Category Archives: Eccentrics

The man who predicted in 2015 that Boris Johnson would become UK PM

(L-R) John Ward, radio & TV presenter James Whale and political leader Screaming Lord Sutch

Britain relishes eccentrics.

Today, Boris Johnson becomes Prime Minister of the UK.

And today I got a message from mad inventor John Ward, famed throughout the land – some land – as designer of the late-lamented Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards. Among his many other claims to fame is that he used to be Minister for Inventions for both the Monster Raving Loony Party and  The Eccentric Party.

He wrote to me:


The phone rang yesterday.

A Press Association bod calling

Could they have a quote from or on behalf of The Eccentric Party regarding Boris Johnson being voted in as Tory Prime Minister?

I replied: “Never! – Really? – Who would have thought it…?”

“Can I quote you on that?” said the man from the Press Association. 

“You can if you like…,” I told him. 

He then asked who I was…

They can be so hurtful at times.

I pointed out that the leader of the Eccentric Party was now ‘brown bread’ as of a few months ago and possibly the party itself also.

The man from the Press Association said he was sorry to hear about it.

I said it was in those newspaper things at the time or just after his demise, I believe, as it wasn’t pre-booked as far as I am aware.

But, undeterred, the man from the Press Association asked: “So who would it be best to speak to then?”

I said he could go for gold and get in touch with Screaming Lord Sutch

“Have you a contact for him?” the man from the Press Association asked.

Was it the late Ken Goodwin who used the catchphrase “I’m too good for this place…”? 

I am beginning to get the same feeling.


For the uninitiated, Screaming Lord Such, creator and leader of the Monster Raving Loony Party, died in June 1999. So it goes.

I would have thought the Press Association, the major news agency who distribute news to UK national, regional and local newspapers, might have noticed. Or might have read my recent blog HERE.

On the other hand, I was myself shocked to hear that Lord Toby Jug, leader of The Eccentric Party had died on 2nd May this year, at the age of 53. So it goes.

I first blogged about the Eccentric Party in January 2015 and profiled Lord Toby Jug in May 2015.

Lord Toby Jug. leader of the Eccentric Party

Lord Toby Jug – he changed his name legally from Brian Borthwick by deed poll – had been a guitarist in a band with Screaming Lord Sutch. Sutch had given him the nickname ‘Toby Jug’ because he was a little rotund in appearance. As leader of the Eccentric Party, he wore a top hat which had previously belonged to Sutch.

He was expelled from the Monster Raving Loony Party in 2014 by then party leader Howling Laud Hope (this is British politics for you) over comments Lord Toby had made about UKIP leader Nigel Farage, and for his criticism of pub chain J D Wetherspoon, a company which the Loony party had been attempting to attract as a sponsor.

In 2015, Lord Toby told me: “I left the Monster Raving Loony Party because they didn’t like my stance – as told to national newspapers – on Nigel Farage and UKIP. I said UKIP claimed to be fruitcakes, loonies and crackpots but that’s our area. They tried to nick our Holy Grail of loonies. Another reason I left was because I met Nigel Farage and some of his sick-you-fonts and I thought they were closet racists and decided that should be put in the public domain. UKIP are far too eccentric, far too potty. Extremists.”

On the rebound from the Monster Raving Loonies, Lord Toby formed The Eccentric Party, whose policies included:

  • putting super glue in lip balm to fight obesity
  • taller buildings for higher education.
  • a 15% phone bill discount for people who stutter

He stood in various General, county and local elections but surprisingly never won.

Boris Johnson (left) in Uxbridge with Lord Toby Jug in 2015

In 2015, he stood in the Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency against Boris Johnson and Howling Laud Hope of the Monster Raving Loony Party. He polled 50 votes.

According to his obituary in The Times in May 2019: “He thought Johnson would make an ideal member of the Eccentric Party, even offering to stand aside as leader if his rival would defect. Later he had second thoughts. I went round with a jug of water and a comb to tidy his hair, Jug recalled. But he’s too much of an extremist for us — a tad too bonkers.

The original Eccentric Party candidate in that Uxbridge election had been Chris Dowling who fell ill and Lord Toby replaced him. Chris had been an optimist and told me, in 2015:

“Even though this is still the greatest democracy in the world, the political system in this country is outdated and it needs to be revamped. I’m gonna win by a landslide majority here.”

“Against Boris?” I asked.

“Yeah. He’s a bigger loony than I am… Sooner or later, Boris Johnson will be the Prime Minister of this country.”

“I think so too,” I agreed.

“Everything I’ve seen about Boris Johnson,” said Chris, “he’s just seemed a buffoon and I quite like that about him.”

Far from that being a drawback in British politics, it might seem to be a prerequisite.

Political seer Chris Dowling (bottom) and Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Ed Balls in 2015…

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Suicidal ‘Screaming’ Lord Sutch, as remembered by inventor John Ward

John Ward with some of the many Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards which he designed and made

Eccentric inventor and designer of trophies for the late Malcolm Hardee Comedy AwardsJohn Ward also writes a weekly column Ward’s World for that esteemed publication the Spalding Guardian.

Yesterday, they published a piece by him about anarchic politician and comic rock ‘n’ roller ‘Screaming’ Lord Sutch who committed suicide 20 years ago this week.

Perhaps that should have read ‘comic politician and anarchic rock ‘n’ roller’.

Screaming Lord Sutch holds the record for losing in UK Parliamentary elections – more than 40 between 1963-1997.

Since the article was published yesterday, there has been a lot of reaction and feedback.

John Ward tells me:


The key question asked is why he committed suicide.

Nobody really knows. In these cases, how can anybody be in a position to really know for sure? The recorded ‘verdict’ is one thing; the real reason only he knew.

He used to ring me at odd hours to talk about anything ‘daft’ or run ideas past me. The general feeling is he was a manic depressive behind the mask. (Think of Tony Hancock maybe?)

John Ward and Lord Sutch fêted by Time Life

On one occasion, he rang to ask if I knew we were both on the same page of a Time-Life book – part of a series titled Library of Curious and Unusual Facts – he pointed out he didn’t mind sharing the page with me!

Another time, he rang to ask if I was busy. He put the phone down at his end, then I heard things being moved about which lasted about five minutes or so. Then he came back to the phone to tell me he had moved his mother’s sideboard around, then her display cabinet which she had her china pieces in, then he proudly told me that he had had a ‘cabinet reshuffle’.

His mum (glad she and mine never mingled!!!!!) was a card in her own right.

I rang on one occasion to speak to him – they lived in the same house in Harrow – and, bearing in mind the many times I had spoken to her before, she asked:

“How do you know my David? Did you vote for him? How do you know I’m his mother cos you called me Mrs Sutch and he don’t have a wife you know, not now anyway…”

It was worse if you forgot the time of day and rang while he was in bed. Most days he rose after 1 or 2 in the afternoon – like most in the ‘show business’ as he would have got home in the early hours of the morning after a gig.

She would usually say: “My David is in bed – I’ll go and get him/fetch him – hang on.”

Then she would put the phone down on the table in the hall and you heard her go clumping up the stairs, stand at the top of the landing and then shout out: 

“David – are you still asleep or not?” (!) 

After a muffled reply from his door, it was then clump-clump-clump back down the stairs and she would pick up the phone and say:

“I think he’s coming down…”

Not 100% positive, mind – just ‘think’. 

This could take anything from mere minutes to hearing “Your tea’s ready and on the table” at my end before he came to the phone.

But, in fairness, he didn’t clump-clump-clump down the stairs.

It was so surreal it reminded me of The Goons with Minnie Bannister & Co…

“Is that you, Min?”

“Oh… You’re not sure?… I’ll ask you later then, when you know…”

I am glad I was in the ‘wrong place at the wrong time’ otherwise I would never have met this amazing and unique man.


John tells how he met Sutch in his Spalding Guardian piece.

The full version is online.

 This is an edited version…

(L-R) John Ward, James Whale and Screaming Lord Sutch were hit by a power cut and a blizzard


Initially I had no idea I would ever be meeting David Edward Sutch but we were both individually booked to appear on a late-night television chat show some years ago – rather inspiringly called The James Whale Radio Show – that went out late from (then) Yorkshire TV in Leeds, live on a Friday night.

We got on okay as we did the show, which suffered a minor power cut live on air due to a blizzard hitting the area, but we coped.

Afterwards, we eventually got back to our hotel at about half past one in the morning, going through snow drifts with our driver complaining he was cold though he had a fur coat on.

Back at the hotel, we realised there was no chance of getting a bite to eat at that hour but, as we had rooms opposite each other, we took our kettles out onto the landing, plugged in and then brewed up a cuppa each, nibbled on the small packets of complimentary biscuits as we chatted and put the world to rights – It always seems to work better sitting on a decent bit of floral patterned carpet and supping tea.

A few months afterwards, after phone calls and assorted meet ups, he made me his ‘Minster of Inventions’ as he was then the leader/instigator of the Monster Raving Loony Party.

For the life of me I could not work out why or how I had upset him so much that he would bestow such a title on me but, in fairness, I never asked.

Our ‘best’ achievement between us – his idea, my design – was a ‘Manifesto Muncher’.

He used to throw other political parties’ written manifestos into it and it churned them out again in the form of toilet rolls – so at least the end product was something to go on.

Lovely sense of humour – Why can’t all politics be like this?

Even though he is no longer with us, the interest in him now, twenty years after his death, never ceases to wane although we live in an age where supposed ‘celebrity’ is seemingly an everyday commodity. No sooner do we get used to one supposed ‘celeb’ then another comes along.

But no sign of there being another David Edward Sutch so far – or even anything like him. And, like him or not, it’s a safe bet he will still be remembered in years to come.

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Mr Twonkey tries to plug his show but gets sidetracked by cheese and fast food

I had a very fuzzy talk with Mr Twonkey

I had a video chat with comedy performer Mr Twonkey (Paul Vickers) on FaceTime but I could only see him as a frozen, fuzzy presence.


PAUL: That’s just the way I look.

JOHN: Where are you? Edinburgh?

PAUL: Yes, on the shore at Leith in my windmill.

JOHN: Your windmill in Edinburgh.

PAUL: Yes.

JOHN: You wanted to talk to me to wantonly plug your show at the Bill Murray comedy club in Islington next Thursday (7th February).

PAUL: And I’m at the Leicester Comedy Festival the weekend after that – Saturday 9th.

JOHN: The same show?

PAUL: Yes. Well, the same show with a different title.

JOHN: The last time I talked to you, there seemed to be a planned, linear progression to your shows. I was quite shocked.

PAUL: Well, to me there’s a plan, but people just think they’re… well, just… well… mental… But to me there’s a plan.

JOHN: So what’s this new show about?

PAUL: A conspiracy theory. The idea that all the weather we currently experience is generated in one small factory in the Dordogne in France. And the ‘front’ for it is a cake decorating shop. Behind the scenes, they are making weather, but it is mal-functioning. So I go to investigate. That’s the central crux… There are connections with Leonardo da Vinci.

JOHN: Which are?

PAUL: Apparently he had plans to re-invent the weather.

JOHN: Title of the show?

Mr Twonkey’s new show is coming to Islington

PAUL: My original title was Twonkey Turns The Umbrella of History, Meets Leonardo da Vinci and Explains Climate Change but, when I told my PR, the phone went silent. Now it’s called Twonkey’s Ten Year Twitch. She didn’t like Whizz, Weathercock, Whizz! either. Next Thursday will be the first time I’ve performed it. The other night, we wrote a new song for it because we were watching Neil Diamond videos and became inspired. So now there’s a new bit in the show about a temporary exhibition of Neil Diamond stage costumes at Luton Airport.

JOHN: Separate from this show, you have a new music album coming out…

PAUL: Yes. There’s a new Paul Vickers and The Leg album called Jump! There have been some problems on that with label changes, but I think what is going to happen is… Well, I don’t know what is going to happen at all. The main thing we’re focussed on is getting it finished. We’re mixing it at the moment. It takes a long time to finish a record because, when you get five grumpy men in a room, it takes a while.

JOHN: Are you going to tour with the band?

PAUL: Hopefully. But it’s a case of time and money. There’s a lot of things I would like to do. My play about David Lynch is ready, but it’s too expensive for me to do at the moment.

JOHN: Why expensive?

PAUL: I need actors and actors cost money. The last time I did a play – Jennifer’s Robot Arm – it cost me a fortune. The trouble with plays is the cost escalates. It’s like digging a hole and just throwing loads of money into it. Whereas, with a Twonkey show, there’s a limit to how much the cost can escalate because it’s basically just me and what I buy in junk shops.

JOHN: How is your good lady? Is she still making props for you?

“Somebody had a go at it with a screwdriver. Sounds strange”

PAUL: Yes. And buying me things. The other day, she bought me a xylophone that plays by itself, but I think it’s broken. It sounds wrong and wobbles a lot.

JOHN: But, then, so do I… Is it having creative differences with itself?

PAUL: It appears so. It’s quite rusty as well. Somebody had a go at it with a screwdriver but it sounds very strange now.

JOHN: It plays itself?

PAUL: Because it’s from the early 1970s, the way you program it is with a coil. It’s kinda like an auto-piano that you would get in a Wild West saloon. It’s very old and broken.

JOHN: But, then, so am I and, if you tweaked me with a screwdriver…. What else have you been doing?

PAUL: I made a little video in the western town in Morningside

JOHN: Western town? Morningside??? The very posh part of Edinburgh?

PAUL: Yes. Behind the library, there’s a street that’s like the Wild West.

JOHN: What?

PAUL: It was built for some advertising thing. There’s a saloon and a canteen. It’s like a proper little Wild West street. It used to be a dance hall; now it’s a street.

JOHN: What is the video about?

Mr Twonkey inside his windmill, holding quite a large cheese

PAUL: Cheese. How America lacks high quality cheese… American cheese is kinda plastic cheese. Was there ever a point where they tried to introduce European or exotic cheeses into America? I had the idea there was a time in the Wild West where cheese was more valuable than gold. So I’m trying to smuggle cheese and I steal the sheriff’s cheese and he tries to win it back. It’s very simple.

JOHN: What triggered you into thinking about the low quality of cheese in the USA?

PAUL: I just couldn’t think of any high-quality American cheese. In this country, every different region has its own cheese. And I thought: That surely must be the case in America; they must be making some kind of local cheese… but they’re not. Why not? But they love cheese. 

JOHN: Their showbiz can be quite cheesy. There’s Brie Larson.

PAUL: But does she generate genuine cheese?

JOHN: I don’t know her that well.

PAUL: There is no great American cheese. It is such poor quality that it can’t officially be classed as cheese.

JOHN: Who says?

Mr Twonkey – a man, a myth, a large sombrero

PAUL: The cheesemongers of the world. The Cheese Police. (LAUGHS)

JOHN: Is there some official supervisory cheese body?

PAUL: There must be. You can’t get away with just knocking out anything and calling it cheese. There must be someone who says: “Hang on a minute… That’s not proper cheese!”

JOHN: Is all this because American cows are below par?

PAUL: The thing about America is it’s massive. They’ve got snake farms. There are places out in the woods where they’re making things in a DIY homemade manner. You would think somewhere out there someone would be making high quality cheese…

You would think maybe someone with French ancestry would be thinking: I want to make a really smelly, runny cheese. But I don’t think there’s anyone in America doing that. I have Googled extensively online and the best I could come up with was Vermont Cheddar which, if you put it on a plate in France, they would say: “Well, that is… average.”

I have never been to Vermont. All I know is the Captain Beefheart song Moonlight on Vermont.

JOHN: Does Moonlight on Vermont include any reference to cheese?

PAUL: I don’t think he mentions cheese.

JOHN: I seem to remember cheese being a motif in previous shows of yours.

PAUL: It is. It’s one of the things I focus on. Certain things keep coming back: cheese, World War Two, escapology, engineering and witchcraft. But you Google American cheese. You’d be amazed.

JOHN: I don’t doubt it.

PAUL: The country that invented the cheeseburger doesn’t have decent cheese.

JOHN: Did they invent the cheeseburger?

PAUL: Well, they invented fast food. Have you seen that film The Founder?

JOHN: About Colonel Sanders?

PAUL: No, about the guy who started McDonald’s. Except he didn’t start McDonald’s. He went into business with the McDonald brothers and their original intention was high-quality fast food.

Michael Keaton’s movie as The Founder

The way they did it was they didn’t open a restaurant first; they booked a tennis court, got a piece of chalk and divided the tennis court into different areas for preparing different types of food, then employed staff who came to the tennis court and they mapped-out a kitchen and they were directing people round this tennis court to see who could make the quickest high-quality cheeseburger. Then they built a restaurant to the exact specifications of the tennis court.

JOHN: Didn’t the net get in the way?”

PAUL: I think they maybe took down the net. We have gone off-track…

JOHN: I feel there is a rock opera to be written about cheese and you are the man to do it.

PAUL: The Americans invented jazz and fast food… And that’s it… We are going off-track.

JOHN: So you are performing at the Bill Murray in London on Thursday.

PAUL: Yes. Twonkey’s Ten Year Twitch.

Twonkey… Another gig. The same show. Another title… A fez

JOHN: And then at the Leicester Comedy Festival on Saturday 9th February..

PAUL: Yes. Twonkey Turns The Umbrella of History, Meets Leonardo da Vinci and Explains Climate Change.

JOHN: Which is the same show, but with a different title.

PAUL: Yes.

JOHN: And, at the Edinburgh Fringe, it will be called Twonkey’s Ten Year Twitch?

PAUL: Yes.

JOHN: That seems reasonable.

… Mr TWONKEY’s MORNINGSIDE VIDEO IS ON YOUTUBE …

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I met a man on an Overground train

I remember, maybe a couple of years ago, reading about astronomers who, for decades, had been studying a faraway star system which they believed did not exist. It had, they thought, expanded and exploded millions of years ago, before human beings even existed on Earth. Because of the time light takes to travel, what they were watching was something that, in fact, did not exist.

I was travelling on an Overground train in London yesterday.

Sometimes, on trains, you see shambolic, madly, badly-dressed men or women who, you might think, could be dangerous. Usually, though, they are overly-polite because they are begging for money.

Yesterday, I was sitting in a London Overground train, reading the Metro newspaper. 

A man sat down on the seat opposite me.

He was maybe in his early thirties, dark-haired, blue-eyed, wearing a very neat blue business suit and red tie with a white shirt, his face overly clean-cut, looking like he had just washed and scrubbed and was going to a job interview for a very straight, mainstream office job. Or standing for Parliament.

“It was not my fault,” he said to me.

“Was it not?” I asked.

“No,” he said and paused slightly, then added, “and it was raining. I never liked football at school.”

“No?” I asked.

“No,” he repeated. “It was not my fault.” He paused. “And it was raining.”

“Ah,” I said.

“And I never liked playing football at school,” he said.

I nodded my head and smiled at him. He avoided any eye contact with me.

We travelled four more stations, in silence. 

I carried on reading the Metro newspaper. He looked at the floor, not moving.

Then he got up quickly at the fourth station and left without saying anything.

He went away to live the rest of his life and I continued with mine.

Just a moment in time.

A molecule in infinity.

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In a Vancouver hospital, odd events, movies and talk of aliens wearing bras

Here I sat after midnight, struggling with the transcription of two blogs – well, struggling with the first, which is delaying the second – when I got a series of emails from Anna Smith, this blog’s occasional correspondent. She lives in Vancouver.

They started and continued thus:


Anna, Ruggero and Daniel at St Paul’s A&E in Vancouver

I am in the waiting room of A&E at St Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver again.

I have been sitting beside two nice young men for two hours. They are both film students – one Italian, one Mexican. One of them had to get scans as he had an appendectomy two weeks ago and his innards were still settling so he is waiting for the scan results and getting blood tests.

It has been a very entertaining last several hours.

A and E is very busy. Though a window, I saw a catatonic Sikh man sitting on a chair, without a turban and his hair was a mess. Nearby, a hefty, good-looking drunk woman with bare legs sat howling angrily that she had been in every suburb of Vancouver in the last two days. 

“You DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT HAS HAPPENED to me!” she told people. “My boyfriend has LEFT me!”

The emergency waiting room is like a circus. The two students and I seem like we are the only ones not stoned or drunk.

One old man was amiably drinking beer after beer from cans. He announced he had some pot but not rolling papers. An old lady (who works as a safety officer on a building site) said she had papers, so they went out to smoke a joint and got stoned in the ambulance bay.

Meanwhile, a wiry little man with a grey Afro hairstyle went into the bathroom and, when he emerged, his pants were falling down. He ripped his shirt off and started roaring around the room stripping so they made him lie on a stretcher.

“Fuck Me!” he said in exasperation.

“Don’t talk to me like that!” a nurse told him.

“I wasn’t talking YOU,” he said angrily. “I was talking to MYSELF!”

I went for an MRI scan.The technician asked me to remove my bra and necklace. The necklace had a fiddly clasp and, because I was feeling shaky, I asked the young lady to undo it for me. 

She asked: “Do you want me to help take your bra off too?”

“God, no!” I said, “I’m a stripper. I can take my own bra off.”

Anna Smith – Nurse Annie – c1979

“When did you do the stripping?” she asked.

“I still do it,” I told her.

“Did you ever do anything else?” she asked.

I should have pretended to be surprised and asked: “What else is there?” but I didn’t.

Anyhow, when I got back to the waiting room, the students were still there, I told them about the bra question and they cracked up.

I told them my funniest stories. They told me their funniest stories too. One involved a friend in Mexico, who had mistaken a midget for a leprechaun.

We also spoke about film, art and the drug problem downtown. 

The Italian – Ruggero Romano – is directing a feature documentary film about homeless people on the downtown east side – it depicts the controversial dynamics of the financially poorest and emotionally richest postal code in North America – V6A – There is a teaser trailer online.

 
The Mexican – Daniel Federico del Castillo Hernández – was a painter before turning to film.

Daniel del Castillo’s lively painting of his family in acrylic

He showed me a lively painting he had made of his family, with each of his  relatives portrayed as a different animal – a dog, a cat, a horse, a deer, etc. We were having so much fun watching the goings on. Ruggero was busy taking notes. He has joined a writers group. He said: “We should come here more often….”

A cute, paranoid lady with a skateboard and a British accent sat nearby, chatting on her phone.

The beer drinking man started demanding that the television channel be changed. When no-one responded, he stood on a chair and groped around the TV unsuccessfully. A security guard then realised the TV-groper had been drinking and told him to put away his beer. He refused, so he was told: “You aren’t allowed to drink in the hospital!” and he was escorted out.

Eventually (after 6 hours) a doctor came to explain that Daniel’s scans were OK so he could leave. 

Alien Bra heads at the Isle of Wight (Photo by Gordon Breslin)

While waiting, I have found out that, in the UK, Ian Breslin and Mark Levermore of The Outbursts band were at the Isle of Wight Festival. Apparently they are still celebrating the release of Alien Bra, their latest album, which features a song about being abducted by aliens and forced to wear a bra.

Elsewhere, the World Health Organisation has declared that BDSM and Transvestism have been struck from the list of diseases. They did not mention anything about men who go out in the sun wearing alien heads (or alien bras), so I suppose that is still an illness.

I am still here, in acute care now, waiting for my CAT scan result.

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Mr Twonkey pays tribute to Ivor Cutler, “embodiment of the Scottish eccentric”

“Embodiment of the Scottish eccentric”

Influences are always interesting.

Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award winner Paul Vickers is currently preparing for his new show – Twonkey’s Night Train to Liechtenstein – at the Glasgow Comedy Festival next Friday (9th March). Paul performs as Mr Twonkey, definitely one of the more eccentric acts in British comedy.

He reminded me that today (3rd March) is the anniversary of the death in 2006 of Ivor Cutler – Scottish poet, songwriter, humorist and arguably the eccentric performers’ eccentric.

Mr Twonkey phoned Mr Cutler in the winter of 1995

Paul says Ivor Cutler was “the embodiment of the Scottish eccentric.” His rider in contracts stated that he had to be provided with a two-bar fire and marmalade sandwiches – “Which,” says Paul, “is reason alone to love him. I would like to keep his name alive. He will be sadly missed and fondly remembered.”

In the winter of 1995, “feeling slightly hung over”, the future Mr Twonkey interviewed the then Mr Cutler by telephone for the music magazine Sun Zoom Spark.

This is what Paul/Mr Twonkey wrote.

I have edited it slightly for length.


STOP THE GAME THERE’S A HEN ON THE FIELD

An Interview With Ivor Cutler

By Paul Vickers

Mr Ivor Cutler drawing by Grant Pringle to accompany the article in  Sun Zoom Spark

In the heart of World War 2, Ivor Cutler held the position of navigator with the R.A.F, fiddling with maps and charts between 1941-42. He was de-ranked to first aid and store man for the Windsor Engineering Company when his peers noted he had other things on his mind.

He, however, was more suited to teaching movement, drama and African drumming.

He didn’t start writing poetry until 1942 and his creative waters didn’t really flow until he was forty-eight. But, since then, he has been a prolific songwriter with a chest full of wisdom spanning three decades; classic album releases (Dandruff, Jammy Smears and Velvet Donkey) and many books of poetry (Private Habits, Fresh Carpet and A Little Present From Scotland). He has also found time to carry out his numerous duties as chairman of the London Cycling Association.

He has made a name for himself by being a true original with perfect spoken word performance skills and graceful, offbeat sense of comic timing; a difficult man to predict; an impossible man to write questions for; a bona fide enigma, the man behind a huge assortment of atmospheric, melancholy laments.

“How are you doing?” I bellow in the voice of a Yorkshire mining town skivvy.

“Oh… I don’t know… I’m coming to life.”

“Could you give me a brief summary of what a day in the life of Ivor Cutler might consist of?”

“You ought to make yourself known to me…”

“NO. I think perhaps you ought to make yourself known to me don’t you think?”

I stammer and stutter a makeshift introduction. “Oh, I’m really sorry. I haven’t introduced myself. I’m Paul. I wrote something about you a year or so ago.”

“Yes… I was very touched by that. You turned out to be unique in saying you laughed yourself sick initially but then began to see there was stuff underneath and I bless you for that. It’s the first time anyone has ever spoken in that way about my work. I’m sure I’m not just seen as one of those belly laugh comics, but the way in which you did it, I think was very revealing”

“Would you like to be taken more seriously?”

“I like to be taken seriously although I use humour as a medium it’s just the way I’m made. It is a way of instantly grabbing people. Yes, of course but not everyone cares to have that happen to them which means 50% of the people who come across my work think it’s great and the other half think I’m a lunatic. I resent that very much.”

“Do people actually get quite aggressive about it?”

“Well not with me but people in positions of power. People who are able to give me gigs or work. A lot of such people think Cutler’s an idiot and we’re certainly not going to put him on our programme. But I don’t want to be seen as complaining about this. It’s very nice to be controversial rather than have the total acceptance of everybody. I mean I worked with the Beatles once – on the Magical Mystery Tour – and I was so glad such a thing never happened to me. This ‘treated like god’ stuff. It would have turned me into a more unpleasant person than I already am,” he giggles heartily.

“I did a tour with Van Morrison some years ago so I got playing all these big places. I’m not crazy about it when it gets over a thousand, because I like to see the audience. I get them to turn the lights up so I can see their faces. I don’t have such a desperate ego problem that I need to play to masses of people. I remember doing a gig in front of three people. It was snowing that night. It was very early in my career and it was a great show… But I prefer more than three actually”

“You seem to find great humour in the cruelty of situations – cruelty in the ways of nature, like the way animals behave.”

“Stick a knife through a tomato –  Owcchh! Spllllcccchhh! That wasn’t very nice!

“Well yes. They’re busy killing one another. If people weren’t to be cruel then the only thing we’d be able to eat would be salt. I mean, all these plants. You stick a knife through a tomato and it goes Owcchh! Spllllcccchhh! That wasn’t very nice! One has to be cruel to survive.”

“But your humour is, at times, very dark”

“Yes, the person who totally changed my way of creative thinking was Franz Kafka who is seen by many to use very black humour indeed.

“The nature of laughter is very often fear. One is glad it’s not happening to oneself. I mean the man slipping on the banana skin gets people laughing. People are glad it’s not them.

“By the way,” he interrupts himself, “I’m not a surrealist. I get that stuck on me a lot. I’m somewhere in between surrealism and realism which makes it difficult for people to know whether to laugh or not. A friend of mine, Phyllis King, used to get dead silence when she performed because people didn’t want to hurt her feelings by laughing.”

“I think your most beautiful song is Squeeze Bees from Jammy Smears. It conjures up this sleepy image of a little girl and a little boy being completely content, sitting in silence and just enjoying the sound of the beehive; very tranquil and romantic.”

“I struck a bee-type noise with the harmonium to get the right emotion. I’m an emotional man. I think people who like to hear emotion get themselves fed by my stuff but of course not all my songs are so emotional. I’m a happy man and I’ll punch the man who says I’m not!”

“What makes you happy?”

“Well I used to collect stones but I’ve grown out of that. People go through life and do something to make them happy for a while and then it becomes boring. In fact boredom has been a very big part of my life. People look at me and think: How can a man like him be bored? Well… I just am, I suppose.”

A Stuggy Pren was a chance to peep inside Mr Cutler’s unique drawers

A photographic exhibition to promote his poetry book, A Stuggy Pren, gave people a chance to go through the keyhole and peep in his drawers, count his cushions and revel in his sentimental attachment to battered and bruised ornaments that litter his home. He is one of the last, great romantic eccentrics and, as the modern world slowly closes in on him, Ivor is slowly pushed out. He rarely plays live nowadays and when he does it’s always in the afternoon, allowing him to return safely home to get a good night’s sleep in his own bed. Anything less than a familiar mattress to Mr Cutler, just won’t do.

“One last question, Mr Cutler. What would you like to see yourself doing at the end of the century?”

“Oh crumbs! Dead, I suppose! The way I find civilisation presently I’d be very happy to be in another world. Life can be very unpleasant for me. I’d be quite happy to shuffle off after doing all one can in a lifetime. You see there’s too much rock music around and I hate loud music. It makes my ears hurt and it interferes with my body clock. I’ve got a lot of fans through John Peel and I’m sure they all like loud music and when I think what they do to me compared to what I do to them, it seems very unfair. I’m a member of the Noise Abatement Society.”


Ivor Cutler: born 15th January 1923; died 3rd March 2006, aged 83.

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Filed under Comedy, Eccentrics, Humor, Humour, Poetry

Christmas eccentricities in Canada

This blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent, Anna Smith, lives in Vancouver. I have never been there, but it seems commendably eccentric. In the past, she has mentioned a rather disconcertingly high incidence of disembodied human feet being found locally.

Yesterday, I received a Christmas Day message from Anna. It read:


Another human foot was found a couple of weeks ago. I don’t want to bore your readers by reporting every single foot that is found locally but, in this case, the police issued advice that – if people find human remains – they should not take them home and then call the police but, rather, call the police first and leave the feet where they found them.


Anna continued:


Anna is fine; the weather is not

On Christmas Eve, I was at a bus stop in downtown Victoria (across from Vancouver).

I had just missed the No 7 bus and found a spot on the bench beside a nicely dressed older lady who had two canes. I chatted with her about the bus timetable but the conversation suddenly veered to the subject of the voices she hears in her room and she held forth for the next 20 minutes about radios, answering machines and overhearing her neighbours.

I realised she was probably schizophrenic, so I listened to her patiently.

A heavy snow had been falling. Now there was a snowstorm. Some of the buses were having difficulty steering and were sliding into the kerb.

As the lady continued talking I noticed an outlandishly dressed older man in conversation with a couple of his friends. The man had his white hair pulled into a ponytail and he was wearing a white cowboy hat adorned with a shiny red glass Christmas ornament in front and a plume of white ostrich feather sticking out the back like a rooster tail. Combined with his own ponytail, it looked as if he had two tails sticking out of his head.

A tall man with a white moustache and wearing an anorak joined us on the bench.

The lady with the voices dropped one of her canes in the snow and the man with the white moustache picked it up and asked me to hold it while he helped her organise her shopping bags.

He said: “I am headed home to Campbell House. If you are considering moving to Victoria, you should move into Campbell House – the rent is subsidised for disabled people and it is only a ten minute walk from the library.”

A stout lady wearing sweat pants and her coat unbuttoned despite the snowstorm looked admiringly at the guy.

He asked her loudly: “I wonder what Ambrose Bierce would have to say about all THIS… Ambrose Bierce,” he repeated. “He wrote The Devil’s Dictionary. What a great book! If only I had not loaned it to somebody. It is an incredible book and I can’t even remember who I loaned it to… probably it was the devil himself.”

Hen milk is a Canadian delicacy

It seemed like everybody waiting for the No 7 bus was a bit crazy. But that made sense.

Most people were home with their families on Christmas Eve, but odd people – possibly alienated from their families – were more likely to be out and about.

I am wrapping presents at the moment, doing my laundry (it’s a Christmas tradition) and, later on, I will dress as an elf and go for dinner at my sister’s place. We may drink hen milk.

Hen milk is a favourite Canadian delicacy at this time of year.

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Filed under Canada, Eccentrics