Tag Archives: party

Seeing the Noize with Phil Zimmerman at London’s most extraordinary party

Spaceheads album

Phil Zimmerman at the party last night.

Phil Zimmerman watches the music at the party last night.

Last night, I went to comedian Phil Zimmerman and (I guess you could call him) musical anarchist Nigel Noize’s annual Guy Fawkes Night party in West Ealing. the fact it was nine days after Guy Fawkes’ night is but a minor detail.

It takes place in the small back garden of a very ordinary terraced suburban house.

Well, it would be ordinary except for the fact that the back garden, the loft and most of the rest of the house appears to be a replica of the Glastonbury Festival.

I do not mean a smaller, cut-down version of Glastonbury. I mean the whole of the Glastonbury Festival stuffed into a small terraced house in Ealing.

There is a video shot last night of the loft (with sound) on YouTube.

I blogged about this annual ‘Happening’ last year and this year it was much the same vision of a surreal parallel universe. But with the added delight of music by The Spaceheads – trumpeter Andy Diagram with a drummer – although it sounded like a full orchestra – a combination of looping and using the iPhone attached to his trumpet.

Andy plays in the band James and, last night, The Spaceheads were playing music from their new album A Short Ride on the Arrow of Time.

The billing for this Guy Fawkes party – yes, there was a billing for it – ran:

Nigel Noize records the festivities on his smartphone

Nigel Noize listens to the sights on his phone

This is possibly the most extraordinary house party in London. Live entertainment, music, comedy, film, poetry etc…BBQ, bonfire, firework spectacular, video disco on giant screens in the garden, fun n frolics till the early hours… Become part of the world’s longest music video ‘Time on Acid’ in the loft, or stumble on something strange in the basement… It’s all the masterwork of Nigel Noize, who has turned his house into a weird and wonderful art object, surely a candidate for the Turner Prize!

That is possibly an under-statement.

There is a short clip of part of one of The Spaceheads’ performances last night on YouTube. But, more than usual, the phrase You had to be there rings true.

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Political gossip. Mick Jagger fondled by MP. Cabinet Minister thrown out of pub

In Sohemia last night: Mark Seddon (left) and Martin Rowson

In Sohemia last night: Mark Seddon (left) and Martin Rowson

I went to the Sohemian Society in London last night to hear about “Gay Hussar Nights”.

The evening was billed as two insiders’ journeys through Bollinger Bolshevism with the Rabelaisian Left: “Former Tribune editor and Labour Party National Executive member, turned Al Jazeera TV correspondent Mark Seddon and multi award-winning cartoonist Martin Rowson will chew the cud and spit it all out for your delectation in an evening of downright irreverence and much jocularity all laced through with a healthy contempt for the British political and media establishment.”

And so, indeed, it turned out.

The Gay Hussar is a famed Soho pub that, in pre-Blair days, was the haunt of left wing journalists and politicians. In the 1960s, the owner threw prominent Labour Party politician George Brown out of the building when, uninvited, he started to feel-up the woman sitting next to him – which was said last night to be “the only known case of a serving Foreign Secretary being thrown out for being drunk and disorderly”.

There were also stories about “the great left wing Labour MP and serial fellationist Tom Driberg” – a gay friend of gangsters the Kray Brothers and rumoured to be a Soviet agent via the Czech intelligence service.

“When Tom got very excited about the swinging sixties,” Martin Rowson said last night, “he tried to entice Mick Jagger to stand as a Labour MP and had dinner with him in the Gay Hussar. Everything was going swimmingly well until he started fondling Mick’s knee and rather blew it, as it were.”

There were two other people at that dinner: Mick’s girlfriend Marianne Faithfull and (the poet) W.H.Auden. While Tom and Mick were talking about Labour Party politics and the coming revolution, W.H.Auden asked Marianne:

Tell me. Have you ever smuggled drugs into the country?”

To which Marianne mumbled a reply. 

“Ever take them up the arse?” asked W.H.Auden

The evening broke up shortly afterwards.

Mark Seddon is a man who obviously shares my taste for the bizarre as, last night, he recommended people should take holidays in the people’s paradise that is North Korea – he has been there seven or eight times. He also told another story about George Brown.

The esteemed Labour politician was at a ball in Lima, Peru. With music playing and, having had quite a few drinks, George Brown was feeling ‘tired and emotional’ and went up to a vision of loveliness in a long gown, saying:

“Beautiful, beautiful lady in the red dress, can I have this next dance?”

To which the reply came: “Certainly not. This is the Peruvian national anthem… and I am the Cardinal Archbishop of Lima.”

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Lewis Schaffer has bowel problems and Mooky crushes nuts with her hands

Lewis Schaffer has problems

Lewis Schaffer, the comic who loves to be hated

“Your best blogs,” American comedian Lewis Schaffer told me last night in the car back to his home in Nunhead, London, “are the ones in which you express your own opinion. Your worst blogs are the ones when you resort to quoting some self-obsessed comedian talking about himself. Or even worse is when you quote a comedian talking about you and your blog.

“The five things that people wanna see in a blog,” Lewis Schaffer told me, “are One – themselves… Two – people they know… Three – places they’ve been to… Four – people or places they’d like to know or like to go to… and Five… Lewis Schaffer.”

“I don’t have a blog from tonight,” I told him, “although lots happened.”

I had been going to go to comedian Charmian Hughes’ Christmas party with my eternally-un-named friend, but she (my eternally-un-named friend) has a bad cough and decided not to go. So Lewis Schaffer went with me instead.

When we arrived at the door, I had the first of three bad coughing fits.

The guest list was interesting.

For almost a whole minute, comedian Harriet Bowden and I persuaded Lewis Schaffer that Harriet was my ex-wife and that we had lived together in a small house near Sandringham in Norfolk. Lewis Scaffer’s temporary stare of confusion as he looked at both of us (Harriet was wearing a full-length mink coat; I was looking rumpled) was worth the trip.

Harriet was trying to persuade people to go on a Weekend Comedy Workshop next month.

“Not for me,” I told her. “Ask Lewis Schaffer.”

“I’m not going to go on it,” he said.

“Why?”

“Because I haven’t been asked to teach it and I’m not going to show up and say I need help. Everybody knows I need help. It would be embarrassing, but I think that is how the comedy industry is going: comedians teaching other comedians how to make money and get out of debt by charging them £100.”

David Don't (left) blows in the kitchen

David Don’t (left) blows his horn in the kitchen last night

Charmian Hughes and her husband David Don’t have a toilet with a new Crapper… a genuine Thomas Crapper, boldly emblazoned as such on the cistern, inside the bowl and even on the sink. And they have a new kitchen with a new wood-burning stove.

“There’s no ash,” Charmian told me. “It’s very efficient. It burns the ash.”

It is a very neat, square, black stove. It looked very lovely, but reminded me slightly of an oven at Auschwitz. I did not mention this to Charmian at the time. Perhaps I should not mention it in this blog now. But it looks very nice and I am impressed it burns the ashes.

Sadly, I could not persuade Charmian to get her accordion out last night.

“I haven’t had it out for a while,” she explained.

“You could do the sand dance instead,” I said.

She ignored this – I thought rather good – suggestion.

But the party was enlivened by Charmian’s husband playing a trumpet and demonstrating very good magic tricks in the kitchen with cards, rubber bands and chess pieces. Not simultaneously, but his lessons with Jerry Sadowitz are paying off.

Nuts of the type cracked last night

Nuts not jokes were cracked at the comic’s party in London

Also in the kitchen was Canadian cabaret act and clown ‘Mooky’ Cornish, who can and did crack nuts with her bare hands. When someone told her I organise the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Awards, I emphasised to her:

“They’re increasingly prestigious, you know.”

“I’m just impressed,” she said, “that they’re not named after a beer.”

She told me she had once been on the board of a company with Thomas Crapper’s grandson. I think it was the board of an organisation involved in puppets, masks and animated objects. I do seem to remember the phrase “animated objects” came up, but I may have lost track of reality by that point.

I certainly remember the party ending with Lewis Schaffer randomly going up to people he had not had time to meet and saying, “Hi! My name’s Lewis Schaffer.” They mostly looked slightly startled and slightly afraid. He chatted to three women with the opening gambit: “I hate women.”

In the car taking him home to Nunhead Heights, he told me: “I gotta make a poo, but I couldn’t make a poo in that Thomas Crapper thing.”

“Why not?” I asked.

“It was too classy,” he said.

“I gotta go to the loo so badly,” he emphasised. “I feel like I’ve let you down by not giving you a blog.”

“You’ve given me a blog,” I said.

“I haven’t,” said Lewis Schaffer.

“You have,” I said.

“I could tell you,” he said, “why I support people’s right to own guns in America.”

“With all those schoolchildren shot in America?” I asked. “You’re just saying that to be hated. Just so people will hate you.”

“They hate me already,” said Lewis Schaffer. “Every time something like this happens, I wanna say something, because English people get all indignant about it, but…” he paused, “I need to go to the loo so bad.”

He paused again.

“Perhaps I just need to fart,” he said, getting out of the car.

There was a long silence.

“No. That didn’t work,” he said.

And then Lewis Schaffer was gone into the night, like the sweet smell of strawberries blown on the wind at Wimbledon.

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While I was away in North Korea, they were crying and mugging in London

The startled Conservative candidate

I came home on Saturday, two days ago. My eternally-un-named friend had been staying at my place while I was away.

“A few days after you left,” she told me, “some Conservative Party canvasser for the local elections came to the door and asked if Mr Fleming was at home. I said you were in North Korea. He looked a bit startled.”

She told me the contest for London Mayor was also in full flow:

Ken Livingstone was going mental while you were away. Bursting into tears saying he would let the people down if he didn’t get elected and said the amount of tax he’s paid over the years would have been enough to have bought an aircraft carrier.

“But Paddick pointed out Ken had got away with paying less income tax than the average person because of some loophole.”

“Who’s Paddick?” I asked.

“The gay one,” she told me.

“The policeman?”

“Yes. He’s Liberal,” she added.

“I guess so,” I said.

“Some Green Party person,” she continued, “referred to someone who had come in their chauffeur-driven car and hadn’t caught taxis like ‘the rest of us’. That was rather unfortunate because a load of people in the audience had come on bicycles and this was the Green Party person implying everyone should have come in taxis.”

“This was Question Time?” I asked.

“No, I think it might have been some Mayoral debate. I could be mixing up my politics. Boris Johnson said in a newspaper he’d offer the Green person a job working on his bikes. There was something slightly embarrassing in the press about Boris, but he didn’t care. It was Ken who was going mental.”

“So Ken burst into tears on TV?” I asked.

“I think it was at the first screening of some new campaign video of his. But I was reading it all off the front pages in newsagents and supermarkets, like I do. So I don’t really know what was actually happening but you know what I think about Ken. Someone who’s managed to make something like three single mothers and he gives all the teenagers free public transport so they can go to different parts of the town and stab each other and phone each other to come along and help with the stabbing.”

I also got an e-mail from comedian Bob Slayer:

“I am gigging in Ireland this week,” he told me. “The week before last, I was in South Africa and foolishly de-climbed Table Mountain on the Wednesday. The next day, I took an economy flight home with very knackered legs. They even offered me a wheelchair when we changed planes at Dubai.

“And on the Friday I did a gig with Eddie Izzard at Pull The Other One in Herne Hill (although I went to their club in Nunhead and was late).

“After the show, I had to get on two night buses to get home and was taking the short cut across Mile End Park as I have done maybe hundreds of times… The next thing I remember is waking up the following day with a huge lump on the back of my head and feeling doolally… I assumed I had fallen over due to my wobbly Table Mountain legs.

“But I had aching ribs, a sore jaw and there were marks down my back, so I thought It must have been one hell of a fall. Then, by 2 o’clock the next afternoon, I remembered that I had been beaten up by a group of youths in the park.

“Concussion is a very odd thing, I had it numerous times when I was a jockey and I’ve had it a few times since. I am aware that it can play tricks on your mind but I am absolutely certain I was beaten up by a bunch of blokes in dresses and lipstick… Maybe I was beaten up by an Eddie Izzard vigilante squad.”

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Ed Miliband and Ed Balls – Are they the Laurel and Hardy of British politics?

What is happening with Ed Miliband and what has happened to the Labour Party’s once-feared PR machine?

Young Ed looks like he is being paid by the Tories to undermine his own party and Alastair Campbell’s once gleaming and perfectly-oiled Labour PR machine seems to have seized up with rust or is being operated by 5-year-old children who are too small to reach the levers they have to pull.

That Labour Party conference speech yesterday and all the interviews around it were an unmitigated piece of failed image-building tripe.

The long-thought-out line – they are supposed to have worked all night on the speech – seemed to be:

“We, the Labour Party, would like to apologise for the things we did wrong which we humbly admit, sort of, but it’s the Tories’ fault for anything we did really and, if they are doing now what we said we would do or what we would have had to do, well, that’s what comes of all those years of Tory… erm… government… erm… oh…

“Oh… and the government should make things better and tell other people to make things better. We have had long discussions about this and decided that both the people and the country would be better off if the Economy were in a better state and not worse. Vote for us next time because we are new people not the ones who made any of the mistakes before. Well, sort of.”

One of Ed’s problems is he cannot ‘do’ passion. Someone is writing passionate speeches for him, but he is unable to deliver them. He tries to be passionate, but his lightweight voice is just not up to it and his heart is clearly not in it. It is like he is reading Chaucer to the English class.

I saw an interview he gave a couple of days ago in which he said, basically: “The government should not lecture the Europeans and tell them how to make things better. The government should make things better and, if we were in power, we would be pro-active and tell the Europeans how to make things better.”

The main problem young Ed has is not difficulties in writing credible speeches and an apparent lack of any actual policies. The even bigger problem is a superficial presentational one.

Before Margaret Thatcher came to power, she listened to her very wise advisors. She softened her hairstyle and she lowered the pitch of her voice.

Tony Blair was already a master of fake sincerity when he got the Top Job – that’s what comes of being a good lawyer – lots of experience telling barefaced lies. His technique was so good he almost made me believe in David Icke’s theory that all the top-nobs in Britain are actually alien lizards in human skins.

But no-one seems to have given poor young Ed any advice at all. He is an apprentice lizard.

He still looks like a scared schoolboy unexpectedly made into a prefect and, with his rabbit-in-the-car-headlights eyes, looks shit-scared that people will find out that even he does not believe he is up to the job.

A couple of days ago, there were staggeringly mis-judged PR pictures of slim Ed Miliband and chunky Ed Balls – and there is an image problem here to begin with, as Ed Miliband looked like Stan Laurel to Ed Balls’ version of Oliver Hardy and who wants Stan Laurel as their Prime Minister?… I almost expected Ed Miliband to scratch his head and stare at the camera in innocent confusion with those big open calf’s eyes.

Anyway… there were the two of them walking across a square, being filmed smiling for the TV News, smiling and chatting in an attempt to look in relaxed conversation, but the separated body language and the appallingly stilted audible conversation appeared to show there was no chemistry, no amiability, no ability nor desire to communicate with each other.

They looked as if, in a party – let alone in a Party – they would stand alone at opposite sides of the room and try to avoid ever meeting because they knew there would be an embarrassing, awkward silence.

In this case, two Eds were not better than one.

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Why liars and the tsunami of history may yet lead to bloody civil war in Europe and Scottish independence

In 1985 I was on holiday in Uzbekistan.

Opposite our hotel, a new block was being built and its skeleton was showing massive cracks in the concrete. I asked an architect why this was.

“They are using the wrong type of concrete,” he told me. “The decision on which type of concrete to use in the building was made centrally in Moscow. They have a very cold climate in Moscow. This is Uzbekistan. We are in the middle of a scorching hot desert. They are using the wrong type of concrete because those are the decisions made by the bureaucrats in Moscow.”

The Soviet Union was partly an organisational disaster because it made centralised decisions for a nation which stretched from Uzbekistan and the Balkans in the west to Siberia and Mongolia in the east.

In 1991, Yugoslavia disintegrated, largely because, like the Soviet Union, it was a fake country with such disparate constituent parts that it never made a sensible whole. It just never held together as a single country because it was not a single country.

The UK joined the European Economic Community in 1973 and I remember the 1975 referendum in which English politicians Edward Heath, Harold Wilson and other pro-Europeans lied through their teeth and claimed we had joined an economic union which no-one had any intention of making a political union. The referendum was said to be about joining an economic Common Market.

The European Economic Community then became the European Union in 1993 and Eastern European countries joined after the fall of the Soviet Union. Turkey is likely to join, if it can get over its habit of routinely torturing people (or even if it doesn’t). There is even talk of Uzbekistan joining – a ‘partnership and co-operation agreement’ came into force in 1999.

So we have the ludicrous spectre of a new Soviet-style Union with a centralised bureaucracy increasingly making decisions on the same basis for towns and cities from icy cold Aberdeen (I was partly brought up there in a council estate on a hill, so don’t talk to me about cold) to the baking hot deserts of western Asia (I’ve been there).

And, give me a break, Scottish culture bears no relation to Balkan, Turkish or Uzbek culture, let alone Italian culture.

In Scotland yesterday, at the time of writing, the governing SNP (Scottish National Party) appears to have won a decisive victory in elections for the Scottish Parliament, possibly helped by the fact the opposition Labour Party seems to have mostly attacked not the SNP, but the Conservative Party which is virtually non-existent in Scotland. It would be as if Britain, at the start of World War Two, had decided to concentrate on waging war against Italy instead of Germany.

Presumably this own-goal disaster of a strategy was masterminded from London – another example of why centralised control is a bad idea.

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond has said he will introduce a referendum on Scottish independence in the next Scottish Parliament.

I used to think Scottish independence was a ridiculous idea because Scotland is not economically large enough to be independent but I have changed my mind because of the European Union.

Clearly I do not think we should be in the European Union but there seems to be no practical way to get out of it.

If Scotland were to separate from the United Kingdom and become an independent country, then financially it would gain massively from being a small country within the European Union – I worked in Ireland in the 1990s and saw the massive financial benefits that country had reaped and was still reaping from Europe.

If Scotland became independent I do not know what would happen in Wales but there is some likelihood that it would move towards independence from England (for – whisper it quietly – it is in the United Kingdom not as a separate country but as a principality of England).

Instead of one country (the UK) being part of the EU, there would be three countries with three votes but the same outlook on almost all issues – an outlook shared by the island of Ireland (which is going to unify eventually, however it happens).

Quite what happens to Britain’s ‘voice within Europe’ and to the British Armed Forces at this point, I can’t even begin to get my head round. But we may yet live in interesting times as I cannot see a vastly enlarged European Union lasting very long without a Soviet style acrimonious break-up or a Yugoslavian type civil war.

Edward Heath, the lying cunt who took us into Europe may yet be the British leader who created a very bloody civil war within Europe.

We can’t escape the tsunami of history.

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Democracy is an unworkable system and Proportional Representation is the Tony Blair of political theories

Democracy is a terrible idea and it is totally unworkable in practice.

Pure democracy, that is.

True democracy in which everyone decides on everything would mean everyone would have to vote on every national, regional and local decision. Even if people only voted on life-or-death decisions, everyone would have to vote nationally on the siting of a zebra crossing on a main road in Orpington because anyone in the UK could drive along that road; anyone could be killed as a result of the decision. So everyone would have to decide. The country would seize up.

In the UK, we have Representative Democracy not pure democracy and we elect representatives for areas – local councils, national governments.

Or, rather, we do not.

We do not elect national governments in the UK.

We never have.

I’ve heard the most ridiculous knee-jerk pseudo-democratic bollocks talked about Proportional Representation and a lot of it is how it will “reflect voters’ views better”.

Bollocks.

People say, “Ah, well, most of Britain’s Post War governments were elected by a minority of the voters – less than 51% of the population and/or the people who voted actually voted for those governing parties.”

Utter bollocks.

NO government in the 19th or 20th or 21st centuries was EVER voted-in by ANY voter in the UK – because the UK system is to vote for local MPs, not for national governments.

If the ‘winning’ party were to win a majority of Westminster seats by narrow majorities in local elections and the losing parties were to win all their local seats by massive majorities, then obviously the national government would be elected by a very low percentage of the over-all UK population.

But that is not relevant. It would not alter the fact they had won the majority of seats in the country.

We do not vote for national governments. In General Elections, we vote locally and the party with most seats nationally forms a government. We vote for local MPs in local seats to (allegedly) represent their constituents’ views. Throw that tapwater out and you throw a whole family of babies out too.

In each of the local constituencies, the winner wins by a first-past-the-post system where the person with more votes than any other individual candidate wins. If a candidate gains 40% of the votes and the other four candidates have 30%, 20% and 10%, then he or she wins. This seems reasonable to me. Other people knee-jerk on the fact that the winning candidate has only 40% of the votes whereas the others combined have 60% of the vote.

Tough shit.

So we should perhaps give the election to the guy who came third and who was the first choice of even fewer people???

Silly idea?

That is what Proportional Representation does.

Proportional Representation spreads votes according to second and third and maybe – god help us – fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh choices to allegedly get a ‘fairer’ view of voters’ intentions.

Bollocks. Utter bollocks.

The outcome of Proportional Representation is to elect not the candidate whose policies and personality are most admired by most people, but to elect the candidate whose policies and personality are less disliked by more people. You may end up with everyone’s third or fourth bottom-of-the-barrel choice and not the individual candidate most favoured by the highest number of people.

Under Proportional Representation, elections are intended to include more smaller parties. In other words, to lessen the strength of the big parties and to result in more coalition governments. That is what has happened in countries which have tried it.

So what if no party nationally wins enough seats to form a government?

Whichever parties can join together to create a majority of seats will form the government. Inevitably, the parties which come first and second in the election are unlikely to form coalitions. At the last UK General Election, there was no chance of the Conservative and Labour parties joining together in a coalition. Both unsurprisingly tried to form a coalition with the third party, the Lib-Dems.

Proportional Representation never results in simple situations but, in a simple situation in which one party gets 45% of the seats nationally and other parties get 30%, 15% and 10%, it would make sense for the strongest party to form a coalition with the party which got 10%, thus combining together with 55% of the seats. The fourth party probably poses no long-term threat to the strongest party; the other parties are likely to be a greater long-term threat. Always form a coalition with the weakest possible partner. It’s how devious people play the final round in The Weakest Link on TV – they vote off their strongest opponent and play with their weakest opponent. It’s probably in The Art of War somewhere.

What this means in political practice (as in the present UK coalition between the Conservatives and the Lib-Dems) is that the weaker party will insist that some of its policies are adopted by the coalition government as part of the coalition deal.

So, in the four-party example above, the party with only 10% of the seats will see some of its policies adopted – but the party with 30% of the seats will not get any of its policies adopted.

The result is that a party which (in terms of seats won) the majority of people did not want to primarily see in power gains power.

The other alternative, if you have a party seat split of 40%, 35%, 16% and 9% of the seats, is that the second and third parties form a coalition – thus having 51% of the seats – and form the government. That is an entirely possible scenario and, in this case, the party which has more seats than any other party – 40% – does NOT form the government. The party which only got 16% of seats gains power.

That is not democracy, it is a bollocksed-up system which reflects voters intentions not more but less. It’s a system designed to give a better reflection of voters’ intentions which simultaneously creates weak government and is anti-democratic by giving power to less-well-supported parties.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

I cite Tony Blair, a man who, I believe, initially had good intentions but who fucked-up the country, fucked-up the constitution, was profoundly anti-democratic and ended up doing evil with what he believed to be good intentions.

Proportional Representation is the Tony Blair of political theories.

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