A Funny Thing Didn’t Happen on the Way to the Forum


When the moon hits your eye
Like a big pizza pie
You’re Pissed

fatvesuvius

In the background, the massive Mt Vesuvius, an active volcano which erupts, on average, every 50 years. In the foreground the massive Mike Bealing, an inactive 48 year old who’s trousers erupt, on average, every 24 hours, plus a matinee on Saturdays. (Baseball cap courtesy of Small Boy Fashions inc, Sorrento.)

Those few of you who take an interest in these things, and who glean all sorts of delight in the numerous mishaps which befall me every time I rub shoulders with my fellow European Citizens will be amazed, if not a little disappointed, that our Italian Campaign passed without incident. Almost.

But like so many things — Ben Elton’s funny period or a solid stool — it all seems to be a distant memory…

(queue harp)…………

We arrived in Sorrento on a bright, hot September morning. The place was buzzing. An enormous cruise ship had relieved itself of its cargo of fat American pensioners, making it nigh on impossible to purchase any over-priced beer, linen or lemon-based products, try as I might. Rumour has it the Costa Concordia flipped over when a couple from Wisconsin leant over the rails to feed the seagulls. I don’t believe this. I think they were trying to eat the birds. So, taking their lead, we settled down to the first in a series of pizza & ice cream snacks, enjoyed the hot September sun and decided we’d chosen the right spot for our first break in a while.

It’s not what you’d call a beach resort, and my eyes lit up when I discovered there was only one ‘disco’ in town, and that was at the other end of town. I would just have to put up with great food & wine and a lack of boozed-up bastards from Barnsley and Bournemouth wrecking the town every night. That’s not to say that the Brits aren’t catered for. There is a “English Inn” on the main street, right opposite an Oirish Bar (both doing a ‘Full English and Guinness on tap”) which, for the most part The Incumbent and I gleefully avoided. For the most part.

Slow Cooked Water Buffalo enjoying his meal.

A large portion of Water Buffalo enjoying his dinner.

For most of our stay, the sun shone, the booze flowed and the food arrived by the skip load. But we weren’t the only ones enjoying a regular bite. So were the mozzies. If there is one breed of animal that The Incumbent attracts more than Neapolitan handbag salesmen it’s mosquitos.  Every morning we would idle away a couple of hours counting up and applying ointment to the previous evenings mozzie bites. She even got bitten on the verandah, which brought tears to her eyes. After a while, the critters had had their fill of the missus, and started on my extremities.

In an attempt to put off these little bastards, we’d brought from Blighty an industrial-sized tube of Deet insect repellant. I would carry it around in my pocket when we went out for a stroll of an evening — or at least I did until a passing scouser pointed at this long bulge in my pocket and decided to ask his cap-tee’d mates if they could see the size of “that fat bloke’s knob end ?” We continued our promenading activities at pace, diving into the nearest Trattoria for our seventh meal of the day. As the insect repellant was with us (though sadly we were out of scouser repellant) we decided to apply another layer as we waited for the menu. The whiff was overpowering, and I extinguished the table candle as a precaution. She needed me to cover her shoulder blades in the stuff, and I made sure I had some Deet for my Feet (Sugar for my Honey). I wanted the fish, which was something of a speciality around those parts. The waiter arrived and I ordered in my best Engtalian “Carbonara for bonna Signora, and oh, Sole mio”. It was all he could do not to spit at me.

They brought us whisky, and gin and beer… I’ll leave you to fill in the blanks. Though they didn’t get to play with my 4 x 2.

But please don’t get the impression that all we did was sit around and eat. No, no, no. That was only 85% of the time. We went on day trips too. No visit to the area would be complete with a visit to Pompeii. It’s really worth a visit, if only to escape the endless piped Opera music (if you’ve ever been to the West Indies and suffered Bob Marley overdose, you’ll understand when I say I never want to hear Caruso again. Neither him nor his Man Friday).

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Us at the Forum, Pompeii. Proof positive that there is an upper age limit, beyond which it is impossible to take a decent selfie.

But the ruins of the once thriving city, sadly lost to the world in 79AD due to the huge eruption of nearby Vesuvius. Our guide Paula, pronounced PouWla, was a local girl who had clearly grown up on a heady diet of Benny Hill Shows and Bunga Bunga parties. She was a fag paper away from snorting fnarr fnarr as she concentrated and pointed out to us each and every “Three Dee Willee” on the road or on the walls. These protruding pointing penises might, she mused, have indicated the position of a brothel, or historians now think Pompeii residents could have used the phallus images as a protection against evil spirits. (Tonight, try getting your willy out in front of your missus and telling her it’s for her own protection. It doesn’t work — believe me.)

What would have been much more interesting would have been if she had told us about the popularity of cricket in this ancient roman metropolis. I myself saw clear evidence of a thriving cricket culture in existence. Who knows? If it hadn’t been for the devastation of the volcano, Italian cricket might now rival that of Australia, or perhaps even one of the major Test-playing nations ?

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(l) The Author gives his pitch report at the Pompeii Oval (a dusty one which was bound to spin on the 4th day) while recreating a Roman sight screen; (r) The remains of the scorecard to the match which was abandoned by eruption. Reg made 15 in the 1st innings. No record has been found of who was bowling at the time.

My exclusive and World’s-1st discovery of the Pompeii Ageas Oval was, as you can imagine, pretty much the highlight of the tour. There was of course the time in Napoli itself. We travelled there by boat, and on our arrival at Naples docks, two Australians with placards were shouting “Send the Boats Back”. We assumed they were lost. Later we sat outside a cafe in one of the less salubrious parts of the city (as opposed to all the many, many, lovely areas….er…) chugging away on bottles of Peroni and listening to Funiculi, Funicula for the 28th time that day. A grin burst across The Incumbent’s face as she watched and listened to the two rather vocal young women behind me.

I hadn’t realised these girls were of the working variety and that every tourist, workman or delivery boy who walked past were treated to the sight of them pulling down the lurex boob tubes and flashing their gnocchi. The going rate was, apparently, “10”. We didn’t hang around to find out if that was Euros or Lira: I glanced over my shoulder and it was a terrifying sight. It was clear to me that at least one of these birds was once christened as a geezer and those chicken fillets he was waggling at the lads were new additions to her being, (matching nicely with her adams apple which was the size of The Vatican). Any version of Funiculi, Funicula  playing once he/she got a victim back to her/his gaff would be merely to accompany him being mashed, bashed and slammed on the floor. Speaking for myself I’d rather hold it in my hand.

It could truly be a case of see Nipples & Die. (© National Joke museum 1923).

Naples: Bust of "Gaveen" —patron Saint of Big Noses.

Naples: Bust of “Gaveen” — Italian Patron Saint of Big Noses.

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Time to Chuck in the Towel


It comes to all of us at the end. Whether it’s because the state tells you that you’re too old for employment, or when your body isn’t able to carry on – even when your mind thinks it can. Some of us are lucky enough to be in a job which allows us to choose the timing of our retirement. For most of us, the decision is out of our hands.

If you’re a journalist or even a photo editor, you can probably work until your eyes or your liver can take it no more. For some of us, the age of 46 is probably as good an age as any at which to retire; others will go on until they snuff it at their desks/the bar/toilet cubicle. Lots of us can’t wait to go, but there are those who wouldn’t know what to do with themselves if not go to work.

If you’re a high court judge you can go on and on until you’re deaf, frail and incontinent. Come to think of it I dunno why I don’t apply. Even politicians seem to go on for as long as they please, though if you stay on too long you risk become a figure of fun as did Michael Foot, Ted Kennedy, or Nicolas Sarkozy.

Boxers are often guilty of staying in the game past their sell-by date. Surrounded by spongers and yes-men, not enough are told not to fight again. Who’d ever tell Mike Tyson “don’t go into the ring again, Champ, or you’ll get a whopping” ? Not me, that’s for sure. Left with cowards and scroungers, Champ decides to have ‘one last fight’ and more often than not suffers the inevitable clobbering.

While we’re on sportsmen, there are those who have the foresight to plan ahead for that time when they no longer compete. Some become successful TV pundits:- John McEnroe, Richie Benaud, Gary Lineker or Michael Johnson spring to mind; Some become fvcking awful ones: Colin Montgomery, Michael Vaughan, Willie Carson. Then there are some who are so desperate to become TV stars they’ll appear on anything, anywhere to further their career: Tessa Sanderson, Matthew Pinsent, Kriss Akabusi but fail even to become children’s entertainers.

Some leave sport altogether and are quite happy to work in the real world, like one of my boyhood heroes, cricketer (and Ashes winner) Chris Old who works in Sainsbury’s supermarket. Not very glamorous but he’s happy.

For some, of course, the end doesn’t come when you want it to. One day, you’re part of office life, getting the tea for everyone and chipping into the Derby sweepstake, the next minute the guvnor calls you in and tells you that the Bell has Tolled for you. Yer outta here. You are surplus to requirements and you are to be replaced with a younger, sleeker (cheaper) version. It’s a horrible and humiliating way to go. And many can’t take it.

Rio Ferdinand is convinced he has still got what it takes to be an international footballer. His boss, or rather, his former boss, or rather the new bloke in the office who doesn’t want to be Rio’s boss disagrees. The new England manager didn’t pick Ferdinand for his squad to compete [sic] in the upcoming European Championship (singular: There is only one Championship being competed for and therefore is spelled Championship. Not Championships. Ok?)

I digress again.

So not only wasn’t he picked for the original squad, but when the bloke who’d replaced him in the team dropped out through injury Rio wasn’t picked then either. In fact it’s probably safe to say that if all 18 original players dropped out, having succumbed to a virulent strain of Green Monkeys Disease, Rio still wouldn’t get selected. He is not wanted. His time has come.

Rio is fuming, He thinks he should play. His agent thinks he should play (shock) and has told the world’s media (well, T’BBCSalford who are the only ones listening) that it’s a disgrace that his man has not been selected. At 34 years of age, Ferdinand knows this will be the last ChampionshiP he had a chance to be selected for. Whether it’s the pulling on of the England shirt again , running out onto the big stage for one last time, or falling asleep half way though the either half (it’d become his party trick), Rio wanted one last chance to show the world what he could do. Sadly, it was never to be.

A combination of his regular attacks of narcolepsy during corner kicks, and the fact that his playing partner is on a charge of racially abusing Rio’s brother means that manager Roy Hodgson was never gonna select both. When a sleepy black bloke is up against a violent, racist, white bloke it seems that whitey will win the day. Thank Allah that John Terry’s court case has been delayed until after the tournament, eh ? What a stroke of luck.

Whatever the reasons behind it, Rio has just got to get on with his young life, and find a new direction in which to channel his…er…talents. Cricketer and legendary batsman Sachin Tendulkar has been sworn into the Indian Parliament, making him the first to enter parliament while still playing. Sachin is a humble, personable, brilliant sportsman, regarded as a God in his own country. Rio differs from Tendulkar in just four ways. Though all is not lost for Ferdinand in that respect. If the British Labour party can have Oona King, Diane Abbott and Paul Boateng as MPs, Rio may yet be able to find himself as the least self-serving and most appealing black representative the party has had for many a year.

So having said all that, who was it who couldn’t find it in themselves to gather Cliff Richard, Paul McCartney, Grace Jones and Shirley Bassey together and say “I’m sorry guys, but you can’t sing any more”? One suspects it should have been to Gary Barlow, but you can’t blame him for crumbling in the face of legends. I speak of, of course, of last night’s Jubilee bash. Possibly one of the most diverse concerts I have ever witnessed, both in content and quality. To hear Alfie Moon (no, neither had I before) and Willi.i.am (ditto) knock out a decent tune, only for the joyous atmosphere to be punctuated by the excruciating wailing of these four (and I’m being very kind to Elton John) aged, has-beens. 12 hours later, my toes have only just started uncurling after McCartney’s performance. One presumes he got the gig purely because Lennon and Harrison are dead, but that is surely no excuse for what he gave us last night. He sounded better at Live Aid – and his microphones failed on that occasion.

If Ringo isn’t busy flashing ‘V’ signs, perhaps he could climb off Barbara for a second and tell his old mate that enough is enough. Obviously the irony of Ringo criticising someone else’s musical talent won’t be lost, even on the purple-haired former unidexter-shagger, but someone’s gotta do it.

As for Cliff, Grace and Shirley: Surely they’re talented enough to realise how bad they have become ? Surely, Shirley. It was woeful. You have all been decent at what you do, but now you’re not. Honest. Cliff sounded like me, pissed in a bar on a mic at about 11.30, dancing on the bar and singing Old Shep. Shirley looked and sounded like me. And the hoola-hooping Grace Jones needs sectioning.

And finally, please don’t think this is age-based criticism. It’s talent-based. You had it once, now you haven’t. Simples. You only have to think back to Englebert last week. THAT’S how bad you lot were last night. Everyone’s different, with different bodies and talents. Tom Jones is very old (he knew Elvis, in case he hasn’t mentioned it) but he can still belt out a number like he could 40 years ago. He even remembered his Welsh accent, which some will find nice. So I’m afraid McCartney has got to be told that it’s all over. Although he might try to make the England squad. He’s got a better chance than Rio.

Kaputt


It wasn’t 100 years ago today….

No this isn’t another sodding Titanic Special ( as this isn’t the BBC and there’s only so many commemorations/celebrations of a national tragedy which one can really stomach.)

No, it wasn’t 100 years ago on this very day,just nearly:  April 21st 1918 that Baron Manfred Von Richthofen – that’s The Red Baron to you – was shot down over Armiens during the first world war. There’s all sorts of controversy and mystery surrounding the exact details of his death, with many differing (you might say Anton Differing) accounts who actually fired the shots which brought The Baron down. But you could do worse than examine what the student’s friend, Wikipedia, has to say on the matter.

At the time, the Baron had been pursuing (at very low altitude) a Sopwith Camel piloted by a novice Canadian pilot, Lieutenant Wilfrid “Wop” May of No. 209 Squadron, Royal Air Force. In turn, the Baron was spotted and briefly attacked by a Camel piloted by a school friend (and flight commander) of May’s, Canadian Captain Arthur “Roy” Brown, who had to dive steeply at very high speed to intervene, and then had to climb steeply to avoid hitting the ground. Richthofen turned to avoid this attack, and then resumed his pursuit of May…. [then after he crashed to the ground] eye witness, Sergeant Ted Smout of the Australian Medical Corps, reported that Richthofen’s last word was “kaputt

So one thing seems clear, the 1st World War was full of heroes, derring-do, inappropriate nicknames and racial stereotypes. The Kraut was shot down by The Wop and uttered that he was “Kaputt” just before he snuffed if after a wizard prang. If it had been reported he’d said “Gott in Himmel” it couldn’t have been more Corking! It’s like reading a copy of The Battle Picture Library.

As kids in the UK we were brought up on this stuff – mini comic books depicting our brave boys struggle against the nasty nazis. Of course it was all pretty much concerned with WWII as the lines of good vrs evil are slightly more blurred in the first world war than in the second. Us Brits were (and some of us still are) obsessed with the fight against the Nazis and the 1939-45 affair, knowing few details of, or caring far far less about the 1914-18 conflict (the great British hero and eccentric Col A.D.Wintle, of course thought there was only one war against Germany: 1914-1945 which included a 21 year pause in the middle “while the Germans regrouped”). The Nazis are a much easier target than Kaiser Bill’s army, and as the second war is so much closer in time, we’ve tended to concentrate on that, rather than The Red Baron & Co.

There are always exceptions, of course. There are times when the whys and wherefores, the whos and the whats get mixed up. But the important thing is that no-one goes overboard and try to ignite bad feeling and relive old fights. So imagine my surprise when I discovered this little gem by the American group The Royal Guardsman. I was familiar with the song, of course, but certainly not with this performance, complete with cartoon German accents, nazi saluting and goose-stepping. Forgive and forget, they say, but I know neither if The Red Baron back in 1918 was an exponent of the straight-arm salute or the funny walk, nor whether The Royal Guardsmen should be forgiven, or simply forgotten.

MovemberGrid

By Jove


My thanks go to my mate Phil Hollis for pointing me in the direction of this. Click on the pic and it’ll take you to a lesson in proper English. Here at The Sharp Single, you’ll understand, this sort of stuff is spoken all the time. But in case any welshmen may have accidentally stumbled across these pages, Roderick Field’s site will help you in any areas of speech or diction you find yourself sadly lacking. So that’ll be all of them.

Now oppit, the lot of ya.

Horse Feathers


Whenever I have thought about getting a pet for myself and the incumbent Mrs B, a gee gee has never really sprung to mind. I know they’re lovely animals and all that, but you could never sit on the sofa watching a weepie with a 3/4 Arab laying at your feet, or send your 15 hand Palomino round to Mr Singh’s to pick up the Grauniad on a sunday morning (that’ll be after they adopt Mr Murdoch’s 7-day publishing ruse, which they surely will), and keeping a(nother) stallion in the the house would play havoc with The Incumbent’s carpets.

No a horse is not for us, and even if it was we couldn’t afford one.  I mean have you seen the price of one ? And it’s not if there’s anywhere you can just hire one or loan one out.

Oh , hang on a minute, there is !

It seems Rebekarhhh Wade loaned a nag from the Old Bill. There is a (very) little-known scheme in which the boys in Blue lend out their old dobbins to selected members of society to ride them ragged and return them in poor health in the twilight years of their lives, just before poor old horsey snuffs it – as happened in this case with Wade’s borrowed nag called Raisa (which would also explain what happened to Mrs Gorbachev).

Rebekah (left) and Raisa (née Gorbachev)

As an aside, yes I know Rebbbekah pretends she’s married now and her name is now Brooks, but she says a lot of things and pretends much, so I have no reason to believe her when she says she’s married any more than I believe her when she says she knows nothing about phone hacking. And anyway, who’d really marry that ? Yeuch.

According to The Telegraph “Met Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe expressed his surprise at the arrangement saying there was a lengthy waiting list of people who wanted to re-home former police horses.” But then again few in that lengthy waiting list have furnished the boys in blue with massive wads of cash for privileged info like Rebekahkaka and her mates have. At least I would hope not. There is a lengthy queue of hacks, Masons and MPs waiting to donate sackloads of bunce to plod in return for preferential treatment, of course.

The paper also added that when the horse was returned by Wade (who, funny enough pretends to be married to a racehorse trainer) “Raisa was regarded by officers from Mounted Branch to be in a poor but not serious condition.” Perhaps her “husband” didn’t have any spare nags lying around to loan to his “wife”, nor did he have time to look after the beast properly.

But I suppose if mass, consistent and organized bribing of public officers can’t get you the last few miserable years of a working horse’s existence, what does it get you (apart from an enormous pay-off and the unflinching backing of one of the most powerful men in business) ?

But money, mass corruption, animal cruelty, and fraud aside, a horse has never been for me. When I was a kid my mother would always turn on The Horse of the Year Show to watch Harvey Smith and David Broom, resplendent in their red hunting outfits take their mounts over the jumps at Olympia, or Wembley or maybe Hickstead, ably commentated on by the BBC’s Raymond Brooks Ward (or Raymond Wade Ward as he was known in our house). “C’mo-o-o-n Da-a-a-vid” he would shout though the mic. Which was odd because Princess Anne was in the ring at the time. But who knows what he was thinking of ?

But while mum was jumping up and down during the jump off against the clock, my brother and I were waiting for the gee gee to slam on the anchors and the jockey vault over the handlebars into the wall/hedge/water below. It was our only enjoyment gleaned from the event. We didn’t want the horses harmed, but cared little for the powdered ponces sat astride them.

A similar thing happened when I watched War Horse last night. The lead actor was riding the eponymous hero through the field when they approached a stone wall. The horse came to a sudden halt, through its rider up and over, through the air and eventually onto his arse. I didn’t want the horse hurt, I just wanted the rider to fly though the air, miss the wall, hit the camera full in the lens, shattering metal and glass, which then speared Steven Spielberg, the writer (one can only assume there was one) and the producers of this shite into each other and impaled them all onto a barn door behind. The rest of the cast crew and horses could then mount (geddit??) an asserted and brutal attack on all those who forced such a woeful excuse of a movie onto the general public.

“What’s that, Joey ? You’ve solved the German codes and discovered Uranium ?”

War Horse is a children’s book adapted for the big screen. I just don’t know who it was adapted for ? There are so many “homages” to old movies (Lawrence of Arabia, Gone with the Wind, Lassie Drop Dead) which will surely be lost on the kids. Meanwhile any adults watching (and I include The Incumbent and I) will be bemused in the hokey storyline, Dick Van Dyke accents, Teletubbies sets and crow-barred emotions that the temptation to throw horse excrement is tempered only by the site of so much of it on screen already (both literally and figuratively.)

SPOILER ALERT – ISH

I’m convinced you will take my word for it and save your well-earned cash by not bothering to go see this movie (like WWI itself, it never seems to want to end), but just in case you ignore my advice I shall take you though the final scene:

After the end of the first war, we’re back in Blighty , Devon (apparently), which is indicated by the huge red sky, piercing evening sunlight with the embers of Atlanta burning in the background. Joey (our horsey hero) is back home after his labours, and surrounded by his fiends and family: Albert, Ted, Rose, Uncle Sandy, Ricky, Old Shep and Bernard Cribbens. All of a sudden Skippy and Flipper hove into view and tell Joey the whereabouts of Lee Van Cleef’s buried treasure.  Everyone hugs and laughs and Albert marries Jenny Agutter who, in a moment of sobriety, has forgotten to take her clothes off for this scene.

The End

Or it may as well be.

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What I Like to Do he Dousin


So they haven’t found him yet, then ? You know the one – old mop-heap – as Jeremy Bowen likes to call him. Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, as everyone else calls him, in a brilliantly conceived plan, and showing superb foresight, has “had eet on ees toes”, as they’re saying in downtown Bani Walid nowadays.

How this man, a buffoon by all accounts, made his getaway in a convoy of limos, with barely four months head-start is beyond me. Clearly, too, beyond that lot in the Foreign Offices and Security Services. Daffy’s whereabouts is, at present, unknown. Anyone starting to see a pattern here ?? We couldn’t find our own arse with both hands.


Before they left for a bit of winter sun in Burkina Faso, by way of the Nigerien town of Agadez (as in “Push Pineapple, Shake the Tree” fame) Muammar’s men made sure they left behind a couple of good reads (no space in their suitcases, one supposes). The weighty tomes apparently tell the tale of how MI6 was complicit in the illegal abduction and torture of terrorist suspects – crimes for which, until now, Carlton of the F.O. has laid the blame firmly at the doorstep of Uncle Sam.

Even Tony Blair, who up til now has never been thought as of have been a liar  (subs please check this-MB) said that our boys had nothing to do with what’s known as Extraordinary Rendition and that is was purely an American affair. And I for one believed him. If, after all, one can’t believe the godfather to Rupert Murdoch’s daughter, who can one believe ? I must start buying Vogue – they get all the best stories, you know.

These men (some of whom actually did turn out to be terrorists, honest) were whisked away by the Brits and the Yanks, off to some black hole in Libya where they were subjected to waterboarding, sleep deprivation and were bombarded with hours and hours of non-stop, excruciating noise. One can only believe that somehow the CIA and MI6 had got hold of preview copies of Mark Cousins’ The Story of Film, now being screened on Channel 4. This promises to be 15-and-a-half hours of pain and deep misery, comparable only perhaps to a night at a Morrissey concert, an hour stuck in the lift with Michael McIntyre or maybe the pain suffered when your dentist forgets his root-canal kit and opts for using a desert spoon and a mallet.

But to be fair to Mr Cousins (and I’m never anything but fair) we can use analogies from his own world: His whining tone is that of the noise Harry Palmer was forced to listen to in The Ipcress File when he found himself strapped into an east-European brain-washing machine; After barely an hour I was screaming for Reservoir Dogs’ Mr Blonde to hack off my ears; The Incumbent wanted to shoot him with that gun made from a bicycle pump from the scene in Munich.

Being pretty much housebound, couchbound and eggbound for the last six weeks, how I was looking forward to the definitive documentary on my favourite art form. I imagined it to be the movies equivalent of the Olivier-narrated The World at War, or to do for the US what Ken Burns did with Civil War, instead I got an Extraordinary Rendition of my own, with all the appeal of Jude Law trying to act the Yellow Pages.

Mark Cousins: Pretentious, Moi ?

I can only assume Mr Cousins’ voice is as grating to his native Northern Irish homies as it is to me down here in the soft South East. I can’t believe his pretentious bollox is given much shrift in the bars of Belfast. It’s surely doubtful that when the great Fergal Sharkey penned My Perfect Cousin (perhaps in those very same bars) he was not thinking of this bloke. The far-from-perfect Mr Cousins may think I like listening to him and agreeing with all he says. I Dousin.

I suppose I should have known what was coming. I should have known that something was rotten in Channel 4 when they rolled-out their fledgling coverage of Athletics with the opening scenes of the World’s Athletics Championships from Daegu (apparently we looked for Gaddafi while we were there but found no-one). The Incumbent will tell you that if there isn’t a movie showing on our TV there will doubtless be some sporting event or other. As a lover of all things track ‘n’ field (apologies for the ‘n’) I settled down to soak-up a week’s worth of international running ‘n’ jumping, and not a Boris or Seb in sight. What could possibly go wrong ??

A paid-up BBC-phile, I set aside my prejudices (yes I do have some) that Auntie wasn’t showing the event as usual and sat glued, hoping to see a professional, seamless broadcast, mirroring the talent on the track.

Well one can hope. Remember that young US sports presenter in the Boom Goes the Dynamite clip ? (see Sports..er…News… earlier post). Well forget him. This is real talent:

In what I now know to be a pre-Cousins assault, and in one of the few Channel 4 programs not include an autopsy, the station unveiled the wonderfully hapless and hopeless Ortis Deley.  I have to put out a warning to all those who haven’t seen this man before. You thought Carol Kirkwood was useless? Still under the impression that Sam Fox and Mick Fleetwood at that awards show were the worst things ever to appear on TV ? Wait just til you watch Hopeless Deley. He delivers here a quite wonderful British and Commonwealth all-comers record for nervous lunacy in front of a camera.

I never thought I’d ever see Michael Johnson look nostalgic for the gin-soaked BBC studio, where the only real task is keeping Brendan Foster upright in his seat during commentary. This left me fleeing for Eurosport- a first for me and not half as truly awful as I thought. It’s a bit like standing outside a TV rental shop and having a poor-man’s Tony Gubba shout the commentary in your ear, as if he’s really there at the event. So not half as bad as I feared.

But soon I was hurtling back for more of the hilarity that was Channel 4’s coverage. Then the rotten sods pulled him from the anchor slot – bloody spoilsports. We were left with the charming and, let’s be honest, near-professional Rick Edwards. Spoilt the whole show.

So here is your chance to catchup. My personal best is 1min 37.5 secs, during his first Oscar Pistorius quote. I nearly wet myself. Take it away, Hopeless.

There would have been more of the above but those radical fun-loving sheisters at Channel 4 have decided that we mustn’t watch their presenter fuck-up for 20 minutes. We have to thank a rival broadcaster for what’s left.

Jessica Ennis. Goodnight.

A Short Moving Tale


This one is true.

My main preoccupation over the past few weeks has been knocking Railway Cuttings into shape in preparation for viewings by prospective tenants. The floors have been scrubbed, the electrics have been fixed, checked and double-checked and anything that needed mending, sticking or nailing down has been mended, stuck and nailed down. Short of a once-over with the roller and whitewash the old place is looking as near as damn it perfect. I’d rent it myself, if I didn’t already own it. Shame really, but them’s the breaks. Times are tough and needs must etc etc. The Potting Shed awaits and with the fiscal climate the way it is, moving home is the best way forward.  And as my mates Dave, Nick and Gideon never tire of telling me: We’re all in this together.

This photo has nothing to do with this story. It’s merely to remind you of your enemy. (Osborne is 2nd from right)

Thus far I’ve had 3 couples come to look at the property. The first people were very pleasant indeed. An Asian (possibly Indian) couple who looked over the place, upstairs and down, asked all the right questions, smiled, left and were never heard of again. A little bit of me wanted them to be the ones who rented my house, but I suppose I was just being a little optimistic to rent it out to the first people to come along. And anyway (I told myself later) if the first viewers had said they wanted it I would have kicked myself cos I was obviously asking far too little in rent. It’s like putting a treasured item on eBay, spending an angst-ridden hour deciding carefully on the reserve, then some git swoops in and buys it for the price you asked for. Shit.

Anyway. For a week or two no-one else rang to express any interest in my little place and so now I’m thinking I’m asking too much for the place. Shit shit. I looked online to see what the going rate for a Railway Cutting was, but it seems I’m in a bit of a niche market. It seemed that whatever the price, too high or too low, I wasn’t getting out of here in a hurry.

Then, just before Christmas, some good news. My letting agent told me that he had a couple who really liked what they saw in the ad and wanted to come by and see it the following day. Great ! It was the last business day before the holiday, but that was no problem. The place had a nice Christmassy feel about it. I had a quick hoover round, made myself a cup of coffee (they tell me the smell of fresh coffee is attractive to home-seekers) and settled down in front of Film4 to wait for the potentials to arrive. An hour or so later the doorbell rang. Up I jumped and went to the door to let them in.
“Hello, we’ve come to see the house. The letting agent sent us”
“Oh…..er…hi”. I was blushing. “Just give me two secs will you?”
I sprinted back into the lounge in search of the tv remote. I’d been watching Tora Tora Tora which in a snap judgement I decided wasn’t going to go down well with the two Japanese people on my doorstep. Remote found, crisis averted. They were very nice people too. Though they spent less than ten minutes looking around, and I pretty much knew the house wasn’t for them. But I was content in the knowledge at least I hadn’t upset them with my tv viewing habits. (And before you ask, yes I may be ignorant enough to misjudge their ethnicity but I wasn’t taking any chances.)

Christmas came and went and I was fretting about changing the price of the rent (either up or down) when today, out of the blue, the phone went. It was the agent telling me they had a couple in the office who wanted to come round right away to look at the house. I ran a duster and the mop and bucket around as well as I could, but within minutes the new viewers were at my door.

As I greeted them on the threshold they shook my hand and introduced themselves.
“Hello, I’m Tomas” he said in a thick european accent. “Hi there, I’m Mike”
“Hello I’m Christianne” said the woman”
“Mike. Please, go on through”. Hmmm… Germans, I thought, how very cosmopolitan of me.

We walked through to the lounge, and only then did I remember what I’d been watching on telly. There in full view of all three of us was a particularly lavish battle scene from The Longest Day, blaring out of my tv in the corner of the room. I gave an internal shriek and bounded between them to push the off button on the remote. I’m not sure how much they saw, and I don’t even know if they cared. But I did and I do.

Tomas and Christianne were very nice indeed, and I hope I hear from them again. I have another couple coming round tomorrow. Before they arrive I’ll just ensure ITV isn’t showing The Last of the Mohicans. Well you never know do you?

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KimAd

The Taking of Eltham 132


I was all over the place this morning, in every sense. I don’t suppose staying awake for most of the night to watch the latest demolition of the Aussie cricket team will have helped with my fuzziness, though one would have thought having watched our brave lads once again stuff it up em would have brightened my mood immeasurably. Even so, as I left Railway Cuttings around 12.30 this lunchtime I was aware that I was a particularly tired and miserable old Hector.

I needed to pick up something down in North Greenwich at the O2. The Dome. The Millennium Bivouac or whatever it’s called this week. Then from there I needed to go to Eltham to deposit a cheque into my good friends Nathaniel Westminster & Co. It was cold and damp as I trudged up to the village to catch the first of the buses I needed to use to navigate my way around SE London. After twelve steps along the road it started raining with feeling. My mood didn’t improve much.

As I yomped by the infants school on the way, the teachers were yelling at the kids to get inside out of the rain. I don’t remember my schoolmasters calling us in out of the playground to get dry. I’m sure we ended up huddled under a tree in the corner, fatties on the inside, skinnies on the outer (sorry, the phone lines for this week’s quiz question “Where did Bealing stand?” have been closed).

Come to think of it, when we were their age we were never issued sun hats in the summer nor reflective vests when we went on school trips, but the hats seem to be de rigueur whenever the sun peeps through and my train to London is often full of little yellow herberts looking like an Oompa Loompa chain gang. When we went out on school trips we were pretty much left to our own devices. They counted us out and counted us in, rounding up any odd numbers. Or down – no two teachers ever counted us in the same way. We once lost thirteen kids on a trip to London Zoo. Five of them are still missing, presumed eaten.

But I digress.

Up to the bus stop, my coat sopping wet by now, to join the end of a queue of five or six other poor sodden sods. The electronic sign on the bus shelter said the 108 bus to North Greenwich would be 7 minutes. Sure enough, 11 minutes later it arrived. The people ahead of me filed onto the bus, one by one, until it was my turn to take the step up on board. Just as I was about to do so, and with military precision some young, complete cabbage, replete with man-bag and ipod ran up the hill towards us and with one bound leapt in front of me onto the footplate and got on board ahead of me. I was shocked and stunned, and not a little amazed. However, true to form, I kept my feelings of deep resentment and savage anger to myself. My only concession to my fury was to bark at the middle of my voice “Jesus! there are a lot of rude bastards around”. But the object of my disaffections had long since moved along the bus, and anyway his earphones were clamped to his lugholes so he was deaf to my rantings (thank christ: he was a big unit).

Alighting at the Dome, I quickly went about my business and after no more than fifteen minutes I found myself in another queue, this time waiting for the 132 bus to Eltham which, as if to catch us all by surprise, arrived on time. There wasn’t a seat to be had, so me and this rather plump, elderly woman (almost indistinguishable nowadays) carrying numerous heavy shopping bags stood rather closely together in the well usually reserved for baby buggies and wheelchairs. I would have happily sat in either if they were available. The old girl looked knackered and I wasn’t sure she’d make the trip.

Facing us, virtually touching the old lady’s knees, sat a thirty-something couple. He had an accent – either American or Canadian (to my shame I still can’t differentiate one from the other) – and had clearly been in the country a lot longer than his partner as he was going through his shopping bags, minutely detailing and explaining the buys therein. Clearly both the food and toy Departments of Tescos in nearby Bow had taken a bit of a pounding.

“This is Clue” he bellowed at a rather irritating volume “but for some reason they call it ClueDO over here”. She was sitting right next to him. Why was he shouting? “I can’t figure why they’d wanna change the name.”

He pulled out the next item from his jamboree bag. “And see ? They have Peanut Butter Cups here. I didn’t think they had them over here. I looked for them for weeks. But now it turns out they totally do. So I bought some. Awesome. It’s so tough to find anything over here that you really need.”

“Wow!” said the girl, looking as if she was feigning both interest and consciousness. I felt a touch of the Basil Fawltys coming over me. (“I’m sorry if the road wasn’t wide enough, a lot of English cars have steering wheels”)

If it wasn’t for the wilting poor cow next to me, I could have put up with this loud, irritating twat. As it was, I was getting a little concerned that the old girl was buckling. Eventually, remembering my annoyance at the queue-jumper earlier, added to my irritation at this boring git in front of me, I could no longer help myself.

“Scuse me for butting-in, mate,” I was leaning in close to him so as not to make too much of a scene “but you might be interested in another couple of strange things we do over here ?”

“Oh yeah?  Like what ?”. He seemed genuinely interested.

“Well,” I continued “For starters, when we see an old lady nearly collapsing in front of us, we often get up and offer her our seat. We also use phrases like ‘oh I’m sorry’ and ‘excuse me, would you like to sit down?’ ”

He looked embarrassed, as did his girlfriend. He jumped to his feet and hurried the old biddy into the seat. “Sorry, man, I didn’t realise” he offered.

“Don’t apologise to me, mate” I retorted, “apologise to that lady, you ignorant fucker”. I think that one broke down any language barrier ok.

For the remainder of the trip I buried  my head into my phone messages, my work here being done. The rude and boring Canuks/Yanks got off soon after our exchange. The old lady and I swapped knowing glances. Her my Damsel in Distress, me her Shite in Whining Armour. Or is that armor?

I had finally woken up. I was on a roll. And just in time to visit the bank. That was bound to cheer me up.

 

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