Tag Archives: myths

Increasingly confusing times for Christmas but not for Paul Kerensa

I was in Oxford Street in London last week. The Christmas street lights are already up and shops have special Christmas sections already open.

It is early October.

A couple of weeks ago, my TV went up the spout and I am thinking I might wait until the January sales to buy a new one. The January sales now start in mid or early December.

I blame Christians for this. They started it.

This mucking-around with dates.

I was saying to comic-and-now-author Paul Kerensa that I have never understood the Christian festivals. I know, obviously, that the reason Christmas and Easter were positioned where they are was to smother the pre-existing pagan end-of-year and Spring festivals. But what on earth were the early Christians thinking about?

Father Christmas before the Coca Cola marketing colours finally took over

The end of the year is all about endings and the death of the old.

Spring is all about re-birth and new starts.

So what’s with this ridiculous back-to-front symbolism of Jesus being born at the end of Nature’s annual life-cycle and dying in the Springtime?

It’s not as if it even makes any Biblical sense.

According to the Bible, Jesus was born in the Spring – the shepherds were tending their new-born lambs in the fields; and there is no hint of what time of year he was crucified.

So that would have been perfect. The lamb of God was born in the Spring with the real lambs at the symbolic re-birth of the natural annual cycle of life. And it would make perfect sense and have no Biblical complications to have him die at the same time as the death of the old year and the end of Nature’s annual life/death cycle.

So celebrate Jesus’ birth at Easter and his death at Christmas.

And you could still smother the pagan festivals.

What were they thinking of?

The ever-interested & interesting Paul Kerensa

I was droning on about this to Paul Kerensa – who managed to retain a mask of interest – because he was having his book launch. He has just written Hark! The Biography of Christmas.

I think the Christmas book-buying season starts in October and runs to the middle of December. Obviously, people don’t actually buy books as Christmas presents AT Christmas. That would be silly.

Paul tells me that “the original print run has already completely sold out, and the book is on its 2nd reprint already” – It was published in September – so October is the perfect time to launch it.

For all that the British comedy club business is said to be in decline, the British appetite for comedy and comedians seems to continue unabated.

At the time of writing, Sarah Millican’s book How To Be Champion tops the Sunday Times bestseller list and all four top places are books written by comics – the others are Russell Brand’s Recovery, Adam Kay’s This Is Going To Hurt and David Jason’s Only Fools and Stories.

Paul Kerensa’s new book is, as the title suggests – Hark! The Biography of Christmas – all about Yuletide facts and fictions – answers to all the festive questions you might ask and some you would never have thought to ask, like…

Paul Kerensa – the man with all the answers

– Was St Nicholas the first to use an automatic door?

– Which classic Christmas crooners were inspired by a Hollywood heatwave?

– Did King Herod really have a wife called Doris?

Jeremy Vine says: “I didn’t know how much I didn’t know about Christmas until I read this brilliant book”.

Me too. And Paul was able to set my mind at rest. He told me it is unlikely I will get arrested for celebrating Christmas.

When I last heard, there was still a Cromwellian law on the statute books banning the celebration of Christmas.

Although he was less reassuring about the legality of eating mince pies.

And, as if hedging his bets, half the mince pies supplied for the book launch were actually apple pies.

Intentionally.

DJ/presenter Chris Evans says Paul is: “A brilliant writer, fantastic communicator, deep thinker and extremely decent bloke”. I agree.

And, with plugs on the back cover from Miranda Hart and Noddy Holder of Slade, no wonder the book was on its 2nd reprint before it was launched.

Here’s Noddy…

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The new Krays movie – at what point do facts in real events become Legend?

A piece of street graffiti in London’s Easy End last week, promoting the release of the Krays movie Legend

A piece of street graffiti in London’s East End last week, promoting the release of the Krays’ Legend

At what point can you make up facts in a movie about real events, the actual facts of which are well-known and within living memory?

I saw Legend last night: the new movie about the Kray Twins.

Legend - the movie poster for The Krays

The British movie poster promoting the Krays’ movie Legend

The film plays fast and loose with the widely-known facts, which totally threw my suspension of disbelief – especially for me as one of the central threads holding the plot together is the ‘love affair’ between Reggie Kray and his eventual wife Frances.

For a description of the actual relationship between Reggie and Frances, you could read my September 2014 blog chat with the Krays’ close associate Micky Fawcett.

For the actual background to the shooting of George Cornell in the Blind Beggar pub by Ronnie Kray, you might want to read my blog of July 2013.

For a description of the actual killing of Jack ‘The Hat’ McVitie (I presume based on the court case evidence but which strangely omits the mis-firing gun) you could read the Daily Telegraph’s August 2000 piece.

And for details of police corruption and Ronnie Kray’s psychopathy, you might read my blog of October 2013.

The Krays were arrested in 1968 and imprisoned in 1969 – so they were active roughly 50 years ago.

Billy The Kid (a criminal murderer, now an outlaw hero) was killed in 1881 and the first major film made about him was in 1930 – 50 years after his death. Presumably the facts were embroidered.

Jesse James (a criminal murderer, now an outlaw hero) was killed in 1882. In 1921, two movies were made with Jesse James Jnr playing his father; but the first major film about his life was in 1939 – almost 60 years after the events. Presumably the facts were embroidered.

Micky Fawcett (left) with Reggie Kray and Frances

Micky Fawcett (left) with Reggie Kray and Frances (Photograph from Micky Fawcett’s book Krayzy Days)

The events depicted in Legend are within living memory – I am old enough to remember the shooting in the Blind Beggar being reported on BBC TV News. So it is very dodgy to change facts – even though filmgoers in the US are unlikely to have heard of The Krays. So I do not know the answer.

At what point does embroidering the facts of real events within living memory totally screw belief in a movie? And at what point in time does it not matter?

At what point does the legend take over and the facts become irrelevant?

There is that well-known 19th century newspaper saying:  “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend”.

Except, of course, it is not a real saying. It was something scripted in the 1962 movie The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and now people think it is some real saying from way way back.

There is a famous TV interview with the Kray Twins which is on YouTube.

.

 

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The intangible nature of reality and the man with the (second?) biggest bollocks in British showbusiness

Yesterday, I drove up to see a friend in Cromer, on the North Norfolk coast.

Looking further north, from the end of Cromer Pier, she told me there is nothing until you reach the North Pole. And even when you get to the North Pole… there is nothing.

Well, there’s something, but you can’t quite put your finger on it.

The ‘facts’ surrounding “godfather of British Alternative Comedy” Malcolm Hardee can be a bit intangible too. The myths are many, various and often surreal. I read the other day that he once kidnapped the singer George Michael, mistaking him for a George Michael lookalike. Where that story came from I have no idea, but Malcolm would have enjoyed it.

On the way back from Cromer, I stopped off at North Walsham in Norfolk, for dinner or supper depending on where you come from. I suppose I could call it a dinner party, except I’m not convinced such things exist except in Islington. But one thing I’m sure of is that also tucking-in was Vivienne Soan, who runs the monthly Pull The Other One comedy club in Nunhead, South London (this month’s show headlining Jo Brand has, not unusually, already sold out).

The subject of Malcolm Hardee inevitably cropped up.

Malcolm was renowned for having the biggest bollocks in British showbusness. Although, strictly speaking, we are not talking here of bollocks but of scrotum. In fact, in later years, in rare moments of quiet contemplation, he would admit to me that he only had the second biggest bollocks in British showbusiness, following what he told me was an embarrassing tabletop contest with Jenny Agutter’s dad. Whether this is true or not I don’t know, but I prefer to think it is.

When Malcolm drowned in Rotherhithe at the end of January 2005, the story which initially circulated was that he had probably fallen out of a small rowing boat into the water late at night while crossing the maybe 8ft of water between his Wibbley Wobbley floating pub and his house boat the Sea Sovereign.

The story was that he died happy, drunk, clutching a bottle of Budweiser and – it was said, depending on which version of the story you heard – he had anything from £50 to £250 in his pocket – winnings from a horse race or a greyhound race that day.

The story about the bottle of beer was confirmed at the Southwark Coroner’s Inquest.

According to PC Martin Spirito, when Malcolm’s body was found in Greenland Dock, “the male had a bottle of beer clenched in his right hand.” Sergeant Roy Dawson, overseeing the dive, said: “The bottle was held in his right hand. It fell from his hand on the ascent.”

The Coroner found Malcolm had not fallen into the dock from a rowing boat, as people had assumed and had told each other, but had fallen from the quayside while trying to board the Sea Sovereign. I once fell into a neighbouring dock myself, while helping Malcolm take a vacuum cleaner on board his boat. (Don’t ask.)

Yesterday, though, Vivienne Soan told me another story about the money in Malcolm’s pocket when he died. She and her husband Martin (who long performed with Malcolm in The Greatest Show on Legs) understood there were no £50-£250 betting winnings in his pocket but there were a very very large number of £1 coins because Malcolm had (not surprisingly, if you knew him) raided his own one-armed bandit machine in the Wibbley Wobbley and put all the coins in his pocket.

The weight of all these coins in his pocket would have weighed him down when he fell into Greenland Dock.

Who knows what is truth and what is myth?

Malcolm’s date of death is usually quoted as 31st January 2005. But, in fact, Southwark Coroner John Sampson said at the Inquest: “He was last seen on the quayside outside the Wibbley Wobbley public house at about 6am on Sunday January 30th.”

He was not reported missing until January 31st – because it was not uncommon for him to disappear occasionally – and his body was not found and recovered until February 2nd 2005.

So his date of death is usually quoted as January 31st 2005.

More probably it was January 30th 2005.

But, as Malcolm would have said:

“Fuck it… It don’t matter, do it? There are people starving in Africa… Not all over… Round the edge – fish.”

I would say R.I.P. Malcolm, except that I suspect he would have hated the thought of resting in peace.

Many will be thinking of him on 30th and/or 31st January.

* * * * *

The Malcolm Hardee Awards for comedy are presented annually in August until the year 2017.

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