The Candy Man


I’m sure you are, as indeed I am, thrilled to hear that Robbie Williams is back, where he belongs at Number One in what Jimmy and Fluff used to call the Hit Parade with his Noel Coward-esque ditty ‘Candy‘. If you haven’t heard it, you’re missing a treat. The lyrics are mind blowing:

Ring a ring of roses
Whoever gets the closest
She comes and she goes
As the war of the roses
Mother was a victim
Father beat the system
By moving bricks to Brixton
And learning how to fix them

You will notice how he brilliantly rhymes ‘Brixton’ with ‘fix them’, not to mention ‘roses’ with..er…’roses’. Apparently if you play the song backwards something amazing happens: It sounds exactly the same, or even makes a little more sense. You could plug John Lennon’s body into the national grid and with the revolutions he must be doing you could illuminate a small village on the Wirral for a fortnight.

It’s nothing new, of course, for someone like me, just out of his twenties, to attack the pop songs of the day. I remember when I was a kid defending Althea and Donna’s quite brilliant “Uptown Top Ranking” to howls of laughter and derision from my father. It seemed to me at the time (and my argument has not changed one jot) that “Love is all I bring inna me khaki suit and ting” was clearly a deep social comment on the dresses worn by young Jamaican women of the day, and it wasn’t my fault that my dad (from Slade Green, so he no excuse) couldn’t speak Patois. With the benefit of the Tardis I may have argued that if Robbie’s “Candy” had been written and sung in a foreign dialect it might have sounded better.

No, it’s not just that Robbie’s latest effort is as bad as his last one, it’s that I had subconsciously settled with myself that I’d never need to hear the dulcet tones of the Stoke-on-Trent warbler ever again. Like Mitt Romney, SmallPox and Rickets, I assumed he was part of my past, never likely to darken my door again, save Gaumont News Reels and editions of Top of the Pops 2. How wrong can you be? Not only has the tattooed twat taken his song to the top of the charts, but it looks like Mitt Romney may not be the Republican’s Michael Dukakis the whole world outside the US was hoping he was. (And I think I have Rickets. Or maybe it’s wind.)

Those who predicted that Good Ol’ Mitt the Multi Millionaire would crash and burn would have been the same ones who advised me not to bet on Sebastian Vettel making the podium in Abu Dhabi, having started the F1 Grand Prix from the back of the field. Or those who put their house on this Year’s US Ryder Cup Team, or Devon Locke. I was content in the fact that Robbie was gone from my life, and I would smile to myself about it often, as I put the finishing touches to my Lance Armstrong shrine in the study.

So the lesson for today, children, is never bet on a good thing, and never write off anyone. Just when you think you’ve heard the last of some useless cvnt he goes and gets himself a no1 single, or becomes President or something equally unlikely. And just because you’re riding high in those very same charts or on Le Tour de France, don’t think you’re there forever. You are just one shite performance on TV, or one raid by the USADA from being thrown out of your arse.

Althea and Donna became the victims of a rather unfortunate debut appearance on Top of the Pops. Having had the country bouncing and swaying to their wonderful sound, they chose to a) appear and; b) sing live on national tv. Bad move girls. It was very rare for a first showing on the pop show to actually do damage to an act’s chart position. Sadly, the girls gave a performance akin to an early Chuckle Brothers act. They were out of tune, out of rhythm and out of time with each other so spectacularly badly, you can see where The Smiths got their influences from. Still a great song though. And Ting.

Eating up the Real Estate


This just in:

NEW YORK – October 28, 2012 – NBCUniversal, via the NBC Sports Group, has acquired the exclusive U.S. media rights to the Premier League through a multi-year agreement that begins with the 2013-14 season, both parties announced today. Per the agreement, NBCUniversal becomes the exclusive English- and Spanish-language media rights holder to all 380 Premier League matches across all platforms and devices in the United States.

“The Barclays Premier League is the preeminent soccer league in the world, and is on the cusp of exponential popularity growth here in the U.S.,” said Mark Lazarus, Chairman, NBC Sports Group. “NBCU will provide the broadest programming and promotional commitment that the league has ever experienced here in the United States. The Premier League provides NBCU with best-in-class content for 10 months of the year across our far-reaching broadcast, cable and digital platforms. This is a perfect match.”

Ah yes, Mark Lazarus. I wondered if he’d be making a comeback.

Anywho, it always warms the cockles knowing that the round ball game is making yet another attempt to become popular in the States. The sport is currently played by about 73 billion girls but always seems to fall way short of becoming a mainstream attraction, when up against Pro Football, Hockey, Basketball, Mass Indiscriminate Shootings and Course Fishing. And talking of little girls playing the game, I did enjoy Fernando Torres’ contribution to competitive sport yesterday.

So let’s hope that NBC, taking over the coverage from Fox (bless ’em) can boost the ratings that at some stage down the line Yank soccer players become global names – just like Clint Dempsey isn’t and that ginger fella with the stupid ZZ Top beard wasn’t. However good or bad the NBC coverage is, they’d do well to top Mike Sweinberger and Randy Wakeman III, the masters of the onion bag chat.Tragic to report that these two guys are no longer on air, having themselves been dropped by Fox/Sky, yet David Pleat and Garth Crooks are still in gainful employment.

Whole lotta airtime on that soccer ball.

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.

Hurricane Higgins


Michael D Higgins  is the President of the Irish Republic. According to The Irish Independent today:  “A radio clip of President Michael D Higgins debating a US radio talk show host on the tea party movement has become a viral hit in the US. President Higgins, then a TD, was having the debate with conservative chat show host Michael Graham on Newstalk. Although the clip is over two years old, it has gone viral on social media in the United States – gaining almost 250,000 views on YouTube in the last 24 hours.”

I had never heard it before today. If you have, I apologise. If you haven’t, take 4 minutes, 21 seconds out of your life to listen this marvellously educated man, rise gradually to a beautiful crescendo, straight into the face of a supporter of the US Tea Party. He is my new hero – albeit 2 years after the event.

Turd Polishing**


Ah yes: Exam Results. I remember them. For some reason whenever I see on the news that today’s the day when the exam results come through, I get a chill running through my bones. I feel nauseous. The very water inside me somehow wants to get out.

Perhaps this is because it brings back memories of when I received an envelope containing my results all those years ago ? Perhaps not. It wasn’t all bad (honest) I scraped in here, and got by there. Could have been a lot worse (the teachers at school certainly predicted so). No it’s not those memories which irk me. It’s something rather more recent. Something that’s still taking place. It’s the “jumping for joy photos”.

Stick your head out of the window, listen hard and there’s a good chance you’ll be able to hear the unmistakable sound of a photographer near you organising a staggeringly unimaginative photo.

“Ok if you could spread yourself out in a line towards me… no, no, can we have the two blonde young ladies in the middle… yes, much better… now, on the count of three, could you all jump up, punch  the air and cheer ? … especially you girls… thanks very much….right here we go…one…two…three….SNAP…CLICK…SNAP…”

It happens every year (twice in the UK), and it’s happening today with the announcement of today’s A-Level results.

And it’s not necessarily the fault of the photographer. Would you believe that, in this day in age, there are national newspaper and agency picture editors who actually commission such dross ? They do, I promise you. And why ? Because above them are Chief Subs, Features Editors and other assorted numpties who deal in crap and clichés. But don’t take my word for it. Buy a paper tomorrow (any one should do) and look for yourselves. If you can’t wait, switch on TV Regional News this evening (“Local Man bit by Local Dog, Locally“). They’ll be down at their local High School or Academy filming young men and women, crying with/jumping for joy (delete where applicable).

Such imagination.

Here’s another. It’s gonna be hot this weekend. Some at the Met Office are predicting up to 30 degrees over the south of England. Queue the hot weather picture:

L-R: The Times, Indie,Guardian;               Tabloids+Telegraph;                            All of them

You can bet your left testicle (or whatever you have to hand) that you’ll find a version of the above tomorrow in your favourite rag. If I had a penny for every time someone submitted a photo of boys diving into the sea/pond/canal/fountain once the temperatures reach 28 degrees, I’d have £17.43.

Visionaries.

But the photographers don’t get off Scot free. After all, they take the snap, they ping it in to the picture desk and some berk uses it. Ca-Ching! Why on earth do you think that we’ve seen this pose endlessly over the last few weeks ?

No. Serena’s not biting that medal because she’s hungry (again), but because there’s an unwritten law amongst sports snappers which tells them that’s what Gold Medallists do.  And you know what ? – the pictures go in the paper. They get in the linen, as we used to say. (oh, and by the way, don’t think that this dreadful state of affairs will finish with the death of newspapers. Online Photo Eds and Snappers – oh, ok Monkeys – are just as (un)imaginative as are the paper ones.)

But don’t let it worry you. If you have been lucky in life and never had to listen and watch a back bench fuck-up your picture selection, you will remain unscathed by all this. I’m sure you probably think my head is about to pop off again, driven by dark memories of no-nothing subs and myopic designers ? You may or may not be correct.

I shan’t go on. Just to say, the next time you see Obama do this…

…don’t think that he’s seen someone in the crowd he recognise, it’s just that someone (probably a press officer) once told him that photos of Pointing Politicians get in the linen too. He’s not alone. They all do it. Just watch them all getting off a plane pointing; Take the applause of the crowd, pointing; Arrive in Brussels POINTING. Watch out for Barack when he wins the election. He’ll be jumping for joy.

**”You Can’t Polish a Turd, Mike”…Telegraph Photographer Roy Letkey on being asked by me how his photos were from a terribly thought-out photo shoot.

Diamond Dogs it Out


The scene: An office in Canary Wharf, London.

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

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

Bob and Marcus resume their chat:

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

You’re Going Home in a Flipping Ambulance


Our Special Correspondent writes…
.
It can’t only be me who wondered what David Cameron was punching (or was it paunching) the air about in his dress down Turnbull & Asser alongside a young,smiling Morgan Freeman and several glum Eurocrats.
 
Upon further inspection,it seems the Acropolis Co-op cheque conference came to a halt as Dave’s beloved Chelsea won on Saturday. Now,of course our Dave could hardly support any other team,could he? What with his old mate the cossack yachtsman at the helm.
 
Apparently it was during one of the time out’s that coach Obama had called that Dave, not being able to watch,even through his caviar smeared fingers,was summoned swiftly back to the lounge bar where the footie was on.
 
Yessssss!! Come on you blues. Back of ones net my son!
 
Now,I know he’s down with the people and not a toff at all really,so he – also apparently – says “we don’t normally win a penalty shoot out against the Germans at home” What!!? Who’s he talking about. In one smooth manouevre he’s slipped into jingoese. It’s now a matter of national pride.How Blighty has given Fritz some of his own medicine. Don’t mess with us.
 
Light up another lardy and stroll enigmatically round the rose garden at Chartwell.Dictate another page of the memoirs. Angela was heard to splutter a “scheissen” that didn’t need trouble the translator. Damn those pesky Tommies.That Dunkirk spirit has done it again.
 
Hold on though. This wasn’t the bloody England team.This was a ridiculously overpaid collection of disparate foreigners,who got a win bonus bigger than my (and your) pension.
 
You prat Dave.
.
David Rapley,
The Saloon Bar
The Old Mill Hotel & Lodge
Bath
Back to you in the studio

What Goes Around Comes Around. But Only Time Will Tell.


It’s been a roller coaster ride, an accident waiting to happen, in some cases it’s been every mother’s nightmare and lots of other clichés which journalists resort to when they can think of nothing original to write.

It seems as if the worm has turned (there’s another one) and this morning feels like the dawning of a new era (ahem). You know something of biblical proportions (ding!) has happened when The Sunday Times calls for a United States of Europe and a single currency as the only way of getting out of the mess we’re  in, thanks to Greekenomics (ping!). Honestly, yes they are. Don’t believe me ? I would say look it up online, but, of course, News International websites require a subscription. Of course they do. Do you really think you could get quality journalism like that for free? No, pop up to your local Tesco express (there’ll be one at the top of the road, I assure you) and pick yourself up a copy (for our younger readers, it looks like several dozen sheets of paper with words and photos printed on them, stacked together and folded in half, vaguely resembling one of those old book thingies. It’ll have the words The Sunday Times written on the front. And they’ll be a lot of unsold ones laying in a pile next to a similar but much smaller pile of something called The Mail on Sunday. Such is the country we live in).

When a Rupert Murdoch title starts eschewing the virtues of a single, fiscal, federal country called :”Europe” as the only way out of the mire you know two things: 1) Some big shit is about to go down and; 2) That is the view of the Sunday Times Editor and his alone and it in no way relates to any view the proprietor may or may not hold.

These ideas would, before now, be a red reg to a bull (beep!) to any right-wing eurosceptic worth his salt. The fact that The Sunday Times is the standard-bearer for your local right-wing eurosceptic makes this all the more worrying. Somehow, somewhere (probably in downtown Athens), something has hit the air-conditioning system and the resulting spray of faeces is landing in the eyes of anyone within a time zone or three.

This call for one, enormous, unified country suggests, of course that it will include every man woman, child and state in Europe, except, of course The UK and our old friends, the former owners of the Elgin Marbles. We surely will be outside the tent, pissing in (bong!), but the rest of continental Europe will be inside pissing out. And all over us. As befits our standing as the awkward bastards of the continent, we will be left with only the USA and Greece to trade with. I hope you like Retsina with your hamburger, cos that’s all there is.
( I was going to write that the Greeks do a nice line in eternal flames, but as the Olympic flame went out as soon as the British delegation arrived recently – no symbolism there – I shan’t)

But I didn’t pick up this change of tack (woop!) by reading the Sunday Times (the restraining order put in place by my doctor – banning me coming within a quarter-mile of a News International title – is still in force), no, no, no. This point of view was first put to me by Mr A Heckler (you will have read some of his nasty little comments on these very pages) while we were en route (ahooowhar) to a rugby match in Twickenham yesterday. While the rest of the passengers in our train carriage were discussing the probable outcome of the match between Ulster and Leinster (no, nor did I until recently), the big man and I were chatting about the state of the markets, economic policy and the collapse of the Euro. God! we’re a fascinating couple to be around, I can tell you.

And such was the vigour and enthusiasm with which we put across our views that we both found ourselves rather thirsty and, as soon as the train stopped at Twickers, we rushed to a nearby hostelry.

(Excuse me for diverting form the subject, but I have just had to pause to switch off the TV. Nicky Campbell‘s Sunday morning program has just started. I mis-heard his opening lines of the show when he said “Is there a difference between a cult and a religion?”. I immediately shouted to myself “Yes there is. One is worshiped in a church and the other is a failed DJ who has a sunday morning program.” It’s ok. TV’s off now. I am back).

…and relax…

Now, what I should have said to the barman was, clearly “Two pints of expensive watery Guinness please, and could you pour them into really flimsy plastic beakers for me, mate?” But not having been in this situation too often as of late, I merely said “Two pints of Guinness, mate,please”. At the drop of a hat (bingbong!), or at least far too quickly to have poured fresh, stout, our man returned with the legend “Ten Pounds, please, mate”. Almost immediately I calculated that him charging me £10 for two pints meant that they were charging £5-a-pint for one. My life passed before me, (whohoo!) I couldn’t believe my ears,(cha-ching) and the ground opened up before me (peep!).

I used what will doubtless becoming a cliché of my own: “£5 for a pint ? You robbing f*cker!”. A pal in the bar checked: A pint of Guinness (before half of Ireland arrived in town for the match) cost £3.80 in this pub. Now you might think that was a big enough markup for any pub. Clearly not. (For the record the pun was The Tup, Twickenham (pictured). Be my guest and boycott these robbing bastards. I’m sure the other boozers in town did/do the same, but this was the one I was in. W*nkers.)

All day I never worked out which fans were supporting Leinster, and who were cheering for Ulster (though the replica strips the all wore could have given me a visual clue, I guess). In the stadium, one half shouted “Leinster, Leinster, Leinster,” while the rest simultaneously wailed “Ulster, Ulster,Ulster”. The result was a constant “Leulster, Leulster, Leulster” bellowed by 85,000 passionate Irishmen. Leulster may or may not be another in a long line of Irish counties I’ve never heard of, but boy, the mob we watched yesterday can sure play rugby. And they sure can drink.

I don’t know what they would have shouted when a barman charged them £5 for a pint of Guinness, and I don’t know how many Euros that converts to, but I suspect the language was blue, either in English or Gaelic. In a final act of stupidity/arrogance/sebcoeism (and you’ll read that word again here until I make it my own cliché), these 80-odd-thousand thirsty Irishmen couldn’t get a pint of Guinness in the stadium because the competition was sponsored by and named after a rival beer. Pathetic, ain’t it ?

Business is business, but if that isn’t a missed opportunity in-the-name-of competition, I don’t know what is. In the end, the bar I was queuing at even run out of the eponymous lager. In the world’s most expensive capital, we hike up our beer to glean 100s of percents in markup, then we deprive 85,000 thirsty Irish rugby fans, not only the opportunity to spend a week’s wages on one of our pints, but we also run out of the alternative too. Well done. Very well, done. Brought to you my the country that organised the ticketing for the Olympics.

It’s no wonder no-one in Europe cares if we’re inside or outside their tent.

These are my pearls of wisdom for today. The writing is on the wall. (Babumtischhh!)