Tag Archives: Glasgow

Edinburgh Fringe, Day 21: Tampons and how obscenity can be subjective

WARNING: USE OF EXTREME LANGUAGE IN THIS BLOG

Helen, sitting in a room with a Periscope and 1,200 visitors

In the afternoon, I took the plunge and went to Helen Wallace’s Up Periscope at Southside Social.

She claims it is the only Fringe show which can (and has) had one member in the audience and 1,200 people watching.

She livestreams it on Periscope, interacting with the live audience in the room (today, well into double figures) and with the online audience. More complicated than it sounds. Very well handled by her. And ripe for development in future years.

Being a woman of taste, she then packs up every day, leaps out and races to get to the increasingly prestigious Grouchy Club round the corner to The Counting House.

Today, the audience there included five of the people involved in Malcolm Hardee – Back From The Drink… a comic play to be put on by ex-squatters who were evicted from the late Malcolm’s Wibbley Wobbley floating pub. Nothing to do with me.

Kate Copstick (left) and Jane Hill in the lively Grouchy Club

Also there, was performer Jane Hill whose show is titled Cow.  I learned a lot in the ensuing discussion between Kate Copstick and Jane in that – something I had not known – calling someone a “cow” is, it seems, much more offensive in Glasgow than elsewhere in the UK – more severe, even, than in Edinburgh.

It seems – and I can only pass this on as discussed – that the word “cow” is a far more offensive word in Glasgow than the word “cunt”.

In Glasgow, as has oft been noted, the word “cunt” can be used almost affectionately just as, in Australia, the word “bastard” can be affectionate.

The Australian sentence “Ah, yah bastard, I love yah! Yer ma best friend!” can be almost directly translated into Glaswegian as “Ah, ye wee cunt, yer a lovely wee cunt, so y’are…”

But the use of the phrase “Yer a cow” in Glasgow is liable to lead to the use of cut-throat razors and the infliction of Glasgow Smiles.

These are the sort of useful life tips you can only hear amid the comedy industry chat at the Grouchy Club.

Jane Hill had actually arrived to clarify exactly how she had once made tampons, as I had mentioned it in a blog two days ago.

She was keen to point out that, rather than knitting condoms as part of a cottage industry, as I had fantasised, she had been employed in the “tampon hand assemblage” business in Portsmouth.

After that, I should point out, she pursued a highly prestigious career in independent radio and the BBC.

Sarah Morgan-Paul with a local body guard

Coincidentally, in the evening, though, I saw Tales From a Tampon, in which Sarah Morgan-Paul does straight old-school stand-up (that’s not in any way a criticism) about the history of the tampon while dressed as a tampon. As it is straight stand-up in a costume, it neither counts as Malcolm Hardee Award Comic Originality nor a Cunning Stunt… I vaguely remember someone wandering round the streets of Edinburgh a few years ago dressed as a tampon. Or it might have been a dildo. The memory plays visual tricks after too many years at the Fringe.

Suggestions for Cunning Stunts are, strangely, now coming out of the woodwork despite the fact the Malcolm Hardee Awards shortlist was announced on Monday.

Later tonight, I got a call from the director of the aforementioned squatters’ play Malcolm Hardee – Back From The Drink – with unlikely cunning stunt possibilities to publicise it… Alas, simultaneously too late for the Malcolm Hardee Award nominations AND too late to get any media publicity before tomorrow night’s performance.

Despite allegedly having done a lot of research on types of cunning stunt, said director had not realised I was involved in the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards. But he said they had been discussing a (non-destructive) stunt at the Awards Show (two days after his show, so hardly going to help publicise it.)

I am not sure which of us was more confused at this point.

I then opened my email and there was a message from the US highlighting, once again, the importance of advance research. It said:


Hi John,

I’d like to invite MALCOLM HARDEE to be featured on our TALK BUSINESS 360 “Industry Innovators” TV program which airs on American Airlines during the entire month of December 2017.

Our in-flight TV show is available to millions of business and leisure travelers, presenting one-on-one interviews with profiles of business leaders.  Recent guests include P&G, Dell, PwC, LG Electronics, Verizon, Bayer, Hilton Hotels, Stanford University, Suzuki and more.

The good news is we’re extending a remnant rate this week of only $3,995 (normally 11K) for production, distribution, and re-usage rights for a 2-minute video, making this an affordable vehicle to communicate your message and grow your brand.  Please contact me as soon as possible for more details as space is limited.

Sincerely,

Michael Smith
Producer
TALK BUSINESS 360 TV
TV That Means Business


I replied:


Wow, Michael,

Great rate and a real honour to have Malcolm recognised as one of the “Industry Innovators”!

Where would the recording take place and what date? I will then arrange to have Malcolm’s ashes shipped to wherever is best for you.

He drowned in 2005, so there will be a lot to catch up on in the recording. Will there be an interviewer?

Best wishes,

John


So far, no reply.

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Filed under Comedy, Language

The most feared comedy critic at the Edinburgh Fringe and her links to crime

Could this wordsmith have saved you from a prison sentence?

At this month’s Grouchy Club meeting in London, I talked to comedy critic Kate Copstick, one of the judges of the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards.

“So,” I started, “you were trained as a lawyer in Scotland…”

“Yes, I did a law degree at Glasgow University because I watched Margaret Lockwood in the TV series Justice at a very impressionable age and I saw the original Witness For The Prosecution with Charles Laughton when my whole brain was malleable. I got this idea that lawyers were there to help people… I pause for laughter.

“I really just wanted to be an actress, but then my mum died very suddenly and my dad went to pieces and I thought: We must do something to cheer up my dad. What I had always done to cheer up my dad, my gran, my mum – anybody – was do something clever – win a prize, be first in the class, something.

“So I thought: Great! I will make him magically forget the love of his life to whom he has been married for 17 years has just died overnight of a brain haemorrhage… by announcing that I am going to do a law degree.”

“Very sensible,” I said. “How long was the course?”

“Four years for an Honours degree. And then, in Scotland, you do an apprenticeship and then, if you want to go to the Bar, you do devilling.”

“Devilling?”

“They call it pupilage in England.”

“You enjoyed your law course?”

“It was great. I was drunk through most of the degree.”

“And you were bonking…”

“Endlessly. I fucked people for the same reason people climb mountains. Because they’re there.”

On his death in 2015, the Telegraph called Joe a man of “integrity and passion”

“And you wanted to be…?”

“A criminal lawyer and the really, really famous guy who all the criminals in Glasgow went to was Joe Beltrami. He was a phenomenal lawyer who judged nobody and absolutely gave everybody the best defence they could get. They had never had any women working for them other than as secretaries but I persuaded Joe Beltrami and did my apprenticeship with them and it was – fucking hell! – a bit of an eye-opener.”

“You were not doing motoring offences…”

“No. They only did the biggies – murder, armed robbery, rape. So I spent most of my time interviewing witnesses, talking to the police, collecting bits-and-bobs of evidence at prisons or in the High Court. It was a TOTAL eye-opener.”

“At what point,” I asked, “did you discover there was no justice?”

“Fairly early on. It completely turned the way I thought about… the way I thought about everything. I had just come out of university. What the fuck did I know? Nothing.”

“Why did you stop being involved in the legal system?”

“One reason was that I was just getting so angry. Because of the unfairness of the system. You see an actual policeman standing there just lying. Not being mistaken, but telling a direct lie and then two of his friends stepping up and saying: Yes, I can corroborate what DC So-and-so was saying. Seeing that and knowing there is nothing you can do about it because the jury are thinking: It’s the police. So it’s true…

The Scottish media called Walter Norval Glasgow’s Godfather & “first crime boss”

“I learned more and more that you can be found guilty because your accent is wrong, because you look wrong, because you don’t know the right words. You can be found innocent because you have a posh fucking Eton accent and you can see the jury thinking: He’s such a nice chap; how can he have possibly done that? And there is nothing legally you can do about it, because the law is just a big boys’ game. If you try and go up against that, you’re not going to get anywhere.”

“I only know the English system,” I said, “not the Scottish system, but isn’t the whole basis of the court system that you are not judging whether someone is innocent or guilty, you are judging which of two legal eagles is putting forward a better case and which is the more credible liar?”

“It’s all shite, John,” said Copstick. “I was at the point where I was thinking: Well, if the police are going to lie, then I will lie. And, that way, absolute madness lies.”

“I once,” I said, “talked to (a former Conservative Prime Minister)’s personal solicitor. He was a top city solicitor. And he told me he would never put a Metropolitan Police officer into the witness box without corroboration because you could never guarantee they were telling the truth.”

“The scariest people I ever met in Glasgow,” said Copstick, “were members of the Serious Crimes Squad.”

“Joe Beltrami,” I said, “was Arthur Thompson’s lawyer, wasn’t he? So that is very serious stuff.”

“I never met Arthur Thompson,” Copstick replied. “But one of the clients I worked with was a guy called Walter Norval, who was known as The Glasgow Godfather. That would be at the end of the 1970s or the early 1980s, I guess. His speciality was armed robbery. He was another nail in the coffin of my legal career.

“This was a man who had stood like a colossus over the criminal world of Glasgow… allegedly… for many years with many armed bank robberies. Nobody particularly got hurt. But there were a load of sawn-off shotguns going around and a load of banks robbed. Generally speaking he was never at the robberies. He was the mastermind. You don’t get Mr Marks and Mr Spencer on the shop floor offering 2-for-1 on knickers.

Daily Record reported Norval’s 2014 funeral.

“Walter Norval was arrested. The big evidence the police had was that he had gone from the site of an armed bank robbery, driven home and parked his brown Ford Granada car outside his house with four sawn-off shotguns in the boot – like yer average criminal mastermind does. And that was what he got convicted on.

“I went in and saw him afterwards and asked him: Is this not driving you absolutely mental? It was all a lie! 

“He said: Well, to be honest, there’s a lot of things I’ve done that I’ve got away with and this I did not do but it sort of evens-out.

“And I thought: But that doesn’t excuse it! This is criminal policing at the highest level. And they’re fucking liars. I was just too angry. I was getting too angry. And angry gets you nowhere in law. Especially as a female. Emotion gets you nowhere.

“You have to know when you’re beaten. I would have ended up being found out to have fiddled something. It just made me so angry.”

“If a crime is committed in England,” I said, “the police investigate the crime and find the person they believe committed the crime. Then they go to the Crown Prosecution Service who decide if, on a balance of probability, they will get a Guilty verdict in court. In court, it’s nothing to do with finding out the facts because the facts have already been investigated and the accused is presumed to be guilty unless ‘proven’ innocent. In court, it’s about two trained liars in a competition to see which performs better.”

“Up to a point,” said Copstick. “It’s a game. It’s like chess. I think what you’re struggling to say is that there is a massive dichotomy between law and justice.”

“I went to a grammar school,” I said, “which was a bit up itself. So it had a ‘debating society’ and the most admirable thing you could do there was argue on and win a proposition you did not believe in yourself. To me, that’s dishonesty. But that’s the basis of the legal system. You are very argumentative.”

“Yes,” agreed Copstick.

“Once you decide to take one side,” I suggested, “you will argue that case come what may.”

“Now I can be Devil’s Advocate,” said Copstick. “Back then, I was completely incapable of doing that.”

The argumentative side of Copstick will be on show next month when she and I host the daily Grouchy Club at the Edinburgh Fringe 14th-27th August, as part of the Laughing Horse Free Festival. The Grouchy Club has been labelled by The Scotsman as “a talking shop for comics riding the emotional rollercoaster of the Edinburgh Fringe” and by me as “a rolling Copstick diatribe”.

After the Fringe finishes, the Grouchy Club continues monthly in London.

For anyone on the receiving end of one of her comedy reviews in Edinburgh – Best of luck.

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Filed under Crime, Glasgow, Legal system, Scotland

Linked: the Krays, the Blind Beggar shooting and the Queen of England

Micky Fawcett (right) with Ronnie Kray (left) & boxer Sonny Liston,

(L-R) Ronnie Kray, boxer Sonny Liston and Micky Fawcett

So I was talking to Micky Fawcett. He used to work for 1960s London gangsters the Kray Twins.

“The Krays went up to Scotland, didn’t they?” I asked.

“I don’t think so,” replied Micky. “The Scots came down here to London.”

Arthur Thompson?” I asked.

“I don’t think he was there, but there was a guy called Richie Anderson. He was on the firm (the Krays’ gang) for a while; I got on very well with Richie. He was a bit scornful of… You know the two Scotsmen who were with Ronnie when he shot George Cornell in the Blind Beggar? One fired the gun up in the roof. They hadn’t been round for long; they were newcomers, but Richie Anderson was very scornful of them:. You know why?”

“Why?”

“Because they came from Edinburgh and he came from Glasgow.”

“That would do it,” I laughed. “Glasgow chaps think chaps from Edinburgh are ponces and wankers, not proper hard men.”

“I was friendly with quite a few Jocks in the Army,” said Micky. “In the five minutes I was there. There was John McDowell. To look at him, you would imagine he’d been brought up on deep-fried Mars Bars. He came from Maryhill…”

“Ooh,” I said. “Buffalo Bill from Maryhill. There are supposed to be lots of descendants of Red Indians around Maryhill.”

“… and there was a bloke who came from Govan,” Micky continued.

“You know all the best people,” I said.

“I like Scotland,” Micky told me. “In the Army, Scotsmen, Cockneys and Scousers all kind of had more in common. There was a good experience I had in Scotland. Me and another guy sold a feller a distillery.”

“Legitimately?” I asked. “Did you actually own it?”

“Anyway…,” said Micky. “We sold him the distillery. We had never seen a distillery. So we thought we’d better go and see one. We jumped on a plane and went to one of these little towns near Glasgow. All done. So we thought we’d go and have a drink in the Gorbals.”

“Oh good grief!” I said.

“I wanted to see it,” said Mickey. “I’m fascinated by that sort of thing. All the windows were bricked up.”

“Which year was this?”

“The early 1960s.”

“You’re lucky to have got out alive,” I told him. “An English accent in the Gorbals.”

“I’ve been up there since and the Gorbals has gone.”

“They’ve blown up the tower blocks,” I said.

“And I’ve been up Ben Nevis and around Loch Lomond,” said Micky. “I saw the Queen up there… On my first visit to Scotland in the 1950s, around 1958, I went to the Braemar Gathering and she was there in the distance.

Princess Margaret, 1965 (Photograph by Eric Koch/Anefo

Princess Margaret in 1965 (Photograph by Eric Koch/Anefo)

“I can’t remember where I stayed; I might have slept in the car in them days – I had a wooden shooting-brake. But, the next day, I’m driving around and I recognise Princess Margaret’s car, because it had been on the television – she had a Vauxhall Victor.

“I saw a couple of soldiers in their uniforms with rifles, just standing around talking and there was the Royal Family sitting on big blankets out on the grass. Just sitting around drinking out of vacuum flasks and eating sandwiches.”

“It was not,” I asked, “Princess Margaret you sold a distillery to?”

“No,” laughed Micky. “I can’t remember the details of the distillery. But we also sold La Discotheque in London.

“I was in the Kentucky Club (owned by the Kray Twins) and there was a feller who had run dance halls. Do you remember Lennie Peters?”

“The blind pop singer in Peters & Lee?”

“Yeah. and because this feller was in the dance hall business, the Twins thought that was exactly the same as being in the music business. It was confused in their minds. So Reggie asked this feller: Can you do anything for Lennie Peters? The feller said: No, I can’t do anything.

“So the feller came over to us – me and another guy who were standing around just having a drink – and said: Make you fucking laugh, don’t they? He’s just asked me if I can do anything for Lennie Peters? How am I going to do anything for a fucking blind man?”

“Later, I said to Reggie: You asked him, did you? And Reggie says: Yeah. The usual thing. I’ll chin him.

“I said: No, no, hold it a minute. We can do something with him.

“We?” I asked.

“Me and the guy I was working with. I had a partner for a long, long time. We worked well together. So we talked to this guy and found out how his dance halls worked and how they didn’t work and said: We can do something for you. Would you like to run La Discotheque? It was the first discotheque in the West End. A feller called Raymond Nash owned it, a Lebanese…”

“Nash?” I asked.

“Yeah. Not the Nash family. He was a Lebanese guy, a top criminal.”

“Lebanese criminal?” I asked.

“Yeah. But in England. He died not long ago and there were big articles in the papers about him. His daughter got caught by Japanese and – oh – if someone wanted to make a good story, that really would be a good story.”

Raymond Nash had also been an associate of slum landlord Peter Rachman.

“So,” Micky continued, “we approached Raymond Nash and said: Listen, we got a feller we wanna do a bit of business with, if you could make all your staff just salute us and give us the run of the place for a night… 

“He said: Alright, you got it.

“He got cut-in for a percentage?” I asked.

“No. No money for him. He just wanted to be friendly with The Twins…

Krayzy Days – remembered as they were

Krayzy Days – Micky Fawcett’s memoir

“So we went back to this feller – Ron Kingsnorth his name was – he had a dance hall in Romford – and we said to him: Listen, we can do something here. We’ve put the frighteners on that Raymond Nash and we can take over La Discotheque. We’ll take you up there, have a look round, see if you fancy it.

“And I forget the figure we got out of him – but it was a few grand.”

“So he bought it?” I asked.

“He bought the running of it from us and then Raymond Nash came along and said to him: What are you doing here? Fuck off!

“We used to do it all the time. That was my job.”

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Filed under 1960s, Crime, London, Scotland

Sex, drugs and thievery in Canada and Scotland… Boredom is so, so subjective

Anna Smith had a red umbrella day

Anna Smith held a red umbrella one day in Vancouver (Photograph by Andrew Sorfleet)

After a suspicious pause, during which I don’t even want to speculate what she might have been up to, Anna Smith – this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent – sent me two photographs.

The first shows her holding a red umbrella atop a sign saying SEX FOR ALL and a red logo with a wheelchair in it. She tells me:

“The photo was taken at the end of our annual Red Umbrella Rally.”

I know no more, dear reader. Anna lives in Vancouver, Canada. It is a foreign country. They do things differently there.

Normal for Glasgow?

Flamenco? Normal for Glasgow?

“The other weird photo,” she tells me, “is of two posters beside each other, one advertising Classical Italian Art from Glasgow Collections with a poster for a flamenco version of Alice and Wonderland. I suppose they do that in Glasgow all the time.”

Her view of the exciting lives led by Glaswegians may have been influenced either by Janey Godley’s Tweets and Periscope videos or by an article Anna read in The Economist declaring how ‘mind-numbingly boring’ Vancouver is.

Anna tells me: “Actually, nobody here gives a shit because they have never heard of The Economist. And I was laughing my guts out because I only read The Economist if there’s no other choice because IT IS SO BORING! Although,” she added, “Vancouver, aside from all the strange people, actually IS pretty boring.

In the boring river, beware of brush wolves

Boring river? Beware of Molly the brush wolf (Photograph by Andrew Sorfleet)

“Look at myself for example. What do I love most about living here? Watching the river flow by.

“The last major uproar in Vancouver was about a plot to close the road on the Burrard Bridge for a massive yoga ‘Be-In’ by people wearing yoga pants, sponsored at enormous cost by the Provincial Government, which is helmed by an idiotic bimbo named Christy Clark, also known as ‘Gidget’.

“Taxpayers became enraged. The Yoga Pants manufacturer’s headquarters are at one end of the Burrard Bridge. I don’t know where its hindquarters are. Then rumours started building that the Russian gas company Gazprom was also involved and the whole thing exploded.”

Drug article in Vancouver Sun

Vancouver Sun headline

On The Province news site, Premier Christy Clark announced that the event on 21st June would be live-streamed online “for the world to witness.”

She told members of the public: “Bring your yoga mat, bring your best yoga poses, get on the bridge and make a statement about who British Columbia is.”

I have to say that, closing a bridge to do this, does not make Vancouver seem boring. Mildly eccentric, yes. But boring, no. And, to undercut the boring image even more, Anna tells me:

“In the headlines here are the ever growing number of marijuana storefronts. There are more dispensaries in Vancouver than the entire rest of Canada. The dispensaries are supplied by illegal drug gangs.

“Also, medical marijuana users battled against the federal government in The Supreme Court of Canada and won their right to imbibe THC in whichever form they choose – cigars, salves, oils, cookies, cake or pizza.

“I was on my boat, listening to the radio, when the decision came through. The CBC announcer said joyfully: “Canadians are now free to partake in whatever form of marijuana they choose, including suppositories! This will really open the floodgates!”

Notice on tree in Vancouver about a dangerously violent man

Notice on tree in Vancouver about a dangerously violent man

Anna lives on a boat in Vancouver.

“I was up on the road two marinas upriver,” she tells me, “saying to a man: Did you notice that our marina has ‘ WANTED ‘ signs up?

“The signs said: WARNING. VIOLENT AND ON DRUGS. IF YOU SEE HIM TELL HIM TO LEAVE!!! IF HE DOES NOT? CALL THE POLICE!!!

“Then another man came up and said: That’s my son. He’s NOT wanted. I keep moving and he keeps finding me.

Meanwhile, back in what still remains for the moment the UK, today’s Scotsman newspaper reports:

The remote Hebridean island of Canna has been targeted by thieves for the first time in half a century – with the culprits making off with woolly hats, coffee, biscuits and beauty products.

Uamh Rìgh Lochlainn, grave of the king of Norway, on Canna (Photograph by Peter Van den Bossche)

Uamh Rìgh Lochlainn, grave of the King of Norway, on Canna (Photograph by Peter Van den Bossche)

The theft on the idyllic island… has left the tiny population of only 22 stunned… The crime, committed between 8pm on Friday and 8am on Saturday, is believed to be the first on the remote island since a wooden plate was stolen in the 1960s. 

Boredom is a comparative and subjectively-used word. A Norwegian king lies buried on Canna. Well, so it is said. There is no archaeological evidence for the claim, but it is a story that maybe brightens up the bleak winter evenings.

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Filed under Canada, Eccentrics, Humor, Humour

Why Jesus was not born in Scotland

Today, more news from this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith. She writes from Vancouver:


In Vancouver, Ben from Glasgow.(Photograph by Anna Smith)

Ben from Glasgow, making a living in Vancouver (Photograph by Anna Smith)

Ben from Glasgow tells me the reason Jesus was not born in Scotland was because they couldn’t find a wise man there.

Ben says he did stand up comedy in Toronto and was a jockey… I believe him… He has one joke after the next, is five foot one and knows about horses.

He told me he used to train race horses at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, then he worked his way out west exercising horses or swamping out stables, asking for temp work at racetracks. At one racetrack in Winnipeg, they asked him what he could do. He said: “Fuck, fight and fiddle.”

He was hired right away.

Scots boxer Benny Lynch (1913-1946)

Scottish boxer Benny Lynch (1913-1946)

He says he is the grandson of Scottish boxer Benny Lynch and, as soon as I looked up Benny Lynch, I could see it. He looks just like him and has the same mannerisms. He told me it was no picnic for his father – or any of them at that time, by the sounds of it.

But he still is laughing. A very cheerful guy… mostly.

For some reason he likes me. He let me know how to find him. It might be funny to do a rigged boxing match with him. They say I have a good left hook.

Meanwhile, Mark Steck, the bearded  motorcycling novelist from Missouri who sold me his book Artless not long ago, emailed me from California. He is in a redwood forest, reading your blog, on his way to Mexico.

I am moving back to my boat. A doctor named Derek Human (Head of Cardiology at the University of British Columbia) told me last week that my heart looks fine.

Anna Smith is no stranger to the hospitals of Vancouver

Anna Smith is no stranger to the hospitals of Vancouver

He said that my hose is definitely not coming loose – if anything it is stronger, as the scar tissue is holding everything so well in place that it will never fall apart.

They did almost a week of various scans, including four hours in an MRI where I was played Baroque concertos, which made me cry a bit.

All my neighbours on the river are happy that I am coming back and are talking about how great it is to live where you can throw potato peels out of the window. I agreed. I told them how horrible it is to live in an apartment and put all the food scraps in a bucket.

Are they using the term ‘lumbersexual’ in the UK? I noticed that a friend of mine who is a civil servant has been looking more like a lumberjack every day.

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Filed under Boxing, Canada, Medical, Scotland

A desperate blog with Matt Roper about Lewis Schaffer and Marianne Faithfull

Matt Roper - a man barely alive after a bad night’s sleep

Matt Roper – a comedian barely alive after a bad night’s sleep

“I am a desperate man,” I told comedian Matt Roper, who has been living in my spare room for the last few weeks (with my knowledge).

“I need a blog. You said you have a sore back. What has happened to it?”

“I dunno,” Matt said. “It’s just the way I’ve been sleeping.”

“Or is it the fact you’ve got the weight of the world’s troubles on your shoulders?” I suggested.

“I’m glad you said that,” replied Matt, “because Lewis Schaffer needs to realise he’s not carrying them all on his own.”

“We’ve barely seen each other since you’ve been here,” I said. “Where have you been these last few weeks?”

“John,” said Matt. “This is not an interesting blog. Let’s get Wilfredo out.”

On stage, Matt plays the part of Hispanic singer Wilfredo.

“Nah,” I said.

Matt had been trying to persuade me I should interview him for this blog in character as Wilfredo in my back garden.

“My blog’s about real people,” I had told him. “It would be like Chortle (the comedy industry website) interviewing Alan Partridge instead of Steve Coogan.”

Lewis Schaffer (lefty) exercising in the park yesterday with Martin Soan

Lewis Schaffer, here talking to Martin Soan about ping pong

“Does Lewis Schaffer work at Greggs The Baker?” Matt asked me.

“Yes,” I said.

“Does he?” asked Matt. “What does he do there?”

“Of course he doesn’t work in Greggs The Baker,” I said. “Why on earth would he?”

His Wikipedia entry said he did last time I looked.”

We looked at Lewis Schaffer’s Wikipedia entry.

It had been changed.

“Don’t mention Greggs The Baker in your blog,” said Matt. “Lewis Schaffer will be upset by that.”

“No he won’t,” I said. “He probably wrote it.”

“I’m going to go out for a ciggie,” said Matt.

“Is there’s a picture in it?” I asked.

“John, this isn’t interesting,” said Matt. “We could invent a fake person specifically for your blog,”

“Lewis Schaffer is enough,” I said. “I’ll take a picture of you.”

“Get your garlic grotto in the background,” said Matt.

I have a Dalek grotto in my back garden

I have a Dalek grotto in my back garden & two weeping angels

“Garlic grotto?”

“Dalek grotto,” said Matt, correcting either me or himself.

I have a Dalek grotto in my back garden.

“How about publicising Wilfredo’s Christmas single?” asked Matt.

“Nah,” I said.

It started to drizzle rain.

“John, I can’t live in this country,” said Matt.

“Why?”

The British attitude to life - A glass half empty

The normal British attitude to life exemplified

“It’s just so painful. Everything’s expensive. The people are miserable. Everyone’s got this glass-half-empty approach to life.”

“But you’re from the North of England!” I laughed.

“Not as far north as you,” said Matt.

“Scotland isn’t the North of England,” I said.

“Maybe I should move back up North,” mused Matt.

“But,” I pointed out, “if you go too far north, you hit Glasgow, which is never a good idea. Talk about misery.”

“I’ve never been to Glasgow,” said Matt.

Glasgow - a fine and refined city of culture

Glasgow – a fine and refined city of culture

“Misery and violence,” I said. “It’s a heady mix. Have you really never been to Glasgow?”

“I was once in a cafe called Leopold’s in Bombay,” replied Matt.

“It’s not the same,” I said.

“I used to spend a lot of winters out there,” said Matt.

“The cafe?”

“India. I used to sing in clubs in the summer down in Devon. There was good money in it.”

“What sort of stuff?”

“Swing and jazz, all sorts of stuff.”

“Why have you never been to Glasgow?” I asked.

The show Matt saw on London’s South Bank last Friday

The show Matt saw on London’s South Bank last Friday night

“I did go,” said Matt, “to see Marianne Faithfull in London last Friday night.”

“Oh yes,” I said, “you told me you thought she should be a comedian.”

“She was very very funny,” said Matt. “She had a stick because she had shattered her hip bone. So she sits in a chair on stage with this stick, yelling at all the techies because the lights are too bright. Then she counts – One – Two – Three – and unseats herself grandly from this chair and all the audience applaud and she shouts Imagine! Getting a round of applause just for standing up! I feel  like Tommy Cooper! and all the audience applauded.

Tommy Cooper

The late great Tommy Cooper

I love Tommy Cooper! she says. I AM Tommy Cooper! My kinda guy!”

“So there’s a scoop for your blog,” said Matt. “Marianne Faithfull is a huge Tommy Cooper fan.”

I left Matt outside, smoking in the drizzle.

Inside, there was a message on my computer from someone I know who had better remain nameless.

“I am listening to Lewis Schaffer attempting to interview Stewart Lee on Nunhead American Radio,” it said. “Worth a listen. Total chaos.”

Sometimes I think: Should I continue to write this blog? Does anyone really believe Lewis Schaffer exists?

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Filed under Blogs, Comedy, Scotland, UK

How do you reform yourself if you have been a gangland enforcer in Glasgow?

William Lobban with his car and his book yesterday

William Lobban with car and book yesterday

William Lobban is selling his car tomorrow. A man is coming up to the Highlands from Glasgow to buy the car. That is quite a long way to travel to buy a car, but he thinks it is worth it. Then William will buy an even better one.

I blogged about William last November when his book The Glasgow Curse was published. It was a No 1 Amazon bestseller pre-publication.

That was last November. In June this year, The Glasgow Curse went back up to No 1 in Amazon’s ‘true crime’ sales chart. It is still hovering around the Top 20 in various lists of crime books. And it was his publisher’s second best-selling e-book (after Alexander McCall Smith).

None of this is normal.

So, as I am still in Edinburgh, I drove up to the Highlands yesterday to ask him why the book had gone back up to No 1 in the summer. It seemed like a good idea at the time. It seemed a shorter distance on the map.

He had no idea why the book had gone back up to No 1 in June, so I asked him: “Why did you move up here from Glasgow?”

It was a sunny day in the Highlands yesterday

It was a lovely sunny day to meet in the Highlands yesterday

“There’s a big pal of mine lives up here,” said William. “He’s about 79 now. One of the old school. Done a life sentence. Two of them got life back in the early 1960s for killing a butcher. Robbed him in his shop; killed him. They both got caught and got a lifer. It was just after they stopped hanging people, so he was quite lucky.

“He was a big man in his day. I came up to see him initially and quite liked the place. There was no really great connection. You know the cops are carrying guns up here now?”

“I read that in The Scotsman,” I said. “They’re carrying guns on regular call-outs. They were photographed just going into a McDonalds with guns for no reason.”

“You remember,” said William, “that Paul Ferris was (allegedly) threatening me online and on Twitter and stuff. Veiled threats like: Your time’s coming soon.”

Yesterday’s Daily Record report on Ferris (left) and Lobban

Daily Record reports on feud between Ferris (left) & Lobban

“He was allegedly posting your postcode online,” I said.

“That’s right,” said William. “Although that’s an open secret. People have known I’m here since I’ve been here. But I sought advice on what to do and I was advised I should report it to the cops, which I did – cos I want to be seen as a reformed character doing the right thing. Right after that, the local police started carrying guns up here. It does make you wonder if they decided to do that just in case they do get any trouble. It just makes you wonder. Who knows?”

William is usually referred-to in the press as “a notorious underworld enforcer”. He was once the ‘Most Wanted’ criminal in the UK.

“But I’m trying to create a different image for myself,” he told me yesterday. “I’m a different person. I want to be accepted for who I am and what I’m trying to do now, not for what I did 20-odd years ago. I’m on the e-fags now. I’ve not smoked a cigarette in about two months.”

“Much cheaper,” I said.

“A lot cheaper,” agreed William, “but it’s the health aspect. I was a smoker all my life. I’ve changed my ways, John. I take tablets to lower my cholesterol. I’m on 40 milligrams of simvastatin.”

“And I see you’re drinking orange juice,” I said.

William Lobban, aged 19

William when he was aged 19

“When I first came up here (he lives just outside a Highland town) back in 2006 or 2007, I had a bad problem with drink. It lasted for about a year. I went off the rails a bit. Now I have not touched a drink in over four years.

“I first got done in Stornoway for drink driving. I got a two-year ban there and then I got done just outside Perth. I was out of order. I really was. They gave me another four-year ban and that ran concurrent. So I ended up losing my licence for about five years in total. I got it back two years ago.

“It’s all behind me now, but it was at that time the police came and lifted me. I was in one of the local nightclubs here and I had a suit and a big coat and all that on. I was drunk and I must have been standing and swaying about and the bouncers have come up and they says: Can you take yer coat off, because people are starting to get a bit paranoid? Can you just take yer coat off and put it in the cloakroom? And I says: F off. I was out of order. So the next thing is they’ve all jumped on me and the police have come.

“So they’ve got me in the back of the police car and I can’t remember doing this – that shows you how drunk I was – but apparently I head-butted one of the cops while I was cuffed. I can only remember waking up in the morning and I was sore everywhere and black-and-blue because the cops had beat the shit out of me. But they dropped the charge of me assaulting the police because I had such a list of injuries myself. I guess they must have thought Well, if we take this any further, then he is going to bring all that out. It ended up as a breach of the peace.”

Even before publication, a No 1 Amazon bestseller

Even before publication, a No 1 bestseller

William is currently writing a sequel to The Glasgow Curse. “Spain is going to be a big part of the second book.” he told me. “But not just Spain: all over Europe. France, Holland; I’ve got lots of great stories to tell.”

The Glasgow Curse included the killing outside the family home of the son of Glasgow’s godfather Arthur Thompson and the revenge killings of Bobby Glover and Joe ‘Bananas’ Hanlon, who were suspected of being involved.

Gangster Paul Ferris was arrested for the shooting of Thompson’s son and later found not guilty after a £4 million trial. He accused William Lobban of luring Glover and Hanlon to their deaths, which William denies. A 2013 film – The Wee Man – was made about Ferris’ life. There is a trailer on YouTube.

“You know that Ferris film The Wee Man?” William said to me yesterday.

“I was trying not to mention that,” I said. “I was reading recently that the producer felt it had been pirated out of existence. He appeared not to have seen the irony of being ripped-off by criminals. I have to say I thought it was a very good film. Bits of it might not be true, but it was a good film.”

“You enjoyed it?” asked William.

“Yeah,” I said.

“Did you?” William asked again.

The Wee Man movie

The Wee Man movie: not always correct

“Yeah,” I replied again. “You know what the real people in the movie were really like and what really happened, but I don’t. Once I’ve accepted the main actor as Paul Ferris, I can go along with it. Because you knew him, you never can.”

“I suppose so,” said William. “But the explosion in the Jaguar, for instance – when Arthur Thompson’s mother-in-law gets killed. Ferris was only two or three years old when that happened, so to put that in the film wasn’t right because it wasn’t part of his story.”

“I think,” I said, “if you know the truth about something, then you can’t watch films about it. I mean, Arthur Thompson, for some bizarre reason, seemed to be played by an actor with an Irish accent. What was that all about? But maybe someone will make a film of The Glasgow Curse. You seem to be successfully changing yourself from a ‘hard man’ gangster into an author.”

“Well,” said William, “turning the corner and living legitimately can be very difficult. It does throw up challenges all the time.

“A couple of months ago, I was in Tesco’s car park. I was coming out of the shop with the trolley and someone says to me: Oh, he’s just spat on your car.

“I’d just had it all polished.

“I said: Who?

That man there.

Time to set matters straight

Not a man to mess with in Tesco’s

“So I left the trolley and, sure as hell, on the driver’s window was – och – he’d brought all this up and I… I thought: How disgusting. So I ran after him and got hold of him. I never put my hands on him, but I says: You’ve just spat on my car there. He tried to deny it and, to cut a long story short, I ended up saying: Now, look, you’d better get back and clean that or I don’t know what I’m gonna do here. 

“And he did. He must have known by my… you know… by the way I was… And my reaction was – to me – it was a good thing, because normally I’d have just head-butted him… because I felt like doing that… But I managed to hold myself back – and that is a good thing.”

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Filed under Crime, Scotland