Category Archives: Eccentrics

ECCENTRIVIA: Mad inventor John Ward builds a tunnel and goes potty

Mad inventor John Ward has an ever-fertile mind. He designed the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards and is a regular contributor to the Daily Mail’s letters column.

A few weeks ago, he mentioned to them that he had invented a tunnel.

The Daily Mail has always had a keen eye for the bizarre…

“I was getting fed up,” he told them, “with constantly hearing the hackneyed expression: ‘There is light at the end of the tunnel’. So I made my own tunnel with a switch to put the light on and off as required.

“It could be an executive stress device for those who want total control or like to think they have.

“I have updated it because, due to Brexit, the light is now central. Before it was adjustable from right to left, depending on what country it might be used in and what side of the road they drove on. 

“Never let it be said we are kept in the dark. Being British, we are streets ahead of the game. Work is progressing on a solar-powered model.”

John tells me: “Some hours later, after the Daily Mail hit the newsstands, a researcher for BBC Three Counties Radio got in touch to see if I could do an interview over the phone and describe how my tunnel works.

“I told him: ’It’s purely visual. It’s something to be seen. The light is very quiet.”

And the line went very quiet.

The next day, a lady contacted John about the cost of making one for her husband’s birthday.

“I quoted,” John told me, “depending on size, between £150 and £250 as being I hadn’t made it and it would be individual to them but would come with a certificate of authenticity. She said she would be getting back to me as she and her daughter were going to buy it if her daughter agreed…”

That was ten days ago. Now John has had another brainstorm.

No stranger to the media, he has his own weekly column in the increasingly prestigious Spalding Guardian newspaper – and he has come up with a new cracker of an idea which has now been featured in a lengthy piece on their esteemed sister website Spalding Today.

He has created a board game based on the number of potholes in the roads of South Holland in Lincolnshire.

The game has been designed for two players – who throw dice from an upside-down miniature traffic cone. 

How did he get the inspiration for this?

Players throw dice from an upside-down miniature traffic cone

“I was driving down the A17 road last Easter time,” he explains, “when I ‘hit’ two such holes, both within a few yards of each other, then felt the car really jar but the more I thought about it this is a right old game – three such jarrings and your left front wheel falls off crossed my mind.

“From a personal viewpoint,” continues John W, never short of words, “Lincolnshire is blighted with potholes from major roads to side streets and they are a constant talking point, with forever debate about when or if they will be repaired. Although once repaired there is a very good chance the situation will return almost as soon as it’s been ‘repaired’ as the repair possibly was not as it should have been or rather it appears that way to the common layman.”

Players have the option of picking a sports car, pick-up truck or a tractor as a marker.

Realistic detail: “a fly-tipped pile of rubbish left on the grass”

“Realism,” explains John, “comes in the form of a fly-tipped pile of rubbish left on the grass.

“Each player starts with a set of ‘hole fillers’ or plugs, each colour-coded, to use to fill a pot hole when landing on one. Although it is not that straightforward – much like reporting a pothole and expecting it to be attended to.

“If you land on a square with a coloured star on it, you then pick a card from a pile with that co-ordinating star to find out if you can progress through to the next square or miss a go, forfeit a go to your opponent and so on.

“I am in the process of registering the design and copyrighting it at the moment. However, as these real life pot holes affect many millions of motorists, the possible potential for this game could – I stress ‘could’ – be very interesting.”

Last year, the Lincolnshire Free Press reported: A woman from Lincolnshire is spray-painting potholes around the county in a protest surrounding the state of the roads. Karen Holland, 55, is decorating the roads with different bugs – and even the occasional cheeky genitalia – to warn other motorists about the potholes and show just how many there are around Lincolnshire.”

This story, I think, has more mileage in it.

The art of Lincolnshire potholes in 2020 – as decorated and photographed by Karen Holland

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Filed under Eccentrics, Humor, Humour

ECCENTRIVIA – Clinton death, biscuits and criminal copper PC Oliver Banfield

Hillary Clinton – What was all that about?

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?

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

Brian Sedgemore (Photo: Wikipedia)

In 1992, there was an Early Day Motion tabled in the House of Commons in unusually forthright language. I presume one of the sponsors – Brian Sedgemore, MP – had a lot to do with that. I encountered him, between his two stints as an MP, when we were both working at Granada TV in Manchester. 

The Early Day Motion on 31st January 1992 stated:

“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.

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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?”

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Filed under Crime, Eccentrics, linguistics, Police

ECCENTRIVIA: levitating ships, 3,951 dangerous pets and Meghan Markle…

Hertfordshire has been called a “dull” county…

I live in Hertfordshire, an ostensively fairly quiet county on the edge of Greater London. But it turns out there are 104 dangerous and/or ‘exotic’ pets kept here. And those are only the ones people admit to.

According to animal welfare charity Born Free, 3,951 dangerous wild animals are licensed to be kept privately in Great Britain. They say a total of 210 private addresses across 129 local authorities hold licences to keep dangerous wild animals such as lions, tigers, crocodiles and cheetahs.

In Hertfordshire, the Dacorum Council area – that’s basically Hemel Hempstead, Berkhamsted, Tring and the western part of Kings Langley – has:

15 venomous snakes 

1 bearded lizard

4 ‘death stalker’ scorpions

1 fat-tailed scorpion

3 gila monsters

2 spectacled caimans

A serval in the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

6 servals (whatever they are)

12 serval F1 hybrids (presumably faster than normal servals)

and

1 recluse spider – though I suspect people don’t see much of that one

In my own council area there is, I am relieved to report, only one exotic pet – a Savannah cat.

The East Hertfordshire District Council area goes in for quality, not quantity, with:

3 cheetahs

2 pumas

4 wolves

and 2 Mississippi alligators

But never venture into the North Hertfordshire District, whose 46 exotic animals kept as pets include:

2 bobcats

2 camels

1 jaguar

1 clouded leopard

1 snow leopard

4 lynx

and 10 – yes, count ‘em, 10 – pumas

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A ship floating… (Photograph by David Morris/APEX)

The most unlikely things are true.

A few days ago, the BBC reported that one David Morris took a photograph of what appears to be an oil tanker floating in the air near Falmouth in Cornwall.

This, apparently, was the result of a rare optical illusion caused by special atmospheric conditions that bend light.

BBC meteorologist David Braine explained: “Superior mirages occur because of the weather condition known as a temperature inversion, where cold air lies close to the sea with warmer air above it. Since cold air is denser than warm air, it bends light towards the eyes of someone standing on the ground or on the coast, changing how a distant object appears. 

“Superior mirages can produce a few different types of images – here a distant ship appears to float high above its actual position, but sometimes an object below the horizon can become visible.”

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It’s all about perception.

Yesterday evening, for 1 hour and 50 minutes, ITV screened the much-hyped Oprah Winfrey interview in California with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. It made me a tiny bit more sympathetic to La Meg, but she still seems strangely naive verging on being a self-obsessed airhead.

Daily Telegraph on Meghan Markle…

One thing it did was highlight the Atlantic divide. The Daily Telegraph‘s front page this morning reports US President Biden saying the Duchess (Meghan) had shown courage. Their other front page story is an opinion piece headlined: They may claim to respect her, but this is a devastating insult to the Queen.

It starts: “Towards the end of her more-shocking-than-you-can-possibly-imagine, even-in-your-worst-Royal-Family-trashing-nightmare, interview with Oprah Winfrey, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, mused, “Life is about storytelling, right? About the stories we tell ourselves, about the stories we buy into”… The story the Sussexes have told themselves about their own behaviour… is perfectly clear. The only truthful lens is their own.”

This morning, a female friend of mine’s opinion was:

“She’s a decent actress and she showed she hasn’t lost the knack.  Quivering lip etc. Knows how to let the camera catch a slight tremble. I’ve watched all of (her TV series) Suits. Loved her in it. This performance was up there. And I take my hat off to any pregnant woman who can wear those heels. Harry sounds like he’s had LOADS of expensive West Coast therapy.”

This morning, I also received a text from a gay acquaintance of mine who said succinctly and rhetorically:

“Is she a drama queen?”

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OK – You find an image showing vertigo (Photo:Mwangi Gatheca/UnSplash)

Meanwhile, at the risk of seeming slightly drama queeny myself, my supposed vertigo hovers like an oil tanker in the sky.

I have been ever-so slightly unsteady on my feet (which means wobbly inside my head) since January when I had to spend three days in bed/holding on to walls to avoid falling over if I got up.

It recurred for a couple of less-bad days in February.

Three nights ago, I went out about 7.30pm to get some chocolate (I am on a diet, but hey-ho…) and, for the first time in a while, I felt 100% fine. 

Then two nights ago – bear in mind that, since May last year, I wake up at least once every hour during the night with a severely dehydrated mouth and drink lots of water – I got up on one occasion to go to the toilet and had to hold on to the walls and sundry objects to avoid falling over.

During the next day I was fine.

But, last night, again only once, I was again wobbly when I got up and had to touch walls etc.

And today I am OK again.

The Chinese curse: may you live in uncertain times.

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Filed under Animals, Eccentrics

ECCENTRIVIA: Man killed by own cock, penile routing and Mother’s Day

In my last blog, I mentioned that a 9-year-old of my acquaintance in London had adopted a kākāpō called Ralph in New Zealand. These are quirky, large, flightless, nocturnal parrots, not all called Ralph. They have a reported lifespan of up to 100 years. Over that period, they learn a trick or too.

My blog mention got this comment from a reader:

“I was in New Zealand a few years ago and took a bus tour from Queenstown to Milford Sound on the South Island. Somewhere along the winding and mountainous journey, the bus pulled up for a moment and a kākāpō strode up to the door and the bus driver fed him while tourists took photos. I don’t know how the kākāpō trained the bus driver to do this, but I am convinced that they are smart birds.”

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In other bird-related news, this blog’s occasional Vancouver-based correspondent, Anna Smith, sent me a report from the CTV Network in Canada about a man who was killed by his own cock in Southern India.

It seems a rooster fitted with a knife for an illegal cockfight in the Karimnagar district of Telangana state “inflicted serious injuries to the man’s groin as it tried to escape”. The cock was briefly held by local police before it was sent to a poultry farm.

According to CTV, “Specially-bred roosters have 7.5-centimetre (three-inch) knives or blades tethered to their legs and punters bet on who will win the gruesome fight. Thousands of roosters die each year in the battles which, despite the efforts of animal rights groups, attract large crowds.”

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On a peripherally-related subject, Andy Dunlop – President of the World Egg-Throwing Federation (also featured in my previous blog) contacted me with a story from the Welwyn & Hatfield Times about a man in Southern England who creates penis-shaped running routes to raise money for testicular cancer.

It seems Adam Linsell, an air conditioning engineer, wanted to get back into shape after Christmas and chose to start running routes in the shape of penises.

Some of Adam’s runs are fairly long (nearly 7km) while others are on the short side (around 4km). The Welwyn & Hatfield Times helpfully reports that “cold weather doesn’t put Adam off or cause the runs to shrink in size”.

Andy Dunlop bike ride route: sadly neither penis nor America

Adam is quoted as saying: “I’m chuckling to myself as I go along passing people who have no idea what I’m up to!… I uploaded the pics onto Welwyn Garden City Unhinged and they’ve currently had 4,000 shares, 3,000 likes and 2,000 comments.” 

Inspired by Adam, Egg-Throwing supremo Andy Dunlop tried to re-plan his bike ride routes across the North Yorks Moors to emulate his hero, but “only managed a bad map of America.”

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Meanwhile at home, in the last week, I have been bombarded by a barrage of spam/scam phone calls.

These included a pre-recorded phone call from 0118 348 2605 (a Reading number) telling me my British Telecom landline was about to be cut off and asking me to press key 1 on my telephone.

I have no BT landline.

On another day, two calls from different numbers told me that I was under investigation for tax fraud by HMRC (the taxman) and told me to press 1 or the police would arrest me.

On yet another day, I had a text message from HSBC bank to my mobile phone checking if I had authorised a payment of £240 to Mr C Jones and telling me to click on a link to security.hs-online-authpayee.com if the payment was not legit.

I have no HSBC bank account and I imagine that clicking the link would probably have connected me with some vastly expensive premium phone line in some far-flung country.

The (I hope) final scam was a pre-recorded call to my mobile phone from the National Insurance Office (surreally via a mobile phone number 44 7836 703246) saying I should phone them back immediately by pressing 1.

I do not recommend phoning that number, because of the potential ‘vastly expensive premium phone line in some far-flung country’ factor. But there seems to be some as-yet-inexplicable love of Button 1 by scammers.

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I also got a (I think) perfectly legitimate email from London’s Natural History Museum asking me if I wanted to opt out of receiving “Mother’s Day themed emails” from them – presumably on the basis that, if your mother has died, being reminded of the fact would upset you.

A worthy thought but, methinks, an email asking if you want to opt out of emails about Mother’s Day would equally remind you of the bereavement and be equally upsetting.

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Filed under Birds, Eccentrics, political correctness, scams

ECCENTRIVIA – hairy-nosed wombats, almost dead parrots, Scots and tossers

My last blog ended with the mention of comedian and author Janey Godley’s meal of mince on toast being the subject of a prominent news article in Scotland’s Daily Record newspaper.

The next day, England’s/the UK’s Daily Star newspaper picked up the Daily Record story and it also turned out that, according to Google, ‘Janey Godley’ was the most-searched name for and by Scots in 2020.

Forget toast; she is on a roll.

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Fame though, like the hairy-nosed wombat, can be a fickle thing.

Hairy-nosed wombat (Photo by Eva Hejda, via Wikipedia)

Creative hyphenate Ariane Sherine’s 9-year old daughter decided that, for her upcoming birthday in April, she wanted to adopt (online) a hairy-nosed wombat. They are an endangered species and she reckons they look sweet.

I am not altogether sure I agree and I felt obliged to point out to her that there are only reckoned to be either 206 or 147 of the even-more-endangered kākāpō left in the world.

These are quirky, large, flightless, nocturnal parrots.

Ralph (Photo: New Zealand Department of Conservation)

As a result, for her still upcoming birthday, she has now persuaded her long-suffering mother to fork out an extra £55 for the adoption of a near-extinct non-Monty Python kākāpō parrot called Ralph.

I suggested that, as the Rule of Three is immutable (she is an expert Scrabble player) Ariane’s daughter should also adopt the two squirrels who live in my back garden and, as I cannot tell them apart, we should call both of them Cyril. 

So she has now informally and additionally adopted Cyrils the Squirrels.

We will skate over the fact that four creatures are now involved. 

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Andy Dunlop in happier days

On a more serious note, I received this sad missive from Andy Dunlop – President of the World Egg Throwing Federation:

“The World Egg Throwing Championships, hosted by Swaton Show, was looking forward to its return this year following last year’s lock down but the Committee fears our June 27th date may be unachievable due to the global pandemic. Movement to another date this year is impractical for wholly understandable reasons.”

I suggested that, when tennis becomes allowed, surely egg throwing must be allowed and that, if Scotch Eggs could be classified as a full meal to get round pub restrictions, maybe they are the future of egg-throwing too – though a bit dangerous for Russian Egg Roulette, which involves smashing an egg into your own forehead.

Andy Dunlop’s disappointing reply was: “Probably not.”

The moment the World Gravy Wrestling Champion failed in his World Russian Egg Roulette title bid in 2012

He added: “Our family continue to be fine as are now both vaccinated and it’s pretty much OK to be locked down when I can work from my conservatory, over-looking a couple of acres of garden and field disturbed only by bird song and the occasional baa from the sheep looking through my fence. 

“The ten girls in there since yesterday, placed by farmer Steven (son of Steve, father of Steven John) arrived after a scan revealed they are not in lamb and, unbeknown to them, are being fattened before their final trip. They will be replaced shortly by a clutch of successful mothers and their new joyous off spring.”

It took me a moment to realise all this referred to sheep.

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Shortly after that message arrived from the barren outlands north of Watford, I received this photo from comedy uber-fan Sandra Smith on England’s south coast:

I had always assumed the locals in Brighton were fairly sophisticated men and women of the world (other genders are available). But I am prepared to reconsider this opinion…

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Filed under Eccentrics, Humor, Humour

ECCENTRIVIA – Mis-gendering, Tit-Bits, Potato Heads and Janey Godley

In yesterday’s blog, I mentioned the NHS wasting time and money sending out three letters when only one was required. That referred to a local hospital appointment I am (still) having on 11th May with the Respiratory Department.

Today I received a text on my mobile from the same hospital about a telephone appointment I have with their Physiotherapy Department on 4th March. The text tells me that my telephone appointment has been changed to a telephone appointment.

Apart from the surrealism of my telephone appointment being changed to a telephone appointment, there is the quirkiness of the fact that they could have saved money yesterday by sending me one text rather than three physical letters. The technology seems to be not unknown to them.

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The NHS is an organisation that just keeps on giving. After reading yesterday’s blog, a care worker I know sent me a message she received from the NHS’s ‘Health Education England’ – presumably sent to all NHS workers in England who interact with members of the public – advising her what to do if she should “misgender someone by accidentally using the wrong pronoun”.

Her reaction to me was: “FFS, I think I’ll stay in lockdown”.

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In other gender-bending news, Hasbro’s Twitter account announced that, from Autumn this year, its iconic Mr & Mrs Potato Head toys will be getting “a 21st-century rebrand” as ‘Potato Head’ so that the toy could “break away from traditional gender norms” and, when the new brand is unveiled, “kids will have a blank slate to create same-sex families or single-parent families”.

This would mean the toys would not “impose a fixed notion of gender identity or expression”, freeing kids to do whatever feels most natural to them. A girl potato might wear trousers and a boy potato might wear earrings. Hasbro would also sell “boxed sets that don’t present a normative family structure”. This approach would allow kids to project their own ideas about gender, sexuality and family onto their Potato Head toys, without necessarily offending parents who might have more conservative notions about family.

After some surprised reaction on social media, Hasbro then re-Tweeted yesterday that, although the toys would indeed be re-branded as Potato Heads, they would also still be identified as ‘Mr’ and ‘Mrs’ on the packaging.

So Mr Potato Head will now be called Potato Head to avoid gendering the toy, but the toys will be identified on the packaging as Mr Potato Head or Mrs Potato Head.

I am undecided whether this is good publicity – lots of coverage of the brand – or bad publicity – too much ducking, dodging, diving and weaving in the PR.

Collins Dictionary currently defines ‘Potato-head’ as “[slang] a dumb or stupid person”.

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Meanwhile, on Facebook, Man-of-All-Arts Peter Stanford has spotted a piece in a 1884 edition of Tit-Bits magazine.

Peter’s reaction was: “I so want some reputable magazine to offer this service. I would write my own, and send it off with my subscription, just in case.”

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All publications are desperate for readers and ever have been.

In yesterday’s Daily Record (basically Scotland’s national equivalent to England’s Daily Mirror), there was a prominent article on comedian and author Janey Godley ‘dividing the internet’ by posting a picture of her dinner: a plate of toast, mince, peas and onions.

According to the Daily Record, “many were outraged by her choice of dish”.

You know you have really succeeded in the fame game when a national paper starts reporting your dinner (with pictures) for the sole reason that, if they publish your name, people will want to read the article. All the more jaw-dropping because this week Janey started writing a weekly column for the Daily Record‘s competitor, The Herald.

 

 

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Filed under Bureaucracy, Eccentrics

ECCENTRIVIA – Political correctness, Facebook hoes, midgets and the NHS

Yesterday, my Yorkshire-born friend Lynn stumbled on this story in The Week from last month, which both of us had missed. She says: “I had to read it three times and I’m still not sure I get it. Whoever the morons are, they surely can’t be Yorkshire folk.

To be clear, the concept of the three wise monkeys became popular in 17th century Japan, before spreading to the West. It is associated with the Tendai school of Buddhism where monkeys are considered sacred and perceived as helpers for divine figures. They are “vehicles of delight”.

I always think people who censor monkeys for being racist should look at themselves in the mirror. Far be it from me to say “political correctness gone mad”… but I will.

That was yesterday.

Today, Lynn spotted this piece in Computer Active magazine about Facebook’s algorithm getting similarly censorious.

I told her: “Eat your heart out for any publican trying to make a living by running the Cock Inn, Scunthorpe.”

Afterwards, I Googled to see if there actually IS a Cock Inn, Scunthorpe.

Sadly there is not, but Google told me there is a Blythe Black Cock Inn. Arguably worse in Facebook terms, but un-censored by them.

I feel the good people of Plymouth Hoe have cause to be aggrieved about being picked-on by a US algorithm.

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Meanwhile, in other perhaps equally dodgy news, I got an email telling me that the admirable Vaudevisuals Press, whose slogan is “Celebrating the Eccentric Performing Arts”, have published a book on Rose’s Royal Midgets and Other Little People of Vaudeville.

“…both the Dark and the Dazzling sides”

It covers the period from 1890 when Ike Rose “started living the legendary life of a top vaudeville & burlesque producer” to 1957, when Billy Barty founded his “advocacy group” the Little People of America.

Ike Rose, apparently, was “one of show biz history’s great impresarios, now forgotten but once in a league with names like Barnum and Ziegfeld as men who delivered full value for the price of a ticket.”

He seems to have rivalled Barnum is hype.

The book admits: “each component of the troupe’s name crumbles into dust by light of day.

“‘Rose’ was a pseudonym; the company held no Royal seal of approval; and the word ‘midget’ has passed out of use in polite society.”

The selling line for the book claims: ”Without pandering nor passing judgment, this book documents in detail the performers, producers, the stage routines themselves and the various venues from those straight up and upscale to others shameful and shady. This book probes both the Dark and the Dazzling sides of the American Imagination. Only rare books like this seriously confront our more bizarre past and allow the new generations of show folk to revise, to re-invent, to reform American Theater.”

Rare indeed – apparently only 50 copies of the book are being published.

Tomorrow – well, tonight at 8.00pm in New York; tomorrow 1.00am in London – there is a free online Zoom conversation between author Trav S.D. (Donald Travis Stewart) and Vaudevisuals’ own Jim R.Moore.

As I haven’t had a full night’s sleep since May last year (medical conditions) and am currently sleeping on the floor at night because my back is buggered, the possibility of my listening in on this Zoom call is iffy. But it sounds interesting.

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I have also, this morning, just received a letter from the NHS saying that I should ignore the other letter they enclose in the same envelope cancelling  my appointment with the Respiratory Team on 11th May.

Obviously, in this main letter, they don’t mention when or with whom the appointment is because that is mentioned in the letter which they are telling me to ignore.
 
They say, in the first letter telling me to ignore the second letter, that they will send me a third letter rescheduling the appointment.
 
Regular readers of this blog will know we have been here before (see my blog of a fortnight ag0).
 
The third letter, dated the same day as the other two letters, will inevitably say they are rescheduling my appointment which was at 1345 on Tuesday 11th May and, instead, I will have a telephone appointment at 1345 on Tuesday 11th May.
 
Life is but a surreal dream, a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing….

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Filed under Books, circus, Eccentrics, political correctness, Uncategorized

The oddity of no sex north of London

This morning my chum, writer and songstress Ariane Sherine, Tweeted about the oddity of London postcodes. 

There are SW (south west) postcodes, SE (south east), postcodes, NW (north west) ones but no NE one for north east London. That is because NE is the postcode for Newcastle.

Likewise, there are N, E and W London postcodes (north, east and west) but no S postcode, because that is used for Sheffield.

Another quirk, designed to confuse the unwary, is that the numbering of London postcodes is alphabetical, not geographical. So a postcode area 3 is not necessarily next to 2 and 4…

However, I am more interested in sex.

So, we have or had Middlesex (the central area), Wessex (ie West Sex), Sussex (South Sex), Essex (East Sex) but no North Sex, presumably because the people of Nosex eventually died out.

Apparently, in this context, ‘sex’ turns out to be an abbreviation and corruption of ‘Saxon’, which is a disappointment.

But life is full of disappointments.

I am going to have breakfast now.

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Filed under Eccentrics, London

Canadian eccentricities, one nurse’s fear of sewing machines and J.K.Rowling…

Premier John Horgan wants B.C. to “Live long and prosper”

Anna Smith, this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent who, in a former incarnation, used to dress up as a nurse on stage, then disrobe, sent me an email last Friday about the fact that, when John Horgan, British Columbia’s 36th Premier was sworn into office the previous day, he had raised his hand to recite the oaths of allegiance, office and confidentiality, then his fingers separated to give the Vulcan salute used by Mr Spock on Star Trek.

Now Anna has updated me:


While the Premier of B.C. was flashing his Vulcan hand signal, I was in a police station on Main Street, Vancouver, wearing my hand-sewn Cthulhu mask for another fashion show to benefit the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre.

…It’s all happening at the Downtown Eastside Womens’ Centre in Vancouver…

This is the same women’s center that Meghan Markle visited earlier this year. I believe I was in the shower there at the time… but they didn’t tour her through the shower area.

I tend to shower in various places. I once had a shower at Vancouver City Hall.

I never showered on stage though… at least, I don’t think so. 

At the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre show (L-R) Erna, Sarah and Nurse Annie

That was a fad in the seventies. I might have done it once, but if I did, I have blocked it from my memory. More likely, I danced on a stage where I was told to shower and refused to do so. That is one good thing about dressing as a nurse.  People are less likely to tell you what to do. There’s always a suspicion in the back of their minds that you might be a real nurse.

I am always in awe of what I call ‘real nurses’. 

Last time I was at St. Paul’s, I told a male nurse that I had been a pretend nurse, and been stripping as Nurse Annie, he said that I WAS a real nurse too, adding kindly: “There’s more than one way to be a nurse!”

We had to sew our own masks for the fashion show. We were placed in a large room in the police station, with distanced trestle tables which had a sewing machine at each one. A feeling of dread came over me. I hate sewing machines and have difficulty following patterns. A volunteer fashion student tried to explain how to follow the pattern exactly. 

But I didn’t WANT a normal mask and it turned out that I had been given the WORST sewing machine. The thread kept breaking over and over. All the other ladies had nice new machines and soon they had dainty masks, which they decorated with sequins and buttons. 

I had the idea of making a more costume-y mask, with long, long ribbons that tied in a bow at the back. But, by the end of the workshop, all I had were mixed-up strips of fabric and meters of green thread tangling into massive knots, bobbins flying, cloth pieces on the floor. I looked like Lucille Ball at the end of an episode. 

Anna, post-shower, in Emma Goldman T-shirt …Anarchist Emma hated sewing machines…

I felt like I was back in high school, like my head was going to explode and I walked out after the class fuming… I had wanted to model, not use a stupid sewing machine! 

On the street, I ran into a Quebecoise stripper friend of mine and told her my woes. Surely, as a dancer, she would understand how awful sewing was? She listened a bit, before interrupting: “You do know I’m a seamstress, don’t you?”

Her entire family had been tailors for generations!

She said she could easily sew the mask for me. 

I actually hand-sewed the face part. I can sew by hand, no problem. But the long ribbons would have taken forever…

In a couple of days she had them done: meters of cloth  sewn into long neat ribbons, with nice diagonal tips, like laces.

The show went OK. It was live-streamed and raised money with the tickets and an auction. But I missed having a live audience. And we were confused because we could barely hear our music… though it was heard by the viewers.

I danced to JJ Cale’s song Call Me The Breeze, because his music is so relaxing…

Of course, people asked if I was really a nurse…

Afterwards, I met two more real nurses. One was at a clinic, where I had a COVID-19 test. 

COVID is now spreading rapidly through the Downtown East Side, after a slow start there.

The second nurse was a surprise… I walked into what I thought was a storefront cannabis shop (it used to be), looking for some rolling papers for a neighbour.

I was very surprised to learn that I was in Vancouver’s first psychedelic mushroom shop. Now people don’t have to go down to ‘Mad Mike’s Mushroom Tent’ in front of Pacific Central Station all the time. 

Well, in fact, I don’t  think Mad Mike’s is open in the winter time.

The new mushroom shop on Granville Street is called Zoomers, and there is a registered nurse named Rachelle on staff there. Clients have to have a brief consultation in Rachelle’s office, fill out a form and promise not to drive whilst on mushrooms.

Micro-dosing is recommended…

That was yesterday. This morning, at the very busy intersection of Granville and Georgia, I saw some odd sights:

A middle aged man with a flushed face wearing a Santa hat and also wearing two signs. One sign said:

“I (heart) J.K. Rowling.”

…In eccentric Vancouver, close to the giant statue of Satan…

I take it he was the same man who paid for a billboard saying the same thing in East Vancouver (close to where the giant statue of Satan was erected). The City of Vancouver had the billboard message removed for being an expression of transphobia.  

The other sign the man was wearing said something ridiculous like “Children have the right to experience PUBERTY”.

Another unhinged-seeming man nearby had an ominous sign on his bicycle warning those who do not love Jesus that they are DOOMED for eternity. He was staggering about and holding a stretched-out white coat hanger, for no apparent reason.

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John Fleming’s Weekly Diary No 31 – Edinburgh cuts, digs, hugs and teeth

… CONTINUED FROM DIARY No 30

Machete Hetty demonstrates a fascinating narrative in her kitchen with her useful household utensils

SUNDAY 16th AUGUST

In the afternoon, I had tea with Machete Hetty in Leith. She had been going to stage her first Edinburgh Fringe show this year, but was outmanoeuvred by the coronavirus.

“You have never told me how you got your nickname ‘Machete’,” I said.

She told me.

I have told her to forget the show she had intended to stage this year and instead to stage this story at the Edinburgh Fringe next year – if the coronavirus allows.

It is a cracker of a narrative; she is a mesmeric natural storyteller; and, with the correct title, it would have them queueing round the block.

If I may be allowed to review the show before it has even been written, let alone staged, let me say: “Jesus Christ!”

Back in the old routine: Leith Walk dug up again, August 2020

Leith Walk is being dug up yet again for the tram extension. Clearly aiming to get commissioned as a long-running sitcom.

Edinburgh without the Fringe, not surprisingly, feels like Edinburgh off-season with just a few tourists (because of the coronavirus).

Just normal Edinburgh, in other words. There are always some tourists any time of year.

I have been coming to Edinburgh almost every single year since I was (literally) an embryo.

No overly-busy pavements this August; no Fringe show posters. So visually different.

Theatres have not had time to open. Cinemas, as in London, are open but look dead.

Bristo Square with the Teviot building across the emptiness

No Fringe events that I can see. (And I bought an Evening News yesterday – nothing.)

The Potterrow student shop and Dome in Bristo Square are closed (no students). The Teviot (the Gilded Balloon during the Fringe) was open but I didn’t go in. Bristo Square was empty save for a few skateboarders.

George Square was looking rural, green and tranquil.

Lots of people were sitting outside pubs and eateries last night, but they were locals or a dribble of tourists.

Lost Fringe advertising opportunities on the North Bridge…

The rebuilding of what was the St James Centre at the top of Leith Walk is STILL going on – this must have been going on for at least the last 3, maybe 4, years!

And the nearby North Bridge is being repaired. Apparently it fell down around 100 years and killed five people. I only repeat what I have been told. It has temporary wooden and plastic walls on both sides of the bridge ideal for Fringe posters (probably intentionally intended by the Council to get money in).

Because of COVID-19, I can hide missing teeth

MONDAY 17th AUGUST

I got home at 0130 after the flight from Edinburgh into London Gatwick. Very tired.

In the morning, I got a dental appointment – a cap had come off a dead tooth in Edinburgh on Saturday.

Rather than re-cap it, the dentist cut off the top and kept my plate (which I first got when I was about 16) until Wednesday. So I am now toothless at the front on the top.

It could be worse.

But, because of the coronavirus, I can justifiably wear a mask whenever I am out.

TUESDAY 18th AUGUST

In my local paper, the Borehamwood Times, columnist Paul Welsh wrote:


I was sad to read the death of 1960s pop star Wayne Fontana, who I saw in concert several times and who in later life was a character. I especially liked his 1967 hit Pamela Pamela.


Pamela Pamela was a hit in the Sixties. There is an online video of him performing it in 1985.

The phrase “who in later life was a character” drew my attention. I wanted to know more.

Apparently, according to Wikipedia, in 2005, he fought off bankruptcy but was arrested after police were called by bailiffs who went to his home in Glossop, Derbyshire. He poured petrol onto the bonnet of a bailiff’s car and set it alight with the bailiff still inside.

Wayne Fontana as Lady Justice (Photo: Rui Vieira/PA Wire)

He was remanded in custody on 25 May 2007. He later appeared at Derby Crown Court dressed as Lady Justice, complete with a sword, scales, crown, cape and dark glasses, and claiming “justice is blind”. He dismissed his lawyers.

On 10 November 2007, he was sentenced to 11 months for setting fire to the car but was released because he had already served the equivalent of the term, having been held under the Mental Health Act 1983.

Now THERE is a man I would have liked to meet.

Also the judge.

11 months sounds rather a light sentence for setting fire to a car with a person inside it… English justice at its most random.

Wayne Fontana’s group was called The Mindbenders.

Oh! The joy of having a full set of gnashers!

WEDNESDAY 19th AUGUST

I got my plate back from the dentist with the extra tooth on it. It fitted perfectly but was slightly uncomfortable. Well, my gums were not used to it.

I got a 49p McFlurry (ice cream) at the local McDonald’s. This is part of Chancellor ‘Dishy Rishi’ Sunak’s half price meals scheme Monday-Friday, to re-stimulate the UK economy after the economic shock of the coronavirus.

At Euston station, there was a loudspeaker announcement:

“Will Inspector Sands please go to the Control Room.”

I was sitting by an exit and looked around. None of the station staff seemed to be panicking. Nor running fast. I am still alive.

“Will Inspector Sands please go to the Control Room” means that there is a major incident in the building. They want to alert staff, but they don’t want to panic members of the public.

It comes, originally, from theatres, where sand was used to put out fires. It meant the building was on fire. But now it is used more generally in public buildings. Nowadays it is perhaps more likely to be a terrorist attack than a fire.

The announcement went round on a tape loop for about 2 minutes – a long time – then stopped. The only other time I have heard it was on a platform at Stratford station for maybe 20 seconds where, at the end, without explanation, it was followed by: “The test is now over”.

Adam Wilder, entrepreneurial big hitter and hugger

THURSDAY 20th AUGUST

At lunchtime, I chatted to Adam Wilder (formerly Adam Taffler) for a future blog.

He greeted me with a large hug.

A big hug.

A big, big hug.

Honestly! Theatrical types versus coronavirus distancing!

What on earth is one to do?

But NHS bureaucracy is even worse.

Bits of a terribly confusing time-travelling letter from the NHS

I got a letter today (20th August) from the Kidney Man sent to my GP with a cc to me.

It was a bit confusing at first until I realised it was written on 7th July, allegedly signed (no signature) and verified by the Kidney Man on 12th August and printed-out & sent to me on 17th August.

It referred to my medical symptoms and mentioned future treatment which is now in the past. I have received at least three  letters written after this one but sent before this one.

There is nothing like keeping up-to-date and this was etc etc etc…

The NHS is staffed by well-meaning, hard-working people, but all bureaucracies are incompetent and the larger the bureaucracy the larger the incompetence.

What would Archimedes have made of all this?

FRIDAY 21st AUGUST

It is a good thing Greece is known for its mathematical geniuses.

A local Greek restaurant is offering 15% off all food and drink Monday-Wednesday.

‘Dishy’ Rishi’s deal is 50% off food (but not alcoholic drink or spirits) Monday-Wednesday during August.

It would take Archimedes, Euclid and Pythagoras to figure out which offer is better value, taking alcoholic imbibement into account. As I don’t drink alcohol or spirits, the 15% deal would be worse than ‘Dishy’ Rishi’s deal.

A visual equivalent of trying to edit my words

SATURDAY 22nd AUGUST

On Thursday, I had a chat with performer Jo Burke for her upcoming series of online podcasts. I should perhaps have warned her that, although I am quite good interviewing people, I am appalling as an interviewee. I witter and wander off the subject. It sounds not too bad if you are talking to me but, combined with a speech pattern that elides words leaving no gaps, it is a nightmare – sometimes an impossibility – to edit. She discovered this today.

… CONTINUED HERE

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