Christ Almighty !
Spent all day crying, watching BBC coverage of the D-Day Vets. So proud of those old guys and they are all so humble. Wonderful stuff. I would never fight over oil or for spurious reasons to kill people, but if the Nazis ever again threatened our shores I’d like to think I’d do my bit.
70 years on, we’ve started voting-in racists, bigots & homophobes. Might as well have let Hitler in. What a waste.
So they’ve won. I shouldn’t give up so easily, but for the past four-or-so years I’ve written at length (and incoherently) warning about the rise of the Right. I may not be right about many things, but I was spot on about UKIP and their mob.
Any humour I ever possessed came from a smidgen of hope. I no longer have that for this country. I don’t have the energy to fight against what’s happening. I’m an out-of-date old leftie who’s views are no longer relevant, so I shall leave it with you all. By the time most of you read this, you’ll be under a government more right-wing than Thatcher’s — and when I started this blog I’d have never believed such was possible.
So goodbye and thanks for reading and commenting. If you don’t care about living in a liberal (small ‘l’ )society, only one other thing is important: Please adhere to Greaves’ Rules (they are posted in this blog for your enjoyment) and use whichever heavy implements you can on the local nazis —you know who they are (so that’s two things).
THAT IS ALL
Sad to see that Bob Hoskins has left us today. Always seemed to me like a decent bloke, and a very convincing actor. There’s that famous yarn about him getting his first break in acting when he accompanied a mate along to a theatre and fell into an audition himself. He landed the part and the rest, as they say…
Bob never knew it, (and even if he did I doubt if he’d have cared) that he got me through English A-Level. In a moment of weakness I’d neglected to read the set Shakespeare work —Othello that year (1982/3)— but, as luck would have it, the blessed BBC decided to show their production of the play staring Anthony Hopkins as the Mad
Taff Moor, and Hoskins as Iago. Both were brilliant in their roles, Hoskins especially. It’s a hell of a lot easier remembering quotes and plot lines when you have a strong image of a Cock-er-ney Geezer delivering each line like he was asking for a pint and a pie down the Old Kent Road. So thanks Bob for getting me my one decent qualification. Yours is the performance by which I judge all others — which rather puts Kenny Brnnnnnnaaaaaagh at a disadvantage.
Hoskins was Roger who fell for Jessica Rabbit, could play anything from Capt Hook’s Smee, a jobsworth plumber in Brazil and a gangster in The Cotton Club. But he’ll doubtless be best remembered for his brilliant and brutal portrayal of Harold Shand in The Long Good Friday. The only thing more fascinating than the 1980 London backdrop is his peerless performance.
British cinema rightly boasts of Dickie Attenborough as Pinky Brown in Brighton Rock; Michael Cain’s Jack Carter in the superb Get Carter, whose direct descendent is Don Logan in Sexy Beast. Standing shoulder to shoulder with these three is Harold Shand. A great British Gangster. The Mafia ? I’ve shit ’em
Some quotes from one of THE most quotable of all movies:
Harold: (announcing his big plans) I’m setting up the biggest deal in Europe with the hardest organization since Hitler stuck as swastika on his jockstrap.
Pool Attendant: (informing Harold of his mate Colin’s death). They kept it all incognito. They’re gonna collect the body in an ice cream van.
Harold: There’s a lot of dignity in that, isn’t there? Going out like a raspberry ripple.
Harold: Alan found him dying. He’d been nailed to the floor.
Jeff: When was this, then?
Harold: Well, it must’ve been just after you saw him and just before Alan saw him. Otherwise, you’d have noticed, wouldn’t you? I mean, a geezer nailed to the floor. A man of your education would definitely have spotted that, wouldn’t he?
Casino Manager: It was a good night. Nothing unusual.
Harold: “Nothing unusual,” he says! Eric’s been blown to smithereens, Colin’s been carved up, and I’ve got a bomb in me casino, and you say nothing unusual?
Harold: (holding a gun in his pocket) Move to the car, Billy, or I’ll blow your spine off.
Billy: That’s not a shooter, is it, Harold?
Harold: Oh don’t be silly, Billy. Would I come hunting for you with me fingers?
Harold: (on learning that the Yanks have pulled out of the deal) I’m glad I found out in time just what a partnership with a pair of wankers like you would’ve been. A sleeping partner’s one thing, but you’re in a fucking coma! No wonder you got an energy crisis your side of the water!
Harold: The Mafia? I’ve shit ’em.
Harold: (bidding The Americans a fond farewell) What I’m looking for is someone who can contribute to what England has given to the world: culture, sophistication, genius. A little bit more than an ‘ot dog, know what I mean?
Harold: (to the captured mobsters, trussed up in a deep freeze). Right… it’s up to you. Frostbite or verbals…
There a million quips to be had from this story: N.F.Farage opening for the Gentlemen etc but I shall desist. So instead of reporting this to you in my own words, and not being able to do it justice, here’s the full story from todays Beeb website. As a regular (every morning about 6:30) cricket tourist, I am not sure I’d have made myself available for this one. Nevertheless, it’s a fascinating read. Great stuff.
The visits of sports teams to Nazi Germany in the 1930s still generate controversy today, from the Berlin Olympics’ anti-Semitism to the England football team’s Nazi salute in 1938. But a new book tells the story of a cricket team from Worcestershire that found itself at the centre of a now-forgotten furore.
In August 1937 the Gentlemen of Worcestershire cricket club arrived in Berlin to compete in three games organised by members of the Nazi hierarchy who had developed an interest in the sport.
The Nazi Reichsportsfuhrer Hans von Tschammer und Osten had visited England to watch the Davis Cup tennis semi-final between Germany and USA at Wimbledon. He was also invited to Lord’s as part of a tour of the summer’s sporting events, where he watched Middlesex beat Worcestershire.
The MCC recorded the visit, and it’s likely that von Tschammer met Maj Maurice Jewell, a former Worcestershire player and stalwart of the Gentlemen of Worcestershire, and asked him to bring a cricket team to Berlin. The Gents, as they are still known, are one of the oldest surviving cricket teams in the world, having played their first match in 1848. Known as a wandering or nomadic club, with no home ground, the team has always been made up of a group of cricket enthusiasts and predated Worcestershire County Cricket Club.
After the Nazi minister’s request, Jewell was able to rustle up a team of wealthy gentlemen, five of whom had played first class cricket for Worcestershire, as well public schoolboys who could travel within a few weeks to Berlin.
Peter Robinson, a 16-year-old schoolboy, “was taken on the tour to make up the numbers”, says Dan Waddell, author of Field of Shadows, which tells the story of the 1937 tour. But Robinson ended up playing every match after a regular was taken ill with pneumonia. In a letter sent home on 4 August 1937, Robinson describes drinking on the morning they arrived: “It is about 9.15 am. The beer here is much nicer than in England.”
The Gentlemen were too good for the Germans and won all three games comfortably.
But what went on off the pitch was more remarkable. The team arrived in Berlin as the city was celebrating its 700th anniversary in an event manufactured by Nazi propagandists as another excuse to show off military might in a series of parades.
The Gents were asked to give the Nazi salute before their first match. As dutiful guests, they obliged.
“I think they were just being polite” says Waddell, who tracked down diaries and scrapbooks handed down by the players to their relatives. “They would have hated to have been seen to be impolite, or snubbing their hosts.”
Richard Williams, one of the players, later recalled their departure. “We were lucky and glad to get to the station.” As well as detecting the sinister atmosphere, some players were annoyed by gamesmanship from the Germans. Robinson complained: “I was run out in the match to-day by the bowler. He never bowled the ball and ran me out as I backed up. He never warned me.”
The team had been closely watched during their visit. Although able to enjoy the delights of Berlin’s famous nightlife at first, the close scrutiny under which they were kept had left them increasingly unhappy.
The relations between the two teams were generally good, Waddell says, though they disliked the Berlin captain Gerhard Thamer, “who had a penchant for punching fielders who dropped catches off his bowling”.
The atmosphere of intrigue around the tour led to speculation that one of the English players might have been a spy. Robin Whetherley was a good cricketer, but had no connection at all to Worcestershire or the Gents cricket club. He even travelled separately.
Waddell’s theory is that the English cricket authorities informed the Foreign Office of the tour, and that Whetherley, who spoke German fluently, was asked to join the team and gather information. “There was a very good chance he was sent along by London to keep a very close eye on what everyone was up to, and perhaps when he came back, travel to Whitehall and have a chat to somebody,” says Waddell.
Whetherley was killed in the Balkans during the war, while serving with British special forces.
All of the players served King and country in the ensuing war, and perhaps because of embarrassment rarely spoke about the cricket tour. One of the players later described Germany as a “strange place” and said they could hear the sounds of gunfire in the background when they played some matches.
The players witnessed a torchlit procession along the Unter Den Linden which was described as “alarming and eerie”.
A small number of Germans – including enthusiast Felix Menzel – kept the game alive. In 1945, along with a few equally bedraggled friends, he emerged from the rubble to challenge a group of extremely surprised British troops to a game of cricket. They played and the British team won, narrowly.
But Menzel is now an obscure figure and even the world of English cricket has long forgotten the 1937 tour.
The end of another traumatic week, one way or another. Thankfully this week wasn’t all about me or the member of staff in a pub I’d abused in some way (though it’s early yet). No, this week was certainly all about The Incumbent Mrs B — the long-suffering female who’s been so lucky over the past few years to have the pleasure of living with me. If you stick your head out of the window you may be able to hear another chunk of Crimean cannon ball being filed down as they make her Victoria Cross. Nobody said it was gonna be easy, kid. And they were right. I’d like to take this opportunity here and now to apologise to The Incumbent for all the pain and sorry she has gone through on my behalf over the years, and state categorically that it won’t happen again. Not unless I get drunk tonight.
So, first some good news: the hunt for the Incumbent’s family continues. Those of you in the know will understand this house has recently become a poor man’s version of Who Do You Think You Are ? (I’m appearing next year on BBC3’s highly successful “Why Do You Think You Are ?” where, if you can’t justify your existence, you are made to sit down and watch a whole episode of The Call Centre —a show worse than anything Jack Whitehall has come up with.**)
Our version doesn’t have a film crew, a producer or mood music; we haven’t had to fly Mrs B around the globe (I had to drive her to Feltham once); and there’s not even a visit to the British Museum or a Holocaust Memorial in sight, but I’m hoping the Beeb or even 5 might pick us up sooner or later. I won’t go into too many details here — as The Incumbent will want to tell you her story in her own words, and probably with more accuracy and clarity, but suffice to say that she’s suddenly become the rather shocked relation of a slew of new full-sisters, half-sisters, short dogs and tall nephews and heaven knows how many other assorted family members. Good news indeed after such a long search. However, having traced her lineage, if Nigel Farage (rhymes with garage) ever comes to power my Missus will be one of the first he’ll send back home to the continent. I do hope so anyway — as if Farage (as in marriage) and his mob get in I’m going to need somewhere to stay as I shall be packing my bags and will be on the boat right behind her. Like Kaiser Wilhelm II before me, I fancy my own place in the sun.
Mid-week she lost her favourite pen. It was a nice one, a present bought by a dear friend, and it was her favourite shopping list-writing tool. We have had the house turned upside down but cannot find it anywhere. It could have been lost anywhere between Canterbury in Kent and Feltham in Middx.: Approx 88 miles, according to Google Maps. The pen is fitted with a tracking device, but you have to clip it to your top pocket before you can actually hear the signal it sends out. The battery on the tracker last up to 4 minutes. Some have said this is a design fault. I have poo-poohed such suggestions. Me and a chinese mate attached a microphone to a broomstick and went and sat in his rubber dinghy just off Erith Marshes, dangling the mic in the water. Oddly, nothing has turned up yet, but I’ll let you know.
Anyway, the point of this tribute to my very own Leader of the Opposition is to wish her a very happy birthday. Sad to say, m’lady, you will never be as old as me, and don’t you enjoy telling me so ? One of us has a very significant, important and depressing birthday this year but unfortunately it’s not you. So enjoy it while you can, and as is traditional on these occasions: it’s your round. xx
** correct at time of going to press.
We’ve come full circle.
From being asked, albeit politely, to leave a Harvester ‘pub’ last weekend, to barring myself from my once very favourite pub last night.
Both were completely justified.
The first incident occurred when, after and because I was on the outside of two or three bottles of house shiraz. I then decided, for better or worse, that I needed another bottle (and one for yourself). But in my excitement, haste and eagerness to replenish my glass and that of my accomplices on this Leo Sayer of Leo Sayers, I may have forgotten myself as I chivvied along the barmaid, who may or may not have been one of the worst you’ve ever seen.
I don’t like Harvester, never have done. It is a chain of foody ‘pubs’ over here and throughout good ol’ Blighty which is the very embodiment of everything I hate about modern drinking. Acres of dining tables, and occasionally tended drinking areas, or “bars” as they like to call them. They are restaurants with a beer counter attached. They are the Nigel Farage (rhymes with garage) of Holsteries. The Paul McCartney of pubs, the Mike Bushell of Boozers in which to enjoy a Sunday afternoon quaff.
” I say” quoth you “shall we go to the Bill Turnbull, the Sally Nugent or the Charlie Stayt for a pint ?” “Nah” comes the reply “let’s go to the Mike Bushell. It’s not a real pub, but it’ll do, don’t cha think ?”. (You may find this odd, but that’s how the “shall we go for a pint in the Harvester” conversation sounds in my head. I bet it does in yours too)
And I’m just like you. To save a row, you go along. After all, this time it’s definitely not all about YOU, is it ? This is not your day and you go with the flow. That’s what makes you a civilised human being, isn’t it ? Someone who people like and admire, someone who considers other people’s opinions and feelings. Even if you hate the pub you’re walking into.
In truth, I’ve always hated that pub, even when it tried to be a proper pub. Back in black&white it used to go by the name of The Rising Sun, and it was always last on our young drinkers list of places to go for an evening’s entertainment. It was huge and uninteresting, more like an pub in Essex, not one in The Garden of England, (or even in the bit I live— The Allotment of England). Huge, overrated and uninteresting, in that David-Walliams-sort-of-way. Now, apparently it still goes the name of the Rising Sun, but known to all as “The Harvey”. Or sometimes “The Bushell” (though probably only by me.)
But none of this by any means excuses me for what I apparently said to this person serving — or otherwise— me that afternoon. Early into that next bottle I was asked by the manager of the pub if I had a minute, was taken to a quiet corner of the bar, and was kindly asked to leave the pub as I had been rude — “in the extreme”— to the young lady behind the bar. First hand accounts are scarce and differ slightly about what happened and who said what to who(m). What seems to be clear is that, to paraphrase Sesame Street, this conversation was brought to by the letters U, T, N & C and by the words SLOW, USELESS and YOU.
I was asked to leave on the grounds that I was “rude and tipsy”. It was, apparently, a fair cop, guv. That was a week ago, and it took some getting over. Angst and shame. Using inappropriate language; not being able to remember saying that rude word, or indeed anything, to the barmaid; being barred from a pub, however awful, and thus having to curtail my assault on the Dartford Shiraz surplus. I have, however, gradually been able to come to terms with my actions by way of convincing myself that a) she may well have (or probably) made it all up; b) she was indeed slow and useless (though not necessarily a utnc); c) I never liked the pub anyway. If, indeed, a pub it be.
I moved on.
Mid week, I found myself in The People’s Republic of Luton having beer & sandwiches with a couple of the locals.
Strange lot. It appears they grow up with either too much hair, or none at all. However, they do know how to run a boozer, as the chaps in The Castle pub, castle street — next to the castle (how do they come up with these names ?) illustrates. Good beer, proper, quick and attentive bar staff, no food, original decor (well, underneath the old folk music flyers there was original decor.) It restored my faith in pubs and the people therein. It was clean, well stocked, reasonable priced and catered for the beer-and-wine-drinking community as a whole. Hairies and baldies alike.
Cut to yesterday afternoon when I strolled manfully through London’s Covent Garden, leading The Incumbent and two friends to my very favourite watering hole the capital has to offer. Anyone who has ever met me for a drink in London over the past 30 years will have been asked by me if “we could go to The Sailisbury, St Martin’s Lane”. In the heart of London’s Theatre Land, this is what a pub should be. Great beer, friendly staff (apart from that time one of them charged me over four quid for a pint of Peroni, but then I wasn’t very friendly either), beautiful, original features like cut glass partitions, red velvet seats and a sticky paisley carpet. Even though they serve hot food to punters, it is just my favourite pub in town, almost the world.
Or rather it was.
Since 1892 The Salisbury (or whichever name the pub went by before) has been serving beer, wine and Mars Bars to theatre-goers, revellers, drunks and Marianne Faithfull in these plush, welcoming surroundings. Yesterday, thanks to the marketing men, interior designers, painters, atmosphere-removers and parquet floor-fitters they reduced one of their punters to tears.
Ok, ok. I had already enjoyed a marvellous lunch up the road, and may have had a beer or eight before I walked into the place, but when I did I cried like a Dartford Barmaid who’s just been call a utnc. It may have been an over-reaction, and you may well look at the snap below and say “ooh that looks nice”, and you may or may not be correct. But truth is they still serve italian lager at over £4-a-pint, they still serve hot food which rids the place of its happy hoppy smell and replaces it with one of gravy & onions and it still attracts far to many backpacking half a shandy brigade. None of this mattered to me before, but now it does. Who gave who(m) the right to go against history and change what drinkers have been enjoying for 120 years ? WHO ?? If I wanted to drink in a Slug & Piano or an Airport Departure Lounge Bar/Wetherspoons* (delete where applicable) I WOULD HAVE GONE TO ONE. Instead I chose to introduce friends to my favourite hostelry. Now they think I like laminate flooring.
So apart from crying in the middle of the afternoon, in the middle of a packed pub in the middle of the West End of London, I thought I maintained my composure pretty well. I only posted my complaints on Facebook, Twitter & Beerintheevening.com and alerted the bar staff to my deep concerns— after having dried my eyes, of course — and without using the ‘U’ word once. I used words such as “Awful” “shameful” and “goodbye forever” and meant all of them. Apart from the last two as I still had a gallon of Guinness to cry into.
I now brace myself for those-in-the-know to reply to my various protests, pointing out that The Salisbury “has been altered 17 times over the last 30 years but you’ve just always been too drunk to notice”, which may or may not be accurate and true. However, I’m similar to many people: Although I don’t like Conservatives, I am very conservative. Like a lot of blokes I know, I’d go to the same pub every night of my life and drink the same pint for the rest of my days, as long as no-one changed anything. ANYTHING. I can moan about any and every aspect of the pub, from the price of a pint, to the speed of the barman/maid, the state of the loos to the state of the pickled eggs, pork scratchings and carpet. But I pay enough for a pint and drink enough of them to have an opinion, and it’s MY pub! Not yours — you fly-by-night manager who’ll be off in a couple of years to run that little B&B near Droitwich at the drop of a hat. I’ll be here, come rain-or-shine, moaning, laughing and crying at my regular spot in the corner until I decide I’ve had enough, or you decide to decorate. Or I’m politely asked to leave.
God, I bet they’ll miss me.