Billy Bastard of Natal

I am saddened to hear of the poor health of Bill O’Hagan: Sausage King, journalist, colleague, friend. A drinker of Biblical proportions, and a genuine wit and raconteur.
Speaking from his hospital bed to a friend at the weekend, Bill declared he was “on his way out” and is to move to a hospice at some stage this week. It would seem all that fun is finally catching up with him.
Bill is and has been a man of many parts, some of them still working. Everyone who ever met or worked with him will have their own O’Hagan story, and sadly I feel the obits column will soon be full of them. Many of them will ignore his wondrous sausages and long career working in Fleet Street but concentrate on his drinking. I have to tell you now that my stories and memories are no different.
Some time during the late 1980s I once (well, quite often actually) found myself and a mate in a quiet little drinking establishment called Vagabonds, in New Fetter Lane, near Fleet Street, London. We (my friend Mr Sapsted and I) would decamp there because the pub we had been drinking in earlier had closed at 11 o’clock and we hadn’t finished what we were doing. They were always doing that to us.  It always played out in the same manner: We would arrive in the bar none-too-bright at some stage past 11.00, John the barman/owner would hold up his wrist, point to his watch and shake his head in a “what fucking time do you call this” sort-of-way. We would apologise, promise to spend some money in his bar before 11.00 next time, promise even to join the sodding club and pay the membership fee next week.
We never did, but we weren’t the only ones. I don’t think I ever met anyone who was a member or went into the club while there was anywhere else still open. They came from Fleet Street, Old Fetter Lane, Canary Wharf and Hugh Street Ken. From anywhere that a newspaper had been exiled. They came all through the night after, and sometimes during, shifts. But nobody ever paid to join. And John the guvnor swore at them all, asking “what fucking time d’you call this ?”
Anyway, on this particular night at around midnight, the door burst open and in ran Bill O’Hagan and who, without so much as a “good evening” but with two and a half bounds,  was onto the small stage to the left of the bar.
(Some readers may be interested that on this stage was a stacked a collection of stereo systems and amplifiers and which, when the correct buttons were pushed in the right order, and the requisite leads were inserted into the proper holes, would play instrumental versions of popular and current musical numbers. No-one had ever heard the word Karaoke. Not down our way, at any rate. Other may also like to know that it was on this very stage that I sang a duet (ish) with a visiting member of The Drifters. One of us was very good. I’ll tell you all about it another time.)
Back to Bill in the bar.
Shouting the question “How does an Irishman pull up his socks ?” he proceeded to undo his trousers, letting them drop to the floor. He stood, quite literally, stark bollock naked in front of the stunned drinkers propping up the bar. He then bent over, gave a quick tug on his socks, then pulled up his strides and re-buttoned them. Without further ado, and with not another word, he ran out of the door. Even John, the aformentioned (Irish) barman was rendered speechless. Bill was never seen again that night. Not by us, at any rate. Who knows how many other boozers were to witness his tackle that night. We may not have been the first, We were probably not the last.
That’s how I shall choose to remember him. Apart from another umpteen occasions when he’s made me laugh out loud. Many involving him calling a friend/wife/employer a telling them “I’m gonna be late and I’m gonna be drunk”. And he continues to make me smile. While researching a couple of bits for this piece, I stumbled upon this entry for him on IMDb. How the fuck does O’Hagan get an entry in IMDb ? I want one.  It’s not of the greatest length, but it does sum him up rather well.
Picture 7
Good on yer, Bill. Apart from anything else, I have met met a nice South African.

A London Girl

I have some bad news to depart. I also have some good news for you.

The bad bit is that I will no longer regale you with “Tales from the Shovel : A Simpleton’s Life in a Rural Pub” . No, no. My love affair with the aforementioned (and often mentioned) local boozer has ended, and that situation will not alter up to and until I receive an apology from an offending regular. He knows who he is.

You’re probably thinking something along the lines of “Oh God, Bealing has hd a row about the Police service, or George Osborne‘s political genius, Robin Jackman‘s mincing run-up, or the state of the BBC. Why else would he leave The Shovel ?”

No. None of that. I cannot go into exactly what happened, but suffice to say, I shall not darken that door for a very long time. I may even start using The Liniment and Poultice, as a regular haunt, even though The Incumbent says no, we won’t.

So it being a Friday night, and one of the few in the month which coincides with me having a couple of bob in my pocket, we went up to our old haunts to see what we could see.

We saw a couple of old mates, that’s what we could see. And we drank. And we had fun. And we spent money in Old Greenwich Town, in an Old Greenwich Pub: just like, not only had we never left but ,that both of us were working. And working for firms who paid the proper rate. I can’t remember back that far. Back when I was still allowed to drink in The Shovel (I’ll tell you later) the biggest round I ever bought was £9.50 – and that was only if the Fleet was in. Here I paid (with gay abandon, I might add) £19.50 for the odd cider and a pint-or-two of lager.

But it mattered not one jot. My very old (and in some cases, very drunk) friends had brought me to a pub where Chas Hodges and his band were playing. You know who Chas is. Chas is the Chas of Chas and Dave. I may have mentioned my love for them before. I’m sure I have.

So I am standing in a pub in South London next to the Pearly King and Queen of the Royal Borough of Greenwich (I kid you not), I have a pint of cider in my hand, and one half – the half that writes and owns the songs – of Chas and Dave is but a few feet in front of me. What do I do ?

I wanted to call you all up to ask if you wanted to join me and The Incumbent in this marvellous evening. But I was too excited/drunk to do so.

The best I could do is to record the evening in the best I could. There is video, and one day I’m sure it will be available. Not that there will be a huge call for it.

But there is this:

I may or may not have known all the words to all the songs but me and my new best mate Chas are getting on just fine. Not sure who the Doris on the left is though.

My Olympic Legacy: I’m Skint

Given that you should never judge something til you try it, yesterday four of us did just that:

The author walks around Olympic Park ,unaided, during the Paralympics.

Baked Potato, Topped with Mayo………………………………………………..£6

Bottle of Water …………………………………………………………………….£1.60

275 m Bottle of Bulmers Cider…………………………………………………….£4.30.

A space in Park Live to watch British Airways adverts on tv……………………No Charge

145g bag of Cadbury’s Twirl…………………………………………………………..£3.00

18.7cl glass of (as yet unidentified) White Wine……………………………………..£4.80

Bench in front of huge BMW ads screen…………………………………..Complimentary

Pie & Mash…………………………………………………………………………….£8.00

Son queuing for 20 minutes for waffles, to be told they’d run out…………………..Free

Team GB mini umbrella………………………………………………………………£15.00

Signed copy of man laughing all the way to the bank…………………………….Priceless.

I expected to stand corrected. The athletes were marvellous, and inspiring. But I had woefully underestimated just how crass and callous Locog and Coe’s Corporate Carve-Up manifests itself once you get inside the gates. Disgraceful.

On the Run

7 Aug 2012 17:01

Missing: Seven athletes from Cameroon ‘absconded’ from Olympic village amid asylum fears

Seven athletes from Cameroon have gone missing in Britain after competing in the Olympics, sparking fears they have fled the Games to claim asylum.

The five boxers, swimmer and a footballer have all disappeared from the athletes’ village at the Olympic Park in Stratford, east London.

Some of the missing Athletes

David Ojong, the head of mission for Team Cameroon, confirmed that the group were reported missing earlier this week.

All seven athletes would have had visas allowing them to remain in the UK until November and it is understood that none of the seven have claimed asylum.

David Ojong told Cameroonian media that of 60 athletes and officials living in the village, 28 have gone home, 24 were still in the village and seven have disappeared.

Two of these three athletes are vital to the Cameroon’s medal hopes

The missing athletes include all five of the team’s boxers – Thomas Essomba, who competed in the 49kg category, Christian Donfack Adjoufack in the 80kg, Abdon Mewoli in the 60kg, Blaise Yepmou Mendouo in the plus 91kg and Terv Sheldonomo in the 364kg – who disappeared over the weekend.

The others were Drusille Ngako, 25, a stand-by goalkeeper for Cameroon’s women’s team, and swimmer Paul Ekane Edingue, 21.

Cameroonian athletes are known to have gone missing at previous international sporting events, including the Commonwealth Games. Once they have left the athletes’ village, the absconders are very difficult to find and apprehend.

Occasionally, the bright lights and many attractions of the bars in the Olympic village and beyond are hard to resist, and there have been numerous sightings of one of the missing men throughout the week.

If you see this man, alert the authorities immediately –
and under no circumstances lend him any money.

I Say, Old Chap, Jolly Well Done

Saturday August 4th 2012. The day it all changed for British Sport. Hopefully. Maybe they’ll realise that with the right help and facilities, we Brits can actually win something ?  Perhaps they won’t knock it all down once the world’s cameras leave ? Perhaps they’ll think about keeping or even upping the funding of school and youth sports clubs. Perhaps. If we don’t grab this opportunity of the wave of sporting euphoria we will regret it for years and years to come.

Just fantastic footage of Colin Jackson (GB Olympic Silver and world record holder, 110m hurdles), Denise Lewis (GB, Gold, Heptathlon) and US golden god Michael Johnson giving a two-fingered ripple to Mo Farah, a Somalian refugee, now British citizen running for Britain. And isn’t it great to see Brits open up at last ? You never know, we might stop apologising when we win something.

Baron de Coubertin coined the phrase “It’s not the winning but the taking part that counts”. I think, finally the Brits may have put all that to bed.

Fine, have fun, take part, but win. That’s what GB sport seems to be saying this week. Finally “Play Up and Play the Game” seems to have been discarded in the same bin as walking when you know you’ve nicked it, owning-up to handling the ball in the penalty area, or admitting you were off your feet in a ruck. Probably for the best. Probably. For the first time in my life we seem to have a generation of sportsmen (and women) who won’t put up with coming second to his (or her) rival from USA or Australia. It’s all very odd, as Englishmen (or women) [alright, Stan, don’t labour the point] aren’t brought up to want to win games. Maybe it’s all changed ?

And while we’re at it, I have seen a lot of complaints about the French announcements at medal ceremonies. I assume this happens because the Baron was French and therefore etc etc etc…Thank your lucky stars he wasn’t Welsh: “And Fair Play to the Fablass Tidy lass in the third lane, butt”. I’d give back my medal.

But anyway…

The culmination of a sensational day for “Team GB”. Even some of the racists in The Shovel warmed to Mo as one of their own. Not all, of course. We still have more than our fair share of bigoted arseholes in Blighty, you know.

We haven’t changed that much.

Olympics for Dummies

I’m gonna take the incumbent out for a drink tonight, down to The Shovel (I may have mentioned it before.) But here’s a problem:  Although it’s not a very big pub, sometimes it’s very quiet, due to it being half empty. There are certain evenings when the Great British “Summer” doesn’t serve up the weather conducive to walking down to the boozer for a nice warm pint, leaving half-a-dozen or so of us to fend for ourselves, to create a buzz, and make an atmosphere.

What to do ….? hmmm….

I know ! Thanks to The Telegraph today, I know just what I’ll do:

I’m gonna pack a spare cardie, a pair of moleskin troos and me wellies. I’ll keep popping in-and-out of the loo, changing my clothes as I go. No-one will ever know. If I can persuade The Incumbent to put a spare frock in the bag, we can have a four-handed game of cards. THE PLACE WILL LOOK PACKED TO THE GUNWHALES !!!! What fun ! You can say what you like about that Seb Coe bloke, but he comes up with stuff that no-one would ever dream of.

I hear talk that we are to enter two donkey jackets, a pin-stripe suit and a set of overalls into the marathon to make up the numbers. Jacques Rogge need never know ( he’ll be too busy counting his money anyway).

Nice to see that Boris got down of that wire .