Who the Fulke’s That?


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Your rambling blogger has vague memories of the day when he found out that essays were actually a literary form, and not just an instrument of torture, wielded by sadistic teachers. Since then it has been an all-too-sporadic delight to dip into the works of Elia (alias Chas. Lamb), de Quincy, Addison and the other ‘bloggers’ of their day, not to mention his beloved Montaigne from further back and farther away.

For many readers today, when any communication of more than one or two brief paragraphs will be met with the abbreviation TLTR, the works of these old luminaries may seem too prolix (what a change even between my first and last partners-in-life, the first who complained when any missive was under six sides of writing paper – or whatever the carrier pigeon could manage – to the last, who would refuse to read anything more than 50 words). But it’s just a matter (unless you’re an inveterate reader of wordy, 18th or 19thC lit) of getting your head into ‘wallow’ mode and being carried along by the prose, which is, let’s be honest, often about quite trivial subject matter. But that’s part of the joy of the essay: explorations of the quotidian in scintillating form.

And one of the great exemplars, which your correspondent knows less well, was old Billy Hazlitt (hero of my one-time neighbour, Michael Foot). To me (let’s drop the third-person affectation for now), the only way to enjoy these old ramblers and idlers is in equally old hardback editions, probably from Everyman’s Library (I will go with thee, and be thy guide, In thy most need to go by thy side). And ’twas with such a volume that I wallowed recently in a warm bath, both of words and water, reading Mr Hazlitt’s Of Persons One Would Wish to Have Seen. The author recounts an evening’s blether with some fellow wits, including Lamb, where those assembled end up discussing which folks from history they would most like to have met and had discourse with.

As I believe has already been said in these files, our own coterie at the Proms concerts, back in the 90s, had a game we called We’re Going Down the Pub, a mock tv panel show where we discussed a number of real or fictional characters with whom we’d like to go drinking. One crucial rule was No Shop Talk, ie no taking Joe Stalin for a pint, only to ask him why he slaughtered so many of his people. And Hazlitt’s bunch seem to have had a similar idea; they discuss more the companionable nature or otherwise of their intended visitors. Also they fight shy of those, like Shakespeare, of whom they would be too overawed to chat with.

And, among some fascinating and odd suggestions (such as Guy Fawkes), one of Lamb’s ideas is … well, I shall let Hazlitt tell you:

Lamb then named Sir Thomas Browne and Fulke Greville, the friend of Sir Philip Sidney, as the two worthies whom he should feel the greatest pleasure to encounter on the floor of his apartment in their nightgown and slippers, and to exchange friendly greeting with them. At this Ayrton laughed outright, and conceived Lamb was jesting with him, but as no one followed his example, he thought there might be something in it, and waited for an explanation in a state of whimsical suspense. Lamb then (as well as I can remember a conversation that passed twenty years ago — how time slips!) went on as follows. “The reason why I pitch upon these two authors is, that their writings are riddles and they themselves the most mysterious of personages. They resemble the soothsayers of old, who dealt in dark hints and doubtful oracles; and I should like to ask them the meaning of what no mortal but themselves, I should suppose, can fathom.

Now my only prior knowledge of Fulke Greville (now Wikipedially extended) was his connection with Warwick Castle, near to which I once dwelt. He is buried in St Mary’s Church, and it is said (especially by guides to credulous tourists) that his ghost returns to the tower in which he had his rooms. As the Great Towers website (honestly) tells us:

Greville’s ghost returns to the castle to walk the room that was once his study. Here witnesses have reported catching fleeting glimpses of his sad shade staring at them from the dark corners, or feeling his presence at the place where he once composed such prophetic lines as:

If nature did not take delight in blood,
She would have made more easy ways to good.”


But mainly it struck me that each generation will have its celebrities and its idols, many of whom (with the exception of the Shakespearos) will be forgotten a century later. Greville was an outlier even in Hazlitt’s day, as Ayrton’s reaction shows, but who now even knows he was a writer? And who apart from scholars reads Phil Sidney, for that matter? I only know him as the geezer who said that heaven must be like eating foie gras to the sound of trumpets — and that wasn’t him at all but someone called Sydney Smith! Astrophel, that was P Sidney. Never read it. Probably never will. None of these ever featured in WGDtP, that’s for sure.


So who would your erudite chatterer go for these days, as an off-kilter choice? Someone I hadn’t heard of back in the last minnellium, but have since translated and even bigged up on these pages before, methinks. ‘Nun’ other than Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, author of Hombres Necios (see Hashtag Yo Tambien, 1st May 2019).

As I said back then, she was amazingly erudite, had a library of 4,000 books, spoke Latin, Spanish and Nahuatl and wrote on many topics, not least her polemics on male double standards and the importance of making education available to women. From her writing one gets a sense of a very witty as well as wise woman, with a deep humanity and engagement with life. So, assuming my ‘gaditano’ Spanish is up to the job, what a great person to pass some time and tequilas with, ¿verdad?

And as, despite her putative ‘calling’, she famously entertained lovers of both sexes in her cell, who knows how a visit might develop? It’s not all about the blether, you know.

After all, we’re not allowed to talk shop.


Please Sir, it was him, Sir


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One of my favourite smartarse aphorisms is ‘Fair’ is a word for the playground, not for politics. By which I intend to indicate not only a Wildean superiority of wit and wisdom, but also that fairness is a nebulous and emotive term, more suited to the whines of aggrieved kids than any rational political or even ethical debate.

Yes of course some idea of ‘equity’ has to be involved, but no fair! is not in and of itself a valid rebuttal for anything.

But playground simplicity is never far from the surface in the most adult of discussions. Back in even my youngest day, I recall watching representatives of Palestine and Israel, Northern Irish Prods and Catholics, interviewed on tv, making passionately a case which, it always seemed to me, boiled down to yeah but no but yeah but they started it!

And now there seem to be endless variations, on the antisocial media, of a new trending meme: what would they say if ….?

Usually it’s something like, just think what libtards would say if Nigel Farage did something like that, or imagine the field-day the tabloids would have if Jeremy Corbyn was caught doing that on his allotment — equally prevalent on all sides of all arguments and equally irrelevant (rationally) in all cases.

Even comedians get in on the act, though I couldn’t work out whether kraut* comic Henning Wehn was wholly serious with his tweet about Welsh rugby referee Nigel Owens: The ref is lecturing the Argie captain in English. Now imagine a ref speaking Spanish to the England skipper.

Can we drop it, please guys? Just as I argued (no doubt unconvincingly) in Quote Me No Quotes a few weeks ago, and have plugged away at ad nauseam (what would folks say if Piers Morgan went on like that?), it’s yet another way of fogging a debate that we really need to have in a vaguely rational manner if possible, if only because the outcomes (of Brexit, left v right, climate change v bullshit denial, etc) could be pretty fucking crucial for all of us.

As I commented when some Brexit Party shill posted a twitter poll on whether climate change was a real issue or not, Fortunately (or rather unfortunately in this case) facts are impervious to votes. The facts are incontrovertible. I’m getting on and I don’t have kids, so it’s not that important to me, but if you do, you owe it to them to face those facts.

And while we’re all wondering what the other side would do if the offense boot was on the other foot, those facts are fucking with our very lives.

As teachers, when challenged with, please sir, they did it first, would always respond — so if they jumped off a cliff, would you copy that?

Admittedly that logic is rather dodgy too, but you get my drift, I’m sure.


*Yes, I’m joking; just referring to that heinous BritainFirst poster. But then imagine what the alt-right fascist bastard morons would say if some German lefties produced a poster calling Boris Johnson an Inselaffe (island ape)!

Pennies Fall on Penny Falls


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(Little Godspeed You! reference there)

Yes, gentle reader, you knew it would happen one day. Your merry blogger has found national fame. Ish.

Mr Crisp used to say that the way to become a virgin was to appear on television, after which people who would usually walk by on the other side of the street, averting their eyes and saying, “Don’t look now; it’s that terrible man!” will now rush across, at the risk of losing their very lives, to say, “We saw you on the telly!”

Well, that doesn’t apply to mid-afternoon game shows, for the sad and lonely. Nor, one suspects, does the old adage, attributed to Mr Coward and others, that ‘television is for appearing on, not for looking at.’

But, sixteen whole months after filming in Bristol, now it can be told. Telly has been appeared on, a number of acquaintances have watched it and, thanks to kind editing, your hero doesn’t look too bad.

Well, relatively speaking. They did cut out the comment that the tie was by Versace, and that was why they shot him.

The game was Tipping Point, based on the penny falls arcade games, where one inserts shitloads of coins at the top and nothing ever falls out at the bottom.

On this version, stuff does emerge. Counters (mustn’t refer to them as ‘coins’ on air!) are dropped into the machine as a reward for answering (mostly) simple general knowledge questions correctly. Four players begin, each round eliminates another until the victor is left to insert a star-spattered jackpot counter and get it out again by answering six questions, for one, two or three counters each.

The whole show is available until mid-October on STV player in the UK, should you be so masochistic (23rd September edition). If you do watch, please note that editing makes it look like he passed after hearing the whole question “In 2006, When the Sun Goes Down was a number one hit for the band called Arctic what?” and is thus ignorant of (Who the Fuck are) the Arctic Monkeys. He isn’t. He even has that recording (which was embarrassing at the time). The ‘pass’ was pre-emptive — after the word ‘When‘ in fact — on the assumption he wouldn’t know many 2000s chart hits and wanted to get to the next question quickly.
And ‘silverside’ sprang to mind about five seconds after passing the question to his opponent.

Who cares. He is, as they say, cringing all the way to the bank. And has spent most of it alleviating debts and putting stuff aside for unexpected bills and (at his kid sister’s repeated insistence) funeral expenses.

But the last thing he says is “I’m going to have to write a poem about this now.” And on the plane back from Bristol, he did. Here it is.

[Apologies to Lewis Carroll]

‘Twas Brizzle, and the Isambard
Did shipsteam in the stovepipe hat
Suspendy was the Cliffyroad —
And other shit like that

“Appear on Tipping Point, my son!
You Mastermind, Countdown the weeks
All Pointless is Fifteen to One
And Eggheads is for geeks”

The buzzy mushroom thrice he pressed
He played his counters, one, two, three
One rival had a jammydrop
One left in poverty

Too soon he passed the Indyband
But still he answered quizzlies four
Another victim fell too short
And now he had the higher score

He dealt with subjects far and wide
He knew of mixed up flutterbies
His dodgeball foe was brushed aside
And left without a prize

Excitedly, he stood alone
He gibbered like a nervous goon
He hardly let the Shephard speak
He answered questions far too soon

Although impaled on ozzygroups
He answered all the others well
He counted labourleaders till
The jackerpotty fell

“And hast thou found thy tipping point?
Come to my arms, you daft old ponce”,
His sister yawned in apathy,
“Don’t spend it all at once”

‘Twas Brizzle, and the Isambard
Did shipsteam in the stovepipe hat
Suspendy was the Cliffyroad —
And other shit like that

(May 2018)



Sing When You’re Whatting?



After expiating on democracy at some length in the distant past (Democratic Blisters, April 2017), and returning to it from time to time, your tiresome correspondent could be forgiven for thinking the topic had been done to death.

Back then I said that it seems ‘democratic’ is now defined as ‘the result I wanted’, and that is thrown into strong relief by the conflicting claims that the Prime Minister’s proroguery was an affront to or a defence of democracy. If only a sensible discussion could be had on the meaning of the bloody term, in the context of both the UK constitution and the wider world too.

Fat chance, but let’s fling another two-penn’orth in.

Sadly, the only people pushing for this are the alt-right likes of Banks and Farage, who are trying to sell the idea of a ‘direct democracy’ for the interweb age, like that promulgated in Italy by the predominantly leftist Five Star Movement. And given the achievements of Cummings and other manipulative psephologists in using big data and targeted bullshit to sway votes, this does not bring as much joy to the present writer, with his muted fondness for the Swiss system, as you might think.

It takes a long time, maybe even a few centuries of participatory democracy, for the people to learn to be less easily swayed by simplistic emotive appeals; and also an insistence that far clearer majorities than a few percent are needed to effect serious change.


This was triggered by a recent discussion on twitter with a leave supporter.

By the way, I have stopped referring to people as Leavers and Remainers, as if they were different species; it plays into the hands of the baddies, along with the mantra that ‘there’s no point arguing with them’ — people are people who currently take one view or the other and might — yes, your correspondent included — one day change their minds.

It was in trying to discuss this option and urging a tweeter to at least reconsider driving the bus over a cliff, when his intransigence led him to avoid all requests for his actual reasons for leaving and constantly go on about the fact that Leave ‘won’ the referendum. And when I said that democracy had to include discussion and the right to reconsider, he counted with ‘Democracy is about winning’ and, presumably, dropped the metaphorical mic.

 And in a form of low-grade esprit d’escalier, it occurred to me that I should have at leased fired a parting (though not Parthian) shot to the effect that winning by tiny margins, or, more to the point in this case, by false majorities, may take the battle, but bodes ill for the war.

I’m the first to agree that if there was the clear majority in 2016 for remaining that all polls suggested (and most participants assumed), it’s the folks who were fooled into staying home thinking remain was a shoo-in who deserve a good slapping. But if, as almost every poll since then has said, the clear (but too small for comfort) majority has remained remainer, the ‘simply winning’ attitude may be storing up a lot of grief for the exultant. If leaving the EU causes a fraction of the issues for the UK supplies and economy that it could, how long will those ‘winners’ hold even a sizeable minority of the public under their sway, however stridently their media chums blame those bastards across the Channel?

Sadly, I do realise that the civil unrest that could follow will play into the hands of the nasties, those who openly admit they wish to smash the system, but maybe those thugs who turn out for them are nowhere near sufficient to carry the day. As far as we know, despite all the parallels with Thirties Germany, there isn’t an organised Sturmabteilung lurking in the wings.

Is there? Either way, it’s a rather odd definition of ‘winning’. But, ultimately, truly democratic.

The Grated Brutish Fukoff


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Put me in a kitchen with a skillet or a saucepan and any number of ingredients and I’m as happy as Larry, assuming Larry is a miserable bastard whose spirits can be elevated slightly by frantic activity with a meal at the end. I can stir, fry and even stir-fry with the best of ’em, and even risk my productions on other people, without expecting more than a token mortality rate.

But I ain’t no baker. Even something that would be scoffed at by the telly contestants in bread week and scoffed happily by the judges, seems to defeat me.

Yes, that’s me putting the kaka into saffranspannkaka med salmbärssylt, the Gotland speciality. Saffron panakes with dewberry jam and cream.

Undersugared, undersaffroned (you know how much that stuff costs?!) and overcooked, I think. A friend had them in Visby earlier this year and raved abbout them. Another friend recently returned from mainland Sweden with jars of the jam.

But as neither your friendly gastro-gnome, nor any mainland Swede he’s spoken to, has ever had the pancakes, he’s not sure if the texture of warm, coagulated rice pudding is correct. If it is, he can only question his cruising friend’s taste.

And then there’s arepas. The delicious Venezuelan breakfast dish now becoming a streetfoot staple over here. I have the right flour, the advice of a Venezuelan amiga, and any number of recipes, most of which agree they should be cooked in ten to twenty minutes.

But whatever I do, however nicely crisped and browned the outside of these patties might be, even after an hour in a hot oven, the inside seems uncooked, like — well, like a warmer version of the soft dough I started with. Using a cast iron skillet as a budan (or griddle), frying and then baking, even pricking and slamming in a microwave. Mush.

At least I have had the real thing, so I know these are not how they’re supposed to be. I guess I should go to Orinoco on Leith Walk and watch what they do. And eat some with their very own reina pepaida filling — avocado, chicken and mayo with some jalapeños (peas optional), which I did make well and appears in the pic.

I think it’s all about the base — arepa dough too dry or maybe too soggy, pannkakakakaka using the wrong rice?

Who knows? It’s back to sausage and mash tomorrow, methinks.

I can do that.

In the Immortal Words of Alexei Sayle


I wrote some time ago about my wish that all tv panel shows and debates should have philosophical linespeople, shouting things like Fault — ad hominem! to call out rhetorical devices, false facts and the like in the morass of opinion and bullshit that passes for political debate in these desperate times.

I’ve modified my views. I now want a recording of Mr Sayle, shouting Kak! Bloody kak! Bloody kak! at almost everything said on the matter — by either side, from sneering riche-nobs to bouffanted philosophers. Like the buttons on Adam Hills’ desk on The Last Leg, with their variations on Bullshit, I want someone to pop up regularly, shouting Bollocks!

Irritating and frustrating though it is to hear one’s opponents twist facts and use all manner of verbal and pictorial tricks, it’s even more irksome when it comes from the people one thinks have right and truth on their side, and who shouldn’t need to resort to egregious or downright childish methods.

Of course, it’s impossible to assign collective blame in these matters. One can’t assume every Brexit supporter is behind, or even in agreement with, the trolls and their mantras of You lost; get over it or Snowflake — or even the no doubt co-ordinated use of betraying 17.4m voters. And neither is every supporter of remaining in the EU on board with some of the more heated posts against the awful regiment of nasties (even those which aren’t actually from trolles provocateurs.

But it irks to see people overreacting to the ‘nastiness’, ‘childishness’, whatever of the Tories’ pathetic portrayal of Mr Corbyn as a chicken, over his rejection of a snap (and no doubt post-leave) general election, when they don’t seem so critical of the myriad memes using a Photoshopped, slouching Mr Rees-Mogg.

And now we have an attack on that most attackable of men, Mr Cummings, for commenting that his opponents ought to speak to someone other than ‘rich remainers’. And the attack consists of pointing out his own wealth and connections, as if that disqualifies him from speaking for the poorer and working class within society.

I’m not saying that he is doing that, not that he sees such people as anything more than electoral and economic cannon fodder — and I’m aware, as his critics don’t seem to be, that his comment was not actually for the consumption of the liberal bourgeoisie, but rather for those working folk in the Brexit heartlands outside the Metrollops. Pushing the narrative that the nobs in That London don’t care about their opinions or wellbeing is the primary aim, and, I don’t doubt, all to further the agenda of bringing down the political system in its entirety (folks like Mr Farage have stated this aim quite categorically).

But there have been many cases of wealthy people who have indeed wanted to change the system in favour of the working person’s interest; from industrialist’s son Fred Engels and Prince Mick Kropotkin to many more recent examples. I recall an interview with Raceform founder Phil Bull, where his left wing politics were contrasted with his considerable fortune, to which he retorted, “Where does it say you can’t be rich and a socialist?” Indeed, as a person who believes that absolutely everyone would have greater wellbeing in a more egalitarian (OK, anarchist) society, I quite agree, not that I’ll ever have the chance to prove it from my own position of affluence — especially post-Brexit. It does rather depend what one does with one’s wealth of course; trumpeting socialism while paying one’s employees slave wages from the decks of a fleet of luxury yachts would do little for one’s credibility.

My main point here, despite all the rambling off course, is twofold. Firstly that we do ourselves no favours simply crying no fair! at everything from prorogation to cheap attacks, especially if we then take similarly childish (but funny, I can’t deny that) swipes at side-issues like dickheads slumping on the front bench. And secondly and perhaps more crucially, if we don’t start seeing things from the other point of view and recognising where the baddies’ blows are aimed, and bloody well doing something to counter them, we only assist the rise of the nasties.

As Cummings says, the liberal lot should indeed be out there engaging with people other than rich (or poor) remainers, debating (as I say so often and so fruitlessly) in a way that accepts the possibility of being mistaken — and refuses to buy into this other, democracy-denying, defeatist and just-what-they-want-you-to-think mantra that it’s no use arguing with stupid Brexiteers cos their minds are all closed. Surely it’s them we’re trying to save from disaster and possibly even totalitarian repression. We should be working out ways to open their minds (and making sure ours stay open too), and not wasting time on all this bloody kak!

Quote Me No Quotes …


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… said Emerson; tell me what you know (isn’t it cruelly wonderful that this quote is what old Ralph Waldo is now mainly remembered by?).

Your bloggist used to be against this attitude, but now doubts are creeping in. Acknowledging that we stand on the shoulders of giants, crediting them with the groundwork seems only polite; putting a sheet over them and pretending we elevated ourselves is theft. And if someone can put what we want to say better than we ever could, it seems only right to use that version — and to mention them.

But does that not risk the life story of the original author influencing how we judge the sentiment or point being expressed?

Some are particularly rich sources of useful aphorisms. As a friend used to say, quoting Oscar Wilde is the last refuge of the person who has run out of Johnson (on other occasions he’d use, the man who is tired of quoting Dr Johnson has to start using Wilde, but that’s just the same gag). So from Pierre-Joseph Proudhon to Charles M Schulz, your merry correspondent finds no end of apposite apophthegms (that’s easy for you to say).

But then recent events have brought to mind a rather unfortunate human tendency. It used to be said that my Grandfather was no respecter of persons. Family legend had it that he had refused to see the Queen Mother when she was visiting the racecourse where he was clerk of the course, but made a point of seeing one of the rubbish collectors who needed to discuss something. Further investigation showed this to be untrue: it was the Aga Khan. But either way, rank and status was not as important to him as personality and ethics.

Nor would he assume that a person’s wise statements in the past would preclude them from talking utter bollocks today (or vice versa). He was a major influence on the present scribbler — though some of his opinions now seem dubious, to say the least, which proves the point.

But people do seem to expect consistency, and automatically use past indiscretions or recent personal weaknesses as a stick to bat away current statements they don’t want to agree with. However important or reasoned the message we obsess with the messenger’s other shortcomings. Either that or we accept any ould shite, if it comes from someone we currently admire.

If advancing years now turns someone like John Cleese into a little Englander, does that stop Monty Python being funny for liberals? And even ongoing things — when an actor or muso is found to have a disgusting private life, like Spacey, Savile or Glitter (or even just accused of it like Allen), how soon can we stand back and see that some of their work might also have some merit? Like Mr Fry, I loathe Wagner’s morals and his antisemitism, but that doesn’t stop us enjoying (much of) his music.

But what about people trying to convince us of a scientific or political viewpoint? Did Parnell’s sexual indiscretions really disprove the case for Irish Nationalism? And now, does Greta Thunberg’s autism or her youth (or her parent’s privilege, etc) prove that what she says about the impending climate doom is untrue? No; no more or less than her determination and other admirable traits make it true.

The facts can be checked and debated irrespective of how we initially receive them or the personalities of those who support or oppose them, but rather than do that so many (encouraged by the media) insist on obsessing with the messenger.

But nicking quotes and ideas without acknowledgement is risky, and it was someone doing that recently that brought to mind that, when we do so, there’s always someone somewhere with a big nose who knows, and who trips you up and laughs when you fall.

Which in turn brought to mind that Morrissey is a very good case in point.

And not two days later, a desire to comment on the sneering nature of commentators from the right, regarding bleeding heart liberals, snowflakes, losers … seeing compassion and caring as weakness, summoned up that great line: It’s so easy to love it’s so easy to hate, it takes guts to be gentle and kind.

But then again Morrissey’s now a hateful, racist twat, so it can’t be true, can it?



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Your friendly blogger has an innate allergic reaction to branding, formulae, mantras. Whether it’s the constant repetition of changed … forever [v last week’s entry] or 17.4 million voters or Radio Three’s repetition of New Generation Artist’s Scheme, he reacts negatively, possibly as an instinctive form of defence against their constant drip drip drip. Worryingly this is maybe what the plot of Quatermass and the Pit is getting at and you will be heaving telekinetic rocks at your correspondent when the next cull comes round (very soon, I fear).

While attending a number of Edinburgh Fringe comedy shows, from the stars of stage and telly, to the up-and-coming (or down-and-unlikely-to-come) stars of tomorrow, the formulaic aspects seem so jarring and jading and, for this outsider freak, spoil the pleasure. Don’t regular audiences ever tire of the performer’s own voice bidding them welcome him or her to the stage or the faux enthusiastic holler of How ya doin’, Edinburgh? Are you well? ?

OK, some, especially Paul Foot, play with those conventions a little, but from that intro to the naked callbacks and on to the claim that you’ve been a lovely audience, I’ve been Jolly Jim Jardine, and goodnight. it all feels like the same old same unoriginal.

Some years ago an encounter with some comics and other entertainers in an Edinburgh pub led to the idea of doing a double act with a more experienced performer (no names, no pack drill). This led to threats of violence, but also to the idea of a double act split over two venues. The conceit that grew from this was that Lowe and Jardine (let us say, for ’tis not a real person) have agreed to do a double act, written it and booked places for it, but a fight over top billing has led to a breakdown in communication, and the booking of two venues. After an exchange via mobile phones, each would stubbornly go on with his half of the set, which would have to be written (like a concentrated Ayckbourn idea) so that either set would be funny but only seeing both (in either order) would reveal the full humour. About five minutes got written before shiny things once again distracted your loyal simpleton.

This year’s ‘big’ idea is to piss about with the aforementioned conventions. The first idea was to play the inexperienced comic, with a card, read from in a desultory fashion, at each point acting out the realisation that the actions haven’t matched the intent; eg walking to the front of the stage before reading, Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage … oh.

But then it seemed it might be fun to do the whole damn thing in reverse. Either reversing the sense — from an opening, I’m going to be Dai Lowe, you’re going to be a wonderful audience, through to Gentlemen and ladies, did you have a good time? Please say goodbye to Dai Lowe — or actually doing the usual stuff but in reverse order (ending of course with the explanation of why it’s being done so, just before saying, Please welcome to the stage …).

This leads to the question of writing routines or gags than can start with the punchline and still amuse — and adding a few call-forwards in the early stages. You might think that they just become callbacks again, but not if the extended use of the theme comes some time after the brief (and probably baffling) ‘reference’ nearer the end — or should that be start?

Many a comic would blanche at the very idea of the above blog post. Most pros are miserable buggers in real life, terrified that anything funny they say might get nicked, and that’s a much bigger worry if it’s a whole concept getting purloined. But I’m a solitary, slow-moving, lazy bastard, who will never get round to realising either notion — so if somebody can make one work, they’re welcome to it.

I’d appreciate a comp though, when the show’s in town.

My Fringe Reviews from Edinburgh 2019


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Made in Spain 2 [Sonia Asté, Spanish standup]

Sonia is a delightful Madrileña with a hint of a US accent from years the other side of the pond. Her show is a delightful and affable 50 mins on Spain and Spanishness which doesn’t avoid touchy topics (but she doesn’t put all her gags in one Brexit). She works well with the audience (hey, I got a free abanico AND to play the tambourine!) and her breaking down the show into a ‘tapas menu’ is a neat way to give a fresh order to the riffs. ¡Muy agradable!

I’m Coming  [American Molly Brenner describes her journey to her first orgasm]

First and foremost a very well-written piece and perfectly performed. The comic content and timing was spot on. Irrespective of the topic, this is a very talented writer and performer.
As an old git (now retired from the fray), who enjoyed the ‘second wave’ of feminism and the ‘permissive society’ (so they told me) in the 70s, this was a fascinating topic too. My then wife and I had a very interesting wee book (I Sing the Body Electric, I think) about women chasing the elusive O, so this was an interesting modern take on that, albeit slightly depressing that things haven’t changed as much as we might have hoped back then. Ms Brenner is definitely a talent to watch.

Goddess [A peek behind the velvet curtain! Hilarious one-woman sitcom based on Jacqueline Haigh’s true experiences working as a receptionist in a tantric massage parlour.]

I didn’t think I’d led a sheltered life, but the world of tantric ‘massage’ parlours was a revelation to me, in this witty and personable piece. When she flyered me in my early recce, I could see Jacqueline was a natural performer and so she proved. Intimate but sparkly and charming material, beautifully put across. xxx

Illegal [Jessica Phillippi and Elena Larios play all the parts in the former’s play about attempts to move to another country, either to further a career or simply to survive

To be honest, I would probably have given this a miss, had I not known Elena from performing in the same venue as her last year. But I am so glad I didn’t. An excellent piece of theatre, a well-crafted two-hander with a much larger cast, all well delineated too. Jessica handles the challenges of parallel lives (contrasting the privileged but frustrated and the desperate) and verse drama (which skilfully distinguishes the narrative sections from the dialogues) (almost) flawlessly. The whole piece was excellently acted and had me alternately elated and fearful, and definitely struggling to hold back the tears at the end. One of the high spots of this year’s Fringe for me and I look forward to watching their future efforts (assuming our stupid government keeps letting them work here). Moving and thought-provoking

The Wrong Ffion Jones [Wales has been sealed under a glass dome, a la Truman Show or Simpsons Movie, and turned into a theme park of Welshness; will Ffion lead the rebellion, fired by conveniently forgotten real Welsh history, or will she take the man’s Bevdollars and sell out to be the Voice of Walesland?]

As a ‘fake Welshman’ from the small mining valley of Nottinghamshire, I was taken by the idea of ‘Walesland’ and keen to see this. I know enough of yr hen iaith and Catatonia and Bonnie Tyler’s back catalogues to get the (few) in-jokes, but I think it holds up anyway. Not only the specific idea of small country reduced to a theme park, but also the deeper questions of selling-out v rebellion are explored with a lightness of touch and great, gutsy charm. If I have any negatives, it would be that a few parts dragged a little and would benefit from a bit of cutting or just re-pacing, but overall a fun hour with serious, thought-provoking undertones, and what more can we ask of art? Diolch yn fawr, cariad.

Pickman’s Model [Noni Townshend tells H P Lovecraft’s chilling tale of an uncanny painter and the eldritch source of his inspiration]

I was unable to leave a formal review of this, as my old acquaintance, Noni, has wisely decided not to throw money around, like this idiot did, just to get her show onto the website. But I was very impressed and want to say a bit here. Full brownie oints firstly for not only rmemorising and delivering a finely-tuned rendition of a long tale, but also for doing so in a venue like Bar Bados, with its notorious noise-leakage from some very loud neighbours.

The rendition of the first person narrative, which, as she says, cries out for dramatic declamation, with a slight shift of stance and manner when the real protagonist, Pickman, is being represented, was very effective. Dramatic intensity and the narrator’s sense of foreboding and then horro and deftly applied, and kudos for not overmilking the final line/revelation.

It’s been interesting to see this promising performer come on over the few years since we met at a pre-Free-Fringe pep-talk. I look forward to following further exploits and progress — assuming the ghouls from the graveyard don’t drag her away first.

Best in Class [Working class comedy showcase hosted by Scouser, Sian Davies]

Reviews of showcase gigs are of dubious value, as the line up may not be the same when you go, but Sian makes a great compère and a gifted comic. The two supports when I went were both good and funny and all three were very different in style. As good as some of the ‘top’ comics I’ve seen this Fringe. Well worth seeing.

As an aside, it was interesting how flat one ill-judged gag fell, about a guy having to share a flat with his ex-partner and her new love — the ‘paraprosdokian’ twist being that said new love is female. It’s a good sign of the times that instead of being surprised, the audience mainly tutted (as good middle class folk do).

As a working/lower middle class, E Midland lad who does a fair impression of an arty-farty bourgeois, this was a good selection without thumping too many tubs. No major chips (or couscous, as Sian put it for the benefit of posher punters — surely that should be quinoa anyway?) on shoulders (ee, mine were catered by Harry Ramsdens)

Alba Flamenca [Two fine dancers, an exceptional Gaditano anarchist cantaor, a (Greek) guitarist and a cajónista]

A glass of fino and within minutes of the start I was back in my belovéd Cádiz and wondering why I ever moved to Scotland. Not quite the same as a sultry madrugada by the Atlantic at Peña Juanito Vilar, but in terms of the performers, every bit as good, and as intense as only flamenco song and dance can be. ¡Estupendo!
When’s the next flight to Sevilla?

Lovecraft (Not the Sex Shop in Cardiff) [Free cwtches and chocolate from the delightfully cuddlesome Carys Eleri, who relates the neuroscience of love, loss and loneliness with song and humour]

As a terminally lonely obnoxious old git with a scientific bent (and an ex obsessed with neurotransmitters and the ‘medicalisation of normality’), this fake (Lincolnshire-born) Welshman found a lot of stuff that was familiar, but learnt a load too. And, more importantly laughed a lot.
The show features smart songs and raps delivered in a variety of styles that would have Jones the Voice gasping in Welsh wonderment. Even if it didn’t make life lovelier in the long run, it was, as a good hug and human interaction always is, a delightful sunny interval in the Vale of Tears.
(To those prone to taking this sort of thing seriously, I am exaggerating for comic effect here; though I do have a Dignitas loyalty card, it’s only because I make them — Barry Cryer even asked me for one)

All Change


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Could we not have a moratorium on ‘changed his life … forever!’?

I mean, most changes are forever, aren’t they? Even wearing green trousers and changing back to blue makes you forever someone who has worn green trousers. Even going to see Gladys Weems of Trowbridge doing a third rate poetry recital would change me forever from a guy who hasn’t seen Gladys Weems of Trowbridge doing a third rate poetry recital into a guy who has seen Gladys Weems of Trowbridge doing a third rate poetry recital.

It’s that horrible feeling when you know they’re about to add that ‘forever’ and the only question is the length of the dramatic pause, screaming ‘No! No! No!’ at the telly. It’s like Radio Three’s branding of their very wonderful New Generation Artists’ Scheme. My heart sinks when I realise that phrase is about to be applied to everyone down to the fourth trombone in some orchestra.

Oh well, in the scheme of things these repetetive phrases are a minor irritation, but it gives me something to blog about which is less depressing than Brexiteers, climate change deniers and other twats.

Oh, and if you get the chance to see Gladys Weems of Trowbridge doing a third rate poetry recital, my advice is … don’t. It will change your life … forever.

And not in a good way.