Tag Archives: eccentric

Live forest sex in Canada amid massage parlours and marijuana plantations

After reading yesterday’s blog about live sex on-stage at a rock festival in Norway, this blog’s occasional correspondent Anna Smith sent me the following from Vancouver.


The ever interesting Anna Smith

Anna Smith: woman with a past

It’s not that unusual for people to have sex in the forest here. It’s a bit less crowded than the beach.

Most of British Columbia is conveniently covered in forest. Forestry is a major industry, it may even provide more jobs than massage parlours, but not as many as the marijuana plantations. Work in the orchards, fishing and mushroom-picking industries is more seasonal. Tree planting, logging, sawmills, pulp & paper and forest fires provide a lot of work year round and excitement every summer. Fire fighters pour in from across the continent, livening up small towns and dumping toxic water bombs from helicopters onto burning railway trestles to the delight of intoxicated teenage ferry passengers.

I have always turned down any job that involves having sex on stage. So I did find it hilarious that, when I was dancing in the Belgian Porno cinemas (which was not quite the same thing as the Belgian Congo, although the cinemas could be described as conflict zones), the signs outside the cinemas advertised Live Sex Show but it was just me doing a striptease. We had to sign lengthy contracts in quadruplicate stating that, if we were performing with wild animals or on the trapeze, we were responsible for our own insurance.


Anna’s father sounds interesting. She also sent me this:


Anna Smith last night, "after three days of sleeping on a psychiatrist’s couch"

A photo taken last night of Anna Smith, “after three days of sleeping on a psychiatrist’s couch, not wearing any make-up.”

My father is asleep right now, which I am glad of as he has a large hole on the top of his head. He looks like he has been hit by shrapnel and I am very glad he did not remove his cap at the concert on Saturday, although he did threaten to.

His friend, a languages professor from Manchester, pleaded that he not remove his cap.

I asked the professor: “What’s the matter? Don’t you have a hole in your head?”

He said he did not, so I asked him where he did have holes – a question which did not displease him.

We were in a church. There was an announcement over the PA system that someone had left their headlights on and that they should be turned off.

My father pretended that it was an announcement that someone had left their cap on and, again, threatened to remove his.

After the concert, we noticed two spooky effigies against the wall. One represented a refugee and the other a homeless person with angel’s wings.


I have no explanation for the above.


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Filed under Canada, Eccentrics, Sex, Surreal

English Elf Lyons on her duck flu, Barbarella and a dog in a gimp suit

Elf Lyons at Soho Theatre in London

Elf Lyons ordered pizza this week at Soho Theatre in London

In yesterday’s blog,  I mentioned in passing that I met comedian and writer Elf Lyons at Soho Theatre in London. She ate pizza.

“I came up with this world…” she told me. “This sitcom idea. I got really excited, then realised all the tangents and all the character layers couldn’t really exist in a one hour play, so I’ve written lots of different episodes. And I’m doing the first 45-minute pilot, as it were, next Thursday for three nights at the Etcetera Theatre in Camden.

“It’s based around me and my sister – two siblings stuck in a country farm. There’s this flu – Duck Flu – which turns people into ducks, but human-sized ducks. The only way you can tell if you have not got it is to drink tea. If your body can cope with tea, then you clearly have not got it. If you don’t want tea, then you have got the infection and you are going to have to be killed.”

“Can’t you,” I suggested, “just look in a mirror to see if you are a duck?”

“No,” said Elf, “because it starts with a sneeze, then a cough, then a quack…”

“Not a waddle or a quack, but a glide and a whistle and a snowy white back?” I suggested.

Duck Flu - Elf Lyons

Duck Flu – a simple tale of humanoid ducks

“Basically,” said Elf, “the two sisters are together and they’re slightly psychopathic. They are going to kill their mum. They have killed their dad – not because they had to, but because they needed to, because they would turn into ducks.”

“So it’s written as social realism,” I suggested.

“Yes,” said Elf, “Me and my family have this conversation all the time about what we would do in an apocalypse if someone died. On my computer, I have saved everyone’s funeral songs and what readings we would want. I want to make sure, if anything did happen, I would have it already organised. That may be a bit perverse, but in a nice way.”

“Where do you come from?” I asked.

“Crookham Hill in Kent. We have lots of horses and sheep and we were thinking: Oh no! If there were an apocalypse, who would look after the horses? And the sheep? And we’ve got dogs. Where would we move everybody? And what weapons would you use? Duck Flu spawned from that. And there are also some evil vegans in it.”

“Why evil vegans?” I asked.

“I don’t trust vegans,” explained Elf. “I remember when I joined my Vegan Society at Bristol University they were lovely but I sort-of expected the Tales of The Unexpected music to play any second.”

Tales of The Unexpected is before your time,” I said.

“My mum,” explained Elf, “when she was little, used to watch Tales of The Unexpected on TV and you know the woman who dances in the titles? My Granddad Squeak, who’s my mum’s dad, told my mum that it was her mum dancing – that it was Nanny Squeak.”

“You have a granddad called Squeak?” I asked.

“Yes. Because they had a cat called Squeak and my Nanny and Granddad Station – my dad’s mum and dad, they…”

“Station?” I asked.

“Yes. They always came down to visit us by train.”

“So we have a family here,” I said, “who have a daughter called Elf, and grandparents called Squeak and Station. What does your dad do?”

“He’s an economist – He’s the Economic Advisor to Boris Johnson.”

“But he’s not attached to Boris as such?” I asked. “He’s attached to whoever the Mayor of London happens to be?”

“Yes. He’s politically neutral.”

“But mildly eccentric?” I asked.

Afternoon tea with Elf includes interesting conversation

Afternoon tea with English Elf from a ‘quite’ eccentric family

“My family are quite eccentric,” said Elf. “Well, they ARE eccentric.”

“Siblings?” I asked.

“I have a little sister called Lulu. Her real name is Marie-Louise Kezia, but everyone calls her Lulu. She used to be a horse rider.”

“Professionally?”

“Yes. She was always away horse-riding but she had an epiphany after she had an accident and realised she wanted to help people. So now she is 21 and at university doing bio-medicine. My brother Gerard is 17 and at school doing his A-levels. He looks like a young George Michael from Wham.”

“Gerard seems to be a very normal name for your family,” I said.

“Well, he likes to be nick-named Chat.”

“Why?”

“Because he’s so witty.”

“Interesting family,” I said. “You were called Elf as a child?”

“No. I was just Emily-Anne but, when I went to university – when I first went to the Edinburgh Fringe in 2009, when I was 18 – I was volunteering at the Forest Fringe as an usher and loads of the guys who would come and buy tickets would say: Oh, you’re very elf-like.”

“Loads of them?” I asked.

“Loads,” replied Elf. “Because I had very short hair and I was sitting down. People always assume I’m going to be really short when they meet me.

“The Fringe was mind-blowing and I was staying on my own. I remember sitting in the Underbelly garden and then going up to somebody and saying: I’m really sorry, but do you want to be my friend? I don’t know anyone and I don’t know where to start.

“Then I met this really lovely Australian comic called Daniel Walmsley who was working on Mark Watson’s 24-Hour Show, so I got to sneak in and watch that and I met all these people and you know all those films where the kid gets the job at the Amusement Park and he meets all these kookie characters?”

“Your hair is slightly red,” I observed.

“I’m naturally a brighter ginger, because my dad is Irish. But I like dying my hair every now-and-again just to… to do something exciting.”

“And you have another show you are preparing…?” I said.

Being Barbarella. My new solo show.”

“But you are going to need a blonde wig for that?” I suggested.

“Yeah, you know the opening of the film? She takes off all her clothes. She takes off her spacesuit and her helmet and her hair just flows everywhere and I’m going to re-create that. I will take off my spacesuit quite slowly.”

Being Barbarella -  Elf Lyons

Being Barbarella – Elf Lyons, possibly in a wig

“Still my beating heart,” I said.

“The whole show,” explained Elf, “is about me trying to be sexy, but getting it wrong. And I talk a lot about sharks.”

“Why?”

“Because I love sharks. The first book I ever read was about sharks. I think they’re amazing.”

“But you wouldn’t want one for a pet,” I suggested.

“My family adopted a bluetip reef shark for me for Christmas.”

“Where does it live?” I asked.

“In the sea.”

“Which sea?”

“I don’t know. I have a certificate on my wall. I need to re-adopt it. I have got a pen pal and we have been swapping advice and she has told me I should adopt a donkey and I told her to adopt a shark.”

“Do you like donkeys?” I asked.

“I think you can’t be too judgmental,” said Elf.

“So…” I said, “Being Barbarella…”

“It’s basically about me trying to be my own idol and trying to be a sexy comedian.”

“Was Barbarella your main teenage fantasy?” I asked.

“No. My fantasy was Jane Eyre. Nanny Squeak took me to see a 4-hour production of Jane Eyre: The Musical - at the Bob Hope Theatre in Eltham. Mr Rochester’s dog was a man dressed as a gimp. In a gimp suit. It had nothing to do with the show. I’m pretty sure it was Jane Eyre: The Musical. It might have been a really weird pantomime. Do you want a bit of pizza?”

Elf Lyons - pizza

Elf Lyons before realising her pizza mistake

“You don’t like the crusts?” I asked.

“They’re not fun. If they gave me butter I would eat them, but it’s too late now.”

“You met up with Joz Norris the other day,” I said.

“We went back to my flat and just sat in my room and we ate Magnum ice creams and drank non-alcoholic beer and talked about Socrates. I’ve been reading about Socrates in The Consolations of Philosophy by Alain de Botton. It’s really good.”

“You should do a show with Joz,” I suggested.

“I like Joz’s comedy,” said Elf, “because he allows himself to be vulnerable. There is that thin layer that’s so fragile between… You know when people talk about something that’s slightly dark? If you put too much pressure on it, it turns away from being funny to putting the audience in a difficult position.

“We were talking about the difference between comics who write specifically to get a laugh and those whose by-product of what they are talking about is the laugh. Because, when I write, my objective isn’t always that there is the laugh at the end, but the laugh will come because the things I’m interested in talking about are funny in themselves.”

I will be going to see Elf’s shows.

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Filed under Comedy, Eccentrics, Humor, Humour

Slugs having sex, dogs high on drugs, sawing-up cars & comedy in cemeteries

The Bo Diddlers diddling last night (Photo by my eternally-un-named friend)

The Bo Diddlers last night via the comedian from Venus (Photograph by my eternally-un-named friend)

Strange things are happening.

No change there, then.

Last night I saw Ewan Wardrop aka The Silver Peevil, the stand-up comedian from 1930s Venus – aka a George Formby one-man play – aka a former Matthew Bourne principal dancer – perform an astonishing hour-long dance show Stump! with his six-man morris dancing troupe The Bo Diddlers.

It is very rare to see a morris dance based on The Midwich Cuckoos book/Village of The Damned film nor another based on what appeared to be the Dawn of Man ape sequence from the movie 2001. Astonishingly original choreography.

“They are gorgeous,” said my eternally-un-named friend, “Captivating. They made me feel like dancing. You know the way boy bands have dolls they sell to fans? This group could have figurines. You could arrange them dancing on your mantlepiece.”

“Maybe,” I said.

The Bo Diddlers are repeating the show at The Place tonight.

Soiree in a Cemetery

A fully sold-out soirée in a Cemetery somewhere in London

Which clashes with the one-off Martin Soan/Adam Taffler event Soirée in a Cemetery in which comedian Stewart Lee, the British Humanist Association Choir and others perform a comedy show in a Victorian cemetery somewhere in London (it’s a secret until later today) – all accompanied by cake and hot spiced cider from the Women’s Institute. Tickets have sold out.

Slightly eccentric you might think. But only comparatively.

I have received an email from mad inventor John Ward, who designed the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards trophies. He lives in Lincolnshire. He tells me he is in a documentary being premiered next Wednesday at the Vancouver International Film Festival.

The film is called A Different Drummer after a quote from Walt Whitman: I step to the beat of a different drummer. Not surprisingly, as John Ward is featured, it is about eccentrics. There is a trailer on YouTube.

What is it about Vancouver? Is it becoming the world centre of eccentricity? Or has the entire world gone doolally?

This blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith lives in Vancouver. She spotted a notice:

Notice spotted by Anna Smith in Vancouver

Anna Smith spotted this in an educational Vancouver building

ATTN: Debriefing for the Porn & Genital Image Online Survey and the Romantic Relationships & Mindfulness Online Survey will now be held in room 1606.

Anna has also been watching TV and tells me:

“On the CBC, the big news is veterinary. Doctors are saying that far too many stoned dogs are showing up at clinics and they wish the owners would just be honest about the problem, because vets have to give the dogs expensive blood tests. The laboratories found that although, in a few dogs, traces of cocaine and heroin were detected, the overwhelming majority of the dogs had ingested too much marijuana. However, the veterinarians said that it is not lethal, not a reason to panic and the most common side effect is that – I quote – It gives the dogs the munchies…”

Without pause or link, Anna then asked me:

“Just wondering, have you ever taken a picture of slugs fucking?”

A reasonable enough question (it seemed to her) but I had to say I had not, although my eternally-un-named friend appears to be on a barely-controllable mission to eradicate slugs from Planet Earth. She was out in the dark again late last night.

Slugs mating with something coming out the bottom (Photo by Cathleen Smith, Anna's mother)

Slugs mating with something coming out (Photo by Cathleen Smith, Anna’s mum)

“My mum,” Anna Smith told me. “took pictures of slugs fucking. They created a thin string of slime about a metre long and were dangling from the roof all day, possibly for several days. I visited my mother whist this blessed event was taking place. I don’t know which slug was emitting the slime or if it was both of them or what that blob of goo is. We live in what is left of a rainforest. Slugs love it. People make fun of them.

“My grandmother used to wonder why there was so much fuss about slugs. She once asked: Why don’t people just eat them? They eat snails.

Anna had no answer to this. Neither do I.

Meanwhile, back in the UK, John Ward has started to tinker with motorised vehicles again.

John Ward with small but effective fire engine

John Ward with his small but effective fire-fighting engine

He was last heard-of in this blog arranging and supervising a charity cabbage-hurling event, but his last motorised effort was creating what is apparently the smallest fire engine in the world, based on the chassis of a 3-wheeled Robin Reliant car. He created it because the British government has been trying to save money and has closed various local fire stations. John Ward likes to help out.

He tells me his next effort involves stripping down another Robin Reliant to the chassis.

“I took the car apart,” he told me, “but what do you do with the body? It’s too big for our local rubbish tip. So I got a small bench saw and reduced it to a wheel barrow full of smaller bits before putting them into carrier bags – Tesco ones of course as every little helps. Then I took it to the tip.”

I have no idea where any of this leads – neither the sawing-up of 3-wheeler cars nor taking photographs of slugs mating; neither trained ballet dancers doing morris dancing nor holding comedy shows in cemeteries.

I can only sit back and wait expectantly.

Strange things are happening.

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Filed under Comedy, Dance, Eccentrics, Humor, Humour, Nature

Goat dragging and mounted girl chasing near climax at the World Nomad Games

Buzkashi_Game (Photo by Gideon Tsang via Wikipedia)

Buzkashi as played in Afghanistan (goat carcass on the right)  (Photograph by Gideon Tsang via Wikipedia)

In my blog yesterday, I mentioned that my friend Lynn had drawn to my attention that the first World Nomad Games are currently taking place in Kyrgyzstan – in fact, on the shores of Issyk-Kul, in Cholpon-Ata City.

Information on this event is, alas, a bit thin on the ground and I seem to have missed a BBC TV report from the Games. They started on Tuesday and climax tomorrow with the finals of the traditional Central Asian sport of Kok-Boru (goat dragging – also known as Buzkashi and Kokpar).

Unfortunately, this blog has no contacts in Kyrgyzstan (though I am open to offers), so I am reliant heavily on the BBC who were told by nomad storyteller Doolotbek Sidikov:

“We inherited Kok-Boru from our ancestors. Courageous and brave men were picked up to look after the horses and sheep and often wolves would attack them. When a pack of wolves would attack them, they would surround them in a circle and then grab the wolves with their bare hands to throw them away, sometimes tearing them apart. People then started using a dead goat as game to practise.”

It sounds similar to how football in Scotland developed from regular Saturday night drinking bouts in Glasgow.

A Kyrgyz stamp featuring horse wrestling

A Kyrgyz stamp featuring horse wrestling

But the World Nomad Games in Kyrgyzstan is far more that goat-dragging. It is a multi-sport event which also includes Oodarysh (wrestling on a horse), Tyin Emmei (picking up a coin while riding a horse at full speed) and the not-fully-explained Toguz Korkool. As far as I can figure out, this is something akin to a ‘board game’ played in a field of pits with 90 goat droppings.

Over-all,  400 athletes from 20 countries are taking part including competitors from Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Russia (Altai, Bashkiria, Buryatia, Yakutia etc), Tajikistan, Turkey,  Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

The organising committee point out that the “sports are in no way inferior in staginess and popularity of the modern Olympics. Games give powerful impetus to rebirth of original national sports, spiritual self-awareness.”

The Kyrgyzstan embassy also points out that “the near-absence of chemical fertilisers gives Kyrgyz beans an environmental purity that beans from other countries can’t match.”

Perhaps one of the nomad sports least likely to make a transition to the Olympic Games is Kyz-Kuumai – Chasing Girls On Horseback.

Dzangil Dairbekova whips boys

Dzangil Dairbekova told the BBC why she likes whipping boys

One of the sport’s female participants – Dzangil Dairbekova –  explains:

“I have competed in girl chasing for over four years now. Girl chasing is trying to avoid getting captured by a boy. If he catches her, he is allowed to kiss her three times but, if the girl escapes, then she can whip him three times. I have whipped boys many times. I love it and it makes me feel very much like a nomad.”

The BBC report on the World Nomad Games is on YouTube.

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

World Egg Throwing Federation President Andy Dunlop with enthusiastic tosser

World Egg Throwing Federation President Andy Dunlop with enthusiastic young tosser

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

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

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

My view as smashed Englishman Jerry Cullen fails

My view as smashing Englishman Jerry Cullen fails

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joel Hicks scrambling for safety yesterday

Joel Hicks was scrambling for safety yesterday

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

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

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

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

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

“Tough Mudder?” I asked.

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

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

“Tough Mudder,” Joel confirmed.

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

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

“Painful?” I asked.

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

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

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

Joel Hicks with right hand egg man John Deptford

Joel Hicks with the Championships’ l’eggman John Deptford

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

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

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

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

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

One girl did not have to throw so far yesterday

One little girl yesterday was right on target with her egg

“An assault course of nettles?” I asked.

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

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

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

A typical egg-plosion yesterday

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

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

“Very odd,” I said.

“Every weekend and sometimes twice,” said Joel.

“Out of the frying pan…” I said.

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

I saw the back of Andy Dunlop as I left yesterday

I was glad to see the back of Andy Dunlop yesterday

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

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

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

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

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Filed under Charity, Eccentrics, Humor, Humour, Sport

Today is April 1st. But this is true.

Racing driver Damon Hill in May 2012

Eleven years later. Racing driver Damon Hill in May 2012.

Today is April 1st.

But what follows is true.

I was thinking of pulling a stunt with a comedian today, but did not have time to set it up. And I am out meeting people most of today.

So, as I sometimes do, I had a look through my old e-diaries and what I did on this day in previous years.

On this day in 2001, I went round to the home of someone who had connections to a fairly well-known English criminal.

This person had a friend. That friend had a mother.

The mother was obsessed by Formula 1 motor racing driver Damon Hill. I do not think the word ‘obsessed’ is too strong.

In her living room (I saw it) she had a tyre from a Formula 1 racing car, signed by Damon Hill, which she had made into a coffee table by simply putting a sheet of glass on top of it.

She occasionally talked to the wheel and, when the family went out in their car, she had a life-size cut-out of Damon Hill which sat in the front passenger seat (with a seat belt round it) while she drove. Her husband and daughter sat in the rear seat.

That is true.

It is not an April Fool’s joke.

Life is strange.

People are stranger.

Which is good.

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An emotional breakdown and news of Bigfoot and Yetis in Vancouver, Canada

I have had an iPhone malfunction, which means I am temporarily unable to access the recordings of my chats with (in alphabetical order) Juliet Burton and Jenny Eclair. So, today, my blog is a simple posting of two e-mails I have received recently from this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith. She works in a bookshop in Vancouver, British Columbia. This is what she e-mailed two days ago:

______________

Anna Smith in the Vancouver bookshop

Anna Smith works in a Vancouver bookshop

Half an hour left of another undrunk day at the bookstore… I am writing this on my phone… Really, this place makes Black Books look like Enid Blyton.

Today the demolition of the Marble Arch Hotel’s innards was going full swing. They have lost their bin tarpaulin and clouds of white dust billow up from it. The workers hose the dust clouds sporadically… to no effect.

A couple of customers are in the store. One gent shakes his head. “They should have just burned it, he said, referring to the hotel.

Outside stand the inmates of the former hotel, dressed in the scrupulously outlandish style affordable only to the chronically unemployed… contrasting with the chunky workmen clad in dusty overalls who are gathered nearby.

A friendly hippy transvestite meanders into the bookshop wearing a home-made woollen hat, a shawl and a batiked skirt. She is looking for science fiction novels and confides that she is new in the neighborhood, having only lived here for seven months…

“Well, welcome,” I say, hiding my true feelings about the area. “Soon you will be able to apply for a passport.”

Just then the telephone rings. On the line is a young man in tears because a book of his has been damaged.

“The pages are alright,” he sobs, “but the spine…” At this point, he breaks down… “It will never be the same,” he cries. “I want to kill myself.”

I speak to him calmly, but in a firm tone.

“Wait a minute,” I say. “YOU are more important than the book. You should bring it in and I will show it to my boss. He is really good at repairing books.”

The sobs slow.

“Or else you could call Inquiry BC,” I suggest. “They can recommend the best way to deal with it.”

“I already called them,” he wails. “They said I should call YOU…”

______________

Some time after receiving that e-mail, I asked Anna to send me a photo of Bigfoot. I cannot remember why. But it seemed like a perfectly reasonable idea at the time.

Yesterday, I got this reply:

______________

Paul Fraser is a pianist

Paul Fraser, a pianist, will be 80 next month

Paul Fraser will be eighty in March. He is a pianist. He is gay. He says Bigfoot definitely exists and the Yeti too. I asked if they are gay and he laughed and said that he wasn’t sure about that.

After my shift at the store, I went to Blenz Coffee Shop with Vivian and Paul.

Paul is a lively beer-drinking, cigar-chomping bon vivant. He is charming, articulate and knows all the forgotten songs. He is well-dressed, in a flamboyantly scruffy cowboy-esque style.

The baristas at Blenz Coffee Shop are young Japanese girls.

We ordered our coffees and, when they arrived, Paul asked for a spoon.

The baristas did not give him a spoon.

“He wants a spoon,” I repeated helpfully, “for his sugar….”

They pretended not to understand us and cheerfully pointed to the stir sticks.

Vivian is a three hundred pound, five foot tall, exhausted, fifty-year-old Chipewyan.

She finally begged: “OH, FOR GODSAKES – GIVE HIM A SPOON. HE’S FROM THE 1920s! ”

Last week, Vivian told me that Paul had to get a passport.

“A passport?” I asked. “Why does he need a passport? I thought he was going into a home.”

“No, he got a job on a cruise ship,” Vivian said,

Last night, when Vivian invited me to visit Paul at his apartment, I said: “I thought he went to sea…”

“Oh no,” Vivian said. “He quit.”

I had never been to Paul’s apartment before.

We arrived there at about 11.00pm. Inside was a haze of cigar smoke and quantities of beer.

At about midnight, the doorbell rang. Paul said: “That will be Bob.”

7ft+ Bob plays guitar while Paul accompanies

7ft+ Bob plays guitar while Paul accompanies

Bob came up. He was 29 years old, over seven feet tall and dressed like a cowboy, except that he was wearing a very new baseball hat that said KOREA on it. He had big feet.

“Have you been in Korea?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Bob, then he took out a flashy-looking guitar, which he said was actually cheap, and played some popular songs while Paul gazed proudly at him.

Paul occasionally made comments about the songs like: “That was a hit for three months in 1941″ – and then they played some very pleasing piano and guitar duets. They are considering touring Japan together.

Paul  showed me his faded scrapbook with newspaper clippings of the performances of his youth (he played in Canada and Europe), his scholarship awards and clippings of other musicians he had met and admired, including Glenn Gould and Paul Robeson.

That was during the time when Robeson was excluded from playing overseas (his passport was cancelled during the McCarthy witch hunts), so Robeson came to Peace Arch Park which straddles the US/Canada border at White Rock (just south of Vancouver) and did a free peace concert there, which Paul Fraser attended.

He said it is OK if I want to send stuff about him for your blog.

Bigfoot

Bigfoot photographed at Bluff Creek, California

His scrapbook has odd clippings, like one about the first American-born viola player and other odd items. Another is about an early female black American singer. The article notes that she was admired for her modest dress sense and her good manners which endeared her to the crowds.

I must ask if Paul has ever had any Yetis – or Bigfoot – in his apartment.

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