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When an oeuf is an oeuf at the annual World Egg Throwing Championships

World Egg Throwing Federation President Andy Dunlop with enthusiastic tosser

World Egg Throwing Federation President Andy Dunlop with enthusiastic young tosser

At the annual World Egg Throwing Championships in Lincolnshire, no edible eggs are used, so no food is wasted. Sort of.

There are long-distance egg throwing and catching contests. There is the Trebuchet competition where contestants use home-made giant catapults (based on medieval siege engines) to throw eggs. And, of course, there is Russian Egg Roulette.

In 2012, I was runner-up in the Russian Egg Roulette Championship. I had high hopes of doing even better last year but, beneath my hard-boiled exterior lies a wobbly centre. I cracked under the pressure of high eggpectations and was beaten in the first round. For months afterwards, my mind was scrambled and I was merely a shell of the man I had once been.

My view as smashed Englishman Jerry Cullen fails

My view as smashing Englishman Jerry Cullen fails

This year – the year of the Scottish Independence vote, when my country of birth may at last free itself from the yolk of English oppression – I had hopes I could show the heathen English what true Scotch eggs competitors are made of.

World Egg Throwing Federation President Andy Dunlop tells me that 64 people started the Russian Egg Roulette Championships yesterday. He may be over-egging it. I think there might have been 32. But there were certainly a lot.

To remind you, Russian Egg Roulette is the sport in which two contestants face each other across a table on which there stands a box of six eggs: five hard-boiled, one raw. Contestants take turns to smash an egg on their forehead. The one who discovers the raw egg loses. It is a knockout competition. Sometimes literally.

I bring shame on the Scottish nation yesterday (Photograph by Gail Deptfod)

I let down myself and the entire Scottish nation yesterday (Photograph by Gail Deptfod)

Yesterday, I triumphed in the early rounds, beating my 2012 nemesis Jerry Cullen – who was wearing an England football shirt, I think, just to rile me.

I triumphed in the Quarter Finals, but then I was shamed by Fate in the Semi-Finals. I suspected fowl play.

I consoled myself by talking to former World Gravy Wrestling champion Joel Hicks.

Joel Hicks scrambling for safety yesterday

Joel Hicks was scrambling for safety yesterday

When we chatted for my blog last year at the World Egg Throwing Championships, he was a human target dressed as a boxer and as a Samurai Warrior. This year, he was the anarchist hero of V For Vendetta.

“You been doing anything interesting this week?” I asked him.

“I did the Mud Runner Oblivion yesterday,” he told me. “That’s a 10k mud run near Gloucester. I’m absolutely shattered. I write for Obstacle Race magazine, so I do all the mud runs.”

Obstacle Race magazine?” I asked. “Has that got a big circulation?”

“Yes,” said Joel. “It’s sold in WH Smiths. It is a massive, massive industry these days. Things like Tough GuyTough Mudder. There’s so many and it’s a million dollar industry.”

“Tough Mudder?” I asked.

Joel Hicks: a man egged-on to do charity work

Joel Hicks: a man egged-on to do charity work

“Tough Mudder,” Joel confirmed.

“Do you get paid for any of these events?” I asked. “It’s all for charity?”

“It’s all part of the Always With a Smile Foundation, which is what I do in my spare time to try and keep people smiling. It’s tiring stuff sometimes, though not as painful as today.”

“Painful?” I asked.

“Yeah. You wanna stand here and have eggs hurled at you by grown men at 100mph who have no thought for how it feels when it hits.”

“Do you wear a cricket box over your genitals?” I asked.

“No. Every year, I think I should have some protection but I kinda feel it’s cheating.”

Joel Hicks with right hand egg man John Deptford

Joel Hicks with the Championships’ l’eggman John Deptford

This coming Saturday, Joel is taking part in The Color Run in Manchester.

“It’s a race franchise,” he told me, “where you run 5k and start in white but every kilometre they throw coloured powder over you. Then, on Sunday, it’s a trip to Wales for The Naked Run, which is 5k, usually in good weather. The weather affects some men more than others.

“The weekend after that, on Saturday I’ll be down on the South Coast for the Worthing Birdman competition where they build flying machines and jump off the pier. And then back up to Wolverhampton on Sunday for the Tough Guy event called Nettle Warrior, which is their summer obstacle course race.”

“Nettle Warrior,” I said, “sounds painful.”

“It IS very painful,” replied Joel. “A 10-12 mile cross-country run followed by a 2-mile, purpose-built, multi-million pound assault course.”

One girl did not have to throw so far yesterday

One little girl yesterday was right on target with her egg

“An assault course of nettles?” I asked.

“No no,” said Joel, “all sorts of contraptions. The nettles come in, really, in the 10-12 mile cross-country run.”

“Have they put the nettles in for you?” I asked.

“They grow naturally,” said Joel. “Six or seven feet high all on their own. They design the course to the features on the ground. Ah! There’s some nettles! We’ll make then run through that bit!”

A typical egg-plosion yesterday

A typical egg-plosion yesterday. The pun never ends.

I’m busy all through the year. Fifty-odd events every year.”

“Very odd,” I said.

“Every weekend and sometimes twice,” said Joel.

“Out of the frying pan…” I said.

In August, World Egg Throwing Federation President Andy Dunlop will be supervising the Scottish National Russian Egg Roulette Championships during the Edinburgh Fringe as part of the Increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show. He may or may not be accompanied by his trusty l’oeuftenant John Deptford.

I saw the back of Andy Dunlop as I left yesterday

I was glad to see the back of Andy Dunlop yesterday

In a few days, Andy is off to Holland for their Egg Throwing Championships. He will be back.

But John Deptford is going to Siberia on Friday and has no idea when he will be back, if at all. The insects may kill him. He is going to Mirny where, he tells me, “the mosquitos have been known to carry babies away and the best mosquito repellent is a shotgun.”

Yesterday, as I left the Championship Field in Lincolnshire, Andy Dunlop was being pelted with the remaining eggs. I hope this will become an annual tradition. Andy does not. This morning, he told me he had a serious lip injury.

For more on Eggmen, I refer you to The Beatles’ I Am The Walrus

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Egg-throwing, cabbage-hurling, onion-wanging and Hardee Comedy Awards

Spot The Cabbage competition 2014

A 2014 Spot The Cabbage competition in Lincolnshire

Throwing things at other things is always interesting especially, it seems, in Lincolnshire.

In a couple of weeks, the World Egg Throwing Championships take place in Lincolnshire and, yesterday, I went up to Holbeach Town & Country Fayre to see cabbage hurling and onion wanging (that’s hurling too).

Both events are connected to the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Andy Dunlop, President of the World Egg Throwing Federation, supervises the Scottish National Russian Egg Roulette Championships during the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show at the end of August.

And John Ward, supervisor of cabbage hurling and onion wanging, designed the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award trophies.

Egg smashes on forehead in Amritsar Test Match

Russian Egg Roulette at the Amritsar Test Match in India

Russian Egg Roulette is a bit like the Russian Roulette seen in The Deer Hunter but without bullets and with eggs. It involves two contestants sitting opposite each other at a table on which is a box of six eggs. Five of the eggs are hard-boiled; one is raw and will smash on impact. Each contestant takes it in turn to smash an egg on their forehead. The one who finds the raw egg loses. It is a knockout competition.

Cabbage hurling is for adults. Onion wanging (because of the smaller size of the missile) is for children.

At the World Egg Throwing Championships, trebuchets (basically large catapults similar to but smaller than medieval siege catapults) are used to throw eggs. You have to build and bring your own trebuchets.

Careful preparation is all in the cabbage hurling world

Careful preparation is important in the cabbage hurling world

Thus, too, with cabbage hurling and onion wanging, except two trebuchets are provided.

Yesterday, there were 3½ tons of cabbages delivered in a refrigerated trailer.

“They’re actually grown for coleslaw production,” John Ward told me. “That’s why they’re white not green. They’re all Grade 1. Last year, I asked: Any chance of a box of cabbages? and yea and behold this behemoth of a truck arrived with 4 tons of cabbages. We asked them to cut it back to 3½ tons this year. There’s a limit to how much you can hurl in one afternoon and a lot of them get re-cycled in the field. Each team of three has three attempts and some of the contestants run up and retrieve and use the same cabbage again, shouting: That’s my lucky cabbage!”

Cabbages hurled at tyre targets

Cabbages are hurled at multi-dimensional tractor tyre targets

The object is to catapult the cabbage into one of several marked vehicle tyres for 10, 20, 25 or 50 points. The 10 point tyre is large; the 50 point type is small.

John Ward, who has been known to encourage journalists to call him a ‘junkist’,  told me: “All the scrap metal to build the two trebuchets came from farms in the area. The uprights are from the transit cases for Kubota garden tractors which come from Japan. In transit, they have metal cages, then a wooden box inside and then the tractors are inside that. Normally the cages are unbolted and thrown away as scrap. Last year, someone told me he had a yard full of them and asked: Are they any use to you? ARE THEY ANY USE????? Red rag. Bull.”

John Ward contemplates the ecological impact of hurling

John Ward contemplates the ecological impact of his hurling

“Do you get complaints about wasting food?” I asked.

“I had some herbert this morning,” John told me. “who was ranting at me about wasting food and I told him: Well, if you come back later today, you’ll find it’s all been picked up – all the loose leaves and everything – and it all goes to animal feed. Cows thrive on all this sort of stuff. There’s no waste. There’s an end product. It’s a win-win situation. We get entertainment. The cows get fed.”

“You could franchise cabbage hurling,” I suggested.

“We’ve been asked to take it round other shows in Lincolnshire. But, at the end of the day, No, it stops here. It’s associated with Holbeach Town & Country Show. Like they have cheese-rolling in the West Country.”

2014 Cabbage Hurling winners with John Ward (lorry behind had 3½ tons of cabbages)

The 2014 Cabbage Hurling winners with John Ward yesterday (The lorry behind had delivered over 3½ tons of cabbages)

The winners get £150 and a silver cup which they keep for a year.

With the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards, the winner gets one of the eccentric trophies designed by John Ward. But he/she gets to keep that trophy forever. I like to think, rather than give a trophy which the winner keeps only for a year, with the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards, we give the winner something interestingly decorative which lasts longer, like herpes.

There is a video report on Cabbage Hurling on the BBC website

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World Egg Throwing Championships: cheaper and funnier than the Olympics

(Versions of this piece were published by the Huffington Post) and on the Indian WeSpeakNews website.

Consequences of failing to catch

I woke up this morning in the middle of a dream about comedian Helen Keen riding at breakneck speed atop a camel racing along Old Compton Street in Soho while her writing partner Miriam Underhill kept pace by calmly walking with a large brown bird (not a falcon) on her ungloved hand.

I used to regret that I could never remember my dreams. Now I should perhaps be concerned that yesterday was almost as surreal as my dream.

I went to the World Egg Throwing Championships in a very large field at Swaton in Lincolnshire. There were teams from Germany, Greece, Holland, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden, the UK and the USA

John Ward with his grate egg Olympic torch

Events included long-distance egg throwing, the egg throwing static relay, the World Egg Trebuchet Challenge and, terrifyingly for me, the World Russian Egg Roulette championship. Why the Russian Roulette event was personally terrifying I will explain later but, initially, I was there to support my chum, mad inventor John Ward, who turned up wearing a Mat Hatter’s top hat and holding what he called an Olympic Egg Torch. This appeared to be a gold-painted cheese-grater on top of a gold-pained cracked wooden egg on top of a silver bicycle horn.

“I thought other people would be dressed up too,” he told me in a vain attempt to explain the hat. “Egg throwing is the People’s sport,” he added. “It’s cheaper than the Olympics.”

John Ward and others catapulting eggs

John Ward also came with a nine feet high wooden catapult, because the World Egg Trebuchet Challenge not surprisingly involves trebuchets which are, according to my dictionary, “machines used in medieval siege warfare for hurling large stones or other missiles”. There were five in the contest. John Ward had only had time to spend three days building his and competed valiantly for Queen and country but, maintaining an age-old British tradition in field sports, failed.

Which brings us to the Russian Egg Roulette event in which John Ward was also competing.

This involves two seated people facing each other across a table – as in The Deer Hunter, but with a box of six eggs instead of a revolver with one single deadly bullet. The twist is that five of the six eggs are boiled and one is raw.

An Irish competitor comes to a not very unusually sticky end

Each competitor then takes it in turns to smash an egg of their choice onto their forehead. If the egg is boiled, it does not explode into sticky gunge all over their forehead. If it is the raw egg, then… erm… it does. Obviously, the person who smashes the raw egg onto his or her forehead loses. And gets sticky.

Imagine my surprise, dear reader, when I heard my name called for this event.

This is one of the downsides of having worked on the slapstick children’s TV show Tiswas. When I was a researcher on the show, people I met (for research purposes) felt duty-bound to ram a custard pie in my face to show they had a sense of humour. Oh my! How I laughed.

Organiser Andy Dunlop provides ammunition

At the World Egg Throwing Championships, very highly efficient organiser Andy Dunlop thought he would surprise me by putting me in the Russian Egg Roulette event and announcing me as “former Tiswas wordsmith John Fleming”.

In fact, I was never a Tiswas scriptwriter. In my day, that considerable honour was held by David McKellar, a man eternally worshipped by me for having previously written the weather forecaster line: “And now, bad news for 4-foot dwarfs… 5-foot snowdrifts.”

Aaaannnny-way……

One of the other Russian Egg Roulette contestants was one of the two identical twins representing Greece, but the organisers were unsure which one it was.

World Gravy Wrestling Champion fails in Russian Roulette

Another was handsome hunk Joel Hicks, male model and World Gravy Wrestling Champion, who had come stripped to the waist and dressed in shorts and boxing gloves as Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky. Earlier, he had been the human target in a rather random Target Egg Throwing event and, as a result, spent the whole afternoon covered in dried egg yolk with fragments of embedded eggshell sticking out of his face.

I triumphed in the Russian Egg Roulette heats in face-offs with two small children – who seemed to be the only children in the contest, the others being egg-hardened professionals. As my second tiny opponent smashed the raw egg against her forehead, the crowd roared and I heard event organiser Andy Dunlop yell out: “Now that’s fun! THIS is entertainment!”

I fail to mask my gloating at the sticky shame of a Dutch girl

I was equally successful against a very attractive Dutch girl. I suspect Dutch girls smashing eggs on their foreheads commands a very high price in some quarters.

I had decided to represent Scotland in this contest, as I had been wantonly and incorrectly introduced as: “John Fleming representing England” and so I started singing Flower of Scotland, which was an unfortunate choice, as I discovered I only knew the first four words – Oh flower of Scotland… No-one was impressed.

John Ward smashes the thankfully losing egg on his forehead

Bizarrely (as, by its nature, it is not possible to ‘fix’ a Russian Egg Roulette contest) I faced John Ward in the semi-final. I triumphed again. He had the minor consolation of an in-depth interview (I kid you not) by an unsmiling film crew from some Russian television station and he later told me: “The interviewer guy said It will not be transmitted until July – I imagine they must be vetting the footage for any coded messages.”

My nemesis: clearly a man of extreme brutality

In the grand final, I then unfortunately faced a large man called Jerry Cullen dressed in black wearing sunglasses. Very intimidating he was. Hard-boiled, some might say, but not me. Oh no, not me.

The first four of the six eggs we smashed on our foreheads were, indeed, hard-boiled, leaving only two more eggs – one for each of us.

At this point, a lesser egg contestant might have cracked and, admittedly, I resorted to saying, “I’m doomed, I’m doomed,” in the best John Laurie (from Dad’s Army) accent I could muster.

It was like a penalty shoot-out in a football match, so I was relieved not to be representing England.

The man in black went first… smashed the egg against his forehead… and it was hard boiled. He had won the contest.

Cameraman + small child gloat over my ignominious defeat

But this meant I had to smash the final egg against my forehead knowing it was raw and would explode into yellow gunge. I thought of bravely saying something like, “The yolk is on me,” but even I baulked that. So I just smashed the egg onto my forehead as the – I felt somewhat unsympathetic – onlookers rhythmically chanted “Splat! Splat! Splat! Splat! Splat!” until the deed was done.

A broken man with mangled egg and a medal

The good news was that I got an unexpected runners-up medal – a silver star with a picture of a hen on it – with a red-white-and-blue ribbon to go round my neck. My chest swelled with patriotic pride. I felt I had not totally let down the nation of my birth.

Though, unlike the Olympic Games, there is no xenophobia at the World Egg Throwing Championships. The static relay event was won by a team of Germans, Greeks, Irish and English. I chatted to two of these fine athletes: Reg Marchant from Catford and his partner Sandy Winterton from Dagenham.

“I understand this is your first time being a tosser in public,” I said to Reg.

Reg and Sandy: two triumphant tossers amid trebuchets

“Yes,” Reg answered, “but I do actually practise tossing every other day. Sandy does it for me quite a lot. Sandy said to me Do you want to toss in public at the World Championships, so we came and it’s been great.”

“It’s been wonderful,” agreed Sandy.

“We’ll be back next year,” Reg told me, “to try to reduce the time it takes. Sandy and I have to fine-tune our tossing technique over the next year.”

At this point, John Ward wandered across to join us.

“It’s been an interesting afternoon,” he said.

(There are video news clips – with me briefly at the very end – on the ITN site here, the International Business Times TV site here and I actually get to speak in the middle of the report on the Chinese 7M Sports website here)

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The international sport of egg-throwing – was it Greek, Californian or English?

Andy Dunlop weighs the eggs act alternatives

I’ve just received a press release from organiser Andy Dunlop about the World Egg Throwing Championships which I mentioned in a blog last week.

Apparently, international teams of egg throwers will be flying in for the Championships on 24th June from Germany, Greece, Holland, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden and the USA. The Dutch currently hold the title with a throw of 63.3m

Representing Greece will be identical twin brothers Kiri and Kostas Poulous. They say history is on their side because: “We invented sport egg throwing, against the Persians in 480 BC at the Battle of Thermopylae.”

This claim is controversial.

My comedy chum Martin Soan tells me his troupe The Greatest Show On Legs appeared on the British TV show Game For a Laugh around 1985 throwing eggs.

“Our egg-tossing thing,” he tells me, “came out of a 1981 book called Californian New Games – all sorts of hippy games they’d developed to keep children entertained during early festivals on the West Coast.

“In England, Footsbarn Theatre and people like that had done it in the West Country and, when we were talking to London Weekend Television about appearing on Game For a Laugh, we told them We’ve got our naked balloon dance and they said No. We’re a peaktime family show. Have you got any other ideas? So we said Yeah, we’ve got this egg-tossing competition.

“So Game For a Laugh closed down Covent Garden market in London to stage our egg-tossing.

“But, without telling us, they had arranged for the English cricket team to ‘just by coincidence’ turn up too. Suddenly, we were having these enormous throws from one end of Covent Garden market to the other with cricketers catching the eggs. It was genius.”

However, current World Egg Throwing Championship supremo Andy Dunlop says the sport in England dates back to the fourteenth century.

“According to that font of all knowledge Wikipedia,” Andy tells me, “egg throwing in the village of Swaton started circa 1322 when the new Abbot of Swaton, controlling all poultry in the village, used them to provide eggs as alms to those that attended church. When the Eau was in flood these were hurled over the swollen river to waiting peasants.

“I myself,” Andy tells me, “played a version of it at RAF Alconbury in the early 1980s. In 2005, we held our first event at Swaton Show, resurrecting the ancient true sport and the World Championships commenced in 2006.

“The origination of the World Championships was discussed hotly by the committee (seeking to ensure that old tractors and vintage vehicles were not distracted from).

“The question was asked: How could we claim to be the World Championships?

“The answer was that there was not one already and, anyway, with our verifiable ancient claim to the sport (and the web address already purchased) who could object?…. Not even Sport England it would seem, as they have acknowledged egg throwing as a genuine sport.

“We extended the games the following year from two person throw/catch and an egg relay to include target throwing. Then, after that, we added Russian Roulette and egg trebuchet.”

Whether or not the Greeks can prove the claim that their national egg throwing dates back to the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC remains uncertain.

In the meantime, I would just be interested to find a copy of Martin Soan’s claimed Californian New Games book. I can’t spot it on Amazon or elsewhere.

It is almost as if people are making up facts about egg throwing just for a yolk.

There. I said it.

Now I have got it out of my system, I can get on with my life.

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Egg-sit the Olympics – The World Egg-Throwing Championships are coming

It was in October last year that I first encountered and blogged about Andy Dunlop, much-respected President of the World Egg-Throwing Federation.

Now things are coming to a boil with the 2012 World Egg Throwing Championships themselves – on Sunday 24th June at Swaton in Lincolnshire.

Andy started the annual event in 2006 and, since then, has managed to persuade the English Sports Council to recognise four of the five main egg throwing disciplines as legitimate sports.

The one they don’t recognise is Russian Egg Roulette, as I explained – or, as Andy might say, eggsplained – in my previous blog and this year Andy promises a “better than ever event” with international teams already scrambling to gear up for the big day.

He says: “Last year’s champs, the Dutch, return again to take on the World and their old rivals the Germans. The Dutch have just set a new World Record in the Dutch heats of 73.2m. The Germans – this year submitting two teams – have said that they see No problem as their teams are regularly making the catch at 55m in training despite strong cross winds and they say that Any chimp can throw that distance outside competition. They (the Dutch) won’t be able to take the heat on the day”.

Irish champion Paul Murphy has confirmed that he will also be attending on June 24th to defend his title in Russian Egg Roulette and Joel Hicks (World Gravy Wrestling Champion and Britain’s Got Talent contestant) is likely to once again step up to the mark as target in the Throwing with Accuracy challenge.

The Latvians have confirmed they will attend with their trebuchet (a big siege engine catapult to you and me).

On hearing this my chum, mad inventor John Ward felt his patriotic hackles rise in this our glorious Jubilee year and decided to build his own British trebuchet for the event. He told me this morning:

“I am going to go for a hand crafted-looking device, with more than a hint of genuine hand-carved MDF and a lick of varnish. It will be mounted on road wheels and towed behind our car. I am now off to the shed to make a start on the base unit and the towing axle.”

For me, the annual World Egg Throwing Championships will dwarf the Olympics in my calendar this summer. It epitomises international sport at its best.

So far there is no news of anyone poaching any other team’s players.

All of the money which people shell out will go to charity and Andy Dunlop definitively says: “No chickens will be hurt during the championships”.

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Advice on four ways to make money illegally in movies and sport

No 1: Become a movie producer

This morning, I was reading an old interview with famed Hollywood scriptwriter Tom Mankiewicz, in which he mentioned big-budget movie producer Alexander Salkind, one of whose productions was the 1978 Superman film starring Christopher Reeve, which Mankiewicz scripted.

If you make a big-budget international movie, you have a perfect excuse to move money, people and odd pieces of complicated props and machinery with space in which to hide things backwards-and-forwards between countries without arousing suspicion.

Salkind was a rather dodgy character who occasionally came to the attention of the authorities. I vaguely remember him once getting arrested by police – I think for fraud – and unexpectedly producing a diplomatic passport, which gave him immunity from prosecution. My memory is that it was a Panamanian diplomatic passport, but Tom Mankiewicz says Salkind, in fact, paid the government of Costa Rica to secretly make him their cultural attaché to Switzerland. This would give him, he thought, total diplomatic immunity.

But the scam did not work 100%, according to Mankiewicz. In the United States, where there was a warrant out for his arrest, the FBI said: “I’m sorry, cultural attaché from Costa Rica to Switzerland doesn’t cut it with us. That’s not a diplomatic passport as far as we’re concerned.”

Which is why Salkind did not and could not ever show up for any of his movie openings in the US.

Who knows what was happening to the money Salkind was moving from country to country in large amounts?

But it reminded me of three sporting scams which worked… mostly.

No 2: Hide the drugs inside something very high profile

I was told that one particularly creative heroin smuggling gang managed to get a man working inside the team of a Formula 1 World Champion. The heroin was transported from country to country inside the World Champion’s racing car (without his knowledge). After all, which brave Customs man is going to dismantle the World Champion’s hi-tech racing car to search for drugs?

Perhaps small scale for heroin smuggling, but it worked.

No 3: Steal money from people who are taking bribes

I was once also told the true story of a top British champion jockey (now dead) who was being paid to lose races (to help a betting scam). Obviously, he received the money in cash and, to avoid ‘misunderstandings’, he got it at the racecourse immediately after the race. On one occasion, he was paid for losing a race, then had to be helicoptered elsewhere for another high-profile race before being returned to the first racecourse. So he left the money (several thousand pounds) in the boot of his car.

A criminal who heard about this arrangement, simply stole the money from the boot while the jockey was away. When he returned, it was assumed by the jockey to be a random car theft and, of course, the theft of the bribe could not be reported to the police as a crime.

As near to a perfect crime as you can get.

No 4: Go to the dogs

On an even more admirably creative level, a British comedian with criminal links in his past told me a story about the ‘wrong’ dog coming round the final bend at Romford Stadium and someone throwing four footballs onto the track in front of the dogs to cause chaos and get the race abandoned.

The late comedian Malcolm Hardee, inevitably, topped this story by telling me he had once shared a prison cell with a man nicknamed ‘Teddy Bear’. This odd nickname came about because the man had been paid to stand by the rail at various stadiums around the UK and, if the ‘wrong’ dog was winning, he would throw a teddy bear onto the track. The dogs then went crazy and tore it apart, stopping the race. “His great talent,” explained Malcolm, “was that he could run very fast after he had thrown the teddy bear.”

I can only presume that, on one occasion, he failed to do this fast enough.

Crime does not always pay.

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Comedian Charlie Chuck gets on his bike and pulls a girl with kneepads

I got an excited call from Charlie Chuck yesterday.

“Have you seen the film Rollerball?” he asked me.

“Yup,” I replied. “The original one.”

“I were in this thing called Rollerburn on Saturday at Newark Showground with big bikes. It were 46 year ago the last time I rode a motorbike. I used to have a 650 Norton. This one were a big bike; I don’t know what it were but it were big.”

“What did it involve?” I asked.

“I knew about it ages ago,” he told me. “but I didn’t know exactly what it was. It were obviously something big, really big and they’re going to do it in Paris next time.

“When I got there, I did me routine: I hobbled on and wrecked me drum kit and all that and then they lined me up – still in character – me and these two other blokes – to race and they all had their leathers on and their helmets on but I just had me suit on and me hair up.

“I thought it were exhilarating, I thought it were absolutely brilliant. The best thing I’ve done in years.”

“How did you get it?” I asked

“This bloke who used to be Frank Sidebottom’s base player. Now he does this.”

“How did he know you could ride a motor bike?

“He didn’t.”

“He must have been relieved.”

“He were over the moon when I told him. I did an hour and a half rehearsal at Leicester racetrack.

“There were a girl fell over. She were being pulled by another bike in front of me and I didn’t run her over but I were cracking on like I were going to go straight into her.”

“A girl was being pulled along behind a bike?” I asked.

“There were these three bikes and we set off with three girls on rollerskates holding onto bars at the back of the bikes. The girls were all padded-up like in Rollerball.

“They put a string round me wrist. That way, if I fell off, it would cut the engine out. And I were in character as Chuck. And I were crying because they’d tied me to the bike and the machines were taking over. I were really playing it up.

“I rode straight out the building and the girl let go.”

Charlie Chuck leads an interesting life.

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