Tag Archives: eccentric

Today is April 1st. But this is true.

Racing driver Damon Hill in May 2012

Eleven years later. Racing driver Damon Hill in May 2012.

Today is April 1st.

But what follows is true.

I was thinking of pulling a stunt with a comedian today, but did not have time to set it up. And I am out meeting people most of today.

So, as I sometimes do, I had a look through my old e-diaries and what I did on this day in previous years.

On this day in 2001, I went round to the home of someone who had connections to a fairly well-known English criminal.

This person had a friend. That friend had a mother.

The mother was obsessed by Formula 1 motor racing driver Damon Hill. I do not think the word ‘obsessed’ is too strong.

In her living room (I saw it) she had a tyre from a Formula 1 racing car, signed by Damon Hill, which she had made into a coffee table by simply putting a sheet of glass on top of it.

She occasionally talked to the wheel and, when the family went out in their car, she had a life-size cut-out of Damon Hill which sat in the front passenger seat (with a seat belt round it) while she drove. Her husband and daughter sat in the rear seat.

That is true.

It is not an April Fool’s joke.

Life is strange.

People are stranger.

Which is good.

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An emotional breakdown and news of Bigfoot and Yetis in Vancouver, Canada

I have had an iPhone malfunction, which means I am temporarily unable to access the recordings of my chats with (in alphabetical order) Juliet Burton and Jenny Eclair. So, today, my blog is a simple posting of two e-mails I have received recently from this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith. She works in a bookshop in Vancouver, British Columbia. This is what she e-mailed two days ago:

______________

Anna Smith in the Vancouver bookshop

Anna Smith works in a Vancouver bookshop

Half an hour left of another undrunk day at the bookstore… I am writing this on my phone… Really, this place makes Black Books look like Enid Blyton.

Today the demolition of the Marble Arch Hotel’s innards was going full swing. They have lost their bin tarpaulin and clouds of white dust billow up from it. The workers hose the dust clouds sporadically… to no effect.

A couple of customers are in the store. One gent shakes his head. “They should have just burned it, he said, referring to the hotel.

Outside stand the inmates of the former hotel, dressed in the scrupulously outlandish style affordable only to the chronically unemployed… contrasting with the chunky workmen clad in dusty overalls who are gathered nearby.

A friendly hippy transvestite meanders into the bookshop wearing a home-made woollen hat, a shawl and a batiked skirt. She is looking for science fiction novels and confides that she is new in the neighborhood, having only lived here for seven months…

“Well, welcome,” I say, hiding my true feelings about the area. “Soon you will be able to apply for a passport.”

Just then the telephone rings. On the line is a young man in tears because a book of his has been damaged.

“The pages are alright,” he sobs, “but the spine…” At this point, he breaks down… “It will never be the same,” he cries. “I want to kill myself.”

I speak to him calmly, but in a firm tone.

“Wait a minute,” I say. “YOU are more important than the book. You should bring it in and I will show it to my boss. He is really good at repairing books.”

The sobs slow.

“Or else you could call Inquiry BC,” I suggest. “They can recommend the best way to deal with it.”

“I already called them,” he wails. “They said I should call YOU…”

______________

Some time after receiving that e-mail, I asked Anna to send me a photo of Bigfoot. I cannot remember why. But it seemed like a perfectly reasonable idea at the time.

Yesterday, I got this reply:

______________

Paul Fraser is a pianist

Paul Fraser, a pianist, will be 80 next month

Paul Fraser will be eighty in March. He is a pianist. He is gay. He says Bigfoot definitely exists and the Yeti too. I asked if they are gay and he laughed and said that he wasn’t sure about that.

After my shift at the store, I went to Blenz Coffee Shop with Vivian and Paul.

Paul is a lively beer-drinking, cigar-chomping bon vivant. He is charming, articulate and knows all the forgotten songs. He is well-dressed, in a flamboyantly scruffy cowboy-esque style.

The baristas at Blenz Coffee Shop are young Japanese girls.

We ordered our coffees and, when they arrived, Paul asked for a spoon.

The baristas did not give him a spoon.

“He wants a spoon,” I repeated helpfully, “for his sugar….”

They pretended not to understand us and cheerfully pointed to the stir sticks.

Vivian is a three hundred pound, five foot tall, exhausted, fifty-year-old Chipewyan.

She finally begged: “OH, FOR GODSAKES – GIVE HIM A SPOON. HE’S FROM THE 1920s! “

Last week, Vivian told me that Paul had to get a passport.

“A passport?” I asked. “Why does he need a passport? I thought he was going into a home.”

“No, he got a job on a cruise ship,” Vivian said,

Last night, when Vivian invited me to visit Paul at his apartment, I said: “I thought he went to sea…”

“Oh no,” Vivian said. “He quit.”

I had never been to Paul’s apartment before.

We arrived there at about 11.00pm. Inside was a haze of cigar smoke and quantities of beer.

At about midnight, the doorbell rang. Paul said: “That will be Bob.”

7ft+ Bob plays guitar while Paul accompanies

7ft+ Bob plays guitar while Paul accompanies

Bob came up. He was 29 years old, over seven feet tall and dressed like a cowboy, except that he was wearing a very new baseball hat that said KOREA on it. He had big feet.

“Have you been in Korea?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Bob, then he took out a flashy-looking guitar, which he said was actually cheap, and played some popular songs while Paul gazed proudly at him.

Paul occasionally made comments about the songs like: “That was a hit for three months in 1941″ – and then they played some very pleasing piano and guitar duets. They are considering touring Japan together.

Paul  showed me his faded scrapbook with newspaper clippings of the performances of his youth (he played in Canada and Europe), his scholarship awards and clippings of other musicians he had met and admired, including Glenn Gould and Paul Robeson.

That was during the time when Robeson was excluded from playing overseas (his passport was cancelled during the McCarthy witch hunts), so Robeson came to Peace Arch Park which straddles the US/Canada border at White Rock (just south of Vancouver) and did a free peace concert there, which Paul Fraser attended.

He said it is OK if I want to send stuff about him for your blog.

Bigfoot

Bigfoot photographed at Bluff Creek, California

His scrapbook has odd clippings, like one about the first American-born viola player and other odd items. Another is about an early female black American singer. The article notes that she was admired for her modest dress sense and her good manners which endeared her to the crowds.

I must ask if Paul has ever had any Yetis – or Bigfoot – in his apartment.

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Filed under Books, Canada, Eccentrics, Psychology

Pulitzer Prize-Winning Novelist’s Ex-Wife Pulls Gun From Vagina While Arguing About Aliens During Sex Act

The Sun newspaper’s headline yesterday

Sun newspaper’s headline yesterday

I try to be original in this blog and to tell short (or sometimes not-so-short) stories which have not appeared elsewhere. I was going to post a totally different blog today, but what was published yesterday was too good to miss today.

I went into London for most of the day.

When I arrived at the railway station in the morning, I was greeted by the front page of the Sun newspaper boasting the headline HELL FREEZES OVER.

This referred to Arctic temperatures in the small American town of Hell in Michigan and, according to National Public Radio in the US, this event had caused headline writers to rejoice worldwide.

Their Google News search of the phrase HELL FREEZES OVER early yesterday morning turned up 3,980 results in news outlets.

Yesterday’s Evening Standard report

Yesterday’s Evening Standard

Yesterday afternoon, I got a copy of the London Evening Standard, where another eye-catching headline proclaimed: POLICE DID ALTER CRIME FIGURES SAYS MET CHIEF.

This referred to fact that Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police force had admitted that their crime figures were faked and that he had misrepresented to a Parliamentary committee of MPs the findings of a report that he had “forgotten” he himself had written…

The policeman who revealed to MPs that the Met’s official figures had been understated by 25% on sexual offences and had been similarly faked on burglary and other crimes is – inevitably – currently facing a disciplinary hearing by the Metropolitan Police for misconduct.

When I got home late last night, though, I saw on the Smoking Gun website a story that will take some beating in the annals of eye-popping and deserves a mention.

It involves the ex-wife of Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Cormac McCarthy, author of The Road and No Country for Old Men.

He has, in the past, been described as “publicity shy”.

He must be having a bad week.

Jennifer McCarthy in a police mugshot

Jennifer McCarthy in Santa Fe police mugshot

Last Saturday morning, his ex-wife Jennifer McCarthy was with her new 53-year-old boyfriend at her home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. They were having an argument about aliens from outer space. Like one does.

According to Jennifer, they started to yell at each other. As we all know, arguments about aliens from outer space can be passionate affairs.

The boyfriend told her not to touch him again… She touched him on his shoulder with her index finger “to aggravate him”.

According to the boyfriend, after they shouted at each other, she left the house. When she returned a little later, she went into her bedroom and emerged “wearing lingerie and a silver handgun in her vagina”. According to the police report, she then proceeded to “have inner course with the gun”. I am not sure if this is a mis-print or something people actually do when they have a silver gun wedged in their vagina.

At this point, someone said: “Who is crazy – you or me?” It is not clear – from the censored copy of the police report – which of the two said this and, frankly, it could have just as reasonably been said by either. At any rate, Jennifer became so annoyed that she stopped having “inner course” with the gun, pulled it out of her vagina and pointed it at the boyfriend’s head.

The police “statement of probable cause"

Deputy Zook’s “statement of probable cause”

According to his statement to the police, the boyfriend was then “in fear that Jennifer was going to pull the trigger so he grabbed the gun from her and put the gun in the toilet.”

Jennifer, not deterred by this, went into the bathroom to retrieve the gun, so obviously – as one would – the boyfriend took the gun out of the toilet and put it in the trash can outside.

When a policeman arrived – Deputy Chris Zook – he said he retrieved the handgun and “put it in a safe location”. Alas, Deputy Zook does not specify in his report exactly where he put it. One can only surmise.

Jennifer McCarthy was arrested by Deputy Zook on a  charge of “aggravated assault on a household member”.

What the exact legal definition of a “member” might be in a case like this, I can barely dare to imagine. And, given Deputy Zook’s suspect spelling of words, one can only be relieved that he did not mention Cormac McCarthy’s highly-acclaimed No Country for Old Men.

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Filed under Eccentrics, Newspapers, Police, Sex

Is it still illegal to celebrate Christmas in England? + Eating sloths in Guatemala

Phoenix, Arizona, the perfect place to fry an egg

Phoenix, Arizona: a perfect place to fry an egg on the sidewalk

Yesterday I had lunch with someone who has just come back from Phoenix, Arizona.

“I read a while ago that it was the fastest-growing city in the US,” I told her, “but that it is a hell-hole and you can’t go outside comfortably because of the heat.”

“It was very hot,” she agreed. “They have a new law on the statute books which makes it illegal to fry eggs on the sidewalk any more.”

She swore this was true.

What fascinated me was the phrase “any more” and the fact that such a law might be necessary: that it had become so prevalent it was a problem.

In the 1980s, as far as I am aware, it was still illegal under the law of England and Wales for young adult males NOT to practice archery every Sunday (presumably in case the French invaded or the English monarch decided to invade France)… and it was illegal to celebrate Christmas (under an un-repealed Cromwellian law). As far as I know, it still is.

The mis-named English justice system is constantly fascinating.

Last week, I read in the London edition of Metro newspaper that Westminster Magistrates’ Court had given a 20-year-old man a £745 fine and imposed a curfew on him because he had been staying in a hotel and had “emerged from a cupboard naked, with a fire hose up his bottom”.

A fire hose with (it says here) a Finnish coupler

Fire hose with (it says here) a Finnish coupler

The 20-year-old man was said by his lawyer to be “truly ashamed of himself”. This sounds unlikely. He will presumably be bought free drinks by his friends for the next ten years.

The Metro report did not specify the exact law under which the man had been prosecuted. Can there really be a specific law prohibiting people being naked with a fire hose up their bottom?

Life is a constant mystery.

But one mystery has been cleared up.

Yesterday, I wrote that this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith had told me that her sister’s visit to Guatemala had resulted in three children and her (the sister) becoming an Anglican priest.

I wanted – I think not unreasonably – to know more details.

These have been forthcoming.

Anna tells me:

“Twenty five years ago, my sister met a cute Guatemalan refugee at Saigon Palace – a Vietnamese restaurant on Spadina Avenue in Toronto. They married and soon had three children. My Guatemalan in-laws were very happy when they found out I had been involved with British comedy – In particular, they were desperate to know if I had met ‘Benny Eel’.

“My new Guatemalan extended family also enjoyed visiting the Natural History Museum in Toronto. When we walked past the taxidermied displays of jungle animals, they said: Yummy Yummy… Remember when we ate that anteater in Rio Bravo?  and  Look – a sloth! Remember when Auntie cooked us some sloth stew?…

A sloth - highly regarded in Guatemala

A sloth – they are highly regarded by gourmets in Guatemala

“Then suddenly (well, after eight years at the UBC Theology School), my sister became an Anglican priest.

“She moved to a village high in the Guatemalan mountains. After years of being shot at during anti-mining demonstrations, she decided to return to Canada and has been installed in a church in New Westminster, close to where the recent Godzilla movie was filmed. She has recently completed a book about the evils of the Canadian mining industry in Guatemala and sat as a judge in some genocide trials.”

“Good heavens!” I said. “Genocide trials in Canada?”

“In Mexico City, I think,” replied Anna.”I will have to ask… She was a witness of a lot of exhumed bodies…”

Some answers just create more questions.

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Filed under Humor, Humour, Legal system

Remembrance Sunday with a fox, a hen & maybe a German in Highgate, London

King’s Cross station, London, with Remembrance poppy

King’s Cross station, London, with Remembrance Day poppy

I was driving home late last night.

Well, it was the early hours of this morning.

And a fox ran across the road in front of me.

Nothing surprising in that.

London seems to have as many foxes at night as performers have neuroses.

I had to slow down approaching a wide road junction in Highgate village to let the fox cross the road ahead of me. It came out of a road to my left.

Then, out of the same road to my left, came a man on a motorcycle with sidecar attached. The sidecar was attached to the motorcycle, not to the man. The man appeared to be wearing a World War II German Army uniform. He was wearing a German WWII helmet. The sidecar had a cage sitting on it, which contained what appeared to be a hen.

At a mini-roundabout ahead, the man and his motorcycle and his sidecar and the cage containing what appeared to be a hen turned left.

I carried on.

It was Remembrance Sunday yesterday.

I do not drink.

I do not take drugs.

I have no explanation.

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Filed under London, Surreal, UK

English eccentric comedy adventurer Tim Fitzhigham talks futtocks and of rowing a bathtub across the Channel

(A version of this piece was also published on the Indian news site WSN)

(From left) Me, Tim Fitzhigham, Kate Copstick

(From left) Me, Tim Fitzhigham, Kate Copstick in Edinburgh

A couple of weeks ago, I staged five daily hour-long chat shows in the final week of the Edinburgh Fringe.

In the third show, one of the guests was English eccentric adventurer Tim Fitzhigham, a Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award nominee for one of his annual Fringe comedy shows.

He talked to me and to comedy critic Kate Copstick. This is a short extract from that chat:

_______________________________________________________

COPSTICK: Your adventures… Is it insanity or is it you don’t think you could write a funny enough stand-up show, so you go and do mental things?

TIM: I think that’s right. But I like to see if things are possible. Can you do it? I have the world record for longest distance travelled in a boat made entirely out of paper. I just wondered how far you could travel in a paper boat.

COPSTICK: How far?

TIM: 160 miles.

COPSTICK: What?!

TIM: Where the comedy comes is I try these things and what is normally quite a mundane thing can suddenly take on a… With the paper boat, I had to get insurance for the paper boat before they would let me take it out on the water. I phoned hundreds of insurance companies. Nobody would give me insurance for that. Then one of them phoned me back and said: We will cover you and the paper boat against fire and theft. You couldn’t write a better joke than that. Just the truth is funny… Then I thought: Can you row a bath tub across the English Channel? I thought some Victorian must have done it, but no-one had.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: How long did it take you to row across?

TIM: Nine hours and six minutes and I had my heel on the plug all the way because, obviously, you needed to be able to take the plug out, otherwise it was cheating.

JOHN: Was it difficult to set up?

TIM: When I first phoned the Royal Navy to try and get them on board with the idea, there was a mistake at the switchboard and I got put through to a rear admiral. And that was the best result for me, because both my uncle and my great uncle were in the Navy and they told me If ever you’re talking to a member of Her Majesty’s Royal Navy, you always start the conversation with a question – How are your futtocks, old man?

So I get put through to the rear admiral and I say How are your futtocks, old man? and he replies At their furthest reach, dear boy.

When I asked my uncle about this, he said Yes, that was the correct nautical response. I said That’s fantastic, uncle, but what does it actually mean? and he said Well, that’s the thing, Tim. Nobody actually knows. It’s just this mad thing the Navy have done for 300 years.

I then finally got hold of someone sensible about the whole thing and it turns out what a futtock actually is is the ribs on an old-fashioned boat and, when you say, How are your futtocks? if they reply At their furthest reach then the boat is running at its absolute top capacity. You are, in effect, saying How’s your day going? and they’re saying Very well.

I had to go up to the Admiralty Board – which is quite a serious thing. It doesn’t often happen and there are five flag admirals. I sat there and one of the admirals told me: Rowing a bath tub across the English Channel is not possible. We’ve done the calculations. You’re a single guy. It’s just not possible. Physics is against you.

I looked him directly in the eye and said: I’m not saying it IS possible, I’m saying give me the chance to try.

And – literally in a second – he turned to the admiral next to him and said: And THAT’s the spirit that built this nation!

One second. One answer. And suddenly I had the Navy behind me and they are serious.

In a maritime way.

Obviously, they’re less useful in a desert.

But, in a maritime way, they’re the best.

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Filed under Comedy, Eccentrics, Humor, Humour, UK

At the Edinburgh Fringe, it is perfectly normal for women to wear nothing below the waist: it is cucumber season

Steve Ullathorne, photographer to the stars, outside the Gilded Balloon yesterday

Steve Ullathorne (right), photographer to the stars, doorstepped outside the Gilded Balloon yesterday

I arrived at the Edinburgh Fringe yesterday to find it unchanged.

Going into the Gilded Balloon venue press party, I passed a young man who was wailing: “I just got wine on my phone! I just got wine on my phone!”

Inside the Gilded Balloon, comedian Maureen Younger, who was going in to see Janey Godley’s show Janey Godley Is Ungagged, told me people keep coming up to her in the street because they mistake her for either Janey Godley or Karen Dunbar – both of whom have Scots accents – despite the fact Maureen looks nothing like either and has an English accent.

Maureen Younger yesterday - or is it Janey Godley?

Maureen Younger – or is it Janey Godley?

On the other hand, Maureen’s own show The Outsider is about how she became the only London-Scottish, Austrian-accented German-speaking, black lesbian on the UK comedy circuit, despite being white, straight and British.

At the Gilded Balloon party, I also bumped into New York comic Laura Levites, still jet-lagged, who told me she had finished re-writing her show Selfhelpless eight minutes before her first performance yesterday, which turned out to be a good idea, as Kate Copstick (the Fringe’s most influential critic) came in to see that show.

Apparently Copstick liked it.

“What’s it about?” I asked Laura.

Laura Levites does not like puppet pigs

Laura Levites does not like puppet pigs at all

“What’s it always about?” she asked.

I can do no better than quote the blurb.

Life is shit. Drugs, shrinks, denial and the higher power of eBay haven’t helped. It took Laura three hours to get a new diagnosis – judge her in 60 minutes. ‘A straight-talking New Yorker with an upfront attitude’ (Scotsman). ‘Levites is both lovable and crazy’ **** (BroadwayBaby.com). If life were a cab it would first refuse to take her home and then hit her … wait … it just did! Laura almost let a creepy ex-neighbour photograph her in chains for this show. ‘Nuff said. Her dog needs vaginal rejuvenation. Lord knows what Laura needs.

What she did not need at the Gilded Balloon party yesterday was a rather scary pink pig puppet on the end of a man’s arm come up and try to sell his show to her while she was drinking.

Leaving by the pedestrian underpass outside the Pleasance Dome venue, I heard someone say: “He’s daubing graffiti with an invisible paintbrush,” and, indeed, a man was doing just that, while talking loudly to himself about the fact that the bees are being killed off by “them”.

But even I can be occasionally slightly surprised at the Fringe.

Adrienne Truscott and her one-woman bottomless show

Adrienne Truscott’s one-woman bottomless show

I have seen some topless comedy shows, but American performer Adrienne Truscott’s show is the first time I have seen a female comic’s show performed bottomless.

Her show was an eye-opener in that I now know the projected faces of several pop stars look even weirder with a lady’s pubic hair added to their chin. Her show is called  Asking for It: A One-Lady Rape About Comedy Starring Her Pussy and Little Else! 

As someone said to me afterwards, it seems perfectly normal, at the Edinburgh Fringe, for a performer to wear nothing below the waist.

Bob’s Bookshop bar - where everything costs £3

Bob Slayer’s new Bookshop bar – with Cat the lovely manager

The show took place in Bob’s Bookshop – a new venue run by comic Bob Slayer which unsurprisingly (for those who know Bob) has a public bar selling beers and sundry other drinks.

Before and after Adrienne’s show, I was chatting to comedian Ian Cognito. He was wearing a hat. He said he had a song about the late Malcolm Hardee. I invited him to perform it at the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Awards Show on the final Friday of the Fringe. He said Yes.

The last time I saw Ian Cognito was when he, Jenny Eclair and I shared a funeral car at Malcolm Hardee’s funeral at Greenwich in 2005 – an event that was ‘reviewed’ by the Daily Telegraph with the words “Rarely can there have been so much laughter and irreverence at a funeral service and rarely can it have been more appropriate”.

Ian Cognito and Pam Ford at Bob’s Bookshop last night

Ian Cognito and Pam Ford (holding up the wall) last night

Last night, Cognito told comic Pam Ford and me a very funny series of stories about his own dad’s funeral and what happened to the ashes afterwards.

Alas, I don’t think I can repeat them, because I was harassing Cognito that he should do death stories as an Edinburgh Fringe show in 2014.

“You would make it funny, sad and odd,” I told him. “You should call it Four Funerals and a Funeral.”

He did not seem persuaded, but you never know.

When I got back to my Edinburgh flat, zonked, an e-mail was waiting for me from Alexander Frackleton, a Scot living in the Czech Republic, occasionally mentioned in this blog.

He told me: “Please gonnae no’ refer to me as an ex-pat. I hate ex-pats and avoid them like the plague cos they are always complaining about how things are not like Britain, America, Canada, Australia etc. And I’m not a comedian – and don’t want to be. Ye know that. I’m a Scots Poet in exile. Don’t look at me like that, yer a writer, ye can work with that idea.”

His real reason for writing, though was to tell me that a report he had spotted in yesterday’s Daily Mail online was not a wind-up.

“It is true,” he told me, “cos it was reported here in the Czech Republic a few days ago.”

Pastafarianism lives! - in the Czech Republic at least...

Pastafarianism lives! – in the jolly Czech Republic at least…

The report was about a Czech man who claims his religion forces him to wear a sieve on his head. He says his religion is ‘Pastafarianism’ and the authorities have now given him permission to wear a sieve on his head on his official Czech ID card picture.

Perhaps it is NOT just Edinburgh which is eccentric.

“Do ye know what the Czechs call the ‘silly season’?” Alex asked me. “They call it the cucumber season.”

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Filed under Comedy, Czech Republic, Eccentrics, Humor, Humour

How not to become a millionaire by creating an original new product

John Ward told me he had had another crap idea

So near and yet so far from becoming a millionaire…

I got an e-mail this morning from mad inventor John Ward.

He has come up with a new idea – the James Bond personalised bog roll holder with incorporated gun rack. He has created it in a hand-carved cherry wood finish with gilt inlay numerals.

Like many of his ideas, there is the twinkle of a marketable commodity here.

I fondly remember his bicycle for window cleaners – the frame of the bike itself became a ladder.

As TV presenter Chris Tarrant once said: “Brilliant, but not quite all there.”

It was not clear if he meant John’s idea or John himself.

Much like writing a daily blog, John Ward has carved out a niche in an area where it is difficult to, in our American cousins’ phrase, ‘monetise the product’.

I am sure there is a market for personalised, hand-carved toilet roll holders, but where you would start to exploit it is another matter. Certainly, with gun included, there must be a market in certain parts of South East London.

As Chris Tarrant implied, John Ward’s ideas are usually brilliant but not yet quite in the Dyson millionaire-making class.

His mobile church font drew some interest from his local vicar… His musical frying pan (hum along while you fry) got some interest… And his bra-warmer received a lot of press attention.

John Ward with the main Malcolm Hardee Award

Marking time until the millions flow in, he designed and built the three annual and increasingly-prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards… and he once designed a bullshit-detecting machine for me.

Unfortunately, there was so much of it in the air, the machine could not detect a single specific source.

John Ward still needs that one big breakthrough product or an offer to become prop maker to the stars.

All suggestions gratefully received.

Here is an Australian TV report:

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Filed under Comedy, Eccentrics, Humor, Humour, Inventions

Mad inventor John Ward approached by African charity with a claw hammer

In yesterday’s blog, comedy critic Kate Copstick touched on corruption in Africa when she talked about potential problems her Mama Biashara charity faced in Kenya.

John Ward’s snow machine

Mad inventor John Ward tells me he had a strange meeting several years ago in Northamptonshire. He is, perhaps more accurately described as an eccentric creator of bizarre contraptions. The strange things he can do with his hands do not bear too much thinking about.

Because he occasionally appears in newspaper articles and TV items, he sometimes gets cold calls from people who have tracked him down.

“I had a phone call a while ago from a bod from some wonderful sounding mob,” he told me yesterday. “The bod said they did fund raising for Africa. After a  long phone call, I arranged to meet him for lunch in Northampton.

“I was curious, so I dialled 1471 to check his telephone number. But it was a ‘number withheld’ jobby… This could be a wind-up, I thought, but I needed to go shopping in Northampton anyway.

“So I met him as arranged outside the main shopping centre in town, close to the market, and we wandered off to a nearby eaterie. He was the usual charity-type bod wearing the standard issue slack, ill-fitting – or somebody else’s – suit with a shirt collar size about eight times what he really took and he had a very ‘wet fish’ handshake that reminded me how strong our pet rabbit was.

“The idea, it turned out, was to get me to go to a part of Africa where the locals were building things like sheds and wells… but they lacked the skills to build them in such a way that they would be still standing/workable weeks or hopefully, years on.

Why me? I enquired.

John Ward drives home in his self-constructed Wardmobile

“He then produced from his briefcase a claw hammer and put it on the table, much to the surprise of some punters sitting at other tables near us.

“I made a mental note not to order bread rolls in this eaterie if this was what you needed to cope with them.

“I told him I had got a similar one and I was in no hurry to buy another just yet, thank you very much.

“He said: You are looking at a £1,275 hammer.

Is it made of solid gold? I asked.

No, he said, It is just a normal standard Stanley hammer.

“He told me that money was raised by his group in the UK and was sent out to the Colonies and assorted equipment was bought with the money. But, on close inspection of the paperwork, it had turned out the cost of buying one hammer had been £1,275.

“Corrupt elements were syphoning off the loot and BMW and Mercedes were maybe on overtime to meet the demand from officials for their products over there.

“He told me the British fund raisers did not want to ‘make a fuss’ about it.

So why do you want to talk to me? I asked.

“He explained that one way around the local mafia getting their hands on the folding stuff was to send people out with an eye for building and with money that they had themselves.

“He said he had seen some of my ‘stuff’ and felt that, even though I was not a trades person as such – as in bricklayer, carpenter etc – he realised I could think on my feet and felt that was what was really wanted… I would get results.

“I had a reasonable meal with him which did not involve bread rolls and use of the claw hammer but I pointed out I was not all that interested as they wanted me to be away for about six months. The financial side was not that bad, I have to say, but six months of my life? – As I was not that passionate about the ’cause’, it was a No-No in my book.

“After about an hour or so, we shook hands and parted.

“On the way home, I realised that the business card he was going to give me had not materialised, so I did not know exactly who or what he represented other than the stuff he told me vaguely about the ‘fund raisers’ in general.

“I suspect that it was somehow connected with HMG.

“It is all,” said John Ward, “part of life’s rich pastry.”

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Filed under Africa, Charity, Eccentrics, Inventions

The dangers when a TV programme researcher approaches a mad inventor

John Ward – a man out standing in his field

I first met mad inventor John Ward when I was a television researcher on Chris Tarrant’s sadly forgotten series Prove It!

Time-Life called him “possibly the best English eccentric inventor living today.” He designed and makes the annual Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award trophies and is currently creating a trebuchet – a giant catapult based on medieval siege engines – for next year’s World Egg Throwing Championships

John Ward thinks the standard of TV researcher may have fallen over the years. Yesterday he told me this story…

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The trebuchet – John Ward is building one for egg throwing

It was a nice day to start off with, being Tuesday, and so I loaded up and headed down the road to see Roger in Cleethorpes to try out the Egg Throwing Trebuchet Mark II as Roger’s field is quite large and should anything get out of hand, it won’t effect anybody (hopefully..)

So there I was setting it up and loading said device… and the mobile throbs away… and the day takes on a new meaning…

“Are you John Ward? – the John Ward?”

“Yes,” I said, “or, at least, one of them.”

“I am Tamara Hyphen Whatever and I am a television researcher…”

And then a deathly hush was heard and, not knowing if I should bow and kiss the earth beneath me, I replied: “Oh yes…?”

Miss Hyphen continued: “Yes, I am working on a new television programme and came across your web site and I have to say its very impressive. I could not believe the sheer amount of things on there that you have done. What a trove of fun it is!”

“Thank you for that,” I said, “and…?”

Then Miss Hyphen explained the format and I replied that it sounded – once again – like Scrapheap Challenge with the contrived supposed items made in a scrap yard but all the ‘bits’ are spread over a yard area in order for them to be picked up and slung together at the end of the show and it’s not the people on camera that are the builders but the list of Production Assistants at the end of the show credits that give the game away although I had sussed it about twenty minutes in when I saw the first ever episode because can you think of where you would find a scrap yard that has a turn the key and its works Land Rover on hand…

To which Miss Hyphen replied: “Yeessss, I see…”

She then wondered if it would be worth her while to come down to see me at some stage and I pointed out that the local cinema still – I believe – had a stage but any cafe would perhaps be better, moreso if they were showing a film projected onto the said portion of the stage quoted..

By now, I was thinking there was an intellectual barrier between us but I could be wrong of course – Time will tell, I thought..

After various useless questions and answers that I got the impression she at the other end was scribbling notes down to, the Gifted One then asked the usual clunker thus:

“By any chance, have you appeared on television at all?…” and I parried this by asking:

“You’ve not been working at the BBC for long?”

She then asked how I could possibly know? and I said I was shit hot at reading tea leaves as well.

I then put it to her, as best I could, having brought up children of my own you understand, that if she had indeed ‘seen’ my web site, she would know the answer to that question without being so brain dead as to enquire.

After all this and going to Roger’s field and getting back home, another bit arrived via e-mail.

“I have just seen you online with a bird table. Could we come and see you and film you for an interview?”

…to which I replied I was not that bothered but whom shall I say is coming along? And the nice man said he was a ‘field researcher’ for CBS Factual in the US of A.

How odd.

On the one hand, somebody was ‘wondering’ about coming to see me from about a hundred miles away and, on the other hand, a crew of four were going to get onto a plane and come from the Colonies to film an interview some three thousand miles away.

Thus we are to arrange a date in the next week or so.

So today – so far – I have found out our Trebuchet can hurl half a house brick a distance of 230 yards and I have found out people with strange three barreled names seem to be lacking in the thinking department.

Ah! The simple joys of the (allegedly) eccentric inventor.

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Here is John Ward demonstrating a new type of television to presenter Chris Tarrant on the sadly forgotten ITV series Prove It!

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Filed under Comedy, Eccentrics, Humor, Humour, Inventions, Television