Tag Archives: Trooping the Colour

John’s UK Coronavirus Diary – No 20 – The reality of a drive-through test centre

… CONTINUED FROM DIARY No 19

SUNDAY 7th JUNE

When I brush my teeth, I have always cleared my mouth by drinking water straight from the tap – and, in the recent hot weather, was drinking a lot of water from the tap. Also, I have been waking up a lot during the night recently, my mouth totally bone-dry – and I was getting up, going to the loo and drinking water straight from the sink’s tap.

I woke up in the middle of last night wondering if the high calcium level in my body could be due to this drinking from the tap. I might have mentioned before that science – and, in particular, chemistry – is a big blind spot I have. The build-up on the end of the tap I always thought was probably built-up spittle and general gunge but, of course, it is really probably calcium from the very very hard water which London has.

Or is it?

Or something.

What do I know? Not chemistry.

But, from now on, I will drink bottled water bought from supermarkets, rather than water straight from the tap. Something I thought I would never do. I mean, I thought, why BUY water when it is on tap for free?

Paranoia? Who knows?

Not me. And certainly not at 3.00am in the morning.

Plus ça change elsewhere. We are still in lockdown. Households are not allowed to mingle with other households and, outside, we have to keep at least 2 metres away from other people unless we live with them in a single household.

“…the risk of catching the virus or not having a computer…”

MONDAY 8th JUNE

I had a tiny problem with the trackpad of my 9-year-old MacBook Pro laptop, so I took it to the excellent MacSmiths repair shop in Cambridge Heath/Hackney.

To get there, I had to take three trains each way – a Thameslink train, an Underground train and an Overground train. On each of the six trains I used, I was the only person in my carriage.

At MacSmiths, I asked if business had been badly affected by the lockdown because people had been too nervous to risk travelling to the shop.

“Not really been affected at all,” was the reply (I paraphrase). “If it’s a choice between the risk of catching the virus or not having a computer, the fear of not having a computer seems to be worse for people.”

Green close (good). Hay fever (bad).

TUESDAY 9th JUNE

My Eternally UnNamed Friend came up to see me in Borehamwood and, keeping 2 metres apart, we walked across Green Belt land close to my house.

This is allowed – You can now visit someone you know provided you don’t go inside their house and provided you keep 2 metres apart outside.

But, inevitably, this unleashed hay fever on me.

Coughs, sneezes and sniffles guaranteed to make nervous people keep socially distant from me,

Although the official UK total of coronavirus-related deaths is now over 40,000, reports say the real death rate is probably over 60,000 if you compare the increase in deaths this year with the number of deaths in the same period last year.

WEDNESDAY 10th JUNE

Yesterday’s hay fever symptoms seem to have been wider-spread than just in Borehamwood. Today I got this message from someone I know in one of the other nations in the UK. (Note to Americans reading this: the UK comprises four nations.)


One of the UK’s drive-through coronavirus test centres…

I wasn’t feeling great yesterday. A sore throat and running nose. Probably just a cold or hay fever but, for safety, this morning I went to one of the drive-through coronavirus testing centres manned by the Army.

I went to the centre because I thought I might end-up doing the swab test wrong if I got a kit to self-administer at home.

It turns out that, at the drive-through testing centres, you have to self-administer the test in your own car…

The Army blokes give you instructions by phone as they stand by your closed window. Then you open your window and they lob in the swab test kit from 2 metres away.

You sit in your car and test yourself by sticking the swab up your nostrils and into the back of your mouth. If you make a mistake, you use the hazard lights on your car to attract their attenton. If you feel unwell, you honk your horn.

I made a mistake with the swab. So I had another conversation by phone with the man despite the fact I could actually hear him talking to me on the phone standing right by my closed window.

The whole thing was surreal.

When you’re finished, they leave a big yellow bin by your window and then leg it away fast it so you can lob the test in the bin.

All rather comical and strange.


The total deaths are now 41,128 – up by 245 in the last 24 hours.

THURSDAY 11th JUNE

I got another email from my friend about her drive-through test:


I think I fucked-up the test after all that. I got this one-size-suits-all email:

The instructions for a self-administered swab test to be taken in your own car…

NHS COVID-19 NOTIFICATION

Your coronavirus test result is unclear. You’ll need to apply for another test.

If you have not had symptoms of coronavirus, you don’t need to self-isolate. If you have symptoms, self-isolate for 7 days from when symptoms started.

You may return to work on day 8 if you’ve not had a high temperature for 48 hours and feel well. Talk to your employer first.

If someone you live with has tested positive, continue to self-isolate. Follow the guidance in the text message they received.

If this result is for a care home resident or someone who is shielding, they may need to be tested again. Follow the specific guidelines.

If this result is for a child or staff member at school/nursery, tell the school or nursery.

Contact 111 if you need medical help. In an emergency dial 999.


FRIDAY 12th JUNE

Cabin fever has kicked-in.

It is five months since I had a haircut. I am not foolish enough to attempt a self-haircut, but I shaved off my 5-week beard and tried to refresh my self-image.

SATURDAY 13th JUNE

My friend had another swab test – this one NOT self-administered. It was negative.

Elsewhere, today was the day on which normally, annually, Trooping The Colour takes place on Horseguards Parade in London. Because of the coronavirus ban on large crowds and social distancing, a smaller-scale event was held inside Windsor Castle.

Leicester Comedy Festival judge Louisette Stodel was listening to the Radio 4 Lunchtime News and says it reported:

The BBC covered the Welsh Guards in their “bare skins”…

“The Welsh Guards have performed a socially distanced tribute to the Queen in their bare skins.”

Obviously, the script read “bearskins” not “bare skins” but on radio this vital nicety was missing.

It is, however, an odd way to phrase a report. So I mused to Louisette that perhaps there had been a bet in the BBC Newsroom to see if they could get away with that phrasing as a laugh.

I thought I was joking but maybe there was, indeed, a bet because Louisette told me that, in the 5.00pm news bulletin, the BBC solemnly reported that, to celebrate the Queen’s Official Birthday:

“The Welsh Guards in their bare skins performed a special tribute designed for social distancing.”

I do seem to remember there was once a bet in a newsroom where someone reckoned he could include the names of all seven of Snow White’s dwarfs in a serious bulletin without anyone noticing. Which he succeeded in doing.

My memory tells me this truly happened. But maybe it was in a fictional film. Or maybe I just imagined it.

The line between reality, imagined-reality and straight-up fantasy is beginning to blur.

Already no-one knows what day it is.

Every day seems like a Sunday because all days are the same, most shops are shut and the streets are only sparsely dotted with people.

Eventually, as I understand it, our Sun will expand and explode, taking everything with it.

We and everything which exists and which ever existed on Earth will be stardust.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose to an extent.

But Tempus fugit trumps all.

The bits and pieces past and present of the United Kingdom (courtesy of Stephen O’Donnell)

… CONTINUED HERE

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What was heard and was not heard at comic Chris Luby’s funeral yesterday

Chris Luby R.I.P

Chris Luby R.I.P

I was asked to speak at comedian Chris Luby’s funeral yesterday.

Chris was… umm… an audio comic. He created sound effects with his mouth…. The Trooping The Colour ceremony… Aerial combat in the Battle of Britain, including the sound of Spitfires scrambling on the ground and an aerial battle with German bombers… Formula 1 motor races.

It was an interesting funeral service. While it was happening, there was the faint sound of bagpipes far in the distance outside – despite the fact the service took place in highly-built-up Brockley in South East London. At the climax of the service, there was the sound of an aeroplane flying overhead. And, during a reading by his brother, the brother’s mobile telephone rang – he could not find where the phone was for about 15 seconds and it kept ringing as he searched for it.

If I were of a less cynical disposition, I might have thought Chris was still lurking and larking about.

The theoretical duration of my speech was unknown until it happened – modern crematoria are a conveyor belt of farewells – so I wrote a 4-minute one assuming it might end up having to be cut to 2 minutes. The vicar had started looking at the clock by the time he got to me, so I cut the speech back to maybe 90 seconds on the day. This is the full 4-minute version:

* * * * * *

I’ve been asked to say something about what Chris was like as a comedy performer.

Usually, when you are a comedy performer, it is a bad thing to finish your act to complete silence and no laughter. But I saw this happen to Chris twice.

What happened was that he finished doing his act and the audience just stared at him in silence for about three seconds – which is a long time. But then there was a sudden eruption of clapping, cheers and whoops.

They had just been stunned into silence and could barely believe what they’d just seen – and heard.

And that’s what Chris did – he stunned people.

When news of his death got around, there was a Twitter exchange between the comedians Robin Ince and Omid Djalili.

Robin tweeted – “If comedians don’t make it onto TV or radio then, once they’re gone, that’s it.”

Omid replied – “Chris Luby has done no TV (that’s not actually true) but lives in my mind more vividly than most. But that’s not comedy” – Omid said – “It’s heroic lunacy.”

Apparently Chris was not a man to go on long car journeys with because, at every turn, you would get the sound of a Spitfire banking or diving as if it were attacking a Messerschmitt and every time you changed gear he would add in loud and slightly terrifying sound effects.

But, whenever people tell me of long car journeys with Chris and their urge to throttle him, they – oddly – tell it in a very warm-hearted way. They found it oddly endearing.

Arthur Smith told me:

“Chris was, as you know, incorrigible – I used to pay him a tenner on car journeys to shut up for ten minutes and then torture him by saying: I wish I knew what a Sopwith Camel sounded like…. But he always managed the ten minutes, at which point he would explode into an aerial bombardment… He was not entirely of this world” – Arthur Smith said – “and I hope he’s enjoying the molecules in the stars.”

Comedian Adam Wide said his favourite visual image was…

“when we were organising a treasure hunt for a computer firm all over the village of Beaulieu, Chris was dressed as a RAF pilot (with a sound system) standing at a bus-stop doing his full Battle of Britain routine while apparently waiting for a Spitfire to arrive at the bus stop.”

When Chris died, the actors’ trade union Equity Tweeted:

“We’re sorry to hear of the death of Chris Luby. His one-man Battle of Britain was a thing to behold.”

Indeed it was.

Like Chris. Once seen. Never forgotten.

I also got a message from a man called John Hawes. He said:

“I was 13 years old when I met Chris Luby. He was a cadet and I was treated to the first of many of Chris’s famous shows.

“That was in 1979.

“I haven’t seen him in 25 years and it brings a tear to my eye knowing he has been entertaining people over the years and to read the wonderful stories of Chris and his adventures. He was a special man and will be missed.”

I think he affected a lot of people like that.

I know Chris’s sound effects were unforgettable. But my main memory of Chris, oddly. is not the sounds he made but his eyes. His eyes always seemed to be sparkling. They were very bright and sparkly. And that’s bright in every sense. They lit up and he WAS bright. Very intelligent. And I guess very sensitive.

I always think that, if you die and just one person cries, you have done something right in your life. You have not lived in vain. And, I think when people heard Chris had died there were a good few tears being shed.

The other side of that is that I suspect there will be a lot of laughter in heaven tonight. The angels, quite frankly, are going to be pissing themselves over Trooping the Colour.

I don’t know what angels laughing sounds like. But I used to know a man who could have done a realistic impression of what they sound like. And I’m very sad he’s not still here to do that or to do the sound of the RAF fly-past he so richly deserves.

Rest in Peace, Chris – though it will probably be interrupted by the sound of the Queen reviewing Trooping The Colour.

* * * *

When comedian Malcolm Hardee died in 2005, Chris Luby spoke or, rather, made noises in his honour. He performed the sound of a flypast by an RAF jet. Here is a 53 second audio extract from that 2005 funeral service which is just as much of a tribute to Chris Luby himself.

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A funny thing happened at comedian Malcolm Hardee’s birthday show in January 1999

The comedian Malcolm Hardee drowned in 2005. His birthday was on 5th January. Every year at his Up The Creek comedy club in Greenwich, he used to put on a show and post-show party on the nearest Sunday to 5th January.  This is an extract from my 1999 diary…

***

SUNDAY 3rd JANUARY 1999

In the evening, I went to Malcolm Hardee’s birthday show and party.

Before the show started, we were in the Lord Hood pub next to Up The Creek and, for some reason, I asked him: “Who are those people sitting over there?”

He nodded at one of the group: “That’s the stripper I used to go out with.”

She was a middle-aged woman.

“She hasn’t done it for a while,” he added.

Malcolm started his show by saying lots of people in the audience had seen him so many times he was just going to tell the set-up for each of his jokes and they could complete the punch-line… Which they did.

There was an old woman
Who lived in a shoe
She had so many children…

…Her cunt fell off.

What goes in-out, in-out, in-out and smells of piss?…

…The Queen Mother doing the Hokey Cokey.

And so on.

The first act on was Chris Luby, performing his traditional imitations of Trooping The Colour and wartime spitfires with his mouth. Apparently, on Malcolm’s Christmas Eve show, Chris’ act had gone badly and, in the middle of his Battle of Britain impression, a heckler had yelled out: “Do a glider!”

Tonight’s acts also included The Bastard Son of Tommy Cooper who did a couple of sword-swallowing routines I hadn’t seen before. He bent a wire coat-hanger flat, put it down his throat as normal – his head bent back to let the metal go down his throat in a straight line – and then he brought his head 90 degrees forward to its normal position and pulled out the bent coat-hanger. He also put a red neon strip light down his throat while the house lights were dimmed and we could see his throat illuminated through the thin skin.

Charlie Chuck performed as only Charlie Chuck can. A drum kit was destroyed. Then someone I didn’t recognise came on and imitated Malcolm as host and, after Boothby Graffoe performed, the stand-in came on again and impersonated Malcolm hosting the show.

Where is Malcolm? I wondered.

So I went to the bar and it turned out he had collapsed by the toilets. I met his mother who said she had thought he was dead: his face had been grey and they had almost called an ambulance. Both she and I were surprised because he hadn’t really been drunk earlier. And, as I had seen him paralytically drunk a few months ago, I was especially surprised.

Malcolm told me: “I just went straight down – unconscious. I think someone spiked my drink.”

When he returned to the stage to continue the show, he still didn’t seem particularly drunk either, so maybe someone did indeed spike his drink.

He took it in his stride – as he takes any unique, bizarre event – as if it’s a perfectly normal thing to happen.

If they built a Malcolm Hardee theme park it would be in the style of Magritte and/or Salvador Dali.

***

POSTSCRIPTS

This year’s annual Malcolm Hardee Awards for Comedy will be presented during a special two-hour tribute show at the Edinburgh Fringe – starting at 10.00pm on the evening of Friday 26th August 2011.

There is a Malcolm Hardee Appreciation Society group on Facebook.

Malcolm’s friend Deke is holding his annual remembrance celebration of Malcolm this Sunday (9th January 2011) from 7.00pm at the Lord Hood pub next to Up The Creek in Greenwich. The event will include a screening of The Tunnel the award-nominated short film about Malcolm’s notorious comedy club The Tunnel Palladium. Deke’s e-mail is dekedecore@hotmail.com

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