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


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

fatvesuvius

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

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

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

(queue harp)…………

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

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

Slow Cooked Water Buffalo enjoying his meal.

A large portion of Water Buffalo enjoying his dinner.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Welby Wonga & the Short Loan Factory


All is not well in Lambeth. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Marcus Welby M.D., having launched an attack on loan sharks money lenders WONGA, yesterday was told by his own advisers that the Church of England had itself invested shed loads of dosh into the extortion Pay Day Loaners.

Worse news was to follow as sources at The Sharp Single stole discovered images from Welby’s personal photo collection, which illustrate just how involved the C.of E. really is with the much-maligned racketeers.

The ABC, or “The Bish”, as he’s known down his local dog track, is expected to make a statement later today, shortly after the 4.15 at Newmarket.

wongabishop

Walking in Welby Wonga Land: Let he who casts the first stone pay back 5853% in interest.

wongabish

Pew’s the Bastard in the Black ? The Ultimate embarrassment for The Archbishop as he’s pictured wearing a Newcastle United strip.

Now let us stand as we sing Hymn no.109:
“I Vow to Pay Thy Loan Back
(I’d like to Keep my Knees)”

 

The Doctor Will Bore You Now


Hello children, are you sitting comfortably ? Then we’ll begin.

Who will be the next Doctor Who ? Who will travel the galaxy, fighting crime and …things ? Who will be filling up endless pages of the Radio Times every week ? Who actually gives a toss ? Well some children and a few lonely, sweaty men apparently do. For some reason, we take a look at the runners and riders.

10-1 fav Dame Judi Fry

Actor Stephen Fry arrives at the premier

International Treasure: One of the most popular men in any era or galaxy, a Twit in every sense and a complete Time Lord. Or Similar. Lets himself down every Lunar Equinox with tales of his crippling depression — which he doesn’t like to talk about. Vows to become the best Doctor ever, or kill himself trying.

33-1 Keith Vaz MP

Keith_Vaz_smile

Politician / TV Celebrity: Well, he’s on everything else. With his trusted side-kick, Diane Abbott, Dr Vag would travel the Universe on any bandwagon that happens to be passing. May appeal to the ethnic voter. Though probably not.

50-1 Jade Dernbach

zRTR38NP4Cricketer [subs please check]: Has a huge following all over the Solar System. There are undiscovered life forms on Alpha Centauri who can already pick his slower ball. Reputation as a great death bowler won’t be exposed as a myth, as The Doctor never dies. His tattoos may scare smaller children. His bowling won’t.

66-1: Stuart Hall

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Mailbag Sewer: The ever popular TV host, commentator and Mancunian Fiddler would bring with him his legendary catchphrase “And Here Come the Martians / Policemen”  and a ready-made dipstick (possibly stolen from Arthur Ellis. Wipe it — we don’t know where it’s been). Unlikely to be allowed within seven light years of a female assistant.

150-1 Dr Marcus Welby, ABC

Justin Welby, the Bishop of Durham, walks through Westminster in London

Devil-Dodger: The current Archbishop of Canterbury comes complete with all-seeing, omnipotent, imaginary friend. Doesn’t seem to have anything else to do. Hopes that there aren’t any of those homosexualist types on the Planet of the Daleks. Was branded a “wanker” by a CofE priest this week. Possibly won’t be the last time that happens.

250-1 Mr Horrible


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Journalist, Surfer and Sharp Single Correspondent: Recently released from the clutches of the legendary “Dickheads of Time”, Mr Horrible resides in his secret hideaway in the Catacombs of gay Paris, knocking out (steady !) endless rants to this very publication and to anyone else who may be passing. A match for any passing Davros or Cyberman, Horrible is a rank outsider due to his love of the C-word before the 9 o’clock watershed. Little fucker.

Troubling the Scorers


leg bye

Lords Cricket Ground, London, August 2009. Jesuit Spitfires vrs Opus Dei Casuals. Final of The CCCCC (Catholic Church Club Cricket Cup), or the Pontiff Playoff, as it’s known.  Standing umpire ‘Jordie’ Bergoglio signals a Leg Bye, denying the batsman, Cardinal K Fiddler of Baltimore, his debut first class century. Opus Dei went onto to win by courtesy of a Mother Superior run rate (Duckworth Lewis) (source: PopeCrickPix)

Jobs for the Boys and Girls.


I’ve had a few decent jobs. I’ve had a couple of bloody awful ones too. I spent a good deal of my working life at The Telegraph; then a decent amount of time in London at TIME Magazine. I spent only a few months in the employ of Rupert Murdoch, but I don’t think he misses me. He’s probably got plenty on his plate to worry about at the moment anyway. Mr Dacre doesn’t lay awake at night wondering why I only did a couple of weeks freelancing on his Daily Mail. At least I assume he doesn’t. How much time Alexander Lebedev spends wishing I was still at The Independent, only he knows. When he gets too depressed about it, he goes off and punches someone, I hear. Robert Maxwell fell off his boat before I got the chance of working for him. Pity.

So you’d think that the constant moaning and whingeing from her father might have put a young Bealing off of journalism, wouldn’t you ? Well apparently not.

If you click on the picture above you’ll see an interview with former Tory politician Ann Widdecombe, the first raft of questions being asked by my eldest daughter Lucy (bottom right hand corner of this photo) . The more observant of you will notice Lucy keeps here questions to Ann’s role in Strictly Come Dancing rather than tackle her on political issues. It’s probably for the best: Her dad, whereas he would have struggled to come up with anything coherent or relevant to ask about Strictly, would have ended up on an assault charge should he ever have had to ask Widdecombe about her “struggle against Socialism”. Probably why her dad ended up as a picture editor, rather than an interviewer. You’ll also note that Lu speaks the Queen’s English unlike her father. Another advantage she has over me.

So that’s my eldest sorted out for the future, but the job market is a precarious one. My current job of “Watching Columbo and Printing T-Shirts” is one of my favourite jobs I’ve had, it just doesn’t pay anything like I thought it might. Almost the opposite in fact. On the other hand, I’m working at a place I like (home) with people I like (my mate Rob) and the hours are pretty good.

It could be worse, I could be Andrew Strauss who’s looking particularly precarious in his job as England cricket captain, his team having lost its fourth test match in a row. There’s no disgrace losing in Sri Lanka. The conditions are brutally hot and the pitches are so different from those in England that you’d need to be a particular talent to pull off a win, especially in Galle which has the reputation of being a graveyard for English players, and in particular English bowlers.

Bealing leads off The Fleet St Exiles having taken 6-22, taking them to a
3 wickets victory against the Sri Lankan Airways XI, Galle, Sri Lanka 2005

Then again some people are luckier than others. My good mate Dave has finally ended his long wait for a permanent job by landing a plumb one on a magazine. It’s been a long wait for him and I was thrilled when he called to tell me he’s landed it. Well done, Wavey ! Then there’s rugby’s Stuart Lancaster who has just been given the job which everyone in the country (57 Old Farts aside) thought he should have been given weeks ago. The new English Rugby Coach has fought off seemingly nearly every other coach in the world for the job before the old Twats of Twickenham finally run out of South Africans to turn them down. The RFU were forced to give the job to Lancaster, something they should have done when it was clear he a) knew how to coach a rugby team and b) had no time for show ponies. Celebrity coach he ain’t. And thank fuck for that.

Andy Robinson keeps his job. Yes, really. The Scotland coach had presided over a team which last won a match in black&white but somehow managed to convice the SRFU that he’s the one for the post. Can there be another man in the country (and yes, we can still count Scotland in that) who’s luckier to be still employed ? No, not if you don’t count Francis Maude there isn’t.

The Idiot Saville Row Tory Cabinet Office Minister Maude emplored drivers to fill up their Jerrycans with petrol and prepare for fuel shortages due to the tanker driver’s strike and that “there are lives at stake”. Once people had Googled what a Jerrycan was (apparently not everyone’s obsessed by WWII like me), checked that there is no strike (and won’t be one for at least a fortnight, and even then, probably not) and that the tanker drivers weren’t using Mad Max II technology to threaten people’s lives and protect the remaining gasoline, everyone assumed Maude would be taken round the back by Dave and Gideon and pummeled to death with his own Jerrycan. Sadly not.

“Half a tank of unleaded and 3 lucky dips for tonight’s lottery, please mate.” – a scene from Mad Maude II: The Road Warrior

For starters, Dave was too busy telling us how much he loved Pasties, and about the hilarious incident when he recently bought a pasty on Leeds railway station from the West Cornwall Pasty Company. MMMMmmmmmmm….Yum Yum. Trouble is all the poor sods at the Leeds station branch of the West London Pasty Company lost their jobs in 2007. So all that justification by Dave, all that gettin dahn wiv da prols an da kidz was, ow u say,  a load of old bollocks.

Still, Dave’ll soon have some proper opposition in Parliament to point out all his mistakes, scandals, lies and wrong-doings. George Galloway is back in a job. Sadly, it’s true. The Big Brother Cat Impersonator is back in his job as an MP, this time by winning a by-election in Bradford West, a once Labour stronghold. George won by a landslide by campaigning on one issue: An anti-Afghan War campaign in the predominantly-muslim neighbourhoods of Bradford West. He even intimated earlier in the campaign he actually was a musilm (he isn’t really).

Just fancy that: A tv celebrity, however micro and annoying to you and me, campaigns in a Muslim area against a war seen by many to be anti-muslim, securing a 10,000 majority and WINNING a by-election in a previously Labour heartland. Now who could have predicted that ? Should anyone in Labour be brought to account for this humliation? Should Mr Millipede still be in his job ?

It’s Tin Hat Time


Just a couple of items raised a monobrow today. I notice my beloved Blackheath is to receive some help from a terrorist attack. Which is nice.

BBC: London 2012: Olympics missile sites considered for Blackheath and Shooters Hill


The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is considering plans to install surface-to-air missiles in Blackheath and Shooters Hill during the Olympic Games.The MoD said it had taken military advice to identify sites to base the defence systems to protect the skies over London in the event of an attack.Eltham and Plumstead MP Clive Efford said he was concerned at the “lack of consultation”.

The MoD said no final decision had been made to use the air defence systems.Mr Efford said he had now written to Defence Secretary Philip Hammond to complain about not being consulted.The Labour MP said the first he heard about the plans was when half a dozen trucks and trailers arrived at Oxleas Wood, near Shooters Hill in his constituency.

‘Alarmed at news’

“I accept there has to be security for the Olympics and inconvenience but there are proper processes to go through,” he said. “I would have expected a full briefing from the minister. This is a site of special scientific interest so I was alarmed when I heard. I have no idea of the scale of this plan and what damage might happen.”

Whether or not the local MP is a little bit naive expecting a full briefing is a moot point, but if the MOD could point their Exocets towards the heavy lorries that daily get stuck in the Blackwall Tunnel, that would help immeasurably. They’d get a perfect view from the top of Shooters Hill too.

Then there was this in The Guardian today:

As a metaphor for the London Olympics, it could hardly be more stark. The much-derided “Wenlock” Olympic mascot is now available in London Olympic stores dressed as a Metropolitan police officer. For £10.25 you, too, can own the ultimate symbol of the Games: a member of by far the biggest and most expensive security operation in recent British history packaged as tourist commodity. Eerily, his single panoptic-style eye, peering out from beneath the police helmet, is reminiscent of the all-seeing eye of God so commonly depicted at the top of Enlightenment paintings. In these, God’s eye maintained a custodial and omniscient surveillance on His unruly subjects far below on terra firma….

…Critics of the Olympics have not been slow to point out the dark ironies surrounding the police Wenlock figure. “Water cannon and steel cordon sold separately,” mocks Dan Hancox on the influential Games Monitor website. “Baton rounds may be unsuitable for small children.”

In addition to the concentration of sporting talent and global media, the London Olympics will host the biggest mobilisation of military and security forces seen in the UK since the second world war. More troops – around 13,500 – will be deployed than are currently at war in Afghanistan. The growing security force is being estimated at anything between 24,000 and 49,000 in total. Such is the secrecy that no one seems to know for sure.

During the Games an aircraft carrier will dock on the Thames. Surface-to-air missile systems will scan the skies. Unmanned drones, thankfully without lethal missiles, will loiter above the gleaming stadiums and opening and closing ceremonies. RAF Typhoon Eurofighters will fly from RAF Northolt. A thousand armed US diplomatic and FBI agents and 55 dog teams will patrol an Olympic zone partitioned off from the wider city by an 11-mile, £80m, 5,000-volt electric fence.

All this should give walking around London this summer that warm, cosy feeling. It’ll be just like a Richard Curtis movie. Especially the ones he directed starring Wesley Snipes and Liam Neeson shooting the fuck out of everything. The English Tourist Board must be loving it. And all this just to make wads of cash for Seb, Boris and their cronies. Maybe my missing out on tickets for the heats of the Individual Synchronized Swimming was a blessing in disguise after all ? Are they putting frogmen in the pool ? Buster Crabbe sitting at the bottom of the deep end, should the famous Al Qaeda Underwater swim-team decide to invade ?

I’m not sure how much concentration I could manage if I was competing in the Archery or the 1 yard Air Pistol if I could sense either a ground-to-air missile at the other end of the field, primed and ready to go; or the threat of a hooded loony’s AK47 spitting bullets all over the place.  I’d want more than a BB Gun or a bow-and-arrow to defend myself with.

The English Cricket team have got it right: They’re bad enough without going out to bat in Sniper Alley in downtown Lahore. I’m not sure I’d be able to pick a googly if I thought the mad mullahs were using my temples as target practice. So they refuse to play in Pakistan. They’d much rather be humiliated and beaten in the UAE. I wonder how long it will be before Olympic national teams decide not to visit a country marked down in the book by religious extremists as Satan’s Little Helper ?

Maybe not. That would be taken as a huge diss and insult to the Old Country. They wouldn’t dare upset old Dave.

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.

Handlebar’s Water Music


(The story so far: Mike has had a stroke at the tender age of 48, and many tests ensue)

I’d had enough of this falling over shit. My Doctor had had enough of me moaning about this “I’m dizzy” bollocks. It was time for my MRI scan. What was going on up there in that alleged brain of mine ? Why did my head keep exploding, which resulted in me sitting on my arse, blinded by the light, revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night.

I washed and shaved early, trying out the Honda handlebar moustache for the for the first time. Shoehorned my ample frame into one of the few pair of trousers which I both own and still fit me. Thank Allah that my appointment came when it did – any later and they may have had to grease me up to slide me into that scanner.

The literature which the hospital had sent along with the appointment told me to leave all metal bits n pieces behind. Phones, watches, keys, belt buckles (haven’t needed one of those for a while) plates in my head and piercings in my nipples, none of these would be allowed within a UNISON picket line of the MRI scanner.

When the day came, we (I was ably accompanied by The Incumbent) arrived at the hospital, took advantage of the Costa Coffee in the foyer, then headed off for the MRI dept. We entered, gave my name and, virtually free of metallic objects, sat in the waiting room. The silence was broken after just a few minutes.

“Mr Bealing?”
“Er…yes, here” I even put my hand up like a boy at the back of the class.
The nurse looked me up and down. “Those trousers got a metal button?”
“Er, yes. yes I think they have” I replied (well after all, I had paid over fifteen quid for them at Sainsbury’s. No rubbish here, mate).
“Well they’ll have to come off. You can’t wear them in the scanner. Come with me you can change in there [points to room up the corridor], then you can come back, give your trousers to your wife (sic) and wait to be called.”

I went white. A cold sweat came over me. Although I was still able, unaided, to have put my Sainsbury’s trousers on, wearing underpants underneath them had become a bit of a luxury. My burgeoning waistline and arseline leave no room for boxer shorts. Jockeys or Y-fronts are a distant memory and so I had arrived at my local hospital a la Commando. Sans trolleys. Born Free. Without knickers.

The thought of the nurse handing me a gown to get into and me having to walk back to the waiting room with my bare arse hanging out for my fellow patients’ entertainment and enjoyment filled me with fear and dread. I shared my fears with The Incumbent who nearly imploded with laughter. I wasn’t laughing.

I followed the nurse to the changing room and was relieved to see a pair of sky blue cotton drawstring trousers hanging there. They were huge, fortunately, and I managed to slide into them. Indeed so big were they that the drawstring didn’t pull tight enough to hold them up. I had to clench wads of material with one hand, and keep my thighs and buttocks together to ensure they stayed up at a decent level, sparing my blushes.

I rolled up my own, now discarded strides under my arm and left the room to return to the missus in the waiting area. On the way I noticed a handily-placed WC and thought this would be a good opportunity to get rid of the tepid Primo Latte which Costa had provided me with earlier. I was due to be in the scanner for 90 minutes and I didn’t want to be caught short while I was in there. In my half-clenched, bent-over state I shuffled my way over to have a pee, carefully ensuring my arse didn’t take a peek out the back of my slacks.

There is a type of cotton (cheap chinos are made of it) which, no matter how hard, how vigorous or how many times you shake your willy after urinating, will soak up every little speck, each and every drop of pee it can and show the evidence of this so-called “willy drip” to one and all in the form of a huge dark patch around your goolie region.

I have to tell you now that these hospital trousers were made of this very same material. And I wasn’t wearing pants.

There is nothing one can do about it. 2 tiny drips had hit the cotton and were now joined together and were spreading, leaving a dark blue patch the size of a CD in the general area of my penis. Can you imagine how mortified I was ? I left the loo. Picture the scene of me, hunched up, buttocks and knees together, one hand holding the flystring of my newly-acquired blue leg ware, the other holding a perfectly good pair of Sainsburys drills in front of a big blotch of wee. With my new face fuzz I must have looked like a balding, fat Fu Manchu with a bladder complaint. Oh happy days.

As luck would have it, I was called in to be scanned way before the patch dried. I had to pass my old trousers to the still-giggling Incumbent and resorted to hiding my moist nether regions with the front tails of my shirt. I entered the scanning room.

The nurse greeted me and said the scan would be in three stages.
“And Once in Evening Dress ?” I offered, trying to be witty. And titter came there none.
“No. Head, neck and then blood flow” she informed me sternly.
“Oh, ok then”.

She then explained that I’d be in the scanner for well over an hour and it’s a really boring experience, when you “must MUST” keep your neck and head still throughout. She went on that also, as brilliant as this technology is, it’s really very noisy as the scan goes through its phases, so she popped a pair of headphones on me which act as both ear mufflers and through which they would talk to me and play music throughout the procedure- to give me something to take my mind off it.
“Is there any music you don’t want us to play ?” she asked.
“Rap or anything by Morrissey” I replied, quick as a flash (it’s a knee-jerk reaction).
A blank look came across her face. “I don’t think we’ve got anything like that anyway” she said. “What about anything you’d really like to hear?” she asked.

Seasons in the Sun by Terry Jacks or Old Shep by Elvis” I quipped. But by the stoney look I received, my joke had, again, fallen on deaf ears. “Classical will do” I told her. Christ, she was a tough crowd.

I climbed onto the machine bed, and lay back onto the head rest. She brought down a plastic grid over my face, and put wedges either side to prevent movement. I knew how Hannibal Lecter felt at that airport. As the bench slid half way into the machine, I lay head and shoulders inside, torso and legs al fresco. I half expected to hear John Mills or Hardy Kruger to shout “Fire One” and I’d shoot off out of the scanner, in the general direction of Orpington.

Nursey explained she needed to inject me with some chemical or other (thankfully my words not hers) in order to track my blood flow. As I lay there, wedged into in my cage I felt her pull a tourniquet around my bicep, then grab my hand in readiness for the injection.

It then dawned on me, as a chirpy Strauss waltz drifted across the airwaves, that if she was leaning down to spot a nice bulging vein in the back of my hand, her head would be a matter of inches away from my urine-soaked winkle.

“Now you might feel a little prick” she announced.

Did I ever.