Spofforth, Scorecards and Sticky Wickets,


John Arlott and Ralph Richardson from 1950. A little gem covering everything you wanted to know about The Ashes and cricket. No, much more than that, madam.

17 mins, 20 secs of pure heaven. Enjoy.

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Is that Pounds or Guineas ?


They tell me that, at one stage yesterday, all British national newspapers were interested in buying those photos of the Prince Harry starkers. Then ever so slowly, and one after another they dropped out. A few still published them on their websites, then gradually one-by-one they pulled them from their site. They were, apparently going for 10K a set. I don’t know if that was 10k Exclusive, English Language rights only, or as a share. Seems a lot of money to spend on a set of snaps, knowing that your rivals up the street had exactly the same set of pics.

The Sun mocks-up its own           version of those photos

Maybe it was this high price which made them pull out of the deal. Maybe it was the risk of upsetting Lord Leveson. Perhaps they didn’t want to upset The Palace or the NPA, or whoever nowadays hands out press passes to national events. We will have a couple of funerals in town coming up in the not-too-distant future, I guess, then a coronation and probably a christening or eight ? That’s a lot of monkey positions in the press pen to be giving away for the sake of a muzzy pic of some ginger pubes. Or maybe they didn’t buy the photos because they stopped and thought “Hang-on! Why don’t we respect this guy’s right to party on down. Public don’t need to see these. Stuff the pics ” ?  No, I don’t think that happened either. I do know one journal which did exactly that, but they are not in Fleet St. Anymore.

So you’re looking down the wrong end of a £10,000 deal for a set of not-very-exclusive snaps of a nude ginger bloke. Hmmm… I guess in the world of the internet, it’s rather difficult to keep anything at all exclusive. Back in the day of hard prints, analogue wires and when BBC Ceefax was the source of information 24 hours a day, it was a lot easier to find a set of exclusives.

In around 1985 I was a young freelancer selling photos generated by a very small agency to national newspapers in Fleet St. I was enjoying a beer (no, really, I was) one evening after work with a colleague when a young photographer we’d sent out a few hours earlier “to see what you can find” came and found us at the bar. He had on him a developed roll of colour transparency film which had on it various dancers/strippers, C-listers and Christopher Bigginses which a night photographing London usually threw up. Then as I got down to the end of the of the roll of film, there were two blurry frames of a bloke, who looked uncannily like Prince Andrew, walking next to a fat redhead.

A bun is awarded for anyone who can                       tell me what he was thinking of.

“Who’s that ?” I asked the snapper

“Oh that Prince Andrew and some fat redhead” (I told you it was) “I saw a royal motor outside Les Mis so I hung around to see who was in there”

These were the first photos of Prince Andrew and his latest squeeze Sarah Ferguson. They were with a Royal Bodyguard getting into a Royal Jaguar. This meant she was official. She was Andy’s “One” (if only we knew…), confirming what Buckingham Palace had been denying for weeks – that Fergie was gonna be part of the firm real soon. As odd as it must sound now, this was really big news at the time.

Being a Royalist, I immediately cut off the two frames and got a cab down to The Daily Mirror. For reasons which don’t escape me, I refused to go to Wapping and to Rupert Murdoch’s strike-bound News International (what does escape me is why I lifted that self-imposed ban to go work for those wankers later on in my career), and The Mirror was my weapon of choice.

Up to a point.

I arrived at The Mirror‘s picture desk only to find it deserted. Normally I wouldn’t care less that everyone was in “The Stab” down below (The White Hart pub, known by Mirror hacks as The Stab in the Back” – for obvious reasons), and on any other evening may have gone to join them (it was, after all, one of the reasons I wanted to be a journo in the first place) and sell them the odd snap. But this was different. I had a pic which I knew everyone would want, and I had to get it into a paper NOW. On THIS edition. I couldn’t take the risk of other photographers having captured the young couple together and selling it before I could. I certainly couldn’t wait for the Mirror Picture Desk to sober up. So I took a decision. I went off to The Daily Star.  Ooh Aah.

It wasn’t what I wanted, but I was in luck . Perhaps the Popinjay (Express Newspaper’s version of The Stab) had burnt down that night as both numbers 1&2 on the picture desk had returned from the pub, unaided, and were just about awake. I think one of them could have been mistaken for being sober. At a distance. The other, his boss (a legendary scotchman and a scotch man) could not.

“What ye got, young fella?” the boss asked.

Carefully avoiding the hot, sweet airstream of scotch & best bitter coming from his mouth, I showed him the two frames.

“It’s Andy and Sarah Ferguson at Les Miserables tonight. Our man…..”

But I could have saved my breath, for he was off. Off an a lap of honour of the newsroom. Past the news desk (yes they had one) and the foreign…erm…reporter, past the back bench, the subs and the assorted ‘tired’ journalists and cleaning staff. He skipped, he whistled, he paused to show and tell his colleagues “Look what I got, ye bastard ye”.

Once the Scot and the scotch had settled, he agreed to pay ten thousand pounds for the photo. (What Sarah Ferguson would do nowadays for £10,000 is a story for another time). It appeared on the front page the very next day. The Mirror’s Picture editor, nicknamed “Grumpy” called me, sparrows fart. ‘Why didn’t I sell the pic to him ?’ he wanted to know. ‘Because he was in the pub’, I replied. ‘Why didn’t I call him out ?’ he demanded. ‘Because he was already well and truly out‘ I said. He didn’t speak to me for months and months after that.

As far as I know, that little photo agency of ours never did get the £10k promised to it by the pissed old fart that night at The Star. He sobered up and swore blind that he’d said FIVE not ten grand. The photographer never believed me, I don’t think. It’s all true, believe me. Over the next few weeks we did get some decent money for the pic from American, Aussie and, oddly, German rags, but nothing on the scale of what The Star (should have) paid us.

I wonder if Harry’s “mate” who took the pics of his arse will ever get paid ? It’s out there now. Everyone has it, or at least has seen it. And once everyone has seen it, who will want to buy it ? If the photos had landed in my lap today, would I have flogged them ? Probably not. When I was 21 who-was-doing-what-and-how-to-whom-and-how-often seemed really interesting to me. I’d passed my “smash the state, bring down the Monarchy” phase, but was still walking around with a press ticket metaphorically stuck in the band of my trilby”.

Not now. Now I care little for that shite. Pop and celebs interest me not.  Sod The One Show, give me the World at One. I’m into Big Gussets not Big Brother. Less X-Factor, more Ex-Lax. I’d still like the money, though.

Stiffening Up (and other Double Entendres)


It all started when I started fiddling with the girlfriend’s tea-towel holder.

We’d bought a new one, you see, over in France at one of their premiere Old Tut shops. I was attempting to fix it to a kitchen cabinet drawer, bent over a bit too sudden-like and my ribs cramped up (a common occurrence, thanks to an old rugby injury), I then shot bolt upright to try to un-cramp myself when my left calf went into spasm (a common occurrence, thanks to being an old git) and I found myself cramped all the way down my left side. I would take myself off to see the Doc, but he will say my ailments are probably due to the Warfarin (the rat poison the give to recovering stroke patients).

Here’s a few quotes that may interest you:

My GP on my blood-spot-splattered feet:
“That’ll be the Warfarin”

My GP on my irregular and worrying dizzy spells:
“That’ll be the Warfarin”

On the numbness in my face:
“That’ll be the Warfarin”

On the shooting pains down my:
“That’ll be the Warfarin”

My GP on the Eurozone crisis and the war in Afghanistan:
“I’m no expert, but that’ll probably be the Warfarin”.

Well why am I still on it, then ????

So thanks to the producers of Warfarin and the failure of The Incumbent’s Tea towel holder to grip anything effectively (not even my little finger) I’ve been forced to  repair to the sofa, look, listen and learn from the wise sages of T’BBC.

It’s almost certainly an age-thing (or maybe it’s the Warfarin) that I now prefer the sports radio coverage more than I do the television. This may be because Claire Balding isn’t on BBC Radio, but more probably because the broadcasters have to think on their feet to keep the audience entertained, rather than just point a camera at a volleyball player’s arse.

Two exchanges on the wireless demonstrated this perfectly yesterday. One was an interview with Manteo Mitchell who represented the USA in the heats of the 4x400m relay. Half of it he ran with a broken leg, it having snapped down the back straight.

“I felt it break. I heard it. I even put out a little war cry, but the crowd was so loud you couldn’t hear it.” said Mitchell.
I can assure the reader that if my leg broke should I ever again find myself running anywhere, you will be able to hear my ‘little war cry’ in Tanzania. Mitchell completed the remaining 200 meters, unable to create a lead for the second runner in the team. What a lightweight !

I listened, opened mouth to this account, full of shock and awe for this man, knowing full well that I, in the same circumstances, would have used the old Navaho Indian trick of collapsing on the floor and begging for mercy. The piece was marred slightly when the interviewer started raving about the American’s third leg. Which was a bit forward for daytime radio, I thought. There’s a time and a place.

I was wrong.

Not an hour later, another intrepid reporter waxed lyrical to his anchor man (Mark Chapman) about meeting former gold medal-winning diver (the pool) Greg Luganis in the gents urinals. I thought I’d tuned into a police wave band.
“As I stood next to him, I asked him about what was likely to happen later”. Back in the studio, his colleague was incredulous. One could sense a producer’s hand hovering over the ‘off air’ switch.


“You just went up to Greg Luganis in a toilet and struck up a conversation ?” he asked
“no, no, of course not. We’d met before”
(We were not informed where and under what circumstances.)
“I said to him: ‘From what you’ve seen…'”
“You said what ?…” Chapman had clearly fallen off his stool. “You can’t say that to someone while standing at a urinal !”
Honestly, Chappers” retorted the reporter “it’s impossible to have a conversation with you without you inserting double entendres. I was talking about what he’d seen so far in the pool…”
The chat continued with Chapman desperately trying not to interject with too many men-in-urinals gags. One can only hope the conversation in the loo didn’t contain too many questions regarding diving technique. “Greg, how does one get a ripped entry with minimal splash”. Luganis may have fainted.

Switching back to the TV it was time to witness Mo Farrah run to glory to take the 5k/10k double, and what a fantastic race it was. Mo was determined that he wouldn’t be beaten, aided and manfully abetted by a huge crowd, 95% who madly cheered for a man named Mohammed, a refugee from Africa who runs proudly and passionately represents the country which took him in all those years ago. UKIP and the EDF must be apoplectic.

Those of us watching at home, some laid up on the sofa, tragically stuck down with cramp, were privileged to listen to Steve Cram’s commentary, a real appreciation of distance running, which will be one of the most replayed moments of the entire games. Beside Cram in the commentary box was Brendan Foster, who looked like he’d heard they were opening his pub early. ‘Bottle of Newky Brown, please, pet.’

I am now told by T’BBC of an auction where one can buy London 2012 momentos. Bradley Wiggins’ and Jess Ennis’ stuff is the most popular, so they’re bound to be out of my price-range. I’m off to bid for some of Kriss Akabusi’s broadcasting talent. Apparently there’s not much of it.

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Black n White Snaps


I know you’re just like me and can’t wait to get yourself to London to enjoy all the festivities that the Olympic Games has to offer. But, if you should find yourself at a loose end, or at London Bridge Station with an hour before your slot watching the 1 yard air rifle begins, please do yourself a favour and take yourself down to the South Bank, just by Boris’s place. There you’ll be able to see Tom Stoddart’s fabulous new open air photo exhibition.

If not the Greatest Living Geordie (my mum wins that award), Tom is certainly the greatest British photographer, and he buys his round, to boot (which is more than I can say for my mum). While you’re there you may even catch a glimpse of the great man himself. Tell him I sent you and you’ll immediately be asked to leave the area.

This is by far the best show in town this summer.

Photographer Tom Stoddart stands at his Perspectives photographic exhibition at More London on July 25, 2012 in London, England. Seventy-eight of Stoddart’s signature black and white pictures form a free, open-air display at More London Riverside, between City Hall and HMS Belfast. During his distinguished career Stoddart has travelled to more than 50 countries and documented such historic events as the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Siege of Sarajevo and the election of Nelson Mandela as South Africa’s first black president. The exhibition is in participation with The International Committee of The Red Cross for whom Stoddart has worked on their Healthcare in Danger campaign initiative that aims to address the widespread and severe impact of illegal and sometimes violent acts that obstruct the delivery of health care, damage or destroy facilities and vehicles, and injure or kill health-care workers and patients, in armed conflicts and other emergencies.
(July 24, 2012 – Source: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images Europe)

Diamond Dogs it Out


The scene: An office in Canary Wharf, London.

Bob Diamond: “I’m resigning”
Marcus Agius : “You can’t resign, I’m resigning. In fact I’ve already resigned”
BD: “When?”
MA: “Earlier on. Before you did, anyway !”
BD: “You never told me!”
MA: “Well do I have to tell you everything?”
BD: “Yes, frankly”
MA: “You were out hunting with old baldy Hester. Couldn’t get hold of you”
BD: “Anyway, it’s me who has to go. They’ve got me by the balls”
MA: “I thought you were gonna dog it out ? You said to me ‘fuck them, they don’t understand what we do anyway. I’ll tell the MPs on Wednesday to go fuck themselves’. That’s what you said to me”
BD: “Well I’ve been thinking. I haven’t got the balls to front this one out.”
MA: “You’re an American, for Christ’s sake ! You can’t go around admitting to anything now. You’re letting down generations. That’s not the American way.”

A Secretary buzzes through: “Stephen Hester on the line, Mr Diamond. He wants to know if you’re free for a jog around Canary Wharf at lunchtime”
BD. “Oh I need that fat fucker right now, don’t I ? Tell him to bugger off. Tell him I’m away. Tell him anything. Tell him I’m dead”

Bob and Marcus resume their chat:

BD: “Listen. I’ve got my $100 million Dollars out of this lot. I would think I’ll get a nice payoff and Gideon will sort me out, so I’m catching the first stage outta Dodge. Then I’m gonna play a hell of a lotta golf. I’m good mates with Tiger.”
MA: “I Bet you are. Oh Bollocks! What the hell am I supposed to do now ? If I’d have known you were gonna resign I’d have never jumped. I’ve up shit creek with a  poxy couple of million. Plus my payoff, of course. And my shares. Not forgetting the Christmas bonus.”
BD: “Jeeze, sorry, Bud…..Hey wait: I gottit !”
MA: “Oh Christ, what now?”
BD: “No, hear me out. I get a cab up to Regen…er…Bond Street, buy a big leather trunk in which to put all my cash, but on the way back I stop off at Downing Street (I’ll get the cabbie to park round the back) and suggest to Gideon and Davey that you come back but (and here’s the smart part) we’ll say it’s only so that you can choose my successor. You know: we’ll use the ‘we don’t want to leave the ship rudderless‘ bullshit that everyone uses. The public will lap it up”
MA: “They’ll never buy it”
BD: “Why not ?”
MA: “Well for starters, I’ve already said that I was “Truly sorry” for everything and…”
BD: “And What ???”
MA: “er…..well, I think I may have said we were guilty of an ‘unacceptable standard of behaviour’ and that the ‘buck stops with me’
BD: “Oh for Fuck’s sake, Marcus ! Why the hell did you go and do a thing like that ?”
MA: “I thought it might be for the best. Sorry, Bob”
BD “Robert
MA: “Robert, sorry. So they’re not gonna take me back now. How would it look ?”
BD: “When did you say you did all this ?”
MA: “Yesterday morning. It was all over BBC Salford and everything
BD “Hmmm…” (thinks)
“Oh Fuck it, let’s give it a shot. No one will remember that far back. What’s Nick Robinson‘s number ? He’s pretty tame…..”

The A Cappella Fella


I first saw the Flying Pickets at the Woolwich Tramshed in about 1982. They were supporting Lenny Henry and stole the show. Lenny did his funny voices and squawks, his Trevor McDonut skit, occasionally inviting the audience to shout “yeah!” at the top of their voices – you know, the same act as he does today. “The Pickets” went through their short card, performing every number with wit, charm and precision – Lenny’s act differed in just three ways.

A year or so later I met them in again in a photographic studio where they were being snapped for a spread in a newspaper, having made number 1 in the charts with “Only You”. Three things I remember very clearly: They all seemed very old indeed (probably in their late 30s), the lead singer was a rough-looking welshman, and they were all, to a man, very very charming indeed.  One of the more unlikely hits to come out of the post-punk confusion that was the early 80s and named after the National Union of Mineworkers (that’ll cheer you lot up) they had a couple of hit singles and a few albums and gathered a considerable following having introduced the country to a cappella – singing without the accompaniment of instruments (not to be confused with The Smiths who sang without the accompaniment of tune).

Well, the rough-looking Welsh lead singer died today. Brian Hibbard was 65 and had become a familiar face on tv , having made himself a very decent character actor. But I shall remember him as that rather scary looking bloke who, along with his weird-looking old mates, tramped into our studio one afternoon and got themselves photographed while singing “When You’re Young and in Love”.

Great sound. Nice blokes.

If it Wasn’t for the Holympics Inbetween


Cockney singer and comedian, Gus Elen (below) made this little ditty famous at the end of the 19th Century. It’s a bitter-sweet number, lamenting the loss of the beautiful English countryside and the advent of the slums as London sprawled out over the South East in the name of progress and industrialisation.

A little over a century later, the urban streets, factories and gasworks which Elen mocked have been pulled down and swept away, but not to be replaced by the original green fields, but with Millennium Tents, Olympic Towers, Aquatic Centres and Velodromes. It’s hailed by some as progress, by others and the rape and destruction of our heritage. By others again as a fantastic money-making opportunity for a few lucky people at the expense of some of the poorest in society.

When reciting this one, the trick is to hone your cockney accent (and I know many of you have been practicing hard to perfect yours, yearning to be able to speak proper) just like Gus did when he first performed this on stage to East Enders (no, not that lot – the real ones) and sang to them as one of their own.

Once more I am indebted to The Talented Mr Rapley for reminding me of this one.

(This ain’t Gus singing , but it’ll give you an idea of how the tune goes)


http://www.victorianweb.org/mt/musichall/2.html

If it Wasn’t for the Houses Inbetween

If you saw my little backyard, “Wot a pretty spot!” you’d cry,
It’s a picture on a sunny summer day;
Wiv the turnip tops and cabbages wot peoples doesn’t buy
I makes it on a Sunday look all gay.
The neighhours finks I grow ’em and you’d fancy you’re in Kent,
Or at Epsom if you gaze into the mews.
It’s a wonder as the landlord doesn’t want to raise the rent,
Because we’ve got such nobby distant views.

CHORUS:
Oh it really is a wery pretty garden
And Chingford to the eastward could be seen;
Wiv a ladder and some glasses,
You could see to ‘Ackney Marshes,
If it wasn’t for the ‘ouses in between.

We’re as countrified as can be wiv a clothes prop for a tree,
The tub-stool makes a rustic little stile;
Ev’ry time the bloomin’ clock strikes there’s a cuckoo sings to me,
And I’ve painted up “To Leather Lane a mile.”
Wiv tomatoes and wiv radishes wot ‘adn’t any sale,
The backyard looks a puffick mass o’ bloom;
And I’ve made a little beehive wiv some beetles in a pail,
And a pitchfork wiv a handle of a broom.

CHORUS:
Oh it really is a wery pretty garden,
And Rye ‘ouse from the cock-loft could be seen:
Where the chickweed man undresses,
To bathe ‘mong the watercresses,
If it wasn’t for the ‘ouses in between.

There’s the bunny shares ‘is egg box wiv the cross-eyed cock and hen
Though they ‘as got the pip and him the morf;
In a dog’s ‘ouse on the line-post there was pigeons nine or ten,
Till someone took a brick and knocked it orf.
The dustcart though it seldom comes, is just like ‘arvest ‘ome
And we mean to rig a dairy up some’ow;
Put the donkey in the washouse wiv some imitation ‘orns,
For we’re teaching ‘im to moo just like a cah.