Tag Archives: Andy Dunlop

John Fleming’s Weekly Diary No 34 (a) – My dog clone and a bat swoops down

… CONTINUED FROM DIARY No 33

I was determined NOT to get into medical whinging in this week’s blog diary, but it didn’t work out…

Andy Dunlop weighs up the mysteries of the codes

SUNDAY 6th SEPTEMBER

In my last blog, I mentioned that, at St Pancras station, I had heard an announcement for ‘Inspector Sands’ which I said was a coded message meaning that there was a major emergency in the building.

World Egg Throwing Federation President Andy Dunlop today reminded me that the phrase “Inspector Sands“ was used because of  the need to throw sand on a fire.

So it is fire-related.

“It could just be a bin fire,” he told me. “Major stuff (bomb, other terrorism, robbery, armed people) tends to have different codes… No, I’m not telling you what they are.”

Wikipedia reckons ‘Inspector Sands’ can involve bomb threats, but I trust Dunlop. He has been around a bit and is a President and therefore beyond reproach.

I also asked him about my doppelgänger dog Rigby, who had been exhibiting the same symptoms as me.

“He is doing great,” Andy told me. “Treatment working it seems. Very happy.”

I can only dream of having treatment.

MONDAY 7th SEPTEMBER

I had a bath. I had been having trouble recently – with no warning – getting out of my bath.

My new technique is to put in more and more and more water until the bath overflows, casting me out in a tidal wave of Archimedean proportions.

That may not be altogether true; but what follows is…

I got a text from my GP:

Injecting a little bit of uncertainty into my mind and arm

“If you DO NOT want a flu vaccine we would appreciate it if you would email us to let us know so we can remove you from our RECALL list. This is very important as, this year more than ever, vaccines supplies are expected to be in extremely high demand. Thank you.”

I have no idea if being injected with a small dose of flu when I already have some unknown calcium/kidney/other problem is a good idea. I will have to get advice.

In late afternoon, I got raging toothache.

What next? Gout? Hiccups? Bodily takeover by aliens from Alpha Centauri?

TUESDAY 8th SEPTEMBER

My raging toothache got worse overnight. A veritable symphony of comedic ailments. Might be an abscess. Might not.

After a couple of hours of not sleeping, I took a couple of paracetamol. No effect. I also managed to develop heartburn and, after an hour or so, chewed a Gaviscon tablet. And I then developed very loud, OTT hiccups. My nose started to get a bit sniffly. Then a hacking cough, though I think that was from the heartburn.

Obviously taken after-the-event and, frankly, really rather over-dramatically posed…

The only way to stop the heartburn was to try to sleep sitting upright in my bed, with a pillow between my head and the wall.

After about three hours of sitting upright, half-sleeping, I woke up with the raging toothache worse and the back of my neck and my right collarbone giving me pain. But that was to do with getting hit by a truck in 1991, not any current problem.

Well, I did say there was a symphony – a veritable cacophony – of comedic overnight ailments.

Obviously, when I woke up, there was my of-late normal bone-dry mouth – no moisture inside my cheeks, nor on the roof or floor of my mouth, nor on my tongue, which felt almost stuck to the inside of my cheek.

I drank water. As always.

All this pretty much repeated itself throughout the night, though the heartburn went away and I sort of was awake at 8.30am, having slept vey sporadically and, it seemed to me, rarely.

At 9.30, I phoned my dentist. There are still restrictions because of the coronavirus. Basically, you can only get an appointment if it’s an emergency. I could only see my own dentist for my toothache in a fortnight; I could see another dentist in the practice next Monday. I could have a ‘normal’ appointment in October.

A stronger, hopefully more effective, bedside

As the paracetamol tablets were having no effect, I went to Boots the Chemist and they recommended I try co-codamol (paracetamol & codeine) of which I can theoretically only take two tablets four times a day for three days (because, after that, it can become addictive). In fact, the pharmacist told me, it would be OK to take two consecutive three-day courses, which would get me to Monday. And I also bought some Orajel Extra Strength to rub on the tooth; again, limited to four times a day “short term” (whatever that means).

For the rest of the day, the pain – not ache – pain – ebbed and flowed, depending on how close I was to the four-hourly point of taking the tablets/gel.

To add to the jollities, in the post, I got a CCd letter from my Kidney Man consultant to my GP telling him how I was doing. This was a duplicate of the same letter I got last week, except with an extra page showing dates.

The letter had been written by my Kidney Man on 29th July about the phone appraisal he had with me on 6th July. The letter had then been transcribed by his secretary/assistant on 6th August, modified by my Kidney Man on 28th August and the letter was posted out on 7th September.

It referred to a future meeting the Kidney Man would have with me in August which, of course, has already happened.

As if to confirm the dream-like nature of the day… at dusk, a bat appeared in my back garden.

My eternally-un-named friend tried to attract it by rubbing the edges of two 10p pieces together; then tried to ward it off by holding aloft a large bulb of garlic. I think this merely ended up confusing the poor winged creature. My eternally-un-named friend wore a jacket with her hood up in case the creature was suddenly attracted to and got entangled in her hair.

I can barely believe all this either.

But all this is true.

Spot the fast-flying bat, held at bay at dusk by a bulb of garlic held by my eternally-un-named friend

… CONTINUED HERE

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John Fleming’s Weekly Diary – No 25 – COVID in Glasgow, Indians in Moscow

… CONTINUED FROM DIARY No 24

My natural rhythm was Go to sleep quickly, Wake up slowly…

SUNDAY 5th JULY

All the way through my life I have only very very rarely been able to remember any dreams I had at night – maybe once every six or eight months if I got woken in mid-dream. My natural rhythm was to go to sleep quickly and wake up slowly, so I guess I rarely woke up during the dreamy bit.

Now – I guess because of the kidney/calcium problems which landed me in hospital a few weeks ago – I wake up at least once an hour during the night; sometimes I wake 11 times, my throat parched dry, having to drink water.

And I am aware of my dreams.

I never realised dreams were so visually detailed and, certainly in my case, have an ongoing narrative. Sometimes I have a detailed scenario which picks up one night where it left off the previous night. I know that because I am aware of it happening during the night and realise it is happening.

What the dream/dreams is/was/are about, on the other hand, I can’t remember when I wake up… because I have a shit memory. I am just – now – aware I have them.

Now the boring bit… You may want to skip on to Tuesday, which is more interesting…

MONDAY 6th JULY

I had a telephone appointment with the Kidney Man from my local hospital at 1240. He eventually rang at 1437.

“Sorry,” he said. “IT problems earlier.”

My calcium level when I went into hospital was 3.2 instead of 2.6 which it had been last October. And 2.6 is the high end of ‘normal’ – Normal is 2.2-2.6. It is now 2.4 (as of 22nd June).

My kidney function, which had been an OK 62 last October and a very-much-not-OK 19 when I went into hospital, was 34 when I left hospital.

It is now (as at 22 June when I had a blood test) 44.

Which doesn’t worry the Kidney Man: “The calcium level can affect the kidney function, but the kidney function can’t affect the calcium level.”

The calcium level is now fine and the kidney function should return to normal. Last time, I was told a kidney function of over 60 was OK for a man of my age. So 19… 34… 44 is going in the right direction.

The blood test on 22nd June, like the Petscan before it, was OK.

The parathyroid glands (which create calcium and are tested via the blood test) are normal.

The Kidney Man does not know why I am waking up 8 or 10 or 11 times a night with a dry mouth. But he is not worrying. When I asked him, he said: “I don’t know”.

This genuinely reassured me. No bullshit waffle.

“You are,” he added, “a mystery.”

If only I were a performer, I could use that as a strapline on a poster.

He is going to arrange a face-to-face with me at the start of August which will include another blood test. Doctors love blood tests.

Beautifully-written, word-perfect vignette of current reality

TUESDAY 7th JULY

The UK is slowly, tentatively, opening-up bit-by-bit after the coronavirus lockdown.

Scottish comedian Scott Agnew is, like all other stand-ups in the UK, unable to perform because no venues are open. This morning, on Facebook, he posted a beautifully-written – I think word-perfect – vignette of current reality – in Glasgow, anyway.

With his permission, here it is:


Popped out to pick up a spot of breakfast at the wee roll shop at the end of my street – first time since March…

Wee roll shop wummin: “Oh a fucking stranger returns I see! Where the fuck have you been?”

Me: “Eh, I’ve been in lockdown like everyone else.”

RSW: “I’ve been here four fucking weeks. No’ fucking hide nor hare aff you?”

Me: “Well when I looked along you never looked open.”

RSW: “Well I wouldnae have looked open if I was shut cause you never move yer fat arse oot the hoose in the mornings anyway unless you’re coming tae me. Was it Tesco ye were getting yer sausages? Aye. So where the fuck have you been? First week I was open I’m thinking I’ll see that big fella – nothing – I’m just thinking he’s an ignorant basturt.

“Second week I’m thinking, this cunt must be deid cause I minded you’d been on that flight back fae Australia – and that was the last I seen ye. There’d be all sorts fae all parts with fuck knows whit oan that flight. And I thought, that’s him had that virus and now he’s deid. Then I thought ye cannae be deid cause yer a comedian – ye’d have heard about that in the papers. Then I thought, well he’s no’ a famous comedian so the papers probably wouldn’t bother their fucking arse about ye.

“So I says to my daughter cause she’s got you oan that internet to check if you were deid. So I says – see if that big fat comedian fella is deid. And here ye wurnae deid.

“Do you know I stood in here wan Friday and had wan customer! Six pounds I took – it cost me more to turn the fucking lights oan.

“So here we are four weeks later and ye turn up noo, turns oot ye ur nothing but an ignorant basturt.

“Two roll and square son?”

© copyright Scott Agnew 2020


Keith Martin being very itinerant…

WEDNESDAY 8th JULY

I mentioned to itinerant TV voice-over artist and one-time choirboy Keith Martin that the post-lockdown openings are (understandably) slightly eccentric.

As I understand it, Christian churches can open for private prayer provided you maintain social distancing but synagogues and mosques cannot open yet because they are more sociable in their celebrations. And, although Christian churches can open, there can be no singing for fear of spreading the coronavirus.

“You can’t sing,” Keith told me, “but you can hum the hymns, provided you keep social distancing.”

“You are joking,” I said.

“No,” he replied. “That’s true.”

And, while I haven’t been able to find out definitively, I think he might be right.

THURSDAY 9th JULY

Continuing the musical theme, today I stumbled on a video of the great and much-lamented (certainly by me) 1980s band Indians in Moscow.

I posted this on my Facebook page and the highly-esteemed Andy Dunlop, President of the World Egg-Throwing Federation but a man with wide-ranging knowledge well beyond the aerodynamic properties of farmyard products, pointed out to me that Adele Nozedar – the vocally talented lead singer of Indians in Moscow – was now an author, food writer and forager, whose books include The Hedgerow Handbook, The Garden Forager and her most recent book Foraging with Kids.

She has come a long way since singing about Jack Pelter and His Sex-Change Chicken, a classic track in my vinyl collection.

Readers of previous blogs may recognise Andy Dunlop not just as the esteemed World Egg-Throwing supremo but as the man who has a friend with a dog called Rigby whose calcium problems mirrored my own. I feel my own fate is intertwined with Rigby’s.

“How is the dog?” I asked Andy today.

“He is fine,” Andy replied. “Doing well. Very happy.”

I am reassured, if only temporarily.

A US man unfairly maligned by a UK woman?

FRIDAY 10th JULY

My historic certainties are being undermined week-by-week.

First, there was the fact that Chou En Lai, did NOT say in 1989 that it was too soon to know if the French Revolution of 1789 had been a success. (See a previous blog).

And, today, I discovered that George W Bush did NOT tell Tony Blair that “the trouble with the French is they have no word for entrepreneur”.

It seems that Blair’s spin-doctor Alastair Campbell denies it ever happened and suggests that MP Shirley Williams might have put it in a speech as a joke and the idea snowballed.

“This book will probably save your life. Unfortunately,” says Charlie Brooker

SATURDAY 11th JULY.

My multi-talented chum Ariane Sherine chose today to mention she has not one but two projects coming out soon.

Her new book How to Live to 100 is published on 1st October this year…

And – under the name Ariane X – her first solo music album is being released on 12th February 2021. Why that date? Because it’s a palindrome date:

12.02.2021

… unless you are an American and get your dates back-to-front for no sensible reason – For you it is February 12, 2021.

Duran Duran were an early musical influence

Ariane describes the new album as “pop/electric/dance” with influences “including Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys, St Etienne, Massive Attack and loads more.”

There are five early, rough instrumental demo tracks on her new ArianeX website. “Vocals, harmonies, guitar, hooks and fills to be added…”

The songs, she says, “are all about my violent childhood, mental illness, suicidal ideation, but also happiness that my life is so beautiful now…”

An extract from the lyrics show they ain’t gonna be no normal trite Moon-in-June songs:

I believe in Russell’s teapot, I believe in Occam’s Razor
And I believe that vaccines are humanity’s saviour
I always look to science to provide me with my answers
And I don’t believe that prayers can ever cure any cancers

As far as I know, there will be no horns on Ariane’s upcoming album…

… CONTINUED HERE

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John Fleming’s Weekly Diary – No 24 – A broken shoulder and anal cell-phones

… CONTINUED FROM DIARY No 23

This particular blog is admittedly self-indulgent.

Do I care?

No.

But you have been warned.


SUNDAY 28th JUNE

In my previous Diary blog Andy Dunlop, esteemed President of the World Egg-Throwing Federation, suggested, rather persuasively, that my ongoing problem with raised calcium levels in my body was paralleled by the troubles of a dog called Rigby and that the cause might be my parathyroid glands.

Today, American comedian and occasional burlesque performer Lynn Ruth Miller contacted me:


“That is a very delicate difficult surgery and…”

So you think it is your parathyroid gland? 

That is a very delicate difficult surgery and can leave you with injured vocal cords.

Be very wary of parathyroid surgery John,. They were going to take mine out years ago and then decided it was too risky.  

Here are the advantages: improved bone health, reduced risk of kidney stones and improved quality of life. 

You also have better memory and no aches and pains.  

However the surgery is very dangerous because you run the risk of injuring your thyroid gland and your vocal cords. Those little glands are very hard to find.

I have really terrible osteoporosis and I was all excited to have this done but the guy who everyone thought was the only one I dare trust to do this thing simply didn’t think I was a good enough candidate for the surgery.

I assumed he either hated women or Jews or the elderly. Possibly all three. So here I am sagging, shrinking and unable to touch my toes; not to mention my lousy tummy and disgusting personality.


My left shoulder as was in 1991 – pulverised in two places

MONDAY 29th JUNE

I wonder if maybe my parathyroid glands were affected by my occasional ongoing shoulder problem.

In 1991, when I was standing on a pavement, I was hit by an articulated lorry. My shoulder bone was pulverised (medical talk for ‘powdered’) in two places. I also had a skull injury – as I fell, I hit the back of my head on the sharp edge of a low brick wall – and, it later turned out, the bottom of my spine was also damaged by the jerk as my head stopped when it hit the wall and the rest of my body continued downwards.

In 1991, I was taken to the same local hospital I was taken to for my calcium/kidney function problem a few weeks ago.

Because I had broken bones, I was looked after in a Bone ward but, because they were worried there might be brain damage (from the skull injury – my brain would have hit the inside of the skull) I was bureaucratically under the care of the Brain people, who had their own ward(s).

The nurses in the Bone ward were very attentive but, when the Bone consultant did his rounds, he always ignored my bed because I was not his patient. Once, I heard him explain this to the student doctors who followed him round absorbing all he said: “We don’t deal with Mr Fleming. because he’s not our patient.”

The Brain consultant never visited me, I guess because I was not in his ward.

But, after about a week of observation, I was released. Late one afternoon, a very tired and clearly very overworked junior doctor from the Brain lot came down to my ward and told me I could go home.

A map of the Rhineland in 1905 looks a lot like the inside of the human brain but is not

I was released but, really, for about nine months after, my mind would occasionally sort-of de-focus and I would be unable to string thoughts together – I presume from some form of concussion. And I could not read for a while.

If I tried to read a newspaper, it was as if my brain would lose focus halfway through the first or second paragraph.  I still cannot read printed books, though I can write them on a computer screen.

After about a year, my shoulder still tended to feel like it was having a sharp knife stuck in it for maybe 90% of my waking hours. To protect my shoulder at night, I had to learn to sleep on my back with my left arm stretched out at right angles to my torso. This stopped me turning over.

But it also eventually meant that, instead of my shoulder bone mending back to its original state, the two broken, sharply-pointed ends overlapped each other. So my left shoulder is a tiny bit shorter and weaker than my right shoulder.

The pain in my left shoulder was eventually sorted by a Chinese doctor (ie Chinese medicine) and only gives me problems now if I lean too heavily for too long on the not-healed-correctly left side.

Occasionally, still, I also get some muscle pain in my right shoulder and at the back of my neck because (I presume) the muscles are not quite right. Maybe these muscle problems affected the parathyroid glands in my neck? Maybe not.

Anyway, apparently I should have had physiotherapy and outpatient care when I left the hospital in 1991, but this never happened, presumably because of the bureaucratic complication that no hospital department was 100% in charge of me. My brain was too much like confused wobbly jelly to really think straight until much later.

This might also partly explain why, though I admire nurses and other frontline NHS staff, I have a high disregard for NHS bureaucracy… Did I mention I have a high disregard of all large, faceless bureaucracies?

My missing tooth cap

TUESDAY 30th JUNE

Today I went to my heavily-masked and plastic-visored dentist to get one of my capped teeth, which had fallen out, re-inserted. It was not simple and may not be long-lasting as the (dead) root into which the cap is inserted via a spike, is apparently fractured or fracturing.

It never rains but it pours.

WEDNESDAY 1st JULY

Social distancing is still in place because of the coronavirus pandemic. This has some bizarre effects as in the Ladies toilet at an IKEA store in London.

I did not, for obvious reasons, see the Ladies toilet first-hand myself, but a friend took a photo.

It is reasonable to tape off alternate sinks to maintain social distancing. But this does not explain why IKEA has closed alternate (and entirely separated) cubicles, as can be seen in the mirror at the top of this photo.

The Nokia 3210 (1999)

Today, still on the subject of human bottoms, someone else told me that there is a good second-hand trade in old 1999 Nokia 3210 mobile telephones.

In the early days of mobile phones, this particular phone was very popular with the inmates of UK prisons.

Mobile phones, of course, were not allowed in UK prisons, so they had to be smuggled in.

I am reliably informed that the Nokia was popular in prisons because it was small (certainly compared to modern phones) and had rounded edges. This meant it could be shoved up inside the body where the sun don’t shine by a prison visitor and then removed, given to and used by the lucky prisoner who had ‘ordered’ it.

The Nokia 3310, released in 2000. A snug fit in an XL condom.

To preserve cleanliness, the Nokia was usually put inside a condom (XL size) before insertion.

After it was removed, I remain uncertain whether the XL condom was thrown away or used.

But the Nokia 3210s were much used and – even though drones are now often the preferred method of getting things into prisons – the popularity of the Nokia 3210 and its 2000 successor the Nokia 3310 remain (I am told) very high.

This may or may not partly explain why, in 2017, a new version of the Nokia 3310 was released to an appreciative world.

Plus ça change, the more SNAFU…

THURSDAY 2nd JULY

I have a telephone consultation with the NHS Kidney Man (or Woman) on Monday. The fact that it is a telephone appointment – not a face-to-face one – was confirmed in a letter and by phone last week.

This morning, I received a text message telling me that my face-to-face consultation next Monday has been changed to a telephone consultation.

No, you did not mis-read that. Did I mention I have a high disregard of all large, faceless bureaucracies?

A glass of water by my bedside for when I wake up parched…

FRIDAY 3rd JULY

I continue to wake up at least once an hour throughout the night every night with my mouth bone dry, almost as if bits of my mouth want to stick to other bits they are so parched dry. I need to drink water – I have a bottle and a glass by my bedside.

I think it has to do with my kidney function being abnormally low or my calcium level being too high or both – but what do I know?

I counted the number of times I woke up during the night last night – ten times.

So par for the course.

SATURDAY 4th JULY

Today I asked Andy Dunlop, esteemed President of the World Egg-Throwing Federation, if there was any further news of Rigby the Dog and his parathyroid glands.

Andy’s reply was:


Ahhhhh,  I was hoping you wouldn’t ask. 

He’s now home. Arrived last night. Tests dispel initial and obvious parathyroid thoughts but reveal a very rare type of blood cancer.

Treatment will either be put on hold and he will live a long and happy life or not.

This was discovered by invasive biopsy of bone marrow.


Rigby the Dog will live a long and happy life or not… like all of us…

… CONTINUED HERE

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John Fleming’s (second half) Weekly Diary No 23 – I am maybe sick as a dog

… CONTINUED FROM DIARY No 22

THURSDAY 25th JUNE

I got a letter this morning from Bristol confirming I have a face-to-face appointment with the NHS Kidney Man or Kidney Woman at my local North London hospital on Monday 6th July – about my ongoing high calcium level/low kidney function problems.

This afternoon, I got an email from Andy Dunlop, President of the World Egg-Throwing Federation who, like all sensible egg-throwers, follows my blog. 

His email read:


President Andy Dunlop weighs the alternatives…

I have been following your tale of woe. 

I noted your last visit to the Kidney Woman.

A friend of mine has a dog called Rigby. It is not well.

A vet’s visit confirmed too much calcium and he (Rigby) is off to a specialist vet to check the cause. Suspicion is placed upon a gland in the neck and a benign tumour.   

Sod all to do with kidneys.


Andy drew my attention to the parathyroid glands, four small glands which regulate the calcium in humans’ – and dogs’ – bodies and how those glands control calcium levels. 

They are located in the neck behind the thyroid where they continuously monitor and regulate blood calcium levels.

When one of the parathyroid glands goes bad, it makes too much hormone, the excess hormone goes to the bones and takes calcium out of the bones and puts it into your blood. It’s the high calcium in the blood that makes you feel bad.

The reason I was taken into hospital for a week was that an abnormally high calcium level resulted in a serious drop in my kidney function from 62 to 19.

Andy tells me that Mr Google is my friend.

I am a little wary of Mr Google’s opinions, but…

Apparently, everybody with a bad parathyroid gland is more likely to develop bad osteoporosis (which my mother got) unless the bad gland is removed.

The parathyroid glands (in yellow)

Not removing a parathyroid tumour and leaving the calcium high for a number of years will increase the chance of developing other cancers in your body (breast, colon, kidney, and prostate).

Symptoms of high calcium levels in the blood include excessive thirst and frequent peeing; lethargy and excessive fatigue; and depression. Yes to all of those.

Mr Google says there is only one way to treat parathyroid problems – surgery.

FRIDAY 26th JUNE

Yesterday morning, I got a letter from Bristol confirming I have an NHS face-to-face appointment in North London on Monday 6th July.

This morning I got a letter from North London confirming my NHS appointment is not face-to-face but via telephone.

I expect a third NHS letter any day soon…

I also received another email from Andy Dunlop:


Rigby the Dog leaves the vet’s happier than when he arrived

Rigby the Dog left the vet’s this afternoon. My friend reports that intravenous fluids and some drugs perked him up no end. Unlike you, Rigby has all his own teeth.

Rigby is seeing a specialist later. I will keep you posted on your canine twin’s progress.

Your doctors were treating the symptoms and not the cause.


Andy drew my attention to Hypercalcemia a condition in which the calcium level in your blood is above normal. It is usually a result of overactive parathyroid glands. Other causes of hypercalcemia include cancer, certain other medical disorders, some medications and taking too much of calcium and vitamin D supplements.

I am a little wary of Mr Google. but I identify with the last sentence in Andy’s email.

Your doctors were treating the symptoms and not the cause.

I am always wary of Western medicine.

Chinese medicine tries to cure the cause of a problem. Western medicine tries to treat the symptoms of a problem – very often by masking the symptoms with drugs. It seems like the problem has been cured but the fact is simply that the symptoms have been hidden.

If I could afford it (which I can’t) I would constantly get advice from a Chinese perspective in parallel with any Western medical advice. And I would tend to trust Chinese treatments more.

Chinese medical appointments also seem to be more reliable than NHS ones.

SATURDAY 27th JUNE

I slept until about 2.00pm this afternoon and went to bed about 9.00pm. 

Neither my body nor my brain seemed to think this was unreasonable.

The thoughts and feelings of what remains of my soul… That is a different matter.

… CONTINUED HERE

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John’s UK Coronavirus Diary – No 5 – Social media psychos and Boris Johnson

… CONTINUED FROM DIARY No 4 …

SUNDAY 5th APRIL 

The latest official UK figures are that there were 621 hospital deaths of people with coronavirus in the last 24 hours; that brings the total to 4,974. As always, the death figure does not include deaths “in the community” or in care homes; it is only deaths in hospital. 

On BBC Breakfast this morning, someone was saying it is almost impossible to be sad if you are dancing to an upbeat tune because all the audio, visual and physical information the brain has to deal with lessens its ability to feel sadness. What a pity I am not one of Life’s passionate dancers.

However, on a cheery note, Romanian TV superstar Dragos Mostenescu has posted the second in his online series of life in lockdown with his family in his London home. 

This year’s Olympics, Euro 2020 football championships and Wimbledon tennis tournament have already been postponed because of coronavirus. But I received news today of another tragic major sporting cancellation.

Andy Dunlop, President of the World Egg Throwing Federation tells me that plans for this year’s official World Egg Throwing Championships have now been abandoned. They have been held annually since 2006. He also came back on my mention in last week’s Diary about bored people sticking fish up their bottoms.

“Not just fish or via that entrance,” he reports. “Colleagues of mine were called to assist at the local A&E when a young man arrived with a ring spanner stuck on his todger. It seems he couldn’t get it out of the spanner and this led to a rather nasty swelling and great pain. The cure was the largest set of ‘parrot jaws’ you could imagine. These are the things used to cut off car roofs. 

“Having shown the selected removal tool to the almost-fainting lad, they then slathered his ‘tool’ with large amounts of a heat-absorbing gel and resorted to the actual plan of angle grinding the offending tool off his own tool. There were sparks! Because of the nature and quality of the ring spanner, the process required three separate cuts and very very steady hands.”

I developed fairly bad toothache in the evening and took two of my stash of 30 paracetamol tablets.

Later in the evening, the Queen made a TV broadcast about the coronavirus outbreak – only the 5th ‘one-off’ of her reign.

About at hour later, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was admitted to hospital with coronavirus.

One comedy performer’s reaction was: “Hopefully he dies.”

I blocked them.

MONDAY 6th APRIL

I now have medium toothache… This goes back to several weeks ago and I may have to have a tooth extracted… if my dentist is working.

The tooth was discussed with him several weeks ago. I am hoping the ache goes away, though I suspect it won’t – it is an infection in the root that antibiotics did not stop when I took them for a week.

But, obviously, my medium toothache is a minor thing compared to what else is happening.

On Twitter, one paramedic Tweeted:

“Yesterday my patient died. The doctors had to choose between three patients who would get the Intensive Care Unit bed. They only had one ventilator left. My patient missed out because of her age. She would have normally had a good chance of survival. This is the reality everywhere. #stayhome”

In the evening, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was taken into the Intensive Care Unit at St Thomas’ Hospital in London, his condition having worsened over the course of the afternoon.

I also got a message from my friend who lives in Central London. One of her friends was taken into hospital last week. It was mentioned in last week’s Diary blog. She updated me:

“I spoke to the very nice Intensive Care nurse who was looking after him today. No change. Still on support for both lungs and heart. No improvement in ability to self-oxygenate. I’ve spoken to most of his family today. It’s tough.”

TUESDAY 7th APRIL

My toothache has gone away.

On the TV show Good Morning Britain, presenter Piers Morgan said: “It’s worth bearing in mind when we talk about immigrants in this country, these are the immigrants currently saving people’s lives. Coming here and actually enriching our country and doing an amazing job.“ 

With luck, one outcome of this coronavirus outbreak might be to improve race relations, as so many of the NHS staff seen on screen are non-white.

But will we become a more caring society? No. The psychos will still roam social media.

One professional writer Tweeted about how shocked she was at the online vitriol she received when she mentioned she likes Keir Starmer, the newly-elected leader of the Labour Party.

Elsewhere, a comic performer Tweeted: 

“That’s me on a Twitterbreak. In these awful times, we must be kind & compassionate, something which I’m sorry to say I’ve definitely failed at times on here.”

Social media is like a school playground where the psychos and insecure get together in small gangs to bully others and persuade themselves they are not alone and powerless but that they are, in fact, powerful and normal because they are not alone. A playground where your voice, thoughts and opinions are paid attention to by ‘everyone’ – even though ‘everyone’ is a tiny number of people amid (in the case of the UK) 67 million people. You can tell yourself any freakish opinion you hold is mainstream because the vast majority of your very small, self-selected gang believe what you believe.

Meanwhile, in the real world, my friend in Central London texted me again about her friend in hospital:

“No change. Life support. Not rosy.”

WEDNESDAY 8th APRIL

In the morning, my friend in Central London told me:

“Hospital just phoned. They’re losing him.”

The total reported UK coronavirus deaths now stands at 7,097 – up 938 since yesterday.

Meanwhile, in the unreal world of social media psychos, the writer on a popular cartoon locked her Twitter account following a backlash after she Tweeted about Boris Johnson’s hospitalisation: “The cunt deserves every blunt needle he’ll get”

The Labour Party announced it was “suspending from the party” a local Labour mayor, who had written of Boris Johnson’s hospitalisation with coronavirus that he “completely deserves this”.  Her name was also taken off the website of the firm of solicitors she works for…

However, no action was taken against a man who had Tweeted: “You have to have a heart of stone not to smile just a little bit” in response to the news that Boris had been taken to an Intensive Care Unit. The man Tweeting is a barrister and Senior Counsel to a World Bank initiative and on leave from being a Professor of Law and Legal Theory at a London University, where he teaches jurisprudence plus political and legal philosophy.

THURSDAY 9th APRIL

UK coronavirus deaths in the last 24 hours 881. 

‘Social distancing’ means we are supposed to only leave home for essentials and to keep 2 metres away from other people when out.

Today the BBC reported that, last weekend, Greater Manchester police had to break up 660 parties – including 166 street parties and 494 house parties, some with DJs, fireworks and bouncy castles. There were 122 different groups gathering to play sports, 173 gatherings in parks and 112 incidents of anti-social behaviour and public disorder.

The BBC also reported that, last Saturday, police in Morecambe arrested two men who had gone into a Sainsbury’s food store and were licking their hands, then wiping them on vegetables, on meat and on refrigerator handles

This evening, it was reported that Boris Johnson had left the Intensive Care Unit but remained in hospital.

My friend in Central London texted: “No news today. Thankfully. Early night. Not sleeping much.”

GOOD FRIDAY 10th APRIL

The UK coronavirus death toll in the last 24 hours rose by 980 to 8,958.

For the third day in a row, I went out on my daily exercise forgetting to put on my latex gloves – I bought 100 three days ago via the internet.

In Germany, the Oberammergau Passion Play which is performed once every ten years and was due to be performed again on 16th May this year has been postponed for two years because of the danger from coronavirus. The villagers of Oberammergau started performing the play in 1634 so that God would protect them from the plague. This postponement follows the holy, healing waters of Lourdes being closed because of the danger to life from the virus. I am thinking of returning to the Old Gods, finding a virgin policeman and building a Wicker Man.

Back in London, Dragos Mostenescu and his family, in lockdown, have now opened a Game Park in their back garden.

My friend in Central London messaged me:

“I just spoke to the senior Intensive Care Unit nurse. Overnight they again tried to decrease his sedation and ventilation by a small amount but he couldn’t tolerate that so they had to increase it again. This morning he was ‘quite unstable’ so they again increased both to maximum level.

“He is now receiving as much oxygen as possible with the ventilator and is deeply sedated so is not aware of any discomfort. The nurse said that he has ‘acute renal failure’ – his kidneys did not start working after they stopped filtration last night so they re-started that today. She added that his blood pressure is fine today, without help.”

EASTER SATURDAY 11th APRIL

The UK coronavirus hospital death toll in the last 24 hours rose by 917 to 9,875.

On Twitter, a consultant working in Intensive Care Units wrote:

“If you end up in an Intensive Care Unit, it’s a life-changing experience. It carries a huge cost even if you do get better.

“As our patients wake up, they are so weak they can’t sit unaided, many can’t lift their arms off the bed due to profound weakness. They need to be taught to walk again, breathe again and they have problems with speech and swallowing. Some have post-traumatic stress, body image and cognitive problems.

“They get better in time but it may take a year and needs an army of Physiotherapy, speech and language, psychology and nursing staff to facilitate this. The few weeks on a ventilator are a small footnote in the whole process.”

Not very good news for Boris Johnson, even though he was reportedly not on a ventilator… nor good news for us.

There is an interview with the doctor on YouTube…

… CONTINUED HERE

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The Edinburgh Fringe bog blog, toilet humour + replacement for crystal balls

Me with Copstick at yesterday’s Grouchy Club

Me with Copstick at yesterday’s Grouchy Club in Edinburgh

Yesterday’s Grouchy Club was fairly full and, on the audio recording, not perfect with the sound of a fan – well, we actually had two fans, something the Laughing Horse Free Festival is very good at providing for stuffy Fringe rooms.

When Kate Copstick and I arrived, we found a small brown ‘willy warmer’ aka ‘cock sock’ on the floor. No surprise there. This is the Edinburgh Fringe.

The educational part of yesterday’s Grouchy Club for me, though, was comedian Luca Cupani telling us that some woman had been putting on a show in which she told people’s future from reading their cocks. I’ve heard of people looking into crystal balls, but this was a new one. Comic Paul Ricketts told us that the woman had discovered her ability “at a party” though it was unclear what sort of party and, indeed, how she read the future in men’s cocks. There were a couple of feminist queries about whether she could read ladies’ futures. But sadly she has now left Edinburgh, so we can’t ask her.

Paul Ricketts was also able to tell us about his adventure the previous day in which he performed a comedy event – Now Wash Your Hands – Again! – at all of the Big Four fringe venues.

Well, more specifically, he had performed a comedy show with guests in the gents toilets in all four venues.

“It was done,” he told us, “to protest at the unreasonably high cost of the Big Four venue rooms by performing one show within each of the four venues’ toilets on one afternoon.”

He was angrily ejected by staff at the Underbelly and Gilded Balloon, politely ejected by the Pleasance and, of the four, only Assembly wholeheartedly embraced the concept.

There is a brief video of Paul’s toilet crawl on youTube.

His quick rundown of the previous afternoon’s events is:

1. The Pleasance Courtyard – only Chella Quint, who was going to sing a song about menstruation, turned up for the four guest spots. Chella hid in the gents toilet cubicle awaiting her introduction but unfortunately we were thrown out (very politely) before that could happen. A disappointed audience of four were ushered away.

2. The Underbelly (Cowgate) – An enthusiastic crowd of eight turned up with more trying to get in but, after 7 minutes, a very annoyed member of staff ejected us from the building. He asked if we had permission to perform or film. We said No… He was very confused: “You’re filming in the toilets,” he stammered. “It doesn’t make any sense!”  

3. The Gilded Balloon (Teviot Place) – A tough toilet to perform in. Too big, too empty, too bright, too many urinals for my taste. We did 15 minutes but only one bloke stayed for the whole show.

4. The Assembly (George Square) – The disabled/baby change toilet was perfect. It was easy to flyer potential audience members and even fellow comedian Jimeoin thought it was “a good idea and a good venue”… But unfortunately had just been to the toilet. A lovely audience of five turned up after our first punter came in, stood on my iPhone and then pulled the door behind him to use the convenience for its intended purpose. A member of the Assembly staff came in to have a look, laughed and let the show continue. 

“Was it worth it?” I asked Paul.

“I made £2.15p,” he told me, “but we proved that you can perform in the Assembly, Gilded Balloon, Pleasance and Underbelly venues without paying thousands of pounds – as long as you’re prepared to do it in the smallest room.

It seemed suitable – having established the level of humour – that standout shows I saw yesterday included Christ on a Bike – a fine show in which the Saviour, St Peter, Mary Magdalene and the ‘Three Wise Men’ (ladies with skimpy skirts and painted-on beards) gyrated and sang for an hour courtesy of The Voodoo Rooms, this year doing good business with bad taste. I look forward to Mohammed on a Moped next year.

Miss Behave watches her lovely assistant ‘Harriet'

Miss Behave watches as her lovely assistant ‘Harriet’ dances

My evening was rounded off by Miss Behave’s Gameshow, with a riotously happy audience split between iPhone owners and ‘Others’. I got a point for the iPhone owners by being the oldest person in the room. If only I got £5 for every time this was the case. I think there is more to develop in Miss Behave’s Gameshow, as there is an admirable foundation of cynicism underpinning the whole thing demonstrating that, in life, fairness and honesty are not what you should expect.

Returning back at my flat around midnight – fairly early for the Fringe – there was an e-mail from Andy Dunlop, President of the World Egg Throwing Federation.

In this blog three days ago, I mentioned he was in the the cardiac care unit of Lincoln Hospital sniffing nitroglycerin.

His message last night told me:

Just back from operating theatre. 5 cm of artery completely blocked. Rodded. Two stents fitted. Morphine wearing off a bit. No pain, just zonked. Won’t be allowed to travel to Edinburgh.  Have a good one.

The annual national Scottish Russian Egg Roulette Championships will be supervised by his deputy, John Deptford, during the increasingly prestigious two-hour Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show at the Counting House, Edinburgh, on Friday 28th August.

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When an oeuf is an oeuf at the annual World Egg Throwing Championships

World Egg Throwing Federation President Andy Dunlop with enthusiastic tosser

World Egg Throwing Federation President Andy Dunlop with enthusiastic young tosser

At the annual World Egg Throwing Championships in Lincolnshire, no edible eggs are used, so no food is wasted. Sort of.

There are long-distance egg throwing and catching contests. There is the Trebuchet competition where contestants use home-made giant catapults (based on medieval siege engines) to throw eggs. And, of course, there is Russian Egg Roulette.

In 2012, I was runner-up in the Russian Egg Roulette Championship. I had high hopes of doing even better last year but, beneath my hard-boiled exterior lies a wobbly centre. I cracked under the pressure of high eggpectations and was beaten in the first round. For months afterwards, my mind was scrambled and I was merely a shell of the man I had once been.

My view as smashed Englishman Jerry Cullen fails

My view as smashing Englishman Jerry Cullen fails

This year – the year of the Scottish Independence vote, when my country of birth may at last free itself from the yolk of English oppression – I had hopes I could show the heathen English what true Scotch eggs competitors are made of.

World Egg Throwing Federation President Andy Dunlop tells me that 64 people started the Russian Egg Roulette Championships yesterday. He may be over-egging it. I think there might have been 32. But there were certainly a lot.

To remind you, Russian Egg Roulette is the sport in which two contestants face each other across a table on which there stands a box of six eggs: five hard-boiled, one raw. Contestants take turns to smash an egg on their forehead. The one who discovers the raw egg loses. It is a knockout competition. Sometimes literally.

I bring shame on the Scottish nation yesterday (Photograph by Gail Deptfod)

I let down myself and the entire Scottish nation yesterday (Photograph by Gail Deptfod)

Yesterday, I triumphed in the early rounds, beating my 2012 nemesis Jerry Cullen – who was wearing an England football shirt, I think, just to rile me.

I triumphed in the Quarter Finals, but then I was shamed by Fate in the Semi-Finals. I suspected fowl play.

I consoled myself by talking to former World Gravy Wrestling champion Joel Hicks.

Joel Hicks scrambling for safety yesterday

Joel Hicks was scrambling for safety yesterday

When we chatted for my blog last year at the World Egg Throwing Championships, he was a human target dressed as a boxer and as a Samurai Warrior. This year, he was the anarchist hero of V For Vendetta.

“You been doing anything interesting this week?” I asked him.

“I did the Mud Runner Oblivion yesterday,” he told me. “That’s a 10k mud run near Gloucester. I’m absolutely shattered. I write for Obstacle Race magazine, so I do all the mud runs.”

Obstacle Race magazine?” I asked. “Has that got a big circulation?”

“Yes,” said Joel. “It’s sold in WH Smiths. It is a massive, massive industry these days. Things like Tough GuyTough Mudder. There’s so many and it’s a million dollar industry.”

“Tough Mudder?” I asked.

Joel Hicks: a man egged-on to do charity work

Joel Hicks: a man egged-on to do charity work

“Tough Mudder,” Joel confirmed.

“Do you get paid for any of these events?” I asked. “It’s all for charity?”

“It’s all part of the Always With a Smile Foundation, which is what I do in my spare time to try and keep people smiling. It’s tiring stuff sometimes, though not as painful as today.”

“Painful?” I asked.

“Yeah. You wanna stand here and have eggs hurled at you by grown men at 100mph who have no thought for how it feels when it hits.”

“Do you wear a cricket box over your genitals?” I asked.

“No. Every year, I think I should have some protection but I kinda feel it’s cheating.”

Joel Hicks with right hand egg man John Deptford

Joel Hicks with the Championships’ l’eggman John Deptford

This coming Saturday, Joel is taking part in The Color Run in Manchester.

“It’s a race franchise,” he told me, “where you run 5k and start in white but every kilometre they throw coloured powder over you. Then, on Sunday, it’s a trip to Wales for The Naked Run, which is 5k, usually in good weather. The weather affects some men more than others.

“The weekend after that, on Saturday I’ll be down on the South Coast for the Worthing Birdman competition where they build flying machines and jump off the pier. And then back up to Wolverhampton on Sunday for the Tough Guy event called Nettle Warrior, which is their summer obstacle course race.”

“Nettle Warrior,” I said, “sounds painful.”

“It IS very painful,” replied Joel. “A 10-12 mile cross-country run followed by a 2-mile, purpose-built, multi-million pound assault course.”

One girl did not have to throw so far yesterday

One little girl yesterday was right on target with her egg

“An assault course of nettles?” I asked.

“No no,” said Joel, “all sorts of contraptions. The nettles come in, really, in the 10-12 mile cross-country run.”

“Have they put the nettles in for you?” I asked.

“They grow naturally,” said Joel. “Six or seven feet high all on their own. They design the course to the features on the ground. Ah! There’s some nettles! We’ll make then run through that bit!”

A typical egg-plosion yesterday

A typical egg-plosion yesterday. The pun never ends.

I’m busy all through the year. Fifty-odd events every year.”

“Very odd,” I said.

“Every weekend and sometimes twice,” said Joel.

“Out of the frying pan…” I said.

In August, World Egg Throwing Federation President Andy Dunlop will be supervising the Scottish National Russian Egg Roulette Championships during the Edinburgh Fringe as part of the Increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show. He may or may not be accompanied by his trusty l’oeuftenant John Deptford.

I saw the back of Andy Dunlop as I left yesterday

I was glad to see the back of Andy Dunlop yesterday

In a few days, Andy is off to Holland for their Egg Throwing Championships. He will be back.

But John Deptford is going to Siberia on Friday and has no idea when he will be back, if at all. The insects may kill him. He is going to Mirny where, he tells me, “the mosquitos have been known to carry babies away and the best mosquito repellent is a shotgun.”

Yesterday, as I left the Championship Field in Lincolnshire, Andy Dunlop was being pelted with the remaining eggs. I hope this will become an annual tradition. Andy does not. This morning, he told me he had a serious lip injury.

For more on Eggmen, I refer you to The Beatles’ I Am The Walrus

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Egg-throwing, cabbage-hurling, onion-wanging and Hardee Comedy Awards

Spot The Cabbage competition 2014

A 2014 Spot The Cabbage competition in Lincolnshire

Throwing things at other things is always interesting especially, it seems, in Lincolnshire.

In a couple of weeks, the World Egg Throwing Championships take place in Lincolnshire and, yesterday, I went up to Holbeach Town & Country Fayre to see cabbage hurling and onion wanging (that’s hurling too).

Both events are connected to the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Andy Dunlop, President of the World Egg Throwing Federation, supervises the Scottish National Russian Egg Roulette Championships during the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show at the end of August.

And John Ward, supervisor of cabbage hurling and onion wanging, designed the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award trophies.

Egg smashes on forehead in Amritsar Test Match

Russian Egg Roulette at the Amritsar Test Match in India

Russian Egg Roulette is a bit like the Russian Roulette seen in The Deer Hunter but without bullets and with eggs. It involves two contestants sitting opposite each other at a table on which is a box of six eggs. Five of the eggs are hard-boiled; one is raw and will smash on impact. Each contestant takes it in turn to smash an egg on their forehead. The one who finds the raw egg loses. It is a knockout competition.

Cabbage hurling is for adults. Onion wanging (because of the smaller size of the missile) is for children.

At the World Egg Throwing Championships, trebuchets (basically large catapults similar to but smaller than medieval siege catapults) are used to throw eggs. You have to build and bring your own trebuchets.

Careful preparation is all in the cabbage hurling world

Careful preparation is important in the cabbage hurling world

Thus, too, with cabbage hurling and onion wanging, except two trebuchets are provided.

Yesterday, there were 3½ tons of cabbages delivered in a refrigerated trailer.

“They’re actually grown for coleslaw production,” John Ward told me. “That’s why they’re white not green. They’re all Grade 1. Last year, I asked: Any chance of a box of cabbages? and yea and behold this behemoth of a truck arrived with 4 tons of cabbages. We asked them to cut it back to 3½ tons this year. There’s a limit to how much you can hurl in one afternoon and a lot of them get re-cycled in the field. Each team of three has three attempts and some of the contestants run up and retrieve and use the same cabbage again, shouting: That’s my lucky cabbage!”

Cabbages hurled at tyre targets

Cabbages are hurled at multi-dimensional tractor tyre targets

The object is to catapult the cabbage into one of several marked vehicle tyres for 10, 20, 25 or 50 points. The 10 point tyre is large; the 50 point type is small.

John Ward, who has been known to encourage journalists to call him a ‘junkist’,  told me: “All the scrap metal to build the two trebuchets came from farms in the area. The uprights are from the transit cases for Kubota garden tractors which come from Japan. In transit, they have metal cages, then a wooden box inside and then the tractors are inside that. Normally the cages are unbolted and thrown away as scrap. Last year, someone told me he had a yard full of them and asked: Are they any use to you? ARE THEY ANY USE????? Red rag. Bull.”

John Ward contemplates the ecological impact of hurling

John Ward contemplates the ecological impact of his hurling

“Do you get complaints about wasting food?” I asked.

“I had some herbert this morning,” John told me. “who was ranting at me about wasting food and I told him: Well, if you come back later today, you’ll find it’s all been picked up – all the loose leaves and everything – and it all goes to animal feed. Cows thrive on all this sort of stuff. There’s no waste. There’s an end product. It’s a win-win situation. We get entertainment. The cows get fed.”

“You could franchise cabbage hurling,” I suggested.

“We’ve been asked to take it round other shows in Lincolnshire. But, at the end of the day, No, it stops here. It’s associated with Holbeach Town & Country Show. Like they have cheese-rolling in the West Country.”

2014 Cabbage Hurling winners with John Ward (lorry behind had 3½ tons of cabbages)

The 2014 Cabbage Hurling winners with John Ward yesterday (The lorry behind had delivered over 3½ tons of cabbages)

The winners get £150 and a silver cup which they keep for a year.

With the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards, the winner gets one of the eccentric trophies designed by John Ward. But he/she gets to keep that trophy forever. I like to think, rather than give a trophy which the winner keeps only for a year, with the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards, we give the winner something interestingly decorative which lasts longer, like herpes.

There is a video report on Cabbage Hurling on the BBC website

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Eggs acting standards: yesterday I was beaten by Simon Cowell’s stand-in

(A version of this piece was also published on the Indian news site WSN)

andydunlop_30june2013_cut2

Andy – out standing in his own field

Yesterday, I went to the 8th annual World Egg Throwing Championships at Swaton in Lincolnshire.

When I arrived, World Egg Throwing Federation President Andy Dunlop told me there was room for me in the Russian Egg Roulette Championship. Last year, I acquitted myself well – I was runner-up. Not bad for a first attempt.

Russian Egg Roulette is the internationally-recognised sport in which two competitors sit facing each other across a table on which lie six eggs – five hard-boiled; one raw. Each competitor then takes it in turn to smash an egg of his or her forehead. The one who smashes the raw egg on their forehead – with explosive results – loses.

“All the spots for competitors (over 30 of them) are already filled up,” Andy told me when I arrived, “but we have left a couple of spaces for Simon Cowell and for Natalie Holt, the woman who threw eggs at Simon on Britain’s Got Talent. We’ve invited both of them but we’re not totally certain if they will turn up. If Simon Cowell does not turn up, then we have a man called Mark Heselwood prepared to stand in for him.”

Sadly, Simon Cowell did not turn up and, even more sadly, I was beaten by Mark Heselwood in the first round of the Russian Egg Roulette. The only fact which slightly mended my crushed ego was that Mark went on to actually win the over-all title of World Russian Egg Roulette Champion.

At Swaton yesterday, there were egg teams from Brazil, the Czech Republic, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Japan, Slovenia and South Africa competing not just in Russian Egg Roulette but in the main Egg Throwing event and the Egg Throwing Static Relay contest and the World Egg Trebuchet Challenge, in which catapults based on medieval siege engines propel eggs set distances to be caught by plucky teams. All the eggs are rejects or outdated, so no food is wasted.

The Japanese gained face - and eggs -and a gold medal title

The Japanese gained face – and eggs – and a gold medal title

“There’s a team from Japanese national TV,” Andy told me when I arrived. “They have six cameras, one sound man, a make-up guy, a team of four, two directors and a producer,. They flew in specially for this last week.

“The team consists of two Japanese baseball players who can throw a good distance, one eggspert who runs a chicken farm and one manager who, before he became a serious actor, was a Mighty Morphin Power Ranger on TV. They’re making a one-hour documentary. What they do on their programme is take ordinary people with some skills and send them across the world trying to bring back gold medals to Japan. They’ve been here for a week and they’re here for another week.

“As a result of this, we’re hoping to set up an annual Japanese Egg Throwing Championship. We’ve just confirmed the first national Australian Egg Throwing Championships on 5th August

“When are the English Championships?” I asked.

“July 13th in Surrey. Then there’s the Dutch national Championships. The Belgian national championships are on 14th August…”

Russian Egg Roulette at last year's Edinburgh Fringe

Russian Egg Roulette at last year’s Malcolm Hardee Show

“And I’m very proud,” I interrupted, “that the Scottish national open Russian Egg Roulette Championships are taking place during the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show at the Edinburgh Fringe on 23rd August.”

“Indeed,” said Andy.

“It will look good in my blog if I say that,” I said.

“Indeed,” said Andy. “And, next May, we’ve got the Finnish national Russian Egg Roulette Championship.”

“Whatever happened,” I asked, “to that Australian children’s TV show who were going to to be filming Australian competitors egg throwing at the Fringe?”

“They are going to be filming here on 11th September,” replied Andy. “They couldn’t fit their shooting in with the Edinburgh Fringe times.”

“So they’re doing it in Swaton?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Andy, “at the special training course we’ve set up. It’s a long field with a mown strip down it. The Japanese, the Irish and the German teams have been all using it in the last few days at separate times so they don’t have to scramble for facilities.

Not catching an egg yesterday

Not catching an egg yesterday

“It’s a proper course. When you see Wild Willie O’Donovan, the Irish guy, watch how he throws the egg compared to anyone else. He is the Irish Road Bowling champion. You know road bowling? A 28 ounce steel ball over a three mile course in the least number of throws. Wild Willie’s unusual technique in egg-throwing is an under-arm lob which is peculiar to road bowling. He’s now successfully brought that technique across to British egg throwing and he’s the World Record Holder for Egg Throwing, set at the Irish national Egg Throwing Championships in Connacht four weeks ago – 71.2 metres.”

“You are a man who lives for egg statistics,” I suggested.

“I was interviewed on TalkSport Radio the other day,” admitted Andy. “I gave them all these statistics and no puns and they said You should be on Mastermind with your knowledge of Egg Throwing. But, of course, the only person who could set the questions would be me. That’s a bit of a problem.

“The good story, though,” added Andy, “is us raising – we hope – over £10,000 for charity today.”

Proceeds will go to leukaemia research, the local air ambulance and the emergency response organisation Lives.

“Japanese TV have given us a lot of money,” said Andy. “They were going to give us a donation but we’ve been so good to them over the last 3 or 4 days – organising and setting up things for them – that they’ve more than tripled their donation.”

“How did they fit that into their budget?” I asked.

“They’ve put it down as provision, organisation and facilitation fees.”

“Which, indeed, it is,” I said.

“Indeed,” said Andy.

“How did your Indian trip go?” I asked. (I blogged about it back in March.)

“Four guys from Sleaford went across there and kicked India’s arse,” said Andy. “We won the series 4-3 and beat 1.2 billion Indians at Russian Egg Roulette. But, while we were over there, we were also inoculating 300 million under-5-year-olds in a Weekend For Polio. In the last 20 years, every kid under 5 has been inoculated. The Rotary Club raised and spent £300 million on it. And the much-maligned Bill Gates gave us £300 million as well. We think polio has now gone in India. We were over there three years ago and we’ve been inoculating twice a year since then and polio is now only left in bits of the north west frontier in Pakistan and the south east frontier of Afghanistan.”

“And that’s because it’s too dangerous to go in?” I asked.

Even armour-wearing competitors lost out yesterday

Even armour-wearing roulette competitors lost out yesterday

“Well, it was,” said Andy. “The fundamentalists were slaughtering the people who were doing it – they killed 30 at the beginning of this year –  young nurses, young girls who were doing it. But the Taliban have now been persuaded that it’s not a plot of the Americans to sterilise all the kids and it’s actually stopping polio and they’ve actually come on side and are now actually protecting the polio inoculators.”

At that point, Andy was called away to be interviewed by Reuters.

The good news at the end of the day was that the Japanese won the World Egg Trebuchet Challenge, got their gold medal and may be back next year to defend their title.

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Eccentrics think differently – but maybe everyone else is out-of-step

(This blog was also published in the Huffington Post)

Someone somewhere sometime – well, it may have been Victoria Melody in Lincoln yesterday (more about her later) said: “We are only as interesting as the people we know”.

And I do try my best.

Yesterday I went to an Eccentrics Symposium at the University of Lincoln. Purely as an observer, you understand.

I went along with my chum mad inventor John Ward, whose yo-yo safety net (a hair net attached to the yo-yo-using person’s leg) once got a two-page spread in German magazine Stern when they were writing about serious conservation issues. John says:

“I have found that, if you keep a straight face, people will print anything. James Dyson will be remembered for inventing his vacuum cleaner; Frank Whittle will be remembered for inventing the jet engine; and I will be remembered for inventing the electric bra-warmer.”

(It was featured in the science pages of the Guardian.)

Interestingly each of the speakers claimed that he or she was not actually an eccentric himself or herself – except for John who had little alternative but to admit it, as he has featured in various academic books on eccentricity.

Anthony Schrag, the first speaker, grew up in Africa and was nicknamed ‘Wrinkle Blue Bum’ as a child because he liked to climb trees so much that he reminded his friends of local apes. He is an artist interested in the way people move. His CV says he focuses on “blowing things up, climbing on things and occasionally kidnapping people”.

Yesterday, he revealed he had discovered that, if you tightly wrap a boy in a blanket or similar covering and roll him down a hill, the boy cannot stop himself rolling. He also persuaded the audience to try the internet craze of ‘planking‘ – lying straight, across unlikely objects… though the President of the World Egg Throwing Federation (of whom more later) claimed that, on the internet, ‘planking’ has been replaced by the craze of doing a ‘Batman’ – hanging upside-down by your toes from unlikely objects.

John Plowman talked about his hats – he always wears one except when having a bath and having sex and buys them in London, New York, Chicago and – well – anywhere… mostly pork pie hats although, he admitted, this is rather odd as he is a vegetarian.  He seemed to have bought two non-pork pie hats because they have initials inside them; one of those two had his own initials inside them. He always carries an umbrella with him because he does not like his hats to get wet.

Project Pigeon’, an “art and education project which works with pigeons as a vehicle to bring people together”, did not send anyone along but they did send a video along which included shots of pigeons doing back flips. These are a specific type of pigeon and they have to be kept in quite small cages to prevent their tumbling getting out of control.

Unless I misunderstood, tumbling pigeon and ‘parlour rolling’ contests are held and this type of pigeon was specifically developed by a bus driver in Birmingham in the early 20th century by selective breeding. Quite how he chose pigeons with the appropriate genes I am uncertain. The Project Pigeon website claims that this particular type of pigeon is “the uniquely acrobatic Birmingham Roller, a type that originated in 1920 in Bordesley Green, Birmingham, after local fancier William Penson noticed one of his birds perform a backflip while in flight.”

It looks to me a bit like the pigeon is having a panic attack but, according to Project Pigeon, “today there are hundreds of Birmingham Roller clubs around the world and fiercely fought competitions to pick the birds that perform the most dramatic tumbling.”

The utterly fascinating Victoria Melody  as previously alluded to – “We are only as interesting as the people we know” – had actually spent about a year living with pigeon fanciers because she has a passion for other people’s passions. She said that, when she put an ad in a magazine saying she wanted to live with pigeon fanciers for a year, she got a lot of responses from much older single men living alone.

Yesterday, she screened a video taken by a tiny camera and transmitter which she had attached to a pigeon which then flew across Brighton; she says she received and recorded the pictures using a satellite dish on top of a car. The pigeon, alas, went AWOL.

An even briefer video of two pigeons playing ping pong was apparently shot by B.F.Skinner, the highly admirable man who later created the concept of a pigeon guided missile during World War Two: a concept which I feel the US military was short-sighted in rejecting.

But Victoria Melody’s passion for people’s passions stretches far wider than pigeon-fanciers. She spent a year immersed in the fascinating Northern Soul scene – centred round what she described as “the Motown Music that never made it into the charts”. It was a year, as she described it, of “being taught how to dance in people’s living rooms”.

Her latest cultural immersions have been dog shows (with her Basset hound Major Tom) and the world of beauty pageants, specifically preparing for next year’s Miss Galaxy 2012, where all contestants have to be married women.

Which brings us to Andy Dunlop, aforementioned President of the World Egg Throwing Federation, which was formed in 2006 though the sport started in 1322 in Swaton, Lincolnshire. Andy has managed to persuade the English Sports Council to recognise four of the five main egg throwing disciplines as legitimate sports. These are:

– two-person Throw and Catch, which consists of one catcher and one tosser.

– six or seven-person Static Relay (in which competitors pass eggs to each other by throwing them).

– individual Target Throwing, although Andy did not mention to the English Sports Council that, at the annual World Egg Throwing Championships, the target is the World Gravy Wrestling Champion – with extra points for hitting his groin.

– team Egg Trebuchet, a trebuchet being a large catapult-like siege engine which was employed by armies in the Middle Ages.

The English Sports Council, rather short-sightedly in both Andy’s and my opinion, refused to recognise as a legitimate sport (despite the obvious skill required) Russian Egg Roulette.

This involves guessing – sorry, skilfully choosing – which individual egg in a six-pack of eggs is raw as opposed to hard-boiled. Five are hard boiled; one is raw. Contestants, with handkerchiefs tied round their foreheads, as in the Vietnam movie The Deer Hunter, then smash the eggs on their foreheads to prove/disprove their choice. Obviously, the one who smashes a raw egg onto his or her forehead loses.

Victoria Melody attempted this with tragic results. Her hair was still sticky with raw egg 40 minutes later.

Egg Throwing is a fast-spreading sporting event. This year, the World Championships in Lincolnshire attracted TV crews from 26 TV stations worldwide. The Deputy Vice President of the World Egg Throwing Federation is former British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott – or, at least, Andy Dunlop chose Mr Prescott’s non-refusal of the offer to be an acceptance. Likewise, he took actor George Clooney’s non-refusal to attend the World Egg Throwing Championships as an acceptance and got worldwide press publicity across the globe for George Clooney’s decision to turn up at the championships in Lancashire which, sadly, he did not.

But, as Andy says, “it cost nothing, got us worldwide publicity and was better than paying £60 to put an ad in the local paper”.

This is a major factor as important in general eccentricity as it is in egg-throwing.

A more serious point was made by Andy when he pointed out that it was only a few centuries ago when almost everyone believed the world was flat and that the planets all revolved around the Earth. People who thought the world was round and that the earth revolved around the Sun were seen as slightly mad eccentrics.

And who was right?

The minority.

The eccentrics.

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Filed under Comedy, Eccentrics, Sport