The Cross-Eyed Conspirator

It’s been a long time coming, but thanks to a couple of decent orders, I have managed to gather enough cash together to take the Incumbent and myself away for a while. Very soon the beaches of southern Italy will be awash with bits of me. It’s been a few years and several stone since I Swarfega‘d my way into a pair of swimming trunks. It’s the kind of thing that could bring down the EU.

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So with just a day to go before we jet off, and thanks to the guvnor, most of our stuff has been packed away and we’re busy clearing the fridge of perishables. Today I anticipate having three fried egg sandwiches and two omelets as someone seems to have over-ordered on the egg front. With all of our nicer clothes and accessories neatly put away in suitcases, we’re wandering around the house in old or inappropriate garb. Yesterday, for example, I spent the day in a dinner jacket (which was handy because I was hungry). The Incumbent wore a morning suit so she could have the afternoon off.

Last night, while the other half took herself down to Bluewater, I took the opportunity to steal myself away down to the local for a last pint before I was pushed on to an aircraft. For the occasion I dug out from the bottom of the chest of drawers a pair of rather ill-fitting shorts (for brevity’s sake, let’s just agree that all my clothes are ill-fitting) and an early example of my ever-popular JFK T-shirt. (50 years On — available at all good stockists).

Taking a seat on a bar stool, I ordered from Glenda the usual pint of sludge and began the usual banter with the assembled old boys propping up the jump.

“Aye , Aye”, “Evening All” etc

“Working on one for you, John” I hollered at one of the gathered drinkers. He was sat on the next stool to me but I needed to shout as he was a tad mutton. John had asked if I could make a Laurel & Hardy tee for him and I was on the case. The 70 year old plasterer is rapidly becoming one of my more regular customers, him having a penchant for often wearing one my shirts while both plastering and getting plastered. I think he’s ordered four to date. And he’s paid for all of them, something of a record round here.

“Is it you that makes the T-shirts, then?” asked Colin, sat beside the aforementioned John.

“Yes, that’s me” quoth I.

Colin took a long squint at what I was wearing. JFK stared back at him through the folds in my shirt and the creases underneath my moobs. You can always tell how long Colin’s ben in the the pub by the degree at which his eyes are pointing at each other. Colin is the Ben Turpin of Dartford — especially after half a dozen pints.


“Oooh I like that one” he continued. “that one of yours ?”

“Yup. In all of the colours, in all of the sizes !” I chanted happily. But answer came there none. And this was scarcely odd because it was Colin and he was on a roll.

“That’s the….the…the American President fella, aint it ?”. I’d forgotten to mention that Colin was a bit of a political animal.

“Yes, John Kennedy”, I concurred. “It’s fifty years this year that he died. You can have it in…”

I’d failed to notice that Colin hadn’t finished.

“You ought to do one with him on it, and Martin Luther King here, John Lennon here…” he was pointing to various part of his torso “…and Lady Diana there…” which apparently was somewhere around his navel.

“Diana ..?” I repeated, but it was still Colin’s turn.

“Then write ‘Assassinated’ above ’em” he announced, scrawling the imaginary headline across the top of his chest. “I’d buy one of them

“Diana..?” I repeated.

“Yeah, well, everyone knows she was killed by them.” Behind him, I noticed John roll his eyes, snort and bury is face into his pint.

“Them..?” I asked — desperately trying not to give the impression I was doubting him (a sale is, after all, a sale).

“The Government ! She slagged off the Tories on TV and I says to me mum ‘she’ll be dead in a fortnight’ and the following weekend me mum rings me up and says ‘she’s dead’ and I says ‘who’s dead’ and she says ‘Diana’s dead’ and I says ‘well fuck me I was right all along’ “.

Colin was no David Frost, but he knew a good yarn when he told one. I was loath to point out that Tony Blair was in government when Diana died was murdered.

“That’s a good point” I replied.(I’ll say anything to sell a shirt.) “I’ll have a good go at that when I get back from my holiday” I lied.

As if to confirm it to himself, Colin repeated his design to himself (and to me) several times, occasionally adding “you can put their dates below each face” and suggesting colours for the shirt.

And then he started free-forming.

“You know who they’ll get next, don’t you ?” he bellowed.

“Er….”  I dreaded to think who was next in line for Colin’s assassin’s bullet.

“Jamie Oliver !”

Two jets of Light & Bitter shot out of John’s nostrils. I bit a lump out of my tongue. In the nick of time The Incumbent arrived to rescue me. She picked me up off the floor and we made ready to leave. Colin was still in full flight, detailing what Jamie had done to incite the wrath of MI5, though my head was spinning and I couldn’t hear what his reasoning was. I should have asked why Jamie was for the chop, not Delia Smith, but we’d gone before I’d thought of it.

As we left Glenda was administering the last rights to John who had laughed himself to within an inch of an early death.

It seems I’ll have no need to finish that Stan & Ollie shirt.


Fuckin’ ‘Ell, It’s Liz Taylor

You’d have thought that spending a life in the public eye for being a master in your chosen field would warrant you a few well-chosen lines in the national papers’ obituary columns when it came your turn to snuff it. But the Law of Sod often has one last laugh at your expense by somehow arranging to kill-off another celebrity and thus depriving you of the plaudits your time on Earth deserved.

Thus when Mother Teresa of Calcutta threw a seven, she had the misfortune to throw it during the official month of mourning afforded to that other living saint, Lady Diana Spencer, Princess of the People’s Hearts and unofficial Patron of the English Rugby Team. Old Ma Treesa didn’t get a look in. The world is only geared up to mourn one deity at a time and the aged nun missed out by a short head.

When the brilliant Ian Carmichael finally curled up his tootsies, you’d have thought he who brought us the celluloid embodiment of Bertie Wooster, who starred in the Trade Union-bashing I’m All Right Jack and thrilled us in School for Scoundrels (the funny one, not the 2006 version starring Billy Bob Thornton) would have warranted page upon page of tributes and gushing obits. Sadly for Ian, Alexander McQueen had recently shuffled off and there wasn’t enough column inches to dedicate to two geniuses [sic] at one time unfortunately and the frock-botherer prevailed.

Now I have nothing against Elizabeth Taylor. If you are a certain generation I’m sure she was the greatest thing since sliced cheese. I’ve seen a few of her movies and she was no more or less wooden than the rest of her fellow actors (I never really got Richard Burton either. How could Mark Anthony have a Welsh accent?). I know Liz won a couple of Oscars and her charity work is legendary. Fair play to her.

But did she ever take 7 wickets for 79 runs against the Australians at Sydney ? Fred Titmus did.

Did Dame Elizabeth ever take 9-52 against Cambridge University at Fenners ? Fed Titmus did.

Did Liz ever lose four toes in a freak boating accident yet the following season take 111 wickets in the season, while at the same time topping his club’s batting averages ? No she didn’t but, incredibly, Fred did that too.

Did Taylor ever open the batting for her country against the West Indies in Barbados, whilst suffering from Bells Palsey and confined to a wheelchair due to chronic gout, nevertheless scoring a half-century in 43 balls including two sixes ? No, neither did Fred, but it would have been a great story.

So while you’re ploughing though the tributes and re-runs of Liz Taylor and nestling down in your armchair to watch the seventeen hours of boredom that is Cleopatra or maybe the drivel that is National Velvet, spare a thought for Fred Titmus, a man who’s career spanned five decades, was a great all-rounder, and had a very fine song written about him.