Tag Archives: Sophie Parkin

Guy Combes: surrealist with luxuriant moustache who drank some shampoo

Last week at Vout-O-Reenee’s  (Photograph by M-E-U-N-F)

Guy Combes last week at Vout-O-Reenee’s (Photograph by M-E-U-N-F)

In a blog last week, I mentioned going to Vout-O-Reenee’s – Sophie Parkin’s club “for the surrealistically distinguished” – to see Guy Combes fascinatingly surreal show Auntie Rene’s Memory Box Is The Smallest Museum in The World. Guy Combes is a man with a luxuriant moustache.

In yesterday’s blog, the untold (by me, but not by her) story of writer/editor/artist/bohemian Molly Parkin kissing jazz legend Louis Armstrong was mentioned by comedy performer Matt Roper.

Molly Parkin at Vout-O-Reenee’s gallery opening last night

Molly Parkin at Vout-O-Reenee’s gallery opening last night

Last night, Matt and I went to see the opening of the Stash Gallery at Vout-O-Reenee’s – The first exhibition is a retrospective of  Molly Parkin’s paintings 1954-2014.

While there, I had a chat with Guy Combes, who claimed to have read my blogs.

“I think research is much over-rated,” I said. “I don’t know anything about you at all, except that you have a luxuriant moustache and used to be in a comedy duo called Moonfish Rhumba.”

“Usual story,” said Guy. “Failed actor. Robin Williams said comedy was his therapy, not that I’d compare myself with Robin Williams, of course.”

“Well for one thing,” I said, “you’re not dead.”

“Or depressed,” said Guy, “though I have my moments. Anyway, Robin Williams said that, between his acting jobs, he got really ‘down’ so, as a way of therapy, he started doing stand-up. There was no mental illness, just boredom. Obviously, I have a level of mental illness: you’ve got to have.”

“So you HAVE read my blogs!” I said.

The new Stash Gallery at Vout-O-Reenee's

The new Stash Gallery at Vout-O-Reenee’s

“Yes,” he said. “The suicide one. I’ve got a story, though nothing quite as exotic as that. I was sent to boarding school and I hated it and, in the process, I drank a bottle of shampoo. The boys in the dormitory found it very entertaining. They were giving me shoe polish and all sorts to see if I could imbibe as much as possible until a snotty prefect decided to pack me off to hospital.”

“Thus,” I suggested, “you are here in this private club for surrealists.”

“Probably,” laughed Guy.

“Boot polish is an interesting one,” I said. “It’s solid.”

“Yeah,” agreed Guy. “It took a bit of chewing. It was probably the best performance I’ve done, because all these boys were giving me all these different things to imbibe and I would find different ways to look like I was but not. With the shampoo, I put my tongue in the bottle, so I wasn’t actually drinking much at all.”

“University?” I asked.

Guy Combes at Vout-O-Reenee’s last night minus shampoo

Guy Combes at Vout-O-Reenee’s last night minus shampoo

“No,” said Guy. “I was taking lots of drugs at the time and was very interested in Alice in Wonderland and there was this place in Bournemouth… a theme park about Alice in Wonderland… There was a girl who is now a member of Vout-O-Reenee’s as well – Julia Pittam – and she got the job as Alice and I got the job as the White Rabbit because I needed to get my Equity card somehow. So I was running around the theme park trying not to get beaten up by children and then I got promoted to being the Mad Hatter.”

“Is that promotion?” I asked. “I don’t know the hierarchical structure of Alice in Wonderland theme parks.”

“Well,” explained Guy, “the owner was originally the Mat Hatter. Rich toff. Land-owner sort. It was a good learning process, a great way to develop a skill of working an audience because the airport was opposite the theme park. Or maybe that was the drugs.”

“So,” I said, “you wanted to be an actor, you became a rabbit and now you are making, I imagine, a good living appearing in TV commercials for Eat.”

“As Mr Mozzarella,” said Guy. “Yes. Well, that’s running until Christmas and then they’re stopping it.”

There is footage on YouTube of Mr Mozzarella at the Corby Parliamentary By-Election in 2012.

“You’re very memorable Mr Mozzarella,” I said. “Have you done other commercials?”

“There was one,” said Guy, “which kind of segued into the Mat Hatter – I got a job as Barbara Windsor’s sidekick in a bingo ad and they dressed me as the Mad Hatter.”

“What were you doing?” I asked. “Throwing gambling chips around?”

“Barbara Windsor was the Queen and I was Jackpot Joy… No, no… I was Jack. She was the Queen of Hearts and the girl who played Joy went on to get a part in Game of Thrones as the prostitute.”

“You’d be good in Game of Thrones,” I said. “You have a medieval face.”

Game of Guys – Is this a good medieval face?

“Yes,” said Guy. “One of my favourite comedy gig heckles was Look out! Here comes a medieval terrorist!

“But you’ve never done stand-up?” I asked. “You’re an actor.”

“I’ve attempted it,” said Guy, “but it never really works. I realised, with me, everything has to have a character attached to it. I struggle with myself.”

“Which one of you wins?” I asked.

“Don’t know.”

“You’re married,” I said.

“Yes.”

“So you are a sensible, level-headed married chap.”

“My dad was a bank manager,” said Guy, “and I think I’ve inherited some of that. Today I was at home doing the car insurance and organising all the bills and sorting out our mortgage.”

“So,” I said, “sort-of level headed with odd things thrown in.”

“I got a good job in the middle of the Edinburgh Fringe this year. My agent phoned me up and said: They want a moustache in Germany.”

“Do you get a lot of moustache-related work?” I asked.

“Well,” said Guy. “It’s amazingly useful. You get all these actors out of work and, if only they just grew something…”

“I was,” I said, “watching the TV news the other day and there was this research scientist saying that, in 25 years time, people who have lost their legs will be able to re-grow their legs but, for some reason, not their feet. They would still need artificial feet.”

“So I was in Edinburgh,” continued Guy, “and they flew me to Berlin. Lovely. They shot me first thing in the morning with the Berlin skyline, just as the sun was coming up, and all I had to do was smoulder, look into the camera and say What are you looking at? in German.”

“You can speak fluent German?” I asked.

“No.”

“Surely,” I said, “they have people in Germany with moustaches?”

The Kaiser: a man, a myth, a moustache

The Kaiser: a man, a myth, a moustache

“Apparently not of this size,” replied Guy.

“Did the Kaiser live for nothing?” I asked. “What do you want to be ultimately? A respected actor not a comedy person?”

“It’s just a magical journey,” said Guy. “I don’t know where it’s gonna lead next. I suppose I’m just compelled to do certain things. At the moment, I’m working on various comedy characters that I’m going to be taking around comedy clubs.”

“Stand-up comedy?” I asked.

“Character stand-up,” said Guy. “When I did my show here last week, people seemed to enjoy the song and the puppets. So I think more songs, more puppets. I think I will pop down to Pear Shaped and try out some things. I wanted to work some more with the Aunt Rene thing, but I think I’ve sorted exhausted that. It all started going quite dark last week.”

“Dark is good,” I said. “It will get you reviews.”

Guy Combes eating his Aunt Rene’s brain in show last week (Photograph by M-E-U-N-F)

Guy Combes eating his Aunt Rene’s brain in show last week (Photograph by M-E-U-N-F)

“Ye-e-e-e-s,” said Guy. “But what happened the other night was un-planned. The eating of my aunt’s brain. That took me by surprise. I wasn’t sure how to end the show. I thought: I’m either going to have to throw her brain into the audience like some clown would do… or get someone up to eat it… or I’m going to have to eat it. I don’t know if it was fitting for the memory of my auntie to eat her brain in front of loads of strangers. But maybe that’s the way to go. Maybe that’s where my future lies.”

“Eating people’s brains?” I asked.

“Maybe,” said Guy.

Guy at the Stash Gallery with a woman who had been gored by a bull

Guy at the gallery with a woman who had been gored by a bull

And then we went off to look at the Molly Parkin exhibition.

Guy got talking to an interesting artist who told him she had been gored by a bull.

Foolishly, I did not record her story and did not get her name or contact details.

Life is full of missed blogs.

On Vimeo, there are excerpts from some of Guy’s TV ads.

GuyCombesShowreel

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The surrealism of real life, comedy shows, football and 888,246 poppies

Why does no-one tell you that getting old is painful? When you are younger, you kind of get the idea that old people move as if they are in some type of special slow motion CGI effect because their muscles are seizing up or something. But often it is because they are in pain and the anticipation of the pain of movement slows them down.

More about my right heel later.

Reality is very surreal

Blood-red poppies pour out of the Tower of London

Blood-red poppies pour out into the Tower of London’s moat

A couple of days ago, my eternally-un-named friend and I went to the Tower of London where the moat is being filled with ceramic poppies – one for every British serviceman and servicewoman killed in World War One.

By 11.00am on the 11th day of the 11th month this year – that is 11 on 11/11, if you are an American – there will be over 888,246 ceramic poppies in the moat. I thought more died but, then, the population of the UK in 1914-1918 was that much smaller.

The ceramic poppy heads arrive in boxes and volunteers unpack them, attach them to metal stems and use mallets to bash them into the grass and earth in the moat.

I know. Ceramic poppy heads being hit by mallets. Who would have thought.

You can buy the ceramic poppies from the moat for £25 each. At least you could. Apparently they have now all been sold.

Last night, around 7.00pm, as I travelled in a tube between Oxford Circus and Bank, a woman dressed as rabbit got into the train. She had long white ears and a full-body rabbit costume. This is true. And no-one treated this as odd. It is London. It is a Friday night. It was not odd.

I was in the tube train because I had just been to a meeting in Soho about, in January, marking the 10th anniversary of the death of comedian Malcolm Hardee.

Showman Adam Taffler – a man with a luxuriant moustache – is organising an event. I suggested that we should announce a couple of famous people were going to have sex live on stage.

In (I think it must have been) the 1960s, Oz magazine editor Richard Neville and his girlfriend allegedly hired the Electric Cinema in Portobello Road and had sex live in front of an audience of their friends. Apparently it was strangely un-erotic and slightly awkward.

Yesterday morning, journalist and writer of songs Ariane Sherine, about whom I blogged four days ago, asked me if I wanted to appear as the Pope in her next music video. I once appeared (mute) as Julius Caesar, being stabbed in some educational programme on Sky TV.

I know. An educational programme on Sky TV. Who would have thought.

Performance at a club for the surreally distinguished

At a private members club for the surreally distinguished…

I was on my way – last night in the tube train – to Sophie Parkin’s members-only club Vout-O-Reenee’s which calls itself a club “for the surrealistically distinguished”.

It is hidden under a church near the Tower of London. I went there to see a fascinatingly surreal show by Guy Combes – another man with a luxuriant moustache.

The show was called Auntie Rene’s Memory Box Is The Smallest Museum in The World. After the show, I told Guy I had seen him perform as Moonfish Rhumba at Pear Shaped comedy club. He seemed surprised I was that old. I think he may have been drinking.

Before the show, my eternally-un-named friend and I had talked to comedy performer Jody Kamali who was in the audience. Neither I nor Jody could actually describe to her what “type of act” he did on stage. This is arguably a good thing. If it is impossible to describe, it must be original – if a tad difficult to promote.

Jody Kamali’s extremely likeable wife is Russian. She has a strong Bristol/West of England accent, but has only been in the UK (London) for two years. She told me she picks up accents if she is with people and once spoke in an Irish accent for several weeks.

On the train back home to Elstree, I sat next to an interesting man who was a fan of Chelsea football club and who proceeded to tell me all the great players they had had since 1994 and (admittedly after I asked) the cost of normal and season tickets at Chelsea and other football clubs. I think he too may have been drinking.

Apparently Arsenal are the villains in football ticket prices.

I was interested to listen to what he said in much the same way I used to listen to the Stock Market Prices (sadly no longer done) on BBC Radio 4 and the Coastal Shipping Forecast (which I think Radio 4 may still do).

Listening to the Stock Market prices and the list of coastal areas with staccato abbreviated forthcoming weather details used to allow me to enjoy the abstract pleasure of words without the distraction of meanings. It was like hearing a good actor or actress saying: “Bat random daytime origami lukewarm” – comforting words not encumbered by any distracting meaning.

The man on the train who told me about the price of football seats also told me that today he and his girlfriend are going to see the ceramic poppies in the moat of the Tower of London. I told him there were big crowds. Which there were.

When I got home, I switched on the BBC TV News and there was an item about the possibility of people who had lost legs and arms growing new limbs. For some unexplained reason, an expert said he believed that, in 25 years time, it would be possible for a person to re-grow a missing leg but he or she would still have to be given an artificial foot.

My right heel has been distracting me recently

My right heel has been distracting me recently

The heel and sometimes sole of my right foot has been causing me extreme pain for about a fortnight. If I press on it with my fingers, there is no pain. If I walk, there is usually but not always pain. Last night, after sitting on a chair watching Guy Combes’ show and putting no pressure on my foot, the heel was extremely painful when I stood up.

In the mornings, after lying horizontal for eight hours and putting no pressure at all on my feet, when I stand up there is extreme pressure pain on the sole of my right heel. But, as I say, if I press my fingers or any object against the heel, there is no pain. It is very strange. Occasionally, when I walk, I have to stop myself from hobbling.

This morning, around 4.00am, I was woken up by severe cramp in my right leg. There was a big knot inside my leg. Agony and, in the agony of the cramp, too far down to reach and rub it. I just had to try to keep still through the shooting pain until it went. It happens every few months.

The muscles inside my left shoulder are still occasionally painful from when I tripped over and fell on the night-time cobbles of Edinburgh during the Fringe in August.

You may have correctly deduced I had no specific subject for my blog this morning.

I still think announcing that a famous couple will have sex live on stage during a Malcolm Hardee commemorative 10th anniversary show in January would get people in and he would have liked it.

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My father’s cancer develops in 2001 and a new club for surrealists opens in 2014

My father in 1976 on the beach at Clacton

My father in 1976.

Sometimes, people ask me: “Is it difficult to find something to blog about every day?”

“No,” I tell them.

As I mentioned two days ago, through happenstance, I currently have an awkward blog-jam: I already have enough chats ‘in the can’ and events coming up to publish one-blog-a-day for the next 21 days. This is a problem.

In a blog on 21st April this year, I ran some extracts from my electronic diary back in April 2001, when my father was ill with cancer. I felt I should follow this entry up today. I put a note in my diary to do this.

Sophie Parkin (right) with mother Molly Parkin (left)

Sophie Parkin (right), mother Molly Parkin (left)

But, last night, I went to the launch party for Sophie Parkin’s new club Vout-O-Reenee’s, whose opening deserves a mention and at least some pictures. It is described as “a private members club for the surrealistically distinguished”.

I went with performer/artist Martin Soan, showman Adam Taffler and comedy performer Matt Roper. The ticket only gave entry to me +1. But Sophie Parkin is very generous woman.

Guests chatted at Vout-O-Rennee’s last night

Guests chatted at Vout-O-Rennee’s last night

Under a church in the City of London, Vout-O-Reenee’s certainly attracted an eclectic mix of people – everything from a former Channel 4 Head of Entertainment to a man who made his living by painting giant beetles to a prospective Liberal Parliamentary candidate to a man dressed as a monk with a painted face to a local who had managed to gatecrash the party because he had heard there was free booze for two hours.

My blog is called So It Goes because of the phrase repeatedly used in Kurt Vonnegut’s 1969 novel Slaughterhouse-Five. That book partly involves an alien race on the planet Tralfamadore.

Kurt Vonnegut’s novel

Kurt Vonnegut’s novel. He is dead now.

In Chapter 2, the hero Billy Pilgrim writes about the Tralfamadorians’ concept of time:

“All moments, past, present and future, always have existed, always will exist… They can see how permanent all the moments are, and they can look at any moment that interests them. It is just an illusion we have here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone it is gone forever.”

Below is an entry from my electronic diary today in 2001. It may be slightly pretentious. I can’t help that:


WEDNESDAY 16th MAY, 2001

In his nursing home bed in Clacton this afternoon, my father’s eyes were staring blankly, focussed on nothing, like the eyes in the photos at the Tuol Sleng interrogation centre in Cambodia: the photographs of men and women before they were taken to the Killing Fields outside Phnom Penh.

As my father is in no condition to travel, my mother and I went to Colchester on his behalf tonight to have the arranged meeting with his Private Consultant (a bowel man) and, it turned out, a second chap (a cancer man).

As we already knew, when my father was opened up, the bowel tumour had been much, much bigger than expected and had grown outwards, infecting the pancreas and a small part of the liver. The bowel tumour was removed during the operation and most (but not all) of the pancreatic tumour. But none of the secondary liver cancer was removed. It was too dangerous to do this.

Currently – four weeks since the operation on 19th April – my father remains easily exhausted. The three steps he has to take from his bed to his commode exhausts him for about two hours. Eating still exhausts him. He cannot get up without the help of two nurses and cannot walk even with them. His appetite is very low, he feels very hot inside and, although OK when lying prone, he is in extreme pain if upright or seated.

His exhaustion and lack of appetite could either be because he is still recovering from the operation or it could be the symptoms of the liver cancer progressing – although the symptoms usually also include nausea, which he does not have. Apparently the heat he feels inside himself is either the wounds from his operation mending or the cancer spreading. He has a slight discomfort but no pain when lying horizontally. Neither Consultant knew why there should be any pain difference between lying and standing.

They told us the only possible treatment for his liver cancer is three months of chemotherapy which in this case, allegedly, would not be as nasty as chemotherapy usually is. The point at which this chemotherapy treatment starts is not too important – there is no vital urgency. What is more important is that he is strong enough to take the chemotherapy, which he is certainly currently not. The way the cancer man phrased it was: “The start date isn’t important; it’s how you get through it.”

With people who have this chemotherapy treatment on the liver, the effect rate is roughly:

35% get more than 50% better

50% remain steady (ie it has no effect)

15% get worse

If my father is not strong enough to have the chemotherapy treatment – or if the chemotherapy treatment is ineffective – there is no other treatment. Their opinion was that, “He is more likely to die of this liver cancer than anything else,” because, by and large, he is otherwise OK for an 82 year-old man.

A worst-case scenario (which my mother now knows) is that my father could die in “a month or so”. When I asked for a longest-term duration a couple of weeks ago, I was told around 18 months. My mother has not been told this. My father’s sister (who is an ex-hospital matron) had assumed a year.

The main Consultant (the bowel man) is writing to my father’s nursing home. They will arrange to get blood for two blood tests which will enable the Consultants to know if the liver is deteriorating quickly and if it seems likely he could take chemotherapy. Another appointment has been made for 20th June in Colchester for consultation – theoretically with my father or, if not, then again with my mother and me.

Tonight I went to tell my father what we had been told at the consultation, but he was asleep and, when awoken by me making noises, was not really together enough to have any sensible talk. He and I agreed I would talk to him tomorrow, though I guess he will forget I was there tonight. His ability to think clearly or to remember anything has been virtually non-existent the last couple of weeks and it is deteriorating, so whether much will sink in I don’t know. Anyway, I will see him tomorrow.

On the drive back from Colchester, my mother said to me: “It’s much worse than I thought it would be.”

When she got home, she phoned friends and neighbours to tell them what had happened and said: “Just don’t give me sympathy. I can cope provided I don’t have that.”

THURSDAY 17th MAY

I went to tell my father in the morning but he was being bathed before lunch, so I went back at 4.00pm – long enough for him to recover from the inevitable exhaustion.

He seemed brighter after his bath.

I told him what the Consultants had told us: that he had cancer, that the only treatment was chemotherapy, but that he could only be treated if he got stronger.  I told him the effects of liver cancer were exhaustion and lack of appetite, which he has, but also nausea which has never had. Inevitably, about four minutes later, he started feeling nauseous.


In Chapter 2 of Slaughterhouse-Five, Billy Pilgrim writes:

“When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in a bad condition in that particular moment, but that the same person is just fine in plenty of other moments. Now, when I myself hear that somebody is dead, I simply shrug and say what the Tralfamadorians say about dead people, which is ‘so it goes’.”

The stand-up urinals in the Gents toilets at Vout-O-Reenee say: ceci n’est pas une pipe

The stand-up urinals in the Gents toilets at Vout-O-Reenee’s say: ceci n’est pas une pipe

With me – with most things – I simply shrug and think: Life’s a bitch and then you die.

One source says that quote only dates from 1982, the year it appeared in the Washington Post, although the rapper Nas extended it rather well in his 1994 Life’s A Bitch song featuring AZ:

Life’s a bitch and then you die; that’s why we get high
Cause you never know when you’re gonna go

I don’t do drugs. I go to comedy shows and appreciate surrealism.

Vout-O-Reenee’s is an interesting club.

Matt Roper told me that yesterday would have been his father’s 80th birthday. His father was stand-up comic George Roper. He died of cancer in 2003.

So it goes.

Life’s a Bitch is currently on YouTube.

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