Jakeys, Jocks and Journalism


I put it to you that however little us English care about the future of that lot north of the border, many of us will miss stuff like this splash from this morning’s rags. Cynics may feel that the threat of losing of great headline writers is a flimsy reason why we should support the preservation of the Union between Scotland and England. But however much you may try, you just can’t find a better headline than this from the Scottish Daily Record

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….unless you count this footballing gem, of course…

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That’s why I’ll be voting “NO” come referendum time.  At least I would if they’d let me vote.

(Thanks to the Wee Mon Hugh, still scribbling away, for this one)

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It Makes You Proud


Not since The Rubettes appeared on Top of Pops will you have seen miming to a backing track done quite so well as this. It makes you thank the Great Beardy Being up above that the boys in the following video are defending us in the Gulf of Somewhere, not representing us in the Eurovision song contest.

All good fun though.

You don’t often see miming anymore. The audience of pop shows are too discerning, and anyway, you don’t see shows like TOTP any more, decent shows having been replaced by Omnibus episodes of Location Location Location Location Location, Come Snore with Me or Fuck It! . Stakes are high in the music industry nowadays. One dodgy performance could mean billions of lost downloads.

T’were simpler times, back in 1974.

By Jove, I think He’s Got It


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Time to put a smile on our faces.

The great Leslie Howard was one of Britain’s finest actors of the first half of the 20th century. He left the army and the fighting of the Great War in 1916 due to shell shock and later became the subject of conspiracy theories over his death. He featured in many great movies, probably his most notable role being Ashley Wilkes in Gone With the Wind in 1939 (though I prefer his Henry Higgins in Pygmalion). Like so many lauded here, he was the embodiment of the English Gentleman. A David Niven before David Niven was David Niven. Think Peter Roebuck without the buttock-spanking.

And come back to me again.

Anyway, all these years later, some clever bod, nicely entitled LevZeppelin3 has posted the following on Youtube. Whether you, like me, are a Leslie Thomas fan, or indeed an enthusiast of all things ZZ Top (and I’d be staggered if you weren’t both), this will bring a smile to the lips on a cold November Sunday morning.

Made me grin, anyway.

Set for Life


I was watching an old episode of Frasier the other day. I happened across it by chance, luckily catching one of the 48 episodes which my cable channel broadcasts every day. Frasier is the I Love Lucy of the modern age. Wherever you are in the world, some channel somewhere is broadcasting either Frasier or Only Fools and Horses. Bloody good that they both are, I’m beginning to sync-quote them as I was apt to do with Fawlty Towers. And there are only 12 episodes in total of Basil F.  It’s bleedin’ obvious.

Anywhoo, there I was watching Dr Crane and Dr Crane argue about the younger one’s heart-bypass operation, and how he had been, quite frankly, a pain in the arse to all and sundry after the operation, telling any and all that would listen about his new perspective on life, having experienced being “clinically dead” for several seconds. His elder brother was of the opinion he was becoming a boring tit about it.

“That rings a bell”, thought I, and immediately pledged to the surrounded and listening world (just me, in reality) that I’d snap out of this feeling-sorry-for-myself bollocks, grab the bull by the balls and jolly well get on with it. Whatever “it” may turn out to be.

Then, just as I was girding my loins, stiffening my lip and pulling my massive self together, the postman dropped a bombshell through the letterbox, thankfully in a nice way – not a french satirical magazine way. I’m hoping above hope that the ABC Rowan Williams doesn’t throw anything nasty though my window just because earlier in the week I lampooned Mr Yeatman and ‘is Reverence. I’m all in favour of poking fun but the followers of Islam are not known for their humour, nor their tolerance. My flag-waving, liberal rabble-rousing and calling-to-arms suddenly hides under the table in the face of loonies with petrol bombs. I love my free speech. But you have to pick your targets, I reckon. As Frank Spencer once said: “There are old pilots and there are bold pilots, but there are no old,bold pilots.”**
Ditto satirical magazine editors, I reckon.

Anyway, back to my own bombshell. On opening the one letter the  postman had delivered that morning I pulled out a long piece of folded card. It was a luncheon menu from a cruise liner.

Seared scallops, poached pears, cod, lamb…the menu went on and on. It made me feel quite peckish:- well it was 10.30 in the morning and I’d only had 2 breakfasts, thus far. I started to tremble, but not because of the hunger (though that can’t have helped). No, I was trembling because I turned over the menu and there, running the length of the menu was a get well message from a legend.

Abraham Lincoln’s first draft of the Gettysburg Address was first scribbled down on a lunch napkin. There are apparently many John Lennon artworks and poems milling around which he hastily wrote down on the back of beer mats, menus or fag packets. There’s a Warhol sketch of some butterflies which is worth in the region of $30,000 and yet he knocked it out on a tissue (steady), in a couple of seconds between courses over lunch.

But all that pales into insignificance compared to what I held in my hands:

“To Mike

Get much better soon !

With Love

Bonnie Langford

It was too good to be true. In an instant I knew all my worries were over. Forget being out of work. Forget what little remains in my pension fund. Ignore the equity which Tories and the recession are audibly eroding. Let the Greeks do what they want. Have a referendum, don’t have one. I could not one tiny fuck give any more. Double-dip recession ? Pah!

A pal of mine who occasionally works on the boats had risked life and limb, camped outside Bonnie’s cabin for days, then related the plight of his old fat mate, Mike, in order to secure the most sought-after autographs in show-business (not counting that of Dustin Gee.)

When the time comes and I’m down to my my last Bobby Tambling jockstrap and quilted smoking jacket, which on their own will not pay the bills, I shall march up to Sothebys with The Langford Menu under one arm and my signed copy of The Very Best of Chas n Dave under the other, put them both up for sale and my money worries will be a thing of the past.

It is rare that one, let alone two prized items come up under the hammer and I expect intense media interest, similar to that created by Monet’s Water Lillies,   Katie Price’s autobiography I Did it All Wiv Me Tits Out, and Amy Winehouse’s yet-to-be-unearthed-by-her-father fourth album Three Large Doubles (and One for Yourself).

So I’m now thinking of stringing this illness-thingy out a little longer. If I could lay my hands on signed well-wishes from, say, Billie Piper or even Colleen Rooney then the sky is the limit.  So, ooh-err, missus, I’m having another one of me funny turns. Quick nurse! The Screens: it’s happened again.

**Purists will recognise this quote from the Some Mother’s Do Ave Em episode: Oooh Betty! Here come the Mad Mullahs

Now Let’s You Just Drop Them Pants.


I watched Deliverance again the other night. I’d forgotten just how great that movie is. I’d also forgotten that Jon Voight wore the Movember moustache and not Burt Reynolds.  And poor old Ned Beatty. It reminded me of a trip I took to through Wales once. Bloody terrifying. I got stuck in a pub with a whole bunch of  primitive-looking locals. I never thought for one minute they wanted to bugger me, but there was an alarming moment when I was sure they were about to perform close harmony singing at me. Soiled myself. Squealed like a pig. I’m not going back into that God-forsaken wilderness ever again. Cardiff, I think it was called.

Anyway, watching the movie did get me wondering: How in the world could you better  Dueling Banjos ?

And I’m still wondering.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

There’s a Tray of Bread Pudding in the Post


Remember getting letters through your door? I don’t mean fliers from double glazing companies, or threatening letters from the bank, or even new curry house menus (though they can be very exciting indeed), but letters. Real, genuine, hand-written letters. Someone three weeks previously had sat down in Kuala Lumpur or Ulaanbaatar and scribbled a off a note saying how much they missed you, how the weather had been and could you send them some money? Remember that warm glow you felt that someone, who may well have died in the 6 weeks the letter took to reach you, had taken time out from their gap year, or their 6 months on the run from the Rozzers to actually write, in their own hand, to you, on paper that they could have quite easily used for loo roll.

It took thought and kindness. It meant someone had put aside their own time to sit down and compose a note, when they could have quite easily been putting another shrimp on the barbie, then seeking out an envelope, a stamp and a post office , then walking unaided down to post it. Takes some commitment, that.

I remember the first parcel I ever received. Now that was exciting. It was 1974 and I’d been saving up for weeks (ok, who am I kidding? my mum gave me the money) to send off for my first calculator. We’d been given permission to use in class this revolution in arithmetic science, and my parents weren’t gonna let their little lad be the only one in school without one.

The wait seemed like an age. I think it took three weeks to arrive (though it could have been three days, ten year old boys finding the space-time-continuum concept something of a bugger to grasp), but when the postman finally arrived with it BOY what a feeling! I opened the parcel on the dining table and pulled out this brown and cream monument to modern technology: The Rockwell LED Calculator, 18R. If the 18R stood for ’18th attempt’, or probably ’18th Rockwell’ (WD40 standing for ‘Water Displacement, 40th attempt’), then Christ knows how basic the other 17 must have been.

But to me it was the most exciting and exotic thing I’d ever seen. Weighing no more than a couple of pounds, it would fit into any schoolboy’s large satchel or GOLA bag. It had all of the number ‘1’-‘9’, with ‘0’ thrown in for free. Not only did it have buttons for ‘plus’, ‘minus’, ‘multiply’ (‘times’ in our house), ‘divide’ and ‘equals’, it ALSO had a ‘percentage’ button. WOW ! There were a couple of other buttons I never got to grips with, something about storage, but I didn’t care: 18 buttons were plenty for me to be getting on with. They all made a hi-tech ‘click when you pressed them and ,when dad wasn’t looking, you could turn the box upside down and write rude words with the number. You can see it left it’s mark on me.

35 year later and where are we? No one writes letters any more since we have the wonder of email (which still impresses me.) Friends write daily from New Zealand or San Diego and we pick up their missives instantly. I’m not saying a note from afar means less than one did all those years ago, it’s just that we get so many more of them they somehow don’t arrive with the same fanfare they once did. It doesn’t now have to be a fully composed letter either. Twitter has brought us the age of the 140 character letter. 140 characters ? I couldn’t write the alphabet in 140 characters ( you may have noticed), let alone ask how the weather was.

Parcels are two-a-penny. Amazon, Ebay and their like are emptying the shops and filling the bandwidths of the Web. Even this old luddite has for the last two Christmas seasons refused the pleasures of the high street or shopping mall and bought each and every present online. During November and December there’s a seemingly never-ending stream of parcels large and small arriving at my door. I’m never there, of course, but at least the thought is there. Twice a week I make my way to the local Post Office to claim my packets. Maybe this year will be different ? If I’m still in-between employers I may be at home to catch the postie as he arrives at the crack of 4pm to deliver my goods. On the other hand, if I’m still not picking up work by then, my pressie-buying activities will be severely curtailed.

Yesterday I made my way up to the village to collect a mystery parcel. I hadn’t ordered any books or movies online recently, and doubted that it would be that set of golf clubs I’d asked for as a leaving gift from The Times, but nevertheless the postman had left a card saying he’d tried to deliver a package to me on Thursday which was too big to fit thought the letter-box. As court summonses tend not to be that size, and hoping the National Lottery actually do pay-up in wads of cash, I took my little legs off to collect my prize from the good folk at the GPO.

Although I was disappointed not to be handed a suitcase with crisp oncers from Camelot, I was very happy and intrigued to take possession of a thick white jiffy bag addressed to:

Mr M.P.BEALING, DSO + BAR
Railway Cuttings

BLACKHEATH
ANGLETERRE

Angleterre‘! Written in ink! (or at least biro) How exciting! It really took me back. It was an unsolicited Red Cross parcel from ‘Plastered of Paris’, a good friend of these pages and one who appears regularly every time I feel the need to verbally attack drunk Welshman. Realising that I may be about to have some time on my hands, this giant of a man (no, he really is) took the trouble to bundle me up some comedy reading, Bill Bryson in fact, to help me while away those hours on the loo when I can’t get to my PS3 or watch the World Cup. What a very thoughtful gift ? Thanks Terv. Bill Bryson, a very talented journalist who took to writing about the places he’d lived, the countries he’d visited and the occasional mishap along the way with hilarious results. Bryson and I differ in just two key respects.

Anyway, I can’t sit here all day talking to you. I have two books to read, a letter to write (to the council again, Lewisham Council only deal in letters) and then I’m gonna go up onto the heath where the hot weather never fails to bring out a marvellous array of young lovelies and their talents. Or in Rockwell 18R calculator-speak BOOBIES

And The Winner Isn’t (Original Screenplay)


Scrolling through the list of nominees for this year’s Academy Awards it dawns on me just how few movies I’ve been to see over the past 12 months. I saw Up on a plane and Hurt Locker on DVD. Although a huge movie fan, I’ve always shied away from going to the cinema, preferring to wait til the DVD release. Yes, I’m fully aware that films were made to be watched on the big screen, but a trip to the flicks has always been a less than underwhelming experience for me.

Whatever The Drifters may think, Saturday Night at the Movies was a miserable, wasted night. I could never get comfortable, movie houses having a penchant for packing you in, in rows of seats with airliner leg-room. You couldn’t get a beer (well not in the UK anyway), which means 2 1/2 hours of your weekend wasted, and I always manage to sit in front of someone annoying bastard from one of the following categories:
1. He’s seen the movie before and would give his mates/girlfriend a commentary of the film, using helpful phrases like “oh, this is a good bit” or reciting the upcoming line 2 seconds before it was delivered.
2. He’s bought out the concessions stand in the foyer and would rustle and chomp his way through the whole movie, right in your ear hole.
3. Him and his missus are copulating throughout the film with the accompanying squeaks, giggles and groans being very off-putting. And it’s even worse if the couple happen to be sitting in front of you. A silhouetted head bobbing up and down in the row in front of me once made me miss every third frame of Schindler’s List
4. He laughs heartily at every single gag in the movie, as if he was the scriptwriter.
5. He’s pissed, so all of the above could apply.

And before you tell me that multiplexes now have huge sofas and bars with proper food and drinks served to you, it’s too late. The die has been cast, and anyway it’ll still be full of gits.

Ah! That's more like it

No, even for one with such tolerance for and love of my fellow man, I prefer to watch my films at home from the comfort, peace and quiet of my own sofa, where the only sound is the door of the fridge opening when the Incumbent opens another couple of beers.

It’ll be the first time in ten years that I won’t be participating in TIME magazine‘s Oscar Sweep, where we’d predict/guess who will win which category. But seeing as I’ve watched very few movies this year my chances of winning would be, at best, minimal. Although some of the awards they hand out are so obscure that it’s a complete lottery anyway (who makes notes on their favourite Writing from an Adapted Screenplay ? Certainly not that girl sitting in the row in front of me blowing her boyfriend)

So when the time comes I will be hoping that Hurt Locker romps home with the award for Best (Only)Nominated Picture Seen by Me This Year and UP walks away with Best Animated Feature shown by Oman Air Last November.

Obviously we’ll all be biting our nails, hoping Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen wins in the category of Sound Mixing.

Just One More Question, Sir…


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

howard-with-tash1

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

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

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

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

This old man, he played one...

This old man, he played one...

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

 

l-r: Hanks, Aniston,  Jackman and Ferrell

l-r: Hanks, Aniston, Jackman and Ferrell

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