Summertime in a Fairy Tale House

It’s the back end of July, which means I get to have a few weeks away from (almost) voluntary work, because having time away from the shop is healthy but also due to the fact they won’t pay me during the school holidays. Now that Master Johnny and Miss Katherine are over 18 and able to look after themselves officially (they’ve managed it for years unofficially), it means my parenting skills are hardly ever required. Obviously, my parenting skills have always been what could be described as ‘light touch’. The technical term, apparently, is ‘Benign Neglect’ – if you are inclined to believe what the consultant at A&E told me on a couple of occasions. I thought he’d made it up until some clever social worker used the same phrase.

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is they’re perfectly capable of watching TV all day without me checking on them every other hour, which means I have time to do lots of other stuff, like writing blogs, making videos and playing on the Play Station, which is something I couldn’t do years ago because there was always a bloody kid on it.

Exciting times!

However, there are a couple of drawbacks:

1. The shop has now given me a special magic key ring which allows me to look at what’s being said at (almost) voluntary work, which means I can get involved in (almost) voluntary work every day, rather than build a decent team on Pro Evolution Soccer Master League that can compete for European glory.

2. There are grown up jobs to do at home.

Lady Barton St Mary, aware that my time away from (almost) voluntary work may lead me into an idle and wasteful lifestyle, has used all of her creative corporate thinking to devise an effective work development programme to make sure that my daytimes are not frittered away watching cat videos on Faceache.

My initial self assessment interview went well, with a reasonable list of SMART targets agreed for the coming weeks. Main issues included renovating and painting the windows of Randall Towers; trimming the gigantic hedge that hides the electrified fence from the villagers and repairing the dining chairs in the K word.*

Hasn’t he got staff to do all this? I hear you say. Well, of course, but Lady BSM didn’t become a financial guru without driving through efficient fiscal methods, so using me as an effective member of house staff is an effective money saver.

Having signed the appropriate papers and agreed to a performance review in 4 weeks’ time, I set about the dining chairs with enthusiasm. Amazingly, a substance called Hard as Nails worked wonders, although the antique dining chairs have yet to be tested by Master Johnny and his special ‘lean back on two chair legs to get the Reggae Reggae sauce’ move.

One chair left to be Hard as Nailed and my first objective will be achieved.

So on to the windows. Climbing 30 feet into the air on a light aluminium ladder isn’t my idea of fun, but I had a job to do and Deal or No Deal is on a summer break, so I was very brave.

I’d forgotten one thing. Like most parts of Randall Towers, a gothic stately home, the window frames are made of ancient meringue. Additionally, the previous ‘craftsperson’ had stuck the glass into the frame with what appeared to be Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum in 1965. Because they didn’t want to remove the old putty, the glazing was proud of the frame and a new frame formed with more Wrigley’s, though it may have been Bazooka Joe.

I carefully removed all the chewing gum and managed to lift out the glass in one piece. I lovingly scraped out all the old putty, smoothed the edges with sandpaper and introduced the antique glass back into the frame, held with fresh putty. Carefully balancing on the ladder, I squeezed the putty around the frame and worked it into a smooth bevel with my putty knife. I would have stepped back to admire my work, but that would have led to my shins ending up in my hip joints.

I cleaned all my equipment and returned it to our garage, satisfied with my day’s work.

Later on, I remembered that I’d left a chisel on the window sill, so made my way to the room to collect it. The newly fitted old glass had a perfect split right down the middle, proving that all the aged glass in Randall Towers is made of Spangles. I am now convinced that this old place is where the witch in Hansel and Gretel lived before all the sweets went way past their sell by date.

 

 

Randall Towers - circa 1880.

Randall Towers – circa 1880.

Of course, I will persevere. I have a review to pass. Once I’ve got over this little problem, I have to ask our neighbours if I can come on their land to paint more windows, hoping they’ve forgotten the time during another work programme when I flooded their house.

But that’s another story…

 

 

* K Word – see blog The K Word from 2012. Not for those of a nervous disposition.

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Legs or Pedals?

Wordpretzels, the summer is here and the weather is clement – perfect for getting the bike out of the garage and going for a ride. Or is it better to put on my Asics and set off for a run?

Which one is better? Cycling or running? Perhaps the best way to tackle this issue is to look at the salient points.

Expense

I suppose that running wins hands down when it comes to expense. All you have to do to go for a run is strip down to your kaks, pull on a pair of plimsolls and hit the road, whereas cycling requires something called a bicycle, which is available across a huge price range, from ‘mega cheap it must be rubbish’ to ‘it’s so expensive you’re an idiot’. That’s before we consider a helmet, gloves, brightly coloured cycling jersey, shorts with a chamois gusset (easy girls), cycling socks, cycle shoes and oh, the pedals required to fit the cycle shoes.

However, if you continue to run regularly in your kaks and plimsolls, you will blister so badly all your toenails will go black, your crotch will rot and your nipples will fall off. This may not happen, if in the interim time you’ve been arrested for running around in public in your kaks.

You will be required to go to a ‘specialist shop’ where somebody in a track suit will tell you whether you are an overpronator, underpronator or a neutral before removing a sizable amount of cash from your person for a lurid pair of cushioned running shoes. You will also be motivated to buy a garishly coloured polyester top, some running shorts – too short and

Cyclists - like runners, but with different silly shoes.

Cyclists – like runners, but with different silly shoes.

you look as if you’re hurrying to the nearest gay club; too long and the chafing will make you walk like you’ve pooed yourself for a couple of days. Personally, I wear long lycra shorts that are clingy, accompanied by a suitably long top to prevent any hint of indecent exposure. Well, at least until next month when my case comes up.

Then there are the running socks; you know the type – the white ankle type, only worn by middle aged men and St Trinian’s schoolgirls.

 

 

The Experience

I’ve had several discussions about the benefits of running over cycling. I realise that cycling is a healthy pastime that can help with fitness and weight loss. However, I like cycling because it means I can travel at least twice as far as I could when running. But is it better for my fitness? When you run, for example, you can’t struggle to the top of a hill and then sit back and look at the scenery as your legs freewheel down the hill. No, you have to keep your legs moving. Also, there’s the ‘refuelling’ issue. When running over a

considerable distance, you may consume a sports gel at a certain point. It’s unlikely that you’d stop halfway through your run at the pub and have a couple of pints and some chips, which seems to be the habit for a large number of cyclists. Our local pub is very popular with cyclists, most of who seem to spend longer in the bar than in the saddle. The stretching of lycra under the strain of a well-stocked beer belly is almost audible.

Maintenance

I’m afraid this one is a definite winner for running. I have a terrible record when it comes to punctures. I think that more often than not I get a puncture when out on a cycle. In fact, on my last jaunt, I had a total of 3 punctures in 24 miles. To combat this, I spent a lot of money on some ‘puncture proof’ tyres.

“They’re quite difficult to fit,” explained the bike shop owner, after taking my money. Cheers then.

I burst 2 inner tubes trying to fit them.

“Go to Halfords and get them to fit them,” Lady Barton St Mary suggested.

“Certainly not,” I replied haughtily, “I’m pretty sure I can fit a new inner tube.”

“Then I’d advise you to take your bike wheel, buy an inner tube and fit it in the car park. Any trouble and you can always buy more inner tubes.”

What did she think I was! A cack handed idiot?

After bursting two more inner tubes whilst sweating and swearing profusely in Halfords’ car park, I gave up and returned to the shop before I started to frighten passing children, who were staring wild eyed at the old man in the sodden shirt and oil stained suit shouting ‘Fuck my old boots’ at the top of his voice, as their parents hurried them away.

The 10 year old sales assistant calmly took my wheel from me and deftly fitted a new inner tube in 5 minutes.

“Why can’t I do that?” I asked him.

He tapped his nose and stroked his ‘yet to start shaving’ chin.

“Experience,” he nodded, sagely.

I bought another inner tube, just in case the bike shop owner was lying about the tyres.

Of course, this would never happen when out running. If I, or my weekend running partner Noel, were to run a 10 mile circuit, we wouldn’t pull up suddenly, saying, “Hang on! My trainers got a flat!” followed by a search around in a little bag for some patches, French chalk, rubber glue and a piece of sandpaper.

I haven’t even mentioned gears, brake cables or a chain break, which would be much more serious. I can’t think of a similarity when it comes to running, unless it’s:

“Hang on, Noel! My testicles have come loose! Have you got a spanner?”

This would be followed by half an hour of fiddling around with my undercarriage with the inevitable huffing and puffing and blackened hands from all the oil. Not that my privates are lubricated in that way.

Mind you, there are times when my knee goes twang, but if I let it rest for a few weeks, it gets better. If I just put my bike in the garage, it wouldn’t fix its own testicles. I mean chain.

Runner, with properly tightened nuts.

Runner, with properly tightened nuts.

So, what’s the verdict?

Running keeps me fit and thin(ner). Cycling is good fun.

They both have their advantages. Either way, I get to wear lycra, the choice of material for middle aged men training for a mid-life crisis.

 

Posted in humour, life observations, comedy, comic characters, clothes, wordpress, blogging, blogs, blog, humor, ageing, health, running, DIY, freshly pressed, cycling | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Another Day at (Almost) Voluntary Work part 4

At (almost) voluntary work today, Mr Dashingly-Tall asked me when I was taking my leave from the shop. “A week on Friday,” I informed him. He frowned momentarily and told me that shop holidays started on the 21st July.

“Silly me,” I said, “good job you told me, otherwise I would have spent all day in bed with a bottle of scotch on that day!”

He gave me one of his special smiles, patted me on the head and pressed a shiny sixpence into my hand. Of course, this means I am obliged to spend my holiday time on extra duties, including shop training for somebody called Mandy Tory. I believe I read somewhere that her family were keen on closing us down, but I’m sure that’s not true.

Happy days.

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Rural Spaceman’s Art Experience

A few weeks ago, Lady Barton St Mary and I visited London, a large city in the south of England full of busy, aggressive people who are constantly angry about having no room to move and insist on paying twice as much for everything to maintain their misery.

In order to find some form of rural tranquillity, we visited The National Gallery, which is in front of a huge patio with a fountain and a concrete column with a statue of David Blaine standing on top of it in a funny hat. I think.

Now, until this point, I’d never been much of an art aficionado. I was good at drawing cartoons when I was at school, but never very good at any other form of art. My art teachers were always kind and complimented me on my latest caricature, but I could see in their eyes I was never going to grow up, hire a studio in an old warehouse, grow a wispy beard, wear a linen smock and a nose ring. Remember, this was the 1970s, when stereotyping was de rigueur.

Anyway, having decided to educate myself, I invested £4 in the audio tour of the best 30 pictures in the house. Lady Barton St Mary followed suit, even though she’s good at art (although she’s never rented a studio, grown a wispy beard or had a nose ring. Not sure about the linen smock).

Suddenly, due to some magical headphones, art became interesting, rather than loads of old paintings stuck on a wall. The history, the deft use of brush strokes, how these artists used techniques to relate light and shade – it all became clear to me. Of course, The National Gallery’s Greatest Hits was in chronological order, so the first few rooms of 16th and 17th century artwork was almost exclusively god bothering, but not at all boring, since biblical tales are all about death, destruction, sex, murder, slavery, sacrifice, torture and pain, like a Game of Thrones’ version of Harry Potter.

I saw some real masterpieces, things I’d seen in books or on the TV but never in real life: Constable, Turner, Van Gogh – all with explanations from the lady talking into my ear. It was thoroughly enjoyable.

By the time I reached number 30, I felt I was ready to offer my own guide to art. So here it is, my own observations of paintings that caught my eye. I’m sure you are all aware of the artists responsible for creating these masterpieces, so I don’t have to bother you by telling you.

IMG_1929

This featured in the top 30, a picture of Jesus being carried by John the Baptist after his crucifixion to his resting place, a dramatic and powerful image. What intrigued me was Mary Magdalene, sitting to the left, texting on her mobile phone.

 

 

 

IMG_1931

A very early poster for ‘Carry On Bishop’, with Joan Sims and Bernard Bresslaw. Unfortunately, this film was never released, due to the fact that the poster was painted in 1730 and cinemas and Kia Ora orange drink hadn’t been invented yet.

 

 

IMG_1932

 

A portrait of the singer/songwriter Gilbert O’Sullivan, around the time of his second album ‘I’m a Writer Not a Fighter’ (1973).

 

 

 

IMG_1934

The artist has managed to capture a rarely seen side to Bill Bailey, the musical comedian, in reflective mood.

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_1936

A recently found painting of Simon Pegg, seen here playing Ed Sheeran in the much anticipated biopic ‘Cool Hand Lute’.

 

 

 

 

IMG_1937

Slightly blurry photo due to me being chased by the security guards, this figure rather alarmingly looks like my dad. If my dad had dressed up in finery and had worn a powdered wig. Which he wouldn’t have done, since it would have made him look like (quote) ‘a f***ing big Mary Anne…’

 

 

 

IMG_1938

It’s nice to know that the picture that used to hang in my mum and dad’s house that we gave away to the charity shop ended up in The National Gallery. What a small world.

 

 

 

 

Amazingly, a week later, I found myself in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, where we viewed these beauties:

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Illusionist and mind reader Derren Brown, in a very early publicity photo – don’t stare at this painting for too long, otherwise he will be able to tell what your pin number is.

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_1977

 

A promotional poster for Brian May’s solo tour, long before badgers became a terrorist group and he a sympathiser. Amazingly, the instrument he is playing here is the same one used by Simon Pegg in the film ‘Cool Hand Lute’.

 

 

 

IMG_1978Finally, one of my favourites, inspired by Kate Winslet who starred in the film ‘Titanic’ as a posh lady who shoves a dirty oik off of her raft before he drowns her. Having promised to grow a wispy beard/wear a smock/have my nose pierced I am still unable to persuade Lady Barton St Mary to re-enact this scene. “Don’t be silly,” she says. Not for the last time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in art, Birmingham Museum, blog, blogging, blogs, comedy, comic characters, freshly pressed, humor, humour, Lady Barton St Mary, linguistics, London, The National Gallery, wordpress | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Rural Spaceman – You’re Fired.

rob sugar

Just over a week ago, my Faceache friend Lisa and a couple of others tagged me in a post made by a business website:

“Hi all!!!! I am on the hunt for male bloggers. If you are a man who is a fitness fanatic, into health, good at fashion, a knowledgeable cook, a single parent or a business owner we would love to welcome you to our team of bloggers. Please note that we are looking for dedicated bloggers who will be able to submit at least one blog of 350 words a month. Your article should not be a direct promotion of a product or service you are associated with.”

Well, I thought, no harm in giving it a go, so I sent them an e-mail with the title Me Man, Me Blog:

Several of my friends on Faceache have sent me your message appealing for a male blogger who is a fitness fanatic, into health, good at fashion, a knowledgeable cook, a single parent or a business owner. Well, indeed I am a man, which is a good start. I also blog once a week as rural spaceman, which is also helpful. I am a regular runner, don’t eat beige things, love shopping for clothes and have to cook tea every day. I’m not a single parent but had to look after my kids when they were little, because my wife is a very successful business woman (one of Cotswold Style magazine’s top 50 business women of the year). I still have to tend to them in the middle of the night when they leave the club with enough money for a kebab but not a taxi. If you would like to sample some of my blog, please feel free to follow the link below. Don’t worry if you find yourself saying ‘What’s he on about?’, most people do. I think that the blog entitled ‘I Married a Chartered Accountant’ may appeal to the business community, but I would like to point out I can write about virtually anything without any previous experience. I look forward to hearing from you soon, unless you think I’m rubbish in which case thanks for reading this far.

I received this reply:

Sounds greatSmiling face with smiling eyes  would love to have you on the team. I will send you through a document with the guidelines etc to follow.

ThanksSmiling face with smiling eyes 

 

I’d been hired! I wrote my first blog, just over 350 words, less than 500, entitled ‘How to be a Corporate Husband’ and pinged it back. Almost immediately I received another e-mail. Considering it was nearly 8pm on a Sunday, I was impressed by their dedication:

Hey,

 Wow!! AmazingSmiling face with smiling eyes  I will get it published right awaySmiling face with smiling eyes  Could you email me a short paragraph about you and what you will be writing about please? Its for your bio.. Oh I will need an image of you too if that’s ok??

Thanks

The following morning, I received this e-mail:

That blog you sent was really funny but I think some of our readers won’t really see the funny side.. I had to take it down for this reason. If would like to write more for us please could you try and tone it down a little?? haha

If you have a read of some of the other articles you can see what we are looking for.

 

Thanks

After careful consideration, I replied:

Oh dear. I’ve never been sacked on my first day before.  Unfortunately, some readers will never see the funny side. Having read some of the other blogs, I realise I may have to considerably lower my tone. haha I’m not sure I could beat how to keep your chocolate in the fridge, but having seen nearly every episode of The Apprentice and most of Dragon’s Den, I’m sure I could write some very insightful self help business consultancy blogs. What do you think? Haha

They replied:

Hi Rob,

Hahaha! That would be smashing Smiling face with smiling eyes  

 

Thanks

“No,” said Lady Barton St Mary, “I think it’s time you stopped now. They don’t get you and they never will. Leave them alone.”

Here’s the offending blog:

How to be a Corporate Husband

There’s an old saying: “Behind every successful man there is a woman.”

When I say old, I mean at a time when women were called ‘birds’, worked as nurses, secretaries or air hostesses or generally stayed at home looking after children. These days, things are certainly different, although there’s still a way to go. I know, because I happen to be married to Lady Barton St Mary, a highly successful business woman, a financial director of a large multinational company.

Here are my top 10 tips for being a corporate husband:

  1. Don’t take offence when your director wife criticises your culinary skills. Shrieking ‘I’ve been slaving over that for hours, you beast!” and locking yourself in the bathroom is not constructive. Not that I’ve done that, as far as you know.
  2. Don’t be surprised when she’s not interested in your phone call in the middle of a board meeting about whether we have frozen chips or not. She’s got other things on her mind.
  3. Improve your ironing skills. Embrace it. Make it entertaining by watching sports and box sets on TV. Don’t be surprised at the sheer volume of ironing you have to do. Corporate wives appear to have more clothes than Debenhams.
  4. Be prepared for your partner coming home still in company director mode. Typical signs include walking around the house with their hands behind their back inspecting things and saying things like, “I think it would be a good idea if you…” Gently remind your corporate wife that she is now at home and you are not an employee but somebody who will see her in her nightie brushing her teeth at bed time.
  5. Resist any attempts by your wife to organise a meeting to formulate your personal development plan with SMART objectives. The last thing you want is to fail to meet your targets and the threat of being replaced by a more efficient corporate husband that looks like Channing Tatum.
  6. Company directors work long hours. Don’t phone them up and ask them when they are coming home. They will always tell you half an hour. They will always be lying.
  7. Remember, they are in control. If they ask you to decide something, they want to be sure the decision they’ve already made will have your eventual backing.
  8. Don’t ask too many questions about what they’ve been doing all day. You will rarely understand the answer. But that might just be me.
  9. Social events are a potential minefield – on a night out paid by the company, do not order a vintage bottle of champagne and whisky chasers. Ending the evening doing the hokey cokey with your spouse’s employees whilst wearing a traffic cone on your head will not end well.
  10. Be thankful that you have an intelligent, powerful woman as a life partner. If nothing else, it gives you the chance to write blogs about it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dinner Date with a Beauty Queen

I had the pleasure of spending Monday evening in the Chelsea Brasserie in Cheltenham, a rather swish venue so typical of this fashionable Regency town, where I had arranged to meet Sophie Lydia Smith, winner of the culinary TV show ‘Come Dine With Me’ and current Miss Cheltenham, for a dinner date.

IMG_2027

Don’t worry, Wordpretzels, Lady Barton St Mary was in attendance, since this particular dinner was a charity do in aid of The Hollie Gazzard Trust*.

You see, I used to work with Sophie’s mum Sonia many years ago, in a team that had few restrictions and were let loose on the general public to create fun events without any guidance. Fortunately, Sonia was good at organising and I was good at looking supremely confident when not having a clue what I was doing, which meant that most of the time we managed to appear competent, which was a complete lie. It did set us up for  our later careers, realising that the majority of people have no idea what they’re doing, but get away with it by pretending they do.

I’d seen the invitation on my Faceache page a couple of weeks earlier, posted by Sophie’s dad Chris. I really wanted to attend for the following reasons: I wanted to catch up with Sonia and Chris and also support Sophie’s meal. It was based around Sophie’s winning menu from the TV programme ‘Come Dine With Me’, where four or five people from a particular region cook meals for each other in their homes and are scored 1-10 accordingly. There was a possibility that Sophie’s losing competitors would attend, including an eccentric millionaire whose personal styling could best be described as Catweasel meets Peter Stringfellow, a female rugby player with an aversion to underwear and another woman who I can’t remember at all but was nice to Sophie. None of them made an appearance.

We arrived early; in fact, at the same time as the hostess and her mother, which meant that we hid in a corner of the restaurant whilst everything was set up. Sophie somehow managed to have plenty of time for everybody, a real natural, not what you would expect from your stereotypical beauty queen, which shouldn’t have been a surprise. You see, she’s not your typical beauty queen, like the ones I remembered on TV when I was a kid and beauty contests were run by Eric and Julia Morley. The girls were vapid creatures that were easy on the eye but lacked any substance. Most of them wanted world peace, a good husband and loved animals and children, but weren’t particularly interested in a career. Sophie, however, was using her position to promote women in business. Being in construction and being a chartered surveyor, she is very passionate about showing women are capable of doing jobs that have been considered a ‘male’ occupation.

I’d first become aware of this a few months ago when I turned on my TV on a Friday night. It was tuned to BBC 1’s ‘The One Show’, a light entertainment/current affairs show that I never watch. They had an article on beauty pageants and there in a crowd of tiaraed  beauties was Sophie. After the pre-recorded article, there she was sitting on the sofa next to guest Louis Theroux, who gave a micro version of the ‘Louis Theroux meets’ treatment. Then, Louis Theroux was invited to finish the show singing karaoke whilst Sophie dutifully danced in the background. It was like a surreal dream and I texted her mum to tell her so.

After a short time, Sonia explained that we had allocated places to sit – she’s always been frighteningly organised. Our names were not on the list. She was mortified and employed the old team tactic of blaming somebody else.

“It’s Sophie’s fault”, she explained, but we were philosophical about it. We’d booked at the last minute, we could sit anywhere. As it turned out, we hit the jackpot, getting to sit with Chris (Mr Cheltenham) who is in the running for nicest man in the world, although I don’t think a tiara would suit him.

Meantime, Sonia realised that she needed to sell raffle tickets. I volunteered, going about my newly found duty with enthusiasm. Everybody bought tickets and I got to know the name of everybody in the restaurant, as well as having some time to have a good chat with Sonia (Mrs Cheltenham) as we folded the freshly sold tickets. It felt like old times.

The meal was very tasty – crab starter, lemon and thyme chicken for main and a chocolate pudding dessert. Entertainment was provided by internet sensation Ellie Higgs, friend of Hollie.

The raffle was entertaining just for the fact that Miss Cheltenham had consumed a couple of glasses of wine and was rather relaxed. I had this image of her, microphone in hand, Tiara on the side of her head, sash around her ankles, singing “Dontcha” to a bemused collection of diners, but she didn’t, reserving herself well enough to deny giving her long suffering brother £50 of John Lewis vouchers even though he had the winning ticket.

Then it was time to go, saying our farewells to the hosts and all the people I’d befriended whilst taking their money for raffle tickets. As we disappeared into the mild midsummer evening, I was reminded that all this beauty queen stuff wasn’t new to me. After all, I am married to Miss Staunton Village 1976…

*Hollie was the victim of a knife attack by her former boyfriend in a hair salon where she worked. Her family have set up The Hollie Gazzard Trust to help trainee hairdressers and victims of domestic violence. To find out more, go to:

http://holliegazzard.org/

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in blog, blogging, blogs, freshly pressed, humor, humour, Lady Barton St Mary, Miss Cheltenham, Sophie Lydia Smith | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Elton in the Shed

Ok, look, Wordpretzels, I ‘ve had a look back at my recent blogs and realised there’s a danger that I’m turning into the NME, if the NME spent 6 months going to see lots of legendary acts from the 1960s and 70s. But I can’t let this moment pass without telling you all about Elton John playing at Kingsholm, home to the glorious Gloucester Rugby team.

When this concert was first announced, I had to check it wasn’t some kind of practical joke. It was hard to imagine Elton, one of the fussiest, cosseted music stars prone to explosive outbursts, playing in Gloucester. Now, our fine city has a lot of qualities, but it is not known for being pretentious or for standing for any precociousness. You see, as I’ve explained before, rugby football in Gloucester is a way of life, the team supported by all and sundry like a football team. Their fans are not backward in coming forward. In fact, the whole city takes no nonsense. The Sexton calls it a frontier town. So, I feared that Elton, upon arriving in Gloucester, would react in the way a very spoilt person who is used to shopping in Harrods being made to do his weekly purchases in Lidl.

But it was true, so Lady BSM bought some tickets early on in prime position. Elton was playing in ‘The Shed’, the infamous stand where Gloucester fans dish out their worst to the opposition, with seating on the pitch and in the stands. Actually, he wasn’t, the stage was built in front of The Shed. Of course, I’m used to being at Kingsholm to see the rugby, but this was a very slightly different audience and a bigger one than normal: sixteen and a half thousand Elton fans, including us and Miss Katherine, Pen and Miss Beth, who had The Sexton’s ticket. He’d been invited on a rugby tour to Ireland, so rather than politely turn the offer down with the excuse that he was going to see Elton John, decided on the option that would stop the piss being taken out of him by his rugby club cronies for all eternity.

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Yellow Brick Road in Kingsholm Road.

Supported by Bright Light Bright Light, fronted by a rather sweet young man from Wales with a touch of Freddie Mercury about him, Elton finally appeared in front of The Shed to the haunting opening bars of ‘Funeral for a Friend’. He was resplendent in sparkly red coat, hair in place. We were 26 rows back, centre left of stage, with a great view of him. Two people a few rows down leapt to their feet, as did the rather imposing female steward at the front of our row, immediately at their side and demanding they sit down. Meanwhile, another man on the opposite side of the aisle tried his luck, with similar treatment from the zealous security woman. He tried again a few minutes later, resulting in a face to face argument with the yellow jacketed one, all played out in mime, as Elton blasted out ‘Bennie and the Jets’. It was, of course, quite distracting, but we had some respite during ‘Candle in the Wind’, which isn’t the sort of song you leap to your feet and dance about to. But when Elton launched into ‘All The Girls Love Alice’, the long haired man who wanted to stand up decided to wave his arms back and forth furiously, the elderly man beside him shrinking in fear of being battered. The large imposing lady returned to his side, demanding calm, before returning to her own seat at the front, right under Elton and his piano.

This is when it happened. The Elton melt down.

Lady Barton St Mary and I saw him play a double header with Eric Clapton 22 years ago at Wembley Stadium, when she was with child. We’ve always told Miss Katherine she’d been to an Elton John concert. He’d had a tantrum on stage that day, but his microphone was turned off. That was the reason for the melt down. On the big screens, even a poor lip reader could see his comments about the sound engineers were less than complimentary. Several expletives and the distinct possibility that their careers with Elton may be at an end were suggested by His Regness.

But this time, the target of his ire was the rather officious steward sitting below him.

“Can I just say something to the stewards? Especially this one sitting down here with the pony tail. These people have come to hear music and if they want to put their hands in the air let them. This is not fucking China, so piss off. You’ve got a fucking uniform on and you think you’re Hitler and you’re not. You can piss off! I mean really. Don’t have any sympathy with her, this is a concert ok?”

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No stewards! Let’s stand in front of all the people who paid a fortune for their seat! Simmering Elton in the distance.

There was a momentary silence followed by a mighty roar of approval. The woman who had been the victim of Elton’s anger looked around, wide eyed, before bursting into tears and running off down the aisle. Two elderly ladies in front of us decided that they had seen enough, put on their coats and left. On reflection, Elton’s outburst was a little unfair, comparing her to Hitler. Then again, if there was something Hitler was good at, it was crowd control. I also assume he won’t be playing a gig in Beijing anytime soon. To be fair, if he wasn’t a celebrity behemoth he would be regarded as elderly and this is the sort of thing OAPs say.

Elton played on for a couple of songs, which gave the crowd the opportunity to do what all crowds do in these circumstances: no steward, no rules!

Hence a huge rush from the rear seats to dance about in front of Elton in our row. I could see him perfectly, but the people in the top notch top price seats had no chance. Of course, those who had rushed for the front did their best to block our view by placing children and girlfriends on their shoulders.

After a couple of songs, Elton saw the error of his ways and made a public apology.

“If she wants to come up here I will say sorry face to face, I was out of order”, he explained. Punters in the front row had a tendency to agree with him.

In came a team of security men who forced the trespassers back to the rear, no mean feat in Gloucester. It took several minutes and reminded me of a rather polite riot, people incredulous at the idea that they had to take their rightful place in the stadium rather than one they would like but hadn’t paid for. By the time Elton was singing ‘Rocket Man’, everything was back to normal. Well, as normal as it can be in Gloucester. Just behind me, the security people were doing their best to hold back the Gloucester throng.

The lady in the yellow jacket appeared on stage. Elton welcomed her with a hug and a seat on his piano stool. I was starting to wonder whether it was all a weird dream. The hoards just behind my seat was getting restless and growing in numbers. I turned to see what was happening.

Elton sang ‘The Bitch is Back’ whilst a rather large man with greased back hair and a ratty faced wife stood nose to nose with the young but muscular bouncer barring his way and recited ‘You’re a dickhead’ over and over, as if somehow the enforcer in the black polo shirt would see his point of view, say ‘Actually, you’re correct, I am a dickhead! Please feel free to approach the front of the stage and intimidate somebody else!’

Elton was at full pelt now; we all stood and danced to ‘Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting’. I was starting to wonder whether this should be Gloucester’s anthem, even if it was a Sunday.

Then Elton gave a cheery wave, disappeared and then reappeared to perform ‘Crocodile Rock’, his one obligatory encore song to satisfy the Gloucester leg of his tour. If only he knew Gloucester, but, to be fair, he spent years in Watford and grew up in Pinner, not too far away from me (my cousin went to school with him), so rather anarchical, maverick, slightly dodgy behaviour shouldn’t have come as a surprise to him.

Thanks, Gloucester and Elton, for a rather distracting and surreal evening.

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