Tag Archives: John Ward

John’s UK Coronavirus Diary – No 1 – Panic buying, leeches and facemasks

SATURDAY 14th MARCH

I thought stockpiling toilet rolls was bizarre enough… But now my local Lidl supermarket has had an outbreak of what appears to be panic buying of bread and eggs… I can only assume this is caused by people who were unable to join in the earlier mass panic buying of toilet rolls trying to bring on constipation by over-eating bread and eggs, thus negating the short-term requirement for the toilet rolls they do not have.

SUNDAY 15th MARCH

Someone has shared a story about a Hindu cow urine drinking party – “Dozens of Hindu activists in India hosted a cow urine-drinking party. Some members of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party have claimed that cow urine and dung can prevent and cure COVID-19”.

This is a new twist on an old story.

Moraji Desai, the Indian Prime Minister 1977-1979 used to drink his own urine. He said ‘urine therapy’ was the perfect medical solution for the millions of Indians who could not afford medical treatment. He also attributed his longevity to drinking his own urine – which he called “the water of life”.

I remember English actress Sarah Miles, who was on The Last Resort With Jonathan Ross TV chat show when I was a researcher, likewise drank her own urine, though thankfully or sadly (depending on your viewpoint) not on the show. She seemed a lovely, gentle, very vulnerable person. From memory, I think she used to drink a pint of urine every morning.

MONDAY 16th MARCH

What is it with the lack of eggs in Lidl? Is there panic buying of eggs or have the hens gone into self-isolation?

Is a plague of frogs next? (Photo by Gary Tresize via UnSplash)

The coronavirus is killing off the oldest people… in other words, the first-born… On past documented evidence, I suspect self-isolation may trigger an outbreak of boils, then there will be a plague of frogs and then the locusts will arrive…

In the US, President Trump urges Americans to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people… Is it merely coincidence that this is less than the number required to form a jury…?

TUESDAY 17th MARCH

I have had a dry, irritating-to-others, cough throughout my life. My father had a similar cough throughout his life and he died at 82 (not from the cough). The benefit of this now is that, if I clear my throat in a supermarket aisle, people part before me like the Red Sea before the Israelites. 

Facebook has gone mad. I posted a jokey post from the New Yorker about wrestling without an audience being like avant-garde theatre. This apparently breaches Facebook’s community standards and, as such, it has been removed and flagged as fraud… The explanation, apparently is that this is a result of the coronavirus because Facebook is starting to rely on machines, not humans, to check posts.

Not even a single grain of sugar was left in Lidl

WEDNESDAY 18th MARCH

Mystifyingly, there has now been panic buying in the Lidl sugar section in Borehamwood. The Lidl middle aisle still has plenty of grass seed, children’s socks and post-war Russian rocket launchers, but there is not a grain of sugar anywhere…

Sugar??? Why???

McDonald’s at Highbury Corner in London is serving only take-aways, no eat-in meals; and my local Costa, from tomorrow, is not accepting their plastic loyalty cards – only via the app – because staff are not allowed to touch strangers’ plastic cards.

Last night, I saw what may have been one of the last comedy shows in London – performed flawlessly by the staggeringly-multi-talented Dragos Mostenescu. I would not normally quote from shows directly, but he started with… “I used to cover the sound of my farts by coughing, but now I am covering the sound of my coughs with farts…”

“Not the arse!” (Photo by Erik Mclean via UnSplash)

THURSDAY 19th MARCH

I have just come back from the local shopping centre where a little old lady was tottering along. As she passed, she glared at me and said unnecessarily loudly in a voice straight out of the EastEnders TV soap: “It’s the face that matters, not the arse! Why are they buying toilet rolls?” 

I had not bought and was not going to buy toilet rolls, but I had to admit she had a point…

It turns out that, nowadays, Lincolnshire is the new Wild West even though it is in East England – Mad inventor John Ward told me that thieves had broken into Gosberton Baptist Church, Spalding, and succeeded in stealing toilet rolls.

FRIDAY 20th MARCH

Normally a very rare sight (Photograph by Alex Nevin-Tylee)

In good news, Thameslink are running regular trains. This is odd as they were not doing that before the coronavirus outbreak…

A friend explains the strange lack of sugar on the shelves in Lidl and elsewhere. She says there is also a shortage of flour. Presumably people, she says, are doing home baking. There is not, of course, an ACTUAL shortage of sugar and flour… people are just buying it faster than the supermarkets can re-stock and re-fill the shelves.

An arts journalist (not a news journalist) emailed me: “Well, I still think that it is all being blown out of all proportion, I DO NOT trust anyone in power anywhere to do stuff that is not VERY BAD while we are all locked in our houses quivering. This IS political. Make no mistake. It is political.”

SATURDAY 21st MARCH

Someone told me I am old fashioned… but I think all avenues should be explored in this crisis.

Leeches have long been used (Photo by GlebK via Wikipedia)

I already have paracetamol tablets but, for safety, I looked for leeches in Lidl today. Nothing. Panic buying has emptied random shelves. No bread, eggs or leeches. The world has gone mad. I have had to go online where, it transpires, medical leeches are available.

The John Lewis department stores are temporarily closing from Monday. We are entering a new Dark Ages. John Lewis closing? This is like the fall of Constantinople…

SUNDAY 22nd MARCH

My English friend Sandy, who lives in Milan with her husband, has had some admirable lateral coronavirus thinking…

“My job today,” she says, “is to try and make some face-masks using filter material meant for vacuum cleaners (same principle and we have a box of them). Ready for next time we have to go out.”

Unfortunately, a Facebook Friend then told me: “Some vacuum cleaners’ filters contain fibreglass… something you do not want in your lungs, especially now.”

I had tiny, almost imperceptible headaches in the afternoon. I was not sure if I might be imagining them. In the evening, I had a very slightly hard-edged cough but it was, again, difficult to know if this was real or only a slight variation on my normal lifelong dry cough…

… CONTINUED HERE

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Freelance journalist desperately seeks story during the coronavirus lockdown

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

I got an email today from John Ward – mad inventor of eccentricities and designer of the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards.

He is a former member of the Monster Raving Loony Party and is the former Minister for Inventions in The Eccentric Party.

In November last year, he told me about an encounter with a less-then-well-researched journalist. Now history has repeated itself.

He writes:


I had no idea yesterday would be one of those days…

The phone burbled.

An ashen-faced John Ward recalls the phone call yesterday

It was from a (NAME CENSORED) who explained he was a freelance journalist and wanted to speak to “a John Ward” – I pointed out that he was in luck as my name was John Ward but with no ‘a’ in front, so would I do?

He explained he had got my number via “a friend of a friend” – I think it was somebody who covered the Reliant Robin Fire Engine saga a few years back.

The gist of his call was “the current coronavirus matter”.

He wondered if I could give him an idea of The Eccentric Party’s political view on the matter and some idea of precautions or measures that might be of help to the present government.

He said he had tried contacting “your leader Lord Toby Jug” via email but with no response and so decided to contact me as he gathered I was “good for quotes and background ideas”.

A mug shot with Eccentric Party leader Lord Toby Jug (right)

I pointed out that Lord Toby Jug was no more as he was dead… no longer with us… only on the website.

“Was it caused by coronavirus?” he asked.

“Not unless,” I replied, “it kicked off a year last May and, if so, he was the very first, unannounced victim.”

“So,” he said, “he was one of the first victims…”

I pointed out it was he who had just suggested coronavirus to start with, not me.

There was a short bit of silence and then…

HIM: So there is not much likelihood of being able to speak to Lord Toby Jug…

(MORE SILENCE)

HIM: I suppose his death was real?

ME: Well, yes, I think it’s perhaps right to suggest that.

HIM: I mean, him being, well, eccentric… it could have been some sort of stunt thing…

ME: Well, if it was, he may well qualify for the Guinness Book of Records for holding his breath the longest, without toilet or tea breaks being involved and without checking his social media for updates during the performance.

HIM: I am saying, if it is a stunt…

ME: Well, might I say you just suggested it…

HIM: I was just hoping to clarify the situation as I don’t want to interrupt an on-going stunt as there may be a bigger story here…

ME: Like rising from the dead? – Well, with Easter approaching it would be topical

HIM: So there IS something planned for Easter then?

It is now Spring, a Leap Year and it will soon be Easter. (Photograph by NeONBRAND via UnSplash)

At this late stage in the proceedings, I asked if he was for real.

He explained he had got into journalism through assorted ‘family friends’ after leaving college but had chosen the freelance line – He said he was named after his grandfather, who was not a writer, and, in so doing, bypassed his father whose name was not the same, who owned his own business based in Plymouth and who also was not a writer.

I did not like to ask what sort of business his father had as there were concerns he would tell me.

The bottom line was… I was unable to help him. 

ME: Lord Toby Jug is no more. Deceased 

HIM: There was no mention on the Eccentric Party web site about this.

ME: His demise came without prior warning. He had no time to update it on this minor point.

HIM: So, as an eccentric inventor, which you are… and you are still alive of course… what are you working on at the moment as there could be some copy here?

ME: I am trying my best to appease freelance journalists, but I am having trouble getting the wood.


John Ward has now designed and made a Plank Award. 

The prestigious Plank Award for Journalists

It stands just over one foot in height, made from a sustainable material, and he says this newly prestigious award will be presented annually “as soon as the coronavirus thing is over”. 

It will, he says, be presented “to the journalist/writer who shows the greatest ineptitude in their research into the subject matter before contacting people with regard to possible stories or ‘it seemed like a good idea at the time’ moments”.

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Death is no barrier to being interviewed by the BBC about the General Election

BBC graphic for their wide-ranging 2019 General Election coverage of the living and the dead…

We are in the throes of a UK General Election campaign with the result declared in December… on Friday the 13th. Yes, Friday the 13th, This does not bode well.

Mad inventor John Ward designed and makes the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards. He was also a valued member of the Monster Raving Loony Party under its late leader Screaming Lord Sutch and Minister for Inventions in The Eccentric Party under its late leader Lord Toby Jug. 

John Ward seems to loom large as a figure of impending death for the leaders of such parties.

Anyway, yesterday John Ward received a phone call from an enthusiastic young BBC Radio 4 researcher.

The conversation went thus:


John Ward being interviewed by a Russian TV crew (don’t ask)

BBC BOY: We are having a General Election.

JOHN WARD: I noticed. If some of us don’t like the result, we can perhaps ask for a re-run until we get one we’re happy with.

BBC BOY: Errr… Yes. How many candidates will be standing for Eccentric Party in this election?

JOHN WARD: Beats me. I have no idea.

BBC BOY: So – It’s a surprise tactic, then?

JOHN WARD: If you call raising the dead a surprise tactic, then it’s a definite Yes on that one.

BBC BOY: But, joking apart, are you willing to record a little piece over the telephone if we set a time up convenient for you?… Or can you give me a contact for your leader, Toby…

JOHN WARD: It might be slightly inconvenient for the leader to take part in an interview as he is – and I have this on good authority – very much no longer with us.

BBC BOY: No longer with you?

JOHN WARD:  As in, well… dead… and he has been in this current state since last May.

BBC BOY: Dead?

JOHN WARD: Although it might be said that some supposed living Members of Parliament could be classed with the same status even though they are breathing and putting on a dashed fine show of things.

BBC BOY: (LAUGHS, THEN A PAUSE…) So this is a publicity thing in order to gain more votes for Eccentric Party candidates?

JOHN WARD: No. Brian is, until further notice, dead.

BBC BOY: Brian?

JOHN WARD: Brian Borthwick – Lord Toby.

BBC BOY: So can we record a few quotes, if we can sort out a time to record over the telephone?… About items on the Eccentric Party Manifesto and its aims.

JOHN WARD: One of our key things is to make it law that researchers should bone up on their subject matter before contacting people.

BBC BOY: (LONG PAUSE) But really, is it possible to have a word with Lord Toby Jug as we want to explore the alternative vote?

JOHN WARD: You could look up Yellow Pages under S for Séance and book me a seat once a venue is sorted.

BBC BOY: You’re not being very helpful.

JOHN WARD: Moi?

BBC BOY: I will have to pursue other avenues. It’s a pity. I do believe that people should be aware there are other political choices, however vague they might be… It is the British way of life.

JOHN WARD: Till death us do part.

BBC BOY: You’re really not being very helpful.

JOHN WARD: I’m trying my best. I am limited by mortality. It constrains us all.

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The man who made equipment for Brenda the dearly-departed dominatrix

John knew the drill for the Malcolm Hardee Award

Eccentric inventor John Ward designed and made the trophies for the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards at the Edinburgh Fringe.

He can turn his creative mind to anything constructive.

My chat with a London dominatrix in yesterday’s blog reminded him of one of his more eccentric commissions…

Here, he shares his memories of Brenda the Dominatrix…


Some years ago I made some stocks – the three-hole jobby type for head and hands – for a dear lady – Brenda – who specialised in the modes of “indoor sports and correction”.

It was arranged I should pop round for a cup of tea and discuss the stocks and “any other devices that may be of interest” in her line of work. 

The tea was quite normal – “I don’t do chocolate digestive biscuits as they give me wind, you know,” Brenda told me – with an assortment of other biscuits on offer, all on a silver tray – “The real stuff. None of yer plated rubbish here!” she said – as we sat there discussing assorted manacles, stocks and “what else you feel would be nice”.

Brenda was in her late forties at the time. Her hubbie Cliff worked as a manager of a furniture store, in the fitted carpets and rugs department.

Once tea and biccies were consumed, she gave me a ‘tour’ of the house and all manner of ‘normal’ household gadgets seemed to have another purpose for her.

The canvas-type icing bag and assorted nozzles as used by bakers, once filled with a mix of gritty birdseed and lemon curd, could be slowly injected in a part of the body normally associated with exit work – “You have to get the mix just right and you have to get the speed right,” she told me. “It comes from experience.”

One item that had me wondering was the small, industrial-type floor-standing food mixer – I had seen one in our local baker’s years before as a schoolboy.

It was used by Brenda to mix custard powder with builder’s-type sand – “If Cliff’s not about when it’s delivered, it does my back in getting the bags in as it comes in half hundredweight bags, so I have to split the bag and carry it through in bucketfuls one at a time.”

Once her client was strapped down, naked with a gag in his mouth on a plastic-covered couch, she applied the said mix with a sort of paint roller – once again, speed was of the essence – until he was totally covered from neck to toes. The whole process took about two hours or so from start to finish, then scraping it off on old bits of newspaper before taking a shower.

I asked: “How on earth would people first find out they get their kicks from this process?”

Brenda leaned over and whispered: “I have three who did.”

In her dungeon – the cellar – she had manacles bolted on the walls – “My Cliff put them up for me with Rawlbolts. He had never drilled a wall before” – and a full-size rack, something I had only ever seen before in films – “The best part of five grand that cost me, luv,” she said, “but it’s got the best non-rot rope fitted to it.”

I made her a set of stocks as requested, then sets of leg-irons, chains and handcuffs to make it all up into what she called “something meaningful” .

I also did repairs and improvements as some of her whips were “not lasting as they should”. This was basically down to the attachment of the whip to its handle or grip and was, according to Brenda, all down to “cheap imported crap” as she could not get decent English-made stuff.

I put her in touch with a saddler I knew who supplied her with handmade whips although I then realised I had shot myself in the foot as my whip repair work dried up.

Sadly it all came to an end when Brenda had a heart attack during a ‘training session’. She was fifty-seven. Cliff told me: “It’s the way she would have wanted to go.”

At the time of her death, Cliff was away on a company training thing.

The poor client was chained up for about a couple of days before his (weak) cries for help were heard.

It was the postman who heard him.

A friendly matey policeman told me this and the same Plod mentioned that the chains and ‘restraints’ were so well-made “that Houdini could not have got out of ’em, mate.”

I kept silent on the matter.

The client requested no publicity.

I got on well with Cliff as he was always keen to learn what power tools did and I loved his description of Brenda: “She’s a little, fun-loving tinker is my Brenda – nothing phases her you know.”

A while after, he sold their home and moved to Portugal to retire early. He said the house brought back too many memories to stay.

I still miss Brenda and Cliff. 

She once told me: “Do you know it cost a bloody fortune to soundproof that room…”

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How to create an Edinburgh Fringe comedy award in less than a fortnight…

Going Forth: the old Malcolm Hardee Awards (L-R) Comic Originality, Million Quid, Cunning Stunt

The annual Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards at the Edinburgh Fringe ended in 2017.

‘Mad inventor’ John Ward designed and made the actual trophies awarded over the previous ten years – for Comic Originality, for best Cunning Stunt and for the Act Most Likely to Make a Million Quid.

A fortnight ago, it was announced the awards – re-named The Hardees – would re-start, this time run by the British Comedy Guide website.

The BCG already give annual Comedians’ Choice Awards at the Fringe.

With the Malcolm Hardee Awards revived after a short hiatus, new trophies had to be made. So the BCG asked John Ward to make more with (this year at least) the same design AND also to design and make a new-style trophy for their Comedians’ Choice Awards.

John Ward lives in Lincolnshire. I live in Borehamwood, on the edge of London. 

So we met in Milton Keynes, somewhere between us, and he showed me the newly-designed Comedians’ Choice trophy which, together with The Hardees, will be awarded in Edinburgh next weekend…


John Ward with Edinburgh’s newly-designed Comedians’ Choice Award in… erm… Milton Keynes

WARD: I wanted to design something that would stand out, so it doesn’t look like everybody else’s trophies, although whoever wins will probably need a hernia belt – it weighs about a kilo. It’s made from a recycled plastic tube, copper pipe, steel, wood and other bits.

It’s mounted on a base composed of three pillars, representing Mirth, Merriment and Laughter. There is a brass/copper central stem (based on the idea you might need a ‘brass neck’ to perform in some venues!) with a big, wide, steel ‘grin’ signifying laughter and a red nose on top – the traditional emblem of the clown.

My original design for the grin was symmetrical but, when I looked at it there was something odd about it. So I turned the grinning mouth to one side by an inch so now it has a sort-of jaunty ha-ha-ha look about it. I think that works. If you look from the front or the back, it’s still a laughing mouth with a nose on top.

FLEMING: How long did it take to make?

WARD: You don’t wanna know.

FLEMING: I do.

WARD: No you don’t.

FLEMING: Yes I do.

WARD: You don’t.

FLEMING: Oh yes I do.

WARD: Oh no you don’t.

FLEMING: Oh lord.

WARD: I would think I probably spent – cutting, shutting, painting, all of that… a good three days there, on and off.

FLEMING: Cutting and shutting??

WARD: Cutting the tube and shutting the ends off to get them smooth and level, not sharp edges. There’s nothing on there that would cut your hand or anything or…

FLEMING: Where’s the fun in that?

WARD: True: that Boadicea with her chariot; think of the fun she could’ve had with her chariot down the Tottenham Court Road on a Saturday. But that were before the days of Health & Safety. For me, it were a case of making something so no-one could say: “Oh! It fell on me and broke me big toe”… Although, to be fair, that could happen.

FLEMING: Comedy is all about the unexpected.

WARD: Three days.

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The man who predicted in 2015 that Boris Johnson would become UK PM

(L-R) John Ward, radio & TV presenter James Whale and political leader Screaming Lord Sutch

Britain relishes eccentrics.

Today, Boris Johnson becomes Prime Minister of the UK.

And today I got a message from mad inventor John Ward, famed throughout the land – some land – as designer of the late-lamented Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards. Among his many other claims to fame is that he used to be Minister for Inventions for both the Monster Raving Loony Party and  The Eccentric Party.

He wrote to me:


The phone rang yesterday.

A Press Association bod calling

Could they have a quote from or on behalf of The Eccentric Party regarding Boris Johnson being voted in as Tory Prime Minister?

I replied: “Never! – Really? – Who would have thought it…?”

“Can I quote you on that?” said the man from the Press Association. 

“You can if you like…,” I told him. 

He then asked who I was…

They can be so hurtful at times.

I pointed out that the leader of the Eccentric Party was now ‘brown bread’ as of a few months ago and possibly the party itself also.

The man from the Press Association said he was sorry to hear about it.

I said it was in those newspaper things at the time or just after his demise, I believe, as it wasn’t pre-booked as far as I am aware.

But, undeterred, the man from the Press Association asked: “So who would it be best to speak to then?”

I said he could go for gold and get in touch with Screaming Lord Sutch

“Have you a contact for him?” the man from the Press Association asked.

Was it the late Ken Goodwin who used the catchphrase “I’m too good for this place…”? 

I am beginning to get the same feeling.


For the uninitiated, Screaming Lord Such, creator and leader of the Monster Raving Loony Party, died in June 1999. So it goes.

I would have thought the Press Association, the major news agency who distribute news to UK national, regional and local newspapers, might have noticed. Or might have read my recent blog HERE.

On the other hand, I was myself shocked to hear that Lord Toby Jug, leader of The Eccentric Party had died on 2nd May this year, at the age of 53. So it goes.

I first blogged about the Eccentric Party in January 2015 and profiled Lord Toby Jug in May 2015.

Lord Toby Jug. leader of the Eccentric Party

Lord Toby Jug – he changed his name legally from Brian Borthwick by deed poll – had been a guitarist in a band with Screaming Lord Sutch. Sutch had given him the nickname ‘Toby Jug’ because he was a little rotund in appearance. As leader of the Eccentric Party, he wore a top hat which had previously belonged to Sutch.

He was expelled from the Monster Raving Loony Party in 2014 by then party leader Howling Laud Hope (this is British politics for you) over comments Lord Toby had made about UKIP leader Nigel Farage, and for his criticism of pub chain J D Wetherspoon, a company which the Loony party had been attempting to attract as a sponsor.

In 2015, Lord Toby told me: “I left the Monster Raving Loony Party because they didn’t like my stance – as told to national newspapers – on Nigel Farage and UKIP. I said UKIP claimed to be fruitcakes, loonies and crackpots but that’s our area. They tried to nick our Holy Grail of loonies. Another reason I left was because I met Nigel Farage and some of his sick-you-fonts and I thought they were closet racists and decided that should be put in the public domain. UKIP are far too eccentric, far too potty. Extremists.”

On the rebound from the Monster Raving Loonies, Lord Toby formed The Eccentric Party, whose policies included:

  • putting super glue in lip balm to fight obesity
  • taller buildings for higher education.
  • a 15% phone bill discount for people who stutter

He stood in various General, county and local elections but surprisingly never won.

Boris Johnson (left) in Uxbridge with Lord Toby Jug in 2015

In 2015, he stood in the Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency against Boris Johnson and Howling Laud Hope of the Monster Raving Loony Party. He polled 50 votes.

According to his obituary in The Times in May 2019: “He thought Johnson would make an ideal member of the Eccentric Party, even offering to stand aside as leader if his rival would defect. Later he had second thoughts. I went round with a jug of water and a comb to tidy his hair, Jug recalled. But he’s too much of an extremist for us — a tad too bonkers.

The original Eccentric Party candidate in that Uxbridge election had been Chris Dowling who fell ill and Lord Toby replaced him. Chris had been an optimist and told me, in 2015:

“Even though this is still the greatest democracy in the world, the political system in this country is outdated and it needs to be revamped. I’m gonna win by a landslide majority here.”

“Against Boris?” I asked.

“Yeah. He’s a bigger loony than I am… Sooner or later, Boris Johnson will be the Prime Minister of this country.”

“I think so too,” I agreed.

“Everything I’ve seen about Boris Johnson,” said Chris, “he’s just seemed a buffoon and I quite like that about him.”

Far from that being a drawback in British politics, it might seem to be a prerequisite.

Political seer Chris Dowling (bottom) and Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Ed Balls in 2015…

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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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The black cat in my dream this morning

I have mentioned in blogs before that, unfortunately, I do not remember my dreams. Perhaps once every nine months or so, if I am woken up while having the dream itself.

John Ward with an Onion Wanging trophy

This morning was such an occasion.

During the week, mad inventor John Ward told me that he was going to be on a Saturday morning BBC Radio 4 cookery show called Kitchen Cabinet, talking about the annual competitive event he runs in which cabbages are hurled along a field by newly-built Roman siege engine catapults. The BBC show had been recorded in Lincolnshire at Burghley House, built by Elizabeth I’s Lord High Treasurer, William Cecil, in in the 16th century.

All that is true.

In my dream this morning, I was somehow involved in the live radio transmission of a comedy variety show.

There was a man inside a tent on the right of the room where the show was taking place. He was attaching bells to his costume but he was not going to be ready in time for the broadcast. So I had to push him on stage, as he was, only half-dressed for his radio performance.

Drinkers shouldn’t mess with sleeping black cats in dreams

The man’s act seemed to mostly involve drinking or not drinking some coffee but, because he was unprepared, he went over to a black cat which was curled up sleeping on a soft leather stool by the stage.

Unceremoniously woken up, the cat bit its teeth into the performer’s right shoulder, so the man pulled the cat up by its tail and bit into the tail with his own teeth.

After this, there were quite a few long silences on the recording, but I kept reassuring people: “Oh! It’s OK, we can edit it out. We can edit it out.”

When I woke up, briefly, I thought…

This may not be a surreal dream…

This may be a flash forward…

…to something real that is…

actually going to happen…

in the future.

On reflection, though…

it seems unlikely.

On the other hand, cabbage hurling, onion wanging and Donald Trump as US President at one time seemed equally unlikely events and they actually came to pass.

Life is but a dream and reality sometimes a nightmare.

 

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The Edinburgh Fringe: How to win a Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award

The Malcolm Hardee Awards, with ‘Million’ award in middle

Well, the best way to win an Award and to honour Malcolm’s memory would be to lend me £500 and not expect to get it back but, if you are more vanilla in your Award approaches, the first thing is to know is what the fuck the awards actually are.

There are three and they are given in memory of the late Malcolm Hardee who was, according to The Guardian, the “patron sinner of alternative comedy, renowned for his outrageous stunts”. The Daily Telegraph called him “godfather to a generation of comic talent” and, in their 2005 obituary, the Independent said he was “the greatest influence on British comedy over the last 25 years”.

I know the last quote must be totally true because I wrote the obituary myself and included that phrase on the basis that future lazy journalists would simply blindly copy it.

The current three annual, increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards are:

THE MALCOLM HARDEE AWARD FOR COMIC ORIGINALITY

The Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award with Edinburgh Castle behind

Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality

Basically, we have no idea what we are looking for. If we did know what we were looking for, we would be able to define it and it would not be original. But the award is for a performer not for a show and one producer who approached me this year touting a “family friendly” children’s show was wide-of-the-mark on almost all counts. Malcolm was known for having the biggest bollocks in show business and for showing them to everyone at the drop of a testicle. On stage, he was not family friendly.

Past winners of the award have been Reggie Watts, Doktor Cocacolamcdonalds, Edward Aczel, Otto Kuhnle, Robert White, Johnny Sorrow, The Rubberbandits, Adrienne Truscott, Candy Gigi and Michael Brunström.

THE ACT MOST LIKELY TO MAKE A MILLION QUID AWARD

The Act Most Likely Award awaits its fate in Edinburgh this morning

For Act Most Likely To Make A Million Quid

Well, the title says it all, really.

The judges have to take a wild punt on who may survive the vagaries of – and triumph over the good and bad luck inherent in – a comedy career to attain seldom-attained financial success.

There is no point anyone approaching us to suggest themselves. If we think you are likely to fulfil the future requirement and win it, that’s our call, not yours.

Past winners have been Bo Burnham, Benet Brandreth, Trevor Noah, Luisa Omielan and Laurence Owen.

THE CUNNING STUNT AWARD

Desperate pose with Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award

I pose with the Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award

This is the one the press like. It is for the best CUNNING stunt promoting a Fringe performer or act or show.

But pay close attention to the inclusion of the word ‘cunning’.

Riding an elephant painted pink down Princes Street and inviting the press is a stunt but it is not a cunning stunt.

This award was started when comic Gill Smith sent me an email saying she was nominating herself for the Malcolm Hardee Award on the basis that her email to me allowed her to legitimately put on her posters and flyers “Malcolm Hardee Award Nominee”. She said she thought Malcolm would have approved. I thought he would too and started the award.

The winners have been:

GILL SMITH – for that initial piece of chutzpah.

LEWIS SCHAFFER – for convincing several publications that he was the new sponsor of the (formerly Perrier) Edinburgh Comedy Awards for £99 and that his mother and agent would be on the judging panel.

STEWART LEE – for successfully encouraging people to vote for little-known Japanese act Frank Chickens in a poll for Best Fringe Performer despite the fact they were not performing at the Fringe. (As a result of the publicity, ironically, they did perform at that year’s Fringe.)

KUNT & THE GANG/BOB SLAYER – for getting fans to put stickers depicting penises on the posters of rival acts to promote Kunt & The Gang’s show. Personally, I never liked the original stunt but Bob Slayer, Kunt’s promoter, kept the publicity stoked-up and refreshed for so long in so many ways it became a work of PR art.

STUART GOLDSMITH – for a series of YouTube videos about Fringe censorship of the title of his show Prick.

BARRY FERNS – for printing and distributing around Edinburgh fake copies of Broadway Baby which gave his show 6-out-of-5 star reviews and reported that his show had been nominated for the Fosters Comedy Awards, in both the main category and the newcomer category.

CHRISTIAN TALBOT – for using his 12-year-old daughter Kate to go up to strangers, looking sad, ask them “Have you seen my daddy?” and, if they said “No”, handing out flyers to them.

MATT ROPER – for hacking into the Facebook account of Malcolm Hardee judge & Scotsman reviewer Kate Copstick and posting fake messages – purportedly from her – “bigging himself up”.


Jay Handley’s Cunning Stunt contender

Jay Handley’s Cunning Stunt

This year, there have already been two arguably worthy contenders for the Cunning Stunt Award – though that is no guarantee they will get nominated – There may be better as-yet unpulled cunning stunts.

Jay Handley has launched an online change.org petition to get the Oxford English Dictionary to change the spelling of ‘Religion’ to ‘Relgion’.

His basic argument is that “For too long people across the country have been spelling ‘religion’ in a manner that is unacceptable to people who have ordered 5000 flyers for their Edinburgh Fringe show with it spelled ‘relgion’ in the main copy of their blurb.”

John Robertson’s stunt

John Robertson’s Cunning Stunt

Meanwhile, there is an online Huffington Post piece by John Robertson lauding the “Ten Best New Comedians” at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Number One is John Robertson and the other nine also contain references to John Robertson and his Fringe comedy show.

It is, in a way, a combination of Barry Ferns’ stunt of publishing a fake edition of Broadway Baby and one of Malcolm Hardee’s most infamous stunts where (with Arthur Smith) he wrote a review of his own Fringe show and conned The Scotsman into publishing it under the byline of their own comedy critic.


The judges for this year’s Increasingly Prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show (that is the way it is billed in the official Fringe Programme) are:

MARISSA BURGESS
Freelance comedy critic, lover of all things weird and an inveterate streaker. This Fringe she will be criticising comedians for The List and Fest.

KATE COPSTICK
Chief Comedy Critic of The Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday. Loudest member of various judgely huddles from the Perrier Award to Home Made Pickle of the Year at The Parrot in Forest Green and author of The Illustrated Guide to Sapphic Sex.

BRUCE DESSAU
Comedy Critic of the London Evening Standard, editor of website beyondthejoke.co.uk and author of biographies of Rowan Atkinson and Reeves and Mortimer.

JOHN FLEMING
Handsome, debonair fashion icon. “The Boswell of the alternative comedy scene” (Chortle) Co-host (with Kate Copstick) of the Grouchy Club’s weekly podcast and its live shows at the Fringe.

JAY RICHARDSON
Freelance journalist for The Scotsman, Chortle, The Guardian, Independent, Sunday Times, Metro, BBC, Channel 4 etc.

CLAIRE SMITH
Freelance journalist, reviewer and feature writer for The Scotsman. Fringe lover, cabaret freak, arthouse baby, catastrophe thinker, water rabbit.


The Increasingly Prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show takes place at the Ghillie Dhu in Edinburgh on Friday 26th August and MC Janey Godley should be introducing music by (but one can never be sure at the Fringe):

Bob Blackman’s Tray
Ursula Burns
Kate Copstick
Elvis Corpsley: The Zombie Elvis
Brian Damage & Krysstal
Candy Gigi
Kunt & The Gang
Lynn Ruth Miller
Laurence Owen
Ariane Sherine

The show will also include the announcement and presentation of this year’s awards, the annual Scottish National Russian Egg Roulette contest and the presentation by Edward Hobson of Ed at Last’s new FirstMinute Awards for the best first 60 seconds in a Fringe comedy show. The fact that the long-running, formerly Perrier Edinburgh comedy awards are now sponsored by lastminute.com is, I am sure, entirely coincidental.

John Ward with some Malcolm Hardee Awards for Comedy

John Ward, designer and manufacturer of the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Awards

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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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