A Great Talent


Still crying.

The Fight Starts Now, Right After Mummy’s Made My Supper


You’re reading a blog written by a bloke who seems to be one of the few who has yet to watch the Kony video. I was forwarded it by The Incumbent, who had in turn been sent it by her son. I didn’t watch it. My daughter asked if I’d seen it ‘yet’ (presuming some sort of inevitability about me watching it).  I hadn’t, and I haven’t. She should know me better than that by now.

I dunno if my complete lack of bovveredness about this latest in a long line of bandwagons rolling by is due merely to my growing awareness of my position standing on the wrong side of the age-gap, my long-held and well-founded deep suspicion and mistrust of social networks and their ensuing campaigns, or whether it’s the fact that this really does seem like a very old story indeed to me. Don’t get me wrong – it is a horrific-sounding story, and one which has been covered endlessly by the quality press over the years. You know the quality press ? They’re the lot who’ve been labelled as useless and corrupt thanks to Levenson Inquiry. For those reading this from the Twittersphere, you’ll find the quality press on the shelf in the newsagent ( that’s the shop next to the laundromat) below Heat Magazine and the Glee fanzines.

Maybe it’s because ever since I witnessed those middle class teenage wankers ruin a perfectly enjoyable and effective student demo last year, including throwing fire extinguishers off buildings at the coppers below, I’ve been less than impressed with the present crop of activist. Pater must have been jolly miffed with them when they returned home for evensong.

Then again, it could be my opinion that citizen journalism is a dangerous, un-policeable threat to well-researched, fact-checked and verified copy (this blog aside, of course), or maybe it’s because there are a million other things happening in the world to worry about, starting with Syria, the invasion of Iran, missiles from Israel, Banker’s corruption, and the disbandment of the NHS. Working my way down the list from there, past Scottish Devolution, which colour hat the Queen will wear at Ascot, the Downton Abbey plot and who’s going to win Masterchef until we arrive at the fate of Joseph Kony.

These views won’t of course be universally popular, but there’s something grating to me about the Teeny Tots of the Twittersphere presuming they can change the world cos they know how to shorten an email link and can use the letters OMFG with impunity. Labeling someone a “Douchebag” or calling each others efforts “Awesome” does not a New Model Army make (by the way, that’s the last time you’ll read either word here).

And there my thin and badly thought-out argument rested. After all, I haven’t actually seen the film and you wouldn’t expect one so level-headed as I to attack something I haven’t seen, would you ? Then I watched Charlie Brooker last night, and he has saved me from ever watching the sodding video. I never knew the film-maker was, in fact, an evangelical, bible-bashing, doucheb… there, you nearly got me at it. Turns out there is more to these videos than just saving little children.

Thanks Charlie.  Not further questions, your witness. Oh, sorry, did I disturb your Facebook session ? Oh never mind, let me know what you think if and when you manage to get out of bed. And do hurry up, your mum’s made lunch.

The One Where Mike Sees Both Sides of the Argument.


It’s difficult sometimes to know who to shout for, isn’t it ? I mean if you were watching a Rugby match and Wales were playing, well, anyone really you know you’ll be cheering for whoever that anybody is. No contest there, no flipping of a coin. A cricket match between Australia and er…. well, you know you’ll vocally support “and er…”, don’t you ? Equally true if you don’t happen to hail from Blighty and England are playing Football/Cricket/Anything against Anyone Else. The Anyone Else XI will be the bookies favourites outside these shores.

But what if one of the most evil and vile of all football teams goes into administration? What if a side disappear which has harboured and promoted sectarianism, (along with the other lot), succoured and supported everything that is nasty and abhorrent in football and in British society ? How do we feel if they go to the wall ? Happy ? Perhaps. Good bloody riddance to them ? Maybe.

But , in truth, they won’t be going anywhere. They will immediately be docked 10 points for going into administration which will take the club from 2nd place in the league down to …er…2nd place in the league. That’s how far the top 2 are ahead of the chasing pack. (if you take 10 points off them right now, they’ll still be 9 points ahead of third place, such is the joke of the pointless Scottish Football set up).

So they won’t win the league this year, but they probably wasn’t going to anyway. That bunch of bigots from the other side of the tracks are 4 points clear anyway and look set fair to win it. Again. Rampant sectarianism and bigotry aside, (and, no it hasn’t or ever will go away from the Auld Firm) can you be forgiven for feeling sorry for Rangers getting themselves into so much trouble ? Spending more than they could justify in the never-ending effort to beat rivals Glasgow Celtic and win at least one match against European oppo each year ? Shouldn’t we say “oh fuck ’em” and be done with it ?

But what about all the little people behind the scenes who make the club tick, who rely on the club for their wages, the income from the fans on a Saturday, the club shop and the local Union Jack supplier ? They can’t all be Unionist Nutters, can they ? Then again, without Rangers, what’s the point of Celtic ? If Alec Salmond gets his way, there’ll be no hopping over the border for a kick about in the English Premier League so the Bhoys will be left with a dull Saturday at ForfarfiveFifefour Academicals, or a wet Wednesday night playing Partick Thistlenil. That’s no existance for anyone.

But doubtless the Gers will return next season, just with cheaper flags and one or two fewer bowler hats. The two teams will spend the next millenia hurling abuse at each other, punctuated only by a football match breaking out occasionally (well, 4 times a year, if you don’t mind, excluding cup matches) because if this isn’t allowed to happen, scottish football will go the same way its rugby went – bereft of fans or supporters, with the authorities having to give away tickets to primary schools to foster the illusion that people actually want to turn up to watch this shite. So we have to hope the industry that is Rangers FC survives. I know, I can’t believe I’m writing it either.

Meanwhile, another bunch of hard-nosed bastards face extinction and extermination. The poor old tabloid journalist is under the cosh and he does not like it. Trevor Kavanagh, Associate editor of The Sun attacked the arrests of his colleagues by police as “heavy handed” and a “witch hunt” and “disproportionate”. And he would know. If there was ever a witch hunt which could be described as heavy handed and disproportionate look no further than the Joanna Yeates murder investigation, when the paper (among others) hounded and publicly hung Christopher Jefferies for the woman’s killing. According to the paper this was an open-and-shut case of a beardy-wierdy attacking and killing a young blonde luvverly. (And thank fuck she was blonde and luvverly or we’d have never read a word of it).

The paper (manfully aided and abetted by the Mirror and the Mail) were judge, jury and executioner on this case, just one of the many, many occasions where a private individual was hounded out of house and home because a hack didn’t like the cut of his jib. Will anybody shed a tear for these reptiles who have made so many lives a misery ? Probably not. I dunno why these blokes are worrying about anyway. If they’d read their own copy over the years they’d realise that prison is like a holiday camp and that it’s better on the inside than it is out.

But Kavanagh does point out that an example seems to being made of the Sun. Well, that’s as may be. It does help, of course, that my former employers over at News International (d’you know ? I miss them more than ever at the moment) seem hell bent on shopping anyone and everyone that’s come within a gnat’s chuff of this story, just as long as Rupe, James and Rebekah are spared the ignominy of a 4 o’clock wakey wakey call. But all this certainly seems to be buying Trinity Mirror and Associated Newspapers enough time to nip down to Staples and order another half dozen shredders before the rozzers arrive. Trevor is right that, at the moment, it seems like the only crooks in town are Sun journos.

But what of the arresting officers ? Have we forgotten that the coppers waking up shagging Sun journos in the early hours are working for the force which is the other half of the same mucky coin. There are far more bent coppers being questioned and suspended on Operation Fuck They’ve Caught Us Out than anyone imagined – an early indication of the Met Police’s  “Buy One Get One Free” policy, available to all good news outlets up until very recently.

So we have bent coppers arresting bent journos. Now it depends on which side of the fence you sit, but corrupt state law enforcers against privately paid operators carrying out the orders of their superiors ? It’s a tough one, innit ? Rangers or Celtic ?

In a final oddity, Sean Penn has come out on the side or Argentina in the Falklands row. Now then, that’s a teaser. If you were judging Sean on Shanghai Surprise I may be shouting GOTCHA! from the rooftops. As it is, his role as Harvey Milk has saved him in my eyes, so Viva Las Malvinas it is. And if settling a major political military crisis by judging a man’s filmography isn’t the way forward, then I don’t know what is.

Our Frank


Photo and half time oranges courtesy of Mr Terry Kirk

You’ll notice a couple of things about the above photo. Firstly, how the young man on the far left of the front row has hardly changed at all over the past 25 years since the snap was taken of the Dartfordians 1st XV 1985/86. The young then-winger went onto become one of east Bexley’s least talked about centers, one of the country’s slowest fast bowlers and writer of mumbling and bumbling slightly-left-of-centre blogs, part-time t-shirt maker and scaffolder’s knee-wrencher.

You’ll also notice the rather imposing figure, third in from the left of the back row of Frank Wallen. Man-mountain, father, brother (in all senses of the word), all-in wrestler, civil servant and tickler of the ivories (he played all the right notes in the right order). Frank died last night, they tell me, apparently of a heart attack. He will be sorely, sorely missed.

Frank was my vice captain when for some reason I was asked to captain the 1st XV. It was a long time ago, but the memories of my disastrous and lacklustre attempts to skipper that side still keep awake at night those poor sods who were there to witness it.

Not that Frank need have taken any of the blame for our appalling form (and I’d like to meet the bloke who’d have blamed him.) While my alcohol or apathy-related injuries prevented me from attending midweek training, Frank would be there, with the other 7 attendees, running around the dark and wet field, scaring and scragging people as he went. He did all this without a moan, without once having a go at me for not being there/being in the pub/staying at work/being in the pub (delete where applicable). Good job too: I’d have shit myself if he’d had done so.

Off the pitch he was as gentle a man you could ever wish to meet. Quiet, with a magnificent sense of humour and smile to match, he would sit at the bar, pipe on the go, nodding and giggling along with whatever story was being rolled out again for the umpteenth time. He was terrific company and seemed amiable and happy all the time.

On the pitch was a slightly different story. My mate Keith – no mean player himself – recounts the day as a 19 year old he took his place in the side as hooker, alongside Frank in the scrummage (Frank would have been around 30 by then already). The match was against local rivals Gravesend, and at each and every scrum, Frank’s opposite number would take the opportunity to call Frank a “black cvnt” every time their heads came close. What this bloke was going to do to Our Frank during and after the match was no-one’s business and anyone’s guess. Sadly for the Gravesend player (let’s call him Terry), the end of the game came sooner than expected. For him, at least.

As Keith jogged across to a lineout, he saw Terry, hands on his knees, bent over grabbing huge lungfuls of air between plays. Then something odd happened. Nothing is certain, but it seems Terry must have slipped because, all of a sudden, his chin came into violent connection with a freshly-arrived knee (the colour of which has never been proven). Terry exited the pitch quickly, chin-first, eyes shut, at a 30 degree angle and four feet above the ground, until he landed on the cricket square between pitches (somewhere around backward short leg). Frank looked around innocently. Keith threw up.

Everyone on the circuit knew Frank. He sorta stood-out. It wasn’t just that he was one of the few black prop-forwards around (we down the Rugby Club also enjoyed the playing company of his younger, bigger brother Brian), he was also as strong as one man could possibly be. I mean scary-strong.

Perhaps it was this strength that lent itself so readily to Frank’s other sporting passion: All-In Wrestling. These were the days well before WWF or Wrestlemania or whatever. Men in ill-fitting cotton and spandex outfits, pretending to jump up and down on other men, similarly attired. It must have been so hard for Frank to “pretend”.

But he didn’t fight as Frank Wallen. No, no, nothing as drab as that. When our Big Frank entered the ring he became none other than “Soul Brother Butcher” Dave Bond. It just rolled off the tongue in a way his opponents rolled off the canvass. Of this world of fixed bouts, of goodie and baddies, and little old women screaming at someone to “rip ‘is bloomin’ ‘ead orf”, Frank would tell you that he never competed as a goody. “Apart from in Brixton” he would add with smile.

After a rugby match, if you were particularly lucky, Frank and his big mate John Harrison (another big unit) would sit either end of a piano keyboard and treat you to some honky-tonk.  If you were really really lucky you’d have been in a public bar when this mate John pretended to square up to Frank, having the effect of terrifying the barman due to the imminent prospect of a huge punch-up between two enormous men. As the poor innkeeper, fearful of the pub’s decor, nervously shouted “I’ll call the police”, both Frank and John would cuddle the poor guy, Frank in fits of laughter as John (a member of Her Majesty’s Met Police) would tell him “they’re already here, mate”.

But more often than not, you’d find Frank sitting at the bar, supping on his pint and pipe, smiling and listening to all around him, chatting about the game that afternoon. He knew he was a little different, that he cut an impressive dash, an imposing figure. But all Frank wanted to do was to enjoy life, a game and a pint.

As I left the clubhouse one night, he got me into a headlock to tell me a joke (it’s what he did).
“Hey, Bomber, why do white girls go out with black blokes ?”
Dreadfully nervous of putting my foot in it I replied lamely “er…I dunno, Frank”
“To get their handbags back” he cracked. Huge grin across his face, giggling to himself like a schoolboy.

“Now Frank, you’d have killed anyone here if they’d have told you that” I suggested.
“Yep, but they never would, Mike.” he grinned “They never would”.

Stephen Lawrence. Anyone Really Surprised?


It’s very laudable, even easy to moan about the “Institutional Racism” in our Police Force. You don’t need to be a ranting left-wing loony to know just how differently the ethnic minorities are treated by the police compared to their white fellow citizens. The hilarious “Constable Savage” sketch of Not the Nine O’Clock News in the 1980s doesn’t seem dated, even though it’s more than 30 years later. Racism in the Met didn’t end with the disbandment of the SPG. Far from it. Savage holding someone for “possession of thick lips and curly black hair” would raise a giggle from many were it shown again tonight. (though the BBC wouldn’t now show it – far too un-pc for the sensitive audiences of today.)

Not that Atkinson or Rhys-Jones wrote it as a racist sketch, but as an attack on the (then) horribly racist Old Bill. Everybody laughed though (well we all did anyway), whether at the Police or the racist charges which the characters discuss within the show. But for many in the black community the skit was merely a reminder of the sort of shite they were putting up with every day on the streets of our cities. But the rest of ‘polite society’ laughed. Well it was farhking funny, wonnit ? Like Alf Garnet or Archie Bunker, their humour was often enjoyed by the very racists it was attacking. But that was years ago. Last century. A long forgotten time.

Really ? What about the poor Indian student Anuj Bidve shot in the head in Salford last week by someone with the self-anointed monicker “Psycho”. How about the overwhelming attitude and apathy of the white middle-classes to the news of anyone of colour shot by Her Majesty’s finest. Or John Terry‘s alleged racist abuse of a fellow professional sportsman. “SAVE OUR JOHN ! ” “But he’s England Captain !!!”” You can’t have a go at him !!”

At the other end of society I stood in a boozer a couple of months ago next to two men, ADULTS (and up to then assumed by me to be vaguely educated men) who used on three occasions the word coon in reference to a football player. And it’s not the only time I’ve heard the term recently. I know a bloke (I used to play rugby with him) who still uses the word, or derivatives of it. He finds it funny and has the cheek to presume I do too. He seems oblivious to the fact he is being offensive of the highest order. When you approach these people, protesting that you are offended by such language, they invariably roll their eyes, laugh at you and accuse you of taking it too seriously. (I can hear them doing it now, reading this).  I understand that the Chelsea skipper isn’t denying he used the language against Anton Ferdinand, but that we are in the wrong by taking it the wrong way. Oh I see: He called Anton a Black Cunt out of context. Silly me.

So who are we, the general public, to pin the badge of Institutional Racism on the Police? Granted, it is clear the original investigation was either bungled or was hindered by monumental racist-driven neglect. So the coppers were either criminals or morons. Probably both. But until we refuse to stand by and allow our mates, fellow commuters, drinkers and colleagues to systematically use foul and racist language; until we refuse to accept as a joke or irrelevant trivia the continual stereotyping and abuse of black people who the hell are we to point the finger at the Old Bill ?

The Met Police have a lot to apologise for (wouldn’t it have been nice for Acting Deputy Commissioner Cressida Dick to have taken the opportunity to say sorry to the Lawrence family outside the Old Bailey tonight ?) but they hardly stand alone as a predominately racist institution. They do, after all, take their new recruits from members of the public. It’d be nice to think if it happened again society wouldn’t protect, consciously or subconsciously, the killers as many have done (and are still doing) in this case.  It’d be nice to think, but by no means certain.

Socrates Brasileiro Sampaio de Sousa Vieira de Oliveira


Not only a brilliant footballer, but a lot of points in Scrabble, Socrates Brasileiro Sampaio de Sousa Vieira de Oliveira, or just Socrates to you and me, has died. Having survived a long career of being forced to wear some of the smallest shorts in sporting history, his hobbies of smoking, drinking and fathering kids (see And Where were the Germans? previous post) finally caught up with him.

Said The Daily Telegraph:

“Socrates – who also played at the 1986 World Cup finals – was a flamboyant footballer who boasted a myriad of contradictions.

He was a qualified doctor who never gave up his enjoyment of a smoke and a drink; he was an outspoken political activist, regularly protesting against the Brazilian military junta of the 1970s and 1980s.

He once listed his heroes as Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and John Lennon, fathered six children and spent his retirement penning passionate articles on politics and economics as well as sport.

Socrates won 60 caps for Brazil, scored 22 goals and was a contemporary of the great Zico.

After officially ending his playing career in 1989, he bizarrely reappeared 15 years later, at the age of 50, with Garforth Town, an amateur side in the backwoods of northern England where he featured for just 10 minutes of action.”

A bit of a bolshy bastard, who loved a gasper (this is me talking now, not The Telegraph), Dr Socrates is remembered as much as a champion of the little man and a fierce campaigner against tyranny and dictatorship as he was for his swift, elegant play, his back-heels and his marvellous goal celebrations.There’s a video on Youtube of his appearance at Garforth Town, but this is how you really wanna remember him.

In a world when all we’re left with is the dignity and charm of John Terry, the wit and wisdom of Joey Barton and the grace and sportsmanship of Robbie Savage, it’s nice to remember a time when soccer was populated with gentleman and scholars, in every sense of the word.
And shorts that cut you in half.

That’ll Bring Water to Your Eyes

MovemberGrid

Sir, The Gentlemen of the Press are Here


The British, or to be more precise, the British Press, or to be more precise, the English Press don’t like Sepp Blatter, though they’re not exactly alone on that one. They think he takes bungs, fixes elections, is anti-English. Fresh from the “row” about whether the English football team could wear poppies on Remembrance Sunday, and following his insightful views on women’s football (“Let the women play in more feminine clothes like they do in volleyball. They could have tighter shorts.”), match fixing (“I could understand it if it had happened in Africa, but not in Italy.”) and homosexuals (“I would say they should refrain from any sexual activities.”) there has been a torrent of outraged copy spewing out of Fleet Street regarding Blatter’s latest decree. The head of FIFA has opined that racism on the pitch should be forgotten with a handshake after the match. A ridiculous opinion indeed, but what a godsend for the hacks of the press ? Immediately headlines such as “Now Beckham and Cameron slam Sepp Blatter over racism in football” (Daily Mail) and Blatter Must Go” (The Sun) have ploughed into nasty Sepp in exactly the way they…er…didn’t attack John Terry when he was filmed calling Anton Ferdinand a f**king black c*nt”.

Exactly the same organs demanding the hated Blatter’s resignation are the ones not calling for Terry to go:  “Terry vows to clear his name in race storm” (Daily Mail) and “Terry is Gagging for Action with England” (Sun). That’s telling him ! Strong stuff, indeed.  The Blatter affair has saved the tabloids from having to chastise the serial-shagging Terry and focus their sights on nasty foreigner Sepp. There’s something quite ironic the Mail labeling someone a racist. But that’s another yarn for another day.

This latest case of double standards pales into insignificance compared to the coverage of the official inquiry into the workings of the press. When not attacking Johnny Foreigner, there’s nothing journalists like better than writing about other journalists. Journos think we, (or rather you) are, like them, equally infatuated with journalism and stories about it. This obsession with their own trade and fellow hacks more often than not supersedes any other story that may drop on their desks. And nothing, NOTHING excites a hack more than when other hacks are deemed to be up Shitestraße, a condition currently afflicting my old colleagues at News International. You may have noticed the absolute glee with which other media outlets have been reporting the phone hacking scandal.  The Guardian clearly has an axe to grind with the Murdoch press and are loving every second of the coverage. The BBC are visibly beside themselves. But they all should be very careful, I reckon.

One can only assume that the thus-far unquestioned members of the press have nothing to hide. Either that or they realise that Inspector Knacker is taking so long over the News of the World and associates, that by the time the law gets round to them the shredders will have been doing overtime and their friendly private eyes will have been shooed out the back door, taking a large wad of cash with them. All evidence of naughtiness will be long gone by the time the rozzers arrive at their door.

Wherever I worked, there was always a deeply held belief in the mantra “there but for the grace of god go I”. The Mail put in the wrong picture ? Poor sods – someone’s due for a kicking. Headline in The Times got a typo in it? Jesus, someone’s for it. We just knew that, sooner or later we’d drop a clanger and it would be our turn to be hauled over the coals. There was always a bunch of annoying hacks giggling about and reveling in the misfortune and the mistakes of other rags, but us photo bods knew better than to behave like that. We’d been there too often to carp.

But the recent events at the NoW are not the result of honest mistakes, no matter what Herr Flick says. This isn’t a case of mistakenly putting a pic of a boy from the wrong school in the paper (guilty as charged- Eton instead of Harrow) or putting a photo in upside down (property page – also guilty, your honour) or accidentally being pissed most afternoons (Happy Days. Oh fuck it, ok, I’d like 173 other offences taken into account). No we’re talking serious, intentionally-undertaken crimes here. As much as we’d like to think that this sort of behaviour was confined to Fortress Wapping, I think we all know that that’s unlikely. If I was the rest of Fleet St, I’d treat the phone hacking story with due reverence and respect. These things have a nasty habit of turning around and biting you on the arse, just when you’re gloating about them.

It only surprises me that all this seems to have come as a shock to most people. How the hell did they think the tabloids (and those pretending not to be tabloids) got their information from ? Through honest journalism ? Concerned readers offering exclusives to those nice gentlemen of the press ? Above-the-table briefings by policemen to reporters?

What will hang Fleet St is the same that has kept the UK tabs thriving for so many years: The ability (thru piles of cash) and the willingness (thru the unique competitiveness of the Street) to work outside the law to obtain ‘scoops’. The Scews was not the most read rag in the world for no reason. It delivered all the tawdry and ugly stories that the British public craved after. Whether the public demand for such shite is reason enough to go get these stories is a moot point. However, they spent fortunes hunting down these yarns, keeping them from the notebooks of their competitors, out-bidding anyone else that showed an interest. So many competing national papers in one small county propagates such a frenzied pursuit of higher readership figures.

The sort of pressures between titles, almost unique to London’s papers, made it almost inevitable that one day they’d go too far in their quest for the best story. What “too far” actually meant was open for debate for a long time. Apparently, if you happened to be successful and obtained celebrity through your work, reporters sneaking around your bins and eavesdropping on your private conversations was truly shocking, but frightfully readable, and understandable.  Gordon Taylor, (“that’s rotten, got any more?”) Elton John (“awful! what else ?”), Hugh Grant (“terrible! love it”). Then the manure hit the air-conditioning system. The Milly Dowler episode clearly was “too far”. Even the well-kept coppers, some of whom passed on vital info to the newspaper,  now displayed the sort of outrage and indignation a guilty party will often show. The mucky business was rife. Everyone knew it, but somehow no-one now admits they did.

A while back I was asked for a colleague’s mobile phone number. This colleague was a reporter who happened to be vaguely connected to someone famous who happened to be in the news at the time. The reporter who asked me for this number had gotten my number from a friend. I gave him a “fuck right off” for his trouble. This reporter was not working for the News of the World. He must have been another “lone rogue reporter” (there’s a lot of them about). I don’t know why he wanted the number. I just had a good idea why he wanted it. He was (and still is) a dodgy, slimy cvnt. I wasn’t playing his game.

Not that I am suggesting that the Mail, Mirror, Express, Guardian etc etc have anything to worry about. This is clearly only an issue which needs to be addressed over at Wapping and Wapping alone.

Nowhere else.

At all.

There’s nothing new here. You’d think that this distaste for and distrust of the press was a new thing. Don’t be fooled. In 1959 Peter Sellers, in “The Goons” episode The Scarlet Capsule had the line:

“Sir, the gentlemen of the press are here. I tried to hold ’em back, but they burst through by putting money in me hands”.

It could have been written yesterday.

…and there’s more…

Back in 1987 Jim Hacker was certainly under no illusions about the newspapers of London – or at least who they were read by.

.

Over 20 years later, comedians Hugh Dennis and Steve Punt updated it. Not much has changed. Apart from the addition to the list of The Independent and the fact that the Express and the Star are now recognised as newspapers – if that is the right word:
The Times is read by the people who run the country.
The Telegraph is read by the people think they run the country.
The Guardian is read by the people who have run the country for the past 12 years and realised they’re blown it.
The Independent is read by people who got to the newsagents after they’d run out of The Guardian and The Times.
The Mail is read by the wives of the people who run the country.
The Express is read by Marcus Brigstocke to wind himself up.
The Mirror is read by the people who vote for the people who read the Guardian and have now blown it.
The Sun is read people who’ll vote for people who’ll run the country to suit the people who read the Financial Times while somehow convincing themselves that those people will give a toss about the people who buy The Sun the moment the election’s over.
And The Star is read very … slowly … with your lips moving.

Up in Smoke


Since my little episode in the summer – when I hit the deck like the GB’s baton in the 400m relay – I’ve been like the Olympic Flame: never going out. Well, hardly ever. But “hardly ever going out” isn’t the end of one of my favourite jokes, so we’ll make do with never going out. Ok?

The route for the Olympic Torch has been announced this morning and, for better or worse, the good people or Dartford won’t be within either a javelin or a stone’s-throwing range of the runners and the flame. Good thing really cos The Incumbent has been practicing her aim with both. If a procession of tracksuit-clad locals and micro-celebrities were to jog past the Potting Shed, a violent salvo of objects, once destined for eBay, would be launched in their general direction. She may manage to cop someone of the stature of a Floella Benjamin or a Jim Davidson around the earhole with an old ornament, causing considerable damage.  But you can never be too sure of a direct hit, so it’s best the entourage stays well away from the neighbourhood.

Since we failed to secure even a single child’s ticket for the egg-and-spoon race, the London 2012 experience is not one to be enjoyed in our house. Coupled with my failure to get a job with the Olympic organization’s photo-team, mention of The Games is strictly verboten around here. (Although we are only assuming I didn’t get the job, me having not received a single word either way from the interviewers. Rude fvckers.)

Whenever there’s a news item about next year’s event, or Seb Coe’s beaming face appears on tv, the station is immediately switched off or over – even if it means watching another autopsy on Channel 4 (have they not got any other ideas?). The whole shambles/con (delete where applicable) over the ‘legacy’ and the football stadia, and the ‘affordable housing’ and the ticket prices has really left a nasty taste in the mouth, so we won’t be joining in the fun, if you don’t mind (I bet that’s come as a shock to you, hasn’t it?)

So no runners past the Potting Shed. No cheering-on of the torch by the farmhands. The locals at The Berchtesgaden Arms will not have the chance to wave the flag of St George in celebration of the flame’s progress. They’ll have to save their celebratory bender and Sieg Heil session until the Stephen Lawrence accused get off again.

Casting a cursory glance at the route I think I notice the joggers won’t be taking the torch around neither Tottenham nor Croydon. Probably for the best, I suppose. I think they’ve had enough of flames for a while. That bloke in the furniture shop has only just sat down after giving all those emotional news interviews. It’d be nice to give him a rest for a while.

While we’re on fire-related moans and groans: Can’t we now take this opportunity to ban fireworks altogether? It’s too early to know what really caused the horrors on the M5 at the weekend, but can we not make use of the suspicion by outlawing bonfires and fireworks once and for all? If we can prove they are harmful to the environment, I’d gladly reinforce my immaculate green-credentials in an effort to rid us all of the noise, the smoke and the smell.

It used to be that you’d only see and hear these bloody things on, or around November 5th.  In 1605 Guy (Guido) Fawkes and a bunch of his catholic mates tried to blow up Parliament. He got caught and the ‘gunpowder plot’ failed. We’ve been celebrating his capture/mourning his failure (delete where applicable) ever since. All well and good, I suppose. Most countries have a yearly festival or celebration day when the fireworks are rolled out. The French have Bastille Day, the day every year they give thanks for not being invaded by the Germans (again). Then there’s the 4th of July, commemorated by Brits the world over as the day we finally let the yanks out in the world on their own. A bit like sending an annoying spotty teenager off to college and getting the box room back. Years later he returns, now owning IBM and degree in shooting people, but the peace and quiet was nice while it lasted.

I digress.

But now we not only have to start dodging rockets and catherine wheels around 5th November, but we now have to listen to them over Christmas, New Year, Easter, Yom Kippur, Epiphany, Lent, Diwali, the  X-Factor results, Downton Abbey finales, in fact any and every single celebration that someone somewhere feels they need to enjoy. I’m all in favour of a multicultural, multi-faith country where all are welcomed and encouraged to live as diverse and existence as is possible. But why-oh-why-oh-daily-mail do all these festivities have to come with sodding fireworks ? Maurice, the rather nervous dog next door has shellshock – they now feed him on valium and St John’s Wort. There’s a pall of smoke hanging over the lower paddock, making it look like Kabul after the big beardy naughty boys have been about.

They banned smoking on the top deck of a bus and the left hand side of the cinema; they stopped us from riding a motorcycle without a helmet; had an amnesty on handguns; they even banned Tom&Jerry from my tv (presumably to make room for a series on human dissection on Channel 4). Surely there’s a decent case to be made against these rockets and missiles which kill, harm, mutilate and maim so many every year ? I have nothing against blowing up parliament, and happy to raise a glass to the Guido and his mates for having a pop at it. But is blowing up each other, distressing our pets and covering motorways with thick smoke really the way forward ? What if we restrict it to one huge re-enactment every year, underneath parliament, using live ammo. And hope for the best ?

Or the worst. (delete where applicable).

Set for Life


I was watching an old episode of Frasier the other day. I happened across it by chance, luckily catching one of the 48 episodes which my cable channel broadcasts every day. Frasier is the I Love Lucy of the modern age. Wherever you are in the world, some channel somewhere is broadcasting either Frasier or Only Fools and Horses. Bloody good that they both are, I’m beginning to sync-quote them as I was apt to do with Fawlty Towers. And there are only 12 episodes in total of Basil F.  It’s bleedin’ obvious.

Anywhoo, there I was watching Dr Crane and Dr Crane argue about the younger one’s heart-bypass operation, and how he had been, quite frankly, a pain in the arse to all and sundry after the operation, telling any and all that would listen about his new perspective on life, having experienced being “clinically dead” for several seconds. His elder brother was of the opinion he was becoming a boring tit about it.

“That rings a bell”, thought I, and immediately pledged to the surrounded and listening world (just me, in reality) that I’d snap out of this feeling-sorry-for-myself bollocks, grab the bull by the balls and jolly well get on with it. Whatever “it” may turn out to be.

Then, just as I was girding my loins, stiffening my lip and pulling my massive self together, the postman dropped a bombshell through the letterbox, thankfully in a nice way – not a french satirical magazine way. I’m hoping above hope that the ABC Rowan Williams doesn’t throw anything nasty though my window just because earlier in the week I lampooned Mr Yeatman and ‘is Reverence. I’m all in favour of poking fun but the followers of Islam are not known for their humour, nor their tolerance. My flag-waving, liberal rabble-rousing and calling-to-arms suddenly hides under the table in the face of loonies with petrol bombs. I love my free speech. But you have to pick your targets, I reckon. As Frank Spencer once said: “There are old pilots and there are bold pilots, but there are no old,bold pilots.”**
Ditto satirical magazine editors, I reckon.

Anyway, back to my own bombshell. On opening the one letter the  postman had delivered that morning I pulled out a long piece of folded card. It was a luncheon menu from a cruise liner.

Seared scallops, poached pears, cod, lamb…the menu went on and on. It made me feel quite peckish:- well it was 10.30 in the morning and I’d only had 2 breakfasts, thus far. I started to tremble, but not because of the hunger (though that can’t have helped). No, I was trembling because I turned over the menu and there, running the length of the menu was a get well message from a legend.

Abraham Lincoln’s first draft of the Gettysburg Address was first scribbled down on a lunch napkin. There are apparently many John Lennon artworks and poems milling around which he hastily wrote down on the back of beer mats, menus or fag packets. There’s a Warhol sketch of some butterflies which is worth in the region of $30,000 and yet he knocked it out on a tissue (steady), in a couple of seconds between courses over lunch.

But all that pales into insignificance compared to what I held in my hands:

“To Mike

Get much better soon !

With Love

Bonnie Langford

It was too good to be true. In an instant I knew all my worries were over. Forget being out of work. Forget what little remains in my pension fund. Ignore the equity which Tories and the recession are audibly eroding. Let the Greeks do what they want. Have a referendum, don’t have one. I could not one tiny fuck give any more. Double-dip recession ? Pah!

A pal of mine who occasionally works on the boats had risked life and limb, camped outside Bonnie’s cabin for days, then related the plight of his old fat mate, Mike, in order to secure the most sought-after autographs in show-business (not counting that of Dustin Gee.)

When the time comes and I’m down to my my last Bobby Tambling jockstrap and quilted smoking jacket, which on their own will not pay the bills, I shall march up to Sothebys with The Langford Menu under one arm and my signed copy of The Very Best of Chas n Dave under the other, put them both up for sale and my money worries will be a thing of the past.

It is rare that one, let alone two prized items come up under the hammer and I expect intense media interest, similar to that created by Monet’s Water Lillies,   Katie Price’s autobiography I Did it All Wiv Me Tits Out, and Amy Winehouse’s yet-to-be-unearthed-by-her-father fourth album Three Large Doubles (and One for Yourself).

So I’m now thinking of stringing this illness-thingy out a little longer. If I could lay my hands on signed well-wishes from, say, Billie Piper or even Colleen Rooney then the sky is the limit.  So, ooh-err, missus, I’m having another one of me funny turns. Quick nurse! The Screens: it’s happened again.

**Purists will recognise this quote from the Some Mother’s Do Ave Em episode: Oooh Betty! Here come the Mad Mullahs