Tag Archives: Thameslink

“The Long Good Friday” sequel… God takes cocaine?… Weekly Diary No 38

… CONTINUED FROM DIARY No 37

SUNDAY 4th OCTOBER

In this COVID-19 era, the protocol on non-rush hour London trains seems to be that everyone sits on alternate seats, leaving a gap between each person.

MONDAY 5th OCTOBER

Meanwhile, Thameslink trains are dependable for their undependability. When I arrived at Elstree station at 1358 today for the 1401 train, the indicator board proclaimed that the next train was the 0931 tomorrow morning, expected to arrive at 0939.

After travelling by Thameslink, President Trump’s overdramatic exit from hospital in Washington and overdramatic arrival back at the White House after his COVID infection seemed less surreal.

One online reaction to President Trump catching the coronavirus…

TUESDAY 6th OCTOBER

I was talking with someone who used to work in the London Docks who told me that the nickname for the police there used to be “the cabbage”. Neither he nor I could think of any explanation for this.

He also used to know Barrie Keefe, writer of wonderful 1980 gangster movie The Long Good Friday who, sadly, died last December.

Apparently Barrie Keefe wrote a (so-far un-made) sequel to The Long Good Friday, centred on the tiny but essential character played by Pierce Brosnan in the original movie.

Keefe once told someone that Brosnan had no lines in the original film: he never spoke. The other person disagreed. Keefe (who, remember, wrote the movie) watched the film again and, sure enough, Pierce Brosnan (in the swimming pool scene) does say “Hi!”

“That’s actors for you,” Barrie Keefe responded.

I was working at ATV (who commissioned the movie for the ITV Network via their ITC/Black Lion companies) when ATV/ITC boss Lew Grade refused to screen it because he was outraged by the ending. It had been commissioned by Charles Denton, who was both Programme Controller at ATV and Managing Director of Black Lion, presumably without Grade ever reading the script.

I think the scene in which someone is crucified on a wooden floor in London must have been inspired by Arthur Thompson‘s penchant for doing that in Glasgow. My ex-London docker told me that the scene in which a widow steps out of a car to spit at a criminal was based on a real incident though, in reality, the man apparently just legged it sharpish.

If you have seen the movie, there is a clip on YouTube of Pierce Brosnan talking about The Long Good Friday but – BEWARE – there are major, major plot spoilers in it.

WEDNESDAY 7th OCTOBER

I was talking to someone who plays the online game Words With Friends with strangers.

Playing with scammers who have only a loose grasp of English

Apparently this has attracted scammers who bombard her with messages of a romantic nature – usually in broken English – Many of them, for some totally unknown and incomprehensible reason, claim to be estate agents (that’s a realtor or real estate agent if you live in the US).

I can only assume there is a school for scammers which provides a template suggesting would-be scammers masquerade as estate agents.

THURSDAY 8th OCTOBER

Is this the shape of bomb disposal technicians to come in the near future?

The UK Chancellor of the Exchequer has suggested that, because of the COVID-19 crisis and its effects on jobs, people should think of switching careers.

My diminutive writer/composer/comedy chum Ariane Sherine (her physical stature is relevant) took the government’s online Careers Advice Test on a whim and it suggested she should become an army officer, a bodyguard or a bomb disposal technician.

Her reaction: “This is clearly not the perfect career for someone with clinical anxiety and paranoia who gets freaked out by sudden loud noises!”

Inspired by this, I tried the Careers Advice Test myself. It suggested I could or should become a boxer, a jockey, a hairdressing salon manager, a Member of Parliament or a TV/film producer…

The government site, which also handles Track & Trace for the COVID-19 outbreak, may need some urgent attention.

FRIDAY 9th OCTOBER

An odd day.

I went into the Tesco store in Borehamwood where, among the free books, were copies of Rolf HarrisTrue Animal Tales and the violent Mafia memoir I Heard You Paint Houses (filmed by Martin Scorsese as The Irishman). I am not sure what this says about the reading or social habits of Tesco’s customers in Borehamwood.

“I am not sure what this says about the social habits of Tesco’s customers in Borehamwood.”

Later, I went into the Tesco store in Leytonstone and found the stand-up urinals in the Gents toilets each had an orange plastic insert bearing the word P-WAVE. I would like to have been at the branding meeting where they brainstormed ideas for the name and colour of this product. 

SATURDAY 10th OCTOBER

Anthony Irvine, the ever-inventive act formerly known as The Iceman emailed me, without explanation, an image of his latest painting.

I have no explanation. He had no explanation. I am open to offers…

But the sky today hinted that God takes cocaine. This could explain a lot about the last week and the current year.

… CONTINUED HERE

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John Fleming’s Weekly Diary No 36 – COVID conspiracies, tears and comedy

… CONTINUED FROM DIARY No 35

SUNDAY 20th SEPTEMBER

Donna Daniels-Moss tells me that Paul Eccentric aka The AntiPoet is punting another book The Periwinkle Perspective: The Giant Step, the synopsis of which is:


Is there amateur taxidermy in space…??

June 1897, and as part of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, her expanding Empire lays claim to another new territory: The Moon!

Space Captain Gordon Periwinkle; the much vaunted Gentleman Adventurer (and amateur taxidermist), becomes the first man to set foot on Earth’s only natural satellite; bravely sacrificing his life on a one way trip into the history books.

The world is changed in an instant; the balance of power shifting in Victoria’s favour. War breaks out between Germany and America: the two world powers that had previously been the closest to achieving such a feat…

This is the story of the good captain’s attempt to get home, dodging an array of government assassins and foreign agents along the way; keen to use him for the own nefarious propaganda purposes.


MONDAY 21st SEPTEMBER

Writer/performer Ariane Sherine who has her latest book How To Live To 100 out next week is, like me, is trying to lose weight. She suggested we should have a competition and the person who loses least weight has to buy both of us a slap-up Christmas dinner. I have been losing weight in the last week or so, but I have a sense of impending doom.

Chris Dangerfield live from Cambodia, home of Colonel Kurtz

Eternal contrarian Chris Dangerfield got in touch from Cambodia to tell me he has a novel coming out “at Christmas”, which turns out to be 15th November. He tells me no more. I feel it may be controversial. Perhaps something along the lines of an autobiographical novel about his time quitting heroin while living in a brothel in Thailand.

Never one to make things easy for himself, a brothel in Thailand is possibly the least likely place I can think of to get rid of his addictions… He now seems to be addicted to posting two-hour interactive YouTube videos from his home in South East Asia.

After reading Chris Dangerfield’s email, I checked my Gmail InBox.

The number of messages it said I had was 666.

This did not fill me with untramelled optimism.

TUESDAY 22nd SEPTEMBER

In my last diary blog, I mentioned a local man – local to where I live – who wears bright clothes, has an over-enthusiastic moustache and, according to the Evening Standard, was once convicted of killing his brother.

(Photograph by Fusion Medical Animation, via UnSplash)

Today, he was in the local Sainsbury’s with two acquaintances, none of them wearing masks (as the government’s COVID regulations decree). They were discussing with theatrical bravado how ridiculous it was to wear masks when (the three of them knew for certain) the virus doesn’t come out and become active until after 8.00pm in the evening and how other, lesser mortals than they – the ones who mindlessly followed the government’s mask-wearing rules – were just ‘sheeple’.

After reaching enlightenment at Sainsbury’s, I went to Elstree station where similar surrealism is standard. The time was 8.39pm. One of the train indicator boards said the next train would arrive in 1,082 minutes, at 1440 tomorrow afternoon, with the second train due at 1446, in 1,087 minutes. True to their eternal incompetence – even if these due times were true – Thameslink’s minutes didn’t add up.

WEDNESDAY 23rd SEPTEMBER

First World problems only seem heavy…

Losing weight is not easy.

My scales told me I had added 8lbs overnight.

But it turned out one corner of the scales was resting on a piece of lino resulting in the scales over the course of the last week telling me I was 8lbs lighter than I actually was.

First world problems.

THURSDAY 24th SEPTEMBER

My cousin Muriel told me she doesn’t enjoy the months of November and December.

I rather like November/December because the weather gets worse. I don’t like hot weather and rather like dreich days – a result I suspect of impressionable childhood days living in a council estate on a hill in Aberdeen. If there ain’t a wind in yer face and rain coming down, it ain’t proper weather.

The best days in Edinburgh, my favourite city, are late winter days just after dusk with a sea mist drifting in and the air feeling wet.

I fear California is not for me.

FRIDAY 25th SEPTEMBER

At lunchtime, I passed the local McDonald’s – local to where I live.

Their cheap ice creams may have influenced my feet.

Crying McTear (Photo by Aliyah Jamous via UnSplash)

Sitting next to each other, outside on a wooden bench, were a young couple – male and female – maybe aged in their early twenties. Both were crying silently.

They sat next to each other, not opposite each other. They both looked ahead, not at each other, their heads tilted slightly downwards.

I will never know why they were crying.

Glimpses of other people’s lives.

SATURDAY 26th SEPTEMBER

I posted a new blog: a chat I had with promoter/constantly inventive ideas man Adam Wilder. As always, I had to cut out chunks to make it a readable length. This bit got chopped and dropped:


“Death of the world if we become humourless.”

ADAM: Comedy is something that unites the audience together, it can help people to relax.

We tend to take ourselves so seriously and it can be really hard to live when we do that.

We are not living in the most easy-going of times and I think it’s important to have a bit of playfulness. It’s the death of the world if we become humourless. And there are some movements to become humourless now.

I think comedians are like modern shamens, weaving a spell with the audience, taking us in with a ritual experience.

… CONTINUED HERE

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John Fleming’s Weekly Diary No 35 – Life is but a dream. This week for sure.

… CONTINUED FROM DIARY No 34(b)

All the world’s an online stage in the coronavirus era (Photograph by Tianyi Ma via UnSplash)

THURSDAY 13th SEPTEMBER

I was talking to a stand-up comedian. She said she had done an online gig, but didn’t like them.

I can only imagine what it is like to play an online gig in silence from an invisible audience. It must be like a rehearsal where you have to deliver your performance at 100% all the time with no motivation and no reaction.

It is a strange twilight world, this coronavirus world, like a dream where brain fog is dense, motivation to do anything is very low and every day seems the same.

THURSDAY 14th SEPTEMBER

To add to the dreamlike quality of this week, I travelled on a Thameslink train today – never a good idea.

There was a lady with green hair and a red skirt sitting half a carriage away from me with a corgi dog on her lap – She looked like upside-down traffic lights.

When the brightly-coloured lady got up to leave at the next station, the dog was on a lead and followed her out of the carriage… And I saw it was not a corgi but a fox.

Is this even legal?

How did she get through the ticket barrier with a fox without being queried about it?

Thameslink may be unreliable and incompetent, but it has the bonus of having its fair share of eccentrics.

Don’t even get me onto the woman with the teddy bear who talks to anyone and everyone about the aforementioned bear; or the bloke with the bright clothes and over-enthusiastic moustache who, according to the Evening Standard, was once convicted of killing his brother.

THURSDAY 15th SEPTEMBER

In a chilling warning to all forced to use the Thameslink line, someone arrived at Elstree station to see me today and, before coming out, used the toilet facilities.

Thameslink: bottomless home of horror

She sat in there doing what she had to do.

The toilets have recently been refurbished.

This included the installation of a movement sensor controlling the lights in the ceiling.

Because there had been no movement for a short while, all the lights suddenly went off.

Pitch black.

My friend was sitting in a windowless cubicle inside a windowless Ladies’ toilet. She waved her arms around. No effect. She could not remember if the door had a bolt or a lever or where it was and she couldn’t find it. She couldn’t immediately see her handbag but eventually found it and, by touch and much guddling around, found her iPhone and switched its torch on.

The lesson to be learned from this is that, while sitting on a Thameslink toilet, be as quick as you can and move around as much as possible.

THURSDAY 16th SEPTEMBER

I think my constant waking up with a dry mouth during the night may be getting to me.

In my last Diary Blog, I mentioned an incident that happened in the street. No need to check back. It doesn’t matter; it’s just a McGuffin or possibly a MacGuffin.

A McMuffin – not to be confused with a McGuffin

But, for some reason, it has been reminding me today of a story I was told once. I may have mentioned it in a blog years ago. Dunno. I can’t be bothered to check. It doesn’t matter; it’s just a McGuffin. This is a story within a story within a story.

Back in the 1990s, I did not write someone’s autobiography. He is dead now. He was a ‘sleeper’ agent for the Soviets, part of a sleeper group run for them by East Germany’s Transport Minister. Strange but true.

This is the story as told to me by the man whose autobiography I did not write.:


One of the most famous legends of Central Asia tells of a horseman, the standard-bearer of the great Khan. As the Khan’s army are entering a city after a glorious victory, the standard-bearer sees a dark lady looking at him. The dark lady has fearful eyes, as if she is looking right inside him.

Afterwards, he becomes scared that this woman is a witch and she has put the Evil Eye on him, so he goes to the great Khan and tells him his fears and says he wants to go to another city.

“Of course!” says the great Khan. “Give him the finest horse we have! Let him escape!”

So the standard-bearer takes the fastest horse in the Great Khan’s army, rides off across the desert and, in record time, travels to the other city. When he arrives, he sees the dark lady standing by the city gates, waiting for him. She looks at him, smiles and says:

“I was so worried. I knew I was due to meet you here today but, when I saw you in that other city so far away, I was worried that you would not make it here in time for your appointment.”

And the standard-bearer realises that she is Death.


THURSDAY 17th SEPTEMBER

Even the spam is kinda weird this week. This was a comment on one of my blogs this week. You can tell it’s a tad odd from the first sentence:


Spam (Photograph by Hannes Johnson via UpSplash)

Hello and welcome to my webpage. I’m Kyran.

I have always dreamed of being a book writer but never dreamed I’d make a career of it. In college, though, I assisted a fellow student who needed help. She could not stop complimenting me.

Word got around and someone asked me for to write their paper just a week later. This time they would compensate me for my work.

During the summer, I started doing academic writing for students at the local college. It helped me have fun that summer and even funded some of my college tuition. Today, I still offer my writing services to students.


I was impressed by Kyran’s turn of phrase, particularly: “someone asked me for to write their paper”.

There was a link to his website and to his Trustpilot reviews which were almost all of the 5-star variety. The latest review read:

I may sub-contract writing my blog to Kyran…

THURSDAY 18th SEPTEMBER

Below is what happens when you give your iPhone to a 9-year-old and she asks Siri to translate the word ‘John’ into Chinese…

She also told me that one of the boys in her year had stolen one of another schoolmate’s micro pigs.

“A micro pig?” I asked. “This is some sort of cuddly toy?”

“No, they are real pigs,” I was told and, to prove it, a Wikipedia entry and Google photos were produced.

“He stole one of her micro pigs?” I asked.

“Yes, he stole one of her micro pigs after school. She has six. She brought one of her pet micro pigs into school in a top hat and he stole one after school.”

“She was wearing the top hat?” I asked.

“Of course not. The pig was inside the top hat. She carried the top hat in her hands with the pig in it.”

“Did she notice the pig had been stolen?” I asked.

“Of course… There was a tug-of-war. He tried to steal the top hat and the pig but she held on to the hat, so he ran away with the pig.”

As a postscript, I was later told that, although the light-fingered boy had stolen the micro pig, it was later returned to its rightful owner by “the man who looks after the boy”. I know no more about the pig’s fate.

“The man speaks English but I think he is French,” I was told.

“Have you heard him speak?” I asked.

“No,” I was told.

THURSDAY 19th SEPTEMBER

Last night, I woke up 14 times with a bone dry mouth and had to drink water. As always, this resulted in me being mentally zonked all day. Not helped by Thameslink.

I arrived at Elstree station at 1026 to catch the 1038 train which was (obviously) due to arrive at 1040 unless you read the indicator board which said the next train was at 0514…

Thameslink. The rail franchise holder with the slogan:

Reassuringly dependable incompetence in an ever-changing world.

I need to conserve my energy, because tomorrow is a big day – Thursday.

Oh… And… by the way… I made up the story about the fox on the Thameslink train. Life is what you make it and reality and surreality overlap all the time. Everything else apart from the fox story – the live miniature pigs, darkened toilets, illiterate humanity paper writers, the top hat, the homicidal man with the over-enthusiastic moustache and every day of my life being a Thursday – was true.

Or was it?

Yes, it was and is.

… CONTINUED HERE

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John’s UK Coronavirus Diary – No 1 – Panic buying, leeches and facemasks

SATURDAY 14th MARCH

I thought stockpiling toilet rolls was bizarre enough… But now my local Lidl supermarket has had an outbreak of what appears to be panic buying of bread and eggs… I can only assume this is caused by people who were unable to join in the earlier mass panic buying of toilet rolls trying to bring on constipation by over-eating bread and eggs, thus negating the short-term requirement for the toilet rolls they do not have.

SUNDAY 15th MARCH

Someone has shared a story about a Hindu cow urine drinking party – “Dozens of Hindu activists in India hosted a cow urine-drinking party. Some members of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party have claimed that cow urine and dung can prevent and cure COVID-19”.

This is a new twist on an old story.

Moraji Desai, the Indian Prime Minister 1977-1979 used to drink his own urine. He said ‘urine therapy’ was the perfect medical solution for the millions of Indians who could not afford medical treatment. He also attributed his longevity to drinking his own urine – which he called “the water of life”.

I remember English actress Sarah Miles, who was on The Last Resort With Jonathan Ross TV chat show when I was a researcher, likewise drank her own urine, though thankfully or sadly (depending on your viewpoint) not on the show. She seemed a lovely, gentle, very vulnerable person. From memory, I think she used to drink a pint of urine every morning.

MONDAY 16th MARCH

What is it with the lack of eggs in Lidl? Is there panic buying of eggs or have the hens gone into self-isolation?

Is a plague of frogs next? (Photo by Gary Tresize via UnSplash)

The coronavirus is killing off the oldest people… in other words, the first-born… On past documented evidence, I suspect self-isolation may trigger an outbreak of boils, then there will be a plague of frogs and then the locusts will arrive…

In the US, President Trump urges Americans to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people… Is it merely coincidence that this is less than the number required to form a jury…?

TUESDAY 17th MARCH

I have had a dry, irritating-to-others, cough throughout my life. My father had a similar cough throughout his life and he died at 82 (not from the cough). The benefit of this now is that, if I clear my throat in a supermarket aisle, people part before me like the Red Sea before the Israelites. 

Facebook has gone mad. I posted a jokey post from the New Yorker about wrestling without an audience being like avant-garde theatre. This apparently breaches Facebook’s community standards and, as such, it has been removed and flagged as fraud… The explanation, apparently is that this is a result of the coronavirus because Facebook is starting to rely on machines, not humans, to check posts.

Not even a single grain of sugar was left in Lidl

WEDNESDAY 18th MARCH

Mystifyingly, there has now been panic buying in the Lidl sugar section in Borehamwood. The Lidl middle aisle still has plenty of grass seed, children’s socks and post-war Russian rocket launchers, but there is not a grain of sugar anywhere…

Sugar??? Why???

McDonald’s at Highbury Corner in London is serving only take-aways, no eat-in meals; and my local Costa, from tomorrow, is not accepting their plastic loyalty cards – only via the app – because staff are not allowed to touch strangers’ plastic cards.

Last night, I saw what may have been one of the last comedy shows in London – performed flawlessly by the staggeringly-multi-talented Dragos Mostenescu. I would not normally quote from shows directly, but he started with… “I used to cover the sound of my farts by coughing, but now I am covering the sound of my coughs with farts…”

“Not the arse!” (Photo by Erik Mclean via UnSplash)

THURSDAY 19th MARCH

I have just come back from the local shopping centre where a little old lady was tottering along. As she passed, she glared at me and said unnecessarily loudly in a voice straight out of the EastEnders TV soap: “It’s the face that matters, not the arse! Why are they buying toilet rolls?” 

I had not bought and was not going to buy toilet rolls, but I had to admit she had a point…

It turns out that, nowadays, Lincolnshire is the new Wild West even though it is in East England – Mad inventor John Ward told me that thieves had broken into Gosberton Baptist Church, Spalding, and succeeded in stealing toilet rolls.

FRIDAY 20th MARCH

Normally a very rare sight (Photograph by Alex Nevin-Tylee)

In good news, Thameslink are running regular trains. This is odd as they were not doing that before the coronavirus outbreak…

A friend explains the strange lack of sugar on the shelves in Lidl and elsewhere. She says there is also a shortage of flour. Presumably people, she says, are doing home baking. There is not, of course, an ACTUAL shortage of sugar and flour… people are just buying it faster than the supermarkets can re-stock and re-fill the shelves.

An arts journalist (not a news journalist) emailed me: “Well, I still think that it is all being blown out of all proportion, I DO NOT trust anyone in power anywhere to do stuff that is not VERY BAD while we are all locked in our houses quivering. This IS political. Make no mistake. It is political.”

SATURDAY 21st MARCH

Someone told me I am old fashioned… but I think all avenues should be explored in this crisis.

Leeches have long been used (Photo by GlebK via Wikipedia)

I already have paracetamol tablets but, for safety, I looked for leeches in Lidl today. Nothing. Panic buying has emptied random shelves. No bread, eggs or leeches. The world has gone mad. I have had to go online where, it transpires, medical leeches are available.

The John Lewis department stores are temporarily closing from Monday. We are entering a new Dark Ages. John Lewis closing? This is like the fall of Constantinople…

SUNDAY 22nd MARCH

My English friend Sandy, who lives in Milan with her husband, has had some admirable lateral coronavirus thinking…

“My job today,” she says, “is to try and make some face-masks using filter material meant for vacuum cleaners (same principle and we have a box of them). Ready for next time we have to go out.”

Unfortunately, a Facebook Friend then told me: “Some vacuum cleaners’ filters contain fibreglass… something you do not want in your lungs, especially now.”

I had tiny, almost imperceptible headaches in the afternoon. I was not sure if I might be imagining them. In the evening, I had a very slightly hard-edged cough but it was, again, difficult to know if this was real or only a slight variation on my normal lifelong dry cough…

… CONTINUED HERE

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Becky Fury + the creepy clown sex cult

As if she had not suffered enough, Becky risked all by travelling on a rare Thameslink train

So I got an email from Malcolm Hardee Award winning comic Becky Fury. It read:

“Do you want to do a blog about this creepy clown sex cult that I narrowly avoided joining?”

Well, obviously, there is only one answer to a question like that.

I was, to an extent, however, literally laid low with a spinal problem, so the ever-plucky Becky – rather than talk to me over Skype – decided to risk the wild uncertainties of train travel by Thameslink and the physical risks posed by my coughing fits and nose sniffles to come up to my home in Borehamwood.

This is how the conversation went…


JOHN: A clown sex cult?

BECKY: There was a clowning course. All sex cults need a good USP.

JOHN: How did you find them?

BECKY: He found me.

JOHN: Who?

BECKY: The guru.

JOHN: There’s a guru?

BECKY: Of course. All sex cults need a guru.

JOHN: And his selling point as a Messiah is…?

BECKY: That he has a clown school in a European city.

(NOTE TO READERS – THIS IS NOT, REPEAT NOT, IN PARIS)

BECKY: It seemed to have lots of interesting teachers. But I started getting suspicious when he started offering me a very reduced fee. Also I did an interview online and he wanted to re-name me.

JOHN: To what name?

BECKY: (LAUGHS) Miss Behave.

JOHN: (LAUGHS) Did you point out there is already a well-established Miss Behave?

BECKY: I didn’t want to give him any more information.

JOHN: But you wanted to be a clown?

Becky having a happier time in Borehamwood

BECKY: No. That’s the thing. I didn’t want to be a clown and certainly not using the name of someone who was already using that name. I had wanted to learn some techniques. There are always interesting things you can learn from people who are masters of their arts. But he sent me a list of classes that would take place and they included things like ‘Oil Massage’ which I thought maybe should not be on the syllabus for a Clown Course.

JOHN: Maybe all clown courses have it… Maybe Gaulier in Paris has a…

BECKY: No, I don’t think his is a sex cult; more a hate cult.

JOHN: Well, he allegedly breaks you down to build you up. A bit like Charles Manson.

BECKY: Well, this clown cult guy kept re-using the term ‘Family’… and also the word ‘polyamory’. The guy is from the 1960s, so he’s the sort of guy that took a load of acid, ’freaked out’, then became a ‘clown’.

JOHN: I still don’t understand how you got into this. You saw an ad somewhere?

BECKY: No. he found me. He was a Facebook Friend and he contacted me and said he was interested in stuff he had seen I was doing and he thought maybe I would want to attend his course. It all seemed very innocent to start with. But I said I didn’t think I could afford £3,000 for the month’s course. So he said: “What about £1,500? It’s not about the money; it’s about who we get on the course.”

And then he dropped the cost again and I thought: Well, what’s the exchange here? What am I going to have to do? How am I going to be paying?

Becky Fury minting it – but only with chocolate coins

This was just before the Edinburgh Fringe, so I was very distracted. He kept asking me to go on the course, then I got one last message from him and then suddenly I got contacted by another woman who was a clown and it turned out she was his wife. And she was saying: “Well, actually, it’s going to be £3,000.”

So I think I had done something to piss him off. And then there were some other women he was involved with. And then there was an email from another woman basically accusing him of being exactly what I thought he was: that he was this kind of very controlling guru who basically got lots of weak women to come to what was billed as a clown course but basically it was a sex cult.

JOHN: But you are only surmising.

BECKY: Yes.

JOHN: What was the ‘sell’?

BECKY: He said he wanted to direct me in a show and then have me go round Europe saying, “I am the protégée of (HIS NAME),” and all his clown mates would think: That sexy woman? What a fucking man he is! He’s moulded this woman; she’s doing his bidding. It’s a big male ego trip and I’ve had that before. There was another older comedian – a British one. His thing was he wanted me to be his protégée and have everybody saying about him: “Oh! Wow!” 

This recent guy was wanting to change what I was doing. I said: “No. I do comedy… I don’t want to go round Europe doing ‘clowning’. I want to go on the course and learn interesting techniques that I can put into what I do… not be something that you’ve created.”

JOHN: What’s the difference between Comedy and Clowning?

BECKY: Well, you can use aspects of clowning in comedy. It’s just that heightened quality of performance… Well, it’s basically just fucking around, isn’t it?

JOHN: Can I quote that?

Becky knows a thing or two about… erm… messing about…

BECKY: Yeah. That’s all it is. That’s another reason I didn’t go. I’ve done bits of clowning before and really all it is is just fucking about. You need to get yourself in the zone of just fucking about. There are courses on how to be ‘stupid’ and how to ‘uncover your inner fool’. But all of these things are about remembering how to play. And that’s what comedians do. They play – mainly with language a lot of the time.

I’m kinda fed up with these older men wanting to use me to be some kind of extension of themselves.

JOHN: To create through you.

BECKY: Yeah.

JOHN: Those who can do and those who can’t manipulate.

BECKY: They end up using you as a vessel for their thwarted youth – and they get off on it as well, because it’s a male thing. I’ve had this before. I’ve already had that one guru. He did a lot of stuff that was very manipulative and controlling. A lot of the time with these old men that go out with younger women, the reason they do it is some inadequacy of theirs that they don’t want women of their own age to pick up on. So they’ll go for women that are young and naive who think: Oh, wow! This guy is really sorted! when, actually, he’s just a dickhead.

I’m not making any moral judgment. I think it’s just an interesting aspect of humanity.

JOHN: Randy men?

BECKY: Randy clowns.

JOHN: You could have formed a double act: Randy & Miss Behave 2.

BECKY: In a way I would like to have had time to find out what was actually going  in the clown sex cult.

JOHN: But?

BECKY: Unfortunately we only have a finite amount of time on this planet and I have a new comedy show to write for the Leicester Comedy Festival. Anyway, after all that, I never heard from him again.

JOHN: Perhaps you will. Perhaps, one day, there will be a knock on your door and standing there will be a man in a red nose wearing long floppy shoes and beeping a horn at you.

BECKY: Mmmm… Different type of clown.

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Govia Thameslink Rail and the complaint about the chiropodist’s bill

Cattle never had it this bad… travelling by Govia Thameslink

The appalling Thameslink rail franchise run by Govia (who also currently have the equally appallingly-mismanaged Southern and Northern English franchises) is notorious for cancelling trains at the last moment.

Its recent catastrophic timetable change caused such chaos that they had to bring in a new changed timetable to the changed timetable and then another timetable with changes to the changes to the timetable and the current ‘ interim’ timetable under which they have reportedly withdrawn 200 scheduled trains per day.  

Thameslink is also notorious for not stopping at the scheduled and announced stations and for changing platforms (especially at West Hampstead) roughly 20, sometimes 10, seconds before the train arrives without any warning nor announcement with the result that passengers have to race over the footbridge and sometimes miss the train.
 
At St Albans station, apparently, they DO sometimes inform passengers. Someone who works for Thameslink Customer Services tells me of this complaint by a passenger (possibly but not certainly at St Albans):

A lady wrote in, enclosing an invoice from a chiropodist. She said:

“I arrived last Tuesday at the station to take a train to London. The signage said it would come in on Platform 4. So up I went over the bridge down onto the platform. Two minutes later, the announcer said: “Sorry, but the train to London will now arrive on Platform 1.”

“I ran up the stairs, over the bridge, down onto Platform 1.

“Two minutes later and, yes, the train was now going to arrive back on Platform 4.

“Up over and back down again.

“Therefore please find enclosed a bill from my chiropodist and, as evidence, a zip lock bag containing the hard skin from the bottom of my feet.”


Thameslink did not reimburse her.

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The nightmare effect of travelling on too many Thameslink trains – beetroot

I very rarely remember my dreams but I woke up during one this morning.

I was working, freelance, for a TV company and, during the lunch hour, I had to go to hospital where one of the treatments was to put beetroot on my stomach.

Next, I was scheduled to see the oncologist, but I could not remember the name of the person I was working for to phone and tell them I would not be back after lunch and someone had, as a joke, tattooed the bottom half of both my legs while I was asleep during the beetroot treatment.

This is what happens when you have to travel four times on a Sunday during a Bank Holiday weekend on the anarchic rail service Govia Thameslink – as I did yesterday – it turns your head into a gooey mess.

The beetroot was not even edible.

It was a nightmare.

The journeys not the dream.

134D8B41-4F1D-425A-966E-E065FAA4A011

‪Happy Thameslink passengers enjoying the relaxed holiday atmosphere on one of the tranquil platforms at St Pancras station in London, untroubled by trains.‬

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With other comedy clubs closing, a new one opens in maybe an ideal location…

Borehamwood view by Google with 96 pretty-much centred

I live in Borehamwood which is on the north west edge of London, just inside the M25, London’s outer orbital road. This is relevant.

I moved here because of the easy access. It is close to and betwixt three motorways – the M1, the A1(M) and the M25.

It is also on the Thameslink railway line (appallingly managed by the incompetent Govia franchise but extremely convenient). Trains run direct from Luton and Bedford (north of London) to Brighton (on England’s South Coast), connecting Luton Airport with Gatwick Airport and running through the middle of London, across Blackfriars Bridge, interchanging, I think, with every Underground line in London. And the trains run throughout the night.

Borehamwood (just to confuse visiting Americans) is home to Elstree Film Studios (which also hosts TV shows like Big Brother) and to the BBC’s Elstree Studios (home of the TV soap EastEnders).

What is strange is that it has had no permanent comedy club.

Until now.

Philip Simon outside Borehamwood’s 96 venue

This Saturday, comic Philip Simon is opening the Borehamwood Comedy Club in the local Council-owned 96 venue, right slap-bang in the middle of the high street.

The Jongleurs comedy chain has staged a few sporadic ‘On The Road’ gigs at the venue. But, last month, Jongleurs went bust.

“I have always thought that Borehamwood is the perfect place for comedy,” Philip told me. “It was just a case of finding the right venue. When Jongleurs ended, the Council was approached by every comedy booker you can imagine, including some that have no links whatever in London or even in the South. But I think the Council were more interested in working with a local one-man-band than a big company, so here I am.”

“It’s a great location for a comedy club,“ I said.

“Transport is really important,” agreed Philip. “Elstree & Borehamwood station is the last stop on the Oyster (cheap travel) card and it’s very easy to get to. I did a gig last night in Brixton (in South London) and I got back to Borehamwood in 45 minutes – and that was three trains. Acts can double-up very easily.

“I genuinely think you can get top-level acts who would have opened at maybe the Comedy Store in Central London and be looking for a second show to close and think: Oh! I can get to Borehamwood in half an hour! Because of the transport links, there’s no reason we couldn’t get Brighton acts. It’s a direct train. The venue is a 5-minute – if that! – walk from the station…”

“And the trains run all night,” I said.

Philip has written for TV’s Mock the Week and Taskmaster

Philip was involved in setting up the Comedians’ Network within the actors’ union Equity.

“I’ve heard a lot of complaints,” he told me, “about the way acts have been treated by promoters on the comedy circuit in general – not specifically related to Jongleurs. About how replaceable we comedians are and how irrelevant we are to the bigger picture. So when I found Jongleurs had booked acts here already, the first thing I said was: Those are the acts I want to replace themselves, if they’re still available.

There was already a date booked in here by Jongleurs – this Saturday 25th November – so I took that and went back to the acts who were previously booked by Jongleurs and had been let down. I wanted to honour the bookings so the people who had potentially lost money were given first refusal on the new gig. There had been three acts booked. Two of them signed back up and one was busy elsewhere.”

“And the two are?” I asked.

“Lateef Lovejoy and Trevor Crook. I added in Geoff Boyz to close and I am going to compere it. In future, it will be that same format – One act / a break / another act / a break / headline act. And I will compere it.”

“How much per act?” I asked.

He told me.

“That sounds quite high,” I said. “How much are the tickets?”

“£12. The venue decided that. I have no control over it. The thing I am guaranteeing is that I will pay all of the acts on the day.”

“Unlike Jongleurs,” I laughed.

Are royal portraits all that comedy promoters care about?

“Well,” said Philip, “speaking as an act… the thing that really frustrates me is that I have done gigs where I have seen promoters walk off with a wad of cash and then refuse to pay you for 30 days after the event. I don’t have an agent and I don’t want to spend all my time chasing payment when the money is in the hands of the promoter. Whatever happens, the acts here will get their money on the day of the gig provided the gig goes ahead and they turn up. If, for some totally unforeseen reason, the venue cancels the gig, then the act will be paid a cancellation fee.”

“You don’t have a gig here in December,” I said, “because, obviously, 25th December is not an ideal date. But will you try to go weekly next year?”

“No. I don’t think there’s enough interest for a weekly comedy club of this level. When we re-launch in 2018, I am hoping we will take it monthly. What I might do is a monthly comedy show of this level and, in between, maybe another monthly new act/new material night. £12 a ticket is a lot of money to spend weekly and I’m not convinced that, by spreading myself so thin, I can give enough attention to the gig. Especially if I resident compere it.”

“You said of this level,” I pointed out.

“Yes. I would like it to be a high-end type of show. with faces that people will recognise and will represent the demographic of this area.”

“You could,” I suggested, “do a monthly Jewish gig here?”

“Well,” said Philip, “I did a show at Camden Fringe last year with Aaron Levene called Jew-O-Rama and maybe in this venue here we could do a once-a-quarter Jew-O-Rama. We were intrigued that it did not appeal as much to the Jewish audience as it did to the non-Jewish audience. The nights we sold out, there was a predominantly non-Jewish audience.

Philip aims to heighten the glamorous world of Borehamwood

“As well as the main monthly show, there are two things I want to do – one is the Jewish gig; one is a local gig. To find a way of supporting local acts. If the venue is investing in me as a local act, then there is a benefit in extending that.

“I could do the main show monthly, here. And then, in between those main shows, on alternate months, I could do the Jewish gig and the local gig. There are loads of comedians in the Borehamwood/St Albans/Radlett/Barnet/Shenley/Watford area – comedians of all levels. Newcomers and pro-level comedians.

“What I probably cannot do in the main show is to give stage time as many local acts as I’d like. Because they are all at different levels. The level of the main show at this venue has to be at a high level. But, if I can find a way of supporting local comedians with maybe a lower-level gig that is going to involve less cost and less administration… And there are other projects I would like to do such as maybe a quarterly charity gig and a Christmas show.”

“To be totally PC,” I suggested, “you would need a white male… a female… gay… black… and Jewish… You would need to have five acts per show.”

“I want funny,” said Philip. “The diversity will come with finding the right funny people.”

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Thameslink – the Third World railway company giving a second rate service

Thameslink phone app

The Thameslink phone app today

If you have a blog, you can whine. Yippee!

Occasionally, this has meant I write a blog whining about the disaster that is Thameslink – franchise-holders for the Bedford-Brighton railway line on which I live. Though I have not burdened blog-readers with the daily chaos.

Suffice it to say that, in the evening at West Hampstead station, those in the know do not go to the platform the indicators say the train will be arriving at. Because it is often – or even usually – changed to another platform about 30-60 seconds before the train arrives. One evening, there were 31 people on the bridge, ready to run to whichever platform the train actually arrived on. A Dunkirk spirit of camaraderie broke out.

Which brings me to today’s whine.

So, today I went to see comic Martin Soan at home in Nunhead, South London. No problem there, you might think, because it is on a direct line from my home in Borehamwood and, although today is Boxing Day, the trains are running. I checked on the Thameslink app yesterday. And this morning.

So there could be no problem except a late or cancelled train. This is Thameslink we are talking about.

Last night, I checked on the Thameslink app and chose which train to get. And double checked this morning.

I arrived at my local Elstree station which, of course, was open. Well, the main ticket office was closed but that is not uncommon and the side entrance was open. The platform indicators just displayed a generic notice, but I knew there was a train at 11.12am because I had double-checked the Thameslink app yesterday AND this morning.

Although the platform indicators showed no train times, they did say: For train information please listen to Announcement. And, reassuringly, an occasional loudspeaker announcement usefully told us the Overground was not running; the Waterloo & City Line was not running; and there were some sections of the Underground were closed.

The Thameslink indicator said Listen. I listened. First mistake.

The Thameslink indicator said Listen. I listened. First mistake.

I say We. I had got there early, as had about eight other people, all reassured that the 11.12 was going to arrive. That included two Italians who could speak no English and a Bulgarian who lived in Borehamwood.

My Thameslink app reassured me there was definitely at train due at 11.12 – although another app (presumably using information supplied by Thameslink) said the train was due at 11.38 and yet another app said the train was at 11.48.

It was the Bulgarian who spotted the poster in among other posters halfway along the platform at Elstree which said, about halfway down in among other details that there were no trains running today. No information about this, of course, at the entrance to the station.

The platform indicators remained on. Occasionally, there was the reassuring tannoy announcement that the Overground and Waterloo and City Line were closed – plus helpful details about the Underground, A useful announcement by Thameslink which made no mention of the fact that, in fact, Thameslink itself was not running any trains.

It was the Bulgarian who realised that a scheduled bus (totally unconnected to the Thameslink situation) left Elstree station for Edgware tube station at 11.13.

So we waited (there were about ten of us) until the train did not arrive but the bus did and off we went to Edgware tube station. Well, not all of us.

The Italians who could not speak English had no Oyster travel card and there was nowhere to buy one and the bus driver refused to let them on because, apparently, buses will not accept cash (all they had) any more.

A traditionally Peckham Rye totem pole

A traditionally Peckham Rye totem pole

As the rest of us left, six more people were arriving at the station.

The day went on like that.

I won’t burden you with the details.

I just had to get it off my chest.

Eventually, I got to Martin Soan’s home in Nunhead/Peckham Rye by bus and tube and bus.

He has a nearby totem pole.

No surprise there.

 

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Chaos on Thameslink rail line continues

Cattle never had it this bad, courtesy of Thameslink

A typical late-night carriage, courtesy of Govia’s Thameslink

I have blogged about the daily chaos on the Thameslink rail line through London before.

I have not mentioned it for a while because the cancellations, overcrowding, chaos and delays simply continue daily

Tonight was no different.

Only two platforms were open at Hendon station: one going north; one going south.

I had a 26 minute wait for the 2301 northbound train. At 2300, it disappeared from the indicator board to be replaced by a 2334 train.

At 2305, I suddenly realised the train which had just arrived on the southbound platform had arrived heading north and I legged-it up the steps, across the bridge, down the steps and (with luck) got onto the train literally 4 seconds before the doors closed.

Of course, this being Thameslink, there had been no visual sign or audio announcement of the platform change, just the visual display changing the next train’s time to 2334.

This has been going on for around a year and started about one month after Govia took over the contract to run the line from a previously perfectly-OK company.

It makes me long to live in North Korea.

You can get people shot there.

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