BLOUF*


Now regulars out there (and I trust at your age you are all pretty regular) will know that I am fascinated by language and its origins, development, and bastardisation, mainly by chaps from The Colonies. There is nothing I enjoy more than a quick session of word derivation, a look into Cock-er-ney rhyming slang, or the dialects of Scotchmen (formerly of this parish). Having sat through last weekend’s BAFTAs, gleefully listening to Dame Stephen Fry freely giving the Americans an English lesson and, subsequently, watching Emma Thompson’s very best Joyce Grenfell impression, whilst correcting every syllable her colonist co-stars utter in Saving Mr Banks, it has confirmed to me that I was born, at the very least, 25 years too late.

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Or maybe 25 years too early. P.L.Tavers, and indeed Mr Fry would have had a field day correcting my English, my spelling and pronounciation. This paragraph alone would have had them weeing themselves with delight. But at least my poor English is done through ignorance, and not intentionally to desecrate our mother tongue. But no-one seems to care any more, at least in the generation.

The mere utterance of the word AWSOME, to describe anything from a solar eclipse, to a recent pop music recording, a brief bout of wind or even a a preprubescent fumbling leaves me longing for the comfort afforded to me by my old service revolver. I know it’s an American thing that, somehow, our yoof have adopted but that is no excuse. Leave the Awesomeness of every living thing, event and bodily function to the Vulgarians of Vermont and the Dullard of Delaware (I nearly said the Douches of Dakota, but that would involve another of my hated, and their over employed words). You’re on the phone all the fucking time, for fuck’s sake, so please google-up a thesaurus.

When I hear Cameron, Gideon, Bliar and the like talk about how awesome things appear to be, and that it makes them LOL or maybe PMSL —they never say that, but they would be AWSOME if they could— it makes me heave (archaic word meaning “to gag or vomit”) . Stop getting down wiv da kids. You went to Eton, for christ’s sake !.

So in the same vain, it is with glee that my very new friend Suzie M delivers this short list of text speak for those of us who should know better than to pretend to be young. I hit 50 soon and I can’t even see the keypad on my phone, let alone type. But when I can persuade The Incumbent Mrs B to text for me, I shall be using some or all of the following`;

ATD = At The Doctors,
BFF = Best Friends Funeral
BTW = Bring The Wheelchair
HGBM = Had Good Bowel Movement
WTL = Wheres The Lubricant
ISMSA = I’ve Shit Myself Again
WTFMT = Where’s The Fuck My Teeth

A couple of my own:

LOL: Leaked on Leg

ARSNRIRMA:  Allain Rolland should Never Referee an International Rugby Match Again.

and

*BLOUF— Boring Lonely Old Ugly Fucker. Archaic meaning “Former Bond Dealer now French Apple Grower”.

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On the Ridiculous


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Noon GMT today.

Brrrring …Brrrrring…..  (that’s my phone impersonation again)

Brrrring …Brrrrring…..Brrrring …Brrrrring….. (it’s my mobile)
Brrrring …Brrrrring…..(I have one of those “retro” rings — same one as everybody else)
Brrrring …Brrrrring….. (so I never know if it’s my phone ringing— unless I’m alone)
Brrrring …Brrrrring….. (like this morning)
Brrrring …Brr- “Hello?”

‘Hello, Mr Bealing?’ a young female Geordie voice asked

“Speaking” an old male Estuary voice replied

“It’s Virgin Media here” she announced triumphantly

“hm-hmm” (I was less than impressed. Having dealt with the English-speaking world’s joint -2nd worst Customer Services** before, I  didn’t anticipate having too much fun here).

There was a slight pause, as if she was waiting for me to either shout ‘hooray’ or hang up. Once she’d established neither was about to happen, she continued.

“I’m calling you today to discuss improvements to your landline and to see if we can provide you with better value in the service we provide to you .”

“hm-hmm”

“Would you have five minutes at the moment ?”

“Of course, I’ve been desperate to talk to you” (that may have been a fib).

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Another pause while she considered the implications of this statement.

“Oh, ok, well before we start, could you confirm for me the first two characters of you Virgin Media password?”

“I have no idea what my Virgin Media password is, I’m afraid”

“Really?” she was clearly incredulous

Really?” I emphasised. It’s not something I use often. Oh I dunno try X.A.” (regular readers will remember the name of my first pet stoat)

“Ooh, I’m afraid that doesn’t correspond to the password I have here”

“”Oh No!” I was mortified. Ish.

“Would you like me to ask you other questions to confirm you identity ?”

“I know my identity”

“But I need to confirm it before we can proceed, sir”. I don’t think she shared my sense of humour.

“Ok, yes, of course, fire away”

“Good, so can you confirm the method by which you pay for your Virgin Media Services ?”

“Direct Debit”

“Yes, Correct”. I had answered a question correctly. The warm glow of pride inside me was immense. She continued, and I was on a roll,

“Now can you tell me the speed of the broadband service which you currently receive from Virgin Media.”

“Nope. I think it’s 30 ish. Or maybe 50. I know it’s about half the speed of what you lot reckon it is.”

“Er….no… that’s not quite right…so can you tell me the name of the TV package which you currently have with Virgin Media?”

“Ha !  No I can’t. No idea what you call them. I know I reduced it a month or so ago shortly after the Ashes ended. Erm…. Tall ? Grande? “

“Er, no, Mr Bealing, I’m afraid that is not the package you have with us, so I’m afraid as you’ve answered two questions incorrectly we cannot continue this conversation”

“Ok then” I tried unsuccessfully to sound disappointed. She was clearly crestfallen.

“I am really sorry, Mr Bealing, but I do need you to answer these questions of verification, otherwise I cannot help you.”

“But you called me?”

“Excuse me?”

“YOU called ME . On my mobile. For starters, why didn’t you call me on my landline? At least you’d know you were calling the right house? But I was going along fine, not aware that I needed anything Virgin Media-wise until you called me. I didn’t call YOU to ask for anything. YOU called ME ! “

“It’s a procedural thing, sir. We would have called your landline and received no answer so we called your cellphone.”

“Well no, you didn’t, but that’s by-the-by. You called me to sell me something. But because I don’t keep a note of a password I use once every other luna equinox, or know your code names for Television packages, you are prevented from selling me anything. Something wrong with your system, I reckon, don’t you?”

She’d begun to go all Westworld on my ass. “It’s a procedural thing, Mr Bealing. I need you to answer these questions of verification, otherwise I cannot help you.”

“Ok then. Byeee”. I pressed the Fuckoffthen button on my mobile. My legendarily long patience had suddenly deserted me. I was left to consider where I was before the phone call.

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Now where was I ?  Ah yes, writing a letter of complaint.

Dear Mr Branston…”

**Tied equal with RBS and Interflora, just behind the British National Party.

Customer Services


Having worked for and with more than my fair share of Americans, it always makes my blood boil when they carp on about the poor quality of British Customer Services: No Smiles; No Have a Nice Day Now Y’All Hears; No going the extra yards; No nuthin’.

So let’s put an end to the myth that us British have no idea how to treat the customer. Here’s evidence that things are improving, at least in the British Courier community:

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Makes you feel kinda proud. Even the dog at the door can’t believe it.

Missing You Already.

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Memories are Made of This.


Working from home, running one’s own highly successful clothing company gives one the access to the ample cash and leisure time necessary to be able to regularly treat the GLW to all the niceties of life and numerous nights out at the cinema to watch all this year’s Oscar-nominated movies in order to make up one’s own mind as to whose name should be revealed and the winners on the big night in Hollywood.

On the other hand, if you’re like me and you’ve got sod-all business coming your way,  you can make use of any two-for one offers on seats at the local Pictures and stick them on the ever-loving IBS credit card (and no, that’s not a typo). Or some might, I suppose, take advantage to the local hookie DVD-producer and settle down with the Missus on the couch with a bottle of Sainsbury’s own-brand vodka, a carton of orange and a tube of Pringles in front of a film which every 17.5 minutes flashes up the watermark “NOT FOR PUBLIC VIEWING. FOR ACADEMY APPROVAL ONLY).

I couldn’t bear that.

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So anyway, since we spoke on the subject last, we have managed to take in a few flicks, nominated or otherwise.  First up came Sunshine on Leith, a musical treat set in The People’s Republic of Claledonia and based, loosely around the music of The Proclaimers. Nothing bad to say about this one: it has the raw feel of The Commitments, the fun of Billy Elliot, the wit & grace of Alex Salmond (just kidding— I know those don’t exist) and the sensational soundtrack of Craig & Charlie Reid. This brought back so many happy memories for me. Not of Edinburgh (sorry, Embra), you understand—though I have spent many a wonderful wobbly weekend up there— but more clearly of the afternoon eight of us sat in a room attempting to rid a pal of a nasty ganglion on his finger.

There are many different treatments available in the NHS for the rid of these little buggers, and they were all considered at length. However we opted for the ‘patient’s’ wrist being held down by one of our group while others in the party took it in turns to— and apologies if this gents a bit to scientific and technical for you guys— whack the cyst with a copy of a Collins Dictionary (not the travel edition) or any other heavy volume or implement we could lay our hands on. As an anaesthetic we chose Red Stripe, Gordon’s (Green) and Smirnoff Blue (a bottle of which at one stage doubled as a ganglion-whacking tool).

To take the victi patient’s mind off of all this the record of choice was 500 Miles by The Proclaimers. It was played dozens and dozens and dozens of times, at full volume and right up to the cyst was treated/the police arrived/we all passed out (perm any 2 from 3).

The song is indelibly etched into my brain because of that afternoon and I cannot hear the song without recalling that particular afternoon. Unless I think of the time when a bunch of us went up to Shepherds Bush to a Proclaimers gig and, as the boys were singing 500 Miles, the bloke next to me was punching another geezer in the earhole, while a third was trying to insert a can of Tennents Lager into him. Carnage ensued.

Happy Days.

My trip down Livvery Lane was re-awakened as we next viewed The Wolf of Wall Street the other evening. Martin Scorcese’s Gordon Gecko-meets-Goodfellas epic (a movie lasting 3 hours means at least 2 pee breaks for me nowadays). This is again a fun movie, but not fun in the way you’d want to take your auntie Enid to watch it (unless auntie Enid is into cocaine abuse, foul language and group, anal sex. I know mine is.) Leonardo Dicaprio is nominated (in my house anyway) for The Best Jack Nicholson Impression since Heath Ledger played the Joker in Batman Award, which is not a criticism, I just prefer Jack playing Jack and Leo play Leo.

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The action is relentless, each scene filled with drunkenness, drug-taking orgies and the sort of behaviour that was banned from dealing rooms weeks ago. Many of the characters in the movie reminded me of my pals in the London markets whooping it up after a long hard slog in the City in the 1980s and 1990s. They worked hard and played hard. I was privileged to be invited along to many a booze-laced session of mayhem at some dive-bar or other in the square mile. They were generous to a fault and extremely welcoming, although unlike some of the players in this movie, none of those present in London ever offered to let me snort cocaine from their sphincter.

Praise be.

And so filled with warm, nostalgic,romantic glee, (as you know I always try to be), it was with some great anticipation that I settled down to watch The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.   My parents were card-carrying members of the Dany Kaye Fan Club and I fondly remember several Sunday afternoons in front of the TV watching the original version of this classic movie, with the brilliant Kaye having my father in stitches and therefore, by extension, me in fits of laughter too. I spent more time laughing at Dad laughing at the telly that I did laughing at the telly itself. (also explains my love of Laurel & Hardy;Buster Keaton;Dad’s Army et al).

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And BOY! what memories came flooding back with this new offering from Ben Stiller. As beautiful as this movie looks, as thoughtfully directed as it is by Stiller the Director, as funny as is Stiller the Actor, as epic a journey as our hero embarks on, and as memorable a movie-going experience this is for, I’m sure, many people, it had the teeniest little flaw for me, and I suspect many like me:

Without trying to spoil the movie, (so look away now if you don’t want to read anything about it at all) or giving away the plot too much, or even reading too much into it: the movie opens and we find the titular character working in the Photo Department of LIFE Magazine in the Time Life building, New York. Ivy League 24 year-olds have decided that this Giant of a Magazine needs to be stripped to the bollocks, dispense with the services of a huge amount of staff and be replaced by an online version. What was once a world-respected publication, produced by brilliant journalists & photographers, decent people and experienced & loyal workers will soon be an App to be shred alongside Flappy Birds and Mailonline [aren’t these two the same thing?—Ed].

Walter is plagued by snooty fuckwits, hounding him about photos and even negatives— which they plainly know woefully little about— and who he regularly fantasises about beating to a pulp with his fists, or with dirty great lumps of concrete, or ripping their heads off, or throwing him off the building into the heavy London traffic below. I mean them.  I mean New York..

Seeing my shrink first thing in the morning.

THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY

Saturday Titfers


As true today as it’s always been….

Unknown Football ground photographed somewhere or other, circa dunno. Probably not the Valley.

Unknown Football ground photographed somewhere or other, circa dunno. Probably not the Valley.The bloke near the bottom right-hand corner seems to know the cameraman.

In a quiet side street of the charming hamlet of Charlton, (as in ‘Charlton Athletic Nil’), London, SE7, once stood a little pub called The Valley, named after the local football team’s home ground. A pretty unremarkable little boozer, which my brother and I used to go in for “just the one” at lunchtime on match days (we were supporters, you understand, not players. The players were in the boozer across the road).  It was suitably scruffy, unknown to traveling opposition supporters, and mercifully free of the formica and stainless steel decor favoured by the Slug and Pianos, the All Bar Funs and the Trout n Tillbox pub chains so popular with the yoof of today.

But the feature of this pub which will stay with me forever was an old photograph on the wall. Or to be precise, a photo so large it stretched across two walls, floor-to-ceiling, in the main bar. It showed life as it was 60 years ago, a life sadly no longer with us. The photo at the top of this post, similar to the one in the pub, will give you an idea of what I mean.

Pictured was of the old, massive, main terrace at Charlton’s ground, presumably photographed just post-war. Several things struck you when you looked at the picture: That they used to sell-out home games; Some of the supporters were smiling; No-one was kicking seven shades of shite out of anyone else; and everyone in the photo was male.

But there was something else: of the nigh-on 20,000 people in the photo everyone, and I mean EVERYONE was wearing a hat. Be it a trilby, a flat cap, or whatever, EVERYONE wore a hat. Question: when the time came to throw your hat in the air in celebration of Charlton scoring a goal (quiet at the back!) how did you get your own hat back? It must have been carnage.

I have a particularly big swede and I suspect I would have often walked home with someone else’s cap, 3 sizes too small perched, at a jaunty angle, on the top of my head, while some other poor little sod wore my one, having to walk four yards before the hat moved.
Charlton Athletic beating Liverpool FC 3-0 (yes, honestly), The Valley, December 1959. Charlton Goalie, Willie Duff, scrambles to clear some smudges from the photo.  Not a dry hat in the house.

Charlton Athletic beating Liverpool FC 3-0 (yes, honestly), The Valley, December 1959. Charlton Goalie, Willie Duff, scrambles to clear some smudges from the photo. Not a dry hat in the house.

In 1953 Charlton beat Middlesbrough 8-1 which presumably meant that some of those present changed hats 8 times during the match. I wonder if after twenty minutes you ended up with a real corker of a titfer you just buggered off home and sod the result? Were you refused entry to the ground if you were hatless? What if your chapeau was a birthday present but the bloke standing 7 yards away caught it during the melee after a late equalizer? My mum would have gone Garrity if I returned home without it.

Perhaps it’s only me, but it’s something that’s always bothered me.
The pub’s not there now. Demolished to make way for yuppie flats, a Costa Bundle Coffee bar or somesuch. Gone the same way as epidemic hat-wearing, a thousand proper boozers around the country, and home goals at The Valley.

(originally published by the Sharp Single as “Saturday Titfers” in March 2009. And we’re still waiting for a home goal— The Ed).

Ou Est le Papier ?


I was never the type to be cursed with too much street cred. Never been known as hard. By anyone at all. But that’s fine, as the late, white MIchael Jackson would say, “I’m a lover, not a fighter” (and there my similarity with Bubbles’ owner ends).  However, I did like to try to carry with me a kinda Jim Rockford—loveable rogue—bon viveur—lad-about-town—rough diamond sort of image, which was invented to say “Hey look, I don’t have to swing punches to handle myself. DON”T mess with me mate.”  Fortunately, thanks to my ability to foresee punch-ups and my penchant for the exit stage left school of acting, I never had to put up my dukes too often.

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Small Boy Gatecrashes Adults Only Rugby Photo. NB: Another winning season under my leadership. Just.

But the little aura of invincibility I possessed buggered off completely one Saturday afternoon in Bromley, South London (not Kent) about a year before the above snap was taken. I was playing inside centre for my school team against a touring French Club side. Dunno why we were playing a drunk touring club side, we just were. Pissed-up and Punchy they were, just like I wanted to be later on in life. But for now I was a schoolboy playing against men. Albeit youngish men, and not very good ones at that. They were called something like Chateaneuf Rugby Club, which was quickly translated into Soixante Neuf (by our coach, Buster), which kept us amused all the while up to kick-off.

But here’s a surprise for you: The oppo’s open side flanker was a cheating thug. Imagine that ! A Flanker: cheating; A Frenchman: niggly. A FRENCH OPEN SIDE FLANKER: Niggly and Cheating . I know, it’s hard to believe. So, as was bound to happen (and this may be the point of this piece —you knew there’d be one somewhere, didn’t you ?) I ended up having a scuffle with this fella. It wasn’t really a fight — he punched me on the nose and I swung (swang?? swinged ??) a huge Dick Barton punch in his direction and caught him hard, smack on the shoulder blade.

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An artist’s impression of what happened in Bromley that day. The artist has since been dismissed.

And then it happened: Estimates vary between 5 yards and 25 yards as to how far my father had run on to the pitch in an attempt to break up this set-to before he came to a sudden halt, blushed, shouted “Oh, sorry”, spun round on his heels and took himself off again. I didn’t see any of this, of course as I was far too busy being punched in the face. But everyone else did. The frenchman and I curtailed out pugalistic activities as the sound of me yelping was being drowned out by the laughter of those around us. It was clear to all present: I needed my dad to save me from a fight on a rugby field. Told you I was hard.

But this is how the french play their rugby: HARD. I’ve been present at many a dust-up on the field in France (present, you understand, not active). I’ve watched from the safety of behind the posts as the team from the French Town we were visiting punched and kicked the living daylights out of us (well, I say us, I mean my mates). I’ve seen legions of my colleagues in maroon and gold shirts become victims of assaults on the pitch by opposition players, cheered on by the ref shouting “Allez, Allez” and waving his arms around in that gallic “what the fuck are you complaining/bleeding about?” sort or way. I once even asked the opposing hooker, (a huge, beared bear of a man) in my very best Franglais,  if he could ask his team-mates to go easy on us; that we’d been on the piss for three days and “really weren’t up for a fight today, just a laugh”.
“Don’t esk me mate”, came the reply in fluent New Zealandish “I jist got ‘ere from Aucklund”.  He was a recent purchase of the club from down under. Apparently New Zealand Senior League front row play wasn’t violent enough for him. We were losing by 40 points after 33 minutes when I called for “Three Cheers” for the opposition and we left the field. It was what Field Marshall Haig would have called a tactical retreat. We capitulated faster than any French Army could ever had done. Almost.

So anyway, the mouth-watering prospect of France vrs England today should herald the start of a particularly enjoyable 6 Nations season. The French were appalling last year, so will be excellent this year (probably); the English will be overpowered up front, and the few who did tour with the Lions will be too fatigued to mount a challenge for the title this year (probably); the Ref and assorted officials will merely be part of an Anglo-Saxon conspiracy, hell-bent on cheating the French out of the match (probably) and there will be niggle, aggro, punches, boots, set-tos and stand-offs a-plenty (WITHOUT A SHADOW OF A DOUBT).

England v France - RBS Six Nations No-one hates the English more than the French — apart from the Welsh and the Scots. The Irish, Australia, New Zealand, The Belgian Congo, Dutch East Indies and parts of the Miliband family (©Mail Newspapers). And anyone else who knows me — so you can bet the smaller of your testicles that a little bit of, ow u say ? Fisticuffs will be in evidence this afternoon. It’s part of the game. This game may well have been shorn of competitive line-outs, wheeling in the scrum and proper sideburns, but unlike the Super 73 (or whatever it’s called this year),the northern hemisphere version of Rugby Football still retains some semblance of a contact sport. With contact sports you get physical contact, which occasionally escalates into physical confrontations. Especially if you hate that bastard over there. So who will win today ? I haven’t the foggiest. England have faith in Stuart Lancaster and his big plan for Team England (not to be confused with Andy Flower and his big plan for Team England), so let’s see how they go. For me, it’ll be Wales for the Championship, they seem to have just enough strength on the bench that you need nowadays. Or the French. Or England as an outside bet. I’m sure of it.

But I won’t fight you over it.

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