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.
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.
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.”
“Where is he?” I asked.
“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.”
“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.
“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.”
“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.”
“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.