Category Archives: Drugs

The Grouchy Club Podcast: “The Clintons are pure evil. Pure evil.”

With Kate Copstick away in Kenya, I talked to Comedy Cafe Theatre owner Noel Faulkner today for the weekly Grouchy Club Podcast. We talked about Jeremy Corbyn, capitalism, socialism, drugs, free comedy shows, Ireland, the BBC and much more, including the upcoming US election.

Among other things, Noel said:

“The electronic age is destroying us… America is a Third World country… How come there are very few right wing comics?”  

Here is a brief extract from elsewhere in the podcast:


Noel Faulkner after recording The Grouchy Club Podcast at the Comedy Cafe Theatre

Noel Faulkner, after recording The Grouchy Club Podcast at the Comedy Cafe Theatre

JOHN
Hilary Clinton’s going to win, isn’t she?

NOEL
The Clintons are pure evil. Pure evil.

JOHN
Bill?

NOEL
Oh yes. I don’t mind where he puts his cigars. He doesn’t use ashtrays. I don’t mind that.

JOHN
You were one of the ten most wanted men in America, weren’t you? Was that under Clinton?

NOEL
I was on the FBI’s most wanted list, but more than ten. That was because of my association with undesirables. So I was put on the list.

JOHN
Who was president?

NOEL
Ermm.. 1980s?

JOHN
Probably Reagan, was it?

NOEL
Yeah, Reagan, because I remember all the drug dealers used to vote for Reagan, because they knew he’d never legalise drugs.

JOHN
Really?

NOEL
Yeah. they had bumper stickers on their cars: VOTE FOR REAGAN. People would think they were Rednecks. They were going: Well, we don’t want drugs legalised, otherwise we’ll be out of a job… I have to say the drugs were (only) marijuana…

JOHN
Not proper drugs.

NOEL
… which is now legal (in parts of the US).

JOHN
You should go back to America. You’d make a fortune.

NOEL
No. It’s a police state. I do not want to be back in America. I do not want to be some MOFO accident as I’m stepping out of the car – Assume the position. Put your hands… BANG! and you’re dead. Aw! It was an accident!

JOHN
I suddenly thought… There’s an irony here, isn’t there? Are you allowed back in the US?

NOEL
No.

JOHN
And you’re not allowed back in America because of drugs…

NOEL
I’ve been deported twice.

JOHN
… but drugs are legal (in some states). So, if you wanted to go back to America to deal drugs in a legal way, you can’t do because, in the past, you’ve dealt drugs. That’s a bit ironic. the Americans don’t understand irony.

NOEL
It’s a bit like being a Catholic. It used to be a sin to have a wank or to murder somebody: it’s the same sin. That’s a bit much, isn’t it? It was. It was a sin to murder somebody and it was a sin to have a wank. Now the Pope, the other day, said: Oh! It’s all OK! You don’t even have to believe in God as long as you’re a good person. We’ve been trying to tell the fucker that for the last fucking forty years.

JOHN
I don’t think he said you’re allowed to murder people, did he?

NOEL
No. But I think wanking’s OK now… I hope so.

JOHN
Murdering all the little unborn children?

NOEL
Yes, yes.

JOHN
Oh! I see what you mean! That sort of murder. Not actually going round shooting people randomly in a supermarkets.

NOEL
Nah.


You can listen to the full podcast HERE.

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A brief insight into fame, the drug habits of dinsosaurs and a phone in rice

Matt Roper last week, as Wilfredo (Photograph by Garry Platt)

Matt Roper as Wilfredo in Edinburgh last week (Photograph by Garry Platt)

As I am still a zombie from the after-effects of the Edinburgh Fringe and not yet fully able to string thoughts together, here is a blog (to quote Slaughterhouse-Five yet again) “somewhat in the telegraphic schizophrenic manner of tales of the planet Tralfamadore, where the flying saucers come from”.

Matt Roper is almost unrecognisable as Wilfredo, the greasy singer he performed as at the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show in Edinburgh last week.

But yesterday, Matt was paying for fuel at the counter of the Texaco garage in Totnes, in the South West of England, when the girl behind the counter asked him: “Are you Wilfredo?”.

He replied: “Not at the moment, no”.

Matt says: “As I was punching my PIN number into the card machine, she was showering me with praise… I love what you do… I keep up with what you’re up to… It’s so good to see you doing so well! And, at that very moment, with a queue of customers waiting behind me, my card payment was declined.”

Meanwhile, this morning, this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith, who lives on a boat in Vancouver, sent me an e-mail:


Anna Smith last night, "after three days of sleeping on a psychiatrist’s couch"

Anna Smith has been thinking about dinosaur eating habits

We had a major wind storm here that knocked down trees and left 700,000 people without electricity for up to four days (including me).

Apparently information websites crashed with people wanting to know when the electricity would return.

My phone is near dead. I dropped it in the bilge… Well it slid off my bed as I slept through the windstorm of ninety kilometer per hour gusts that was knocking trees onto houses and cars.  But it is now in a bag of red rice from Texas, so maybe that will revive it. 

A young server at the McDonald’s Drive Through restaurant suggested I put the phone into a bag of dry rice. It is supposed to work the way rice dries out salt in a salt cellar.


This, in itself, seemed a little surreal to me, but then she added:


Did Tyrannosaurus Rexes hallucinate on prehistoric acid trips?

Did Tyrannosaurus Rexes hallucinate on prehistoric acid trips?

Did you hear about the scientist who found ergot in amber? I was listening to a CBC radio program about it. They were speculating that dinosaurs were having acid trips…


I thought I had better check up on this and, indeed, the Daily Mail wrote a piece about it in February, headlined:

DID DINOSAURS GET HIGH?
FUNGUS CONTAINING LSD COMPOUND IS FOUND
ON A 100-MILLION-YEAR-OLD FOSSILISED BLADE OF GRASS

with the sub-headings:

– Ergot produces compounds that can induce delirium and hallucinations
– Scientists in the 20th century used these compounds to synthesise LSD
– Researchers say herbivorous dinosaurs are likely to have eaten the fungus

And I thought the Edinburgh Fringe was strange.

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A man, drugs and a girl in Edinburgh

cropped-blackfordhill1.jpg

Last month, I posted a blog about my chum Sue Blackwell (not her real name) and a psychotic incident she experienced in Edinburgh, where she lives. Yesterday, she sent me an e-mail. She thought it was not suitable for my blog. I think it is. This blog is not always about comedy. It is about people, people, people and perhaps about snapshots of quirky (not always funny) things that otherwise would not get written down and remembered. This (with Sue’s permission) is what she told me:


I don’t know the whole story of the man or even part of it. 

Through the eyes of an adult, I realise that he had a story, which may, if I had known more, have explained a lot. He touched my life as a child in a way that left a lasting impression. I have rarely spoken about him – and thought about him even less. I always felt that having him in our lives conjured up an impression of my mother which wasn’t accurate and made her out to be something she was not.

There was, I suppose, a certain amount of shame attached – and all the uncomfortable feelings that go with it.

It was, after all, the 1950s.

I am not sure what age I was when he came into our lives – maybe seven or eight years old. We met him at a Lyons Corner House. He and my mother got talking and my next memory is that he had moved in with us.

He was Jewish, from Cork or maybe Dublin, I don’t remember.

He had been a vet. His four brothers in Ireland were all doctors. He received a regular allowance of money from his elder brother. I was aware of this but didn’t give it much thought at the time.

He and I disliked each other from the word go.

My dislike probably stemmed from my not wanting to share my mother with anyone as, up till then, I had had her to myself.

My father, an officer in the British Navy, had come home one Friday night for the weekend and, by the Sunday, had died from pneumonia. I was two months short of my fifth birthday.

We lived in a Georgian crescent in Edinburgh. Next door was a princess from Siam (that sounds so much better than Thailand) and a film star lived up the road.

The man who came into our lives had been a prisoner of war in a Japanese camp, so his story went. He certainly looked as though he had been tortured. When we went to the beach at the seaside town of North Berwick, near Edinburgh, I noticed that he had lots of scars the size of modern fifty pence pieces all over his body.

A branding iron had been used on him.

He also mentioned bamboo being pushed down behind his nails, another way of causing extreme pain.

He was a drug addict. He drank a preparation called paregoric on a daily basis. I have only recently looked it up. Wikipedia says that paregoric was a medicine consisting of opium flavoured with camphor, aniseed, and benzoic acid, formerly used to treat diarrhoea and coughing in children.

I think the stated dose was a couple of teaspoons. He used to drink it by the bottle. This would leave him nodding drooling and sleeping on a chair at the kitchen table: a sight that became familiar to me on a daily basis.

We disliked each other intensely. He started saying that he wished I would be run over by a bus. This became his mantra, offered to me on a daily basis. I just looked at him. There seemed to be no reply.

There were occasions when he would get hold of some other drugs and became almost friendly as he showed me the procedure of applying the tourniquet, dissolving the white powder on a spoon over a flame and injecting himself. My mother was never around at these times. I did not know or understand what he was doing, neither did I tell anybody.

He knew a lot of people. It was his way. He would sometimes take me down to the Rabbi’s house next door to the local synagogue, where I would play with the children there.

One day, I had been out along the seafront in Leith with my dog Poppy and possibly with David, a boy that I had previously lived next door to. As far as I was concerned nothing untoward had occurred.

The next day I was at David’s house with my mother, when it was mentioned that Poppy had been found severely beaten and had had to be put to sleep that day. He – the man who lived with my mother and me – said that a deckchair attendant had witnessed me hanging Poppy by her lead over the seafront railings. When questioned about the events of that day, my mind went completely blank. I was in shock.

It was many months later that he admitted to my mother that he had beaten the dog and made up the rest because he was jealous of me.

In spite of this admission, the trauma and the guilt stayed with me well into my thirties and beyond – something else to be stuffed in the box of things not talked about.

I remember times when he would rave incoherently while sleeping, I had no understanding at the time as to why.

One year, on the day before Christmas Eve, my mother was taken into hospital with peritonitis. I spent the night with neighbours. I returned home the next day, as they were about to go away for Christmas.

He met me. He was very incoherent. He dragged me by my neck into the kitchen and told me roughly to get the dishes in the sink washed up.

I ran past him and back next door, where my friend’s father told me that I wouldn’t be going back in there, but would go away with them for Christmas instead.

Sometime after that, the man wasn’t there any more.

My mother remained in touch with him, by letter. The mere sight of that spidery black handwriting could set off so many feelings that I didn’t really understand.

Eventually, news came that he had been sentenced to eight years in prison for breaking into a chemist’s shop. It was “for his own good,” said the judge.

I was just glad that I wouldn’t have to see him again.

But I did see him one more time. When I was in my teens.

He decided to take me to the police station, to the office of someone he knew, to receive a lecture on the dangers of taking drugs.

I have never been tempted to take non-prescription drugs.

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Lewis Schaffer knocks himself. Cocaine is a Nice Little Earner for Jason Cook.

After yesterday’s blog appeared, Lewis Schaffer – a man who knows a thing or two about effective promotion using ‘self-knocking copy’ – issued a double press release:


LEWIS SCHAFFER TO BE A LEAD IN A PLAY (??!)

One Giant Leap for Lewis Schaffer

Giant Leap – one small step for Lewis Schaffer

In what has to be the most insane move of the year, Lewis Schaffer, the failed old New York Jewish comic now living in Nunhead, Southeast London, has been cast to co-star in a play making its debut at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

He will be co-starring with comics Tom Stade and Phil Nichol in the new play GIANT LEAP at The Pleasance. He is in every scene of the 70 page script, has lines on over 60 of the pages and is to be paid money and accommodation.

This is to be Lewis Schaffer’s first live acting gig since he appeared in The Odd Couple as a 17 year-old at Great Neck North Senior High School on Long Island, some 41 years ago.

Lewis Schaffer is to play a failed old New York Jewish comic.

*   *   *   *   *

LEWIS SCHAFFER TO CHARGE ADMISSION AT THE EDINBURGH FESTIVAL FRINGE 2015 FOR HIS SOLO SHOW

Lewis Schaffer’s tour poster

Lewis Schaffer – the current national tour poster

In a shocking announcement, Lewis Schaffer star of the the Free until Famous brand, is to charge admission for his formerly free show, the first time in seven years at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2015.

He will be interrupting his unique and amazing Free until Famous tour to ask for money in advance. His tour is at over 45 of the largest and most prestigious theatres and arts centres in the UK. Dates include 23rd July at Exmouth; 24 July in Guildford; and July 25th at Barnsley.


Jason Cook A Nice Little Earner

Jason Cook on to A Nice Little Earner

That is one way to promote a product. Another way is to take the Jason Cook route, which is to buy me breakfast at a cafe in Borehamwood.

Jason is heavily dyslexic yet has just published A Nice Little Earner, his third book in a gangster quadrilogy. Yesterday morning, over bacon & beans, he told me:

“We’re launching a competition for the new book. You have to answer a question about Vinny Jones – all the details are on the website – and you win copies of all three books, signed by me. And I’m going to be doing signings again at WH Smiths and Waterstones in August.

“Five months after that, we will publish the fourth book – Cocaine: The Devil’s Dandruff. And, in the meantime, we’re working on the film scripts.”

“There were,” I said, “only going to be three books?”

Jason - “Elements have been changed to protect ourselves"

Jason – “Elements have been changed to protect ourselves”

“Well,” Jason told me, “the editor looked at the third book and said: There’s two books in here. What do you want to do? So I said: Publish it as two books. So we cut the third one into two books. The four of them can be read separately or as one story.”

“How do I describe these books?” I asked. “Fictionalised reality?”

“They’re based,” said Jason Cook, “on a real-life story, but the elements have been changed to protect ourselves and other people.”

The central character running through the books is called The Cookster.

“Remind me what the four books are about,” I prompted.

Jason Cook’s first two semi-autobiographical crime books

Publicity for Jason’s first two semi-autobiographical books

“The first one,” said Jason, “There’s No Room for Jugglers in My Circus, is about a young boy who grew up in Borehamwood and how he gets involved in criminality – drugs and gun crime – and is used as a chess-piece in an international smuggling ring. It’s set in London, Borehamwood, Marbella, Colombia and Jamaica.

The Gangster’s Runner is about how organised crime works and who’s involved – the trappings – fast money, power, cocaine, guns.

One way to publicise yourself: your own money Jason Cook

One way to publicise yourself: print your own Cookster money

A Nice Little Earner is about the main characters in the drug smuggling, about Mr Niz, his smuggling of the cocaine and about the ‘firms’ in London.

Cocaine: The Devil’s Dandruff will bring it all to an end and how Mr Niz was involved. He was actually nicknamed ‘the milkman’ because he was able to deliver cocaine in any country.”

“So,” I said, “overall, the books are about…”

“They’ve got,” said Jason, “police, gangsters, villains, a grass, prison, plenty of powder and connections to the football and boxing underworlds.”

Say hello to Jason Cook's little friend

Wanna publish? Okay. Say hello to my little friend. 

“Connections?” I asked.

“Organisations,” Jason said, “with regard to boxing promoters and football ‘arrangements’ and bribery and the signing-over of a Premier football club… allegedly.”

I asked: “Not a player? A club.”

“A club,” said Jason. “And there’s a football player who gets blackmailed. The footballer’s being blackmailed by the footballer’s wife.”

“His own wife?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

Jason has plans to film his books

Jason – plans to turn his books into movies

“Because he’s fixing matches. Obviously, we have protected all the names. A lot of it has already been in the news, but you’ll read about it first hand in the book.

“The Sun newspaper sent a reporter down to talk to me and took pictures three months ago but, after talking to their solicitors, they decided not to do the article because, they said, they ‘didn’t want to open a can of worms’.”

“I would have thought,” I told Jason, “that you should be more worried about the consequences to you.”

“I talked to my solicitors about what I could put in the book and talked to a lot of of the people involved.”

Even so…

If true…

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Filed under Books, Boxing, Comedy, Crime, Drugs, Football

Memories of Bogota: a mugging, bored riot police and cocaine on the pavement

Occasionally, when I don’t have time to write a blog, I have been known to quickly copy-and-paste from my old e-diaries.

So…

In July 1983, I was in Bogota, Colombia. this is from my diary written at the time:


Bogota in 1983

Bogota, 1983

A 13-hour flight from Gatwick, London, to Bogota via San Juan (Puerto Rico) and Caracas (Venezuela).

Half an hour after arriving in Bogota, I went for a walk on one of the main streets with an Englishman. As we were crossing a main junction, he was about three steps behind me.

I heard something, turned round and saw a startled look in his eyes and a dark-suited man on either side of him. As I turned, the two other men ran away, carrying the wallet he had had on a thong round his wrist. He told me that, as soon as they grabbed him, he let them take the wallet in case they stabbed him.

In the afternoon, I went to Bolivar Square where a potentially joyous celebration of Simon Bolivar’s 200th anniversary included riot police with steel helmets, plastic shields and tear gas canisters on their belts. These police were hard-faced men in their twenties, kicking their heels in boredom under the oppressive sunshine, hoping something would happen to perk up their day. There was an armoured water cannon up a side street.

One of four Wimpy Bars in what seemed Bogota’s main street

Bogota, 1983

There are four Wimpy Bars in the main street – presumably they are just using the same logos rather than actually being part of the British hamburger franchise chain.

In the evening, six of us went to Hamburger King where we mis-read the menu.

We assumed Te Frios meant French Fries. We got iced tea.

The evening news broadcast on TV Mundo played light-hearted entertainment music over its opening montage of headlines and top stories – including film of a dead body being pulled out of a morgue drawer and a close-up of President Reagan speaking. To jazz up a report on the Polisario guerillas in Africa – showing tanks, armed infantry etc – the news broadcast used the James Bond theme.

On Sundays, some of the roads in Bogota are closed to allow jogging, skating etc.

With another Briton, I walked down the main street. We kept off the pavement so we were safely away from shops, alleys and doorways because we were getting dodgy stares from dodgy men.

Scooters in Bogota, 1983

Innocent children’s scooters in Bogota, 1983

We were approached by several dubious smiling middle-aged men with hard eyes selling “emeralds” and there was a large crowd standing round a man who was sitting at a table in the middle of the pavement apparently selling packets of cocaine as children whizzed by on home-made wooden scooters.


I took very few photographs in Colombia in 1983. It seemed wise.

Bogota, 2006

Bogota in 2006

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Nathan Cassidy goes forward to the past with Back to the Future & sucked a bong

Nathan Cassidy - Back to the Future in a jacket

Nathan Cassidy – Back to Birmingham

“If you really wanted to live dangerously,” I told Malcolm Hardee Award nominated comedian Nathan Cassidy, “you should have booked your Edinburgh Fringe show into the Cowgatehead venue.”

“There’s only one thing you can’t make jokes about,” said Nathan, “and that’s Cowgatehead. Those comedians have got thousands of pounds and, in their minds, maybe their whole careers riding on it.”

As well as being a comedian, Nathan runs a company which offers tourist trips round the ‘real’ London and ‘real’ New York. But, he complains, everything  is getting too safe and gentrified in London.

“Are you a Londoner?” I asked.

“I was born in Birmingham. Even Birmingham’s nicer now. There’s no rough places  for me any more.”

“Certainly not Brownhills,” I said, attempting a North Birmingham accent.

“That,” said Nathan, “is exactly the Brummie accent I am going to use in Back To the Future III.”

Back To The Future shows I, II and III

Back To The Future stage shows I, II & III

Nathan is performing three comedy shows this year – Back to the Future I, II and III.

“I’m doing all three on the same day at the Camden Fringe and on Back to the Future Day, which is Wednesday 21st October. That’s the day in Back to the Future II – 21st October 2015 – they go forward to and that’s when you see the flying cars.”

“Why did you do the first Back to the Future?” I asked.

“I guess I’m at that part in my life where I’m looking back 30 years and looking forward 30 years. I went to see Back to the Future at Secret Cinema at Westfield in East London and that’s what triggered my thought. Secret Cinema fuses theatre and film. They had bought a great plot of land but they had to cancel the first week of shows. 3,000 people were turning up every day and they cancelled the first day only about half an hour before the start time.

“They didn’t allow you to take your mobile phones because they didn’t want the location revealed. So everyone, including me, had left their house dressed in 1950s gear – some people had travelled from the Isle of Wight – 3,000 people all getting to the door and these ten security guards having to turn everyone away and getting abuse.

Secret Cinema’s Back To The Future set at the Olympic Park (Photograph by Nathan Cassidy)

Secret Cinema’s Back To The Future set at the Olympic Park (Photograph by Nathan Cassidy)

“There was a guy dressed as Doc Brown shouting at this security guard saying that he had ruined everything and it was unforgivable. Then he turned to me and says: Do you want to come for dinner? I had no excuse not to, because he knew I was supposed to be there for the next six or seven hours and I didn’t have my phone on me. And he turns out to be the grumpiest cunt I’ve ever met and it got me thinking: I’m in the middle of my life and I’m turning into this grumpy guy. I feel my life is falling away.

“I was told by my step-dad when I was about 15: As soon as you hit 30, your life will start to accelerate. And he was absolutely right. I’ve got two kids now – 5 and 7. My 7-year-old is doing stuff I did about 30 years ago and I’m thinking about my own death in maybe 30 years time.

“So Back to the Future II is about living again. I’m not religious, but I’ve recently got into the idea of reincarnation. Maybe it’s because I’m hoping for something that may not exist.”

“And now you’re up to show three,” I said.

“Yes, Back to the Future III is about some regrets I’ve had from the past. My whole school was not very nice to this one particular person.”

“Not you?” I asked.

Nathan showed me his very real BTTF jacket

Nathan showed me his very real BTTF jacket

“No, not me. I was not a bully as such, but you’ve always got these kids at school who are bullied and your excuse to yourself is you weren’t old enough to stop it because you were 12.

“Then you think: Maybe I WAS old enough. So it’s about wanting to go back in time to stop that happening.

“I’ve written a few novels too and one of my books is about this – about bullying at school and wondering what happens to those kids you haven’t seen for 30 years.

“I think your life is pretty much set in stone in those years and there’s nothing you can do about it unless there’s massive serious intervention.”

At this point, Nathan had a coughing fit. When he recovered, he told me:

“I did this show last night with Trevor Lock and I’ve never taken drugs in my whole life and I did this bit on stage about not taking drugs and then somebody from the audience handed me something and said: It’s bong.”

“Bong?” I asked.

“Bong. I have no idea. I don’t do drugs, don’t hang around with anyone who does drugs even as a comedian. But this person handed me this thing and I took a suck and then thought: What am I doing?

“You sucked a bong?” I asked.

“It was like a fake cigarette thing and lit up at the end. It didn’t look like a cigarette: it looked like a…”

“Bong?” I suggested.

“A big bong, yes. And I’ve got this thing at the back of my throat now and I’m thinking: Why have I resisted drugs for 40 years?

“You are going to turn on to drugs?” I asked.

“If I’m going to live again – as I do – why don’t I just get fucked-up now?"

“If I’m going to live again – as I do – why don’t I just get fucked-up now?”

“That’s partly what Back to the Future II is about,” explained Nathan. “If I believe I am going to live again – as I do – why don’t I just get fucked-up now? Why don’t I start living like Chris Dangerfield? None of my favourite musicians or comedians have never done drugs. So, if I’m going to become who I want to be, I’ve gotta start…”

“But who do you want to be?” I asked.

“I don’t feel like I’ve truly seen the dark side of life.”

“I never took drugs,” I explained, “because I worried it might push me over an edge I thought I might be too close to already.”

“Exactly,” said Nathan. “But, if it pushes you over the edge, then you’re going to find something that… I’m not saying just drugs…”

“You must have done something in your life?” I asked.

“I’ve done loads. I’ve travelled the world – New Zealand, Australia, all across Asia, Siberia, Russia. I’ve had kids.”

“And,” I pointed out, “you’re running an international business that takes people to ‘real’ places. What on earth IS the real New York? Probably horrible.”

“That’s it,” said Nathan. “To see the dirty side of it. The guy I started the business with has been on heroin, come off heroin, is covered in tattoos, has done crime, come out of that and he ends up this beautiful man. He’s done all that and now he can talk from a perspective of having done that. I’m not advocating this bad way of living, but Back to the Future II is about What do I do in the next 20 years? Do I take things a new way in my life?”

“You can’t,” I suggested. “You’ve got two small children and a wife.”

“What do you mean Can’t?” Nathan asked.

“You don’t,” I suggested, “want to support the Colombian drug cartels or the Mexican gangs. There were 43 people killed in some shoot-out in Mexico this morning. If you take heroin…”

Nathan reckons he is just too clean-living

Nathan reckons he has just been too clean-living

“I’m not going to take heroin,” Nathan interrupted. “I’m not talking about just drugs. I’m talking about the dark side of life.”

“Define the dark side of life.”

“I dunno. But I have been too clean-living.”

“What are these other things that life has to offer?” I asked.

“Everything.”

“Paedophilia?” I asked.

“Of course not,” said Nathan. “But my interesting stories are about what my kids are doing or my mum warning me of the danger of parked cars. All my comedian friends have more interesting stories.”

“Maybe your Unique Selling Proposition is that you’re Mr Clean.”

“I want to be scum.”

“You can’t wear a leather jacket and be clean,” I said.

“I’m wearing a Back to the Future jacket just for you. I’ll do anything to publicise the show.”

“I still,” I said, “want to know what all these dark things are that aren’t paedophilia or heroin.”

“Trevor Lock was telling me a story about severed heads on crosses in South America. Being alone with that and being scared. Life over-and-above the mundane. You can get a sense from older comedians that they’ve seen everything.  If you’re a 20-year-old comic, it’s all about wanking, living with your parents and thinking you might be gay.

“I was on the circuit when I was 23 or 24 and I had nothing to talk about and that’s why I gave up for nine years. I came back in about 2009.”

“If you want the ultimate dark side,” I suggested, “the ultimate thing is to go along and join ISIS.”

Nathan Cassidy: “I came back in about 2009"

Nathan Cassidy: “I came back in about 2009″

“I think that’s maybe a step too far.”

“But you keep implying there are no steps too far. You could be a thrill killer like Leopold & Loeb in America or Mary Bell in this country.”

“Maybe I won’t go that far.”

”Why?”

“My own two children, maybe.”

“Good choice,” I said.

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Filed under Comedy, Drugs, Psychology

The Kray Twins book review, setting fire to a politician and saving dirty nappies

Micky Fawcett, with son Michael, talked to me at the May Fair hotel

Micky Fawcett (left), with son Michael, at the May Fair Hotel

“There’s been a bit of a coincidence,” former Kray Twins associate Micky Fawcett told me at London’s May Fair Hotel yesterday.

In this blog a couple of days ago, Micky was talking about Nipper Read – the policeman who arrested the Kray Twins.

Micky said Nipper “was straight. But he weren’t straight with me”. He also mentioned James Morton, whom he called the “mouthpiece of Nipper Read.” James Morton was a lawyer, who later wrote books with gangster Mad Frank Fraser and about gangland in general.

Back in September last year, a mutual acquaintance of Micky Fawcett and James Morton gave Morton a copy of Micky’s book Krayzy Days. Morton asked the acquaintance: “Do you know how I can contact him?” But he never did.

Three weeks ago, the acquaintance told Micky what had happened back in September and gave him James Morton’s phone number.

Micky’s Krayzy Days remembered

Micky’s own Krayzy Days remembered

“So,” Micky told me yesterday, “I phoned James Morton and it was on answerphone. That’s typical, I thought. You can’t get through to them so they’ve got the upper hand straight away. But I left a message: I’ve been told you’d like to have a meeting with me. If you wanna give me a ring back, it can be arranged… A few hours later, the phone rang and it was him. He said: I’d like to ask you a couple of questions, and he then asked: Are we alright? Are we OK?.

“I said: Yeah, we’re OK. So he asked me a couple of questions and I said: Shall we have a meeting? He said: Nothing I’d like better.

“So, a couple of Fridays ago, we met at the Churchill Hotel in London. Most of the people we talked about were dead. It was that sort of conversation. There were a couple of things I couldn’t tell him, because people were still alive.

“One of the things I asked him was: How’s Nipper Read? I heard he had a blood pressure problem.

Well, he said, he’s 90. He’s had blood pressure problems and this and that.

“I asked him: Have you read my book? because, when I had walked into the Churchill Hotel, he had been reading it.

I was reading it, he said, but I put it down because you slagged me off in it and I’m not going to read it if you’re slagging me off in it.

“I didn’t know if he was being serious. He is very deadpan. But, he said, if you give me your e-mail address, I’ll finish reading it and tell you what I think of it. I’ll do a review. And now he’s sent me a paragraph.”

Micky showed me the paragraph that Andrew Morton had written:

Teddy Machin (Photograph from the book Krayzy Days)

’Terrible’ Teddy Machin’s death explained (Photograph from the book Krayzy Days)

Micky Fawcett and I have not always seen eye to eye (page 210) so this is not a review of a mate’s efforts. His book, Krayzy Days, however, is one of the best books on the Krays around. It is not one of those ‘I spent a night on the same wing as one of the Twins’. Fawcett was a genuine player. A former Long Firm fraudsman he had the sense to step away from the Krays after they invited him to kill a member of the Richardson gang following the Mr Smith’s Club shooting in 1966. But it is not just about the Krays. Fawcett knew the rest of the East End underworld intimately and he tells of the feuds behind such deaths as that of the hardman Teddy Machin. And then there are his experiences in the worlds of boxing promotions, counterfeiting and his time in Belgian prisons. A cracking good read.

“That’s a great review,” I told Micky yesterday. “Basically, he’s saying: I have no reason to like this man, but he’s written a bloody good book.

I was typing all that out this morning when I got an e-mail from this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith, based in Vancouver. The e-mail was headed:

The granite mountain towering over Squamish

The Stawamus Chief at Squamish

A one thousand cubic meter slab of granite fell off this local mountain on Sunday, the afternoon I took this photo 

and, indeed, there was a photo of the Stawamus Chief mountain attached. The text of Anna’s e-mail said:

I didn’t go downtown on Monday, but 25,000 people celebrating marijuana did. There was a lot of smoke, traffic gridlock all afternoon and 75 people were taken to hospital, mostly for ‘dizzyness ‘. 

There was a gigantic banner hanging from the art gallery shaped like a packet of rolling papers.

Instead of going downtown, I stayed home. I carried a bucket of water across the road to the vacant lot where transport lorries park containers. Beside the drying remains of a vast mud puddle, I built a small campfire from the twigs of a nearby dead pine tree and I placed a piece of plumbing hose and its fitting onto the fire.

Vancouver stag painting

What Anna missed on Vancouver’s weedy day

It was a bright sunny afternoon. The fire was cheerfully popping and gradually burning the piece of hose. Up on the road, cars and trucks rumbled over the speed hump. A man walked along the road. I wondered if anyone would see me and wonder why I was sitting beside a mud puddle and a fire, but nobody stopped or called the fire department. 

The rusted hose clamp which had given me so much trouble fell away when the hose was done burning. When the clamp cooled down I threw it into the bushes. I put out the fire with the water and put the two bronze fittings into the bucket. Then I went home and fixed my shower.

Your mad inventor friend John Ward was on the radio talking about his bra.

John Ward demonstrating his bra-warming device

John Ward demonstrating his original bra-warming device

The photo of the granite mountain which Anna attached was one which, she says, “towers above the town of Squamish”. The mountain does; not the photo. She added: “Ten people were climbing the rock face meters away from the chunk that broke off.”

She previously mentioned Squamish in this blog last November, when a local politician said he would set himself on fire. This week, when Anna was in Squamish again, she tells me:

“I asked a local if their politician had set himself on fire yet. The local looked at me as if I was stupid and said: Oh he did that months ago“.

And, sure enough, there is a video on YouTube of him, this February, setting himself on fire to the delighted whoops of local voters. Perhaps some British politicians might consider doing this during the current General Election.

As I finished typing the above, yet another e-mail arrived. It was from my local council. It said:

It’s Real Nappy Week! Hertsmere residents can claim up to £50 if they choose to use real nappies instead of disposable ones. 

Babies and toddlers go through lots of nappies – eight million of them in the UK every day. On average, a baby will need a staggering 4,500 nappy changes before they are potty trained. That’s 4,500 disposable nappies sent to landfill, or just 20 real nappies washed and used again.   

Councils across the county, in partnership with Hertfordshire County Council, offer a real nappy reward scheme to discourage the use of disposable nappies. People using real nappies or a nappy laundering service need to complete an application form in order to claim any money back through the scheme. Alternatively, we have free starter kits available for anyone who is interested and would like to give real nappies a go. 

This week we’re running a competition to win real nappy goodies.  Simply watch the new ‘Real Nappies Rock’ video and tell us what colour nappy the boy doing the roly poly is wearing! 

Hertsmere Council do not specify what their ‘free starter kits’ include.

The moral to this blog is that Life is full of shit, but it is also an occasionally interesting rollercoaster of variables.

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