Tag Archives: 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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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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Filed under Czech Republic, Eccentrics, Holland, Police, Yugoslavia

An average day in Vancouver – nudity, trailer trash, sturgeon, disappearances

What, you might ask – well, yesterday, someone DID ask me – has been happening to this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith?

Below is the latest from her in Vancouver. She lives on a boat.

Anna Smith (extreme right) on a skip in an alley behind the Vogue Theatre in Vancouver (Photo by Tadhg)

Anna Smith (extreme right) reclines on a skip in an alley behind the Vogue Theatre in Vancouver (Photograph by Tadhg)


Twisty can’t stop dancing. He is a performance artist/social activist.

Twisty: performer & social activist

Just now, I thought Mr Methane had arrived but it was a container of toxic disinfectant.

Although the river is hypnotic, I still go into Vancouver several times a week.

Ĺast week, I met up with my friend Bernie (Mr Nude Universe 1985). We have a lot in common, each having worked as strippers for fifteen years. My main striptease character was a nurse. His was a police officer.

I also met Twisty today. He is a performance artist and social activist. He can’t stop dancing. He says that being with me is like being at a party.

Anna with Mr Lahey (left) and Mr Randy at the Roxy nightclub

Anna with Randy (right) & Mr Lahey at The Roxy, Vancouver

And I met Randy and Mr Lahey, cult Canadian television stars from the series Trailer Park Boys. They did a really funny live show at the local Roxy night club. The posters advertised a party as well and dressing like Trailer Trash was strongly recommend. The club was decorated like a run-down trailer park.

If you want to imagine The Marina of Hell (where I live), Trailer Park Boys is good for reference.

There is a 7-minute Trailer Park Boys film on YouTube.

I often describe the docks where I live as a floating trailer park. This place does not even have a name or a supervisor.

Fraser River, Vancouver

The Fraser River in Vancouver

I told John Dunsworth (Mr Lahey) that I live in a west coast maritime version of their Sunnyvale and he was interested. John Dunsworth started the first alternative theater in Halifax and he is an unusual person. When I asked for his autograph he made drawings of boats and signed them. I could see right away that he was an artist and also familiar with boats. He has a boat which he rebuilt and he is working on a ghost movie with boats. He told me his next movie is going to be called Fifty Shades of Shit.

In one autograph, he drew a sailboat and wrote: Haul in your shit sails. Shit Storms coming! That is one of his catchphrases. He has also written a book called The Dicshitnary and sells it online. He sells a lot to Britain, Canada, Australia , the USA and Denmark.

Demonstrating how to piss through a funnel

How to piss through a funnel on stage with Randy (Patrick Roach)

Randy and Mr Lahey’s performance at times appeared to be abstract, with laundry and garbage strewn around  the stage – It reminded me of an Ian Hinchliffe show. Mr Lahey demonstrated his latest business idea: a portable hot box made from rubbish sacks – so you can get high at work without anyone realising. The hot bag has a window so you can still do fine even when there’s a performance evaluation.

The Trailer Park Boys’ stage show is apparently coming to London in September.

Canada’s top comedy hit. Banned from television. Criminals – Your blog readers will love them.

I understand, in Britain, they are also playing in Manchester and Cambridge.

Back on the river, the sturgeon fishers were out again today but I was busy doing a massive cleaning of my boat. It is like living inside an animal.

Half the time here it is deadly boring but then it swivels into a circus, with police boats chasing people down the channel, boats hitting logs, men and dogs falling overboard…

Today it was relatively peaceful. There is less ruckus in the winter and most of the boats are cocooned under tarpaulins. I was up on my roof and my neighbour told me he was going to fish for sturgeon at slack tide. He is obsessed with sturgeon and knows everything about their habits. We are not allowed to keep sturgeon as the stock is replenishing, but we are allowed to fish for them.

Here what my neighbor prepared to bait Sturgeon... oily oolichans soaked in rotton fish oil

Bait for sturgeon – oily oolichans soaked in rotten fish oil

I went out at slack tide and my neighbour was on the outside dock, with his pole set up. Apparently we are living atop a sturgeon hole. He said he had caught 201 sturgeon and another neighbour – a young father – was out there with his daughter who was wearing her life jacket and reading nature magazines, looking pretty, sitting in a mini lawn chair with a fancy miniature beach umbrella.

The men were slowly drinking Hell’s Gate beer and discussing sturgeon, salmon,  licences and how people are caught when they keep a sturgeon. Many of the fish are tagged by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and, if they get a signal from a sturgeon travelling overland, they follow it.

When my neighbour said he had caught 201 sturgeon,  that is in his whole life. He keeps count.

Here on the river, Search and Rescue Services are also concerned about the numbers of people becoming lost in the woods and they are advising hikers to take a selfie showing which direction they are heading in, saying: This might be the last picture ever taken of you.

A pod of transient orcas (killer whales) was spotted in the water near Stanley Park.

A salmon decoration by children on fence above Fraser River

Decoration created by children on a fence above Fraser river

A man disappeared from the deck of his boat upriver in New Westminster. He told some other people on the boat he was going out to sit on a chair. Half an hour later they found the chair on deck but the man has never been seen since.

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Filed under Canada, Comedy, Eccentrics, Fish

The Dirty Girls, Mr Methane, old man abuse, Keith Harris & Orvillle the duck

The Dirty Girls in Los Angeles

The Dirty Girls in Los Angeles reached out to Mr Methane…

Another day. Another not-quite-enough-time-to-write-a-blog moment. So, a follow-up to yesterday’s blog in which international farteur Mr Methane had decided not to perform at The Dirty Girls’ Funny Farty Yoga Party in Los Angeles.

Mr Methane guessed (I paraphrase) that The Dirty Girls thought he was mad and therefore must live in Los Angeles. Whereas I myself can vouch for the fact that he is mad and lives in Macclesfield in the UK.

Dirty Girl Amber Willat, who is helping to organise the Funny Farty Yoga Party on Sunday 15th March, contacted me last night to say:

“Well, Mr Methane was right, I was sort of under the Everyone cool and eccentric lives in the Hollywood Hills spell and either figured or hoped he was ripping it up in Hollywood which, by the way, is across town – not down the street – and, in LA traffic, that means it might as well take eight hours to get to us.

Mr Methane

Mr Methane has internal propulsion…

“We think Mr Methane should blow out of town (England) and get his butt over here for our event. Just hop on a plane and live a little! It will be an adventure. We will personally put him up, feed him, and entertain him for a week. I think Howard Stern could use another visit from him and I have friends with podcasts who would love to interview him.”

I had to tell Amber: “I suspect the problem with Mr Methane is the airfare to L.A. although, one would think, with his own internal propulsion system, he would not actually need an airplane, as you Colonials quaintly call aeroplanes.”

“Yeah,” said Amber, “I never once thought Mr. Methane would be using a plane. I never even considered there would be airfare! Darn!”

Meanwhile, Mr Methane himself contacted me to say:

Richard Simmons – that’s his name – The celebrity LA fitness instructor who looks like Leo Sayer I was trying to tell you about but couldn’t remember his name. It looks like he’s going through a bad patch at the moment which I’m sorry to hear. The Daily Mail reported that the Los Angeles Police did a welfare check on the fitness guru at his Hollywood Hills home after a friend allegedly sent an email to the LA County DA’s office saying Simmons was 66 and being abused. The LAPD said he was in good health but had a slight limp and was depressed after a knee injury.

“Anyway,” Mr Methane continued, “while looking for fitted kitchens on Ebay I came across this ad for solid granite kitchen worktops fronted by Keith Harris and Orville.

Keith Harris & Orville in a kitchen

Keith Harris and Orville like solid granite kitchen worktops…

“I can’t really get to the bottom of why Keith and Orville are on this advert. There is no reference in the text to give out any clues. In the normal world which most people inhabit, I suspect a bloke who was a Saturday night TV favourite 30+ years ago just turning up at your kitchen showroom with his hand inserted into the back of a green duck puppet would be a bit unsettling.

“I can only surmise that, as they live on the Fylde where this eBay seller is located, he’s a friend of the eBay seller… or Keith and Orville own a share in a Granite Worktop Fitted Kitchen Company on the Fylde. This is not impossible as Bob Carolgees (formerly starring on Tiswas with his hand up puppet Spit The Dog) owns a candle shop near Frodsham. So why not Keith and Orville getting into kitchens?

“Remember I told you Keith Harris sold a nightclub in Poulton-Le-Fylde to a chap called Elliot? Maybe he took that money and put it into kitchens. Though, if that’s so, I’m baffled as to who is the financial brains behind the business – Keith or Orville?”

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Canada: a screw in a foot, an election and a man who will set himself on fire

The latest dispatch from this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith has arrived.

Her early-morning report from Vancouver goes like this…


Don Bradman holds a cricket bat

Australian Don Bradman holds a cricket bat

I am not usually up at this hour without having attempted to go to sleep. But I was on the phone for almost three hours with a lady named Cricket. I have known her off and on since I was eleven. She has always been a fantastic story teller and my life seems watery and pale by comparison. She lived in Willesden Green in London as a child, with her grandmother who was a lesbian nun from Slave Lake.

It has been a very long and confusing day. I thought the Koreans in the coffee shop were asking me to dress up a dolphin and punish them.

Sorry, that should read  “dress up as A dolphin”. I hope that clears things up.

Coffee is a dangerous drug when combined with a sleeping disorder. The building manager is in the hallway now. He is from Heathrow in West London, but he doles out dire Cockney-toned nuggets to the neighbours like: “WELL, THEY BETTER GET USED TO IT!”

Anna retouched her nose in this 30-year-old picture

Anna Smith retouched her nose

I attach a thirty-year-old photo of myself taken during my black bottom serving maiden era, when I was trying to be a serious actress.

I retouched myself.

That is just correction fluid on my nose to conceal a brown stain on the photocopy; nothing to do with the police, drugs or the French… The original is long lost like my original aorta. I am pleased to report that my fake aorta is made of Dacron. When the surgeon told me he was going to put in a Dacron hose I was elated. The only thing I knew about Dacron was that they make sails out of it, so I knew it was strong and could prove to be invaluable in case of a marine emergency.

None of me is insured for anything, not even the  stainless steel screws (with washers) which I have in my arm. I want everyone to know that in case I am dead. They are in my right humerus. They could save your life.

One time, I was carrying something heavy and I stepped on a large screw. It screwed my cheap basketball shoe on to my heel bone. When I got to emergency at St.Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver again – where I have been revived countless times – the nurses joked: “Now you really ARE wearing spiked heels”.

A rather fuzzy photo of Anna’s foot

Out-of-focus photo of Anna’s feet: she is not sure which was screwed

When the doctor saw my foot, he was not sure what to do. He had not dealt with this exact problem before. So he sent me to X-ray.  They had to call the maintenance department, who sent up a man with a screwdriver. The doctor grimaced a bit but managed to unscrew me. I do not remember which foot that was.

I went to vote in the municipal election yesterday. There was a plethora of trans gender women to choose from on the ballot paper, but I only chose two – one for mayor and one for the Parks Board.

Elections can be interesting.

Just north of Vancouver on the Sea-to-Sky Highway is the district municipality of Squamish. Stunt man Peter Kent lives there. He has vowed to set himself on fire if the voter turnout is higher in this election than it was in the last. He says that Squamish has been good to him and he wants to give back to the city and encourage young people to vote.  He won a seat on the council yesterday, but the turnout has not yet been totaled so the CBC has not yet decided whether to send a camera crew to film him.

He said that setting himself on fire is no big deal as he does it all the time.

Socially responsible citizens line up in a Vancouver gym to vote in yesterday’s election. Anna says: "I was told by a polite, pregnant officer that I was not allowed to take this photo."

Socially responsible citizens line up in a Vancouver gym to vote in yesterday’s election. Anna says: “I was told by a polite, pregnant officer that I was not allowed to take this photo.”

Once I spent a long time on Vancouver Island.

When I returned to the mainland there was a civic election and I did not have a clue who to vote for.

So I asked my neighbour Tom, a retired librarian draft dodger anarchist hippie from Detroit, who HE was going to vote for. Tom reads a lot and is really politically informed. I agree with him on most  issues.

He said he was voting for one guy because he wanted to put in more bicycle paths. He named another man he was voting for because the guy would ban genetically modified seeds from local farms. Then he named a woman. He said she was the first woman to fuck him when he had arrived in Canada during the Vietnam War. So he was voting for her.

I did not – still don’t – know what the lady looks like. But Tom looks fine. He dresses a bit strangely – black leggings, a pink toque – but he has agile movement, sharp eyes and lives on a sailboat in the shipyard.

I thought to myself: Anyone who fucked Tom definitely deserves my vote.

So I voted as Tom recommended.

It seemed the right thing to do.

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Filed under Canada, Eccentrics, Humor, Humour, Surreal