Tag Archives: eccentrics

An Edinburgh Fringe show: PR Mark Borkowski on meeting “bonkers people”

The last time Mark Borkowski – legendary UK PR guru and master of the publicity stunt – appeared at the Edinburgh Fringe as a performer was 15 years ago with his Sons of Barnum show. This year, he’s back for five days (17th-21st August at Assembly, George Square) with an autobiographical show: False Teeth in a Pork Pie: How to Unleash Your Inner Crazy.

So I talked to him via Zoom at his home in Gloucestershire.


JOHN: What is the “inner crazy”?

MARK: It’s about not suppressing the idea that something is a totally loopy thing to do. We are told now there are so many rules you can’t break that we don’t even start looking at really disruptive thoughts which might change our lives.

JOHN: Why are you crazily taking another show to Edinburgh?

MARK: It’s 40 years of the Assembly and it was really important to me. Back then, it was about building a network. I slept on a journalist’s floor – Nigel Reynolds. And it was because everybody went to the Fringe. Every arts journalist of any repute went there and I saw the importance of making a network. That’s what my show this year is about, really. It has lessons for people to think about serendipity and adventure.

We don’t talk enough about how important it is to connect. Everything is promoted through technology now. Zoom. WhatsApp.

In this show I felt I could remind people about the importance of the physical moment of bumping into somebody in Edinburgh and making a relationship.

I will NEVER have a bad word to say about Edinburgh because Edinburgh is different. We are all this inner chimp inside of us: the caveman. We are all fired-up by feeding, fucking and fighting that Steve Peters, in The Chimp Paradox, wrote about. We’ve gotta make the effort.

So I thought Forty years! It would be an interesting point to juxtapose 40 years ago when I publicised and produced a show and lost a lot of money and saw failure… and learning from all that failure.

JOHN: So it’s good to fail at the Edinburgh Fringe?

MARK: Learning from failure in Edinburgh is a fantastic lesson. You learn about money; you learn about what’s good and bad; you see other things that are good; you learn from other people; and it’s a massive classroom. If you allow it to be. Reminding people about the elemental power of Edinburgh is partly why I wanted to go again.

I’ve been stuck, because of Covid, not enjoying culture for two years. So I wanna get that huge fix again. I want to be reminded that there are lunatics in Edinburgh. There are crazy people doing stuff – and I don’t mean the over-promoted stuff. The big arena/massive venue stuff is not the real Edinburgh Fringe.

JOHN: What is?

MARK: Some sweaty, horrible place that probably doesn’t quite pass fire or safety regulations but you’ll probably see something bonkers there. The act might not become Michael McIntyre or find its way onto Britain’s Got Talent – well, maybe it will as a freak – but it’s something to remind ourselves and re-plug-in.

In many ways, I see this as an experiment. My last show 15 years ago – Sons of Barnum – was an experiment to see if I had a book, maybe inspired by you a bit. And this time I want to see if there’s room for an autobiography of lunatics or ‘disruptors’ I’ve met.

If people buy into that, then maybe I will set about writing a book about it as well.

Let’s see if a younger audience – and it WILL be a younger audience in Edinburgh this year – will they buy into my mantra. If they do buy into my mantra, then there’s a hope I can do more. I am using Edinburgh as an experiment and that is what the Fringe used to be about.

JOHN: Surely An Autobiography About a Bunch of Showbiz Lunatics must be a commercial book?

MARK: Well, you have to strike the right balance. Publishers want the juicy stuff and I wouldn’t ever give away stuff that was entrusted to me. There would be stuff they would want me to focus on that I’m not interested in talking about.

JOHN: You can’t libel dead people.

MARK: Yeah, but their families are still there and, if their families don’t know the stories, what right have I got to tell the story of someone who didn’t want it to be told? There’s responsibility in memory which you have as a professional. You were paid; you had a trusted relationship. Some people I fell out with, but that’s no reason to do anything. If you seek revenge, prepare to dig two graves.

JOHN: You could write a real tell-all book that’s only published after your death. You’ll be dead and all the relevant people will be dead.

MARK: But your motivation when you’re alive should remain when you’re in your grave.

JOHN: When you are running a successful PR company, presumably to make money you have to have boring clients despite the fact your passion is to have mad clients.

MARK: It’s a balance. I always had and always will have an ear open to somebody with a mad idea.

JOHN: Have you ever actually turned down a client because they were going to be too boring? 

MARK: Oh, loads. In the early days, I did turn down half a million quid. I just felt it would dry me up. 

JOHN: It says here you’re “the last of the old school publicists”. How are the new publicists different?

MARK: Influencers. Influencer relations. It’s more using tech. Young people just won’t pick up the phone.

  • “Well, I texted him”…
  • “Well, pick up the fucking phone and talk to them!” 

People THINK they want to be a publicist, want to be a storyteller… but they just don’t pick up the phone! 

JOHN: Surely they can FaceTime rather than pick up the audio phone?

MARK: Same difference. I’m talking about the fact they would rather deal with an issue in a 3-line text. That is bizarre to me.

The other day, a tech journalist said to me that he could never get to meet people but finally he met this PR person for coffee and, afterwards, she called him up and said:

“I really enjoyed that. Can I ask a favour?… Would you say you met two of my friends?… Our boss is pushing us to go out all the time to meet people. We don’t really want to do that. So, if you could just say you ‘met’ them, my boss will be off their backs.”

I thought how terribly sad that was. To have a metric, a box ticked. I’m not anti-tech, but I just think we’re losing something.

I’m sick and tired of people who rely on everything from apps. To be guided around a city, to date, to shag. They probably even use WhatsApp to get their drugs.

I think there is something important about the connection of meeting people.

JOHN: We are talking on Zoom. You are in the West Country; I am in London. Does this count as meeting me?

MARK: Yes and no. It’s the best thing we can do until we get back to the idea of me coming back to London five days a week… No, it’s not the same… But, if you can’t have a ten minute conversation about an issue, hearing the tone of voice and so on, what’s the point? What do you KNOW about that person from a text?

JOHN: PR is just advertising face-to-face…?

MARK: There was a horrible time in the 2000s where ad agencies did see PR as an extension of advertising.

JOHN: Isn’t it?

MARK: It’s a communication practice to be sure, but… PR is a many-headed hydra. You cut one off and there’s another one that grows on in a different way. PR is a subtler craft of using influencers and social media and building content and a network.

JOHN: What’s the point of paying for PR at the Edinburgh Fringe? Acts can do it themselves.

MARK: Well some people go up and have a punt and they’re not very professional. They don’t understand the story or how to run a stunt, so it just becomes a bit of a noise.

JOHN: Your show False Teeth in a Pork Pie is only on for five days…

MARK: A five-day experiment.

JOHN: And after that?

MARK: I genuinely don’t know. I’m following my own mantra: Just see what happens. If it works, maybe I’ll travel it around, come to London with it. There’s a smattering of names in it. The Marlon Brando moment with Tony Kaye… My madness in Swindon… How I escaped being arrested… Stuff about Charles Hawtrey when I had to look after him… and just the joy of bonkers people, really.

They think differently; they look at things differently. I would never have met them if I hadn’t started my venture partly in Edinburgh and trusted in getting lost.

Serendipity is that event or that person you just bump into. That’s the joy of the Edinburgh Fringe.

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Filed under Edinburgh, Marketing, PR

A bit of a chat with Robert Wringham – Part 2 – Comedy, characters, dreams…

Robert Wringham is not his real name…

Yesterday’s blog finished with:

ROBERT: So, when I moved to Scotland, I thought: I’m taking that name! It’s sort of similar to mine and the thing about that book is it’s about doppelgängers. So I thought: My persona is going to be my evil twin. He’s going to do the stuff that I don’t do in real life.

Now read on…


JOHN: I am not in any way a performer. No talent; no interest in doing it. There is a different mindset between performers and writers, isn’t there? I’m not remotely a performer. I can’t ad-lib fluently in spoken speech, whereas I can write I think fluently quite quickly.

ROBERT: I don’t want to be truly me performing on stage; I want to be a character. I think I can just about hold my own in terms of fast thoughts, but what I can’t do is play the character at the same time. However, in Stern Plastic Owl and my other books, I think I CAN do that.

JOHN: So, when you were a stand-up, it was character comedy…

ROBERT: Not like Alan Partridge. It’s like what I said about ‘Robert Wringham’ and the doppelgänger. I want this clear line between the real me and what I’m showing, otherwise it’s not actually a creative act. I don’t want to go out there and just talk. I want to have a character and that was why I was not very good as a performer. I couldn’t really do that.

The way I’ve found round that problem is to do these books. 

JOHN: By and large, I don’t like character comedy because, in television, I got typed as a finder of bizarre and/or eccentric ‘real people’. So I know there are loads of eccentric or even just slightly unusual people out there – well, most people are slightly unusual – and they are really interesting. So why should I watch someone pretending to be eccentric or unusual when they are not? – They are just analysing someone who isn’t themselves and fabricating a character to hide behind.

Charlie Chuck is not a subtle character study of a real type…

The closer a character act is to being real, the less I’m interested. The more ‘cartoony’ they are, the more I’m interested. Charlie Chuck springs to mind. Charlie Chuck (real name Dave Kear) is not a subtle character study of a real type of person.

ROBERT: One of my favourite comics is Harry Hill (real name Matthew Hall) and a lot of people don’t really think of him as a character comic although he is. You could not be like that in real life. I assume Matthew Hall at home is going to be nothing like Harry Hill.

JOHN: Yes, he’s a cartoon character – in a good way. I think really good straight stand-up comedians on stage are themselves, but slightly heightened versions of themselves. And then there are the OTT cartoony-type ones. But stand-up ‘character comedy’ tends to be just wannabe actors showing off their abilities, not performers who inherently have that odd ‘comedian’ gene.

I also don’t particularly like slow-speaking comedians. If I pay to see Jerry Sadowitz, I’m getting value for money in the words-per-minute, but slow comedians, by-and-large, I think: Just get on with it! I never liked Jack Benny. Too slow. Although, oddly, I liked George Burns.

ROBERT: To me, ‘slow’ is the ultimate cool because it’s the opposite of… When you’re nervous on stage, you go fast. A slow-speaking comedian instills a certain confidence in the room. You think: Oh! This guy knows what he’s doing! He’s going to slowly reveal the routine. It’s also very funny: almost as if they don’t care what the audience thinks.

JOHN: I guess maybe George Burns felt more Jewish to me, which I like. Jack Benny was maybe less ‘American Jewish’ humour.

ROBERT: My partner is Jewish and Jewish is a big part of our shared life. In my secret mind, ‘Robert Wringham’ is Jewish, though I don’t tend to talk about it on the page. My favourite humorists are all Jewish. 

JOHN: S.J. Perelman?

ROBERT: Yeah. Woody Allen, Fran Lebowitz, Jon Ronson.

JOHN: So what’s next for you after Stern Plastic Owl?

ROBERT: I’m working on my novel. It’s almost done.

JOHN: Tell me it really IS about sitting in a bathtub and it’s called Rub-a-Dub-Dub

ROBERT: Yes! It is!

JOHN: A lucky guess on my part. What’s the plot?

ROBERT: I think ‘plot’ is old hat. So, instead of going wide with a plot, go deep. It’s about the conscious state you have when you’re in the bath. You’re nostalgic. You’re thinking back. There’s this time machine effect. You’re thinking back to you childhood. So that’s what my guy in the book does. He’s remembering things, thinking of his worries, thinking on his body. There’s a lot of stuff about the body in it.

There is something called phenomenological writing, which is just the real nitty-gritty of what surrounds you. You’d be surprised how you can make that interesting.

JOHN: As I speak to you, I am looking at a squeezy pink double decker bus standing in front of a painting of a nun sitting in front of a station/cathedral. What is phenomenological writing?

“I am looking at a squeezy pink double decker bus standing in front of a painting of a nun…”

ROBERT: It’s really old. It’s a French thing. For example, Georges Perec did one where it was all in one building, but it was into the nitty-gritties. So he’d be talking about the design on the carpet for ages and going into the shagpile of this single room or the individual books in the bookcase and what they were. And it would all be in the service of something: like This is the character of the person who lives there. But it would be really deep into the nitty-gritty.

You would think: That can’t possibly be fun to read. But, actually, it’s really entertaining and interesting. What I’m doing and what Georges Perec did is playing it for laughs.

JOHN: I remember reading George Eliot’s Middlemarch and wondering why she went into such detailed descriptions of people’s houses… until I realised the descriptions were actually also descriptions of each householder’s personality. The houses personified their occupants. 

This blog bit is just pure self-indulgence…

You were talking about dreams earlier on. I’m interested because I have an unidentified medical problem. I used to sleep soundly and deeply and never remembered my dreams. But now I haven’t had a full night’s sleep since June 2020 – I wake up literally every hour and, of course, sometimes I wake up in the middle of a dream. I always wanted to remember my dreams because I assumed they would be surreal but they’re not. The dreams I have are very realistic not surrealistic. They have narrative storylines running through them. I am disappointed. You sound like you have better dreams.  

ROBERT: Mine aren’t stories at all. If I do something very repetitive during the day – like doing the washing-up – that’ll end up in my dream. Repetitive things go in. Embarrassingly dull.

JOHN: I don’t seem to have nightmares. Do you?

ROBERT: No. And, if I do write things down in my notebook, it’s always things like Stern Plastic Owl. I DID once write down Stoat: Hospital with a colon between the two words. I can’t even begin to imagine what that means. 

JOHN: I can only dream of having dreams which are that weird.

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Filed under Books, Comedy, Eccentrics, Performance

Stories of legendary UK comic Jimbo…

This week, esteemed comic Noel James posted an announcement about a last minute act appearing on the bill at his Cafe Play club in Mumbles, Swansea,Wales, this Saturday, 6th November.

The act is the legendary and sadly not widely-enough fêted UK comic Jimbo (not to be confused with Australian comic Jimbo Bazoobi)

The news on Facebook of our British Jimbo’s booking elicited a fair number of comments, almost entirely from other comedians:


Jimbo: the man, the myth, the mirth…

Andy White
Did my first ever gig with Jimbo. Didn’t gig with him again till a couple of years ago. He was proper funny.

Mark Hurst
First Jimbo gig I witnessed he was introduced, made his way thru the audience, onto the stage, paused briefly at mic, as if about to speak, then carried on, off the other side of the stage, back thru the crowd and straight out the pub door…

Jez Feeney

yep I saw similar… hilarious

Noel James
ha ha yes sounds like Jimbo at his best.

Addy van der Borgh
One of the funniest opening 5 minutes I’ve ever seen… fiddling with the microphone, the mic stand, starting to speak, stopping etc. Great timing.

Noel James
Addy van der Borgh – so that’s where you got the idea from !!

Addy van der Borgh
I was first! Actually it’s an old commedia dell’arte thing. So there x

Adam-Morrison Jones
Absolute legend.

Neil Masters
Once at a gig on Tottenham Court Road in London, Jimbo took the mic outside of the pub so nobody could see him. Then he started to interview himself , sort of Voice 1. “please speak.” Voice 2. Lots of weird sounds and silly grumbles for 3 minutes then baritone “NO!” Then back inside , bowed and left the stage.

Andrew Max O’Neill
Amazing.

Mark Hurst
Then there was his first open spot at the Comedy Store. This was in the days when the open spots went on at the end, about 2am. He went on, did a bit of muttering and mic-stand fiddling, then collapsed into a heap on the stage. The MC not knowing what he was doing didn’t know if it was part of an act, stood at the side for a minute, that seemed like an hour, with people shouting out, whilst he lay motionless. Eventually, MC had to step over him, “Jimbo, let’s hear it for Jimbo.” At which, he jumped up and bounded off’.

Phil Davey
yeah i was there for that. compere was Kevin Day. Kim Kinnie was absolutely furious.

Dan Willis
Heard he once stripped naked,
Walked off leaving his clothes,
Never returning to get them..
I’ve gigged with him about twenty odd times – mostly doing gags, but I did see him setting fire to his own hair, without any apparent plan for when it took flame…

Phil Dins
Fantastic act. X

Gary Sansome
Great guy, I remember him doing a set at Huddersfield University and just walking straight out of the venue from the stage. Hope he is well.

David Hadingham
In the early days me and Jimbo (of course back then he was known by his real name James Fancyknot) shared a flat together where we would come up with all these great ideas, I wonder where he is now?

John Mann
Ha. Was discussing his antics only today with Alan Francis and Geoff Boyes.

Jez Feeney
Bloody hell???? Maaaaaaaaaalcolm!…..saw Jim at Sunday Night with Malcolm Hardee many a time… always an occasion… didn’t recognise the photo at first… proper old school… wonderful.

Glad he’s still around …would love to see him on Michael McIntyre’s Roadshow.

Steve Day
The story, and I assume everyone knows this in one form or another, when he was offered a paid gig in a pub somewhere out of London. Travelled there, but due to low audience numbers the landlord pulled the gig but agreed to pay the acts. Jimbo says since he’d come all this way he’d do his spot anyway. Goes on, is Jimbo for ten minutes, finishes.

The landlord says, “I’m not paying you for that!”

Noel James
his hair’s a bit whiter, but he’s still around, still gigging.

James Sherwood
Jimbo did my favourite ever topical gag. He described a story in that day’s paper about a pig farmer who hid some jewellery in the sty, the pigs ate the jewellery, now he has to comb through their excrement to get it back. “So I’m looking at this story and I’m looking at it… and COULD I THINK OF A JOKE?”

Matthew Baylis
A million years ago I did a writing day that jimbo was at – run by Chris Head. Jimbo had worked up a set (with Chris) as a drunken old-school comic dressed in a hideously believable Vegas style suit. It was mostly physical comedy and noises but it was quite brilliant and highly bookable.

I saw him at a gig a month later and he had dumped the routine and was back to ‘normal’.

John Fothergill
Did a minute or two then climbed out of the window behind the curtains and left in his car when I was mc in north London once.

Noel James
if i’d known he was this popular i’d have booked him to headline!

Ian Stone
He turned up at the East Dulwich tavern one night. He’d travelled from Milton Keynes with a moose head. He got introduced, walked on with the moose head, did the gig and never mentioned it, left the venue and then got the train back to Milton Keynes.

Robin Deb
Climbing out of the window at the Comedy Brewhouse and just… going home. oh, some punter complained they paid a fiver so he dropped one in her pint glass and then left…. HERO!

Mark Hayden
I’ve gigged a few times with Jimbo. I remember some silver suit or something that he wore that was out of the seventies or something. He also came and did Mr Ben’s gong show in Leeds. I asked him in my email to him are you sure as it’s a long way to come and do a gong. Sure enough he turned up. He must be nearly 80 now.

Dan Antopolski
He once did a bit shoving dogfood into a soft toy dog’s face that Sean Lock said was the funniest thing he’d ever seen.

Matt Kirshen

First time I met Sean, he was delighted to hear that Jimbo was still going. As as I am right now.

Pete Cracknell

He turned up at an open mic spot at The Father Red Cap, a gay pub in Camberwell. The audience were expecting Drag, flamboyance and music. They got Jimbo. It didn’t go well.

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Filed under Comedy, Eccentrics

Suicidal ‘Screaming’ Lord Sutch, as remembered by inventor John Ward

John Ward with some of the many Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards which he designed and made

Eccentric inventor and designer of trophies for the late Malcolm Hardee Comedy AwardsJohn Ward also writes a weekly column Ward’s World for that esteemed publication the Spalding Guardian.

Yesterday, they published a piece by him about anarchic politician and comic rock ‘n’ roller ‘Screaming’ Lord Sutch who committed suicide 20 years ago this week.

Perhaps that should have read ‘comic politician and anarchic rock ‘n’ roller’.

Screaming Lord Sutch holds the record for losing in UK Parliamentary elections – more than 40 between 1963-1997.

Since the article was published yesterday, there has been a lot of reaction and feedback.

John Ward tells me:


The key question asked is why he committed suicide.

Nobody really knows. In these cases, how can anybody be in a position to really know for sure? The recorded ‘verdict’ is one thing; the real reason only he knew.

He used to ring me at odd hours to talk about anything ‘daft’ or run ideas past me. The general feeling is he was a manic depressive behind the mask. (Think of Tony Hancock maybe?)

John Ward and Lord Sutch fêted by Time Life

On one occasion, he rang to ask if I knew we were both on the same page of a Time-Life book – part of a series titled Library of Curious and Unusual Facts – he pointed out he didn’t mind sharing the page with me!

Another time, he rang to ask if I was busy. He put the phone down at his end, then I heard things being moved about which lasted about five minutes or so. Then he came back to the phone to tell me he had moved his mother’s sideboard around, then her display cabinet which she had her china pieces in, then he proudly told me that he had had a ‘cabinet reshuffle’.

His mum (glad she and mine never mingled!!!!!) was a card in her own right.

I rang on one occasion to speak to him – they lived in the same house in Harrow – and, bearing in mind the many times I had spoken to her before, she asked:

“How do you know my David? Did you vote for him? How do you know I’m his mother cos you called me Mrs Sutch and he don’t have a wife you know, not now anyway…”

It was worse if you forgot the time of day and rang while he was in bed. Most days he rose after 1 or 2 in the afternoon – like most in the ‘show business’ as he would have got home in the early hours of the morning after a gig.

She would usually say: “My David is in bed – I’ll go and get him/fetch him – hang on.”

Then she would put the phone down on the table in the hall and you heard her go clumping up the stairs, stand at the top of the landing and then shout out: 

“David – are you still asleep or not?” (!) 

After a muffled reply from his door, it was then clump-clump-clump back down the stairs and she would pick up the phone and say:

“I think he’s coming down…”

Not 100% positive, mind – just ‘think’. 

This could take anything from mere minutes to hearing “Your tea’s ready and on the table” at my end before he came to the phone.

But, in fairness, he didn’t clump-clump-clump down the stairs.

It was so surreal it reminded me of The Goons with Minnie Bannister & Co…

“Is that you, Min?”

“Oh… You’re not sure?… I’ll ask you later then, when you know…”

I am glad I was in the ‘wrong place at the wrong time’ otherwise I would never have met this amazing and unique man.


John tells how he met Sutch in his Spalding Guardian piece.

The full version is online.

 This is an edited version…

(L-R) John Ward, James Whale and Screaming Lord Sutch were hit by a power cut and a blizzard


Initially I had no idea I would ever be meeting David Edward Sutch but we were both individually booked to appear on a late-night television chat show some years ago – rather inspiringly called The James Whale Radio Show – that went out late from (then) Yorkshire TV in Leeds, live on a Friday night.

We got on okay as we did the show, which suffered a minor power cut live on air due to a blizzard hitting the area, but we coped.

Afterwards, we eventually got back to our hotel at about half past one in the morning, going through snow drifts with our driver complaining he was cold though he had a fur coat on.

Back at the hotel, we realised there was no chance of getting a bite to eat at that hour but, as we had rooms opposite each other, we took our kettles out onto the landing, plugged in and then brewed up a cuppa each, nibbled on the small packets of complimentary biscuits as we chatted and put the world to rights – It always seems to work better sitting on a decent bit of floral patterned carpet and supping tea.

A few months afterwards, after phone calls and assorted meet ups, he made me his ‘Minster of Inventions’ as he was then the leader/instigator of the Monster Raving Loony Party.

For the life of me I could not work out why or how I had upset him so much that he would bestow such a title on me but, in fairness, I never asked.

Our ‘best’ achievement between us – his idea, my design – was a ‘Manifesto Muncher’.

He used to throw other political parties’ written manifestos into it and it churned them out again in the form of toilet rolls – so at least the end product was something to go on.

Lovely sense of humour – Why can’t all politics be like this?

Even though he is no longer with us, the interest in him now, twenty years after his death, never ceases to wane although we live in an age where supposed ‘celebrity’ is seemingly an everyday commodity. No sooner do we get used to one supposed ‘celeb’ then another comes along.

But no sign of there being another David Edward Sutch so far – or even anything like him. And, like him or not, it’s a safe bet he will still be remembered in years to come.

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Filed under Eccentrics, Humor, Humour, Politics, UK

In a Vancouver hospital, odd events, movies and talk of aliens wearing bras

Here I sat after midnight, struggling with the transcription of two blogs – well, struggling with the first, which is delaying the second – when I got a series of emails from Anna Smith, this blog’s occasional correspondent. She lives in Vancouver.

They started and continued thus:


Anna, Ruggero and Daniel at St Paul’s A&E in Vancouver

I am in the waiting room of A&E at St Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver again.

I have been sitting beside two nice young men for two hours. They are both film students – one Italian, one Mexican. One of them had to get scans as he had an appendectomy two weeks ago and his innards were still settling so he is waiting for the scan results and getting blood tests.

It has been a very entertaining last several hours.

A and E is very busy. Though a window, I saw a catatonic Sikh man sitting on a chair, without a turban and his hair was a mess. Nearby, a hefty, good-looking drunk woman with bare legs sat howling angrily that she had been in every suburb of Vancouver in the last two days. 

“You DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT HAS HAPPENED to me!” she told people. “My boyfriend has LEFT me!”

The emergency waiting room is like a circus. The two students and I seem like we are the only ones not stoned or drunk.

One old man was amiably drinking beer after beer from cans. He announced he had some pot but not rolling papers. An old lady (who works as a safety officer on a building site) said she had papers, so they went out to smoke a joint and got stoned in the ambulance bay.

Meanwhile, a wiry little man with a grey Afro hairstyle went into the bathroom and, when he emerged, his pants were falling down. He ripped his shirt off and started roaring around the room stripping so they made him lie on a stretcher.

“Fuck Me!” he said in exasperation.

“Don’t talk to me like that!” a nurse told him.

“I wasn’t talking YOU,” he said angrily. “I was talking to MYSELF!”

I went for an MRI scan.The technician asked me to remove my bra and necklace. The necklace had a fiddly clasp and, because I was feeling shaky, I asked the young lady to undo it for me. 

She asked: “Do you want me to help take your bra off too?”

“God, no!” I said, “I’m a stripper. I can take my own bra off.”

Anna Smith – Nurse Annie – c1979

“When did you do the stripping?” she asked.

“I still do it,” I told her.

“Did you ever do anything else?” she asked.

I should have pretended to be surprised and asked: “What else is there?” but I didn’t.

Anyhow, when I got back to the waiting room, the students were still there, I told them about the bra question and they cracked up.

I told them my funniest stories. They told me their funniest stories too. One involved a friend in Mexico, who had mistaken a midget for a leprechaun.

We also spoke about film, art and the drug problem downtown. 

The Italian – Ruggero Romano – is directing a feature documentary film about homeless people on the downtown east side – it depicts the controversial dynamics of the financially poorest and emotionally richest postal code in North America – V6A – There is a teaser trailer online.

 
The Mexican – Daniel Federico del Castillo Hernández – was a painter before turning to film.

Daniel del Castillo’s lively painting of his family in acrylic

He showed me a lively painting he had made of his family, with each of his  relatives portrayed as a different animal – a dog, a cat, a horse, a deer, etc. We were having so much fun watching the goings on. Ruggero was busy taking notes. He has joined a writers group. He said: “We should come here more often….”

A cute, paranoid lady with a skateboard and a British accent sat nearby, chatting on her phone.

The beer drinking man started demanding that the television channel be changed. When no-one responded, he stood on a chair and groped around the TV unsuccessfully. A security guard then realised the TV-groper had been drinking and told him to put away his beer. He refused, so he was told: “You aren’t allowed to drink in the hospital!” and he was escorted out.

Eventually (after 6 hours) a doctor came to explain that Daniel’s scans were OK so he could leave. 

Alien Bra heads at the Isle of Wight (Photo by Gordon Breslin)

While waiting, I have found out that, in the UK, Ian Breslin and Mark Levermore of The Outbursts band were at the Isle of Wight Festival. Apparently they are still celebrating the release of Alien Bra, their latest album, which features a song about being abducted by aliens and forced to wear a bra.

Elsewhere, the World Health Organisation has declared that BDSM and Transvestism have been struck from the list of diseases. They did not mention anything about men who go out in the sun wearing alien heads (or alien bras), so I suppose that is still an illness.

I am still here, in acute care now, waiting for my CAT scan result.

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Christmas eccentricities in Canada

This blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent, Anna Smith, lives in Vancouver. I have never been there, but it seems commendably eccentric. In the past, she has mentioned a rather disconcertingly high incidence of disembodied human feet being found locally.

Yesterday, I received a Christmas Day message from Anna. It read:


Another human foot was found a couple of weeks ago. I don’t want to bore your readers by reporting every single foot that is found locally but, in this case, the police issued advice that – if people find human remains – they should not take them home and then call the police but, rather, call the police first and leave the feet where they found them.


Anna continued:


Anna is fine; the weather is not

On Christmas Eve, I was at a bus stop in downtown Victoria (across from Vancouver).

I had just missed the No 7 bus and found a spot on the bench beside a nicely dressed older lady who had two canes. I chatted with her about the bus timetable but the conversation suddenly veered to the subject of the voices she hears in her room and she held forth for the next 20 minutes about radios, answering machines and overhearing her neighbours.

I realised she was probably schizophrenic, so I listened to her patiently.

A heavy snow had been falling. Now there was a snowstorm. Some of the buses were having difficulty steering and were sliding into the kerb.

As the lady continued talking I noticed an outlandishly dressed older man in conversation with a couple of his friends. The man had his white hair pulled into a ponytail and he was wearing a white cowboy hat adorned with a shiny red glass Christmas ornament in front and a plume of white ostrich feather sticking out the back like a rooster tail. Combined with his own ponytail, it looked as if he had two tails sticking out of his head.

A tall man with a white moustache and wearing an anorak joined us on the bench.

The lady with the voices dropped one of her canes in the snow and the man with the white moustache picked it up and asked me to hold it while he helped her organise her shopping bags.

He said: “I am headed home to Campbell House. If you are considering moving to Victoria, you should move into Campbell House – the rent is subsidised for disabled people and it is only a ten minute walk from the library.”

A stout lady wearing sweat pants and her coat unbuttoned despite the snowstorm looked admiringly at the guy.

He asked her loudly: “I wonder what Ambrose Bierce would have to say about all THIS… Ambrose Bierce,” he repeated. “He wrote The Devil’s Dictionary. What a great book! If only I had not loaned it to somebody. It is an incredible book and I can’t even remember who I loaned it to… probably it was the devil himself.”

Hen milk is a Canadian delicacy

It seemed like everybody waiting for the No 7 bus was a bit crazy. But that made sense.

Most people were home with their families on Christmas Eve, but odd people – possibly alienated from their families – were more likely to be out and about.

I am wrapping presents at the moment, doing my laundry (it’s a Christmas tradition) and, later on, I will dress as an elf and go for dinner at my sister’s place. We may drink hen milk.

Hen milk is a favourite Canadian delicacy at this time of year.

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Missing blogs, John Gielgud’s gay porn, James Bond’s toilet and Tony Hancock

John fleming - shocked look

Typical reaction to WordPress’ efficiency

My daily blog has not appeared for a couple of days because WordPress, which hosts it, had some technical problem which meant it was impossible for me to save or post anything. And, even if you pay them, they do not provide Support – you have to post on user forums with no guarantee of any response from anyone.

Giving them grief on Twitter seemed to have some slight effect – eventually. To a partial extent. I got this message:

Let us know if we can help with anything! Here’s how to export your content and take it with you.

I replied:

It might have been useful if WordPress could have sorted out the technical problem which means I cannot post any blogs. I might have thought WordPress would be more concerned with their software not working rather than helping people to leave.

After WordPress getting more Twitter and Reddit grief orchestrated by this blog’s South Coast correspondent, Sandra Smith, I got some reaction from a WordPress ‘staff’ member (whom you apparently can’t contact normally) – which was minimal and apparently transient, as I have heard no more from him.

But, about three hours later, when I tried again, the problem had disappeared. I had changed and done nothing. So I can only assume WordPress corrected the fault and never bothered to tell me.

As Facebook Friend Alias Robert Cummins succinctly put it: WordPress is amazingly shit, in all sorts of tiresome and complex ways, which I’d really rather not go into this late in the evening.

That is his real name, by the way – the one he was given at birth – Alias Robert Cummins. It is a bizarre story and one probably worth a blog at some point.

Anyway, the problem was eventually solved (I hope it has been, anyway) with the help not just of Sandra Smith but also the excellent cyber-guy and indefatigable Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show person Stephen O’Donnell.

John Ward toilet accessory with gun, silencer and loo roll

John Ward’s toilet accessory has a gun, silencer and loo roll

In the two days of missing blogs and navel-gazing, the world still turned, with John Ward, designer of the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards getting some publicity in Lincolnshire of all places because today the James Bond film SPECTRE is released and, a couple of years ago, John designed a combined gun-rack and toilet paper holder.

He used to own a gun licence himself: something that never made me sleep easy in bed.

When no new blogs were being posted the last couple of days, the old one getting most hits was last Wednesday’s blog, about David McGillivray’s new short film of a previously un-produced gay porn script Trouser Bar written in 1976 by Sir John Gielgud.

David Mcgillivray (left) during the filming with Nigel Havers

David McGillivray (left) during the filming with Nigel Havers

The film (still in post-production) includes performances by Julian Clary, Barry Cryer and Nigel Havers. One blog reader user-named ‘Ludoicah’ commented:

I’d say with a cast that includes Nigel Havers and Barry Cryer that there is zero chance of this being any sort of a porn film, gay or otherwise, and it is probably, at most, a mildly risqué sketch.

To which David McGillivray replied:

Incorrect. It’s utter filth, liable to deprave and corrupt. I was blindfolded while I was producing it.

Sir John Gielgud’s script was inspired, it seems, by his love of men in tight trousers, particularly trousers made from corduroy.

Last Thursday, the day after my blog on the film appeared, the following was posted (with photo) on Trouser Bar’s Facebook page:

Trouser Bar still - corduroy trousers

Trouser Bar still – corduroy trousers un-creamed by Sir John

I’ve just seen the rough cut. Sir John would have creamed his corduroy jeans at this close-up.

It also quoted Sir John’s letter to Paul Anstee of 19th October, 1958:

“The students at the schools and universities [in Pennsylvania] are a wonderful audience, and a good deal of needle cord manch is worn (very badly cut, and usually only partly zipped!) so my eyes occasionally wander.”

Also posted on the Trouser Bar Facebook page was this quote from a Galton and Simpson comedy script for Hancock’s Half Hour in 1958:

Sid: “Hilary St Clair.” 

Tony: “Hilary St Clair? I bet he’s all corduroys and blow waves”

with the comment:

Even in the 1950s it seems that corduroy was associated with homosexuality.

All this, plus a photo on my blog of Sir John Gielgud with Sir Ralph Richardson in Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land, made Anna Smith – this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent – ask::

I wonder what kind of porn Ralph Richardson wrote?

and to mention:

Tony Hancock. Is this the face of a 1950s criminal?

Comedian Tony Hancock – Is this the face of a 1950s criminal?

I bought a Tony Hancock album last week at a junk shop. A woman wondered to me whether he was a criminal.

“He wasn’t a criminal,” I said, a bit annoyed. ”He was a comedian!”

“He looks like a criminal,” the woman countered, doubting my certainty.

“It was the 1950s,” I said, exasperated. “Everyone looked like a criminal back then.”

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In praise of Randy Quaid, Lynn Ruth Miller & the oddly salacious Daily Mail

Lynn Ruth Miller with a friend in Montenegro. (Photograph by Marat Abdrakhmanov)

Lynn Ruth Miller with a friend in Montenegro. (Photograph by Marat Abdrakhmanov)

I pride myself in taking an interest in quirky real-life events.

Yesterday’s blog was about 80-something performer Lynn Ruth Miller making merry with 200 Russians in Montenegro at a conference called Well Over Fifty.

When I heard about this, I told her: “I associate Montenegro with that poker game and international intrigue in Casino Royale.”

This morning, she replied:

“No casinos, darling. Just a lot of fish and vodka. Yesterday I went on a bus ride to see the sights. Unfortunately it was pouring with rain and the non-stop narration of what we were supposed to be seeing through the fog spoke only in Russian.

“I sat next to a woman with a bad hip who pole dances because all she has to use to hoist herself up is her arms. This is why she can only take baths, not showers.  She says she is 65 and gluten-free which explains why she has such powerful arms.

“She is traveling with her crazy sister who is a graduate engineer and a veteran of the US Navy, who insisted on singing Beatles’ songs to the Russians who joined in because they love our music and cannot understand why they can’t get a visa to come to London to sing-along.

“At least I think that is what they told me but I am not sure because it was all in Russian. They might very well have been discussing the crisis in Afghanistan (There is one there, isn’t there?) or that it is impossible to buy a decent avocado in this god forsaken place.

“The bus finally stopped when it ran out of gas and we all piled into boats (in the pouring rain) and the pilot of the boat plied us with doughnuts and honey, feta cheese and plenty of vodka, since the coffee here is like motor oil. This on an empty stomach.

“Within seconds, we were happily romping around the boat knocking up vodka and anyone else who would have us. When we landed, drenched, at a restaurant for traditional Montenegran food which is very fishy, we were fighting exploding bladders.

“There is another bus trip today where we get to buy souvenirs. I am not sure what the souvenirs will be but, by God, I intend to buy one to remind myself that this whole experience was not the result of ingesting rich food late at night.”

Now, as I said, I pride myself in taking an interest in quirky real-life events and Lynn Ruth in Montenegro qualifies, I think, as being a tad quirky – especially if you know Lynn Ruth.

But this all pales into normality compared to the doings of actor Randy Quaid, about which I was shamefully ignorant until yesterday.

I spotted an online report yesterday headlined:

SANTA BARBARA D.A. VOWS TO BRING RANDY QUAID TO JUSTICE DESPITE LEGAL SETBACK

which started: “Prosecutors say they ‘remain hopeful’ after Independence Day actor and his wife were released from a Vermont jail… Quaid and his wife are considered fugitives, wanted in Santa Barbara, California, to face felony vandalism charges from 2010.  Authorities said they were found squatting in a guesthouse of a home they previously owned. The couple fled to Canada, where Evi was granted citizenship but Randy was denied permanent residency.”

This may have been because he claimed he was being pursued by assassins paid by Hollywood studios.

I had somehow missed the back-story on this completely. On Facebook, Matthew Wilkes pointed me to an explanatory report from February this year headlined:

RANDY QUAID RETURNS BY HUMPING HIS WIFE WHILE SHE WEARS RUPERT MURDOCH MASK

Randy Quaid and his wife Avi in the oddly mesmeric video clip

Randy Quaid and his wife Avi in the oddly mesmeric video clip

And, indeed, that headline did not overstate the case. The report says: “As his wife Evi watches silently, clad in just a bikini and sunglasses, Quaid declares that they’ve been through ‘a hell of biblical proportions’… Quaid reserves his most cutting words for Rupert Murdoch, first noting that he’s wearing ‘the very same shirt that I wore in ’94 when I saved the world’ in the Fox movie Independence Day… Since Murdoch has tried to fuck him, now it’s his turn. He hands Evi a Rupert Murdoch mask, bends her over, spits in his hand, then proceeds to take her from behind while a trembling dog barks nervously at them, like a nation personified.”

At the time of writing, Randy’s video – taken down from YouTube but re-posted elsewhere – has had at least 3,584,231 plays – as it well deserves, despite potential claims of sexism.

An even fuller story of the background, though, comes – as is often the case – from the Daily Mail.

The extraordinary thing about the Daily Mail – much-read by the middle-of-the-road middle classes of Britain and much reviled by liberal Guardian-readers for its reactionary conservative views – is that it is extraordinary prurient and loves a bit of sleaze and eccentricity.

I got turned-on to the half-hidden glories of the Daily Mail when I was working at Anglia TV and we got all the national daily newspapers each morning. It was at the time Cynthia Payne – nicknamed ‘Madame Cyn’ by the tabloids – was being prosecuted for running a brothel in the unlikely locale of Streatham, in south London.

The tabloid ‘red top’ papers gloried in the sex aspects of the case, but the Daily Mail, alone in Fleet Street, seemed to zero in on the fact that the case was not about sex but about quirky British eccentricity.

The current Wikipedia entry on Cynthia wisely describes one of the highlights of the story as: “Elderly men paid in Luncheon Vouchers to dress up in lingerie and be spanked by young women”. The key quirky words here are not “spanked by young women” but “paid in Luncheon Vouchers”. Cynthia’s defence seemed partly to be that she was providing a valuable public service to retired Army majors in wheelchairs et al.  She was found innocent by a possibly amused jury.

Personal Services - billed as “from the director of Monty Python’;s Life of Brian

Personal Services was promoted with the selling-line: “From the Director of Monty Python’s Life of Brian”

She became something of a celebrity appearing, for example, on TV in The Dame Edna Experience with actor Sir John Mills and ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev. She wrote a book titled Entertaining at Home – currently sold by Amazon under their Etiquette and Party Planning headings – and two feature films were based on her life, both released in 1987: Wish You Were Here and Personal Services.

The true reportage of quirkily eccentric lives in Britain used to appear in the Daily Telegraph’s obituary column and on their page three, which used to be their court report page. They have sadly long-since toned-down their obituaries and abandoned their old page three jollities after people in other publications started writing articles about the wild eccentricities held within. I still remember a short paragraph on page three of the Telegraph last century saying that a man had been prosecuted for leaping out of country hedgerows and scaring passing women horse-riders; he did this by dressing from head-to-toe in a rubber frogman’s outfit including snorkel and flippers. There was no more detail than this and no context. That was their full report.

The British press is less colourful since the Daily Telegraph reined-back on its quirkiness. But the Daily Mail now out-tabloids the tabloids with quirky stories and astonishingly widespread often salacious features on celebrities accompanied by pictures of curvaceous young women with prominent bosoms.

Those who diss the Mail for reactionary greyness don’t read it or look at its circulation figures.

Meanwhile, Randy Quaid’s video currently remains online HERE.

Beware – it contains a probably simulated but possibly real sex scene.

I am surprised the Daily Mail did not run the video online it in full.

RandyQuaidVideoClip

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Memories of eccentric real life in 2001

Again, no time to write a blog so, again, some extracts from my e-diary, this time in 2001:


MONDAY 26th MARCH, 2001

An Italian archaeologist told me a true story from the Western Desert in World War Two.

In some battle between the Eighth Army and the Afrika Corps, a British tank got hit by a shell which wrecked the tank and embedded itself in it but did not explode. There was no way out for the crew. The British won the battle and, afterwards, the British (presumably the Royal Engineers) tried to get into the tank to see if any of the crew were still alive. It took time but, when they opened up a hole, the first thing they saw was the tank commander sitting back, relaxed, smoking a pipe and surrounded by high explosive shells and the bodies of his dead crew. He had tried everything to get out but found he couldn’t. So, as he knew there was nothing he could do, he lit up his pipe.

TUESDAY 27th MARCH

I was in a tube train coming home. A mad man started talking in a very sane and reasonable tone of voice to the whole carriage:

“My house,” he said. “It’s so big. It’s worth four and a half million pounds… Do you want some spuds?”

As he continued, in the same very reasonable tone of voice, a blind man came into the carriage and his brow furrowed, confused at the sane-sounding man saying strange things which had – without sight – no context in which he could put them.

WEDNESDAY 28th MARCH

A Bournemouth film student told me:

I used to walk past two women every day who stood on their doorsteps in all weathers and gossiped about the people on the street. Once they told my dad that they liked his new coffee table – despite never having been in our house! 

THURSDAY 29th MARCH

In the evening, BBC1 had paid £280,000 for a one hour interview with gangster Reggie Kray, recorded a few days before his death. Reggie said that he killed Jack The Hat McVitie because the man “was a vexation to the spirit”. Of the killing, he said: “I wanted to do it neater than I did, but I didn’t get round to it.”

FRIDAY 30th MARCH

At lunchtime, I went to see a fan of imprisoned criminal Charles Bronson. Her entire bedroom walls and the walls of her upstairs rooms were covered with immensely detailed pastel-covered drawings and poems by Charlie himself. Downstairs, two massive light brown dogs with squashed black faces slept in the kitchen and the living room walls were covered with pictures of dogs, dog breeding certificates and a framed cartoon drawing of Laurel & Hardy.

A female friend of hers was also there. The friend mentioned that her mother (the friend’s mother) was obsessed by motor racing driver Damon Hill. In her living room, she has a tyre from a Formula One racing car, signed by Damon Hill, which she has made into a coffee table by simply putting a sheet of glass on top of it. She occasionally talks to the wheel and, when the family go out in their car, she has a life-size cut-out of Damon Hill who sits in the front passenger seat (with a seat belt round it) while she drives and her husband and daughter sit in the rear seat.

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Six days in March: mafiosi in Prague, war in Serbia, Yanks in Amsterdam and a flying saucer in the Thames Valley

I have no time to transcribe the blog I should be writing today so, as always in such cases, you get a copy-and-paste from my e-diary – in this case, starting today 16 years ago in 1999


MONDAY 22nd MARCH 1999 – AMSTERDAM

Amsterdam (Photo by Massimo Catarinella)

Amsterdam (Photo by Massimo Catarinella)

There are precipitous stairs up to my new hotel. This, as with other houses in Amsterdam, is because there are two storeys below the two-storey hotel and people live vertically because, at one time, house tax was based on the width of your house so everything was built narrow.

The hotel is run by two thin gay men, probably in their late-40s or mid-50s, heavily wrinkled like white prunes.

The room has a brown carpet, pink bedsheets and bedspread; high light green walls with horizontal hanging ivy atop one of them. When trams pass, there is a thunderous rattling through the tall, single-glazed window. I think I may move soon.

TUESDAY 23rd MARCH – AMSTERDAM

Dinner with the Englishman who runs the TV station where I am freelancing. We previously worked together at TV stations in Prague in 1994 and 1995. He says Prague has changed since I was there; the various foreign mafias have taken over large sections of society; it started, he says, with the privatisation of taxis. The TV operation we both worked for in Prague was sold (at a loss) by UIH to Time-Warner last week; but, in return, UIH got Time-Warner cable interests in Hungary and elsewhere in Eastern Europe. Since the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, Eastern Europe has become the new Wild West.

WEDNESDAY 24th MARCH – AMSTERDAM

Dinner with three workmates. One of them observed that the Dutch give a bad time to Germans – shop assistants are coldly difficult to them in shops etc – because of the Second World War. As we ate, NATO planes and cruise missiles were starting to attack Yugoslavia/Serbia/Montenegro/Kosovo.

THURSDAY 25th MARCH – AMSTERDAM

In McDonalds, the assistant was giving a hard, contemptuous time to a well-dressed family of Russians who spoke very bad English.

FRIDAY 26th MARCH – AMSTERDAM

At breakfast in the hotel, there was an American couple: he was wide and tall like some American Football player, she was much smaller and much younger. The TV was tuned to BBC1 News. The American couple had missed the start of the bombing of Serbia, presumably because they were travelling around. Their abbreviated conversation went:

Him: “What’s going on?”

Me: “NATO has started bombing Serbia.”

Her: “What’s NATO?”

Him: “North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. It’s…what is it?…The big six?” (LOOKS AT ME)

Me: (CONFUSED)

Her: “I thought that was just a trade organisation.”

Him: “No, it does some policing, too.”

At Schiphol Airport in the evening, there was a group of very jolly people in their 20s – about a dozen – on the travelator in front of me. It turned out they were going to my Gate. And they were drunk – amiable, jolly and drunk. It came as no surprise they were travelling on Finnair to Helsinki as the only times I had encountered Finns before – in Leningrad in 1985 – they were all amiable, jolly and staggeringly drunk. Something to do with the strict drink laws in Finland: at that time, Finns came across to Leningrad, sold denim jeans and Western goods to Russians and got very charmingly drunk on vodka.

My friend Lynn’s partner Frank had asked me to get him some schnapps at the airport duty free – stuff you can only get in Schiphol. It comes in an opaque brown bottle. I couldn’t see it, so I asked a man who was stacking the drinks shelves: “Do you have any schnapps?”

Inevitably, I was standing right by the schnapps: he pointed to two different brands, both in white bottles.

“I was asked to get some schnapps in a brown bottle,” I said: “Do you have any in a brown bottle?”

He looked at me as if I was mad, almost shrinking backwards, and replied:

“No, we do not have schnapps in a brown bottle.”

The EasyJet plane to Luton took off two hours late because:

a) the incoming plane broke down in Luton and
b) they had to fly a replacement plane into Amsterdam and
c) they said: “Air traffic over Western Europe has been disrupted by NATO”

I suppose squadrons of giant B-52 bombers taking off from Gloucestershire and flying to Serbia would do that.

SATURDAY 27th MARCH – BOREHAMWOOD

John Ward drives home in his Wardmobile

John Ward driving to his home in his self-made Wardmobile

My chum mad inventor John Ward has built a flying saucer. Today, with his son, he was collecting it from a garage in Weybridge then coming round to collect some stuff from me on his way home to Northamptonshire.

On the way to me, he was stopped by a Thames Valley police car with flashing lights and siren. Inside was a Sergeant Whittaker.

“What do you think you are doing?” asked Sergeant Whittaker.

He told John they had looked at their cameras and seen John and his son driving along the road in their car pulling an object brightly painted in fluorescent orange, red, yellow and blue.

“You are a distraction,” Sergeant Whittaker told John.

“Thankyou,” said John.

“Don’t be flippant,” Sergeant Whittaker warned him.

Sergeant Whittaker then appeared to flounder around trying to find something on which to arrest John.

“Have you got a licence for that?” Sergeant Whittaker asked, pointing at the flying saucer.

“It’s a trailer,” John replied.

“It has a seat in it,” observed Sergeant Whittaker.

“Ah,” said John, “But it has no engine in it: so it is legally a trailer.”

John Ward knows about these things.

At this point, an old man on a motorcycle passed by and was so amazed by the flying saucer and the police car with the flashing lights that he lost control of his motorcycle, hit the central barrier and fell off.

“Look!” Sergeant Whittaker told John. “He was distracted by your… your… thing!”

“No,” argued John. “It’s all your flashing red and blue and white lights distracted him.”

Sergeant Whittaker said accusingly: “Why didn’t you tell us you were coming? We could have arranged a police escort.”

“You’re joking,” said John.

“No I’m not…..Where are you going with it?”

“I’m dropping in at a friend’s in Borehamwood to collect some stuff, then taking it home.”

“Oh no you’re not. You’re a distraction. You’re taking it straight home.”

At this point, John phoned me on his mobile.

“Are you phoning the press?” the sergeant asked.

“Not yet,” said John.

“I know you from somewhere,” Sergeant Whittaker said. “Have I seen you on television?”

“No, I’m not him,” said John. “Reg, the bloke with the glasses in Coronation Street. People sometimes confuse me for him. But I’m not him.”

“No, you’re not him,” agreed Sergeant Whittaker, “but I think I’ve seen you somewhere.”

Eventually, Sergeant Whittaker got in John’s car and his policeman mate drove the police car. They set off in convoy, lights flashing and escorted John’s flying saucer to the border of the next police area – where a Buckinghamshire police car took over.

“Is that it?” the Buckinghamshire policeman asked when he saw the flying saucer. He had obviously been expecting something like a vast over-hanging mobile home on a pantechnicon.

When the Buckinghamshire police car reached the borders of Northamptonshire, there was a Northamptonshire police car waiting for them.

“Oh,” the Northamptonshire policeman said on seeing John, “It’s you.”

“Have we met?” John asked him.

“No,” said the Northamptonshire policeman.

When the other car had gone, the Northamptonshire policeman told John: “They’re mad down south. It’s a waste of time. They should be out catching criminals. I’m going back to the station.”

And off he went.

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