Tag Archives: eccentric

It is not as easy nor as quick as you might think to build a squirrel feeder

Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award designer John Ward has occasionally been described in this blog as “mad inventor John Ward”.

There is a reason for this.

I have recently had some emails for him, cobbled-together by me below:


I have just finished construction of ‘Top Nut’, my latest squirrel feeder – as seen in Moulton-Seas-End (which is nowhere near the sea). It is based on Star Wars type stuff and cobbled together from all bits and bobs.

A few years ago now when I saw the squirrels we had running about in the garden I realised that a trail of nuts would lead their inquisitive minds to the pile of nuts or whatever I have built for them.

It has taken a week or so to get them to investigate Top Nut, but they are now getting used to it. 

I have taken some ‘grabbed’ photographs through the kitchen window so they’re not that clear. Now I know how Attenborough’s lot must feel sitting it out, waiting…

How did all this come to pass? I hear you ask.

The wheelbarrow we used in the garden had collapsed – it’s always the metalwork that rots or rusts through it seems. So what was left was the heavy duty plastic barrow part plus the wheel.

The more I looked at the shape, the more I wondered what it would look like upside down.

Inspired by what it DID look like upside down, the plan was to build another squirrel feeder – You can’t have enough squirrel feeders I always say, moreso as we live rural.

The barrow bit was cleaned and large holes cut into it based on when we get winds – it blows straight through – a lesson learnt years ago with the bird table that was blown over and basically destroyed… So that was sorted.

Next the ‘deck’ or floor was a discarded off-cut from a sheet of MDF, the miracle TV ‘makeover’ show product that seems to be used for just about everything in building anything in this day and age.

It was shaped to fit the upside down barrow bit leaving a narrow, half inch margin all round so that rain water can escape so as not to flood it – and it works very well I am happy to say. Tick the box marked ‘Forward Planning’ here.

I also applied five coats of waterproof vanish to seal it against the elements, which took over a fortnight, on and off, to allow each coat to cure or dry properly hence being waterproof (I hoped…).

Next was a stable but firm base. This was achieved by cutting an industrial type slotted racking support in half to make a ‘V’ shaped support, then welded to a metal plate to partly form the base.

This was bolted to an old office chair base that was being thrown out by a local company that I ‘rescued’ from their skip (with their knowledge – although they didn’t quite seem to believe what I was building).

To gain squirrel access to the craft, I made a ladder from a plastic PVC off-cut from somebody who was having new soffits (the bits that hold the guttering up) and double glazing put in. The treads are plastic packers as used in the building trade to even brick/woodwork up… cut down to scale and stuck on with superglue.

Next up was making the superstructure. The rear ‘motors’ are four old 35mm film slide projector reels, reversed then glued/screwed end to end.

They were then attached to two loudspeaker ‘horns’ to form the ‘motive power’ with the actual top being an old industrial size fluorescent plastic based light unit, cut in half and glued together to form the ‘upper hull’ section.

The various ‘wings’ on top are parts from a discarded electric buggy/wheelchair.

The ‘flight deck’ is made from an old desk ‘odds and ends’ tray cut in half and miniature ‘seats’ handmade using an old black imitation leather shopping bag for covering and inserted into small square type flower pots to form ‘bucket seats’ that are about to scale considering the size of our semi-resident squirrels – Sid and Shazz.

The controls are assorted colour beads and anything lying about. The ‘gear stick’ is based on a 1987 model British Leyland Maestro car. The ‘handbrake’ based on a Ford Sierra of the same era.

Between the seats at the rear is a scale model fire extinguisher. Should there be anything untoward happening on the flight deck, then this won’t make the slightest bit of difference, but it looks good!

The outside solar power and heat transfer modals are waffle plates – one per side – from a sandwich/waffle maker that somebody donated to the construction as they never used them as they only use the sandwich, toasty plates so they are brand new, unused.

The ‘front screen’ is an empty space with thin elastic threaded through drilled holes to form the ‘screen surrounds’ similar in appearance to WW2 planes.

The ‘Sid and Shazz’ sun visor – going back to the 1970s – where it was the thing to have the driver and passenger’s name in the sun visor over the windscreen – is a separate piece of Perspex with their names stuck on with letters from Poundland.

PS: in the first video, and possibly in a photo or two, there is a sign with ‘Painting by Carl’ on it.

He is the paint sprayer for a local engineering firm who was silly enough to ask if he ‘could do anything towards your project’ and so he sprayed the exterior of Top Nut in the machine grey you see.


John Ward is available to customise any totally insane projects you may have.

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Filed under eccentric, Inventions

Consignia: The Flatterers – The end of their anarchy at the Edinburgh Fringe?

Admirably anarchic comedy group Consignia are performing their show The Flatterers at the Edinburgh Fringe starting this Saturday (6th-14th August).

It is a free show – you can pay what you like at the end – and it is not listed in the Edinburgh Fringe brochure.

Last year, they got two reviews at the Fringe, both 4-stars:

“They actively want you to walk out” ★★★★ (Chortle)

“They eschew likeability” ★★★★ (The Scotsman)

I chatted to Consignia’s Phil Jarvis and (late-on) Nathan Willcox via Skype…


Phil Jarvis (left) at home with a non-Vietnamese doll with a beard (right)…

JOHN: What is that doll?

PHIL: I bought it in Poland the other day. It looks like Ho Chi Minh a bit.

JOHN: ho ho Ho Chi Minh… No it doesn’t. In my bedroom, I have a painting of Uncle Ho writing in a forest. That doll doesn’t look like him.

An inexplicable painting of Ho Chi Minh in a forest in my bedroom…

PHIL: It has his beard.

JOHN: Is the doll relevant to your show?

PHIL: No.

JOHN: Why is your show called The Flatterers?

PHIL: There was a 16th century painting called The Flatterers, so we just borrowed the title. It was about brown-nosing, so we thought we’d use that. By Pieter Brueghel the Younger.

Potentially relevant – The Flatterers by Pieter Brueghel the Younger…

JOHN: That doesn’t really answer the question Why is your show called The Flatterers?

PHIL: OK. The reason it’s called The Flatterers is because it’s about the billionaires leaving Earth in the near future and me and Nathan play people who are on a sort-of a waste ship that takes away the rubbish from the billionaires’ spaceship. Basically, our spaceship is full of shit and detritus from the billionaires and Nathan thinks that, by eating the billionaires’ ship, he will himself become a billionaire.

JOHN: That still doesn’t really answer the question Why is your show called The Flatterers?

PHIL: It’s an A-Level style metaphor about the billionaires just shitting on everyone else. So it’s just really hammering home a (LAUGHS) quite obvious idea. Originally it was going to be a show called The Urn – a person who is having the launch for his art show dies and… But we’re not going to do that because I saw the error of my ways.

JOHN: The Flatterers is only on at the Fringe from the 6th to the 14th August because…

PHIL: Money. I’m paying to go to one of those student dorms and it’s £700 for a week.

An unrelated Consignia show was Lemonade

JOHN: The Flatterers starts at 11.00pm and is billed as being one hour long. I find this difficult to believe. I saw that hour-long show you did which lasted about 3 hours. You are the Ken Dodd of anarchic comedy. You got to the end of the show, then just did the whole thing again. How performing a 1-hour show twice even lasted 3 hours I don’t know. Has any poor sod got a midnight show supposedly following your 11.00pm show in the Banshee Labyrinth?

PHIL: (LAUGHS) Last year’s show was 50 minutes and we ran to time.

JOHN: Is The Flatterers really going to be the last ever Consignia show?

PHIL: I would genuinely like it to be the last one. It feels like… Why not? Why not just end it? Once you get good reviews, why not just end it and do something different. I think that’s a better tactic than…

JOHN: A better tactic than being successful?

PHIL: (LAUGHS)

JOHN: Define “do something different”. Doing mother-in-law gags?

PHIL: (LAUGHS) Maybe not THAT different! Nathan and I already do a podcast: Modernist Cat Wee Wee.

JOHN: Nathan got married. Has that affected the dynamics of the group?

PHIL: Maybe. Well, it was quite a struggle to get Nathan to come up to the Fringe this year.

JOHN: You get an audience, though…

PHIL: You came to the early shows before we were even called Consignia – when the shows were billed as Malcolm Julian Swan Presents – and they had a funny energy to them. And then it kind of found its audience without any flyering, which I feel a bit smug about while being bemused about it too. It doesn’t make any sense.

JOHN: Sounds like a good show review.

(There is a recording of the 2015 pre-Consignia show Malcolm Julian Swan Presents: Hokum on Soundcloud),

Galaxy, scrambled egg or vomit? You decide.

JOHN: When I look at the poster image for The Flatterers, am I wrong in thinking that’s a picture of a bit of vomit on some tarmac?

PHIL: It is, yes. That is our anti-poster. You’re meant to have your picture on a Fringe poster, probably taken by that photographer Steve Best…

JOHN: …or Steve Ullathorne. The Fringe is over-endowed with people called Steve.

PHIL: You’re supposed to look like you’re in a Top Shop kind of thing, but we’re all past 30 now, so we can’t even look smart. We put on a nice 4-star review from Kate Copstick (in The Scotsman) and a good 4-star review from Steve Bennett (on chortle.co.uk).

JOHN: Like I said – over-endowed …

PHIL: We put the review stars on there and our two nominations from the Leicester Comedy Festival, but then we thought Fuck Off! We’re not going to put our faces on it!

JOHN: You reckon, once you are over 30, you are past performing anarchy at the Fringe?

PHIL: Definitely! Once you get into your 30s, you are… well, the advertisers don’t aim at that group. If you go to Berlin, as we did recently – all these hip and happening places – they’re all aimed at people in their 20s, really. 

JOHN: Consignia played Berlin?

PHIL: Yes, we did a show called Maastricht Reloaded, which was actually made in 2019. We built a ClingFilm wall, which we stood behind.

Maastricht Reloaded by Consignia in Berlin…

It was just an improvised show about three hours long about the Maastricht Treaty. We weaved-in a story about Guy Fawkes travelling through time, trying to torpedo John Major’s government.

JOHN: Social realism, then?

PHIL: (LAUGHS) Pretty much, yeah.

JOHN: Pseudo-realism?

PHIL: That’s a great name.

JOHN: You can have it… You played the Fringe last year.

2021: “50 minutes of Migraine…” at the Fringe

PHIL: Yes, It was called Migraine. That was the one we got the 4-star reviews for.

The show’s blurb said it was “50 minutes of migraine”.

We were being quite honest.

JOHN: This year’s show is not listed in the Fringe brochure.

PHIL: Why give money to the Fringe Society when you’ve seen what kind of shit-weasels they are with that duplicity about the app?

(The Fringe Society charged performers in advance but never told them there was no Fringe app for finding shows this year, as there had been last year,)

JOHN: Shit-weasels?…

PHIL: It’s disgusting. What kind of people do that? The Fringe Society is just a toff club.

JOHN: If this really is the last Consignia show, how are you going to unleash your inner anarchy in future?

PHIL: I dunno. Who knows? I think maybe that’s why Consignia was there in the first place: to fulfil that inner need and to get a release. Though I think it became a bit more than that.

JOHN: So that’s enough for the blog…

PHIL: … and here’s the fucking prick!

(NATHAN WILLCOX ARRIVES ON THE SKYPE SCREEN)

PHIL: Where have you been? We’ve been talking for 24 minutes.

NATHAN: You didn’t invite me.

PHIL: That’s no excuse…

On Skype, Phil Jarvis (left) and Nathan Willcox focus on explaining their show title…

JOHN: Why is your show called The Flatterers?

NATHAN: It’s a gross-out, state-of-the-nation piece. It’s set in the not-too distant future when Earth has become uninhabitable due to…

JOHN: …the French?

NATHAN: Probably. Your words. Or climate change. Could be something else. Never specified.

We are in space on Waste Ship 6668…

JOHN: I get 666. Why 8?

PHIL: It’s a Dante reference.

JOHN: Joe Dante, the director of Gremlins?

NATHAN: No. Dante. The Divine Comedy. The 8th level was where The Flatterers were – in the 8th circle of Hell.

JOHN: I thought it was something to do with Pieter Brueghel the Younger…

NATHAN: The show was originally conceived by Phil because of Navara Media’s Left Wing reporter Ash Sarkar. There was a Tweet I sent Phil where there was an article about the Elon Musks and Jeff Bezoses… Their ships, when they go up in space… their waste gets thrown out and burns up in the atmosphere and is often mistaken for shooting stars. The Tweet said something like: Oh what a perfect metaphor for capitalism or something.

I sent that to Phil and he said: “Oh, we should do a show about that!”

JOHN: Close encounters of the turd kind?

PHIL: That’s gotta be the pull-quote from your blog.

JOHN: I can die happy.

(THERE IS AN 18-MINUTE, 46 SECOND CONSIGNIA “WELCOME TO DUNGENESS” VIDEO ON VIMEO WHICH HAS NOTHING WHATEVER TO DO WITH THEIR NEW SHOW “THE FLATTERERS”… AS FAR AS I KNOW…)

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Filed under Anarchy, Comedy, Eccentrics

Brian Damage and Krysstal, Malcolm Hardee reborn plus balls and bagpipes…

(Photo via pxhere.com)

Some stories which I do not mention in this blog are often even more interesting than what appears, but not quite long enough to blog about. And some are just plain unrepeatable.

Last week, I spent Tuesday evening in the company of the infamous Flying Haidrani Twins, purveyors of the best gossip and most scandalous international tales in Greater London. Sadly my lips are sealed on the details, but I hope their cracking stories will surface in some future novel or magazine article by one or both of them.

The night before that, I went to Chesham Cricket Club which, somewhat unexpectedly, is in the same place as Chesham Football Club. This confused several revellers.

I was there because comedy act Brian Damage & Krysstal were hosting a farewell event. They are moving to Australia.

Brian Damage and Krysstal – any old excuse for a party…

Well, it turned out they are not actually moving to Australia until September but – hey! – any excuse for a party.

For almost the whole of this century, they hosted the Pear Shaped comedy club, which they wrongly billed as the second worst comedy club in London.

At some point during the evening, with cricket continuing in the background, four comics were discussing heckler anecdotes and Brian recalled one female comic’s response to an annoying heckler: she took a fish out of her clothing and threw it at the heckler, catching him in the face.

After that, Brian & Krysstal implemented a ‘no fish’ policy at the gigs they hosted.

Apparently the fish was not part of the planned act; it just happened to be in the comic’s clothing.

Cricket ground selfie by Pam Ford with (L-R) Stephen Carlin & Andrew O’Neill

Andrew O’Neill, one of the veritable plethora of comedy industry people who got up on stage to pay tribute to Brian & Krysstal said:

“I started in 2002 and I never met Malcolm Hardee and there are all these stories about him, but I feel like we’ve got our own Malcolm Hardee now, but there’s two of them in Brian & Krysstal.

“I can’t remember the first time I went to Pear Shaped; they sort-of morphed into one incredible adventure. But that absolute fucking madness… held together by what I genuinely believe is one of the funniest comedy acts I’ve ever seen.”

The evidently not incomparable Malcolm Hardee was renowned for having the biggest bollocks in British showbiz.

Patsy Kensit as a baby with (L-R) her father James, her mother Margaret and her family godfather Reginald…

But in fact, he told me, he only had the SECOND biggest bollocks in British showbiz.

He had once come second in a table-top contest with Patsy Kensit‘s father ‘Jimmy the Dip’ who, allegedly, used to book acts for, I was told, the British Army. 

Two nights before Brian & Krysstal’s cricket-based farewell, I had bumped into Malcolm Hardee’s chum Martin Soan at a wake for Dave ‘Bagpipes’ Brooks, an early occasional member of Martin and Malcolm’s Greatest Show on Legs comedy group.

Dave Brooks died two years ago but Covid had delayed the get-together.

So it goes.

Dave Brooks with offensive bagpipes

In 1981, Dave was part of The Human Scottish Sword Dance with the Greatest Show on Legs on the TV show Game For a Laugh in which they performed a ‘human sword dance’ in Highland costume, with presenter Matthew Kelly lying on the ground instead of swords, looking up while The Greatest Show on Legs members danced over him. 

Martin Soan mentioned something I had never realised before: that, in keeping with Scottish tradition, the Greatest Show on Legs wore nothing under their kilts on this (and no doubt other) occasions. 

Alas, YouTube have seen fit to remove the relevant clip. 

Dave’s son Charlie Brooks reminded me that one of Dave’s many claims to fame was a court fight with the Corporation of London over his playing bagpipes on Hampstead Heath. I mentioned it in a 2020 blog.

In 1996, the Corporation prosecuted Dave at Hampstead Magistrates’ Court under an 1890 by-law for “playing a musical instrument (his bagpipes) on Hampstead Heath on three separate counts”. This was despite the fact that Dave had been playing his pipes on the Heath for an hour every morning for 15 years without any complaint from anyone.

History seemed to come to Dave’s rescue. 

One of the weapons of war used at Culloden in 1746

After the Battle of Culloden in 1746, the Lord Chief Justice of England ruled that the bagpipes were not a musical instrument but an instrument of insurrection.

Dave argued his case against the Corporation of London on the basis that his Highland bagpipes legally remained (in 1996) an instrument of war and insurrection and therefore were not a musical instrument as charged. 

Sadly, he was still found guilty on three counts of playing a musical instrument and fined £15 on each count plus £50 costs. 

But, like Malcolm Hardee and Jimmy ‘the Dip’ Kensit, you have to admire his balls.

RIP Dave (1947-2020), Malcolm (1950-2005) and Jimmy the Dip (1915-1987).

So it goes.

Dave also used to play bagpipes at Indian weddings…

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Filed under Comedy, eccentric, Humor, Humour

The English language… It ain’t what you say, it’s the way that you say it…

(Image by Hans-Peter Gauster, via UnSplash)

A large number of these blogs over the years have been interviews or, more precisely, transcriptions of chats with other people. I record everything so that I can make certain I quote the people I talk to exactly.

I type exactly what they say.

Except, of course, there has to be a certain amount of tidying-up of what they say. I have to take out the gaps, stumbles, repetitions, umms and ahhs and errrms and general ramblings of normal speech, because almost no-one ever speaks in fluent sentences.

At college, part of the course I took involved radio production and part involved linguistics.

One afternoon, we were asked to go off in groups of three or four and have a short recorded conversation with each other about anything, then transcribe the exact words which had been spoken.

Three or four of us went off and had an interesting, fluent chat about something-or-other.

But, when the recording was transcribed – writing down every word exactly as spoken – we realised we had not conversed in sensible, coherent or even necessarily meaningful sentences. Our ears and brains had cut out all the crap and what we thought we heard was what the other person INTENDED to say rather than what he/she actually said.

So transcribing interviews is a laborious process. It can take three times as long to transcribe a chat as it took for it to happen. So an hour of chat might take three hours to transcribe even before turning it into something which flows. And then, of course, there is intonation – or even a casual or ironic glances of the eyes. Intonation and unspoken implication can totally change the meaning of what is said.

In the 1960s there was a very late-night BBC TV series which aimed to help people – mostly new immigrants – learn English. It included acted-out scenes. One such sketch took place in a Post Office with a long queue. 

When he eventually reached the counter, the first customer simply asked for “A first class stamp, please…”

The second customer – not a native English speaker, but trying to be very polite – asked for “a first class stamp, PLEASE”… The Post Office person serving him, bristled.

The point being made was that, by emphasising the PLEASE with that particular intonation in that particular situation, instead of being polite, the impression the customer communicated was extreme annoyance at having queued for so long. The sentence was polite. The communicated emotion was confrontational annoyance. The intonation mis-communicated the actual spoken words.

Because transcribing a recorded chat can be time-consuming and very dull, a few years ago, I tried to use speech recognition software, thinking it would type out what was said in real time and I would only have to do some minor tidying-up and re-punctuation of some sections.

It turned out I was being over-optimistic, as the below section of a chat with an anonymous British comedian shows. The eventual edited interview, I think/hope, showed them in their true vocally fluent light.

This is how the speech recognition software transcribed the exact recorded words…


What happened was that was. My most successful show today. And that was me as me whereas before that. I had been. Doing character based. Comedy. And I was. The. One. Who was the most successful. Because I trained for many many years to be an actor. And so I didn’t really want to do stand up. But I did that show with me and it was the most successful. And. I. Think I just felt like I’d plateaued plateaued be. That I didn’t have much else to say.

It’s all out of love with it because it was fantastic but I’ve got. To come back. With something else. I wanted it to be. And I didn’t want to rush into the mix. And I kind of had enough of the whole Edinburgh. Training I’ve done about. Six Edinburgh’s in a row. By that point. You don’t want what you’ve got. Well. You know I did. Six. Shows. Including that one up to 20 as I’d been reading yeah. You know. All. Went. 

Yeah. So you need. Help basically. So I had someone. Who was amazing. Help me out. Did. She was. Just. Like. Those bums on seats. It was the least. Stressful. One. And I just felt that if I didn’t follow I wanted it to be as good. As much. And I just didn’t feel like. It. Felt like I. Felt a bit jaded my head. And. The thought of having another show and doing the same. Circuit. Again straight away. So. This. Year. I just. Might.

I mean I’ve always done. Acting and. That’s. What. I really wanted was. And. I had. Up until that point as. Where. What. I call a mortgage. Job. Which most people. Have. Which was an office job. A horrible office job five. Days a Week. With. You. Know not made to any of my strengths and just to just pay the bills. I started to build. Quite. Happy. And. I thought you know what it’s. Time to move on. So I did.


That might be an extreme case but I think it shows some of the ways real people talk, constructing thoughts as they speak… To an extent, it ain’t what you say, it’s the way that you say it. That’s what gets results.

Conversation – and writing – is about communication and the human brain is designed to spot patterns, so clarity is often in the ear and the brain of the beholder far more than the mouth of the speaker. 

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Filed under Eccentrics, Language

Cult creative performer/painter The Iceman turns children’s book author…

Anthony Irvine – The Iceman – appears occasionally in this blog.

I first auditioned his stage act – melting blocks of ice – in 1987.

In a later incarnation – AIM – he added painting to his creative output. Some of his fine art can be bought from the Saatchi Art website.

For example, a painting of his first ice block – Crazy Larry’s Painting – is currently on offer at a bargain price of £4,280.

And now Anthony has become an author…


JOHN: So you are now an author as well as a performer and painter…

ANTHONY: I have a literary background. When I was a young man, I studied literature at a very ancient institution.

JOHN: Bedlam?

Debbie’s fantastical adventures with Antarctic animals…

ANTHONY: It’s a children’s book called Lockdown Melter.

JOHN: And you presumably wrote it during the Covid block-down…

ANTHONY: Yes. I thought of everybody suffering. It’s a fantasy where a young child – Debbie – is frustrated with the situation and escapes with the aid of Lappy, a polar bear – a small polar bear – who she meets in her bedroom and she goes on this adventure to Antarctica.

To facilitate this adventure, Lappy instructs her to get some ice cubes from the fridge freezer. The ice cubes are put on her head and there’s a magical transformation and she goes on this journey.

The idea is that Antarctica is a pristine, beautiful, relatively-undamaged place that we can all go to; the animals are in harmony and, in the story, the penguin says…

JOHN: The penguin?

ANTHONY: Yes, the penguin… There’s a penguin… As I wrote it, I thought: This is an amazing parallel to my Iceman stage act. It retains an ice theme. In a sense, I melt blocks of ice to achieve purification. Similarly, Debbie is finding something away from this world really – saṃsāra and all that.

JOHN: Saṃsāra ?

Anthony Irvine – his self portrait…

ANTHONY: The Buddhist concept of suffering. Do you chant?

JOHN: Not as far as I know.

ANTHONY: Lockdown Melter was a very simple story but I quite liked it, so I approached a publisher, Olympia, who have an imprint called Bumblebee who have published it.

JOHN: Well, if you write a good children’s story that doesn’t date – it’s a fantasy – it’ll sell forever and internationally.

ANTHONY: You can get it from WH Smith, Foyles, Browns Books, the Book Depository, Waterstones, Amazon, the lot…

JOHN: You should tell Waterstones you will do a signing of the book AND melt a block of ice the same time. That should get people in. Does JK Rowling melt blocks of ice in a bookshop? No. She’s just not trying hard enough.

ANTHONY: Perhaps I should go Banksy-style and sell a book that melts. You know his picture that shredded itself? 

JOHN: Yes. The water from your melted book might be worth a fortune.

ANTHONY: Is it technically possible?

JOHN: I dunno. You are The Iceman. Why become an author?

ANTHONY: I used to tell stories to my young son and I guess I’d always had the thought I might write a children’s story. It is really for young children. The idea is young children could read it themselves or parents could read it to them; it’s more like a picture book. So then I realised I had to get the pictures.

The illustrator is actually Greek: Sofia Stefanis Pons. She did some nice – I think dramatic – illustrations. My pictures were declined as being too ‘rough’. But hers are great.

Debbie meets Lappy for the first time… illustration by Sofia Stefanis Pons…

JOHN: So do you have an idea for a second book?

ANTHONY: Yes. I like the innocence of Lockdown Melter.

When I was a child, I was very unhappy at one point and I built an arch with stiff cushions. I went through the arch and discovered I was happy. So the Lockdown Melter idea is simple but it is like going somewhere and attaining awareness. It’s the same principle.

Debbie goes on a journey. She meets animals who are nice to her and she finds the Antarctic world all very beautiful and something happens at the end which I can’t give away. But I think the idea of the story is the idea that human beings – the human race – need help and in this story it’s the penguin who gives that help.

JOHN: The penguin?

ANTHONY: Yes, the penguin… There’s a penguin… Next time I think Debbie might go to the Sahara.

JOHN: Difficult to work ice blocks into that story.

ANTHONY: An ice block could bring irrigation to the Sahara… I think if this first book is successful I WILL continue with the writing idea.

Anthony Irvine’s educational Thespian Follies, coming soon

I have already written 13 little plays for drama classes in schools. That book is due to be published soon. It’s called Thespian Follies.

It’s an educational resource; I’m going quite mainstream, aren’t I?

Ice blocks were my life and still are my life to some extent but I feel I have to do a bit more. My next ambition is to write a Channel 4 type series: a bit like The Outlaws but based on car rental. When I was in debt at one point, I did a job at Hertz car hire, cleaning cars and taking them out to the Army and so on: that’s a ready-made situation comedy.

JOHN: You could call it Hertz of Darkness.

ANTHONY: I was thinking of calling it Hurts… That’s my next project.

Maybe writing will displace painting in time, but at the moment my main activity is still painting. I’m trying to sell Bill Bailey a painting; I’m playing tennis with his accountant this afternoon.

I sold a painting to Mark Thomas at the Electric Palace in Bridport recently. He was on tour and I hadn’t seen him for about 40 years. He gave me his book and I sold him a painting in which he appears.

JOHN: You are a born entrepreneur. JK Rowling will have to start learning how to melt blocks of ice…

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Filed under Art, Books, Children, eccentric

Facebook attacks the long-established UK tradition of a ‘banger-up-the-bum’

It seems to have taken six months for Facebook to decide that sticking a banger up your bum is unacceptable. This message arrived just before 07.00am this morning (UK time). Bad news for fans of football and Chris Lynam…

The above was posted in a members-only Facebook group for fans of the late comedian Malcolm Hardee.

I think the picture of England football fans in Leicester Square during the Euro 2020 Championsip was taken from the UK newspaper Metro – owned by Associated Newspapers, publishers of the Daily Mail – or possibly from the BBC News website, though I can’t quite remember. It was also published online by the Daily Mail itself.

I can’t help but feel this frown from Facebook demonstrates a cultural gap between UK (possibly European) and US sensibilities. Sticking a banger-up-your-bum is a commendably British tradition which started in the 1980s – 40 years ago.

Comedian Malcolm Hardee, in his 1996 autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake, tells how the revered banger-up-the-bum routine originated…


One of the most popular acts with any Tunnel audience that enjoyed General De Gaulle was Chris Lynam, who had been so kind to me when Pip was ill.

He was in The Greatest Show on Legs at one point and we were all sitting round saying:

“How can we follow The Balloon Dance? We’re all naked. What can we do? We just have to walk off stage. There’s no way to finish it!”

“Well,” I said, “You might as well stick a banger up your arse!”

“Good idea!” Chris said: “You do it!”

So I was the first one to do it. But I only did it once.

You don’t actually stick the banger up your arse, you just clench it between your buttocks, then light it. I didn’t have the necessary muscle-control. It drooped a bit and set light to the hairs on my testicles. I said to Chris:

“You’d better do it”.

So now the finish to his act involves putting a firework up his bottom, then an extravagant version of There’s No Business Like Show Business starts playing on loudspeakers, the firework is lit, goes off and he exits the stage trailing glorious sparks. Sometimes it’s a three-stage Roman Candle shooting forth increasingly spectacular jets of silver sparkles. Good finish. Difficult to follow.

The first year he did it in Edinburgh, we were playing a little pub called The Comedy Boom. It wasn’t very big, but we got the Banger Up The Bum routine passed by a Fire Officer called Maurice Gibb. That’s his real name. It just is. We did the routine the first night then the landlord said he wouldn’t let us do it again. He said:

“You’re not doing that in my pub!”

I said we’d compromise. At the end of our show, we’d take the audience outside and do it in the street. So we did that the second night and it wasn’t just the audience from the show who were there: it drew a bit of a crowd. The landlord said:

“No! You’re not doing that again. It’s bringing my pub into disrepute!”

So we had to video the routine and show the audience the video and it wasn’t the same.

On the last night of our run, I decided we’d do it again for real. We’d been paid already, so fuck the landlord. I was sick of it. We’d had other rows about our act – obviously.

So Chris Lynam bought an extra-large firework.

That night – banger in the bottom – light it – No Business Like Show Business – and it set the pub alight. Just the wall. A bit of plaster. It wasn’t much damage. But some people…. moan, moan, moan.

The next year, The Greatest Show on Legs played The Assembly Rooms, the big, prestige venue at the Edinburgh Fringe. Same thing again. The Fire Officer passed it. First night went without a hitch. Lovely. On the second night, for some reason, it set off all the fire alarms in The Assembly Rooms and they had to evacuate the entire building – about 3,000 people had to evacuate, including our audience and some Russians who were doing a four-hour play and only had three minutes left to go.

We were all standing around outside The Assembly Rooms – a motley crew – when the fire engines turned up with Maurice Gibb. He was there, ready with the hose. Then he saw me naked, saw Chris Lynam, and said:

“Banger up the bum?”.

“Yes,” I said.

“Hoses away, lads!” he said.

And off they went.

The Russians – fair play to them – went back upstairs and did the last three minutes of their play.


YouTube has a clip of Chris Lynam’s routine, as shown nationally on France’s Got Talent in 2014…

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

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

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

Dr David Weeks’ academic analysis…

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

Yesterday, I got an email from John Ward:

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

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

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

“I have heard no more.”

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

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

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

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A fond memory of eccentric – and very noisy – comedy performer Chis Luby

John Ward made the Malcolm Hardee Awards

Mad inventor John Ward is a man of many parts, many of them going spare. He designed and built the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award trophies and I have occasionally booked him on TV shows. 

One was in 1988 on the weekly ITV series Prove It! Participants had to ‘prove’ they could do something bizarre.

John now writes a weekly column for the Spalding Guardian newspaper and today he remembered fellow eccentric Chris Luby. Here are some of his memories:


The late Chris Luby was absolutely brilliant at ‘noise impressions’ such as a WW2 spitfire starting up, going down a runway and into battle, trains on the underground that to the untrained ear sounded very real plus many more.

I first met him some years ago when we both appeared on an ITV telly show called Prove It! presented by Chris Tarrant

We both recorded the pilot show plus both appeared in the first episode while I appeared in the whole series on a thirteen week basis presenting assorted inventions and gadgets.

Chrises Tarrant and Luby

Day one was rehearsal day with everybody involved getting to know each other, then going through our paces plus a studio run-through, then – all those still breathing – off to our designated hotels for a clean-up before dinner.

I was on the same table as Chris (Luby) for dinner/supper and it was an experience sitting there, looking at the menu while hearing about The train now leaving platform whatever… and going through to Kings Cross station, with all the assorted sounds and voices.

He sat there, menu covering his face, making these noises and, apart from the fact they were ‘spot on’ and very realistic, my thoughts were: “Does he ever stop!?”

He was doing his impression of whatever plane it was as the waiter came over to us to ask if we were ready to order. I said we would, just as soon as my companion came in to land.

The look on the poor waiter’s face was a classic as he didn’t know what was going on but then nor did I… but I was learning – I hoped.

The first night we spent in the lounge bar area of the hotel and, yes, he carried on going like a good ‘un with his assorted impressions of objects and people.

Eventually it was off to bedtime and I did sleep very well all things considered as it had been a really long day.

So imagine being woken up the next morning by what sounded like a detachment of the Grenadier Guards at the bedroom door, ‘marching on the spot’ outside.

I know I had asked for an alarm call but this was pushing it a bit.

I then heard what could be called a sergeant major’s ‘rallying call’ or “Git ‘art of bed, you ‘orribel little man!!!” as it dawned on me (well, it was by then daylight) it could be only Chris Luby. 

Does he ever stop? I asked myself.

Chris Luby – N0-one ever slept in HIS shows

His initial appearance had him in a Coldstream Guard’s uniform, coming through the middle of the stage curtains, making the sounds of a marching regiment… hobbling on crutches as he had broken his leg a week or so beforehand.

Culture didn’t come any better than this.

He used to perform about a twenty minute act consisting of assorted ‘sounds’ or noises, many military based and he made a decent living from it on the comedy circuit.

Sadly there is not much on the internet about him apart from the fact he passed away in January 2014 following an accident at his home when he tumbled downstairs.

That ended the life and sounds of ‘The Man of Many Noises’.

He wasn’t what you might call a ‘mainstream’ entertainer but anybody you mentioned his name to in ‘the show business’ always broke into a smile as they all seem to have a Chris anecdote.

He was one of those unique but talented people that, once met or seen, never forgotten.


SoundCloud has an audio clip of Chris Luby impersonating an RAF fly-past at the legendarily raucous church funeral of Malcolm Hardee in 2005…

…and YouTube has a clip of John Ward (though sadly not Chris Luby) on Prove It!

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Mad inventor has knee replacement surgery in the age of Covid… or not

Mad inventor and Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award designer John Ward had a hip replacement in 1998, a knee replacement in 2002 and his other hip was replaced in 2007.

Guess what. 

He now needs his second knee replaced.

John appears to be re-constructing himself but remains unreconstructed.

“When my first hip was replaced,” he told me, “I encountered a Chinese doctor in the early assessment stages and it seems somebody at my local clinic, who ‘knew’ me, had put a note on my folder that I had appeared on ITV’s Game For a Laugh a few years before and so, when the doctor spotted this, he suddenly shouted out: ‘Haaaa! – You breen on Game for a Raft!!!!!!!!’…

“This was the nautical version, I am given to believe.”

John was supposed to have his new knee replacement two Tuesdays ago (12th May). But it never happened.

This is what he told me in emails:


TUESDAY 11th May – 1316 hrs

I went for me tests last week, had a chat with the nurse and the physio at Grantham Hospital and had ‘final’ swab tests this past Sunday morning (9th May) at Boston’s Pilgrim Hospital and then, if the tests are all OK, the operation is tomorrow (12th May), reporting for duty at 7.00am.

From what I can gather, the op will be in the afternoon or thereabouts, possibly late morning as it’s a sort of ‘conveyor belt’ routine by the sounds of it. ‘In theory’, I should be back in the ward late afternoon to early evening.

From conversations with the nurse and the physio, I will stay in hospital for a couple of days ‘in theory’ then, unless ‘anything’ happens (infections etc). I should be out possibly Friday or Saturday – with Sunday at the latest – but we shall see!


TUESDAY 11th May – later that same day – 1814 hrs

The op is not going to happen tomorrow, as I have just had a call from the hospital to say the surgeon has been called to deal with a ‘high trauma’ case. I got the impression it’s a road traffic accident.

So now the op is going to happen – all being well – this coming Sunday, 16th May.

…unless, of course, another nut-job gets into a traffic accident…

Yours, a slightly pissed-off patient.


SUNDAY 16th May 

Panic over, as I am back home 😦 

I was in the ward, just getting ready to go on the trolley down to the operating theatre, when they noticed a small cut/wound on my leg – This reads as ‘an infection’ in their book so they cancelled the op…

I will go back (hopefully…) in the next 3-4 weeks for the op as the cut/wound will be healed up by then.

I must admit it’s not much of a cut/wound but, with this bloody coronavirus, they are not taking ANY chances.

Going back to bed now as I have been up since half four this morning and it’s been a bit stressful, moreso the waiting for a lift back.

They did get a  taxi for me, so full marks there.


MONDAY 17th May

The small wound/cut happened when I was out shopping… Some dozy arsehole banged me leg with a shopping trolley outside Sainsbury’s.

Had my op gone to plan last Wednesday (12th May), I would not have suffered this ‘injury’ although who will play me when they do the film I can’t even think about at this moment in time.

Yesterday, the surgeon was sympathetic. He explained he would not operate as the risk was too high, more so with the virus adding into it all. He seemed more upset then me to be honest.

He said I was not the first or the last and this does happen quite often. 

This didn’t really fill me with joy.

He asked if I had suffered other, similar events. I told him no, not that I could recall. But my biggest failure – or regret – was  not ‘coming out’ as a lesbian years ago as I missed out on having my own series on Channel 4 and my own range of cosmetics.

Judging by his response I think I have a new fan.


I asked John if he was a good patient.

“Interestingly,” he told me, “I seem to be on ‘first name’ terms with all the surgeons/consultants I have encountered so far, while fellow patients address them as Mister.”

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An Italian archaeologist, a Soviet agent and the weird perils of auto-translate

In March 2017, I posted a blog headed: The death of an Italian archaeologist who knew so many 20th century secrets.

This morning, a Comment was left on that blog. I reprint it here without comment by me and without anything cut out, though with some additional paragraphing to make it easier to read…


Much has been said about Maurizio Tosi. Little that Maurizio Tosi as well as a cultured archaeologist among the five best known in the world was a technician rich in intuition. Furthermore, he was extremely astute and had a network of distributed intelligence informants who only did the story good. Marlene Dietrich and prof. Franco Malosso von Rosenfranz, had been equally educated in history as in music by dr. Bechstein Giuseppe Becce.The Vicentine composer of German Cinema had been a pupil of Ferdinand von Richthofen, thus quickly maturing on the story of Monika, the daughter of Hans Ertl, inventor and fellow cameraman of Becce, as well as avenger of the murder of Che Guevara, who later fell very young in an ambush of the spies of Klaus Barbie. In the GDR first, in South America and RFT later, both Prof. Franco von Rosenfranz who is prof. Maurizio Tosi, came from very similar experiences even though they were aware that one and the other could be mutually respectful rivals. Also very different in specialness.

Later, however, they discover themselves linked by the same affinities. Tosi had survived unscathed more than a few traps. Equally Franco Malosso. Between 1992 and 2002 Tosi began to secretly take an interest in the events of his land (Verona). More precisely to the true story of Romeo and Juliet by Luigi Da Porto originated in the district of Arcugnano. In 1307 Tosi ascertained that the thirteen-year-old girl had then migrated to Verona from the Emilei. The story was brought forward and magically made famous all over the world thanks to an Englishman of Sicilian origin who had previously escaped from prison, John Florio (Shakespeare) from Messina because he was a heretic. A legacy told of 2 lovers who tell of a swim they started from the basin of the amphitheater to the beach of “Monticello delle Capra”, the hill on which, 200 years later, the architect Palladio built the villa “La Rotonda” in the style of a Pagan temple dedicated to the God Janus. Its terraces had recently been cleaned up after a reclamation.

The research started by the Vicenza academic prof. Renato Cevese continued to be studied in depth by Prof. Tosi. However, they remained interrupted under threat and a staff member was reprimanded after a brief kidnapping of him. The cause of everything were illegal constructions built near the top of the Amphitheater. It was here that the money paid for the institutional massacre of the Italian judge Paolo Borsellino was invested. Between 1997 and 2002 when the bulldozers destroyed the remains of a centuries-old underground canalization. these works became a beast for the amphitheater. However, in order not to jeopardize operations of undercover agents, the protests for those works were abruptly stopped. Later they were definitively accepted so that the situation normalized. In 2014, with greater impetus, new works resumed thanks also to the funding of local sponsors. The terraces of the theater were repaired and new blocks were replaced with those looted in 2002 (they had been used to form a retaining wall to hold back the washout of the hill excavated to house the foundations of the illegal villas).

The professor was murdered for refusing to ask the sponsors of the amphitheater for the sum of 5 million euros demanded by the hidden Italian institutional mafia. The elimination of him had become a priority for the leaders of the Mafia Dome since the Tosi in retaliation to the request of the 5 million euros, had begun to investigate the realization of the Borgo Berga Court. On the court together with the DESPAR Logistics area owned by the massacre Matteo Messina Denaro, the journalist Marco Milioni argued that there was a Mafia investigation (Ndrangheda). National Liberation Front of the Veneto and then recklessly asked for the demolition of the new illegal court that invaded the view of the “Rotonda”. Tosi also feared the exit of Vicenza from UNESCO.

This concept was best expressed by him through public conferences. At that point, an ecologist informing the staff warned that Tosi would soon be murdered by a member of the criminal gang of kidnappers of the Magliana (a criminal structure used by the Italian government for kidnapping for the purpose of etortion and murder). Shortly afterwards, to avoid inconvenient witnesses, the ecologist who had informed the professor was also shot and killed. A Mossad agent who had mediated for a settlement solution in this institutional extortion also disappeared. Tosi’s death was an immense loss for the international community. In depth and execution, it is comparable to that of the Italian political statesman Aldo Moro, killed by his party comrades. This type of executions are part of those among the most ferocious and shameless extreme criminal operations organized by politics within the Italian government passed under control with the USA after 10 July 1943. Operations in reality never advocated by the massacre of the entire American community.

Before and after these events there were at least 9 murders linked to the attempt by mafias to take over the amphitheater. The Conservator of the English landscape in the Amphitheater was also the victim of as many attacks: Franco von Rosenfranz who, however, although seriously injured, escaped death. The most serious intimidation attack occurred during a show trial against him to cover up the extortion. During the battle spent in defense of the surrounding Amphitheater, his 3-year-old son disappeared. Inside the amphitheater, on the anniversary of the death of prof. Maurizio Tosi, without fuss as for his desire, a bust dedicated to him was inaugurated in memory of his tireless work that the eminent scholar courageously brought forward to the extreme sacrifice. Maurizio Tosi was a victim of the Mafia. . On social media, young Italians who were functional supporters of the mafia extortion defamed him, mocking him. Also in the media cavea of ​​the Amphitheater, near the sculpture carved in the rock depicting the ancient winged canine deity (Winged Lion of the ancient Veneti) Veneti friends have dedicated a stele to him.

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Filed under Eccentrics, Mental health, Psychology