Tag Archives: Thameslink

‘Old’ comic Lynn Ruth Miller, journalist Claire Smith & paedophile Jimmy Savile

My damaged big toe

I am now hobbling in a way that sadly befits my age

Things are not going well. The sharp edge of a heavy wooden shelf fell on the big toe of my right foot. I am now painfully hobbling in a way that sadly befits my age.

There is also a national rail strike next week but the good news is I will not notice it because, ever since Govia took over my local Thameslink franchise (they also run Southern trains – officially recognised as the most inefficient train system in the UK), there have been trains cancelled all over the place due to lack of drivers and yesterday, on the way to Brighton – a series of catastrophes – as we approached Crystal Palace and arrived in East Croydon heading south, the on-board information board displayed the words “approaching St Pancras”.

Croydon is on the southern edge of London. St Pancras is north of central London. They are around 11 miles apart as the pig flies. And we were travelling in the opposite direction.

I arrived in Brighton four hours after I left home – normally a two hour journey.

Lynn Ruth Miller and Claire smith yesterday in Brighton

Lynn Ruth Miller & Claire Smith talked yesterday in Brighton

I was travelling to Brighton to meet comic Lynn Ruth Miller and Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award judges Kate Copstick and Claire Smith (both comedy critics for The Scotsman newspaper). We were going to see a show (not Lynn Ruth’s).

Inevitably, this did not happen.

The show we were seeing fell through and I got a message from Copstick saying she could not be there because a surveyor was coming round to her flat. She is selling her flat in Shepherds Bush, West London, and probably moving to a canal boat in Barking, East London. Despite my warnings about Barking, which is even worse than her bite.

Inevitably, shortly after I met up with Claire Smith and Lynn Ruth Miller, I got a text from Copstick which started:

“The fucking surveyor isn’t coming till next fucking Tuesday now!!! The entire fucking flat is transformed but I will never keep it like this…”

It continued in much the same vein.

Lynn Ruth Miller  + Roy Brown of Bardsleys Fish & chip shop, Brighton

Lynn Ruth Miller & Roy Brown of Bardsleys fish & chip shop  (Photograph by Claire Smith)

By this time, Claire, Lynn Ruth and I were eating in the fish and chip shop which currently hosts Lynn Ruth’s art exhibition (which I blogged about recently). The paintings are being taken down on Monday.

“I don’t know what to do with them,” said Lynn Ruth. “I’ve got nowhere, but they have to come down.”

“Why is (comic) Will Franken wearing a dress?” asked Claire.

“Where?” asked Lynn Ruth.

“All over Facebook. All these pictures of him wearing a dress.”

“I don’t know,” replied Lynn Ruth.

“This weekend,” Claire continued, “I have to interview Puddles, The Clown With The Golden Voice. On Skype. In mime.”

Puddles the Clown may be mis-quoted

Puddles the Clown With The Golden Voice may be mis-quoted

“Where is he?” I asked.

“America.”

“Why in mime?” I asked.

“Because he doesn’t speak,” explained Claire, as if this was perfectly normal for an act called The Clown With The Golden Voice. “I am going to ask him questions by doing mime and he is going to react visually and I am going to write down what happens.”

“Are you an expert mime?” I asked.

“Well,” shrugged Claire, “I did agree the other day that I am going to do interpretive dance at (comic) Michael Topping’s funeral. He is going to have a dress rehearsal, because he wants to see his own funeral.”

“That’s a good idea,” I said, “but this mime interview with Puddles The Clown – isn’t there a risk of mis-quoting him?”

“Well,” Claire argued, “journalism is a parasitic art form but, in this case, I get to be creative. I get to describe what’s happening and my relative, subjective perception will be correct.”

“But,” I said, “the poor man is going to be mis-quoted left, right and centre.”

“If he gives me a gesture I misinterpret…” laughed Claire.

“My grandfather choked chickens. He really did…” said Lynn Ruth Miller.

We both looked at her.

“…and, if you had seen my grandmother you would understand why.”

Lynn Ruth reportedly still a youngster

Lynn Ruth is reportedly a mere youngster at the age of 72

“You are,” I prompted, “in the final of the Old Comedian of the Year contest.”

“Yes,” she said. “but I’m the only one that’s actually old. I’m 81. You only have to be over 35 to be in it.”

“And,” said Claire, “the Chortle report said you’re 72.”

“That’s almost defamation at your age,” I suggested.

“Why,” asked Claire, “did they think you were 72?”

“Because I use products,” said Lynn Ruth.

“Chicken soup?” I asked.

“Schmaltz,” she replied. She is Jewish. “It gets rid of the wrinkles. The only problem is you have to pluck the feathers.”

“Schmaltz?” I asked.

“Schmaltz is rendered chicken fat,” she explained.

“I had no idea that was the origin,” I said. “Anyway, back to the Old Comedian of the Year…”

“I’m not only the right age,” said Lynn Ruth, “but I have two of my own hips, my own knees and I don’t dye my hair.”

“You don’t dye your hair?” I asked.

“No I don’t, which means the carpet doesn’t match the drapes.”

“Why are you living over here in the UK?” I asked.

Lynn Ruth tried to tempt me in the Max Miller room of the fish & chip shop

Lynn Ruth tried to tempt me in the Max Miller room of Bardsleys fish & chip shop yesterday

“I was hired to be a presenter on Brighton Lights, a TV show, and I was promised I would have a salary, a place to live – that I paid for myself – and a visa and I could live here for the rest of my life. I was living on the Pacific in a gorgeous house. It was perfect. They kept telling me: You’re going to have a wonderful life in Britain! I spent $4,700 of my own money to bring all my stuff over here. Then, last December, they ran out of money. With my visa, I have to leave the UK this November.

“So that’s my next problem. But people want to help me. That’s what I love about this country – which you all get resentful about – that you help people. I love that.”

“There was a bloke on British TV,” I said. “Jimmy Savile. He helped loads of young people on his show Jim’ll Fix It.”

“I went to his 80th birthday party,” said Claire. “I wrote a couple of articles about it.”

“Was he a clown and a children’s entertainer?” asked Lynn Ruth.

“Not a clown,” I said.

“He didn’t like children in the right way,” said Claire. “He fucked children up the arse.”

“I knew that,” said Lynn Ruth.

The Scotsman,” said Claire, “ran a series of articles in which people who were well-known talked about things they loved about Scotland. I thought: Well, Jimmy Savile could talk about Glencoe.

“Ah, of course,” I said, “he had a cottage in Glencoe!”

“And,” said Claire, “I had this idea that maybe because he had been famous for so long that that was why he was so weird and maybe, when he was in Scotland, he was more natural.”

Jimmy Savile - the truth revealed in the edit

Jimmy Savile – not Scots

“He was from Scotland?” asked Lynn Ruth.

“No,” said Claire. “He’s from Leeds, where I’m from.”

“As was the Yorkshire Ripper,” I said. “Is there a connection?”

“There is,” said Claire. “One of the Ripper murders was right outside Jimmy Savile’s house and on my walk to school.”

Lynn Ruth said: “Did you know he was a paedophile?”

“Well the weird thing,” explained Claire, “was that everyone knew in a way, because it was always gossiped about in newsrooms that he had sex with dead bodies in morgues and all the things that came out later. But I didn’t believe it.”

“It was,” I said, “so OTT it was unbelievable.”

“To have sex with dead bodies,” said Claire. “You think: Well that surely can’t really be true. But actually it was. The only person who told the truth at the time was Jerry Sadowitz.”

“Jerry Sadowitz,” I added, “said: Never trust anyone whose voice is like the sound of someone having a wank.

Claire Smith at the fish and chip shop yesterday

Claire Smith at the fish and chip shop in Brighton yesterday

“I had this idea,” said Claire, “that maybe it was just a media construction and, if I saw him in his own house, he was just an eccentric person and not so odd. But, at his birthday party, he was just cold. There was nothing there. When I got back, the News Editor asked: What’s he like? And I said: I’ve got no idea. He’s hidden and he’s hiding something. But I don’t know what it is. I wondered if it was because he was gay or something.”

I said: “I always thought he was gay because he wore brightly-coloured clothes and kept going on about how much he loved his mother.”

“You think that makes someone gay?” asked Lynn Ruth.

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A talk with a man in a rumpled grey suit which looked slightly too big for him

A comb

A comb

I went to the Leicester Square Theatre last night to see a very good Burns Night comedy show.

Though it was not Burns night.

Before the show, comedian Simon Munnery got out a tape measure and, unseen by most of the audience, was very carefully noting in a book the dimensions of a seat towards the very back of the auditorium. When he performed his act on stage, he never referred to this.

I texted him after his performance: Why were you measuring the seats before the show?

Aye; ah have ma reasons, he texted back.

Afterwards, I was on a train back home to Borehamwood.

At Mill Hill Broadway station, a middle-aged man got into the carriage and sat opposite me. I had to get off at Elstree station, the next stop.

“I know you, don’t I?” he said.

“I don’t think so,” I told him.

I think I may have a common face. Occasionally I get mistaken for other people. Though never for Brad Pitt or Justin Bieber.

“It was about twenty years ago,” the man persisted.

I have a terrible memory for names but a good memory for faces.

He talked a lot about the rain. He tried telling me the names of various people we might know in common but nothing specific about companies or towns we might have met in. Mostly, he talked a lot about Margaret Thatcher (he was not a fan) and the television programmes he watched when he was a child growing up in St Albans. It was a monologue rather than a conversation. Then he talked about the rain again.

We reached Elstree station. I got up to leave.

“We’ve never met,” he told me.

“I didn’t think so,” I said.

“I just wanted someone to talk to,” he said, smiling slightly.

I went home.

He stayed on the train.

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Filed under Psychology

Chinese Communism and how it overlaps British Rail bureaucracy

Last night, I went to the Empire cinema in Leicester Square for the opening ceremony of this week’s China Image Film Festival in London – the biggest Chinese film festival in Europe.

The ceremonial side involved lengthy bouts of people explaining that everyone had worked very hard and how culturally important film was and encouraging rounds of applause for officials who stood up and waved to the audience. After 40 minutes, I whispered to the friend who was with me:

“This is like living under communism.”

There were the distinguished guests from various organising committees and some officials had flown in specially from Beijing but also present, inexplicably, were the former mayor of Redbridge in suburban London and the Chairman of South Cambridgeshire District Council, who gave a speech in which he said he had visited China, but never seen any Chinese films there, so he was grateful for this opportunity. The man standing by him who translated his speech into Chinese looked a bit surprised, as if he could not understand who this man was or why he was giving a speech.

I had some sympathy with the translator.

The former mayor of Redbridge gave no speech, which I thought was a pity, as I would have been interested to hear what he said.

The opening film of the Festival was Apart Together, which won the Silver Bear for Best Screenplay at last year’s Berlin Film Festival.

In one scene a couple, married for almost 50 years, decide to get divorced but discover that they cannot get divorced without first having a marriage certificate which they do not have because they got married shortly after the chaotic civil war between Mao Tse-tung’s Communists and Sun Yat-sen’s Kuomintang nationalists when official marriage certificates were the last thing on people’s minds.

So they have to get officially married in order to be officially divorced on the same day.

Communist bureaucracy, eh?

Phoaw!

How the almost entirely Chinese audience laughed!

No wonder they love Yes, Minister on TV in China!

After the ceremony and screening, I got a tube up to St Pancras station and leapt into the front carriage of a Capital Connect Thameslink train, just before it was due to set off.

On the seat opposite me was a small but expensive-looking pack of 15 computer CDs left behind by someone.

As I was sitting at the very front of the train, I jumped off and tried to give them to the train driver.

“I’m not allowed to accept any lost property,” he said apologetically. “You have to give it to the station staff – that bloke down there the other side of the barrier.”

It was an eight-carriage train. I looked at my watch. It was two minutes before the train was due to leave.

“I won’t have time to do it and get back on the train,” I told the driver. “And the station I am going to is unmanned at this time of night.”

“What you could do,” he told me, sympathetically, “is leave it on the seat and, if it’s still there at the end of the journey, I can collect it when I check the carriages.”

So I did that.

Whether anyone nicked the discs or whether they were still there when he checked the carriage I do not know.

I am a lover of the surreal but not of bureaucracy.

But rules is rules, eh? They’re there for a reason.

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Filed under China, Consumer Affairs, Movies, Travel