Tag Archives: Protestant

The convent school comedienne who now does the sand dance in Brighton

A few days ago, I blogged about a bizarre night at comedy club Pull The Other One in Herne Hill and a very large black man with one eye, a speech defect, a shaven head, a beard and what appeared to be an MP3 player plugged into his ears.

Charmian Hughes, who compered an early part of that show, tells me she has now received from the aforementioned gent “a special painting for being intellectual… apparently it has Egyptian connotations.”

This is presumably because the mysterious and rather eccentric gent was impressed by Charmian’s… erm… unique on-stage sand dance, part of her latest hour-long show Charmian Hughes: The Ten Charmandments which she is performing for the next three Sundays at the Quadrant on the Brighton Fringe.

Her show claims to reveal ancient wisdoms “straight from the camel’s mouth” and she will be taking it up to the Edinburgh Fringe in August.

Charmian was one of the first six girls admitted to Westminster Boys’ School in 1972 which, she says, was a bit of an “intense experience” for her.

“I had come straight from my convent boarding school,” she tells me. ‘I had been educated privately in minor fee-paying convents as the only Catholic in my Protestant family – an accident of various widowings and divorcings. At Westminster, the housemaster who interviewed me hated the head, John Rae, and I think admitted me to annoy him.

“My mother didn’t even really believe in girls’ education – she’d love Afghanistan – but she wanted to shaft my father for the fees and also thought I’d get a rich husband. She really did. My dad never paid up and my mother was very disappointed in me not getting married at 18. But she did frighten off all my male chums by demanding whether their intentions were honourable in a shouty voice.”

From such beginnings are comedians made.

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Filed under Comedy, Education

The IRA sympathiser and the SAS man: a true story

Once upon a time an Italian historian told me this true story about his friend ‘Alan’ who was in the British SAS. (I have changed the name, although the SAS man is now dead)…

Alan had gone to prominent public school in Somerset, then joined the French Foreign Legion and fought in the Algerian War of 1954-62. After that, he returned to England in the Swinging Sixties with lots of money in his pockets and met lots of girls who fancied him and he joined a privately-run special services group. They were used to train Idi Amin’s bodyguards in Uganda, in the Qatar affair where the Emir’s brother was shot and various other exotic things. Finally, in 1969, he was employed as one of a group who were to go and kill Colonel Gadaffi in Libya. But they were stopped at London Airport by the British security services and the private company they worked for was closed down. Because of his experience, Alan was persuaded by the authorities to join the British Army’s SAS and was immediately sent to Ireland 1969-1973.

On one occasion, they were about to raid some houses in Catholic West Belfast but wanted to find out in advance details of what they would face. So they stole a car in Protestant East Belfast, drove into West Belfast and, pretending they were members of a Protestant gang, kidnapped a man who could tell them, put him in the boot of their car and drove back to East Belfast. Their plan was to threaten to kill him, then question him and return him to West Belfast. But, when they tried to get him out of the boot of their stolen car, they found the lock was jammed shut. They had stolen the car but they had never tested the lock on the boot.

So they drove round to the British Army Barracks’ vehicle workshop. The Army mechanics, in full uniform, just touched the lock with a screwdriver and the boot suddenly sprang open without warning. The Catholic nationalist lay there, looking up at his kidnappers standing with uniformed British Army mechanics. They slammed the boot shut again and tried to figure out what to do.

The nationalist now knew he had been kidnapped not by a Protestant gang but by the British Army. Alan went and talked with his commander.

“I don’t care what you do with him,” the commander said. “It’s your problem. Solve it.”

So they took the nationalist out of the car boot, injected him with a knock-out drug and drove him across the border to Shannon Airport in the Irish Republic. A British ‘asset’ at the airport put the man – still deeply asleep – in a seat on a scheduled flight to New York. The man woke up around the time he was landing in United States with no passport, visa or documents. On landing, he was immediately arrested for trying to enter the country illegally.

He had no explanation of how he could have flown from Shannon to New York on a scheduled flight and his story about being kidnapped by the British Army in Belfast did not fit the known facts. He spent ten days in a cell in New York, while they tried to figure out what was going on. By the time he was sent back to Belfast, the SAS had made their raids and the whole affair was over. To this day, he must be a very puzzled man.

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Filed under History, Politics, Travel, Uncategorized