Tag Archives: Mark Thomas

Writer/musician/comic John Dowie on his death, dentists and other Dowies…

So I had a blog chat with poet/comedian/writer John Dowie. 

I was going to the dentist. We arranged to meet when I was finished.

“You might as well come to the dentist in case he’s over-running,” I suggested.

“Charming as your dentist’s waiting room undoubtedly is,” John Dowie replied, “I will be in this pub down the road.”

And he was.

He drank sparkling water. He wore a hat,

This is part of our chat.


JOHN FLEMING: Are you going to see Avengers: Endgame, the latest Marvel movie?

JOHN DOWIE: No, because I won’t go to a cinema. People talk, use their phones and eat popcorn. I can’t believe they sell popcorn in cinemas: the noisiest and smelliest food known to mankind. I resent the attitude of the people who own the cinemas: they shouldn’t sell popcorn. I mean, people are bringing in hamburgers and chips now.

FLEMING: Are they? Where?

DOWIE: I dunno. But they are.

FLEMING: You’re getting to be a grumpy old man.

Consistently grumpy young John Dowie – a living legend

DOWIE: Getting? I was always a grumpy man. Age doesn’t come into it.

I can’t function unless I’m in complete privacy, in an enclosed space with no distractions.

FLEMING: You must have had to in your erstwhile youth.

DOWIE: I had a bedsit and wrote in that. Or I’d sit in my bedroom in my mother’s house and write there.

I am now thinking of trying to rent an office.

FLEMING: It is difficult to write at home.

DOWIE: Yes. If you have a partner of any kind, just as you reach the moment where you think: Yes! YES! there will be a knocking on the door – “Would you like a cuppa tea?” – and it’s all gone.

I had a friend, Gary, who was a painting artist and he said it was always happening with his missus.

FLEMING: The painter’s wife from Porlock.

DOWIE: …or the unwitting girlfriend from Porlock.

FLEMING: Unwitting?

DOWIE: To think it’s alright to knock on the writer’s door and ask if you want a cup of tea.

FLEMING: You should be publishing more. Your story in the excellently-edited Sit-Down Comedy anthology was wonderful.

Freewheeling John Dowie’s latest book

DOWIE: Well, I’ve got an idea for another book. But it’s under wraps. It’s bad luck to talk about it before you’ve done it.

FLEMING: Fiction?

DOWIE: No, no. I can’t be fucked with fiction… But I did have an idea for a story… It’s about this woman dentist who has a new patient and he walks into the room with the most perfect teeth. She falls madly in love with this guy, but how does she keep on seeing him? There’s only one way: tell him his teeth are shit. So, over the course of a year or so, she gets him back for more appointments, taking out his teeth one-at-a-time until he has no teeth left… and then she goes off him.

FLEMING: You should call it Take Me Out.

DOWIE: …or Pulling.

FLEMING: Can I quote that idea?

DOWIE: Yes. I won’t use it. But I do have an idea for a new book – though I can’t write it until I’ve found somewhere to live. At the moment, I’m staying with my two sons and their mother. One of my sons is doing a show at the Edinburgh Fringe this year.

FLEMING: Called?

Comedy/magic and conspiracy theories

DOWIE: Oddly Alike. My son is Harry Scott Moncrieff and it’s a two-hander with his mate Robbie Fox. Harry does comedy/magic wrapped around conspiracy theories. If he does it really well, they will kill him.

FLEMING: Or so he thinks… Why is he Scott Moncrieff?

DOWIE: He took his mother’s name which has turned out quite well, because he’s not cursed by association with my name as being drunk and abusive.

FLEMING: But Dowie is a famous name.

DOWIE: In Scotland it is… Dowie’s Tavern in Edinburgh… 

FLEMING: I’ve never heard of it. But Dowie is a creative name. There’s you. Your sister Claire Dowie. And Helga Dowie whom I worked with at ATV, who’s a producer now. Your son should have kept the Dowie name. Three prestigious Dowies. How many Scott Moncrieffs are there?

DOWIE: Hundreds, including the man who translated Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu.

FLEMING: Really? Was your ex-girlfriend related to the Proust Scott Moncrieff?

DOWIE: Yeah. And she can actually claim lineage from Henry VIII. All I can claim is a couple of ex-cons from Australia.

FLEMING: Really?

DOWIE: Nah! Dunno. Irish. My dad’s Irish, so… Well, there’s a famous John Dowie in Australia who’s a sculptor.

FLEMING: Oh! Is he related to you?

DOWIE: No… There’s another John Dowie who plays football. He is related.

Maybe dour, mean-spirited but never ever dull

FLEMING: Does ‘Dowie’ mean anything?

DOWIE: It means dull, dour and mean-spirited. There’s The Dowie Dens o’ Yarrow, a famous folk song.

FLEMING: So your father was Irish with a Scots name…

DOWIE: Yes. My mother was very scathing about the Irish.

FLEMING: She was Scottish?

DOWIE: No. From Stoke-on-Trent but she married my dad, who was from Belfast and she was always scathing about how terribly not-bright the Irish were. I once did a genealogy thing on her maiden name. It turned out she was from Ireland… I think I may get an Irish passport if Brexit happens.

FLEMING: A comedian has just been elected President of Ukraine. (Volodymyr Zelenskiy)

DOWIE: Yes. Swivel on THAT Mark Thomas! Never mind your NHS show. Look what a real politician comedian’s getting up to!

FLEMING: Can I quote that?

DOWIE: (LAUGHS) Yeah! Jeremy Hardy must be spinning in his grave. That could’ve been me up there on that podium! I’m going to the Jeremy Hardy memorial in May. He was very good, very precise and his death deserved all the press coverage it got.

“Now, when comedians start dying, you become jealous of their obituaries…” (Photograph by Steve Ullathorne)

It used to be that comedians were only jealous of other comedians succeeding. But then you write a book and you’re jealous that other comedians’ books are doing better than yours. Now, when other comedians start dying, you become jealous of their obituaries. Ian Cognito’s obituaries this month! I would kill for that amount of space!

FLEMING: I know. He was getting in mainstream papers…

DOWIE: … in the Guardian AND in The Times! I expected the Guardian to do one, but not The Times.

FLEMING: Malcolm Hardee got very extensive obituaries in the quality newspapers because people in the media knew who he was, even if the public didn’t. But Ian Cognito! – I don’t think people outside the comedy industry itself were really aware of him. He did prove, though, that the best way to die is on-stage like Tommy Cooper – and/or live your life so OTT that there are lots of outrageous anecdotes to quote. Fame may die but anecdotes live forever.

DOWIE: That Hollywood Reporter article you posted on Facebook about John Belushi’s death was quite horrific. No respect. There’s a corpse being wheeled out on a trolly – Oh! I’ll take a photograph of that, then! – No. mate, don’t – And Lenny Bruce, of course. He died on a toilet trying to inject himself. He was lying naked on the bathroom floor with a syringe still in his arm and they were leaping up the stairs two-at-a-time to take photographs of him.

FLEMING: Apparently dying on the toilet is quite a common thing. Doing Number Twos puts a big strain on the heart.

DOWIE: Elvis.

FLEMING: Yes.

DOWIE: I have ‘died’ IN some toilets.

FLEMING: Wey-hey! You still have it!… I should have taken heroin when I was younger. Look at Keith Richards: 75 years old and a picture of good health; his main risk is falling out of trees he has climbed. Wasn’t it Keith Richards who accidentally smoked his father’s cremated ashes?

DOWIE: He said he did; then he said he didn’t.

FLEMING: Always print the legend, I say, if it’s a good story.

DOWIE: The story I like is Graham Nash. After his mother died, he discovered that she had wanted to be a singer but was saddled with having to bring up children and having to work. So he took her ashes on tour with him and, every time he did a gig, he dropped a little bit of her on the stage.

“What’s going to happen? … Are you going to rot or be burnt?”

FLEMING: What’s going to happen to you? Are you going to rot or be burnt?

DOWIE: When I buried my friend David Gordon, I found a natural death company with grounds and you can do what you like there. You can put the body in a hole in the ground or in a coffin or in a sack – You can do what the fuck you like – And then they plant a tree there. That’s what I’m going to have done – What kind of tree would it be? – I think it will have to be a weeping willow.

FLEMING: You’ll be happy to rot? You don’t want to be burnt?

DOWIE: I don’t like that bit where the doors close.

FLEMING: Like curtains closing on a stage…

DOWIE: …and no encore.

FLEMING: I think it’s more romantic to rot.

DOWIE: Also your body serves a purpose if you grow a tree out of it. Actually, I quite like the idea of a Viking funeral with the boat and the flames. But I try not to ponder on my own death too much, John. It’s just tempting Fate.

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Filed under Comedy, Death, Humor, Humour

Comic performer-turned-painter The Iceman suddenly outsells Van Gogh.

The Artist formerly known as The Iceman: a brush with fame

I have blogged before about the comic performance artist legend that is The Iceman. The last couple of times he has cropped up, it has been as a fine artist (I use the words loosely) not a performance artist. As a stage performer, he has been described as:

“…a living saint” (Stewart Lee)

“…incredible” (Mike Myers)

“A figure of mythic proportions” (Independent)

“inexplicable” (The Stage)

“shit!” (Chris Tarrant)

“brilliant” (Simon Munnery)

“truly a performance artist” (Jo Brand)

AIM’s painting of Jo Brand (left) understanding The Iceman

He sent me an email this morning asking if I wanted to write another blog about him because he feels my blog-writing style has “sort of subtle undercurrents where sarcasm meets genteelness” and, where he is involved, has “a mixture of awe, bafflement and sneaking respect.”

Those are his words.

He added: “I think you should keep it short and pithy. Do you do short blogs? As my sales increase I am going to keep you very busy indeed so, for your own sanity, it should be more like a news flash.”

Eddie Izzard/Iceard (left) upstaged/icestaged by The Iceman

The Iceman – who now prefers to be called AIM (the Artist formally known as the Ice Man) – measures his fine art success against van Gogh’s sales of his art during his lifetime.

He told me that, yesterday, he “nearly tripled/then quadrupled/then quintupled van Gogh’s sales record… but, in the end, I just tripled it as the buyer couldn’t stretch to it…”

‘It’ being an “confidential but significant” sum.

Buyer Maddie Coombe overawed in the presence of the AIM

He sent me photographs of the buyer – “discerning collector” and dramatist Maddie Coombe – who topped an offer by another buyer who desperately tried to muscle-in on the art purchase.

Ms Coombe says: “I bought a very colourful and bold piece of the Iceman’s work. I loved it because of its colour, composition and bold brush strokes. I will keep it forever as a memory of the time I have spent being his colleague – a man unlike any other!”

Comedian Stewart Lee (right) and poet John Dowie carrying The Iceman’s props with pride – a specific and vivid memory.

The Iceman says: “The sale was a formal business agreement born of an authentic appreciation of AIM’s art/oil paintings in a secret contemporary art gallery south of Bath – It’s in a valley.”

Explaining the slight element of mystery involved, he explains: “Being a cult figure I can’t be too transparent with anything,” and adds: “AIM is now painting not from photos but from specific and vivid memories insice the ex-Iceman’s head, resulting in even more icetraordinary imagices.

“One gallery visitor,” he tells me, “was heard to say It looks like it’s painted by a three year old which, of course I thought was a huge compliment.”

AIM’s most recent painting – Stand-up comedian, activist and author Mark Thomas (right) gets the political message of The Iceman’s ice block at the Duke of Wellington’s public house many years ago

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Filed under Art, Comedy, Eccentrics, Humor, Humour, Painting

“Levity is an absolute necessity in what can be considered a very dark subject”

The number of unknown unknowns is unknown

Yesterday’s blog revolved around a blog posted two days ago in which Kate Copstick had described the terrible plight of teenage brides in Kenya but finished with a lighthearted reference to the size of a kitten’s testicles.

Reader ‘Glenda’ had commented that “unfortunately, the witty remark about a cat’s balls is what registers on the reader’s mind and the serious issue concerning these African women is simply forgotten.

In yesterday’s blog, I wondered if jokes in serious pieces demeaned the subject. A few of the comments on this were:

No, perception & timing & intent.  A lot like robbing a security van John. (comedian Del Strain, via Twitter)

Yes and make them affordable to the masses. (Griff, via Twitter)

Depends on the quality of the joke. (Andrew Fox, via Facebook)

I had almost completely forgotten the kitten balls. But not the women. (Anna Smith, via WordPress)

Glenda’s comment is absolute bollocks (coincidentally). The levity at the end of the blog if anything throws the serious content into relief. Why do people have to be needlessly disparaging and superior, i.e: “It’s all very worthy and honourable, Kate Copstick blogging about the plight of these African women . . .” (comedian Janet Bettesworth, via WordPress)

Actually, I think Glenda has a point and I can see both sides.

I did think, when I posted Copstick’s diary piece, about chopping off the end bit re the kitten for the very reason Glenda gives. But I did not because I thought it would misrepresent what Copstick wrote, plus it did add a bit of jollity, plus it gave a plug to Malcolm Hardee and would mean something extra to a section of the blog readership. Other responses have been:

It’s oversimplifying to say the piece ends with an “adolescent remark.” It actually ends with some quite melancholy paragraphs about the late friend’s number being changed and the consolation of symbolically “making order from chaos”. The final details of the cats provides a beautiful counterpoint to this melancholy. It’s a very well written piece and anyone who forgets the main point so easily is probably going to forget it in a few moments away. (Cy, via WordPress)

Life goes on. In the midst of difficulty and death the small humorous things still raise their heads, ask to be observed as part of our reality. To help people effectively and constructively, I assume you have to be pragmatic and matter of fact, not hand-wringing which wouldn’t help anyone but which is easy enough to do from the comfort of our armchair viewing. (comedian Charmian Hughes, via WordPress)

Levity is an absolute necessity in what can be considered a very dark subject and I agree with Katie in her opinion regarding light and shade. It does raise the question regards what subjects can humour be added to and where we, as a society, draw the line. 

Take the very dark subject of paedophilia. Many jokes have been told by comedians about the Catholic Church and their approach towards priests who have abused vulnerable youngsters for decades, yet similar jokes about such showbiz individuals as Jimmy Savile face a barrage of criticism.

Perhaps it’s related to proximity or maybe the identification of individuals makes something much more personal and intense than an organisation. It is probably a very big discussion about what subjects are taboo amongst comedians and at what point a particular subject is deemed acceptable. (Alan Gregory, via WordPress)

Once I went to see Mark Thomas and I was really impressed by the combination of sincerely-felt idealism on one hand and irony on the other. After the show, I had a brief chat with him and he explained that the secret is taking the cause seriously while never taking seriously you fighting the cause. It’s a form of dissociation. On the other hand, people who are not able to do so and cannot poke fun at their idealism often become unintentionally ridiculous. Think of Don Quixote. Or Peter Buckley Hill. (comedian Giacinto Palmieri, via email)

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Filed under Bad taste, Comedy

Comedian Ivor Dembina on the comparative pain of Jerry Sadowitz, Frankie Boyle and Lewis Schaffer

Comic investigator Liam Lonergan

Comic questions from Lonergan

My last two days’  blogs have been extracts from a chat Liam Lonergan had with comedian and club owner Ivor Dembina for his BA (Hons) course in Creative and Media Writing at the University of Portsmouth.

This is a final extract.

____________________________

Liam Lonergan: How long have you been doing comedy?

Ivor Dembina: Well I came into it in the early 1980s. I was the second wave. The first wave was Alexei Sayle, Rik Mayall, The Young Ones and all that lot. They got going in 1979. I would have come in about 1982, 1983.

Liam: So, since you started stand-up, have you been able to sustain it as a career or have you at any point had to have another career?

Ivor: Well, for thirty years I’ve earned a small living from it. The money has come primarily through running little clubs and promoting gigs. I’ve done the Edinburgh Fringe. I’ve been abroad a couple of times. I’ve never earned much serious money from it. I’ve never really sought to. That’s been secondary. But some people have got very rich out of it. No question. I mean, some of ‘em are multi-millionaires.

Liam: Russell Brand.

Ivor: Well, Russell Brand, Russell Howard. Harry Hill must be worth an absolute fortune. Frank Skinner.

Liam: Harry Hill had the golden handcuff contract with ITV where he was getting I think it was £10 million over three years.

Ivor: These are people that, when I last worked with them, I gave them £50. Steve Coogan. Y’know, these people they’re millionaires many times over. And just work it out for yourself. An agency like Off The Kerb, when they got £20 million out of the BBC for Jonathan Ross they got 15% of it. They got £3 million for one deal.

Someone like Russell Howard was charging £40 a ticket for – I can’t remember exactly but – something like an 18,000 capacity venue for 55 minutes work… Micky Flanagan does four nights at the O2. You see a poster with Micky on it. Then a week later you see the same poster only this time it’s a DVD of the show. The people who go and buy it provided the laughter track. Now they’re going to buy the DVD.

Ivor Dembina on the pendulum swings of UK comedy

Ivor Dembina: Was he too left-leaning for TV?

Liam: Did you ever make an attempt to penetrate that side of it? Did you ever wanna get into TV?

Ivor: I was never a gagster. Television never wanted me and I never wanted TV. I thought I’m not bad as a live comic. I’m worth seeing. I think I write quite interesting jokes. I just don’t think telly’s for me. Yeah, there are times when I think I wouldn’t mind some of that. The things that I really envy about people who have made it on television are they don’t have to bust their balls to get an audience. People will turn up because they’ve been heard of. And they get to play in nice venues because, obviously, if you’re playing a West End theatre, the whole atmosphere is designed to make you look good. You’ve got perfect sound. The lights are great. The audience is comfortable. You haven’t got people walking in and out of the bar. You haven’t got a PA that’s gonna collapse on you. You haven’t got a group of drunks in the front row. You haven’t got to deal with it. You just go on and do what you do. To me, it’s the only incentive for fame: that you’d get invited to play in nice rooms.

Liam: So what would be a really good night for you?

Ivor: Well, I was up at the Edinburgh Fringe last year playing a small fifty seater venue and it sold out throughout the run. And I was amazed. I was genuinely shocked that fifty people wanted to come and see me every night. I’m not being modest here. I thought: Bloody hell. Well maybe my show’s not that bad. I’ve just got used to failure. I don’t resent it. These are choices that I’ve made. A lot of the people who have had good television careers, they’re very talented, they’re very funny. I mean, Frank Skinner’s an incredibly funny guy. And, in his way, so is Michael McIntyre. It’s not my taste but McIntyre’s great.

Liam: With that sort of demographic.

Ivor: It really works, yeah. But I’m more interested in comedy as an art form where, basically, you’re communicating something human to the audience or sharing something with them. I think that tends to work, roughly, in auditoriums up to about a maximum of 200 people. This arena comedy, I just don’t get it. One of my favourite comedians of all time is Woody Allen. If he came over here and did a theatre I would do my best to get a ticket. But, if he was on at the O2 Arena, I wouldn’t go. What’s the point?

I think what’s happened with me is that, in London… I’m a bit like Lewis Schaffer. Quite a lot of people sort of know who I am. Quite a lot of those like me. They might come and see me again.

Liam: You’ve got your own dedicated following, as Lewis Schaffer seems to have. The thing I found quite remarkable with Lewis was that everyone who was coming up to the door he knew their names. Instantly. He was instantly on first names terms. And it was like he’s cultivated this atmosphere that was, sort of, a tree house gang.

Lewis Schaffer: creating a cult

Lewis Schaffer: creating his own cult?

Ivor: You used the word cultivated. It’s interesting. If you break down the word cultivated you get the word cult. What he’s trying to do is create a cult of Lewis Schaffer, which is beginning to work a bit but ultimately his problem now is… we’re not in that main world of agents or TV or…

Liam: Well, that’s my main angle. It’s people who are just outside of…

Ivor: At the moment people like me and Lewis qualify. You could say that Stewart Lee is very interesting to observe at the moment because he was in that position but now he’s got his own TV series and he’s had his show on at The National Theatre. Mark Thomas is a bit like that. On the one hand he’s Leftie, he’s got his credentials. But he’s ‘appy to knock out a DVD or pop up on telly. Jerry Sadowitz is another one. He’s great. He’s way outside… He’s absolutely brilliant. He’s fantastic.

Liam: Lewis Schaffer said he thought Jerry Sadowitz was good but he thought he lacked humanity. He thought he was just… just pitbull teeth. [Lewis Schaffer disputes he ever said this – SEE HIS COMEBACK HERE]

Ivor: I don’t agree. I think Jerry has got a great humanity. Whenever I see Jerry I never think You’re cruel. Never think that. I get that sometimes when I watch Frankie Boyle. I think he plays to people’s cruelty. But I just think Jerry’s dead funny.

Liam: Jerry seems real. Someone who’s quite embittered. Someone who’s got a chip on his shoulder, who’s punching upwards.

Ivor: He’s letting us see his pain. And that’s fine. Whereas I think with someone like Frankie Boyle it’s more of a case of What can I say that’s going to really wind people up? And he does it and he does it very well. But if you go look at a Frankie Boyle video and you cut away to the audience, they’re exactly the same sort of people who are laughing at Michael McIntyre. It’s cruelty for the masses. Whereas Jerry is showing us his pain and making us laugh at it at the same time. What I think Frankie Boyle does is Let’s have a laugh at the pain of others. Big difference.

Liam: That’s why I thought it was good with Lewis Schaffer because even though it comes across as quite polished like Mort Sahl or the old…

Ivor: The old vaudeville…

Liam: … there is a neediness. There is that sort of ‘revealing himself’ that I think is very attractive.

Ivor: He just needs to relax a bit. Relaxation isn’t his strength.

Liam: Do you feel, in your own personal… Do you think pathology… does that feed into, into your act?

Ivor: One of the myths in comedy is that all comedians are somehow depressives or manic depressives. It’s just bullshit. Obviously some people have definitely experienced mental health problems. Spike Milligan, Tony Hancock. Russell Brand has been very open about his addictions. But when we were talking about Jerry Sadowitz… he puts his pain on stage. He allows you to see it but it’s got nothing to do with mania or psychosis or mental health.

It’s about putting pain onstage in a way that other people will appreciate. Not to upset them. Peter Hoopal once said to me: “You can show ‘em the scars but never show ‘em the wounds”.

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Filed under Comedy, Psychology

Comedian-turned-novelist Bob Boyton is the real “Bomber Jackson” McCoy

Bob Boyton at last night’s book launch for his first novel

For someone who is allegedly an ex-comedian, Bob Boyton can certainly still draw a big crowd. I went to the book launch for his first novel last night and the fairly large venue was overflowing with people into the next room and included such iconic figures as Tony Allen, Arnold Brown, Dave Cohen, Tony Green, Mark Kelly, Nick Revell and Mark Thomas.

It was a slightly frustrating evening, as two of those people told me absolutely cracking stories but said they didn’t want me to blog about them.

However, Bob Boyton made up for it.

I first mentioned his book in a blog a couple of months ago.

Now Bomber Jackson Does Some has been published.

The novel is about an ex-boxer and heavy drinker who has ‘done time’ in prison.

The blurb reads:

What chance has a bloke got of going straight when it’s been twenty years of boozing and prison since his last big fight? That’s what Bomber Jackson has to discover when he sets out in search of love and sobriety. 

It’s the early hopeful years of the Blair government but hope is in short supply for an edgy homeless ex boxer and what else can he do but pick himself up and start again every time life knocks him over…. except slowly bit by bit he seems to get the feel for what a new life would be like if only he could stay away from the drink. Then just when Bomber could be saved there comes a final act of loyalty and violence which might leave him dead or in prison for a very long time.

Bob has never been sentenced to prison and has never been a professional boxer (though, in my previous blog about him, he drew a parallel between being a boxer and being a stand-up comedian).

He says: “One thing people ask you when you’ve written a book is Well, is it true?

“My novel stands at around 74,000 words and there’s about another 30,000 that I discarded. It covers a period of about 18 months or two years and I think in all that time Bomber Jackson has a crap once. By anyone’s standards, if he were a real person, he would be quite constipated. There’s truth and reality there in the novel, but a lot of the writing is in the editing.”

In 1982, he started an involvement with people at Arlington House, a hostel for homeless men in London’s Camden Town.

The hard-drinking Irish writer Brendan Behan lived there at one point, as did George Orwell, who wrote about the experience in his book Down and Out in Paris and London. It also turns up in the first line of pop group Madness’ song One Better Day.

“I knew guys who both lived and worked there,” Bob explained last night, “They were guys who, I think, the mainstream would apply the term ‘dosser’ to. But they were all individuals; none of them were stereotypes.

“There were about 800 people staying there at the time.”

Some of his Arlington House contacts took him to a pub one evening, Bob says, “to test me out – and also because it was a Thursday, so I’d just got paid and could buy beer”.

The pub was called The Good Mixer and later became an epicentre of alternative music but, at that time, “it was run by a bloke with one leg and the only rules were you could have as many fights as you wanted but you wouldn’t get slung out unless you broke glasses. If you broke a glass, that was it. End of. You were barred for at least 24 hours. I put up a front, so the Arlington House blokes must have been convinced I had the necessary bottle.

“I’ll be honest with you, I did look down a bit on these geezers. I thought they were different from me, but it was quite a bad part of my life and I was probably only three or four wage packets away from where they were. That was the start of my background with homeless people.

“Bomber Jackson Does Some” book cover

“We did have a few ex-footballers at Arlington House and I was struck at the time by the difficulty for somebody who had ‘been someone’ and then they weren’t. Being a bit different, they’d got the chance to get away from the factory or building site and then that chance had disappeared but they hadn’t saved dough. That’s one of the factors built into the novel.”

Reviewing the book, Boxing News said Bob “looks like he’s good for a few rounds”.

The Independent newspaper wrote that the dialogue “resonates with authenticity”.

And comedian/writer Mark Thomas says: “No-one but Bob could tell the stories he tells in this book because of who he is and where he’s been. In a world of artifice he stands out. He’s the Real McCoy.”

Indeed he is.

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Filed under Books, Boxing, Comedy, Writing