Friday, June 30, 2006

Crocodile Tears ...

Here I sit in a hotel bedroom in Poitiers, having watched the cry-baby Italians deliver another unblemished masterclass in choreographed pratt falls. Agreed, their goals were very well deserved but as for their voluntary collapsing and writhing in shameful agony at the merest breath of air ... had they been animals, you'd have put them down.

When this tournament is all over, surely FIFA might want to review the slo-mo replays of all Italian matches?

Ukraine did remarkably well to get this far - it's only a shame they had to suffer such a performance by the Mediterranean mime gurus.

What did the Romans ever do for us?


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Stone Me, What A Life …

I’ve just thought of a new game show for the general public. Well, to be fair, the BBC thought of it first and aired it in 1971. However, my format differs somewhat …

The original game involved couple who were split into two sets of two and who faced off against each other. They were then set ‘tasks’ by industry experts, which could be ‘decorating a wedding cake’, ‘joining an African dance troop’ or ‘making doilies against the clock’. They were then awarded points by the ‘expert’ and either went through to the next round or were eliminated. This is where my version picks up.

Take 2 couples from Basingstoke, let them smoke a few Skunk (grass) joints and then get them to erect 3 Ikea kitchen cabinets. After an hour, a professional hippie is wheeled on to judge their performances. Stick it on MTV or another ‘yoof’ type channel and Bob’s your uncle. It’s a sure-fire hit and it’ll help me and my wallet get respect down at the Aston Martin dealership. Sell the idea to Endemol? They’re a Dutch production company, and the Dutch like a smoke …

No, this is not something I just came up with as I had nothing better to do, but it happened yesterday while I helping to put together … Ikea kitchen cabinets.

I went ‘up north’ to help a mate build his new kitchen that had just been delivered. Another mate arrived and we set-to it. After the first cabinet had been built (so much quicker with 3), one of them said “How about a spliff?”. I declined. I haven’t touched the stuff for ages, as these days, the only thing it gives me is galloping paranoia. The joint was passed between them and after 20 minutes or so, my work-mates began the slow but amusing transformation into giggling special-needs candidates.

In this ‘flat-pack’ world that we now live in, a small text-free instruction manual is the only thing which gives a clue as to how these ‘home-maker’ products go together. It can be time consuming and a little frustrating, straight or otherwise. Sven from Malmo (who did the drawings in the manual) did a pretty good job but failed to take into account the type of people who would be attempting to build ‘Binkie’, the kitchen cabinet, on-site. I was faced with 2 grown men who were off their trollies and believing that they were building an aircraft carrier.

Rolling a joint needs manual dexterity but erecting Ikea cabinets requires a little extra grey-matter. A period of industrial strength spliffing can transform you into a giggling oaf who will burst into laughter at wholly unamusing incidents and find intellectual depth in the Spice Girls lyrics. This, then, was what I was dealing with.

Things went on a-pace with only a slight hiccup when we had to rebuild a cabinet which was arse-about-face. My two companions were superb entertainment: giggling and arguing over which way up Sven’s drawing went. Then, disaster. With 3 cabinets built, they required installing and levelling-off. With a sprit-level to hand, they looked perfect to me. However, to the Furry Freak Brothers it was an invitation to fiddle about.

Prone on the kitchen floor, they buggered around with the plastic legs a little too much, putting all 3 cabinets badly out of kilter. Rapidly, their imaginary aircraft carrier was now looking less HMS Invincible, more HMS Inconceivable. Time marched on and as I had a dinner appointment in an hour, I mutinied.

It was a most memorable afternoon and something I would, whole heartedly, recommend to all - though you'd be wise to get an adult to supervise …


Monday, June 26, 2006

Grosso Overacting-o ...

Down to 10 men, Italian acting talent sent the Australian Socceroos out of the World Cup and back home. Fabio Grosso was 'brought down' by Aussie Lucas Neill as injury time ticked away. Italy was awarded a penalty and qualified to the last eight.

"And the award for the the best dive in a professional capacity goes to ..."

As Grosso lie in the penalty box (in a state of near death, going by his facial expression), his team mates surrounded him and were clearly congratulating him on a job well done, "Stay down, looks like you got a penalty out of that, well done!"

The referee needs to be locked in a padded room and repeatedly shown a slo-mo replay of the performance and the Italians ...? Well, they shouldn't attend any further acting lessons - they graduated with flying colours.

Better luck next time Socceroos, you deserve better.

And the Italians? Your soccer is about as unbiased as your politics ... and about as believable.

The Bear Truth …

While the rest of Germany busies itself with the footy World Cup, hunters in the Bavarian Alps have been traipsing the hillsides looking for a brown bear called Bruno.

The bear was part of an Italian programme to reintroduce the species to the Alps and had crossed into Germany in May of this year. Naturally, as Bruno had been the first wild bear to be sighted in Germany since 1835, he had to be disposed of. Why? Well, apparently he shouldered the blame for killing dozens of sheep and had also raided a beehive and a rabbit hutch (he's a bear, that what he does).

The animal-loving German authorities had said the bear should be shot because it posed a danger to humans, so a pack of Finnish tracking dogs was brought in to capture Bruno alive, but they failed. Next on the agenda was a plan to shoot the bear with a narcotic dart (great, get him hooked on crack, that'll do it). However, they failed at that too, so bring in the big guns.

Early this morning, Bavaria's government bear expert Manfred Woelfl (I‘d like to see that on a business card) said with about as much sincerity as Tennessee Prison Guard: "The shooting has happened. The bear is dead".

Good, I hope you’re all happy and that Flopsy and Big Ears can sleep well in their caged surroundings from now on.


Thursday, June 22, 2006

Blackballed ...

I was somewhat delighted to learn that one of the World's poorest countries managed to put the current Superpower in it's place. Ghana beat the USA 2-1 in the World Cup and qualified for the last ... whatever.

Something is nagging me in the back of my mind ... I wonder if it might cost the Africans in the long run?

Think 'sporting', think 'fair play', think 'we need aid', think 'not from here you don't matey ...'

No doubt, our American cousins will be going home with the 'it wasn't fair' attitude.

Fair enough. But how about inviting the rest of the World to take part in your World Series? That should give you something to think about ...


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Things That Go Bump In The Night ...

04h00 Woken up by what sounded like someone dragging dead bodies about in the upstairs apartment.

04h05 Lost temper due to sleep being interrupted - can you blame me? (Mind you, if you looked like me you'd need all the beauty sleep you could get!).

04h10 Got up and looked out of window.

04h11 Saw two Police cars in the road outside (where else?).

04h15 Noise upstairs getting worse. Talking, dragging, bumping. Lots of booted feet on wooden staircase.

04h30 Ditto.

04h45 Ditto. Went for pee.

05h00 Ditto (except for the pee bit).

05h05 A white male was lead downstairs and put into Sapeur Pompier vehicle - wasn't not looking entirely steady on his pins. All Police officers and Sap Pomps wearing latex gloves (ooo, that kind of party, was it?).

05h10 Sapeur Pompiers took off with 'unknown' male. 8 Policemen stood around chatting. Went back to bed.

06h30 Dozed but just couldn't get back to sleep. Finally got up.

06h50 4 x SOCO officers leave an apartment upstairs with a collection of boxes, cameras and tripods etc. They stood around chatting.

So, after a few hours, here’s the low-down on the events of this morning;

There’s an American chap on the 4th floor (I‘m on the 2nd). He’s often away on business as I normally see him when he’s either leaving or coming home, along with his collection of large suitcases. He‘s probably a European firefighter for some big American multi-national but he’s always pleasant and smiley when we cross each other on the staircase.

He's as ‘a friend of Dorothy’ - whatever rocks his boat. So, after a long trip away, he’s due some time off and, as happens to us all, he fancies a bit of mid-week entertainment. In the words of the late great Ian Dury, “he fancied a bit of Wembley up his Rio Grande”. So, off he goes in gay abandon, his mind fixed on finding a little sport. He ends up in a bar and picks up a group of 4 ‘chaps’, entices them back to chez lui, plies them with booze, a few spliffs and waits for the fun to start.

He was not to be disappointed - it started alright … two of them held him down and kicked seven bells of shit out of him while the other two set about robbing the place. Once the swag had been harvested, they scarpered. He managed to get to the phone and call the flics who turned up mob-handed, and on seeing the state he was in, radioed for medical assistance.

The noise in the upstairs apartment was cops marching about taking statements from the chap and his girlfriend on the 3rd floor and the gentleman I saw being hoiked into the Sapeur Pompiers truck was the American and not one of the assailants.

Apparently, the cops are coming round later today to interview all of us who live in the building. Not sure what I can tell them apart from “Your big-footed colleagues woke me up at 4am” which is hardly going to be the clincher that helps catch the gay-bashers. The other thing being is that they knicked his keys so the ‘syndic’ (the property manager) will have to arrange to have ALL door locks and codes changed.

Oh goody. One thing after another.

There is a moral to this story but I'm f**ked if I can be bothered to relate it. Suffice to say that the silly beggar on the 4th floor should have known better than to invite 4 unknown men back to his place ...

Stu (yawning uncontrollably)

Monday, June 19, 2006

You’ve Heard Of Dutch Caps …? Well ...

With the media spreading the word about trouser-less Dutch fans, I couldn’t help but notice it myself. 1,000 undie-wearing Dutch watched their team take on Ivory Coast in a World Cup match the other day. Odd? Certainly. Expected? Not really … the Dutch are an odd race of tall people at the best of times.

The fans arrived for the match in their traditional bright orange trousers which bear the logo and name of a Dutch brewery. However, to protect the rights of the official beer they were denied entry, so the male fans promptly removed the trousers and watched the game wearing just their underpants.

That well-known clean-as-the-driven-snow organisation FIFA, said an attempt at an "ambush" publicity campaign was not allowed. The American firm Anheuser Busch, which makes Budweiser, won the exclusive right to promote and sell its beverage in the stadiums and other venues.

Won? They paid $50m (£27m) for the deal! Does that mean that Eng-er-lund can pay to win the Cup? Furthermore, football (the way we know it) isn't even America's national sport. Buying up the rest of the world is ...

Anheuser Busch claims that Budweiser is a beer. Well, as far as the pride of German beer goes, it’s piss. Absolute piss. American’s drink ‘lite’ beer anyway so their knowledge of real beer doesn’t even show up on the radar. German beer is strong, flavoured and tastes of … beer. Not piss.

So in future, does this mean that anyone entering a footy stadium wearing an Adidas shirt, when the home team are sponsored by Nike, they’ll be asked to remove the offensive piece of clothing?

Where’s all this World Cup goodwill?

… and I always thought it wasn’t the winning that was important, but the taking part.


Sunday, June 18, 2006

Hit The Dirt ...

The overall 'Let's Lie Down And Get Some Sympathy' award goes to ... the envelope please Anthea ...

... South Korea!

Did you see them during the game against France? Anyone would think that it was nap time down at the nursery school. They were all at it ... then being karted off on stretchers like volunteers at a rehearsal for a biological spillage.

Poor old France, it should have been a clear 2-1 win to 'Les Bleus'. However, the linesman never saw the ball cross the line, nor the South Korean goalie scoop the ball back out into play, as he was too busy tripping over South Korean casualties.


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Your Papers Please …

I placed my passport down on the counter in front of me. The man picked it up and, thumbing through, soon found what he was looking for: my ID with accompanying photo.

He continued to thumb through the little purple booklet. “Hmmm”, he sighed, “when were you in Morocco?” Clearly, he’d found my Moroccan visitor entry and exit stamp.

“Excuse me?” I replied.

Normally, I wouldn’t have minded answering his questions but seeing as I was only trying to pay for 4 short-sleeved shirts with a foreign credit card and the man in question was working behind the counter at C&A, I thought it more than a little rich. I had no idea that in order to purchase light-weight summer clothing in France, one was subjected to rigorous checks on personal travel movements.

“Is there anything else you’d like to know?” I hissed at him.


I snatched back my passport, my credit card and my 4 new shirts and made for the exit.

Us ‘bloody foreigners’ regularly have to produce some form of photographic proof that can identify us as the legitimate credit card holder. However, to be grilled by some arse-licking sycophant with about as much integrity as a stoat whilst trying to buy 4 blasted shirts is another thing.

See what happens when you're too thick to join the Police?


Monday, June 12, 2006

Cry Baby...

In last night's match between Italy and Ghana, only one player could have possibly won the Cry Baby of the evening: Vincenzo Iaquinta.

Brought down by a shocking challenge from behind by Samuel Kuffour (not my description), Iaquinta cried like a baby, his face screwed-up in pain. He rolled around in 'agony' as though he had been shot with a high-velocity hunting rifle from the grandstand. He was hauled off the pitch on a stretcher, yet a few seconds later he was back up on his feet and rejoined the game. In the 83rd minute, he scored Italy's second goal ... and I thought he had just been badly injured?

There, there ... Mummy kiss it better?

Can't the football authorities do something about over acting by these 'enfants gâtés'? A well deserved award though Vinny.


Sunday, June 11, 2006

Oddballs Come In Three's …

A couple of things I have picked up on over the past few days …

Firstly, England’s gangly striker and aerial threat, Peter Crouch. Strange that someone who stands at 6’7” (1.98m) should be so-called …

Then something written by one of Auntie’s underpaid online copywriters. It concerned Sweden’s coach who was trying to make a decision about his choice of goalkeeper for their first match. It read thus:

“Sweden coach Lars Lagerback opts for former Arsenal keeper Rami Shaaban in goal. He replaces first-choice Andreas Isaksson who is missing through concussion.”

Eh? Are you saying that Isaksson got a smack to the bonce, went for a wander and no-one knows where the f**k he is? Come on Auntie! You could try harder, you know. After all, you’re supposed to the guardians of our fine language.

Lastly, Mrs Beckham, wifey of ‘le beau David’, had a ‘nightmare journey to Germany’ to see hubby captain England in their opening game against Paraguay. Her scheduled plane was grounded at Madrid but in her desperation she dropped £30,000 for a private aircraft to get her to Frankfurt in time.

Nightmare? You don't even know the meaning of the word.

Keeping 'em peeled …


Saturday, June 10, 2006

World Cup Fetishists …

As the opening ceremony of the 2006 World Cup began, I was a little concerned as to what was unfolding. Scores of leather-shorted, hairy Bavarians took to the field and began slapping their thighs. Then another group of sexual deviants lined the route and began cracking 2-meter long bullwhips.

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, more local men in shorts took to the pitch and began humping large aluminium cowbells. And quite aggressively, I can tell you. This was quickly becoming the annual shareholders meeting of the Leather Fetish Club (Munich Chapter).

It was blatantly obvious that this World Cup revolves around sex.

And it went on:

The Cup was brought onto the field by Edson Arantes do Nascimento, Pele to his mates. Alongside ‘our Ed’ was Claudia Schiffer, ranked (I said ranked) as one of the World’s most beautiful women. They made an interesting pair (I include Ed in this statement) but it made for painful television as I couldn’t help that think that the star couple were not to be.

For some time now, Pele has been the celebrity spokesman for Viagra and with his heavily accented sales line running through my head: "There are lots of men with erectile problems who don't see a doctor out of embarrassment", my mind was taken off the footy and began imagining Pele and Schiffer together, in the sack. She, panting like an asthmatic fox, and Pele reaching for the little blue pill.

However, Viagra is not to be laughed about. In October 2005, 47-yr old Fin, Pekka Juhani Laakso, was found dead in his room at the Sun Sea & Sand Hotel in Thailand, apparently from an overdose of the drug.The Police estimated that Mr Laakso had been dead for around 36 hours before he was found, his hands still tightly gripping the bedsheets. A local doctor reckoned that one too many little blue pills had turned him into a stiff.

That must have been hard for him.

Let’s wait and see what other sexual references the Germans throw our way during the competition …


Friday, June 09, 2006

Rhapsody In Bleu …

Unless you’ve been living under a stone, you can’t help but notice that the Football World Cup begins today. I’m no footy fan but this event is something different. It’s special. And for someone who dislikes football to admit that … well, it is fascinating and it does draw us all together. The hopes of the qualified nations etc ...

When hosts France won the Cup (geez that was freaky, wasn‘t it?), I was picked to be international pool cameraman at the Elysée Garden Party on July 14th. Dressed in a suit and carrying the usual array of kit, I reported to the back door of Jacques pad. There were 4 of us altogether: French TV, French Photo, International Photo and me, International TV.

The Garden Party in the grounds of the Elysée takes place after the Bastille Day parade, starting about midday. The borders around these delightful gardens are decked out with a collection of open marquees, wherein lies cuisine of the highest standard (government fodder is always the best) along with a never-ending flow of wine and champers. A few hundred invitees are escorted through the gates and are let loose on this feast fit for a … well, they executed the last one so ‘fit for a President’. It’s like watching the doors of an asylum being flung open and the inmates going berserk.

The men are shouldering other men out the way, paper plates scatter across the lawns and plastic cutlery is drawn for the kill. The high heels of the women folk are churning up the hand reared turf while the Palace gardeners are openly weeping in the arms of the President.

Being the snotty press, a Palace official marched the four of us to a small pen at the top of the garden which faced the veranda doors and were told “stay there, you bastards”. We waited in the July afternoon sun. No food, no drink and nowhere to sit. The masses had now turned the gardens into a living museum to the Somme. A sea of enormous hats wafted about the place and tinkling jewellery sounding like a cutlery tray being dropped.

The hour had come and all eyes spun towards the unfolding veranda doors. The gardens went quiet as an announcement was made. Our cameras rolled and out stepped ‘Le Pres’ flanked by the French National Team, holding the World Cup. The well-heeled went crazy. It really was quite moving. There was Jacques, smiling like a simpleton and the cup. The prize. The Trophy.

Stu’s Interesting Facts coming up: did you know that the World Cup Trophy is made of solid gold and malachite and was designed by Italian sculptor Silvio Gazzaniga? The current FIFA World Cup Trophy cannot be won outright, as the regulations state that it must remain in FIFA's own possession. The Cup winners retain it until the next tournament and are awarded a gold-plated replica. Furthermore, the base is made up of two layers of semi-precious malachite and has room for 17 small plaques which bear the names of the winners - enough space for the World Champions up to the year 2038. No? I didn't know that either.

So, a few weeks later I was sent to interview the French Sports Minister. On his bookshelf was this ‘copy’ of Gazzaniga’s creation. It wasn’t locked away behind layers of bullet proof glass, simply on show for all to see … and touch. I asked him if I might hold the Trophy. He agreed and left the room! Alone in his office, I grasped the Trophy firmly in my hands, held it aloft and took a triumphant run around his desk. I carefully replaced France’s dream-come-true on the shelf, packed up my kit, thanked his secretary and went back to the office, laughing like a hyena.

For 30 seconds I had lived the fantasy of billions of football fans the world over. Despite being a soccer non-believer, that simple copy of the real Cup(since photographed planet-wide for every paper and magazine) was in my hands. Football in general drives me into a hasty retreat … but the World Cup?



Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Class-less French …

Before you ask, yes, I can justify that statement.

I won’t reveal the identity of the person in question, suffice to say that I know him. He’s a little over 70 years old, been retired from his job as a lawyer for a number of years, owns a 4-bedroomed house on the coast and a large comfortable apartment in a swanky area of Paris. ‘Bien fricée’ is the phrase to describe him - ‘loaded’.

A year or so ago, he ordered himself a small present. Well, small? No. Ostentatious, yes. It’s a brand new Aston Martin DB9 with as many extras as their Warwickshire factory could cram into it. He took delivery 2 months ago and she's a stunning piece of engineering with the looks of a beautiful English gal and an aura of ‘rich f**k inside’. It makes me proud to be British.

This manner from heaven cost him £91 000 (€133,000 or $117,000), which he paid in cash. Now, whenever I see a classy ‘Roast Beef’ motorcar (a Rolls or Bentley) driving around the French capital, I wince. To begin with, it’s the steering wheel on the left which gives me that sinking feeling. Then it’s the very un-British number plate. There’s something about a Brit in the driving seat which gives an air of the upper-classes and a sense of well-being. The French, I’m sorry to say, use this position as a garish money-bags status. Rather like a tramp who’s won the lottery. They do not sit well.

The magicians of Gaydon say that: “Power comes from a 450bhp all aluminum 6.0L V12. A new crankshaft, cams, manifolds, lubrication, and engine management, all contribute to more power and torque over the DB7 engine. 80 percent of the 570Nm of torque is available at just 1500 rpm. Top speed is 186 mph, with an 0-60 mph time of 4.9 seconds. Two transmissions are available: a 6-speed manual and a 6-speed paddle-controlled automatic. The automatic utilizes a shift-by-wire technology, eliminating the traditional gearshift cluster and allowing for either paddle-shifting or fully automatic driving.”

On appraoching his palace on wheels, you open the passenger door and your eyes meet the futuristic instrument panel and deep leather seats. The full monty. Take a look in the passenger foot-well and there you find … a supermarket-bought bright yellow bath mat. Not a mat that might blend in with the maroon interior, oh no. A bright yellow FLORAL bath mat.

But what about a nice pair of Aston Martin car mats? “Non!” he says “they cost too much.”

Eh? You WHAT?! Look, you bought this British icon because your own car industry is incapable of building anything like it (the nation spends too long preening itself), your 'play thing' cost the same as a 2-bedroomed country cottage but just look at the extras that you paid for! The colour-keyed leather trim steering wheel, for a start. Then there's the coloured brake calipers, the front wheel stone guards and a heated front screen. That little lot comes in at over £600 (€870 or $1,140). And yet the supermarket bath mat cost pennies.

For a start, he doesn’t need GPS as he’s been driving from his apartment in Paris to his manor house at the seaside for 30 years. He could do it with his eyes closed. That’s the first waste of cash.

It’s often the way of the loaded French family by eating meat once a week, dressing badly and filling their homes with crappy furniture. The important things in their lives, such as large houses and flashy motorcars, are items which advertise their status.

“Look at me”, they scream ... while the little yellow floral bath mat screams “Class-less”!



Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall …

Here’s a quickie for you. What do the following have in common:

Have they:
All eaten fish and chips in Scunthorpe?
At one time or another, all played on stage with Paul McCartney?
Been booked by the cops for getting their knobs out in public?

The answers to those questions may well never be known but there’s one thing for sure, according to I bear a physical resemblance to them all. By ‘uploading’ an image of yourself, the database at the other end will match your facial features any number of internationally known celebs.

It didn’t stop there. It gives your match percentage, how true your features are to the celebs, and vice-versa. Mine were: Marciano at 63%, Palmer 53%, Bean 53% and Cleese 47%. However, there is a down side as it does cough up the odd unflattering compliment. My B-list contained Star Wars music composer, John Williams (62%), former Israeli PM Ariel Sharon (49% - gee thanks) and former Canadian PM Jean Chretien (53%).

But the outright winner was Shimon Peres at 71%. Hang on, what's this bloody fascination the database has with me and ex-Israeli Prime Ministers? I'm not even Jewish!

However, the database did kick up a surprising female match: Samantha Fox. Mind you, if I had tits like hers, I'd never leave the house ...

Please keep your comments to yourselves but you’ll all be uploading photos for a laugh. I can promise you that.


Tuesday, June 06, 2006

They Might Be Giants …

When I was a youngster, apart from the usual public holidays, there were only two established routines in our household. Both, as it happened, fell on the weekend: the Sunday roast and ‘World Of Sport’. If any bonding went on under our roof, then my father and I did ours in front of the telly on a Saturday. We shunned BBC’s ‘Grandstand’ but flirted with the competition - ITV.

At that time, the BBC had purchased the rights to as many established events as it could, leaving minority sports out in the cold with nowhere to go. This left ITV looking for an answer to counter Auntie’s greed. They gave us Ten Pin Bowling, Go Kart Racing, Netball and Lacrosse. However, they had a card up their sleeve …

Although I was unaware at the time, there was a joke doing the rounds in which claimed that the BBC were going through the list of sports in alphabetical order and had run out of cash before it reached the letter ‘W’. Which was when ITV brought us … wrestling!

Modern day wrestling with it’s inverted pyramid puff-balls, their suntanned and muscled Adonis-like characters, just isn’t the same. We’re talking huge, fat, unfit working men, with regional accents, copious amounts of body hair and a physique not unlike a barrel of goop. These were our heroes. We cheered and booed as they threw their 40-stone hulks around the ring. We laughed at their facial expressions and winced as they sat on their opponents heads. It was all a set-up. Pure theatre, executed in an amateurish but highly entertaining manner.

The highlight of any Saturday in front of the goggle-box was ‘World Of Sport’ host Dickie Davies, turning to the camera and saying “so, we'll be back for the results of all of today’s football fixtures a little later. But for now, it’s over to the Civic Centre in Rochdale and your commentator, Kent Walton …”.

At this very moment, you could have smashed up my bike, and I wouldn’t have batted an eyelid. Beaming from ear to ear, the high spot of the weekend had arrived. The camera would cut to a wide shot of a grotty looking hall, a wrestling ring centre stage and the great man would welcome us with “Good afternoon grapple fans …”

As far as I was concerned, Kent Walton was a demi-God. He was the authority on wrestling, he possessed a voice that could charm the birds from the trees and had a wry sense of humour. But who was he?

Kent Walton was born Kenneth Walton Beckett in Cairo on 22nd August 1917, the son of the Minister for Finance in the colonial government. A young Kenneth and his family moved back to the UK and completed his childhood in Surrey. Initially young Kent pursued an acting career enrolling at the Embassy School of Acting in London but the outbreak of war put a hold to Kent's promising career. He signed-up for the RAF and served King and country as a radio operator and front gunner. After the war, Kent returned to the stage where he met and fell in love with Lynn Smith. The two were married in 1949 and produced one son.

He joined Radio Luxembourg as a disc jockey and shortened his name to ‘Kent Walton’. He soon found himself in demand on TV particularly as a voice-over artist. Whilst acting as a compere on the pop show ‘Cool for Cats’, Walton developed an interest in wrestling through Mick McManus and subsequently became ITV's 'voice of wrestling' from 1955 until 1988.

However, lurking in most cupboards are skeletons and Kent’s was not that well locked. At the same time that he was presenting ‘World Of Sport’, he work under a pseudonym, Elton Hawke. In the early 70’s, Elton was responsible for producing a number of soft porn films; ‘Clinic Xclusive’, ‘Virgin Witch’ and ‘Can You Keep It Up for a Week?’.

The answer to the last one being “Lord knows, I’ve tried …”

Back at the wrestling, Kent introduced us to Mick MacManus, Giant Haystacks, Big Daddy and Kendo Nagasaki. These were men who were vastly overweight and as unhealthy as laboratory Beagles. Weekly feuding between these giants lead to choreographed set-pieces; body slams, head locks and full/half nelsons. The match referees ran around like whippets at a bull fight, trying to keep ‘control’ over these hulks. Kent was always on hand to describe the (possible) next move or to deliver “Haystacks isn‘t very happy with that … OOOOHH! Now let’s see him get out of that one …”

It was good, clean fun. Wrestling in the UK did have it’s share of crazy fans and unlikely sideshows. Once a wrestler had been ejected from the ring, an old dear would leave her chair, race over to the poor sod and beat him senseless with her handbag. A great cheer would echo around the hall and Kent (who was seated ringside) would drop in a wry one-liner.

As shocking as it could be, wrestling was to see it's last days on the little screen. Big Daddy (real name, Shirley Crabtree), felled Mal "King Kong" Kirk in 1987, following up with one of his trademark belly splashes. Kirk died from his injuries and Big Daddy retired from the sport. Kids all over the land adored Big Daddy and the sport suffered terribly once he had left. ‘World Of Sport’ was removed by ITV in 1988.

The Saturday show could command an audience of up to 12 million between the football half-time and full-time results spots . Reportedly, fans of the show, and of Walton, included Margaret Thatcher and the Queen. On his trips to the UK, Frank Sinatra would watch ITV’s wrestling and once described the men in shorts as “the best entertainers in the world”.

Big Daddy died in December 1997, Giant Haystacks died the following year and Kent Walton died two days after his 86th birthday, in August 2003.

Together, they brought us an enormous amount of fun and helped me bond with my father. Saturday afternoons were never the same again. They were giants who came out of a small box ... and we loved them.

So, as Kent would say, “Have a good week ... till next week.”


Thursday, June 01, 2006

Victor Meldrew Writes ... Again ...

Why is it that we go through times of bad luck, where nothing seems to go right? Whether it just be in day-to-day life or a future event that has been planned out with forethought and care, some bugger always seems to have it in for you.

If loosing a holiday and being 5 weeks without access to cash wasn’t bad enough, along comes another problem, one again, none of my doing but the outcome has disastrous possibilities.

In February 2005 I bought a zippy little 125cc scooter. All seemed fine until the guarantee had run it’s course. One day last March, it refused to start. I called the insurance people who sent the breakdown van. I gave them the bike and registration papers and off went the bike. Three days later, I received a call from the dealer: it was ready. After this licensed bandit relieved me of €60 and with the registration papers back in my wallet, I drove away.

A mere two months later, over last weekend, the bike repeated the same ‘not starting’ routine.


I called the insurance people who sent the breakdown van. I gave them the bike and registration papers and off went the bike. Three days later, I received a call from the dealer: it was ready. After this licensed bandit relieved me of €77, I was almost ready to drive away. “Registration papers please?”, I asked. “I don’t have them” said the shop owner. “In fact I now refuse to take them from the breakdown people”.

So, yesterday morning I called the breakdown company, explained what had happened and asked them to ring the driver who was on duty over the weekend and get him to return the papers. They said they’d get back to me. No news. I called again late in the afternoon. They said they’d get back to me. No news.

What I don’t quite understand is that when they delivered the bike to a dealer who ‘refused’ to take the registration papers, why do they still have them in their possession? Didn’t they think “Oh, that‘s strange. Maybe we should get them back to the owner of the bike?” And why do they still have them 4 days later?

But … if they’ve lost them …

If you’ve had some experience with the French system and exactly how problematic and time-consuming it will be getting duplicates, then need I say more?

However, if you’ve never had to deal with the French system of queuing for hours in lifeless waiting rooms, filling in reams of paper-work, arguing until you’re blue in the face and repeating the routine time after time, then you really don’t know how lucky you are.

After paying out on getting this blasted machine fixed every couple of months, I get the feeling that I didn't buy the bike I'm merely renting it!

It's no bloody wonder I'm a miserable, self-centred misanthropist.