Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Just A Half, Please Barman ...

'The Star' pub in Doncaster has a new barman.

12yr-old Chris Hardacre convinced landlord dad David, to send off for the examination forms and sat down for three weeks of revision. He passed his National Licensees' licensing certificate and, as the law states, is now legally allowed to work behind the bar serving drinks - but only under adult supervision. His proud dad said that his son had approached him with the idea and they took it from there. "I just like being around the pub," said Chris, "It's a good atmosphere and the people are nice".Regulars at the pub say they like the father-and-son combo, though all said Chris was better-looking than his dad.

Fu ...!


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Not 'Arf ...

Just as I remember one deceased childhood hero, another one slips his moorings and sails away.

As a lad at boarding school, I spent many happy hours with my head pressed against a battery-powered portable radio listening to (hang on, I started yesterday's entry with the same line) ...

Each and every Sunday afternoon we schoolboys were keen to learn which group or singer had crept up or fallen down in the music charts - 'Pick Of The Pops' as it was known. 'At The Sign Of The Swinging Cymbal' theme announced the beginning of the show and the smoothest and most recognisable 'cool cat' voice on radio opened the mic; "Greetings, pop pickers!" Alan 'Fluff' Freeman was it's presenter and he presided over the rundown of chart success or popular flops. Such was his following, another of his verbal trademarks is still mimicked by the nation "Not 'arf!"

Freeman was born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1927. He started his radio-life as a radio announcer (and occasional singer) in his home town. His baritone was voice ideal for singing too but as he said, "it was good, but not that good". In 1957 he took a holiday in the UK - a holiday which lasted more than 40 years. He started working as a relief DJ on Radio Luxembourg and transferred to the BBC in 1960. As for his nickname, 'Fluff' ... according to sources, his BBC colleagues gave him his monika early in his career because of his habit of turning up for his show in woolly jumpers.

He was associated with chart-based shows over the coming years, whether they be on BBC Radio 1, London's Capital Radio or Virgin Radio. This overshadowed his tireless championing of other music styles - heavy metal and classical. In May 2000 he was presented with a Lifetime Achievement award at the Sony Radio Academy Awards.

Cut and paste this link into your browser to hear Fluff at the mic:

See? There are good things that come out of Australia.

Oh crap, now I've pissed off the Aussies. Here we go with the hate mail; cricket, weather, pommie bastards. Yeah yeah. Change the tune ...


Monday, November 27, 2006

Potty Time ...

10 years ago today, a comic hero of mine finally gave up a fight with cancer and disappeared into comedy legend.

As a lad at boarding school, I spent many happy hours with my head pressed against a battery-powered portable radio listening to comedy shows on the BBC. I had a collection of favourites that spanned generations; The Goons, Morecambe and Wise, Harry Worth, The Two Ronnies, Tony Hancock and Hello Cheeky. Unless you know what the hell I'm on about, then this little entry isn't going to mean a great deal to you. Such was the diverse and off-beat comedy at the time, it either clicked or it didn't.

This particular personal favourite of whom I talk was Michael Bentine, one of the original Goons and a comic writer and performer of enormous talent. However, there are many other sides to Bentine ... as I shall now relate;

Michael Bentine was born in Watford, England, in 1922 and to Anglo-Peruvian parentage. In the Second World War he served as an RAF Intelligence Officer and took part in the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. In one of his many books, he later described what he found there; "Millions of words have been written about these horror camps, many of them by inmates of those unbelievable places. I’ve tried, without success, to describe it from my own point of view, but the words won’t come. To me Belsen was the ultimate blasphemy."

Bentine was a marksman with a pistol and came up with the idea to start a counter-terrorist wing within 22 SAS Regiment. In doing so, he became the first non-member of the SAS to ever fire a gun within the confines of the close-quarter 'Killing House' training establishment at their Hereford camp.

He had dallied with acting before the War and after being demobbed, decided to retrace his old roots and take it up as a career. He was one of the founding members of The Goons but left after a disagreement with the BBC. In the 1960's he took part in the first hovercraft expedition up the Amazon and in 1995 received a CBE for "for services to entertainment". Shortly before his death in 1996, a fan and close personal friend paid a special visit to his home - Prince Charles. Despite him being lampooned and ridiculed by comics, HRH (along with many others) had clicked with Bentine's humour and was sad to see the old man of British comedy fading.

As Bentine departed the comic world, he left behind a vast back catalogue of fantastic scripts and sketches - most of which have helped to mould today's comic turns.


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Daniel In The Lion's Den ...

OK, so the new Bond movie opens across France today. Whoopie.

Frankly, I'm delighted. However, I dismiss criticism from purists who log onto Bond websites and bang on about 'this Bond has blue eyes ...' and 'this Bond has blond hair ...'. Who gives a monkey's? I certainly don't and neither did the Broccoli people who made the decision to cast Daniel Craig. The mere fact that 38 yr old can act seems to have been overlooked.

Last year, on this blog (Mother's Pride - Oct 14th 2005), the announcement was made that Craig had been blessed with the role of 007 and, as of that date, his financial and professional future had been secured. So popular is young Daniel that as we speak he is currently involved in 4 other productions - 3 outside the role of Bond. Where 'Casino Royale' picks up again is 'Bond 22', in it's pre-production stages at the mo.

So, cut the crap with 'he's blond with blue eyes' and celebrate that after 22 films the enigma which is Bond is still around to thrill and entertain. At least he isn't Roger Moore or Timothy Dalton ... or an American.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

I've Just Arted ...

I've been neglecting this column for a while as other events have taken priority.

A very kind owner of a bar/restaurant has 'given' me a space in his cellar to convert into a photographic studio. Measuring 7m x 3m, it's a gift which I now have to get working. It took 2 days to clear tables and chairs out of the way, and then there was all the building mess they left behind when they converted the former cheese emporium into the bar/resto. Spare doors, aluminium ducting, air conditioning vents. You name it, it was there, but now it's all stacked in another part of the cellar. I then washed the floor. What a cow of a job. Anyway, it's now all spick and span, housing my tripods, lights and stands. I can log onto the bar wifi system and have run out an electrical cable. It's now just a case of finding clients ...

On a slightly vainer note, the bar have also asked me to display a number of photos for an 'expo'. Back in October I chose what I wanted to show and had them printed up to 30 x 45 prints. I look at them now and one word comes to mind; "crap". So, a quick re-edit is required and more will be blown up by those helpful people at the lab.

Yesterday, I bought 10 frames and will spend today smothering them with brown goop to change their colour - dark staining. I hope to have them up by the end of the week.

Pass the drill.


Thursday, November 16, 2006

It's Because They Can ...

It's the 3rd Thursday in November so ... out comes the crap. You think I'm kidding?

Every year, on exactly the same day, the first bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau are uncorked. The grapes were only harvested a mere 6 weeks prior and people go nuts over it. Tomorrow morning, many offices will be devoid of workers as hundreds of people have arranged to take the day off in advance ... and hundreds more will be ringing in sick.

Just the process of making the stuff is enough to put you off drinking it; carbonic maceration followed by pasturisation ... smashing.

It's rough stuff and always reminds me of Sarson's vinegar. Consumed neat, Sarson's would probably pip Beaujolais Nouveau in a winos drink-off. I do my utmost to avoid this revolting wine but, naturally, chefs all over the place start making stuff with it; sauces, pâtés ... anything. I had a very enjoyable onglet for lunch but it was spoilt by the bitter vinegar taste of bloody Beaujolais Nouveau.

The release of this wine means that all those who've worked in the fields and in the plants can relax - the season is over. However, I cannot see the point of drinking this crap. They'd do better filling car batteries with it. In fact, Charles de Gaulle once said: "I have tried to lift France out of the mud. But she will return to her errors and vomitings. I cannot prevent the French from being French."

Nicely said. Pass the bucket.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

One Swallow Doesn't Make A Relationship ...

A group of excited birdwatchers in Lunan Bay, on the coast of Angus in Scotland, were overcome with emotion when they spotted an red-rumped swallow. Apparently, this creature had not been seen in the area for some 20 years ... phone calls to fellow twitchers were hurriedly made, messages of joy were transmitted at lightning speed.

However, the swallow, which is usually to be found in the southern Mediterranean, did not last for long. With utter horror the group watched as a sparrow-hawk dove down and snatched the rare swallow off a roof-top.


Sadly, sparrow-hawks do not belong to any organised conservation group and, therefore, cannot tell the difference between a rare sighting and lunch.

Life's tough enough.


Monday, November 13, 2006

More Thanks Due ...

Sunday was not my day. It started with a visit from the cops who stopped at my scooter and slipped a €35 parking ticket onto the windshield. Funny thing but during the week they tell people who park on the wide pavement "You can't park here. It's not a Sunday you know ..." Yet Sunday rolls around and wallop ... ticket. Thanks, tosspots.

Then I'd like to thank 'Lariviere Organisation', the company responsible for the staging and press handling of events like La Ferte Alais airshow and the annual Supercross at Bercy. For the Supercross you have to apply for a photographers vest in order to get onto the track - that's where the best action shots are to be found and there's not much point in taking a shot of the back of the winners head (see photo opposite). I wrote and email to them on the 2nd November requesting a vest. By the 10th I had not received a reply, so another email went out. Yesterday, I arrived on-site at 2pm (an hour before the show began), picked up my press accreditation and asked about the vest. "There are no more vests", I was abruptly informed. I explained that I had requested one on the 2nd of this month. They denied receiving my email so I gave them the copy of both the original and the automated response from their server. Naturally, being French, they didn't feel even one percent embarrassed. "It's not our fault" (standard answer from anyone French, trust me). I won't even begin to tell you the trouble they caused during the airshow ...

I wandered down to the press 'seated' section bordering the track, mixed in with the public and was met with a sight which confirmed my suspicions. Japanese, American and another British photographer had been banished to these seats like naughty schoolboys. It would appear that all the photographer vests had gone to the French. I took half a dozen shots and went back to the press office and confronted the old bitch who was explaining her version (in terrible English) as to why a Spanish sports photographer wasn't going to get a vest.

As I listened to the Spaniard, I gathered that he had done the same thing as me. An email, weeks in advance, had been sent to the organisers. They denied all knowledge and told him that no more vests were available (there was a pile behind her and the event had already started). He threw his arms up in frustration and turned round towards me. "Look," I said to him in loud, precise English, "they do this year after year. If you're French you get a vest, if you're not then not then there's no point coming. An English word you should learn is 'xenophobic' ..."

My final thanks go to the wanker who, at 5am, woke me up by pushing my scooter over and into the road. A nasty sounding crash had me leaping to the curtains. He did the same to another one further up the road.

Isn't this city great? Come and join me ... there's always room for 2 in my own personal hell.


Saturday, November 11, 2006

Thank You SO Much ... But You Shouldn't Have ...

We can be thankful that the French have given us so many things in life; wine, cheese, baguettes and the croissant, the 'Emmanuelle' films, café society, French fags and the French letter.

But imagine yourself at a Christmas office party or a wedding and the DJ slips on the dance-hit that (when sober) we could never see ourselves 'getting-down-to'. It's the tune with a life-long guarantee and which only takes one person up on the floor to get a crowd together; The Village People's 'YMCA'. Yup, and because of a Frenchman, Jacques Morali, the producer and driving force behind the band and their music.

Morali began his musical career selling records in a shop at Orly airport. He fell in love with the 'disco' sound in the early 70's and felt that he just had to be part of the action. Philadelphia International Records were the label who produced many of the 'hot toones' of the time so Morali jumped on a plane for the US and soon found his way into a job at Sigma Sound where most of the Philly classics were recorded. He began co-writing and co-producing a number of hits.

In New York, Morali found himself at a costume ball at 'Les Mouches', a gay disco in the Village. Apparently, as he gazed around the room, he was overwhelmed by the amount of male stereotypes portrayed by the invitees. His idea was to bring together a group of dancers and singers, each one to play out a different gay fantasy figure. The rest is history.

The only bun-mote being that in 1980 a feature film was made starring the Village People - 'Can't Stop The Music'. It was a critical and commercial failure.

Morali's life was ended by AIDS on November 15th 1991 ... his anniversary is next week.

See? I bet you didn't know that when you woke up this morning?


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Hairy Little Blighter ...

As time ticks by and we all get increasingly older, as a 45-yr old I am constantly reminded that time is not on my side. Any 65-yr old, however, will save my feelings by telling me that I am still full of youth yet a 5-yr old will have pronounced me dead in an instant; "Wow, you're reeeeeally old!"

Thanks, pip-squeek. You want to see your 6th birthday?

For those of you who do not know me, the hair on my head began it's downwards tumble once I reached the age of 19. A small parabolic disc began to appear and, since, a smaller one has joined just below the original. This gives anyone following me the impression that I have a rather neat figure '8' carved into the back of my nut. However, I am unable to see it myself without the use of a pair of mirrors, so it doesn't really bother me.

One of the worst things about sailing through nature's little voyage is (and this is merely a personal note) the amount of secondary body hair my system is producing. Yes, ladies, I am talking about nasal and ear hair. Being blessed with a hooter of over-average size means that it has as many drawbacks as it does advantages.

Advantage 1: air is free, get it down you.
Drawback 1: this city stinks, therefore I cop more than normal proboscis.
Advantage 2: I can get up to the 2nd knuckle of my index finger up either nostril.
Drawback 2: it produces random nasal hairs the size of cocktail sticks.

One of my pet-hates it the sight of other men with what appears to be an exploded feather pillow growing out of each ear. I cannot imagine what it does for their women folk. In wuieter moments I am often to be foundwith a finger exploring my own ears and nostrils (come all, we all do it). Great tufts of hair seem to be gathering within - but what has given rise to this sudden bumper harvest? Why, as you get older, do men start inwardly sprouting? A hair up my nose begin to tickle so it's a quick trip into the bathroom for an internal investigation. My poor hooter is put through a series of articulated bending exercises - the sort that gave rise to various horror masks for the film industry. The end of a hair pops out into the bright light and is immediately seized upon by a pair of tweezers. A good firm grip and a sharp tug is followed by a pain which makes one's eyes water and an outpouring of colourful language.

Look at the size of this thing! At an inch long and with of the same density as a tooth-pick, I scrutinise this freak of nature with intense fascination and wonderment. What's happening to me? Out with the torch and a few more nose bending manoeuvres later and I am met with a vision that could put the fear of whatsit up any man. It looks like an Amazon jungle spiders web up there - all that's missing are the inhabitants. My ears seem to be in league with my nose as they produce another form of follicle; light blond hairs in a neat display fit for any 'Chelsea Flower Show' arrangement.

To save my embarassment, I believe that I have found an answer; a compact, battery operated trimmer. Three years ago I spent a week in Germany filming a Christmas Special for a business programme (no dancing girls or top totty in this show). Between takes I would wander around the city of Nürnberg when stumbled across a large chemist's close to the main square. I had no idea what 'nasal hair trimmer' was in German, so spent a while cruising the electronic goods shelf. In a small wicker bin I found my €2 Holy Grail. Powered by a single AA battery this thing grinds, plucks and gorges itself senseless on nature's little thatch. The only marking I can find on it are the initials 'AFK' and have come to the conclusion that they stand for 'A F**king Kurse'.

Following a short search on the interweb, I've have tracked them down; AFK are a German outfit who pride themselves in precise grooming tools. Their market stretches from their homeland to Denmark, Holland and Belgium. Three years later this hungry little beast is still working it's way inwards.

I am now looking at taking over the French distribution of this amazing motorised muncher. All those in need, drop me a line. But when it finally packs up, I may well be investing in blowtorch technology ...


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Get Flushed ...

The Bolzano Museum of Modern Art in Italy have recently lost a prize possession - a toilet that, when flushed, plays the national anthem. It caused so much offence that those fine members of the Italian Police impounded the musical crapper.

Prosecutors claim that the Fratelli d'Italia anthem is a national emblem which should be protected and not openly ridiculed. The rolls of judicial paper hold questions that need to be asked, like: who owns the national anthem? Is it unpatriotic to play it in a context in which it could be ridiculed? Judges are sitting and an announcement should be made later this week.

Who gives a shit? Well, a handful of Italians for a start. No news agency will dump this story so it is expected to run and run ...


Monday, November 06, 2006

Let's Get It On ...

With an HIV capacity of 5.5 million people, South Africa have become record-breakers; the fastest shag in history.

There's some (mass) debate over exactly when the condom was invented. There's an Egyptian drawing of some chap wearing one which is over 3000 years old. However, it is unknown if the device was intended for use in contraception or for ritual purposes (and here I was thinking that Saturday night was a ritual?). Moving up to the 16th Century, Italian Gabrielle Fallopius wrote the first-known description of condom use - disease prevention. Gabby recommended soaking cloth sheaths in a chemical solution and allowing them to dry prior to use. No doubt the ladies of the day complained that they were left with a chuff like a Wizard's sleeve ...

So, back to the new condom and 2006's South Africa ... Willem van Rensburg, the condom designer at 'Pronto' claims that "Using an ordinary condom is a real pain, by the time a normal condom is on, the mood is halfway out the window". The thing about Pronto condoms is that they do not need to be unwrapped, well not in the conventional sense of the word. One viewing of the company's 'how to slip one on' video was enough to send my mood window-wards. Much like spearing paper onto an office paper spike ...

Imagine if you had one that was reluctant to come out of it's packaging? With all the time you'd save, ardour in stiffened readiness, your manhood could end up half an inch high and four inches wide ... so, no change from the norm then?

Pronto condoms are, for the time being, not available to buy outside of South Africa. It'll be an Olympic Sport come 2012 ... look out London, you could get f**ked after all ...