Waisting time with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s wristwatch in Italy…

News reaches me from my friend Sandy in Italy that the national media have suddenly discovered an unhealthy interest in Kim Jong-un’s wristwatch.

Every time the North Korean leader is not seen for a few months or does not appear at an important Party event, there are rumours about his death and/or health. He has just reappeared after an absence of a month and the niche group of North Korea watchers in the West are split over whether he was:

a) dangerously ill

b) having an internal Party fight with someone or

c) just having a rest

Apparently one school of thought in Italy is that his most recent non-appearances were because he was either terribly ill or on a strict diet.

Sandy tells me:

“He has obviously lost a lot of weight. His clothes hang baggy and his round face is less round… The name ‘Slim Jong-un’ comes to mind.

“There were photos in an Italian newspaper on Friday with three close-ups of his wristwatch strap from 2019 and 2021… showing which hole he had it on to measure how much weight he has lost.

“He must,” she added, “think the Western press is totally barmy.”

And who is to gainsay him?

Giant statues of Kim Il-sung (left) and Kim Jong-il (right) in North Korea’s capital Pyongyang (Photograph: April 2012)

“Another theory being published,” Sandy tells me, “is that he only put on weight in the first place to resemble his father Kim Jong-il and his grandfather Kim Il-sung… and, now his authority is consolidated, he can go back to what he really looks like. A bit like method acting. Do you think he plays air guitar to Bohemian Rhapsody?”

This seems unlikely as, last Thursday, the New York Times quoted Kim saying that South Korean K-Pop music was “a vicious cancer corrupting young North Koreans’ attire, hairstyles, speeches, behaviors.” North Korean state media warned that, if left unchecked, it would make North Korea “crumble like a damp wall.”

The New York Times explains: “North Korean state propaganda has long described South Korea as a living hell crawling with beggars. (But) through the K-dramas, first smuggled on tapes and CDs, young North Koreans learned that, while they struggled to find enough food to eat during a famine, people in the South were going on diets to lose weight. South Korean entertainment is now smuggled on flash drives from China, stealing the hearts of young North Koreans who watch behind closed doors and draped windows.”

As well they might. Last December, North Korea enacted a new law with increased sentences to 5-15 years in labour camps for people who watch or possess South Korean entertainment. The previous maximum sentence was 5 years hard labour.

Kim Jong-un’s father Kim Jong-il was a great movie fan and appeared in the movie Team America.

(If any North Koreans should be reading this, can I point out I live in North Carolina in the USA and my real name is Margaret Smith.)

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Filed under Humor, Humour, Italy, Newspapers, North Korea

There was a funny smell inside an English prison in the 1980s…

Keith introduces a programme at Anglia TV in his inimitable style…

So, yesterday I was having a chat on the phone with the delightful Keith Martin, a TV announcer whom I encountered during his 27 on-and-off freelance years at Anglia TV.

“…when I went to prison for the only time in my life,” was the end of one sentence. So, obviously, I asked for more details…


HMP Wayland in Norfolk: “It wasn’t a high security prison…”

KEITH: I was working at Anglia at the time. How or why we were invited to go to the prison, I just don’t know. I went with another of the Anglia announcers. This was probably in the late 1980s.

It was quite a modern prison – Wayland. It opened in 1985; Jeffrey Archer was imprisoned there for perjury in 2011. But I was there, as I say, I think in the late 1980s…

It wasn’t a high security prison but, as we went into one section, the door was locked solidly behind us before they opened the next door. It was that kind of prison.

JOHN: Why were you there?

KEITH: Probably some promotional thing for Anglia. I actually never knew. It was arranged last-minute. But, for some reason, we were there to watch the prisoners performing a pantomime.

JOHN: Oh no you weren’t.

KEITH: Oh yes we were. We went into a hall, not a particularly large hall. I can’t remember if the chairs were screwed to the floor… In fact, I think we were probably sitting on big, heavy benches.

JOHN: What was the first thing you noticed when you entered the prison?

KEITH: The smell. When we entered the inner sanctum of the prison, there was a very strong smell.

JOHN: Of what?

KEITH: Drugs.

JOHN: What was the inner sanctum?

KEITH: As we approached the recreational area.

JOHN: Recreational drugs?

KEITH: Indeed so.

JOHN: If there was a strong smell of drugs, the prison officers must have been aware of this too?

KEITH: I had the impression it was one way of pacifying the inmates. They allowed a certain amount of it to go on.

JOHN: Did someone actually tell you that?

KEITH: The way I would prefer to phrase it was that it was implied at the time that this was… tolerated… that this would be allowed to happen.

JOHN: How did the prisoners get the drugs in?

KEITH: Well, I found out one way years later when I went to a second-hand mobile phone shop in Clapham Junction where they gave you money for your old phones. I told the man: “I’ve got one of the original Nokia phones,” and he said: “Oh! They’re very popular… because people use them for other purposes!”

“What?” I asked.

“They stick them up their arsking-for-it,” he told me… And that’s how they were smuggled in to prisons back then. With a contraceptive. They put the Nokia phone inside a contraceptive.

(This would have been around 1999/2000.)

JOHN: It would be embarrassing if the phone rang in transit.

KEITH: I don’t know what the signal strength would have been like.

JOHN: Do you still have a Nokia?

KEITH: Yes, the old one and it still works.

JOHN: Where do you keep it?

KEITH: In a safe place. As a back-up. But, as I’m sure you know, this was why they put certain people on the potty.

JOHN: Why?

KEITH: They used to put them on a potty and then wait until they did ‘an evacuation’.

JOHN: What?? In prison??

KEITH: Didn’t you know that?

JOHN: No. They did that in case a Nokia fell out?

KEITH: Other brands are available but, yes, this was part of the security thing. Maybe they used German toilet bowls.

JOHN: German?

KEITH: When I worked for BFBS in West Germany and West Berlin, there was a ceramic platform at the back of the toilet bowls onto which your evacuation fell so you could inspect it before you flushed and the water gushed it down the hole. Some Germans are obsessed about what’s happened to their poo.

JOHN: Up the Ruhr?

KEITH: Enough, John.


As a sign of how things have changed, a 2017 report in the International Business Times revealed that inmates at Wayland Prison were now being allowed to use laptop computers to order meals from their cells and had been given in-cell telephones to keep in touch with relatives in the evenings. 

All the prison’s cells had telephones and the prison was “also planning the limited introduction of ‘video calling’ to friends and family later in the year.”

“However,” the report continued, “in common with most prisons, HMP Wayland continues to battle a tide of contraband flooding into into the jail… So far, in the first six months of this year, the jail’s seized haul includes over a kilo of drugs, 177 mobile phones and almost 500 litres of alcohol, most of which was illicitly brewed inside the premises.”

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Anarchy in the UK’s National Health Service during the Covid 19 pandemic…

(Photograph: Jr Korpa via UnSplash)

Occasionally I start a blog with a variation on: 

What’s the point in  having a blog if you can’t be self-obsessed?

This is one of those blogs. But we don’t get to that bit until towards the end.

At the time of writing, England is almost out of Covid Lockdown. 

On June 21st, all restrictions may (or may not) be lifted. The chaos caused has been, of course, even worse in large bureaucracies like the NHS.

This morning I got an email from someone I know. 

“If you think you are having a rough time with the NHS,” it said, “below is a cut ‘n’ paste of an email from my son about his wife, Sue.”

I have changed the names to protect their privacy. The email he attached read:


Dear Dad,

Hope you are doing OK.

All OK here – except that Sue had an interesting unexpected phone call last week. The number was not recognised, but she answered because it was a local number. 

The person introduced himself as her consultant and said it was urgent that he speak to Sue Simpson. 

Sue said she was speaking, then the consultant asked her why she had not attended any of her appointments over the last 18 months, at which point Sue pointed out that they had cancelled her three booked appointments and she had not received any more. 

Last January Sue had some scans – CT scan, X-ray, cat scan and bone density scan because the year before she broke three vertebrae in the accident, as you know.

She never got the results due to cancellations as a certain pandemic hit. 

We wondered why the results were not passed on to her GP but the consultant said they were too important to give to the GP and had to be dealt with by themselves… But they were obviously not important enough to keep the three appointments!!!!.

 Anyway, the consultant asked if Sue was sitting down, so Sue said she could cope standing up. The doc then said that Sue should start three new medications immediately as she has been diagnosed with osteoporosis and he was sorry but this diagnosis was made after his scans nearly 18 months ago. 

It means she has missed out on 18 months of meds and it could cause permanent damage to her spine and other bones. Basically, he said that if she has a severe jolt to her body there’s a possibility of her spine being crushed and possible loss of feeling. 

We have to take it one step at a time. But it does explain why she’s lost so much weight and her bones and muscles really play her up. 

Waiting 18 months for results has meant that she’s lost 18 months of medication and her health has got worse.


That was the email which was forwarded to me. 

If you remember, there was a reference to “If you think you are having a rough time with the NHS,…”

The rest of this blog is really an aide-memoire to myself.

Feel free to abandon ship.

I have been not 100% since I was hospitalised for a week last May with a high calcium level and dangerously low kidney function. I am still an outpatient with The Kidney Man at my local hospital. They only realised I had dangerous calcium/kidney problems by taking blood tests; all other tests showed no problem.

I am booked-in to see him again, in-the-flesh, on 14th June which is reassuring because I have not had a blood test since 19th October last year.

I was also supposed to have a telephone appointment with ‘the Respiratory Team’ at my local hospital last month – on 11th May. The appointment had been made by my Calcium Man way back on 30th November last year so, on 10th May, the day before the appointment, I thought it wise to check if it really was going to be in the flesh or by phone. In fact, the Calcium Man had asked for a Respiratory Team appointment on 27th November and it had taken to 2nd January to actually confirm an 11th May appointment in writing.

When I phoned, I was told the appointment had been cancelled altogether back on 21st February because there would be no doctor available on 11th May. I had never been notified of this cancellation. But I was told would not have to make another appointment as it was now “in the system”.

Obviously, the next day, I checked with the secretary to my Calcium Man’s secretary, who said she would sort it out.

So, on 20th May, I got two letters, both dated 18th May.

One told me my 11th May appointment had been cancelled and I had a new appointment on 14th September. The other told me my 14th September appointment had been cancelled and replaced by a 9th August appointment. Both letters, as I said, were dated 18th May. Both arrived in the same post.

Now we reach the even-more self-obsessed bit.

I have had vertigo since January. Its seriousness comes and goes. When it is not serious, I just feel light-headed and not 100% in control of my balance. 

Yesterday morning, just after midnight, for about an hour, without any warning, I had very very very bad vertigo… then with added bad diarrhoea, then with added vomiting.

After that, I managed to sleep for four hours, which was quite an achievement as, since coming out of hospital last May, I have not had a single full night’s sleep – I wake up at least once ever hour, very dehydrated.

Yesterday, when I did wake up – at around 0530, I was a bit better though, if I stood up, I was still dizzy and wobbly.

Mid-morning, a text arrived from the Kidney Team at my local hospital. My appointment with the Kidney Man on 14th June has been changed – “due to COVID19” – from a face-to-face meeting to a telephone call. “We will phone you in due course” it said.

This was – erm… – somewhat disappointing as it means no blood tests.

The Kidney Man had said when I talked to him by phone on 15th February that I would be contacted about a further blood test by one of two local hospitals, but I never was. That’s large bureaucracies for you.

Anyway, yesterday I was told my next ‘meeting’ with the Kidney Man would be by phone… so no blood test there.

That was yesterday morning.

Then, just after midday, the SEVERE vertigo came back, including my bedroom walls whizzing round, it appeared, both from right to left AND from left to right. Who knew this was possible? That only lasted for about half an hour and the rest of the day was just a bit wobbly inside my head.

This morning I feel a bit light-headed.

To be continued, I feel…

Though who knows when?

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Godzilla vs Kong: People are voyeurs – interested in re-action not just in action.

When I was at college, I read some research about movie violence.

By studying viewers’ eyes when watching violence on screen, they found that people do not watch the action, they watch the re-action.

So, when one man punches another in the stomach, the viewer does not look at the fist hitting the stomach, he (or she) looks at the face of the man being hit. 

When one man shoots another and a special effects blood capsule is exploded to spectacularly simulate the bullet hitting the body, they do not look at the spurting blood, they look at the face of the person being shot.

Human beings do not watch the action, they watch the re-action.

People are interested in people, not things.

This was brought to mind again when I saw the movie Godzilla vs Kong last night.

I can see why it made a fortune in China – the casting and plot are aimed to attract a Chinese audience. But… But…

Well, OK, it is a wonderful piece of film-making. The Special Effects should possibly be nominated for an Oscar and the Editing certainly should. Technically it is wonderful; but I was totally uninvolved. It was like watching a complex machine that had a lot of moving parts doing lots of complicated things. It was endless action (1 hour 53 mins) with almost no emotional involvement. It was about things happening, not about people experiencing things. It’s a nice distinction but I think it’s an important distinction. Movies at their best are about emotional voyeurism. 

Oddly, Godzilla vs Kong seemed, to me, a bit similar to another film I saw last week – Peter Rabbit 2. Which was not helped by the fact they seemed to attempt to graft a Guy Ritchie plot into a cute children’s situation.

Lots of things happening but emotionally uninvolving.

I have advised I think four people about writing their autobiographies and, each time, I have told them not to make the mistake of listing everything that has happened in their lives.

There is a limit to the amount of space they have. If they just list what happened in their lives, no matter how action-packed, it gets to be uninteresting.

People – ordinary readers/viewers – are interested in people not facts. They read autobiographies – and see movies – to get vicariously and voyeuristically involved in events which they have either experienced themselves or in events they could never themselves experience. In both cases, they want to identify with what the central character or central characters experienced.

With autobiographies, no ordinary reader is interested in ploughing through a long superficial list of brief ‘things that happened’. It is much better to find one event that epitomises what the central character was going through at a particular time… then expand on that event – make it more not less detailed; more vivid, more relatable.

With movies, 1 hour and 53 minutes of constant fast-cut action palls after a while. Godzilla vs Kong has no real central character (not even Kong). It is about things happening, not people.

And it also seems to be at least two – possibly three – different film plots sticky-taped together to appeal to too many disparate groups. The script was reportedly cobbled together by a writers’ room of at least eight people, with three credited for the story and two for the screenplay.

More is not necessarily always better.

Variety‘s review coined a good phrase for what I experienced last night – “actively bored”.

But what do I know? At the time of writing this blog, the movie has made around $436 million at the theatrical box office on a relatively low production budget of $160 million plus a low $70 million promotional budget (Forbes‘ estimates) and the YouTube trailer has gathered over 93 million hits.

Variety reported that break-even would be $330 million, so expect a sequel…

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The four elderly women who robbed three banks… trying to get arrested…

(Photo by Maxim Hopman via Unsplash)

I received an email today from Malcolm Hardee Award designer John Ward. He said: “My friend Alan sent me this. He’s not sure if it’s fiction or fact…”


There were these four women who, although retired after long successful careers, found themselves living in less than acceptable flats and having little or no money to enjoy life with. 

Then one day, after reading the daily paper, one of them suggested that they needn’t continue to live hand to mouth and why not rob a bank. Then they would get caught and spend the rest of their lives in comfort, where everything was there for them.  

At first they thought it was a joke but then, after a while, they thought: Why not?

Because they all had specialist knowledge – in planning, research and stage make-up – they planned to rob a large bank in a month’s time.  

The day came and they were all disguised and had managed to get some guns (not real ones) and did the deed.  

However, they got away with a huge amount of money and did not get caught.  

They were not sure what to do next, then decided to go for it again and robbed another bank, again collecting a huge amount of money. 

The police could not find this gang who ‘dressed as and pretended to be old ladies’ (!) and put more resources into finding this ‘smart’ gang of clever thieves.  

The ladies robbed one last bank and had enough to live comfortably for the rest of their lives. 

They were never caught and the story only came out when the last lady alive was able to write it all down and have the book published after her death.


Presumably this story is untrue because – apart from anything else – there would have been some publicity about a non-fiction book with that story.

But there is (I think) an urge to WANT to believe it’s true.

And I am not quite sure why.

We are talking three bank robberies, presumably terrifying bank employees.

Why the need to WANT to believe it? The psychology of the reader is far more interesting than the psychology of the supposed robbers. 

Or is it just me?

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Good Godley! – It’s the seemingly irresistible rise and rise of Janey Godley

The indomitable, unstoppable Janey Godley

Some people are just unstoppable.

Janey Godley’s autobiography Handstands in the Dark (a bestseller in 2005 and 2006) is published for the first time as an audio book today and she appears yet again as a panellist on BBC1’s Have I Got News For You tomorrow night.

Penguin Books recently reprinted Handstands in the Dark with a new cover and new introduction. Frank Get the Door!, a book transcribing some of her viral video voiceovers, made the Sunday Times bestseller list last year. Her first novel is coming out next year. The Last Mermaid, a 2019 short film she co-wrote and starred in, won a couple of awards at Berlin and in Scotland; and she starred in a series of lockdown monologues for the National Theatre of Scotland.

In other words, she is on a roll.

Handstands in the Dark – Janey’s bestselling autobiography – still selling well after 16 years

Her nationwide UK comedy tour, which was interrupted by the Covid pandemic last year, re-starts this autumn. Her political voice-over videos have made her a worldwide viral YouTube hit complemented by animal voice-over videos and more family-friendly videos featuring her dog Honey.

Over the last few years, she has also built-up a massive following for her weekly podcasts, online pandemic chats with her daughter Ashley Storrie, random appearances on UK radio and TV, a weekly column in The Herald newspaper (she used to have a weekly column in The Scotsman) and what seem like daily news items in Scotland’s Daily Record about her Tweets.

Ashley has appeared in various BBC TV comedy series, has her own weekly BBC Scotland radio show and today BBC iPlayer (UK only) has posted online the new BBC3 comedy drama pilot Dinosaur in which she has the lead part as an undiagnosed autistic woman. It will be screened on BBC1 on 7th June and was made by Two Brothers Pictures, producers of Fleabag.

BBC TV have also just announced a new documentary series next year: Ashley & Janey Get a Real Job following the duo round the country doing things like working on a fishing boat (!)

So, obviously, I had to have a chat with Janey.

But what I was really interested in was the extraordinary range of her online commercial merchandise – everything from the normal and to-be-expected mugs and T-shirts to – extraordinarily – greetings cards, her artwork and bottles of Janey’s own Frank Get The Door! and Aw The Sandras branded gin at £32 a bottle…


JANEY: I’m sooooo fucking tired, John!

JOHN: I’m not surprised. You’ve been running round like a blue-arsed fly.

JANEY: I think it’s just… Well, I got shingles, which I’ve never had. 

JOHN: Jesus! That’s really painful.

JANEY: It really wasn’t that bad. I kept on thinking: Have I got sunburn? Then I got these sharp pains and a rash. It went away pretty fast; it wasn’t that bad. But then I got this dizzy thing.

JOHN: Vertigo?

JANEY: It was connected to the shingles and it started the morning I was filming with Joanna Lumley. I woke up, the whole world went sideways and I thought I was having a stroke. And we were filming on an old, bumpy bus.

JOHN: Your merchandise is everything from pens and mugs, T-shirts and face masks to bottles of gin. So how did that start? You were maybe a third of the way through a national UK tour, Covid hit and you had no live comedy income at all…

JANEY: And then Frank Get The Door! (the catchphrase from her viral Nicola Sturgeon voice-over videos) became really famous so we decided to make Frank Get The Door! T-shirts. My husband Sean got on LinkedIn and somebody recommended this guy lan Adie of Promotional Warehouse in Glasgow… I called him and he said: “You came to the right place at last, because I don’t need a deposit off you. We’ll make it and we’ll share it.”

The very first wave was T-shirts, clicky pens and cups. 

I told him: “It’s not going to do very much but, even if it does, I’m going to donate 100% of my profit to the STV Children’s Appeal.”

He said: “That’s weird, but OK.”

So they went on sale that first weekend, back in June/July last year… and he phoned me on the Monday and said: “Oh my God! We have sold 7,000 units!”

The first wave brought in £25,000 for the STV Children’s Appeal, which I don’t regret. I’m still happy that happened, despite HMRC (the UK government’s tax authority)… We had to pay tax on it… If you’re selling goods for a charity – not donations but selling goods for a charity – you still have to pay VAT because it’s sale through goods. Because people could say they have passed it on to charity but not done it.

JOHN: Even if you get a receipt from the charity?

JANEY: It doesn’t matter. What happens is £25,000 goes into my bank account. But I can’t just give that £25,000 to STV and say to HMRC: “Oh, I gave it all away to charity.” I have to pay VAT on the income, because they don’t see it as charity money; they see it as you making £25,000. I still have to pay VAT on it. So about £4,000 or £5,000 went to HMRC.

JOHN: And are you still donating your profit on those items to STV?

JANEY: No. The STV Children’s Appeal stopped. But now 100% of my profit on my Emotional Lifejacket merchandise goes to the Scottish Carers’ Trust. I don’t get a penny of that myself. If you buy anything from my website that’s got Emotional Lifejacket on it, 100% of my profit goes to the Carers’ Trust. We also did a 12-hour telethon for the Carers’ Trust and so far, all-in-all, we have raised about £50,000 for charity during lockdown.

JOHN: You branched into other merchandise…

JANEY: Well Ian Adie and I just clicked. He said: “We’ll do gin; we’ll do candles”… Then my daughter Ashley came up with this beautiful range – Neural Funky – because she was diagnosed with autism during lockdown… which was quite hard for her because we had always just thought that she was (LAUGHS) a bit weird… But, y’know…

JOHN: So now you have Janey Godley merchandise, Ashley Storrie merchandise and even Honey your dachshund has merchandise.

JANEY: Yes, Honey is now an earner. She cost us £8,000 when she nearly died the year before last, so…

JOHN: You’re on a roll. You survived having zero live comedy income for the last year and…

JANEY: My agent is very good. Every single day now we have to have a morning meeting where we go through the various offers that have come through. This morning (NAME BRAND) wanted me to do an advert for (A NOT INCONSIDERABLE SUM) and he said: “No, it’s not enough.”

I go back on tour in the Autumn, have one day off and then go straight into rehearsals for (A NOT-YET ANNOUNCED PROJECT).

JOHN: Penguin have just re-issued your 2005 autobiography Handstands in the Dark with a new cover, you have the new audiobook of Handstands in the Dark out now and your first novel is published by Hodder & Stoughton next year. Penguin must have suddenly realised how good you are if they’re bringing out an audio book after all this time.

The new unabridged audio version now on sale, read by Janey

JANEY: No! The audio book is published by Hodder & Stoughton. Penguin didn’t want to do the audio version, so Hodder said We want to do it! and bought the audio rights from Penguin.

JOHN: Penguin are mad. You are on a roll not just in the UK but in the US because of your Trump sign.

JANEY: And Hodder want me to write another book.

JOHN: Fiction or non-fiction?

JANEY: Fiction.

JOHN: You should do a sequel to your Handstands in the Dark autobiography. It ends on a cliffhanger. You could go from the end of the first book to some new climactic point – the Trump Is a Cunt sign maybe.

Janey’s iconic comment went viral and is now available as a greetings card from her online shop.

JANEY: I don’t think I want to, John.

ASHLEY (IN THE BACKGROUND, FROM THE KITCHEN): Mum! We keep getting people saying: When’s the next book in that series coming out!

JANEY: (BIG THEATRICAL SIGH)

ASHLEY: You have the distinct privilege that you can talk about the changing fucking dynamics of women in stand-up comedy from the 1990s to now. You have the excessive privilege that you can explain that to people who don’t understand it. You can explain what the fuck you had to go through so they can now get upset about an ‘inappropriate’ man brushing their arse!

(PAUSE)

JOHN: Anyway… The novel you’ve written which is coming out next year – Was it easy to write?

JANEY: It was so hard to write it in lockdown. For one thing I had just had shingles. Plus my confidence was shot-to-fuck and I was really, really busy doing all the other stuff. I couldn’t focus on being creative because I kept on panicking that We’re all gonna die! So I was writing bits but kept on fixing bits and kept on fixing bits and…

Then Ashley and I were stood in the kitchen one night and she said to me: “Just fucking write it! If it’s shite, just write all the shite out of your system. It’s a vomit draft. Get it all out!” So I did.

Janey Godley and Ashley Storrie – the dynamic duo of Scottish comedy (Photo: Andrew Laing)

I sent the ‘vomit draft’ off to Hodder and they got back to me after a week and said it was one of the best first drafts they’d ever had. They said it was publishable as it was, but the editing process since then has been really good.

Epilepsy Scotland gave me their offices to write it in and I got a researcher, Caitlin, who was fucking great.

Another Janey Sunday Times bestseller

JOHN: And, in the meantime, you published Frank Get The Door!

JANEY: I didn’t think it would sell but, fuck, did it sell! It was in the Sunday Times bestseller list. 

JOHN: Your videos go viral, so presumably there are sales of Frank Get The Door! worldwide because you are now known worldwide.

JANEY: And I’m about to write a Honey book – a family-friendly book.

JOHN: You will make Honey immortal.

JANEY: (LAUGHS) How are you now, John?

JOHN: Same as before.

JANEY: Can I be the headline act at your funeral when you die?

JOHN: Sure.

ASHLEY (FROM THE KITCHEN): Would you not rather have me? I’ve got TV credits. I’m just saying I’m in three upcoming television series.

JANEY: Yeah. You might be better with her headlining your funeral.

JOHN: How about you both as joint headliners?

ASHLEY: I don’t share my billing, but thankyou for the offer.

JANEY & ASHLEY: (LAUGHTER)


Janey’s main website is at http://www.janeygodley.com

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Mad inventor has knee replacement surgery in the age of Covid… or not

Mad inventor and Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award designer John Ward had a hip replacement in 1998, a knee replacement in 2002 and his other hip was replaced in 2007.

Guess what. 

He now needs his second knee replaced.

John appears to be re-constructing himself but remains unreconstructed.

“When my first hip was replaced,” he told me, “I encountered a Chinese doctor in the early assessment stages and it seems somebody at my local clinic, who ‘knew’ me, had put a note on my folder that I had appeared on ITV’s Game For a Laugh a few years before and so, when the doctor spotted this, he suddenly shouted out: ‘Haaaa! – You breen on Game for a Raft!!!!!!!!’…

“This was the nautical version, I am given to believe.”

John was supposed to have his new knee replacement two Tuesdays ago (12th May). But it never happened.

This is what he told me in emails:


TUESDAY 11th May – 1316 hrs

I went for me tests last week, had a chat with the nurse and the physio at Grantham Hospital and had ‘final’ swab tests this past Sunday morning (9th May) at Boston’s Pilgrim Hospital and then, if the tests are all OK, the operation is tomorrow (12th May), reporting for duty at 7.00am.

From what I can gather, the op will be in the afternoon or thereabouts, possibly late morning as it’s a sort of ‘conveyor belt’ routine by the sounds of it. ‘In theory’, I should be back in the ward late afternoon to early evening.

From conversations with the nurse and the physio, I will stay in hospital for a couple of days ‘in theory’ then, unless ‘anything’ happens (infections etc). I should be out possibly Friday or Saturday – with Sunday at the latest – but we shall see!


TUESDAY 11th May – later that same day – 1814 hrs

The op is not going to happen tomorrow, as I have just had a call from the hospital to say the surgeon has been called to deal with a ‘high trauma’ case. I got the impression it’s a road traffic accident.

So now the op is going to happen – all being well – this coming Sunday, 16th May.

…unless, of course, another nut-job gets into a traffic accident…

Yours, a slightly pissed-off patient.


SUNDAY 16th May 

Panic over, as I am back home 😦 

I was in the ward, just getting ready to go on the trolley down to the operating theatre, when they noticed a small cut/wound on my leg – This reads as ‘an infection’ in their book so they cancelled the op…

I will go back (hopefully…) in the next 3-4 weeks for the op as the cut/wound will be healed up by then.

I must admit it’s not much of a cut/wound but, with this bloody coronavirus, they are not taking ANY chances.

Going back to bed now as I have been up since half four this morning and it’s been a bit stressful, moreso the waiting for a lift back.

They did get a  taxi for me, so full marks there.


MONDAY 17th May

The small wound/cut happened when I was out shopping… Some dozy arsehole banged me leg with a shopping trolley outside Sainsbury’s.

Had my op gone to plan last Wednesday (12th May), I would not have suffered this ‘injury’ although who will play me when they do the film I can’t even think about at this moment in time.

Yesterday, the surgeon was sympathetic. He explained he would not operate as the risk was too high, more so with the virus adding into it all. He seemed more upset then me to be honest.

He said I was not the first or the last and this does happen quite often. 

This didn’t really fill me with joy.

He asked if I had suffered other, similar events. I told him no, not that I could recall. But my biggest failure – or regret – was  not ‘coming out’ as a lesbian years ago as I missed out on having my own series on Channel 4 and my own range of cosmetics.

Judging by his response I think I have a new fan.


I asked John if he was a good patient.

“Interestingly,” he told me, “I seem to be on ‘first name’ terms with all the surgeons/consultants I have encountered so far, while fellow patients address them as Mister.”

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An Italian archaeologist, a Soviet agent and the weird perils of auto-translate

In March 2017, I posted a blog headed: The death of an Italian archaeologist who knew so many 20th century secrets.

This morning, a Comment was left on that blog. I reprint it here without comment by me and without anything cut out, though with some additional paragraphing to make it easier to read…


Much has been said about Maurizio Tosi. Little that Maurizio Tosi as well as a cultured archaeologist among the five best known in the world was a technician rich in intuition. Furthermore, he was extremely astute and had a network of distributed intelligence informants who only did the story good. Marlene Dietrich and prof. Franco Malosso von Rosenfranz, had been equally educated in history as in music by dr. Bechstein Giuseppe Becce.The Vicentine composer of German Cinema had been a pupil of Ferdinand von Richthofen, thus quickly maturing on the story of Monika, the daughter of Hans Ertl, inventor and fellow cameraman of Becce, as well as avenger of the murder of Che Guevara, who later fell very young in an ambush of the spies of Klaus Barbie. In the GDR first, in South America and RFT later, both Prof. Franco von Rosenfranz who is prof. Maurizio Tosi, came from very similar experiences even though they were aware that one and the other could be mutually respectful rivals. Also very different in specialness.

Later, however, they discover themselves linked by the same affinities. Tosi had survived unscathed more than a few traps. Equally Franco Malosso. Between 1992 and 2002 Tosi began to secretly take an interest in the events of his land (Verona). More precisely to the true story of Romeo and Juliet by Luigi Da Porto originated in the district of Arcugnano. In 1307 Tosi ascertained that the thirteen-year-old girl had then migrated to Verona from the Emilei. The story was brought forward and magically made famous all over the world thanks to an Englishman of Sicilian origin who had previously escaped from prison, John Florio (Shakespeare) from Messina because he was a heretic. A legacy told of 2 lovers who tell of a swim they started from the basin of the amphitheater to the beach of “Monticello delle Capra”, the hill on which, 200 years later, the architect Palladio built the villa “La Rotonda” in the style of a Pagan temple dedicated to the God Janus. Its terraces had recently been cleaned up after a reclamation.

The research started by the Vicenza academic prof. Renato Cevese continued to be studied in depth by Prof. Tosi. However, they remained interrupted under threat and a staff member was reprimanded after a brief kidnapping of him. The cause of everything were illegal constructions built near the top of the Amphitheater. It was here that the money paid for the institutional massacre of the Italian judge Paolo Borsellino was invested. Between 1997 and 2002 when the bulldozers destroyed the remains of a centuries-old underground canalization. these works became a beast for the amphitheater. However, in order not to jeopardize operations of undercover agents, the protests for those works were abruptly stopped. Later they were definitively accepted so that the situation normalized. In 2014, with greater impetus, new works resumed thanks also to the funding of local sponsors. The terraces of the theater were repaired and new blocks were replaced with those looted in 2002 (they had been used to form a retaining wall to hold back the washout of the hill excavated to house the foundations of the illegal villas).

The professor was murdered for refusing to ask the sponsors of the amphitheater for the sum of 5 million euros demanded by the hidden Italian institutional mafia. The elimination of him had become a priority for the leaders of the Mafia Dome since the Tosi in retaliation to the request of the 5 million euros, had begun to investigate the realization of the Borgo Berga Court. On the court together with the DESPAR Logistics area owned by the massacre Matteo Messina Denaro, the journalist Marco Milioni argued that there was a Mafia investigation (Ndrangheda). National Liberation Front of the Veneto and then recklessly asked for the demolition of the new illegal court that invaded the view of the “Rotonda”. Tosi also feared the exit of Vicenza from UNESCO.

This concept was best expressed by him through public conferences. At that point, an ecologist informing the staff warned that Tosi would soon be murdered by a member of the criminal gang of kidnappers of the Magliana (a criminal structure used by the Italian government for kidnapping for the purpose of etortion and murder). Shortly afterwards, to avoid inconvenient witnesses, the ecologist who had informed the professor was also shot and killed. A Mossad agent who had mediated for a settlement solution in this institutional extortion also disappeared. Tosi’s death was an immense loss for the international community. In depth and execution, it is comparable to that of the Italian political statesman Aldo Moro, killed by his party comrades. This type of executions are part of those among the most ferocious and shameless extreme criminal operations organized by politics within the Italian government passed under control with the USA after 10 July 1943. Operations in reality never advocated by the massacre of the entire American community.

Before and after these events there were at least 9 murders linked to the attempt by mafias to take over the amphitheater. The Conservator of the English landscape in the Amphitheater was also the victim of as many attacks: Franco von Rosenfranz who, however, although seriously injured, escaped death. The most serious intimidation attack occurred during a show trial against him to cover up the extortion. During the battle spent in defense of the surrounding Amphitheater, his 3-year-old son disappeared. Inside the amphitheater, on the anniversary of the death of prof. Maurizio Tosi, without fuss as for his desire, a bust dedicated to him was inaugurated in memory of his tireless work that the eminent scholar courageously brought forward to the extreme sacrifice. Maurizio Tosi was a victim of the Mafia. . On social media, young Italians who were functional supporters of the mafia extortion defamed him, mocking him. Also in the media cavea of ​​the Amphitheater, near the sculpture carved in the rock depicting the ancient winged canine deity (Winged Lion of the ancient Veneti) Veneti friends have dedicated a stele to him.

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Comic Malcolm Hardee stole Freddie Mercury’s birthday cake. His version 2

On 5th August 1996 (timed to coincide with that year’s Edinburgh Fringe) Fourth Estate published I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake, the autobiography of comedian, club-owner and anarchic bon viveur Malcolm Hardee.

Malcolm: never one to under-anecdote

In it, among many other scarcely credible (but actually true) tales, he tells of the time he did, indeed, steal Freddie Mercury’s birthday cake.

Never one to under-anecdote, in 1995 Malcolm also told the same story in Funny Talk, an anthology of new writing (edited by Jim Driver) about and around the world of comedy and showbiz.

Other contributors included Max Bygraves, Jeremy Hardy, Hattie Hayridge, John Hegley, Ralph McTell, Michael Palin, Jon Ronson and Mark Steel.

Here, courtesy of Jim Driver, is Malcolm’s contribution…


MALCOLM HARDEE ATTENDS
FREDDIE MERCURY’S BIRTHDAY PARTY

7th October 1986, 10.30am

The phone rings.

I pick it up and answer with the usual “Oy! Oy!”

“Hello, it’s Louis here.” An agent. “Are The Greatest Show on Legs still working?”

“Yup.”

“How do you fancy doing a show for Freddie Mercury’s fortieth birthday?”

“How much? How long? Where?”

“£600.Three-and-a-half minutes’ Balloon Dance, Club Xenon, Piccadilly.”

“Okay. When?”

“Tomorrow night.”

So, we’re booked to perform our infamous Balloon Dance for the lead singer of Queen’s fortieth. (This is a routine I do with two other guys, consisting of us dancing stark naked – apart from strategically-placed balloons – to the tune of Tea For Two (cha cha cha!) I ring the other two and they are as keen as mustard. Big Freddie Mercury fans both and, after all, a hundred quid is a hundred quid!


8th October 1986, 8.00pm

We arrive at Club Xenon, 171 Piccadilly, and are ushered to the ‘dressing room’ which in reality is a cupboard behind the stage. There is, however, a small window in the door through which we can peer out across the stage at the celebrity party-goers. The Management inform us that we must remain in the cupboard until we have finished our set. There are four or five other acts, including a Russian acrobat and a midget.

The show begins. Freddie’s in, so’s Elton John, Princess Margaret and Rod Stewart. The party-goers ignore the first three acts, but the Russian acrobat goes down well. It’s the midget’s turn next. We’d been holding him up to the window to see what’s going on and, fuelled by our recently-acquired camaraderie, we watch while he goes through his midget routine.

Freddie’s Management – six blokes in funny suits and ties – come in to the cupboard and inform us that we can’t go on. I’m naked and ready to go. Quite reasonably, I ask why. The Management tell us that our act might be considered ‘gay’. The press are in and Freddie doesn’t want to be considered ‘gay’.

Obviously disappointed, I try to reason with them by pointing out that (1) it’s obvious to anyone that Freddie Mercury is gay, (2) the band’s name is Queen for fuck’s sake and (3) what’s the big deal anyway? I peer through the window and notice Freddie with his tongue down Elton’s throat. The Management will have none of it and insist on paying me off in full. I would have put the £600 into my pocket but, as I was only wearing a sock at the time…

I’m disappointed and disillusioned but, what the hell, there’s a party to go to. I ask the Management if we can get dressed and join in. “After he’s cut the cake,” they reply. Off they go, locking the door behind them. We then suffer the indignity of peering through a 10” x 8” window, waiting for the cake to arrive.

After about 15 minutes, it appears. It’s huge: a great pink cake in the shape of a Rolls-Royce, complete with the number plates FM1. Three burly carriers lay it on three tables for Freddie to cut. He stands behind the cake, the paparazzi stand in front. Freddie grasps a 12” knife in both hands and poses for pictures. He stabs the cake and strides off. The dressing-room door is finally unlocked and I ask the Management if we could please come out and join the party. One of them points and says we can go into ‘that bit’ (the room in front of the stage), but not into ‘that bit’ (an ante room containing Freddie, Rod, Princess, Elton etc). We go into ‘that bit’ (in front of the stage).

‘Our bit’ is full of liggers and hangers-on paying £5 for pints of piss water, in the vain hope of meeting somebody famous. By now I am doubly disappointed. Not only have we not been allowed to perform, but we’re not even allowed to meet anyone we were supposed to perform in front of. By this time it’s 2.00am and I suggest to the others that we fuck off home, especially as I’ve got to get up early with the kids. We head for a side door.

In the corridor by the exit – untouched except for a single stab wound – is Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake. I look at my companions, they look at me and I utter the words I know they want to hear:

“We’ll have that,” I say.

You would never think a cake could weigh so much. We certainly don’t, until we drag it out of the door and to our Ford Transit, (which, as luck would have it) is parked a mere 20 yards away. We open the back and in it goes… well, not quite. There are still three or four feet sticking out the back. And so we drive the eight miles back to my house in south-east London with the back end of Freddie Mercury’s pink Roller sticking out of the back of our battered Transit.

We arrive back at my place only to discover that we can’t get the thing up the stairs. Martin – the sensible Balloon Dancer – suggests we take it to his house, seeing as how he lives on the ground floor. By this time it is 3.00am, but we think, “Fuck it, it’s got to be done.”

We get to Martin’s place and try to take the cake in. Slight mishap: it won’t fit throught his door. By this time, we’re getting good at solving cake conundrums. No problem, we take out the window.

Mission accomplished. We clear the only two tables in the house and there it lies, in pride of place. Drive home. It’s 4.30am.


9th October 1986, 9.30am

The phone rings.

I pick it up and answer with an only slightly subdued “Oy! Oy!”

“It’s Louis…” The agent. “You bastards! You’ve stolen Freddie Mercury’s birthday cake!”

Me (quick as a flash): “No we haven’t. It must have been some teenagers we saw when we were leaving.”

Louis: “Well, the Management have called in the police. That cake cost £4,000.” Click.

I can admit to being slightly worried. A past indiscretion (theft of Cabinet Minister Peter Walker’s Rolls-Royce, fraud, burglary, etc) meant that I spent much of the 1970s in prison.

I ring Martin: “Mart, they’re on to us. I’m coming round.”

I go round.

Martin has a bright idea. “We can’t eat it – it’s too big – let’s give it to an old people’s home. Old folks like cake.”

Brilliant. We phone the local old people’s home which snaps up the offer of free cake for the foreseeable future.

Window frame out. Cake back in Transit.

As we drive away from Martin’s house, I notice a police car coming from the opposite direction. They stop at Martin’s, but luckily don’t think to look in their rear-view mirror. If they had, they would have seen three feet of cake sticking out of the back of our van.

We deliver the cake to the Reynard Memorial Nursing Home. Breathe a sigh of relief and drive home.


9th October, 1986 – 4.30pm

Asleep. The doorbell rings.

Answer door.

Two detectives from West End Central Police Station are standing on my doorstep.

Detective Number 1: “You’ve stolen Freddie Mercury’s birthday cake.”

Me: “No I haven’t.”

Detective Number 2: “Oh yes you have.”

Me: “This is a pantomime.”

Detective Number 1: “Oh no it’s not.”

Me: “Behind you.”

They barge in, produce a search warrant and – believe it or not – two magnifying glasses with which they search for cake crumbs. Needless to say they don’t find any and they leave, vowing to return.

That was almost ten years ago and I’ve not heard a thing since.

Hang on, is that the door?


Inspirational in all the wrong ways…

Malcolm’s extensive and outrageous autobiography, titled I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake, is now out of print but is available on Amazon and elsewhere.

On amazon.co.uk it currently has a completely incorrect synopsis – the result of some uncorrected cock-up in the Amazon system. It’s been like that for at least five years, but Malcolm would probably have enjoyed the anarchy. 

The synopsis currently starts: “For successful classroom teaching, your students need to be engaged and active learners. In this book, there is practical advice that is grounded in the realities of teaching in today’s classrooms on how to be an inspirational teacher and produce highly motivated students…”

Malcolm’s autobiography is indeed inspirational, but in all the wrong ways…

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You will not be paid for what you write “of course”… a not abnormal phone call

Mad inventor and Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award designer John Ward has a varied life. For the last six years, as well as all his other surreal duties, he has written a weekly Ward’s World column of around 1,200 words for the Spalding Guardian newspaper.

John Ward toiling over his weekly Ward’s World column for the Spalding Guardian…

Last week, his column was about telephone scammers.

Today, I got an email from John about reaction to that column:


Following on from my Ward’s World column last week about scammers ringing to tell people that their internet will be closed in 24 hours unless… blah… blah… “but give me your card details and I can sort it” tosh… I have heard of two ‘near misses’ and one who sadly fell for it – all being elderly, which comes as no surprise I suppose.

But the best reaction so far is…

My phone rings on Monday morning…

I am speaking to Andrew, who informs me he represents something called the Lincolnshire Rural Crime Prevention and Awareness Forum. He said he had read my piece online and was quite impressed with it.

He pointed out that the ‘Forum’ bit in the long convoluted title might be changed to ‘Panel’ (as in wooden maybe?) as this was to be brought up in their next meeting of minds.

However, while he thought my column was written ‘tongue in cheek’ (I begged to differ on that), he also thought it would be ideal – subject to my agreement – to reproduce in a new free quarterly county magazine that is in the throes of being put together before being sent to print.

So far so good.

However, the more we chatted, the more it seemed that he would not be ‘terribly’ happy to include the segment mentioning Argos, as this was ‘advertising’ plus, due to the length, it would have to be cut down “of course”.

I pointed out that the Spalding Guardian didn’t have any problems with printing it.

Plus, Andrew said, they could not pay me “of course” as I would be “donating it” for their use “of course”.

I asked him in return if he knew the date when slave labour was abolished or are they still pursuing this line of employment?

The term “of course” was beginning to grate a bit by now I must confess. But, if nothing else, I feel sure, if he gives up what he is doing now, a career at the BBC awaits him… based on some of the ordeals I have suffered with assorted individuals employed there over many years.

By now I was wondering if he was going to ask me for my bank card details but the next bit was quite something.

Would I object to it appearing without my name?

I responded with “Why not go the whole hog and reproduce Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens but leave out the author’s name… You would be on safe ground there as he is now dead.”

Andrew’s pause was acceptable…

… before he asked: “Who is dead?”

After another of his acceptable pauses, he said he thought I was being flippant.

John often gets unusual telephone calls…

So I pointed out that, if I read it right, he/they wanted me to ‘donate’ my writing efforts, for him or A.N.Other to edit as they saw fit, leave out assorted ‘segments’ that didn’t pass their standards plus I was not even going to get a mention, credit-wise, as the original author!

I asked him how much he would like me to donate to their cause and I bade him farewell with an old Russian sounding greeting – with the second word being “off”…

Of course.

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