Category Archives: Humor

Amazon’s Alexa is a psychopathic killer. Apple’s Siri is a New Age Californian…

A few weeks ago, I was in a charity shop with my eternally-un-named friend. 

A glass head was being used to display headwear.

I took a liking to it as a slightly surreal objet bizarre.

I asked the shop assistant if it was for sale.

He said, “No.”

Unknown to me, my eternally-un-named friend later found a similar glass head online and bought it for me.

She very kindly gave it to me the other day. 

I was a bit uncertain where to put it in my living room for the maximum aesthetic impact of its pointless splendour and, on a whim, asked my seldom-used Alexa electronic assistant: 

“Alexa, where should I put the head?”

This was the answer I got:

“Place the head in the freezer…”

Afterwards, I asked the same question to Apple’s arguably more sophisticated Siri assistant: 

“Hey, Siri, where should I put the head?”

“I’m not sure I understand,” was her first response.

But, when I asked again:

“Hey, Siri, where should I put the head?”

… she had second thoughts.

And her answer, as befits Apple’s more caring Californian image, included a suggestion of the “Best direction to sleep, according to Feng Shui and Vastu Shastra.”

Eventually, I decided by myself, without electronic advice.

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A bit of a chat with Robert Wringham – Part 1 – The Stern Plastic Owl man…

Robert Wringham describes himself as a ‘humorist’… His latest book is 2021’s Stern Plastic Owl.

His first book, in 2012, was You Are Nothing (about Simon Munnery, Stewart Lee et al’s comedy show Cluub Zarathustra).

After that, he wrote A Loose Egg (2014), which was shortlisted for Canada’s 2015 Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour.

His 2016 book Escape Everything! was a spin-off from the New Escapologist, a lifestyle magazine he edited and published 2007-2017 and which continues as a series of online essays. New Escapologist describes itself as “the journal of the art of getting out of things” and suggests that “work has too central a position in Western life”.

Escape Everything! was successful enough to be translated into German and released in Germany, Austria and Switzerland as Ich Bin Raus and then, in 2018, in South Korea as [] 탈출하라. No doubt to further confuse readers, it was also republished in the UK in 2021 in English as I’m Out: How To Make an Exit.

Meanwhile, in 2020, in English, Robert had written The Good Life For Wage Slaves, which was re-published in Germany as Das gute Leben.

He had also written a regular column 2016-2020 in The Idler, a magazine whose declared aim is to “return dignity to the art of loafing” and had written for a variety of other esteemed outlets including Meat, The Skinny, the British Comedy Guide, Playboy etc etc etc.

Obviously, I had to have a chat with Robert.

It would have been churlish not to.

He lives in Glasgow and Montreal (his partner is Canadian), so we talked via FaceTime.


JOHN: You have said: “The highest form of human activity is the shenanigan”…

ROBERT: It makes sense, right? What could be better than a mischievous, spontaneous act?

JOHN: ARE you a mischievous, spontaneous act?

ROBERT: That’s what I aspire to.

JOHN: You describe yourself ‘a humorist’.

ROBERT: There’s a thing on Wikipedia at the moment about the definition of ‘humorist’ which says it’s “an intellectual who uses comedy to get his or her point across”. And that nails it for me. I don’t want to think of myself as an intellectual, but I do like the idea that I’m trying to communicate a ‘point’ packaged nicely with humour, so you can get inside somebody. It’s the sugar pill, right?

“I think it’s to do with anti-pigeon…”

JOHN: Why is your latest book called Stern Plastic Owl?

ROBERT: That’s a theme. My previous similar miscellany book was called A Loose Egg because I got hung up on that phase “a loose egg”. It came about by accident, because there was a loose egg in our fridge back in Canada.

Stern Plastic Owl is a random phrase too. Like all comedians and writers, I have a notebook nearby at all times, including by my bed. There is an idea that sleeping should be when your fertile ideas come up although, really, what I write down in the night is gibberish. But it feels like it’s a resource I should use and one of the phrases that stood out was Stern Plastic Owl. I didn’t know what it meant.

So there is a story in the book where I try to work out what it means. It’s kind of a detective story in the middle of the book.

JOHN: So did you find out what it means?

ROBERT: Not exactly. But I think it’s to do with anti-pigeon, do you know what I mean?

JOHN: No.

ROBERT: An anti-pigeon device. You’ve got an owl and you put it up on your roof to scare pigeons away. There’s one nearby and I think I must have seen that and it came back to me in a dream. So I tried my best to write a piece around one of those stern plastic anti-pigeon owls.

JOHN: I’ve never heard of this before. Are you telling me, if I come up to Glasgow there are fake owls on window sills and roofs all over the place.

ROBERT: They’re everywhere.

JOHN: You were a stand-up comic.

“I never got a horrible heckle ever…”

ROBERT: One of the very brief things from my very brief stand-up period was my come-back to hecklers: “Sir, you cannot count the number of cylinders I’m firing on”. I’m still happy with that. I never got to use it, but it was just there on standby. I never got a horrible heckle ever.

JOHN: You were too loveable?

ROBERT: Probably too young. A lot of audiences are just polite if you look very young.

JOHN: Why did you give up stand-up?

ROBERT: My favourite thing was writing the jokes and fine-tuning them. The hardest part was making it sound good, sound spontaneous. I didn’t enjoy the late nights or the Green Room badinage. I have met a lot of wonderful comedians in Green Rooms but I never felt I was holding my own in those conversations.

JOHN: You wrote that one great climb-down of your life was “pointing your imagination in the direction of writing rather than performance”.

ROBERT: Well, that’s not really true. That’s just what I put in the book. It didn’t really feel like a climb-down. I just didn’t want to tell the story in the other direction which was I was travelling in a favourable direction to the thing I wanted to do. I didn’t think there was any comedy in saying that.

JOHN: Is it a book full of lies? Like comedy routines?

ROBERT: Oh completely. The idea of what is true is something that is always on my mind a lot. For example, my real name is not Wringham. My actual passport name is Westwood. Robert Westwood.

 I wanted to change my name and be a persona. So, when I’m on the page or on the stage, it’s a separate thing. 

JOHN: Why Wringham?

Agraman aka The Human Anagram, John Marshall, c2018

ROBERT: I was always entertained by people like The Human Anagram (aka Agraman aka John Marshall) in the 1980s, but I wanted to do something else. I like horror novels and there’s one called The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner.

 It’s of the age of Frankenstein, but it’s Scottish and I think that’s why no-one has given a shit about it and it’s unjustifiably obscure. The villain in that is called Robert Wringham.

So, when I moved to Scotland, I thought: I’m taking that name! It’s sort of similar to mine and the thing about that book is it’s about doppelgängers. So I thought: My persona is going to be my evil twin. He’s going to do the stuff that I don’t do in real life.

(… CONTINUED HERE … )

Robert’s books have been published in the UK, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and South Korea

 

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I can’t get over the Bogha-Frois in The Wizard of Oz…

You might think Bogha-Frois meant a bag of fries in America or a bag of chips in England.

But apparently, in Scots Gaelic, it means a rainbow…

It’s not the most romantic sounding of words.

I can’t imagine Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz singing “Somewhere Over the Bogha-Frois”…

But I am going to try harder, practise night and day and hope to succeed soon.

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Source unknown… The things you find on Facebook…

Source unknown…

 

Sauce unknown…

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Jury dis-service?… The English legal system… court with its trousers down.

Inventor and Malcolm Hardee Award designer John Ward has a weekly column in the Spalding Guardian newspaper. Earlier this week, he sent me a copy of this week’s piece, subsequently published.


Years ago I received a letter requesting my presence for jury service at the local Crown Court on a given date, so I informed my boss why I would not be at work then and possibly for a few days after depending on how the case/trial proceeded, so plans were sorted to cover for me.

I popped in a few days later and told my mum, of the people for the people, about it as she sat slooping tea in the kitchen with her friend Viv, who suggested I “might see Margaret Lockwood there”: about that time the actress Margaret Lockwood was starring as a lady barrister in a weekly TV drama called Justice.

Mum said it was unlikely as I was to be there for ten in the morning and Margaret was covering the ‘late shift’ as she came on at nine o’clock in the evening but only did an hour’s worth before the News at Ten came on.

Sorted then.

I arrived on Tuesday as requested and went through the formal procedure as a juror – this induction has possibly changed over the years – and all went well as we selected twelve were given a rundown of how things went.

On going into court, fellow juror ‘Miss Marple’ (or ‘Miss Know-it-all’ who was to sit next to me in the jury box, sadly) complained the seats were too hard and felt she “might not last the day” due to her “problem”. Ron, another juror, muttered that her problem might be she was a ‘moaning Minnie’ so no cure there then.

Seeing one person enter, Miss Marple remarked that he was “a wrong ‘un, quite shifty looking – You can tell by their ears you know.” 

He turned out to be the prosecuting counsel.

After the preliminaries were sorted as to who was who and what might be what, battle commenced in the form of the first witness for the prosecution being called and a slight hint of the pantomime to unfold in more ways than one.

He was sworn in and was asked his profession to which his head swivelled all around as it was quite obvious the term had got him stumped. The clerk to the court then said the court wanted to know what he did for a living, to which he smiled and said he was “a pint spire” much to everyone’s amazement, Judge included.

He was asked three times with the same response, until the judge requested he write it down and this duly happened. It was then handed up to the judge and he then read out the man was “a paint sprayer” to which the witness then said: “I fed fo the flurst tome didn’t I!?”

Thus was the start of the high comedy to follow over the next few days as we heard assorted accounts of the case. As possibly the late Eric Morecambe might have paraphrased it: “All the right evidence but not necessarily in the right case”.

The case we were sitting on seemed to have references to other ‘events’ that related to another criminal case as the defendant seemed to have had quite a colourful past if some details quoted, or inferred, were anything to judge by. It did leave a lot of questions – or cases – unanswered but, hey oh, we battled on regardless.

Day two arrived as well as Miss Marple but she was now armed with her purple velvet cushion to sit on.

The basics of the case revolved around the defendant and his then friend a.k.a The Pint Spire who together removed various building materials from assorted areas to build a large extension to a house, doubling its value. But, during all this happening, they fell out (another story worthy of a Carry On type film) and so The Pint Spire reported him or – as the defendant said in the box later – “He bladdy grassed me up!”

The falling-out seemed to hinge on the defendant’s wife and her alleged involvement with The Pint Spire but the details – or, rather, what we were told in court – seemed to relate to another case entirely, so we were partly confused with even the Judge’s eyebrows seemingly doing a rumba at various times.

So we were instructed to disregard certain things said.

The prosecuting counsel had tried to sweep it away by saying there “might well have been a liaison between the couple” as Miss Marple whispered to us: “It means a ‘leg-over’ in French”. The judge overheard and raised an eyebrow.

Finally it came to Friday morning with the Judge summing up. I was amazed that, while I thought he was nodding off at times, he had actually handwritten down everything said in court from day one and even mentioned the confusion over The Pint Spire’s profession.

This took about an hour or so to hear as we were then instructed to go away and come back with a verdict but he would only accept a ten to two majority if there were any doubts among us.

So off we went to the jury room to debate the case.

Miss Marple got her knitting out of her bag, then click-clacked away with the needles as she said her vote was “He’s guilty, that one” (maybe it was his ears?) as she wanted to finish a sleeve off.

British justice at its best. – The defendant was guilty as somebody wanted to finish knitting her jumper sleeve.

Due to assorted elements of the case, we arrived with a three to nine majority, so word was passed through, then we were given ‘extra time’ but by now the clock was ticking by. 

It was now ten past four – as, out of the woodwork almost, came ‘Miss Takkan’, the quiet juror, whose voice we had not even heard since her being there.

She was ‘one of the three’ but now wanted to change to Guilty.

When asked what had brought this change about, she said that she was some miles from home and might not make it in time if we were in a stalemate as she wanted to see “my fave soap Crossroads at 6.30”.

So we had the ten to two result.

The accused got a fairly light sentence (we all thought so) by way of a fine.

Miss Marple didn’t finish her sleeve, but hopefully Miss Takkan got home in time to see Benny and Amy Turtle on Crossroads. 

I never saw Margaret Lockwood but then she did the nine to ten shift anyway.

(… CONTINUED HERE …)

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A word with a Ward, Award-maker, leaves worried BBC journo wordless

Dapper designer John Ward, earlier this week, wearing one of his many professional hats…

A couple of days ago, I posted a blog about this year’s Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award for best publicity stunt at the Edinburgh Fringe. The trophy itself – as with all Malcolm Hardee Awards – was designed and made by mad inventor John Ward.

Dr David Weeks’ academic analysis…

Among John Ward’s many other accomplishments are writing a weekly column – Ward’s World – for the Spalding Guardian newspaper and ‘starring’ in psychiatrist Dr David Weeks’ 1995 academic book Eccentrics: A Study of Sanity and Strangeness.

Yesterday, I got an email from John Ward:

“A BBC Three Counties Radio bod rung me up just now – asked me about the Malcolm Hardee Award and asked was I willing to do an over-the-phone interview later today.

“Then he asked me if I had any connections with Edinburgh other than the Awards side. 

“I said: My psychiatrist lives there (as in David Weeks) and then things seemed to get sort of quiet and he said he would ‘get back to me later’.

“I have heard no more.”

Obviously the BBC has to ‘up’ its reporters’ inquisitiveness.

They should have been even more interested by the mention of a psychiatrist and should also have asked the obvious question: “If you live in the middle of England, why do you have a psychiatrist in Scotland?”

John Ward is also featured (among many other appearances) in the 2015 documentary film A Different Drummer: Celebrating Eccentrics by Academy Award winning director, John Zaritsky.

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My difficulty in self-isolating before a minor hospital operation during Covid

(Photograph: National Cancer Institute via Unsplash)

I am probably going to have a minor operation at a local hospital next Friday.

I say ‘probably’ because, when I was phoned-up at around 8.30pm last Thursday night (three days ago), I was told the operation could not be 100% confirmed until Tuesday (two days from now).

I say the ‘probable’ operation is at a ‘local’ hospital though, to get there, I have to travel on two trains.

Anyway, because I am probably having this minor operation on Friday, on Tuesday afternoon I have to go to the same hospital and have a Covid test – just for safety. The result will be known two days later.

After having the Covid test on Tuesday afternoon, I will need to self-isolate for the rest of that day and for the whole of Wednesday/Thursday before turning up for the operation on Friday morning.

This is, of course, to avoid my being infected by anyone between having the presumably negative Covid test and the operation.

Which is fine…

Except, of course, that, after the Covid test on Tuesday afternoon, I will be taking two trains to get back home.

And, on Friday morning, I have to turn up at the hospital by 08.00, which will involve me travelling on two fairly-crowded early-rush-hour trains to get there.

So I will be potentially exposing myself to infection.

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My eternally-un-named friend had an idea to get me to keep my mouth shut…

Those who have read my appropriate blogs will know I was hospitalised for seven days last May and seven days this July because my body suddenly developed very high calcium levels and a dangerously low kidney function. 

As a result, I have not had a full night’s sleep since June 2020. I wake up every hour throughout the night, dehydrated – my tongue and the inside of my mouth as dry as the Sahara Desert.

The doctors still do not know the cause of my calcium and kidney problems.

Inevitably, my eternally-un-named friend has recently been looking on the internet for explanations about dry mouths and has decided, with little evidence, that the problem is that I sleep with an open mouth.

The passages inside my nose were severely buggered in my teens by an overindulgence in Vicks Sinex Nasal Spray.

“In your bathroom cupboard,” my eternally-un-named friend told me yesterday, “there is one of my black hairbands. Put it round your head when you go to bed at night. It will keep your mouth shut.”

I tried to persuade her that a hairband is impractical for me because I have no hair on my head, but she would not be swayed.

She got an old photo she took of me and sent me a visual representation of how I should wear the hairband as a medical aid…

She helpfully added: “My hairband does not have a bow.”

I found the hairband in my bathroom cupboard. I tried her suggestion. It is not a good look. Life is a trial.

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The birth of the movie industry’s admirable Toad of Shame award…

Certain bursts of original thinking should be celebrated.

One such is ‘The Toad of Shame’.

There is a private Facebook group called Crew Stories for members of film & TV crews. 

Someone posted on it the question: “What ‘traditions’ have you started or taken part in??”

Prop person Manuel John Baca replied a propos the TV series True Blood:


Until Covid hit, I was in charge of The Toad of Shame. An actual toad (but probably a frog) that I found flattened and dried while in the Santa Monica mountains filming. 

Rutger Hauer with his Toad and Manuel Baca…

I laminated and attached a lanyard to it. 

If anyone did anything to impede the filming process such as phone ringing, being late, breaking something, snoring while rolling etc…, that person would have to wear the Toad for the day, or until someone else did something wrong that day. 

It has its own Instagram page with lots of cast and crew wearing it. Rutger Hauer wore it!!… 

I believe his phone rang while we were rolling.


Actor Stephen Moyer, who played a vampire on the True Blood series, confirmed:


Our assistant property master @Truebloodhbo Manuel Baca found a flattened toad up at Greer Ranch in Malibu. (This is where we shoot most of our exteriors.) 

The three of them “did what any self respecting ‘toad finder’ would do in the circumstances….”

The poor little toad had all the air and blood and gubbins squashed out of him. So Manuel, Mike Horn (on set dressing) and Greg Manke (first assistant property master) did what any self respecting ‘toad finder’ would do in the circumstances. They laminated it. Within a few days it had a lanyard on it.

And before long… When any member of the cast or crew were late, or broke something, or their phone went off… They would be awarded with the ‘Toad’. 

At the end of the season, the crew member with the most ‘Toads’ throughout the season would be awarded a rather hideous trophy adorned with golden toads and be forced to make a speech.

The aim is for our fabulous toad to become an industry standard.


Digital Spy, reporting on a True Blood panel at Comic Con 2014, wrote:


Kristin Bauer van Straten got the Toad of Shame twice in her last week, once when her phone alarm went off because she was trying to bid on some plates on eBay! 

Deborah Ann Woll believed she committed a toad offence…

Deborah Ann Woll says she asked for the toad – she believed she committed a toad-worthy offence when she knocked over a prop beer barrel and got the floor all sticky. 

Everyone said it was okay, but she replied: “I’m not made of glass, give me the f**king toad!”


On Instagram, Rachel Bloom, co-creator and star of the TV series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend added:


This tradition continued when Manuel joined #crazyexgirlfriend. In our final season, the whole show went a little toad crazy, with numerous people getting the toad every day and friend turning on friend to throw someone under the toad bus.


Let us hope the Toad can survive Covid and be revived…

Some of the proud former winners of the Toad of Shame award on Instagram…

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Travelling hopefully with Tony Green, Michael Gove, Princess Diana, lizards

Sometimes, to slightly mis-quote Robert Louis Stevenson, it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive.

It’s what happens along the way that is interesting – the diversions and the sidetracks.

It’s a book, not a hairdressing salon…

Celine’s Salon,” Tony Green said to me in the Soho Theatre Bar, back on June 9th, almost exactly two months ago.

“A hairdressing salon?” I asked.

“No,” said Tony. “Celine’s Salon, The Anthology: Volume 1. Poems, short stories, song lyrics, that sort of thing. 

“Celine used to run her ‘salon’ just round the corner from here. Celine Hispiche. That’s her name. I read a few short stories there. At Celine’s Salon. Now it’s going to be a book. Celine’s Salon, Volume One. The publisher phoned me up and said: Could you do a 600 word short story? One of the stories you read at the club? So I did.”

“What’s it called?” I asked. “Your short story.”

Shape-Shifting Lizards.

“Autobiographical?” I asked.

Tony laughed.

How very kind of him, I thought. But then he is an actor.

There are so many sub-cultures in Soho, let alone in London, that no-one can know them all. Tony Green, the comedy performer formerly known as Sir Gideon Vein, knows lots of sub-cultures and people I don’t.

He took me along to Torture Garden late last century dressed as a cricketer – HE was the one dressed as a cricketer – or maybe it was an homage to Sylvester McCoy’s incarnation of Doctor Who – because he (Tony Green) knew Sophie Seashell who was organising the Berlin-Between-The-Wars-type cabaret performances amid the slightly self-conscious fetishism and kinkiness going on in the disused 3-storey warehouse up a back street in Islington.

Celine must have been right under my nose all the time…

I hang my head in shame that I had never heard of Celine Hispiche until two months ago. She started her career as a featured writer at the Royal Court Theatre, progressed to singing duets with Marc Almond on his album Bluegate Fields and playing support to the Human League with her band Nitewreckage.

Then there was touring down the US East Coast with fellow comedians from Saturday Night Live, playing the comedy stage at the Glastonbury Festival, supporting Harry Hill at the Hackney Empire, four consecutive cabaret years at the Edinburgh Fringe and starting Celine’s Salon in 2015 at the Society Club, described as “an arts and culture bookshop in the daytime and a private members Bohemian cocktail lounge in the evening.”

Tony Green in his mask outside Soho Theatre

“So,” I said, two months ago, “Shape-Shifting Lizards?”

“I got the idea,” Tony explained, “because some friends of mine who, at one time were quite well-balanced human beings, have gone… Well, they wouldn’t say ‘Conspiracy Mad’. They would say their eyes have been fully opened to this awful situation…”

“The Covid-19 situation?” I asked.

“Oh no!” said Tony. “Not that! I’m quoting Gilbert & Sullivan here. My eyes are fully opened to this awful situation…

“No, no, not the virus, although they know all about the virus, of course. That’s why none of them are having the vaccination.” 

“Because the world is run by an international cabal of Satanic paedophile cannibals?” I suggested.

“Of course.” said Tony. “I’m not saying this is the truth, but it’s what was told in a pub. You meet some strange people in public houses… So Lady Diana…”

“…was killed by the Cabal?” I guessed.

“Oh definitely,” said Tony. “But this is what was told in a pub… She was ‘nutted-off’ because she found out…”

“…about the Royal Family all being lizards?” I guessed.

“Oh definitely,” said Tony. Prince Philip told her: Whenever you want to see us about anything, always knock on the door first.

“So they have time to shape-change?”

“Of course. And, of course, there was that one unfortunate time she didn’t knock. She burst in and saw and was told If you say anything about this… It wasn’t the fact she was expecting a baby with Dodi Fayed or because the chauffeur was drunk…”

“Whenever you want to see us, always knock on the door first”

“It has to be said,” I suggested, trying to be helpful, “that, in his dying days, Prince Philip did look a bit lizard-like – Did you see that photo in the car?”

“Oh, they’re all lizards,” said Tony with a twinkle in his eye. Well, both eyes. There was more than one twinkle in more than one eye. “On one a occasion, a very well-spoken young actor said to me: Oh, I’ve just heard you’re a ‘Cockney’, aren’t you? I know why all of you Cockney chaps are all so ugly and stunted and stupid. You’re all inbred, aren’t you… And then somebody said: I think he must be confusing Cockneys with the Royal Family.

“You told me you also wrote a novella,” I prompted him.

“Oh – Halfway Up Arthur’s Seat – yes. It’s called that because the story came to me when I WAS halfway up Arthur’s Seat. In Edinburgh. I think it would make a great film, but it would cost a helluva lot of money. It needs 200 extras. It’s an homage to Edinburgh. It ends with what could possibly be described as a supernatural element. My partner read it and she felt it needed more explaining. I don’t think it does.

“A journalist friend of mine wrote a story about a certain notorious serial killer and he said to me: Do you think I made the ending only too obvious? I told him…”

“What?” I asked.

“Have you read any of Jake Arnott’s books?” Tony asked.

“I’ve seen the TV adaptations,” I told him, “but not read them. Have you read The Long Firm?”

“I have. When I wrote my story – Halfway Up Arthur’s Seat – it’s nothing at all like Jake Arnott – but I’d been reading a lot of Muriel Spark stuff. It was reading her stuff that prompted me – that and living in Edinburgh…”

Did I mention Tony spends a lot of time in Edinburgh now? Mostly, he says, “as a result of the bleedin’ virus and the lockdown’s etc.” I met him when he was briefly back in London.

Tony Green in Soho, London, not in Edinburgh

Thus the Soho Theatre Bar location.

I forgot to tell you.

It was two months ago. Other things have intervened.

Apologies.

“The hero of my story,” Tony continued, “is called T. Jellicoe Mungham. He wrote a book in 1902 called Dear Oscar, when he was at Cambridge. He was lauded for this book. He is a mischievous but loveable person in my book but also quite wise.”

“Autobiographical?” I asked.

Tony ignored this and continued:

“Muriel Spark is a hero of mine, like Andrew Marr and my idol Michael Gove. All Scots. All I can say about Michael Gove is that the horror film industry’s loss is politics’ gain. You know he was in a film, playing a vicar? Robert Hardy on one side and Christopher Lee on the other. 

Michael Gove: from movie minister to government minister

“Michael Gove was actually adopted and his parents were Socialists. I can only imagine someone said to him when he was quite young: Michael, you can’t keep backing losers. Conservative is just another name for Winner. You’re a Winner. Join the Conservatives and get rid of that Scots accent… Muriel Spark had no Scots accent either.

“Of course, she left Edinburgh when relatively young and lived in Camberwell in London, for years, virtually turning her back on her Scottish/Jewish heritage and becoming a devout Roman Catholic like her friends and admirers Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh. Funny that she wrote her must famous book The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie in Edinburgh in the early 1960s on an extended visit to her parents flat in Bruntsfield Place.

“I think my stories have a very Scottish ring… The reason I wrote Halfway Up Arthur’s Seat was because there is NOT a part in it for me. People accuse me of being up my own anus, but I’ve written a story where there’s no part in it for me at all… Did you know Jake Arnott wrote a book about Alastair Crowley?”

“I didn’t know that,” I said.

Fenella Fielding on her 90th birthday (Photo Etienne Gilfillan)

“Just before she died,” Tony continued, “I saw Fenella Fielding do a reading. She was over 90. The reading she did from her autobiography, for a woman of that age, was A1. It was a perfect rendering. The reading was only a few months before her departure. There was a Q&A afterwards and I said to her: It’s very refreshing to hear someone reading as you read. You don’t give the impression of being a luvvie. As an actor, was there anyone you ever worked with you didn’t like?

Oh, that’s a very naughty question, she said. I don’t think I could answer that here. She was a nonagenarian and a likeable one. She knew even months before her demise that she still needed to ‘play the game’.”

Tony Green has returned to Edinburgh now.

Celine’s Salon is published in the UK on 6th September.

Like Robert Louis Stevenson didn’t quite say at the beginning of this blog… Sometimes it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive. It is the journey that is interesting. The sidetracks. And – hey! – Robert Louis Stevenson ended up in the South Seas Islands, which wasn’t too bad a place to end up at the time.

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