 'OK, right, fine, thanks' - and actually shook me by the hand. I'm glad she's managed to see things in such a mature and intelligent way. I felt quite moved. It is a question of showing authority really. I wonder if Juliet would agree to re-enact this incident for the telly next week.

Then another call from the accountant, very cheerful - told me I would 'no doubt be pleased to hear that the Fraud Squad have caught up with your embezzling Development Officer.' I have no sympathy for Terry. He is the cause of all the trouble. I announced I had finally made the redundancy, and hoped we were now clear on that score.

WEDNESDAY. This morning both Fiona and Juliet burst into my office. Fiona said sharply, 'So who exactly is now the Deputy Director of this Arts Centre?' Juliet said: 'I'm sorry, Gordon, I think she's gone a bit mad.' A terrible scene followed. Finally they both started to insult me, comparing me to Frank Beck and also to Jocelyn Stevens, which seemed a little unnecessary.

So far I believe this must be one of the most excruciating weeks of my career, and I hope never to have to go through one like it again.

THURSDAY. Today a call from the director at Wall Eye TV. 'Good news, Gordon, we've found them.' He proposed to come up tomorrow - 'It might seem a little artificial, I know, but we'd like to start early, and try to fit in a re-run of your entire week - just the highlights of course - by lunchtime, and then catch up with real time in the afternoon. Make a long day of it.' He said it was now or never. I was too stunned to put them off.

I felt quite unable to go on. I tracked down Juliet to the gallery. She was burning the word 'Death' into the walls with a blow-torch. I told her it had all been a terrible mistake, and that she was hereby re-instated. I then rang the accountant, and informed him that on further reflection, we were going to make a stand: there would be no redundancies, and if the Council wished to close the Centre temporarily, they could go ahead. He said, 'Well, fancy.' I demanded an urgent meeting with him and the whole Leisure Committee. He said, 'Well, Mr Coales, let me put it like this: whenever you're free.' I'm sick of his facetiousness. I told him if any Committee members wanted to be on telly, they better be here tomorrow morning. I'm going to do this in style at least.

FRIDAY. The TV crew arrived bright and early, though quite obviously hung over. I explained to the director that, before anything else, I had a little surprise lined up for him - I was going to make a very significant announcement in the theatre, which I wanted to be filmed. He seemed excited. While they were organising their equipment, practically the whole Leisure Committee arrived. I shepherded everyone into the theatre and stood on the stage. Lights almost blinding.

I said this was a solemn moment. I had a very short and very blunt message. The Wormwood Centre was shortly to close. Cries of outrage from the staff. Big thumbs up from the director. I added that I was very pleased to see so many members of the Leisure Committee present, because what I had to tell was the story of a small, struggling Arts Centre that had run into a little financial difficulty and was now being abandoned in its hour of need. Loud murmurings, and Bob called out, 'Look behind you]' I did, and saw a policeman. He said simply: 'Gordon Warmesley Coales - you are under arrest on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud the Wormwood Centre . . .' I announced that a perhaps understandable mistake had been made, and I would be back soon. Luckily they got the camera to the forecourt while I was being cautioned. I waved as we left.

It has been a long and taxing day, but my solicitor has done sterling work, and I was able to disentangle myself from Terry's wilder allegations. I was released without charge very late tonight. The Centre was dark. Sadly no sign of the TV crew. Came home. Extremely annoyed to find my waistcoat still lying on the bed. But quite a performance, I think.

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