Showing posts with label pub. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pub. Show all posts

Monday, April 28, 2014

As Unbending As A Reed

Oliver ReedI admit I have bummed out of blogging for the last 12 days. I've had the Easter break off with Karen and the boys and willingly allowed myself to drop some of the balls that I normally juggle in order to throw some others around instead.

I've done some other writing - a secret project that may or may not get published under my name - and I've done some reading. I haven't missed the blogging. That surprises me. I thought I would. At one time it was like heroin. It gave me an initial buzz and then for a long while I had to carry on doing it to feel normal.

It's nice to know that I can feel normal without it. Look, however, is a different matter. So does this mean I'm going to stop blogging? No. And I don't see why that should be a natural conclusion to jump to. It does mean, however, that perhaps I have a more sane approach to the whole blogging platform now. I have lowered my expectations of it enormously and the reward for this is a curious sense of freedom.

But that isn't what I want to write about today; that is just an apology for my recent absence.


One of the books I read over my Easter break was "What Fresh Lunacy Is This?" - the authorized biography of Oliver Reed by Robert Sellers.

I grew up with Oliver Reed's films. It was pretty hard not to as he was a big name in the 60s and 70s. He was undeniably, unmistakably, that rarest of creatures - an actor with true presence; an actor who didn't need to speak to make his presence felt on screen. Whatever John Wayne or Lee Marvin had; Oliver had it too. In spades. Despite his acting world heritage (his grandfather was Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree) Ollie shunned acting school and all attempts to get him to 'tread the boards'.

He disliked other actors. He disliked intellectuals and he disliked toffs - although, by all accounts, he was an exceedingly clever man and rather well brought up.

He liked pubs. He liked the ordinary man on the street. He liked larks and having fun and encouraging spontaneous 'happenings' to occur. His greatest anathema was boredom.

And his own legend.

It's hard to read an account of Ollie Reed's life without feeling your moral faculties forcibly bending towards the view that he wasted himself. That he destroyed his gifts - his looks, his voice, his potential to have become a huge megastar in Hollywood - that he wasted his entire life by giving it so willingly to the demon drink.

And yet that is to miss the point.

Ollie Reed was that rare thing. He was, despite his many inebriated chat show appearances to the contrary, totally in control of himself. He drank when he wanted to. When he was working he largely didn't. He could drop the booze with no ill effects whatsoever and remain dry for months. When he chose not to, he could drink every man under the table during the evening and then be on set the next day at 6am and will himself into complete sobriety. Every single director reports that he was always on time, always knew his and everybody else's lines, hit every mark and always put in a commanding performance.

Oliver Reed did what he wanted, when he wanted and went where he wanted with who he wanted. He couldn't be pushed or bullied. He had his own views and opinions - and although many of those fast became outdated and outmoded - he chose to stick with them. He chose to ignore the censure of the world and the press and carry on living his life exactly how he wanted to live it. Right up the end. One can't help but feel an admiration for that strength of spirit - because a strength is what it is. To have a complete conviction in oneself in the face of every naysayer on the planet and to always retain it unshaken.

And most important of all, he always knew what he was about; he knew what he was doing and what his choices would lead to. He was always open and honest and fully compos mentis about it all and never denied a damned thing. He never lied to himself. How many of us can ever say that?

Ollie didn't waste a single minute of his life; he merely did what he wished to do rather than what others would have wished him to do. The only people who wasted time were those trying to get him to change his ways.

I'm not saying that the boozing, the carousing, the falling over on TV and the abuse he meted out to some chat show hosts and guests isn't cringe worthy, embarrassing and ultimately, depressingly frustrating. It is. There is genuinely a tragedy to it.

And whether it's a conscious choice or not, whether it can be turned on and off at will, alcoholism is still alcoholism. It exhibits itself in behaviour that is always regretted the day after. It expresses itself in ill health. It is dealt with by society and the press via sanctimonious, morally superior ridicule and an incredible lack of understanding.

All to easy to dismiss the drunk. To write off the alcoholic. To forget that, actually, there is still a fully functioning, living, breathing, feeling, thinking, complete person still in there. Someone who is just as valid as a human being as you or I and still deserving of respect. The drink is not 100% of them. Not even close. The booze is, even at it's fullest manifestation, just a surface.

When Oliver Reed died he was in the process of making Gladiator and was putting in a powerhouse performance. He was largely off the booze. He had quietened down. He was on the brink of an almighty come-back. But fate, hubris, intervened. When a shipload of sailors arrived in Malta the old Ollie - the Ollie who, throughout his life, loved the armed services and loved testing his strength and stamina against them - couldn't resist. Despite having confided to close friends that he'd been experiencing chest pains for the past few weeks, he challenged all the sailors to arm wrestling matches and the booze began to flow.

I daresay he won every single match.

But when he collapsed a couple of hours later from an undoubted heart attack, we all lost.

Even now people still make a pilgrimage to his grave in Ireland and buy him a drink - the locals are amazed that the grass manages to grow on his grave. If anyone ever dropped a match I daresay the topsoil would burn for a month.

But it shows the weird dichotomy in which society as a whole holds booze.

If Ollie Reed was a victim of anything, it was that.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Proof I’m Not An Axe Murderer

Me and Lady MondegreenOver the long years of writing this blog some of you have, on occasion, thrown yourselves shamelessly at me. Showered me with invitations to hook up and meet. Quick but passionate rendezvous in love hotels and back streets where the bins are secluded and not too dirty.

I have as a rule refused to acquiesce to your requests (means I said no).

This decision has been driven by two things: (1) a desire not to render the rest of your existence flat, drab and unappealing by comparison to the glorious sunburst of life that a meeting with me would engender and (2) I’m rather skittish about meeting new people and despite the fake protestation of (1) above I am actually quite paranoid that I myself would come across as flat, drab and unappealing compared to the literary personality that inhabits this blog. I fear I would not live up to the easily obtainable personality goals I have set myself because no matter how low I set the bar I can almost always be relied upon to not quite reach it.

I live in fear of personality fail.

So this has meant a lot of flattering requests over the years (well, 2 that I can actually recall) and the same number of disappointing responses.

August of this year changed all that when quite out of the blue a fellow blogger turned up at my place of work having journeyed all the way from New Zealand. I must point out that an interview with me wasn’t the purpose of the trip, just an aside, as the blogger in question – Lady Mondegreen – had family and friends over here in the UK whom she’d long been planning to visit.

She’d written to me a few times asking how I would feel if she happened to drop in and see me. I did that English thing of responding positively because I harboured the suspicion that it was just never going to happen.

Well, suddenly it had and it was. And actually I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. And unless Lady Mondegreen says different I don’t think I performed too badly. I think I met and perhaps even exceeded the bar. We had a pub lunch and a damned good chat and it genuinely was like meeting an old friend. All very relaxed and easy and wonderfully life affirming. It proved that being open to new experiences and opportunities can be an enlivening philosophy and is to be recommended. Though I must here point out that all thoughts of love hotels and passionate bins were eschewed.

Lady Mondegreen is now back in New Zealand and neither of us appears to have been permanently scarred by our encounter. And so, heady with the bravado of success I feel the urge to extend an open invitation to all my regular readers. If you’re ever in the area and want to say hello – a quick coffee and a bite to eat, whatever’s your poison – then do feel free to drop me a line and make it a date.

I don’t bite. I make some effort toward entertaining conversation. I will try to be urbane and debonair. And I promise to keep my animal magnetism under control (but do keep me away from the pub bins just in case).

Friday, August 23, 2013


I'm not a puritan (I couldn't give up sex and I don't like Cornflakes) but I drink so little I could be a teetotaller.

It has to be a special occasion indeed for alcohol to pass my lips.

Most of the time when I choose to drink it is not from a desire to take oral pleasure from the grape or the hop. There will undoubtedly be an element of peer pressure or the occasion itself will demand I allow my temple to be profaned with the bitter poison. A special occasion. Visiting friends and not wanting to reject their eagerly offered hospitality. A concession to "have just one" for the sake of appearances.

Secretly (though less secretly now) I would be quite happy if alcohol never entered my inner sanctum ever again.

It depresses me.

Alcohol literally depresses me.

It hit me earlier this week when I visited some very dear friends and shared a couple of pints of beer with them. At the time it felt fine. The taste was "ok". I would rather have had water or even a Coke but, you know, the occasion was one of those listed above and I accepted the offer of beer.

The trouble for me occurs the next day.

I felt depressed as all hell. Not hungover. Not ill. Depressed.

And it gave me a flashback to my twenties when I used to go out fairly regularly to pubs with friends and sink a few beers on a Friday night because that was what Friday nights were for.

I secretly loathed it. Not the going out. I could see that socializing was essential. It was the alcohol. The slavish adherence to "getting out of it" because that was what you were meant to do.

I rarely got drunk. Not out of a capacity to absorb huge quantities of alcohol and still walk a straight line but out of an internal mechanism whereby I find it very hard to let go and lose control.

But next day, Christ, next day the feeling of depression would incapacitate me every single time. So much so I would have to write off the entire day. I couldn't write. I couldn't trust myself to make any kind of decision. I'd just have to ride it through until the pall eventually left my system.

It got to the point whereby a simple equation (3 hours at the pub = an entire day written off) meant that I'd start to decline invitations to go out or find excuses to be elsewhere. For a couple of glorious years I'd just take myself off on my bike in the summer and spend my evenings cycling for miles and miles. I loved it. Sure it was solitary but being out and about in the British countryside was a real balm and, best of all, it gave me inspiration for the next day and I felt clean, hopeful and refreshed.

Alcohol could not compete.

For a while I tried to attach a moral payload to my choice not to drink but that was just dishonest. In truth if other people get genuine pleasure from drinking alcohol, good luck to them. For me it takes more than it gives and I'd rather not enter into the contract in the first place.

Does that make me a wuss? Maybe.

Personally, I like to think that it proves my hedonistic credentials. I like my pleasures to be unalloyed. A pleasure that you have to pay for later isn't that great a pleasure in my book. I want to have my cake and eat it.

Just spare me the accompanying glass of wine.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Public Death, Private Murder

SladOne of the places we visited during our recent stay in deepest Gloucestershire was Slad. It was very much an off-the-cuff visit that we made at the end of the holiday on our return journey home as we knew beforehand that it was a tiny little village which sported no more than a church, a few houses and a pub. Hardly a tourist hotspot and not really worth an entire day out.

However, it was the birthplace and final resting place of Laurie Lee, one of Karen’s favourite authors. Most of you, I’m sure, will be familiar with the title Cider With Rosie even if you have never read the book.

I wasn’t expecting much from Slad to be honest.

But to be even more honest it was one of the most beautiful, peaceful places I have ever visited. There was a gentle calmness about the place which soothed the soul.

We found Laurie Lee’s grave with ease, pottered about the village – barely more than a single street – and then settled down for an ice cream at The Woolpack.

I was a little nervy of the pub if the truth be told. Karen had told me about one of the memories Lee had recounted in his book which centred around one of the village lads meeting an unfortunate end after a night of drinking in this very pub. Having travelled to New Zealand and returned much wealthier, said local boy was rather full of himself and, much to the chagrin of the those he’d left behind who’d never travelled much further than Pitchcombe, he proceeded to spent the entire night boasting and I daresay belittling the relative parochial mentality of his old childhood chums.

His pride met with fist and blows at closing time and the locals, having sweetened their own worldly inadequacies with the gift of a good kicking, left the poor chap unconscious in the snow.

He froze to death and was found dead the next morning.

The police investigation drew only shrugs and silence and there the matter ended – except for those in the know, of course. I’m sure Lee must have ruffled quite a few nervous feathers by including the story in his memoirs.

Thankfully I have not (as yet) travelled to New Zealand and decided I would keep my past holidays to Egypt and America under wraps... just in case. After all the pub could well still be a local tavern for local people.

As it was we were met with good humoured friendliness and a kindly, non-curious acceptance given that it was plain we were complete strangers (there can be no more than 20 people living in the entire village).

I think we spent a couple of hours there. Doing not very much at all. Just enjoying and soaking up the atmosphere and dreaming.

For all there were telegraph poles, chip and pin machines and modern cars parked about the place, it felt as if Slad had somehow been loosed from the normal constraints of the passage of time. Change obviously comes slowly and by small increments to this tiny little village. Even the adverts on the pub waste bins were for R White’s Lemonade. I haven’t seen that advertised publically in years.

It was a good place. Life felt wholesome there. Honest. More simple.

Of course, these are all just first impressions made in the space of a single moment. For all I know there was a bondage club in the house next door and the woman at the end of the road regularly hosts parties where car keys are thrown into a fruit bowl where peaches of all nationalities have never rested but have instead been bounced off the walls and a rubber sheeted four-poster with the kind of passion that one only sees in French art house movies.

But somehow I don’t think so.

Laurie Lee sleeps peacefully in the church yard over the road and Slad is still very much his dream.

Laurie Lee's grave, Slad

Friday, May 04, 2012

Easy Rider

Easy RiderI like to think of myself as a cultured, educated kind of guy. I know my Munch from my Munchies; my Socrates from my sock drawer. I can string a few words together and sound vaguely articulate.

But this is all a lie.

I am at heart a popularist. A pop person. A middle of the road, representational, non-abstract, can-you-see-what-it-is-yet, the-medium-is-not-the-message, does-what-it-says-on-the-tin kind of guy. I like paintings to look like something real. Music to have a tune. Lyrics to tell a story. And movies...

I like movies, even if they do nothing else, to just entertain.

And this gets me into trouble. Because my frustration threshold with movies is pretty high. I can take a whole heap of cheesy dialogue and improbable plot devices and still have a great time at the cinema. Because, at the end of day, I just want to be shown a good time.

The movie doesn’t have to be intelligent. The experience doesn’t have to be meaningful. The story doesn’t have to be worthy. In fact I’d much rather it wasn’t.

If movies were women I’d be up for a one night stand with the town bike.

I don’t want a relationship; something that will stay with me forever; something that will change me. I don’t want a trophy girl, or a rich girl or a high maintenance girl. Quick, cheap and nasty is fine. Behind the pub, up against the bins, no small talk. In and out, both our bells ring, ding-a-ding-ding. Never going to see you again... not unless you’re out on DVD for a reasonable price anyway.

That’s entertainment.

Which isn’t to say I don’t get pulled into worthy movies. To classics. Of course I do. I enjoy a steak as much as the next man. All I’m saying is, most of the time, when I go out to the movies, I’m happy with a hamburger.

It means I can forgive films like Immortals, Sherlock Holmes and Clash Of The Titans. I’m aware that other bloggers can’t. Bloggers with more taste and higher standards than me.

I’m a movie scumbag and I admit it.

I look at film posters for movies like Black Swan and Salmon Fishing In The Yemen and I can feel my guts cramp in boredom. I’m sure these are great movies. Well written. Pieces of incredible movie art. They’d enlighten me. Cause me to question my own linear, one-track existence.

But they make me want to shit bullets.

I want pizzazz. I want spectacle. I want escapism.

I don’t want misery and the dreariness of the human condition thrust into my face while I thrust handfuls of Mars Planets into my face.

I ain’t looking for nothing but a good time. I’m just an easy rider, baby. I’m out for a laugh and nothing more. Don’t get all heavy on me.

And if that makes me shallow and superficial, well, I can stay at home and self harm to Joy Division records with the best of them. I have as many depths and facets as everybody else. I really do.

I just leave them behind me when I climb into a cinema seat.

So I’m just saying... if you read this blog and you’re expecting choice movies reviews that are considered and sophisticated and erudite you’re going to be (or, more likely, have been) massively disappointed.

As long as a movie can stick it’s tongue down my ear and frottage me up, I’m perfectly happy.

So you Culture Show fans might want to get your movie reviews somewhere else...

Now shut up please – the Pearl & Dean presentation is about to begin.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

How Do I Hate Thee? Let Me Count The Ways...


They're everywhere. On the street. Down the pub. At work. On our Facebook pages. Tweeting us from the poisoned depths of their hatred addled minds. They infiltrate our social networks both real and virtual and we cannot escape.

We all have them. And you know how the saying goes, don't you?

Can't live with 'em...

...and, er, that's pretty much it really. You can't live 'em so it makes good sense to quickly dispatch 'em. And as horribly as possible.

If morality were not a problem, if justice was your bitch, if you had a greenlight to do whatever you wanted to your enemies and people would still give you a thumbs-up afterwards and say, "yeah, that was justified, they had it coming", how would you dispatch your vilest, most obnoxious enemy from off this mortal coil?

It is something I have been musing on a lot of late. Possibly there has been too much red meat in my diet. Possibly Dr Pinchworthy has done up my straitjacket a smidgeon too tight. Possibly I'm a donkey on the edge (thank you, Shrek fans, I'm here till next Thursday, please try the veal). But I have compiled my top seven list of ways to rid myself (and the world) of the malodorous, the malignant and the vacuously moronic.

1) Attach them to a 50ft bungee rope (think about this) and hoof them off the nearest motorway flyover. I guarantee a juggernaut will drag them a good 1.8 miles before the rope rips 'em back out again.

2) Hack into their computer, access various bomb-making web sites, change their email address to and - hey presto - let the FBI do it for you.

3) Death By Botox - modify an iron maiden (available from any decent hardware store) so that the spikes are replaced with hypodermic needles that pump out an "above the recommended dose" of botox into every square inch of your enemy's body. Not only will they die horribly but their corpse will look like a doll made entirely from Walls' "thick pork" sausages. Especially effective if (a) your enemy is vain, (b) spent most of their life as mutton dressed as lamb and (c) they're vegetarian.

4) Death By Higgs Boson - as inspired by X-Men 2, inject iron filings directly into various body parts (the choice and number is yours) and cast your enemy into the heart of the Hadron particle accelerator just before it is activated by guest executioner, Professor Brian Cox.

5) Death By Perpetual Motion - insert a simple tube (akin to those used during colonic irrigation) into your enemy's anus whilst the other is attached to your enemy's mouth. A cheap pump should ensure that all matter produced is shunted upwards against gravity, creating a macabre Catherine Wheel of Delights that should keep you chortling for... ooh... hours. Good for those enemies who talk nothing but shite but think that every utterance that comes out of their mouth is Godly wisdom.

6) Utilizing the knowledge gleaned from your years of service with MI5 (which I know you all have), adapt and customize your enemy's make-up paraphenalia so that the lipstick, the eyeshadow and the blusher all secrete highly concentrated sulphuric acid. Merely encourage your enemy to pass a mirror and then sit back and - ta daa! - watch them rub themselves out. Why? Because you're worth it!

7) Staple their nipples to the ears of a rampaging cheetah.

Right, I don't know about you lot, but I am currently luxuriating in revenge fantasy bliss.

Do feel free to add you own delicious devices of destruction to the list - or even to nominate a few potential "clients".

'Cos one day, people, we will all have our revenge! They've got it coming! You hear me? They've got it coming!


Thank you, doctor, is it time for my Tixylix now?


Monday, April 04, 2011

So How Would You Sign “Another Whisky Please?”

Working Men’s Clubs are funny things. I think I’ve only ever been to about 4 in my entire life and up until last Friday they were solely to attend private parties or functions, hence the patrons stuffing their faces with cake alongside my own were not what anyone would in any way term “regulars”. They were all interlopers like me.

Friday, however, was different.

Friday was set apart by an invitation by my Sign Language tutor that invited us (his class) to come along during the evening and meet some Deaf people in a proper social environment. To be honest, there are a number of such opportunities that we can choose from – some later in the month to attend a proper Deaf Club in Coventry and others in Solihull – but this one attracted me because of (a) the proximity – it was in walking distance from my house – and (b) I have my second formal assessment tomorrow night and I figured the extra practise would be no bad thing.

So I’m walking to the Working Men’s club and I’ll be honest, my vision of the clientele and the whole ambience was of a very quiet snug (akin to the one in The Rovers Return), half full of men and women of a certain age sporting a certain hardy Northern-esque look, a dog or two asleep at the foot of the bar and a barman who spends the entire night giving non-locals pokey looks from his permanent place in front of the optics rack.

But what I got in actual fact was a lounge bar very like something out of Coronation Street, sparsely populated by people of a certain age who could quite easily get roles as extras in Heartbeat, a single dog (a hearing dog for the Deaf funnily enough) and a barman who gave me pokey looks as soon as I stepped foot inside the bar,

In fact his first words to me were, “How did you get in here?”

This made me think that maybe (a) I’d somehow slipped through the minefield and the barbed wire gun emplacements without seeing them or (b) I’d broken both my legs without noticing it or (c) he was confusing me with some bad-ass whippet owner he’d barred from the premises in another life.

As it was I could only answer sheepishly that the guy on the door had let me in after I’d paid a 50p entrance fee (and no sexual favours asked for).

As soon as I explained I’d come to meet the Deaf group though he relaxed, served me my whisky (though he diluted it with unasked for coke – plainly he thought I was a wuss; plainly I was because I accepted it without complaint) and left me alone for the rest of the night.

Naturally, being at heart a saddo, I was the only one from my class who’d bothered to turn up; everyone else is obviously saving themselves for the relative cool of the Deaf club in Coventry.

So it was just me, 5 Deaf people and a hearing dog. And a raffle that I couldn’t enter because I wasn’t a member,

I was at 42 by far the youngest person in the entire building.

As for the Sign Language... seeing it at work in a social context highlighted to me just how little I know and how paltry my level of expertise is. Making Signs is only half of it – having an instant visual recognition of other people’s Signs is the very important other half and that lack of immediacy really tripped me up on several occasions.

Thankfully one of the Deaf people there – a sprightly 84 year old named Billy – could talk (he’d lost his hearing due to being caught in a bomb blast in Glasgow during WWII when he was 10) and though he Signed simultaneously, if it wasn’t for his vocal narrative I would have spent much of the night staring into my whisky and coke feeling that everyone else was talking about me but not to me in a language that was whistling way over my head.

As it was, they were a very friendly group and made generous allowances for my ham-fisted level of expertise. I also learnt what a small world it is: Billy had been a soldier at the barracks during the same period and in the same street in Glasgow where my dad grew up as a boy. A big hello to everybody reading this from Maryhill.

The biggest thing I learnt though was how many different types of Deafness there are, how many different levels and experiences, how people’s Signing is not uniform but is as varied as their handwriting and just how distracting a jukebox can be when you are trying to concentrate and you are the only person who can hear it.

All useful fodder for the novel I am currently writing which features a Deaf character... though whether it will help me pass my formal assessment tomorrow remains to be seen.

And certainly not heard.


Friday, October 08, 2010

Party Animal

Party animalTime was I’d be invited out onto the town and I’d spend the intervening hours anticipating the good time I’d undoubtedly have. The wine. The women. The song. The dancing in a suspended cage with only a sparkly boob-tube between my nips and the strobe-lit elements.

*cue sound of a stylus being ripped across a record*

OK. OK. That’s not strictly true. I’d actually spend most of the time panicking about what to wear, what I’d say to people (especially if they were of a female persuasion) and how I’d cope with the inevitable sense of despair and failure when I went home yet again without having managed to get myself a snog / shag / girlfriend.

*cue the sound of a stylus being tearfully lowered onto any record at all by The Smiths*

But what I didn’t do is what I frequently do now:

Which is spend my time miserably calculating how many hours of sleep I’m going to lose and how much more tired I’m going to feel the next day and how many early nights it will now take subsequent to the night out for me to fully recover my (already flagging) joie de vivre.

‘Cos to be honest I’m dead on my feet by 9pm most nights and there has to be something really good on the telly for me to stay awake and engaged past 10.

These are the combined effects of middle age, parenthood and a tendency to be anti-social in the first place.

It’s tempting to say I have never been a party animal. But going out for a drink with friends last night (on a work night? How daring!) has proven to me that, in fact, I am a party animal. I’m just a party animal of a certain type.

The type that looks like a kicked to death hound-dog the next day. The type whose bloodshot eyes resemble those of a dancing bear who has been slagged off by Bruno Tonioli for messing up the bogo pogo. The type whose snake breath could strip the bullet proof coating from a Chieftain tank at 50 paces.

The type that is, to put it plainly, not a happy bunny.

So. Post-drinks lesson learnt: partying is for spring chickens and not for old goats.


Excuse me, people, I need to go back to my sty and wallow...

Friday, February 12, 2010


Suzi Perry, gadget handler extraordinaireWith the advent of the iPhone, the iPod and the iPad I’m feeling the need to cash in on this bandwagon of “convenience technology” by throwing my own hat into the ring. I’d like to run a few ideas (or should that be: iDeas) by you just in case there are some enlightened iNventors or honest admin assistants at the Patents Office out there who’d be willing to take a gamble and make us both some money.

My first concept that is up for grabs is the iPub. Yes, the mobile pub in your pocket. Enhancing hologramatic technology you can have a virtual 3D pub in your pocket for the fraction of the price of a pint at Spearmint Rhino. Just toggle between Irish / East End / Corrie / Wine Bar / Polari for the ambience of your choice and let the flock wallpaper and the smell of urine and sawdust pixelate into HD being before your very eyes. With programmable jukebox music, Easter egg lock-in option and “Easy Lay” expansion software you need never have to suffer a miserable night in on your own again. Comes with a choice of 3 barmaid personalities: Keeley Hawes, Meryl Streep and Beryl Reid and warm beer (depending on how cool you keep your trouser pockets).

Concept no.2 is the iPrayer for those who want to bring their worship into the 21st Century. This little device comes complete with the religious icon (ha ha) of your choice and seamlessly integrates with all modern social networking sites – Facebook, Twitter, MySpace – and allows you to share your devotions and votive offerings with the world wide web. Why get on your knees and bang your head against a pew when you can email God or send him a Tweet or two? There is an optional Confessional mode for those of you with Catholic leanings – though be careful to run this in silent mode. For those of you with Old Testament sympathies the device also doubles as a sizeable and weighty stone that can be used to punish adulterers and those who have given their seed unto Molech. Device is waterproof up to 10 metres and comes with an easy-kleen screen.

Concept no. 3 is the iPimp and yes I am scraping the barrel here. Choose from over 50 accents to give your iPimp the national flavour of your choice – Eastern Bloc, South American, Cockney, to name but a few – and indulge yourself electronically in the seedy world of human trafficking. An advanced touch screen menu system will allow you to choose between violence or drug addiction as the method of controlling the merchandise or simply purchase an optional software upgrade that will give your iPimp a Huggy Bear “skin” and render all your transactions somehow fun and jocular and Carry On-esque without a word ever having to be said to the wise, know worrimean? The iPimp comes supplied with a his ‘n’ hers virtual reality enhancing body suit with over a million electronically fired neurone amplifiers to make your experience as real as possible. We recommend that customers buy the iPimp in conjunction with the iPrayer in order to make the most of the inevitable post-transaction feelings of guilt, remorse and self disgust and the need to absolve oneself of an emotional and moral stain.

Concept no. 4 is the iPrick. This tiny, tiny device... yeah, yeah, I think this joke has just about run its course now. If anyone from The Gadget Show is watching I’m available most evenings for interviews but please make sure it’s Suzi Perry and not Jason Bradbury. Ta.

Friday, January 22, 2010

George Davis Is Innocent

The above appeared, clumsily spray painted on the wall of a dilapidated pub building in Leamington, a couple of months before Christmas.

At first, being ignorant of gangster lore, I assumed it referred to a local lad; some poor yob out misspending his youth who had found himself on the wrong side of a policeman’s taser. Before he could protest that he had just gone up that there alley for a quick Jimmy Riddle he’d found himself banged up for burglary with 500 other spurious offenses to be taken into consideration and escorted to a prison cell by a couple of uniformed officers who were slapping each other’s backs for singlehandedly improving Leamington’s clean-up rate over night.

His siblings, his mates, even his 85 year old granny with her dodgy hip and rheumatoid arthritis had taken to the streets of Leamo armed with cheap aerosol’s to protest his innocence on every wall, pavement and fence they could find.

Who was George Davis? That was the question that was rattling around my mind every time I walked past this enticing bit of graffiti. Who was he? What had he not done that he had been accused of doing?

In the end I Googled him. And lo and behold George Davis wasn’t a local lad done wrong by the local constabulary at all but a London mobster who was dodgily convicted for The London Electricity Board Robbery in 1975. He was released a couple of years later as a result of a campaign by supporters who protested his innocence before being later re-imprisoned for armed robberies that he did actually commit. So not so innocent after all.

Which must have been a bit of a kick in the teeth for Roger Daltry and Sham 69 who via T-shirt wearing and song-writing had come out in George’s defence. Stick to rock opera’s, Rog, your wrists are too subtle to divine the true realities of a man’s innocence.

So back to the graffiti of 2010. George Davis Is Innocent? Plainly the graffiti artist hadn’t done his research properly. I’m eagerly awaiting an addendum to the said piece of graffiti that starts with the words “Well, actually, ahem, the thing is...”

Or perhaps this is the first instance of “retro graffiti”. A celebration of famous graffiti from times gone by? Is the wall at the back of Tesco’s car-park going to shimmer with the words “The Juwes are the men who will not be blamed for nothing” sometime in the not too distant future? Or shall I get ahead of the game myself and paint the side of my house with the legend: “Is there intelligent life on earth? Yes, but I'm only visiting”?


Answers painted on a brick wall at the usual address please...

Friday, April 24, 2009


St George and the DragonSo it was St George’s Day yesterday and the whole occasion hit me as a bit of a paradox.

Firstly – unless I went around in a zombiefied state yesterday (perfectly possible) – I seem to have totally missed any notification that it was St George’s day from the news media. This seems to me to be entirely wrong. I think a little bit of national pride can be a good thing and we should justly celebrate our Englishness one day a year just as the Irish quite rightly enjoy a good rave up on St Patrick’s Day. It’s about time the English stopped mooching around in their hoodies and behaving like the cross of St George is some kind of criminal brand.

OK. Soapbox dispensed with.

And then on the way home from work last night I came across a huge bunch of people obviously doing the above with unrestrained gusto outside a town centre pub. And I promptly went back to wishing my fellow countrymen would spend the entire day mooching around in their hoodies and trying not to be picked up on the local CCTV cameras.

It was ugly. It was bullish. And it made me feel ashamed.

Can we English not exhibit national pride without making it look xenophobic, aggressive and something akin to football thuggery?

And what or where is this “Eng-er-land” of which they so raucously chant?

I don’t want to live in Eng-er-land!

It sounds, well to be honest, unappetizingly Neanderthal. A bit backwards and inbred. A land of beer gutted, ruddy faced pie eating brutes who discordantly sing “God Save The Queen” while at the same time giving anyone with a home counties accent a good kicking for being “a bit of a sneering toff”.

I know, I know. I’m being a snob.

Why shouldn’t the common people (of which I am one) celebrate St George’s Day the common way (10 pints of ale and a gristle pie)? After all England isn’t just about Ascot, the Boat Race and Vaughan Williams, is it? It’s also about football and darts and fish & chips. And chavs. And underage pregnancy. And Big Brother. And men who walk around shirtless at the first sign of sunshine in April in a desperate attempt to get a fast-track tan only to succeed in making themselves look like pigeon-toed irradiated sides of beef.

But for Lord’s sake, where is the sense of pride in our pride? Where is the sense of self respect? Where is the noble aspect, the aspiration? The inspiration?

Surely celebrating our national identity should be a chance to hold our heads up high – not merely to lift our beer bellies up out of the gutter while we spew several cans of Special Brew and a hastily masticated kebab down the drain?

When on earth did St George become synonymous with Bacchus? Or worse still, the BNP?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Josie Lawrence

Josie LawrenceAs I’ve been kicking about the house so much over the past fortnight I’ve made good use of my time (ahem) by catching up on some luxury telly – i.e. allowing myself the time and elasticity to just wander aimlessly through the channels and see what’s out there.

A lot of crap. As expected.

But I have found something of a gem on Channel Dave.

Yes. That’s what I thought. What a thoroughly dismal name for a TV station: Dave. Is there a secret joke that I’m patently not getting? It evokes a TV channel that dunks itself in cold tea, doesn’t shave for days and likes documentaries about road signage and steeplejacks and likes to pick the winnets out of its arse with a pair of nail clippers on a Friday night.

Not somebody I’d normally choose to knock about with.

However, Channel Dave is showing re-runs of Whose Line Is It Anyway? – the ones with Josie Lawrence and Tony Slattery in.

God I used to love this show in the eighties/nineties. It was the kind of show that, for a while, was worth the effort of coming home early from the pub. It had a freshness and badinage to it that was edgy and yet warm at the same time. It was also my first introduction to improv comedy and it was hugely entertaining to see so many comedy minds tested to the full in front of a live studio audience. Performing on their wits. Sometimes failing (but never completely) and sometimes scoring amazing hits.

My favourites were always Tony Slattery and Josie Lawrence. Tony ‘cos he was just dirty and extremely juvenile – the personification of my sense of humour in fact – and Josie was warm, sardonic and an amazing improvisational singer. Oh yeah and amazingly gorgeous and I fancied the pants off her.

A brunette with a sense of humour, see? Just makes me want to roll over and play fetch all day long. At least that’s what I hope the big stick that Karen is waving at me is for…

Anyway it’s gratifying to admit that the re-runs are still making me laugh and Ben seems to be greatly intrigued by them too. The twin ingredients of madcap and slapstick, I suspect, are what are wining him over as opposed to the sultry charms of Josie or the adult wit of Mr Slattery.

It’s a shame these two aren’t on our tellies so much anymore – sure, I know they both pop up here and there and they’re still treading the boards so to speak… and it’s heartening to know that Tony has recovered somewhat from the breakdown that laid him so low in the nineties… but they’re both (in my opinion) overlooked national treasures that the limelight of success has yet to define brightly enough…

They’re amazingly talented and I have to say I’d rather see them on BBC 2 on a Thursday night than the bloody awful Vivienne Vyle. I mean really. Did somebody forget to flush?

Come back Josie – you’re a star!