Today is Remembrance Day.
I forgot until I switched on the BBC News after lunch and saw the Tower of London’s moat filled with the 888,246 ceramic poppies.
There are two unrelated posts in this blog today – about cultural events in Italy and Canada. It ends with poppies in Vancouver.
My farting chum Mr Methane has returned to the UK bearing a gift for me: a fridge magnet of Pope Francis – the only current world religious leader to bear a striking resemblance to 1980s British TV gameshow host Jim Bowen.
I mentioned in this blog last Friday that Mr Methane – who farts around the world professionally – was in Italy but I could not say why. This was because the Italian TV show he was appearing on wanted him to be a surprise for viewers and presumably they thought my increasingly prestigious blog, being widely read in Italy, might give the game away.
But now they have put the Mr Methane clip online on Vimeo, so I can tell you that, last Saturday, Mr Methane surprised the nation that gave us Punch & Judy and The Renaissance.
It was, perhaps surprisingly, Mr Methane’s first appearance on Italian TV.
“Did the audience know you?” I asked him yesterday.
“There was a buzz as I entered from stage right,” he told me. “The sort of buzz that tells you people in the audience know exactly what you are going to do. I think this shows that the power of the internet and YouTube over conventional TV is growing.”
“Did the Italians,” I asked, “react in any different way from other countries?”
“Well, it’s definitely different from Norway, Sweden, Finland, France or Germany,” said Mr Methane, “but its hard to say how exactly. It was certainly a more open, intellectual and civilised approach to the subject than Simon Cowell could manage.”
(Mr Methane was invited to appear on Britain’s Got Talent in 2009. There is a clip on YouTube. It has currently had over 33 million views.)
“I think the nice bit on the Italian TV show,” said Mr Methane, “was the ending. We managed to wheel out a few old jokes that may possibly be almost as old as the fart joke which, you will remember, Michael Grade discovered was the world’s oldest joke
“The set up on Saturday was:
Panel: Are You Married Mr Methane?
Panel: I wonder why not.
“Then we all laughed hard at the razor-sharp wit of the judging panel while at the same time enforcing some social stereotypes and norms – a good thing to do on a traditional Saturday night family TV show and a good way of smuggling farting into the format.
“I was worried that the main host, Seniora Mara, might mess up on the cake routine as there had been no rehearsal but she positioned the candles very well for a first-timer. She seemed to have an empathy with what was going on. This could be because she has a degree in chemistry, but it is more likely because she is just an intellectual and open-minded European. I mean, could you imagine Amanda Holden being able or willing to pull that one off – She’d be worried shitless about her image etc etc etc.
“In the early 1990s Bobby Davro told me that Les Dennis (Amanda Holden’s former husband) could perform the art of Petomania. I wasn’t sure if he was pulling my leg but about a decade later I was working on a Sky TV show with Les Dennis so I asked him about what Bobby had told me and he confirmed it was true although he said he had not tried it for a few years and didn’t know if he still had the abililty.
“So, to be fair on Amanda, as she lived with a man who possessed the gift of petomania, maybe – just maybe – I’m being a bit harsh about her ability to be able to hold candles up to a man’s arse while he farts them out. But what happens in the privacy of a person’s relationship should stay that way, so I can only speculate using the information available and come to the conclusion that while such a scenario was possible it probably never happened.”
“Did you try to speak Italian on the show last Saturday?” I asked.
“I spoke a little at the end to say Thankyou to the viewers but, for all I know, I could have been saying: I want to fuck a dead hamster.”
“What’s next?” I asked.
“A French TV show about super heroes is in the offing,” Mr Methane told me. “We just need to see if we can work the money and travel – I’m hopeful we can do as I really like the sound of the project and they seem to like the sound of me.”
“Thanks for the fridge magnet of Pope Francis,” I said. “Have you ever performed for any religious groups?”
“No,” said Mr Methane. “Although I was once thinking of reaching out to that market by releasing an album of faith-based recordings entitled Touching Cloth. In the end, I decided not to as I respect other people’s beliefs and would not want to offend them.”
Meanwhile, yesterday I also received news from this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith.
She told me: “I met an exceptional 23 year old man this summer.
“It was in a park on the waterfront in Vancouver. He was apparently from Dublin, but wasn’t. He said his name was Eddie.
“I told him: There’s a song with your name – Eddie Don’t Like Furniture.
“He surprised me by saying: I HATE that song.
“You KNOW that song? I asked.
“I know it and I hate it, he said, clenching his teeth.
“I met someone on Pender Island, near Vancouver, who reminded me of it. He hated furniture too – partitions, anything resembling furniture at all…. He ripped them all out…He did it to a caravan and he did it to a fiberglass motor cruiser – right down to the bulkheads. He even did it to a Boston Whaler. He tore all the seats out until there was nothing left but the hull and a shredded-looking steering column. Like a maniac, he steered it through the shipping lane across the Georgia Straight from Pender Island to Richmond standing up as if it was a scooter. He never wore belts or shoelaces. He thought they were bad for the circulation.
“When people sink boats deliberately I try not to become overly involved. I loaned somebody my axe once and I never got it back.
“Maybe I should write a book with nothing but isolated paragraphs like that I think I could easily write a short string of striptease stories as I have told them many times over, just never written them all down.
“People do seem to enjoy those.
“The places I worked in… Very strange.
“I once performed a striptease at a library in Don Mills, an affluent suburb of Toronto. And I broke my foot flying off stage into a crowd of uranium miners in Northern Ontario. I was happy that happened on a Saturday, because it meant I only missed two shows out of the week.
“People in Vancouver are taking their clothes off in November for no particular reason and standing around outside the art gallery. The naked people are doing it because they want children to have a future and they told me it was not a protest but a Vigil for Vulnerability.
“I took photos.
“The man with the Lego mask and cape is Simon Leplante.
“He said he had made 50 of the Lego and chicken foot masks and given 48 of them away, mainly to women artists. He told me that he had performed a dance recently at a downtown nightclub and left the stage strewn with tiny bits of Lego.
“Outside the art gallery, the naked vigil enlivened the afternoon for a street vendor selling tourist trinkets. He shouted:
“You gotta LOVE the art gallery!
“The Vulnerability Vigil was originated by a woman from Victoria, British Columbia. The man in the photo with the tattoos is an art school model. They were very friendly and appreciative that I took many photos with their own cameras.
“Then a burly young security guard emerged from the art gallery but he did not call the police nor ask them to clothe themselves. He merely asked if they could move to a spot slightly to the west, as he said they were too close to the gallery restaurant.
“So they did.
“After I paid my phone bill I went to the library. There was an information fair outside the library where activists were promoting a movie about peyote and handing out stickers of opium poppies to remind us of the victims of all the wars.”