Last night, I went to Stowmarket in Suffolk to see two excellent Edinburgh Fringe preview shows by Doug Segal and Juliette Burton.
On the way back, just before midnight, I filled up at a BP petrol station somewhere on or near the A14.
Inside, a man dressed as a green duck was talking to a woman dressed as a yellow chicken.
“It was brown and grey and French,” the man said.
“Karen has always been difficult,” the woman replied.
Then they left.
Despite that, I have no particular blog to write this morning, so I idly looked through some old diaries at what happened today in previous years. These are extracts, going back in time to another era. Some names have been removed.
5th MAY 2002
In the evening, I went with (a fairly well-known English comedian) to a gig at a Masonic Hall in Easterhouse, a legendarily rough part of Glasgow. The low, unmarked building was surrounded by empty space, like a free-fire zone, and had 7 ft tall spiked grey metal railings surrounding it with barbed wire on parts of the roof. There was a full house: perhaps 150 people, all dressed up in their Sunday best as if for a West End occasion. They hated (the fairly well-known English comedian’s) performance. Their favourite star was ‘Christian’ a 64-year-old who sings as if it were still the 1970s.
The son of one of the people who ran the club told us: “My nose is getting better now. It’s still just tender here, towards the top.”
The other night, he had been driving home from some late night DJ work and stopped at a petrol station. After paying, he walked back towards his car. A man appeared, said “No-one talks to my wife like that!” and hit him.
Three other men then appeared and all four attacked him, knocking him down and kicking him, breaking his nose.
The police say they have the men’s faces and the number plate of their car on video but, because the beating itself is not seen on any video, there is no point finding and prosecuting them.
It seems that the DJ boy, drunk, had reached the pay counter at the same time as the angry man’s wife and (he says) told her: “You go first.”
Seeing this from outside, the other man and his friends somehow misinterpreted what had happened and got angry.
5th MAY 2000
I had lunch with a chum. Last week, (a prominent London gangster) told him one of the Great Train Robbers who was never caught is black and now works as a London cab driver. He kept all of his share.
My chum went to Charlie Kray’s recent funeral in Bethnal Green. As Reggie Kray came out of church after the service, handcuffed to a policewoman, my chum found himself shouting “Let him out!” and it was taken up by the rest of the hundreds of bystanders. When Reggie went to his brother Ronnie Kray’s funeral, he was handcuffed to two gigantic policemen to make him look small, but instead it made him look very dangerous. This time, my chum reckoned, he had been handcuffed to a woman to try to belittle him in fellow-gangsters’ eyes.
Later, I talked with another chum on the phone. She has just got back from cruising the Caribbean in a yacht. She said the Caribbean is full of white South Africans who have left the country and put all their money into buying yachts and cruisers. She said her bottom was probably on the Internet because one man spent 39 days sailing from South Africa to the Caribbean and, when he got there, he was greeted by her buttocks exposed to him spelling out WELCOME NICK. He took a digital photograph to send to his friends as an e-mail attachment.
5th MAY 1999
I had lunch with a chum at BBC Television Centre in Wood Lane.
Last weekend, he and his girlfriend went to Chichester, where she has friends. In the evening, they were all watching a video of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Halfway through, the chief baddie was saying something to the effect of: “If things don’t happen, people will lose their digits.”
At this point, the living room door was suddenly pushed open – slammed open, really – by the family cat, who entered the room with the hind legs of a rabbit dangling from its bloodied mouth. The cat strode in, dropped the legs on the carpet, looked up at the humans and strode out of the room. The cat’s owner said they’d once sat and watched the same cat eat an entire rabbit in the garden, head first.
“You sat and watched?” my chum asked incredulously.
When he got back to his home in Brixton that same night, my chum found the head of a toy Teletubby (the yellow one) in his back garden. Just the head.
He recently negotiated a per-day pay rise for himself at the BBC; then negotiated a 4-day-week for himself thus, in effect, getting paid the same money for a day’s less work. He intends to try to write a novel on Mondays. His female boss is also going to take a day off work each week in an attempt to write a novel.
When I got home from the BBC lunch, I found an e-mail from another chum who works at Anglia TV:
Hey, today’s Eastern Daily Press is full of a story about an ex Anglia TV carpenter who murdered his wife and attempted to murder his daughter. You would recognise him. He looked like a little gnome and wandered around fixing things with a white coat on. He stabbed her to death because she spent more than £60 a week on the housekeeping!
Later, shopping in Tesco’s, I met the woman who used to live next door to me in Borehamwood. She, her husband, son and daughter moved to nearby Shenley about six years ago. She said her daughter was now twelve and “getting hormonal”. Nothing she (the mother) could do was right and her daughter was embarrassed by her.
5th MAY 1985
(four years before the Berlin Wall fell)
The old city was flattened by an earthquake in 1966 and rebuilt mostly in ghastly Russian tower block style.
Walking along a street this morning, I encountered three thin policemen and a tubby officer with a moustache talking to a shirt-sleeved man who seemed to have committed a traffic offence. The shirt-sleeved man took some pieces of paper out of his right-hand pocket and offered them to the officer. But the officer noticed me – an obvious tourist – approaching with a camera over my shoulder. He dismissed the man’s offer of (I presume) roubles with a wave of his hand.
Walking into the grounds of a mosque, we were given a very crude propaganda magazine about how local Moslem customs are respected and how the Soviet state is renovating mosques. The Russians must be very worried about the Moslems in Soviet Central Asia.
My German chum yesterday encountered a local Uzbek newspaper editor called Igor who had met a girl in Bulgaria whom he (Igor) wanted to marry. This romance came to the ears of the KGB who interrogated Igor and told him there was no way he could marry her.
Igor earns 250 roubles per month compared to the average of 160 roubles per month, so he is well-off. He lives in a three-room apartment – unusually spacious – but he has to share it with his brother and one other man. There are weekly political meetings at his apartment block with a register of names and it is compulsory to attend them unless you are working.
Igor came very nervously to our hotel tonight to talk to my German chum. He wants to send my German chum a book but will have to get a friend to take it to Yugoslavia and post it from there. If Igor got mail from the West, he would be questioned by the police. He tried to persuade my German chum to send him money so he can travel to Yugoslavia himself and then on to Germany. My German chum met him just outside the hotel for this chat and thought it might be some form of set-up by the security police.