Frostbite or Verbals…


Sad to see that Bob Hoskins has left us today. Always seemed to me like a decent bloke, and a very convincing actor. There’s that famous yarn about him getting his first break in acting when he accompanied a mate along to a theatre and fell into an audition himself. He landed the part and the rest, as they say…

Michael Caine, Bob Hoskins: Mona Lisa

Michael Caine, Bob Hoskins: Mona Lisa 1984

Bob never knew it, (and even if he did I doubt if he’d have cared) that he got me through English A-Level. In a moment of weakness I’d neglected to read the set Shakespeare work —Othello that year (1982/3)— but, as luck would have it, the blessed BBC decided to show their production of the play staring Anthony Hopkins as the Mad Taff Moor, and Hoskins as Iago. Both were brilliant in their roles, Hoskins especially. It’s a hell of a lot easier remembering quotes and plot lines when you have a strong image of a Cock-er-ney Geezer delivering each line like he was asking for a pint and a pie down the Old Kent Road. So thanks Bob for getting me my one decent qualification. Yours is the performance by which I judge all others — which rather puts Kenny Brnnnnnnaaaaaagh at a disadvantage.

Hoskins was Roger who fell for Jessica Rabbit, could play anything from Capt Hook’s Smee, a jobsworth plumber in Brazil and a gangster in The Cotton Club. But he’ll doubtless be best remembered for his brilliant and brutal portrayal of Harold Shand in The Long Good Friday. The only thing more fascinating than the 1980 London backdrop is his peerless performance.

British cinema rightly boasts of Dickie Attenborough as Pinky Brown in Brighton Rock;  Michael Cain’s Jack Carter in the superb Get Carter, whose direct descendent is Don Logan in Sexy Beast. Standing shoulder to shoulder with these three is Harold Shand. A great British Gangster.  The Mafia ?  I’ve shit ’em

Some quotes from one of THE most quotable of all movies:

Harold: (announcing his big plans) I’m setting up the biggest deal in Europe with the hardest organization since Hitler stuck as swastika on his jockstrap.

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Pool Attendant: (informing Harold of his mate Colin’s death). They kept it all incognito. They’re gonna collect the body in an ice cream van.
Harold: There’s a lot of dignity in that, isn’t there? Going out like a raspberry ripple.

Harold: Alan found him dying. He’d been nailed to the floor.
Jeff: When was this, then?
Harold: Well, it must’ve been just after you saw him and just before Alan saw him. Otherwise, you’d have noticed, wouldn’t you? I mean, a geezer nailed to the floor. A man of your education would definitely have spotted that, wouldn’t he?

Casino Manager: It was a good night. Nothing unusual.
Harold: “Nothing unusual,” he says! Eric’s been blown to smithereens, Colin’s been carved up, and I’ve got a bomb in me casino, and you say nothing unusual?

THE-LONG-GOOD-FRIDAY

Harold: (holding a gun in his pocket) Move to the car, Billy, or I’ll blow your spine off.
Billy: That’s not a shooter, is it, Harold?
Harold: Oh don’t be silly, Billy. Would I come hunting for you with me fingers?

Harold(on learning that the Yanks have pulled out of the deal)  I’m glad I found out in time just what a partnership with a pair of wankers like you would’ve been. A sleeping partner’s one thing, but you’re in a fucking coma! No wonder you got an energy crisis your side of the water!

Harold: The Mafia? I’ve shit ’em.

Harold: (bidding The Americans a fond farewell) What I’m looking for is someone who can contribute to what England has given to the world: culture, sophistication, genius. A little bit more than an ‘ot dog, know what I mean?

Harold: (to the captured mobsters, trussed up in a deep freeze). Right… it’s up to you. Frostbite or verbals…

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Lost & Found


The end of another traumatic week, one way or another. Thankfully this week wasn’t all about me or the member of staff in a pub I’d abused in some way (though it’s early yet). No, this week was certainly all about The Incumbent Mrs B — the long-suffering female who’s been so lucky over the past few years to have the pleasure of living with me. If you stick your head out of the window you may be able to hear another chunk of Crimean cannon ball being filed down as they make her Victoria Cross. Nobody said it was gonna be easy, kid. And they were right. I’d like to take this opportunity here and now to apologise to The Incumbent for all the pain and sorry she has gone through on my behalf over the years, and state categorically that it won’t happen again. Not unless I get drunk tonight.

Proving that there should be an age-limit to prevent old people attempting selfies. That's Mt Vesuvius in the middle, no idea who the two people in the foreground are.

Proving that there should be an age-limit to prevent old people attempting selfies. That’s Mt Vesuvius in the background , no idea who the two people in the foreground are.

So, first some good news: the hunt for the Incumbent’s family continues. Those of you in the know will understand this house has recently become a poor man’s version of Who Do You Think You Are ?  (I’m appearing next year on BBC3’s highly successful “Why Do You Think You Are ?” where, if you can’t justify your existence, you are made to sit down and watch a whole episode of The Call Centre —a show worse than anything Jack Whitehall has come up with.**)

Our version doesn’t have a film crew, a producer or mood music; we haven’t had to fly Mrs B around the globe (I had to drive her to Feltham once); and there’s not even a visit to the British Museum or a Holocaust Memorial in sight, but I’m hoping the Beeb or even 5 might pick us up sooner or later. I won’t go into too many details here — as The Incumbent will want to tell you her story in her own words, and probably with more accuracy and clarity, but suffice to say that she’s  suddenly become the rather shocked relation of a slew of new full-sisters, half-sisters, short dogs and tall nephews and heaven knows how many other assorted family members.  Good news indeed after such a long search. However, having traced her lineage, if Nigel Farage (rhymes with garage) ever comes to power my Missus will be one of the first he’ll send back home to the continent. I do hope so anyway — as if Farage (as in marriage) and his mob get in I’m going to need somewhere to stay as I shall be packing my bags and will be on the boat right behind her. Like Kaiser Wilhelm II before me, I fancy my own place in the sun.

Mid-week she lost her favourite pen. It was a nice one, a present bought by a dear friend, and it was her favourite shopping list-writing tool. We have had the house turned upside down but cannot find it anywhere. It could have been lost anywhere between Canterbury in Kent and Feltham in Middx.:  Approx 88 miles, according to Google Maps. The pen is fitted with a tracking device, but you have to clip it to your top pocket before you can actually hear the signal it sends out. The battery on the tracker last up to 4 minutes. Some have said this is a design fault. I have poo-poohed such suggestions. Me and a chinese mate attached a microphone to a broomstick and went and sat in his rubber dinghy just off Erith Marshes, dangling the mic in the water. Oddly, nothing has turned up yet, but I’ll let you know.

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Anyway, the point of this tribute to my very own Leader of the Opposition is to wish her a very happy birthday. Sad to say, m’lady, you will never be as old as me, and don’t you enjoy telling me so ? One of us has a very significant, important and depressing birthday this year but unfortunately it’s not you. So enjoy it while you can, and as is traditional on these occasions: it’s your round. xx

 

Woman with Cake

Woman with Cake

** correct at time of going to press.

Taking My Business Elswhere


We’ve come full circle.

From being asked, albeit politely, to leave a Harvester ‘pub’ last weekend, to barring myself from my once very favourite pub last night.

Both were completely justified.

The first incident occurred when, after and because I was on the outside of two or three bottles of house shiraz. I then decided, for better or worse, that I needed another bottle (and one for yourself). But in my excitement, haste and eagerness to replenish my glass and that of my accomplices on this Leo Sayer of Leo Sayers, I may have forgotten myself as I chivvied along the barmaid, who may or may not have been one of the worst you’ve ever seen.

Leo Sayer — All Dayer

Leo Sayer — All Dayer

I don’t like Harvester, never have done. It is a chain of foody ‘pubs’ over here and throughout good ol’ Blighty which is the very embodiment of everything I hate about modern drinking. Acres of dining tables, and occasionally tended drinking areas, or “bars” as they like to call them. They are restaurants with a beer counter attached. They are the Nigel Farage (rhymes with garage) of Holsteries. The Paul McCartney of pubs, the Mike Bushell of Boozers in which to enjoy a Sunday afternoon quaff.

” I say” quoth you “shall we go to the Bill Turnbull, the Sally Nugent or the Charlie Stayt for a pint ?” “Nah” comes the reply “let’s go to the Mike Bushell. It’s not a real pub, but it’ll do, don’t cha think ?”.  (You may find this odd, but that’s how the “shall we go for a pint in the Harvester” conversation  sounds in my head. I bet it does in yours too)

And I’m just like you. To save a row, you go along. After all, this time it’s definitely not all about YOU, is it ? This is not your day and you go with the flow. That’s what makes you a civilised human being, isn’t it ? Someone who people like and admire, someone who considers other people’s opinions and feelings. Even if you hate the pub you’re walking into.

In truth, I’ve always hated that pub, even when it tried to be a proper pub. Back in black&white it used to go by the name of The Rising Sun, and it was always last on our young drinkers list of places to go for an evening’s entertainment. It was huge and uninteresting, more like an pub in Essex, not one in The Garden of England, (or even in the bit I live— The Allotment of England). Huge, overrated and uninteresting, in that David-Walliams-sort-of-way. Now, apparently it still goes the name of the Rising Sun, but known to all as “The Harvey”. Or sometimes “The Bushell” (though probably only by me.)

Harvester Logo_salad-grill

But none of this by any means excuses me for what I apparently said to this person serving — or otherwise— me that afternoon. Early into that next bottle I was asked by the manager of the pub if I had a minute, was taken to a quiet corner of the bar, and was kindly asked to leave the pub as I had been rude — “in the extreme”— to the young lady behind the bar. First hand accounts are scarce and differ slightly about what happened and who said what to who(m). What seems to be clear is that, to paraphrase Sesame Street, this conversation was brought to by the letters U, T, N & C and by the words  SLOW, USELESS and YOU.

I was asked to leave on the grounds that I was “rude and tipsy”.  It was, apparently, a fair cop, guv. That was a week ago, and it took some getting over. Angst and shame. Using inappropriate language; not being able to remember saying that rude word, or indeed anything, to the barmaid; being barred from a pub, however awful, and thus having to curtail my assault on the Dartford Shiraz surplus. I have, however, gradually been able to come to terms with my actions by way of convincing myself that a) she may well have (or probably) made it all up; b) she was indeed slow and useless (though not necessarily a utnc); c) I never liked the pub anyway. If, indeed, a pub it be.

I moved on.

Mid week, I found myself in The People’s Republic of Luton having beer & sandwiches with a couple of the locals.

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Strange lot. It appears they grow up with either too much hair, or none at all. However, they do know how to run a boozer, as the chaps in The Castle pub, castle street — next to the castle (how do they come up with these names ?) illustrates. Good beer, proper, quick and attentive bar staff, no food, original decor (well, underneath the old folk music flyers there was original decor.) It restored my faith in pubs and the people therein. It was clean, well stocked, reasonable priced and catered for the beer-and-wine-drinking community as a whole.  Hairies and baldies alike.

 

Marianne Faithfull, The Salisbury Pub, London by Gered Mankowitz

Marianne Faithfull, The Salisbury Pub, London. Photo by Gered Mankowitz

Cut to yesterday afternoon when I strolled manfully through London’s Covent Garden, leading The Incumbent and two friends to my very favourite watering hole the capital has to offer. Anyone who has ever met me for a drink in London over the past 30 years will have been asked by me if “we could go to The Sailisbury, St Martin’s Lane”. In the heart of London’s Theatre Land, this is what a pub should be. Great beer, friendly staff (apart from that time one of them charged me over four quid for a pint of Peroni, but then I wasn’t very friendly either), beautiful, original features like cut glass partitions, red velvet seats and a sticky paisley carpet. Even though they serve hot food to punters, it is just my favourite pub in town, almost the world.

Or rather it was.

Since 1892 The Salisbury (or whichever name the pub went by before) has been serving beer, wine and Mars Bars to theatre-goers, revellers, drunks and Marianne Faithfull in these plush, welcoming surroundings. Yesterday, thanks to the marketing men, interior designers, painters, atmosphere-removers and parquet floor-fitters they reduced one of their punters to tears.

Me.

Ok, ok. I had already enjoyed a marvellous lunch up the road, and may have had a beer or eight before I walked into the place, but when I did I cried like a Dartford Barmaid who’s just been call a utnc. It may have been an over-reaction, and you may well look at the snap below and say “ooh that looks nice”, and you may or may not be correct. But truth is they still serve italian lager at over £4-a-pint, they still serve hot food which rids the place of its happy hoppy smell and replaces it with one of gravy & onions and it still attracts far to many backpacking half a shandy brigade. None of this mattered to me before, but now it does. Who gave who(m) the right to go against history and change what drinkers have been enjoying for 120 years ? WHO ?? If I wanted to drink in a Slug & Piano or an Airport Departure Lounge Bar/Wetherspoons* (delete where applicable) I WOULD HAVE GONE TO ONE. Instead I chose to introduce friends to my favourite hostelry. Now they think I like laminate flooring.

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The Incumbent, top right, puts on a brave face as The Author shoots photos through the tears, the sorrow and the pain.

So apart from crying in the middle of the afternoon, in the middle of a packed pub in the middle of the West End of London, I thought I maintained my composure pretty well. I only posted my complaints on Facebook, Twitter & Beerintheevening.com and alerted the bar staff to my deep concerns— after having dried my eyes, of course — and without using the ‘U’ word once. I used words such as “Awful” “shameful” and “goodbye forever” and meant all of them. Apart from the last two as I still had a gallon of Guinness to cry into.

I now brace myself for those-in-the-know to reply to my various protests, pointing out that The Salisbury “has been altered 17 times over the last 30 years but you’ve just always been too drunk to notice”, which may or may not be accurate and true. However, I’m similar to many people: Although I don’t like Conservatives, I am very conservative. Like a lot of blokes I know, I’d go to the same pub every night of my life and drink the same pint for the rest of my days, as long as no-one changed anything. ANYTHING. I can moan about any and every aspect of the pub, from the price of a pint, to the speed of the barman/maid, the state of the loos to the state of the pickled eggs, pork scratchings and carpet. But I pay enough for a pint and drink enough of them to have an opinion, and it’s MY pub! Not yours — you fly-by-night manager who’ll be off in a couple of years to run that little B&B near Droitwich at the drop of a hat. I’ll be here, come rain-or-shine, moaning, laughing and crying at my regular spot in the corner until I decide I’ve had enough, or you decide to decorate. Or I’m politely asked to leave.

God, I bet they’ll miss me.

 

 

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).

English Try not to Lose Match. Questions in the House.


Australia scored a huge moral victory today when the world’s media decided, as one, that the England Cricket Team were batting too slowly. In a test match. Newspapers and media commentators from both ends of the globe were united in their damning of English tactics in the Fifth and final Test at The Oval.

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Down under, Ockers in bars across the colony— from Wagga all the way to Wagga—could be heard to whine in celebratory unison at the attack on the English decision (on the season’s slowest pitch) not to lose the match and consolidate their 3-0 lead. The Aussie team, led by skipper Michael ‘Bloody’ Clarke, and in lieu of bowling the opposition out, opted for calling Pietersen nasty names and bowling the ball to 2nd slip (presumably as some sort or Homage d’Harmison). This enormous vote of disapproval at the speed of the English batsmen means the scoreline in the series has now changed to …er…3-0 to England.

Not since a girl called Mary was followed about everywhere she went by her companion with a fleece as white as snow has there been such constant bleating for so long. Much has been made about the plummeting of Australia down the Test Match Rankings, but the ACB will be proud of the fact that their fans have reached the top of the Whinging Fans Table, removing French Rugby Supporters from the top of the “Whole World’s Against Us Championship” (Sponsored by Brains Beer).

Kevin-Pietersen_2652339b

But this is no fluke, no flash in the pan. It has been worked on all summer, ever since the Aussie Tourists lost to Roedean Girls School by an innings and 74 runs on a slow turner in May. While the Strines‘ Upper, Upper Middle and Lower Middle batting order practised batting collapses, the fans were drawing up a war chest of moans, complaints and whines to be gradually introduced to and shot at the English public throughout the season.

And how they’ve fired them off:

The Umpires are too foreign; DRS is too unreliable; The grounds are too small (they can’t get tickets to the matches so they can moan about the English); The pitches are too dry; it only rains when we’re winning ; Stuart Broad is a Cheat; Root provoked the Punch (and he’s a cheat); they’re batting too slow; the commentators are too posh/biased/insulting/use long words; The grass is too green (ok, I made that last one up—but only that one) . etc etc etc.

The ICC are investigating claims by the BCCI, the ruling body of Indian Cricket, that they have the monopoly on Sore Losing, and that the Aussies are in danger or breaching their copyright on it.

The MCC have made a formal apology to Australia and indeed the whole of the Commonwealth and given an undertaking that they won’t try to save a cricket match again, or ensure that they don’t give the opposition a sniff.  Rather they will play dashing, exciting cricket, giving no heed to throwing away the contest. It is believed the have contacted Mickey Arthur with a view to a possible advisory role.

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In a totally unrelated incident, Police have discovered a small heard of sheep in a bar in Brisbane. The animals have remained undetected in the Inn for six weeks, mingling with the local sports fans. They were only given away when one of their member got into a fight with a group of cricket fans when he asked them to keep the bleating down.

Malcolm Conn is 108

Spofforth, Scorecards and Sticky Wickets,


John Arlott and Ralph Richardson from 1950. A little gem covering everything you wanted to know about The Ashes and cricket. No, much more than that, madam.

17 mins, 20 secs of pure heaven. Enjoy.