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

Fatty Owls


The Null Stern- bring your own pyjamas

News reaches me of the world’s first zero star hotel. The Null Stern Hotel (slogan: ‘The Only Star is You’) in Switzerland is a converted nuclear bunker where, for for six quid (about 1 Euro at present) you get a military-style bunkbed for the night, hot water bottles rather than central heating, and earplugs to blockout the din of the ventilation system. Who gets a hot shower in the morning and who’s shower is cold is determined by drawing lots.

All very shocking, I’m sure, but does it really deserve no stars? And if it does, I’d like to nominate a few more which deserve that honour. One that immediately springs to mind is the lovely en-suite double I once stayed at in Morecambe. En-suite, it technically was, but the bathroom was of Fawlty Towers proportions. I literally had to open the door to lean forward to wipe my bum. Lovely. Especially for my partner.

Then there was the establishment in Blackpool where a turd was discovered in the cleaner’s bucket (though that may have been left there by one of the guests), not forgetting the B&B above The Swan in Bath with 1 room, five beds and a sink, which one night trebled-up as a wash basin, urinal and bidet.

Closer to home there’s Blackheath’s very own Clarendon Hotel, which stands above the village as a beacon of overpriced misery, a monument to peeling paint, a seven-star shabby shit-pit, spewing out streams of swindled Spaniards, irate Italians and dejected Gerries onto the surrounding streets and environs as they spend a gruesome night there as part of their coach trip round Britain. They’re easy to spot wandering around the bars and eateries of the village, all with that same bemused look on their faces as they struggle to come to terms with where their tour company has billeted them for the night.

At one newspaper I worked at, district men and foreign correspondents were put up in the Clarendon for the night if they were called to the London office. They threatened to strike until the company eventually found a proper hotel.

I stayed there once, during my divorce malarky. I stayed in a single room of such drabness, smallness and all-round lessness that, even in my misery of a break-up, I pitied the poor French or Japanese sods who have to put up with ‘traditional quaint British hospitality’, and fork-out a fortune for the privilege. I can’t remember exactly what they charged my for that room, but it in the neighbourhood of a hundred quid. What must the visitors think of us?

On the other hand, sometimes the guests are actually worse than the hotel: On a rugby club tour one year, and after a particularly long and boysterous first night in our hotel, an ashen-faced hotelier staggered into the breakfast room the following morning to address us.

“I’ve been in the hotel trade for 35 years and that was the the worst behaviour I’ve ever seen” he whimpered.

“Stick around!” came a voice from the back.

It makes an abandoned nuclear bunker in Switzerland seem quite appealing.

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