Jeanette (right) with Scotsman critic Kate Copstick after a Grouchy Club show at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2014
I got a shock phone call this morning to tell me of the death of the always lively and bubbly Jeanette Cousland – aka ‘Machete Hettie’ or sometimes ‘Machete Hetty’ – who appeared in this blog over the years.
She died 15 days after being told she had cancer.
On 21st September, on Facebook, her son Barry Martin posted:
2 weeks ago my mother Jeanette was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and given weeks rather than months to live. She had been in good health until then apart from a bad back the last few weeks. She was just 54 the day before.
We are at home now and keeping her at peace. She has a great support team with me, my brother and Kirsty.
She is still with it and I can pass on any messages that would cheer her up. The family is still in shock and we are pretty devastated. Please do not call my mother just now: she is sleeping a lot of the time. Also not too many questions for me or Ricky as it can get a bit much. Please, she would not want people to be sad and always tries to make people laugh.
She is still with us now and we are trying to keep her at peace as much as possible.
Machete Hetty demonstrates a fascinating narrative in her kitchen with her useful household utensils
SUNDAY 16th AUGUST
In the afternoon, I had tea with Machete Hetty in Leith. She had been going to stage her first Edinburgh Fringe show this year, but was outmanoeuvred by the coronavirus.
“You have never told me how you got your nickname ‘Machete’,” I said.
She told me.
I have told her to forget the show she had intended to stage this year and instead to stage this story at the Edinburgh Fringe next year – if the coronavirus allows.
It is a cracker of a narrative; she is a mesmeric natural storyteller; and, with the correct title, it would have them queueing round the block.
If I may be allowed to review the show before it has even been written, let alone staged, let me say: “Jesus Christ!”
Back in the old routine: Leith Walk dug up again, August 2020
Leith Walk is being dug up yet again for the tram extension. Clearly aiming to get commissioned as a long-running sitcom.
Edinburgh without the Fringe, not surprisingly, feels like Edinburgh off-season with just a few tourists (because of the coronavirus).
Just normal Edinburgh, in other words. There are always some tourists any time of year.
I have been coming to Edinburgh almost every single year since I was (literally) an embryo.
No overly-busy pavements this August; no Fringe show posters. So visually different.
Theatres have not had time to open. Cinemas, as in London, are open but look dead.
Bristo Square with the Teviot building across the emptiness
No Fringe events that I can see. (And I bought an Evening News yesterday – nothing.)
The Potterrow student shop and Dome in Bristo Square are closed (no students). The Teviot (the Gilded Balloon during the Fringe) was open but I didn’t go in. Bristo Square was empty save for a few skateboarders.
George Square was looking rural, green and tranquil.
Lots of people were sitting outside pubs and eateries last night, but they were locals or a dribble of tourists.
Lost Fringe advertising opportunities on the North Bridge…
The rebuilding of what was the St James Centre at the top of Leith Walk is STILL going on – this must have been going on for at least the last 3, maybe 4, years!
And the nearby North Bridge is being repaired. Apparently it fell down around 100 years and killed five people. I only repeat what I have been told. It has temporary wooden and plastic walls on both sides of the bridge ideal for Fringe posters (probably intentionally intended by the Council to get money in).
Because of COVID-19, I can hide missing teeth
MONDAY 17th AUGUST
I got home at 0130 after the flight from Edinburgh into London Gatwick. Very tired.
In the morning, I got a dental appointment – a cap had come off a dead tooth in Edinburgh on Saturday.
Rather than re-cap it, the dentist cut off the top and kept my plate (which I first got when I was about 16) until Wednesday. So I am now toothless at the front on the top.
It could be worse.
But, because of the coronavirus, I can justifiably wear a mask whenever I am out.
TUESDAY 18th AUGUST
In my local paper, the Borehamwood Times, columnist Paul Welsh wrote:
I was sad to read the death of 1960s pop star Wayne Fontana, who I saw in concert several times and who in later life was a character. I especially liked his 1967 hit Pamela Pamela.
Pamela Pamela was a hit in the Sixties. There is an online video of him performing it in 1985.
The phrase “who in later life was a character” drew my attention. I wanted to know more.
Apparently, according to Wikipedia, in 2005, he fought off bankruptcy but was arrested after police were called by bailiffs who went to his home in Glossop, Derbyshire. He poured petrol onto the bonnet of a bailiff’s car and set it alight with the bailiff still inside.
Wayne Fontana as Lady Justice (Photo: Rui Vieira/PA Wire)
He was remanded in custody on 25 May 2007. He later appeared at Derby Crown Court dressed as Lady Justice, complete with a sword, scales, crown, cape and dark glasses, and claiming “justice is blind”. He dismissed his lawyers.
On 10 November 2007, he was sentenced to 11 months for setting fire to the car but was released because he had already served the equivalent of the term, having been held under the Mental Health Act 1983.
Now THERE is a man I would have liked to meet.
Also the judge.
11 months sounds rather a light sentence for setting fire to a car with a person inside it… English justice at its most random.
Wayne Fontana’s group was called The Mindbenders.
Oh! The joy of having a full set of gnashers!
WEDNESDAY 19th AUGUST
I got my plate back from the dentist with the extra tooth on it. It fitted perfectly but was slightly uncomfortable. Well, my gums were not used to it.
I got a 49p McFlurry (ice cream) at the local McDonald’s. This is part of Chancellor ‘Dishy Rishi’ Sunak’s half price meals scheme Monday-Friday, to re-stimulate the UK economy after the economic shock of the coronavirus.
At Euston station, there was a loudspeaker announcement:
“Will Inspector Sands please go to the Control Room.”
I was sitting by an exit and looked around. None of the station staff seemed to be panicking. Nor running fast. I am still alive.
“Will Inspector Sands please go to the Control Room” means that there is a major incident in the building. They want to alert staff, but they don’t want to panic members of the public.
It comes, originally, from theatres, where sand was used to put out fires. It meant the building was on fire. But now it is used more generally in public buildings. Nowadays it is perhaps more likely to be a terrorist attack than a fire.
The announcement went round on a tape loop for about 2 minutes – a long time – then stopped. The only other time I have heard it was on a platform at Stratford station for maybe 20 seconds where, at the end, without explanation, it was followed by: “The test is now over”.
Adam Wilder, entrepreneurial big hitter and hugger
THURSDAY 20th AUGUST
At lunchtime, I chatted to Adam Wilder (formerly Adam Taffler) for a future blog.
He greeted me with a large hug.
A big hug.
A big, big hug.
Honestly! Theatrical types versus coronavirus distancing!
What on earth is one to do?
But NHS bureaucracy is even worse.
Bits of a terribly confusing time-travelling letter from the NHS
I got a letter today (20th August) from the Kidney Man sent to my GP with a cc to me.
It was a bit confusing at first until I realised it was written on 7th July, allegedly signed (no signature) and verified by the Kidney Man on 12th August and printed-out & sent to me on 17th August.
It referred to my medical symptoms and mentioned future treatment which is now in the past. I have received at least three letters written after this one but sent before this one.
There is nothing like keeping up-to-date and this was etc etc etc…
The NHS is staffed by well-meaning, hard-working people, but all bureaucracies are incompetent and the larger the bureaucracy the larger the incompetence.
What would Archimedes have made of all this?
FRIDAY 21st AUGUST
It is a good thing Greece is known for its mathematical geniuses.
A local Greek restaurant is offering 15% off all food and drink Monday-Wednesday.
‘Dishy’ Rishi’s deal is 50% off food (but not alcoholic drink or spirits) Monday-Wednesday during August.
It would take Archimedes, Euclid and Pythagoras to figure out which offer is better value, taking alcoholic imbibement into account. As I don’t drink alcohol or spirits, the 15% deal would be worse than ‘Dishy’ Rishi’s deal.
A visual equivalent of trying to edit my words
SATURDAY 22nd AUGUST
On Thursday, I had a chat with performer Jo Burke for her upcoming series of online podcasts. I should perhaps have warned her that, although I am quite good interviewing people, I am appalling as an interviewee. I witter and wander off the subject. It sounds not too bad if you are talking to me but, combined with a speech pattern that elides words leaving no gaps, it is a nightmare – sometimes an impossibility – to edit. She discovered this today.