2,4,6,8 Alleevio Knockout

A couple of weeks ago, I was listening to a podcast of The Danny Baker Show, broadcast on BBC5Live every Saturday morning. Danny’s show is a phone in, where Danny gives a list of themes (have you ever been locked in? Mundane conversations with sports stars; ‘Don’t talk to me about umbrellas’) and the public phone in with their stories, very often nothing to do with Mr Baker’s agenda.

One particular call was from a man who was head teacher at a primary school, on the theme of the playground game ‘British Bulldog’, a particularly lively tag game where participants have to run from one place to another without being ‘tagged’. If they’re tagged, they become the tagger, until only one person remains to become, I suppose, ‘British Bulldog’. Wordpretzels from across the world may have their own version, although I’ve never heard of ‘New Zealand Kiwi’, ‘Australian Wallaby’ or ‘American Eagle’ (discounting the reasonably priced clothes shops).

Anyway, this head teacher explained that British Bulldog was banned in his school because of health and safety concerns. However, on a residential school trip, which involved lots of activities that require reams of health and safety forms, he decided to throw the rule book out of the window and organise a massive game of ‘British Bulldog’. After explaining the rules to a whole generation of children who had never experienced the exhilarating violence of a playground tag game, battle commenced.

Within ten minutes, the game was abandoned when ‘Sir’ broke his arm in two places and had to be taken to hospital, proving that ‘British Bulldog’ is indeed a dangerous game and no laughing matter. Except for the kids, who must have been in hysterics.

alleevio knockout

Obviously the start of a game. No bloodstains on the floor, no small children being dragged away.

I suppose this was a tremendous indictment to health and safety, but reminded me of a playground game that involved a large number of junior school boys when I was at school, in the days before health and safety and allergies were invented.

Firstly, you had to recruit participants. This involved two boys linking arms and chanting, “We won the war, in 1964”. Other boys would then link arms and chant along, until there were a collection of boys in a long line, staggering around the playground.

I’m not sure where this chant originated, but I’m sure that the Sunday Times would have leapt on the opportunity to show how appalling the teaching of history was in our state schools. This was the 1960s, when Great Britain, as we were called then, still thought it ran the world. We lived with people who fought in the war and subliminally convinced us that the Germans were still the enemy. We read Combat magazines. We cossetted toy machine guns with grenade launchers and a tripod to stand it on so you could evenly spray the advancing imaginary Hun with imaginary bullets.

Also, you may notice that I refer to boys, not girls. In the 1960s, girls didn’t run about. They played hopscotch and a mysterious game with metal objects and a bouncy ball. They did not go near boys, unless they were made to do so (country dancing on a Thursday after lunch).

Once enough boys were collected, the game could commence. One boy would be picked to go in the middle, usually one of the more athletic ones. The rest of us would gather at one end of the playground, against the wall. The object of the game was to run as fast as possible to the other end of the playground and the safety of another wall.

The people in the middle had to tag you. Sounds easy? Well not in this game. It wasn’t a simple case of touching the runner and shouting tag, oh no. The tagger had to hold onto you long enough to say:

“Two, Four, Six, Eight, Alleevio Knockout!

The essential tactic was to be able to say this as fast as possible. You didn’t want to hold on for too long.

After which the runner was ‘it’ and joined the middle.

Can you imagine a game where you have to hold a muscular school bully for longer than a couple of seconds? The arguments over whether you had finished saying ‘Alleevio Knockout’?

Very often, these games would look like a cross between rugby, Aussie rules and cage fighting. Lots of small children left bleeding in the council bushes; staggering across the tarmac, trying desperately to fix their spectacles or find their missing teeth. Although, in the 1960s, very few children wore glasses and teeth were a luxury. Ergo fat boys – in the 1960s, government education guidelines allocated only one fat boy per class, preferably with ginger hair to concentrate the bullying factor and hence save other children. These boys would often be found during our Alleevio Knockout sessions vainly grasping at fresh air in the middle of the playground, wheezing and purple from their exertions. Upon reflection, obese people in the 1960s had a lot more resilience.

Most of the time, I was fast enough to evade capture well into the game. Graham McGifford, the fastest boy in the school who modelled himself on Billy Whiz from the Beano comic, usually won. However, during one particular round of 2,4,6,8 Alleevio Knockout, I found myself in the middle early on, with a ripped shirt sleeve and scuffed shoes. Running towards me was Ray Reynolds.

Now, Ray ‘Razor’ Reynolds was a trainee secondary school bully. He’d mastered Chinese burns and menacing looks and was half way through his investigations into farting on people’s heads and obtaining dinner money with the minimum of beating before graduating with the module ‘using a weaker boy’s head to clean a lavatory bowl’.

I braced myself. Ray was bulky, but not particularly fast. Due to his 5 a day smoking habit, his fitness also left a lot to be desired.

At the last moment, he veered to my left, but I was on my toes and took off, knowing I had the speed to cut off his escape. I took a hold of his shirt, just above the elbow.

“Twofoursixeightalleeviokn…” I started, before all the breath left my body.

Ray had deftly lifted the arm I was holding and driven his elbow into my advancing sternum. However, the pain in my chest didn’t last long, because Ray followed up with a second swing of his left arm, landing neatly across the bridge of my nose. The world disappeared in a cloud of sparkling stars as I sank to the inky blackness of the playing arena.

‘Razor’ continued his run to the other wall without interruption. He was caught two runs later by four kids jumping on him at once. I believe two of them survived to tell the tale.

I doubt very much whether the kids are allowed to play ‘2,4,6,8 Alleevio Knockout’ at Saffron Green Junior School any more. In fact, I should imagine that the head teacher is probably young enough to have been banned from playing it at school as a child as well.

The one puzzling thing I haven’t addressed is the name of the game. I have no idea of its origins. I can’t find anybody outside of my home town who played it. What’s an Alleevio? Why 2, 4, 6, 8? Yes, it’s a good way to learn your times tables. When concussed.

Wordpretzels, if anybody has the answers to my questions or has actually played ‘2,4,6,8’, please let me know.



Posted in humour, life observations, relationships, teachers, comedy, comic characters, language, linguistics, health and safety, wordpress, blogging, blogs, blog, humor, age, freshly pressed, education, nostalgia, playground games | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Do You Suffer From ICH ?

Hello, Wordpretzels, I’m here today to talk about an affliction that affects millions of people, maybe even you. You may not even realise you have it, but once I’ve described the symptoms, I’m sure you’ll be able to self-diagnose or, at least, recognise the condition in a loved one. It’s called ICH – Irrational Celebrity Hatred.

This may happen whilst watching TV. Suddenly, a celebrity face pops up on the screen that makes you feel slightly irritated. For whatever reason, without being able to put your finger on it, you find them completely annoying and talentless; how on earth did they end up on TV, being paid lots of money, being feted by others?

Elvis Presley was a victim of ICH, but found a great way to deal with his condition. He kept a revolver by his side when watching television. If something particularly annoyed him, he would shoot out the screen. Rather extreme, using a TV remote made by Heckler and Koch, but very effective and satisfying, I should imagine.

My dad had it quite badly. Whenever David Essex (1970s pop ‘heart throb) appeared on TV – whether it was Top of the Pops or Seaside Special, my dad would make a very low growling noise. The rest of us would meekly glance in his direction without moving our heads, like human pigeons. Upon catching your eye, he would mutter ‘fucking layabout’.

I’m not sure if it was David Essex’s hair. Or the ear ring. Maybe it was the way he dressed or his smug, casual air when being interviewed. Whatever it was, my dad couldn’t stand him.

Then there were the TV interviewers. For some reason, Michael Parkinson was fine. Perhaps it was because he appeared on a Saturday night when dad and his mate Reg returned from the pub in a jovial mood.

Terry Wogan was another kettle of fish. As Wogan used his Irish charm to introduce a guest, my dad would fidget in his armchair.

Wogan. Be-wigged no-gooder.

Wogan. Be-wigged no-gooder.

“Wassee good at then?” he would demand. The family were sensible enough to know this was a rhetorical question.

“He’s useless, bloody hopeless,” he would explain, jutting his jaw out to emphasise the fact.

Other chat show hosts were similarly lambasted. The late Russell Harty was ‘as silly as arseholes’. The veteran broadcaster Jimmy Young ‘an arselicker’. Bruce Forsyth, however, somebody I thought would be a prime candidate for dad’s ICH, was tolerated, seeing as he had once asked my dad for directions to Tottenham Court Road when my dad was working in the West End in the sixties and seemed to be ‘alright’.

Famous footballers, revered by others, were not held in such high esteem. Woes betide anybody who told my dad that Pele was the best player in the world. This would initiate a long list of players that were much better than Pele. Similarly, the World Cup winning midfield supremo Bobby Charlton.

“They only show those shots he hit that screamed into the net from 30 yards,” he would explain, “they never showed the other shots he had that went out for a throw in.”

So as you can see, my own father had a bad case of ICH. Unfortunately, I have a feeling it’s hereditary. I have my own list of ICH catalysts.

A particularly virulent one is the comedian Patrick Kielty, or, ‘so-called’ comedian as my mum would have said. He’s not funny, even though he thinks he is. He mixes with lots of celebrity royalty to ensure a high profile. He’s married to Cat Deeley, damn him. Ok, I realise that he rather tragically lost his father during the troubles in Northern Ireland, but does that entitle him to torment me on the TV with his smug face?

Then there’s Phill Jupitus. For a start, he spells Phil with a double l. If he was as funny as he thinks he is, he’d be Charlie Chaplin, Bob Hope, Groucho Marx and Woody Allen combined in one body. He makes appearances on smug panel shows

Phill Jupitus. Can I borrow your gun, Elvis?

Phill Jupitus. Can I borrow your gun, Elvis?

where he’s under the impression that he’s making ‘jokes’. He’s very bitter about the BBC ditching him from their 6Music breakfast show more than 7 years ago, which I was delighted about. He just makes me very irritated, the big useless lump.

Don’t even talk to me about Will. i. am. Phil with a double l is bad enough, but punctuating your name with a full stop should be a criminal offence. He makes awful music. He can’t sing. Even so, somebody in their wisdom has decided to make him a judge on a TV singing competition. Will. I . Aren’t, more like.

Likewise Russell Brand.

Russell Brand. Long words. Long faces. He's unmitigatedly disenchanted at my disconbobulation of his tracchididectic liasons into politically orientated humour based ethical revolution. Park Life.

Russell Brand. Long words. Long faces. He’s unmitigatedly disenchanted at my disconbobulation of his tracchididectic liasons into politically orientated humour based ethical revolution. Park Life.

He’s turned from a comedian to an actor to a political activist. He stinks at all of them. The thing about Russell Brand is that I want to like him. He stands up for the underprivileged, the poor, he rallies against greedy bankers and the super-rich, the tax avoiders and the terrible economic inequalities supported by our current coalition government. But I still think he’s a tit. From the first time I clapped eyes on him presenting a ‘Big Brother’ chat show I found him annoying. I initially thought some member of the audience had won a raffle to present the programme.

I asked Lady Barton St Mary if she suffered from ICH. She thought for a moment.

“I can’t think of anybody. Then again, I’m not as judgemental as you,” she said, judgementally.

“What about Steve Wright, the DJ?”  I enquired.

“Oh that doesn’t count. He really is irritating. He makes up stupid words and talks over records that he doesn’t identify and thinks he’s really funny, just because his sycophantic entourage, there to support his ridiculous ego, laugh at everything that comes out of his mouth.”

Steve Wright. No further questions, your honour.

Steve Wright. No further questions, your honour.

I rest my case. By the way, she’s right about Steve Wright, but then I do have a serious case of ICH, remember.

I don’t know if there is any way to get help or support for my complaint. Perhaps aversion therapy or a ‘Clockwork Orange’ style treatment, where my eyes are forced open and I have to watch every episode of Piers Morgan’s TV show whilst listening to ‘Steve Wright in the Afternoon’ though headphones gaffer taped to my head.

Either way, if you are a sufferer, let me know, I know it’s not just me and my family – is it?



Posted in blog, blogging, blogs, david essex, fathers, freshly pressed, humor, humour, Irrational Celebrity Hatred, irritating Celebrities, Lady Barton St Mary, mums, patrick kielty, phill jupitus, relationships, soccer, steve wright, terry wogan, will.i.am, wordpress | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Sweeney 2 is one of The Greatest Films Ever Made

A few years ago, I was involved in a conversation with my niece Suzanne, her husband Young Mr Raggett and Lady Barton St Mary, involving our favourite films of all time. The usual suspects were being mentioned. Not just The Usual Suspects, also The Godfather, Citizen Kane, Gone With the Wind, etc, etc.

“I think The Sweeney 2 was one of the greatest films ever made,” I blurted out in the middle of this cultural consideration. Young Mr Raggett looked at me, astounded. Lady Barton St Mary arched an eyebrow.

“You do talk utter nonsense sometimes,” she sighed, as the others laughed.

You see, The Sweeney was a 1970s cop show about The Metropolitan Police’s specialist unit known as ‘The Flying Squad’, affectionately known in cockney rhyming slang as ‘The Sweeney Todd’. Cockney rhyming slang will also make an appearance later on in my tale.

For years I’ve been reminded of this impulsive statement, opining that a movie spin off of a TV show, nay, the second movie spin off, could possibly rank shoulder to shoulder with Vertigo, Apocalypse Now or Taxi Driver. In fact, a few months ago, Suzanne sent me a photograph of the old cinema in my home town of Borehamwood, known as Studio 70.

The legendary theatre.

The legendary theatre. Can you make out the cinema name above the title board, conveniently camouflaged by the concrete tiles?

Studio 70 was where Nanny Janet took me to see my first feature film, Mary Poppins. In those days, there were stalls and a circle, like a theatre. There was also smoking and non-smoking areas. If you wanted a puff, you sat in the stalls on the right hand side of the aisle. Special measures were made to ensure that no smoke ever drifted over to the left hand side of the cinema. No, actually, that’s just nonsense; in defence of the old days, passive smoking, like allergies, weren’t invented until the early 1980s.

As you can see, it wasn’t the most salubrious of cinemas. Some of the charming concrete tiles have taken a wander and the front entrance looks like it could do with a good clean. As you can see, the photo was taken when the main feature was Sweeney 2 – They’re Back! Tougher Than Ever! John Thaw and Dennis Waterman!

So, here’s why I think that Sweeney 2 is one of the greatest films of all time. It wasn’t the fact that John Thaw and Dennis Waterman as Regan and Carter got to curse properly and that the fights were more violent than normal. It was the people I went with and the supporting film which I think Americans call a ‘B’ Movie.

It was a proper lads’ night out: Eggy Howe, my brother in law Laurie and my dad. Now, my dad rarely made it to the cinema, but was a big fan of The Sweeney, so decided to join us.

The supporting film was called Tiffany Jones, based on the comic strip from the Daily Mail about a model who moonlights as a secret agent, starring a rather attractive lady called Anouska Hempel and a man called Ray Brooks, who went on to play a gambler called Robbie Box in a BBC series called Big Deal. But the instantly recognisable actor who surprisingly appeared was Geoffrey Hughes, better known as Eddie Yates in the long running soap opera Coronation Street. I say surprisingly, because this particular supporting feature was nothing more than a soft porn film.

Now, I already had experience in seeing such films, having seen Emmanuelle with Debbie Seabrook the year before (see blog https://ruralspaceman.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/when-it-comes-to-love-mummy-knows-best/ ). Eggie Howe had also seen Emmanuelle. Laurie, a self-appointed man of the world, had obviously seen more than his fair share of smutty films, nonchalantly telling us he’d seen a lot more than what we had, inadvertently proving he was the biggest wanker, as Eggy helpfully pointed out later.

My dad, on the other hand, had only seen films with actors like John Wayne, Gary Cooper and Spencer Tracy. Nothing had prepared him for full frontal nudity, bare breasted massage and simulated sex on the big screen.

Within five minutes, two women had completely disrobed.

“Cor! What!”

Eggy and I turned to look at my dad.

My dad sat up straight in his sticky red flock cinema seat and blinked rapidly.

“They’ve taken all their kit off!” he explained unnecessarily. We chuckled. Laurie gave a worldly wise grunt. At least I hope that’s what it was.

The film continued, my dad chuckling and shaking his head in disbelief, repeating the phrase, “Bli-“ over and over again, a shortening of the vernacular ‘blimey’.

Tiffany Jones appeared next to a swimming pool with Eddie Yates/Geoffrey Hughes. He was on the telephone, observed by the camera from the other side of the pool. Suddenly, a female figure obscured Eddie by standing up in the shallow water, the shot at waist level. She was completely naked. Being the 1978, she had a full head of hair on her front bits. It was like looking at a 20ft image of Abe Lincoln’s chin. We were in the second row.

My dad dropped his fruit gums. In fact, he nearly dropped his teeth.

“Fuckinell you can see her Jack n Danny!” he shouted, eyes wide, pointing at the screen. For the uninitiated, my dad, a true cockney, had used rhyming slang to describe a lady’s fanny. By the way, American readers, ‘fanny’ in English doesn’t mean bottom it means ‘ladies front bottom’.

There was a momentary silence before Eggy and I, along with the rest of the audience, collapsed in laughter. My dad, composing himself, joined in.

He spent the rest of this skin flick shaking his head and saying ‘Cor blimey,’ and ‘I don’t believe it.’

By the time Sweeney 2 started, my ribs were hurting from all the hilarity. I vaguely remember Dennis Waterman and John Thaw punching thugs and ne’er do wells as well as chatting up ‘birds’ and shooting guns. I really enjoyed it, but maybe it was the whole experience of watching my dad watch Tiffany Jones that made it so memorable.

Studio 70 was knocked down in the 1980s, but that’s a tale for another day. More importantly, I think it’s time that I watched Sweeney 2 again, just to convince myself it is the fantastic action thriller comparable to Mean Streets or Carlito’s Way.

Tiffany Jones? I think I’ll give that a miss. Now my dad’s no longer with us, I’d miss all the tutting and giggling as much as I miss him.


Posted in blog, blogging, blogs, comedy, comic characters, dads, fathers, humor, humour, Lady Barton St Mary, life observations, linguistics, nostalgia, relationships, soap opera, Sweeney 2, Tiffany Jones, wordpress | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Sexton and the Fox

“I heard a bit of a commotion from the chickens, so I went out to have a look,” The Sexton explained.

“That’s when I saw him.”

The Sexton was leaning back in his wingback chair, the light from the flickered flames of the wood fire dappling across his face. He arched his back and laced the fat fingers of his large hands together across his chest. He gazed momentarily at the fireplace before continuing, aware that he’d attracted my full attention. Satisifed, he carried on in his fruity, West Country accent.

“He stood there, on top of the hill, silhouetted by the full moon. It was a clear, cold night and you could see the vapour of his breath wisp from his snout, a black shadow with ears that rotated this way and that, assessing, wary, prepared.

I wanted a closer look, so I made my mouse noise”, said The Sexton, his voice softening. He demonstrated, pursing his lips and making a high pitched squealing noise, like a rodent in distress.

“It works for attracting dogs, so I thought, why not?” he shrugged.

“Yes. So I made my mouse noise. His ears pricked up and I saw the shadowy figure of his head stiffen, snout in the air, looking for clues. He took one step forward towards me, then – hesitated. I called again – eeeekkk!

He stayed still for a few seconds, frozen in motion, his front leg in the air in front of him. Just as suddenly, he made his decision, pacing down the hill, deliberately, gingerly at first.


Now his tail was up, his ears working overtime. He broke into a confident canter, down the hill, across the shining grass, illuminated in the moonlight, straight towards me.

A few yards before he reached me, he slowed, head cocking to one side, still cautious. He paced forwards as if on a tightrope.”

The Sexton paused and straightened in the chair. Unlacing his fingers, he picked up his glass of beer and took a few large gulps, placed the pint glass back down on the occasional table next to him and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. Slowly, he leaned forward.

“Then he was there, right in front of me. Beautiful, he was, magnificent, with the pure white of his fur around his snout, highlighting his small, perfectly formed black nose; twitching, checking, assessing.

His coat was a lovely, rich red – no, more orange than red, in the night light, the sort of colouring that makes it difficult to believe that something, someone, isn’t responsible for creating it.

His head was raised, along with his crowning glory; a bushy, upright, regal tail, twitching side to side, a victorious pennant representing these nocturnal creatures, so wonderfully attractive yet so capable of incredible destruction and cruelty.

There he stood and there I stood, only two feet apart. He searched the long grass for the phantom mouse, almost aware that he’d been mistaken.

He lifted his head and we looked at each other, the yellow irises of his eyes glowing brightly, the black pupils dilating as he stared back at me, recognition in his gaze; man and fox, understanding this moment, what it signified, the ways and laws of nature and the countryside acknowledged and understood by both parties. It was as if, in that instant, there was an acceptance of our roles in this world, the majesty and brilliance of life and the beauty of it all.”

The Sexton paused, a wan smile tracing across his face like a passing cloud on a summer’s day. I waited for him to continue, knowing it was always unwise to interrupt The Sexton during one of his stories. But the pause seemed to be taking an age.

“What did you do?” I asked.

The Sexton reached for his pint glass once more.

“I released the safety catch and blew his head off.”



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New Year, Old Me

Yes, it’s January the 11th.  One of those dates where Christmas feels like a distant memory and the new year is just bedding in. As I stand on the stern of the good ship 2015, I can see 2014 getting smaller as it disappears into the general kaleidoscope of other years beginning with 20.

As you know, I’m not somebody who is at all obsessed by my health or my age, but I think it’s worth you knowing I’m writing this blog as I recover from what normal human beings would call acute pneumonia. But I am not like normal human beings, so instead of going to hospital and being put in an oxygen tent for 3 weeks, I carried on bravely last week, managing to make it to (almost) voluntary work without a word of complaint.

When it comes to the subject of age, I have no problems with that, either. Though there are certain things you have to accept. One of these things came to light a few weeks ago concerning a rather serious news item, where an ‘elderly man’ was attacked and killed. Awful, I know, but the ‘elderly man’ in question was 53 years old.

I am 54 years old. I am not elderly. I can still pogo to The Sex Pistols. I can listen to Radio 1 for nearly 3 minutes. I run around the streets in lycra shorts without fear of arrest.

Of course, there are disadvantages to being 54. For a start, I should imagine very young people stopped reading this blog after the line ‘I am 54 years old.’ Of course, none of you would ever tell I was 54 years old from my writing, because it’s so young and trendy, full of stories about flicked back hair, Farah jeans, Stowaway (Sleepy Lagoon), great films and bands of the 70s and why exactly did somebody think it was necessary to change the name of Opal Fruits to Starburst?

Hang on. Maybe I’ve got this wrong. When I say I’m not obsessed with my health and my age, what I mean is, I am obsessed with my health and my age.

For those youngsters who’ve stuck with me through this meandering blog, here’s your chance to find out a few things about older people (called ‘grunters’ in my day), some of which may be to your advantage in later life:

Ignore all those adverts on your faceache page for funeral arrangements, haemorrhoid cream, life insurance, denture adhesive, Baltic coach tours and any manner of pills, potions and suggestions for erectile dysfunction. They’ve got the wrong man. Additionally, I am also not interested in a young, enthusiastic Russian wife who wants to love an Englishman. However many hours I’ve spent looking, none of them compare to Lady Barton St Mary.

Smiling in the face of increasing age. Or they both have wind.

Smiling in the face of increasing age. Or they both have wind.

To be honest, without venturing too far into the trouser area, the subject of sex becomes less important. The motives for rushing home and jumping into bed together change. When you’re older, it’s so that you can read the latest Hilary Mantle novel or, in fact, go to sleep. Generally physical contact involves rubbing a partner’s aching shoulder or trying to turn them on their side to stop them snoring.

Of course, you are no longer seen as a threat. Generally speaking, groups of young men aren’t aggressive towards you. Groups of young women regard you as their dad. You are inert, trustworthy, benign.

I’ve often wondered whether this could be to my advantage. For example, recently I attended an event with a VIP area. Because I am old, I fancied having a look at said VIP area. So I did, wandering past officials who were carefully monitoring younger people. After a while, I wandered back out again, saying goodbye to aforementioned officials, who smiled and nodded. It’s the authority that age allows you.

It’s also true when it comes to advice or opinions on life. Some (young) body can ask you a question on a subject you know nothing about. You can give a long and detailed answer off the top of your head that will be greeted with deliberated nodding and agreement. Give the same answer when you’re 25 and the same audience would probably react with ‘What the **** are you on about?

There is of course, the constant worry about what you eat. The days of stuffing anything you like down your gob are long gone. Most of my friends now are gluten free, low carb, non-smoking, regular exercising moderate drinkers, even though most of us could have become professional a few years back. I remember The Sexton at our rugby club, downing 8 pints of bitter before ‘winning’ 4 pints of cider in the raffle. Part of the prize included having to drink all 4 pints immediately. He did. Then he threw up. Then he carried on.

The other week, I met him in a pub, clutching a small glass of spiced rum and lemonade. He eschews beer these days, he explained, preferring a couple of glasses of this instead. We were all back home and tucked up in bed safely by 11.30pm.

Although we did have a wilder night at Brummie Laurence and Jo’s house last week. We discussed our trip in April (I call it our search for an old people’s home), various grandchildren and Mad Kev’s hip replacement. We tried to play a board game that Jo had received for Christmas. Nobody could read the rules. Nurse Lynn provided us with her reading glasses, which we shared. Nobody understood the rules. After a while, we did work out the rules, but by this time Jacko had fallen asleep, snoring gently next to Nurse Lynn. She lovingly jabbed him in the ribs.

“Offside!” he blurted, suddenly awakening. He’d been to see the rugby earlier that day.

After several rounds where everybody helped everybody else so that it could be over, somebody won.

As with most of these evenings, we left it to Mad Kev to round it off with a couple of controversial remarks that I won’t bore you with here. Just to say that, as you get older, you tend not to worry so much about what other people think.

For example, you could sit in a meeting where you may think that somebody is talking complete tosh. At some point in your life, you reach an age where you stop thinking it and just say it.

Let me finish with a perfect example of this from one of the greatest practitioners of ‘saying out loud what’s in your head’ – Lady BSM’s father, The Marquess of Prestberries. A woman approached him at a party and explained she was an old friend of his son and that she had met The Marquess a few years beforehand.

“Ah yes, I remember now – you used to be very pretty!” he exclaimed, feeling pleased with himself…




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Rural Spaceman’s 2014

Well, happy new year to both of my Wordpretzels. Yes, having looked at my statistics, it appears that year on year my readership dwindles, but there’s still the two of you out there reading this rubbish. I’ve come to realise that most people give up on this blogging lark after about 6 months, but as Lady Barton St Mary always says, “You’ll always have something to say about anything.”

I’m not sure what she means by this, but my ever increasing ego takes it as a sign of impending success. Still, I hang on in the vain hope that one day a person from WordPress will choose me over plentygadzillion other bloggers and promote me on WordPress, I become famous, I’m deluged with financial offers and they make a film about my life starring Brad Pitt. Or more likely, Adrian Chiles.

Anyway, I digress – 2014:

Miss Katherine, my daughter, was 21 in February. A large party was organised in the village hall immensely enjoyed by all. The DJ who let us borrow his equipment decided to take over at 11pm and continued to play tortuous Europop dance music at 95 decibels into the early hours, even after we locked him in. We nearly collapsed with exhaustion clearing up. It took all our efforts to stop the villagers from storming Randall Towers with pitchforks and burning torches after being blamed for keeping them awake.

2014 started with a lot of running. Lots and lots of running, combined with no alcohol, which lasted until April, when I ran the Brighton Marathon. As regular readers will know, I finished 4 seconds inside my target time

Get those arms up, boy...

Get those arms up, boy…

(4hrs) but then took another hour to walk back to my hotel. That evening in Brighton, you could pick out a lot of other people who’d run that day because, like me, they were walking as if they’d messed their pants.

May saw me try my best to make up for my lack of alcohol by trying to catch up 4 months’ worth in one day while watching my beloved football team Arsenal win the FA Cup. Friends were dutifully invited round to share a takeaway meal; I dutifully left them downstairs and went to bed, waking the following morning to the beautiful but reproachful gaze of Lady Barton St Mary, who informed me that she’d returned home to find our guests sitting alone with no idea where I’d gone.

June – We see John Grant (who?) at The RSC in Stratford. Even they didn’t know who he was. I would get to see him again playing with the Royal Northern Sinphonia  at Bristol Colston Hall, giving me another opportunity to be surrounded by gay men in the dark as we all wept at the beauty of his voice and music.

Talking of weeping, our ballet experiences were once more historic. Firstly, Giselle, which never ends well (Spoiler alert), but at least she’s a happy corpse.

romeo and juliet

They both played a blinder.

June brought the opportunity to see Romeo and Juliet in the round at The Royal Albert Hall with prime seats. What’s more, it was an opportunity to see Carlos Acosta and Tamara Rojo, two legendary dancers on the brink of retirement. It was like watching, say, two legendary athletes playing their last game together, except that Carlos and Tamara never swapped shirts. This may be because they have to pretend they’re dead (spoiler alert).

July – a hot summer in England, shock horror. Those of a certain age mentioned 1976, the year girls wore their cheesecloth shirt tied at the middle to reveal their navels. I tried to persuade Lady BSM to reproduce this look, combined with a liberal spraying of Stowaway (Sleepy Lagoon)

1976 girls. Phwoar.

1976 girls. Notice the redhead in the tied up cheesecloth shirt. Phwoar.

perfume, but she just gave me a look that convinced me not to pursue that particular request. Instead, we holidayed together in Portugal, where we spent the day on leisurely walks around the golf course ducking tee shots and finding out that Portuguese food is, let us say, unique. The traditional Portuguese meal of a tin of pink salmon in hot water being one that will stay with me for a long time, as did the taste of tinned salmon.

August – the village show, where incredibly I had been made ‘site manager’. Which meant:

  1. rising at 5am to meet some insane men in order to show them where to erect market stalls in the dark.
  2. Battling with the local Women’s Institute who try and take over all the stalls like some bizarre biker gang, but without bikes and armed with floral dresses, Victoria sponges and the faint smell of Germolene. The women are even worse.
  3. Taking charge of the car park where you try and extract money from visitors who all want to park near the tea tent and all are distant relatives of one of the WI gang, qualifying them to do so.

I survived, which means I have to do it all again next year.

September – Off to see James Taylor with Lady BSM and Pen in Birmingham. Jolly good he was too, his voice still clear and sweet, even though he’s nearly 70. Also, the first artist signed to Apple records, The Beatles record label.

October – The Cheltenham Literary Festival. My colleague meets her hero, Brian May. He’s an arse. I meet my hero, Danny Baker. He’s a complete hero.danny baker 2

I meet Alan Yentob. I mistake him for somebody I’ve met through work and have a friendly chat with him, including the line, “Do you come to the festival every year?”

In November, we became part of an amazing production called ‘Bordergame’, where the audience are part of the drama. The whole thing takes place between Bristol and Newport – heck, go and read the blog…

December – Master Johnny was 18 years old. What happened to the little boy with blonde curls, twizzling his hair and sucking his dummy? He’s been replaced by a taller version, where girls twizzle his hair and he sucks on a vodka. I insist on still calling him Master Johnny, although officially he should be Young Mr Johnny.

December also brings the usual duties of buying a Christmas tree to plant in our drawing room for a month, the pleasant experience of corporate husbandry and the comfortably surreal family Christmas celebrations. This year we were spared the horror of watching The Marchioness miming the first syllable of Dictionary. However, after watching her miming, along with the efforts of the Marquess and wayward brother Uncle Robin, it appears that men and women of a certain age, when playing charades, find it necessary to either point to or grab their private areas. At times, this simple parlour game descended into rather crude impersonations of an elderly Michael Jackson. Happy days.

Other bloggers – yes there are lots of very good bloggers who may get in the way of my fame and fortune. Here are a few:

Hopes and Dreams: My Writing and My Sons – http://lillian888.wordpress.com/   Always inspiring, always entertaining. A great storyteller.


Whitesnake said it best – http://whitesnakesaiditbest.wordpress.com/about/way

Always makes laugh – I feel I know her family so well and the telephone conversations with customers in her previous job were a hoot.


Thoughts Appear – http://thoughtsappear.wordpress.com/about/

Follow a cheeky girl as she evolves into a loving partner and mother – with added Pop Tarts.

Girl on the Contrary – http://girlonthecontrary.com/about-girlonthecontrary/

More excellent personal stories.

Ben’s Bitter Blog – https://bensbitterblog.wordpress.com/about/

I’ve surprised myself – this is the only male writer on my favourites list! A great cynical view of his world. Right up my street.

A girl called Jack – http://agirlcalledjack.com/about-jack-monroe/

The only ‘celebrity’ blogger I follow – her recipes are fantastic, especially her aubergine curry!

I still miss Enter Something Funny Here (https://entersomethingfunnyhere.wordpress.com/about/). She only wrote half a dozen blogs but they always made me laugh. WordPress’s answer to Fawlty Towers, I suppose.


Films (movies) – we didn’t go to the pictures. We’re not interested in Hobbit 4- The Unending Quest for Mogadon or Star Wars 8 – Will It Never End? Hang on. We did go to the pictures. We saw that thing that was like 2001 but not as clever or as long. George Clooney was in it, along with Sandra Bullock’s bottom. She smashes up lots of space craft belonging to other countries before landing in a lake. Where she’s captured by monkeys. Maybe I made that bit up. Anyway, it was fun.

Telly – Game of Thrones, how brilliant. If only Lord of the Rings could be like it. Can you imagine?

“Gandalf, the elves of Amoxicillin wish talk with you.”

“Tell ‘em to **** off. I’m completed smashed on wine, I’ve got two naked women fiddling with me in the bath and I’ve just chopped off the head of that ugly bloke with no genitals who keeps saying ‘precious’”

The Walking Dead – more gory, more graphic, great character development – dark, dirty and uncompromising.

“It gets better and better” – Lady BSM.

Missing – James Nesbit manages to convey all emotions at once with his eyebrows. If he doesn’t get a BAFTA, there is no justice, ditto David Tennant in Broadchurch.

The Fall – a good looking serial killer. A seriously sexy detective with issues. Gillian Anderson wasn’t my type in The X Files. The older, English Gillian Anderson certainly is.

The Mimic – very, very funny. Catch it if you can on 4OD in the UK.

Utopia – More darkness with a yellow background. A triumph. More Arby, please.

The sainted Noel Edmonds continues his fine work on Deal or No Deal, an absolute staple of my day to day life and a constant philosophical touchstone of modern existence.

Music – No new John Grant, but the recordings of him with the BBC Philharmonic are worth a listen.

Alt-J’s second album ‘This is All Yours’ – experimental but very listenable.

Temples – Sun Structures – That lovely 60s/70s fuzzy sound with a Marc Bolan like front man.

Lana Del Rey –Ultraviolence – Lizzie Wooldridge is back with a smoky, dark, exotic album, full of slightly uncomfortable song titles and lyrics. ‘West Coast’ one of my favourite songs of 2014.

La Roux – Trouble in Paradise – yes! La Roux! That miserable looking girl that we’d all forgotten about came back with a great album – I particularly like ‘Uptight Downtown’.

Teleman – the lead singer of Pete and the Pirates pops up in a new band. Distinctive voice, lovely sounds.


I know I’ve missed a lot, but that just tells me I’ve had a great year with another one to follow. Talking of following, I’d like to wish both of my readers a happy new year, but I doubt you’ll be reading this until February, in which case – have you seen that Easter eggs are in the shops?

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Wayward Uncle Robin’s Christmas Happening

Having slipped Parslow the groundsman a couple of jazz cigarettes, Wayward Brother Uncle Robin managed to infiltrate the inner sanctum of Randall Towers today, breezing into the Great Hall, emanating the distinctive aroma of patchouli, his Afghan coat flapping behind him. The Marquess of Prestberries’ younger brother never failed to make an entrance.

“Hi Cats,” he huskily said, “I need you to give me some positive vibes – you dig?” he asked, shifting from foot to foot in his open toed sandals. I considered the wisdom of wearing this type of footwear in December.

“It’s like, my Astrological Freak Out in a week’s time. Good times. The only real bummer is that I haven’t got any food. I couldn’t score a turkey, could I? It’s just that I’m pretty short of bread and the man is really sticking it to me at the moment. I know my niece usually has a well-stocked freezer…”

At this point, Lady Barton St Mary, having heard the commotion being made by Thatcher, the vicious guard dog prevented from doing its job by our corrupt groundsman, entered the hall. Uncle Robin suddenly fell quiet, staring at her ladyship, his Adam’s apple bobbing up and down beneath his white goatee beard. He managed to compose himself and broke into his trademark  charismatic smile.

“Hey, beautiful Lady, it’s me, Uncle Robin,” he explained unnecessarily, spreading his arms in a messianic way.

“I’m in need of some real heavy help from my groovy niece,” he continued, “I can tell by your aura you’re ready to light up my life and introduce some peace and love into the cosmos.”

Lady BSM folded her arms and stared levelly at Wayward Uncle Robin.

“What do you want?” she asked him sternly. He explained his predicament.

With the slightest of smiles, she waved her hand.

“I’m sure Mrs Dallimore can accommodate you,” she said.

Uncle Robin skipped forward and embraced Lady BSM in a bear hug.

“You are one cool aristo chick, baby,” he murmured, smiling benignly.

Whilst Mrs Dallimore was summoned from below stairs, Wayward Uncle Robin took the opportunity to explain his Astrological Happening, an annual event that coincided with Christmas but ‘wasn’t tied down with all the heavy Jesus rap’, as he described it. He showed me a few photographs from previous ‘happenings’, mainly involving him and a selection of ladies in their sixties. I would have preferred it if they’d taken the photos before removing their clothes, but you can’t have everything.

Five minutes later, he was skipping off down the drive, turkey crown swinging in his duffle bag, ‘laying some skin’ on Benfield the butler as he passed by.

Having left behind his small volume of beatnik poems and some king size cigarette papers, I suspect he may be returning soon.

In the meantime, let’s hope Wayward Uncle Robin enjoys the turkey as well as the company of some scantily clad sexagenarians during this festive period.

Far out, man.


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