Category Archives: Art

Four hats – drawn by 11-year-old Lily

The last blog posted here was a story written by multi-talented Lily, the 11-year-old daughter of writer-performer hyphenate Ariane Sherine.

Now here are four artworks by Lily…


This one (below) is called ‘Bianca’ because it is white and blank…

This one is called ‘Hattie’ because… well, because it’s a hat…

This one is called ‘Delancey’ for random reasons I can’t remember…

And this one is called ‘Nova’ for fairly obvious reasons…

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Filed under Art, Children

Cult creative performer/painter The Iceman turns children’s book author…

Anthony Irvine – The Iceman – appears occasionally in this blog.

I first auditioned his stage act – melting blocks of ice – in 1987.

In a later incarnation – AIM – he added painting to his creative output. Some of his fine art can be bought from the Saatchi Art website.

For example, a painting of his first ice block – Crazy Larry’s Painting – is currently on offer at a bargain price of £4,280.

And now Anthony has become an author…


JOHN: So you are now an author as well as a performer and painter…

ANTHONY: I have a literary background. When I was a young man, I studied literature at a very ancient institution.

JOHN: Bedlam?

Debbie’s fantastical adventures with Antarctic animals…

ANTHONY: It’s a children’s book called Lockdown Melter.

JOHN: And you presumably wrote it during the Covid block-down…

ANTHONY: Yes. I thought of everybody suffering. It’s a fantasy where a young child – Debbie – is frustrated with the situation and escapes with the aid of Lappy, a polar bear – a small polar bear – who she meets in her bedroom and she goes on this adventure to Antarctica.

To facilitate this adventure, Lappy instructs her to get some ice cubes from the fridge freezer. The ice cubes are put on her head and there’s a magical transformation and she goes on this journey.

The idea is that Antarctica is a pristine, beautiful, relatively-undamaged place that we can all go to; the animals are in harmony and, in the story, the penguin says…

JOHN: The penguin?

ANTHONY: Yes, the penguin… There’s a penguin… As I wrote it, I thought: This is an amazing parallel to my Iceman stage act. It retains an ice theme. In a sense, I melt blocks of ice to achieve purification. Similarly, Debbie is finding something away from this world really – saṃsāra and all that.

JOHN: Saṃsāra ?

Anthony Irvine – his self portrait…

ANTHONY: The Buddhist concept of suffering. Do you chant?

JOHN: Not as far as I know.

ANTHONY: Lockdown Melter was a very simple story but I quite liked it, so I approached a publisher, Olympia, who have an imprint called Bumblebee who have published it.

JOHN: Well, if you write a good children’s story that doesn’t date – it’s a fantasy – it’ll sell forever and internationally.

ANTHONY: You can get it from WH Smith, Foyles, Browns Books, the Book Depository, Waterstones, Amazon, the lot…

JOHN: You should tell Waterstones you will do a signing of the book AND melt a block of ice the same time. That should get people in. Does JK Rowling melt blocks of ice in a bookshop? No. She’s just not trying hard enough.

ANTHONY: Perhaps I should go Banksy-style and sell a book that melts. You know his picture that shredded itself? 

JOHN: Yes. The water from your melted book might be worth a fortune.

ANTHONY: Is it technically possible?

JOHN: I dunno. You are The Iceman. Why become an author?

ANTHONY: I used to tell stories to my young son and I guess I’d always had the thought I might write a children’s story. It is really for young children. The idea is young children could read it themselves or parents could read it to them; it’s more like a picture book. So then I realised I had to get the pictures.

The illustrator is actually Greek: Sofia Stefanis Pons. She did some nice – I think dramatic – illustrations. My pictures were declined as being too ‘rough’. But hers are great.

Debbie meets Lappy for the first time… illustration by Sofia Stefanis Pons…

JOHN: So do you have an idea for a second book?

ANTHONY: Yes. I like the innocence of Lockdown Melter.

When I was a child, I was very unhappy at one point and I built an arch with stiff cushions. I went through the arch and discovered I was happy. So the Lockdown Melter idea is simple but it is like going somewhere and attaining awareness. It’s the same principle.

Debbie goes on a journey. She meets animals who are nice to her and she finds the Antarctic world all very beautiful and something happens at the end which I can’t give away. But I think the idea of the story is the idea that human beings – the human race – need help and in this story it’s the penguin who gives that help.

JOHN: The penguin?

ANTHONY: Yes, the penguin… There’s a penguin… Next time I think Debbie might go to the Sahara.

JOHN: Difficult to work ice blocks into that story.

ANTHONY: An ice block could bring irrigation to the Sahara… I think if this first book is successful I WILL continue with the writing idea.

Anthony Irvine’s educational Thespian Follies, coming soon

I have already written 13 little plays for drama classes in schools. That book is due to be published soon. It’s called Thespian Follies.

It’s an educational resource; I’m going quite mainstream, aren’t I?

Ice blocks were my life and still are my life to some extent but I feel I have to do a bit more. My next ambition is to write a Channel 4 type series: a bit like The Outlaws but based on car rental. When I was in debt at one point, I did a job at Hertz car hire, cleaning cars and taking them out to the Army and so on: that’s a ready-made situation comedy.

JOHN: You could call it Hertz of Darkness.

ANTHONY: I was thinking of calling it Hurts… That’s my next project.

Maybe writing will displace painting in time, but at the moment my main activity is still painting. I’m trying to sell Bill Bailey a painting; I’m playing tennis with his accountant this afternoon.

I sold a painting to Mark Thomas at the Electric Palace in Bridport recently. He was on tour and I hadn’t seen him for about 40 years. He gave me his book and I sold him a painting in which he appears.

JOHN: You are a born entrepreneur. JK Rowling will have to start learning how to melt blocks of ice…

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Filed under Art, Books, Children, eccentric

Steve Best: The photographer comedian

Comedian Steve Best is going to publish his third book of photographs this summer. His two previous books – Comedy Snapshot in 2014 and Joker Face in 2017 – comprised photographs of comedians plus brief anecdotes/jokes. 

The new book – Comedians – is a big departure.


“It’s an expensive book to create because it’s fine art…”

STEVE: I’ve been meaning to do this book for bloody years. It’s not cheap – it’s £50 to buy. It’s an expensive book to create because it’s fine art. It’s a lot of money to raise. I was thinking of going the crowdfunding route via a publishing site that specialises in that, but they take a management fee and ask for all my contacts. So I thought: I might as well do it myself.

So I’ve kind of done crowdfunding on my website by asking people to pre-buy it. I’ve nearly broken even. If I could pre-sell another 100 or so then, when it comes out, we can do a good old PR/publicity thing with the comedians.

JOHN: You previously published the two smaller paperback books.

STEVE: They were very much of the snapshot portraits type. With this one, I’m trying to ‘sell’ it to the Art world as well as to comedy fans.

I think you’ve gotta put your stall out and say This is what it is, because I don’t want to confuse people.

JOHN: You’ve already had photographic exhibitions in arty places…

STEVE: Yeah. There’s still an exhibition of my photos at the Observatory Photography Gallery in London.

JOHN: Which lasts for how long?

STEVE: Indefinitely at the moment.

JOHN: And Joe Bor is making a documentary about you: Clowntographer.

STEVE: Yes. He wanted to do a film about photographers who take pictures of comedians.

JOHN: A limited area…

STEVE: There are a few, obviously. But, as we were setting it up, I said: “Why don’t you do it about me? I’m a comedian who’s a photographer who takes photographs of comedians. It’s a nicer narrative, a better story.”

So we interview Don Ward at the Comedy Store about the pictures on the wall and there are lots of live shoots. It’s more-or-less all filmed. Joe’s editing it now. We’re going to try and get it ready for the Edinburgh Fringe in August.

JOHN: Although it’s about British circuit comedians, I guess it will be of interest internationally. And, because both Joe and you are comics, you presumably got great backstage access.

STEVE: There are very few people who have had relaxed access backstage. Some of the most interesting photographs I’ve done are backstage.

The idea with this book is to position myself in the art/photography world so I could actually go to clients and say: “Look, I can document something else for you…” I’ve done a few corporate things. The way to get on in any profession in the arts is to keep developing.

Steve explores the fine art of photography and the fine heart of comedy in his Comedians book…

The idea is to step up the game on the arty side of photography. No-one is really doing this. People like David Bailey and Annie Leibovitz have done backstage photo stuff on music, but no-one’s really done it with comedy.

JOHN: So are you a comedian with a sideline in photography or a photographer with a sideline in comedy?

STEVE: It has changed. I think I was a comedian with a sideline in photography. Now it’s very much reversed. But there’s always a risk in pigeonholing someone. I think you can be a performer AND be an artist. You don’t have to be a comedian only.

JOHN: What’s the difference between creating comedy and creating photographs?

STEVE: In the comedy world, you write your stuff and you try it out and it’s very immediate: it either works or it doesn’t work. In some of the other arts, you do it and there’s a delayed response from critics and the art public.

JOHN: In fine art – or  even when writing comedy – you can pore over the details endlessly. But, in photography, sometimes it’s just a matter of luck, isn’t it? Capturing that one split second.

STEVE: You can teach someone how to write and perform comedy but whether they are really funny is another thing. In a way, it’s the same with photography. You can teach somebody the technical aspects of shutter speed and aperture but whether they have the eye for it is another matter.

JOHN: Surely there’s a limit to the number of ways you can photograph comedians standing at the microphone or doing their make-up in front of a mirror?

Steve takes great Carr with his backstage photography…

STEVE: Well, backstage, I’m always looking for the little bits and pieces that haven’t been done. And onstage I have found some very nice angles – shooting up into the light, from behind the curtains…

JOHN: Physical AND psychological angles? A normal photographer, won’t understand what the comedian is actually thinking. But you – because you are a performer…

STEVE: Well, I can know when the punchline is coming and I can anticipate stuff that might happen…

JOHN: And, with you, they will be more relaxed than with someone who’s just a photographer.

STEVE: Yes, they think of me as a comedian with a camera, rather than as a ‘Photographer’.

JOHN: How long have you been taking photographs of comedians?

STEVE: Comedy Snapshot came out in 2014, so I started maybe 5 or 6 years before that.

JOHN: And you began performing comedy…

STEVE: …28 years ago. I started very young. Haven’t really done anything else. At school, I became involved in magic and got to the final of Young Magician of the Year, then I started doing my ‘A’ Levels at school and then started doing theatre and kids’ parties and then went into the entertainment world. I learned how to juggle, how to unicycle, did lots of circusy stuff. Never did street performing.

JOHN: Does the misdirection inherently involved in magic link into being original in photography? The way people perceive images…?

STEVE: I think you can look into stuff too deeply, John…

Steve in the forthcoming Clowntographer documentary

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Filed under Art, Comedy, Photographs

A beggar with a mobile phone, a symbol of fluidity and a roller-skating dog. Not.

The room where I was born in the local maternity hospital

I am a simple chap.

I was born in Campbeltown, then a fishing town with multiple whisky distilleries on the west coast of Scotland.

I was brought up there and in a council estate on top of a windy hill in Aberdeen.

And in Ilford which then claimed to be in the county of Essex but which, in all reality, was and is just an extension of London’s East End with some slightly better housing.

What I am saying is that I am not an up-market person and do not have any inbuilt affinity with people who have affectations to artiness.

And I like simple sentences.

So some things still seem a bit strange to me.

Added to which I think I may have lived too long.

This afternoon, a beggar on a Thameslink train in London asked the people in my carriage for money to buy credit for his mobile phone so he could arrange a bed for tonight… via his mobile phone. He got no money and wandered off to the next carriage muttering: “You’ll give money to foreigners but not to me…”

I was on my way to the private preview of an art exhibition by Joy Yamusangie at the Now Gallery, just opposite the O2 venue in what estate agents now call North Greenwich.

I am not one of life’s avid modern art gallery goers.

It’s usually the people who put me off.

But some masochistic gene hidden deep within me made me go to the preview after I read (or despite reading) the PR pitch:


The invitation to Joy Yamusangie’s preview

I am delighted to invite you to the private view of Joy Yamusangie’s new exhibition Feeling Good. The private view will feature a performance by Awale Jant Band and DJ set by Alex Rita & Errol (Touching Bass).

Yamusangie’s solo presentation takes the form of an imaginary jazz club inspired by the story of the jazz artist Billy Tipton. Yamusangie has drawn inspiration from Tipton’s story while using jazz as a symbol of gender euphoria and the relief of feeling good within themselves.

In Joy’s exhibition, jazz is used as the symbol of fluidity, joy and freedom and it speaks specifically to Yamusangie’s own experience with understanding and celebrating their trans identity and journey with learning music.

Artist Joy Yamusangie’s image of  a man with a trumpet

Yamusangie’s profoundly autobiographical practice amalgamates bold colours with vibrant self portraiture that functions as a distinct act of self appreciation.

Family, memory and community sit at the core of the artist’s practice and Yamusangie uses these elements to explore Congolese diaspora from a highly personal perspective.

The artist’s exploration of race, identity and representation stem from a place of intimacy as they investigate socio-political issues within the microcosm of their own community.


I went to the preview.

I left after 20 minutes. 

I should have left after 10. 

I never even got to the music bit. 

When I left, I went to North Greenwich tube station. There were some young men on roller-skates and a dog who was not on roller-skates. They were enjoying themselves. Including the dog.

That’s my sort of event.

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The Iceman offers himself to the Taliban and remembers Charlie Watts

Entrepreneurial Iceman – a self portrait

Yesterday, I got an email from the uniquely entrepreneurial Anthony Irvine aka performance artist The Iceman aka fine artist AIM.

He told me about GIANT – “a new prestigious art gallery in the ex-Debenham’s department store in central Bournemouth” on England’s south coast.

At 15,000 square feet, it is claimed to be the UK’s largest artist-run gallery space outside London. The Iceman told me:”There’s a giant  polar bear in there which I thought was a good omen for me.”

“He has heard back from neither them nor the polar bear”

So he left his business card but, so far, has heard back from neither the organisers nor the polar bear.

Forever entrepreneurial, he has also written an open letter to the Taliban, who surged back into power in Afghanistan this week… in the hope of getting a performance booking from them.

In 1975 he travelled overland via Turkey, Iran (where the Shah was still in power), Afghanistan and Pakistan to India and Nepal, with appropriately long hair, pretending to be a hippy. 

The giant Buddhas of Bamiyan (Photograph from Wikipedia)

In Afghanistan, he stopped in the Bamiyan Valley and, he says, “climbed the rough steps up one of the tall Buddhas carved out of the sandstone rock. At the top, one could actually get into the head. I’m not sure if I experienced immediate enlightenment; more a slow burn…”

The Buddhas were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.

His open letter to the Taliban this week is worth a read in its original form on his website.

But, for the lazy, I translate it here:


Dear Taliban Team,

I’m not sure if it’s appropriate for me to send Congratulations, but I hope you do better than the last time. 

In 1975, I was in Afghanistan. I went up to the beautiful lakes in Band-e-Amir on horseback. I went to see and enter the incredibly still Buddhas in the Bamiyan Valley. 

Why did you blow them up? You thought them idolatrous? Or is it because you understand the concept of emptiness? Probably not.

The Iceman’s image of Block 223 as submitted to the Taliban

Anyway, if it would help, I am happy to come and melt an ice-block somewhere in your rugged country. But, if I make a mistake, please don’t amputate any of my limbs – I need them for my art work. Give me a Community Care Order instead?

I attach a Polaroid of a previous Block [223] to give you a sense of my performance art work.

Do you think it would be popular in Afghanistan?

I also attach a photo of myself for ID purposes.

Yours sincerely,

Anthony Irvine [aim]


Because Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts died this week, The Iceman also shared with me these two memories:

“I remember seeing him getting a taxi in Hammersmith… also at Knebworth in 1976 when I was meant to be on stage with him but was overwhelmed by other factors…”

“WHAT?” I asked. “Knebworth? Other factors? Tell me more…”

And he sort-of did. 

The Stones at Knebworth, as portrayed by the Iceman/AIM

“The Stones,” The Iceman told me, “had insisted that the promoter should attempt to try to instill a carnival atmosphere at the show by hiring a large number of clowns, buskers and other circus acts, who were supposed to entertain the crowd between sets. I guess I was part of this. 

Chris Lynam booked us. I was in a street theatre group from Penge called Shoestring. I played a character called Private Parts. But I think on this occasion we were less performers and more atmosphere creators, interacting with festival goers. I had designed my own clown costume. I think I also wore a chef’s hat.

“I remember Chris Lynam shouting at me to get on stage but I had challenged myself with an alternative form of stimulus and couldn’t get off the ground. I think my colleagues all assembled on the main stage, but I missed my biggest audience.”

On his website, partly as his 1976 self, partly as The Iceman, partly as AIM, his artist persona, he remembers:


I didn’t make it onto stage, man, but I was booked, man – I let the Stones down, man. Not good to let the Stones down, man, but, like, man, they understood, man. Icespecaimlly Mice Jaimgger, man. Things happen at open air concerts, man, and there’s a lot of stuff going on, man. Things happenin’, man, all the taim, man – all kinds of stuff, man, around everywhere, man. It’s craimzy, man – raimlly cricy, man…


We can but wait with bated breath to see if the Taliban reply and sensibly give him a booking in their new (or do I mean old?) Afghanistan…

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Filed under Afghanistan, Art, Eccentrics, Performance

The mysterious Iceman’s birth, baptism, Westminster connections and dribbles.

The Iceman crops up in this blog erractically and eccentrically.

He used to be a humorous performance artist, destroying blocks of ice – sometimes by just letting them melt, sometimes using a blowtorch, sometimes blowing them up with explosives. Nowadays, though, he is a painter.

He paints pictures of blocks of ice.

Recently, he did a Zoom call with pupils at the highly prestigious Westminster School in London. I Skyped him to ask why…


JOHN: Why?

ICEMAN: A young sixth former became aware of my work and approached me on behalf of the Westminster Literary Society, which sounded very prestigious.

JOHN: But you’re not a literary creator; you’re an artistic performer and performance artist and now artist.

ICEMAN: Yes but, as you know, I use words, often with “aim” or “ice” in them.

JOHN: Errr… “aim”?

Portrait of the Artist as a mystery man

ICEMAN: That’s the n-ice name I have adopted as a painter. AIM = Anthony, Ice Man. But it always has a deeper meaning…

JOHN: Ooooooh!

ICEMAN: That is the correct response. Ooooooh! Deep. Deep. What are we AIMing for? I’m aiming for something very particular.

JOHN: What?

ICEMAN: Nirvanaima.

JOHN: Yer wot?

ICEMAN: Some people call it Nirvana. I call it NirvanAIMa… The Westminster Literary Society liked the wordplay… I am now a cult figure in the sixth form at Westminster School… I was baptised in Westminster Hall.

Westminster Hall is the oldest surviving part of the Palace of Westminster – ie the UK Parliament building (Photograph by Jwslubbock via Wikipedia)

JOHN: Westminster HALL???

That’s in the Houses of Parliament!

ICEMAN: Yes. The old hall where Charles I was tried. 

JOHN: You were baptised there???

ICEMAN: I had good contacts in those days.

JOHN: Bloody good contacts. Tell all!… 

ICEMAN: Anyway…

JOHN: Forget the Anyway. Why did you get baptised in Westminster Hall and where did you get the water from? There’s no font. You must have brought your own water. What was the font? Times Roman? What connections did you have? Political or Lordly?

ICEMAN: I’m a commoner.

JOHN: So you had a relation who was in the House of Commons?

ICEMAN: As a baby, I was good at networking. I have a little block of ice here…

JOHN: I don’t want to know about your little block of ice. I want to know about the water in your font and how and why you got baptised in Westminster Hall. Does this mean, bizarrely, you have a connection with Westminster School?

ICEMAN: One wonders, with all this synchronicity going around… You have an unhealthy interest in this… I think the person who invited me – at Westminster School – unbeknown to me, took my work very seriously, thought it was deep and funny and the initial subject I was talking to them about was Can Stand-Up Comedy Be an Art Form?… but I turned it, really, into a promotion of my paintings.

JOHN: Your paintings not your ice-melting performance art?

ICEMAN: I am a man of two parts.

JOHN: You’re a man of three parts. One is in Westminster Hall as a baby.

ICEMAN: There was ice in the font. It was February… No, it was April, actually.

JOHN: You remember ice in the font?

ICEMAN: I sensed it… Anyway… One of my audience at Westminster School was called Cecilia. She said she laughed so much at my Zoom meeting that her eyeliner ran.

JOHN: Where did it run to?

Iceman and duck talk to Westminster scholars

ICEMAN: My duck was there. You remember my duck? You blogged about it.

JOHN: How could I not?

ICEMAN: But the thing that I appreciated was that my art – seemingly genuinely – was being appreciated by a new generation. Now they can’t stop sending me emails. And even their English teacher said how deeply moving and funny it was at the same time. They had a block of their own. They called it Alice.

JOHN: Alice?

ICEMAN: – Al-ice.

JOHN: Aah! So you’ve inspired new ice artists?

ICEMAN: Well, they say I have inspired them. They are painting lots of pictures and they are going to send me a booklet of all their pictures. It has been a stimulus for their writing and art.

JOHN: But will they cough-up to buy a painting from you? How much would it cost?

ICEMAN: I dunno. If they gave a fiver each, how big is the Sixth Form?… £500?

JOHN: That’s quite cheap for your ice blocks.

ICEMAN: They haven’t replied to that e-mail.

JOHN: This would be you selling them not a block of ice but a…

ICEMAN: …a painting of a block. Yes. I know you met me when I was a performance artist, but my main creative activity now is painting, though still using the motif of blocks of ice. Every painting has a block of ice. I told the Literary Society that, when I look back, I see the blocks as stepping stones to my later career as a painter.

JOHN: But if the past blocks are stepping stones, they will melt, so your future career is uncertain.

ICEMAN: Yes, but I’ve got there now. A painter called Alfred Wallis reminds me of myself. He was part of the St Ives Group in Cornwall, but he was really a Cornish fisherman and he painted on cardboard, using ship’s paint. Very simple and child-like, which reminds me of me because I tend to paint on mounting board. He was taken up by Ben Nicholson. He was a genuinely naïve painter.

I’m not saying I’m emulating him. I came across him later and realised he’s like me in some ways. He only started painting in his Sixties.

The Iceman in full flow… His art is not easily accomplished… It is a combination of art and art-if-ice

JOHN: Back to your birth. Where was your father born?

ICEMAN: In Aberdeen. But I was born off the King’s Road in Chelsea. I think there might be a plaque there. It was a bit more bohemian in those days. I broke free and became The Iceman.

JOHN: Did you go to university?

ICEMAN: I can’t give too much information about myself without demystifying myself.

JOHN: When you were 19, what did you want to be?

ICEMAN: I think I wanted to join the Royal Navy.

JOHN: Why?

ICEMAN: To do ice patrols…

JOHN: Of course you did. But, at 19, did you decide you wanted to be a creative person of some kind?

ICEMAN: I think I had an idea of being some kind of actor. But then I recognised the limitations of that field.

JOHN: What are the limitations?

ICEMAN: Spouting forth other people’s words. I guess I became a performance artist but not one of your heavy Marina Abramović types. More of a slightly humorous performance artist. When I played comedy clubs, they said I should do art galleries; and art galleries said I should go and do comedy clubs. That’s the story of my life.

I ran into Arthur Smith. I said to him: “I never had success.” He said: “You had your moments”.

JOHN: Well, you’ve done better than Van Gogh did in his lifetime.

ICEMAN: That was one of your greatest blogs – The Iceman out-sells Van Gogh… You don’t remember! You don’t know your own blogs!

JOHN: I send the recordings off to some bloke in China and he transcribes them and puts them online. I seldom read them. But I remember the duck.

ICEMAN: You have a sort-of tabloid journalist’s eye for a good headline.

JOHN: Yeah: The Iceman was Lord So-and-So’s Son

ICEMAN: No.

“a bit of blue tarpaulin attached to it that looked like a fish.”

JOHN: You sent me an image of a new painting of a block yesterday.

ICEMAN: Yes, it is called The Tombstone Block. It has a lateral flow test thing block and The Iceman was in PPE outfit and it had a bit of blue tarpaulin attached to it that looked like a fish.

JOHN: Anything seems reasonable. Has the pandemic lockdown inspired you to create more things than you would otherwise have done?

ICEMAN: At one stage I created  a regular routine of painting more or less every day. Recently it’s more like one a fortnight.

JOHN: They take about a week to complete?

The Iceman amid his recent art, holding an old Polaroid

ICEMAN: About five minutes. (LAUGHS) But the build-up… I do think about it prior to the event.

I used to take Polaroids and, when I started painting, I was painting my interpretation of those photographs. But, when I ran out of photographs, I started painting more from memory.

And, more recently, I’ve painted more from a concept.

The block I did with Stewart Lee at the Royal Festival Hall – I imagined it going to Gravesend, Richmond Bridge, the North Sea, lift-off into space, then to a neighbouring universe. I’m getting more away from the basic literal block portrayal.

JOHN: How are sales of your paintings going?

Shrewd buyer (left) of a second Iceman painting – thaims 16

ICEMAN: I’ve just had an order from a previous buyer. He’s the Head of Music at Monkton Combe School. Many years after buying the original one – LidO –  based on Tooting Lido where I did a block, he became interested in a painting called thaims 16, which is basically a boat with an ice block on it… and the other one he likes is more abstract. I tried to get him into three figures, but he’s whittled me down to £50.

I like the fact I’m now painting. That has given me a completely different experience from performing. When you perform, you’re interacting in rough and ready ways. But when you’re painting you’ve usually alone. They are both intense, but completely different experiences.

When I paint, I think it’s the one time I forget about… well… For all my limitations as a painter – because I’ve had no training – I think what I bring to it is a spontaneous feeling. In one way, that relates back to the performance art work, which was always rough and ready.

I like using oils because, on canvas, they can emulate the ice block effects… I like dribbles.


The Iceman’s Zoom chat with the boys and girls of the Westminster Literary Society is on YouTube… The video lasts 29 minutes…

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Filed under Art, Eccentrics, Humor, Humour, Performance, Uncategorized

Lockdown spawns humorous manga CLAMPdown book by UK Wolf man

Ian Wolf is a man with a plan

I am posting this on April Fool’s Day. But it is after midday, so all that follows is true. And today is also CLAMP Day. 

Next year, on 1st April 2022, it may be CLAMP Day 2… or it may not be. It is complicated.

A few days ago, I got an email from Ian Wolf. Although that might not be his name. It is complicated. The email was headed:

Autistic author releasing CLAMP book a-chapter-per-year for free until he finds publisher.

During the UK’s multiple COVID-19 lockdowns over the last 12 months, Ian Wolf decided to keep himself occupied by writing CLAMPdown – a humorous book about his favourite comic book artists – the all-women Japanese manga group CLAMP.

CLAMP is a group of four women who have been creating manga since the 1980s. The group consists of writer Nanase Ohkawa, artists Mokona Apapa (aka Mokona) and Mick Nekoi (aka Tsubaki Nekoi) and designer and art assistant Satsuki Igarashi. 

CLAMP in 2006 (Photo by John (Phoenix) Brown)

Their subjects range from Hindu mythology (RG Veda), ‘magical girl’ kids romance (Cardcaptor Sakura), the apocalypse (X), social commentary (Tokyo Babylon) and fantasy worlds where everything is named after a car (Magic Knight Rayearth) to lesbian sex comedy (Miyuki-chan in Wonderland). 

Frankly, in my view, you just can’t beat a good lesbian sex comedy.

Author Ian Wolf works for the British Comedy Guide website. He is their ‘Data Specialist’: 

“I write up articles for several shows,” he explains, “creating feature articles, reporting news stories, maintaining the TV and radio schedule and so forth. Probably my most famous work is collecting the reviews for all the shows during the Edinburgh Fringe. In 2015, I was given the first and only ‘Unsung Hero’ Award at the Ham Fist Prizes for my work. In 2019, I became a judge for the Increasingly Prestigious Malcolm Hardee Awards.”

He also worked as an editor for the television website On The Box, having previously been a TV and radio reviewer for Giggle Beats.

Ian tries panda-ing to Eastern tastes

In early 2020, Ian also became a question writer for a couple of UK peaktime TV quiz shows Richard Osman’s House of Games and The Wall, under his real name (Ian Dunn).

He has also twice been a contestant on MastermindHis specialist subjects were the BBC Radio 4 sitcom Bleak Expectations and the Four Gospels. 

He tells me: “I also wrote in the preface to CLAMPdown that I was a Countdown conundrum setter – but this is a mountweasel. I put in as a trap to make sure journalists are paying attention, as I later mention in the introduction that this is one show I did not work on.”

Ian is from Stockton-on-Tees and has a mild form of Asperger’s Syndrome, part of the autistic spectrum. 

Parallel to comedy, quizzes, Radio 4’s Bleak Expectations and entrapping unwary journalists, another area of interest for Ian is anime and manga. 

Ian as seen in Anime form…

“I wrote a Beginner’s Guide to Anime for On The Box,” he explains, “and I review it for the website Anime UK News.

He was also the manga critic for all 71 issues of MyM Magazine” (2012-18)

I said to Ian: “Just for my blog’s reader in Guatemala, explain the difference between anime and manga…”

“Anime is animation from Japan. Manga is comic books from Japan.”

He has struggled to find a publisher for CLAMPdown partly, he thinks, because of his Asperger’s Syndrome and the niche subject of his book. 

He says: “Having written a comic book (‘comic’ as in ‘funny’) about comic books (‘comic’ as in ‘graphic novel’), I have decided to go about it in a comic (‘funny’) way and so, having set up the Twitter account @clampdownbook, I want to make the publishers come to me, by publishing free entire extracts of CLAMPdown for all to read.”

Chapter 1: From Gay Guys to Genderless Gods covers the origins of CLAMP and their first commercially published work RG Veda, a series loosely based on the Vedic text the Rig Veda and focuses on Ashura, a genderless god of destruction. 

RG Veda, a series loosely based on the Vedic text

Ian says: “I am publishing one chapter of the book online, for free, until a publisher picks it up or the entire book is available for free. If I find no company willing to publish the book within a year, then I will publish Chapter 2 the same time next year.”

If a publisher is still not found, he will then publish a new chapter every year until a publisher does appear or the entire book is available for free online. As it stands, he says, “this would end in 2038, but it could become longer if CLAMP create any new works during that time. 

“Of course, I want a publisher to take an immediate interest in my work and offer me the chance to release CLAMPdown now for anyone to buy. However, if no publisher is currently interested, I’m happy to play the long game. Plus, I feel I can deal with rejection better if it is told to me gently over roughly two decades rather than straight away.”  

As well as manga comics, CLAMP’s work extends into anime TV series. The group have provided character designs for the forthcoming TV anime series Cardfight!! Vanguard overdress, which debuts on Saturday (3rd April).

One of CLAMP’s older titles, occult detective series Tokyo Babylon, was the subject of a planned TV adaptation entitled Tokyo Babylon 2021, but production was cancelled on Monday after production company GoHands reportedly committed multiple acts of plagiarism. There are plans to restart afresh.

“What is your favourite anime TV series?” I asked Ian.

“The sci-fi comedy Gurren Lagann. Think Carry On Pacific Rim – big giant robots, and at one point a woman’s bikini flies off Barbara Windsor style.”

“I will keep that image of an anime bikini flying off into the air in my mind for some considerable time,” I told him.

“In anime and manga,” Ian emphasised to me, “there is something for everyone.”

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John Fleming’s Weekly Diary No 28 – Phishing, MI6, COVID, comedy, Kunt

… CONTINUED FROM DIARY No 27

SUNDAY 26th JULY

Ariane Sherine, who is writing an album of songs as Ariane X, has discovered that, since finding a new man in her life and becoming happy, she has been unable (temporarily one hopes) to write songs.

I remember Charles Aznavour being asked in an interview why he always seemed to write sad songs. He said that, when people are happy, they are all happy in much the same way, so happy songs are a bit samey; when people are sad, there are varied, specific reasons why, so ‘sad’ is more inspiring and more interesting.

Let’s go off on a random phishing expedition… (Photograph: Bearmix Studio via UnSplash)

MONDAY 27th JULY

I had a call from BT, my internet provider, telling me that my line has been compromised and that my landline and broadband might be cut off…

Except BT is not my internet provider nor my line provider.

There was an electronic recorded voice explaining the above, which then transferred me to a second electronic recorded voice which said it was putting me through to an ‘adviser’ who said, in a very heavy Indian accent: “Hello. This is BT, your internet provider”.

I replied “No you’re not. So you can fuck off.”

It seemed best in the circumstances.

As someone pointed out, the quality of scammers has deteriorated recently.

The COVID self-administered swab test pack – my fifth test…

TUESDAY 28th JULY

No wonder the self-administered COVID-19 swab tests are inaccurate. I just self-administered my second one. (This time, I was randomly chosen by IpsosMORI for their research.)

You are supposed to stick the swab up both nostrils and into the back of your mouth, touching both tonsils, using a mirror to see the tonsils.

Perhaps I am oddly built but, for the life of me (which could be literally true) I cannot see my tonsils nor pretty much anything at the back of my mouth/top of my throat.

After sticking the swab up both nostrils and turning it around a bit, I dabbed it and turned it vaguely at the back of my throat on each side and hoped for the best.

In the evening, I went to my local cinema to see The Dark Knight. Cinemas are currently screening ‘modern classic’ movies to entice people in after the coronavirus lockdown.

I sat in my normal seat in the very front row. I was the only person in the screening room until, at the very last moment, a tall man came in and sat in the very back row. He had a green Mohican hairstyle, which struck me as a little old-fashioned. I was reminded of James Fenimore Cooper.

WEDNESDAY 29th JULY

Good news for comedy clubs. A friend of a friend who works for a comedy club (and who has luckily been on paid furlough because of the coronavirus) will be back at work this Saturday because a lifting of restrictions means that comedy clubs can open provided they observe social distancing and take other anti-virus precautions.

Other than that, it was a surreal day…

The ‘artist formerly known as The Iceman‘, now occasionally and erratically known as AIM, has been painting aliens. He sent me an image of his latest encounter.

Like many by the artist formerly known as The Iceman, this painting is fairly self-extra-planetary

The “BARGAIM of the WEEK” (sic) on his website is currently a painting of his ice block at the Glastonbury Festival for a very reasonable £5,077…

Richard Moore, known as ‘C’ or ‘M’ but not as Roger Moore.

Richard Moore has been appointed the new head of MI6 – ‘C’ to his chums; ‘M’ to James Bond fans.

It is a sign of our surreal times, that #RogerMoore is now trending on Twitter because people only skim the headlines and get confused between reality and fantasy.

THURSDAY 30th JULY

On Monday I have an appointment to see the doctor who is trying to figure out why my calcium level and kidney function went mad in May and I had to be hospitalised. It is a face-to-face meeting and will include yet another blood test.

As I have come to expect, this morning the NHS sent me a text saying the face-to-face meeting has been changed to a telephone call. I assume this is bollocks.

This afternoon, I had a chat in Covent Garden with performer Samantha Hannah for an upcoming blog. Nearby in the piazza, in front of ‘The Actors’ Church’, a lone puppeteer street performer was trying to attract a crowd. The place used to be thronged. No more – because of COVID-19.

A street pupeteer (extreme right) tries to attract an audience (extreme left) in Covent Garden piazza

Samantha told me two fascinating facts which will not be in the blog…

Apparently up-market apartments are not selling at The Shard in London – not because of the prices but simply because it is (just) south of the River Thames. North has more prestige.

And she read somewhere that people from hilly areas speak with accents that go up and down more than people from flat areas. This is such a weird and unlikely idea that I suspect it may actually be true.

Life is a simultaneous drama and comedy for all these days

FRIDAY 31st JULY

On the early morning Today programme on Radio 4, Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed that comedy clubs can open tomorrow.

I double-checked with the hospital that my appointment on Monday is, indeed, a face-to-face meeting with my Kidney Man, not via telephone.

And, indeed, it is face-to-face.

The text I got from the NHS was bollocks.

Later, I got a text about my self-administered coronavirus test:


Thank you for completing the COVID-19 swab test. Your swab analysis results indicate that you are COVID-19 negative. Although results are not 100% conclusive, it is important that you and your household continue to observe social distancing guidance. If you or anyone in your household has or develops symptoms you must follow the Stay at Home Guidance even if you have a negative result.


That is my fifth COVID-19 swab test. All negative.

I received a more positive email from Kunt and the Gang:


“It took 18 months… 20-odd rehearsals, 3 days in the studio”

It took 18 months, 2 line-up changes, 20-odd rehearsals, 3 days in the studio and about 2 months of pinging mixes back and forth remotely all through lockdown, but finally, at long last… Kunts Punk In Your Face is out now to download from our Bandcamp page.

As a thank you to everyone who supported my book Kickstarter all those years ago it’s available for free until 17-08-2020.

For everyone else it’s pay what you want – I suggest between a fiver and a tenner, depending on how flush you are, or be a proper kunt and go and pinch it for free!

Or get it on CD with extra bonus track from http://katg.co.uk

It should also be up on the likes of your Spotifys and your iTuneses etc. soon, so go and have a check – if it’s not up right now it won’t be long but those platforms are a bit of a law unto themselves.


At lunchtime, it was suddenly announced that the slow easing of coronavirus lockdown restrictions has been put on pause and comedy clubs (and other premises) will NOT be allowed to open tomorrow.

Worse still, for me, cinemas can remain open but audiences will have to wear masks.

It is, at least, good to know that, in such uncertain times, you can rely on the arrival of Kunt albums with puns in the titles.

SATURDAY 1st AUGUST

And, it seems, you can also rely on Apple…

Writer/performer/producer/comedian/all-round good guy Peter Michael Marino, who lives in New York, says:


Socially-responsible, financially lucky Peter Michael Marino

At Grand Central Genius Bar:

“Your 2.5-year old, out-of-warranty MacBook Pro is defective and needs a new keyboard, new battery, and new hard drive.

“How much?”

“It’s your lucky day. It’s all free. Don’t ask any questions. Play the lottery, dude.”

Just played the lottery and won $10.


I reply:


Apple Store, London, late 2011.

I took my out-of-warranty MacBook Pro in for repair for the third time – a faulty DVD drive. They had previously repaired it for free, because the drive was a third-party item – not of their making – and they passed the repair charge on to the other company.

“John, you seem to be having a problem with this machine. Would you like a new one for free?”

“How much would it cost if I bought it?”

(The answer was over £2,000)

“I’ll have it.”

“I’m afraid there will be a delay of about a week. We have to get it in from Ireland.”

A week later, I am watching the BBC News Channel. They announce that Steve Jobs has died.

Half an hour later, the phone rings.

“Your new MacBook has arrived.”

Newer model. Bigger hard drive. Faster processor.

July 2020… It is still working.

Thankyou Steve Jobs.


I buy a ticket for tonight’s UK lottery game.

My numbers do not come up.

Welcome to reality, John.

… CONTINUED HERE

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John Fleming’s Weekly Diary – No 27 – Face masks, new talent and The Iceman

… CONTINUED FROM DIARY No 26

SUNDAY 19th JULY

Writer/performer Ariane Sherine‘s hugely-talented 9-year-old daughter sent me a song which she had composed about eggs.

MONDAY 20th JULY

Apropos nothing, I was reminded today that, when I worked at Thames Television in London, one of the executives had the job title Head of Further Education and Religion, abbreviated on memos etc – rather appropriately – as Head of FEAR.

TUESDAY 21st JULY

As anyone who wisely reads every posting of this blog knows, I was recently in hospital because my calcium level was very high and my kidney function was very low. The doctors still do not know why.

Back in June, I mentioned in a blog that, when I brush my teeth, I have always cleared my mouth by drinking water straight from the tap – and, in the recent hot weather, was drinking a lot of water from the tap. I wondered if the high calcium level in my body could be due to this drinking from the tap which had developed a (possibly calcium) deposit on it.

Today, my friend and executrix Lynn caught up with reading that blog and commented:


Tap water is far safer and cheaper and better for you than any bottled water – but the only drinking water in the house is the kitchen sink tap.

A discarded sock with duck motif – I may soak it in vinegar and/or lemon juice…

If you are really not trusting even the tap water then boil it, let it cool and bottle it – that is assuming your kettle is scale free?!

Scale is what is clinging to the tap in your photograph and that can be removed with a limescale cleaner – although a cloth/old sock soaked in vinegar or lemon juice and wound around the tap overnight works just as well.

The kitchen tap is a direct feed to outside and is as pure as it can be, whereas all the other taps are fed through the house system and often from a tank in the attic full of…

Well, perhaps we won’t think about that.


WEDNESDAY 22nd JULY

The UK comedy circuit is currently, temporarily dead because of the coronavirus pandemic – live venues are closed.

The BBC has now announced it is on “a mission to kickstart live stand-up again” with “a new stand-up series designed to support grassroots comedy talent”.

The unique and original President Obonjo…

Given that, last year, BBC Studios attempted to rip-off President Obonjo’s long-running unique circuit comedy act with a claim that no-one in BBC Studios had ever heard of said unique act that had been successfully playing the circuit for ten years and had got 4-star reviews at the Edinburgh Fringe…

…and, given that a BBC Studios producer told comedy critic Kate Copstick that they “don’t have much to do with live comedy” and that live circuit comedians are “not nearly as important as they think they are”…

…it will be interesting to see how this change of thinking works in practice.

The line-up for these six half-hour shows has not yet been announced. It will be interesting to see if the BBC peoples it with genuinely talented new-to-TV live circuit comics or the same old rosta of familiar TV comics they already have drinks and expenses-paid meals with.

Is that bullshit I smell in the air?

More refreshingly, I got an email from The Iceman, the very amiable and surprisingly sane man I first met when he auditioned for The Last Resort With Jonathan Ross – ooh! – a century ago..

Since then, The Iceman has long-taken to creating fine art and re-styled himself as ‘The Artist formerly known as the IceMan’ (AIM).

Today’s email read:


The Iceman (AIM) has self-launched into Space. The Duck is the same duck previously referenced by myself/yourself in previous Blogs [from a hotel in Southampton!].

Both The Iceman and Duck survive in space through connection to the Ice-Block and previous intense mind training exercises on Earth.


THURSDAY 23rd JULY

Jonathan Ross – a man who actually cares about new talent

Following on from the BBC’s alleged search for alleged new comedy talent, ITV have now announced an upcoming series with Jonathan Ross which will “showcase the very best new talents performing in a recreation of the vibe and atmosphere of a small comedy venue, all filmed within COVID guidelines.”

There is actually some chance of finding genuine new talent here, as it’s the energetic and enthusiastic Jonathan as opposed to the lazy, uninterested BBC…‬

“This new series,” the publicity says, “will see him get behind fresh new comedians on the cusp of their big break, offering them a stage upon which to make people laugh.”

Meanwhile, The Iceman emailed me his paintings of comedians Stewart Lee and Mike Myers, both fans of his.

Stewart Lee (centre) interviewing The Iceman (bottom right) on Resonance FM radio

Mike Myers (left), a fan of The Iceman, having his mind expanded by The Iceman’s performance

FRIDAY 24th JULY

From today, everyone going into a shop or supermarket will have to wear a face mask in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus. There is the distant threat of a £100 fine for anyone not wearing a mask.

The London Evening Standard reported a man had walked naked down Oxford Street wearing nothing but a mask (covering his genitals).

Meanwhile, The Iceman sent me multiple photos of multiple happy buyers of his art.

A delighted buyer (right) of one of The Iceman’s ice-citing paintings is congratulated by the artist.

“The happiest buyer,” The Iceman told me, “is Tobias with a poster of 42 of my ice blocks. It has increased hugely in value since his purchase date.”

Tobias, left, yet another delighted member of the public who invested in a valuable Iceman artwork.

SATURDAY 25th JULY

Unrelated to this barrage of self-publicity from The Iceman, I coincidentally went into my local Iceland supermarket this afternoon.

100% of the customers were wearing face masks.

0% of the five staff were wearing masks – one at the checkout, two wandering around filling shelves and two having a close-up conversation beside the checkout man.

Apparently shop staff are not required under the government regulations to wear masks. I can’t help but feel the government has not thought it through and this rather undercuts the purpose of wearing masks in shops.

Seeing that the staff don’t actually need to wear masks for any public safety reason will discourage people from wearing masks in shops.

When smoking was banned in pubs, I didn’t think that would work but it did because the pub risked getting fined, not the punters. ‬

Later in the day, I received another email from The Iceman:


Here’s today’s painting.

It is a diagram in space explaining the significance of The Iceman’s ice block. It is self-explanatory.

The Neowice comet is aiming for the Block.

He also sent a self-portrait photo (below) of the artist “as he prepares his canvas by balancing it on his head prior to painting to ensure the concept is properly absorbed in advance.”


… CONTINUED HERE

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Simon Munnery on his first exhibition, buying vegetables and a new form of art

Simon Munnery with Tazzy, his over-large lap dog, out shopping for vegetables in Bedford…

It’s Tuesday today.

Last Wednesday, I went to Bedford for a chat with ever-original comedy performer Simon Munnery. He travels about 11 miles to Bedford every Wednesday to buy his vegetables.

Since then, I’ve either been busy or lazy or I’ve been waiting for the coronavirus panic to settle in some way to find an angle. Take your pick.

But there is no angle. Simon’s first solo art exhibition What Am I? has opened in Bedford at Andy Holden‘s suitably quirky Ex-Baldessarre Gallery. It runs from noon to 6.00pm every Saturday until 9th May, coronavirus allowing.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested everyone in the UK should avoid pubs, clubs, theatres and cinemas and that people who did not absolutely have to go out should stay at home – an end to “all unnecessary social contact.”

London theatres have already started to close. Who knows if smaller, intimate exhibitions like Simon’s will close? As of this morning, the art exhibition continues but his Alan Parker Urban Warrior ‘Farewell Tour’ comedy show is pausing, with luck recommencing in April, perhaps later. Just a week is a long time in a virus pandemic. This is what happened last week…

Simon’s first solo art exhibition is taking place in the character-filled Queen’s Park area of Bedford


JOHN: You live in a village in the countryside. I thought you were a city boy.

SIMON: Born in Edgware, raised in Watford, died all over the place.

JOHN: So why are you living in a village?

SIMON: It’s cheap. 

JOHN: This is billed as your first art exhibition? Surely not.

SIMON: I had stuff in Arthur Smith’s art gallery at the Edinburgh Fringe one year. He turned a house into an art gallery. That was it. 

JOHN: So this is your first solo exhibition.

SIMON: Yes. 

JOHN: I’m surprised you haven’t been approached by a major London gallery before this. I mean, you’re a ‘Name’. The Scotsman described you as “The closest that comedy gets to modern art.”

SIMON: Well, a jacket of mine is in the Museum of Comedy in London: the jacket with cider cans all over it. And this art exhibition is booked to go to Edinburgh.

JOHN: During the Fringe?

SIMON: Yup.

JOHN: If there IS a Fringe this year because of the coronavirus…

SIMON: Well, we don’t know at this stage. If there is, I’m doing a show called Trials & Tribulations.

JOHN: Because…

SIMON: Because you have to think of a title. I think the art exhibition may also be going to Stroud. Maybe it might go to London after that… The idea of a show that can tour without you is good.

JOHN: This sounds like a rounding-off-your-career type of exhibition.

Simon Munnery, in his youth, billed as “The Next Shakespeare”… though with an interest in science

SIMON: Not really. It was Andy Holden’s idea. He’s an artist; he uses some of the space he has in his studio for a tiny gallery and he said: “I shall do you.” So I said: “Alright.” And that was it.

JOHN: There’s something in the exhibition which you did when you were nine years old.

SIMON: There’s a poem. Something about The Fog.

JOHN: The Fog?

SIMON: I can’t remember it. I got a text from a neighbour that Mrs Nunn, my primary school teacher – there was some dispute at the time – says: “I still think you cheated on that poem.”

JOHN: How?

SIMON: I don’t know how. I didn’t. But it’s been following me round for 40 years.

JOHN: What’s in it?

SIMON:
Just things that rhyme with fog, I think. The fog lingers… I can’t remember.

JOHN: I can’t remember what you studied at university.

SIMON: Science. Well, “Not much,” is the real answer. In the last year, I ended up doing ‘The History and Philosophy of Science’.

JOHN: Is that actually Science? Or is it History and Philosophy?

SIMON: I don’t know. I didn’t go to any lectures, so I have no idea what the course was like. I just slipped through the net and no-one noticed, really.

JOHN: This was at Cambridge.

SIMON: Yes. I met my Supervisor a week before the exam. Because I had never been to anything, he hadn’t written any reports about me saying how well or badly I was doing and I said to him: “Can you recommend one book?” and he recommended Against Method: Outline of an Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge by Paul K Feyerabend.

So I read that and regurgitated all his arguments – which was basically saying there’s no such thing as the philosophy of science, along with some really good examples about Galileo… And I passed on the strength of reading one book.

JOHN: Did you get a good degree?

Simon leaves no stone unturned in his Bedford-based search for originality in Art… soon to tour

SIMON: A third. It goes First, Second, Third, so Third is the best.

JOHN: It’s the best because…?

SIMON: Because it’s the highest number. If you are utterly brilliant, you can get a Fourth.

JOHN: Why did you do science? You’re very arty.

SIMON: Am I? To be honest, in school subjects, I was quite good at everything. But when you got to ‘A’ Levels, at that time, you had to choose one or the other.

JOHN: You must surely have wanted to be an artist as a kid. You’re not usually doing straight stand-up in your shows. You’re always trying to work out some new, original, unique angle.

SIMON: It’s just to keep myself busy, really…

JOHN: But you could keep busy by doing the same old stuff over and over again.

SIMON: Well, I AM touring Alan Parker: Urban Warrior again. It’s billed as a ‘Farewell Tour’. But it has resurrected very nicely. I think it’s funnier played by someone in their mid-50s rather than their mid-20s, when I first did it. He’s still anti-Thatcher. The fact she’s dead now doesn’t make any difference to him. It’s like a bedrock. But there are new bits. Climate change. Extinction Rebellion and all that.

Reflections on a much younger Alan Parker, Urban Warrior, in one of the art exhibition’s videos…

JOHN: You performed for Extinction Rebellion…

SIMON: I played Piccadilly Circus, Waterloo Bridge and Brockwell Park in South London.

JOHN: Anyway, to get back to the exhibition… Andy Holden decided you were going to have an exhibition. So how did you choose what to include in it?

SIMON: I didn’t. I submitted things and he chose what to put up… I did have this massive canvas in my shed, which had been there for years… When I was spray-painting buckets, they rested on the canvas, so there were strange patterns on it. I tried to get that in the exhibition, just to get rid of it out of the shed, but he REALLY objected to that.

JOHN: Couldn’t you claim it was post-modern…?

SIMON:  That’s what I tried. But no, he wouldn’t have it.

JOHN: There must be phrases. ‘Post-modern’ is usually a good one. ‘Meme’ is a good one now. I suppose ‘Zeitgeist’ is a bit old-fashioned.

SIMON: I might have got away with just ‘Abstract’, but I feel it’s destined to stay in the shed.

JOHN: Couldn’t you have claimed it was about the Iraq War or something?

SIMON: A good title might have saved it. But no. He gave me some canvases and asked me to fill them and I printed out some stuff and he selected what he wanted. I did make an Alan Parker from an Action Man doll.

JOHN: That’s the mobile.

Simon addresses Extinction Rebellion in a video while his Alan Parker doll takes flight in the gallery

SIMON: Yes. Did you notice how padded its tummy was?

JOHN: Was it pregnant?

SIMON: No, but your standard Action Man isn’t the same shape as me.

JOHN: But you’re slim…

SIMON: Less so now…

JOHN: There was the wall with lots of quotes on.

A wall of quotes from Simon’s AGM show surround one of his always inventive television videos…

SIMON: That is only two-thirds of one year of my AGM show. I have sacks of those.

JOHN: So you were just trying to empty your house. What’s next?

SIMON: I came up with a format for a new form of Art… Roadside placards.

JOHN: Discuss…

SIMON: You often see an advert at the side of the road but you could put a sentence… then another sentence… and another sentence… and it would build up into a paragraph. Or maybe not even a sentence or a paragraph; just an image and then another image that replies to the previous image. You could prove Pythagoras’ Theorem entirely in images. People could learn as they drove past. Your experience would alter depending on the speed you were travelling at. You could design it for cyclists or car drivers or something to make people slow down. I dunno.

I was imagining green-on-brown so you would have to know it was there, maybe. Secret Art.

JOHN: Pythagoras?

SIMON: Pictorial proof of Pythagoras’ Theorem. It could be done. The format of roadside placards has not been fully exploited.

JOHN: More immediately, what next for you?

SIMON: I’ve bought eggs from the egg lady. She’s not shaped like an egg; she sells eggs. I’ve got my fruit and veg. I was supposed to be getting toilet rolls. We are running out at home. I went to the supermarket – none. Other people’s houses must be full of toilet rolls.

Simon Munnery’s exhibition What Am I? runs in Bedford every Saturday until May 9th, probably.

…Simon about to catch a wreath at a funeral staged in his back garden…

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