Other people’s lives and why Monica Lewinsky caused the 9/11 attacks

My parents in Edinburgh, perhaps in the 1970s. Who knows?

My parents in Edinburgh, maybe in the 1970s. Time can warp.

I have talked to a few novelists in my time.

They mostly admit that much of the fiction they write is actually the truth, but toned-down because the actual truth would be too far-fetched to believe. Especially where coincidences are concerned.

Yesterday, I bumped into Scottish comedian Jojo Sutherland.

I mentioned to her that today, bright and early, I have to go see my second cousin near Perth. At least he might be my second cousin. He is my mother’s cousin’s son. I think that might be a second cousin, but who knows?

Somehow I mentioned to Jojo that my mother had been born in the small village of Dunning near Perth.

JoJo said that, the day before, she had been in Dunning. Several comedians met there to leave cars and congregate on their way up to Elgin.

Dunning does not seem far from Perth. It does not seem far off the main road. But it takes forever to drive there, because the road to the village is in some sort of 1920s Einsteinian time warp. In the time it takes to drive there, you could raise families and empires could rise and fall.

There is no reason to go to Dunning (admittedly a very nice village) except for very specific reasons. Few people go to Dunning.

The fact that Jojo went there the day before I accidentally met her in Edinburgh would be laughably impossible in a novel.

The reason I am telling you this is because, yet again, I have no time to write a ‘proper’ blog before I drive off to Perth.

So here are some copy-and-pasted extracts from my electronic diary in – for no particular reason – 2001, the year Arthur C Clarke and Stanley Kubrick chose for their depiction of a futuristic science fiction world.

My father died in the early hours of Wednesday 27th June 2001. So it goes.

Russ Conway in 1962. He died in 2000

Russ Conway in 1962. He died in 2000, aged 75

On Saturday 1st September, my mother asked me if pianist Russ Conway had died. I said, “Yes. Last year or at the beginning of this year.”

She told me: “I always said I was OK provided he was OK. Because he had his strokes just after I had mine.”

Sunday 2nd September was my mother’s 81st birthday. She was breaking down in tears all day.

Meanwhile, other people lived their own, separate, lives.

I had a chum who was working for a PhD at Imperial College, London. She was having problems.

She had access to unused unique research material which NASA was willing to supply to her for her Imperial College PhD, which she was working on at NASA’s Goddard Space Center facility in Maryland. Imperial College told her it would not allow her to continue nor give her a PhD unless the research work she produced was first published in scientific journals under the name of her supervisor at Imperial College.

NASA said they wanted her to publish her own research under her own name thus getting credit for what she had done and that it was outrageous for London University and its professor to take and get credit for research they had not done.

But that is the standard method of people getting PhDs in the UK – the university publishes students’ research as their own. The university staff get credit and perhaps a knighthood; the students get a PhD. But not in America, where the people who do the research publish their own work under their own name.

NASA was refusing to release the research material unless my chum got the credit; Imperial College was refusing to allow her to continue unless it was agreed up-front that their man got his name on the research.

On Tuesday 11th September, the World Trade Center was destroyed in New York.

On Wednesday 12th September, I wrote:

The mural on the side of Dave Courtney’s house

Two-storey mural on the side of Dave Courtney’s family home

Went to Plumstead to watch an interview being filmed with gangster Dave Courtney. He lives in an ordinary late Victorian road, his house mostly white and blue on the exterior: battlements on the white walls with large blue and grey Camelot scenes. On the side of the house, there is a 30-ft high brightly-coloured painting of him as a knight, seated with his wife on a stallion.

Above the door, there is a painting of a shield with a white fist on which is a knuckle-duster; beside it, a royal crest. Beside that, on the patio, is a 20ft high white flagpole with a tattered Union Flag. Invisible on the ground but visible to police helicopters, two eyes are painted on the roof. His motorbike has a painting of him brandishing a knuckle-duster, aiming a gun etc. In front of the front bay window stands a miniature 3-ft high sculpture of King Arthur’s sword Excalibur stuck in a white stone.

Inside the house, his living room has a wooden ceiling. On one wall, there is a large painting of him; on other walls, three giant swords. His girlfriend is thin, black and bald except for a black velcro-like band of black hair on her head. Their daughter Courtney Courtney is 3 years old, small, golden brown and sweet. Two young men in black suits, white shirts, black ties and highly-polished black leather shoes sat on two grey sofas watching television coverage of the aftermath of the World Trade Center attack. 

Later, outside, I watched a bespectacled Sikh walking past in a white turban with red dots pushing a bright yellow bicycle.

On Thursday 13th September, I got an e-mail from the director of the Dave Courtney interview:

The World Trade Center attack on 11 September 2001

The World Trade Center attack on 11 September 2001

My friend in New York tells me the entire reason for the New York atrocity is down to Monica Lewinsky – President Clinton a few years ago tried to bomb Bin Ladin to distract attention from the Monica Lewinsky affair. So apparently Bin Ladin has never forgotten it. So this is payback apparently. All over a blowjob!

On Friday 14th September, I got this message from a chum about her new boyfriend, who had just come over to the UK:

He is not used to people en masse. He has been living a solitary existence in the rainforest for ten years and is fairly knackered after the stresses of trying to decamp to the UK. He has a condition we call ME – good days and bad days – so needs a bit of a rest before meeting people.

On Monday 17th September, I got this message from a friend in England whose mother lived in New York and was there during the attack on the World Trade Center and the attack on the Pentagon in Washington:

Thankfully all my friends and family are accounted for but it took until late on Friday/early hours of Saturday morning to get the OK from everyone I know and care about in New York and Washington. 

My Aunt is a medic and has been working flat out to cope with the casualties and fatalities that arrive at the medical centres/ hospitals around New York. She will need post traumatic stress counselling, as will all the rescue workers and medical staff. 

I did hope that the events of last week would prompt my sisters who haven’t been speaking to one another for the past 15 months to make their peace – they haven’t.

On Thursday 4th October; I wrote:

When clearing lots of my father’s spare bits of wood out of my mother’s side shed with neighbour Jenny and husband Albert, Jenny said – quite shocked –  “She’s getting rid of all trace of him.” I agreed.

My father and mother in Clacton, Essex. Ars long vita brevis.

My father and mother in Clacton, Essex. Ars longa vita brevis.

After my father’s death, I found my mother going through all their old photographs and tearing them up after looking at each of them. She thought it was better. She had her memories but felt she had to make a new start and that this was the best way of doing it.

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How the English court system works (?)

The figure of Justice - blindfolded to avoid seeing any truths

The figure of Justice – blindfolded to avoid seeing any untruths – and truths

To save myself from having to write a blog today when all I want to do is sleep – the result of over three weeks at the Edinburgh Fringe – here is a blog about something which happened this week over ten years ago in England.

Someone I know was starting two weeks of Jury Service in a court somewhere in England. He told me:

Day One

None of us got picked today…. There was a lot of waiting around then they sent us all home… I ended up chatting with a right demographic mix, including… a 40-year-old grammar schoolboy self-made Tory-voting string-em-up merchant web designer; a local councillor very lefty with bleeding heart and social conscience (great arguments between those two!); an oldie female retired teacher; a young (22) ‘lad’ carpenter of some type; a young single mum from a council estate (“I dunno nuffink about politix”) and me…. And that was just the smokers!

The fault of the system is this… Most self-employed people don’t want to be there (big loss of earnings – it’s costing me a grand!!!). Most middle class with good jobs don’t want to be there. (They were all the ones moaning they had tried to get out of it )… So you are left with the unemployed, retired and immigrants whose first language definitely ain’t English…. But hey …That’s democracy! or is it?

Day Two

I got picked today…. Going into the court room was awe-inspiring… I had to remind myself this wasn’t telly…. Half my jury could barely read the affirmation. Then it was my turn, so I gave my best performance… and everyone after me then gave it a bit of welly too!

It is a nasty little case – GBH/drugs… Quite complicated too. We were sent home early – 3.30pm – as the two barristers needed to do a bit of thrashing things out. It is by no means cut and dried. My brain hurt at the end of the day.

Day Three

I went to see the trial myself.

A 20 year-old Bengali is accused of cutting the throat of another 20 year-old Bengali, exposing his windpipe. He is accused not of attempted murder but of GBH (Grievous Bodily Harm). His defence is that he was at home all evening. On the evening of the offence, the police came and broke down his door to find him on the phone (he was calling the police because someone was breaking down his door). There was blood on the stairs, the floor, his bedspread and his hand. He said he had cut his finger at college that afternoon.

Forensic DNA tests showed it was, indeed, all his blood and that none of his blood was at the murder scene, nor was any of the victim’s blood on the accused’s clothes. The victim said the accused man was a drug dealer and that he (the victim) hated drugs and drug dealers. Unfortunately for him, the defence knew he had been addicted to crack and heroin, was on methadone and had been convicted of manslaughter.

The prosecution produced two diaries found at the accused’s address which they claimed showed the accused was a drug dealer. Unfortunately, the defence pointed out one of the diaries was not in his handwriting and was partially in Bengali, a language he can neither read or write. The other diary, they contested, was the diary of a drug taker not a dealer – and the accused admitted he took drugs.

While the jury was out, the prosecutor told a detective there to give evidence: “If this guy gets off, it will seriously prejudice the whole case” and “The evidence fitted in better in the other trial”. The accused is related to a criminal Bengali family.

The jury comprised six blacks, one Asian Moslem and five whites. Three of the blacks, strangely, were Nigerians. My friend on the jury told me that one of the black women had arrived 20 minutes late that morning saying, quite unconcerned: “Oh, you could have started without me”.

Day Four

I went to the court again.

The judge gave a rambling colloquial summing up which non-native English speakers would have found unclear. After about two hours (around 4.30pm) the jury gave their verdict – partly because it was a Friday afternoon and, if they had not decided, then they would have had to continue on Monday and some of them were ‘second weekers’ – you are called to Jury Service for two weeks. If the final case runs over the two weeks, then you have to stay until it is concluded.

My friend told me that, when they went into the jury room, there were an initial six for Guilty, five were undecided and one wanted Not Guilty. My friend was the jury foreman. He went round the jury asking initially whether they thought the accused man was guilty. One woman asked: “Which one?” She had not been clear who had been on trial and thought perhaps he was the victim.

I am not going to say whether the jury found the accused man Guilty or Not Guilty.

You can toss your own coin.

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How do you reform yourself if you have been a gangland enforcer in Glasgow?

William Lobban with his car and his book yesterday

William Lobban with car and book yesterday

William Lobban is selling his car tomorrow. A man is coming up to the Highlands from Glasgow to buy the car. That is quite a long way to travel to buy a car, but he thinks it is worth it. Then William will buy an even better one.

I blogged about William last November when his book The Glasgow Curse was published. It was a No 1 Amazon bestseller pre-publication.

That was last November. In June this year, The Glasgow Curse went back up to No 1 in Amazon’s ‘true crime’ sales chart. It is still hovering around the Top 20 in various lists of crime books. And it was his publisher’s second best-selling e-book (after Alexander McCall Smith).

None of this is normal.

So, as I am still in Edinburgh, I drove up to the Highlands yesterday to ask him why the book had gone back up to No 1 in the summer. It seemed like a good idea at the time. It seemed a shorter distance on the map.

He had no idea why the book had gone back up to No 1 in June, so I asked him: “Why did you move up here from Glasgow?”

It was a sunny day in the Highlands yesterday

It was a lovely sunny day to meet in the Highlands yesterday

“There’s a big pal of mine lives up here,” said William. “He’s about 79 now. One of the old school. Done a life sentence. Two of them got life back in the early 1960s for killing a butcher. Robbed him in his shop; killed him. They both got caught and got a lifer. It was just after they stopped hanging people, so he was quite lucky.

“He was a big man in his day. I came up to see him initially and quite liked the place. There was no really great connection. You know the cops are carrying guns up here now?”

“I read that in The Scotsman,” I said. “They’re carrying guns on regular call-outs. They were photographed just going into a McDonalds with guns for no reason.”

“You remember,” said William, “that Paul Ferris was (allegedly) threatening me online and on Twitter and stuff. Veiled threats like: Your time’s coming soon.”

Yesterday’s Daily Record report on Ferris (left) and Lobban

Daily Record reports on feud between Ferris (left) & Lobban

“He was allegedly posting your postcode online,” I said.

“That’s right,” said William. “Although that’s an open secret. People have known I’m here since I’ve been here. But I sought advice on what to do and I was advised I should report it to the cops, which I did – cos I want to be seen as a reformed character doing the right thing. Right after that, the local police started carrying guns up here. It does make you wonder if they decided to do that just in case they do get any trouble. It just makes you wonder. Who knows?”

William is usually referred-to in the press as “a notorious underworld enforcer”. He was once the ‘Most Wanted’ criminal in the UK.

“But I’m trying to create a different image for myself,” he told me yesterday. “I’m a different person. I want to be accepted for who I am and what I’m trying to do now, not for what I did 20-odd years ago. I’m on the e-fags now. I’ve not smoked a cigarette in about two months.”

“Much cheaper,” I said.

“A lot cheaper,” agreed William, “but it’s the health aspect. I was a smoker all my life. I’ve changed my ways, John. I take tablets to lower my cholesterol. I’m on 40 milligrams of simvastatin.”

“And I see you’re drinking orange juice,” I said.

William Lobban, aged 19

William when he was aged 19

“When I first came up here (he lives just outside a Highland town) back in 2006 or 2007, I had a bad problem with drink. It lasted for about a year. I went off the rails a bit. Now I have not touched a drink in over four years.

“I first got done in Stornoway for drink driving. I got a two-year ban there and then I got done just outside Perth. I was out of order. I really was. They gave me another four-year ban and that ran concurrent. So I ended up losing my licence for about five years in total. I got it back two years ago.

“It’s all behind me now, but it was at that time the police came and lifted me. I was in one of the local nightclubs here and I had a suit and a big coat and all that on. I was drunk and I must have been standing and swaying about and the bouncers have come up and they says: Can you take yer coat off, because people are starting to get a bit paranoid? Can you just take yer coat off and put it in the cloakroom? And I says: F off. I was out of order. So the next thing is they’ve all jumped on me and the police have come.

“So they’ve got me in the back of the police car and I can’t remember doing this – that shows you how drunk I was – but apparently I head-butted one of the cops while I was cuffed. I can only remember waking up in the morning and I was sore everywhere and black-and-blue because the cops had beat the shit out of me. But they dropped the charge of me assaulting the police because I had such a list of injuries myself. I guess they must have thought Well, if we take this any further, then he is going to bring all that out. It ended up as a breach of the peace.”

Even before publication, a No 1 Amazon bestseller

Even before publication, a No 1 bestseller

William is currently writing a sequel to The Glasgow Curse. “Spain is going to be a big part of the second book.” he told me. “But not just Spain: all over Europe. France, Holland; I’ve got lots of great stories to tell.”

The Glasgow Curse included the killing outside the family home of the son of Glasgow’s godfather Arthur Thompson and the revenge killings of Bobby Glover and Joe ‘Bananas’ Hanlon, who were suspected of being involved.

Gangster Paul Ferris was arrested for the shooting of Thompson’s son and later found not guilty after a £4 million trial. He accused William Lobban of luring Glover and Hanlon to their deaths, which William denies. A 2013 film – The Wee Man – was made about Ferris’ life. There is a trailer on YouTube.

“You know that Ferris film The Wee Man?” William said to me yesterday.

“I was trying not to mention that,” I said. “I was reading recently that the producer felt it had been pirated out of existence. He appeared not to have seen the irony of being ripped-off by criminals. I have to say I thought it was a very good film. Bits of it might not be true, but it was a good film.”

“You enjoyed it?” asked William.

“Yeah,” I said.

“Did you?” William asked again.

The Wee Man movie

The Wee Man movie: not always correct

“Yeah,” I replied again. “You know what the real people in the movie were really like and what really happened, but I don’t. Once I’ve accepted the main actor as Paul Ferris, I can go along with it. Because you knew him, you never can.”

“I suppose so,” said William. “But the explosion in the Jaguar, for instance – when Arthur Thompson’s mother-in-law gets killed. Ferris was only two or three years old when that happened, so to put that in the film wasn’t right because it wasn’t part of his story.”

“I think,” I said, “if you know the truth about something, then you can’t watch films about it. I mean, Arthur Thompson, for some bizarre reason, seemed to be played by an actor with an Irish accent. What was that all about? But maybe someone will make a film of The Glasgow Curse. You seem to be successfully changing yourself from a ‘hard man’ gangster into an author.”

“Well,” said William, “turning the corner and living legitimately can be very difficult. It does throw up challenges all the time.

“A couple of months ago, I was in Tesco’s car park. I was coming out of the shop with the trolley and someone says to me: Oh, he’s just spat on your car.

“I’d just had it all polished.

“I said: Who?

That man there.

Time to set matters straight

Not a man to mess with in Tesco’s

“So I left the trolley and, sure as hell, on the driver’s window was – och – he’d brought all this up and I… I thought: How disgusting. So I ran after him and got hold of him. I never put my hands on him, but I says: You’ve just spat on my car there. He tried to deny it and, to cut a long story short, I ended up saying: Now, look, you’d better get back and clean that or I don’t know what I’m gonna do here. 

“And he did. He must have known by my… you know… by the way I was… And my reaction was – to me – it was a good thing, because normally I’d have just head-butted him… because I felt like doing that… But I managed to hold myself back – and that is a good thing.”

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Just for a change, a little bit about me, my father, cold Scotland & the Cold War

Me (aged 1) with father near home in Campbeltown, Scotland

Me (aged 1) with father near home in Campbeltown, Scotland

Of course, my recent blogs from the Edinburgh Fringe just skimmed the surface. I was seeing around 6-8 shows per day for three-and-a-half weeks. I realised halfway through that I should, perhaps, have included a list of the shows I had seen with, perhaps, at least three adjectives on each.

Perhaps next year.

I had been going to blog today about Machete Hettie, one of the comedy acts who turned up at The Grouchy Club and who I went to see perform in Leith on Sunday. I wrote about her last year .

But I do not have the time today.

I have to go up to the Highlands and meet a man at a post code.

He – under the circumstances, quite reasonably – has not suggested a specific meeting place. Just a time and a post code which covers an area. And then we will find each other by chatting on mobile phones. I can see he might not want to say he will be at a specific place at a certain time, under the circumstances.

I am leaving Edinburgh around 8.15am (just before the draconian parking restrictions start at 8.30am).

This is earlier than I need to, which will leave me spare time.

I might go to Lossiemouth on the way up or the way back.

Lossiemouth in the north east of Scotland

Lossiemouth in NE Scotland – the beaches are better than this

My eternally-un-named friend partly grew up in Lossiemouth… as well as Malta, Cyprus, West Germany, Northern Ireland etc. Her father was in the RAF. Lossiemouth was/is an RAF base. She remembers the idyllic sandy beaches at Lossiemouth – and also clothes freezing on the washing line in winter.

I grew up partly in Aberdeen, not too far away. I remember the idyllic sandy beaches and sand dunes when I was a child. We lived in Mastrick, a council estate on a hill where, in winter, my mother used to wear an overcoat when she made the beds on cold winter mornings.

My father ran away from his home in Wigtownshire to join the Royal Navy in 1936, just in time for the Spanish Civil War in which we allegedly took no official part, though he remembered his ship dropping off individual men near the coast of Spain who made their own solitary way to land.

He was a radio operator on Navy ships. He was based in Malta in World War Two and, after the War, he got a job with a company which supplied marine radar to fishing boats. The radar bounced off the sea bed and showed up any shoals of fish. He was originally based in Campbeltown, on the Kintyre Peninsula, where I was born.

My father in 1976 on the beach at Clacton

My father in 1976 in retirement in Clacton, England

When I was three, he was moved to a bigger part of the same company, based in Aberdeen, where I went to school. My father serviced marine radar on the fishing boats in Aberdeen and along the coast to the west – including Lossiemouth – and further north up to Wick and Thurso.

At least, I think he serviced the fishing boats in Lossiemouth. He might have gone there later.

Because, later, he moved down to his company’s headquarters in London and he used to occasionally go out ‘on site’ to inspect the company’s on-shore radar and equipment on ‘sites’. This was during the Cold War. The sites were military bases and mostly defence bunkers. He had to have security clearance – ‘positive vetting’ – for that. I think he mentioned that they had gone way back to his childhood and had talked to his schoolteachers. He knew where the entrances to the bunkers were and their layout. It was a long time ago in another world.

Machete Hettie celebrates in a Clerkenwell street last night

Machete Hettie in a London street last year

Maybe he went to Lossiemouth in that incarnation of himself rather than the fishing boat incarnation.

I have never been to Lossiemouth. So I thought I might go today.

I might take photos of where my eternally-un-named friend used to live as a teenager. But she says she can see it on Google Streetview anyway.

The world changes every day.

And the story of Machete Hettie’s adventures in Bulgaria will have to wait for another day.

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Comics Jim Davidson, Janey Godley and Canadian cottage misunderstanding

Jim Davidson’s current Edinburgh Fringe show

In Jim Davidson’s Fringe show, he put his annus horribilis behind him

The final show I saw at the Edinburgh Fringe last night was Jim Davidson’s No Further Action which I really do have to say was an utterly brilliant, flawless hour of comedy. Genuinely, utterly brilliant. It knocked most other Fringe comedy shows into the amateur starters section.

Janey Godley (left) and TV’s Lizzie Roper waved me an affectionate farewell

Janey Godley (left) & TV’s Lizzie Roper’s affectionate farewell

I am, tragically, running around too much to write a proper blog today but I was touched that, as she left Edinburgh for her Glasgow mansion last night, comedian Janey Godley gave me a slap on the cheek which, I believe, is a sign of deep respect in her home town.

This morning mysterious Mark, who runs the British Comedy Guide, introduced me (by e-mail) to Malcolm Poulton, who says he used to go to school with future comedy legend Malcolm Hardee “until Hardee got expelled for firing an air gun pellet into a prefect’s arse”.

Mark added: “Just to warn you, Malcolm Poulton tells me that, at school, he was called ‘naughty Malcolm’, whilst Hardee was ‘good Malcolm’…”

A worrying warning indeed.

Wikipedia’s view of Port McNicoll’s attractions

Port McNicoll’s attractions – possibly misunderstood online

Meanwhile, my attention has been drawn – bizarrely by what appears to be a piece of spam – to the current Wikipedia entry for the apparently quiet and blameless residential town of Port McNicoll in Ontario, Canada.

The spam I received read: “Hendrix and Morrison both died at the same age as Jones. Hay Lins fans are capable to conjure up enormous gusts of winds, comparable to those of the exhaust gases of a jetliner. Drummond Island Ferry across the DeTour Passage was added to the route. Windows rather than force them to move.”

The e-mail’s title was a quote from Wikipedia.

According to the current Wikipedia entry for Port McNicoll:

“Most people living in Port McNicoll work in various industries in the Midland/Penetanguishene area. It is a quiet town, whose population swells, due to cottagers, during the summer months.”

I presume what we have here is a confusion between British English and Canadian English.

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Chocolate genitalia from comedian Matt Price. Odd sex tips from critic Copstick.

Things you can buy for £1 in Poundland - two cartons of milk. (This become relevant later)

Things you can buy for £1 in Poundland – two cartons of milk. (This honestly becomes much more relevant later in this blog)

This is the final day of the Edinburgh Fringe and, as is traditional, it is a Bank Holiday in England, but not in Scotland. This means that, in Scotland, all the shops are open and it is a normal working day… except that the banks are closed.

You may want to read that paragraph again.

You did not mis-read it.

Yes. It is not a Bank Holiday and everywhere is open except the banks.

This does not seem odd in Edinburgh in August.

I saw a man dressed as a showgirl talking to a medieval monk outside a church last week.

Morning glory: Claire Smith on her iPhone + Matt Price thinks of sausages

Claire Smith on her iPhone and Matt Price thinks of sausages

And I am posting this after having had breakfast with comedian Matt Price and Scotsman journalist Claire Smith.

To brighten up their mornings, they have been asking people round to share sausages with them.

“I went through a phase,” Matt told me, “of taking a toy fish out onto the stage with me. When you start out as a comic, you assume anyone who contributes – like a heckler – is a threat. But they’re not. Sometimes they might be just thinking out loud. Sometimes they may be just eccentric.

“The fish became a good device for dealing with hecklers. If someone heckled me, I would say: Look, what you said wasn’t bad. But would you like to do it a second time and this time you have to do it holding a fish? It created a certain dynamic in the room and I’ve seen grown men start quivering. It was great fun: just playing around with the audience. You learn how to embrace hecklers rather than be frightened of them.

“I used to be scared of the audience. I was always very self-conscious until one day Martha (Matt’s partner) said to me: Why don’t you learn to love the audience? Why don’t you learn to accept that they maybe don’t hate you: maybe they’re there to have a good time. 

“And it was like flipping a switch. It changed almost immediately.”

At The Grouchy Club yesterday: a bad selfie of Coptick and me

I am an innocent at large in Grouchy Club with Kate Copstick

Matt and Claire were at yesterday’s final Grouchy Club show at the Edinburgh Fringe, in which critic Kate Copstick and I basically gossiped with comedians.

Yesterday, four genuine members of the ‘real’ public had inexplicably wandered in thinking they were seeing a totally different show. Also in the audience were sundry comedians, the head of the Stage newspaper’s Fringe review team, someone possibly pretending not to be from The British Comedy Guide and a Greek physicist; I have no explanation.

Matt Price chocolate cocks Kate Copstick

Kate Copstick examined Matt Price’s left-over comedy props

Matt’s first words yesterday, as he delved into a bag containing giant pink edible chocolate penises, were: “I’m not being crude, but…”

He explained: “My show is about self-assertion and I went into Ann Summers to buy some props for the show and the woman persuaded me to buy fifty giant pink edible chocolate penises. So I have loads of cocks. You’re very welcome. They’re really good quality. I’m sick of edible cocks. You’re welcome. Just, please… I’ve had enough. I’ve genuinely had enough. There’s 900 calories in each one of these,” said Matt.

“But,” said mind-reader Doug Segal, “if you’re practical, you can work off some of those calories.”

Kate Copstick eats chocolate cock

Kate Copstick sampling chocolate yesterday

Copstick sampled the product, saying: “It’s nicer than it looks,” but then started to choke and cough.

“They’re £9,” said Matt.

“Why on earth do you have so many left?” asked Doug.

“I over-anticipated,” said Matt.

Copstick had another attempt at sampling the product.

“It looks like Christmas morning,” said comic Matt Roper  (not to be confused with Matt Price) without explanation.

Copstick started coughing again. When she recovered, she said:

A rival to Ann Summers in Edinburgh

Poundland: a rival to Ann Summers’ sex shops in Edinburgh?

“Oddly enough, I’ve just been across to Poundland (a chain of shops where everything is priced at £1) and the thing with it is you have to keep going because you never know what is going to be there. It’s like a charity shop: you never know when something wonderful is going to come in.

“Today in Poundland,” she continued, rummaging in a bag, “I got vibrators and vibrating cock rings.”

She produced one of each.

There was controlled uproar and some disbelief in the room.

Kate Copstick with vibrator and cock ring

Kate Copstick’s discoveries from Poundland

“One pound each!” said Copstick.

“With batteries?” asked the Greek physicist.

“No, not with the batteries,” replied Copstick. “But I work a lot with commercial sex workers in Kenya and any time I can give the girls who want to stay as commercial sex workers any toys that they can use on the guys for bargaining… You can’t force a man to use a condom, but you can persuade him to wear one. If they try to force him to use one, the guy will just rape them and run away…

“Yesterday (at the Grouchy Club), I was talking about how I taught them about peppermint blow jobs and poor man’s champagne blow jobs.”

“What is a peppermint blow job?” asked Matt Roper.

“You get your girlfriend,” explained Copstick, “to either spread a little peppermint toothpaste over the inside of her mouth – or a mouthwash – and then, when she gives the blow job, it’s all tingly.”

“In Poundland,” I said, “you can get toothpaste for £1. It really is the poor man’s Ann Summers.”

“For the poor man’s champagne blow job,” said Copstick, “you just use beer instead of champagne and the bubbles kind of tickle.”

“It’s a great way to get a yeast infection,” said an anonymous voice from the audience.

Yesterday’s quickly-made logo

The chat show with comedians that provides oh so much more

That was just the start of The Grouchy Club’s final free Edinburgh show. Later we got on to the contest to find Edinburgh’s best Lewis Schaffer impersonator.

Claire Smith won.

Her prize was a Poundland vibrator.

“What have you done with it?” I asked her this morning. “Have you mounted it on the mantelpiece?”

“I think I might get some batteries,” she replied.

“And what’s next for you?” I asked Matt.

“No fish and no confectionary-based humour,” he told me. “It’s too stressful. I need to move on.”

“There is talk of a monthly London Grouchy Club – a venue has been suggested – and we have been approached by a pay venue to do the daily show again at next year’s Edinburgh Fringe – though I am not sure how a pay-to-enter show would work.

Perhaps we could get sponsored by Ann Summers or Poundland.

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Getting drunk at the Edinburgh Fringe and singing over a dead man’s body

The latest news (maybe) from Broadway Baby

The latest Fringe news (maybe) from Broadway Baby

My left shoulder is in middling agony if I move it. It is comedian Arthur Smith’s fault. More about that later.

This morning, I booked the Ballroom of The Counting House in Edinburgh on Friday 28th August next year from 11.00pm to 1.00am… for the increasingly prestigious annual Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show. Next year is the tenth anniversary of the death by drowning of Malcolm, the godfather of British Alternative Comedy.

He was known, among many things, for his outrageous publicity stunts at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Yesterday in Edinburgh, it was good to see a special Broadway Baby review sheet about Fringe award winners.

Notable was Barry Ferns, who was listed on the front and who got a 6-star front page review for his show The Barry Experience. There was also a large photo of Barry on the back of the sheet, standing atop Arthur’s Seat. Also on the back sheet were reviews of sundry Fringe shows including:

  • Erection
  • Oxford English Dictionary: 2014 Edition
  • Laserdroids of Bangkok
  • The Elephant Nan
  • Rosencrantz & Guildenstern in Bed

You should be aware that, last year, Barry won the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award for a series of stunts including producing and distributing fake versions of Broadway Baby.

At The Grouchy Club yesterday: a bad selfie of Coptick and me

At The Grouchy Club, I was an innocent bystander to sex talk

Yesterday, the final Saturday of the Fringe, had a varied collection of other very interesting highlights including the penultimate Grouchy Club show at which my co-host Kate Copstick described to a Tesco Clubcard executive and his credit agency partner how she taught the sex workers of Nairobi about ‘soapy tit wanks’ and the use of fizzy drinks in penile erection plus she had tales of wild orgies in Radlett, Hertfordshire (the next village to where I live in Borehamwood/Elstree). Alas, the descriptions are too vivid for me to transcribe without breaking into tears and uncontrollable twitching.

This was followed by me being part of an alleged audience who were going to repeatedly sing the words “Neil Young” in a raucous way for a forthcoming music album. Alas, it never happened and, instead, Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt nominee Mark Dean Quinn appeared performing a one-hour act (possibly inspired by Andy Kaufman) in which he said very little but stared a lot at the audience.

Mark Dean Quinn - the Kaufman of ballooning

Mark Dean Quinn – arguably the Andy Kaufman of ballooning

It also involved (apparently by osmosis) the audience blowing up balloons to create male-genitalia-like hats. This went well until one young man was encouraged by his chum to get up out of his seat and immediately fell unconscious in a faint onto the floor.

He was tall, thin, pale-skinned and ginger haired. He had been previously blowing up a balloon but, at the time of his fall, was not. He was revived and Mark Dean Quinn quickly retrieved the balloons from his audience and changed the direction of his show.

If you can call it a show. It depends on your definition.

I certainly enjoyed it.

At any rate, all the donations received at the end of the show are now going to be given to an asthma charity.

It was a day of falling-downs and medical problems.

Wilfredo comforts Copstick (with her damaged left arm) by tickling her chin

Wilfredo comforts injured Copstick (with her damaged left arm) by tickling her with a rose

Later, I met up with the still physically and possibly mentally damaged Kate Copstick.

She had a hip replacement a couple of months ago (uninsured) after she fell off the platform on which her slum house stands in Kenya – and broke her elbow about a week ago after being accidentally bowled over by a couple of drunk gents in an Edinburgh street. She is still wearing a sling and goes “Ouch!” on a distractingly regular basis.

She blames the physical damage from both the Kenyan fall which smashed her hip and the Edinburgh fall which smashed her elbow on her being stone-cold sober. She reckons, if she had been drunk, she would have fallen in a more floppy, less damaging way.

Wilfredo handed out roses to his last fans last night

Wilfredo handed out roses last night

She and I were both in the basement of the Tron pub last night to see comic music act Wilfredo record his next album. References to Copstick seemed to pepper the show, the audience (heavily made-up of comics) adored the great man himself and I felt lucky to escape without Wilfredo’s spittle speckling me.

Afterwards, Wilfredo’s godfather Matt Roper told me: “I have to hear it back before I decide whether it will be released as an album. If it works, we’ll get it out by November.”

Which brings us to me lying face-down in the Royal Mile at about 2.30am this morning.

Arthur Smith was doing his annual free Alternative Tour of the Royal Mile last night from 2.00am which I guess attracted 50-80 people. That is a lot when you are one crowded bundle of people rolling down the Royal Mile following a man with surreality on his mind.

Arthur (left) and the stripped man in a waste bin

Arthur (left) & the stripped man in a waste bin in Royal Mile

There was a lack of the total nudity and urination which characterised his event in the later years of last century, but it still involved various pranks such as Arthur’s partner Beth doing the splits, Wally (as in Where’s Wally?) being chased out of his hiding place and legging it off up the Royal Mile, a man being persuaded to climb into a rubbish bin wearing only his pants, the assembled throng singing Jerusalem with obscene lyrics to bemused customers at a pizza stand, constant verbal attacks on the integrity of a local French restaurant and singing a song involving the word ‘cunt’ over the body of an apparently dead man on the pavement.

Arthur Smith encouraged singing over ‘dead’ man in Royal Mile

Arthur Smith led the singing over a ‘dead’ man in Royal Mile

At one point, shortly after singing the song involving the word ‘cunt’ over an apparently dead man lying on the pavement (one of Arthur’s many pre-arranged stunts),  I tripped and fell flat on my front on the pavement (no arms out, just a straight fall onto my front). People just ignored this for a brief moment and looked at me, presumably thinking it was another stunt. But then I was helped up. This getting-up worried me slightly because, as I went down, a shooting pain similar to cramp had shot up my left leg. Fortunately, though, I was OK.

Until this morning, when I found I had searing, shooting pain if I tried to move my left shoulder. The shoulder which never mended properly after being smashed when I got hit by a truck in 1991.

There is nothing broken, as far as I know. Presumably it is just bruised muscle.

But it makes me think Copstick has a point.

I was sober when I fell.

I do not drink, really, except at funerals and marriages, when it would seem rude not to.

If you are drunk, falling is less dangerous.

I think perhaps I should start to drink.

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