Tag Archives: John Ward

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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Filed under Blogs, Comedy, Eccentrics, Gay, Internet, Movies, Pornography

The Kray Twins book review, setting fire to a politician and saving dirty nappies

Micky Fawcett, with son Michael, talked to me at the May Fair hotel

Micky Fawcett (left), with son Michael, at the May Fair Hotel

“There’s been a bit of a coincidence,” former Kray Twins associate Micky Fawcett told me at London’s May Fair Hotel yesterday.

In this blog a couple of days ago, Micky was talking about Nipper Read – the policeman who arrested the Kray Twins.

Micky said Nipper “was straight. But he weren’t straight with me”. He also mentioned James Morton, whom he called the “mouthpiece of Nipper Read.” James Morton was a lawyer, who later wrote books with gangster Mad Frank Fraser and about gangland in general.

Back in September last year, a mutual acquaintance of Micky Fawcett and James Morton gave Morton a copy of Micky’s book Krayzy Days. Morton asked the acquaintance: “Do you know how I can contact him?” But he never did.

Three weeks ago, the acquaintance told Micky what had happened back in September and gave him James Morton’s phone number.

Micky’s Krayzy Days remembered

Micky’s own Krayzy Days remembered

“So,” Micky told me yesterday, “I phoned James Morton and it was on answerphone. That’s typical, I thought. You can’t get through to them so they’ve got the upper hand straight away. But I left a message: I’ve been told you’d like to have a meeting with me. If you wanna give me a ring back, it can be arranged… A few hours later, the phone rang and it was him. He said: I’d like to ask you a couple of questions, and he then asked: Are we alright? Are we OK?.

“I said: Yeah, we’re OK. So he asked me a couple of questions and I said: Shall we have a meeting? He said: Nothing I’d like better.

“So, a couple of Fridays ago, we met at the Churchill Hotel in London. Most of the people we talked about were dead. It was that sort of conversation. There were a couple of things I couldn’t tell him, because people were still alive.

“One of the things I asked him was: How’s Nipper Read? I heard he had a blood pressure problem.

Well, he said, he’s 90. He’s had blood pressure problems and this and that.

“I asked him: Have you read my book? because, when I had walked into the Churchill Hotel, he had been reading it.

I was reading it, he said, but I put it down because you slagged me off in it and I’m not going to read it if you’re slagging me off in it.

“I didn’t know if he was being serious. He is very deadpan. But, he said, if you give me your e-mail address, I’ll finish reading it and tell you what I think of it. I’ll do a review. And now he’s sent me a paragraph.”

Micky showed me the paragraph that Andrew Morton had written:

Teddy Machin (Photograph from the book Krayzy Days)

’Terrible’ Teddy Machin’s death explained (Photograph from the book Krayzy Days)

Micky Fawcett and I have not always seen eye to eye (page 210) so this is not a review of a mate’s efforts. His book, Krayzy Days, however, is one of the best books on the Krays around. It is not one of those ‘I spent a night on the same wing as one of the Twins’. Fawcett was a genuine player. A former Long Firm fraudsman he had the sense to step away from the Krays after they invited him to kill a member of the Richardson gang following the Mr Smith’s Club shooting in 1966. But it is not just about the Krays. Fawcett knew the rest of the East End underworld intimately and he tells of the feuds behind such deaths as that of the hardman Teddy Machin. And then there are his experiences in the worlds of boxing promotions, counterfeiting and his time in Belgian prisons. A cracking good read.

“That’s a great review,” I told Micky yesterday. “Basically, he’s saying: I have no reason to like this man, but he’s written a bloody good book.

I was typing all that out this morning when I got an e-mail from this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith, based in Vancouver. The e-mail was headed:

The granite mountain towering over Squamish

The Stawamus Chief at Squamish

A one thousand cubic meter slab of granite fell off this local mountain on Sunday, the afternoon I took this photo 

and, indeed, there was a photo of the Stawamus Chief mountain attached. The text of Anna’s e-mail said:

I didn’t go downtown on Monday, but 25,000 people celebrating marijuana did. There was a lot of smoke, traffic gridlock all afternoon and 75 people were taken to hospital, mostly for ‘dizzyness ‘. 

There was a gigantic banner hanging from the art gallery shaped like a packet of rolling papers.

Instead of going downtown, I stayed home. I carried a bucket of water across the road to the vacant lot where transport lorries park containers. Beside the drying remains of a vast mud puddle, I built a small campfire from the twigs of a nearby dead pine tree and I placed a piece of plumbing hose and its fitting onto the fire.

Vancouver stag painting

What Anna missed on Vancouver’s weedy day

It was a bright sunny afternoon. The fire was cheerfully popping and gradually burning the piece of hose. Up on the road, cars and trucks rumbled over the speed hump. A man walked along the road. I wondered if anyone would see me and wonder why I was sitting beside a mud puddle and a fire, but nobody stopped or called the fire department. 

The rusted hose clamp which had given me so much trouble fell away when the hose was done burning. When the clamp cooled down I threw it into the bushes. I put out the fire with the water and put the two bronze fittings into the bucket. Then I went home and fixed my shower.

Your mad inventor friend John Ward was on the radio talking about his bra.

John Ward demonstrating his bra-warming device

John Ward demonstrating his original bra-warming device

The photo of the granite mountain which Anna attached was one which, she says, “towers above the town of Squamish”. The mountain does; not the photo. She added: “Ten people were climbing the rock face meters away from the chunk that broke off.”

She previously mentioned Squamish in this blog last November, when a local politician said he would set himself on fire. This week, when Anna was in Squamish again, she tells me:

“I asked a local if their politician had set himself on fire yet. The local looked at me as if I was stupid and said: Oh he did that months ago“.

And, sure enough, there is a video on YouTube of him, this February, setting himself on fire to the delighted whoops of local voters. Perhaps some British politicians might consider doing this during the current General Election.

As I finished typing the above, yet another e-mail arrived. It was from my local council. It said:

It’s Real Nappy Week! Hertsmere residents can claim up to £50 if they choose to use real nappies instead of disposable ones. 

Babies and toddlers go through lots of nappies – eight million of them in the UK every day. On average, a baby will need a staggering 4,500 nappy changes before they are potty trained. That’s 4,500 disposable nappies sent to landfill, or just 20 real nappies washed and used again.   

Councils across the county, in partnership with Hertfordshire County Council, offer a real nappy reward scheme to discourage the use of disposable nappies. People using real nappies or a nappy laundering service need to complete an application form in order to claim any money back through the scheme. Alternatively, we have free starter kits available for anyone who is interested and would like to give real nappies a go. 

This week we’re running a competition to win real nappy goodies.  Simply watch the new ‘Real Nappies Rock’ video and tell us what colour nappy the boy doing the roly poly is wearing! 

Hertsmere Council do not specify what their ‘free starter kits’ include.

The moral to this blog is that Life is full of shit, but it is also an occasionally interesting rollercoaster of variables.

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Filed under Canada, Crime, Drugs, Eccentrics, London

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

British political party promises 15% off phone bills for people who stutter

Al Murray - future MP

Al Murray – future MP? Or scuppered by bureaucratic rules?

Politicians? Comedians?

Eddie Izzard seems to keep saying he may or may not stand as Mayor of London.

And Al Murray – brighter than most politicians – has said he is standing in the upcoming General Election.

But will he?

Lord Toby Jug, leader of the new Eccentric Party of Great Britain (a protégé of the late lamented Screaming Lord Sutch’s Monster Raving Loony Party) says:

Lord Toby Jug launches his new party

Lord Toby Jug is on the look-out for floating voters

“Al Murray may end up crying in his beer. His Free United Kingdom Party (FUKP) has not yet been registered with the Electoral Commission nor approved. It takes 30 days and, if it sounds similar to other parties’ names, he will have to find another name.

“It took me four months to register my party; they deemed my previous names too similar to other parties. Al won’t be doing much canvassing in South Thanet either, as he’s on tour – and will be doing a gig in Dartford on election night. I personally think it’s a massive publicity stunt to promote his tour.”

Lord Toby Jug’s new Eccentric Party includes, as its Chairman and Minister For Inventions, Sir Dusty Wells-Fargo – otherwise known as mad inventor John Ward.

John Ward with some Malcolm Hardee Awards for Comedy

John Ward with some Malcolm Hardee Awards for Comedy

John designed the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards. and was previously Minister for Inventions in Screaming Lord Sutch’s Monster Raving Loony Party.

Already-announced policies of the new Eccentric Party include the nationalisation of public toilets, building taller buildings for higher education and getting dental charges capped. Their controversial immigration policies include putting giant photos of Russell Brand, Katie Hopkins and Jeremy Clarkson at airports to discourage people from settling in Britain.

An inaugural Eccentrics Party meeting was held two days ago at Party HQ –  the Oliver Cromwell public house in St Ives, Cambridgeshire. I am told it was “packed to the rafters with prospective candidates and party members from all over the UK.” The new party’s policies were discussed.

I quote from the minutes of the meeting:

The Eccentric Party launched yesterday

The very first members of the Eccentric Party & some seagulls

We will stop alcohol abuse in our cities and town centres by introducing an unhappy hour with one drink for the price of two to stop drunken yobs making them no-go-zone areas at weekends. 

All swimming pools will be drained once a week for all non-swimmers.

We will make the British climate more temperate all year round by tapping into the natural resource of hot air around Westminster.

We will paint Britain’s sea limits so that British fish know where they are at all times.

15% off of phone bills for people who stutter.

The Eccentric Party launch

The Eccentric Party’s literal launch on the River Great Ouse

TV Debates… All participants in the TV debates will be made to wear suits colour-coded to their party. David Cameron will be in a sober-looking midnight blue suit. Ed Miliband would wear a pillar-box red suit. Nick Clegg would be in canary yellow. The Green Party’s Natalie Bennett would be in bilious green. And Nigel Farage of UKIP would wear the purple-and-yellow stripes of a seaside entertainer. This solution will allow viewers to easily differentiate the parties without reference to their confusingly similar policies.

It was discussed that fuel tanks in motor vehicles would be converted from accepting gallons to the now poplar litre versions over a slow phasing-in period.

Approaches would be made to the Heinz food company to change their product range to Heinz 60 as opposed to the present Heinz 57 so as to go to the nearest square figure as this would help with auditing processes and saving a small amount of ink.

John Ward and Rev Pedro Perrnackerpan

John Ward (left) and the Very Reverend Pedro Perrnackerpan

This motion was carried although the Very Reverend Pedro Perrnackerpan wondered if it was possible to enquire at the same time if they were considering manufacturing tins of beans on toast as his grill was in need of repair as the gasman had missed three appointments so far.

Guest speaker Baron Giles Fromhome of the St Ives and Huntingdon District Mountain Climbing Club was present to enquire as to the Party’s feeling about handrails being fitted on the local mountains and, after much discussion, it was agreed in principle that this would be possible but only on the left hand side going up, due to lack in resources. But it would be possible to use this facility coming back down by walking backwards though using caution with respect of possible bumping into those going up.

Lord Toby Jug’s letter to the papers

Lord Toby Jug’s letter to the newspapers was much admired

The Party Leader, Lord Toby Jug, was congratulated by the honourable members on having letters printed in the Independent, Daily Mail, and Daily Mirror, giving his unique take on the Battle of South Thanet… Murray v Farage.

Copious amounts of jelly and ice cream were then consumed before legendary politician and party leader, Lord Toby Jug, took to the stage and told all prospective candidates to return to their constituencies and prepare for government.

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Filed under Comedy, Eccentrics, Humor, Humour, Politics

My surreal yesterday

A selfie taken by myself while asleep

A selfie taken by myself while asleep but not while dreaming

I am someone who remembers his dreams only rarely. This morning, I remembered a detail from last night.

I was with a group of people and went ahead to check-out or to book a restaurant.

The restaurant was crowded and, at the entrance, there was a piece of paper lying on a table with a partially completed painting of an ape’s face. A man then drew a single line top-to-bottom on the uncompleted face of the ape to create a nose which comprised both a left and right side.

Before this (in my dream) I had been to another restaurant where another man had been creating a painting of something else. I do not remember what. I am not sure I even knew in my dream.

I have no idea where either of these dreams came from.

In what passed for reality last night, in crowded pre-christmas London, a traditional Christmas-card stage coach pulled by two horses passed me in Charing Cross Road, near Leicester Square. Further down, a small Cinderella type spherical coach pulled by two horses was passing the National Portrait Gallery. Round the corner, inside the National Gallery there were no pictures of apes and no-one was painting.

Afterwards, my eternally-un-named friend and I went to see the play King Charles III at Wyndham’s Theatre. Lovely theatre.

King Charles III poster

King Charles III poster for the man who would be George VII

The play is plotted around some future time when the Queen dies and Prince Charles becomes king.

Though, in fact, I seem to remember Prince Charles saying years ago that he would take the title King George VII when he ascended the throne, presumably because King Charleses have a dodgy pedigree – the first had his head chopped off and the second hobnobbed with female orange-sellers. The recent Georges (well, V to VI – let’s ignore I to IV) have a solid, dependable feel to them.

The play had a good enough plot with a good enough ending but it was utterly ruined by the fact it had been decided to write all the dialogue of this future fantasy in pseudo Elizabethan blank verse interspersed with modern-day slang. I am sure this affectation was bullshitted as something deeply intellectual and meaningful and possibly even looked good on paper, but it scuppered both credibility and my will to live.

London was crowded last night

Crowded London last night,  last Saturday before Christmas

After this, at London Bridge station, in a crowded corridor, we passed a man with bulls horns on his head. A few minutes later, in a totally different corridor, a man was trying to run through the crowd dressed as a matador.

The two men appeared to have no connection.

When I got home, there was an e-mail from mad inventor & Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award designer John Ward telling me that he was now Chairman and Minister For Inventions of The Eccentric Party. He signed himself ‘The Most Honarabble Sir Dusty Wells-Fargo’. This hints, I think, that it is unwise to live in Lincolnshire.

Although Vancouver must run it a pretty close race.

Because I also had an e-mail from this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith. I have no explanation for her reference to a spaniel. Nor for much else. Her e-mail reads:


Anna Smith in the Vancouver bookshop

Anna Smith, a woman with surreal tendencies

I know a couple of feral puppies just flown in from Santiago de Chile to the suburban wilds of Surrey, British Columbia. One is male, one female (in case the spaniel is gay) but they won’t be old enough to marry for a while.

I saw two different men on Davie Street who were wearing long tails: one looked like a rope, the other a rainbow-coloured horse tail.

A few nights ago, a man on Robson Street was wearing a white home-made dog-like mask. A few minutes later I saw a man wearing a white ten gallon cowboy hat, a white T-shirt and black Wellington boots. I think he was wearing shorts.

In the library, the kid at the computer next to mine was rolling a huge joint.

The librarians no longer have desks. They roam around and are difficult to locate but there is a phone from which they can be summoned. There are wicker baskets full of condoms and lube on the shelves and still a few books.

There is a lot of swearing, with people screaming “Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” at their computer screens and fights break out with monotonous regularity. Everyone is used to this. They glance up to be sure it is not escalating towards them and return to their screens.

The provincial government is very smug because they just spent millions of dollars to increase the mental hospital capacity by fourteen beds.

Out in the rain, I talked with a broken-looking older man trying – without success – to sell calendars for charity. I asked him what he was going to do for Christmas and he said he was going to stay home and do ecstasy.

Earlier in the day, a couple of gay Jehovah’s Witnesses stopped to talk to me. They said they could show me how I could live for a thousand years.

“But I don’t want to live for a thousand years,” I told them.

“You won’t have to die,” they said.

“But I’m not afraid of dying,” I told them. “I have died so many times. It was not scary at all. It was totally relaxing. All the things you worry about like the water bill you don’t care any more. I did not go through a tunnel or see lights or anything and, when I came back, I was happy.”

They looked relieved… What I said to them about dying not being unpleasant really seemed to cheer them up and they walked away happily of their own accord and went across the street into a cafe to take a  break from the witnessing.


Perhaps I am missing nothing by seldom remembering my dreams.

Life can be surreal enough.

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The surreal show at the Scala last night

The Scala at King’s Cross in London

Purveyor of oddities – the Scala at King’s Cross

Sometimes it is better to see shows blind.

A few months ago, I was invited to go see a show which happened last week.

By the time the day came round, I had completely forgotten who had invited me or what the show was. So I went along not knowing what to expect.

It was very good.

Much the same thing happened last night.

I went along to the Scala in London to see the Greatest Show on Legs perform during a show which I thought was probably a music event of some kind. I had not really bothered to ask.

In fact, it turned out to be a mega-variety show staged by promoters White Mischief. It was called The Haunted Halloween Ball.

Stage crew watch as The Greatest Show on Legs perform their naked balloon dance to startled Halloween-themed audience

Stage crew watch as The Greatest Show on Legs perform their naked balloon dance to a startled Halloween-themed audience

The audience dressed in Halloween costumes and the performers were of a top-notch quality which I can only compare to the level of the old Paul Daniels Show on BBC TV or ITV’s old Sunday Night at The London Palladium in its heyday (not to be confused with ITV’s misbegotten recent dog’s dinner called Sunday Night at The Palladium).

It is still relatively rare to see a wildly energetic exotic dancer with a flaming hula hoop (I mean the hoop was in flames) followed by a near-naked werewolf trapeze act.

I was talking to one of the acts in the backstage corridor later.

They told me that the buzz of performing had been amazing – like the first and only time he or she had ever taken heroin.

Showman Adam Taffler last night, as the Greatest Show on Legs prepare to perform Michael Jackson’s Thriller with rubber bands

Showman Adam Taffler last night, as the Greatest Show on Legs prepared to perform Michael Jackson’s Thriller with rubber bands

I am not sure this kind of simile should be encouraged, but there was certainly a buzz in the auditorium from a very good audience who wanted to see new things.

Showman Adam Taffler – one of the more extravagantly-dressed people backstage despite the fact he was not performing – told me he thought London audiences had now developed a taste for large-scale one-off events with strong formats. He recently staged Soirée in a Cemetery with Stewart Lee, the British Humanist Association Choir and much more.

Last night, The Haunted Halloween Ball show started at 9,30pm. It finished at 4.00am. I left at 12.30am when the show was still going strong. In the train home to Elstree, three middle-aged women were dressed as nuns. I think they were in fancy dress costume. But they might have been real.

By that time, reality and surreality had started to blur.

One of the UK’s more sensible political parties - The Monster Raving Loony Party

One of Great Britain’s more sensible political parties.

This morning, I woke up to an e-mail from mad inventor John Ward. It simply said:

“I have just had an e-mail from the Monster Raving Loony Party with a request to build something for one of their candidates in the forthcoming General Election next May.”

Like I said, reality and surreality have started to blur.

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New documentaries released about mad eccentrics: inventor John Ward and dangerous art performer Ian Hinchliffe

John Ward with small but effective fire engine

Mad inventor John Ward with small but effective fire engine

Last week, I mentioned that mad inventor John Ward had built probably the smallest fire engine in the world (it is for small fires) based on the chassis of a 3-wheeled Robin Reliant car.

As there is only one Robin Reliant Fire Engine and he owns it, John decided to start an Owner’s Club for himself (why wouldn’t he?) and drew up a membership form. He tells me that, at the last event he attended (yes, he attends events), he signed-up two other members to the club.

He told me this morning: “It is not hard to see how governments get in.”

Further joy, he tells me, was unleashed on his already happy body by picking up a copy of Classic Car Weekly newspaper yesterday to find they have added his Reliant Fire Engine Owners’ Club to their listings.

Not surprisingly, John Ward features in a new feature-length documentary: A Different Drum: Celebrating Eccentrics. It also features the late and much-lamented Screaming Lord Sutch, Canadian pianist Glenn Gould and one Sarah Winchester, who built a 158-room mansion to house the ghosts of those who died as a result of her husband’s inventions.

The movie premiered at the Vancouver International Film Festival this week (it gets a second screening later today) and this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith went along to see it.

“It is a good movie,” she told me this morning. “Long, but interesting and funny.”

She attached a photo of a man, a woman and a duck on stage.

Director John Zaritsky with duck lady and duck this week

Director John Zaritsky with Duck Lady & Bobby at premiere (Photograph by Anna Smith)

“In the pic,” she said, “is the director, Academy Award winner John Zaritsky, and Duck Lady, who is another eccentric in the film. I have seen her often, over the last thirty years, doing her gig on Robson Street in Vancouver with her fortune-telling ducks, The duck in the pic is called Bobby. Since I am not that interested in ducks or fortune-telling, I had never interacted with her. But I stood and took this pic for your blog after the screening and held Duck Lady’s hand getting down the stairs from the stage. Bobby the Duck spoke a bit during the screening, but was declining interviews afterwards.”

Director John Zaritsky won an Oscar in 1982 for his documentary Just Another Missing Kid. He also won a Cable Ace Award in 1987 for Rapists: Can They be Stopped, a Golden Gavel Award from the American Bar Association for My Husband is Going to Kill Me, a Robert F. Kennedy Foundation Award for Born in Africa, and a DuPont-Columbia Award in 1994 for Romeo and Juliet in Sarajevo.

An interesting range of documentaries.

Which brings us to Hinch, a documentary he did not direct.

Last night, I went to Hackney Wick in London to see the DVD launch screening of this further leap into eccentricity.

I was a little surprised to see myself credited on the back of the DVD’s cover for supplying some film clips used in the production.

But I think this is a fair glimpse into the state of my memory.

Ian Hinchliffe in mud & rubble outside Riverside Studios

Ian Hinchliffe in mud & rubble outside Riverside Studios (in a still from Hinch: A Film About Ian Hinchliffe)

Hinch: A Film About Ian Hinchliffe does exactly what it says on the front cover. It is a film about the late performance artist Ian Hinchliffe, who has occasionally turned up in this blog before.

In July 2011, one of my blogs mentioned the occasion when he set fire to his own foot at the ICA.

In July this year, another mentioned the occasion when he went to roadworks in a street outside the Riverside Studios in London, removed his clothes, jumped into a muddy trench and began to build a giant penis with the mud. Police were called. Film of the incident is included in the new DVD.

The blurb for last night’s screening gives a fair idea of Hinch…

Ian Hinchliffe (1942-2011) was a performer who could bring a sense of menace, unpredictability and absurd humour into any creative arena. Hinchliffe hated the bland: life to him was an adventure and he pursued it with an insatiable, dangerous and playful delight with little distinction between on and off stage. His impromptu performances took place in the street, on public transport systems, in social clubs, art centres/laboratories, theatres, summer festivals, pubs, once in a consecrated church and, God help us, even the odd art gallery.

Ian Hinchliffe in the 1980s

Ian Hinchliffe in 1980s – genius, bully, fisherman or drunk?

Last night’s screening was followed by a live discussion on (I quote) “whether Hinchliffe was a performance genius, social terrorist, formidable artist, musician, bully, fisherman, entertainer or an irritating drunk.”

In truth, he was a bit of all those.

The DVD was produced by Ian Hinchliffe’s friends Roger Ely and Dave Stephens.

Last night, Roger Ely said of Ian:

“We had a big bust-up because he tried to throw me out of a car going at about 70 miles an hour. Ian and I had come back from a very successful two month tour of North America and Canada and we were doing three performances at the Oval House in London. The first two were awful, dreadful. He tried to throw me out of the car at 70mph because he was annoyed that the third performance had actually worked.

“I first met him in 1973. He was about to be beaten up by a whole crew of people at Leeds University. His performance was causing a riot – a load of what Ian called ‘rugger buggers’ were out. Insults and fists were flying.

“You couldn’t get two more opposites than me and Hinch. He taught me so much. I was a ponced-up public schoolboy working with this kid from Huddersfield. That kind of battle – and it was a battle – continued throughout our relationship and kind of came to a crunch with him trying to throw me out of the car. I suppose it was a scenario about control. We didn’t talk to each other for five or six years, but we made up. I made the film because I didn’t want to see his legacy disappear.”

Released yesterday: an art absurdist captured - Ian Hinchliffe

Released yesterday: an art absurdist captured

Roger’s co-producer Dave Stephens added:

“There is a kind of gap in the art history of Britain. When you go into places like the Tate Gallery, you often find the conceptual kind of art is very heavily recognised, quite rightly so. But there is a gap – the whole period of the 1970s, where there was a tie-in with overlaps between theatre and performance art – which is not really being acknowledged.

“It is almost like the thing you hide under the carpet – It doesn’t fit into any brackets. One of the problems is that, with people like Ian, they didn’t give a shit whether they were called artists or theatre people or whatever. What they were interested in was actually being creative – creating whole new visions for people to look at and often taking those out into places which were never recognised as art venues.

“In a way, what our film is about… is trying to package something which is unpackagable so it becomes palatable for people to then start finding a place for it. One of the problems is that (almost) nothing was ever recorded in the 1970s – almost intentionally never recorded.

“Nowadays it is like (artist) Richard Long goes for a walk in order to record the walk. We went for a walk to have a walk and we wanted people to come with us. We didn’t care if nobody had a record of that, because it was remembered inside them.

“And that does not quite fit into art history. What is inside people can get kind of lost. So, for me, what the whole purpose of this film has been about is building a package that can re-introduce some of what is being lost.”

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Filed under Art, Eccentrics, Movies, Performance