Tag Archives: River

“I just ran out of the boat because I thought there was an earthquake”

Once, when I was working for Granada TV in Manchester in the 1980s, I was staying in a cheap Bed & Breakfast where the walls were thin.

I woke up early one morning, with my head against the pillow against the thin dividing wall. There was a vibrating rhythm which rose then stopped then re-started then stopped then re-started then stopped again. I was half-asleep and half-awake. I thought it was someone having sex. Well, two people having sex. It turned out it was a small earthquake in North Wales.

It is always a joy to get an e-mail from this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent, Anna Smith, who lives on a boat in Vancouver.

This is the latest:

Anna Smith ignores the BBC in Canada

Anna Smith: not yet President of UruguI just ran out of the boat because I thought there was an earthquake. It was really rocking. It’s also windy but not THAT windy. One of my neighbours was out tying something down.

I asked him: “What was that?”

“A boat,” he said.

There was no sign that a boat had gone by. It must have been going fast. The river was all choppy from the wind. There was no trace of a boat.

It was stupid of me to run onto the dock because I thought it might be an earthquake. If there had been one, I would have been safer inside the boat.

One time I did feel a small earthquake.

It was centered off Haida Gwaii (also known as the Queen Charlotte Islands, off the Northern Coast). It was a quiet night and the boats rocked a bit quickly. It caused some damage on Haida Gwaii and an underwater rock slide blocked off a hot spring for a couple of years. It has just started flowing again.

There have been tsunamis on the coast, but it is not that likely here because we are protected by Vancouver Island. The whole of Richmond, which is built on an island of sand, is supposed to liquefy.

Local news is that someone has stolen two hundred magnolia trees.

When I decided to move back to my boat, I started telling people that I was sick of living in a metropolis (beautiful as it is, with all the tourists vomiting everywhere). Downtown Vancouver seems very loud and busy after being on the river. I always feel a bit like a tourist here anyhow. (I didn’t grow up here.)

This is a picture of President José Mujica

This is a picture of President José Mujica

My aim was to live quietly on the river and try to become more like José Mujica, the President of Uruguay, except I don’t want to run a country or grow a moustache.

It is very drab around here in the winter. There has been one tropical rainstorm after the next. Last week, I skidded down a path from the highway, completely lost my balance, fell down, got mud all over myself and didn’t even get hurt.

I landed strangely and I could hardly believe that I wasn’t hurt, because my legs seemed to land wherever they wanted and my feet were pointing in different directions. It looked pretty good, since I was wearing my white rat killer boots and the mud was like liquid black clay. It is known for its fertility.

Now it is a rainy morning.


My bilge just went off.

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Necrophilia and its place in honouring comedy godfather Malcolm Hardee

(If you are easily offended – or, really, if you have ever been offended by anything at any point in your life – please do not read this blog.)

Yesterday, I had an interesting evening at the Star & Garter pub in Greenwich, where comic Steve Bowditch and ‘Paul The Poet’ hold regular Friday night Open Mic nights to a very traditional London pub audience. It is like a cross between the 1890s, the 1930s and the 2010s. I could imagine geezers having knees-ups at the drop of an ‘H’.

Last night was an even more than normally unusual night because, as well as occasional open spots, there was a tribute to Malcolm Hardee, betwixt his birthday on 5th January and the day he died, 31st January.

There was a table-top shrine with a photo of Malcolm and joss-sticks with the smell, Steve Bowditch claimed, of sandalwood, cedarwood, Brut and Vosene.

The evening included interesting local guitarist Danny Alex, Ian Breslin the acapella punk poet, soiled tissue juggling, selections from Lionel Bart’s musical Oliver! and Greatest Show on Legs originator Martin Soan’s always wonderful-to-watch but painful-to-perform version of Michael Jackson’s Thriller using six rubber bands.

There were also 12 minutes of video clips from Jody VandenBurg’s long-gestating documentary Malcolm Hardee: All The Way From Over There. One of the most interesting quotes in the film is from Malcolm’s long-term chum Jools Holland, who says: “He was like a Dickens character.”

Part of being a Dickensian-style character, I think, was (in public, at least) that he was larger-than-life, almost a cartoon caricature of someone who did not care about consequences.

Martin Potter, who started the infamous Tunnel Palladium comedy club with Malcolm, says in this future film: “He would always do what other people would like to do but didn’t dare do.”

Acapella punk Ian Breslin, who organised last night’s Malcolm tribute, told the crowded back bar at the Star & Garter:

“As some of you know, every time someone famous died, Malcolm would have a bet on the Queen Mother dying too. So, eventually it happens. The Queen Mother has just died but Malcolm has not had a bet on it happening. I’m beside myself to go down to Up the Creek and see what he’s going to say. I’m with a group of people. Some have never seen Malcolm perform before.

“I say to this woman: You do realise he’s going to say something about the Queen Mother in the first five seconds?

He wouldn’t dare, she says.

“I say: He’s going to fucking rip into her in the first five seconds.

No. No, she says, that won’t happen.

So, I say, you want a bottle of vodka on it?

“She shook my hand.

“Malcolm walks on stage and says: The cunt’s dead…

“A bottle of vodka in my hand, yeah?

“People walk out and get really upset and everything.

“Malcolm says: Still a good fuck, though…”

Ian dedicated his next poem/song to Malcolm.

“I’ve had a tee-shirt made,” Ian said.

I was pleased – indeed, humbled – to see it was a photo of the annual Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality which I organise – a microphone rising stiffly at an angle above two circles.

“This is called Dig ‘Em Up…” Ian said.

The poem/song was a sweet little ditty which started:

Had your picture on my wall
Shame you died when I was small
You looked at me through paper eyes

and later included the fine lines:

Thora Hird – Dig ‘em up and fuck ‘em
Nice old bird – Dig ‘em up and fuck ‘em
Mary Shelley – Dig ‘em up and fuck ‘em
Far too smelly – Dig ‘em up and fuck ‘em
Lena Zavaroni – Dig ‘em up and fuck ‘em
Far too bony – Dig ‘em up and fuck ‘em

It is good to see Malcolm’s memory being honoured. The only downside to the evening was at the very end, when Martin Soan told me of his disappointment:

“I thought we should polish it off in the right way for a Malcolm Hardee evening. I was going to get my kit off – fold my clothes very precisely, put my shoes on top of my folded clothes, my socks inside my shoes. But I was told, if I walked back through the bar, they wouldn’t like it. It’s a sad reflection on modern life when an Englishman can’t walk naked through a local pub.”

How true. How true.

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