Arrest of the Kray Twins; Frank Bruno; and the winner of Britain’s Got Talent

Micky Fawcett in the May Fair Hotel yesterday

Micky Fawcett was in the May Fair Hotel, London, this month

A couple of days ago, I blogged about a chat I had with Mickey Fawcett, a close associate of iconic 1960s gangsters the Kray Twins.

“I dug out some statements the other day,” he told me.

‘The ones made when you were arrested with the Twins?” I asked.

“Yeah. There were loads of people arrested.”

“It was fraud you were acquitted of?”

“Yes. I wasn’t charged with anything else.”

“This is,” I checked, “when the Krays were arrested for the two murders?”

Krayzy Days by Micky Fawcett

Micky Fawcett’s book about The Firm

“The murders and everything,” said Micky. “The whole thing. I was the last one arrested because I kept out-of-the-way for a while. I had always given my mother’s address, so the police kept missing me. I had stopped speaking to the Twins at this point and was enemies with them and we were trying to kill each other.”

“As,” I said, “in the first sentence in your book.”

“Yes,” said Micky. His book Krayzy Days starts with the words:

We were going to kill Reggie Kray. I had a .38 revolver and we were waiting for him late one night outside John Bigg Point, a block of flats in Stratford, East London. Reggie and I had once been close and for years I knew the Kray twins as well as anyone. But now their world was in disarray. They were lost in their own celebrity; a fame which brought with it a circle of yes-men and hangers-on. Wannabe gangsters who fuelled brother Ronnie’s madness. Only a few of us who had been around for longer could see the twins were heading for disaster. If we didn’t do anything they would take us down with them.

Micky Fawcett (right) with Ronnie Kray (left) & boxer Sonny Liston,

(From left) Ronnie Kray, boxer Sonny Liston, Micky Fawcett (Photograph from Krayzy Days)

“You got off,” I said. “How?”

“I had a plan,” said Mickey.

“What was that?” I asked.

“People will have to read the book,” he laughed, “but it involved the Financial Times.”

“What was the fraud you were charged with?” I asked.

Long firm,” said Micky. “Poor old Stanley Crowther was running the long firm – a gay, alcoholic, ex-barrister.”

“I feel,” I said: “there is a sitcom in this.”

“What used to happen with Ronnie, though,” Micky continued, “was that he would spoil a long firm by jumping in halfway through. On one occasion, he said to me: Come on, Mick: a bird in the hand is worth four in the bush.

Larry Gains - British Empire (Commonwealth) heavyweight champion, Ronnie and Johnny Davies with the twins’ racehorse Solway Cross.

Twins’ racehorse Solway Cross with (L-R) British Empire heavyweight champion Larry Gains, Ronnie Kray and gunman Johnny Davies. (Photograph from Krayzy Days)

“Another day, he went in and said: I need £1,000 to buy a racehorse. And he bought one. The Twins really bought it for their mother.  But it was a ‘three-legged’ one. It never won anything. They auctioned it.

“One of the statements I read the other day was when the Twins got arrested. Nipper Read – Chief Superintendent Read, he was at the time – goes into the council flat the Twins are using in Bunhill Row and his statement reads: I said to Reginald Kray ‘You are under arrest’ and he said ‘Aaahhh! Mr Read, we’ve been expecting you. You’ll find it a bit more difficult this time, because we’ve got lots of friends now, you know’… The Twins got 30 years!”

“Nipper Read,” I said, “was an unusually straight copper, wasn’t he?”

“Yes,” Micky agreed. “Nipper Read was straight. But he weren’t straight with me.”

“When?” I asked.

“Just after the Twins had been arrested and I had been acquitted, I applied to the British Boxing Board of Control for a licence to train a boxer – which they gave me, after checking me out. Then, a couple of weeks later, they asked me to come back again and Nipper Read was there and James Morton, his mouthpiece.” (James Morton was then a lawyer, but later wrote books with Mad Frank Fraser and about gangland in general).

Micky Fawcett ‘gloving up’ Funs Banjo

Micky Fawcett ‘gloving up’ Funso Banjo for a boxing match

“They were part of the Board of Control,” Micky explained, “and they said: Your licence has been rescinded. You were granted one by the Southern Area Council but now the full Board has discussed it and you can’t have a licence. You knew the Kray Twins.

“I said: Well, a lot of people knew the Kray Twins. Everybody knew the Kray Twins.

Yeah, they said, but you knew them more than most. So they stopped me getting a licence, despite the fact I had been acquitted in court.”

“But,” I said, “You got a licence eventually.”

“Yeah, but it took years and not getting one ruined me, because I had a boxer and he didn’t want to be trained by someone who the Board of Control didn’t consider to be a fit person to have a licence – despite the fact I had been acquitted in court and I had stopped speaking to the Twins and we were trying to kill each other… Nipper Reid was a nasty little man. But it was deeper than that.”

“In what way?” I asked.

Micky Fawcett’s boxer Funs Banjo

Micky Fawcett’s boxer Funso Banjo (Photograph from Krayzy Days)

“What happened was Terry Lawless and Mickey Duff and Mike Barrett and Co had Frank Bruno. And I had a black heavyweight boxer called Funso Banjo – his real name was Babafunso Banjo. And they were afraid I would topple Bruno. They didn’t want anyone to spoil the Bruno patch and that is why they took my licence away. To make it really difficult for me. Funso Banjo ended up boxing Joe Frazier’s son.

“And Funso’s son Ashley Modurotolu Banjo won Britain’s Got Talent in 2009.”

“Doing what?” I asked.

“Dancing. He was a ballet dancer. He’s the leader of Diversity, the dance troupe. He’s performed at the London Palladium and been introduced to the Queen. Never been in any trouble. He’s done well.”

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One of those occasional death blogs

I always thought this photo of me was rather charming. Someone once said to me: “You weren’t a pretty baby, then.” (Photo near Davaar Island, Scotland)

I always thought this photo of me was rather cuddly – until someone I knew once said to me: “Oh – You weren’t a pretty baby, then.” (Photo taken near Davaar Island, Scotland)

I have a couple of blog chats recorded and ready to be transcribed. They should be interesting if quite-complicated-to-write. And they should be quite jolly.

But, instead, you are getting one of those occasional blogs about death.

Largely because it is quicker to write.

A friend of mine years ago told me she was afraid of dying, afraid of the prospect of non-existence.

I have never really had that problem.

I tried to kill myself when I was 18. It was not a cry for help. It was a genuine attempt. But I was always shit at chemistry. I mis-calculated. What can I say?

The trouble is you can’t sensibly kill yourself because it adversely affects other people. Even if it’s only the unknown-to-you person who has to scrape you up.

But I know what it is like to ‘know’ (wrongly) that I am going to die in ten minutes or three hours or 45 minutes or a couple of hours or two minutes time. Pretty soon, anyway.

And I know death can happen at any time without warning. When I got accidentally hit by an articulated lorry when I was standing on a pavement in 1991 – when I fell, I hit the back of my head against the right-angled edge of a low brick wall, cutting open my head and jarring my spine – I could easily have been killed or paralysed.

I remember reading that some bloke was mending his bicycle in his living room just before Christmas 1988 – well, actually, it was Wednesday 21st December 1988.

It was in the Scottish town of Lockerbie, a quiet backwater – I had been there sometimes with my parents when they visited friends there.

And a Pan Am jumbo jet fell on his street. Not my parents’ friends’ street. The bloke mending the bicycle. The piece I read said he ceased to exist: his body melted along with the bricks of the house. How they knew he was mending his bike in his living room I have no idea.

Anyway, I don’t care about not existing – I never have since I was 18, which might explain something of my psychology.

But, last week, I was thinking about something which happened 30 years ago and, somehow, it felt like I could, inside me, feel Time… How that 30 years fitted into 100,000 or 100 million or a 100 billion years… And, inside, I felt frightened. There was a little physical chill inside my torso and a psychological fear.

And I don’t know why.

I almost never feel frightened because – to quite a large extent – I really don’t give a shit. What is going to happen? Someone is gonna kill me? A jumbo jet is going to unexpectedly fall on my head? I don’t care.

So it was a surprise to be frightened by (it seemed to me) feeling the brevity and pointlessness of 30 years in a million years or 30 billion years. I know it’s all pointless. It does not worry me. I don’t care. I know what it feels like to ‘know’ I will be dead in ten minutes. Or to have had something happen without warning that could have killed me instantly.

A better understanding of chemistry and I would have died.

Another half inch and I might have died.

Another angle-of-decline, the jumbo jet would have hit another street.

It’s random.

Last week I left the room I was in and went out and walked to the shops, didn’t buy anything and came back.

The feeling went.

So it goes.

Tomorrow, normal blog service resumes.

Unless a jumbo jet falls on my head or I hiccup myself to death.

It’s random.

Anything is possible.

And that can be a good or a bad thing.

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The stabbing in Frith Street, Soho, and Ronnie Kray’s one and only robbery

Krayzy Days by Micky Fawcett

Micky Fawcett’s first-hand memories

I was talking to Micky Fawcett, author of the book Krayzy Days about his times with iconic London gangsters the Krays Twins.

I mentioned 1950s London Jewish criminal Jack Spot. There was an infamous knife fight in Soho involving Jack Spot.

Micky Fawcett is probably the only person who personally knew Jack Spot, the Kray Twins and Billy Hill.

“When I was 16,” Micky told me, “I was working on fruit stalls in Upton Park. The stall that I worked on got shut down, because they decided it was an obstruction and a feller said to me: If you’re looking for a job, I can get you one in Aldgate. A pal of mine has opened an auction room there. Aldgate was completely Jewish at that time.

“So he took me up to No 2, The Minories in Aldgate. They used to have fortnightly auctions there – confectionary and food and textiles and haberdashery all alternating. It was a ‘long firm’ but I had never heard the phrase then.

“The long firm was run by these two fellers named Jack and Maurice Sohn and a feller called Leon Kaiser – crooks, gangsters  – I didn’t know. I was quite naive at 16. I had just left school.

“They introduced me to this feller called Sonny The Yank – his real name was Bernard Schack. He was introduced to me as: This is Sonny – He’s Jack Spot’s right-hand man. But I didn’t even know who Jack Spot was.

Jack Spot! they said. He’s the boss! You’ve never heard of him? He’s the king of the underworld! Sonny is Jack Spot’s right-hand man. You know when you see a man with the wage bag chained to his hand? They don’t do it when Sonny’s around. He cuts their hand off. 

“I got very friendly with Sonny, so then he introduced me to Jack Spot. I was 16, so I was honoured to meet him. Then my National Service papers came through for the Army. And, right at that time was that fight you were talking about on the corner of Frith Street. I saw it on the newspaper placards.”

Billy Hill at home - from the book Krayzy Days

Billy Hill at home – pic from Krayzy Days

The fight took place in a Soho greengrocer’s shop between Jack Spot and Albert Dimes, one of Billy Hill’s bodyguards. According to reports, the fight was stopped when Mrs Sophie Hyams, the greengrocer’s 13-stone wife, picked up a large metal scoop and started beating the two men about the head with it.

At the subsequent trial – according to, of all newspapers, The Spokane Daily Chronicle in a 1955 article headlined British Thugs Shun Guns But They Can Be Tough – Jack Spot got off after evidence from “a venerable clerk in holy orders – the Reverend Basil Claude Hudson Andrews – 88, who came forth solemnly and swore the bookmaker had not wielded the knife. Spot was acquitted on this impressive testimony, but it then developed the star witness had a most curious background for a minister. He finally admitted he had committed perjury.”

The reverend, it seemed, had a taste for whisky and women, did not pay his gambling debts and had been found wandering about the Cumberland Hotel in London, living on nothing but continental breakfasts. He had been persuaded to perjure himself for £63 by Sonny the Yank and Moishe Bluebell (whose actual nickname ‘Blueball’ was not printed by embarrassed newspapers because it referred to the fact he had one discoloured testicle).

According to The Spokane Daily Chronicle, as a result of the trial: “Britons found to their chagrin that they had their own colorful collection of Damon Runyon characters – Sonny The Yank, Moishe Blue Boy, Benny The Kid, Flash Harry, Erny The Gent, Monkey Johnny, Joey Kings Cross.”

Micky Fawcett told me: “Aldgate and Soho in 1955 were the best places I had ever been.”

The knife fight in Frith Street marked the start of a slow decline for Jack Spot’s criminal reign and, later, the Kray Twins and The Richardsons became the ‘top dogs’ in London crime.

“The Krays,” I said to Micky, “were Bethnal Green, but that’s pretty much the same as…”

“Oh no,” he said, “they lived practically in Aldgate. And they were born in 1933, so they would have been in their early twenties when the knife fight happened.”

“Did they want to be criminals?” I asked.

“Well, people wouldn’t believe it now,” said Micky, “but they always disdained criminals even right to the end. They didn’t like criminals. They used to call them ‘jailbirds’. The image they had of themselves was that they were celebrities. That was how they saw the world.”

“So they thought they were above the law?” I asked.

Jailbirds? they’d say. We don’t want jailbirds. The Twins never stole anything. Well, once… I am the only man who has ever been on a robbery with Ronnie Kray.

‘We were in the Twins’ Regency Club and there was a big cellar in the basement, which they had let out to a firm of carpet suppliers – Gannon & Hamish – they supplied all these expensive Indian carpets.

“One of Ronnie’s friends – Dickie Morgan – said: Ron, what we’ll do… We’ll get locked in here tonight, then we’ll nick all them carpets: they’re worth a fortune.

“So Ronnie asked me: Can you get someone with a van? We’re gonna rob downstairs in our own place.

Micky Fawcett (left) with Reggie Kray and Frances

Micky Fawcett (left) with Reggie Kray and Frances Kray

“So we got a van, stayed behind, got locked in and, at about six o’clock the next morning – so as not to arouse suspicion moving things late at night – we loaded all the carpets into the van and took them over to a feller in Chingford to sell them to him.

“He looked at them and said: They’re a load of fucking rubbish! They’re just Belgian rubbish! They’re not worth anything!

“So then Ronnie turned and wanted to strangle Dickie Morgan. That’s the only robbery Ronnie ever did.”

“What did he do with the carpets?” I asked.

“That’s a good question,” said Micky. “I don’t know. He threw them away, probably.”

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Mr Twonkey’s world of rubber pigs and blow-up women

Mr Twonkey’s selfie, taken yesterday

Mr Twonkey’s selfie, taken at the Soho Theatre Bar yesterday

I met Mr Twonkey in the Soho Theatre Bar yesterday. He was on a two-day trip to London from Edinburgh to see the opening night of his play Jennifer’s Robot Arm, which is on for three days at the Bread & Roses venue in Clapham. I blogged about a read-through of the play in February.

Mr Twonkey wrote the play but does not appear in it.

He told me: “It’ll the the first time I’ve sat in the back of a theatre and watched people perform a play of mine without me in it. I think I’ll laugh because I’ll just be amazed it’s happening. – What am I putting these poor people through? – I’ve changed a few bits since you saw the read-through and it doesn’t have Auntie Myra in it any more. But we do have a guy who isn’t really a drag act who is going to dress up as a woman for us.”

“Isn’t a man who is not a drag act who dresses up as a woman a drag act by definition?” I asked.

“Mmmm…” said Twonkey.

Time Out has described his shows as “oddly entertaining and utterly bizarre” and my fellow Grouchy Club podcaster Kate Copstick says he “makes Edward Lear sound like the Six O’Clock News”

Twonkey’s Acid House Circus Tour poster

Twonkey’s Acid House Circus Tour poster

I had forgotten, but it turned out we were having a chat because he was plugging Twonkey’s Acid House Circus Tour – a fair title for two different shows in three different cities next month.

He is performing his new show Twonkey’s Stinking Bishop at the Brighton Fringe and last year’s show Twonkey’s Private Restaurant at London’s Soho Theatre and at the Prague Fringe.

“I was going to promote it as Twonkey Goes To Eastern Europe but they told me: It will be taken the wrong way.”

“Why?” I asked.

“I’ve no idea,” said Twonkey. “They said calling it ‘Eastern Europe’ might be offensive.”

He is appearing at the Divadlo na Prádle venue in Prague.

“Apparently,” Twonkey told me, “that means Theatre of Lingerie.”

I checked Google Translate when I got home and it reckoned Divadlo na Prádle simply means Theatre on Prádle. But then I did a search for ‘lingerie’ in Czech and it turns out that the Lingerie Football League is “a league of American football played by women”. It does not elaborate on what they wear as their team strip. One must never forget that the actual name of Prague is Praha and it can be almost as bizarre as Mr Twonkey.

Yesterday he showed me his flyer for the Prague show.

Mr Twonkey’s Prague Fringe flyer

Mr Twonkey’s Prague Fringe flyer, with fish

“Why,” I asked, “are you opening a can of tuna in the photograph?”

“Well,” he said, “I’ve been buying a lot of things from a prop store.”

“Specialising in fish?” I asked.

“I’m kind of addicted to the prop store,” he continued, “sometimes to the point where I buy the prop before I come up with the sketch or the…”

“Is there,” I asked, “much demand in the props world for half-opened tins of fish?”

“Not really,” he admitted, “and, to be honest, I haven’t been able to incorporate it into the show. But I suppose it suggests I’ve got a restaurant and the show is called Twonkey’s Private Restaurant. One of the problems in Edinburgh last year was that there was sometimes a bit of confusion because some people expected food.”

“What was the show’s origin?” I asked.

“I’ve always wanted to run a restaurant and a lot of my shows take place in outer space or in different dimensions, so I thought it would be good to just restrict myself to an actual place. Also it’s easier to do. You just need a tablecloth, some plastic food and a candle.”

“No cutlery?” I asked.

“It would be a bad idea,” replied Twonkey, “to give the audience knives.”

Mr Twonkey (left) with unexpected red drag act

Mr Twonkey (left) with an unexpected red drag act yesterday

At this point, a drag artist wearing a bright red dress appeared in the Soho Theatre Bar; she had her own film crew following her around. Or him around.

“I like that show,” Twonkey told me.

“Which show is it?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” said Twonkey.

“Why,” I asked, “is your new show called Twonkey’s Stinking Bishop?”

“The idea,” he told me, “is I’ve been kicked out of the restaurant and I’m now been demoted to a…”

“Bishop?” I suggested.

“No,” said Twonkey, “I’m at the cheese and drinks counter of the log flume centre.”

“The log flume centre?” I asked.

“Yes,” he confirmed. “The log flume centre of a small hamlet. But it has a massive catchment area.”

‘Is the show built round props?” I asked.

“Yes. It’s got a big trick in it involving two cheese wheels an a chain and some pigs and some padlocks. It’s basically like an escape act, where a pig escapes from a mountain of cheese.”

“Can to do a re-cap here,” I asked. “… a pig?”

Swedish farmer holds pig, early 20th century

A Swedish farmer holds a pig, sometime before the outbreak of the First World War in Europe

“Not a live pig,” Twonkey re-assured me.

“A dead pig?” I asked. “So is it a bacon sandwich?”

“It could be seen as a bacon sandwich,” he agreed.

“Though,” I said, “I suppose any pig can be seen as a bacon sandwich.”

“It is a humorous pig,” explained Twonkey. “It is made of rubber. I actually have eight of them, because I’m predicting something bad is going to happen to them. They are quite fragile. Last year, at the Private Restaurant, quite a few things got damaged. People kicked the bag and my puppet’s faces imploded and a balloon burst. So I keep being paranoid about the rubber pigs bursting. I’m also worried about… Can you take a hot air balloon onto an aeroplane?”

“Surely,” I suggested, “if you have a hot air balloon, you do not need an aeroplane?”

“It is only about a foot wide,” explained Twonkey.

“The aeroplane?” I asked.

Mr Twonkey tries not to display his worries

Mr Twonkey tries not to display his worries

“The balloon. I am worried that air pressure in the aeroplane will make it decrease in size or explode.”

“Can’t you deflate it?” I asked. “That’s how balloons work.”

“No. It’s permanently inflated.”

“If you have a permanently inflated balloon,” I suggested, “is that not really a ball?”

“Yes,” said Twonkey, “it could be classed as a ball. Have you ever known of exploding beachballs?’

“I have never,” I told him, “had exploding balls myself.”

“I am hoping,” said Twonkey, “that my balls won’t explode on the plane. The only reason I’m worried is that I have heard tales of women who have had breast implants… If they go on aeroplanes, apparently there is a chance their breasts will explode. I’m sure I have read that some woman blew up.”

“Could this be a new type of terrorist suicide bomber?” I asked. “Women with exploding bosoms.”

“Yeah, yeah,” said Twonkey. “I suppose no-one’s going to check at security, are they?”

At this point, the drag act in the red costume left the bar.

Producer/director Simon Jay (left) & Mr Twonkey (right) after Jennifer’s Robot Arm show last night.

Producer/director Simon Jay (left) & Mr Twonkey (right) after Jennifer’s Robot Arm show last night.

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Filed under Comedy, Humor, Humour, Surreal

Going to the toilet with Prince Philip and being sexually abused by a Catholic

The Vatican - home of stinging Swimming With Medusa

Jellyfish casts a shadow over The Vatican

Peter Murray has written an autobiography titled Swimming With Medusa.

“Why is it called Swimming With Medusa?” I asked him. “When I think of Medusa, I think of snakes on the head and turning people to stone.”

“Medusa,” he told me, “is Latin and Italian for jellyfish. And, at the Catholic school I went to in Yorkshire, weren’t we all swimming with jellyfish? I was. I was being stung all over. And then I go to the Vatican and I get stung again.”

His book is about the result of child sexual abuse on the adult the child later becomes.

“I don’t even fully understand the effects of the abuse when you’re an adult,” he told me. “It is beyond comprehension. It’s a very complex issue. I am single. I have never had a relationship. My sexual experiences were with a man who was four times my age – a man older than my grandfather.”

“You were,” I asked, “brought up in Knotty Ash in Liverpool – home of comedian Ken Dodd?”

“Well,” he replied, “West Derby, which is next door to Knotty Ash. When I was five, in my imagination, I used to go down the jam butty mines with Ken Dodd. He used to live near us, in Thomas Lane.”

Peter Murray, recovering from Life's jellyfish

Peter Murray, recovering from Life’s jellyfish

Peter went to a Catholic boarding school not in Liverpool but in West Yorkshire, where the sexual abuse happened. And a school in Sunningdale.

“Sunningdale is very posh,” I said.

“Well, the Catholic church is a very posh organisation,” said Peter. “The people I am obliged to take to court now are worth half a billion in property alone. And it’s only ongoing because I was forced into a corner and told I was lying.”

“After school, what did you do?” I asked.

“When I left school, I tried to be a priest, but I got thrown out three times from the priesthood.

‘Why?”

“Well, now I know the psychological issues that child sex abuse brings, I think it caused them to see something in me that they thought would not permit me to be a priest. So I was thrown out three times. It gets a bit complicated. But, after that, I went to Guy’s Hospital in London and became a nurse, specialising in babies – mainly cardiac babies.

“In the book, I bring in lots of other things. I bring in when I was Nurse of The Year and had to go to Parliament to speak. And I bring in when I had lunch with the Queen, cos of my dad’s War record. I went to the toilet and Prince Philip was there and he asked Where is the Queen? and a valet told him something and Prince Philip got a bit annoyed.”

“I’m surprised he didn’t have his own toilet,” I said.

“No, he went to the same toilet as me. It was a very nice toilet. I had been sitting not far from the Queen’s table and she had been having that many glasses of champagne… That’s what she had with her Sunday roast, but it wasn’t a roast: it was ballotine of salmon. She was probably looking after her figure. And I guess she had probably just gone to have a little sleep.”

“And you went to Rome,” I said.

“I went to the Vatican after my parents died, to get closure to things in childhood which I knew should not have happened. It was in 2011, after my mother died. And I was rebuffed. Cos it’s the Vatican.”

“When did you first decide to write the book?” I asked.

“Originally in about 2002,” said Peter, “when I had coffee in Borough Market with an old boy from the school, after a night shift at Guy’s. I told him: One day, I want to write a book about everything that happened at Mirfield

“And he asked me: What do you mean?

“I said: I’ve never told anyone this, but Riddle assaulted me on a daily basis for about two years. And my schoolfriend laughed.

“He said: Oh Peter, for God’s sake! He assaulted everyone. The Rector knew. Everyone knew. And he laughed again.

“I told him: But I’m not going to write the book until I’m at peace and until my mum and dad are both gone.

“In 2011, I thought: What I’ll do is forget the book. I will just go to Rome and say I want an apology, I want £10,000 redress which will cover the two trips to Rome, one trip to Milan and my therapy that I was already paying for and I wanted more – I wanted to go to this guy in America who was very famous – but he’s like $1,200 a week.

“So I flew to Rome, I stayed in a nice hotel, I did some recces (i.e. reconnaissances) so I knew where the Vicar General lived and where the Mother House was. And, one day, I went there and knocked on the door.

“The Vicar General was out, the Vice General was out, but the Vicar Bursar was in. And he was a doctor whom I knew from my nursing work in Uganda. So I had a meeting with him and he took notes and said: Oh, I’m shocked! I’m shocked! He sent me on my way and told me: We will phone your hotel in the next 24 hours and arrange a meeting with the Vicar General.

“About two days later, I went back for a meeting with the Vicar General, which was even longer and had more note-taking. This was around June/July. They said: We will do our own investigation, which took them until November.

“Then I got a letter from the Vatican telling me they had done a full investigation and that I was deluded, I was lying and they would pay for me to have psychiatric treatment if need be. They said they had never had any complaint about sexual molestation whatsoever in the whole history of the school.

“I went away and did some more nursing of street kids in Uganda and Kenya to think it over.

“When I came back, I went on the internet and found a lawyer in America. She said she couldn’t take on the case, but advised me to go to some solicitors in London, which I did.

“Six months later, the solicitors rang me at home and said: You’re not alone. 

“And I find out there are hundreds of cases and eleven are in court already with other solicitors. My solicitors tell me: We ourselves have cases from Mirfield and one of the cases we are dealing with is your own older brother. I felt sick.

“I went to the toilet with the phone, pulling the extension lead to the toilet.

Yes, Mr Murray, they told me, your brother is a client of ours.

So, I said, you’ve told him about me then? You’ve broken my confidentiality? You told my brother about my sexual abuse without asking me?

Yes, they said. And he said we could tell you about him.

“I told them: But I didn’t want anyone in my family knowing! I’ve never told anyone in my family!

“It turns out they are cowboy lawyers and have got no intention of pursuing this. All they want from anyone who comes along with child sex abuse cases is to get a settlement before they go to court. They’ve no intention of doing any work at all. That’s why I had to find all the boys, find all the proof, find all the past papers. I had to go on the internet and find boys who were at school with me 40 years ago.

“I am still only just getting over my mother’s death. It takes a long time, especially when you are single and gay. Everything was my responsibility; I’m still doing my mother’s property in Wales.”

“You have one brother?” I asked.

“No, I’m one of seven. I’m the fifth. But they’re all married with kids and have responsibilities and their own problems. My father said to me: If anything happens to me, look after mum. And I did. She was killed by the NHS. I nursed her for five months. She caught a superbug – Clostridium difficile – in a hospital. She was given that by North Wales Hospital and then they told her: Right. Go now. Meaning: You will go to your maker. It was dreadful. I quit the NHS after what happened to my mum. Now I’m doing some clinics and care of the elderly and I nurse in the Army quite a bit.”

“Are you still religious?” I asked.

“Yes, I went to mass last night.”

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How Left Wing TV writers won an election for Margaret Thatcher, the godmother of UK alternative comedy

The new ITV series Newzoids starts tonight. A satirical programme about politicians, performed by puppets. (Not too far removed from real life, then.)

“It sounds just like Spitting Image,” I suggested yesterday to Dave Cohen, who is one of the writers on Newzoids. Dave is also the man who originally created the oft-used saying Comedy is the new rock ’n’ roll.

“W-e-e-e-e-l-l,” said Dave, “That’s the first thing people compare it to.”

“How far ahead is Newzoids recorded?” I asked.

Dave Cohen, the man behind television's political laughter

Dave Cohen, the man behind television’s political laughter

“Like Spitting Image,” Dave said, “over a long period of time. I’ve been doing mainly songs for it. And the odd sketch.

“The songs have to be done quite a long time in advance.

“We were doing music at the start of the year – January/February.

“Most of the show has been made and I think they have a 2 or 3 minute window to add things.”

“That’s very dodgy during a General Election campaign,” I suggested.

“Well,” said Dave, “I’m surprised four episodes are going out before the election because, all the years I’ve worked on topical shows and at the BBC, there was always this absolute decree that you must be equally rude about everybody. But maybe, because it’s ITV…”

Spitting Image,” I said, “transmitted an episode on Election night, but only immediately after the polls closed. Margaret Thatcher singing Tomorrow Belongs To Me

“That was actually from another episode,” said Dave.

“But very effective,” I said, ignoring my mistake.

“A lot of people,” said Dave, “thought Spitting Image won the election for the Tories in 1992. Which was a paradox. Everybody who was writing for Spitting Image hated the Tories. I’d say most people who write and perform comedy in general are Left-ish or Left or very Left. The BBC are always moaning that they’re desperate to get Right Wing people on quiz shows. I think I agree – and I am not Right Wing myself – but the trouble is finding them. There are not that many.”

“You have scripted for Have I Got News For You,” I prompted.

“God, yes,” said Dave. “Over the years, I’ve written for William Hague, Robin Cook, Neil Kinnock – that was the worst one ever. He guest-hosted.”

“Why was he a nightmare?” I asked.

“When you have some professional comedian like Jo Brand or Lee Mack hosting the show, they’ll say OK, give that line to me; I’ll do it my way, and you trust that. But, when Neil Kinnock says: It’s OK. Don’t worry. I’ll sort it out… Apparently he wouldn’t do any of the script in rehearsal either. I went to the recording and it was an absolute nightmare, really.”

Neil Kinnock: Have I got a loser for you?

Neil Kinnock: Have I got a loser for you?

“Did he look good on transmission?” I asked. “I sat through one recording of Have I Got News For You and it was two-and-a-half hours of recording for a half-hour show.”

“All I can say,” said Dave, “is that Neil Kinnock looked relatively better in the half hour edit.”

“Getting back,” I said, “to Spitting Image – with Left-leaning writers influencing the result of the 1992 Election, which the Conservative Party won…”

“Well,” said Dave, “there was all this slagging-off the Tories, as you’d expect but, when it came to Labour, there was maybe more anger because Labour were so crap – they were not criticising the poll tax or the Tory cuts and Neil Kinnock was being a bit useless. And that anger also seemed to hit a chord with voters who, even if they hated the Tories, thought: At least they’re better than Labour.”

“Well,” I suggested, “on Spitting Image, Neil Kinnock’s character was a floundering Welsh windbag. Margaret Thatcher was very strong in her male business suit. And Norman Tebbit in his leather jacket looked really aggressive – I guess he was supposed to be a devilish-type figure – but, as a result, he actually came across as a strong politician.”

“Well,” said Dave, “Johnny Speight created Alf Garnett (the central right wing character in Till Death Us Do Part) as a monster and the worse he made him the more loveable he became to the audience. People were saying: Oh, Alf Garnett? We love Alf Garnett! Alf Garnett for Prime Minister! That was another thing with Spitting Image – However hard they made Tebbit and Thatcher, people just went: Hahha! Look at the funny monsters!

“I always,” I said, “thought Alf Garnett was very complicated because, if you agreed with his views, you agreed with his views and the young git sitting on the sofa (his Left Wing son-in-law, played by Tony Booth, father of future Prime Minister Tony Blair’s wife Cherie) was just some young idiot. There was nothing to change your existing views. And I always thought, in reality, Alf Garnett would have been a Labour voter: a real dyed-in-the-wool working class conservative-with-a-small-c Labour voter.”

There is a clip of Till Death Us Do Part on YouTube.

“Well, this is an interesting area,” said Dave. “There was this myth at the time that people who voted Labour could not be racists or sexists. And that’s sort-of mostly true now but certainly, in my experience in my stand-up comedy years, there was then a lot of sexism on the circuit.”

I said: “I think dyed-in-the-wool Labour voters over a certain age are very conservative with a small c.”

“I think where Labour is losing votes to UKIP in this election,” said Dave, “it’s where those type of attitudes still persist. In cosmopolitan places like London and Manchester, even people who aren’t satisfied with Labour are not going to UKIP whereas, in some of the places where things haven’t changed so much and people are more dyed-in-the-wool and there are older people in older communities, they’re the ones who are going to UKIP.”

“Margaret Thatcher still divides people,” I said.

“She was a brilliant politician,” said Dave. “She did do all these amazing things like the Channel Tunnel, which brought us closer to Europe. She was the first person to say climate change is happening and we’ve got to do something about it. People forget the very pragmatic side to her. But…”

“You could almost be a fan,” I laughed.

“I got utterly stitched-up by a Daily Telegraph journalist,” said Dave. “When my book How To Be Averagely Successful at Comedy came out, he interviewed me and there’s a chapter in my book in which I say that Margaret Thatcher probably did more to help alternative comedy than anyone else.

An inspiration: Margaret Thatcher

Godmother of British Comedy?

“Not just for the jokes but also by allowing people to be unemployed. She basically said: Unemployment is a price worth paying for getting rid of all our old manufacturing industries. So people of my era – I’m from Leeds but I was a journalist in South Wales – just moving to London, unemployed, only had to sign-on once a week, didn’t have to go to Job Centres, were allowed to earn a certain amount of money every week and were still allowed to sign-on as long as we declared it. You still got your housing benefit and your dole money.

“The alternative comedy clubs were starting up and The Young Ones had become famous on TV and suddenly there were loads of clubs in London and not enough comedians to play them. I was doing 3 or 4 gigs a week and being paid £20 here, £30 there. All legit and all thanks to Margaret Thatcher.

“So this journalist gave me a nice plug for my book in the Daily Telegraph but said Dave Cohen says Margaret Thatcher had a fantastic sense of humour – I didn’t say that at all!”

“People demonise her,” I said.

“Well,” said Dave. “I’ve been thinking more about how to deal with politicians, because the social media has become so polarised now – You HAVE to be one thing or another. But I think, really, you’ve got to engage seriously with people you disagree with. However much you disagree with people, you’ll always find a few things you can agree on and that’s where you have to start from, really.”

The Immigrant Diaries are coming to the South Bank soon

The Immigrant Diaries are coming to the South Bank soon

“You told me,” I said, “that you are in a storytelling show called Immigrant Diaries in two Fridays’ time at the Purcell Room on the South Bank.”

“Yes,” said Dave. “I’ll be telling the story of that fateful day in 1994 when a bunch of comedians got together when the (extreme right wing) BNP were doing very well in the Isle of Dogs – it’s in my book too.”

“I think everyone in Britain,” I said, “is a bloody immigrant except a few people in Wales who speak Welsh and ironically don’t want to be British. But then, go far enough back, everyone is an immigrant in every country.”

“I am working,” said Dave, “on a show for the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn in July – a Muslim/Jewish comedy show. The fact that Jews and Muslims can get together to create a comedy show is considered quite a shocking thing by some people. The very idea they can have a dialogue! The auditions are happening next week.”

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Janey Godley on awards, a rat and c**ts

Janey gave me a warm welcome this evening

Janey gave me a warm welcome this evening

My Scots comedy chum Janey Godley is down in London this week, from Glasgow.

I met up with her this evening for a chat.

“I’ll give ye a blog,” she told me. “What do you want me tae talk aboot?”

And, before I could reply, she started:

“I’ve stopped smoking for a month now,” she said, “and I’m on a diet, so my whole family have been put into the witness protection programme while that happens. And, if you talk to me about it, I’ll stab ye.”

“Well,” I said, “No change there, then.”

‘It’s hard to stop smoking,” she continued, “but to stop smoking AND go on a diet isn’t really that much harder cos you’re using the same willpower for both.”

“I would have thought,” I said, “that it must make you twice as angry as normal – but maybe that’s not possible with you.”

“That,’ said Janey, “is what (Janey’s nameless husband) says: How can we tell the difference?”

Janey looked over her shoulder.

“There’s really loud people behind me,” she said, “who deserve to be stabbed. But I’m really excited cos I’m up for four Scottish Comedy Awards on 27th April. have you voted for me yet?”

“Yes,” I said quickly.

“I won the Podcast one last year,” she told me. “This year, I’m up for Best Headliner, Best Compere, Best Podcast again and Best Festival/Tour Show.”

‘Tell me why are you in London in some way that’s repeatable?” I asked.

“I’m in London this week,” she explained, “cos I had a couple of meetings with the BBC about future projects and I’m doing a couple of gigs – Banana Cabaret in Balham and Soho Comedy.”

“Is that the one in the gay street?” I asked. (It is not.)

“A gay street in Soho?” laughed Janey. “That must be a fucking hard task to find, eh?”

Admiral Duncan pub  in Soho (Photo by Ewan Munro)

The Admiral Duncan pub in Soho (Photograph by Ewan Munro)

“Old Compton Street,” I said, “I didn’t know the street was supposed to be gay until the Admiral Duncan blew up when the nail bomb went off.”

“You didn’t know it was gay,” said Janey, “because not one gay man has ever approached you in your entire life. They’ve all went: No, you’re on yer own, John.

“Not even women,” I said. “I once had a pigeon approach me at Oxford Circus.”

“I bet,” said Janey that even it bolted when it saw you.”

“No,” I said. “You know the barriers at the kerb to stop you walking across the street? I was outside one of those, walking on the narrow bit of the kerb, and this pigeon was strutting towards me and I thought it would give way to me, but it didn’t. I had to step into the road so it could walk along past me on the kerb.”

“That happened to me,” said Janey, “in Earls Court with a rat. You remember that hotel I lived in in Earls Court? There was a rat in the middle of the pavement and I thought: Well, clearly, if I bang ma feet, it’ll bolt. No. It stayed. I had to go into the road and I almost got hit by a car cos I was walking round a rat. And, see, when I went to the other side of the street, it turned its head to look at me and never moved. I am thinking like: Ya fuckin’ bastard! It was the size of a small poodle. I was frightened.”

“It was a very self-confident pigeon,” I said. “Its shoulders were going like it was an Essex Boy.”

“It’s the only bird that would come near you,” said Janey.

“Any other jollities for the blog?” I asked.

“I’m still,” said Janey, “having a fight with people on Twitter over the word cunt. They still can’t believe you can say that word. The other day, Ricky Gervais put up a post with the word cunt in it. That’s OK cos he’s rich and middle class. But, if I say it…”

“But you won’t,” I asked, “have had any Scottish people objecting?”

“A lot of people,” said Janey.

“Really?” I asked, surprised.

Janey’s current Twitter page

Janey’s current Twitter page has 16.5k followers

“Yup. It’s really weird that nobody will say anything to me (At the time of writing, Janey has over 16,500 Twitter followers) but, the minute I say cunt, people start to come on Twitter and moan. I always then put up this post that says: If the first time you’ve contacted me is cos you’ve saw the word cunt but, whenever I’ve asked you to donate to the Food Bank and you’ve never contacted me, then that means you’re a cunt.

“But I mean,” I said, “in Glasgow, it’s the equivalent of an Australian calling someone a ‘bastard’. It’s not strong.”

“They still have an issue with it,” said Janey. “It’s unbelievable that the word cunt makes you bad.”

“When you think,” I said, “of the things they asterisked-out in Victorian novels – H*ll possibly and certainly d***ed.”

“In London in 1960,” said Janey, “they had the court case over Lady Chatterley’s Lover – about the language in that – cunt – and it was found to be not obscene. So I can say the word cunt specifically.”

“Some of us,” I said, “lost the same court case in Norwich in 1996.”

“Did you?” said Janey.

“I was,” I told her, “found guilty of Malicious Communication for calling someone a fucking cunt.”

“You called somebody a cunt?” asked Janey.

“A fucking cunt,” I said. “I thought it was fair comment. The judge said in his ruling that both the words fucking and cunt were ‘clearly indecent’. As far as I could see, that overturned the decision in the Lady Chatterley case under Common Law.”

“You got taken to court for calling somebody a cunt?” asked Janey.

“Yes,” I said.

“You’re a dick,” she told me. “Who did you call a cunt? The Queen?”

“It’s a long story,” I said. “You should read my blog.”

“I usually do. It’s fuckin’ brilliant. Ashley (Janey’s daughter) is obsessed with your North Korean blogs. They’ve made Ashley want to go to North Korea.’

“Everyone should go to North Korea,” I suggested.

“She’s no going to North Korea,” said Janey firmly.

“It’s safe,” I said, “provided you don’t say anything. I used to go to lots of Communist countries because they were safe.”

Jonathan Ross as I remember him

Jonathan Ross as I remember him between my holidays….

“I have to say,” said Janey, “that the best laugh I ever had on Twitter was when I contacted Jonathan Ross and asked: Do you remember John Fleming? And he Tweeted back: Is he still going to weird Communist bloc countries? And I said: Yeah. You definitely remember him.”

“That’s it finished,” I told Janey. “That’s the way to do a blog. Pretend it’s about someone else, but it’s really all about Me, Me, Me.”

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