Happy Families

Just after the war, 1947 I think it was, my father was arrested trying to place a bet for his then future father-in-law. Clutching a filthy little tanner in his filthy little hands (cos he was one of the boys), Jerry (for that is my dad’s name)walked smack bang into a police raid on an illegal betting shop above a grocers in Erith, Kent. Dad spent 4 hours in a cell before being let off to get a bollocking from his mum. Bill, the father-in-law saw neither his half-crown nor a betting slip. Dad’s always been a kind of hero to me for that. I bet he shit himself at the time. Even moreso when my nan got hold of him.

Jerry Bealing Enjoying his Freedom

But dads sure can be an embarrassment. Snooker star Ronnie O’Sullivan‘s old man, for example. Ronnie Senior spent 17 years in jail for the racist attack and murder of a bloke in a club in the King’s Road, Chelsea. Cor!, eh ? How embarrassing ! I’m sure his son’s nice, though.

Then there was the case of the father of England soccer captain John Terry who was filmed by a former newspaper dealing cocaine. Dear old Edward Terry passed three wraps of cocaine to a News of the World (remember that?) reporter in a bar in exchange for £120 per wrap, presumably to pay for his wife’s (John’s mum – do keep up) shoplifting habit. What a lovely family they make ? Christmas  lunch must be a real treat around their house with Edward free-basing, Mrs Terry in her oversize coat , and  John with somebody else’s wife, all sitting down for a festive lunch.. Merry Christmas, one and all – I know John loves a good Dickens. Who doesn’t ?

Now we read of dear old Wayne Rooney‘s pater. Wayne Senior (not to be confused with Ronnie Senior) was arrested along with 8 other men (including his brother Richie) regarding suspicious betting patterns during a Motherwell vrs Hearts match. Apparently the police’s suspicions were aroused when they were alerted that 9 people were actually watching a Scottish football match in the first place. Never in the history of Scotch sport have 9 people offered money on the match outcome. They must have stood out like the Archbishop of Golders Green.

Wayne, Wayne and Wayne on Holiday.

I don’t know if this sort of behaviour is confined to the parents of famous sporting stars, or whether all our mums and dads have the potential to make us hang our heads in shame. My mate Mark was a fantastically gifted rugby and cricket player, though strictly amateur. When he died at an uncommonly early age his dad ran off with all the money Mark had bequeathed to his nephews. Go figure. Must be the pressure of being a dad. Or perhaps he’s just a thieving cvnt.

I regularly try to, and often succeed in embarrassing my kids. They think I dress like an old bloke (check), am fat like an old bloke (yup) and tell all the same jokes all the time, that weren’t funny in the first place (got me again). My stroke has slowed me down a bit, emphasising just really old I am, in their eyes at least. My youngest has already made it known that she expects the lion’s share of whatever is in my will (what will?). You can hear her totting up the cash every time I have a slight relapse.

But it’s all in good fun (he hopes). Dad’s main function is to embarrass the kids. If I partake in a spot of old-man dancing, listen to too much Status Quo or emit nauseous gases every so often when standing up, or sitting down… or just sitting still, come to think of it, then that is part of dad’s prerogative. I haven’t killed anyone in a racist frenzy with a six-inch knife, like Mr O’Sullivan (senior), or contributed to the drug cartels’ coffers like Mr Terry (senior, of course) or even fucked off to Ramsgate with the family money like my mate Mark’s dad.

On me ‘ead, Ted. Or up me nose, I suppose.

Wayne senior’s crimes seem small-fry compared to these, and he will doubtless blame his abberation on the embarrassment he feels when watching his son arse about on the football field like he did last night against Mesopotamia. Wayne may still blame Wayne, of course (in any order you like) for the headlines regarding the hair transplant/manky old prostitute/betting shop anomaly  (delete where or if applicable).

So let’s leave Wayne’s dad alone. It must take some doing, living under the enormous shadow of his son, Shrek, and the circus that follows him and his frightful missus around. I’d be prone to rash decision and dubious actions, just like the ‘Motherwell 9’ if I were in that position. If my kids ever find out I actually bet a fiver on England winning the Rugby World Cup they’d disown me for life. Like the England Rugby team, the whole Rooney family is an embarrassment to each other. At least they bloody well should be. Dad Wayne should be left merely to receive a bollocking from his mum and a cash award from the SPL for bringing Scottish Football to the attention of the world for the first time since Archie Gemmill danced his way through the Dutch defence (as easy as a Bosnian Serb strolling past a Dutch roadblock).

Vive la France.

This Story Has Legs

I think it was Arthur Daley who, when his minder, Terry, said to him ” ‘ere, Arfur, lend us a tenner, I’m a bit short” replied:
“Well if you’re short, I’m a dwarf “.

Aren’t short people fascinating ? And there’re a lot of em about. Hitler and Napoleon (Boneparte, not Solo) to name two – not that I’m suggesting they’re still around. Al Pacino, Tom Cruise, Charlie Drake, Diego Maradona never excelled at the High Jump at school. Guy Fawkes too was a tiddler, though admittedly that wasn’t until he had his legs sawn off for being naughty underneath Parliament.

There appear to be no records of Fawkes height either before he was caught or indeed post hoct te proc, but suffice to say I doubt if he was a happy little Guido after becoming deficient in the leg department to the tune of two. Then again he wasn’t alone: short people are invariably a miserable bunch- especially the male of the species. Short Man Syndrome is well documented and we all know at least one snappy little git, intent on making amends lack of stature.

So many of them become leaders of (taller) men too. The aforementioned Adolf, and Boney had reasonable success in their chosen careers (mass genocide and continent-conquering), Maradonna captained his country, before he started eating it and the French are currently led by a bloke who carries a box under his arm in case he has to reach a microphone (or kiss the missus). I’m unsure how tall Gaddafi is.

I was traumatised by an early Ginsters Pies ad campaign which seem to depict their factory entirely manned by midgets (“Ginsters Pies: Made By Dwarves”. Remember that next time you’re in a service station).

Then there’s Ian Hislop and Ricky Ponting, who may-or-may-not be one and the same person. Hislop edits a satirical magazine (the name of which escapes me) and Ponting leads the Australian Cricket team. Ok,  at 5’10” Ricky isn’t technically a midget but for the purposes of this rubbish he could be considered the world’s tallest short bloke. He certainly scowls and chunters around the pitch like he’s short. A tragic victim of Short Bloke’s Disease.

Ricky hasn’t had a very good winter. He and his team lost The Ashes (again) during which Ricky hurt his finger. He hurt it so much it makes him grumpy. All winter long he’s been even more grumpy than usual. He’s been throwing his tinnies out of his dunnie, screaming at his hapless bowlers and arguing with the umpires even more than usual. Poor old Punter. He’s not gonna be that chuffed tonight after his mob lost to Pakistan. Perhaps the Aussies didn’t have enough dollars to have a whip-round for the Pak bowlers, but just when Ricky needed to see the sight of a dodgy bookie in the oppo’s changing room, there came none.

Hislop;Ponting: Never seen in the same room together.

The recent weeks have seen a lot of funny old results. Ireland vrs England (cricket); Ireland vrs England (rugby); Bangladesh vrs England (cricket again – are you beginning to see a pattern here?); then there’s the hilarious Italy vrs France (rugby again); not forgetting Gaddafi’s Loyalist Troops XI making a spectacular comeback in extra time against The Rebels U18 XI, just before the Rest of The World XV threw in a couple of subs (and strikers).

Tonight’s rugby match between England and Ireland was just the latest in odd results.  Maybe it’s the Supermoon ? It looks pretty super to me. All I know is tonight’s ref (a nasty little Kiwi I think) had little legs. QED.

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?



A Short History of Just about Nothing

I suppose it happens to each of us from time to time, and this week I started making tentative enquiries as to who or what my ancestors were. I know what triggered it:- a cable channel has been running back-to-back every one of the BBC’s many episodes of Who Do You Think You Are ?, a show where celebrities and the like are taken through a long, often tortuous journey back in time to trace their family trees.

Among the nuggets the show threw up was that Mayor Boris Johnson’s predecessors ruled most of Europe (shock), many of Stephen Fry’s family were jews butchered by the Nazis (v upsetting for him and for the viewer) and Ainsley Harriot’s great, great something or other was a white bloke running a plantation in the West Indies, raping the slave girls wherever he went (knocked a dirty great hole in Ainsley that one, poor sod).

It got me thinking, and that hasn’t happened for a while. I realised that I knew next to sod all about my family. I had known well all four of my grandparents. Both granddads were in the forces -that’s one of them, my mum’s dad Bill- at the top of this page, about to go off to the far east- and the other, Bryan, was a sailor (I have the sea in my blood and if you look carefully you can see where it gets in). But I know little or nothing of their fathers, or their fathers’ fathers. Or their fathers’ fathers’ fathers (ok, Stan don’t labour the point).

Many years ago a bloke called Nigel Bealing (an unknown to my branch of the clan) sent my father a completely unsolicited package which appeared to contain our family tree, or at least the parts he said he’d been able to plot. I’ve no idea where all those documents within that parcel ended up (probably in my dad’s loft) but the only things anyone ever remembers of their contents was a vaguely convincing coat of arms and the fact that we are, apparently, descended from Lord Marmaduke Boleyn, second cousin of Anne Boleyn, she of Henry VIII fame. Boleyn to Bealing in 500 easy years. Hmmm….

Apart from the rather uneasy feeling that there was royalty in my blood (however distant or tenuously linked), the news didn’t really impress me too much, such is the apathy of youth, and I pretty much forgot about it for years after. But as one rapidly approaching his 46th birth anniversary, with the fear of mortality kicking in, and treating myself to a week-long diet of B-listers’ family archives, I decided to my own digging. What would I find? More royalty? Murderers? Artists? Accountants ? (please god, no).

So, having more time on my hands than is decent, I searched for ancestry websites. The start of my long long journey into the past had begun, to become acquainted with all those magnificent old sods whose stories, whose lives and existences I knew nothing at all about. How exciting, I thought. Centuries of Bealings awaited me. Was Anne Boleyn the last of the line to have six fingers? Have we always had small gentetalia? Is my lineage, like Tony Hancock’s “100% Anglo Saxon with just a touch of viking?”. Could it be I’m distantly related to Ainsley Harriot?

First stop: the 1911 census. There he was: My granddad

Apart from the fact that they’d for some reason got his date of birth wrong (he was born in 1900) it was rather pleasing and eerie to see him there in black and white, or black and blue anyway. But apart from that one entry, that’s as much as I got. I don’t know his dad’s name, his DOB or anything really. I could have delved deeper but that would have meant registering and with the site and ‘buying credits’, whatever that meant. My sudden surge of enthusiasm for the past was evaporating like the morning mist on Blackheath common.

No matter. It would wait for another day. It’s taken me 45.9 years to take an interest in old Marmaduke and his descendants so another couple of months won’t do any harm, will it? I logged off and returned to my job-seeking activities. Then tonight, while wading through a whole slew of 911 programs I’d recorded over the weekend I was idly surfing the web when the ancestry bug nibbled me again.

In an act of pure self-indulgence I started Googling the family name. Christ ! There are hundreds of us. Far too many to bother with on a Sunday evening. So I clicked onto Google images to see what I could find there. Here too were many different pictures of Bealings I had no idea existed. There was a John and a Clive. I found a photo of Paul from New Zealand. There was a Crystal Bealing, a black girl from the States and Nicola Bealing, a successful artist from Cornwall. Hundreds of people all with the same silly surname. I suppose if I’d ever joined Facebook I might have found out all of this years ago. But I didn’t. And, just for the record, I won’t.

Feeling reinvigorated, and with plenty of new leads and relatives to keep me busy for the next eon, I was just about to close down my laptop when out of the corner of my eye I spotted a rather odd-looking picture. It was a page from something called Rudy’s List of Archaic Medical Terms.
It is, as is suggested by the title, a list of of rather old an odd words which the medical profession once used. At least I hope they once used them. There, somewhere between some affliction called Bay Sore and the rather alarmingly sounding Beaver Feaver, was this:

If you’re finding that difficult to read, I shall assist. It reads: Beal – A small inflammatory tumor; a pustule. To gather matter; to swell and come to a head, as a pimple. See Boil a tumor. (Prov. Eng.) [Webster1913].

Ok, ok, very funny, I suppose, if your name happens to be Beal. But I’m not. Clearly. But underneath was a derivation, a useage.

An example from an 1853 mortality schedule from Kentucky:

I repeat: Cause of Death: Bealing in the Throat !

Can you image my disappointment? Here I was hoping to discover that I’m the rightful air to the fortunes of some long-forgotten dynasty who were once the toast of the royal courts of Europe, who owned not only all the tea in China but the cups and saucers too. Instead I find that when my forefathers filled in a mortgage application, the staff at Ye Old Abbey National were sent into fits of giggles on reading a letter from a Mr Pustule. I’d had enough again. Sod the lineage. Shut down Mac.

And I don’t want to go down the route of how one could die of “Bealing in the Throat”, I shall leave that to your dirty smutty little minds. Just move away from the computer and forget you ever read about it. Regular readers of this column should find that easy enough.

And the rest is geography.

Hitler’s Bunker

What General Weygand called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us.

Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science.

Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’

Winston Churchill, speaking to the House of Commons, Westminster, London, June 18, 1940

Meanwhile, just up the road in Richmond, more stirring words…

Replace your divots, sir ! Especially that big one.


On Manoeuvres

The Israeli military is to investigate the behaviour of its troops in Gaza. Many around the world will wonder if this is just another whitewash, to be seen to be doing the right thing, a sham investigation as so many have been before. But what exactly has caused the uproar this time ? More use white phosphorus against the indigenous population ? The massacre of the innocents ? Contravening international laws on human rights by boarding ships laden with aid for the starving ? No, not this time. This is potentially much worse.

According the the agency AFP “the matter is currently being investigated by the battalion commanders,” a terse statement said, with media reports saying those involved were likely to be punished for “inappropriate conduct during a military operation.”

That doesn’t sound very good does it ? You be the judge:

It’s a difficult one to get your head around, isn’t it ? On the one hand we all have our own opinions on the Israeli state: Either a tyrannical occupying force who slaughter innocents willy-nilly across the disputed territories; or a nation defending itself against Palestinian terrorists, preserving a Jewish state in the Holy Land, while being surrounded by Arabs, Palestinians and other aggressive neighbours, all of whom have claims to the same territory. There’s no point arguing the toss here, you’ll probably guess which side of the fence I’m on.

However, of all the atrocities which have taken place in the Middle East, six conscript squaddies line dancing in a street when they’re supposed to be on patrol seems a little trivial. The world will scream “shame!” and want them disciplined. Doubtless these lads will be up before the beak, an example made of them. But I wonder. I dunno about you, but it’s the politicians who should be strung up, not the poor sods they send into battle. A long succession of Israeli Governments, aided and abetted by the Yanks and the Brits of all political persuasions are those who should be in the dock, not these blokes.

Your Israeli youth has no choice but to join up. Countless conscripts have been killed since 1948 and there seems little end in sight. There’s no doubting that they face an organised and determined foe, and that life on the front line can be no fun. So who can really blame them for letting their hair down, releasing the tension and having a little bit of R&R before the next sniper or bomber targets them ?

Oooh ! that’s a bit serious, MB, lighten up, mate !

Yeah well, sometimes (not often) but sometimes The Sharp Single goes off at odd tangent, and this is one of those times.

I was searching Youtube for the video to see what all the fuss was about, and what really offended me was the lack of preparation these guys had put into their routine. Full-pack or not, there’s no excuse for being out of step or out of time, especially when there’s only six of you. The world is watching, so for god’s sake pull your finger out. That’s what you get from conscripts I suppose.

Now a PROFESSIONAL outfit knows how to choreograph a dance routine. The British Army has, over the years, shown the world a thing or two in the theatre of war, and this is no different. I’m not so sure they really are SAS (it matters not one jot), but as a prime example of off-duty troops, in a hell-hole where they really don’t wanna be, making the most of it and having fun, I’ve seen no better. A tradition which started with synchronised waltzing at Rorke’s Drift, through to mass Lambeth Walking at Ypres, it’s good to see there’s some things our boys still excel at. Do carry on.