Happy Talk


In the words of Supertramp: It’s Raining Again. It’s always raining. Foreigners may have this image of England always being covered in either pea-soupers or rain, but this time – even by our low standards – we’ve had rotten weather. We seem to have missed out on summer altogether this year. Winter-Spring-Autumn-Winter, that’s how 2012 will be remembered. It’s wet and it’s bloody cold too. The only few weeks of the whole summer to escape the rain was the sodding Olympics. I’m so happy.

I haven’t even had my birthday yet and it’s already Guy Fawkes weather: that time in the year when us Brits traditionally gather round the bonfire to mourn the fact that some bunch of Catholics failed to blow up The Houses of Parliament a few hundred years ago. Tradition has it that mum sits inside, sometimes in the cupboard under the stairs , comforting the dog and cupping its ears, while the kids stand in the garden watching dad and Slightly-Dodgy-Uncle Colin try to light damp fireworks.

After a several swearwords and a couple of boxes of Swan Vestas they give up, let the kids play with a few sparklers right up until one of the abandoned-cos-it’s-no-fucking-use fireworks decides to ignite itself and launch itself at an angle of 37.5° towards the house. Dad and Colin, by now a tad elephants, hit the deck like Luis Suarez on a day out in Stoke; the kids piss themselves with delight; the dog shits himself and bites mum. A good night is had by all.

A week before all this we have another in a long line of American imports to endure: Halloween night. Or more annoyingly and importantly: Trick or Treaters. Little fuckers. None of this ever took place during my formative years (and we can blame ET for the start of its popularity over here). I don’t even recall there even being Halloween cards in the shops while I was growing up (sic), just a few abortive attempts at pumpkin carving, and the odd whiff of a lit lantern here and there. Certainly no fancy-dress parades, and no banging on doors demanding sweets in lieu of forfeits or punishment.

Last year, The Incumbent and I hid behind the sofa when some herberts came to call, but were paid back with eggs being thrown at the house. I say it was herberts, it may well have been my mum and dad – they are at a funny age and I don’t ring home enough. Apparently Jimmy Savile would scare callers by wearing a scary costume, and waving about his gnarled pumpkin. I’m not sure what he did at Halloween.

(By the way, my pal Ciaran tells me that this years Guantanamo Bay’s Christmas Panto is to be Peter Pan. Apparently, Abu Hamza is chuffed to bits with the part he’s been offered.)

But enough of that.

So finally (and in reverse order) a couple of weeks before Halloween we (and when I say we, I mean I) will arrive with rather too much speed for my liking at my birthday. Though this year ‘s anniversary of my birth will not be greeted with as much dread, depression and trepidation as is the custom round these here parts. I watched the cricket yesterday, where the West Indies gave the hosts, Sri Lanka, a real pasting – as they had done to England a week or so earlier.

I am nearly 48 years old, I had a stroke last year (I may have mentioned it) and I am looking dow the wrong end of 17 stone, but if Ravi Rampaul and Johnson Charles are international cricketers, capable of being in a World Championship-winning team, then I am once more strapping myself into my lucky Bobby Tambling jockstrap, rubbing-in a tin of Ralgex into my aching body and again taking to the field of play. Put me down as “Available for Selection”, please. I might even put on some kit before the match begins.

“Do I detect a certain happiness in your demeanour, Mike?” I don’t hear you ask. Well, funny you shouldn’t ask: The reason you find me so happy-go-lucky today is that I was told this week by a consultant specialising in strokes (there’s that Mr Savile again) that I am ‘very unlikely’ (which is good enough for me) that I will have a recurrence of the explosion in my bonce which caused my original stroke. Even though I still suffer the occasional bouts of dizziness, numbness, and miserableness, this is normal and in a few years all such niggles should disappear (with the possible exception of the miserableness) and that I should feel free to lead a normal existence, think myself lucky, and stop worrying about stuff. “And for fuck’s sake cheer up, you sad bastard.”

So this is the new, happy me. Get used to it. Or fuck off.

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Hold Very Tight Please, Ding Ding


Nearly there. Not long to go now. One final push and the whole sodding year will be over and done with and we can forget it ever happened. I’m sure you lot have had a better go at it than I did, but, to paraphrase a good mate of mine, you can stick 2011 up your arse. Not that you needed a stroke-and-a-half to have hated this year, but it didn’t help me, I can tell you.

For those of you whose head hasn’t popped off this year, the economy, the housing market, the job market, Gideon Osborne, Nick Clegg, the Royal Wedding, the Arab Spring, a little war in Libya, a proper war in Croydon, Downturn Abbey,  and Jeremy Clarkson will still mark this as one of the more miserable years since at least 2010.

Sadly, there are still ten days left for the all-powerful being to chuck us a couple of bouncers before the year’s properly out. Take the poor old sod who showed up driving Boris’s new bus the other day. The Mayor of London unveiled his new double-decker costing (and wait for it) £7.8million for five (count ’em) FIVE buses. Good job there’s not a recession going on. That’s one and a half million quid for a bus. And guess what ? Fucking thing broke down on its first run out. Yep. The battery failed on its trial run. Here’s a photo of it stranded on the hard shoulder of the M1.

Now, admittedly, as debut disasters go it’s not exactly Titanic-esque, but one suspects that both Boris and Mr Bus Driver would have uttered a quiet “oh fuck-it” under their breath. Is it just me or did that bus look remarkably similar to the one that Beckham rode around the Chinese Olympic Stadium ? The one which Leona Lewis held tightly between her titanic thighs as she sung along triumphantly with Jimmy Page to a Chas ‘n’ Dave medley (I’m not making much of this up) at the closing ceremony of the Peking Games ? No wonder it broke down.

Talking of the Titanic, next year sees the 100th Anniversary of its fateful maiden voyage so gird your loins for dozens of BBC4 documentaries on the trip, at least three of them featuring hysterical historical father-and-son team Dan and John Snow revisiting the scene in a midget submarine and reliving the tragic tale of the unsinkable ship. It’d certainly be par for the course, and both of them are more attractive to look at than watching fatty Winslet hanging over the railings being goosed by someone from steerage.

Channel 4 will probably dig up a victim of the sinking and dissect him, for reasons known only to those that decree that each and every Channel 4 documentary demands at least one autopsy .

2012 also happens to be the 100th Anniversary of plucky British explorer Robert Falcon Scott‘s demise on the return leg from the South Pole, having months earlier found that Norway’s Roald Amundsen had beaten him to his goal. The Norwegian PM even spent time at the pole a couple of weeks ago, experiencing what his great countryman experienced on becoming the first man to the very bottom of the world. My letter to the British PM and his Chancellor suggesting they might like to mark the Titanic Anniversary by reenacting the journey, complete with realistic (well…real) ice fields seems to have been delayed in the Christmas post. I’m gonna email them in a minute.

So bring on 2012. We do, of course, have the excitement and pageantry of the Queen’s Jubilee and Lord Coe‘s Fucking Olympiad (that’s now the official title, by the way) to look forward to. As you may well imagine, I am keenly anticipating them both equally. but that can wait for another time. Just to say that if you came from a country that brought you Scott of the Antarctic, Titanic, the Dunkirk disaster Royal It’s a Knockout, and many many more, you’d be looking forward to them too. Better sharpen me pencils.

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.

The Battle Cruiser


I do love a pub.

And when I say that, I don’t mean a bar, or a cafe bar. Or a restaurant with a bar where you wait while your table is prepared. I mean a pub.

While we’re at it I also don’t mean a converted high street bank. A place which used to be a very good community bank, and is now a very shite community service pub. A place where you can buy “A chicken curry and a pint for £4.99 every Tuesday”. I don’t mean a place adorned with signs announcing “Girls get Purple drinks Half price every Monday, Wednesday and third Sunday”. I mean a pub.

Sometimes a pub's so nice it merits stopping drinking and taking a picture. This is me in the perfect Hoppe in Amsterdam. And not a hot meal in sight.

A pub should generally follow several broad guidelines. A pub should be a place where one goes to meet old friends and make new ones. And drink with them. To that end, the music out of any speakers therein should be soft enough to hear yourself think and talk, loud enough to induce an argument over the singer or the song’s identity. What decent night down the boozer worth remembering didn’t have a row in it ? And an argument over music is as good a place to start as any.

Any live singer or band playing in the pub should adhere to the above decibel guidelines. If such proves impossible, the act should always remember they are playing in a public house and therefore popular, anthem-type songs, mostly over ten years old is a must. I don’t want to sit examining my pint to the strains of the garbage you composed in your garage last night. Save that for the students. Landlords should reserve just one night per week for live music. There are only so many times I want to hear/sing Sweet Caroline down the local: Once at about ten o’clock and one encore. That’s plenty. Unless I’m drunk.

Food is an important thing to consider when running a pub, and I always think a good landlord should follow this rule of thumb: There should be no food in a pub. Packets of nibbles behind the jump are permitted. But, customers, if you want to eat a meal, then make yourself a sandwich before you go out, or go to a restaurant, eat a meal, then go to the pub. Or go down the pub, have a goodly drink, then stagger into a curry house/chinese takeaway after the landlord of the pub has refused you further refreshment.

One of the more annoying sensations is trying to enjoy the happy, hoppy whiff of a well-poured pint only to have your nasal enjoyment interrupted by the odour of fish, chips, gravy and the like. This is a pub, not an eatery. If you get peckish help yourself to peanuts, pork scratchings, pickled eggs or crisps which are available, at a very competitive rate behind the bar. You’ve already rid us of the smell of a smouldering ashtray in the corner (oh, sorry mate, is that your girlfriend ?), don’t start rubbing Ralgex into the groin by putting sachets of ketchup on the table or waving a plateful of sausage ‘n’ mash at me, when I’m only interested in a pint of Light ‘n’ Bitter.

Outdoors Bad

You would think that it would be a prerequisite of owning a pub that you serve beer (or gin, if you really must) in a glass receptacle, wouldn’t you ? No such luck any more, I’m afraid. How many times have you walked up to a bar, ordered a drink only to be greeted by the dreaded phrase “you drinking that inside or out, luv?”  Who hasn’t lied at this juncture, only to be caught out by the potman when he sees you craftily swigging from your glass while standing in the garden cos your girlfriend thought “it’d be nice to drink outside”? You reluctantly hand your drinking vessel back to the glass collector who then transfers its contents into a plastic beaker. Oh, the shame of it. A 2009 United Nations report found that one of the most (some say only) catastrophic results of global warming will be a huge increase of people being forced by women to drink outside and thus being forced to slurp from plastic “glasses”.

There’s nothing like finding a lovely cold, dark pub when the sun’s blazing outside. Or a nice, cozy, warm pub when it’s freezing outside. In short, there’s nothing like finding a nice pub. We don’t go in there to get drunk, you understand? No, we go in there for the craic. Occasional drunkeness is an unfortunate by-product of enjoying the craic, but not a compulsory nor inevitable outcome. His eminence William (Bill) Greaves (see Now Then… elswhere in these pages) has informed us how to behave in such places and situations, and it is clear from his teachings that we should endeavour to conduct ourselves in a dignified way befitting a serious (and let us not forget expensive) pastime such as drinking. Right up to the time we are plastered, that is.

Indoors Good

Is it therefore too much to ask that the landlord should present to us an establishment fit and befitting of this aforementioned due respect to our favourite pasttime? These meeting holes should be places of wonderment and worship. What they shouldn’t be is reminiscent of airport departure lounges with the addition of a John Smith’s pump. We neither want nor need plastic leprechauns on the walls, rows of vodka-shots lined up on the bar or 24/7 football on the enormous tv screens in each and every corner. Take a butchers at The Salisbury, St Martin’s Lane, London (or The Harp just around the corner in Chandos Place) and you’ll see what I mean. You don’t have to be in England to find wonderful watering holes. You may struggle to find a pint of mild, but there are always corners of a foreign field which are perfect spots to while away the hours. Try The Hoppe in Amsterdam which is as close to heaven as you could possibly be without throwing a seven. It has been a bar since 1670 and they’re still wondering how or if to redecorate it! There’s Robert’s Western World in Nashville where, if you can excuse the lack of a decent beer, you can sit and listen to fantastic music while manfully trying to avoid a bourbon overdose. You will fail. It’s sensational because of and in spite of that.

Nearer to home there’s The Fleece in Halifax, if you catch it on the right night. You could do worse than visit my own Shovel in Dartford. A wonderful example of a tiny, well-kept drinking den. Food?  Next door, mate. There’s Henchy’s in Cork, but we don’t have enough time to discuss Irish pubs. Just pick one, you’ll like it.

And why do I go on so ? Haven’t we heard all this before ? Well that’s as maybe. But I have a particular reason for sharing my thoughts with you. After a slight hiccup in the brain department last week, it seems that I’m hurtling towards my first dry Christmas since 1979. No Shovel for me this year. No hangover on Boxing Day, trying to remember what I drunk and when. No, I’m down for lashings of tea and biscuits, with the temptation of a chocolate liqueur ever-present. It may not be as bad as it sounds. You really don’t want a hangover with a malfunctioning brain like mine. And that’s before having a stroke. The spector of repeat performance last week scared the willies out of me so for my own good I’m off the stuff for the foreseeable future.

So you’ll have to have mine for me. Take it sensibly and behave yourself. Enjoy it and enjoy whichever boozer you chose to make your own. You never know, you may end up in The Rose and Crown, swinging on the barmaid’s…er…earrings. I doubt if you’ll find George there though :

Oh, and by the way: This is a pub. Want a coffee? Fuck off to Starbucks.

Up in Smoke


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I digress.

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

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

Or the worst. (delete where applicable).

Just when I thought I was out..


So, how are you feeling today ? Ok ? Good. I’ve had a pretty shitty couple of weeks, to be honest, since you ask. The medication still doesn’t seem to be doing everything the docs want it to do. Still suffering from dizzy spells, the bouts of sickness are still around. All this prevents me from attending The Shovel or any of its sister boozers. It’s rather annoying, although getting annoyed is a no-no for me at the moment. As my blood pressure is higher than a astronaut’s arse the GP is concerned I’m a strong candidate for Stroke II: The Ramipril Strikes Back, so I’m under orders to take it easy and chillax, as young persons say.

I was under a shrink, to whom I was sent in a bid to calm me down and reduce the chances of my head popping off. But this shrink started to annoy me so I’ve stopped going.


It certainly wasn’t  the thought of being analyzed that phased me. A life-long Woody Allen fan, it’s always been a dream of mine to go see a headshrinker (and to play clarinet with him at Michael’s on a Monday). I fancied myself as a bit of Tony Soprano, sitting there in my triple-breasted suit, the tassles on my loafers gleaming and my hair greased back over my ever-expanding pate. But it didn’t do it for me and it didn’t last. My quack was no Lorraine Bracco. He was a bloke for a start. No, you gotta feel comfortable in front of these guys, I reckon, and I just wasn’t. Probably a personality clash. Closing my eyes and chanting OM while listening to a tape of a whale’s sphincter was enough for me, so I left.

So, without the aid of a safety pint, and without Sigmund Freud‘s help I’m supposed to let go all the things that at some stage along the line would have made me, shall we say, a tad tetchy.

I may be no Tony Soprano, but try telling that to my girth. Not walking to the station in the morning, being barred from virtually all physical exercise, and the supreme boredom of having no work coming in has led me to nibble on anything within my chubby arms reach and to me becoming rather portly. My armpits have started to chafe and the soap isn’t going as far as it used to, even though I can no longer reach half of me in the shower. The kids are gonna by me Jacamo vouchers for Christmas and The Incumbent seems keen to rotate the mattress more often than usual.

The fledgeling business seems like it desperately wants to get back into it’s shell. Hours spent tickling-up the website and mailing clubs and associations have brought very little response. Well, that’s not true. I have had plenty of responses, just very little work. I’ve had several “Where did you get my email address from ??” replies. A few “Nothing I cannot do myself” answers, and lots of “Please strike me from your mailing list, we do not associate ourselves with tradesmen” emails. You’d have thought I was selling them anthrax.

In days gone by I may well have reeled off an abusive note telling them to to fvck themselves and wishing them good luck in the recession. But the now the new me simply thanks them for their time, apologises for disrupting their mailbox and promises to delete them from any further mailouts I may or may not do.

There was one bloke, the Chairman or Chief Poohbar of the Lions of Warrington or Wilmington or Wigan or somewhere who wrote to me in such an insulting and supercilious manner, complaining that I had actually used his public email address to try to earn a couple of quid via his club members that I did indeed tell him to go fvck himself and enjoy the recession. But that was a one-off example. Honest.

Having told him, in between expletives, what and why I was doing what I was doing and that there was nothing either coorperate nor sinister about it, and that I was just an ailing old man striving to put food on the table for Tiny Tim and his frail mother, the man backtracked and wondered if, when my business got on it’s feet I might consider joining his association. I suspect this was a genuine re-assessment of the situation on his part, feeling embarrassed at his original high-handedness with me.

I told him to go fvck himself again. So maybe we should call it a two-off example. I don’t know why I haven’t tried a life in Sales before.

MOVEMBERADVERT

You Know Nothing, Mate


There are things you just know.

During your lifetime you pick up knowledge. Stuff that is just true and there’s no row about it. You know it’s true because, not only did mum and dad tell you, your teachers told you, the tv news told you and even Hollywood told you. Stuff like “all scousers are funny”; “all cockneys are the salt of the earth (they only slaughter their own)”; “all trombone players wear sandals”; and of course “all welshmen can sing and would never ever intend to break your neck on the rugby field because they’re nice blokes and just not like that”.

These are the sort of rules, the kind of guiding principles which allow you to steer your ship of life between the shifting sands of the Bay of Uncertainty and the hard, jagged rocks of  the inlet of Oh Fuck it’s Really Happening. It’s now 47 years since people started telling me stuff. I stopped listening to most of them some years ago. Like Homer, there’s only so much I can fit into my brain before something else gets pushed out. The ravages of age, a stroke, and a life of heavy drinking, along with the distraction of the oncoming steam train of certain Alzheimer’s  severely limits the amount of new information I can take on board. Or as Terry Pratchett might put it, I’m fucked in the ‘ead.

So imagine the confusion it causes one so fragile as me, when stuff you just know is fact turns out to be untrue, at least for the sake of selling a few books at Christmas time.

Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun didn’t take their own lives, shortly after making a few dodgy videos for YouTube. Not according to the  new book Grey Wolf: The Escape of Adolf Hitler they didn’t. No, they fled to Argentina, aided and abetted by the Yanks in exchange for Nazi rocket scientists and the information within. According to a report in this week’s The Daily Mail (and who among us could argue with them ?) Mr& Mrs Hitler legged it through Europe and escaped across the sea to South America, presumably free to go on the piss with their chums Josef Mengele, Adolf Eichmann and countless other Nazis we let get away after 1945. The couple brought up their two kids, at some stage divorced, and Mr Hilter (as he then was) finally threw a seven in 1962 at the grand old age of 73.

The Russians claim they captured what was left of the Hitlers from a bunker in Berlin in 1945. What they apparently have are the charred remains of a early version of a McDonalds Breakfast Wrap (Another Fact: These are horrible. Keep away from them and go for the Double Sausage McMuffin.)

It’s a good job Vincent Van Gogh isn’t alive today. He’d be forced to go to Gateshead (up in the frozen North somewhere) where this year’s The Emperor’s New Clothes Prize has been moved to. Presumably Londoners have finally given up pretending that “Pile of Shite in Aspic” is art, and the organisers have decided to move to the Third World in search of new mugs to jump on the “oh-but-you-dont-understand-what-art-is” bandwagon. Howay.

The aforementioned Vincent is no longer with us, of course, having topped himself in a wheat field in 1890 in northern France.

Wrong again.

The Kirk Douglas look-a-like was shot by a couple of brothers in a dispute over a stolen pistol. We know this from the new book imaginatively entitled Van Gogh: The Life (available at all good bookshops, makes the perfect gift). In their book the two American authors trash the widely-held belief that the absinthe-riddled, ginger paintist, having reached the end of his tether with a lack of sales and Anthony Quinn’s acting, took himself off and fell on his own pallet knife. (Sadly for me they make no mention of the time Gauguin asked Vincent if he’d like another canvas. “No thanks, I’ve got one ear”  Van Gogh replied. As the book doesn’t mention this, I now know it to be true.)

The fact that he was shot by a young boy, and didn’t just succumb to the inner-demons of the mad genius that he was has not only rocked the art world, with the sky-high prices of Van Gogh’s work potentially under threat (nutcases sell for more) but worse, Don McLean is having to rewrite one of his songs.

This morning the descendents of Robert Falcon Scott‘s fateful expedition to the South Pole have joined in the campaign to diss everything I thought I knew about everything. There’s a new exhibition in town showing many images, some not seen before, by the trip’s snapper Herbert Ponting (not to be confused with the Ricky Ponting, the Patron Saint of Lost Causes) which for a century have graphically shown the anguish and despair the Brits felt by narrowingly losing out to the Norwegian group led by Roald Amundsen (who’d already seen off the plucky West Germans in the semi-final). The downhearted and disheartened Limeys finally gave up their attempt to return home and were swallowed up by the icy wilderness. Amundsen and his Scandinavians went home to a heroes welcome and a recording contract.

But wait a minute, according to the British ancestors, Scott’s men were not the least bit disappointed to lose. There was, in fact, no race to the pole. There’s was a purely scientific expedition to gain knowledge of the surrounding area for King and Country, with no-one giving a toss whether Amundsen won or not. Ponting set up the most southerly branch of Pront-a-Print, charging a farthing for a photo of the pole and pony on a tee-shirt; Captain Oates left the tent and was never seen again. He is oft quoted as saying “I am just going outside and may be some time”. The end of his sentence was lost in the chill wind. What he really said was “I am just going outside and may be some time. I’ve got all this bunting and balloons to erect for when we see the Norwegians again”. In truth, Scott should not have been played on screen by John Mills but by Norman Wisdom.

So there you have it. Hitler died in 1962, just missing out missing Ronnie Biggs. Van Gogh covered up his own murder and his relationship with young boys and, just like the retreating soldiers at Dunkirk, Scott of Antarctic had nothing to be sad about. It’s a pity they didn’t make it back because The Titanic was waiting for them just off Antarctica to take them home on her second voyage.

99 years later,  a ship was moored off the coast of Libya, waiting for President Muammar Gaddafi who was due to escape on her . However, the ever-popular Dictator would not make it on board nor never get to feel the warm embrace of his old mate Tony Blair again as he died of the multiple bullet wounds he received to the back of the head while resisting arrest.

Honestly. It’s a fact !!!

Happy Families


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

Jerry Bealing Enjoying his Freedom

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

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

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

Wayne, Wayne and Wayne on Holiday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vive la France.

Oh Bugger


I’m not very patient. No, really I’m not.

I’m still persevering with my NHS walking stick and, to be honest, for the most part I feel a bit of a fraud. Ok, ok, I do still feel a little bit drunk all the time (at least that’s how I’m told it feels) so I understand I shouldn’t drive or operate heavy machinery, but most of the time I really don’t see the need to walk with a stick.

Right up to the time when I fall over, that is.

For some reason I list to starboard. Whenever I attempt to walk ten yards without the aid of my lump of wood, I end up scraping my shoulder on the wall, or taking dangerous lunges towards the kerb. It’s difficult to explain. At least I thought it would be before I remembered this:

Oh Bugger.

The Blair Peach Project


So after all that, I thought it was about time you took a little breath and took in some considered thought. Honestly.

The Police (we are told by the BBC’s very impartial Nick Robinson) have been telling MPs that the only reason they were stand-offish during London riots the other night was because the last time there was a major disturbance on the streets of London, one of their member ended up on a manslaughter charge for acting too robustly.

So let me get this right: They are saying that the only alternative to killing middle-aged innocent newspaper vendors is to stand idly by and let teenagers burn down shops and houses and flats. Nothing in-between those two tactics ? Death or indolence.

It’s not been a great week or three for Pc Plod. They keep having to roll-up, and maybe sober-up, another Deputy Assistant Acting Commissioner, as the Met scurry to find a replacement for those top cops who have either been arrested, or have merely resigned in the belief they’re about to be arrested due to their culpability in the Murdoch/News International scandal.

Please, please let their new guvnor not be Sir Hugh Orde. Even by Police standards he has a face only a mother could love. He makes Ian Blair and Andy Hayman positively trustworthy.

Then three coppers show up to a riot only to find they’re slightly outnumbered. Not their fault, I know, (yes, you’re right, it’s the fault of holiday-loving George Osborne again) but nevertheless it seems a pretty poor show. Not that this is my main reason for putting pen to teller today.

If I had a grievance against the Old Bill (note the word if) I’d like to think I’d go and kick one or two of them in the goolies. If my beef was with the government (heaven forfend) I’d like to think me and my hoodie mates would attack Downing Street. Or maybe, just maybe I’d use my vote at the ballot box and vote the bastards out next time (I told you I’d mellowed).

If anyone can tell me what looting and torching, among other places, a party novelties shop in Clapham, poor and sheltered housing in Tottenham and a sandwich shop in Manchester has to do with some idiot coppers shooting a father you are a better man than me. That was a disgrace and heads should roll. They have a long and shameful track record of murdering people and it’s gotta stop. But what rent-a-mob have been up to since then has nothing to do with it. Anyone who says different is talking a load of old bollocks.

The Beeb are forever calling it “copycat violence”, or my favourite word of the week “thuggery” (which is still illegal in some states). Sadly I can’t find myself in a position to disagree with that. I’ve seen too many crying council house tenants who’ve fled their houses to think any other way at the moment. Maybe I’m just going pink.

You can see the despair and the shame on the faces of the poor community workers, people who have worked so hard with these kids (cos that’s what the majority are) to put them on the straight and narrow, only for them to set light to a furniture shop in Croydon and a Miss Selfridge in Salford in some bafflingly justified act of defiance against the man and the machine.

Do me a favour. Can you all fuck off home to your X-Boxes or PS3s, children?

I have decided that The Shovel can wait for a bit. I’ve had a particularly wobbly week: Too many dizzy spells and headaches for me to deal with for some reason, after making pretty good progress last week, so a trip up to the pub will have to be put on hold for a while.

I’m very happy that the NHS has provided me with a nice hard walking stick which, not only do I need to stand upright at the moment, will be deployed in a testicular-direction should any hood-wearing, leisure-suit donning little prick attempts to interfere with my or The Incumbent’s passage around the streets of Dartford.

Now I have to stop cos my new GP says I shouldn’t get would up. She reckons I have high blood-pressure (who’d a thunk it?).  I asked for a second opinion: She told me I was fat as well.