Tag Archives: Borehamwood

Candy Gigi – Ethel Merman meets Lionel Bart in a 5-Stars-of-David show

Candy Gigi in London last night with composer and musical accompanist Jordan Clarke

I almost never do reviews in this blog but – hey! – if it involves a bit of self-publicity too…

The late Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards had a halfway-decent hit rate, including spotting future US successes Trevor Noah, Bo Burnham and Reggie Watts.

In 2014, we gave the main award for Comic Originality to Candy Gigi.

Last night I saw a beyond-barnstorming London preview of her Edinburgh Fringe show this year: Friday Night Sinner.

It is an astounding abso-fucking-lutely gross-out musical about a frustrated young, wildly psychopathic Jewish girl’s life and marriage in Borehamwood.  

The poster bills it (and this rather understates the case) as:

and the blurb listing says: “This deluded, narcissistic, unsatisfied occasionally violent woman has delusions of grandeur and wants to become the biggest star in the universe – or at least in Borehamwood.”

Far too OTT to be staged by any mainstream West End Theatre, but with superbly tuneful songs by Jordan Clarke performed by Candy Gigi with belting all-stops-out passion, including Borehamwood!, Finishing What Hitler Started and the hopefully/possibly prophetic She Will Be a Star. 

This (certainly in the preview last night) is a 5-Stars-of David show.

There is a clever line in one of the songs about wanting to be “a Jewish Barbra Streisand“.

But it felt more to me like Ethel Merman Meets Lionel Bart in some unholy, foul-mouthed, foul-imaged, sweet-tuned union.

It will be a bloody miracle if Candy Gigi’s voice lasts out for the whole 3½ weeks of the Edinburgh Fringe.

I always thought she had immense potential though what on earth she could do with it I was never quite sure. Now I know. Candy Gigi should be on the West End and Broadway stage in a musical (with words and images that don’t make your aged aunt or Miss Marmelstein blush).

One warning:

As with all Candy Gigi shows, do not sit in the front rows unless you enjoy imminent physical peril.

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With other comedy clubs closing, a new one opens in maybe an ideal location…

Borehamwood view by Google with 96 pretty-much centred

I live in Borehamwood which is on the north west edge of London, just inside the M25, London’s outer orbital road. This is relevant.

I moved here because of the easy access. It is close to and betwixt three motorways – the M1, the A1(M) and the M25.

It is also on the Thameslink railway line (appallingly managed by the incompetent Govia franchise but extremely convenient). Trains run direct from Luton and Bedford (north of London) to Brighton (on England’s South Coast), connecting Luton Airport with Gatwick Airport and running through the middle of London, across Blackfriars Bridge, interchanging, I think, with every Underground line in London. And the trains run throughout the night.

Borehamwood (just to confuse visiting Americans) is home to Elstree Film Studios (which also hosts TV shows like Big Brother) and to the BBC’s Elstree Studios (home of the TV soap EastEnders).

What is strange is that it has had no permanent comedy club.

Until now.

Philip Simon outside Borehamwood’s 96 venue

This Saturday, comic Philip Simon is opening the Borehamwood Comedy Club in the local Council-owned 96 venue, right slap-bang in the middle of the high street.

The Jongleurs comedy chain has staged a few sporadic ‘On The Road’ gigs at the venue. But, last month, Jongleurs went bust.

“I have always thought that Borehamwood is the perfect place for comedy,” Philip told me. “It was just a case of finding the right venue. When Jongleurs ended, the Council was approached by every comedy booker you can imagine, including some that have no links whatever in London or even in the South. But I think the Council were more interested in working with a local one-man-band than a big company, so here I am.”

“It’s a great location for a comedy club,“ I said.

“Transport is really important,” agreed Philip. “Elstree & Borehamwood station is the last stop on the Oyster (cheap travel) card and it’s very easy to get to. I did a gig last night in Brixton (in South London) and I got back to Borehamwood in 45 minutes – and that was three trains. Acts can double-up very easily.

“I genuinely think you can get top-level acts who would have opened at maybe the Comedy Store in Central London and be looking for a second show to close and think: Oh! I can get to Borehamwood in half an hour! Because of the transport links, there’s no reason we couldn’t get Brighton acts. It’s a direct train. The venue is a 5-minute – if that! – walk from the station…”

“And the trains run all night,” I said.

Philip has written for TV’s Mock the Week and Taskmaster

Philip was involved in setting up the Comedians’ Network within the actors’ union Equity.

“I’ve heard a lot of complaints,” he told me, “about the way acts have been treated by promoters on the comedy circuit in general – not specifically related to Jongleurs. About how replaceable we comedians are and how irrelevant we are to the bigger picture. So when I found Jongleurs had booked acts here already, the first thing I said was: Those are the acts I want to replace themselves, if they’re still available.

There was already a date booked in here by Jongleurs – this Saturday 25th November – so I took that and went back to the acts who were previously booked by Jongleurs and had been let down. I wanted to honour the bookings so the people who had potentially lost money were given first refusal on the new gig. There had been three acts booked. Two of them signed back up and one was busy elsewhere.”

“And the two are?” I asked.

“Lateef Lovejoy and Trevor Crook. I added in Geoff Boyz to close and I am going to compere it. In future, it will be that same format – One act / a break / another act / a break / headline act. And I will compere it.”

“How much per act?” I asked.

He told me.

“That sounds quite high,” I said. “How much are the tickets?”

“£12. The venue decided that. I have no control over it. The thing I am guaranteeing is that I will pay all of the acts on the day.”

“Unlike Jongleurs,” I laughed.

Are royal portraits all that comedy promoters care about?

“Well,” said Philip, “speaking as an act… the thing that really frustrates me is that I have done gigs where I have seen promoters walk off with a wad of cash and then refuse to pay you for 30 days after the event. I don’t have an agent and I don’t want to spend all my time chasing payment when the money is in the hands of the promoter. Whatever happens, the acts here will get their money on the day of the gig provided the gig goes ahead and they turn up. If, for some totally unforeseen reason, the venue cancels the gig, then the act will be paid a cancellation fee.”

“You don’t have a gig here in December,” I said, “because, obviously, 25th December is not an ideal date. But will you try to go weekly next year?”

“No. I don’t think there’s enough interest for a weekly comedy club of this level. When we re-launch in 2018, I am hoping we will take it monthly. What I might do is a monthly comedy show of this level and, in between, maybe another monthly new act/new material night. £12 a ticket is a lot of money to spend weekly and I’m not convinced that, by spreading myself so thin, I can give enough attention to the gig. Especially if I resident compere it.”

“You said of this level,” I pointed out.

“Yes. I would like it to be a high-end type of show. with faces that people will recognise and will represent the demographic of this area.”

“You could,” I suggested, “do a monthly Jewish gig here?”

“Well,” said Philip, “I did a show at Camden Fringe last year with Aaron Levene called Jew-O-Rama and maybe in this venue here we could do a once-a-quarter Jew-O-Rama. We were intrigued that it did not appeal as much to the Jewish audience as it did to the non-Jewish audience. The nights we sold out, there was a predominantly non-Jewish audience.

Philip aims to heighten the glamorous world of Borehamwood

“As well as the main monthly show, there are two things I want to do – one is the Jewish gig; one is a local gig. To find a way of supporting local acts. If the venue is investing in me as a local act, then there is a benefit in extending that.

“I could do the main show monthly, here. And then, in between those main shows, on alternate months, I could do the Jewish gig and the local gig. There are loads of comedians in the Borehamwood/St Albans/Radlett/Barnet/Shenley/Watford area – comedians of all levels. Newcomers and pro-level comedians.

“What I probably cannot do in the main show is to give stage time as many local acts as I’d like. Because they are all at different levels. The level of the main show at this venue has to be at a high level. But, if I can find a way of supporting local comedians with maybe a lower-level gig that is going to involve less cost and less administration… And there are other projects I would like to do such as maybe a quarterly charity gig and a Christmas show.”

“To be totally PC,” I suggested, “you would need a white male… a female… gay… black… and Jewish… You would need to have five acts per show.”

“I want funny,” said Philip. “The diversity will come with finding the right funny people.”

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David Beckham and a kinky sex party

A bunch of bananas photographed by Augustus Binu

Bunch of beautiful bananas photographed by Augustus Binu

… and still my post-Edinburgh Fringe vagueness continues…

I was walking along the high street in Borehamwood at lunchtime yesterday when I saw two little boys pointing bananas at each other like they were guns. As I passed by, all I heard was one saying to the other:

“…and your mother’s poo smells like David Beckham.”

I have no explanation for this.

Jason Cook, yesterday. In the case were £50 bookmarks

Jason Cook, yesterday. In the case were personalised £50 bookmarks on sale for £2

I was on my way to the local Tesco supermarket to see Jason Cook signing copies of A Nice Little Earner, the third mostly-autobiographical gangster book in his quadrilogy. Jason has cropped-up in this blog a few times before. He is seriously dyslexic but has written three of these books. A fourth is out soon. His first book There’s No Room For Jugglers in My Circus has sold out and is being reprinted on the back of a re-order from WH Smiths. And that’s not even to mention his children’s book Rats in Space. He is a sign that anyone can turn their life round.

Meanwhile, from near Vancouver, this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith reports:

Anna Smith ignores the BBC in Canada

Anna Smith – an everyday story of Canada

I found a thin, paperback-sized piece of yellow plywood floating in the river, with the message ‘E15′ painted on it. I do not think it is a reference to an area of London, but is a marker from a log boom. It has two nails through it, so I might attach it to something.

My phone is still not working despite being inside a bag of red rice. I put the rice bag inside my favorite red hat, but that has not helped.

I also saw a sign today which said: SWORDS INTO PRUNING HOOKS. It was loosely pasted on top of a larger poster advertising a kinky sex party for 400 people to be held on a yacht (location to be announced the day before sailing). It has playpens and cages apparently…. I don’t think I would like to be in a cage at sea with all that going on around me. I could not take a photograph of the poster, because my phone was in the bag of red rice back home.

The streets are awash with pretty, fashionable young women tonight, roaming in packs. It must be something to do with school starting in a couple of days.

Jason Cook’s personalised £50 banknotes - yours for £2

Jason Cook’s personalised £50 banknote bookmakers on sale yesterday – yours for only £2 in cash

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Govia Thameslink train incompetence makes me doubt Margaret Thatcher

Fear stalked the bus yesterday

Fear stalked the replacement bus yesterday

I am old enough to remember pre-Thatcherite stand-up comedy routines and the regular cliché butt of jokes was the inefficiency of the Gas Board and of British Railways.

British Gas remains incompetent but now has less incompetent competitors and British Rail was privatised into a whole series of regional franchises and rather bizarre subdivisions, so it is a less easy target for jokes on national TV because rail incompetence has been localised and there is no one organisation to blame.

I have always been fairly happy with rail privatisation. British Railways was so big and everyone had jobs for life, so they did not much care about any service standards or innovation.

I have lived in Borehamwood, using the Thameslink line (under various franchise holders) since 1986. The station here is slightly oddly called Elstree & Borehamwood. The station is not actually in Elstree. This becomes relevant later.

Until late last year, the Thameslink franchise was run by First Capital Connect and I never had any ongoing problems. I rarely travel in the rush hour. Daytime and late night trains were OK under First Capital Connect.

Then, late last year, Govia took over the Thameslink franchise. They also run Southern trains – officially recognised as the most inefficient train system in the UK. Within a month, utter chaos descended on Thameslink with trains cancelled willy nilly all over the place and late night trains a catastrophe of late-running and cancellations, often with the explanation “because no driver is available”.

Govia’s main apparent innovation has been, during crowded periods, to run 8-carriage fast trains (which stop at fewer stations, therefore have fewer passengers) and 4-carriage slow trains (which stop at more stations with more passengers). You cannot fault them for original thinking.

From Thameslink website - journeys include the unexpected

From Thameslink website – journeys + the added unexpected

Since January, every Sunday when I have arrived at St Pancras, the indicator boards have displayed the words BUS SERVICE. There are no directions to this bus service, because there is no bus service. In fact, the trains are still running as normal, but from a totally different, upper, level of the station accessed round a corner and up escalators.  No signs. Seldom any staff to ask.

Last night (Friday) I arrived at West Hampstead station to get my slow 4-carriage train to Elstree. A fast 8-carriage train was due to arrive first on my platform. One minute before it was due, the train disappeared from the indicator board. It had been switched to another platform. There was, of course, no announcement. Those with experience of Thameslink’s ways and of the station legged it up and over the bridge just in time to get on the train. Five people failed to make it.

20 seconds before my own train was due to arrive (I noted the time) the train disappeared from the indicator board. We all – maybe 30 of us – successfully raced up and over to the other platform. There had, of course, been no announcement.

Somewhere in NW London on my unguided tour yesterday

Somewhere in NW London on my unguided tour yesterday

This weekend, both Saturday and Sunday, there are no trains between Elstree and St Pancras, only a replacement bus service. Imagine my joy.

I allowed two hours to make the normally 15-20 minute journey to West Hampstead station this afternoon. It was not enough. You should know that Elstree &  Borehamwood station is on the edge of NW London. West Hampstead is to the south of this.


The Thameslink iPhone app said a bus would leave Elstree station at 1612.

When I asked the bus driver and his supervisor, they told me it would be leaving at 1609.

At 1605, the supervisor told the driver: “You might as well leave now. They haven’t had a bus for a while.”

I was happy enough. Presumably people arriving just before the announced time were not.

Replacement bus

Replacement bus: every turn was an unknowable adventure

The bus, I think, was due to stop at Mill Hill, Hendon, Cricklewood, West Hampstead and St Pancras (although the sign on the front of the bus said King’s Cross, which is not on the Thameslink line). We never went to Mill Hill, just straight down south to Hendon… sort of.

After a while, I started Tweeting, because I smelled a saga.

TWEET – Bus replacement driver had to ask direction to Hendon station from man in street. We arrived at wrong Hendon station.

TWEET – Bus replacement driver has just yelled out “Fuck!” – not good news.

TWEET – Heading north on M1 motorway (away from Hendon)

TWEET – Now north of Elstree, which we left over an hour ago.

TWEET – Bus replacement driver now apparently heading NW to Watford. London is SE.

TWEET – Bus replacement driver now complaining to passenger: “It’s ridiculous”.

TWEET – Bus now in open countryside outside London.

TWEET – Passenger now giving bus replacement driver directions.

TWEET – Bus replacement driver now apparently heading south to Elstree.

TWEET – Bus now heading to Edgware.

TWEET – At last! Houses! We are somewhere near Elstree.

TWEET – Soon we will be back where we started around 70 minutes ago.

TWEET – Phew! Back on route, about half mile off where we started 73 minutes ago.

TWEET – Bus replacement driver now taking route advised by passenger standing beside him at all times.

TWEET – Bus now at Hendon Central station. Wrong station. Attempting to get to Hendon Thameslink station.

TWEET – Apparently now not attempting to get to Hendon Thameslink as passenger doesn’t know way.

TWEET – Bus replacement driver attempting to find Cricklewood. This seems unwise.

TWEET – I think I spotted Edinburgh Castle. May be getting delirious.

TWEET – First traffic jam. Pretty good after 90 mins but then we have mostly been in countryside.

TWEET – Passenger points out Cricklewood station to driver as we pass by without stopping.

TWEET – Bus replacement driver asks passenger: “Where do we go next?” Passenger suggests “West Hampstead”.

TWEET – Now my stomach and head are feeling queasy.

TWEET – Bus replacement driver asks passenger: “How far is railway station?” Passenger (looking at his own mobile phone) says “Under half a mile.”

TWEET – In Kilburn High Road.

TWEET – Have arrived W Hampstead station after 1 hr 46 min trip. Well, 1’50” exactly, as bus left 4 mins early. (It was actually 7 mins early but, by this point, I had lost touch with reality.)

TWEET – Thameslink @TLRailUK have just tweeted “SERVICE UPDATE: Good service.” (I was not the only one who had lost touch with reality.)

The indicator board inside the closed station

The indicator board inside the closed station

The bus dropped us right outside the main entrance to West Hampstead station.

As you might imagine, I was interested to see what the trip back from West Hampstead would be like. Several hours later, I went and stood at the point, outside the main entrance to the station, where the bus had dropped us.

Inside the closed station, barely visible, was a train indicator showing the bus departure times.

TWEET – At West Hampstead station. Replacement bus to Elstree due 2144. I got here 2136. Do I feel lucky?

TWEET – Now 2150. Neither 2142 bus nor my 2144 bus arrived. Maybe, as before, drivers can’t find London?

TWEET – Have discovered buses stop not at large glass-fronted main station but at small alleyway back exit round corner. No signs.

TWEET – I am on bus which left at 2156. Man in yellow jacket was supervising from pavement.

TWEET – I suggested he might tell anyone waiting at main ticket office building. He smiled inanely at me and did nothing.

TWEET – We drove off from the back alleyway entrance presumably leaving people at the main station/ticket office.

TWEET – Driver said this bus goes to Elstree. I neglected to ask “Via where?”. I shall phone ahead to friends in Aberdeen.

TWEET – Bus driver has found Hendon Thameslink station. Maybe a lucky mistake. No Thameslink person outside, of course.

TWEET – So near and yet so far. Was about half mile from Elstree station. Bus has now veered off to take longer route.

TWEET – Now arrived at Elstree village, which is not where Elstree station is – It’s at Borehamwood.

TWEET – Phew! Arrived at Elstree station in Borehamwood. 2242 (46 minute journey) I may take up religion.

West Hampstead Thameslink station

West Hampstead station is the large grey-roofed building, centre bottom, with entrance on Iverson Road. The bus stopped top right of picture, near the blue square at end of ‘Black Path’ alleyway.


Thameslink man ignore main station

Thameslink man ignores main station – a bit of roof visible behind him on far left behind wall

I included the Thameslink Twitter account in the Tweets I sent because – for comic reasons – I was interested to see if there was any reaction. There was not, of course.

Being a PR for Thameslink must be a bit like being a PR for Saddam Hussein’s human rights record. Their response (if they ever bothered) would be to blame other (dis)organisations. But it is part of an ongoing pattern of Govia incompetence and don’t-give-a-flying-shit-ness. I thought the new Thameslink (dis)service had reached its twin peak of Govia surreality when:

– I got on a train a couple of weeks ago which both the indicator board and tannoy announcement said stopped at Elstree… It, in fact, whizzed though Elstree station and an on-train information board said the next stop was Harpenden, three stations further on. In fact, it stopped at St Albans (two stations further on). I thought I must have mis-read the indicator board and mis-heard the tannoy announcement until half the train disembarked to get back to a whole host of stations the train had failed to stop at… and another passenger told me this was the third time it had happened to him.

Wrong Thameslink sign

With St Pancras 11 miles behind us, this suddenly appeared…

– (As I mentioned in a blog on 30th May) after a series of catastrophes – as we approached Crystal Palace and arrived in East Croydon heading south, the on-train information board displayed the words “approaching St Pancras”. We were travelling south. St Pancras was around 11 miles behind us to the north, as the pig flies.

Clearly I underestimated Govia Thameslink’s capacity for incompetence and lack of any discernible professionalism or customer care.

Flying pig - suggested new Govia logo

Flying pig – suggested new logo for the Govia Thameslink line

I still do not think a return to a give-even-less-of-a-shit national British Railways is a good idea.

But, at West Hampstead yesterday, I got on the Overground, now very efficiently run (compared to what it was before) by the Mayor of London.

Apparently Boris has had his eyes on taking over the Thameslink route. I can only hope his successor does.

I do like a bit of surreality and have a high threshold of chaos. But there are limits.

I suppose the company name Govia – Go-via – should give a hint at their lack of any specific direction.

(MORE TALES OF THAMESLINK CHAOS HERE)

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Things that did not happen – the solar eclipse and John Otway, rock superstar

This morning’s Daily Telegraph touted the solar eclipse

Today’s Daily Telegraph touted the eclipse as very Big News indeed

On 11th August 1999, I was working at HTV, on the outskirts of Cardiff.

At 11.11am, there was a 97-98% eclipse of the sun over Cardiff. Videotape editor Richard got hold of a dentist’s mirror (they are also used by electronic engineers) and stuck it in the ground, reflecting the sun onto a piece of white card. We also saw the eclipse with the naked eye as it passed behind light clouds on the edge of a large dark grey cloud.

I had not expected to be impressed, but seeing the partial eclipse in the sky with my naked eyes was strange, especially with the air slightly and strangely chilly for no reason – there was no breeze, just a chill and, in the far distance, the sound of a car alarm which sounded like the theme music to The Twilight Zone.

On the ground and in the air, there was an eerie light, neither normal daylight nor dusk, as if the light was in the air itself, not coming from any specific direction. Richard said that during a full eclipse there was total darkness in the sky above, with the stars visible, but on the horizon there is a lighter colour – as if there were a 360˚ sunrise.

The streets of Borehamwood were not impressed at 09.31am today

Streets of Borehamwood were not in awe at 09.31am today

This morning, goaded-on by my eternally-un-named friend, I roamed the streets of Borehamwood awaiting the promised 85% solar eclipse at 09.31am.

The skies of Borehamwood were a uniform light grey and the streets of Borehamwood were not thronged with expectant masses.

At 09.31am – the appointed time – nothing was visible.

A llama remained unimpressed even at 10.10am on the Isle of Dogs

A llama remained unimpressed even at 10.10am on the Isle of Dogs (Photograph by M-E-U-N-F)

A teenager later interviewed by BBC TV News at, I think, Leicester racecourse (no, I don’t know why) said she found the eclipse “illuminating”.

My eternally-un-named friend, at an animal farm on the Isle of Dogs in London (no, I don’t know why either), was reduced to sending me a photo of a disgruntled-looking llama.

And a sign in a field saying: PLEASE DO NOT FEED OR THROW FOOD TO THE SHETLAND PONIES – THEY ARE ON A SPECIAL DIET. Why the ponies are on a diet, I do not know.

The BBC obviously have better links with The Almighty than I and my eternally-un-named friend did in Borehamwood and the Isle of Dogs. They reported a “breathtaking” solar eclipse.

But there are better things than succeeding in the conventional sense.

The BBC reporting what I didn’t see

Last night, I went to see cult music act John Otway perform at The Good Ship venue in Kilburn. He holds what must surely be some sort of record – having had one hit song (Cor Baby, That’s Really Free in 1977) and then getting a second hit song a whole 25 years later (Bunsen Burner – 2002).

In a BBC poll in 1999, his song Beware Of The Flowers Cause I’m Sure They’re Going To Get You Yeah was voted the seventh greatest lyric of all time.

John Otway at The Good Ship last night

John Otway was at The Good Ship last night

As John pointed out with flawless logic last night, the BBC vote was for the greatest lyrics written in the 2,000 years since Jesus Christ was born, coming seventh meant he was a “better lyricist than Bob Dylan” and, as Paul McCartney’s Yesterday came sixth in the poll, Cor Baby, That’s Really Free is “almost as good a song as Yesterday”.

John Otway’s 1990 autobiography was titled Cor Baby, That’s Really Me – Rock and Roll’s Greatest Failure and his second autobiography  (2010) is entitled I Did It Otway.

I have to say the self-styled Greatest Failure in Rock ’n’ Roll seems very happy with it: a lesson to us all, perhaps.

There are more interesting things in the world than a partial solar eclipse.

YouTube has a clip of John Otway singing Bunsen Burner on BBC TV’s Top of The Pops

And he is also HERE with Wild Willy Barratt and Cor Baby, That’s Really Free

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Trying to find a woman for comic Lewis Schaffer after the Hare Krishna temple

LewisSchaffer (Photograph by my eternally-un-named friend)

Lewis Schaffer at the Hare Krishna temple

Comedian Lewis Schaffer spent yesterday – New Year’s Day – at my home.

In the afternoon, we went to the nearby Hare Krishna temple.

“Women are finding me increasingly attractive the older I get,” Lewis Schaffer said soon afterwards.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because they think, if I’m on stage, I must be somebody saying something important.”

“Like a cult,” suggested my eternally-un-named friend.

“People think” continued Lewis Schaffer, “I’m going to pay attention to that person because other people are paying attention to that person.”

“I once asked (the late comedian) Malcolm Hardee why he was a babe magnet,” I said, “because he didn’t exactly look like a Greek God. And he told me Because I’m famous… but only in Greenwich. So they only find me attractive in Greenwich.

“Yes,” agreed my eternally-un-named friend, “if he was in Scarborough or somewhere people didn’t know him, people would just see Malcolm as a weird man who was a bit rude. But, when you got to know him better… his actual persona… when I worked with him… there was something very relaxing about him.”

“When women met him, “ I said, “they thought Ugh! Never! Not with a barge-pole! but then, when they got to know him, I think they felt he was somehow sweet and loveable and I think they wanted to mother him… and went to bed with him.”

“Mmmm…” said Lewis Schaffer. “Am I likeable? Am I kind?”

“You do have a bit of kindness,” said my eternally-un-named friend.

“I’m not interested in other people,” said Lewis Schaffer. “But I used to bring framed pictures of myself to people’s houses when I visited. I would give them as a gift.”

“Were they surprised?” I asked.

“Yeah,” said Lewis Schaffer. “They thought it was funny, but they would keep the framed picture of me. Adam Bloom kept one standing on the top of his refrigerator for years and other people have kept them in their houses.”

“You didn’t bring a framed picture with you when you arrived yesterday,” I said.

Holy cow (left) with Lewis Schaffer yesterday

Hare Krishna holy cow (left) with Lewis Schaffer yesterday

“That’s because Borehamwood is bleak,” said Lewis Schaffer. “There’s nothing to do here on New Year’s Day except go to a Hare Krishna temple. Anyway, I can’t find framed pictures here in London the way I could find them in New York, where they were dirt cheap.

“Here, they’re expensive,” he added. “I need to make money. This is the year I’m going to make money. This is the year. Nobody can do what I do. I can go to a place, do a show and be on stage for three or four hours.”

Fidel Castro could do that,” I said.

“He could,” admitted Lewis Schaffer, “but I’m a Jew and Jews need to make money.”

“Can’t you meet a rich woman who’s got a house?” asked my eternally-un-named friend. “You could move into her place, then you rent out your flat and that’s your income.”

“Don’t think I haven’t thought about that,” replied Lewis Schaffer.

“The dating sites look really good for men,” said my eternally-un-named friend.

“Do they show rich women?” asked Lewis Schaffer.

“You just figure out which ones are rich and have a good wage and a good house,” explained my eternally-un-named friend. “Obviously, you’ve got to like them. But you could be quite happy, maybe.”

“That’s a terrible idea,” I said, “If he’s happy, it will screw-up his act.”

Lewis Schaffer and I discuss attracting women

Lewis Schaffer and I discuss attracting women (Photo by my eternally-un-named friend)

“The thing about women,” said Lewis Schaffer, “is they’re reticent about giving away their money to loser men. And a bigger problem is I would have to show affection for these women and I don’t feel affection for anyone.”

“Except Lewis Schaffer,” I said.

“Especially not for Lewis Schaffer,” said Lewis Schaffer.

“My osteopath is gay,” said my eternally-un-named friend, “and his partner has a horse and he says the best place to meet women – thousands of them – is to join a horse club.”

“Yeah,” said Lewis Schaffer, “but then they fall off their horse and their neck is broken…”

“Ideal,” I said. “Insurance.”

“…and then you gotta take care of them,” concluded Lewis Schaffer.

“Look on the bright side,” I said. “You might fall off the horse, break your neck, be paralysed and then they’d have to look after you.”

“Anyway, I don’t need to hang out with horses to meet women,” said Lewis Schaffer. “I know lots of women in my local area.”

“But aren’t they a bit nutty?” asked my eternally-un-named friend.

“All women are nutty,” replied Lewis Schaffer.

“I mean in South East London,” said my eternally-un-named friend.

“Are they better in North London?” asked Lewis Schaffer.

“There are more Jews in North London,” I said.

“In your blog,” said Lewis Schaffer, “don’t mention me being Jewish.”

“Can I mention you’re Lewis Schaffer?” I asked.

“I think there’s something in the water in South East London,” said my eternally-un-named friend.

“I just need money,” said Lewis Schaffer.

“They might have a house with two bathrooms in North London,” added my eternally-un-named friend.

“But I do feel,” said Lewis Schaffer, “like I need to do something new this year. Like actually make an effort.”

“You were doing four shows a week last year!” I said.

“Five if you include the radio show,” Lewis Schaffer corrected me.

Happy punters with Lewis Schaffer at the Bloomsbury Theare

Happy punters with Lewis Schaffer at the Bloomsbury Theatre

“They say you’re a comedian’s comedian,” my eternally-un-named friend pointed out, trying to cheer him up.

“Yeah,” said Lewis Schaffer, “there’s only one person who likes me and it happens to be a comedian. You know what they say… If you can make just one person laugh… you won’t be invited back… Am I comedian’s comedian? I look at some of these comedy bills with three comics on them and they’re all the same sameness. Every single show is the same type of comedian telling the same type of joke. Why wouldn’t someone want to put me on a show just to fuck-up the show for a little change of pace?”

“I’ve written about it in my blog,” I said. “You should read it; people do.”

“I read that blog,” said Lewis Schaffer, “about the samey sameness of comedy bills. You were right. And there are two ways to go. One is the alternative type of comedy which you champion. And the other way is me, who comes from another planet.”

“Well,” I argued, “you are alternative.”

“I’m gaining confidence,” said Lewis Schaffer, “because now I feel I can ask a booker to put me on a show in spite of any comedy limitations I have – and I’m pretty sure I have much fewer than I used to have. And when I come on a show, it adds variation: it’s What the fuck has just happened? Do you agree with that?”

“I think you’re the definitive alternative comedian,” I said, “because, when audiences see you, they think Is there an alternative to this? Can we go somewhere else?

“Stop trying to be funny, John,” said Lewis Schaffer. “Do you agree with me?”

“Alternative comedy – as I’ve written,” I said, “used to mean you had jugglers, magicians, stand-up comedians and mad people. You’re not mad, but you come under that last category: you’re not a traditional stand-up. You are not eccentric or mad, but you’re… different.”

“I’m different? What does that mean?”

“I have no idea,” I said. “Maybe you could rent a horse. Do you want a cup of tea?”

“OK,” said Lewis Schaffer.

Here is a video on YouTube of Lewis Schaffer performing at the Bloomsbury Theatre three months ago…

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If everything in the world were made of edible plastic, you would not have the problems caused by these green things

My eternally-un-named friend hunting for hedgehogs yesterday

Eternally-un-named friend hedgehog hunting

Yesterday afternoon, I was sitting having tea in a garden centre near St Albans – not my natural habitat.

My eternally-un-named friend had gone off to the Information Desk to ask about buying a hedgehog.

It is a long back story.

I have mentioned it in my blog before.

She is waging a war of attrition against slugs in my back garden.

“What did they say at the Information Desk?” I asked her on her return.

“There was this oldish guy there,” she said, “and I asked him Can you tell me where I can get hedgehogs? and he started looking at me slightly frowning.

“He said: Do you mean ornamental ones or real ones? and he was sort of frowning a bit more.

Real ones, I said.

“And he told me: There’s a place you can get them in Notcutts, but we can’t get them – and he’s still looking a bit oddly at me. They’re wild animals, you know, he says. You might be able to get them in Notcutts in Smallford. They have animals there. But I don’t think they’ll have them, because they do pets and a hedgehog is a wild animal.

“By this point, he was scowling even more at me, as if I’m a bad person who wants to buy a wild animal and you’re not allowed to. But, I said, you’re selling hedgehog homes, so I thought people must be able to buy hedgehogs.

Oh yes,” he said, “that’s to encourage any hedgehogs you already have to stay there. And all this time, he’s looking at me as if I’m a bit…”

“That you want to bake and cook hedgehogs?” I suggested.

“No,” said my eternally-un-named friend, “I think he thought it was like when you tie up a swan in your back garden.”

“They sell hedgehog homes?” I asked.

“Yes,” said my eternally-un-named friend. So we went over to look at them.

Hedgehog houses will encourage residency

Slate roofed hedgehog house (right) may encourage residency

There was one with a slate roof for £29.99, and one made wholly of wood for £44.99

“The other thing I’m thinking,” my eternally-un-named friend told me, “is that you have a massive ant problem in your garden.

“They’re all around. Scurrying. You can see them as you come up the road from Elstree station. They’re rife.”

“What happened to the ladybirds?” I asked. “You said you’d found a ready supply of ladybirds to kill the aphids.”

“I can’t get the ladybirds to kill the aphids until I’ve killed the ants,” said my eternally-un-named friend, “because the ants would kill the ladybirds.”

“How are you going to kill the ants?” I asked.

“I’ve got a load of white powder,” she explained, “and I’ve got sprays and I’ve been pouring boiling water on the ant nests. One day when you were away in Edinburgh I went out into the garden to pull out the dandelions – at least they’re not actually going round killing other things – and there were ant nests everywhere.

“The aphids are out the front on one of the plants. And every other day, I would take off the branches that had the aphids on and bin them, because the aphids sap the plant and there was always a little ant walking up the stalk trying to do something to an aphid.

“Those millions of invisible bugs that I put in the ground to kill the ants… Unfortunately they have to be kept wet and we had that dry patch for some time. They cost £11. I know that’s cheap per million, but they didn’t seem to be pulling their weight, so I put down the £3 white powder as well.”

“What if the hedgehog eats the white powder?” I asked. “It will die.”

“I have no idea,” said my eternally-un-named friend. “I’m dealing with ants at the moment. I haven’t found a hedgehog. Who else eats ants?”

“The French,” I suggested.

Anteater - the alternative to a hedgehog

Buying an anteater could be a viable alternative to a hedgehog

My eternally-un-named friend thought for a moment and then said, perking up: “We could get an anteater! It might be easier in the long run just to get an anteater. The problem is there are the ants AND there are the slugs. There’s a double enemy situation.”

“Or we could just get a Frenchman,” I persisted. “They’ll eat anything.”

“When you break open these ant nests,” said my eternally-un-named friend, “you see half of them have got wings, half of them are eggs about to develop and the other half are the ones running around doing things to aphids. That’s the problem. We have 150% of ants trotting backwards and forwards everywhere. it really is hell.”

“You see?” I told her, “Nature is a nightmare. That’s why I try to have nothing to do with it. Anything green is a nightmare. New cheese, old meat, anything with leaves or stalks. Nightmare. I try to have nothing to do with anything green. If everything in the world were made of edible plastic, you wouldn’t have these problems. It must be possible in the 21st century. Natural things are bad things.”

“Well,” said my eternally-un-named friend, “if part of Nature and wildlife is that hedgehogs eat slugs, it’s certainly not happening round Elstree and Borehamwood and I don’t see how hedgehogs are going to come to your rescue when you have main roads.”

“Tunnels,” I suggested. “We will have to build hedgehog tunnels.”

“I got a reply from Bob Slayer,” said my eternally-un-named friend.

A few days ago, she asked comedian Bob Slayer where she could get a hedgehog, on the basis he was brought up in the West Country and would know about such Nature-related things. Yesterday, he replied:

The British Hedgehog Preservation Society is based in Clee Hill near Ludlow where I grew up. I went to a local pony club with the daughter of the man who set it up in 1982 – Major Adrian Harcourt Coles. I thought he was dead, but I have checked and he is not.

“I remember he raised a load of money to put ramps in all the cattle grids on Clee Hill so that, if hedgehogs fell in, they could climb out. Then someone proved that hedgehogs don’t live over a certain height above sea level and that there are no hedgehogs on Clee Hill.

Hedgehog flavoured crisps

Hedgehog flavoured crisps were trendy

“In 1981, Hedgehog Foods Ltd decided, as a joke, to produce hedgehog flavoured crisps. To everyone’s surprise, the crisps were a huge success. But they were actually flavoured with pork fat and no hedgehogs were used in the manufacturing process.

“As a result, the Office of Fair Trading took them to court (in 1982) on a charge of false advertising. A settlement was finally reached when Mr Lewis of Hedgehog Foods interviewed gypsies – who actually did eat baked hedgehogs – to ascertain the flavour of hedgehogs. He then commissioned a flavourings firm to duplicate the flavour as closely as possible and changed the labels from ‘hedgehog flavoured’ to ‘hedgehog flavour’ and the Office of Fair Trading was satisfied.”

My eternally-un-named friend showed me Bob Slayer’s e-mail, then suggested: “If a hedgehog did get to your garden, it could have the run of the area. Your garden and other people’s gardens. There’s probably a good living for a hedgehog there.”

“And, if it ran out of slugs to eat, it could drink milk,” I suggested.

“No,” said my eternally-un-named friend. “They can’t drink milk. There’s an advert on television that says they’re lactose-intolerant. It’s an advert for lactose-free milk and they’re telling hedgehogs Yes, it’s OK to have this milk. I’m sure a hedgehog would like to live in your garden, although there is that fox around.”

“I saw it last night by the garages when I was parking the car,” I said. “We may have to set up a fox hunt. Where can we get horses and hounds? Can they be rented or do you have to set up a permanent hunt?”

“I think we should just get an anteater,” said my eternally-un-named friend.

“Or a Frenchman,” I said.

The debate continues.

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Filed under Gardening, Hedgehogs, Humor, Humour, Nature