Earlier today, I heard some radio station playing the Beatles’ Sgt Pepperand its opening lines “It was twenty years ago today…”
I used to half-heartedly keep a diary on my computer. On a whim, I looked up what happened twenty years ago today… I have changed the names of other people and their locations…
Saturday 22nd June 2002 – Edinburgh
Shirley is trying to give up heroin. Her father is trying to give up chocolate.
In the evening, Shirley and I stayed up until 03.00am talking. She told me God gave her help immediately on three occasions she asked for help. She has a water container from which she swigs regularly during the day. I had presumed it contained water; in fact it contains Blue Star cider.
When she lived in Manchester, addicted to heroin, she was mugged by a tall black man and and a small white girl she knew. Without warning, the man kicked her in the chest. She went down on the ground and both started kicking her. She had been mugged five times before so she used her hands and arms to protect a pocket with only £2 in it. They stole that £2 but left her handbag and the other pockets in her jacket untouched – that was where she really kept her money.
(Image by Randy Laybourne via UnSplash)
Then I went back another year in my diary…
Friday 22nd June 2001 – Cambridge/Borehamwood/Clacton-on-Sea
I had lunch with a friend in Cambridge. It was her 16th wedding anniversary and I think she was feeling a little down.
She told me her son (aged 13) is still being bullied at school. The other week, someone pushed him into a bush. Her daughter (aged 11) says she has decided she is going to marry a rich man, take over her mother’s house, have children early, then her mother can look after them while she goes out and has fun.
“Good luck finding a rich man,” my friend told her daughter.
“You managed,” she told my friend.
“I didn’t know he was going to be rich,” my friend replied. “I thought we were soul mates.”
After lunch, I drove back home to Borehamwood.
As soon as I got through the front door, my mobile rang – It was the matron at my father’s nursing home. My mother and aunt (my father’s sister) had walked in to see him and found him lying back with his mouth open, apparently not breathing (and, as I later found out, his false teeth dropped down from his upper gum) with a spoon in his hand and a bowl of jelly in front of him. My aunt, a former nurse, found he had no pulse.
The nursing home matron was up in the room within about a minute and found he had a strong pulse but, by this time, both my mother and aunt were in tears.
I drove out to Essex from Borehamwood in the early Friday evening rush hour – it took about 2 hours 45 mins instead of the normal 90 minutes – to find my father looking dramatically thinner, I thought: bonier than he had been when I saw him yesterday afternoon. I got there around 1830 by which time my mother and aunt were dry-eyed but still twitchily upset. I drove them back to their homes around 1900 – my mother broke down in my arms – and then I went back to the nursing home where my father was asleep. When I had left, I had told my father:
“I’ll be about half an hour.”
“You’ll be back – and the boatman?” he asked me.
When I got back and he was awake, I asked him if he felt hot.
“I really don’t know,” he replied.
My father’s wedding ring was found on the floor below his bed this morning. Because he had lost so much weight, it had slipped off his finger.
Mick Deacon, the Brit who is temporarily in the US to see his girlfriend and who has featured in a few of my recent blogs, is trying to get back to the UK – with little success so far. He writes:
I currently have no flight back. My March flight was cancelled and I am just sat here, waiting for British Airways to answer the phone.
Last week, on the anniversary of the 6th January attack on the Capitol, I was watching some political lady talking about the insurrection. It sounded absolutely terrifying.
You just can’t believe what people will do for Trump. It’s like a cult. Intelligent people indoctrinated by his hate and sense of superiority. The man has the figure of a beach ball and a face that looks like a flame blower who didn’t realise which way the wind was blowing.
Mick’s girlfriend prepares breakfast for him…
I just find it so concerning what’s happening here. There are some very nice friendly people here. I’ve seen some stunning countryside, listened to fabulous music and eaten fabulous food and enjoyed watching football matches (which has never happened in England).
But there is a feeling of fear from the guns, the pressure people are under, the poverty and mental health problems.
Friends here don’t watch the news because they don’t want to know. I travelled blissfully unaware before; I would always read situations and was never stupid so I never hit a spot of trouble.
I know the media is not to be trusted but I wonder would you love your country if you knew about a quieter, safer one? It’s where we grow up, our culture, familiarity. Would you be so patriotic if you were suddenly taken to a place that wasn’t so expensive, without so much gun crime? Would you turn round and think Wow! Why did I put up with that for so long?
Yesterday there was a story on the news about a car valet worker who was shot when asking for payment from the guest. Apparently there was a heated conversation and the guest shot and killed the valet person and tried to imply it was self defence.
It really made me realise something.
I had been told before if you see trouble – arguments, whatever – Do not try to help – Run… and call for help only when you are out of the area.
This was from a man who spoke to me when I was walking the dog when I first came here.
Mick’s girlfriend drives to the local shops…
What I realise from the news is that many people here are in a constant fear/attack mode not knowing if they will get shot.
So people shoot first and think later over what is often something trivial.
Arguments quickly escalate.
There are also people who have no patience who try to blame it on the melting pot of violence, when they have committed a crime.
So I am sat here, waiting for British Airways to answer the phone.
JASON:Euphoria – Pirates of the South is a book I wrote during the Covid lockdown last year.
JOHN: There’s semi-autobiographical stuff in it?
JASON: Well, there’s bits of autobiographical things I experienced in Borehamwood and South London…
JOHN: South London?
JASON: …thus the title Pirates of the South.
It’s about a young Indonesian girl who gets involved in an abusive relationship within a family environment but finds solace in the male-dominated music industry of the time. It’s set in the 1980s and 1990s – the Rave scene, the pirate radio scene – people finding a platform in their bedroom to catapault them within the music industry. Urban music wasn’t played on mainstream radio at the time. So people took risks to put the pirate stations together to create a platform for the music.
JOHN: It was originally conceived as a film?
JASON: Yes. Pirates of the South. It was planned about ten years ago with Mark Straker who has since, sadly, passed away. I continued to work on it as a book. The script had already been written by Lisa Strobl.
JOHN: You still plan to make it as a film?
JASON: Yes. Next year. Made by Djonny Chen’s Silent D Pictures. The idea is to have a well-known Indonesian actress in the central role.
JOHN: So the Pirates of the South film would get a release in Indonesia?
“People took risks… to create a platform for the music…”
JASON: If you call it Pirates of the South in Indonesia, people might expect some Johnny Depp type pirates to be in it.
JOHN: And you also have another film waiting on the blocks…
JASON: Yes. Silent D Pictures are interested in making Pirates of the South AND a film called Cookster, which is going to be the back story of my four gangster books.
“It is based on myself when I was young…”
JOHN: So the Cookster back story chronologically happens before the first of the four gangster books?
JASON: Yes. We got everyone together to talk about doing a film of the first book, directed by Peter Field. But he said there was something missing from the books – the story of how the Cookster became who he is in the first book. The Cookster film explains the back story.
JOHN: And The Cookster is…?
JASON: The Cookster is based on myself when I was young – a dyslexic teen misunderstood by his family, abandoned by the system and desperate for respect. Then he becomes a drug dealer and struggles to balance his addiction and his debt to local gangsters, driving him apart from the woman he loves and the boyhood he’s never known.
JOHN: And, of course, you’ve left that world now.
JASON: Yes. Yeah. I’ve left it all behind and moved on to better things now.
JOHN: So The Cookster movie would be a prequel to the four semi-autobiographical gangster novels…
JASON: Yes, with two unknown actors playing earlier versions of me. It starts with me aged about six, moves up to me at 17 and then There’s No Room For Jugglers in my Circus takes it from there.
JOHN: You’re going to do the film Cookster and simultaneously write the book of the movie?
JOHN: Who is going to play you in your prime in the movie?
I once had a long chat with the head of a prestige City of London solicitors who acted as the private solicitors for the then British Prime Minister. This guy told me he would never put a serving Metropolitan Police officer on the stand to give evidence in court without someone else who could give corroborating evidence – because he could not be certain the police officer would be telling truth.
I also once knew and chatted with a guy who ran a very high profile UK private detective agency based in London. He employed people from various sources including ex-SAS men but he told me he did not and would not employ ex-policemen because they were not necessarily honest or trustworthy.
A successful South London criminal once told me that dealing with the police is like going to a restaurant – you always have to pay The Bill.
I received an email today from Malcolm Hardee Award designer John Ward. He said: “My friend Alan sent me this. He’s not sure if it’s fiction or fact…”
There were these four women who, although retired after long successful careers, found themselves living in less than acceptable flats and having little or no money to enjoy life with.
Then one day, after reading the daily paper, one of them suggested that they needn’t continue to live hand to mouth and why not rob a bank. Then they would get caught and spend the rest of their lives in comfort, where everything was there for them.
At first they thought it was a joke but then, after a while, they thought: Why not?
Because they all had specialist knowledge – in planning, research and stage make-up – they planned to rob a large bank in a month’s time.
The day came and they were all disguised and had managed to get some guns (not real ones) and did the deed.
However, they got away with a huge amount of money and did not get caught.
They were not sure what to do next, then decided to go for it again and robbed another bank, again collecting a huge amount of money.
The police could not find this gang who ‘dressed as andpretended to be old ladies’ (!) and put more resources into finding this ‘smart’ gang of clever thieves.
The ladies robbed one last bank and had enough to live comfortably for the rest of their lives.
They were never caught and the story only came out when the last lady alive was able to write it all down and have the book published after her death.
Presumably this story is untrue because – apart from anything else – there would have been some publicity about a non-fiction book with that story.
But there is (I think) an urge to WANT to believe it’s true.
And I am not quite sure why.
We are talking three bank robberies, presumably terrifying bank employees.
Why the need to WANT to believe it? The psychology of the reader is far more interesting than the psychology of the supposed robbers.
Last night – as I have since May last year, I woke up every hour during the night with a parched dry mouth.
Twice when I woke up I was in the middle of a dream – different narrative dreams – where someone suddenly said: “Hillary Clinton’s dead!”
What was that all about?
At the moment, I also have occasional vertigo problems.
This blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent, Anna Smith, wrote to say:
Two balls – “He had them indoors, en route to his loo…”
“Sorry to hear about your health problems with the balance. I think you should make sure there is nothing too weighty or sharp that you might fall upon en route to the loo.
“A friend of mine with a similar balance problem had a couple of large stone spheres on pedestals which used to be garden ornaments. He had them indoors, en route to his loo.
“I insisted on taking them away, saying: Larry, I’m sorry but I’m removing your balls. I don’t want you getting hurt.“
Anna, alas, does not say what Larry’s reaction was.
Keith suggests it is mucous causing my balance problem…
Ex ITV (et al) announcer Keith Martin, suggests I have a mucous disorder causing my balance problem.
While he was at it, he also explained to me, in a non-segue, that the origin of the word ‘biscuit’ is French and it originally meant ‘baked twice’.
Who knew? Keith did.
And now the Americans have confused it all for no discernible reason.
If anything, they should be called bi-cookies
Criminal coppers’ cuffs (Photo by Bill Oxford via UnSplash)
Keith had read my latest blogs about the case in which criminally-inclined PC Oliver Banfield wantonly attacked and beat a woman walking home alone.
He (Keith) suggested that the reason for the recent spate of crime committed by serving policemen (there was also Sarah Everard’s recent murder by a serving policeman) is that the police were told they had to be closer to the people they serve.
And, of course, they deal mostly with criminals.
This reminds me of the Stoke Newington police who were planting drugs on drug dealers not because they were frustrated by their inability to get genuine convictions but because they were getting rid of the competition – several of the officers at the local police station had a nice little – highly profitable – business going dealing drugs in the area.
“That this House condemns those nasty, vile and corrupt police officers at Stoke Newington police station who have been engaged in drug trafficking and perverting the course of justice; is appalled that these officers should have betrayed the trust of people in Hackney in general as well as the trust of those who live in and around Sandringham Road, particularly those represented by the Montague Residents Association; notes that these officers have made a mockery of the way in which Hackney Council has co-operated with the police to get rid of drug dealing in Sandringham Road; notes that it now seems certain that at meetings and by letter Chief Superintendent Roy Clarke from Stoke Newington police station has misled the honourable Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch about the true nature of the problems because he himself has been duped by his own police officers… and calls on the Home Secretary to set up an independent judicial enquiry.”
As far as I am aware, no independent judicial enquiry was set up.
PC Oliver Banfield (Photo: Channel 4 video)
Which brings us back to the appalling case of 6ft 2in tall copper/criminal PC Oliver Banfield attacking a random 5ft 2in woman in the street.
Banfield has now resigned from the police before he had to face a ‘misconduct investigation’ by his employers, West Midlands Police.
Sandra Smith, comedy fan par excellence who seems to have developed an interest in the PC Olver Banfield case, drew my attention to the latest media coverage of this – a Sky News report – which includes an interview with the victim – a mother-of-two – who, understandably, says:
“It’s kind of cowardly in a way, if you ask me, because I think he’s obviously hoping to make it go away… It’s affected the way I live my life; it’s affected the way I walk round the village that I’ve lived in all of my life… He’s been put on curfew (instead of a prison sentence) in a lockdown and that doesn’t make sense. We’re all on curfew so what’s he gonna learn or what’s he gonna gain from that?”
PC Oliver Banfield leaves court (Photo by Sally Homer)
I have posted a couple of blogs (HERE and HERE) about police officer Oliver Banfield’s unprovoked night time attack and violent assault on a woman and how he escaped a prison sentence. Instead of prison, he was given a 14-week night curfew – in effect, less than a slap on the wrist in the current national COVID lockdown.
Yesterday morning, I was talking to my eternally un-named friend.
“He was lucky,” she said, “that he could wear a mask leaving court”. She was shocked that he got away with it. “Crazy lack of action,” she said. “Surely he will be sacked?”
“He will,” I suggested, “presumably resign before being sacked. And I guess keep any pension contributions etc etc. Normally they resign before they get investigated for misconduct then they don’t get prosecuted so have an unblemished record while they were serving, before they resigned. They were not sacked. He was unlucky the police were pressurised into taking him to court first – although they tried their very best not to prosecute him.”
Frames from CCTV video of attack by PC Oliver Banfield (6ft 2in tall) on the woman (5ft 2in tall)
After the court sentencing, a police spokesman said PC Oliver Banfield would still face “a misconduct hearing in due course”.
Last night, uber-Fringegoer Sandra Smith told me she had sent my first (not my second) blog to the Chief Constable of the West Midlands police force ‘Dave’ Thompson (for whom PC Oliver Banfield worked) to see the reaction. She got this reply:
“I have read the piece thank you… There are a number of tweets that I have been copied in concerning this. For reason relating to police conduct procedures I cannot comment.”
Deputy Chief Constable Vanessa Jardine: “had to wait”
“The misconduct process had had to wait until after criminal and court processes concluded, because of police regulations.”
The police are telling direct porky pies.
Chief Constable Dave Thompson: “I cannot comment”
As I mentioned in my second blog – the one Chief Constable ‘Dave’ Thompson did not read… on 17th February, in a phone call and follow-up email to Sally Homer, the victim’s aunt, the police’s Professional Standards Dept confirmed that, because PC Banfield had (eventually) admitted that he was guilty, they did not have to wait until sentencing and their conduct review could begin immediately.
“…this matter is no longer Sub Judice as the officer pleaded guilty to assault… That now means we can continue with our conduct investigation which will include the review of the criminal case too”
That was on 17th February.
PC Oliver Banfield (Photo from C4 report)
One of these statements has to be a lie.
Either Deputy Chief Constable Vanessa Jardine is a liar and the misconduct hearing could have started on or before 17th February – over a month ago.
Or the police Professional Standards Department lied in a conversation and in writing in an email on 17th February.
Both cannot be true.
The Channel 4 report on PC Oliver Banfield’s attack (caught on CCTV) is online HERE.
Last week, the UK news was full of the shocking case of Sarah Everard’s killing. A serving Metropolitan Police officer has been arrested and charged with her abduction and murder. The abduction is thought to have happened on Clapham Common in London.
Below is a piece written by Sally Homer about a separate case and posted on her Facebook page.
This week, a police officer will be sentenced for an ‘assault by beating’.
The assault happened in July 2020 as my niece (let’s call her Gemma) walked home in the dark at 1am. The officer (let’s call him PC Danfell) pleaded guilty at Leamington Magistrates Court in January 2021 and his sentencing hearing will take place in Leicester Magistrates’ Court this week.
So that is the news.
Except it probably won’t be the news because – for PC Danfell’s convenience – the hearing will take place in the East Midlands, outside local media scrutiny of where he lives and was charged (Warwickshire) and where he works (West Midlands).
Since the assault – an unprovoked, verbal, and brutal physical attack by a stranger (who turned out to be an off duty-policeman) – Gemma has experienced many instances where the criminal justice system is stacked in favour of the police rather than the victim.
The details of the assault and the subsequent effect on her life are not mine to share. That is Gemma’s story. But I can share the circumstances that have taught me this: if you are a woman who has been assaulted by a serving police officer, then be prepared to battle extremely hard to get justice.
I am a theatre/comedy publicist, so I have had plenty of time due to the pandemic to navigate complicated complaint procedures, to liaise with two police forces and the Crown Prosecution Service. I spent hours researching divergent police procedures when a suspect is a serving police officer. I have been a passionate advocate for Gemma. By focusing on the admin, I was able to better handle the sense of shock at the injustice of it all.
I used a brilliant service provided by the Rights of Women organisation whereby I was able to talk to a criminal barrister for free for an hour.
Such an odd situation: the victim requiring sophisticated legal advice.
But, without their guidance, I don’t believe we would have secured a conviction.
The attack happened at 1am and Gemma reported it 7 hours later, at 8am.
Without ever explicitly referring to this as her ‘mistake’ the investigating police force have implied that their poor response was in part because Gemma did not report the attack immediately.
Under covid restrictions, minimal face-to-face contact was the narrative from the police… Still, it took over 30 hours for an officer to take Gemma’s statement over the phone; it took a week until she was given a name of an officer who would be in charge of the investigation; and it took nine days for an officer to come and see her to sign her statement – despite several attempts by Gemma, myself, and her brother to get a proportionate response to the report of a serious crime.
Gemma supplied the police with two witnesses and, within a week of the assault, with the name, address and photograph of her assailant.
The police had been independently sent 90 seconds of CCTV from a witness who reported the assault without any knowledge that the victim and the assailant were her near neighbours.
Police reassured Gemma that, because the suspect was a serving police officer employed by another force, the investigation would be carried out with extra care and vigilance.
In practice, the opposite was true.
They failed to secure crucial evidence and, even though the assault happened 10 metres from her front door and her assailant lives less than 30 metres away, it took a further 8 weeks for officers to conduct thorough house-to-house enquiries and interview PC Danfell.
When interviewed and allowed to watch the CCTV evidence, PC Danfell (6ft 2in) did not dispute the incident took place but created a back-story about how he was defending himself, as Gemma (5ft 2in and 8 stone) had, he said, assaulted him just before the CCTV caught the incident.
A sergeant came to see us and explained that, since it was Gemma’s word against his, then PC Danfell would be ‘served with a caution’.
We were incredulous. There was no scrutiny of his story and anyway, the CCTV clearly showed excessive force.
Emboldened by reading the Centre for Women’s Justice ‘super complaint’ about how police officers are allowed to abuse women with impunity, we insisted that they take the case to the Crown Prosecution Service and offered-up Gemma’s medical records as evidence. Gemma had sustained no cuts or broken bones but the effect on her mental well-being was severe.
The CPS’s response was not to charge due to lack of evidence. We got savvier. And appealed.
The CPS were finally committed to do some investigative work.
Danfell’s narrative fell apart and he was finally charged at the end of last year, JUST within the 6-month statue for this offence.
We have faced barriers that are common to thousands of cases throughout the UK, most commonly associated with domestic abuse by police officers against their partners.
Namely: difficulties in initial reporting, failures in investigation, improper responses to complaints/concerns, manipulation of police processes, accused using their police knowledge, status and powers and improper decisions on criminal charges.
If you are a victim, you are fighting on two fronts – the actual IN YA FACE violent misogyny of the assault itself and the systemic, drudging, hidden misogyny of the police and the criminal justice system.
I began writing this blog before Sarah Everard’s murder. I was going to wind it up with a neat quip about looking forward to the new series of the BBC TV series Line of Duty.
But last night I watched the news hoping it wasn’t real, that Kate Fleming from Line of Duty would walk into shot on Clapham Common and we’d know justice would be done.
A bit of glamour, showbiz and crime… always popular in blogs
This blog is usually described as a “comedy blog” but perhaps oddly – perhaps not, given the eclectic bunches of readers and followers I have – the blogs which consistently get big hits are ones about crime and subjects other than comedy.
In fact, the two which have consistently, steadily got hits are:
Clearly, I must have been doing something right in 2015. Which is possibly confirmed by the fact that, in the last two or three months, the above two have been joined as consistently hit blogs by another May 2015 one:
Someone suggested to me that renewed interest in this one might have been stoked by the spate of pulling down statues linked to the Black Lives Matter movement. But it seems to have lasted beyond that.
THURSDAY 10th SEPTEMBER
My sleeping pattern seems to have returned to weirdness…
My sleeping pattern seems to have returned to my New Normal.
Waking up 10 or 12 times a night with my mouth and tongue parched totally dry.
Today, I managed to get on two wrong trains because my mind was not paying attention.
Intending to get on a train to Greenwich at Blackfriars, I managed to get on what I feared might be an express train to Brighton. Fortunately, it stopped at East Croydon and I was able to get back to Blackfriars.
All these names mean nothing if you don’t live in the UK so, suffice to say, later in the day, I got on another wrong train. Very confusing.
In the evening, I saw the movie TENET, which continued the confusion. I wrote about it HERE.
The UK law (or is it only the English law? Everything is confusing) now requires cinemagoers to wear COVID masks throughout all movie screenings even when social distancing is adhered to.
The reality was that, once inside the cinema and seeing that everyone was socially distanced, Most people lowered their masks.
This made no scheduling, audience or any sense (Photo by Levi Stute via UnSplash)
FRIDAY 11th SEPTEMBER
I had a dream in which I was attending the rehearsals for a live 2-hour peaktime TV variety show.
The rehearsals for the show were being screened live at 8.00pm on broadcast television and later, the actual show itself would be transmitted live.
This made no scheduling, audience or any sense of any kind. And the live broadcast rehearsals were going badly.
I have no idea what this was about but, then, for the last few weeks, every day feels like it is a Thursday.
And I don’t even know what specific feelings define a Thursday.
SATURDAY 12th SEPTEMBER
I was walking along a street in North West London with the 9-year-old daughter of a friend of mine when an old lady who looked a bit the worse for wear approached us.
“I don’t want anything from you,” she said. And then started telling us what she had been doing that day.
She got as far as a couple of sentences and “My daughter was supposed to transfer money into my bank account today, but…” when I felt it was better to move on. The whole incident took maybe 45 seconds.
The 9-year-old seemed slightly unsettled and I thought she was going to say I should have given the old lady some money (though she hadn’t actually got to the point of asking)…
But, in fact, the 9-year-old had been very unsettled by the incident.
“That is the third time I have seen that lady,” she explained. “The first time was near here (in North West London) about three weeks ago… Then I saw her a couple of days later in East London… and now I have seen her again here… She looks like a witch.”
I tried to reassure her but a new weirdness has become the New Norm.
Anything is possible.
“I tried to reassure her but a new weirdness has become the New Norm. Anything is possible.”
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!
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.
“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.
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.