I nearly fell down an escalator…

I nearly fell down an escalator in London yesterday.

Why do they have to have down escalators? Why can’t they all go up?

If M.C.Escher can do it, why not the London tube?

Then the Victoria Line tube kept making announcements that Tottenham Hale was a step-free station and that it had no lift service.

And then my Thameslink line trains ran to schedule.

Whoever heard of such a thing?

The world has gone mad.

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Dream ballet children and a politician

(Photograph by Brad Pouncey, via UnSplash)

Yesterday, I posted a blog about a dream I had.

I had muttered onto my iPhone what was in the dream when I woke up, dehydrated.

I vaguely remembered this recording-a-dream thing happening before and have just looked through my iPhone recordings.

I had indeed recorded a muttered description about a previous dream on 5th October. 

This is it below.

I have no idea what any of it means.

Look – I was half asleep when I recorded it.

These are the exact words…


In my dream, I had just arrived in Edinburgh and I went to see a guy I knew who ran hotels and he told me where I was staying.

He took me round to the place where I was staying, which was actually two buildings separated by a street and I said: “Oh, you’re doing very well. They’re both show-ers.” 

He said something about getting money from somewhere and, as we went down the street between the two buildings, there were lots of little girl ballet dancers going into a lesson in one of the big rooms, which was a dancing school.

Just outside, as we passed by, in the street between the two buildings, an Australian girl in her twenties was talking to a man. They were talking about some sort of act. She was saying the audience would not see the stilts they were on when they were on the surfboards. So that would come as a big surprise to the audience: that they were on stilts under the surfboards.

Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer

Meanwhile, going in to the dancing school with the little girls was Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer,. He was wearing a small pink tutu dress.

I think this was in my dream because, earlier in the day, I had found out he is surprisingly small – around 5ft 6in.

The hotel owner guy was saying to me: “Where’s your stuff at the moment?”

I told him: “Oh, it’s at the BBC Hotel.”

I think that was in my dream because, earlier in the day, comedians Njambi McGrath and Sara Mason had been saying that, at the weekend, they had gone to White City House, part of the Soho House group of clubs. White City House, is a 2-storey club inside what used to be BBC Television Centre in Wood Lane…


The iPhone recording ends there.

Well, I did tell you I have no idea what any of it means.

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Horses racing around in my dreams…

What follows is all true.

So it goes: “To die, to sleep – To sleep – perchance to dream.”

Throughout my life, I never remembered my dreams unless I was suddenly woken up while having one – which, in the past,  maybe happened once every couple of years. I always thought this was a sad loss. I like surrealism and thought dreams must be wonderfully and literally fantastic.

This has changed.

Because I have some current calcium and kidney problems, I have not had a full night’s sleep since June 2020. 

I wake up every hour throughout the night, totally dehydrated inside my mouth. I have to drink water to rehydrate.

Quite often this waking-up happens while I am in mid-dream. So I temporarily remember my dream. 

By morning though, while I know that I woke up when dreaming, I have forgotten the actual details of the dream.

Very disappointing.

Most of my dreams are about organising events or performances.

Regent Street (Photograph by Luke Stackpoole, via UnSplash)

Last night, when I woke up in mid-dream, I muttered the details onto my iPhone – to remember.

According to that muttered memory:

The new owners of Penguin Books messed it up and were not making the right money, so they thought they would get more publicity by arranging daily horse races on Regent Street in London. Some of the races would be open to amateurs.

I watched some of the rehearsals for the races, with horses chasing each other round the curve of Regent Street.

And I dreamt about Penguin Books’ boardroom discussions on the practicality of staging the horse races…

Then I woke up in mid-discussion and so I don’t know the outcome.

Life is a bitch.

That actually IS what my dream was about, though I now feel obliged – oh yes I certainly do – to suggest that the winner of the main race could have been a night mare.

Let us all hope I don’t record another dream soon and won’t feel so obliged in future.

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Living the dream: my body is rusting

This morning I got a message from a friend.

It read:


This is how you feel isn’t it?!


I replied:

Nah. 

It’s just weird having an old body.

In my erstwhile teens I had a dream and wrote a short story about someone who had an artificial metal body and what he felt when his body eventually, inevitably started rusting.

Now I’m living the dream.

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Now the UK National Health Service wants me to attend a nuclear facility…

My last blog was about the reliability of the NHS – You can always rely on their organisational arrangements to be in total chaos.

Basically, I was told that a Renal hospital appointment I never had was being moved to a date which doesn’t exist. I was told that the new appointment was on Tuesday 20th November – but 20th November is actually a Saturday. 

The same message also said I should attend the “Kidney & Urology Dept on Wednesday”… with no time nor date mentioned.

Neither the previous non-existent appointment nor the previous non-existent new date were on a Wednesday.

None of the above has been sorted out yet.

So imagine my lack of surprise when I got home around 8.00pm last night to find I had received a letter about a totally different new hospital appointment unrelated to the other two (or it might be three) previously confused appointments.

I have ongoing calcium level and kidney function problems which put me in hospital last May and this July. 

The previous confused communication had been about the hospital Renal (ie Kidney) Dept and the Kidney & Urology Dept.

This new missive was about a forthcoming appointment with the Nuclear Medicine Dept at the same hospital with which, on Monday 29th November, I now have an appointment to have a Spine and Hip Bone Density scan or, as the letter says, “Bone densitometry DXA”.

This scan has never been mentioned before at any of my chats with my Kidney Man and my Calcium Man – and neither have my spine nor hip been a source of interest – but I’m prepared to believe it’s a legitimate part of the search for what’s wrong with me. I had a PETscan at the same Nuclear Medicine Dept in August this year. A PETscan is the one where they inject radioactive material into you and then (as I understand it) look at it circulating in the body.

I have been told by two separate consultants that I am a “man of mystery” because no-one has any idea what on earth the cause or causes of my calcium/kidney problem is/are.

This means, among other things, of course, that I cannot be treated because they have no idea what they should be treating. They know the result of my problem but they have no idea of its cause.

The actual doctors seem efficient and thorough.

But the NHS bureaucracy – like all large bureaucracies – is a catastrophe of incompetence.

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More UK National Health Service chaos: my life is in their incompetent hands…

In hospital in, erm… who knows when?

As long-suffering readers of this blog will know, I was in hospital for seven days in May last year and again for seven days in July this year with a very high calcium level and (as a result) dangerously low kidney function.

No-one has been able to find out the cause. So I keep seeing consultants, mostly kidney and calcium men.

My kidney/calcium levels are pretty-much but not-quite back to normal now. But, still, no-one has any idea why they twice went dangerously haywire.

I wrote a blog in August this year when I simultaneously got three completely self-contradictory and chaotic letters about NHS hospital appointments.

Doctors, of course, like to use posh names, so ‘kidney’ staff are usually called Nephrology or Renal staff… and ‘calcium’ staff are usually called Endocrinology staff. In what follows, I have anonymised the hospital names as Hospital A and Hospital B.

In September, I was told my next appointment with the Nephrology team (my Kidney Man) would be on Monday 13th December at Hospital A.

Then, this afternoon, I got a text from Hospital B, which is part of the same group as Hospital A: 

Renal means Kidney.

The message concluded:

“Please attend Hospital B, Kidney & Urology Dept on Wednesday. TO RESPOND please follow this link…”

I did and responded:


I’m confused. Can you clarify?

I have an appointment to see Nephrology at Hospital A on 13th December at 10.30. (See attached letter.)

I had no appointment to see the Renal Dept at Hospital B on 16th November. 

And the ‘new’ date you give – Tuesday 20th November – does not exist (20th November is a Saturday).

You also seem to ‘confirm’ I should attend a Kidney & Urology appointment at Hospital B “on Wednesday” (no time given but presumably either Wednesday 10th November this week or an unknown Wednesday in December).

Could you tell me if the ‘new’ Renal appointment on Tuesday 20th November (a date which doesn’t exist) is the same as the Kidney & Urology appointment I have never previously heard about at an unknown time this Wednesday 10th November?

If I do have to attend Hospital B this Wednesday, could you give me a time for the appointment?

John Fleming


I await a reply with open-mouthed interest but little hope of efficiency or factual accuracy… It is always a tad worrying when your life and death is in the hands of large impersonal bureaucracies… All large bureaucracies are inherently incompetent…

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Stories of legendary UK comic Jimbo…

This week, esteemed comic Noel James posted an announcement about a last minute act appearing on the bill at his Cafe Play club in Mumbles, Swansea,Wales, this Saturday, 6th November.

The act is the legendary and sadly not widely-enough fêted UK comic Jimbo (not to be confused with Australian comic Jimbo Bazoobi)

The news on Facebook of our British Jimbo’s booking elicited a fair number of comments, almost entirely from other comedians:


Jimbo: the man, the myth, the mirth…

Andy White
Did my first ever gig with Jimbo. Didn’t gig with him again till a couple of years ago. He was proper funny.

Mark Hurst
First Jimbo gig I witnessed he was introduced, made his way thru the audience, onto the stage, paused briefly at mic, as if about to speak, then carried on, off the other side of the stage, back thru the crowd and straight out the pub door…

Jez Feeney

yep I saw similar… hilarious

Noel James
ha ha yes sounds like Jimbo at his best.

Addy van der Borgh
One of the funniest opening 5 minutes I’ve ever seen… fiddling with the microphone, the mic stand, starting to speak, stopping etc. Great timing.

Noel James
Addy van der Borgh – so that’s where you got the idea from !!

Addy van der Borgh
I was first! Actually it’s an old commedia dell’arte thing. So there x

Adam-Morrison Jones
Absolute legend.

Neil Masters
Once at a gig on Tottenham Court Road in London, Jimbo took the mic outside of the pub so nobody could see him. Then he started to interview himself , sort of Voice 1. “please speak.” Voice 2. Lots of weird sounds and silly grumbles for 3 minutes then baritone “NO!” Then back inside , bowed and left the stage.

Andrew Max O’Neill
Amazing.

Mark Hurst
Then there was his first open spot at the Comedy Store. This was in the days when the open spots went on at the end, about 2am. He went on, did a bit of muttering and mic-stand fiddling, then collapsed into a heap on the stage. The MC not knowing what he was doing didn’t know if it was part of an act, stood at the side for a minute, that seemed like an hour, with people shouting out, whilst he lay motionless. Eventually, MC had to step over him, “Jimbo, let’s hear it for Jimbo.” At which, he jumped up and bounded off’.

Phil Davey
yeah i was there for that. compere was Kevin Day. Kim Kinnie was absolutely furious.

Dan Willis
Heard he once stripped naked,
Walked off leaving his clothes,
Never returning to get them..
I’ve gigged with him about twenty odd times – mostly doing gags, but I did see him setting fire to his own hair, without any apparent plan for when it took flame…

Phil Dins
Fantastic act. X

Gary Sansome
Great guy, I remember him doing a set at Huddersfield University and just walking straight out of the venue from the stage. Hope he is well.

David Hadingham
In the early days me and Jimbo (of course back then he was known by his real name James Fancyknot) shared a flat together where we would come up with all these great ideas, I wonder where he is now?

John Mann
Ha. Was discussing his antics only today with Alan Francis and Geoff Boyes.

Jez Feeney
Bloody hell???? Maaaaaaaaaalcolm!…..saw Jim at Sunday Night with Malcolm Hardee many a time… always an occasion… didn’t recognise the photo at first… proper old school… wonderful.

Glad he’s still around …would love to see him on Michael McIntyre’s Roadshow.

Steve Day
The story, and I assume everyone knows this in one form or another, when he was offered a paid gig in a pub somewhere out of London. Travelled there, but due to low audience numbers the landlord pulled the gig but agreed to pay the acts. Jimbo says since he’d come all this way he’d do his spot anyway. Goes on, is Jimbo for ten minutes, finishes.

The landlord says, “I’m not paying you for that!”

Noel James
his hair’s a bit whiter, but he’s still around, still gigging.

James Sherwood
Jimbo did my favourite ever topical gag. He described a story in that day’s paper about a pig farmer who hid some jewellery in the sty, the pigs ate the jewellery, now he has to comb through their excrement to get it back. “So I’m looking at this story and I’m looking at it… and COULD I THINK OF A JOKE?”

Matthew Baylis
A million years ago I did a writing day that jimbo was at – run by Chris Head. Jimbo had worked up a set (with Chris) as a drunken old-school comic dressed in a hideously believable Vegas style suit. It was mostly physical comedy and noises but it was quite brilliant and highly bookable.

I saw him at a gig a month later and he had dumped the routine and was back to ‘normal’.

John Fothergill
Did a minute or two then climbed out of the window behind the curtains and left in his car when I was mc in north London once.

Noel James
if i’d known he was this popular i’d have booked him to headline!

Ian Stone
He turned up at the East Dulwich tavern one night. He’d travelled from Milton Keynes with a moose head. He got introduced, walked on with the moose head, did the gig and never mentioned it, left the venue and then got the train back to Milton Keynes.

Robin Deb
Climbing out of the window at the Comedy Brewhouse and just… going home. oh, some punter complained they paid a fiver so he dropped one in her pint glass and then left…. HERO!

Mark Hayden
I’ve gigged a few times with Jimbo. I remember some silver suit or something that he wore that was out of the seventies or something. He also came and did Mr Ben’s gong show in Leeds. I asked him in my email to him are you sure as it’s a long way to come and do a gong. Sure enough he turned up. He must be nearly 80 now.

Dan Antopolski
He once did a bit shoving dogfood into a soft toy dog’s face that Sean Lock said was the funniest thing he’d ever seen.

Matt Kirshen

First time I met Sean, he was delighted to hear that Jimbo was still going. As as I am right now.

Pete Cracknell

He turned up at an open mic spot at The Father Red Cap, a gay pub in Camberwell. The audience were expecting Drag, flamboyance and music. They got Jimbo. It didn’t go well.

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Drink tea when the weather is hot and eat ice cream when it’s cold or raining

Yesterday I bought an ice cream in the pouring rain in Borehamwood, on the edge of London.

I thought the grocery shop owner might have been grateful. Instead, he laughed.

Fair enough.

But my parents told me, if it is very hot, you should drink a cup of hot tea. That will make you feel hot inside your body and there will be less of a temperature difference between the inside and outside, so you will feel cooler.

By the same token, if it is cold outside and you eat ice cream, you will be colder inside your body and, by lessening the comparative difference between inside and outside, you will feel less cold.

My father was stationed in the island of Malta in the Mediterranean during World War 2 – he was in the British Navy – and the Maltese, he said, drank hot tea during heatwaves.

You sweat initially but, once the inside of your body warms up, you feel the heat outside your body less.

When I was a schoolboy growing up in Aberdeen, in the NE of Scotland, I once made a shop owner very happy by buying an ice cream during a snow storm. He said it was his only sale of the morning.

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Twonkey’s Greatest Twitch, Princess Margaret and the Pub Quiz Mafia…

Paul Vickers with clock sans cuckoo spoke on FaceTime

Twonkey aka Paul Vickers is back at London’s Soho Theatre on Tuesday with a new show. 

Well, sort of.

I talked to him on FaceTime. He lives in Edinburgh.


JOHN: You didn’t play the much-cut-back  Edinburgh Fringe this year.

PAUL: No, because it kept wavering. I was due be doing it at Dragonfly again, but then that got closed for two weeks because of a Covid outbreak.

JOHN: You’re coming down south for your Soho Theatre show: Twonkey’s Greatest Twitch. Didn’t you have a Twitch show before?

PAUL: Yes, there was Twonkey’s Ten Year Twitch. This one is more like a ‘Best of Twonkey’ show.

The difficulty is selecting what the best is. I’ve just chosen what I think the best bits are and hope people will agree with me. I mean, really, Twonkey started as a joke and just got out of hand. 

It was something I did off the cuff. I didn’t think: Oh, I’ll be doing this for over ten years. I just thought: I’ll do one Edinburgh Fringe and see what happens. But then you get addicted; you get on the treadmill of doing it.

I am feeling a bit like James Bond, in the sense that I’ve created a franchise and I feel like I’m getting to the point where I’d like to pass it on to someone else.

JOHN: Who else could do a Twonkey show though?

PAUL: Princess Anne was on the list.

JOHN: Have you asked her? It’s worth asking because you’re likely to get a reply from some official which you could quote… Who else?

PAUL: Peter Crouch, the footballer. John Craven was mentioned.

Twonkey’s greatest latest seen soon in Soho

JOHN: Why would Princess Anne be ideal to do a Twonkey show?

PAUL: It was thought she might give it a bit of dignity. But Princess Margaret was the fun one. She used to get stoned with the Incredible String Band, apparently.

JOHN: And now it’s too late…

PAUL: Yes. But I feel like Roger Moore gearing up for Octopussy. It won’t feel like that once I get going again. At the moment I’m in that nervous period.

It will be like Diamonds Are Forever when I get going.

JOHN: You haven’t performed as Twonkey for a while, because of the lockdowns…

PAUL: Yeah. I’ve been more into band stuff. (More on his band Paul Vickers and The Leg in my blog of February this year)

JOHN: Are you going to do less Twonkey and more music?

PAUL: I think it might be a bit like that, yeah. We were gonna try and incorporate a band thing in the new show, but we’re not really ready: it’s such a long process with the band.

JOHN: Your shows tend to have music in them, but you mean the band could actually be part of a Twonkey show?

PAUL: That could happen. I’ve always wanted to do that. The main thing that stops me is expense and all the Edinburgh Fringe venues are basically just like a plug in the wall. It would have to be a big enough venue to fit six people with equipment on the stage.

JOHN: Anything planned after the Soho Theatre and before next year’s Edinburgh Fringe?

A cultural dessert – the Custard Club

PAUL: Well, I did write another show that I had been going to do in 2020: Twonkey’s Custard Club. I had an elaborate idea involving custard as currency and where desserts had become the main meal.

JOHN: That works for me.

PAUL: I was all geared-up to do it at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2020, but then all the lockdowns happened and I couldn’t do anything for almost two years.

JOHN: So why are you not doing Twonkey’s Custard Club as your Soho Theatre show?

PAUL: Well, I kept opening the Word document and I thought: I don’t know how I feel about that now… There had been enough time for doubts to creep in. Previously, there had never been enough time for doubts to creep in because, every year, I barely had enough time to get a coherent show together for the Fringe.

I think everyone’s gone through this thing where you had a structured life and, during the pandemic, it wasn’t there any more. And then you start thinking: Do I really need to do that any more? Is that important? Do I LIKE doing that? It’s quite stressful.

Paul Vickers and The Leg – all six members of the band…

All those things came into the equation, so I became a bit more serious. The new band album is quite serious. I got quite into that during the pandemic – crafting a really good album.

JOHN: What was Twonkey’s Custard Club like?

PAUL: There was a book that had 100 pages with the same picture on every page. It was a tankard and a sleepy/romantic Alpine scene. There was a whole bit about if that book did exist, how would you interpret it? You would probably automatically think there might be a slight difference between the pictures and start looking for it. But there was no difference.

JOHN: Was any custard involved?

PAUL: In that bit, no. It was not custardy that bit. It wasn’t ALL custardy.

There will be a couple of custard songs in the Soho Theatre show – the ‘Best of’ show – despite the fact they’ve never been heard by anyone before.

JOHN: Seems reasonable.

PAUL: If the gig at the Soho Theatre goes well, that’ll help me make my decision on what to do.

If everyone’s like You can’t stop doing that! That’s great, Paul! that’s one thing. But, if it ends with people booing and asking for refunds, then… (LAUGHS)

Twitch bound… the Wobbly Waiter from Twonkey’s Custard Club…

There are some amazing puppets that Grant’s made for the show. The Wobbly Waiter of the Custard Club has got leg braces and everything. It was going to have custard and wobbly things on the plate. You bomb about and create absolute chaos with him because it’s very heavy and impossible to control. So it’s the perfect foil for comedy activity. 

JOHN: You haven’t done Twonkey at all during the pandemic?

PAUL: Well I did a pub quiz as Twonkey in a little pub called The Hoppy in Edinburgh and that went really well. That was the first time I’d done Twonkey in ages.

JOHN: How does Twonkey do a pub quiz? Surreal questions?

PAUL: Well, there’s a lot of things I do that make it not work.

JOHN: Is that the basis of Twonkey? Making it not work.

PAUL: Essentially. For example, at the pub quiz, I was forgetting to read out all the answers and no-one had any idea who was winning, not even me because I had forgotten to count it up.

JOHN: What happened at the end?

PAUL: My brother tried to make sense of it all and we did crown a winner.

Woodland Creatures bar, home of an unconventional pub quiz

JOHN: You had hosted pub quizzes before?

PAUL: When I did it on Leith Walk, I used to do it at a place called Woodland Creatures. But the trouble with pub quizzes is that people take them very seriously and the Edinburgh Pub Quiz Mafia came round. I was like the new kid on the block.

JOHN: Who are the Edinburgh Pub Quiz Mafia?

PAUL: Well, there’s a few of them that do the pub quiz circuit. Some of them do five or six pubs. I used to think the host for a pub quiz was probably a local schoolteacher with a bit of knowledge and time on his hands but – nah – it’s much more cynical than that.

The Pub Quiz Mafia were like: What’s this guy up to? Because I was going against the conventions of pub quizzes…

JOHN: … like giving the answers…

PAUL: …erm… yes. It was controversial at first. I had one round where I showed a clip from a film and people watched it really carefully, thinking the questions were going to be about that clip… but then I’d ask questions about a completely different film.

Paul Vickers aka Twonkey – unconventional is now standard

At the start, it was quite popular. I had a dominatrix doing the score cards. She was in latex and stuff.

She was like Carol Vorderman from Countdown. She was the brain and the discipline of the quiz and I was like Richard Whiteley, sitting there not having a clue what was going on, but being charming in a way I suppose. If I messed up, the dominatrix would keep me in line.

JOHN: She would whip you into shape?

PAUL: (LAUGHS) There was no whipping involved, but she made it known she was displeased. And she got angry with people who weren’t behaving in the crowd. After she stopped helping out, I was just sort of floating because I forgot I was doing a pub quiz. And it turned out that really frustrates people.

JOHN: What were you thinking if you forgot it was a pub quiz?

PAUL: Well, I start off thinking: Oh, this will be fun. And then I lose interest because it’s a pub quiz. I suppose I’ve made it my own. You could say it’s just a bad pub quiz.

JOHN: You should do a bad pub quiz at the Edinburgh Fringe. People would flock to it.

PAUL: Maybe… I will send you a link to my new video: Everyone Loves Custard. It will be in the Soho show.


And he did…
 

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No Time To Die! – again!

1958 movie:

Produced by Albert Broccoli, producer of the James Bond films.

Directed by Terence Young, director of 3 James Bond films.

Scripted by Richard Maibaum, involved in scripting 13 James Bond films.

Re-titled Tank Force in the US.


2021 movie:

Produced by Barbara Broccoli

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