Yellow Lines


Unlike me, Nick Clegg spent his Bank Holiday Monday in Blackheath. I, of course, was stuck in the office. I’m not saying he has any influence in the rotas in my office, but it seems strange to me that the one bank holiday Monday I’m not banging on the door of a pub in my village, urging it to open, Mr Clegg took to the streets of SE3 to drum up support for his party at the upcoming election. All very exciting for the people of the village, I’m sure ,and proof that everything is to play for in the hotly-contested constituency of Lewisham East, which covers our little part of London.

I don’t suppose he missed me much, though I have seen several snaps of Mrs C anxiously looking around to see if she might catch a glimpse of me. Oh well, she’ll catch me next time. By the way, if you do what I did the other night and close your eyes as Nick Clegg speaks, doesn’t he sound like Jimmy Carr?? Honestly, try it. It’d be a much better election if Jimmy Carr, Alan Carr and Johnny Vegas were the three candidates, at least the debates would be worth listening to.

Anyway, I have no real problem with Mr Clegg, and it’s about time someone prominent in this whole debacle turned up to tell us our votes actually matter. BUT. How the fuck does he get to park his dirty great bus on the Blackheath one-way system without getting a ticket ? Surely this is a politcal scandal of Profumo magnitude. A man of the people? My arse! I haven’t seen any footage of him as Mrs C looking for loose change in the well by the gearstick, then legging it up to the parking meter before the parking wardens slap a post-it to his windscreen.

Blackheath has, I believe (though I’m sure some pedant will put me right) a couple of lads employed as traffic wardens (by whom I know not), beautifully adorned in lurid bright blue uniforms, and woe betide anyone who pops into the newsagents for a lottery ticket of a packet of gaspers. On their return they can consider themselves rather fortuitous if there isn’t a little note pinned under the wiper blades, asking them to cough up. These blokes are swift and determined. One suspects a lucrative bonus scheme is in operation.

And why the hell not? The village is congested enough and the little streets can darely deal with traffic and the legal parkers as it is, let alone that lovely breed of double-parkers who feel the laws don’t really apply to them (but surely not our politicians).

So anyway, Cleggy saves himself a quid or two (he better not claim for it !!!!) and the poor sods in the Everest Inn nepalese restaurant were treated to whopping great photos of Nick and his uncle Vince beaming at them from the back of the bus as they prepared the lamb tikkas and the mismas for today’s punters. There did seem, having studied the photos, a large number of nepalese and/or gurkas cheering Clegg on. I wonder what the connection is? Does he double-tip when he leaves The Saffron ? Do they give him extra After Eights and hot towels ? Does he declare this ?

A pal tells me (and I believe him) that Clegg pledged that, if elected, local hostelries would never again be short of lemons, the introduction of a cap on estate agents in the village, and a unilateral ban on green foam top-hats on St Patrick’s Day. A Blackheath border patrol would limit the numbers of Eltham Nazis coming into the village on a Friday night and standing in my spot at the bar, and he will fund a high-speed bus link to Greenwich (or anywhere else, come to think of it).


You can see what another local lad thought of it all here
(he has the slight advantage on me of having actually been there)

Well nice try, Nick, but I’m sticking with Gordon. He pays his parking fees (I’m pretty sure), I could never vote for a Jimmy Carr impersonator and I can’t trust a man in a yellow tie. Last time I wore one was at my wedding, and we know what a balls-up that was !

Another Unpleasant Valley Sunday


Well, I woke up Sunday morning
With no way to hold my head that didn’t hurt.
And the beer I had for breakfast wasn’t bad,
So I had one more for dessert.
Then I fumbled in my closet through my clothes
And found my cleanest dirty shirt.
Then I washed my face and combed my hair
And stumbled down the stairs to meet the day.

Kris Kristofferson (who liked a slurp)

There’s no nicer weekend than the weekend when the clocks go forward. It’s the recognised start of Spring, the end of those long, cold dark nights and those short, cold dark days. Makes a man feels good. Unless, of course you caught the BBC weather forecast that says it’s going to snow heavily on Thursday. Snow. In April. Someone’s having a laugh and, as usual, it’s not me.
Adding to my woes this fine Sunday morning was the fact I had to go to work. So let’s get this straight. I get a one-day weekend AND I lose an hour in bed because of the clocks going forward ? Spiffing! Oh, and I’ll be in my duffel coat again by mid-week. Lovely.

To most, the switch to British Summer Time means they get up at 10am on a Sunday, rather than 9. For the insomniacs among us, who have the added privilege of sleeping on a bed of nails, it means waking up at six o’clock as opposed to the usual five. Christ, I’m tired. I’m definitely gonna change that sodding mattress this month. The springs poking out of it are giving my back the pattern of a Maori’s bicep.

I trudge wearily downstairs to put the kettle on. The birds in the garden had been up for a while and were in full, happy chorus. They’d all remembered to put their clocks forward, smug bastards. Tea in hand I switch on the tv and am greeted by the build-up to the Melbourne Grand Prix. It’s raining in Melbourne. Good. I only went there once and it was pissing down when I arrived. Looked like Croydon to me, not this sunny playground the Strines carp on about all the time. So it’s sunny in London and grey and wet in Melbourne? Good. I drank my tea then I went back to bed. It was still only 7.15.

I doze fitfully for an hour-or-so, but eventually have to concede that I am indeed off to work. The bathroom takes a battering as I off-load and de-clagg. More tea, a bowl of cereal , I pause to listen to Lewis Hamilton moan about his team’s strategy. They’d made him come into the pits and change tyres, thus scuppering his chances of winning. He was sulking like a seven year old boy stopped by his mum from having a kick-about in the street. I suspect that, now that Hamilton has sacked his dad from the management team, he wasn’t expecting anyone else to tell him to stop playing and come in to change.

Oh well, off to work. With the sun trying it’s damnedest to elbow it’s way though the clouds, a fine morning greets me. The daffodils on my front lawn are up and out and, ignoring the obvious Welsh connotations, look beautiful. In fact, the patterns they make on my lawn, along with the odd bluebell and the fox and cat shit, really is a design classic. Brer Fox and Brer Cat are heading arse-first into a goolie-kicking session, if I ever catch them. The words Ebay and Spud-gun enter my head.

So, with a spring (or rather a winter) in my step, I leave Railway Cuttings and stride up the deserted street (deserted as every other fucker is in bed, sleeping through the lost hour). At the end of the road I stroll into the station car park. It’s 9.20 and the Farmer’s Market is setting up at the far end of the lot. This is one of the Blackheath success stories. I may have mentioned before that there’s little more to the village than 6 curry houses, 7 pubs (sic) 8 hairdressers and 93 estate agents. If you want to rent a flat, have your highlights done and scoff Nepalese food, you’re in luck. There is a heel bar (Cobblers to the Pope), the world’s most expensive electrical store, a video store (closing down) and some kind of weird, gothic, travel agents which I’ve never seen anyone go into or come out of. Think of the fancy dress shop from Mr Benn and you’re nearly there.

There’s a Londis or a Happy Shopper, or something along those lines at the top of the hill (and, if it indeed is a Happy Shopper, they should be closed under the Trades Descriptions Act: no happy shoppers nor shopkeepers are to be found therein), plus a couple of little not-very-convenience stores in the valley of the village. But there’s nowhere you can buy a decent joint (meat, that is, not what the sell in the pub toilets round here), fresh veg, a good selection of dairy products (blessed indeed are those cheesemakers) and suchlike.

So with 10 minutes until my train was due (so therefore 17 minutes before it actually did) I afford myself a stroll around the now-familiar market stalls. Most were either setting up, or had done so and were waiting for the 10 o’clock start bell. There’s a fella who does a mean line in bacon butties and many of his fellow stallholders were chomping on his wares. The smell was torture. My previously-devoured bowl of Special K was having a hard time justifying itself as a proper breakfast. Top of the shop, nearest the station, is the vegetable stall. It’s one of three veg stalls in the market but is always the most popular, with the longest queues. The reason escapes me. Perhaps it’s cheaper than the others? though everything is relative, of course.

Nothing in this market is cheap. Keeps out the riff-raff, love. It’s selection of carrots and turnips, many of which have grown into rude and amusing shapes, will set you back a few quid more than the Tesco/Sainsburg “Washed-and-Scrubbed Winter Veg Selection (only 89p)” yet there’s always a long line of new-age yuppies, blue-rinse tories and the Barbour Brigade willing to through their hard-inherited sovereigns at these puveyors of fine-and-still-muddy produce. If you don’t believe queuing for a cauliflower could start Class War, come along with me next Sunday. You’ll be amazed by what and who winds me up.

Nextdoor we see a table, and a cash-till atop next to a pile of pears and a mound of apples. Now I know you’re imagining Cocker-ney yelps of “Ooo want’s yer Apples ‘n’ Pears-ah?” eminating from behind the table. No such luck, I’m afraid. This stall is selling organic apple cordial and organic pear squash. No, I never have! And judging by the lack of customers, nor has anyone else, since you’re asking.

One bloke I do hand over the Helen Reddies to is the Crazy Cheese Guy. Now I don’t know from where this aimiable, smiley man comes from , but I bet it ain’t South London. South Minsk would be a closer guess. Our conversation follows the same pattern each week:

“Wuld you like sum chiz, sur?” he asks
“Yuz pliz” I reply
“Crizy chiz?” he offers
“Crizy Chiz pliz” I confirm. Well, it keeps me happy for a few minutes.

Where the aforementioned Crazy Cheese is made, and from what I know not. But my little East European friend may as well leave all his other stock behind in the cow, sheep or goat from whence it came. It really is superb stuff. If you like the roof of your mouth being ripped off when you bite into a crusty cheese sandwich, then Crazy Cheese is the cheese for you. Go buy some. Pliz.

There are fishermen from Essex (“luvverly bit a Dover Sole, my sahn”); the milk and yoghurt woman, who sells lovely milk, but which keeps fesh for about three hours, then turns into yoghurt; and the roly-poly butcher with the complexion of one of his un-cooked cumberland sausage. At first meet, he seems a jolly enough chap (as us fatties tend to seem, at first meet), but after a while I’ve gotten the feeling that he actually thinks he’s doing me a favour by selling me 6 lamb n mint bangers and a leg of pork for 28 quid. No wonder he’s jolly. Fat cnt.

Finally there’s the bread guy: The Pointy Guy. Now he may-or-not be related to Mr Crizy Chiz, but it’s a fair bet that when he was growing up he was expecting for be fighting Chechen rebels before he got too much older. But whatever his upbringing in the Motherland, his bill of fare is sensational. Rosemary bread; walnut and raisin bread; olive bread; soda bread; bread bread; ciabatta; focaccia (which I believe is the BNP’s battle cry); baguettes and croissants. All of this, of course, is news to the Pointy Guy. He doesn’t know what he’s got.
You might go and say “A small ciabatta and a rosemary bread, my fine fellow”. He will give you a blank stare, then point to any loaf at random, raising both eyebrows and ask “Thiz wun?”
“That wun. And that wun” you reply (I can’t help myself).

I put it to you that, Farmers Market or not, the last time our Pointy Guy was on a farm he was wielding a shovel on the Russian Steppes rather than swinging a scythe in the Weald of Kent. And as for being a baker? Do me a favour. I reckon you might find him and his mate, 7 am every Sunday morning, on a street corner in Orpington waiting for a lift from a bloke called Dave (who makes bread and cheese in his garage). Dave drops these two blokes off in Blackheath, unloads the van of produce, leaving our two heroes to sell this stuff, completely unaware of what they’re purveying. Dave then buggers off home to have a bit of Sunday morning humpty with his (or someone else’s) missus. Hope she put her clock forward this morning. He might come too early.

Oh, and after all that, I missed my train to work. Arse.

.

That Sand Gets Everywhere


I wonder what happens when one finally snuffs it? Where do you go? Upwards to meet Robert Powell ? Downstairs to shake hands with the fella with the fork? Neither? Maybe you just lay there to eventually become a future layer of sedimentary rock, or to ‘ave worms eat thee up’ and end up in some yet-to be packaged growbag at Homebase? To be honest I don’t think about it too much, merely hoping that when my time comes I shall be wearing clean underwear and be monumentally in debt to Nat West Bank (one scenario far more likely than the other.)

I’ll wager young King Tut would have had a pretty strong opinion of his fate in the afterlife. Even at the tender age of 19, Tutankhamun would have been convinced in his own mind that he, all his worldly belongings buried with him, (including 130 walking sticks), and any other poor sod unfortunate enough to locked in the tomb when they No-More-Nailed the doors shut would be off to a better place. A place where the water was cool, the wine rich, the women all beautiful, bi-curious virgins, and the lbw laws were in favour of the bowler. (It’s a little known fact that Tut bowled useful medium left arm in-duckers.)

Sadly for the young man, a peaceful everafter lasted only up until 1922 when his tomb was found and his body exhumed for modern scientists, historians and the like to gawp at and poke about. For nearly ninety years, the world has shared a fascination with Tutankhamun and his life story. Egytologymania became a word I just made up. When the exhibition of the treasures found in his tomb came to London in the early 1970s, we commemorated the event at school by painting and drawing pictures of the famous death mask. I vividly remember my painting looking like Liberace- more fairy than Pharaoh. This awkward memory returned to me today when I saw the photo of the reconstruction of Tut’s face, based on scientific scans of the boy king’s mummy. I didn’t even know they showed the Catherine Tate Show in Egypt.

Tate and Tut. How very dare you !

So anyway, I read that rigorous tests on his skellington (correct) and DNA have revealed that Tut was the product of a relationship between his dad and his auntie. From this inter-family naughtiness he inherited several genetic disorders, he had a club foot (hence the walking sticks) often suffered crippling illness, and was probably killed by a virutlent strain of malaria, and his nickname around the Giza was ‘The Lucky King’. Ok, I made that last bit up too. But what an undignified way to go for a once, presumably, proud and powerful man? I suppose it could have been worse for the poor sod: they could have discovered he was Welsh.

Nevertheless, it’s doubtless not how he envisaged eternity as he lay amid the secluded dunes, during one of those rather long Cairo summers (made worse with all those German tourists in town). There he would lay, a teenage boy, dreaming of all that fun just waiting for him with those lovely virgins, before he would hurriedly have to wipe himself off with a sheet of papyrus and button himself up, as he heard Auntie’s flip-flops coming round the corner.

Sadly for our man Tut, like anyone who has had to catch a train to Manchester, he’d have to wait for his fun on a virgin. In his life-after-death he would have to be content having pieces nicked off him and holes bored into him in the name of science, and suffer his dynasty being mimicked by 21st century comediennes and London-based Egyptian nutters. And The Bangles, of course.

What will the scientist of the future discover about my life if my body is dug up 2,000 years from now? That I was descended from a long line of scaffolders’ knee-wrenchers? That my Guinness count contained traces of blood? That my eyes failed me at an early age due to a life of looking at photos and chronic self-abuse (hence the 130 boxes of kleenex buried with me)? Will they be able to tell that I could never get the hang of badminton, or that my highest score in any form of cricket was 48? A cursary glance at my teeth and vital organs should reveal my love of a wee dram and a bacon buttie (there will still be traces between my teeth, no doubt), and the simplest rectal probe will demonstrate just how many curries 45 year-old men used to eat every week in the early years of the 21st century.

Will the British Museum stage an exhibition of the treasures discovered buried with me? My pith helmets? My fascinating collection of lime pickle jars? All the ointments? The Status Quo OBE Albums? I doubt it. And to be honest I hope they don’t. Leave me be, up there with the virgins and the vino and, like King Tut, a Sphinx’s inscrutable smile.


.

Time after Time


target_clock

Every morning in my office at 10.00hrs (ZULU) all the journalists in the office assemble in a meeting room to discuss the schedule for the day. We call it the Story Meeting, elsewhere on other publications they call this Conference (note no “the” or “a”, just “Conference”). It’s at these gatherings where ideas are tossed around and discussed and the magazine/website takes shape. Now I say “all” our journalists attend these 10.00 meets—they do eventually—but there is one guy who never EVER manages to make a 10am start. He bowls up at 10.04, 10.07, sometimes he even gets as close as 10.02 but never does he make it in for 10.00. Occasionally we meet at 12.00 and guess what? He can’t make those on time either. 12.10, 12.08— sometimes he doesn’t bother showing up at all! He’s not alone in this. Over the years we have had several serial offenders, those who struggle to make the trip from London to London for 10 o’clock. It can’t be that difficult, can it? A photographer once called me from his car saying he was going to be late for a 10 o’clock assignment cos the traffic on the M25/M4 junction was heavy. At 9.30 in the morning. Really??????? YOU CABBAGE!!!! After reading him his life story and suggesting he might have thought of getting up earlier to beat the traffic (if you’re an hour early for a job, you can go get a cup of coffee) I pulled the line on him. Never employed him again.

Let's think of something to write about

Let\’s think of something to write about

I hate being late. If I am ever late for anything I get all anxious, sweaty and nervy. I’m anal— at least that’s what I think the ex-wife called me. If a party invite reads “8 til late” I turn up at 8 o’clock —and more often-than-not 7.45. That’s not because I want to get there before the booze runs out (honest), it’s just because I treat tardiness as an insult to the host, and therefore when people are late on me I tend to get a wee bit peeved. Of course none of us can ever be on time for everything, but repeat offenders don’t cut much ice with yours truly. And everyone will know one of these types. You will all have mates or couples who are always late for appointments/drinks/meals/concerts etc. They leave you hanging around at the bar, outside the cinema or in an eaterie for minutes even hours. And they do it every time you arrange to meet, AND YOU STILL TRUST THEM TO TURN UP ON TIME THE NEXT TIME!!! They all do the same trick of gigling when they finally arrive, laughing it off “oh sorry, I fell asleep, tee hee”, “sorry, mate, the cab was late, ha ha” “have you been waiting long? Jesus you look pissed, snigger”etc etc . Well I don’t think it’s funny. I think it’s fucking rude!

Late is very rarely a good thing: A late tackle in soccer or rugby is never to be condoned (unless you’re a South African, apparently); If your girlfriend tells you she’s “late” that usually focusses the mind; The Late Michael Jackson, doesn’t cheer a lot of people up; Andy Murray looked cream-crackered after his match went on late into the night; the US turned up late for the last two World Wars (been nice and early ever since though) and my postman seems to have swapped his morning delivery for one in the late afternoon. On the other hand if you get a “late one” in a pub, you’ve had a result!. But in general, late bad, early good.

257220090421150628

So we come to Andrew Flintoff. Master bowler, intimidating batsmen and an all-round piss-head. He turned up late the other day for a bus which was taking the England team to a bonding session as part of their build-up to the Ashes. Apparently there had been a players’ “dinner” the night before and Andy felt a little “tired” in the morning so missed the bus. He has previous with this type of thing and it’s getting worrying for us fans, annoying for the coaches and staff. A hangover is a self-inflicted injury, and not an excuse to miss work, whatever you do for a living. It’s definitely not the sort of thing you should be sporting a week before you face the Aussies in the series of all series. If you wanna go out and play in the pub on a school night then you have to face the consequences of feeling like shit in the morning. But GET INTO WORK whatever happens. I myself am not adverse to the odd one of a midweek evening, but whatever state I get into, I make it into work the following day and I expect others to do the same. The worse thing that could happen to me is that I stick all the photos for the magazine in upside down. A hungover or off-form Flintoff could LOSE US A TEST MATCH!!!!!!! For Christ’s sake !!!!

C'mon Andy, you're in next

C\’mon Andy, you\’re in next

A worrying line that came out of official England channels was that Flintoff “working very hard to avoid issues fuelled by drink.” I put it to you, yer honour, that if you have to “work very hard” at not getting pissed you really do have a problem. I’m sure I must know lots of people who don’t have to work hard not to have a drink, I just can’t think of any at the moment. So enough, already. Come on, Andy, knock it on the head for a few weeks. Yes we all wanna laugh at you, rat-arsed, walking down Downing Street at the end of the summer, but try to keep the cork in the bottle until you’ve given the Strines a mauling. It’s really much more important than going on the piss.

I don’t believe I just typed that.

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True Colours


Smiling Assassin

Smiling Assassin

Has the Gonk finally done for Gordon? On the day when even the corduroy-clad hacks at the Guardian are calling for the PM’s resignation and just a day after The Home Secretary (sic) bravely ran away from office to spend more time with her old man’s porn ficks, the thieving ginger dwarf timed her moment to perfection and jumped ship just 24 hours before the government faces meltdown at the polls, throwing the reshuffle into chaos. Surely now it’s time for Gordon Brown (texture like dung) to man the barricades as No10 is rapidly morphing into Rorke’s Drift. Trouble is, not only are the Zulu’s coming to get him, but his own men (and women) are sharpening their bayonets and waiting to catch Lt Brown off his guard. The 4ft 10 (that’s about 6 cms tall for our European readers) has, as Michael White of the Guardian put it “stabbed him in the front”, and has left him mortally wounded, hemorrhaging in front of the opposition at this afternoon’s PMQs. I can hardly bear to watch. Lord Haw Haw would have been proud of her. Let’s hope she doesn’t have an accident on that motorbike.

There is no doubt that GB is a deluded, sad little soul, who’s totally misjudged every other decision he’s had to make since seizing office from Blair (who first introduced us to Smith and Blears). VAT, Gurkhas, Youtube etc etc. the list goes on. Perhaps his worst mistake was employing all these parasites and fraudulent arses around him, people who can steal taxpayers money, look the camera in the eye and tell the nation they’ve done nothing wrong. Well he’s paying for those mistakes now. He doesn’t seem particularly nasty or evil, just misguided, misbriefed and mistaken. His inability to gauge public anger over the expenses row was astonishing. It smacked of arrogance and has left him with little or no respect in the country.

Hang your head

Hang your head

So the gruesome twosome have sunk their fangs into his buttocks, kneed him in the goolies and buggered off just before he demoted them. Gordon may as well lock himself away with a bottle of scotch and a service-issue revolver. The headline in the Metro this morning read “The Blair Babes are Revolting” They certainly are.

We Are Family


I may have been a bit harsh on HMQ and Phil the Greek. You can’t help who your ancestors were. Is it really the fault of William, Harry et al that they’re direct descendants (at least some of them) of Germans, or that some of their more recently departed relatives actively supported the Third Reich? No, of course it isn’t, and shame on you for thinking otherwise. We’re all accidents of birth and none of us can chose who our parents are or how much dosh they have or what privileges you get by being born into the right lineage.

Love yer boots, Os

Love yer boots, Os

Can Max Mosley help it if the old man was the British Fascist leader of the 30’s and 40’s? A man who wanted to be Hitler’s UK rep during the war, and PM after it? No, don’t be daft. The only thing we can pin on him is his apparent penchant for women in Nazi uniform beating the buggery out of him of a wednesday night, between Grand Prix. Who amongst us hasn’t done that? Nope, we can’t help where we come from. I can trace my lineage back to someone called Sir Richard Arundell-Bealing, Secretary to Queen Catherine of Bragaza (1601-1689). I quote from the History of Tea: “In Europe tea was sold as a medicinal drink in the 1650s. Tea drinking really took hold when Catherine of Bragaza, a Portuguese princess, married Charles II in 1662. She brought tea and served it to friends at court. The tea started being served at what was called tea gardens all over London” proof, if any were needed, that there has not only been a whiff of aristocracy in or near our family in days gone by, but that some of them could actually write (two things that haven’t been passed down the generations). So my ancestor probably took tea with the King. Pass the biscuits!

Put kettle on, Bealing, I'm gasping

Put kettle on, Bealing, I'm gasping

Yesterday we read that a woman called Carole Tovey, 66, of Ilfracombe, is the closest living relative to Bob Marley. Apparently her great uncle, Albert Thomas Marley, who was of white British descent, settled in Jamaica in the late 19th Century. Now if Bob was anything to go by (he had 12 kids of his own) Uncle Albert may well have made himself busy between harvesting bananas. As the seeds of his loins went forth and multiplied, they sailed the seven seas, and at least one of them ended up in Devon. Who’d a thunk it? In a wonderful quote which only your mum could utter, Mrs Tovey said to The Times: “I’ve never heard his music before today. I used to like people like Neil Sedaka and the Everly Brothers. No reggae. No heavy metal”. No-one cared to ask if she had a spliff-fixation but I suspect I know the answer. My ancestor’s love of tea managed to survive the generations while all Mrs Tovey got was a tin-ear but no natty-dreads. Max Mosely retains his father’s love of a jackboot, Prince Harry has a shock of Ginger hair(!) while others receive no tell-tale signs of who their ancestors were, what their traits were, or where they came from. It’s a bugger of nature, nothing we can do, but nevertheless mystifying. Innit?

It's not linear, it's glandular

It's not linear, it's glandular

High Life, Low Life


mount-everest

A few years ago someone I was then related to asked me if I’d like to take the trip to Mount Everest Base Camp with her. She’d done it a couple of times previously and wanted to show me the experience first hand. I looked in my diary and noticed I was busy for the foreseeable future so had to turn her down. I’m not sure if she believed me. You will be well aware of my sporting prowess and my enthusiasm for breaking sweat over anything more vigorous than opening a bottle of port, so climbing up a mountain, albeit a little bit of one, didn’t seem like fun to me. But at one stage in my life I would have actually considered such a trip.

You see I always imagined Base Camp to do exactly what it says on the tin: it would be at the base— at the foot of the mountain, somewhere you could get a cab or a bus to. How glad I am that I’d learned my mistake before I took up the invitation: Base Camp is at an altitude of 17,600 ft. When I’m at that height I traditionally expect to be tucking onto my fourth scotch and settling down to a movie. 17,600 ft, as far as I’m concerned is for the birds and crimpelene-clad stewardesses. She said that to reach Base Camp you set off and ascend 3,000 ft but then descend 1,000 to avoid altitude sickness, go to sleep, then wake up and do it all again—up 3,000, down 1,000. Yeah right, I’m gonna do that. I tell you what, I’ll go down the pub and pour away a third of each pint I buy to avoid getting drunk.

No, I shall leave all that and much, much more to stone-cold, certified nutcases such as Ranulph Fiennes who, at the age of 65, has become the oldest Briton to conquer Everest. That’d be the whole mountain—not just Base Camp. You really do have to raise a glass to him (just don’t pour any away). One of the last great Brit eccentrics and one of the last true loonies in the world, Fiennes is a Boy’s Own Hero, complete with the SAS training, but not with a full compliment of toes, thanks to frost-bite. Makes me whingeing about bowling two overs of dross on Saturday seem a little silly. (Read any of Fiennes’ books— they’re just sensational).

A severe bout of frost-bite seemed to be running rampant through the West Indies Cricket team last week as the cold, geordie winds nibbled about their vitals as they succumbed to a drubbing by an England XI. The poor sods, resplendent in seven jumpers each, must have thought Montego Bay was a very long way away (it is). They looked as happy to be in Durham I would in a tent half-way up a mountain. Each to their own, I say. Caribbean Cricketers are at home in the heat of Antigua or Barbados, no the sub-zero temperatures of Northern England, any more than the Poms can stand the heat of the tropics of Port of Spain, or Columbo, Malaya or Bombay (yes, I know, stop it).

I wonder if anyone will feel out of place at that Buckingham Place Garden Party? Reports suggest the guest-list will include a couple of kamerads from the BNP. It’ll be nice for Phil the Greek to have someone who he can speak to on his own terms, and I’m sure there will be lots of tutonic twittering about the Fatherland between Nick Griffin and Der Saxe-Coburg-Gothas. Oh what fun it will be. I wonder what Harry will wear?

Anyway, I need to get into the garden and clean the duck-house. Lend us a fiver, would you?

mallard-duck

Just One More Question, Sir…


So I’m sitting in my garden, soaking up the rays while flicking through the papers, when I’m stopped in my tracks by an advert on page 12 of The Times. Dunno why, as I’ve always felt I don’t look at adverts. As any fule no, adverts are just there to make photos smaller in papers and magazines, or to give you something to doodle on while in morning conference. In these dark days of credit crunch and the collapse of the advertising industry, I suppose we should all thank Evans for small Murphys (some more than others) and embrace whatever adverts actually make it into print, and thus keeping us in the poverty to which we’ve so readily become accustomed, but I do fluctuate between annoyance and agnosticism when I see a dirty great Halfords or Waitrose ad where a perfectly good story, or even better, a photo should be.

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Anyway, I digress. So the offending item this time is a Samsung colour half-page ad for mobile phones. An attractive young couple grapple with each other next to insets of two mobiles, underneath the legend “Ourselves. Together” whatever that means. But something struck me about those words—they felt rather familiar. So off I popped to the wonderful web world of Wikipedia. Something in the back of my pickled mind led me to believe that Sinn Féin was a translation of just that: Ourselves Together. Was this electronics giant really a front for Irish Republicanism ? Would Chelsea soon be playing their matches in shirts emblazoned with Gerry Adams’ hairy boat ? As I should have known only too well after the week at work I’ve had, the answer was no. I was wrong. But only just.

Here’s the entry:
Sinn Féin:…The name is Irish for “ourselves” or “we ourselves”,[3][4] although it is frequently mistranslated[5] as “ourselves alone”.

Now given that around 64% of what’s on Wikipedia is a load of old cobblers, I still could be right. Wikipedia is about as reliable as a Jacqui Smith expense claim or an Ant n Dec phone-poll, so perhaps my memory has served me better than I think. Maybe not.

But where did I glean this little nugget of half-truth? Well I knew all those hours on the sofa would pay off in the end: It came to me that there’s an episode of Columbo where he investigates a murder of an Oirish (you should hear the accents in the show) republican sympathiser. The episode was full of begorrahs and to be sure, to be sures and ginger-haired young men, drinking whiskey and stout, wearing aran sweaters. The do-er is an Oirish wroiter who is undone by the fact he inscribes the inside cover of a book at a signing with Together Ourselves (I thought). There, I’ve gone and ruined the ending for you now, haven’t I? No matter— as it’s the wont of the series, you always know who the killer is during the opening credits and the fun is to be had by the in-jokes liberally sprinkled through each episode: his signature whistle of knick-knack-paddy-wack; his endearing habit of ‘just one more question, sir”; his battered Peugeot and the fact that Mrs Columbo is never ever seen on screen. Often she was mentioned in dispatches but the producers occasionally had fun with us by dangling the carrot in front of us that she was about to appear— but she never did. Mrs Columbo is one of man tv spouses who remain unseen: Dad’s Army‘s, Mrs Mainwaring; Rumpole‘s She Who Must be Obeyed; Arthur Daly‘s Er Indoors; Porrige‘s Mrs Barraclough to name a few. What a lovely way to be married— to an anonymous, faceless woman who’s never around. Perhaps that’s where I went wrong?

This old man, he played one...

This old man, he played one...

Peter Falk’s shambolic detective never carried a gun, didn’t even have a truncheon (night stick, y’all) and always showed his badge as identification. Remember those days? The Wire it weren’t. If it wasn’t for his willingness to identify himself, and his lack of violent tendencies Columbo could have joined the Met.
It’s a chilling thought that had Big Crosby not turned down the part when he was offered it, the famous mac might have been replaced by a straw trilby and a pipe, and each case would have revolved around a golf course. Falk, of course, eventually made the part his own (it had been played by 2 other actors in the 60’s) and he became tv’s highest-paid actor for a while. Like Grandpa Simpson and his MacGyver I’ve been addicted to the show for years and was stunned to see one on tv the other day which not only hadn’t I seen before but in which the killer was neither Patrick McGoohan nor Robert Vaughn. McGoohan and Falk were best mates and not only did the former star of The Prisoner win two Emmys for his roles, he also directed quite a few shows. I know there are those who are horrified that USTV has remade The Prisoner starring something called a Jim Caviezel as No.6 and Dame Serena McKellen as either No. 2 or a number 2, it’s not clear. Why do they insist on doing this ? I’m not great fan of the original, but some things surely are sacrosanct ? I’m sure somewhere in managerial meetings within HBO or ABC there’ll be plans to remake Ice Cold in Alex starring Hugh Jackman, or Casablanca with Cate Blanchett as Rick Blaine. If I get a whiff that they’re tee-ing up Owen Wilson to don a scruffy raincoat and play LAPD‘s favourite homicide detective in something called Columbo: the Party-on Years I shall invite you all to join me in a violent bout of civil unrest. Together. Ourselves.

 

l-r: Hanks, Aniston,  Jackman and Ferrell

l-r: Hanks, Aniston, Jackman and Ferrell

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That’s what I want


76 million-to-1. No, not the odds of Gordon getting back in next year, nor your chances against surviving a fortnight in Cancun, but the odds on scooping the jackpot in tonight’s EuroMillions draw. On the upside if you are the sole winner you stand to gain £89 million— that’ll keep you in tamiflu and Mariachi bands for a couple of weeks. It’s about now you start hearing people say “Oh I wouldn’t want all that money” or “winning the lottery wouldn’t change me” or even “I’d carry on working at Lidl“. Well, excuse me. Give me the money and I’ll show you how it can change me. You’ll recognize me instantly as I’ll be in a purple quilted smoking jacket , jodhpurs and a monocle, queuing up at the bank every morning checking my balance (and if I drink as much as I intend to when I win, my balance won’t be as good as it should be). “I beg your pardon!” I shall yell at the top of my voice, “89,274,693 pounds, forty-nine pence? Are you George Bernard about that? Please check it again” And if I don’t like the cut of the teller’s jib I shall take my business and my money elsewhere. This will, of course, mean I won’t be spending quite as much time in the office as I’d like to but, hey, them’s the breaks.
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They tell me the interest on 89 million is about £1,524 per day. I don’t think I could drink that much so the trick would be to think of new and exciting ways to spend it. I thought I’d found a perfect solution this lunchtime when an old biddy beside me at the bar ordered a JLo. I waited with baited breath and sweaty palms to see if the pub actually did sell actresses over the bar, but sadly they don’t. Not even as Off-Sales. The landlord suggested to the old girl she might mean a J2O. How disappointing for us both. Imagine the fun you could have with Jennifer Lopez and a pickled egg? “Oh and a Kelly Brook top, please barman. Nah, I’ve gone off the Kelly McGillis—think it’s on the turn.”
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I suppose with some of my winnings I could sort out the mortgages of friends and family—but who needs friends when you’ve of wads of cash ? I shall buy new ones, and the family will get it soon enough what with the kidney failure and all. But there must be a more fun, if no worthy way to get rid of it? It’s not gonna make much of a dent in Gordon’s debt, is it, so bugger that. It would be enough to run an F1 team for two years, but you’d spend half as much again on suits for court appearances. I could invest it into Charlton Ath.. oh fuck it, I’m gonna do what everyone does. Play golf, drink champers, follow the English Cricket/Rugby/Netball team around the world. Get fat and pissed watching sport, and why not? I’ve been doing that for 25 years now. See—winning the Lottery won’t change me. Arriba Arriba

We don't need no schtinkeen badgees

We don't need no schtinkeen badgees

Just a Minute


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Inside the mind of Clement Freud.

On sex and the older male…
I am 82 and was indeed fitted with titanium and plastic knees six months ago. When propositioned recently by a woman to “come upstairs and make love”, I had to explain that it was one or the other.

On greyhound racing…
I had coffee with a racing manager who told me that dogs from traps one, two and six narrowly outperformed the mid-trap runners and, if I did forecasts involving the three favoured draws, I would show a slight profit over the season. As “a slight profit” was not what I had in mind, I backed a dog led up by a kennel maid with a huge bust. He came fifth. That system is a good way of showing a slight loss.

On food and wine…
Watercress does funny things to your palate – makes it very hard to appreciate good wine, does a plate of watercress salad. So, look on the bright side, if the wine you have bought is iffy, bring on watercress.

The family name…
In my youth “Freud” was not a household name in Britain. At prep school I was once called to the headmaster’s study to be beaten for talking during class, told to take off my trousers “and your pants, you stupid little boy”, lay across the man’s knee as he fondled my bum with his gnarled hand, whereafter he said: “I am not going to smack you because your grandfather would disapprove.” When people ask whether being related to a famous man is a help or a hindrance, I think of that.

Good Irish folk…
My distinguished Aunt Anna had a house on the west coast of Cork and always spoke with affection of the simple, straightforward decency of the local people. She was in Skibereen for her 70th birthday and received hundreds of telegrams of goodwill from all parts of the world where psycho-analysis rules OK. The messages were telephoned through to the postmistress, who inscribed them on greetings forms and hired a boy to deliver them hourly to the Freud house. During the afternoon she received one which read: “The rapists of Philadelphia send good wishes and best regards.” Over which my elderly maiden aunt puzzled greatly. When she called on the postmistress the next day she asked if they might send off for verification. The postmistress said that she, too, had been shocked by the words and checked them, and they had been right. Therapists is not a word in common usage around those parts.

Wills and the wife…
In October 1950 I left everything to my wife, told her so at dinner; she was too well brought up to ask questions. In fact, “everything” then was under £100, my paternal grandfather’s silk night-shirts, which my grandmother had given me as a 21st birthday present, and some extremely heavy, leather luggage nicked from a German factory that my regiment had “liberated” a week or two before VE Day. Last week, 58 years, five children and 16 grandchildren later, my first wife (we remain together, I call her “my first wife” to keep her on her toes) asked whether I had made a will. Not for a while, I admitted, and determined to do it all over again.

Life’s little pleasures…
If you resolve to give up smoking, drinking and loving, you don’t actually live longer; it just seems longer